Let’s Talk!

It’s hard to believe it has been nearly two weeks already since I wrote the post Give-and-Take.  That post was the experiment I tried in response to a challenge by Lisa Jensen writing as The Snarky Activist, where we each tried to find one good thing to say about Donald Trump.  My goal was to try to start a conversation between right and left, conservative and liberal, republican and democrat.  A conversation where we listen … actually listen to the other side, and respond with respect, yet without sacrificing our own views.  The post was enormously successful, beyond my wildest imaginings, and the feedback (140 comments) was beyond encouraging.  Lisa and I discussed it and decided to try to turn this into a multi-post, joint effort project.

civil-discourse.jpgOne thing we decided was that the conversation would be more meaningful if we limited it to a single topic at a time, and get everyone on the same page.  I suggested, and Lisa concurred, that we would put it to my readers to choose the topic.  I initially put together a list of about 30 topics, looked at it, set it aside, and then tonight I pulled it up and looked at it again and just shook my head and started cutting.  I narrowed the field to six of the ones I think are high priorities.  You will note that there is an elephant in the room.  I have intentionally NOT put issues related to guns on the list at this time.  The Santa Fe school shooting has, I think, left us all too raw for the moment and I fear we could not calmly discuss anything related to gun regulation.  I know I couldn’t … not yet.  Soon, however, I do want to open this topic, most specifically a ban on assault-style weapons.  But not just yet.

purpose of disagreementWe have had a lull in this project, partly because Lisa was on a business trip all last week, and I have been battling a respiratory infection all week.  But I don’t want to lose the momentum, so I hope that by mid-week, we can open a new discussion on the topic you guys choose.  Please select two choices from the following topics.  If there are other topics you would like us to discuss either now or in the future, please let me know in the comments.  I am thinking one discussion every 10 days or so, and the format is still being considered.  All ideas are welcome … you guys are part of this project too!!!

I’m looking forward to hearing your suggestions, and also to engaging with everybody, doing our small part to try to narrow the gap that is tearing this country apart.  Thanks to all for your interest, enthusiasm and participation!

Snippets, Snippets, I Got Snippets!

Good afternoon, friends!  I am working on a post that involves a great deal of research, and I had hoped to complete it for this afternoon, but have not.  So, instead I am bringing you my take on a few of the snippets in this morning’s news, but I warn you that I am in full-on snarky mode today, so don’t expect much kindness toward certain unsavory elements in Washington at the moment.

Better polish that résumé, Mr. B …

bridenstine-nasaLast month, Jim Bridenstine was confirmed by the Senate to be the new administrator of NASA. Most of us were not thrilled by Trump’s nomination of Bridenstine, for he did not seem to have a single qualification for the job.  He had no science background, and his relevant experience was limited to having managed an Air and Space museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And while he agreed that humans may have played some role in climate change, he did not believe they were the major contributor, which was likely Trump’s main reason for choosing him. Even some members of the Republican Party voiced concerns. But, as we all know, if Trump wants it, the bootlickers will do their best to give it to him, and so Bridenstine was confirmed.

Now, I’m betting that Mr. B will not have his job for long, and I’m almost sad about that.  Why?  Because yesterday he made the following statement:

“The National Climate Assessment, that includes NASA, and it includes the Department of Energy, and it includes NOAA, has clearly stated it is extremely likely, is the language they use, that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming, and I have no reason to doubt the science that comes from that.”

WHOA!!!  A Trump pick has gone against one of Trump’s ten commandments.  Will he survive?  I doubt it.  Too bad, for the man seems to actually have a conscience and some guts.  I wish him luck in his next endeavour.

Ho-hum … more BREAKING NEWS …

trump-kimThe big “BREAKING NEWS” of the day is that Trump has canceled the summit with Kim Jong-un that was allegedly scheduled for next month.  Ho-hum.  No big news there … the summit was never going to happen.  Kim had already indicated that it was unlikely, and Trump, predictably, couldn’t let Kim be the one to cancel, so he did it himself.  There were reasons, or excuses … yada yada yada … but I predicted way back in the beginning that it would never happen.  Frankly, it’s probably for the best, as neither man has the maturity to craft any sort of reasonable compromise.  Unfortunately, it also means we will go back to the name-calling and threat of ‘button-pushing’ from last year, and the world will feel a bit less safe.  Happily, it means Trump can stop envisioning that Nobel Peace prize.

Does he really not understand, or is he deliberately obtuse?

clapper-beharTrump doesn’t seem to understand English.  He certainly doesn’t speak it well, never quite managing to string a sentence together that makes sense, but his comprehension is not good either.  Yesterday, James Clapper appeared on The View, and was asked:

BEHAR: “So I ask you, was the FBI spying on Trump’s campaign?”

CLAPPER: “No, they were not.”

Okay, that seems a fairly straightforward answer, don’t you think?  So Trump’s response?

“Clapper has now admitted that there was Spying in my campaign. Large dollars were paid to the Spy, far beyond normal. Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history. SPYGATE – a terrible thing!” — 8:21 AM – May 24, 2018

I think the problem came in when Clapper went on to explain that the FBI was gathering information about what the Russians were doing.  Perhaps he should have just stopped at “No, they were not”, rather than elaborating.  Trump seems to understand very short, direct sentences, but gets confused if too many words are used.

Trump vs the NFL …NFLI can sum this one up in two words:  they caved.  Yes, the NFL, or at least one team owner, admits that the reason for their ban on player protests of kneeling rather than standing during the anthem was due, at least in part, to pressure from Trump.  According to an article this morning in NBC Sports …

“Asked if Trump came up in their discussion, Packers president Mark Murphy replied with a laguh: “Oh yeah. It was more how [Trump] might react, anticipating that. Also, how the fans will react, how the media will react. That’s what we tried to think through. . . . No matter what we did, [Trump] would probably try to get involved one way or the other—either criticizing us or taking credit for the change.””

