What Is Reasonable?

There are some words that have definitive definitions.  Most nouns bring to mind a specific object, for example: coffee, foot, flower.  But other words are more subjective, like ‘reasonable’.  What seems ‘reasonable’ to one person may not seem so to another.  When a man’s life is at stake, or a life has been taken by another, then the definition of the word ‘reasonable’ becomes critical.

Florida, famous for its Stand Your Ground law and its most infamous use as a defense in 2012 when George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed black teen, Trayvon Martin, is in the process of altering the law.  As it stands, the law states that a person who kills another in ‘self-defense’ can avoid going to trial if he proves at a pretrial hearing that he was acting in reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm. The key concept here being that the burden of proof is on the defendant to prove that he was acting in genuine self-defense.

A new bill that would switch the burden of proof away from the defendant is in the works. The controversial changes to the state’s self-defense law passed the Senate 23 to 15 and is expected to be put to a vote in the House next week.  Governor Rick Scott is expected to then sign it into law.  If enacted, the defendant would no longer be responsible to prove that he acted in a reasonable manner because he believed his life was in danger, but rather it would be the burden of prosecutors to prove that the defendant did NOT act in self-defense. It would make the prosecution responsible for proving that someone who used deadly force instead of retreating from an attack was not behaving reasonably.

But this leads to a subjective argument, a slippery slope argument about what is reasonable and by whose definition.  Let us take a closer look at a couple of cases.

trayvon-martin

Trayvon Martin

We already know of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case, where neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman told authorities he was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager. Never mind that when Zimmerman first noticed the teen, he was sitting safely in his vehicle and said, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something.” He based his decision solely on the looks of a teenage boy because the boy was black and was wearing, as all teenagers do, a hoodie.

gun-pointingBut consider this case:  A former police officer got into an argument with another man in a movie theater.  He asked the man to stop texting during the previews prior to the movie, the exchange apparently got heated, the man threw popcorn at the former officer, and the former officer shot and killed the man.  He … threw … popcorn … and he paid with his life.  How, I ask you, is a gun an appropriate response to a handful of popcorn???  In this case, fortunately, the judge was diligent and took the time to investigate the crime scene and match it, or fail to match it, to the claims of self-defense by the defendant, former police officer Curtis Reeves.  The judge ruled that, despite Reeves’ claim of a ‘life and death struggle’, the “defendant’s testimony was significantly at odds with the physical evidence and other witness testimony”.  The judge ruled that the case did not qualify as a Stand Your Ground case and Reeves will go on trial for second-degree murder.

Which brings me back to that pesky question of ‘reasonableness’.  Was Zimmerman acting reasonably when he made the decision to exit his car without contacting local police, then confront young Martin?  Or did he have other options, such as calling local police and awaiting their arrival, meanwhile remaining safely inside his vehicle? Was Reeves acting reasonably when he responded with lethal force to a handful of popcorn?  If we are to give these people the opportunity to get off scot-free after taking the life of another in so-called ‘self-defense’, then we should be able to, at the very least, expect them to prove that they were in danger of losing their own life if they did not act.  Anything less is simply unacceptable.  The judge in the Reeves case wisely determined that Reeves did not act reasonably, but another judge might have seen it another way, might have defined ‘reasonable’ in another way.

In addition to relieving people who have killed another from having to justify their actions, the law has racially discriminatory undertones.  The American legal system’s handling of violent self-defense has long favored white, property-owning men. Nonwhite, female, poor or gender-nonconforming people have always been more likely to be punished for defending themselves and less likely to see the courts come to their aid when they are harmed. We need look no farther than the murder of Freddie Gray and the fact that nobody … not a single person … was convicted of his murder, to understand that racism is alive and well in the U.S.

The Stand Your Ground law, one form or another of which is in force in some 27 states in the U.S., including Florida, is sometimes otherwise known as the “Line in the Sand” law, or the “No Duty to Retreat” law.  In contrast, 17 states actually have “Duty to Retreat” laws that specify you can’t resort to deadly force in self-defense if you can safely avoid the risk of harm or death by running away or other evasive, less deadly measures.  Other states have a modified version of Stand Your Ground, known as Castle Doctrine, which allows a person to use deadly force in self-defense on their own property, such as their home or car, but not in a public venue.

