Category Archives: Uncategorized

H.R. McMaster shreds the Honor Code

You are undoubtedly familiar with the Honor Code H.R. McMaster was required to adhere to when he was a cadet at West Point. Everyone knows “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” A seemingly simple rule that anyone can comprehend and follow, but you may not know the rest of it. In this case it is clear beyond clear that McMaster violated the Code by quibbling.

LYING: Cadets violate the Honor Code by lying if they deliberately deceive another by stating an untruth or by any direct form of communication to include the telling of a partial truth and the vague or ambiguous use of information or language with the intent to deceive or mislead. The term for this kind of evasive, misleading statement is “quibbling”, and it is considered a violation of the Code.

In the administration’s effort to discredit the report of the president revealing sensitive classified intelligence to Russian officials in the White House, they had McMaster make this statement:

The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false. … At no time, at no time, were intelligence sources or methods discussed. The president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. … I was in the room. It didn’t happen.

This was a clear attempt to lead the listener to conclude that the press story was false, but it did so in what has been termed a classic non-denial denial. He categorically denied certain actions, discussing intelligence sources or methods and disclosing military operations that were not already publicly known. By listening to his statement we are expected to conclude that the story reported by the Post and others was false and shouldn’t be relied upon. If you look more closely, though, you see that the stories in question never claimed that he discussed sources and methods or military operations.

In other words, in order to give the false impression that the Post story was wrong McMaster denied facts that were never alleged. That is, he told a partial truth and used vague or ambiguous language with the intent to mislead.

I don’t know if a military officer remains bound to the Honor Code when he is no longer a cadet, but at a minimum he violated the most basic principles that those seeking a commission in the armed forces are expected to follow.

Can you possibly argue that this can be tolerated?

Freeze-dried Fear and Loathing

Everyone has seen the commercials.

Scene 1:  Gathered in the kitchen and bathed in sunshine streaming through the window, a family casually prepares fresh fruit and vegetables.

Scene 2:  The same family, gathered around the dining table on which a feast has been spread. They seem to be enjoying lively conversation and ambient music, oblivious to the fact, glimpsed through the window, that their house now appears to be floating amongst icebergs in an arctic sea.

The voice-over calmly extolls the virtues of a freeze-dry device that preserves food up to twenty-five years, “No matter what happens.”

I only once saw a harrowing variation on this commercial that substituted a hoard of zombies, hammering on the window glass, for the ocean scene. I suspect that one was a bridge too far.

Whatever the future presented through that window, the message was pretty clear: apocalypse approaches, whether environmental or spiritual; and the smart family will want to take measures in advance to ensure that they are only minimally inconvenienced.

I experience a tiny shock every time the commercial airs. It reminds me of my childhood during the Cuban missile crisis, when people were building secret bomb shelters, stocking up on bottled water and canned goods; and preparing to defend their preparations from invasion by less-prepared neighbors.

Instead of bringing out the best in people, like legendary Londoners during the Blitz, all that the threat of nuclear war brought out in Americans was paranoia and selfishness.

Have we gone so far as a culture since the 1960’s, only to turn back to the worst of our selves , sixty years on? Racism, sexism and environmental exploitation seem to be back in vogue under Donald Trump. Now, flirtation with nuclear war once again darkens the horizon.

Someone has already decided that the threat of famine and environmental disaster could be good for the food preserving industry. The big warehouse stores have been advertising survival food packages for a number of years now. How long before the commercials for “popularly priced” bomb shelters show up on TV, and sample models join the lawnmowers and patio furniture in aisle seven?

The likes of Donald Trump and Elon Musk fantasize about escape from oblivion through the colonization of Mars! They’ve already given up on Earth, but so have the preppers.

Tribalism is on the rise, thanks to the internet. Preppers and survivalists are invested in seeing their worst fears become reality. They’re no longer interested in making the sacrifices and commitments to common sense that are necessary to forstall any number of disasters that threaten the future of the planet.

This climate of selfish pessimism is poisonous for democracy, which depends for its success on an assumption of community goodwill and confidence in a shared tomorrow.

