Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Price of Liberty

Colonel Andrew Hesser, USMC (ret’d)
Armed Forces Day 20 May 2017

Regional Veterans' Memorial, Columbia Park, Kennewick, WA
“We will pay any price, bear any burden, support any friend, and oppose any foe to ensure the success of liberty.”  These words of President Kennedy from his inaugural address might raise the question of just what, exactly, is the price of liberty?
Were I to ask you what you think was the most important event in the 20th century, I’d like to think most of you would come up with something more significant than Princess Diana’s death – which is what 30% of the people in a recent survey said was the 20th century’s “most memorable” event.

I think it could be argued that the most important event of the 20th Century was the First World War.  It was most important because of the impact the War had on Europe and the rest of the World.  It is fitting, therefore, that we look back one hundred years and try to understand this war and how it continues to impact the world today.

The First World War, or the Great War, as it was called before it was surpassed by the Second, has captured my fascination.  As a professional soldier, I have tried to understand how men could keep on under the appalling conditions they found themselves in on the Western Front.

Today, I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve done and seen in the past several years, as I tried to understand what some historians consider the real beginning of the 20th century.

The first question we might think about is “Why did the war happen?”  Was it the system of alliances?  The growth of military capability?  The fact Europe had almost a century of mostly peace?  What was it that caused this war?

Several years ago, when I was a student at the Naval War College in Newport, RI, my history professor said that the Great War happened because “No great power said it wouldn’t!”  Not the Austrians, or the Russians, or the Germans, or the French, or the British.

I’ve seen the car in which Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were riding when they were assassinated in Sarajevo--it’s in the Military Museum in Vienna.  Once I went to Artstetten, their palace an hour and a half west of Vienna.  There I was taken on a private tour of the museum, which is what it is now and was shown the crypts where the Archduke, and his wife laid to rest.  My escort was the great-grandson of Archduke Ferdinand.

I went to Bad Ischl and toured the hunting lodge of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph – it was he who declared war on Serbia.  I’ve stood behind the desk on which he kicked off the chain of events that ultimately cost 60 million lives–when you consider the 50 million killed in WWII.

As important as these were, though, no understanding of the Great War is complete without seeing the battlefields.  As many of you surely know, after a few initial months, the Western Front was stabilized along a 400-mile front from the North Sea to Switzerland.  The trenches were, in some cases, only 50 meters apart and almost never more than a few hundred.  In between was a term coined from that war: “no man’s land.”

It is possible to walk the trench lines from the Belgium Coast to Switzerland, because in many places the trenches are still there.  If they aren’t, you can just follow the cemeteries; over 160 in one battlefield alone.

By 1916, the War had become a war of attrition, and the Germans decided to attack on the salient around Verdun, in NW France.  The strategy was to attack a place the French would have to defend and to “bleed them white.”  Nowhere on the Western Front does the magnitude of the war hit home like it does at Verdun.  I’ve been there three times–in 1983, 2001, and again in 2014.  OK, I admit—I’m a little strange!

The trenches are there; so are the forts.  During the battle not a tree was left standing; afterwards, the government planted trees, but no one can go for a picnic in these forests.  Actually, signs prohibit you from leaving the roads –the woods are simply filled with unexploded ordnance.

The battle for Verdun raged from February to November 1916, and it almost destroyed the French Army.  Virtually every French regiment fought there, and when the war was over, the French build the largest war memorial I’ve ever seen to house the bones of those killed on the surrounding hills.

15,000 are buried in front of the Ossuary (literally a place for burying bones), each with a cross that says, “Mort por la France” – died for France.

After the war, all the bones were dug up from the shallow graves around Verdun – both French and German – and buried in the basement of the Ossuary.  If you get on your hands and knees, you can look into the windows and see the bones.

How many do you think are there?  Remember, these are all unknown.  Would 10,000 sound like a lot?   30,000?  How about 50,000 (about what we lost in a dozen years in Vietnam)?  Would you believe 130,000 unknown?  That was the price of liberty at Verdun.

