True Believer Pompeo Drives Iran Policy

The United States is a secular nation, one that welcomes people of all or no religions, but does not govern based on the beliefs or principles of any religion. At least, that’s the intent as laid forth by the U.S. Constitution. Today’s “leaders”, the people driving public policy, seem painfully unaware of this principle. Our friend Jeff over at On the Fence Voters has written an excellent post about this, the greatest hypocrisy. Thank you, Jeff …

On The Fence Voters

It’s an open secret that the evangelical community has forged a somewhat uneasy alliance with the current president of the United States. He gives them the judges they want, gives them lip service supporting ‘religious liberty,’ and does a travel ban on Muslims. All of this overrides the fact he’s perhaps the most un-Christian president in history who’s a pathological liar and who publicly bullies people he doesn’t like.

To them, while he’s an imperfect leader, he’s the ‘chosen one’ who might get them the ‘end days’ they so desperately crave. And while that’s enough to make me grab a shot of whiskey (even though I’m a beer drinker), even more frightening is that the two men driving his Iran policy are Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Both consider themselves proud members of the evangelical community.

I’ve known about Pence for sometime now. He’s a pretty…

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Tears of Shame … Again

Periodically, I write a post that begs for the title “Tears of Shame”, or some variation of that.  Since 2016, there have been eight such posts … tonight makes nine.

Healthy debate, civil discourse … I’m all for both of those.  If I make a statement, you have an opposing point of view, then fine … let’s each present our views and see if we can find a middle ground.  Even if we cannot find that middle ground, we will have each gained a better understanding of why we think the way we do.  This is good for a friendship, it is good for opposing factions within a nation, and it is good for international relations – much better than lobbing bombs.  This is how civilized society remains civilized.

However, when two people disagree and one of those people has neither facts nor sound basis for his views, then his only way of expressing himself is likely to be personal attacks and lies.  It is a tactic that, unfortunately, works well for some people, though it has ended many a friendship.  It is also a very unprofessional way to conduct the business of government.

The republican response to the witness testimony in the ongoing impeachment hearings is an example of such.  Testimony after testimony by credible witnesses, career civil service employees and others, has put the republicans at a loss.  They have zero truthful or valid explanations for the actions by Trump, Pence, Pompeo, Giuliani and others.  So … they attack.  Who do they attack?  Everybody.  Adam Schiff, whose job is to conduct these hearings in a professional manner and get to the truth.  They attack the media.  They attack “Democrats” in general.

But, the worst of their attacks are not only vicious, unfounded and brutal … but they have put human lives, the lives of people who have dedicated their entire career to the service of this nation, in danger.  Their attacks on these people, in my opinion, raises the victims of their attacks to an even higher level of esteem, and frankly the attacks make the republicans doing the attacking look like the fools they are.  They also bring down the reputation of the entire Republican Party, where I assume there are some good people. (sarcasm intended)

These attacks would be laughable except for the current climate of hate and divisiveness in this nation – a climate that has been largely created by none other than Donald Trump.  But, they are not laughable, for in this nation we have 40% of the adult population who still support Donald Trump, who do not care about facts, but rather believe whatever Trump and his cronies over at Fox ‘News’ tell them to believe.  And they own guns.  Some of them own lots of guns.  Please note that I am not saying all republicans are bloody idiots that are going to go out and shoot one of these witnesses for speaking against their beloved leader.  Not at all.  However, there is a portion that would consider it their patriotic duty.  You know it and I know it.

A point in case is Alexander Vindman, who testified on Tuesday that he became so concerned during a July 25 phone call in which President Trump asked Ukraine’s president for help with political investigations that he reported his alarm to a superior.  Immediately, Fox ‘News’ personas Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson jumped on the attack wagon.VindmanOn Ingraham’s show, The Ingraham Angle, it was suggested by her guest John Yoo, with no evidence whatsoever, that Colonel Vindman was guilty of ‘espionage’, a felony punishable by death.  It should be noted here that Colonel Vindman received a Purple Heart after he was wounded in Iraq. He is a Ukrainian-American immigrant who was 3 years old when his family fled to the United States.  Even some republicans were incensed by this, including Mitch McConnell, Mitt Romney, and Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice-President Dick Cheney, who called Mr. Yoo’s accusation “shameful”.

