Keep Your Eye On The … ?????

There is very little news today that doesn’t carry the name ‘Trump’.  It makes it very difficult to concentrate, to focus, to find anything ELSE in the news! Trump had a very busy week firing people last week, spent most of the weekend spewing garbage through his tweeting thumbs, and put down virtually every individual or group he could think of who wasn’t 100% in his camp.  Let us recap …

He fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, basically for two reasons: 1) last year Tillerson astutely called Trump a ‘moron’, and 2) Tillerson spoke out against Russia, saying that a nerve agent used on a former Russian spy in Britain last week “clearly came from Russia”, and that Russia is “an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens.”  The moral of this story:  Never speak the truth if you work for a liar.

He fired Assistant FBI Director Andrew McCabe, basically for three reasons:  1) when Trump asked McCabe who he voted for in 2016, McCabe said he did not vote; 2) McCabe’s wife ran for State Senate in Virginia in 2015 and as part of her campaign funding received funds from a group affiliated with former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who happens to be a friend of Hillary Clinton; 3) McCabe was involved in the Russian/Trump investigation from the start, and Trump hopes his firing will discredit McGabe’s ultimate testimony.  No obstruction of justice here, right?

One of Trump’s many attorneys (he just hired another yesterday) called for Rod Rosenstein to end the Russian investigation, prompting many to fear that there would be an effort to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump went on a tweetstorm the entire weekend, thrashing James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and most of all, Robert Mueller.  He referred, as he has many times before, to the investigation as a ‘witch hunt’ and claimed the team was heavily partisan (Mueller himself is a republican – there goes that argument, Donnie-boy).  And of course, he couldn’t have a proper tweet-storm without blaming Hillary Clinton, so he did.

And then there was Cambridge Analytica, which I am not even going to tackle this evening, other than to mention that it is a whole new section of the spiderweb that ought to bring about the downfall of the regime!  But it won’t.

It’s old, folks.  Even though he was obviously on a triple dose of steroids last week and over the weekend, he keeps singing the same ol’ song, and it isn’t even a pretty song.  It’s got no rhythm, just a convolution of percussion sounds that eventually wear on the eardrums as well as the psyche.

Oh … and in case you missed it …

Y’know what else is getting old?  Another impending government shutdown is scheduled to take place at midnight on Friday if our illustrious Congress doesn’t get their collective butts in gear and pass a spending bill.  Yawn.  I could write this script, but I’ll let you remain in suspense for the next few days.  Meanwhile, let’s chat for just a minute about that spending bill.

The spending bill is for a massive $1.3 trillion.  Let me show you $1,300,000,000,000.  I am unclear where that money is going to come from, since they reduced revenues by cutting taxes on all those who could actually afford to pay taxes!  Since the bill is bouncing around in the House at the moment, I do not know all of the provisions, but here is part of what I do know.

It includes $80 billion in new military spending and $63 billion in domestic spending (anybody see a problem with that ratio?). Democrats and republicans are still arguing over whether it should include funding for Planned Parenthood.  It is likely to expand the right to conceal carry across state borders.  It will not include monies for the long-planned railway under the Hudson River, mainly because Trump said he would veto any bill that included it.  It is not likely to include ACA (Obamacare) subsidies.  It is unlikely to contain a much-needed overhaul of sexual harassment policies.  It will almost certainly re-authorize CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) for six years.  $1.6 billion for Trump’s damn border wall is still under discussion in the House.

And that’s just about all any outside of Congress seem to know for the moment.  The House must vote on it, then send it to the Senate, where they will debate and likely disagree with at least some portion, then it will go back to the House, back to the Senate, and then everybody has to be in full agreement in a final vote by midnight Friday night.  Mitch McConnell and other congressional leaders seem fairly confident, but … after the last few fiascos??? I’m not.  Funny, isn’t it, how little attention the spending bill has had in the media the last several days.

Oh, and another thing you may have missed …

Sexual predator Harvey Weinstein’s company has filed for bankruptcy AND, more importantly, has cancelled all non-disclosure agreements.  This means that company employees are now free to tell of any form of sexual misconduct they have witnessed while employed by the company.  Score one for justice!

One final tidbit …

Vladimir Putin won the election in Russia and will serve {yawn} another six years.  Are we surprised?  Not when he disqualified his chief contender!  Look for him to abolish elections in Russia before 2024, as there is already talk of it.

