Sunday, December 31, 2017

Good riddance 2017

A woman's pickup truck in Houston, Texas
The year of the rooster will go down as one of the worst, politically, in U.S. history.

If the rooster crows a wake-up call, let's hope that Americans were roused from their slumber over what constitutes a decent human being.

Donald Trump continues to debase the office of the presidency, not to mention manhood itself, on a daily basis. It should be enough to alarm most Americans.

Thankfully, Trump's approval ratings are the worst for a first-year president in modern American history.

Evidently, Americans don't credit Trump for the humming economy or the big jump in the stock market. President Obama handed Trump a rising economy and one of the longest sustained growths in the stock market's history.

With tweet after embarrassing tweet, along with his compulsive lying, Trump confounded most Americans. He obviously was pandering to his ever-shrinking base of sycophants who truly are deplorable. And, racist, too.

In a year of sexual harassment allegations that brought the firing of many high profile men, it's ironic that the worst sexual predator, "grab 'em-by-the-pussy" Trump, still prowls the Oval Office.

We can only hope that he ends up in jail by this time next year.

Robert Mueller's investigation so far paints a picture of collusion between Trump and Russia to subvert the American electoral process.

When Trump finally met the Russian despot, Vladimir Putin, it was considered his "six-month performance review," by Stephen Colbert.

That may be too kind.

Andrew Sullivan recently wrote a piece about Trump titled, "Putin's First Year in the White House."

Obviously, Trump is "Putin's Puppet."

Trump is also known as the "Mango Mussolini," "Commander in Tweet," and "Hair Fuhrer."

One thing he is definitely not: leader of the free world.

He's antagonized our allies to the point that they no longer look to the U.S. for any guidance or support.

The over-arching story, though, is Trump's ties to the gangsters running Russia.

Consider that Trump's former campaign chairman was indicted for "conspiracy against the United States," among other charges.

Other Trump associates have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and are cooperating with Mueller's investigation.

This hasn't stopped congressional Republicans from fawning over Trump like predators themselves.

It's one giant sleaze-fest.

This past year also brought us "alternative facts" from the Trump administration and its enablers at Fox News.

Ironically, the Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports, revealed that the winner of Trump's "First Annual Fake News Trophy" was ... drum roll, please ... Fox News.

Of course, to anyone with a brain, Fox News is to news what Pravda is to truth.

In other words, we live in a world where wrong is right.

This year, thanks to Trump, "white supremacists" were given a platform to air their depraved grievances.

And, by claiming that he alone made it safe to say "Merry Christmas," Trump brought shame to the holiday season.

But, Trump's real first-year legacy was dismantling the progress the country made under President Obama.

Trump's Cabinet secretaries were tasked with destroying the departments they manage, from the environment to energy to education.

One bright spot of the year occurred when NBC was forced to clarify a report that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump "a moron."

NBC obliged and said Tillerson actually called Trump "a fucking moron."

Then, Trump's national security adviser referred to Trump as "an idiot" and "a dope."

This is what the Electoral College gave us.

Any country that puts an "idiot, dope and fucking moron" in the White House deserves whatever troubles it may face.

Trump is pining for a nuclear confrontation with North Korea.

He's provoking Muslims in the hopes that terrorists attack this country again.

Trump's contempt for Hispanics means that the most productive members of our society will be kicked out.

This year showed that what makes America "exceptional" is our tolerance for the lowest common denominator in Donald Trump.

Cock a doodle doo.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Totality eclipsed expectations

Climber at Smith Rock. Check out this video
2017, a year considered deplorable in many ways, had one brief shining moment.

The total eclipse of the sun revealed, in stunning fashion, the relative insignificance of life on earth.

Like many in Central Oregon, I viewed the total eclipse on Aug. 21 as more hype than substance.

Who wanted to deal with the traffic, the crowds, the heat and the smoke to see totality up near Madras, about 45 miles north of Bend.

If my brother Mike and his wife Margot hadn't decided to come up from California, we would've been content with our 99.4 percent eclipse of the sun in Bend.

But we made the early morning drive to Smith Rock State Park. Our only traffic being the signals on the north end of Bend.

Miraculously, the smoke from month-long fires, cleared substantially for the only time that week.

It was chilly, about mid-50s. We found a spot along the western rim overlooking the Phoenix Buttress.

As the sun rose, the temps climbed and we could take off our light coats.

