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.

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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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Good People Doing Good Things – Little Kids With BIG Hearts

I have been working on this post for some four hours, and thus far, this sentence is all I have.  I made several false starts … people who seemed to be philanthropists, seemed to be doing good things, but on further digging were merely collecting on other people’s altruism.  Then there were scandals with some of the people/organizations I looked into.  So, as time and energy are running on fumes at this point, and my family members who walk on all fours are determined to drive me nuts, I decided to think small tonight.  Child-sized small, in fact. Children may only be able to do small-scale deeds, but it shows us that though their bodies may be small, their hearts are big. And since these pint-sized do-gooders hold our future in their hands, it is good to see that they already have a sense of caring for others, a sense of humanity.


You are never too young to understand the value of helping others.  Second grader Phoebe Brown was running errands with her mother last week in Independence, Missouri when she came across a winning, $100 scratch-off ticket, just lying on the ground. For a fleeting moment, Phoebe admits, the thought of a spree in the toy department held a certain appeal, but it didn’t take long for her to remember that her school was having a canned food drive that week, and she ended up spending the entire $100 on canned food to donate to those less fortunate.  Her good works even inspired her dad to match every dime she spent!  At the end of the food drive, Phoebe’s class had collected 541 items of food, making them her school’s winner. As a fun reward, Phoebe and her classmates were invited to shave their gym teacher’s beard.

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A group of schoolboys in New South Wales, Australia, were about to board a bus and head home after a rugby league game when they noticed an 81-year-old gentleman moving his woodpile from the front of his home to the back, one piece at a time.  Without hesitation, the boys and their dads jumped in and moved every last piece of wood for the man.  A small gesture?  Perhaps, but it is a sign of respect and caring, a sign that these kids are being taught values and compassion.  Hats off to the rugby team at Cooma North Public School!

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jaden-sink-3Westboro Baptist Church, best known for its intense hatred of most everything, is located on the East Side of Topeka, Kansas, directly across from Equality House, a resource center established by the non-profit group, Promoting Peace (interesting juxtaposition, don’t you think?).  Equality House and Promoting Peace is a whole story unto itself, but that will have to wait for some other Wednesday, because today’s story is about a six-year-old girl named Jaden Sink. After Jaden’s dad tried to explain to her that Westboro members promote messages of hate, Jayden decided she wanted to raise money toward spreading messages of love and peace. So Jayden opened a lemonade stand … not just any ol’ lemonade stand, but a pink lemonade stand, mind you!  And in the first day of business, she made $1,400!  I think this is proof that love sells better than hate!  By the end of that summer in 2013, Jaden had raised more than $23,000, all of which she donated to the cause of peace.

But Jaden’s story didn’t end there.  The story of Jaden’s pink lemonade stand went viral during that summer of 2013, and other children jumped happily on the bandwagon.  Today, there are some 70 stands worldwide, with all proceeds going toward Equality House’s anti-bullying initiatives.  Says Jaden, “We’re giving [the money] to the rainbow house to help people who are sick, and to help people be nice to each other.”  That’s my kind of kid!

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When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005, it made history as one of the five deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history.  Then-10-year-old fifth-grader Talia Leman, seeing images of the destruction on the news, launched a charity urging kids to trick-or-treat for New Orleans, ultimately raising more than $10 million for the Hurricane Katrina foundation. From there, she founded RandomKid, a nonprofit that provides resources for young people who want to make a worldwide impact on any issue. Among the company’s successful efforts are reusable water bottles, which helped fund a water pump for an African village, and a push to provide crutches and artificial limbs to Haitian earthquake victims. Here is an example of a kid who started out doing small things and ended up doing some pretty big things!


Many of these stories are about small acts of kindness, but these children have the right idea, and I would not be surprised to see them make major differences in the world one of these days.  Hats off to the kids, of course, but also to their parents who have obviously taken the time to instill compassion, kindness and caring about others into the hearts of their children.

