Decades of Ending Homelessness, Part I

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“You call this progress, because you have motor cars and telephones and flying machines and a thousand potions to make you smell better? And people sleeping on the streets?” 

 ― Howard ZinnMarx in Soho: A Play on History

A Professional Advocacy Caste and Efforts to End Homelessness

Seventy ‘community leaders’ gathered at the Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota half-way through 2006 to churn out a ten-year plan to end homelessness in Hennepin County.  According to the Wilder Foundation, there were between 9,200 and 9,300 homeless people in the State of Minnesota that year.  According to the same source in 2015 there were an estimated 9,313 homeless people. In an article which appeared in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on February 28, 2016 the Director of the ten-year plan at the outset remarked, “ending homelessness boils down to making housing affordable and providing services so people can live independently.“. For decades, the persistence of widespread homelessness has been primarily attributed to a lack of affordable housing: advocacy efforts and resources have been focused accordingly.

With the advent of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Great Society in the mid-1960s a wide range of Federal Agencies were created and others were restructured, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). On August 10, 1965 The Housing and Urban Development Act created several major expansions and the following month HUD was elevated to a cabinet-level agency. In 1968, the Fair Housing Act sought to eradicate discriminatory housing practices and in 1987 the agency added a fifth core mission, Between the creation of HUD as a cabinet-level agency and the addition of homelessness as one of its core missions, a wide range of other federal legislation  was enacted, including; the Emergency Home Finance Act (1970); The Rehabilitation Act (1973); Housing and Community Redevelopment Act (1974) and its amended version (1977); The Housing and Recovery Act (1983); and perhaps most importantly, the McKinney-Vento Act (1987).

In short, a plethora of Federal and parallel State-level legislation passed in to law targeting affordable housing and the phenomenon of homelessness. Attendant upon the enactment of this slate of legislation arose a professional advocacy caste arose which became self-perpetuating its fiscal requirements, over time, became the paramount consideration in all subsequent endeavors—so did the emphases its membership chose to select within attacks upon the problem. Said emphases continually failed to understand the problem of homelessness within broader social contexts. While nearly half of those who experienced homelessness struggled with the collateral consequences of justice interaction, the social barriers erected by racial discrimination and  inadequate wages, the leadership involved in policy, at all levels, chose to focus on the lack of affordable housing or Federal block-grant allocations for supportive vs. transitional housing.

Homelessness in America

Homelessness in America

The nature and function of this professional advocacy caste and the requirements its continued existence demand have not been well-considered. First and foremost, this professional caste of advocates has become increasingly separated from the populations they serve. Lacking in shared experience and wholly disconnected from the communities they serve they have failed, repeatedly, to attack the core problems arising out of the fluidity of a wide range of social problems. For example, while mass incarceration impacted communities across the nation during the 1980s and 1990s, becoming one of the primary feeder systems for the problem of homelessness, the national leadership charged with tackling the problem undertook little in terms of substantive advocacy. Another example would be the mortgage foreclosure crisis and the practice of predatory lending, particularly within communities of color—the crisis fell upon tens of millions, thrusting hundreds of thousands into the status of being marginally housed or homeless before the national advocacy community lurched into action.

Personal Disconnection from the Communities Served

Personal disconnection from the communities served and the problems they experience has ensured that, despite colossal fiscal outlays and a slate of federal and state legislation, the problem of homelessness is worse now than in 1968. Let’s consider the leadership of some of the paramount advocacy organizations from the standpoint of demographics, beginning with the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH). According to the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), single men comprised 51% of the homeless population, single women, 17%. Families with children comprise 33%. In terms of race, the statistics are as follows; 49% African-American, 35% Caucasian, 13% Hispanic, 2% Native American and 1% Asian. In terms of Veterans Status, 40% of Homeless men are veterans. Approximately 16% are diagnosed with a Severe and Persistent Mental Illness and circa 30% suffer from an addictive disorder. Curiously absent from the fact sheet in question, is reporting around the topic of justice involvement—multiple sources assign the percentage of the homeless who experience justice interaction at nearly half. The largest sections of the fact sheet cited are those dealing with Domestic Violence and Families, though within context these are problems impacting a minority within the broader population of homelessness.

So, based on those statistical considerations—and omissions—it is of some interest to question the intersectionality between those served and those providing advocacy services. If a majority of those who experience homelessness are single, black men who are likely to have served in the military, experienced justice interaction and also suffer from mental health or substance abuse issues should that be somewhat reflected at the apex of the advocacy continuum? With that consideration in mind, let’s look at the leadership of both the NAEH and the NCH: The NAEH’s leadership is composed of nineteen members. Sixteen are women, one of whom is African-American (and her charge is office operations, not policy). There are three men, one of whom is African-American. None of the leadership ever served in the military, has experienced justice interaction, struggled with a substance abuse or mental health-related issue and none has personally experienced the problem of homelessness, at least openly.  The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) lists three leadership positions; the director is a white male and two women, one white, one Asian-American. Other major advocacy organizations include the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty (NLCHP) lists nine national staff members; seven women, two men. By race, three are from communities of color—two of those Asian-American. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) is comprised of six leadership positions, two held by men, four by women—none of whom, at least publicly, acknowledges having experienced homelessness, though all served in the military.[5] The Corporation for Supportive Housing’s leadership team is comprised of a membership of five; four women, one man—all white.

The Disconnection in the State of Minnesota: Poverty Pimping

This jarring separation between populations served and those advocating on their behalf might be well illustrated in the State of Minnesota during the course of its ten year plan to end homelessness between the years 2006-2016. Dispassionate and severely disconnected from the problems they attempt to address, their over-arching interest is organizational perpetuation and not a commitment to fight where fighting needs to occur. The end result is, literally, sixty years of attempts to address widespread homelessness in the United States which have cost trillions of dollars and the problem is perhaps now worse than it ever was.

The State of Minnesota, during the course of its ten year plan to end homelessness (2006-2016), well illustrates what happens when colossal resources are vested in the hands of a small group of people with virtually no interconnection between their own interests and experience and those of the people they ostensibly serve.

From 1998 to 2008 I was very much a player in the work around homelessness in the State of Minnesota, in general, and particularly within efforts that took place in the Metropolitan region—the seven counties comprising the Twin Cities and adjoining suburbs. I served on the Boards of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV), led the Decriminalization of Homelessness Task Force, served on HUD’s Continuum-of-Care (CoC) over the course of years, the Hennepin County Community Advisory Board on Homelessness (CABoH) and as the Lobbyist and Advocacy Coordinator for the Council on Crime and Justice. I was very much an integral part of work on the problem of homelessness during that period of time. However, my areas of focus were very different from those in the mainstream of work around homelessness during that time-frame. In 2007 I staged a very public insurrection against what I viewed as the exploitative practices of the leadership involved in the business of ending homelessness—emphasis on the word “business”.

