Trump/Russia: Collusion, shmallusion; whatever it is, it stinks, and it’s bad for America

October 2, 2018

The Trump doll doesn't fit into the Putin doll, and vice versa; but that doesn't mean Trump's destructive anti-U.S./pro-Russia policies are good, nor that Russia didn't illegally interfere in U.S. elections, nor that illegally activities on both sides didn't tip the election, even if not formally coordinated. Christian Science Monitor image, From Dmitri Lovetsky/AP, dolls in a St. Petersburg, Russia, souvenir shop.

The Trump doll doesn’t fit into the Putin doll, and vice versa; but that doesn’t mean Trump’s destructive anti-U.S./pro-Russia policies are good, nor that Russia didn’t illegally interfere in U.S. elections, nor that illegally activities on both sides didn’t tip the election, even if not formally coordinated. Christian Science Monitor image, From Dmitri Lovetsky/AP, dolls in a St. Petersburg, Russia, souvenir shop.

This is a couple of weeks old, which means investigators and reporters have even more damning evidence that the Trump campaign and Donald Trump himself worked with the Russian government and Russian agents to foul up our 2016 presidential election, succeeding beyond the wildest hopes of Vladimir Putin.

But in the end, two years down the road from 2016 our best hopes for putting America back on the right track lie in the ballots Americans will cast in 2018. We have the power to make things better.

How are you going to vote in November 2018? Will you vote Democratic, to save the U.S? Or will you vote Republican?

Am I putting the stakes too severely? Have you read this investigative piece from Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti in the New York Times, which newspaper itself played an ugly role of journalistic failure in 2016?


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History in cartoons: Joseph Keppler on the need for the 17th Amendment

September 26, 2016

From the Historian of the U.S. Senate, a Joseph Keppler cartoon from Puck Magazine,

From the Historian of the U.S. Senate, a Joseph Keppler cartoon from Puck Magazine, “The Making of a Senator.” Print by J. Ottmann Lith. Co. after Joseph Keppler, Jr., Puck. Lithograph, colored, 1905-11-15. Image with text measurement Height: 18.50 inches (46.99 cm) Width: 11.50 inches (29.21 cm) Cat. no. 38.00624.001

This is a lithograph after a cartoon by Joseph Keppler in Puck Magazine, November 15, 1905. Keppler’s cartoons kept on the heat for some legislative solution to continuing corruption in state legislatures and the U.S. Senate, driven by the ability of large corporations and trusts to essentially purchase entire states’ legislatures, and tell legislators who to pick for the U.S. Senate.

Described by the Historian of the U.S. Senate:

The “people” were at the bottom of the pile when it came to electing U.S. senators, when Joseph Keppler, Jr.’s cartoon, “The Making of a Senator, ” appeared in Puck on November 15, 1905. Voters elected the state legislatures, which in turn elected senators. Keppler depicted two more tiers between state legislatures and senators: political bosses and corporate interests. Most notably, he drew John D. Rockefeller, Sr., head of the Standard Oil Corporation, perched on moneybags, on the left side of the “big interests. ”

This cartoon appeared while muckraking magazine writers such as Ida Tarbell and David Graham Phillips were accusing business of having corrupted American politics. The muckrakers charged senators with being financially beholden to the special interests. Reformers wanted the people to throw off the tiers between them and directly elect their senators–which was finally achieved with ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913.

Recent scuttlebutt about repealing the 17th Amendment seems to me wholly unconnected from the history. The 17th Amendment targeted corruption in the Senate and states. It largely worked, breaking the course of money falling from rich people and large corporations into the hands of everyone but the people, and breaking the practice of corporate minions getting Senate seats, to do the bidding of corporations and trusts.

Anti-corruption work was part of the larger Progressive Agenda, which included making laws that benefited people, such as clean milk and food, pure drugs, and banking and railroad regulation so small farmers and businessmen could make a good living. Probably the single best symbol of the Progressive movement was “Fighting Bob” LaFollette, Congressman, Governor and U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. LaFollette was a great supporter of the 17th Amendment

Again from the Senate Historian:

Nicknamed “Fighting Bob,” La Follette continued to champion Progressive causes during a Senate career extending from 1906 until his death in 1925. He strongly supported the 17th Amendment, which provided for the direct election of senators, as well as domestic measures advocated by President Woodrow Wilson’s administration, including federal railroad regulation and laws protecting workers rights. La Follette worked to generate wider public accountability for the Senate. He advocated more frequent and better publicized roll call votes and the publication of information about campaign expenditures.