Senator Ron Johnson, a republican from Wisconsin wrote …

“I believe a significant number of bureaucrats . . . resent [Trump’s] un­or­tho­dox style and his intrusion on their ‘turf’. They react by leaking to the press and participating in the ongoing effort to sabotage his policies and, if possible, remove him from office. It is entirely possible that Vindman fits this profile.”

On CNN’s New Day, republican Sean Duffy, a former representative from Wisconsin also called Vindman’s loyalty into question …

“It seems very clear that he is incredibly concerned about Ukrainian defense. I don’t know that he’s concerned about American policy.  He has an affinity, I think, for the Ukraine. He speaks Ukrainian, and he came from the country and he wants to make sure they’re safe and free.”

Tucker Carlson has an even more elaborate conspiracy theory, claiming that the Ukraine has repeatedly asked Vindman to take over their entire military!

And then, Vindman began getting threats against himself and his family.  The U.S. military stands guard and ready to move Colonel Vindman and his family to a secure location on a nearby military base if it is felt that there is an imminent danger.  Other witnesses have also reported getting anonymous threats.  Because they believe that their duty is to the country, not the ‘man’ sitting in the Oval Office.  Because they told the truth.

An attorney for Colonel Vindman, David Pressman, has sent Fox News a letter requesting a public retraction of the comment on Laura Ingraham’s show that suggested Vindman was guilty of espionage.  However, even if Fox retracts and apologizes, it is far too little, too late. Words, once spoken, can never be unheard.

I would ask my republican friends, if in fact I had any left, if this is the legacy they wish to leave, if this is the nation they believe in, and if they are proud of the people, from Donald Trump on down the line, who have so terribly abused those who were willing to tell an uncomfortable truth in order to try to preserve the integrity of this nation.  I, for one, am not proud.  If I were asked by a stranger tomorrow my country of origin, I think I would rattle off the name of the first country I could think of … Sardinia … Cambodia … Sri Lanka.

Bursting The 25th Amendment Bubble …

I have been asked numerous times of late about the possibility of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.  Folks, believe me when I tell you that I want the madman gone just as much as you do, but I’m not going to give you false hope.  The odds of the 25th being used to remove Trump are almost as good as the odds that I will sprout wings and fly.  I addressed this topic just over a year ago, but I think it’s time I revisit it, perhaps with a bit more detail.

The 25th Amendment, Section IV reads …

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

The Amendment was not intended in the first place to remove a president for cause, but to transfer power to the Vice President in the event that the president were truly incapacitated.  The mechanism for removing a president ‘for cause’, is impeachment.

Now, even if you wanted to stretch it a bit and try to use the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, and there is some justification there, for he proves every day that he is mentally unstable, and it could be argued that this often renders him “unable to discharge the powers and duties …” you still have to read that first sentence very closely.  “Whenever the vice president and a majority of … principal officers …”  By principal officers, it means the Cabinet.  I cannot see Mike Pence being willing to invoke the 25th, but even if he were, let us look at Trump’s cabinet for just a minute.

  1. Vice President – Mike Pence
  2. Secretary of State – Mike Pompeo
  3. Secretary of Treasury – Steven Mnuchin
  4. Secretary of Defense – Mike Esper
  5. Attorney General – William Barr
  6. Secretary of Interior – David Bernhardt
  7. Secretary of Agriculture – Sonny Perdue
  8. Secretary of Commerce – Wilbur Ross
  9. Secretary of Labour – Eugene Scalia
  10. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) – Alex Azar
  11. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – Ben Carson
  12. Secretary of Transportation – Elaine Chao (married to Mitch McConnell)
  13. Secretary of Energy – Rick Perry
  14. Secretary of Education – Betsy DeVos
  15. Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs – Robert Wilkie
  16. Secretary of Homeland Security (acting) – Kevin McAleenan
  17. White House Chief of Staff – Mick Mulvaney
  18. Director of the Office of Management and Budget – Mick Mulvaney
  19. United States Trade Representative – Robert Lighthizer
  20. Director of National Intelligence (acting) – Joseph Maguire
  21. Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – Gina Haspel
  22. Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Andrew Wheeler
  23. Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) – Chris Pilkerton
  24. Ambassador to the United Nations – Kelly Craft