I would like to see somebody stifle Trump’s urges to rant and rail at everything and everyone.  Apparently all the adults in the White House were on hiatus over the weekend. It is painfully obvious to those of us who think at least a few hours a day that Trump has much to hide, much to fear from the results of Mueller’s investigation, for he is acting as guilty as the kid with chocolate all over his mouth saying, “Who me?  I didn’t eat no cookies …”  There is danger in his unhinged state, but it would be a mistake for us to focus exclusively on his child-like antics and take our eyes off the ball.  I fear that is what the media is doing, and it is certainly an easy trap to fall into.  Stay tuned and I will tell you all about his new lawyer … how the heck many lawyers does one man need, anyway?

Conservation … A Strange Definition

Lion-not a trophyAt what point in the evolution of our vocabulary did the word ‘conserve’ come to mean ‘kill’?  I did not get that memo.  To me, the word conserve means protect, save.  A January CNN Special Report  carried the following headline:

Trophy hunting: ‘Killing animals to save them is not conservation’

I agree 100%.


Ryan Zinke

In December 2016, Trump named Ryan Zinke to lead the Department of the Interior (DOI).   On his first full day in office, Zinke rescinded the policy that banned the use of lead bullets and lead fishing tackle in national wildlife refuges. On June 2017, Zinke recommended that Bears Ears National Monument boundaries be scaled back. In August, Zinke 2017 added the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument to the planned list of monuments to be shrunk as well.  Last month, Trump, acting on Zinke’s advice, lifted the import ban on elephant and other big-game trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe to the United States.  Zinke, himself a passionate trophy hunter, justified himself against critics by saying that he had his best childhood memories of hunting with his father and that he was anxious to promote hunting for American families.  What the heck ever happened to family picnics and games of Monopoly???


Don and Eric Trump … and dead leopard

Zinke recently established a new commission, the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC).  The purpose of the commission?  In a nutshell, to make it easier to kill wild animals.  According to Zinke, it is about removing barriers to importing trophy hunting animals and relaxing legal restrictions on hunting and importing endangered species.  I repeat … its purpose is to make it easier to kill wild animals, even those on the endangered species list!  And in case you are not already mad enough, this commission will cost the taxpayers of the U.S. $250,000 per year … that’s a quarter of a million dollars!

Tiger, Petchaburi, ThailandAllow me, please, to introduce to you the members of this group:

  1. Paul Babaz, President of Safari Club International (SCI)
  2. Bill Brewster, U.S. hunter actively engaged in int’l and/or domestic hunting conservation
  3. Ivan Carter, Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance
  4. Stephen Chancellor, Chancellor Foundation for International Wildlife Conservation
  5. Jennifer Chatfield, Wildlife and habitat conservation/management organizations
  6. Cameron Hanes, Archery and/or hunting sports industry
  7. Peter Horn, Tourism, outfitter, and/or guide industries related to international hunting
  8. Chris Hudson, Wildlife and habitat conservation/management organizations
  9. Mike Ingram, U.S. hunters actively engaged in int’l and/or domestic hunting conservation
  10. John Jackson, President, Conservation Force
  11. Gary Kania, Vice President, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
  12. Terry Maple, Tourism, outfitter, and/or guide industries related to international hunting
  13. Keith Mark, Tourism, outfitter, and/or guide industries related to international hunting
  14. Olivia Opre, U.S. hunters actively engaged in int’l and/or domestic hunting conservation
  15. Erica Rhoad, Director of Hunting Policy, National Rifle Association
  16. Denise Welker, U.S. hunters actively engaged in int’l and/or domestic hunting conservation

Information courtesy of FACA Database


Cecil the Lion and Dr. Walter Palmer, his murderer

Of the sixteen council members, at least ten are known to have ties to Safari Club International, an international organization composed of hunters dedicated to protecting the freedom to hunt.  One ‘esteemed’ member of SCI is Dr. Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who killed Cecil the lion in 2015 in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.  Mike Ingram, the ninth on the list, set up an illegal non-profit in 2016 that was used solely to sell access to Donald Trump.  Peter Horn, #7 on the list, is the vice-president of Beretta, a gun manufacturer.  Ivan Carter, #3, is a television personality hosting such shows as Dallas Safari Club’s Tracks Across Africa, and his own Outdoor Channel show, Carter’s W.A.R. Denise Welker, #16, killed an elephant in Botswana on one of Carter’s safari hunts. She received an award last year from SCI underwritten by the NRA.  Number 14, Olivia Opre, is a former Mrs. Nebraska who judges the televised Extreme Huntress competition for female trophy hunters.  These are not nice people.

