The Curious Incident of Prez and Prince

“President Trump’s response to the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a betrayal of long-established American values of respect for human rights and the expectation of trust and honesty in our strategic relationships. He is placing personal relationships and commercial interests above American interests in his desire to continue to do business as usual with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

The Central Intelligence Agency has thoroughly investigated the murder of this innocent journalist and concluded with high confidence that it was directed by the Crown Prince. If there is reason to doubt the findings of the CIA, President Trump should immediately make that evidence public.

President Trump is correct in saying the world is a very dangerous place. His surrender to this state-ordered murder will only make it more so. An innocent man, brutally slain, deserves better, as does the cause of truth and justice and human rights.

In this failure of leadership from President Trump, it now falls to Congress to stand up for America’s true values and lasting interests.” – Washington Post Publisher and CEO Fred Ryan’s response to President Donald Trump’s statement regarding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi

Two days ago, Trump threw the people of the United States of America under the bus.  He plainly and in no uncertain terms stated that human rights take a backseat to profit (his), and that our allies are less important than Trump’s personal enrichment.  The world is watching, waiting to see what, if anything, our Congress will do to stop the madman at the helm from allying this nation with a murderer.

There is no longer a shred of doubt, but that Mohammed bin Salman ordered the execution of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  The CIA has verified it, and there are recordings of telephone conversations that can leave little doubt in the minds of any but the most ignorant.  So why, then, is Trump determined to support a murdering tyrant over the objections of almost all?  The simple answer is: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

In October, Trump made a statement via Twitter, the only medium of communication he knows, saying …

“For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter). Any suggestion that I have is just more FAKE NEWS (of which there is plenty)!”

He lied.  Again.

In the early 1990s, Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bought Trump’s prized yacht on the cheap from the property developer’s creditors when he was on the cusp of personal bankruptcy. A few years later, one of Trump’s lenders forced him to sell the Plaza Hotel, a New York City landmark also mired in debt, to Alwaleed.  At that time, Trump was trying to dig himself out of $3.4 billion of debt, about $900 million of which he had guaranteed personally (remember how people said he was such a good, shrewd businessman?  I think not.)  When Trump made fun of him on Twitter two years ago, Alwaleed responded by tweeting, “I bailed you out twice; a 3rd time, maybe?”  Interestingly, Alwaleed and a number of other businessmen and political rivals were placed under house arrest late last year, immediately following a visit to Saudi Arabia by none other than Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.  Coincidence?

The Saudi Arabian government bought the entire 45th floor of the Trump World Tower in 2001.  The Trump International Hotel in Washington has been a favorite venue for Saudi diplomats who have spent lavishly there, as well as at other Trump hotels.  No financial interests???  Do we look that stupid?

And now, when there is no doubt at all that Mohammed bin Salman ordered the hit on U.S. permanent resident and Washington Post journalist Khashoggi, Trump says this …

“It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t! We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

“OUR” relationship … think about this, folks … he wakes up one morning and while he’s sitting on the potty (12 Big Macs in a day will do that to you) wondering who or what to tweet about today, decides that all 329 million people in the U.S. will rubber-stamp his horrendous decision to stand by a cruel dictator, a murderer.  Allow me to go on record right here and now as saying that Donald Trump does not represent me.  He does not mirror my values and he does not speak on my behalf.  I will continue to re-iterate this statement, I will send it to Trump himself on a daily basis, I will email it to every member of Congress at least once a week, but I will not … I repeat, I will NOT … stand behind such corruption, such a low-life scumbag as Donald Trump who is willing to put human life far behind his own profit.  Oh … one last thing … Mr. Trump – you owe me a plate and a bowl! Mine accidentally broke when I accidentally threw them against the wall.broken dishes.jpgSeriously, though, it is my fondest hope that everyone … Congress, We The People, our allies and other foreign leaders, and most of all, the press … will reveal Trump’s perfidy for what it is … greed, pure and simple.  Call him out!  Show the world that the U.S. is better than this!  Hold his feet to the fire and force him to put the interests of the U.S., humans, and the world, ahead of his own self-interest.  Do it now, for tomorrow may be too late.

Snarkier Than Usual Snippets — Part II

As promised, I have more snippets deserving of my sardonic wit today …


Lock her (Ivanka) up!!!

ivankaRemember the rallying cries of Trump supporters when they chanted “Lock her up!!!”, with only minimal prompting from Trump?  The ‘her’ was Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent in the 2016 presidential race, and the reason for the chant was that Trump called her use of a private email server for government business when she was Secretary of State, criminal.  Well, he who laughs last, laughs best, and guess what, folks?  Ivanka Trump has just been found to have done that very thing that Hillary, cleared by the FBI, was accused of.

According to The Washington Post

Ivanka Trump sent hundreds of emails last year to White House aides, Cabinet officials and her assistants using a personal account, many of them in violation of federal records rules, according to people familiar with a White House examination of her correspondence.

White House ethics officials learned of Trump’s repeated use of personal email when reviewing emails gathered last fall by five Cabinet agencies to respond to a public records lawsuit. That review revealed that throughout much of 2017, she often discussed or relayed official White House business using a private email account with a domain that she shares with her husband, Jared Kushner.

The discovery alarmed some advisers to President Trump, who feared that his daughter’s practices bore similarities to the personal email use of Hillary Clinton, an issue he made a focus of his 2016 campaign. He attacked his Democratic challenger as untrustworthy and dubbed her “Crooked Hillary” for using a personal email account as secretary of state.

