Snarky … Yes Again … Snippets

After a day off from snarking, I find the snark buildup is bubbling, threatening to overflow.  And so … here we go again …


Remember yesterday when I told you about Representative Louie Gohmert who had contracted the coronavirus and tried to claim he got it from wearing a mask?  Well, I knew Gohmert had been on my radar before, and right after I wrote that, another instance of his apparent insanity hit my inbox.

Last week, Gohmert introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives that calls on the U.S. House to bar all Democrats from the chamber because of the party’s historical ties to slavery and racism unless the party is renamed.  Say WHAT???

Said Gohmert in a Breitbart (go figure) article …

“Efforts by Democrats to destroy all public traces of their own history of supporting slavery, the Confederacy, and segregation in an attempt to shift blame onto Republicans must no longer go unchallenged. It is time for Democrats to play by their own rules, and accept the standards they have forced onto everyone else. They must divest themselves of their name that has denied so many the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Now, we all know that this ‘resolution’ is going nowhere and is naught but Mr. Gohmert’s childish attempt to counter the removal of the confederate statues that he apparently loved from the Capitol building.  But for PETE’S SAKE, people of Texas!!!  Keep this arsehole in Texas!  Please, do NOT send him back to Washington, or I might just go bash his head in myself!

Congress cannot seem to come up with a single meaningful piece of legislation (thank you, Mitch McConnell), they are allowing critical safeguards for people in dire need to lapse at midnight tonight because they are too damn divided by partisanship and driven by egos to uphold their oaths of office, yet we have representatives … people whose salary WE THE PEOPLE are paying, playing these childish games, wasting both time and money … OUR money!  Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr …


The purpose of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is to oversee missions involving anti-terrorism, border security, immigration and customs, cyber security, and disaster prevention and management.  It was created in November 2002 in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and began operations the following year.  And yet, yesterday The Washington Post reported that DHS has compiled “intelligence reports” about the work of American journalists covering protests in Portland, Oregon.  Please take a moment to let that one sink in, my friends.  Journalists are NOT the nation’s enemy, but rather the free press is the one thing that stands between us and a dictatorship!

The DHS intelligence reports, which are unclassified, are traditionally used for sharing the department’s analysis with federal law enforcement agencies, state and local officials and some foreign governments. They are not intended to disseminate information about American citizens who have no connection to terrorists or other violent actors and who are engaged in activity protected by the First Amendment, such as a free press!  Said John Sandweg, who previously served as the department’s acting general counsel …

“This has no operational value whatsoever.  This will just damage the intelligence office’s reputation.”

The two journalists were New York Times reporter Mike Baker and Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the editor in chief of Lawfare.  Baker co-wrote an article on July 28 that revealed an internal DHS memo indicating that the camouflaged federal agents sent to put down the unrest in Portland didn’t understand the nature of the protests they were facing.  Wittes posted, among other information, a DHS memo admonishing department personnel not to give information to reporters.

Once again, my friends, we are being treated as the enemy … our constitutional rights are being trampled!  The Department of Homeland Security is there to keep us safe, but instead they are endangering our very lives by attempting to harm our free press.


On Tuesday, Donald Trump showed us what he is made of.  With, as of this writing, more than 155,000 deaths in the U.S. due to the coronavirus pandemic, Donald Trump held a press briefing, the main purpose of which seemed to be to whine that Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx had higher approval ratings than he does.

“And yet, they’re highly thought of — but nobody likes me.”

Has it occurred to him that … he has cost this nation so much in terms of our democratic foundation, our human rights, our health, and our very lives that he is not at all ‘likeable’?  Apparently not.  Has it occurred to him that the presidency is not a popularity contest, but a serious responsibility — one that he has failed in over and over again?  Has it occurred to him that his constant criticism of all who disagree with him, his constant bragging about things he has no claim to brag about, and his continual shirking of his responsibility makes him an abomination rather than a ‘man’ worthy of respect?

Please take a moment … well, a few moments, actually, to watch Chris Cuomo explain to “Mr. President” [sic] why the people of this nation trust Drs. Fauci & Birx more than they trust Donald Trump … he makes his case well.

Tears of Shame

There are at least a few episodes in the history of the United States of which we are, or at least should be, deeply ashamed.  Slavery, our treatment of Native Americans, Jim Crow, Japanese internment camps, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, My Lai, and others.  One of those moments occurred eighty years ago today, when the United States government refused to allow the S.S. St. Louis, carrying more than 900 Jewish refugees from Germany, to dock on its shores. St-Louis.jpgSome passengers attempted to cable President Franklin D. Roosevelt asking for refuge, but he never responded. A State Department telegram stated that the asylum-seekers must “await their turns on the waiting list and qualify for and obtain immigration visas before they may be admissible into the United States.”

