Monthly Archives: February 2018

More Donuts, Please

There is an epidemic of gun violence in America. That is not even debatable. And there have been a multitude of solutions offered over time.

Most recently the President of the United States, the NRA and many members of Congress have offered the latest solution. Arm teachers. More armed guards. More guns. And more guns. And more guns.

A creative and exceptionally innovative solution to the problem of gun violence. More guns. So, I said to myself, why stop there. Maybe we can apply that same “reasoning” and “logic” to the many other problems we face. Let’s try.

Obesity is a major problem in the US. Anyone who has ever traveled to Italy or France or Spain immediately notices that there aren’t so many obese folks walking around. It could be limited to urban areas, perhaps. But, at least in my experience, folks in those countries  as a rule, seem not so chunky as Americans. I , myself, have done my patriotic duty by increasing my body mass significantly over the last 50 years or so. A proud American. A BIG proud American.

What is a reasonable solution to the health issues caused by obesity? Well, former First Lady Michelle Obama started a healthy eating program to encourage kids to develop good eating habits at a young age. She was vilified by the right wing extremists for that. Big government interfering with the proper parental role. Then Sarah Palin showed up at an elementary school with cookies for kids. She passed them out. She didn’t bother to ask parents if they wanted their kids to eat cookies or perhaps had allergy issues. The right wing applauded. More cookies. More cookies. More cookies.

So, a reasonable solution to the obesity problem is more donuts. More junk food. Less fruits and vegetables. The problem of obesity can be solved by increasing the availabilty of junk food. Yepper.

Drunk driving kills thousands of Americans each year. Currently we have DUI laws and put folks in prison for that. Take away licenses for driving drunk. But that has not solved the problem.

What we need is more and better access to booze while on the road. Every gas station should have a liquor license. Every driver should be given a free beer with a fill up. End DWI laws and impose DWS laws (Driving While Sober). Pull over anyone who is not weaving side to side at 50 MPH in a school zone. Fine em. Drink or don’t drive. The obvious solution to drunk driving is more access to alcohol by automobile operators. Yepper.

The opioid epidemic. Killing thousands every year. These opioids, many prescribed legally, have wreaked havoc on families and individuals. They have destroyed families. They are agents of death. So, what is the solution?

Easy. We need complete and total access to opioids . No prescription necessary. Over the counter. At the supermarket. The drug store. In our schools. Free opioids with every order of fries at Mc Donald’s. (Solving two problems at once)  The only way to stop the madness is total access to opioids. The more the better. Every teacher should be armed with opioids in case of an emergency. The emergency being that Billy forgot his opioids today. Yepper.

We could go on and on. But the message is clear.

The best way to solve a problem, according to our current leadership, is to make it even bigger.

Which reminds me, where are those donuts?

 

 

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Filed under Congress, crime, debates, gun control, healthcare, logic, obama, Politics, POTUS, Republicans, Society, Trump, United States, US, violence

2nd Amendment and Guntrol, Part 2

The DC v Heller decision of 2008 established 3 things, according to the majority opinion written by Justice Scalia. (See https://josephurban.wordpress.com/2018/02/22/2nd-amendment-and-gun-control-part-1/ for details.)

First, individual citizens, not part of a militia, have the right to own weapons.

Second, the government has the right to regulate who can have weapons.

Third, the government has the right to determine the legality of specific weapons. 

So, any attempt by any member of Congress to suggest that any gun control violates the 2nd Amendment should be referrred to the Scalia opinion. Gun control is constitutional.

So, what kind of gun control , which does minimal damage to the desire (not right) of gun owners to certain weapons, are possible?  Here are some possible gun control measures which Congress could take.

