Sunday, February 12, 2017

Slow Boiling Domestic Coup

With members of the CIA and NSA leaking materials on Michael Flynn’s communications with Russian officials, we are witnessing a slow boiling domestic coup that will transform American governance and the Executive Branch’s relationships with intelligence agencies. It remains to be seen whether these moves signal broader attacks on the Presidency by agencies long accustomed to taking out administrations threatening the Agency’s perceived interests.
This moment tells us more about the CIA revolting against a particular administration than it does about Trump’s people engaging in unusually diabolical-illegal activities designed to undermine an outgoing administration. We know enough about Reagan’s pre-election dealings with Iran to know that the CIA and NSA knew about these transactions, yet these agencies were content to remain silent; apparently glad to see Carter ousted and welcoming a new era of unparalleled “peace time” military and intelligence spending. Similarly, American intelligence agencies knew of Nixon’s efforts to sabotage the Paris peace talks before the 1968 election, and the CIA did nothing to undermine a new president who was going to give the agency the war it wanted. The leaking of Flynn’s information tells us little new about how incoming administrations act, but it suggests something new about US intelligence agencies willingness to take out an administration not to their liking.
To be clear: I see nothing wrong with the leaks themselves. I like intelligence leaks. I think they are generally good for democracy and reveal important truths about power. I am not worried about leaks, I am worried about the CIA and other intelligence agencies making a significant power grab that is not being critically considered. This is a move that no future president will soon forget, and that will make him or her think twice before crossing these agencies.
The left’s widely shared disdain for Donald Trump makes the current rushing national wave of schadenfreude understandable, yet there are few on the left who appear worried about what this domestic CIA coup portends for American democracy. Because of the long history of liberals’ attractions to using the CIA, perhaps we should not be too surprised at this elation, but we need to cautiously think beyond this moment.
It is no secret that many at the CIA hold disdain for Flynn. His years at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and in command of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) coincided with efforts to move many of what had been CIA operational activities and covert operations away from CIA to DIA. With the CIA attacking the Trump administration so soon after the election with leaks of the Russian hacking report there were clear public fissures appearing between the Agency and the new Executive.
I assume that there are lots of reasons why many at the CIA and NSA wish to undermine the Trump administration—I even assume I may share a few of these reasons with them. While the agency is comfortable with much of the corporate looting that Trump appears ready to unleash, few in the agency like the sort of instability that Trump generates—and I suppose some within may take his ongoing barbs and attacks on Agency incompetence seriously.
As it is to many of us on the left, it is obvious to me that Trump is the most dangerous, unqualified, and reckless US President I have ever seen—much less imagined. And while it seems as if he will soon enough seize some opportunity to declare a national security disaster granting himself new unlimited powers, I know no reason to trust the CIA and other intelligence agencies any more than we trust Trump.
This attack on the Executive Branch is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. The most historically interesting element of this moment is the rarity of seeing the CIA operating, in real time, not in its usual historical role as a covert arm of the presidency (which Congressman Otis Pike argued was its primary function), but as the sort of rogue elephant that Senator Frank Church and others long ago claimed it is. As members of the Republic, no matter what momentary joy we might feel watching this rogue elephant canter towards our incompetent Commander and Chief, we must not ignore the danger this beast presents to one and all.
We should welcome calls to investigate Trump, Flynn, Bannon, Pence and others within the administration, but we need to also investigate and monitor the CIA for this latest in its long history of attempted coups.
David Price a professor of anthropology at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. He is the author of Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State published by CounterPunch Books.
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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Where we stand, according to me

We live in a time where the American experiment is pretty much on life support. Both political parties have surrendered to big money interests and are fighting each other based on right or left ideology to control the social system, much like gangs in prisons. With decreasing resources. So long as they don't challenge their masters, they are allowed to do as they please. This keeps the populace distracted from the coup that's been enacted on our country and so far keeps them subservient. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Lady Gaga

I enjoyed the half time show. Lady Gaga began with "This Land is Your Land," written by Woody Guthrie. This morning I saw two articles describing the song as a "protest anthem." While it is so that Woody wrote some protest songs, I never considered this one to be among them. It celebrates this land and is all inclusive. Barry Goldwater, Mr Conservative, had it played at his rallies, in 1964. But, the original version goes like this, and I have to change my position. It is a protest song.