Now, let me ask you, dear reader, a question:  Confronted with a person who you simply ‘thought’ was going to do you harm, as in both the Zimmerman and Reeves cases, what would you do?  Would you try to avoid, to leave the area, or would you shoot the other person?  For me, it is a no-brainer, as I do not own a gun and never will, but with more guns in the U.S. than there are people, and some of the most liberal gun laws in the world, it’s a pretty safe bet that almost adult we encounter may well have a gun tucked into his belt or stashed in her purse.

The latest bill, shifting the burden of proof in Stand Your Ground cases in Florida, only adds to the idea that individuals are not responsible for their fellow mankind, but are authorized to act in any way they deem fit, even taking another life, to make themselves feel safe.  These are not laws that make us safer, rather these are laws that say if a person thinks we don’t look just so, he may shoot first and ask questions later.  This was the code of the Olde West … it should not be the code of the 21st century in what was once considered a civilized nation.

Up next … Insane New Gun Laws

Paul Manafort Never Really Left The President’s Campaign/ Rick Gates

Compared to the building corruption in the White House, with many, many more shady Russian connections than even most conspiracy-theorists ever imagined, Watergate was a minor faux pas, and Nixon merely a scamp. I have been keeping an eye on the unfolding of what I believe will end up being confirmed treason, but have not written about it because … fellow-blogger-friend Gronda has been hard on the trail and is doing an excellent job of providing factual information and trying to help us all decipher this tangled web. Today I share her post about the ties to Paul Manafort and her conclusion that in reality, Manafort never really left the Trump campaign back in August. Please, if you have any desire to stay abreast of the unfolding events, take a moment to read Gronda’s excellent post. Thank you, Gronda, for all your hard work and dedicated research … and for implied permission to re-blog!

Gronda Morin

Related imageRemember that Paul Manafort and our republican President Donald Trump go way back at least three decades. Mr. Manafort has been a long term resident at Trump Towers since 2006.

Mr. Manafort bought his upper-floor apartment in Trump Tower in 2006, under the LLC he controlled, John Hannah LLC. Public records show a purchase price of $3.675 million for a condo around 1,500 square feet. But in 2015, he places the Trump Tower property in his own name. He and his wife own several high value properties.

Around 2006, a young gentleman by the name of Rick Gates became an assistant to Paul Manafort.

When Paul Manafort left the president’s campaign in August 2016 when his Russian/ Ukraine ties were being questioned, it was his deputy Rick Gates who took over the management of the Republican convention events.

Image result for photos of paul manafort and rick gates Paul Manafort

As per a 3/23 CNN report by Elizabeth Landers and Jeremy…

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Time For Amendments #28 & #29 !!!

My father was a ‘self-made’ man.  Armed with only an eighth-grade education, after serving in the military during World War II, he worked his way from the bottom up to become a successful hotel manager for one of the largest hotel chains at the time (1950s-1960s).  With a few exceptions, those days are over and today an education is a ‘must’ in order to achieve a lucrative and satisfying career.

constitution

The framers of the U.S. Constitution wished to make the office of president accessible to a wide range of people, common people, people who understood the needs of the nation and its people.  Therefore they did not stipulate an educational or experience requirement in Article II, clause 5.  The only eligibility requirements are:

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

In 1787, when the Constitution was drafted and subsequently ratified, it was rare for a man to be college-educated, and in fact only about 60% of adults, excluding slaves, were literate. Making a college degree a requirement would have limited the number of people eligible to run to a handful of scholars.  And making experience in federal government was a no-brainer … the Constitution was establishing the federal government, so there was no possibility in 1787 for anyone to have experience in the newly-created government.

Throughout the years, as times and attitudes have changed, there have been a number of amendments to the Constitution … 27 times, to be exact. Some amendments are to correct oversights in the original document, others to accommodate more modern thinking, such as the 13th amendment, ratified in 1865, prohibiting slavery, or the 19th, which prohibits denial of the right to vote based on gender.  The original Constitution has proven to be a viable foundation for a democratic government, and has certainly withstood the test of time.  The world, however, is dynamic, constantly-changing, and there are areas of the Constitution that need tweaking from time to time in order to keep up with ‘progress’.

