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The Winter of Our Discontent has passed. Tuesday was the first day of Spring. Time to remind those with high blood pressure that the election was last Fall. You survived. One last round of rain is due, and the hills are starting to look like Ireland. In Anza Borrego, east of San Diego, there are wildflowers that haven't bloomed in decades. The Mojave Desert will be next. Waterfalls in the Angeles National Forest beckon right now, even as the ski areas remain open.

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A total solar eclipse on August 21 will be the first to cross the entire contiguous U.S. since 1918, and L.A. will get about 62% coverage—no need to fly "your Lear Jet to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun"—Amtrak to Salem, Oregon, or a road trip to Idaho Falls will get you that.

Now, let's detangle a few of the things that ain't quite right.

Tuesday's arrival of Spring was also the day when the world marked the International Day of Forests. The European Space Agency (ESA) noted that, and added, "satellites continue to monitor the long-term effects of human activities on our planet’s precious resources..." including one visual illustration of "30 years of deforestation in Brazil."

Human activity is conducting a planet-wide experiment on the atmosphere, not simply by spewing greenhouse gases, but by cutting-down rainforests that cannot self-replenish after their poor soils produce the two years of crops their poor mineral/biomass content can sustain.

Heat waves that used to happen every three years now happen every 200 days. Each of the last 21 months has set the all-time record high temperature for that month.

Rainfall patterns shift, irrevocably, as areas that used to produce transpiration from plants and evaporation for clouds lie dead beneath blazing skies.

So, in addition to populations displaced or denied trade by wars, former breadbaskets dry-up and crops fail.

The UN says $4.4 billion must be raised by July to avert a famine of 20 million people in South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and northeast Nigeria.

The UN has also said since 2008 that $30 billion in annual spending would end world hunger.

Instead, President Trump's budget would add an additional $54 billion in one year to the Pentagon. And that shocking sum is a mere 10% increase to the bloated coffers that finance America's endless wars.

The Trumpsters told us America is a mess. Now, progressives agree, but only because the Trumpsters are in charge. Neither group seems very open to the fact that much of the rest of the world is a mess, and it's largely because of America.

"We could enhance our security for a lot less money than in all the ways we're trying to do it. No one's attacking the country that ends world hunger," one observer challenges. "If we ended world hunger we would be safe. The TSA wouldn't even have to do their dirty puppeteer any more."

That observer isn't any member of congress, or anyone else we elected. He is Lee Camp, host of the TV show "Redacted Tonight," an ostensibly satirical version of the news of the world. And, oh, by the way: that show airs on RT America, which our elected officials and corporate mainstream media constantly vilify in an echo chorus. Probably because RT reports legitimate news that causes the corporate masters of empire to get their bloomers in a bunch. Not hard to understand, given who it is that has bought and paid for politicians to do their bidding, just as they have with their lapdogs in mainstream media. So you can buy into all the breathless accusations of propaganda and misinformation, or you could give RT a chance to prove the worth of their slogan, which is "Question More." You can check it out and decide for yourself.

Nearly all of RT America's shows are produced in the US. Daily shows include one hosted by longtime progressive radio host and prolific book author Thom Hartmann ("The Big Picture"), another by Ed Schultz ("The News with Ed"), an alternating pair with Larry King ("PoliticKing" and "Larry King Now"), plus the excellent daily "Watching the Hawks," and "Boom Bust," and the less-frequent but equally strong content shows, "Keiser Report," "Cross Talk," "Going Underground" (made in the UK), and a new show, "America's Lawyer with Mike Papantonio" (he also co-hosts, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder, radio's nationally syndicated "Ring of Fire"). Plus, there's the not-to-be-missed weekly "On Contact with Chris Hedges," excellent by any standard, and there's "Redacted Tonight VIP" (a Thursday show with Camp's interview with an activist of note), and the satirical "Redacted Tonight" every Friday with a cast who are, individually and collectively, a lot funnier and more relevant than whatever the hell it is they're doing on SNL. Oh, and coming soon: "The World According to Jesse," with former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura roaming America on his motorcycle and talking to people about their concerns.

As soon as you watch it and decide you find it valuable, refreshing and inclusive of factual information—and entire subjects and topics that corporate mainstream media won't report—you'll get a secondary benefit. That comes from telling people you like it, and watching their heads explode.

TSA electronics rule makes no sense

Perhaps reading that headline, you just said, "Not much else about being a commercial airline passenger makes a lot of sense, either."

