This Cannot Become “Normal”

I came across this OpEd in the New York Times by one of my favourite opinion writers, Nicholas Kristof, earlier today.  It is a prescient warning that I think is worth sharing.


Don’t Let Trump Make You Numb to What’s Unacceptable

Our species has an ability to adapt. Now’s not the time.

nicholas-kristof-thumblargeBy Nicholas Kristof

Opinion Columnist

  • Nov. 6, 2019

The problem with being a frog in a beaker is that you may not notice the water temperature rising to a boil.

Humans, too. In New Delhi, people get used to air that is filthy. In Syria, to checkpoints. In Angola, to corruption. In China, to propaganda. And in America, we risk becoming numbed to a political, social and moral breakdown.

Scandal and dysfunction dribble out from Washington day by day, numbing us so that we may forget just how unprecedented and outrageous the trends are. It was only five years ago that Fox News was deploring a “shocking” and “desperate” presidential scandal that Republican Representative Peter King described as inexcusable: Barack Obama wore a tan suit! Now we can’t even keep track of how many countries President Trump has asked to do him political favors.

I’ve been traveling abroad, so I’ve been asking journalists and officials how they see America, and from a distance they offer blunt assessments. “If your president isn’t a Manchurian candidate,” one senior European official said, “he’s doing a pretty good imitation of one.”

In 2016, Obama’s passivity and Republican intransigence may have allowed Russian cyberattacks to swing the presidency to Trump (there’s no way to be sure, but that’s what the forensic work of Kathleen Hall Jamieson suggests). Yet despite improvement, the United States still doesn’t have an adequate strategy to foil Russian or Chinese interference in the 2020 election.

Trump is a hero of many evangelical Christians who previously emphasized the importance of personal values and restoring “honor and dignity” to the White House. Meanwhile, he is on his third wife, has cheated on all three and has been accused of sexual misconduct by 25 women. And Trump tweeted a supporter’s praise likening him to “the second coming of God.”

Since taking office, Trump has made more than 13,400 false or misleading statements, according to a Washington Post database. The Post found that he has recently accelerated his falsehoods to a rate of 22 per day, more than one per waking hour. (I’ve covered many world leaders, and the only two whom I consider pathological liars are Trump and former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.)

Trump has declared “I am the chosen one.” His press secretary last month spoke of “the genius of our great President.”

Trump, who according to a Times investigation is wealthy partly because of fraud, pledged to fight corruption and “drain the swamp.” Since then, he has lost more first-term cabinet members to scandal than any president in history.

 “I’m not going to have time to go play golf,” Trump said before his election. In fact, he has visited golf clubs approximately 224 times since taking office, including more than three months in total at Mar-a-Lago. These vacation trips have cost taxpayers more than $100 million.

Trump’s mother was an immigrant, as are two of the women he married (his current wife may have been undocumented). Yet he has ripped children from parents at the border, and his administration has argued that detained immigrant children do not need soap or toothbrushes.

We haven’t even gotten to Trump trying to buy Greenland, marching into women’s changing rooms to admire undressed teenagers, borrowing Stalinist language to denounce the press as the “enemy of the people,” claiming that climate change is a Chinese conspiracy, banning Muslims or diverting money to build the wall that Mexico supposedly would pay for.

Oh, and that multibillion-dollar wall is now being cut open by smugglers with $100 saws.

Yet America’s dysfunction goes beyond Trump, and it will outlast Trump, even as it is aggravated by him.

American kids ages 1 through 19 are 57 percent more likely to die than those in other advanced nations, according to a study in the journal Health Affairs. That’s partly because the United States is virtually alone in failing to provide universal health coverage: Trump didn’t create that problem, but he did magnify it so that the number of uninsured children is now increasing.

Longstanding economic inequality in the United States, exacerbated by Trump’s tax cuts and other policies, is staggering. A single hedge fund tycoon, James Simons, made $1.6 billion last year, or more than $4 million each day — yet the United States has 100,000 children who on any given night are homeless. Since 2000, 61,000 foster kids have simply gone missing. Girls and boys are sold by pimps for sex in every American city.

America is not, as President Trump once called it, a “hellhole.” It is a nation of enormous strengths and resources, but we need to muster them now. A merit of our species is that we are adaptable and resilient and can get used to almost anything.

But we should never get accustomed to all this. Let’s not let ourselves be numbed by the daily drip into accepting a level of Trumpian dysfunction that should always be unacceptable.

