Saturday, April 29, 2017

ONLY SOME REMEMBERED THE LIGHT

Portland, Oregon USA. April 29, 2017.

Only the elders remembered it, but even they sat amazed, squinting at the glowing windows. It was somehow familiar, and yet not familiar. For many, not just the elders, it was discomfiting, somehow alien. Bright. Light.

Hopefully, many thought, this will be fleeting, an aberration. And then it will be normal again; grey, wet, rain falling constantly, puddles on the sidewalk, streams running in the gutters. "April showers bring May flowers," some said. "The sun is dangerous on your skin," said others. "Vitamin D pills are just as good!"

I sat rocking on the porch swing, moving over to stay in the shade as the warm light moved across the porch. I thought that I could take off my socks and feel the warm wood boards on my soles, but why risk the tender white skin on the top of my feet? Perhaps we will go for a walk today; I should carry a raincoat and umbrella, just in case.

There are diffuse clouds in the blue sky (that's right, it is actually blue!), and in the east the sky is totally grey. I guess this is transitory, after all, and the world will be normal again, soon.

I feel better.

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Friday, April 28, 2017

RESIST: EVERY GENERATION HAS TO DO IT AGAIN

We received a mailing from the United Farm Workers last week, asking for support. I took some time and visited their website, and confirmed what I knew I would find; they are very actively working as part of the resistance to support undocumented people (as well as everything else they do). I thought about the old organizing song with the line that "every generation has to do it again." Then I went to my dresser and opened the infamous Junk Drawer (you all have one too, don't you). I dug around: miscellaneous keys that I have absolutely no idea what they are for, a nose whistle, a small vial of baby teeth, a deck of naughty playing cards my Aunt Laura sent when I was sick - I was probably 12-13 years old, a real sardine embedded in acrylic with a pin on the back that I sometimes put on a sport jacket lapel, an ancient package of Zig-Zag rolling papers (21 cents!), and the button box. The button box has a bunch of political buttons. I also found the small United Farmworkers flag, and pinned some of the buttons to it; here's the photo:


OK, I tend to be a hoarder, but these items each have an attached memory. This grouping brings back a flood of past activism, the teacher's union, the Farmworkers struggle, the car trip to Coachella Valley for a rally where Cesar Chavez spoke, various boycotts, and so on.

There is a point here, and this is why I dug through the junk drawer: our work is not done! So many have struggled for so long, and yet there is so much still to do. Especially now. Especially now that so many of our sisters and brothers are under attack by people and organizations, including the president and the majority in Congress. The onslaught is daunting, and yet we, the people, are fighting back, each in her/his own way. How many rallies and marches have there been in this country since January 20, 2017? How much media coverage has focused on exposing the corruption of this president and this Congress? It's gratifying to see it happening daily.

I am convinced that America will survive this explosion of populism, because Trump has failed greatly over the course of the first 100 days of Trumpism. The Republican Congressional leadership has also failed in big, visible ways, demonstrating that they have no skills for governing, only for saying no. America will be damaged by the time we dump Trump, and the global effects will be huge and dangerous. But I think our democracy is strong enough to survive and rebuild.

Donald Trump is a buffoon, a dangerous buffoon. He has and will continue to ruin many lives, make many people miserable, shake the foundations of both domestic and foreign policy. Hopefully there are a few good men (yes, he has surrounded himself with men - I'll write about the daughter separately) in his circle who have the knowledge and experience to know when to tell him "NO!" and to avert a disaster, such as war with North Korea. He is causing damage on so many fronts that the results will be horrifying and way too real. But I have hope.

So, brothers and sisters, don't get discouraged, don't shrink from action, fight the good fight, RESIST! (And wear those political buttons!)

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

YES, THIS IS AMERICA

We received a Voters' Pamphlet from the county for a special election in May (school boards, school bonds, etc.). The two pages of information on voting and election facts are repeated in six (6) languages, including English. We vote by mail here in Oregon, something that I think should be the norm in every state.

The point is, America is a nation of diversity. We are a population of immigrants, except for those of us who have native ancestry. (Although, go back far enough in time, and even the native people in what is now North, Central and South America are descendents of immigrants from Asia.) For those who rail against immigrants, I can only ask, where do you think you came from? To those who think that migrants from Mexico and further south don't belong here, you need to remember that the United States went to war with Mexico in 1846-1848 after annexing Texas, and ended up with 525,000 square miles of Mexican territory, what Is now all or parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The Rio Grande River became the new boundary between Mexico and the United States. So who are the real immigrants?

