Thursday, March 31, 2016

Update: The Great Nestlé-Deer Park Billion Dollar Poconos Spring Water Grab

ELDRED TOWNSHIP, PENNSYLVANIA: BUCOLIC, BUT IN A FIGHTING MOOD
When opposition began to coalesce late last year against Nestlé Waters North America's plan to pump water for its Deer Park Natural Spring Water brand from wells in a rural northeastern Pennsylvania township, it seemed like a classic mismatch. 
On one side was the world's largest food and beverage company, with annual revenues larger than the GDPs of many countries, and a reputation for getting its way in the communities and markets where it imposed its presence, whether welcome or not.  On the other side were four property owners living adjacent to the proposed Nestlé wells who were concerned about their own wells becoming contaminated and eventually running dry, as well as the negative impact on their community, Eldred Township, with its rich 274-year-old history, free-flowing creeks and verdant gamelands in the rolling hills below Blue Mountain on the western edge of the Poconos. 
Nestlé believed it was dealing with yokels whom its city slicker attorneys could strong arm as they have in many other communities where it has sunk wells and extracted water at little cost and for enormous profit.  What it has encountered instead is a group of savvy and knowledgeable residents who are well aware that the state and regional environmental agencies that should send Nestlé packing are in the company's hip pocket, that the county political establishment is cowed, and the reporter covering the story for the local newspaper is being kept on a short leash.  So they will have to go it alone to protect their properties, their township and their water. 
Four months on, these property owners also have lawyered up, hiring a highly regarded local attorney who specializes in zoning law and a nationally prominent litigator with an outstanding record of pro-environment victories.  With their help, the property owners have fought Nestlé to a draw as the company litters the public record with a growing number of missteps, miscalculations and outright deceits, undermining its case for the wells and enhancing the once long-shot chances that the good people of Eldred will prevail in the end.
NESTLE´ SITE PLAN FOR THE GOWER PROPERTY   
The fight against Nestlé advanced on two fronts this week: Before the Eldred Township Zoning Board on Wednesday evening, where the company's application for a permit for two bulk water extraction wells is encountering stiff resistance, and in Monroe County Court of Common Pleas on Thursday, where the four property owners, now joined by 46 other township residents, have filed a petition asking the court to declare null and void a surreptitiously enacted township zoning ordinance that added a special exception use so the company can site wells in an area zoned commercial.  
 