We chatted with a couple from London, Richard and Helen, who came specifically to Central Oregon to catch the eclipse. This was their third total eclipse, but the first one they could actually see because clouds obscured their other views of totality.

As the moon started to pass in front of the sun, we put on our special, welder's grade glasses and caught what looked like Pac-Man in the sky.

As totality neared, the temperature dropped dramatically and we had to put on our coats again.

It was getting dimmer by the minute.

Then, from atop Morning Glory Wall and Picnic Lunch Wall, hikers and climbers started a whooping sound and it echoed throughout the canyon.

Then we all whooped it up and it felt like a scene from Planet of the Apes.

The London couple laughed.

Richard told us to look west toward Mount Jefferson. When that goes dark, look back towards the sun and the total eclipse would be again.

Sure enough, that is exactly what happened.

It wasn't totally dark, but it was unlike anything I've seen. It was eerie, like a live sci-fi movie scene.

The totality, though, was spectacular. We had to take off our glasses to see it.

Unfortunately, no images I've seen captured what we saw. It looked like a multi-colored aurora borealis dancing around the corona. Even this YouTube video failed to capture our experience at Smith Rock.

When the sun peaked out again, we were nearly blinded by the light and rushed to put on our glasses. It also got warmer again and life slowly returned to normal.

It was sad to see the eclipse end as people started leaving immediately, to beat the traffic.

It didn't seem right to just dash off after witnessing such an astonishing celestial event, so we hung around and heard others say it was better than they thought it would be.

Exactly.

Some see what they want to in cosmic coincidences. Could recent disasters like hurricanes, fires, flooding, earthquakes and Trump be linked to the total eclipse of the sun?

Nah.

During totality, it was easy to see how inconsequential we all are. Our problems, no matter how big or small, don't amount to a hill of beans in this galaxy. Rather, this globe is just a speck of dust in the universe.

It's something worth pondering at Christmastime.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A rerun that's one too many

Now that Republicans have struggled to do the one thing that they're capable of doing, cut taxes for the rich, it is time for the rest of us to ignore the taxman, too.

We've seen this movie too many times before.

How does slashing your income while escalating your spending lead to financial solvency.

It doesn't. It leads to the massive deficits we enjoy today.

When Reagan cleaved income taxes for the rich in the early 80s, he also jacked up spending on the military to ridiculous levels.

It failed then to do much for the economy. Stable oil prices by the mid-80s resurrected the economy of the U.S. and much of the world. Still, we had the worst drop in the stock market's history under Reagan.

When George W. Bush hacked taxes for the rich earlier this millennium, while also starting two unfunded wars, the economy did not go through the roof.

In fact, it collapsed in 2008.

Now, Trump and congressional Republicans have rushed through another massive tax cut for the rich while increasing spending for never-ending wars.

The "tax holiday" granted to corporations who stash trillions overseas will likely do what the last tax holiday did in 2004. Corporations used their cash to buy out competitors, which resulted in 20,000 jobs lost.

Republicans do not care about jobs. They don't really give a damn about this country.

Republicans care about winning elections, cutting taxes, satisfying their donor base and enraging Democrats. That's it.

Oh, and contrary to their constant whining when Obama was president, Republicans do not give a shit about the deficit.

And, they want free stuff. They want constant war, Social Security and Medicare while not having to pay for them.

What Reagan, Bush, Trump and congressional Republicans have taught the average American is that you, too, can increase your spending beyond your ability to ever pay it back.

Who cares. Just declare bankruptcy like Trump did multiple times and everything will be good.

The lesson learned in 2017 is this: You're a fool to pay off your debts. Also, don't file your taxes unless you're getting money back.

The government has no intention of ever meeting its debt obligations. Why should you.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

State has no money to sink into OSU-Cascades

The Residential District is housing for faculty
More than a year after it opened with three buildings on a 10-acre campus, OSU-Cascades finally released a master plan this month.

Talk about putting the cart before the horse. Or in this case, the dam before the beaver.

It's no wonder the state legislature rejected the OSU leadership's request for $69 million earlier this year. Instead it offered $9 million in bonds for the branch campus on Bend's westside. At this rate of funding, it will be decades before it is even partially built out.

Now, the OSU brain trust wants just $38 million to partially fill a pumice pit and turn a demolition dump into a full-fledged university.

The state doesn't have the money OSU-Cascades wants.

Like other states, Oregon is getting out of the business of funding higher education. It's been a long-time goal of conservatives to de-fund higher education because they few most schools as swamps of liberalism. 