The ship turned to Canada, but with no luck there either was ultimately forced to turn back to Europe.  Ultimately, 254 of the more than 900 passengers would fall victim to the Nazi Holocaust because of the arrogance of the United States and Canadian governments.

Eighty years later … what did we learn from our perfidy in 1939?  Not much, apparently, if one only looks toward the southern border of the United States, a border shared with one of our two closest (geographically) allies.  Turning away the S.S. St. Louis was cruel, but what is happening on our border is even more so, for we are separating children from their parents, locking them up in cages, treating them as animals, and thus far six of those children have died in U.S. custody.  And our government does not bat an eye.kids-in-cagesLast Monday, Carlos Hernandez Vásquez, a 16-year-old Guatemalan became the sixth child to die in Customs and Border Protection custody since the Trump administration began the fiasco at the border.  Felipe Gomez Alonso, an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy, died in a New Mexico hospital on December 24th, Christmas Eve 2018.  Jakelin Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl, died last December 7thJuan de Leon Gutiérrez, a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy died on April 30th.  An unnamed Guatemalan boy age two-and-a-half died on May 14th.

DarlynAnd then there was Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle — a 10-year-old girl from El Salvador with heart defects who died in HHS custody last fall.  Her death was kept secret until just last week.  Acting Director of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, testified before Congress in December, but did not notify lawmakers that Darlyn had died in Border Patrol custody three days before.  How many more have died that we don’t even know about?

What is being done?  Investigations and inquiries.  Well, folks, we’ve seen how well those go, haven’t we?  Does anybody trust the Department of Homeland Security to be forthcoming, especially after they covered up one child’s death for five months?  Does anybody trust Trump & Co to do anything to stop the madness? More to the point, how long until the next child dies?  And how many people are literally starving to death on our southern border because our government sees them as being somehow less than human?  Don Trump claims that there is a crisis at our southern border … there is a crisis, but it is not the one he pretends it is … it is a humanitarian crisis.  This nation is not the victim, but rather the persecutor.

Just as in 1939 when the U.S. government turned away nearly a thousand people fleeing for their lives, today we are turning away people … families, children … fleeing for their lives.  The difference is that today we are turning away, or imprisoning nearly 100,000 every month.  Do not ever make the mistake of thinking that the United States is a country of compassion, of humanity, for it is not.  It is rapidly becoming a nation of white supremacists, of arrogance, of somehow believing that the only lives worth saving are those of white Christians.  We have the blood of these six children on our hands, and who knows how many more to come.  Think about it.

Clockwise from upper left:  Juan de Leon Gutiérrez, Jakelin Caal Maquin, Carlos Hernandez Vásquez, and Felipe Gomez Alonso

Just Two Things …

On Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg …

rbgIf I had to pick a favourite among the current Supreme Court Justices, it would be Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  The woman is intelligent, has spunk, and her heart is in the right place, unlike some others.  She has gone through a lot, but she bounces back.  Since her most recent bout with cancer, she has returned to the Court, heard oral arguments, authored opinions, and even made a few public appearances outside the courtroom.  But yet …

There are some who claim Justice Ginsburg has been dead for weeks, and that democrats … of course, it’s always the democrats … are covering up her death in order to keep the jackal in the Oval Office from nominating another one of his sycophants for the seat.  Say WHAT???  How can a person who is in the public eye, who goes to work every day and is seen by her co-workers and others, be believed to be dead?  What rock have these people slithered out from under?

According to The Hill

The Supreme Court has been bombarded with Twitter users demanding evidence that Ginsburg is still alive, while some online videos allege her public appearances have been manufactured.

There are also claims that audio of her from recent Supreme Court oral arguments has been doctored and is nothing more than phrases pieced together from earlier recordings of her remarks.

There’s little chance the Ginsburg conspiracy theory is going away anytime soon, experts say, mainly because the biggest proponents are unlikely to accept any proof that she’s alive.

I have a solution.  Invite them all to visit the court at a specified date and time, then let Justice Ginsburg go ‘round the room and poke each one of them in the eye with a stick.  Perhaps that will convince them.

It seems, though, that Donald Trump is hoping for Justice Ginsburg’s demise, for he has already decided on a nominee for her replacement:  Judge Amy Coney Barrett.  Barrett, not surprisingly, is known as a “superstar” among the religious right.

Barrett is young (46) and has vociferously made known her willingness to overturn Roe v Wade, which, along with Obergefell v Hodges seem to be the only thing the religious right cares about when it comes to the Supreme Court.  Take away women’s rights and take away the rights of the LGBT community, and Trump’s biggest fan base will be happy.

