Thanksgiving 2016

November 24, 2016, John Hanno

Thanksgiving 2016

On Thanksgiving 2008, exactly eight years ago, I had an article published in a Chicago newspaper, where I described all the things I was thankful for. Although the war in Iraq was finally winding down, ours and most of the worlds economies were imploding, thanks to the risky and criminal financial schemes of the world’s banking giants. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month and markets were in free fall. America had just chosen Democrat Senator Barack Obama to be it’s next president and savior; and I truly believed he and Michelle understood why I was thankful for the 35 things listed in my article.

I was thankful the eight years of the Bush Administration were almost over and we didn’t elect John McCain because the world could not have survived another Republican term like that. I was thankful the world was welcoming President Obama with open arms and a deep sigh of relief because it showed they believed America could still lead us from despair. I was thankful Barack Obama realized we all had to work together to solve the enormous problems because being divided was what got us into the mess in the first place. I appreciated the important things; family, friends and community because we had to depend on each other. I was thankful and hopeful that 60 years from then, people would be glad they were born in 2009, because it was the beginning of another period of great hope and change, and not because they were sorry to have been born into another great depression.

Some of that hope was quickly dashed when the Republican leaders in Congress, led by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, met on the eve of President Obama’s inauguration, to hatch a plan to obstruct the President on everything he tried to do, just to make him a one term president. They didn’t care about the consequences to Americans reeling from an economy driven off a cliff by, too big to fail banks and neocon ideologue’s in the Bush Administration.

Every time the President held out a hand, the Republicans slapped it away. They refused to allow him to succeed at anything. Compromise to them meant total capitulation. But what they really accomplished was to make America even more polarized, and it showed during this election. Donald Trump took advantage of and widened that divide to Grand Canyon proportions.

As the votes continue to be counted, Hillary has received more than 2 million more votes than Donald Trump. The 64.5 million folks who voted for Hillary, the media and pollsters, most Republicans and even the Trump campaign, still can’t believe she lost. Computer experts have found evidence that the results in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin may have been manipulated or hacked; possibly by the Russians, who favored Trump. And if these shenanigans with electronic ballots are proved valid, Hillary’s supporters might yet be vindicated. The Jill Stein campaign has collected millions of dollars from concerned Americans, who like me, can’t believe America is still not able to guarantee a free and fair national election.

The OpenSecrets.org Center for Responsive Politics reports that the cost of this 2 year long election is approaching 7 billion dollars, thanks to Citizens United and dark money. Couple that with Republican legislatures throughout the country passing bills aimed at voter suppression, gerrymandering, a reality candidate who believes lying and deception are invaluable traits, debates where discussing critical issues are put on the back burners, a media more concerned with profits than truth in journalism, campaign hacking by the Russians, and the latest peril of Russian propaganda spreading fake news stories, is it a wonder that 53% of America’s eligible voters didn’t bother to vote.

Some of the 62.5 million folks who voted for Mr. Trump believe he will govern much different than he campaigned; that all the nativist, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, anti immigrant and violent dialog and conduct was just chalked up as campaign talk. But half of those who voted for Trump, who Hillary named the “Deplorables,” are in sympathy with the alt right tea party and obstructionist McConnell. They want to burn down the government. They want to “Make America Great Again,” which really means they want to take America back to the dark ages, when America was primarily male controlled,  white and Christian, before workers rights and women’s rights and civil rights for our black and brown brothers and sisters. Before regulations on banks and corporations and protections for workers and the environment.

But so far, based on the people he’s chosen for his cabinet, it’s clear he will govern exactly like he campaigned. He told his supporters that he knows, and would choose, the best and the brightest people for his cabinet. Then he turns around and picks rich, alt right ideologues; Rudolf Giuliani, who most people think has gone off the deep end, Steve Bannon, alt right white supremacist sympathizer, Mike Flynn for National Security Advisor, who has endorsed the use of torture and other war crimes that violate the Geneva Convention and Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, who worked hard to gut the Voting Rights act and suppress minority voting. Fellow Republicans denied Sessions a federal judgeship because of his racist track record. Trump also nominated Koch Brothers aligned Billionaire charter school and voucher advocate and $9.5 million Trump campaign contributor Betsy DeVos, as his Secretary of Education, someone who American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten describes as “the most ideological, anti-public education nominee put forward since President Carter created a Cabinet-level Department of Education.” Weingarten said, “In nominating DeVos, Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America.” This coming on top of the 31 mostly red states that have already cut funding to public schools.

During the election, Mr. Trump told his supporters he would not touch Social Security or Medicare, two of the most successful government programs in our history. But the Republican House of Representatives, led by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, has the privatizing of those programs at the top of their to do list.

Trump repeatedly told supporters that he would repeal Obama-care (Affordable Care Act) on his first day in office but he’s already backpedaling on that promise. He might have discovered that the popular parts of the ACA, which he also favors, the preexisting conditions part and the ability to keep children on their parents policy thru age 26, must be paid for, by mandating that everyone sign up or pay a penalty. It’s mind-boggling to me that many of the folks who signed up for Obama-care, some who never before had medical insurance, voted for Trump. Thanks to Democratic Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, more than 60% of Kentuckians, most of them poor, had signed up for subsidized Obama-care. But they not only elected a new Republican governor who favors ending the ACA, but more than 70% of them voted for Mr. Trump in this election. And with Kentucky’s 2 Republican Senators and full cadre or Republican Congress persons, I’m sure the Republican Congress, who already tried to repeal the ACA more than 60 times, will finally succeed without President Obama to veto them. I believe some of the poorest of the poor, those left behind by the new economy, jumped on the Trump train because they were desperate for any type of change.