wolvesDespite the fact that polls show that between 80% – 90% of Americans are opposed to big game hunting, this committee has been established at our expense to make the killing of animals easier.  Now, you all know I am an animal lover, but even so, just what gives humans the right to take the life of an animal for no good reason?  Who deemed that lions and tigers and elephants were put on this earth so man could take some perverse joy in killing them?  Frankly, the way I see it is that every creature on this earth has as much right to life as I do.  If my house were on fire, I can guarantee you that I would not leave until I had gotten every last one of the Significant Seven to safety, for their lives are as valuable in the grand scheme of things as mine.  Most of you probably wouldn’t go that far, and I understand that, but to viciously murder an animal just to hang its head over your fireplace and brag???

trophy hunting 2The United States is already the largest importer of hunting trophies by far, accounting for a staggering 71 percent of the import demand, or about 15 times more than the next highest nations on the list—Germany and Spain.  What, I ask, is there to brag about?  More often than not, it is not a fair contest, for the animals are actually enclosed, and safari guides lead the hunters (who have often paid upward of $250,000 for this ‘privilege’) directly to them.  Sport?  I don’t think so.  The lion, tiger or bear stands zero chance against a man with a huge rifle.  It would be rather like one football team beating another whose hands and feet were bound together with duct tape!

bearsThis International Wildlife Conservation Council has not one single member from the Sierra Club, from World Wildlife Fund (WWF), from International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), or any of the other organizations that actually DO work toward protecting and preserving the animal kingdom.  Not one.

elephantsI began this post with a musing about the word ‘conserve’.  I think I have it figured out now … it is to conserve/preserve the right of wealthy, arrogant Americans to kill the innocent.  That must be the definition Trump’s and Ryan’s slogan “Make America Great Again”.

Once again, I hang my head in shame for what my country has become.


They Have Killed My Country and Murdered My God

This post by my young friend, Anam, needs no introduction from me, for her words say it all.

Fade Into Oblivion

They have killed my country and murdered my God
and called it collateral damage.
They have buried my homeland
under their bombs and the cries of its residents.
The women of my country are their playthings
And the men are prisoners of war.
My house has collapsed in on itself
burying its inhabitants under six feet of rubble
like a grave.
Colonisation, The Occupation, Ceasefire.
I can’t hear my own thoughts
Maybe that’s what they want to do
Overwhelm you with external destruction and voice
So you have no idea who you are
They blaspheme my God and place of worship
call Him a liar
spit upon His shrine
challenge His authority
believe they are better off without Him.
My country has become their playground
Paradise on Earth, now even worse than Hell.
I think the dead are luckier
They can’t see their beautiful land littered
with bullet shells, bombs…

View original post 186 more words

Putin Controls The Light Switch???

I was so tired tonight that I could barely stay awake, and I was actually thinking the unthinkable – to go to bed without publishing a morning post.  And then, as I made one last scan of the headlines, I saw this:

Cyberattacks Put Russian Fingers on the Switch at Power Plants, U.S. Says

And I was suddenly wide awake.

Russia interfered with our election in 2016.  That is no longer speculation … that is fact.  But guess what?  That isn’t all they are capable of doing.

“We now have evidence they’re sitting on the machines, connected to industrial control infrastructure, that allow them to effectively turn the power off or effect sabotage,” said Eric Chien, a security technology director at Symantec, a digital security firm. “From what we can see, they were there. They have the ability to shut the power off. All that’s missing is some political motivation.”

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued yesterday, 15 March 2018:

“Since at least March 2016, Russian government cyber actors—hereafter referred to as “threat actors”—targeted government entities and multiple U.S. critical infrastructure sectors, including the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors.”

To put it simply, if Russia so chose, they have the capability to shut down our power grids, water systems, air traffic controls and more.  U.S. Intelligence agencies have been aware for a year and a half that the Russians had this capability, and last June issued warnings to utility companies.  The latest information comes on the heels of Trump finally imposing the sanctions against Russia that were unanimously passed by Congress last year.  Could these sanctions be the ‘political motivation’ of which Mr. Chien speaks?

According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times

The groups that conducted the energy attacks, which are linked to Russian intelligence agencies, appear to be different from the two hacking groups that were involved in the election interference. That would suggest that at least three separate Russian cyberoperations were underway simultaneously. One focused on stealing documents from the Democratic National Committee and other political groups. Another, by a St. Petersburg “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency, used social media to sow discord and division. A third effort sought to burrow into the infrastructure of American and European nations.