Oregon, though, does offer free tuition to some community college students.

But, the state's flagship universities, Oregon and OSU, who already have their own boards of trustees, will likely become completely privately funded by 2025, if not sooner.

The University of Oregon and OSU are planning on becoming private institutions by seeking multi-billion dollar endowments. Of course, they're also raising tuition and accepting more out-of-state students who pay significantly more than in-state students.

Meanwhile, high rollers in Central Oregon have raised $10 million for OSU-Cascades. While impressive, that sum won't buy many buildings, let alone much-needed parking spaces.

As enumerated before, OSU-Cascades allowed no public vote on the location of the campus. It chose the most-congested and most expensive area of town in which to build the school. Students can't afford to live anywhere near the campus. In fact, the new master plan shows housing for faculty.

If professors can't afford to live near the school, how can students?

As we embrace the era of privatization, fewer in-state students will be able to attend in-state "public" colleges or universities.

In the 1980s, the state contributed more than 70 percent toward the cost of running the state's colleges and universities. Today, it is less than 7 percent, thanks in large part to tax-cutting measures voted by Oregonians.

That's the spirit of our times: Cut taxes and expect money to still flow to public institutions. Having your cake and eating it, too.

It's like saying, "Okay, let's all take a pay cut and we'll all have more money at the end of the month!"

Isn't that insane?

Kansans destroyed their state with tax cuts and now Republicans are hell-bent on destroying the country with their current tax proposal.

Once it passes, and corporations get their big fat tax cuts, maybe they'll turn around and fund higher education. Uh, not really.

And yet, it won't be long before UO is re-named Nike University.

Maybe OSU in Corvallis can be called Reser Salsa University.

OSU-Cascades needs a local sugar daddy like Les Schwab Tires or Brooks Resources.

If it's Les Schwab, we can call OSU-Cascades, LSU.

The school's slogan could be: We Tread on You.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Trump won't be impeached

Trump greeted in Hawaii on his way to the Far East
Of course, I will always hope that Donald Trump is removed from office in total disgrace.

But, it's not likely to happen.

The Republican-dominated Congress will never impeach Trump no matter what he has done, may have done or will do that breaks any and all laws.

As Trump said during the presidential campaign last year, he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and his poll numbers would go up.

In other words, no matter the outrage that Trump provokes, it simply does not matter.

Trump demonstrated during the campaign and continues to demonstrate in his Russian-tainted presidency that he is racist, immoral and the epitome of sleaze.

Oh, and Trump is a "fucking moron," according to his own secretary of state.

We're living in an upside-down world where there are alternative facts, constant lies and no leadership.

Reality, with its well-known liberal bias, is getting harder to grasp.

Yet, Trump's poll numbers continue to drop to unprecedented levels.

The infamous Steele dossier, with it's pee-pee tape revelations, has largely been corroborated.

Trump's cabinet is woefully inept. His political appointees are not interested in the departments they oversee.

At least nine of his associates have ties to Russia that they failed to disclose.

There are two indictments, one guilty plea and rumbles of more to come.

But, it will all be for naught.

Even if special counsel Robert Mueller proves that Trump himself colluded with the Russians to win the election, the GOP Congress will gnash its collective teeth and move on to raiding government coffers, destroying the environment and denying health care to millions.

Will it cause a constitutional crisis? Maybe, but Republicans do not care about the Constitution.

There is nothing anyone can do about it until the next presidential election. Next year's midterm elections aren't likely to give Democrats a working majority in Congress.

Unfortunately, even if Trump's approval rating is below 20 percent he could still win re-election, thanks to the Electoral College, the legacy from our slavery era.

Let's say the stock market crashes, the economy tanks and another major terrorist attack whacks the U.S.

Trump will just blame Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton and Trump's "deplorables" will nod in agreement like bobble-head dolls. Check out this story from Politico. The ending says it all.

In fact, Trump only caters to the "deplorables" in a rhetorical sense while shafting them through executive orders.

Trump is our "reality TV" president for a nation of streaming couch potatoes and video gamers.

Our only solace is that Trump will quit.

Hopefully sooner, rather than later.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Price We Pay

If ...

... using an assault rifle to kill 58 and wound 500 concertgoers in Las Vegas, or using an assault rifle to kill 49 and injure 58 in a nightclub in Orlando, or using an assault rifle to murder 20 first graders and 6 educators in Newtown, or using any type of gun to kill a family in a domestic violence case is the price we pay for the right bear arms ...



Then ...

