Three columns by Tom Hastings


TrumPutin moving forward, democracy declines

As a child of the Cold War (born during the Korean War, learned to talk during the McCarthy Era, turned 12 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, feared the Soviets and loved Barry Goldwater as a 13-year old) it is stunning to me, even as a peace and justice person critical of my own government since Civil Rights and Vietnam, that Donald Trump is a) president and b) a traitor to the US and c) loved by his nationalist base.

Seriously. While the Putin-ordered Russian interference with the US election is far more complex than most media describe, it is real and Trump was “elected” due to Russian meddling at several levels.

And now, having met face-to-face with the foreign adversary who put him into the highest office in the land, Trump is once again doubling down on treason, saying he wants to ‘move forward.’

Great line for a crook. Caught robbing the bank? ‘I just want to move forward.’ Exposed as a perpetrator of illegal financial crimes taking millions from retirees? ‘Can we just move forward?’ Confronted as he stands holding a smoking pistol over the bleeding-out body of the Goddess of Democracy? ‘Let’s just move forward.’

No. Unless by ‘move forward’ you mean move to impeach.

@HardyMerriman: GOP wants to make US a one party state. Gerrymandering, voter suppression, no action on hacking the vote. It’s a slow motion coup.

There was much about Winston Churchill I loathed—he was an avowed racist and self-described terrorist—but his gift for the turn of phrase was significant, and never more profound than when he said, “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

TrumPutin ‘democracy’ is what we are sliding into. Writing this column in Russia might be the last thing I ever did, as the slaughter of Russian journalists by Putin shows. Fake news, fake elections, fake democracy—that is what Putin has produced in Russia and he now brings it to the US.

In the McCarthy Era the hysteria whipped up by the Wisconsin Senator was fake news and it harmed our democracy then. Now, however, the Russian agent is the tool in the White House. Trump and the Republicans are the greatest threat to our democracy we have faced since World War II, rot from the inside instead of bombs from elsewhere. Trump is just low-hanging fruit to Putin and Trump’s voters were badly, sadly duped.

Without an impeachment, without a serious overhaul of enforced voting rights and a return to safeguarded paper ballots, we will continue to watch the erosion and destruction of this 241-year experiment in freedom. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is stable right now. Civil society will engage or it will lose what liberty is left.

Fundamentalists, from Issa to ISIS

As the world recoils in disgust at the new Trump America, even independent voters are jumping the Trump ship. In March, 38 percent expressed disapproval of Trump’s economic measures, and now it’s a 49 percent opinion amongst independents that Trump is weakening the economy.

Who are the Congressional members who stick with Trump through everything?

Darrel Issa (R-CA 49th district), purportedly the richest member of Congress, endorsed Trump more than a year ago, still said he’d vote for no one other than Trump, and has voted for Trump resolutions and legislation 100 percent of the time.

Of course they are soul mates, of a sort. As a younger man, Issa was twice charged with Grand Theft for stealing cars and was under suspicion later for insurance fraud and arson after a troubled business of his went down in flames shortly after he took out a major policy. Then he made his fortune from car alarms designed to thwart Grand Theft. Apparently he was the best person to fix the car stealing problem.

Similarly, Donald Trump has connived to pay a far lower percent of his income in federal taxes than you and I — and campaigned claiming he was just being a smart businessman and that his knowledge would make him the best person to fix those inequities. Of course, his tax ‘reform’ aims to do the precise opposite, revealing more of his lies and false promises. Issa will benefit massively from Trump’s overwhelming favoritism for the rich.

Like all sociopathic leaders from Trump to Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi, from ISIS to Issa, they cite religion without shame, with a straight face, as the backbone of their actions. Issa opposed every civil and human right for LGBT citizens on a religious basis, and the elimination of Planned Parenthood for the same, yet supports Trump’s ongoing wars and arms transfers to war criminals such as the Saudis, who are mercilessly committing genocidal bombing campaigns against Yemenis that rival Assad’s attacks on civilians.

I’m sure it was pure faith in Jesus that drove all of Issa’s pro-gun votes, though protesters at his office might roll their eyes as they tried in vain to convince him to vote for sane gun laws. Pass the Lord and praise the ammunition. Other protesters, many in wheelchairs, protested his version of a Christian vote to reduce healthcare benefits, including Medicaid to people with handicaps.

Perhaps we are all ‘bleeding badly’ from a ‘face-lift’ that should never have placed those two faces in positions of authority and power.

Courting each other

[Recently] I was certified in a Spokane, Washington courtroom as an expert witness, able to offer a professional opinion as to the conduct of a man who sat down on a railroad line to block a coal train. My role was to let the court know whether, in my opinion, this elderly gentleman was acting in the American tradition of nonviolent civil resistance that is, at times, permissible by law.

George Taylor wore his clerical collar to court that day, looking the part that he plays in Spokane life, which is that of a Christian minister. This has historically lent itself to the perception of possible moral authority and, under the circumstances, Reverend Taylor certainly held it.

The Rev had done this nonviolent confrontation last August in the company of other sincere souls, all six of whom were arrested and charged with relatively minor crimes; the maximum sentences they faced were three months in jail. All indicated willingness to serve that if convicted, since coal is the largest contributor to greenhouse gasses that are driving up the temperatures of the oceans and atmosphere around the world.

Then the railroad threatened to seek unknown scores of thousands of dollars in restitution for costs they claim were incurred by the delay of all their trains by the blockades. The other five defendants were legitimately concerned—all were senior citizens and more vulnerable to the seizure of their limited funds than to serving three months of their retirement years in a jail cell.

All undertook the blockade as an act of pure altruism; none are likely to be affected by the most terrible results of global warming. They were acting in defense of their grandchildren and future generations.

The other expert witness, I confess, intimidated me at first when I read his curriculum vitae—which included sharing the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his scientific work to document, explain, and predict the effects of climate change.

Dr. Steven Running has studied and measured aspects of our atmosphere, including carbon dioxide and other greenhouse-effect gasses, since the 1980s. He has personally published more than 300 peer-reviewed scientific papers and his expertise will be validated by any court.

He’s also an affable, humorous, genuine fellow, who, like me, appeared because we intend to help, and not for any fee or any compensation other than the sense of duty to help battle the descent to what Dr. Running described as human chaos.

If, as a society, we pull together hard, starting now, says Running, the children of the future won’t lose too much to the climate change that is underway, with an unavoidable temperature rise of perhaps two degrees Celsius this century. But, he says, if we continue business as usual, temperatures will rise upwards of 12-14 degrees Celsius and, he cites the collective judgment of his fellow scientists, human life may not go totally extinct in the next few decades, but a human society will not continue anywhere. All human systems will break. Fires, floods, hurricanes, crop death, drought, massive dislocation as virtually all port cities are lost to the seas, and killer heat.

Civil resistance, my area of expertise, is expressly to interrupt business as usual, and to do so in ways that invite others to approve, if not join in—completely nonviolent, accountable (no running), and transparent (no masks). I explained all this to the judge, was lightly challenged by the prosecutor, but it was apparent that Dr. Running’s pure fact-based analysis, derived entirely from millions of data from reliable instruments gathered for decades by dedicated and very smart scientists, impacted everyone.

Dr. Running is profoundly worried about the Trump regime, which is doing everything possible to simply ruin life, to strip the protections that might give children a chance.

So, I suppose, I may well be back in that court, or another one, but not always as an expert witness, rather as a defendant. I’d invite anyone to consider that. Business as usual cannot continue if we want to preserve hope for the young, for the unborn.

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Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director.