Patriotism vs. Nationalism


Patriotism vs. Nationalism

(In his astounding and brief best seller OnTyranny, author Timothy Snyder, a Professor of History at Yale University, details the stark difference between honest Patriotism and Nationalism, the exact opposite of Patriotism. On this Veterans day, I’m offering a targeted reading of Prof. Snyder’s Chapter 19, “Be A Patriot”, while Trump is doubling down on his attacks on true American Patriots, like Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, and former U.S. Ambassador William Taylor, whose lifetimes of selfless, public- service to this country, stand in stark contrast to Donald Trump’s lifetime of self-service and his boisterous and brainless declarations that he is a “Nationalist.” I urge you to carefully read these powerful words from Professor Timothy Synder and circulate them across all social media. Then, go out and purchase a copy of his small, very readable 126-page book, On Tyranny, which may be among the most important things you read during the House Impeachment Hearings and the Senate Trial of Donald Trump v. the United States of America.)

“What is patriotism? Let us begin with what patriotism is not. It is not patriotic to dodge the draft and to mock war heroes and their families. It is not patriotic to discriminate against active-duty members of the armed forces in one’s companies, or to campaign to keep disabled veterans away from one’s property. It is not patriotic to compare one’s search for sexual partners in New York with the military service in Vietnam that one has dodged. It is not patriotic to avoid paying taxes, especially when American working families do pay. It is not patriotic to ask those working , taxpaying American families to finance one’s own presidential campaign, and then to spend their contribution in one own’s companies.

It is not patriotic to admire foreign dictators. It is not patriotic to cultivate a relationship with Muammar Gaddafi; or to say that Bashar Al-Assad and Vladimir Putin are superior leaders. It is notpatriotic to call upon Russia to intervene in an American presidential election. It is not patriotic to cite Russian propaganda at rallies. It is not patriotic to share an advisor with Russian oligarchs. It is not patriotic to solicit foreign policy advice from someone who owns shares in a Russian energy company. It is not patriotic to read a foreign policy speech written by someone on the payroll of a Russian Energy company. It is not patriotic to appoint a national security advisor who has taken money from a Russian propaganda organ. It is not patriotic to appoint as Secretary of State an oilman with Russian financial interests who is the director of a Russian-American energy company and has received the “Order of Friendship” from Putin.

The point is not that Russia and America must be enemies. The point is that patriotism involves serving your own country.

The president is a nationalist, which is not at all the same as a patriot. A nationalist encourages us to be our worst, and then tells us that we are the best. A nationalist although “endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge,” wrote Orwell, tends to be “uninterested in what happens in the real world.” Nationalism is relativist, since the only truth is the resentment we feel when we contemplate others. As the novelist Danilo Kis put it, “nationalism has no universal values, aesthetic or ethical.”

A patriot, by contrast, wants the nation to live up to its ideals, which means asking us to be our best selves. A patriot must be concerned with the real world, which is the only place where his country can be loved and sustained. A patriot has universal values, standards by which he judges his nation, always wishing it well — and wishing that it would do better.

Democracy failed Europe in the 1920’s, ‘30’s and ‘40’s, and it is failing not only in much of Europe, but in many parts of the world today. It is that history and experiences that reveals to us the dark range of our possible futures. A nationalist will say that “it can’t happen here,” which is the first step toward disaster. A patriot says that it could happen here, but that we will stop it.”



How Admiral McRaven Can Save The Nation…Again.



It’s time for retired Admiral William H. McRaven to topple another tyrant, in a special operation that will not be nearly as dangerous, nor as bloody, as the one he engaged in eight years ago.   In that operation, nicknamed “Operation Neptune Spear,” McRaven organized and oversaw the execution of the U.S. Special Ops raid that ended the reign of terror of Osama Bin Laden.


This time, the dictator, also born into a wealthy family, is not hiding in a sprawling cement compound in Pakistan, but in an historic White House in the center of Washington, D.C.   This time, by using ballots not bullets, “the fate of the Republic depends on” the success of this mission, as McRaven recently wrote in an Op Ed in the New York Times entitled “Our Republic is Under Attack From the President.”


Not only is the Admiral, a decorated 37-year military Veteran who has dedicated his lifetime to serving his country, the right person to lead this urgent mission, but he brings the clear-eyed strength of character, uncompromising integrity and willingness to sacrifice all for a worthy cause which the nation so desperately needs now, after Donald Trump’s repeated attempts to tear up the Constitution, and undermine American National Security Interests.


