NO Dammit … Just NO!

The press release from the U.S. Department of Interior dated 05 June 2019 reads, in part …

U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt today announced from Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge a proposal for new or expanded hunting and fishing opportunities at 74 national wildlife refuges and 15 national fish hatcheries managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) across more than 1.4 million acres.

According to Bernhardt …

“… Trump is committed to expanding public access on public lands, and this proposal is executing on that directive by opening and increasing more access to hunting and fishing by the Fish and Wildlife Service at more stations and across more acres than ever before. Hunting and fishing are more than just traditional pastimes as they are also vital to the conservation of our lands and waters, our outdoor recreation economy, and our American way of life. These refuges and hatcheries provide incredible opportunities for sportsmen and women and their families across the country to pass on a fishing and hunting heritage to future generations and connect with wildlife.”

BULLSHIT.

How the Sam Heck is the murder of animals “vital to the conservation of our lands and waters”???  And why must animals die for “our outdoor recreation economy”???  Did they ever hear of swimming, picnicking, playing ball, tossing a Frisbee, running, hiking, and all those other non-violent forms of outdoor recreation?  Must we murder in order to have fun outdoors???  If that is what is considered the “American way of life”, count me out!

Lion-not a trophyAs one opponent of the move said …

“We looked up the word refuge: a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble. Now if you and your family need a refuge we assume you would not want to be the target of gunfire. The same holds for our fellow animals.”

Bernhardt’s predecessor, Ryan Zinke, ordered the department in 2017 to review ways to expand hunting and fishing access to public lands. His spokeswoman said the Obama administration “did not appreciate access to hunting and target shooting like this administration does” and developed overly restrictive policies.

trump-leopard

Don Trump, Jr. (left) and Eric Trump with beautiful leopard they murdered in Zimbabwe in 2011

And as I was looking into this most recent abomination, guess what else I discovered?  Here is what the Department of Interior has been doing to wildlife protections since Trump took office:

  • Opened nine million acres of Western land to oil and gas drilling by weakening habitat protections for the sage grouse.
  • Overturned a ban on the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on federal lands.
  • Overturned a ban on the hunting of predators in Alaskan wildlife refuges.
  • Ended an Obama-era rule barring hunters on some Alaska public lands from using bait to lure and kill grizzly bears.
  • Withdrew proposed limits on the number of endangered marine mammals and sea turtles that people who fish could unintentionally kill or injure with sword-fishing nets on the West Coast. In 2018, California issued a state rule prohibiting the use of the nets the rule was intending to regulate.
  • Amended fishing regulations for a number of species to allow for longer seasons and higher catch rates.
  • Rolled back a roughly 40-year-old interprentation of a policy aimed at protecting migratory birds, potentially running afoul of treaties with Canada and Mexico.
  • Overturned a ban on using parts of migratory birds in handicrafts made by Alaskan Natives.

And currently under consideration are even more heartbreaking rollbacks …

  • Proposed stripping the Endangered Species Act of key provisions.
  • Proposed relaxing environmental protections for salmon and smelt in California’s Central Valley in order to free up water for farmers.

A former friend informed me not too long ago that “God put everything on earth here for our enjoyment and convenience”.  You may now understand why she is a former friend. Apparently, that is a belief shared by Donald Trump, Ryan Zinke and David Bernhardt, but I do not believe it is shared by the vast majority of people in the U.S.

trophy hunting 2I do not believe that any creature was put on this earth for men to get their jollies by shooting them with guns.  Back in the day, when that was the only way people could eat, perhaps it was justified, but even then, people of conscience killed only what they needed to eat.  When people kill just for bragging rights, I find myself hoping they end up face-to-face, mano-a-mano with the animal, be it bear or lion, and let the chips fall where they may.

Tiger, Petchaburi, Thailand

That our government believes a man’s right to kill senselessly supersedes an animal’s right to life, then that government is not one I can or will ever support.  Oh … and to all my hiker friends … better wear a bullet-proof vest from now on when you’re hiking, for the damned hunters don’t really look very closely … if it moves, they shoot.

The Trump boys with their trophies …

Trump-sons-hunt-1Trump-sons-hunt-2Trump-sons-hunt-3

♫ Another Day In Paradise ♫

I’ve had a song stuck in my head all day, and I have no idea where it came from or why it chose today to pop into my poor head, but it did.  I was rather mindlessly humming it, with intermittent bursts of lyrics emitting in my warbling, wheezy voice that nobody would mistake for Patti LaBelle, when I decided that I rather liked having the song in my head after all.  First, I love … that’s LOVE with a capital ‘L’ … Phil Collins, love the tune to this song, but perhaps what I like most is that it has meaning … is socially conscious.  And so … since I need to sleep for a few hours without Phil Collins singing in my ear … wait a minute, what am I saying???  Anyway, I shall try to transfer my earworm to you for a few hours, eh?