  1. A mandatory background check for any gun purchaser. Using a nationwide data base that identifies felons out on parole, individuals convicted of spousal abuse, individuals convicted of any violent crime, individuals currently charged with a violent offense pending trial.
  2. A ban on the ownership and sale of military-style assault weapons and any devices that can be used to enhance the firing capacity of weapons, including bumpstocks. (Except in licensed shooting ranges).
  3. A ban on the sale and/or transportation of weapons across state lines.
  4. Mandatory written and field and safety tests for anyone purchasing a weapon, including a screening for emotional and mental stability.
  5. A ban on any sale of guns other than that of a registered gun seller. This includes the ban on trading, swap meets or other gun sales not taking place in an established,  permanent location.
  6. The registration of all weapons with the local authorities. Including the free transfer of weapons to immediate famiy members, which would be legal.
  7. Establishment of shooting ranges for those who wish to fire military style weapons. These establishments would be able to legally rent military style weapons to shooters to be used only at the shooting ranges.
  8. The ban on any bullet or projectile designed to explode on entering the body or designed to pierce armor.
  9. The licensing of any gun owner, renewable every five years, to determine that the person keeps up with the skill, visual acuity, mental capacity to handle a weapon safely  and understands the law relating to weapons.
  10. Establishment of free clinics and classes to teach and train gun owners as to the proper and safe use of firearms.
  11. A Right To Know Law which gives parents the right to know which households have guns in them. A parent could then decide for themselves if they want to expose their child to a household which has a weapon. (Many children die playing with guns each year).
  12. A yearly weapons licensing tax to help defray the costs of gun safety programs.
  13. A health care premium Gun Violence Tax for gun owners. This would help defray the massive costs to hospitals,police, courts, jails and the insurance industry for costs related to the care of victims and perpetrators of gun violence nationwide. Hang on to your six-shooter. The annual estimated cost of gun violence in the USA is $8,600,000,000 (billion) in direct medical care. And the overall cost of gun violence to the economy is $229,000,000,000. See references at the end of this blog for details.

I am confident that many or all of these solutions, taken as a whole, would significantly reduce both intentional and accidental gun mortality.  All of these ideas are constitutional and easily implemented. I am also sure that people more astute and informed than I have even more and better solutions.

We license people to drive cars. We renew auto license plates every year or two. We tax vehicles and gas  used in those vehicles. We let people know if there is a sex offender living in the neighborhood so parents can protect their children. We heavily tax tobacco to reduce usage and pay for the costs of medical care caused by tobacco. So, none of the ideas above, if applied to weapons , is radical or unusual.

Would these solutions stop ALL gun violence? Of course not. Even places with strict gun control laws have some gun violence. But the likelyhood of desth by gun in these nations is minimal compared to the USA.

In Austria you are as likely to drown in a swimming pool as be killed by a gun.  In New Zealand, your chances of death by gun are the same as falling from a ladder. In Poland, the chance is the same as being killed on your bicycle. And in Japan you are just as likely to be hit by lightening as killed by a gun.

Think about that last statistic the next time you watch a thunderstorm brewing.

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/get-there/wp/2018/02/22/the-enormous-economic-cost-of-gun-violence/?utm_term=.e68d8c3d5463

http://www.businessinsider.com/gun-violence-costs-america-more-than-229-billion-every-year-2015-4

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Filed under Congress, gun control, healthcare, logic, NRA, police, Politics, Society, Taxes, United States, US, violence

2nd Amendment and Gun Control, Part 1

There is a very strange argument that is made by politicians, the NRA gun manufacturing lobby and some others concerning the 2nd Amendment and the rights entailed therein. The argument goes like this:

The Second Amendment guarantees any person’s right to own any kind of weapon.

They take the 2nd Amendment and parse it out, emphasizing some of the words and ignoring others. Kind of like when Betsy asks me to take out the garbage. Me? Take out? OK , Let’s order a pizza.

“Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

They kind of skip the first 13 words and then start reading. Speed reading? Skimming for the general idea? Hmmmm.

The obvious intention of the founding fathers was that, in the 18th century, there would be times when the local government would need a call to arms. Maybe the injuns were coming or the Brits had decided to try to retake the village. Or perhaps the Canadians were on the march attempting to impose universal health care on our children and widows.

Hence the first 13 words. A well-regulated militia. Pretty clear. Well…regulated …militia.

Some folks, however, ignore those words. They don’t like them. The 13 words not only imply a strict government control over arms, they specify it. We may need a local militia, so you should keep a gun handy. That does not mean you can have a gun for any other reason.

Of course, if the founding fathers INTENDED that everyone should have access to a gun for any reason they had no need for those 13 words. They could have kept it much simpler, as in the 1st Amendment. Short and sweet.

So the first argument supporting the notion that anyone can have any kind of weapon for any purpose is easily shot down and understood by anyone with a modicum or more of cognitive ability.

Of course, because the Constitution is interpreted by the Supreme Court, it really does not matter what the founders were thinking. The Supreme Court decides what the words mean, not the founders.

And here we see an interesting phenomena. The conservative justices  who CLAIM to be “strict constructionists” have actually changed the meaning of the 2nd Amendment. Now, I don’t mind the Court trying to keep up with modern times. I think the Supreme Court should do so. But I do find the hypocrisy of the conservatives on the Court somewhat amusing.