... isn't a football player kneeling for the national anthem, in a peaceful protest against police brutality, the price we pay for the right of free speech?

Which is worse?


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What we learned from the Vietnam War

Apocalypse then ...

"We learn from history that we learn nothing from history."

-- George Bernard Shaw


That's not entirely true about the Vietnam War.


After our defeat, the military developed the ability to fight at night through night-vision goggles and infrared optics. 


The military also dramatically improved the accuracy of its bombs through satellite-guided missiles that turn unguided bombs
 ... Apocalypse now
into "smart" bombs.

We now have drones flying into battle.

In other words, we learned to kill much more efficiently and effectively.

Also, the advances in battlefield medical care during the Vietnam conflict substantially improved the rate of survival in subsequent conflicts. Granted, many of those lives are seriously compromised today.

After watching much of the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick 10-day, 18-hour documentary, "The Vietnam War," it's clear that we learned little else from Vietnam.

In fact, we duplicated the fraudulent start of the Vietnam War in the Iraq War.

The Tonkin Gulf "attacks" gave President Johnson the pretext to dramatically escalate our involvement in Vietnam even though he and his advisers knew there were slim chances of ever winning the war. Our bombing in neighboring Cambodia helped destabilize the region and led to the murderous Khmer Rouge.

Likewise, George W. Bush used the mythical "weapons of mass destruction" to invade Iraq that ushered in unending war and destabilized the region further than it has been since World War II.

More importantly, we didn't care about the Vietnamese people then and we don't care about foreigners today.

Also, this country is as divided today as it was during the Vietnam War.

And, the Sixties were a tumultuous decade.

Predictably, the documentary has its detractors on the left and the right, from Americans and South Vietnamese.

This is what happens when you lose a war, particularly one where you won all the major battles.

The Vietnam War, though, was the culmination of our terribly misguided reaction to communism.

In the 1940s and '50s, Americans turned on each other over communism. We had so little faith in our own institutions that we jailed or ostracized people for having different points of view.

Now, communism needs no defense. It has failed as often as any corrupt, oppressive form of government.

The Korean War, the first test of the "domino theory," never truly ended and we're living with the consequences today. We had a chance to liberate the north, but we went too far and antagonized the Chinese who joined the conflict and pushed the UN forces back to the 38th parallel.

When Cuba, 90 miles from the USA, went communist, Americans started freaking out. Communism was going to take over the world!

Communism would take over in places that had no viable alternative.

North Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh embraced communism because the U.S. didn't side with them in their war of independence from the French.

We picked the wrong side. We backed a corrupt regime in South Vietnam that did not have the full support of its people.

Vietnam War apologists claim that the military could have won if the politicians had let them.

Not exactly. Even the U.S. military has concluded that the defeat in Vietnam was substantially due to our military's mistakes. Add in the atrocities committed by American forces in My Lai and elsewhere, and you have the recipe for disaster.

The American military record speaks for itself. Since World War II, the U.S. military, in spite of the trillions spent and thousands of lives lost, has not had a clear-cut victory in any major conflict.

Some still maintain that the Vietnam War was a worthy cause.

No, it wasn't.

Vietnam, like Korea, was a proxy war that pitted the U.S. against the Soviets at first.

We fought in these far-flung places so that we, rather than the Soviets, could exploit these countries.

At the same time we were fighting totalitarian communism in Asia, we were supporting totalitarian dictatorships throughout the world.

The hypocrisy did not go unnoticed by many in this country or others abroad.

In the end, the dreaded communists won.

Did they treat the South Vietnamese people well? No, they didn't.

But, when two million people died in Cambodia under Pol Pot, it wasn't the Americans who came to their rescue, but the communist Vietnamese army that saved the day.

And, how do we treat Vietnam today? We get a lot of our clothes and shoes from there that are produced by their exploited workforce.

After the USSR imploded in 1989, China became the last major communist country. Naturally, we get most of our goods from China that are manufactured by ridiculously cheap labor.

If we truly detested communists, why do we import so much from them, which ends up supporting  their regimes?

Since at least the 1940s, the GOP has been the most strident anti-communist political party.

Ironically, due to the interference of the Russians and their despotic leader, Vladimir Putin,
we have the former KGB operative's hand-picked president, a Republican, in the White House today.

Rank-and-file Republicans do not care that former Soviets rigged our election. In fact, they are grateful to Putin that Hillary Clinton lost.

That's how far we have fallen from the days of the Vietnam War.