Archive for the ‘Livin’ in the USA’ Category


“The American people are fed a daily diet of nonsense-talk and lies in the form of what is effectively state media on Fox News and nobody should underestimate the threat posed by a political party where conservatism is now defined by absolute obedience to a leader with autocratic tendencies who fetishizes dictators and autocrats all over the world. . . . Trump didn’t destroy the Republican Party—it’s the cowardice of the Republican leaders, their complicity in all of it, the lack of courage to stand up for what’s right. Republican members of Congress are cowed and fearful of Trump and they have abrogated their oaths to defend the Constitution of the United States . . .”

–Steve Schmidt (John McCain’s campaign manager), quoted by The Daily Beast


(This is an update of a post I wrote about 18 months ago, and have updated a couple of times since.)

No, I’m not kidding. Trump has actually done a number of good things.

First, let’s list only the unalloyed positives:

  • Trump has armed the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) fighting ISIS in northern Syria, much to the annoyance of Turkish Islamist would-be dictator and ISIS enabler Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Update: As of January 2018, the U.S. is planning to keep 30,000 troops in northern Syria — the Kurdish part of Syria — and is promising to help the Kurds builda protective border wall on the Syrian-Turkish border, where for once a wall will be a good thing.)

As for the Kurds themselves, the YPG, a major part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, is the most effective military entity fighting ISIS in Syria. It’s also the only secular, democratic, libertarian (with a small “l”) force in the region in which gender equality is actively promoted. (There are all-women YPG units.)

It’s worth noting that to appease Islamist thug Erdogan, Hillary Clinton, had she won, would probably not have armed the YPG. All of the facts noted above have been obvious for years, yet Obama refused to arm the YPG. It’s a good bet that former Obama Secretary of State Clinton wouldn’t have, either.

Update 12-23-18: Trump, as was predictable, just betrayed the Kurds by announcing a US pullout from Syria. There were only 2,000 US troops there, but they served as a trip-wire preventing invasion by Ergoghan’s, Assad’s, Putin’s, and the Iranian ayatollah’s thugs. Trump just betrayed the only real allies the U.S. has in the region, the only ones effectively fighting ISIS. God help the Kurds. And god help the people in the region once ISIS comes surging back, like a virulent case of syphilis after an inadequate course of antibiotics.

(For more info, see “The Anarchists vs. the Islamic State.“)

  • Trump killed the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a “free trade” pact and mutant descendant of NAFTA. (I won’t even get started on NAFTA here; for now, suffice it to say that it screwed American industrial workers and Mexican small farmers — spurring a wave of jobless workers across the border,  desperate to provide for their families — while vastly benefiting transnational corporations.) Among other things, the TPP would have a allowed commercial “courts” to overrule U.S. laws, would have made the already atrocious copyright situation even worse, strengthening the hold of the media conglomerates, would have allowed U.S. pharmaceutical firms to force companies in signatory nations to stop producing affordable versions of life-saving drugs, and would have allowed foreign firms to sue the U.S. and U.S. state governments over “loss” of projected profits caused by environmental regulations.

Clinton was in favor of the TPP abomination, calling it the “gold standard” of trade agreements. Until she wasn’t in favor of it. If she’d won, there’d likely have been a few cosmetic changes to it which would have made it “acceptable” to her. And we’d have been further screwed. Trump just did her one better by denouncing NAFTA and then delivering . . . . . NAFTA.

Update: Trump just delivered the rather gay-sounding USMCA. (He even mimed “YMCA” in celebrating it.) It’s essentially NAFTA with minor tweaks and a few minor provisions thrown in from the TPP.  Its $16-an-hour provision might, might, serve as a very minor brake to the export of jobs overseas. (Check out what just happened with GM if you believe this.) At the same time, it contained a provision screwing Canadian and Mexican patients in favor of big pharma by increasing the length of time before generic drugs are available.

