Friday, December 27, 2019


For the first time in US history, the 400 wealthiest people are paying less in taxes than any other group in the US. It is estimated that the tax cuts that most benefit the top one percent will cost the Treasury at least 1.3 trillion dollars in the medium term.
The US military budget, nearly 700 billion dollars, is roughly equivalent to the combined military budgets for the seven next most militarized countries in the world and dwarfs the budget of its next-in-line rival, China.
When banks and insurers hit the skids under George W. Bush, the US came up with 700 billion dollars to bail them out.
But when it comes to funding affordable health care, US government pockets are always empty, it seems.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
When you save the bacon of banks and insurers who defrauded the country in cahoots with the government, it's called "a bailout" and they're "too big to fail" despite their shoddy business practices. When you seek to ensure that every American gets the excellent health care that they deserve and should be able to expect in the richest nation on earth, it's called "socialism" and it is hissed as if it were a dirty word.
Maybe that's the real meaning of "affluent society"—a place where only the rich and powerful benefit, and where what is morally and ethically correct is just too expensive.

In the link below, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortéz takes on Cris Cuomo on this very subject.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


Used to be that the GOP would have frothed at the mouth if anyone in any party had suggested that the FBI was anything but the world's premier police force.
Now they nod in agreement with the madman in the White House when he and his pocket-attorney general rail against "FBI spying" and call that organization's agents "scum".

Back when liberals suggested that J. Edgar Hoover's anti-communist zeal was going beyond the limits of acceptable investigation and becoming a new Salem witch-hunt, Republicans said that they were commie pinkos who were a threat to the country and needed to be jail. Now, anything that is not in obsequious agreement with the Party of Trump narrative is a seditious conspiracy.
Amnesiac hypocrisy at its most ludicrous.

Read more about Trump's latest bizarre antics at the Real Clear Politics link below.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019


If there was any doubt in anyone's mind about whether the current occupant of the White House thinks he's above the law, his administration’s manifesto saying that it would not cooperate (not uphold the rule of law, in other words) with an impeachment inquiry  should make this fact all too clear. During the run-up to the 2016 election, many clear thinkers and insiders who knew the candidate better than the average voter did—including numerous Republicans, who have since pivoted, after it became clear that Donald Trump had managed to hijack the GOP—warned that he was not a man who would respect the law and that he would want to be a power unto himself.
Like the despot that he set out to be and like the tyrants for whom he has expressed such admiration, Trump is seeking to supersede the powers of Congress and the spirit and letter of the Constitution of the United States. Latest polls show that even from twelve to eighteen percent of Republicans are now calling for his removal from office and twenty-four to twenty-eight percent of them now believe that an impeachment inquiry should be carried out. The polls show, over all, that three out of five Americans support the impeachment inquiry being ordered in the House.
Finally, it seems, Americans are beginning to wake up to the fact that Trump is not just any president. He is a man with truly dangerous delusions of grandeur. And, potentially, an even greater threat than Richard Nixon was when he was threatened with impeachment and, instead, resigned in disgrace.
The Trump White House, rather than cooperate in getting to the bottom of charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice, which it claims are false (“fake news”), is ratcheting up its rhetoric, saying that it is “declaring war” on any and all impeachment proceedings. Had the president or anyone on his staff even summarily  read the Constitution of the United States, they would know by now that the presidency is not an all-powerful, autocratic entity—or, at least, it is not meant to be—and that it is subject to congressional oversight and accountable to the investigative power of the House of Representatives.
Under the Constitution of the United States, the Executive doesn't get to make the rules for what the House or Senate can or can't do. It's only under dictatorships that the head of state can get away with dispensing with legislative oversight whenever it doesn't agree with his or her personal or political interests. The three branches are carefully, constitutionally designed to act as near perfect checks and balances on each other. But that only works when all branches respect the rule of law.  And the current executive is not doing that. Nor is he taking seriously his vast responsibilities as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, as witnessed by his stunningly capricious, unilateral and inadvisable weekend order to remove US troops from Syria, taking America’s allies by surprise and leaving friendly Kurdish troops open to immediate attack by the Turkish military.  
The founders of the United States wrote the book on the three-branch balance of power under representative Western democracy. Trump apparently wants to re-write the rules according to his own convenience. He seems to want to re-write history as well, and to turn America’s democratic republic into an autocratic state. It is self-evident that he yearns to re-write the Constitution, or at least to ignore it.
As such, he is a clear and present danger to US democracy, and Congress has a duty to the American people, and to the system of checks and balances, to bring him into line.

Sunday, August 4, 2019


The latest US mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, less than an hour from my home town, left nine dead and 26 injured. It has the dubious distinction of being the 250th such attack nationwide, this year! And the second in just over half a day. The other one was in El Paso, Texas, just thirteen hours prior. Between the two mass shootings within a 24-hour period, the casualty list included 29 dead and 52 wounded. This is a much more horrifying list of dead and wounded for a single day than those reported in many a war zone worldwide.
Both attacks—the one in El Paso and the one in Dayton—were carried out with high-capacity assault rifles (purchased legally in the case of the El Paso domestic terror attack—let's call it what it is), while in Ohio, we still don't know whether the mass-murderer was legally armed or not.