A few years ago, I had the chance to visit the Somme River valley.  The very word has a special meaning to the British.  To relieve pressure on Verdun, the high command decided a joint British-French offensive would be launched on the first of July 1916.  The French didn’t have many divisions to contribute (only 3), so the British put in 17.  To an impartial observer, there could scarcely have been a poorer place chosen for the British to attack.  The Germans had been dug in for almost two years, constructing deep bunkers and communications lines.

Nevertheless, on the first of July, 1916, the forces of the British Empire went “over the top.”  There had seldom been a slaughter in the history of warfare to compare with the losses the British suffered.  Of 100,000 men who attacked, roughly 20,000 were killed on that single day –with another 40,000 wounded ---60% casualties.

You can visit the Canadian Newfoundland Memorial at the Somme.  It is superbly kept.  The trenches are there; between them are the shell holes.  Sheep keep the grass down, so you can see what the ground looked like.  Three hundred yards away are the German trenches; they’re maintained. as well.  I walked where the Canadians launched their attack, then I moved to the other side, a couple hundred yards away, to see what the Germans saw.

The question that I could not answer was, “How could troops continue to attack in the face of such resistance?”  One company attacked kicking a soccer ball.  They announced in advance:

The Great European Cup
The Final East Surreys v. Bavarians
Kickoff at Zero.

The First Newfoundland Regiment ceased to exist.  That was the price of liberty the Canadians paid.

The British erected two great monuments to the War in the 1920s.  One is called, “The Missing of the Somme.”  Imagine a four-sided horseshoe magnet rising from the battlefield, inscribed with the names of those killed there who, in Kipling’s words, “Lie in no known graves.”  How many names do you think are on that monument?  Remember, this is just one battle –July-November 1916.  Would you believe 73,400?  And this is just British and South African troops, the Canadians and ANZACS had their own monuments.

I was struck by the poppies at the monument, when I was there.  School children and great grandchildren come to pay their respects.  In the British Military Museum in London, I came across a letter from a British trooper.  He said, “If you get this letter, you’ll know I died doing my duty.”  Such was the price of liberty for this family.

Vera Brittain wrote a book about her losses – her brother, her fiancé, and two close friends – it became a best seller.  So was Robert Graves’ “Goodbye to All That.”

And so, 1916 came to an end –basically where it started.  One of the heroes of Verdun was put in command of a French Army in the middle of the line.  He decided to attack in April of 1917, and the French Army was slaughtered – the Germans again had the high ground.  I toured their underground fortifications.  The French Army mutinied – not mentioned much anymore.  23,000 were convicted of mutiny after Chamin de Dames; 432 condemned to death; 50 executed.  The French never attacked again.  They waited for the Americans.

As bad as the Somme was, it was worse at Passchendale in 1917.  The British held the Belgium town of Ypres throughout the war.  Three battles were fought there, with the greatest in 1917. Never in the history of warfare has a battle been fought under more appalling conditions.  The entire battlefield was a swamp.  If a soldier stepped off the duckboards, he’d probably drown, being weighed down with all his equipment.
The British attacked in the summer of 1917 and kept on attacking until, months later, they reached the high ground three miles away.  Thirty-five men were killed for each meter of ground gained.  The most famous poem of the war came out of this battle:

    In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow,
    Beneath the crosses, row on row;
    And in the sky, the larks bravely singing fly,
    Scarcely heard amid the guns below.

I was in Ypres in 2001, on Armistice Day.  Thousands of Brits were there to pay their respects.  At the Menin Gate—the other great British monument—are listed 55,000 names of Commonwealth soldiers who lie in unknown graves.  35,000 additional unknown are listed at Tyne Cot Cemetery—the largest British cemetery in Europe,

Every night at 2000 hours, the Ypres fire brigade plays “The Last Post,” sort of the British “Taps.”  They started playing in the 1920s, when the Menin Gate monument was dedicated, and if they play “The Last Post” once an evening for a soldier killed in the Ypres Salient, they’ll play until the 25th century.  Such is the price of liberty.

At the Somme and at Ypres, the battlefields keep on killing people.  Every spring, unexploded ordnance is plowed up.  The farmers stack it beside the road, and explosive ordnance disposal units collect and dispose of it.  Every eight years or so, on average, some farmer on a tractor is killed by an explosion.