  • Trump is reportedly going to crack down on H-1B visa abuse. This type of visa allows employers to hire foreign workers for jobs for which there supposedly aren’t enough qualified American applicants. In practice, this program provides employers with indentured servants working for half the prevailing wages (often in the computer industry). Even worse, some “employers” have been more slave traders than job creators, hiring H-1B workers and then renting them to actual employers while taking part of their wages. (Ironically, in 2017 Trump took advantage of the closely related H-2B program to hire 70 low-skilled workers [cooks, maids, food servers] for his Mar-a-Lago resort.)

Update: Nothing has changed.

  • Trump, almost certainly out of personal pique against CNN, has opposed the ATT-Time-Warner merger, which would have further consolidated media control into fewer and fewer hands.

Update: The merger went through.

  • Trump, through his defeat of Clinton, has partially broken the hold of the corporate Democrats on the Democratic Party — the Republicans’ junior partner in the looting of the American working class — and made it at least possible that the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” will ascend.

For decades, the corporate Dems have had a stranglehold on the party as they’ve catered to the corporate elite (e.g., Obama’s refusal to prosecute any of the banksters responsible for the financial crash), taken massive amounts of money from the corporate elite, and refused to advance policies (most notably “Medicare for all”) favored by a large majority of Americans, and an even larger majority of Democrats.

At the same time, the corporate Democrats have been chasing the chimera of the “center” (the maybe 10% of eligible voters who are so poorly informed that they can’t make up their minds until the last minute) while ignoring the vastly higher number of those eligible to vote who don’t even bother to do it (41% in 2016), largely because of disillusionment, largely because they can’t see any real differences between the parties (at least in terms of economics).

Next, a mixed but overall positive move:

  • Trump has been pressuring U.S. allies to increase their military spending to bring it more in line with U.S. spending and thus, in theory, relieve financial pressure on U.S. taxpayers. Thus far he seems to have had some success with Canada, which will increase its military spending by 70% over the coming decade. This would be far more impressive if the U.S. didn’t already account for 43% of world military spending, and if Trump didn’t want to drastically increase that spending.
  • Trump recently signed a judicial sentencing-reform bill. It doesn’t go nearly far enough but it’s a good first step in ending America’s mass-incarceration nightmare (under 5% of world population; 25% of the world’s prisoners).

As for other good things Trump has done deliberately, none come to mind. But he has also inadvertently done some good:

  • He’s laid bare the hypocrisy of the Republican Party on healthcare. Republicans had seven years in which to prepare a replacement for Obamacare, and, after they unexpectedly won the presidency in 2016 (plus both houses of Congress), they had to scramble to come up with a nightmarish mishmash of cuts and half-measures that would have cost 23 million Americans healthcare coverage.
  • Trump has laid bare the hypocrisy of American foreign policy rhetoric. For decades, American “leaders” have been spewing the same line about “defending democracy,” while they’ve been supporting many of the world’s most barbaric dictators and authoritarian regimes. Trump’s praise for Putin, Erdogan, mass murderer Duterte, and our war-criminal, Islamist Saudi “allies” brings out in the open America’s support for dictators and authoritarianism.
  • He’s laid bare the racism of the Republican Party. For half a century Republicans have catered to racists — restricting voting rights of blacks and latinos, persecuting undocumented immigrants, promoting the war on drugs that has devastated black and latino communities, promoting “tough on crime” (tough on poor people) laws, and promoting outright slavery of the incarcerated — while at the same time hypocritically hiding behind code words and insisting that they aren’t racist. Under Trump, Republican racism is out in the open. (Unfortunately, that racism sometimes takes physical form; the assaults and murders it produces are a hideous byproduct of it.)
  • By acting as an apologist for neo-Nazis in the wake of Charlottesville, and by pointing out that Washington and Jefferson were slaveholders, he’s put a spotlight on a seamy side of American “revolutionary” history that virtually no one talks about. (For more info on this see “A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn.)
  • Trump, by announcing the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, has ended the sick charade of the U.S. government’s pretensions of being an “honest broker” in the Middle East. In regard to Middle East policy, for decades the government has been hostage to the extreme right wingers in AIPAC, and to a lesser extent the religious right (some of whom want Armageddon), and has actively aided, abetted, and financed the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians. Trump just tore away the “honest broker” mask.
  • Trump has interrupted the creeping fascism that has been strangling America since at least the time of Truman, in favor of galloping fascism. The good news is that Trump is so repulsive and so inept — good only at manipulating and swindling the fearful, desperate, uninformed, and angry — that he likely won’t succeed in destroying what’s left of our freedoms.