Now, you all know at least something about most of these individuals.  I’ve written at least a time or two about most of them.  Four – Bernhardt, Perry, Wheeler, and Craft – have close ties to the fossil fuel industry.  Pompeo and Barr have both proven to us that they sold their souls downriver and are willing to break the law in favour of Trump.  And others, such as DeVos, got their position as a reward for donating large amounts to Trump’s 2016 campaign.  These are not nice, honest people of integrity … they are self-serving people hanging onto Trump’s coattails because there is something in it for them.

I look at the list, and I see five, maybe six of the 24 who either I don’t know much about, or who I believe may have enough of a conscience to be willing to put themselves in the line of fire in order to do the right thing.  Five or six out of 24 does not constitute a majority, folks.

I’m sorry to burst that bubble … I know how badly you need hope right now, for I need it too.  But, what we don’t need is false hope.  Amendment 25 simply ain’t gonna happen in the foreseeable future.  Now, that could change down the road, but for today, for this week, next week … no, it’s not even worth wasting time thinking about.  Our best hope at this point is impeachment.  Focus on that … focus on contacting your senators and representatives and letting them know that you support impeachment and that you want/expect them to uphold the rule of law.  That is where our best hope lies for today.

Da Snippets, Dey Be Snarky

Puff … puff … I don’t know about you guys … puff … pant … but I’m tired.  Tired of the non-stop ‘breaking news’ updates, about half of which are “pbth … who cares?”, but the other half of which are foot-stomping, growling, jaw-dropping episodes in the ongoing saga of “Fool on the Hill”.  Please … somebody … anybody … rescue me and carry me off to a desert island where nobody has ever heard the name “Trump”!  I’m tired of all the time being snarky!  I’m tired of having my blood pressure go through the ceiling before I’m even out of bed in the morning!  I’m tired of … I’m just tired.  Sigh.  Meanwhile, though, there are more things you guys need to know about, so … Filosofa will now pick herself up from the floor, dry her eyes, and … snark on.snarky-4


Nothing to see here, folks …

You all remember when Mike Pence visited Ireland earlier this month, right?  And, he could have stayed in Dublin, the city where his meetings were to be held, but instead, he traveled (at our expense, lest anyone forget) to Doonbeg, some 180 miles away (one way), in order to stay at Trump International Golf Links & Hotel.  Why?  Because Trump had ‘suggested’ it and because Mike Pence has not the cojones to stand up to Trump.  The price?

Doonbeg is in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland, nearly a four-hour drive from most of Pence’s scheduled meetings in Dublin. According to an analysis by the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Pence’s stay cost taxpayers $599,454.36 in limousine service alone.  I have no idea, and cannot find information about how much the hotel bill for Pence, his wife, and his Secret Service entourage was, but the starting rate there for a single room is $228, so … he and Karen no doubt slept and ate well there.

Ol’ Mikey justified it all, though …

Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution says the president receives a salary while in office but “shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.”  Before taking office, Trump promised he would step away from his business while in office. Instead, however, he has kept his stake in his companies. So expenditures of public funds like Pence’s stay at Doonbeg directly line Trump’s pockets.

Not only that, but Pence has made more than 20 such visits to Trump properties since taking office. So has Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, while Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has made 16 visits to Trump properties.  According to Senator Gary Peters, the ranking member of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee …

“Reports now claim that at least 24 of the 32 individuals who have served in the President’s Cabinet have patronized Trump properties, including the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. — another property owned by the President.”

But guess what?  Trump’s republican “guardian angels” are trying to block the investigation by the House Oversight Committee, calling it a “partisan attack”.  According to a letter sent to committee chairman Elijah Cummings by Representatives Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, both members of the ignoble House “Freedom” Caucus …

“Although you coordinated your attack with Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, you failed to consult with any Republican Members before demanding voluminous information from four separate entities – none of which bore responsibility for the lodging and accommodations in Ireland. We can only assume that these letters were the result of a rushed process to capitalize on news reporting about the Ireland travel, rather than responsible and deliberative oversight.”