Although Nestlé did not announce its intentions until last summer, it had begun examining an 80-acre tract of land known as the Gower Property for a bulk extraction well site as early as 2011, and was testing the water there and sending out applications to permitting agencies in 2012.  The Gower Property has a long history of uses, including as a dump for industrial and residential waste, and most recently as a sand pit.   
Under the application, two bulk water extraction wells would be bored and water pumped at the rate of 200,000 gallons per day into tank trucks for transportation to a Deer Park bottling plant near Allentown in the Lehigh Valley.  The wells would pump for 10 years with an option to continue pumping for an additional 15 years.   
The Gower Property is in Eldred's commercial district.  
Prior to 2014, water extraction wells were defined as an industrial activity only permitted in areas zoned industrial under the zoning laws of Eldred and four neighboring townships with which it shares regional planning.  In May 2014, when no one was looking, a change was made in Eldred’s ordinance -- but curiously not in the ordinances of the neighboring townships -- allowing water extraction in the commercial district.  The mother of the girlfriend of the Gower Property owner is said to have altered Eldred Planning Commission minutes on the advice of the property owner’s attorney, who in turn misrepresented the existing ordinance and submitted the change to a planning consultant, improperly bypassing the Planning Commission (which was on record as opposing any bulk water extraction in the township) and the Eldred Board of Supervisors. The consultant then forwarded the change to the Monroe County Planning Commission, where it was greenlighted. 
Nestlé's application with the township was filed on December 30 of last year in an obvious effort to get it on the books before the Eldred Board of Supervisors would have the opportunity to prohibit bulk water extraction at its January 4 meeting. 
The company argues that ground water in the commercial zone is preferable to the industrial zone because it is clean and plentiful.  It also would be free. 
A 20-ounce bottle of Deer Park Natural Spring Water costs $1.29 in area convenience stores, and back-of-the envelope calculations show that for a minimal investment, Nestlé can generate about $825,000 in revenue each day from the Eldred wells.  This translates into about $300 million a year and an astonishing $3 billion over the life of the 10-year bulk water extraction permit it is seeking from the state.  
In return for that $3 billion windfall, Nestlé has stated it would establish a Community Benefits Fund of up to $750,00, although the actual amount would be contingent on how much water it is permitted to withdraw.  It suggests the money could be used for the purchase of open space, recreation and fire department equipment.   
Not stated is the possibility that residents' wells would be contaminated as the water table is drawn down by the bulk water extraction wells, and then dry up altogether. 
ANTI-NESTLE´ SIGN ON THE MAIN DRAG IN KUNKLETOWN   
Meanwhile, the Eldred Township Planning Commission, coming somewhat late to the party, voted unanimously earlier in March to recommend that their Zoning Board deny the Nestlé application.   
"The proposed use is not in harmony with the purposes, goals, objectives and standards of the township comprehensive plan and its ordinance," wrote commission chairman Robert Boileau. 
In a 24-page letter to the Zoning Board, the commissioners raised numerous objections that, not coincidentally, are many of the talking points being used by residents opposing Nestlé:
* The project is inconsistent with the goal of the township's Joint Comprehensive Plan, which is to enhance the character of the area, not to diminish it. 
* The proposed water withdrawal amount is disproportionate to the land area of the Gower Property relative to the surrounding recharge and surface water areas, which are not controlled by Nestlé.  
* Tanker truck traffic, estimated by Nestlé to be between 60 and 94 trips per day to and from the Gower Property, will diminish the desirability of Kunkletown village, through which the trucks would have to pass, create safety and noise problems, and possibly damage road surfaces and bridges. 
* The negative aspects of the project will not be offset by any long-term public benefit.  No jobs would be created or additional tax revenues generated, while property values would diminish, and with them tax revenue. 
* Even limited tests on Nestlé's test wells diminished the flow of a nearby stream by 12 percent and the water level in the wells of two adjacent properties dropped, one 10.4 feet and the other 9.6 feet. 
* The standards and water extraction algorithms used by the state and regional environmental agencies that Nestlé is following are obsolete.  They date from the early part of the 20th century and do not take into account current water usage, as well as the effects of climate change.  
* Remediation efforts may be necessary to clean up the former industrial and residential waste dump on the Gower Property. 
* Several adjacent property owners have reported increases in sulfur and iron content in their wells since Nestlé dug test wells, but Nestlé has showed no concern.
No mitigation plan has been submitted in the event the nearby stream and residents’ wells run dry.   
Emotions are running high in Eldred.  The cars of opposition leaders have twice been vandalized, and a small improvised explosive device was launched over the property of one leader, destroying some tree limbs.
CIVIL ENGINEER FOR NESTLE´ADDRESSES ZONING BOARD
Nestlé has weathered many scandals over the years as the price of doing business, and in that context its machinations in Eldred are small potatoes. 
The most odiferous of the scandals was in the 1970s when it was revealed Nestlé was getting Third World mothers hooked on its infant formula despite being less healthy and more expensive than breast milk.  It backed down in the face of a boycott of its products — which range from chocolate and confectionery, frozen foods, coffee and dietary supplements to pet foods — and has since turned its attention to promoting bottled water.  
Nestlé has the largest bottled water market share in the world, with revenues of $7.3 billion last year from its Deer Park and other regional U.S. brands, Pure Life, Poland Spring, San Pellegrino and Perrier.  
The company has seven existing bulk water extraction sites in Pennsylvania, and bottlers have quietly pumped from aquifers elsewhere in the Poconos for years to quench the thirst of people where water is a luxury and not taken for granted, or has been contaminated as in Flint, Michigan, forcing people to buy water in bottles that are not biodegradable and add substantially to the enormous waste generated by a throwaway culture.  
The weak and ineffectual Poconos political establishment has long been prey to powerful outside forces like Nestlé.  Environmentalists fear that once the water is gone — and it will run out — an explosion of fracking will occur when the thousands of fracking sites in Pennsylvania counties to the northwest are played out and energy companies turn their attention to the untapped oil and natural gas supplies in the rich shale beds beneath the Poconos' woods and mountain streams.   
That is another battle for another time, but the face-off in Eldred is being watched closely across the country.  There are about 50 communities where Nestlé is planning spring water grabs, according to one national environmental group, while water suddenly is a major topic of discussion in the fallout from the Flint public health disaster.   
The timing is not necessarily auspicious for Nestlé as more and more people learn the Swiss company is making many billions of dollars off of a commodity that most Americans believe should be free, and that is a very good thing.   