Russian cyberattacks surged last year, starting three months after Mr. Trump took office. American officials and private cybersecurity experts uncovered a series of Russian attacks aimed at the energy, water and aviation sectors and critical manufacturing, including nuclear plants, in the United States and Europe. In its urgent report in June, the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. notified operators about the attacks but stopped short of identifying Russia as the culprit.

By then, Russian spies had compromised the business networks of several American energy, water and nuclear plants, mapping out their corporate structures and computer networks.  In an updated warning to utility companies on Thursday, Homeland Security officials included a screenshot taken by Russian operatives that proved they could now gain access to their victims’ critical controls.

Rather like the hacking of our 2016 elections, which the intelligence community informs us is ongoing and is expected to affect the mid-terms this November, our response to this situation seems rather tepid.  The sanctions Trump imposed yesterday fell short of those that had been passed by Congress last year.  Trump finally joined our allies in stating that Putin was in all likelihood responsible for the chemical attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter in the UK, but it took him two weeks.  Will he instruct our intelligence agencies to actively pursue these hackers?  Can the agencies act without his blessing?  If so, will they?  These are questions whose answers are beyond my field of knowledge, but I think they are important for us to ask.

If you haven’t read One Second After by William Forstchen, I highly recommend it.  I read it a few years ago, and while I did not write a review, I did write another post in January 2017 that summarized the book and touched on the “what-if” of an enemy effectively shutting down our power grid.  While I am not an alarmist, I do recognize there is potential for disaster here.  The potential has been there for a while, but I ask you this:  Do you actually trust Donald Trump to do everything in his power to stop Russia from interfering in our elections, or even worse, from causing infrastructure disruptions likely to cost millions of lives?  I don’t.  His promise to “keep America safe” is naught but hot air.  It is time he step up to the plate, or else step aside and let somebody else bat.

And on that note, I shall now go to bed and try to sleep.

From Bad To Worse …

The first news I saw this morning was that Tillerson had been fired, which anybody with half a brain predicted months ago.  Now, Tillerson was highly unqualified for the job of Secretary of State, as I wrote in May 2017.  However, in defense of Mr. Tillerson, he was trying to learn his job, was trying, I think, to do the right thing.  Or perhaps I am only in his corner because he had the nerve to call Donald Trump a moron last October.

At any rate, Tillerson is out and in his place comes Mike Pompeo, who until today was the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  Now, I know that hearing me say what I’m about to say is getting old and you’re tired of hearing it, but hey … I’m not the one who keeps finding these people.  Mike Pompeo is highly unqualified to be in the position of Secretary of State.  Surprised, aren’t you?  Let’s take a brief look at ol’ Mikey …

He graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from West Point in 1986, and with a JD from Harvard Law School in 1994.  And what has he done since then?  He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 2011 until Trump tapped him for the CIA position almost immediately after the 2016 election.  His political views make him a perfect fit for the Trump ‘team’, for he leans far to the right and is or was a member of the “Tea Party” movement.  Let’s take a closer look … you may want to make sure you have an antacid close by …

On climate change and protecting the environment:

“There are scientists who think lots of different things about climate change. There’s some who think we’re warming, there’s some who think we’re cooling, there’s some who think that the last 16 years have shown a pretty stable climate environment.”  (Seriously?  It seems that I recall reading that 97% of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.)

“Federal policy should be about the American family, not worshipping a radical environmental agenda.”  (Just how long do you think the American family will continue to exist if we don’t protect our home, the planet Earth, Mr. P?)

He also opposes the regulation of Greenhouse gas emissions by the United States, and supports eliminating the United States federal register of greenhouse gas emissions.  Are you beginning to understand why Trump picked him?

He has called for the permanent elimination of wind power production tax credits, calling them an “enormous government handout”.

Pompeo is a member of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the conservative political advocacy group funded by the Koch brothers.  Their agenda, naturally, is to place as many far-right candidates in key Congressional positions as possible.  To that tune, during the 2014 election season, the Koch brothers, David and Charles, contributed nearly a half-million dollars to Pompeo’s campaign.  He signed the AFP’s “No Climate Tax” pledge …No climate tax pledgeAnd the AFP isn’t his only connection to the infamous Kochs.  In 1998, Pompeo co-founded Thayer Aerospace and Private Security, funded in part by investments by the Koch brothers.

He opposes same-sex marriage, opposes workplace protection for the LGBT community, which has earned him a zero rating with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).  But I know you’ll be happy to hear that he has an “A” rating with the National Rifle Association (NRA)!