Though I’m not a sports enthusiast, I recognize that it is entertainment, intended to be FUN.  When politics enters the arena, it ceases to be fun.  Now for Trump’s response to the NFL announcement yesterday …

“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, and the NFL owners have done the right thing, if that’s what they’ve done.”

Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country?  Seriously?  Well, maybe I shouldn’t be either, for I would gladly take a knee if I heard the anthem played at this point.  Though, I find it difficult to get back up and might need a hand …

So there you have it, folks … Filosofa’s snippets for the afternoon.  Have a great rest-of-the-day!

The Biggest Bully …

As we all know, last week Donald Trump reneged on our commitment to the Iran nuclear agreement, calling it a ‘terrible deal’.  It was an extremely poor decision – nay, it was a disastrous decision.  Within 24 hours after his announcement, tensions in the Middle East increased and Iran, Israel and Syria were playing a game of ‘chicken’.  Our allies looked at us as if we had two heads, shook their own heads, and then began frantically scrambling to salvage the deal, if possible, without the U.S.  Frankly, we have now become a non-player, a pariah in the global world, an albatross to our allies, and a danger to global peace, such as it is.  But there’s more …

Donald Trump, with advise from his new National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has announced that he will impose sanctions on any of our allies who conduct business with Iran!  Just who the Sam Hell died and left him boss of the world???  Donald Trump has absolutely no concept of how global relations work, and worse, he has surrounded himself with warmongers who advocate bombing first, asking questions later.  Diplomacy is not in their vocabulary, apparently.

According to The Guardian …

“Trump’s most senior foreign policy aides signalled that the US would continue pressuring allies to follow Washington in backing out of the pact, which gave Tehran relief from sanctions in exchange for halting its nuclear programme.

John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, predicted that “the Europeans will see that it’s in their interests to come along with us” rather than continue with the 2015 deal, under which major European corporations have signed billions of dollars of contracts in Iran.

US sanctions on Iran reimposed following Trump’s withdrawal not only block American firms from doing business in the country, but also bar foreign firms that do business there from accessing the entire US banking and financial system.

Trump’s decision to scrap the nuclear deal was sharply criticised by European leaders, who have pledged to uphold their side of the agreement.”

This is bullying, pure and simple.  A simple example … five children are on the playground:  Rouhani, Donnie, Theresa, Angela and Emmanuel.

The children are playing companionably, when all of a sudden Donnie gets mad at Rouhani and jerks the toy out of Rouhani’s hand.  Then Donnie kicks sand in the other children’s faces and stomps off.  The other children remain and try to start playing again, but Donnie stomps back over and jerks the toys out of the hands of Theresa, Angela and kicks Emmanuel in the face before taking his toy also.  This is beyond being a bully … this is a kid with psychopathic tendencies.  This is exactly what Trump is doing … to our allies!  Our friends!!!

The United States ceded its role as a global leader.  Donald Trump made it perfectly clear in May 2017 when, at the Nato summit in Belgium, he refused to reiterate the U.S.’ support of Article 5, which affirms that NATO members will come to the mutual defense of any member that is under attack. Every president since Harry Truman in 1949 has pledged to honour Article 5 … but Trump refused. That wasn’t the first sign, but it was the first major red flag to our allies that he was planning to kick sand in their faces.

The very next month, he announced his intention to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord, making the U.S. the only nation on the globe that is not committed to doing its share to protect our planet.

It was only three days after his inauguration that he signed an executive order ending the United States’ participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major trade agreement between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and United States that had been signed one year prior.  This was, perhaps, the beginning of the end – the first move away from being a player in the global economy and a step toward isolationism.

And then, of course, there was the announcement that we would not fulfill our responsibilities on the Iran nuclear deal, formally Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  With all these moves, plus many more less far-reaching, Trump has signaled to every other nation on the globe that he doesn’t plan to be a global player, that he is not a part of the team, and he plays only by his own rules, nobody else’s.

Trump’s decision to isolate the U.S. from the rest of the world, even wishing to build walls on our borders, is a very dangerous move, but any way you look at it, there is nothing … nothing … that gives him the right to dictate to other nations with whom they are allowed to do business.  Not only, would it seem, is Trump determined to escalate tensions in the Middle-East with his poor knowledge and judgment, but now he is trying to cause the very nations that were once our allies to declare war on us!

Meanwhile, he panders to the likes of Saudi King Salman, Russian President Putin, and President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte.  And he practically falls to his knees when he hears the name Netanyahu. Dictators all, to a greater or lesser degree.  While he bans immigrants from other predominantly Muslim nations, claiming they may be terrorists, he leaves the borders open to the Saudis, even though 15 of the 19 terrorist hijackers on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia!  When he visited Saudi Arabia in May  2017, he told King Salman that they “will never question our support,” adding, “We are not here to lecture.”

There are plans for Trump to visit the UK and meet with Theresa May, and possibly, though it is not yet certain, meet the Queen on Friday, July 13th (think about that date, folks!).  But, in light of his multiple slaps in the face to the UK and other European nations, I would not be surprised if the invitation is rescinded.  Frankly, I hope it is, for the British people emphatically do not want him there, and I don’t imagine that Ms. May is any too happy with him at the moment.