Burn, Baby, Burn … Maybe this will finally get her out of the White House and we won’t have to look at her fat posterior and grotesque fingernails on our screens every day!


Speaking of being respectful …

Adam Schiff is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, a democrat who has served in Congress since 2001.  Remember Trump’s propensity for making up derogatory nicknames for people he doesn’t like, which means anybody who doesn’t bow down to him and lick his dirty boots?  Remember “Lyin’ Ted (Cruz)” and “Crooked Hillary (Clinton)”, “Little Marco (Rubio)”, “Pocahontas (Senator Warren)” and all the others?  Well, Trump doesn’t like Representative Schiff, so he not-so-subtly changed Mr. Schiff’s last name in one of his nefarious tweets …Trump-tweet-SchiffNo, my friends, that was no typo … that was fully intentional and so far beneath what I would expect from any leader of a nation that my jaw actually dropped.  This ‘man’ is a jackass extraordinaire.  For his part, Mr. Schiff responded with humour, saying …

“Wow, Mr. President, that’s a good one. Was that like your answers to Mr. Mueller’s questions, or did you write this one yourself?”

I think that We The People of this nation have a right to expect better from the ‘man’ whose salary we pay and to whom we have entrusted our lives, our country, our futures.  Someway, somehow, this ‘man’ needs to be removed from the Oval Office, for he is not … I repeat, he is not … even a man, let alone a president.  Apologies on behalf of the sane people in this nation to Representative Schiff.


Trump in California …

Donald Trump should be shackled with leg irons to his chair in the Oval Office, for every time he is allowed out, he makes a fool not only of himself, but also of this nation.  After his royal screw-up in France last week, he decided to go to California over the weekend to see how many photo ops he could get in the burned-out town of Paradise.  Trump, you see, was jealous that the media was more interested in the California wild fires that were devastating the state, than in covering his every move.

Trump was not given the royal welcome he had expected, for two reasons.  First, he had made his now-famous tweet on November 10th, saying …

“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

Californians, watching their homes be burned to the ground, frantically trying to find missing loved ones, didn’t take kindly to Trump’s bombast.  And the second reason the red carpet wasn’t rolled out for him is that the good people of California were too busy trying to fight the fires, salvage what they could of their lives, etc.  Anyway, the red carpet was burned up in the Camp Fire.

Trump-California

It just can’t get any uglier

He got his photo op, although it wasn’t what he expected, and at least he didn’t throw rolls of paper towels to the victims – I suppose we should be thankful for that.  But he embarrassed us all once again when he couldn’t resist repeating his prior statement and embellishing on it by saying that Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto told him that his country doesn’t have the same problem with fires because it spends “a lot of time on raking and cleaning” the forest floors.  President Niinisto says he did not say any such thing, and now Finland is having great fun, at Trump’s (and ours) expense.Finn-vacuums-forest

mocking-trump.png

more mocking trumpWell, you get the picture.  But that wasn’t the end of his ignorance.  The town of Paradise was completely destroyed, only Trump couldn’t be bothered to even get the town’s name right …

“I mean, as big as they look on the tube, you don’t see what’s going on until you come here. And what we saw at Pleasure, what a name, right now.”

And just minutes later …

“We just left Pleasure.”

beating head in disgustshaking_head_in_disgust_anim_md_wm


This concludes my two-part miniseries of ‘snarkier than usual snippets’, and presumably explains why I have slipped back into the rabbit hole.  Never in my life have I seen so much chaos, ignorance, corruption and cruelty in this nation.  Thanks to all who voted for the abomination in the Oval Office for ruining our lives, our nation.

Anything To Save The Prince

It is a complex tale of murder and mayhem worthy of John le Carré or Vince Flynn, but no writer of fiction made this one up.  The question is, will the real killer go unpunished?  I doubt there is a thinking person on the globe who doesn’t believe that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the brutal murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi, but the Saudis are doing their level best to insulate the prince from paying the price.

The facts:

Missing Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi with his fiance Hatice Cengiz

Murdered Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi with his fiance Hatice Cengiz

Jamal Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, to obtain documents he needed to get a license to marry his fiancé, Hatice Cengiz.  This was on September 28th, but he was told he would need to return at 1:30 p.m. on the afternoon of October 2nd.  On the morning of the 2nd, embassy staff were instructed not to report for work.  Meanwhile, Saudi officials traveling in two charter planes arrived at the consulate early that morning. Khashoggi entered the consulate after telling his fiancé, who remained outside, to get help if he did not return.  He was never seen again outside the consulate. 

His murder, according to Turkish officials, was brutal, including torture, strangulation, beheading and dismemberment. 

The lies:

The Saudi government has told so many lies that it’s hard to keep up.  At first, the Saudi government said that Khashoggi had left the consulate via a back entrance shortly after arriving.  They claimed the reports of his disappearance were “completely false and baseless”.

On October 20th, the Saudi government changed its story and said that Khashoggi had indeed died inside the consulate, but that it was an accident, simply a fistfight gone bad.  And then, a few days later, they changed the story yet again, still denying any involvement, and said that his murderers had been trying to kidnap him to return him to Saudi Arabia, and that his death had been unintentional, a ‘choke-hold’ gone bad.  They also claimed it was a ‘rogue operation’ that was not sanctioned by the government.

The Turkish government was investigating, but at this point the Saudis opened their own investigation, saying that they had arrested 18 Saudi nationals and terminated 2 Saudi officials as a result of their findings.  Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir described the killing as “murder”, yet still denied that Crown Prince bin Salman was involved.

