Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Westinghouse Will Not Continue With Nuclear Projects--Great News!

The best news I've heard all week involves Toshiba-owned
Westinghouse, which has declared bankruptcy after years of
error and criminal accounting asset overstating woes. The firm
looks to be backing out of the southern U.S. nuclear projects
in Georgia and South Carolina, both of which are mired in
huge cost overruns and completion delays.

The new nukes, however, aren't exactly dead yet, as Southern
Co. and Scana Corporation are in embattled negotiations with
Westinghouse over the uncompleted nuclear reactors. Suggested
solutions range anywhere from converting the nuclear technology
to gas,  to abandoning  the projects entirely. Westinghouse
wanted out of their agreements with Southern and Scana via their
bankruptcy filing; some decisions are expected early in June.

This world needs more nuclear reactors about as much as we
need more wars; anything that delays or ends more nuclear
construction should be hailed as very good news for the
planet, excepting those interests profiting from said technology.

Sadly, small contractors and employees may well be hurt in
the ongoing kerfuffle, but they are defending themselves
through legal means...

Here's hoping THEY get good news!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Re: Comey: Obama, Trump and a Missed Opportunity

Timing is important, never more so when controversial
decisions are taken at the national level. Trump once
again appears tone deaf, with respect to his firing of FBI
Director James Comey at the height of investigations into
allegations of  the Trump Campaign's colluding with the
Russians. The Don's timing seems suspicious indeed.

President Obama missed an opportunity in October 2016,
when Director Comey publicly shared his decision to reopen
the Clinton personal email case. I would have fired Mr.
Comey right there and then, because of his public,
ill-timed announcement, against all previous protocols
at the FBI. Comey himself had implied he realized his
reopening the Clinton investigation might affect the
election; but subsequently, no charges were filed.

Both presidents, by not acting and acting too tardily,
missed an opportunity and showed poor judgement...

As Mr. Trump recently remarked, the job of U.S.
president isn't as easy as it looks.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The New World According to Trump: You're on Your Own

Dismantling environmental regulations; changing the corporate
tax from 35% down to 15%; eviscerating the National
Monuments Act; wrecking health care law for the elderly and
those with previously existing  conditions--

Exactly how many more examples should I list before the
inescapable conclusion can be drawn?  We are on our own
out here from now on; a more benevolent society we have
enjoyed for many decades is quickly disappearing in the
interests of the rich and corporate America. Clean air
becomes a privilege, not a right; open natural areas, the
national parks and monuments, the envy of many another
nation, can slowly be converted to development. Good
access to good healthcare will become the rich's right,
God help you if you've had heart trouble or cancer --or--
are simply old.

Well, hear ye, Trump et al., we are not going down easy,
no indeed. We will fight, especially looking toward the
upcoming elections of 2018. If anyone has been watching,
Republicans in the U.S. House are awakening, albeit very
sluggishly, to the realistic threat that they may well lose their
current hegemony there. Some of this has filtered over to
the White House, where somewhat more conciliatory PR
and temporizing on previously  inflexible goals (the Wall and
healthcare) has been heard...

But be ever vigilant: realize we are on our own out here.
It behooves us to study, to be effortful in objecting to the
stripping away of our humane and aesthetic rights and
privileges...

While we still can.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Outed by The AARP: Backroom Deals Threaten the Elderly and the Poor

Yesterday on Chicago's CBS AM Radio, an ad paid for by
the AARP broadcast a concern of great moment to anyone
not blessed by unlimited wealth, health coverage rollbacks
and much higher expenses for the elderly and the needy--
which would mean no health insurance for precisely those
who really require it. Particularly stinging proposals involve
thousands of dollars more to be paid by anyone with a pre-
existing condition, or had reached a certain age. I believe
I heard the figure of $13,000/year mentioned, and an increase
of $8,000/year levied against certain demographic groups,
including low income 64 year-olds.

I am tempted to suspect many of these new-school right-
wingers have so little regard for those not rich that they
are attempting to kill them off by legislating impossible
to meet insurance cost and qualification demands. Today
(04/21/'17) a final version of the new health care bill will
(purportedly) be ready. Interestingly, GOP legislators
have asked for changes that won't alienate Democrats,
realizing their U.S. Republican Senate boasts a slim four
vote majority, not enough to pass certain legislation
requiring 60 votes, not a simple majority.