Toward the latter part of his short tenure, Tillerson seemed to be stepping up to the plate, and only yesterday condemned Russia for the chemical attack against a former Russian spy in the UK – a stance that the Trump White House refused to take, and one that was likely the straw that broke the camel’s back for Tillerson’s tenure in the State Department.  Tillerson was not an ideal Secretary of State, but it is the opinion of this writer that Pompeo will be worse.  Trump has made a shambles of our relations with allies across the pond, and Pompeo is likely to support Trump blindly, causing even more rifts.  Pompeo has absolutely zero foreign policy experience, and has rigid, uncompromising views on human rights.  This is not what we need, especially as Trump heads to his first meeting with Kim Jong-un of North Korea.

Pompeo will have to be confirmed by the Senate, of course, but as we have seen in the past 14 months, that is a rubber stamp, as the republicans in the Senate continue to lick Trump’s boots.

Did We Forget To Be Human?

The news from Ghouta takes a backseat to the affair between Donald Trump & Stormy Daniels in the U.S. media.  An extra-marital affair, a payoff, misuse of campaign funds, are all juicier news to the average consumer of news in the U.S. than 1,000 dead and 4,800 wounded so far in 2018 in a nation on the other side of the globe.  Even our leaders turn a blind eye, caring more about partisan bickering and filling their own campaign coffers than human lives.

For those who still think that Ghouta is something to eat, a bit of clarification:

Ghouta is a suburb of Damascus, Syria, the last rebel-held enclave close to the Syrian capital, that has been bombarded by Bashar al-Assad’s forces for weeks on end, with Russian air support.  Perhaps the pictures can explain it better than my words.

Many of the dead are children.  People are bleeding to death, starving to death in the streets.  An estimated 400,000 are trapped with nowhere to go and no way to get there if there were some safe haven.

“France and Britain convene an emergency meeting of the Security Council and press for enforcement of last month’s Resolution 2401, calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities. In this effort, the United States is nowhere, silent, AWOL, as President Vladimir Putin and his Syrian sidekick do their worst. The message to Moscow is clear: Donald Trump’s America does not care about Syria, or war crimes, or human rights. Russian cynicism and American absence produce disaster.

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, calls Putin. He dispatches his foreign minister to Moscow and Tehran in an attempt to stop the slaughter. Trump, to whom moral indignation — indeed morality itself — is a stranger, does not care. His Middle East foreign policy has two components: Back Israel, bash Iran. With respect to Putin, he is compromised, or enamored, to the point of incapacity. Let Syria burn.” Roger Cohen, New York Times, 09 March 2018

Perhaps a personal story might make it more real:

Marwan Habaq and his infant daughter, Yasmina, would spend hours at home watching their fish swimming in circles in a tank at home. Mr. Habaq bought the fish before the war. As supplies dwindled, fish food was harder to find. But nine fish survived.

“Me and Yasmina loved the fish, but my wife used to get jealous, because we were paying more attention to the fish than her,” he said.

Yasmina also loved her stuffed toy, a bright red bumblebee bought by her father.

“Usually babies react to colorful stuff, and Yasmina did the same,” he said.

When the airstrikes intensified, Mr. Habaq and his wife grabbed their daughter and fled into the basement, leaving the aquarium and stuffed bumblebee upstairs.

On Feb. 23, their home was bombed. His voice broke as he described the wreckage.

“Every corner of the house was dear to me, but Yasmina’s stuff was the most precious,” he said. He found the bumblebee, half scorched.

As for the aquarium: “I only found one burned fish under the rubble, the rest were ashes.”

There are many, many other stories, and this is not the worst of them.

The new isolationist stance of the U.S. has gone too far when we, as a once-powerful nation, turn our back on this level of grief and suffering.  These are human beings, each with people who love them, each with lives to live, each with stories to tell.  They are not just statistics to be relegated to page 15 of the New York Times.  Ghouta is not a Hungarian stew!  Ghouta is a city with nearly a half-million people, every one of whose lives are in danger at this very moment.

For now, Yasmina and her family are alive.  Many others are not.  Meanwhile, the U.S. media salivates over news of Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump.  Every “news” story has the word ‘Trump’ in the headlines.  And we sit back eating our morning Cheerios while reading the salacious gossip, hanging on Trump’s every insignificant tweet.  Across the globe, people are starving, wandering amidst the rubble searching for loved ones, for a scrap of food or a bit of water.  And the bombs keep coming.

East vs West?

