Saturday, January 14, 2017

SENATOR FEINSTEIN

Formidable…...Senator Feinstetn  absent from the confirmation hearings to get a pacemaker installed. Back to work the next day.


Dear Mr. Hujsak:

Thank you for writing to express your concerns with President-elect Trump and his future Administration.  I appreciate hearing from you, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

First, let me say to you that I understand your concerns.  My office has been flooded by calls and emails from Americans fearful of the aftermath of the election and what the new Administration will mean for our country.  I have heard from families who are terrified they will be torn apart, women who are concerned they will lose their rights, and parents worried they will not be able to afford their health insurance.  Others have voiced their struggle to cope with the racist and xenophobic attacks occurring within our country.

Since the election, we have been witnesses to hate against Muslim-Americans attacked for their faith, Latino elementary students humiliated by their peers who say they will be deported, and African-Americans harassed by Confederate flags and racist slurs.  We have also seen an unsettling rise in buildings being vandalized by swastikas and Nazi propaganda.  These disgraceful acts toward minorities, immigrants, and women are devastating to our values and everything America represents. 

I will not stand aside and watch the tremendous successes achieved over the past eight years be swept away, or allow our nation’s most vulnerable populations to be targeted.  As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I am committed to protecting the fundamental constitutional rights of every American.  I will carefully scrutinize the policies of the Trump Administration, its senior officials, and future judicial nominees.  If Donald Trump is to succeed as President of the United States, he must ensure his actions reflect respect for all Americans and surround himself with advisors who do the same. 

Painted across American history are times when we have chosen to band together against oppressive rhetoric and injustice.  I am ready to help if President-elect Trump and his Administration are willing to work across the aisle to find pragmatic, bipartisan solutions to the many challenges facing our country.  But if there are efforts to roll back the progress we have fought too long to achieve, I will do whatever it takes to defend the values of California and our nation.  

Again, thank you for your letter.  I hope you will continue to write to me with issues of importance to you.  If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C., office at (202) 224-3841.  Best regards.

Sincerely yours,


  Dianne Feinstein
         United States Senator

Sunday, January 8, 2017

RECAP

        2016 has come to an end. Goodbye to  what for some was a forgettable year. With a new president, we can hope for the best, but for me there is little clarity as to his intentions.
Thinking back, I have lived through fourteen presidencies, some good, some 
not so good. The first was Herbert Hoover, though I was too young to remember him. The financial crash of 1929 occurred  on his watch. I do remember Franklin Roosevelt, however..
That was about the time that my father bought a Philco console radio and installed it in the living room of the farmhouse. Then he and my brother Karol erected a tall pine antenna pole about a hundred feet from the house and strung an antenna wire to the eave, down the side of the house and into the living room (the pole was later struck and splintered by lightning).
  Between the tuning squeals we could find a few stations. I recall the radio play "The Shadow" which came on every Sunday afternoon. 
I remember well Roosevelt's Saturday night "Fireside Chats" that always began with: "My Friends," with the emphasis on "My." He was the right  man for the times. Our only three term president. He put the country back to work through the Worker's Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. Even artists and sculptors were hired to do murals, artworks, etc. I have in my possession a plaster bust of Roosevelt executed from life in the White House….a gift from the sculptor's wife.
The aristocracy didn't like him, though he did come from a wealthy family. 
Soon after he was elected, JP Morgan attempted a Fascist coup when he tried to enlist Marine General Smedley Butler to raise an army to march on and take over the government. Butler would have none of it and reported it to Congress, but nothing came of it. Today the aristocracy  appears to have taken over the government by other means, judging by the number of billionaires in power. Who knows where that will lead. 
I also remember the real-time Adolph Hitler speeches, haranguing his followers to a fever pitch during his rise to power. I didn't understand it, as he spoke in German, but  the tone of it was decidedly unsettling. People are still letting demagogues have the upper hand.
The 1930's were quite a time: The United States recovery from the depression, the rise of the demagogues Hitler, Mussolini, the Ethiopian War, the Hindenburg disaster, the Long Island Express Hurricane, frigid winters, the Merrimack River flood, the Lindbergh baby kidnapping; Amelia Earharts disappearance in a flight over the Pacific, Orson Welles scary "News" broadcast of a Martian Invasion, Robert Goddard's rocket inventions which the Germans adopted and the onset of World War II. 
Here's to a serene and productive 2017, but don't bet on it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

AXING OBAMACARE - A BAD BEGINNING

It makes sense, doesn't it, when something like the Affordable Care Act exhibits shortcomings, that steps would be taken to fix it. It's hardly conceivable that it is so bad that an arm of the government would be bent on axing it out of existence. This has been the mantra of the Republican Party since the bill's enactment. It now affects the lives of millions of people, and its history has shown that there are shortcomings. The sensible course of action is to fix it, not kill it. Its shortcomings are clearly fixable and action along this line is what is called for. A gradual conversion to medicare for all, it seems to me, makes more sense. It could be designed so that if people took care of their health and did not use it, they would be eligible for a rebate. A healthier nation would be an automatic result. Everyone wins.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

MADMAN IN CHARGE?

Nine Nations, United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, Israel, Pakistan, India, China and North Korea possess a total of 16,300 Nuclear weapons.

President-elect Trump is proposing a new arms race. To what purpose? What kind of madness propels this man's thinking? Michael Moore has predicted rightly: "This man is gonna get us all killed."

A mind boggling contradiction: Rick Perry, who vowed to eliminate the energy department during a debate, is appointed to head the department by Donald Trump. Nuclear energy is one of the responsibilities of the Energy Department. Go figure.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

ELECTION WOES

My Dear Trill,
Author’s note: Trill is a fictional female acquaintance who makes it possible to write in a style that is comfortable for me.