Text dividers

Da Snippets, Dey Be Snarky

Puff … puff … I don’t know about you guys … puff … pant … but I’m tired.  Tired of the non-stop ‘breaking news’ updates, about half of which are “pbth … who cares?”, but the other half of which are foot-stomping, growling, jaw-dropping episodes in the ongoing saga of “Fool on the Hill”.  Please … somebody … anybody … rescue me and carry me off to a desert island where nobody has ever heard the name “Trump”!  I’m tired of all the time being snarky!  I’m tired of having my blood pressure go through the ceiling before I’m even out of bed in the morning!  I’m tired of … I’m just tired.  Sigh.  Meanwhile, though, there are more things you guys need to know about, so … Filosofa will now pick herself up from the floor, dry her eyes, and … snark on.snarky-4


Nothing to see here, folks …

You all remember when Mike Pence visited Ireland earlier this month, right?  And, he could have stayed in Dublin, the city where his meetings were to be held, but instead, he traveled (at our expense, lest anyone forget) to Doonbeg, some 180 miles away (one way), in order to stay at Trump International Golf Links & Hotel.  Why?  Because Trump had ‘suggested’ it and because Mike Pence has not the cojones to stand up to Trump.  The price?

Doonbeg is in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland, nearly a four-hour drive from most of Pence’s scheduled meetings in Dublin. According to an analysis by the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Pence’s stay cost taxpayers $599,454.36 in limousine service alone.  I have no idea, and cannot find information about how much the hotel bill for Pence, his wife, and his Secret Service entourage was, but the starting rate there for a single room is $228, so … he and Karen no doubt slept and ate well there.

Ol’ Mikey justified it all, though …

Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution says the president receives a salary while in office but “shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.”  Before taking office, Trump promised he would step away from his business while in office. Instead, however, he has kept his stake in his companies. So expenditures of public funds like Pence’s stay at Doonbeg directly line Trump’s pockets.

Not only that, but Pence has made more than 20 such visits to Trump properties since taking office. So has Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, while Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has made 16 visits to Trump properties.  According to Senator Gary Peters, the ranking member of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee …

“Reports now claim that at least 24 of the 32 individuals who have served in the President’s Cabinet have patronized Trump properties, including the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. — another property owned by the President.”

But guess what?  Trump’s republican “guardian angels” are trying to block the investigation by the House Oversight Committee, calling it a “partisan attack”.  According to a letter sent to committee chairman Elijah Cummings by Representatives Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, both members of the ignoble House “Freedom” Caucus …

“Although you coordinated your attack with Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, you failed to consult with any Republican Members before demanding voluminous information from four separate entities – none of which bore responsibility for the lodging and accommodations in Ireland. We can only assume that these letters were the result of a rushed process to capitalize on news reporting about the Ireland travel, rather than responsible and deliberative oversight.”

Yep … nothing to see here, folks … only millions, perhaps billions of your taxpayer dollars being filtered directly into Trump’s coffers … move along now.


But there is some good news …


Somebody in the Pentagon has some sense …

Last month, the Pentagon authorized about 20 miles of fencing, lighting and other border infrastructure along the southern border that would have used $2.5 billion in funds redirected from a counter-drug fund.  But on Monday, the Department of Defense announced that it would not be able to cover the costs of the project after all.  Initially, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined that it would likely be able to afford the projects using the counter-drug funds, but the Army Corps ultimately advised the department that the funds would not cover the project, prompting its withdrawal on September 13th.

The projects were a part of Trump’s plan to divert Pentagon funds to build the wall he so needs to appease his base, even though said wall would do absolutely nothing to resolve the problem of immigration, would cause irreparable damage to the land and wildlife, and deprive people of their land.  It is merely an ego trip for Trump.  No word, that I can find, of Trump’s reaction to this news.


No more AR-15s?  Er … not quite

U.S. firearms manufacturer Colt announced yesterday that it will stop production of rifles for the civilian market — including the AR-15, a weapon infamous for its popularity among the country’s mass shooters.  Their stated reason?  That the market is saturated, that there are already more of their rifles on the market than people can buy.

Why is Filosofa such an untrusting soul?  Why do I not for a single minute believe them?  Because it is Colt, because they are the makers of firearms, their livelihood is dependent on people wanting to kill other people, and that hasn’t slowed down one whit in recent years.  So, what do I think (just in case anybody cares)?

I think that in light of the fact that the AR-15s have been receiving much publicity, having been used in several mass shootings recently, including Newtown, Orlando, Parkland, Aurora, Las Vegas, and Dayton, they are getting out before they get hit with lawsuits.

A bit of background here. In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which provides immunity in both state and federal court from civil liability for licensed manufacturers, distributors, and dealers of firearms, as well as their trade associations, in most negligence and product liability actions.  So, gun manufacturers and sellers have had free reign with no possibility of being held accountable for damage caused by their product.  But this year, democrats in both the House and Senate have introduced the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act, which would allow civil cases to go forward against irresponsible actors in state and federal courts, just as they would if they involved any other product.

