The Return Of Snarky!

Snippets, Snippets, have I ever got snippets today!  My body may be feeble, but there’s nothing wrong with my mind!

Today, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) gave full approval for the Pfizer vaccine against COVID.  This does a number of things.

First, it removes the excuse the anti-vaxxers have been using for not getting the vaccine.  They said, “not without full FDA approval!”  Well, folks, now you’ve got that, so get your fat asses out there and get vaccinated … TODAY!

My granddaughter, astute for her young years, said, “I bet now they’ll say it was too fast.”  And lo and behold, just an hour after she said that I read this headline …

Goalposts Moved: Fox News is Now Complaining That FDA Rushed the Vaccine Approval Process

And if Fox says it, you know the nudniks will believe it.

Second, it allowed the Pentagon today to announce it is making the vaccine mandatory for its 1.3 million active-duty service members.  Bravo!!!

The time for argument and delay is past.  This was the last possible hurdle.  Now it’s time to think of others, put petty whining aside just for once, and do the right thing.  If a large portion of the population continue to resist, then I vote we build something akin to leper colonies and house them there until the threat has passed.

In just a few hours, Governor Andrew Cuomo will fade into oblivion … we hope.  Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will take her oath of office at one minute after midnight.  I detest the confrontational attitude that Cuomo has adopted in his last weeks in office, for he is only paying the price for his own actions – nobody forced him to sexually harass women.

That said, all people are some combination of good and bad … well, most people anyway.  While Cuomo’s current crimes must be remembered, must serve as a warning to future politicos, he has also done much good during his decade in office and I think that should be remembered as well.  It is a part of his legacy, just as is his sexual misconduct.  When Pete Rose was banned from baseball for betting on the sport, I thought that right and proper, but when he was denied a well-earned place in the Baseball Hall of Fame, I thought that was wrong.  In the same way, I think it is right for Cuomo to step down, but that it would be wrong to paint Cuomo with only a single, dark brush.

Remember the good as well as the bad and take a lesson from both.

When I was trying to catch up on the news earlier today, I felt as if there were a conspiracy to direct our attention in so many directions that no single news item would stand out, would capture our full attention.  Afghanistan, of course, is at the forefront of our minds, as it should be.  Climate change and the terrible climate-related disasters happening all over the globe – floods, hurricanes, droughts, water shortages, wildfires – are critical to our future on this planet.  Getting vaccines into stubborn mules and masks onto their faces seems a never-ending struggle and is critical, for failure to do so affects the health and well-being of every man, woman and child on earth.  But what seems to have fallen through the cracks may be, at least for the people of the United States, the most important issue of them all:  voting rights.

The U.S. Senate under the minority leadership of the ignoble Kevin McCarthy is somehow determined to draw our attention away from the bills S1 and S4 so that, with our attention elsewhere, they can sweep them under the rug and wash their hands of our voting rights.

Interestingly, Maria Bartiromo of Fox ‘News’ interviewed McCarthy the other day and she surprised me.  Here’s a brief snippet from that interview …

Bartiromo:  “You a moment ago mentioned the HR 1 voting bill. I’ve got to tell you there are viewers of this program who have lost faith in the Republican Party leadership, lost faith in Mitch McConnell and in you because we do not know if you have your arms around free and fair elections.  How come there’s no discussion about all of the states that are changing their voting laws right now?  How come there’s no discussion about the audit going on in Arizona right now? What are you going to do? Can you prove to the American people that you are in control here and able to ensure that we will have free and fair elections in 2022 and 2024?”

McCarthy:  “We’re fighting every single day. Now we’re watching Democrats trying to cheat within elections, inflation at a number we have not seen. This is Jimmy Carter on steroids. And this is just eight months into this administration.  We will fight and we will win and the next century will be the American century because we know how to govern.”

That is a non-answer if ever I heard one!  He did not even begin to answer the question, not even to address the fact that some Fox viewers, according to Bartiromo, have lost faith in the Republican Party leadership, but used his answer as yet another opportunity to criticize the Democratic Party!  Get off your fat ass, McCarthy, and do your job!  We the People want the For the People Act (S1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act (S4) passed and we want it done before the end of this year!!!

Folks … this one is top priority, even though it seems to have faded out of view in light of the chaos of the Afghanistan troop withdrawal.  Let’s keep it hot, okay?  We cannot allow our politicians to simply shrug their shoulders and let these two all-important bills die in the Senate.  Once again, I’m asking you, contact your Senators and let them know you have not forgotten … you will not forget.

Oh Da Snark … Try Watching Grass Grow!

It seems I keep finding things to snark about.  I have tried to clear my mind of the detritus, tried lying in the yard watching the grass grow to find some peace of mind, but some of the blades of grass began looking like politicians after a while.  I threw myself into housework … for all of ten minutes … and then I was tired, so I went back to reading the news.  So, letting loose the snark here on ye olde blog seems to be the only way to evict it from my head!

Punished for doing the right thing

Okay, my friends … I’m going there again … ‘there’ being the place I try very hard to stay away from:  religion.  Well, not religion per se, but rather certain religious ‘leaders’ who have flown repeatedly onto my radar, almost as if they are begging me to swat them down.  Sigh.  I really don’t like delving into the realm, for I understand that in this area, I am a minority and my views have little or no value to the majority.  However …

Greg Locke, pastor of the Global Vision Bible Church in Nashville, Tennessee, is not a nice man.  He has floated across my radar numerous times, but until recently I swished him away, pooh-poohed him as just another foolish evangelical.  Until recently, that is, when he actually had the unmitigated gall to tell his congregation that if they wore a mask, they would be thrown out of church!

“If you start showing up [with] all these masks and all this nonsense, I will ask you to leave. I am not playing these Democrat games up in this church.”

‘Democrat games???’  Who’s playing games now, Greg?  What’s next for Mr. Locke?  Will he throw out parishioners who have been vaccinated?  What about those who eat healthy and exercise regularly … are they to be given the boot?  Folks, this is not about whether one chooses to believe in a higher being or not … this is about life and death, about personal choices, about our health.  Mr. Locke has just mandated that his congregation must engage in dangerous, life-threatening behaviour in order to have the dubious ‘privilege’ of hearing him opine on that of which he is proven ignorant.

