January-March, 2017


Thunderbear. Did the 18th president of the United States have the power to look into the future and predict the arrival of the 45th president, Donald Trump?

An interesting thought, neighbors.

Toward the end of his presidency (and the end of Reconstruction) Grant is alleged to have remarked:

"If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason-Dixon, but between patriotism and intelligence on the one side and superstition, ambition and ignorance on the other."

Now if the attribution is correct, then President Grant nailed the clash between Trump and the Normals with eerie precision! Superstition, Ignorance and Ambition! How was Grant able to predict the hallmarks of the Trump Presidency? Does Ignorance have an odor that wafts back through the centuries?

Hark there, neighbors! If a quotation sounds too good to be true, then it usually is. Abe Lincoln and Winston Churchill were both victims of fabricated quotes and poor Grant is not far behind.

Therefore," If in doubt, ask a ranger!"

So, we checked with Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site outside of St. Louis, and asked about the quote.

Turns out that the Grant quotation is spot on!

It's from a speech Grant gave at the reunion of the Society of the Army of the Tennessee in Des Moines, Iowa, September 29, 1875.

Now the purpose of reunions is of course, first and foremost, to have a jolly good time; then comes renewal of old friendships and the making of new ones, catching up on personal news; births, weddings and the inevitable passing of old comrades, then the nitty-gritty political stuff (getting an increase in pensions, for example) and finally, a solemn word or two from a famous leader of the Cause.

That would be President Grant.

He really did say "If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason-Dixon, but between Patriotism and Intelligence on the one side and Superstition, Ambition, and Ignorance on the other"!

Perfect! That would be Trump writ wide! Grant really was able to see into America's future.

Not quite.

The problem is that the quote is taken out of context. Grant 's 1875 speech was mainly about the importance of the separation of church and state, an important issue at the time (still is, as a matter of fact) rather than about a populist demagogue who tricks half the population to engage in a civil war with the other half.

Is there a possibility of a civil war in the US? Not over slavery this time, but over the very philosophy by which the nation is governed? Everything is a possible, neighbors, particularly with an ignorant egomaniac like Trump (His followers would prefer "Confident Leader "as the descriptive.)

Is there a precedent for a takeover of the United States?

Well, yes there is, neighbors.

In the turbulent decades of the 20's and 30's, a glittering new form of totalitarianism arose to challenge the resident evil of Communism. The new threat combined a heady brew of populism and social welfare (for the elect) with deep seated anger with "so-called elites" (often minority groups); no restrictions on corporations and a pugnacious nationalism (Make Italy great again!), with really nifty uniforms, songs, marching bands and a real sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself. It was called Fascism and it appeared to be sweeping the Earth.

Over here in the good old USA, there arose a shadowy cabal of wealthy and influential men who thought Fascism might be just the ticket for an America beset by a Great Depression: Get rid of "That cripple in the White House" and put a Real Leader in Charge! That's the stuff! Let's do it!"

The shadowy cabal tried to enlist a retired Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler to lead the coup, providing Butler with veteran soldiers recruited from the American Legion. A two time winner of the Medal of Honor, Butler was the most popular military man in America, with the possible exception of Douglas MacArthur.

It would be a "soft "coup. Roosevelt would not be formally deposed, but would remain on board as a figurehead president. The real power would rest in General Butler, who would have the innocuous title of Director of General Affairs but would run the country.

It did not occur to plotters that a Marine Corps general might also be something of a patriot. Butler played along with the cabal, then went to the media and also Congress and blew the whistle on the plot. Congress investigated and found not enough evidence to bring charges, but concluded that something sinister had been brewing.

(There was an amusing parallel to the Butler case when President Trump appointed Retired Marine Corps General James "Mad Dog" Mattis as Secretary of Defense. Trump was attracted by the "Mad Dog" nickname, apparently believing that Mattis was a torture loving extremist like himself. Actually, the nickname is affectionately ironic as General Mattis is regarded as one of most scholarly and erudite of the general officers. He is also unequivocally against torture in all its forms, first on moral grounds, then on pragmatic grounds that it does not work, famously observing that you can "gain more information with a beer and a pack of cigarettes.")

"But what of President Grant's prophesy?" you ask impatiently "Will there be a Civil War between the forces of Intelligence and the Forces of Ignorance?"

Already happened, neighbors. Ignorance won.