The song, published in 1989, is about the consequences of ignoring the needy and homeless.  According to Collins …

“It was begun at the piano. I started playing and put it down on a tape so I wouldn’t forget it. Then I decided to see what would happen when I started singing. When I began, the words just came out, ‘She calls out to the man on the street.’ I didn’t set out to write a song about the homeless. Those were just the words I happened to sing. It was only then that I decided that was what the song would be about.”

This song was Collins’ seventh and final Billboard Hot 100 #1 single, the last #1 single of the 1980s and the first #1 single of the 1990s. It was also a worldwide success, eventually becoming one of the most successful songs of his solo career. It won Collins and co-producer Hugh Padgham the Grammy Award for Record of the Year at the 1991 awards ceremony, while it was also nominated for Song of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male and Best Music Video, Short Form. Another Day in Paradise also won an award for British Single at the 1990 Brit Awards.

Despite the awards gained following its release, the song also generated some controversy over its subject matter and has received a largely negative reaction from music critics.  Singer-songwriter and political activist Billy Bragg was scathing of the song.

“Phil Collins might write a song about the homeless, but if he doesn’t have the action to go with it he’s just exploiting that for a subject.”

Andrew Collins described the song as a “bland redress” for the subject of homelessness.  Caroline Sullivan of The Guardian dismissed the track in 2007 as “a song that addressed the issue of homelessness with the same insight as Sporty Spice’s ‘If That Were Me'”.  David Sheppard described the song’s lyrics as “cringe-worthy” and gave it as an example of Collins “painting the bull’s-eye on his own forehead” when it came to his negative status with music critics.  Hugh Wilson contrasted Collins’ concern for the homeless in the song with his concern as a multimillionaire at the prospect of the UK’s election of a tax-raising socialist government.

Despite all that criticism, the fact remains that this song was a hit in many countries from Australia to Zimbabwe!

Another Day in Paradise
Phil Collins

She calls out to the man on the street
‘Sir, can you help me?
It’s cold and I’ve nowhere to sleep,
Is there somewhere you can tell me?’

He walks on, doesn’t look back
He pretends he can’t hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there

Oh think twice, it’s another day for you and me in paradise
Oh think twice, ’cause it’s just another day for you,
You and me in paradise, think about it

She calls out to the man on the street
He can see she’s been crying
She’s got blisters on the soles of her feet
She can’t walk but she’s trying

Oh think twice, ’cause it’s another day for you and me in paradise
Oh think twice, it’s just another day for you,
You and me in paradise, think about it

Oh Lord, is there nothing more anybody can do
Oh Lord, there must be something you can say

You can tell from the lines on her face
You can see that she’s been there
Probably been moved on from every place
Cause she didn’t fit in there

Oh think twice, ’cause another day for you and me in paradise
Oh think twice, it’s just another day for you,
You and me in paradise, just think about it, think about it

It’s just another day for you and me in paradise
It’s just another day for you and me in paradise, paradise
It’s just another day for you and me in paradise
It’s just another day for you and me in paradise, paradise
It’s just another day for you and me
It’s just another day for you and me
It’s just another day for you and me in paradise
In paradise

Songwriters: Phil Collins
Another Day in Paradise lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Concord Music Publishing LLC

Good People Doing Good Things — Finn Lanning

His name is Damien, last name unknown, and he is 13 years old.  Let me tell you a bit about Damien.  He was placed in foster care at a very early age, and as so often happens, has been bounced from one foster home to another.  When he was eight years old, Damien’s kidneys both stopped working and he was diagnosed with a serious kidney disease, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis.  The only cure is a kidney transplant, and meanwhile Damien must spend more than 12 hours per day hooked to a dialysis machine.

DamienThere is a rule in the medical community about transplant recipients … they must have a stable home — homeless people are not placed on the list because they tend to have more complications.  Much of the time, Damien’s only home has been a hospital, when foster homes have not worked out, often because of the intensive care and restrictive diet that Damien requires.  As a result, Damien has been on and off the transplant list for the past five years.

Early last year, a relative took Damien in and once again he was back on the transplant list.  His mental and physical health improved, and he was able to enroll in the AXL Academy in Aurora, Colorado.  Enter math teacher, Finn Lanning.  Says Finn …

“Although he has significant health challenges, he is an excellent student and a kind, generous, and motivated human being.”

Sadly, after caring for Damien for several months, last fall the relative decided that Damien’s additional needs were simply too much, and she was no longer able to care for Damien.  The decision was made to return him to the custody of the county.  The county would be sending him back to the hospital where he had spent much of his young life, sometimes for months at a time, once even for a full year.  He would once again be removed from the transplant list.

On what was to be his last day at school, Damien told his math teacher that he wouldn’t be back.  Finn Lanning asked why, and he told him.  Over the next few days, Finn couldn’t get Damien out of his mind.

“Over that time, I started out going in to give him his work and just hang out with him a little bit, keep him caught up in the classroom. And as I learned more about his story and what he was facing and what his needs were and why they weren’t being met, it just became really hard for me to look the other way.”

