Presidents’ Day

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What a difference 13 months makes. We’ve had over a year to judge the timber of the person currently holding the office of President, and the results are not good. His latest fiasco in Florida has much of the country and the world shaking it’s head in disbelief.

Donald-Trump-2-AP

Smiles and ‘thumbs up’ in the hospital visiting survivors of the Parkland massacre? Then off to Mar A Lago for a party? How insensitive can you be? Scratch that, we already know.

My first memory of anything related to the presidency is from November, 1963. I was six years old, and my parents had the television turned to the news. There, in Washington, D.C., was a plane with a service lift next to it. It was lowering a casket containing the body of President Kennedy from the cargo hold, to be placed into a hearse. That’s a snapshot memory for me. I don’t recall anything before or after that moment from that day, but that image, seen many times since, still remains vivid. I don’t know if I watched anything else of the funeral or related events. If I did, those memories are lost.

There have been ten presidents since that fateful day in 1963. Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush the first, Clinton, Bush the lesser, Obama, and now Trump. Each has made his mark on the world, some for the better, some for the worse.

The things I’ll remember about each President:

Johnson: Vietnam. He should have declared victory and pulled out our troops. Or at least not lied about what was really going on there.

Nixon: Watergate. Canceling the Apollo program. “Only Nixon could go to China”.

Ford: Amiable fellow who lost any chance to be an important (or elected) President with the pardon of Nixon.

Carter: Iran. An otherwise good man, who lucked into office at the wrong time for his leadership abilities.

Bush the first: “Read my lips”. A decent fellow, for the most part, even though I didn’t care for many of his policies. He knew government inside-out, and was a competent administrator.

Clinton: “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, (and the ignored or forgotten) Don’t Pursue”.  Accusations of womanizing. Constantly having to defend himself against baseless accusations (Whitewater was his Benghazi), and finally getting caught for lying about inappropriate sexual conduct.

Bush the Lesser: His inability to speak a coherent sentence. 9/11. Afghanistan, then virtually ignoring that war to invade Iraq. Even with his incompetence as a President, I didn’t think he was out to destroy the government.

Obama: Marriage equality. It took his VP coming out in support to get him off his duff publicly about it, but better late than never. Ending DADT. His genuine pain while comforting the families of the children and teachers killed at Sandy Hook. Smartest man to hold the office in a long time. Extreme competence in governing. His most serious scandal occurred when he wore a tan suit to a news conference. The right wing echo chamber went nuts over that. If the 22nd Amendment didn’t stand in the way, he’d still be President.

Trump: A (hopefully) momentary glitch in the matrix. How anyone could or can support this con man is beyond my comprehension. His comments during the campaign, his “win” by losing to Hillary by a vote of 65 million to 63 million, his complete lack of preparation to govern (he and his team thought they were going to lose, just like most of the rest of us, so they didn’t do the work to be ready to govern on January 20), and his inability to govern since. The government is reeling, with the State Department, for example, shedding experienced high-level career statesmen who are not being replaced. Appointments to department heads who have as their stated goals the destruction and dismantling of the very offices they hold. The Russia imbroglio is coming to a head, and if Trump avoids indictment and impeachment it will be surprising. Most of his sycophants are going down, perhaps including members of his immediate family. I’ll be glad when this “long national nightmare is over” (to quote Gerald Ford after his pardon of Nixon).

We’ve had quite the collection of men who have served as president. Some have been great, some have been bad, some have been mediocre. We will find out if we are strong enough to endure the incompetence and destruction being wrought by the current occupant as he spreads his own “American carnage” through our institutions.

Soon, we’ll have a woman President. We should have had one now, but Vladimir really doesn’t like her, and we let him decide. Next time, I hope we do better.

 

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GOP, NRA complicit in Florida school shooting

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When you drive the getaway car from the scene of a liquor store robbery where the clerk was killed, you can be charged with homicide even if you never entered the store. If you supply alcohol to someone and they’re involved in a fatal DUI crash later, you can be charged with a crime. If you hide a criminal from the police, you can be arrested.

