"IDIOT: noun A member of a large and powerful tribe whose influence in human affairs is all pervading."
The Evil Clown won. Not by popular vote, mind you, but through that insidious joker in the deck of American democracy: The Electoral College.
The large and powerful tribe has spoken.
Trump maligned everyone, from war heroes to women to the disabled. There was, and is, no way of escaping his corrosive slime. Federal officers from park rangers to FBI will be in danger from some of his demented followers who believe the election is some sort of green light to attack government employees and seize public land.
According to THE WASHINGTON POST, Trump verbally attacked a 12-year-old boy with severe cerebral palsy who had come to a Trump rally to protest Trump's opinion of the disabled. According to the boy's mother, Trump supporters came close to physically attacking the boy as they threw them out.
Trump had done everything but climb up on stage and water board puppies and kittens. (He has announced he will reserve that treatment for humans.)
He was patently unelectable.
So how did the Democrats manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?
Their mistakes were legion, neighbors.
They managed to field a vulnerable and fatally flawed candidate. So, with the convergence and connivance of the FBI, the Russian government, Julian Assange, and, yes, little Ecuador, the Bad Guys managed to muddy the water.
More importantly, the Dems failed to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING! In 1932, FDR managed to avert a fascist takeover of the country by creating a number of infra structure programs, the CCC, WPA, PWA, etc. to employ the unemployed Historians have cast doubt on the effectiveness of some of these programs, but, no matter. People thought at least SOMETHING was being attempted and they didn't revolt. Hillary Clinton failed to project that image.
Fortunately, the U.S. can absorb a lot of errant nonsense and Trump will gradually fade into history like Trump Vodka and Trump neckties.
However, there is one symbol of Trump narcissism that will not immediately fade away and that is the Trump International Hotel that opened in a National Historic Register building in Washington, DC.
That would be the Old Post Office, which originally opened in 1899 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1973. It is owned by the General Services Administration (GSA) which took over the building after it became surplus to the needs of the Postal Service.
Understandably, the GSA wanted to repurpose this historic structure to bring in rent that would at least pay for the upkeep of this white elephant (On at least two separate occasions, there were attempts by various administrations to tear the picturesque structure down.)
The Old Post Office is a fine example of Romanesque Revival architecture. Unfortunately Romanesque Revival architecture went out of style the year of the Post office's completion in 1899. (Talk about bad timing!)
Although the building resembles a set for "The Munsters" television program, there were those in Congress who loved the Old Post Office and beat off all attempts to tear it down.
All agreed, however, that the old granite pile should pay its way. Various schemes were tried; office space for example, then a miniature mall with various small shops with offerings aimed at the tourist trade; they closed as often as they opened.
The NPS was in on the deal in a modest way. That agency provided ranger led tours of the Old Post Office Clock Tower. (You are allowed to ask "Why?" even if you're not a Republican.)
Now the NPS interprets many strange things at the behest of Congress; but a clock tower?
Actually, it is not the clock tower so much as the view.
The Old Post Office Clock Tower has the best view of Washington, DC available to visitors (Actually, the very best view of DC is from one of the bell towers of the National Cathedral, but you have to be an Episcopalian with juice to get that perk: We are talking about availability.)
"But wait" you ask. "Is not the Washington Monument the highest structure in DC?"
You are correct, friend. At 555 feet, the Washington Monument is the highest structure in DC, towering over the 315 foot Old Post Office Clock Tower.
HOWEVER, if you are inside the top of the Washington Monument, you obviously can't see the Washington Monument, which is one of the singular sights of any panoramic view of Washington, DC.
In addition, the view from the Washington Monument consists of four tiny slits, one at each side of the monument and you are continually harassed by a fat lady from Dubuque who also wants to look.
In contrast, the view from the Old Post Office Clock Tower occurs on an expansive, non-claustrophobic observation deck 270 feet above the street. Here you may do a 360-degree prominade with the ranger as he/ she explains the various buildings, sights and natural features of the Nation's capitol.
Now of course, the clock tower does not stand alone. It is part of the Old Post Office, which was leased to Donald Trump by the GSA with the idea of turning the building into a luxury hotel.
Now what constitutes a luxury hotel?
The short answer would be anything more elaborate than a backpacker's hostel.
Generally speaking, all you need is a bed, four walls a roof that does not leak, a door that locks from the inside, maybe a chair, a sink, a shower, a toilet, and an absence of lice, mice, bed bugs and other vermin.
Any additions to that menu may be termed "luxury."
Mr. Trump has planned considerable "luxury" for his guests, so much so that a room in his hotel starts at $700 per night.
