The True Cost of Trumpism

I was reading a column by Max Boot in The Washington Post a day or two ago about Trump’s decisions regarding the Middle East, and the damage he is causing to our alliances, when one sentence jumped out at me:

“It’s dangerous to have a president who truly does not know what he is talking about.”

We can sugar-coat issues and say that Trump is merely playing to his base, which is partly true, but the bottom line is that Mr. Boot is right … Trump does not know what he’s talking about and it is dangerous … very dangerous.

Freedom House is a U.S.-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights.  The organization’s annual Freedom in the World report, which assesses each country’s degree of political freedoms and civil liberties, is frequently cited by political scientists, journalists, and policymakers.  The latest annual report was released on Tuesday, February 5th, and I think it’s important that we think about what it says.  The report is too long for me to replicate here, but I would urge you to read some of it, at least the section on the U.S. — The Struggle Comes Home:  Attacks on Democracy in the United States.  Meanwhile, I have included some of the most relevant points.  All highlighting is my own.

Freedom report

At the midpoint of his term, however, there remains little question that President Trump exerts an influence on American politics that is straining our core values and testing the stability of our constitutional system. No president in living memory has shown less respect for its tenets, norms, and principles. Trump has assailed essential institutions and traditions including the separation of powers, a free press, an independent judiciary, the impartial delivery of justice, safeguards against corruption, and most disturbingly, the legitimacy of elections.

So far, America’s institutions have largely honored this deeply democratic sentiment. The resilience of the judiciary, the press corps, an energetic civil society, the political opposition, and other guardrails of the constitutional system—as well as some conscientious lawmakers and officeholders from the president’s own party—have checked the chief executive’s worst impulses and mitigated the effects of his administration’s approach.

But the fact that the system has proven durable so far is no guarantee that it will continue to do so. Elsewhere in the world, in places like Hungary, Venezuela, or Turkey, Freedom House has watched as democratic institutions gradually succumbed to sustained pressure from an antidemocratic leadership, often after a halting start. Irresponsible rhetoric can be a first step toward real restrictions on freedom. The United States has already been weakened by declines in the rule of law, the conduct of elections, and safeguards against corruption. The current overall US score puts American democracy closer to struggling counterparts like Croatia than to traditional peers such as Germany or the United Kingdom.US_Democracy_Scoreboard_Resized_FIW2019.jpgWhile not without problems, the United States has enjoyed a strong tradition of respect for the rule of law. President Trump has repeatedly shown disdain for this tradition. Late in 2018, after a federal judge blocked the administration’s plan to consider asylum claims only from those who cross the border at official ports of entry, the president said, “This was an Obama judge. And I’ll tell you what, it’s not going to happen like this anymore.”

As a candidate in 2016, he questioned the impartiality of an American-born judge with a Hispanic surname who presided over a fraud suit filed against “Trump University.” Soon after taking office, he disparaged a federal judge who ruled against his travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries as “this so-called judge.”

The president has since urged the Department of Justice to prosecute his political opponents and critics. He has used his pardon power to reward political and ideological allies and encourage targets of criminal investigations to refuse cooperation with the government. He has expressed contempt for witnesses who are cooperating with law enforcement in cases that could harm his interests and praised those who remain silent.

An array of independent media organizations have continued to produce vigorous coverage of the administration. But the constant vilification of such outlets by President Trump, in an already polarized media environment, is accelerating the breakdown of public confidence in journalism as a legitimate, fact-based check on government power. We have seen in other countries how such practices paved the way to more tangible erosions of press freedom and, in extreme cases, put journalists in physical danger. It would be foolish to assume it could never happen here.

Previous presidents have criticized the press, sometimes bitterly, but none with such relentless hostility for the institution itself. Trump alone has deployed slurs like “enemy of the people,” flirted with the idea that the media are responsible for and perhaps deserving of violence, and defended his own routine falsehoods while accusing journalists of lying with malicious, even treasonous intent.

From the outset of his administration, the president has been willing to ignore obvious conflicts of interest, most prominently with his decision not to divest ownership of his businesses or place them in a blind trust. Instead, he moved them into a revocable trust, managed by his sons, of which he is the sole beneficiary. During his presidency, his businesses have accepted money from foreign lenders, including banks controlled by the Chinese government. Trump has swept aside the norm against nepotism by having his daughter and son-in-law, both seemingly saddled with their own conflicts of interest, serve as senior White House advisers. He also rejected the tradition obliging presidents to release their income tax records.

