He’s Got To GO!

Folks, it’s just not funny anymore, okay?  Oh wait … it was never funny, was it?  When lives are at stake, there can be no laughter.  When the foundations of a government is at stake, the time for laughter has passed.

On November 8th of 2016, some 62,979,879 people voted for a ‘man’ named Donald Trump.  A ‘man’ few had heard of in political circles, for he was naught but a real estate ‘mogul’ and a television entertainer.  I had heard the name, but not being a watcher of television, nor an occupier of casino stools, it was largely irrelevant to me.  Until June 2015, that is.  The vote for Trump was not the majority, but nonetheless, because of racial gerrymandering, he managed to win the electoral college and thus was inaugurated on January 20th, 2017, into the highest office of the United States government.

Since that fateful day, he has been hellbent and determined to destroy the nation he swore to protect, to oppose the Constitution he swore to uphold, and most of all … to profit.

He was the most unqualified, unprepared person imaginable for this position.  He said he would surround himself with the ‘best people’.  They said he would learn … they said he would become ‘presidential’.

They were all wrong.  He didn’t.

It is now 33 months into his term, and much of the destruction he has wrought is irreversible.  The latest horror may well have been the last straw for this nation, for it has convinced our allies that our word is worth less than the paper it is written on.  As a result of his decision to remove U.S. troops from northeastern Syria, at least 38 civilians and 81 Kurdish fighters have been killed.  Those deaths are attributable to the United States.  Their blood is on the hands of none other than Donald Trump who negotiated with Turkish President Recep Erdoğan, Trump immediately removed troops from Syria, and within hours Erdoğan began brutally attacking the Kurds.

Donald Trump does not feel badly about the deaths, but instead made comments on Wednesday that the “Kurds are no angels”, and that the Turks attacking the Kurds in Syria has “nothing to do with us”.

“I view the situation on the Turkish border with Syria to be, for the United States, strategically brilliant. Our soldiers are out of there, they’re totally safe. They’ve got to work it out. Maybe they can do it without fighting.”

A classic case of that arrogant saying, “I got mine”.

Trump’s ignorance has cost human lives.  That, my friends, is not reversible.  I would like to hear from some of those who support Trump if they are okay with our allies being murdered because Trump didn’t know what he was doing.

The House of Representatives held a vote on Tuesday on whether to condemn Trump’s actions in the Middle East.  The bill received overwhelming bi-partisan support in favour of condemning Trump’s actions:  354 Yea; 60 Nay; 4 Present; 14 Not Voting.  81% of the entire House condemns Trump’s foolhardy action.  My own representative voted Nay, and had a scathing email from me waiting in his in box this morning.  The biggest disappointment was that Justin Amash, who left the GOP earlier this year after voicing support for impeachment, abstained, voting only “Present”.  Ah well, I suppose his bout of conscience didn’t last very long, did it?

What does this condemnation mean?  Not a damn thing, really, for it is mainly symbolic.  What it does signal, however, is that at least 129 republicans in the House of Representatives have had enough … for them, Trump has finally crossed a line.  This is, perhaps, the true significance of this move … it sends a message, loud and clear, that there are limits to what he can do and still have the support of his party in Congress.  My hope is that some of those 129 republicans will also now think long and hard about impeachment and see that it may be the only way to salvage what is left of our reputation before he finishes his process of destruction.  The presidency of Donald Trump is costing the people of this nation far, far too much.

Yesterday, Trump boasted of a cease-fire that had been worked out between Mike Pence and Recep Erdoğan.  It is not a cease fire.  Let’s be clear … it is a cessation of attack for five days, 120 hours, to “give the Kurds time to clear out”.  But … the Kurds have a right to be there.  The Kurds should not have to ‘clear out’.  The implication is clear … any who remain at the end of five days will be obliterated.  This amounts to nothing more than a further abandonment on the part of the U.S. of our allies.  What happens, I wonder, if Trump’s buddy Putin decides he would like to add the UK or France or Germany to his vision for an expanded USSR-style Russian empire?

It seems to me that the person who has the least understanding of international affairs, is calling all the shots now.  Or, rather, he is the puppet whose strings are being pulled by the likes of Putin and Erdoğan, who are actually calling all the shots.

And the latest, announced late yesterday, is that he has awarded himself a prize!  He, in his great and unmatched wisdom, has decided that next year’s G7 summit will be held at Trump’s Doral Resort, so that he can profit ‘bigly’.  This, my friends, is against the law.  But, will anybody hold him accountable?  Will anybody say, “No, Donnie, you cannot do that?”  It remains to be seen.  Thus far, I’ve only seen looks of disbelief and shaking heads, but no action.  Perhaps, if Trump stays on his current path of shoving our allies under the bus, he will be the one not invited to next year’s G7.

There is growing support around the nation for impeachment.  Just today, White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, let slip that Trump had, in fact, offered “quid pro quo” to the Ukranian President Zelinskyy, in exchange for providing false information about the Bidens in order to affect the outcome of next year’s election.  My friends … It is time for Donald Trump to go, and frankly, I don’t care in what form or fashion, for if he remains in office for another five years, this nation will hit rock bottom.  I firmly believe that.

Snarky Snippets … Again …

A couple of things in the news yesterday bothered me … really bothered me.  And you guys know what happens when things bother me, right?  I erupt into Snarky Snippets!  Grab your coffee, or better yet, your glass of wine, for I am full-on snark today.


A smooth shave turns bumpy …

First off, let’s talk razors, shall we?  I kept seeing remarks, mostly negative, about razors.  Meme’s, comments on Facebook, bad jokes … and I thought, “what the heck is up with razors?”.  But I didn’t think much beyond that until I saw this …gun-toting-dadHOLY SHIT!!!  I don’t know about Gillette, but it offends the heck out of me and makes me want to call Social Services on this guy!  And then I knew I must find out what all the hullabaloo is about.

