Monday, March 19, 2018

Republicans Hate Law Enforcement

There was a time when being a Republican meant being tough on crime and being the biggest supporters of law enforcement in the country.
There was a time when Republicans were at the forefront of hunting down Russian spies seeking to subvert American freedoms.

But that was long ago. Today, being a Republican means hating the FBI and doing everything in your power to undermine the FBI's credibility and undermining its efforts to uncover and combat criminal conspiracies.

Today, being a Republican means inviting Russian agents to penthouse meetings, encouraging Russian spies to corrupt American elections, and protecting those people working with Russian spies to attack America.

While a few Republicans are active traitors (Steve Bannon), most are merely "useful idiots," to use an old Russian phrase for the dupes they con into helping them.
Their greed for either money or power, or both, allows them, and along with them us, to be led to slaughter by a Russian strongman they don't even realize is their master. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

So Much News, So Little Time

1. The Future Takes a Stand
The big news today is not the Conor Lamb victory, it is the nationwide student movement against guns and gun violence. Nothing frightens establishment politicians like student movements. Want proof? The Chicago GOP is suing the Chicago public school system for not threatening retaliation against student protesters.

2. Death of a Genius
The greatest mind of our generation has passed this mortal coil to enter immortality. Stephen Hawking shined a light into the universe's blackest holes while inspiring thousands of people to study physics and millions of people to ignore handicaps and chase their dreams. The history of humanity has seen few people like Stephen Hawking and we are all diminished by his loss.

3. On Putin's Orders
First came the news that Vlad Putin vetoed Trump's choice of Mitt Romney for Secretary of State; picking instead the Putin approved recipient of Russia's Order of Friendship Rex Tillerson. Next came Trump's spokesman Sarah Sanders repeatedly refusing to even whisper the word "Russia" in connection to the nerve gas attack on a Russian ex-spy in London. Then Tillerson backed the British position that Russia was behind to nerve gas attack.

The very next day, Trump fired Tillerson. Can there be any question that the order came from Moscow and Trump followed that order obediently. We can assume that Pompeo will only keep the job as long as he is an obsequious toady to Putin.

4. Okay, Yeah, and Lamb
Sure, Conor Lamb ran a brilliant campaign while his opponent, Rick Saccone, was a lazy slug. Sure, Lamb was not a San Francisco liberal but a good fit for a blue-collar district. Still, this was a district where a Republican dead skunk would defeat a Democratic Jesus Christ. Trump won the district by twenty points. Trump campaigned for Saccone. Trump even sent his son to campaign for Saccone.

And Conor won by a whisker in a district where he should have had no chance. Republicans today are bleating sour grapes in the face of another epic failure. I feel like visiting a petting zoo and caressing a lamb.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Jeff Sessions and the New Fugitive Slave Act

Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions got the wrong end of the stick when he compared California's resistance to the roving gangs of immigration agents snatching up and deporting peaceful people in the state. Sessions compared it to slavery when the more apt comparison is to the Northern response to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

The Fugitive Slave Act made it illegal for Northerners to assist an escaped slave seeking freedom. Like Sessions wants to force Californians to assist in the capture of immigrants, the Act compelled Northerners to actively participate in the hunt for blacks on pain of fine or imprisonment. Two Quakers were charged with treason for refusing to help slave hunters.

Several states passed laws forbidding state officers from helping the slave hunters. Massachusetts made it illegal for any state official to return a person fleeing slavery and disbarred any lawyer who represented slave masters.
California is on the right side of history and the right side of morality in this fight. It is Sessions who is treating people like chattel. The ICE raiders may have a perverted federal government on their side but Gov. Brown has the people of California behind him in this fight.

The people, united, will never be defeated. ~ 1960's civil rights slogan

Monday, March 05, 2018

Who Is This Peter Navarro Person?

I have the misfortune of knowing Peter Navarro. It was a quarter century ago, I was a leader of the San Diego chapter of the Sierra Club and Navarro was an economics professor in Orange County with dreams of political power. He saw in San Diego's vibrant environmental movement a possible tool for his delusions of grandeur.

Peter formed his own organization, PLAN!, ostensibly to fight rampant urbanization but really as an ego tool to promote himself.

I found myself working on a couple initiative campaigns with him. Peter was rude, crude, more interested in throwing bombs than making a reasoned case. He was Trumpian before that was a thing. We lost the first campaign in no small part due to his toxic participation.

We both served on the fundraising committee for the second campaign. The initiative was written by Sierra Club lawyers, it was so solid not even the building industry opposed it. Peter used his position on the committee to pretend to raise money for the campaign but he directed the cash to his personal organization. We won but Navarro's backstabbing has starved the campaign for funds and had we even a tepid opposition the initiative would have failed.

Peter then struck out on his own with a third initiative that was to be his launching pad for a campaign for mayor of San Diego. The initiative was badly written with dodads included for every progressive cause from labor to environmentalism. Unfortunately for Peter, the law requires initiatives to be single issue and Peter's was an over decorated Christmas tree.

Republicans took it to court over the labor provisions. Peter offered to cut them out even though labor had provided the signature gathering manpower. The judge ruled, rightly, that he couldn't rewrite an initiative after the signatures had been gathered and tossed the initiative.

No matter, Navarro ran for mayor of San Diego in 1992 against Republican career politician Susan Golding. Peter started out with a big lead but squandered it through his general ineptitude. Still, the race was neck and neck before the final debate.

Golding calmly goaded him into an unhinged tirade that doomed his chances. Peter lost. Peter lost three more times, for the county Board of Supervisors, Congress, and the San Diego City Council. Then Peter wrote an unpublishable book blaming everybody he ever met for the losses.