R.I.P. Piggy Bank

Today I am sad to report that Omsin, the sea turtle, has died.  I meant to write a post about Omsin earlier this month when her story first crossed my radar, but I was distracted by other stories, mostly political, and eventually Omsin receded to the dusty corners of my mind.  Omsin lived most of her life in a pond near the Gulf of Thailand, south of Bangkok until earlier this month when she was moved to the veterinary faculty at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.

Though it is unknown how long Omsin had lived in the pond, it is thought that she had been there for most of her 25 years. It is likely she was initially taken there by fishermen who had, perhaps, caught her in their nets. Long ago, a Buddhist leader told fishermen they’d earn good karma by releasing their catches into artificial ponds, and the tradition came to be known as ‘mercy release’.

Since sea turtles are known for their longevity, custom held that the turtle’s long life would rub off on those who shared their wealth. Thus came the tradition of people tossing coins into ponds where turtles live, and thus began the problems for poor Omsin.  For you see, Omsin liked to eat the coins that were thrown her way.  When Omsin was rescued from the pond in February, she was one very sick turtle, at the point of death, shell bulging, infected, barely able to swim for all the ‘fortune’ she’d swallowed. Scientists and veterinarians named her Omsin, which in Thai means “piggy bank”.

Omsin-4At the rescue center, Omsin quickly came to the attention of veterinary scientist Dr. Nantarika Chansue — Thailand’s leading turtle rescuer. Dr. Chansue, who has been rescuing turtles from filthy ponds for some fifteen years, said she had never seen a case as disheartening as Omsin.  A CT scan revealed an egg-shaped clump, seven inches on the side, glowing silver, and the mass had cracked her shell.  Turns out there were 11 pounds of slimy black coins pressing against the walls of Omsin’s belly. Surgery to remove the coins was the only hope to save Omsin’s life.

The coins could only be removed a few at a time through the 10-centimeter incision, and the surgery took 7 hours to remove all 915 coins. It was hoped that Omsin had a decent chance for a long life at the end of the surgery.

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But Omsin’s problems were not to end there.  At first she seemed to be recovering well, but on Saturday, a checkup revealed intestinal problems that would require more surgery.  This morning, doctors performed a second operation, but sadly, Omsin, aka Piggy Bank, did not awaken and was pronounced dead at 10:10 a.m. Cause of death: blood poisoning. Doctors said the removal of the coins had created a space in Omsin’s stomach that had probably blocked blood flow in her intestine. That became fatal after she suffered an acute intestinal infection.

“I felt angry that humans, whether or not they meant to do it or if they did it without thinking, had caused harm to this turtle, It’s torture for animals after they eat the coins people throw into ponds. Instead of getting merit, you actually commit a sin.” – Nantarika Chansue

Humans, even well-intentioned humans, pose the greatest threat to the earth and all its lifeforms.  R.I.P. Omsin Piggy Bank.omsin-3

2017 World Happiness Report


(Cover photo: Tromso, Norway)

Every year, the United Nations issues a World Happiness Report, which ranks 155 countries by their happiness levels.  Who knew?  The star of the show is the Top Ten list … and no, the U.S. is not on that list.  We did, however, rank 14th, which I found quite surprising, as I would have put us at somewhere around 114 out of 155.  A few things are quite interesting about this report.  First is what the report deems to be the things important to a nation’s happiness:  longer healthy years of life, more social support, trust in government, higher GDP per capita, and generosity.  Now you see why the U.S. is not in the Top Ten, right?

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Reykjavik, Iceland

Another interesting thing … at least to this writer who is NOT a huge fan of cold weather … is that the vast majority of the countries have quite cold climates … for example, Iceland ranks #3 on the list!  Iceland, for Pete’s sake!  Perhaps it is a sign that people are actually happier when they do not get out much and therefore do not have to deal with other humans! Here is the complete Top Ten list:

  1. Norway
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Switzerland
  5. Finland
  6. Netherlands
  7. Canada
  8. New Zealand
  9. Australia
  10. Sweden

An excerpt from the Executive Summary of the report says:

“All of the top four countries rank highly on all the main factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance.

