You Don’t Know Us

“I think the people from Alaska will never forgive her for what she did.” The preceding was President Trump’s take on Murkowski’s “no” vote for Judge Brett Kavanaugh. I think our Groper in Chief might have actually hit on something here, something other than a porn star. According to an ADN article written by Associated Press reporter Becky Bohrer; Alaska’s GOP leadership is deciding what sort of response is appropriate. Party chairman Tuckerman Babcock says the committee is weighing all possibilities from issuing a statement to withdrawing support for the Senator and asking her to not run as a Republican in 2022. Babcock went on to say the party had, in the past, taken the more extreme option with state legislators, who chose to cooperate with (ugh) Democrats. That sort of thing leads to legislating rather than the scorched earth politics we now enjoy. The 2016 primary where Babcock and the party actively participated in the ouster of moderate Jim Colver and replaced him with the more partisan (manageable) George Rauscher comes to mind.

There you have it Senator Murkowski. You will march in step in nice even rows and columns. You will do what you are told with eyes fixed firmly on the party agenda, glancing away only long enough to check your playbook. You will not vary from your assigned course or there will be consequences. Who do you think you are? An independent member of a representative democracy!?

Our half time ex-governor has also tweeted on this issue. On Friday Sarah Palin chirped: “Hey @LisaMurkowski — I can see 2022 from my house…” Let’s think about Senator Sarah Palin for a second. She should help bridge the divisions in that broken legislative body. I’m sure she’s just the ticket for Babcock and his merry band of vandals. Then there’s always Joe Miller. Fourth times a charm, eh Joe.
So it seems the party leadership is not happy with Murkowski. Actually that’s to be expected. Even in less partisan times, Murkowski’s break from the party agenda would raise a few eyebrows. What’s different here is the rigid, idealogical conformity demanded by an increasingly zealous leadership, complete with the threat of political shunning.

As for the people of Alaska, that may be a different story. Unlike the President, I won’t presume to speak for my fellow Alaskans. I will, however, remind President Trump that Alaskans tend to think for themselves. In fact, more than half the voters up here, 55.25%, are registered as Independent. Only about a quarter are self-confessed Republicans. While voters here do tend to tilt red, there is a strong Libertarian slant to that leaning. They tend to chafe at the reins of party dictates and aren’t shy about letting you know. That being said, there are probably quite a few voters that aren’t thrilled about Murkowski’s decision. On the other hand (You knew there would be an “other hand”. I am a liberal after all) there are undoubtedly a number of voters who will vote for Murkowski precisely because of her stand.

There is something else you may not be considering Mr. President. With Kavanaugh now sitting on the Supreme Court, there will almost certainly be a challenge to Roe v Wade coming to the court. If that decision should be overturned, and women lose the right to choose, it will put Alaska in a difficult position. I’m not sure you’re aware of this Mr President, but we are kind of isolated up here. I know reading is not your thing, but you don’t really have to read this. You just have to look at a map. It’s pictures Mr. President. Don’t be scared.

So if abortion rights are thrown back to the states, and if our Republican legislature, George Rauscher et all, should severely restrict the right to choose, that would make things very difficult for Alaska’s women. We are literally thousands of miles from the nearest state. It’s not like we can just get in the car and go.

If that were to happen before the 2022 election; the independent, self-reliant, “you’re not the boss of me”, proclivities of the Alaskan voter would be all over this. That coupled with Kavanaugh’s position on native rights, and his belief that the President can’t, or shouldn’t, be subject to not only civil but criminal indictment or investigation. This is position that puts the President outside the reach of the law. And his proclamation that he would essentially get even with perceived political enemies. These are the issues that got Murkowski’s attention. These are the issues that made her vote the way she did, and these are the issues Alaska voters are aware of.

So don’t be too quick to judge the mood of Alaska President Trump. You don’t know us. You don’t know the state, you don’t know the people, and you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Governor’s Race

Governor Dunleavy

by

Chuck Legge

The country is anticipating a blue tsunami this November that supposedly will wash from sea to EPA regulated sea. Faced with almost certain success the Democrats find themselves in a bit of a quandary. How can we screw this up? Well, fear not America. Like the t-shirt says: “Don’t worry: I’m from Alaska. I got this.“

Let’s be honest. Even under the best of circumstances, Democrats in Alaska face some pretty deep snow, but we do manage to keep ourselves somewhat relevant and even win the governors race from time to time. So, while current Governor Walker used to be a Republican, and he did run as an Independent, Democrats will still take credit for a win. After all he was running against a Republican so that’s one for our side.

The problem was that Governor Walker faced crashing oil prices and anyone who has lived in the state for more than 15 minutes knows this state runs on oil money. We had a five billion dollar budget with a four billion dollar deficit. Fortunately we also had a large savings account and a fat, juicy permanent fund. Walker’s solution was to cut spending, implement taxes and tap the permanent fund. Under his administration we have reduced spending about 40 percent and cut the PFD in half. That still left about a billion dollar shortfall which should have been covered by taxes, but the legislature didn’t have the stomach for that so the budget reserve managed to fill the gap. So everyone’s happy; right? Did I mention that PFD halving?