Turns out, it is all over an advertisement that razor-maker Gillette recently placed, softening the male image from their usual “tough man” image, and appealing to men’s gentler sides.  It appears to be Gillette’s response to the #MeToo movement, and a response that I personally applaud.  So, what is the problem here?  Take a quick look at the ad and see what you think …

People are throwing away their razors and threatening a boycott of Gillette products.  WTF???  Do people really have nothing better to think about or to do with their time?  And are people so enamoured of the “he-man” image that they would rather see men portrayed as macho men than as kind, respectful men?

One such fool wrote on Twitter …

“I’m researching every product made by Proctor & Gamble, throwing any I have in the trash, and never buying any of them again until everyone involved in this ad from the top to bottom is fired and the company issues a public apology.”

Hold your breath, bucko!  Okay, so those gun-toting, tattooed, swaggering macho men feel threatened by a suggestion that they tone it down, treat women with a bit of respect.  I get that … well, no, really I don’t, but having known a few such men in my lifetime, I’m not surprised by it.  But what does surprise me is the response of some women!johnstoneSeriously, Kathleen???  You like to be shoved around a bit, maybe even slapped once in a while?

Although there were favourable responses to the ad, the response was overwhelmingly, 2-to-1, negative.  Folks … I think this says an awful lot about our society today, don’t you?


Clipping Pelosi’s wings …

In a rare event of petty revenge, Donald Trump told Nancy Pelosi that since she wouldn’t invite him to give the State of the Union Address before Congress on 29 January, then he wouldn’t allow her to fly via military transport for a previously undisclosed visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.  Shocked, aren’t you?  I’m surprised he didn’t burn her house down.  A few things here … the trip was not made public out of concern for the Congresswoman’s safety … HELLO DONNIE???  And now the whole world is aware, so Nancy, who Trump told could fly commercial airlines if she still wished to go, is forced to either stay at home, else fly through the air with a big red bullseye painted on her back, thanks to the loose lips of the fool on the hill.  Watch what Stephen Colbert has to say about it (if you have time, watch the whole 8 minutes … I promise you will laugh …)


Nancy can’t go, but Lindsey can?

And yet, though Trump claims the Trump-shutdown is the reason to disallow Ms. Pelosi’s travel, look who turned up in Turkey yesterday …lindsey-graham-erdoganYep. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi cannot go visit our troops in Afghanistan, but Senator Lindsey boot-licking Graham can go visit the Dictator of Turkey, one of the few men who Trump admires, or more likely envies.  You will remember that it was a telephone conversation with President Erdoğan that convinced Trump to announce that he would pull all U.S. forces out of Syria, presumably in order to give Erdoğan a chance to fulfill his mission of destroying our allies in Syria, the Kurds.

Given that John Bolton and literally all of Trump’s foreign policy advisors cautioned against a rapid pull-out and that removing U.S. troops from Syria is at a standstill, largely as a result of Erdoğan’s threats against the Kurds, Erdoğan is upset that his buddy, Trump, did not follow through on their conversation of December 19th.  And so, wanting to stay on the good side of his buddy Erdoğan, Trump sent Lindsey Graham to smooth the ruffled feathers of the Turkish dictator.  From the look on Erdoğan’s face, it wasn’t working.

Erdoğan welcomed Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria; however, the Turkish president condemned what he said were attempts by senior U.S. officials to delay the withdrawal and link it to conditions including guaranteeing security for our Kurdish allies.

The timing is interesting, too, for it was just on Wednesday that the Turkish Parliament voted to grant emergency powers that give Erdoğan broad authority to act when Turkey’s financial stability is deemed to be under threat.  Deemed by whom?  Why, Erdoğan, of course! This, folks, is the power Trump is so envious of.


Oh, and speaking of travel during the shutdown …

Trump has announced that he will meet with Kim Jong-un again before the end of February.  Presumably, since he has threatened to allow the shutdown to last for years, and since he shows no signs of being willing to make reasonable compromises, he will likely be traveling during said shutdown.  Perhaps …trump-travel-shutdown


A friend posted this ‘toon on Facebook yesterday evening and I just couldn’t resist …toon

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Send In The Adults … PLEASE!!!

PLEASE, people, let us put some adults in charge of this sinking ship!!!  In a nutshell, if you combine all the statements about Syria and condense them into a single statement, it reads something like this:

We are going to withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria by the end of last year, but it may not happen for several years.

Scratching your head over that one, aren’t you?  See, what happens here is that Donald Trump gets up one morning all in a fizz and while he’s sitting on the potty wondering what to tweet next, an idea comes to him.  So, without consulting any of the two people on his staff who have brains, he tweets that he will be pulling all U.S. troops out of Syria.  Then, as an afterthought, he tweets that this will happen by the end of December.Bolton-Mattis-Pompeo.jpgImagine the look of utter incredulity on the faces of James Mattis, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo on seeing that tweet as they sit at their breakfast tables!  We know Mattis’ take on it, for it gave him the reason he had probably been looking for to tender his resignation and get off the Trumptanic before it meets the iceberg.  Bolton likely turned red in the face and nearly had apoplexy, moustaches twitching while his eyebrows went up and down.  And Pompeo probably just popped yet another donut into his mouth.bolton-near-tearsApparently, despite his bluster and his reputation as a warmonger, even Bolton has a problem with Trump’s decision, bred of ignorance, but he could hardly ignore his boss man, so he found a compromise this week … pull out the equipment and leave the troops!  Brilliant … that way he can honestly say we are in the process of pulling out, yet not risk the lives of all Kurds and other innocent people in the area by leaving them unassisted with the threat of Turks attacking.moving equipment-Syria.jpgOnly thing is … without equipment, without jeeps, tanks and the like … of what use are the soldiers?  And how safe are they?  Oh this was such a well-thought-out, brilliant move!  CHAOS!  ICEBERG AHEAD!!!titanic-2Interestingly, despite some equipment being moved out of Syria, the Department of Defense says that the number of U.S. troops in Syria may “increase slightly”.  Trump, apparently after talking to Bolton, changed his ’30-day’ time frame to four months, but even that seems highly unachievable … and undesirable from a foreign policy point of view.  I doubt that Bolton has had the nerve yet to tell him that he may increase the number of troops and that they may yet be there for years.

