Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Things to be Thankful For....While They Last

Note: This post was ready to publish last week, but I wanted to give a friend an opportunity to convince me that the net neutrality situation was a non-issue. That was a mistake. I remain unconvinced that what the FCC intends to do would not wreck things beyond repair.


It is not difficult to find things to be grateful for during this American Thanksgiving holiday. The question is whether you will still have that sentiment at this time next year. Much of what we take for granted is now in serious jeopardy thanks to this edition of the Presidency and Congress. Life as we know it may not survive through the next three years. One could argue that optimism about the future has been the first casualty.

Amur Tiger

Elephants, and lions, and tigers, and Polar Bears, oh my. They may be trophy-hunted or poached into extinction, or killed off by the policies exercised by climate change deniers. Science has no place in federal government right now, unless it can be used to accelerate the extraction of fossil fuels in the interest of "secure" energy of U.S. origin. The only bright spot has been the President's apparent reversal of his bid to overturn the ban on the importation of African Elephant parts by trophy hunters who kill their victims in Zimbabwe and Zambia. He has faced more public pressure on this one issue than any other so far, and he is apparently bowing to it. Good to know.

Great Sand Dunes National Park
Public Lands

The onslaught against nature continues with a proposal to raise one-day admission fees to popular national parks a whopping $50.00 to $70.00. Yes, our parks are starved for funds for maintenance and other services, but that is thanks to a bloated Department of Defense budget that amounts to corporate welfare for private contractors, and wasteful spending in other areas as well. The conspiracy theorist in me believes the astronomical entry fee proposals are designed to drive down park visitations. Even people who can afford those prices may boycott the parks on principal. The less the attendance at parks, the more our President and Congress can argue that those public lands should be opened up to something truly beneficial: leases for oil, gas, and mineral extraction. The government will not see the profit, but the multinational corporations doing the work certainly will, which is the whole point. Meanwhile, leases are already being drawn up for properties managed by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and other agencies.

© ACLU.org
A Neutral Internet

Do you think the World Wide Web is just fine as it is? Me, too, which is why I am aghast that the Federal Communications Commission, again led by a Presidential appointee, plans on allowing ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to pretty much write their own rules for access to the internet, both for users like you and me, and for those who provide services and content online. The oversimplified scenario is that if you want access to some of the websites and apps you are enjoying currently, you will have to pay more. Likewise, if you want your business to continue enjoying a (high) profile online, you will have to put up more money to get the same amount of customer traffic. Gee, I wonder who gets rich in all this (rhetorical question, sorry).

Meanwhile, alternative media, the non-fake news we turn to for the real scoop, will get overwhelmed by traditional media that can afford to get its message out there. Organizing protests, boycotts, petitions, and other means of dissent will become infinitely more difficult if people have to choose between different social media outlets, or are now unable to afford access at all. It might be the final nail in the coffin for dissent.

What Next?

That question could be taken two ways: What other atrocities of policy are we in for? Or, what do we do to stop this runaway train? I cannot recall a time when I have written more about public issues, signed more online petitions, or (ever) written to my Congressperson than I am doing now; and it has nothing to do with political affiliation. I honestly feel I am being personally assaulted because of my passion for liberty, wildlife, creative enterprises, small business, the sharing economy, local agriculture, and rights to freedom of (non-hate) speech, healthcare, and safety. This administration is not good for anybody, except the ultra-rich who are also greedy.

What we have to do is avoid despair, and keep up the pressure. Keep informing each other. Raise awareness of issues as you yourself become aware of them. Raise funds for organizations battling against this administration on the streets, in the courts, and elsewhere. Mostly, don't lose friends over disagreements.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Elephants Trump(eting)

My social media newsfeeds have blown up the past couple of days with the news of our President seeking to overturn the ban on importation of "trophy" elephant parts by American hunters who take the animals in Zimbabwe and Zambia. This seems to be a collective "last straw" in tolerance for this administration's egregious policies, symbolic of an utter disregard for anything and anyone without financial affluence.

Irony of ironies, the symbol of the Republican Party is....an elephant. When you cannot even respect the mascot of the political affiliation that planted you in the White House, you really have sunken to a new low. We are not surprised, of course, just continually disappointed and angered by your contempt for other living creatures. You show no mercy even on threatened and endangered species, at home and abroad.

The other day a Congresswoman introduced an amendment to the SECURE American Energy Act that would exempt oil companies from paying for violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. When the next spill happens, these huge corporations would be relieved of the financial burden of rehabilitating oil-soaked birds.

Meanwhile, an article in the current issue of The Nation outlined the methodical takeover of the U.S. Department of the Interior by oil, gas, and mining interests thanks to Presidential appointments and the resulting "reassignment" of key personnel. No public scandal holds a candle to the conflagration that is the wanton destruction of our country being wrought behind the scenes. Policies are being dictated by the very industries that are supposed to be regulated by our government.