These same justices who claim to interpret the Constituion based on the “original” document and words of the founders tend to let this one slip by. The “originalists” suddenly found, after more than 200 years , that the founders didn’t realy mean “militia” when they wrote “militia”. The majority opinion in the Heller decision goes through more contortions than a Chinese acrobat trying to justify that one. But, they had the votes. So be it.

The Heller decision, giving all of us the individual right to own a gun  states, in part:

“Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

So, the founders were simply wrong when they wrote “well-regulated militia“. So much for the “strict constructionist” viewpoint.

But that’s ok. Everyone now has an individual right to own a gun. We all agree because the Supreme Court says so.

Which brings us to a second argument made by the NRA gun manufactuting industry and their employees in Congress. It goes like this.

Since I have the right to a gun, that means I have the right to ANY gun. And that means I can carry any gun anywhere I want. Therefore, no state or national government can make any laws restricting my right to own my gun or where I can wander around with it. Any government that does that is trying to take away my gun.

The obvious fallacy of that position is clear. If you want to think about it. It would mean that the only unlimited right granted to citizens by the government is the right to have a gun. All other rights have associated responsibilities and limits, but not my right to a gun. It places the 2nd Amendment in a different category than every other right.

Of course, that argument is easily refuted. Just look at the 1st Amendment. We have the right to free speech. It’s right there, in black and white. But that right is not unlimited. We have libel laws which restrain speech. We have regulations as to what words can be used on non-cable tv stations. We have slander laws. We have laws against threatening to kill others, especially political leaders. Try telling a joke about having a bomb in your backpack when you are boarding a plane and you will see how quickly your “free speech” is dealt with.

The same is true of freedom of  religion. You have the freedom to worship in the church or mosque or synagogue or basement of your choice. You can pray to anything you want to pray to. Some Native American churches are even allowed to void anti-drug laws because they have a longstanding use of peyote in their rituals. But if you are an Aztec and believe in human sacrifice, that is a no-no. A fundamentalist Mormon may believe he can have numerous child wives (and some do) but that is illegal. You can believe it is your right and religious duty as the “father” of the house to beat your kids and wife. But that is not tolerated. Limitations.

So, every right has legitimate, common sense restrictions. Even in the Heller case, the most conservative of the justices, Justice Scalia, pointed out that this right is not unlimited. Specifically stating, in his majority opinion, that schools and government buildings are places where restictions may be logically imposed. Also, certain categories of people, like felons, could be legally restriced from owning guns. Further, he stated that the government has the ability to restrict certain kinds of firearms, like military weapons, as well.

So, the idea that every person has an unlimited right to any type of gun he wants does not pass muster. Even the most conservative member of the Court, Justice Scalia,  recognized that, while you have an individual right to a weapon, that right is not without proper government restrictions.

In essence, the most radical arguments of the NRA gun manufacturing lobby and the extremists goes down the toilet.  The only question that remains is: What are reasonable restrictions?

2nd Amendment and Gun control, Part 2, next time.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/second_amendment

https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/07-290.ZS.html

http://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/07-290.pdf

 

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Filed under Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, GOP, government, gun control, logic, Neoconservative, NRA, Politics, Supreme Court

USS Trumptanic

In April , 1912, an iceberg collided with the RMS Titanic . In a few hours the “unsinkable” gigantic ship sank. While most of the first class passengers managed to escape, most of the third class passengers perished. The captain went down with the ship.

Yesterday, Robert Mueller released the first indictment in a series. Thirteen Russians, working for Putin and his oligarchs, have been charged with helping destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. The evidence is clear. The grand jury indicted. It is no hoax.

The captain of the RMS Titanic was informed that an iceberg was sighted. He tried to steer the ship away. But the iceberg was moving too fast and ship could not be saved. So, about 2 and a half hours later, the Titanic sunk. Some of the wealthiest people in the world were on board. Most made it to safety, some perished. For the third class passengers…well, not so good.

The captain of USS Trumptanic has known about the iceberg for sometime. We now have early warning systems for icebergs. Now the iceberg has been sighted. And it’s name is Mueller.

The thing about icebergs. For some, over 90% of the ice is below the surface. When you spot the 50 foot high tower of ice in the distance, you can be fearful that there is a massive block of ice you can’t see. Moving toward you. Slowly. Inexorably. On the way to tearing your ship apart.