There are certain things you don’t do in Alaska. You don’t pet the baby moose, you don’t go skinny dipping in January, and you don’t mess with the PFD! Needless to say Walker’s actions didn’t earn him many friends. However it was, in my opinion, something that had to be done. We were faced with a fiscal calamity for which there was no easy solution. Had the legislature possessed the gumption to levy taxes on the oil companies (taxes they had paid under Palin), and implemented an income tax with a sizable deduction, the PFD thing would have been a little easier to swallow. But our fearless lawmakers on the red side of the aisle saw an opportunity to leave this whole steaming pile of fiscal muck at the governor’s door. And that’s just what they did.

Now, Governor Walker’s chances for reelection aren’t looking too promising. Enter Mark Begich. He certainly has the pedigree. Ex-mayor of Anchorage. One term national senator. The guy seems to be able to win elections and, as you probably already know, Begich won the Democratic primary. So let’s put him up against the Republican nominee, Mike Dunleavy, and see how things turn out.

As you probably also know Governor Walker is not going kindly into that political night. He has decided, once again, to run as an Independent. We now have a three way race, and that almost certainly puts Dunleavy at the top of the heap. See, I told you we’d find a way to foul this up. I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Will Rogers: “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat.”

So, what do you suppose a Dunleavy governorship will be like. Let’s have a look at where he stands on issues that will be facing the state. Actually, let’s take a look at the biggest issue. The one that dominated the Walker administration, the budget.

Dunleavy wants to make deeper budget cuts so he can restore the full PFD to all of us. What a gallant stand. Give people a bigger PFD check at the expense of roads, education, and health services. Now, that’s what I call redistribution of wealth.

According to a 2017 Juneau Empire article by James Brooks, Dunleavy was instrumental in pushing legislation that would have cut $50 million dollars from the Department of Health and Social Services. It would have cut $22 million from the University of Alaska and left our ferry system with a $40 million dollar hole to plug.

This bill would have also cut $69 million from public education. It would have done away with the scholarship program for high performing students and eliminated curriculum reviews. Sure, let’s cut a little deeper. We don’t really need doors on classrooms. Do we? And as long as we’re doing away with doors, show me in the Constitution where it says kids need desks. Sitting on the floor will toughen em’ up. Fortunately, the bill didn’t get past the House.

So there we have it. Senator Dunleavy offers no real solutions. He’s just telling people what they want to hear and putting the state in an untenable situation. On the other hand, the Democrats answer is to form a circular firing squad. Granted, it’s not much of a circle with only two shooters, but I’m pretty sure not even Democrats can screw up the inevitable this time.

Insane Campaigning

Defining Insanity

by

Chuck Legge

Here we go again. Has it been two years already? Well no, it’s actually been just over a year and here we are, about to enter another campaign season. Yay? We invest a lot of time, a lot of energy, and a whole lot of money (the non-influential kind) into this biennial activity. So, let’s take a look at what we get for all this effort.

Campaign signs will start blooming in yards and along roadways encouraged by liberal amounts of rhetorical fertilizer. Once again we will have the privilege, nay duty, of choosing between the neolithic fascist, or unicorn hugging marxist. Candidates will stand bravely against their opponents and come down on the side of freedom, justice, and puppies. One thing is certain. This will be the most consequential election we’ve had since the last most consequential election held about two years ago. So without further delay, let the blames begin.

The preceding paragraphs are how most americans have seen the process that is, once again, about to be played out on our airwaves and street corners. On the other hand the 2016 presidential offensive was a real game changer. Most campaigns, at least the successful ones, understand that the way to appeal to potential voters is to appeal to their emotions. We’re going to build a wall to keep all those scary brown people on their side of the border and away from our wives, children, and dish washing jobs. And we’re going to make Mexico pay for it. The fact that no wall has been built and if one is it will be the U.S. tax payer that foots the bill is irrelevant. The important thing is that the message got through. It tapped the fears and frustrations of the increasingly disenfranchised middle and working classes. The result being President Donald J. Trump.

The genius of Trump (a combination of words you won’t often see) is that he managed to reach out to weary, cynical, middle americans and get them involved in the process. And here’s the genius part. Trump figured out how to do this using the same hyperbolic rhetorical tactics that turned most of these voters off in the first place. He just fed those tactics a steroid laced diet. Give this tiny fingered devil his due. He’s an unapologetic one percenter, who has screwed contractors and employees time and time again, and has somehow convinced that same middle/working class that he is on their side. Perhaps the quote, wrongly attributed to Einstein, that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result” isn’t insanity at all. Perhaps it’s genius. Or perhaps Trump is insane along with about 46 percent of the electorate.

I can’t speak for the emotional stability of our 45th president, but I’m pretty sure 46 percent of the voting public is not insane. At least I hope not. What they are is tired and turned off by empty promises and superficial bombast coming from both sides of the barricade. What Trump did was more than promise them stuff. He promised to blow up the whole system. A system that has, to some degree, left them behind. Is it any wonder that when he denounces the media or the justice department or congress that he is applauded by his base? He’s doing exactly what they sent him there to do. He’s attacking a system that they believe is attacking them. The outrage he elicits is red meat to the Trumpophile and we should all take note.

