You Will Be Haunted, By Three Spirits

jacob marley

Donald lay in bed, waiting for the gastric discomfort caused by the double cheeseburger and fries to settle down a bit. He had his comforter in his hand, and was just about to send out a tweet denouncing all NFL players who ever spoke out about any social issue ever, when his comforter buzzed. On the screen popped up an image of Richard Nixon, and his words were spelled out in the form of a text.

“Donald, I have come to warn you of the path you are on.”

“Donald, if you do not change, you will wear the chains of disgrace that I bear.” With this text, the image on the comforter drew back to show the entire body of Richard Nixon, shrouded in chains binding his arms and legs.

“Donald, I am sending you three messengers, to show you how you have come to this point in life, and to offer you a chance to repent. If you ignore these, your fate is sealed.” And with this last text, the image of Richard Nixon faded from the screen and only the unsent tweet remained.

“That was strange,” thought Donald. He looked up and Hannity was still on the television. Nothing around him seemed to show that he had just had a virtual visitor on his comforter. He put it down and reached for the television remote control. Better to try to sleep than to have to think about what had just happened.

Sleep was hard to come by, but eventually his mind calmed, and he was able to doze off. That is, until about midnight when his comforter suddenly began buzzing uncontrollably. Donald shuddered, then groggily reached over to the nightstand to pick it up. When he did, the visage of his old mentor, Roy Cohn, appeared on the screen. Donald sat up and looked dumbfounded at the screen, and as he looked, Roy began to speak. He was clad in his trademark robe, seated in his old apartment, and he said “Donald. Remember those days we spent together in the ’70’s? What is it that I taught you then?”

Donald replied to the image. “You taught me to never settle, never surrender. To counter-attack and counter-sue immediately. And no matter what happens, claim victory and never admit defeat. I’ve tried to follow your advice. Look where it’s got me!”

Roy’s cadaverous face nodded in agreement. The image was of Roy just before he died of AIDS, and he was hollowing out what was already a slender body. “Let me show you what you missed while we were together.” Roy’s face dissolved, and a pier on the waterfront appeared. A huge car was parked on the pier, and two men were approaching the trunk, which they opened. They hauled out a bundle shaped like a human, totally concealed by cloth wrapped tightly around it. They took chains and wrapped them around the bundle, securing the chains with a padlock. Then they lifted the bundle up and tossed it into the dark water. After the loud splash, the bundle sank beneath the surface without hesitation. The scene dissolved again, and Roy’s face appeared once more. “You see what happened there? I got Fat Tony off on that charge. We used my technique and it worked. It’ll work for you too. Keep that in mind. These times are tough and you need to be strong.” And Roy’s face disappeared from the screen, and the comforter went silent.

Donald turned the light on, then pulled up twitter. He wiped out the post he had intended to send about the NFL, and instead wrote yet another condemnation of his attorney general. He ended it with “Where’s my Roy Cohn!” and sent. Many would wonder about the tweet sent at 12:45 in the morning.

Donald turned the light back off, and tried to resume his sleep. He was just entering REM sleep when …. his comforter began buzzing uncontrollably again. He picked it up, and this time he was face to face with one of his nemesis MSNBC commentators, Rachel Maddow. She spoke not a word, but pointed with her long fingers at a monitor to her side, and his attention was drawn to it. He recognized the Oval Office, and saw himself seated at the desk, with papers cluttering the surface. He got up, and left the office for a state function, the meeting with the Emir of Losewhatchakan. Not five minutes after he left, he saw a hooded figure enter the room, and that figure crept over to the desk and pilfered two pieces of paper. Looking around to see if he had been observed, he crept cautiously away. When Donald saw himself returning to the office, he never noticed that the papers were missing. Rachel’s face reappeared as the scene dissolved, only this time he heard her say in that annoying way she had, “And to think that all of your staff is laughing at you behind your back. Never has a President been treated with so little respect that his own staff would sabotage him – and never has there been a President who would not notice that he was being thwarted. Now, watch this.”

She indicated the monitor beside her. On the screen appeared an image of an immigrant detention center. The chain link partitions indicated this was a serious place. He saw his agents approach one woman who was surrounded by three children. The agents took possession of the children, actually pulling one from the mother’s arms. Though there was no sound, the anguish of the mother and the children were apparent as unheard wails could be seen coming from each of the family members. The mother was escorted away to yet another place of confinement as her children disappeared down a corridor. The scene dissolved again, and Rachel pointed up once more with her long, long fingers. Longer than Donald’s, that’s for sure. Rachel said, “Your program was more successful than you could have imagined. But there were people who didn’t like what they saw in this scene. They actually thought this was cruel to separate the family in this way. But you know better, don’t you?”

Donald was confused. He could not force a coherent word out of his mouth, but did manage to shake his head in assent. His mop of comb-over flopped back and forth, deprived as it were of its binding chemicals.

Rachel had one more thing to say. “If you don’t crack down harder on those who disagree with you, your reign is in peril. Remember what Roy said,” and then her visage faded away.

Unable to truly focus, the only thing he could think of tweeting was “The FAILING NBC network keeps showing FAKE NEWS.” The tweet appeared at 2:30 on the time stream. Soon Donald was back snoring peacefully amidst the soft pillows.

But there was one more interruption on this endless night. His comforter began buzzing louder than ever, and he again reached over to grab it. When he did, what appeared was a stylish blonde covered totally in white fabric. Her body appeared to be similar to his daughter’s, but he could not tell because only her eyes and a wisp of hair protruded from the eye slot that showed flesh. She spoke not a word, but held her finger up to where her mouth would have been, and extended her other arm in an open invitation to follow. Donald did watch as the scene changed to that of a crowd of white-clad people marching along a street. Slowly the camera panned back to reveal that the crowd of people extended as far as the eye could see, an endless mass of pilgrims walking, walking, walking. The crowd was even bigger than at his inaugural. Who were these people? Then the camera pulled back further, and he realized there were tall spires around the crowd, and that all of these people were MUSLIMS! So! Many! MUSLIMS! If he didn’t act soon, they would be all over our country, flooding our streets, turning our daughters into abaya-clad disciples of Allah! Something must be done! But as he felt resolve entering his limbs, the scene dissolved into yet another scene. Now he could see a camp of some sort, with thousands and thousands of tents, and even more people milling about, aimless, idle. He recognized that this was some sort of refugee camp, the people looked like they were Asian, and there were just so many of them. He could see them storming our border as an unending horde. He must do something to prevent these hordes from overrunning our civilization. Then the scene changed once more, and he saw a dreadful looking ship, in danger of foundering on the ocean, crammed to the brim with dark-skinned people. He saw the ship list, and saw people fall or jump off into the ocean without any survival gear, hundreds and hundreds of people. He knew then that this was a vision of the future, that all of these people were intent on invading our shores. He tried to stir himself, but found his muscles frozen.