Thunderbear."But how could this happen?" You wail, "We were one of the best educated, most democratic peoples on earth. Are we now reduced to the status of a banana republic!"

You exaggerate, but there is cause for concern. The Forces of Patriotism and Intelligence were defeated by some very clever propaganda and the arrogance and ineptitude of its own candidate.

"But what can be done?"

Initially, not much. The Trump presidency must be allowed to ripen like Limburger cheese, becoming less and less desirable as the disasters become legion.

"But can't we impeach him"? you demand hopefully.

"On what grounds?" The Constitution is a bit vague on what constitutes "High Crimes and Misdemeanors". Now it may come to pass that Trump will put on his pirate's costume and go a raiding for oil in Persian Gulf (Something he considered until someone reminded him that Captain Kidd has been dead these many years) then maybe we can charge him, but garden-variety crassness and buffoonery are not actionable.

The American journalist H.L. Mencken once observed:

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by an outright moron."

As the saying goes, "Elections have consequences" and in this case, Trump is the consequence.

"But can't we invoke the 25th amendment"? You cry piteously.


You see, Article 4 of the 25th amendment sort of assumes a nice president, a kindly president, a reasonable, rational president, who was sadly incapacitated by a misfortune; say a stroke or an assassin's bullet as in the case of Wilson or Reagan.

Section 4 of the 25th amendment provides that if ultra conservative Vice President Pence can screw up his courage and convince a majority of Trump's reactionary cabinet to agree with him that Trump is incompetent and sign letters to that effect addressed to the right wing speaker of the House and the equally right wing President Pro Tem of the Senate, then Vice President Pence takes over: Simple banana republic palace coup.

Not so fast! The Donald is unlikely to take this lying down. Trump can write his own letter to the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem of the Senate, stating that his mental health is sound as the Liberty Bell. The Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate will have four days to state that the President is still cracked as the Liberty Bell.

If the President will still not step down in favor of Vice President Pence (Be careful what you wish for!) then the matter will be decided by a two-thirds vote of a Republican Congress.

So you see how forlorn a hope lies in the 25th amendment as a Trump antidote.

Ah! But what about a Democratic congress in 2018? Not likely thanks to gerrymandering. The Dems might pick up a handful of seats in the House, but the Dems will have 25 seats in contention in the Senate while the Reptilians have only 8 to defend.

So even if Trump gropes the Queen, we will still have him for four long years, possibly 8.

Now that President Grant's prediction has come true, what can be done?

Well, as President Grant would be the first to tell you, one battle does not make a war.

Thunderbear.Bureaucracy can still fight back in its time honored, foot dragging manner.

Or in the case National Park Service, in a more direct manner.

The NEW YORK TIMES has nominated the NPS as the informal leader of the Federal Resistance. (Granted, this is a bit like being given the honor of being the first regiment "over the top" at the Somme.)

The reason for the honor is several: The NPS is the most beloved and respected agency in the federal government. Every state has at least one of the 413 NPS units (and most states are clamoring for more) the staff members are almost uniformly polite, helpful and knowledgeable. They are also obligated to tell the truth.

There are no such things as "Alternative Facts" no matter how many times Kellyanne Conway repeats the lie. As the late Senator Patrick Moynahan observed: "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."

If an inquiring reporter asks a ranger if a 50 foot wall will have an adverse effect on wildlife migration between Mexico and the United States, the ranger will have no choice but to answer in the affirmative.

The same is true concerning reporters' (and taxpayers) questions about threats to the Giant Sequoias or to the causes of sea level rise at Jamestown. Facts, like elections, have consequences.

Meanwhile, those of us beyond the immediate reach of Trump and his minions can have some fun.

Politics is not a profession for the thin skinned, and Trump is remarkably thin skinned. He can dish it out, but not take it. The mildest critique brings forth thunderous tantrums. As Trump is quite capable of doing a derisive imitation of a handicapped person or put down a war hero, the reader should have no inhibitions about making comments about our draft dodging, Clown in Chief.

So have at it!


Thunderbear.Let us transport you to Dinosaur National Monument in sunny Utah.

Neither the Utah Congressional Delegation nor President Trump is present. It is therefore a good day.

An interpretive ranger is giving a talk in the Dinosaur Quarry.