The bodies keep coming up, too.  When I was there, I saw a dozen new graves—bones that had been recently discovered when a contractor was excavating to build a new road.  Apparently, the war never ends in France.

I’ve been to Belleau Wood, where the Marines fought so hard the French Government declared that forevermore the woods would be known as the Bois de le Marine.  I drank from the bulldog fountain, where Marines filled their canteens.  It looks just like it did in 1918.  The trenches are still there, but don’t leave the path!

I went to Compeign, where the Armistice was signed in a railcar-and where Adolf Hitler (who fought at Ypres) made the French surrender in 1940.

So, from the beginning in Sarajevo to the end in Compeign, the Great War consumed its youth.  Two million Germans, 1.7 million French, a million British.  35% of those baby boys born from 1882 to 1885.

In every cathedral of France of any significance, there is a simple plaque:

    “To the Glory of God and in memory of one million men of the British Empire who died in the Great War, and of whom the greater number rest in France.”

That was the price of liberty.

So, what was the long-term impact of the Great War?  Politically, it destroyed the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and the Turkish Ottoman Empire.  It led directly to the establishment of the Soviet Union.  It also led to the rise of Hitler’s Germany and the Second World War.  It destroyed empires and led to the creation of the League of Nations and new countries throughout the world.  And it led to the United States becoming a world power for the first time.  The modern Middle East looks like it does today because of the War.

Socially, the war led to the emancipation of women and largely to their entrance into the work force.  It also led to a sense of loss of innocence—no longer would people think that civilization was on a steady path to improvement.  In some places—think Britain—it led to pacifism.
On this day, here in the safety of the Tri-Cities, it is fitting for us who live in safety and freedom to remember those of a lost generation who fought for God, and King, and Country—and for the liberty we enjoy.

Thank you very much.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Debtors' Prison

House Bill 1783 is about giving people a fair chance to get back on their feet once they get out of prison. Our current system prevents offenders from being able to get their lives back on the right track. The bill prioritizes restitution and establishes a more rational standard for determining ability to pay. Imposing intereston legal financial obligations (LFOs) was first thought to be an incentive for offenders topay, but instead it has been shown to be an impediment. The current 12 percent interest rate is onerous and makes the LFO debt skyrocket. This results in what amounts to a debtors' prison. H.B. 1783 would change this. The bill is currently in the State Senate as E2SHB 1783.

We want offenders to rebuild their lives once they are released from prison. There are many barriers to reentry, but LFOs are one of the hardest to overcome. Ask your state senator to support E2SHB 1783.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Emmanuel Macron has won the French presidential election -- Vive la France!

New French President, Emmanuel Macron
Unlike the Americans, French voters were too smart to be swayed by far right dirty tricks. They get a smart, good-looking, sane guy with a whip smart wife as president. We get Donald Trump and Melania. BTW, Trump is 24 years older than Melania, which is the same age difference between Macron and his wife, Brigitte, only the age differential is reversed. Thus, it's "scandalous."

URGENT -- EPA Review of Regulations

We have only six more days to comment on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implementation of the President's Executive Order 13777. Comment now!

On February 24, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13777, “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda,” which established a federal policy “to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens” on the American people.

Section 3(a) of the EO directs federal agencies to establish a Regulatory Reform Task Force (Task Force). One of the duties of the Task Force is to evaluate existing regulations and “make recommendations to the agency head regarding their repeal, replacement, or modification.” The EO further asks that each Task Force “attempt to identify regulations that:
(i) Eliminate jobs, or inhibit job creation;
(ii) are outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective;
(iii) impose costs that exceed benefits;
(iv) create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with regulatory reform initiatives and policies;
(v) are inconsistent with the requirements of section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriates Act, 2001 (44 U.S.C. 3516 note), or the guidance issued pursuant to that provision in particular those regulations that rely in whole or in part on data, information, or methods that are not publicly available or that are insufficiently transparent to meet the standard of reproducibility; or
(vi) derive from or implement Executive Orders or other Presidential directives that have been subsequently rescinded or substantially modified.”

