Flying the flag

Patriotism is not one of my virtues.  Anti-patriotism is.

The American flag flies outside our house at this moment, on Independence Day, only because of Nebra. She feels right-wingers are not the only ones who should claim the patriotic high ground. That ground is not high to me.  It is Dead-Sea low.

I see very little in America of which to be proud these days. And not much to be hopeful for.

Racism is now shouted where once it was muted. Congress is divided and useless.  We move through life via a politicized Supreme Court, presidential executive orders and Dark Money.  Refugees are not welcome. U.S.  foreign policy and fanatical right-wingers lead to terrorism.  Religious fundamentalists want to stomp on individual rights. George W. Bush’s war in Iraq has opened Pandora’s Box in the Mideast. Equality is a joke. Democracy is a myth.  It does not exist.  An oligarchy of corporations and the wealthy pay off lawmakers to do their bidding.  Violence is everywhere. Gun laws bow to the whims of the NRA and weapons manufacturers, leading to a hideous interpretation of the Second Amendment. We want to build an expensive wall across “the border,” although our own appetite for illegal drugs is a big part of the perceived immigration problem. The voting process is rigged by two out-of-touch political parties.  Our two presidential candidates are widely unpopular. Just what the Founding Fathers foresaw.

Why would “God bless America”? Our wounds are self-inflicted. If you recognize these failings, any of them, how can flag-raising patriotism remedy the problems?

Fly the flag if you will.  But it makes no sense to me.  Waving an S.O.S.would be more appropriate.




Susan Sarandon on MSNBC

Subtitle:  A liberal who thinks Republican Donald Trump may as President be better for America than Hillary Clinton, who many believe is a liberal.

Flipping channels between lulls in a Phoenix Suns game on March 28, I came across “All In with Chris Hayes.”  The pragmatic Hayes seemed bewildered by his guest’s idealism and relentless support for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in what is for now a lop-sided race for the Democratic nomination.  Though Sanders has won numerous states, it is the ever “evolving” Clinton that has a commanding lead for delegates.

The guest was the actress and activist Susan Sarandon.  Listening to her speak, I was all ears and put aside the basketball game until the interview was over.

Sarandon travels the world for various causes dear to her heart.  She is smart, articulate, energetic and inspirational.  I was so mesmerized by her ideas, that I am publishing some of the most important.

CH (Chris Hayes) asks SS (Susan Sarandon) why she is backing Sanders.

SS: I really want to be on the right side of history, and this (Bernie Sanders) is a shot we’re not going to have again in my lifetime, a candidate who is morally consistent (undecipherable as Hayes tries to break in).

CH asks if she and other Sanders supporters will back Hillary if Sanders loses.

SS: That’s a legitimate concern because they (Sanders backers) are very passionate and very principled.

CH: Is that crazy?

SS: These are people who have not come out before [taken part in politics], so why would we think they will come out now for her [Hillary].

CH: You really believe that?

SS: I’ve talked to people, to Republicans who’ve written him in already  [meaning Sanders].  They think she’s a liar, not authentic [meaning Hillary].

[While it seems obvious Sarandon detests the Republican front-runner Donald Trump, SS does not rule out voting for him if Clinton wins the Democratic nomination.]

CH: Would you really do that?

SS: I don’t know.  I’m going to see what happens. Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately [if he becomes president].

CH:  Don’t you think it’s a danger?

SS:  Now, if you think it’s pragmatic to shore up the status quo, then you’re not in touch with the status quo.  The status quo isn’t working. I think it’s dangerous to continue the way we are — with the militarized police force, the privatized prisons, the death penalty, with the low minimum wage, with threats to women’s rights — and think you can’t do something huge to turn that around because the country is not in good shape. If you’re in the middle class, it’s disappearing.  We should stop prioritizing war. . . .

The interview ends a short time later.  Hayes apparently does not have time to delve into any issue deeply.  He seems exasperated by the idea that the candidate he, MSNBC and the elite of the National Democratic Party has backed, Hillary Clinton, would not be a default choice.

It’s obvious too that Chris Hayes is out of touch with middle class Americans and their thoughts for a better America.

