Good People Doing Good Things – Little Kids With BIG Hearts

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

R.I.P. Piggy Bank

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

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

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

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

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

Omsin-2

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

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

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

2017 World Happiness Report


(Cover photo: Tromso, Norway)

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

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Reykjavik, Iceland

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

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

An excerpt from the Executive Summary of the report says:

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

Happiness has fallen in America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland

 

 

A Lie By Any Other Name … Is Still A Lie

The following are excerpts from this morning’s House committee hearing on Russian involvement in the 2016 election (full transcript is available here):

“We have also reviewed whether there is any evidence to support President Trump’s claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama in Trump Tower and found no evidence whatsoever to support that slanderous accusation. And we hope that Director Comey can now put that matter permanently to rest.” – U.S. Representative Adam Schiff

 

“With respect to the president’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI. The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components. The department has no information that supports those tweets. I’m not to try and characterize the tweets themselves. All I can tell you is we have no information that supports them. I’m not going to characterize or respond to the tweets themselves”. – FBI Director James Comey

Okay, let us put this one to bed now, shall we? It is time to stop playing Trump’s distracting games and focus on the bigger picture of who in the current administration may have played a role in Russia’s interference in the election.  As I previously stated, Trump’s allegations were designed to deflect and detract attention from the ongoing investigations into the role of the Russian government in the U.S. presidential election. There was never any basis in fact for his accusations. That the leader of a democratic nation would resort to such nefarious tactics says much, I think, about the values, character and ethics of that person.

Monday Morning Grumpies … er … Funnies

monday-springI, the purveyor of Monday morning chuckles, find myself in a bad mood as I write this post (remember I actually write it on Sunday night and tonight somebody stepped on my proverbial toes)  but I am determined to get over it so I can try to bring a smile, or at least a silly grin, to your face before you have to head out the door.  And HEY … I have a piece of great news for all of you who do not live in Florida … TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING!!!  In fact, for most of my readers, spring is already officially here by the time you are reading this, as it happened at 6:28 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time!  I wouldn’t pack away the winter coats, hats and gloves just yet, but soon … I promise.  And now, grab your java and let us see if we can draw out a chuckle … or … how about a giggle?  Giggles are contagious!


In the land of frivolous lawsuits …

In 1954, the state of Wisconsin passed a law banning the sale of any butter that has not been tested and graded by official state butter tasters. For 63 years, the law has gone unchallenged.  Until last week, that is, when a lawsuit was filed against the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture by a specialty grocery store in Grafton, Wisconsin, and four consumers frustrated that they could not buy their favourite brand of butter.  And what is their favourite brand?  Kerrygold, made with natural, grass-fed, hormone-free cows’ milk on cooperative dairy farms. In Ireland.  And also packaged … in Ireland, thus it cannot be subjected to the rigorous taste-testing called for by the 1954 law.

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Monday-cow

Moo.

The plaintiffs in the suit complain that they have to travel over state lines to purchase Kerrygold, and they claim the law’s true motive lies in killing competition for Wisconsin’s dairy industry. Most likely they are correct in their claim, since Wisconsin, after all, leads the United States in the production of milk, cheese, and butter, providing 40% of the nation’s cheese and 20% of its butter.

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And speaking of dairy products …

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Do you know what you get if you walk into a McDonald’s restaurant and ask for a “cheeseburger, with no onion, ketchup, mustard, pickles, bun, or meat?  You get this

Monday-cheese

Yep … a slice of cheese.  The price?  $1.22, same as a cheeseburger with meat, bun, and all the accoutrements.  The customer’s response?  “Not sure what I expected.”  A true head-shaking moment.


Monopoly update …

You remember back in February when, as a part of my Monday morning post I wrote about the retirement of some old Monopoly game pieces and a contest to vote on some new ones?  I promised to update you when the announcement of the new pieces was made on 17 March, so here is the news you have all been waiting for with bated breath:

The wheelbarrow, boot and thimble tokens have been replaced with ::: drumroll ::: the T-Rex, rubber ducky and penguin pieces!

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If you ask me, the penguin looks a bit bored

My only question is this:  Hasbro claimed that the reason for the change in player tokens was to upgrade to more modern icons.  Could somebody please tell me how a T-Rex is more modern than a thimble, a boot, or a wheelbarrow?

And while I’m on the topic of Monopoly, there are a couple of items I missed back in December:

  • On December 14th, Guinness World Records announced a student group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands broke a world record with a Monopoly board spanning more than 9,600 square feet.

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  • In the UK, from December 24th thru December 26th, Hasbro opened a “Monopoly hotline” to diffuse family arguments around the game! “We’ll have experts on hand with the official rulebooks to instantly settle any disputes, and advice on how to resolve common complaints …” A recent survey revealed that 51 percent of Monopoly games end in some kind of quarrel with people “making up the rules as they go along” as the most common cause. The survey also determined that most families are likely to be playing Monopoly between the hours of 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. with arguments most commonly occurring at around 6 p.m. Wow.  Words fail me.