CLICK HERE AND HERE FOR EARLIER NESTLE´-ELDRED POSTS.  THE CONCERNED CITIZENS OF ELDRED TOWNSHIP GROUP HAS A FACEBOOK PAGE, WHILE “ILLEGAL ELDRED” IS AN EXCELLENT, DETAIL-ORIENTED BLOG. AND CLICK HERE FOR A 20-MINUTE VIDEO OF EFFORTS TO STOP NESTLE´ IN ONE OREGON COMMUNITY.
´

Cartoon du Jour

VINTAGE PAT OLIPHANT (1996)

© OLIPHANT/UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Letter From South Africa About Donald Trump: 'Make Plans To Stay And Fight'


By  SUSAN WINTERS COOK  
I left the U.S. 19 years ago. Most people thought I was fleeing an awful, public divorce. Wrong. I was going to something and a country I had come to love since 1988 when I first visited here. Why? Because even while under the apartheid regime, I met the most courageous, optimistic, creative, resilient people I could have ever known. They were heroic. Both black and white. They saw evil, refused to accept it, and used every means possible to defeat it, from simply refusing to recognize the "whites only" signs to publishing the truth when they knew it would shut them down, or imprison them, to those who refused to allow apartheid to diminish their understanding of who they were. 
It was very scary!  The New South Africa has its problems, widespread corruption, unrealistic expectations, serious infrastructure issues.  But I still believe in it because of the people on the ground level, just like before.  There are heroes everywhere.  
Folks, living overseas is never easy. It can be like living in No Man's Land. I am no longer truly American but I will never be truly South African.  I live here at the generosity of the present government despite my permanent residency status that took two and a half years to be approved, only after five years of marriage to another permanent resident, another year to receive my South African ID card, and another year to receive my drivers license, all with constant prodding. Yet, right now, I feel more secure than I would in the United States, because I found a beautiful, peaceful little part of the earth and Africa, cultivated trusting and caring relationships, and a way of life that can survive on my U.S. pensions due to the high exchange rate. My history as one who championed the Cause during the Struggle, and then fought for those who have HIV has gone a long way toward acceptance with the people around me, and they are very protective.  
Those who choose to live in another country if Trump is elected may not be so fortunate. Most countries have become very particular about who they accept on a long term basis. Work permits can be tricky.  They will want to know, what do you bring to benefit them?  South Africa now requires huge sums of money to be brought into the country. And, you will miss Home. I miss my family terribly. Yet I remain here. Why? Not only for financial reasons, but because I hope that some day my wonderful granddaughters in Boston can spend some real time here and become acquainted with the heroes, and an alternative way of life that is grounded closer to nature and simplicity. Plus, I still love it.  
South Africa still has a glimmer of hope, based on the extraordinary events of the 1990's. The United States will have lost that if Donald Trump is elected. Trump would never be allowed here.  He would be lucky to be jailed before being shot.  And, even if he is not elected, the evil has been released, like a poison gas. That's when the heroes on all levels will be needed to confront it on all levels. So, instead of making plans to leave, make plans to stay and fight, in any way possible.  
I might choose to return and join you, and bring what I have learned from the heroes here. Oh my, there are so many ways to defeat evil. Choose your means carefully, but do it in any way you can. 
The basic rule is, instead of focusing on evil -- which will not change in the immediate future -- look for the good, support the good, just keep focused on the good. Tell others about the good, build networks for the good, use your skills to raise up the good.  This can be done, one person at a time.  The United States is full of heroes who will rise to the occasion.  What if they have seen as much exposure as Trump has seen? 
That's all there is . . and you are needed to do just that.   
There have been many challenges along the way, being here to experience the extraordinary process this country and her people have chosen over the past 28 years.  I am honored to have had that opportunity.  It is important to consider, if you leave the United States, whether it is enough to be doing that to make a statement about Donald Trump.  Or is there another way to make that statement that will provide the support the country needs to weather this turmoil that threatens to tear it to shreds? 
The South Africans have a funny phrase that sums up all the challenges we face daily, used by all races, but originating in Afrikaans: Die Boer mak a plan.  The farmer makes a plan.

SUSAN WINTERS COOK IS A PHOTOJOURNALIST AND HUMANITARIAN WHO LIVES IN THE EASTERN CAPE REGION OF SOUTH AFRICA. SHE IS THE WINNER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS ROBERT F. KENNEDY JOURNALISM AWARD AND AUTHOR OF NOZUKO'S STORY: THE STORY OF AN AFRICAN FAMILY. 
PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID CAREL

