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.

Questions … And More Questions

As most of you know, one of my favourite journalists is Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times.  Kristof has received two Pulitzer Prizes, for his coverage of China and of the genocide in Darfur.  He is often out and about covering humanitarian crises around the globe.  But, his political views back here at home are typically spot-on … his is the voice of calm, of reason amidst all the chaos.  His OpEd yesterday is no exception, as he weighs in on … what else?  Impeachment and Trump’s abuse of power.  His words are sound and well worth the read.

Mr. President, a Few Questions

nicholas-kristof-thumblargeBy Nicholas Kristof
Opinion Columnist
SEPT. 27, 2019

“Shall any man be above justice?” George Mason asked in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention. “Above all, shall that man be above it, who can commit the most extensive injustice?”

That was a central question for the framers of the Constitution — to what extent should impeachment be a check on a president? — and it’s the central question for our political system today.

President Trump’s bullying of Ukraine to target Joe Biden is parallel to the kinds of abuse that the framers discussed when they adopted the impeachment clause. What they fretted about was a leader who abused power — by colluding with a foreign country, James Madison suggested — and threatened the integrity of our system.

So, guided by those concerns of abuse of power, let’s see what the impeachment inquiry turns up. Among the areas that merit further investigation:

What was Russia’s role? Did Trump discuss Ukraine with Vladimir Putin in their June meeting in Osaka, in their Paris or Helsinki meetings last year, or in their July 31 phone call? Did Putin plant misinformation that Trump acted on?

In his July 25 call with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump raised the bizarre conspiracy theory that it had been Ukraine rather than Russia that had hacked Democratic emails. Doesn’t that sound as if it was translated from the original Russian?

Likewise, Trump’s distrust of his ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and his faith that a trove of dirt about Biden corruption was sitting in Ukraine waiting to be dug up — why, all this resembles what a skilled K.G.B. officer might say to manipulate a naïve American acolyte.

Certainly Putin benefited from Trump’s hold on nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, from the American coolness toward Zelensky and from the sidelining of Ukraine experts such as Ambassador Yovanovitch.

There are whispers of this in the intelligence community, but let’s be clear that these are questions rather than allegations. Unfortunately, the Kremlin came out on Friday against releasing phone transcripts, and Trump has generally concealed details of his conversations with Putin — even taking away notes from an interpreter after one meeting.

Was there a substantial cover-up? The whistle-blower alleges a cover-up, in a complaint that the administration then tried to cover up. Hmm.

The rough transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky was placed in an unusually secure system. Why?

Ukraine is a longtime Trump fixation, with the president tweeting as early as July 2017 about “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign.” Rudy Giuliani rode roughshod over policymakers in an attempt to hijack foreign policy formation, and the White House has never convincingly explained its hold on military assistance.

Did administration officials try to hide all of this? Did they impede Congress from providing oversight? Was there a cover-up of not just a call, but of a long-term pattern of abuse?

What were the roles of Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo? Pence dropped out of the delegation that attended Zelensky’s inauguration, seemingly as a way to pressure Zelensky to investigate the Bidens. Did Pence agree to this?

As for Barr, why did Trump repeatedly suggest him as a contact for Zelensky? And why did the Justice Department try to quash the whistle-blower complaint? Why does Barr regularly act as Trump’s cleanup man rather than as the nation’s lawyer?

Was Pompeo complicit in Trump’s efforts to shunt aside the State Department so that Giuliani could oversee relations with Ukraine? What role did Pompeo play in the recall of Ambassador Yovanovitch?

There’s much debate about whether Trump should or shouldn’t be impeached, but for now that seems to me to be premature. Before any impeachment vote, we need a substantial inquiry to determine facts.

Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law School professor, has a smart book, “Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide,” in which he advises people to think about whether they would favor or oppose impeachment if they felt the opposite about this president. In that spirit, I approach it this way: How would I feel about impeachment if these Ukraine revelations were about Barack Obama?

There’s a danger that Democrats rush this process in ways that antagonize swing voters, particularly when polls show that a majority of the public both disapproves of Trump’s conduct and does not favor impeachment.

In the end, Mitch McConnell may not even permit a Senate trial after an impeachment. Or if McConnell convenes a trial, he could immediately have the Republican majority vote to dismiss the case.