Personally, I hope that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stays healthy for at least another two years.


Not tough enough???

Kirstjen-Nielsen.jpgThe big news of the day is that Trump apparently forced the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.  Now, I’ve never liked Nielsen, always considered her to be rather a cold, heartless bitch, but apparently she wasn’t heartless enough to suit Trump, and that should concern us all.  It will likely thrill his base of white supremacists, however, who would like nothing better than to line the southern border with armed guards who are told to shoot first and ask questions later.

Bruce Plante Cartoon: DHS Secretary Kirstjen NielsenRumours abound, as they will when facts are not made available.  One, the most probable one, is that Trump is eager to reinstate his horrendous child-separation policy, taking children from their parents when they cross the southern border.  Ms. Nielsen rejected the plan, in light of the fact that a federal judge struck down the policy last year.

Another theory was proposed by Josh Campbell, the former FBI agent turned CNN national security analyst.  Mr. Campbell believes it possible that Ms. Nielsen was the author of the anonymous OpEd in the New York Times last year that caused such a stir.    The basis for his conclusion is stylistic similarities between Nielsen’s letter of resignation and the OpEd.  Not much to go on, but if she was the author of the OpEd, now that she has resigned from her position she has nothing to lose by coming clean, so … maybe?

I’m still stunned, though, that she wasn’t ‘tough enough’ to please Trump, even after she authorized the use of tear gas to repel a large crowd attempting to break through a border fence on New Year’s Day.  I’m also stunned that Trump has plans to defy Judge Dana Sabraw’s order and reinstate his cruel, inhumane child separation policy.

Are there no longer any restrictions or limitations on the power of the presidency?  Has Donald Trump, in fact, become the dictator he always wanted to be?  He shuts the government down in an attempt to get his way.  That doesn’t work, so he declares a state of national emergency to get his way.  That hasn’t worked yet, so he demands the resignation of the Secretary of Homeland Security to replace her with a man who is even more cruel and heartless.  Where does it end.  When do We the People finally say we have had ENOUGH???  Or do we keep burying our heads in the sand, believing that somehow, in some way, it will all work itself out.  Believing that our Constitution, or next year’s election will stop him.  Think about it.

The Wild West???

The United States today is beginning to look like the ‘Wild West’ if one looks closely.  A madman in the Oval Office is only the beginning.  Out on the streets, in our neighborhoods, things are happening that were unheard of just a few short years ago.

rashad jamesTake, for example, the case of African American attorney Rashad James in Maryland.  As Mr. James entered the courthouse in Harford Country, Maryland earlier this month, he was detained by a deputy who did not believe he was a lawyer and demanded proof.  Just one more in a string of cases where African-Americans have been detained or questioned by police as they went about their everyday lives, golfing, gardening, swimming, shopping, sitting in a Starbucks, leaving an Airbnb, grilling out and napping at a college.

Or, the little boy’s birthday party that was crashed by Chicago’s ‘finest’.  Didn’t hear about that one?  No wonder, for if the name ‘Trump’ isn’t in a story these days, you’re not likely to see it on the front pages.  Well, TJ Jackson was 4 years old on that cold day last month, and his parents were having a birthday party for him in their basement apartment on the South side of Chicago.  Four children were having fun, playing games, and the birthday cake awaited on the table.  Suddenly the door burst open and in strode 17 Chicago police officers, weapons drawn and pointed at the children!

According to the lawsuit that was filed this week by TJ’s family, the officers questioned the children, used vulgar language, damaged furniture as they searched the apartment, and made the adults sit lined up against a wall for 45 minutes while they searched the small apartment.  Why?  They were looking for a man who had lived in the apartment five years before.  A simple bit of research would have shown them that he no longer lived there.  They might have knocked and acted in a respectful manner.  If the family had been white, perhaps they would have done so.

And what about the hundreds of children still separated from their parents at the southern border?  Were you aware that even now, nine months after federal judge Dana Sabraw ordered the Trump administration to stop separating immigrant children from their parents, it is still happening?  And were you also aware that just this week the Department of Homeland Security requested Congress to pass legislation allowing the department to send all unaccompanied children who try to cross the border back to their home countries?  Fortunately, Nancy Pelosi rejected the idea in short order, but it is still a sign of these turbulent times.