There are valid reasons for the U.S. to remain in Syria.  One, daesh (aka ISIS) has not, as Trump said it had, been eradicated and if U.S. forces leave the area, are likely to regroup and increase their numbers.  Two, Turkish President Erdoğan has already said that it is his intent to murder every Kurd in Syria, and without the protection of the U.S. troops, that is almost a certainty.

Trump is almost certain to have to eat some crow on this one … could that be part of the reason he’s digging his heels on the border wall?  His ego cannot seem to take two major defeats in such a short time frame, and his buddy Sean Hannity will definitely not be pleased with him if he caves on the border wall.

Let’s talk about that border wall for a minute.  I found it heartbreaking yesterday to read that some of the federal workers who have been without pay for nearly a month now are selling household goods on Ebay to try to scrape together enough to pay the rent and keep the electricity on … it is winter, y’know.

Limo.jpgMeanwhile, Trump rides around in his ostentatious $1.5 million limo (we paid for that, too), takes Air Force One to Texas for a wasted trip that accomplished nothing at a cost of $200,000 per hour!  And he obviously has not so much as missed a meal.  He claims democrats are to blame for his ignominious shutdown for not being willing to negotiate, but in truth it is he who is not willing to negotiate.  He has set a number he wants immediately for his wall at $5.7 billion, and that is the only outcome he will accept.  He isn’t willing to settle for a portion of that amount … it’s all or nothing at all.  So really, there is only one person to blame, and that person is definitely not a democrat! He will bankrupt this nation within the next six months at the current rate he is spending our money.

The victims of the chaos that reigns in this administration are each and every one of us.  It only begins with those 800,000+ workers who are in danger of losing their homes, cars and even lives, but in the near future the pain will trickle down to us all.  This is the most irresponsible presidency in the history of this nation, bar none.  It’s time we put some adults in charge, for we damn sure don’t have any today!

Two Blows Against Freedom of Press/Speech Today

We are all familiar with this image

connection-timed-out-2Technically, what it means is that a server is taking too long to reply to a data request made from another device, typically your computer, cell phone or tablet. The reasons can vary from the wrong IP address being typed in to a hardware problem to a problem with WiFi services.  Typically, if the IP address is valid, it is a temporary problem easily solved by clicking the refresh button or resetting a router.  But today, Turkish people throughout the country are seeing this message and it is not going to be a simple fix.  For today, the Turkish government, i.e. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has blocked Wikipedia from Turkish internet users.

“After technical analysis and legal consideration … an administrative measure has been taken for this website,” the BTK telecoms authority said in a statement on its website. It cited a law that allows it to block access to individual web pages or entire sites for the ‘protection of public order, national security or the wellbeing of the public’.  We are talking about Wikipedia, folks, not a subversive website, not a porn site … an educational, informational site.  Such is the state of freedom of speech and freedom of press in Turkey today.

Meanwhile, across the pond here in our own backyard, there is this:

epa-website.png

“EPA wipes its climate change site day before march on Washington. Visitors to the website on Saturday found it was ‘undergoing changes’ to reflect the agency’s ‘new direction’, as thousands protest climate inaction.”

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s main climate change website is “undergoing changes” to better reflect “the agency’s new direction” under Donald Trump. The announcement, made late Friday evening, left empty what was previously the “official government site” providing “comprehensive information on the issue of climate change and global warming”.

“As EPA renews its commitment to human health and clean air, land and water, our website needs to reflect the views of the leadership of the agency.  We want to eliminate confusion, by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.” – JP Freire, an associate administrator for public affairs

Previously, the website housed data on greenhouse gas emissions from large polluters and reports on the effects of climate change and its impact on human health.

While I could go on for thousands of words about my outrage over the EPA and it’s anything-but-protecting-the-environment approach, this post it about freedom of speech and press, so I shall save the EPA commentary for another post.

Yesterday, in the wake of the European Press Prize awards, Peter Preston of The Guardian, wrote a very short piece:

“A final word on the European Press Prize as, awards delivered, a new season begins. The winners were all terrific. Congratulations to your Serbian investigators, young Romanian reporters, digital wizards from Bellingcat. Congratulations to three sensational writers from Stern and Spiegel. (Gosh! the Germans still invest mightily in good journalism). And more than a tip of the cap to Fintan O’Toole of the Irish Times (and Guardian and Observer) for his scintillating takes on Brexit.

But one thing that sets these awards apart for me is a sense of danger – for Yavuz Baydar and his Turkish colleagues as democracy closes down, of a Warsaw government running amok and of Hungary’s Orbán defying the whole European idea. The dangers the Serbian winners raised as many marched in Belgrade, fighting for press freedoms lost.

Who can be complacent about Europe, its struggles, its future? When journalists meet, they hear a knocking at the gates.”

Even in the UK, freedom of the press is not what it once was.  There are new laws permitting generalized surveillance, as well as a proposal for a new espionage act that could criminalize journalists and whistleblowers as spies.  Both the UK and the U.S. dropped two points in the past year on the Reporters Without Borders (RWB) World Press Freedom Index in the past year. Even so, I do not see Prime Minister Theresa May approaching dictatorship, as I do in the cases of Erdoğan and Trump.