That makes it all the more important that the House impeachment inquiry meticulously gather information by a process that — to the extent possible in our polarized age — is perceived by the public as fair, deliberate and legitimate. The backdrop must be the question that George Mason properly posed more than two centuries ago: “Shall any man be above justice?”

Trump’s “Saudi Arabia First” Policy

Donald Trump likes ‘tough’ talk, and apparently thinks it is becoming to sound like a B-grade actor trying out for the role of one of Don Corleone’s sons in The Godfather.  This could be forgiven or overlooked if he were a teenager still trying to impress girls despite his pimply face and false bravado.  But no, he is 73 years of age, and more importantly, holds the highest office in the government of a nation of 330 million people.  We don’t need a mafioso-sounding idiot running the nation … we need intellect and compassion, neither of which Trump possesses.

“Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”

On Saturday, Trump actually called Crown Prince bin Salman to offer U.S. military support.  Besides the aforementioned Cagney-style speech, there is much wrong with this entire scenario.  The first, and most obvious, is that Saudi Arabia is not a member of NATO and thus we have no obligation to come to their defense.

Second, although the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are strategic allies, Saudi Arabia are by no means our friends.  Remember how Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered the brutal slaying of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October?  That was not an act of friendship.

Third, Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Saudi oil facilities last weekend, and yet, out of his posterior Trump pulls the idea that he thinks Iran is to blame.  The Saudis have also claimed that they believe it was Iranian weapons that attacked, but with no proof whatsoever.  Within hours of the attack, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, despite the fact that Yemen’s Houthis had claimed responsibility, and with not a single shred of evidence, said …

“Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.”

Fourth, it is not up to Donald Trump, even as president, to start a war all by himself.  It requires an act of Congress.  The U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 8, clauses 11–16 give Congress the authority to declare war.  The framers of the Constitution were reluctant to concentrate too much influence in the hands of too few, and thus denied the office of the President the authority to go to war unilaterally. If America was going to survive as a republic, they reasoned, declarations of war required careful debate in open forums among the public’s representatives.

Under the War Powers Resolution of 1973, the U.S. President can send the Armed Forces into action abroad only by declaration of war by Congress, “statutory authorization,” or in case of “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”  It requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30-day withdrawal period.

When Trump won the presidency in 2016, few countries were as happy as Saudi Arabia. The Saudis had felt neglected and dismissed under Trump’s Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, who had prioritized reaching out to Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional arch-rival.

They hoped Trump would be friendlier to their interests, and in many ways, he has delivered: signing off on weapons deals, abandoning the Iran nuclear deal and downplaying the Saudi state’s human rights abuses. Trump even made Saudi Arabia the first foreign country he visited, famously posing in front of a glowing orb with Saudi royals during a conference on fighting terrorism.  And then, there was Jamal Khashoggi.  Though U.S. intelligence services confirmed that bin Salman had ordered the killing, Trump said he doesn’t care if the Saudi crown prince played a role because Saudi Arabia is an important ally, one that buys a lot of U.S. weapons and is a key global oil producer.  And if all that isn’t enough, keep in mind that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 11 September 2001 were Saudi nationals.

The implication that the royal family in Riyadh will dictate U.S. actions has many up in arms.

  • “Trump awaits instructions from his Saudi masters. Having our country act as Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not ‘America First.’” – U.S. Representative and presidential candidate, Tulsi Gabbard

  • “Under our Constitution, the power to commence war lies with Congress, not the president and certainly not Saudi Arabia. We don’t take orders from foreign powers.” – U.S. Representative Justin Amash

  • “This administration reneged on the Iran nuclear deal, put in place crippling sanctions and is now openly threatening war. We must hold this President accountable and avoid another wreckless war!” — U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar

And, there is, as there always is where Donald Trump is involved, sheer irony and contradictions run amok.  For example, in 1987, he paid nearly $100,000 for full-page ads in The Washington Post, the New York Times and Boston Globe that spotlighted Saudi Arabia as a country that was taking advantage of the United States’ patronage.

trump-ad-1987.jpgAnd then, there were these …Trump-Iran-Obama-tweets

Secretary of State Pompeo has been biding his time, waiting and hoping for the opportunity to attack Iran for most of his career.  Donald Trump is an ignorant fool.  What could possibly go wrong?  The reality is that the very last thing this country needs is to start a war with Iran.  Anyone who thinks it would be a good idea … go back to bed and wake up when you’ve become an adult.

