The Loon Ranger; All the Fits That Are News to Print

TUCSON – The torrent of head-spinning, heart-stopping news this week can be easily summarized: We are sooo screwed. It is not yet too late, but it will be soon if enough Americans cannot revive national integrity, sanity and basic common sense.

Before the storm, I talked with David Cay Johnston. His new book title has it right: “It’s Even Worse Than You Think.” He sees Donald Trump’s snow job swaying too many uninformed voters while too many others opt out. The America we’ve known for 229 years may be over.

Adding in the global context and repercussions of this week’s fresh lunacy, we need a sequel: “It’s Even (Much) Worse Than Johnston Thinks.”



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War and Peace Abridged: A Mort Report Extra

TUCSON - To riff on the NRA's moronic mantra: missiles don't kill people, stone-cold demagogues kill people. The issue is not whether we should fear new Russian supernukes. It is why Vladimir Putin so pointedly boasts about them.

Here is Michael Morell, who knows whereof he speaks:

"There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that after the invasion of Georgia, the invasion of Ukraine, the intervention in Syria, the meddling in our election, the attack last week by Russian mercenaries on U.S. forces in Syria, that we are again in a Cold War."

And this time, he adds, we are fast approaching hot conflict. Both sides reached mutually assured overkill decades ago and kept the lid on. Today, chest-bumping bullies - one far tougher and savvier -- could trigger the unthinkable.


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Through the Looking-Glass, a House of Horrors

TUCSON — While America's uncouth and unclothed emperor-wannabe fantasized about how he would rush unarmed at a homicidal shooter, China placed imperial robes on Xi Jinping. He is now the world's de facto chairman-for-life.

Vladimir Putin, meantime, flips America the finger. He is helping Bashar al-Assad rain death on women and children. Pleased to see useful idiots in the White House and Congress, he doubles down on skewing elections.

North Korea, undeterred by empty threats, is shipping chemical-weapon components to Syria, U.N. investigators report. For other crises percolating toward long-term calamity, spin a globe and point pretty much anywhere.  

Hans Christian Anderson's beloved tale, “The Emperor Has No Clothes,” seems apt for the moment. But more, think Lewis Carroll. America today is loonier than anything he imagined down Alice's rabbit hole.


Illustration courtesy of Jeff Danziger

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On Celebrating Gabby and Calling Bullshit

TUCSON - Unfinished reports on faraway places litter my desk - ocean plunder, abandoned refugees, Cape Town running dry - but I'm fixated on those pools of blood, indelible in memory, at the Safeway just up the road. For sheer human folly and hypocrisy these days, America is first.

Imagine where the world might be today if we had been paying more attention to Gabrielle Giffords.

In January 2011, as I changed planes headed to Tucson from Paris, my phone went bananas. A homegrown lunatic had shot my congresswoman in the head and murdered six people, including a much-loved 9-year-old girl and a federal judge.

Hundreds kept an all-night vigil at the hospital. Beyond the usual “thoughts and prayers” deluge and politicians’ promises, two ex-presidents were named honorary chairmen of a National Institute for Civic Discourse in Tucson, which reportedly raised a million dollars. Barack Obama flew in for the memorial service.

Today, after seven years of increasingly uncivil national discourse, the institute is all but unnoticed in a suite on East Speedway. Gabby and her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, still plead with limited success for sensible gun control. Mass shootings are so common we can barely keep track of them.


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“Bastille” Is Not French for Bullshit

TUCSON – The old saw, monkey-see-monkey-do, is hard to avoid as Donald Trump plans to ape France’s Bastille Day parade. He misconstrues that Gallic clash of cymbals, showing a worried world what sort of chest-thumping primate now occupies the White House.

July 14, 1789, was when peasants with pitchforks -- the 99 percent -- stuck it to a greedy ruling class. The modern parade celebrates 1945 when allies helped France drive off a despot who thought not cheering at his speeches was treason.

“We have to try and do better,” Trump told aides, seeking a personal not-cheap thrill and totally missing the point. America hardly needs to flaunt armed forces that cost $642.9 billion in 2017, equal to the next 13 countries’ budgets, and will increase by $54 billion.

Spines tingle each year in Paris at the opening flourish: Three jets swoop low and close over the Champs-Elysées trailing blue, white and red smoke. Tanks chew up pavement, and missiles roll by. But hardware is not the point.

Crowds love gendarmes in red-plumed gleaming silver helmets on spirited horses in syncopated step: a Republican Guard that protects democrats. They cheer as Foreign Legion Pioneers, in beards and buffalo leather aprons, stride past armed only with polished axes.

Trump is no Hitler, but his laughably transparent Big Lie convinces a substantial hardcore. Few who profit from his exclusionary policies are fooled, just silent. He is not about Fatherland über alles, only his gargantuan ego. Think Mussolini. And imagine if Il Duce had had that big red button on his desk.


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