12 April 2018

Seven steps to save 27,000 lives

The Boston Globe has been running this terrific, graphically interactive piece about gun deaths in each of the 50 states, and how each state stands on each of seven essential gun-control laws. It's a bit astonishing. You can look up your own state. It will also give you contact info for each state's governor and legislative leaders so you can annoy them! (Massachusetts has the best gun safety.)

9 April 2018

Thunder!

Kind of a very big day — the fourth anniversary of my adopting Thunder! Mr Thunder-dog is sheer joy.

8 April 2018

The UU Society of Greater Springfield, a couple of miles from here, is giving me a chance to do this course again, beginning Tuesday evening and running for five weeks. Got 20 people signed up. I want people — especially UUs — to know this story and the magnificent people who lived it — and to reflect on the power of an evolutionary spirituality which, like theirs, focusses on future human possibility, not the dead and often barbaric past.

27 March 2018

Just read Jill Lapore's breathtaking piece about Rachel Carson in the March 26 New Yorker. Nothing has affected me as much for a long time. When she wrote, when her New Yorker pieces and books shook the world partially awake, when she died--I was surrounded by a universe of people who didn't care, ignored her, disbelieved the stunning truth that is now beginning to overtake us. I can only wish I'd read her. And I hope you'll read this (in the print edition it's called "The Shorebird"):

19 March 2018

Things are happening very fast now and we've got to be alert. As we know, Donald Trump — aka “David Dennison” — oh sorry, that’s another lump of the wreckage — wants badly to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. At present he’s cranking up his propaganda machine, which we know works on something approaching a third of the population, and is promoted by its own state TV network, Fox. This weekend he began the next phase of his campaign by directly attacking Mr Mueller, whilst adding a few fresh insults to James Comey and Andrew McCabe. He’s hired a lawyer whose specialty is making the case for his theory that the FBI and Justice Department framed Mr. Trump, that’s it’s all a hoax. If he can get enough of the public distrusting Mueller and the FBI, at least suspecting that all the folderol is just a wicked plot to overthrow the president, he will feel sufficiently confident to fire Mueller.

As you’ve also noted, Republicans have largely gone supine. There are a few exceptions. Arizona’s Republican senators — Flake: “People see that as a massive red line that can’t be crossed. We have confidence in Mueller.” And McCain: “Special Counsel Mueller has served our country with honesty and integrity. It’s critical he be allowed to complete a thorough investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — unimpeded.”

There are two GOP South Carolina legislators: Sen. Graham: “Special Counsel Mueller has served our country with honesty and integrity. It’s critical he be allowed to complete a thorough investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — unimpeded.” And Rep. Gowdy: “I would just counsel the president — it’s going to be a very, very long, bad 2018, and it’s going to be distracting from other things that he wants to do and he was elected do. Let it play out its course. If you’ve done nothing wrong, you should want the investigation to be as fulsome and thorough as possible.”

Florida’s Rubio said “I remain confident that the special counsel is going to — is going to conduct a probe that is fair and thorough and is going to arrive at the truth and is — and is not going to go down rabbit holes that are not places that we need to be going.”

But there’s been little more from any Republican elected official, and there have been some very adamant defenses of Trump and attacks on Mueller et al. From most, silence, again.

After Trump’s weekend tweet “Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!”, there came this fairly startling response from Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell, of the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees: “Gloat now, but you will be fired soon. And it’s not going to be done cowardly, as you’ve done to so many who’ve served you. There’s a storm gathering, Mr. President, and it’s going to wipe out you and your corrupt organization all the way down to the studs.”

Well, that’s all very interesting, but what do we have to do? Here’s the drill. If any of these things happens:

• Trump fires Mueller
• Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (the person overseeing Mueller)
• Trump obstructs Mueller's investigation by issuing blanket pardons of key figures being investigated
• Trump takes other actions to prevent the investigation from being conducted freely

The Constitutional Crisis will be underway and our response in the hours following a power grab will dictate what happens next and whether Congress does anything to rein Trump in.

That will trigger emergency "Nobody is Above the Law" rallies around the country.