Give money to a Congressman who votes to allow mentally disturbed individuals easy access to high-power assault rifles, however, you’re off scott-free when one of those people uses that weapon to kill others.  If you lobby to take military style weapons off banned firearms lists, you’re just a patriotic American who supports the Second Amendment. Vote to make these things possible, and you’re only responsible for “thoughts and prayers”.

The United States is sick. I was holding onto the hope that this disease was not terminal, but that diminishes each time we see the news of another mass shooting. Just this year alone, we’ve had 20 fatalities at school shootings, 17 of them in the most recent incident. What have we done about it? Nothing. Well, almost nothing. We elect and re-elect people like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Devin Nunes, and Donald Trump. We let them off with issuing platitudes. Children die, the NRA remains silent and writes checks.

Dianne Feinstein has been dealing with this issue since she found San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Mascone dead in their offices, moments after being shot on November 27, 1978. “I feel a kind of anger today. The custom is don’t speak about it, just express grief the day after. Well, I’m tired of just doing that. We become culpable when we do nothing to stop it.”

I think we entered the terminal phase of our disease on December 14, 2012. That’s the date, in case you don’t recall, of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Twenty first graders were murdered by a nut with guns. We did nothing at the federal level to address the problem.

Gun nuts say “MORE GUNS!” 270 to 330 million guns in the United States, and they want more. The 2011 Small Arms Survey lists 89 guns per 100 people in the U.S. (yet only about 34% of Americans actually own a gun. Gun owners hoard.) The next on the list, at about 55 guns per 100 people, is Yemen. Canada clocks in at 31. If more guns were the key to safety, the United States should be the safest country in the western world. Tell that to the parents of the children killed in Florida yesterday.

“I’ll be able to make sure that when you walk down the street you’re not gonna be shot. Your child isn’t gonna be shot.” – Donald J. Trump 8/24/16  I guess we can congratulate him for being right. Yesterday’s victims weren’t walking down the street. He didn’t say anything about kids in school, apparently.

“I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns.” – Carly, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, scene of yesterday’s shooting, in response to the following Tweet by right-wing noise-maker Tomi Lahren: “Can the Left let the families grieve for even 24 hours before they push their anti-gun and anti-gunowner agenda? My goodness. This isn’t about a gun it’s about another lunatic.”

“Here’s where we remember that the CDC is forbidden BY LAW from studying gun violence as a public health problem.” – Charles P. Pierce, on Twitter.

Student who survived this latest school shooting: “We need to dig out of this hole… there is something seriously wrong here. And some of our policymakers… need to look in the mirror and take some action because… without action, ideas stay ideas and children die.” CNN on Twitter.

“BREAKING: Leader of white nationalist group has confirmed suspect in Florida school shooting was member of his organization.” – Associated Press on Twitter. (So this won’t help build the wall or ban Muslims from entering the United States.)

“From Parkland, a student there: “We’re children, you guys are, like, the adults. Take action, work together, come over your politics, and get something done.” We need more than the usual “thoughts and prayers”. Act! No tension between 2nd Amendment and sane gun safety measures” – former Attorney General Eric Holder via Twitter.

The list goes on. And you know what? We still won’t do anything about it. Not as long as the NRA has a lock on the GOP, and the GOP stays in power, Until then, we’re dying. The children are dying. Our republic is dying.

The best the GOP can muster up is “thoughts and prayers”.

Nunes, GOP just gave you CLASSIFIED clearance

Devin_Nunes,_officialCongratulations!

Devin Nunes, joined by the Republican members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, has just granted you *CLASSIFIED* security clearance.

Within the next five days, you’ll get to see a classified memo, authored by Nunes and GOP committee staff, that not even the Department of Justice or the FBI has seen.

The DOJ says this release is “extraordinarily reckless”. If you’ll recall, the right wing media echo chamber, led by Fox “News”, went ballistic when then-director of the FBI, James Comey, said Hillary Clinton was “extremely careless” with classified information. This news cycle, however, they’ve been breathless with #releasethememo. How times change.

