Saturday Surprise — Pride Month – Part I

I was actually planning to skip Saturday Surprise again this week, but a glance at the calendar reminds me that June is almost over, and what I planned to do from the beginning of the month, has as yet gone undone. Pride-month-3June is Pride Month, a month dedicated to recognizing the impact LGBTQ people have had in the world.  I see Pride Month in much the same way I see February’s Black History Month.  It is a way to honour or commemorate those who rarely receive the recognition they deserve, and are often discriminated against, simply because they are LGBTQ, or black, in the case of Black History Month.  A bit of history …

The Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, was owned by the Genovese crime family, and in 1966, three members of the Genovese family invested $3,500 to turn the Stonewall Inn into a gay bar, after it had been a restaurant and a nightclub for heterosexuals. Once a week a police officer would collect envelopes of cash as a payoff, as the Stonewall Inn had no liquor license and thus was operating outside the law.  It was the only bar for gay men in New York City where dancing was allowed; dancing was its main draw since its re-opening as a gay club.

At 1:20 a.m. on Saturday, June 28, 1969, four plainclothes policemen in dark suits, two patrol officers in uniform, and Detective Charles Smythe and Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine arrived at the Stonewall Inn’s double doors and announced “Police! We’re taking the place!”  Approximately 205 people were in the bar that night. Patrons who had never experienced a police raid were confused. A few who realized what was happening began to run for doors and windows in the bathrooms, but police barred the doors.

Standard procedure was to line up the patrons, check their identification, and have female police officers take customers dressed as women to the bathroom to verify their sex, upon which any men dressed as women would be arrested. Those dressed as women that night refused to go with the officers. Men in line began to refuse to produce their identification. The police decided to take everyone present to the police station, after separating those cross-dressing in a room in the back of the bar.

Long story short, a few patrons were released before the patrol wagons arrived to cart the rest off to jail, and those few stayed out front, attracted quite a large crowd, mostly LGBT people, and after an officer hit a woman over the head for saying her handcuffs were too tight, the crowd went into fight mode.  By this time, the police were outnumbered by some 600 people.  Garbage cans, garbage, bottles, rocks, and bricks were hurled at the building, breaking the windows.  The mob lit garbage on fire and stuffed it through the broken windows.  Police tried to use water hoses to disperse the crowd, but there was no water pressure.  Police pulled their weapons, but before they could fire them, the Tactical Patrol Force and firefighters arrived.  The crowd mocked and fought against the police, who began swinging their batons right and left, not much caring who they hit or where.

The crowd was cleared by 4:00 a.m., but the mood remained dark, and the next night, rioting resumed with thousands of people showing up at the Stonewall, blocking the streets.  Police responded, and again it was 4:00 a.m. before the mob was cleared.

There comes a point when people who are mistreated, abused, discriminated against, have had enough.  It is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, and the police raid on the Stonewall Inn, the treatment of people who were only out to enjoy the night, was that straw.  It was a history making night, not only for the LGBTQ community, but for the nation.pride-month-stonewall.jpgWithin six months of the Stonewall riots, activists started a citywide newspaper called Gay; they considered it necessary because the most liberal publication in the city—The Village Voice—refused to print the word “gay”.  Two other newspapers were initiated within a six-week period: Come Out! and Gay Power; the readership of these three periodicals quickly climbed to between 20,000 and 25,000.  Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) was formed with a constitution that began …

“We as liberated homosexual activists demand the freedom for expression of our dignity and value as human beings.”

I think that says it all, don’t you?  ‘Dignity and value as human beings’.  It is, in my book, a crying shame that our society needs to be reminded that we are all human beings, that we all have value and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

Christopher Street Liberation Day on June 28, 1970 marked the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots with an assembly on Christopher Street; with simultaneous Gay Pride marches in Los Angeles and Chicago, these were the first Gay Pride marches in U.S. history. The next year, Gay Pride marches took place in Boston, Dallas, Milwaukee, London, Paris, West Berlin, and Stockholm.  The Stonewall riots are considered the birth of the gay liberation movement and of gay pride on a massive scale.  The event has been likened to the Boston Tea Party, and Rosa Parks’ refusal to move to the back of the bus.  All of those were people’s way of saying, “We’ve had enough!”