I wrote to Caryn Muellerleile, of the EPA Office of Policy requesting further information on the task force and how it would conduct its review. Here is my email, followed by her response.

Dear Ms Muellerleile;

Would you please tell me who the members of the EPA regulations review “task force” are, what their qualifications are, and what scientific techniques they will employ to adjudicate the criterion measures on your website.

Thank you,


Dear Mr. Badalamente,

Thank you for your interest in EPA’s regulatory reform efforts. 

In accordance with Executive Order 13777 on Enforcing the Regulatory Agenda, which is designed to reduce the regulatory burdens agencies place on the American people, EPA has established a Regulatory Reform Officer (RRO) and a Regulatory Reform Task Force. Administrator Pruitt has charged Samantha Dravis, Senior Counsel and Associate Administrator for Policy, to serve as RRO and Ryan Jackson, Chief of Staff, to serve as chairman of the Task Force. Other members of the Task Force include Byron Brown and Brittany Bolen, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Office of Policy Deputy Associate Administrator, respectively.

The Task Force is charged with evaluating existing regulations and making recommendations to the Administrator regarding rules that can be repealed, replaced or modified to make them less burdensome. Their recommendations will be informed by a public participation process that includes state, local and tribal governments, small businesses, consumers, non-governmental organizations and trade associations. At the Administrator’s directive, EPA’s Offices of Air and Radiation, Land and Emergency Management, Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Water, Environmental Information, Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations and Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization are consulting with their specific stakeholders for their input.

You can find more information about EPA’s regulatory reform activities on our website. 

Thank you again for your interest in this important issue.


Caryn Muellerleile
Office of Policy
US Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-2855

Note that Ms Muellerleile failed to address my question regarding the qualifications of the task force members, nor the scientific techniques they would emply to judge the merits of the reulations. However, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) wrote to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in April 2017 demanding answers to this and other questions regarding Pruitt's planned review. They pointed out that Pruitt has placed political appointees in the position of adjudicating what is and what is not sound science, and wrote;

"Neither you, nor Associate Administrator for Policy Samantha Dravis, nor Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson, nor Deputy Chief of Staff Byron Brown, nor Deputy Associate Administrator for Policy Brittany Bolen, have any meaningful scientific background. We therefore fail to see how your background will allow for the proper evaluation of the rigorous methodologies and quality of evidence that are the foundations of sound science.”

Sen Sheldon Whitehouse pointing out SDcott Pruitt's ties to the fossil industry during confirmation hearings

Those of you wishing to comment on Pruitt's directive might reiterate this point.

The Schatz/Markey/Whitehouse letter also demanded that Pruitt provide written assurances on the following points:

·         EPA’s Regulatory Reform Task Force will fully engage with public health, consumer protection, and environmental groups, as well as the general public, in order to better understand the scale and scope of the benefits associated with each regulation under consideration.
·         EPA will make public, on its website, the names and affiliations of all participants that provide input to the Task Force.
·         EPA will transparently disclose its calculations of both costs and benefits in considering the merits or any particular regulation.
·         Political appointees will not interfere with routine and non-controversial regulatory actions informed by career EPA scientists acting in the best interest of the public.
·         Going forward, you will justify all decisions you make that ignore the advice of EPA scientists with the body of peer-reviewed scientific literature relied upon in arriving at your decision.
These are worth reiterating in your comments.
Scott Pruitt is counting on the apathy of Americans as he goes about dismantling the agency he sued multiple times. Disappoint him. Comment, and keep fighting!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Changing Rep. Dan Newhouse's Votes on Climate Change

Look, we don't really care so much about changing our representative's "mind," as we do about changing his/her votes to more closely conform to our position on the issues. Take Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA4), for example. Those of us concerned with climate change want him to sponsor, co-sponsor, or otherwise support and vote for legislation addressing the mitigation of climate change. Principally, we want him to support legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

How do we accomplish this end?

