What’s happening in the US, November 27, 2018

Morning all.

An interesting day yesterday. The biggest story was probably General Motors announcement that would be closing several US plants along with one in Canada, reducing its overall workforce by 15,000 and generally downsizing as it moves toward more electric and autonomous cars. There was a lot of brouhaha from both Republicans and Democrats in Ohio and Michigan, not to mention Donald Trump trying to sound like Kaiser Wilhelm in his talks with the head of General Motors. Only to be expected.

There will only be more new stories like this, however, in the future. Technology is driving many sectors in the American economy, like automobiles, to face new realities. One of those realities is that people are not buying as many gas-guzzling automobiles as they were in the past.

Let me give you a personal example. Every now and then my 14-year-old Subaru needs to go to the shop for yet another repair. My neighbor across the street lets me borrow her car, an electric/gas hybrid, if I need to make a run for groceries or to take one of my kids to the doctor. On a good day, my Subaru manages about 22 miles to the gallon. Meanwhile, my friend’s car gets 58 miles to the gallon. And her car is about four years old. Newer models of hybrids or electric cars have only gotten better.

That’s why General Motors is closing several plants. People want cars that will give them 58 miles to the gallon. Not to mention someday the phrase “to the gallon” will have the same kind of cultural relevance as “buggy whip.” And Trump’s tariffs have an effect that creates a tipping point. But it was going to happen sooner or later. General Motors decision to concentrate more on autonomous and electric cars is a smart one. Not for politicians, but for consumers. Technology is here to stay. As my mother used to say, “it is what it is.”

Democrats Learn a Big Lesson for 2020 Vote About Taking on Trump

This interesting piece from Bloomberg. The point of the article is that one of the main things the Democrats learned from the 2018 midterms is don’t talk about Donald Trump. Focus on local issues. Yes, Trump will be out there blowing his own horn, rallying his base. But as the midterms proved, Democrats and Independents want to focus on getting things done. I think this will play an enormous role in deciding who will be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020.

The case for Beto O’Rourke

Can you win a presidential election after losing another election? It seems unlikely but it has been done before. Richard Nixon lost both the presidential election to Kennedy in 1960 and then the election for California governor 1962. By 1968 he was president. I think it all depends on if it’s your “moment.” Barack Obama knew it was his moment in 2008. America was ready for what he had to offer. Beta O’Rourke came within 2% of defeating an incumbent Republican senator in what is one of the most Republican states in the union. (Or was.) This piece by a former Obama official argues that it may also be O’Rourke’s moment. I think he might be right.

Trump Suggests U.S. Create Network to Take on CNN

Sounds of guffaws and muffled laughter.

Trump says he doesn’t believe his administration’s climate report

Trumpet doesn’t believe in climate change. Trump doesn’t believe his intelligence services. Trump doesn’t believe the teargas affects children. Trump doesn’t believe that his tariff policies had anything to do with the General Motors plant closures in Ohio and Michigan. Trump doesn’t believe that he had anything to do with the Democratic wave in the 2018 midterms.

On the other hand, Trump does believe that Vladimir Putin knew nothing about Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 election. He believes that Mohammed bin Salmon, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, was “shocked, I say shocked” to hear the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. And Trump believes that he is the only source of truth in American politics.

Need one say more?

U.S. ambassador to Israel says peace plan will come at “appropriate time”

It’s a punchline, right? What he really meant to say was the first of never. This “peace plan” has about as much chance of being successful as the Cleveland Browns have of winning this year’s Super Bowl.

Voter Suppression During the 2018 Midterm Elections

This just in…

While more people voted in the 2018 midterms than any other midterm in recent elections, millions of other Americans were denied the right to vote because of blatant attempts by Republican politicians to suppress the votes of minorities, college students and anybody else was on their hit list. Their cries of voter fraud have about as much credibility as a Lindsay Graham statement about protecting Jeff Sessions as Atty. Gen.

This is one reason why the runoff election for Secretary of State in Georgia is so important. Georgia Gov. elect Brian Kemp had been Secretary of State and without a doubt put his thumb on the scales to help his own election. This needs to be an office the Democrats focus on in future elections to make sure that everyone has the right to vote.

Study: Concealed Carry Leads to 15% Increase in Violent Crime

And this is why that domestic terrorist organization known as the National Rifle Association doesn’t want anybody to do any studies on gun violence in the United States. Because when studies are carried out they show that more guns mean more violence and more violent deaths.

Researchers ran several regressions analyzing 14 years of data in 11 states that have “right-to-carry” laws, seeing whether there was any movement in crime statistics after the adoption of these laws.