I think a more clinical definition of insanity is needed here. According to Merriam Webster the legal definition of insanity is: unsoundness of mind or lack of the ability to understand that prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or that releases one from criminal or civil responsibility.” So if Trump is unwilling, or more appropriately, unable to discern certain simple realities like crowd size or where he ranks in the list of presidential accomplishments is he crazy? Does that mean that he is incapable of understanding the global repercussions of his words and actions? I prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say he isn’t crazy. Let’s say he’s just an opportunistic bully with no ideological or moral center. Yeah, that’s better.

Trump may not be running in this off year election, but he has certainly set the stage for the upcoming theatrics; and those of us on the left should not go smugly into that good night. We need to do more than just say: “I’m not him”. We need to do more than demonize the opposition and, in so doing, demonize the people who feel abandoned by their country. If you don’t think so just ask President Hillary Clinton what she thinks. By the way, anybody want to buy a PT Cruiser with an “I’m with her” bumper sticker?

We need to offer a real alternative to our current political chaos. Pulling out of the Paris Accords won’t produce jobs, but promoting renewable energy will. Giving Corporations and the wealthy a permanent tax cut while giving the rest of us a temporary one that will eventually amount to a tax increase won’t bolster a continuously trickled on middle class. What it will do is further divide the wealth of the nation between the haves and the have-nots. And along with that division, we have managed to take healthcare away from 13 million americans. This does not help the disenfranchised that are solidly in Trump’s corner. Building infrastructure, making education affordable, and promoting the health and wellbeing of our people. These things will heal a fractured nation. The divisiveness and acrimony produced by the current administration is destructive these ends and it is time to turn this thing around. Let’s offer that.

Letter to the Boss

Letter to the

Boss

By

Chuck Legge

Excuse me boss; ya got a minute? I hope this isn’t too soon, but there’s something I’d like to talk to you about. In a recent column in the Anchorage Press you (Publisher Dennis Anderson) said I was losing my marbles. Not me specifically, but you implied gun control advocates in the persons of Jimmy Kimmel, Colin Jost, and local writer and radio personality Shannon Moore, were a couple of aggies short of a full bag.

You accuse gun control advocates of trotting out the same old “tired arguments”, and actually, you’re right. In the wake of 58 murdered and one suicide, some of us are questioning the rationality of things like multiple round clips and devices that make semi-automatic weapons operate like machine guns. Every time something like Las Vegas or Orlando or Newtown happens, those of us on the wacky, reactionary, left tend to react.

When Ms. Moore questions why her uterus is more regulated than guns, and when folks like Jimmy Kimmel and Colin Jost question the need for assault rifles and wonder why anyone would need 47 of them, they are not presenting shiny, new arguments. These are questions that have been asked before. These are questions that will be asked again. They are tired, old questions that will keep being asked until a reasonable answer is given. If you think you’re tired of hearing them, consider how weary the questioners are.

Those on the other side of the debate are fond of saying stuff like: “guns don’t kill people; people kill people” and “gun control is using both hands” and “ Honk if you’ve never seen a gun fired from a moving vehicle.” I’ll admit that last one is funny in a sick, twisted cold dead hands sort of way.

And yes the 2nd Amendment is enshrined in the Bill of Rights. It does say, in so many words: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It also prefaces that statement with: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State”. The Supreme Court has on multiple occasions interpreted that preface as meaning gun ownership should be regulated by the state. Again, this is not exactly ground breaking insight.

The point is both sides have their hackneyed responses to what is obviously an ongoing problem. And neither side is willing to give an inch to the other. So if we’ve all picked a position and are armed with our favorite quotes, let’s take one more trip down that dark rabbit hole. Actually, let’s not.

My take on this is nothing new either. It’s just my observation. Political discourse in this country has become so divisive and defensive that no one is listening to anything but the sound of their own voice. While the murder of 58 concert goers is something that tends to get your attention, it is an anomaly. It is, thank God, not the norm. It does, however, produce outrage and frustration with the attendant defensiveness that comes from both sides.

Meanwhile, we point our fingers and man our particular barricades and 53 more people die. These weren’t concert goers. These were people, in places like Parkton, North Carolina; Canton, Pennsylvania; and Seward, Alaska that died by gun violence on the day Steven Paddock checked into the Mandalay Bay Resort with 47 guns. In fact, according to gunviolencearchive.org, from October 1st to October 13th (the day of the writing of this column) 468 people have died in gun related incidents from sea to crimson sea. That number does not include the 58 plus one dead in Las Vegas. If you include Las Vegas that’s over five hundred people dead in thirteen days. Do you think maybe we ought to look at ways to possibly bring that number down?

And to those on my side of the barricade, gun ownership is actually a right. As a right it is not something that is bestowed on the holder. It is a pre-existing condition like free speech, or the ability to go from place to place, or something that would exclude one from a republican healthcare plan (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Rights can’t be given to you; they can only be restricted or taken away completely. This is why some gun owners get their bandoliers in a bunch when we start talking about gun control.