This isn’t Locke’s first foray into the unconscionable.  Previously he insisted President Joe Biden was not legitimately elected and claimed only “crack-smoking” leftists would think he beat Donald Trump to the White House.  He has falsely accused the State of Tennessee of building ‘quarantine camps’ to house the unvaccinated, and last September he published a book titled, This Means War: We Will Not Surrender Through Silence (Pastor Greg Locke: Spiritual Warfare Series).

What a joke he is … I wonder how many people will die because they listened to him?

And on the subject of masks …

Do you ever look around, read the news, and just wonder if the whole damn world has lost its collective marbles???

On Tuesday night, a meeting of the school board was held in Williamson County, Tennessee, the wealthiest in the state and one of the 20 wealthiest counties in the country.  The purpose of the meeting was to decided whether or not there would be a mask mandate in place when children return to school next week.  Unlike some other states, there is no ban on mask mandates in Tennessee and the decision is left up to each school district.

The meeting was so chaotic that it ended up taking four hours to decide that yes, they would mandate masks for teachers and students at the elementary school level.  Masks will be optional at the junior high and high school levels where most students are over 12 years of age and thus eligible for vaccination.  Angry parents showed up, almost none wearing a mask, and frequently disrupted the meeting, expressing their fury that their child might be ordered to wear a mask.  One person became so violent that he had to be escorted out by county deputies.

But it was what came afterward that makes me think our nation is devolving into something cruel and inhumane.  As the meeting broke up, hundreds of protestors were waiting outside.  The meeting had included health care professionals who attested to the value of wearing a mask during this time when the Delta variant of the coronavirus is running rampant.  Upon leaving the building, the health care professionals were surrounded by protestors chanting and issuing threats such as “We know who you are,” and “We will find you.”

If this is what it means to be an American, then I want no part of it!  These people are loons!  Doctors and nurses, trying to keep the children of these loons safe and alive, are threatened for doing so.  PEOPLE!  WAKE UP!  This is not how rational human beings behave!!!  Or is it?  Are people completely losing the ability to disagree in a civilized manner?

Something to ponder

Our friend Jerry, aka Grumpy1180, left a comment on my post about Andrew Cuomo’s resignation that I found very astute …

I’ve had several epiphanies since leaving the Republican Party. Here’s one of them: When a Republican “leader” gets caught with his or her hand in the cookie jar–or his or her pants down, or choose your cliche–Republican followers turn on the accusers, the law enforcers, the court system, the media, and anyone else who would dare to question the integrity of their hero. They side with the person over the principle. When a Democrat leader gets caught violating a law or an important social norm, Democrat voters say, essentially, “Sorry, _____. I liked you, but principles come first. Time for you to move on and be replaced by someone who understands the importance of upholding crucial, society-sustaining principles.”

Think about that for a minute … he’s right!  Did you hear a single Republican call for Trump’s resignation in light of his many proven sexual harassment accusations, his lies, his corruption?  He even admitted to some of them, yet not a whisper was heard from Republicans in or out of Congress.  When confirmation hearings were being held for Brett Kavanaugh to occupy a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, and a highly credible woman accused him of sexual assault, who did Republicans turn on?  The woman, not Kavanaugh.  And more recently … have you heard a single Republican call for Representative Matt Gaetz, who is being investigated on sex trafficking charges, to step down?

Think about it … which party has shown integrity?  Jerry is right … it damn sure ain’t the Republican Party!

Snarky Snippets From A Bouncing Mind

Today’s snippets cover a wide … and I do mean wide … range of topics, from making fun of Mike Pompeo to cursing Andrew Cuomo.  So, fasten your seatbelts and come along for the ride!

Thanks a lot, anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers!

Worldwide, the number of new cases of COVID increased last week by 11% over the preceding week.  In the United States, cases increased by 41% … almost four times the worldwide average.  Need I tell you the reason?  Surely you understand that the refusal of some 30% of the people in this nation to be vaccinated plays a role, but perhaps even more importantly is the happy-go-lucky, not-a-care-in-the-world attitude of those who congregate on beaches, at music festivals, in theaters, shops, restaurants and bars, and refuse to wear a damned mask.  Oh yes, the U.S. claims to have a position as a world leader … we’re a world leader, alright … in spreading a lethal virus intentionally!

Canada and Turkey are the only other western nations with increase rates higher than our own … 59% and 71% respectively.

President Biden has done as much as any president could be expected to in encouraging sensible behaviour, encouraging mask-wearing by example, encouraging vaccination, but there is only so much the president can do … he cannot sign an executive order to eradicate stupidity.  I’ll report on the numbers again next week … I wonder how long it will be before we are back to 1,000 or more deaths a day?

I dunno where it {burp} went

Mike Pompeo was Secretary of State under the former guy.  I had many issues with Mike – his ‘diplomacy’, the fact that he was loyal to the madman, the useless trips he made on our dime, his slavish devotion to Benjamin Netanyahu, misuse by both he and his wifey of government resources, his bringing his religion into his job, and more.  So, I am taking this opportunity to have a laugh at his expense.

Turns out that on June 24th, 2019, the Japanese government gave Pompeo a bottle of whiskey valued at $5,800.  Now, I may be but a peon who knows nothing whatsoever about expensive wine & spirits, but I think there’s no bottle of whiskey worth nearly six thousand dollars.  None.  Sheesh, you drink it, it’s gone, and what do you have to show for it but a massive headache the next morning.

Now, allegedly the bottle was given to an aide, since Pompeo was actually in Saudi Arabia, not Japan on that day, and the aide was to give it to Pompeo.  Presumably he or she did just that.  First problem here is that diplomats and other oversees workers are only allowed to keep gifts that are valued at less than $390.  I’m an accountant, so I know that $5,800 is way more than $390!

The second problem is that now the booze has done a runner, it seems.  It’s gone.  Probably gone into Pompeo’s rather massive belly, but … who knows?  At any rate, the State Department is investigating the whereabouts of the missing booze.  Apparently, they have nothing better to do?  Pompeo’s lawyer, William A. Burck, says that “He has no idea what the disposition was of this bottle of whiskey.”  And most likely he doesn’t recall, for he may have been a bit too … um … inebriated … to remember drinking it.