Trump properties have hosted foreign delegations, business dinners, trade association conferences, and Republican Party fund-raising events, complete with Trump-branded wines and other products, likely arranged in the hope of earning the president’s gratitude. The Washington Post revealed that a month after President Trump’s election, lobbyists representing Saudi Arabia booked hundreds of rooms at Trump International Hotel in the capital. Indeed, a number of foreign and domestic interests allegedly sought to influence the new administration by arranging donations to Trump’s inauguration festivities, which are now under investigation.

The importance of credible elections to the health of a democracy should be self-evident. If citizens believe that the polls are rigged, they will neither take part in the exercise nor accept the legitimacy of those elected.  During the 2018 midterm elections, he suggested without evidence that Democrats were stealing a Senate seat in Arizona and committing fraud in Florida’s senatorial and gubernatorial balloting. He complained that undocumented asylum seekers were invading the country so they could vote for Democrats. He suggested that Democratic voters were returning to the polls in disguise to vote more than once.

At the same time, the administration has shown little interest in addressing genuine and documented threats to the integrity of US elections, including chronic problems like partisan gerrymandering and the fact that balloting is overseen by partisan officials in the states. But the most glaring lapse is the president’s refusal to clearly acknowledge and comprehensively combat Russian and other foreign attempts to meddle in American elections since 2016.

Trump has refused to advocate for America’s democratic values, and he seems to encourage the forces that oppose them. His frequent, fulsome praise for some of the world’s worst dictators reinforces this perception. Particularly striking was his apparent willingness, at a summit in Helsinki, to accept the word of Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence agencies in assessing Russia’s actions in the 2016 elections.

Cambodian strongman Hun Sen consolidated one-party rule in sham elections last summer after banning the main opposition party and shutting down independent media. He acknowledged that he and President Trump shared a point of view about journalists, saying, “Donald Trump understands that are an anarchic group.” Poland’s president, whose party has sought to annihilate judicial independence and assert control over the press, similarly thanked Trump for fighting “fake news.” Saudi Arabia’s crown prince almost certainly ordered the assassination of a leading journalistic critic, apparently believing that the action would not rupture relations with the president of the United States. It seems he was correct.

All of these are things we already knew, things we have written of and bemoaned for the past two years.  But, seeing them cited by a respected bipartisan watchdog group as threats to our core principles, as a weakening of our democracy, should give us all renewed reason to sit up and take notice, to keep on fighting against these injustices.  According to the President of Freedom House, Michael Abromowitz …

The grim reality is that Freedom House now ranks the United States well below other large and long-standing democracies, such as France, Germany and Britain.

As Mr. Boot said, It’s dangerous to have a president who truly does not know what he is talking about.”

The Virtue of Stupidity

Once again, dear friend Hugh has hit the nail on the head regarding the dangerous attitudes of this nation toward addressing environmental issues, most notably climate change, or global warming. Please take a minute to read his excellent post … and make note of his new “law” at the end! Thank you, Hugh, for the post and the permission to share!

hughcurtler

Temperatures around the country have recently been plunging and the nay-sayers once again point to the thermometer and tell us why they deny that the globe is warming. They ignore the fact that South Africa is experiencing the hottest summer on record and that what happens in Alabama or Alaska (or South Africa) is beside the point. Global Warming is a fact and it is not to be identified with passing weather events in particular parts of the world. Confusing the two and ignoring hard science are marks of the “virtue of stupidity” among those who remain with their heads in the sand — or somewhere equally dark. (This is a repost, which I have updated.)

In his remarkable book, Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, Charles Pierce quotes Norman Myers of the Climate Institute who estimated that in 1995 [over twenty-four years ago!] there…

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A New World Leader …

Today, I would like to pay tribute to our neighbors to the north by sharing the work of one of my favourite New York Times columnists, Nicholas Kristof.  His words need no further introduction from me.

Thank God for Canada!

Our boring neighbor is a moral leader of the free world.

nicholas-kristof-thumblargeBy Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

February 6, 2019

After the Canadian foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, tweeted concern about Saudi Arabia’s imprisoning of a women’s rights activist, the crown prince there seemed to go nuts.