So do us all a favor, you anti-immigrants, shut up! You don't know what you are talking about. We like being a nation of diverse cultures; this is what America is all about. We were founded by immigrants, and we should always welcome immigrants. We should also recognize the shameful moments in our history when we did not welcome immigrants and refugees, and understand that this is happening again today in 2017.

As you look around and see a diversity of people in your community, say to yourself: "Yes, this is America!"
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Thursday, April 20, 2017

THE SHAMEFUL BEHAVIOR OF EVERYONE REGARDING BILL O'REILLY

It seems that allegations of sexual harassment have brought Bill O'Reilly down, at long last. As the reports of O'Reilly's behavior grew, the sponsors of his Fox cable show started to jump ship. At least 40 to 50 sponsors ditched Papa Bear (or is it Papa Bare?), and the list includes many of the worlds largest companies. This is commendable, but way too late. These companies tried to spin their decisions in cloaks of outrage over the way O'Reilly apparently has treated women, but in my humble opinion, their protestations were sickening PR stunts designed to keep them from getting any O'Reilly shit on themselves. These companies are rats deserting a sinking ship, after getting every crumb of advertising revenue they could wring from it.

The fact is that O'Reilly is, and always has been an outspoken loudmouth who has built a cable TV empire based on bigotry. I never paid much attention to O'Reilly; maybe I should have. I have now seen some post-mortems with clips from his show, and I am astounded by the blatant bigotry and hatred he spewed towards women, people of color, LGBT people and all others who are not white Christian patriots.

All of the wonderful companies that sponsored the O'Reilly show are tainted by his bigotry, and issuing PR statements about how shocked they are regarding his treatment of women are too little, too late. The O'Reilly stink is on these companies and will not come off, no matter how much liberal drivel they publish. Where were these companies every time O'Reilly made bigoted remarks about African-Americans, gays, lesbians and transgender people, Latinos, Muslims? Why didn't they pull their ads then?

Sorry, I don't buy it.

And then there is the so-called 45th President of the United States, a huge fan and friend of Bill O'Reilly. Here is what he said recently about the O'Reilly sex scandal: "I think he shouldn't have settled; personally I think he shouldn't have settled," Trump told the New York Times on Wednesday. "Because you should have taken it all the way. I don't think Bill did anything wrong," he said. "I think he's a person I know well — he is a good person," he said.

Wow, such terrific support from the Groper in Chief!

Shame on the companies that advertised on the O'Reilly show. Shame on The Donald of the United States for supporting a sexual predator. Shame on me for not paying attention all these years. Shame on a society that allows a beast like this to become obscenely wealthy and influential based on blatant bigotry.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

DONALD J. TRUMP IS JEALOUS OF RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN

The President of the United States called the President of Turkey to congratulate him on winning a referendum that gave the Turkish President sweeping powers that many analysts see as being one step closer to a dictatorship. Erdogan is making moves to change Turkey from a Parliamentary to a Presidential government. It is no surprise that Donald Trump called Erdogan to congratulate him, because it is clear that Mr. Trump would like the same kind of power.

Think about it. After thousands of people demonstrated on April 15 that Trump should release his income tax filings, Trump said that those people should be investigated. He accused former President Obama of wire-tapping Trump Tower. He wanted to put the former Secretary of State in jail because she used a private email server. He has called journalists horrible, evil liars, purveyors of "fake news" and excluded them from press conferences. His administration is ripping families apart and deporting undocumented parents. He recently referred to "my generals" when talking about the military. He has taken a wrecking ball to government agencies, particularly those that regulate business. He denies the human connection to climate change and is trying to diminish the role of the United States in solving this problem. He wants to roll back laws and legal decisions that protect women's health, ramp up policing in minority neighborhoods to control crime, and require all Muslim-Americans to register with the government. He has whipped up fear and hatred by describing all immigrants from south of the US border as murderers and rapists, and all people, except Christians, from Muslim-majority countries as terrorists. To please his base, Donald Trump would likely want to institute something akin to "Christian Law" in America. And much of the above has been accomplished through Executive Orders, pieces of paper containing legal language that he signs with great flourish, as if he is an emperor.

It is clear that Donald J. Trump wants to have dictatorial powers. He would like to be able to jail journalists for reporting things he doesn't like. He would relish the opportunity to arrest and jail all people who dare protest against him. Would he sieze an opportunity to close universities because they harbor intellectuals who claim to use facts that contradict Trumpism? You bet he would. He would most certainly enjoy sending "his military" anywhere in the world, and even here at home, to strongarm people and governments who oppose him. Yes, Donald J. Trump would love to have the powers of Recer Tayyip Erdogan, a President who has his military conduct mass arrests, torture and murder Turkish citizens, arrest journalists, judges, and university professors, all on trumped-up charges (!), and is moving Turkey towards being ruled as a Muslim, rather than secular nation.