Snarky Snippets Just Keep Coming …

Good afternoon, friends, and welcome to an all-new episode of Snarky Snippets!  I had really hoped to settle into a more in-depth post today, but for any number of reasons, it didn’t happen.  One of those reasons is that every news site I visited this morning had an angst-inducing story right on their front page.  So, here goes …


Oh goodie … something new to lose sleep over

The headline caught my eye:

Ex-Google worker fears ‘killer robots’ could cause mass atrocities

This was in The Guardian, not some fly-by-night, off-the-wall website, so of course curiosity got the better of me and I had to delve deeper.

Laura Nolan is a former Google software engineer who resigned last year in protest at being sent to work on a project to dramatically enhance US military drone technology.  Her position is that AI killing machines not operated by humans should be banned.  For the record, I agree with her.

Nolan went to work for Google in Ireland in 2013 and became one of their top software engineers.  Then in 2017, she was sent to work on Project Maven, which takes drone technology a step further, removing to a large extent, the human factor.  According to the article in The Guardian

Instead of using large numbers of military operatives to spool through hours and hours of drone video footage of potential enemy targets, Nolan and others were asked to build a system where AI machines could differentiate people and objects at an infinitely faster rate.

Nolan has predicted that autonomous weapons being developed pose a far greater risk to the human race than remote-controlled drones. She outlined how external forces ranging from changing weather systems to machines being unable to work out complex human behaviour might throw killer robots off course, with possibly fatal consequences.

What could possibly go wrong, eh?  Plenty, according to Ms. Nolan …

“You could have a scenario where autonomous weapons that have been sent out to do a job confront unexpected radar signals in an area they are searching; there could be weather that was not factored into its software or they come across a group of armed men who appear to be insurgent enemies but in fact are out with guns hunting for food. The machine doesn’t have the discernment or common sense that the human touch has.”

It isn’t enough that we have nuclear weapons in the hands of madmen posing as world leaders, and that the earth’s atmosphere is being destroyed even as we speak, while greedy corporate executives and politicians pretend it isn’t happening, but soon we will have killing machines flying above us, deciding all on their own who or what to destroy in a given instant.  Way to go, humans … see if you can’t find more ways to hasten the demise of all life on earth.


Two thumbs up to …

United Auto Workers (UAW), who will be going on strike nationwide at midnight tonight against General Motors over the usual – wages, healthcare and profit-sharing.

Here’s the thing, though.  General Motors, in an effort to cut costs, has made healthcare more expensive for their workers.  This might be understandable if General Motors was weren’t making profits hand over fist, but … they are.  In fact, their revenue for 2018 was $38.4 billion, net income was $8.1 billion, and … with Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy, the company not only paid no taxes in 2018, but will be getting a tax refund of $104 million!!!  But they cannot take care of the people doing the work to earn them those profits.  SHAME!

This, my friends, is a classic example of capitalism run amok. Once again, this nation is putting the grotesquely bloated profits of the few ahead of the basic health and welfare of the many. And it is being supported and encouraged by Trump and Congress.


Pompeo wants war …

We may be rid of warmonger John Bolton, but there’s still Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State, and he seems to see fit to start a brand-new war today.  Yesterday, attacks on Saudi oil refineries knocked out an estimated more than half of Saudi oil output or more than 5% of global supply.  Yemen’s Houthi group claimed responsibility.  But, apparently Mike Pompeo, with no evidence, has decided to blame his arch-nemesis, Iran.

“Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.”

What. An. Idiot.

An idiot and a dangerous fool.  Iran is not taking this lying down.  A not-so-subtle warning was issued by Senior Revolutionary Guards commander Amirali Hajizadeh …

“All American bases and their aircraft carriers in a distance of up to 2,000 kilometers around Iran are within the range of our missiles.”

Way to go, Mikey … start a bloody war sans cause.  Oh, and by the way, folks.  The destruction of all that oil has a price.  It is expected that tomorrow the price of oil will rise from between $5 to $10 per barrel, so look for prices at the pump to jump.


Okay, friends … I now return you to your regularly scheduled Sunday activities.lies.png

Jaw-Dropping Snarky Snippets …

The radar is busy tonight, so many different things on the screen that have me gritting my teeth and wearing the scowl that seems to be permanently etched on my face.  The first snippet is one that will give you nightmares.


