Author: bookphoenix

The North Dakota Pipeline

Hello, everyone! Today’s post will have some maps, so if you are of the geographic phobic variety, perhaps you want to scroll by quickly.

This is a map of the 48 contiguous states with Alaska and Hawaii shown in the left corner. It’s a pretty common map children see when learning about geography. (To the point, however, that some of them end up growing up thinking that Alaska is located near Mexico. But that’s a whole different kettle of fish).

the-united-states-of-america-map

I’d like to draw your attention to the middle top of the states, a place we usually refer to as a “fly over” state, meaning that it’s not a place people go to on a regular basis, just a place the planes fly over. (The US is biiiiiiiiiiggggg). It is a state we fondly refer to as North Dakota. (South Dakota is, well, south of it. I know, we’re so creative!). To the north of North Dakota is one of our neighboring countries, Canada, which we typically have very friendly relations with.

north_dakota_ref_2001

Lately, however, it has become less of a fly over state and instead become very very busy. Why, you might ask? We might sum it up in a single word: oil. Oil becomes gasoline which helps our cars, trucks, and planes go. (And the United States is biiiiiiiggggg with very, very, VERY primitive mass transit if any at all, especially in rural places. That, also, is another kettle of fish). We are trying to get oil from Canada into other places in the country. Oil, in this form, go boom if it’s looked at funny, so planes are a nono.

So, what’s the problem  you ask? Well, there are two routes that the oil company has proposed. One of them through a mostly white neighborhood, one through a First Nations/Native American reservation. (The treatement of the indingenous peoples by our government? Not exactly what we might call stellar). If you’ve guessed already that the mostly white neighborhood has voted against the pipeline due to possible issues with the pipeline contaminating the drinking water, congratulations, you win a cookie!

People are protesting the whole shenanigans, with some saying that hey, it’s safer than moving the oil by train. Which is not untrue – but doesn’t really solve the problem that the pipelines are still going where they aren’t wanted. This picture sums up the current relationship:

dakota20pipeline

It was looking like he law of the land would eventually prevail. The Army Corp denied the easement.

Annnnnd then Trump was inaugrated. He issued an executive order to advance the pipeline anyway. As of this writing, it remains to be seen precisely how this will play out in real life. But chances are, given the other stunts he’s pulled thus far, it won’t be good.

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Why, California? Why?

If you read this blog in it’s beginning, you’ll know that I have a very special relationship with Eric Holder; specifically, a relationship that could mostly be characterized as sheer, unadulterated hatred.

Why? Oh, just things like voter intimidation, Project Gunrunner/Fast and Furious, Operation Choke Point, and the lack of due process. Small things like that.

And, in full knowledge of all of this, California hired him as a consultant.

Since the last posts have been fairly depressing, here’s a cartoon to lighten things back up.

Cut Up Holder and the Constitution

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Steve Bannon

Apparently, Trump is in a race to see just how quickly I can come to loathe his policies and appointments as much as I loathed Obama’s. (Magic answer: Pretty dang quick).

As Trump’s chief strategist, he has appointed a man named Steve Bannon. If your immediate response is: Who? Allow me to introduce you!

Born in 1953 in Norfolk Virginia (one of the US states on the east coast, famous for a whole bunch of Presidents and some other stuff that probably isn’t important), Bannon is the executive chair of an organization called Breitbart News, a very very VERY conservative newsgroup, something so far off the path it’s called “alt-right”. What do we mean by that? Well, in Bannon’s case, we mean someone who’s a xenophobic, racist, mysgonistic poopy head. I’d use worse words, but this a mostly family blog, after all.

If you too feel like you need to take a shower after reading that, enjoy this cartoon from The Denver Post: 

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I Agree With the WBC

For those of you souls fortunate enough not to recognize the acronym WBC, it stands for Westboro Baptist Church. For those of you who are still fortunate enough not to know what that is, I assume most of you are familiar with the KKK, the Klu Klux Klan. If you are somehow privleged enough not to know what that is, buckle up, buttercup. This post is gonna be a doozy.

I pretty much assume the readers of this blog are American and thus somewhat familiar with American history. For those of you, however, who slept through history class or just aren’t familiar with this particular story, let me take you back in time . . .through the mists. . . to the year 1619.

In the year 1619, econonmics really sucked for a lot of people. So much so that people were willing to become indentured servants. Basically, they worked for room and board working off a debt, typically the price of their ticket to come to America. If I remember correctly, the typical period was about 7 years of labor. But I don’t remember where I got that from, so feel free to correct me.