Happiness has fallen in America

The USA is a story of reduced happiness. In 2007 the USA ranked 3rd among the OECD countries; in 2016 it came 19th. The reasons are declining social support and increased corruption (chapter 7) and it is these same factors that explain why the Nordic countries do so much better.”

Chapter 7, referenced above, is titled, “Restoring American Happiness” written by Jeffrey D. Sachs. Here is an excerpt that I found to be particularly relevant:

“The central paradox of the modern American economy, as identified by Richard Easterlin (1964, 2016), is this: income per person has increased roughly three times since 1960, but measured happiness has not risen. The situation has gotten worse in recent years: per capita GDP is still rising, but happiness is now actually falling.

The predominant political discourse in the United States is aimed at raising economic growth, with the goal of restoring the American Dream and the happiness that is supposed to accompany it. But the data show conclusively that this is the wrong approach. The United States can and should raise happiness by addressing America’s multi-faceted social crisis— rising inequality, corruption, isolation, and distrust—rather than focusing exclusively or even mainly on economic growth, especially since the concrete proposals along these lines would exacerbate rather than ameliorate the deepening social crisis. America’s crisis is, in short, a social crisis, not an economic crisis.”

Jeffrey Sachs, the author of Chapter 7, is one of the world’s best-known economists, who has advised successive UN secretary generals. In a stinging critique of policymakers in Washington DC, Sachs criticizes “naive attempts to raise the economic growth rate”. He says this prescription is “doubly wrong-headed” because “most of the pseudo-elixirs for growth – especially the Republican party’s beloved nostrum of endless tax cuts and voodoo economics – will only exacerbate Americans’ social inequalities and feed the distrust that is already tearing society apart”. The general consensus is that happiness in the US is declining and is expected to continue on a downward path, with Donald Trump’s policies forecast to deepen the country’s social crisis.

Other surprises …. at least to me, were that many European nations ranked even lower than the U.S., with Germany in 17th place, the UK in 19th, and France in 32nd. Not at all surprising was that The world’s “unhappiest” countries are all in the Middle East and Africa: war-stricken Yemen and Syria feature in the bottom 10, with Tanzania, Burundi and Central African Republic making up the final three.

I found the report very interesting and you might also.  Here is a link to the full report, and from there you can, if you wish, download a pdf file for the entire report or for individual sections. I leave you to draw your own conclusions, based on Mr. Sachs’ analysis, of the current administration’s agenda and how it is likely to affect our ranking a year from now when the 2018 report is issued.

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Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Zurich, Switzerland

 

 

The Connections Between Deutsche Bank, Russia And Our President, Part V

I have mentioned on more than one occasion that, with all the murky ties of Trump surrogates to the Russian government, it is like a huge, sticky spider web, and that at the end of the day I suspect the threads to lead directly to Trump himself. Friend and fellow-blogger Gronda Morin has been diligently researching and I would like to share one of her posts with my readers. I think that there is far, far too much smoke for there not to be a fire … it is only a matter of time, and of those who are charged with investigating such things to get off their collective posteriors and trace the connections. Please take a moment to read this excellent post, and drop Gronda a comment thanking her for all her in-depth research. Thank you, Gronda, for implied permission to share, and for the hours I know you spent on this series of posts!

Gronda Morin

Image result for PHOTOS OF TRUMP WITH SOHO TRUMP

The year 2008 was a pivotal one for our republican President Donald Trump. This was the year that the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev purchased the president’s property in Palm Beach for the inflated price of $95 million to $100 million dollars when it was appraised for about $60 million dollars.

During the same time frame, the president was suing his largest creditor Deutsche Bank over a $40 million loan that came due. He claimed that the 2008 downward spiral in property values, due to the US recession was as an “Act of God” which absolved him from this obligation. Somehow this whole incident was taken care of and Deutsche Bank continued to loan the president monies.

It is important to note that the president has a history of shady dealings. The information detailed below demonstrates that this is the way he operated to where his having less than above board dealings with Russian officials should not surprise anyone.

