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Day 346 – Nothing Like Oil Drilling In The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge To Spice Up Tax Legislation. Gee…Thanks For Further Decimating Our Environment, Mr. President.

Day 346 – Nothing Like Oil Drilling In The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge To Spice Up Tax Legislation. Gee…Thanks For Further Decimating Our Environment, Mr. President.

Photograph by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Mr. President,

Hurray for you! Congress passed the biggest tax overhaul since the 1980s. You must feel like you finally accomplished something.

However, buried in an income tax bill is a measure that opens up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. How can this happen? Have you ever been to Alaska?

I wish everyone could go to Alaska and witness firsthand the pristine beauty there. The Arctic tundra is a fragile habitat that is home to many animals like caribou and polar bears, enormous bird populations and their nesting areas, and gorgeous landscapes. And you and Congress think that it is okay to send in huge machines, drill holes through delicate soil that sustains abundant life, and rip it all apart? I call it crazy, but I shouldn’t be surprised. Your record so far on the environment is abysmal.

Let’s see. You’ve pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, a strong signal of how YOU dismiss climate change. The Clean Power Plan is set for repeal. With deregulation you’ve made it easier to plunder Alaska’s Bristol Bay with mining and drilling, opening up many federal lands there to oil and gas drilling. And you’ve started in the Lower 48, too. The shrinking of Utah’s Bear’s Ears National Monument (shrunk to 15% of its original size) and Grand Staircase Escalante (shrunk by half its original size) are two prime examples of your attempts to despoil the natural areas of our country, and open them up to oil, gas, and mining. More money in the pockets of huge corporations. Less grandeur for the citizens of the U.S., less habitat for the indigenous wildlife. And let’s be clear here – yet another broken promise to Native Americans and the Navajo Nation.

Instead of opening up our federal lands to drilling and mining, why don’t we invest in renewable energy? Provide incentives to corporations to develop alternative energy sources that do not involve ripping apart the planet on which we live and depend, land that should be sacred to all of us. Solar and wind energy are renewable and vastly less disruptive to sensitive ecosystems. Your executive order “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth” calls for promoting “clean and safe” development, while “avoiding regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production.” Hah! In other words it is okay to run roughshod over anything that gets in the way, including polar bear and bird habitats, sacred burial grounds and cliff dwellings.  How awful that corporations would be unfairly burdened by laws that would protect pristine environments.

Just because we can drill for oil in the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge, doesn’t mean we should. That you and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and the entire Congress would approve this bill is unconscionable. It can only be greed, pure and simple, with no thought for the legacy we leave our children.

The only accomplishments in this bill are the plunder of our natural resources and further decimation of the health of our planet, a blunder of untold magnitude for life on this Earth.

Get out of the way. Go visit these federal lands you plan to spoil. Leave them alone. Commit to doing something good for this nation that doesn’t involve making money and greedy corporations and you. Seek some beauty, and leave it for our children.



Day 345 – Letter to America’s Children: What We Hope You Will Learn From This Time in History.

Day 345 – Letter to America’s Children: What We Hope You Will Learn From This Time in History.

Photograph by Sam Felder


When you go to high school history class in a few years, or perhaps when your kids go to their high school history class in a few decades, they will undoubtedly be reading about an age in our American existence that was less than stellar.  While I’m not talking solely about 2017, 2017 provides a capsule which exemplifies that hate and vitriol that can take center stage in the chronicles of our country’s narrative.  In 2017, we witnessed:

  • Hate groups being given voice to march and spew their bigotry not only on public ground but in every corner of the internet.
  • A president responding to such vitriol with, well, nothing, further emboldening such acts.
  • Increasing tensions with a rogue country when nuclear war is at stake.
  • Sexual harassment and misogyny at its worst, as the acts of Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor, Al Franken, and many others all came to light.
  • The Secretary of State (rightly) calling the president a
  • The lower and middle classes paying for a tax break for corporations and the wealthiest Americans.
  • And on and on and on.