Turns out being able to carry a handgun spikes up crime in states: By the tenth year of these laws, violent crime was up between 13 and 15 percent.

Here’s a statistic I always like to quote. When Canada brought in more extensive gun control in the early 2000s the cry from gun rights advocates was”this means only criminals will have guns!” Well, Statistics Canada, the government’s official statistics agency, found that in the first four years after the legislation was introduced, the number of gun crimes committed in Canada dropped by 25%. When you make guns hard to get for law-abiding citizens, you also make them harder for criminals to get them.

Alabama Mall Cops Blame Shooting Victim for Holding Gun While Fleeing Active Shooter

“If you’re black and you’re a good guy with a gun,” Crump added, “the police [don’t] see you as a good guy. They see you as a criminal and they shoot and kill you.”

And since I like to end the daily news update on a positive note…

The Proud Boys Are Imploding
It couldn’t happen to a creepier, more violent, Trump-loving, idiotic bunch of guys. What these morons represent will not go away, but every now and then is nice to see how their inherent stupidity is exposed. Racist are naturally stupid. It’s a universal fact, like the sun coming up every morning.

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America and the world on Monday, November 26

As I promised when I left Facebook, here are a few of the stories that I think are interesting and worth viewing and commenting on.

White House lacks lawyers to deal with empowered Democrats

I remember reading a few weeks ago how in early 2005 the Bush administration realized that the Democrats were going to take the House in 2006. They literally spent the next year preparing defenses against what they knew would be a tsunami of subpoenas and appearances in front of hostile Congressional committees.

Then there’s the Trump administration. Seemingly unable to believe that the Democratic wave actually happened (and it kind of happened like a tsunami – slow-moving building to a huge surge) this piece by Politico shows the Bush administration is completely unprepared for what is going to start to happen in January. Down to a skeleton staff and still without a permanent leader since October the office of the White House counsel is not prepared to defend President Trump. If you thought he was cranky before, wait until January…

Alan Dershowitz Predicts Mueller Report Will Be ‘Politically Very Devastating’ For Trump

I’m not a fan of Alan Dershowitz. Never have been, never will be. But this is an interesting take on the Mueller Report. While he doesn’t think it will lead to criminal charges against Trump, its effects will be “devastating” on the Trump administration. We can only keep our fingers crossed that he’s right.

Franklin Graham: Trump “defends the faith”

I’m not a Christian, but I know many good Christian people who live their lives in a meaningful Christian way. When I think of what a good Christian is I do not think of Franklin Graham. In this shining example of what it means to equivocate, Graham basically says Trump is a lousy Christian but he “defends the faith.” With friends like these…

The GOP is now the party of neo-Confederates

In this interesting column by neocon Max Boot I find his definition of neoconservatism to be a little…self-serving…but he makes a good point about who the neocons that can be found circling around Donald Trump-neo-Confederates. As he writes, “The neocons who are now in the ascendancy are the neo-Confederates who have been encouraged to come into the open by President Trump’s unabashed appeals to racist and xenophobic prejudices.”

“The neocons who are now in the ascendancy are the neo-Confederates who have been encouraged to come into the open by President Trump’s unabashed appeals to racist and xenophobic prejudices.”

How Southern politicians defended white supremacy — and made the South poorer

To go along with the above piece, here is another good story from the Washington Post about how Southern politicians (both Democratic and Republican) efforts to defend white supremacy ended up making the South the poorest region in the country.

Midterms reveal South split along urban, rural differences

And to go along with those two pieces above here is a Associated Press story on how there is no longer any such thing as the “Solid South.” The voting block that for decades supported Democrats, and then Republicans after the civil rights movement, has been blown up. Now you have an urban and rural split. Urban centers – home to minority voters and college-educated younger voters, while the suburbs that surround them, are filled in particular with college-educated women – are no longer a reliable voting block for the Republicans.

How climate change could be causing miscarriages in Bangladesh

While the Trump administration did their best to bury the US government report on climate change, this is an interesting BBC article that looks on how climate change is affecting women who live near increasingly rising waters in Bangladesh. Basically, the closer they live to the water, the more women suffer miscarriages.

I believe that the attempts by Trump, his administration and conservatives across the United States and the world to ignore the perils of climate change will ultimately be their undoing politically. As I heard discussed on Morning Joe today as increasing numbers of millennials vote (as they did in the last election in huge numbers) their number one issue is climate change followed closely by healthcare. While there are some members of the Republican Party who understand this peril, are reluctant to challenge Trump on the issue speaks to their cowardice. It will be their undoing.