Mr. Trump said many times during the election, that if elected, he would build a wall on the border with Mexico and make them pay for it, ban all Muslims from entering the U.S., send 11 million illegal immigrants back to Mexico, cancel the nuclear peace treaty with Iran, cancel all of President Obama’s executive orders, bring all the jobs back from China, keep others from off shoring, bring back the coal industry, drop out of the Paris agreement, exit the TPP, renegotiate NAFTA and the China PNTR agreement, end the carried interest exemption, drain the Washington swamp of lobbyists, throw crooked Hillary in jail, destroy ISIS because he knows more than the generals, cut taxes for individuals and corporations, rebuild the depleted military and a whole list of other things. And that’s just in the first 100 days. I hope those who voted for him don’t hold their breaths waiting for most things on this list. It should soon be obvious that Donald Trump was feeding his supporters a monumental line of bull dung. And how these poor souls will react, when they wake up from their Kool-aid induced stupor, is anyone’s guess.

I suspect Mr. Trump will quickly reveal himself as a traditional billionaire zealot who champions, and will again try to implement, the neocons discredited trickle down economics. He despises paying any taxes even though the rich and corporations benefit from them more than anyone, so he will again place cutting taxes above all else, even though it will surely blow up the deficit. He will fall in line with fossil fuel interests and join with his Republican Congress to gut environmental regulations, and to support drill baby drill and heavy investment in pipeline infrastructure; and of course at the same time, they will dial back investments and subsidies for alternative energies. He will fully support charter schools and school vouchers because he simply hates free public education. He will go along with the Republican Congress to attack middle class entitlement and social safety net programs, while at the same time passing out favors to crony capitalists, fossil fuel companies and the prison and military industrial complexes. He will hire a long list of other billionaires, who like himself, have little regard for 99% of the rest of America.

There are some things the Democrats would be willing to work with Mr. Trump on, like an infrastructure bill, modifying trade agreements to make them fairer for America and the American worker and real tax reform that includes ending the carried interest tax dodge. But if the Republican juggernaut resumes efforts to steamroll America’s middle class, the poor and the environment, the Democrats will have to use every tool, including the Republican’s favorite filibuster, to minimize the damages.

America is starkly divided; there’s a pitched battle for America’s Democratic ethos:

Between those who believe a rising tide lifts all boats and that all of us should share in the profits and benefits of a free society and economy….. and those who believe in a plutocratic, corporatist, limited government with lax regulations, low or limited taxes to support our commons and consequently, diminished worker and middle class rights.

Between those who believe our diversity makes for a stronger America and a better future …..and those who long for a lily white, male dominated, Christian past.

Between those who embrace science, innovation and a green future based on sustainable alternative energy….. and those steeped and mired in fossil fuel’s dirty and unsustainable past.

In spite of the Republican’s unrelenting obstruction, the Obama Administration still accomplished a lot, primarily during the first 2 years, when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. I think history will regard him as one of our best presidents.

With the help of the admittedly weak stimulus after the economic crash, they were able to apply a tourniquet to the bleeding economy. In spite of staunch opposition from the Republicans in Congress, they bailed out the auto industry, which has increase production each year since 2009 and reached a new record of 17.5 million last year. I wrote the president a letter in early 2009 advocating for the auto bailout and also saying I thought the three most important issues were Jobs, Jobs and living wage Jobs. But he concentrated on and expended a lot of capital and good will on the Affordable Care Act. I guessed that when he sat down with the corporate executives after the crash, he asked them about creating more jobs at home. I’m sure they told him the number one reason for exporting jobs was the escalating, enormous and unpredictable cost of health care. For auto manufacturing, that means between $2,300 and $2,700 per vehicle.

So the administration did what 5 presidents couldn’t do; they committed to finally providing healthcare for 40 million Americans, which caused more than 20,000 deaths a year simply because folks didn’t have insurance. They also slowed the double digit escalating health care costs. They not only had to tackle the number one cause of America’s long term fiscal problems but needed to level the playing field for companies that must compete with countries with much lower wages and much lower health care costs. It wasn’t pretty but it’s a start. America is finally on the path to universal health care. And on the path to healing and rebuilding the finances of the families where medical costs contributed to 65% of all personal bankruptcies.

As part of the ACA, the Obama Administration also took the banks out of the Federal Student Loan Program and expanded Pell Grants. Since 2010, students now get their loans directly from the federal government instead of from subsidized banks. This will save the Treasury almost $70 billion dollars over 10 years. And $36 billion of that will go into expanding Pell Grants for low income families. They also cracked down on predatory for profit colleges.

With the help of Michele Obama, they passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010, giving $4.5 billion for higher nutritional and health standards for school lunches. It doubled the amounts of fruits and vegetables and whole grains in foods served to school children.

They passed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.

They repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

They helped make same sex marriage, the law of the land.

I believe the Obama Administration has done more for Veterans than any since Truman’s and Eisenhower’s. They increased the budget for the Veterans Administration by 16 percent in 2010 and 10 percent in 2011, passed a new G.I. Bill that provided $78 billion dollars in tuition assistance and gave tax credits to businesses who hire Vets.

And they still created more than 15 million jobs, including the biggest (800,000) growth in manufacturing jobs since the 1990’s. Unfortunately many of those are not living wage jobs. They’ve created an average of almost 200,000 jobs for 29 straight months between 2010 and 2016 and the unemployment rate dropped from more than 10% to 4.9%.

Medium household income has gone up $1,140 or 2 %.