Saudi Arabia announced that it was expelling Canada’s ambassador, halting flights to Canada, ending purchases of Canadian wheat, recalling students from Canada and selling off Canadian assets. Did the United States or other Western countries stand up for an old friend and ally, Canada?

Not a bit.

“The United States doesn’t have to get involved,” Heather Nauert, then the State Department spokeswoman, told reporters.

Yet Canada stuck to its principles. When a young Saudi woman, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, fled to Bangkok last month and warned that she would be murdered by her family if she was forced home, it was Canada that again braved Saudi fury by accepting her.

Freeland was at the airport to welcome Alqunun as a “very brave new Canadian.” And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t mince words, saying, “We’ll stand up for human rights and women’s rights around the world.”

Canada may be one of the world’s more boring countries, as yawn-inspiring as sensible shoes — wake up, reader, I know you’re snoozing!— but it’s also emerging as a moral leader of the free world.

There’s no one else. The United States under President Trump is on a nationalist tear. Britain’s leaders seem determined to drag their people over a Brexit precipice. France is distracted by protests. Germany is preparing for succession.

So Canada is stepping up.

Canadians.jpg

Jessie Thomson, left, and Amany Alhadka, right, were among the countless Canadians who helped Syrian refugees acclimate to their new country.CreditCreditJustin Tang for The New York Times

During the worst of the Syrian refugee crisis, President Barack Obama admitted just 12,000 Syrians and provoked a furious backlash, including Trump’s Muslim ban. Canada accepted 40,000 Syrians, with Trudeau appearing at the airport to hand out winter coats to these new Canadians.

All around the world, doors to refugees were clanging shut. But Canadians were so eager to sponsor Syrians that organizations were clamoring for more of them. Canadian politicians are mostly rewarded for showing compassion.

Trump gets headlines with his periodic threats to invade Venezuela to topple President Nicolás Maduro, but Canada has been quietly working since 2017 to help organize the Lima Group of 14 nations pushing for democracy in Venezuela. When Canada recognized the opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president, he won credibility because nobody sees Ottawa as an imperialist conspirator.

Canada has spoken up about the mass detention of about one million Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China even as Muslim countries have mostly kept mum, and it detained a Chinese executive at the request of the American government. China retaliated by arresting Canadians and sentencing one to death, but Canada is sticking to its guns — even as Trump undercut Canada by suggesting that the case against the executive might be dropped for political reasons.

For aid programs in the developing world, countries usually try to finance big, glamorous projects that will get lots of attention. Instead, Canada champions programs that are extremely cost-effective but so deathly boring that they will never be discussed on TV — initiatives like iodizing salt to prevent mental impairment.

Reader! Wake up!

Still, Canadians can be devious. A couple of years ago I sought an interview with Trudeau for a piece about Canada’s successes — and he kept stalling. Aides explained that praise from an American might damage his relations with Trump. That may have been the first time I’ve had a leader resist laudatory coverage.

Whenever I say something nice about Canada, I get indignant emails from Canadian friends pointing out the country’s shortcomings (which are real). Fortunately, Canadians don’t seem capable of mean emails. Not even of mean tweets. One study found that Americans’ tweets are loaded with curses and words like “hate”: Canadians’ tweets are larded with “awesome,” “amazing” and “great.”

(Note: Ignore all the bits about Canadians being nice when playing hockey with them. In the rink, they’re brutes.)

Off the ice, Canadians pursue policies that are preternaturally sensible. Canadians regulate guns, oversee the banking sector so as to avoid financial crashes, and nurture entrepreneurship and economic growth without enormous inequality.

Typically, more Canadians use mass transit, and the country has better traffic safety laws, so that the vehicle fatality rate there is half that of the United States’. If the United States had Canada’s traffic death rate, we would save more than 20,000 American lives a year.

Today there’s a vacuum of constructive global leadership. Canada may be incapable of a mean tweet, but it’s tough when necessary — and it may be the leader the world needs.

I want to move to Canada!!!

The State of DISunion

I did not watch Donald Trump’s State of the Union (SOTU) address last night, for three very good reasons.