In order to understand the business of serving the homeless and the battle to end homelessness in the State of Minnesota and the seven county metropolitan area comprised of the Twin Cities it is of great importance to understand who the people are who comprised (and comprise) those efforts.

(To be continued)

 

Dmitry Rybolovlev’s Purchase of Trump Property

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Dmitry Rybolovlev is one of a very finite set of Russian or Ukranian oligarchs whose net worth is estimated to exceed 10 billion dollars. A cardiologist by training, Ryoblovev made his money through fertilizer and has been referred to in the Russian media as the “fertilizer king”. having formerly owned two large companies that produced potash, Uralkali and Silvinit,

He is of interest in relation to President Donald J. Trump primarily for a real estate deal in Palm Springs which occurred in 2008 when Rybolovlev purchased a property from Trump for an astounding 100 million dollars. The tale represents yet one more instance of questionable interactions with Russian officials and businessmen and has raised a series of questions that have gone unanswered.

Trump Purchased Maison de l’Amitie for 41 Million in 2005

Healthcare tycoon Abraham Gosman, the previous owner of the property, had become mired in financial difficulties which ultimately resulted in tax fraud convictions for both himself and his wife. The property went on the market and was purchased by Donald Trump in 2005 for 41.35 million dollars. The 62,000 square foot mansion boasted many amenities and luxuries, including a 100 foot swimming pool. According to multiple sources, Trump had never intended on living at the property but merely sought to flip the property at a profit.

In a story in the Miami Herald gossip columnist Jose Lambiet one of a very few reporters who had been invited by Trump to help drum up publicity when he put the property back on the market in 2006, remarked that, “it was just terriblelooking, really gaudy.” Lambiet, like many others familiar with properties of the wealthy in Palm Springs, balked at the purportedly renovated property, balked at the 125 million dollar asking price. According to Lambiet, the renovation was dubious, going on to note,

““I’d been in the house before, at one of Gosman’s charity parties, and Trump had hardly changed anything, just put on a couple of coats of paint,” Lambiet said. “Even that — well, he told us the fixtures in one of the bathrooms were gold, but as he walked away, I scratched a faucet with my fingernails and it was just gold-covered paint.”

Dmitry Rybolovlev

Dmitry Rybolovlev

On July 15, 2008 after a bit of back-and-forth, Rybolovlev purchased the property for the aforementioned price of 100 million. Rybolovlev never lived on the property and it was subsequently demolished and nothing whatsoever remains on the grounds of the compound.

So, What Actually Took Place with the Sale of the Palms Springs Property?

Trump’s financial travails have become legendary and they are, at the very least, a recurrent theme. In 2008 then real-estate mogul Trump filed a law-suit asserting that he should not be required to pay a payment of 40 million dollars to Deutsche Bank due at the time. Unable to obtain financing for his Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago from U.S. financial institutions, Trump had obtained 640 million in construction loans from a syndicate headed up by Deutsche Bank in 2005. The law-suit argued that he should not have to make his 40 million dollar payment and that in fact the syndicate should have to pay him 3 million. According to Trump pushing him to repay the installment due defamed his reputation and that the then economic downturn somehow absolved him of his financial responsibilities.

In 2011, ABC News reported that Trump and affiliates had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections on four separate occasions; 1991, 1992, 2004 and 2009. With the time-frame at hand in mind, ABC went on to note,

“When the economy turned downward in 2008, so too did Trump’s real estate holdings. Trump Entertainment and his affiliated companies had $2.06 billion in assets and was $1.74 billion in debt. In December 2008 his company missed a $53.1 million bond interest payment, propelling Trump Entertainment Resorts into bankruptcy court and plunging its stock price from $4 per share to a mere 23 cents.”

At the time of the Palm Springs Real Estate deal Trump was, yet again, on the financial ropes  An extra 50 million from a dubious Palm Strings real estate deal with a Russian Oligarch was not an unwelcome cash infusion. What really happened?

Meeting with Rybolovlev in North Carolina in November, 2016

Just days before the election on November 9, 2016  On November 3, 2016 Rybolovlev’s jet landed in Concord, North Carolina and departed from Charlotte three hours later. At the same time, then GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump was also in Concord. The Daily Kos was one of the few media outlets to report on this rather curious confluence of paths, particularly in light of subsequent events. Also present in Concord at the time were both Carter Page and Paul Manafort.

As you will recall, Paul Manafort had run Trump’s Presidential campaign for five months before being forced to step aside due to his undisclosed involvements with Russian and Ukranian agents. Carter Page, according to multiple sources, also served as a conduit between Russian business, intelligence and governmental assets and later lied about having met with any of them. Similarly, then Senator Jeff Sessions also met with the Russian Ambassador and other officials and then lied before a Senate Committee about said meetings.

Did Donald Trump, facing yet another slate of financial failures of epic scale during the period 2005-2008 become enmeshed in clandestine financial dealings with Russian agents? Was the real estate deal with Rybolovlev really a pay off by Russia made as part of our now President’s possible compromising by Putin and his minions? No one gives away 50 million for nothing.

This real estate deal is merely one of many in the dark dossier of our President. Of course he could allay fears by releasing his tax returns as he promised on the campaign trail, but that seems, at best, a chimerical hope at this stage. If there’s nothing to any of this “Russia stuff’ then why all the lying, obfuscation and refusal to be forthcoming? Many believe that this is exactly what it seems to be: Our President has been compromised along the way and we had better figure it out very quickly before he destroys what’s left of our Republic.

 

Calling Dana Loesch, the NRA and the New Confederacy

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You’ve probably seen it by now, the latest bile-laden spew from the National Rifle Association featuring that dusky-hewed siren of prevarication, Dana Loesch. If not, here you go:

Dana Loesch, NRA spokeswoman

Dana Loesch, NRA spokeswoman (video)

Here’s the verbatim transcript of the controversial video, extracted for your convenience;

“They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again. And then they use their ex-president to endorse the resistance. All to make them march, make them protest, make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia. To smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law-abiding — until the only option left is for the police to do their jobs and stop the madness. And when that happens, they’ll use it as an excuse for their outrage. The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth. I’m the National Rifle Association of America, and I’m freedom’s safest place”

Yep, it’s a vitriolic mouthful to be sure, awash, from start to finish, with the whole gamut of faux statements–demonstrably so. Running beneath if all is a slough of ill-founded beliefs grounded in an ill-digested understanding of our history, our nation’s laws and the precepts and values we hold dear. Let’s just call it what it is, a resurgent and regurgitated set of strains very similar to those upon which the Confederate States of America were founded. Of course Ms. Loesch, like so many on the right cut from similar cloth, remain steadfast in their quasi-Patriotic convictions and they’re willing to fight for their “truth”.