Yep … nothing to see here, folks … only millions, perhaps billions of your taxpayer dollars being filtered directly into Trump’s coffers … move along now.


But there is some good news …


Somebody in the Pentagon has some sense …

Last month, the Pentagon authorized about 20 miles of fencing, lighting and other border infrastructure along the southern border that would have used $2.5 billion in funds redirected from a counter-drug fund.  But on Monday, the Department of Defense announced that it would not be able to cover the costs of the project after all.  Initially, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined that it would likely be able to afford the projects using the counter-drug funds, but the Army Corps ultimately advised the department that the funds would not cover the project, prompting its withdrawal on September 13th.

The projects were a part of Trump’s plan to divert Pentagon funds to build the wall he so needs to appease his base, even though said wall would do absolutely nothing to resolve the problem of immigration, would cause irreparable damage to the land and wildlife, and deprive people of their land.  It is merely an ego trip for Trump.  No word, that I can find, of Trump’s reaction to this news.


No more AR-15s?  Er … not quite

U.S. firearms manufacturer Colt announced yesterday that it will stop production of rifles for the civilian market — including the AR-15, a weapon infamous for its popularity among the country’s mass shooters.  Their stated reason?  That the market is saturated, that there are already more of their rifles on the market than people can buy.

Why is Filosofa such an untrusting soul?  Why do I not for a single minute believe them?  Because it is Colt, because they are the makers of firearms, their livelihood is dependent on people wanting to kill other people, and that hasn’t slowed down one whit in recent years.  So, what do I think (just in case anybody cares)?

I think that in light of the fact that the AR-15s have been receiving much publicity, having been used in several mass shootings recently, including Newtown, Orlando, Parkland, Aurora, Las Vegas, and Dayton, they are getting out before they get hit with lawsuits.

A bit of background here. In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which provides immunity in both state and federal court from civil liability for licensed manufacturers, distributors, and dealers of firearms, as well as their trade associations, in most negligence and product liability actions.  So, gun manufacturers and sellers have had free reign with no possibility of being held accountable for damage caused by their product.  But this year, democrats in both the House and Senate have introduced the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act, which would allow civil cases to go forward against irresponsible actors in state and federal courts, just as they would if they involved any other product.

Now, we all know that the bill might pass in the House, but not likely in the Senate, and even if by some rare alignment of the stars it passes in the Senate, the Idiot-in-Chief would veto it.  However, there is a good possibility that in 16 months, there will be a democratic majority in the Senate, and a democrat sitting in the Oval Office, under which circumstances, it is probable that this bill, or a similar one will pass into law.  It is my belief that Colt sees the handwriting on the wall and is getting out while they can.  I could be wrong, and likely we will never know for sure if that is their reason.

So, is this good news?  Meh … yes and no.  Other arms manufacturers continue to produce the AR-15 and other assault rifles, including Palmetto State Armory and Smith and Wesson.  The better news is that companies like Wal-Mart and Dick’s Sporting Goods have discontinued sales of these killing machines and their ammunition.  The even better news will be when and if the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act passes into law.  And the best news yet would be a total and permanent ban on all assault-style weapons outside the military and law enforcement.  Some say it’ll never happen … I think it might, but it will take time.


And now, I return you to seek cheerier blogs than mine!

Still More … Sigh … Snarky Snippets

So many things were flying at my radar last night when I was trying to find my focus for this post that it must be time for another episode of … Snarky Snippets!


Mikey goes to Ireland …

Mike Pence, well-known for his anti-LGBT bigotry, traveled (at our expense) to Ireland this week, for some reason unbeknownst to those of us who paid his way.  Oh yeah … his wife accompanied him, also at our expense.  You ever been to Ireland?  No?  Me either … probably never will, for I can’t afford it after paying for Mikey and Karen to go.  Anyway … to the point …

This, from The Irish Times on Tuesday, September 3rdPence-gay-protest

“A “Disco outside the Dáil” organised in protest against the visit of US vice-president Mike Pence drew a crowd to Kildare Street this afternoon.

Protesters led by Amnesty International waved rainbow flags, wore Mike Pence masks and danced to music by YMCA and RuPaul, in a demonstration inspired by US LGBT activists.

