Thursday, February 2, 2017

That Troublesome Constitution

Time for a rework of that ancient Constitution apparently.

If Muslims are your enemy, you do not support Freedom of Religion. If the Press is your enemy, you do not support Freedom of the Press. If peaceful protesters are your enemy, you do not support Freedom of Assembly. If State Department employees expressing their objections are your enemy, you do not support Freedom of Speech. So much for the First Amendment.

If torture is A-okay with you, you do not support the Eighth Amendment either.

If states determining to protect their citizens is an obstacle, toss out the Ninth Amendment too.

We should take a look at the 4th, 5th and 6th too. Retribution could be more difficult with all that coddling criminals stuff.

The 14th Amendment has that pesky provision about Equal Protection of the Laws. Strike that too?

And the 15th doesn't let you implement voting barriers based on race.

And if referring bills to Congress is too much trouble for you, would you like to repeal the entire Article I also? 

Then there's that troublesome bit in Article III that requires the Senate to provide Advice and Consent when the President nominates a justice. Obviously Mitch McConnell thinks that should go. Article III also says giving Aid and Comfort to our enemies is treason. Can't have that.

Article IV might as well be repealed also, as it doesn't allow the president to withhold privileges from sanctuary cities. Geez. 

As for Article VI, it has that annoying piece about treaty agreements being the Supreme Law of the Land. Certainly can't allow treaties signed before you came into office to stand.

Perhaps, Mr. Bannon and Mr. Trump, you could write a better, more pertinent Constitution for us?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

How Corruption is Already Shaping Policy

Note: Forgive me if I refuse to use the man's name. He's much too egomaniacal and loves plastering that name everywhere. To me, he is Berzelius Windrip, the Huey Long character in Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here.

Below are the official positions and policies proposed or adopted that we KNOW relate to Berzelius Windrip's personal businesses. As you know, he has refused to release his tax returns -- letting us know where the conflicts of interest lie -- and has refused to divest himself of assets that might be impacted by his actions as president. Compare that to President Carter's selling off his peanut farm, just in case. Interestingly, Republicans still investigated that peanut farm for six months in 1979...but seem unconcerned about Berzelius Windrip's vast assets.

Opposition to the European Union: Yesterday in conversations with UK Prime Minister Teresa May, he admitted his business dealings with the EU were difficult. And now we as a country must oppose the EU. He chose an ambassador to the EU, Ted Malloch, who likened it to the former Soviet Union and holds the EU in contempt.

Ban on Immigration from Certain Middle Eastern Countries: Already we have the horrors playing out in airports around the country as immigrants, refugees and foreign nationals from certain countries are forbidden entrance. Yet other countries -- in fact, the countries that have been home to most of the terrorism perpetrated on American soil -- are not included. Why? Because Berzelius Windrip has business dealings in those countries.

Restarting the Dakota Access Pipeline: The Army Corps of Engineers, environmentalists and tribes agree that this pipeline is a danger to the areas it crosses and the water tables around it. But Berzelius owns stock in DAPL and one of his first decrees was to clear the way for the pipeline to continue.

Undermining NATO and Removing Sanctions on Russia for its Ukraine Annexation: His pandering to Russia has been the most concerning to Americans and may involve more than just profit, with suggestions that blackmail could be a part. But in spite of his denials that Russian business is important, there are so many entanglements with Russia and Russians (notorious Russian Mafia included) that the denials hold no water.
In 2008, Donald Trump Jr. said Trump's businesses "see a lot of money pouring in from Russia." 
"And in terms of high-end product influx into the US, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia. There's indeed a lot of money coming for new-builds and resale reflecting a trend in the Russian economy and, of course, the weak dollar versus the ruble," he said. (CNN)
There is considerable suspicion that -- since Wall Street banks had cut him off because he had stiffed them too many times in various bankruptcies -- he was beholden to Russians for major loans as well.