Earlier this month, Turkey held a vote on a referendum that consolidated significantly more power under Erdoğan.  At the time, Donald Trump called President Erdoğan to offer congratulations. Today, Trump himself is talking about consolidating his own power. In an interview with Fox News that aired Friday night, Trump dismissed the “archaic” rules of the House and Senate — using that word four times — and suggested they needed to be streamlined “for the good of the country.”  A few excerpts:

“We don’t have a lot of closers in politics, and I understand why: It’s a very rough system. It’s an archaic system.”

“You look at the rules of the Senate, even the rules of the House — but the rules of the Senate and some of the things you have to go through — it’s really a bad thing for the country, in my opinion. They’re archaic rules. And maybe at some point we’re going to have to take those rules on, because, for the good of the nation, things are going to have to be different.”

“You can’t go through a process like this. It’s not fair. It forces you to make bad decisions. I mean, you’re really forced into doing things that you would normally not do except for these archaic rules.”

“I think, you know, the filibuster concept is not a good concept to start off with.”

Trump is frustrated with the pace of legislation after 100 days, and his answer is that he wants to change the rules … the very rules that were designed to safeguard against any one individual in government amassing too much power and shifting the foundation of a democracy into one of an autocracy. And it all starts with stifling the voices of the press and of the people.  Today, Trump effectively stifled the voice of what is arguably one of the most important agencies in the federal government, the EPA.  Today Erdoğan stifled the voice of knowledge in his country.  What is the future for these two nations under these authoritarian leaders?  Think about it.

Schoolyard Bullies Leading Nations …

Lest we here in the U.S. think we have a monopoly on spoiled brats in the upper echelons of government, let us look across the pond for a brief moment.  Specifically, at Turkey.  I have written much about Turkey and President Erdoğan and his grab for additional power at some length, the most relevant to this post being From Turkey To The United States.

erdoganAs mentioned in that post, Erdoğan has recently proposed certain constitutional changes that would transform the government into a near dictatorship.  The changes would enable Erdoğan to make all government appointments, take back the leadership of the ruling party, and stay in power until 2029, pending presidential and general elections in 2019, with a maximum of two five-year terms. The proposed amendments would entirely abolish the Office of the Prime Minister.  One that threw up red flags for me is Article 84: The powers of Parliament to scrutinize ministers and hold the government to account are abolished.  And Article 98: The obligation of ministers to answer questions orally in Parliament is abolished. These amendments are to be voted on Sunday, 16 April 2017, which is the source of the current escalating tensions between Turkey and, of all places, the Netherlands.

tulips-hollandIn the EU, expats from Turkey who are currently living in another EU country, say the Netherlands or Germany, will be allowed to vote in the Turkish referendum next month.  So, the Turkish government has been sending foreign ministers to each country that has a large population of Turkish nationals to rally support for the referendum.  The trouble started on Friday when Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu was in-flight, bound for the Dutch city of Rotterdam to attend a rally, as there are some 300,000 Turkish expats living in the Netherlands. The rally was cancelled amid concerns that, with the Dutch national elections being held next Wednesday, it could lead to public disruption.  Still, Çavuşoğlu was determined to go to the Netherlands, at which point Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, issued an order disallowing Çavuşoğlu’s plane from landing.  Çavuşoğlu said he planned to fly to Rotterdam anyway, and warned that if the Netherlands blocked his arrival, Turkey would respond with harsh economic and political sanctions. Last week, the German city of Hamburg banned him from speaking at a rally, after which Erdoğan accused Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German government of Nazi practices, then soon thereafter he had a German reporter arrested, saying he was a German spy and a terrorist.

So what happened next?  Erdoğan, speaking at a rally in Istanbul, made a statement that ranks right up there in terms of maturity with what Donald Trump might have said in similar circumstances:

“You can stop our foreign minister’s plane all you want, let’s see how your planes will come to Turkey from now on. They are Nazi remnants, they are fascists.”

And then … Turkish authorities sealed off the Dutch embassy and consulate, and also closed off the residences of the Dutch ambassador, charge d’affaires and consul general.

And then … Dutch authorities detained Turkish family affairs minister, Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, to keep her from addressing another rally in Rotterdam to garner support for Erdoğan’s referendum.

bully-2.jpgAs of this writing on Saturday night, that is where things stand, however I’m fairly certain we have not heard the last of it.  So why did I choose to write about this?  On the surface, there is some humour here, as it is reminiscent of a playground shouting match, and I could almost expect Erdoğan to start saying “nyah-nyah-na-nyah-nyah” at any minute.  But delve a bit beneath the surface, and it is both ludicrous and dangerous.  These are not 10-year-old children on a schoolyard, but full-grown adults, people who had enough education and qualifications to be placed in the top positions of their nations.  The tit-for-tat behaviour that is pretty much normal for a child, is abominable when practiced by men in positions of power and trust.  We have Donald Trump in the U.S. who has acted quite similarly, barring reporters who he did not like, calling for violence at his campaign rallies last year, and seeking redress and reparation against any who cross him.  North Korea has Kim Jong-un who has long been known for childish, temperamental displays.  These are the traits of men like Hitler, Stalin, and others who sought complete control and tolerated no discord.  It does not bode well for the future of the globe to see leaders who would use threats and even violence to resolve problems rather than diplomacy.

Erdoğan’s referendum is destined to increase his power and lead Turkey into a dictatorship. One excellent article, if you have an interest in the politics of Turkey, was published in a January edition of Aljazeera.  Even if you aren’t particularly interested in Turkey and its problems, with a man like Trump in the U.S., and other potential ‘populist’ leaders on the horizon in the Netherlands, France, and Germany, we must consider the effects these ‘leaders’ may have on global affairs.  Just look at the ways in which Trump has already, in just six weeks, offended many of our allies, cast shadow on the honesty and integrity of his entire administration, devalued the education system, healthcare system, and environmental protection agency, to name only a few.  Think what the world would look like if every leader around the globe lacked the ability to negotiate with others in a rational manner, to make decisions based on intellect rather than emotion. This is why it is important to put Erdoğan in the spotlight, or under the microscope.  For much the same reason, Europeans who will be holding elections in the coming weeks/months, need to look toward the U.S., see what chaos is being wrought by the new administration, and proceed with caution.  I spoke not long ago about our seeming inability to learn lessons from history … today I hope that we are able to learn lessons from the present.