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” – Donald Trump, 08 August 2017

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.” – Donald Trump, 19 September 2017

“He is unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of a country, and he is surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician.” – Kim Jong-un, 22 September 2017

“Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation. I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.” – Kim Jong-un, 22 September 2017

“Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’ Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend — and maybe someday that will happen!” – Donald Trump, 11 November 2017

“It’s not a mere threat but a reality that I have a nuclear button on the desk in my office. All of the mainland United States is within the range of our nuclear strike.” – Kim Jong-un, 01 January 2018

“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” – Donald Trump, 02 January 2018

“I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un.” – Donald Trump, 11 January 2018

It would be hilarious, were it not so pathetic, that we can predict when Trump’s approval rating will rise.  On the very rare occasions that he has done something perceived as being the right thing, such as his State of the Union Address in January, his approval rating goes up … not a lot, mind you, but up over 40%. It gradually drops back down to its normal 35% – 37% until the next time.  I knew today before I even looked that it would be up, simply because of his agreement to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in May to discuss nuclear disarmament.  Members of Trump’s base have worn their palms raw from clapping so hard.  But hold on just a minute, folks …

While many are praising Trump for accepting the invitation to meet with the North Korean leader, and are holding out high hopes for wonderful results, I view the potential meeting, should it even take place, with some degree of trepidation.  A large degree of trepidation, actually.  Why?  Because a meeting between these two strange personalities playing at being world leaders is a recipe for potential disaster.  Both are hot-headed, narcissistic, megalomaniacs who have been throwing barbs and insults across the sea at each other for more than a year (see above).  Surely you don’t think that just because they are in a room together, they will each suddenly become calm, rational and intelligent beings whose only goal is to promote global peace, do you?

First, there is the main goal of the meeting.  While both Trump and Kim use the same terminology, ‘denuclearization’, they define the word quite differently.  For Donald Trump, denuclearization means North Korea giving up their nuclear program and cessation of all further nuclear tests.  For Kim Jong-un, the more likely ideal outcome would be a bilateral disarmament and would also likely include reversing sanctions Trump has imposed on North Korea, as well as withdrawal of U.S. troops from the peninsula.  If Trump goes into this meeting thinking to take without giving, he will be sorely disappointed.

Second, this is not the way in which diplomacy happens.  Now, I know some may jump in and say that perhaps this is the better way – two leaders meeting without prior negotiations and planning by seasoned diplomats.  But there is a reason ambassadors and diplomats such as State Department heads are typically involved in the initial negotiations and preparations … that is their forte, they are the experts in the field.  They lay the groundwork, feel out the other side, report back to their respective countries, and go from there.  Diplomats are trained to listen to the other side.  Trump has no penchant for listening, for he believes that his own words are the only ones of any importance. Unfortunately, we are short several diplomats in the area, and Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson is still learning the job he was ill-prepared for, and is often the subject of much ridicule in the Korean peninsula.

And third, we must consider the personalities of these two megalomaniacs.  Look again at the taunts and threats at the beginning of this post.  These are the mentalities that will meet up in a room, these are the two “men”, and I do use the term loosely, who will be trying to come to terms on something about which they both feel strongly, and which, if the talk turns to vitriol and disparagement, could threaten the security of every nation on the planet.

So yes, I am less than enthused by the prospect of a meeting between these two.  Some good may come out of it, and if so, I will be thankful and perhaps the world will breathe a sigh of relief.  But let us not lose sight of the fact that there are potential perils.

One thing that we all need to do is ignore the bombast and braggadocio that comes from not only Trump, but his White House boot-lickers as well.  It is irrelevant.  No, agreeing to meet with Kim Jong-un is not the greatest foreign policy win of the past 100 years.  No, no, and no, it does not make him the greatest ‘president’ in U.S. history.  The proof will be, or fail to be in the results, if the meeting takes place.  Until then, the media and We The People need to not fall prey to his silly self-praise.  Let him pat himself on the back as he will … just don’t watch.  Even if he pulls this off and comes back with a reasonable agreement that makes the world a little safer place, it cannot undo all the harm he has done in the past 14 months.  What he will be doing, if he succeeds in negotiating with Kim, is his job … nothing more, nothing less.

A Rudderless Ship …

A candidate for the office of president spends a year, sometimes longer, on the campaign trail.  His or her sole goal is to make people like them, make people trust them, convince people to vote for them, believing that they are the person who will most nearly meet the voters’ needs and desires over the course of four years.  Then comes election night, and one of the people who spent all that time on the campaign trail is successful in his or her mission and goes on to take the oath of office in two-and-a-half months.  That period of time is a period of transition from being a candidate to learning to be a leader, from having a goal of winning the election to having a goal of doing the best job possible to keep the country and its people safe and prosperous.  During that transition period, the former candidate puts all the hoopla and razzmatazz of the campaign trail behind him and switches gears to the more serious topics of running a nation.  He will meet with the outgoing president on a near-daily basis, meet with advisors whose expertise is critical to the job he is about to begin.  It is a training period.  He is now busy trying to gain an understanding of how global economies work, the relations we have with other nations, how the president interacts with the other two branches.  And he is busy selecting his own cabinet and advisors from among the most skilled and knowledgeable people.