Had Clinton won in 2016, creeping fascism would have continued; nothing would have fundamentally changed; popular discontent and resentment would have continued to fester; even while they controlled both the House and Senate, Republicans would have blamed everything that’s going wrong on the “liberal” (she isn’t) Clinton; and an overt, more competent Republican theofascist would probably have taken power in 2020, which, had Clinton won in 2016, could have meant “game over” for American democracy.

  • Without intending to do it, Trump has spurred a wave of political activism in the U.S., the like of which hasn’t been seen in nearly half a century. This is a good thing for American democracy.

Contrary to popular belief, Trump’s victory in 2016 hasn’t been a total disaster, and in the end might turn out to be a good thing — assuming he doesn’t start a nuclear war or crash the economy. In the long run, a Clinton victory could (in my view would) have turned out a whole lot worse.

Of course, things could and probably will, for now, get worse under Trump. He and his minions will continue to degrade the environment, abet the banksters and other corporate thugs in the looting of the economy, and will continue to impose the evangelical theofascist social agenda on all of us.

Still, they’re probably too inept to stage a Reichstag Fire and get away with it. But god help us if there’s a major terrorist attack. Naomi Klein at The Intercept offers a cogent analysis of this possibility in “The worst of Donald Trump’s toxic agenda lies in wait — a major U.S. crisis will unleash it.”

For now, just be glad that Hillary Clinton isn’t in the White House, and let’s hope for a wave of new social movements; let’s also hope that in the meantime the “democratic wing of the Democratic Party” will at least temporarily stave off the corporate-lackey Democrats and the theofascist Republicans until there’s an opening for real social change.


Well, it’s finally happened. My favorite Mexican restaurant, El Torero, closed tonight and won’t reopen. By happenstance, I dropped in for some typically great Mexican chow and some beers with a few friends tonight, had one of the final meals El Torero served, and got to talking with the owner (and chef). He’s been threatening to close the place for a good five years, to which my attitude has always been, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll believe it when I see it.” Tonight, I believe it.

El Torero is a South Tucson institution, and has been around as a family place for over 60 years.

(South Tucson incorporated as a 100% Mexican, one-square-mile city in 1939 as a self-defense measure against the virulent racism in the City of Tucson. Things really didn’t begin to change here until the 1970s, and Tucson proper is now the most integrated city of over a million in the country, and the population within the city limits is currently close to 50% Mexican. Racism persists, but it’s a shadow of its former self; Tucson is at times referred to, with some justification [the arts and music scenes], as a “mini-Austin”; and the City of South Tucson [now entirely encircled by the City of Tucson, but still over 90% Mexican] persists as a poverty-stricken monument to resistance to racism.)

Enough with the history lesson.

El Torero is gloriously tacky with formica tables, a chewed-up linoleum floor, flame-throwing salsa, and a stuffed (or fiberglass) swordfish on one wall outlined with Christmas lights. It’s the only restaurant I know in Tucson where during slack periods the owner will sit down uninvited to shoot the shit with you, and during really slack periods the on-duty cook will come out of the kitchen and likewise sit down uninvited to shoot the shit. I love it.

As homey as it is, the food is (or was) great — every bit as good and a bit cheaper than the ultra-trendy Mi Nidito three blocks down the street (the food there is good and reasonably priced), which is the place to go for trendoids who don’t mind waiting an hour to be seated while there’s no waiting at El Torero. (Rigo’s, The Crossroads, Michas, and Guillermo’s are all at least close in quality and equivalent in price, within about a mile, and there’s never a wait at any of them. Mi Nidito became the place to go after Bill Clinton visited the place maybe 25 years ago, did his best impression of a human rotorooter, and consumed mass quantities.)