This Land Is Your Land
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island; 
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters 
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway, 
I saw above me that endless skyway: 
I saw below me that golden valley: 
This land was made for you and me.

I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps 
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts; 
And all around me a voice was sounding: 
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling, 
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling, 
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting: 
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there 
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing." 
But on the other side it didn't say nothing, 
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people, 
By the relief office I seen my people; 
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking 
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me, 
As I go walking that freedom highway; 
Nobody living can ever make me turn back 
This land was made for you and me.



© Copyright 1956 (renewed), 1958 (renewed), 1970 and 1972 by Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. & TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (BMI)

It's usually sung with these lyrics:

Saturday, February 4, 2017

sunday's GAME

I grew up hating professional sports. The most agonizing afternoon I could imagine was to watch sports and football in particular. I saw it, from what little I paid attention to, as the quarterback giving a guy the ball; the guy would plow head on into a wall of players and be stopped in his tracks; repeat; repeat; kick. Then, the other team's turn. One day, in 1964, a shipmate offered to bet me five dollars some team would beat a team called The Steelers. I accepted and gladly won the five. So, I watched a game at the next opportunity. The Steelers looked beautiful out there, destroying some hapless opponent. The score was something like 50-14. I was hooked, from that day to this.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Tax Time

Trying to get worked up to do taxes. Not certain I will manage today. I do this online. Last year I used the HR Block app. Did it free and printed a copy to mail in. Reason I send paper is, they see your information as they receive the form, so they can sign off on it right away. Sent electronically, they have just your submission to view. A few years later they go through your information again, looking up W2 forms and such. If they find a mistake that costs you money, it has already racked up two years' interest. This happened to me for the 2015 return. I am super careful now, but taking no chances.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Online Surveys

Being old and out of most mainstream activities these days, most paid surveys I signed up to take for pay are closed to me. Some of these services send me emails every day, proclaiming new surveys, which I am invited to take. But they almost always reject me. So I bailed on all but one. YouGov gives me points until I achieve 100,000. Then it allows me to apply for and receive a gift card for a hundred bucks. I have gotten gift cards for $100, $100 and $25. It takes a lot of surveys, but I don't mind.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

President Donald Trump signed executive actions on Tuesday to advance the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, reversing decisions made by the Obama administration and setting off a clash with Democrats and environmental activists who vehemently oppose the projects.
Trump said that approving the cross-border oil line would be “subject to a renegotiation of terms by us,” comments that suggest that he plans to revive his campaign-trail bid to claim “a piece of the profits” from the pipeline for U.S. taxpayers — a legally and politically risky proposal.
Keystone XL, which was rejected by former President Barack Obama in 2015, has been at the center of one of the largest opposition campaigns in the history of the environmental movement, with activists conducting a years-long effort to kill the project. During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly promised to approve Keystone XL, which would carry Canadian oil sands crude from Alberta to Texas, and he said he wants the U.S. government to get 25 percent of the pipeline's profits.
Another of the executive actions signed on Tuesday was aimed at identifying high priority infrastructure projects and speeding the required environmental reviews that Trump blamed for slowing construction of important infrastructure projects.
"The regulatory process in this country has become a tangled up mess. And very unfair to people," Trump told reporters gathered in the Oval Office.
"We intend to fix our country, our bridges, our roadways. We can't be in an environmental process for 15 years if a bridge is going to be falling down or if a highway is crumbling. So we're expediting environmental reviews and approvals," he added.