Okay, I’ve had my fun … in the grand scheme of everything happening today, this is such a minor story that it has little relevance, however every major news outlet seems to have carried it, so I couldn’t resist jumping on that bandwagon.  Now, on to other things …

Mexico is suing us … rightly so

The Mexican government is suing several U.S.-based gun manufacturers including Smith & Wesson Brands, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, Beretta USA, Glock and Colt’s Manufacturing Co.

The lawsuit maintains that the U.S. arms manufacturers “are conscious of the fact that their products are trafficked and used in illicit activities against the civilian population and authorities of Mexico,” according to a document from the Foreign Ministry. “Nonetheless, they continue to prioritize their economic benefit, and use marketing strategies to promote weapons that are ever more lethal, without mechanisms of security or traceability,” it continued.

In addition to financial damages sought — which Mexican officials estimated could run to $10 billion if the lawsuit is successful — it also seeks tighter controls on sales and better security features on weapons. It calls on the companies to undertake studies and media campaigns to prevent arms trafficking.

In the past, gun manufacturers have denied responsibility for crimes in which their weapons were used, claiming that they try to ensure that guns can be purchased only by those legally allowed to own them.  Bullshit!  As long as they’re making those huge profits from the sale of killing machines, they don’t give a royal hoot who uses them or for what purpose!

And they have profited greatly from the pandemic.  Smith & Wesson, for example, saw net profit of $243.6 million in 2020 as compared to only $27.7 million the prior year.  Profiting from other people’s death and pain.  The ‘American Dream’, eh?

I would like to see Mexico win this suit and the gun manufacturers have to pay until they are twisted in knots!  Unfortunately, a federal law that took effect in 2005 shields gun manufacturers from most civil liability claims, making it difficult for lawsuits like Mexico’s to succeed.  This case should be tried under international law, perhaps by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to be ruled on fairly.  Yeah, I know … not a snowball’s chance in hell.  Sigh.  I can dream, can’t I?

Resign, Andrew! 

I will only briefly touch on the report released on Tuesday saying that Governor Andrew Cuomo had sexually harassed at least 11 women.  Now, as a native New Yorker, I must admit I’ve always liked Cuomo, thought he did a good job and cared, truly cared, about the people of his state.  However, in light of the charges, I have no choice but to join the masses calling for his resignation, for contrary to what our friend Scott believes of me, I am no hypocrite.  Women’s rights … damn, why do we keep having to fight for them???  WHY the hell can’t men just understand that we don’t WANT their uninvited lecherous passes?  We are … listen to me … WE ARE every bit as deserving of respect as you guys are!  WE ARE NOT sex objects for you to toy with as you please, grabbing our boobs or other body parts.  WE ARE PEOPLE TOO!

Whew … I didn’t realize quite how angry I was about this until I started writing! 🤬  I’m a firm believer of that old adage, “Where there’s so much smoke, there’s bound to be a fire somewhere.”  Yes, I firmly believe that Governor Cuomo is an abuser of women and I join in the calls for his resignation.  That said, he’s a stubborn ass and unlikely to resign, thus impeachment is the next likely step.  My heart breaks for the people of New York that have stood behind Governor Cuomo, only to be slapped in the face by him.

Still More Snarky Snippets …

These days so much is wrong in this country-that-I-once-called-home that it’s hard to confine my snark to simple snark without taking it into a full-fledged rant, but I shall try …

AG Barr wants you … to die!

The not-so-honourable U.S. District Attorney Bill Barr is threatening to sue states that are trying to protect their citizens.  Yep, you heard me right.  Said Barr in his two-page letter to the 93 U.S. Attorneys …

“Many policies that would be unthinkable in regular times have become commonplace in recent weeks, and we do not want to unduly interfere with the important efforts of state and local officials to protect the public. But the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis.”

WHOA … Back it up there, Billy Boy!!!  Then just how in the Sam Hell is it that Donald Trump, that ‘man’ you said was above the law, was able to suspend the U.S. Constitution to give himself additional powers that would have our Founding Fathers clutching their heads as they rolled around in their graves???  So, our state government doesn’t have the right to keep us safe, but Trump has the right to incite riots, to siphon funds earmarked for other causes to his abominable ‘wall’, and he stands in front of television cameras broadcasting to at least 50-60 people and says he has “total authority”?

My recommendation for Mr. Barr is that he pick up a copy of the U.S. Constitution and actually sit on his fat ass and actually read the thing … all 8,000 words!

As much as I am a fighter, as much as I chafe at being ‘told’ or ‘ordered’ to do something … yes, a stubborn wench I am … I still have a bit of common sense that says if Trump/Barr have their way, every bloomin’ one of us will end up with the coronavirus by the end of June.  Some will survive, some won’t.  Laura Ingraham made the statement a few days ago that death is just part of life.  In other words – oh well … as long as she and other shallow-minded people can go back to shopping and getting drunk in bars, what are a few million lives?


Look at that grin … I think he enjoys being a toadie!!!

No doubt this directive came from the fool in the Oval Office, as he is chomping at the bit to get everything “opened back up”, thinking that the economy will just pick right back up where it left off in early March and he can toot his horn and win the election in November.  Ain’t gonna happen.  It will be years before the economy fully rebounds … hopefully long after Donald Trump is naught but a little urn of ashes sitting on Melania’s dresser.

Time to put ol’ Mitch out to pasture …

As I noted yesterday, Trump is playing a game of “pick-and-choose” over which states should receive federal aid, the criteria being whether they play nice with Trump, praise him and agree with him in all things, or at least pretend to.  But the idea actually started last week with none other than the cruel Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell.  McConnell suggested that the states should just go bankrupt if they run out of money after paying billions in unemployment claims, and more billions to treat coronavirus victims.  Well, McConnell’s idea didn’t go over so well with most anybody, including his own fellow republicans in both the House and Senate.

