Saturday, July 14, 2018




By Jack Random

Donald Trump touched down in Singapore, had dinner and announced he had a deal with Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of North Korea.  Kim had agreed to unconditional denuclearization.  Trump had only offered a handshake and agreed to call off military exercises.  Problem solved.  North Korea no longer posed a threat to the United States or its allies. 

This diplomacy thing is easy.  Golf is hard.  Standing over a five-foot putt with the match on the line: that’s pressure.  Somebody show me the way to Jerusalem.  We’ll solve this whole Palestinian problem in a weekend.  What do you say? 

No, Mr. President, we’re not going to Jerusalem.  There’s no one on the Palestinian side that would sit down with you – even for a photo op.  And Netanyahu has a court date.  It wouldn’t look good. 

Last August Trump suggested in an Oval Office meeting that we invade Venezuela.  He persisted with the idea for weeks, raising it again with Latin American leaders who expressed universal opposition.  No word on whether Trump was surprised at their position but he seemed to forget about Venezuela and all of Latin America until the refugee crisis arrived at our southern border. 

We recently learned by executive tweet that our president thought the joint statement he and Kim signed in Singapore was a binding agreement.  How long before we find out that Trump believes he received the blessings of Latin American leaders to bomb the hell out of Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala to stem the flow of refugees?  Not that he needs anyone’s blessings to bomb someone or invade a country. 

This diplomacy thing is easy.  Fire all the diplomats and let the chief negotiator take over.  Fuck Canada and who needs NATO?  Germany is Putin’s puppet and Angela Merkel will pay the price of open borders.  She can start by boosting military spending to 4% of gross domestic product.  Do it!  Do it now or do without American military might! 

Trump doesn’t seem to understand that Chancelor Merkel is not a dictator.  She cannot raise her nation’s military budget or its contribution to NATO with a wave of her hand any more than he can. 

Trump tried to persuade French President Emmanuel Macron to dump Europe and follow Britain’s lead in exiting the European Union.  After all, it’s worked out so well for Teresa May as she watches her Brexit implementation team implode the week before welcoming the American version of blundering Boris Johnson to Britannia.  The beleaguered prime minister must be filled with trepidation as she is compelled to display public hospitality to the least popular American leader since Thomas Paine. 

Come on, Manny!  Dump the bastards!  We’ll take care of you.  Vlady has a soft spot for Paris.  He always has. 

Not one to miss an opportunity for dramatic climax, the Donald saved his last stop for his closest and most trusted friend:  Vladimir Putin.  They will meet on foreign ground in the city of Helsinki, Finland.  There will be no other dignitaries and no transcribers.  Only the two leaders and their interpreters will know what words or transactions flow between them behind closed doors.  Of course the possibility of eavesdropping always exists – especially with the former head of the KGB and current boss of the FSB-GRU. 

It’s just you and me, right Vlady?  Man to man. 

That’s right, Donald.  We can talk with complete confidence!  Believe me! 

The secrecy has of course given birth to a wide range of theories about what might transpire between the two leaders.  Those who believe the whole Putin-Trump collaboration is a hoax generally believe nothing is amiss.  Why shouldn’t two of the world’s most powerful men and those at the heart of an ongoing investigation meet in confidence?  Why shouldn’t they encourage the most imaginative conspiracy theorists?  The American people are so sick of hearing the endless speculation they are turning a deaf ear.  Trump’s followers have always believed the mainstream is out to get him – by any and all means, legal or illegal. 

Those who believe there is something greater than puff behind the Putin-Trump connection have long expected the two lead conspirators to find an opportunity for private dealing.  Those who believe Trump is indebted to Putin and his oligarchs both financially and politically expect this closed-door meeting to initiate a payback. 

Trump dignified Kim Jong-un with a handshake, a photo op and compliments in front of the cameras before canceling long-scheduled military exercises.  These were gifts that the North Korean leader treasured and for which he gave nothing in return. 

Would it be surprising if Trump had a few gifts for Mr. Putin?  How about an agreement not to enforce the Magnitsky Act?  That’s pretty much where all this conspiracy speculation began in earnest, right?  That’s why the Russian connection gathered for a meet and greet in Trump Tower while the presidential campaign was still raging.  For the first time in history international sanctions hit the Russian leader and his circle of corrupt friends where it hurt the most: personal bank accounts.  It opened a window for a hard look at crooked Russian money laundering operations at the Bank of Cypress and Deutsche Bank – the banks that cater to Russian mobsters.  Oh, and by the way, soon to be Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross was a proud vice chairman at the Bank of Cypress.  Imagine that. 

No sanctions had ever been so effective and Vladimir Putin was pissed enough to invade a sovereign nation.  Who can doubt that he was pissed enough to sic his GRU hackers at Hillary Clinton?  Why wouldn’t he invest a few million in fake news disseminated by Facebook – America’s free source of targeted propaganda? 

Who knows why Putin did what he did?  Maybe his hatred for Obama and Clinton was sufficient.  Maybe he needed no additional motivation to mess with American democracy.  Maybe he’s pissed off that America still has the reputation of a democracy when in fact it’s fast slipping into an autocracy controlled by the most powerful corporations in the world. 

Who knows what Putin has on Trump?  Maybe he just wanted an amateur to slap around on the international stage?  Mission accomplished. 

Smile for the cameras, baby!  Me and you against the world! 

What we do know is that Putin is winning this game.  Despite a floundering economy, the Russian Federation has restored its reputation as a world power.  He has succeeded in blowing a hole in the European Union with his promotion of Brexit.  His man in Washington has created discord in NATO via public humiliation. 

Pony up, Angela!  And you too, Macron!  No one gets a free pass! 

Putin had to be laughing when Trump derided Europe’s most powerful nation as “captive” to Russian energy. 