Rallies will begin just hours after national events are triggered:

• If actions are triggered BEFORE 2 p.m. local time —> events will begin @ 5 p.m. local time.

• If actions are triggered AFTER 2 p.m. local time —> events will begin @ noon local time the following day.

At the MoveOn site you see above and to the right, you can find details about hundreds of such events across America. Like the one right here in Springfield, which will assemble at the Springfield U.S. District Court Building on State Street. Look for one near you and RSVP to the organizers.

18 March 2018

You might not have seen this really fine piece in Huffington Post a few days ago, indicting the gun industry itself, and its monumental greed and indifference to the horror and destruction it is wreaking in America. After all, who is it that funds the NRA (besides its five million members)? It focusses on two companies, each run by relative neighbors of mine. They live in Springfield suburb Hampden, Mass. Their companies: Springfield's giant Smith & Wesson (rebranded American Outdoor Brands), maker of the M&P 15 used at Stoneman Douglas High School, their AR-15 variation; and Sturm, Ruger & Co., down in Southport, Conn.

They fund the NRA with millions of dollars, but they're also at the mercy of the NRA, which has them by the balls. In 2000, President Clinton proposed gun-control legislation that included items like limiting magazine size. Smith & Wesson voluntarily jumped on board, agreeing to abide by what it considered "reasonable" restrictions and to be accountable for their enforcement by a five-member oversight commission. And as Business Insider reported, the NRA responded immediately by promoting a boycott of Smith & Wesson products. The shocked Smith & Wesson almost went out of business. Now, we're unlikely to see any gun company offering any cooperation with attempts at controls, or offering any resistance to the fanatical NRA agenda. You can't buy or own an M&P 15 in Massachusetts, and it's reason for shame that they're made here.

Click on the article to read it.

13 March 2018

Yesterday, Rex Tillerson called the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Salisbury, England, who’s been living there since a Russia-US spy exchange, “an egregious act” and added, “It appears that it clearly came from Russia.” He said more. “I’ve become extremely concerned about Russia,” Mr. Tillerson said in the interview. “We spent most of last year investing a lot into attempts to work together, to solve problems, to address differences. And quite frankly, after a year, we didn’t get very far. Instead what we’ve seen is a pivot on their part to be more aggressive.”

He said this after British PM Theresa May gave Vladimir Putin’s administration until midnight on Tuesday to explain how a former spy was poisoned in Salisbury, or she will conclude it was an “unlawful use of force” by the Russian state against the UK. So when asked whether the attack would prompt a response in defense of Britain, a NATO ally that the United States is legally obligated to defend if it came under attack, Mr. Tillerson said: “It certainly will trigger a response. I’ll leave it that.”

Now, I’ve never seen Rex Tillerson as any kind of paragon of virtue: he served for years, after all, as liar-in-chief on behalf of Exxon-Mobil’s aggressive undermining of climate science—even as the oil giant’s own scientists told Exxon-Mobil the truth about the deepening climate emergency. And his stewardship of State fairly stank—as he deliberately shrank the department while seeming uninterested in managing it properly.

But when we heard him say what he said yesterday, we knew he had at least a modicum of integrity, and we knew the end was near. Trump has declined to state clearly that Russia, or Putin, is responsible for the murders on British soil. Rex-It came the next morning, today, by Trumptweet. Fired by Tweet, and further humiliated when Tillerson didn’t hear directly from Trump for another three hours.

It will take continued work by intrepid journalists, and further work by the Special Counsel (since the GOP-controlled Congressional investigations showed themselves dramatically yesterday to be whitewash jobs), to know the full depths of the Trump mob’s involvements, and Mr Trump’s own financial entanglements, with Russia.

We already know Mr Putin’s attitude toward former spies now living in exile, as demonstrated in the polonium assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. Asked how he would treat traitors during a 2010 give-and-take with reporters in 2010, he had said, “Traitors will kick the bucket, trust me. These people betrayed their friends, their brothers in arms. Whatever they got in exchange for it, those 30 pieces of silver they were given, they will choke on them.”