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We Have Met The Enemy And …

Much has been said in the last fifteen years, since 11 September 2001, about terrorism and terrorists.  President George W. Bush used it as justification for the Iraq War, the invasion of Afghanistan, and torture abuses. Trump has instilled faux fears of terrorism into U.S. voters as a part of his campaign effort.  Now he continues to use those fears to justify his ban on Muslim people entering the U.S. in search of a safe haven.  But who, really are these ‘terrorists’ everybody is so afraid of?

They are not the refugees that come here trying to find a better life, a place where they and their children will be safe from the daily bombings that are a part of life in their home countries. They are not the women you see in the market wearing their hijabs.  They are not the people gathering in the local mosque.  So who, then, are these ‘terrorists’?  I think you will be surprised by my answer:

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That’s right … the terrorists in the U.S. are, for the most part, walking among us unnoticed, while we are busy fearing the woman in the hijab or the man with the long beard and olive complexion.  Let us look at a few of these real terrorists, shall we:

  • 51-year-old Adam W. Purinton who shot and killed Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an immigrant from India, for no reason other than he didn’t want immigrants in “his” country.
  • American-born Omar Mateen who killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in June 2016 at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in an apparent hate crime against LGBT people.
  • 21-year-old Dylann Roof who killed nine people, all African Americans, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. His reason?  “We already are the second-class citizens. That’s the problem. Y’all raping our women, and y’all are taking over the world.”
  • Jeffrey Allen Burgess, age 54, attacked an Indian man seated next to him at a bar in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, last November for the crime of … again … simply being of Indian descent.
  • Richard Leslie Lloyd, age 64, set fire to a convenience store owned by a U.S. citizen of Indian descent. His reason?  When he was in the store a few days earlier, he couldn’t find orange-pineapple juice, and it was then he noticed the skin colour of the owner, and assumed (incorrectly) that he was a Muslim.
  • Edgar Maddison Welch shot up a pizza parlor last December in Washington D.C., because he believed a fake news story that a kidnapping ring was operating from within the restaurant.

Not a single one of the above were immigrants, none were Muslim. The list goes on … and on … and on.  And there are rallies to promote this brand  of terrorism, venues where they are starting out young:  Earlier this month at a Trump rally in Maricopa County, Arizona, the following comments were said against protestors:

  • “If she’s Jewish, she should go back to her country,” a 13-year-old said of a protester.
  • “This is America; we don’t want Sharia law. Christian country.”
  • “I just want to let them know that I can’t wait for the liberal genocide to begin.”

The people committing these acts and calling for violence are terrorists just as surely as were Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah, three of the 9/11 highjackers.  Donald Trump claims it is important to refer to terrorists as “radical Islamic terrorists”, but the reality is that in this country, terrorists are far more likely to be “radical white Christian terrorists”.

These, folks, are the faces of terrorism in the United States.  Take a close look — see any similarities? These people, and others like them, will NOT be kept out of the country by Trump’s travel ban. The people who will be kept out by the travel ban are innocent people seeking refuge, while the real terrorists are already here.

The reality is that most terrorism by Middle-Easterners is committed against those in the Middle East, not the west.  The U.S. has not, with the exception of 9/11, seen large-scale terrorist attacks and we are not a primary target of Daesh, no matter what Mr. Trump tells us.  But his rhetoric played well with the masses who, apparently, wanted to believe in an identifiable threat that was not themselves.  But when we are looking for that threat, when we seek to identify the real terrorists in this nation, we need to look inward rather than outward, for in the words of Pogo, we have met the enemy and he is us.

Love Your Enemies; Offend Your Friends

There is an expression “love your enemies”.  Nobody actually does that, but it sounds nice and I suppose it is relatively harmless.  But what happens when you turn that saying around 180° to read “hate your friends”?  Well that would seem to be the new mantra at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue these days.  Okay, so maybe ‘hate’ is a bit strong, but there is certainly no great deal of respect or kindness shown by the current administration toward our most stalwart allies.  In fact, Trump & Co. treat Russia and Vladimir Putin with a great deal more love than they do, for example, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Australia or Mexico.  The latest in a string of insults to our allies came this week in three separate instances.

microwave-cameraThe first and likely most serious of the incidents came from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer in his very clumsy attempt to cover his boss’ six.  You will remember Trump’s series of tweets on March 4th beginning with “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”  Since then, there have been numerous, pathetic attempts to explain or justify Trump’s comments, including last week when Kellyanne Conway indicated that Trump did not necessarily mean his phones were wiretapped, but that there are many ways in which his conversations might have been monitored, including cameras inside microwave ovens.  We all had a laugh or two over that one.