In El Paso, the shooter used a legally purchased Kalashnikov AK-47, a highly popular and highly effective combat weapon of the type carried by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. In the Dayton shooting, the killer's weapon of choice was a .223-caliber assault rifle. He had multiple high-capacity magazines, most of which he was unable to use, thanks to the fast and highly effective work of the Dayton PD, who promptly killed him.
This description corresponds to an M-16, the exact same weapon I was trained with during the Vietnam War era and that I carried on numerous alerts with the 32nd Army Air Defense Command in Europe, while many of my fellow veterans used it extensively in combat in Vietnam and Cambodia.
A number of veterans I've spoken with, including my childhood friend Steve Combs, who was decorated for his actions as an American Special Forces NCO in Vietnam, concur with me that this type of weapon has no place in the hands of civilians. So too does another friend with a long career in law enforcement, former Ohio Deputy Sheriff John Curry. Anyone who has undergone training with an M-16 knows that its only purpose is to lay down heavy fire and to kill or incapacitate as many of the enemy's number as possible. It is not a hunting rifle. It is an anti-personnel weapon specifically designed to kill large quantities of enemy combatants quickly and effectively in the shortest time possible.
The M-16’s accuracy as a semi-automatic weapon is legendary, within an effective range of up to 550 yards. An experienced shooter can fire between 40 and 60 rounds a minute on semi-automatic. On full automatic, this weapon can lay down withering fire at a rate between 600 and 800 rounds a minute.
The Dayton shooting clearly demonstrated these grim traits, since the shooter was able to kill or wound 35 people in under a minute. Had it not been for the stellar performance of Dayton police, the casualties could have easily run into the hundreds.
Despite appearances, this wasn’t a battlefield. It was the nightclub district of a quiet Midwestern city. In El Paso, it was the local Walmart. In neither place could any of the victims have guessed that they would come under fire while shopping for groceries and other items, or while they were out for a Saturday night of fun. All of the people killed or injured were innocent bystanders targeted by a crazed sociopath.

Clearly, this is not something ordinary everyday people should have to think about. But the reality is that today they must, every time they go out of the house, considering the now sadly common frequency with which anyone, anywhere in America, can suddenly be targeted by a domestic terrorist with a weapon of war that has no business being in his hands. 
Politicians on both sides of the aisle are skirting this issue because they are afraid of what tackling it will do to them with gun owners at the polls. This is the case as well of people who continue to staunchly defend the supposed right of any citizen to have any weapon he or she desires, including arms that should be strictly military grade ordnance. How many more people have to die or be injured in mass shootings before the nation’s political leaders realize there’s something very wrong in the United States? Something that doesn’t happen at this level, outside of war zones, anywhere else in the world.
Will defenders, not of the right to bear arms, but of the right to own military-grade weaponry, need to lose members of their own families in random mass shootings before they wake up? And will politicians wait to act until their constituents make it impossible for them to punt with regard to ownership of weapons of war, while continuing to accept vast sums of National Rifle Association hush money?  
There's a lot more at stake here than whether or not the Second Amendment implies that any citizen should be able to own enough ordnance to start their own private war. What's at stake is the safety and security of American streets and public places. What’s at stake are the lives of friends and family, people we all know and love.
Nobody ever thinks that it will happen where they live... And then it does.