It wasn’t an immediate decision, Finn recalls …

“’No way! This is not something that I’m going to do.’ But as time went on, I felt a call to engage with it. I couldn’t just not do it. I didn’t see it as an option.”

Damien-Finn-3So, in late December Finn began training to take care of young Damien, and Damien moved in with Finn earlier this year.  When the community heard of the story, they began pitching in with a bed and assorted things Finn would need to provide a home for Damien.  Damien’s dietary requirements are challenging and costly, and like any 13-year-old boy, Damien sometimes rebels and really wants nachos or fried chicken.  Nonetheless, one of the things the two enjoy doing is cooking together!

Damien-Finn-1

Finn has to take time off work twice a week to take Damien to doctor’s appointments, and a number of his fellow-teachers have donated their vacation time so that he wouldn’t lose any pay.  Damien doesn’t have his kidney yet, but they are hoping for soon … very soon.  Meanwhile, the two are bonding, learning to live together, and … perhaps the best part … Finn is planning to adopt Damien!  First things first, he says, and the first priority is getting the kidney, but after that he plans to adopt him.

Damien-Finn-2

Da Snarky Snippets Keep On Coming

Believe it or not, just a few years ago I was a mild-mannered person who rarely engaged in being snarky, or bouts of temper … yeah, right, who do I think I’m kidding?  Anyway, today I find that I have plenty of little snippets upon which to unload my snark.


Trump vs CNN – round #14

On Monday, little Donnie took umbrage … again … over CNN’s coverage of his _____________ (fill in the blank).  Could have been his proposed tariffs on imports from Mexico, could have been his meddling in the affairs of the UK, or perhaps his juvenile criticisms of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, or any number of other things he has done or said.

CNN is not alone in critiquing Trump’s words and actions, and they are not alone in drawing Trump’s ire, for he has frequently called out the New York Times and The Washington Post, calling them ‘fake news’, ‘failing’, and more.  But, he seems to have taken a particular dislike to CNN, and today he crossed a line.  Well, in truth, he has crossed many lines in the past and I’m inclined to say that every time he opens his mouth, he crosses a line.  However today, he called on the U.S. public to boycott AT&T, the parent company of CNN.  This, my friends, is unconscionable.

It is neither the job nor the right of the president to attempt to bring down a company simply because they don’t agree with him.  And it is damn sure not his right to attempt to manipulate the press … the FREE press.  Hell, the majority of people in the nation don’t agree with him … what’s he going to do … call on his shrinking base to ‘de-friend’ us on Facebook? In the opinion of historian Jon Meacham, who has written biographies of several presidents …

“For a president to call for punitive action against a corporation in an effort to shape news coverage is, to say the least, highly unusual. It’s the kind of behavior more commonly associated with authoritarian regimes, not democratic ones.”

More commonly associated with authoritarian regimes … what have I been saying for two years now?


Get em, Tiger!

“Unfortunately, your actions are part of a pattern. The Trump administration has been engaged in one of the most unprecedented cover-ups since Watergate, extending from the White House to multiple federal agencies and departments of the government and across numerous investigations.”

The above is an excerpt from letters written to both Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross yesterday by Elijah Cummings, Chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.  Both Barr and Ross have defied the panel’s subpoena for information about efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Last week, we learned of a plot, if you will, to redistrict (gerrymander) political maps that would be “advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites”, based on answers to a proposed citizenship question on the upcoming (2020) census form.  The information came to light following the release of documents belonging to the late Thomas Hofeller, a major republican strategist.

The republicans, from Donald Trump down to the lowliest cabinet member, are engaging in a dangerous game of cat and mouse in order to preserve their “dominance” in our government.  I hope that if Barr and Ross do not turn over the requested information, they both land behind bars in orange jumpsuits.  The same goes for Mnuchin, Trump, and all the others who think they are above the law.  It’s time to restore law and order to this damn country!


Jared Kushner deserves a medal … for ignorance

KushnerThere is likely a reason why Jared Kushner, son-in-law and boot-licker of Don Trump, doesn’t do many interviews … his utter ignorance and stupidity come out … in spades.  On Sunday, an interview he did with Jonathan Swan of Axios was aired.  A couple of snippets …

The first was about the false claim by Trump that Obama was not born in the U.S.

Swan: Was birtherism racist?

Kushner: Um, look, I wasn’t really involved in that.

Swan: I know you weren’t! Was it racist?

Kushner: Like I said, I wasn’t involved in that.

Swan: I know you weren’t! Was it racist?

Kushner: Um, look, I know who the president is, and I have not seen anything in him that is racist. So, again, I was not involved in that.

Swan: Did you wish he didn’t do that?

Kushner: Like I said, I was not involved in that. That was a long time ago.

Then when asked about his father-in-law’s ‘values’, or lack thereof …

Swan: Has your father-in-law ever challenged your values?

Kushner: Um, in what regard?

Swan: Well I mean when you were on the campaign you had Access Hollywood? There’s been other things you’ve had to deal with since then. I mean, like, it’s a sensitive question, but I mean it in the sense of you’re a son-in-law, you’re a husband, you’re a senior advisor. Does it make it sometimes harder to, to tell him the truth?