Donald Trump has become every bit as much a bully as any dictator in the world.  He is leading the U.S. down a path toward being a lone island, with few who will stand beside us.  Economically, between his horrendous ‘tax bill’ last December, the tariffs he is imposing on our allies, and pulling out of the TPP, we are likely to see our economy in far worse shape by the end of this year.  Everything he has touched, he has destroyed.  The United States should hang her head in shame, for we have lost everything we could once be proud of.  Our leader is a bully and we will pay the price.

** A brief footnote:  Because of Donald Trump’s poor decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem with all due haste, last night, at least 52 Palestinians protesting at the  border were shot dead by Israeli soldiers and more than 1,700 were injured.  Those 40 deaths lie directly at the feet of none other than Donald Trump. 

Blowing in the Wind …

We have descended into lunacy, my friends.  Can we claw our way back out?  I’m beginning to have doubts – serious doubts.  My fear is that there is a master plan … that by November, we will all be declared incompetent to vote in the mid-term elections, for we will be sitting on the sidewalk in our underwear babbling incoherently while dribble runs off our chins.  Welcome to 2018 – the not-so-brave-new-world of the D.S.A. – the Divided States of America.

To prove my point, I offer a number of exhibits:

Exhibit A:  The chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives is asked to tender his resignation because his prayer included something about equality and justice for all. (Really subversive stuff, eh Padre?)  He tenders the resignation, then re-thinks it and rescinds the resignation.  And then, a week or so later, a shouting match erupts on the floor of the House over the chaplain.  According to Politico, “The exchange was so heated that some lawmakers and aides watching worried they’d come to blows.”  Over the chaplain.

Exhibit B:  The president of the nation has been involved in some 5,000 lawsuits and has no less than 19 women accusing him of sexual abuse.  He has been married three times and cheated on every single one of those wives. He is also under scrutiny for an affair that he had with, of all things, a porn star, and the payoff of ‘hush money’ to keep her quiet until after the 2016 election.  And to ice the cake, said president is under very serious investigation for the role that he and his family played in colluding with the Russian government to buy his electoral win in the 2016 election.

Exhibit C:  The D.S.A. has become the only nation of the 195 countries on the globe that refuses to believe in science, and has committed to a course of action that will lead the entire globe to a cataclysmic end if not quickly reversed.  But to take it a step further, said D.S.A. has also committed to destructive environmental practices, removing safeguards for both the environment and for human life.

Exhibit D:  In the past six months we have seen a neo-Nazi, a handful of white supremacists, a pedophile and a convicted felon run for election to the U.S. Congress.  And people actually voted for these jerks.

Exhibit E:  The lawmaking body, in fear or awe of the president, have passed legislation that is designed to ensure the demise of the poorest 15% of the nation’s population.  These include making affordable health care unavailable, taking away subsidized housing, refusing to raise the minimum wage, which has not been raised since 2009, and despite the fact that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has risen some 37% since that time.

Exhibit F:  The word ‘freedom’ has been officially re-defined as the right to discriminate against anyone who does not, a) agree with you, b) look like you, and c) think like you.  Not only, might I add, discriminate, but if you feel your ‘freedom’ is compromised by, say, somebody whose skin is darker than yours or whose sexual orientation is different, you have been given the right to cause bodily injury to that person, and then have them thrown in jail for … the crime of … being different.

Exhibit G:  The leadership of the nation is now directed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), and any of our ‘elected representatives’ who do not support giving every white male the right to shoot and kill another with a big, bad gun that can mow down hundreds within a minute or two, is threatened with political extinction.  Worse, the majority of the people in this nation believe that they have a “God-given” right to own as many weapons as they like and to use them however they see fit.  In some cases, these people even put the love of their guns ahead of the love of their own children.

Exhibit H:  The so-called leadership of this nation has decided that education is not important and there is a concerted push among our government to promote illiteracy.  How?  By making student debt so daunting that most would prefer to leave high school and go work in a factory than to attend college.  By eschewing a sound public education for all, in favour of ‘charter schools’ that benefit few and teach little.  And by ensuring that students are not encouraged to think for themselves, but rather to ‘follow the yellow brick road’.

Exhibit I:  The nation’s already-wealthiest people and corporations have been given a huge gift in the form of reduced taxation, thus setting the nation on a collision course with financial disaster.  Despite a significantly reduced revenue in the national coffers, more money is being spent on the military – a military that already operates on the largest budget on the globe.

Exhibit J:  There is a madman at the helm who seems intent on giving himself the opportunity to “push the nuclear button”, a button that he has thought of as a toy to be played with and brandished about ever since his election.  For those, and there are some, who agree with the madman, I would suggest a glance back to August 6, 1945 (the bombing of Hiroshima) and August 9, 1945 (the bombing of Nagasaki) – look at the pictures, see the people, and ask yourself, “Is this what I want to see in this, the 21st century?”

I could go on, but my muse tells me that I have made my point and that it is time to stop, for the sake of my own mental and physical well-being.  Yes, we have descended into lunacy, a free-fall that must surely have a bottom, but that we have yet to find.  None of what we are seeing in this nation today is ‘normal’, none of it is wise, and none of it is leading us to a good place. Where does it end?  Are there any limits in this nation today?  Is there a point at which even the blind who are playing follow-the-leader realize that they are following him into a dark place from which there may be no return?  I cannot answer these questions, but it is imperative that we keep asking them.  It is imperative that we make our voices heard, for it is our only hope to return to a world of sanity.