This year marks the 50 year anniversary of the Stonewall Inn raid and ensuing riots, and at long last, the New York City Police Department apologized to the LGBTQ community.  “The actions taken by the NYPD [at Stonewall] were wrong, plain and simple,” police commissioner James O’Neill said.  He also noted that the frequent harassment of LGBTQ men and women and laws that prohibited same-sex sexual relations are “discriminatory and oppressive” and apologized on behalf of the department.

President Bill Clinton first declared June to be National Pride Month in 1999, and again in 2000.  On June 1, 2001, President George W. Bush announced that the White House would not formally recognize Pride Month.  Every year that President Barack Obama was in office, he declared June to be LGBT Pride Month.  Donald Trump ignored it in 2017 and 2018, but acknowledged Pride Month this year, but only via tweet, and he blocked the display of the Pride flag at all U.S. embassies.

I had no intention of turning this post into a history lesson!  I wanted to use it to highlight some of the celebrations, the fun ways that people celebrate pride month, the people and organizations that are supporting Pride Month, and to honour the LGBTQ community, but I felt the history was important also, so … this will be Part I, and Part II will follow.  Stay tuned!

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WTF is “Natural Law”???

Mike Pompeo is the nation’s Secretary of State.

Mike-PompeoCreated in 1789 by the Congress as the successor to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of State is the senior executive Department of the U.S. Government. The Secretary of State’s duties relating to foreign affairs have not changed significantly since then, but they have become far more complex as international commitments multiplied. These duties – the activities and responsibilities of the State Department – include the following:

  • Serves as the President’s principal adviser on U.S. foreign policy;
  • Conducts negotiations relating to U.S. foreign affairs;
  • Grants and issues passports to American citizens and exequaturs to foreign consuls in the United States;
  • Advises the President on the appointment of U.S. ambassadors, ministers, consuls, and other diplomatic representatives;
  • Advises the President regarding the acceptance, recall, and dismissal of the representatives of foreign governments;
  • Personally participates in or directs U.S. representatives to international conferences, organizations, and agencies;
  • Negotiates, interprets, and terminates treaties and agreements;
  • Ensures the protection of the U.S. Government to American citizens, property, and interests in foreign countries;
  • Supervises the administration of U.S. immigration laws abroad;
  • Provides information to American citizens regarding the political, economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian conditions in foreign countries;
  • Informs the Congress and American citizens on the conduct of U.S. foreign relations;
  • Promotes beneficial economic intercourse between the United States and other countries;
  • Administers the Department of State;
  • Supervises the Foreign Service of the United States.

In addition, the Secretary of State retains domestic responsibilities that Congress entrusted to the State Department in 1789. These include the custody of the Great Seal of the United States, the preparation of certain presidential proclamations, the publication of treaties and international acts as well as the official record of the foreign relations of the United States, and the custody of certain original treaties and international agreements. The Secretary also serves as the channel of communication between the Federal Government and the States on the extradition of fugitives to or from foreign countries.

That is the official job description for the position of Secretary of State, taken from the U.S. Government’s own website.  Please note that NOWHERE in all that verbiage does it say that the Secretary of State is in charge of setting the moral guidelines for the citizens of the United States!

Without the usual pomp and circumstance that usually accompanies announcements by the Trump regime, yesterday the State Department quietly announced the formation of a new committee to be called the Commission on Unalienable Rights, to be headed by Mike Pompeo.  According to the notice, the “nature and purpose” of the commission is …

“The Commission will provide the Secretary of State advice and recommendations concerning international human rights matters. The Commission will provide fresh thinking about human rights discourse where such discourse has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights.”

Ponder on this one for a moment, if you will.  “… departed from … founding principles of natural law”???  What is “natural law”?  One definition is …

“Natural law is a philosophy asserting that certain rights are inherent by virtue of human nature, endowed by nature—traditionally by God or a transcendent source—and that these can be understood universally through human reason.”

Mike Pompeo is one of those evangelicals who are anti-everything … anti-abortion, anti-women’s rights, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Muslim … and the list goes on.  On April 3rd, Brunei legalized the stoning to death of LGBT people.  Most of the western world was appropriately outraged.  Actor George Clooney called for a boycott of hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei.  The governments of the EU and UK publicly called on Brunei to abandon the law.  Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo were silent. When pressured by the media to comment, Pompeo finally said he was “concerned”, but neither he nor Trump condemned the brutality.