Kushner: No, I think he, he respects people who are willing to be honest with him. When I do disagree, you’ll never read about it in the press and I won’t say it publicly but I will say there’s a lot more things I agree with him on than disagree.

Swan: So you agree with him on economics and foreign policy. Where do you stand on abortion?

Kushner: Again, I was not uh the person who was elected.

Such brilliance, yes?  No wonder he has been put in charge of a Middle-East peace plan!  If you’re interested, you can find the full transcript in .pdf form here.


A royal welcome …

Donnie is over in the UK this week, sure to cause more problems than he solves.  But the Brits know how to make a guy feel welcome.  The baby blimp will fly later today, but here are a few pictures from yesterday’s many protests …

protest-1protest-2protest-3protest-4protest-5protest-6protest-grassProtest Against Donald Trump's State Banquet in LondonProtest Against Donald Trump's State Banquet in LondonProtest Against Donald Trump's State Banquet in London

I guess that proves how much everybody loves him across the pond, eh?


Well, I think that’s it for this morning.  Have a great Tuesday!

Where Do We Draw A Line?

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, and in recent times that has been challenged and the limits sorely tested.  It is a slippery slope, one fraught with the danger of going a step too far in censuring free speech, but it is the opinion of this writer that there must be a line … somewhere.  Last night I came across one of the right-wing pundits who I believe has crossed the line no matter where the line is.  His name is Josh Bernstein, and he is an online commentator.  His online show is called, predictably, the Josh Bernstein Show.  His bio says he is an anthropologist, writer, news anchor, political analyst, and more, but I rather doubt most of that, and don’t have time to spend trying to confirm or deny.

What brought him onto my radar was his call for Trump to “sharpen up them guillotines” to use on special counsel Robert Mueller in response to Mueller’s comment during his public statement on Wednesday that “If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”  Bernstein went into attack mode, accusing Mueller of taking bribes.josh-bernstein.png

“How much were you paid to do that press conference? All of you are just disgusting, despicable excuses for human beings and, honestly, I hope you all go down. Treason. President Trump said treason. Guess what? I agree with that. … You know what they do for treason? U.S. Code 18 § 2381. They put you to death, that’s what they do. Let’s sharpen up them guillotines, let’s bring out Old Sparky, let’s make sure that those lethal concoctions are ready to go, because you people deserve it!”

Now, we’ve all become used to the hate speech that emanates from both sides of the political spectrum, but most viciously from the far right, and most of us take it with a grain of salt these days.  But I sense a more ominous tone here.  The danger is not in him saying it, but in people hearing it, and some people hearing it as a call to action.

If this were an isolated episode in Mr. Bernstein’s hate speech, I might be more inclined to chalk it up to the ravings of a lunatic and move along, but it is one of many.  In January, he had this to say about democrats …

“Democrats don’t care about Americans, they don’t care about their security, they don’t even care about their paychecks.  The bottom line is, and I hate to say this, these are the types of people that Americans fought against in World War II. These are the ones who should be sterilized so we can start over.”

In October, after Alex Baldwin made a statement that through the electoral process, we need to effect a change in government, Bernstein called him treasonous and said he should be banned.  He went a bit further, though …

“These idiot liberals, these morons that want to bring us down to a third-world level, these people should be locked up for treason. Liberals like to say, ‘Well, it’s very patriotic to say something nasty about your own country.’ You know what? No it’s not. It’s treasonous.”

He has called for all Muslims to be ‘eradicated’ …

“These people need to be eradicated from Western Europe, they need to be eradicated from the United States, they need to be eradicated, I would say, pretty much from everywhere, because they have shown time and time again—whether you’re a peaceful Muslim, whether you’re a radical Muslim—you’ve shown time and time again that you just cannot deal and cope with being in a civilized society. So we’ve got to do something about it.”

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  Why is this man allowed to say these things on the airwaves?  Because of the 1st Amendment right to free speech.  I think by now you all know that I fully support the right to free speech and freedom of the press.  But, I’ve said more than a few times, with every right comes an accompanying responsibility to use that right with conscience.  Josh Bernstein is taking his right, but not exercising his conscience.

Picture a white supremacist, or a hater of gay people, or an Islamophobe sitting at his computer one night, watching one of Bernstein’s videos calling for the execution of President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Robert Mueller, or just ‘liberals’ in general.  The man has a few guns, maybe a few beers under his belt, and decides to take up the gauntlet.  I don’t need to paint the picture, do I, for we’ve seen it far too many times already.

Remember last October when Cesar Sayoc sent pipe bombs through the U.S. mail to a number of prominent Democrats and Trump critics, as well as CNN?  Fortunately, he was stupid, the bombs were discovered, and nobody was hurt.  But, what about next time, or the time after?  Remember the mosque shootings in Philadelphia last year and New Zealand this year?  What inspired those killers?