Anyway, El Torero is gone. When I spoke with him tonight, the owner (in the center in the photo at left) told me, “Just go to Lerua’s” (about two miles away on Broadway) — owned by the same family, with the same recipes. That’s good advice while it applies. Lerua’s will likely be axed when the Broadway “improvement” project kicks in sometime within the next few years.

Damn! but I’ll miss El Torero.

(P.S. For anyone in the area, my blues duo, Cholla Buds, will be playing two jobs downtown tomorrow, Dec. 1: from 1:00 to 4:00 at Crooked Tooth Brewery on 6th Street at Arizona Avenue, and from 5:30 to 6:00 or 6:15 at The Hut on 4th Avenue and 8th Street. Both shows are free. Please come on down and have some free fun.)


My cousin has been in and out of the hospital for the last year. She’s 75, not in good shape, and I have medical power of attorney (as the only nearby relative). It’s been wearing on me — a lot. I’ve been worrying about where she’ll go and what will happen to her after she runs out of money.

In contrast, and worse, what in hell happens to people who are under Medicare age? A very good friend of mine was tortured by cancer for the last decade (including — do not ever under any circumstances do this; it just ain’t worth it, and it doesn’t extend life — prostatectomy), and he and his wife spent probably half their life savings on experimental treatments before he died two months ago.

It was awful to watch.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief tonight when I (rather, the placement agent) found a good place for my cousin.

She’s on Medicare, has enough bucks for a few years, and is going to a place that won’t kick her out (will take Medicare) after her money runs out if she survives that long.

So, “socialized medicine,” Medicare, saved her ass.

For people under 65, it’s still a horror show — albeit a very profitable horror show. There are over one million personal bankruptcies annually due to medical bills in the U.S. In other words, over a million middle-class Americans lose everything they’ve got every year due to medical bills, and the insurance industry and big pharma reap the benefits.

And it gets worse. After giving away a fortune to the 1%, close to $2 trillion, in Trump’s tax scam, it’s virtually certain that the GOP will plead “fiscal responsibility” and try to kneecap both Medicare and Medicaid, driving up our costs, if not eliminating Medicare and Medicaid entirely.

This is all you really need to ask yourself when considering the GOP/corporado mantra justifying horrendous health costs (USA is by far the highest) and being at or near the bottom of health outcomes for industrialized countries):

They warn you against “nameless, faceless bureaucrats making your health decisions for you.”

But what in hell do they think is going on now? Nameless, faceless insurance-industry, profit-driven ‘bureaucrats making your healthcare decisions for you? For their corporate, profit-driven masters rather than you?

How could anything possibly be worse for you than nameless, faceless corporate bureaucrats searching for reasons to deny your claim, and doing their best to maximize profits by providing the minimum amount of healthcare they can possibly get away with? Think about it.

Forgive me, but somehow I’ll trust that non-interested government bureaucrat rather than an insurance company tool.

Count me in for “socialized medicine.”


THANKSGIVING, n. 1) A day on which thanks are given that one’s bloated, python-digesting-a-deer feeling will soon pass, and that the day will not recur for another year; 2) A five-course family feast consisting of tension, boredom, anger, recrimination, and guilt, held under the pretense of picking over the carcass of a murdered bird.

* * *

— from The American Heretic’s Dictionary (revised & expanded), the 21st-century successor to Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary. (The link goes to 50 sample definitions and illustrations.)

American Heretic's Dictionary revised and expanded by Chaz Bufe, front cover


Chris Mato Nunpaby Chris Mato Nunpa, PhD
retired Associate Professor of History at Southwest Minnesota State University and author of the upcoming (Sept. 2019) The Great Evil: Genocide, the Bible, and the Indigenous People of the United States

 

One hundred and fifty-six years ago, on November 07-13, 1862, 1,700 Dakota People, primarily women, children and elders, were force-marched 150 miles from the Morton & Redwood Falls area in southwestern Minnesota to a concentration camp at Ft. Snelling, near the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The cold weather that we [in Minnesota] have been experiencing during this November reminds us, the descendants of the survivors, of this act of Genocide perpetrated by the State of Minnesota, the military, and its Euro-Minnesotan citizenry.