Good People Doing Good Things — Youth

Yesterday, I was literally in a fit of rage, even my fingertips were spitting and sputtering, as the man-who-would-be-king did his best to send me to my ash bottle in a fit of apoplexy.  And then … I remembered that today is Wednesday and that I needed to start work on my weekly ‘good people’ post.  At first, I thought “No way!!!” … but then I remembered the words of several of my friends and fellow bloggers who, just last week, told me that this feature may be among the most important things I do – reminding us all that there are, indeed, good people out there who care about others.  And so, I picked myself up, dusted my knees, took a deep breath, and went in search of.  And today, I find my inspiration to be better, to do better, comes from young people, as it so often does …

jordan-jenningsRemember when you were ten years old?  Nah, me neither.  But I do know this much … at age ten, I likely did not know what an architect was. Ten-year-old Jordan Jennings, of Huntsville, Alabama, has two passions and architecture is one of them.  The other one is helping people.  And Jordan has combined his two passions into something that will blow your mind!

Jordan designs emergency shelter and mobile furniture for homeless people.  He has designed a four-season tent that can fit inside a backpack and be used as emergency shelter when an individual does not have a home or space in a shelter. In addition to creating the four-season tent, Jordan has designed light weight modular furniture that can be used in emergency housing and shelters. Jordan designs with one goal in mind: to make architecture designs that serve those with the greatest need.  Remember, this kid is only ten!!!

Jordan’s work recognizes that homeless individuals cannot always access supplies. Often there are not enough beds in shelters, so his four-season tent fulfills a great need for easily portable shelter. When an individual does have a bed in a shelter, many shelters have limited resources and can only provide just a bed to sleep in, not any other furniture that may make a space feel more like a home. This lack of furniture leaves children that live in shelters without a space to do homework or play. Jordan’s modular furniture provides an alternative solution.

Jordan’s inventions have been such a success that Jordan is teaching others how to make modular furniture to be donated to shelters and group homes. Jordan has led building workshops for other kids and for adults that are interested in design.  What an amazing and selfless young man, yes?

This ‘good people’ is actually an adult, but the story is about a young person, and it warmed my heart so I just had to include it.  Her name is Lindsey Preston, she lives in Moulton, Alabama, and she has Down Syndrome.  This year, Lindsey attended her prom, a Special Needs Prom, and by her side was her date … Don Jones, a defensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers!  The pictures are worth more than anything I can write …

“Anything I can do to make some kids smile, I would be more than willing to do. I think the most fun was all of the guys, I showed the guys about 5 or 6 new dance moves.”

“I had a great time with my beautiful prom date Lindsey at the Lawrence County LCDC prom,” Jones wrote on Instagram. “It was really an honor being around so many loving faces. I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.”

That, folks, is class.

girl scouts-1Girl Scout troop #6000 in New York City is special.  It is comprised of about 300 children living in homeless shelters.  The troop is new, an idea developed to help these girls learn, try new things, and have fun, but also to give them a sense of community.    Although the troop was formed in 2016, this was their first year for selling cookies, and they initially set a goal of 6,000 boxes of cookies, to match their troop number.

Guess how many boxes of cookies they sold?  No, I’m not telling you … guess!gs cookies-232,500 boxes!!!  They were given special permission to set up shop at Kellogg’s NYC Café in Union Square, where some customers waited in line as long as an hour.  Many customers dropped in an extra donation, and at the end of the six-day event the troop had raised more than $15,000 to help pay for trips and activities. girl scouts-2

Joey Gouthiere is 12-years-old now, but he was only seven when he began his work to inspire his community, Shreveport, Louisiana, to treat our planet better.  Joey started Geaux Green, pronounced “Go Green” five years ago.

“Whenever I would see litter on the ground, I felt like I needed to make a change and help the Earth. It made me feel like I needed to make a difference and encourage people to stop littering, pick up litter and recycle.”

Since founding Geaux Green, Joey has educated numerous individuals, ranging from students to the Louisiana House of Representatives.Joey-G-1While he’s a naturally soft-spoken individual, Joey uses his passion for improving his community to captivate audiences. Joey has been featured on the news and has presented to large crowds including the Caddo Parish School Board, past and current Shreveport City Council members, Louisiana State representatives and senators, and community groups, such as the Rotary Club of Shreveport, Lions Club, and others.Joey-G-2.jpgIn addition to educational presentations, Joey’s actions have had tangible outcomes. Joey has recruited hundreds of volunteers to join him in cleanup events, including event opportunities geared towards having families volunteer together. After speaking to city and state leaders, Joey was invited to meet the Governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, to witness the signing of House Bill 111, Litter Education, into law. Joey is now working with the school system and his neighboring city to implement recycling programs.

Joey-G-3Joey has won the Prudential Spirit of Community Award and the Youth Leadership Award at the Keep Louisiana Beautiful Conference — both well-deserved.

I wish he could go give a talk to the U.S. Congress in Washington!!!

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about these ‘good people’ … we all need to remember that, though our country is going through a dark period at the moment, there are many, many good people out there making a difference … and starting at an early age, too!!!  These kids, friends, are our future … treat them well.make a difference quote

Four Flew Into My Radar Screen

Tonight, four men just kept popping onto my radar.  With the exception of the first one, they have all been here before, some have made multiple trips onto these pages.  Perhaps if I stopped feeding them donuts and coffee they would leave me alone?  At any rate, I thought I would provide you with a little “See what they’re up to now” type of post and … sigh … hopefully they will go away and find somebody else to harass.

Oliver North

Oliver North — Then (1989) and Now (2018)

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has some very high standards.  They just announced the selection of their new president, since current president Pete Brownell decided he did not wish to serve another term.  And the winner is … {drumroll} … Mr. Oliver North!!!  You remember Ollie, right?  North was one of the key players in the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s and was ultimately convicted on three felony counts related to the illegal sale of weapons to Iran to benefit the right-wing rebel Contras group in Nicaragua.  The convictions were vacated in 1990, not because North was innocent, but rather due to a technicality involving North’s limited immunity for testifying before Congress.  North’s very name is, as a spokesperson for the Brady Foundation put it, “synonymous with corruption and disgrace”.