So where is the common ground here? I hope that we can all agree that 527 people shot to death in not quite half a month is a bad thing. And, at the risk of contributing to the de-marbling of America, I hope we can all agree that some rules need to apply when dealing with equipment that is capable of producing all those dead people in that short amount of time.

I’m not sure what we can agree on, but I am sure that we need to come to some consensus. It is not too early to talk about it. In fact the numbers show that it’s much too late for 527 formerly living people. Can we do something about bump stocks, or multiple round clips or keeping people with a history of mental instability from owning a firearm? I don’t know. What I do know is somewhere between melt all the guns down into peace amulets and toe rings, and I have a God given right to my own ICBM, there has to be a reasonable middle. At 527 dead and counting I don’t think we’re there yet.

Because it’s Good For You

Eat Your

Brussels Sprouts

by

Chuck Legge

I hate brussels sprouts! They are little green spheres of guuhhhh! I hope I haven’t offended any brussels sprout lovers out there. Actually, no. If you love brussels sprouts you deserve to be offended. You’re probably healthy enough to deal with it anyway.

I suppose you’re wondering why I’m going on about dietary preferences. Well, it seems the Governor has just served up a big steaming bowl of round revulsion. On Friday he announced the 2017 PFD will be $1,100.00. He did so with very little fanfare, but he can’t fool me. He can hide them behind the pork chops, but I still recognize brussels sprouts when I see them.

So what’s wrong with an $1,100.00 windfall, you might ask? Actually nothing, until you realize that it could have been twice as much. That’s right folks. We could have had a PFD in the neighborhood of $2,200.00 instead of $1,100.00, and that’s a much fancier neighborhood.

So why is the governor making off with half our money? Apparently the downturn in oil prices has left a gaping hole in our state budget. Last year the gap between spending and what we had to spend was around 2.9 billion dollars. This year it’s a little less, about 2.5 billion. Ah progress. Now Alaska can’t dismiss that kind of debt with just its good looks. Have you taken a good look at us lately? We have to figure out a way to balance the books. The most expedient way to do this is to take money out of the state savings account, which is what we did last year and this year. In order to stretch that savings account a little further the governor also took part of the PFD. As it stands now, we don’t have enough money left in that savings account to make this tactic a three-peat.

Another way to do this is by cuts in spending (state services and infrastructure), taxes, and tapping the permanent fund. You know, brussels sprouts. So far, the people’s representatives in Juneau have not been able to bring themselves to eat their vegetables, and I can certainly sympathize with that. Personally I have a deep and abiding lust for peanut butter snickers. I mean what’s not to love? You have peanut butter. You have nougat covered chocolate. You have partially hydrogenated soybean oil. MMMMmmmm. Every bite guaranteed to give you that little stabbing pain of delight in the hinge of your jaw; and probably shorten your life by a few seconds.

Even though I have a special relationship with that confection from the Mars candy company; I realize I can’t live on nothing but peanut butter snickers. That’s not to say I haven’t given it a try, usually around Halloween, but it never works out. Apparently there aren’t that many vitamins or other life sustaining elements in that morsel of chocolatey brilliance. For that you need something in the leafy, green category. This is what Governor Walker has realized, and he’s serving it up to us sans peanut butter.

I guess someone has to be the adult in the state; so the governor has assumed that role. Like most adults he will get howls of protest around supper time from the kids at the table, when he puts out something that isn’t covered in cheese or chocolate. Hmmm, peanut butter snickers dipped in cheese. And, like most adults, he will take it in stride because he understands the necessity of doing stuff that’s good for you.

If he had his way we would also be paying higher taxes and making oil companies do the same. It doesn’t matter that Alaskans carry the lightest tax burden in the country; and that we get back far more federal dollars than we pay in taxes. What matters is we don’t want to eat our vegetables, and you can’t make us. You can’t make us! So there!

Actually they, state government, can make us, and they will have no choice come next year. We don’t have enough left in the budget reserve to cover the gap for next fiscal year. The time has come to stop depending on mega-oil to pay the bills and pony up the money ourselves. Cutting the PFD in half won’t be enough to close with the looming gap either. For those who say we can cut spending and solve the problem, I say try cutting your income in half and see how you make out.

A couple of years ago the difference in state debt and income was about 80 percent. Through cuts in services, infrastructure, and the PFD we have managed to bring it down to about 50 percent. That’s actually pretty good, but we’re still left with 50 percent. No amount of cutting is going to bring that number down to zero.

As Alaskans we like to think of ourselves as the embodiment of independence. Well, part of being independent is taking responsibility for yourself. Part of that responsibility means we, all of us, have to start paying for what we get.

So, for what it’s worth, here’s my advice to all of us including state legislators. If we want roads we can drive on and schools that educate our children, there’s really only one solution. Take a breath. Hold your nose. Here comes the train with boxcars full of brussels sprouts! Guuhhhh!

The News

The News

by

Chuck Legge

God’s really mad at us for electing Trump and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria are the proof. At least that’s what a coworker said to me the other day when I came in to work. The actual greeting was: “Hey Chuck, looks like your liberal buddies in Hollywood are saying all these hurricanes are God getting even with us for electing Trump.” Of course I had an immediate, clever, and imaginative response. It went something like, huh?