Who pays that kind of money for a hotel room?
Mr. Trump's millions of devoted followers would dearly love to pay that kind of money for a night of luxury. Trouble is, most of them have to plan and budget carefully to afford a Motel 6, let alone a Trump Taj Mahal.
"But have we no rich people?" you cry piteously.
Indeed we do! The rich, like the poor, we have always with us!
The problem is that most of the rich have too much good taste and good sense to stay at a hotel named after a boorish thug.
So what will happen?
Not a great deal. To avoid conflict of interest issues, Trump may have to divest himself of the Trump International Hotel. Failing that, and due to a lack of Russian Oligarchs and Mafia Dons as customers, Trump will be forced to engage in one of his creative bankruptcies; something he does quite well, and the Old Post Office will recede to the GSA who will lease the property to one of the major hotel chains, Marriott, Hilton, whoever; minus of course, the Trump name. (We, the American people, own the building, not Trump.)
So what would we call the hotel in the Old Post Office?
Well, we could call it "The McKinley" after the President who was in office at the time the building was completed.
Or, we could be mischievous.
Mr. Trump promised, if elected, to make life hell on earth for the 11 million "illegals" mostly of Mexican persuasion, currently residing in the United States. It seems, according to Trump, they are mostly murderers and rapists, unworthy of the very air they breathe.
Is that so?
Congressman Raul Grevaljas (D-AZ) who was born of Mexican immigrant parents in dirt floored stone cabin on a ranch in Southern Arizona, might like to offer a rebuttal.
That rebuttal might consist of renaming the hotel after one of the Hispanic Medal of Honor winners from our many wars.
There are some 59 Latinos to choose from; perhaps the largest single ethnic group of Medal of Honor winners.
So, let's choose one at random. Marine Corps PFC Eugene Obregon, a Mexican American from East Los Angeles, tasked, with his unit, at holding a ridgeline on the Pusan perimeter in the early days of the Korean War. "Upon seeing that his good friend, PFC Bert Johnson, of Grandview Texas, had been seriously wounded, Obregon dragged him to safety, bandaged his wounds and shielded him from enemy fire with his own body. He then secured Johnson's carbine and ammunition and laid devastating fire on an attacking North Korean platoon, killing or wounding 22 of them, before being killed by enemy machine gun fire. His undaunted courage saved the life of Private Johnson and broke the enemy assault."
Now to a greedy narcissist bigot like Donald J. Trump, Private Obregon must seem like the ultimate loser. His dreams were modest; after the war he planned to join the Los Angeles fire department "and help people" according to his friend, Bert Johnson. He was shy and respectful around women, according to his sister, Virginia.
Obviously a total loser.
Anyways, they put up a statue in his honor in an East Los Angeles park quite recently.
So recently that the sculptor might still have the molds.
We might need a copy to put in front of the newly renamed Hotel Obregon in Washington, DC.
ROGER SIGLIN: AMERICAN HERO
Recently, a couple of rich guys got together to do a "little bidness" as they say down in Texas.
They are Kelsey Warren and Carlos Slim. Although they sound like a Country Western band, they are immensely wealthy. Kelsey Warren is worth around 4 billion and owns 71,000 miles of oil pipeline. He is most notorious for one of his pipelines, the Dakota Access Pipeline being built in North Dakota and vociferously opposed by the Standing Rock Lakota. Carlos Slim, a Mexican gentleman, is quite simply the richest man in the world.
However, there is never too much money for a rich man, indeed, making money is what keeps them going and is how they keep score.
What Kelsey and Carlos planned to do was build a 42-inch pipeline from Texas down through Mexico to a natural gas terminal on the Mexican coast. There the gas would be condensed on specialized natural gas tankers and shipped to customers in the Orient.
Nothing wrong with that, progress and so on.
Except that Kelsey and Carlos planned to run their pipeline through the storied Big Bend Country, not through the park, mind you, but simply sort of along side of it.
That's when they ran afoul of Roger Siglin and the Big Bend Defense Coalition.
Siglin, late of the National Park Service, had been Chief Ranger of Yellowstone National Park and Superintendent of Gates of the Arctic, and had not lost any of his environmental chops in retirement.
Siglin knew what he had to do. On the chilly early morning of December 6, 2016, in the town of Alpine, Texas, Roger and two other members of the Big Bend Defense Coalition appeared at the front gate of the 23 acre Pumpco Pipe Company which was supplying the pipe to build Kelsey and Carlos pipeline.
