Borschting For Freedom

I was planning to write about the ludicrous “trucker convoy” that is expected to arrive sometime today in Washington, D.C., but then Clay Jones did it for me and did it better than I could have, ’cause he can draw in addition to writing! Seriously, though, the truckers are protesting mask/vaccine mandates, most of which have already ended, so … as Clara Peller used to say, “Where’s the beef?”

claytoonz

The Freedom Truckers hauling bullshit and snowflakes have picked a really bad time to pretend their freedom is under attack. It’s kinda like protesting the War on Christmas in July. There are not a lot of takers.

First, all the mandates they’re protesting against are being lifted. Second, it’s really hard to gain pity for being forced to wear a face mask in a Dunkin’ Donuts when there are Ukrainian grandmas facing down Soviet tanks.

These truckers, organized by white nationalists, want to whine and complain but they don’t have anything to complain about. In the 1953 classic, “The Wild One,” outlaw biker Johnny Strabler, played by Marlon Brando, is asked by Mildred, just some girl in the movie I think, what he’s rebelling against. Johnny’s reply is, “What’ve you got?” If Mildred had replied something about having to wear a face mask at Denny’s, Johnny might’ve just rolled out…

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He’s Got To GO!

Folks, it’s just not funny anymore, okay?  Oh wait … it was never funny, was it?  When lives are at stake, there can be no laughter.  When the foundations of a government is at stake, the time for laughter has passed.

On November 8th of 2016, some 62,979,879 people voted for a ‘man’ named Donald Trump.  A ‘man’ few had heard of in political circles, for he was naught but a real estate ‘mogul’ and a television entertainer.  I had heard the name, but not being a watcher of television, nor an occupier of casino stools, it was largely irrelevant to me.  Until June 2015, that is.  The vote for Trump was not the majority, but nonetheless, because of racial gerrymandering, he managed to win the electoral college and thus was inaugurated on January 20th, 2017, into the highest office of the United States government.

Since that fateful day, he has been hellbent and determined to destroy the nation he swore to protect, to oppose the Constitution he swore to uphold, and most of all … to profit.

He was the most unqualified, unprepared person imaginable for this position.  He said he would surround himself with the ‘best people’.  They said he would learn … they said he would become ‘presidential’.

They were all wrong.  He didn’t.

It is now 33 months into his term, and much of the destruction he has wrought is irreversible.  The latest horror may well have been the last straw for this nation, for it has convinced our allies that our word is worth less than the paper it is written on.  As a result of his decision to remove U.S. troops from northeastern Syria, at least 38 civilians and 81 Kurdish fighters have been killed.  Those deaths are attributable to the United States.  Their blood is on the hands of none other than Donald Trump who negotiated with Turkish President Recep Erdoğan, Trump immediately removed troops from Syria, and within hours Erdoğan began brutally attacking the Kurds.

Donald Trump does not feel badly about the deaths, but instead made comments on Wednesday that the “Kurds are no angels”, and that the Turks attacking the Kurds in Syria has “nothing to do with us”.

“I view the situation on the Turkish border with Syria to be, for the United States, strategically brilliant. Our soldiers are out of there, they’re totally safe. They’ve got to work it out. Maybe they can do it without fighting.”

A classic case of that arrogant saying, “I got mine”.

Trump’s ignorance has cost human lives.  That, my friends, is not reversible.  I would like to hear from some of those who support Trump if they are okay with our allies being murdered because Trump didn’t know what he was doing.

The House of Representatives held a vote on Tuesday on whether to condemn Trump’s actions in the Middle East.  The bill received overwhelming bi-partisan support in favour of condemning Trump’s actions:  354 Yea; 60 Nay; 4 Present; 14 Not Voting.  81% of the entire House condemns Trump’s foolhardy action.  My own representative voted Nay, and had a scathing email from me waiting in his in box this morning.  The biggest disappointment was that Justin Amash, who left the GOP earlier this year after voicing support for impeachment, abstained, voting only “Present”.  Ah well, I suppose his bout of conscience didn’t last very long, did it?