I predict the dreams of  the uncaring, soulless rich will
not all be realized, although sadly, some shall. AARP's
ad strongly urged voters to contact Congress with
a resounding NO, objecting to the hurtful provisions of
these right-wing backroom deals.

--TSK, tsk, outed by the ever-vigilant AARP again.
Notice that they have enough spending power to buy
time on venues such as CBS...keep up the good
work; keep us in the know, bless you, AARP.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Trump Wins One With Syria Missile Strike

Surprisingly, President Trump gets my support for his targeted
missile strike at an airbase in Syria last week. Assad's attack
on his own civilians with chemical weapons included children
among the fatalities, universally condemned.  The U.S. airstrike
hasn't completely immobilized Assad's airstrike capability, but
it did reduce his effectiveness while sending a signal that the
USA will not idly stand by, will not permit such atrocities to
continue.

Generally, foreign intervention is a bad idea, but genocide
and/or mass murder of ordinary citizens must not be ignored,
must be halted. Thank God President Clinton stopped the
Slavic genocide of the 1990s; he's said he regrets not also
doing so in Rwanda.

As long as the U.S. judiciously limits its military interventions
to situations like last week's, it merits strong support.

Trump wins one for a change. (-!)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Boycott Unfriendly United Airlines' Skies

The shady but permitted practice of overbooking flights
has hit a new low, according to the New York Times,
April 10, 2017. Yesterday, flight #3411 had overbooked;
officials asked for four volunteers to exit the plane so
that airline employees could embark. One man was injured
by United's private police in an attempt to forcibly remove
him. Hey, airline execs, do you not realize the PAYING
CUSTOMERS must be put first ahead of employees who
ride for free??  Put your people on other flights, dummies.
Memo to Charlie Hobart, United spokesperson: I don't
care how "politely" you all asked people to leave the
plane--your PR statement, policy and practice are as trashy
as they are indefensible.

There are, at minimum, several serious concerns
here:

(1) How is it legal to sell the same seat twice?
(2) Why would employee convenience trump that
of  paying passengers?
(3) What sort of "major" corporation hires police
to remove passengers who have done nothing
wrong?
(4) Why has Congress ignored this problem?
(5)  United Airlines, are you so tone deaf regarding
your image that you will continue to pursue this wrong-
headed policy?

Dear readers, why not teach United Airlines a
telling, bottom-line lesson--boycott their
dangerously unfriendly skies. If sufficiently
outraged, why not call your U.S. Senator and
House Rep requesting this practice be outlawed?

You can bet I will.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Clean Air: Filling Our Lungs Has Priority Over Filling Our Gas Tanks

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It's no mystery--the egg,
for millions of years before birds, the way reptiles reproduce.
Similarly, breathing has existed long before automobiles, is still
obviously a more pressing urgency than our desire to cheaply
fill our gas tanks.

--Still laughing? No joke, the Don has just signed another hair-
brained executive order, knocking out clean air/coal
regulations. Trump, trying to fulfill a campaign promise, thinks
swatting away the EPA's pesky anti-pollution regs will magically
bring back thousands of non-existent mine and factory jobs...

But once again, the president is woefully uninformed. Technology
and economics are the real drivers dooming a return to the  old
days, far more than anything the EPA has done over decades.
Energy independence, a conservative mantra, is actually
becoming a reality with U.S. natural gas supplies and renewables
increasingly available-- we now export energy resources. All this
new policy brings us is dirty air, an unwelcome slide back to bad
old days, but not new (old)  jobs.

The president and his advisers ought to look at our 21st
century realities rather than attempting to resuscitate the 20th--
such an outdated outlook will fail.

Meanwhile, filling our lungs with clean air is more important
and immediate than filling our gas tanks--when will the
Donald get that?