It seems my colleague, an otherwise descent, caring, conscientious person, unfortunately suffers from informational constipation. He was referring to a story coming straight from the bowels of Fox News. At the time I didn’t know what he was talking about so he informed me. It’s all over Twitter that Hollywood elites were blaming hurricanes on Donald Trumps election. So with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek he asked me: “What did I think about that?”

At this point I should say this is a little game we play at work. I walk through the door. Somebody says something political, usually about Trump. They watch my eyes roll and my head spin. Then we can get on with the rest of the day. It’s kind of a tradition.

After the eye rolling head spinning part of the day was over; we all went about our business and I didn’t give the statement much thought until I got home and decided to look it up. What I found was a Jennifer Lawrence interview where she is promoting her new movie “Mother”.

During the interview she likens her character, a fragile and emotionally abused woman, to nature. In that context, toward the end of the interview, she says the overwhelming scientific consensus is that human participation in climate change is real; and our national response to that reality was to elect Donald Trump. She then goes on to say that recent hurricanes are the “rage” and “wrath” of an abused ecosystem. At no time does she say God is smiting us because of the Trump presidency.

On Fox News Insider the headline read: “Tucker Slams ‘Out of Touch’ Jennifer Lawrence for Linking Hurricanes to Trump”. On the broadcast Tucker Carlson said Jennifer Lawrence had claimed recent weather events are “divine judgement” and America is paying “penance” for electing Donald Trump. It’s not that God is above a little smiting. Anyone whose read the Old Testament could draw the conclusion that smiting is one of his favorite things. It’s just that Ms. Lawrence didn’t actually say that. In fact it was kind of the opposite of that. What she said was, our response to climate change was Donald Trump, not the other way around. Of course to understand this, one has to do more than just recognize the words coming out of her mouth. You have to actually listen to how they go together to form meaning. Not that Tucker Carlson is incapable of appreciating context and nuance; he just chooses not to when it suits his purpose.

And so the story was repeated on other Fox programs, Breitbart, Twitter etc. Now this self perpetuating B.S. becomes news and we can all gather our particular clans in our familiar corners and commence the not listening. This is what we’ve come to? This is what we now call debate?

Here’s my take on the situation we find ourselves in. I’ve been involved in the opinion side of news for over 20 years. I’m probably one of the last people who should opine about the veracity of news coverage, but I’ve been spouting off for a long time so here it comes.

It has been my experience that most news organizations really do try to get it right. They really do try to give you the truth in a clear, concise manner. This comes from a deep seated curiosity (actually nosiness) from the purveyors of this trade. If you watch Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC doing the same story, you will get pretty much the same result. There will probably be a detectable bias in the editing, but that won’t change the facts of the story.

The problem comes from those who put agenda above the truth. This becomes propaganda masquerading as news and unfortunately it is extremely marketable. When Tucker Carlson massages context to a point where it completely changes the meaning in order to reaffirm the views of his audience; he violates an honorable and long standing tradition of nosiness. This is not intended to inform. It’s certainly not an appeal to reasoned debate. This is political bomb throwing and the results are pretty much what you’d expect from a bomb.

The story itself isn’t terribly significant. It’s the statement of a celebrity twisted into a lie to inflame elements of an increasingly flammable country. It exploits and disrespects people who are suffering life altering disasters for no other reason than to set the twitterverse aglow. That’s the most important thing for Carlson and crew. The truth is something to be fashioned into what ever suits their purpose. It’s much easier to be outraged than informed and (here’s the scary part) we, as a society, are all falling for it.

I’d like to close with two quotes: “Cherish… the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them.” The second quote reads: “The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands…” One of these quotes is from Thomas Jefferson. the other Adolph Hitler. I’ll let you decide which is which.

The Wall

Check Please

by

Chuck Legge

Hola! You had better get used to the greeting folks because, apparently, we have all become citizens of Mexico. Remember a few short months ago when, then candidate, Donald Trump would gin up the crowd with taunts like: “We are going to build the wall. It’s going to be a great wall; and who’s going to pay for it?” Which would cue the response: “MEXICO!”

Well, it seems Mexico has moved it’s seat of power to Washington D.C. because, now president, Trump is threatening congress with a government shutdown if they don’t allocate funds to construct that very same wall. Yup. The president, or is it presidente, is demanding our congress pay for the wall with U.S. tax dollars paid by U.S. tax payers. Que diablos!

Fortunately the transition won’t be too jarring. Both Mexico and the former United States have a lot in common. We both drive on the right side of the road and everybody loves Mexican food so most of us won’t even notice the change. What the heck, I’ll bet most reading this, didn’t even know the change had come. See how easy and seamless that was.

The only fly in the guacamole is our legislators. Funding for the wall (and it is a truly great wall; believe me) has to be put into the yearly budget. That budget has to be written and approved by the legislature. But leadership in both the house and senate seem unwilling to budge in their opposition to adding an additional 70 billion dollars to that budget. That’s 1.228 trillion pesos amigos. That’s a passel of pesos.

