Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Valentine's Day Massacre at Stoneman Douglas High



By Jack Random

To most of us the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in affluent Parkland, Florida was an unconscionable tragedy.  To some it was a call to protest.  To others it was a call to arms – literally.  To the National Rifle Association it was an opportunity for a dramatic explosion in sales of firearms and they wasted little time exploiting it. 

According to the NRA the solution to mass shootings by mad killers with high volume killing machines is more killing machines in the hands of more people vetted for mental illness or not.  It is not a coincidence that such an approach would require a massive expenditure for guns, gun training and ammunition.  Forget the idea that we need more mental health services.  No gun-toting, gun-pimping politician has ever gone to bat for increased mental health services.  They just use it as a talking point every time one of these tragedies occurs.  Indeed, most gun advocates – being good Republicans – have consistently voted against increased mental health services. 

The new approach is one the NRA crowd can really get behind:  Guns in churches, guns in schools, guns in concerts, guns in bars.  Guns everywhere!  The more the better.  As long as it pads the bottom line let the killing go on.  It doesn’t really matter how many die as long as we protect the most extreme and absurd interpretation of the second amendment. 

It’s time gun advocates accepted the second amendment for what it is and what it was when it was drafted:  A protection against a hostile takeover of the federal government.  The right to bear arms in a “well-regulated militia” is the right to rebel against an authoritarian dictatorship. 

Only in this light does it make sense to defend an individual’s right to weapons of war.  The intended war is against our own government:  The people against our leaders. 

Is that what the second amendment defenders want?  Do they really believe that it is or will be necessary to defend our democracy against tyranny?  How do they suppose that battle will end? 

I believe democracy will survive despite the constant attempts of some to subvert it.  It has survived since the constitution was adopted.  We have had many horrible presidents and numerous members of congress that were and are an affront to human dignity and still our democracy endures. 

We do not need some federation of private militias turning our fields of plenty into killing fields in the name of freedom.  Rather we need to educate our citizenry so that inept individuals like Donald Trump have no chance of being elected to high office.  We need to defend our democratic institutions so that when mistakes like the Trump presidency happen they can be corrected in four years or less.  Disasters can be corrected by the ballot box – not by the bullet.  In some cases they can be corrected by legislative or judicial means. 

Virtually all our democratic institutions are badly in need of repair.  The most obvious flaw in our system is the Electoral College.  That we are still employing a system designed to subvert democracy is absurd to the point of unforgivable.  Needless to say, two of the worst presidents in modern history could have been avoided if the election was determined by a popular vote.  Other desperately needed reforms include:  Outlawing partisan gerrymandering, universal suffrage through automatic registration, strict laws and penalties against deliberate efforts to discourage voting or attempts to disenfranchise voters, week-long elections and easy access to voting polls. 

Critically, we need to break our dependence on a two-party system that has lost the support of the majority of our people.  As it stands a candidate for public office must conform to one of two sets of policies and ideas that have moved closer over time.  It stunts creative thinking and compels anyone who seeks a leadership position to accept the money of major corporate contributors and all that goes with that attachment.  We desperately need to get the money out of politics so that decent, intelligent people can go to Washington and solve problems like the proliferation of weaponry. 

Beyond the election process itself, we need to reform the media and education.  There was a time when the mainstream media was sufficiently trusted by the people that we could all agree on a foundation of facts.  Now we invent our own facts.  There was a time when our public schools delivered essentially the same narrative – albeit a biased narrative – of history and civics so that Americans shared a sense of identity and values. 

We cannot and should not go back to simpler times but we can do better.  Journalism needs to observe a standard of objectivity.  The institutions of record – the Times, the Post, the major networks and cable news sources – have lost all credibility.  They cannot be regarded as consistently objective news sources when they have a financial incentive to distort the news whenever corporate interests are involved.  The recent convergence of opinion that Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum are disastrous is a case on point.  There is a debate to be had on the use of tariffs to enforce fair trade policies.  It is by no means an accepted truth that tariffs are bad and free trade is good but that is how the media has generally delivered the story. 

Journalism must understand that one bad story is worth a hundred or a thousand well-sourced and unbiased stories.  When the war in Iraq was being debated, the revelation that Judy Miller served as a fence for White House propaganda set the Times back years.  The accepted practice of imbedded journalism set all of mainstream media back. 

The only reform that goes to the heart of the matter would be to separate journalism from corporate interests.  That is not going to happen any time soon.  It will therefore fall to self-governance to restore media credibility so that unscrupulous politicians like Trump can no longer get away with the standard denial of “fake news” or alternative facts. 

Education must also share responsibility for the loss an informed electorate that is able to separate fact from fiction and employ objective analysis to arrive at logical conclusions.  More and more our schools are themselves becoming propaganda machines.  That is one reason so many Republicans defend local control of the curriculum.  If they can control what kids are taught there is an excellent chance they can control the vote for years to come. 

In the end the only way to stop violence in the schools and on the streets of our cities is to throw all the bums out who allowed this to happen.  The kids of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are absolutely right.  Failure to address this distinctly American problem is bullshit.  