Monday, March 20, 2017

India: the World's "Largest Democracy" is a Sham

If India is truly the world's largest Democracy, get me a ticket
to a gulag in Siberia, I'd probably do better there. It takes more
than merely being able to vote to achieve such a vaunted
politically ethical status. In terms of failures, let me count the
ways:

(1) India still employs the caste system; how is THAT
democratic?

(2) Indians' second daughter is often aborted or killed
shortly after birth--again, is total misogynistic disrespect
for life democratic?

(3) Their society is severely patriarchal, controlling and confining
with respect to women's rights and opportunities. Once more
with feeling: how is this anything to admire?

Finally, therefore, India's social and human rights' fabric is
as full of holes as cheesecloth. No self-respecting Western
woman should visit this place, simply because the sights, the
food and indigenous clothing are praiseworthy.

Thanks PBS' POV, for elucidating the daily horrors female
Indians must endure. This "democracy" is a sham.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Celebrity Apprentice in the White House

Yes, that is what we have there, a celebrity who is merely an
apprentice when it comes to possessing a supple expertise in
matters of governance. Trump clearly can't or won't up his
learning curve; indeed, he has a pronounced resistance to doing
so, if his behavior to date is any guide, which will plunge the U.S.
into many unnecessary crises, difficult or intractable.

Celebrity is clearly what the Don was aiming for; he has
succeeded in becoming  the world's most famous man. But
without substance, Trumps' inexperienced celebrity careers
us with celerity toward  a mere undoing of all things Obama,
silly snipes at one and all via Twitter, Trump-tweeted fake news,
yet the problems of the nation and the world remain ignored and
unsolved.

Will the Republican Party allow this sorry state of affairs to
continue? Will the U.S. House come to its senses and act
accordingly, keeping in mind that they have to look at 2018 in
their futures? Party unity is one thing, but getting re-elected is
quite another, full of a requisite, redolent  exigency. The average
Joe and Joanna eventually get wise to what goes, will vote with
that knowledge; do these House Reps remember that?

Celebrity just can't cut it; it's past time for the "Apprentice" to
evolve into a full-fledged statesman.

                                           ******
 P.S.: Please bear with all my paraphrased repetitions, but until
we enjoy a more cogent and sane governmental effort, this
blog will relentlessly repeat my deep concerns.

The Danger in Accusations Versus Firm, Intelligent Policy

...are too numerous to fully explore here, but we now are enjoying
the horrifying spectacle of President Trump wasting valuable time
and resources accusing our former president of "wiretapping" his
abode, Trump Towers, during campaign season, no evidence
forthcoming. Meanwhile, the enfant terrible of North Korea is
making with the nuclear threats again, at the very time the USA
and South Korea are engaging in joint maneuvers off South Korea.
It is important to realize that the two Koreas are still in a state
of war, merely existing uneasily in a truce-armistice state.

If there was ever a time to proceed with intelligence and
caution, this is it, but the Donald can't or won't be bothered
to get serious, deal with our domestic and international
problems, some of which, need I remind anyone, are very
dire. I guess finesse is not in the Don's repertoire, but he'd
best acquire it, or we will end up like many a failed state.

The media is not doing its job here, but IS quick to quote
his latest Twitter gaffe as well as all the others, without
pointing out we need a steady hand at the national ship
of state's tiller. Facts and reason really are demanded
now; will our government step up, or will it continue in
the partisan warfare politicians have become so comfortable
with? Our very survival is scarcely guaranteed --stop
believing in U.S. invincibility and "exceptionalism". These
philosophies are as worthless as they are dated--say, 70
years out of date. If we are such a superpower, so winning
at every turn, how is it we haven't won any major military
engagement since 1945?

These are inconvenient truths which we all had better quickly
internalize and begin to effectively deal with. To keep on being
the silly state, helplessly mystique-mired in social media's
salvos of back and forth, is to slip ever further into desuetude
and a lesser international status we can ill afford.

Let's stop hurling foolish accusations around and get
down to business--the times urgently require it.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Border Concerns Do Not Trump the Fourth Amendment

Security and other concerns give no United States government
the legal right to ignore the Constitution's Fourth Amendment,
the prohibition forbidding unreasonable search and seizure. Yet
tonight on NBC's evening newscast, Lester Holt revealed that at
the Canadian border, police can demand one's cell phone and
its password, etc., even if the person being searched is not on
any watch list. This, purportedly, is "perfectly legal". Whatever
happened to probable cause?

