John S. McCain III Has Passed

Lt Cmdr John S. McCain III was a hero to me. I idolized him and wanted to be like him when I reported to Navy AOCS in Pensacola. That was in May of 1975, two years after McCain had been released from a North Vietnamese prison, and just weeks after the fall of Saigon.

I received my commission in November of 1976. One of the traditions in a commissioning ceremony is that the Navy Hymn is sung after the new Ensigns have have taken that oath to “defend the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” but before the benediction.

It was a proud moment in my life. Receiving that commission and pinning on those gold bars was quite an experience.

The very inauspicious chapter of my Navy career when, four months later, I dropped flight training and was then told by a disposition board that the Navy didn’t need me in the surface fleet was a huge disappointment.

I was as deflated and numb going through that experience as I had been pleased and proud four months before when our band of brand-new Ensigns sang the Navy Hymn together.

For some reason, I still remember the words. But that has nothing to do with my admiration for Senator McCain.

This is hard to explain, but even though the career I had dreamed about for years fell apart when I got into the hard part of Naval flight training, the eight months I was in Uncle Sam’s Navy marked me for life.

I’ve never lost sight of how vitally important it is to be a part of something greater than myself. Working as a team doesn’t come naturally for me, I’m too much of a lone wolf.

But I learned how to do that in those 16 weeks of Aviation Officer Candidate School.

I learned that the rigors of military life and the necessity of putting the needs of your unit, your mates and the folks back home ahead of your own could impose a very high cost on the individual.

I never had to pay any cost for my shipmates. Or my country. I never knew the perils of an angry sea or a determined enemy.

John McCain did. That’s the kind of man he was. That’s the kind of life he lived.

Lt Cmdr McCain completed 22 very perilous missions over the skies of North Vietnam before his A-4 Skyhawk was shot out of the sky in October of 1967.

The story of how he spent 5 1/2 years as a POW in the infamous Hanoi Hilton is well-known. What some may have forgotten is that his North Vietnamese captors offered to release him shortly after they learned that his father, Adm John McCain Jr., was the Commander of American forces in Vietnam.

But John refused to be released under those conditions and finally made it home with his comrades-in-arms in 1973, under the terms of the Paris Peace Accord.

The never-ending maltreatment and torture that McCain endured in his years of imprisonment left him with a lifetime of debilitating injuries. You may have noticed that he was never able to raise his arms above his shoulders when waving to crowds at political events.

That can happen when your wrists are lashed together behind your back, you’re suspended from the ceiling and the sadists who are trying to break you have the ropes so taut that you can’t get both feet flat on the dirt floor beneath you.

These are the kinds of sacrifices that John McCain made. Cmdr McCain and our other POW’s endured hardships and made sacrifices for their country and their loved ones that you and I can’t even imagine.

They did it in fulfillment of the oath they all took. They did it without “reservation or purpose of evasion” just as they had sworn to do.

That’s the kind of man, the kind of hero John McCain was.

The many years of service he gave to his country after he retired from the Navy have been chronicled over and over. One can read reams of information about that part of his service to our country now that he’s passed.

I admire him greatly for his time in the US Senate. He always deported himself with great dignity. He always acted with the courage of his convictions.

I admire him no less as a politician and public servant as I did when his service to country put him in constant peril of life and limb. His fearlessness and his integrity inspire me as much today as they did when I wanted to follow in his footsteps as a 21 year old Officer Candidate.

All told, he rendered more than 60 years of faithful service to the United States. He never shirked his duty, even under conditions that would have broken ordinary men.

I’m not sure why, exactly, but the first thing that happened for me when I heard the news of his passing a few hours ago, is that the strains of the Navy Hymn began to “play” in my head.

I aspired to greatness as a young man so many years ago while singing those words with my mates. Alas, there was to be no greatness in my brief, inglorious military career.

But I, like you, recognize greatness instantly when I see it or hear of it.

I recognized greatness in John McCain more than 43 ago. His selflessness, his devotion to his family, his fellows and his country stand out like that lighthouse at Fort Barrancas on a squally night.

God rest your warrior’s soul, Cmdr McCain. Thank you for your lifetime of selfless service to the country you loved so well.