The buying power of the average workers weekly paycheck is up 4.2%

Median sales prices of existing single family homes are up 23%

The murder rate is down 5%, despite an increase in 2015.

The number of unauthorized immigrants is also down.

Our national deficit has been cut by three-quarters, from the 2009 bail-out deficit of $1.4 trillion to the $439 billion 2015 deficit.

The stock markets have soared. The S&P 500 was up 220% over 2009. Nasdaq is up more than 320% and the Dow is up almost 200%, rising from about 8,000 after the crash to a new record of more than 19,000 now.

The Federal Reserve also played a big role in digging us out of the financial crisis and deep recession, by keeping interests low, which also helped the housing sector recover.

They passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010 to regulate the practices that bank engaged in that crashed the economy and caused the Great Recession. Dodd-Frank improved the regulation of eight areas that led to the financial crisis. The “Volcker Rule” banned banks from being involved in hedge funds. The Financial Stability and Oversight Council regulated hedge funds and banks that became too big to fail. Dodd-Frank also directed the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to regulate the riskiest derivatives, like the credit default swaps and commodities future that were the primary causes of the collapse.

They also created the Consumer Financial protection Bureau, which has returned billions of dollars back to victimized consumers and improved regulation of credit cards and mortgages.

They also passed the Credit Card Accountability Act in 2009.

And the first bill they passed in 2009 was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Play Act, which gave women who are paid less that men for the same work the ability to sue their employers after they finally discover the discrimination.

They passed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011, which increased the Food and Drug Administration’s budget by $1.4 billion dollars, so they can expand food inspections, issue direct food recalls and increase safety practices of countries importing products into America.

They Passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009. Which mandated that tobacco manufacturers disclose all ingredients and obtain FDA approval for any new tobacco product.

They passed the 2009 Children’s Health Insurance Program (Chip) to cover health care for an additional 4 million children, paid for by a tax on tobacco products.

In 2009, they got the EPA to declare carbon dioxide a pollutant and allowing them to regulate its production.

In 2009, they eliminated the Bush-era restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.

They engineered Federal Communications approval to transfer $8 billion in subsidies away from landlines and toward broadband Internet for lower-income rural families.

In 2009, they passed the Claims Resolution Act, which provided $4.6 billion funding for the legal settlement for black and Native American farmers who the government denied loans and natural resource royalties to in the past.

They passed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act in 2009, which designated more than 2 million acres of wilderness, created historic trails and protected more than 1,000 miles of rivers.

They invested $90 billion dollars in research for smart electric grids, energy efficiency, electric autos, renewable electric generation, clean coal and bio-fuels.

They issued an executive order in 2009 requiring all federal agencies to reduce their environmental impact. This includes 30% reduction in fleet gasoline use, 26% increase in water efficiency and sustainability requirements for all federal contracts.

They passed in 2011, over staunch objections from fossil fuel pandering Republicans, new fuel efficiency standards that will double fuel economy for cars, and for the first time trucks by 2025. Some auto manufacturers have already surpassed those standards.

Wind and solar power have quadrupled; coal production has dropped 36% and carbon emissions have gone down 12%.

Clean energy production (300 million megawatt hours) from solar, wind and biomass has doubled since (150 million megawatt hours) in 2009.

The Administration engineered an agreement with British Petroleum to set up a $20 billion dollar fund to quickly compensate victims of the Deep-water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico after pointing out that it took almost 2 decades for the victims of the Exxon Valdez Alaska oil spill to receive $1.3 billion.

President Obama led global efforts for the International Climate Agreement in Paris in December 2015. Countries agreed to reduce carbon emissions and increase carbon trading and to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.

He also enacted the Clean Power Plan in 2015. It reduces carbon emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. This is accomplished by reduction goals for the nations power plants. Power plants will create 30% more renewable energy generation by 2030.

They reduced military spending in 2011 by $450 billion dollars.

They stopped the $1 billion per launch Space Shuttle program boondoggle and the even more bloated Bush era Constellation program in 2011.

In 2009 they ended the Lockheed Martin single-seat, twin engine, fighter aircraft program, which cost $358 million dollars for each plane. The plane never flew a single combat mission, even though they already had 187 planes built. Eliminating the program saved $4 billion.

They also created Recovery.gov, an independent board of inspectors general directed to look for fraud and abuse in the stimulus program. It provided transparent information on every contract funded by the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

They ended the war in Iraq and wound down the war in Afghanistan.

They captured and killed Osama bin laden.

They joined with European and Arab governments to topple Moammar Gaddafi and helped unseat Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

After rescinding Bush Administration torture policies, President Obama began rebuilding the world’s opinion toward the U.S, which was severely damaged during the previous Republican administration.

President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in March 2010. The committee cited “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” He withdrew troops from Iraq in 2011 and reduced the U.S. nuclear warhead stockpile by 10%.

The Iran sanctions they helped get passed in 2010, with other countries, led to the Iran Nuclear weapons program agreement.

They helped the South Sudan declare Independence. They appointed envoys to the Sudan, and had U.S. United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice negotiate a peaceful split

And I think one of the most important issues, especially in light of the potential conflict of interest issues for the incoming Trump Administration, is that President Obama has served longer than any other president in decades without a scandal. When he came into office, he told the American public that he was demanding that everyone who worked in his administration would be held to a higher standard of ethics and he has faithfully delivered on that promise.

When the President came into office, he said he would be a president for all the American people, even those who didn’t vote for him. He said he made mistakes but got up every day determined to help improve the lives of all Americans. I think he was successful in spite of Republican refusal to compromise on anything. But looking at the list of achievements, we see that he has helped 100’s of millions of folks in countless ways.

