This Speaks Volumes …

Last night I came across this editorial from the Editorial Board at the Orlando Sentinel.  It speaks for itself …

Orlando-Sentinel.jpgOur Orlando Sentinel endorsement for president in 2020: Not Donald Trump | Editorial

By ORLANDO SENTINEL EDITORIAL BOARD

| ORLANDO SENTINEL |

JUN 18, 2019 | 5:30 AM

Donald Trump is in Orlando to announce the kickoff of his re-election campaign.

We’re here to announce our endorsement for president in 2020, or, at least, who we’re not endorsing: Donald Trump.

Some readers will wonder how we could possibly eliminate a candidate so far before an election, and before knowing the identity of his opponent.

Because there’s no point pretending we would ever recommend that readers vote for Trump.

After 2½ years we’ve seen enough.

Enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies.

So many lies — from white lies to whoppers — told out of ignorance, laziness, recklessness, expediency or opportunity.

Trump’s capacity for lying isn’t the surprise here, though the frequency is.

It’s the tolerance so many Americans have for it.

There was a time when even a single lie — a phony college degree, a bogus work history — would doom a politician’s career.

Not so for Trump, who claimed in 2017 that he lost the popular vote because millions of people voted illegally (they didn’t). In 2018 he said North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat (it is). And in 2019 he said windmills cause cancer (they don’t). Just last week he claimed the media fabricated unfavorable results from his campaign’s internal polling (it didn’t).

According to a Washington Post database, the president has tallied more than 10,000 lies since he took office.

Trump’s successful assault on truth is the great casualty of this presidency, followed closely by his war on decency.

Trump insults political opponents and national heroes alike with middle-school taunts. He demonstrates no capacity for empathy or remorse. He misuses his office to punish opponents, as when he recently called for a boycott of AT&T to get even with his least favorite media outlet, CNN. He tears down institutions, once airily suggesting the U.S. should try having a leader for life as China now allows. He seems incapable of learning a lesson, telling an ABC interviewer last week — just two months after Robert Mueller’s report on election interference was released — that he would accept dirt on an opponent from Russia or China.

Trump has diminished our standing in the world. He reneges on deals, attacks allies and embraces enemies.

This nation must never forget that humiliating public moment in Helsinki in 2018 when the president of the United States chose to accept Vladimir Putin’s denials of Russian interference in the 2016 election over the unanimous assessment of the American intelligence community.

Such a betrayal by a U.S. president would have been the unforgivable political sin in normal times.

As if that’s not enough, Trump declares his love for North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, a genuine villain who starves and enslaves his people and executes his enemies with antiaircraft guns and flamethrowers.

But he wrote the president a “beautiful letter.” Flattery will get you everywhere with this president, and that’s dangerous.

Domestically, the president’s signature issue — immigration — has moved in fits and starts. Happily, he abandoned pursuing an outright — and unconstitutional — ban on Muslims entering the U.S., opting instead to restrict travel for people from a handful of nations, most of them majority Muslim.

He’s tried separating families, sending troops to the border and declaring a national emergency. For all of that, illegal border crossings are, as the president himself calls it, at crisis levels.

He blames House Democrats because casting blame is Trump’s forte. But Republicans controlled the House and the Senate for two full years. That seemed like an ideal time to fix what the president believes ails our immigration laws.

Even with Democrats now controlling the House, where is Trump’s much-touted deal-making mojo, an attribute he campaigned on?

“But the economy!”

Yes, the market has done well since Trump’s election.

The S&P 500 was up about 21% between Trump’s inauguration and May 31 of his third year in office. Under President Obama, it was up about 56% in that same period.

Unemployment is headed down, as it was during seven straight years under Obama.

Wages are up, and that’s a welcome change. But GDP increases so far are no better than some periods under Obama. Deficit spending under Obama was far too high, in part because of the stimulus needed to dig out of the Great Recession. Under Trump, it’s still headed in the wrong direction, once again pushing $1 trillion even though the economy is healthy.

Trump seems to care nothing about the deficit and the national debt, which once breathed life into the Tea Party.

Through all of this, Trump’s base remains loyal. Sadly, the truest words Trump might ever have spoken was when he said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose his supporters.