Freedom of the Press — GOING, GOING …

“It is mind-boggling why President Trump prefers to shout down a reporter or brush this off as a political distraction.” – Statement by the Anti-Defamation League,  02-16-2017

“Respectfully, Mr. President, please use your bully pulpit not to bully reporters asking questions potentially affecting millions of fellow Americans, but rather to help solve a problem that, for many, is real and menacing.” – David Harris, American Jewish Committee, 02-16-2017


In Turkey, after the failed coup that was likely orchestrated by none other than Erdoğan himself, in order to curtail the power of the press, he simply had journalists arrested and shut down independent news agencies.  Trump has not, as yet, figured out a way to do that, since freedom of the press is an integral part of the U.S. Constitution, so he has another tactic, another ‘trick up his sleeve’:  bullying.

Throughout his year-and-a-half long campaign, Trump denigrated almost every major news outlet, except Fox and Breitbart, and banned a number of highly reputable news agencies, including The Washington Post, from his rallies and campaign events.  Since his election win last November, he has continued to criticize and threaten the press, calling them “fake news”, “dishonest”, “scum” and more.  We are becoming inured to it, and his rhetoric has become just so much noise in our minds.  However in his bizarre ‘press conference’ yesterday, he did something that I found deeply disturbing.

turxJewish reporter Jake Turx from Ami Magazine had a question about the recent episodes of anti-Semitism around the nation.  He prefaced his question by saying he did not see evidence the President or his staff were anti-Semitic. He even mentioned Trump’s Jewish grandchildren. Clearly Mr. Turx wanted to be sure Trump understood that he was not levelling accusations at Trump or his staff, but merely asking a question.

“What we are concerned about, and what we haven’t really heard being addressed, is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it.” 

Trump interrupted, “See, he said he was going to ask a very simple, easy question, and it’s not.”

Turx:  “It’s an important one.”

Trump: “Not a simple question. Not a fair question. OK, sit down. I understand the rest of your question. So here’s the story folks. No. 1, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. No. 2, racism. The least racist person. In fact, we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican.”

Turx raised his hand and again tried to speak, but was told, “Quiet, quiet, quiet. See he lied about — he was going to get up and ask a very straight, simple question. So, you know, welcome to the world of the media.”

Trump: “But let me just tell you something: I hate the charge. I find it repulsive. I hate even the question because people that know me — and you heard the Prime Minister, you heard Benjamin Netanyahu, did you hear him, Bibi? He said, ‘I’ve known Donald Trump for a long time,’ and then he said, ‘Forget it.’ So you should take that instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.”

The question was not rude, insulting, repulsive nor difficult.  The reality is that there has been a surge in anti-Semitism since the November election including bomb threats and hate mail.  Jewish Community Centers in 27 states received some 60 bomb threats in January alone.  The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has identified some 1,600 Twitter accounts that have been used to send more than 2 million tweets containing anti-Semitic language and threats.

The question was “what is the federal government doing about this issue?” The answer was simple:  The FBI and Justice Departments are investigating, and working in conjunction with the ADL and local law enforcement to monitor the situation and ensure the safety of the Jewish community.  It isn’t rocket science, and it did not warrant Trump’s outburst.

When the man who is considered to be, acknowledged by most to be, the leader of a nation of some 300 million people cannot answer a simple question without twisting the question into a personal affront, then that nation needs to re-think their choice of leadership.  Period.  This is why hate groups like alt-right and the KKK believe they have the support of the president when they commit crimes against humanity.  Trump will not even speak out and admit that such crimes are an atrocity and that his administration will work to ensure the safety of its citizens.  Yet, he is adamant about reinstating his ban against people of the Muslim faith from at least seven countries in the Middle East … people who have done us no harm.

To my original point, from which I seem to have strayed, Trump’s refusal to answer a simple, straightforward question is bad enough, but then to tell the journalist to sit down and shut up, refusing to give him a chance to even finish asking his question, is a violation of the 1st amendment.  The first amendment does not state “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press as long as president likes the questions they ask …

In telling Mr. Turx to ‘sit down and be quiet’, Trump violated the reporter’s right, and perhaps most importantly of all, he violated our rights … the right of every citizen in this country.  It is not the first time, and undoubtedly will not be the last, but it stands out as a blatant example of a president who takes the law into his own hands, who does not understand the very Constitution that he swore to uphold less than a month ago.  He curtailed the freedom of the press yesterday every bit as surely as Erdoğan did when he ordered journalists arrested.  We have already begun to lose our constitutional rights, and this is only the beginning.

From Turkey To The United States

Just as I had put the finishing touches on my post Trump’s Press Conference – Part II discussing his dissing of the media, along comes another news story from International Business Times (IBT), informing me that Turkey’s President Erdoğan was praising Trump for putting CNN reporter Jim Acosta “in his place”.  I can never complete a story anymore, as once I have written, edited, cleaned and scheduled it, something else hits the fan!

As I have reported on numerous occasions, President Erdoğan is steadily diminishing many of the freedoms that once made Turkey a democratic nation, including freedom of the press. Erdoğan has jailed at least 144 journalists and shuttered or seized control of more than 150 media companies, according to Human Rights Watch.