On October 25th, the Saudi public prosecutor said the evidence pointed to a ‘premeditated’ murder.  Although the Saudi government denies it, bin Salman is on record as having told Trump, in a phone conversation, that he considered Khashoggi to be a ‘dangerous Islamist’.

The speculation:SaudisFour of the men arrested have ties to the crown prince, and another, Maher Mutreb, served as a colonel in Saudi intelligence and was based at the country’s embassy in London.  The group brought a bone saw into the country and one of its members was the head of forensics at the National Intelligence Service and specialized in post-mortems.  This was no fly-by-night operation, but rather one that was relatively well-planned and well-funded, given the 4-day time period.  According to Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, “The necessary equipment and people were previously brought in to kill and later dismember him”.MBSSources both in and outside the Saudi government claim that this ‘hit’ could not have taken place without the knowledge and consent of none other than Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.  Turkish President Erdoğan has said the order to murder Khashoggi came from “the highest levels” of the Saudi government. The former head of MI6, Sir John Sawers, has described Saudi claims that Prince Mohammed was unaware of the murder plot as a “blatant fiction”.  Prince Mohammed’s most influential domestic aide, Saud al-Qahtani, has been forced to leave. Qahtani is accused of being the figure who organized the hit squad. The crown prince’s critics, and even some loyalists inside the kingdom, say it is inconceivable that such an operation could have been ordered without his authority.

The scapegoats:

Yesterday, Saudi Arabia announced it will pursue the death penalty for five suspects charged.  While I have no doubt that these five men were complicit in the murder and deserve harsh punishment, charging them was done in an attempt to draw attention away from the crown prince, away from the head of the government who, it is almost certain, ordered the killing.  These five, and likely more to follow, are scapegoats being sacrificed to save the hide of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

Too many lies were told, the story changed too many times for this to be anything but an order from the highest-ranking official in the government.  Jamal Khashoggi had been critical of both bin Salman and Donald Trump.  And now, though the U.S. has imposed sanctions freezing assets of 17 Saudis said to be involved in Khashoggi’s murder, Donald Trump refuses to even discuss implicating bin Salman.  No mystery there, for both Trump’s and Jared Kushner’s companies do business with the Saudis. 

Conclusion:

Who is more guilty, the men who carried out the execution or the man who ordered it to be done?  While none are without guilt, and I would certainly expect to see everyone who was involved, either directly or indirectly, tried and sentenced to life in prison, I think the greater punishment ought to be for the one who said, “Do it.”  There are, I’m sure, many good people in Saudi Arabia … Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is NOT one of them and in the minds of most, he caused the death of a man whose only crime was honesty.  Nations around the globe are calling for the truth, condemning the Saudi government and most of all, Mohammed bin Salman.  The U.S., meanwhile, is more concerned about the profits of Trump & Co.  Mr. Khashoggi was a permanent resident of the U.S. and employed by one of the most reputable news sources in the country, yet Trump takes a lackadaisical approach, merely shrugging his shoulders. Once again, the U.S. stands alone, not by the choice of the nation, but by the whims of one ‘man’ … and on the wrong side of justice.

Shame On You, Donald Trump …

Once again, I find myself wanting to apologize for our ignorant, crude, ignominious, arrogant, brash, narcissistic so-called ‘president’ after he made a fool of not only himself, but of us all, when he was mistakenly allowed to travel to the EU over the weekend.  To all my friends & family across the pond … please forgive us for sending him, for we knew not what we were doing.

The occasion, for any who may not know, was to honour those who died in World War I on the 100th anniversary of the end of that war.  It was a solemn occasion, a time to set aside differences and come together to remember …

Trump started his trail of terror before even leaving Air Force One, when he tweeted an attempted insult toward Emmanuel Macron, President (in good standing) of France.  But it got worse.  His alleged purpose for traveling to Paris on Friday was to attend ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.  The reality, as is always the case with Trump, was something else altogether, but that was his stated purpose.  But guess what?  It rained.Trump-rain-WWIIt rained.  Trump was afraid of a little bit of water.  I’ve often said I don’t think he bathes regularly, and this proves it!  All the other leaders who had gathered in Paris for the occasion attended …Prince Harry rainAngela Merkel braved the elements, as did Justin Trudeau, Emmanuel Macron, Britain’s Prince Harry, Spain’s King Felipe VI … even Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin found time to attend, despite the rain.  Trump later claimed that the only reason he didn’t attend was that his motorcade would have disrupted roads.  SO WALK, YOU F***ING MORON!!!

General John Kelly and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff General Joe Dunford attended instead – apparently they didn’t need a ‘motorcade’. France WWI Centennial

Representative Don Beyer of Virginia hit the nail on the head:

“Millions died to protect the free world during WWI, and Trump can’t be bothered to honor their memories. Instead, he’s chosen to sit in a hotel and live-tweet Fox News. Just imagine if President Obama sat out a Veterans Day ceremony because of the rain …”

Just imagine, indeed.  But then, President Obama was … well, you know … African-American, and thus his every move was placed under a strong microscope and picked apart like the Christmas turkey.  Trump, on the other hand, is ugly white with layers of fat, acne, and a bad toupee, so he can do no wrong!  (Yeah, I’m pissed – what tipped you off?)