Oh, and let us not forget about the hundreds of people being held under a bridge in El Paso, Texas, surrounded by fencing and sleeping on dirt. el-paso.png

el-paso-2.png

If you still have any doubts that ‘civilization’ in the U.S. is on a backward roll, consider that there is a push for people … any people … to be able to carry concealed weapons without any testing, permits, or even background checks.  Fully one-third of the states have already passed such laws, or un-laws as I call them, and there is a push for this un-law at the federal level. Quite literally, in some states, a man convicted of murder could break out of prison, walk into a gun show, and purchase an AR-15, no questions asked.

Oh, and did you know that the United States has been ranked as the 10th most dangerous nation for women on the globe?  From 1994 until 2017, we had a law called the Violence Against Women Act, that was allowed to lapse under the Trump administration and republican-controlled Congress.  The current Congress is trying to re-authorize the Act, but … the National Rifle Association (NRA) is lobbying against it. Why?  Because it calls for gun bans for those who have been convicted of domestic abuse or violence against a ‘romantic partner’.  This is a nation where we apparently want to ensure that the men can keep their ‘womenfolk’ in line, one way or another – if fists aren’t enough, then grab the gun!

Oh yeah … and speaking of guns, I almost forgot that there is also an idea gaining momentum that teachers in schools should carry them … guns, that is.

Then, of course, there is the “leader”, who breaks every norm of a civilized society and who encourages violence among the people of the nation, divides rather than unifies, promotes hate rather than peace, and panders to those who engage in every form of bigotry imaginable.  Is it any wonder, then, that some days it feels like we are moving backward in time?  We have regressed in so many areas, including civil rights of every sort.  The United States, once referred to as the “Leader of the Western World”, is now well on its way to becoming a third-world country, all just in two short years.  Welcome to the Wild West – Part II.

Against All Advice …

What happens when you are ignorant of a certain situation, yet you make a decision that will impact the lives of millions, and nearly 100 well-informed, well-educated, highly-knowledgeable people tell you that you are wrong?  Do you listen to what they say and perhaps alter your decision?  Or do you tell them to sit down and shut up, and proceed down a destructive path?  Depends on who you are.  If you are a wise person, a thinker, you listen, and you ask questions and you re-evaluate your position.  If, however, you are Donald Trump, you throw the wizards overboard and give the order for “full steam ahead!”, even though the iceberg looms larger and larger.

Ten days ago, Don Trump declared a “state of national emergency”, even as he admitted that there is no emergency, that he could have attempted to go through legal channels, but he wanted to do it faster. He. Wanted. And now, he intends to divert funds that are needed for the safety and well being of the people of this nation to build a wall that wiser men know is not necessary and that almost nobody in the country wants.

Today, a group of 25 former republican members of Congress published an open letter appealing to Congress to block Trump’s intent to act against the Constitution and against the people of this nation.

Also today, a bipartisan group of 58 former senior national security officials issued a statement saying that “there is no factual basis” for President Trump’s proclamation of a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.  There is no factual basis.  It is a figment of Trump’s imagination.  It is a waste of our precious resources.  It is an ego trip.

Last Monday, a coalition of sixteen states filed a lawsuit to block Trump’s plan to build a border wall without permission from Congress, arguing that the president’s decision to declare a national emergency is unconstitutional.  The states that are participating in the lawsuit are:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Virginia

If your state isn’t listed here, you need to get in touch with your governor and let him know in no uncertain terms that he needs to take this seriously and join this coalition.

Tomorrow, the House will vote on a resolution to block Trump’s declaration.  The vote is almost certain to pass the House, which will force the Senate to bring it to a vote within 18 days.  If the Senate fails to vote to block the declaration, then shame on the Senate and every senator who votes ‘nay’ must be voted out of office at the earliest possible date.  Trump has forcefully declared that he will veto the measure, but with a 2/3 majority, any veto can be overridden.  At the very least, it sends a message that his decision is NOT what the people of this nation need or want.

But back to the statement by the 58 former national security officials.

“Under no plausible assessment of the evidence is there a national emergency today that entitles the president to tap into funds appropriated for other purposes to build a wall at the southern border.”

These are people who know what they are talking about.  They are people who have been responsible for the safety and well-being of the nation.  They are people educated and with experience in the area of national security.  And they see no reason to declare a state of emergency.  The little boy, Donnie, has cried “Wolf!” one time too many.

In addition to Madeline Albright, other signers include such highly respected dignitaries as Eliot A. Cohen, State Department counselor under President George W. Bush; Thomas R. Pickering, President George H.W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations; John F. Kerry, Obama’s second secretary of state; Susan E. Rice, Obama’s national security adviser; Leon E. Panetta, Obama’s CIA director and defense secretary; as well as former intelligence and security officials who served under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Among other things, they said, illegal border crossings are at nearly 40-year lows. Undetected unlawful entries at the U.S.-Mexico border decreased from 851,000 to nearly 62,000 between 2006 and 2016, they said, citing Department of Homeland Security statistics.  They also argue that redirecting money pursuant to the national emergency declaration “will undermine U.S. national security and foreign policy interests.”