The captain of the USS Trumptanic has seen the tip of the iceberg. He has watched as more and more of his crew have already fled to the lifeboats. Flynn. Manafort. Gates. Bannon. Already thrown overboard.  He sees the small block of ice and is convinced that there is nothing under the water.

What has happened? First, Mueller indicts Flynn, Manafort, Gates, Papadapolous. The crew. Now, the tip of the iceberg is moving along the horizon. The 13 Russian agents who worked with some Americans to distrupt the 2016 election. To get their man elected.

What’s next? What is below the surface? It’s not difficult to figure out.

Drill into the iceberg core. What do you find? Money laundering. The Russian money laundering business which has used Trump properties for years to hide the money from their illegal activities. Trump properties are rented and bought by Russian oligarchs for well above real value. Classic moneylaundering.

Drill deeper. Coordination with Russian agents. Jared Kushner was in charge of the internet activities of the Trump campaign. Jared Kushner has a massive debt on 666 Fifth Avenue, which he cannot pay. Jared Kushner has tried time and again to get loans from Russian government bankers, because long ago US banks refused to deal with him or Trump. Indictments coming.

Drill deeper. Donnie Junior and his “adoption” meetings with Russian agents. At Trump Tower. A secret meeting, in Trump Tower,  that the captain claimed was all about adoptions. Later found not to be true. The captain himself had lied about the reasons for the meeting. Indictments coming.

Drill deeper. The Mueller Iceberg has indictments and evidence that we can only guess at. But be certain. The iceberg is slowly and methodically heading for the USS Trumptanic. Collision course.

Edward Smith, the captain of the Titanic, saw the iceberg. He knew it was going to hit. He knew he was responsible. He did not run for the lifeboats. He went down with the ship.

The captain of the Trumptanic is NOT the captain of the Titanic. The captain of the Trumptanic will not go down with his ship. He is standing on deck blaming his crew for the iceberg. He is blaming the ice for the iceberg.

The captain of the Trumptanic is not going to jump into one of the lifeboats. He is waiting patiently for Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. They hold his fate in their hands. And they are on the way. Not with a lifeboat. Mitch and Paul are sailing to save the captain with a luxury yacht.

And together they will sail back home while the Trumptanic and the crew sink. The iceberg cometh.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Titanic

https://www.npr.org/2018/02/17/586698361/the-russia-investigations-mueller-indicts-the-internet-research-agency

 

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Filed under government, Politics, POTUS, Trump

Crocodile Tears…YAWN

 

Another school shooting today in Florida. YAWN. 17 people, mostly kids,  dead; a bunch more injured. YAWN. The shooter was known to be a problem. YAWN. The shooter used an AR-15 assault weapon. YAWN.

We now have about 1 school shooting every 2 or 3 days.

So, join me and Governor Scott of Florida. And Senator Rubio of Florida.And President Trump. And the rest of Congress.

Join me as we call for prayers. Our thoughts and condolences are with these children. And their families. Our deepest sympathy for the mothers who bore these childeren and will never see them graduate from high school. The fathers who changed their diapers and rolled around the living room floor with them. The brothers and sisters who fought with them, loved them, hated them and hugged them. Join me in prayers.

Congress and the president and all the decent people in America must join together in a moment of silence. We feel their pain. It is awful. We must all cry together.

We must all cry the crocodile tears. Doesn’t matter if it is Florida crocodiles or Connecticut crocodiles or Nevada crocodiles or South Carolina crocodiles. We all need to shed those tears.

But don’t shed too many. Save some. Because next month you will need to shed them again. Don’t cry yourself dry. You may run out of tears, but you can always pray.

The choice is clear. We can support the gun sellers, supported by the NRA. Or, we can keep our children safe with sane gun laws.

The solution is clear. We must share the pain. We must stand with the victims. We must pray.

And stand with Governor Scott who made this statement.

After the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub that left 49 people dead and dozens injured, Scott responded to questions about gun control in Florida.

“I’m not going to call a special session. The Second Amendment didn’t kill anybody,” Scott said.

Stand with Marco Rubio who just yesterday pointed out what needs to be done:

Fox News’ Pete Doocy asked Rubio if he thought it was appropriate to be discussing gun control after the events.

“It’s not, only because people don’t know how this happened,” Rubio said. “[We don’t know] who this person is, what motivated them, how did they get a hold of the weapon that they used for this attack.”

To quote Rubio again: “How did they get a hold of a weapon ???” I mean, who knows how? It’s a mystery!