I think the time has come to seriously consider two new amendments to the U.S. Constitution: First …

  • Limits the number of times that a person can be elected to Congress to two terms of six years each for senators, and three terms of two years each for representatives.

Term limits for Congress were initially left out of the Constitution because the framers, though several had concerns, ultimately feared such a rotation could lead to governmental dysfunction.

Pros:

“Even good men in office, in time, imperceptibly lose sight of the people, and gradually fall into measures prejudicial to them.” – anti-federalist Melancton Smith, 1788

“I apprehend that the total abandonment of the principle of rotation in the offices of president and senator will end in abuse. But my confidence is that there will for a long time be virtue and good sense enough in our countrymen to correct abuses.” – Thomas Jefferson, 1788

Cons:

[The] greater the proportion of new members, and the less the information of the bulk of the members, the more apt will they be to fall into the snares that may be laid for them.” – James Madison, 1788

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Constitutional Convention – 1787

By 1995, some 23 states had adopted term limits for their Congressional delegations.  But in May 1995, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that in the absence of a constitutional amendment, neither states nor Congress may limit the number of terms that members of Congress can serve. Today, there is still debate over the value of term limits, but a recent poll shows that 3 out of 4 citizens are in favour of limiting Congressional terms.

More recently, in January of this year, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Representative Ron DeSantis from Florida, proposed a Constitutional amendment calling for term limits similar to those I stated above. In order to become law, the proposed amendment would need to be passed by a 2/3 majority in both chambers of Congress, then be ratified by three-fourths of state legislatures before going into effect. It faces an uphill battle, at best.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is against the idea, said, “We have term limits — they’re called elections.”

Until the last decade or so, my thinking was along the same lines as Senator McConnell.  I believed that only those congressmen and women who were doing a good job would be re-elected.  But, Mr. McConnell himself is a prime example that sometimes even the worst of the lot will be re-elected, for whatever reason.  It is too bad, in a way, because we will likely lose some valuable talent if term limits are imposed, but I do think that it is an idea whose time has come.

Second, I would propose that we have a combined education/experience requirement in order to run for president, requiring a relevant four-year degree OR at least one of the following:

  • Served as vice president of the United States.

or

  • Completed one six-year term in the U.S. Senate

or

  • Served at least six years (three full terms) in the U.S. House of Representatives

or

  • Served at least four years in a cabinet post requiring Senate confirmation

or

  • Completed a four-year term as governor of a state

or

  • Retired from the military after achieving the rank of four-star general or admiral

If this sounds too restrictive, consider that every president dating back to President Truman would have qualified under these requirements except the current officeholder. In addition, the candidate should at least have read and understand the U.S. Constitution.  Perhaps a simple written test?  He/she should at least understand what it is they are swearing to uphold when they take the oath of office, unlike the current officeholder.

I do not anticipate either of these to become ratified amendments, at least not any time in the foreseeable future, but I do think that both are ideas whose time has come.  Both have been proven to be shortcomings in our current law, allowing Congressmen to stay in office long after they have forgotten that their purpose is to serve We The People, and allowing a thoroughly incompetent, unqualified man to become president. Just something to think about …

Encourage a No vote on the AHCA

As Trump is is bullying and threatening our elected Representatives in the House, demanding a vote be taken today on his terrible healthcare plan, it appears there will not be sufficient votes to pass it. Fellow-blogger Keith has drafted an excellent, short piece that he posted to his representative’s website today, and I recommend that anyone who wishes to “just say ‘no'” to this bill use it as a guideline to send a message to your own representative! Thank you, Keith!

musingsofanoldfart

The following is an email posted to my US Representative’s website today.

As a retired benefits actuary, consultant and manager, I encourage you to vote no on the AHCA vote today. The CBO says the modifications made do not alter the expectation that over ten million people will lose coverage. Plus, two hospital groups, two Doctor groups and the AARP have all recommended a no vote.

