Category Archives: Uncategorized

None Dare Call It . . . ?


Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort” – U. S. Constitution, Article 3, Section 3

The words “treason” and “traitor” are bandied about pretty freely in our political discourse, especially on social media.  It’s always made me a little uncomfortable when I encounter them to describe  vigorous opposition to whatever side of a burning issue is held by the speaker/writer who uses the terms.

Barack Obama was not a traitor when he made a deal with Iran to halt their nuclear program.  It was not treasonous for Mitch McConnell to refuse to allow hearings on a Supreme Court nominee.

I think I must have internalized some of the facts I learned in Mr. Harvey’s American History class back at Rome Free Academy in the early 60s, and they stay front of mind when I hear those words used.  The drafters of the Constitution were very careful to precisely limit the definition of “treason” only to actions taken to further the aims of the nation’s enemies.  They had lived under a regime in which an accusation of treason could be brought against anyone who uttered or published anything the King might find insulting.  They may have remembered cases like Catherine Howard, who lost her head for treason because she fell in love with a boy her own age after being married off to fat old disgusting Henry VIII.  They wanted to make it impossible to brand people as treasonous just for offending the powerful.

Since 2008 Mitch McConnell has dedicated his considerable political skills and his position as leader of the Senate Republicans to undermining every proposal offered and every action taken by the legitimately elected President, even to the extent of refusing to allow the constitutionally mandated duties of the Senate to be carried out if he thought it gave a political advantage to his party.  This was ill-advised, against the best interests of the country, and flagrantly contemptuous of our national ideals and traditions.  But none of it was treasonous.

Today the Washington Post has reported on a secret briefing given by the CIA to the leaders of the political parties and intelligence committees in Congress back in September, two months before the election.  They showed the evidence and conclusions of the intelligence agencies establishing the fact that Russia was interfering in our election through propaganda and cyber warfare with the express intention of getting Donald Trump elected to the Presidency.  The administration knew that to make such explosive revelations public during an election could lead to accusations that the power of the government was being used to influence the outcome.  They needed the bipartisan Congressional leadership to sign on to the findings.

According to the Post’s reporting, Mitch McConnell refused.  He threatened to accuse the administration of faking intelligence for political advantage if they let the public know what Russia was doing to undermine American democracy.

The irony here is rich.  After all, we did have a (Republican) administration that faked intelligence in order to build support for an illegal war of aggression not too long ago.  Some have called that treasonous, but by the letter of our Constitution it wasn’t treason, just a criminal abuse of power.  And while McConnell has used every political trick in the book to bring failure to the government and the nation, none of it has been illegal, let alone treasonous.

But this is different.

This is the Senate Majority Leader adhering to an enemy of the United States in the conduct of warfare against our democracy.  And perhaps largely because of his taking sides with our enemy, they achieved what they’d aimed for — an incompetent and compliant leader for their greatest global adversary.

I think I’ve finally found a case where the label of “traitor” actually fits.

Chairman Bernie


Let’s face it, we lost.

By “we”, I mean all of us who saw in the Bernie Sanders primary campaign a possibility of real leadership for the people, all of us who made phone calls, knocked on doors, sat behind info tables, talked him up to other voters when only 3% of them even knew who he was, all of us who wrote passionately in our social media circles.  The presidential nomination was the prize, and we lost it.

And though some of us look at the arc of the campaign and see success beyond anything we thought possible when it started — massive enthusiastic crowds at his rallies, support from close to half of all Democratic primary voters, a prominent and honored place within the party for America’s most successful advocate of democratic socialism, the most progressive platform put forward by a leading political party in modern history — many have allowed their disappointment to turn into discouragement, even to apathy.

But if our aim was to place Bernie Sanders in a position where he could lead the fight for the values we share — social, economic, environmental and racial justice — then the fight’s not over.  We can still win that fight.

If the Democrats win enough seats to take over the Senate, Bernie takes back the chairmanship of the Veterans Committee, from which he can continue his long record of service to vets’ causes, and protect the VA from privatization.  He also serves on the Senate committees for Environment and Public Works, Energy and Natural Resources,  as well as Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.  Think of the good he could do for energy and global warming policy, for air and water safety, access to health care and education, jobs programs targeting infrastructure, protection and expansion of Social Security, if the voters of America give him a majority voice in those chambers.