That is how it is supposed to work.  That is how it has most always worked.  But it is not how it worked after the last election.

It began with the intelligence briefings. A team of intelligence analysts has been prepared to deliver daily briefings on global developments and security threats.  In the first two weeks, Trump attended only two of the daily briefings, though Mike Pence did attend most.  With no knowledge of national security issues, most were stunned that Trump apparently had no intention of gaining such knowledge, either.

Then, Trump’s transition team copied highly sensitive documents and removed them from a secure facility during the presidential transition.  A definite ‘no-no’.  And then, his transition team, days before the inauguration, nixed plans for an orientation class that would have prepared political appointees and White House staff for a series of ethical and legal issues.  Ethics, shmethics, right?  Who needs it, right?

So, with that sort of a start, is it any wonder that the president and his staff are bumbling about?  But what has prompted this diatribe is that Donald Trump, nearly 14 months after taking that oath of office, has still not stepped up to the plate of doing the job for which he was elected, for he is still too damned busy campaigning for the 2020 election which, if justice prevails, will not see his name on the ballot!

During Trump’s lonnnnnnng (29 months) 2015-2016 campaign, he made a number of promises to his supporters, those who were caught up in his promises to “drain the swamp” in Washington, to “make America great again”, and above all, to keep America and Americans ‘safe’ from those terrible immigrants:  the Mexicans who were rapists and criminals, and most of all, the Muslims, all of whom must surely be terrorists!  Among his other promises were to bring back jobs in the coal and steel industries.

Now, Donald doesn’t know coal from a can of peas, and he didn’t bother to learn about fossil fuels vs alternative energy sources, because if he had, perhaps he might not have been so quick to promise.  But promise he did, and by jove he is going to keep that promise even if it destroys portions of the country.  And now the latest promise he is trying to knock out is bringing back jobs in the steel industry.  Oh Woe.

His m.o. here is to impose unreasonably high tariffs on steel imports from every nation on the globe.  I already explained in an earlier post what the almost-certain ramifications are going to be, so I will not waste your time with a reiteration, for it is not my point today.  My point today is that Trump has been advised by numerous advisors who understand far more than he about the global economic fallout of these tariffs, not to do it.  Gary Cohn, who was Trump’s Chief Economic Advisor, resigned this week because Trump was so determined to follow this destructive path.  Although I am not a huge fan of Cohn, he was the Director of the National Economic Council, and he has the knowledge and the experience that Trump clearly lacks.  So why won’t Trump listen to any of his qualified advisors?  Because he is not operating in the capacity of president, but instead he is campaigning for the 2020 election.

From an article in Politico :

[Trump] sees steelworkers and other “forgotten men and women” in rural parts of the country, as he often calls them, as the core part of his political base, and he believes that betraying them would be political suicide as he looks ahead to his reelection campaign, according to aides.”

And when you think about that, and look back on the things he has done, you realize that every single move has been naught but an extension of his campaign.  This nation has no president.  I have often referred to the United States under Trump as a rudderless ship, and now it is more clear than ever that is precisely what we are … rudderless, without direction, and without a captain, for the captain is too busy trying to make friends with the sharks and he doesn’t know how to sail the ship anyway.

A Big Week

As I have said many, many times, I am not an economist. I did well in the few economics courses I took in college, but have long since forgotten most of what I learned. My knowledge of economics is miniscule, though I have a basic understanding of what drives the market. However, fellow-blogger Erik Hare is an economist and has a comprehensive understanding of things that most of us only vaguely even consider. His post today gives us some insight into upcoming events in the next week and how they are likely to affect the market, so I am sharing his wisdom and expertise, in lieu of my own, which is fairly non-existent. Please take a few minutes to absorb Erik’s timely post. Thank you, Erik, for permission to share!

Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

We have in front of us a big week. This may determine the course of the next year or so in the stock market, the economy, and in politics.

A lot is about to happen. Let’s run it down, day by day.

View original post 571 more words


Two notable stories caught my eye yesterday, neither warranting an entire post, but both of some importance, so I decided to combine them into a single post.