This non-endorsement isn’t defaulting to whomever the Democrats choose. This newspaper has a history of presidential appointments favoring Republicans starting in the mid-20th century. Except for Lyndon Johnson in 1964, the Sentinel backed Republican presidential nominees from 1952 through 2004, when we recommended John Kerry over another four years of George W. Bush.

As recently as 2012 we recommended Republican Mitt Romney because of what seemed at the time to be Obama’s failure to adequately manage the nation’s finances.

If — however unlikely — a Republican like Romney, now a senator from Utah, or former Ohio Gov. John Kasich successfully primaried the president, we would eagerly give them a look. Same if an independent candidate mounted a legitimate campaign.

We’d even consider backing Trump if, say, he found the proverbial cure for cancer or — about as likely — changed the essence of who he is (he won’t).

The nation must endure another 1½ years of Trump. But it needn’t suffer another four beyond that.

We can do better. We have to do better.


The comments ran about 2-1 in agreement with the Sentinel, praising its high standards and integrity in taking this stand.  I think it speaks volumes when a newspaper that has consistently endorsed republican candidates for more than half a century refuses to endorse this republican incumbent, Donald Trump.

Trump And Golf …

Now, we all know how much Trump loves to play golf, right?  He typically has an uber-short attention span, and according to many of his aides and advisors, they must be careful to feed him important information in very small doses.  I recall a time when one of them was trying to walk through the U.S. Constitution (you know … that document he swore to uphold?) with him and by the third article, he got bored and started tweeting!  But, when it comes to hitting a defenseless little white ball around with a stick, he never seems to tire.

Trump once said he was “the best golfer of all the rich people”.  But multiple people have come forward to say that … first of all, he isn’t a very good golfer, and second, he cheats!  Now is that a shocker or what???  The most dishonest ‘man’ we’ve ever had in our government and … GASP … he cheats???  He claims to have won something like 18 championships, but … for some reason, there is no record of such.Trump-golf.gifThere have, in fact, been so many reports of Trump’s cheating that sportswriter Rick Reilly has written a book, Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump.  Reilly has said he would like to challenge Trump to a game, but with some caveats …

“I’ll play him for 100 grand, [with the money going to] either of our charities. But the rule is, we can’t play his course, we can’t use his cheating caddies, and there’s got to be a rule guy with each of us, and I’ll play him all day.”

According to Bryan Marsal, chairman of the coming 2020 Men’s U.S. Open …

“I played with him once. It was a Saturday morning game. We go to the first tee and he couldn’t have been nicer. But then he said, ‘You see those two guys? They cheat. See me? I cheat. And I expect you to cheat because we’re going to beat those two guys today.’… So, yes, it’s true, he’s going to cheat you.”

Not long after becoming president, Trump invited Tiger Woods and two other notable golfers to play with him.  According to one of the players, Fox golf analyst Brad Faxon …

“On this one hole, Donald hits his second and fats it into the water. But he quickly says to me, ‘Hey, throw me another ball; they weren’t looking.’ So, I do. But he fats that one into the water, too. So, he drives up and drops where he should’ve dropped the first time and hits it on the green.”

Says another frequent guest at Trump’s golf games …

golf“I’ve played with him a lot. This one time, I was in the fairway and he was right of the green but a little bit down the hill. He didn’t think anybody was watching, but I was. I saw him make a chipping motion from the side of the hill, but no ball came up. Then he walked up the hill, stuck his hand in the hole and pulled a ball out. It must’ve been a ball he had in his hand the whole time.”

And there are more stories, if you care to read them.  But this week, there was a bit of poetic justice.

Apparently, Trump has an account on the U.S. Golf Association system where scores are recorded and maintained.  Par in a round of golf is typically around 72, and Trump has traditionally posted more flattering scores in the 70s and 80s which, as we might guess from the reports of his less-than-honest play, are likely a fabrication.  Well, last week someone obtained access to Trump’s page and posted awful scores of 101, 100, 108 and 102!  Unfortunately, the Association became aware of the faux scores and has removed them.Trump-golf.jpgRemember back on the campaign trail (when isn’t he on the campaign trail?) when he criticized President Obama for playing golf, saying …

“I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to go play golf.”

Well, he has played at least once a week nearly every week since he’s been in office, on average 4-6 hours at a time, and we are footing the bill.  There is even a website that tracks his golf games, the duration and costs!  Your taxpayer dollars hard at work!