But wait, there’s more!

Bernie is the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.  Under a Democratic majority, he takes over the chair and becomes one of the most powerful people in the government when it comes to setting priorities for revenue and spending, more powerful in this arena than he would have been from behind the desk in the Oval Office.

If you’re a Bernie dreamer and you live in one of the thirty-four states where a U.S. Senate seat is on the ballot, you can still make that dream come true.

And especially if you’re a voter in one of those states where the Senate race is, or could become, a toss-up — North Carolina, New Hampshire, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Florida, Indiana, Illinois.

Check your registration status, find out where and when you can vote, pull the lever for whomever your conscience compels you to support for President, but in the more important, and still winnable, fight for control of the Senate and indirectly of every federal judgeship up to the Supreme Court, every Cabinet member and administrative appointee no matter who wins the White House, to make Bernie one of the most powerful people in DC, vote to take the Senate back from Mitch McConnell and the know-nothing, do-nothing party that made the Drumpf their leader.

Do it for Bernie!


(PS, while you’re at it, vote against the Repugs for the House, and all your state and local offices as well.  Do it for yourself, your family and your friends)

(PPS, no matter how disappointed you are in HRC, consider how helpful it would be to have someone in the White House to sign the progressive bills Bernie and others would craft on our behalf.  Just sayin’)

Jack, Martin, Bobby and the Drumpf


I remember the day the world became something it had never been before.

I was in my room studying for a chem exam and I heard Feibush running down the hall yelling.  He was loud and obnoxious and always instigating some kind of ruckus in the dorm, and now he was hollering incoherently about the president and the governor getting shot and I just felt annoyed at whatever bullshit game he thought he was playing.

And then after a few minutes I became aware of the unnatural quiet that had settled over everything and I left my room and walked  down the empty hall to the open door of Bob Clinton’s room where a dozen or so of the guys were crowded into the little space, absolutely silent, Bob’s radio telling the tale, the president shot, rushed to a Dallas hospital, long anxious minutes waiting for the inevitable news that he was dead.

And a little later that day, walking out into cool crisp November, off campus to the big Catholic church across Union Street from the college’s main gate, stepping inside and sitting in a pew, not to pray but to silently mourn, not because I was a Catholic or even a believer, but because he was and it felt like a way to honor something.


Four and a half years later in the back seat of a car driven by one of my brother officers, sitting next to his sister, one of her sorority sisters in the front passenger seat, the girls had come up to Alexandria from whatever southern university they attended, and we had double-dated to see “The Graduate” in DC, were headed  down I-95 for drinks somewhere I suppose, when the news from Memphis came over the radio.

I remember that the girls agreed that he deserved it.  Jim and I had nothing to say about that, but we understood immediately that we had to get rid of our dates and report to battalion HQ on Fort Belvoir. The 91st was the prime ready reaction force for civil disturbances in DC, the previous October we’d deployed to defend the Pentagon from the armies of the night, we’d been training all winter in riot response and crowd control anticipating the hot summer of Dr. King’s Poor People’s March, now events had overtaken all that planning and preparation.

At dawn I was back on I-95 in a jeep heading north, and coming over the crest of the last hill where the panorama of DC opened up before us, the Potomac, the Capitol dome and Washington Monument, a curtain of smoke rising behind and around them, a vision of hell engulfing the icons of truth, justice and the American way.


A few months later, I was asleep on the couch in my mother’s living room.  She and Dad had sold the family home on Sly Hill when they split five years back, and I didn’t have a bedroom in the house in town to which she’d moved with Grandma and my three little sisters.  I was on leave for a couple of weeks before deploying to Vietnam.

Again, the radio.  Another killing, this time in Los Angeles.  I was beyond heartbreak, numb, disgusted, despairing.  All I could do was turn it off, roll over, close my eyes, try to sleep it back into oblivion.


And now this malevolent circus clown, this sociopathic un-reality star, this pustulant boil on the ass of the body politic, with his oh-so-clever, didn’t exactly say it but everyone knows what he means no matter what kind of spin his chorus of ogres and trolls try to put on it, wink-wink-say-no-more — this apotheosis of one political party’s half-century pandering for political gain to the most hate-filled remnant of racist, violent, anti-American neo-Confederate deadenders, this sorry waste of protoplasm is turning threats of assassination into just one more rhetorical device in our country’s mainstream political discourse.