He awoke from this last vision at his normal hour. He was determined to share his lessons from the visits of the evening. He would be ruthless in his pursuit of those who denigrate him. He would be unceasing in the efforts to keep the nation pure by banning all immigrants other than those who had enough money to buy citizenship. He would keep the faith of Roy by striking out through the legal system at all who had wronged him. He turned to his comforter to begin to share his lessons of the night with his many followers.

 

What? You believed that the visits of the spirits to Donald would result in a transformation? That he would grow a conscience and his heart would grow three sizes? That he would show charity towards all, and malice towards none? You don’t know him very well, do you?

 

In Support of the Journalists and Media

Pull-Off-Veneer

The veneer of civilization is thin. Those with the oratorical skill who are able to manipulate their audience into violently turning against the objects of derision, are deliberately pulling at a loose piece of veneer, caring not whether the veneer comes off and exposes the termite-infested structure found beneath. That to me is the danger we face when the leader of the nation castigates an entire branch of our society and declares them to be “The Enemy Of The People”.

You see the raw hatred expressed by attendees at these rallies. It emanates from the middle finger salutes they proudly wave at journalists. You hear it as they scream “CNN Sucks” at the faces of those who try to bring the story of the rallies to their audiences across the nation and the world. Up till now, flimsy barricades separate the hordes of gesticulating shouters from the cameras and microphones held by members of the press. But mark my words, at some point there will be a trigger. Perhaps it is an ill-chosen phrase spoken over the sound system that sets it off. Perhaps it will be some member of the press who pushes back against some rally supporter who has intruded. Perhaps it will be someone radicalized in the sewage of white supremacy beliefs who decides to take matters in his own hands. But some time soon, the barriers will fall, and the fury pent up by the constant denigration and denunciations and hate speech coming from the President will be unleashed upon the hapless press pool.

The images of the conflict will dominate the airwaves for days. Broadcasts showing the chaos, confusion, and casualties that resulted from the charge over the barricades will horrify those who believed “It can’t happen here”. Images abruptly cut off when cameras were destroyed will resonate over the airwaves. Cell phone videos providing additional perspectives will surface, each one swimming up to the surface of the boiling soup of the media world, only to spread out and sink back into the simmering pot.

Then the question will come up. Was this riot against the press a one off? Or will others across the nation who share in the beliefs of the President that members of the media are horrible, horrendous people, instead begin attacks wherever the press is displayed? Is it conceivable that enough people could be motivated to act against the press that this country could have its own Kristallnacht, with TV studios raided, and newspaper employees having to fight against those who would throw spanners into the working printers, ceasing for a bit the dissemination of news they find distasteful.

Think this is excessive hyperbole? I offer an example from my state of West Virginia, where we have “Trump Lite” as our governor. This gentleman with the oxymoronic surname of Justice, not only lashes out against the press whenever they print something he doesn’t like. No, he upbraids them when they print something that he agrees is accurate, but somehow if this news is published, it will cause damage to the state of West Virginia and its reputation. He is fostering the concept that the news media is biased and wants to destroy everything good being done in the state by his administration. How many other politicians around the nation are taking advantage of the cover provided by the President in his continuing campaign against the media? The belief in the fake nature of the news is spreading, and will find more and more purchase if it is allowed to fester without a vigorous and continuous denunciation.

So on this August 16, inspired by the Boston Globe’s campaign to speak out against the ongoing attack against the free press, I offer my own denunciation of the tactics of this President. There is only a thin line of metal barricades that stand against the unleashing of the animal instincts that has been aroused by the words of this charlatan. But as we’ve seen in other countries in the last century, those who can inspire the animal spirits of crowds can lead their nations into paths of evil and into their own destruction.

Photograph courtesy of Salvaged Inspirations and may be found at   https://salvagedinspirations.com/how-to-remove-veneer/

 

Of Venn Diagrams And Current Events

Trump venn diagram

So many people shout on the internet about socialism seeping into the psyche of this country, supplanting the natural urges for rugged individualism that made this country great. “If we only went back to the principles of the Constitution” they exclaim, as they gleefully ignore any reasoning why it sometimes feels like applying a straitjacket in trying to fit the modern world into the confines of that same Constitution. It is pointless to try to describe the difference between a nation perched on one edge of a continent, with an ever-opening frontier to the west offering a fresh chance to all who wished take it, and our modern nation, with the former frontier areas becoming depopulated as more and more people pour into the urban meccas.

At the same time, voices stridently denounce taxation as theft. It is the ascension of the cult of selfishness as defined by Ayn Rand. The rugged individualist is the highest expression of humanity, and all must strive to achieve that measure of greatness. If they fail, or are unable to find a place in modern society, then they should be judged harshly by Darwinism and cast aside without any assistance from the rest of humanity.

If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject – Ayn Rand

So an entire sub-group of our society has adopted not the morality of Christianity, but instead the amoral selfishness of Ayn Rand as the driving principle for our society. And in 2016, enough of them managed to seize political control with the assistance of others who were discontented with both their own economic circumstances and the choice of candidates. For better or worse, they judged Donald Trump as the preferred choice, and allowed a shyster from Queens to take office.

Forget the parable of the Good Samaritan when it comes to the aliens among us. Instead, inject fear of the other into the conversation in order to demonize any and all who have not met all hurdles for legal residence, and soften up the sphere of public opinion to enable their dehumanization. Forget the commandment about not bearing false witness. Instead, boldly contradict something you said yesterday that was recorded by all of the various media sources you decry as fake. Forget all prohibitions against adultery and fornication. Instead, judge someone by how effectively they set up their non-disclosure agreements with their various extra-marital partners. Forget any sense of shared sacrifice to rebuild the infrastructure of this nation. Instead, pitch a tax reform plan with 95% of its benefits aimed at corporations and plutocrats, and falsely pitch it as the greatest middle-class tax cut of all time. Time and again we can point to the times when the actions of this administration have been aimed at the degradation of those who voted for it. Yet even now, 18 months after taking charge, those who were hypnotized into becoming true believers of the cult of personality still see their leader as walking across the Sea of Galilee, unencumbered by the laws of physics. Kind of reminds me of his hair.