Criticism of the 17th Amendment runs aground when it analyzes the amendment by itself, without reference to the democracy- and transparency-increasing components from the rest of the Progressive movements’ legislative actions from 1890 to 1930.

No one favors corruption and damaging secrecy in politics. By pulling the 17th out of context, critics hope to persuade Americans to turn back the clock to more corrupt times.

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Trump has played voters as chumps for 463 days; no taxes, but a fog of corruption and graft

September 22, 2016

Donald Trump has stiff-armed American voters on releasing his taxes for 463 days since he announced his candidacy. It’s a long-simmering scandal.

A sign for Arkansas Route 463. Rt 463 will carry a voter 20.59 miles from Payneway to Jonesboro, about 20.58 miles farther than Donald Trump's policies will carry America. Wikipedia image

A sign for Arkansas Route 463. Rt 463 will carry a voter 20.59 miles from Payneway to Jonesboro, about 20.58 miles farther than Donald Trump’s policies will carry America. Wikipedia image

Should we be concerned? Sure. Careful investigation by reporters such as David Fahrenthold at The Washington Post reveal uncomfortable, immoral and illegal shenanigans in transferring funds from Trump’s various foundations to cover Trump business fines and buy trophies for Trump properties, screwing charities out of much needed money.

Can Trump’s taxes show he’s not a grifter? Either way, America needs to know. The last national candidate who didn’t reveal his taxes was Maryland Gov. Spiro T. Agnew. It was later discovered he’d accepted bribes for issuing state contracts. In place of trial and prison, Agnew agreed to resign as Vice President. The entire affair tied up national government for many days, contributing to the fall of President Richard Nixon.

We cannot afford not to be sure Trump is not a crook. 

loads

463 was a powerful K-27 “Mudhen” locomotive for the old Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in Colorado, pulling loads that pushed America’s economy. Trump shouldn’t sully that image of 463. He should release his taxes today.

A Trump foundation gave $100,000 to Fisher House, a charity. Will Trump's tax returns reveal he illegally deducted this as a contribution from his own bank account? Is that why he won't release his taxes? Washington Post image

A Trump foundation gave $100,000 to Fisher House, a charity. Will Trump’s tax returns reveal he illegally deducted this as a contribution from his own bank account? Is that why he won’t release his taxes? Washington Post image

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463 puts you at Madrid Plaza on the Madrid Intercity Buses. 463 puts you up Vote Feces Creek if you're a U.S. citizen trying to figure out just how corrupt Donald Trump really is.

463 puts you at Madrid Plaza on the Madrid Intercity Buses. 463 puts you up Vote Feces Creek if you’re a U.S. citizen trying to figure out just how corrupt Donald Trump really is.

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Politician’s phrase went viral, perhaps not as he hoped

November 17, 2014

Mexico’s Attorney General said he’s had enough.

(Reuters) – After weeks fielding questions about the abduction and apparent massacre of 43 trainee teachers by corrupt police in league with drug gang members, Mexico’s Attorney General Jesus Murillo has had enough.

He’s not the only one.

  Mexico's Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam listens to a question during a news conference in Mexico City November 7, 2014.  Credit: Reuters/Tomas Bravo

Reuters caption: Mexico’s Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam listens to a question during a news conference in Mexico City November 7, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Tomas Bravo

Facing a grilling over the details of the case, which has sent shockwaves across Mexico and triggered outrage at impunity, Murillo sought to wrap up a news conference on Friday evening, arching his eyebrows with the aside “Ya me canse”, or “I’ve had enough”.

The phrase came shortly after he told the press that the trainee teachers were apparently incinerated by drug gang henchmen and their remains tipped in a garbage dump and a river.

Murillo’s words have gone viral, with #YaMeCanse and #estoycansado (I’m tired) among the most trending hashtags on Twitter in Mexico.

Protesters who have railed against the government’s handling of the case sprayed the phrase “I’ve had enough .. of fear” on the entrance of the Attorney General’s office overnight.

Many Tweeters said that like Murillo, they were tired – but of impunity, injustice and corrupt politicians.

Some tweeted that if Murillo was so tired, he should resign.

That was over a week ago.

What’s happened since then?

