September 26, 2015
I am not a Roman Catholic, although I know many who are.
I wasn’t prepared for what Pope Francis had to say, nor how he chose to convey his message.
I am quite pleased to have observed and listened to most of the things Pope Francis subscribes to. No doubt that the Roman Catholic Church in America has lost a great deal of its luster over the past couple of decades for a variety of reasons.
I think if the American R.C. church (and many other religious institutions) can find a way to embrace some of the values this Pope advocates for; our country could come closer to healing.
Related to this observation, the John Boehner thing came as a bit of a surprise, and for a few moments, I was pleased.
Now that some of the background has been exposed, it seems that Boehner has tried very hard to create an environment where civil discussion and debate was at least possible.
It also seems clear that there is a vociferous contingent of ultra-conservative elected officials in D.C. who share a common thread: ‘Take no prisoners: it’s our way or the highway. We don’t negotiate or compromise, ever.’
I guess I knew before the Boehner announcement on 9/25 that there were at least a few elected characters in our Congress who are mean, rigid, callous and intractable.
I just never would have guessed that there were enough of these bigots and curmudgeons to create an environment toxic enough to drive John Boehner back to Ohio, for good.
I guess the Koch Brothers (and some others) are gaining some real traction from their ‘investments’.
Goes to show: You don’t personally need to wear the white hood if you can write enough checks to mobilize an army of fringe fundamentalists who are willing to align with your doctrine.
There are dozens – hundreds – of examples throughout history which support this theory, perhaps the most frightening of which is the rise of Nazism under the leadership of Adolph Hitler.
Perhaps the spirit of Pope Francis will engage and mobilize enough folks who seem to perpetually sit on the sidelines hoping that – magically or mysteriously – the right things will happen.
History tells us that the right things will only happen when people of good will mobilize in a positive way to stop the fringe fundamentalists from taking control of our economy, government and society.
July 21, 2015
Wow! This headline caught my attention!
After some basic research, The Walrus is really disappointed – yet again – with some of the folks from the NRA.
Working through Rush Limbaugh – a true master of incendiary drama — Chris Cox from the NRA has just issued a ‘marginally correct’ announcement which seems to imply that our federal government is on track to deprive any and all older Americans from their ‘2nd amendment rights’ to keep and bear Arms.
The announcement states, “STOP OBAMA NOW! The Biggest Gun Grab in American History!”
“… the Obama administration is moving to strip away the Second Amendment rights of over four million Americans who receive Social Security benefits through a ‘representative payee.’ Not only would this backdoor gun prohibition amount to the BIGGEST GUN GRAB in American history, but it’s happening without ANY vote in Congress or ANY due process for millions of law-abiding Americans.” http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/daily/2015/07/20/government_you_want_your_social_security_fine_then_give_us_your_guns
Yes, this is the very same Chris Cox who was paid – out of generous NRA member contributions from you and me – some $828,000+ in compensation and benefits in FYE 12/31/2013.
By way of background: at the close of 2014, there were 58 million people receiving traditional Social Security benefits, and an additional eight million US residents receiving SSI (SSDI) benefits.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a Federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes). It was created to help provide a safety net to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income; and it provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.
So, the over four million Americans who would be impacted by this action are people who have been identified through a court action during which it was determined that the person is incapable of managing their own affairs, and thus has somebody else receiving the monthly transfer benefit for them to manage on their behalf.
Some activists for cart-blanche gun rights; mental-health advocates; and supporters for the disabled have stepped forward to state that expanding the list of people prohibited from owning guns based on mental and/or financial competence is wrong.
A Yale psychiatrist, Dr. Marc Rosen, said “Someone can be incapable of managing their funds but not be dangerous, violent or unsafe.”
Yet, over half of the individuals identified by the VA who fall into the category where a third party has been appointed as a fiduciary are people 80 or older, often with dementia, seemingly reasonable criterion for discouraging gun ownership.