Why is it so many have swerved from acceptance of reality, onto a path leading starkly towards authoritarianism? How is it that we now have an administration that feels any challenge to its power by the press is grounds for exclusion of the representative of the press who dared to raise her voice in a question? How is it that an administration can be emboldened enough to falsify transcripts of the Helsinki press conference to eliminate all reference to a question as to whether Putin favored Trump’s election, even though millions heard the question and answer either in real time or replayed later?

How many times do you need to hear “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” before you realize that this administration is trying to cut itself free of reality? In the speech to the VFW on July 23, President Trump said:  “Stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. … What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” That is a direct appeal to believe only the words of the great leader, and ignore any and all evidence to the contrary that may be presented by any person or group who dares to disagree with the temporary delusion of the leader. A delusion that will be walked back the next day, only to be reaffirmed the following day.

Still, those who have become addicted to the sugar high of red hats and “Lock her up” chants refuse to accept the evidence of their eyes and ears as to the incompetence and greed of this administration. The one overwhelming success of the Trump movement has been to commandeer the complete support of a minority of the American public. Body and soul, they still believe that the man is only in it for them – they know that the discomfort they are feeling due to farm markets unraveling under the influence of a trade war is only temporary. They remind me of the black knight in the Monty Python Holy Grail movie, who after having had both arms and legs shorn off, kept saying “It’s just a flesh wound”.

During the last administration, the same corps of true believers were convinced that Barack Obama was destined to implement martial law, that FEMA had ordered millions of death shrouds to handle the violence that was sure to come due to the overreach of the Obama administration, that the Muslim brotherhood was just waiting for the signal from their leader in the White House in order to unleash ferocious jihad upon hapless American citizens. Funny, it seems to me that none of those things ever happened under Obama, nor were we ever in danger of any of those things happening. But if you took a Venn diagram of those who believed Obama was the epitome of evil, and mapped it on those who believe Trump is actually Making America Great Again, you will have a significant overlap. It is clear there is a minority within this nation who actively resist the reality of life in the 21st century. The question to be answered during the upcoming mid-term election is whether that minority will be allowed to hold the rest of the nation hostage, actively thwarting all efforts aimed at improving the lot of the American people while enabling the groper-in-chief to continue his self-aggrandizing swagger while he cedes control of our foreign policy to those who wish us ill.

The message sent in 2016 was that there is profound discontent in the economic maldistribution within this nation. Entire swaths of the population found themselves bereft of hope, and they hitched their wagon to the candidate whose words addressed their fears. Three years after the announcement that this misogynistic racist was mounting a serious run for the presidency, one can only hope that the scales are beginning to fall off of the eyes of those who have been deceived. We can only hope that soon the Trump rump will be a vestigial tail upon the national dialogue, as its elected enablers are swept from the scene.

What Country Actually Manufactured This Product?

supply-chain-management-concept-global-trading-network-logistic-import-export-elements-image-furnished-nasa-88420226

The issue of international trade is in the headlines with the imposition of tariffs by the US administration, followed by reciprocal tariffs from the trading partners of the US. I am in a unique position to comment on international trade issues, because for years I worked for a large multi-national corporation on global supply chain issues. In fact, I helped to implement the computer infrastructure that enabled my employer to minimize global taxes on shipments that went from continent to continent. It makes it very difficult to determine, where is a product actually made? I will try to explain one supply chain I was involved with and hope that the readers can follow the product trail.

This particular supply chain started with an intermediate chemical compound. That is, one that took a good bit of chemistry to create, but was not a finished product. We either produced that material within our company in the US, or purchased it from a third party located in China.

That intermediate chemical was shipped to our affiliated company legal entity in Puerto Rico. This requires an understanding of what constituted a legal entity in our company. A legal entity is a wholly owned subsidiary that is incorporated under the laws of its location. Since Puerto Rico had different tax structures and tax benefits than the rest of the US, we had established a Puerto Rican legal entity for the manufacturing plants we used there. Our intermediate chemical underwent a complex reaction there in order to become an active herbicide. Then the active materials were packaged into bulk containers (mainly drums), and were set to be exported to other locations where they would be formulated into finished products.

But. It was not as simple as shipping directly from Puerto Rico to our locations in France, and Australia. For the product going to the US, it was shipped directly, but for the others, the transaction was done through a legal entity located in Switzerland. That legal entity assumed responsibility for securing the transportation of the chemical and dealing with all customs payments. All in exchange for a markup fee, which raised the price of the active chemical in the formulating location. Since the price at the formulating location is higher than the cost of the chemical plus transportation fees, the Switzerland subsidiary booked a profit. Did I mention that Switzerland has a low tax rate? So for the corporation as a whole, a portion of the profit for the material was taxed at a very low rate, thus benefiting the economics for the company as a whole.

I was involved in the first setup of what were called trading companies. When we in the SAP (SAP = business enterprise software used to transact business globally) group first heard about it, our legal antenna went up, and we specifically asked “Is this legal?” Because to us, this seemed like a lot of work in order to avoid paying taxes in the countries where we really did physical work on the material. We were assured that it was legal, and we went ahead and set up the first of several trading companies. When you hear about the use of low tax countries to shelter profits, this is one way it is accomplished.

So the material has been shipped from the last manufacturing location to the country where it is formulated. The transaction to move the material was handled by the Swiss entity, but the material never touched Swiss soil. Instead, the material was unloaded at our plant in France. Now any agricultural herbicide or pesticide is a combination of one or more active ingredients, blended together with inactive ingredients, or adjuvants. These materials help in the dispersion of the product so that it may be applied, or dissolved within a spray tank, and then applied to farm fields. This process is known as formulation, and can be very involved with may different ingredients involved. The plant in France then packages the material. first in a large container (for us, multiple kilogram containers). Then, for countries close to France, they will package the material into finished products at the French plant which contain all of the country-specific labeling and use instructions, and then the materials are shipped to the countries in pallet quantities for distribution and sales. The trading company is not used for these transactions.

Logistically, it may make more sense to ship the larger containers to another country directly, where it may be transferred to country-specific packaging. Often contracters are used to accomplish this. Where an individual country market is large enough, like Russia or Ukraine, this is the preferred method for the final stage, where a finished product that will be purchased by a consumer is created.