Siglin and the two other members of the Coalition had brought heavy-duty chains and padlocks. They proceeded to chain themselves to the front gate of the Pumpco Pipe Company, preventing employees from entering and sat back to await developments.
They were not long in coming. The employees arrived, could not enter, and called the police.
The Alpine police showed up and assessed the situation. "They were VERY polite and offered to let the coalition members go if they unlocked themselves." Roger and the others said that would defeat the whole purpose of civil disobedience. What would Thoreau, Gandhi, and Dr. King say?
So, the cops performed their role in the civil disobedience drama, getting a bolt cutter and cutting the demonstrators free and then arresting them, hauling two of them, one being Roger, off to the Alpine Jail where they spent two hours before being released on their own recognizance, court appearance to be determined.
According to Roger, the civil disobedience was multi-layered: First to protest the inordinate control of America by the oil barons, second, to express solidarity with the Standing Rock Lakota in their fight against Kelsey's Dakota Access Pipeline, and last, but certainly not least, to protest the industrialization of the Big Bend country, one of the last great de facto wilderness areas in the lower 48.
"The pipeline is the beginning of the end the pristine Big Bend Country; the pipeline is just one more step toward industrialization." Says Roger.
Now Alpine is unusual for a little Texas town. For one thing, it's pretty liberal; sort of a pint-sized Austin. Like Austin, it's a university town (Sul Ross), which does make a difference.
As a result, quite a few of the folks around town agreed with Roger and the Coalition. Even the police were sympathetic.
"So what? You ask "Kelsey & Carlos have all the money in the world; they are going to win."
Perhaps. Maybe this one battle; but there will be other battles to be fought and won.
Now that the Bully-Elect will take office in a little over a month's time, we will see many more acts of civil disobedience as pioneered by Roger, probably starting on Inauguration Day.
It is very likely in the next four years; you may have no moral choice but to non-violently oppose this regime. Siglin showed you how.
FIDEL TO ASHESFidel Castro was always something of a gadfly and a maverick in the Cold War.
He managed to bedevil and warp the administrations of some ten American presidents to a greater or lesser extent, but always punching above his weight.
He also managed to terrify his Russian masters with a request for a tactical atomic device. (He had a visceral dislike for the city of Miami and wished to be able to take it out at his convenience. The Russians dryly pointed out that the U.S, response would not be directed at Havana or Santiago de Cuba, and refused the request.)
Finally, the collapsing Soviet Empire found Castro & company too expensive to subsidize and cut him loose.
Castro and his regime had some undeniable successes, notably in medicine and education-and the environment. The regime produced enough very good doctors to supply Cuba's needs and export some to other undeveloped countries. Free education to the university level was made universal and, as Castro remarked proudly to a startled group of American fellow travelers "Even our prostitutes are well educated."
As for the environment, Cuba has been called "The accidental Eden". Due to the American economic blockade, Cuba was unable to import all the stuff we regard as essential for civilized living. That is, no more bright shiny US cars and resulting pollution. Agriculture had to go organic; no expensive synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. The oxen pulling the ox cart provided the fertilizer as well as the energy. In addition, no polluting heavy industry due to lack of oil, coal and iron ore. Best of all, while there are 4,000 undeveloped islets and miles of pristine beaches, there was no American investment money to turn them into the equivalent of Miami Beach.
These accidents of politics turned Fidel into a sort of tropical John Muir, albeit with a cruel and repressive dictatorship.
The last of Castro's innovations was an abrupt change in Communist funerary practice.
Castro was simply cremated and his ashes placed in a small urn.
This was a shocking break from normal Red burial practices
In the good old days, if you were a tall dog communist, you were given after death treatment fit for an Egyptian Pharaoh. Then you were placed on display for the edification of the populace, hopefully forever.
Exactly why these funerary practices were introduced in a society that professed "Scientific atheism and materialism" and absolutely no religious folderol, but practice them they did.
Vladimir Lenin was the first communist to get stuffed.
It wasn't his idea. He much preferred to be buried beside his mother in the family plot. The effort to preserve his remains led to Russia's lead in the creepy field of mortuary science.
Joseph Stalin got the same reverent treatment when he was placed on view beside Lenin in 1953. He remained there for 8 years until it was rather belatedly noticed that Stalin was responsible for the sharp decline in the Russian population in the '30's. Stalin was secretly reburied, but without the continuing preservation treatment and has presumably gone the way of all flesh
The strange tradition continued among the Asian communists, however.
Chairman Mao is now on display, as well as North Korea's father and son team Kim IL Sung and Kim Jong IL . Ho Chi Minh is exhibited in a huge mausoleum in Hanoi.