Reversing Washington Criticism of Phillipine President Duterte's Brutal Drug War: Duterte has ordered -- and claims to have personally committed -- the murders of thousands suspected of drug use. US Policy had been harshly critical of this brutality, but now all that has changed, with the new president praising Duterte's handling of the drug war. Trump Tower in the Phillipines is still under construction and has had some official barriers, soon to dissolve, one suspects. And who did Duterte name as special envoy to the US? Berzelius Windrip's business partner, Jose E.B. Antonio.

Undermining the One China Policy: Before taking office, the president-elect created turmoil in our relations with China by engaging with Taiwan's president. Why? Apparently the family hotel business has been eyeing erecting a hotel in Taipei and son Eric is scheduled to visit Taiwan to pursue that objective.

Threats to Deport Gulen to Turkey to Appease Erdogan: Turkey's tyrannical president Erdogan has forced the removal of the family's name from its Istanbul hotel and has been vocal against the anti-Muslim tenor of his campaign. But in exchange for the opposition leader Gulen (living in Pennsylvania and protected by the US), Erdogan is now softening his approach and welcoming the family's name back into Turkey. In a November phone conversation, Berzelius Windrip praised his Turkish business partner Dogan to Erdogan. Erdogan then arrested Dogan and may be holding him to trade for Gulen.

Relations with Argentina: During a November 14th phone conversation, the president-elect asked Argentina's president Marci to loosen up the permitting process that has held up a family hotel project in Buenos Aires. The obstacles then disappeared and the hotel construction moves forward. What tit-for-tat went on that benefits Marci we do not yet know.

Relations with Japan: Remember when daughter Ivanka, who has business with the bank run by Japan's Prime Minister Abe, was invited to sit in on the meeting with Abe? Given our military relationship with Japan, what does Japan expect in payment for assisting the family business?

Any one of these deals should result in impeachment for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution. That Congress has not even convened a committee to investigate corruption is extremely disconcerting. And this may be but the tip of the iceberg.

Neither foreign nor domestic policy is being determined based on the intelligence of or advice from experts in our government. Those experts are being removed summarily and ideologues and profiteers being put in their places. Scientists are being hushed at NASA, the Interior Department and the EPA. Cabinet members hostile to the missions of their agencies being seated to head the Education Department, the EPA, the Labor Department and Commerce.The wholesale removal of expertise from the State Department a few days ago and of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the Armed Forces from the National Security Council -- replaced by white supremacist ideologue Stephen Bannon -- is dangerous beyond reckoning.

Consider also the following actions by the family to cash in on the presidency.

Access to the President being Sold by his Sons: An Inauguration Week event with his two sons as founding members, sold million-dollar tickets to donors wanting cheek-to-cheek time with the new president.

Mar-a-Lago Doubled Membership Fees to $200,000: Berzelius Windrip's vacation resort (which he owns) -- where residents can rub shoulders with the president -- just doubled its fees from $100,000 to $200,000, the new price for access.

My daughter's work in international development required her to work with corrupt two-bit dictators around the world. Her stories were shocking and horrifying, where permission to do good work was based on how much graft the royal family stood to gain rather than how much good could be done for poor villages. This is now our road.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Accessories to Theft?

On the very day (13 February, 2016) that Justice Scalia died, Mitch McConnell decreed that the Senate would not consider any Supreme Court nominee proposed by President Obama.

There was still almost an entire year left of the President's term in office. President Obama named a moderate often praised by key Republicans -- Justice Merrick Garland -- in March. Justice Garland received no consideration and Senate Republicans refused to even meet with him.

Article Two of the United States Constitution requires the President of the United States to nominate Supreme Court Justices and, with Senate confirmation, requires Justices to be appointed.
"he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... Judges of the Supreme Court..."
McConnell made it clear he was denying Obama's right to appoint a justice -- and abdigating the Senate's Constitutional responsibility -- precisely so the next president could fill the opening. This was a theft from the president. Democrats wrung their hands but seemed powerless to do anything.