Given all of these steps, where is the product manufactured? You can see that this becomes a difficult question to answer definitively, because with the exception of the trading company, there were manufacturing operations at all of these locations. The first two manufacturing steps where the intermediate was produced and then converted to the active ingredient added the most value to the finished product, but then even that material may have been originally manufactured in the US, or it may have been sourced from China. So take today’s situation – a tariff may be applied to a material if it were sourced from China, but not if it were manufactured in the US. Then a material is exported from Puerto Rico to Europe. Is Puerto Rico considered part of the US for the application of tariffs in Europe?

For the product I’ve traced, the system is easy in the US. The material is sent directly from Puerto Rico to the US without involving the trading company. It then is formulated and packaged for the specific US market at our plant in Illinois. By the way, did you know that there are multiple packages for use within the US? Often with herbicides and pesticides, it is necessary to have product labeling and use instructions for specific states, since some of them have requirements that are in addition to those from the Federal government. Each of these finished products have a specific bill of material, and each piece of paper or cardboard box used to hold the product had its own SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) that was included in the bill.

That was the world I worked in for the last 15 years of my career. Looking back on this process, I realized I was gaining quite a sophisticated knowledge of international business. I could look at the requirements by country, and I realized that those who complain in the US about overweening regulations stifling business activity, had never done business in Brasil. In that nation they require tracking of everything – copiers, pens, paper, costumes for demonstrations of insects, scientific instruments. Each of those things gained a material number so that they could be tracked coming into and going from their locations. I joked that I was surprised that they didn’t require bar codes on items flushed down their toilets. I was joking, but barely.

The world has become integrated by trans-national corporations. Supply chains stretch across multiple continents, and the systems are legally gamed to minimize taxes. Given all of these conditions, it is very questionable whether you could return to a process where a product is manufactured in a single country, out of components manufactured in that country, and sold not only in the country of manufacture, but exported to other countries and regions for the benefit of the country of manufacture. With the products I’ve described, I have difficulty in stating where the product was actually manufactured. Was it the last step where the product was packaged for the individual farmer? Or was it the location where the complex chemistry was performed? Or was it at the location where it was blended with its other inert ingredients? Each of those steps is a manufacturing operation. You tell me if it makes sense to identify a single origin for this material, and apply taxes and tariffs accordingly?

 

So! Much! Winning!

Trump's world

The Rubicon was crossed on July 11 in Brussels. Donald Trump laid bare the façade about the ambitions of the United States. We have officially become an imperial power, exacting tribute from those whom we enfold within the protection of our magnificent arms. Acting unilaterally, and against the advice and wisdom proffered by those in his administration who possess a brain, he demanded that NATO members not only meet the level of a 2% defense spending level, but instead that needs to be doubled to 4%. One can only assume there will be a Paypal account set up to forward delinquent accounts to US coffers.

I can understand “shaking things up” as being a necessary step in order to bring about a change in behavior. We may agree that some sort of action was needed in order to prod reluctant allies to meet their commitment to fund the common defense. But the behavior of bullying that was on exhibit in Brussels goes far beyond what a prudent person would do in order to maintain workable relations with our allies. What we have is a belligerent toddler who is sadly in need of a nap, berating Germany for maintaining a commercial relationship with Russia for natural gas that they’ve had for 45 years, including 15 years before the reunification of Germany.

Everything is transactional for Donald Trump. He does not even seem capable of recognition that true trade deficits consist of both merchandise and service balances. He continually bewails the merchandise trade deficit as exemplifying unfair practices. I have yet to hear him complain about the trade surplus we run in services with most countries in the world. The economic knowledge of Donald Trump could be condensed into the following points.

  1. We are the best nation in the world. Everyone should be grateful that we buy other countries products.
  2. Every other country manipulates the value of their currency so that their products are cheap and ours are expensive.
  3. Screw this idea of economic interdependence. We must maintain domestic manufacturing capability for all products because our national security depends upon our ability to manufacture Depends©.
  4. There are no unforeseen consequences in trade wars. Once our trade adversaries see that we’re serious, they will lay on their bellies before our alpha dog posture. These wars are easy to win!
  5. I’m doing all of this for you, the American worker who has been deprived of his rightful position in this global economy, by all of my predecessors, who negotiated the worst deals ever in the history of history, just because they hated America!

It is amazing, but I must finally say that Donald Trump has exceeded my own expectations. I expected him to be a disaster. But as time rolls on, the brazen attempts at imposing the will of his overgrown colon (his gut instinct!) upon the world make me incredulous. The utter failure at doing any sort of planning for the implementation of his zero tolerance policy at the border, thus leading to the inability to reunite parents or guardians with children. The childish attempts for Nobel notoriety in Singapore, enabling the North Korean leader to play pat-a-cake upon the drum of Donald’s extended stomach. The ongoing denigration of the allies of the US, allies we earned through the blood sacrifice of the US military through two world wars in the 20th century. The completely incompetent attempt to alter trade balances through the imposition of broadening tariffs. This is only the first tier. The book has yet to be written that encompasses all of the incapability of this administration at accomplishing any significant goal (other than naming judges from the list provided by the Federalist society).

And through all this, the sycophants in Congress who bear elephant tattoos are silent. The once great Republican party, one that stood for liberty and balanced budgets and accountability in government, now is mute in the face of the personality cult of the current inhabitant of the Oval Office. They sold their souls for their tax cut, now they wander aimlessly, sending delegations to visit Russia and saying, “After all, both sides can make recriminations.” They are mute in the face of all of the descriptions of the inhumanity of their forced separation policy, now bearing fruit in the inability to reconnect families. They are silent in the face of the trade war escalation, apparently uncaring about the collateral damage being done to our economy, all in the name of “being tough.”

And yet, there is still a significant minority in this nation who sing this man’s praises, who believe that his actions are totally consonant with that of a man who is acting on behalf of the interests of the people of this nation. Those who would not deviate from their support should their leader start to machine gun the pedestrians walking down Fifth Avenue by his eponymous tower. After seeing episode after episode of his incompetence and venality laid bare, I wonder what world his supporters live in. Clearly, they do not seem capable of self-reflection or analytic thought.

I guess Fox News is proving to be a better mind modifier than even I had considered possible.