It is my belief that because of Sarandon’s powerful thoughts expressed during this interview that MSNBC gave “equal time” the next day to a Hillary Clinton campaign official.


At the end of a long line

The goal: Reaching the voting room.
The goal: Reaching the voting room.

Arizona’s disastrous primary election of a week ago has again stirred up thoughts about America as a democracy.  Voters waited in long lines for up to 5 1/2 hours to cast ballots.  In addition there were ballot shortages and computer glitches.  Even for Arizona, this was a horrible example of a practice that has swept the nation, particularly in areas controlled by Republican legislatures.  It’s called voter suppression.

I was lucky.  I stood in line for only two hours and 53 minutes at the Church of the Beatitudes voting place in Phoenix.

Two of the last-known people to vote in other voting venues:  A state senator, Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix at 12: 20 a.m. on Wednesday and a native of Guatemala, Aracely Calderon at 12:12.

I had arrived at the back of a line at the corner of 7th Avenue and Glendale, the time was 2:08 p.m.  By the time I had walked along the serpentine line (see my hand-drawn map) and voted for the Democrat, Bernie Sanders, it was 5:01.

As I walked back to the street where Nebra was to pick me up in her car, the line was another 200 yards longer than when I had started out.  The polling places closed at 7, but under the law everyone standing in line at that time is allowed to vote.

My map of the serpentine line. The line of dashes is where the line was when I left to go home.
My map of the serpentine line. The line of dashes is where the line was when I left to go home.

Curious, I drove back to the polling place at 8:15 — and the line was now longer by maybe 50 yards.  I calculated the people at the end of the long line would not reach the ballot box until after midnight!

Not only that, but under Arizona law, voting results are made public by 8 p.m.  In no time, the media had projected the election winners.  I read the Associated Press made its projection at 8: 15. So many of those people in line knew four hours prior to their vote that Hillary Clinton (Democrat) and Donald Trump (Republican) had won Arizona by substantial margins.

That they stood in line knowing their votes would make little or no difference is testimony to their determination and perhaps errant thoughts of living in a democratic society.

Some came prepared for a long wait.
Some came prepared for a long wait.

This unacceptable situation occurred only in one Arizona county, the county for Phoenix. Maricopa County, for practical purposes, is Arizona when it comes to voting.  Maricopa carries 56.7 percent of the state’s population.  And it was there in Maricopa that the abuses mostly occurred.

The county Recorder’s Office and the elected County Recorder, Helen Purcell, a Republican, is in charge of County Elections which plans the Primary.   This year, for a reason that is unclear, the number of polling places was cut from 200 to 60 — for the Primary only —  not only leading to the gargantuan lines but jamming poll workers with an enormous amount of labor for a pittance of money.

The budget for the Primary was cut drastically by the Republican-controlled Legislature, and the Republic governor, Doug Ducey, signed off on it.

Karen Osborne, who heads up County Elections, was quoted as vowing to “. . . keep the presidential preference election as cheap as humans can do it.”

Besides the money issue, election officials said they planned on most of the voting to be done by mail.  If true, a major miscalculation.

Waiting and reading.
Waiting and reading.

Poll workers receive $100 to $125 for the day, and in the case of the Primary, some were at their stations for 18 hours.  That comes to $5.56 an hour for most poll workers and $6.94 an hour for premium workers with advanced training. That is far below minimum wage.  And it is the poll worker there on the front-line that takes the abuse while the real culprits lay low in distant buildings doing the “brain” work that so fouled the process.

Of all Primaries over the years, how could you sensibly cut polling places this year?  County Elections had plenty of fore-warning in a contentious presidential campaign.  Voter turnouts were up in other states with similar primaries.  Caucus states like Iowa are different.

Line grows as nightfall looms.
Line grows as nightfall looms.

Arizona’s Republic governor, Doug Ducey, has a typical right-wing Proposition, 123, scheduled for a special election on May 17. It is a controversial prop that Republicans claim is a boon to the education budget and also to reform pension programs in the public-safety sector.   It is not a wild dream to believe Ducey and his staff are behind the Primary debacle if only to exasperate voters so they will not participate in May.  It is a long-standing conclusion that Republicans and Propositions like 123 do best when there are low turnouts.