Peter didn't want political power for what he could do for people but what he could do to people.

To Peter there are two types of people in the world, people who worship him and people who should be destroyed. I remember his unrestrained glee when my mentor in the Sierra Club, Emily Durbin, died. She didn't worship at the alter of Navarro, instead she worked selflessly to protect the environment. I still have a lingering hatred for Peter for that alone.

Peter Now
Peter is supposed to be a China trade hawk but his steel tariffs will have no effect on China (they send the US almost no steel) but it will start a bitter trade war with our friend and neighbor, Canada.

This is completely within his long time habits - ignore the actual important issues and instead inflict the maximum pain on the maximum number of people. For nearly 30 years Peter has sought power and now, finally, he has it. He has the power to prove his superiority by crushing those he feels are beneath him. He feels everybody is beneath him.

Peter wants his trade wars. He wants war with Canada and Europe and Mexico because he thinks they are weaker than China and he can damage them more than he could hurt China.

It's who Peter is, a bomb throwing anarchist.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Tariffs Are a 19th Century Solution

Trade wars are good, and easy to win. ~ Donald the Mad
I guess we should be happy that Trump is bored with starting a nuclear war with North Korea. Now he wants to start a global trade war.
1880 Republican Platform
When George Bush imposed tariffs on imported steel in 2002, the goal was to save steel jobs and help Republicans in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The result was that more people lost their jobs as a result of the higher steel prices than were employed in the entire steel industry.

There were steel shortages as the US steel industry was unable to meet domestic demand. The US trade deficit actually increased because the cost of finished products, like automobiles, rose in the US making imported cars more attractive. Facing retaliatory tariffs from a united international trading system targeted to punish Republicans in Florida and Michigan, Bush withdrew his tariffs in less than a year.

A Brief Tariff History
Tariffs were a common tool used 150 years ago to protect domestic industries from more powerful manufacturing nations like England and Germany. Whether they worked or not then is problematic; the Gilded Age was great for the mega-wealthy but coincided with the Long Depression with high unemployment and extreme poverty for the working classes.
If you were steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, tariffs made life better than good; if you were employed by him life sucked and you worked until you died.

The most famous tariffs were the Smoot-Hawley Act during the Great Depression. They didn't cause the depression but they made it worst. Our tariffs and the retaliations slowed international trade to a crawl, isolating nations into individual islands of misery.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

How a Republic Falls

You know the old saying, "those who don't study history are condemned to repeat it." How the Roman Republic fell into dictatorship is an object lesson for our times.

Proliferation of Weapons
gang of Oath Keepers
In the first century BC, it was illegal to carry weapons in the city of Rome. A supporter of Julius Caesar named Clodius ignored the law and organized armed gangs to harass citizens and disrupt elections. In response, a supporter of Caesar's rival, Pompey, named Milo (I really didn't make up these names) organized his own gangs of armed gladiators to harass other citizens and intimidate Caesar's followers.

Rigging Elections
While bribing elections officials had been illegal, and common, for years, Caesar and Pompey stepped things up in 56 BCE. The elections that year were postponed for months because of street violence by Clodius. These riots were organized by both Caesar and Pompey to freeze out their rivals and insure total control of government. When the elections finally happened the Triumvirate won as much through intimidation as popularity. Pompey then oversaw the election of lesser offices (Praetors and aediles) and openly used armed thugs to force the result in his favor.

Legislative Gridlock
The Roman constitution was designed for consensus, actions by the upper class (senators) could be vetoed by the public assembly (tribunes) and vice versa. But, as government became polarized between Caesar's populists and Cato's conservatives, consensus became impossible. The constitution called for two co-consuls to share the leadership of the government.

Yet in 59 BCE, Caesar's first as head of government, his co-consul was threatened and humiliated to the point he spend most of the year hiding out in his house. In 52 BCE, Pompey was granted sole consulship (without an election) in the hope he could get something done.

Constitutional Crisis
The Roman Republic had lasted for over 400 years, its constitution surviving invasions and civil wars. In these closing years of the Republic, Romans began seeing their constitution not as guideposts but obstacles. Increasingly, the constitution and Roman law was being ignored for convenience sake.

Law Breaker-In-Chief
When Caesar crossed the Rubicon River in 49 BCE with his 13th Legion he was breaking the law. Had Caesar returned to Rome without his army he would have been arrested and tried for the many crimes he had committed in the previous decade.

No, I am not comparing Trump to Caesar. Caesar was intelligent, brave, decisive and ruthless in his quest for total power. Trump is a cowardly senile idiot who may stumble into a dictatorship just to cover up his money laundering.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

American Police State: School Zone

A couple years ago while walking Jerusalem's Old City, I stumbled upon a children's Purim party. Watching over the costumed children having fun were two uniformed men carrying automatic weapons. It was a bizarre sight, young children running around laughing while soldiers stood over them to prevent religious extremists from slaughtering the innocent.

It's a social deformity that Republicans want to bring to schools around the United States.

Of course, there are differences between Israel and the US.
  • Israel is at war with Palestinian terrorists; Americans just love guns so much they want everybody to have them all the time everywhere.
  • Israel uses highly trained professionals (soldiers, police); Americans just want to pass guns out to underpaid teachers and hope they will figure out what to do.
  • Israel treats a rare school shooting as a national tragedy; in America it's just another Tuesday.
  • Israel has strict gun laws; America has more guns than people and acts like guns are more important than people.
America the Beautiful?