 

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses – Yeah, we’ve heard that already

Yankee Stadium

When can you feel a shadow? When the shadow is cast from a team pennant flying over Yankee Stadium in the hot summer sun. I felt the coolness when the flickering flag blocked the sun’s rays momentarily. I went to the descendent of the House That Ruth Built for an afternoon game with Seattle, while the orchestra that I came to see was busy with other tour activities. I braved the NY subway system, trying to find the right side of the platforms to head on out to the Bronx. On the outbound leg, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a group of middle-school students coming onto the train, along with a beleaguered teacher. The energy and interplay of this group of students was intense, and I enjoyed watching it, while I did say to the teacher that I thought she had her hands full. They left on one of the stops in Harlem.

The game itself was exciting, but most of the action happened in the first two innings. By the end of the top of the 2nd, the score was 4-2 Yankees. The game ended at 4-3. I saw three 2-run homers, including one by the Judge. I saw another home run taken away by a remarkable catch in center. And then the game settled into a pitcher’s duel.

Aaron Judge

One of the activities the orchestra went on was a harbor cruise. This tourist staple was complete with a guide who gushed about the history of immigration on Ellis Island, and gave glowing praise to the ideals represented by the Statue of Liberty. We heard about how the nation became a nation of immigrants, welcoming all to our shores, our nation being the embodiment of an open society. The passengers on the cruise represented the diversity of the world, with large groups of Asians, and many other passengers from throughout the world. Our group of 50 West Virginians added to the mélange of cultures on the ship.

Ellis Island

As we cruised on our return past Ellis Island, I was struck by the stark difference between the canned words of the tour guide, with the situation on the southern border of this country. Here was our administration, deliberately causing trauma in families by pulling children from parents, then separating them and keeping them in different facilities, sometimes thousands of miles apart. This administration that has been in control of the reins of government for 16 months, suddenly implementing a drastic escalation of the zero tolerance policy. What was abundantly clear was that the amateurs who are running our government had given scant thought about how to ensure there was a system to link parent to child, so they could be reunited. The amateurs had not built facilities that could handle the huge increase in detentions. Instead, they implemented it and then were incredulous when there was a backlash against the cruelty inherent in this forced separation policy. Even this week, we saw Jeff Sessions attempting to make light of the situation by claiming that all those who objected to the policy were to be found in gated communities, and they would gladly separate trespassers to the gated community from their families. I heard the echoes of “Let them eat cake”.

Statue of Liberty

Whatever your feelings are on the increased prosecution of illegal immigrants, even of those who try to follow the rules and are claiming asylum at recognized crossings, I cannot see how you can be in favor of the splitting of families for what is in essence a misdemeanor crime (first time offense of crossing border illegally). This is not what we as a nation represent. Our national mythology is that we welcome the immigrant, and are willing to evaluate each immigrant’s story based upon well-established principles for admission to this nation. I heard that mythology reflected in our tour guide’s script that she probably repeated 5 or 6 times a day. It is clear, though, that any more it can only be found in mythology, since it no longer represents the present state.

This nation has always had a conflicted history regarding immigration. At various times, it has been the Germans, the Irish, the Italians, the southern and eastern Europeans, the Chinese, all of these groups have been savaged as they were allowed into this nation. Each time, the new group came in and established their own civic traditions, and eventually those traditions merged into the national culture with the passage of generations. Now we are in a world where the potential number of migrants greatly exceeds our capability of assimilating them. Combining that with a leader who evokes fear of others, who can only see the bad in those from outside instead of the good, and you end up with a perfect storm for those who were unfortunate enough to have bought into our national mythology and believed they would be welcomed into this nation.

The recent history of trying to resolve the immigration system, and the status of those already in the nation illegally, is replete with outlandish partisanship. Especially since the election of the Tea Party fanatics who view any mention of a pathway to citizenship as being traitorous, the well of bipartisanship has been poisoned. Now we have efforts from the House of Representatives at forcing a discharge petition to allow free and open debate upon the House floor. The beleaguered House leadership, not wanting to cede control to the possibility of bipartisan legislation, instead tried to force consideration of two different proposals depending only upon Republican votes for passage. It was heartening to see both of those efforts smashed into bits by the final votes. I can only hope that those who were pursuing the discharge petition renew their efforts, and attempt to develop a bill that can find supporters from both parties. Only then will we take the first steps towards healing the national divide on immigration. Only then can we hope to deal with the root causes of the problem, rather than dealing with the symptoms when they arrive on our border. And only then will we possibly develop a sustainable system for bringing new residents into our country, where their skills and energy can help to revitalize this nation’s communities and economy. Only then can we Make America Great Again!

All photos by author.

The Amateur Hour

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Amateur – 3. A person inexperienced or unskilled in a particular activity

The United States is conducting an experiment. An experiment that affects each and every person inside of the country, and many others around the world. This experiment involves turning over the operation of the executive branch of government to a group of amateurs, and observing what happens when amateurs are turned loose upon the gears of diplomacy, economics, and the military.

So far, the results have not been catastrophic. Taking the issue of the economy for example, the trends established since the economy bottomed in 2009 are continuing to result in gains in employment, and in measured economic growth. Despite claims of exceptional performance under the current administration, GDP growth averaged 2.2% from 2010 through 2016, while GDP growth during the current administration has been 2.6%. Using the statistical t-test, the two sets of data (past administration vs. current administration) are equivalent. There is not a statistically significant difference between 2.2% and 2.6% growth. But the one knob that this administration has turned, the tax cut, has yet to factor into the performance of the economy. The tax cut does have the potential to increase the rate of GDP growth significantly. However, the tax cut comes with a cost that has yet to be reckoned. The estimated deficits will increase greatly due to reduced tax revenues, and if there is an economic downturn in the next few years, the normal response of loosening fiscal policy to boost the economy will likely not be available. So we are at the mercy of the amateurs in the administration who believe it to be prudent fiscal policy to significantly cut taxes at a late stage in an economic recovery that has entered its ninth year. But what do experts know, anyway?

If you consider diplomacy, there is certainly a mixed bag to date. It does appear that twitter tirades and brazen bluster did result in at least enabling an initial meeting between North Korea and the US, with a generic agreement being signed. If this is indeed a first step towards a ratcheting down of tensions on the Korean peninsula, then this administration will have accomplished a worthwhile and noteworthy goal. But if the North Koreans continue playing Lucy with the football to the US’s Charley Brown, then relations may end up worse off than if there was no meeting.