So Tillerson will be replaced by the hawkish Tea Party partisan Mike Pompeo—an opponent of the nuclear agreement with Iran—and Pompeo will be replaced at the CIA by Gina Haspel, the clandestine CIA officer who oversaw the torture of terrorism suspects and who took part in an order to destroy videotapes that documented their brutal interrogations at a secret prison in Thailand.

Wonder how all that’s looking to voters in a very red congressional district southwest of Pittsburgh, where they’re voting today?

9 March 2018

Elizabeth Warren today at Springfield Technical Community College

This afternoon, I went to hear Senator Warren at a packed-to-the-gills forum at Springfield Technical Community College. I wasn’t quite prepared for how very compelling she was.

She came to Springfield as the Senate is deliberating the Crapo bill, rolling back restraints on banks. Yesterday, GOP leaders added some further limits on regulators. Mike Crapo is a Republican senator from Iowa, and his bill would alter key elements of the Dodd-Frank law enacted to prevent a repeat of the financial crisis 10 years ago that brought the economy to the edge of collapse.

Senator Warren underlined the refusal, in the wake of the latest massacre-by-assault-weapon at the Parkland, FL high school, of Majority Leader McConnell to allow a vote on any gun control bills — choosing instead to mark the tenth anniversary of the fiscal meltdown in 2008 by instead pushing this legislation, which guts the modest financial safeguards enacted by Congress after the 2008 financial meltdown. Just a mere eight years after Dodd-Frank was passed, a dozen Democratic senators are ready to give Republicans the votes they need to weaken one of President Barack Obama’s largest legislative achievements.

Proponents argue that this bill provides much needed relief for community banks and credit unions, which, these proponents claim, face enormous difficulties. In fact, they’re making, in Warren’s words today, “bucketsfull of money.” They also say that it doesn’t endanger financial reforms aimed against the largest and most dangerous players.

But the bill goes far beyond the health of community banks and credit unions. It removes protections for 25 of the top 38 banks; weakens regulations on the biggest players, and encourages them to manipulate regulations for their benefit. It saps consumer protections.

Dodd-Frank introduced regulations for banks with assets of more than $50 billion, regulations that increase in strictness as the banks get larger and riskier. This ensures that they have enough cash to survive a crisis, quality equity to manage problems and a living-will plan for how they can fail without bringing down the economy. Under the Crapo bill, a bank holding less than $250 billion in assets would no longer be too big fail and would no longer have to have a “living will” that explains how the bank could be liquidated to prevent financial chaos, according to the AP.

Its weakened oversight would exempt more than two dozen financial companies with assets between $50 billion and $250 billion from the highest levels of scrutiny by the Federal Reserve. Together, these banks that would be deregulated hold more than $3.5 trillion in banking assets.

Could such a bill actually pass? Yup, because it has a dozen Democratic co-sponsors, many from swing or red states and up for re-election this year. I was surprised and not a little disappointed by some of the names. Here they are: Carper (DE), Donnelley (IN), Hassan (NH), Heitkamp (ND), Jones (AL), Kaine (VA), King (ME), Manchin (WV), McCaskill (MO), Nelson (FL), Peters (MI), Shaheen (NH), Stebenow (MI), Tester (MT), and Warner (VA).

So it felt good, at least, to know, without a shadow of doubt, where this Senator of mine stands, and to be surrounded by a crowd of her constituents who thanked her with a standing ovation.

6 March 2018

If a small fraction of what we’re hearing and reading about the Trump regime and the investigation is true, we’re facing corruption that consists of the most astonishing filth we could have imagined. If that is the case, then I know what I hope for, and it’s this: that Special Counsel Mueller will indict the President. We know the lapdog Republican leadership in Congress will not take any serious action. So it will have to be an indictment, which sets us in the controversy over whether a sitting president can be indicted, which will take the indictment through the courts and the Supreme Court. The gravity of it will be dramatized; the public will be unable to deny that this is for real, and serious. And that will hold the lapdog Congressional leadership up to shame. The public (excepting, of course, much of the Fox/Trump News crowd) will demand that our democracy and its institutions be saved. I hope.