If we cannot rekindle that sense of common good, I am afraid that the democratic experiment in America is all but over.Wal-Mart_Riot

 

 

 

 

Earth Day 2017

Earth Day (April 22) arrives, this year, shrouded in a veil of pessimism.

Tomorrow, the March for Science will take place on the national mall in Washington, D.C. It is anticipated to be the largest anti-Trump demonstration to date.  Donald Trump will claim they’re all paid demonstrators and probably say something incredibly inappropriate and inflammatory.

Been there, done that.

Plenty of events will take place here in Vermont, in California and elsewhere in the blue states, observing the green holiday as has become customary. After years of incremental progress, there will be less to celebrate this year.

As ineffective as Donald Trump’s “first hundred days” in office have been in many ways, the one place where a real impact threatens is on nearly two generations of hard-won environmental gains.

Deprived of both public confidence and the expected easy ride of a Republican dominated Congress, the spiteful child-president has used the executive order to reverse every Obama initiative that is within his reach and directed Congress to strip away decades of regulation protective health, safety and environmental integrity.

Those are easy targets because the big money that is the only thing Donald Trump respects almost always comes down on the other side from those interests. So he goes about merrily dismantling the EPA before moving on to food and drug regulation.

Anyone who held out the hope that Donald Trump would miraculously be transformed by the gravitas of his office, or that his daughter might temper his worst instincts, has been rudely disappointed. All that’s left to those dreamers is to hunker down and hope his many flirtations with unconstitutional, possibly treasonous behaviors will finally culminate in his downfall before irreversible tragedy strikes.

Thank goodness market forces will prevent him from delivering on his big promise to bring back coal; but that won’t stop the collateral damage that deregulation will do.

It’s like a very bad dream.

Dog Days at Trump Tower

threelittlefrenchies-d47be73b-95eb-417f-8c47-5d4fc1b8eddd-400x266

It’s family meeting time.   In the great tradition of presidential families, the Trumps have decided to adopt a White House pet.

Donald wants a Rottweiler that’s trained to protect him. ‘Calls it a “Rottweiner.” He doesn’t see much point in a dog if it’s not for protection.

The First Lady wants a pair of ocelots with diamond studded collars.

Tiffany suggests a Cocker Spaniel until Ivanka reminds her that she doesn’t get a vote.

Ivanka winks at Jared and says, “How about a Russian Wolfhound?” Everyone howls with laughter.

Wearing matching plaid shirts, Donald Jr. and Eric stroll in to cast their votes for a huntin’ dog. They don’t see much point in a dog if it’s not for huntin.’

Melania quickly withdraws the ocelot suggestion. “King Charles Spaniel, or maybe a poodle?”

“What do you want, Sweetums?” she asks of Barron.

“Sweetums” is glowering into his root beer float. “I told you before, I want an Alpha Romeo. ‘Don’t want no dumb dog.”

“Of course Sweetums wants a dog; every little boy wants a dog!” Melania coos soothingly.

“Stop coddlin’ the boy, Mel!” the old man barks, so loud that FLOTUS jumps straight out of her designer stilettos. “If he doesn’t want a dog, that’s fine with me.”

“Seriously, Daddy, a Russian Wolfhound is ve-ry fashionable!” Ivanka wraps her long arms around POTUS thick neck and pouts prettily.

“I could start a new line of canine couture…,” and she quickly messages her Chinese supplier for a quote.

“That’s my Princess;” Donald smiles approvingly, “Always finding the big marketing angle! It’ll be huge! A total winner…only nothing for Nordstrom! They don’t get a thing. Damn bunch of Hillary loving Democrats!”

“Okay; an Irish Wolfdog it will be!” says POTUS, slapping his knee. All three boys sulk and glare at their stunning sister.

Tiffany deliberately picks her teeth while staring intently into a pocket mirror. “Male or female?” she asks innocently.

“Male, of course!” All four Trump men speak in chorus.

“‘Don’t need more bitches, Dude!” adds Barron.