“It’s incredible that a president would travel to France for this significant anniversary — and then remain in his hotel room watching TV rather than pay in person his respects to the Americans who gave their lives in France for the victory gained 100 years ago tomorrow.” – David Frum, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush

Even Winston Churchill’s grandson, British Conservative MP Nicholas Soames, joined in the rebuke, saying, “They died with their face to the foe and that pathetic inadequate @realDonaldTrump couldn’t even defy the weather to pay his respects to The Fallen,” and adding that Trump is “not fit to represent his great country.”

“President@realDonaldTrump a no-show because of raindrops? Those veterans the president didn’t bother to honor fought in the rain, in the mud, in the snow — & many died in trenches for the cause of freedom. Rain didn’t stop them & it shouldn’t have stopped an American president.” – John Kerry, Vietnam War veteran and former Secretary of State

Macron-MerkelHowever, the best rebuke came from none other than French President Emmanuel Macron in this one sentence that is bound to become iconic …

“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism by saying ‘our interests first, who cares about the others’, we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great and what is essential: its moral values.”

Ooooohhhh … good one, Mr. Macron!!!  And then he went on …

“I do defend my country. I do believe that we have a strong identity. But I’m a strong believer in cooperation between the different peoples, and I’m a strong believer of the fact that this cooperation is good for everybody, where the nationalists are sometimes much more based on a unilateral approach and the law of the strongest, which is not my case.”

But at the end of the day, Trump did manage to find time for one world leader … his ol’ buddy …trump-putinPerhaps this, then, was his sole reason for spending millions of taxpayer dollars to travel abroad for the weekend?  Or perhaps it was to seek a relief from the heat of last week’s mid-term elections?  Either way, he once again wasted huge amounts of our money in order to do nothing more than embarrass us.  Shame on you, Donald Trump … Shame on you.

A Dose of Snark …

I haven’t done any ‘Snarky Snippets’ for a week or so, for the elections and the surrounding detritus have taken up a large portion of my time and energies.  But today, I am settling back in and had a few things to say about this ‘n that.


fires-2California is currently suffering three major wildfires, one of which, the Camp Fire, is now the most destructive recorded in state history. The blaze destroyed the entire town of Paradise, north of Sacramento, and has killed at least nine people. About three dozen more remain missing.

Donald Trump had nary a word to say about the fires until 3:00 a.m. yesterday morning, when he tweeted …trump-tweet-fires.pngWhat a guy, eh?  So caring, kind and compassionate for the people who have lost loved ones, lost their homes and businesses …  But, setting aside his typical inhumanity for the moment, with his words he has, once again, shown his ignorance.  He did not bother to do his homework, to attempt to learn something about the situation before spouting off at the thumbs.fires-1Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has acknowledged that a downed power line is most likely the cause of the Camp Fire, although no official cause has yet been announced.  High winds are the major factor in the rapid spread of the other two fires, and overall, a lack of rainfall contributed to all three.fires-3I’m sure the people of California, not to mention the firefighters who are risking their lives to try to save lives and property, must be heartened by and appreciative of Trump’s words … not!  Think before you tweet should become his new mantra and somebody in his administration should plaster it over all the walls in his office and living quarters!


Either Trump’s handlers have not learned their lesson, or they are not up for the job and we need to hire new handlers, aka babysitters.  I would have thought that by now they would have learned not to let the man leave the country.  He does not play well with others. He does enough damage here at home, but every single time he has traveled abroad, he has further damaged our relations with our allies.  Friday was no exception.Trump-MacronTrump arrived in France Friday to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I and meet with world leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron. Moments after landing, Trump tweeted an attack on Macron …trump-tweet-macron.png

Given the level of venom Trump has directed toward European leaders in the past, who can blame members of the EU for feeling a need for protection, even against the U.S.?  Yet another case where “think before you tweet” might have been sound advice.


Remember a week or so ago, right before the mid-term elections, when Trump was so scared of his party losing their majority in the House that he was grasping at straws, trying to inject a new level of fear in voters in hopes of winning their votes?  And remember how, as a part of all that, he sent U.S. troops to the southern border, claiming that the caravan of migrants that was, at that time, some 1,000 miles away, was just filled with ruffians, criminals and even … gasp … Middle-Eastern terrorists!!!  And the whole thing, he claimed, was funded by George Soros and his band of merry democrats!

Well, everything was a huge lie, except that he did send troops to the border.  No reason, really, but he couldn’t very well claim there was an impending “invasion” without looking tough by sending troops, now could he?  Besides which, the ‘man’ has been dying to play with his new toys (the military) for nigh on two years now, and here was the perfect trumped-up (pun intended) excuse!

playing cardsOnly thing is … while there is a migrant caravan, it is not anything but poor, starving migrants fleeing the violence in their own country, trying to protect their innocent children.  And they won’t even arrive at our southern border until sometime in December.  So … what’s going on now with the nearly 6,000 men and women who were ordered to go down there and quell the “invasion”?  Gin rummy.  Poker.  Sitting ‘round a campfire telling dirty jokes.  No electricity.  Won’t be home for Thanksgiving.

Pentagon officials privately derided the deployment as an expensive waste of time and resources, and a morale killer to boot.  ‘Privately’ … I guess they are all afraid to do their jobs and advise their commander of the realities.  But the other thing is … guess who’s paying for all this and guess how much it’s costing?  Yes, my friends, you and I are paying for it, even though we neither need nor want it.  As to the cost … a final cost estimate of the deployment has not been made available. But Defense Department budget officials say that if the number of troops sent to the border does reach the 15,000 Trump has threatened, the price tag could hit $200 million, with no specific budget allocation from which to draw.  Remember those “tax cuts” that only benefited the wealthy 1%?  Do the math.