Monday, July 22, 2019


US President Donald Trump is not a racist. Or at least that’s not all that he is. His is, rather, a misanthrope, an equal-opportunity hater, who can always find something bad to say about just about anybody.
Well, no, not quite. Actually, he can find something awful to say about anyone decent and admirable (John McCain, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and Meryl Streep spring to mind), or anyone who criticizes or disagrees with him (as long as they are allies or former allies of the United States), or anyone who is a Democrat (or a democrat), or anyone Muslim (other than Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman), or anyone Jewish (with the exception of Bibi Netanyahu and “short guys that wear yarmulkes” and count his money), or any foreign-born person (other than his wife and her parents) living in the US, or anyone gay, or anyone who doesn’t look like or sound like they just came from participating in a Ku Klu Klan rally.
Incited racism...The crowd chanted, "Send her back!"
But in all fairness, there are those about whom he seldom if ever has anything bad to say, people who, by his own admission, he really admires—read: Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Rodrigo Duterte, even the late Benito Mussolini, authoritarians that he would like to be “when he grows up.”
If he weren’t the president of the United States, he could be as racist, bigoted and misanthropic as he liked in his speech (it would indeed be his right to free, if repugnant, expression), and it wouldn’t matter one iota. But he is. And it does.
During the Civil Rights Era of half a century ago, back when I was growing up in my small, all-white, Midwestern home town, it was not uncommon to witness how prominent members of our homogeneous community would blithely ignore the fact that most African American people’s roots in the US stretched back much further than their own Scots-Irish and German immigrant “pedigree” and would suggest that if blacks, who were demanding that their constitutional rights be respected, didn’t like it in America, they could “go back to Africa.”
Sound familiar? It should, because that’s precisely what the president suggested four congresswomen of color should do this past week. And until Trump took office and declared political correctness a thing of the past, this would have been discriminatory and an example of hate-speech.
Indeed, in most workplaces, it still would be considered discriminatory, and the perpetrator would be subject to reprimand, suspension or dismissal. In fact, it is a patent example of potentially unlawful language when it creates a threatening atmosphere in the workplace. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ethnic slurs and other verbal or physical abuse due to nationality are illegal if they are severe or pervasive and create an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment, interfere with work performance, or negatively affect job opportunities. Examples of potentially unlawful conduct include insults, taunting, or ethnic epithets, such as making fun of a person’s foreign accent or comments like, specifically, “Go back to where you came from,” whether made by supervisors or by co-workers.
The Squad
In clear reference to US-born citizens, women of color and Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and (especially) to Somali-born Ilhan Omar (D-MN) a naturalized citizen who has lived in the US since childhood, Trump attacked the four elected representatives for their critical views of US policies saying that if they didn’t like it in America, “Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” 
Some people have tried to argue that Trump isn’t really a racist. That he only uses racism to energize his base, since, he figures, most of his base is indeed racist. But I’m not very sure that the president isn’t a blatant racist, and if he isn’t, then saying something like this simply for effect is even more criminal, because, if that’s true, then his purpose in saying it is to incite hatred and violence. Indeed, Congresswoman Omar has been receiving death threats for some time, and they spiked following Trump’s latest racist tweet. As was amply covered by the media, at a rally that he held this past week in North Carolina, the president clearly mentioned Congresswoman Omar’s name as a crowd-teaser and a buzzword, and the response was immediate. Members of his base in the crowd started chanting “Send her back! Send her back!” As they did, Trump stood idly by and let the racist chants go on, while he postured like Mussolini on the podium.
Equality has never been a value for many of the people who make up Trump’s core base: nativists, tribalists, bigots, Christian fundamentalists, white supremacists, xenophobes and all others who are too ignorant, insecure and narrow-minded to accept diversity. His energizing of these people, his permission for them to give in to their worst instincts is dangerous and frightening. And energizing the rabble to get them to attack “the other” is the stuff that fascism and dictatorial rule are made of.
More terrifying still, however, is not Trump himself, but the GOP’s tolerance of him. The party of Lincoln and Eisenhower has been converted into the party of Trump and it is the Republican Party, in its vast majority, that is providing Trump with the power he needs to become a clear and present danger to democracy or the rule of law. The fact that only a tiny handful of Republican politicians were willing to come out this week and condemn racism and Trump’s use of it as a rallying cry is a clear indicator of the extent to which the current occupant of the White House has usurped the GOP and imbued it with his one-man authoritarian quest for unbridled power.
That racist, bigoted poison with which the 45th president of the US has been rallying his base has spread, obviously, beyond the stage of cutting off the hand to save the body when nearly no one in his party is willing to stand up and say, loudly and unequivocally, that racism is wrong and un-American, and that it won’t be tolerated. Not by anyone, including the president.
The Handmaid's Tale...the new normal?
We Americans tend to think that once historic social conquests like those won in the civil rights era are in place, they become self-maintaining and permanent fixtures. Trump and the hijacked GOP have demonstrated that we can take nothing for granted, that the threat of authoritarianism and a return to hatred of “the other” are only latent as long as the worst that the nation has to offer isn’t marshaled behind a would-be tyrant with the means necessary to inflame a following.
It is no coincidence that the TV miniseries of The Handmaid’s Tale, based on a book that Margaret Atwood wrote back in the mid-1980s, is so wildly popular among liberal democratic audiences today. It’s because, back then, Atwood’s premise was a prescient invention, while today, it’s becoming a burgeoning reality.

Saturday, July 6, 2019


Indeed he did, and set more than one American wondering whether the “leader of the free world” is suffering from dementia, or is just uniquely, unbelievably, incredibly, monumentally, “bigly” ignorant.

This is what he said verbatim:
 “The Continental Army suffered a bitter winter of Valley Forge, found glory across the waters of the Delaware, and seized victory from Cornwallis of Yorktown. Our army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do. And at Fort McHenry, under the rockets’ red glare, it had nothing but victory. And when dawn came, their Star Spangled Banner waved defiant.”
People were still so busy scratching their heads and asking, “WTF did he just say?!” about Trump claiming that the Continental Army “took over the airports”, that they didn’t even notice when he re-wrote another chapter in history by claiming immediately afterward that the decisive War of 1812 Battle of Fort McHenry took place during the Revolutionary War three decades earlier.
Trump blamed the weather. The rain meant he couldn’t see the teleprompter and had to wing it. Hmmm, maybe he needs to work on his ad libbing by cracking a book now and then and learning something...anything!
This would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad—and frightening! Because, let’s face it, one of the world’s most irretrievably hopeless ignoramuses is commander of the most powerful military on earth, and has access to the nuclear codes.
Still, meme artists had a field day...