5 March 2018

Worker removes Trump name from Panama hotel

Most people I know are looking forward to Nov. 6 — really looking forward to Nov. 6 — the day we hope, earnestly, desperately — that Republicans lose control of the House and Senate. That longed-for “wave” election.

Democrats have been boosted by a succession of by-elections and special elections that have given voters a chance to have their say. Alabama, Virginia, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire, Connecticut come to mind.

There’s some reason for hope. Democrat Conor Lamb, a 33 year old former prosecutor and former Marine, appears to be three points ahead, and to have the momentum on his side, in the runup to the election next Tuesday (March 13) to represent Pennsylvania’s 18th district (where Trump beat Clinton by 20 points) in Congress to replace the disgraced longtime GOP Rep. Tim Murphy.

A big election analyst told Axios that “[W]e suspect the unique coalition that supported the president will not turn out for generic House members of that President’s party.” What’s less clear is to what degree disillusion is setting in among some Trump voters.

So maybe we’re heading for a real “wave” election in eight months.

Taking the Senate will be harder: the best chance for that was 2016, when lots of vulnerable Republicans were up for reelection. This time, it’s mostly Democrats. Four races that should have gone Democratic in 2016: Pennsylvania, Missouri, North Carolina, and Wisconsin — where Democrats had terrific candidates — went down with Hillary Clinton. And the Senate, importantly, is the body that can block Trump judicial nominees.

So what happens if the Senate remains in Republican hands? What happens if the House does too?

I hate to think. Writing in the Times yesterday, journalist Charlie Savage, formerly a Boston Globe journalist, notes “A sizable portion of the American population has been convulsing with outrage at President Trump for more than a year. Millions of people who previously took only mild interest in politics have participated in protests, fumed as they stayed riveted to news out of Washington and filled social media accounts once devoted to family updates and funny videos with furious political commentary.” Yet the public square has remained notably quiet.

Savage thinks “A significant factor in keeping the peace has surely been anticipatory catharsis: The widespread expectations of a big Democratic wave in the coming midterm elections are containing and channeling that indignation, helping to maintain order.” Then he asks, “What will happen if no such wave materializes and that pressure-relief valve jams shut?”

Right. What happens then? What happens the day after it becomes clear that a critically consequential election has failed to salvage a gravely damaged democracy?

What should happen?

3 March 2016

I am really excited to re-launch my blog! Should be. It took so much concentration to figure out the HTML and CSS and related coding that my mind overheated. But I got this up and working! But the original blog's code was a mess of complexity and, yeh, errors. This should work far better, so now I hope to take the thing far more seriously and get it far more widely read! I'll be adding new posts on a more regular basis, and adding back past posts as well.

1 March 2018

My sister Pat's been undergoing the huuuge undertaking of getting her house on the Barnegat Bay on the Jersey Shore ready to sell. So she's been digging through old slides and found me—in 1964—with my first car, a very cool 1951 Pontiac. Note the big visor, which required a periscope device at the center of the dashboard so you could see traffic lights.

28 February 2018

Here's a letter I wrote to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt (with another, very similar, to Mr Trump). The language is largely borrowed from Meehan Crist, the reviewer in The London Review of Books, and to Jeff Goodell, author, of The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities and the Remaking of the Civilised World (Little Brown, 2017)—with thanks and full credit. Get the book!

Here's the letter:

Mr Secretary:

Massive ice sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic have begun to collapse, in a phenomenon known as "marine ice-sheet instability," which previous models of global sea level rise didn't take into account. When the Paris Agreement was drafted just over two years ago, it was based on reports that ice sheets would remain stable and on the assumption that sea levels could rise by up to three feet two inches by the end of the century. In 2015, NASA estimated a minimum of three feet. In 2017, though, a report by NOAA revised estimates up dramatically, saying that by 2100 sea levels could rise by more than eight feet. Last year, a study estimated that if carbon emissions continue at present levels, by 2100 sea levels will have risen by as much as 11 feet. Higher sea levels mean higher storm surges, like the nine-foot surge that inundated Lower Manhattan and my own native Jersey Shore. They mean that low-lying coastal areas from Amsterdam to Bangladesh will be underwater in less than a hundred years. Indeed, it could mean that average high tides in New York could be higher than what we saw during Sandy. Mumbai would be fully submerged.