In response Donald Trump has said he is willing to shut down the government in an effort to force Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan to whip members of the legislative branch into voting for the money to fund this project. When asked by reporters, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: “The president is committed to making sure this gets done. We know that the wall and other security measures at the border work, we’ve seen that take place over the last decade, and we’re committed to making sure the American people are protected.”

So let me get this straight. The president is committed to protecting the American people. In fact, he’s so committed, he is poised to shut down the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, The Mine Safety and Health Administration, and pink slip airline safety inspectors. We appreciate your concern Mr. President.

Also in line to be closed or severely curtailed are the: EPA, FCC, NTSB, and Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I’m feeling more protected already. Last time this happened the National Security Agency furloughed 4000 computer scientists whose job was to investigate cyber attacks. And it defunded the office of Special Council. Hmmmm, nothing to see here folks. Just move along.

This is what it all comes down to. The house and senate will approve a budget and pass it on to the President. He, in turn, either accepts the bill or sends it back to congress for further tweaking. He also has the option of a flat out veto. That means congress starts again from scratch. In both the, send it back and veto scenarios, the bill goes unsigned and large portions of the government go unfunded and consequently shut down.

That sounds pretty grim, but there is a bright side to all this. Follow closely because the logic of this is impeccable. The president has demanded that Mexico pay for the wall, and he is demanding congress include funding for the wall in the budget, and members of congress represent you and I ergo we are Mexican. That has already been established.

Now let’s take this a little further. I’m pretty sure our new country will not tolerate this sort of attack on the fundamental structure of our government. After all what’s the point of forming a government if it doesn’t look out for the wellbeing of it’s citizens. If it doesn’t have the interests of it’s constituents at heart than it’s nothing more than a corrupt, power hungry machine whose only benefit will be to those in power and whose likely legacy will be turmoil and eventual destruction.

You see. President Trump knew what he was doing all along. By putting the squeeze on lawmakers, he has assured us that our safety and security will go unimpeded into the new century. Of course we had to become Mexico to accomplish this, but that just shows you how far this president will go for your benefit. Make Mexico Great Again.

There is still one thing that puzzles me however. If we are now part of Mexico; why are we building a wall across the middle of our country?

Nice State You Have There

Nice State

by

Chuck Legge

Rachel Maddow stole my punchline. Or more accurately, she beat me to the punchline. Federal powers that be are trying, in their thuggish way, to put Alaska under their tiny, tiny thumb. I was already sketching the cartoon in my mind with the caption reading: “Nice state you have here. Shame if something happened to it.” Well, I wasn’t quick enough. Rachel Maddow used “my” caption in her broadcast about this story. Once again, electronic media beats print to the punch.

Most of you have, by now, probably heard the not so veiled threats to Alaska coming from the White House. If not then let me fill you in. It seems the Trump administration, in the person of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, has threatened every woman, man and moppet in the state. This because of Senator Murkowski’s no vote on the massive tax cut for the wealthy, oops, I mean healthcare bill, currently metastasizing it’s way through the senate.

The honorable Secretary Zinke contacted Murkowski to let her know that state projects, like a road out of King Cove and drilling in ANWR and the NPRA were in jeopardy because of her no vote.

I know, I know. We probably wouldn’t be in this spot if Murkowski had just gone along with Trump and his merry gaggle of hoodlums. If only she could see her way clear to pull the plug on millions of Americans, we could get the $765 billion tax cut the top one percent so richly deserve. Darn her and her ethical standards.

To be clear, this was not a vote on the final version of the bill. The so called “skinny bill” removes individual and employer mandates, does not let insurance companies wiggle away from preexisting conditions, and moves the bill to a conference committee. In other words, it removes the part most people don’t like, keeps the part most people do like and opens the bill up to debate. That sounds reasonable. Doesn’t it?

Actually, there are several problems with this approach. One problem is the Republican party. It’s caught between the moderates, at one end, and the far right at the other. These two elements will never come to a consensus. Moderates, like Murkowski, are willing to work on a deal, but the uber right will not move far enough in the other direction to make a deal possible. Make no mistake, there will be no republican only deal. Any agreement will involve compromise and the tea party wing is not willing to compromise.

This, in turn, means the most logical path to a healthcare bill involves republicans working with democrats. But as recent history shows us, logic has little to do with what’s going on in Washington.

As partisan and corn cob rough as the democrats were when they pushed Obamacare through both houses, they don’t hold a candle to the republicans. Democrats allowed hearings and debate and allowed the GOP to put amendments into the bill. None of this has been the case with their pachyderm brethren. Now republicans are faced with the prospect of having to cooperate with the folks across the isle. They can’t even cooperate with each other, so I’m not holding my breath.

That brings us to another, more basic problem. Most people want to do away with preexisting conditions without mandating participation. What we are left with is a situation where younger, healthier people do not have to opt into an insurance program. That leaves insurance companies in a situation where they are covering people who are, primarily, less healthy. Insurance, like any other business, only works if it takes in more money than it pays out. That means that some people will have to pay for more than they get. That’s how it works. The young and healthy pay for the old and sick.

Additionally, if someone waits until they need insurance before they buy insurance, what do you think is going to happen to the market? Costs will soar, people will fall from the rolls, and premiums will jump like a teenage girl in a Trump sponsored beauty pageant. This will make for a very unstable and, ultimately, unsustainable market.