In no particular order:

Protesters at Mexico City's National Palace Pedro Mera/Xinhua/ZUMA. Via Mother Jones

Protesters at Mexico City’s National Palace Pedro Mera/Xinhua/ZUMA. Via Mother Jones

Image from Fox News Latino

Image from Fox News Latino (photo actually prior to Mexico Attorney General’s press conference)

David De La Paz/Xinhua/ZUMA, via Mother Jones

David De La Paz/Xinhua/ZUMA, via Mother Jones

I wonder:

  • Who has had enough?
  • Enough of what?
  • Demonstrations are worldwide; it’s not an Arab Spring, but some of these actions are eerily similar to events in the summer of 1968.  Do we sit on the cusp of significant change?
  • Do parallels exist between the loss of the 43 students in Mexico, and the loss of one man in Ferguson, Missouri?
  • Do these events have any effect on, or are they affected by, education reform efforts in the U.S.?  Other political events in the U.S.?
  • What are we to make of these events?
  • Is this enough? Ya basta? #YaMeCanse?
  • What should we do, individually, and together?
Cartoon by Marent

Cartoon by Marent


Joseph Keppler’s cartoon on why we need the 17th Amendment

April 4, 2014

This is the cartoon:

“The Bosses of the Senate,” by J. Ottmann Lith. Co. after Joseph Keppler Puck Lithograph, colored, 1889-01-23 From the collection of the U.S. Senate

One of my old high school classmates, Shaun McCausland, ran for the U.S. Senate in Utah in 2012, on the Constitution Party ticket.  Nice kid, I felt an obligation to pay attention to what he was trying to do, even with his running against my old boss, Orrin Hatch.

I was surprised to find in his campaign materials he e-mailed me, a call for the repeal of the 17th Amendment.

What?  That’s the amendment that gives us direct election of U.S. senators, instead of letting the state legislatures select them.   Why repeal?

Shaun sent along an explanation, from Constitution Party materials, as I recall, claiming that the 17th Amendment was a “power grab” by industry and other oligarchist groups, to take power from the states.  It was a move towards corruption, the material explained.

Seriously?  People think that today?

History takes a different view.

Prior to the 17th Amendment, state legislatures selected the U.S. senators.  Big corporate interests — the monopolists — figured this out in spades, and proceeded to buy state legislatures, thereby getting the right to name their friends to the U.S. Senate, in the perfect picture of a corrupt bargain (the charge originally aimed at the supposed deal between John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster Henry Clay, in which it was alleged Webster Clay got the House of Representatives to name Adams president, and Webster Clay was in turn appointed Secretary of State, the president-in-waiting post of that day).

Look at the cartoon.  You’ll see the fat “bosses” sitting around the back of the senate chamber labeled, “Copper Trust,” “Steel Trust,” “Oil Trust,” and so on.

Consider Montana, Utah and Arizona.  In each of those states, huge copper mines were among the leading businesses.  The domes of the Arizona and Utah capitol buildings are capped with copper, in honor of the leading role the ore and mineral played in early state history.

Who got elected to the state legislatures in those states?  Copper company-approved and -supported candidates won.

So, who was elected to the U.S. Senate, by the state legislatures?  Copper company-approved senators.

In 1913, when Arizona joined the union, one could make a case that copper controlled at least 6 senators out of 96.

And so it was for other trusts, in other states — or a mixture of trusts in some states. Think of the trusts of the time — the copper trust, the steel trust, the steel beam trust, the nail trust, the coal trust, and many others.

The rich guys ruled.

While this system technically violated no laws in those campaign-contribution-limit-free days, it clearly affected legislation.  The Progressive Movement arose as a grassroots movement, from farmers and laborers, from downtrodden immigrants, from the prairies, mines and mills.  When enough people got involved, they could out vote the trusts in a few things — but it still took more than a quarter century to change the election process for the U.S. Senate, to keep the corruption out.

Politics of the times from 1900 to 1920 were complex, and can be oversimplified easily.  Running that risk, let us note that by the time Woodrow Wilson took over the White House, reformers were maneuvering to fix problems in lots of areas, sometimes with great overreaches like the 18th Amendment and Prohibition, but also with long-needed reforms, and reforms headed in the right direction but not strongly or fast enough, like the creation of the Federal Reserve.

The 17th Amendment was intended to get corruption out of the U.S. Senate, especially the senator selection process.  Instead of leaving the selection in the hands of corporation-captive state legislatures, the 17th Amendment expanded democracy, making the selection of U.S. senators a choice of the people of the state, at the ballot box.

Keppler’s cartoon, originally published in Punch Magazine, tells the story in one panel.  It shows the U.S. Senate — very astute historians may be able to pick out and identify particular senators — with the chief door labeled “Monopolists’ Entrance.”  Coming through the door, and lining the back of the Senate, are the “Bosses of the Senate,” moneybags with legs, or in one case an oil barrel with legs, and with the name of the trust written across the front of their nattily-dressed girths.

The senators turn to their bosses, awaiting instruction.