I look at it this way … I don’t care about Trump’s golf scores one whit, but … BUT anybody who will cheat at a game will cheat at anything.  If he cannot even be trusted not to cheat on his friends, how can he be trusted not to cheat on We the People?  Think about it.

Trump-golf-tantrum

How Mitch McConnell Killed The Senate

On occasion, I share with you the work of Robert Reich.  Mr. Reich has served under three U.S. presidents of both parties and is a wise man who sees things as they are and isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade.  In the following essay, he analyzes the ways in which McConnell is changing not only the Senate, but the whole of the U.S. system.  I think his words are worth sharing …

 

Robert Reich-4How Mitch McConnell Killed The Senate

by Robert Reich

Congress has recessed for two weeks without passing a desperately-needed disaster relief bill. Why not? Because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t want to anger Donald Trump by adding money for Puerto Rico that Democrats have sought but Trump doesn’t want.

America used to have a Senate. But under McConnell, what was once known as the world’s greatest deliberative body has become a partisan lap dog.

Recently McConnell used his Republican majority to cut the time for debating Trump’s court appointees from 30 hours to two – thereby enabling Republicans to ram through even more Trump judges.

In truth, McConnell doesn’t give a fig about the Senate, or about democracy. He cares only about partisan wins.

On the eve of the 2010 midterm elections he famously declared that his top priority was for Barack Obama “to be a one-term president.”

Between 2009 and 2013, McConnell’s Senate Republicans blocked 79 Obama nominees. In the entire history of the United States until that point, only 68 presidential nominees had been blocked.

This unprecedented use of the filibuster finally led Senate Democrats in 2013 to change the rules on some presidential nominees (but not the Supreme Court) to require simple majorities.

In response, McConnell fumed that “breaking the rules to change the rules is un-American.” If so, McConnell is about as un-American as they come. Once back in control of the Senate he buried Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court by refusing even to hold hearings.

Then, in 2017, McConnell and his Republicans changed the rules again, ending the use of the filibuster even for Supreme Court nominees and clearing the way for Senate confirmation of Trump’s Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Step by step, McConnell has sacrificed the Senate as an institution to partisan political victories.

There is a vast difference between winning at politics by playing according to the norms of our democracy, and winning by subverting those norms.

To Abraham Lincoln, democracy was a covenant linking past and future. Political institutions, in his view, were “the legacy bequeathed to us.”

On the eve of the Senate’s final vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act in July 2017, the late John McCain returned to Washington from his home in Arizona, where he was being treated for brain cancer, to cast the deciding vote against repeal.

Knowing he would be criticized by other Republicans, McCain noted that over his career he had known senators who seriously disagreed with each other but nonetheless understood “they had an obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the Senate discharged its constitutional responsibilities effectively.”

In words that have even greater relevance today, McCain added that “it is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than ‘winning’.”

In politics, success should never be measured solely by partisan victories. It must also be judged by the institutional legacy passed onward. The purpose of political leadership is not merely to win. It is to serve.

In any social or political system it’s always possible to extract benefits by being among the first to break widely accepted norms. In a small town where people don’t lock their doors or windows, the first thief can effortlessly get into anyone’s house. But once broken, the system is never the same. Everyone has to buy locks. Trust deteriorates.

Those, like Mitch McConnell, who break institutional norms for selfish or partisan gains are bequeathing future generations a weakened democracy.

The difference between winning at politics by playing according to the norms and rules of our democracy, and winning by subverting them, could not be greater. Political victories that undermine the integrity of our system are net losses for society.

Great athletes play by the rules because the rules make the game. Unprincipled athletes cheat or change the rules in order to win. Their victories ultimately destroy the game.

In terms of shaping the federal courts, McConnell has played “the long game”, which, incidentally, is the title of his 2016 memoir. Decades from now, McConnell will still be shaping the nation through judges he rammed through the Senate.

But McConnell’s long game is destroying the Senate.

He is longest-serving leader of Senate Republicans in history but Mitch McConnell is no leader. He is the epitome of unprincipled power. History will not treat him kindly.

Nothing To Hide???