There may be an element of truth to Trump’s insulting observation.  Germany needs imported energy to fuel its economic machine but Russia needs a European market to buy its natural gas.  Germany imports nearly equivalent amounts from Norway and the Netherlands.  Do they hold Germany captive? 

It has been speculated that Trump wants Germany to buy American natural gas at an inflated price.  That would seem particularly unlikely to happen at this point.  For one thing, it would be detrimental to Russia. 

Trump appears to be reorganizing the world order with Putin and himself at the top, Britain and Israel on the second tier and Europe somewhere below and on par with Indonesia and North Korea.  China appears to be the new chief adversary with minor adversaries in Iran, Mexico, Venezuela and other assorted nations – Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador – that pose problems or take more than they give.  

Judging from the befuddled looks on the faces of Trump’s advisors when he derided Germany, no one really knows what the president is going to do.  I seriously doubt that Trump knows what he is going to do except in that fraction of a second before he does it.  If there is no one to talk him out of it, then we enter a twisted new world where fake facts and distorted realities begin to make sense. 

They say he’s KGB!  He’s fine!  Putin is fine!  We’re all fine! 

Here’s my prediction for the Trump-Putin summit:  Something will follow that benefits Putin.  The question is:  What does Putin want?  A weakened NATO?  Already accomplished.  Drive a wedge in the British-American relationship?  Accomplished.  Weaken the British government?  Accomplished.  Maybe he wants payback for the counter-intelligence agent that exposed one too many of his operations. Maybe Trump could drain the talent pool out of the State Department.  Already done. 

Who needs diplomats?  I’m the only diplomat we need!  What’s a diplomat anyway?  It’s a negotiator, right?  Who’s the greatest negotiator ever born?  Right here, baby!  Smiling at you. 

Maybe Putin wants acceptance of a Russian Crimea.  Maybe he wants a hands-off policy in Ukraine.  Maybe he wants the CIA to pull out of Eastern Europe.

Nobody but the man in Moscow knows for sure. 


“Trump is trying to destabilize the European Union” by Josh Rogin.  Washington Post, 28 June 2018. 

“US indicts 12 Russian spies in 2016 DNC hack that used malware, bitcoin and phishing” by Kyt Dotson.  Silicon Angle, 13 July 2018. 


Saturday, June 30, 2018




By Jack Random

The retirement of Anthony Kennedy upstaged the latest round of Supreme Court decisions that took yet another blast at civil liberties, the rights of labor and the democratic form of government.  No one who has followed the court could have been surprised by any of these actions.  The Roberts court has never been a fan of minorities, workers or democracy. 

In Trump v. Hawaii, with regard to the president’s infamous ban on Muslims traveling to the United States, the court upheld the president’s right to discriminate against members of a religious group as long as the discrimination is not explicit.  In its longstanding assault on the right to organize the workforce, in Janus v. AFSCME the court struck down the right of public service unions to collect fees for collective bargaining from non-union members.  Membership in public service unions will likely be reduced by one-third within two years.  No one can argue with those kinds of results. 

Both decisions stand with Bush v. Gore and Citizens United as among the most damaging in modern history and Justice Anthony Kennedy played his usual role of casting the deciding vote.  Now that distinction will go to the next Donald J. Trump appointee – an appointee that has already been approved by the Federalist Society.   

As for their continuing assault on American democracy, in the Texas gerrymandering case Abbott v. Perez, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said it best:  “after years of litigation and undeniable proof of intentional discrimination, minority voters in Texas—despite constituting a majority of the population within the State—will continue to be underrepresented in the political process. Those voters must return to the polls in 2018 and 2020 with the knowledge that their ability to exercise meaningfully their right to vote has been burdened by the manipulation of district lines specifically designed to target their communities and minimize their political will.” 

In other words, blatant and targeted disenfranchisement of minority voters is certifiably legal as long as you wink at the court when you walk in the door.  These justices of the perpetual majority will find any reason and any rationalization to allow the good old boys with whom they are politically aligned to keep on doing what they have been doing since the days of old Jim Crow.  It’s not that they created districts designed to disenfranchise blacks and Latinos; it’s just that the democratic voters around these parts tend to be of darker complexion.  Wink. 

No one suggests that Kennedy or Roberts or Alito or Gorsuch or Thomas are racists; they just happen to read the law like racists have since the writing of the constitution.  Minorities may finally have the vote but by god they won’t get to use it until the Great White Fathers of Washington are damned good and ready.  They’re not ready yet and – thanks to the next appointees to the court by Donald J. Trump – they won’t need to be ready for decades. 

Racist is what racist does. 

Having served for over three decades, Anthony Kennedy has been the pivotal vote on the court since the retirement of Sandra Day O’Connor.  He has earned the ire of rightwing ideologues by favoring gay rights, a woman’s right to abortion and the right of government to regulate firearms.  He recently compromised on an affirmative action case further alienating the hard right. 

But make no mistake, Kennedy was no darling of the left and his parting shot will be felt for a very long time.  Kennedy has long been a member of the corporate justice clan.  Along with Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito he has always voted against workers and for the most powerful members of the American political and economic elite. 

In short, Kennedy was a conservative judge with libertarian leanings who fit snugly into the American system of economically motivated justice.  Only on a court that scorns civil liberties and disdains democracy could someone like Kennedy be hailed as the last bastion of justice before the fascist court takes over. 

That might seem harsh but I’ll stand by it.  The Federalist Society has finally taken full control of the highest court in the land.  You’ve got to give it to them.  They’ve worked hard toward this end.  They have trained multitudes of prospective lawyers to their way of legal thinking.  They have financed and promoted their own kind.  And they have placed barriers in the way of any would-be judge who did not adhere to their philosophy. 