“My boy!” POTUS reaches out to tousle the lad’s hair as he quickly ducks and runs to mother.

“I think we’ll call him Vlad.”

Navy Seal convoy “punished” for flying under Trump banner

Since President Trump looked a little too happy strutting around the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford sporting an olive military jacket and cap the other day. Here’s a quick follow up on the Navy Seal convoy that affixed a Trump campaign banner to their Humvee antenna with zip ties  and drove it in a convoy for over one hundred miles. It was February, when the vehicle  traveling through Kentucky under the blue Trump flag was seen and when first reported, officials said they believed the vehicles were military surplus; they later admitted that was not the case, and that the vehicles belonged to the elite Seal Naval Special Warfare Group 2.

TrumpflagsealThe Navy has since investigated, and the report (which was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act or FOIA request) is now available. The commander of the 12 person convoy did not place the flag on the Humvee but was aware it was there and: “[The convoy commander] was also aware of the rules precluding Department of Defense (DoD) endorsement of political candidates during an election,” the documents stated. “However, he believed that flying the flag was not inappropriate since the election was over and since the candidate was now the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.”

However, shortly into their mission the Navy Seal commander began, they say, to regret his choice: About 30 minutes into the drive on I-65, the convoy commander noticed that the flag was getting a good deal of attention from civilian drivers, “some of which was negative attention.” [maybe negative by 48.5% or more]

“At this point, he felt like the correct course of action would have been to take the flag down,” the documents stated. “However, he was concerned that it would be unsafe for the convoy and its members to pull over while on the highway.”

The names of the 12 member Navy Seal group were not made public and although they were reportedly punished, what form that took was not disclosed. The Navy Department did say the personnel were subsequently required to participate in team-wide remedial training on safe convoy operations and partisan political activity.

So, with a Humvee flagged with a Trump election banner for over one hundred miles through Kentucky to Indiana, the commander of Naval Special Warfare Group 2 couldn’t find a place to pull his convoy off the highway!  Maybe the remedial training on safe convoy operations the  Seal Group was “sentenced” to take covers how to pull off the road and remove a prohibited banner. Or better yet, they could learn not to fly a partisan banner from Trump’s campaign on a Humvee to start with.

Eyes on the sideshow while the Big Top burns

One mistake that Democrats made in the 2016 presidential race was to allow themselves to be distracted from an issues based campaign by the constant barrage of outrageous behavior that Donald Trump exhibited throughout.

They overestimated voters interest in and ability to follow the bouncing ball of policy consequences from the relatively brief attention that policy received when Donald Trump himself was not the subject of hyperbolic conversation.

Now, we are all in danger of falling for the same bait and switch during the reckless reign of Citizen Trump.

While we and the media react in slack-jawed disbelief to every new demonstration of Trump’s impulsiveness, and every new hint that the Russians might be his handlers, the real policy impact of the Trump presidency only gets attention as an afterthought.

Meanwhile, the administration is moving quickly to try and reduce the U.S. government to a single purpose war machine.

With the stroke of a pen, vital safeguards for streams and waterways are eliminated; with another stroke, outgo consumer protections.

Trump has installed as his cabinet people who have contempt for the very institutions they now oversee. His picks have the added advantage to someone bent on crippling government agencies, of being demonstrably incompetent.

While we focus on the trail of Russian toilet paper that dangles from Trump’s right shoe, he is dismantling important environmental regulations, gutting entire agencies and defunding almost every social service in order to finance the biggest military build-up in modern history.

Why do you think he’s doing that? Wrong question.

Never mind why HE is doing that. He probably just wants to play soldier. More to the point: why do you think his advisers are encouraging him to do that?

We don’t really know enough about son-in-law Jared Kushner to speculate on his world view, but we know that Steve Bannon belongs loosely to that lunatic fringe who see Armageddon as the only way to salvation…and if you don’t want to be bested in Armageddon, you better have enough military might to crush all comers in a single earth destroying act.