To add to his illustrious image, North is currently a host on Fox News, though he plans to resign from Fox immediately to fully devote his time to his work with the NRA.  According to NRA CEO and Vice President Wayne LaPierre …

“This is the most exciting news for our members since Charlton Heston became President of our Association.  Oliver North is a legendary warrior for American freedom, a gifted communicator and skilled leader.  In these times, I can think of no one better suited to serve as our President.”

Oh yes, he is ‘legendary’ alright, and I’m sure his mentality will fit right in with his newfound employers.

Roger Stoneroger-stoneAbout every six weeks this man, who was already awarded Filosofa’s Idiot of the Week award in July 2016 , flits back onto my radar.  I think he just likes to annoy me, quite frankly.  Stone is one of Trump’s former lapdogs and is under scrutiny by Robert Mueller’s team in the Russian investigation.  Why?

In August 2016, Stone sent a message to campaign advisor Sam Nunberg, saying that he had dined with WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, the previous night.  Remember that it was WikiLeaks that purloined thousands of documents from the Hillary Clinton campaign and then somehow … quite mysteriously … hackers affiliated with the Kremlin leaked the documents in an effort to sway the election in Trump’s favour.  So, if Stone had dinner with Assange around that time, it is certainly suspect.  Now, however, Stone claims that he never met with Assange and it was his idea of a joke.

A lie by any other name is still a lie.

Scott Pruittpruitt-pollutionI just wrote about Pruitt last week, didn’t I?  And already he is back on the radar.  How can I ever move ahead if I have to keep going backward?  Anyway … the latest is what I would define as obstruction of justice.

Pruitt is under the gun in at least eleven separate investigations as a result of his spending habits, conflicts of interests and management practices, but those investigations may be getting unnecessarily bogged down in the muck these days.  Why?  According to ThinkProgress …

“Political appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are screening public records requests related to administrator Scott Pruitt at an alarming rate, slowing the release of documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  “This does look like the most burdensome review process that I’ve seen documented,” Director of the FOIA Project for George Washington University’s National Security Archive Nate Jones told POLITICO. The report comes as the EPA faces accusations of carrying out Pruitt’s agenda in secret. Employees reportedly have had to leave cell phones behind when they meet with the EPA administrator.”

Can we say ‘transparency’?  Cooperation?  Swamp rats?

Ben Carsoncarson-3In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law, the Fair Housing Act, a part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.  The Act provided for equal housing opportunities regardless of race, religion, or national origin and made it a federal crime to “by force or by threat of force, injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone … by reason of their race, color, religion, or national origin.”  Despite the law, many communities in the U.S. remained segregated by race and income.

In 2015, the Obama administration put into effect a new rule, Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing provision, that required every community receiving HUD funding to assess local segregation patterns, diagnose the barriers to fair housing and develop a plan to correct them. Most communities were supposed to submit their plans to HUD every five years, beginning in 2016. Communities without HUD-approved plans would no longer receive federal housing dollars.

And along came our old friend Ben … yes, he who lives high on the hog and tried to spend $31,000 of our money on dining room furniture.  Well, Ben decided that federal efforts to desegregate American neighborhoods were “failed socialist experiments” and he suspended the rule in January, allowing local and state governments to continue receiving HUD grants without compliance with the full requirements of the Fair Housing Act.  Remember that the only thing qualifying Ben for this position is that when he was a surgeon, some of his patients lived in subsidized housing.

And shortly after suspending the rule, he proposed raising rents in subsidized housing by as much as 300%.  And now … guess what?  The department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Ben Carson are being sued.  According to the New York Times

“On Tuesday, a coalition of national and Texas-based housing groups are expected to file suit in Federal District Court in Washington to reinstate an Obama-era rule that required localities receiving federal development funding to submit plans detailing their efforts to end segregation based on race, income, ethnicity or physical disability.  The advocates filing the lawsuit argue that Mr. Carson’s actions violated the 1968 Housing Act, a law that was pressed by Martin Luther King Jr. shortly before his assassination. The suit claims that Mr. Carson is leaving HUD without a system to prevent a pattern of discrimination in the allocation of $28 billion in disaster relief funding after a succession of natural disasters, including Hurricane Harvey, last year.”

Just another of those surreal moments in the United States government under Donald Trump.  Nothing to see here, folks.

So there are the four who flew onto my radar screen tonight.  Now, I must go get the Windex and some paper towels, for these guys left behind a lot of muck on my screen.

Trumpier Than Trump …

There have been some fairly bizarre things happening in U.S. politics since the election of Donald Trump in November 2016, wouldn’t you agree?  Some really off-the-wall candidates have shown up on special election ballots but, for the most part, common sense has reigned at the polls.  But this morning’s New York Times headline had even the jaded Filosofa scratching her head and saying, “Huh?”  (I’m not all that sharp when I first wake up) 

At McConnell’s Urging, Trump Asks West Virginians Not to Vote for Don Blankenship

Don Blankenship has touted himself as being “Trumpier than Trump”.  He just spent a year in prison.  He is a former coal baron.  One of his campaign ads claims, “We don’t need to investigate our president. We need to arrest Hillary”.  Doesn’t it seem that he would be Trump’s candidate of choice?  And yet, Trump tweeted …

“To the great people of West Virginia we have, together, a really great chance to keep making a big difference. Problem is, Don Blankenship, currently running for Senate, can’t win the General Election in your State…No way! Remember Alabama. Vote Rep. Jenkins or A.G. Morrisey!” — 6:53 AM – May 7, 2018

What was I missing?  And to make the situation even more bizarre, once I found what I was missing, I found myself rooting for Mr. Blankenship to win the Republican primary tomorrow!!!   Now, I hear some of you saying, “Girl … have you gone and lost what few marbles you had left???”  Well, let me explain …

There is much to hate about Blankenship, and as I wrote in my April 24th post  he has been referred to as the “most hated man in West Virginia” and the “next Roy Moore”.  And taken together, those two things explain why not only Trump, but the entire GOP do not want to see Blankenship win the primary.  Because he likely cannot win the November election!  And once you realize that, you see why I am rooting for him, for his win would likely serve to hand the senate seat to incumbent Joe Manchin, a democrat.

