The first argument

One morning, at breakfast,
Creator took a bite out of his toast.
He held it up to his wife proudly.
Moon, he said.
He took another bite.
Mushroom, he said.
His wife frowned.
He took another bite.
Anteater, he said.
And another: Acacia.
Now his wife glared at him.
Acacia!?
Creator was squirming in his chair.
He had to pee.
He took several quick bites,
Leaving only the trunk
And a big bulb at the top
Before he hurried from the table.
Human, he said over his shoulder.
His wife stared at his plate.
I feel sorry for that skinny thing! she said.
And that giant brain is only going to get him in trouble!
She nibbled the top much smaller and sighed,
Not looking forward
To when her husband returned.

Crying wolf over looming economic and climate crises

The US Need Not Inevitably Descend into Violent Chaos If and When Disaster Strikes

Liberal opponents of serious, aggressive action on climate change like California Governor Jerry Brown are the strange bedfellows of right-wing survivalists on one thing: Both are quick to warn darkly that if environmentalists have their way and impose strict cuts on oil, gas and coal production or on mileage standards for automobiles and pollution controls on power plants, or in the case of right-wingers, if the banking system is allowed to continue to run US economic policy and the Fed isn’t audited, the irate citizens of the US will descend into an orgy of anarchic violence and mayhem.

The argument is that if Americans are told they can no longer drive gas-guzzling automobiles and blast their air conditioners at will, or if the US financial system again collapses as it did in 2008 leading to the Great Recession, the people of this country will essentially go mad and a lawless chaos of dog-eat-dog, kill thy neighbor for his food, will ensue.

“It will be like the Great Depression all over,” I read in one account of a recent report by one JP Morgan Chase analyst who is predicting a dramatic market crash of over 40% followed by armageddon. (I learned about this little report of impending disaster from a former cop friend who advised me to get a gun and plenty of ammo and to stock up on food to be able to protect my family.)

But this is truly ignorance regarding what actually happened when everything did collapse back in the Great Depression and Dust Bowl.

Feeding hungry kids during the Great DepressionFeeding hungry kids during the Great Depression
 

It’s true that a few despondent investors did leap from windows of tall buildings in lower Manhattan after the 1929 stock market collapse, but not all that many, and things continued fairly calmly after that as the economy began to seize up. After all, very few Americans were actually invested in the market. But even as the lay-offs, bank collapses, bankruptcies and home foreclosures began to mount, there was no revolution in the US.

My own father, then just a young kid, recalls his family losing their home in Flushing, NY as his father, a carpet jobber, lost so many customers he had to give it up, unable to make the mortgage payments. He didn’t pick up a gun and go on a rampage, or join others in his situation and storm Washington. He just started looking for odd jobs to support his wife and two kids, and voted for Franklin D. Roosevelt in the next presidential election in 1932 and the other three after that.

The Great Depression, when unemployment soared to 25% of the workforce by 1933, remaining above 15% as late as 1940, far past any level it has hit since that time, even in the recent Great Recession, which of course was also much shorter. But even in the depths of that monstrous economic collapse in the 1930s, the American public didn’t turn on each other. In fact, quite the opposite, it was an era of sharing of what people had, and of collective action for change — especially in the field of labor union organizing. The Socialist Party also saw it’s biggest surge of support (the Communist Party, too), as workers saw the need to band together to defend themselves against a capitalist class that was viewed as predatory and criminal.

Sen. Gravel’s high bar for political courage

The Kavanaugh Hearing is about Political Posturing, Not Keeping a Political Hack Off the High Court

The politically ambitious mainstream Democratic Senator Cory Booker has been posing as a courageous man ready to put his seat in the Senate at risk by violating Senate rules and releasing “confidential” emails of Supreme Court nominee and current Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). Whose the real 'profile in courage'?Former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). Whose the real 'profile in courage'?
 