Now, we all know that the bill might pass in the House, but not likely in the Senate, and even if by some rare alignment of the stars it passes in the Senate, the Idiot-in-Chief would veto it.  However, there is a good possibility that in 16 months, there will be a democratic majority in the Senate, and a democrat sitting in the Oval Office, under which circumstances, it is probable that this bill, or a similar one will pass into law.  It is my belief that Colt sees the handwriting on the wall and is getting out while they can.  I could be wrong, and likely we will never know for sure if that is their reason.

So, is this good news?  Meh … yes and no.  Other arms manufacturers continue to produce the AR-15 and other assault rifles, including Palmetto State Armory and Smith and Wesson.  The better news is that companies like Wal-Mart and Dick’s Sporting Goods have discontinued sales of these killing machines and their ammunition.  The even better news will be when and if the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act passes into law.  And the best news yet would be a total and permanent ban on all assault-style weapons outside the military and law enforcement.  Some say it’ll never happen … I think it might, but it will take time.


And now, I return you to seek cheerier blogs than mine!

Who Loses?

Well, folks, the Fool on the Hill is determined to have his wall/fence/whatever at any cost and no matter who it hurts.  I’ve already discussed the concept of the wall, how it has no value other than as a propaganda tool, so I shan’t repeat all that.  However, we need to be aware of where the money is coming from for that wall … who will be hurt the most.

James Hohmann is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, and author of The Daily 202, The Post’s flagship political newsletter.  Just as I was looking for information for this post, his newsletter hit my inbox and … lo and behold!  Mr. Hohmann had done my work for me.  What follows is portions from Mr. Hohmann’s article, for it is too long for this post, but if you’re interested in further details, you can read the entire newsletter here.


The Daily 202: The biggest losers from Trump’s diversion of military funds for his wall

HohmannBy James Hohmann
September 5 at 10:18 AM

THE BIG IDEA: Sometimes it’s worthwhile to step back and remember how we got here.

President Trump promised repeatedly that he would get Mexico to pay for a border wall when he ran in 2016. Unable to accomplish that, he failed to persuade Congress of the need to appropriate the money – even when his own party controlled both chambers. Just before Christmas, Trump forced what became a 35-day partial government shutdown, the longest in American history, in a bid to coerce the legislative branch to give him the money he wanted for the wall.

When House Democrats stayed unified, buoyed by their mandate in the midterms, the president declared a “national emergency” in February. Under the auspices of that emergency, Trump announced he would divert money that had been explicitly appropriated for the military to move ahead with his pet project. In late July, the five Supreme Court justices appointed by Republicans voted to lift a freeze on the money that had been put in place by a lower court and upheld by an appellate court.

Last night, the Pentagon finally released to the public a list of the 127 construction projects that stand to lose funding to free up $3.6 billion for 175 miles of fencing and other barriers on the southern border. These are spread across 23 states, three U.S. territories and 20 countries. Here are some of the most notable projects that Trump is raiding:

1) Puerto Rico will lose out on more than $400 million of planned projects.

The Pentagon is defunding 13 projects at military installations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, 10 of which were related to recovery from Hurricane Maria. Among them is the rehabilitation of Camp Santiago, a training facility operated by the Puerto Rico National Guard.

Guam, another U.S. territory, will lose a quarter of a billion dollars in construction projects. North Korea threatened to strike the Pacific island in 2017.

Trump’s disdain for Puerto Rico and his resistance to helping the U.S. commonwealth has been well established. It led to a delay of several months in a disaster relief funding bill.

2) Another $770 million is being diverted from projects that have been approved to help American allies deter attacks from a revanchist Russia.

This is the bulwark of the European Deterrence Initiative, which was created after Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. Along with Trump’s push to get Russia back in the G-7, this is the latest illustration of the president projecting weakness in the face of Kremlin bellicosity.

A facility for special operations forces and their training will not get built in Estonia, the tiny but thriving democracy whose sovereignty depends on the American security guarantee. Also on the chopping block are projects to construct ammunition and fuel storage facilities and staging areas in Poland, and planned upgrades to surveillance aircraft facilities in Italy, as well as airfield and fuel storage upgrades in Slovakia and Hungary.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling tweeted: “To the untrained eye, the 127 defense projects postponed for the border barrier may seem confusing. But as a former commander in Europe, many of these … are big deals. ‘Support the troops?’ Not so much.”

3) Nine of the projects on the list involve renovating or replacing schools for the children of U.S. troops.

4) Utah will lose $54 million. This is striking because both of the state’s conservative senators, Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, voted against Trump’s border emergency in March and supported the resolution of disapproval. Is it retaliation?