He is one of Hanoi's biggest tourist attractions, along with the statue of John McCain and the War Museum.
My wife and I were visiting Hanoi and looked forward to saying Hello to Uncle Ho, but the guard at the Mausoleum informed us that "Uncle Ho" was off on his annual vacation in Moscow where he will get his chemical refurbishment.
You see, you can't just stick 'em in a pickle jar, pour in the alcohol and walk away.
The process, macabre as it is, is a complex one, requiring expert scientists and technicians as well as time and money, lots of money,
This has led to a cottage industry in which the Russians are willing to extend their expertise to self-centered capitalist millionaires now that communists are in short supply. (Who comes immediately to mind?)
Now if you have a failing economy and not much foreign exchange, can you try a "do it yourself" on your favorite dictator without Russian help? Good luck with that!
Venezuela tried it with their former president, Hugo Chavez.
Preserving the remains of Chavez became an allegory for what could possibly go wrong with a country.
Although Chavez was eventually placed on exhibit, it became painfully obvious that he was not going to keep and he was buried without ceremony.
It can be said that Castro, in his dying days, paved the way for more normal relations and more normal funerary practices. Always the maverick.
SO WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO OUR PUBLIC LANDS AND AMERICAN INDUSTRY?Not much that you can actually see, unless you are an expert.
No, the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service holdings will not be sold off to cretinous developers at fire sale prices. Campaigner Trump came out against the Bundy gang and the seizure of public lands. However, the BLM and FS lands will be logged, grazed, drilled and fracked to a faretheewell, with no regulation other than the Iron Law of Supply and Demand (which has been working in favor of the environment lately, thank you, Jesus!).
In the event of a pickup in oil and gas prices, all that public land fracking will have an additional side benefit to greed head capitalists. The ground water supply will be hopelessly contaminated for a period far exceeding the Trump presidency. His will provide windfall profits for Pepsi Cola and other suppliers of bottled water, not to mention the companies that supply the plastic for the bottles. Welcome to the Third World where you don't dare drink the tap water.
No, the National Parks will not be molested. They have a huge constituency in the bulk of the American people, including President elect Donald J. Trump. You see, Mr. Trump regards the Crown Jewel Parks as icons of an America that once was, and will be so again (There won't be any increase in acreage, however).
However, there may be an exception in the case of the newer national monuments. As the President can make a national monument with the stroke of a pen, another President can, theoretically, unmake that monument with the stroke of a pen. (Actually, it is a bit more difficult and time consuming to unmake a national monument; requiring the cooperation of Congress and possibly an appearance before the Supreme Court.) As the president elect has a notoriously short attention span, he may feel the game is not worth the candle in comparison with say, a confrontation with North Korea.
While it is unlikely that President Trump will eliminate our oldest national monument, Devils Tower (Circa 1906), there is an excellent chance that he tries to eliminate one of the latest national monuments and the only new national monument administered by the NPS. That would be the poetically named "Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument" in the North Woods of Maine.
True, the monument is "controversial", but only because the lumpen proletariat of North Central Maine is not conversant with Economics 101 or even industrial progress.
The Maine pulp industry is over and is not coming back. The years of the $30 an hour union jobs are over (And besides, as WALMART tells us, unions are sinful and socialistic.)
Now Karl Marx, (who never worked a day at manual labor) but set great store on other people working, believed that the "Proletariat must seize control the means of production."
But what happens when no one wants the product you are producing? In the case of Karl Marx's hometown in the former East German Democratic Republic, that would be the Trabant.
The Trabant was probably the worst car ever marketed; worse than the Yugo, much worse than the Edsel. The car's body was made of a plastic resin mixed with lint from Soviet Union cotton mills. Power was supplied by a two-stroke engine that ran on a gas and oil mixture, which meant you tried to stay ahead of a cloud of blue smoke. (Fond owners called them "gas chambers".)
Why would anyone buy one? Well, one of the advantages of a closed economy is that you really can "control the means of production." The Trabant factory ran full blast and there was a ten-year waiting list for Trabants, in addition to a sizable down payment.
Then the Berlin Wall fell. People could buy what they wanted. Trabants were abandoned by the side of the road. Even car collectors were stymied: Due to the built in high pollution factor, you couldn't legally drive your Trabant in a classic car rally.
Roughly the same scenario prevailed in the Maine pulp industry. The vast privately owned pulp wood forests of Maine were surprisingly close to a huge metropolitan area that stretched from Boston to Washington. The millions of people who lived in this area (as well as others outside the corridor) had two things in common; they read newspapers every day and they defecated everyday.