The truth of course is that some of what Sen. Booker “released” had already been declassified, and that in any event, nothing was of a national security nature. Furthermore, as a senator from a very Democratic state — New Jersey — and one with a Democratic governor and legislature, Booker would not be in any real danger even of losing his seat. In the highly unlikely case that Senate Republicans might try to have him tossed out of the Senate for a rule violation — something that hasn’t happened since 1862 — the New Jersey governor would certainly respond by just using his authority to reappoint him to fill the unexpired term.

All good for Booker, right? Where’s the downside?

The NY Times' remarkable anonymous opinion article

Is it Treason or a Defense of the Constitution?

XX(public domain photo)
 

Most of the uproar, left and right, about the revelation — in both a NY Times anonymous opinion page article by a “high official” in the White House, and a new book by Bob Woodward — that there are top people working for President Trump who are actively trying to keep him from doing dangerous or reckless things out of ignorance or anger, has focused on the question of whether such actions constitute treason, or whether it validates the claim that a “Deep State” cabal of secret behind-the-scenes Machiavellians is working to subvert a duly elected president.

There are grounds for making both arguments, but I’d toss in a third.

Missing from most of these analyses is the reality that officials working for the White House, and indeed the entire US government, don’t take a vow or have any legal obligation to support a leader, or even to support the government or for that matter such a nebulous concept as the “country” or “nation” or the United States of America. Rather, like all members of the military, they take an oath to “uphold and defend” the Constitution of the United States.

That is a big difference.

If the person who wrote that piece in the Times, and those he refers to as also acting behind the Trump’s back to prevent disaster (for example the president’s call to invade Venezuela or, as reported by Woodward’s sources, to murder Syrian leader Bashar Assad, or just to kill more people in Afghanistan), they are acting to prevent the president from violating international law and the US Constitution. If they prevent him from firing Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller who is investigating him and his campaign, which would be obstruction of justice and a high crime under the Constitution, they are protecting that Constitution.

Cook boiled for doing 'right'

Philly Law Enforcer Fired For Exposing Corrupted Conduct In Law Enforcement

Efforts by Tyrone Cook in 2010 to end the wrongful arrest of a nephew plunged this veteran law enforcer into the cesspool of dirty practices among police and prosecutors in Philadelphia.

An investigation conducted by Cook succeeded in having the false charges against his nephew dismissed. Those charges arose from improper investigative techniques by detectives Cook discovered. Such corner-cutting techniques fuel mass incarceration from flawed arrests through overzealous prosecutions.

But Cook’s whistleblowing that exposed improprieties by the cops and the prosecutor on his nephew’s case cost Cook the job he held for over two decades: Philadelphia policeman.

“I just want my name cleared,” Cook said recently.
Tyrone Cook, Philly cop fired for exposing misconduct. LBWPhotoTyrone Cook, Philly cop fired for exposing misconduct. LBWPhoto
 
Those cesspool practices that swamped Cook are too often covered-up by the same authorities who administer crackdowns on ordinary citizens for the same infractions ignored when committed by police and prosecutors.

The discharge of then Sgt. Tyrone Cook reeked of retaliation…retaliation routinely visited upon whistleblowers in police departments across America. Whistleblowers rarely receive support from police officials stated a disturbing study issued by the International Association of Chiefs of Police nearly twenty-years ago.

Philadelphia police officials fired Cook in September 2010 for repeated lateness that allegedly occurred six years earlier. Officials fired Cook despite the fact that in 2004 Cook never received a single reprimand for any of the three dozen times officials claimed he arrived to work late.