The governor of Mitchie’s own state, Kentucky, even stood up to him … that takes some guts and Governor Beshear deserves a round of applause!  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put it in context …

“Don’t say state and local. Say what the state and local governments fund: police, fire, teachers, hospital workers. Funds small business but also fund police, fire, school teachers, and hospital workers. How can you exclude them when you’re talking about priorities?”

Priorities, indeed!  Funny, isn’t it, that McConnell is all too willing to fund a worthless wall on the southern border costing hundreds of billions of dollars, but he’s not willing to help struggling states keep their public schools open or police, fire and hospital workers on the job.  Methinks ol’ Mitchie has outlived his usefulness in Congress, for he has forgotten that PEOPLE are the priority, seems to have forgotten that the government exists for the PEOPLE!  I do sincerely hope that Kentuckians have the good sense to put Mitch McConnell out to pasture this November … it is long past time!

Return to ‘business as usual’?  I think not

I saw this brief snippet in the New York Times this morning:

China’s Factories Are Back. Its Consumers Aren’t.

The manufacturing giant is once again turning out steel and cellphones. But job losses and pay cuts have left its people reluctant to spend — a problem the U.S. and Europe may soon face, too.

I have said the same a few times in recent weeks.  You can open a business, produce a product, but in these times of uncertainty, the wise and sensible among us aren’t going to rush out and buy, buy, buy.  This is one of a few reasons that Trump’s plan to get everything opened up and running full steam isn’t going to work.  First, one doesn’t just snap their fingers and all of a sudden restaurants have plenty of food, factories have all their raw materials and workers in place, ready to fire up those assembly lines.  It doesn’t work that way.  But even once the factories are rolling out new gadgets and the restaurants have turned their sign to “Open”, the customers will return slowly … very slowly.

open-signPeople have been out of work, living on unemployment which is, at the most, about 66% of average income.  People are still frightened of catching the coronavirus which, as medical experts are telling us, will be a valid concern at least throughout the summer.  And people have seen from the past two month’s experience that … anything can happen.  The sensible will start beefing up their savings rather than spending money on non-essentials such as dining out, new clothes, new appliances.

Nope, folks, there will be no quick return to ‘business as usual’, no matter how much Donald Trump, William Barr, and the foolish gun-totin’ protestors would like it to be so.  All they are doing is putting more lives in danger.

I haven’t done a cartoon post for quite a while, nor am I likely to anytime soon, for frankly even the great talent of the political cartoonists cannot make me find anything humorous about life today, but here’s one that I at least grinned at …


An Update And An Opinion

In a minute, I will share a piece by Robert Reich, but first I have an update on this morning’s post, King Donnie.  You may remember that I wrote about Trump claiming “When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total,” and saying that it would be entirely up to him, not the states’ governors, when the country would re-open for business.  Well, it seems that mine were not the only feathers he ruffled with his rhetoric …

“I don’t know what the president is talking about, frankly. We have a constitution … we don’t have a king … the president doesn’t have total authority.” – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

“I am not running for office to be King of America. I respect the constitution. I’ve read the constitution. I’ve sworn an oath to it many times. I respect the great job so many of this country’s governors – Democratic and Republican – are doing under these horrific circumstances.” – Former Vice President and presidential candidate Joe Biden

“Nope. That would be the literal definition of a totalitarian government – which our traditions, our constitution, and our values all rightly and decisively reject.” – Steve Vladeck, Professor of Law at the University of Texas

“How & when to modify physical distancing orders should & will be made by Governors. But the Constitution & common sense dictates these decisions be made at the state level.” – Republican Senator Marco Rubio

I’m thinking maybe it’s about time for Trump to listen to the people who have actually read and understand the U.S. Constitution.  And now, I bring you Robert Reich on an entirely different topic and one of my own pet peeves …

America’s billionaires are giving to charity – but much of it is self-serving rubbish

Well-publicized philanthropy shows how afraid the super-rich are of a larger social safety net – and higher taxes

Robert Reich-4As millions of jobless Americans line up for food or risk their lives delivering essential services, the nation’s billionaires are making conspicuous donations – $100m from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos for food banks, billions from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates for a coronavirus vaccine, thousands of ventilators and N95 masks from Elon Musk, $25m from the Walton family and its Walmart foundation. The list goes on.

On Wednesday, Forbes released its annual billionaires list, happily noting that “the planet’s wealthiest are helping the global effort to combat the Covid-19 outbreak”.

I don’t mean to be uncharitable, but much of this is self-serving rubbish.

First off, the amounts involved are tiny relative to the fortunes behind them. Bezos’s $100m, for example, amounts to about 11 days of his income.

Well-publicized philanthropy also conveniently distracts attention from how several of these billionaires are endangering their workers and, by extension, the public.

With online sales surging, Amazon is on a hiring binge. But Bezos still doesn’t provide sick leave for workers unless they test positive for Covid-19, in which case they get just two weeks. On 20 March, four senators sent him a letter expressing concern that the company wasn’t doing enough to protect its warehouse workers.

Walmart’s booming sales have caused it to hire more than 100,000 workers over the past three weeks. But the firm failed to implement social distancing for two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced guidelines on 16 March. Several workers have died. Most still don’t have access to gloves, masks or hand sanitizer. They don’t get paid sick leave, not even at stores where employees have contracted the virus.

Musk initially dismissed sheltering as “dumb” and defied a sheriff’s order to shelter-in-place by keeping open Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, telling employees the factory was an “essential” business.

The third way conspicuous philanthropy is self-serving is by suggesting that government shouldn’t demand more from the super-rich, even in a national emergency. As Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal editorial page put it, if we had a wealth tax like Elizabeth Warren proposed, “it’s unlikely [Bill Gates] would have the capacity to act this boldly.”

That’s absurd. Warren’s tax would have cost Gates about $6bn a year, roughly his annual income from his $100bn.

Besides, all the billionaire charity combined is a tiny fraction of the trillions the government has already spent on the coronavirus crisis. How does the Journal believe we’re going to pay down this added national debt if the wealthiest among us don’t pay more taxes? Even when this nightmare is over, most Americans will be hard pressed.

And why should we believe that Gates or any other billionaire’s “boldness” necessarily reflects society’s values and needs? Oligarchies aren’t the same as democracies.