 

© 2018 Ben Lawrence Basile
All Rights Reserved

The words of the Navy Hymn:

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walked’st on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Oh, Watchful Father who dost keep
Eternal vigil while we sleep
Guide those who navigate on high
Who through grave unknown perils fly,
Receive our oft-repeated prayer
For those in peril in the air.

The United States Navy Chorus singing
“Eternal Father Strong to Save”

Twofer Tuesday with Manafort and Cohen!

Note: my primary focus here on da-bulldog-blog is outdoor fun, nature photography and all but I still get into the political stuff with big stories. And this is certainly one!

By now you’ve quite likely heard that former tRump campaign manager Paul Manafort was convicted on eight of the 18 original counts he was facing. The jury was deadlocked on the other counts, we’ll see how that part of the story unfolds later.

Meanwhile, tRump’s long-time personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen plead guilty to eight charges in a Federal Court in Manhattan today and said very plainly that he made the two illegal payouts–one to Stormy Daniels and one to Karen McDougal–because tRump directed him to. And that he did it in order to influence the 2016 Presidential Election.

Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced on December 12th.

Donald is toast. The dam is most definitely breaking!

Because his delusional supporters are dug in so deeply, it will take more than today’s proceedings to dislodge him from the office he stole back on 11/9 but we can all see the handwriting on the wall now.

Not only does he have cult-like thrall over his Kool Aid chugging followers, but the Federal Government is run by his sycophants, enablers and co-conspirators, so we’re not going to see the curtain go down quite yet.

But we can all see now that it’s just a matter of time.

Hey, #LyingLoserPrez! Are you feelin’ Bob Mueller’s hot breath on your neck yet?

Yeah. I knew you were.

 

Breathin’ just a bit easier on this Twofer Tuesday, I am,

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

© 2018 Ben Lawrence Basile

Trey Gowdy changes his tune

Just moments ago, I saw a snippet of Face The Nation on CBS. Margaret Brennan’s guest was none other than Trey Gowdy, the father of the Benghazi investigation and the poster boy for outrageous GOP obstructionist behavior with respect to the Mueller investigation.

The main thrust of her final question was basically to get his take on the fact that the new indictments reveal that at least one, and most likely two people involved or formerly associated with the tRump campaign, passed those stolen emails back to the campaign.

The indictments do not reveal the identities of that person or persons, but most folks who follow such things believe that Roger Stone is one and that a hitherto little-known Florida political operative named Aaron Nevins is the other.

So Brennan wanted to get Gowdy’s take on the new revelations.

I was shocked when I heard his response. He said, in a manner both plain and robust, that the Special Counsel should figure out exactly who those people were and take appropriate action!

Now, he could have been full of shit while saying that, but that’s not the important part; at least it’s not for me.

What was shocking to me was that his reply wasn’t just more dissembling, deflecting, minimizing and obfuscation at which Gowdy excels and which has been the order of the day for Rethuglicans in the matter of Mueller’s probe right from day one!

I could be reading too much into his remarks, but I believe it’s another early sign that Repugs believe they’ve come to the end of their long-held, seemingly iron-clad strategy of uttering lie after lie in all press appearances to keep the truth about the tRump-Russia matter from coming to light.

I’m convinced that they’ve known that the investigation–and what is known about the investigation–would eventually reach the point where so much rot and corruption would be revealed that the public would stop believing their spin, deflection and lies; and that from that time on, they’d have to start distancing from Fearless Leader in order to prevent the whole party from going down with him.

Now, I don’t think it’s going to help. I think they’re all going down anyway. But I’m now convinced that Gowdy and some others do, in fact, see the handwriting on the wall, and that their PR strategy is starting to change.

I’m happy to say that I believe we’re at the tipping point.

And I believe that Bob Mueller’s just getting started.

To read a very thorough delineation of the whole matter of how, allegedly, Stone and Nevins fed the content of those notorious stolen DNC emails back to the campaign, or–to be more precise–to tRump himself, check out this unrolled twitter thread from investigator Seth Abramson.

For more of a big picture look at Friday’s very important indictments of 12 Russian GRU operatives and what the repercussions might be, follow this link.

 

 

Bulldog Ben, barkin’ again!