But, nobody is laughing over Sean Spicer saying that he had confirmation that President Obama had used the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to spy on Trump so there would be “no American fingerprints on this”.  This statement is a lie, but where did Spicer get his faux information?  Take a wild guess.  He got it from Fox News ‘analyst’ Andrew Napolitano!  The Trump administration, considering mainstream media to be ‘the enemy of the people’, prefer to get their news from one of the lead purveyors of fake news.  Further, there was obviously no attempt to verify or confirm the truth in the statement before replaying it in front of millions of television viewers!

Understandably, the government of the UK was not happy.  Although Trump & Co. claim that they have made amends with UK officials, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former chair of parliament’s intelligence and security committee, said, “That’s just foolish and very dangerous stuff and President Trump better get a grip not only on his own press officer but on the kind of encouragement being given in the White House that makes a press officer make these stupid allegations in the first place. You don’t just quote from a Fox News report if you are the president’s official spokesman unless you have taken the trouble to find out if that report is justified.” It would seem to me that no less than a public apology by Donald Trump himself is in order.

us-ukTim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, described Spicer’s repetition of the claims as “shameful” and said Trump was “compromising the vital UK-US security relationship to try to cover his own embarrassment”. When Trump made his infamous tweets on March 4th, he did so without any evidence, without justification, and most would agree simply with the intent to draw public scrutiny away from the numerous allegations of improper contact between his staff and the Russian government.  Ever since, he and his minions have been scrambling to try to justify his statements, to no avail, and in spite of the fact that his claims have been rejected by the Obama administration’s intelligence chief, James Clapper, and by leading Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

This latest, jeopardizing relations with one of our staunchest allies in order to attempt to cover the president’s butt, is beyond ridiculous, completely unacceptable, and endangers a valuable alliance.

merkel-trump-2The second incident came during what has been described as an ‘awkward meeting’ this morning between Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  During a photo op, as photographers called for the two to shake hands, and Angela Merkel appeared prepared to do so, Trump looked away from Ms. Merkel and kept his hands together between his legs, actually appearing to ignore the Chancellor.  Angela Merkel can be heard saying, “Do you want to have a handshake?”  A small incident, to be sure, but it is just these small things that can blow out of proportion into international incidents.  I watched the video clip  and I definitely perceived a snub on Trump’s part.  One of Trump’s favourite words seems to be “shameful” … well, to turn his word back on him, this was a shameful display of rudeness and arrogance that Chancellor Merkel will likely remember in the future.

And lastly, a less serious, almost humorous incident pertaining to today’s holiday, St. Patrick’s Day.  This one began with Mike Pence hosting Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny at his residence for breakfast and beginning the visit by saying “Top of the day”.  Now, I had no idea either, but apparently the Irish don’t actually say that.  Who knew?  One Irish journalist tweeted, “Literally just shouted ‘NOBODY SAYS THAT’ at the TV. I’ve literally only ever heard that said by Americans.”  Okay, bad start but wait … there’s more …

shamrockPM Kenny was in Washington for a series of events celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.  The agenda included the breakfast with Pence, lunch at the U.S. Capitol, a one-on-one meeting with President Trump and a long-standing annual ceremony in which the U.S. president is presented with a bowl of shamrocks. Last week, a petition garnered some 40,000 signatures protesting the shamrock presentation and requesting Kenny to cancel the trip altogether.  The title of the petition was “Shamrock for Trump: Not in my name”.