Now we have a Republican president and a Republican Senate, frothing at the mouth to fill Scalia's seat with an extreme conservative. Democrats still have the power to filibuster SCOTUS appointments and must do so, vowing that only Merrick Garland will be considered. If they must filibuster five, ten or twenty nominees, that is how they avoid becoming accessories to a theft. We cannot allow this theft to establish a future precedent.

But beyond this, Senate Democrats -- or citizens through the ACLU -- should petition the Court to issue a stay (suspension) of consideration of any nominee until Merrick Garland's nomination has received the full consideration from the Senate.

It is time for the Supreme Court to weigh in on obstruction and defiance of the U.S. Constitution.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Pay Attention to his Heroes

I wouldn't have hired him for any job I had to fill, let alone the presidency of the most powerful nation on earth. His supporters have looked past what are painfully obvious disqualifiers. One way to judge a person though is to look at who he admires and who he attacks. Below is an incomplete list with links.

Who He Admires
  1. Saddam Hussein, brutal dictator of Iraq
  2. Vladimir Putin, dictator of Russia who stole national assets and assassinated opponents
  3. Kim Jong Un, petty dictator of North Korea
  4. Benito Mussolini, fascist dictator of Italy
  5. Muhammar Qaddafi, brutal dictator of Libya and supporter of
    international terrorism
  6. Chinese Government's bloody suppression of the Tiananmen Square protest
  7. Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan's 25-year dictator whose human rights record is among the worst in the world
  8. Bashar al-Assad, brutal dictator of Syria responsible for the horrific civil war there
  9. Adolf Hitler, whose speeches he kept by his bedside, according to first wife Ivana.
  10. Rodrigo Duterte, brutal Philippine dictator responsible for thousands of murders of citizens suspected of using drugs
An American president-elect who admires this many brutal dictators is an unprecedented danger. The world sees this, most Americans see it but his fans deny what is as clear as his racism and misogyny.

Who He Attacks
  1. John Lewis, hero of the Civil Rights Movement and partner of Martin Luther King, Jr.
  2. Meryl Streep, most renowned actress today
  3. John McCain, specifically for being captured and being a POW
  4. Angela Merkel, German Chancellor 
  5. NATO, the partnership between the US and Europe that has kept the peace there since WWII
  6. Pope Francis, because he criticized him
  7. The United Nations
  8.  Alicia Machado, beauty queen
  9.  Washington Post, CNN, ABC, CBS, New York Times, Vanity Fair
  10. Saturday Night Live 
  11. Two Billion Muslims
  12. Thirty-six Million Mexican-Americans
  13. Gold Star Parents of a Dead American Soldier 
  14. Ordinary Citizens who question him
The man will continue to do his utmost to undermine our nation's founding principles, beginning with free speech and freedom of the press. It's going to get scary to speak up but speak up we must.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Favorite New Year's Resolutions

It is that day.

Time to plan for 2017. There is much you cannot control, but there are also ways you can contribute to a better world. Here are some favorites of mine. Which are doable for you in 2017?