 

© 2018 Ben Lawrence Basile

It’s the 4th of July and this time…

It’s the 4th of July and this time…

It’s the 4th of July and this time our celebration is not like any other year in the 242 year history of our country.

The buffoon whose elevation to the highest office in the land occurred in January of 2017 has proved to be an unmitigated disaster for the USA. This #PoserPrez seems to spend all of his time watching Fox Noise, thinking of new ways to insult our allies and undo the considerable legacy of Barack Obama, all the while searching for new and disgusting strategies to cozy up to his man-crush, Vladimir Putin.

Well, when he’s not a Mar-a-Lago playing golf, that is.

There are so many dimensions to the tragedy unfolding in our corporate life today. As we come to the day on which we celebrate our Independence, it can be a challenge to choose exactly what it is about tRump and tRumpism that sucks the worst.

Is it his cruelty and arrogance? His hard-to-believe, near-total ignorance of the history of our nation? The fact that he knows less-than-zero about how the levers of government work?

Could it be the fact that he demonstrates no interest in carrying out the duties of the Presidency? Is it his complete and thoroughly-documented general incompetence?

Maybe it’s his constant lying, exaggerating, denying, minimizing and just completely making shit up?

Honestly, it’s hard to choose. Pick one. Keep in mind that my short list here is far from complete. Truthfully, I barely scratched the surface.

For me, it’s easy. It’s the fact that our #LyingLoserPrez is trying to march the country towards Fascism. All the signs are there. He is undermining the First Amendment’s protection of journalism, of a free press. He screams “fake news” whenever anyone in the media points out one of his constant lies or just refuses to flatter him sufficiently in their stories.

He is setting us up for a foray into fascism with his constant “other-rizing” of immigrants and minority groups, pushing them farther and farther to the edge of our society and making them vulnerable to having their rights limited or taken away altogether.

Our constitution mandates that everyone within the jurisdiction of the United States receives the protections it affords. Not only citizens. But our unPOTUS still feels perfectly at liberty to separate children from their parents, some of whom are as young as six months, and then lock them in cages; the few places we have been permitted to see where kids have been interned look startlingly like dog kennels.

And this is happening to families whose only crime is the misdemeanor of crossing the border illegally. That describes, roughly, 90% of the families and individuals who have been rounded up by ICE or the Border Patrol. If people crossing the border are asking for asylum, their coming to the U.S. is no crime at all! But they’re being interned and having their children taken anyway without a case being opened for their asylum request.

This would-be tyrant is also fond of ignoring the rule of law. Of acting as though the law of the land simply doesn’t apply to him. And–to compound the felony here–he believes that he has unfettered power to pardon, not only all his family and friends and staff who have engaged in criminal behavior along with him, but to pardon himself!

Right! That’s never been done in the United States. And wrap your mind around this stark reality: our President is claiming the right to pardon himself for crimes he keeps insisting he has not committed! It’s insane! And about 25% of the American people have no problem with it. Or any other criminal outrage coming from the accursed occupant of our White House.

So Happy 4th of July, patriot! Reflect on the unhappy state of our nation today. And resolve to defend Lady Liberty from the many crimes and outrages committed by this petty, corrupt madman. This thoroughly incompetent madman, at that!

And join your fellows in the resistance movement. If we don’t make common cause with one another and defend our once-great nation from this usurper, his enablers and minions, this 242nd celebration for America may be the last one where all her citizens enjoy the full rights and blessings granted them by the Constitution.

 

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

© Ben Lawrence Basile

 

Photo credit Ben Lawrence Basile

 

 

The GOP and their NRA masters are in full panic mode

It was exactly one week ago that gunman Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you no doubt know that seventeen students and teachers were killed and 14 more were taken to hospitals.

There are thousands of stories on the subject, of course. I don’t really have anything to add. I do, however, want to make an observation or two about some of the political fallout.

Students from M.S.D. High have been on a highly-visible crusade since the shooting stopped to get our elected officials to do something about our non-existent gun laws. And in the last three or four days, students from many other places have begun to join in.

That’s been very inconvenient for our Rethuglican legislators and Governors. And for their NRA masters who fund all those reelection campaigns.