  1. I was already not feeling well and knew that having to see his face, hear his voice, and see all those strange contortions he does with his face would make me unbearably ill.
  2. I feared that my strong reaction to having to listen to him would cause me to irreparably damage my laptop, and frankly I cannot afford a new computer at the moment.
  3. The most important reason of all is that the speech was sure to be filled with lies, or as Keith would prefer I say, ‘untruths’. Why bother?  I have better things to do with my time.

I have worked my way through most of the transcript this morning, have read a few analyses, read The Washington Post’s fact check, and concluded that I was correct in my assessment – it would have been a colossal waste of my valuable time.  That said, I do have some things to say (surprised, aren’t you?) about it all.

First of all, one has to wonder why we even have a State of the Union address every year.

Article II, Section 3 of the United States Constitution states that the president shall ”from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

Somehow, I think that goal could be accomplished without all the pomp and circumstance that surround the event these days.  And, with today’s instantaneous communication, the speech seems really to have outlived its usefulness.  In fact, of what use is it to waste the time of Congress, the Supreme Court, other guests and the home viewing audience, just to listen to fairy tales?  Why couldn’t he just tweet it, as he does everything else? I won’t bother to bore you with the fact-checking … you can get that from any of the major media outlets.

The speech is most notable for what was not addressed.

Climate Change.  How can a speech that is intended to inform us about the state of the country, completely ignore the thing that, by most measures, is the single most important issue facing this, and every other nation?  Under Trump, the U.S. has pulled out of major agreements to work toward reducing carbon emissions and has rolled back the regulations that were intended to help protect the environment.  We have seen the results with our own eyes in the past year, even the past week, yet he says not one word?

Renewable Energy.  The future is not in the coal, gas and oil that Trump has so adamantly vowed to protect, but the future is in renewable energy such as solar, wind and water.  Under Trump, there is no major push by the federal government to explore and expand on renewable energy, but a number of states and corporations are participating.  This could have been a genuine feather in Trump’s cap, had he opted to do the right thing, to take seriously the need to distance ourselves from fossil fuels.  Instead, he chose the most destructive path.

Relations with Allies.  Our relationships with our allies are crumbling, thanks to Trump’s policies that have, in many cases, left our allies scrambling to try to make up for the failure of the U.S. to pull its weight, such as in the Paris Accord, NATO, the Iran nuclear agreement, and NAFTA, and the latest threat to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria and Afghanistan.  Add to that the disdain he has shown for the leaders of allied nations, such as Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau, Theresa May and others.  We are no longer a good and trusted friend, to put it quite simply.

Poverty.  Despite Trump’s claims that wages have risen, jobs have been created, 13.4% of people in this nation are living below the poverty level.  As the population increases, and some jobs are replaced by technology, the number of people who struggle just to put food on the table has risen and will continue to rise.

Education.  We are falling behind in our education system, as I have mentioned more than a few times, and this is the key to almost everything I have listed so far.  The new trend seems to be moving away from developing minds and more toward job training.  This is a mistake … a huge mistake … and to add insult to injury, this nation has made it nearly impossible for a young person from a lower-income family to go to college.

National Debt.  With the December 2017 tax cuts that benefit almost exclusively the wealthy in the nation, we severely reduced the nation’s revenue.  To maintain a balanced budget, thereby keeping the national debt at current levels, would require spending cuts equal to the revenue reduction.  But those cuts, under Trump’s plan, would come from programs that help disadvantaged people.  Trump’s fiscal plan is rather a reverse Robin Hood – rob from the poor to give to the rich.

Gun Regulation.  The U.S. is the only nation on the globe with almost no regulations on firearms.  Those who claim the 2nd Amendment gives them the right to own an arsenal that includes assault-type weapons that can mow down a crowd inside of a minute are fools.  On this, the 37th day of 2019, there have already been 510 gun deaths in the U.S.  An average of 14 per day.  And yet, this topic was not considered important enough to be addressed in the State of the Union.