President Obama’s administration has helped:

The banks and financial institutions who benefited from the bail-out,

The investors and pension funds harmed by the financial crash and then made whole,

The homeowners who lost equity in their homes and then recovered with TARP funds,

The entire auto industry and the millions of new workers in that industry,

The 40 million folks now eligible for Obamacare,

The 10’s of millions of who can’t be denied insurance because of preexisting conditions,

The millions of young folks who can stay on their parents policy through age 26,

The 10’s of millions of folks who won’t have to file bankruptcy because of medical costs,

The 10’s of millions who can now get preventative care at no cost,

The millions of students and their families who now pay reduced student loan interest,

The millions of students and their families who have benefited from more Pell Grants,

The 10’s of millions of children who now have healthier and more nutritious lunches,

Those less likely to be the victims of hate crimes,

The LGBTQ members of the military who can now openly serve their country,

The same sex partners who can now legally get married,

100’s of thousands of men and women of the military and vets who depend on the V.A.,

The 15,000,000 Americans who now have a job,

The 10’s of millions of taxpayers who will have to pay less interest on the deficit,

The millions who profited from the doubling and tripling of the stock markets,

The millions of homeowner families who have benefited from low home mortgage rates,

The 10’s of millions who are protected by Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Protection Act,

The 10’s of millions of women who are now protected by the Lilly Ledbetter Act,

The 10’s of millions of young people who will not start smoking, or will decide to quit,

The 4 million additional children in the expanded CHIPS health program,

The 10’s of millions who will benefit from reduced carbon dioxide emissions,

The millions who will benefit from embryonic stem cell research,

The millions of rural folks who can now use the Internet,

The black and Native American farmers who can now get farm loans and royalties,

The millions who use the 2 million acres of new wilderness and 1,000 miles of rivers,

The millions who benefit from a smart electric grid, energy efficiency and electric autos,

The millions of taxpayers who benefit from a more efficient environmental impact,

The 10’s of millions who will benefit from doubling the fuel economy standards,

The folks in the Gulf who will receive payouts from the Deep Water victims fund,

The billions of people around the world who will benefit from the Paris accord,

The 10’s of millions of American taxpayers who benefit from reduced military spending,

The 100 million folks in Iraq and Afghanistan who can now see the end of the tunnel,

The 100’s of millions around the world who are glad Osama bin laden is in hell,

The 100 million people of Libya and Egypt who have new leadership,

The 10’s of millions of Iranians who are no longer suffering sanctions and,

The 100’s of millions who no longer have to worry about Iran’s nuclear program,

The 100’s of millions who are just a little safer after we reduced our nuclear arsenal,

The many millions in the South Sudan who now have an independent country,

Add to this list the millions of folks helped by the presidents signing of executive orders, including undocumented children and young Latinos, and we can see why President Obama’s approval rating is 57%, the highest it’s been since 2009; and why folks in the U.S. and around the world are sad to see Barack and Michele leave the White House.

What amazes me, when honestly considering this list of accomplishments, is the 43% of American’s who don’t approve of the job the President has done. The alt right, the tea party and virtually every member of the far right media refuse to give the President any credit at all. Anyone who claims this isn’t racism is fooling themselves. And Trump, with his “birther” rants, was the main culprit in this racist campaign to diminish the first black America President.

I think if the Obama Administration would have tried to prosecute some of the evildoers who crashed the economy, had concentrated more on a legitimate jobs program and not just retraining for nonexistent jobs, and had done more about unfair trade agreements and practices or explained their efforts better, they could have dulled Trumps populist message to those who have been left behind in this new economy; and Hillary would have won the electoral college. I realize the administration tried to get a jobs bill, and countless other legislation they thought would help the middle class and the American worker, thru the filibuster happy Republicans in the Senate and past a Republican House unwilling to propose or compromise on any meaningful legislation that would have allowed the President to succeed; but I think the administration could have done a much better job of explaining their goals and the Republicans obstruction, to the voters. The Republicans were adept at framing their obstruction, as handcuffing an out of control socialist spendthrift and as being beneficial to the economy, where in reality, it just exacerbated America’s widening income inequality.

There are any number of mine fields ahead for Trump and the Republicans, including the 25 million dollar Trump University settlement. Neither the plaintiffs nor the courts have signed off on that agreement. Then there’s Trumps upcoming rape trial. Many experts also believe this Trump Administration will explore uncharted new frontiers of governing conflicts of interest. He honestly believes he can run his family business from the White House. And of course, the Republicans always tend to overreach, especially now that they have the White House, the Senate and the House. So strap on your seat belt because it looks like a rough 4 year ride for progressives, the middle class, the working poor, the environment and the economy. Between the cast of characters Trump has assembled for his administration and the temperament and apparent unfitness of the President elect himself, there’s a 50/50 chance this administration may not make it past the 2018 midterm elections intact.

A November 21st article in USA Today by Matt Krantz, highlighted the economic records under Republican and Democratic Presidents. “Recessions are much more common under Republican presidents.” In the last 63 years, since President Eisenhower at the beginning of 1953 until President Obama through 2016, there have been 111 months of recession. 105 of those months of recession have been under Republican presidents, with only 6 months under President Carter. And I think that was because of the oil embargo.

“Every Republican president since Teddy Roosevelt in 1901 has endured a recession in the first term, according to an analysis from Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at stock research firm CFRA.” Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Clinton and Obama had no months of recession. Eisenhower had 28 months, Nixon/Ford had 27 months, Regan had 16, Bush senior had 8 and George W. Bush had 26 months. The average GDP in the last 65 years since President Truman was 3.33%, according to Princeton Professors Alan Blinder and Mark Watson. “With a Republican in the White House, the GDP slowed to 2.54% and with a Democrat jumped to 4.35%.