Another bad choice in the EPA

Yet again, the fox has been tasked with watching over the henhouse.  The fox, in this case, is Peter Wright, an attorney for Dow Chemical.  The henhouse is otherwise known as the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM). Wright would oversee the development of guidelines for the land disposal of hazardous waste and underground storage tanks and respond to accidental chemical releases through the Superfund program. Dow Chemical has dozens of pending Superfund cases.  Wow … does anybody see a conflict of interest here?

The appointment must be confirmed by the senate … we will see if they are finally ready to do their jobs, or if they are still being good little bootlickers.

Another major figure at the EPA who makes decisions on Superfund issues is Albert Kelly, who was banned from the banking industry for life for violating federal banking laws.  Kelly owns stock in Phillips 66, which has potential Superfund liability at 31 sites around the country.

For those who may not be completely clear on what a Superfund site is, allow me to provide a brief explanation.  Superfund is a United States federal government program designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants. Sites managed under this program are referred to as “Superfund” sites. It was established as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980. It authorizes federal natural resource agencies, primarily the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), states and Native American tribes to recover natural resource damages caused by hazardous substances. The EPA may identify parties responsible for hazardous substances released to the environment (polluters) and either compel them to clean up the sites, or it may undertake the cleanup on its own using the Superfund (a trust fund) and costs recovered from polluters by referring to the U.S. Department of Justice.

When the polluter is known, they are forced to pay for the cleanup, but when it cannot be determined who caused the damage, or the polluter is unable to pay, then the burden falls on the taxpayer, which occurs about 30% of the time.  Until the mid-1990s, the monies came from a tax on the petro-chemical industries, but now it is the burden of the taxpayers.

Dow Chemical is currently responsible to cover the costs of cleanup at no less than 131 Superfund sites, and is currently under obligation to the tune of $152 million.  So now, if the Senate confirms Wright for the position, he will be in charge of ensuring that Dow pays for the cleanup of those sites.  Dow, a company to whom he has owed his loyalty for the past 19 years!

Despite Trump’s campaign pledges to “drain the swamp” in Washington, Wright’s nomination is the latest example of the President appointing corporate lawyers or lobbyists to supervise federal offices that directly regulate their former employers.

Is Paul Ryan seeing the light … finally?

Has Paul Ryan finally had enough?  Did Donald Trump finally cross some invisible line with Ryan, perhaps place the straw that broke the camel’s back?  Let us hope.

What was that ‘straw’?  The tariffs on steel and aluminum that Trump announced late last week.  Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said yesterday, “We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan.  The new tax reform law has boosted the economy and we certainly don’t want to jeopardize those gains.”

Well, I would certainly argue with the logic as regards the tax ‘reform’ law, which has not had time to ‘boost’ the economy, and is not likely to at any rate.  But whatever gets the sycophants in Congress off their butts and finally doing their job, let us not quibble.  After hearing of Ryan’s statements this morning, Trump declared that he is not “backing down”.

House Ways and Means Chairman, republican Kevin Brady and subcommittee chairman Dave Reichert, also a republican, have also tried to convince Trump that this is the wrong thing at the wrong time.  In addition to worries of what the tariffs will do to the economy, republicans worry that the move will likely cost them seats in November’s mid-term elections.  While I would be happy to see the republicans lose seats in November, I am not happy to see Trump start a trade war where there can be no winners, where we all stand to lose.

It is most unfortunate that Trump is so hellbent on imposing the tariffs, for it is a poor move and one likely to cause economic waves worldwide.  But perhaps the positive note in all of this is that the republicans in Congress, or at least many of them, are not happy … perhaps now they will remove their blinders, pack away their shoe shine kits and put some brakes on Trump, as they should have been doing for the past 13 months.

The Constitution actually gives Congress the authority over taxation and tariffs, but in recent years, Congress has been content to delegate that authority to the president.  Until now, it had not caused problems, but until now, we had leaders with two things the current one lacks:  intellect and a conscience.

Trump responded with his usual aplomb:

“Our country on trade has been ripped off by virtually every country in the world, whether it’s friend or anybody – China, Russia, people we think are wonderful, the European Union. We lost $800 billion a year on trade. Not going to happen.”

“Ripped off by virtually every country in the world”?  Really???  Where are the handlers?  Have they all jumped ship too?

Note to readers:  Yesterday’s eye surgery went well, though I was extremely tired all afternoon.  It will take a couple of days before I am able to see out of that eye again, and I am temporarily back to needing the magnifying glass to read/write, so I will, in all likelihood still be a bit slow for the rest of this week.  Thanks to all for the well-wishes and hugs … always greatly appreciated!