The Walrus is a citizen who hopes to die of natural causes, and he wants to believe that one role of government is to protect us from random violence.
It seems to be widely accepted that people who: (a) suffer from extreme depression; (b) lack mental capacity; (c) are no longer able to function independently; or (d) have a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairment(s) which is severe, i.e. it significantly limits the physical or mental ability to do basic work activities — are those people who might be unstable some or all of the time, and thus ought to discouraged from ‘uninfringed’ gun possession and usage.
While The Walrus completely understands and appreciates the need for Chris Cox and his colleagues to raise huge sums of money to help fund their very generous salaries and benefits, The Walrus also values the real truth, the whole truth and the complete truth.
Somehow, The Walrus is feeling as though Chris Cox and Rush Limbaugh haven’t told us very much of the real truth, and that is why The Walrus is feeling both very sad and quite disappointed.
July 16, 2015
Not a surprise that Speaker John Boehner has taken a very aggressive and harsh stand against the recent Iran Accord.
Boehner could be correct, although it would be a first for him.
Boehner has led the charge to spend untold fortunes — and has further wasted even more precious intellectual resources — fighting to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare), all to no avail.
Each and every one of Boehner’s arguments on why the ACA would destroy the US economy has been refuted by facts — clear economic proof — which validate that we – as a nation – are on the right path. As recently as June, 19, 2015, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that repealing the ACA law would COST some $353 Billion over the next decade.
Now, he wants to waste more of our precious resources on another foolish boondoggle?
It seems that Speaker Boehner has modeled himself after the storied “Chicken Little” — focused entirely on those possible events which might cause the sky to fall, rather than on the inevitability of change, and how to best embrace the future.
It is no wonder the Republican Party is in such a state of confusion and disarray.
July 16, 2015
As far as we know, The Donald is a U.S. citizen, and thus protected by our Constitution, Bill of Rights and subsequent constitutional amendments.
So, The Walrus has no contest to his freedom to say what is on his mind, however…
As a public figure, The Donald ought to realize that what he says may be interpreted literally or figuratively.
Some of his recent comments directed toward Mexicans seem to have energized a group of fellows who are no longer able to fly their Confederate Flags as openly as before, and had been seeking some new causes to help rally the troops.
Mr. Trump has recently been quoted making alleged negative comments directed toward migrants from Mexico (and Central / South America) as a primary contributing cause and source for America’s multiple issues with drugs.
I’m not quite sure what The Donald was trying to tell us, but it is pretty clear that the propensity for U.S. citizens to use “recreational substances” – alcohol, marijuana, peyote and others – predates Mr. Trump.
Prior to 1913, about 40% of federal revenue was generated by taxes and fees on alcohol.
Passage of the 16th amendment in 1913 (which created the federal income tax) addressed the ‘tax issue’ dependency relative to alcohol, and thus paved the way toward Prohibition.
Subsequent to the 16th amendment, income taxes far surpassed liquor taxes, providing solid support for passage of the 18th Amendment – a.k.a. “Prohibition” – in 1919. It banned the ‘manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors’.
The 18th Amendment didn’t stop the manufacture, transportation or sale of booze — it just shifted the activities out of the mainstream economy to the underground economy, where there were plenty of domestic cartels (families, gangs, mobsters, etc.) ready, willing and able to step in and ensure that the supply chain wasn’t interrupted due to some foolish Constitutional Amendment.
At the time, most of these cartels were populated by first or second generation immigrants from Ireland and/or Italy.
As Al Capone is quoted from back in the day, “All I do is to supply a public demand … somebody had to throw some liquor on that thirst. Why not me?”
Since those peaceful days, direct descendants of the Hatfield and McCoy families have joined forces to make and distribute what some consider to be one of the finest of American products, “The Drink of The Devil” — carefully made in small batches in West Virginia, and fully taxed.