The question comes to us all: how long will we remain monumentally irresponsible and deliberately ignorant? Can we, now, be bothered to learn what we do not know, to listen to the scientists who have refined their science to measure, understand, and forecast?

A hundred years from now—twenty or fifty years from now—will we be the ones whom those lucky enough still to be around will damn for our deliberately ignorant irresponsibility?

Sincerely
Rev Dr F. Jay Deacon

Scott Pruitt, Administrator, EPA
USEPA Headquarters
William Jefferson Clinton Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N. W.
Mail Code: 1101A
Washington, DC 20460

22 February 2018

Link to Atlantic piece

Why no one, not any one, should ever own an AR-15, is laid out by a radiologist who treated the victims at Parkland last week. The AR-15 is a different kind of weapon that leaves a different kind of wound. BTW, it was developed by Colt, down in Hartford, but when their patent ended in 1977, other gunmakers came out with their own variants, and there are now 23, included the Smith & Wesson M&P-15, made right here in Springfield—and that is precisely the model used in last week's high school massacre. It was a product of Springfield. But please read the witness of that radiologist writing in The Atlantic, by clicking on the Atlantic graphic, left.

14 January 2018

Link to Guardian piece

Excellent piece today in The Guardian's Sunday paper, The Observer, on how nuclear deterrence doesn't deter and never has. Click on the article image to read it. A timely case to make as first President Obama, and then President Trump, and most recently President Putin, have escalated the nuclear arms race. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey has spent a lifetime pressing the urgency of halting the suicidal nuclear arms race; UK Labour leader and likely next PM Jeremy Corbyn has committed himself never to use nuclear weapons.

10 November 2017

A couple of evenings ago the Democratic Town Committee in neighboring Longmeadow held a forum with the three Democratic candidates for Governor of Massachusetts. It was downright inspiring, and quite exciting. Don't know when I've ever been confronted with such a spectacularly fine array of candidates. It didn't hurt that the event came a day after the splendid victories in Virginia and New Jersey. I'd be thrilled to see any one of them run against incumbent Republican Charlie Baker, who seems to impress some voters by the sheer fact of being a Republican who isn't nuts. But the Commonwealth is capable of so much more. Here's the one who particularly struck me: Bob Massie

10 November 2017

So, everybody wants to know, How is it that fervent fundamentalist Bible-thumpers can embrace vile politicians like Roy Moore and Donald Trump, who seem to lack any moral compass (even if they make a lot of moralistic noise)?

There is a simple answer little understood by the journalists puzzling over the same question, and here it is. I know. I heard it in loads of sermons and revival meetings in my Pentecostal past.
What's the rationalization you're likely to hear down at the Abundant Blood Bible Church? It's this: these true believers—believe the Bible. Not as metaphor or something. They think it's actual history dictated by God, every word, every semicolon (well, ancient Hebrew doesn't have semicolons, but you get the idea).

And in the Hebrew Bible (they call it the Old Testament), there are plenty of barbaric bits. You see God sometimes choosing vile and wicked people to be his instruments, the vehicles of his purposes. God specifically appoints heathen rulers like the kings of Babylon and Assyria—using them to punish the Jews. God uses the Babylonians to accomplish his intentions. Among God's own chosen chums, there was the womanizer Samson, the cheating Jacob, the murderer David.

So, you say, it doesn't make sense that at times God, the author of moral law, cares not at all about morality. Of course it doesn't. It's fundamentalism. A fundamentalist site I just noticed explains: "This means that we cannot trust our own reason and thoughts for our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked." Fundamentalism—taking premodern myth and fable and proclaiming it divinely inspired truth, the revelation of God's will and ways. In the barbarism, you have to see a divine purpose. And that might include choosing the worst and wickedest to do God's work. And no, he isn't taking questions.