As a benefits professional, my strong recommendation is to improve the imperfect ACA. It is disappointing that my former party has highlighted the negatives of the ACA, while downplaying the many positives.

I would recommend the ACA be improved with a few changes:
– fully fund the risk corridors to reimburse insurers for adverse selection, the absence of which drove premiums up and forced some insurers out of the market,
– introduce a public option in areas that have no competition,
– encourage the…

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Son of a B#$%&!!!

caduceusThe healthcare bill, known in the House of Representatives as the American Health Care Act, but more commonly called Trumpetcare, or Trumpcare, stood very little chance of passing the House, and even if it did, stood zero chance of passing the Senate.  According to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), some 24 million people are likely to lose their healthcare coverage once the bill is passed.  That in itself was reason enough for the bill to fail, and it needed some serious alterations before it would become palatable to We The People.  A number of representatives were committed to voting “nay” for that reason alone.  There was another group of uber-right-wing-conservatives, however, who felt the bill did not go far enough in stripping healthcare from the poor and middle-income citizens.

Trump, realizing that his bill was doomed to fail in today’s vote, understood (or, more likely, somebody explained to him) that changes would need to be made in order for the bill to stand a chance at surviving the initial vote.  So, he made a change.  No, he did not restore any of the benefits we previously had under ACA (Obamacare).  Instead he caved to the demands of the far-right, further stripping away any semblance of a universal healthcare bill.  He opted to remove federal requirements that health insurance plans provide a basic set of benefits like maternity care, emergency services, mental health and wellness visits.  So, in the simplest of terms, if your child is running a fever of 104° in the middle of the night and you need to take him to the emergency room, expect to pay, out of pocket, upwards of $500 just for a doctor to look at him, maybe do a strep test, give him some antibiotics and ibuprofen, then send him home.  Your insurance, unless you opt for the high-premium plan, will not cover it.  And God forbid that you get pregnant and expect your insurance to cover your monthly/weekly doctor’s visits, ultrasound, and other tests.

white men

Notice that there are only wealthy, white males making the decisions here …

Even with the change, legislators were not convinced they would have enough votes for the bill to pass this afternoon, so they delayed the vote until Friday morning, although some doubt that a vote will be held before Monday. As of this writing (7:00 p.m, Thursday 23 March) there are some 47 Republican representatives either undecided or planning to vote against the bill.  This is encouraging in that it says some have managed to remember who their employers truly are.

There are some level-headed people in the House.  Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts urged House Republicans to ‘slow down’, saying, “This health care repeal affects millions upon millions upon millions of Americans. Don’t jam a disastrous bill through the House with patched-up fixes.”  And Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania said, “I believe this bill, in its current form, will lead to the loss of coverage and make insurance unaffordable for too many Americans, particularly for low- to moderate-income and older individuals.”  And Representative Andy Harris of Maryland said, “This legislation simply won’t lower premiums as much as the American people need, and lowering the cost of coverage is my primary goal.”

The delay in putting the bill to a vote is intended by boot-licking Republicans to give Paul Ryan a chance to talk the bill through … to convince holdouts to vote ‘yea’ instead of ‘nay’.  But, as noted by the New York Times Thursday evening, “as Mr. Trump and House leaders focus on the Republican Party’s conservatives, they are losing House moderates.”

Back on the campaign trail, as I have previously noted, Trump made certain, specific promises regarding universal healthcare:

“We’re going to have insurance for everybody. here was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”

“I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid.”

“I am going to take care of everybody … Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”

It appears that with the bill currently under consideration in the House of Representatives, each of the above promises is an alternative truth.  ‘Everybody’ will not have insurance, many of us will not be able to afford any health insurance, Medicaid will be cut out within the next two years, and Trump is taking care of nobody other than himself and his wealthy backers.

As of March 1, there are 237 Republicans in the House, and 193 Democrats.  What this means is that for a simple majority, it only requires that 23 Republican representatives remember to whom they answer and say ‘NAY’ when the vote comes up.

What happened to his promises?

Note to Trump supporters:  this bill will affect you just as much as anyone.  This is what you wanted?  Whether or not it is, your representatives apparently believe it is, and they are acting ‘on your behalf’, to shove this piece of crap legislation through the House with a speed that they have not seen during the entire past eight years!  I sincerely hope that you will be happy with the choices you made back in November, as this, my friends, is the result.  Enjoy the rest of your short lives.