And now, Mike Pompeo, the evangelical, the man who is only ‘concerned’ about the brutal murder of people in the LGBTQ community, is in charge of a commission on ‘natural law’.  Be afraid, people … be very afraid.

In recent weeks, we have seen numerous states infringing on women’s human rights by passing draconian laws banning a woman’s right to an abortion, even if to save her life.  We have seen laws repealed that prohibited the discrimination of LGBTQ people in almost every area, including health care.  In short, we have seen that this regime does not respect the rights of either women or the LGBTQ community.

The State Department already has an entire bureau devoted to the issues of human rights.  Human rights advocates and activists are worried that the true purpose of this commission is to strip both women and LGBTQ people of protections against discrimination.

The most worrying part, to me, is that term “natural law”, which is typically associated with religion.  The United States is a secular nation.  Some will claim it is a ‘Christian nation’, but that is not the way the Constitution, the framework for our government, is designed.  We welcome people of all or no religions to practice whatever religion … or none … they choose, but … BUT we do not design our laws in accordance with Christianity or any other religion.

For Mike Pompeo, who holds strong and narrow-minded religious views, and a group of his choosing to have input into the legal processes of this nation is a dangerous proposition … it poses, in this writer’s view, a distinct threat to the concept of separation of church and state, and it poses a threat to women and the LGBTQ community at the very least.

Few facts are available about what the commissions goals and processes are to be, and the State department refused to provide further details to the media, but this is something to keep an eye on, folks.  This may well go the way of Trump’s “Voter Fraud Commission” in 2017 and simply fade into oblivion, but what if it doesn’t?  Think about it.

Another of those WTF Moments …

The Equality Act was introduced into the House of Representatives by Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island on March 13, 2019.  In summary …

This bill prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system. Specifically, the bill defines and includes sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation.

The bill expands the definition of public accommodations to include places or establishments that provide (1) exhibitions, recreation, exercise, amusement, gatherings, or displays; (2) goods, services, or programs; and (3) transportation services.

The bill allows the Department of Justice to intervene in equal protection actions in federal court on account of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The bill prohibits an individual from being denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.

Nothing too controversial there, right?  The LGBT people in our world surely deserve the same rights and protections as everyone, right?  It isn’t rocket science, right?  Well …

“Standing with my colleagues in opposition to the so-called “Equality Act” as it undermines human dignity, freedom of speech, religion, and conscience, and puts parental rights at risk.” – U.S. Representative Warren Davidson, Ohio

Say WHAT???

No no no no no Warren!  Human dignity is what it is trying to protect and preserve.  What, do you want separate water coolers, perhaps, for LGBT people?  Or … perhaps they should have segregated schools?  Oh, I know … you don’t want any to be able to buy a house in your neighborhood, or to get a decent job, or even to be able to purchase a wedding cake, perhaps?  Or … perhaps you would like them to have a number tattooed onto their arms and wear a gold star on their clothing?  Dignity, Warren?  How do you define that word?  Seems to me you’re trying to take away the dignity of an entire group of people … yes, Warren … people.

Religion?  How does giving an LGBT person a fair shot at a job or at a slot in college or to get a loan to purchase a car interfere with anybody’s ‘freedom of religion’?  Answers, please?  Freedom of speech?  Um, excuse me, but what … you want to be able to shout from the steps of the Capitol Building “I hate gays!”?  Sure, go ahead … see if anybody votes for you next year.  How in the Sam Heck does ensuring equal rights for people interfere with your or my freedom of speech?  The answer is it doesn’t.

And lastly … “puts parental rights at risk”???  What planet are you on, Warren?  Let me ask you a quick question, if you don’t mind … just how much alcohol do you drink in the course of a 24-hour period?  First, I’m not even sure what you mean when you say, “parental rights”.  I think of parental responsibilities as parents’ duty to keep their children warm, healthy, well-fed, safe and to see to their education, but … what “rights” do you refer to?  And how does giving people equal opportunities in employment, housing, credit, education, and public facilities undermine those “parental rights”?  Answers, please.