What does this condemnation mean?  Not a damn thing, really, for it is mainly symbolic.  What it does signal, however, is that at least 129 republicans in the House of Representatives have had enough … for them, Trump has finally crossed a line.  This is, perhaps, the true significance of this move … it sends a message, loud and clear, that there are limits to what he can do and still have the support of his party in Congress.  My hope is that some of those 129 republicans will also now think long and hard about impeachment and see that it may be the only way to salvage what is left of our reputation before he finishes his process of destruction.  The presidency of Donald Trump is costing the people of this nation far, far too much.

Yesterday, Trump boasted of a cease-fire that had been worked out between Mike Pence and Recep Erdoğan.  It is not a cease fire.  Let’s be clear … it is a cessation of attack for five days, 120 hours, to “give the Kurds time to clear out”.  But … the Kurds have a right to be there.  The Kurds should not have to ‘clear out’.  The implication is clear … any who remain at the end of five days will be obliterated.  This amounts to nothing more than a further abandonment on the part of the U.S. of our allies.  What happens, I wonder, if Trump’s buddy Putin decides he would like to add the UK or France or Germany to his vision for an expanded USSR-style Russian empire?

It seems to me that the person who has the least understanding of international affairs, is calling all the shots now.  Or, rather, he is the puppet whose strings are being pulled by the likes of Putin and Erdoğan, who are actually calling all the shots.

And the latest, announced late yesterday, is that he has awarded himself a prize!  He, in his great and unmatched wisdom, has decided that next year’s G7 summit will be held at Trump’s Doral Resort, so that he can profit ‘bigly’.  This, my friends, is against the law.  But, will anybody hold him accountable?  Will anybody say, “No, Donnie, you cannot do that?”  It remains to be seen.  Thus far, I’ve only seen looks of disbelief and shaking heads, but no action.  Perhaps, if Trump stays on his current path of shoving our allies under the bus, he will be the one not invited to next year’s G7.

There is growing support around the nation for impeachment.  Just today, White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, let slip that Trump had, in fact, offered “quid pro quo” to the Ukranian President Zelinskyy, in exchange for providing false information about the Bidens in order to affect the outcome of next year’s election.  My friends … It is time for Donald Trump to go, and frankly, I don’t care in what form or fashion, for if he remains in office for another five years, this nation will hit rock bottom.  I firmly believe that.

A Toony Afternoony …

Okay, so I’m not exactly next in line for poet laureate.  It’s a gloomy, cold and rainy afternoon here, but at least it’s Friday.  It is also daughter Chris’ birthday (48, but don’t tell her I told you!), and so I have some extra things to get done this afternoon, such as baking her favourite cake that takes a few hours, as it is a multi-stage process.

The news has been full this week, and I don’t know about you, but I’m still reeling from it all, only believing a small portion of what I’m hearing.  The one keyword that sums it all up is chaos.  In fact, that word seems to sum up the last 21 months since the inauguration of … well, you-know-who.  I thought that since I need to be doing some other things this afternoon, and since you’re on news overload anyway, a few cartoons might be the better way to start off the weekend.

pol-toon-1pol-toon-2pol-toon-4pol-toon-5pol-toon-6Suspicious packagepol-toon-8pol-toon-9pol-toon-10

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Eight Reasons Why Ending the Iran Deal is Stupid

I have been working for two days to try to put together a post that explains why Trump’s decision to dishonour our committment on the Iran deal is such a stupid move, and I have yet to be able to manage to say what I want to say coherently. However, when it comes to anything economic, my ‘go-to’ person is Erik Hare at Barataria, and tonight I found he had successfully accomplished what I’ve struggled with for two days. Not seeing much point in re-inventing the wheel when Erik has done such a great job, I am sharing his work with you. His explanations are concise and very understandable, and I urge you to take just a few minutes to read his excellent post. Thank you, Erik, for helping us all understand the total picture, and for your generous permission (given years ago) to re-blog!

Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

The United States has withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal. It is probably the stupidest possible thing to do at this time. Why? Here are eight reasons, most of which are fairly conservative in nature.