This bill would strip billions of dollars from Medicaid and drastically cut subsidies that help millions of people pay for the insurance they have now. This in turn leaves an obscenely large amount of money on the table and that’s what this is really all about.

People making over $875,000 will get a $45,000 tax break. And those making $5 million plus will get a $250,000 tax break. Of course, someone has to pay for all this “Making America Greatness” and who better than the sick, old, and poor. It’s simple. Take money away from the poor and infirmed and channel it to the one percent. It’s about time those freeloaders pay their own way. Of course I’m talking about the poor freeloaders, not the rich ones.

This is what Murkowski said no to. This is what has inspired the Trump White House to give Alaska an offer he thinks we can’t refuse. This is what passes for statecraft in Trumps America.

That’s the current state of politics in the good old USA. We have a Coercer in Chief threatening the citizens of a state because their duly elected representative has dared to exercise her responsibility. This is what an abusive relationship looks like Alaska. Blaming Murkowski for this is like blaming the victim of domestic violence. If only that uppity girl senator would just smile, nod her head and learn to cooperate, the damn President of the United damn States wouldn’t have to knock us around so much. Trump must hate it when she makes him hurt us like that. To paraphrase Rachel Maddow: “Nice republic we have here. Shame if something happened to it.”

Aspersions on Their Asparagus

Aspersions on Their Asparagus

by

Chuck Legge

One of my favorite quotes is from Texas’ 1st Congressional District Representative, Louie Gohmert. It was during a house grilling of then Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder was appearing before Congress for being… umm… competent? Anyway, during the exchange Rep. Gohmert took exception to one of the Attorney General’s responses. Holder implied Gohmert was being a little casual with the facts to which Louie replied, and I quote: “The Attorney General will not cast aspersions on my asparagus”. I’ll bet you didn’t see that coming. I’ll bet nobody, this side of a padded cell, saw that one coming. The fact is, that actually came out of the mouth of a respected member of Congress. Well, a member of Congress anyway.

Other little nuggets by Mr. Gohmert include: “…if you’re sitting around getting massages all day ready to go into a big, planned battle, then you’re not going to last very long.” when speaking against gays serving in the military. And then there’s this impeccable display of logic when speaking of limiting the amount of rounds one can put in a firearm. Take it away Louie: “And I pointed out, well, once you make it ten, then why would you draw the line at ten? What’s wrong with nine? Or eleven? And the problem is once you draw that limit ; it’s kind of like marriage when you say it’s not a man and a woman any more, then why not have three men and one woman, or four women and one man, or why not somebody has a love for an animal?” That’s right. A ten round clip could lead to sex with Rin-Tin-Tin. Actually, let’s make that Lassie. We wouldn’t want anybody thinking Louie was gay or anything.

The honorable Mr. Gohmert was also on board with conspiracies like foreign women are coming across the boarder to have babies and turn them into terrorists or “terror babies”. He linked the overthrow of Gaddafi to Obamacare. Obama’s jobs plan was to funnel jobs to gays at the expense of traditional marriage. He thought Obama was working in league with al Quaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. He believes the Alaska oil pipeline puts caribou in a romantic mood. He’s promoted the birther conspiracy theory that Obama was a muslim from Kenya. And the list goes on.

So, before I bury the lead any deeper, let me get to the point of this column. As a well intentioned, soft headed liberal, I was saying we need to listen to the Trump voter. Look at their concerns and address them. Find out what makes them tick. But after plodding through six months of this administration, I’d like to adjust that sentiment a bit. There is a problem with employment in this country. Obamacare does need to be tweaked. Terrorism is a very real threat. These things are facts. As is the fact that the thirty something precent of hard core Trump supporters are unreachable. They are, to quote, “ deplorables ” that will latch onto any conspiracy that affirms their limited, paranoid view of the world. Trying to persuade them of anything is like trying to discuss Schopenhauer with a rock. What you end up with is a review of your knowledge of Schopenhauer and a rock.

Let me be clear about something. I’m no ivory tower elitist. I’ve made my way in the world by working in canneries and warehouses. I’ve been a cab driver, truck driver, bus driver, and driving instructor. My back and knees feel every bit of the 66 years I’ve spent punishing them. Most of my friends and colleagues are blue collar and most of them voted for Trump. This is not an indictment of people who spend their day trying to make it to the next day so they can keep putting food on the table. This is, however, a recrimination of those who would willingly discard 241 years of hard fought progress to usher in their nihilistic, dystopic view of America.