For decades, our elected officials have pushed marijuana (and some other goods and substances) out of the mainstream economy and into an off-the-grid cash economy where no taxes or fees are collected, and thus any and all costs associated with oversight, enforcement, etc. are fully borne by those of us who obey the law and do pay taxes. All of this, Despite the lessons we learned from prohibition!
I never thought I would find near 100% agreement with the Cato Institute on any subject, yet this paper pretty much says it all: http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-157.html
Today, many corporations have taken their manufacturing, packaging and more menial tasks “off shore”. Why wouldn’t the domestic marijuana and narcotic distribution cartels follow suit?
Somewhere at the top of any of these current distribution networks is a domestic descendent of one of the original “Capos” – carefully managing his supply chain, and working very hard to ensure that his lifestyle is such that he is above suspicion.
Dig a little deeper, my friends.
This story really has nothing to do with people from Latin America who grow, manufacture, package and/or ship ‘illegal substances’ to the U.S.
The real story is right here, and hiding in plain sight: Which of our neighbors has been blocking legalization and domestic control over the distribution and sale of marijuana?
These are the people who have the most to lose once marijuana becomes part of the regulated, taxed and mainstream economy.
July 11, 2015
Donald Trump. ‘The Donald’. ‘You’re Fired!’
The list goes on and on.
Yet, the questions remain: (1) Who is The Real Donald Trump? And, (2) Where is he hiding?
I don’t have enough information to delve into Q1 (at this time).
I thought for sure I had the answer to Q2! It seemed to be a ‘gimme’ – he’s likely hiding somewhere in Donald J. Trump State Park! Summertime. Great weather. What a great place to ‘hide in plain sight!’
Driving north out of NYC on the Taconic State Parkway, you will see the sign announcing the DJT State Park just before mile-marker 16. The sign was erected in 2006 at the twilight of George Pataki’s final term as NYS Governor after The Donald donated some 436 acres of vacant land in the towns of Yorktown and Putnam Valley to the state of New York to be used as a park.
Turns out that the Park never quite got started (or finished), quite similar to several other projects The Donald announced with great fanfare and plenty of publicity.
Unfortunately, the park didn’t exist in 2006, and it doesn’t exist now — unless you view 436 acres of inaccessible wildland inhabited by deer, squirrels, rabbits, snakes, coyotes and other brethren of the forest – as a park. (It has been said that The Donald is particularly fond of snakes.)
Now, please understand – The Walrus is all in favor of open space. In fact, if The Donald had donated this property to NYS as Open Space, I might have a somewhat more favorable impression of him and his character.
Trump had assembled this land in the early 1990’s with the expectation he would create one or more private golf clubs. His cost of acquisition was somewhere in the $2 Million range. After being rebuffed by several government entities on the potential negative environmental impacts of shoe-horning private golf facilities into wetlands, wildlands and woodlands, in 2002 Trump – with great fanfare – declared that he was “fed up with” governmental delays and overreach. He stopped the application process for the golf course; and began marketing the property as a potential site for luxury housing.
By 2006, it was apparently clear that the property was: (a) over-priced, or (b) not suitable for development, or (c) all of the above.
So, instead of selling the property, which he valued at $100 million, Trump decided to donate it to the state of New York to be used as a park.
The bad news: the cost of converting these 400+ acres of wilderness into a state park, maintaining it and staffing it was beyond the realm of comprehension.
In 2010, the state announced that it would close this and 57 other park and historic sites due to budget constraints. As they said from Albany, “Mr. Trump did not give an endowment to improve the park.”
Trump’s reaction was fast and furious: “If they’re going to close it, I’ll take the land back. This was very valuable property. I gave it away at the height of the market for the purposes of a park, and I always believed that once a park is there, it would always be a park.”
Meanwhile, we’ve determined that The Donald isn’t hiding in Donald J. Trump State Park, because there really is no such place which is accessible by motor vehicle, only on foot or by helicopter.
And, we’ve been able to determine that The Donald is not hiding at his daughter Ivanka’s estate.