We’ve all done some dumb things in our time, for me probably as recently as yesterday or even an hour ago!  But if asked, I will tell you about it and either laugh along with you or hang my head in shame.  Either way, I won’t go to great lengths to keep it a secret.  I’ll even tell you that I failed Biology in high school.  It was not my first, nor would it be my last act of rebellion, but I almost never went to class, for I absolutely refused to cut open earthworms or frogs.  Instead, I hung out in the boys’ bathroom and smoked.  I will also confess to having smoked marijuana a few times in my earlier days … if I had liked it, I would likely still be smoking it, but I hated it!

I may have some things that I’m not exactly proud of in my past, and likely you do too, but I have to ask why the leader of a nation would go to great lengths to keep his high school transcript out of the public eye.  We already know he isn’t the brightest bulb in the pack, contrary to him calling himself a ‘genius’.

According to a report in yesterday’s Washington Post,  in 2011 a group of “prominent, wealthy alumni” had requested Trump’s academic records from New York Military Academy, and the school’s Board of Trustees intended to hand said records over to this group, who said they wanted to ensure the records remained secret.  In other words, his high school transcript would have been buried.  Superintendent Jeffrey Coverdale refused the request but did relocate the records to another area where they could not be released upon request.  Now … why???  This was 2011, the year he considered running against President Barack Obama in the 2012 election.

To this day, Mr. Coverdale refuses to release Trump’s transcripts or to identify the people who ordered him to pull them from his files, saying …

“I don’t want to get into anything with these guys. You have to understand, these were millionaires and multimillionaires on the board, and the school was going through some troubles. But to hear, ‘You will deliver them to us?’ That doesn’t happen. This was highly unusual.”

Seems to me that just about everything having to do with Trump is “highly unusual”.genius-2.jpgWe already know that there were disciplinary problems associated with Trump, such as the time he attempted to shove another cadet out a second-story window.  To add fuel to the fire, or more likely smoldering remains, there was Michael Cohen’s testimony last week that Trump ordered him “to threaten his high school, his colleges and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores”.

After the military academy, where we can only speculate that he did manage to graduate, he spent two years at Fordham University.  Michael Cohen, under Trump’s orders, wrote to the administration at Fordham, demanding that that the records be “permanently sealed” and said any release was “criminality,” which “will lead to jail time.”  In addition, Fordham officials confirmed Cohen’s letter, and said they had also received a phone call from Trump’s campaign.  Why???

After Fordham, he attended University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton business program.  While Trump claims he was “first in my class”, his name does not appear on the school’s dean’s list or on the list of students who received academic honors in his class of 1968, giving rise to the lie in his claim.  Why???

See, when somebody lies about something like this, it leaves the door wide open for speculation.  One could think, perhaps, that he had the lowest grades in the military academy and that his daddy bought his diploma.  Or, one could think, as I have previously speculated, that he rarely even attended classes at Wharton, and that daddy bought his degree, just as he bought his military deferments.  Or, one could even wonder if Trump ever actually attended the first class at Wharton and daddy made a special ‘deal’ for a degree to be signed, sealed, and delivered for an unspecified amount of money.  One’s imagination can just run wild when secrets are kept and lies are told.

There is definitely something fishy here.  But the real joke is Trump himself.  For a man who claims to be a ‘genius’, he is pretty damn stupid.  He has taken extraordinary and suspicious measures to keep his school records secret, but here’s what he said about President Obama …

“I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard? I’m thinking about it, I’m certainly looking into it. Let him show his records. I have friends who have smart sons with great marks, great boards, great everything and they can’t get into Harvard. We don’t know a thing about this guy. There are a lot of questions that are unanswered about our president.”

For the record, Barack Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. That’s magna cum laude, the second highest academic honour.  You and I know Trump did not fare nearly as well, or we would be hearing about it daily, if not hourly.  After all … look at this tweet from 2013 trump-tweet-geniusThe epitome of arrogance.  Now, there are two questions I leave you with today:

First, why is he going to such lengths to ensure that the people of this nation do not see his academic records?  We already know he is no genius, we already know his daddy used his money to buy privileges for his boy, so to find that he had lousy grades, disciplinary problems and poor attendance would be no surprise.  He plays only to his base, and the majority of them likely have some poor grades in their own record.  So … why?  Which leads to the next, and most important question …

What else is he hiding?  He has steadfastly refused to release his tax returns – what would we find there?  If he would hide something as minor as his academic records, then it is a certainty that he has deeper, darker secrets.  Has daddy bought him out of trouble other than the financial sort?  We already know he has a problem keeping wee willie winkie in his pants and has sexually abused women in the past.  Could it be he was accused or rape even before he became a public persona, perhaps while still in school, and daddy paid to have it covered up?  genius-1Speculation?  Sure, but when you hide things that are relatively innocuous, people are going to speculate as to what else you’re hiding.  Are there secrets being hidden with the help of his wealthy donors that would ensure his removal from office, or perhaps even ensure him a cell next to Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen?  Think about it.