Executive director of Amnesty International in Ireland Colm O Gorman told the jubilant crowds that “the best way for us to defeat hate is to be who we are, to be courageous and bold”.

During his visit, Mr Pence has spoken repeatedly of his Sligo-born grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, and has previously said that he was inspired by the former soldier, who served with the Irish Defence Forces in the Civil War.

However, Mr O Gorman called out Mr Pence’s claims to Irish values, saying ‘he doesn’t get to accept Irish values if he’s not prepared to listen to what Ireland has to say to him right now’.”

And back on this side of the pond, deputy White House press secretary Judd Deere claimed that …

“For all of you who think our @VP is anti-gay, I point you to his and the @SecondLady’s schedule tomorrow where they will join Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar and his partner Dr. Matthew Barrett for lunch in Ireland”

Say WHAT???  So, because Pence is doing the job he was sent to Ireland to do, meeting with the Prime Minister of Ireland who happens to be gay, that makes him unbiased?  I think not.

Note:  I will have more on Pence’s visit in a later post.


San Francisco takes on the NRA …

I lived in California off and on during my childhood and youth, and more and more I wish I still lived there.  The state government has some sense, they put people first.  California has always had the highest emission standards in the nation, and these days they are thumbing their nose at Trump’s rollback of environmental regulations, sticking to their own high standards despite his attempts to hasten the destruction of our planet’s resources.  But this latest caused me to clap my hands!

This week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution declaring the National Rifle Association (NRA) a domestic terrorist organization.

The resolution was introduced by Supervisor Catherine Stefani on July 30, two days after a shooting at a garlic festival in Gilroy, Calif., in which three people were killed and more than a dozen others injured.

Ms. Stefani said the N.R.A. conspires to limit gun violence research, restrict gun violence data sharing and block every piece of sensible gun violence prevention legislation proposed at local, state and federal levels.

“The N.R.A. exists to spread pro-gun propaganda and put weapons in the hands of those who would harm and terrorize us. Nobody has done more to fan the flames of gun violence than the N.R.A.”

Granted, the resolution has little or no practical value, but what it does do is send a message to the NRA and the gun nuts in this nation that California takes gun violence seriously, unlike states such as Texas who seem to believe that if one gun is bad, then more guns are better.  The NRA got the message and responded via … what else … Twitter:

“@NRA is the fabric of American society. We are teachers, doctors, cops, and everyone who fights for America’s freedoms. San Fran should be ashamed.”


Racism by any other name …

Mississippi has long been known for its racism … watch the movie, Mississippi Burning and you’ll see what I mean.  But, this is the 21st century and I have to admit this one stunned me.  Two people are planning a wedding.  The groom is African-American, the bride-to-be is Caucasian.  The groom’s sister, LaKambria Welch, was helping the couple make the arrangements, and as such she had been in touch with Boone’s Camp Event Hall in Booneville, Mississippi about having the wedding there.  All seemed to be going well, until suddenly the couple received a message saying that they could not hold their wedding at Boone’s Camp due to “the owner’s personal beliefs”.

Ms. Welch and her mother went to Boone’s Camp to try to find out what had happened.  They were told …

“We don’t do gay weddings or mixed race, because of our Christian race, I mean our Christian belief. I don’t want to argue my faith, we just don’t participate.”

Christian race???  WTF???

Boone’s Camp Event Hall said in a statement on Tuesday that the owners had previously been taught to believe that “interracial marriage was against the teachings of the Bible.”  They followed the statement with a milquetoast apology.  There is much I could say about this, but I’ve said it all a million times before, so I will leave you to pick your jaws up from the floor now, as I do the same.


Oops!

And just a bit of humour to end this post.  I had saved the link to an article in The Washington Post that I was using as a source for one of the above stories last night, and when I tried to pull it back up today, I got an error message … I had never seen this one before, but it definitely gave me a smile!oops.png

Evangelicals Have Out-Size Influence In President’s Crafting Of US Foreign Policy

When I read this post by Gronda earlier today, I was most disturbed … as I told Gronda in my comment, this was likely the most disturbing thing I have read in years, and that says a lot! Frankly, while I try never to criticize another’s religion, I have to say that what is described here is not religion — it is insanity! Thank you, Gronda, for the thought-provoking post … and for the nightmares I will surely have tonight!

