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Way back in 2016, before the election, I said something about American’s Common Sense. Somewhere between 2008 and 2016, we lost it, or at least, enough of us lost it to make Trump our President. Since then fear, anxiety and sadness battle for the front of my brain. The latest disaster in Quebec just makes things worse.

We have a madman for President who has turned on our closest friends with a viciousness that’s hard to endure. Trudeau didn’t deserve his Twitter lashing.

I worry about my sons and their families. What will be left of the United States when Trump finally leaves office? Will he give us away to Putin or China or even to Kim because of ignorance or fear or both? If he loses the next mational election, will he accept the results or say he was cheated and it was rigged? What then? How do we remove a President when Congress refuses to do its job? Whatever happened to the spines of those members who cower and refuse to see the destruction of our Rule of Law smacking them in the face?

If Trump can be cruel and vicious toward seekers of asylum and Prime Ministers both, it’s only a short step to cruelty and viciousness toward all of us. The memories of the rise of Hitler have grown too faded. There aren’t enough of us left who grew up dudring WWII and saw and heard all that was awful to sound the warning.

This is inexcusable:

 

It constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” which I thought somehow was illegal. (See Ammendment 8 to the US Constitution.) How many of those babies is Sessions going to traumatize with his cruel and unusual “solution” to our immigration problems? The last count I saw was near 2,000 children forcibly separated from their parents. Tyranny has indeed reached American shores.

 

The North Korea Summit: Could it be that Trump did this made-for-TV-event to boost his approval ratings ahead of the November elections? Since it’s hard to see that anything was actually accomplished in the way of nuclear reductions or eliminations on the part of the North Koreans and they are now talking of promises of sanctions reductions, it looks like it might be a typical Trumpian short-term “deal” that does little but generate a small bit good publicity for him and a freebee for the other party. Speaking of “nothing burgers”!

On the Justice Department IG’s report: The lesson to be taken, in my small point of view is that people in civil service and government in general need to get a lot smarter about their use of email and text messaging. Rule No. 1: Don’t ever use private email for government communication. Rule No. 2: Don’t ever use your government issued phone to text personal messages to colleagues and friends. They will come back to haunt you and be used by your enemies to destroy your reputation if not your job prospects.

July 1 – July 15 Rambles

Hey, I’m catching up!

July 1:

I’m not sure the US understands democracy any better than those in the Middle East who crack down with their militaries on populations demanding better treatment.  George Bush left many poisonous programs behind when he left office, and unfortunately, those who were held over by Obama have persuaded him of the same paranoia about terrorism – that safety comes before anything and everything, including the Constitution.  Government lawyers have justified anything as we learned in the aftermath of Abu Ghraib, in the name of “national security”, when many of us thought that with Obama the abuses would stop.  Some did, but the worst ones, as revealed by Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald and the British newspaper the Guardian, just kept growing and growing until they encompassed everyone in the world with an internet connection.  Our government seems to be seeing terrorists behind every event no matter how small, even threatening journalists for doing their jobs or writing books, while creeping ever more steadily to the authoritarian corporate state where everything they do is considered a “state secret”.

As I read it, the Constitution does not charge the President with keeping the nation “safe”.  Congress is enjoined to provide only for the defense of the nation, not it’s complete safety from all harm.  Such a concept of “safety” is a logical impossibility, and those who demanded it after 9/11 have done more to harm our constitutional rights and our republican form of government than anything since our beginnings.  George W. & Co were terrified by what happened on 9/11 (as they were meant to be). Their reaction was one of panic and vengeance that has led us to where we are today, cowering behind wholesale snooping of friend and enemy alike, standing in endless lines to undergo ridiculous searches just to board an airplane, looking suspiciously at anyone with a different way of dressing, or of a different skin color.  The fear promoted throughout the country has led to a whole slew of unrelated abuses in the service of a moral rigidity that is anything but inclusive.  States are depriving children and families of support for their nutrition and education.  They are depriving women of access to adequate healthcare.  The elderly are being deprived of meals and services.  Innocent people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere are being killed by missiles from the air directed by pilotless drones.  All in the name of keeping a certain class of US society “safe” and comfortably secure in their belief that they know what’s best for all of us.  Everything our governments  have done has made us less safe, and that includes states as well as the federal government.

It should be enough to defend the territory of the US without the pseudo-macho actions involved in “taking the fight to them”.  Have we gained anything from the blood spilled and the dollars spent? Only the corporations who made the militarization possible have gained.

George W’s invasion of Iraq may have had some influence on the Arab Spring.  It certainly stirred up the religious sectarian fight now going in in both Syria and Iraq.  The Bush administration also began the wholesale secret data mining program at NSA.  Some of the original abuses were eased by finally using the intermediate step of the FISA court, but as the tools grew better and better the temptation to go wholesale on the gathering of data in the present government atmosphere of paranoia must have become too strong to resist.  Secret programs always have this tendency in the US, but inevitably the abuses leak out.  The people of the NSA would have done well to read Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes, on the sorry history of the CIA.  My question is, how is this huge mass of data ever going to be useful to anyone?  By the time it can be filtered and analyzed, it must surely be too late to prevent much of anything from happening, regardless of what people have said about how “useful” the program has been in stopping attacks.  I’m not sure that we really have the tools to sort through vast data banks of bits in that kind of timely manner.  The FBI had information about the 9/11 hijackers that was never passed on to anyone who could use it, and no one connected the dots on the Tsarnaevs.  Since the proliferation of contractors and analysts, who is going to be able to read and evaluate their reports, especially considering the Republican effort to shrink government?  When contractors may have their own axes to grind such as staying in business, how trustworthy can their reports possibly be?