Jack Random is a novelist and freelance writer now retired and living in Northern California.  He can be reached at 

Wednesday, February 07, 2018




By Jack Random

Corporate America is having a party.  In the age of Trump they get everything they want and the markets are rallying like it’s never going to end.  All hail the Donald!  The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed from approximately 20,000 to 26,000 since the election of Trump.  Standard & Poor’s 500 went from roughly 2,300 to 2,800 and the NASDAQ 100 shot up from 5,000 and change to nearly 7,000.  By any account that is one hell of a rally. 

The question is why?  Is the economy truly in such great shape?  The gross national product, housing starts, corporate profits and employment have all been on a steady rise since the election of Barack Obama.  The price of homes has been on the rise since 2012. 

The overall pattern of positive economic growth is a steady rise since the collapse of 2008.  But the markets did not begin to celebrate until the Donald was elected at the end of 2016.  CNN describes the Trump rally as “runaway freight train” [1] and that is exactly what it is.  Like the Amtrak passenger train on its virgin run in Washington state, the markets are rolling faster than reason can justify and the safeguards to slow it down are not in place. 

Bucking the upward trend are stagnant wages and personal debt.  Despite the repeated assertions of Trump and his trumpeters, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates real average hourly wages rose by 0.4 percent in the last year. [2] That is an increase that even the poor would hardly notice.  Market Watch noted that household debt had surpassed the critical levels of 2008 by August of 2017 and Pew Research noted that real wages have not moved significantly since the 1970’s. 

What gives?  The numbers do not reveal any significant divergence except that the Republicans – the corporate supreme party – now has complete control of government.  While Barrack Obama was certainly a friend to Wall Street, his replacement is a complete sellout.  Any concerns Wall Street might have had that the Donald meant what he said about helping working people – striking down NAFTA, CAFTA and Free Trade policies – seem to have been alleviated with the passage of time and tax reform – a massive transfer of wealth to the wealthy.  The White House has worked overtime eliminating regulations and enforcement of regulations on both industry and the financial sector. 

The watchdogs, the oversight agents and the regulators are all on vacation and the alchemists are back in town.  Despite the great crash that signaled the failure of their first massive experiment in converting crap to gold, they remain confident that the dark art will work in the long run.  They can create wine from water if only the doubting crowd will turn their heads and allow them to operate in secrecy.  It’s all hocus-pocus anyway so why not go all the way? 

The real question is:  How long can you continue to feed the markets on the investments of the wealthy alone?  The workers have no money to spare.  The ever-shrinking middle class is waking up to the fact that they can hardly make ends meet.  The last time the ordinary people invested in the markets they got burned and burned badly.  They learned that the small investor is the first to take a hit.  They learned that what the markets consider a correction is enough to knock them out of the market at a cost of their savings, their college funds, their retirement and their rainy day fund. 

Here’s my prediction:  If the ordinary people take the bait and come back in the markets, they will almost immediately be knocked out.  That’s how the money people cash their checks.  That’s where the money comes from.  Only the wealthy can afford to buy back in when the market bottoms out.  When they do they will own twice what they owned before on the same money. 

Donald Trump is right about one thing and one thing only:  The system is rigged.  Unfortunately, the system is rigged in his favor.  The tax cut was not the biggest in history but it was one hell of a bump.  Republicans will have no problem raising contributions for the midterm elections.  If they succeed in keep control of congress the party will go on but it cannot go on indefinitely. 

It will end when the people finally decide they’ve been ripped off one too many times.  It will end when they put leaders in power who are determined to look behind the curtain.  It will end when the voodoo priests are exposed as charlatans and the alchemists are run out of town on a proverbial rail.  It will end when the market – built on a foundation of lies – collapses of its weight. 

It ends when the real world invades the fantasy world where the party goes on forever.  It ends and then the cycle begins again.  The market waits like a vampire in the shadows of jazz town until the people have forgotten the danger and are once again willing to stay out after the witching hour.  The market will once again offer sweet temptation – a party that never ends, intoxication without a hangover – and the ordinary people will be pulled into the maze. 

I began writing this piece at the end of January when euphoria was taking hold.  As it stands now on the fifth of February the Dow Jones Industrial Average has lost some 1,800 points over two trading days.  Realty injected a jolt of caution to all individuals who were considering investing in the Trump market.  In one fifteen-minute stretch, while the president pimped his tax reform in some plant in Ohio, the Dow lost seven hundred points.  During those fifteen minutes careful listeners could hear a great flushing sound.  It was the sound of small investors being flushed from the market at a dizzying loss.

Most analysts delivered the counter-intuitive narrative that institutional investors were spooked by an incremental rise in wages.  They believe it foreshadows a rise in inflation and inflation is the death knell of bull markets.  [3]

How ironic is that?  A rise in real wages is exactly what the real economy needs.  A proportionate rise in inflation – the cost of goods – would negate increased wages while simultaneously stimulating increased interest rates.  Increased interest rates would of course boost the bond market but kill the stock market. 

The market is therefore fully invested in stagnant wages, minimal inflation, increased corporate profits and low interest rates.  It is a corporate market and its enemy is the working class.  If you work for a living, why would you invest in a machine that consumes you like a lump of coal in a hot furnace? 

Don’t be a fool.  This is a rich man’s market.  It steals your money and transfers it to the top.  It consolidates wealth and secures power in the hands of the one percent.  The only place reserved for the small investor is labeled:  Sucker.  Stay out of it. 