So. Let us cry those crocodile tears. And let us pray. Like the governor of Florida and Congress and the president, please feel the pain. Because it makes us sad.

But oppose background checks. Oppose any ban on assault weapons. Oppose any national solution to a national issue. Stand with the NRA gun sellers. And shed those crocodile tears.

Please print and save this blog. Tape it to your refrigerator. You can read it again next month when the next school mass shooting takes place.

 

 

 

 

http://www.wesh.com/article/gov-scott-responds-to-questions-on-gun-control/4450513

https://www.mediaite.com/tv/marco-rubio-now-not-the-time-to-talk-gun-control-because-people-dont-know-how-this-happened/

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The Party’s Over

“The party’s over
It’s time to call it a day
They’ve burst your pretty balloon
And taken the moon away

It’s time to wind up the masquerade
Just make your mind up
The piper must be paid…”

http://www.songlyrics.com/bobby-darin/the-party-s-over-lyrics/

The Congress just passed a massive budget, increasing the deficit by a trillion dollars. And, over time, increasing the debt (with interest payments) by much more. The military and domestic spending were both increased. Disaster relief for the hurricanes was finally passed. Mr Trump, thankfully relegated to  the sidelines during the process , signed the bill into law.

This was an example of compromise. The House of Representatives needed over 60 Democrats to work across the aisle and vote for this. Why? Because even though they “control” the House, the GOP does not control the “Tea Party”. And the Tea Party radicals insisted that this bill spent too much on citizens. They voted “No”.

My own representative, Tom Reed of NY 23, voted “No”. He claims to be a member of the “Problem Solvers” caucus. You know, the guys who reach across the aisle to compromise. But one thing Tom will not compromise on is spending money on “entitlements”. Spending money on citizens. Like the poor. Or elderly. According to Tom, this budget is bad because it raises the debt! It spends too much on people.

Keep in mind, this is the same Tom Reed who bragged about passing the massive tax cuts for corporations. That law drove up the debt AT LEAST $1.5 trillion over 10 years. No platitudes about fiscal responsibilty when to comes to tax breaks for the top 1 %. No crocodile tears about the future of our children. What, me worry?

This is the same Tom Reed who has bragged about the renewed funding for rural hospitals. Taking credit for bringing the pork into the district. The same Tom Reed who voted over and over and over and over to defund the ACA. A vote which, if passed,  would have destroyed so much of our rural medical infrastructure. The same clinics he brags about saving. The same guy. The guy who cares about women’s health care  so much he voted to end funding for Planned Parenthood. Thank god Tom was born with both sides of his mouth intact.

Which brings me to the party. The Tea Party. The young guns who won their places in the House and Senate based on fantasy economics, throwning in a dollop of homophobia, a dash of racism and sprinkling of xenophobia. With a cherry of misogyny on the top.

Tom is not a member of the Tea Party. Tom knows that in New York, even rural New York, being labeled as a Freedom Caucus or Tea Party member will not win him any votes. (The Tea Party has really morphed into the “Freedom Caucus”) So Tom is a member of the “Problem Solvers” caucus, except that he votes like a true believer of Tea Party ideals. He is just too clever to call himself that.

But this last budget deal shows that the Tea Party is over. Their radical ideas and non-solutions certainly live on in a minority of the GOP, like Mr Reed. But, for the most part, the party is over.

We can thank the Democrats for this budget deal. When Mr Obama was POTUS the GOP refused just about any compromise. Lead by McConnell. Supported by Reed. And the forces of the far right are still alive in Congress, make no mistake. Be clear, the Democrats COULD have stopped this budget from passing. They could have given Ryan no votes and the bill woudl be dead. The government shut down. But they didn’t. They decided to compromise.

A glimmer of good news for the country. But for the more radical fringe, not so much. The Tea Party is over.

“The party’s over
It’s all over, my friend
Now you must wake up
All dreams must end

Take off your makeup
The party’s over
It’s all over, my friend”

 

 

 

 

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Filed under ACA, Budget, Democrat, Economy, GOP, government, healthcare, neoconservatives, Politics, Republicans, Society, tea party, Trump, United States

Everyone Loves A Parade

Who doesn’t love a parade? High school bands marching. Clowns in clown cars honking. Local politicians riding in convertibles throwing candy to the crowd. Handmade floats for the local Cow Queen or the King of the Potato. Lots of fun. And harmeless.