The worst fear of the billionaire class is that the government’s response to the pandemic will lead to a permanently larger social safety net.

“Once the virus is conquered – and it will be – the biggest risk will be the political campaign to expand government control over far more of American economic life,” warns Murdoch’s Journal.

After all, the Great Depression of the 1930s spawned social security and the minimum wage, as well as a widespread conviction that government should guarantee a minimum standard of living. The second world war yielded the GI Bill and then the National Defense Education Act, enshrining the government’s role as a financier of higher education.

Even programs that don’t enjoy wide popularity when first introduced, such as the Affordable Care Act, enlarge the nation’s sense of what is reasonable for the government to do for its citizens. The ACA lives on, more popular than ever, notwithstanding the GOP’s determination to repeal it and Donald Trump’s efforts to undermine it.

As the pandemic challenges the security and safety of all Americans, some conservative politicians are proposing things that would have been unthinkable – certainly unspeakable – only months ago.

The Missouri Republican senator Josh Hawley is calling for the federal government to “cover 80% of wages for workers at any US business, up to the national median wage” until the crisis is over.

“Workers will benefit from the steady paycheck and the knowledge their jobs are safe,” he says.

Indeed. Hawley’s logic would as easily justify national paid sick leave and universal basic income, permanently.

If the pandemic has revealed anything, it’s that America’s current social safety net and healthcare system does not protect the majority of Americans in a national emergency. We are the outlier among the world’s advanced nations in subjecting our citizens to perpetual insecurity.

We are also the outlier in possessing a billionaire class that, in controlling much of our politics, has kept such proposals off the public agenda.

At least until now.

Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few and The Common Good. His new book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, is out now.

Foot-Stomping Mad!

I am foot-stomping mad tonight over several things, not the least of which is the horrific shooting that has killed at least 20 people and injured 26 in an El Paso, Texas, Wal-Mart.

There is plenty of blame to go around, and no, I’m not going on a tirade at the moment about gun regulation and the NRA, although it would be easy and valid to do so.  But no, the blood from this shooting is on the hands of every single person in this nation who has cheered and applauded Trump’s anti-immigrant, racist rants.  It is on the hands of every single person who has shouted “build that wall!”  It is on the hands of every single person who believes immigrants do not belong in this nation.  It is on the hands of every single person who believes that white skin is somehow better than brown or black.  It is on the hands of every single person who has turned a blind eye to the maltreatment and abuse of children in detention camps.  And most of all, the blood is on the hands of Donald Trump himself.  It was only a matter of time before some damn fool took a notion to act on Trump’s words … after all, he has all but encouraged violence against immigrants, has painted immigrants as evil people out to murder those good, lily-white people and take their jobs, to boot.

In the past few weeks, as best anyone can tell, the only thing Trump has done is spend his days and nights carrying on with hate speech against people who happen not to be white.  An example … at a campaign rally (if he were actually the president, he wouldn’t have time to do all these campaign rallies, for he’d be busy working) in Cincinnati, Ohio, earlier this week, he riled the masses as he always does, and when a small group of protestors unfurled a banner that read “IMMIGRANTS BUILT AMERICA”, Trump’s loyal band of assholes snatched the banner and set to beating up the protestors.

The shooter in El Paso traveled some 600 miles, from Dallas to El Paso, a city whose population is 80% Latino.  The shooter, whom I shall not name out of respect for the victims, was Caucasian — white.  He was not Hispanic, nor of Middle Eastern descent … he was a white Texan. He had kept a manifesto that includes remarks attacking immigrants and sympathetic to the man who killed 51 people this year at two mosques in New Zealand.  The document lists “the Hispanic invasion of Texas” as one of several motivations for the attack.  Let me just remind everybody that Texas was founded by  Spanish conquistadors, and belonged to Mexico long before it became part of the U.S.

Meanwhile, #MoscowMitch McConnell and others in Congress expressed the usual “thoughts and prayers”.  Meaningless, useless thoughts and prayers, whereas for years and in some cases decades, they have passed up the opportunity to do something positive about the gun problem in the U.S.  Sorry, folks … keep your damn thoughts and prayers … give us action … address the gun problem.  It is a crisis every bit as much as the “opioid crisis” that everyone is so concerned about.  The gun crisis is more important, in my book, for these twenty who died in El Paso were innocent, some were even children.  They were killed through no fault or action of their own.

I will almost certainly have more to say about the El Paso mass shooting soon, but for today, let us move on to one of the other reasons for my foot-stomping …

On Monday, July 8th, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an amendment to a tax law that would require the commissioner of the Department of Taxation and Finance to share state income tax returns and reports when certain congressional committees request them.  This was a huge step forward … or could have been … in the investigations into Trump, his finances, his business interests, and potential Russian financial ties.  As Cuomo put it …

“This bill gives Congress the ability to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities, strengthen our democratic system and ensure that no one is above the law.”

But, the various committees, including the House Ways and Means committee, that had previously requested Trump’s tax returns from the Treasury Department, sat around the Capitol, twiddling their thumbs, debating whether to open an impeachment investigation or not, and they did not take advantage of the door that had been opened by Governor Cuomo.  They did not request the tax returns from the State of New York.

Trump and his lawyers, however, feared that someday soon the congressional committees might wake up and remember they owed something to the people who had elected them, remember that they had a constitutional obligation, and so … Trump did what he does best … he filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, July 23rd!  In the suit, he requested that the federal court prevent the House Ways and Means committee from seeking to obtain the New York tax returns, just in case they decided to do so … at some point.

Now for the kicker, the part that has me stomping my feet … last Thursday, federal Judge Carl Nichols granted a temporary order blocking New York state from turning over Trump’s tax returns. His reasoning?  He wished to ensure that, “Mr. Trump cannot suffer any harm”.  Trump can suffer no harm???  What about us???  We are suffering harm every hour of every day that he remains in office, but Judge Nichols wants to protect TRUMP???

I shall stop now, for I must go attend to my poor foot, which has been stomped so much that it has come open and red stuff is coming out of it.  Besides which, there are words about to come out of my fingertips that you’d rather not hear.  But, be advised that I am not done ranting … I’ll return later.