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Filosofa’s Look Into The Present …

Yesterday I was riffling through some older posts, in search of the first post of my Monday morning, Jolly Monday, feature, which I never did find, but I came across an interesting post that I wrote in March 2016.  It was meant to be humorous, and was, in a dark sort of way … a predictive piece about what a Trump presidency would look like after the first six months.  Remember that at the time, I was sincerely convinced that Trump stood absolutely no chance of winning the election, so it was a bit easier then to be rather glib than it is today.  But still, there is some humour in it, and most importantly, it is somewhat of a comfort to see that at least some of my predictions did not come to pass.  At any rate, I thought I would share this today … if for no other reason than a chuckle or two, and to give you further reason to never trust my predictive skills.

DATELINE: 15 JULY 2017

It is July 2017, and President Donald Trump has been in office for six months now.  Much has changed since the beginning of the year.  Let us first look back at the past six months, then we will look at what is happening in the big Gold House today.
The immigration crisis in the U.S. has reversed itself and turned from a problem of immigration to one of mass emigration.  Whereas one year ago, we were mostly concerned with Syrian refugees flooding the country, the concern now is U.S. citizens trying to flee the country.  Some 250,000 fled over the U.S./Canadian border during the first quarter of 2017.  Canada closed its border to U.S. citizens at the end of March, and the latest wave of emigrants have been heading over the Mexican border or attempting the 90-mile journey to Cuba in yachts and other small pleasure craft.  So far there have been few mishaps, however as more and more people try to leave U.S. territory, that is likely to change soon.  A small number have fled to the European continent; however, the EU has made it clear that immigrants from the U.S. are persona non grata.  EU President Jean-Claude Juncker, in his statement last Friday, said, “Americans made their beds last November.  Let them wallow in them.”  Meanwhile, President Trump has issued an executive order stating that any U.S. citizen caught trying to leave the country will be imprisoned for a minimum of 90 days and subject to waterboarding during that time.  This is a reversal of the statement that Trump issued in February when the emigration began and he reportedly said, “I don’t give a shit.  Let them all go.  I don’t need them and they are the ones who will be sorry.  They will be sorry.”
President Trump and Vice President Palin recently returned from a trip to Russia where they met with Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials.  Trump pledged military aid to Russia for its effort to gain control over remaining Ukrainian and other territories.  “We’re gonna send them planes and bombs … lots of bombs … lots of bombs”, Trump told reporters yesterday.  Ms. Palin, asked what she felt was accomplished by the trip, answered “Oh MY … I did sooooo much shopping!  I got the most adorable little bolero!”
Trump News, formerly Fox News, is reporting that the senate failed to confirm Trumps nomination of Judith Sheindlin (aka Judge Judy) to fill the current opening on the Supreme Court.  Trump ordered the senate to reconsider the matter and take another vote on Monday, stating that if the confirmation is not forthcoming, he will “fire all the senators who voted against the nomination”.  Informed by aides that he does not have the power to fire senators, he responded “I will pass a law.  I will pass a law so that I can fire senators.  I will pass a law.”  Informed that he does not have the power to single-handedly pass a law, he fired the aides.
President Trump has announced that he will not attend the Global United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa in November.  “Climate change is all a hoax.  It’s all a hoax and those people are boring.  I like people who want to have fun.  All those people do is sit around and talk about a myth.  Climate change is a myth.  We’re gonna take the oil and we’re gonna burn the oil and we’re gonna burn the coal.  I like to spend my time with people who are fun.  Those people aren’t fun.”  In an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, Trump replied to the question of how he plans to ‘take the oil’: “We’re gonna take the oil, okay?  We’re gonna take the oil.  They are gonna give us the oil just so we don’t bomb the [bleep] out of them.”
Which brings us to today’s news.  Kim Jong-Un, Supreme Leader of the DPRK (North Korea) issued a warning that if all sanctions against North Korea are not lifted by the end of this month, he will launch missiles armed with nuclear warheads at the United States and other western nations.  President Trump responded by saying “we will bomb him first.  I’ve got a nuclear arsenal at my disposal and I will use it.  I will bomb all of Korea off the map.  I will bomb the shit out of them.  Bring me that red phone.  Where is that red phone?  I will bomb them now!”  An anonymous source within the White Gold House tells us that the red phone could not be found and that the president has ordered a new one to be delivered tomorrow. Defense Secretary Chris Christie was fired for apparently losing the red phone.  The world stands at the brink of all-out war, a brink as we have not seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.  We can only hope that this is resolved without disaster, as was the Cuban Missile Crisis.  President Trump is no Kennedy.
I really started out with the intention of this being a humorous piece, but every time I read it, it seems less funny.  I considered not even posting it, but I will and let the chips fall where they may.  Feel free to remind me that humour is supposed to be funny.  I apparently forgot how to do funny. 
And the comments at the time:
  • “The six scariest words I have heard in some time, ‘President Trump and Vice President Palin’.”
  • “Yes, there is such a thing as dark humor…”
  • “It is funny, in a weird and twisted way… 😉 Funny, but also sad. Well, if you need to emigrate, I will vouch for you… and tell the EU administration that you definitely have not voted for Trump! 😉”