There is more I could add, but you get the picture.  The address was a public relations event, nothing more.  I found it strange that he would call for unity, when he has, in fact, been the most divisive president in the history of the nation.  “We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution …” he said, when he is the very source of revenge and retribution, he has pursued a divisive political strategy very much focused on his base.  Last night’s speech, like most everything he does, was intended only for his base … he told them what they wanted to hear and left the rest of us with the clear knowledge that nothing is changed, that the state of the nation is _____________________. (Fill in the blank)

Good People Doing Good Things — Polar Vortex

Last week, many parts of the U.S. found themselves in the midst of a Polar Vortex, seeing record-breaking low temperatures.  You know that expression, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”?  Well, the going got tough last week, and … the tough got going.


ct-chicago-homeless-cold-photos-20190131Chicago was one of the hardest hit, with temperatures dropping at one point to -38° (F).  Chicago, like most major cities, has a significant homeless population, and while the Salvation Army went around the city taking as many of the homeless as possible to shelters, there was still a contingent of homeless people living in a tent city on the South Side, using propane tanks for heat.  Until … one of the propane tanks exploded, the fire department was called, and all the propane tanks were confiscated by city officials, who called them a ‘Level 1 Hazmat risk’.

“There was a significant amount of propane there.  And, with that many cylinders, that’s like a bomb going off.” – Chicago Fire Chief Walter Schroeder

Right … but that left 70 people in tents with no way to keep warm on the second coldest night in the history of the city.  City officials were contacting the Salvation Army, in hopes they might find room in some of their warming centers, when …Candice-Payne.jpgEnter Candice Payne, a Chicago realtor, who heard about the homeless people and decided to be a good Samaritan.  She used her American Express card and without hesitation, paid for motel rooms for the 70 homeless people in that tent city for the rest of the week!  This, my friends, is what I mean when I refer to ‘social conscience’.  Helping people who you know can never repay you, other than with a word of thanks and a hug.

But it didn’t end there!  Candice posted about the plight of these people on social media, and in no time … well, I’ll let Candice tell you the rest …

“I went on social media and I posted, hey, I’m renting 20 hotel rooms for the homeless. If anyone has a van or a passenger van that will help me transport the homeless to the hotel, I’ll pay you. And it went completely viral. It allowed us to go from 20 rooms to 59 rooms for four nights.

They call me an angel, and these people, they – they want to work. They want to work for their room. What can I do for you? Some people probably look at them and, like, don’t understand their story. And the truth be told, with this government shutdown and all of that stuff, a lot of people are one paycheck away from that same situation.

I mean, there was a lot of people pulling up, dropping off food, blankets, and that’s fine. Well, below zero, the food was getting cold as soon as someone set it out there.”

You know … we hear things every day about people in need of help, whether the homeless, the poor, the disabled, the disenfranchised … and we say, “Somebody ought to do something.”  Well, Candice Payne decided she was going to be the somebody to do something, and who knows how many might well owe their lives to Ms. Payne because she made that decision.  My hat is off and my thumbs are up to Ms. Payne!


wall-of-loveIn Cleveland, Ohio, where the temperatures matched those of Chicago’s last week, resides another heroic young woman, Holly Jackson, whose motto is “Make the world a better place one person at a time.”Holly-Jackson25 years ago, Holly was living in a Cleveland homeless shelter. Since then she’s graduated college and has recently taken up a cause close to her heart. She’s giving back.  Holly puts things like coats, hats, and gloves on fences around Northeast Ohio. She’s hoping that others join her on the pay it forward crusade.

“I wanted to do something to give back and make sure there’s not stigma to it. Whoever needs it, can take it.”


I have read of a number of other instances of people pitching in to help those less fortunate, such as the citizens of Kansas City, Missouri, who came to the rescue of a family of nine who were living in an apartment with no heat and no hot water.  Or the pharmacist in Lake Odessa, Michigan, who hired her son and his snowmobile to make deliveries of medication to her patients who could not get to her pharmacy.

It may be cold outside, but inside, there are an awful lot of people with very warm hearts.  When I first started this “Good People” feature in February 2017 … wow, I can’t believe it’s been two years already! … I noted that while it is not a political feature and I would avoid politics to the extent that I could, it might sometimes happen that a political figure or situation would play into the story.  That said, I ask that you look at the people here, people digging into their own pockets, people giving of their most precious resource – time, and ask yourself how much the man in the Oval Office likely donated to help the homeless or the homebound during this time.  Or any politician, for that matter?  I say it’s time, if they claim to care so much for the people of this nation, for them to put their money where their mouths are.  In this, the ‘Land of Milk and Honey’, we should not have people living on the streets.  Period.  The fact that we do is a reflection on the entire nation.