More Questions Than Answers In Child’s Shooting Death

The story, as I first heard it, went like this:

A mother and her two-year-old toddler were sitting on the bed, while the nine-year-old was sitting on the floor, playing a video game.  The mother had a loaded gun in her hand, but couldn’t find her holster, so she placed the gun (loaded with a round chambered) on the bed next to the two-year-old while she got up to look for her holster.  The two-year-old then picked up the gun, pulled the trigger, shot and killed his nine-year-old brother.  The mother had, in the past, allowed the toddler to pull the trigger on the gun when it was unloaded.

But since I first heard the story Wednesday afternoon, it has changed some.  Now police say there are more questions than answers, and the mother, 28-year-old Wendy Lavarnia and father, convicted felon in two states, Kansas Lavarnia have both been arrested and charged with first-degree murder.  And what led to this turn of events?  Apparently Mr. & Mrs. Lavarnia went to some great lengths to clean up the scene, wasting precious time while their son, Landen, lay dying from a gunshot wound to the head.  Police, in fact, found blood residue in several rooms in the house, as well as in the family car. And lies … initially Ms. Lavarnia claimed her husband was not at home when the shooting occurred, and it was some three hours later when he returned.  But evidence says otherwise … evidence indicates that he actually assisted in the cleanup efforts.  Additionally, when Mr. Lavarnia did return to the house, he had a fresh gunshot wound to his arm that he had tried to disguise by causing additional injury with a screwdriver.  Interesting?  Curiouser and curiouser, if you ask me.

The investigation continues, and all the facts are obviously not known at this time, so I will refrain from saying more about the actual circumstances surrounding the crime. We will never know for certain if young Landen’s life might have been saved if the parents had immediately called for help, rather than wasting precious time destroying evidence by ‘cleaning up’, but we should assume that it is a possibility, which makes the parents guilty of murder no matter who actually pulled the trigger.

It has not been said in whose name the gun was registered, but Mr. Lavarnia, being a convicted felon in both Arizona and Ohio, was prohibited from owning a gun or even being in a home where he knew there was a gun, yet he admits he knew of the gun.  Ms. Lavarnia had allowed the two-year-old to “practice” pulling the trigger of an unloaded gun.  As most of you know, I am against guns in the hands of civilians, however I will not go down that path at this time.  In this case, the gun was not at fault, but two very selfish and stupid people who never should have had children, let alone a gun.

The couple also have a four-year-old who was also allegedly on the bed with the mother, the gun, and his younger brother, and a one-year-old … no word on where the baby was at the time.  The two youngest children were “substance-exposed” newborns, and at one point all four children had been removed from the home by Arizona Department of Child Safety for a period of time, but were eventually returned to the parents.  This, in my book, makes the Department of Child Safety an accessory to murder.

Today there are more questions than answers, and I will update this story when more information is available, but for today, suffice it to say this is a tragedy that has affected many and that will be forever a dark cloud in the lives of the three remaining Lavarnia children.

Do We Even HAVE A Secretary Of State???

Self-absorbed says it best.  The U.S., if not fully isolating itself from the international community, is so self-absorbed that it is pulling back from global commitments.  Already in his eight weeks in office, Trump has done much to anger and concern allies and adversaries alike. As Keith Wilson mentioned yesterday in his post, our allies are already concerned and mistrustful of the current administration, quite understandably.

On February 1st, Rex Tillerson was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Secretary of State, but is he qualified, and does he have the power of the office, or is he merely a shadow figure? Trump failed to consult with Tillerson on his policy change on Palestinian statehood or putting Iran “on notice” for its most recent ballistic missile test, and he nixed Tillerson’s choice for his deputy, Elliot Abrams, because last year, Abrams questioned Trump’s fitness for the job of president. Abrams, by the way, is highly qualified, having served under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and is currently a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. In reality, Abrams is more qualified to be Secretary of State than Tillerson, who has no prior government experience.