And he said the materials used to build the pipelines in the U.S. should come from American companies — a move that would put "a lot of steelworkers" back to work, although the memo says only that the Commerce Secretary should submit a plan within 180 days use U.S. steel "the maxmum extent possible and to the extent permitted by law."
"We will build our own pipeline, we will build our own pipes. That's what it has to do with. Like we used to, in the old days," he said.
Building the Keystone XL pipeline would also be a boon for Trump's friend and early energy adviser Harold Hamm, the founder and CEO of Continental Resources, the oil company that is the biggest oil producer in North Dakota's Bakken field. The pipeline would help transport oil from those wells, which have relied in the past on trains to get the crude to customers.
"My goodness, that's a pipeline that is certainly needed. It brings the best, highest quality crude oil from the Bakken to the population centers," Hamm told an industry event in December.
TransCanada said the day after Trump’s election that it “remains fully committed to building Keystone XL” but has publicly offered no details since about when it would re-apply for the border-crossing permit that the new president invited on Tuesday. Keystone has come up during meetings between Trump aides and officials of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, a source told POLITICO.
Trump's memo invites TransCanada to "promptly" resubmit its Keystone XL application and it directs the State Department to make a decision on the project within 60 days.
It was not immediately clear if Trump was altering the 2004 George W. Bush administration order that requires a broad inter-agency review of cross-border pipeline projects led by the State Department, but simplifying that process move that would make it easier to approve Keystone.
While Trump has long been expected to take steps to approve Keystone, two people familiar with the issue said Trump administration officials have had little communication with the State Department in the runup to the executive actions. One of those people said State did not sign off on the executive actions.


Building Keystone XL faces a number of obstacles. The pipeline is still awaiting approval from Nebraska state regulators for its proposed route, and many landowners in the state are opposed to the project.
“There’s so many other things that come along with Keystone XL that Trump is going to have to deal with: that it’s foreign oil, that they’re using foreign steel and they’re using eminent domain to take land away from people who voted for him,” said Nebraska-based anti-Keystone activist Jane Kleeb. “I think Trump is not prepared for the amount of protests from Nebraska Republicans that are coming his way.”
The planned 1,100-mile Dakota Access pipeline, which would run from North Dakota to Illinois, has also become a focal point of progressive opposition to fossil fuel projects. Native American tribes joined with activists in protests that have occasionally turned violent and caught national attention over the last few months.
The Standing Rock Sioux, which has been at the center of the protests because of the threat the tribe says the pipeline poses to its water supply, said Trump's order violates previous agreements they had struck with the federal government.
“President Trump is legally required to honor our treaty rights and provide a fair and reasonable pipeline process,” Dave Archambault II, chairman of the tribe, said in a statement. “Americans know this pipeline was unfairly rerouted towards our nation and without our consent. The existing pipeline route risks infringing on our treaty rights, contaminating our water and the water of 17 million Americans downstream.”
Any move to approve the pipelines will face legal challenges from environmental groups, and Democrats and activists immediately bashed Trump over the pending actions.
Jamie Henn, co-founder of the environmental group 350.org, promised that greens will fight Trump.
"We're going to fight Keystone XL and Dakota Access along the route, but we're also going to jiu jitsu this attack into energy to take on fossil fuel infrastructure all across the country,” he said.


“While countries like China and Germany continue to make progress in their transition away from the dirty energy of the past, this action will roll back the progress we have made,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said in a statement. “Encouraging the production of this oil, which includes Canadian tar sands – one of the dirtiest fuels in the world -- is a huge step backward.”
Trump previously owned between between $15,000 and $50,000 of stock in Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access pipeline. A Trump spokeswoman told reporters last year that he sold his stake in the company. Rick Perry, Trump’s nominee for energy secretary, sat on Energy Transfer Partners’ board, but he resigned earlier this month.
Earlier Tuesday at a meeting with auto industry executives, Trump criticized the sometimes lengthy process required to secure environmental permits required to build infrastructure projects.
“Our friends that wanna build in the United States, they go many, many years and then they can’t get the environmental permit over something that nobody ever heard of before,” he said. “And it’s absolutely crazy. I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist. I believe in it. But it’s out of control.”
Shane Goldmacher, Isaac Arnsdorf, Elana Schor, Eric Wolff and Madeline Conway contributed to this report

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The First Press Release is Demonstrable Bullshit?