      You feel like screaming? I Understand. An 1893 painting by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, titled “The Scream” comes to mind. Why has the country, in your words, in this election year, taken on the appearance of an upside down wastebasket? I suggest it is because events conspired to allow a populist, ego  driven candidate hypnotize enough of the population, though not a majority, into selecting him to become their leader.
      Thinking about how he came to power, a single tactical error by Hillary Clinton may have cost her the presidency when she told the coal industry that it has come to the end of the road, without telling it why, or expessing sympathy or telling how she will go about achieving allternative and better ways of earning a living income. So they flocked to the candidate who promised, without telling them how, the industry will thrive again.
      Hillary Clinton failed to explain, as she could have, that the industry is the victim of changing times, and that every effort will be made to introduce new industries to the coal mining territories.              Much as coal burning locomotives evolved into diesel electrics becasuse they were more efficient and cheaper to operate, coal burning power plants, the major users of coal, are, upon being retired, replaced with plants that burn natural gas, which are both cheaper to build and operate more efficiently. Natural gas is also favored over coal because carbon emissions are reduced, and so are toxic emissions. In Addition, coal exports are in rapid decline. Canada, for example will no longer use coal after 2030.
     She could have explained that in the long run this is good for the physical welfare of the community, especially for the men who work all day in the mines.
     Now, it seems, we have bought the farm.
     Samuel Adams wrote to a fellow revolutionary in 1780: “If ever the time should come, when vain & aspiring Men shall posssess the highest Seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced Patriots to prevent its Ruin, There may be more Danger of this, than some, even of our well disposed Citizens may imagine. If the People should grant their Suffrages to Men, only because they conceive them to have been Friends to the Country, without regard to the necessary qualifications for the Places they are to fill, the administration of government will become a mere Farce, and our pub-lick Affairs will never be put on the Footing of solid Security.”
     Early warning of what is to come is manifested in the coterie of individuals selected for important posts in the administration, and the dossiers they bring with them:
A business executive with world wide petroleum interests, whose company funded studies to debunk scientific data on global warming, who has no prior governing experience, who has made serious end runs around US policy, for Secretary of State
A Neocon war hawk who championed the Iraq war for Assistant Secretary of State
A fast food CEO for Labor Secretary with a record of not being able to keep his employees happy and who opposes increasing the minimum wage.
A neurosurgeon with no governing experience to head HUD. 
A mortgage predator as Secretary of the Treasury
A fierce climate change denier to head the EPA.
An anti-women’s rights governor for Vice President
A man who has ridiculed paid sick leave policies and opposes $15 minimum wage to head the Department of Labor
A woman who is a vocal proponent of school vouchers and private schools, and who has contributed heavily to the Trump Foundation, to head the Department of Education.
A hardliner on immigration and other matters for Attorney General.
A controversial retired general as Defense Secretary. (Defense Secretaries by law must be civilians),
A governor and formerly candidate for the presidency who vowed to abolish the Department of Energy, to head the Department.
(Frightening, since the Department manages nuclear power.)
     I don’t know, Trill, this is all so surreal, so bizarre. Maybe it will turn out to be handy to have a neurosurgeon around. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

TROUBLING TIMES

It should be troubling to Americans  that the president-elect has little use  for intelligence briefings, asserting that he is "smart", when within memory, another president  chose to ignore a briefing  that warned of an imminent attack by terrorists, opting instead to go back to cutting brush on his Texas  ranch. He could have said, "Not on my watch," and headed back to Washington. We all know of the horrific misjudgment that followed the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, unwarranted invasion  of Iraq and tremendous cost in lives lost, and dollars misspent.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

FORDSON TRACTOR

      A hundred years ago, in 1917, Americas was engaged  in  World War I, the “War to end all wars,” 
While fighting was going on overseas, industriy and transportation advancements within  the nation were manifold. led by giants like inventor, engineer and automobile executive Henry Ford, who was busy making the famous Model-T. Upon observing that the Model-T was often adapted to farm chores, Henry Ford decided to produce a dedicated farm tractor, in a move some characterized as “emancipation of the plow horse.”  His success was shortly followed by competitors Case, Allis Chalmers, John Deere, Massey Harris and International Harvester.
The fascinating history of the Fordson tractor is in full display on Wikipedia and need not be covered here.
I have a personal aquaintance with the Fordson, as my father purchased one at the going price of $325 in the early 1920’s. It was little used at first except to cut cordwood into smaller pieces with a  circular saw that was attached to the front end. My father was not about to part with his fine team of horses. 
The Fordson became our sole power source as the horses aged. It was a fearsome machine, hard to start, hard to steer, hard to shift. It had no brakes but relied on its worm gear drive to stop when the clutch was depressed. I spent many hours of my early years on the iron seat, wrestling with the steering wheel.
The tractor was responsible for hundreds of deaths due  to its tendency to upend itself and fall on its back, killing the driver. That could occur, for instance, when a plow would strike  an immovable obstacle, like a root or a rock. Decades later, Ferguson, a Fordson manufacturer in the UK, developed a three-point hitch that solved the problem and is now standard on all tractors. I encountered the problem in two separate instances, but  was nimble enough to kill the throttle and jump free.  

The Fordson tractor was hot, odiferous, noisy and dangerous. I cannot say how happy I was when the implement dealer arrived in the farmyard with a shiny new Farmall Tractor, made by International Harvester, equipped with brakes, a muffler and a self starter. Thereupon the Fordson was parked in the rear of the implement shed, where it slouched for years, gathering cobwebs and dust.