Apparently The Donald’s quip on national television a few years back left some people feeling a bit squeamish: “… she does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”
We’ll keep searching for The Real Donald and where he is hiding, so please feel welcome to send any tips or leads to The Walrus!
June 8, 2015
As the calendar moves forward toward an expected announcement from current NJ Governor Chris Christie on his candidacy as the potential GOP nominee for president in the 2016 election, stories about – and soundbites from – Christie abound.
With the radio tuned to news in the background, I listened to some of these stories and soundbites today.
I’m left feeling that Chris Christie has no moral compass. Christie is apparently willing and able to lie about almost anything and everything.
Here’s a soundbite from Christie’s appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, June 7, responding to recent comments from Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton who called out for significant expansion in voter access, calling out several prominent GOP leaders – including Christie – accusing them of purposefully limiting voter access in their states through policies such as voter identification requirements and limited early voting.
Said Christie: “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. In New Jersey, we have early voting available to people. I don’t want to expand it and increase the opportunities for fraud. Maybe that’s what Mrs. Clinton wants to do. I don’t know.”
Christie continued, “But the fact is: folks in New Jersey have plenty of an opportunity to vote. And maybe if she took some questions some places and learned some things, maybe she wouldn’t make such ridiculous statements,” he said.
What Christie failed to note in his response is that it is more common in New Jersey (and many other states) for elected and appointed public officials to commit fraud then it is for a voter to commit fraud.
And, more alarming: Just 31% of eligible voters in New Jersey exercised their voting rights in the 2014 election. [http://www.electproject.org/2014g]. Seems to me that the real opportunity here is to address and/or eliminate existing obstacles or impediments to help increase voter participation, not creating more obstacles which have the probability of discouraging potential voters.
Chris Christie: You are both a phony and an opportunist, and it’s very sad that you were elected to a position of trust (Governor of New Jersey) and as such, (a) you have tremendous power over the infrastructure and inner workings of our 11th largest state, and (b) you have tremendous influence over the functionality and decisions of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the public authority which builds, operates, and maintains critical transportation and trade assets in the NY Metro area.
PANYNJ controls a network of aviation, rail, surface transportation and seaport facilities which annually move millions of people and transport cargo throughout the New York/New Jersey region.
We can only hope that the ongoing ‘Bridgegate’ investigation will soon expose your culpability in the ensuing mess that (at best) inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of bridge users on those days where access to the bridge was restricted; and (at worst) exacerbated economic losses well into the 100’s of millions of dollars through a ripple effect to commercial entities in the Tri-State region, and throughout the U.S.
I, for one, would be delighted to see you spend the next 8 years, or so, in the Big House, not any other house.
March 12, 2015
The current U.S. Senate atrocity involves a letter released on Monday, March 9, 2015 from Senate Republicans to Iran’s government (the “Leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran”), saying that any agreement made by President Obama amounts to a “mere executive agreement” goes well beyond the arena of conduct which disregards the laws of our nation.
I believe a significant number of mostly Republican elected officials in Congress are guilty of depriving the people of the United States the intangible right of their honest services, for at least the past 5 consecutive years.
That is a domestic issue, and it is described in Federal Law as ‘Honest Services Fraud’ (see 18 U.S.C. § 1346).
It seems pretty clear that some of these boys elected to the U.S. Senate just can’t resist acting like 3rd graders let loose on the playground with no supervision.
These boys have now pushed into a new and dangerous place. Whether they are guilty of Treason, as some have suggested, is really not the point.
At minimum, they are guilty of acting like narcissistic brats, and their behavior casts a dark shadow over an institution with a proud 250 year history.
This act of cowardice and ignorance engaged in by 47 elected officials in the U.S. Senate ought to be a wake-up call to all Americans that we have a major problem in Washington, D.C. and that our problem is not at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
This letter was signed by 47 of 54 Senate Republicans, and was authored by Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) gave it his approval and signed the letter. Among the Senators who also signed the letter are Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Ted Cruz (Texas) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) all of whom are considering running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
In their letter, they wrote, “It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system. Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our Constitution – the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices – which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress…. Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei.”