Donald Trump’s background is in television and building hotels and casinos.  Nothing … nothing in his experience has prepared him to make the decisions he is making as he sits in the Oval Office.  He has not the background, the knowledge, nor the understanding to make such decisions.  Further, he has chased off the advisors who did have the ability to advise him wisely and replaced them with people who pander to his ego.  It has been repeatedly reported that he does not read and he does not listen to those with more knowledge than he.

If 58 chefs tell a novice cook not to use rotten milk else it will spoil the pudding, the cook darn well better listen!  This ‘chef’ is blind, deaf and dumb, yet he is making decisions that will affect the lives of over 300 million people!  It is past time for Congress to act to stop this madness!

Still More Snarky Snippets …

It has been snowing for 24 hours now, and yet there is no more than 1/4-inch on the ground.  How does that work?  Anyway, the last time I recall seeing more than just a brief glimpse of that big, bright ball that used to be in the sky was August, I think.  Cold and gloomy make me even more grumpy than usual, which makes today a good day for just a few snarky snippets.  snow-covered-house


Where’s da salad …

I was at the grocery, my local Kroger store, on Sunday evening, my usual time to buy groceries, and one of the things on my list was a bag of salad.  Guess what?  No salad.  None.  Nada.  Nunc.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nary a bag of salad to be found.  Why?No saladLast Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a food safety alert urging Americans to refrain from eating, and retailers from selling, any romaine lettuce.  Apparently, five people had died from an E. coli outbreak in June, and nearly two hundred people got sick.  In June.  This is November.  Okay, sigh, I bought a head of iceberg lettuce, some carrots and made my own damn salad … no biggie.  Except …

Every day in America, 96 people on average are killed by guns and hundreds more are injured.  We cannot buy romaine lettuce because … GASP … five people died, yet tens of thousands of people die from guns every year, and buying a gun is about as simple as walking into a Wal-Mart store and saying, “I’ll take that one … and 100 rounds of ammo, too.”  Does anybody see anything wrong with this picture?  Is lettuce really more dangerous than a gun?  No, but it is a hell of a lot easier to ban!


Sssssnakesssssssss in Mississippi …

You may remember my post from Sunday titled The Ugly Face of Racism, about the run-off election today in Mississippi for the Senate seat left vacant by Thad Cochran.    The republican candidate, Cindy Hyde-Smith has made multiple blatantly racist comments, and yet, the race is close.  Trump went to stump for her yesterday, which many believe will give her the winning edge. (Seriously???  Sheesh.) But this snippet isn’t about her, isn’t about whether she wins or loses, but instead is about the venomous monsters she unleashed.

Nooses and signs with messages about lynching were discovered on the grounds of the Mississippi State Capitol on Monday.  You’ll remember that Ms. Hyde-Smith said that she would be in the front row if invited to a lynching?  Well, apparently some took her at her word and are extending that invitation.Nooses.pngMs. Hyde-Smith currently holds about a 5-point lead over her African-American democratic opponent, Mike Espy.  After the bigoted insults she has hurled, she should be polling so low that she drops out. This, to me, says something about the people of Mississippi.


Prescience buried …

In April 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in conjunction with the FBI, released a report  titled Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment. The report  warned that “rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues.” It also predicted that the possibility of new gun restrictions and the return of “military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities” might mean “emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.” The report called this convergence of factors the “most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.”

Are you scratching your head and wondering why you don’t remember hearing of this report?  It is because the report was quickly squelched after congressional republicans threw a temper tantrum.

Representative Lamar Smith of Texas said the administration was “awfully willing to paint law-abiding Americans, including war veterans, as ‘extremists.’”  Then-representative Steve Buyer of Indiana, the top Republican on the House Veterans’ Affairs committee at the time — called it “inconceivable” that some veterans could pose a threat.  But the final blow came from then-Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who issued a formal statement:

John-Boehner“To characterize men and women returning home after defending our country as potential terrorists is offensive and unacceptable.  The Department of Homeland Security owes our veterans an apology.

Furthermore, the Secretary of Homeland Security owes the American people an explanation for why she has abandoned using the term ‘terrorist’ to describe those, such as al Qaeda, who are plotting overseas to kill innocent Americans, while her own Department is using the same term to describe American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats are taking our nation.  Everyone agrees that the Department should be focused on protecting America, but using such broad-based generalizations about the American people is simply outrageous.”