Destroying the First Amendment’s Guarantees of a Free Press

Loesch, like so many cut from the same cloth, operates in a nefarious, selective region utterly lacking in respect for any of the free and ever-evolving liberties upon which our constitutional framework was constructed. People like Loesch simply don’t understand what that means. At inception, the Republic had enfranchised a mere 14% of the population–only white, propertied males could vote. She would do well to remember that for if she really did extol the virtues of what some call “strict constitutionalism” she, for one, would neither be allowed to vote nor would she have a public platform to shout from. The expansions which allowed her those rights were not achieved by the forces of political or social conservative efforts, but by those which were clearly within Liberal ideological frameworks.

It’s not fake news to note that under the current administration serious attempts are underway to undo a slate of significant protections–fundamental civil rights and liberties. People are screaming “racism”, Dana, because when the North Carolina, Republican-led legislature undertakes voter suppression efforts which, in the language of the Circuit Court decision handed down, sought to attack black voters with “surgical precision” it’s not fake news to note that such attacks are, by definition, racist. Such efforts targeting minority voters are afoot across the nation.

It is maddening to attempt to treat with these people for they simply do not care about our values, they do not know our history well and they could care less about the integrity of factual frameworks and rational discussion. They are led by the a profane, untutored buffoon who also happens to be a megalomaniac and the biggest liar in the annals of the Oval Office. The rest of the world knows this….but Ms. Loesch, as a denizen of the 35-40% of the rabble who support Trump, believes that they are the custodians of the truth.

A New Confederacy, with Corporate Backing

One of the oft-repeated bits of nonsense spouted by the Right is the revisionist view of history which claims that the Civil War wasn’t really about slavery. Of course it was about slavery you insufferable, ignorant fools. Bloody Kansas and John Brown, the many travails of the Buchanan Administration, the Missouri Compromise and Dred Scot. From Harper’s Ferry to the election of 1860 and from the Boston Abolitionists to the split in the Democratic party at the time, it is abundantly clear that the events leading up to the Civil War were all about the issue of slavery. What sort of moron holds otherwise? Only someone who understands nothing about US history could claim such a thing.

In terms of geography, attitudes toward Federalism, racial politics, judicial independence, justice….so many of the underpinnings of our political differences today reverberate directly out of the past.

The Fake News is the nonsense being perpetrated by the extreme political right at present and our President is playing a leading role. These forces are driving us toward another round of civil strife reminiscent of the war between the states. For students of history, one thing should be very clear: Dana Loesch and those cut from the same cloth will not be on the side of ultimate victory—they do not represent the best of our values and traditions, they represent the worst side of who we are.

 

Defending the Indefensible: The Death of Philando Castile

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On July 6, 2016 St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez pulled over Philando Castile on a routine traffic-stop for a broken brake light. The officer approaches the vehicle, informs Castile of the reason for the stop then asks for his license and registration. So far, so good. This sort of thing happens countless times a day in the United States. The dash-cam video and audio are very clear. Castile reaches for his license, as directed, and informs the officer he also is a licensed firearm carrier and that he had the firearm on his person at the time. Seconds later, Officer Yanez fires seven rounds at point-blank range into the vehicle while screaming, “don’t move, don’t move!”–as if anyone is going to be moving much after they’ve had seven rounds pumped into them at close range. Castile’s girlfriend, present in the vehicle in the passenger’s seat at the time, recorded the entire incident and posted it immediately to Facebook. The footage went viral. Indeed, she remained far more self-possessed than the officer doing the shooting, a fact not lost on the tens of millions of people who subsequently watched the video. In spite of the fact that her child was in the backseat of the vehicle at the time.

Dashcam footage of the shooting of Philando Castile

Dashcam footage of the shooting of Philando Castile

For millions of people it seemed this would be an open and shut case. How could any rational person watching the video (and there’s more than one in this case) conclude that the officer involved acted professionally or in commensurate response to the situation?

The Spin Began Immediately, the Tired Old Lies and Unsupported Rhetoric

One may deem the spiel that ensued from the law enforcement community as something other than bullshit, but I’ll just call it that, bullshit. The same old tool-box of misrepresentations and wholly unsupported rhetoric trotted out to dress up the use of deadly force by a cop who, for whatever reason, over-reacted and killed another person without any semblance of justification whatsoever. We’re familiar, but let’s break down the unmitigated prevarication into its component parts and then get back to what this was, homicide without sufficient grounds. It’s as simple as that.

As in so many high-profile cases over the course of the last several decades involving a police officer’s use of deadly force and a black male victim the under-lying spin revolves around the construction of a false narrative unsupported by any matching evidence. The primary and most elemental component involved is the quasi-mythical, ethereal construct wherein police officers are constantly ducking bullets and in imminent danger on a daily basis. We, as civilians would simply never understand the constant peril and what officers deal with on a daily basis.

Therefore, the sub-text reads, we should kind of understand why they shoot people under questionable circumstances from time to time…being that they face constant peril on a daily basis and all. And yet, there are many professions with far higher on-the-job mortality rates, but somehow those working those jobs manage to not shoot the shit out of people on a weekly basis. Social workers, mental health professionals, employees in troubled schools….somehow manage, though they face very similar situations while working in very similar contexts, manage not to whack people on a regular basis and then try to write it off as an understandable by-product of job-related stress. Sorry, officers, lots of us just don’t buy your bullshit. And that is what it is, bullshit.

The Prevalence of Line-of-Duty Fatalities Among Minnesota Police Officers

But in the case of Philando Castile’s murder–yes, murder–the same old, gone bad-in-the-teeth from over-use rhetoric was trotted out once more to justify the actions of Yanez.

Facts. They are kind of important in a justice context, aren’t they? So, let’s look at the factual bases for the aforementioned sub-text: Police officers are in constant, imminent danger and must be ever-ready to pull out their revolvers and fill someone full of holes because they’re, you know, in constant danger and all. So, let’s look at the facts behind that worn set of arguments.

Let’s start with the number of on-duty deaths among police officers in the largest police department in the State of Minnesota, Minneapolis. From 1981 to 2017 how many officers died while on duty? Take a guess. That would be seven. Yes, that’s right, seven. Five from gunfire, one from a heart attack and one from a vehicular assault. So, in 36 years, five officers.  Do the math. Every 7.2 years a Minneapolis police officer was killed in an exchange of gunfire during the course of duty. No one wants to see anyone get shot, but that’s not the point. The point is debunking the idea put forth every time a cop shoots someone to death under questionable circumstances that they face such constant, imminent danger that we should just accept it when, once in awhile, they blow someone to pieces…cos, you know, job stress and all.

More germane to the incident in question would be the statistical frequency of police deaths involving an exchange of gunfire among Forest Lake Police Officers. How many have occurred? That would be one….in 1932. Yes, that’s correct. The last time an officer from the Forest Lake PD was killed by a gunshot took place 84 years ago. So, it would be reasonable to state that one officer from this police department per century dies from a suspect shooting them. By any stretch it would be hard to make the argument that officers from the department in question face constant peril now would it? And yet, that’s the underlying rhetoric trotted out….again.