She paints a vivid word picture of life in the steaming swamps of Jurassic Utah, introducing each of the great beasts one by one, pointing out their bones in the quarry. The audience is spellbound. The ranger is very good. She brings the creatures to life as she tells the epic story of their lives 150 million years ago.

She winds up her talk with a discussion of what may have caused the demise of the dinosaurs. The ranger leans toward the asteroid theory but is willing to entertain other proposals from the children who flock excitedly around her. (Kids, particularly boy kids, have a thing about dinosaurs) She concludes by reminding everyone that they have seen only half the day at Dinosaur and that they can investigate the dark half this evening with an astronomy walk that will investigate among other things, asteroids.

The adults congratulate the ranger on her talk and wish her well in her career.

All except a middle aged couple standing apart; unsmiling and purse lipped.

They wait until most of the audience has drifted away, then they approach the ranger.

They get directly to the point.

"You didn't give equal time for the Biblical point of view," the gentleman says truculently. His spouse chimes in: "You said those bones were 150 million years old! They can't be that old! The Bible tells us that The Lord created the Earth 4004 BC."

The ranger is well trained and of a kindly disposition. She does not wish to hurt the feeling of these taxpayers. This is not the time for sassy-pants comments! (Though the ranger can be excused for thinking them: "Was God on Mountain Standard Time or Greenwich Mean Time?")

The ranger states that the NPS is required by law to provide the best and most recent scientific data available. She politely acknowledges that there are other faith based systems in place, but that the NPS cannot accept them unless proof is offered.

"Take us to your supervisor!' the man says in a Voice of Doom tone.

The ranger makes a radio call to "See if her supervisor is available" (but also to alert him that Creationists are on the way). She has done this before.

The Chief of Interpretation greets that couple cordially and outlines the basics of historical geology and paleontology and the proofs thereof.

Our creationists remain unmoved.

Instead of quoting the Bible, the gentleman Creationist choses to quote the Federal Register:

'Are you familiar with the Holman Rule?" he asks, with the faintest of smirks.

The Chief of Interp allows that he is familiar.

The Holman Rule is a vicious resurrection of a 19th century Congressional ruling that allows Congress to essentially "fire" a federal employee by reducing their salary to the sum of $1.00 per annum.

Thunderbear.The way it works is the offending bureaucrat's name is attached to an appropriations bill (One that needs to be passed) and is voted upon by both houses of Congress. There is no hearing or other due process of law for our hapless civil servant, other than he/she has offended someone with juice.

It is probably unconstitutional, but we won't know until we try it out, will we?

The Holman Rule cannot be blamed directly on Donald J. Trump; a Republican Congress figured out this disaster out all by itself.

Back to Dinosaur National Monument: Our Creationist tells the Chief of Interpretation that unless Creationism is granted equal time, he will ask his rather primitive Congressman to invoke the Holman Rule against the Interpretive Staff at Dinosaur National Monument.

Meanwhile, 1,948 miles away, a similar scene is being enacted at Antietam National Battlefield a gentleman with a decidedly Texas accent is having an argument with a park ranger.

It seems that the park ranger stated that slavery was the major, indeed the only, cause of The War of the Rebellion (The official US government name for the Fracas that will not go away; none of this "War between the States" pussy footing!)

The Texan hotly demanded that the ranger take back the idea that slavery was the main cause of the war and that the ranger skip the depressing slavery stuff and cut to the interesting part about Southern valor and the superiority of Confederate generalship.

The Ranger said that he could endorse Southern valor and even, in some cases, Confederate tactical superiority but he had to agree with one of the experts on the subject, General U.S. Grant.

Grant said at Appomattox "I felt anything other than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst of which a people ever fought and one for which there was the least excuse."

As far as the NPS is concerned, there is no debate, the agency regards slavery as the prime cause of the War of the Rebellion and its interpretation must reflect that fact.

Our Texan is outraged. "I'm from Tyler, Texas! Do you all know what that means?"

The ranger understandably does not. Tyler, seems is the home town of Congressman Louis Gohmert, a solon whose tenuous grasp on reality rivals that of Donald Trump himself.

Naturally, Congressman Gohmert sits on the House Subcommittee on National Parks and Other Wasteful Stuff.

"Yew wait till I tell Louie what you boys are up to here! Tellin' fake facts! Yew heard of the Holman Rule? We kin drop yer pay to a $ 1 a year! How ja like them apples!"

Now neighbors, did the above nightmares actually happen?

Fortunately not yet.