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The way to a man’s heart …

Last Monday, I included a piece about the man who proposed to his future wife under the Aurora Borealis, and the Monday before that there was the woman who wanted to get married in a Taco Bell, so she made her wedding dress out of burrito wrappers.  Today I bring to you the woman who proposed to her beau with a bouquet … of … Doritos!

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Oopsie … wrong couch …

Imagine, if you can, coming home at the end of a long day, your two young children with you … you walk into your living room and there, in the middle of your couch sits a stark naked woman!  What would you do?  I am not sure what I would do … it could range from anything to bashing her head in to calling the police.

Brianna Willey of Pevely, Missouri, asked the woman what she was doing, to which the woman replied she was there for the birthday party.  Well, that explains why she was wearing her ‘birthday suit’.  However, there was no birthday party scheduled for that day in Ms. Willey’s home, so she told the woman to put her clothes on, and meanwhile Brianna called the police.  The woman, Catherine Therrell, first put her clothes on backward, then removed them and tried to get them on correctly.  Meanwhile, officers showed up and arrested her for driving while intoxicated (her blood alcohol was 3 times the legal limit), and second-degree property damage.  Turns out she had done the same thing the month before in another part of town!

Ms. Willey would like to forget the incident, but with two children, ages 4 and 6, it is all they can talk about, and they have told the “tale of the naked lady” at school multiple times!  (Sorry, you get no pictures with this one …)


And with that, Filosofa has run out of humour for this morning, so it is time for you to all get to work and let me return to my wretched humour and curmudgeonly ways.  But first … a few ‘phunnies’ and a reminder to share that smile today.  Give someone a reason, even if it’s only for a minute, to smile back at you.  They might feel better, and I guarantee you will.  Too many people are walking around scowling these days … WE NEED SMILES!!!  So SMILE, dammit (told you I was in a bad mood)!

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'Having one of those days I see.'

'Someone said 'good morning,' so I thought I'd leave work for the day while I was ahead.'

‘Someone said ‘good morning,’ so I thought I’d leave work for the day while I was ahead.’

 

 

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

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

Gronda Morin

Image result for PHOTOS OF TRUMP WITH SOHO TRUMP

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

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

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

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On Hypocrisy

Hypocrite:  a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion;  a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.

“Can you believe that, with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf.” – Donald Trump, 13 October 2014

“The habitual vacationer, @BarackObama, is now in Hawaii. This vacation is costing taxpayers $4 million.” – Donald Trump, 27 December 2011

“Why did @BarackObama and his family travel separately to Martha’s Vineyard? They love to extravagantly spend on the taxpayers’ dime.” – Donald Trump, 26 August 2011

And recent headlines:

Trump to spend 7th consecutive weekend at Trump-branded property, at enormous cost to taxpayers. Austerity for us, regular Florida vacations for the president.Think Progress, 18 March 2017

Trump weekend trip to Florida could cost taxpayers $3M: report.The Hill, 03 March 2017

Eric Trump’s business trip to Uruguay cost taxpayers $97,830 in hotel bills.The Washington Post, 04 February 2017

trump-golfingThe typical work week in the U.S. is five days.  The other two days are theoretically for ‘rest and relaxation’, though the majority of us will tell you that they are used for such things as running errands, catching up on chores at home, paying bills, etc.  At any rate, being the leader of a nation is stressful work, and I would agree that they deserve some time off, family time, relaxing time, whatever.  BUT … a trip to Florida on somebody else’s dime, every single weekend?  And after criticizing his predecessor for taking an average of 2.2 vacation days per month, Trump has, in just two months, averaged 7 days per month.  A trip every weekend to his estate in Florida … at taxpayer expense.  This from the man who said “I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off.” Yet every weekend except the first weekend after the inauguration, he has flown our airplane, Air Force One, to his resort in Florida, and played golf, attended social functions, eaten meals that each cost more than most of us spend on groceries for a month, and at a high cost to We The People.  Every weekend.

In the past, it has not been considered necessary to set a limit on the number of vacation days a president has, for we have been able to trust past presidents to use good judgment.  However, the time may have come to either put a limit on the number of days, or a cap on the amount of personal expenses that We The People are willing to pay.  Before taking office, Trump said he would not take his salary.  Not a particularly magnanimous gesture, as he later claimed that at the end of the year he would donate it to charity.  First, this means that he is taking his monthly pay packets, presumably investing them and garnering investment income throughout the year.  Secondly, we have already seen how unreliable his promises of ‘donating to charity’ are … yet another hypocrisy.  So his claim to refuse his salary is a mockery in light of all the extra costs with which he is burdening the taxpayers to ensure his own pleasure.