Yanez, the sub-text reads, was a highly-trained officer who simply responded to a perceived threat. Again, we wouldn’t understand cos, you know, all the stress he was under. It wasn’t that he was an over-excited, steroidal thug who totally over-reacted to the situation at hand and shot a guy multiple times in the presence of a child, during the course of a traffic stop for a broken brake light and then tried to lie his way out of it with the support of, you know, all the stressed out cops facing gunfire on a daily basis in Minnesota. The guardians and accountants of personal responsibility in blue are seemingly never responsible for their actions. Especially when it involves a young black man.

Which Takes Us to the Next Component of the Bullshit Narrative

The next component in the bullshit narrative was also passing familiar: A man of similar appearance was, purportedly, involved in an armed robbery in the vicinity. By “similar appearance” they were, of course, referring to a young black guy. All too familiar. Behind that threadbare “factual” element a bunch of other crap gets trotted into the narrative: Black guys are more likely to commit violent felonies, black guys are more likely to carry guns–especially young black guys not dressed in suits (and even those black guys are suspicious), black guys are more likely to shoot black guys (as if that has anything to do with this), etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

And behind that train of infamous deceits the rallying point is now, “Blue Lives Matter”. Again the false narrative hinging upon the notion that police officers are dodging bullets on a daily basis ergo if they shoot some young black guy once in awhile it’s wholly understandable. Again, in St. Anthony, Minnesota the last time a cop was fatally shot was 84 years ago people. There’s a statistically greater chance of being struck by lightning, fatally. No one is saying Blue Lives Matter, but as a legal pretext for shooting people to death under highly questionable circumstances….that dog just don’t hunt.

As in any other profession, you have the good and the bad. However, in the domain of law enforcement, unlike any other profession, there’s almost never any culpability assigned nor any level of responsibility undertaken. Cos, you know, if one of them fatally shoots someone, especially if he’s black, we should just accept…cos, you know, of the stress….every 84 years one of them gets shot….the stress of that is just too much.

In 2016 Police Fatally Shot 963 People

According to the Washington Post’s tally, in 2016 Police Officers shot and killed 963 people. A disproportionately high number of those fatalities were black men. Those on the political right supportive of the use of excessive force (the, “cos, you know, they’re under a lot of stress” crowd) often  invoke all of the mantras cited above. They also like to note that more white men are killed by police than black guys. Problem is they apparently can’t do basic fucking math…cos, you know, there are more white guys than black guys, but factual arguments in that crowd are as hard to find as the ability to think about much of anything using reason and evidence and fact.

Of the thousands of officer-involved fatal shootings that occur each and every year almost none are ever indicted, fewer still and almost none convicted of any offense. Despite the fact that violent crime has been decreasing in the majority of the United States for 30 years you’d never know that in listening to police rhetoric.

In the State of Minnesota, a non-profit organization, Communities United Against Police Brutality has kept a running tally of those slain in police interactions. The list is called “Stolen Lives” and you may reference it here. 

The Yanez Verdict, “Not Guilty” the City of St. Anthony Pays out over 3 Million

Recently, a jury handed down a verdict of not-guilty in the trial of St Anthony police officer Yanez  on manslaughter charges for the shooting of Philando Castile. The decision sparked rage among many in the State of Minnesota. A not-guilty verdict and yet a civil decision resulted in an over 3 million dollar pay-out to the family. One of many in recent history for police-involved cases in the State. 

Think about that for a bit. Not guilty, but three million paid out. Yanez walks away. He lost his job, Philando lost his life. In the wake of so many similar cases across the nation justice is clearly something meted out differently by race. It’s that simple. I’m from Minnesota with deep roots there. I know how people think. As a white male from St. Cloud who grew up in the 1960s I can tell you that this is, in many ways, exactly what it looks like–permission granted to police officers to over-react and shoot someone to death, particularly if he’s black. It’s bullshit.

 

 

 

Faker in Chief, Purveyor of Fake News

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President Donald J. Trump’s behavior with regard to the First Amendment’s support of a Free Press has become formulaic: If any media outlet which opts to cover his latest political high jinks or his latest blatant lie he counters by railing against “fake news”. Predictably and equally formulaic is the response from his core supporters who cannot be bothered with taking five minutes to check the veracity of the President’s statements for themselves.

Look, it’s a rather simple task. Frame it as a question: Did President Donald J. Trump or did he not state while on the campaign trail that he would release his taxes after he had been elected? The answer to that question is an incontestable, “yes”. This is not a Liberal or a Conservative thing, it’s a truth thing, a Trump thing. Conservatives from across the nation–including all fifteen GOP Presidential candidates who ran against him in 2016–criticized the President. Never Trump Conservatives provide a succinct montage of the Donald’s bold prevarication on the topic of his tax returns.

It is truly mind-boggling to confront a member of the 36% of the nation that support the prevaricator-in-chief. You can show them actual video footage of their fearless (and mindless) leader stating a falsehood, catch him dead-on in a lie and it just won’t matter. Fanatical, stupid, absurd.

From having a plan to defeat ISIS in 30 days to railing against the nepotism of the Clintons–then hiring his unqualified daughter and son-in-law for Senior White House Positions to being the great deal-maker and failing at every major legislative attempt to giving a crap about the working-class, the man simply cannot open his mouth without gushing lies.

The “fake news” in the President’s view, simply put, is any news pointing out that he and his staff are a pack of lying, unqualified, lying nitwits.

Not a Nitwit? Let’s Examine a Real Piece of Fake News: Trump’s Time Cover

So, you’re the most powerful man on the planet and you’re net worth–according to you–exceeds 10 billion dollars. Basically, your vast resources break down pretty much every conceivable barrier to doing something like producing at least a passable counterfeit magazine cover. I mean, you should be able to hire a really, really good graphics team to at least churn out a passable fake, right? Nevertheless, with billions of dollars at your disposable, this is what you manage to come up with:

Trump Fake Time Magazine Cover

Trump’s Fake News

There’s no fake news in stating that this counterfeit cover is fake news, because it is beyond dispute that this cover is a fake. Nevertheless, our bombastic, self-engrossed Commander-in-Chief clearly was behind the manufacture of this shoddy knock-off. The fake cover above was hanging prominently in at least eight of Trump’s exclusive clubs.

Time Magazine itself has declared that this is a fake cover and has provided a very detailed explanation of how to spot fake Time covers, but of this cover in particular. The Logo is wrong, the borders are off, the photograph is not of acceptable quality and the typography is off. But all that aside, anyone who has ever read time–which is a lot of folks–the statements featured in this ridiculous production are clearly off. For the literate and well-read, the line at the top of the cover, “Trump is Hitting it big…even on TV!”. Enough to make you spit your Starbucks on your laptop screen before bursting into paroxysms of laughter. Who talks like that? Oh yeah, Trump. This is the language of tabloids written for the rabble. Can there be any question who was behind this ludicrous shenanigan? Please.