Thoughts on “Making America Great … Again?”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo came under fire this week for comments he made on Wednesday at a bill-signing ceremony.

“We’re not going to make America great again — it was never that great. We have not reached greatness. We will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged. We will reach greatness when discrimination and stereotyping against women — 51 percent of our population — is gone and every woman’s full potential is realized and unleashed.”

For the record, and at the risk of drawing my own fire, I agree with him.  There are things about this country that are truly wonderful, but there are a lot of things that are broken and need to be fixed, as well.  To his comments, I would add that we will reach greatness when there is no discrimination and when we accept that it is the responsibility of every adult to care for those less fortunate, and when we acknowledge that people matter more than ‘things’.

Reading his words, the criticisms and his rather odd retraction set my mind on a ponderous path, wondering … what, exactly, is “great”?  I strongly suspect that each of us have our own ideas of what makes a nation ‘great’, and that many of our definitions would be at odds with one another’s.  We don’t have to wonder what Trump means when he claims he is ‘making America great again’, for he lets us know in no uncertain terms.  Trump’s idea of greatness and mine diverge more than slightly, however.  But what would really be interesting is to understand how other average people would define greatness, and whether we have any common ground, republican vs democrat, liberal vs conservative, in our ideas about ‘greatness’.

Do we even know what we think would make the nation ‘great’?  We use the term often enough, but have we really sat down and taken the time to think about why our nation is or isn’t great, and what must change to make it so?

And so, dear friends, you have the dubious honour today of being privy to the ponderings and meanderings of my scrambled mind.

What is ‘great’?

I went my usual route, seeking the ‘official’ definition, but Merriam-Webster was no help:

  • notably large in size; of a kind characterized by relative largeness
  • large in number or measure; predominant
  • remarkable in magnitude, degree, or effectiveness
  • full of emotion
  • eminent, distinguished; chief or preeminent over others; aristocratic, grand
  • long continued
  • principal, main
  • more remote in a family relationship by a single generation than a specified relative
  • markedly superior in character or quality
  • remarkably skilled, marked by enthusiasm
  • a generalized term of approval

Hmmmm … likely the only one that even vaguely fits what Trump is referring to when he says he is making the country great is “markedly superior in character or quality”.  But I have a problem with that, for that word ‘superior’ doesn’t define at all what I think of as great, unless I’m talking about an ice cream sundae.  Otherwise, superiority equates with arrogance, a trait I dislike immensely. likewise had multiple, unhelpful definitions … 23 of them, to be precise!

Okay, I’m going to tell you what I think it would take to truly make this a great nation, thus creating my own definition of great as it applies to a nation.  The following are in no particular order of importance, but are simply in the order they popped into my head.

  • Equality for all, meaning that nobody would denigrate another based on race, skin colour, religion, ethnicity, gender or gender identification, or social status. This means that police don’t shoot unarmed black men, religious organizations don’t discriminate against LGBT people, and we all treat each other as simply being humans.

  • Eradication of poverty and relative income equality. It is true that somebody who works very hard should be rewarded financially.  But the extreme income inequality in this country today is, frankly, ridiculous and the wealth of the upper 1% (or less) is further enhanced by tax cuts, tax loopholes, and other governmental assists.  The wealthy in this nation do not carry their own weight, do not bear a fair share of the tax burden, and until that happens, this nation cannot be said to be ‘great’.

  • Universal health care to ensure that all people are able to be taken care of properly when they are ill.

  • Affordable college tuition so that we can have a better-educated populace, better able to participate in government and make wise decisions on a personal, professional and civic level.

  • Renewable energy taking the place of fossil fuels as quickly as possible in order to protect and repair the quality of the environment that is suffering from decades of deterioration. This would include a return to the Paris Accord.

  • Preservation of natural resources, lands, and wildlife. There should be absolutely no commercialization of national parks and other lands set aside for wildlife conservation.  The earth is one ecosystem comprised of many smaller ecosystems … everything is designed to fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and when you destroy one piece, the rest is affected as well.

  • Campaign finance regulations that prohibit donations by any corporation, lobby or individual. Campaigns financed by state and federal taxes, with each candidate receiving precisely the same amount is the only way to ensure fairness and hopefully encourage honesty in our elected representatives.

  • Improved relations with allies and NATO, for this is indeed a global world, and those who eschew ‘globalization’ as being something evil are choosing to wear blinders and live in the past. We produce soybeans, other nations produce oil … punitive actions such as tariffs are counter-productive to a mutually advantageous trade relationship.  Additionally, it is in the best interest of all nations to get along, for we may need their help someday, or vice versa.  The days when a nation could stand alone, be an isolated entity, are long since gone.

  • Strict gun laws are essential to a peaceful society. Weapons that were designed for military use only must be banned from the civilian population and returned to the military where they belong.  For other guns, there should be competency testing, intense background checks, and periodic re-licensing requirements.  Limits of one gun per household, and a repeal of conceal-carry laws should also apply.

Okay, so it’s just a wish list, and a pie-in-the-sky one at that, but until we are at least working toward the things on this list, I don’t see that our nation is at all great.  Certainly it is better than some, but not at the top of the list by any stretch. Instead of working toward the things that would make it better, we have a leader and a Congress who are actively working against these ideals.

Racism is not only being tolerated, but encouraged by our elected representatives!  Religious groups are being given the license to discriminate against others.  The ‘right’ to shoot and kill others is state-supported (Florida – Stand Your Ground laws).  Tax cuts and breaks are given to the wealthy, not those of us who most need a few extra dollars.  Trade tariffs are causing rising prices on food and other goods, particularly automobiles and home appliances.  College costs are making higher education impossible for the average young person.  Fossil fuels are being encouraged and given advantages, while renewable sources are being shunned by the government.  The gun lobby (NRA) has more power than almost any other entity. Environmental regulations are being scrapped in the interest of big corporations.  We abuse our allies and wine-and-dine our antagonists.  And the list goes on and on.  No, folks, Donald Trump is definitely NOT making America great, at least not by my definition.

So, how would you define ‘greatness’ in terms of a nation?

