Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.]

Trump White House: “…it’s like a finely tuned machine”

yearightDonald Trump answered questions from the press for over an hour Thursday after announcing who his newest nominee for Secretary of Labor will be. His first nominee, a former fast-food executive  had withdrawn his name from consideration, due to lack of support from all Democrats and many Republicans in the Senate.

Trump  fielded questions after more than a week’s worth of administrative madness and chaos at his White House. You can review the eight craziest moments in his press conference here. His performance lasted for over an hour, he dodged questions, attacked the press repeatedly, and several times insisted his White House was running like “a fine-tuned machine.” 

And Donald Trump set another record this week; a new low approval rating. A PEW Research poll reported Thursday had his approval at 39 percent, another historic low for presidents in their first weeks in office.

To cap this off Trump is skipping out of town this weekend, taking his reality show on the road. As if needing to reassure himself, he will be dashing off to do a campaign-style rally-performance for Donald-friendly crowds in Florida. He’s leaving his “finely tuned” machine in Washington to hum along on its own.

Donald may simply need time to refocus his vision and get ready for the next week’s challenges. TrumpsidedownHowever, given Trump’s fiascos to date, it would be no surprise if a visit to the upside-down house in Orlando, Florida was on tap.

Vermont Secretary of State’s Twitter Poetry Corner

poetrycorner

 

Here’s a poem tweeted this morning from the Vermont Secretary of State:VTSoSIt doesn’t rhyme but late last month Sec. Condos wrote the following in an opinion piece:

“The time has come for Vermont to create an independent ethics commission to provide education and insight, addressing ethical issues across the Legislative, Executive, and Municipal sections of government”

Secretary Jim Condos is a tireless advocate for government transparency and an independent ethics commission — one with teeth that is.

Donald Trump’s Terrible Awful No Good Very Bad Day

There have been many days that prompted bloggers to adapt the popular children’s book title to frame the immediate chaos around Donald Trump’s political misadventures; but today of all days seems to cry out more than most for that redundant banner headline.

Leaving aside the trail of stinking piles drying in his wake every day, today might one day be remembered as the day that his epic losing streak began.

This morning, like so many Americans (and as I have done every morning since the inauguration), I reflexively turned on the news even before the coffeemaker in order to find out what new region of Twitter hell Donald Trump had taken us to overnight. Despite his best efforts to gin up international tensions, nuclear war hadn’t yet broken out, so I settled into my kitchen chair with a sigh  and a steaming cup of relief. It was going to be a pretty good day after all.

Mr. Trump’s immediate national concern seemed to be his adult daughter’s broken heart at being told by Nordstrom that they could no longer carry her line of merchandise because sales had been so poor over the last quarter. Never one to underplay a family slight, Mr. Trump had tweeted how “unfair” Nordstrom’s decision was; that it obviously was politically motivated, and that his daughter is such a good person who is always trying to get him to do “the right thing.” Then, for good measure, he tweeted it again to the vast readership of his official @POTUS feed.

Even though, for some reason, this gross exercise of  conflict of interest doesn’t set him up for immediate consequences, it does add to the growing file of transgressions that may ultimately be his undoing. Furthermore, Nordstrom probably has a pretty good case for a lawsuit.

Apparently Ivanka hasn’t been very successful at getting Dear Ol’ Dad to do the “right thing”, either.

The new twist this morning was that shameless Trump sycophant and consigliere Kellyanne Conway had taken it upon herself to ‘right’ Nordstrom’s ‘wrong’ by appearing on Fox news to give impromptu commercial endorsement for the First Daughter’s products and exhort the faithful to go forth and buy Ivanka’s crap.

Like so many of Trump’s closest advisors, Kellyanne’s qualifications for the job must be seriously questioned. Supposedly she is a lawyer, and yet, she seemed to be totally unaware that what she was doing in hawking Trump family merchandise on TV represented an immediate and gross conflict of interests, a breach of White House ethics, and a set-up for worsening optics on the general issue of conflicts within the Trump administration.

It seemed that what Kelly Anne had crossed was an ethics bridge too far even for the Donald, because it wasn’t long before the word came out that counsellor Kelly Anne had herself been “counselled.” What exactly this means is unclear, but it seems to suggest some acceptance of responsibility was finally being broached within the administration, if only by a side flunky.

But we had to wait until evening for the best news, when the 9th Circuit Court Decision came down as a sweep in favor of the plaintiffs. A crushing defeat for King Donald!