I have never been to the Rose Parade but that is certainly an extravaganza of corporate organization. An amazing display of creativity and capitalism. Beautiful floats, colorful flowers , top flight marching bands. What’s not to like? (As long as you turn off the insipid commentary of the host and hostess).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rose_Parade

On the local level I have often been able to witness the classic Sauerkraut Parade in Phelps, New York. Floats pulled by tractors. local politicians, marching bands. It has all the ingrediants of a somewhat hokey, but fun event. Followed by the annual sauerkraut eating contest, usually won by one of the many Middlebrook boys.

http://phelpsny.com/sauerkraut-weekend/parade/

And, for the real oldtimers was another kind of parade, the TV Hit Parade.The Emmy winning Hit Parade.  (Not much competition for Emmys in the 1950s) The top songs of the day sung by the greats of the day. Who could forget Snooky Lanson? Just about everyone, I guess. Not really a parade in the traditional sense, but still, a fun time.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042172/

Of course, there are more serious parades. Like the parades of dictators and autocrats. Parades not designed for fun. Not designed to uplift or amuse. Parades designed only to give glory to the “fearless leader”. The Nazi torchlight parades, honoring Hilter, are well known to all. Stalin, Mao, Mussolini…all the great dictators honored themselves, usually by showing off their military might.  They all had one thing in common. A military machine totally devoted to the leader. Totalitarian regimes love the military parades.

In modern times both Mr Putin and Kim Jung Un have continued the fine tradition of brutal dictators showing the world their military machinery. So it goes on….

http://www.businessinsider.com/putin-just-threw-the-biggest-military-parade-since-the-soviet-union-collapsed-2015-5

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4417914/Kim-Jong-North-Korea-special-forces-military-parade.html

Which brings us to the Trump Parade. Evidently Mr Trump has asked the Pentagon to organize a Putin-like military parade. He wants to have a show. A prop for his failing presidency.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/07/583903933/trump-reportedly-wants-pentagon-to-stage-military-parade-down-pennsylvania-ave

Imagine the visuals. Mr Trump, flanked by Mr Kelly and Mr Mattis. Ivanka and Jared. Steve Miller. Hope Hicks and Sarah Huckabee Sanders.  Maybe Melania would show up, maybe not. Standing on the raised dias as the troops march by. As the tanks roll by. As the missiles roll by. While Mr Trump stands firm jawed in his Mussolini impression, feigning toughness.

All these men and women of the military who actually DO risk their lives. Marching past the “Heel Spur Hero” who took 5 draft deferments. It would be an exercise in supreme military discipline to keep these men and women from vomiting in disgust. Imagine the scene. A miitary homage to the “Great Leader”. We have seen it in many other nations.

That is not to say we should not honor the military with parades. Or that other presidents have not had military components to their inaugural parades. Both Eisenhower and Kennedy , in their inaugual parades, had some military components.

Eisenhower, of course, was a general. A commander-in-chief of the European theatre in WW2 before he was commander-in-chief of the entire military. He was certainly deserving of his military accomplishments being recognized. Although 8 years later, in hi farewll address, he did warn of the military-industrial-political complex. (He took out the reference to Congressional collusion at the last minute so as not to offend too many politicians). So, he had a right.

John F Kennedy was also a war hero. On the ground in real combat. A PT boat captain. So, he also had a legitimate claim to some military reference to his very real military service. After all, he ignored his heel spurs and put his life on the line. As a member of the Kennedy clan he could have easily opted for non-combat duty in the safety of the USA. (See GW Bush for details). But he didn’t.

But neither JFK nor Ike nor US Grant nor Teddy Roosevelt have ever held military parades for the sake of personal glory. Or displaying hardware. All military parades of the past have honored the men and women who risked their lives, not the “Fearless Leader” who stayed home.

We already have parades. We have local parades for Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. We honor the military. regualrly. But we have never produced massive displays of military hardware. During the depths of the Cold War when Stalin and Krushchev were boasting with parades of military might (or the cardboard fascimiles thereof) the US declined to respond in kind. We didn’t need to honor our fearless leaders with parades. We didn’t need to get involved in a “whose is bigger” contest, like some high school boys. We knew what we had. No need to boast.

Let us hope that the Pentagon is able to sidetrack our “Fearless Leader” and not get involved in the politics of the “Great One”. Mr Trump had nothing to do with the military, in any sense. He never served. He bragged about avoiding paying taxes to pay for our arsenal and to pay for our troops. He wants a made for TV special. An extravaganza with “big ” ratings. He needs to deflect from the Russia investigation.