So concludes today’s batch of snarky snippets … but I still have more in me, so … stay tuned!

Saturday Surprise — Going Places!

Okay, friends … twice this week I have robbed you of the fun stuff, Jolly Monday and Good People Wednesday, so I am determined to provide a bit of fun today in hopes of making up for it.  We haven’t done any traveling for a while, so I went in search of really odd things we could go visit.  Are you up for a bit of an excursion?  Be sure to bring your coats, hats ‘n mittens, for at this time of year you never know what sort of weather we might run up against.  So, hop aboard the Filomobile and let’s head for our first destination …


First stop … the Netherlands!  Maybe we can pop in and visit my friend Choosing while we’re here!  But first, a housing community comprised completely of ball-shaped houses. ball-houses-1Bolwoningen (“ball homes” or “bulb homes”) is but one of the country’s housing experiments. The giant orbs stand in stark contrast to the conventional abodes located right across the street.

Artist Dries Kreijkamp was the mastermind behind the project, which was completed in 1984. Kreijkamp, who died in 2014, said he drew inspiration from clay huts in Africa and Inuit igloos. His logic behind the design is that round shapes are the most seminal and natural forms for living.ball-houses-3But to humans accustomed to living within more standard houses, dwelling within a concrete globe can feel unnatural. The buildings are best suited for single people or childless couples, as space inside is tight (592 square feet/55 square meters). The lowest level includes storage and central heating installations. A spiral staircase leads to a bedroom. Keep climbing the stairs, and you’ll then arrive at the level housing the toilet and shower. The highest part features a tiny living room and kitchen area.ball-houses-2Though interest in and funding for additional ball houses dwindled, this settlement is still going strong. People still live in Bolwoningen, and tourists have been known to wander by to gawk and gape at their unusual homes.

I’m thinking … no corners to clean!!!  Then again … the square/rectangular furniture might not fit so well, either.


Since we’re so close, let’s travel over to Derbyshire, England, where there is a giant snail sculpture I was hoping to check out …snail-1This magnificent example of public art is based at a location which was, from the 1990s until the early 21 century, a derelict industrial factory site between the Chesterfield railway station and the River Rother.  The derelict factory was demolished and replaced with a housing development. This spiral sculpture is a result of the Chesterfield Borough Council’s planning policy, which encourages all large developments to include up to one percent of the total investment for public art.snail-2Liz Lemon, the sculptor behind the artwork, used the land as inspiration, as the area is known for both Goniatite and gastropod fossils. She also paid homage to the land’s industrial past. Because the factory that formerly stood at the site built turbines for many of the world’s large hydroelectric dams, Lemon designed the sculpture in metal with a high precision finish to reflect the former factory’s dedication to high-quality engineering. Manthorpe Engineering completed the construction.snail-3The resulting sculpture is about 25 feet high. The spiral form was created from many sections of stainless steel sheets that vary in thickness, and the way it fits together is evocative of the types of pipework construction used in the hydropower plants that the former factory worked on. The artwork has five rows of “portholes” of reducing size all the way around the spiral. The internal cavity houses blue and green fiber optic lights that are switched on at night.

Pretty cool, yes?


You guys know I love Japan, right?  You didn’t know?  Well, you’re right … I’ve never been there except on virtual tours like this one, but from what I have seen, I think I love Japan.  And so, when we were invited to stop by Tokyo for a visit to a little bar in Kichijoji that boasts an elaborately decorated interior made up of skulls, skeletons, and even agony-filled faces of the damned adorning the walls, well, how could I resist?Tokyo-bar-4The name of the bar is Yurei Izakaya, named for ghosts known as yurei, and its decor, menu, and staff blend Japanese folklore with plenty of haunted house kitsch. The food and drinks are made to look like bloody eyeballs, impaled bodies, and various yokai (mythological monsters). Most reviewers rate their meals—which are standard izakaya fare—as average, so don’t be expecting 5-star dining – it’s all about the atmosphere!

The highlight of visiting Yurei is the “wasabi roulette” in which the guests eat an order of dumplings or kushikatsu and whoever gets the one filled with wasabi “dies.” The unlucky soul is then dressed in a white kimono and laid in a coffin in the middle of the bar. The waiter then chants a traditional Buddhist prayer, thus completing the mock funeral.  Isn’t this fun???


Back across the pond we go and let’s travel south to Argentina!Sarmiento-houseThis house was the former home of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, Argentina’s seventh president. He was also the author of one of the country’s most important pieces of literature, Facundo, which is not only a testament to his political views, but also a reflection of Argentina’s history.Sarmiento-house-2Sarmiento also carried out some ambitious policies regarding education and had a tremendous influence on Argentina’s school systems. He trained new teachers and built new buildings for public schools. He successfully passed a sanction that guaranteed schools would be free and separate from religious teachings and opened various free libraries.Sarmiento-house-3Sarmiento lived with his family in this house after his tenure as president (1868-1874),  until he died in 1888. He chose a quiet abode in Tigre, a city within the delta around the La Plata River. Trees he planted still stand around the property, and the house still holds some of its original furniture. The building, which became a National Historic Monument in 1966 is encased in glass to protect it from the elements and now functions as a museum.