Thursday, July 4, 2019


Ever since last week’s Democratic debates, I’ve found myself arguing with other liberals—mostly Democrats, but also a few moderate Republicans and the occasional independent like myself—about what, if anything, former Vice President Joe Biden did wrong in answering California presidential hopeful Kamala Harris who took him to task for his stance on the issue of busing back in the 1970s. Let it be clear that, in common with unabashed segregationist politicians of the day, Joe Biden was a staunch opponent of busing, even if by association, and for clearly different reasons than those of racially prejudiced members of Congress. And, at the very least, when challenged in these first debates, he didn’t seem to have a considered and thoughtful response for those whose misgivings Senator Harris was voicing.
Busing sparked widespread protests on both sides of the issue.
Busing, for those too young to remember it, was a federal government attempt to forcibly integrate schools around the country but particularly in the Deep South, where, despite the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was designed to end the sad tradition of racial discrimination that had virtually assured African Americans of second-class citizenship since the end of the Civil War, the best that America had to offer continued to out of the black community’s reach. The policy consisted of federally imposed the busing of students—at first black students only, but later whites as well—from their natural school districts to other districts where schools were either all white or all black.
The idea of busing was to lower the social and cultural barricades that had, from time immemorial, divided the black and white communities. The creators of the policy clearly felt public schools were the place to do this first, bringing young people together, regardless of race, where they might learn to empathize with one another and to live, learn and work together in peace and harmony. More importantly, it was an attempt to ensure an equal education for all, since, frequently, black school districts didn’t get anywhere near their fair share of funding, their fair share of infrastructure or their fair share of educational resources.
But the busing policy was controversial. Although its intentions were noble, its effects were checkered. Yes, in many cases, like that of Senator Harris, apparently, it was a fine opportunity for a better education than she would have had in her own district. But in other cases, like those of a few people I communicated with on the social media this past week, it meant that certain middle-class white kids, who were in school districts that did indeed benefit from the best that America had to offer in public education, ended up being bused to formerly all black schools that were chronically strapped for resources of all kinds.
Furthermore, while the policy was meant to increase social harmony between the races, it often had the opposite effect, because blame for busing was laid at the door of the minorities who benefited from it rather than at those of the three branches of government that were implementing the policy. And this resentment included that arising from schoolchildren of both races having to spend an inordinate amount of time daily commuting by school bus from their home districts to other school districts simply in order to ensure that the schools they attended had “the right mix” of blacks and whites to appease the federal government.
Harris takes on Biden about busing during the debates.
As Senator Harris pointed out in the debates, however, when local communities—in this case, state and municipal boards of education—refuse to do what’s right and what the Constitution and the rule of law require, then it’s time for the federal government to step in and assure that no one’s civil rights are abused. And that was the purpose of busing, no matter how heavy-handed a policy it might have been.
In all fairness, Senator Harris has, since the first debates, said that, given the chance, she wouldn’t necessarily impose busing today. She told those questioning her on the topic that busing was “just one of the tools” in the array of possibilities for desegregation, implying that there were others that might be just as effective. But are there? The de facto re-segregation of public schools that we’re seeing today would tend to indicate the contrary.  
The crux of this matter lies in two responses from Facebook friends of mine this past week. One argued that “schools are all the same” in each state or municipal district, depending on who has authority over them from one area of the country to the next. Another argued that her white middle-class daughter had been bused to “a crappy school with broken windows” in a largely African American district. Although both of these responses were meant to be arguments against busing, they are both arguments that might just as easily have been employed to support busing. First, schools might all be the same on paper—in terms of curriculum, standardized testing, etc.—but in point of fact, they often are not, in either broad or specific practical terms. Second, the fact that a white mother’s child might have been bused to “a crappy school with broken windows” is clearly unfortunate for the child who was in a better school before, but it underscores the argument that all schools are not the same at all, no matter how they may look on paper.
An underlying idea of busing was, indeed, to equalize schools from one district to the next, with bused African Americans usually getting a better education and educational experience than they would have in their home districts, and with the presence of numerous members of the relatively privileged white majority in formerly all black school triggering a movement to bring the schools up to the same standards enjoyed in formerly all-white public schools. The main point of the busing policy was that there was a virtual Apartheid in US education. And something—anything necessary—had to be done to wipe out all vestiges of the country’s racist past, beginning with education.
But no one should get the idea that de facto segregation was only a problem in the South, where it was purposely and stringently maintained. Indeed, segregation was a fact of life in many major cities in the North as well. This was because the boundaries of many school districts were also those of all-black or all-white neighborhoods, which was why court orders backed the landmark Supreme Court decision known as Brown v Board of Education by imposing “forced busing” on such cities in the North as Boston, Columbus (Ohio), Detroit and Wilmington (Delaware), as well as on West Coast cities like San Francisco and Pasadena.
Racial segregationists James Eastland and Herman Talmadge
Recently, Joe Biden boasted about having sought the support of infamous and perennial southern Democrat segregationists James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia for the anti-busing bill that he co-authored back in the 1970s, when he was a junior senator from Delaware. He qualified his statements by making an argument for civility. More specifically, he told the audience at a New York fundraiser that, back then, “At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything, (but) we got things done.” He then went on to talk about his once chummy relationship with the two segregationists.