High school students know that  politicians literally don’t care whether they live or die. They can see–it’s been crystal-clear for a very long time–that every last GOP elected official, whether in State houses or in Washington, will toe the NRA line to the last detail even if their own kids were cut down in the hallways at Hometown High.

The students see this and they don’t like it.

It should surprise no one that a tipping point has come, and the kids who have dodged bullets and watched friends bleed out are ready to do something about the whole sick situation. Even if the corrupt, uncaring people who are elected to represent them are not.

Poor Rethuglicans. They don’t know what to do. 

They’re just trying to mouth the right sentiments, vomit up the talking points handed to them by their PR consultants and hope it’s going to stop.

No, not the shootings. The protests.

They don’t get it. They don’t get it now. They’re not going to see the light after the next massacre, either.

They won’t get after they’re turned out of office by voters of all ages, backgrounds and party affiliations. But that’s how this chapter in the never-ending saga of gun violence in America will end.

This chapter. There will be many others, of course.

Kids know that their lives matter less to our decision makers than NRA dollars. Less than gun industry profits. Less than holding fast to this recent interpretation of the Second Amendment that any citizen can own and parade around with any weapon of their choosing. Even military-grade weapons that are designed for the express purpose of killing a lot of people in a short period of time.

I don’t expect them to do anything about it as a result of students’ protests.

I expect that we’re going to get a lot of new legislators. Soon.

Right after the mid-term elections coming up on the 6th of November.




“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

© 2018 Ben Lawrence Basile

Dreamers, the Federal Budget and the Goals of the GOP

A dear friend of mine recently posted on Facebook about how unfortunate it is that DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, has not been renewed yet and how sad it is that families are continuing to be broken up as the result.

It got me to thinking about how the stalemate over renewing DACA relates to other larger issues and I wrote quite a tome about that. That is, about the larger issues and what’s really going on in Washington right now over DACA and passing a budget to keep the government operating. The budget part comes to a head on Friday. Yes, the day after tomorrow.

My piece is long. It’s strident. And it’s dead-on accurate. Bulldog is barking this afternoon. Here goes:

 

In response to my friend’s post about deportations of Dreamers, I wrote:

Sad to say, there is no resolution to be found. The #PoserPrez demands funding of his accursed and very expensive boarder wall before he’ll get on-board with a renewal of DACA. I’m proud to say that the leadership of the Democratic Party will not agree to this.

What you may not have known is that tRump and the Republicans are in perfect lock step that Democrats must agree to fund the border wall in order for them to negotiate about DACA but ALSO for them to talk about passing a budget.

So the government WILL shutdown on Friday because tRump demands everyone get on board with the border wall and authorize immediate funding to the tune of many billions of dollars before anything else can get done in Washington.

All of this is being done against the backdrop of our treasury being perpetually short of funds moving forward because of the just-passed tax cuts. (Well, it wasn’t actually just a matter of cutting taxes; the bill is a complete restructuring of America’s tax code. But I digress.)

Rethuglicans say we can’t renew CHIP and have health insurance for kids who otherwise would be going to America’s Emergency Rooms. We can’t afford Medicare and Medicaid as they exist now, because of the same tax cuts, so now they “have to” start cutting these vital programs but… wait for it… WE CAN AFFORD THIS ACCURSED WALL!

This is how the fight about renewing DACA fits into the larger picture. It’s NOT about any individual program, or passing a spending bill or any of that; it’s about conservatives finally having a chance to kill the Federal Government we’ve known since the New Deal was put in place after the Great Depression. They want to have a Federal government that can fund the military and pay the light bill for Federal buildings, a few salaries and other bare essentials and then let the rest of it, literally, just go away.

GOP thinker and shaker and mover Grover Norquist summed up this concept of how a government should function with his infamous remark that conservatives needed to cut the Federal government down to the size “where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub“. Maybe you guys missed that remark from many years ago or have forgotten it; I remember it very well. Republicans repeat it often.

This is NOT about fifty or sixty different issues or tasks that congress needs to get done in this session. It’s about Republicans and tRump enacting this extreme agenda and remaking the government in a way that makes Mr. Norquist and Steve Bannon smile. In a way that would make Ayn Rand proud.