Weeping For Too Many Unnecessary Wars

Late Summer American Mourning

Heartbreak is unpreventable; the natural outcome of caring for people and things over which we have no control.
– David Whyte
 

The afternoon of August 15, my wife Lou Ann got a call from her sister that their cousin Clara Lee had died in a freak accident with her car. We had just visited Clara Lee in early July in Raleigh. Her husband Tony died two years earlier; they were both academics with PhDs. This July was my fourth visit with Clara Lee and it was the one in which, in retrospect, I realize I fell in love with my 76-year-old cousin-in-law. Aretha Franklin died the day after Clara Lee’s death, adding a national mourning spin that seeped into our states-of-mind. Death was close. I was already feeling rather mortal due to a diagnosis for prostate cancer. I liked to joke: “None of us get out alive.” It wasn’t funny now. Clara Lee wasn’t a celebrity, but with her energy and empathetic heart, she was one of the best of us, an authentic peace- and joy-loving spirit. Her love of life was contagious, and I had caught it just on the cusp of her death.

Lou Ann and I drove down to Raleigh on Saturday August 25. It was a moving funeral ceremony, full of loving stories and tears; Clara Lee was affectionately eulogized as an Energizer Bunny known for an openness and warmth of heart that matched the headlong way she moved. She died, no doubt, in a characteristic flurry of things to do and to be done. That night, she was to lead a meeting of the neighborhood association that had voted her its president. That morning, she was headed to baby-sit for her two wonderful granddaughters. She started her car, a heavy old Mercury SUV, and began to back out of the driveway. She forgot something and ran to get it, leaving the car in gear. The heavy car rolled downward, gaining momentum as it dropped off the driveway toward the trees that surrounded her home. Somehow, attempting to stop it, she got caught between the door and a large tree. One can only hope the massive crushing of her birdlike chest was quick enough she did not suffer; those who saw her body said there was not a mark on her and she seemed peaceful.

John McCain after brain surgery and his coffin borne through a gauntlet of Navy whiteJohn McCain after brain surgery and his coffin borne through a gauntlet of Navy white

John McCain died August 25, the day of Clara Lee’s funeral. Occupied with our personal mourning, we missed the initial McCain coverage. Lou Ann and I got the first dose of McCain funeral-drama Sunday night in a Raleigh motel, a worshipping bio complete with McCain’s “last words” taped especially for the American people. This led inexorably to the highly theatrical National Funeral on the following Saturday.

The fact is I’ve never liked John McCain. He was always too much the National Security State’s darling war-child. That would be the National Security State created in 1947 by law following the US victory in World War Two. I was born in 1947, an early pop in the baby boom and a bit of a “war child” myself. My father wasn’t an admiral, but he was a very proud Navy man who had skippered a PT boat around some of the worst battles in the South Pacific. He told his kids of pulling his PT boat into the mangrove to hide from the Japanese and being very scared; he told of torpedoing Japanese fishing boats and other small craft. The Solomon Islands and Peleliu were a long way from suburban New Jersey, where his wife and my then infant older brother held down the hearth.

Judicial bias blocks justice for Abu-Jamal

Material Misrepresentations And Missing Memory Mangle Mumia Appeal

Pam Africa (with mic) and Abu-Jamal supporters protest outside office of Philadelpia's DA. -LBWPhotoPam Africa (with mic) and Abu-Jamal supporters protest outside office of Philadelpia's DA. -LBWPhoto
 
In July 1987 Philadelphia’s then District Attorney lashed out at local judges in an unusual verbal assault where that DA castigated what he said was the “historic” practice of judges in Pennsylvania’s largest city to acquit police officers in cases where evidence clearly showed officers engaged in “egregious” brutality.

That DA, Ronald Castille, told a reporter that, “I know the judges will bend over backwards to use whatever reasons they can to throw a case out against a police officer.”

Eleven years after Castille’s outburst against pro-police bias by some Philadelphia judges, Castille engaged in pro-police bias as a member of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Castille’s 1998 bias act occurred when he participated in the Pa Supreme Court’s rejection of a critical appeal in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal – the Philadelphia journalist convicted in 1982 and sentenced to death for killing a Philly cop during a trial tainted by a pro-police judge.

Abu-Jamal’s conviction is condemned internationally as a gross miscarriage of justice engineered by police, prosecutors and the trial judge.