We’re the same age, Donald, we witnessed the same national traumas, though we lived through them in different circumstances.  How could you not have been touched by them, how could you not understand the loss, the grief?

How can you take the side of the plague, ally yourself against our common humanity?

Is there finally no decency left in you?  Was there ever any decency in you?

The Revolution in Florida Will Be Televised


So the conventions are behind us, and Bernie’s revolution may not have overthrown the ancien regime but they negotiated a pretty good détente, far better than any of us could have expected when the Vermont senator announced his candidacy last year.

Now the question is, can the revolution keep up the momentum and start having a concrete effect on Democratic and national politics now that the national spotlight of the nominating campaign has been refocused?

One of the first places we might see an indication that Bernie’s army is still a force to be reckoned with will be Tim Canova’s primary campaign to take Debbie Wasserman Schultz’ seat in the House.  According to internal polls released by the Canova campaign, her support is around 50% and a good twenty points ahead of him, but her negatives are high, and Canova’s still unknown to 60% of the electorate, giving him a lot of room to grow.

DWS has been the chairwoman we loved to hate, and she got a lot of bad ink around the emails exposing how her top staffers had their fingers on the scale for Hillary, and her sudden undignified firing on convention eve, not to mention how she’s solidly in the pocket of the predatory lending industry.  If Bernie’s army (or Bernie himself) decide to impose a little instant karma in the form of attention, energy and donations on her opponent’s behalf, she could find herself out of a political career before we even get to November.

That would be a potent indicator of just how serious the political revolutionaries in the Democratic party are about consolidating their gains quickly and effectively.  And it would put incumbents on notice that the way to the real political center, where most outside-the-Beltway people are, is still a sharp turn to the left.

Keep an eye on this race.  It matters.

Open Letter to Speaker Ryan


Unable to contact Speaker Paul Ryan’s office by phone or voicemail, I sent the following letter by fax to his office this morning ;



June 23, 2016, Sonoma CA

Speaker Ryan –

I’ve been following events on the House floor over the last day, and I’m appalled.

I’m a retired business owner, an Hispano-American, a Vietnam vet, the kind of voter that one would think your party would want to attract.

You are the most powerful Republican in the government, arguably the second most powerful political leader in the world. You have complete control over the agenda of Congress, and this is how you use your power? To ignore the passionate desire of nine out of ten Americans, nine out of ten members of your own party, nine out of ten gun owners, that something be done to curb murderers, terrorists, and mentally unbalanced lone wolves from easy access to weapons of war?

And to add insult to injury, you interrupt the outcry by people’s representatives whom your own actions have reduced to irrelevancy, in order to bring to the floor a vote to make it easier for con artists to rob people like me of our retirement savings.

How did you and the Republican party come to hold higher regard for the interests of murder profiteers, potential terrorists and thieves than for the expressed will of the people you are elected and paid to represent? Do you understand that the path you’ve chosen must ultimately lead to the rejection and downfall of your own party?

I write these words in sorrow, in the knowledge that you aren’t likely to pay them any more heed than you pay to the blood of innocents. But I can’t be silent in the face of such indifference and malfeasance.

May you someday come to understand the evil you serve, the evil you do, and seek forgiveness.


Roy Jimenez



The David Plouffe Bump


So tonight Democratic party insider David Plouffe tweets that continued fundraising by Bernie Sanders is a fraud.

Thanks, David, for reminding me to make another contribution to the Sanders campaign.

And let me explain to you, David, and anyone else who happens to read this post, why I think another donation to Bernie is the best investment I can make right now with my limited political dollars.

For the progressive movement in this country, “what” must trump “who”.  What we want America and the Democratic party to stand for matters more than who wins one big election every fourth year.  Our values are best advanced this political year from the platform of a campaign for the presidential nomination of a major political party.  And the only campaign on our side is Bernie’s.

I want the debate to continue even if the smart money’s on Clinton, even if the math says it’s in the bag for her.  I want a full-on battle for votes all the way to my home state of California.  I want delegates on the floor and in the committees in Phillie who want to return the party to one that stands up for people who work for a living, or who want to, or who can’t.  I want the base to tell the establishment, the lobbyists, the donor class, that we’re tired of triangulation that always drags to the right, we need to go left to get closer to where the people are.