He can’t keep a secret …

Just yesterday evening, CNN reported that a Russian spy who was operating in a high-level capacity within Putin’s government, was extracted by the U.S. in mid-2017, in part because high-ranking intelligence officials feared that Trump’s inability to keep his mouth shut would put the spy’s life in danger.  Believe it or not, Trump sycophant Mike Pompeo, who was then the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was behind the move.

The decision was made shortly after the May 2017 meeting in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak, much to the horror of the intelligence community.

There were other reasons the intelligence community felt the “asset” might be compromised, but think about this one for just a minute, folks.  The ‘man’ who holds the highest position in the government of a nation of some 330 million people, a ‘man’ who is privy to nearly every bit of classified information in the nation, is not trusted by his own intelligence people, cannot be trusted to keep a secret, to keep his mouth shut.  He needs a keeper … make that a tag-team of keepers … lest he give his buddy Putin the nuclear codes!  Ponder on that one as you drift off to sleep tonight.


Irresponsible to the nth degree …

I wanted to laugh, I wanted to cry … instead I held my head and let forth a string of language that is not appropriate for this blog.  Former Goldman Sachs executive and current Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin announced that there will likely be more tax cuts in 2020!  What made me laugh about the whole thing was remembering 1988 when George Bush, Sr., said repeatedly – “Read my lips:  no new taxes”, and now I would applaud a president who promised “No new tax cuts!  My how times change.

“I think there’s no question the U.S. economy is in very good shape. As we look around the world, there’s no question that China is slowing, Europe is slowing — the U.S. is the bright spot of the world. And regards to a middle-class tax cut, you know, we’ll be looking at tax cuts 2.0, something that will be something we’ll consider next year. But right now, the economy is in very, very good shape.”

mnuchin-2

Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Treasury

Trump and Mnuchin obviously need lessons in how budgets and economies work.  Our national debt is spiraling out of control, currently at $22 trillion and growing every day, and they want to give another tax cut?  Crazy!  Why?  Because, my friends, next November 3rd we will all go vote for either Trump or a democrat … and Trump figures if he can tout another tax cut that won’t help any but his rich friends, we will all fall to our knees and kiss his feet and then go to the polls and vote for him.  This, my friends, is madness.  Just about the very last thing this nation needs is another tax cut.

To further cut taxes is the height of fiscal irresponsibility, yet those who are easily fooled will applaud, will believe that they are getting something … never mind that their grocery bills have increased by $40 per month as a result of Trump’s tariffs, and never mind that the cost of a gallon of gasoline has increased by 43% since 2016.  Meanwhile, the companies to whom you give your hard-earned dollars like Exxon, Amazon, Netflix, Delta, IBM, etc., will happily pay no taxes at all.  Don’t be fooled, folks … sooner or later, the economy will reflect the perfidy of cutting income by removing taxes from the ones who can most afford it.


Dynasty???  I think not …

Trump’s creepy re-election campaign manager, Brad Parscale, has a plan …

Parscale

Brad Parscale, Trump campaign manager

“The Trumps will be a dynasty that will last for decades, propelling the Republican Party into a new party. One that will adapt to changing cultures. One must continue to adapt while keeping the conservative values that we believe in. I think they’re all amazing people, with amazing capabilities. I think you see that from Don Jr. I think you see that from Ivanka. You see it from Jared.”

I think that Mr. Parscale defines the word ‘amazing’ much differently than the rest of us.  I find them all a bit ignorant and a whole lot ugly, both inside and out.  One Trump is more than enough, thank you Brad.  If I believed his prediction for a single minute, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this post, but would be headed to the nearest point of exit from this country.


Science vs Trump …

wilbur-ross

Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce

Remember last week’s fiasco with Trump, the sharpie, Hurricane Dorian and Alabama?  Well, today the New York Times reported that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross actually threatened to fire top employees at NOAA, the federal scientific agency responsible for weather forecasts, for correcting Trump’s dangerous misinformation.  I said last week that it is a very dangerous situation when any politician, but especially one with the power of the president, can control what scientific information the public has access to.  That Trump’s minion Ross was all too willing to do his bidding, to fire scientists to assuage Trump’s ego, is horrendous.

We also found out that it was Ross himself who contacted Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator of NOAA, from Greece where Ross was traveling and instructed Dr. Jacobs to fix the agency’s perceived contradiction of the president.  Fix it???  It wasn’t broken!  It was accurate … it was Trump’s statement that needed fixing, that was erroneous.