“A variety of other economic indicators, such as per capita GDP, stock market returns, real wages, and the change in the unemployment rate are also more robust under Democrats. Unemployment fell by .8% under the Democrats and rose 1.1%  with the Republicans.” “The U.S. Economy has performed better when the President of the United States is a Democrat rather than a Republican, regardless of how one measures the performance.” “The current economic expansion has been running for 89 months (under President Obama), 4th longest since 1902.”

Some experts believe this disparate performance may just be a matter of timing or bad luck. I think it’s simply about the economic philosophy of the Republican president and his cabinet and not due to random acts. Republican’s number one goal is cutting taxes, especially for folks who don’t need it (millionaires, billionaires and corporations, who like Mr. Trump,  already enjoy a very low or N/A effective tax rate). Number two is cutting programs started during the FDR New Deal era, especially for those who simply can’t afford it (attacking Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid). And of course continuing the assault against organized labor (attacking teachers, mail-carriers, government workers, collective bargaining and promoting right to work legislation). But these zealots will never understand that these actions severely depress the economy. It’s been proven time and again that when lower and middle class folks have more discretionary income, they freely spend it and the economy flourishes. When rich folks get huge tax cuts and have more money than they know what to do with, they don’t invest it in the economy but engage in risky business practices (the 2008 financial crisis). These folks heading to the White House again are not true conservatives. They can’t wait to get their hands on Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Protection Agency (Overreaching). The richest of the rich always benefit from chaos and financial distress. Like Mr. Trump stated during the campaign, when the economy goes to crap, it’s a great opportunity for him and other billionaires to make a killing. You wonder, by looking at their record, if they actually try to crash the economy on purpose.

But all is not lost. This is after all Thanksgiving and while I don’t have 35 things like I did in 2008, I still have a few things I’m thankful for.

I’m thankful for all the courageous and patriotic American’s in the streets, especially the young folks, who are protesting the election of Divider in Chief Donald Trump, as America’s leader, especially after eight years of President Obama, Michele, and Joe and Jill Biden attempting to unite us.

I’m thankful for all the Native American water protectors, our first environmentalists, standing up for the earth at Standing Rock, especially all the young people. And thankful for all the Native American tribes (more than 300) from all over the country and Canada who have gone to stand with them. I’m thankful for all the environmental activists like myself who have donated and spoken up and stood with them. I’m thankful for all the landowners and farmers like myself, from North and South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois who have stood in the way of the Dakota Access and other risky pipelines. I’m thankful for all the earth protectors who stood up in Canada against the Alberta Tar Sands. I’m thankful for the protectors who stood up in Minnesota and stopped the Sandpiper pipeline project. I’m thankful for all the Native Americans, activists, landowners, farmers and members of Bold Nebraska who stood up and stopped Keystone XL. And I’m thankful for all the Americans and Canadians and people around the world who have donated and wrote letters and signed letters and petitions and said prayers and commented on social media. I am thankful for all the celebrities and concerned media who refuse to ignore the plight of our Native American brothers and sisters. I’m thankful for all the environmental organizations around the country and the world who stand with Standing Rock and stand for the earth. I’m thankful for all the activist leaders who organized demonstrations supporting Standing Rock on November 15th across the country, in almost every state and around the world. I’m thankful for all the 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders, with their hand made signs, who were at the Standing Rock protest in downtown Chicago; and for their parents and teachers for showing them the right way to live sustainably. They will be the earth protectors taking over for their elders. And I will be thankful for all of my fellow Veterans who are going to standing Rock the first week in December to stand with Standing Rock, to show that they represent the true patriotic Americans defending their country and our earth.

I’m thankful for all of humanity who shuns greed in order to protect our blessings of clean air, fertile soil, clean precious water and wholesome food.

I’m thankful for those on the front lines, protesting exploitation of our wilderness, our public lands and our National Parks and Monuments.

I’m thankful for all the organic and sustainable farmers like myself, who feed their neighbors without spoiling the earth. And I’m thankful for the organizations like MOSES who promote and teach the next generation of protectors.

And in spite of how hard Mr. Trump, his exploitative cabinet, the fossil fuel pandering Republican controlled Congress and the evil doers in the fossil fuel industry work, to overturn progress made by the Obama Administration, to reverse climate change and global warming, they can’t stop the march to a cleaner more sustainable world. Alternative energy is cheaper than coal, oil and gas, it’s sustainable and 10’s of millions of people around the world are already enjoying it’s benefits. The world is using less coal, more wind, solar and alt energy, emitting less carbon dioxide and growing and farming more sustainably. More than 100 large corporations have pledged to become 100% renewable. Corporations, utilities, countries, states, cities and communities have promoted and invested in renewable energy. Even oil companies and insurance companies have woken up to the new sustainable world order. We are plodding forward. Trump, his fellow billionaires and the big banks who are heavily invested in fossil fuel assets will attempt to extract every ounce before America says, enough is enough. But they’re on the wrong side of preserving humanity.

Like probably 80% of Americans who did not vote for Mr. Trump, I’m worried for America’s children and grandchildren, the poor, our middle class, labor, the environment, our Democracy and half of the rest of the world. And I worry that Trump will try to undo  60 to 75% of what President Obama accomplished. President Obama set the bar high with his performance in repairing the economy after the Republicans drove it into a ditch, by repairing our reputation around the world and by his integrity and concern for all human beings. If the Trump Administration can do half as well, I will be surprised. I sincerely hope I’m proved wrong.