The White House Has Not Yet Offered an Official Statement

Sara Huckabee Sanders. who if she had to rely on her own tool-box and not the reputation and position of her father, would be qualified for any number of positions in the janitorial arts, couldn’t be bothered with a definitive statement on the burgeoning spectacle presented by the fake news cover. Nevertheless, she felt no apparent sense of compunction when leaping headlong into an harangue about the topic of, you guessed it, fake news.

Okay, Sara, let me get this straight: You’re upset about being asked about your boss’s forgery of a cover from a major news outlet while bleating about fake news while denying the production of fake news covering a indisputable piece of fake news. There are no words.

Time Magazine has demanded that the fake cover be removed from all of Trump’s establishments forthwith. Meanwhile, untutored rubes and rednecks from across the nation applaud their laughable leader for standing up against “fake news” coverage about his production of fake news…cos covering his fake news in a derogatory manner is, you guessed it, fake news.

Some may remember a time when being an untutored buffoon or an unlettered clown were things which might give one pause in the issuance of public pronouncements. Not anymore, being a nitwit is now all the rage it would seem. The mental gymnastics required to believe that what we’re seeing will somehow, “Make America Great Again” are really rater simple: You have to be a mental deficient, period.

 

 

 

Debacle Coming Out of the Senate Masquerading as Healthcare Legislation

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Many of us remember well the sophistry of Reaganomics. Remember? The underpinnings of what, then political opponent George Bush Sr., deemed ‘voodoo economics hinged upon four propositions;

  • Reduction in the growth of government spending
  • Reductions in Federal Income tax rates
  • Reductions in Governmental regulation
  • Stricter Controls on the Money Supply to Control Inflation

Unfortunately, things didn’t quite pan out the way Reagan projected they might, for a variety of reasons. First of all, colossal expenditures on the military and intelligence communities negated net gains from budgetary cuts in other areas such as to public assistance programs and education. In the short-term, an illusion of prosperity was created through a shell-game which utilized such as leveraged borrowing against the social security trust fund, unprecedented in the annals of Presidential history following creation of the program under FDR’s New Deal. Cuts to agricultural programs and subsidies devastated the family farm, which has never recovered.  The end result was the first trillion dollar national debt in the history of the nation.

While Federal tax reductions and modifications to capital gains tax did benefit many, those that benefited most were at the apex of income brackets. Corporations, not the middle class, accrued enormous profits at the expense of regular people–a trend that has continued unabated ever since.

Reductions in regulation were centered around the erosion of labor protections, deregulating financial sectors and ensuring that corporate interests would be able to get away with swinging an economic wrecking ball across Middle America. Ronald Reagan, who liked to palm himself off as the quintessential American President was, in many ways, the most un-American of all. Trickle-down economics, by virtually every measure, were an abysmal failure and set the tone for ensuing decades. Reagan, like the Clintons and the Bushes, was a Neo-Liberal.

Congressional Budget Office Scoring: Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017

 

Economic Debacle, the ACHA

Paul Ryan & ACHA

The nightmare repeats itself, this time in the guise of healthcare provision. As has been widely reported, following the passage of H.R. 1628 the House version of a bill revamping our nation’s healthcare system went over to the Senate side of the aisle and thirteen men huddled in a backroom in secrecy in a backroom. Widely criticized for not allowing any information on what they were doing to become public, these venerable old men finally unveiled what they were doing just ten days before the end of Session. The plan being to bleat to the bloody heavens, led by that old quack Mitch McConnell, that the Democrats were obstructionists if they refused to pass a bill they had less than ten days to review  Yep, that’s the plan. One-sixth of the U.S. economy to be fully considered by our elected representatives over the course of little more than one week’s time.

Today, on June 26, 2017, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a non-partisan office charged with providing reviews of the budgetary impacts of legislation for public and legislative review, released its evaluation of the Senate version of the healthcare legislation proposal. The review, completed collaboratively by the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), actually rates what is a a Senate amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R. 1628.

The Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) findings are as follows;

  • The enactment will reduce cumulative federal deficit by $321 billion over the course of 2017-2026.
  • Over the same period of time the legislation will increase the number of uninsured by over 22 million.
  • By 2026, under the new plan, an estimated 49 million Americans would be uninsured compared to 28 million under current law.
  • Enacting this legislation would reduce direct spending by $1,022 billion and reduce revenues by $701 billion–thus, the $321 billion deficit reduction.
  • The largest portion of the reductions would derive of cuts to Medicaid–a total of 26% in reductions in 2026. Cumulative decreases over the ten year period would total $772 billion.
  • The largest deficit increases would derive from repealing or modifying tax reductions. The cumulative deficit increases from repeal or delay of taxes to high income people, cuts to fees for manufacturers and excise taxes enacted under ACA.

In short folks, this is exactly what it looks like: A massive tax cut for the wealthiest people in the country and for corporate entities and a stripping of healthcare coverage from tens of millions of middle and lower-income citizens. And the most inexplicable of elements repeated ad nauseum by the Republican base and the political right is that, somehow, giving tax cuts to the ultra-wealthy and corporations will, by some corkscrew rationale, trickle down at some future date to the rest of us.

 

 

 

Tweaker in the White House, Confounding Casuistries

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The on-line Etymological Dictionary of the English language traces the origin of the verb “to tweak” to the Middle English twikken, ‘to draw, plug, tuck’ (mid 15th century). By the 16th century, the verb signified “pinch, plug, twist”, usually in reference to one’s nose. It is likely that the verb derives of Old English twiccian, meaning “to pluck”. Clearly, the verb’s West Germanic, Anglo-Saxon origins are impeccable and closely associated with words of similar morphology and meaning such as “twinge”, “twitch” and also “twinkle”. Modern colloquial American English has also given us a related term of much more recent vintage, “twerk” and the gerund “twerking”. 

The form and usage of the verb that concerns us here, meaning “to make fine adjustments”  is attested from 1966 while its usage as a substantive, “tweak”, is attested from 1989.  If you’re in your fifties or older and you think back you can probably piece together the evolution of the most common contemporary usages associated with the use and abuse of methamphetamine.

Contemporary American Usage of “to tweak“, “tweaker” and “tweak

 

The Urban Dictionary provides the following definition and derivative usages;

1. Person who constantly stays up cleaning, washing, organizing, power-tooling, sorting or otherwise keeping themselves busy doing menial tasks.
2. Someone who constantly makes slight alterations on (usually a very specific) object, i.e. computer, software, automobile, etc.
3. A compulsive liar, thief, or both.
4. A methamphetamine (“tweak”), or other form of speed, addict (who displays all of the above in an obsessive-compulsive manner).

For those who have been in close proximity to methamphetamine and its devotees there will be no need for further illustration or explanation. Suffice it to say that sleep deprivation combined with hyper-vigilance and hyper-fixation on the superfluous engender, over time, rather brazen forays into the twin realms of paranoia and delusion. To the on-looker, resultant behaviors appear ludicrous.