With Our Heads In The Sand …

The 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is taking place this week and next (November 6-17) in Bonn, Germany. Despite Donald Trump’s desire to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord, he is not able to do so officially until 2020, and thus the U.S. is represented in Bonn this week, albeit by a weak party with no voice, for fear of rousing Trump’s ire.

As I reported in my post of June 1st, all but two nations on the entire globe, Nicaragua and Syria, had signed the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.  Since then, both Nicaragua and Syria have signed the agreement, but Donald Trump has announced his decision to pull out at the earliest possible date, making the United States the only nation on the entire globe that will not participate, at least not at the federal level or officially, in trying to save the planet from the greed and ignorance of mankind. We stand alone, and on the wrong side of the fence.

The delegation to Bonn from the U.S. is led by two men:  Thomas A. Shannon, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and Trigg Talley, Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change.  Both men have shown themselves in the past to be committed to addressing issues of climate change, and Mr. Talley served as the head of U.S. delegation during three years of preparatory conferences for the Paris Agreement.  However, this week their hands are tied, and they are ashamed and embarrassed at the stand their nation has taken.  According to one delegate, “It’s as though the US negotiators have been dipped in aspic. They are scared stiff of upsetting the White House. They try to be constructive, but they don’t want that known.”

Thomas Shannon (left) and Trigg Talley

The White House has confirmed that the US will promote the “efficient” use of coal, nuclear energy and natural gas as an answer to climate change in a presentation to delegates in Bonn. Trump has vowed to revive America’s ailing coal sector but this message is likely to provoke outrage on the global stage. “We are seeing 196 parties trying to move forward and put the Paris accord into effect. They don’t want to let the US impede that progress,” said David Waskow of the World Resources Institute.

Another delegate said: “We have lost the leadership the US used to provide. They have the best negotiating team and they are usually put forward strong arguments, but in talks this year, they have been quiet. You can feel they are a little lost. It must be so hard for them now. I sympathise.”

But there is a bit of a bright spot …

But the U.S., or at least parts of it, was also represented in another way. According to an article in The Guardian

Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement has created a vacuum into which dozens of state, city and business leaders have leapt, with the aim of convincing other countries at the international summit that the administration is out of kilter with the American people.

The counter-Trump movement in Bonn is being spearheaded by Jerry Brown, the governor of California, and Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York. Brown, in particular, has assumed the role of a de facto US leader, scheduling more than two dozen events to agitate for renewable energy and emissions cuts to combat what he has called an “existential crisis”.

A US Climate Action Center has been set up for delegates in Bonn, representing the climate change priorities of several thousand US cities, states, tribes and businesses. Corporate giants Mars, Walmart and Citi are expected to push for action on climate change. The center is in lieu of an official US presence – for the first time, the US government won’t have a pavilion at the annual UN climate summit.

At the razzamatazz opening of the alternative US centre on Thursday, California state senator Ricardo Lara told the audience: “Greetings from the official resistance to the Trump administration.” Pausing for cheers and applause, he said: “Let’s relish being rebels. Despite what happens in DC, we’re still here.”

A coalition of 14 US states, including California and New York, have said they are on track to meet the US target of a 26-28% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, compared to 2005 levels. The goal was set by Barack Obama’s administration as part of the Paris agreement between 195 nations to avoid dangerous global warming of more than 2C.

Brown has raised his profile in recent months by meeting with China’s leadership to discuss clean energy technology and becoming a special adviser for states and regions during the Bonn talks.

The efforts of Brown, Bloomberg and others is definitely heartening, is a step in the right direction, and sends a loud and clear message to Trump that he does not, in fact, represent our nation in his decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord. But ….

Governors such as Brown and Cuomo cannot officially take the place of the US president in UN climate talks. Their emissions pledges do not supersede the official US position and, in any case, the 14 committed states only have influence over around half of total US emissions. Without national leadership, the US is in danger of missing its emissions reduction goals and will jeopardize international efforts to stave off 2C of warming, which would lead to elevated sea level rise, intensified droughts, heatwaves and wildfires.

By what right, I ask, does one ‘man’, Donald Trump, determine the destruction of the planet?  And to what end does he make this decision?  For the jobs of a few thousand coal miners whose jobs will be gone, despite Trump’s best efforts, within five years at the latest, for there is little market for coal anymore?  For a handful of jobs, he is willing to risk the lives of the 7.442 billion people who call this planet ‘home’?

We, the United States, are rapidly becoming a pariah in the world, thanks to only one person.  The world has already waited too long to address the issue of climate change, and it is imperative that every person on the earth step up to the plate and do his/her part immediately.  And yet, here in the U.S., life goes on – we mine coal, start up new oil pipeline projects without proper environmental studies, drive our cars wherever we wish, keep our homes toasty, pollute our cities with antiquated factories, emitting more Co2 every day.  And we are the only country left on the planet whose leadership is thumbing their noses at the rest of the world and sending the message “we don’t care”.  Shame on Donald Trump, and shame on the U.S.

Strength, Not Fear; Love, Not Hate

On Tuesday, a man in a rented Home Depot truck plowed into bicyclists and pedestrians just blocks away from the World Trade Center, killing eight people and injuring more than a dozen.  The man was Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, 29, a Uzbekistan native who came to the US legally in 2010. It is said today that he had been planning this attack for weeks, and that he said he carried it out under the name of Daesh (aka ISIS).  Donald Trump, predictably, wasted no time politicizing the tragedy to further his own agenda with the following tweets:

“Senator Chuck Schumer helping to import Europes problems” said Col.Tony Shaffer. We will stop this craziness!  @foxandfriends

We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter).  @foxandfriends

The terrorist came into our country through what is called the “Diversity Visa Lottery Program,” a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based.

I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!

We must not allow ISIS to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere. Enough!

There is much that could be said here, such as that Trump has no understanding of the root causes of terrorism, causes to which the United States has contributed.  But my point today is that this is not a time to politicize such an event, further adding to the divisiveness of this nation at a time when unity should be called for.