Never mind what the founders actually believed, what they enshrined was the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.  They did not vote for or enact into law the Federalist Papers.  They debated Federalism.  They did not select which papers ought to be enshrined. 

We were left with a flawed document containing a set of principles and provisions for adapting the constitution to a changing world.  Fundamentally, the Federalist Society is all about closing off the door to adaptation.  The framers did not specify that an individual’s right to bear arms was contingent on his membership in a well-regulated militia so that context no longer applies.  It’s as if the militia clause is there for window dressing. 

The framers naturally did not contemplate a woman’s right to control her own reproductive system so it remains beyond the scope of constitutional law.  The framers did not envision a society where all men and women of varied color or sexual identity would live under equal protection of the law so there can be no protection absent specific legislation – preferably at the state level.  A state’s right to discriminate must be preserved. 

Of course, the framers didn’t envision a day when Supreme Court justices would rule that an economic structure would claim all the rights of citizenship.  They could not possibly have expected a bank or an international corporation to claim the right to sponsor politicians at all levels of government.  The framers didn’t envision a lot of things. 

Now we’re up against the wall.  The truth is we’ve been there for a long time but it’s about to get much worse.  Now it’s not only corporate aristocracy, autocracy and fascism.  Now it’s all of these combined with religious intolerance and a whole new level of moral regression.  Bakers in Colorado are able to discriminate freely against gays or browns or blacks or longhairs and whoever else they feel superior to today.  Thirty-eight states will make abortion inaccessible to everyone but the privileged class the moment Roe v. Wade falls – if that’s even necessary.  Maybe the court will take another shot at criminalizing marijuana.  After all, there aren’t enough people to fill our profit-turning prisons.  Maybe we’ll fill them with the children of migrants seeking asylum. 

It’s a brave new world. 

So let’s tip a glass to Kennedy and thank him for holding back the wave these many years.  I suppose asking for another year from an octogenarian is just too much to ask. 

Instead, we’ll have to ask Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine to stand up and be counted – not only for a woman’s right to choose but for gays and minorities as well.  We don’t have a whole lot of hope left but what we do have now resides with you. 


“Sonya Sotomayor Stands Up for Voting Rights.  And I’m Her for It.” Imani Gandy.  Angry Black Lady Chronicles.  Rewire.News.  June 26, 2018. 


Wednesday, June 27, 2018




By Jack Random

It is not enough that President Donald J. Trump eviscerated the Environmental Protection Agency and all safeguards against the effects of global climate change at the most critical time in human history; it is not enough that he appointed a bible thumping white supremacist attorney general to carry out the demolition of voting rights, civil rights and protections against police bias and abuse of power; it is not enough that he has tipped the balance on the Supreme Court to guarantee systemic injustice for generations to come, he must also upend the most basic sense of being human by separating children from their mothers and fathers and incarcerating them for the crime of holding to their parents’ side as they set foot on the land of the free and the just. 

The president has crossed the line that separates ignorance, intolerance, discrimination, brutality and indifference from crimes against humanity.  How can this man look at those kids in cages and live with himself?  How can his wife and family continue to pretend that it’s only politics as usual?  How can members of congress stand in line for their daily pat on the head from the White House?  There comes a time when your mere presence is collusion. 

There are many presidents who have done horrible things in our tortured history.  Our founders were of course Indian killers before they turned their attention to the creation of a new nation conceived in liberty, justice and guided by the principles of democracy.  We methodically stole a continent and for a time attempted to enact a policy of genocide. 

As a nation we allowed the scourge of slavery to persist so long that its effects are still palpable in every facet of our daily lives today.  As a nation we have gone to war under false pretenses so many times – Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq included – that we can only defend our policy as the prerogative of the powerful. 

A president has ordered the incarceration of American citizens for their racial and cultural heritage.  A president has sanctioned the torture and indefinite detention of our enemies without due process of law.  A president has approved the segregation of schools and communities while allowing systemic discrimination to persist.  A president has ordered the carpet-bombing of a civilian population in a faraway land. 

Presidents have done these things and more but always they have been in response to some perceived threat or historical mandate.  Always there has been some rationalization.  The nation has suffered under some collective delusion or irrational fear.  Early Americans believed and invested in Manifest Destiny – a notion that God intended Caucasian Europeans to claim the continent.  Franklin Roosevelt’s demented detention of Japanese Americans was born of a commonly held fear that Japanese Americans would rise up in defense of their emperor.  Andrew Jackson defied the Supreme Court and evacuated the Cherokee from their homeland on the Trail of Tears because his people – the white people – needed more and more land. 

On and on, if not the moral high ground, presidents have held to some practical or moral justification for their actions.  What is Trump’s justification for this action?  Was there really a massive wave of migration to the southern border?  Was the nation in crisis?  Were our institutions incapable of responding to the situation without breaking down?  Was this the only action Trump could have taken? 

No.  I submit that a policy of zero tolerance and the separation of children from their parents was something this president simply wanted to do.  There was and is a crisis but it is not at the border; it is a thousand miles to the south where the governments, the armed forces and the police are corrupt and incapable of confronting the criminal gangs that are ripping their countries apart.  The crisis is in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras where thugs take what they want, demand whatever pleases them and kill whoever stands in their way.  The migrants are refugees from unimaginable violence and they’ll keep coming because what they’re fleeing is infinitely more horrible than anything Donald Trump can devise.  They seek asylum not only in the United States of America but also in the United States of Mexico and Mexico has shown a great deal more compassion than we have. 

The problems of Central America and indeed Mexico are as complex as they are severe.  Whenever criminal elements become more powerful than the government democracy cannot survive.  Solutions are equally difficult especially considering the role our government has historically played in Latin American politics.  We have supported dictators, taken the wrong side in civil wars, upheld despots and overthrown lawfully elected governments.  We have empowered corporations to invade their territories and steal their resources.  The CIA has a particularly horrific record of human and civil rights abuse below the Mexican border. 