Education: We could try educating Mr. Newhouse about how the climate is changing, why the climate is changing, what the impacts and costs of climate change are, and how we can reduce GHG emissions without harming the economy. This requires a science lesson, an economics lesson, and a policy lesson. Generally legislators don't like being lectured to, don't have time to dive into climate science (or any other science, for that matter), and aren't necessarily swayed by scientific facts so much as electoral facts.

Political Will: "Political will" is the watch word of the Citizens' Climate Lobby. The CCL would have us work to educate voters in the 4th Congressional District -- Mr. Newhouse's constituency -- and convince them that climate change tops their agenda of issues, such as family-wage jobs, budget deficits, the Second Amendment, abortion, etc. Then encourage them to convey their concerns about climate change to Mr. Newhouse, demonstrating the political will for action. Almost sixty percent of voters in Mr. Newhouse's district voted for Donald Trump. That should tell you what you need to know about the prospects for this strategy.

Leverage: We can find ways to convince Mr. Newhouse's main campaign contributors -- agribusiness -- that climate change will hurt their profits and that Mr. Newhouse should help them avoid that. We can liaise with agribusiness organizations, such as the Washington Farm Bureau (WFB), to update them on climate change developments, and to offer expertise on dealing with them. We can work through these organizations to put pressure on Mr. Newhouse to join the House Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus so that he is able to represent Columbia Basin circumstances and needs in D.C. policy making. This will be difficult. The WFB "includes more than 46,000 member families" and is the state's largest general farm organization representing farmers and ranchers. The WFB's 2017 Policy Book demonstrates that the WFB wants no truck with climate change whatsoever. The paragraphs dealing with it are shown in the figure below (click to enlarge). Note particularly Par. 66. If we are going to change the WFB's views on climate change, we'd do well to start with future farmers -- the FFA -- who are having their 87th State Convention, May 11 - 13, 2017, at WSU.

Washington Farm Bureau 2017 Policy Book
What's Growing in Washington?
By-Pass: We can work around Mr. Newhouse at the state level through the initiative process, as we did with I-732, the CarbonWA-led carbon tax initiative. We must be better at uniting the environmental community to make this work (the public split between the "save the planet" faction, and the "social justice" faction, doomed the bill). A promising initiative program is another form of leverage. Getting a carbon tax passed at the national level in the current Republican-dominated climate (no pun intended) will be near impossible, despite the promise of the Climate Leadership Council, and the Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. Another pass at a state solution is more plausible.
U.S. House Climate Solutions Caucus
Replace: We can identify a viable candidate who accepts climate change science, democrat or republican, to run against Mr. Newhouse in the 2018 Election and again in the 2020 Election, and again in the 2022 Election, and so on ad-infinitum, if necessary. This is another form of leverage, and by far the most effective.

These options aren't all mutually exclusive, and can be worked more or less simultaneously, but knowing where to allocate one's limited resources is important. My predisposition at this time, would be to concentrate on by-pass and replace.

Monday, March 13, 2017

8th LD and BCDCC to Meet Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Benton County and 8th Legislative District Democrats will hold their regular monthly meeting this coming Wednesday, March 15th, at the union's labor hall on Duportail, just off the bypass in Richland. The 8th LD meets at 6:00 pm followed immediately by the BCDCC at 7:00 pm.

Please review last month's meeting minutes prior to the meeting.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Who Hasn't Donald Trump Insulted?

The latest institution to be denigrated by the White House is the Congressional Budget Office. Sean Spicer, the President's ditzy Press Secretary, said that the CBO's financial analysis of the Republican's proposed 'American Health Care Act,' should not be trusted. This preemptive strike against the CBO is due to widespread reports that the analysis will show the AHCA to be vastly inferior to the Affordable Care Act, covering far few people at far higher premiums.

Trump has now dismissed, denigrated, or demeaned the Intelligence Community, the military officer corps -- "rubble" -- Senator John McCain, because he was captured during the Vietnam War, the U.S. Judiciary, former president, Barack Obama, the U.S. Electoral System, and the Media, Muslims, Mexicans, to say nothing of past Republican presidential nominees, and of course, "Crooked Hillary," and women generally, for whom he demonstrates appalling disrespect.