5) To be sure, GOP senators who supported Trump’s emergency declaration didn’t get spared.

“Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), one of those who voted in support of the declaration, announced early Wednesday that the Trump administration was diverting $30 million in funds from an Army base in her state to construction of the wall ― even though she previously received assurances from an acting secretary of defense that her state would be spared,” HuffPost’s Igor Bobic reports.

“Other Republican senators whose states are impacted by Trump’s diversion of military construction funds to build the wall include Thom Tillis of North Carolina ($80 million), Mitch McConnell of Kentucky ($62 million), John Cornyn of Texas ($48 million), Lindsey Graham of South Carolina ($11 million) and Cory Gardner of Colorado ($8 million),” Bobic notes.

6) In the long term, the greatest damage from the diversions could be the fundamental break that it represents with the founding fathers’ conception of the separation of powers. James Madison made the power of the purse explicit when he drafted Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”

Trump is creating a potentially dangerous precedent for future presidents to disregard the will of a coequal branch. He’s using an obscure provision from a law passed during the Cold War that was intended to give executive branch officials flexibility in the event of truly existential emergencies, such as a Soviet first strike.

“Officially, the Pentagon is saying the affected projects are ‘deferred,’ but in order for them to go ahead in the future, Congress must again fund them,” Paul Sonne and Seung Min Kim note.

Under The Big Top …

I just love it when all the clowns congregate in one place at one time and spout endless, mindless inanities, for it makes my job so much easier … one website has it all!  I’m speaking, of course, about CPAC, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference that is organized by the American Conservative Union and features a star-studded array of many of the most radical right-wingers in the Republican Party.  Take a look at this year’s cast of characters …

These are just some of the strange characters that can be seen, but they are joined by the likes of Glenn Beck, Kellyanne Conway, Ted Cruz, Mike Pence, Jerry Falwell and others too numerous to name – the worst of the worst.  Welcome to … THE CIRCUS!circusYesterday morning at 11:30, the ringmaster, Donald J. Trump, spoke at this circus of horrors.  His speech was long.  When I say long, I mean loooooooooooooonnnnnnnngggg.  How long was it, you may ask?  It was two hours, two minutes and seventeen seconds.  Yes, that’s 2:02:17.  One hundred, twenty-two minutes and 17 seconds.  The speech was nasty, even by his standards.  He couldn’t seem to utter more than three sentences before cussing and using foul language.  And lies???  Holy guacamole, Batman!  I’ve never heard so many lies in one lousy speech!  For the record … I tried to listen to a 2-minute clip of his speech, and right around the 1-minute mark, I jerked my headphones off and threw them on the table in disgust.  Daughter Chris looked at me and said, “Trump?”.  Ayuh … who else?

But the thing is about this speech, is that it was all old material … material he has been using in his campaign rallies since he threw his hat in the ring in mid-2015.  For instance …

  • He joked about Hillary Clinton’s emails and soon had the crowd chanting that tired old phrase, “Lock her up”. Why the Sam Heck aren’t they chanting ‘lock him up’?
  • He railed against former FBI Director James Comey who he fired two years ago.
  • He mocked Representative Adam Schiff, referring to him as “Little Shifty Schiff”, which is an improvement over what he has called him in the past.
  • He criticized Robert Mueller, naturally, and also Jeff Sessions, mocking Sessions’ southern accent … watch …
  • He defended … sigh … his ignominious “declaration of a national emergency”, which is indefensible as the majority of the people in this nation know.
  • He spent, I am told, a great deal of his time mocking the Green New Deal proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a means to prevent the extinction of the human race and other valuable species.
  • He also made false claims about everything from the unemployment rate to the crowd size at his inauguration. Yes, he’s still babbling on … and on … about his inauguration more than two years later.

See what I mean?  Nothing new, just the same old sixes and sevens he began with two, three years ago.  And the same tired people are applauding the same tired lines.  It would be humorous if it weren’t so … old, tiresome, sickening and ridiculous.Trump cuddles flagNow, how can anybody spend two solid hours simply mocking and criticizing others?  Is this, then, Trump’s platform, his ideology?  To mock others?  Has he no actual ideas for how to make America ‘better’, but rather only to denigrate others?  Is this the basis on which our government is now founded, the foundation upon which it rests?  And what of those who salaciously applauded his every word?  Are they off their bloomin’ rockers?

“You know I’m totally off script right now and this is how I got elected, by being off script. And if we don’t go off script, our country’s in big trouble, folks, because we have to get it back.”

Being ‘off script’ was how he got elected.  Yep.  Remember those chants?  Trump saying, “Who’s gonna pay for the wall?”, and the crowd responding as if by rote, “Mexico!”  Well, guess what, folks?  Those of you who bought that line of horse hockey must be feeling pretty foolish right about now, eh?