Warren Davidson happens to be my representative and I know him to be a fool who is more concerned with preserving bitcoin than human life, so apart from the fact that he represents my district in Congress, it would be easy to write his babbling rhetoric off as foolishness.  But …

“Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee (CWALAC) joined with Reps. Vicky Hartzler (R-Missouri), Jody Hice (R-Georgia), Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), Roger Marshall (R-Kansas) and Carol Miller (R-West Virginia) to speak out about the Equality Act’s harmful effects on women and girls. Alongside the lawmakers, representatives from CWALAC, Women’s Liberation Front, Alliance Defending Freedom, Susan B. Anthony List and Family Research Council, were clear – the “Equality Act” will do away with women’s sports, safe spaces for women, and jeopardize parents’ jurisdiction over their child’s health care. It is dangerous for our country. This bill is extreme and dangerous. It is not about equality; it is about imposing a new form of discrimination against women and people of faith in our country.” Concerned Women For America

WTF???

Has this entire bloomin’ nation gone loco?

There is not one single legitimate concern voiced by either Davidson or this “women’s” group or anyone else, for that matter.  So … what’s going on here?  Well, folks, it’s called b-i-g-o-t-r-y.  Homophobia.  Fear of that which is not understood.  So, rather than seek to educate, they choose hate.  Rather than accept people as they are, they choose to shun them because they are not just like them.

LGBT people are people.  Humans.  Just like me and you.  Just because some narrow-minded portion of society feels threatened by people who love someone of their own gender is no reason to deny people the right to earn a living, live in a decent neighborhood, shop in their local store, send their children to school, get a loan, or have a wedding cake baked.  People, that’s all.

The Equality Act bill passed in the House of Representatives on Friday by a vote of 236-173, with 23 abstentions.  Eight of the ‘Aye’ votes were by republicans, and all 173 ‘Nay’ votes were by republicans.  The eight republicans who supported the bill are:

  • Susan Brooks (Indiana)
  • Mario Diaz-Balart (Florida)
  • Brian Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania)
  • Will Hurd (Texas)
  • John Katko (New York)
  • Tom Reed (New York)
  • Elise Stefanik (New York)
  • Greg Walden (Oregon)

These eight deserve a thumbs up for voting their conscience instead of toeing the party line.  The rest of the republicans continue to do the bidding of the evangelicals and the person in the Oval Office … shame on them!

Sadly, the bill will die a rapid death when it reaches the Senate, for Mitchell McConnell has made a pledge, it seems, to ensure that no bills that are for the benefit of the people of this nation will pass under his watch.  And, if it passes the Senate by some miracle, Trump will veto it, for his puppeteers like Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress and Pat Robertson are against it and he does their bidding, not ours.  ‘Tis a sad state of affairs when people in this nation no longer have basic civil rights, human rights.

A New World Leader …

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

Thank God for Canada!

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

nicholas-kristof-thumblargeBy Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

February 6, 2019

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

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

Not a bit.

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

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

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

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

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

So Canada is stepping up.

Canadians.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reader! Wake up!

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want to move to Canada!!!

On The Rights Of People …

Two things have my angst on edge tonight, both involving humanitarian rights.


From The Guardian, Friday 04 January 2019 …

US halts cooperation with UN on potential human rights violations

The Trump administration has stopped cooperating with UN investigators over potential human rights violations occurring inside America, in a move that delivers a major blow to vulnerable US communities and sends a dangerous signal to authoritarian regimes around the world.

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

Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s human rights program, said the shift gave the impression the US was no longer serious about honoring its own human rights obligations. The ripple effect around the world would be dire.

Externally, Trump has forged an increasingly unilateral path on foreign policy: in June he shocked the world by pulling the US out of the UN human rights council, complaining it was a “cesspool of political bias”, and he has caused further consternation by siding with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, despite evidence linking Prince Mohammed to the murder of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Domestically, Trump has run roughshod over the constitutional rights of asylum seekers at the US border, attempted to deny the legal existence of transgender people and introduced tax cuts that have greatly exacerbated income inequality in a country in which 40 million people live in poverty, among many other controversies.

In any democratic form of government, oversight is a key component to ensure that corruption does no run rampant and that the rights of the people are not being trampled.  One of the functions of the United Nations is to provide such oversight, to ensure that the rights of the people are being honoured and protected by the government.  In the case of the U.S. under Donald Trump, those rights are being neither honoured nor protected, and now one of the main overseers has been disabled.  We have literally been hung out to dry.  Which leads to my second source of angst …

From The Washington Post, 03 January 2019

Trump administration considers rollback of anti-discrimination rules

The Trump administration is considering a far-reaching rollback of civil rights law that would dilute federal rules against discrimination in education, housing and other aspects of American life, people familiar with the discussions said.