This was like waving a red flag in the faces of many, particularly southern, African Americans. When challenged by Kamala Harris during last week’s debates, Biden backpedaled after the California senator asked him to admit he was wrong to have opposed busing, telling her that he hadn’t opposed busing, but rather, busing imposed on municipal and state authorities by the federal government. Neither Harris’s challenge nor Biden’s rebuttal got to the real crux of the issue, however. It was, perhaps, out of line for Harris to seek an apology from the former vice president for opposing busing, which he clearly saw as an erroneous policy. Rather, she might well have taken him to task for making a virtual pact with the devil (radical southern segregationists) to try and achieve his anti-busing goal. Conversely, Biden should have known better than to have qualified the kind of busing he was against when, in the age of Internet, it is so easy to review what his stance actually was. And the fact is that Biden was a staunch anti-busing advocate, who espoused, for whatever reason, an absolutist position that was in no way different from that of the segregationists whose support he eagerly sought and received.
In other words, back then, Senator Biden’s opposition to busing was in no way qualified. And the record shows that he was not merely “civil” toward Southern Democrat segregationists, but was in lockstep agreement with them on the issue of busing. In his own words during Senate debates at that time, “I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather,” and he added that busing was, “a liberal train wreck.”
In 1977, Biden joined Senator William Roth in sponsoring the proposed “Biden-Roth” amendment, the purpose of which was to prevent judges from ordering wider busing to achieve integrated school districts. In arguing against busing in 1975, Biden said, “I oppose busing. It's an asinine concept, the utility of which has never been proven to me. I've gotten to the point where I think our only recourse to eliminate busing may be a constitutional amendment.” Clearly, back then, he wasn’t qualifying his opposition to busing as federally imposed versus voluntary busing. His campaign was against busing, period. And he unsuccessfully sought to impose a constitutional amendment to ban it. 
Biden used an argument that no white man ever should have uttered to justify his stance, arguing that “The new integration plans being offered are really just quota systems to assure a certain number of blacks, Chicanos, or whatever in each school. That, to me, is the most racist concept you can come up with. What it says is, ‘In order for your child with curly black hair, brown eyes, and dark skin to be able to learn anything, he needs to sit next to my blond-haired, blue-eyed son.’ That's racist! Who the hell do we think we are, that the only way a black man or woman can learn is if they rub shoulders with my white child?”
Junior Senator Joe Biden sought an anti-busing amendment
Had a black or Chicano politician said the same thing to argue for equal education, it might not raise an eyebrow. But coming from the then-young senator from Delaware, it smacked of hypocrisy since, clearly, the schools blacks and Chicanos were attending weren’t, in their majority, anywhere near equal to white schools. And because it came from the lips of a white politician it sounded more like advocating the “separate but equal” argument used in South Africa, for instance, to justify the nefarious Apartheid policy that sought to maintain white supremacy. Biden’s amendment bill lost by a small margin in Congress but the Delaware senator continued to be an outspoken opponent to busing as a desegregation policy.
Reverse discrimination suits by white victims of busing’s adverse effects were what eventually spelled the broad demise of the policy. But had Joe Biden thought out how he should respond if (or rather, clearly, when) the issue was broached in the debates, he might well have seen what happened to busing as similar to what happened to Obamacare following the administration in which he served in a key role for eight years. More to the point, busing (like Obamacare) was an imperfect policy. But it was a start, a first step in the right direction toward desegregation, but one that was struck down (also like Obamacare) with nothing viable to replace it.
This is verifiable by virtue of the fact that, even today, desegregation of American schools is on a sharp downturn, and has been ever since busing—which, again, was not replaced by any other viable policy—came to an end.  According to an article about the failure of desegregation by The New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb, “To the extent that the word ‘desegregation’ remains in our vocabulary, it describes an antique principle, not a current priority. Today, we are more likely to talk of diversity—but diversification and desegregation are not the same undertaking. To speak of diversity, in light of this country’s history of racial recidivism, is to focus on bringing ethnic variety to largely white institutions, rather than dismantling the structures that made them so white to begin with.”
But that article was written in 2014, two years before the beginning of the Trump era, which has set civil rights back by decades, set political correctness aflame, promoted a far-right mentality fraught with nativism and tribalism and scared the president’s base with boogeyman stories about the rise of American minorities and the danger of disenfranchisement faced by the traditional white majority. We are again, in other words, faced with a resurgence of potential segregation and discrimination against people of color, whether African American or Hispanic. And despite the idea of diversity rather than integration, within a panorama of growing re-segregation, studies show that traditionally white schools continue to be the least culturally and racially diverse of all.   
I’ve heard both sides of a debate by Democrats and other liberals over the last week about whether or not Biden should apologize “for opposing busing.” Personally, I think that this argument seeks to answer the wrong question. The fact is that Biden, in his early senatorial days, was a staunch opponent to busing no matter how he tries to spin it now. But he felt that he had valid reasons for opposing it because, in his eyes, it was a policy that violated states’ rights and brought undo hardships to those affected by the policy.
To my mind, however, the stance for which he should offer a mea culpa is that of having enlisted the help of some of the most notorious racists in Congress to try and get an anti-busing bill that bore his name passed. And he might also want to admit that he was remiss in not helping find some way of promoting integration other than forced busing, if, as he says, he wasn’t for segregation, but merely against the negative effects of federally imposed busing.
This is an issue that won’t die. Mainly because Vice President Biden has failed to address it adequately when it came to the fore in the debates—as he should have expected it to. And this one issue has clearly hurt him badly in public opinion polls. If Biden hopes to take back the ample ground he lost to Kamala Harris in the first debates, he needs to own this issue and deal with it effectively. If not, he can expect his position to continue to deteriorate in the run-up to the 2020 elections.