And I want the movement to live.  No president can enact the change we need without the support of engaged citizens from the grass-roots to the statehouses and Congress.  We have to take back the party of the New Deal and the Great Society, the party that allied itself with the labor movement to build the middle class and with the civil rights movement to put law in the service of justice.

Neither Clinton nor Sanders will get to the convention with the magic number of 2383 delegates pledged to represent voters and grass-roots activists, so let’s keep the process going.  Give voters in every state a chance to be heard on the national stage.  Let both names be placed in nomination, and give every delegate a chance to shape the direction the party and the nominee will take.

Believe me, David, our problem isn’t that we have too much democracy.

And friends, if you feel the debate’s not over, if you want real reform, if you want to let the establishment know we’re not going away, you can join me in giving Bernie a “David Plouffe bump” today by sending in a few more bucks.

photo credit:  Francois Durand/Getty Images Europe

An Open Letter to My Friends Who Own Guns


Friend –

I know that you’re a responsible gun owner, and that you take gun safety very seriously.  I know that you cherish your freedom to own and bear a weapon, and that you may be wary of some whom you perceive as extremists with an agenda to outlaw individuals’ right to possess and bear arms.  In this letter I want to be sensitive to your positions on questions of ownership, control and the safe and appropriate uses of guns.  After all one of you is my brother, whom I have loved and respected my whole life.

National polls tell me that most gun owners, like most of all Americans, support common sense measures that would be effective to keep guns out of the hands of those with criminal or mental health records.  I feel pretty confident that you’re among those.  You may even agree that military-style semi-automatics with high capacity magazines, designed to maim and kill multiple targets quickly, could reasonably be restricted from the civilian marketplace.  And many of you might be open to persuasion that licensing, and record-keeping that would help law enforcement solve violent gun crimes, wouldn’t threaten the liberties of responsible law-abiding gun owners.

After all, anyone who knows the Bill of Rights knows that “well regulated” are the first non-trivial words in the 2nd Amendment.  Arms have always been regulated in this country, from outright confiscation as a condition of entrance to Dodge City to the more modern prohibition against shoulder-mounted missile launchers.  The question isn’t whether to regulate, but how to regulate, how to maintain a balance between freedom and public safety.  Or how to restore that balance once it’s been upset.

Well, today in Roseburg, Oregon, we got another clear demonstration that the balance is out of whack.  You’ve heard it before, you know it’s true, we live in the only modern society on the planet that hasn’t figured out how to keep its people safe from random gun violence.  Please don’t tell me the solution is to arm more of the good guys.  Oregon is a concealed carry state, there were armed students, including armed veterans, on the campus during the shooting, and they were able to do nothing to stop it.

We will only restore the balance through new laws that apply well-known common sense constraints, those already supported by a majority of law-abiding gun owners, on gun trafficking.  And the main obstacle to getting it done is the political power of the National Rifle Association.

If you’re my age, you’re old enough to remember when the NRA saw its mission as promoting gun safety, providing education and training in the safe and appropriate use of weapons, and supporting effective gun control laws.  In pursuing that mission, they represented the views of the gun-owning Americans who made up their membership.

Today’s NRA is not your father’s.  Their current leadership is the main lobbying arm of the gun manufacturing industry, and bears no allegiance to the views of its members.  Their purpose is to maximize profits in a shrinking marketplace, and that means the only solution to gun violence they support is more guns, bigger guns, easier to get, carried anywhere concealed or open.

If you share that view, then I apologize for wasting your time to read this far.  And I wonder how we got to be friends in the first place.

But if you’re one of the many gun owners who’re willing to try some approaches that could make Americans safer in their schools and shopping malls, and you’re still a member of the NRA, then I have an urgent request for you.

Stay in the NRA.  Work to replace the association’s leadership with those who will represent the views of the members — your views — and will make gun safety a higher priority than gunmakers’ profits.  Remove the NRA as a roadblock to progress and return it to its role as a national partner for training, education, gun sports and above all, gun safety.

Your country needs you.  You’re the only ones who can do it.


Speaking of Speakers . . .