More to come…

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The truth about the 2nd Amendment

West facade of the Supreme Court building in Washington.


by Tom Regan

It’s a pretty common refrain you’ll hear from gun rights activists: The 2nd Amendment gives them the right to own whatever kind of gun they desire and any attempts to place restrictions on ownership, or the size of ammunition clips, or how long you have to wait before you buy a gun, or any kind of a restriction at all, are unconstitutional.

It’s a go-to argument for the guns right movement, and one that is echoed by members of Congress and their pay master, the National Rifle Association. It’s too bad it’s completely bogus.

To get the real story, you need to go back to two Supreme Court cases: Heller vs DC in 2008 and MacDonald vs City of Chicago in 2010.

In 2008, DC had some pretty restrictive laws about handguns, the use of gun locks and keeping them in your home. A group of citizens, of whom Mr. Heller was one, decided to sue the city of DC, arguing that these restrictive bans were anti-2nd Amendment and therefore unconstitutional.

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, where in 5-4 ruling, the Court held the 2nd Amendment protects an individual’s right to “ possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.” But since DC was a federal district, the question was whether the 2nd Amendment protections outlined in Heller were guaranteed under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. This was decided in another 5-4 case, the above-mentioned MacDonald vs The City of Chicago. This ruling “incorporated” the 2nd Amendment.

At first glance, this would seem to back the claims of gun right activists that any restrictions placed on the 2nd Amendment are unconstitutional. Again, this is completely bogus.

In his majority decision in Heller vs DC, Justice Antonin Scalia also wrote that “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited [my emphasis]. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.” (Wikipedia summary)

More important, in the MacDonald vs The City of Chicago, the Supreme Court left this language intact.

Which brings us to today. In fact, it brings us to just yesterday. The Supreme Court passed on taking up a case challenging California’s mandatory 10-day waiting period to buy a gun, even if you had previously purchased a gun. It was the latest case of the Court refusing to hear a challenge to a law restricting gun rights.

These include the refusal in 2015 to hear a challenge to an ordinance in Highland Park, Ill. that banned the sale and possession of semi-automatic rifles. Eight other states have similar laws, none of which the Court has overturned.

In June of 2017, the Court did not take up a challenge to the constitutionality of a San Dingo ordinance about concealed weapons. The 9th Circuit Court ruled that “the 2nd Amendment does not preserve or protect a right of a member of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public.”

In a February 2017 ruling, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, a much more conservative court, ruled en banc, 10-4, that Maryland’s ban on 45 different kinds of semi-automatic weapons and its limit of 10 rounds on gun magazines were both constitutional and that the 2nd Amendment doesn’t protect “weapons of war.” In November of 2017, the Supreme Court declined to heat the case.

What this tells us is that as far as the current justices are concerned, the matter is settled. It is lawful for people to keep a handgun or a shotgun in their homes for self-protection. The 2nd Amendment protects this right. But states are free to implement restrictions on “weapons of war” or on other aspects of gun rights.

If anyone tells you differently or you hear a politician or NRA official say different, it’s just B.S. Nothing more and nothing less.

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Follow the money


Since the Parkland shooting two days ago I’ve been thinking a lot about this bizarre dance that seems to happen after every mass shooting in the United States. And I believe I’ve come to understand that in the end it’s not about the rights of gun owners or the desires of those who want more gun regulations. To quote the song, it’s all about the Benjamins, and the various entities that use these situations for financial gain.

A young man walks into a school and killed 17 people. Several factors that influence the financial outcome of this tragedy kick into high gear. First is the media. Please make no mistake about it while I believe that the vast majority of journalists in this country have chosen the profession because they believe in the right of the American people to know all the facts and truths that they can provide them, they work for gigantic corporations for whom the bottom line is the most important line. (I say that after 40 years of working as a journalist.) Soon incidents like the one in Parkland are all about eyeballs. Endless loops of aggrieved mothers, helicopter shots of children with her arms in the air filing out of active shooter situations, breathless coverage of the funeral of those murdered, revolve endlessly on our TV screens. The cable news networks in particular will milk this coverage as long as they can. It makes money. It is the American way. (Less than a year ago we saw cable TV networks provide endless coverage of Donald Trump because “he was good for the bottom line,” a situation gleefully noted by several top broadcasts executives.)

Next come politicians, who offer “thoughts and prayers” as sacrificial examples of their politically impotency. And why are they politically impotent? Because they need the money from groups like the NRA and the Mercers and the Koch brothers in order to gain that most important thing of all – reelection. For them, mass shootings are also about the Benjamins. Political campaigns cost money. Standing up for principles is fine but it won’t get you the donations that you need especially if you find yourself being primaried by another candidate who cares less about principles and more about money. So they consistently misrepresent the views of their constituents, claiming they believe one thing when actually believe the opposite. These men and women are bought and paid for like trinkets in a gift shop. They will do what they’re told to do.