The only entity for whom the American President, Donald J. Trump, exhibits respect, and indeed admiration, is Russian President, Vladimir Putin. I wonder why that is.

Friday, March 10, 2017

California's Extreme Percipitation this Winter Will Not Solve Water Problems

Oroville Dam, California
Amazing rain and snow in California this winter have made people think the drought is finished and everything can go back to normal.

California gets it water from three sources, about a third each from: precipitation, snowpack, and aquifers (groundwater). In many areas of the state, groundwater systems have been depleted for long periods - even between droughts - from which they have not recovered.

Excessive, long-term groundwater over-use resulting in groundwater depletion can cause subsidence and permanent loss of groundwater storage as well as water quality degradation and seawater intrusion. These long-term impacts on groundwater have not been remedied by the recent weather. If recovery is possible, it will likely take several to many years to accomplish.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Shut the fuck up, and support the Моско́вский Кремль's agenda!

Republican legislators are getting tired of all these American spoil-sports protesting the 2016 Election. Hey, the Russians won the election fair and square and installed their Manchurian Candidate and it's time for America to collectively sit down, shut the fuck up, and support the Моско́вский Кремль's agenda!

Feeling that it’s time to “make America safe again,” Republican state legislators are hard at work filing laws to enact harsher punishments for those charged with activities that show disrespect for authority or increase commute times.

Give GOP lawmakers credit. They are attacking this terrible protester issue on top of all the other things they’re doing to “make America safe again;” like passing laws to permit concealed carry across state lines, dismantling healthcare, repealing protections for LGTB people, blocking rules that require background checks before people with mental health issues can buy guns, repealing President Obama’s water quality bill, and a bill limiting methane pollution, repealing an order that requires federal contractors to disclose labor law violations, and other Obama-era laws that large GOP donors, like the Koch Brothers and the NRA charge are too burdensome, and or, violate the Constitution, as they interpret it, which clearly doesn't include freedom of speech.

Examples of some of America’s intrepid Republican lawmakers policy proposals include Indiana State Sen. Jim Tomes’ proposed bill (SB 285) that would require public officials to dispatch police within 15 minutes of reported “mass traffic obstructions” with instructions to clear them by “any means necessary.”

In North Dakota, HB 1203 would lift liability from drivers who “accidentally” hit protesters who are in roadways. The bill was introduced amid demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Iowa lawmakers introduced a bill that, if passed, would mean protesters who blocked highways could be charged with felonies carrying penalties of five years in prison. Just coincidently, Republicans rescinded an Obama administration order to phase out the use of private-prison contracts in the federal Bureau of Prisons. GEO Group, one of the nation’s largest for-profit prison operators, donated $250,000 to support Trump’s inaugural festivities. They were disappointed their investment didn’t payoff immediately with the arrest of at least a couple hundred thousand of the millions of disrespectful women who marched the day after Trump’s inauguration.

The Arizona Senate, not to be outdone by the Cornhuskers, approved Senate Bill 1142 which expands the definition of rioting to include “damage to the property of another person, and adds rioting to the list of offenses that could fall under racketeering.

State Democratic legislators warned that SB1142’s provisions could theoretically be used in tandem to bring charges against peaceful protesters at a demonstration where other participants use violence. State Senator John Kavanaugh told the Capitol Times that the bill was aimed at “full-time, almost professional agent-provocateurs that attempt to create public disorder.” He also indicated the bill’s racketeering provisions could be used by police to investigate protest organizers ahead of time. Now there’s an idea that Mr. Putin would second, except that he would advocate using poison as part of the investigative toolkit.

Minnesota Republican lawmakers approved legislation that would increase penalties and charge demonstrators the cost of policing protests. It may be that they hope to use the added revenue to pay for the renovation of Bloomington’s Water Park of America.

Here in Washington, State Senator Doug Ericksen (WA-42), when he wasn’t campaigning for Donald Trump, was cooking up a bill of his own, S.B. 5009 (2017-18), that would label protesters, “economic terrorists.” The terrorist label may be useful, because it could place protesters on the No-Fly list and keep them from escaping to North Korea.