In a mere matter of weeks, Trump’s catastrophic decision to pull US Troops out of Syria, betrayed our Kurdish allies who lost 11,000 lives fighting ISIS for us, allowed  the Turks to wage their long sought campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Kurds, freed hundreds of ISIS terrorists, witnessed demoralized US troops abandon and bomb our own military outposts, and enabled Vladimir Putin to redraw the map of the Middle East, installing  the Russians into a permanent position of occupation in Northern Syria.  And none of those foreign policy atrocities includes the now well-documented illegal shakedown of the Ukrainian government, under siege by the Russians on that country’s eastern front, for dirt on a political opponent, in exchange for Ukraine’s desperately needed military assistance from the US, already authorized by Congress.


The need to oust Trump from the Oval Office is as clear to Admiral McRaven, as it was to his colleague and fellow war veteran, former Ukrainian Ambassador William Taylor, whose scathing testimony before Congress this week, made it clear—under oath—that Trump himself was responsible for the illegal attempted shakedown of the Ukrainians.  With 13,000 Ukrainians having already been killed in the 5-year war with the Russians, Taylor wrote in his opening statement, “more Ukrainians would undoubtedly die without U.S. assistance.”   Trump was not only playing politics and abusing his power, he was playing with human lives, as he carelessly did when he sacrificed the Kurds to the fever dreams of a Turkish tyrant, who carved up the new Syria with Putin, the ultimate beneficiary of all of Trump’s anti-American actions.


The best way for Admiral McRaven to save the nation now and for the long term is to become the Democratic Nominee for President.  There’s still time—about one month–for him to do it through the Democratic Presidential Primaries, by winning some delegates to have his name placed in nomination at the convention in the summer of 2020 in Milwaukee, if no single candidate has secured a majority of the 1885 delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination on the first ballot.


In California, for example, where our Presidential Primary is being held on March 3, 2020, “Super Tuesday,” along with 9 other states, McRaven still has until November 26—four weeks away– to file notice of his candidacy for President with the Secretary of State’s office.   Under California election law, McRaven (or anyone) would have to meet only one of several criteria to qualify as a candidate on the primary ballot.


The simplest criterion for McRaven to meet in the shortest period of time is the one which requires the candidate to establish a Presidential webpage or website, after setting up an authorized Presidential Campaign Committee with the Federal Elections Commission.   Once those requirements are met, ,  a “written request submitted on behalf of the candidate by a party qualified to participate in the Primary Election, to the Secretary of State, requesting that the candidate be placed on the ballot,” is all that’s needed.   In other words, if McRaven wants to run for President, and sets up an official campaign committee and a website to prove it, any qualified, registered Democratic Primary voter in the State of California can request that the his name be placed on the ballot.  I volunteer to do it.



Additionally, the Admiral would have until November 26 to provide the Secretary of State with his Federal Income Tax returns for the past five years, a new requirement in the State this year.  Since California alone has 495 Democratic delegates and it’s not a winner take all state, McRaven would have a good shot of picking up some support, particularly when current Statewide polls show Warren, Sanders, Biden, Buttigieg and Harris splitting the vote into lots of pieces.  A McCraven candidacy would electrify the electorate looking for a candidate who could clobber Trump and the GOP nationwide.


McRaven’s presence anyplace on the Democratic National ticket in 2020 would, by his very stature, stand in stark contrast to Trump, or any Republican who heads the ticket, since all of them have enabled Trump to abandon our allies and sell-out US National Security Interests.  The Admiral’s Texas roots—where he grew up, went to college and served as University of Texas Chancellor after his military service—would also aid the Democrats in turning Texas blue.   Coupled with a running mate like Elizabeth Warren, Stacey Abrams or Kamala Harris, a McRaven-led ticket could help the Democrats not only take back the White House, but take control of the U.S. Senate as well.


There is still a small window of opportunity to actually make this happen, especially if someone like Mike Bloomberg is willing, for the good of the nation, to help fund the McRaven for President effort.   The only remaining question is whether the Admiral wants to embark on one more Special Operation to save the nation.


After all, as McRaven wrote:  “The fate of our Republic depends on it.”









Time to Turn Out the Lights on PG & E.


It’s time to turn off the lights for good on Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG &E) — the power company without power, money or the will to do routine maintenance, nor competent management that puts the public’s safety ahead of profit or political influence.