Until they reform the market from top to bottom by empowering the small investor, reintroducing regulations with bite and regulators with both the power and the inclination to use it, this market has no place for the likes of you or me. 


[1]  “Dow 26,000: The stock market is a runaway freight train” by Matt Egan.  January 16, 2018. 
[2]  “Earnings and Wages:  Bureau of Labor Statistics.”  January 3, 2018. 
[3]  “Dow Jones suffers worst fall in two years amid fears of interest rate rise” by Richard Partington.  February 2, 2018. 

Jack Random is a retired educator, publisher, essayist, novelist and the author of the Jazzman Chronicles. 

Sunday, February 04, 2018






I consider myself an objective observer.  I try not to allow my ideological leanings and loyalties to influence my interpretation of events even though I know that pure objectivity is an impossible ideal.  During the campaign to stop the Afghan and Iraq Wars – otherwise known as the opening act of the Global War on Terror – I learned not to trust the New York Times, the Washington Post, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN or any other mainstream source of information.  I learned to cultivate new sources and alternative analysts:  Democracy Now, Common Dreams, CounterPunch, Dissident Voice and others too numerous to name.

As our former president declared, everything changed after September 11th 2001.  The Times became a fence for White House propaganda.  The media abandoned journalism and jumped on the propaganda bandwagon.  Everyone on corporate owned television and radio was compelled to take a patriot test.  I distinctly remember Dan Rather using his platform at CBS to pledge his allegiance to war – whatever war George W. Bush wanted to fight. 

Those of us who opposed the war on terror from its beginning were often accused of aiding the enemy.  Our opposition did not hesitate to use the word: treason.  We were ostracized from the society of acceptable discourse.  We developed new lines of communication and new alliances.  We formed a resistance movement that defied group think and reminded the American people that the best minds of our generation were those that opposed military aggression and proposed a new way of conducting the nation’s business. 

We became an army of resistance from San Francisco to New York, from Seattle to Miami, from Portland Maine to Portland Oregon, and our collective voice was heard around the globe.  We became a force that not even the Democrats could ignore for long. 

We could not sustain the unity of the antiwar movement.  People on the left of the ideological scale embrace differences until they no longer serve a common cause.  The antiwar movement yields to Black Lives Matter and the March for Women’s Rights.  The fight for fair wages gives way to the environmental movement.  The fight for equal pay gives way to universal Medicare.  Universal Medicare yields to the rights of immigrants.  On and on we go until the movement is no longer a singular unifying force. 

We begin to splinter and continue to divide until some great evil arises to unite us once again.

We have arrived at the point of division.  The great splintering of the left has begun and the source of this division is a great surprise to many of us who naively thought it would be a unifying evil.  It is the Russia-Trump divide. 

Those who doubt the Russia-Trump conspiracy include such leftist luminaries as filmmaker Oliver Stone and journalist Glenn Greenwald in tentative alliance with the venerable linguist-philosopher Noam Chomsky and writer-editor Tariq Ali. 

I’ve grown a little tired of the claim that those who believe there was a conspiracy to defraud our election are suffering under some kind of delusion born of wishful thinking.  The doubters repeatedly state that there is no evidence of such a conspiracy.  Since there is clearly an abundance of evidence I assume that they mean there is no direct evidence that Donald Trump Sr. conspired with agents of the Russian government to defraud, distort or otherwise influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.  They will not be satisfied with anything short of a recorded interaction or a full confession – and even that may not be sufficient. 

I’ve taken something of a survey and found the following arguments against the importance of and/or validity of the Trump-Russia investigation. 

The Russian collusion narrative is made for TV drama.  I too am a critic of media obsession – a practice that compromises journalistic responsibility in favor of ratings.  Simply because the media are obsessed, however, does not mean the story is without validity.  OJ did in fact kill Nicole and the LAPD was in fact corrupt. 

Every government does what it can to manipulate the elections of other countries.  I don’t believe that every country does it though it would hardly make it more acceptable if they did.  I have seen compelling evidence that Russia waged concerted web-based propaganda campaigns in France, Germany and the United States.  Putin exerted influence more directly in Ukraine.  I have not seen evidence that France, Germany or any other European nation has done the same – though a reciprocal action might be understandable.  Then again, Russia does not have legitimate elections.  You may well question whether the US has free and fair elections – and I do – but comparing the US to Russia on a democratic scale is like comparing a Cadillac to a Chevy Nova. 

The United States has a history of injecting itself into other nation’s elections – most recently in Afghanistan, Iraq and Ukraine.  Our attacks on the democratic process – whether emerging or established – have inevitably had disastrous consequences.  Think Pinochet of Chile.  Whether you believe it is a common practice or not, all attempts to thwart, manipulate or distort the will of the people in fair elections should be condemned in the strongest terms possible. 

I do not think Trump conspired with Putin.  Whether Donald personally conspired with Vladimir or agents of the Russian government is almost irrelevant.  Almost.  How did Putin manage to place so many Putin loyalists – read compromised – in Trump’s campaign?  Do you believe that Trump & Sons are beholden to Russian oligarchs under Putin’s thumb?  Does Putin have compromising information on our president?  Do you believe the Steele dossier was completely fabricated?  Was Trump a beneficiary in Russian money laundering through Deutsche Bank and the Bank of Cyprus?  How do you explain Trump’s pro-Russia positions – his visionary strategic foresight?  Why would Trump’s son and son-in-law take a meeting with agents of the Russian government – in Trump Tower no less?   Why did our president – with all eyes on the Trump-Putin scandal – refuse to enforce the post election sanctions? 