The insanity is compounded insofar as the tweaker tends to construe criticism or confrontation of their illogical actions and perceptions as proof positive that they are right. In spite of overwhelming evidence that they are not only wrong, but catastrophically in error, they will persist-nothing will dissuade them from an opinion, course of action or decision. Of course, blame will never attach to anything they do, say or think–the blame resides not with them, but simply in the fact that no one else can keep up. Self-deception becomes so complete that narratives may, literally, alter wholly from day to day. To argue would be futile for the provision of fact is merely the stuff of lesser minds.

The Dictionary goes on to provide an exquisitely apt illustration;

What’s the difference between a crackhead and a tweaker?
-The crackhead will steal your shit and bounce–the tweaker will steal your shit and then help you look for it.

 

Tweaker in the White House

Tweaker in the White House

          Here’s a General Garment, You Decide if it’s Cut to Size

 

Let’s make it clear that what follows derives of conjecture, but conjecture woven of some interesting fabric. The President of the United States is 71 years of age. He is a New Yorker, born and bred, and he traveled in certain circles and at crossings of time and space that generate speculation as a matter of course.

In 1979, our President was a multimillionaire who traveled in High Society and who took great pains to market himself as a player, a playboy and a member of the Manhattan glitterati. In that year he was 33 years of age. The latter seventies trough the early 80s represented a tidal wave of cocaine usage among the middle and upper-class white America. The age of Disco and Studio 54, the devolution of the nation into emulation of Gordon Gecko and the mantra of “greed is good”.  Free sex, guys with unbuttoned satin shirts and gold coke spoons beckoning women to partake and play. Posh parties with silver platters holding piles of Peruvian flake party-favors. To be in your thirties and rich in Manhattan in the early 80s, frequenting the hot-spots on the circuit meant doing a line once or twice.

Jet-setting with Hefner and the casino-goers of Atlantic City, taking great pains to blather on about his sexual escapades famously describing such as his “Vietnam”. Hanging out in all the clubs du jour and falling all over himself to be seen with the “in” crowd. Well, maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but if he didn’t–given the time and place and the associations–it would seem passing odd if he didn’t, well, maybe just once.

Rumors and Reports of Drug Use Spanning Decades

 

There have been rumors and reports of drug use by the President from multiple sources spanning decades.

During the course of the President’s first televised debate with candidate Hillary Clinton in the Fall of 2016, the then Republican candidate sniffled relentlessly. The behavior sparked wide commentary in the media. Clearly, the rate of sniffling was abnormal. In his second debate, the behavior continued. Howard Dean, former Chair of the DNC and himself an M.D. Tweeted, on September 26. 2016, “Notice Trump sniffing all the time. Coke user?” Actress Carrie Fischer (Princess Leia Organa, of Star Wars fame), herself an admitted former chronic cocaine user, offered that, beyond doubt, the GOP candidate was a cocaine user noting, “and believe me I’m an expert”. Forbes Magazine ran an article offering a series of semi-comic alternative explanations for the behavior, including pregnancy.

In response to the wide commentary and speculation, the GOP candidate engaged in a familiar tack, he insisted on having his opponent, Hillary Clinton, subject herself to a drug test before the third Presidential debate. Before and after this event counting the number of instances when the current President, confronted with an incongruous deed or statement, accused an opponent of the same charges leveled at him would prove a formidable task.

In 1992 investigative reporter John Connolly ran a story in Spy Magazine which reported that the President had visited New York physician Joseph Greenberg, well known for prescribing diet drugs to celebrities. Connolly uncovered a medical record showing that Greenberg had diagnosed the President with a ‘metabolic imbalance’. Though not a recognized medical condition, this assessment provided the pretext to prescribe the drug diethylpropion. “Heavy” revisited the story. The medial outlet in October, 2106 noting that the drug acted like an amphetamine and should not be used for more than several weeks. However, according to information uncovered by Greenberg, the President used the drug from 1982-1985 while he was a patient of Connolly’s. Not unlike Dexedrine, prolonged use can engender a variety of impacts in the user.

In July of 2016, reporter Ashley Feinberg authored an article in Gawker entitled, “Rumor: Doctor Prescribes Donald Trump “Cheap Speed””. The article reported that the President had been taking a drug commonly referred to as “Fen-Phen”, a combination of Phentermine and Fenfluramine, an anti-obesity concoction. Purportedly, the drug can result in damage to heart and lungs over time. It also destroys the body’s capacity to regulate the production of Serotonin. It is recommended that patients only take the drug for a period of one month, but sources reported that the President had been taking it for more than two years.

The article goes on to quote Harry Hurt’s 1993 unauthorized biography of the President as follows;

“The diet drugs, which [Trump] took in pill form, not only curbed his appetite but gave him a feeling of euphoria and unlimited energy. The medical literature warned that   some potentially dangerous side effects could result from long-term usage; they      included anxiety, insomnia, and delusions of grandeur. According to several Trump Organization insiders, Donald exhibited all these ominous symptoms of diet drug usage, and then some.”

In this reference the alleged drug the President was taking was Diethylpropion, also known as Tenuate Dospan

Questionable Associations, Drug Traffickers and Mob Associates

 

In October, 2016 long-time watcher and close student of the President, David Cay Johnson, published an article in The Daily Beast entitled, “The Drug Trafficker Donald Trump Risked His Casino Empire to Protect”.  Johnston has often enjoined the public to question Trump’s long and questionable affiliation with a series of mobsters, members of the Russian mafia, drug traffickers and violent criminals, the salient example being a notorious hood by the name of Joseph Weichselbaum.

Weichselbaum and Trump

Drug Trafficker & a President

Weichselbaum was a three-time convicted felon, known mob-associate and embezzler well-known to law enforcement. During the heyday of his casino venturing in Atlantic City, Weichselbaum–at the time already convicted of two felonies–ran a number of dubious ventures, including a helicopter company. Despite the fact that any number of other far more reputable services were available, Trump chose to contract out with Weichselbaum. In fact, Weichselbaum personally flew the Trumps around by helicopter.

Aside from his flight services, Weichselbaum also had another side-business; trafficking major quantities of cocaine from Colombia to the States.

Johnston points out that when Trump’s pilot got busted the criminal prosecution of his case was handled in a very questionable manner.  Following his arrest and indictment (his third on felony charges), rather than cut ties, Trump continued his business arrangement through Weichselbaum’s brother while allocating office space and paying fees for service. And, as Johnston notes, the criminal indictment should have been handled in Florida (where Weichselbaum’s drug-front, a car dealership, received and transported tons of cocaine) it somehow ended up in a New Jersey courtroom. Not just any courtroom, either, but the courtroom of his older sister, Maryanne, a Federal Judge.

This dark segment of Trump’s history was never fully explained and the scrutiny it should have invoked never happened. Johnston exhorted Chris Wallace, the moderator presiding over the third Presidential debate;

      “Having a tax cheat in the White House four decades ago and another a heartbeat away was bad enough. Why in the world would we want the ally of a drug trafficker anywhere near the Oval Office? Wednesday evening, debate moderator Chris Wallace will have the opportunity to ask Trump why he stood by this convicted felon, risking his casino empire in the process.”

