October 17, 2019

Authority without dissent is tyranny and destruction.

By Glenn

Authority without dissent is tyranny and destruction.

October 3, 2019

We’re All Alice

By Glenn
Alice at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

“The Hatter’s remark seemed to her to have no sort of meaning in it, and yet it was certainly English.”  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1911, p.101)

Words ought to have meaning.  For the vast majority of us they do.  Unfortunately, we have walked through the looking glass and confront a Mad Hatter.   We’re all Alice now, talking and hearing English but lost in a world of make believe.

Donald Trump has already admitted to

1) Using American tax dollars to bribe a foreign leader.

2) Using American government agencies to extort a foreign leader.

3) Asking a foreign leader to interfere in the America elections.

Today we watched with our eyes and heard with our own ears Donald Trump ask Communist China to investigate a political opponent.   In what world is this OK? 

The United States of America spends millions of dollars to hire FBI and CIA agents.  The Mad Donald has convinced himself, and everyone else at his Tea Party, these professionals are really a liberal conspiracy.  These brave men and women put their lives on the line every day, but Donald insults their good name to play politics.

Like Alice, we now have to decide the truth.  We have to decide what is real?  What is insane? 

The longer we try to make sense of this conversation the more we will question reality.  The longer we treat his irrational ramblings as coherent, the deeper we will fall into the world of make believe. 

There is no rational argument to be had with him or his supporters. 

1) Using American tax dollars to bribe a foreign leader is wrong.

2) Using American government agencies to extort a foreign leader is wrong.

3) Asking a foreign leader to interfere in the America elections is wrong.

There is no justification for this behavior.  Either we stop it, or we condone it.  If you donate to, or vote for a candidate, who supports him, then you have joined his Tea Party.  The only way to stop it is to walk away and leave the looking glass.

I am tired of being Alice.  Are you?

October 1, 2019

“To the Republic”

By Glenn

Political allegiance cuts to the heart of patriotism.  In the Middle Ages, warriors owed their personal allegiance to their Lord.  For warriors, allegiance was earned on the battle field.  For everyone else, the Lord demanded allegiance at the point of a sword.  Monarchs dressed up this crude reality with claims to Divine Right.  In England, however, a remarkable transition took place.  The English rediscovered the meaning of “Republic” or “res publica.”

The Romans established their Republic around 500 BCE.   They took control from a monarch who treated their community as his personal property.  Over the next 300 years Romans refined their institutions, separating powers among three types of government to prevent tyranny.  According to Polybius, the two consuls acted as a monarch, the Senate acted as an aristocracy, and the Tribal Assembly acted as a Democracy.  These three Aristotelian forms prevented any one from overwhelming the other two.

War and militarism undermined the separation of powers.  As Romans waged perpetual war against its neighbors, generals took over politics.  Dissent, the essential feature of representative government, gave way to obedience and violence.  Generals encouraged their followers to see their neighbors as enemies to be fought in a Civil War rather than humans to be debated in an assembly.   Rome lost its Republic, not to a foreign invasion, but to politicians who treated government like their personal business and consolidated power.

During the Middle Ages, a few Republics survived.  They either transformed themselves into empires like Venice or lived under the shadow of empires like the German city-states.  Not until the English Civil War did a Republic reemerge as a viable option for larger states.  The English Parliament had learned during the Tudor dynasty that monarchs needed a partner.  Reaching back to Magna Carta, the Lords and the Commons extracted concessions from weak kings.

The tensions between King and Parliament exploded during the reign of Charles I.  Charles was a reckless monarch who asserted his personal prerogative rather than the public good.  Ironically, Charles created the most tension when Parliament refused to appropriate new money for his fruitless wars, and he responded by collecting “Ship Money,”  or tariffs, without Parliamentary approval.  He claimed foreigners paid the tariffs, not Englishmen. Parliament disagreed.

At first Parliament was too weak to challenge the King.  Charles ruled without Parliament for 11 years.  This period of personal rule sowed the seeds of distrust.  Parliament gained the upper hand when Charles stumbled into war with his two other Kingdoms, Ireland and Scotland.  Just like a man can own more than one house, monarchical theory allowed a single man to inherit, and govern, more than one kingdom.

In exchange for support against rebels in Ireland and Scotland, the English Parliament demanded concessions from Charles.  He refused, retreated to Nottingham and raised an army to fight Parliament.  This very stable genius managed to start three simultaneous wars in his three houses.  Yes, he lost. The Scots captured Charles on the battle field and turned him over the English. 

Parliament did the unthinkable.  They tried him for treason.  How could a King betray himself?  He couldn’t.  He could betray “res publica,”  the public thing.