We should not be surprised by his inappropriate behaviour, however.  Remember back in June, immediately following a terrorist attack in London, when Trump then attacked London Mayor Sadiq Khan, tweeting …

At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is “no reason to be alarmed!”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio both say they have not been contacted directly by Trump, and both are quite content to leave it that way.  Cuomo said, of Trump’s tweets …

“The president’s tweets, I think, were not helpful. I don’t think they were factual. They tended to point fingers and politicize the situation. His tweet wasn’t even accurate, as far as I’m concerned. That was a bipartisan law that was passed that had basically no relevance to the facts of this situation. … As I said before, you play into the terrorists to the extent you disrupt and divide and frighten people in this society. The tone now should be the exact opposite.”

I couldn’t have said it better.  What do terrorists want?  They want attention and they want to create an atmosphere of fear.  Trump certainly gives them both.

It is wrong to politicize this situation.  Trump’s job, if only he would do it, is to bring unity, to express compassion and concern, but not to jump to conclusions without having information, not to further divide the nation by turning it into a partisan issue, attacking a well-respected senator.  Is “attack” the only mode this ‘man’ knows?

I keep thinking of how President Obama, were he still in office, would be responding.  I think he would have personally called both Cuomo and De Blasio, and I think his speech would be much more moderated, more calming rather than trying to stir fear.  After the aforementioned London attack, here is how President Obama reacted:

“My heart goes out to the victims and their families in London. No act of terror can shake the strength and resilience of our British ally.”

That, my friends, is how a president should respond. I miss Barack Obama, especially at times like this.  That said, my heart goes out to the good people of New York City and the family & friends of the victims of this tragedy.  But we must not allow the event nor the rhetoric to instill fear in us.  No nationality, no religion, no single group of people can be blamed nor held to account for the actions of one individual.  This man did what he did for reasons we may never understand, but his actions are not representative of the religion Islam, nor are they representative of people from the Middle East.  Our only reaction must be empathy, humanity and kindness.  Anything else lowers us to the standard of those who prefer hate to love.  Give someone a special hug today. Practice strength, not fear; love, not hate.

Two Honourable Men

Bill de Blasio has been the mayor of New York City since 2014.  Andrew Cuomo has been the governor of New York since 2011.  Both are Democrats.  While these two men are frequently at odds with each other, last month they both made a stand that, in the opinion of this writer, was noble and honourable, and I applaud them both.

Mayor de Blasio gave a speech  and Governor Cuomo wrote an editorial to the New York Daily News. Both men vowed to stand up against Trump if his policies threaten New Yorkers, and by New Yorkers they mean all New Yorkers … Muslims, Hispanics, African-Americans, LGBT … everybody. Period.

I would like to share a few parts of the transcript of Mayor de Blasio’s speech first, and I will provide a link to the transcript of the entire speech at the end of this post:

de-blasio“Well, now we get another chance to show it by how we comport ourselves in this moment. We have a chance to lead by example. Now, it’s our turn to build a movement – a movement of the majority that believes in respect and dignity for all.

We New Yorkers will stand together. We’re going to stand up for the needs for working people. We’re going to stand up for the right to organize. We’re going to stand up for our immigrant brothers and sisters. And we know that so many in this city fear being affronted, and we will stand with each and every one.

To all Latinos who heard their culture denigrated – we stand by you.

To all the African Americans who heard their history denied – we stand by you.

To all the women who heard their rights being threatened – we stand by you.

To all the Muslims who have heard their faith belittled – we stand by you.

To all those in the Jewish community who heard a resonance from history that gave them real fear and pause – we stand by you.

To all those in the LGBT community who heard a message of taking us backward – we will never go backward. We stand by you.

To all of you – we will protect you. This is your home.

As I say, we have a chance in New York City to provide an example. Set an example that will be watched. You see it every day in this city. Six million people ride the subway every day. They are of every background, faith, nation, income – squished together like sardines.

And we will fight anything we see as undermining our values. And here is my promise to you as your mayor – we will use all the tools at our disposal to stand up for our people.

If all Muslims are required to register, we will take legal action to block it.

If the federal government wants our police officers to tear immigrant families apart, we will refuse to do it.

If the federal government tries to deport law-abiding New Yorkers who have no representation, we will step in. We will work and build on the work of the City Council to provide these New Yorkers with the lawyers they need to protect them and their families.

If the Justice Department orders local police to resume stop and frisk, we will not comply.

We won’t trade in neighborhood policing for racial profiling.

If there are threats to federal funding for Planned Parenthood of New York City, we will ensure women receive the healthcare they need.

If Jews, or Muslims, or members of the LGBT community, or any community are victimized and attacked, we will find their attackers, we will arrest them, we will prosecute them.

This is New York. Nothing about who we are changed on Election Day.

We are always New York.

Somos siempre Nueva York.”

And now a few portions of Governor Cuomo’s editorial.

cuomo“Soon enough we will see what proposals will find their way into the President-elect’s agenda. Already it seems almost every far-right Republican under the sun is seeing Trump’s electoral college victory a mandate to enact sweeping ideas and radical proposals, regardless of the pain that is inflicted and the turmoil that is caused. I have great faith that common sense will eventually prevail, and that our traditional American values of justice, liberty and equality will eventually rule the day. In the end, they always have.

Both Democrats and Republicans have fought for these values throughout our nation’s history — from the time when Abraham Lincoln declared we were a nation with malice toward none and charity for all, to when a young Senator from the State of Illinois said: There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The way has not always been easy, nor has the cost been cheap; but for whatever this moment demands of us, we are ready.

My father Mario Cuomo spent his entire life fighting against the death penalty, even when it wasn’t popular, even when it cost him the governorship, because he knew it was right. I will fight against the targeting of Muslims, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and for the rights of all Americans every day I hold office and every day after that.

For our values, for our rights, for our vision of America, for the people who depend on us, we will fight. And for that, we are unwilling to compromise.”

Both men speak powerful words, moving words, honourable words.  They both understand clearly the principles on which this nation was founded, principles of equality, liberty, justice and fairness to all people, not just those whose skin happens to be pale, or who follow Christianity, or whose soul-mates are of a different gender.

To what degree they will be successful in protecting New York from Trump and his cohorts remains to be seen, and frankly I suspect their success against the demagogue will be limited.  But for their efforts, for their commitment to the values they believe in, I take my hat off to them both.


Full transcript of Mayor de Blasio’s speech