Monday, March 28, 2016

Politix Update: The GOP Will Lose, How Badly Depends On Which Poison It Picks

DONALD TRUMP IS UNBEHOLDEN TO CORPORATE INTERESTS BECAUSE HE IS HIS OWN CORPORATE INTEREST.  AND SO, AS SOMEONE WHO WOULD PREFER NOT TO DIE IN A NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST, I HAVE TO TAKE A MOMENT TO STATE THE OBVIOUS, WHICH IS THAT TRUMP IS A COMPLETE BAG OF SHIT. ~ DREW MAGARY 
There has been but one certainty in this roller coaster ride of an election season: The Republican Party will complete the monumental task of destroying itself.   
It didn't take a crystal ball for me to write, as I did way back in September when we were young and the world was a gentler place, that an emergent Donald Trump was not the cause of the party's destruction; he is the fulfillment of everything the party has become. Yet it took most of the punditocracy another six months to understand that today's Republican Party is no longer Their Father's GOP, a bunch of conservative business guys for whom tassel loafers and madras Bermuda shorts were fashion statements and whose goal in life was to play a round of golf with Orrin Hatch.   
Their father's party has morphed into a racist, xenophobic and intellectually dishonest bastion of the rich and privileged, everyone else be damned, and I didn't have to look any further than the history of the last half dozen presidential elections to understand the GOP's creation of their Frankencandidate: Voters have elected Democrats in four of the last five, not including the one thrown by the Supreme Court, prevailing by a decisive 2-to-1 electoral vote margin (1,446 to 706) with increasing percentages of the popular vote in the last two as Republicans tacked further and further from the shores of sanity and the electoral mainstream.   
§   
So what happens next? 
Republicans are headed for a monumental drubbing on Election Day, and probably the only way for them to have prevented that was way back in 2008.  That was when the party establishment rolled over and let a half-term governor from Alaska scratch their tummies instead of telling John McCain that he was nuts for selecting a nut for a running mate.  And then coronated Sarah Palin as the party's Queen of White Rage, which was a watershed moment in the slow but accelerating destruction of the GOP and greased the skids for Trump's ascendancy as the King of White Rage eight years later. 
How Republicans get to Armageddon 2016 depends on which poison they pick.  Yes, things are that bad.   
There are basically three scenarios at this point: 
* MOST LIKELY: Trump becomes the nominee, which is probable because of the refusal of John Kasich to drop out and leave the field to he and Ted Cruz.  Hillary Clinton crushes Trump in the fall as one red state after another turns blue.    
* LESS LIKELY: Cruz wrests the nomination from Trump, who eschews a third-party run but continues to attack Cruz and urges his supporters to stay home. Regardless of whether they do that or not, Clinton wins comfortably.     
* LEAST LIKELY: Trump runs as a third-party candidate, finishing a distant third despite his populist posse because there still is no movement of substance behind him, only his cult of personality. Clinton wins in a landslide. 
Don’t buy that red-states-turning-blue thing? 
Try this if you don’t believe Clinton could take 48 or 49 states: Trump got only 14 percent of the vote in the Mormon-dominated Utah caucus last week, finishing 55 points behind Cruz.  Mormons are usually the most reliable and predictable of all Republican voters and they detest Trump so much that Utah could go blue in November for the first time since 1964, the year of the historic LBJ-Goldwater landslide.  
§   
Although the Stop Trump ad buys are flying fast and furious, the party establishment that enabled the celebrity fascist is like a herd of deer caught in the headlights, and the ads are unlikely to make much difference at this late date.
Charges that Trump is a con man lack gravity because they're being leveled by practiced con men themselves.  Mitt Romney's anti-Trump imprecations did not slow Trump, including in the Mittster's home state of Michigan, and the party’s 2012 candidate is a fabricator of such stature that his campaign manager declared when confronted by Romney's many lies that "we're not going to let our campaign be determined by fact-checkers." 
Meanwhile, every major party leader -- and we're talking Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy and Reince Priebus -- is waving the white flag of surrender in not attacking Trump while pledging to support whomever wins the nomination.   
Lets not forget that the execrable Cruz, who is sinking ever deeper into the slime as he and Trump sling mud at each other over National Enquirer stories, cowardly kissed Trump’s capacious rump earlier in the primary season to avoid being eviscerated as were Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker.  And that while Cruz has garnered some endorsements, notably those of Bush and Lindsey Graham, he has the ethics of a rabid hyena and is widely considered to be the most loathed man in Washington -- surely disqualifiers for anyone who wants to run the country -- and the silence from most Republicans has been correspondingly deafening.   
"They're afraid of Trump's voters and they hate Cruz," explains Graham.  "But if I can swallow my pride, they can, too."
§  
Actually, there has been a second certainty this campaign season: That Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee.  And now because of that first certainty will be the next president. 
Bernie Sanders scored three impressive caucus wins on Saturday in three largely white and liberal Western states receptive to his message, but — and this is beginning to sound like a broken record — these victories will only forestall the inevitable.  Sanders is running out of caucuses, where he has done well because they attract diehard supporters, while Clinton's delegate and super delegate lead is insurmountable because the largest remaining primary states are tailor made for her strengths, notably black and other minority support.   
And let's not forget that at this point in the 2008 primary campaign, Clinton was nipping at Barack Obama's heels as Sanders is now nipping at hers', and she did not concede for five more weeks to the future first black president whom she will now succeed as the first woman president.