Turkey is currently a parliamentary democracy, with much of the executive power in the hands of the prime minister, and the role of the president (Erdoğan) being largely ceremonial, at least according to the Constitution.  However, President Erdoğan has recently proposed certain constitutional changes that would transform the government into an executive democracy.  The changes would enable Erdoğan to make all government appointments, take back the leadership of the ruling party, and stay in power until 2029, pending presidential and general elections in 2019, with a maximum of two five-year terms. The proposed amendments would entirely abolish the Office of the Prime Minister.  One that threw up red flags for me is Article 84: The powers of Parliament to scrutinize ministers and hold the government to account are abolished.  And Article 98: The obligation of ministers to answer questions orally in Parliament is abolished.

It is not my intent to give a lesson here on Turkish government, but rather to show what power and the desire for more power can lead to.  Erdoğan, though more intelligent and polished than Trump, shares certain characteristics.  Both are narcissistic, thin-skinned, and have controlling personalities.  In the aftermath of the failed military coup last July, Erdoğan declared a state of emergency and temporarily expanded his powers.  I, and others, still believe, though it has not been proven, that he played a role in staging the coup for this very reason.  Since he cannot keep extending the state of emergency forever, the constitutional changes he proposes will expand the powers and control of his office on a permanent basis.

Under the state of emergency, as mentioned above, he has severely cut into the freedoms of the press, but also freedom of speech in general. In the last six months of the year, the government carried out mass arrests of journalists, closed multiple media outlets, and jailed elected opposition politicians. It dismissed or detained without due process over 100,000 civil servants including teachers, judges and prosecutors, suspended hundreds of nongovernmental groups, and consolidated government control over the courts.

“Instead of building on the cross-party unity opposed to the coup to strengthen democracy, Turkey’s government has opted for a ruthless crackdown on critics and opponents. With hundreds of thousands of people dismissed or detained without due process, an independent media silenced and Kurdish opposition members of parliament in jail, Turkey has been plunged into its worst crisis in a generation,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

How likely are the proposed constitutional changes to be passed?  There is heavy criticism from opposition parties, and constitutional legal experts claim that the changes would result in the Parliament becoming effectively powerless, while the executive president would have controls over the executive, legislative and judiciary branches.  Still, I predict that Erdoğan will have his way sometime this year.

erdogan-trumpSo how does this relate to Trump’s election and our situation in the U.S.?  As I mentioned, Trump and Erdoğan have similar personalities, and view their positions of power much the same.  Trump is playing to a House and Senate with Republican majorities in both.  Currently there is a vacant seat on the Supreme Court, the current composition of which is equally divided with 4 conservative and 4 liberal justices.  There is no doubt that his nominee for that seat will be someone he trusts to share and support his views.  Trump has continually denigrated and threatened all mainstream media outlets.  He has nominated cabinet members whose positions are diametrically opposed to the ongoing commitments of their respective offices.  And the list goes on ….

Does Trump have the power to follow in the path of Erdoğan?  Alone, no.  But supported by a ‘yes-man’ Congress and a Supreme Court whose balance is tipped in favour of his policies, perhaps.  While I think it is highly unlikely that he would, or even could, stage a coup, in a sense he has already manufactured the crisis that he might be able to use to increase the power of his office.  He has divided the people, the citizens of this nation, in a way that has never been done before.  He has told his followers that there are boogey men behind every tree just waiting to make their lives miserable.  He has told them that their lives are already miserable, and that policies such as environmental regulation, equality for LGBT, land and wildlife preservation, will make their lives even more miserable.  Many believe … many hang on his every word and would support his every proposal, as long as he keeps patting them on the head and saying, “there, there … don’t worry … Uncle Donnie will take care of you”.

Thus far, the Republican-dominated Congress has shown no inclination to go against anything Trump desires.  Russia’s involvement in our election, their joy over seeing Trump elected, says much.  If Trump’s brainwashing techniques fail to allow him to increase his own power, I think Putin would be more than willing to help Trump up the ante by staging some sort of an ‘event’ that would convince the public and also the legislators that we need to place a greater degree of control in the hands of the president for the safety of our nation and its citizens.

The first step would be to remove some of the power of the press, and that is what we must all fight against.  We must stay informed, we must make our collective voices heard to support and defend our mainstream media.  We must fight against faux news, reporting it when we find it, pointing out to the masses that it is wrong.  Fortunately, the biggest difference between Turkey and the U.S. is that the majority of Americans actually do not support Trump, as opposed to Turkey, where Erdoğan enjoys a high degree of popularity.  Some of what I have written here is speculative, based on what I have seen happen in other countries under similar circumstances.  But it appears to me that the foundation is being poured for a subsequent power grab by the next president.  I hope I am wrong.

***Note:  I mentioned in the first paragraph that I can never finish a story … after I finished writing this post, an interesting article was published by The Independent, a British online publication, that draws much the same conclusion I have stated here.  Well worth the read!

Europe’s Worst Fears … and Erdoğan’s ‘State of Emergency’

A few days ago, a friend commented on my blog that, according to Austrian weekly magazine Profil, there are four major areas of immediate concern in the world today:

  • A possible Trump presidency
  • Crisis in the EU as a result of the Brexit vote
  • Erdogan’s increasing autocracy
  • Terrorist attacks

I was surprised, yet not surprised to see that a potential Trump presidency is among the four top global concerns.  The U.S. has long been considered a leader in foreign policy, and now … here we are considering perhaps the most radical madman since the days of Adolph Hitler to lead our nation … into … what?.  History is cyclic, they say.  History repeats itself, they say.  If we in the U.S. are in abject terror of this demagogue and his lemming followers, it stands to reason that the rest of the world cringes to think of this madman with his finger on the proverbial red button.  And I am working on that one … I have written post after post about the escalating danger of one so fanatical, so bigoted, so … what is the word I want?  A man who admires Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein … who can blame the world for being unnerved?