A Felon/Company, convicted of six felonies in 2016 following its criminal negligence in the San Bruno gas explosions six years earlier, PG & E told a federal judge, the week before the single-largest blackout in California State history, that they couldn’t meet their court-ordered deadline for routine “vegetation management,” or tree trimming.

Under a 5-year, court-supervised probation as a convicted felon, PG & E was directed to trim 2,455 miles of trees away from it’s powerlines. That amounts to less than 2.5 percent of the 100,000 miles of powerlines PG & E operates. Federal Judge William Alsup had previously ordered the utility to aggressively adhere to “vegetation management laws,” after their tree-trimming negligence — ignited by their own faulty powerlines — resulted in two consecutive years of the most destructive wildfires in State history, killing 107 people, and incinerating hundreds of thousands of acres, and thousand of homes and commercial structures.

However, the power company without power or commitment to public safety or common sense, admitted in court that they were only able to trim the trees away from 760 miles of powerlines — or less than one-third of the amount of tree-trimming they committed to do, and less than one percent of the total miles of powerlines for which they are legally responsible to maintain.

PG&E told the court they couldn’t find enough workers to do the work, without producing any evidence of how hard they tried. The power company also failed to explain how it was able to pay $5 billion of dividends prior to declaring bankruptcy this past January, and make $4.4 million of political contributions in 2018, including donating $200,000 to Governor Gavin Newsom, and millions of dollars more to both the California State Democratic and Republican parties, State Lawmakers and Attorney General Javier Becerra. None of that non-tree trimming related spending includes the ratepayer dollars wasted at Silver Oak Winery in Sonoma County earlier this month, when PG & E executives wined and dined their “big” power users on the second anniversary of the terrible Tubbs fire that killed dozens of people in Santa Rosa, not far from where the tone-deaf executives sipped wine.

Judge Alsup demanded to know why those political contributions and shareholder dividends — made well after PG &E was already a convicted felon — were more important to the utility than repairing damaged and deteriorating power lines, and trimming trees from around powerlines, as they are required to do under the Public Resources Code 4293.

So, the Power Company without power, without money, and without the will to do its fundamental job, created one disaster in order to prevent another — by turning off the power for several days for up to two million people in Northern and Central California. Soren Borenstein, Director of the Energy Institute at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas Business School put it best:

We have good reason to be skeptical, and the reason is that PG & E bears the costs of starting a fire, but they don’t bear the costs of shutting off power.”

Even if you grant to the now powerless utility that the decision was prudent to prevent fires, they were still poorly prepared to do something as simple as turn the lights out. First, despite days of warning us across all media that the PG & E power outage was coming, the company failed to beef up their own customer service website, which, predictably crashed when scores of worried citizens tried to find out basic information about the power shutdown.

Secondly, rather than anticipate widespread public concern and anxiety over the largest power shutdown in the history of California, PG & E failed to set up local phone banks in each of the communities — like South Napa, where I live — which would suffer the brunt of the outage. Instead, they created two service centers for all of Napa’s 125,000 residents: one up at the Calistoga Fairgrounds at the northern-most part of the county, and the other some 40 miles south at the Vallejo Fairgrounds, which is not even located in Napa County. Why they failed to set up an emergency center at the Napa Fairgrounds in the heart of the City of Napa where 75,000 of the County’s residents live, remains a mystery — especially since it’s the very spot which First Responders used as one of their bases of operations during the devastating fires of 2017.

Third, there was little coordination with local Police or Emergency Service Personnel to handle the traffic chaos certain to ensue when traffic lights, powered by electricity, went dark. On heavily traveled Imola Avenue in South Napa — a major east west connector road — not only were there no operating traffic lights, but there were no police, fire or emergency officials — or even citizen volunteers — to mitigate the damage by directing traffic. Motorists were left on their own, to play a game of chicken at each intersection. Some simple coordination, pre-planning and emergency preparedness with local officials could have prevented traffic chaos.

There are some solutions smoldering right before our very eyes. First, since local and Cal firefighters are on the front-lines of fighting the fires caused by PG &E’s negligence, they ought to be given the financial resources and equipment to do the required “vegetation management” or tree trimming, community by community. PG & E lamely told the federal judge it couldn’t find enough tree-trimmers to do its’ job; I’m sure local fire departments, with help from Cal Fire, would remedy that.