A hearing yesterday at the state House of Representative drew an impassioned and angry group.  They complained to the Elections Committee, run of course by Republicans.  The GOP has ruled the legislature for many years.  Whether these complaints will be addressed is up in the air.  My guess is that elections will continue as usual — unless the miracle of a Democratic wave takes over the Legislautre after the general election in November.

Anyway, I am glad I waited it out almost three hours and voted.  If it means nothing in the world of politics at least it mean a lot to me personally.  I say that even thinking that their is really no democracy in America, that in the case of the Primary, Party elites both Republican and Democrat have left us with much the same drab choices.

Change in Arizona is a long way off.  I suspect it is a long way off for America too.







Socialism? It’s American

You have to wonder why many Americans are afraid of Bernie Sanders,  Senator Sanders, who is seeking the presidential nomination from Democratic voters although he is an Independent, describes his political movement as Socialist Democrat.  The first part of that, “Socialist” is what scares ignorant voters.

“Socialism,” they say, “isn’t that Communism?  We don’t want a despotic Russian-type government running our country.”

Too late.  America is and has been for a long time a socialist country.

The U.S. military, for instance, is the largest socialist program in the world.  Social Security is a socialist program.  So are the VA, public education, the court system, federal prisons, Medicare and Medicaid. The list goes on and on.  Millions of Americans use these socialist programs every day of the year.

To the surprise and likely dismay of Obama-Haters, the Affordable Care Act ((Obamacare), is not a socialist program.  It is a quasi-private business program, which probably explains why it has so many bumps along the way.

How do you identify a socialist program?  Simple.  It is a government-run program doing business in a government-owned building with government-paid employees.  Socialism and capitalism can live together, not always in harmony but together.

Communism, on the other hand, seizes private corporations, usurps the profits for its own benefit and shares some of the lucre with its citizens.  Communism and capitalism can not live together, at least not comfortably.

Except for the military, Republicans hate socialist programs.  They hate Social Security because, they say, private businesses are more efficient and can save tax dollars.  What Republicans really want to do is to “privatize” all these social program so their wealthy friends can feast on taxpayer money.

Republicans hate social programs so much that they lie and pull all sorts of tricks with the public in order to kill them.  One of their favorite scare tactics is to use the U.S. debt, now at 18 or 19 trillion dollars, as an example of how big government and its socialist programs are putting the country in danger.  What goes unsaid is that this debt is largely driven up by Republican presidents, namely Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and then blamed on Democrats’ spending policies.  That way they create a false-alarm and urge voters to “shrink government,” or in other words get rid of Social Security as we know it and Medicare, Medicaid et al.  It is not surprising, I suppose, how much of this stuff sticks and hoodwinks the public.

Socialism is a good thing.  So is government, although it could shed a few pounds here and there. Like the military budget.  .

It’s time for Americans to hear the alarm clock.  Bernie Sanders and socialism are far from the bogeymen decried on Fox News, headquarters for Republican propaganda.

Many Americans have benefitted from socialism for a long time.  They just don’t realize it.


Scalia ‘Assassinated’

Scalia in EnquirerEven if there had been an autopsy on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, wild speculation would have arisen.  Was the autopsy rigged?  What part did President Obama play in the death of this right-wing jurist on February 13?

It was unbelievable, at least to some, that no autopsy took place.  Here was the death of a famous and controversial Justice, a lightning rod for division whose conservative judgments have helped shape the United States for many years.  His demise left the court’s previous hard-right stance at bay, reducing it to eight justices, or a 4-4 split, liberal and conservative.  And to boot, Scalia died alone in a room (with a pillow over his face, according to the Engquirer) at an isolated West Texas resort, and a judge who never saw the body ruled cause of death as “natural causes.”  Scalia was 79, yes, and in not in the best of health, but still . . . . You never know.

Scalia’s family for some reason waived an autopsy and the door swung wide open for conspiracy theorists.

Never a publication to shun a sensational story, the tabloid National Enquirer jumped in with a highly speculative story under the headline, “Scalia Murdered by A Hooker! ”

In summary the story alleges Scalia’s death was “political assassination orchestrated by the CIA and carried out by a $2,000-a-night hooker.”

The proof?