And then we have the NRA which is really little more than a puppet for the gun manufacturers it represents. It is the NRA who gives the money to the politicians to ensure their political impotency, money they get from the various gun manufacturers who profit wildly after every mass shooting. For it is well known how gun sales surge when innocent people are mowed down in these situations. One could almost argue that gun manufacturers survive on mass shootings and the resulting fear of gun owners that their weapons will be taken away from them. They play all of us for suckers. They love gun control debates because they drive gun sales. They make sure the fire and the tempers are hot to keep us from examining what is really going on, regardless of where we fall on the issue.

Follow the money. It always boils down to that. If we really want to find ways to bring in smarter gun regulations that don’t interfere with gun owners’ legitimate rights to own firearms we have to look at why we continue this sick and twisted dance every time this happens. Follow the money.

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Time for Confederate statues and holidays to go

Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis rising from smoke and ashes is depicted in this enormous carving “etched” into the side of Stone Mountain. (By Bryce Edwards, Creative Commons)

by Tom Regan

About 25 years ago I accompanied my then fiancé, and now wife, to visit friends in the small town she grew up in just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I had never really been in the South before, and so I was unprepared for what I found.

During our visit, one of the tourist attractions that she took me to see was Stone Mountain. In case you have no idea about what Stone Mountain is, it is the Confederacy’s equivalent of Mount Rushmore. In what is apparently the largest bas-relief carving in the world, three of the main figures of the Confederacy are carved into the north face of a huge granite outcropping: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davies.

What is also interesting about Stone Mountain are historical markers and plaques placed around the outcropping. In all these various bits of historical literature, not once was the Civil War mentioned. Instead, the great conflict that took place between 1861 and 1865 is referred to as “The War of Northern Aggression.” It’s also interesting to note that Stone Mountain was the initial meeting place of the second version of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915.

And I remember that my main thought that day was, “Wow. These people have a really problem with historical revisionism.”

It has always puzzled me why so many Southerners, and their sympathizers in other places around the country, are so intent on linking their “heritage” to a bunch of racist losers. Because that is what the Confederacy was. A group of racist losers. But the whole idea of racism, and the whole idea of losing, seems to have been vanished from this pro-Confederacy narrative, better known as the “Lost Cause.”

It has always puzzled me why so many Southerners, and their sympathizers in other places around the country, are so intent on linking their “heritage” to a bunch of racist losers.

The Lost Cause was one of the greatest propagandistic public relations efforts ever conducted. It did not begin until after the Civil War was over. The government in Washington, reeling from the loss of Abraham Lincoln and trying to deal with the inadequacies of his successor Andrew Johnson, was busy just trying to put things back together. Meanwhile southern supporters of the Confederacy saw their chance. They invented the story that went something like this: slavery was on its last legs anyways, it would’ve died of its own heavyweight, and the real fight was about states’ rights. All Conderate leaders were great men, who really didn’t believe in slavery. This is of course nonsense – any legitimate reading of history would show that. There are numerous statements by Confederate leaders made during the Civil War that document th Confederacy was fighting to retain the right to own slaves.

The numerous Confederate statues that sprung up in places like Richmond, Virginia and New Orleans, Louisiana are just one outcropping of this propaganda battle. But they’re more than that. I think New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu really hit the nail on the head in the speech he gave the other day after his city removed the last of four statues of Confederate figures.
The statues, he said, “were designed not to honor the men, not to honor Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard, Jefferson Davis. They were put up to send a message [of] who were still in control, notwithstanding the fact the Confederacy lost the war. Now that’s intimidating, and the consequence of that was that people who didn’t feel comfortable here left.”

The message of who is still in control. And that is the real meaning of these monuments. It was a way for the racists who had lost the Civil War to ensure they would continue to terrorize the African-Americans they had fought to enslave. And they did so for almost another century.
But it’s time for them to go. All of them. Stone Mountain. Monument Alley in Richmond, all of the statues of all the Confederate figures scattered throughout the cities and towns of the South. And holidays that celebrate the Confederacy, like the one in Virginia known as Lee-Jackson day. Because it’s time people who claim that the statues and things like the Confederate battle flag are their “heritage” face the truth: they are honoring a group of men who fought to enslave other human beings for purely racist, monetary reasons. Plain, pure, and simple.

And by claiming this is your rightful “heritage” you make yourself no better than they were.