Secondly, with the value of PG & E stock plummeting toward zero, the State of California can seize all of the utility’s transmission lines and assets in the interest of public safety. Having been involved with the public takeover of a bankrupt, for-profit utility in New York State, such direct action becomes a public responsibility when the reliability of electric power to the State’s citizens is threatened. Demanding that the bankrupt utility give a small dollar credit to homeowers or businesses a for lost goods and services — which Governor Newsom did this week — is like putting a tiny Band Aid on Stage Four cancer.

Third, the State — provided Governor Newsom and State Lawmakers are able to look past PG & E’s $4.4 million of campaign contributions to them — can contract-out our regional utilities services to other successful private utility companies — like San Diego Gas & Electric — or create tax incentives for local public jurisdictions — like the town of Healdsburg in Sonoma County, which has its own independent utility company — to make the delivery of electric power into a public service, similar to the provision of water, fire and police protection.

The responsible action for public officials to take is to bring power directly to the people, in the safest, most reliable and most affordable ways. And while the Governor, Attorney General Becerra and members of the State Senate and Assembly are at it, they can help kickstart a special “tree-trimming fund” by giving back the $4.4 million the already-convicted felon/company slipped to them during their campaigns of 2018. After all, that money which we ratepayers paid to PG & E to use for public safety and not for buying political influence, should be used for our protection, not politicians’P elections.

It’s long past time to turn out the lights on PG & E. It should have happened a decade ago, after PG &E’s negligence resulted in nine deaths in the San Bruno gas explosions and the company’s conviction on six felony counts. It should have happened with the hapless utility’s basic operational failures contributing to multiple human fatalities during the fires of 2017, and 2018.

Now, however, they’ve failed at performing the most fundamental function of a power company — providing safe and reliable power to the public. PG & E has literally turned the lights out on itself.

If Not Now, When?

(My Member of Congress, Mike Thompson (D-CA)


Dear Congressman Thompson:

In the aftermath of Trump’s extortionist conversation with the President of the Ukraine concerning Joe Biden and the 2020 Election, there is simply no excuse for you and the House Leadership to continue to drag your feet on supporting Articles of Impeachment against Donald Trump.

As a lifelong Democrat who supported the Impeachment of Richard Nixon, Trump’s crimes against our democracy and our Constitution are far, far worse than Nixon’s were. Your failure to support the Impeachment of Trump and to uphold our Constitution and the law, make you, Speaker Pelosi and the House leadership complicit in his crimes.

I have run out of patience with you on this issue, Mike. I appealed to you personally at a Town Meeting in Calistoga earlier this summer, have sent numerous letters and emails to you on this matter, have written an article for the Napa Valley Register about the issue, and have called your offices in Washington and Napa several times to express my opinion. I revere the Constitution and the rule of law. I expect you to do the same, as do the majority of your constituents. We demand that you begin to represent us on the crucial matter of protecting our Democracy.

Trump’s illegal and unconstitutional behavior undermines everything you fought for in Vietnam. It’s time you demonstrated that same tenacity and toughness to holding the President of the United States responsible for the consequences of his illegal, unconstitutional and undemocratic actions. Everything is at stake, and you, Speaker Pelosi and all of the House Leadership have a constitutional responsibility to act now to Impeach Trump. Your failure to do so, makes you complicit in his criminality and will result in the Democrats losing control of the House of Representatives, not retaining power.

We have given you our sacred trust to protect and defend our constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. The biggest threat to our Democracy is Donald Trump. It’s time for you and the House Leadership to protect our constitution and our Democracy from him, by voting to Impeach. The time is now.


Steve Villano


Hate, Xenophobia, Terror & Murder


Ken Cucaracha, Ken Cucaracha

(Trump’s acting Director of US Citizenship & Immigration Services, Ken Cucaracha)


Ken Cucaracha, Ken Cucaracha,

Can no longer walk too far —

Ken Cucaracha, Ken Cucaracha,

Where his legs were is a scar!

What doesn’t he have? What doesn’t he have?

Is a backbone or his feet.

Ken Cucaracha, Ken Cucaracha,

Sold his parts for just one tweet!

Ken Cucaracha, Ken Cucaracha,

Stepped in the cesspool of his King —

And when he looks down, and when he looks down,

His legs and spine were both missing!

Ken Cucaracha, Ken Cucaracha,

Can no longer walk too far —

Ken Cucaracha, Ken Cucaracha,

Where his balls were is a scar!

Ken Cucaracha, Ken Cucaracha,

White Supremacist is he.

Ken Cucaracha, Ken Cucaracha,

Crushed by Lady Liberty!