Our record is so deplorable that no honest and democratic government would trust us to intervene in their affairs.  And yet, absent a regional power led by our government, there is little we can do to stem the tide of violence.  What we can do, however, is help those who are fleeing. 

Let’s be honest about what’s happening in the region.  It would hardly be impossible to determine who among them are honest refugees and who is something else.  In terms of our nation, there are not that many Central American refugees.  We can take them in.  We can assimilate them into our population.  We can help them to become functional and contributing citizens.  In the best of our culture and traditions, we have always done so. 

Trump doesn’t care about these people.  He doesn’t care about what they are fleeing or what they will bring to our nation.  He doesn’t care that they are the victims of gang violence and brutality.  He cares about the conflict.  He needs an enemy – especially one than cannot fight back.  He desperately needs to be the man, the heartless brute, the biggest and the baddest bully on the block.  He wants to make his own laws.  He wants to hold these children up to the cameras and demand that his adversaries build him a wall.  Trump is like the muscle man that says to his victim:  “This is your fault!  You did this!” 

He does it because he wants to do it.  It is who he is.  This is a man who has no regrets because he never engages in self-reflection.  He has never been wrong and never will be – not even when he rips a child from her mother’s arms. 

There are very few crimes that a president cannot get away with and this is not one of them but there are judgments greater than the rule of law.  For crimes against humanity, there was a time that Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State Henry Kissinger could not travel abroad without fear of being detained and tried before an international tribunal.  How sweet and poetic that deliverance would be. 


“There Is No Way We Can Turn Back.”  Why Central American Refugees will Keep Coming to America Despite Trump’s Crackdown.  By Ioan Grillo/Tenosique.  Time Magazine, June 21, 2018. 

“Criminalizing Victims: The Fate of Honduran Refugees” by Michael Slager.  Counterpunch, May 18, 2018. 

“Family Separations:  Trump’s Executive Order Does Not Hide This Historical Pattern of Cruelty” by Jimmy Centeno, Don T. Deere and Frederick B. Mills.  Counterpunch, June 27, 2018. 


Saturday, June 02, 2018




The Great Pretender

By Jack Random

As a voter compelled to register as a Democrat for fear that my vote for Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary, you can be sure that I fall far to the left of the Democratic Party.  In fact, I have only a little more faith in the Democrats than I do in the Republicans despite their official policies.  Both parties are corporate and ultimately serve corporate interests.  I hold on to the hope that someday, despite all the barriers, an independent or third party movement will break the stranglehold of the major parties on our electoral process.  Meantime, a combination of pragmatism (least harm) and idealism (independent) will guide my vote.  What follows are my recommendations in the 2018 California primary. 


I have never perceived the presumptive favorite Gavin Newsom as anything but what he is:  an opportunist who plays the cards he’s dealt with a deft hand.  He is the Great Pretender, a definitive Democrat in the Clintonian mode.  Contrary to his television ads it requires no courage to come out in favor of gay rights when you’re mayor of San Francisco.  It takes no courage to stand for universal healthcare when you’re seeking higher office in California.  Where was Newsom’s courage when it came to supporting Sanders over Clinton? 

Newsom was the first to attack a fellow Democrat:  John Chiang.  It was puzzling but the polls must have said Chiang was taking votes from him.  Chiang did not respond in kind initially but former mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa did, asserting quite justly that Newsom was taking credit for accomplishments that did not belong to him.  In California the Lieutenant Governor is pretty much a symbolic office that politicians use to gain name recognition and test the waters for a statewide run. 

Villaraigosa’s ad campaign is sponsored by California Charter Schools Association Advocates to the tune of $17.3 million dollars.  If you love charter schools – taking money from public schools and channeling it to profit motivated private charters – then Villaraigosa is your candidate.  Otherwise palatable – he’s pro union – he lost my vote when he took that money. 


I won’t pretend to know much about this candidate except that he carries the Libertarian banner.  As noted above, the Lieutenant Governor doesn’t have really have any authority.  Presumably, he or she gets free office space, benefits and a nice salary.  Democratic Senator and superstar Kamala Harris gives her blessing to Eleni Kounalakis and that will probably be sufficient to win the election but she will not protect our coastline or anything else.  She’s a figurehead.  I say:  Use this office to vote independent.  There are no Greens, no Peace & Freedom and no other official third party candidates.  There are a few Decline-to-States.  Vote independent. 


The Secretary of State runs our elections.  That is important.  In other states it can be argued persuasively that Secretaries of State decided presidential elections but not here.  Fundamentally, California doesn’t count in presidential elections.  Still, it is important – important enough that two Greens, a Libertarian and a Peace & Freedom candidate secured their place on the ballot. 

I can go two ways here:  Support a Democrat to ensure that a Republican does not secure the office or go independent.  I don’t believe a Republican has a chance in a California statewide election so I’ll go Green:  Michael Feinstein appears to be the more serious candidate.  He supports multi-party democracy, ranked choice voting, proportional representation, limiting money in politics, transparency and voter integrity.  He has my vote. 


The controller is the state’s bookkeeper.  It requires competence and integrity.  I see no reason to change horses so I’ll vote for the incumbent even if she is a Democrat. 


The treasurer is the state’s banker with authority to manage investments and assets.  Once again, competence and integrity are required.  The Peace and Freedom candidate Kevin Akin has some interesting ideas, including a publicly owned bank.  Democrat and CPA Fiona Ma is certainly qualified, competent and supported by California Nurses, Teachers and the Council of Laborers.  She also has the coolest name on the ballot. 