It ain’t over ’til it’s over, and there are a few more innings to be played in the game of anti-American immigration policy; but tonight we can pause in the battle for a little celebration, knowing that it’ must be somebody’s job at the White House tonight to sit on Donald and restrain his little fingers from unleashing a Twitter storm of unintended consequences.

Updated: McAllister- “In Vermont, women are the ‘Holy Grail’”

Update: (Feb. 6 )-  Friday, February 24 has been set as the date for continuation of the hearing on Mr. McAllister’s motion to reverse his plea deal.  Not only is Mr. McAllister likely to return to the stand for further testimony, but his son Heath may be called as well.   Popcorn optional.  ________________________________________________________________

On Friday, I took a break from the antics of our “Command-Her in Chief” to attend the courtroom speaking debut of Norm McAllister,  when he took the stand in defense  of his motion to rewind the plea deal he had earlier agreed to on the occasion of his second sex crime trial.

As you probably know, Mr. McAllister (formerly Franklin County Senator McAllister) took that plea deal last month after the court had devoted an entire day to seating a jury.

It seemed as if we were destined never to hear directly from the accused.

The plea deal should have been very attractive to Mr. McAllister, as it dropped some of the charges against him, thus reducing the maximum amount of jail time he would serve from life to seven years. Considering the weight of recorded evidence with which the prosecution was fully armed, no one was surprised that he seemed to accept the plea deal pretty willingly.

McAllister, 65, signed an agreement and pleaded no contest to two counts of prohibited acts and one count of lewd and lascivious conduct. In return, prosecutors agreed to drop the most serious felony, a charge of sexual assault, which carried a potential life sentence.

The very next morning Mr. McAllister surprised his own attorneys, and pretty much everyone else, by expressing ‘buyer’s remorse’ to NBC’s Stewart Ledbetter and suggesting he might retract his plea.

Friday’s hearing was scheduled to entertain arguments concerning the merit of McAllister’s request to retract.

His principle argument is that the attorneys who represented him, both in his earlier sexual assault trial and in the case for which he had taken the plea deal, had coerced him into accepting the deal. He has fired those attorneys (Brooks McArthur and David Williams), replacing them with his current representation (Bob Katims.)

Under oath, Mr. McAllister told the court that McArthur and Williams “brow beat” him into
accepting the plea deal; that they refused to let him consult with his son before making the decision; and that they had called him ‘stupid’ and ‘retarded’ for resisting and brought him to tears. He further asserted that they had told him that Vermont law was unfairly biased in favor of women, giving him the impression that he had no choice but to accept the deal right then and there.

He also maintained that the implications of the plea deal had never been properly explained to him and he had no idea that acceptance of the plea deal and the conditions of sex offender treatment attached to it was a tacit confession to the reduced charges.

It was quite a story. Once again, Mr. McAllister played the victim as he attempted to deflect blame to his lawyers .

Brooks McArthur, who was called to the stand after the break, refuted the idea that McAllister had been coerced, reading from the record to establish that Mr. McAllister had been questioned both by his attorneys and by Judge Martin Maley about his understanding and acceptance of the plea deal. He emphatically denied calling Mr. McAllister ‘retarded’ and making statements about gender bias in the Vermont court system, pointing to Mr. McAllister’s own assertion to Seven Days back in October 2015:

“…You’re screwed, because in this state, women are considered the Holy Grail,” McAllister told Seven Days. “Women don’t lie. I’ve had landlords come up to me and say, ‘You know, this is going to scare us, because if you rent to a single woman, you’ve got to have witnesses.’ There’s something wrong with our system. It’s great that nobody is above the law. But how does that work when you get accused of something you didn’t do? There’s a presumption that you must have because you’re a man.”

From Mr. McAllister’s testimony, it’s pretty easy to surmise that he was fully accepting of the plea deal while he was still in court; but, when he went home and was confronted by his son about the arrangement, he had a change of heart.

Day two of the hearing, in which Mr. Williams will be called upon to testify, has yet to be scheduled, but Mr. McAllister’s credibility has already been dealt a considerable blow. I don’t know about you, but I can’t see Mr. McAllister’s attorneys being so incautious as to call him “retarded” or opine that he couldn’t get a fair trial in Vermont because he is a man!

I am of two minds about whether or not I’d like to see Mr. McAllister’s plea deal reversed.

On the one hand, given Friday’s preview of his performance on the stand, I would sincerely love to hear him answer questions directly related to the charges against him. On the other, having witnessed how poorly the system served the young girl who was compelled to  relive humiliating details of her complaint in the first case, I do not wish this female victim any more exposure and pain than absolutely necessary in order to ensure that one sexual predator will never hurt another woman again.