Gronda Morin

Image result for PHOTOS OF Robert Jeffress

For the rapture end times Evangelical Christian true believers, their thinking regarding the Middle East is flawed. They are very versed in discussing their thinking/ version of biblical end times, including the rapture doctrine.

The two members of the republican President Trump’s administration who are steeped in these faith based dogmas are his Vice President Mike Pence and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

I’ve no problem with Evangelicals practicing their beliefs even though I genuinely do worry that they are being led astray, but when this thinking seeps into the formation of US foreign policies, then I have a problem.

That the Evangelical community have been exerting an out-sized level of influence on current US policies  is exactly what I believe has been happening. What’s worse is that President Trump is very dependent on their support to keep his hold on power. Evangelicals comprise about 35% of his base…

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A Tale Of Two Mikes — Part II

World leaders, ministers, diplomats, military officers and policy experts gathered over the weekend for the annual Munich Security Conference, the premier global forum on foreign, defense and security policy.  Luckily, Donald Trump did not attend the conference … he was too busy at home playing golf, criticizing Saturday Night Live, and defending his indefensible declaration of emergency from the week before.  Also unfortunately, Mike Pence did attend, and therein lay the problem.Merkel-MunichAngela Merkel spoke before Pence, and resisted Pence’s earlier calls in Poland for the EU to abandon the Iran nuclear deal, which according to experts and analysts, is achieving its goals.  She also criticized the U.S. decision to withdraw its troops from Syria. “Is it a good thing to immediately remove American troops from Syria, or will it not strengthen Russia and Iran’s hand?”  At the end of her speech, she received a standing ovation.  Ivanka Trump, who was in the audience for some reason that is beyond my comprehension, refused to stand or even applaud.  The grade-school mentality must run in the family.Pence-MunichAnd then, Mike Pence began his speech by saying …

“I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.”

And he waited for the applause.  But the room remained silent.  Dead silent.  He waited.  Nobody clapped, apparently not even Ivanka.  See for yourself …

But Sarah Huckabee Sanders later found a way to put a spin on the humiliating moment:

“It was out of respect for our President that world leaders observed a moment of silence during Vice President Pence’s speech in Munich.”

I think not, Sarah, but nice try.  Now go rinse your mouth to get that nasty taste of the lie out of it.

But back to Pence’s speech.

“We came here to reaffirm our commitment that ‘America First’ does not mean America alone and tell leaders, allies and countries around the world that America is stronger than ever before and America’s leading on the world stage once again.”

The reality is that we ceded our leadership role early in Trump’s tenure.  We are not even good allies, let alone a good leader.  You cannot be isolationist and also a global leader, for to be all about “America First” means to put the rest of the globe somewhere below your own interests, and that is not how alliances and friendships work.

Pence credited Trump with spurring NATO allies to spend more on defense but insisted that they are still not spending enough. He also reiterated the ‘demand’ he made on Thursday in Poland regarding the Iran nuclear deal.

“The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.”

Silence.

As a long-time student of international relations, I cannot think of another time in the history of the United States that we have ‘demanded’ our allies act in accordance with our wishes.  This is being a bully, not an ally and certainly not a friend.

Pence ended his speech with a most inappropriate …

“God Bless the United States of America.”

As Amanda Sloat, a senior fellow at Brookings Institute said …

“It sounded more like he was speaking to a Trump rally than to transatlanticists in Europe.”

Pence’s speech was met with disdain by European officials who say they have no intention of abandoning the Iran nuclear deal and felt his aggressive tone would only stir up more opposition.  For the record, Pence’s speech ended with a smattering of light applause, but no standing ovation, other than Jared and Ivanka.  I ask again, why were they even there?

The Munich Security Conference report said the Trump administration displays an “irritating enthusiasm for strongmen across the globe” and “disdain for international institutions and agreements.”

Several hours after Merkel’s and Pence’s speeches, former Vice President Joe Biden was at the podium, and his message was a ray of light after that of Pence.

“The America I see does not wish to turn our back on the world or our closest allies. The America I see cherishes a free press, democracy, the rule of law. It stands up to the aggression of dictators and against strongmen.”