Could it happen? Technically yes. The legal tools, the Holman Rule, are in place. However from a practical standpoint, the Trump Administration would likely use the Holman Rule on much bigger fish, say a Federal judge.

On the other hand, never underestimate the power of narrow-minded bigotry.

Of the approximately 413 units of the National Park Service, approximately 105 are "controversial," meaning that there are people who would like to defund them unless "errors" are corrected.

Of these 105 parks, 81 are "controversial" because they deal in geological time rather than Biblical time. (Not all geological parks are controversial; only sedimentary! Creationist rather like volcanoes and lava as it is happening right before your eyes). Of the remaining parks, 24 are "controversial" due to difference of opinion on the Cause of The War of the Rebellion or present events from the American Indian point of view, or events such as Manzanar Then there are parks that are "controversial "because the human subject still raises hackles (LBJ or Martin Luther King.) Now neighbors, none of this would be important if we had a Congress and Chief Executive that fell within the normal spectrum. Instead we seem to have a found a combination guaranteed to prevent boredom.


Thunderbear.For reasons known only to himself, the President Elect took a number of victory laps around the nation prior to his inauguration They were to "Thank his supporters" and possibly, to strike fear into the hearts of his many enemies with portents of things to come.

Although Mr. Trump had won the Electoral College and thus the Presidency, his pre-Christmas appearance in Mobile, Alabama, had all the fervor of a pre-election campaign rally.

Now it must be said that Trump has made some effort to defang his more enthusiastic hardcore, by paying lip service to the idea that we must be all one country, but that did not stop his base from braying "Lock her up! Lock her up!" (Sort of a redneck version of "Seig Heil! Seig Heil!")

All of this transpired in a Mobile football stadium with Trump speaking from a dias backgrounded by a giant, decorated 50 foot Christmas tree.

The source of the "Christmas Tree" is well known; it was cut from a Mobile City Park at the behest of Mobile city fathers to "honor" Trump.

Why does Trump need to be honored with a Christmas tree?

Well, you see, Trump put Christ back into Christmas.

It seems that Trump believed that the somewhat non-specific "Happy Holidays!" was replacing "Merry Christmas".

Now it is not clear why Trump gives a fig about who is happy or merry on December 25, as he has come somewhat late to Christian observance.

Truth is, the holiday had been getting secularized long before Donald Trump.

"Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" began providing musical bad taste way back in 1949 to offer competition to "Jingle Bells (1859) which also offered no Christian solace, nor for that matter, does "Deck the Halls" (1862) which seems to be more about interior decorating than the Birth of the Savior.

Understandably, some of the citizens of Mobile, at least those who didn't vote for Mr. Trump, were somewhat annoyed that the mayor had lynched their cedar tree in order to toady up to Trump.

In fairness, it seems that the Donald had no knowledge of the cutting of the cedar tree, did not request it and was entirely innocent in the matter.

The mayor took full blame for what seemed like a good idea at the time and promised to plant a replacement at his expense (though obtaining a mature 50 foot cedar and planting it would put a considerable dent in the mayor's salary.)

You see, this is the problem: We will shortly have not just one man who shoots from the hip, but literally thousands of Trump imitators who will want to "cut through red tape" and "Get the job done" and not "waste time" looking at alternatives, or go through the tiresome process of public hearing and taking a vote.


Thunderbear.In Ecuador, I taught a course in conversational English entitled "Conversations with a Gringo." The object was to get the university students used to a native speaker of English and to speak so an American could understand them. (Many students of English are technically proficient in grammar and vocabulary and get good grades from their teachers, yet due to different accents cannot understand the intonation.)

This sort of defeats the process. It was my job to remedy the situation.

Naturally, if you are going to have a conversation, you have to pick a topic. I usually let the students pick a topic, so that it is something they were interested in.

One comely young lady came up with a question that was very nearly a conversation stopper.

"PJ", she asked, "Can you explain the Electoral College and why Donald Trump was elected President?"

Ah, yes.

"That is a brilliant question, Jessica!" I said, using the time-honored professorial bullshitting technique.

I mentioned the problem of slavery and our famous compromise of counting each slave as 4/5th of a human for purposes of representation. (Ecuador had solved that conundrum by simply abolishing slavery in 1851, some 13 years before the US got around to it.)

However it was clear that my message was not getting any brighter.