Thus it came to be that the report was removed from the DHS website and never made public.

And now, perhaps it doesn’t seem so far-fetched.  Just last month, 13 people died in two incidents: A Kentucky gunman attempted to enter a historically black church, then shot and killed two black patrons in a nearby grocery store. And an anti-Semitic loner who had expressed anger about a caravan of Central American refugees that Trump termed an “invasion” has been charged with gunning down 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue, the deadliest act of anti-Semitic violence in U.S. history.

This month brought two more bodies: A military veteran who had railed online against women and blacks opened fire in a Tallahassee yoga studio, killing two women and wounding five. All told, researchers say at least 20 people have died this year in suspected right-wing attacks.

It is true that to a large extent Donald Trump must shoulder much of the blame for the aforementioned incidents, for his support of white ‘nationalism’ has opened the door for much of this.  And it is also true that even had the 2009 report been made public, it might not have made much difference.  But the very fact that the republicans, led by John Boehner, squelched the report that we now know contained predictive information, kept it from the public, is infuriating and perhaps some of those who were injured in Charlottesville, or killed in the synagogue in Pittsburgh, should lay the blame at the feet of Mr. Boehner.


And now, though I could go on for quite a bit longer, I must get busy.  I have a list of things that must get done today, the first one being to make a list!  Miss Goose’s birthday is tomorrow … she will be 24, but don’t tell her I told, for she is rather upset at being so “old”.

A New Assault on Freedom of Press …

Department of Homeland Security.  Their job?  To protect us with their 229,000 employees and their $40.6 billion budget.  Its stated missions involve anti-terrorism, border security, immigration and customs, cyber security, and disaster prevention and management.

Now tell me how the following fits into their stated goals?

Homeland Security to Compile Database of Journalists, Bloggers

Feel that chill creeping down your spine, my fellow-bloggers?  Fellow citizens who still believe in the First Amendment?  Journalist friends?

While I feel the chill in my spine, I am more incensed than anything.  HOW DARE THEY???

According to Bloomberg Law …

“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top “media influencers.””

Threats to the freedom of the press began emitting from Trump & Co long before the election, and haven’t slowed since.  For the past two weeks, Trump has been railing against The Washington Post because he doesn’t like the way they report on him, and has even suggested they be forced to register as a lobbyist group.

Last October, Indiana State Representative Jim Lucas, proposed a bill that would require professional journalists to be licensed by the state, pay a $75 fee, and submit fingerprints.  Lucas is a nutcase who was claiming that if “his” 2nd Amendment right to ‘bear arms’ required a license, so should the press’ 1st Amendment right, but even so …

According to an article in Columbia Journalism Review yesterday …

“… liberal journalist Greg Palast announced on his blog that he and fellow producer Matt Pascarella have become subject to a Department of Homeland Security criminal investigation for filming the exterior of an Exxon Mobil refinery [emphasis added] near New Orleans while working on a documentary entitled New Orleans: Big Easy to Big Empty.”

It should be noted that ExxonMobil is a corporation, not a top-secret government facility.

And now DHS is seeking a contractor that can help it monitor ‘traditional news sources as well as social media and identify “any and all” coverage related to the agency or a particular event’, according to a request for information released April 3.  But it is in the details that we see a darker intent, for they outline a plan to gather and monitor the public activities of media professionals and ‘influencers’, those of us who disperse information to the public.

Since John Kelly left the Department of Homeland Security to become the White House babysitter, the agency has been led by Kirstjen Nielsen, who was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in on 06 December 2017.  Nielsen is a Trump sycophant (one of many) who claims he did not make the comment about “shithole countries” (he did) and who claims the threat along the U.S.-Mexican border is real (it isn’t).  And now she wants to spend precious DHS resources to monitor journalists all over the world, as well as here at home, even those of us who write humble little blogs.  What could possibly go wrong, right?

Freedom of the Press is under attack in many areas of the world, including some led by the very autocrats that Donald Trump appears to nearly worship, such as Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, The Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, and of course let us not forget Russia’s Vladimir Putin.  Journalists who tell too much or criticize the regime are jailed and silenced.  “But surely that cannot happen here!”, you say.  How much are you willing to bet on that?

The rules have changed and they are frequently re-written as per Donald Trump.  Agencies now spend their allotted budgets to do the bidding of Trump, rather than to meet the stated goals of their agencies. And the media are under attack daily by the bombastic ‘man’ sitting in the Oval Office.  What could go wrong?  Imagine, if you will, that Nielsen decided to actually run DHS in the proper way and said to Trump that no, the agency’s priority at this time is not to monitor the activities of journalists.  She would be out within a week, and a different sycophant would take her place.