I think that the time has come to draw a line somewhere.  Alex Jones’ conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook school shooting has had terrible consequences for the families of children who died in that horrific event.  In December 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch entered Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., armed and planning to kill whomever he came across.  His inspiration was the conspiracy theory that would become known as Pizzagate.

Words have consequences.  While I would not wish to stifle the ability of the press or anyone else to speak freely and offer an opinion, I think we must draw the line at calling for the death of another.  Mr. Bernstein just happened to cross my radar, but how many more are out there calling for the death of an individual or a group that we don’t know about?  I think that when you allow a right or a privilege to be abused, it ultimately ceases to be a right.  Think about it.

Again …

It happened again, my friends.  Twelve lives … snuffed out with a pull of a trigger.  We just keep killing each other … for no reason or any reason … it’s so easy, isn’t it?  Go to Wal-Mart, buy a gun.  Mad at the boss?  Hey, let’s go shoot a few co-workers … that’ll show ‘im!  Mad at the wife?  Hell, just shoot ‘er!  Bet she’ll never burn the rice at supper again!

In 1787, the Founding Fathers as we’ve come to refer to them, made a couple of big mistakes.  The first was that they believed that humans had consciences and would use them.  The second, they failed to foresee how the citizens of this country would develop a love, an obsession really, of guns and all things that go ‘boom’.

Did you know that there were 47 multiple victim shootings in May, according to the Gun Violence Archive? Just last weekend, nine people were hurt, and one was killed in the neighboring city of Chesapeake, Virginia when gunfire broke out at a party.

For those who may be tempted to send meaningless ‘thoughts and prayers’ to the families of the victims in Virginia Beach, let me suggest that instead you send apologies.  Yes, apologies. We have had opportunity after opportunity to elect people to office who were committed to implementing stricter gun regulations, but time after time we have failed to do so.  Instead, we send people to Congress who are in the pockets of the National Rifle Association, people who place the value of the right to own a gun above the value of the right to life, so the blame lies squarely on our shoulders.

Our apologies to the victims and their families …

  • Christopher Kelly Rapp
  • Ryan Keith Cox
  • Laquita C. Brown
  • Tara Welch Gallagher
  • Mary Louise Gayle
  • Alexander Mikhail Gusev
  • Katherine A. Nixon
  • Richard H. Nettleton
  • Joshua A. Hardy
  • Michelle “Missy” Langer
  • Robert “Bobby” Williams
  • Herbert “Bert” Snelling

victims

♫ Where Have All The Flowers Gone? ♫ – Redux

In light of yet another mass shooting in the U.S., this one in Virginia Beach where 11 died and 6 others were injured, this song, though I have played it here before, seems to be the most appropriate one.  One line, the very last line, always stands out at times like this:  When will we ever learn?


Pete-Seeger-1

Pete Seeger (May 3, 1919 – January 27, 2014)

Pete Seeger, who died in January 2014 at the age of 94, wrote this song, and the following is his story of how the song came to be:

“I had been reading a long novel—”And Quiet Flows the Don”—about the Don River in Russia and the Cossacks who lived along it in the 19th century. It describes the Cossack soldiers galloping off to join the Czar’s army, singing as they go. Three lines from a song are quoted in the book: ‘Where are the flowers? The girls plucked them / Where are the girls? They’re all married / Where are the men? They’re all in the army.’ I never got around to looking up the song, but I wrote down those three lines.

“Later, in an airplane, I was dozing, and it occurred to me that the line ‘long time passing’—which I had also written in a notebook—would sing well. Then I thought, ‘When will we ever learn.’ Suddenly, within 20 minutes, I had a song. There were just three verses. I Scotch-taped the song to a microphone and sang it at Oberlin College. This was in 1955.

“One of the students there had a summer job as a camp counselor. He took the song to the camp and sang it to the kids. It was very short. He gave it rhythm, which I hadn’t done. The kids played around with it, singing ‘Where have all the counselors gone? / Open curfew, everyone.’

“The counselor added two actual verses: ‘Where have all the soldiers gone? / Gone to graveyards every one / Where have all the graveyards gone? / Covered with flowers every one.’ Joe Hickerson is his name, and I give him 20 percent of the royalties. That song still brings in thousands of dollars from all around the world.”

bernie sandersThe song has been recorded by many, including Joan Baez, The Kingston Trio, Olivia Newton-John and even Dolly Parton, but the one that surprised me was Bernie Sanders!  Yep, the one and only Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont apparently produced an album in 1987, 20 years before becoming a senator, titled We Shall Overcome.  Who knew?

My favourite version of the song has always been Peter, Paul & Mary’s, but tonight I came across a version Seeger did sometime late in life, playing banjo and singing, and I found it moving.  So, I am including both here, and you can pick one or listen to both.  Or neither, I suppose, but then my feelings would be hurt, so listen to at least one, ‘k?

Where Have All the Flowers Gone
Pete Seeger/Peter, Paul & Mary

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone?
Taken husbands every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

Songwriters: Peter Seeger
Where Have All the Flowers Gone lyrics © The Bicycle Music Company

WTF is “Natural Law”???