Friday, June 21, 2019


Remember Crimson Tide, the 1995 feature film in which Gene Hackman is the skipper of a nuclear missile-carrying submarine and Denzel Washington his reluctant first mate? If you haven’t watched it in a while, now’s the time.
In it, civil war has broken out in post-Soviet Russia. An ultra-nationalist rebel military leader called Vladimir Radchenko and his followers have taken over a Russian nuclear missile installation and threaten to trigger a nuclear holocaust if either the Russian central government or the US federal government decides to challenge their power.

Captain Frank Ramsey (Hackman) is the skipper of the USS Alabama, who has received orders to have his nuclear sub in position to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike if Radchenko should attempt to prepare his missiles for an attack. Ramsey is an old salt and one of the few naval commanders with any real war-time experience. His executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Ron Hunter (Washington), is a modern, highly educated Navy officer with in-depth studies in military history and extensive strategic training but no combat experience whatsoever.
This military generation gap and vast difference in styles lead to rising tension between the two officers even before the plot thickens. On the one hand, Captain Ramsey is a hard-nosed, impulsive, my-orders-above-all, sort of officer, while Commander Hunter is a cautious, discerning, analytical leader who, although highly disciplined, isn’t above double-checking orders that might be questionable or illegal.
The real clash between the two men comes when the Alabama receives emergency action orders. Satellite images appear to show that Radchenko is fuelling up his missiles to launch an attack. The order Skipper Ramsey receives is to launch an immediate preemptive nuclear attack on Radchenko’s facility. As he’s making preparations to do so, however, a second message starts coming in from the naval command. But only half of it reaches the Alabama before a rogue Russian submarine that backs Radchenko attacks Ramsey’s sub and knocks out its communications.
Damage to the Alabama’s communications electronics keeps the sub’s crew from being able to decode the second half of the message. And here, the two officers’ totally different approaches result in a split that has Hunter trying to instill logic and Ramsey bent on obeying the last orders available—to launch a nuclear attack. The drama is a modern version of a story not unlike Mutiny on the Bounty or The Caine Mutiny in which a captain’s refusal to see logic leads to other officers questioning his fitness to continue serving.
In this case, Hunter reasons that theirs is not the only US sub in the region and that the others will be in possession of the full second order, which may very well be a retraction of the first. And if that is the case, the Alabama may well end up being responsible for initiating nuclear holocaust on the capricious strength of only partial information. Ramsey contends, however, that orders are orders and that without communications, there’s no way for the Alabama to know whether or not the other US subs in the region have also been attacked and perhaps destroyed. His sub may be the last thing standing between Radchenko and a nuclear attack on the United States.
A military drama ensues in which Hunter takes command and confines Ramsey, at gunpoint, to his stateroom. However, in the midst of the mutiny, the Alabama is again attacked by a Radchenko-loyal vessel. After a brief chase and undersea naval battle, the Alabama emerges victorious. But the skipper has managed to take advantage of the chaos to pull off a counter-mutiny and to arm enough men to place Hunter and some of his fellow mutineers under arrest in the officer’s mess. Ramsey again begins the countdown to nuclear missile launch, but Hunter and his men escape and retake command, while in the meantime, the technical crew find a way to repair the damage to communications.
In happy-ending Hollywood style, rugged individualism and Hunter save the day. Commander Hunter halts the nuclear strike, just as the second message is finally decoded, telling the Alabama to stand down from the original orders.
Crimson Tide is supposedly based on a true story of an incident that actually took place during the Cuban Missile Crisis, back in the early sixties. But as the movie ends, you can’t help thinking about how much more capricious, illogical and dangerous the world is today. Even just twenty-five years down the road since the film was made, you tend to ask yourself whether, if something similar happened today, could a worldwide nuclear catastrophe be avoided?
These are some things any sane person is certain to ponder when the chief executive of the US places the Armed Forces on red alert for a preemptive strike on the territory of a foreign power in the morning and by the afternoon has said, well, okay, maybe not. Logically, you have to breathe a sigh of relief that the man in charge—and holder of the nuclear codes—decided against his first impulse.
But that also leads you to realize that it was just that, a personal impulse with no more apparent consideration or consultation than the reactionary tweets for which he is infamous. And then too, you have to realize to what extent the US and the world are subject to the whims of a single American oligarch. And, what all can go wrong in the timespan between the whimsical orders and counter-orders on which his policies turn.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019