The office that launched the formidable career of Senator and future presidential candidate Kamala Harris, this year’s contest features two Republicans and two Democrats.  That narrows the field.  Dave Jones is the current Insurance Commissioner and seems to be supported by a variety of employee associations.  Xavier Becerra was appointed to the position when it was vacated by Harris.  Becerra has the money and his contributions include California Nurses. 

Becerra has shown a willingness to stand up against the presidency of Donald Trump on issues ranging from immigration policy to the legalization of marijuana.  He’s also a Clintonian with high stake political ambitions. 

Jones brings the reputation of fighting for consumers against predatory insurance companies.  In its endorsement of Jones, the San Jose Mercury News qualified that reputation with “while being fair to the industry.”  That sends up a warning signal.  His credits include working as a special assistant to former Attorney General Janet Reno who oversaw the Elian Gonzalez fiasco, Ruby Ridge and the Branch-Davidian tragedy in Waco, Texas.  That’s not much of an endorsement. 

As sometimes happens, the Mercury-News endorsement brought me to the opposite conclusion.  Stick with Becerra and hope for the best. 


The commissioner is in charge of enforcing insurance laws – a critical function in today’s society.  The candidates include Democrats Ricardo Lara and Asif Mahmood, former Republican Steve Poizner and Peace & Freedom’s Nathalie Hrizi, a public school teacher. 

The fact that Poizner was once appointed to this position by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger eliminates him. Mahmood is a medical doctor who supports universal healthcare.  Lara is a state senator who also supports medical care for all, including the undocumented.  He sponsored a bill to that effect.  It seems there is little to distinguish between Mahmood and Lara and that begs the question:  Why are they both running? 

That leaves the Feminist Socialist Peace & Freedom candidate Nathalie Hrizi.  She stands for three principles:  1.  Healthcare is a universal right.  2.  Private health insurance companies should be abolished.  3.  California should create its own single-payer, non-profit system. 

I’ll vote enthusiastically for Hrizi. 


This one is too easy:  Three Republicans and one Democrat. 


Never have so many considered his or her self qualified to become United States Senator from the great state of California.  I count eleven Republicans, ten Democrats, eight decline-to-states, one Libertarian and one Peace & Freedom.  Sadly, the only political organization left out of the party is Green. 

We all know Dianne Feinstein.  The new model is the progressive model.  Suddenly she believes in Medicare for all.  Suddenly she believes in the rights of undocumented immigrants.  Suddenly she believes in limiting the power of the president to wage war.  I like the new model but like an old car I don’t trust it.  Feinstein has let the progressive community down far too many times. 

If we eliminate the Republicans – and we do – we can move on to the progressive challengers.  On the Democratic side there is Pat Harris, a civil rights attorney who believes in legalization of marijuana/cannabis nationwide, universal healthcare and getting corporate money out of politics.  I like this guy.  Then there’s state senator Kevin De Leon who is committed to immigration reform, Medicare for All and a national clean energy plan.  What’s not to like?  Democrat David Hildebrand wants to end Citizens United and favors a minimum wage of $15 per hour.  Democrat Alison Hartson, a national political director, adds the right to a college education to the progressive agenda. 

Jason Hanania is a “technodemocrat” who believes in voting with the majority of Californians using an Evoting system.  Interesting.  I’ve proposed a similar a system myself.  Peace & Freedom’s John Thompson Parker wants to declare a state of emergency to address police misconduct in minority neighborhoods.  Libertarian Derrick Michael Reed wants to address the incarceration crisis. 

It goes on and on without end.  My only conclusion is that it is time for Feinstein to go.  We need new blood in Washington and any US Senator who has waffled over the justification for the Iraq War needs to write her memoirs.  I might even buy the book.  Meantime, I’ll vote for the civil rights attorney in the primary and hold my nose if I have to vote for Feinstein in the general election. 


Folks around here know the incumbent congressman from the 10th district in the great central valley likes to play both sides of the coin.  Lately he’s charading as the congressman who’s trying to save the dreamers and the children being separated from their parents.  That is not the congressman we know and despise.  It’s one thing to be conservative and another to play like a progressive whenever your electability depends on it.  Denham has always pretended to be a family farmer but the way I hear it he’s a corporate farmer and a very wealthy man. 

Let’s be frank:  It doesn’t really matter which Democrat runs against him.  Denham is the enemy.  Every Republican member of the House of Representatives is the enemy.  If we want to put the check on Trump we have to take congress away from the president’s party.  We need to take both houses of congress.  The Democratic money is going to Josh Harder but all the Democrats – Sue Zwahlen, Michael Eggman, Mike Barkley and Virginia Madueno – support progressive policies on healthcare and immigration.  All are running against the man in the White House. 

I’m put off by the big money going to Harder so I’ll vote for Mike Barkley for his pro-union, anti Free Trade stand, his opposition to the Trump tax cut and his concern for California’s water problems.  Those who are rightly concerned that two Republicans (Denham and Howze) might meet in the finals should probably vote for Harder. 


I’m sorry.  Spelling errors in a candidate statement (Voter’s Edge) put me off – especially one as egregious as this:  “Education is a basic tool for any human been.”  That propels businessman Tom Pratt to the top of the ticket despite a bizarre first priority:  Restore funding to all county fairs.  Really?  Oh well, he favors universal healthcare and wants to expand broadband coverage.  He’s supported by Progressive Democrats of America. 


The worst-case scenario:  One Democrat against one Republican. 


This contest is between a trial attorney in Crystal Swanson and a military judge in Carrie Stephens.  In a nation that incarcerates more people proportionately than any nation on earth – thanks to prison for profit – we elect our judges with precious little information.  From what I could gather from her Facebook page, Swanson is qualified and competent.  Carrie Stephens also seems qualified and competent but she leans too much on her military experience for my taste.  I’ll vote for Swanson. 