So let us not kid ourselves about Donald Trump's motives. Keep in mind that he recently told reprters that he alone develops his strategies, not others like Steve Bannon. And that is one of the scariest comments yet in this young administration!

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Friday, April 07, 2017

US MISSILE STRIKE IN SYRIA: MY INITIAL THOUGHTS

I have a very cynical view about anything and everything done by Donald Trump. So what do I think about the missile strike? My initial thoughts are below, but I know that as more information comes out, I could have different thoughts.

First and foremost, we know as a fact that everything Donald Trump does has one, and only one purpose: to promote Donald Trump. His first two months in office have been a shitstorm of ineptitude, chaos, scandal and angry tweets. But suddenly an opportunity was served up that he could make into something good for himself, the Syrians used chemical weapons against their own people. First, Trump did what Trump does best, he blamed someone else - Barak Obama, that weakling! - for the incident. Then he did something manly and decisive - he bombed the crap out of a Syrian airfield. Well, he didn't do the bombing, but he ordered the military to do it.

It appears that the Trump administration called the Russkies to warn them not to have any people or equipment at the target airfield; this makes sense, why risk getting into a fight with Putin? The Russians are now spitting and spouting and posturing about the US military action - great political theater for their own people to see. How dare America do something so horrible? (We must conveniently ignore Crimea and the Ukraine.)

So, a simple and effective action (i.e. Donald Trump is The Man, and don't mess with him!) to boost the Trump credibility at a time when it is rapidly shrinking. Nicely played. But we need to look at some alternative facts.

1. The Western Democracies should have acted against the Assad regime years ago to stop the mass killings of Syrian civilians and the tidal wave of refugees streamimg out of that country. The lack of decisive action for so long is a shameful stain on the United Nations and all the democratic nations, as usual.

2. Donald Trump, who shed crocodile tears about the children murdered in the chemical attack, does not give a gnats ass about Syrian children, or any other children for that matter. After all, these are the same kids he won't let into the United States because they are from Syria. And, as my wife eloquently pointed out in a Facebook post, Trump doesn't care about the children whose lives are torn apart when their father or mother is swooped up by ICE and deported from the USA, or like the ones who will be harmed by his program and funding cuts of social service and educational programs, environmental regulastions, and so forth.

3. We have not seen/heard a Trump plan for the Syrian conflict. What we did hear over and over from Candidate Trump was that the United States should not get involved in the Syrian conflict, or any other for that matter. My view, yes - the cynical one - is that this is a one-off opportunity for The Donald to boost his approval ratings. He told us over and over that he has plans - many, many plans that are great, great - to defeat ISIS, to end the Syrian civil war, to bring peace to the Middle East. When pressed for details, he feigned secrecy; "I can't tell you because then the enemies will know, and that would be stupid; after all, I'm smart!" Fact: for every secret plan Donald Trump claimed to have as a candidate, he has issued an Executive Order for various government entities to develop a plan within X days and present it to him. Don't believe me? Check it out at whitehouse.gov.

4. The Russians. The Russians are complicit in mass murder in Syria (and other places). Under the cover of "fighting ISIS," they have bolstered Assad's murderous regime and enabled him to remain in power by murdering Syrians using high- and low-tech weapons. The Russians excell at deception. They excell at political theater. Oh my, they are so upset, so angry, so righteous about the Trump missile strike! They are posturing and rattling swords, and threatening something dire, and truly bidding for the best actor award! Bullshit! They were told about the strike before it happened so they could get their people and equipment out of the way. They are complicit with Trump as well as the Syrians. This is political theatrer at it's best (or worst).

5. The Syrian people. This is the shame, the heartbreak of it all. The Syrian people, on all sides of the conflict, have suffered for years. Estimates of Syrians killed in the conflict range from 325,000 to nearly 500,000. An estimate of the number of people wounded in the conflict since 2011 is nearly 2,000,000. The Syrian Centre for Policy Research estimates that 11.5% of the country's population have been killed or injured in the war. Bashar al-Assad, the President of Syria, is a medical school graduate from Damascus University and did post-graduate work in ophthamology at the Western Eye Hospital in London. So much for the Hippocratic Oath to "do no harm." (In Assad's case, it is the hypocrytic oath!) This monster remains in power, thanks largely to the actions of Russia, and the inaction of the rest of the world.

