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.

We The People Have Had ENOUGH!

Dear Donald Trump … our lives ARE NOT your personal playthings to do with as you wish for your own greedy, egotistical, narcissistic purposes!  Grrrrrrrrrrrr.  Filosofa is growling and grumbling tonight for a number of reasons …


#1

Several days ago, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said …

“I’m increasingly worried that President Trump will want to shut down the government again because of impeachment. He always likes to create diversions. I hope and pray he won’t want to cause another government shutdown because it might be a diversion away from impeachment.”

When asked on Sunday if he would shut down the government in light of the ongoing impeachment investigations, he said …

“It depends on — it depends on what the negotiation — I wouldn’t commit to anything. It depends on what the negotiation is.”

This is NOT how government works … at least not unless your country is a tinpot dictatorship!  But then, Donald Trump is neither educated nor enlightened on how government works, and has no concern for the standards and practices, nor for the people of this nation, let alone the U.S. Constitution.

Trump’s last government shutdown, which was also a political ploy to attempt to force Congress to fund his damnable wall, was the longest in the history of the nation.  It cost people their homes, their cars … their livelihood.  Is he going to do it again?  Does he foolishly believe that the House of Representatives will shirk their duty and drop the impeachment investigations in exchange for his signature on the short-term spending bill before November 21st?  If he believes that, he better think again.  If he shuts our government down again for his own personal gain, somebody really ought to put strychnine in his Big Mac!


#2

For those republicans and Trump supporters who may be unaware … California is one of the 50 states in the United States, and the most populous state.  The population of California is 39.56 million, or approximately 11.9% of the nation’s total.  And California is burning!  California is experiencing horrible wildfires that are threatening land, structures, crops, and lives.  Nearly 100,000 acres have burned in recent weeks, and thousands of people have been forced from their homes.  And how, you might ask, is the head of the federal government helping?California-fire-1In his usual way, by placing the blame on others, by saying he could have done it better, and by threatening to cut off federal aid to the state — all done via tweet, of course.

First, he blamed California Governor Gavin Newsom who has been a critic of Trump for some time.

“The Governor of California, @GavinNewsom, has done a terrible job of forest management. I told him from the first day we met that he must “clean” his forest floors regardless of what his bosses, the environmentalists, DEMAND of him. Must also do burns and cut fire stoppers …”

California-fire-2This from a ‘man’ who has no idea what he is even talking about, a ‘man’ who last year said that Finland ‘rakes’ their forests, a faux pas that the president of Finland quickly put paid to, showing Trump for the fool that he is!

Newsom fired back …

“You don’t believe in climate change. You are excused from this conversation.”

Thumbs up to Governor Newsom!  👍👍California-fire-3The reality is that increased temperatures due to global warming are causing the huge wildfires in California, according to a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Drier, warmer conditions lead to vegetation drying out and becoming more flammable.  And what has Trump done?  He has rolled back nearly every single environmental regulation that would have helped reduce carbon emissions that are exacerbating the effects of climate change.  He is more nearly responsible for those wild fires than any other individual on the planet, in my book!  And yet …

“Every year, as the fire’s [sic] rage & California burns, it is the same thing – and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more. Get your act together Governor.”

Jackass.


#3

And speaking of climate change …

Yesterday, Trump kept to his threat, taking the first step in the process to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, making the U.S. the only nation to ever have done so, making us the only nation that appears not to give a damn about the environment, or the future of life on Earth.  In a tweet, Mike Pompeo bragged about the move, saying …

“Today we begin the formal process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. The U.S. is proud of our record as a world leader in reducing all emissions, fostering resilience, growing our economy, and ensuring energy for our citizens. Ours is a realistic and pragmatic model.”

I beg to differ.  First of all, we are NOT proud of anything this nation has done regarding the environment since Trump took office.  We have, under the lunacy of Donald Trump, done not one damn thing to cut emissions, protect the land or wildlife habitats, the water or air, but instead have removed nearly every regulation that was in place prior to January 20, 2017!  I had hoped he would be gone from office long before this day rolled around.  There is still some hope, since the country will not be officially out of the agreement until November 4, 2020 … the day after Trump is (fingers crossed) voted out of office.

In response to Pompeo’s tweet, Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and a leading expert on the United Nations’ international climate negotiations process, warned …

“President Trump’s decision to walk away from the Paris agreement is irresponsible and shortsighted. All too many people are already experiencing the costly and harmful impacts of climate change in the form of rising seas, more intense hurricanes and wildfires, and record-breaking temperatures.”

If the U.S. does, in fact, officially pull out, we will be THE ONLY nation on the entire globe that is not in the agreement and is not even trying to save the environment.  Think about that one for a minute.  Or two minutes.


I have more, but … well, that’s enough for the moment … I don’t want to make you all growl and grumble too.  There is one bit of a bright spot.  Remember last week I wrote about Washington Nationals’ pitcher Sean Doolittle who, after much thought, decided he would decline the offer to visit the White House for a celebration of the team’s win?  His reasoning was that Trump had gone against many of Mr. Doolittle’s own values with his racist ways.  Well, when I wrote that, it was rumoured that several other players were also considering declining the offer, and I am pleased to report that six other players in addition to Mr. Doolittle did not attend the White House ceremony yesterday.  They are Anthony Rendon, Joe Ross, Javy Guerra, Wilmer Difo, Victor Robles, and Michael Taylor.  I applaud them for having the courage to follow their conscience.

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.”

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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 …

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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!

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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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