Now, let me make it even more interesting.  Blankenship, supposedly the most hated man in the state, is actually doing quite well in the polls!  I think this may be a case of what I referred to before as “push … and push back”.  The West Virginia GOP has been running a series of ads like the one below, against Blankenship.Blankenship-1Blankenship is still on probation after serving a year in prison for his role in a mine accident that killed 29 miners in 2010.  As CEO of the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine, Blankenship ordered the company to delay or stop various safety improvements in 2008, a move that was ultimately proven to have contributed to the mine accident, and Blankenship was convicted of conspiring to violate mine safety standards.  One wouldn’t think that the citizens of West Virginia, a state whose economy relies heavily on coal mining, would even consider this man to represent them in the U.S. Senate, right?

But, as Politico reported last week, Blankenship “is surging ahead”.  Even Don Trump, Jr. got in on the act, tweeting …

“I hate to lose. So I’m gonna go out on a limb here and ask the people of West Virginia to make a wise decision and reject Blankenship! No more fumbles like Alabama. We need to win in November. #wv #wvpol” — 3:44 PM – May 3, 2018

Blankenship wasn’t too upset about it, though, and didn’t blame Trump …

“As some have said I am Trumpier than Trump, and this morning proves it. The President is a very busy man and he doesn’t know me, and he doesn’t know how flawed my two main opponents are in this primary. The establishment is misinforming him because they do not want me to be in the U.S. Senate and promote the President’s agenda. West Virginia voters should remember that my enemies are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and my opponents would not even be running as Republicans had I not resurrected the Republican Party in West Virginia.”

Ahhhh … the “establishment” is feeding Trump lies, and this man is single-handedly responsible for the GOP’s existence in West Virginia, eh?  I wonder if he’s friends with Alex Jones? An analysis by the New York Times claims that …

“The emergence of a former coal boss with a criminal record as a potential Senate nominee seems partly an expression of many West Virginia voters’ desire to poke a thumb in the eye of the Washington establishment, Republicans very much included.”

My mother used to have an expression that I think fits well here:  Cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

My current favourite comedian, John Oliver, sums it all up nicely for us

Trump won West Virginia in 2016, presumably based on his promise to “end the war on coal”, and remains popular there today.  And in truth, Blankenship is at least as “Trumpy” as Trump.  Keep an eye on this one, folks.  And remember that this is no longer the world of sanity we once thought it was.

Pruitt’s Got To GO!!!!

pruitt-4.jpgWhy is Scott Pruitt still the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)?  In fact, I might even ask why Scott Pruitt is still a free man, for he has violated enough laws to have gotten most people put in jail by now.  The Washington Post refers to him today as a ‘swamp monster’, and I would agree that seems a fairly good assessment.

Since taking over the EPA last February, Pruitt has been on a one-man mission to violate every code of ethics possible and to use our hard-earned tax money to support his lavish, hedonistic lifestyle.  And he is still doing it, and nobody has made a move to fire this man!  WHY???  Oh … perhaps it is because he slavishly goes along with the destructive ‘policies’ of Don Trump, eh? Remember, when you finish an 80-hour work week, come home too exhausted to even enjoy the weekend, that Pruitt is off on some jaunt to Morocco or somewhere, staying in luxury hotels and eating gourmet food!  This is why you worked those 80 hours, so you could pay taxes to support this buffoon.pruitt-1As EPA administrator, Pruitt reversed and delayed numerous environmental rules, relaxed enforcement of existing rules, and halted the agency’s efforts to combat climate change.  Wait a minute … isn’t it called the Environmental PROTECTION Agency?  How is any of this considered protecting the environment?  Oh … I remember now … that new ‘alternative’ vocabulary.

Scott Pruitt is under at least 11 separate investigations by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the E.P.A. inspector general, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and two House committees over his spending habits, conflicts of interests and management practices.  I ask the question again:  WHY is Scott Pruitt still in his position?pruitt-5Pruitt made frequent use of first class travel, as well as frequent charter and military flights. As EPA administrator, Pruitt leased a condo in Washington D.C. at a deeply discounted rate from a lobbyist whose clients were regulated by the EPA. Pruitt further caused ethics concerns by circumventing the White House and using a narrow provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act to autonomously give raises to his two closest aides of approximately $28,000 and $57,000 each, which were substantially higher than salaries paid to those in similar positions in the Obama administration, and which allowed both to avoid signing conflicts of interest pledges.

Last September, Pruitt spent $43,000 of our money to build a soundproof booth in his office, supposedly to protect against ‘hacking and eavesdropping’, even though there is already such a secure booth in the building.  And what, for Pete’s Sake, is so top secret about his job that it must be kept top secret???  Methinks he has an over-inflated sense of self-importance.  Last month, the GAO found this purchase violates federal spending laws.