A recent internal Justice Department memo directed senior civil rights officials to examine how decades-old “disparate impact” regulations might be changed or removed in their areas of expertise, and what the impact might be, according to people familiar with the matter. Similar action is being considered at the Education Department and is underway at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In the first year of Trump’s tenure, 18 civil rights prior rulings were cancelled, either by agencies within the administration, or by executive order.  Some of these rulings pertained to women’s rights, some protected minorities from discrimination in the areas of law enforcement, education, housing and employment.  Until now, the rulings were reversals or rollbacks of rulings by the Obama administration, in keeping with Trump’s master plan to eradicate every good thing that Obama had done.  But now, with the plan to rollback disparate impact regulations, the nation is stepping back even further to Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.


It seems to me that the main role of any legitimate government, certainly one that claims to stand on democratic principles, is to protect the rights of its citizens.  Our government seems to have forgotten their role, abandoned the principles to which the framers of the Constitution adhered.  For a period of nearly two hundred years, this nation mostly progressed.  Oh sure, we made mistakes, took a few steps backward from time to time, but overall, we came a long way in human rights … civil rights.  But in just the past two years, we have slid back in time, back to a time when African-Americans were considered second-class citizens, when homosexuality was taboo, women were subjugated by men.

Where is this nation headed?  Right now, we have a tin-pot dictator who has made the U.S. the source of derision throughout the Western world.  Worse, our government is eroding the freedoms, the basic human rights, of large groups of people, giving more consideration to corporations that are largely owned by disgustingly wealthy people, than to the majority of people who pay taxes and work hard to take care of their families.  Our rights are being violated and it’s time for it to stop.  Human rights, civil rights … these don’t even require thought, or at least shouldn’t require thought in this, the 21st century!  We fought a Civil War to end slavery, we’ve come through the women’s rights movements, the Civil Rights era, we’ve seen people die standing up for the rights of Native Americans, African-Americans and others.  Do we really need to go backward and have to start all over???  I surely hope not.

Good faith dealings

Last week saw the funeral of the 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush. While he was certainly not perfect – who is? – the contrast between him and the current occupant of the White House is stunning. It makes me long for the day when character and integrity were expected and admired. Our friend Keith has done a terrific job pointing out some of the finer traits of President Bush, Sr., and leaves us to draw our own comparisons. Thank you, Keith, for an excellent post and for your permission to share it.

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The passing of former President George H.W. Bush has highlighted the many positive attributes of the imperfect 41st President. Of course, we are all “fixer uppers,” and our willingness to know this about ourselves keeps us humble and in a constant state of self-improvement.

Many positive things have been highlighted about the elder Bush this past week, with many of us nostalgic to how we all should conduct ourselves, especially our leaders. Here are a few things I took away:

– a communication advisor to an early campaign noted he made a big mistake from which he could not hide. Thinking he would be fired, he recalled Bush telling him “I know you will knock the next opportunity out of the park.”

– a friend noted he played golf often with Bush when he was President. He noted the clubs Bush played would invariably try to “comp” his green and…

View original post 447 more words

Stone Cold Criminals???

The migrant caravan that Donald Trump said we should be so afraid of, that he said was filled with murderers, rapists, and even some Middle-Eastern terrorists, the one he sent troops to the border to defend against, has finally arrived.  Here is what all those “bad hombres” look like:

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Lesly, age six, sits in her donated stroller. She has cerebral palsy and cannot walk

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María Cáceres and her 15-year-old son Javier.  Javier has Down’s Syndrome.

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Migrants pushing strollers on the road to … ???

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A migrant and her young daughter, who have just had teargas thrown in their faces

Yes, folks, these are but a few of those “stone cold criminals” as Trump referred to them in his early morning tweet:Trump tweet migrants

I cannot say, nor would I, that out of the thousands of people in this caravan, there may not be a few who have committed crimes.  Take a thousand people at random from the middle of any city in the U.S., and odds are that you will find a few who have committed crimes.  But overall, this is a migrant caravan comprised of families fleeing the violence in their native countries, primarily Honduras.