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Democrat establishment must pay more attention to grassroots

Democrats need to capitalize on what is happening at the grassroots level. [Illustration by DonkeyHotey, Creative Commons]

In the recent special election in Kansas to replace Rep. Mike Pompeo, President Trump’s pick to head the CIA, it looked like a cakewalk for the GOP. Pompeo had won the seat by 31 points in November, 2016, and Trump easily won the district. It has been called one of the safest Republican districts in the country.

The GOP ran Ron Estes, the state treasurer, a guy who had won two statewide elections in the past. The Democrats’ candidate, James Thompson, had never run for any office of any kind before. But it didn’t turn out to be a cakewalk. Democrats across the US have been energized by the election of Donald Trump, and this energy can be found at town meetings held by GOP reps across the country (at least those not afraid to hold them) or the many demonstrations in front of their offices, or in one of many protest marches. And in Kansas, there was another factor – the wild unpopularity of Governor Sam Brownback, probably the GOP governor with the worst chance of being re-elected in a solid GOP-controlled state in the country.

The GOP candidate won, but only 6.8 points, and only after a panicked GOP poured thousands of dollars and robocalls by prominent Republicans into the state. A win is still a win and a loss is still a loss, but it’s no secret to say that some loses are more meaningful than others. Whittling down the GOP margin of victory by more than 20% points in “one of the safest GOP ridings in the country” was a real lift to many Democrats across the country. Political pundits had said that if the GOP only won by single digits, it would be a problem for them.

So one has to wonder that if the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had paid more attention to the race who knows what might have happened. Its excuse for not getting more involved was, ‘well, if we paid attention to the race, it only would have hurt him,’ which is only so much horse manure. On the one hand, you might understand in the beginning that establishment Democrats were reluctant to get involved in Kansas. It’s a pretty red state. But on the other hand, the signs that something extra-ordinary was happening were seen by lots of people. But other than last-minute phone calls, the DNCC pretty much ignored what was happening. It didn’t even provide a link to Thompson’s website on its home page. And when the GOP launched wave after wave of negative ads against Thompson, he did not have the resources to respond.

If the DNCC had helped Thompson when it mattered, the result would have been even closer, or perhaps a totally unexpected victory. But the organization’s reluctance to throw its weight behind what grassroots Democrats across the country are doing, even in solid GOP districts, is a real mistake and if not corrected will come back to bite them. Right now, there is a real split in the Democrats between the Bernie Sanders “Build the party from the ground up” folks, and the Obama acolytes still running the party in DC who see the special election in Georgia 6th district as more of a target because it’s largely college-educated suburban area that they think will trend against Trump.

Yes, Georgia is promising. But here’s the problem with only that thinking way. When people work hard to make a difference, they need to see that what they do matters. They need small victories. If the Democratic establishment doesn’t help them find those small victories, they will become discouraged and stop what they are doing. They will stop coming out to town meetings and to protests. Even more important, they will stop donating money to the Democrats. Or instead donate it to the Green Party or something similar.

And the DNC can count on primary and convention fights in 2020 that will make what the GOP was afraid of happening in 2016 with Trump look like a slumber party. If the Democrat establishment does not find a way to work with what is happening at the grassroots level, they can forget about taking back the House, they will lose even more Senate seats in 2018 and will not win back the presidency in 2020.

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The problems with Trump’s strike on Syria

RED SEA (Sept. 23, 2014) The guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke launches a Tomahawk Cruise Missile. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Carlos M. Vazquez II/Released)

By Tom Regan

If you want US talking heads, liberal or conservative, to hyper-ventilate for your presidency, it appears you just need to blow something up, preferably somewhere in the Arab world. Suddenly, you become “presidential” and every other misfire, error and mistake of the past few weeks is forgotten about.

Considering the horrific deaths suffered by the people of Khan Sheikhoun, and the images of dead and dying children broadcast around the world, you can understand that people were legitimately horrified when a Syrian (or Russian) jet dropped a deadly Sarin gas bomb on the town. Assad is a butcher and his regime does need to go. President Trump’s bombing of Syria looks like a winner for him on the surface level. But it doesn’t take much digging to find the cracks in its foundation.

1) Until Friday, the Trump administration’s ‘policy,’ if you can call it that, was totally hands off Syria. Trump wasn’t interested in replacing Assad and there had been no expression of horror at the almost half a million Syrians who had died in the preceding years, including ‘beautiful babies’ who had already perished in horrible bombings, or who had drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean to escape Assad. In the past, Trump had suggested that he believed many Syrian refugees were terrorists. While it’s interesting to think that Trump suddenly overwhelmed by a surge of humanitarianism, he hasn’t changed his position on his Muslim ban that includes Syrian refugees, many of whom currently live in abysmal conditions. It’s hard to see his concern as more than a hiccup in his emotional state.