When asked about the fuzzy wording of his bill, and what would constitute “economic terrorism,” Ericksen said any sort of "economic disruption" or anything that could "jeopardize human life and property." Violators could face five years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both. So, Erickson is also coming through for the private prison folks who’ve contributed so generously to Republican coffers, to say nothing of the oil and gas industry donors to his campaign— The 42nd District includes two oil refineries and a controversial proposed coal-export terminal.

According to reports, the U.S. is set to rival Russia in oil and gas exports. With Republican lawmakers hard at work, America may rival Russia in other ways, as well; to a place where anything that isn’t permitted, is prohibited, and anything that is permitted, is compulsory. Get ready to attend Trump’s 2020 inauguration!
Did you know that you can call your members of congress using just one telephone number? Call 1-844-USA-0234 to be immediately connected to your members of Congress.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak

Official Biography
Ambassador Sergey I. KISLYAK
Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the U.S.
  • Born in 1950.
  • Graduated from Moscow Engineering Physics Institute in 1973, as well as from USSR Academy of Foreign Trade in 1977.
  • Employee of the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation since 1977.
  • 1981-1985 – Second Secretary of the Permanent Mission of the USSR to the UN in New York.
  • 1985-1989 – First Secretary, Counselor of the Embassy of the USSR to the U.S.
  • 1989-1991 – Deputy Director of the Department of International Organizations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR.
  • 1991-1993 – Deputy Director of the Department of International Scientific and Technical Cooperation of the Foreign Ministry of the USSR/Russia.
  • 1993-1995 – Director of the Department of International Scientific and Technical Cooperation of the Foreign Ministry of Russia.
  • 1995-1998 – Director of the Department of Security Affairs and Disarmament of the Foreign Ministry of Russia.
  • 1998-2003 – Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Kingdom of Belgium and, simultaneously, Permanent Representative of Russia to NATO in Brussels, Belgium
  • 2003-2008 - Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • Holds a diplomatic rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.
  • Speaks English and French.
  • Married, with one adult daughter. 
  • Met with now U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions twice during Trump 2016 campaign.

Monday, February 20, 2017

An Open Letter to the New Treasury Secretary

February 20, 2017

The Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin
Secretary of the Treasury
United States of America

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I’m seventy-nine years old and have never failed to submit a tax return, from the time I worked as a delivery boy in high school, through my two decades in the U.S. military, two decades working for a government laboratory in national security, right up until today, in my retirement.

I’ve willingly paid my taxes under 11 presidents; six republicans and five democrats. Like serving in the military, for me, paying taxes was a way of giving back to my country for the rights and privileges I enjoyed as a citizen of this great nation.

Now I am looking at the prospect come April 15th of paying taxes under another president, Donald J Trump. I have to tell you, Mr. Secretary, that for the first time ever, I hesitate to do so. Not for ideological reasons — although I strongly disagree with Mr. Trump’s ideology — and not because Mr. Trump avoided paying taxes for so many years. I hesitate because Mr. Trump refuses to make a clean break from his global business interests. Until he does so, he will unavoidably be violating the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Mr. Trump claimed that he eliminated potential trouble with emoluments by turning over operation of the business to his children. That argument is inane, but even if we believed that the President would not discuss Trump business dealings with “the kids,” as long as he continues to profit from his business empire—which he does whether or not he is nominally in charge, the possibility that foreign actors will attempt to affect his policies by frequenting his hotels, golf courses, resorts, and casinos, remains an issue of national concern.

Mr. Trump apparently feels that divestiture is too high a price to pay to be President of the United States, just as he felt it was “smart” not to pay taxes.

We might understand better the intricacies and entanglements of Mr. Trump’s business holdings and partners if we could examine his tax returns, but he has steadfastly refused to release them  — something every president has done since Gerald Ford.

So you see the reason for my hesitation to submit my tax return on April 15 — I can’t be sure that my tax dollars won’t be going to line the pockets of foreign actors whose business dealings with the President have curried his favor. Maybe Mr. Trump is right; maybe it isn’t smart to pay taxes. At least, not until we have a president willing to abide by the Constitution.

Thank you for your understanding.

