Archive for April, 2017

“Freedom Can’t Protect Itself”

April 30, 2017

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Democracy is not automatic.

In fact, it still remains a fragile commodity.

Only 43% of the global population currently enjoys relatively full political rights and liberties.

The Democracy Index constructed by the Economist Intelligence Unit of the United Kingdom is based on 60 separate indicators. These are grouped into 5 different categories measuring pluralism, civil freedoms and political culture. In addition to a numeric score and comparative ranking, the Index then rates nations as one of four regime types – full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes and authoritarian regimes.

Of the 167 countries most recently reviewed, the United States ranks 21st on the list with North Korea coming in last. No surprise there.

But we have been downgraded from a “full” to “flawed democracy” — this development generated not by Donald Trump winning the presidency, but, quoting the report, “caused by the same factors that led to his election” – defined by The Economist as “declining trust in government.”

The consequence of Trump’s elevation nevertheless has spawned a new generation of swamp creatures now threatening core American beliefs and principles unlike any before — a conquering cabal of craven intent dedicated to their own private interests and displaying extraordinary exclusion of everyone else. This is particularly true of anything dealing with the public good and “general welfare’’ – even though those last two words are enshrined twice in the Constitution – both in the Preamble and later in the Tax and Spending clause.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization dedicated to defending and preserving guaranteed individual rights and liberties. It has over a million members. In 2020, it will be one hundred years old. Get ready to stand back from all the candles on that cake.

The ACLU was formed in 1920 by a group of prominent citizens concerned about government censorship. This had become commonplace. Magazines were regularly being confiscated under anti-obscenity laws. Permits for labor rallies were often denied. Right-wing groups were enjoying enormous political power, while anyone promoting unionization, socialism or governmental reform was branded as being un-American and unpatriotic.

ACLU founders included Felix Frankfurter, later appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1939 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Felix served for 23 years through 1962.

The first five years didn’t get much done, but things sure changed in 1925 with The Scopes “Monkey Trial” in rural Dayton, Tennessee. Those who recall the film “Inherit the Wind” (1961) know the story. Spencer Tracy received an Academy Award Nomination as Best Actor for his portrayal of legendary attorney Clarence Darrow, renamed “Henry Drummond” in the movie, just as three-time Democratic candidate for President, William Jennings Bryan, became “Matthew Harrison Brady” played by Fredrick March.

Even way back then, it was “Evolution” vs. “Creationism.” Monkeys vs. flunkies.

Darrow, a member of the ACLU National Committee, argued against the fundamentalist, literal interpretation of The Bible endorsed by Bryan, who won the jury, but in real life died only a few days later. Many say Darrow plain wore him out and actually carried the day by favorably introducing the ACLU to millions of newspaper readers across the nation. They followed the trial on a daily basis thanks to extensive syndicated coverage by the legendary H. L. Menken of The Baltimore Sun, a character portrayed in the movie by Gene Kelly.

It seems to be a common belief in certain circles that the ACLU is nothing but a “liberal” group of folks. Not so fast.

Allies in litigation through the years have included the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Rifle Association. The American Jewish Congress and the Ku Klux Klan. The Nation of Islam and Westboro Baptist Church.

The ACLU has risen to the defense of left-leaning advocates such as Dr. Benjamin Spock and Dick Gregory, but was equally energized and effective in providing critical legal assistance to staunch conservatives Henry Ford, Oliver North and Rush Limbaugh during troubled times.

Freedom of Speech is a core American value and a fundamental ACLU belief. The organization simply states: “It is easy to defend freedom of speech when the message is something most people find at least reasonable. But the defense of freedom of speech is most critical when the message is one most people find repulsive.”

 The Oakhurst Democratic Club is honored to present Katherine Pantangco of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California this Saturday, joining us for our May meeting at Denny’s on Highway 41. Breakfast will be served starting at 8:30 AM with our program beginning at 9:30. Ms. Pantangco will be addressing us on “Your ACLU in the Age of Trump” with plenty of time for questions.