“Right now we have people in Congress that hate our country and you know that. And we can name every one of ’em if they want. They hate our country. Sad. It’s very sad. When I see some of the things being made, the statements being made, it’s very, very sad.

And find out, how did they do in their country? Just ask ’em, how did they do? Did they do well, were they succeeding? Just ask that question. Somebody would say, ‘Oh, that’s terrible that he brings that up.’ But that’s OK, I don’t mind, I’ll bring it up. How did they do in their country? Not so good, not so good.”

What the heck is he even talking about?

Between Cohen’s credible testimony that Trump has lied, cheated and stolen from the American taxpayer, the evidence that he forced John Kelly to push through top security clearance for his son-in-law Jared Kushner despite concerns by high-ranking officials, and his utter failure in his summit with Kim Jong-un, he has no bragging rights, but brag he did, and lie he did.  A few of the most egregious, nonsensical ramblings from the ‘man’ who some call president, and just a bit of my snarkiness in blue

“I see senators that are there for 20 years, white hair. See, I don’t have white hair. I don’t have white hair. I see these white hairs, longtime senators, standing behind this young woman, and she’s ranting and raving like a lunatic, and these senators: ‘Yes, I agree with this. Yes I agree.’ The crazy female senator from the state of Ohio.”  Um, excuse me, but both of Ohio’s senators are men.  And about that ‘hair’ … it changes colour almost daily, apparently according to which toupee you are wearing, so who knows, if you have real hair, what the colour?

“Robert Mueller put 13 of the angriest Democrats in the history of our country on the commission. How do you do that? These are angry, angry people. You take a look at them. One of them was involved with the Hillary Clinton Foundation, running it. Another one has perhaps the worst reputation of any human being I’ve ever seen. All killers.”  Not a single one of Mueller’s team have run the Clinton Foundation, nor are any of them killers.  Excuse me, but … isn’t this slander?  Is this not illegal?

“I just returned from Vietnam, where I had very productive meetings with Chairman Kim Jong Un. We get along. We’ve developed a good relationship, very good, and made great historic progress. … One administration gave billions of dollars to him and got nothing. We haven’t given him anything yet. I look forward to maybe doing something at some point.”  Huh?  Say WHAT???  Trump failed completely, then lied about it.  How is that ‘great historic progress’?

And there you have it, folks.  Proof positive, in case you needed more, that there is an incompetent megalomaniac in the White House who surely must be removed before he destroys us all.  I may have more about CPAC, about some of the other clowns who attended, a bit later.  Then again, I may decide I’m so disgusted by the whole thing that I cannot take any more of it.

The Truth of the Matter …

Y’know … all the talk, talk, talk about building a wall … a useless and extravagantly expensive wall … on the southern border, all the mumbo jumbo about how we have a “crisis” – a manufactured one – on the border, seems utterly ludicrous in light of these three headlines:

  • Louisiana shootings leave 5 people dead
  • Sebring shooting is Florida’s 7th mass shooting in less than 3 years
  • A Texas boxer was shot to death in his own home. The suspect: A 12-year-old boy.

Yes, folks, there is a very real crisis in the United States and it is costing thousands of lives every year.  But it isn’t immigration from Mexico, Central America and South America.  It is U.S. citizens armed with weapons, arrogance, and a lack of common sense.

The solution to the manufactured crisis on the southern border, as per Donald Trump, is a costly one … likely close to 70 billion dollars for construction and maintenance alone, but even costlier when you consider the damage it will cause to U.S.-Mexico trade and relations, the damage to the environment, and the people who will be displaced and lose their land to eminent domain.  The solution to the gun problem will cost only the time it takes to draft legislation for much stricter, yet reasonable gun laws.

In Louisiana …

Dakota Theriot, 21, shot and killed his girlfriend, her father, and her brother before driving to a neighboring county, where he killed his parents on Saturday morning.  He was captured and arrested just this morning and charged with five counts of first-degree murder.

In Florida …

Zephen A. Xaver, 21, burst into a SunTrust Bank in Sebring, Florida, and made the five women he found inside lie face down on the floor before he shot them each in the back of the head, killing them.  When he was done, he called the police to tell them what he had done.  Xaver was arrested on Wednesday and charged with five counts of first-degree premeditated murder.

In Texas …

A 12-year-old boy, whose name has not been released, dressed in all black, covered his face with a black bandanna and broke into the home of Texas professional boxer, John Duane VanMeter, in Uvalde, Texas last Wednesday.  He shot and killed Mr. VanMeter, and is now in police custody, charged with one count of capital murder.