2) Policy? What policy? The world is a complicated place. The leader of the world’s only superpower needs a plan to deal with those complicated matters. It is a somewhat disturbing idea that President Trump will jettison whatever policies he does have every time he sees horrible images on cable news. Did he think about how Russia would respond? Or Turkey or Egypt? Will one attack lead to more? The Syrians already have the base back in operation. Will he bomb it again to ensure it’s not used again for a similar kind of attack? If this attack hinted at more than ‘feel good’ retaliation, it might be more understandable. But it’s hard to see any master design behind the attack. And the sudden “guest” appearance by Rex Tillerson as the Secretary of State only seems to have confused the issue even more.

3) That creeping question of emoluments, domestic and foreign, that just never seems to go away with Trump. Trump ordered that 59 Tomahawk missiles be fired. Raytheon, the company that makes the missile, immediately saw its stock price go up. Guess who has stock in Raytheon – Trump the man who ordered they be used. By taking this action, Trump also made himself a bit of money. The Trump tendency to see the presidency as a cash cow – already under question because of his use of his own properties for cash-payer supported events at Mar-A-Lago, or having the taxpayers support his wife staying at Trump Towers in New York – seems to get worse and worse. Sooner or later, his blatant actions to make himself even richer than he is at the expense of the US taxpayer will blow up in his face.

4) In a different vein, the US media’s reactions were also problematic for the US and the world. In times of conflict, American editors and reporters grow epaulets. And the attack on the Syrian air base was deja vue all over again with the media. Across the board, media talking heads and experts fell over themselves to applaud Trump’s decision to bomb. Fareed Zakaria of CNN said this was the “start” of Trump’s presidency. David Ignatious of the Washington Post said Trump put “credibility” back into American power. And Brain Williams, of MSNBC, practically wrote a love poem on the air describing the beauty of the missiles as they were fired. It was as the American media had learned nothing from the long nightmare of their miscalculations and errors about the Gulf War. Years ago, I had a senior foreign editor at a national media outlet where I worked tell me to be careful of inside-the-beltway journalists. “They are just a pack of lemmings attracted by bright shiny things,” he said. He was right.

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The war to end all wars slowly disappears from history

World War 1 tanks and soldiers, probably British or American. [Great War Observer, Creative Commons]

by Tom Regan

For Canada and the United States, World War 1 has very different meanings.

In America, it is a barely remembered oddity. Very few Americans know that 100 years ago today, April 6, 1917, America entered the First World War. Buried under the tsunami of the Greatest Generation that won World War II, and wedged in between that war and the Civil War some 50 years beforehand, the war to end all wars rates barely a blip in a country that pays scanned attention to its history at the best of times.

It’s a completely different story in Canada. World War I is very much present in the minds of many older and younger Canadians. And that is primarily because of one battle – Vimy Ridge which started 100 years ago this coming Sunday, April 9. It was the first time that all four Canadian divisions in the war fought together. Both the British and the French tried to take Vimy Ridge but failed. In reality the repeated assaults on the Ridge were little more than diversionary tactics designed to draw German strength away from a more important battle, the battle of Arras. But that did not matter to Canadians, who stormed and captured Vimy Ridge in a battle that became mythologized, true or not, as the “moment” Canada became a country.

In America, World War I was seen as a problem that the United States needed to avoid. The imperial powers of Britain and France fought the imperial powers of Germany, Russia and Turkey for control of the European continent. Although Britain and France upheld democratic ideals that were very close to what Americans believed in, American politicians distrusted their long-term objectives and saw the war as a way for the countries involved merely to increase their territorial holdings. (And in some ways, this was very true, particularly in areas like the Middle East, where the Sykes-Picot agreement on how to divide up that part of the world between the imperial powers continues to haunt us to this day.)

Two events changed America’s perspective on the war. The first was the sinking of the British ship the Lusitania in 1915 where 128 Americans were killed when it was torpedoed in the Irish Sea by a German submarine. After this, American President Woodrow Wilson became much more vocal in his support of Britain and France, despite the attempts of German-Americans to keep America out of the war.

The final straw was the Zimmerman letter. Issued by the German Foreign Ministry in January 1917. The Zimmerman letter or telegram was sent to the government of Mexico and proposed a military alliance between the two countries and Japan if the United States entered the war. (Germany, which had decided to return to unrestricted submarine attacks on merchant shipping, anticipated this would draw in the US.) It called on Mexico to invade United States and Germany promised that it would help recapture and hold the land it had lost in the 1840s including Texas and Arizona and New Mexico. The letter created a firestorm in the United States and after that it was only a matter of time before the Americans went “over there.”

