U.S. President Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, faces a great deal of opposition to her confirmation. Most of that opposition comes from Democratic politicians and Democratic organizations. But if both parties stuck to their stated principles and goals, the Senate would vote 100-0 against her nomination.
“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide,” U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump tweeted in late November, “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Kind of a sore winner. And now that he’s no longer just president-elect but actually president, he’s doubling down and says he “will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD ... .”
There’s the garden-variety fake news that is not really “news” so much as it is titillating, tabloid-worthy material peddled by anyone with a Twitter account, a Facebook page, and an active imagination. These stories run the gamut from the ridiculous and the obviously click-baity to the satirical and politically manipulative.
On the Friday before Christmas – the kind of time politicians pick to do things they hope you won’t notice – U.S. president Barack Obama signed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Along with the usual terrible, horrible, no good, very bad NDAA stuff (all the little mandates involved in continuing to operate the most irresponsibly bloated and expensive military machine on the planet), this NDAA included an ugly little Christmas gift for incoming President Donald Trump: The Countering Foreign Disinformation & Propaganda Act.
In early 2003, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell took the stage at the United Nations “to share with you what the United States knows about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.” Powell justified the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq on the claim that Saddam Hussein’s regime continued to produce and stockpile chemical and biological weapons in violation of UN resolutions. He dazzled his audience with audio recordings and surveillance photographs that he claimed constituted evidence of Iraq’s perfidy.
Two years later, Powell called the presentation a “blot” on his record, admitting that he had deceived the UN. The “weapons of mass destruction” didn’t exist. All the Saddam-era chemical weapons recovered in Iraq since 2003 are of pre-1991 manufacture with no evidence linking them to the regime since the 1991 war.
How long can we expect to wait for the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center to admit that its report “GRIZZLY STEPPE – Russian Malicious Cyber Activity” – pre- hyped as providing “evidence” of Russian government interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election – is a reprise of Powell’s UN speech?
On December 1, the Illinois legislature passed a bill that will extend the life of the Quad Cities nuclear-power plant at Cordova, Illinois, for another 10 years. Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed the measure into law on December 7. At stake are 800 jobs on-site and thousands of ancillary jobs wholly dependent on plant workers. An article by Thomas Geyer published in the Quad-City Times on June 2, 2016, reported that the annual payroll at the Cordova plant is some $75 million, and its yearly Rock Island County property-tax bill amounts to nearly $8 million. Thus, the short-term preservation of jobs and revenue trumped common sense.
Johannes Brahms is regarded as one of the greatest composers in history. I never tire of his sonatas for violin or cello, and his piano works are pure magic. I go through whole periods of listening and marveling at his capacity for melodic development. I can’t read enough biographies. Beyond his incurable love for Clara Schumann – I’m convinced his over-the-top adoration of her acted like a narcotic that fired up his creativity to generate such astonishing melodies – one strange fact stands out to me.