Mike Pompeo is the nation’s Secretary of State.

Mike-PompeoCreated in 1789 by the Congress as the successor to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of State is the senior executive Department of the U.S. Government. The Secretary of State’s duties relating to foreign affairs have not changed significantly since then, but they have become far more complex as international commitments multiplied. These duties – the activities and responsibilities of the State Department – include the following:

  • Serves as the President’s principal adviser on U.S. foreign policy;
  • Conducts negotiations relating to U.S. foreign affairs;
  • Grants and issues passports to American citizens and exequaturs to foreign consuls in the United States;
  • Advises the President on the appointment of U.S. ambassadors, ministers, consuls, and other diplomatic representatives;
  • Advises the President regarding the acceptance, recall, and dismissal of the representatives of foreign governments;
  • Personally participates in or directs U.S. representatives to international conferences, organizations, and agencies;
  • Negotiates, interprets, and terminates treaties and agreements;
  • Ensures the protection of the U.S. Government to American citizens, property, and interests in foreign countries;
  • Supervises the administration of U.S. immigration laws abroad;
  • Provides information to American citizens regarding the political, economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian conditions in foreign countries;
  • Informs the Congress and American citizens on the conduct of U.S. foreign relations;
  • Promotes beneficial economic intercourse between the United States and other countries;
  • Administers the Department of State;
  • Supervises the Foreign Service of the United States.

In addition, the Secretary of State retains domestic responsibilities that Congress entrusted to the State Department in 1789. These include the custody of the Great Seal of the United States, the preparation of certain presidential proclamations, the publication of treaties and international acts as well as the official record of the foreign relations of the United States, and the custody of certain original treaties and international agreements. The Secretary also serves as the channel of communication between the Federal Government and the States on the extradition of fugitives to or from foreign countries.

That is the official job description for the position of Secretary of State, taken from the U.S. Government’s own website.  Please note that NOWHERE in all that verbiage does it say that the Secretary of State is in charge of setting the moral guidelines for the citizens of the United States!

Without the usual pomp and circumstance that usually accompanies announcements by the Trump regime, yesterday the State Department quietly announced the formation of a new committee to be called the Commission on Unalienable Rights, to be headed by Mike Pompeo.  According to the notice, the “nature and purpose” of the commission is …

“The Commission will provide the Secretary of State advice and recommendations concerning international human rights matters. The Commission will provide fresh thinking about human rights discourse where such discourse has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights.”

Ponder on this one for a moment, if you will.  “… departed from … founding principles of natural law”???  What is “natural law”?  One definition is …

“Natural law is a philosophy asserting that certain rights are inherent by virtue of human nature, endowed by nature—traditionally by God or a transcendent source—and that these can be understood universally through human reason.”

Mike Pompeo is one of those evangelicals who are anti-everything … anti-abortion, anti-women’s rights, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Muslim … and the list goes on.  On April 3rd, Brunei legalized the stoning to death of LGBT people.  Most of the western world was appropriately outraged.  Actor George Clooney called for a boycott of hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei.  The governments of the EU and UK publicly called on Brunei to abandon the law.  Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo were silent. When pressured by the media to comment, Pompeo finally said he was “concerned”, but neither he nor Trump condemned the brutality.

And now, Mike Pompeo, the evangelical, the man who is only ‘concerned’ about the brutal murder of people in the LGBTQ community, is in charge of a commission on ‘natural law’.  Be afraid, people … be very afraid.

In recent weeks, we have seen numerous states infringing on women’s human rights by passing draconian laws banning a woman’s right to an abortion, even if to save her life.  We have seen laws repealed that prohibited the discrimination of LGBTQ people in almost every area, including health care.  In short, we have seen that this regime does not respect the rights of either women or the LGBTQ community.

The State Department already has an entire bureau devoted to the issues of human rights.  Human rights advocates and activists are worried that the true purpose of this commission is to strip both women and LGBTQ people of protections against discrimination.

The most worrying part, to me, is that term “natural law”, which is typically associated with religion.  The United States is a secular nation.  Some will claim it is a ‘Christian nation’, but that is not the way the Constitution, the framework for our government, is designed.  We welcome people of all or no religions to practice whatever religion … or none … they choose, but … BUT we do not design our laws in accordance with Christianity or any other religion.

For Mike Pompeo, who holds strong and narrow-minded religious views, and a group of his choosing to have input into the legal processes of this nation is a dangerous proposition … it poses, in this writer’s view, a distinct threat to the concept of separation of church and state, and it poses a threat to women and the LGBTQ community at the very least.

Few facts are available about what the commissions goals and processes are to be, and the State department refused to provide further details to the media, but this is something to keep an eye on, folks.  This may well go the way of Trump’s “Voter Fraud Commission” in 2017 and simply fade into oblivion, but what if it doesn’t?  Think about it.