They also reminded Iran that “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”
The letter – and the 47 Republican Senators – faced an immediate negative reaction from the White House; President Obama; Vice President Joe Biden; Senate Democratic leadership; Congressional and Senate Democrats; and potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton; as well as many more.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif criticized the letter finding it either (a) undermining the president’s authority; or (b) counterproductive.
Among other things, Zarif said, “This kind of letter is unprecedented and undiplomatic. In truth, it told us that we cannot trust the United States.”
Alabama freshmen Senator Tom Cotton has become a center of attention, facing both criticism and accolades, and he has been the key defender of the letter’s message. Many media sources have fixated on Cotton and the other Senators who signed the letter, led by the New York Daily News headline on March 10, “TRAITORS”.
Even Fox News (Megyn Kelly) was critical of this apparent publicity stunt: “What’s the point in writing to the Iranian mullahs? What are you going to do? They dismissed it already like ‘pfff, whatever’. And you’ve offended the Obama administration. And you may have offended some of the Democrats who would have come over with the Republicans, if depending on what happens with this deal, to have a stronger say in the Senate.”
Not to dismiss some incremental support from the Right: Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and former Texas Governor Rick Perry have expressed their support for the letter.
Among the seven Republican senators who did not sign the letter, several have commented that, ‘they did not find it appropriate, helpful or productive.’
While it seems likely that 46 of the 47 Republican elected officials are now questioning their decision to sign the letter, Tom Cotton himself is probably saying, “That worked out great!”
Overnight, Tom Cotton has risen from an unknown and obscure Alabama Senator to a household name!
Tom Cotton has demonstrated that a U.S. Senator who’s been in office just a few months can accomplish a great deal, with a little initiative and creativity.
Much like the boy who shouted “FIRE” in the crowded movie theater, Cotton may have caused a major panic. In this case, the resulting impact includes: irreparable damage to the reputation of the U.S. Senate; to the Republican Party; and to the security of the United States.
But, to the Tea Party base from which Cotton draws his support, he is now a hero. The more criticism he gets, the more convinced they become of his heroism.
The Koch Brothers must be mighty proud!
October 1, 2014
No surprise that the Koch Brothers and Koch Industries have gone on the defensive following the publication of Tim Dickinson’s lead story in the September 24 issue of Rolling Stone (“Inside the Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire”).
The full text of the original article, the response, and various links to source documents is located here:
Below is an excerpt from the Koch Industries response related to the original article:
10. North Pole refinery shutdown. Response:
“In February 2014, Flint Hills Resources (FHR) made the difficult decision to shut down its refining operations and convert its North Pole, Alaska refinery to a terminal. While some employees unfortunately were laid off, FHR retained approximately 40 employees at the site and offered to find the other employees roles in other Koch companies. This resulted in several of the former FHR Alaska employees receiving job opportunities at other Koch facilities in the US. Federal, state and local authorities acknowledged the regulatory and competitive issues that drove FHR’s difficult decision. For example, Senator Begich recognized the “competitive challenges” facing FHR in a letter to Alaska Governor Parnell. Senator Begich later noted the issues concerning the environmental contamination that existed long before FHR’s ownership and the appropriate regulatory standards concerning the remediation also needed to be resolved in order to encourage another owner to operate the refinery. The City of North Pole likewise expressed its frustration concerning the competitive and regulatory challenges that drove FHR’s decision.
There is no question that the off-site contamination existed long before FHR bought the refinery in 2004 – contamination that was not disclosed to FHR by the prior owner. No one had done anything about the situation until FHR discovered it and quickly and voluntarily began providing alternative water to the community. During the time since it discovered the issues, FHR has tried to work cooperatively with the state of Alaska and the prior owner to remediate these issues, while ensuring our neighbors were not adversely affected. As part of this process, FHR raised an administrative challenge to the cleanup level set by ADEC personnel. The Commissioner of ADEC agreed with FHR that the agency had not adequately supported the cleanup level and the agency is now studying the matter further. FHR remains committed to doing the right thing, while also ensuring that the prior owner lives up to its contractual obligations to FHR and its obligations to the community.”