As it says on their letterhead; “ACLU of Northern California: Freedom Can’t Protect Itself.”

 We need you.

 

“The 100 Daze”

April 23, 2017

Dazed

You are not alone. In fact, you are in the American majority by a 2 to 1 margin according to late breaking polls.

Dazed? Confused? Frustrated? Depressed? Can’t sleep?

Your tummy turns every time you see his boastful, bloating, blubbering body bulge across your TV screen?

Relax. You’re enduring “The 100 Daze” – a completely rational response to what has become a tragic travesty with this Saturday marking (marring) the completion of Donald J. Trump’s first 100 days in office.

Our Crybaby-in-Chief — tail firmly trailing between his legs — will observe the occasion by scurrying away from the annual White House Correspondence Dinner in Washington where they might make fun of him. He’ll be running off to Harrisburg for hastily assembled adoration from what handlers hope will be another throng of truculent Trumpoids eager to growl and grovel at their masters bone spurred feet. At least that’s what he says kept him out of Vietnam.

Matt Reed was in town last week, filling in for Representative Tom McClintock’s District Director, Rocky Deal, in a regularly scheduled constituent visit over at the Chamber of Commerce. Matt did a fine job, even describing with a perfectly straight face Tom’s reluctance to accept “climate change” as established science.

Annie from North Fork wasn’t having any of this, passionately presenting Matt with an extended explanation and personally handing him more than ample documentation proving her point. Matt accepted both with an appreciative smile, never attempting argument. Smart.

Joseph from Oakhurst annoyed a few folks by video recording the goings on, perhaps overlooking the fact that because something’s legal doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cool. Matt didn’t seem to care. Smart.

Perhaps the most succinct commentary from those filling the room with almost exclusively anti-Trump attendees came from a gentleman who simply and courteously stated that it is now impossible to believe Trump would not be “going down” far before the end of a full four year term. He pointedly and firmly added that Republicans in Congress who failed to act responsibly in the face of such outrageous behavior and incontrovertible evidence of dangerous delusion would also “go down” – perhaps for no fault of their own other than timid complicity. This wasn’t lost on Mr. Reed. Smart.

Counting all the spectacular achievements as President constantly touted by Trump at every turn, I come up with one – Neil Gorsuch – the latest Supreme. That’s it. And that was really Mitch “Turtle Time” McConnell’s win. Most of Trump’s numerous “Executive Orders” (when he remembers to sign them) merely attempted to overturn what Barack Obama had thoughtfully put in place after many hours of thoughtful reflection. It can take a month to build a house, yet just a minute to bulldoze it down. I am not a fan of mindless negation – however convenient and time efficient.

Part of the curse of this“100 Daze” is a complete inability to provide any sort of cohesive summary as to exactly where we are right now. It’s like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in quantum physics – an impossibility to precisely measure both the location and velocity of an object at the same instance – or even theorize same. Trump’s that wacky.

Meanwhile, our new Republican Attorney General, Jeff “Pee Wee” Sessions doesn’t seem to know Hawaii is a state, wants to wage war on weed, and stunned ABC’s “This Week” viewers Sunday morning by declaring without substantiation that the “Giant Border Wall” should not only be built, but be paid for by $4 billion dollars a year in excess tax payments that go to “mostly Mexicans.” Pee Wee was apparently referring to a six year old Treasury report that never mentioned Mexicans or any other nationality. Along with other horrors, it now seems the “Wall” would be an environmental disaster as well as a global embarrassment.

It was terrific seeing my old friend Alan Cheah back in print last week with his Guest Commentary — “On The Chopping Block.” I join Alan, the California Alliance for Retired Americans (”CARA”) and the Oakhurst for Peace group urging you to attend a special “Town Hall Meeting” from 2 till 4PM this coming Sunday at the Oakhurst Library.

I hope Conservatives, Liberals, Progressives (Liberals with Attitude) and all in between will join together in urging our government to keep “HANDS OFF OUR SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE AND MEDICAID!” Congress is proposing huge cuts and changes. Don’t stay home.