Kamala Harris and the Democratic heavyweights have thrown their support to Tony Thurmond, an African American educator and state legislator.  Thurmond promises to stand up to Betsy DeVos’ anti public schools agenda.  He’ll fight vouchers and profit motivated charter schools.  He believes in teacher flexibility, teaching creativity and critical thinking.  He believes in the arts and music education.  He had me at standing up to DeVos. 

Lily Ploski, Marshall Tuck and Steve Ireland all sound like good candidates with excellent ideas but this time I’ll go with the favorite. 


Shannon Sanford is proud of her test scores and wants to eliminate administrative red tape.  Don Davis has the endorsement of the Modesto Bee with his 36 years of experience.  Scott Kuykendall values hard work, honesty and responsibility.  I find none of their arguments compelling but I’ll vote for Sanford on the grounds that she has relatively specific ideas. 


If you’ve followed the trial of attorney Frank Carson, you have probably come to the same conclusion I have:  Birgit Fladager should not have the power of her office.  She is being challenged by her employee and fellow prosecutor John Mayne and defense attorneys Steven O’Connor and Patrick Kolasinski. 

O’Connor forcefully attacks the incumbents excesses and misconduct.  He stands for fair trials and wants to protect attorneys under the DA from Fladager’s revenge.  Kolasinski reportedly runs the largest law firm in the county.  Other than that I’m not sure why he’s running.  Mayne has experience in the DA’s office.  He laments the high turnover rate in the office. 

For me it comes down to John Mayne and Steven O’Connor.  I like O’Connor’s style and passion. 


This contest is between the Sheriff’s Lieutenant Jeff Dirkse and Sergeant Juan Alanis.  After finding trusted friends and family members endorsing Alanis, I was stunned to learn that he is a fierce gun rights supporter.  I cannot in good conscience support him.  Dirkse has the endorsement of former sheriff Adam Christianson.  Not impressed.  He opposes citizen review boards and marijuana legalization.  He will cooperate with ICE.  That’s enough.  I don’t like either of these candidates but I will vote for Alanis as the least bad candidate. 


We need to support this.  Too much of our infrastructure has been allowed to crumble and has not been repaired.  This will help in bringing us back to the modern age and the standards California deserves.  YES. 


Requires money raised from a 2017 law for transportation be used only for transportation.  Our roads are in terrible shape.  YES. 


I don’t like Supermajority laws.  The infamous Prop 13 that crippled California for years was a Supermajority law.  It’s undemocratic.  NO. 


Requires that propositions passed by the voters go into effect within five days.  YES. 


Water is the new gold.  YES. 

SOURCES:  Voter’s Edge California, San Jose Mercury News, Fresno Bee, Modesto Bee Editorial Board and the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018




By Jerome Corsi

A Novel Charading as History

Jerome Corsi, renowned conspiracy theorist and Washington D.C. “bureau chief” for the rightwing website Info Wars, has published a new book plucked from the annals of contemporary Republican Talking Points: Killing the Deep State – The Fight to Save President Trump.  The work is sure to be a bestseller and one of the least read bestsellers in modern history. 

This is how they perpetuate Alternative Facts and call them the Truth.  This is how they manufacture a reality that conforms to their warped vision of a return to a white dominated, Christian society free of restless minorities and vanity driven liberals.  This is how they get back at the establishment father figures that rejected their thoughts and ideas and forced them to toil in relative obscurity. 

As a writer of political fiction featuring grand conspiracies (Ghost Dance Insurrection, A Patriot Dirge, Pawns to Players: The Stairway Scandal, A Match for the White House, The Putin Gambit), I can admire the impudent boldness and mendacity of a writer claiming to chronicle history when clearly his vision is the product of pure imagination. 

Corsi is a fully indoctrinated rightwing propagandist, plain and simple.  He is likely a failed fiction writer who – like Bill O’Reilly – has discovered that if you write for an entrenched political faction, they will buy your books – or at least pretend to buy them in order to place them on the bestsellers list. 

Jerome Corsi has written a book that is proudly fact free.  If you state a premise rejecting all legitimate sources of information, including the New York Times and the Mainstream Media, then you can be sure that what follows has little resemblance to fact or truth in the real world. 

Corsi asserts with feigned astonishment:  “Just 24 hours after losing the election, Hillary was already touting the Russian collusion theme.”  The fact is:  Russian interference in our election on behalf of Donald Trump was established long before the election.  Trump’s collusion was already under investigation. 

Corsi asserts that the FBI as an institution was backing Hillary and attempting to sabotage the Trump campaign.  It is almost amusing how the rightwing conspiracy theorists attempt to deal with the stone cold fact that then FBI Director James Comey turned the election to Trump in the eleventh hour by announcing that the bureau had reopened the Hillary Clinton email investigation.  Other than Vladimir Putin, no one on the planet had a more prominent roll in placing Trump in the White House than Comey. 

Corsi asserts that the Obama-Clinton administration gave Russia military technology and “20% of all US uranium production.”  The fact is the Obama administration attempted to secure Russian nuclear weapons and materials in an attempt to block their deliverance to rogue nations or terrorists.  The rest is pure fiction. 

Corsi asserts that the “Deep State” forced mainstream media to fire Glenn Beck, Pat Buchanan and Lou Dobbs.  Let me get this straight:  Fox fired Glenn Beck and hired Lou Dobbs as a part of a mind control conspiracy?  The fact:  Beck was coming unhinged on the air.  Buchanan and Dobbs are old and withered.  Their place on the airwaves had run its course. 

Corsi asserts that former president Obama is actively pushing black America against Trump.  The truth:  Black America needs no help from Obama to turn against a man who declined to criticize the KKK on the eve of the Alabama primary and pretended he didn’t know former Grand Wizard David Duke. 