No one could effectively deny that the Kochs – and their legal and PR teams – possess great imaginations, and are blessed with amazing creativity. It’s almost as though Lewis Carroll has returned to write more poems for us to ponder!
Thanks, House Speaker John Boehner. You have successfully presided over a Congress which has the dubious distinction of officially becoming the least productive Congress in the history of the U.S.
The 113th Congress is solidly on track to enact 251 laws in total — over 10 percent less bills than the 112th Congress — which itself was credited with enacting the least amount of legislation since 1973.
Yet, if our Constitution were to be very carefully amended to change the purpose of the Congress, we could likely find that you have set a new record for frivolous activity, including the most recent announcement of your intention to file a taxpayer-funded lawsuit against the President of the United States for trying to do his job (against incredible opposition from House Republicans).
Despite some apparent irony in your pending lawsuit, I see at least one really positive facet to your case.
Although the current situation is not being billed as an impeachment, there are several Washington insiders who seem to think that filing a lawsuit is the foundation for an impeachment.
The last time the ultra-conservative right tried for an impeachment, their case relied on some sort of stain on a blue dress.
The good news from my perspective? The ultra-conservatives seem to have expanded their horizons a bit. It’s no longer focused on White House interns; now we have some actual issues to discuss.
I only wish they could find room to include Republican House leadership in their case.
Speaker Boehner and your band of merry men have refused to do your jobs, evidenced by your unwillingness to deal with critical issues (immigration, unemployment, tax reform), yet able to find the time to conduct 40 votes to repeal ‘ObamaCare’.
Speaker Boehner and the House Republicans – with front-man Ted Cruz leading the House Theatre of the Absurd — had the audacity to shut down the entire Federal government for a couple of weeks in October 2013, costing the American economy some $24 Billion in direct costs.
No doubt, the antics and shenanigans of the 113th Congress is the 21st Century version of The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland.
So, thanks again, John Boehner. Lewis Carroll left us with the wisdom, “If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there,” so I know he would be mighty proud that you have been able to update and continue his saga for current and future generations!
October 4, 2013
With all of the attention on the shenanigans in Washington and the in-depth moment by moment reporting, I thought the Walrus might sit this one out, but various forces have caused guilt.
Congress certainly has the authority to challenge the Affordable Care Act. Why don’t they just challenge the ACA in Court? Why are they messing with the greatest economy in the World?
Oh, wait. They did challenge it in court. In the Supreme Court. The highest court in the land. On June 28, 2012, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion upholding the constitutionality of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” finding that the federal government can require people to purchase affordable health care insurance coverage or face an income tax penalty.
So, we have a law which was approved by the House of Representatives, approved by the U.S. Senate, approved by the President of the U.S. and affirmed by the Supreme Court.
But, wait! We also have a splinter group of dubiously elected officials (i.e. the Ayatollah John Boehner, Cruz Control, Private Ryan, Eric “T.P.” Cantor – and others who shall remain anonymous for now).
These creatures have determined (in September 2013) that the only appropriate way for the Congress to arrive at a Continuing Budget Resolution which would keep our federal government running is to open a debate on a law which was enacted in 2010?
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are many times I wish that I could just put all of the clocks and calendars around the world on pause. Just give me a few days to catch up on all of the loose ends, and then I would restart the clocks and calendars as though those few days I had to myself were invisible and inconsequential. Sort of like a short “working vacation” in the Twilight Zone.
Boehner and his Band of Merry Men apparently have gone beyond the Twilight Zone and have jumped all the way down the rabbit hole, desperately trying to drag the rest of the country with them.
I have to wonder – how does the Supreme Court feel about this behavior?