I believe there is compelling evidence that Trump is in partnership with Putin and the manifestations of their arrangement have yet to be fully seen – thanks largely to the media magnifying glass.  I believe that Putin is a bad actor on the world stage, a corrupt politician who has stolen a massive fortune from the Russian people, a killer of journalists and political opponents and an avowed enemy of democracy.  I also believe he is a master manipulator who has played Trump & Sons for fools. 

You need to make up your own mind and not be swayed by mainstream media propaganda.  Agreed.  We need to gather available information and come to our own conclusions.  Lacking certainty, we need to remain open to the possibility that we are wrong. 

The specter of collusion has been so consuming it has distracted us from the assaults on the environment, the working poor and global peace.  Once again we can object to media obsession while acknowledging the validity of Russian interference and Trump complicity.  To ignore the original sin of this illegitimate president is like ignoring Native American genocide so that we can give more attention to the inhuman scourge of slavery.  Any discourse on inequality in America can and must begin with the natives and any account of the Trump administration must begin with the illegitimacy of his election. 

Democrats should consider not only the evidence but also the politics of wishful thinking.  This argument takes a pragmatic point of view and holds that the “Russia thing” will not only fail to remove Trump from office but will fall short of persuading those who voted for Trump not to do so again.  Besides, the argument holds, successfully impeaching Trump would only land us with Mike “The Puritan” Pence.  I am reminded of the case of Richard Nixon.  Who would have guessed that a burglary at the Watergate Hotel would remove Nixon from office?  Who would have thought that anyone would care?  Besides, Nixon’s removal would only land the nation with Spiro Agnew – a man not even his Republican colleagues could support.  But Nixon did resign and Spiro Agnew was safely removed to enable a relative moderate in Gerald Ford to take over.  The electorate removed Ford from the presidency at first opportunity.  The point is:  We cannot predict the future with certainty yet it must not prevent us from doing what we believe is right.  If we believe that Trump and Putin defrauded our democracy we must fight back. 

What if Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation vindicates Trump?  While all things are possible, that prospect seems increasingly unlikely.  It is difficult to prove conspiracy beyond all doubt but Trump is on record obstructing the investigation first by firing FBI Director James Comey and then by drafting a cover story for his son concerning the infamous Trump Tower meeting.  Moreover, would Mueller let former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn off the hook without compelling information to indict the president?  I think not.  That Trump is leading a campaign to discredit Mueller is a reflection of a desperate man – a man who is going down.  But let’s say that Mueller falls short.  Will that really vindicate Trump?  How many of his underlings will go down in the process?  How many will be indicted?  How many will go to jail?  Will the fallen include his son and son-in-law?  It is hard to imagine that Trump wins any hearts and minds with the Russia investigation no matter what conclusions Mueller draws. 

Focusing on Russia will distract us from more compelling issues:  tax reform, minimum wage, climate change, etc.  The attack on Trump in the next election – assuming he’s still in office – should engage numerous issues, including his broken promises on NAFTA and CAFTA and rebuilding the middle class with higher paying jobs.  But let’s not bury the lead:  Trump is an illegitimate president elected by an antiquated, anti-democratic system with the assistance of a foreign adversary. 

Focusing on Russia distracts from the “complete fucking disaster” the Democratic Party has become.  Once again the Russia-Trump story does not prevent anyone from attacking the feckless opposition party on any number of grounds.  In fact, the feckless Democrats seem to have taken their lead from the doubters.  The standard line is that the voters don’t want to hear about Russia; they want to hear about the things that affect them directly.  I disagree.  The reason the media place disproportionate attention on the Trump-Russia thing is that consumers want to know.  When is the last time you heard anyone outside the Black Caucus use the words “treason” or even “impeachment”?  Glenn Greenwald used to be one of the most respected left-leaning journalists in the world.  Now, he’s a rich man yelling in the wind about the Democratic conspiracy to defraud the legitimacy of the Trump administration.  Get real.  I am reminded that Greenwald once supported the invasion of Iraq.  Switching sides is not new to Greenwald.  Like Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, we need to revisit our assessment of those we once admired. 

What are we to think and who can we trust?  The only thing certain at this point is that if we are going to mount an effective resistance to the current government, the power structure and the corporate media, then we have to find common cause.  We can disagree on any given issue – even one as divisive as the Trump-Russia conspiracy – but we must come together on the greater goals of achieving political and economic equality, justice, peace and environmental awareness. 

It is important to recognize that there are greater things at stake than being right. 



“The Russia Thing” by Andrew Day.  Counterpunch, January 8, 2018. 

Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept (Formerly of The Guardian):  “Does this Man Know More than Robert Mueller?” by Simon van Zuylen-Wood.  New York Magazine, January 21, 2018. 

“Noam Chomsky’s Surprising Take on the Russia Scandal” by Paul Ratner.  Big Think, August 16, 2017. 