According to ThinkProgress …

“One of the other points that DHS wants to be able to search is the ‘sentiment’ of a story. Was a writer’s take on events pro-America or not? Did a columnist write an op-ed that looked on President Trump’s latest policy trainwreck unfavorably?”

To which Tyler Q. Houlton, on behalf of DHS responded:

“Despite what some reporters may suggest, this is nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media. Any suggestion otherwise is fit for tin foil hat wearing, black helicopter conspiracy theorists.”

Oh no, I don’t think so, Mr. Houlton.  When asked to clarify what, precisely, he meant by ‘standard practice’, he replied …

“You are embarrassing yourself with these questions and wild conspiracy theories. Just like you monitored the media to find this story, DHS does the same. Enjoy your weekend.”

Not a very professional response, if you ask me.  And remember that WE pay his salary.

I have long sensed that Trump took office believing that the entire federal government, including all its agencies, Congress and the Judiciary were his toys to play with and use as he wishes.  This is not the case, and for an agency to even be considering infringing on the 1st Amendment freedoms of press and free speech simply because not all of us admire him or choose to dance to his tune, is unconscionable.

Again … What could possibly go wrong?

Putin Controls The Light Switch???

I was so tired tonight that I could barely stay awake, and I was actually thinking the unthinkable – to go to bed without publishing a morning post.  And then, as I made one last scan of the headlines, I saw this:

Cyberattacks Put Russian Fingers on the Switch at Power Plants, U.S. Says

And I was suddenly wide awake.

Russia interfered with our election in 2016.  That is no longer speculation … that is fact.  But guess what?  That isn’t all they are capable of doing.

“We now have evidence they’re sitting on the machines, connected to industrial control infrastructure, that allow them to effectively turn the power off or effect sabotage,” said Eric Chien, a security technology director at Symantec, a digital security firm. “From what we can see, they were there. They have the ability to shut the power off. All that’s missing is some political motivation.”

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued yesterday, 15 March 2018:

“Since at least March 2016, Russian government cyber actors—hereafter referred to as “threat actors”—targeted government entities and multiple U.S. critical infrastructure sectors, including the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors.”

To put it simply, if Russia so chose, they have the capability to shut down our power grids, water systems, air traffic controls and more.  U.S. Intelligence agencies have been aware for a year and a half that the Russians had this capability, and last June issued warnings to utility companies.  The latest information comes on the heels of Trump finally imposing the sanctions against Russia that were unanimously passed by Congress last year.  Could these sanctions be the ‘political motivation’ of which Mr. Chien speaks?

According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times

The groups that conducted the energy attacks, which are linked to Russian intelligence agencies, appear to be different from the two hacking groups that were involved in the election interference. That would suggest that at least three separate Russian cyberoperations were underway simultaneously. One focused on stealing documents from the Democratic National Committee and other political groups. Another, by a St. Petersburg “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency, used social media to sow discord and division. A third effort sought to burrow into the infrastructure of American and European nations.

Russian cyberattacks surged last year, starting three months after Mr. Trump took office. American officials and private cybersecurity experts uncovered a series of Russian attacks aimed at the energy, water and aviation sectors and critical manufacturing, including nuclear plants, in the United States and Europe. In its urgent report in June, the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. notified operators about the attacks but stopped short of identifying Russia as the culprit.

By then, Russian spies had compromised the business networks of several American energy, water and nuclear plants, mapping out their corporate structures and computer networks.  In an updated warning to utility companies on Thursday, Homeland Security officials included a screenshot taken by Russian operatives that proved they could now gain access to their victims’ critical controls.

Rather like the hacking of our 2016 elections, which the intelligence community informs us is ongoing and is expected to affect the mid-terms this November, our response to this situation seems rather tepid.  The sanctions Trump imposed yesterday fell short of those that had been passed by Congress last year.  Trump finally joined our allies in stating that Putin was in all likelihood responsible for the chemical attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter in the UK, but it took him two weeks.  Will he instruct our intelligence agencies to actively pursue these hackers?  Can the agencies act without his blessing?  If so, will they?  These are questions whose answers are beyond my field of knowledge, but I think they are important for us to ask.

If you haven’t read One Second After by William Forstchen, I highly recommend it.  I read it a few years ago, and while I did not write a review, I did write another post in January 2017 that summarized the book and touched on the “what-if” of an enemy effectively shutting down our power grid.  While I am not an alarmist, I do recognize there is potential for disaster here.  The potential has been there for a while, but I ask you this:  Do you actually trust Donald Trump to do everything in his power to stop Russia from interfering in our elections, or even worse, from causing infrastructure disruptions likely to cost millions of lives?  I don’t.  His promise to “keep America safe” is naught but hot air.  It is time he step up to the plate, or else step aside and let somebody else bat.