Tillerson was absent from the president’s key meetings with the leaders of Israel and Canada and largely invisible in Trump’s encounters with the prime ministers of Japan and the United Kingdom, as well as the White House’s diplomacy with Mexico so far.

Trump’s budget plan, submitted to Congress last week, calls for a 29% cut to the State Department budget, a cut that even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, an enthusiastic Trumpeter, called ‘inappropriate’.  “America being a force is a lot more than building up the Defense Department. Diplomacy is important, extremely important, and I don’t think these reductions at the State Department are appropriate.”

Many analysts believe that Tillerson has been largely kept out of the loop when it comes to key foreign policy decisions.  Neither he nor his staff were consulted on Trump’s initial executive order imposing a travel ban. When Trump decided over a dinner to approve a special forces counter-terrorist raid in Yemen, there was no one from the state department present who would normally have highlighted the dangers of civilian casualties from such operations for wider US interests in the region. The raid on 29 January went badly wrong and 25 civilians were killed, including nine children under the age of 13. The purpose of having advisors is to listen to their advice, but this thought apparently evades Trump.

Analysts further suggest that the budget cuts, lack of staffing, and keeping Tillerson in the dark on key issues may be the work of none other than Steve Bannon, self-professed disruptor of the Washington establishment and its normal ways of functioning. Early on, Bannon gave himself, through an executive order signed by Trump but drafted by Bannon, a full seat on the Principals Committee of the National Security Council (NSC). It is speculated that Bannon is second only to Jared Kushner in terms of influence on Trump.  Neither Bannon, nor Trump, nor Kushner are educated in matters of foreign affairs and none are qualified to be making decisions.  But then, neither is Secretary Tillerson, whose background is in business, and whose Russian ties are circumspect, at best. And in fact, Tillerson claims he never wanted the job to begin with:

“I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job. My wife told me I’m supposed to do this.”

Which brings us to this week, and the endpoint of this post.  Tillerson has announced his plans to skip an April meeting of NATO foreign ministers in lieu of attending a meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Washington.  This is seen by some of our closest allies as a snub.  Some reactions from the foreign policy community:

“Unprecedented.” – Ivo Daalder, former US ambassador to NATO and current president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

“US allies are alarmed and worried.” – Jenny Mathers, a Russia expert at Aberystwyth University.

“I would say as a NATO veteran, a NATO junkie, that the presence of a U.S. secretary of State, particularly his first opportunity to join his counterparts, at a ministerial is something that shouldn’t be passed up, especially when we face so many challenges.” – Alexander Vershbow, the former No. 2 official at NATO

“I think it’s a most unfortunate signal. I would blame it on schedulers. I do think that is part of the problem. He will have met with a lot of ministers in other venues, but given the discussion that’s going on about NATO, I think it’s an unfortunate scheduling problem.” -Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

The NATO meeting of foreign ministers is April 5-6, and Xi Jinping will be in Washington April 6-7, so conceivably Tillerson could have worked his schedule to accommodate both.  To add insult to injury, at the same time he announced he would skip the NATO meeting, he also announced that he would travel to Russia the week after.

President Trump has come under scrutiny for his overtures on improving relations with Russia. Trump has also repeatedly blasted NATO as “obsolete” and questioned whether he would come to the defense of allies if they didn’t pay more for their defense. And now the Secretary of State is casually blowing off an opportunity to meet with NATO ministers, but planning a trip to Russia.  One must ask the question:  do we actually have a Secretary of State, or is Rex Tillerson merely another of Steve Bannon’s puppets?

Tears of Sorrow …

Yesterday afternoon at approximately 2:40 p.m. London time, a man driving a sport utility vehicle crushed panicked pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and then stabbed and killed a police officer outside Parliament. These are the facts that are verified as of this writing: At least five people were killed, including the attacker and a police officer, and 40 were wounded, according to the head of London’s Metropolitan Police counterterrorism unit. After the crash, the driver left the vehicle and approached Parliament, where he fatally stabbed a police officer. The police then fatally shot him. Parliament was locked down and a search was conducted for any other assailants in the area. The police said they believed there was only one attacker. Three people who were run over on the bridge died, and the Port of London Authority said another woman was pulled from the River Thames with severe injuries. The police officer who was killled, Keith Palmer, 48, had 15 years of service and was a member of the parliamentary and diplomatic protection division of the Metropolitan Police. Others injured on the bridge included three police officers and several French high school students.