My students still considered the Electoral College a very arcane institution for any country, especially "The Leader of the Free World." They could not understand why the US was the only country that had an electoral college.

I told them that Electoral Colleges were really not my specialty and that I would have to defer to a higher power, but I would have the answer next class.

So I asked Jerry Rogers.

He replied as follows:

And, as usual with your questions, a graduate-level course could be made of the answer, but I am pretty sure you want something you could say to students who actually want to practice their Ingles. So I will skip the part about an electoral college also being part of European-Ecuadoran heritage dating back about 800 years to the Holy Roman Empire and carrying over into the new idea of creating a nation-state from 13 former English colonies in the late eighteenth century.

Simple answer #1. When the United States Constitution was being written and considered for ratification, 1787-88, a great deal of attention was given to what the new republic would be and how it would work. At that early date the idea of representative government through a republic was very liberal, and few people anywhere in the world thought in terms of pure democracy. The range of people who were allowed to vote seems constricted to us today, but at the time it seemed otherwise. It seemed reasonable then that those who could vote would vote for wise Electors who would then choose the President.

Simple answer #2. The United States was already a very large country in 1788 and communication moved at the speed of a horse trotting or a ship under sail. It took weeks for election results to come in from Georgia or Massachusetts to the capital at Philadelphia or New York. The size of the country made a more direct democracy seem impracticable with the communication methods of the time.

Simple answer #3. The United States was conceived as a republic-a federation of "states." The word state back then already meant nation-state (e.g. Spain), and it took a while to figure out step-by-step (and eventually a civil war) just what it meant to be a "state" which was a component of a larger nation-state. Some of the states had large landmasses and others only small areas, and some states had large populations and others not many people. Economically, some states were highly commercial and some were mostly agricultural. Some states depended heavily on enslaved workers and others were almost the opposite. Religion was much more important then than it is now, and states varied a great deal in their predominant religious beliefs.

To deal with these drastic differences the writers of the Constitution made the House of Representatives based on population, but in the Senate the states would be equally represented. Then they decided that an Electoral College would choose the President with each state having the same number of Electors that it had members of the House and Senate combined.

But democracy has increased over the 228 years since then, so why do we still have it? Having just experienced the turmoil of a revolution, the writers of the Constitution wanted to ensure stability and so they made it very difficult to change the constitution (it requires a 2/3 vote of each House or approval by 2/3 of the states to propose, and ratification by 3/4 of the states). A constitutional amendment to eliminate the electoral college and establish direct popular vote would mean that many states that have small populations would be giving up power to a relatively few states that have large populations, and that is not likely to happen.

Conclusion. Believe it or not, these are the simple answers. I could go on and on, but this ought to be enough to make them wish they hadn't asked.

Postscript. It is true that in the 1780s people thought that an electoral college would be able to counteract the passions that might come from "an excess of democracy," such as electing an unprincipled, unqualified, and self-contradictory oaf who could excite the masses.


Thank you, Jerry!


Thunderbear.The bear was sitting on the balcony overlooking Quito, drinking beer and eating honey flavored plantain chips.

"Sunset is always the most beautiful time" he mused "Just before they turn the lights on and the fog rolls in."

The liter beer cans on his crossed bandoliers clinked softly as he rose to greet me, surprisingly agile for a ten-foot tall flying beer.

"How is the Universe?" I inquired, making small talk.

"Could be better" The Great Bear responded enigmatically. "Though I must admit that your Galaxy is not doing half badly, considering it's one of the frontier galaxies.

(The Frontier Galaxies marked the DMZ between the Forces of Good, (that is, God) and the Forces of Evil. (Naturally, the Forces of Evil prefer a less pejorative name.))

The resulting mixture of good and evil made for an interesting career for a Celestial civil servant. Although Thunderbear complained bitterly about his assignment on Earth, one knew that in his heart of hearts, he would not have it any other way.

"You humans are completely unpredictable!" The Great Bear marveled. "That is what makes you interesting as a species and I suppose why God keeps you around!" The Great Bear marveled. "You do things that are completely illogical and against your best interests!"

"For example, your Emperor Grump..."

"That would be Trump." I corrected the Bear.

"Whatever" Thunderbear continued impatiently "Anyways this Trump chap repealed a law that prevented humans from dumping coal ash and associated poisons into streams that you use for drinking water. I do not see the logic unless Trump is a member of some kind of death cult."