Corsi asserts that an FBI agent softened the wording of James Comey’s speech decrying Hillary’s handling of her emails from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless”.  Really?  If that’s the best the Deep State could do we have absolutely nothing to worry about. 

Corsi asserts that the government covered up the fact that the Christopher Steele dossier was a fake.  It was and is not a fake and renaming it the Fusion GPS dossier does not change that fact.  Republicans sponsored it in the primaries and Democrats took over after Trump won the nomination.  Who cares?  The dirty dossier remains compelling and its contents have largely been validated. 

Corsi asserts that Trump has a plan.  He will manufacture or otherwise use a “game-changing national security crisis” to decimate the Deep State.  This is hardly news.  All presidents use the inevitable national security crisis to their political advantage.  Given the president’s record for competence, however, good luck with that. 

The fact is:  There may well be a Deep State in some sense of the term but my suspicion is those who belong to it are extremely wealthy individuals who control the global flow of money.  (The Donald only wishes he could join them but he’s neither rich enough nor powerful enough.  He’s only a temporary chief executive.)  They meet in places like Davos and they manipulate governments and markets to facilitate their profits.  They are not spies who have infiltrated the institutions of government.  That sort of thing happens but the Deep State wouldn’t bother. 

A question for you:  If I’m right and the Deep State is a secret cabal of money-motivated elites who gather power through wealth, why wouldn’t they fall in line behind Donald Trump?  The Donald poses no threat as president or businessman and has already delivered a historic tax cut to the richest of the rich. 

If you conspiracy theorists want some real fiction try Pawns to Players – The Chess Trilogy.  I assure you these three works will get you a lot closer to the truth than the hackneyed work of some Harvard educated propagandist. 

A final note:  Corsi advertises his book as a New York Times bestseller but I can find no evidence of that endorsement.  (Source:  Paid Advertisement, Modesto Bee 5/16/18.)

Jack Random, Author of the Jazzman Chronicles

Monday, May 14, 2018




By Jack Random

Much has been said on trade policy since Donald Trump became leader of the free world.  Trump boldly pulled out of the Trans Pacific Partnership – which of course never was ratified and never took effect.  He announced that NAFTA and CAFTA were dead and promptly pulled back from that position by suggesting that everything was open to negotiations. 

It is surprising how similar Trump is to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama on trade issues.  When the rhetoric is swept away and the election promises are buried and forgotten, Fair Trade becomes a concept that no one seems able to define – no less advocate. 

Now Trump has opened negotiations with the beast of Free Trade:  China.  His demands are all about the numbers.  We demand that the imbalance be rectified to the tune of $200 billion per year.  We demand that government subsidies be reduced if not eliminated.  We demand that the Chinese stop stealing technology developed by American corporations.  We demand that China stop manipulating currency to effect trade imbalance. 

The one thing Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his circle of Trump negotiators never mention are the rights of labor– including the right to a living wage.  It has become clear that what the rest of us mean by Fair Trade and what Trump means are separate and distinct concepts.  It is therefore necessary to establish the meaning of Fair Trade.  To Trump it is simple mathematics.  If the trade deficit of all nations engaged is at or near zero then the policies governing trade are fair.  If the deficit tips to one side or another then the policies are unfair. 

To Fair Trade advocates like Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown this is not what we had in mind.  Maybe it’s not clear what we had in mind.  Maybe the concept is deliberately cloudy so that Democratic candidates can claim to be pro Fair Trade when in fact they fall in line with the Free Trade mandate enacted by Republican Democrat Bill Clinton back in the nineties.  It has taken us decades to challenge that mandate and now we find it is being usurped by a pretender:  a president so clueless he will surely destroy the concept for another quarter century. 

For the record here’s what Fair Trade means to me: 

First, we need to scrap the entire framework of international trade as it exists today.  We need to dismiss the idea that NAFTA, CAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership only require minor revisions to meet the goals of Fair Trade.  A few concessions to labor and a provision for the environment will bring things into balance.  No, they will not.  What we need is wholesale and systemic change. 

We must understand that the world has accepted the tenets of Free Trade and will not agree to any systemic change without a fight.  This includes all of Europe and Great Britain as well as China, Russia and less developed nations. 

In this sense, America must lead.  There was once hope that the European Union could lead the march to Fair Trade but that hope has faded like a photograph left too long in the sun.  European leaders from the socialists of Spain to the progressives of Greece and Italy will tell you that the train has left the station.  Globalization is an indelible fact and its rules are set in concrete.  The World Bank, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund are the arbiters of trade and cannot be challenged. 

It is unthinkable that the very institutions that enforced austerity across the continent are now considered untouchable.  Let us abandon that thinking and demand a new system. 

We must establish new criteria for trade by creating and enforcing new tiers of trade status, ranging from preferred to prohibited. 

TIER ONE:  PREFERRED TRADE STATUS.  Preferred trading partners would be held to the highest standards of living wages, the right to establish unions, the right to binding arbitration, the right to safe working conditions, as well as retirement and health benefits.  Preferred status would be reserved for nations whose governments do not provide subsidies to affect a competitive advantage.  We would also expect exemplary records for human rights, civil rights and environmental protection.  Preferred trading partners would also be expected to enforce the same standards on its trading partners.  Failure to do so would automatically drop a nation from preferred status. 

Those nations that are granted Preferred Trade status would be rewarded with unencumbered trade free of tariffs or regulatory barriers. 