Condemnation is also leveled at the appellate process that has consistently rejected extraordinary evidence of Abu-Jamal’s innocence and documentation of multiple misconduct by authorities. An Amnesty International report on the Abu-Jamal case, released in February 2000, criticized the “appearance of judicial bias during appellate review…”

More GOP fake news & foolishness

New Jersey Republican Candidates Slime Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

GOP candidates Paul Dilks (right) and Vincent Squires (left) blast Dr. King during recent broadcastsGOP candidates Paul Dilks (right) and Vincent Squires (left) blast Dr. King during recent broadcasts

Two New Jersey Republican candidates recently inserted a new page into the GOP’s perverse aggravate-racial-prejudice electoral playbook with the false claim that iconic civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. employed fraud to launch his legendary career of activism.

These candidates, one for U.S. Congress and the other for a county-level office, claimed King maliciously manipulated circumstances surrounding his first protest against race prejudice in June 1950. King’s sit-in demonstration at a cafe’ in the small South Jersey town of Maple Shade produced King’s first lawsuit against discrimination.

Republican Congressional candidate Paul Dilks and Republican Camden County Freeholder candidate Vincent Squires claim Dr. King perpetrated a mendacious mess by playing a ‘Race Card’ about that Maple Shade incident.

Dilks and Squires contend racism played no role in that incident. Their posture conflicts with King’s own accounts, newspaper articles in 1950 about that incident and details in award-winning biographies on King.

Dilks and Squires, during recent radio broadcasts, railed that King’s false claims of racist mistreatment maligned the entire town of Maple Shade for the past 68-years.

Dilks claimed that “half” the story surrounding the Maple Shade incident has been suppressed…deliberately.

“The question is: Is the narrative correct? We have got to get the story right,” Dilks said, bashing Democrats for corrupted behavior in South Jersey inclusive of embracing the historic accounts of King’s Maple Shade protest. Dilks leveled specific barbs against his Democrat opponent, Congressman Donald Norcross.

Milkweed patch in the yard pays rich dividend

Winning a Small Victory is Still Winning

I found them today: five plump zebra-striped caterpillars munching with gusto on milkweed leaves in an area of the tall dark-leaved plants growing in my front yard.

The beautiful orange-and-black monarch butterfly that I saw a few weeks ago flitting from plant to plant in that milkweed patch I have nurtured and allowed to expand naturally in my front yard over the last few years, apparently deposited an egg on each plant it landed on, and these ultimately hatched out a batch of voracious little larvae this year for the first time.
Monarch butterfly perched on a Milkweed flowerMonarch butterfly perched on a Milkweed flower
 

In a time when the evidence of the damage caused by mankind’s profit-driven environmental depredations — especially climate change — is becoming truly damning and deeply depressing, it’s a spirit-lifting bright spot for me to see the success of this one small effort to aid one beautiful and remarkable insect in its desperate struggle to survive.

The monarch, truly one of the most beautiful creatures on earth, has an almost unbelievable life cycle. Born in late summer, it has for millennia flown by the millions from the temperate part of North American continent in the US and Canada all the way down to Mexico — or if they are on the west coast, to California. Those who make the journey successfully to Mexico gather in a relatively small tree-covered forest region, choosing the oramel pine as their resting place. After over-wintering, they begin a migration back towards their summer habitat in the north.

No single monarch makes this epic round-trip migration, though. Rather, the delicate insects mate and lay eggs along the way and die, with their offspring beginning the return journey the following spring. They too don’t make it all the way north either, but mate and lay eggs en route, with their offspring continuing the journey north. Finally these undocumented immigrants flooding across the border from Mexico mate and their offspring are the ones I saw laying eggs on my milkweed plants, and whose offspring in turn are now gobbling away preparing for their short time in the chrysalis stage before becoming butterflies and beginning their own journey south.

A call for support from our readers:

Time for a Change, and That Costs Money

The time has come for us to upgrade our website.

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