But despite its current low profile, World War I did affect America in many important ways. Perhaps the most important way was how many immigrants, who had always been viewed with suspicion by Anglo-Protestant Americans, came to be seen as “real” Americans for the first time because of their willingness to sign up and fight. It also promoted America’s move from a mostly rural culture to a much more urban one. For many of the thousands of troops who went to Britain and France this was the first time they had been more than 20 or 30 miles away from the spot on which they had been born. And, as the song says, “How ya going to keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paris.”

A copy of the Vancouver Sun from April 10, 1917 celebrating Canada’s role at Vimy Ridge. [Vancouver Sun, Creative Commons]

Meanwhile Canada had been involved in the struggle from the very beginning, but always under the command of British officers. Which was what happened at Vimy Ridge was so important because the Canadians won that battle with minimal British help.

There were dark moments. In Newfoundland, which back then was in a colony of Britain and not yet a part of Canada, July 1 does not only mark the day Canada became a country in 1867. July 1 marks the day that 758 Newfoundlanders took the field at Beaumont-Hamel on the first day of the battle of the Somme in 1916. By the end of that day 90% of the Newfoundland Regiment were dead, dying, or wounded. At the next day’s roll call only 68 men were present. There was hardly a town or an outport in all of Newfoundland that was not touched by that day’s events.

For me, World War I is also very present. I was named after a great uncle, my grandmother’s brother, who was killed by a sniper during the war. I have very strong memories of watching First World War veterans taking part in ceremonies at the National Cenotaph in Ottawa when I was growing up. As a youngster, I met several men who had fought in the war. It does not seem like it was 100 years ago to me.

After the war, Canada was different. It no longer saw itself as a colony of Great Britain but as its own country and some 20 odd years later when World War II started, Canada did not declare war on Germany the same day as Great Britain but purposely waited several days before doing it on its own to make the point ‘we call our own shots from now on.’

Taking a more realistic view, World War I was an unnecessary slaughter ofmillions of men on both sides for reasons that are still not very clear. And while Vimy Ridge was an important moment for many Canadians, it’s fair to say that it means more to English Canada than to French Canada, so the claim that it is the moment that Canada became a country needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

I think that after this year’s anniversaries, World War I, the war to end all wars, will continue to disappear into the background, perhaps only commented on in British historical dramas, Canada’s National Film Board documentaries, and maybe some Ken Burns-like filmmaker in America deciding to do a series on PBS. For a war that meant led to so many changes for so many countries, I doubted 50 years from now it will be little more than a few paragraphs in high school history books.

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The danger for Democrats in being ‘ideologically pure’

[Illustration by Georgia Democrats, Creative Commons]

By Tom Regan

I want to tell you about my mom. She’s the main reason that I’m the outspoken progressive that I am.

Mom been gone for about six years now. She was an advocate for gay rights. She was one of the first people I knew who openly embraced people with HIV in the late 80s. She was pro-immigration. She supported universal health care and public education. She believed in equal pay for women and fought for it her whole life. She was pro-union. She supported left-wing candidates for as long as I knew her.

But there are two other things that you should know about her. She was very anti-abortion, a result of her strong Catholic faith. And she was Canadian and lived in Canada her entire life. Which means that she was never ostracized for her abortion position by other liberals. There was no ideological purity test that you had to vote a straight ticket on every issue of importance for liberals or socialists. That’s just the way it works in Canada.

I’m not so sure my mom would have been so accepted by liberal Democrats in America. And that’s a problem. Not just because it was my mom, but because the dangers of being ideologically pure were on full display last week. The vexed party in this case was the GOP. The major reason the GOP was unable to enact its destructive ‘Trumpcare’ version of health care was that for a group of about 30 Republicans, better known by the misleading name of “The Freedom Caucus,” being ideologically pure was more important than actually governing.

And while I’m personally very glad that the healthcare plan went down in flames, there is a cautionary tale in this failure for Democrats – beware of ideological purity for that way destruction lies.

In opposition, it’s easy to agree with each other and have everybody sing from the same political hymn book. But governing is a whole different animal. Effective governing involves compromise and bipartisanship, especially in the American political system.

The same is true of being an effective political party. If the Democrats want to be the party of women, African-Americans, Latinos, Millennials, Baby Boomers, environmentalists, AND blue-collar whites, that’s going to require some compromise. While there are a lot of issues that all these groups can agree on, there will be disagreements.