Ryan Cristian, Founder & Editor-in-Chief
The Last American Vagabond 

Sunday, January 14, 2018





You came to this country without invitation.  We did not ask you to come.  We did not want you to stay.  It was against our wishes that you invaded our lands and invited more of your kind to come until a trickle became a creek and a creek became a river that swallowed a continent. 

Whatever good will greeted you in the beginning you have worn it out.  We did not need the fruits of your labor.  This great and fertile land served its people well before you arrived and it will do so long after you’ve departed.  We have heard more than enough of your self-proclaimed contributions to our society and little concerning the harm you have done.   Before your arrival crime was a fraction of what it is today.  Murder, drug use and thievery have increased a hundred fold since your people decided to make your homes here. 

Since you came to this land without consent and remained here without authorization we must consider you outlaws.  The law is the law.  You either abide by the law or you defy it.  If you came to this country without the authorization and consent of its citizens, by the laws of man, nature and God, you committed a crime.  You are therefore criminals.  Your children and your children’s children are the products of a criminal act.  To sanctify them in perpetuity is to reward criminality and to sanction lawlessness. 

The color of your skin is of no concern.  Your values are of no interest.  Since your seminal act was one of defiance and criminality, we may presume that your values are deficient and that you passed some measure of your deficiencies onto your offspring.  Since you left the country of your birth and heritage – a nation that by all rights deserved your loyalty – we may presume that your patriotism is as thin as a sheath of plastic.  It is malleable and bends to the will of whoever currently holds power over you. 

You came to our land and refused to honor our ways.  You built your own communities separate from our own.  You built towns and cities with walls to protect you from us when in fact it we required protection from you.  You cut down our forests, stole our resources, poisoned our water, destroyed our homes and told us we must learn and honor your ways, your words and your laws.  You ordered us to leave our homes and forced us to live on lands that no one wanted.  But when your precious metals and black rocks and burning liquids were discovered there, you forced us onto new lands that no one wanted. 

You called this the law because it was written on paper and you forced us to comply.  When we fought back you showed us how powerful your weapons of destruction were.  You showed us at Sand Creek, the Washita River, the Greasy Grassy and dozens of other sites made sacred by the blood of the fallen. 

We recognize your laws for what they are and what they are not.  They do not honor justice or fairness or right against wrong.  They are the laws of greed and power.  You take what you want and destroy what you will.  You go to war without reason in lands far away.  You want to bend people everywhere to your will as you have tried to bend us but we will bend no further. 

We have tried to teach you to live with the land but your hearts are closed.  We have tried to show you where your recklessness leads but you close your eyes.  We can close our eyes no longer.  You are destroying the land the Great Spirit entrusted to us.  It is time for the great experiment to end. 

We have allowed you to live among us for hundreds of years and we have come to the conclusion that you will not change.  You will continue to take more than you need.  You will continue to destroy the land.  You will continue to poison the air and water.  You will preserve nothing for future generations. 

So we have come to this conclusion:  You must go.  You must return to where you came from.  Maybe they will welcome you.  Maybe they will not.  But you are no long wanted here.  We ask you to take your money, your machines and your weapons and go. 

We are not uncaring.  We know that all of your people are not the same.  There are those who argue that some of you should be allowed to stay.  But the elders say:  If we let only a few remain, soon there will be many and they will reclaim the land.  The cycle that leads only to destruction will begin again. 

This we cannot allow.  So go.  We wish you well. 

Mitakuye Oyasin. 



Saturday, January 06, 2018






One of the worst things about politics in the age of Trump is the loss of objectivity.  We cannot have a constructive dialogue about economics, foreign policy, history or democracy without slipping by raw instinct into tribal politics. 

If you stand with the president you necessarily believe that climate change – aka global warming – is a hoax.  You believe that God stands unconditionally with Israel and therefore America must do so as well.  You believe that a wall must be erected to protect us all from swarms of lowlife Mexicans and terrorist Muslims.  You believe that military commanders and billionaires in general are superior beings whose dictates should be followed without question.  You believe that police officers are under siege and have no need of citizen review or procedural reform.  You believe that white privilege is an appropriate response to decades of affirmative action. 

Trumpeters have proclaimed the right loudly and boldly to declare their own facts, their own truths and to create their own realities.  Their opinions are convictions that cannot be challenged.  They have no use for science or history or knowledge or expertise.  The most fundamental laws are subject to arbitrary denial.  Those who would stand for facts or scientific theory are declared elitists and discarded outright. 

Those who stand against the president and everything he holds to be true and right believe the president is bat shit crazy with the knowledge base, intellectual standing and emotional balance of a kindergartner and no amount of rational discussion will convince us otherwise. 

It is hard to reconcile the uneasy fact that outside the state of California a majority of voters preferred Trump to she who will not be named for president of the United States of America.  For god’s sake, how pissed off and alienated do you have to be to rise up from your cozy couch, drive on down to your local precinct and cast a vote to elevate an obvious racist, misogynist, blatantly dishonest con man to the highest office in the land?  Granted most of us don’t have go anywhere to cast a vote these days but we do have to fill out a ballot and send it in.  It does require an affirmative action.  It does require a conscious choice. 

Do we deserve what we get or is there in fact some rational lesson to be learned from this deeply embarrassing choice in leaders?  Is it a joke that most of us don’t quite get and can’t quite reconcile with the universe of reason? 
In moments of lucidity I do recognize the genius of Donald Trump.  He pulled off the penultimate con of the century and he did it by breaking every damned rule in the political handbook.  He took disasters that would have destroyed any other candidate and tossed them over his shoulder like dust in the wind. 