What’s perhaps more disturbing about this era in our democracy is the contempt with which those in charge of our government talk about one another.  There is no spirit of helping the American people, there is only the goal to win.  Trump, McConnell, [insert politician’s name here]. Republicans lower taxes on the rich, democrats will get elected and raise taxes on the rich, and around and around we go.

Kids, I hope that when you are older we will have moved beyond politics as a tug-of-war and will be closer to politics as a puzzle.  Our country faces difficult problems for sure; wouldn’t it be great if our politicians looked to the data and research, and dare I say, science for how we might address our biggest problems?  So that we are not governed by those who make moronic statements suggesting we could use a bit more of that “good old” global warming.

While I don’t know this for sure, my guess is that politicians think their voters are stupid.  That if they repeatedly make false statements those statements will magically come true. However, I don’t have such a cynical view, because in 2017 we also saw some extraordinary events, such as:

  • Between 3 and 5 million people participating in the Women’s March in January at locations all across the United States.
  • The women who were victims of sexual harassments and crimes emboldened to speak, in many cases for the first time.
  • McCain standing up and refusing to kill health care for millions of Americans.
  • Support for transgender Americans serving in the military, even as the President tried his best to discriminate against this population.
  • And 670,551 Alabama residents voting for Doug Jones (D) for Senate, who won by 2%.

This last event perhaps gives me the most hope that Americans, no matter which state they live in, are not preprogrammed to hate, contempt, and self-serving interests.  This is because in 2010, the last year of a competitive senate race in Alabama, the democrat received only 515,619 votes, and lost by over 440,000 votes.  These Americans saw what was happening, they voted their conscience, and they changed this country.

And that is what I hope for you: that when you read about this time in American History it will be in the context of how we have changed, learned, and moved forward.





Day 344 – Some Golf Cart Math For You and the Secret Service, Mr. President.  Pricey.

Day 344 – Some Golf Cart Math For You and the Secret Service, Mr. President. Pricey.

Photograph from CNN

Mr. President,

I’ve seen this meme going around that you’ve spent $98+ million in vacation/travel in nine months. Oh, the outrage! Wait. Rewind. Let’s do a little fact checking. While I do believe you have spent much too much of our taxpayer dollars on golf trips, I want to be sure about what I choose to believe. After all, people really don’t assume everything they see on Facebook and Twitter is accurate. Some of us still hold on to things like truth and research. Here are a couple of facts and tidbits that I have found—some are from traditional news sources, others were discovered while Snoping.

  1. “I would rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done,” Trump toldThe Hill in 2015. “I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off.” While campaigning for the presidency in 2016, Trump said to the American people: “I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to go play golf.”1
  2. In point of fact, according to a reportin USA Today, Trump only spent five of his first 26 weekends as president holed up exclusively in the White House. The rest entailed trips to his nearby golf clubs. In early August 2017, CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller toted up how many days Trump had spent away from the White House versus the number of days Obama spent offsite and found that Trump’s total, at all or part of 41 days away from Washington, was nearly twice Obama’s, at all or part of 21 days[…]1

So, whence comes this $98 million dollar figure? Secret Service, military airbases, fuel, food, lodging, logistics, local support, and many other tiny little expenses such as golf carts.

  1. “Also indicative is a USA Todayreport that in addition to his Mar-a-Lago residencies, as of 21 August Trump had racked up five visits to his private golf club in New Jersey. At these two locations, the Secret Service spent $60,000 on rent for the golf carts needed to protect the president. If that pattern continues, American taxpayers can expect to be dinged for as much as $103,000 per year in golf cart rentals alone.”1

Now it’s time for the math geek in me to emerge. Don’t worry, it’s only a simple estimation: $103,000 for 4 years = $412,000. I would be remiss as a good citizen if I failed to point out that after spending $412,000, the US Government would not even “own” the golf carts.

This is waste beyond comprehension. What could that money buy? I decided to check. And if you are worried about shipping and handling costs, don’t. All of these items are available on Amazon Prime. To make it easier for you, I’ve created a meme.