POLITIX UPDATE IS WRITTEN BY SHAUN MULLEN, A VETERAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER FOR WHOM THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS HIS 12th SINCE 1968.  CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF PREVIOUS COLUMNS. 
© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN.

IMAGE FROM DONKEYHOTEY/FLICKR.  
USED WITH PERMISSION.

Cartoon du Jour

ROB ROGERS/PITTSBURGH POST GAZETTE

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Politix Update: The Media's Incredibly Craptastic & Trumpcentric Election Coverage

There is only one thing you really need to know to understand why the news media has done such a craptastic job of covering the 2016 presidential election campaign: Donald Trump has received twenty-three times more network nightly news time than Bernie Sanders although their level of support is similar in national public-opinion polls.   
This is doubly unfortunate -- no, make that outrageous two times over -- because the campaign is exciting and demanding of good coverage while the voting public needs an informed and vigilant news media more than ever.  Yet the media has been irresponsible in not just failing to warn people about Trump, but in validating this celebrity fascist with a qualms-absent free ride only occasionally interrupted by a story or broadcast calling into question his racism and xenophobia, utter lack of qualifications, lies, slanders and preposterous policy prescriptions.   
Then there is the matter of the pitchfork sycophancy that has propelled Trump to the verge of the Republican nomination.  The news media was not merely slow in catching on to who Trump's supporters are and why they're so frigging angry.  Then once it belatedly began to decipher this riddle -- My God! There is an Other Half and you wouldn't believe how they live! -- the media failed to grasp the larger picture.  
§  
This presidential campaign is my 12th as a journalist and blogger since my first as the proverbial cub reporter in 1968, while I directed campaign coverage for a large metropolitan newspaper in 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996.  Each campaign started with similar exhortations from my bosses: We were to cover the campaigns aggressively and from a what-it-all means perspective.   Most importantly, we were to get out ahead of the pack in not just breaking stories but determining the overall direction of the campaigns.   
These marching orders typically lasted a month or two, at most, and then with a Law of Gravity inevitability, events started getting away from us, we ended up riding on the candidates' press buses with the rest of the pack instead of forging ahead on our own in rental cars, and before you could say "Lee Atwater is a weenie," were reacting and not proacting. In other words, we were covering the campaign like pretty much everyone else.   
That dynamic has not changed because missing a story no matter how incidental it may be remains a cardinal sin in 2016, which while not diminishing the importance of the "exclusive" or "scoop" -- being first with a story -- is a powerful disincentive for breaking away from the pack for all but the most deeply resourced outlets like The New York Times.  Yet The Times, while occasionally calling out Trump, was pretty much as slow as the rest of the pack in figuring out who Trump's supporters were and why they were supporting him despite its deep bench, more analysts than the RAND Corporation and one of the best pollsters in the business. 
This brings us to the larger picture.  Writes the great Will Bunch at Attytood, a blog that is one of the few remaining gems in the once glistening Philadelphia newspaper crown: 
"The next president -- whether it's Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or Boaty McBoatface -- is going to have to be honest and admit that the type of unfettered capitalism that America has practiced since 1981 has failed most, if not 99 percent, of its citizenry.  It's a cancer of lost jobs and lost wages that started with the de-industrialization of the inner city and has now metastaszed in the rural areas and some suburbs, leaving too many voters too willing to succumb to the basest appeal from the lowest common denominator.  And that low number turned out to be not the short guy with the funny mustache that some folks were nervously waiting for, but a billionaire reality-show host with an orange comb-over."   
Yes, many of Trumps supporters are walking an economic tightrope and there is indeed much truth to their real-life agonies.  But to say, as has the media in deciphering the first part of the riddle, that Trump's ascendancy is a legitimate expression of their pain masks the second, undeciphered part of the riddle -- the sulfurous stench of racism and the not so transparent hope of this uniformly white and mostly male constituency that Trump can somehow restore the racial hierarchy upended by Barack Obama.
§  
The Trump vs. Sanders network evening news example at the beginning of this post is a little misleading.  The once widely watched and admired anchors for ABC's World News Tonight, CBS's Evening News and NBC's Nightly News have become dinosaur riders in an era of the 24/7 cable news cycle, and it is social media that candidates go to when they want to connect with the public. The big problem with social media is, of course, that it turns even the meatiest pronouncement into hashtag minutia, and we have obediently responded by training our minds for increasing shorter attention spans.      
If you are a quasi-dinosaur like myself who has a Facebook page but resolutely refuses to tweet, blame Barack Obama and the so-called Facebook election of 2008.  All of the candidates in 2016 are more or less social media savvy, with Ted Cruz live streaming on Periscope and Hillary Clinton on Spotify.  Bernie Sanders attracts two million Facebook followers, but Donald Trump -- described by one pundit as a natural-born troll -- is the master with his often offensive and usually provocative tweets, which go to four million followers and enable him to further dominate the media.   
§  
The truth few dare to speak is that the biggest reason for the craptastic coverage is that politicians and the news media have become extraordinarily reliant on each other.  
Politicians rely on the media to grease the skids of the primary campaign-nominating convention-general election cycle and the media relies on politicians to justify their existence, indirectly remunerating them for their coverage and rewarding them with celebrity and stature.  (Can you say Megyn Kelly?)  The consequence is that the relationship between pols and the media -- what I have called the Political-Media Industrial Complex -- is so incestuous that they have have become intolerant of the people who sustain them.   
That's voters.      
For the Political-Media Industrial Complex, Donald Trump will have just been a horrible dream from which they mercifully awoke as the 2016 campaign begets the 2018 mid-terms and then the next big dance in 2020.  Joan Didion, that diminutive woman of letters, covered several presidential campaigns, concluding that: 
"It came to my attention that there was to writing about politics a certain Sisyphean aspect.  Broad patterns could be defined, specific inconsistencies documented, but no amount of definition or documentation seemed sufficient to stop the stone that was our apprehension of politics from hurtling back downhill."
The old story line will become the new story line, and the rules will be observed and obeyed. Political con men will go on being con men without being called out because the media once again will have its head collectively up its ass.  But for the rest of us, the nightmare of a complacent and compliant media will continue.