That is the good news on the diplomacy front. Elsewhere, it is evident that this administration has zero respect for, and zero admitted need for diplomatic experience and expertise. Witness the exodus of State Department veterans over the first year of this administration. As of last November, 60% of the top management of the State Department had left government service, according to the American Foreign Service Association. A hiring freeze instituted under Rex Tillerson has been lifted by his successor, but nothing will replace the institutional memory and experience of those who were driven out by the bias of the current administration against subject matter expertise. The supporters of this President would say that this reduction in long-time employees is “draining the swamp”. What they do not realize is that this world is complex, and the diplomats at the front line in embassies around the world are essential in preventing US interests from being damaged. There will be costs, some of them severe, in the years to come due to the sabotaging of the diplomatic corps.

Meanwhile, the diplomatic style of this President was fully on display at the recent meeting of the G-7. The petty nature of the response to Prime Minister Trudeau’s press conference, replete with the denunciation of Trudeau as having “stabbed the US in the back” by declaring that Canada would not be bullied by the US, shows how much of this President’s actions are guided by his personal perception of slights. The threats unfurled against the strongest allies and trading partners of the US show that he has a vanishingly small knowledge of international trade and the risks to the economy of the world, by insisting on retreating to an era when America may have been great, but by imposing tariffs, we helped to drag the world into depression shortly thereafter.

Militarily, we are repeating the follies that have bedeviled military planners ever since military technology began changing year by year. That is, we are fighting the last war, not the next war. Thus the huge increase in the military budget over the coming years is earmarked for more ships, more fighters, more bombers, more in-air refueling capabilities, and keeping older hardware systems running. Meanwhile, the funding for cyber security ends up with a scant 4% increase when all of the ups and downs of spending by department are added up. Undoubtedly, there is a need for building ships to replace those that are near the end of their useful life. Likewise, replacement aircraft are needed. But the budget funds multiple generations of new weapons systems with no apparent overall strategy on what the military force of the future should look like.

The wars of the future will increasingly be economic or cyber in nature, and seeing funds spent on hardening the electric grid, purchasing large numbers of replacement transformers that could quickly be put in service should a grid disruption occur, these funds would be well invested for our economic and physical security. In fact, just as we used to have strategic metals reserves in case our supply got cut off, we should have a strategic transformer reserve, where these substation-level transformers that will be fried in an EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) event can be quickly replaced. The best way to provide such a reserve was investigated by the Department of Energy and the report was issued to Congress in March of 2017. It does not call for a Federally owned reserve, but calls instead for increased coordination across utility companies. It does call for an increased reserve but one that is maintained and controlled by utility companies. Will such a program work when it is called upon? No one knows. But we do know that the huge increase in military spending is not going for what can happen in the present or future. No, it is going to the weaponry of the past.

Once again, the amateurs determining the strategy for national defense are insistent upon spending large to procure the weapons of the past, while ignoring the needs for the defense of our nation and our lifestyle from the real threats that we face.

The concept of amateurism is good. In athletics, we maintained the façade of amateurism for many decades, but eventually it was broken down. In tennis, in the Olympics, in all sports, it is recognized that if you wish to have excellence in performance, it is necessary to have people who can dedicate their lives to the sport by being paid for their efforts. We followed the same principles in our government. Those who were willing to sacrifice much larger private sector paychecks for the limited compensation of government positions were recognized and honored for their expertise and their service. But in this misguided administration, we have sacrificed those who developed their expertise over decades, in order to promote the agendas of the amateurs who struggle against the current of events in their fields. The problem is that there are real consequences that come from having amateurs deal with issues that can cost real money, and real damage to international relations, and cost lives when dealing with the military.

 

Sustaining the Swamp

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I was sitting on a bench next to the Tidal Basin when bubbles erupted in the water before me. Slowly, my old friend Slimey, the slime monster emerged from the water, dripping from the moss and algae clinging to his arms and scaly torso. I noticed he seemed a little heavier than when I saw him last fall. He nodded to me and motioned at the other end of the bench I was sitting on. I motioned my arm to say, “Come on.”

He waddled over and plopped down on the bench. I could feel the balance shift slightly as his mass pushed down on the far end of the bench. I said, “You look like you are doing well lately.”

He looked at me and in his sibilant hiss, he said “You don’t know how good things are going for me in the DC swamp. All my fears about them draining my environment – they’ve vanished. I’ve never had it so good.” He paused to brush a strand of algae from his left eye, then continued. “I mean, Pruitt is everything we could wish for. He’s let loose a huge slug of rulings that are helping to feed me and my family. Thanks to him, all of the sludge from mountaintop removal is still flowing downhill to the Potomac, and let me tell you, that selenium is mighty tasty. But it’s not all Pruitt and EPA.” He paused.

I asked something that has been bothering me. “Do you get anything from the changes on the finance side? I know for us humans, the swamp is more than just what’s in the water.”

Slimey tossed his snout up in the air, seeming to laugh. I’d never seen his kind laugh, but the snortle was unmistakable. “Oh, my yes. I never wanted to admit this before, but when all of these tax changes support trickle-down, quite often the trickle-down misses all of the humans without money, but the trickle is a torrent by the time we get it. I mean, once that Dom Perignon is filtered through the kidneys, it gives a kind of rush to us when we taste it. And I’ve got to say, there’s been one heck of a lot more of it in this area since December. Live the good life, that’s what I say.”

I pondered on his statement for a while. “So for you, it all comes down to what’s going on with the water.”

Slimey shook away a dragonfly that was flitting around his head. “You might say that we notice things here in the water a bit more intensely. That’s why I’m so happy about getting rid of all those horrible programs aimed at slowing global warming. You don’t know how uncomfortable this place can get in January. I remember those times when ice would cover most of the water, made it damn hard to find a place to grab a breath. But now, we’re not shivering as much in the winter, and in the summer, it’s like we’re in a hot tub. I’m getting older now, and it feels so much better when I lay back and soak.”

I found I had another question that had bothered me since our first meeting last fall. “How is it that I’ve never heard of any other sightings of you, except for me, and now twice?”

Slimey dragged his long tail back and forth in the water, not ready to answer. Then, he admitted “Not everyone can see us. The way everything is polarized now, folks only see what they want to see. What they’ve been conditioned to look for. Now, look at me.” He pointed to himself with one immense claw. “What is it that you see?”

I weighed my words carefully. Though he had not given me any cause for alarm during our two encounters, he still was a massive reptilian figure with claws capable of instant evisceration and teeth capable of instant decapitation. I did not want to draw his ire, as I sensed I could not outrun him either. I finally said, “I see … someone we’d have had as a movie star in the 1950’s.” Slimey actually looked like he was honored by that, though it was hard to discern the exact expression on his face.