That the said Charles Stuart, being admitted King of England, and therein trusted with a limited power to govern by and according to the laws of the land, and not otherwise; and by his trust, oath, and office, being obliged to use the power committed to him for the good and benefit of the people, and for the preservation of their rights and liberties; yet, nevertheless, out of a wicked design to erect and uphold in himself an unlimited and tyrannical power to rule according to his will, and to overthrow the rights and liberties of the people, yea, to take away and make void the foundations thereof, and of all redress and remedy of misgovernment, which by the fundamental constitutions of this kingdom were reserved on the people’s behalf in the right and power of frequent and successive Parliaments, or national meetings in Council; he, the said Charles Stuart, for accomplishment of such his designs, and for the protecting of himself and his adherents in his and their wicked practices, to the same ends hath traitorously and maliciously levied war against the present Parliament, and the people therein represented.

Thus, “res publica” reentered into history in a dramatic way.   Loyalty was a two way street.  Allegiance was a two way street.  The king earned loyalty by serving the public good.  Calling for war against his enemies was treason.  The public good demanded peace.  The Parliament had a constitutional duty to check Charles’ abuse of power.  They found him guilty and chopped off his head.

Governments are not a private business or affair.  The powers we delegate to our elected officials belong to us and are loaned to them.  Our constitution provides the superior powers to the legislative branch so that no executive could ever forget the lesson of Charles I.  Our Pledge of Allegiance is “To the Republic,” not the Chosen One.

September 25, 2019

Donald Trump’s High Crimes

By Glenn

I am old enough to remember that politics stops at the waters edge. Now, conservatives are defending foreign participation in American Democracy.

“The actions of the Trump presidency revealed dishonorable facts of betrayal of his oath of office and betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” the speaker of the House said Tuesday.

What have Donald and crew already admitted to doing?

1) Using American tax dollars to bribe a foreign leader.
2) Using American government agencies to extort a foreign leader.
3) Asking a foreign leader to interfere in the America elections.

There is no excuse.

There is no doubt this was a quid pro quo.

quid pro quo
/ˌkwid ˌprō ˈkwō/
a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something.

Quid

ZELENSKY: I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We. are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps. Specifically, we are almost. ready to buy more Javelins from the United· States for defense purposes.

Quo

TRUMP: I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.

1) Investigate Right Wing Conspiracy about Democrats
2) Investigate Right Wing Conspiracy against Joe Biden

These are High Crimes.

August 8, 2019

Militarism Threatens America

By Glenn

Militarism is an essential feature of totalitarianism, both fascism and and communism. Militarism embraces violence, unconditional loyalty, unquestioning obedience and absolute uniformity. Democracy, on the other hand, thrives with dialogue, earned respect, dissent and diversity of ideas. Our democracy is under assault. We must protect our values.

Montana Man Slams 13-Year-Old to Ground, Fracturing His Skull, for Not Removing Hat During Anthem

August 5, 2019

A Trump Terrorist

By Glenn

He didn’t cross a border.

He wasn’t a Muslim.

He was radicalized by President Trump.

A Trump Terrorist

July 8, 2019

Toledo II, Spain 2019

By Glenn
Topics:
Spain
Toledo 2019

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Our apartment had a clear view of the cathedral steeple. We followed Rick Steves’ suggestion and attended a Latin mass in the cathedral first thing in the morning. About five men sat on each side of the Chapel’s choir Enchanted the first portions of the mass. This part of the cathedral is dedicated to the Catholic “cult.”

Aftermath we walked around to the side, and paid her entry fee into the main part of the funeral. It was rather plain compared to other cathedrals in France. It did have interesting blending of Gothic and baroque.

“Disrobing of Christ”

The Highlight was a small room off to the side with more than 10 El Greco’s. The main event was called the Disrobing of Christ. Christ red robe dominates scene. And Jackie pointed out that there is a highlight on a yellow Rogue figure in the bottom left-hand corner. 
















Off to the side almost unnoticed, is a Goya painting capturing the moment Christ is portrayed in the garden, “The Arrest of Christ.” The image remind me of the 4th of May with its spotlight on the victim of tyrannical violence.










Mini Toledo


In the same room is an El Greco Joseph and Jesus. It’s a typical El Greco Style. It was interesting to see the landscape of Toledo down in the right-hand corner.









We walked to a tiny mosque, later converted into a Catholic Church.  It looked like a nice quiet retreat from the sun.

Walking all the way across town, navigating the twists and turns, we arrived at the Museum Casa El Grecco. In the early twentieth century a wealthy patron purchased and renovated a house beloved to be El Grecco’s.  It is home to portraits of the Apostle’s and a view of Toledo.

Our day out ended with a tour of Santa Cruz, a converted Convent/Orphanage.   It focused on two centuries of Hapsburgs.  Once again, the highlight was an El Grecco. 

We picked up the ingredients for a simple meal.  Sausage, onions and zucchini over couscous.  I paired it with my favorite Spanish table wine, Blanc Pescador

July 5, 2019

Arrive Toledo, Spain 2019

By Glenn
Topics:
Spain
Toledo 2019

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May 29

We landed in Madrid at 9:45 am to a brisk 60 degree morning.  For first time, we rented a car at the airport for the drive to Toledo.  Even with a google map print out, I took a wrong fork on the Autovia.  We simply exited and headed back the other way.