And now, folks, it’s time for us to head back home, for it is Saturday morning and I know we all have plenty to do, what with less than two weeks ‘til Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and just over six weeks ‘til Christmas.  I have mentioned postponing Christmas to my girls, but they weren’t amenable to the idea, especially when I said I wanted to postpone it until next December – 2019.  Sigh.  I’m lacking spirit this year.  Anyway, have a wonderful weekend, whatever you do!weekend

A Kinder, Gentler Time …

It was a kinder, gentler time in the United States.  It was a time when we had a president who valued human life, who placed human life above profit.  The year was 2012, and on Independence Day, July 4th, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former HuffPost editor Jose Antonio Vargas wrote an OpEd titled What Does It Mean To Be An American?  A lot can change … a lot has changed … in six years.

Jose Antonio VargasWhat Does It Mean To Be An American?

As we celebrate America’s Independence Day — as we explore what it means to be American on the most American of all days — I also celebrate my independence from the word “illegal.”

Today’s Fourth of July holiday, our country’s birthday, marks a new beginning for undocumented Americans like me.Time-mag-2012Last month, TIME magazine featured an unprecedented photograph of 36 undocumented young people, myself included, on the cover of its U.S. and international editions. “We are Americans,” the headline declared. “Just not legally.” Shortly after, President Obama, in the most significant step in the fight for immigrant rights since President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986, issued a directive to stop the deportation of an estimated 1 million DREAM Act-eligible undocumented youth and welcome them to our workforce. America, in turn, embraced 1 million dreams. And in last week’s Supreme Court decision on Arizona’s immigration law, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion for the highest court in the land: “As a general rule, it is not a crime for a movable alien to remain in the United States.”

As we celebrate America’s Independence Day — as we explore what it means to be American on the most American of all days — I also celebrate my independence from the word “illegal.”

Academics and lawyers will be quick to point out that I, in fact, was never a “criminal.” Being in the U.S. without authorization is not a crime, but rather a civil offense for the country’s estimated 12 million undocumented residents. Yet for too long, the rhetoric around immigration has been shrouded in and synonymous with criminality. As a cable news producer on Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” tells a colleague in the show’s most recent episode, we’ve grown accustomed to talking about human beings as if “we’re talking about scraping gum off our shoes.”

“These people chose to take a huge risk to become Americans,” the producer notes, “and they deserve a better descriptor than ‘illegals.’”

To me, what it means to be an American goes beyond your place of birth or the documents you have, back to when throngs of Irish, Italian and Eastern Europeans crossed the Atlantic Ocean in search of a better life, no papers asked. What it means to be an American is less about who you are than what you are about— how you live your life, how you contribute to this country, how you pledge allegiance to a flag hoping and praying it will make room for you. What it means to be an American is in the hearts of the people who, in their struggles and heartaches, in their joys and triumphs, fight for America and fight to be American every day.

A few weeks after I “came out” in June 2011 about my undocumented status in an essay in the New York Times Magazine, Washington state revoked my driver’s license. Among the first people to reach out to me was Aaron Sorkin. I’ve interviewed Sorkin before. He told me he was working on a new show about a cable news program, and that the second episode is set on the day Gov. Jan Brewer signed the Arizona immigration bill into law. He asked for my thoughts on immigration. In an email later, I told him about the first time I watched one of his films. It was 1997, not too long after I discovered that I didn’t have the proper documents to live in America. I was watching “The American President,” a movie starring Michael Douglas, and toward the end of the film, Douglas, as the president, says: “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ‘cause it’s gonna put up a fight.” I was 16, lost and disoriented, and I told Sorkin that hearing those words helped me realize that I had to fight — that America was a fight and that America had to be earned.

Undocumented Americans, aspiring citizens like me, have been fighting and will continue to fight for this country we call home. And, as more and more undocumented Americans and the people who support us — the Good Samaritans in our lives, the teachers, pastors, neighbors and friends who make up our underground railroad — “come out” and tell our stories, America’s view of immigration and the nature of citizenship itself grows increasingly more complex and nuanced. It becomes about human beings.

Together with a small group of friends, I founded a campaign called Define American, which seeks to elevate conversation on immigration. And elevating and broadening the conversation means engaging different types of audiences from all walks of life. After appearing on “The O’Reilly Factor” last month, I received an email from Dennis Murphy of Omaha, Nebraska. The email reads:

“Mr. Vargas:

As founder and former state chairman of the Nebraska Minutemen, now merged with the Nebraska Tea Party, I was positively impressed by your interview with Bill O’Reilly. If I understand your situation correctly, you [were] brought into the United States by your parents when you were a young child, and they chose for whatever reason to do so in a fashion that avoided our immigration law. You now refer to yourself in your blog as “an undocumented American,” which I believe is a fair and accurate assessment.”

Thank you, Mr. Murphy, for considering me one of your fellow Americans. Let’s keep the conversation going. Let’s keep exploring what it means to be an American.

Yes, folks, it was a kinder, gentler time.  No, it wasn’t perfect … not even close.  But then, life isn’t perfect, people aren’t perfect.  Still, it was kinder and gentler … we cared more, hated less.  I miss that time.

sad-turltle

Think Your Vote Isn’t Important?