 

It Is Now Legal To Beat Your Spouse, Child, Or Elderly Parent … In Russia

Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a controversial amendment that decriminalizes domestic violence. The amendment would decriminalize any violence that does not cause serious medical harm, which is defined as requiring hospital treatment. Beatings that leave bruises, scratches or bleeding but do not leave lasting negative health effects such as broken bones or concussion will no longer be criminal.

There is, understandably, fury among women’s activist groups in Russia.  Filosofa is spluttering with rage!  It should be duly noted that the bill was drafted by two women:  Yelena Mizulina, an ultra-conservative MP who was also behind the controversial Russian law banning “gay propaganda”, and Olga Batalina.

russiaDomestic violence is widely acknowledged to be a major problem in Russia, with more than 10,000 women believed to die from injuries inflicted by husbands or partners every year. So what, we might ask, is the justification for a law that makes it legal to beat your spouse, partner, child, or even elderly parent?  Read on …

  • The law is about protecting Russian traditions according to which the family is sacred. Priest Dmitry Smirnov, head of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchy’s commission on family matters, said on a television program that the idea the state should be able to poke its nose into family affairs was a western imposition on Russia.
  • An article last week in the science section of the popular tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda cheerfully told readers about an “advantage” of wife-beating. It said: “Recent scientific studies show the wives of angry men have a reason to be proud of their bruises. Biologists say that beaten-up women have a valuable advantage: they more often give birth to boys!”
  • It supports “traditional values” and stops the state from snooping into family matters.
  • According to Putin himself, “unceremonious interference with the family is impermissible”.
  • “If he beats you, it means he loves you.”

So there you have it … all good reasons to tolerate violence and abuse as the norm, right? A recent poll showed that 59% or those polled would prefer a ‘softer’ version of the law, and only 17% were completely against the law. Personally, I am glad I don’t live in Russia, and am also glad that nobody has ever loved me so much they felt a need to beat me.

Apparently law enforcement in Russia have not historically taken domestic abuse claims very seriously in the past anyway.  Anna Kirey, deputy director for Russia and Eurasia at Amnesty International, said: “This bill is a sickening attempt to trivialize domestic violence, which has long been viewed as a non-issue by the Russian government.”

Take, for example, the story last year of Anna Zhavnerovich.    After her boyfriend beat her unconscious, Anna went to the police to file a report and have him arrested.  Rather than empathy …

“They asked me why I didn’t have any children,” she remembers. “They asked me if I was married.” Beneath their line of questioning was the suggestion that somehow the attack was her fault. They told her that they would investigate, but a few weeks later she received a letter informing her that the case had been dropped. Her ex-boyfriend had not been questioned and no further action was proposed. When she tried to hire a lawyer to start a private suit, she was told that the police had lost her files.

In the past, the penalty for domestic violence charges, if pursued by police, could have been as much as two years in prison and a fine.  Now, the penalty is likely to be a fine of up to 30,000 rubles, or about $500 USD. And, if convicted of abuse a second time within a year, the abuser may … or may not … face a jail sentence.  Initially there was a proposal to exclude abuse of pregnant women, but that was thrown out, so it is also legal to beat your pregnant wife in Russia.

I understand cultural differences, but this, folks, is NOT a cultural difference.  Granted, Russian culture is more patriarchal than that of the western world, but nonethess, this is state-sanctioned cruelty.  State-sanctioned inhumanity.  No human being deserves to be beaten.  Period.  Congratulations, Mr. Putin … you just added yet another black mark to your record for cruelty and violations of human rights.  The next woman, child or elderly person who dies at the hand of a domestic abuser is on your conscience.

