Buying a Bigger Club

 

As Russia infiltrates our online infrastructure and as China quietly buys up the Third World, America seeks to achieve invulnerability by creating a massive military force.

That’s like a cave man shaping a bigger club to protect himself from nerve gas.

These are complicated times, and a military budget nearing a trillion dollars won’t necessarily protect us from our enemies or enhance our global dominance.

America is under attack in subtle and surreptitious ways, and I wonder whether our leaders are prepared for this kind of warfare.

How much of that defense budget is earmarked for Florida’s breached voting records?

How much will go to shielding the nation’s power grid from hackers?

What’s being done to determine and reverse the apparently numerous cyber assaults by the Russians?

With a Manchurian Candidate in the White House and Congress cowering before him, I suspect such concerns will receive little if any attention.

The big bucks will  go to updated aircraft carriers and ballistic submarines… showy props like that. And the budget scarily includes new nuclear warheads.

The United States spends more on national defense than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, United Kingdom and Japan combined.

And it’s creating a massive National Debt in the process.

To maintain its lavish spending on arms, America is undermining its economic stability and starving essential domestic programs.

Obviously, this strategy isn’t working.

In the complex struggle for world dominance, China and Russia are gaining ground while America’s influence is waning.

And Trump’s ham handed reality show is doing nothing to change the trend.

More on US military budget

China, Russia gain globally

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Time to Cry Foul!

 

Why is everything so quiet? Why aren’t alarms going off, police sirens wailing and crowds thronging the streets? Am I the only one who heard Bill Nelson say our voting machinery has been compromised?

Now that Russian invaders have broken into Florida’s voting records, the state’s midterm election results might as well be tossed in the trash.

Senator Nelson knows of three Florida counties where the hackers have breached the election system and “now have free reign to move about.”

What else is going on that he does not know about?

Obviously, we cannot trust the election machinery. The entire country’s midterm results could be in question.

Of course the federal government is doing nothing to correct the terrifying situation. And it’s not surprising that Florida’s governor (who is seeking Nelson’s senate seat) is treating the shocking revelation as a joke.

Donald Trump and Rick Scott know the Russians will corrupt the system to favor them and their Republican allies. They have everything to gain by letting the hackers do their dirty work unimpeded.

I think it’s time for massive protest. If I had the power, I would call for a general strike until we the people are assured that our democracy is safe.

Nelson’s announcement

The threat to the midterms

 

When Facebook Gets Ugly

 

I rarely open Facebook. At best, it’s boring and banal. At worst it’s ugly and dangerous.

I don’t have a Twitter account. I’m too old to tweet. I’ll leave that to the birds – and bird brains like Donald Trump.

It’s not that I don’t want to keep up with friends and family. But I have an email account. And a telephone.

I really don’t need to be told I looked handsome a half-century ago. We all looked great back then. And the older we get the better we used to look.

I know I don’t look handsome now, so there’s no point in being reassured to the contrary.

Of course, that’s all harmless and I know my friends and relatives mean well. So that’s not the reason I shun Facebook and all the other “social media” platforms.

It’s the politics.

So much offensive trash gets circulated. And there’s no point in responding to it.

You could be arguing with a Russian troll or “bot.” And you could lose a friend. Or hurt a loved one’s feelings.

You could even get shot, like that guy in Florida, a few miles from my home. No kidding.

Apparently two local men in their forties got to arguing on Facebook over Trump and felons’ voting rights. Here’s what happened next, according to Tampa police:

Forty-four-year-old Brian Sebring “just snapped and let primal rage take over” when he left work early on Monday, so he went home to get his gun and headed to the home of 46-year-old Alex Stephens.

He parked outside Stephens’ house and honked the horn. Stephens came out carrying what Sebring said looked like a knife. So Sebring fired.

Stephens was treated at a local hospital and Sebring is facing criminal charges. And that’s not all.

Sebring is under attack by media trolls.

“I ruined my life over this,” he said. “Now my mother is too afraid to leave the house, my sons are afraid to walk to school or church, all because of some keyboard gangsters.”

Read the story.

 

Abusing “Free Speech”

 

Freedom of speech is one of America’s most hallowed traditions, but it is becoming a dangerous one.

Like any freedom, it must have limits.

We are not free to do any number of things – murder, robbery, assault – even trespassing on a neighbor’s lot. Why should speech be different?

Free speech has been reined in to some extent. There are laws against libel and slander, for example. And there are penalties for issuing threats or inciting violence.

But with the advent of “social media,” new issues have arisen. I think it is quite wrong, for example, to allow anonymous comments. If you don’t have the guts to use your name, you should shut up.

But that’s just me. Even here on this blog, anonymous comments are permitted. Why? Because it’s such a common practice, I suppose.

As I look around, I see free speech being abused in gross and irresponsible ways. And it can be not only hurtful and damaging but also dangerous.