During the hearing where the HPSCI voted to release the Nunes memo, they also voted to prevent the release of a rebuttal memo. Prepared by the Democratic minority on the committee, it would shine further light on the veracity of the information Nunes wants you to see, and most likely on things he does not want made public. Both votes were strictly along party lines.

Pundits are chattering that the memo will be used in an attempt to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and replace him with someone more amenable to PresidentTrump. That person could then end the Mueller investigation, and/or fire Mueller.

The investigation has already snared several people involved in the Trump campaign, and promises to reach all the way up to the President. It’s no wonder Trump and his minions, especially Devin Nunes, are working so tirelessly to bring it to an end. They know what the truth is, and they really, *really* don’t want you to know.

Regardless of how the investigation ends, I’m going to make the best of my new *CLASSIFIED* clearance. After all, there’s got to be some interesting stuff out at Area 51.

The truth is out there.

LGBTQ Homicide Rate Nearly Doubles For 2017

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In 2016, there were 28 homicides of LGBTQ individuals in the United States (excluding the mass shooting event where 49 died at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub). In 2017, that number nearly doubled, to 52. Since 1996, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) has produced annual reports on the violence experienced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected communities.

NCAVP catalogs 25 homicides in 2012, 18 in 2013, 20 in 2014, and 24 in 2015. Since there are many suspected cases where law enforcement or family conceal the LGBTQ status of the victim, it is reasonable to assume the actual numbers are higher.

In 2017, according to the report, 22 of the victims were transgender women of color. Each of the past 5 years has seen a steady rise in the number of these killings. World wide, over 270 transgender individuals were killed in 2017.

Five states accounted for over half of the homicides in the United States. Texas reported 7, New York 6, Georgia 5, and 4 each in Louisiana and Florida.

From the NCAVP’s 2017 report:

We are releasing this report during a time when our communities are
witnessing the few civil rights protections and policies being rolled back
and discrimination being instituted into law; when media organizations and
organizations working with survivors are receiving an unprecedented number of
stories of hate fueled attacks.
While much of this violence is not new, but rather amplified, this past year has
sparked a national conversation about the escalation of hate violence against
so many marginalized communities. NCAVP hopes that sharing this information
now will encourage people to reject anti-LGBTQ bias whenever it occurs, and to
resist any hateful rhetoric or policies put forward by this administration or by
legislators.”

Much progress has been made in the arena of civil rights since Matthew Shepard’s 1998 murder in Laramie, Wyoming. Violence, including homicide, is still a fact of life for many, however. Some states have introduced or passed legislation to allow discrimination against LGBTQ individuals based on supposed “sincerely held religious beliefs”. The Trump administration has signaled it’s support for these attacks on the civil rights of Americans. (one wonders how those who propose and support these kind of laws will respond when some cult claims a religious exemption from homicide laws after they sacrifice a virgin to their “god”)

Elections have consequences, and those of 2016 were no exception. The dramatic jump in violence committed against the LGBTQ community since is one of those consequences. The roaches that had previously remained hidden under their rocks have felt emboldened to act. Unfortunately, we can’t count on this President or his administration to take action to curb the violence.

We’ve made a lot of progress recently. It’s clear, however, that we cannot rest or relent in our efforts to secure our rights and safety. Fifty two people in the United States were murdered last year, simply because they were LGBTQ. This spike in violence, hard on the heels of the election of Donald Trump, must not be allowed to continue. It will take the attention and efforts of all of us to make 2017 an aberration that does not happen again.

Locally, resources are available to the LGBTQ community. The Source LGBT+ Center can provide information and referrals. The drop-in center is available Tuesday through Friday 3pm to 6pm at 208 W. Main St., Suite B (downstairs in the Montgomery Square building). Their Facebook page is here (https://www.facebook.com/thesourcelgbt/). Their website is here (http://thesourcelgbt.org). Their phone number is 559-429-4277.