You can grab ‘em by the pussy and they let you do it; because you’re a star they let you do it! 

Forget about it.  It’s just locker room talk.  Boys being boys.  Men being men.  Freaking morons being morons. 

Not even the Donald expected to win.  Faced with the prospect of bankruptcy, a crumbling financial empire, loss of credit and a mounting debt, he parlayed a reality television show into a successful campaign for the White House. 

The man wanted a loyal following of fifty million pissed off Americans.  That’s it.  He wanted to rebuild his financial base and cancel some Russian debt along the way.  Winning was the last thing he had in mind. 

What do you have to do?  Shoot someone on Fifth Avenue? 

Well, Donald, maybe that would have turned the trick.  Maybe not.  That’s how pissed off the American people were and likely still are.  That’s how sick and tired people were of the Bill and Hillary Clinton show.  That’s how weary Republicans were of Lying Ted and Little Marco and Low Energy Jeb and politics as usual.  Sixty million people would have voted for a can opener. 

Now the president and his chaotic White House is under siege and any other president would be hunkered down in the basement working on his exit strategy.  Not this president.  He continues to tweet daily in defense of an alternative reality where it is not only legal and acceptable to conspire with a foreign adversary to defraud a presidential election; it is in fact strategic, bold and wise beyond knowing.  One man’s treason is another man’s vision. 

Don’t think for a moment he can’t win this thing.  He is winning.  This is a man who admitted up front to obstruction of justice.  He openly stated that he fired the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to stop the Russia investigation in its tracks.  He conspired with his son and others to issue a false and misleading statement concerning the infamous Trump Tower meeting with campaign representatives and Russian operatives. 

The party in control of both houses of congress should have issued articles of impeachment on the spot.  When the GOP balked, Trump grabbed them by the balls.  When you’re a president they let you do it!  It was shockingly easy to transform the party that obstructed legislation under Obama to the party that willfully participates in a conspiracy with the chief executive to obstruct justice.  Every weasel conspirator from House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes to Senator Lindsey Graham should be indicted as traitors. 

We are only beginning to see the audacity of this congress.  They will demand an investigation into the investigation.  They will hold endless hearings on the betrayal of Christopher Steele – the author-investigator behind the Dirty Dossier – and the politicization of the FBI.  They will tie it into the Clinton Foundation, Hillary’s emails and the great Benghazi cover-up. 

If Trump gets his way the truth will be so obscured you won’t be able recognize it as it slams you over the head with the force of Thor’s hammer.  It will fall to historians to rectify the harm, to sort through the obfuscation and misinformation and locate the stone cold truth:  Vladimir Putin orchestrated the election of an American president and got away with it. 

So which is it?  Is Donald Trump the moron that so many – friend and foe alike – say he is or is he the greatest con man the world has ever known?  Is it possible that both could be true? 

At a time when global warming threatens hundreds if not thousands of species including our own and nations are collecting weapons of mass destruction with renewed vigor, we don’t really have time for political bullshit yet here we are.  Once again we are confronted with a critical election and we don’t know if Russia will be a major player.  So far we’ve done less than nothing to stop them. 

If we don’t elect a Democratic majority to both houses of congress, there is very little chance that we can stop Trump.  Even if we do, there is the troubling matter of Mike Pence. 

We keep fighting the same fight – Democrat against Republican – knowing that it probably doesn’t even matter in the end.  After all, asking the Democrats to save us is like asking a convention of anarchists to help you put out the fire. 



Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hurricane Harvey: On The Eve of Destruction



By Jack Random

You tell me over and over and over again, my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

The Eve of Destruction
Barry McGuire

If you’re living anywhere along the Gulf Coast, you must be tired of hearing that this is the storm of the century.  If you’re living in the city of Houston, you might recall Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 or Hurricane Rita on the heels of Katrina in 2005.  Rita was the “most intense tropical storm ever observed in the Gulf of Mexico.”  It took one hundred and twenty lives and cost an estimated twelve billion in damage.  Of course that pales in comparison to Katrina, which took well over a thousand lives and cost over one hundred billion. [1]

I refuse to reenter the debate on whether you can blame global climate change for any specific climate catastrophe.  If you’re in the path of the storm or know someone who is, the game is over.  You can no longer deny the overwhelming truth without inviting a diagnosis of schizophrenia. 

It is bitterly ironic that those who reside in the victim zone are most likely to deny the realities of global warming.  Of course, the rich and powerful from Florida to Corpus Christi will always escape the danger posed by hurricanes, tropical storms and floods.  Their homes are built on higher grounds and they can afford to evacuate at a moment’s notice.  The poor and working class find housing where they can – inevitably in flood zones – and simply cannot afford to get out of harm’s way. 

Katrina was an opportunity for the moneyed class to reconstitute their city, to rid themselves of tens of thousands of poor black folk with their substandard housing, and bring in gentrification.  A lot of money was made on the backs of the poor who lost their homes and their places in the city of jazz. 

What will happen in Houston? 