6. "Donald Trump is finally being presidential." NO!!! He is not!!! Do not try to normalize Donald J. Trump!!! He is not being "presidential;" he is being Donald J. Trump and doing everything he can to promote himself and his brand. This is not "normal," and never will be. Everything he does is all about him. It is not even "republican" or "conservative" or "christian." It is Trumpism, and Trumpism is flim-flam, snake oil, a con, self-promotion, profiteering, and bigoted misogynistic uncaring hurtful harmful unadulterated bullshit! Did I make myself clear just now?

Will the world move on from and forget about the Trump missile strike at a Syrian airfield? Very likely, unless the Russians see an opportunity to stir up more trouble and shame the USA, or Trump decides that he can use another boost to his ratings. Personally, I am in favor of getting rid of Assad and moving the struggle in Syria out of the realm of war and into the realm of politics. I do not think the United States should always act alone, as the policeperson of the world, but should build effective coalitions to act quickly when thousands of people are being attacked by their own government. Syria is not the only place in the world where this is happening, and shame on all of us in the democratic world who ignore these brutal conflicts.

Let's keep this conversation going; let's not turn our backs on the oppressed people of the world.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

HEALTH CARE: WE NEED SINGLE PAYER IN THE USA

Yes, I'm picking up that old, battered drum and banging away on it as furiously as I can. The wonderful Republican Members of Congress (MoCs), having beaten the drum of Repeal Obamacare to splinters, are now fumbling around trying to figure out how to build a new Trumpcare drum, and they are not being very successful.


"Obamacare is a disaster!" Well, no, it is not. A disaster is "a sudden event, such as an accident or a natural catastrophe, that causes great damage or loss of life." In fact, the Affordabkle Care Act has saved many, many lives by providing healkth care to those who need it most. Historians might look back at the end of 2016 and determine that the election of Donald J. Trump truly was a disaster; time will tell.

If you have paid any attention to the health insurance debate raging in Congress, and who can ignore it, you know that the Republican MoC efforts are a train wreck. The Ryancare plan (keep in mind that The Donald does not have an original thought in his yellow head, and is only the robot who signs and claims victrory for Republican bills) is basically deads on arrival; the Dems hate it, conservative Republicans hate it, many Trump voters hate it, elderly people and their organizations hate it, and the list goes on and on. And even more telling, more and more health care and insurance experts who have examined it are saying that it will not work, and even worse, it will leave the poorest among us behind. As many as 24,000,000 people will be left without health insurance as a result of the Republican plan.

Sadly, Republicare could pass both the House and Senate, at which point the yellow-headed man with the pen will sign it, and then announce that, once again, He, and He alone, has done what he said he would do, and is making America great, again. (Pardon me while I puke.)

So why am I beating the tired old drum of single payer health care again? Am I tilting at windmills? Let me explain.

First, here is an excellent piece in the NY Times that lays out the differences between American health care and that of almost every other capitalist democracy. Please read the article if you truly want to understand my opinion, then come back here. (sound of soft music playing to fill time while you read)

V. P. Mike Pence: "Obamacare will be replaced with something that actually works - bringing freedom and individual responsibility back to American health care." This is the crux of the issue, this so-called "freedom" these Republican MoCs keep clamoring for. If you have ever had to compare health insurance plans in order to choose one, or have had to figure out a complex bill for medical and hospital services, or had to pay for a prescription that is priced at the limit of your means, or had to fight with an insurance company to get autrhorization for a procedure or a referal to a specialist - then you clearly understand that you have not experienced "freedom," but instead a special kind of hell that can actually make you worse.

Why do we have such a complex and frustrating health care system? Why did health care in America become a commodity instead of a service? Why is profit more importasnt than life?

I want single-payer health care for everyone in America. You go to a doctor and you get medical service; there is no question about paying for it, it is covered. You pay taxes and you get medical service, end of story (and those who don't make enough to pay taxes also get medical services). What is so terrible about that? Where is the loss of so-called freedom from that?

And so, dear readers, I will be lobbying my MoCs for single-payer health care in America. The reality of today is that I have no control over the Republican-dominated Congress, and they will do whatever it is they want to do to get rid of something accomplished by President Obama and replace it with a system that benefits their wealthy benefactors. Trumpcare, Ryancare, Republicare...whatever we call it, it will stink like a huge pile of rotting trash - guaranteed. So I'm going for single-payer, Republicans be damned!

(...and yes, Bernie was correct...)

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