Snippy Snarkets … er … Snarky Snippets

These days trying to keep up with the news is a full-time job, and just a bit overwhelming most days.  The insanity that defines the Trump administration may be contagious, for lately I’ve been doing really stupid things, like … well, never mind … I’m not going to give you that weapon to use against me some day when I least expect it.  Anyway, two stories today gave rise to these snarky snippets …


Fox is doing what???

Fox-News-logoOkay, folks, I want you to be sure you’re sitting down for this one.  I also suggest you keep a hand firmly planted on your chin to keep your jaw from dropping to the ground.  I swear I am not making this up, but next week, Fox ‘News’ will be airing an ad by republicans that calls for the impeachment of Donald Trump!  Are you still with me, or have you fainted?

Turns out there is a conservative group called Republicans for the Rule of Law (RRL) that has developed an ad calling for politicians to stand up to the president.  Who knew?  And to add insult to injury, they will be airing the ad on none other than Trump’s favourite show, Fox and Friends.  According to Chris Truax, a spokesman for RRL …

“Everybody — Republicans and Democrats but especially Republicans — need to step up and say, ‘Look, this is bigger than the politics of the day, this is about our democratic institutions.’ If we don’t defend them, that will have an impact on our country for decades to come. President Trump still does not want to admit that this happened and that’s wrong, absurd and dangerous. Republicans need to stop enabling this behavior.”

When I read this, I had to do a quick check of my calendar to make sure it isn’t April 1st, for I was sure this must be a joke.  The 30 second clip, set to air next week, will feature clips from Robert Mueller’s statement yesterday. The spot will end with the line, “Mueller did his job, now it’s time for members of Congress to do theirs.”

How encouraging to know that there are some republicans who are not enamoured of Donald Trump and are willing to put the welfare of the nation ahead of personal gain.

I literally laughed when I heard this and wish I could see Trump’s face when he sees it.  Or, perhaps his aides will find a way to distract him or ‘accidentally’ turn off the television just before the ad comes on, like they covered up the USS John S. McCain so that Trump would not see it and become upset.


Not again???

roy-mooreRemember Roy Moore, the former Alabama judge who ran for Senate against democrat Doug Jones in a 2017 special election?  He, along with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, remind me of the Energizer bunny … they just don’t know when to quit, but keep on going … and going … and going.  Roy is planning another run at the senate seat next year.

As you’ll recall, Moore has been credibly accused of sexual misconduct with at least nine women, two of whom were underage at the time.  He was suspended not once, but twice from the Alabama Supreme Court.  Moore is the classic definition of a jerk.  The strangest thing is that, while he did lose the 2017 election to Jones, it was by a very narrow margin.  So, apparently in Alabama, it doesn’t much matter whether you have morals or a conscience, as long as you’re a republican.

Trump initially supported Moore in 2017, then backed off when the sexual accusations started coming to light.  So, what is Trump’s take on Moore’s current bid?

“Republicans cannot allow themselves to again lose the Senate seat in the Great State of Alabama. This time it will be for Six Years, not just Two. I have NOTHING against Roy Moore, and unlike many other Republican leaders, wanted him to win. But he didn’t, and probably won’t.  …If Alabama does not elect a Republican to the Senate in 2020, many of the incredible gains that we have made during my Presidency may be lost, including our Pro-Life victories. Roy Moore cannot win, and the consequences will be devastating….Judges and Supreme Court Justices!”

His reason for being against Moore running is not because Moore is not a person of conscience, or because Moore is a racist and a sexual predator, but only because he thinks Moore cannot win, and to Trump winning is the only thing that matters.  Returning Jones to the Senate in next year’s election would possibly mess up little Donnie’s grand plans for the further destruction of the U.S.!

Moore was not happy with Trump’s response and fired back.

“The president doesn’t control who votes for the United States Senate in Alabama. People in Alabama are smarter than that. They elect the senator from Alabama, not from Washington, D.C.”

The frightening thing is that Moore continues, despite his abhorrent behaviours, to have a large following and could actually win the republican nomination.  Moore is 72 years old and would be 74 by the time he took his seat in the Senate if he were to win.  We do not need any more rich, bigoted, old men in Congress!!!


And thus concludes today’s supply of snark.  Have a great whatever-day-it-is!

The Myth About Congress …

The United States Congress.  A diverse body of people from every state in the nation who take an oath to uphold the Constitution, to represent the people in their state/district, right?  Maybe on paper, but the reality is that these days I think most of us have the feeling that we are misunderstood and misrepresented not only in the executive, but also the legislative branches of our government. CongressI speak from my own experience with the ‘representative’ for my district, Warren Davidson.  His values and priorities are so far away from my own that I wonder how he ever got elected.  He annoys me on a daily basis, and I let him have it back, tit-for-tat … not that he likely ever reads my tweets or emails, but I try.  Now, I do realize that within any district, not everyone will have the same views, however an elected official is supposed to represent ALL the people, and in truth, far too many represent only the people who have a lot more money in the bank than anybody reading this blog.