POLITIX UPDATE IS WRITTEN BY SHAUN MULLEN, A VETERAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER FOR WHOM THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS HIS 12th SINCE 1968.  CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF PREVIOUS COLUMNS. 

© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN.
PHOTOGRAPH BY REUTERS

Cartoon du Jour

VINTAGE TOM TOLES (2007)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Wheel: 'If The Thunder Don't Get You The Lightning Will'

THE WHEEL

Lyrics by Robert Hunter 

The wheel is turning and you can't slow down
You can't let go and you can't hold on
You can't go back and you can't stand still
If the thunder don't get you the lightning will 

Won't you try just a little bit harder
Couldn't you try just a little bit more
Won't you try just a little bit harder
Couldn't you try just a little bit more 

Round, round, Robin run around
Gotta get back where you belong
Little bit harder, just a little bit more
Little bit further than you gone before 

Small wheel turning by the fire and odd
Big wheel turning by the grace of God
Every time that wheel turn round
Bound to cover just a little more ground

JERRY GARCIA VIDEO HERE.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Good Old War: Ain't It Funny How Things Can Turn Out?


(ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN MARCH 2007, AND A TIMELY REMINDER OF WHAT WAR-MONGERING POLS WOULD GIFT US IF GIVEN THE CHANCE.) 
Slam Dunk Ahmed Chalabi No WMDs Jose Padilla Niger Uranium Pervez Musharraf Threat Levels Terry Schiavo Privatization Heckuva Job Patriot Act Joseph Anzack Chickenhawks Fern Holland Stand Up Stand Down Donald Rumsfeld Dubai Ports Francis Fukuyama Waterboarding Dead-Eye Dick Guantánamo Bay OBL Civil War Dusty Foggo Generals' Revolt Moqtada Al-Sadr Missing Emails Salim Hamdan Masturgate David Iglesias Swift Boating Eric Shinseki IAP George Tenet Last Throes Harriet Miers Abu Ghraib Paul Wolfowitz Halliburton Karl Rove Doubling Down John Bolton Midterm Meltdown Monica Goodling IEDs Condoleezza Amnesia David Hicks Signing Statements Daddy Bush Benchmarks Christian Menchaca Domestic Spying Folie à deux Alberto Gonzalez ISG Pat Tillman Walter Reed Ari Fleischer Al Hurra Reggie Walton Habeas Corpus Abir Al-Janabi Cowboy Diplomacy Fred Fielding Passport Fiasco Richard Perle Border Fence Peter Pace Regent University Ali Al-Marri Dirty Tricks Scooter Libby Global Warming The Decider Cover-Up Culture Richard Armitage VA Jack Abramoff The Surge Nouri Al-Maliki Bush Fatigue John Ashcroft Mission Accomplished

Joe Santos (June 19, 1931 ~ March 18, 2016)

MORE HERE.