America’s New Ambassador – Part II

Yesterday I posted portions of Trump’s interview with The London Times and Bild, his first since his upset win in the November election.  Today I turn my attention to the responses to his interview from the International community, primarily the European nations.  Our relationship with our allies is, and has always been, of great concern.  Strong bonds have been forged which offer protection for our allies, as well as for the U.S., and any perceived weakening of those bonds makes the world less safe for us all.

A few of the post-interview headlines:

As Trump Era Arrives, a Sense of Uncertainty Grips the World

IRISH BOOKMAKER OFFERING 8-1 ODDS THAT TRUMP IS IMPEACHED IN LESS THAN SIX MONTHS

Donald Trump’s Interview on Russia, NATO and Brexit Gives Some in Europe the Jitters

In response to Trump, France’s Hollande says EU needs no advice from outsiders

Defiant EU Nations Ready Themselves for Trump Presidency

Whenever Trump speaks or tweets, he manages to ruffle some feathers.  His interview last week, however, ruffled many feathers and is not likely to sit well with many European leaders who were already leery, to say the least, of a Trump regime. Though Trump’s responses during the interview were typically lacking substance, some glimmer of his intent regarding foreign policy ultimately became discernable, and it created more than a few nervous tics across the great pond.  Four major areas of concern are his criticism of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, his disparagement of NATO, his response to Brexit, and his declaration of intent to impose heavy tariffs on European auto imports.

Criticism of Chancellor Merkel

At least three times, he criticized Chancellor Merkel for her stance on immigration:

“I think it was, I think it was very unfortunate what happened. And you know I have a love for Germany because my father came from Germany and, I don’t want to be in that position. You know the way I look at it, we have enough problems.”

“I think she made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals, you know taking all of the people from wherever they come from. And nobody even knows where they come from. You’ll find out, you got a big dose of it a week ago. So I think she made a catastrophic mistake, very bad mistake.”

“I think it was a big mistake for Germany. And Germany of all countries, ’cause Germany was one of the toughest in the world for having anybody go in, and, uh, no I think it was a mistake. And I’ll see her and I’ll meet her and I respect her. And I like her but I think it was a mistake.”

Chancellor Merkel responded calmly: “They have been known for a while — my positions are also known. I think we Europeans have control of our destiny. I am waiting for the president to be sworn into office. That is the way it is done. And then, of course, I will work with him together.”

Trump described the European Union as “basically a vehicle for Germany” and predicted that the bloc would probably see other countries follow Britain’s example and vote to leave. While many in the EU have the same thought, it was offensive and inappropriate for an incoming U.S. president to make such a statement about one of our most important allies. Throughout Trump’s campaign and subsequent election, Chancellor Merkel has been ever-polite and politic, showing a much greater degree of professionalism than Trump.

Disparagement of NATO

“I said a long time ago that NATO had problems. Number one it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago. Number two the countries weren’t paying what they’re supposed to be paying.”

It is obsolete because it has been around for a long time?  Does that not, by definition, make Trump himself obsolete?  Our Constitution has been around for some 230 years, as compared with NATO, which was established in 1949, or 68 years ago, making it actually younger than Trump. As to his claim that other countries are spending less on military than the U.S., while the statement is true, there are also some valid reasons.  One of the core tenets of NATO membership is that each nation spend 2% of its GDP on its own military spending, in an effort to curtail using pooled NATO resources. U.S. military spending has always been larger than other nations, and since 9/11, it increased even more until today it stands at 3.62% of GDP.

When something is wrong, it usually behooves us to ask “why?” before jumping in and criticizing.  Why, then, do 23 of the NATO countries not spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense? Though this answer may seem over-simplistic, the reality is that most of those countries simply cannot afford to increase their defense spending.  Most have high commitments to health and retirement benefits for their aging population, higher education and healthcare spending, and other humanitarian expenditures.  There are other causes for the shortfall in each individual circumstance, such as Iceland that has no military of their own.  However, to make a blanket statement without researching the causes and working with these nations toward a mutually acceptable solution is a sign that Trump does not understand NATO nor international affairs at all. Some also consider it a sign that Trump does not value our alliances.