This is what a friend posted elsewhere. I fear they are correct:

" People have heard me voicing similar themes to these in shorter comments, but this gets to the heart of it. Trump and his press attach├ęs aren't being found out, caught in the act or making mistakes: it is quite deliberate strategy with historical precedents.

"If you are puzzled by the bizarre "press conference" put on by the White House press secretary this evening (angrily claiming that Trump's inauguration had the largest audience in history, accusing them of faking photos and lying about attendance), let me help explain it. This spectacle served three purposes:

1. Establishing a norm with the press: they will be told things that are obviously wrong and they will have no opportunity to ask questions. That way, they will be grateful if they get anything more at any press conference. This is the PR equivalent of "negging," the odious pick-up practice of a particular kind of horrible man (e.g., Donald Trump).

2. Increasing the separation between Trump's base (1/3 of the population) from everybody else (the remaining 2/3). By being told something that is obviously wrong—that there is no evidence for and all evidence against, that anybody with eyes can see is wrong—they are forced to pick whether they are going to believe Trump or their lying eyes. The gamble here—likely to pay off—is that they will believe Trump. This means that they will regard media outlets that report the truth as "fake news" (because otherwise they'd be forced to confront their cognitive dissonance.)

3. Creating a sense of uncertainty about whether facts are knowable, among a certain chunk of the population (which is a taking a page from the Kremlin, for whom this is their preferred disinformation tactic). A third of the population will say "clearly the White House is lying," a third will say "if Trump says it, it must be true," and the remaining third will say "gosh, I guess this is unknowable." The idea isn't to convince these people of untrue things, it's to fatigue them, so that they will stay out of the political process entirely, regarding the truth as just too difficult to determine.

This is laying important groundwork for the months ahead. If Trump's White House is willing to lie about something as obviously, unquestionably fake as this, just imagine what else they'll lie about. In particular, things that the public cannot possibly verify the truth of. It's gonna get real bad."

Added by another friend: Also they'll be counting on the media to follow its normal behaviors of covering he said/versus she said without attention to the actual facts.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Robert Reich on Donald Trump

I had breakfast recently with a friend who's a former Republican member of Congress. Here's what he said:
Him: Trump is no Republican. He’s just a big fat ego.
Me: Then why didn’t you speak out against him during the campaign?
Him: You kidding? I was surrounded by Trump voters. I’d have been shot.
Me: So what now? What are your former Republican colleagues going to do?
Him (smirking): They’ll play along for a while.
Me: A while?
Him: They’ll get as much as they want – tax cuts galore, deregulation, military buildup, slash all those poverty programs, and then get to work on Social Security and Medicare – and blame him. And he’s such a fool he’ll want to take credit for everything.
Me: And then what?
Him (laughing): They like Pence.
Me: What do you mean?
Him: Pence is their guy. They all think Trump is out of his mind.
Me: So what?
Him: So the moment Trump does something really dumb – steps over the line – violates the law in a big stupid clumsy way … and you know he will ...
Me: They impeach him?
Him: You bet. They pull the trigger.

Friday, January 20, 2017

America's Healthcare

I can't even guess what will happen to America's health system over the next year or two. I suspect President Trump and the Republican party will have disagreements over the course we should follow and Democrats will be yapping at their heels. I have been reminded some don't want coverage and I was asked this morning why everyone ought to be covered. The following is in part my thought concerning the course we ought to follow and eventually probably will follow.