So now, do all scientists need to petition Trump for permission to state their findings on every front?


Still more competition!

Mark-Sanford.jpg

Mark Sanford, 2020 GOP Candidate

Yet another republican has thrown his hat in the ring for the party’s nomination for the 2020 presidential election.  First there was Bill Weld, then Joe Walsh, and now Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina.  This one must really frighten Trump for some reason, as he became somewhat unhinged … oh wait, he was already unhinged, wasn’t he?  In a series of tweets, Trump attacked Sanford …

“When the former Governor of the Great State of South Carolina, @MarkSanford, was reported missing, only to then say he was away hiking on the Appalachian Trail, then was found in Argentina with his Flaming Dancer friend, it sounded like his political career was over. It was, but then he ran for Congress and won, only to lose his re-elect after I Tweeted my endorsement, on Election Day, for his opponent. But now take heart, he is back, and running for President of the United States. The Three Stooges, all badly failed candidates, will give it a go!”

‘Twould seem Trump is running a bit scared, eh?  I will have more about Sanford, but for tonight, I am out of steam!


The conclusion to this collection of snippets can only be one thing:  Trump must go!Trump-must-go

 

The Question Is … WHY?

It’s a sad state of affairs that I will believe literally anybody over Trump.  The latest?  Trump claimed on Thursday that the U.S. military downed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz.  Why would he lie about that?  But, I think he did lie, for Iran denies that it happened, and has even released video they say proves that it was a lie.  If this had happened three years ago, under President Obama, I would never have questioned it, but whatever Trump says, I find there is usually at least a partial lie.

Why would Iran lie?  Tensions are high between the U.S. and Iran, and Iran would almost certainly be hopping mad and making threats if we had shot down one of their little boys’ toys.  (Needless to say, I have little respect for the use of drones). But I question the reason behind Trump’s lie, for undoubtedly there is an underlying, likely malicious reason.  You may recall that Iran did shoot down one of our drones last month.  Trump claimed it was in international airspace, but it turned out it was, in fact, in Iranian airspace and was spying on Iran.

Iranian leadership have frequently mocked Trump, and we all know that is the one thing that he cannot stand.  Back in May 2018, the speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani, said Trump “does not have the mental capacity to deal with issues,” and added that he “only understands the language of force.”  All of which is true, but surely got under Trump’s thin skin.

Ever since, there has been a back-and-forth poking by both parties, and Trump has at times seemed determined to plunge the U.S. into a war with Iran that nobody … nobody in this nation wants.  For the most part, Trump is filled with bluster and a sense that he is the all-important player in this game-that-is-not-a-game, while Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, taunts back, but seems to be finding humour in it all.

So, why is Trump trying so hard to provoke Iran, and why did he lie about shooting down the drone?  I don’t know the answers but have a few thoughts on the topic.

First, at the beginning of his term, Trump unconscionably withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear agreement with no reason, for even our own intelligence community agreed that Iran was upholding their end of the deal.  But … it was a deal that had been signed by President Obama, and that was the only reason Trump was so insistent on withdrawing.  He demanded that our European allies also withdraw, and when they didn’t, when they worked collectively to try to salvage the deal even without the help of the U.S., Trump made threats, as he is wont to do.  When our allies didn’t give in to his threats, but largely ignored him and continued trying to preserve the deal for the sake of world peace, he got even angrier and imposed sanctions on Iran.

Last month, then, two oil tankers, one of Japanese registry, the other Norwegian, were attacked in the Gulf of Oman.  Trump & Co. claimed to have video footage showing that Iran was behind the attacks, but the footage was fuzzy and really showed nothing of value.  Plus, the crew of one of the tankers stated emphatically that it was not Iran.  More lies on the part of Trump, Bolton, and Pompeo.  Iran denied culpability and said that Trump was spreading disinformation and warmongering.

Then they shot down our spy drone that was in their airspace, and now Trump claims, sans evidence, to have shot down their drone.  WHY???