,Especially in politics,redress seems almost inaccessible.

Libel against a “public figure” is almost impossible to prove. The courts have let the most scurrilous attacks – oral or written – go unpunished. And the definition of “public figure’ has been broadened to include private citizens who thrust themselves into the limelight.

In my opinion, that is regrettable. I think you should at least make sure  you are telling the truth before smearing someone else, even a public official or activist.

So when I read and hear the garbage spewing out of “social media” and “conspiracy theorists,” I think it’s time for serious re-examination of  “freedom of speech.”

The tide of abuse is already keeping decent people from getting involved in public life. Our democracy is increasingly being entrusted to thick-skinned scalawags who have no reputation worth worrying about.

More on free speech

 

A Farewell to Alarms?

 

Could this really be goodbye for Alex Jones? The conspiracy theorist has just been banned by Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify.

And my response is:

What took you guys so long?

Alex Jones is a bad joke. A dangerous bad joke. He is the kind of hazard  Oliver Wendell Holmes obviously meant when he said our First Amendment rights don’t cover falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater.

The operative word here is “falsely.”

Sadly, a lot of people can’t recognize a lie even when it’s so outlandish it couldn’t possibly be true.

Jones once argued, for example, that Michelle Obama is a man because of her broad shoulders. He warned that an alien force had invaded Earth. And he claimed “chemical warfare” is making people become homosexual.

Yet there are folks who believe him. Really.

Nothing is too sacred for him to smear. He even called the Sandy Hook school shooting a hoax.

Jones’ ex-wife, Kelly, says his show isn’t an act. He’s even worse at home, she said. She describes him as “a really unhappy, disturbed person.”

Naturally,Jones is a Trump favorite. You know what they say about birds of a feather.

In the Age of Trump, the Infowars host has risen to national prominence.

Recently, for example, Jones said Trump had chosen him to blow the whistle on special counsel Mueller’s cover-up of a vast Nine-Eleven conspiracy involving the Saudis, the Bushes and the Clintons.

But his blatant disregard for reality has finally captured the attention of social media platforms. They’re saying they’ve had enough.

As you might expect, Jones’ allies in the right-wing echo chamber are rallying to his defense. But I suspect they’re voices crying in the wilderness.

They, too, might soon be shunned by reputable media outlets.

I think the public might finally be catching on. The end of the conspiracy-theory industry could be at hand.

Could the Fall of Trump be next?

An example of fake news

More crazy stuff

What Kelly Jones said

The real Alex Jones story

The far right responds

Limiting free speech

 

Shades of Al Capone?

 

As I follow the intricate web of evidence emerging in the Mueller probe, echoes of the case that finally put Al Capone (photo) behind bars reverberate in my mind.

No, I don’t really think Trump is a latter-day Scarface. He isn’t that deadly. But I feel in my bones that the president of the USA has Mob ties.

And it seems to me that Mueller and his investigators are splashing about in the shallows when they could be casting their nets in much deeper water.

Al Capone was eventually nailed for tax evasion. The authorities couldn’t pin anything more sinister on the infamous Mafia don.

So what will they eventually pin on Trump?

Probably “violations of federal campaign finance laws.” Or “obstruction of justice.” Possibly “conspiracy to commit election crimes.”

Don’t you think Trump might be guilty of worse than that?

His family’s underworld connections supposedly go way, way back. His grandfather is said to have owned a “shady” hotel during the Klondike gold rush, and his dad’s business partner was reportedly a front for a Mafia family.

His accountants, lawyers and business partners include quite a few with Mob histories.

And he, himself, is known for dealing with the Mob – both domestic and international.

I know, I know, that’s all just “guilt by association.” It wouldn’t be admissible in a court of law.

But he once paid millions to settle a charge of laundering Mafia money.

Is that enough to prove Trump is a mobster? Of course not.

Obviously, I can’t pin anything sinister on Trump. But I don’t have Mueller’s resources, do I?

Of course it would be worth all the hootin’ and hollerin’ if Mueller comes up with enough to impeach Trump. But I can’t get rid of the suspicion that it would be just the tip of a very big iceberg.

Trump’s mob ties

His money laundering fine

Rumors about his grandfather

The Capone connection

Capone’s case

 

When Kids Take Action

 

The mighty NRA could be going under. And a group of kids, barely old enough to vote, could be responsible.

In a lawsuit filed against New York governor Andrew Cuomo, the gun rights lobby claims it’s going broke because a state agency made insurers cut ties with the association.

Without insurance coverage, the NRA said, it cannot operate successfully

An ongoing crusade by the Parkland school shooting victims apparently prompted the state’s move.

The NRA’s pet politicians are also in danger.

Those formidable kids are proving how powerful persistent public pressure can be. And they haven’t even been to the polls yet.