Let’s talk to María Cáceres (pictured above).  María was a tortilla vendor in San Pedro Sula, Honduras when gang members killed two of her brothers and burned down her house. She said she wants asylum in the United States, but really just “wants life to get better now.”

These are people who have, over the past two months, crossed mountains, walked through forests, crossed rivers, been soaked by rains, bitten and stung by insects, all because they are seeking a better life for their children and themselves.  When they crossed into Mexico, riot police attacked them with clubs and teargas, yet they persevered.

And then yesterday, U.S. authorities closed off the busiest port of entry along the U.S. border with Mexico and fired tear gas.  What a welcome to these poor travelers … these human beings!  soldiers at the border.jpgHomeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement Sunday that the port of entry was closed “to ensure public safety in response to large numbers of migrants seeking to enter the U.S. illegally.”  Frankly, Ms. Nielsen, I would be more afraid of these soldiers than I would be of the migrants.  Public safety???  I think not.

Donald Trump, Kirstjen Nielsen and others calling to close the border, to deny these migrants asylum, lack normal human compassion.  They would deny thousands the right to opportunity, the right to safety, for political purposes.  The U.S. was once known as a country that welcomed asylum seekers, that understood what a wonderful thing diversity was.  Somewhere along the line, we lost our compassion, we lost our humanity.

Trump’s threat to “close the border permanently” is against the law, however as he believes himself to be above the law, believes that the laws do not apply if they are at odds with his whims, I suspect there will be legal challenges and hate-filled rhetoric bouncing about for the next several months.  Just another step in our decline toward becoming a third-world country.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t wish to live in a country where the borders are closed, a country that treats human beings seeking asylum as if they were criminals.  migrant-5

We’ve Come A Long Way …

We’ve come a long way from the civilized country we once were.  Our forefathers are either looking down groaning and holding their heads or laughing uproariously at what the United States of America has become.

On Monday, a pipe bomb was found in the mailbox of philanthropist (and democrat) George Soros.  Today, bombs were sent to former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and media outlet CNN.  Once upon a time, the United States was considered above such behaviour.  We were once considered “the leader of the free world”.  We were once a kinder, gentler nation, one that was looked up to, respected, and valued human rights, human life.  Today, we have sunken to the level of a third-world nation.

We refer to a number of nations, mostly in the Middle East, as ‘terrorist nations’, or ‘countries that harbour terrorists’.  The U.S. has now become just such a nation.  These bombs are acts of terrorism, and I would bet my life that they were not constructed and delivered by Middle Eastern terrorists, nor by Muslims nor Hispanics.  These were thought of, concocted and delivered by white males, unless I miss my guess.  White males who are angry for some reason that the majority of us cannot comprehend.

It would be easy to lay all this at the door of Mr. Trump, for he has been highly vocal in his rabid, vitriolic rhetoric condemning democrats and the press, Obama and Clinton.  And certainly, he must share some of the blame.  But the bulk of the blame is on We The People.  I have spoken enough times on this blog about the loss of civil discourse that I will not do so again today.

Today there are migrants from violent nations heading to the United States to seek asylum from the violence in their own countries.  Soon, I think, there may be caravans of U.S. citizens making their way to the Canadian border to seek asylum from the violence in our own nation. liberty-cries

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

These words, written by Emma Lazarus in 1883, once meant something.  They were words we were once proud of.  We have sullied the words, just as we have sullied the notion of democracy in the U.S. We no longer deserve to be known as a the ‘land of the free’, for we are not.

To Mr. Trump and to every person who has supported his hate-filled rhetoric, who applauds when he screams and incites violence, I hope you are pleased with yourselves today.  Understand that the majority in this nation do not feel as you do and that we have had just about enough.  We will fight back.  To whomever decided to make those bombs and attempt to murder good people like President Obama and Secretary Clinton, Mr. Soros, and the employees at CNN, I hope you are captured and spend the rest of your life in prison being beaten and abused in the worst possible way.

I am expecting a package to be delivered this week.  I wonder if I will hesitate before opening it?  Probably.  Isn’t this a sad state of affairs?