Clearly, if we are to hold others to a high standard we should be expected to hold ourselves to an equivalent standard.  That is not the case today.  We do not uphold a living wage.  We deny the right to unionize in those states that uphold “Right to Work” laws.  We fail to provide universal healthcare.  We are compromised on human rights (capitol punishment and mass imprisonment) and civil rights (our justice system discriminates on the basis of race and religion; our economic system on the basis of race, religion and gender).  And we do not uphold the highest standards of environmental protection (under Donald Trump it’s not even close).  We have also subsidized industries (auto, steel and banking) in times of economic stress. 

But let that go for now.  Let us assume that we are working to improve our own status and stipulate that we cannot hold others to a higher standard than we are able to achieve. 

Without detailed analysis the nations that would qualify for preferred trade status under a Fair Trade system would include western European nations, Canada, Japan, Australia, South Korea and perhaps some African and Latin American nations.  It would include none of the Middle Eastern nations and would decidedly exclude China, India, Pakistan and Russia. 

TIER TWO:  CONDITIONAL TRADE STATUS.  Conditional trading partners would be subject to penalties and limitations proportionate to their failures in upholding the standards of Tier One partners.  For example, a nation that upholds standards in all respects except for a temporary subsidy to its auto industry might be subject to a one-time fine or granted an exemption based on exceptional circumstances.  A nation that blocks unionization and fails to provide health and retirement benefits would be subject to more severe penalties.  The guiding principle is that it should be to a nation’s advantage to uphold all standards to the highest possible extent.  It would require periodic review and adjustment and that would require a new international institution to adjudicate.  I suggest the International Fair Trade Commission under the auspices of the United Nations.  It is essential that any such body be independent of political influence to the greatest possible degree. 

The vast majority of the world’s nations would be placed in the second tier.  If we were honest and objective, it would include the United States as well. 

TIER THREE:  PROHIBITED TRADE STATUS.  Prohibited trading partners would include any nations with gross violations of labor rights, human rights, civil rights and/or environmental protection.  For example, any nation whose government engages in ethnic cleansing or genocide would be prohibited from trading with the United States or its preferred trading partners. 

Prohibited trading partners would likely include such human rights violators as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, the Philippines, Congo, Myanmar, Turkey and North Korea.

Preferred trading status is not new.  There are a variety of preferential trading zones currently in operation for any number of reasons.  None of these trade agreements, however, are established with Fair Trade standards as the unifying principle.  Consequently, while Fair Trade principles are frequently discussed at trade negotiations, they lack leverage.  Labor representatives are rarely invited to participate and when they are they serve primarily as symbols. 

The key difference between Free Trade and Fair Trade is the absence of labor in the former and the prominence of labor in the latter.  That is the imbalance that must be rectified if the divergence of wealth between the haves and the have-nots is to be reduced by any significant margin. 

Liberals, neo-liberals, conservative and neoconservatives alike have argued that using trade policy to guide social development would only punish the people who already suffer under oppressive governments.  Such arguments are self-serving and short sighted.  America’s middle class did not spring from the air.  It required that the people extract a price from their elected leaders for their defiance of human rights.  It required resistance and establishing institutions like labor unions that stood up for workers against all odds.  Those who fought for unions and labor rights in this country paid a price in blood and sacrifice.  They persisted until political institutions and leaders finally stood up for them. 

We are losing our middle class because those institutions that stood with the working people have crumbled.  Unions are in steep decline.  Right to Work laws block union organizers.  Democrats only pretend to be the worker’s party at election time while they collect their share from the corporate coffers and govern very much like the corporate Republicans. 

Systemic change never comes easy but it comes.  It comes after years and decades of pushing and refusing to settle for the lesser of evils.  Donald Trump, for all his inadequacies, has tapped the anger of the people and proven that what was once considered extreme is now completely acceptable.  That goes for radical visions for positive change as well as delusional visions of self-aggrandizement. 

If we do nothing, Donald Trump will destroy any chance of Fair Trade for the foreseeable future.  He will turn it into something that upends economic gains and turns the stock market downward.  He will turn it into nationalism and patriotism, us against them, in a battle of numbers until we no longer care how it affects the poor and the working poor.  Donald Trump doesn’t care about the workers.  He will bring industrial jobs back only if they operate on cheap labor or automation. 

The coming world must be planned and plotted to provide for working people.  We all have a right to live in dignity and good health.  We have a right to pursue happiness even if we do not have wealth.  Fair Trade is one important step in getting there. 

Automation is coming.  The robot labor force is coming.  There is no job on the open market that robots cannot do faster and more efficiently than humans.  The transition will be stunning for industrial labor but it is coming for us all.  Unfortunately, we cannot all serve as maintenance workers for a robotic labor force.  We will have to be creative in finding new lines of work and new endeavors for human kind.  In this future world, a world that has already arrived at our door, it will be more important than ever that all of us – not just the CEO’s – are represented. 

The pundits and political class will line up against us.  They will bring warnings of global economic collapse.  They will predict a market crash.  They will tell us that Free Trade brings cheap products to our local Walmart.  They will tell us there is no turning back. 

To some degree they are correct.  A transition to Fair Trade will not be easy.  It will mean higher prices for consumer goods.  But it will also bring better paying jobs not only to our nation but to other nations as well.  It will ultimately yield benefits to all people.  It will serve as a warning to the corporate powers that workers will be represented at the global economic bargaining table.  It will serve notice that you cannot build a sustainable economy on the exploitation of the labor force. 

Donald Trump had the corporate elites running scared for a while.  The markets reacted like a junkie on his last hit when he threatened to make good on his promise to pull out of NAFTA.  The monetary pundits cried out in horror when he announced in a twit of impulse that he was slapping a tariff on steel and aluminum.  But it turned out he was just another politician who speaks with a forked tongue.  Like so many before him, he talks Fair Trade but when it all comes down he doesn’t mean a word of it. 


Jack Random is the author of the Jazzman Chronicles, Hard Times: The Wrath of an Angry God and the Chess Trilogy.