This explains why tRump, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan already have in place proposed legislation to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid even though all three of them said during the election that they’d NEVER TOUCH THOSE PROGRAMS! They were lying. They lie all the time. Drastic cuts to those programs have been a part of the conservative agenda for over 30 years and they’ve said so hundreds of times!

People who don’t understand the larger issues involved here can “both sides” this all day and all night, but this is really about the extreme tRump/Repug agenda to gut all programs that help individual Americans so rich people and corps can pay little or no taxes.

Trump and his trumper minions get an expanded military that was already way bigger and badder than what we actually need to defend us and our NATO allies, their fucking wall that’s mostly about symbolism, constant “incentives” and tax breaks (i.e. giveaways) for major corps that are already showing record profits, uber-low taxes for people in the upper brackets and NO FUNDING AT ALL for things that benefit ordinary Americans or people who are actually struggling.

So it’s about renewing DACA, funding the government and much, much more. If this wasn’t clear to you, you’ve bought all the Repug talking points and you have no idea what’s actually going on.

It’s urgent that Americans who care about the direction of our country see that each fight in Washington is not a separate “thing” but that there are big-picture reasons why these battles are going on right now in the age of tRump.

If you’d like to know more about DACA and why the Dreamers and so many other Americans want so urgently to have The Dream Act reauthorized, click here.

If Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are going to be there for folks who’ll be needing them in the next 20 to 30 years, we’ve got to raise holy hell over Republican attempts to gut them. For more on how to safeguard these vital programs while the current regime is trying to drastically curtail or privatize them, follow this link.

 

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

©2018 Benjamin Lawrence Basile

 

 

Is It Mandatory for Democrats with Money to be Selfish Pricks?

Another post about politics! Two things triggered Ol’ Bulldog on this one. The first was the passing of the Repug tax scam, oh I mean tax reform, of course, and the second was a comment on social media about how rich lawmakers who are Democrats don’t care at all about poor people. So here I go:

 

It often amuses me at how conservatives talk out of both sides of their mouths on the issue of wealthy people, lawmakers particularly, who aren’t on-board with the usual drastic Republican economic policies of slashing taxes to the bone, demonizing working and poor people, and generally acting as though accumulating money is the real purpose of life.

If an elected official is progressive, quite possibly a democrat, and he/she is not wealthy, many conservative folk will say that they have no place in the discussion as they haven’t demonstrated that they know how to succeed, don’t know how America works, how free enterprise works, blah, blah, blah

Donald tRump has spouted this crap repeatedly.

If a progressive elected official does have wealth, conservatives will still attack him or her, it’s just a different strategy. Many Democratic or progressive public servants are well-off. So the line of attack in that case is that he/she is a hypocrite, as though people with money somehow have to be selfish assholes and hate working people or anyone who doesn’t have enough dinero to get into the club!

So it’s the usual Rethuglican approach of attack everyone with whom you disagree, but the strategy and the talking points are different depending on who or what they’re attacking.

Meanwhile, there is no inconsistency when people with wealth say our economic policies need to take into account all Americans, not just large corporations and the 1% who have the means to hire lobbyists and buy off elected officials with campaign contributions.

There are plenty of people who have gobs and gobs of wealth but know American economic policy needs to take into account all Americans and the common good: Warren Buffett, Lady Gaga, Bill Gates, and many, many others.

It’s insane to believe that having wealth automatically makes you selfish and fills your head with hatred and contempt for working people, the chronically poor, disabled people, etc. There’s nothing hypocritical in the least about having shitloads of money and believing that that everyone’s situation and everyone’s needs matter.

There’s nothing hypocritical about being wealthy and thinking that really wealthy people, including yourself, need to pay substantial taxes, that revenue can get too low and that something’s very wrong when the secretary pays a higher effective tax rate than the CEO for whom she works. (Something which, by the way, actually happened with Mitt Romney and his secretary when the subject of effective tax rates for different income brackets came up for discussion in the 2012 Presidential debates.)

Conservatives are not going to get progressive people and Democrats to give in to their extreme, Ayn Rand-type of economic selfishness by suggesting that Democratic lawmakers who very often are wealthy are somehow disqualified from caring about ordinary (meaning not wealthy) people or advocating for policies that are designed to benefit the 98% of Americans who work for a living.

 

Working guy “Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

© 2017 Ben Lawrence Basile