The Apprentice president is drowning in corruption and needs a military parade to deflect. Let’s honor the military by keeping them out of it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Foreign policy, government, nazi, Politics, POTUS, Society, Trump

The Memo That Changed the World

I was watching Hannity the other night talking about the Nunes Memo. It is the most SHOCKING memo in US history. It will turn this nation upside down. it exposes the biggest scandal ever. Bigger than Watergate! Bigger than Teapot Dome! (he didn’t say that one. I doubt he knows what Teapot Dome is). It will end the Mueller investigation.

Hannity: Mueller Probe Was Based on a House of Cards That’s Now Crashing Down

http://insider.foxnews.com/2018/02/02/sean-hannity-monologue-fisa-surveillance-memo-release-ending-mueller-russia-probe

WOW

So, I couldn’t wait to see this memo. As a liberal I was sure it would knock my sox off. I would have to turn in my Communist Party membership card and join the KKK. It would turn me into a Tea Party fanatic overnight. Mueller is heading straight for the slammer!

So, I read the memo. Here it is:

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/read-the-full-text-of-the-nunes-memo/552191/

What I learned….

First and most shocking. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, charged with investigating crimes and breaking up spy rings, was investigating a potential spy ring. OUTRAGEOUS. What is the Federal Bureau of Investigation doing “investigating” anything? Not only that, the FBI actually went ot the trouble of getting a LEGAL warrant, based on probable cause, at a FISA court, to do this investigating! That, my friends, is an outrage.

I also learned that  they were investigating Carter Page,  and had obtained LEGAL FISA warrants to do so! And, that in order to get a warrant at a FISA court they had to have evidence, which they evidently had, otherwise the FISA judge would not approve the warrant. They went back , as required by law, and obtained new warrants every 90 days! With new evidence . So the FBI followed the law to the letter. OUTRAGEOUS.

Now, you might ask, what does Carter Page have to do with the Mueller probe into Russian interference in our election and possible Trump campaign cooperation with the Russians? After all, Sean Hannity insists that the FBI’s investigation of Carter Page impacts on the Mueller investigation. But what does Page have to do with Trump?

According to the Trump campaign and Trump himself…NOTHING. Who is this guy, anyway? When asked about Page’s connection with the Trump campaign, their response was firm:

Mr. Page is not an advisor and has made no contribution to the campaign,” the campaign’s communications director Jason Miller said in an email to The Hill. “I’ve never spoken to him, and wouldn’t recognize him if he were sitting next to me.”

Presented with a statement from a campaign spokesperson in August that characterized Page as an “informal adviser” albeit one who “does not speak for Mr. Trump or the campaign,” Miller doubled down.

He’s never been a part of our campaign. Period,” he said.

Another spokesman, Steven Cheung, said Page “has no role” in the campaign.

“We are not aware of any of his activities, past or present,” Cheung added.”

http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/297599-trump-campaign-backs-away-from-adviser-suspected-of-ties-to-kremlin

Except , in March of 2016, during the campaign, Mr Trump did an interview with the Washington Post, which started as follows:

“FREDERICK RYAN JR., WASHINGTON POST PUBLISHER: Mr. Trump, welcome to the Washington Post. Thank you for making time to meet with our editorial board.

DONALD TRUMP: New building. Yes this is very nice. Good luck with it.

RYAN: Thank you… We’ve heard you’re going to be announcing your foreign policy team shortly… Any you can share with us?

TRUMP: Well, I hadn’t thought of doing it, but if you want I can give you some of the names… Walid Phares, who you probably know, PhD, adviser to the House of Representatives caucus, and counter-terrorism expert; Carter Page, PhD; George Papadopoulos, he’s an energy and oil consultant, excellent guy…”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2016/03/21/a-transcript-of-donald-trumps-meeting-with-the-washington-post-editorial-board/?utm_term=.1b8917464c4f

But, when it is discovered that Page’s Russia connections have been exposed, Mr Trump has another famous “lapse” of memory:

“In a news conference in February, Trump put distance between himself and Page.
I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to him,” Trump said at the time. “I don’t think I’ve ever met him. And he actually said he was a very low-level member of I think a committee for a short period of time. I don’t think I ever met him. Now, it’s possible that I walked into a room and he was sitting there, but I don’t think I ever met him.”

So, Carter Page was both a key advisor to Mr Trump on the campaign yet had nothing to do with the campaign. One of the top five foreign policy advisers to Trump, but Trump never met him! Was never part of the campaign. Makes sense. Perfectly clear. Do I need to repeat myself?