Pruitt has 18 people in his security detail guarding him round-the-clock.  WHY???  An internal EPA report showed that EPA intelligence officials concluded there was no justification for the expansion of Pruitt’s security detail and that there were no specific credible security threats against Pruitt.  He also insists that if, as he is riding through D.C. in his bulletproof car, there is traffic, the security detail is to use flashing lights and sirens to clear a path for him.  He is the administrator of the EPA, not a heart surgeon whose patient might die.  One such instance happened as Pruitt was heading to his favourite French restaurant in D.C.  Seriously???  People trying to get home from work are forced to move over so this ego-bloated man can get to his dinner quicker?  A number of officials at the EPA have questioned Pruitt’s unconscionable spending, and have promptly been “reassigned”.pruitt-2But Pruitt’s failings in ethics and judgment are only part of a much larger problem: Pruitt has failed at the core responsibility of his job. He’s not protecting the environment. Pruitt has become a one-man public-health risk to the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. From day one, he has worked to gut the EPA and hamstring its ability to protect the environment and public health. He works on behalf of the fossil-fuel industry and other industrial polluters, not the American people. That’s the greatest scandal — and the reason, first and foremost, he’s got to go.

Pruitt has been working to weaken standards designed to clean up dirty power plants and to walk back fuel standards for cars. He has put a hold on vital safeguards that would limit the amount of mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxic chemicals that industry can spew into the air or dump into our rivers. Speaking of water, he’s working to repeal the clean water rule that ensures protection for wetlands, rivers and streams that provide drinking water to a third of all Americans.

The EPA was established to protect the environment and public health for everyone. It is no longer doing that, and Scott Pruitt seems hell-bent on destroying it, while living a life of luxury on our nickel.  Remember how Trump & his fans used to chant “Lock her up”?  My chant is “Get Him OUT!!!”pruitt-3

Poor Little Rich Man …

Question for you, dear friends:  If you are a billionaire and you own a successful oil refinery, among other things, how can you possibly be said to have a ‘financial hardship’?  Think on that one and let me know if you come up with an answer, for Filosofa is stymied.

Carl Icahn is an American businessman and investor.  If you look him up, you will find that he is also said to be a philanthropist, but I find almost no instances of actual philanthropy.  He benefitted from his reputation as a corporate raider in the 1980s when he helped engineer the hostile takeover and asset-stripping of Trans-World Airlines (TWA).

Carl Icahn’s latest estimated net worth is $17.7 billion.  For perspective, that is $17,700,000,000.  At least, I think that’s the right number of zeros.  Despite a lifetime spent in public and private accounting, I never really worked with numbers incorporating so many zeros.  But back to the point … Carl Icahn is one of the wealthiest people in the nation … in the world.  Think George Soros is wealthy?  His net worth is about one-half that of Icahn’s.  Last year, Icahn was named 26th wealthiest person in the world by Forbes magazine.

Now, Mr. Icahn is the major shareholder in CVR Energy, an oil refinery located in Wynnewood, Oklahoma.  Last year, 2017, CVR posted net earnings of $234.4 million.  So, you with me here?  The man is rich … filthy rich … and he owns lots of businesses, one an oil refinery that is doing very well … net earnings in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

CVR refinery

CVR Refinery – Oklahoma

Now for the kicker … the Environmental Protection Agency under the direction of another millionaire, Scott Pruitt, has granted Icahn’s company, CVR Energy, a financial hardship waiver from compliance with fuel standards regulations.  A financialhardship … waiver.  Please forgive me for what I am about to say, and I don’t say it on this blog often, but WTF???

It might help explain things a bit if we remember that Icahn was an advisor to Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign, and served as a ‘special regulatory advisor’ in the Trump administration, but stepped down last August in light of charges of conflict of interest, as he spent his time attempting to change biofuel policies.  In fact, Senator Tammy Duckworth asked the FBI to open a criminal investigation on Icahn last August. He is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for his efforts to influence biofuel policies to benefit his own company.


Icahn & Trump go waaaaayyy back!

Now, we all remember that Trump is doing his best to rescind or roll back every single regulation that was put into place under the Obama administration, right?  But this … RFS – Renewable Fuel Standards – is a regulation put into force by the EPA in 2005 under the Energy Policy Act.  Who was president in 2005?  Why, I do believe it was republican George W. Bush!!!  The bill was overwhelmingly supported by members of Congress from both parties.

RFS requires transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels.  I will not bore you with details that my science-challenged mind** does not fully comprehend, but the goal is to cut air pollution, reduce petroleum imports and support corn farmers by requiring refiners to mix billions of gallons of biofuels into the nation’s gasoline and diesel each year.  The purpose of the financial hardship waiver is to protect small refineries for whom the cost of compliance with RFS would create such a burden that it could even put them out of business.  Such is not the case with CVR.  However, CVR has applied for the waiver every year for the past several years, and until this year, has always been denied.  In fact, until last year, only 8 waivers were approved each year, but under Scott Pruitt’s EPA, approximately 25 per year are being approved.

Andeavor, one of America’s biggest refining companies, which reported about $1.5 billion in net profit last year, is among the other companies that have received hardship waivers from Trump’s/Pruitt’s EPA for small refineries.  I wonder if that ‘alternative vocabulary’ that Kellyanne told us about in January 2017, has re-defined the word ‘small’?

CVR estimates that the cost of compliance with RFS would run to about $80 million for fiscal 2018.  Let’s see … $80 million from their $234.4 million net profit … would still leave them a net profit of $154.4 million.  Excuse me, but from where I sit, with a net income of under $7,000 per year, that really doesn’t sound like what I would define as ‘hardship’.  Especially for the 26th wealthiest man in the world!

If you have ever had any doubts that this nation has become a plutocracy, a government by the wealthy, for the wealthy and of the wealthy, you can probably shelve those doubts now.  And if you were unclear about how much value the Trump administration places on protecting our environment, I think this should clarify matters nicely for you.  “What can I do?”, you ask.  Vote these greedy republicans out of office on November 6th. It may be your last chance to make a difference, to be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem.