Are you ready for nuclear war? Trump is.

atombombNorth Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” – The President of the United States, January 2, 2018, via Twitter.

I hope you are all ready for nuclear Armageddon. Trump is further goading a belligerent despot, not known for rationality. (neither is Trump, for that matter)

I never thought I would be hoping that the cooler heads in a situation like this would be in North Korea or China.

“Mine is bigger than yours!” Sounds like a middle school bully, trying to impress the other kids on the school yard.

And the GOP just keeps clapping.

November can’t come soon enough.

Nunes votes with GOP: Your taxes going up

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In the House’s rush to pass it’s conference bill, they mucked it up and will have to vote again, after they pull items that don’t meet the rules. Our Congressman, Devin Nunes, voted right along with the rest of the GOP, and now will get to vote “aye” twice on “tax reform”.

In simple terms this means that if you are a millionaire rancher in CA-22, you’re sitting pretty, tax-wise. Everybody else, not so much.

If you’re middle income, get ready to see your taxes go up. The Republicans have been denying this is what is going to happen, but the majority of analysts, including the CBO, say otherwise. And since they’re working their damnedest to get rid of the ACA, expect your insurance premiums to skyrocket, too.

If you’re in the very lowest income brackets, expect to really feel the pinch. Trump, McConnell, Ryan, and Nunes are making sure you are squeezed so they can give even larger tax breaks to the already super-wealthy. And you can forget about health insurance coverage at all.

Fewer than 25% of Americans think this bill is a good idea, but the Republicans are wrapping it up and putting it under your tree this year anyway.

Oh, hey look! There’s Devin Nunes, ho ho ho-ing it up with the rest of the GOP. I think I see the Grinch schmoozing with them, too.

Merry Christmas, America.

The Seven Words You Can’t Say in the Trump Administration

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George Carlin famously had a list – the seven words you can’t say on television. He would  list them off, and, if he were on broadcast television at the time, you’d have seven ‘bleeps’ covering them. Cable TV didn’t have that restriction, so you could listen and laugh. (If you want the list, just click on the link above. I’m not sure if Gannett and the Visalia Times Delta would appreciate some of them appearing here.)

On December 15, 2017, the Washington Post published an article listing the seven words the United States Centers for Disease Control is no longer allowed to say in it’s budget documents. Here’s that list (hopefully Gannett and the VTD won’t mind this one):

evidence-based

science-based

vulnerableentitlement

diversity

transgender

fetus

The Trump administration told the CDC, according to the Post,

Instead of “science-based” or ­“evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.

There’s no telling what “community standards and wishes” will result in with terms such as ‘transgender’ and ‘fetus’. I’m not going to list the possibilities here, but we can just imagine what some of the Trumpsters will come up with. Ignorance runs deep with them, and they’re proud of it.

In true Trump fashion, nobody will admit to authoring the list given to the CDC. Alison Kelly, an official with the CDC’s Office of Financial Services, would only say that she was simply relaying the information.

The chilling effect of the Trump administration’s attack on evidence-based research as a political tool is working it’s way through the scientific community already. NPR reportsthat climate scientists are discovering their grant requests don’t get approved if the term “climate change” is in the title or summary.

We’ve placed the idiots in charge, and they’re hell-bent (I can say that here, can’t I?) on destroying the government. The red-hats are cheering them on.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–

Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–Because I was not a Trade Unionist.Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–Because I was not a Jew.Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

–  Martin Niemoller (1892-1984), about the Nazis.

Let’s update those words to reflect today’s reality:

First they came for the News Reporters, and I did not speak out-

Because I was not a News Reporter.

Then they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out-

Because I was not a Muslim.

Then they came for the Scientists, and I did not speak out-

Because I was not a Scientist.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

Since they don’t want government involved in anything (except war – there’s tons of money to be made in war), cancer research could the next victim of Trumpism. After all, it’s only cell growth, and, apparently, God’s will. And we know Donald Trump is a fine, upstanding Christian. Right?