John Hanno

 

Thanksgiving 2008

November 27, 2008

 

Thanksgiving

I am thankful I was born the same year as Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, a period of great hope and change after World War II ended … because the last 25 years have not been favorable to the middle class.

I am thankful my grandmother was strong enough to raise 7 children alone during the great depression after her husband died…because many families would not have survived intact.

I am thankful my Grandmother had a green thumb and passed on her love of growing flowers and vegetables through my father to us…because not much beats the joy of eating fruits and vegetables fresh from my own garden.

I am thankful I grew up in a family with one sister and three brothers who were nurtured and loved… because I know there are children who are not.

I am thankful I grew up on the South Side of Chicago in a neighborhood still considered rural and where every joyous day was like living on a farm…because I know children grow up not understanding the blessings of a country of such enormous bounty.

I am thankful I earned money cutting grass and doing gardening for neighbors and learned to appreciate our environment and my relationship and responsibility to the earth…because hopefully, there are enough of us who cherish this earth, to keep it from being destroyed.

I am thankful I grew up in an economically diverse neighborhood; with doctors, dentists, engineers, teachers, business owners, firemen, policeman, factory workers, construction workers and labors living in the same community…because with the stark separation of classes today, some can’t appreciate the struggles some families endure just to survive.

I am thankful my parents and neighbors would not hesitate to help someone in need and I learned a community is as strong as its weakest link…because too many people believe no one needs or deserves a hand up.

I am thankful my father, an engineer in the steel mills who worked with people of all races, taught us by example to respect people of all colors…because I realize discrimination and bigotry is passed on from generation to generation.

I am thankful I went to a great Chicago public grammar school with wonderful teachers…because I know some people believe we should not have free public education.

I am thankful I went to a great public high school with wonderful teachers, when I did…because I realize the drop out rate at Chicago public high schools, is now much too high.I am thankful I lived in Alaska long enough to appreciate what a remarkable place it is…because if the oil interests get their way, future generations will not get the same privilege.

I am thankful that I finished my 3 years in the Army before the Viet Nam war escalated and without having to shoot anyone…because there are many Viet Nam and Iraq veterans who can never forget they killed another human being and live every day with that burden.

 I am thankful the army taught me communications and electronics…because my family could not afford to send all of us to college.

I am thankful when I got out of the Army, there were many good paying jobs available for people willing to work hard but with only a high school education …because now all those jobs are gone to countries with low wages, no benefits and no protection for workers or the environment.

I am thankful for the many labor unions I was part of for more than 40 years…because unions gave the American worker a middle-class standard of living that was the envy of the entire world.

 I am thankful to be called blue collar and proudly wear that blue uniform…because for me, the uniform pays tribute to the sacrifices of the organizers and founding members of the American labor movement.

I am thankful there were vast numbers of excellent manufacturing companies in Chicago, companies like Campbell’s Soup and Johnson & Johnson, where I worked for many years… because whole communities prospered around those economic engines.

I am thankful these companies offered apprenticeship and training programs and were willing to give a hand up to veterans like myself…because I became an electrician and was able to support my family, attend community college and buy a home with help from the G.I. bill.

I am thankful that, after being the victim of a predatory mortgage lender and losing that home, and having to live in my van for months, I had loyal friends and family who helped us through some really tough times…because some families suffering through this current mortgage foreclosure crisis, may not have anyone to turn to for help.

I am thankful I was strong enough to survive foreclosure and bankruptcy…because many families do not, and end up homeless and living on the street.

I am thankful for the social security checks I receive, after contributing for more than 40 years…because without them, I might be living on the streets with some of my fellow veterans.

I am thankful for the “Together We Cope” food bank where I try to contribute food every week…because those who have lost jobs and homes and pensions and who need help may not survive without it.

I am thankful I have medical insurance through my former employer and the Veterans Administration Clinic…because almost 50 million Americans have no health insurance and our economy cannot survive and prosper under those circumstances.

I am thankful there were many volunteers and churches that helped and are still helping the victims of Katrina and the people of New Orleans and other cities…because our government failed them miserably.

I am thankful we have a government however…because without it, we would not have a civil society.

I am thankful the troop serge has helped stabilize Iraq…because the poor souls there deserve better.

I am thankful for the servicemen and women and their families who have sacrificed greatly by serving in Iraq and Afghanistan…because without their dedication, this unnecessary war would be an even greater disaster.

 I am thankful the last eight years are almost over and we did not elect John McCain…because the world could not survive another term like the last.

I am thankful the world is welcoming President Obama with open arms and a sigh of relief…because it shows they believe America can still lead us from this despair.

 I am thankful Barack Obama realizes we all have to work together to solve these enormous problems… because being divided is what got us into this mess.

I am thankful that, although I am not financially wealthy, I appreciate the important things, family, friends and community…because we must depend on each other.

 I am thankful America has chosen Barack Obama to be our next president…because I believe he and Michelle understand why and for what I am thankful.

I am hopefully thankful that 60 years from now, people will be glad they were born in 2009 because it was the beginning of another period of great hope and change… and not because they’re sorry to have been born into another great depression.

I am thankful I live in a country where everyone can express their opinions and there still are newspapers where we can offer those opinion… because one of the joys of my childhood was getting the Sunday papers after our parents were finished reading them.

John A. Hanno

Chang.org Petition Asking Pres. Obama to Return Standing Rock Land

Ask President cede to Standing Rock Sioux, A.C. land at Lake Oahe; or make it a Natl Park.