So Boehner’s on his way out, and the media are talking about House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy as if he were the semi-official heir apparent to the Speakership, our own Prince of Wales if you will.

I’m not laying any bets.

Out here in California we know McCarthy.  He comes from the very conservative district that includes Bakersfield — think ranchers and oil men.  His legislative record isn’t the kind that would make him any enemies, the two laws he’s managed to get passed in his five terms in Congress each did nothing more than put the name of a dead Republican on a government building.  He’s popular in the district among Republicans and there are a lot of them in that part of our deep blue state.

There are also a lot of Chicanos, and Mexicans, documented and un-.

Hispano-Americans in California don’t vote for Republicans.  Ex-Gov Pete Wilson made sure of that 20 years ago with his political assault on the immigrant community.  It’s why the GOP in the state that gave the country Nixon and Reagan is now only a little more relevant than the Whigs.

The Latino population in McCarthy’s district has nothing to do with his electoral base, but to his donor base they matter a lot.  Exploiting cheap immigrant labor, legal or otherwise, is one of the keys to profitability for Big Agriculture, and Kevin McCarthy is the congressman from Big Ag.  The interests of his district are strongly tied to effective comprehensive immigration reform, especially if it guarantees industrial farmers a stable low-cost pool of workers.  If McCarthy wants to keep getting re-elected, he needs to take care of his homies.

Now if you haven’t already sensed the  mood of the national GOP base around the question of immigration reform, just check out some video from a Donald Trump rally, the recent one in Dallas  is a good example.  They love the three-point plan — build a big wall, throw all the Mexicans over it, throw all their American kids over it with them.

This anti-immigrant core of the base are represented in Washington by the insurgent rump that just took John Boehner’s scalp.  A gang of little Louie Gohmerts aren’t going to look any more kindly on a Speaker with a center-right stance on immigration than they did on the one who wouldn’t take the government down to prevent women from getting low-cost basic and reproductive health care.

At some point, at least a couple of these bozos are going to realize who Kevin McCarthy represents.  And if that happens before the leadership vote, chances are they’ll be looking for someone a little more pure.

Just sayin’.

Extortion Can Be a Drug Crime Too

 Photo: Universal News & Sport (Europe)
Photo: Universal News & Sport (Europe)

Maybe you haven’t been following the news about this smug asshole since the start of the week.  If not, just Google “Martin Shkreli”, and you’ll learn all you need to know and more.

Here’s the short version of why we’re suddenly paying attention to him:

Shkreli is a former hedge funder who leveraged his ill-gotten gains in that industry to become founder and CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, which about a month ago acquired ownership of Daraprim  That’s a drug developed in the early 1940s that’s the treatment of choice for toxoplasmosis, a deadly parasite that attacks patients with weakened immune systems, like AIDS sufferers or cancer patients undergoing chemo.  It causes blindness, seizures and loss of cognitive faculties before killing about 80% of its victims.

The good news is that Daraprim works, has manageable side effects, and has been pretty affordable at $13.50 a dose with a typical run of treatment of about 100 doses.  A thousand bucks or so has been the difference between life and death for those infected.  That is, until Shkreli acquired monopoly control of the drug, and overnight jacked the price up to $750/dose,  a 5556% increase.

Responding to the resulting outpouring of rage and vitriol, Shkreli announced today that he’ll reduce the price of Daraprim, but hasn’t said by how much.  Apparently he needs a few weeks to study the matter.

I’m not optimistic.  In his earlier media encounters responding to the scandal, Shkreli came across like an evil boy genius from a Steven Seagal flick.  His defense boiled down to an argument that $1000 wasn’t enough to charge people to save their lives, lots of life-saving drugs are expensive, and he’s just being a good businessman trying to maximize profits in a free market.  He seemed genuinely amazed to learn that his exceptional business sense and “altruism” (yeah, his word) didn’t make him an object of widespread fawning admiration, but rather the epitome of a one-man death panel, in effect telling victims of toxoplasmosis without an extra $75,000 lying around that they should just fuck off and die.

From where I’m sitting, Shkreli seems to be doing for Big Pharma what the Donald has been doing for the Republican base, ripping off the mask to reveal the repulsive face of reality — ignorance, hatred and bigotry of the latter, insatiable greed and utter contempt for human pain and loss on the part of the legal drug cartels.  He’s not the only powerful sociopath in the industry, he’s just careless and narcissistic enough to expose himself.