The United States of Chaos

I don’t know about you folks, but personally I am beginning to feel very irrelevant, inconsequential when it comes to the current administration and the republicans in Congress.  You will notice, those of you who are employed, that during the 35-day shutdown, federal income taxes continued to be withheld from your paycheck.  Every pay, like clockwork, we pay our taxes, and most of us don’t grumble about it, for we understand that it is our taxes that are used to build roads, maintain the military, provide food and shelter for those less fortunate, and pay the salaries of those who serve in our government.  It is as it should be.  BUT …

I don’t think there is a single person reading this blog who appreciates Donald Trump spending $50,000 for a toy to keep him entertained on rainy afternoons, during his 60% “Executive Time”.  What, you ask, am I prattling on about?  This …

Trump plays a lot of golf, as we all know.  When he was on the campaign trail in 2016, he criticized President Obama for the amount of time he spent playing golf, and said this …

“I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to go play golf.” – Donald J. Trump, August 2016

And yet, absorb this:  President Obama played 306 rounds of golf during the entire 8 years he was in office, which averages to approximately 38 rounds of golf per year.  But Donald Trump, the ‘man’ who said he would be working so hard that he wouldn’t have time for golf, has averaged 70 rounds of golf per year for his first two years!  Where’s all that hard work, eh?  But back to his latest toy …

During the 35-day government shutdown when nearly a million federal workers were either furloughed sans pay, or were expected to work without being paid, Trump’s advisors were apparently able to convince him that it would look really bad if he were out playing golf instead of working to come to an agreement to re-open the government and pay our people.  And thus, he went … wait for it … 69 days without playing golf!  And thus, the above toy … a room-sized golf simulator game at the cost of what, for most of us, is an entire year’s salary or more.  It is said by an anonymous White House staffer that Trump paid for the toy with his own money, but frankly, until I see a canceled check drawn on his personal checking account, I am skeptical.

It was recently reported that Trump spends 60% of his time doing ‘executive time’ … time that he spends watching television, tweeting and talking on the phone, and that he doesn’t leave his residence to begin work until around 11:00 a.m.  Now, you can add another hour to his ‘executive time’, for that is the time it takes to play a round of golf on the new toy.  I wonder … will he get all hot & sweaty and have to take another 20 minutes for a shower after he plays?

trump-golfing


And in other news … again on the campaign trail, Trump promised this …

  • In his official campaign launch address, Trump promised to “reduce our $18 trillion in debt,” which will not happen if annual deficits hit $1 trillion in two years.
  • On the campaign trail, Trump said he would “freeze the budget,” which has certainly not happened.
  • Shortly before his inauguration, he told Fox News host Sean Hannity that he would “balance the budget very quickly… I think over a five-year period. And I don’t know, maybe I could even surprise you.”
  • Previous to that, in March 2016, he told Bob Woodward that he could get rid of the debt “fairly quickly.” When pressed, he said, “Well, I would say over a period of eight years.” Since Trump took office, his own budget director called that promise “hyperbole.”
  • Trump asserted during the second presidential debate that he would bring back energy companies, which would make so much money that they could pay off the national debt. This has not happened.

None of those things have happened but guess what DID happen.  On Tuesday, 12 February 2019, the national debt hit a record high of $22 trillion, nearly $3 trillion higher than when he took office just over two years ago.  Never before in our history has it topped $21 trillion.  For perspective, that is $22,000,000,000.  And climbing.  Why?  While there is no single reason, the biggest reason is the reduction in revenue as a result of the tax cuts for the wealthy that Congress passed, and Trump signed in December 2017.  As tax filers are finding out this month, those tax cuts were truly for the wealthy, and the average taxpayer got shafted.  And still, he presses on for his unnecessary, useless border wall.