People noticed that that this was a really expensive way of doing things. And, since there were other people in the world already involved in an active slave trade, 1619 brought the first African slaves to the United States. This began several hundred years of people mistreating blacks because of the color of their skin, a problem that unfortunately continues to today.

There was a bit of a skirmish we Americans like to refer to as “the Civil War” as if it was the only one in history. It was very bloody and very divisive to the point that, yes, you can still see traces of that divide to today also. After the battles were over,  in a tiny little town in Tennessee, a group called the Klu Klux Klan was formed. They were most known for being truly delightful Caucasian fellows by day, then wearing white hoods  so they wouldn’t be recongized while burning crosses and/or lynching their black neighbors at night.

ku-klux-klan

You’ll notice that I did not mention a date when the Klu Klux Klan dissolved; they still exist. (The first ammendment gives them the right to exist, sans burning crosses and lynching). I wish I could tell you that truth was going to be the most distatestful thing I ever have to write for this blog, but it’s not even the most distasteful thing I have to write for this post.

According to their own website (which I refuse to link to – not only do I find their ideology reprehensible in every sense of the word, but their website URL actually contains a slur against homosexuals; if you want to find it, which I cannot caution you enough against, you can Google it), the Westboro Baptist Church was founded in 1955. And instead of following in the grand tradition of many other Christian groups in America who selflessly and quietly serve their communities by doing things like creating tutoring centers for under-privileged children or having food pantries where all are welcome (both things I’ve personally witnessed churches in my communities doing), the WBC decided to take a  . . . different approach.

Specifically, they like to picket funerals. Of soldiers, usually. Sometimes children. With signs like this:

wbc_protest

That was one of the tamer images I found. How bad did it get, really? Let me put it this way. It got to the point where the Klu Klux Klan came out and said the WBC might want to tone it down a bit. No, really. Allow me to suggest to you, dear reader, that when the Klu Klux Klan comes out and tells you that you are being too hateful, you may want to dial it down a notch/re-evaluate your life choices/throw yourself off a bridge.

Anyway. Where was I? Oh, yes. The title of this post.

Apparently, the Apocalypse is just around the corner or something, because the WBC is protesting Trump. No, REALLY.

tumblr_ok8laoanjd1s9c6nao1_1280

And as much as I hate to say it, as much as I thought this day would never come, as much as I would rather cut out my tongue than say this, and I really, really, really hate hate hate saying this, but.

The WBC and I agree: Donald Trump has not proven he belongs in the White House.

The plagues of blood and boils may now commence.

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Gag Me

I had a lovely post all planned out for today, then Trump went and did a thing that I have to talk about first. So, we will get to the loveliness that is Steve Bannon, but we will have to talk first about the gag order Trump has imposed.

Employees from the Enviromental Protection Agency (the EPA) and the Department of Agriculture are now blocked from communicating with the public or the press.

Allow me to repeat that sentence for you. Employees from the Enviromental Protection Agency (the EPA) and the Department of Agriculture are now blocked from communicating with the public or the press.

And one more time, just to make sure it sunk in. Employees from the Enviromental Protection Agency (the EPA) and the Department of Agriculture are now blocked from communicating with the public or the press.

Because the president disagrees with the findings of science regarding climate change.

Because the president disagrees with the findings of science regarding climate change.

Because the president disagrees with the findings of science regarding climate change.

Which, look, even if you think everything about climate change is totally bogus, how is this going to help? This stops two fairly important government agencies from doing important parts of their JOB. They can’t educate the public about ANYTHING. Like, oh, I don’t know, if say we had a crop blight in one part of the country that coud spread to another.

I’d like to give you a silly cartoon (this is silly civil liberties, after all), but I think it more important I give you this:

United States Constitution

Ammendment the First

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

You don’t get to gag people just because you disagree with them. There is, I feel it important to note, Constitutional provision for military secrets, stuff against throwing the country into anarchy, and sedition, etc. What about “wrong science” (if, indeed, it is that) qualifies?

The senior management officials of these agencies looked at each other and did two things: 1. Set up rogue Twitter accounts that they posted to anyway and 2. Resigned en masse. (Though now rumor has it that this was the normal overturn of administration and that they were fired. Make of that what you will).