** An interesting side note:  In doing research for this post, trying to wrap my non-scientific mind around the concept of ‘biofuels’, I found a reference link to the EPA’s Energy Information Agency.  The page has been removed from the EPA’s website.  Hmmmm … 🤔

My Choice, Ms. Sanders, Is …

According to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders …

“Look, at some point, Democrats have to decide whether they love this country more than they hate this president.”

Well, well, well.  Thank you so much, Ms. Sanders, for that apples-to-oranges comparison, and for explaining to me what I must do.  Aren’t you just the epitome of wisdom? Sanders-patriotismBut please allow me to explain some things to you, Ms. Sanders.

Quite honestly, at this point, I am not at all proud of my country.  Now, you will notice that I did not say I don’t like this country and what it stood for until recently.  I did not say that I don’t support the basis of our governmental system.  And I certainly did not say that I would like to see this nation destroyed.  Love?  I don’t think of my feelings toward this or any other nation as love.  I reserve love for the feelings I may have toward a handful of people, or my Significant Seven.

Many of the very things I hate today about this country are inextricably tied to Mr. Trump.  Allow me to name a few:

  • The wave of white supremacy that, while it did not begin with Donald Trump, has been legitimized and encouraged by him since he first began his campaign in 2015. Slugs and other slimy creatures are crawling out from under rocks and threatening the very diversity upon which this nation was founded.  Meanwhile, Trump is turning over even more rocks by referring to white supremacists and neo-Nazis as ‘very fine people’.

  • The lack of morals and values that has filtered down from the very top, from Trump himself. When the leader of a nation brags about his sexual exploitation of women, even sometimes young girls, when he flaunts his extramarital affairs and supports sexual predators within his own ranks, what sort of example does that set?  What does that say to our children and grandchildren about respecting others?

  • The denigration of the poor by Trump and republicans in Congress. The “let them eat cake” attitude of Trump’s hand-picked Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson.  The foolish attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA) simply because Trump doesn’t like President Obama, costing millions of people to lose access to health care.  And let us not forget the truly horrible tax plan of last year that almost exclusively benefits only the wealthy, including most republicans in Congress, and also Trump himself.

  • The near-total dishonesty that emanates from not only Trump, but also from all his minions, including yourself, Ms. Sanders. Trump’s lies started, in all likelihood, as soon as he learned to use words.  His lies to this country began on his first day in office when he claimed that the number of people who attended his inauguration was far greater than it was, and he hasn’t had a single day that he hasn’t lied to us about something since then.  You, Ms. Sanders, should be ashamed that you stand at that podium, day after day, and feed those very same lies to we, the people, of this republic.

  • The pitting of left vs right, republican vs democrat, liberal vs conservative. Trump has so divided this nation, more so than it has been at any time since the end of the Civil War, more than 150 years ago, by blaming democrats for everything that goes wrong and screeching his divisive rhetoric at campaign-style rallies and on Twitter, rather than addressing the citizenry in an appropriate manner.  He continues to blame the past administration for his own failures and continues to demand his masses chant “Lock her up” in reference to Hillary Clinton. This, more than the threat of terrorism, is a threat to our national security. Ever hear the quote “United we stand, Divided we fall”?  Think about that one, Ms. Sanders.

  • The denigration of the legitimate, mainstream press, while praising such conspiracy theorists as Sean Hannity and Alex Jones. When he calls the press, the honest press, “the enemy of the people”, he does a disservice not only to the legitimate press who make reporting of facts their business, but also to the people of this nation, for there are always some who are eager to believe him.  He is basically telling the American people to believe nobody but him, and that is a very dangerous stance.

  • The bigotry that has set civil rights back at least 50 years. He has supported hate groups, while denigrating the LGBT community with his attempts to keep them out of the military.  He has promoted xenophobia with his hateful rhetoric against Muslims and Mexicans, and his travel bans and calls for ridiculous multi-billion dollar border walls.  And he has even publicly, in front of perhaps millions of people, mocked a disabled man. How low, Ms. Sanders, can one get?

  • The blatant disregard for the climate science and scientists, while attempting to re-energize the fossil fuel industry which is destroying our planet. Almost every single scientist who has studied climate science agrees that the pollutants humans are putting into the air, soil and water are destroying the earth’s atmosphere and that by the time your grandchildren are adults, the planet may well be unable to sustain its population.  Yet, Donald Trump, claims it is all bunk (it is not) and continues to promote the use of very damaging fossil fuels.  He also made the U.S. an object of scorn and ridicule when he announced his decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords, making the U.S. the only nation on the entire planet to fail in helping preserve and protect our earth.

  • The hiring of the most un-qualified people for cabinet positions, that has already led to deterioration of our educational system, our trade policies, our foreign policy, our law enforcement community, our environment, our election process, and much more. It appears that he tried very hard to find, not only the most unqualified people for the job, but those who had a history of trying to shut down the very agencies for which they were nominated.

  • His already-proven obstruction of justice, collusion to ‘buy’ his way into the Oval Office at the potential cost of our national security. Top that off with his constant rhetoric that Robert Mueller’s investigation into this matter constitutes a ‘witch hunt’, and his dishonesty continues to grow much as did Pinocchio’s nose.

I could go on, but I have provided you sufficient evidence to support my answer to your question. When all of these things are taken together and given careful consideration, when I look around at our country today – the hate speech, the divisiveness, the violence – I would have to say, Ms. Sanders, that if you claim I must choose between loving my country, or hating Trump … I hate Trump for what he has done to the country I was once proud of.  I hope this answers your question.