Meanwhile, hats off to all those good people who reached out to others, who may have saved lives last week.  Thank you!

Yes Virginia, there is racism in America

I ask you to read this post on racism by fellow-blogger Brosephus, for this post pulls no punches and speaks about racism in the U.S. as clearly and honestly as any I have heard.

The Mind of Brosephus

It’s the year 2019, and we are still having this same debate.  No matter how many times we hash this out, we will undoubtedly do the same thing again sometime in the near future.  That’s just what we do as Americans.  We keep doing the same stupid things over and over without learning from our past to make our futures better.

Racism has no ideology.  It has no political leanings either.  It is as much a founding principle of America as the Constitution itself.  Racism was written into our founding documents and formed the basis of many of our laws and court decisions.  To pretend that it’s not a major issue is nothing more than trying to fool yourself into believing that the sun does not rise.

From Gov. Ralph Northam’s photo to the implicit bias that affects racial disparities in policing, racism colors how we act among ourselves…

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Leopards Don’t Change Their Spots …

When I heard the news last week about Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, my jaw dropped.  WTF???  I saw the yearbook picture, and my heart clenched.  I heard his apology that, on the surface, seemed sincere, but in the back of my mind kept ringing this refrain:  “Leopards don’t change their spots, leopards don’t change their spots, leopards don’t change their spots.”

I went to bed sometime that night, having moved on to other topics, and early that morning, Politico, The Washington Post and the New York Times all woke me to inform me that Governor Northam had decided, after admitting the night before that he was in the picture, that he wasn’t actually in the picture.  Though for the record, he did wear blackface once when entering a dance contest and doing Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk.

By now, I had the man pegged as a liar and a bigot.  The sooner he stepped down, as surely he must, the better for the State of Virginia.  But, rather than stepping down, the man dug in, refusing to resign, declaring that this, too, can be fixed.  He sounded so Trump-like that I’m fairly certain there was a conversation between the two between the first and second public announcement.  It was reminiscent of Trump’s apology for his horribly sexist remarks heard on the campaign trail in 2016, and then later his denial that he had ever made the remarks … plainly heard … on tape … by the world.

If you were wondering why I hadn’t tackled this subject yet, it’s largely because I was waiting for the next shoe to drop.  I couldn’t believe that some were actually taking his side, defending him.  I knew that it was unlikely he could be impeached, for the crimes of which he is accused do not meet the legal criteria for impeachment.  The president of the United States can remove a governor at any time, but we have no president, at least not one with any degree of morality or set of values.  And the last option would be for Northam to step down, which he said he wouldn’t do.  My head spun, as I pondered what this would mean for the State of Virginia, for the Democratic Party, and for the value of morality in the 21st century.  I also wondered who dug into Northam’s past to come up with this … why now?  Somewhere, there is more to this than meets the eye.

So, I have been silent, trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, but fortunately our friend Don Lemon has not shared my silence, and in this video, I think he lays out the facts clearly.  Take just a couple of minutes to listen to him, then think about it.  Is this the direction our nation is going?  We are 21 months from the next election, and guess what, folks … we are going to see more and more and more and more of this.  At the end of the day, we may have to ask ourselves if there is anybody in our government who is not corrupt, who has values, who represents We the People.

Black History Month: The Champion Award Winning Figure Ice Skater Surya Banaly

I have been woefully negligent this month, for I haven’t written a single post for Black History Month. Our friend Gronda beat me to the punch this year. You may remember the 1994 Winter Olympics held in Lillehammer, Norway. It is often defined by two names: Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. But there was another figure skater who shined that year, and she is the subject of Gronda’s post. Thank you, Gronda, for highlighting the achievements of Surya Banaly and for your permission to share it.

Gronda Morin

Imagine a time in the 1980s-1998, there is an exciting, exceptionally athletic Black ice skater who kept coming close, time after time to winning the top prize at the Olympic games and at the World Championship events but she never makes it. The fans love her as she is truly an amazing figure on the ice. Her name is Surya Bonaly.

She did all the different moves / jumps as described in the below video with ease. But because of the color of her skin, she never knew if the judges kept rewarding her with lesser scores time after time on this basis or because she actually didn’t earn it. At the time, she was the only Black figure ice skater who had been competing at all the major contests.