And on that note, I shall now go to bed and try to sleep.

Who IS General John Kelly???

 

four-starRetired Four-Star General John Kelly is the new White House Chief of Staff, replacing the abruptly fired Reince Priebus.  But who is General Kelly?  Is he a man of integrity?  Is he a fair and honest man?  Let us take a look …

Family

John and his wife Karen have been married for more than 40 years.  Their marriage has survived not only numerous deployments and military separations, but in 2010 their son, Robert, was killed in action in Sangin, Afghanistan. To keep a marriage alive through all that requires dedication, commitment, and a whole lot of love.  It also says much about the character of the two individuals.

Robert-Kelly-grave.jpgJohn and Karen have two other grown children:  John, Jr., is a Marine Corps Major, and Kathleen, who works for the American Red Cross at Walter Reed Hospital.

Military Career

John enlisted in the Marines in 1970, and was discharged from active duty as a sergeant in 1972, after serving in an infantry company with the 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He was commissioned on December 27, 1975, as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps via Officer Candidates School. In 1976, he graduated from the University of Massachusetts Boston and, in 1984, he received a Master of Science degree in National Security Studies from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service.

Kelly served in the Persian Gulf War, during the Operation Desert Storm combat phase in January and February 1991. In 2002, Kelly was promoted to Brigadier General. After the Iraq War began, he was deployed to Iraq. He took command of Task Force Tripoli in April 2003 after the fall of Baghdad. Kelly’s last role in the military before retirement in 2016, was commander of U.S. Southern Command. It is one of the Unified Combatant Commands and is responsible for operations in Central and South America. It is based in Doral, Florida. This was his first and only four-star assignment.

Secretary of Homeland Security

Kelly was confirmed as Secretary of Homeland Security by a Senate vote of 88-11 on inauguration day, January 20th. In this position, he has consistently supported the idea of a wall spanning the U.S.-Mexico border, saying that he believed “a border wall is essential” as there were “tremendous threats” such as drugs and individuals coming into the U.S. Kelly said of terrorism, “It’s everywhere. It’s constant. It’s nonstop. The good news for us in America is we have amazing people protecting us every day. But it can happen here almost anytime.” He said that the threat from terrorism was so severe that some people would “never leave the house” if they knew the truth. Both of these views are, in my opinion, exaggerated and play on the fears of citizens.

Political Ideology

  • While he was the commander of the Southern Command, he was critical of Barack Obama’s decisions to open combat jobs to women and closing down Guantanamo. He swatted away criticism of inhumane practices in Guantanamo. He also said that the military would be under pressure to “lower standards” for women in combat duty.
  • He is a strong supporter of Trump’s hardline immigration policy and of the contentious, conflict-riddled travel ban.

My take on General Kelly is that he is a good person … he has raised three children, all of whom entered careers involving service to humanity in one form or another, and I find no scandal surrounding any of them.  He has what, from all reports, is a stable, loving marriage that has survived through many situations that would have torn apart less committed couples.  I have concerns, however, about his radical stance on immigration and border security.  Nonetheless, those stances are not really at issue in his present position as White House Chief of Staff.

The White House, contrary to what Donald Trump says, is obviously in a state of chaos.  There are internal power struggles, so many lies that I have lost count, and the leakers.  It would seem that somebody who walks softly and carries a big stick is needed to bring order out of the chaos.  Kelly has little experience for the position but … he does have experience in managing groups of people, so perhaps he can make some sense of the garbage heap that resides in the White House.

IF … if he is a good man of conscience, I think that he cannot possibly last more than six months.  If he stands by his convictions, his integrity, then it is only a matter of time before he and Trump butt heads and … well … Trump is, for the time being, da boss.  Even if that does not occur, my best guess is that within six months Gen. Kelly will tire of the game-playing, the constant lies, the back-stabbing, and the Trump children always getting their way, even when their actions threaten to bring the whole house of cards tumbling down.  If Kelly turns out to be less than a man of honour, then he should fit right in, but I do not think this is the case.  Though I disagree with his stances on immigration, the terrorist threat, and women in the military, I believe he is a man who tries to follow his conscience and do what he believes is best for the nation.

At the very least, his four decades in progressive leadership roles in the military should stand him in good stead for bringing some order to the White House, although with the current cast of characters, I do not think there will ever be complete cohesion.  One can hope that Kelly’s relative sanity remains intact and will at least partly offset the insanity of his boss. Best of luck to General John Kelly … he will need all the luck he can get!