 

 

 

 

“Any Way The Wind Blows”

April 9, 2017

rolling-dice

War by impulse.

The newsman’s voice rang with startling alarm: “Trump shows the world he’s not afraid to attack without warning!”

Great.

So much for calming down frazzled foreign fears — especially our closest allies. We should excuse them if they take a few steps back.

It didn’t take long for things to settle down after last week’s fusillade of Tomahawk missiles worth thirty million bucks raining havoc (or at least sprinkling sparkle) on Syria’s Shayrat Air Force Base. This was supposed to be a message sent. It turned out to be more of an “Itchy-Kitchy-Koo” tickle than a serious kick in the assets of President Bashar al-Assad.

Operations pretty much returned to normal at the installation the following day with renewed attacks by Syrian and Russian jets on Khan Sheikhoun, the same poor little town that had earlier undergone poisonous chemical exposure, precipitating American intervention in the first place.

It’s all Exorcist level head spinning – round and round we go – and where we stop nobody knows – particularly Donald J. Trump.

A cheering cowboy chorus of clamorous congratulations has since given way to more somber reflection with the realization that once again our Philanderer-in-Chief has done exactly the opposite of what he promised countless times he wouldn’t do. No voice was louder than his in 2013 urging President Obama not to intervene with air power in Syrian affairs. That position was repeated throughout Trump’s shockingly successful run for the Presidency and echoed only days ago by Secretary of State Rex “Let’s Try That Again” Tillerson and his recommendation that any sort of regime change in Damascus be “left up to the Syrian people.”

I hope you’re sitting down for this. Ready?

Hooray for Tom McClintock!

Our Fourth District Representative has issued the following statement:

 “The Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons is an atrocity and a war crime, but it is not “a national emergency created by an attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces” as provided in the War Powers Resolution.  No matter how strongly we may feel about the actions of the Syrian government, the President had no legal or constitutional authority to order this attack without the consent of Congress.  This action crosses a bright line that separates the fundamental powers of our government and risks a constitutional crisis if continued.” 

 I could not be more in agreement. Let’s remember what happened almost four years ago.

President Obama had gone on record, however imprudently, suggesting that a “red line” for action would be any future use of chemical weapons by government forces in the Syrian conflict. Then in August of 2013 — a team of UN weapons inspectors confirmed that the nerve gas sarin had been unleashed on the Ghouta agricultural belt — killing more than 1,400 people with thousands more seriously injured.

In reviewing any number of unpleasant options, the President decided that choosing sides in a civil war of infinite complexity would be ill advised. Instead, he welcomed a proposal by Russian President Vladimir Putin that called on the Syrian government to destroy all remaining chemical weapons under its control. In fact, Putin offered a personal guarantee this would happen. Now look. Oh, Vlad. So sad.

Responding to continuing cries from some that this was a whimpy way to wiggle out of a call to action, President Obama then formally asked Congress to authorize full-fledged air strikes on Syria. “I am prepared to give that order”, said the President. “But – I am also mindful that I’m the president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.” In response, it was crickets on chloroform. The silence was deafening. No vote was ever proposed or taken in the House or Senate. The issue remains essentially unresolved. Barack Obama was correct at the time. Tom McClintock remains so now.

Many have commented on the blatant hypocrisy arising from President Trump’s expressed horror at having “little babies” die from chemicals, seemingly as long as they perish far from here. Under Trump’s temporarily court blocked Muslim travel ban, those same victims would remain unwelcome on our shores. But why should we enjoy the slightest measure of clarity and consistency on this issue when the White House has become a Tower of Babel with different voices offering varying positions on a variety of critical topics?

When will we ever learn?

Only Trump Tower is tall enough to reach heaven — with a moral code under random rule. What might be nice? Let’s roll the dice!

“Nothing really matters

Anyone can see.

Nothing really matters to me.”

Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody” (1975)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Patsy”

April 2, 2017

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pat-sy – [ˈpatsē]

Noun – A person who is easily taken advantage of, especially by being cheated or blamed for something. A fool. A sap. A sucker.

Used in sentence — Representative Devin Nunes (R- Tulare) was, is and forever will be – a patsy.

You can see it in his vacuous stare. You can hear it in his ever-changing lies. You can read it in his querulous quotes – peevish and fretful over a self-inflicted predicament — foolishly initiated, amateurishly executed and clumsily concealed.

In case you’re a Sierra black bear only now rising rested from a long winter of hibernal bliss, here’s what happened:

Through patronage-prodded party politics, this nitwit Nunes somehow ended up being Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, pretty much like putting a mouse in charge of cats. Investigating possible Russian influence on Donald Trump’s White House, Nunes broke all sorts of past practices and procedures in a doomed effort to provide the President with “vindication” for an insane claim that his orangeness had been “wiretapped” by a predecessor. What a jerk. Make that jerks.

How anyone can regard Nunes as anything less than “a stain on his office” (Nancy Pelosi said that) is beyond comprehension. How Nunes has dishonored his duties, discredited his profession and denigrated his district is evocatively evident. How Devin Nunes can ever avoid criminal liability for such blighted behavior seems profoundly problematic.

Far past Nunes’ mischievous mission is the expanding horror of an administration gone mad, displaying every sign of rampant paranoia as it wildly strikes out at perceived slights, presenting the world with a schizophrenic posture lacking clarity, resolution and/or substance.

Each new day dawns with yet another affront to civilized sensibilities, oftentimes twitted from the offal office in semi-literate, often misspelled, tirades. Does “cat” have one or two “k’s”?

I fear worst is yet to be, particularly since a full third of our population seem oblivious to the fact they are supporting a cause not only lost, but exhausted. Just look at the man. He is not having a good time, finding out far too late that being President is a regimen, not a role. It’s work. Non-stop. 24/7/365. That’s why we see such aging in office. Last week Trump staged a big “Executive Signing” – then tried to leave the room without signing a thing. An aide caught his attention. “Huh?”

In the cornered rat department, fired National Security Advisor Michael “Thin Skin” Flynn, having gone on record stating that only criminals need immunity, suddenly wants a little of that action himself. His attorney enticingly writes that Flynn “certainly has a story to tell”, but doesn’t want jail when he tells his tale. No takers so far. Mister “Lock Her Up” from the GOP Convention wants no stay in any house of detention.

As a champion of “the little guy”, Donald J. Trump certainly hasn’t brought many on board in structuring his staff. In fact, 27 Trump hires are collectively worth more than $2.3 billion dollars, including his daughter, Ivanka, and hubby, Jared Kushner, who score a cool $750 million all by themselves without a nickel of Donald’s dough.

This information was part of a massive White House release of financial disclosure forms late last week for dozens of officials as required by law. The details are fascinating.

Guess how much loudmouth Kellyanne Conway made last year defiantly defending “The Donald? ” $800 grand!

White House Chief of Staff Reince “E.T. Call Home” Preibus only knocked down $500,000 as Chairman of the Republican National Committee, but hauled in an extra $750,000 in a buy-out by former law partners.

But leaving behind two-bit players, Chief Economic Policy Advisor Gary Cohen pulled in $75 million or so in 2016, but that might be more. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos could write a check for $1.3 billion that wouldn’t bounce and, even on a slow day, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is worth about $2.3 billion and change. Trump, himself, is estimated by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index at having $3 billion in assets, which Donald can always be counted on to round up past an even $10.

Presidential Historian Robert Dallek writes, “You’d have to go back to Herbert Hoover to see a cabinet that was this reliant on wealthy people, but the wealth has changed. Millionaires have become billionaires.”

 It was the administration of Herbert Hoover that brought on The Great Depression of 1929.

“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it!” – British Statesman and Philosopher Edmund Burke (1794) – generally viewed as the intellectual founder of modern political conservatism.