These are folks that believe Hillary Clinton was part of a child prostitution ring working out of a pizzeria in D.C. They believe Common Core is a homosexual plot to indoctrinate our children. They believe a military exercise in Texas was a prelude to a junta like takeover of the country. A conspiracy that was given credence by Texas Governor Greg Abbott when he ordered the state guard to keep an eye on the goings on, just in case. They believe that Sharia Law is coming soon to a courtroom near you. Sharia, like the Ten Commandments, is an outline for ethical behavior. It is not a template for any courtroom in any part of our country. By the way, neither is the Ten Commandments. If it were, we would all be in prison for arguing with our parents or not going to church on Sunday. It’s about that church state separation thing the uber-right seems to have a hard time understanding. One of the more brilliant recent conspiracies is NASA is running a child slave compound on Mars. Let me get this straight. The Moon landing was a hoax but we are shipping children to Mars to enslave them in Martian cell phone factories. Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

So this is for Louie Gohmert and his ilk. I gladly cast aspersions on all your asparagus. You will not win because you don’t have the mental capacity to get the job done. You are not making America great again because we were pretty damn great before you put that orange, conspiracy loving, sexual predator in the White House. The rest of us will not stand by and watch you destroy what Lincoln ( a Republican ) called the “…last best hope of Earth”. I’m not talking about taking up arms. I’m talking about using reason and common decency. Weapons that you have apparently excluded from your arsenals. My advice to you is board your tin foil rocket ships and point them up. There’s a colony of child slaves that would like you to make Mars great again.

Trump’s Successes

The Measure of Success

by

Chuck Legge

I can’t help but wonder how supporters of President Trump measure his success. Barely a third of the way into his first year he has accomplished things other presidents couldn’t even dream of. I mean that literally. No other presidents would be capable of conjuring such dreams. Perhaps a midnight snack of liver and pineapple topped with a dollop of sour cream before going to bed would do the trick, but even then it’s unlikely. No, this president is unique among the 44 gentlemen that have preceded him. It was clear, even before he took the oath, that the Donald was destined to leave his mark on the underpants of history.

So, let’s take an inventory of the accomplishments of President Donald J. Trump. The actual governing part of this list is rather puny and small handed due to that separation of powers thing in the framework of our totally outdated Constitution. Imagine what this man could accomplish if we would just streamline those pesky checks and balances. Anyway, there’s plenty to hang your red ball cap on, even without counting what’s in the actual job description.

Number one on my list has to be the the artful maneuvering that has steered us away from our leadership status in the eyes of the rest of the world. This was no small task. German Prime Minister, Angela Merkel, has said Europe will now have to “… take our fate into our own hands.” This was in response to Trump saying nothing about U.S. defense of NATO countries during his orb fondling world tour. So in just over a hundred something days, he has undone what took close to a hundred years to build and taken us from leader of the free world to who invited this guy to Octoberfest.

I think the action that best typifies the Trump tour is his manhandling of the Prime minister of Montenegro as he pushed him aside to get in front of a photo-op lineup. There he stood. The leader of our republic with his overcompensating tie and thin comb over. Preening in the front row on the world stage. If you wanted the rest of the world to get a sense of who you really are, you were supremely successful Mr. President.

Now lets talk about wall building; shall we? You know. The one Mexico is going to pay for. Let me quote: “I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me –and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

This was a rallying point during Trumps scorched earth campaign. Mexicans are pouring across our border to steal our jobs, sell us drugs, rape our women, and mow our lawns. Be very afraid America. Of course the previous president deported more people than any other administration ever. And in recent years the number of people coming across has been less than those going back, but none of that matters. What matters is symbolism and this wall symbolizes a bulwark against an encroaching world.

The “Mexico will pay for it” part is a mainstay for the Trump faithful or Trumplodites. The way Mexico pays for it is by… Um… having us pay for it. Of course his Donaldness will deny this, but lets take a look at how this works. First congress allocates the gazillion dollars to build a wall and that comes from the taxpayers. Okay, that doesn’t look too good, but wait there’s more. After we pay for it, we then levy tariffs on incoming Mexican goods to reimburse the gazillion spent. The added cost is passed on to the consumer buying those Mexican goods and we end up paying for the wall a second time. See. Mexico pays for the wall by having American tax payers and consumers pay for it twice. Taa-Daa! Another success, right Mr. President? Sell the sizzle, not the Trump Steak.

And then there’s the oh so popular Muslim ban. This particular success is on its second go round. Unfortunately the first success was cut short by an overbearing Judiciary Branch doing it’s job. It seems keeping people out of the country because of their religious affiliations runs afoul of the Constitution.

The solution was a redraft of the “no Muslims allowed” executive order without specifically mentioning Muslims. That’s the ticket. We’re just talking about countries now. Countries where people wear turbans. Of course to assure success, the President indulges in tourettes twittering about how the first ban was better than this “watered down” second ban at keeping Muslims at bay. Good job Mr. President. The judicial response was inevitable.

There are many, many more successes. In fact they are too plentiful to mention in detail so I’ll just give a brief rundown. Being one of two countries to side with Syria on climate change. Endeavoring to kick 2.5 million people off healthcare and channel the savings into tax cuts for the wealthy. Insulting the Mayor of London after a terror attack. Leaving 42 of 53 vital executive positions unfilled because he hasn’t bothered to nominate anyone for those posts. Putting family members in positions of authority. Passing classified information to the Russians. Using his position to expand his personal wealth. Allowing companies to pour toxins into waterways again. And on, and on, and on.

So my question to all you Trumpophiles out there is, has the dizzying success of this president been enough for you? Are you “sick and tired of winning” yet? If not, what in the hell is it going to take?