It may happen that, in light of Trump’s criticism and seeming unwillingness to aid allies in times of hostilities or threat, the other NATO nations will begin to build their military as much as they can, fearing that they can no longer rely on the U.S.  If Trump should decide to pull out of NATO, it would make the entire world less safe.

Response to Brexit

“People don’t want to have other people coming in and destroying their country … People, countries want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity … I think people want, people want their own identity, so if you ask me, others, I believe others will leave.”

Most of Trump’s comments on Brexit during the interview revolved around himself and the fact that, though he initially did not even know what Brexit was, he predicted that Brexit would be approved by voters.  However, he failed to consider that Brexit is yet very much a contentious issue in the UK and elsewhere, and his comments that others would leave the EU, as well as his foolish declaration that it does not matter to the U.S. whether the EU remains strong or crumbles, were inappropriate.

French President Francois Hollande said that Europe, “has no need for outside advice to tell it what to do. Europe will always be willing to pursue trans-Atlantic cooperation, but it will base its decisions on its interests and its values.” And Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said, “We are going to move away from, I guess, a kind of Twitter diplomacy, and then into a reality,” adding that reality could be “perhaps more difficult than what is going on on Twitter.”

On the proposed 35% tariff

Last, but definitely not least, was his threat to hit German automakers with a 35% tariff on automobiles shipped to the United States.

“I would tell BMW if they think they’re gonna build a plant in Mexico and sell cars into the US without a 35 per cent tax, it’s not gonna happen, it’s not gonna happen — so if they want to build cars for the world I would say wish them luck — they can build cars for the US but they’ll be paying a 35 per cent tax on every car that comes into the country.”

Germany’s deputy chancellor and minister for the economy, Sigmar Gabriel, said on Monday morning, “I believe BMW’s biggest factory is already in the US, in Spartanburg [South Carolina]. The US car industry would have a bad awakening if all the supply parts that aren’t being built in the US were to suddenly come with a 35% tariff. I believe it would make the US car industry weaker, worse and above all more expensive. I would wait and see what the Congress has to say about that, which is mostly full of people who want the opposite of Trump.”  When asked what the U.S. automakers could do to sell more cars in Europe, Mr. Gabriel said, “Build better cars.” 

Bottom line on this is any tariff that Trump imposes on foreign auto makers will cost the citizens of the U.S.  It may put money in the government coffers, but it will put a significantly higher price tag on the automobiles.

 

According to a New York Times article  , Trump’s handlers (transition team) were planning to try to smooth over some of the tensions caused by his interview and prior rhetoric.  Frankly, cleaning up behind Trump may be among the filthiest jobs in the world.

Notably absent in his critiques were any negative comments against Russian President Vladimir Putin.  He has not criticized Putin for seizing the Crimean Peninsula, killing his political opponents, invading Georgia (the country) or interfering with the U.S. elections.  He has even indicated that he would lift the sanctions against Russia, the latest of which was in response to his invading the Crimea, and even urged the UK to lift their sanctions against Russia.

This was to be the conclusion of a two-part post, but today another interview with potentially harmful ramifications came to my attention, so stay tuned for Part III later today.

Beyond Watergate

Once again, my fellow blogger Erik Hare of Barataria has knocked it out of the park. This post is in-depth, thoughtful, well-researched, and does not indulge in premature speculation. If you read no other article about the situation between the U.S.,Russia, Trump and the recent e-mail leak, read this one. Best I have read … Thanks, Erik!

Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

Our political system is under attack by a foreign nation.

Revelations that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) server was hacked by Russians known to be working for state intelligence is only the tip of the iceberg. Like the break-in at the Watergate offices of the DNC on 17 June 1972, it appears to be part of a coordinated effort to influence the election. Unlike Watergate, it is being run by Putin’s Russia – a vast “kleptocracy” of mafia known as the “Bratva” (brotherhood) that routinely conducts similar operations around the world.