Oh, and just for good measure, the tax plans proposed by the House and Senate are going to fleece you and me to pay for the opening of public lands to drilling and other natural resource exploitation, with few if any laws left in place to protect us from pollution of our air and water. Naturally, we will not have healthcare to treat us for the effects of those pollutants and toxins, either. That is apparently just fine as long as the ultra-wealthy can continue the exponential growth of their profits.

What boggles my mind completely is how anyone who is not in the one-percent tax bracket can continue to endorse policy that is literally going to kill them, or their parents, or their children and grandchildren. By extension, how can you then continue approving the performance of the President and Congress? I am left with only a handful of theories: You are hoping this administration's destructive tendencies brings about the Second Coming of Christ; you are blissfully ignorant; you suffer yourself from mental illness; you have no concept of what is truly important in life; you have no empathy for other people, let alone other life forms (see mental illness again).

Mr. President, I sincerely wish that you would finally admit that you simply do not care about the lives of the overwhelming majority of the electorate. It might be the first honest statement you have made since taking office. Actions speak louder than tweets, and it is abundantly clear that you just don't give a damn. Unless they are a family member or someone who can boost your income or your ego, you have no use for them. The rest of us are a means to inflating your own bank account and sense of self-importance.

Lately I have been at a loss for words other than the four-letter variety, and my followers do not deserve a dumbed-down vocabulary, or the vitriol that they no longer even have to search for given how prevalent it is in all media outlets. No sir, I will not stoop to that level of indecency. However, I can no longer be polite, either. That ship has sailed, and I will be doing everything in my power to thwart your horrible agenda. The people of this country already know what makes America Great, and you are hell-bent on taking all of it away from them. Not on my watch you don't, [expletive deleted].

Friday, November 3, 2017

Our Right to Competent Leadership

© RallyPoint.com and MemeGenerator.net

A few blog posts ago I wrote that I would no longer apologize for my opinions of our current U.S. President, Cabinet, Congress, and, more to the point, their policies. The pace of my exasperation seems to be accelerating, if anything. Now, I find myself questioning whether many of these people are even competent human beings, let alone government leaders. I hope you will read this post to the end, as there is something here for everyone, regardless of political party affiliation.

We deserve better, not just "different" leadership, and one must call into question whether what we are getting is any kind of leadership. Certainly not by example, unless you think off-the-cuff reactionary Twitter tweets qualify. Have you seen any acceptable standards of statesmanship, humility, gratitude, or even understanding of the Office of President from this person? Me, either. His idea of disaster relief is personally dispensing paper towels to hurricane victims?

Virtually everyone I know would be better qualified to be President of the United States. This includes people I regularly argue with on social media; and even includes people who reside in other countries, who have a better grasp of world history, justice, economics, and have a better command of the English language. I mean, you can all pronounce "diversity," right?

Pretty much every legitimate news outlet is appalled at the emptiness of this administration's rhetoric; and also decries its commitment to the dismemberment of vital agencies and policies that protect labor, the consumer, the environment, and the less fortunate members of our citizenry who are in, or on the verge of, poverty. Children are going to suffer the most if we endorse the course laid out by our "leaders." They will suffer now as public education shrinks or is abolished outright. They will suffer down the road as they become adults who must face an unforgiving landscape of unemployment, diminishing wages and benefits, unregulated products and services, poor air and water quality, and little recourse to change their circumstances.

Virtually everyone I know would be better qualified to be President of the United States....I mean, you can all pronounce "diversity," right?

Those who voted for our current Commander-in-Chief can be forgiven for their desperate desire for change. There is no question the political establishment no longer functions the way it should. The best candidates for public good are systematically erased from consideration in both the Democratic and Republican party tickets. However, it should be obvious by now that our current President is acting purely in self-interest, and on behalf of a minuscule fraction of the population that is ultra-wealthy with no sense of responsibility or obligation to anyone else, including employees, consumers, and the future generations of this great nation, let alone citizens of any other country, or the biosphere and all of creation. Maybe they are looking out for shareholders on Wall Street. Maybe. This is an administration of the short term, the now, the "to hell with tomorrow."

We should have a literal Constitutional right to competent leadership, if it does not exist already. We also need to draft some kind of mechanism for the electorate to remove incompetent individuals and their Cabinet appointees from office when it reaches a point at which their actions endanger the nation. We are quickly approaching that point, and some would argue we are already past it.

Even given the preceding paragraphs, I know this country has a habit of overcoming the worst of itself. We succeed in spite of government policies as much as we do because of them. These next three years are going to test our metal, more so than at any other point in history. I have hope in the average person, truly, but it sure would be helpful if government would just get out of the way and let us do what is best for ourselves and each other. Wait, am I sounding like a conservative now? Happy "diversary," everyone.