There were likely others, but these are just the three that made headlines, most recent incidents in the U.S. that led to a loss of human life.  All three within the past week, while our backs were turned, while we watched the latest installments of the Trump Circus.  Eleven lives lost to people who should not have even had a gun in their possession.  U.S. citizens, not immigrants, were the killers.  There was not a single incident of murder by an undocumented immigrant last week.  Think about that one.

Yes, the U.S. has a crisis, and it has nothing to do with immigration, legal or illegal.  Final data for 2018 is not yet available, but in 2017 there were 39,773 deaths caused by guns in the U.S.  That is an average of 109 per day … every day of the year. gun-deaths-relative.png

gun ownership statsThis nation needs to tune out the rhetoric of its egomaniacal president and take a long, hard look at what our real problems are.  Certainly, we must enhance and maintain secure borders, but a far better option than a wall would be to simply enhance security at border checkpoints and airports, where most of the people with criminal backgrounds actually come into the U.S.  Meanwhile, we need to address some of our bigger problems, our true crises, such as gun control, infrastructure, national debt, and the biggest one – poverty.  Think about it.

A Total Lack of Conscience …

Donald Trump was planning to use Mollie Tibbetts as a poster child for building “The Wall”, but Mollie’s family wants no part of it.  Hats off to them!

The story:

Mollie Tibbetts was a Psychology student at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.  She was a cross-country runner, and a state-level competitive public speaker; she was active at church and was spending her college summer vacation working at a day camp helping children with literacy and crafts.

On 18 July, Mollie went for an evening run and disappeared until this week, when her body was discovered hidden in a cornfield about 12 miles from town.  Charged with her murder is 24-year-old Cristhian Bahena Rivera who, we are told, is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who has been in the country since at least 2014.  There appears to be sufficient evidence that Rivera did, in fact, murder Ms. Tibbetts, but in this country, there is a presumption of innocence until guilt is proven in a court of law. Neither the media nor Donald Trump are a court of law, nor am I.  However, Trump has already convicted Mr. Rivera in his mind, on Twitter, and in the media, and now is determined to politicize Ms. Tibbetts’ death to serve his own ignoble purposes.

Within hours, Trump created a short (1:06) video clip that he posted to Twitter.  It begins, “Mollie Tibbetts, an incredible young woman, is now permanently separated from her family.”  He then goes on to denigrate Democrats, claim that the wall is being built, claim that we have the worst immigration laws and border security, etc., etc., etc.  It is almost as if he orchestrated Ms. Tibbett’s death to give him this very platform.

While I have no desire to minimize Ms. Tibbetts’ tragic death, I question why Donald Trump is not as disturbed by the hundreds of people who die by the hand of angry white men each and every week in this country?  Where is the empathy, Mr. Trump?  Those murders don’t support your warped theory, do they?  Facts, people … focus on the facts.  While Ms. Tibbetts’ death is tragic, it is the anomaly rather than the norm.

Since his initial video clip, Trump has invoked Ms. Tibbetts name and the tragedy of her murder multiple times.  But the members of Mollie Tibbetts’ family are having none of it.  Her aunt, Billie Jo Calderwood, wrote on Facebook:

“Please remember, Evil comes in EVERY color. Our family has been blessed to be surrounded by love, friendship and support throughout this entire ordeal by friends from all different nations and races.”

I wish I could hug this woman!!!

However, if you think that respect for the family or for this tragedy will stop Trump & Co from politicizing it, from using it to promote their own agenda, think again.

“If Mollie Tibbetts is a household name by October, Democrats will be in deep trouble. If we can be blocked by Manafort-Cohen, etc, then GOP could lose [the] House badly.” – Newt Gingrich

Don Trump, Jr., also had to get his say in, only he couldn’t be bothered to spell Ms. Tibbetts’ name correctly.Don JuniorOn the flip side, one of Fox News’ own contributors, Geraldo Rivera, apparently found a bit of a conscience lying on his dresser, for he said, “This is a murder story. It’s not an immigration story.”

For Donald Trump, or anybody to use this tragedy to promote an agenda, even if the agenda were legitimate, which this one is not, is unconscionable.  It is crass, it is crude, it is unfeeling and unthinking.  The Tibbetts family deserve better than this.  They deserve compassion, they deserve privacy, they deserve respect.  They do not deserve seeing their name on every news site and television news show.  They deserve much better than the fake sympathy Trump uttered in his photo-op video clip.

And once again, I would remind people that the vast majority of murders in this country are committed by U.S. citizens, not immigrants.  And there are literally hundreds every day.  In 2016, there were approximately 17,250 murders in the United States.  That is an average of 47 per day every day.  That is an average of 329 every week.  Have you heard Trump’s outrage over the murder rate statistics?  No, me either.  Did you hear him call for stricter gun laws after the Parkland mass school shooting in February?  Nope, me either.