Like being felt-up, denied sustenance, wedged into a vise between hard plastic armrests resembling a restaurant highchair, finding that your knees are contorted into your armpits, and learning that you're likely to get phlebitis from being left that way for six-and-a-half hours or more (plus time trapped on the runway when you can't get up to pee).

There is no rationale in this week's new rule. There was for the July 7, 2014 requirement that all electronic devices must be charged-up so they could demonstrate, at the TSA checkpoint, that things are what they seem to be and not concealment for something else.

Nor does the new rule stop or even address the shipment of lithium batteries as airplane cargo. Though those batteries, common in electronic devices, are capable of bursting into very hot flame, which many experts cite as a disaster waiting to happen.

Instead, the newest rule, announced Tuesday, bans all electronic devices bigger than a cell phone from carry-on status. The rule makes it okay, in fact necessary, to put them in checked baggage.

It's just crazy.

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First, it only applies to overseas flights into the U.S., and only aboard flights originating from ten airports in "certain" countries. Make that certain Middle Eastern countries. If that's already looking like another "non-Muslim-ban" Muslim-ban? Some leading Democrats tried to squeeze that impression for the daily pile-on, until the intelligence agencies told 'em to shut-up.

Second—and this is the major point—uhh, isn't it the carry-ons that receive the only real scrutiny? Screening of checked baggage is, in a word, spotty.

So. If one of those seventeen intelligence agencies that we recently learned we have—up from the four we knew we had—has some notion that some terrorist threat-or-other may involve building a bomb into a laptop or tablet? Wouldn't it be far more likely that the deadly conversion would be discovered in a screening of carry-ons? Rather than expecting to find it in a cumbersome assortment of many, big, irregularly configured, hard-to-open, likely overstuffed items? Cumbersome, heavy, hernia-inducing items in a necessarily fast-moving kaleidoscope, being pushed hard to keep on schedule... reminiscent of Lucy trying to put the cherry on every cupcake passing by on an unstoppable conveyor belt? Or are the odds better that they'll catch up when it's all in a wagon train of checked bags, rumbling along the tarmac?

It gets worse. We've known for years that any cell phone in the hands of anyone, anywhere, can be used to trigger a terrorist bomb anywhere else in the world. All it takes is dialing the number of another cell phone whose vibrator ringer is connected to the detonator. Meaning the cell phone that breezed-through carry-on screening and got on the airplane could be used to trigger the laptop-turned-bomb in the cargo hold's checked baggage that failed to undergo close scrutiny. And trigger it over water, where wreckage is hard to recover for forensics, or over a city center, where victims on the ground are maximized.

And has anyone stopped to think that the new rule produces a flood of suitcases that each contains a laptop? And that it lessens the scrutiny received by any given laptop since extraction for examination is far too time consuming? Inevitably so, given that each legitimate device will be wrapped in clothes inside its suitcase to lessen the chance of damage. How possible will it be to examine much of anything that must receive extra-careful re-packing after examination—at least with enough care to get each suitcase closed again—amidst a moving inundation of checked baggage? And what about the greatly escalated potential for theft in all those airports in countries where most workers are dirt poor?

Finally, if you find something verboten in the hands of a would-be boarding passenger—even the contraband of a 3-oz. bottle of shampoo instead of the 2-oz. bottle that gets a free pass—it's pretty clear who is responsible, since they're standing right there. Let's see how easy it is to convict someone if a bomb is found in a fake laptop slid into their checked luggage. When the discovery is made in the bowels of a terminal, after it has passed through the hands of a series of others in the airport. Which brings us back to that point of so many laptops in so much checked baggage—making it more likely that a thief might try to extract more than one laptop, like a kid in a candy store, and group his loot in one suitcase to steal. So, authorities arrest a passenger whose suitcase holds three laptops, two of which are from unknown other suitcases?

It becomes charitable or naive to believe this simply wasn't well thought-out. Because, like too many other things of late, it looks more like an effort to keep people fearful, or to adapt us to pointless regimentation, than to address an actual problem. Unless the need to keep people fearful or regimented is the problem.

Making America Great Again?

The Trumpsters told us America is a mess. Now, progressives agree, but only because the Trumpsters are in charge. Neither group seems very open to the fact that much of the rest of the world is a mess, and it's largely because of America.

Two generations ago, Americans took solace, and even inflated pride, in a spoken-word recording backed by rousing music. It got lots of radio play in its time. It was titled, "The Americans: A Canadian's Opinion."