Charles Pierce always sees things from a maverick's viewpoint, but he also always tends to make sense and to tell the awful truth. 
At the end of this piece in Esquire, in which he takes Joe Biden to task for being tone-deaf to the political music of today, he writes, “Joe Biden would be a better president than the one we have now. But I'm not sure everyone has a grasp on how very low that bar is.”
He bashes Biden for expressing his nostalgia about “the good ol' days” when he was a young member of Congress who got things done through alliances with good ol' boy southern segregationists despite their racism and their disdain for “mongrels” in southern culture.
That's not a message for today. In fact, it's a message that would surely appeal more to the largely racist and xenophobic Trump base than to Democrats who, no matter what their age or status, are leaning, to a greater or lesser degree, closer to liberalism, and away from the “good ol' boys” of the “good ol' days”.
Pierce's message is that Democrats and liberal independents have moved on...and so should Biden if he hopes to be a president for these times.
You can read Pierce's article at the link below:

Thursday, May 9, 2019


When I was a boy, I often heard my mother quote an old adage: Many a true word has been spoken in jest.
I hated it when she said it because it usually was aimed at me whenever I said something cruel, unkind, unjust or self-serving and then, when she called me on it, would claim I was “just kidding.” When I did this, like I say, I was just a boy. It’s a puerile and only very thinly veiled ploy that is wholly unsophisticated and simply doesn’t withstand the slightest scrutiny.
And yet, the 45th president of the United States makes use of this childish device on a not infrequent basis. One of the first times we heard it was when the infamous Access Hollywood tape became public. You’ll recall that on that tape, among other totally inappropriate and sexist things that Donald Trump said, he bragged that he could “grab women by the pussy” and they wouldn’t do anything to stop him because he was a star.  He would later say that it was “just locker room talk”—a variation of the “just kidding” argument—as if that justified it or rendered him any less repulsive for saying it.
The Access Hollywood tape is now part of a long list of offensive or potentially dangerous things this president has said and later tried to justify by arguing (or having one of his surrogates argue) that he was just joking.   
At the height of his campaign to win the presidency over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Trump publicly and famously said, “I will tell you this: Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 (Clinton) emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” He thus not only openly encouraged Russia to interfere in the 2016 elections, but also tacitly admitted that he believed reports of Russian operatives hacking sensitive US communications.
However, when Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was investigating Russian interference in US affairs, sent a written question to the US president’s attorneys regarding this campaign statement, Team Trump responded that the president (then candidate) had  made the statement “in jest and sarcastically, as was apparent to any objective observer.”
Be that as it may, Mueller’s probe showed that it was no more than five hours after Trump’s 2016 statement before Russian agents were already actively engaged in hacking Hillary Clinton’s server and eventually the communications of the Democratic National Committee. Furthermore, although the Mueller Report fell short of establishing evidence of an actual conspiracy between Trump and the Kremlin, it did indeed establish that there were multiple lines of communication between Russia and Team Trump.
When, later in the 2016 campaign, thousands of emails hacked from the DNC and from Clinton’s campaign chief John Podesta were published in a public information dump orchestrated by publishing transgressor Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks and picked up by the mainstream media, Trump crowed at a public rally, “I love Wikileaks!” Clearly, Trump and Assange shared inimical feelings toward Hillary, Trump because of the election campaign in which he was constantly insisting that she should be “locked up”, and Assange dating back to Hillary’s stint as secretary of state, when the Obama administration sought to bring charges against the Wikileaks founder for his role in the publication, among other things, of incidents of wrongdoing by US troops that were being kept secret by the military.
After his “I love Wikileaks” cheer, Trump would go on to praise the organization dozens more times, for as long as it was undermining his rival’s campaign. When Assange was arrested in London, however, after holing up for seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in order to elude arrest warrants in Britain, Sweden and the US, the president’s chief spokesperson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Chris Wallace of Fox News that the president “clearly...was making a joke” regarding Wikileaks  during the 2016 campaign. Trump, for his part, seems to be suffering from “Wikiamnesia”, since when asked by reporters what he thought of Assange and Wikileaks now, after the rogue publisher’s arrest, he said, “I know nothing about WikiLeaks.”
Sarah Sanders once again pulled a joker from the deck after Trump asked, “Can we call it Treason?” when Democrats in Congress failed to applaud his State of the Union address. Democrats said accusing opponents of treason for not praising the executive seemed a lot like fascism, to which Sanders claimed that the president “was clearly joking.”
And then there was the time Trump claimed to have been joking when he suggested to a gathering of law enforcement officers that they should “not be too nice” to the suspects they arrested. And the time that he said former President Barack Obama was “literally the founder of ISIS.” After that outlandish claim, Trump tweeted of those who were appalled by such a suggestion, “They don’t get the irony.”