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Trump Tower Punta del Este in Uruguay

Of equal, or perhaps even greater concern is the third headline.  Trump refused, before taking office, to divest himself of his business interests, which, though not required, would have gone a long way to deflect conflict of interest concerns.  Now, however, taxpayer dollars are being used in Trump’s businesses, as whenever either of his sons make a business trip, the Secret Service must go along, thus creating travel, hotel and meal expenses.  These should, in my book, be expenses to Trump’s business, not to the U.S. taxpayers!  Understandably, the immediate family of the president receives the protection of the U.S. Secret Service … I do not dispute that.  However, I think there is a slippery slope here regarding at whose expense this protection should occur.  If it is a business trip, it is benefiting Donald’s and his son’s business, but is of no benefit whatsoever to the taxpayers or to the nation as a whole, so why should the protection of the Secret Service not be charged back to the Trump business?  There is simply too much wiggle room here … to much potential for abuse. To me, this reeks of conflict of interest.

I find all of this especially disturbing in light of the 2018 budget that Trump submitted to Congress on Thursday, cutting funding for almost every single program designed to help people, and increasing the military budget unnecessarily.  No more environmental research and far fewer regulations against polluting waterways and air.  Cuts to education.  Extreme cuts to healthcare, housing, public assistance.  But yet his conscience will allow him to spend millions every week to go to Florida to play golf. One must wonder if the ‘man’ actually has a conscience … I have concluded that quite possibly he was born with a silver spoon in lieu of a conscience.

melaniaAnd lastly, there is the additional cost for Melania and son to continue to reside in Trump Towers in New York while young Barron finishes the school year.  The estimate of costs for Secret Service protections are somewhat unclear, but most estimates put it at around $300,000 … per day. How many of my readers even make $300,000 a year???  I hesitate to complain too much about this one, because I have the greatest empathy for the children of public figures who often are forced at a young age to endure public scrutiny, and I understand Melania’s desire to protect her son.  But … on the other hand I do not think that supporting Melania and Barron’s life of luxury is more important than feeding the poor and elderly throughout the nation, or providing healthcare.  So, it still seems to me a clear abuse of power and an expense that this nation can ill afford.

It would seem that after the well-advertised budget cuts presented earlier this week, many who voted for Trump would be experiencing the first pang of regret.  Some are … H tells me that he overheard a conversation the other day whereby a man said he voted for Trump but is now regretting it.  However I am not seeing any large-scale sign of this, and I find it surprising, since many of the programs that Trump calls for cutting out entirely or trimming to bare bones, are the very ones that many of his supporters rely heavily on.  I am uncertain if they simply do not understand what this will mean for them, or if they are still under the influence of whatever substance they took to make voting for Trump palatable.

A Family Affair???

NEWS ALERT!

kellyanne-george-3Guess who Trump has chosen to head the civil division of the Justice Department???  Never mind … my readers are all sensible people who would never in a million years … well anyway … it is none other than the husband of Miss-Alternative-Facts-Camera-In-The-Microwave Kellyanne Conway!  None other than George T. Conway III, a man of whom we mostly know little or nothing, as he has been overshadowed by his other half for the past year.

Mr. Conway, 53, would lead a department of about 1,000 lawyers that has vast reach across the government, handling issues like national security and consumer protection and enforcing federal programs and the actions of the president himself. If confirmed, Conway would immediately be in charge of representing Trump in the legal challenges over his travel ban.  It would also fall to Mr. Conway to oversee Trump’s defense in a pending lawsuit charging him with violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which bans federal officeholders from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments because of the profits his hotels and resorts receive from foreign officials who are customers. Mr. Conway will most assuredly have his work cut out for him!

Conway is currently a partner at the New York City firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, specializing in securities, contract and antitrust litigation, as well as mergers and acquisitions.

kellyanne-george-2While there is a law against nepotism in government, it would not affect the Conways. It says that no public official can hire a family member — including one related by marriage — to serve in an agency or office over which he or she has authority. Ms. Conway would have no direct authority over her husband were he to be confirmed, nor would the reverse be true.  Maybe there would be no conflicts of interest on the job, but can you imagine what this could do to their home life?

A quick bit of history about George.  He was involved in Paula Jones’ lawsuit against Bill Clinton in 1994, and has participated in other prominent lawsuits, including tobacco industry cases, however he has only argued one case before the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a supporter of taking voting rights away from felons, and is a member of the ultra-conservative Federalist Society.

dodoThe real question in my mind is this:  Is he as big an idiot as his wife?  I think the answer is he must be, as he, a) married her, and b) has stayed married to her for 16 years!  I wonder if she uses ‘alternative facts’ at home:  “Yes dear, I cooked supper.  Well, I did not mean I actually cooked supper, but more like there is peanut butter and jelly in the cupboard.” It should be quite interesting to see how he spins ‘alternative facts’ in defense of his new boss.  In the words of Alice … it just gets ‘curiouser and curiouser’.

We Have Met The Enemy And …

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

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

pogo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Your Enemies; Offend Your Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

despicable

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

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

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