...AHEM. Just how is any abrogation of our constitutional
rights legal? The U.S. Constitution is the highest law in the land,
therefore, no local, state or federal "law", policy or practice can
overturn  or ignore any of its original seven articles or the 27
amendments, PERIOD. Exactly who is asleep at the switch
here?  The report justifies this practice in part by quoting
Trump's heated campaign anti-terror rhetoric...huh?

Legalities, logic  and sense have evaporated out of
our country, apparently. Whim, paranoia and stupidity
are in. We must get a grip before serious domestic
and international difficulties get the better of us.

Meanwhile, it must be stressed: border security and
other concerns do not trump the Fourth Amendment.
Memo to the authorities: find another, but legal way
to protect us.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

2017: Even Reluctant Reliance on History Sounds an Alarm

Since Trump, et al., are poorly prepared to engage internationally,
any adventures in foreign  lands probably won't end well. Foggy
mirror or no, it is sobering to recall the USA has not won wars
of any stripe since WWII--unless you wish to cite Grenada,
a tiny kerfuffle if there ever was one. Poor preparation produces
unfortunate results; Trump's business expertise and his
sycophantic inner circle can't cope with the fiendishly complex
planet we now inhabit--to say little regarding Trump's approach
to problem-solving.

True, Trump has had power for only a brief moment, but he
already demonstrates what he intends to attend to, namely,
nothing...nothing of import, that is.

Ignoring serious difficulties around the world while criticising
friend and foe alike, he harps on the U.S. press, tweets madly,
embarrasses greatly, all while distracting himself here at home
with minor matters and impossible plans to create greatness
and security, scant details forthcoming.

I've just finished reading The Assassin's Gate (2005), all
about the incompetent, ignorant prosecuting of the
Iraq War which still holds thousands of our occupying
troops. It is a cautionary tale, one reminding readers of
the usual lack of  prior research politicians engage in
before sending our boys overseas; just another dismal
failure and a black eye disgracing this "superpower".

Korea, Viet Nam, Afghanistan, Iraq: the foggy rear
view mirror may be imperfect but it clearly shows
a pattern nonetheless: The U.S. Bull in a China Shop
charges into situations it knows little about, destined
to lose blood, treasure and reputation...

When will we ever learn? Even reluctant reliance on
history ought to sound the alarm.

Friday, February 24, 2017

History Is a Fogged Up Rear View Mirror--We Need New Approaches

We're not much as super powers go: look at the wars in the
Middle East of recent and current vintage in Iraq and Afghanistan.
World War Two, with greater import and consequences, lasted
fewer years with better resolutions than our efforts in the Middle
East. The U.S., unafraid of its ignorance in all Arab matters,
launched the never-ending war in Iraq, still occupying there
with thousands of "supporters and advisers"; more than
8,000 American troops remain in Afghanistan. Two wars
lasting well over ten years, not eliminating the murderous
factions they set out to curtail--some super power.

I thought I had better do a bit of research into our foreign
policies and actions back to the century's change, in the
interest of relying on history as my guide into possible plans
by Trump, et al. What I've read lately has considerably
reduced my reliance on history as "past is prologue", a very
fogged up rear view mirror at best.  The most basic themes
still obtain, verified by thousands of years of conquest,
occupation and assimilation around the world in worrying,
wearing and wearying repetition, without the new approaches
we need to craft a better, more stable world.

So, what, pray tell, is next? --War with Mexico (-again)?
Ill-advised, ill-considered, ill-prepared re-deployments of
our military along with fresh troops to distant shores we have
precious little knowledge of? Previous administrations, far better
prepared than the current incarnation, grappled with long-
standing issues abroad--and failed to resolve them.

Hubris and denial, fueled by ignorance, propel our
foreign policy of late. I shudder to think what is on
the road ahead; even the foggy mirror has warnings
enough to alert us to the urgent need for innovation.