Mollie Tibbetts’ death was, as so many deaths are, unnecessary, tragic, and sad.  But it was one … one … of tens of thousands that happen every year in this nation of unlimited and unrestricted gun ownership.  Almost without fail, most murders are committed by U.S. citizens, mostly male.  They are not typically committed by immigrants.  Let’s get the facts straight and leave the poor family of Mollie Tibbetts to grieve in private.

Mollie Tibbetts

Mollie Tibbetts  —  R.I.P.

That DAMNED Wall … FACT vs. Fiction

Yesterday Trump signed an executive order to build a border wall with Mexico, a short-sighted move at best, and a disastrous one in all likelihood.  Let us start with a bit of clarity, a few FACTS, by which I mean cold, hard data-based facts, not ‘alternative facts’.

  • Mexico is not going to pay for Trump’s wall. Not today, not tomorrow, not next year, not ever. Furthermore, we have zero leverage to ‘force’ them to pay for it.  They do not want the wall, and if the U.S. does, the U.S. taxpayers will pay for it.
  • While Republicans claim the wall will cost a maximum of $15 billion, the reality is that it is far more likely, given the terrain and the fact that much of it would require purchasing land or land rights from private property owners, to be as high as $42 billion. I suspect even that is a lowball estimate, when you consider the Great Wall of China is estimated to have cost some $360 billion in today’s dollars and is just over twice as long as the Mexico-US border. Much of the border is comprised of natural borders such as the Rio Grande River, deserts, and canyon walls up to 1,500 high.
  • The wall would be financed either by increasing the current budget deficit, increasing revenue through tax dollars on individuals, since Trump has promised to cut taxes on corporations, or cutting expenditures elsewhere, such as Social Security, Food Stamps, Medicare, ACA, etc. Either way, the wall is coming out of our pockets.
  • The wall would significantly hurt the U.S. economy:
    • The total value of U.S.-Mexico trade is more than $1 billion every day.
    • More than 13 million Mexicans traveled to the United States in 2010, spending $8.7 billion.
    • Roughly 6 million U.S. jobs are sustained by trade with Mexico.
    • More than 20 percent of all U.S. jobs are tied in some way to trade along the border.
  • The southwestern states, for the most part, do not support the wall. U.S. Representative Raúl Grijalva of Arizona calls it big mistake that would hurt local economies, interfere with the migratory patterns of more than 100 endangered species and raise “sovereignty concerns” with tribal lands. “To continue to militarize our border is to squander billions of taxpayer dollars on a scheme that is impossible from geographical and economic perspectives. It will achieve nothing more than the continued criminalization of immigrants and asylum seekers through mandatory detention. At the same time, the wall is a literal barrier to the cross-border commerce that is so vital to border communities like mine in southern Arizona.”
  • According to PEW Research Center, there is net negative immigration from Mexico to the U.S.: “From 2009 to 2014, 1 million Mexicans and their families (including U.S.-born children) left the U.S. for Mexico, according to data from the 2014 Mexican National Survey of Demographic Dynamics (ENADID). U.S. census data for the same period show an estimated 870,000 Mexican nationals left Mexico to come to the U.S., a smaller number than the flow of families from the U.S. to Mexico.”

These are facts, not alternative facts, but facts determined and corroborated by researchers, scientists, economists, architects, and other professionals.  But there is another reason the wall is such a bad idea, and that was highlighted in today’s news:

Mexican president cancels visit to Washington as tensions with Trump administration intensify

Mexico is one of the U.S.’ most vital, essential allies.  On the economic side, Mexico is the 4th largest importer of goods from the U.S., after the EU, Canada and China.  According to the U.S. Department of State:

“U.S. relations with Mexico are strong and vital. The two countries share a 2,000-mile border, and bilateral relations between the two have a direct impact on the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans, whether the issue is trade and economic reform, education exchange, citizen security, drug control, migration, entrepreneurship and innovation, or the environment. The scope of U.S.-Mexican relations is broad and goes beyond diplomatic and official relations. It entails extensive commercial, cultural, and educational ties, with some 1.4 billion dollars of two-way trade and hundreds of thousands of legal border crossings each day. In addition, a million American citizens live in Mexico. U.S. tourists to Mexico numbered over 20 million in 2013 making Mexico the top destination of U.S. travelers. Mexican tourists to the U.S. were over 14 million in 2013, and they spent an estimated $10.5 billion.”