In a way, he’s performing a valuable public service by putting Big Pharma’s rapacity on full public display, and prompting some talk on related issues like how the industry rigs the law to force American patients to pay about ten times more than prevailing prices in the rest of the world for the same drugs from the same manufacturers.  We might even get some discussion of how they’re using “free trade” agreements like Obama’s TPP to extend their control of drug availability and pricing into more of the world’s markets.

Perhaps prompted by  the media storm around Shkreli, Hllary Clinton has called out  what she referred to as “price gouging” in the drug market and proposed new regulations that would require health insurers to limit policyholders’ maximum out-of-pocket for prescriptions to $250 a year.

There’s a strong case to be made for government regulation of drug prices.  It works in the rest of the world’s developed economies to help hold down health care costs while leaving healthy profits in the industry’s pockets, and there’s something inherently distasteful in leaving corporations a free hand to extract maximum profits by exploiting the suffering of the sick, the elderly, and the helpless.

But that’s not what Hillary’s plan would do.  There’s no price control mechanism there,  it just shifts the burden from patient to insurer, leading to higher premiums and leaving Pharma to keep charging whatever the rigged market will bear.

And then there’s the political problem of bucking America’s masochistic love affair with market capitalism.  Price controls!  Heaven forfend!  Sounds like a socialist plot to interfere with the free functioning of the market’s invisible hand!

But here’s the thing — the free market in prescription drugs is already distorted by unwarranted government interference.  US law, pushed through by Bush II as part of Medicare Part D and enshrined in Obamacare, prevents the natural market influence of volume purchases to bring down prices, by forbidding Medicare administrators to negotiate for the best price possible when making bulk purchases of drugs.  And US law also artificially props up high prices by making it illegal for American patients to shop for the best prices on the world drug market.  These are both gross intrusions on the operation of the free market and guarantee the highest prices in the world for Americans who need life-saving drugs, or just relief from common ailments.

There’s no conservative ideological argument that justifies these government intrusions into the free market to benefit some of the richest corporations in the world.  And the resulting benefits to middle class and working American families make repealing them attractive to progressives.  In fact, Bernie Sanders has proposed eliminating them as part of his platform for more affordable health care.

There’s only one reason for any legislator to oppose these two reforms, and that would be because he’s getting part of the take from Big Pharma picking the pockets of the sick and the old.

Or because he’d be happier if the 99 percenters would just fuck off and die.


Marry or Kill? Planned Parenthood and Blackwater

Browsing my Facebook feed  this morning, I came across a comment from a friend whose judgment and opinions I generally respect.  In a discussion thread related to Planned Parenthood, she opined that maybe it would be a good idea if the non-profit agency were supported only by private donations, instead of relying on government funding.

This reveals a widespread fundamental misunderstanding as to how government money ends up going to PP.

Write 100 times on the chalkboard “THE FEDS DON’T DONATE MONEY TO PLANNED PARENTHOOD”.

PP gets reimbursed for contracted services delivered under a government program to fund health care for low-income Americans.  This is part of an overall strategy of paying private agencies and businesses to provide government services, with the aim of keeping government small and diverting taxpayer money into private hands, solidly Republican goals.  Most of this money doesn’t go to secular non-profits like PP, instead it ends up subsidizing religious organizations or feeding the bottom lines of for-profit enterprises.  Think Catholic Charities and Halliburton.

For our taxpayer dollars, we get cancer screenings, family planning  services, obstetric and gynecologic care from Planned Parenthood, as well as a full range of basic health care from other free and low-cost non-profit health clinics.  We get food and shelter for the hungry and homeless from religious and secular charities.

And we get abstinence-only sex non-education from fundamentalist family values groups, and homeless services conditioned on participation in religious instruction.

And we get showers for our military that are as likely to electrocute them as to get them clean, and fuel for military vehicles in war zones with a 1000% markup, and contracted torturers, and mercenary killers.

Saying private providers of public goods should be required to rely only on donations is like saying military and intelligence contractors should get off the teat and fund themselves with bake sales and telethons.

Come to think of it, that might not be a bad bargain.