I assured the Bear that the Better Sort of People drank bottled water they could easily afford.

"And the others?"

"Consider it an evolutionary test: May the best livers and kidneys win!"

Thunderbear did not find the joke amusing.

"You remind me that my annual Evolution Report is due."

"Evolution Report?"

"I thought you knew. Evolution is God's favorite hobby".

"His favorite hobby?" I gasped incredulously.

"What did you think it was; collecting baseball cards? " The Bear said archly.

"But Evolution?"

The Bear looked pained and began to explain.

"Look, say you're God. You're immortal! You're going to be around for a long time! Things could get boring in a static universe. You'll want some action; new forms of life, new planets, and new ideas: Maybe a war between Good and Evil! With Evolution the possibilities are endless, all you need is endless time!"

"But what's the point?" I inquired. "Since God can see into the future, He knows how the story ends.

"That is the point! The Deity cannot see into the future! That would spoil all the fun. God does not want to be bored."

I had to admit I had not looked at it that way.

"Look" the Bear said brightly, "your planet, that which you call Earth, is an evolutionary hot spot and Ecuador is a hot spot within your terrestrial hot spot, which is why I am here. You should be proud."

"With evolution, you never know how things are going to turn out. That's the interesting part. You see, your "Earth" is a Vorgon class water planet. We at Celestial Central were interested in how long it would take for sea creatures to evolve into sentient beings and what form they would take for life under the sea. Interesting experiment.

Turns out we were sort of barking up the wrong tree, evolution wise." Thunderbear remarked grudgingly. " Even though the planet is mostly covered with water, we should have had our eye on a certain hairless ape living on dry land that was making remarkable progress. We didn't pay heed. I must admit that I was betting on the Octopi family becoming the dominant species on your planet. We overlooked your species."

"Cream always rises to the top," I said proudly.

"So does pond scum?" rejoined Thunderbear, truculently.

"We are invincible!" I said triumphantly.

"Not necessarily" The Bear said grimly. "As you are aware, there have been 5 mass extinctions in Earth's history. They occurred when God became bored and swept the deck clean."

"But we are not boring. You admitted that."

"No, but you are destructive. Rather than eliminating all evolutionary progress, I am going to propose at our next staff meeting that we be a bit more selective rather than arrange another mass extinction, unless of course, you choose to mend your ways, an unlikely possibility."

With that, the Bear stepped out on the balcony and flew off into the sunset.


Great! You finally found it! The Safety Message! The sole item in each issue of THUNDERBEAR that allows you to read THUNDERBEAR on government time and on a government computer. As you know, Safety is Job #1 in the National Park Service. However, delivering the Safety Message has become more complex a task

So what 's up in Safety in Issue #233?

Why, President Donald Trump of course!

Or rather the President's portrait.

You will recall that when you walk into one of the 413 visitor centers of the various units of the National Park System, you will see three photographs hanging on the wall. You may not recognize two photographs: one will be the current Secretary of the Department of the Interior (Ryan and the other one will be the current Director of the National Park Service (To be announced.).)

However, you will immediately recognize the third portrait: None other than President of the United States Donald J. Trump with that patented smile.

Now that portrait will evince a visceral reaction in many visitors. Some will regard the photograph as symbolic of a Dream Come True; something to be reverenced.

However, for other taxpayers, the reaction will be one of clinched fists and gritted teeth.

On occasion, the reaction might be verbal:

"DO YOU HAVE TO DISPLAY THAT BABOON'S FACE ON GOVERNMENT PROPERTY?" the visitor might inquire of the ranger, exercising his/her First Amendment rights.

Or the action may be more direct: The visitor might vault the information desk and snatch President Trump's portrait off the wall. The ranger, being quick witted and alert, grabs one end of the portrait and a tug-o-war ensues.

The glass cover of the portrait shatters and both the ranger and the visitor are cut by broken glass, there is soon blood over the floor. There will be reports to be filled out; lots of paperwork that Mr. Trump decried.

The unpleasant scenarios are endless: An elderly liberal gets into a fight with an elderly tea party type over the portrait. Neither will cease and desist. The law enforcement Ranger gives them each an "equal opportunity" burst with his TASER.

Both are carried out of the VC stone cold dead.

Thunderbear.So you see, the President's portrait could be a Safety & Loss Control Issue.

But does it have to be?