Over the course of the last two years, we have gone from a democratic-republic to a plutocracy, a government by the wealthy.  We have ceased to matter to the current administration.  And while Trump’s supporters may crow about the low unemployment rate and the stable economy … a change is coming.  We cannot continue to exist on high deficit spending and an increasing national debt without paying the consequences which I believe are waiting just around the corner.  A rising national debt has been compared to driving your car with the emergency brake on.  Trump’s house of cards may well be about to come tumbling down around us, but he’s having fun playing with his new golf toy, so … no worries, right?

Meanwhile, the Trumptanic keeps chugging toward the iceberg …iceberg

Facts Are Facts … Or Are They?

Fact:  A thing that is known or proven to be true.

When is a fact not a fact?  When it is uttered by virtually anyone in the U.S. Federal Government.

It all started, you may remember, two years ago … January 20, 2017, when then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed that the number of people attending Trump’s inauguration was much higher than those who had attended President Obama’s inauguration four years earlier.  It wasn’t true, there are numbers from DC Metro to show that the number of attendee’s at Trump’s inauguration were the lowest of the past four presidents.  Only about 61% as many attended Trump’s inauguration as attended Obama’s.  And if that weren’t proof enough, the pictures speak no lies …

inauguration crowds.jpg

Inauguration crowds … Trump’s (left) Obamas (right)

Two days later, Kellyanne was making the rounds and made an appearance on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.  When Todd, armed with facts and pictures, asked Kellyanne why Spicer would “utter such a provable falsehood”, Kellyanne herself uttered the sentence that would re-define language as spoken by anyone in the Trump administration:

“Our press secretary, Sean Spicer, gave alternative facts to [these claims], but the point remains that…”

And we knew right then that we would never be able to trust a single word that came from anyone in the Trump camp.

Alternative facts, also known as ‘lies’, have come to be what we expect when Trump, Kellyanne, or Sarah open their mouths.  For example, just one week after the lies about the size of the inaugural crowd, Kellyanne told another whopper …

“I bet it’s brand-new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized, and were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green Massacre. Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.”

Just to set the record straight, there never was a “Bowling Green Massacre”.

The lies, or ‘alternative facts’ have continued almost daily for two years, and we’ve mostly learned to ignore them, perhaps roll our eyes and shake our head, but overall we look through them and dig for whatever kernel of truth we may be able to find.  But there comes a point when the lies are so blatantly stupid that our jaws drop.

Yesterday, Trump spoke to reporters, futilely attempting to garner support for his ego-wall on the southern border between the U.S. and Mexico, when this jewel slipped from between his lips …

“Everybody knows that walls work. You look at different places, they put up a wall, no problem. You look at San Antonio, you look at so many different places, they go from one of the most unsafe cities in the country to one of the safest cities, immediately, immediately.”

San Antonio?  Does he mean the San Antonio in Texas, the one that is some 150 miles north of the border?  The one where the Alamo is the major tourist attraction?  Ain’t no bloomin’ wall in San Antonio, folks.  We have a ‘man’ sitting in the Oval Office who flunked geography in high school!  Folks on Twitter had some fun with it, though …

“Is he talking about the Alamo, clearly, the only wall I know of in San Antonio? Has he forgotten how poorly that walll protected its occupants?”

“For the love of God…. can SOMEONE please get @realDonaldTrump a map? His shocking level of ignorance is absolutely frightening.”

“I believe the #BowlingGreenMassacre lead to the creation of the great #SanAntonio wall. ….i could be wrong. Im really just looking for a #SmockingGun. #hamberders”

“Geography is hard.”

And this from the mySanAntonio.com website …

“A quick search (consisting of looking out the window and then checking Texas Department of Transportation traffic cameras) found no walls barring anyone from San Antonio. In fact, the city is often known as one of the most welcoming and friendly cities in Texas.”

Proving once again that Donald Trump is a bad joke … a horrible joke … and that facts in our government have become completely meaningless.  And on that note, I must don long underwear, coat, hat and gloves and go shovel about a foot of snow from daughter Chris’ parking space so that she can park when she gets home from Kansas City late tonight.  Kansas City, by the way, has no walls either … just in case you were wondering.

By the way … Today is National Cheese Lover’s Day, so enjoy a few bites …cheese.jpg

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!