At the luncheon, Trump committed the next faux pas when he said

“As we stand together with our Irish friends, I’m reminded of an Irish proverb — and this is a good one, this is one I like, I’ve heard it for many, many years and I love it.  “Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue, but never forget to remember those that have stuck by you.”

Apparently that is not an Irish proverb.  A couple of comments included:

“Have literally never heard this in my entire life.”

“With all due respect to the president’s reputation for scrupulously checking his sources, I don’t think this is an Irish proverb.”

“Trump’s Irish poet, Albashir Adam Alhassan, is Nigerian. Also, a proverb is not a poem.”

Turns out, Trump’s quote was a line from a poem written by Nigerian poet Albashir Adam Alhassan.

Not to be left out, House Speaker Paul Ryan decided he, too, should make a brilliant statement:

“Americans, especially American Irish, are always trying to endear ourselves to the Irish. Think about it. We went from a president who plays a lot of golf to a president who owns a lot of golf courses. That is about the closest thing you can get to royalty in Ireland.”

And again, in response we heard: “Paul Ryan: thinks golf was invented in Ireland, thinks mentioning Ireland and royalty is a good idea. Nobody likes him.”

despicable

Back in the 1940s, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt found British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to be rather a pompous ass, however he understood the value of international cooperation, especially during wartime, and he put up with much from Churchill that no doubt left a sour taste in his mouth.  Every president since then has worked toward maintaining and improving cordial relationships with our allies.  Part of this includes fact-checking, having staff who are intelligent and can gather pertinent information about such things as Irish proverbs and sayings, and it includes treating visiting dignitaries as if they were a long-lost friend that you are excited to see, whether you are or not. Although all presidents have probably made some cultural ‘misspeaks’, other administrations have taken the time and trouble to prepare for foreign visitors, to do their homework and understand a bit about the history and cultural climate of their visitor. All of this has a name:  diplomacy.  Diplomacy requires that you put your own self-absorption aside.  This administration seems incapable of doing that.  While none of the incidents I related above are likely to cause a war, they are putting chinks in the armour, they may be trivial, but particularly the first two are signs of how little regard this administration has for its allies, and it will be remembered for a long time.

I initially thought to conclude by saying that Spicer and Kellyanne need to go, their employment terminated, before they cause irreparable harm.  Then I realized two things:  first, they are but the tip of the iceberg, an iceberg comprised of uneducated, ill-informed, bigoted, uncaring fools.  The second thing I came to realize, or perhaps knew all along, is that the crux of the problem lies with the head of the tribe, Trump himself.  He is the one who must go.  He is not a president, he is an actor pretending and doing a horrible job of it.  With tensions mounting in North Korea, we need an intelligent, calm, well-spoken leader at the helm, not a buffoon.

I hang my head in shame at the administration’s treatment of our friends and allies, and am shamed yet again to realize that this man and his minions represent every man, woman and child in this nation.  America has truly earned the title “Laughingstock of the World”.

A Waste Of MY Money?????

Grrrrrrrrr …. If I choose to ‘waste’ my money on such frivolities as making the air breathable and the water drinkable for those who come after me,  is not it my right to do so???  Not according to John Michael “Mick” Mulvaney, who said “we consider that to be a waste of your money.” Hey Mick!  The keyword here is ‘your’ … it is MY money and personally I think that leaving the world a place where people are able to breathe is a fairly worthy cause!!!  Actually, I think it is a much more worthy cause than your paycheck! I think it is a much more worthy cause than buying more fighter jets to use in killing people.  I think it is more worthy than giving those people who already have millions … nay, billions … of dollars a means for evading their civic responsibility of helping the poor! And I damn sure think it is more worthy than supporting your air-headed boss as he flits down to his ‘estate’ in Florida every weekend.

This, folks, is where we need to step in and write to our senators and representatives in Congress and tell them that no, we do not see science research and controlling our environment as a ‘waste’ of money.  I tried to be generous and give da trumpeter and his minions a chance.  Okay, so I didn’t try all that hard, but still, I tried.  This, however, is the final straw.  When one man comes out and says that he and his ugly, ugly boss have decided how MY money should be spent, we have a problem.