A few possibilities come to mind …

First, the red herring theory.  Trump is coming under a great deal of fire from the public lately … not his base, of course, but the majority of us … for a number of things:

  • Conditions at the detention camps where children are being held in captivity, separated from their parents, denied such essentials as medical care, soap, toothbrushes, beds, blankets
  • His outrageously expensive and pointless, not to mention tasteless and insulting parade and “celebration” on July 4th that nearly bankrupted the city of Washington, D.C., and cost the taxpayers a bundle that we couldn’t afford
  • His heinous racist denigration of four members of Congress, all U.S. citizens, whom he told to get out of the country and go back where they came from

No doubt, Trump is eager to stop the bleeding that is a result of all these things (and more).  So … what better way than a red herring … something to distract attention from his domestic screw-ups … than an international “incident”?  Wouldn’t be the first time.

And second … there is a proven theory that when a nation is so divided that it is literally eating itself from within, as the U.S. is doing today, an external threat will bring the two sides together, if only temporarily, to fight the external threat.  If that is the thinking … and it would have come from either Pompeo or Bolton, for Trump hasn’t the intelligence to think of it on his own … then he has two choices:  North Korea or Iran.  Since he still seems to hold tight to the idea that his snow job on Kim Jong-un worked and that they now love each other, despite the fact that his summit failed to produce any tangible results, that leaves Iran.  National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have both had itchy fingers for a long time … decades, in fact … to bomb Iran, to affect a regime change.  They are a well-matched pair of warmongers.

And a third possibility is financial.  War is profitable for arms manufacturers, and some of Trump’s best buddies manufacture arms.  Why do you think he’s trying so hard to sell arms to Saudi Arabia?  He has proposed often enough that we need to build up our supply of arms, but the proposal is not, overall, met with cheers of approval, for we have the largest national debt in our history, and more tanks just doesn’t seem as important to most of us as healthcare and feeding the poor.  But, if we enter a war …

Again, I don’t know what is behind Trump’s taunts, mockery and lies, but these are just the result of my sleepless nights spent thinking, spent pondering on the “why” of it all, and I think there is some thread of logic to these thoughts.  And now, I return you to your Sunday evening activities.

Trump vs The World — Part I

Donald Trump is, as Keith often says, ‘a clear and present danger’ to not only the United States, but to the entire globe.  A few events over the course of the past week exemplify this.

Remember the back and forth back in 2017 between Trump and Kim Jong-un, with Trump playing his usual 5th grade level game of name-calling, referring to Kim as “Little Rocket Man”. Then Kim came back by calling Trump a “Dotard”, and Trump responded by telling Kim that he (Trump) had a “bigger button” and that his button actually worked.  Sigh.  These are supposed leaders of nations, not 10-year-old boys on the playground.  Well, eventually the two resolved their little spat, Kim sent Trump a ‘love letter’ and a bouquet of flowers, they met, kissed and made up, and now all is well … for the moment.

Trump’s latest spat is not likely to be resolved so quickly, for I don’t think that Iran’s leaders are at all likely to ‘kiss and make up’ with Trump.  Frankly, Trump and Trump alone is responsible for the escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Iran.  From 2015 until Trump took office in 2017, the Iran nuclear agreement between a number of European nations, the U.S., and Iran, was working just fine in achieving its goal of keeping Iran from building nuclear arms.  In exchange, the U.S., EU and United Nations lifted many of the previously imposed sanctions that were crippling Iran’s economy.  The agreement was working, Iran opened its doors to the inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the global nuclear watchdog, and by all accounts, Iran was upholding their end of the bargain.

Then in 2017 everything fell apart, thanks to the emotional train wreck named Donald Trump, who vowed to his base that he would undo every single thing that President Barack Obama had done.  Beyond it being an ego-trip for Trump, there can be no discernible reason for him pulling out of the Iran deal, just as there was no discernible reason for him to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord.  But, pull out he did, leaving our allies, primarily France, Germany, and the UK to try to salvage the deal as best they could without any help from the U.S.

All of that was bad enough but might not have led to the current escalation of tensions, had Trump not added insult to injury and re-imposed sanctions on Iran, affecting oil exports, banking and shipping.  Not only that, but he threatened … literally threatened our allies if they helped Iran!  Naturally, Iran’s economy has taken a big hit, and what Trump fails to understand or care about is that the people who suffer the most are the people of Iran.  Everyday people, like you, like me.

Last month, two oil tankers were attacked in the Strait of Hormuz.  Without a shred of evidence, Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo immediately blamed Iran.  Pompeo produced a low-quality, highly questionable film clip that he claimed was proof that Iran was the attacker, but even the captain and crew of one of the tankers denied this.  Even Trump’s good friends, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia disagreed with Trump and Pompeo, but Trump would not shut up.  He taunted, name-called, threatened and bullied.