  1. An anonymous Washington, D.C., source’s comment that Scalia’s “murder” can be traced back to the White House.
  2. That Scalia was injected with poison in the buttocks by a hooker apparently from Ojinaga, Mexico, just across the border, according to “an insider.”
  3. A former Secret Service agent, John A. Carman, was quoted as saying, “This death has all the markings of a political assassination.”
  4. A “mystery woman” was caught on the resort’s surveillance camera (the killer-prostitute or someone’s wife?), “The Enquirer was told.”
  5. The motive was “to keep (Scalia) from ruling on key upcoming court cases and to stop him from revealing explosive secrets that could rip apart Obama’s legacy.”  Notice the word “could.”

All plausible if not for one thing.

This is such a flimsy story, pure speculation.  The “sources” offer nothing definitive, but the Enquirer fills in the missing facts.  A photo showing Scalia’s flag-draped casket says, “Scalia’s body was embalmed (true) to prevent further analysis (no proof).”

The problem is this,  America is a country with a growing segment of uneducated, angry, irrational people known widely as “the Republican (Party’s) base.”  They will and do believe anything they are told that fits their personal belief system.

For that reason alone, this story, and others, will stay on life-support for years to come. To read the tabloids for entertainment is one thing.  To read them minus a skeptical eye is quite another.

So Scalia’s death will sadly go down in history books as mysterious, if nothing worse.


Deadbeat moms

Arizona’s right-wing governor is making political hay on his approach to dealing with so-called deadbeat dads.  These “deadbeats” are men who are so evil they will not pay court-ordered child support.  The governor plans to  shame them by publishing their names on social media along with amounts owed. He created a Twitter hash tag, #deadbeats,” to serve his cause.

I do not mention the governor’s name because I see this maneuver as a shameful attempt to further his national  political ambitions.  He has picked an easy target.  Who has a kind word, or even a nod of understanding, when it comes to the deadbeat dad?  If the governor could run on that issue alone, he would no doubt receive and ungodly percentage of the vote for president of the U.S.

We Americans are great at stereotypes.  Deadbeat dads are all the same in our eyes.  They are routinely called losers, scofflaws and worse.  But, really, what is worse?  A father who fails to pay money so his former partner can  ostensibly raise his child or a mother who takes child-support money and spends it helter-skelter on anything she so chooses.

It is a rotten system.

Mothers, particularly after they remarry, should be held accountable for how child-support dollars are spent. If you are a “deadbeat dad,” nothing galls more than the idea of subsidizing a deadbeat step-father. And then to think the child, in some instances, assumes the stepfather’s surname without legal adoption.  The mother’s new family may see good reason in that.  Doing the right thing, adopting a young child, would perhaps legally cut off or lessen income for his family.   In some cases, the new father-figure may resent his step-child and make demands on the child’s money.

The thing is this.  We don’t know if the child receives any part of the mandated payments.

Accountability and fairness, all the way around, just not on the father’s part, should be the rule of the land.  As it stands now, the law assumes it is the man’s fault a marriage fails and he alone should be penalized for it.

There are deadbeat moms too.


Terrorism in San Berdoo or not?

I haven’t bought in to the “terrorist” theory in San Bernardino.  I haven’t done so even with the new information that the two married shooters were Muslim and the  husband, Syed Farook, may have been radicalized.  But why the Inland Regional Center, of all places?

The Center is said to serve people with developmental disabilities.  It’s hardly a place where the killing yesterday of 14 people and injuring of 21 would be admired by Muslims anywhere.  The Center certainly isn’t a typical western target for I.S.I.S. or Qaeda.  Way too soft and it doesn’t strike at the heart of perceived American decadence.  To the contrary.

My idea at the moment is this.  It was personal.  You can be the most radical terrorists in the world, but if you go after a person or organization for personal reasons is that always terror?  To my mind it isn’t.

America’s right-wingers want to believe the shootings constitute terror.  It goes with their agenda.  They are hawkish and want war in the Mideast.  The GOP presidential candidates love “terror.”  They believe it can get them the nomination and possibly the presidency.

The left-wing focuses on new gun control laws.  Whether terror or personal vengeance, it will be politicized.  Nothing new there.