“You know,” I said to him. “You know, I think you might have a future in this administration. I think if you liked, I could float your name to him as an undersecretary of the Interior for wildlife management. What would you think of that?”

Slimey smacked his lips as he thought of the possibilities the position would provide. Unlimited snacks! But then he slowly shook his head back and forth, and he said “Thanks, but no. I don’t know if I could stand the cold-blooded nature of the folks I’d have to work with. You see, we never learned how to lie out here in nature. It seems like that’s a job requirement for anyone in this administration. No, I’m better off on the outside.”

Our conversation dwindled away. Finally Slimey got up, waved to me and started to slide down into the waters of the Tidal Basin. Just before his head was ready to go underwater, he turned back to me and asked. “What happens if he loses the House in the mid-terms?”

I thought for a brief moment before replying. I said “I don’t think it’ll make a bit of difference for those in the swamp. I think their fate is safe.”

He nodded his head, then slid under the murky water once more.

 

The Bill For Trump’s Folly

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Where are we now, sixteen months into the unprecedented chaos that the Trump administration has unleashed? We now have enough data points to do a regression analysis on the trends we are seeing. Let’s review some of the highlights of this journey we are travelling on together.

We’ve watched the baby steps at weaving a cult of personality around our leader. We’ve learned that personal loyalty to this President takes precedence over any and all qualifications or accomplishments. We’ve seen the cabinet love fests where each cabinet member expresses their best fawning statements about the honor and privilege it is to sit at the feet of the master. We’ve learned that our dear leader is most fulfilled when he is holding a Nuremburg-style rally out in fly-over land (and I live in fly-over land). Hearing the waves of adulation and blind adoration charges the President up enough to face another hard week of executive time watching Fox and Friends.

We’ve confirmed the statements Trump made in his campaign where he discussed his foreign policy advisors, basically admitting that he uses his own gut instinct as his north star. In March 2016, before he began his self-imposed exile from Morning Joe, he said “But my primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff.” Confirmation of this approach for foreign policy is exhibited in the failure to staff and support the State Department. Additional confirmation came with the decision to move the Israel embassy to Jerusalem, thus appeasing Christian Millennialists who see Donald Trump as an enabler of God’s will. Nowhere is the disparity between the unilateral actions taken by this administration, and the reality of the apartheid of Israel more evident than the slaughter of demonstrators at the Gaza fence on the day that the new embassy was opened. We’ve seen the benefits of impulsiveness as a foreign policy strategy through the well-thought out tweets that flat-out contradict what was supposed to be the position of the US.

We wait to see if there will be good consequences coming out of the upcoming Korea summit. This should give a validation as to the effectiveness of the Trump policy of shaming and name-calling in the name of diplomacy. Will such a policy gain valid results? Or will Donald Trump be swayed by the grandeur of the moment, and the ability of the North Korean leader to play on Donald’s emotions, such that he simultaneously declares victory while handing carte blanche to the North? I will be surprised if a truly good outcome results from this effort. If it does turn out good, I will admit that I was wrong, and give credit where it is due. My sense is that the odds of a good outcome are slim at best.

We’ve seen how the shell game master works as he oversees the efforts to fulfill his populist campaign pledges of draining the swamp. Too many regulations are stifling the finance industry as it tries to fulfill its vision of providing valuable services to underserved people! Therefore, we must castrate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, since it was over-regulating the payday lending industry, and preventing it from gouging the most vulnerable citizens of our country.

Too many regulations are stifling the for-profit college and education industry from fulfilling its mission of enriching investors while sticking its customers with exorbitant debt and a worthless degree that doesn’t lead to a job. So staff Betsy DeVos’s Education Department with for-profit college executives so that we can reverse the enforcement actions that might have given relief to the thousands of former students who had been ripped off by for-profit diploma mills.

Too many environmental regulations were developed using data that is not totally transparent (so says the little Caesar running the EPA). Therefore, if regulations developed in the past used medical data where all of the data cannot be made public due to patient confidentiality, these regulations must be reviewed and possibly reversed due to the lack of transparency. This is one of the most insidious efforts going on, where by declaring that we are in favor of motherhood, and baby bunnies, and data transparency, it will actually enable the gutting of regulations that have been in place for many years. So the industries that cut emissions due to public health benefits, will be able in the future to relax their compliance and continue to emit particulate and other pollution and contribute to the deaths of thousands each year, all in the name of data transparency (and corporate profits).

Sixteen months into this administration and we’ve seen the ongoing diminution of our culture due to the example provided us by its leader. An explosion in anti-Semitic language in on-line postings, a claim that white supremacy is normalized by asserting equivalence to those who protest against the supremacists, the lack of civility shown by White House aides towards a dying Senator, all of these are symptomatic of the virus being spread from the top. But what were we to expect when we had the image of spastic movements purported to be that of a reporter with a muscle disease? It’s just fine and dandy and a good visual to mock the disabled. And what were we to expect when we heard entire nationalities dismissed as just hardened criminals wanting to set up shop in the US to enhance their criminal career? No, we knew what we could expect from this administration from the start. Its leader played to the baser nature of his supporters, and this is part of the attraction of the rallies. See, you can manipulate the audience to whip them up in a fervor by using simplistic slogans and group chants. Crowds feed on themselves, and now that we have the on-line community, incivility begets worse through the chat rooms, and message response threads.

Sixteen months into this administration and we see who it is really intended to assist. The benefits of government largesse have flowed to the corporations and to those who will benefit the rigging of the tax system to slash personal tax rates. Some of the saddest scenes from these past months came when administration officials and Congressional leaders tried to spin the tax cut bill as preferentially favoring the middle class. “See, since the corporations you work for are going to be soooo grateful for this tax cut, they will want to share it with you. A thousand here, a few hundred there, and pretty soon you’re talking about REAL money.” The spin was at about 50,000 rpm on this one. And in the midst of this, we had those images of ‘Murican families smiling as they contemplated their $2000 in annual benefits, on the commercials paid for by shadowy groups who fail to divulge their origins or funding. So we did get a business tax adjustment, and that was necessary in order to stay competitive globally. But as usually happens when one side of the political spectrum refuses to deal with the other side, the cuts went too far, and the effect on the deficit was dismissed since the supply-side pixie dust will generate growth in the economy as far as the eye can see.

Meanwhile, any semblance of an infrastructure bill that would address the horrendous conditions of our roads, sewers, electric grid, water supplies, and other transportation venues, that infrastructure bill slumbers on peacefully. Slight susurrations emanated from the administration on how to leverage $200 billion in public funding into $1.5 trillion in total infrastructure spending, if we accept the wonder of public – private partnerships which would transfer ownership of public infrastructure to private hands.