Mr. President, tens of thousands of people in Puerto Rico were still without power on Christmas (according to a New York Times report). Many are without access to clean water, or even nutritious food. And you are renting golf carts.



P.S. Russia

Day 343 – Reflections on Christmas, Snow, Love and Taxes, Mr. President.

Day 343 – Reflections on Christmas, Snow, Love and Taxes, Mr. President.

Photograph by Paul L. Dineen

Mr. President,

We got a majestic snowfall on Christmas Eve. Gorgeous flakes a foot apart filled the entire sky for hours. We ate and laughed and opened gifts all while watching the marvelous skies.

When that party ended, we loaded our little boys and our luck back in the car and headed toward the next grandparents’ house. That snow, so postcard-perfect in the sky, became a threat on the ground. We rolled slowly on the highway and passed cars in the ditch and more cars in the ditch. We pulled off the highway to quadruple-check the weather report that only said snow and more snow. We did the math and no matter how we added or subtracted or multiplied or divided, the answer was the same: Keep our children safe.

We called Grandma and Grandpa to let them know we couldn’t make it that night. The boys wailed deep tears of love and of longing. We parents let one or two slip too. But we made it home safely, and we woke to love on Christmas morning. We even got up to Grandma and Grandpa’s the day after Christmas. The entire time, from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day to the 26th, not once were we concerned about our money or our taxes. We worried about our children. We worried about our families. We worried about the people in the ditches. We worried about first responders getting to accident scenes on a dark and cold Christmas Eve. We worried about people celebrating the love spread to millions by a refugee whose birth we celebrate every December. We worried about love. We worried with love.

We did not worry about taxes, but if you think about it, everything and everyone we did worry about would be helped by services provided through taxes. The roads had not been cleared—the state and municipal budgets have tight constraints on the amount of salt they can afford. There was only a skeleton crew of first responders out that night—the state and municipal budgets have tight constraints on overtime pay.

My family was safe, and I am eternally grateful for that. We celebrated the birth of a man whose final act before being put to death for spreading love was to denounce the greed of the money changers. If we do the math, we can keep our children safe. What is money but a resource? What good is a resource if it is merely hoarded? We are the wealthiest nation in the history of humankind. We can use our resources to keep people safe.

There may be tears, but making the right decision isn’t always popular. The right decision is not to portray taxes as evil. The right decision is to be a grown up and to explain to the emotional what needs to be done to keep us safe. A good leader could explain how taxes keep our children safe, how taxes keep us all safe.

When we pause to celebrate in December, we are celebrating love, not money. When we do the math, the numbers either add up to love or to nothing.





Day 342 – Letter to Voters: Eye On The November 6, 2018 Prize, People!

Day 342 – Letter to Voters: Eye On The November 6, 2018 Prize, People!

Image from Pinterest

Dear fellow voters,

As this year of presidential madness comes to a close, many of us are excited to give 2017 a firm kiss goodbye, hold our breath and hope for the best in 2018. And while we are only on the cusp of year two of the reign of he-who-shall-not-be-named, there’s a glimmer of hope during this critical time. Mark November 6, 2018 down on your calendars. That is the day we need to rally every American who cares about the direction of this country and show up to vote. If there is to be any hope of ousting Trump before the end of his term, we need to regain a foothold in the House and the Senate.

We saw miraculous voter turnout in the Alabama Senate race between Roy Moore and Doug Jones. Women and minorities showed up in full force to ensure that an accused sexual predator did not take their Senate seat. This needs to happen all around the country for our midterm elections.

How can you help turn the tides of our political future and general welfare?

Volunteer. There are plenty of things you can do now to start paving the path to victory. Help register voters in your area. Join a door knocking or phone campaign. Post on social media (in a positive and non-argumentative way) to encourage people to get out and vote. Do anything and everything to help Democrats, Independents and Republicans (who are tired of the current administration) off their butts and to the polls.

We cannot afford apathy. We cannot afford laziness. We need a change. Cheers to the hope of impeachment!



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