John Hanno Oak Forest, IL

 

The Dakota Access pipeline poses a catastrophic threat to Native American sacred lands and to the critical water source for more than 17 million Americans down stream of the Missouri River crossing.  We know that President Elect Trump has a serious conflict of interest by owning large investments in DAPL and other fossil fuel assets; and his energy team includes Harold Hamm, billionaire founder of Continental Resources oil company, and someone Mr. Trump might name as his Secretary of Energy. Mr. Trump and the Koch brothers said they support extractive exploitation of public lands and National Parks. President Obama must not only order the Army Corps of Engineers to revoke the pipeline permits and stop the Dakota Access pipeline but we petition President Obama to cede to the Sovereign Standing Rock Sioux Nation water protectors, ownership rights to Army Corp land surrounding and including Lake Oahe and land at the pipeline crossing of the Missouri river, before he leaves office; and / or in the alternative, permanently protect this land by declaring it a National Park. After suffering centuries of persecution and exploitation, Native Americans deserve justice. This land belonged to the Standing Rock Sioux Nation Rez before it was taken back. President Elect Trump has stated he will quickly approve the Dakota Access pipeline and also reverse President Obama’s decision to deny approval of Keystone XL pipeline. We have an enormous glut of oil reserves at Cushing, Oklahoma. The clear purpose of Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines is not to make America energy independent but to reap enormous profits for greedy oil interests exporting oil to China. We must protect our environment and our oil resources. This outdated fossil fuel infrastructure is not needed and railroads serving the Bakkan North Dakota oil fields have invested heavily in improved railroad oil tank car safety and have stated that they have more than enough railroad capacity to transport the Bakkan oil. They will also be able to permanently rehire thousands of laid off North Dakota railroad workers. America must finally honor the first Americans and our first environmentalists by stopping Dakota Access. John Hanno

This petition will be delivered to:     President Obama

Exactly as said in your petition. A shitstorm is coming in Jan. unfortunately.

Gene Day, Wichita, KS     1 week ago

You have been a great champion for the environment. I trust you to do what is right in this case also. Please DO NOT LET DAPL win. Cede the land to Standing Rock Sioux or make it a National Park. This will be the crowning jewel to your environmental legacy.

Cindy Dutka, Philadelphia, PA      1 week ago

President Obama, I’m embarrassed to keep asking you to do things after all the great things you have done, but you know this would be fair. Trump still needs to learn to put the needs of our citizens ahead of his own financial interests. Help him see that!

Rita Sack, Newtown Square, PA     1 week ago

#HonorTheTreaties #HonorOurTreaties ceding the USAE land back to Standing Rock Sioux via 1851 Treaty of Ft. Laramie

NorthWind Stilson, Nelsonville, OH     1 week ago

It poses a threat to farmers as well as children. We all need relief from this pipeline.

morgan kanae, hanford, CA      1 week ago

This process has literally been bulldozed through the rights of people and at the eventual expense of the planet.

Allen Frechette,  Shakopee, MN      3 weeks ago

 

Veterans Day 2016

November 10, 2016

Veterans Day

Friday November 11, 2016

A big thank you to all the businesses who show their support and appreciation for us on Veterans Day. As usual, I’ll take fellowship and join my fellow Vets at Texas Roadhouse for a much appreciated steak dinner. They really treat the Vets with open arms.

This time of the year, when Veterans Day rolls around, the memories come flooding back. I had a hard time in high school because of a really bad stuttering problem. It was so embarrassing when I was called on at school and couldn’t even get my first name out that I finally dropped out when I was 16. There were 5 of us kids and my folks struggled to keep us all fed so I went up to Alaska to work after their monster earthquake. I came back and joined the Army at 17.

I caught pneumonia on my first day of basic training at Ft Knox, Kentucky. We went to bed with all the windows wide open and no blankets because it was so hot and then woke up in the morning freezing with frost on the floor. Vague memories of AIT training at Ft Dix in New Jersey, standing on the parade field and freezing your you know what off, and at Ft. Gordon in Augusta, Georgia where we were given free admission to the Sunday finals of the Masters golf tournament, if we wore our uniform. Now, you can’t even buy those tickets. I try to remember all my Army buds but don’t have any photos. It’s not like today, where everyone has a cell phone camera.

When we went overseas, and yes we actually did travel over the seas; we shipped out to Europe (Bremerhaven, Germany) on a troop carrier; an extremely miserable 14 day trip on the USS Upshur. We called it the USS Upchuck because most of the troops were violently sick most of the time. When we went through the English Channel, we encountered the worst storm they had in 25 years. We were up on deck when the storm blew up. When the ship listed, we were staring at what seemed like a hundred foot wall of water. Very scary for all the landlubbers like myself. I was deployed to Giessen but because I had a critical MOS, ended up in a Pershing nuclear missile outfit in Southern Germany. We spent two and a half years mostly in the field with our missiles aimed at the Soviets and theirs aimed at us. I sometimes think I went to sleep for 50 years, just woke up and nothing has changed. We’re still butting heads with the Russians.

And I’d like to give a shout out to the Veterans Administration. When I lost my medical insurance, after surviving four manufacturing plant closings, I used the V.A. clinics for primary care. I had great preventative care from Dr. Lee and Dr. King and their dedicated support staffs through the years. I know there’s been problems with Iraq and Afghanistan Vets getting timely treatment, but the V.A. was put in a untenable situation. After decades of inadequate funding, they had to somehow cope with the enormous influx of active duty and disabled Vets. Since the U.S invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, about 2.5 million members of our Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and Reserve and National Guard have been deployed in those wars. One third of those had multiple deployments. Almost 40,000 were deployed more than 5 times, including more than 10,000 Guard and Reserve members. More than 400,000 troops did 3 or more tours. That’s an incredible burden and sacrifice on those troops and their families.