But today, I turn back to the 3rd on the list, President Erdoğan and the ongoing situation in Turkey since the failed coup on 15 July.  It has been almost two weeks since Erdoğan declared a three-month state of emergency on 20 July, giving almost unlimited power to the president and his cabinet.  What has happened in those two weeks?

Turkey-1.jpg

One of Erdoğan’s first moves, predictably, was to further limit the power of the press. A decree published in Turkey’s official gazette demanded the closure of more than 100 broadcasters, newspapers, magazines, publishing houses and distribution companies, including three news agencies, 16 television channels, 23 radio channels, 45 newspapers and 15 magazines.  Just this weekend, 17 prominent journalists were arrested (see photo above), and warrants have been issued for some 70 more.  The journalists are charged with membership in a terrorist group.

Lest you begin to think that Erdoğan has no heart, in a surprising move on Thursday, he announced that he was withdrawing, as a one-time-only gesture, all lawsuits filed against people for insulting him, a move he said was triggered by “feelings of unity against the coup attempt”. “I forgive them,” he said.  And yet … I see this move not as a true conciliatory gesture, but as the crumb of bread thrown out to keep the dogs at bay.  Please pardon my cynicism, Mr. Erdoğan.  Earlier the same day, he called for the west to “mind your own business” and harshly criticized western nations for failing to show solidarity with Ankara.

“When five-10 people die in a terror attack, you [Western countries] set the world on fire. But when there is a coup attempt against the president of the Turkish Republic, who always protects the democratic parliamentary system and who was elected with 52 percent of the general vote, instead of siding with the government, you side with the perpetrators.” 

I would question the statement “always protects the democratic parliamentary system”, as we have seen evidence over the past two years that the notion of ‘democracy’ in Turkey has been diminished by Erdoğan’s policies, rather than protected.  Now it would appear that Erdoğan has thrown all caution to the wind, and Turkey’s chances of joining the EU have gone from slim to none, at least for the foreseeable future.

Turkey continues to claim that the coup was a plot by exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen who currently resides Pennsylvania in the U.S., and the Turkish government demands his extradition.  The Turkish government claims to have evidence to support the theory that Gulen and his followers within Turkey were responsible for the coup, while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says that he has not seen credible evidence.  I have read what information I could find, and admittedly I can understand the Turkish claim, but there are too many unknowns, too many unanswered questions.  An excellent article about this can be found in a  weblog written by Dani Rodrik   who was born and raised in Turkey, and is now a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.

My initial take after the failed coup, was that Erdoğan himself may have had a hand in staging the coup as a justification to further strengthen his power and to further reduce certain democratic freedoms, most notably freedom of the press.  I still consider this a distinct possibility, though I admit there may be compelling reasons to think otherwise.  In a nutshell, I do not know, and am not certain whether we will ever know all the details.

Regardless of who was actually behind the coup, the results of the last two weeks have furthered President Erdoğan’s goals of weeding out many of those he saw as a threat, those who offended him.  Unfortunately for the citizens of Turkey, the result has ensured that they are now more in the dark than ever and are destined to hear only that which Erdoğan chooses for them to hear.  Three leading press freedom organizations have condemned the Turkish government’s crackdown on the media following the failed coup, including the UN special rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression, David Kaye. However, beyond issuing protests, these groups have little power.

I began writing this post a few days ago, but other things cropped up that I deemed more “time sensitive”, so I put it aside for a few days.  In the interim, when I thought Erdoğan had given up on EU privileges, the Turkish government has said that it would have to abandon the March 18th Turkey-EU migrant deal reached with the European Union to stem the flow of migrants into the bloc if the EU did not grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens.  European Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said recently he did not see the EU granting Turks visa-free travel this year due to Ankara’s crackdown after the failed military coup in mid-July. “It is up to Turkey if there is or there isn’t visa liberalization,” Gabriel said during a trip to northern Germany, according to Reuters. “Germany and Europe should under no circumstances be blackmailed.”

Stay tuned, as I have a feeling this ball of yarn has only begun to unravel.  To my U.S. readers, I just want to make the point that during the time I have been studying and writing about Erdoğan and his power-hungry tactics, I have seen remarkable similarities between his personality and that of republican candidate Donald Trump.  It might behoove us all to pay closer attention to the tactics being used in Turkey, because they are not dissimilar from those that I believe Trump intends if he should win the election in November.

Whodunit?

Well, now we know the truth about both the truck bomb attack in Nice and the attempted military coup in Turkey last week.  I thought it might take some time to figure out the who-what-why questions swirling around these events, but presidential candidate Donnie J. Trump has solved the riddle and placed the blame squarely on the heads of … {drumroll} … you guessed it!  President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (who also just happens to be a presidential candidate).  I will no longer need to speculate or lose sleep trying to think of all the possibilities here … the great man, the really, really smart man … has done my job for me.  Not only mine, but those of countless international law organizations around the world.  Thanks, Donnie!

“We’re seeing unrest in Turkey, a further demonstration of the failures of Obama-Clinton,” he told a crowd of supporters during a speech to introduce his newly appointed running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R). “You just have to look ― every single thing they’ve touched has turned to horrible, horrible, death-defying problems.”

International law enforcement and anti-terrorist organizations have been hard at work trying to discern whether Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the man who drove a truck bomb into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day, actually had any affiliations with Daesh, who claimed responsibility for the attack.  Well, search no farther … Trump has solved the problem.  It is the fault of President Obama and Ms. Clinton!

And there has been massive speculation regarding the origins of the attempted coup Friday night in Turkey, some, like myself, even speculating that Erdogan himself may have had a role in the staging of the coup.  But no, apparently it was all the fault, again, of President Obama and Ms. Clinton!  Those two certainly have been busy of late!