The owners of the pulp mill and their workers could be excused for thinking that things would never change and they could produce newsprint and toilet paper until hell froze over.
Slowly, then rapidly things began to change. The Computer Age arrived. One could get information, even pictures with electrons rather than newsprint and ink. Moreover, it was often free and more up to date than newsprint.
Stately old newspapers tried to consolidate, and often went out of business. Other newspapers shifted to electronic publishing, skipping the printing press and the quaint rolls of newsprint on the loading dock.
Even books were not beyond the range of the crafty electron. A small library of literary classics (or Romance novels) could be carried in a pocket or purse sized device.
Well, there was always toilet paper.
Surely no one could do away with the need for toilet paper!
No, but enterprising people could come up with sources other than the North Woods.
For one thing, the cotton industry found a solution for troublesome waste product in ginning and spinning of cotton fiber into cloth. There was the accumulation of lint, which floated through the factory air and endangered the workers with an industrial disease called "brown lung". Some ingenious industrial designer found a way to suck the lint out of the air and turn it into-toilet paper. Moreover, the cotton waste toilet paper was much softer than the wood pulp variety and best of all from a marketing standpoint, it could be sold as "environmentally friendly, as it was a waste product AND no trees were slain!
Then there was the deathblow to Maine toilet paper. It seems that southern pine grows about twice as fast as Maine pulpwood, shortening the time between rotational cuts. Best of all, Southern pulp mill workers, even more reactionary than Maine workers, consistently voted against their own best interests by voting against unionization.
These advantages finally cancelled out the shipping cost advantage that Maine had once enjoyed. The Maine pulp mills' owners sent out notices to their workers that there would be a "restructuring" and while that was happening, there was no need to show up for work. Later, it became apparent that the "restructuring" was going to become permanent.
Time to bring in Karl Marx and have the workers "seize control of the means of Production"?
Doesn't work that way, Karl!. The mill owners were quite willing to sell their mills to the workers' unions for a price slightly above the scrap metal value. They knew that like the Trabant, nobody wanted to buy their product.
These disappearing jobs that Trump is always talking about, were not stolen by the crafty Chinese but disappeared due to lack of interest in the product or due to automation.
The general idea of capitalism is to reduce costs; that means sooner or later, getting rid of "jobs". Jobs being defined as that part of the production line that is yet to be automated.
When you think about it, there are darn few repetitive jobs that can't be automated.
The Teamsters Union thought that the 3 million truck driving jobs were safe, but the driverless truck as well as the driverless car, is now on the horizon.
So what to do? In some cases, Nature and outdoor recreation, such as Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument will provide some jobs. In other cases, retraining in one of the medical fields and financial support for family relocation will be necessary.
One thing is certain; none of Mr. Trump's jobs are coming back.
MANZANAR NATIONAL HISTORIC SITENational Historic Sites, the bulk of the NPS holdings, are ideally supposed to accomplish two goals: (A) Preserve and protect the tangible artifacts of the person or event being commemorated and (B) teach the visitor a moral lesson that he/she can reflect upon.
For example, Flight 93 National Historic Site (A) Preserves the physical site of Flight 93'S impact from commercial or housing development, and (B) tells the uplifting story of the dedication and undaunted courage of the passengers of Flight 93; ordinary, but extraordinary Americans who bonded and banded together for a few brief moments to thwart a terrorist plot to destroy the Nation's capitol and kill hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent people.
Then there is Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, which (A) protects his home and other buildings associated with Dr. King from "Urban Renewal" and (B) continues to preach his message of brotherhood and understanding.
Now, as most people do not like to "Be Taught a Lesson, " whether it be Courage and Citizenship or Brotherhood and Understanding, Part (B) must be done with great subtlety and understatement, or the message may be rejected, or worse yet, the wrong conclusion may be drawn.
The NPS is pretty good at handling (A) and (B); both preserving the property and getting the message across.
However, there are occasions, when due to ignorance, stupidity or simple viciousness on the part of the visitor, the wrong conclusion is drawn.
Consider the case of Manzanar National Historic Site, which (A) preserves the infrastructure of a concentration camp used to house Japanese American internees during the Second World War, and (B) interprets the racism and hysteria of that time period that led to unconstitutional incarceration of totally blameless American citizens as well as the gallant contribution of Japanese Americans to the war effort.
Justice Frank Murphy of the United Supreme Court wrote a memorable dissent to the majority ruling in Koromatsu vs The United States, the 6-3 decision that ratified the detention of the Japanese. (In 1942, Fred Koromatsu politely declined to leave his home in San Leandro, CA to go to a "relocation" camp. He took it all the way to the Supreme Court.)