The list goes on, but the latest presidential “joke” is, perhaps, his most narcissistic and authoritarian-minded yet. This is his controversial two bonus-years “joke”.
But first, he had a laugh at the expense of the Mueller investigation on the telephone with Vladimir Putin, the very Russian head of state whose espionage agents carried out a disinformation campaign that sought to skew the 2016 US general election in favor of Trump. The hour-long phone call between the two leaders was a thumb in the eye to everyone who finds Russia’s interference in US domestic affairs completely unacceptable. It came just two weeks after the release of the Mueller Report on the special counsel’s investigation into Russian meddling, which corroborated that this had indeed taken place. Despite denying any Russian state interference in US affairs, Putin had admitted that he was “rooting” for Trump to win.
Well, that interference was never discussed in the US president’s latest talk with Putin—an anti-democratic strongman for whom Trump has continuously expressed admiration since his 2016 presidential campaign. Rather, Trump encouraged Putin to reset their good personal relations now that “the Russia hoax” was over. The president told reporters that Putin had “actually sort of smiled when he said something to the effect that it (the Mueller investigation) started off as a mountain and ended up being a mouse. But he knew that because he knew there was no collusion whatsoever.”
When critics pointed out that the communication with Putin had been a phone call rather than a video conference, so Trump’s assertion that Putin had smiled seemed rather like wishful thinking, the White House rushed to clarify that the president had misspoken and meant to say that Putin had “laughed, chuckled.”
Surely, neither version made any difference to Americans who find rampant Russian anti-American cyber-espionage no laughing matter. And considering the grave contents of the Mueller investigation report, a critical mass of Americans find the president’s quasi-carnal relations with the Russian autocrat baffling and disturbing to say the least.
But back to the “two-year bonus round”. Last weekend, lawyer, Liberty University president and Trump-Evangelical Jerry Falwell Jr. took to Twitter to compliment Trump on his “no collusion, no obstruction” status following release of the Mueller Report. Falwell bought into Trump’s own theory that the Mueller investigation had been an attempted coup orchestrated by Democrats. The Liberty University president tweeted, “Trump should have 2 yrs added to his 1st term as pay back for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup.”
Far from explaining to Falwell that, in case he hadn’t noticed, the US was a constitutional republic based on the rule of law and that presidents only served on behalf of the people and only for the terms mandated by law, Trump re-tweeted Falwell’s seditious suggestion and added: “Despite the tremendous success that I have had as President, including perhaps the greatest ECONOMY and most successful first two years of any President in history, they have stollen [sic] two years of my (our) Presidency (Collusion Delusion) that we will never be able to get back.”
Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a New York University professor and researcher who specializes in the traits of authoritarian rulers, in response to a query from The New York Times, said, “Everything that he (Trump) says is a trial balloon—even his, quote, ‘jokes’ are trial balloons.” According to Professor Ben-Ghiat, “If you look at what he jokes about, it’s always things like this. It’s the extension of his rights, it’s the infringement of liberties.” She added that, “Authoritarians are continually testing the boundaries to see what they can get away with, and everything he does is a challenge to Democrats to mount some response against him.”
The Falwell and Trump tweets underscored fears expressed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi about the possibility of Trump’s refusing to accept the outcome of the 2020 election if his Democratic rival wins. She suggested that if Democrats were to win, they needed to “win big” in order to protect the country from the kind of divisiveness that any refusal by Trump to accept an orderly transfer of power could cause.
Alarm and condemnation expressed in the media and in opposition circles regarding the portent of Trump’s tweeted enthusiasm for Jerry Falwell Jr.’s anti-democratic and unconstitutional suggestion was so swift and so strong that the White House felt called upon to issue a denial. Officials said the president was “just joking” when he talked about being owed an extra two years over and above his four-year term.
It is noteworthy that the president’s latest “joke” comes at the dawning of a constitutional crisis, in which the Executive Branch is actively rejecting legislative oversight and seeking to rule the country as an autocracy that answers to no one for its actions. In my many years as an expatriate and newsman, I’ve had the fortunate professional experience and the dubious personal distinction of living under and next door to a rather wide variety of populist authoritarians and hardcore dictators. It’s an experience that, until now, not a lot of Americans have had, so for many it’s hard to see the signs of what could be coming or even of what’s happening right now. On the one hand, there is Trump’s base, made up of people who seem to have no use for democracy and who are perfectly happy to be ruled by an autocrat. On the other is the majority of Americans, who simply can’t bring themselves to believe that anything as intrinsically alien as authoritarianism could ever happen in the United States.
Friends, all I can say is, “Wake up!” It can, and it is.