Friday, February 17, 2017

To Russia With Love: Mind Your Own Business

Really, Russia, don't you have plenty of problems there at home
to attend to? Why not solve THEM before embarking on
interfering in another nation's affairs?

You have dangerously miscalculated by meddling in the USA's
recent election; perhaps you were surprised to learn many
Republicans strenuously object to your efforts. Over here
we take matters of our sovereignty quite seriously, irrespective
of political party. Investigations and repercussions will no
doubt continue--despite the Putin/Trump bromance.

So Russia, mind your own business, tend to your own
knitting, etc. You DO risk the United States inquiring
intensively into Russian activities--scarcely a pleasant
prospect, no? You probably are attempting to capitalize
on any perceived weakness of ours--but you are definitely
overreaching and over-estimating, at your peril.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Fear of Foreigners Our Foreign Policy, Courtesy of Trump

Bad intel and bad philosophy bring the United States into a
negative world role: rule by prejudice, whim and mistrust.
We are being thrust back to more unenlightened times which
will cost us and others dearly.  How can our new president
claim he isn't being anti Muslim with his current seven country
denied-entry policy? He appears to be making sure that no
radical islamists invade the U.S. by outlawing all from mostly
Muslim nations. His statistics may be in error but his resolve
remains steadfast, even while several judges defy his less-
than legal proscription.

The whole issue struggles under the burden of extreme
complication: although Trump's new immigration policy
may be illegal, it is not unconstitutional, as so many
unthinkingly shrill via  predictable knee-jerk objections.
The U.S. Constitution was written for United States
citizens, both natural born and naturalized; the rights and
prohibitions therein do not extend to other nations' citizens.
Often, however, in the interest of human rights, protections
similar to those in the Constitution have been granted to
non-citizens--but there is no constitutional requirement
to do so. It pays to be clear here.

Perhaps occasionally troubling, a U.S. president does
have wide latitude over immigration issues; many
different groups were denied entry to the USA in the past,
which will no doubt occur again. It is the motivation for
exclusion that bears close examination; prejudice is never
an acceptable reason, nevertheless  engendered previous
rulings.

Fear of foreigners along with protectionism and isolationism
are the three prongs of our international approach which
endanger us and others around the world. Here's hoping
Mr. Trump accelerates his learning curve, catching up
in time to avert disaster.

Friday, January 20, 2017

January 20th, 2017: a New President Trumpets a New Order on a New Day

Newly installed U.S. President Donald J. Trump projected a
serious and calm demeanor at his inaugural, but he has his whole
history to overcome to become a credible president. For now,
today Chauvinism rode a pale horse into the White House,
replete with promises impossible to keep, such as re-opening
"all the shuttered factories". Ever-evolving technologies, married
to the exigencies of profit and loss, long have dictated the changed
marketplace. Those  left behind were unwilling/unable to retrain,
yet demand the world dance to their outdated skill set's tune.
(This reality goes back to the 1950s; I possess a periodical
from that era which discusses "automation", Chicago Magazine.)

Protectionism and isolationism, two themes from the Don's
campaign playbook, still sounded front and center in his
45th Inaugural Address. It would be fiendishly expensive
to bring all outsourced jobs back to the USA, even making
shopping at Walmart a costly expedition. How does that
help the "down and outers" to participate in making America
Great Again?

There they were, by the thousands, smiling in the rain, his
true believers, avidly settling for slogans, Chauvinism and
all the other pablums which seem so exciting until examined
along with a little injection of "fact serum"...

Say, starting MONDAY.

Monday, January 9, 2017

About America: Alexis de Tocqueville, Then and Now

Alexis de Tocqueville published two trenchant volumes
regarding our then new nation after touring here in 1831.
Democracy in America (1835 and 1840) shrewdly analysed
the characteristics that made America different from European
countries, traits that often weren't/aren't always "positive".
Among the more famous descriptions is one of an American
always hungering after novelty, not delving deeply into important
subjects, etc.

Long before nefariously/infamously/selfishly conservative
capitalist "theorist"/fiction writer Ayn Rand, Alexis de T.
noted the rise of the cult of individualism: "...Individualism
is a calm and considered feeling which disposes each citizen
to isolate himself from the mass of his fellows and withdraw
into the circle of family and friends; with this little society
formed to his taste, he gladly leaves the greater society to look
after itself..." (quoted in Rushworth M. Kidder's How Good
People Make Tough Choices, 1995.)