Justice Murphy wrote:
"I dissent, therefore from this legalization of racism. Racial discrimination in any form and to any degree has no justifiable part in our democratic way of life.
It is unattractive in any setting, but it is utterly revolting among a free people who have embraced the principles set forth in the Constitution of The United States.
All residents of this nation are kin in some way by blood or culture to a foreign land, yet they primarily and necessarily a part of the distinct civilization of the United States.
They must, accordingly, be treated at all times, as the heirs of the American Experiment and as entitled to all the rights and freedoms of granted by the Constitution."
These are resounding, ringing words, neighbors, and they are part of the exhibit at Manzanar National Historic Site.
To be sure, Associate Justice Murphy was a bit ahead of his time. His dissent was the first time, the word "racism" was used in a Supreme Court Decision, and discrimination would robustly linger on until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Still, it was a start.
Perhaps Carl Higbie has not visited Manzanar National Historic Site, or if he did, he drew the wrong conclusions.
Who is Carl Higbie?
Mr. Higbie dearly wants a position in the Trump Administration. He has lots of ideas; most of them bad.
He showed up on Fox News THE KELLY FILE to air some of these ideas. The program is anchored by a blonde Republican lady, Megyn Kelly (who must find her conservative values increasingly under stress by Trump and his associates).
Mr. Higbie voiced the idea that the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942 constituted a "precedent" for some unspecified treatment of Muslim Americans.
Ms. Kelly visibly flinched and got big eyed.
Clearly she was appalled. "Surely you don't regard the mistreatment of Japanese Americans as justification for..."
Mr. Higbie backed off. He personally wouldn't do such a thing; internment, waterboarding, the bastinado, and bamboo slivers under the fingernails were clearly off the table.
No, indeed. All Mr. Higbie wanted was a little list; the names and addresses of all the Muslims living in the United States. Why? Probably not to invite them to star on THE APPRENTICE. After all, we had the "precedent" of singling out a specific ethnic group for "special treatment" at Manzanar and other camps.
We also had the "precedent" of The Dred Scott Supreme Court decision. That did not turn out well.
Megyn's obvious discomfort with her guest, bounced off Mr. Higbie like rain off oilskin. "It's only a list" he smiled "Don't you want to be safe?''
Perhaps he needs a trip to Manzanar.
THE SAFETY MESSAGE
Yes! You have reached the all-important Safety Message! The one thing that authorizes you to access and scroll through THUNDERBEAR on government time using a government computer, "SAFETY BEING JOB #1 (If your supervisor does not agree, report him/her to the IG).
This month's safety message is a deceptively simple one: It asks the question "IS SENATOR ORRIN HATCH HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH?"
Now you ask how could mild mannered Orrin Hatch (R-UT) be a safety problem?
Well, it's this way; in 1994, Senator Hatch authored the landmark "Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act".
The DSHE was a "landmark" because it effectively deregulated the 33 billion dollar dietary supplement racket/business. These "dietary supplements" are (usually), pills that are supposed to make you thinner or stronger, or sexier, or healthier, or whatever.
Thanks to Orrin, the Food & Drug Administration could no longer insist that the purveyors of the dietary "supplement" prove that their pill did what it was supposed to do.
This is directly opposite to the FDA policy on legitimate drugs, say a new antibiotic, which must undergo rigorous clinical tests and then monitoring, before it is finally approved and released to the medical community.
This is called the Scientific Method and is the way research is conducted, unless, of course, you live in Hatch Land.
"But surely SOME of these "supplement" must work?" You ask, hopefully.
The short answer is a resounding "No!"
Dr. Peter Cohen of Harvard Medical School states that:
"Supplements fall into two categories; the first category has absolutely zilch positive effect, but it won't harm you. The second category can actually kill you if you use it long enough."
Writing in the ANNALS OF INTERNAL MEDICINE, the exasperated board of The American College of Physicians said, "Enough is enough! Stop wasting money on vitamin and mineral supplements."
Senator Hatch harks back to the traveling Indian Medicine shows that used to criss- cross rural America in the late 19th century, selling Chief Thundercloud's Indian Elixir. Unlike Orrin's patrons, the Traveling Indian Medicine Show gave the rubes their money's worth; the show was really a mini-circus with jugglers, trained dogs, fiddlers and story tellers, all coming to a remote village that had no entertainment for months on end. Even the Indian Elixir had its merits; it was a decoction of irrelevant plant material laced with copious amounts of alcohol, opium and cocaine.