The Parkland shooting victims’ crusade could have a big impact on the November midterms. They might even flip Florida!

Meanwhile, it seems the gun makers who pour millions into the NRA aren’t as flush as they used to be. Remington, for example, recently filed for bankruptcy.

And even though the NRA reportedly raised a record $2.4 million after the Parkland massacre, recent intimations of official skullduggery might change donors’ minds.

The public is learning how corrupt – possibly treasonous – some NRA bigwigs might be. Tales of Russian rubles and bedtime-for-Butina spy scandals (photo) are leaving the once-invincible organization in disarray.

Could this really be good riddance to bad rubbish? I, for one, certainly hope so.

More on the lawsuit

More on the Butina scandal

More on “Dark Money”

Gun makers’ woes

NRA’s record fund raiser

Its chances of survival

 

There’s No Free Lunch

 

I saw an estimate in the trillions for “Medicare for All,” and it got me thinking about the humbug that passes for political discourse these days.

I don’t care whether you’re a diehard conservative or a doctrinaire Socialist, you’ll probably agree there’s no free lunch.

The government has to find money from somewhere to implement any program, however necessary that program might be.

So if you decide to provide health care for every American, rich or poor, old or young, you will have to pay for it.

You can tax the rich, as Bernie Sanders suggests. Or you can borrow from future generations as Trump is doing right now to fund his favorite programs. Or you can have the people receiving the health care foot the bill.

I don’t like taxes. I don’t know anybody who does. And when you tax the rich, you have to be careful not to scare them – and their money – away.

Running up a huge National Debt can have really damaging effects on the economy. (We already owe more than $21 trillion!)

But there are other ways of raising money for public projects.

We pay for some of our roads by collecting tolls, for example.

Just about any public service can be funded by user fees. (And you don’t have to call on private interests to do it. You and I know “privatization” is a racket, right?)

I would make Medicare available to everybody – for a price. And I would charge only as much as it costs. I would also allow private insurers to offer competing health plans.

If government is as inefficient as some people claim, the private insurers should have no trouble making a profit. But competition from the government’s plan would put a brake on their greed.

(It might also moderate health care costs as the competing plans bargain with providers.)

Of course, some people wouldn’t be able to afford Medicare – or any of the competing plans – and they might not qualify for Medicaid, either.

Should we let them die? I don’t think so.

I wouldn’t be averse to taxing the rich to pay for those folks. It wouldn’t be a big deal. The rich would hardly notice it.

And my plan wouldn’t cost anybody trillions of dollars. Would it?

That bogus estimate

The pros and cons

Our National Debt

 

Who is the Real Enemy?

 

 

When White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refuses to walk back Trump’s rant that the press is “the enemy of the people,” warning bells should be ringing across the land.

Thomas Jefferson observed that:

When the speech condemns a free press, you are hearing the words of a a tyrant.

Attacking the independent media is a tactic employed by dictators throughout history. They recognize that a free press is essential to democracy.

State controlled media is necessary to sustain the kind of cult that Trump has created.

As this wild-eyed demagogue foments hate and divisiveness apparently to cover his looting and lawlessness, he is surreptitiously fanning the flames that could destroy democracy.

This cannot be taken lightly.

Jefferson also said that to protect the freedom of the press:

Every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom.

Are we the people ready to accept martyrdom for a free press?  Are we prepared to die for our democracy?

Fortunately, that question does not have to be answered – yet.

November’s midterms could be our last chance to head off tyranny by peaceful means. This is one election that we cannot in conscience ignore.

Unless Trump’s captive Congress is purged, his march toward absolute power will be irresistible without martyrdom.

Huckabee and the press

March toward tyranny

 

Fascism Next Door

 

The hate filled attack on “the media” by my Tampa Bay neighbors yesterday leaves me stunned and dismayed.

I cringed as I watched a video of the pro-Trump crowd heckling CNN’s Jim Acosta.

Faces I might encounter in Publix, as we exchange polite smiles and “excuse me’s,” are contorted in rage.

Folks who might stop to help me unload my grocery cart are waving middle-finger salutes at the camera.

Otherwise civilized citizens are wearing shirts with obscenities emblazoned across them and shouting words that would make them wash their kids’ mouths out with soap.

Are these the same people who go to church on Sunday mornings, people who kneel before God and promise to love their neighbor?

What’s happening to them? It’s as if they were possessed by demons.

This is the kind of diabolical power demagogues like Trump can wield.

It’s the same  evil force that fueled the rise of demagogues like Hitler and Mussolini.

It’s the power of the Big Lie, the demonizing of minorities, the discrediting of the media, the distortion of reality…

And it’s how the flame of fascism is ignited.

I sit in my den here on Post Lane, 30 miles or so away from the raw display of hate in that video. And I wonder what’s happening to America? What’s next?

That hate filled Trump rally

Trump’s anti-media crusade