Then there is the Steele”dossier”, whose research was initially funded by the Republican  megadonor Paul Singer, who runs the ultra right wing Washington Free Beacon website. Later, this research was picked up and continued by the Clinton campaign. The Nunes memo claims that this dossier was the basis for the FISA warrant. But that is false. The Steele information, passed to the FBI, simply reinforced what the FBI already knew.

“In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, released on Jan. 9 by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Simpson said Steele’s memo was received favorably by the FBI because it tracked with their own intelligence. “My understanding was that they believed Chris at this point — that they believed Chris might be credible because they had other intelligence that indicated the same thing and one of those pieces of intelligence was a human source from inside the Trump organization,” Simpson said, apparently also a reference to Papadopoulos.]”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2018/01/09/what-you-need-to-know-about-christopher-steele-the-fbi-and-the-dossier/?utm_term=.8f87d99b79a4

So…uh…what we have is a memo written by Nunes that affirms that Carter Page (who may or may not be a Trump campaign adviser) was being investigated by the FBI. True. The evidence to investigate him was there. And federal judges agreed on 4 separate hearings.

So, despite what Hannity has said, this memo not only PROVES that the Trump campaign was involved in contacts with Russians, but never even mentions Mueller.

So much for the memo that changed the world.

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Destroying Stereotypes: The Maya

History is full of examples of civilizations that have collapsed for various reasons. Undoubtedly the people living in all them thought they would last forever, or at least for a few thousand years.

Who can forget the 3rd Reich and the predictions that accompanied Hitler and his PR machine. Well, that one fell a few years short of the 1,000 mark. The British Empire, upon which the “sun never sets” just a century ago, has long diminished and is even now shrinking even more. . And the promise of Khruschev that the USSR would “bury” the US has long since gone by the wayside, as has the old USSR.

As some civilizations rise, others decline. And one who is alive never really knows where he is on the timeline. Will the USA last for a thousand years? Or 20? Will China dominate the next 500 years? Or will Brazil emerge as a superpower?  No one really knows. And, since all people are to some extent “ethnocentric”, we sometimes think that those that came before us were not as “civilized” or “organized” as modern society. Stereotypes.

Which brings me to the Maya of Central America. One of my areas of interest. I have traveled to Guatemala twice and to Mexico at least 4 times. Mainly to see the Maya ruins. Tikal, Uxmal, Labna, Sayil, Chichen-Itza and others. I may go back again someday while I am still ambulatory.

I climbed the Great Pyramid at Chichen-itza and the Pyramid of the Magician at Uxmal. I think both are now off limits due to the increase in tourism.

For a long time the Maya were known only through the lens of the Stephens and Catherwood journals and drawings. A mysterious civilization  which had died out when the Spanish arrived.  A hidden language on stelae and paper, largely destroyed by Spanish missionaries, but still surving in limited texts and oral traditions. When I was in college the Mayan linguistic code had not been broken. We had just scratched the surface.

Ove the last 40 years tremendous insights have been acquired. The hieroglyphic sysmbols have largely been interpreted. As a result a rich history of city-states and kings has now become part of our history. No longer seen as backward savages, a sophisticated civilization has emerged and continues to emerge as we learn more each year. As always, knowledge destroys stereotypes.

The Mayan people themselves, of course, have survived. In the millions. They make up the bulk of the population in parts of the Yucatan peninsula and in Guatemala. In fact, they were the focus of the brutality of the military during the Guatemalan wars of the 1990s.

All of this leads me to a new discovery. In the jungles of Guatemela, which seem uninhabitable today, we have always known there were small city-states, like Tikal. But now we see that this area was densely populated , holding millions of inhabitants in an area that today is a vast rain forest.

An organized central government. A road system. Canals. An agricultural and transportation system to support a vast population. Maybe as many as 60,000 structures hidden beneath the ground by the overgrowth. All of this implies superb organization and the mobilization of people and resources. A new discovery worth looking at.

On Tuesday, February 6, the National Geographic channel will have an hour long program on these new discoveries: Lost Cities of the Maya, 9 PM.

Information destroys stereotypes.

For more on the new discoveries:

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/feb/03/scientists-discover-ancient-mayan-city-hidden-under-guatemalan-jungle

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-42916261

For more on Stephens and Catherwood.

http://www.reed.edu/uxmal/galleries/thumbnails/drawings/Drawings-Stephens.htm

 

 

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