No wonder you felt better after downing a bottle!
Teddy Roosevelt's Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 had a chilling effect on wild medical claims until Orrin arrived on the scene in 1994.
Now is Senator Hatch a crook? Not in the criminal code definition, nor even in the ethical "Jesus is going to send you straight to Hell for lying to all those people" definition.
Hatch is quite probably a True Believer. He undoubtedly ingests a number of these concoctions himself and feels all the better for it. (The placebo effect in Medicine and religion should never be underestimated!)
On the other hand, Hatch's relationship with this 33 billion dollar racket is hardly casual. His son, Scott, is a registered lobbyist for the supplement industry and the industry itself provides a generous flow of campaign donations to assure that Orrin remains Senator for Life.
As for your own safety, consult a good Internal Medicine Specialist. Bring along all your supplements in their proper bottles with relevant health claims; ask him/her if you really need this stuff. If, through force of habit, you really want to continue taking these supplements, make sure you are really getting what is supposed to be in those capsules by getting a lab analysis of every supplement you take. After all, cement or powdered sugar has no known health benefits.
TIME TO LAWYER UP
"Q. What do you call 2,000 lawyers chained together at the bottom of the sea?"
With the possible exception of journalists, lawyers are the most despised profession in America and the jokes reflect that. There may be jokes disparaging plumbers, painters, or park rangers, but the Christian Bureaucrat is not aware of them.
Lawyers are totally unnecessary until you desperately need one. That time may be now. Trump will soon be in power
Perhaps you gave a drink of water to an illegal immigrant in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Perhaps you failed to report him. Perhaps someone saw you.
Perhaps you noted at a park staff meeting that the President elect believes global warming to be a Chinese hoax and you remarked, "Only an ignorant jackass could believe such rot." Perhaps someone who didn't much like you also took notes.
You will need a lawyer and a good one.
The Egotist-Elect is remarkably thin-skinned and has a vindictive streak a meter wide; a bad combination. Chances are you are going to rub Donald or his minions the wrong way in the simple course of going about your duties.
So, as the boy scouts say, "Be Prepared."
With that in mind, THUNDERBEAR asked two NPS employees who were famously fired for no good reason how they successfully fought back and what advice they have for present day NPS dealing with a hostile administration.
Our first contributor is Rob Danno, perhaps the Dean of NPS Whistleblowers.
As Chief Ranger of the C &O Canal National Historical Park, Danno discovered that Dan Snyder, billionaire owner of the Washington Redskins football team, was proposing, through the NPS, to illegally cut down trees hundreds of trees on a scenic easement in front of his house, to improve his view of the Potomac. Amazingly, this illegal cutting was done with secret NPS approval. The "One Percent" strikes again!
Danno counseled his "acting" superintendent against allowing the clear-cutting multiple times, but his advice was ignored.
As the DOI Inspector General's investigation implied, NPS Director Fran Mainella was a guest of Dan Snyder's at a Redskins football game where Snyder asked her the favor of violating the primary mission of the NPS and clear cutting those pesky trees, all done while she was a guest in his luxury box at Fed Ex Field.
Danno didn't forget about his oath to "Preserve and Protect" and did his sworn duty as a Chief Ranger, falling on his sword to protect the resources he was entrusted with. Danno reported the wrongdoing and illegal actions to the DOI Inspector General, the Office of Special Counsel and to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The DOI investigation broke on the front page of THE WASHINGTON POST, and the NPS was embarrassed.
So embarrassed that certain elements of the NPS decided to frame Danno for a crime he did not commit.
With the able assistance of PEER and others, Danno was found "Not Guilty" in minutes, much to the horror and chagrin of the NPS, which realized that they would have to give Danno any job he wanted or he would sue the Stetsons off them for false arrest and whistleblower retaliation.
So Danno managed a rare whistleblower survival, coming through the long ordeal and winning favorable settlement. He retired the previous November from his dream job of Branch Chief of Wilderness Planning at the Interagency Aldo Leopold National Wilderness Research Institute at the University of Montana in Missoula and now works as a deputy sheriff in Bonner County, Idaho.
The whole fascinating story is told in Danno's book WORTH FIGHTING FOR (www.honorcodepublishing.com)
Rob kindly agreed to pass on some hard earned nuggets of wisdom from his experience:
Our next guest is Chief of Park Police Teresa Chambers, who was fired from her job by the Bush Administration for telling the truth; that is, she could not do the job they wanted with the limited staff she had on hand.
Here is the Chief's story:
Well now, boys and girls, these are indeed hard earned words of wisdom from Rob and Teresa.