Inscribed on the wall at the back of the chamber is a twisted rendition of Lincoln’s stirring description of the government intended by the Constitution:  “This is the Senate of the Monopolists by the Monopolists and for the Monopolists!” (Compare Keppler’s cartoon drawings of the U.S. Senate Chamber with photographs and drawings, if you can find them.)

There is a door to the galleries of the Senate, labeled “The Peoples’ Entrance.”  It is barred, bolted and nailed shut, keeping out the American people.

Keppler’s cartoon was published January 23, 1889.  Earlier reform attempts failed, in 1828, 1829 and 1855. Progressives including William Jennings Bryan, George Frisbie Hoar and Elihu Root pushed for reform in the 1890s.  By 1910, some 31 states had passed resolutions asking for reform; some of them initiated direct primary elections, though that didn’t generally affect the selections by the legislatures.  Partly to avoid a states-led convention to amend the Constitution, which could easily run rogue, critics feared, Congress took up the issue.  Congress passed the amendment, submitting it to the states on May 13, 1912.  By April 18, 1913, three-fourths of the states had ratified the proposal, and it was declared the 17th Amendment.  Ironically, by that time Bryan had assumed the office of Secretary of State, and it fell to him to proclaim the amendment adopted on May 31, 2013.

The fat cats lost.

Please remember that.

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Another cartoon, by Spencer, for the Omaha (Nebraska) World, poking fun at the time required to get the 17th Amendment; from the U.S. National Archives, collected by Robert C. Byrd, Senate Majority Leader:

Cartoon portraying the time needed to pass the 17th Amendment allowing the direct election of U.S. senators By Spencer, for the Omaha World Herald, 1912 Reproduced from Robert C. Byrd, The Senate, 1789­1989

Cartoon portraying the time needed to pass the 17th Amendment allowing the direct election of U.S. senators By Spencer, for the Omaha World Herald, 1912 Reproduced from Robert C. Byrd, The Senate, 1789­1989

Nota Bene: Oh, to have a good copy editor. Clay, not Webster. How many years, how many thousand readers, before anyone read it as it was, and not as we expected it to be?

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Rick Perry is the new Corrupt Bargain

November 1, 2010

The fiercely independent Democratic Blog of Collin County compiled a series of Burnt Orange Report posts that make the case that Rick Perry should be retired from the governorship, at a bare minimum.

Will voters wake up before Tuesday, and do the right thing?

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption

From the BOR:

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption: Texas’ Dropout Crisis

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption: Texas Forensic Science Commission

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption: Ethics Complaints

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption: Emerging Technology Fund

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption: Political Appointees

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption: Secret Schedules

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption: The $500,000 Land Deal

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption: Texas Youth Commission

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption: Teacher Retirement System

Rick Perry to Launch National Book Tour, Won’t Commit to Full Term as Governor

Bonus points if you know off the top of your head where “corrupt bargain” plays in U.S. political history.


Insanity at Texas state school board – economics, geography and history

May 27, 2009

Tim Ritz cartoon, for Americans United

Tim Ritz cartoon, for Americans United

Texas Freedom Network’s Insider blog reports that embattled chairman Don McLeroy is working to create a panel of experts to review studies curricula.  The experts he has proposed so far are all well-known cranks in academia, people who bring their axes to grind on the minds of innocent children.

This panel is a bold insult to Texas’s community of economists, historians, and other practitioners of fields of social studies, not to mention educators.  A more qualified panel of experts could be assembled in the coffee break rooms of the history departments at most of Texas’s lesser known state colleges and universities.

Why does Don McLeroy hate Texas so?

I’ve been buried in teaching, grading, planning and the other affairs of the life of a teacher, and had not paid much attention to the movement on this issue (“movement” because I cannot call it “progress”).  My students passed the state tests by comfortable margins, more than 90% of them; this news from SBOE makes me despair even  in the face of the news that our achievements are substantial in all categories.

The panel lacks knowledge and experience in economics, geography and history.  The panel is grotesquely unbalanced — at least two of the panel members remind me of Ezra Taft Benson, who was Secretary of Agriculture for Dwight Eisenhower.  When he resigned from that post, he complained that Eisenhower was too cozy with communism.  Barton and Quist lean well to the right  of Ezra Taft Benson.  Quist has complained of socialist and Marxist leanings of Reagan administration education policy and policy makers.

Samuel Morse sent the first telegraphic message on May 24, 1844:  “What hath God wrought?”

Sitting here on the morning of May 27, 2009, I wonder what rot hath Don.


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