On Thursday, June 20th, Iran shot down an unmanned United States spy drone.  Trump and Pompeo claim the drone was in international airspace, while Iran claims it was in Iranian airspace.  The evidence points to the latter.  But, Trump not being overly intelligent, jumped the gun and ordered air strikes on three Iranian targets.  Ten minutes before the operation was to commence, he called off the air strikes.  He claims that he didn’t wish to cause a loss of life, but rumour has it he listened to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who told him that it would cost him next year’s election if he proceeded with the attacks.  In addition, it is likely that Putin expressed extreme displeasure with Trump’s plan.  Could be a combination of the latter two, but the one thing it damned sure wasn’t was his “concern” for loss of life.  It was estimated that 150 lives would have been lost.  Trump wouldn’t concern himself with 150 U.S. citizens’ lives, let alone 150 Iranian lives!

Given the chaos of the entire operation, President Rouhani said in a statement, “The White House actions mean it is mentally retarded.”  It’s nothing new … Kim Jong-un called Trump “mentally deranged” back before they kissed and made up.  Can anyone argue that his actions in this situation … or any situation he’s dealt with over the past two-and-a-half years … shows any signs of intelligence or sanity?

So, not liking his mental capacity called into question, Trump then threatened to “obliterate” Iran if they so much as looked cross-eyed.

Trump claims he is not looking for war, but from where I sit, it appears that is exactly what he is ‘looking for’.  He says that a war with Iran would not “last very long” nor involve ground troops.  Um … folks … if you believe this, I’ve got a bridge for sale very cheap.  First, he doesn’t understand what he is even saying.  Second, he has told lies far more often than he has told the truth, so why would anybody in their right mind believe him?  He has surrounded himself with two warmongers who have wanted an excuse to bomb Iran for decades, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton.  He has bragged about his “bigger button”.  And frankly, Iran is not North Korea.

A war against Iran would be catastrophic. US forces are nowhere near powerful enough in the region to contemplate a conventional war — still less to cope with a conflict that would, the Iranians have warned, involve pro-Tehran militia in attacks against the US and her allies from Saudi Arabia to Israel and Iraq.

I end where I began … Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to the world.  He has limited capacity for understanding international relations and alliances, he lacks any sort of a moral compass or compassion for humanity, and he has not chosen wise advisors, but rather yes-men who will do his bidding.  If we go to war with Iran, it will not be over quickly … remember Afghanistan?  The only way it would be over quickly, and this is the most frightening part of all, is if Trump decides to do the unthinkable and use his “big button”.  Perhaps the world would not need to worry about climate change after that. Think about that one.

Storm Clouds & Shrouds

Late yesterday came the announcement that Trump is sending an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East in response to the attack on two Japanese oil tankers last week. Trump claims Iran is responsible for the attack, Pompeo and Bolton concur, but then, they have both been itching to bomb Iran for decades. The U.S. is acting prematurely, and if one listens, one can hear the war drums beating. How do our allies view these events? How do the people in the UK and EU see this situation? Our friend David in Wales wrote a post expressing his thoughts and concerns that I would like to share with you today. If any of my other readers outside the U.S. would like to write a guest post expressing your own views of this potentially dangerous situation, please let me know … I would love to share your opinions. Thank you, David, for this timely post and for your generous permission to re-blog.

The BUTHIDARS

It has bothered me for some time now that Donald Trump would not agree to continue the agreement the other powers had in place with Iran. It kept Iran well away from developing nuclear material. Things seemed to be going nicely according to everyone except the American end, in particular John Bolton, who was responsible for troops going into Iraq under the guise of there being WMD which did not exist, during George Bush Jnr’s time. While I’m no fan of the Imams who practise Sharia law against the  people of their country instead of the Iranians deciding for themselves the type of Government they’d prefer, and they may well decide on a Religious Government, it’s none of my business.

photo from the New Yorker. John Bolton.

What is my business however is whether or not either Bolton or Trump or both together have fabricated evidence that Iran is responsible…

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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.

Live For Today???