Many of Trump’s most ardent supporters would be perfectly happy with this scenario, because they fervently believe that we are in the End Times and have no interest in preserving the natural world for future generations, or providing for the real needs of a population that may soon cease to exist.  Others simply don’t care because their interests are so narrowly focussed that they simply don’t see beyond sunset in their own backyard.
Now that Mike Flynn has been ejected, the generals in Trump’s cabinet represent the only real bench of competence in his sphere. Even Rex Tillerson seems to have been relegated to a back seat as the State Department prepares for massive funding cuts in favor of nuclear and conventional armaments.

Military leaders are a boon to Trump’s agenda, not only because they are unlikely to object to massive spending in their sector and elevation of “readiness,” but also because they come from a culture of unquestioning obedience to the will of the Commander in Chief.

No one seems to care that all he is offering is a lot of talk and a handful of magic beans.

Trump’s tame billionaires and bankers are cooing contentedly over a roaring stock market, convinced that they can be long gone before Trump’s voodoo math hits the fan.

Don’t look to Republicans for a timely rescue. They, too have sold their souls for a Supreme Court pick and one final chance to railroad the bigotry and fear of their voting minority into policy advantageous for the privileged.

Here it is six weeks into an administration that threatens to dismantle all the hard won refinements of our enlightened democracy and all we’re talking about this Sunday morning is another unhinged wee hours tweet from the Screwball-in-Chief.

If we don’t start to pull focus on policy immediately, we can only expect the worst.

LocaVote: Town & School Meetings Need You

If there’s one place where you can vote, and that vote makes a difference in your life, it’s at Town and School Meetings.

It’s Democracy, dude. It works when you get woke and go all in.townmeeting

 

And it’s the same idea, whether your town has an actual annual meeting to decide budgets and elect the select board and the town listers (who evaluate the worth of your property for tax purposes) and the town clerk and the treasurer; or whether you vote only by ballot, no actual interpersonal interaction required.

It’s Democracy, people, and it only works well when you’re plugged in. When you read the reports. When you are present and accounted for. When you listen hard to others asking questions about where the money’s going, and what about that new dump truck.

It works better when you figure out enough about what’s going on to ask questions of your own. When you raise your hand and the Moderator (who runs the meeting) calls on you, and everyone listens to what you have to say.

That’s locavote empowerment, baby!

And if you don’t believe me, just look at what Frank Bryan and Susan Clark have to say:

Town Meeting is the one day of the year when regular Vermonters can assume the role of legislators, says Frank Bryan, a leading authority on town meeting as a Vermont institution and the author of Real Democracy: The New England Tradition And How It Works.

“Most Vermonters — all Vermonters, if they want to … can be a participant in the democratic process that 95 percent of Americans can only dream about,” says Bryan, who is a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Vermont. “You can’t do this in Pittsburgh and in Buffalo, or San Francisco, even. You can’t do it. You can’t be a legislator and amend from the floor and change policy in real time.”

“There’s a sense of community and a sense of togetherness that we have here,” says Susan Clark, a co-author, with Bryan, of All Those In Favor: Rediscovering the Secrets of Town Meeting and Community. “There’s a fabric … Town Meeting has created a culture. Just the way Colorado has a cowboy culture, we have a Town Meeting culture. And it’s something that we need to recognize and we need to feed. Otherwise, it will go away.”

So, I’m askin’ you all to perform Democracy Tuesday, March 7, or whenever your Town meeting might be. It’s what will save our state and ultimately our nation. You, me, him, her, them: asking questions, getting answers, holding local governments accountable.

Practicing Democracy. Performing Democracy. Doing Democracy.

Go to your Town Meeting. Go vote by “Australian (paper) ballot” on budgets and the people who will make your town work (or not).

Speak, ask, vote. It matters.

The Trump-Sessions administration decides to go full-racist

We knew it, right? Ever since November 8 (well, actually, ever since Trump got his start in politics by making a frank appeal to racism) we knew that this would be an administration of nearly unprecedented evil. We knew it even though we’ve been able to watch SNL and laugh at the spot-on impressions of Trump, Conway, and Sphincter. It was easier when they were just acting awful but not making much attempt at governing.