Very Respectfully,

Richard Badalamente, LTC, USAF (Ret.)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Doanld Trump Speaking to Himself on Foreign Policy

“I’m speaking with myself, number one, because
I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things."
(Donald Trump on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” in early March 2016
when asked who he talks with consistently about foreign policy)

Now that President Donald Trump's handpicked National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn has been forced to resign, Trump can go back to speaking with himself about national security and foreign policy. Or he can just call the Russians directly, instead of having Flynn do it for him. You see, there's no way Michale Flynn, a 33-year veteran of the Army, calls the Russians without direction from his so-to-be Commander-in-Chief. And the "soon-to-be" qualifier matters, too. Donald Trump was not the president, nor Flynn his National Security Advisor, when these talks took place. Therefore, the talks were a violation of the Logan Act, which states, in part:

"Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."

Whether or not prosecutors take action under the act, the law was broken, and if it can be shown that Donald Trump directed that Flynn contact the Russians to reassure them that President Obama's sanctions would be revoked once Trump was in office, then Trump is guilty of a gross misdemeanor and should be impeached. Furthermore, if it can be shown that Trump and/or his campaign staff colluded with the Russians on their interference in the 2016 Election, then we have a constitutional crisis of unparalleled dimensions.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The April 15th Pledge

January 20, 2017

The Honorable Steven Mnuchin
Secretary of the Treasury
United States of America

Dear Mr. Secretary;

I am writing to inform you that effective April 15, 2017, I intend to cease paying Federal Income Taxes. I will pay no further taxes until President Donald J. Trump complies with Article 1, Section 9 — the ‘Emoluments Clause' — of the United States Constitution.

President Trump’s vague pledges to abide by the Constitution in this regard, as every president before him has done, do not satisfy the spirit, the intent, or the letter of the said clause.

I intend to withhold my tax payments until such time as an independent committee finds unequivocally that President Trump has rid himself of conflicts and complied with the Emoluments Clause, and the United States Congress has certified this finding.

Very Respectfully,


Richard V Badalamente
Citizen, United States of America

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My Benton County Neighbors Vote for Trump

Back in November of 2015, when the prospect of a Trump Presidency seemed a nightmare fantasy, I watched video of one of his rallies in which, holding his right hand at an awkward angle, he jerked and gyrated in an hideous mockery of a disabled reporter, Serge Kovaleski. I was disgusted, repulsed; the idea that any decent human being, let alone a candidate for President of the United States of America, would do this was unbelievable. I was frankly incredulous.

Kovaleski, a Pulitzer Prize winner, who has arthrogryposis, had the audacity to contradict Trump’s charge that “thousands and thousands” of people cheered in Jersey City as the Twin Towers collapsed. Like so many of Mr. Trump’s incendiary claims about immigrants and minorities, that claim was unequivocally false.

Over the course of his campaign, Trump demonstrated over and over again that he was untrustworthy and intellectually and temperamentally unfit to hold the highest office in the land. He continues to do that to this day.

So much has already been written about why Donald Trump won the election, from the decline of the Middle Class, to the xenophobia created by Trump and his allies. But what I question, and what distresses me most — besides the prospect of a Trump Presidency— is why almost 60% of my neighbors here in Benton County voted for Trump. As I've written previously, "The Mid-Columbia is of and by the government."

We here in Benton County, like the rest of Eastern Washington, survive and thrive as a result of massive government spending on water projects, the agriculuture that's possible as a result, bomb making and the cleaning up of the mess made doing it, and the funding of leading edge science by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). The election of Donald Trump is a repudiation of all that government has done for us -- it is like killing the goose that laid those golden eggs, but in this case, we are the geese.

How to explain it? Surely my neighbors cannot be so ignorant of our government's largess and how we benefit from it. I know for a fact that my friends in agriculture realize the benefits of Eastern Washington's vast network of government-funded dams and waterways. I am less sure that they understand the leading edge climate science performed at PNNL -- republicans seem either immune to, or in stark denial of science in general, and especially climate science.

So I have to ask myself, were we so afraid of “others” that we willingly abandoned our values and entrusted our Nation to such an odious demagogue? If so, shame on us.