And Biden ended with …

“As my mother would say: This too shall pass. We will be back. We will be back. Don’t have any doubt about that.”

The applause for Biden was significantly more enthusiastic than for Pence.

The Munich Security Report, which is downloadable in .pdf format,  is titled, The Great Puzzle:  Who Will Pick Up The Pieces?  That says it all, doesn’t it?  One of the key points in the report is about a previously unpublished opinion poll by the Pew Research Center showing that traditional allies of the United States perceive America’s power and influence as a major threat to their country, even when compared to China and Russia.

I may write more about the Munich Security Conference and the affiliated report once I finish reading the report, but for now, suffice it to say that the United States is not stepping up to the plate to work with our allies, but rather is becoming more isolationist, more self-serving, and there will be a price to pay for that.  Globalization is the reality, and no country can stand on its own without allies, without friends.  But in order to have a friend in times of trouble, one must first be a friend, and we are not.  As Joe Biden said, “This too shall pass” … but will it pass before the U.S. becomes a true pariah?

A Tale Of Two Mikes — Part I

This week, the two Mikes, Pompeo and Pence, our two main global envoys, went abroad as ambassadors of the United States, representing our nation.  The blew it.  In keeping with Trump’s modus operandi, they pandered to corrupt strongmen such as Viktor Orban, but worse, they denigrated and threatened our true allies.  Their antics went largely unnoticed amid a looming government shutdown and then a trumped-up ‘state of emergency’, but We the People need to keep our eye on this ball, for the security and strength of any nation lies, in part, with its relations with other countries, particularly long-held close alliances.

The week began with Secretary of State Pompeo visiting Hungary, where he literally pandered to autocrat Viktor Orban, a virtual pariah in European capitals because of his embrace of “illiberal democracy.”  The Orban regime is noted for suppression of independent media, the judiciary, and civil society groups, corrupt cronyism, and demagoguery that drips with xenophobia and anti-Semitism.  Yet the Trump administration lauds him.  Perhaps it is that his rhetoric so nearly matches that of Donald Trump, as he calls immigrants a “threat to Christian culture” and speaks of building a fence along the country’s border to keep them out.

Next stop for Pompeo was Slovakia, where he met with Slovak President Andrej Kiska,  Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, and Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák.  Pompeo made it clear that the U.S. is putting strategic interests and great power politics ahead of human rights concerns.  Just last year in Slovakia, a leading journalist who exposed government corruption was murdered along with his fiancée.

Pompeo then went to Poland where he met up with the other Mike, Vice President Pence for a U.S.-organized conference on the Middle East.  The intent of this conference was to rally European and Middle Eastern nations against Iran.  It would seem that Trump and his minions have an ill-conceived intent to start a war with Iran!  Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement and impose sanctions on Iran was only one of his worst moves in the past two years, but one that has had serious consequences for our allies.

And so it was that Mike Pence made a complete fool of himself and further eroded our relationship with our allies.  Pence used his address to the conference to demand that European countries withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement. He further urged U.S. allies to back Washington’s sanctions on Iran. Long-standing U.S. allies in Europe favor staying in the deal and have sought ways to keep open trade and financial dealings with Iran.

“The authoritarian regime in Tehran represses the freedom of speech and assembly, persecutes religious minorities, brutalizes women, executes gays and openly advocates the destruction of the State of Israel.”

WHOA there, Mikey!  First, I might remind everyone that Mike Pence is one of the most homophobic people in our government, that as Governor of Indiana he signed into law a bill titled the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that allowed individuals and companies to openly discriminate against LGBT people!  And now he’s concerned about the rights of the LGBT in Iran?  I don’t think so.

But even more to the point, while this nation is supporting dictators such as Viktor Orban, Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Rodrigo Duterte, we are overlooking human rights violations around the globe. Trump has steadfastly refused to acknowledge the hard evidence presented by his own intelligence officials that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi.  And now he claims to be so concerned about human rights violations by Iran?!?!?  Can we say ‘hypocrisy’?