Some of the take aways would be:
The Whistleblower Protection Act is a very slender reed to lean upon, and "If you see something, say something, but be VERY careful who you say it to!"
PEER remains the gold standard in Public Lands employee protection. PEER is not perfect. Some do not like Jeff Ruch, PEER'S Director. Nobody claims Ruch is lovable but quite a number of people claim PEER is very effective; that is what you want.
DOES THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE HAVE A MONOPOLY ON NATIONAL PARKS?Friends, given the present political climate, it is pretty well established that Maine's 87,500 Acre "Katahdin Woods and Water" National Monument is going to be the last new natural area administered by the NPS for a good long while.
Why is this the case?
Several reasons, compadres: First of all, there is bureaucratic territorialism. Most National Parks and Monuments were carved out of Bureau or Land Management or U.S. Forest Service Land. This understandably made the BLM and Forest Service feel like chopped liver when the President cherry picked a particularly beautiful or unique part of their holdings to be promoted to the more "lofty" and "noble" stewardship of National Park Service.
When Mount Saint Helens blew its top in 1980, President Carter burbled that "The Nation had a new National Park, one to rival Yellowstone".
"Not on our watch!" silently growled the outwardly obedient USFS, and soon Mount Saint Helens National Monument was put together, firmly under the control of Gifford Pinchot National Forest. (Pinchot would have been amused.)
So, I decided to ask Jerry Rogers, former Keeper of the Federal Register and other important duties. (When in doubt ask a ranger).
The question is: "Can other agencies have National Parks, or are National Parks the exclusive domain of the National Park Service"?
Here is his reply:
Well said, Jerry!
ECUADORNow neighbors, you will recall from Issue #301 that we were receiving our security briefing at the American Embassy. Much of the information was good old common sense that strangers in a strange land need to be reminded of; stay with the crowd, don't wander down dark streets, don't consult maps on the street (go inside a shop and ask the shopkeeper) don't get drunk, be aware of your surroundings, stay alert know where the rough parts of town are, and stay out of them: All good advice for Washington, DC as well as Quito, Ecuador.
However there was one aspect of the Ecuadorian crime scene that seemed right out of a James Bond novel:
According to the U.S. State Department and our embassy in Quito:
"Scopolamine attacks are on the rise in Quito. There have been reports of tourists and locals that have been robbed after after having scopolamine slipped into their food or drink, rubbed on their skin, sprayed on them or handed to them on business cards or pieces of paper. Several incidents involved older men or women giving a card soaked in scopolamine with an address written on it to victims asking for directions.
The latest reports that we have received from the National police include criminals dressed as policemen, grabbing women's arms and saying "You are coming with me! These women do not remember anything other than waking up naked in hotel rooms with signs of rape and robbery.
Scopolamine is a hypnotic drug used by criminals in Ecuador to render victims compliant. The drug may cause dizziness, drowsiness, or blurred vision. Colorless, odorless, and tasteless, scopolamine can easily be slipped into drinks or sprinkled on food. The drug, which is made in Ecuador for medicinal purposes, can put victims in a sedated, compliant state and can cause amnesia. Victims become so docile that they have been known to help thieves rob their own homes and empty their own bank accounts."
Well now, neighbors! I had not planned on being turned into a Zombie during my stay in Ecuador!"
Do not freak out. The U.S. State Department personnel (very nice folks, by the way) are paid to be Nervous Nellies, providing you with every conceivable scenario where things could go drastically wrong in the most hideous manner possible. That is their job; to heighten your awareness. "You are not in Kansas any more" as one State Department official told us.
Now hundreds of thousands of tourists and business travelers visit Ecuador every year with no ill effects, not even The Inca's Revenge (More about that later).
Indeed, thousands of Americans and Canadians choose to retire in Ecuador, fearing North American winters more than Ecuadorian crime. (Yes, rangers! You are allowed to retire somewhere other than Tucson, Arizona!).
Ecuador is about the size of Colorado, only jam-packed with more interesting geographical stuff than The Columbine State.
It has 50 active or dormant volcanoes, including one on the Galapagos National Park, 1,300miles of coastline, one of the headwaters of the Amazon, and the richest biological hotspot in earth in their part of the Amazon Basin.
As mentioned, Ecuador is a very compact country. You could if you desired, rent a car, have breakfast on the beach in Guayaquil, roar on up the mountain to have lunch in the Andes at Quito and charge down the mountain to have dinner at a jungle lodge in the Amazon rain forest, so there is a lot to see and do in a relatively small space.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
PJ Ryan can be reached at: