An Important Message …

I came across this video created by Greenpeace a few days ago.  Greenpeace, founded in 1971, is a non-governmental environmental organization focusing on worldwide issues such as climate change, deforestation, overfishing, commercial whaling, genetic engineering, and anti-nuclear issues.  Their mission statement:

Greenpeace is a global, independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

The video contains probably some of the worst singing you will hear this week, but the message is important, the message is one that needs to be remembered and shared.  Our lives, the lives of our children and their children are at stake here, and every person on this planet has the ability to make a difference.

America In The Eyes Of The World – A Guest Post by Gary Metcalfe

Today I am happy to present the second guest post in response to my plea for friends outside the U.S. to give us their insight about how they view the U.S. today.  This one is by Gary Metcalfe, who blogs as bereavedandbeingasingleparent, or as I call him, Bereaved Dad.  Thank you, Gary, for taking the time and effort to write this illuminating piece!


IS YORKSHIRE CLOSER TO WASHINGTON OR PARIS

Geography doesn’t really come easily to a simple Yorkshire chap like myself. I’m lucky to find my way round the house never mind circumnavigate the globe.  But distance wise I am pretty sure we are closer to France than America. It has always puzzled me if I should call America – America or is it the USA? Let’s go for America. So, although we are physically closer to France, in terms of relationships are we closer to Washington or Paris?

This is such a difficult question given the fact that my own country has clearly gone barking mad. So badly divided over Brexit. Increasingly violent and seeing the worrying rise of extremism. Less tolerant. Without any effective leadership. Obsessed with the cult of personality over substance. A country with ever widening inequalities. Happy to criticise others yet reluctant to cooperate or make any meaningful international contribution.  Occasionally sending a few war planes into the Middle East does not really count as a constructive policy.

To be fair if Washington and Paris had any sense they would distance themselves from the UK. I suspect the leaders in Europe secretly can’t wait to get rid of us. When I worked for the NHS I went to a conference and the Secretary of State for Health started slagging off our European partners. He held up a European Competition Framework and complained that it was 300 pages long and was a clear sign of European bureaucracy gone mad. Unfortunately, he failed to mention that the vast majority of the bureaucracy in that document had been inserted at the request of the U.K. to protect our own interests. That document will be much slimmer when we have left.

Although we talk as if we are European we have historically seen our closest ally as America. America is often portrayed as vibrant, modern, yes a bit brash but also so very inclusive. Yes, we have seen things which make us shake our heads. The obsession with guns … what is all that about. Wouldn’t an obsession with something like Tea or Old Car Restoration be an awful lot safer for your kids. But still we could trust America. Then Obama came along and suddenly our closest ally became a real beacon of hope.

In 2011 the American President said a few simple words that resonated (he had a brilliant talent for that):

“We should do everything we can to ensure this country lives up to our children’s expectations”

 The words came at such a tragic time for the American People, but Obama was the leader we all wished we had. Intelligent, caring, passionate and someone who understood he had obligations to the upcoming generations. That’s a great look for country and certainly a friend we can work with.  Then the hope appeared to fade, stagnated by a divided country. Principles had to be compromised.  But still America was a trusted partner. Someone we could turn to when we fell out with Europe.

 Then we all got trumped.

 When Trump received his nomination it never really sunk in. We knew of him. A billionaire, a golfer, luxury hotel owner, someone who appeared in Home Alone 2 and the winner of the WWE Battle of the Billionaires with Vince McMahon – didn’t get his head shaved. That was it.

We didn’t focus on him too much as obviously Hillary would win, as obviously the UK would vote to stay in Europe. Then even after he won he wasn’t taken that seriously. He won’t last long, people started placing bets on how long he would be President. Most people seemed to think anywhere between 6 months to 1 week. But he stayed.

For the first period of his presidency it appeared from the U.K. that if you just ignored his frequent twitter rants then things would be ok. He hadn’t blown anything up. Apart from the noise nothing seemed to be happening. Yes, the revolving door approach to presidential appointments seemed vaguely amusing. Moving the White House engine room to a golf course (as clearly a golf course is where a President can do his best work) was not really a surprise. In fact, all we really heard was how much time he spent playing golf.  But slowly the news of the what trumping really meant started to filter across the pond.

  • Apparently dangerous links with Russia and certain Middle East tyrannies existed. But we couldn’t lecture on this as we have equally close links with Saudi Arabia.

  • The Paul Manafort saga (too confusing to really follow as we only heard about snippets of the story) but it clearly implied incompetence or something more sinister. Whatever the underlying cause it’s not a great example to the world of American Ethics.

  • The handling of the Puerto Rico natural disaster was just really insensitive, self-centred and despicable.

  • The apparent haste to fall out with your historic partners like Canada, France and Germany. But you have found a new buddy in North Korea.

  • He bizarrely started to openly condemn his own Intelligence Agencies and the FBI. Yet he didn’t seem as willing to condemn the Extreme Right operating in his own country.

  • The Complete disregard for international climate change commitments. It really felt like he was saying ‘stuff you’ to the world and future generations. Maybe he thinks it’s not my problem as I will be gone by the time the world burns. Contrast that with Obama’s approach. Monumentally stupid or colossally selfish.

  • Favouring the interest of the NRA over child safety. Seriously arming teachers….

  • Attacks on the Free Press and attempts to stifle debate. These are particularly worrying as some of our politicians are clearly starting to copy Trumps strategy. What happened to the Leader of the Free World role.

  • That Wall. That Magic Wall which will solve all of America’s problems. The Wall which is so precious that it’s worth freezing Government for. That must be some Wall. But the sight of a modern Leader seemingly taking personal delight at the shutdown. Probably thinks it makes him look like a big man. We are talking about people’s lives here being sacrificed for a few bricks.  Kids are dying on the border. Oh, I forgot they are just migrants. Are the golf courses still open?

To the vast majority in our country your President appears to be at best a misguided clown at worst a dangerously unbalanced self-obsessed bully. Either are not a good look for a leader and certainly not as a leader who we are trying to forge a partnership with. Many in our country feel that Trump has gone too far. That we should be distancing ourselves from him. But our PM is desperate, she sees an American trade deal (regardless of how bad it is) as a way of saving her job. So, unless we get a new government it’s going to happen.

Where does that leave us across the pond. Rapidly burning our bridges with Europe. Yet looking on at America with increasing consternation and alarm. At a time when we should be embracing closer links with Washington we see a dangerous superpower. Potentially a threat. Yes, a threat. And yet. And yet. As our country careens out of control into a world with few friends, our government views Trump as someone we might be able to quickly do business with. He clearly hates Europe as much as our Brexiteers. But at what cost. Is an unbalanced trade deal really worth further opening up our beloved National Health Service to Trump’s golfing buddies. Are we really that tainted as a country that we are prepared to sacrifice our moral principles for the price of a document which Trump could declare void at any stage.

So back to the big question. Are we closer to Washington or Paris? The answer is sadly neither.Text dividers

Good People Doing Good Things — Betty Kwan Chinn

You are going to fall in love with today’s ‘good person’ …gateway-to-life.pngHer name is Betty Chinn, and as you may have already guessed, she is originally from China.  I’ll let her tell you about the days of her childhood …

Betty-Chinn“I was born in a very good family. I’m one of 12 kids. And then in the 1960s, they had the Cultural Revolution. My mom was a US citizen and a Western educator. My mom believed in God, religion. Because my parents had religion and education, my family was a target for the government.

I was separated from my family and I lived on the street by myself. I had to wear a sign on my neck that said, ‘I’m a child of the devil.’ I had nothing to eat, hungry all the time. Every time when I asked for food, I was beaten up by people. Torture, separation from my family, abandoned, betrayal … this all happened at a very young age.

My sister took me out of the country … and then to Hong Kong. I did not know my birthday.

I had never been to school. I stayed home. Then I found my best friends on Sesame Street. They were the ones who taught me English.

Each day when I get up in the morning, I get moving, that’s my birthday. I am celebrating my birthday every single day when I can move, and I can breathe. I have my freedom. That’s the way I look at it.”

And now that you know how Ms. Chinn got her start in life, let’s take a look with what she is doing today.  Eventually Betty was sent to live with a sibling in California and settled in the town of Eureka in Humboldt County.  Married to now-retired Humboldt State University physics professor, Leung Chinn, the couple had two sons, and it was this that would spark Betty’s passion for helping others.

One day in 1984, while volunteering at her son’s elementary school, one of his classmates complained that she was always hungry.  Betty began putting an extra sandwich in her son’s lunch for the girl, only to discover a few days later that the girl and her family were homeless, living out of their car. So, Betty began sending extra food for the family, as well.  Although she didn’t realize it yet, she had just started down the path that would last for the rest of her life. She began observing people in the town and was shocked to see how many other people were in the same situation and decided to make it her mission to provide for the less fortunate in her community.

“I’d do anything I could do to make people not hungry. When I even hear somebody say, ‘I’m hungry,’ my stomach hurts. I feel the hunger inside me. I still remember the hunger.”

She used income from her part-time job to buy food, which she would load into her car and deliver to people living on the street, under bridges and highways, anywhere she could find them. At first, she didn’t tell anyone about what she was doing – not even her husband.

“He did ask me, from time to time, ‘Why are you cooking so much food? Why we buy so much food from the supermarket?'”

He eventually found out – ten years later – and is now her biggest supporter!

Though she never publicized what she was doing, Chinn’s efforts were noticed and appreciated. In 2008, she received the Minerva Award for remarkable women from California’s first lady, Maria Shriver, which included a $25,000 prize.  By now, I’m sure you can guess that Betty did not spend that money on new clothes and a lavish vacation, right?  Nope, she built showers!  Yep, you heard me right … showers.  The following March, she opened Eureka’s first (only) free public shower facility, with the mantra “Providing Dignity One Shower at a Time”.

In 2010, she was one of 13 recipients of the 2010 Presidential Citizens Medal from President Barack Obama, the nation’s second highest civilian award. She was honored for showing how one person can touch the lives of hundreds of people whom the rest of the world has forgotten.Chinn-Obama-2010It was at that point that she started dreaming of opening a “Betty’s House,” a type of central location where she could help clients keep warm and fed while connecting them with a variety of services housed under one roof.  Four years later, this dream culminated in the Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center which houses Betty’s commercial kitchen, helps clients connect with services, jobs and housing, while also offering after school care, wellness courses, and educational programming for homeless children.day-center.pngBut Betty didn’t stop there!  In 2016, she opened Betty’s House, a family shelter that provides transitional housing up to 8 families at a time, giving them the stability, services, and support needed to find a permanent place to live. The shelter’s downstairs, operated in partnership with St. Joseph Hospital, offers a space for up to 10 homeless people recently discharged from the hospital to convalesce under a nurse’s 24/7 care.betty-house-front.png

Betty-house-1

Betty-house-2Betty-house-3But we’re still not done …

Also in 2016, as the city of Eureka was working to clear its largest homeless encampment from a greenbelt near the bay, Betty partnered with the Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights to convert some old Connex shipping containers into a housing village, known now as Betty’s Blue Angel Village, that shelters up to 40 people at a time while offering intensive wrap around services aimed at transitioning them into permanent housing situations. It is one of few shelters on the West coast that allows animals.Village-1Village-2There is so much more I could write about Betty Chinn … this woman … this woman is so good, has done so much for her community, that my words feel inadequate to describe her.  Betty arises at 2:07 every morning, ready to go, seven days a week, rain or shine.  I recommend paying a brief visit to her website, The Betty Kwan Chinn Homeless Foundation, where you will find additional information, photo galleries and more.

In 2015, she received yet another award from President Obama …2015-Chinn-ObamaLast week, Ms. Chinn was named one of CNN’s Heroes … an honour well-deserved. In addition to American recognition, Betty has received commendations from China and is hailed as the “Hong Kong Angel.”  And around Humboldt County, she is known as the ‘Chinese Mother Teresa’.  Eureka’s police chief, Andrew Mills, described her as a philanthropic force of nature. “It’s a humbling experience just to sit in her presence.”

Heck, I found it humbling just to research and write about this woman … I am in awe.  If I had a third, I would give this woman three thumbs up, but as I have only two, I shall give her both.  Thank you, Betty Kwan Chinn, for making such a wonderful difference in the lives of so many!  👍👍

Sunday Afternoon Bits ‘n Pieces …

It’s Sunday afternoon, friends, and I know you have better things to do than listen to me go off on some long-winded tangent that will only serve to anger or depress you.  So, I am going off on a few short tangents that shouldn’t get your knickers into too much of a twist.  (Have you noticed that my UK friends are having an influence on my vocabulary?)  So here are just a few little Sunday snippets, and then you can go back to grilling out, tossing a ball around in the back yard, planting a tree, or hugging your ‘significant other’.

A well-deserved honour

Colin Kaepernick, the man whose humanitarian values far exceed those of a president who so cruelly mocked him, has been publicly acknowledged for putting his knee down for the cause of justice.  Amnesty International awarded Kaepernick its Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2018, in recognition of his sideline protests against racial inequality. The former San Francisco 49ers star was given the award at a gala ceremony in the Netherlands.  A few snippets from his acceptance speech:

“Racialized oppression and dehumanization is woven into the very fabric of our nation — the effects of which can be seen in the lawful lynching of black and brown people by the police, and the mass incarceration of black and brown lives in the prison industrial complex. How can you stand for the national anthem of a nation that preaches and propagates, ‘freedom and justice for all,’ that is so unjust to so many of the people living there? While taking a knee is a physical display that challenges the merits of who is excluded from the notion of freedom, liberty, and justice for all, the protest is also rooted in a convergence of my moralistic beliefs, and my love for the people.”

Kaepernick is most deserving of this award, for his single, courageous act started a movement whose voice is heard loud and clear by many who would prefer to remain deaf.   However, he does not deserve the treatment he is receiving at the hands of his former team, the San Francisco 49-ers, the NFL, and the ‘man’ who sits in the Oval Office.

Did he find his conscience?

I have largely regarded Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a man without a conscience.  He is a documented racist, and since taking his current position in the U.S. government, has proven himself to be a lap-puppy to Donald Trump, asking ‘how high?’ when Trump tells him to jump.  But last weekend, he did something that indicates he might be developing a late-stage conscience after all.

In a phone call with White House counsel Donald McGahn, Sessions indicated that he is seriously considering resigning his post if Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.  True, he only said he “might consider”, but this is more than I would have expected of the Sessions of yore.

An update …

Last month I wrote a post about three men in Kansas who had plotted to blow up a mosque and a community of Muslim immigrants on the day after election day 2016, but were caught by an FBI informant.   The three, Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Eugene Stein, had their day in court last week and all three were convicted on Wednesday of one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of conspiracy against civil rights.  Their sentencing will take place on June 27th, and all three could potentially face life in prison.

Prosecutor Risa Berkower said at the trial, “They wanted to send the message that Muslims are not welcome here – not in Garden City, not in Kansas, not in America.”  Funny, isn’t it, how a few men think they know what the entire nation of nearly 326 million people want?  Who elected  these three to speak for us all?

Another small kudo to Jeff Sessions here for his support of the ruling:

“The defendants in this case acted with clear premeditation in an attempt to kill people on the basis of their religion and national origin. That’s not just illegal—it’s immoral and unacceptable, and we’re not going to stand for it.”

I hope these three men are given the maximum sentence, for their brand of evil, of hatred, has no place in this world.

When all else fails, blame it on Obama!

The NRA, who in the eyes of most of us bears a large portion of the responsibility for every  single person who dies in a mass shooting where the shooter uses assault-style weapons, has decided who is to blame for the February 14th shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

NRATV host Grant Stinchfield claimed in a segment on his show Friday that President Obama owes an apology to the survivors of the February 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 people dead.  The ‘rationale’?  That President Obama put students in danger by implementing school discipline guidelines and refusing to arm teachers.

In the words of Peter, Paul & Mary … ‘When will they ever learn?  When will they ever learn?’

And I now return you to your regularly scheduled Sunday afternoon activities … hopefully you are doing something fun this afternoon!

How Does President Trump’s Economy Compare To That Of President Obama’s?

Today, Donald Trump wrote an OpEd for the Washington Examiner, extolling his many ‘accomplishments’. One of those was the economy, as he is taking credit for an economy that was doing quite well before he came on the scene. He rides the coattails of the accomplishments made during President Obama’s 8 years in office. Please read our friend Gronda’s post to see how Trump’s economy compares to that under President Obama … thanks Gronda!

Gronda Morin

When the American public listens to the republican President Donald J. Trump braggadocio  about how the economy is booming under his watch with soaring stock prices, low unemployment numbers and an uptick in GDP numbers, they would never guess that the president’s economy is not measuring up to President Barack Obama’s performance in almost every other economic metric.

In addition, because of the republicans’ partisan 2017 “trickle down economics” tax cuts, and the US Congress republicans apparent intransigence in governing with compromise, that there are bound to be some economic hiccups in the president’s portrayal of the “best economic numbers” ever in the near future.

Image result for photos of president obama and president trumpAs per a 9/27/17 Politico report by Tyler Fisher, “The Congressional Research Service published a paper in 2012 that found no correlation between top tax rates and economic growth. Congressional Republicans protested the findings, and the service briefly withdrew the paper.”

These same republicans…

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The NRA Wants You(r money)

In early 2016, President Obama proposed certain minimal gun regulations aimed at reducing gun violence.  It was mainly aimed at making sure gun sales via the internet and gun shows followed the same regulations for background checks, etc., as those who had a physical nexus.  But, of course, the nation went ballistic, claiming that Obama was trying to ‘take their guns away’.  And what do you think happened?  Gun sales, which had been on the rise for the past decade, soared, of course.

Jeb Bush said Obama’s plan would take away the rights of someone “selling a gun out of their collection, a one-off gun”. Marco Rubio says Obama’s plan is to “take away our guns.” And in the light of all this mis-understood rhetoric, gun sales soared.

gun sales 2005-2016.jpgAnd then came Donald Trump.  As I wrote in a July column under Trump, gun sales declined by 17% during Trump’s first two months in office.  This, despite the fact that women and minorities were feeling less safe under Trump and therefore buying more guns!

American Outdoor Brands, alias Smith & Wesson, saw a decrease in revenue of $100 million, a 40% drop. This drop in gun sales has led to the gun lobbyists, specifically the National Rifle Association (NRA) resorting to scare tactics to try to stimulate the sales of guns.  One such method has been through a series of despicable video ads.

The text of the above ad:

“They use their media to assassinate real news.  They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again, and then they use their ex-president to endorse the resistance, all to make them march, make them protest, make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia to smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law-abiding until the only option left is for the police to do their jobs and stop the madness and when that happens, they’ll use it as an excuse for their outrage.  The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fists of truth. I’m the National Rifle Association of America and I’m freedom’s safest place.”

gunsThe ad was played at the National Rifle Association’s Leadership Forum in April. NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre’s speech to thousands of members was characterized by a similar type of ‘us-versus-them’ rhetoric. “It’s up to us to speak up against the three most dangerous voices in America: academic elites, political elites, and media elites. These are America’s greatest domestic threats.”

LaPierre.jpgIn addition to the ads, the NRA is pushing for dangerous legislation, such as revoking silencer safety laws and making it easy for anyone to buy a silencer without a background check. Oh yes, we don’t want the neighbors to hear and call the cops when you shoot me in my home for writing against the NRA and advocating for gun safety!

The NRA also conjured up mythical threats from the so-called “alt-left” in the wake of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, suggesting that conservatives take up arms to fight back. “For those of you progressives out there on the far left who wonder why guys like me, conservatives like me, have an AR-15, the answer is, I have an AR-15 to protect myself and my family from you. From you.” – Television host Bill Whittle, 06 September 2017  Hello??? It was the uber-conservative, white supremacists who held the rally, stirred the violence, and were responsible for the death of a young woman, Heather Heyer!

So, the question comes to mind, after seeing the hateful videos, rhetoric and ads of the NRA … who, exactly IS the NRA?  Do they represent gun owners?  The answer is complex, but the short answer is that no, they represent nobody but the gun manufacturers.  Big businesses who manufacture weapons of mass destruction.  They pay big bucks to members of Congress to put forth their agenda, and they play on the fears of gun owners and advocates, always presenting a perceived threat to 2nd Amendment rights by those of us who see guns as an unnecessary evil.

I have given you the statistics a number of times in the past, so I shall not bore you with them again.  But the reality is that the U.S.’ gun regulations are virtually non-existent as compared to other western nations, and our gun-related crime rate is our eternal shame.  Since Trump took office last January, there have been moves to remove the restriction on gun ownership by mentally challenged individuals, revocation of the ban on assault-type weapons, and now silencers no longer will require a background check.

We know what the NRA does with its money, it makes donations to members of Congress who are in a position to knock down gun regulations affecting gun sales, and even strike down or reverse previous regulations.  Last year, the country’s most powerful lobby gave Donald Trump more than $30 million in campaign contributions.  He is now in their pocket.  Federal campaign finance records show that much of the NRA funds are used to keep pro-gun lawmakers in office

But where do they get their money?

People like you, perhaps.  Some donations, of course, come from the gun manufacturers and other companies who stand to gain from the NRA platform. But much of their funding comes from private individuals. Since 2005, the NRA Political Victory Fund has received nearly $85 million in contributions from individual donors. After the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, donations to this political action committee surged as gun owners worried that their rights to buy and own guns were at risk.

And now gun sales are down, and gun manufacturers are looking to the NRA to stimulate a renewed interest in purchasing guns.  And so we will continue to see obnoxious, untruthful ads such as the one above, as the NRA strives to convince the nation that they are not safe without their damn guns.  With the current level of divisiveness, with white supremacists and neo-Nazis coming out from the rocks every day, the last thing we need in this country is to increase gun sales.  If the NRA truly represented We The People, they would not exist, for We The People stand to gain nothing by increased gun sales. It’s all about money … not rights … money and power.

Think about that … remember that, in November 2018 when you go to the polls to vote for your senators and representatives.  Do your homework and find out just how much in donations your representatives have accepted from the NRA.

President Obama’s Response To The Cancelling of DACA

The words of a real president in response to the actions of a faux president. High fives to President Obama. And many thanks to my friend Gronda for sharing these words of wisdom and compassion.

Gronda Morin

Image result for PHOTOS OF PRESIDENT OBAMA SIGNING daca

On September 5, 2017, the LA Times published our former democratic President Barack Obama’s Response to the republican President Donald Trump’s September 5, 2017 decision to cancel DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program), with the caveat of a 6 month’s delay.

Young people protected from deportation and allowed to work legally under the DACA program will begin losing their protection around March 2018 unless the US Congress finally acts to shield them. “

President Obama (White House photo by Pete Souza)Statement from President Obama 

Immigration can be a controversial topic.  We all want safe, secure borders and a dynamic economy, and people of goodwill can have legitimate disagreements about how to fix our immigration system so that everybody plays by the rules.

But that’s not what the action that the White House took today is about.  This is about young people who grew up in America – kids who…

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The Square Peg In The Round Hole …

Watch a toddler with one of those shape-sorter toys.  He picks up the square block and first tries to put it into the round hole.  Then he tries the triangular hole.  Finally, he attempts to put the square block into the square hole, but the angle isn’t quite right.  What does the toddler do next?  It depends on the temperament of the toddler.  Watch him closely, for what he does next may give an indication of the person he will become.  Some will, at this point, throw the square block across the room in anger, not caring if it bonks his sister or the family dog on the head, and then sit down in a torrent of tears.  But another may stop, look at the block, and try, try again until … voila!  The square block makes a satisfying ‘clunk’ sound and the mission is accomplished.  It is called perseverance, and it is generally a positive attitude, so long as it is accompanied by other traits such as intellect, reason and thought.

However, perseverance without those other traits falls short and can even lead to a destructive outcome. Using the above example, the toddler who is still trying to put the square block into the round hole will never succeed, even if he spends hours trying.  This is not what I would refer to as perseverance, but rather a stubborn refusal to admit failure.  Rather than admit that the square block does not, and never will, fit into the round hole, he is determined to make it fit.  He is destined to fail, but he will not give up until either he runs out of steam or his mom takes the toy away.

square-pegDonald Trump is so determined to make his square block of the repeal of ACA fit into the round hole of the country’s need for healthcare that he is not giving up or giving in.  What he fails to realize is that he is using the wrong tool.  He blames everyone for the failure to repeal ACA – the democrats, the republicans in Congress, the press – but the fault is his own.  He is trying to replace what is actually a pretty good program for the citizens of this country with a program that is basically … nothing.  And yet, rather than stop, re-think the situation, and come up with a better idea, he keeps trying to shove that odious square block into the round hole.

What’s worse, he is threatening to destroy the entire toy if his square block will not go into the round hole.  It is not his fault, it is not the block’s fault, but it must be the fault of the toy, so let’s destroy it.  “If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!” Trump tweeted Saturday.

The subsidies, which are not bailouts, totaling about $7 billion a year, help reduce deductibles and copayments for consumers with modest incomes. The Obama administration used its rule-making authority to set direct payments to insurers to help offset these costs. Trump inherited the payment structure, but he also has the power to end them. To do so would be foolish, but … such is the nature of Donald Trump.

Trump and Congress need to understand the flaws in their ‘square block’.  The bills that have thus far been put forth in both chambers of Congress, while playing to the Trump agenda, are not in the best interest of the people who voted them into office.  They are taking away, rather than giving.

If Trump really wants to see his “repeal and replace” get off the ground, then he needs to understand a few things:

  • There are people in this country who, due to circumstances beyond their control, cannot afford to purchase medical insurance. It truly boils down to a choice between medical insurance or food for their children.  Given that choice, they will feed their children and die young if needs be.

  • Medical costs are out of reach for most of us who do not have insurance. One example I can cite from personal experience:  An insulin-dependent’s cost for insulin purchased in the U.S. averages more than $1,500 per month.  That is half the average wage of the average worker in the U.S., and 110% of the average Social Security payment for seniors.  In Canada, that cost is less than 20% of that in the U.S. In addition, in the U.S., in order to keep a prescription valid, the patient must visit his/her doctor (another $300-$600) every 3 months, whereas in Canada, insulin is considered an essential-to-life medication and does not require a doctor’s prescription. The pharmaceutical industry is in need of an extreme overhaul, but that is a topic for another day.

  • Trump is well aware of the estimates that some 22 million people would lose their medical insurance, thus their right to life, under the repeal and replace bill, and some 32 million would lose under the repeal only legislation. Yet he pushes for it only because he cannot stand to think that his predecessor did something good, something that he cannot do.  Premiums and deductibles are expected to increase significantly, and states will be allowed to exclude pre-existing conditions and basic health services.

The healthcare bill that failed last week failed for a very simple reason:  it is not the healthcare bill that we want, and it is not the healthcare bill that we were promised during his campaign when he said:

  • “We’re going to have insurance for everybody. There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”
  • “I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid.”
  • “I am going to take care of everybody … Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”
  • “Will have much lower premiums & deductibles while at the same time taking care of pre-existing conditions! Our healthcare plan will lower premiums & deductibles — and be great healthcare!”
  • “We will immediately repeal and replace ObamaCare – and nobody can do that like me. We will save $’s and have much better healthcare!”
  • “I cannot imagine that Congress would dare to leave Washington without a beautiful new HealthCare bill fully approved and ready to go!”

square-peg=2Not a single one of those “promises” are kept under either the House bill that was passed in May or the Senate bill that failed last week.  This is the reason the bill failed and should continue to fail until such time as a bill is proposed that meets the above “promises”.  The only people who will benefit under any of the bills proposed thus far are the morticians! Rather than spend his time ranting on Twitter, Trump needs to set aside the square block and try to find the round one, the one that works.

Donald Trump does not care about his square block, nor about the round hole, nor the toy that provides all this afternoon entertainment.  No, what Donald Trump cares about is diminishing and destroying the success of the kids who had the toy before him.  For those kids understood what it took to take care of the 300+ million people who call the United States “home”, and … just in case you forgot … the kid who had the toy last was black … an African-American who, in the eyes of Trump and his remaining base, must be demeaned and destroyed in any way possible, even if it costs the lives of thousands, perhaps millions of citizens.  The man-child must prove himself superior, no matter the human cost.  He must erase the legacy of a president who, while not perfect, was pretty damned good.

Blame-It-On-Obama … The New Game In Town

During a news conference in Paris on Thursday, President Trump tried to blame the Obama administration for the fact his eldest son eagerly took a June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who promised to provide the campaign with incriminating information about Hillary Clinton. Trump argued that if it wasn’t for Obama, the meeting never would’ve happened in the first place.  The rationale?  Wait for it …

“The lawyer that went to the meeting, I see that she was in the halls of Congress. Also, somebody said that her visa or her passport to come into the county was approved by Attorney General Lynch. Now maybe that’s wrong, I just heard that a little while ago, but I was a little surprised to hear that. So she was here because of Lynch.”

Over the course of the past nearly six months, Trump has always sought to place blame for just about everything on either President Obama or Hillary Clinton. While it is not unusual for incoming presidents to blame their predecessors for problems they inherited, Trump has taken it to a new level. His attacks are ludicrous, as the one above, and often quite on a personal level.

In February, Trump accused Obama of being behind the nationwide protests that were rocking the country, saying he believed Obama orchestrated the backlash to new immigration and healthcare plans at angry town hall meetings.

He has accused Obama of being behind the White House leaks that have been occurring almost since day #1. Then, of course, there was the big one back in March when one morning, out of the clear blue and with no evidence, Trump tweeted, “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” and “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” A baseless claim, it was quickly disproven and nothing ever came of it, other than Trump once again proved what a fool he is.

When it was determined that General Mike Flynn, briefly Trump’s National Security Advisor, had spoken with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak regarding sanctions that Obama was about to place on Russia over the election interference, Trump tried to blame Obama for that, too.  Not once, but twice!  And this despite the fact that President Obama and acting Attorney General Sally Yates had both warned Trump about Flynn, advising against selecting him for National Security Advisor – advice Trump chose to ignore.  But Trump persisted, saying that it was Obama’s fault Flynn traveled to Moscow in 2015 for a celebration of the Kremlin-backed network RT, where he was reportedly paid $45,000 and ate dinner with Vladimir Putin. And then, when nobody took that one seriously, he blamed Obama because Flynn had been given the highest security clearance which, he says, is what he based his decision to hire Flynn on.

And he blames Obama for:

  • Syria“I think the Obama administration had a great opportunity to solve this crisis a long time ago when he said ‘the red line in the sand.’ And when he didn’t cross that line after making the threat, I think that set us back a long ways, not only in Syria, but in many parts of the world.”
  • North Korea“We have a big problem. We have somebody that is not doing the right thing, and that’s going to be my responsibility. But I’ll tell you, that responsibility could have been made a lot easier if it was handled years ago.”
  • Iran “The Iran deal made by the previous administration is one of the worst deals I have ever witnessed, and I’ve witnessed some beauties.”

Picture li’l Donnie Trump on an average day.  He gets up, showers (?  I dunno – he always looks a bit greasy to me), then gets dressed, donning his extra-long (why?) tie.  As he is tying his shoes, a shoelace snaps.  Blame it on Obama.  At breakfast, his sausages are not cooked quite to perfection.  Blame the chef?  Heck no … blame it on Obama!  In the Oval Office, getting ready to sign yet another of his infamous ‘executive orders’, the pen runs out of ink!  Blame it on Obama – he must have ordered those cheap pens!  And so it goes …

President Obama, always a man of class and grace, has had a more measured reaction to Trump’s jibes and has, for the most part, declined to respond publicly to Trump.  This, folks, is the difference between a man and a moron, between a President and an imposter.

On The U.S. Withdrawal From Paris Accord – Part I

Mr. Donald Trump has just made what is arguably the worst decision of his short, yet too-long, presidency.  He has announced that he will withdraw the United States from the Paris Accords.  He has decided that there will be ZERO commitment from the United States to control and reverse the lethal effects of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.  He has, in essence, announced that the United States will do absolutely nothing to save the planet on which we live.  But wait … it is even worse than that.  Mr. Donald Trump, the man who swore his goal was to “make America safe again”, has just made a decision that erodes our national security.  Mr. Donald Trump is a fool and an imbecile.

There are many angles that need to be considered, and to do so in a single post would be unwieldy, at best, indigestible for certain.  This post is Part I, and there will be at least one more, possibly two in the coming days.  To some extent, I want to put some time and distance between the announcement and my writing, because there will be fallout over the next few days that may affect what I write.  But for today, I am addressing some general thoughts and reactions from others here in the U.S.

There are 196 or 195 countries on this globe, depending on how you feel about Taiwan.  Of these, all but two, Nicaragua and Syria, signed the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.  Donald Trump brings that number to 3 … we are now aligned only with Nicaragua and Syria on the most important issue of the century!  And do you know WHY Trump made this disastrous decision?  There may be a subset of reasons, most having to do with his uber-rich friends in the fossil fuel and auto industries, but the main reason … the driving force behind his decision … is that he is pulling out of the Paris Accords simply because our last president, the one with a brain in his skull, signed it in 2015.  That’s right, folks … Trump promised his supporters that he would erase all signs that President Obama ever existed, thus if President Obama’s name is on it, it must go. A fourth-grade playground mentality has no place in the world of international relations and governance.  Go, Trump … go back to your playground with your filthy rich, hedonistic friends, and get out of our lives.

The U.S. is the world’s second largest contributor to carbon emissions, second only to China, and the highest contributor per capita on the globe.  We put more harmful filth into the environment, doing more than our share to destroy the planet, but we are unwilling to do any part to help correct the problem.

I firmly believe that none other than Steven K. Bannon was the driving force behind this decision.  Remember Bannon’s comment when talking to a New York University academic?

“I’m a Leninist. Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

Well, who knew that he also meant to destroy the very environment upon which we must depend for our lives?

Trump considers himself to be the ultimate deal-maker, as he wrote in his first published book, The Art of the Deal.  So, in his announcement this afternoon, he said that he intends to negotiate a new “fair” deal that would not disadvantage US businesses and workers.

“In order to fulfil my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord… but begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or a really entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States. So we’re getting out but we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair.”

Less than two hours after his announcement, French President Emmanuel Macron told Trump in a phone call that the Paris climate deal could not be renegotiated and that while France would continue to work with Washington, it would no longer discuss climate issues with the United States.  I suspect the rest of the western nations will respond similarly.  It is either/or, all or nothing at all.  This is not a business deal, not a child’s game.  This is the very life of our planet and it is far too serious to allow Trump, the man with no values, to call the shots.

The line “In order to fulfil my solemn duty to protect America …” is an extreme oxymoron.  With his words, his actions today and also last week in Brussels and Italy, what he has actually accomplished is to make the U.S. far more vulnerable.  When Trump refused to affirm our commitment to Article 5 at the NATO conference last week, he created a huge rift between us and our allies.  Article 5 stipulates that the G7 countries will come to the aid of any other G7 country that is attacked by a foreign entity.  Trump would not make that commitment, choosing instead to berate the other nations and claim that they “owed” money to the U.S.  Nothing could be further from the truth, but then, when has truth ever mattered to Donald Trump?  According to Foreign Policy magazine, it was an attack against all of NATO. The one thing that should be obvious to even the least enlightened citizen is that if we will not commit to help our allies in their time of need, how can we reasonably expect them to come to our aid?

And now that he has announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Accords, he has just driven another nail, perhaps ultimately the final nail, into the coffin.  Let us take a look at some reactions from the home front.

Two groups notably applauded Trump’s announcement:  the coal lobby, whose spokesman said, “We support President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement. The previous administration volunteered to meet one of the most stringent goals of any country in the world, while many other countries do far less to reduce their emissions. Meeting President Obama’s goal would have led to more regulations, higher energy prices, and dependence on less reliable energy sources.”  (It should be noted that many of those ‘other countries’ are underdeveloped nations who put very little carbon into the atmosphere.) What they fail to understand, apparently, is that the coal industry is one in death throes with or without the Paris Accords. The other group to support the move was, of course, those die-hard Trump supporters who long ago traded their brain for a box of Cracker Jacks.

“I’m celebrating, he’s saved jobs and businesses,” James in Virginia

“It’s not worth the paper it’s printed on,” said Will.

“I think it was a bad deal in the first place,” said Cathy.

Marta in Texas said she wasn’t too familiar with the accord, but was “fed up” of environmental groups, which she views as “exclusive clubs”.

By leaving the Paris Accord, President Trump has unraveled another thread of Barack Obama’s legacy, and that’s another reason many of his supporters are celebrating.

And of course, lapdog Pence said, “The American people & the wider world will see once again – our President is choosing to put American jobs and American workers first.”

More encouraging, however, were responses from the mayors of 61 cities around the US who have joined together to reaffirm their commitment to the Paris agreement. In an open letter, the mayors – representing 36 million people from Arkansas to Vermont – promised to “intensify efforts to meet each of our cities’ current climate goals, push for new action to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, and work together to create a 21st century clean energy economy.  The world cannot wait  – and neither will we.” 

And … The governors of Washington state, New York and California have announced the formation of the “United States Climate Alliance, a coalition that will convene US states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change”. They said they are “committed to achieving the US goal of reducing emissions 26-28% from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.” California Governor Jerry Brown told the BBC earlier this week he would now work with China on the issue.

Trump has made the worst decision of his term to date.  However, a large portion of our population are firmly convinced of the dangers of climate change and that we need to take immediate action.  I believe that in many areas, such as renewable energy sources, we are past the point that Trump has much leverage.  However, what he has done to our alliances is another story, and one that I will address soon.