1.6 Million (1 million active duty and 675,000 Guard and Reserve) of those deployed, have transitioned to Veterans status. And of those, 675,000 have been awarded service connected disability claims, and another 100,000 have claims pending. And those numbers will continue to climb for decades. These two wars have produced a higher percentage of disabilities because of a combination of outstanding critical battlefield care, which produced survivors instead of fatalities, a large number of injuries from improvised bombs and traumatic brain injuries and PTSD and mental health issues. There were more than 32,000 injuries, some of those with catastrophic wounds that will take decades of intensive treatment. As these Veterans age, and their health deteriorates, their disabilities will worsen. Disability claims for WWI Vets reached their peak in 1970 and for WWII Vets in the 1980’s. Almost 1 million Iraq and Afghanistan Vets have used V.A. medical services, which include 270,000 for issues related to PTSD. And of those, 150,000 have been awarded disability. Experts say the cost for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans disability and medical care for their life will far exceed 1 trillion dollars.

Adding the 2 trillion or more to fight the two wars, 1 trillion to pay the interest on the credit card we used to fund the wars and more than 1 trillion to take care of the surviving Vets, we fully realize the enormous 4.5 to 5 trillion dollar cost to prosecute these unnecessary wars. We finally paid off the cost of the Viet Nam war during the Clinton Administration’s second term surplus. I’m guessing our children and grandchildren will still be paying for these wars 20 or 25 years from now.

I was totally against the war in Iraq and was looking into being a human shield when the Bush Administration, was not only ignoring the U.N. inspectors claims that there were most likely no WMD still in Iraq but was threatening a “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign. I can remember their mad rush to war and them saying they had to hurry and invade before the approaching hot summer temperatures. But as it turned out, we spent more than a dozen summers in that god forsaken inhospitable climate. I was against the invasion because war impacts poor people most, the folks that don’t have the resources to escape the carnage. We’re rightfully troubled over the handful of terrorist attacks in this country and in Europe but can we even comprehend trying to protect family members against more than 36,500 terrorist attacks in Iraq during the last decade. A little more than 3,000 folks died on 9-11. Can we even imagine the 200,000 or 250,000 dead in Iraq? Translating that loss to America’s population, it’s the equivalent of 2,500,000 deaths. War is Hell! And war is the ultimate failure.

My family didn’t have a lot of money, and even though I was a sergeant, I didn’t make enough money for airfare. So I was away from home for 3 years. I missed a lot when my younger siblings were growing up. But even I can only guess the sacrifices most of these military men and women and their families have endured, especially those with catastrophic injuries.

I’m sure they and their families sometimes wonder if those sacrifices were ultimately worth it, especially when the military and political stability in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the middle east in general spirals into chaos. But they should remember that, in spite of suspect and faulty reasoning for the war and incompetent leadership of those who dragged us into that unnecessary war, the men and women of our military served their country honorably. They did their duty in one of the most inhospitable environments on the face of the earth, often enduring temperatures approaching 120 degrees in full combat gear. They endured thousands of improvised bombs. But they persevered through all that, conducted the successful surge and then handed over the keys of a burgeoning democracy to politicians who then squandered that hard fought opportunity.

Maybe 5, 10 or 15 years from now these soldiers can look back and say that the middle east is a better place and that they played a major role in that success. And the world will be able to say that thanks to these soldiers, the support of their families and to the notion and idea that America was willing to, send 2.5 million troops and billions of tons of arms and material half way around the world, spend 5 trillion dollars and sacrifice thousands of young men and women’s lives and health, the folks in these countries have a better future.

I know President Obama and Michele, and Joe and Jill Biden highly regard your service and sacrifice. I don’t think any administration has done more for Veterans issues since Presidents Truman and Eisenhower. I can remember not long after President Obama took office in 2009 when he reversed the eighteen year ban, continued by President Bush, on the media covering the arrival of flag draped military coffins of fallen soldiers. I remember President Obama and Joe Biden standing in the early morning rain on the tarmac at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, saluting the flag draped coffins as they came off the cargo planes. They strongly believed that America needed to see the full cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We have to elect politicians who understand that cost, who walk the walk and not just talk the talk. And we have to do our homework when Veterans issues come before Congress. See who actually votes for these issues instead of just spouting about them. A lot of politicians say they support the troops but then when it come time to cast their vote, they somehow just can’t justify the funding. The Republican’s now control the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives. If funding for Veterans and the V.A. aren’t fully supported in the next 4 years, there will only be one group to blame. And I think we should take this opportunity to post on the White House Facebook page our thanks to President Obama, Michele and Jill and Joe Biden for their unwavering support over the last eight years.

So on this Veterans day, you have a lot to be proud of. And if you’re having trouble dealing with physical or mental health issues, please reach out to the V.A. for help. And if one of your military buds is struggling, get them to some help. The V.A always has someone ready to talk to or refer you to. And if there isn’t someone available where you live you can go into a room at a V.A. Clinic and talk to a counselor over a monitor. I also know Vets who have spent many years in V.A. assisted care and that care has been great. The V.A. is also building new SRO and dormitory units. No Vet should be homeless. Please reach out to someone if you’re having trouble finding shelter, especially with winter coming. Asking for help is standing strong for yourself and for your family.

There are lists all over the Internet of restaurants and businesses who look forward to showing their appreciation for your sacrifices on Veterans day, so please take advantage, and enjoy the fellowship of other Veterans. Happy Veterans Day!

John Hanno, www.tarbabys.com