Now, department by department, we’re going to see what it means. As a lawyer my mind naturally goes to what is still, unaccountably, called the Department of Justice, headed by someone who was too racist to be confirmed as a federal judge thirty years ago but apparently not too racist to get the Republicans in the Senate to confirm him today.

One thing that happens, which I suppose is a kind of progress, is that they will pretend to be not merely opposed to, but actually appalled by racism. They know enough to know that they shouldn’t admit it, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to actually not be racists.

What we get from them is all kinds of assurances about how awful they think racism is and how they would never, no never, act in a way that is the slightest bit racist. For instance, here’s Jefferson Beauregard in his confirmation hearings:

Sessions said: “I abhor the Klan and what it represents, and its hateful ideology.” He denied ever condemning the activities of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as “un-American” or describing a white attorney in Alabama as a race traitor.

Hey, we know he was lying, but at least he made the effort, right?

But now he’s on the job, he’s showing up every day, and he’s starting to put his plans into place. Where does he start? By signing up to support racists in two of their most visible and vicious manifestations.

First off, voter suppression. There’s a case going on down in Texas right now filed by the Department of Justice in which the trial judge found not only that a set of new ID measures adopted by the Republican legislature (“the lege”, as Molly used to say) had a disparate impact on racial minorities, but also that the measures were adopted with the clear intention of discriminating against the blacks and the browns–you know, the darker races. And this is a case that is not only pending, but the government and civil rights activists have actually won, both in the District Court and on appeal to the Circuit, with the remaining issue being whether there is enough evidence to support the finding of intentional discrimination.

So what does Sessions do? You know already, don’t you? He sides with the racists. But the Justice Department under President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a judge on Monday that it was withdrawing its claim that Texas enacted the law with a discriminatory intent.

Fortunately the case still goes on because the DOJ wasn’t the only plaintiff, but he has clearly told us in this one which side he’s on.

Come to think of it, he’s done it twice this week.

You know how, when the police kill an innocent, unarmed black person there’s always a call for the feds to investigate? You know, because you can’t trust the local prosecutors to investigate their buddies on the police? Kind of an important protection. In fact, [t]he Justice Department currently has 19 agreements with police departments across the U.S. to work on targeting minorities and use of excessive force.

No more, though. If you’re an innocent victim of police violence Sessions has one thing to tell you: he doesn’t care, or as they say in Russia, tough shitsky.

“We need, so far as we can, to help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness. And I’m afraid we’ve done some of that,” Sessions said during a meeting with attorneys general from across the country.
“So we’re going to try to pull back on this,” he continued.

So let’s count it up:
Siding with racist politicians against minority voters? Check.
Siding with racist cops against minority victims? Check.

I’m assuming we’ll see him pull off the racist hat trick this week,, but it’s only Wednesday night. Give the man a chance.

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

Beyond the human price of Donald Trump’s promise to deport undocumented immigrants, there will be an economic price to pay. It is estimated that one quarter of Vermont’s farm labor force could be impacted by the new administrations anti-immigrant policies.

When milking crews and field workers are forced to leave the country, who will do the work of feeding America?

The conversation has already begun between the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and the Department of Corrections around the possibility of deploying a prison workforce to ensure that there are sufficient hands available to get the job done.

In Vermont, such a workforce probably stands a better chance of experiencing fair treatment and reasonable compensation than in more regressive states. In most states where prisoners have been made to work on farms to replace lost migrant help, the experience has been less than satisfactory, as the captive laborers tend to lack the work ethic, skill and efficiency of the immigrant workforce they replace, and compensation, such as it is, goes mostly to prison operators.

Paid or unpaid, such an arrangement would amount to slave labor supporting a cornerstone Vermont industry.

It’s too easy to rationalize away fair labor practices and compensation for people who have broken the law, no matter how minor their offense might have been.