If they want to be successful, the Democrats must make room for those disagreements. The leadership, as well as ‘rank and file’ party members, need to listen and respond appropriately. If the Democrats make ideological purity a pre-condition of being a Democrat, then they will fall into the same kind of trap the GOP set for itself.

It’s an exciting time to be a Democrat. A vibrant grassroots movement has sprung up since last November 8 and the election of Donald Trump. Borrowing from the ideas of the conservative Tea Party movement, the Indivisible movement is quickly turning into a real player in American politics.

And that movement is flexing its muscles. It played a role in convincing many moderate GOP members to say they couldn’t vote for Trumpcare. (One GOP rep told a cable news network that the calls were running 1000 to 1 against the bill in his office.) And that effort needs to continue. But Indivisible also needs to be smart about its goals and objectives. It not only needs a view of what’s happening right now, but also a “view from 30,000 feet” as a friend used to say.

If Indivisible borrows too much from the Tea Party playbook, Democrats will end up in the same kind of internally divided boat as the GOP. And I’m not just talking about when they return to power, I’m talking about right now.

GOP factions forgot how to listen to each other. And a significant section of the party came to believe that ideology was more important than doing what many members thought was best for the country.

If Democrats want to be an effective party right now, they must not repeat this fatal mistake. Just because they may not agree on everything, they can still work together to find compromises and move this country forward.

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Trump’s climate change changes really don’t matter

About 41% of the current 250,000 people employed by the solar industry work in installation.

By Tom Regan

My grandfather had a saying that he would use every time I did something too late to have any effect.

“You closed the barn door after the horse was already out past the gate.”

I thought of that saying this morning as I read about President Donald Trump’s plans to undo the climate change regulations that his predecessor Barack Obama had put into place to fight climate change, especially in the late stages of his administration. It’s fair to say that Trump hates Obama so much he will go to any length (or try to, though often not successfully, as we just saw with his Trumpcare debacle) to sabotage anything that Obama did. Trump wants nothing left of the Obama “legacy” by the time he leaves office.

But I’m afraid that on climate change that horse is already out past the gate and despite Trump’s best attempts, he won’t be able to get it back in the barn. While his latest actions will slow down the effects of some of the later regulations that Obama put into place, and cause some headaches for the Paris Treaty on climate change, the United States (like much of the world) is already moving away from fossil fuels like coal and oil and more quickly towards solar, wind and natural gas.

Trump officials say the reason that he is wiping out the Obama era regulations is his desire to make America ‘energy independent’ and help coal miners in states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia who carried him to the presidency.

This is, however, only so much hot air. America is already well on its way to energy independence. And broader economic trends have already spelled the end of the line for coal. Robert Murray, the head of the largest privately held coal mining company in the US told the Guardian this week that coal jobs aren’t coming back, regardless of what Trump promises. Murray says the jobs have been lost to competition and technology, not regulations. Also, many of the changes that Trump wants to make will take years to put into place and will make little difference in the end.

Here is what will, and is, making a difference. In less than a week, Elon Musk will start taking orders for his solar roof shingles. They are expected to be tougher than regular shingles but cost less. Along with his Powerwall 2, Musk wants to make renewable energy available to every home. Meanwhile, Amazon has announced that it will cover 15 massive warehouses around the US with rooftop solar panels, generating as much as 80% of each facility’s annual energy needs. And where Amazon goes, others will follow.

As it is, solar power currently employs twice as many people in the United States as does coal and slightly more than natural gas. And here’s the thing. Many of those solar jobs are in installation. They are exactly the kind of jobs that many coal miners or other blue collar workers could be easily retrained to do. If Trump really wanted to create more jobs, he would be continuing Obama’s actions, not trying to blow them up.

[Care of the Solar Foundation]

Or take the better fuel efficiency standards for cars and lighter trucks that the Trump administration says it wants to “review.” Again, the horse is well out of the barn. Turns out Americans like driving cars that give them more miles to the gallon. And the two states that have the most drivers – California and New York – have sworn to fight the Trump administration on just about everything (about an hour after Trump took office on January 20th, California’s air regulators released a plan to cut emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030). California says it has every intention of continuing its plan to have 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2015. And seven days ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $70 million electric car rebate. Eligible buyers would get a $2000 rebate.

And that’s not even examining what’s happening with wind or natural gas.

Once again, as is his way, Trump is grabbing the axe by the wrong end. His actions show little foresight and worse planning. It’s like he is only talking to his billionaire buddies who show up to play golf at Mar El Lago on the weekends and who complain to him about the problems of the 1%.

In the end, Obama’s legacy of starting to move this country down the road of renewable energy in order to help prevent climate change will long outlive any ham-handed attempt by Trump to kill it.

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