That recording by the late CKLW radio broadcaster Gordon Sinclair gave a list of everything America had done for the world. From saving it from the murderous expansionism of Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan in WW II, to the Marshall Plan that rebuilt a devastated Europe (the half that wasn't behind the Iron Curtain), to our nation's great generosity after natural disasters, in famine relief, and other calamities. But the essayist also steered a wide circle around the multifaceted U.S. war that we had spread from South Vietnam to much of Southeast Asia, and he was oblivious to what that portended.

Quick aside: we just mentioned the Marshall Plan, paid for by the U.S. taxpayer to put Europe back together after WW II. Back in 2014, a U.S. Inspector General report proclaimed that the total cost of that rebuild of multiple nations had just been eclipsed by what we had spent, to that point, on the basket case of Afghanistan. And yes, that $100 billion in Afghanistan was compared to adjusted dollars that compensated for the worth of money in each period. Of course we're still there, still spending, still throwing good money after bad, because the military-industrial-cybersurveillance complex is still finding it profitable.

Maybe it was easy for that Canadian to make a case for late '60s-early '70s America because, gee-willikers-gosh-golly, in spite of Vietnam and the KKK, everything else really did work back then. It was a time when we were simultaneously building the interstate highway system; building massive airports for the jet age; going to the Moon; implementing the Fair Housing Act; enforcing the Voting Rights Act; adequately funding infrastructure maintenance and expansion; establishing initiatives in the arts like the Children's Television Workshop to give birth to "Sesame Street;" amassing a vast nuclear arsenal with bombers and missiles and aircraft carriers and submarines to project it; sustaining gigantic military bases worldwide on a scale never imagined before nor seen since; and employing everybody, whether or not they'd done more than finish high school, in an economy that even found after-school and summer work for any kid who wanted it.

Back then, any full-time job came with full-spectrum healthcare for the whole family, plus a competitive company retirement package— because if an employer wanted to keep good people, all those things had to be provided, or you'd go work somewhere else. Of course, every job gave every family ample opportunities to—as Patty Hearst expressed during her time as a kidnapped-heiress-turned-radical— comfortably and obliviously "own a collie, a station wagon, and a home with a white picket fence."

Every full-time job paid enough to enable a family to prosper with just one breadwinner. And to take the kids on an annual vacation to see the National Parks. Which were all free to visit because your taxes took care of things like that. Your union protected that vacation time and all your other benefits, even if you bitched about union dues.

All the public schools were good. Nobody but Catholics sent their kids to private school. Public libraries were open seven days a week (and evenings, for those who worked all day). And both gasoline and motels along the burgeoning interstates were cheap. Which was all quietly causing collapse of the intercity passenger train and urban/suburban mass transit. But, hey, you could afford a new car every two or three years, so why not use it to go when YOU wanted?

Everything seemed on-course to give your kids a utopian future in the land of the capitalist dream. Especially if you were white. And the seemingly quick succession of gains in civil rights that were, in reality, too hard-won and only partly fulfilled, still gave hope to everyone else.

Maybe the sense that it was attainable for everybody was because all those World War II veterans were in charge, with their ingrained New Deal values that everybody was in it together. So everyone boycotted lettuce, or grapes, or whatever, to help the farm workers, and voted yes on all the school bonds and library bonds and municipal water and sewer bonds.

The idea that everyone in America who worked would get their fair share of the pie seemed true. Maybe that's because Glass-Steagall was still in effect so there weren't any predatory banksters out to re-colonize the nation a second time, as their empire. Maybe it's because your neighborhood savings & loan probably didn't have branches outside a couple hundred miles from you. And you knew the bank president and the loan officer and saw their families in the same coffee shop where you took your kids, after all the kids played Little League together.

Maybe it's because there weren't any televangelists living in hundred-million-dollar mansions and disseminating voters guides with all the righteously moral choices pre-marked.

And maybe it's because everyone read an accountable local newspaper that wasn't owned by a megagiant corporation whose other corporate holdings are a TV network, some local stations, and, oh, yeah, some bigtime defense contractors. And, too, there was no cybersurveillance empire that sold every detail of your life to a bigger megagiant corporation that, by some megalomaniacal perversion, needs to know everything about you to control you by appealing to your preferences to make you like it. And them. And what you're supposed to buy to sustain consumerism and the workforce in some poor country you can't find on a map, even though that's where they sent your job.

Really wanna make America great again? Those are some good places to start. And if you want to understand why Donald Trump is president, stop the pointless game of trying to find a scapegoat for the Democrats' losses. Get up, get busy, and build a progressive political movement that doesn't surrender—to Trump voters or to the corporate political duopoly— the idea of rebuilding the lost American dream.


See you next week. Meantime, don't get tangled in "the narrative."

Larry Wines