A great many questions and suspicions might be laid to rest through one simple act, the release of President Trump’s tax returns. Despite repeated assurances that he would do so following the elections, we stand on the eve of his ninth month in office and the President clearly has no intention, whatsoever, of letting the American people view the information that eight previous Presidents have divulged freely. Questionable financial dealings with foreign banks, Russian Oligarchs, a wide range of dark associations like Weichselbaum,  mobsters and a series of failed business ventures might all be put to rest through the release of his tax returns. So, why hasn’t he released them? None of our business? Wrong, it most certainly is the business of the American people to know whether or not our President has engaged in illegal activity.

             Tweaker in the White House? Behaviors and Broken Promises

 

He’s at it yet again. Michael Flynn, as you will recall, was President Trump’s National Security Adviser. Flynn lasted all of 3 weeks and was fired, summarily, for failing to reveal his dealings with Russian and Turkish interests prior to his appointment and then for lying about his engagements after the fact. In fact, he failed to register as a foreign agent. It has subsequently come to light that he was allowed to stay in office for three weeks after the White House had been informed of his ties and activities.

Other senior members of the campaign and administration have also come under scrutiny, either as persons of interest or suspects in an array of unethical if not criminal activities. Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Jared Kushner and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are all under some level of investigation or interest by multiple federal and state entities. A number of terminations, including the removal of FBI Director James Comey and the firing of New York’s US Attorney for the Eastern District Preet Bharara have raised alarms and generated hearings and investigations. A wide range of actions by other associates have also generated interest and, in some cases, criminal investigations.

Tweaker in the White House?

Tweaker in the White House?

Back to our quote from the Urban Dictionary, the apt illustration of the nature of a tweaker, “a tweaker will steal your shit, then help you look for it.

Some of the symptoms or behaviors manifest in those with long-term use or abuse of stimulants are as follows;

  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Bizarre, erratic, sometimes violent behavior
  • Disorientation, apathy, confused exhaustion
  • Increased activity and wakefulness
  • Increased talkativeness
  • Euphoria and experiencing a rush
  • Heightened Paranoia
  • Memory Loss or Impairment
  • Inability to Focus
  • Outbursts and Problems with Anger Management

One cannot aver with any degree of certitude whether or not our President has or has had a substance abuse problem. Nevertheless, the behaviors and patterns are hauntingly reminiscent of such for those of us who have personal experience in this realm. What we’re witnessing is not merely alternative strategies nor is it mundanely unorthodox. We’re not looking at a novitiate in politics or the inscrutable machinations of a genius beyond our ken. What we’re looking at is crazy, nothing more and certainly nothing less.

We can ask many questions, but based on the daily antics and incomprehensible affronts to the rational it may be fair to ask, “Is there a tweaker in the White House?”.

 

 

 

D-Day the Mayor of London and Donald J. Trump

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On June 6th, 1944 more than 160,000 allied troops landed across a 50 mile stretch on the beaches of Normandy in northwestern France. Casualties among allied forces exceeded 10,000 on the first day. For many American, British and Canadian families we can look back to family members who either participated directly in the Normandy landing or who followed after the beach head had been established. The fight against Fascism from that day forward continued to be costly–millions died.

But such verbal family histories passed on by our fathers and grandfathers are absent from the annals of the family of our current Commander-in-Chief. Fred Trump, our President’s father, sat out World War II. His record of war service was marked by profiteering vis-a-vis the building of Naval barracks and off-base housing for Navy personnel. He would later be called before a Senate Investigation on his practices. Folk icon Woody Guthrie, who rented from Fred Trump from 1950 forward, wrote lyrics about his landlord’s abhorrent practices and his stirring up of racial hatreds.

It would seem evading military service is a family tradition. Our President’s grandfather fled Germany to avoid service, his father engaged in war profiteering. The President himself took five draft deferments during Vietnam before finally getting a medical exemption for bone spurs–while playing college sports–and none of his sons, in keeping with family tradition, have served in our family. Evading service to country is a family tradition, it would seem.

D-Day, June 6. 1944

D-Day, June 6. 1944

Great Britain Our Closest Ally

Over this past weekend several Muslim extremists attacked passersby on London Bridge, killing seven and injuring nearly fifty more. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, came out in the wake of the attack and noted that, in response, there would be a markedly increased presence in London and that people should not be alarmed.

Of course our President, on the eve of D-Day, thought it best to attack the Mayor of London by ripping his remark out of context purely for his own political gain. Our Presidents remarks sparked anger and consternation among many in Great Britain, but also across Europe and here in the United States. Many in Britain began openly discussing rescinding an invitation for a State visit extended to our President earlier on.

So, here we stand on the eve of the Battle of Normandy and our Commander-in-Chief, whose family has made dodging military service a tradition, stands before the nation attacking the Mayor of the largest city of our closest ally.

I don’t even know what to say to that, in truth. For every American family with members who served in WWII the time has come to ask ourselves whether or not having a President from a family who has not contributed a single member to the national defense for four generations running is really the best spokesman for our nation.

 

Misplaced Priorities, Syria and Mexico

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Geopolitical understanding can be an onerous proposition. First of all, it requires a basic knowledge of geography and politics, which rules out at least half of the population of the United States. This is to say nothing of a secondary set of considerations such as an ability to understand other languages and world history, but that would most certainly represent a Dickensian Great Expectation that would be too much to ask.

In the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War” an exchange takes place between a CIA Case Officer and his superior during the course of which the character shouts, “because it’s a pretty good fucking idea to know the languages of the people we’re spying on”. The Case Officer’s character was based upon a real-life Case Officer by the name of Gustav Lascaris “Gust” Avrakotos.

What the film doesn’t convey is the rest of Avrakotos’s story. During the lead up to the arms-for-hostages deal between Israel, Iran and the United States orchestrated by Oliver North, Bud McFarlane and members of the National Security Council which would become known to the world as Iran-Contra, Avrakotos sought to forewarn his superior, Clair George, that the arms trade was a disaster in the making. For his dissent within the agency he was demoted to a meaningless position. Nevertheless, his role in tactics and strategic planning for the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan successfully led to the defeat of the Soviet Union, as depicted in the aforementioned film.

The scene encapsulates one salient aspect of our national dilemma: The savvy, multilingual and real-world Avrakotos, stymied by his superior–an ill-tutored, ass-kissing career bureaucrat–reflects our quandary nicely. Unquestioning and inept cogs who know next-to-nothing about how the world works rule the roost and the spew du jour emanating from the apex of power determines courses of action.

Ike’s Forewarning of the Perils of the Military-Industrial Complex

In his farewell address to the nation, delivered on January 20, 1961, President Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower warned that the greatest threat to the nation resided not necessarily with an exterior foe, but with the internal menace of undue power and influence accrued by what he referred to as “the military-industrial complex”, though he did recognize the potential threat posed by the Soviet Union. Specifically, he stated,

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

     Ike was right. The vast military-industrial complex requires a state of perpetual conflict, ceaseless war: This requires enemies, both foreign and domestic, so that it may continue to reap colossal profits. If a threat to our national security doesn’t exist–a viable, real threat-it becomes necessary to invent one.