The leaders of those two nations, however, do not seem to be appreciative of Trump’s efforts on their behalf.  Sigh.  I guess you get used to that when you’re a very smart man.  President Erdogan of Turkey dislikes Donald Trump so much that last month he called for Donald Trump’s name to be removed from a Turkish franchisee’s towers in Istanbul’s business district due to what Mr. Erdogan termed the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s Islamophobia.

French President Francois Hollande, in a recent interview, said “Oui [l’élection de Donald Trump serait dangereuse]. [Elle] compliquerait les rapports entre l’Europe et les Etats-Unis. Ses slogans diffèrent peu de ceux de l’extrême droite en Europe et en France : peur de la déferlante migratoire, stigmatisation de l’islam, mise en cause de la démocratie représentative, dénonciation des élites – alors même que Donald Trump, par sa fortune en est l’incarnation la plus évidente.”* Pretty strong words, huh?

*Translation: “Yes [ Donald Trump ‘s election would be dangerous ] . [ It] would complicate relations between Europe and the United States. His slogans differ little from those of the extreme right in Europe and France : fear of the migratory wave , stigmatization of Islam , questioning of representative democracy , denouncing elites – even as Donald Trump , for his fortune is the most obvious incarnation.”

Trump failed to elaborate on precisely what the Prez and Hillary did to bring about these events, and provided not a single detail, but I am tired, so I don’t think I will ask too many questions.  I mean, no matter what he says, he must be right, yes?  Isn’t that how his followers think?  He said it, it must be so, and now I will  not have to think for myself. Since the mysteries have been solved and the truth uncovered, I have nothing left to write about, so I will share a humorous story and then go to bed.

Friday night, I was pretty much glued to the live update feed, watching news of the attempted coup in Turkey, when I received a text message from my daughter saying she was on her way home from work.  I replied to her text with “Leftovers ok for dinner?  Watching coverage of Turkey coup.”  Since she was driving, she only took a quick glance at my response and saw the words “dinner” “Turkey” and “coup”, the latter of which she mistook for “soup”, so she thought I had made turkey soup for dinner.  Imagine her disappointment when she arrived home to find leftover cheese cubes, tomatoes, red peppers, crackers and 4-day-old pizza for dinner!

 

eeyore-sleep

A Planned Coup … By WHO?

. . . a differentiation arises between ourselves, the

we-group, or in-group, and everybody else, or the

other-groups, out-groups. . . . The relation of comradeship and peace in the

we-group and that of hostility and war towards

other-groups are correlative to each other. The

exigencies of war with outsiders are what make

peace inside. [Sumner, 1906: 121

 

Yesterday afternoon and into the night last night, I was kept abreast of the events in Turkey, thanks to a live update feed by The Guardian.  I will not provide facts and details, in part because everybody who cares has by now perused the news and knows as much as, if not more than I, but also because there are still more unknowns than there are facts. Typically, I would not write about the attempted military coup that took place until more is known, but I am writing this post because a thought came to me late last night and it planted itself in my mind and is sprouting roots.  Either it is a weed that needs to be pulled, or a plant that will grow and eventually bear fruit.  I do not know yet, but if you will bear with me for just a few paragraphs, perhaps your opinions will help me to figure it out.

When I was in college, I spent a year working as a research assistant to a professor of political science, Joseph M. Scolnick, whose specialty was international relations.  (He was responsible for awakening my fascination with the topic and deserves credit for my ongoing interest).  At that time, he was writing about conflict management and the theory that external threats bring about internal cohesion.  Put quite simply, the theory is that if the family is fighting amongst themselves, then somebody from the outside comes along and threatens the family, they will set aside their squabbles and pull together to protect the family unit.

So, what does this have to do with yesterday’s attempted coup in Turkey?  Maybe nothing.  Or maybe everything.  In the two years since Recep Tayyip Erdoğan became president of Turkey, he has become increasingly authoritarian, greatly diminishing the freedom of press to the point that most news outlets are now under his control.  Journalists who spoke out have been arrested, tried, and are now serving prison sentences. He has sought to bring Turkey into the European Union (EU) as a member, however many in the EU believe he is moving away from democratic principles and for the past several months it has become increasingly unlikely that he will achieve this goal.  Needless to say, there is much unrest in Turkey.

All of which is an oversimplification of major proportions, but I am not writing an academic paper, merely trying to lay the groundwork for my theory.  My theory, more of a question, really, is this:  I wonder if Mr. Erdoğan himself might be behind yesterday’s attempted coup?  Two simple things set my mind down this path.  First, wasn’t it convenient that Erdoğan was not in-country at the time of the coup attempt, but rather was enjoying a vacation, though there are conflicting stories about his exact whereabouts at the time.  Second, was this update at 11:39 p.m. EDT, 6:39 a.m. in Turkey:  “The crowd, numbering in the thousands, is chanting and singing – one nation, one flag, one motherland – and shouting Erdoğan’s name as he leaves the platform.”  A simple thing, really, but the thought that came to mind was:  it couldn’t have worked out much better if he had planned it.

Not one given to conspiracy theories or finger-pointing without having facts and information, I tried to put the thought out of my mind and went to sleep.  But alas, I found that when I woke up this morning, the thought was still lying there in the webs of my mind, asking to be further explored.  Between 160-265 dead, more than 1,000 injured … no way the leader of a democracy would intentionally inflict that upon his own people, right?  Unless that leader was more concerned with increasing his power than with the lives of his people.  Nearly 3,000 military personnel have been arrested.  Are they pawns in a game, and if so … whose game?  Whose pawns?

Today, the blame game has begun and there are far more questions than answers.  Even the death and injury tolls are far from final.  In the coming days and weeks some answers will be forthcoming, others may never be known.  It is not my intent to accuse President Erdoğan of plotting to increase his power at the expense of his country’s democracy, but rather simply to pose the question:  is it possible?  Time may tell.  Or not.