Hurricane Katrina uncovered a slew of dirty little secrets.  The most damning was this:  The Army Corps of Engineers knew the levees would fail – if not from Katrina, then some other storm.  The work of shoring up the levees was neglected and substandard.  Katrina was a catastrophe waiting to happen.   The people in the lower ninth ward and other low-lying areas slammed by a twenty-foot wall of water would lose their lives, their homes and their roots.  The insurance companies would not cover even those who bought substandard policies.  The government would offer little assistance – pennies on the dollar – for a lifetime of hard work and accomplishment. 

As the residents of the New Jersey shore would learn years later after Hurricane Sandy, government talks a good game while the cameras are still rolling but the money comes up short when it’s time to rebuild the lives of working people. 

Of the hundreds of thousands who fled New Orleans, as many as half that number never made it home.  They were poor people and the city that gave them life and raised them from generation to generation could no longer afford them.  They were replaced with people who had more to offer – in terms of money and resources.  The color of New Orleans lightened.  Significantly more black people than white people were permanently displaced. 

Ironically, the city that inherited more of Katrina’s diaspora was Houston, Texas, where they became trapped in a deadly cycle of poverty and tragedy.  A disproportionate number of the displaced from Katrina and Rita ended up in FEMA apartments in the high-crime neighborhoods of Houston’s southwest sector.  They suffered the Memorial Day floods in 2015 and the Tax Day floods in 2016.  Now this. [2,3]

In New Orleans, decades of industrialization and lack of planning destroyed the wetlands that protected the city.  In Houston, the dirty little secret that will come to light as this disaster unfolds in slow motion on the news station of your choice, is that the development on the prairies and wetlands surrounding the city have hastened the city’s demise.  Those wetlands and prairies used to soak up water – water that now flows through the city streets. 

Much has been and will be said about the failure to call for a mass evacuation.  The truth is:  The state of Texas, the city of Houston and indeed the entire nation is not prepared for mass evacuations.  We don’t have the transportation infrastructure.  It would require a massive influx of expenditures with elevated mass transit from every major coastal city to inland evacuation centers stocked with warehouses of food, water, medicines, fuel, generators and shelters.  We are in fact not even willing to invest in our roads, tunnels, bridges and the dams that now stand between the current disaster in Houston and a tragedy of truly biblical proportions.  Those dams were built in the 1940’s. 

Our president has proposed cutting the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency by $600 million.  So much for emergency preparedness.  It won’t happen again.  Right.  It can’t happen again.  Right.  It’s fake news.  It’s a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.  Right.  Unless you’re in the path of the storm. 

Our president would rather invest more blood and treasure into the bottomless pit of war in Afghanistan than rebuild our own nation or prepare for the inevitable disasters to come. 

Whatever happened to America first?   

We don’t need a wall on the southern border.  We need flood walls on the Gulf of Mexico.  We don’t need money for endless wars across the globe.  We need money to mitigate the harm from global climate change. 


1. Wikipedia:  Blake, Eric S; Landsea, Christopher W; Gibney, Ethan J.  National Hurricane Center (August 2011).  The Deadliest, Costliest and Most Intense United States Tropical Cyclones from 1851 to 2010 (And Other Frequently Requested Hurricane Facts). 

2. “10 Years Later, There’s So Much We Don’t Know About Where Katrina Survivors Ended Up” by Laura Bliss.  Citylab, August 25, 2015. 

3. “Houston Wasn’t Built for a Flood Like This” by Henry Grabar.  Slate, August 27, 2017. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

CLUELESS DEMOCRATS: Rotten Apples & Rusty Nails



Why the Democrats are Clueless

On June 20th in the 6th Congressional District runoff election, Democrat Jon Ossoff lost to Republican Karen Handel by an approximate four percentage points – 51.9 to 48.1.  Ossoff set records by raising an estimated $24 million – six times his Republican opponent.  It was the fourth special election since the inauguration of Donald Trump and the Democrats have lost all of them. 

In the Ossoff campaign the Democrat was ahead by five points as late as June 11th, suggesting that the more attention the election received and the more money the Democrats poured in the more the electorate turned to the Republican [1].  

For the fourth consecutive election in the age of Trump the Democrats tried to proclaim moral victory but few could keep a straight face.  Losing is losing and when it costs $24 million to accomplish it, it is clear the Democratic message is the problem.  

What is that message?  In the case of Ossoff it seemed to be:  We can be conservative without the Trump insanity.  Ossoff stood for lower taxes, deregulation, second amendment sanctity, free trade and devotion to Israel.  Even more telling is where Ossoff dared not tread:  He stood neutral on single payer healthcare (Medicare for All), social security and Medicaid.  He refused to criticize the escalating wars in the Middle East.  He could not even bring himself to advocate a living wage.  [2] 

There is literally nothing today’s Republican Party or Donald Trump could find objectionable about Jon Ossoff except the capital D by his name.  

This is what the Democrats had in mind.  They want us to believe that Donald Trump and the mean party is so morally repugnant that all they have to do is show up.  They have crunched the numbers and come to the conclusion that they can continue taking obscene amounts of Wall Street money and still pose as advocates of the working class.  They don’t need to revise policies; they need only repackage the message.  

This is the kind of delusional thinking that allowed Hillary Clinton to believe she could run out the clock while Donald Trump barnstormed Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin with a promise of good old middle class industrial wage jobs for all.  He was lying but it didn’t matter.  At least he cared enough to show up and say what they wanted to hear:  Bring back the good old days!  Kick some terrorist ass!  Make America great again!  