From 1945 to the closing of the 1980s and the fall of the USSR and as the ebbing of the threat posed by Communist insurgencies faded, the war profiteers needed a new enemy in order to continue what that they had been doing since the defeat of Nazi Germany and throughout the Cold War era. Enter, radical Islam and the purportedly vast jihadist threat it posed. The vast machinery which had been erected over the course of decades churned into action, shifting the emphasis from Hammer and Sickle to the the Crescent Moon of Islam and the Black Banners of Salafist rebellion.

Accomplishing national shifts in global perspectives and orientation becomes a relatively easy task in a society that expends 54% of its discretionary budget on defense and Intelligence resources. Reminiscent of an Orwellian mind-set, Islam became our enemy and Muslims the focus of national enmity. In a society wherein half the population knows next to nothing about the cultures, languages, geography or history of the world and its peoples, realities can be crafted, packaged and disseminated on short notice. It becomes a fait accompli that such a populace can actually be convinced that 30,000 Bedouin, lacking an Air Force, Navy or anything resembling a modern military force present an imminent threat to the United States of America.

And so it has come to pass that the United States has managed to mire itself in a quagmire from which there is–they assure us–no extrication: Perpetual war across the length and breadth of the Middle East. Our two greatest strategic allies, Israel and Saudia Arabia, agree on nothing and the latter is the avowed funder of Wahabeeist, Radical Islam. So, of course, Realpolitik dictates that we should do what? Why continue to give an autocratic, Imperial power hundreds of millions per year in financial backing cos, you know, they are helping to defend the values of a civil, democratic society. The astonishing thing is that a goodly section of the American population actually buys this horseshit.

Misplaced Resources and Priorities: Syria vs. Mexico

First, let’s consider some statistical considerations:  The population of Syria is 18.5 million, that of Mexico 127 million. An estimated 34.6 million people of Mexican descent reside in the United States while there are less than 200,000 Syrian-Americans in the country. Mexico is our second-largest trading partner. Syria is not in the top thirty. We share a border with Mexico that is almost two hundred miles in length while Syria is more than 5,000 miles away. Despite the nonsense emanating from the Trump Administration, depicting a vast annual influx of illegal immigrants from the Federal Republic of Mexico, the Department of Homeland Security and multiple private sources indicate that immigration stands at a functional zero.

In a recent report from the The International Institute for Strategic Studies says that Syria was the most violent country in the world in 2016 while Mexico fell in second place with over 23,000 violent deaths during the year. The violence in Mexico is largely attributable to drug cartels.

Violence in Mexico

Drug Violence in Mexico

Yet in spite of every consideration that should yield a conclusion which would drive the United States to fund efforts to ensure stability in Mexico over Syria we continue to dump millions of dollars per day into the civil war in Syria. And a good section of the nation continues to chant “build that wall”. How is what we are doing in our national interest? Let’s take care of the problems in our own backyard, first. Political and social stability in the Federal Republic of Mexico is far more important.

See this scenario in real-time for what it is.

The Feigned Mortification of Monsieur Mangolini

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I must confess to no small amount of disappointment with Kathy Griffin. This past Tuesday she held up the fake severed head of President Trump and half the country blew a gasket. I’m not disappointed that she opted to do this. I’m disappointed that she apologized.

Conservatives around the country trotted out their faux righteous indignation and howled from the apical orbits of their questionable religiosity, purportedly appalled by the barbarity and “violence of the left”. Our esteemed Commander-in-Chief was quick to join in the furor, Tweeting out,

“Kathy Griffin should be ashamed of herself. My children, especially my 11 year old son, Barron, are having a hard time with this. Sick!”

So, let’s paint a picture here. Melania rushes across the gilded opulence of the family apartments in a frenzy, approaches the impressionable Barron who is perched atop his stuffed lion and quickly tosses her hands over the eyes of the Mangolini scion lest he see the horrific specter of his father’s decapitated rubber head held aloft by that woman who rings in the New Year with Anderson Cooper. That an innocent child should be exposed to such imagery is unacceptable, bleated the right-wing commentators.

Okay, Snowflakes, Let’s Play that Tape, Shall We?

The bloody indefatigable hypocrisy it requires to get your collective panties in such a bunch is stupefying. Daddy’s worried about the impact on his impressionable son? Here’s a guy who, in public venue after public venue, screamed out exhortations such as. “And you can tell them, to go f**k themselves” and “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any voters”. Who questioned President Obama’s right to the Presidency and whose supporters, repeatedly, hung his predecessor in effigy.

Disrespecting President Obama

Republicans hang Obama in Effigy

Here’s a guy who spews vitriol and exhortations to violence with unfailing predictability, who has belittled the disabled and women, maligned every minority population on the grid. Profane, bombastic and a relentless bully, Monsieur Mangolini’s ostensible concern in this instance is absurd. The wannabe schoolyard bully who, if he ever got into an actual fistfight would surely scamper into the corner like the fainting daisy that he is. But to get so worked up over THIS? Priceless.

But if’s fodder for his Vaunted Base, So Why Not?

Yeah, we all know he’s playing to the base again. This man who prattles on about “bombing the shit out of them” and under whose watch, the acceptable collateral casualties among civilians in places like Syria and Iraq have escalated sharply. This man who has no problem with incarcerating entire families for civil infractions so a pack of corporate hacks can yank down 200 bucks a day from the Federal government while screaming about national debt. This accursed draft-dodger with the nerve to talk tough with his drooping gait and his pugnacious chin who spent Vietnam as a trust fund baby in the bordellos of Manhattan has the nerve to whine about a comic holding up a rubber head.

And he used the plural form for his progeny, “children”. Now that’s funny.

So, the base. Kids who begin playing Medal of Honor and Mortal Combat on X-Box at age 12, with all the gore and digital carnage that entails. Who regularly watch the President of their nation bully and berate anyone who dares utter a peep he don’t like. Our children watch the gunning down of unarmed black men in the streets by cops who never seem to get punished or sanctioned for their actions. A nation where poor men and women get prison sentences for non-violent misdemeanor offenses while the nation’s Attorney General lies under oath before Congress and nothing happens. Spare us your hollow posturing.

Kathy Griffin is a comic who provokes responses by crossing lines and in doing so forces us to confront some aspect of the interior imagery inhabiting our troubled heads. So, she offended hypocrites and snowflakes. Big deal. I wish she wouldn’t have apologized. When she did his Orangeness chalked up one more meaningless tick-mark that will be gleefully heralded by his supporters, most of whom remain utterly clueless as to how badly they’re getting screwed. If you’re going to trot around like  a bombastic, bullying asshole at least have the decency not to act like a first-rate pansy when someone serves it back to you in kind.