Our friend Scottie posted something interesting yesterday and threw out a bit of a challenge for me to follow up on it, take it a step further.  Never one to turn down a challenge, I took the bait.  The question:  How demographically representative is Congress of the nation as a whole?  Turns out, not very.  This is the chart Scottie posted that piqued my interest:Scottie-chart

The 116th U.S. Congress took office in January, with Democrats taking control of the House while Republicans maintain an edge in the Senate.  The current Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse ever.  The number of women in Congress is at an all-time high.  The share of immigrants in Congress has ticked up but remains well below historical highs.  Seems a step in the right direction, but …

Before I get into the demographics comparison, I found this cool interactive that will take you only about 20 seconds to see how well, based on five simple criteria, you are represented in Congress today.  Check it out and see where you stand.  My own result was that there are 0 people in Congress like me.  Hey, I’m unique!!! I’m also unrepresented in Congress. So, how did you fare?

Let’s start with women.  There are currently 131 women in Congress, an all-time high.  131 out of a total of 535 is 24.5%.  So, 24.5% of Congress are women, but 50.8% of the population are women.  See the problem here?  Granted, one does not have to be a woman to understand women’s issues, but it helps, especially today when more and more male-dominated state legislatures are passing laws stripping women of the right to make their own reproductive health decisions. Men-women-dem-rep Interestingly, among democrats in Congress, there is a significantly higher number of women, but among republicans, only 10% are women.  Think about that one. women-blacks

Next let’s look at African-Americans.  There are 58 African-Americans in Congress, comprising 10.8% of the total.  Comparatively, African-Americans make up 13.4% of the population.  The disparity here is, perhaps, not as wide as the gender gap, and is much less than it once was, but is still there.  Again, note the difference between democrat and republican.women-blacks

What about age?  The average age at the beginning of the 116th Congress was 57.6 years for Representatives and 62.9 years for Senators.  How does that compare to the population as a whole?  13% of the population are between 55-64, and 16% are over 65.  Seems rather like younger people are under-represented, wouldn’t you say?  On the upside, however, the average age of incoming members of Congress this year was 47, so we are seeing some younger blood … perhaps it’s time for some of those crotchety old men (Mitchell McConnell) to retire?

One of the big dividers is religion.  While there is a disparately higher number of most every religious group, it is interesting to note that not one single member of Congress is ‘unaffiliated’, while nearly a quarter of the nation’s population are unaffiliated with any organized religion.  I fall into that category, as do many readers of this blog … we are not even a blip on the radar of Congress.  To me, this is a problem, for in the past two years, many of the barriers between church and state have been breached and we seem to be on our way toward a theocracy of sorts, which would leave nearly a fourth of the population out in the cold.  More than 99% of republicans identify as Christian, compared to 78% of democrats.religion

While there are many more categories we could look at, I will wrap it up with one very important one, a group of people who are frequently misunderstood and subjected to discrimination, even state-sanctioned discrimination, the LGBTQ community.  This category is the most misunderstood of any, and they are the most likely to face discrimination.  Of late, even our own government, thanks to Mike Pence and the evangelicals who have a hold over Don Trump, are passing laws that discriminate against LGBTQ people.  There are a total of 10 LGBTQ people in Congress today, as compared to an estimated 4.5% of the total population.  A disclaimer is in order, however, for the number of LGBTQ people is likely underestimated, since many choose not to make public their gender orientation.  The fact that there are more men than women in Congress is disturbing, as is the fact that minorities are under-represented.  But LGBTQ is one group whose problems and issues are unique, and frankly if you aren’t a member of that group, you don’t understand.  Period.  You may empathize, but you cannot possibly understand.   And if you and I cannot understand, what makes anybody think our illustrious members of Congress understand?  They don’t.LGBTQ

One other area in which Congress has little, if any, connection to the real world of the U.S. is wealth, as you saw in Scottie’s chart.  It is a pertinent topic, but one that I must save for another day, as I have already spent some six hours doing research, double-checking facts, creating charts, and writing this post.  Suffice it to say that the members of Congress are far ‘above the madding crowd’ when it comes to wealth, and I think this may be one of the most relevant reasons that they cannot possibly relate to “We the People” in any meaningful way.  I hope to do a separate post within the next week assessing the wealth of various members of Congress, how they came to be millionaires, and how that may be influencing their decisions.

I note, overall, a disturbing trend regarding democrat vs republican.  Democrats have nearly 5 times as many women in Congress as republicans.  Republicans have a measly 2 … count ’em … two African-Americans, compared to more than 50 of the Democratic Party.  Republicans have zero diversity in religion, and there is not a single LGBTQ republican in Congress.  People tell me that I shouldn’t judge all republicans on the basis of what some do, but … as far as Congress goes, they seem to be a fairly narrow-minded group of old, white, Christian, straight males.  Think about it.

I end where I started … thank you, Scottie, for throwing me this challenge.  I think it is a worthwhile topic, and I learned quite a bit tonight, including why I sometimes feel that I am left behind by those men & women we think are looking out for our best interests.