Good People Doing Good Things — Axana Soltan

Axana Soltan may be only 21 years of age, but she has already done more for human rights than many of us ever do in our entire lives.  When she was only 10-years-old, Axana immigrated from her native Afghanistan to the U.S.  At the time Axana lived in Afghanistan, the Taliban controlled the country and women endured unspeakably harsh conditions and were deprived of their basic human rights like education, employment and freedom of speech. Girl’s schools were burned down, teachers were threatened and women who spoke up against their regime were flogged and executed.

Axana’s family was forced to flee the country and became refugees. Axana has spent much of her childhood in refugee camps where there was no school, no medical facilities, no electricity, heating, and not even access to the very basic life necessities such as water. After witnessing the disparities in Afghanistan, she has witnessed the harsh life in exile inside a refugee camp in Pakistan: children passing away due to preventable illnesses, children not being able to get schooling, and families begging for food just to survive.

refugee campsWhile in the refugee camps, Axana was drawn to the good works being done by UNICEF – providing education, food, medicine, and other essentials to the dispossessed in the camps. At a very early age, Axana made it her life’s mission to help people in much the same manner as UNICEF.  Just five years after arriving in the U.S., her work began in earnest – at age 15!

In 2013, Axana founded Enhancing Children’s Living (ECL), a non-profit organization whose goal is “a world in which every child lives a healthy, fulfilling life and builds into smart, creative, and healthy children.” The stated mission per their Facebook page is …

ECL-2.jpgEnhancing Children’s Living is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit philanthropic organization based in Richmond, Virginia. Established in 2013, the society is organized to be a humanitarian unit that ignites the lives of children living in destitute. The organization provides access to meal nourishment, education, advocacy, and medical care to children in and out of the country.

Enhancing Children’s Living invests in a better future, a different future. It invests in a world in which no child left behind. Where children everywhere have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential. By partnering with local government, and child advocacy organizations, we ensure every child has a voice and no child feels neglected.

For the past five years, ECL has done so much good for children around the world, from putting together backpacks full of school supplies for children in Pakistan, to sending nourishing meals to children in Haiti, to buying hundreds of pairs of shoes for children coming to the United States from Afghanistan.

ECL-1Axana has achieved global recognition for her activism. On May 13th, 2017, before an audience of 2,500 people, Axana spoke against the travel ban of refugees in her Commencement Address, declaring the ban of children from the seven Muslim countries a violation of the Article 22 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She was the first Afghan-American Hero recipient on CBS and received praise from national magazines, such as Blaze and Value Magazine.

Last year, Axana graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University where she received her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Criminal Justice.

Axana aspires to become a human rights lawyer and continue her advocacy through policy to ensure that  all children, regardless of country of origin or refugee status, are awarded children’s rights protections as guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).AxanaAxana Soltan has been the energy and the inspiration behind Enhancing Children’s Living, and ECL has secured the education of over 1,700 children around the world. The organization has also been actively providing these children with thousands of backpacks filled with school supplies, hundreds of shoes, clothing and even food.

Next time you hear somebody comment on how terrible immigrants are, that they are all lazy criminals and bad for our nation, think about Axana.

“Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. Once you have determined your purpose in life, then chase after it.  In the process, please remember to help others. I strongly believe that a just and compassionate world stars with each one of us. You don’t have to be a doctor, lawyer, or a rocket scientist to make a difference in the world. There is no timeline.  Together we can create a world that places human needs and human-rights above all.”  – Axana Soltan

Make America Alone

Once again, our friend Keith is spot on in his assessment about Trump’s current trend to leave us completely devoid of allies. Please take a minute to read … thank you, Keith, for your excellent assessment and permission to share!

musingsofanoldfart

Unless you are on a diet or workout regimen, you cannot shrink to greatness. Yet, that is precisely the path America is on under the leadership of a man who announces his intent to make the country great again. Instead, he is pursuing a path of making America alone.

Jim Melville, the US ambassador to Estonia announced his resignation last week. Ambassador Melville, a 33 year state department veteran who has served under six Presidents, four of them Republucan, cited his reasons on Facebook. He said he could not support a President who has belittled NATO comparing it to NAFTA and saying it was formed to tap the American piggy bank. He also noted the President’s attack on the European Union as shameful.

Melville is not a lone voice. Other long service ambassadors have departed under this regime and there are a scary number of open diplomat positions. I have…

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