Fast forward to 2017: Closeted in and focused on their personal
lives, far too few adult Americans study the issues, vote, attend
public meetings where they can engage their officials, call up
legislators with suggestions, criticisms and concerns. As Benjamin
Franklin and Alexis de T. understood, these participatory public
practices help insure a stable, democratic republic, one we are in
grave danger of losing, with the cult of wealth and celebrity
overweeningly influencing major events.

Sociologist de Tocqueville's thoughts on our nation are as relevant
today as they were in the 1830s--sadly, even more so. His work
has honesty, observation  and keen intelligence; it inspires
reflection and change among the perceptive.

Let us all be perceptive.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Florida: More Murders Made Possible by Bad Laws: A State to Stay Away From

The latest murderous horror to occur in Florida could have
been averted with rational laws, namely, that no one can carry
weapons on passenger planes, be they unloaded and checked
into the baggage areas of said planes' and airports' debarkation
areas. That must include military and police travelling in civilian
situations as well. People on board the unfortunate flight
seemed safe enough, but were killed once on the ground...
where I come from, dead is dead, no matter the location.

That New Jersey nutcase started out from Alaska, flew to
Minneapolis, then landed in  Florida, where he retrieved his
weapon, killing five and injuring eight. Florida officials' press
conference remarks contained the usual sorrow, bromides
and assurances, but I am not reassured, because...

Right about now the Florida Statehouse is mulling over
a bill which would allow guns on college campuses and
other wildly inappropriate settings, as if mass murders
haven't happened in such places. Say, who ARE these
legislators? They appear to be as insane as the murderers
whose behavior they are facilitating, failing to protect
the public they serve.

Once this country allowed gun carry in public, (whether
concealed or open) shootings have certainly continued to
escalate as statistics prove. --Coincidence? Of course not.
16 hours' practice at a firing range and an FOID card are
not adequate safeguards; abusing the Second Amendment
is the result, causing the loss of many innocent lives.

The USA's current version of the Wild West is even worse
than the lawless West of over a hundred years back--the
weapons are now often military grade. (--Gee, great! Now
even more can get killed!) But there are regional differences,
especially regarding gun laws. It pays to know where
you go, so...

Florida: more murders made possible by bad laws,
a state to stay away from.

Friday, January 6, 2017

National/International Politics: A New Year but Not a New Page

...Except in the calendar. POTUS-Elect Donald better duck
and cover, because the Republicans in Congress know they
are responsible for our nation's safety, even if Trump doesn't.
The Don won't waffle or walk back his antipathy to the highly
inconvenient CIA report regarding Russian hacking of several
important U.S. websites including the Democratic National
Committee's, Hillary's and others. Today's briefing in Trump
Tower with the heads of our security apparatus may be worthy
of pay-per-view fireworks, as Mr. Trump is not known for
apology and/or compromise. He HAD, however, better heed
and read the disturbing, factual reports--

That is, if he wishes to keep America as great as it is now,
never mind making it great again. Being great as a sovereign
nation means ensuring safety from other countries' various
vexing and dangerous machinations, which does not appear
to be on the Don's agenda. Being way too cozy with the
Russians and the Ukrainians because of his business deals
blinds our next president to the threat...

Of slipping back to bad old days here and abroad. A
right-wing wave has overtaken the Northern nations of
the West, which bodes ill for human and civil rights, the
lower and middle classes. Here at home, halting women's
rights, minority voting rights and personal rights are all
seemingly on the table. Have we just entered yet another
negative swing era in world history? It is not enough to have
Hope Float--we must act, reminding Congress that it is only
two years 'til the next election which could throw out right-
wing hardliners. Any legislator more interested in arrogating
more power at the expense of our security and sovereignty
ought to get the heave-ho then too.

2017 looks to be a chauvinistic, chaotic year ahead.
Fasten your seat belts, brother and sisters. This may
be a new year, but scarcely a fresh, new page.