Although the police are operating under the assumption that the incident was motivated by international terrorism, the motives are not yet known, and the identity of the attacker, as of this writing, has not been released. I hesitated to even write about this event at this time, because I have learned over the years that whatever ‘news’ is reported in the first 18-24 hours after a major event is usually not accurate.  However, given that a number of regular readers of this blog live in some part of the UK, I felt I needed to at least let them know that I am thinking of them and that my heart goes out to all.  These are scary times, and this is heart-breaking.  Hugs to Jack, Mary, and Bushka in England, Roger and David in Wales, and all who live in the UK.  I am thinking of you tonight.

I am not alone in sending my condolences.  Most world leaders have weighed in with thoughts, prayers and compassion:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her thoughts were “with our British friends and all of the people of London. I want to say for Germany and its citizens: we stand firmly and resolutely by Great Britain’s side in the fight against all forms of terrorism.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said, “Today marks one year since the people of Brussels and Belgium suffered a similar pain and felt the support of your sympathy and solidarity.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement that it was an “attack on democracies around the world” and Canadians stood “united with the British people in the fight against terrorism”.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was an “attack on parliaments, freedom and democracy everywhere” and offered his support and solidarity to the British government.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “Horrible images from London. The very heart of the city has been struck. Our thoughts are with the British people.”

Even Donald Trump reportedly behaved himself, calling Prime Minister Theresa May to offer his condolences and to praise the effective response of UK security services. He pledged the “full co-operation and support” of the US government in bringing those responsible for the attack to justice.

There was one, however, who could not hold his tongue.  Donald Trump Junior apparently inherited his father’s unbridled tongue and he chose this time to criticize London Mayor Sadiq Khan in a tweet:

“You have to be kidding me?!: Terror attacks are part of living in big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan.”  Junior was referencing, out of context, comments from a September article in The Independent, but again, he lacked context and an understanding of the entire article, and his tweet was offensive and inappropriate, to say the least.

I apologize to my friends across the pond for the idiocy of the horse’s patoot.  Again, heartfelt thoughts and hugs to my friends.

sad

The Bully Pulpit …

bully-pulpitIn 2013, Doris Kearns Goodwin published The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.  It is an excellent book and I strongly recommend it, however the book is not the focus of this post.  Rather, I borrow the term “Bully pulpit” to apply to the current occupant of the Oval Office, Donald Trump.

The headlines that captured my attention:

Trump tells GOP critics of health-care bill: ‘I’m gonna come after you’

Trump Threatens Republicans Who Oppose His Health Care Bill With ‘Political Problems’

Trump warns GOP: Vote for Obamacare repeal or lose your seat

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This is not even what could be called ‘subtle manipulation’.  This is nothing short of bullying.  The fact that he is using such tactics against Congress is offensive to We The People, as the fates of every Senator, every Representative, rest in our hands, not those small hands of the blustering, bullying president.  It is we who will decide whether to send our Congressmen & women back to the Capitol next year, or to tell them to go home.  Frankly, from where I stand, if my senators and representatives bow to the pressure from this bully in the Oval Office, I will certainly tell them to go home and I will vote for men and women who have the courage of their convictions, who are not afraid to stand up to this menial bully.

If there was ever a doubt in anyone’s mind, this latest must surely be the final proof that Trump cares not one whit about We The People, since he is threatening and bullying for passage of a bill that will hurt the vast majority of citizens in the nation.  As my friend Ida, a retired special education teacher, posted this morning on Facebook:

“Tomorrow is the day that Congress is voting for cancellation of Medicaid health insurance, against preexisting conditions, no prenatal care for women and children. And large premium increases for folks older than 50 years of age. If you want to do something, make a call to your Congressman and say they work for you not Trump and vote No. Do it today. The vote is tomorrow.”

Yet another friend, Pam, posted this:

“Been calling my Representative for three days now. Message says not accepting calls & mailboxes at both offices are full.