We already have the highest incarceration rate of any advanced nation, reflecting a draconian inclination that does not become us. Rather than working to reduce prison populations as most people agree should be done, if states begin to rely on prison labor for their food supply, we might actually see a systemic reluctance to pursue alternatives to imprisonment.  Furthermore, when prison labor is charged with animal care, the results can be unsettling:

In March 2012, officials in Sutter County, California discussed ending prison work crews for a different reason. For decades, prisoners have been used to feed dogs and cats, clean their cages and even assess their health at the county’s animal shelter. Over the past five years multiple reports have cited shortcomings with the use of prison labor because prisoners, who are not trained in veterinarian care, have caused problems at the shelter by making mistakes and distracting employees….A 2007 grand jury report found that prisoners were partially responsible for an “abnormally” high number of animal deaths at the shelter.

This is of special concern in Vermont where dairying represents a significant portion of our farm labor needs.

During a forum on labor rights in Columbus, Georgia on April 4, 2012, Richard Jessie, second vice president of the Columbus NAACP, noted that “Our prison workforce is an enslaved workforce basically.” Commenting on the money the city saves by using prisoner work crews, which is reportedly $9 million to $17 million annually, he added, “We use slave labor to do much of the work that could and should be paid jobs.”

A prison workforce should not be Vermont’s fall-back plan for addressing labor shortages down on the farm. Efficiently maintaining our food supply requires physically challenging labor and more than a small amount of commitment to the work. An immigrant workforce has traditionally provided these qualities in exchange for relatively modest compensation.

Our entire food system has been built on those expectations and Americans would be very foolish to abandon the effort for meaningful immigration reform that would support their continued participation in our economy. If we begin to erode that compact now with an “emergency” use of prison labor, we may never be able to rebuild a timelessly valuable labor system again, and, given the regressive inclinations of the Trump contingent, could even live to see defacto slavery return to America.

Prison labor is not the answer.

Still searching the Extinction Burst

On November 9, just hours after Trump won the presidential election, hits on a six-year-old Green Mountain Daily diary spiked. And it still continues. extinctstats3 The GMD diary by the late Julie Waters was called The Extinction Burst. It offered her thoughts on using the behavioral concept called the extinction burst in a political application as a template to respond to what then was the new and increasingly strident anti-Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) Tea Party movement.

In psychological terms extinction refers to the process of no longer providing the reinforcement that has been maintaining a certain behavior. About an extinction burst Julie wrote: “You’ve got a child who is throwing tantrums.  In the past, the tantrums have gotten the child attention, which is exactly what the child wants.” To end this behavior cycle the tantrum should be ignored. And although there may be an increase — i.e.,  a burst of intensity — at the point where the tactic is no longer achieving the usual result,  the tantrum more often than not will end. Once the attention the child desired has been consistently and persistently withheld, the behavior cycle is broken and corrected. Or so the theory goes.

The problem Julie noted then (and it is even clearer now when applied to President Trump’s tantrums) is that some behavioral reinforcements happen without our participation and we can’t really control them — especially in politics. The following from the psychological definition is less than reassuring: Despite the name [Extinction Burst], not every explosive reaction to adverse stimuli subsides to extinction. Indeed a small minority of individuals persist in their reaction indefinitely.

I often check the GMD stats and they indicate the old diary isn’t going extinct; it is still getting regular hits. What does a steady flow of people searching out Extinction Burst on a political blog since Trump’s election indicate? I suppose people are still searching out coping strategies, or it could simply be the coincidental coupling of two Google search words extinction and burst suddenly becoming relevant .

By the way, other heavily searched words since Donald’s victory in November are “fascism,” “bigot” and “racism,” “socialism,” “resurgence,” “xenophobia” and “misogyny” among the most searched-for words. That is according to Merriam-Webster. But hey, what does she know?

oopcurseOne thing I do know is that Trump’s retrograde presidency is and will continue to be impossible to ignore.

[Ed. Note: We’re all thoroughly evolved here at GMD and are well aware dinosaurs and humans never walked the earth together-except in the funny papers and a taxpayer-funded Bible theme park in Kentucky,USA.]