PHOTOGRAPH FROM NBC TELEVISION

Monday, March 21, 2016

Politix Update: A Political Party In Crisis -- Dysfunction, Datfunction & Malfunction

After the latest round of contests and the latest winnowing of the field, here's what [Republicans] are left with: A celebrity hate-peddler whose agenda is built on bluster; a far-right government-crashing ideologue who, if nominated, would lose 40 states; and a governor whose primary season record is 1-28. ~ DICK POLMAN
Do not be misled by the coalition of Republicans -- ranging from conservative media mavens Erick Erickson and William Kristol to former Bush administration bigs and congressfolk to deep-pocketed donors -- who have come together in a desperation bid to stop their very own Frankenstein from getting the presidential nomination, or failing that launch a third-party effort to try to assure that he is not elected.   
It is not that they oppose the many vile things for which Donald Trump stands, including racism, religious lunacy, gun nuttery, debasement of women and Stone Age diplomacy, because that is what they and the GOP have long supported.  It is because of the calamity that would be visited upon their echo-chamber world with his nomination, fracturing their party beyond repair.   
As an exercise in hypocrisy, the Stop Trump movement is in a league of its own, but special mention must be made of Kristol, the Weekly Standard editor whose hard-on for a narcissistic, power-abusing kook and liar by the name of Sarah Palin expedited her ascendancy to the vice presidential nomination in 2008 and coronation as the Queen of White Rage, which was a watershed moment in the slow but steady destruction of the GOP and greased the path for Trump's campaign eight years later.   
The movement is targeting the Wisconsin primary on April 5 as pivotal in stopping Trump.    
Beginning with the Cheesehead State, most primaries from then on out will apportion delegates based on the winners of each congressional district, which theoretically would allow the anti-Trump forces to deny him delegates in states like New York and California with huge delegate hauls.  This, combined with states like Pennsylvania with large numbers of uncommitted delegates, could prevent Trump from accumulating the 1,237 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination before the convention in Cleveland in July.
The success of this 11th-hour strategy is dubious, and although the unpredictable has occurred with regularity this election cycle, there are three lead-pipe-cinch certainties at this point: 
* If Trump is denied the nomination, the fisticuffs at his rallies would pale in comparison to what his followers would do when they took to the streets.  With, of course, the angry candidate's tacit approval. 
* If Trump wins the nomination, he will lose badly.  The Senate will almost certainly return to Democratic control and even the GOP's 30-seat House majority, once thought to be out of Democratic reach, may be threatened. 
* If the movement exercises a third-party option, Hillary Clinton will win in a landslide of historic proportions.  We're talking 48 or 49 states here, and a national electoral mandate not seen in modern times.
The notion of a third-party candidate underwritten by the Stop Trump movement borders on the comical, and it should be noted that some of the leading lights in a party that has relied on voter disenfranchisement to suppress Democratic turnout are now contemplating using it on their own rank and file.  Then there is the knee-slapping irony of these leading lights demanding that "the people" have a say in who the next Supreme Court justice is but not have a say in who the party's nominee is.
Although a third-party candidate could get on the ballot in most states or seek the nomination of the Libertarian Party, which does not pick a candidate until late May, the list of people willing to undertake this suicide mission is short and includes lightweights like former Texas Governor Rick Perry, a two time presidential primary flameout with a proclivity for saying dumb things.   
Erickson unwittingly reveals the movement's low-expectation desperation in describing Perry as its "consensus choice" for a third-party run because "He would win Texas and at least obstruct Trump."
§   
As it is, most Republicans don't support Trump, although fully three-quarters of them expect him to be the nominee, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.   
The average total from the 19 primaries and caucuses he has won in his blitzkrieg to Cleveland is only 37.5 percent, or bit more than one out of every three votes.  Will some of the remaining two thirds of Republicans hold their noses and vote for Frankenstein in the fall? Sure.  Will some Democrats and Independents vote for Trump?  Sure sure.   
But more than a quarter of the Republicans who voted in the big primaries last Tuesday told exit pollsters that they would not vote for Trump even if he becomes the nominee, and more than a third said they would consider voting for a third-party candidate.  More than 60 percent of Americans have an "unfavorable" view of Trump and half of all women have a "very unfavorable view."  There aren't remotely enough votes for Trump to pull out of his ass, let alone anywhere else, to make the race competitive despite Clinton's own buffet of unfavorables.   
Trump's scorched earth campaign has done one thing: It has united many of the party's major donors, who are belatedly throwing millions of dollars into ad campaigns highlighting Trump's "liberal" past and other perceived transgressions.  Meanwhile, the misnamed Club For Growth (it should be called the Club For Greedy Rich White Guys) raised $4 million in February alone to push back against Trump, although the powerful Charles G. and David H. Koch have yet to get off the fence.
Lost -- perhaps -- in the hankie wringing over Trump is that the Republicans' nihilist strategy of creating gridlock in order to embarrass Barack Obama by making the country ungovernable keeps backfiring. 