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Erdogan Strikes Again

geneva1Geneva, Switzerland.  Geneva is a global city, a financial center, and worldwide center for diplomacy. Many of the United Nations agencies are headquartered there, as well as the International Red Cross. Geneva is the city that hosts the highest number of international organizations in the world. It is also the place where the Geneva Conventions were signed. Switzerland has remained neutral, avoiding alliances that would necessitate military or political action, since 1515.  Its policy of neutrality has been internationally recognized since 1815.  Switzerland is a very small nation, thus the need for neutrality.  Although small, Switzerland is a nation in and of itself.  It is not affiliated in any way, nor under the rule of Turkey.  Yet … President Erdogan of Turkey believes that he has a right to tell Switzerland, just as he did Germany, what is or is not acceptable.

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In 2013, during a peaceful protest in Turkey, 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who was reportedly not a part of the protest, was hit in the head with a tear-gas canister thrown by Turkish police.  Elvan remained in a coma for 269 days, before he died in 2014.  Elvan’s photograph, taken by Swiss photographer Demir Sönmez, is on display at an exhibition across from the United Nations complex in Geneva.  In the photo, there is a banner with the phrase “My name is Berkin Elvan. The police killed me, on the order of Turkey’s prime minister.” On Monday, the Turkish consulate filed an official complaint with Geneva demanding that the photo be removed from the ongoing exhibition.

Last week, you may remember, Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, made the decision to allow Erdogan to file a civil action against Jan Boehmermann for a poem he read on German television mocking Erdogan.  Germany and Switzerland both have an outdated ‘lese-majeste’ laws on their books that make it illegal to insult foreign leaders.  It is apparent that Merkel’s decision last week may have set a precedent and given Erdogan the idea that he can control satire and mockery of himself and his leadership in all nations.  Chancellor Merkel has indicated that she intends to change the German law, and presumably at this juncture Switzerland will do the same, but meanwhile Erdogan’s complaints must be acted upon, which gives him a large degree of power that is unwarranted, not to mention frightening. Boehmermann’s poem, granted, was by all accounts crude and extremely insulting.  However the banner and picture of young Berkin Elvan is not.  It seems that if Mr. Erdogan finds it offensive, then he must in fact find his own actions embarrassing.

Dutch journalist Ebru Umar was arrested and detained in Turkey for posting ‘tweets’ and also a column she wrote for the Dutch Metro newspaper criticizing Erdogan.  Over the past two years, more than 1,800 cases have been brought against journalists for criticizing Erdogan, and the Turkish government has urged Turks living in the Netherlands to report insults to either the Turkish government or Erdogan.  Ms. Umar was released on Sunday.

It is the opinion of this writer that the world needs to sit up and take notice of President Erdogan’s actions.  Technically, Turkey is a Parliamentary Democracy.  Realistically, it appears to be moving more toward a dictatorship.  I am cautious in using Hitler comparisons, as it is an easy trap to fall into, often without validity.  But in this case, I see some parallels.  Hitler curtailed freedom of speech and press in 1933   Erdogan is pushing for an expansion of his power within the Turkish government and recently commented that Hitler’s Germany was an example of “an effective form of government.”  The Turkish government has already taken over one media group, Feza Media Group, and Erdogan has greatly curtailed freedom of speech and freedom of the press within Turkey.  Now, he apparently seeks to lengthen his reach to other nations such as Germany, the Netherlands and even Switzerland.

Part of the reason Erdogan thinks he has some leverage with members of the EU is that he has agreed to take some of the refugees and asylum-seekers that the EU cannot, or will not, accommodate.  In truth, this may actually give him a degree of leverage, some wiggle room to impose his will up to a point.  Certainly the refugee situation is dire and Turkey’s willingness to accept new refugees is important.  However, the world cannot afford to allow Erdogan unlimited authority, or to accede to his demands.  There must be limits placed on his power outside of Turkey, and the time to place those limits is now.

epErdogan became president of Turkey in 2014, just two years ago.  Simon Tisdall of The Guardian, a UK/International publication, writes that Erdogan’s grab for power is similar to that of Russia’s Putin.  Certainly Putin also bears watching, as it is apparent that his goal is to re-establish a Soviet-style empire and he has already taken certain steps toward that goal with his actions in the Crimea, Belarus, Finland, and even Syria.  Despite the hostilities between the two leaders, there are similarities.

In addition to Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Spain and a number of Middle Eastern countries have ‘lese-majeste’ laws, making it illegal to insult foreign leaders.  Let the current situation be a wake-up call to the governments of those nations that these laws need to be changed before dictators such as Putin and Erdogan begin to reach their tentacles into freedoms of the press across the world.