Given the facts, any reasonable person with an IQ of at least 50 would conclude that the wall makes no sense at all.  The wall is destined to destroy the relationship with one of our two physically closest allies, damage our own economy, cost taxpayers billions, damage the environment – and all for nothing! There are simpler, less expensive solutions to the problem of illegal immigration, but this wall is both a ‘white elephant’ and an albatross for the citizens of the U.S.  It is to be hoped that Congress will effectively stop the wall project before any additional money is spent, though I do not place a lot of faith that the Republicans in Congress will stop licking Trump’s boots any time soon.  The damage that has already been done to diplomatic relations with Mexico will need cooler heads and seasoned diplomacy, and even then the rift is likely to remain for the next four years at least.  This is the result of the choice made by the electorate two months ago, and look what we have wrought.

Señor Trump Heads South of the Wall

trump-mexThe big non-news story this morning is that Trump is making a quick trip for a private meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico.  Why?  It depends on whom you ask.  My opinion is that he erroneously believes it will make a favourable impression on Hispanic voters here in the U.S. prior to the “major immigration speech” he plans to give later this evening in Phoenix, Arizona.  Good luck with that, Trumpety.  Congressman Joaquín Castro believes there is something more sinister in the works and that Trump is setting the stage to announce (falsely, but since when has the truth ever mattered to Trump?) that President Nieto has agreed to pay for “the wall”.  The New York Times calls the visit a “conciliatory gesture”. Interestingly, Greg Sargent of The Washington Post theorizes that perhaps Trump is hoping for a ‘confrontational moment’ that he can use to “remind blue collar whites how tough he is.” Whatever the reason, it all boils down to the fact that his anti-Mexican rhetoric is, in part, responsible for placing him in a losing position and he is grasping at every straw in an effort to score votes.

The meeting could be an interesting one, given the animosity between Trumpety and President Nieto.  For over a year, Trump has spewed hateful rhetoric about Mexico and the Mexican people, calling them rapists and murderers, claiming that he will build an impenetrable wall on our mutual border and force Mexico to pay for it.  He also announced plans to revisit the North American Free Trade Alliance (NAFTA) and negotiate more favourable terms for the U.S. and less favourable for Mexico.  In a speech last year, he said “They are not our friend, believe me … they are killing us economically.”

President Nieto has responded in kind to Trump’s Mexico-phobia, when in a March interview he said:

“There have been episodes in human history, unfortunately, where these expressions of this strident rhetoric have only led to very ominous situations in the history of humanity. That’s how Mussolini got in, that’s how Hitler got in — they took advantage of a situation, a problem perhaps, which humanity was going through at the time, after an economic crisis. And I think what (they) put forward ended up at what we know today from history, in global conflagration. We don’t want that happening anywhere in the world.”

Former Mexican Presidents Vincente Fox and Felipe Calderon have also been sharply critical of Trump in the past year.  Fox said that Mexico wouldn’t pay for “that f***ing wall,” comments he later doubled down on. He also compared Trump to Hitler. Calderon said Trump is “sowing anti-American hatred around the world.”  Do you get the impression that Trump would be a ‘persona non grata’ in Mexico?

trump-mex-3Meanwhile, Nieto is being criticized by the people of Mexico and again, just this morning, by former President Vincente Fox for inviting Mr. Trump into Mexico. “He is not welcome to Mexico,” Mr. Fox told CNN. “We don’t want him. We reject his visit. You cannot trust a guy like this. How can we grant confidence and support to ideas that change everyday? He cynically continues to disregard his own people and disregard Mexicans. I cannot envision him sitting in that chair, that was the chair of President Washington, President Jefferson, President Kennedy, President Reagan. He doesn’t know how to run a nation. He doesn’t even know how to run a business.”

The press contingent that follows Trump, interestingly, is not going to Mexico, despite being told that there will be a Q&A session for both Mexican and American reporters after the meeting between Trump and Nieto.  The press plane was instead diverted, at the direction of the Trump campaign, to Phoenix to await his speech this evening. One wonders …

When global market research firm, Ipsos, asked people around the world in June who they’d pick in the American presidential contest, no country saw a wider gap than Mexico. Mexico preferred Clinton to Trump by an 88-to-1 margin — an 87-point spread. It is telling that the only countries that preferred Trump were China and Russia.

trump-mex-2Nothing much is likely to come of Trump’s visit to Mexico, other than Mexican President Nieto likely losing even more support among his own constituency.  I see this as nothing more than a publicity opportunity for Trumpety.  Yet, it could become interesting, so we should stay tuned.  Tonight’s speech, also, is likely to be another “ho-hum” non-event whereby Trumpety attempts to clarify that which has left all the pundits scratching their heads for the past week or two, his current stance on immigration.  I just hope he keeps it short so that I can later read the transcript without falling asleep across my keyboard.