 The main reason some people don't want coverage is because this country has never had universal health care. Something beyond and better than Obamacare. Once it ultimately gets instated, most doubters will sing out the other side of their ass. I believe such a system will ultimately bring the pharmaceutical industry to heel, bunch of criminals that I consider them to be, and we will get back to practicing medicine to heal, rather than having people on lifetime prescriptions for symptoms. And the child of the dope addict lost in homeless despair deserves healthcare every bit as much as some privileged asshole, who inherited his fortune from an industrious parent, in a penthouse suite.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

In Case You Missed It


The Senate voted 51 to 48:
1. To end coverage for preexisting conditions, veterans benefits, and aid to rural hospitals.
2. To remove discrimination protection for women in healthcare.
3. Against the provision allowing children to remain on their parent's insurance till the age of 26.
4. To cut off funding for the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
5. Against ACA contraceptive coverage and maternity care provision.
6. To direct committees to send budget legislation to defund and repeal the Affordable Care Act.
For those who get health insurance through work, no pre-existing conditions. Lifetime caps for coverage are back for everyone.
Real and disastrous actions are being taken that will affect more than just the 20-30 million people who will lose their health care coverage and the 3 million people who will lose their jobs.
Despite their assertions of this being an action to "repeal and replace," no viable alternative plan has been proposed.
The House votes Friday.
As of this moment, no replacement exists.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Martin Luther King Jr

Walks of Peace

All the wars eventually
Must fall before Walks of Peace
Walks of Peace, Walks of Peace
Must fall before Walks of Peace

I dreamed I went with MLK 
On a rare and fateful day
As he strolled along with me
We journeyed back through history

We saw all the wars of race
Wars of countries, even faith
He declared these wars all must cease 
Folks must be troops for Walks of Peace

Yes the wars eventually
Must fall before Walks of Peace
Walks of Peace, Walks of Peace
Must fall before Walks of Peace

As Martin said, Don’t be deceived 
All of these wars are wars of greed
Its up to us these wars must cease
Folks must be troops for Walks of Peace

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Winter Time, Houston Style

Not so many days ago, our temperatures went into the twenties, two times. After that they climbed into the eighties, upper seventies and such. Two trees looked to be perfectly fine, although I lost a few plants our winters had not affected before. One plant close to six years old. The cactus, which stood taller than me, is suddenly about four feet high. Last time an ivy died off from a freeze, it appeared dead at ground level for a month or two, then suddenly revived. I expect that to happen again

I have what has been a beautiful citrus tree behind the house. It has borne fruit the year around, always lush and having balls of orange by the hundreds. This morning when I went back there, I saw a carpet of leaves all about it and it was obvious the tree is in severe shock. 

I will continue to water as needed. But, until spring, I am through taking care of the yard.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Inauguration is Nigh (almost)

Well, inauguration day is almost here. I honestly don't know what Trump will do, when it comes to making final decisions, re social programs and the neverending wars overseas. Bluster is one thing, putting your name to a decision quite another. I am not optimistic. I hope the pundits forecasting disaster are proven wrong. The wall does not worry me. Nobody is going to approve spending so much money for the concept he has described. What disturbs me most is, even if he messes up enough to get removed from office, we still are screwed. Pence would take over and bedbugs are less crazy than him. My greatest cause for hope is we can survive until mid term elections and enough people vote to get rid of some Republicans

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Obama's Legacy - Cornel West