Dozens upon dozens of Dakota People were murdered – shot and killed, or bayoneted, or frozen or starved to death on this march! One of my grandmothers was stabbed in the stomach by a saber-wielding white soldier on horseback. Her “sin” was not understanding an order given by a white soldier in a foreign language, English. A friend of mine (now deceased) had a grandmother who was shot and killed because her “sin” was needing to relieve herself, for modesty’s sake, in the woods, along the forced-march route. We know not how many of our women were raped and murdered along the way, and we know not how many of our elders and children who lagged behind because of age, sickness or physical weakness, were shot and killed.

The commander of the troops who enforced the march was a Colonel William Rainey Marshall, who later became a governor of Minnesota, and he has a street in St. Paul, a county in northwestern Minnesota, and a town in southwestern Minnesota, named after him – Marshall! Colonel William Rainey Marshall was a Genocidaire, a perpetrator of Genocide. Forced marches are what Genocidaires do. Forced Marches are genocide, as I learned this from other Genocide scholars when I belonged to the International Association of Genocide Scholars.

The savage cry of “Extermination or Removal” was uttered many times, publicly, even in a speech to the state legislature, by the then-Minnesota Governor, Alexander Ramsey. He was referring to the extermination of the Dakota People of Minnesota, and the removal of the Dakota People from our own Dakota homelands, Mini Sota Makoce, ”Land Where the Waters Reflect the Skies.” In an atrocity six months prior to the November forced march, on May 04, 1863, “Removal” was authorized by the Minnesota state legislature, and 1,300 Dakota women, children and elders were forced from our homelands.

The forced march of 150 miles and the forcible removal were just two of a number of genocidal acts, and various crimes against humanity, perpetrated by the State of Minnesota and its Euro-Minnesotan citizenry, on the Dakota People of Minnesota. However, the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Ghoul Society (aka the Minnesota Historical Society), and white academia continue to suppress the truth about what was done to the Dakota People of Minnesota and who did it.

We need the help of our white allies and supporters, and the help of other Indigenous Peoples, to help us Dakota People of Minnesota in our struggle to have the truth told! After 156 years (since 1862), it is time for truth-telling!! Namayahunpi kin he nina piwada! “Your listening to me is greatly appreciated!” Ho, he hecetu do! “Yes, it is so!”


“I should think judging by his ostentation, his absence of good taste [that obviously] he was eaten with vanity and ambition and his only measure of success was in terms of dollars and influence. . . . It must be a terrible thing to have to keep telling the world how great you are and to want so badly to achieve what is really impossible. We have much to fear from these people, but in a sense, I think, they are tragic.”

–Zina Worley, quoted by Pope Brock in his highly entertaining nonfiction book, Charlatan

Worley was not referring to Donald Trump, but rather to “Dr.” John Brinkley, a quack who exploited and and oft-times mutilated and killed the desperate and gullible who came to him for help. Brinkley became a multi-millionaire through sale of grossly overpriced ineffective (e.g., colored water) and outright harmful patent medicines, and through unnecessary, harmful operations intended mostly to restore male “virility.” Those operations included the implanting of goat testicles in human scrotums.

John R. Brinkley

Brinkley’s similarities with Donald Trump are striking: both preyed on the gullible and desperate; both were fascist sympathizers; both constantly bragged about themselves; both lied incessantly; both claimed to represent and be the voice of the common man — Brinkley nearly won the governorship of Kansas in 1930 and 1932; both had vulgar taste and indulged in ostentatious displays of wealth; both sometimes stiffed those who did work for them; and the one was brought down by a dogged, principled investigator, and, one hopes, the other soon will be. (There are other similarities, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind.)

The primary difference between the two men, other than working in different fields of fraud, was that Brinkley came from a very poor background and Trump was a trust-fund baby who received over $400 million from his slumlord dad.