"Is there a statute, law, or regulation that requires the President's Portrait to be publicly displayed in a federal facility? Or is it just a polite custom?"

These are the questions your tireless editor has been putting to senior level NPS officials.

If a public display is all that is required, then the wall of the superintendent's office may be sufficient.

If a devout Trump supporter is enraged that the President's portrait is not publicly displayed, he/she can be shown the superintendent's office, where the superintendent can reverently show the visitor the Portrait on the wall and state that he genuflects to the Portrait every working morning. (Sometimes a little white lie can smooth the potholes of life, neighbors!)

Now compared to climate change is not the presidential portrait something of a tempest in a teapot? Not if you have to do the paper work! We are trying to avoid trouble; the essence of Safety and Loss Control.

So what did the "High ranking NPS official" say on this matter?

He said something unprecedented for a "High ranking NPS official" He said he didn't know. (This was an amazing lack of ego, plus his prompt response indicated he was working on his day off.)

But he added that he would try to find out if there was a law, statute or regulation that requires the public display of the President's portrait and that "yes, it was indeed a safety issue." (If in doubt, ask a ranger!) According to the HRO, there didn't seem to be any particular regulation or statute on the subject. There was a GSA advisory on how the three portraits were to be displayed on a wall, but it doesn't seem to indicate WHICH wall? Will the wall of a broom closet suffice?

"Oh come on!" you ask dismissively. "Isn't a riot in the visitor center over a portrait a bit unlikely?"

Not at all.

Some of you of a certain age may remember the 37th President of the United States. Richard Millhouse Nixon. In his time he was quite controversial. However, his historical reputation has improved with time and present circumstances.

The left wing screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, creator of that liberal soap opera THE WEST WING, plaintively stated "What wouldn't we give to trade this small fraction of a man (Trump) for Richard Nixon right now!"

Yes, there are those who would trade Donald for Dick right now, but back then it was a different story.

Nixon was heading for impeachment. I was park historian at John Muir National Historic Site located in that hot bed of liberalism, the San Francisco Bay Area.

Hardly a day went by that we didn't beat off clutching liberal fingers reaching for the portrait of President Nixon over the information desk. We were successful, but there were some close calls.

Finally, mercifully, Nixon resigned and we are able to retire his portrait.

Not quite a riot, but close.


Thunderbear.Now neighbors, one of the problems of being an expatriate is that you are constantly asked to explain the actions of America and your fellow Americans.

No other country has this problem.

Russians are never asked why they keep invading the neighbors. "It's a Russian thing, We just do!"

However as "The Leader of the Free World", we are frequently asked to explain ourselves and our occasionally eccentric behavior, such as our recent election.

Now there was a time when we used to chuckle patronizingly at the antics of Central and South American countries trying to make democracy work. We derisively called them "Banana Republics" and wagered they would never get the hang of democracy, due to reasons ranging from racial inferiority to the hot climate.

These times are over, at least for the time being.

We survived our own election in November and were present in Ecuador for their presidential election in February. So we could do a compare and contrast:

  1. The first thing noticed is the campaign period. Ecuador's lasts one month, not a year and half as in the United States.
  2. The government funds the campaign. Outside money is forbidden. That would be unfair.
  3. Voting is compulsory, between the ages of 18 to 65. Unless you have a doctor's excuse.
  4. There are multiple political parties (six to be exact) which means everyone's views can be heard.
  5. The President elect must get at least 40% of the votes or face a run off.
  6. There is no such thing as an "Electoral College."
  7. There is no such thing as gerrymandering. (Though some geographical areas but not parties, get more proportional representation, to make up for past slights.)

For the past 8 years, President Rafael Correa's Alianaza PAIS party has run Ecuador, a far left (and anti American) party. In addition to not particularly liking the American government, Correa is an enthusiastic advocate of national parks and the environment, hoping to structure the economy on tourism. He defines himself as a "Christian Marxist" and is a practicing Catholic.

He has devoted himself to uplifting the poor and building the infrastructure of Ecuador, doing a particularly fine job on roads and airports (and lining his pockets, according to his many detractors in Ecuador's growing middle class).

He is also famous for taking down the United States a peg or two when he granted diplomatic asylum to Julian Assange in London. The gentleman continued to release embarrassing documents from his perch in the Ecuadorian embassy, which may have helped secure the election of Donald J. Trump. Interesting!


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