Eight years ago the world was on the brink of a grand celebration: the inauguration of a brilliant and charismatic black president of the United States of America. Today we are on the edge of an abyss: the installation of a mendacious and cathartic white president who will replace him.
This is a depressing decline in the highest office of the most powerful empire in the history of the world. It could easily produce a pervasive cynicism and poisonous nihilism. Is there really any hope for truth and justice in this decadent time? Does America even have the capacity to be honest about itself and come to terms with its self-destructive addiction to money-worship and cowardly xenophobia?
Ralph Waldo Emerson and Herman Melville – the two great public intellectuals of 19th-century America – wrestled with similar questions and reached the same conclusion as Heraclitus: character is destiny (“sow a character and you reap a destiny”).
The age of Barack Obama may have been our last chance to break from our neoliberal soulcraft. We are rooted in market-driven brands that shun integrity and profit-driven policies that trump public goods. Our “post-integrity” and “post-truth” world is suffocated by entertaining brands and money-making activities that have little or nothing to do with truth, integrity or the long-term survival of the planet. We are witnessing the postmodern version of the full-scale gangsterization of the world.
The reign of Obama did not produce the nightmare of Donald Trump – but it did contribute to it. And those Obama cheerleaders who refused to make him accountable bear some responsibility. 
A few of us begged and pleaded with Obama to break with the Wall Street priorities and bail out Main Street. But he followed the advice of his “smart” neoliberal advisers to bail out Wall Street. In March 2009, Obama met with Wall Street leaders. He proclaimed: I stand between you and the pitchforks. I am on your side and I will protect you, he promised them. And not one Wall Street criminal executive went to jail.
We called for the accountability of US torturers of innocent Muslims and the transparency of US drone strikes killing innocent civilians. Obama’s administration told us no civilians had been killed. And then we were told a few had been killed. And then told maybe 65 or so had been killed. Yet when an American civilian, Warren Weinstein, was killed in 2015 there was an immediate press conference with deep apologies and financial compensation. And today we still don’t know how many have had their lives taken away.
We hit the streets again with Black Lives Matter and other groups and went to jailfor protesting against police killing black youth. We protested when the Israeli Defense Forces killed more than 2,000 Palestinians (including 550 children) in 50 days. Yet Obama replied with words about the difficult plight of police officers, department investigations (with no police going to jail) and the additional $225m in financial support of the Israeli army. Obama said not a mumbling word about the dead Palestinian children but he did call Baltimore black youth “criminals and thugs”.
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 Obama’s complicated legacy on climate change
In addition, Obama’s education policy unleashed more market forces that closed hundreds of public schools for charter ones. The top 1% got nearly two-thirds of the income growth in eight years even as child poverty, especially black child poverty, remained astronomical. Labor insurgencies in Wisconsin, Seattle and Chicago (vigorously opposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a close confidant of Obama) were passed over in silence.
In 2009, Obama called New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg an “outstanding mayor”. Yet he overlooked the fact that more than 4 million people were stopped-and-frisked under Bloomberg’s watch. Along with Carl Dix and others, I sat in a jail two years later for protesting these very same policies that Obama ignored when praising Bloomberg.
Yet the mainstream media and academia failed to highlight these painful truths linked to Obama. Instead, most well-paid pundits on TV and radio celebrated the Obama brand. And most black spokespeople shamelessly defended Obama’s silences and crimes in the name of racial symbolism and their own careerism. How hypocritical to see them now speak truth to white power when most went mute in the face of black power. Their moral authority is weak and their newfound militancy is shallow. 
The gross killing of US citizens with no due process after direct orders from Obama was cast aside by neoliberal supporters of all colors. And Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Jeffrey Sterling and other truth-tellers were demonized just as the crimes they exposed were hardly mentioned.
The president’s greatest legislative achievement was to provide healthcare for over 25 million citizens, even as another 20 million are still uncovered. But it remained a market-based policy, created by the conservative Heritage Foundation and first pioneered by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.
Obama’s lack of courage to confront Wall Street criminals and his lapse of character in ordering drone strikes unintentionally led to rightwing populist revolts at home and ugly Islamic fascist rebellions in the Middle East. And as deporter-in-chief – nearly 2.5 million immigrants were deported under his watch – Obama policies prefigure Trump’s barbaric plans.
Bernie Sanders gallantly tried to generate a leftwing populism but he was crushed by Clinton and Obama in the unfair Democratic party primaries. So now we find ourselves entering a neofascist era: a neoliberal economy on steroids, a reactionary repressive attitude toward domestic “aliens”, a militaristic cabinet eager for war and in denial of global warming. All the while, we are seeing a wholesale eclipse of truth and integrity in the name of the Trump brand, facilitated by the profit-hungry corporate media.
What a sad legacy for our hope and change candidate – even as we warriors go down swinging in the fading names of truth and justice.