It is clear after 16 months of failed leadership that there are only two purposes this administration is aiming for. And they seem to be succeeding in their efforts to fulfill these purposes. The purposes are: 1) Enrich the corporate and capitalist classes by slashing taxes and eviscerating regulations; and 2) Stroke Donald Trump’s ego. Any serious attempt to deal with the problems of this nation and of the world are dismissed as not fulfilling the two purposes of this administration. Any mention by the media of the fallacies uttered hourly by administration representatives is castigated as “fake news from the failing media”. Any suggestion that the administration is working for the detriment of those who saw Donald Trump as an economic savior is derided as not being worthy of a response.

The bill for Trump’s folly is coming. The delayed bill for the issues being swept under the rug. The delayed bill for the failure to address environmental issues that will continue to grow increasingly dire. And finally, the delayed bill for ignoring economic reality by pretending that all is fine while deficit projections grow larger and larger, and the interest to service the accumulated deficits starts to swell and threatens to burst our economic bubble.

US Senate Race – West Virginia

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You can’t make this stuff up. The West Virginia Republican Senatorial campaign has three leading candidates. One is the current State Attorney General, who put down roots in West Virginia in 2012 just long enough to qualify legally for election. One is the current third district Representative, who changed from Democrat to Republican in 2013, after having served in the State Legislature for over 20 years as a Democrat. And one is — Don Blankenship.

Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Coal who inspired fear among his corporate subordinates when they dared to place safety first before coal production, he who was imprisoned for a year for a misdemeanor offense of violating Federal mine safety regulations, he who was the head of the company when 29 miners died in a totally preventable coal dust explosion, this person is making a serious run for the US Senate.

You would have to have lived in this section of Appalachia for decades in order to gain a full perspective as to the true nature of Don Blankenship. In 1985, while he worked for a Massey coal subsidiary, a bitter strike against Massey roiled the hillsides of West Virginia and Kentucky. Violence was common, as union supporters fired guns at replacement drivers and workers, and replacement workers struck miners with their coal trucks. In the end, the miners agreed to go back to work, but under the terms of the old contract, not the new nationwide bituminous coal miner contract that the union was trying to get Massey to adopt. During the strike, armed guards and replacement workers were housed in barracks at the mines, reminiscent of mine conflicts in West Virginia of the 1920’s. Don Blankenship became the voice of management, decrying “union terrorism” as he justified the measures Massey took to ensure continuity of operations.

Once the strike was over, Massey evolved into a company that kept buying up union coal mines, shutting them down, then reopening them as non-union mines. The power in the mines swung back firmly in management’s direction. Blankenship’s fortunes rose as his stature as a union-buster grew. He became CEO of Massey and gained a reputation as someone who disdained the regulations imposed upon his industry by the government. Within Massey mines, code phrases such as “red pens” would alert miners when government inspectors came to conduct inspections. That enabled the miners to pretend to be obeying all requirements while the inspectors were present, then get back to “running coal” once the heat was off.

Eventually, this culture of corporate evasion of regulations came to a head, on April 5, 2010, when the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine was enveloped by a coal dust explosion that killed 29 miners. Coal dust, like any organic material, is capable of generating an explosion that will follow through mine chambers as long as there is dust to ignite. Apparently, there was enough dust to cause the explosion wave front to extend for thousands of feet underground. That is a lot of coal dust.

Don Blankenship refused to accept responsibility for the disaster. He evinced a theory that a sudden and massive influx of methane at the mine face overwhelmed all of the safety efforts that Massey used, and caused the explosion. Not only that, but he insisted that the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) required Massey to use a ventilation plan that significantly contributed to the damage of the explosion. All through the investigation where it was conclusively shown that poor dust control was the primary reason for the size of the explosion, Blankenship railed against the investigators, claiming that Massey and Don Blankenship were being railroaded.

I was amazed that in late 2014, Don Blankenship was indicted for Federal crimes associated with the UBB disaster. There were two felony charges relating to security fraud and issuing of false statements. These charges were related to misleading statements that he made after the explosion to minimize the impact of the disaster on the Massey stock price. There was one misdemeanor charge pertaining to conspiring to violate mine safety regulations, the actual charge that pertained to the accident and the lives lost. He was convicted of the misdemeanor, acquitted of the felonies, and in 2016, he was sentenced to a year in Federal prison on the misdemeanor charge. It is an indictment on our judicial sense of priorities that the securities fraud was viewed as more serious than the charges related to the actual killing of 29 miners, but I was happy to see any semblance of justice against the prevailing corporate culture of the mining industry.

In a world that retains a sense of morality, this would have been the end of Don Blankenship as a public figure. He would have served his time, then lived his life at his home in Las Vegas with the millions of dollars he received during his decades at Massey. But this man lived for more than money. He wanted revenge, and exoneration in the field of public opinion. During his imprisonment, he paid for the publication and mailing of a booklet describing what really happened in UBB, and how it was the political enemies of Don and those who hated the coal industry who were really to blame for the deaths of the 29. We received one of these pamphlets in the mail, but barely glanced at it before placing it in the recycling bin. As it turns out, the propaganda in the mail was only the first blast in Don’s redemption tour. He kept appealing his conviction up until the last week of his imprisonment. Then, in 2017, he announced that he was running for Senate from West Virginia.

When I saw the first of his campaign commercials late in 2017, I was convinced that he was using the vagaries of campaign finance to enable him to use unlimited funds to continue his crusade to clear his name. Don was by far the first West Virginia Senate candidate to place ads on TV. As time went on, however, I sensed a change in the tenor of the campaign ads. The guy actually thinks he can win. This from someone who has the charisma of a toad. Check out one of his last-minute ads if you dare:  Blankenship campaign ad

Don Blankenship has his primary residence in Las Vegas. He has long had a home situated on the Kentucky side of the Tug Fork river from West Virginia. His residency credentials for West Virginia are tenuous at best. But this example of human excrement is trying to convince enough voters of this state that he has always been misunderstood, and under-appreciated for all he has done for the hard working coal miners of the state, offering them a pathway to black lung disease, or if they are really lucky, immolation in one of his under-maintained mines. I am hoping that this Tuesday will represent the absolute repudiation of Don Blankenship, and cause him to crawl under a rock out in his Las Vegas hacienda, never to be seen in this state again.