The only way the party can come out ahead in the debate over Judge Merrick B. Garland, Obama's widely-respected Supreme Court nominee, is to not have a debate, and that's not going to happen with control of the White House and Senate, as well as the high court itself, at stake.  And so Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's strategy will backfire because an awful lot of us are sick of bureaucratic inertia -- some 87 percent of Americans disapprove of the job he and Congress are doing -- and sucking up to the Tea Party bed wetters has gotten beyond old. 
§   
One of the sadder spectacles of this spectacular year has been the Pianos Keep Falling On My Head dismay of David Brooks, The New York Timeslongtime house conservative.  Brooks, who always has been about being nice, nicely writes:
"The question is: Should deference be paid to this victor?  Should we bow down to the judgment of these voters? 
"Well, some respect is in order.  Trump voters are a coalition of the dispossessed.  They have suffered lost jobs, lost wages, lost dreams.  The American sytem is not working for them, so naturally they are looking for something else. 
"Moreover, many in the media, especially me, did not understand how they would express their alienation.  We expected Trump to fizzle because we were not socially intermingled with his supporters and did not listen carefully enough.  For me, it's a lesson that I have to change the way I do my job if I'm going to report accurately on this country."
But no matter how much Brooks socially intermingles, he still doesn't get it in giving Trump -- and himself -- a free pass by mischaracterizing the pitchfork populists drawn to the Republican frontrunner as upwardly aspiring Americans hamstrung by an economically stacked deck, which by the way, is how Brooks's buddies Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan wanted the deck stacked in 2012 and still want it stacked now.   
There is much truth to the real-life agonies of Trump's rioters in waiting, but to say that his rise is a legitimate expression of their pain is farcical because that masks the sulfurous stench of racism and their not so transparent hope that Trump can somehow restore the racial hierarchy upended by Obama. 
§   
How deep is the Republican Party's dysfunction?  So deep that some conservatives are actually admitting that (choke, choke) maybe liberals were right all along. 
Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal:
"Liberals may have been fond of claiming that Republicans were all closet bigots and that tax cuts were a form of racial prejudice, but the accusations rang hollow because the evidence for it was so tendentious.  Not anymore.  The candidacy of Donald Trump is the open sewer of American conservatism. . . . It would be terrible to think that the left was right about the right all these years."
Max Boot, a nasty piece of neoconservative work and so-called party intellectual, tweeted:
"I'm a lifelong Republican but Trump surge proves that every bad Democrats have ever said about GOP is basically true."
And David Harsanyi in the arch conservative The Federalist:
"I'm not saying someone shouldn't blow up the Republican Party.  I'm saying that that someone shouldn't be an unprincipled imposter."
But in the end, or the beginning of the end, which is where the "modern" Republican Party finds itself seven-plus months out from Election Armageddon, old prejudices die hard, and it turns out that the gas guzzler tax-paying GOP elites really don't like a lot of white people either, especially the working-class whites drawn to Trump.   
In an extraordinarily sanctimonious article titled "Chaos in the Family, Chaos in the State: The White Working Class's Dysfunction" in the National Review, Kevin Williamson blames Trump's supporters for their own plight.  Never mind the yawning gap between the rich and and everyone else, the stagnation of household income and the pernicious effects of global capitalization.   
Williamson, speaking for the Romneys and Ryans, variously describes the approximately 100 million white American adults without college degrees as drug addicts, parents who cannot take care of their children, and welfare state mooches propped up by Democrats.   
This is part-and-parcel with the notion that the Republican Party is not responsible for creating Trump.  Good old cultural rot is.  Andrew McCarthy gets his bustle up in The National Review, sounding for all the world like Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski:
"What is the natural progression from turning the campus and pop culture over to Amerika-hating radicals, to the vigorous years-long media defense of Bill Clinton's right to turn the White House into a cathouse, to the inability of a father to watch baseball with his young son at one o'clock on a Sunday afternoon without being ready to address erectile dysfunction?  It is the cretinous Donald J. Trump campaign." 
"Donald Trump is not the cause of deterioration in our politics.  He is the effect of deterioration in our culture."   
The biggest reason anti-Trump efforts are doomed is that even if he can be stopped at the convention, with or without bloodshed, so-called movement conservatives like Romney and Ryan don't have a clue as why there is an insurgency to begin with.  And they themselves are not a whole lot different, even if more coherent and less vulgar, than the man with the small hands and peculiar hair they despise for aiding and abetting in the destruction of their party.

POLITIX UPDATE IS WRITTEN BY SHAUN MULLEN, A VETERAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER FOR WHOM THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS HIS 12th SINCE 1968.  CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF PREVIOUS COLUMNS. 
© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN.

PHOTOGRAPH FROM BIGSTOCK