Wanted to ask him to vote no tomorrow on trumpcare.

Now I just want to let him know I’ll be voting next year.”

We The People do not want Trumpetcare, and that even includes a large portion of Republicans!  This may actually end up being the issue that brings the left and right just a bit closer together. It is our right … nay, our responsibility … as citizens of a democracy, to let our elected representatives know our preferences and wishes.  In the case of Trump’s healthcare bill, frankly I see nothing to benefit anybody beyond the wealthy and the insurance companies.  It is a slap in the face to every single person I know in this country.  And yet, our employees, our elected officials, will not even take our phone calls, respond to our emails, or answer our letters?  They have forgotten what the word ‘representative’ means.  And perhaps they have forgotten that we have no commitment to vote for them next time around.

Here is a short snippet from yesterday’s White House Press Briefing:

Q: On healthcare, the President came away from Capitol Hill sounding pretty positive about where he was going to go on Thursday, but then at the same time, Heritage Action came out and said it was going to encourage members to vote “no.”  Club for Growth is taking out ads attacking this bill.  Jim Jordan said the President’s great, but it’s still a bad bill.  This is going to go to a vote day after tomorrow.  What gives the President the sense of optimism that he can get this through, and might he request more changes from Speaker Ryan before it goes to a vote?

Spicer:  There’s been a lot of input from members of Congress, and I think that the meeting this morning really was a huge sign of support. There was a lot of enthusiasm and optimism, not just for the bill itself but for something that, as I noted, conservatives and Republicans and a lot of Democrats, frankly, have been fighting for a while, which is a more patient-centric healthcare system. I think the President is continuing to engage with members. He will continue to do that all the way through Thursday.

So, let me get this straight. In the 2017 version of newspeak, threatening, bullying and browbeating are now known as “engaging”?  And a “patient-centric healthcare system” is one in which only the wealthy are allowed to have healthcare?  Okay … I, or somebody, needs to compile a ‘Newspeak Dictionary’, as Merriam-Webster just doesn’t seem to work anymore.

In response to Trump’s use of his ‘bully pulpit’, Paul Ryan said, “The president was really clear: He laid it on the line for everybody. We made a promise. Now is our time to keep that promise. … If we don’t keep our promise, it will be very hard to manage this.”  No, Paul, the promise was, and I quote:

“We’re going to have insurance for everybody. here was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”

“I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid.”

“I am going to take care of everybody … Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”

Those are the promises that Donald Trump made on the campaign trail, and not a single one of those promises will be fulfilled with the bill now on the House floor! Do Paul Ryan, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and the others think we are too stupid to notice the bait-and-switch that took place between the 2016 campaign and the 2017 administration?

Trump is bullying Congress with a threat that they will lose their seats if they do not pass this bill.  I say they will, and should, lose their seats if they DO pass it!  This is not a universal healthcare bill … it is a scam to profit Trump’s wealthy friends and insurance companies, while ensuring that the average person’s life expectancy will drop dramatically.  Let us hope that enough people have raised their voices loud and clear, and further let us hope that there are at least enough in Congress who will follow their consciences and heed our call to reject this bill!

Zero Credibility

The title of this post by my fellow-blogger and friend, Keith, says it all. Zero Credibility. Credibility, like trust and respect, must be earned. Our current president has earned none of these, and the cost is likely to be our standing among our allies. Please take a moment to read and think about Keith’s post … it sums our current standing in the international community quite accurately. Thank you Keith, for your very good, concise summary and for permission to re-blog!

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If you were a foreign leader, let me ask you a simple question. Would you trust the current President of the United States? Unfortunately, the answer is an obvious no. The sad part is the leaders have less trust in America.

With the continuation of his lying and insufficient knowledge of the issues, he has offended several leaders in so little time. His mistakes are unforced, so he has brought them on himself.

His worst mistake which weighs him down as investigations continue are his continuing insistence that his predecessor had his offices wire tapped. He greatly complicated this false accusation by indicting the British in the wire tapping. He damaged a relationship with our best ally, so that he would not be caught in a lie. So, his solution was to lie again.

Adding to these lies are the Russian conspiracy investigation, the incompetently handled travel bans and various…

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