Image result for images of surya bonaly 1994

But unlike Serena Williams who has also complained of perceived slights because of her color and athletic style, where she…

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The Shame Of Our Nation …

“The Trump administration says it would require extraordinary effort to reunite what may be thousands of migrant children who have been separated from their parents and, even if it could, the children would likely be emotionally harmed.” – Associated Press, 02 February 2019

Say WHAT???

The first thing that comes to mind is … let’s get somebody to ‘remove’ Trump’s youngest (known) son, Barron, and then say we cannot likely return him.  I wonder if Trump would just shrug his shoulders and say, “Oh well,” as he obviously expects the parents of those stolen immigrant children to do?  In truth, it might be a kindness to Baron, for just look at how Trump’s other children have turned out.

According to Jonathan White, who leads the Health and Human Services Department’s efforts to reunite migrant children with their parents …

“It would destabilize the permanency of their existing home environment and could be traumatic to the children.” 

Where was the concern about the trauma to the children when they were unconscionably stolen from their parents?  Where was the concern when they were dragged, screaming and crying, from the arms of the only caregivers they had ever known?

The reality is that the government did a piss-poor job of record-keeping and now has no earthly idea where a vast majority of these children have landed.  They didn’t even know how many children they had separated from their parents and greatly underestimated the number.  They still don’t know, but Health and Human Services’ assistant inspector general, Ann Maxwell, said that the number of separated children was certainly larger than the 2,737 listed by the government in court documents.  They didn’t even keep records!!!

People, these are lives we are talking about here, not electric light bulbs!  One does not simply take children from their parents, put them into cages, and then dispose of them willy-nilly without so much as a thought to remembering who went where!!!

“The department’s inspector general report didn’t have a precise count, but Maxwell said staff estimated it to be in the thousands.”

You may remember in June that Judge Dana Sabraw ordered all children held in U.S. custody to be returned to their parents, an order that still has not been completely fulfilled.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is requesting that Judge Sabraw amend that order to include children who were released to sponsors before his initial ruling.  A hearing is scheduled for February 21st.  ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said …

“The Trump administration’s response is a shocking concession that it can’t easily find thousands of children it ripped from parents and doesn’t even think it’s worth the time to locate each of them.”

I agree.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) claims that to review the 47,083 cases in an effort to track down these children would require too much time, too many man-hours.  Seriously???  We place a cost on the value of a child’s life and that cost isn’t worth hiring extra staff???  The department claims that 90% of these children were released to ‘close relatives’.  I don’t believe them.  How, after all, can they make that claim when they admittedly do not know where the children went?

On January 4th, The Guardian reported that the U.S. has stopped cooperating with the United Nations’ investigators over potential human rights violations occurring inside the U.S.:

Quietly and unnoticed, the state department has ceased to respond to official complaints from UN special rapporteurs, the network of independent experts who act as global watchdogs on fundamental issues such as poverty, migration, freedom of expression and justice. There has been no response to any such formal query since 7 May 2018, with at least 13 requests going unanswered.

Nor has the Trump administration extended any invitation to a UN monitor to visit the US to investigate human rights inside the country since the start of Donald Trump’s term two years ago in January 2017. Two UN experts have made official fact-finding visits under his watch – the special rapporteurs on extreme poverty and privacy – but both were invited initially by Barack Obama, who hosted 16 such visits during his presidency.

Paradoxically, the Trump administration’s decision to shun the UN’s independent watchdogs places the US among a tiny minority of uncooperative states. There are very few countries that resist international oversight from UN special rapporteurs – one of them is North Korea.

Imagine, if you will, being a parent of a young child, living in a country where turmoil and violence are the norm.  Imagine wanting to protect your child, wanting to give your little boy or girl a better life.  You’ve heard that the U.S. is one of the ‘greatest’ countries in the world, the ‘land of opportunity’, so you give up everything you have, which is little enough, to make the long trek on foot to a place where you believe you and your child can live in safety, can carve out a life, can have a hope for the future.  And then … suddenly, bright lights shine in your eyes, booming angry voices scream at you, guns are pointed at you, and your child is taken screaming and crying, while you are powerless.  Imagine being told, then, that you will likely never see your child again because … “We don’t remember where we put him, and it’s just too much trouble to figure it out”.

This is the United States of America under Donald Trump.