Your Health, Your Body
  • At the grocery store, begin shopping on the edges. Walk through all the perimeter departments -- produce, dairy, meat, deli -- before allowing yourself to purchase any of the highly processed items in the aisles.
  • Cut your sugar intake. I cut mine back this year to maximum two small sweets per day and saw my appetite diminish and 10 lbs go away.
  • Instead of dieting, set a goal to eat 7-10 servings (half cups) of fruits and vegetables every day. Doing so will cut your other snacks.
  • Get up out of your chair, at least every 20 minutes. Walk around the house, the office, get a drink of water or go fix your hair before sitting back down. 
  • Walk your dog. 
  • Commit to doing something creative every day. For me, it's quilting, gardening, cooking, photographing, playing piano, or writing. What would you do? 
  • Cook most of your meals at home. All those cookbooks on the shelf? Take one down.
Your Planet
  • Avoid over-packaged purchases. When you can't, open the package at check-out and burden the retailer with disposal. They'll get the message.
  • Don't buy synthetic fabric clothing. Plastic microfiber pollution is currently the worst plastic problem in our oceans, with millions of those fibers released in every washing. Buy organic natural fabrics or -- better yet -- only used clothing.
  • Buy used and recycled whenever possible. 
  • Fix what's broken instead of replacing it.
  • Spend time every week in nature -- take a walk, a bike ride, or put a hammock up and relax. The more nature you get, the more you'll want to protect it.
  • Support organizations that are working to protect our planet.
Your Community
  • Shop local first. Before looking for what you need at a big box store or online, see if an
    independent local merchant carries it or can order it.
  • Read and support your local newspaper.
  • Go to the theater, attend concerts, visit museums.
  • Volunteer. Give your time and your talents.
  • Greet and smile at strangers on the street.
  • Pick up trash you see.
  • Walk as much as possible, interacting with people along the way. Get out of your car.
  • Pick at least one local non-profit and set up monthly recurring donations at an affordable level.
  • Send one hand-written thank you note every week. Designate a day of the week to do this. You'll find it makes you feel as good as the recipient. 
  • Pick up the telephone and call a friend you haven't spoken to for a while. For no reason.
  • Every time you want to complain about something local, ask yourself how you can contribute to making it better.
  • Be kind.
  • Listen to a child.
Your Country
  • Subscribe to a newspaper or magazine that does independent journalism. Online or print -- either is fine. We will need a strong, free press.
  • Set up recurring donations to the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood, Common Cause, Doctors without Borders, the Near East Foundation, or any organization working to do good work in the world. Even ten dollars every month makes a difference. Give more if you can.
  • Call decision makers -- Congress, agencies, businesses -- every week to voice your opinion.
  • Support progressive candidates early and vigorously. Get involved.
  • Write letters to the editor. I just did this morning.
  • Speak up for the vulnerable. Don't look away.
 All of these are fairly simple. Choose one, choose several, or add your own ideas below in the comments. 2017 will tax us all -- some in ways we can anticipate already, but also in ways we cannot.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Delete! Delete! Delete!

The federal government today has the most far-reaching power to spy on every single American citizen. Ever since the Patriot Act -- introduced initially by the Bush Administration and renewed regularly ever since -- your government has access to everything about you:
  • Facial recognition
  • Your social media history
  • Your medical and genetic data.
  • Your movements (if you take your GPS enabled phone with you or your smart car or if your police have license plate reading technology)
  • Everything that passes through your computer, phone or any other electronic device
"Knowing where a person’s phone is located can reveal sensitive information, like when they go to the doctor or psychologist, what political activities they engage in, who they spend time with, and where they sleep at night. Law enforcement agencies can often obtain this personal information without ever getting a warrant from a judge." ACLU
We know that the federal government has subpoenaed blanket access to your phone and computer from Yahoo, Google, Verizon and others. And we also know that when challenged, the secret court set up to hear such challenges has consistently ruled to allow the surveillance. All this has happened under Bush and Obama. Picture that same awesome power in Donald Trump's hands -- and that of his paranoid unhinged appointments.

Now imagine a search of that data on 300 million citizens for terms like Drumpf, Orange Hitler, or any other term that might uncover the new president's detractors. Once identified, cross-check those persons with other data -- who had an affair? who had a DUI? who was once fired? whose medical records show drug, alcohol, or mental health issues?

We know Trump will want to go after any who challenge him. He's already threatened the independent press, a small town union leader in Indiana, and a college student who dared to ask a question. We're next.

Only those currently inside the NSA, other intelligence agencies and their private contractors can prevent what is clearly coming. I appeal to those professionals. Only they can put a crimp in the ability of Trump and his circle of misfits to use megadata against their opponents.

Please, agents: Start deleting that data. Delete anything that isn't directly related to terrorism investigations. Delete access to information about me and other citizens. Delete the shame pipeline that would allow his minions to mess with people's lives.

Yeah, you'll be fired. Hopefully, your principles transcend those of politicians who think their jobs are more important than our nation. Get fired. Get a different job. Save the country.

There are only a few weeks to complete this vital work. Do it.