As far as I am concerned, there is not a single Republican in Congress who deserves to be re-elected next year.  They have supported terrible choices for Secretary of Education, EPA Director, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Attorney General, to name just a few.  They are seriously considering passing a healthcare bill that will ensure that most of us who do not have sizable bank accounts will die within the next five years.  They have not stood up to a single issue that Donald Trump wants, and not a single one has stood up to Trump and told him that his way is the wrong way.

Now this … this abomination he is calling a budget, would ensure that a decade from now, our children and grandchildren will be walking around with oxygen tanks, as they will not be able to breathe the air in the atmosphere, and this sorry excuse for a Budget Director has the unmitigated gall to tell me it is a waste of MY money to try to head off such an eventuality???  What you need to understand, Mr. Mulvaney, is that we are not all a bunch of bumbling dolts who do not know what is best for us.  At least half of the citizens of this country are rational, thinking beings who have the ability to understand the difference between helping and hurting, who understand what actually makes America great vs. what makes Donald Trump richer!  Do you want to know what would really make America great again?

For starters, doing our part to help combat the threats of our planet becoming unlivable in the future is something that would make America great.  Providing quality education at little or no cost to the next generation and the ones after that would help make America great again.  Taking care of our land and the flora and fauna that inhabit it would help make America great again.  Giving a helping hand to the people who, through no fault of their own, have less than most of us would make America great again.  Keeping our population healthy would help make America great again.  And welcoming to our shores those who are fleeing persecution in their native lands helps make America great again.

Thus far, Mr. Mulvaney, your boss has done nothing … not one single thing … that contributes toward making America great again.  He has attempted to destroy the very things that once DID make this nation great.  Not one thing.

In the past, Mr. Mulvaney, your boss has referred to climate change as a ‘hoax’.  Just last week, Scott Pruitt said he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. Guess what???  It does not matter what Scott Pruitt says he believes … scientists have proof that contradicts Mr. Pruitt’s beliefs. This is redolent of Benoit Loueillet, the French official who was suspended just this week for saying of the Holocaust, “there was no mass murder as has been said.” At least France had the good sense to discipline their idiot … we just keep cheering ours on!

I understand, Mr. Mulvaney, that you espouse Trumpetcare, that you eschew all gun regulations.  A regular bloke ye are, Mr. M … everyone should wear a pistol on their hip, nobody should be able to afford their life-saving medications, and what the heck … because in ten years or less, we won’t be able to breathe the air or drink the water anyway, right?  Might as well have some fun while we can, rather than try to spend a few bucks to try to preserve the planet for our children and their children.  Speaking of which, I understand you have triplets, Mick … so I guess you don’t like your kids very much, if you are willing to doom them to an unlivable, uninhabitable planet, eh Mick?

“We can’t do that anymore. We can’t spend money on programs just because they sound good. Meals on Wheels sounds great. […] I can’t defend that anymore. We cannot defend that anymore. $20 trillion in debt. We’re going to spend money, we’re going to spend a lot of money but we’re not going to spend it on programs that show they deliver the promises we made to people.”

“They’re supposed to help kids who don’t get fed at home get fed so they do better in school. Guess what? There’s no evidence they’re actually doing that. There’s no evidence they’re helping results, helping kids do better in school, which is what — when we took your money from you to say, we’re going to spend them on after-school program, we justified it by saying these kids will do better in school and get jobs. We have no proof that’s helping.”

In closing, let me just say this, Mr. Mulvaney.  Nether you nor your boss have the first clue what the U.S. taxpayer/citizen/voter wants our government to spend OUR hard-earned money on.  So let me tell you … we want to help people, plain and simple.  We do not want to have the most sophisticated weapons and be prepared to go to war at the drop of a hat.  We want our elderly, our sick, and our disabled to be taken care of.  We want to welcome people of different cultures into our country to enrich our lives and show us how to be a more diverse nation.  And we want you, your boss, and all your co-minions to go back into the rabbit holes from whence you emerged and let us hire some employees who will work hard to really and truly make America even greater than it already was prior to January 20th!