Democrats seem to believe that they lost the presidential election because of Russian hacking, James Comey and rightwing media.  They are only partially correct.  They made it possible to lose by having nothing to offer the working people of this nation.  After Bernie Sanders all but browbeat Clinton into taking a stand in favor of Fair Trade, she never mentioned it again on the campaign trail.  She never challenged Trump on trade policy though it was clear he had no clue.  They allowed Trump to charade as a labor candidate despite an extensive background in abusing labor as a businessman.  Did Clinton think we wouldn’t notice?  

The old Democratic line isn’t working any more.  They seem to be waiting for demographics to shift enough that they can win with a central platform:  At least we’re not racist!  If they keep this up they’ll lose minority votes as well.  No one likes an empty basket.  Put something, anything in there and stand up for it.  

Let me make this clear.  I am a registered Democrat because I wanted my vote for Bernie Sanders to count in the California primary.  I am not a Democrat by philosophy or conviction.  I despise the two-party system that has reduced political discourse to an all-time low.  I despise a system that made the Tea Party and a Trump presidency possible by offering a choice between a rotten apple and a rusty nail.  I despise a system where the only viable parties require their candidates to take a pledge of loyalty to international corporations, Wall Street and the same industrialists who sold us out for greater profits overseas.  

We need a party that believes in something.  We need a party that stands for something.  We need a party that does not suspend principle because the candidate is running in Georgia, Kansas, Carolina or Georgia.  

All working class people can agree:  We need jobs that pay the bills and we need representatives at all levels of government who can deliver them. 

If any candidate wants my support it begins with trade policy and the rights of labor.  It begins with Fair Trade – a policy that conditions preferred trade status on mutual protection of a worker’s right to a living wage, decent working conditions, the right to form and join a union and minimal standards of health and retirement benefits.  It begins with protecting the rights of labor in our own country and that means striking down anti-union laws that block unions from the workplace and proclaim the right of individuals to refuse paying union fees though they benefit from union representation. 

The GOP is the party of the wealthy, the party of tax cuts, and the party that stands against environmental protection, financial regulation, social security and Medicare.  It is the party of indifference to discrimination in all its forms and the party of endless military misadventures.  We need a party that strikes a contrast and holds to it like a toddler to his mother’s hand.  

A candidate that wants my support must stand up for alternative energy sources – solar, wind and water – and pledge to expand them at the expense of fossil fuels.  We need to support research knowing that it will ultimately save money, resources and lives.  

We need a party that remembers what happens when we allow Wall Street financiers and industrialists to operate without oversight and regulation.  We cannot afford a repeat of the financial meltdown we experienced at the end of the George W. Bush administration and we are heading for an encore at record speed.  We need representatives who will call out office holders who claim that the meltdown was caused by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae or any other government entity.  It was caused by corporate greed and a license to do as they pleased.  If you allow Wall Street to create cash out of toxic waste, they will do so.  It is their nature to discard the public interest every time if it improves the bottom line.  

We need a party that is pledged to protect and defend Social Security and universal Medicare.  No more half measures.  When we compromised with Obamacare we compromised with a fundamental right to healthcare.  The net result is that we will soon have a healthcare system that is even crueler and more negligent than it was before Obamacare.  Even if the current healthcare proposal fails, our government is plotting actions and inactions that will ensure the system collapses.  What will we do then?  

We need a party that upholds equal pay for equal work, that is sensitive to the needs of minority communities, and that fights against discrimination wherever it occurs.  We need a party that addresses mass incarceration and the disproportionate incrimination of racial minorities.  We need a party that defends a woman’s right to reproductive care, including abortion, and opposes reckless military interventions.  We need a party that ends the perpetual increase in military expenditures and uses that money to improve the lives of our people.  

There are many other issues that could be addressed but these I consider fundamental.  If the Democrats wish to become that party so be it.  If not, we desperately need a new party – one that addresses the needs of the people and one that will not back down to a billionaire pretender. 

A party that gives us Jon Ossoff and channels $24 million dollars to his pandering campaign is not a party that deserves anyone’s support. 



Nothing I can add will improve your argument. You hit the (rusty) nail on the head. The Democratic party is over. It’s decline began the day Bill Clinton won the presidency as a “centrist” when he was in fact a Republican calling himself a Democrat. Bernie Sanders calls himself a Social Democrat and the mainstream call him a Socialist. Even he is conceding ground. He is in fact a Roosevelt Democrat - which is what a Democrat was between at least the late 1920s and 1992. In that period we saw an expansion of the middle class (especially after WW2), an increase in wages for almost everyone and much less income disparity than we now have. The shocks of the oil embargo in the 1970s opened the door for a new type of conservative, which is essentially a libertarianism skewed to the rich and pandering to bigotry masquerading as evangelical religion (it is in fact neither genuinely evangelical nor religious).

For now, yessir, losing is losing. 

Love and peace,

1.  “Georgia 6th District Run-off Election – Handel vs. Ossoff.”  Real Clear Politics, June 20, 2017. 

2.  “Democrats in the Dead Zone” by Jeffrey St. Clair.  Counterpunch, June 23, 2017.