If there is a stack of dirty dishes in the sink and laundry piled halfway to the ceiling, will you wash the dishes and the clothes, or go sit down and read a book, hoping that the mess will go away?  If you choose the latter, then please contact me, for I have a lovely bridge for sale … cheap!  I’ll even throw in a book of fairy tales for free!

We in the U.S. have many worries these days.  We have a madman at the helm who is steering our ship toward a huge iceberg.  Our civil rights are being stripped, bigotry is on the rise, education is seriously deficient, income disparity is greater than at any other time, and the list goes on.  But, frankly, none of those things hold a candle to the seriousness of one single issue:  the environment.

Climate change is not going away on its own any more than your dishes and laundry are going to wash themselves, folks.  Just this past weekend, many areas of the Midwest have seen devastating tornadoes, including several last night a mere 20 miles north of my own home.  Remember last year’s wildfires in California, and right now, as I write this, there are two wildfires in Alberta, Canada, eating everything in their path.  Remember the hurricanes, the floods, last summer’s excessive heat?  And still, Don Trump and his minions not only fail to act, but take great pains to further the devastation.

The latest?  As if it wasn’t enough that Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accords, making us the only nation on the globe not onboard to address the crisis.  It wasn’t enough that he has, by means of executive order thus bypassing democratic process, rolled back most every environmental regulation on the books.  It wasn’t enough that he has tried everything in his power to stifle the development of renewable energy sources in his support of the coal and oil industries that are wrecking our environment in multiple ways.  No, none of that was enough.  Now, he is launching a new assault on our planet, on our health, on our very lives.

In the next few months, Trump plans to officially rescind what’s left of Obama-era regulations to curb emissions from tailpipes and power plants.  But it doesn’t stop there.  U.S. Geological Survey Director James Reilly — a former petroleum geologist appointed by Trump — has ordered his office to only study the effects of climate change up to 2040.  Scientists say that would give a misleading picture because the biggest effects of current emissions will be felt after 2040. Models show that the planet will most likely warm at about the same rate through about 2050. From that point until the end of the century, however, the rate of warming differs significantly with an increase or decrease in carbon emissions.

And … remember the National Climate Assessment that was released last fall saying, “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities”?  Since that didn’t fit in with Trump’s policy to support the fossil fuel industry, it will not be included in the National Climate Assessment or other scientific reports produced by the government.

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking of the melting of glaciers in the Arctic at a meeting of the Arctic Council in Finland, said this …

“The Arctic is at the forefront of opportunity and abundance. It houses 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil, 30 percent of its undiscovered gas, an abundance of uranium, rare earth minerals, gold, diamonds, and millions of square miles of untapped resources, fisheries galore. Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade [that could] potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days. Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals.”

Think about that one for a minute …

William-Happer

William Happer

Trump is said to be in the process of creating a scientific review panel with the intention of disputing the findings of climate scientists and discrediting the idea that climate change is a national security threat.  The man he is considering to lead the panel is named William Happer.  Let me tell you something about Mr. Happer.  He does not believe humans are responsible for climate change. In fact, he once likened CO2, the greenhouse gas most responsible for warming temperatures, to the Jewish people during the Holocaust. “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.”  Say WHAT???  No, Mr. Happer, you are comparing apples to oranges.

Happer has received money from the ultra-wealthy Mercer family, one of the principal causes of which is to deny climate science. The Mercer family also supports Trump.  Are you beginning to see a pattern here?  Trump and his wealthy donors, most of whom are benefitting greatly from Trump’s rollbacks and might actually see their profits reduced if proper regulations were in place, see no further than the tip of their nose.  Their motto?  Live for today and to hell with tomorrow.  As long as they are raking in the dollars and enjoying their hedonistic lifestyles, it matters not to them whether our children and grandchildren can breathe the air or have food and water in 30-40 years.  It matters not to them if every living thing on earth is gone by the end of this century, for they will have lived their lives.  Just because we won’t be here to see it doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility to future generations!

For those of us who do care about the future of this planet, consider this:

  • The U.S. is the second largest total emitter of carbon dioxide
  • The U.S. is the largest per capita emitter of carbon dioxide
  • The U.S. is the nation that is doing the least to reduce carbon emissions

CO2 emissions by nation.png

A number of states are enacting their own regulations, as are some corporations, but without consistency, without support from the federal government, it simply is not enough.  Not only is our ignorance and greed dooming our own nation, but the rest of the world as well.  There will be a price to pay … probably sooner than we think.