Well, here we are … the big day has finally arrived after months of divisive rhetoric, dirty tricks to keep voters from the polls, and demoralizing speech by certain corrupt elements in our government.  This has been the ugliest, nastiest election season I have seen in my 67 years. Today is the day those who haven’t already voted will head to the polls.  Well, most will.  Some will.  Others, it seems, have a thousand and one excuses for not voting, the top one seeming to be “my vote doesn’t really matter”, followed by “I don’t have time”.  Think it’s not important that you vote?  Let’s look at somebody who thought it was …

She felt violated, she felt abused, not by a single perpetrator but by the government that was supposed to protect her.Fannie-Lou-HamerHer name was Fannie Lou Hamer. She was born on October 6, 1917. Her parents were sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta area. As a child, she often went hungry and without shoes. In the winter, she tied rags on her feet to keep her feet warm. She began working the fields when she was only 6 years old.

Later she realized she was not considered “a first class citizen” because she was poor, because she was black, because she was a woman.

In 1961, she went to a hospital to remove a tumor. She would be given a hysterectomy without her consent by a white doctor who was following the state plan to reduce the number of poor blacks in the state. Fannie Lou Hamer became another victim of the involuntary or uninformed sterilization of black women, common in the South in the 1960s. They were commonly called “Mississippi appendectomies” because women would be told they needed to get their appendix out, but instead they would be sterilized.”

“In the North Sunflower County Hospital,” Hamer would say, “I would say about six out of the 10 Negro women that go to the hospital are sterilized with the tubes tied.”

The government-funded program started in the 1930s targeting people in “institutions for mental illness” then slowly targeting “the blind, the deaf, the disabled, alcoholics, those with epilepsy, and ultimately the rural poor on welfare.”

This was the turning point in Fannie Lou Hamer’s life.

She would say, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

She decided at that point that she would fight for human rights, human dignity, and she would never give in, to anyone.

She soon realized that the only way to improve her life and the life of other poor blacks was to register to vote. If she was prevented to register or saw others who were prevented to vote, she would speak out and protest, if necessary.

She became relentless. She would be fired from her job, driven from the plantation she had called home for nearly two decades, she would be threatened, arrested, beaten, and shot at, leading to one arrest where she would be beaten nearly to death, suffering permanent kidney damage.

When she was stopped by police, she would start singing “This Little Light of Mine” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”

She would say, “I guess if I’d had any sense, I’d have been a little scared — but what was the point of being scared? The only thing they could do was kill me, and it kinda seemed like they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time since I could remember.”

Fannie Lou Hamer would become a tireless champion for racial equality, working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), fighting racial segregation and injustice in the South. She also helped to found the National Women’s Political Caucus. She was instrumental in organizing Mississippi’s Freedom Summer for the SNCC, and she later became the vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which she represented at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

At the Democratic National Convention, Hamer would be seen making her way through a group of old, white men to tell the world her story. At times, she fought back tears, such as recounting the time she was beaten in a Mississippi jail. She would add, “I was in jail when Medgar Evers was murdered.”

She would ask, “Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?”

At the convention, rumors circulated that one of the toughest men in America, President Lyndon B. Johnson, was terrified of Hamer, her courage, and her voice.

Hamer would say, “We got to fight in America . . . for ALL the people.”

Still think it isn’t important, that your vote doesn’t count, or that you just can’t find time?  Do us all a favour and … think again.

**Note:  The header photo is John Lewis, Civil Rights leader and member of the U.S. House of Representatives serving Georgia’s 5th district, during the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965 in the struggle for voting rights.

Remembering …

Good Monday Morning, friends.  Jolly Monday will return in its usual format next week, but for today, without apology, I am doing something a bit different.  I came across something that I felt was a timely reminder and important for us all to read, to think about, to remember.  This came from a Facebook page I follow, the Jon S. Randal Peace Page.Peace Page

In 2005, a foreign army made its way toward the southern border of the United States.

As the convoy and troops passed Mexican villages on its way to the U.S., people in the villages cheered, waved, honked car horns and rang bells to support the mission of their troops.Mexican armyThe Mexican army, its trucks emblazoned with large Mexican flags, crossed the border at Laredo at dawn and advanced up Interstate 35, arriving in San Antonio later that day. The Mexican Navy would also send ships, buses and helicopters. It was the first Mexican military operation on U.S. soil in 90 years.

Mexico had sent its people to help and feed their neighbors – tens of thousands of homeless and hungry Americans displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

To backtrack, in August 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. It would be one of the worst disasters in U.S. history, and it became obvious very early on that U.S. aid agencies and relief/support was overwhelmed. People in Mexico were horrified to see scenes of floating corpses and botched relief efforts.

Mexican President Vicente Fox would send his condolences to President George W. Bush, saying, “In the name of the people and of the government of Mexico, I assure you of my deepest and most sincere condolences for the devastating effects caused by Hurricane Katrina”. He would also instruct the Secretary of Foreign Affairs its neighbor to the North would be provided with any kind of help that was needed.

“This is just an act of solidarity between two peoples who are brothers,” said Fox’s spokesman, Ruben Aguilar.

The Mexican government, with support from its citizens, would send a 45-vehicle convoy, which included two mobile kitchens, three flatbed trucks carrying mobile water-treatment plants and 15 trailers of bottled water, blankets and applesauce, according to CBS News.

The 195 Mexicans taking part included military specialists, doctors, nurses and engineers.katrina-mex-2According to the Washington Post, the Mexican soldiers set up camp at a former Air Force base outside San Antonio, where they distributed potable water, medical supplies and 7,000 hot meals a day for the next three weeks.

The Mexican army even brought beef to serve their neighbors, but the USDA blocked the distribution. Undeterred, the Mexicans bought their beef locally.