As far as I can tell, Edward Snowden has not released anything that directly harms the United States no matter what the politicians in Washington may be yelling.  He has embarrassed the government plenty, which also explains the over the top blacklash, but like the Wikileaks revelations which caused acute embarrassment, I don’t see the harm.  You can tell me all you want about super “secret tool” that can do all these marvels of spycraft, but I say “show me”, and have no need to believe on faith.

I can’t imagine that such a massive data mining program could not have been known or suspected by both our friends and enemies.  Osama bin Laden had already stopped using the internet to transmit his messages, but used trusted human messengers instead.  Surely this information has spread among all but the most isolated of islamist groups.  They aren’t stupid, and they use the internet for their own purposes.  Yet our officials act like little boys with their hands caught in the cookie jar, and than blame the messenger for their own foolishness.  Secrets and democratic practice do not mix.

Senator Diane Feinstein, according to the NYT, is a staunch supporter of the NSA data mining program, and thinks that Snowden is a traitor.  “I feel I have an obligation to do everything I can to keep this country safe,” she said.  Senator Feinstein, with all due respect, you’re wrong.  The “safety” you intend is not worth having at such a high price as our 4th Amendment Rights.  I’m not even sure that it’s safety at all.  It certainly didn’t protect the Boston marathoners from the Tsarnaev brothers.  Even though it is already too late to do anything about it, I don’t much like living in a country where the government and all the techno industrial complex spy on the rest of us.  Just because it goes on and “everybody does it” does not make it right.  It gives me the creeps when I see the last item I looked at on some site turn up as an ad on all the other sites I visit, and I wonder how much information has been collected about me because I write this blog which is so often critical of the government and its politicians.  We humans often seem to think that if only if we build walls high enough, buy enough policemen, surveillance cameras, fancy weapons systems, and trip alarms we will be safe inside our gated communities from the marauding hordes.  I don’t know that such a program has ever worked in history for very long.  Even the Chinese couldn’t keep out the “barbarians” forever.  The impulse to police the entire world, falls prey to the failure to see the devils within and the impossibility of knowing anyone else completely.  Besides, those “marauding hordes” are us.

 

Trayvon Martin (July 15, 2013)

 

He’s dead.  The trial is over.  George Zimmerman is free to walk the streets if he dares.  A travesty of justice has been delivered because of badly written overly broad laws allowing something called self defense, and a system of justice that often is expected to prove the impossible.

This is what we know.  George saw Martin. Thought he was up to no good.  Left his car and followed the boy.  Somehow a fight got started, but we don’t know who started it.  We don’t know what was said, either.  Somehow George ended up with some scratches and a broken nose, and Trayvon ended with a bullet in his heart.  George gets away with murder.

When is America going to come to its senses?  Too many guns; too much fear and too much hate.

I hope someone helps Trayvon’s parents sue in civil court for wrongful death.  That may be the only avenue that will cause George Zimmerman to end up in jail.

Here we go again…

Gaddafi instead of Saddam.

Another war is beginning in which more lives and damage will be lost and/or destroyed than the damage Gaddafi was doing himself.  As Gates said, a no-fly zone is an act of war.  Will it all end with more western ground troops in place, another weak so-called democratic government, and another Arab country in ruins? What’s the end game?

While it’s hard to watch the Libyan rebels face inevitable defeat and revenge from Gaddafi, it may be even harder to watch the ruin that the west is about to bring.  What’s to be gained here?   Has anyone really thought through the consequences?  Or is this just an emotional response to brutality with a mixture of quasi-pragmatic, “Save the oil!?

The moral impulse to help those in trouble is strong as is the desire for dignity and justice among the people of Libya, but will we really be “helping”?  I see the moral dilemma, but I have a bad feeling about what’s going to be happening.

Most of the heavy damage and killing the Ghaddafi forces are doing seem to be from ground artillery of one sort or another firing indiscriminately at buildings.  Are the planes enforcing the no-fly zones going to go after the tanks?  Inevitably, having taken this step be drawn into “protecting civilians” on the ground with ground action of our own.  The Libyan rebels will always be asking for more help.

Sunday, March 20.

Aljazeera English has this:

I wish I felt the least bit encouraged, but this is just the beginning of a long road for the West and the Libyan people.

Suppose we get Gaddafi to the point where he is holed up somewhere, and the rest of the country is in the hands of the rebels.  What then?  They say they want democracy, but do they really.  Will they be able to resist the temptation to follow in Gaddafi’s footsteps in controlling the population?  It seems hard not to imagine that at some point we will be persuaded into nation-building, about which we know little and have had very poor results with what we have been able to do.

Posted: Friday – March 18, 2011 at 09:02 AM