Dateline: 15 July 2017

It is July 2017, and President Donald Trump has been in office for six months now.  Much has changed since the beginning of the year.  Let us first look back at the past six months, then we will look at what is happening in the big Gold House today.

The immigration crisis in the U.S. has reversed itself and turned from a problem of immigration to one of mass emigration.  Whereas one year ago, we were mostly concerned with Syrian refugees flooding the country, the concern now is U.S. citizens trying to flee the country.  Some 250,000 fled over the U.S./Canadian border during the first quarter of 2017.  Canada closed its border to U.S. citizens at the end of March, and the latest wave of emigrants have been heading over the Mexican border or attempting the 90-mile journey to Cuba in yachts and other small pleasure craft.  So far there have been few mishaps, however as more and more people try to leave U.S. territory, that is likely to change soon.  A small number have fled to the European continent; however, the EU has made it clear that immigrants from the U.S. are persona non grata.  EU President Jean-Claude Juncker, in his statement last Friday, said, “Americans made their beds last November.  Let them wallow in them.”  Meanwhile, President Trump has issued an executive order stating that any U.S. citizen caught trying to leave the country will be imprisoned for a minimum of 90 days and subject to waterboarding during that time.  This is a reversal of the statement that Trump issued in February when the emigration began and he reportedly said, “I don’t give a shit.  Let them all go.  I don’t need them and they are the ones who will be sorry.  They will be sorry.”

President Trump and Vice President Palin recently returned from a trip to Russia where they met with Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials.  Trump pledged military aid to Russia for its effort to gain control over remaining Ukrainian and other territories.  “We’re gonna send them planes and bombs … lots of bombs … lots of bombs”, Trump told reporters yesterday.  Ms. Palin, asked what she felt was accomplished by the trip, answered “Oh MY … I did sooooo much shopping!  I got the most adorable little bolero!”

Trump News, formerly Fox News, is reporting that the senate failed to confirm Trumps nomination of Judith Sheindlin (aka Judge Judy) to fill the current opening on the Supreme Court.  Trump ordered the senate to reconsider the matter and take another vote on Monday, stating that if the confirmation is not forthcoming, he will “fire all the senators who voted against the nomination”.  Informed by aides that he does not have the power to fire senators, he responded “I will pass a law.  I will pass a law so that I can fire senators.  I will pass a law.”  Informed that he does not have the power to single-handedly pass a law, he fired the aides.

President Trump has announced that he will not attend the Global United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa in November.  “Climate change is all a hoax.  It’s all a hoax and those people are boring.  I like people who want to have fun.  All those people do is sit around and talk about a myth.  Climate change is a myth.  We’re gonna take the oil and we’re gonna burn the oil and we’re gonna burn the coal.  I like to spend my time with people who are fun.  Those people aren’t fun.”  In an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, Trump replied to the question of how he plans to ‘take the oil’: “We’re gonna take the oil, okay?  We’re gonna take the oil.  They are gonna give us the oil just so we don’t bomb the [bleep] out of them.”

Which brings us to today’s news.  Kim Jong-Un, Supreme Leader of the DPRK (North Korea) issued a warning that if all sanctions against North Korea are not lifted by the end of this month, he will launch missiles armed with nuclear warheads at the United States and other western nations.  President Trump responded by saying “we will bomb him first.  I’ve got a nuclear arsenal at my disposal and I will use it.  I will bomb all of Korea off the map.  I will bomb the shit out of them.  Bring me that red phone.  Where is that red phone?  I will bomb them now!”  An anonymous source within the White Gold House tells us that the red phone could not be found and that the president has ordered a new one to be delivered tomorrow. Defense Secretary Chris Christie was fired for apparently losing the red phone.  The world stands at the brink of all-out war, a brink as we have not seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.  We can only hope that this is resolved without disaster, as was the Cuban Missile Crisis.  President Trump is no Kennedy.

I really started out with the intention of this being a humorous piece, but every time I read it, it seems less funny.  I considered not even posting it, but I will and let the chips fall where they may.  Feel free to remind me that humour is supposed to be funny.  I apparently forgot how to do funny.