If you’re in the United States or a citizen abroad, call, mail, e-mail, or send smoke signals and carrier pigeons to your representatives. You can find them here: Representatives. If you’re not a citizen, you can still send your opinion to the White House here: White House.

I warn you now, however. The time when sending an e-mail or letter may be sufficient is, I suspect, rapidly coming to a close. More action may soon be required. But for liberty, it is worth it to risk all, for without liberty, none of the other rights are worth the letters used to print them on paper.

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Inauguration Day

Today is a solemn day for the American people. Today is the day we swear in the President of the United States. No comic today. Just the words of the inaguration. And imagine saying them out loud. Imagine meaning them. Imagine being given the responsibility of leading one of the greatest countries in the world. Imagine the chill down your spine as you stand on the steps while the cameras and microphones are hyperfocused on your every move.

If you’re a person of religion, pray for our president, will you please? And if you’re not, at least think good thoughts, eh?

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The Electoral College

Many of my fellow American citizens are confused about how Donald Trump won the presidency. Hillary Clinton got more votes, so how did he win? America is a democracy after all, right?

The answer comes down to a fascinating little quirk of our government and a truth that most people don’t realize. The shocking truth first: the United States of America is not a democracy.

I can hear the confusion collecting in your consciousness, so let me hasten to explain. The United States of America is not a democracy at the national level – it is a federal republic.

I expect that this has made things about clear as mud for most of you, so let me explain more.

When American citizens go to the voting place every November (as I have done every time I could since I turned 18), many (most?) of the representatives and laws they vote for are elected/chosen by a simple democracy. That is, whoever/whatever gets the most votes, wins.

But not so the president. When American citizens vote for the president, they are voting for a representative. Each state has a certain number of representatives (with California having the most at 55). Those electors are usually chosen in a “winner take all” scenario, but Maine and Nebraska divide it up by percentage of votes. (So, 60% of the vote goes to Candidate A, so Candidate A gets 60% of the electoral votes). A majority of the 538 electors (270, to be precise) is required to become president. How the representatives are chosen is a whole other basket of bananas, so another day on that topic, perhaps.

You might be thinking this is all a little convuluted and a ridiculous way to choose a leader. To that, I have but one image to share with you from On Sizzle:

now-imagine-living-in-the-gray-zones-and-the-blue-6343378

If this map still doesn’t make sense, let’s review a couple of facts.

Fact the first: the United States is HUGE. The distance between San Francisco (one of the western most points in the continental US) and Washington DC (the nation’s capital) is 3,928 kilometers or 2,441 miles. Mapquest says you could make the drive in 40 hours with $200 for gas; the reality is you would just barely make it out of California for the first day. I leave as an exercise for the reader what gas might cost.

Fact the Second: The population of the United States is not evenly distributed over the landmass. There are lots of different reasons why this is – geography, history, culture, jobs. The fact is, people tend to congregate. And in the United States, they’ve congregated in the blue areas seen in the above map.

Fact the Third: the United States has a HUGE population, currently at around 320 million people. And while a large number of them do live in the blue areas, a large number also live just about everywhere you could imagine (and probably a few places you couldn’t).

Fact the Fourth: the United States is diverse in a way very few countries are. I don’t mean merely in terms of geography (though there is that too); I mean that two people born and raised in America can still end up with issues understanding each other’s accents, much less cuisine choices, politics, or religion.

(These four facts are also why a large number of social programs that work in other counties never take off here).

Further, we need to discuss a few historical facts about America.

Historical Fact the First: America was a country born out of too much government interference without representation. The people who drew up the Constitution were well aware of what happened when the government got too involved.

Historical Fact the Second: Countries that are pure democracies (purely ruled by the majority) tend to fall apart. I forget which philosopher wrote that “the masses are easily swayed”, but if you have any doubt of its veracity, just check the trending hashtags on Twitter some time. The founders were also well aware of this problem.

Historical Fact the Third: There are certain groups in America that have been exploited and mistreated. Well, actually, pretty much every group has been exploited at some point. But some groups more than others. The people who live outside of the blue areas tend to be economically disadvantaged. They don’t have access to the kind of political power that those in the cities have.

So, if we put all these things together, what do we get? We get a lot of people living in a few places with one set of ideas who tend to have power and we get a lot of people spread out over a lot of places with a different set of ideas without a lot of power. So the electoral college is the attempt to balance out that problem.

Also, you can direct your ire to Alexander Hamilton. He’s responsible for plenty of other ire anyway, so he’s used to it.