Unfortunately, the signs in the opposite direction were not the same, and I had to make a snap decision on another fork.  I decided to head away from the airport.  All of the signs indicated roads with no cardinal directions. Feeling lost, we got off the Autovia and reoriented with google maps. To get back on the required a round about.  I did my best Chevy Chase.

Once in Toledo, we got lost again.  The apartment is a the peak of the medieval city.  We found ourselves next to the river.  I turned off the river road to go up, but quickly found a series of narrow streets that became impassable.  An old Spanish woman was hanging out of her window. All I heard her say was “a la derecha” as she pointed.  I backed down the hill and did a Y turn to get back on the river road.  

I ignored google, and drove by memory for my pre-travel investigations.  I drove the narrow streets along with the large city buses.   Reaching the summit we arrived in front of the Alfonso VI hotel.   The apartment was down a step set of steps right next door.  Elisa meet us out side and told me to park European style, meaning on a walk way that had no markings.   

After dropping the bags off, we walked to the bank and the TI in Zocodover Plaza.  We found a plaza off the main drag with a fixed menu for 12.90 E. On the way back to the apartment we wandered the streets exploring.  It was cool in the shade, but getting warmer.

At 5pm we road the No. 71 city bus to the lookout over the city.   It was a broad scene with perfectly blue, clear sky.  On the way back, we walked to the Orange store to get Jackie her SIM card.  I had forgotten the unlock my phone and had to wait.  Walking back up hill we admired the Gate and the view into the valley. 

For supper (9pm) it was a simple meal of bread with jamon and butter served with olives and beer.  By this time it was 10 and dark.  The city was perfectly quite as walked to the wall above the river.  

Pan con jamon y mantequilla

We slept until 7 am undisturbed. 

May 27, 2019

Honoring My Dad and the Fallen

By Glenn

Memorial Day always makes me think of my dad-Yves “Buster” Melancon.  He served for twenty-seven years in the United States Army and went to Vietnam twice.  As a Combat Engineer, Dad wasn’t directly engaged in the fighting, but he did travel throughout the war zone.  I always wonder how my life would have been different if Dad had never come home.

I was lucky.  Thousands of sons and daughters lost their parents to the war in Vietnam.  Once, when I was an adult, and after he had retired, I asked my dad to tell me about his experiences.  He simply said, “all I know is that a lot of good brothers died for no reason,” and then he started to cry.  I never heard the rest of the story.

Now, I’m a dad and my son-Christopher Yves-Paul Melancon joined the United States Army.  He serves as a Combat Engineer.  I wish my dad were still alive.  He would be proud. I know I am.

Millions of men and woman-like my dad and my son-have sacrificed themselves to serve and protect you and me.  Do we do enough to protect them?  Do we do enough to prevent “a lot of good brothers” from dying “for no reason”?  I was convinced President Obama understood that he had their lives in his hands.

In a commencement speech to the Naval Academy graduates, President Obama made a promise to them.  He also made a promise to my son.  President Obama said, “as long as I am your Commander in Chief, I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary, and with the strategy, the well-defined goals, the equipment and the support you need to get the job done.”

The President clearly articulated the lessons of Vietnam.  Now, it just seems like common sense.  Unfortunately, in 2003 too few Washington politicians-neither Democratic nor Republican-thought to apply this lesson to Iraq.  It was an unnecessary war, based on a naïve strategy.  Making the situation worse, our brave men and women lacked the proper body armor and armored vehicles to keep them safe.

We now know that the failure of the Bush Administration to do its homework produced chaos.  Lacking a well-defined strategy, Donald Rumsfeld cut corners.  He didn’t trust the military and turned to outside contractors.  They convinced him that torture and humiliation could win a war.  They were wrong. Donald Trump is doing it again, ignoring evidence, sowing discord among our allies, and praising the barbaric practice of torture.

Even with such poor leadership in Iraq, however, our armed forces persevered.  They looked for long-destroyed Weapons of Mass Destruction.  They toppled Saddam Hussein and supervised three Iraqi elections.  Thankfully, President Obama reduced our troops in Iraq and lead our troops home from Iraq.

I have no doubt our military can achieve its mission on the battlefield. The problem is after the war. As Collin Powell said, “You break it, you own it.” How much blood and treasure have politicians wasted because of Iraq? How much more chaos was added to the world? The Middle East is clearly less stable.

Almost eighteen years after the murderous attacks on America, we, the American voters, should see clearly. A destructive war without a clear exist strategy makes us weaker, not stronger. We need a strong diplomatic and humanitarian effort to work alongside of our brave servicemen and women. The world is not our enemy. Reaching out a hand of friendship is just as important as eliminating the terrorist threat.

My dad always told me that no one hates war more than the soldier.  Soldiers know that the price of glory is high.  A reckless and foolish foreign policy not only wastes trillions of dollars, but more importantly, it risks the lives of our loved ones.  I can think of no better way to honor my dad and the Fallen than to make sure his grandson doesn’t die in a purposeless and fruitless war.

***Originally written in 2009. updated 2019***