“Iran endlessly spews hatred against Israel, our most cherished ally,” says Pence.  What a slap in the face to our true allies, the EU, UK, Mexico and Canada, to name a few!  Israel is by no means our ‘most cherished’ ally!!!  Benjamin Netanyahu is just about as corrupt as Donald Trump … he’s just more intelligent and hides his crimes better, but he and his wife are both currently under investigation for multiple issues.  Israel has become a bully-nation just as Trump is trying to make the U.S. into one.

And then came Munich.

Initially I intended to make this a single post, but by the time I reached this point, I realized that the Munich Security Conference is important enough to warrant a separate post.  Stay tuned for Part II of A Tale of Two Mikes on Monday afternoon.

A Few Random Tidbits …

My mind is bouncing today … I tried to settle it to write a single-topic post, but no, it was not having any of that!  It kept hopping from one topic to another so fast that my eyes were twirling about in their sockets trying to keep up.  So … once again I have just a few bits ‘n pieces today … and a hope that my mind stops bouncing soon, for I am getting a headache!

mike-pence


Mike Pence doesn’t say a whole lot, and after yesterday, I think that may be for the best.  The saying that is often attributed to either Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt,” seems to be one that Pence should heed.  Yesterday, he made the mistake of speaking …

“One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King was, ‘Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.’ You think of how he changed America. He inspired us to change through the legislative process, to become a more perfect union.  That’s exactly what President Trump is calling on Congress to do. Come to the table in the spirit of good faith. We’ll secure our border. We’ll reopen the government and we’ll move our nation forward as the president said yesterday to even a broader discussion about immigration reform in the months ahead.”  🤢

Sorry, Mikey, but Dr. Martin Luther King and Donald Trump have not got a single thing in common … one was a compassionate, concerned, caring, dedicated man who risked and ultimately gave his life for the people of this nation, and the other is a bloody fool.  Care to guess which is which?


Humanitarianism is apparently illegal in some places in the U.S., such as Arizona.  Four women, volunteers for the Arizona-based aid group No More Deaths, were convicted after a three-day bench trial at a federal court in Tucson. They could face up to six months in federal prison.  Their crime?  Leaving food and water for dehydrated migrants crossing the desert into the United States.  Watch what these border patrol agents did to that water …

Ever walked through the desert with no water?  The criminals here, in my book, are not the women who left the water for the migrants, but the border patrol agents who not only destroyed and wasted the water but appeared to take great pleasure in doing so.  Sadists.

The women, Natalie Hoffman, Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse and Zaachila Orozco-McCormick were charged in December 2017. They said their work for No More Deaths was motivated by their religious convictions and a belief that everyone should have access to basic survival needs.  And for their efforts, they might go to jail.  What the Sam Heck is wrong with this country???


The worldwide charity Oxfam released a new report today.  According to the report, just 26 individuals have more wealth than the bottom 3.8 billion of the world’s population!  Think about that one for a minute.  Twenty-six people, probably fewer than at your last family reunion, own more than 3.8 billion other people.  Wow.  The combined net wealth of those 26 totals $1.4 trillion.  Now, people say that if a person works hard, he should be able to enjoy the fruits of his labour, and I don’t disagree with that.  Certainly there must be an incentive to go the extra mile, work harder, create and innovate.  But … mustn’t there also be a conscience?  Should not responsibility accompany privilege?

Rather than sharing their wealth, these 26 billionaires are actually hoarding and increasing their wealth, to the detriment of the rest of us.  In 2016, 61 billionaires controlled half of the world’s wealth, then in 2017 that number was 43, before becoming 26 in 2018.  At this rate, in another 2-3 decades, there will be a single person who will control half of the world’s wealth.

Meanwhile, back at the salt mines, the average worker’s wage has increased by only 0.2% in the past year.  Now, I have never been a billionaire, nor even a millionaire.  In my entire career of long hours and hard work, I did not earn a million dollars total … not even close. But if I had … I would not have six figures sitting in my bank account or investment portfolio, for I would have shared it with those who were hungry, cold or sick long before now.  Apparently, one of the criteria for being wealthy … disgustingly wealthy … is that you sell your conscience.


And, on that note, I shall go feed my bouncy mind in hopes that it can find a spot to settle for a bit.  I think the cold weather and mounds of snow have made it restless.  Have a great week, friends!