According to former diplomat Stephen R. Kelly, by the time the Mexican army completed their mission, the Mexicans had served 170,000 meals, helped distribute more than 184,000 tons of supplies and conducted more than 500 medical consultations at a time when the United States was struggling to provide aid to its own citizens in devastated areas.katrina-mex.jpgMexican sailors also assisted with clearing downed branches and other storm debris in Biloxi, Mississippi, where they posed for photos with President George W. Bush, who thanked them for their help.

Kelly, who was a former U.S. diplomat who served in Mexico from 2004 to 2006, would say, “this doesn’t sound like the Mexico you’ve been hearing about lately — the one that has been ripping America off, the one that sends rapists and criminals across the border . . . it was an extraordinary gesture” of humanity from our Southern neighbor.

And We Thought Trump Was Horrible?

On Sunday, October 7th, Brazilians elected a new president, Jair Bolsonaro.  Until this man was elected, I thought that the U.S. was alone in having lost its collective mind, as evidenced by the election of Donald Trump.  Bolsonaro is every abominable thing Trump is … and much more.  I have to question the sanity of the 55% of Brazilians who voted for this demagogue.  But then, I have long questioned the sanity of those in the U.S. who voted for Donald Trump, also.  Oh, and guess who worked on Bolsonaro’s campaign?  None other than Trump’s former campaign advisor, Steve Bannon!!!Bolsonaro-TrumpFirst let’s look at some similarities …

  • Opposes most all forms of gun control
  • Strongly opposed to same-sex marriage
  • Opposes environmental regulations
  • Opposes women’s right of choice
  • Opposes affirmative action
  • Opposes land reforms
  • Opposes secularism
  • Plans to pull out of Paris climate accord
  • Plans to move Brazil’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem
  • Is on his third marriage (yes, it’s irrelevant, but still says something, I think)

But then there are those ideas and rhetoric that take him beyond even what Trump dares to say …

He has made statements in defense of the former Brazilian military regime (a dictatorship known for constant human rights violations). He claims that torture is a “legitimate practice” and says that he would try to pass new legislation regarding the introduction of life imprisonment to the Brazilian penal code.

Bolsonaro said that “the error of the dictatorship was that it tortured but did not kill”.

Brazil has the world’s largest tropical rainforest in the Amazon basin. Bolsonaro has chafed at foreign pressure to safeguard the rainforest, and he served notice to international nonprofit groups such as the World Wildlife Fund that he will not tolerate their agendas in Brazil. He has also come out strongly against lands reserved for indigenous tribes. Bolsonaro advisers additionally say that he plans to expand nuclear and hydroelectric power into the Amazon.

In a 2017 speech, Bolsonaro stated, “God above everything. There is no such thing as this secular state. The state is Christian, and the minority will have to change, if they can.”

Bolsonaro argued that men and women should not receive the same salaries, because women get pregnant; adding that he believes federal law mandating paid maternity leave harms work productivity.  Bolsonaro said that he had five children, that the first four were male and that for the fifth he produced a daughter out of “a moment of weakness”.

Bolsonaro said that “I would be incapable of loving a gay son,” and added that he would prefer any gay son of his “to die in an accident…”  Seriously???  Wow, what a dad, huh?  He went on to say that if a gay couple moved in next door to him, it would lower the market value of his house. Bolsonaro linked homosexuality to pedophilia, claiming that “many of the children who are adopted by gay couples will be abused by these couples.”  I have to ask … what rock did this pos slither out from under???  “If I see two men kissing in the street, I will beat them.” He then publicly defended beating gay children by saying: “If your child starts to become like that, a little gay, you take a whip and you change their behavior.”

On October 4, 2018, Bolsonaro said: “A father does not want to come home and see his son playing with a doll by the influence of school. Homosexuals will be happy if I become president”

trump-jr-eduardo-bolsonaro

Don Trump, Jr. (center) with Eduardo Bolsonaro (second from left)

Trump and Bolsonaro both indicate they plan to work together to improve relations between the U.S. and Brazil, and their sons have already met.  Eduardo Bolsonaro, Bolsonaro’s eldest son, met with Don Trump Jr. in Las Vegas. “They went to a shooting range together—not a major meeting but they got to know each other a bit,” according to a member of Bolsonaro’s party.  Following Bolsonaro’s victory, Trump tweeted …

“Had a very good conversation with the newly elected President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who won the race by a substantial margin. We agreed that Brazil and the United States will work closely together on Trade, Military and everything else!”

Bolsonaro-2Bolsonaro’s election is another feather in the cap of the populist movement.  He won by tapping into a deep well of resentment at the status quo in Brazil — a country whiplashed by rising crime and two years of political and economic turmoil — and by presenting himself as the alternative.  Unlike Donald Trump in 2016, Bolsonaro actually won the popular vote by 55%, but one thing they both said that is striking is that “I alone can fix this”.  And they have in common their loudness, their crassness, their utter contempt for such things as respect, common courtesy and quiet dignity.  They are both loud, ‘in your face’ sorts.  Both countries have a large women’s protest movement … in the U.S. it is “Never Trump” and in Brazil it is “Ele Nao” (Not Him).

Like Trump, Bolsonaro has been a divisive figure in Brazil and those who love him seem to do so mainly for his tough talk.  Having seen what nearly two years of Trump has wrought upon this nation, I can only empathize with the people of Brazil.  Is this, then, the face of things to come, the type of ‘leader’ that people around the world will choose in the future?  Let us hope not.