‘Toons To Brighten Your Day … Or Not

It is a dreary, dark, rainy day here today, and I thought a few cartoons might brighten the day, lighten the mood.


The big story of the day … every day for the past month or so, and for the foreseeable future … is that of the impeachment inquiries taking place in the House of Representatives, and the response by Trump and the republicans …

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Ol’ Mick Mulvaney has been in the news a lot lately, since he did that “open mouth, insert foot” trick, and then tried unsuccessfully to remove his foot from his mouth …

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Corruption runs rampant in Washington these days, from the “president” down through his rank of minions, and among some in Congress who feel compelled to defend Trump’s speech and actions, though for the most part there is no defense.

corruptioncorruption-2Emoluments clauseTom Toles Editorial Cartoon - tt_c_c191023.tifcorruption-5corruption-6


You all remember last week when Trump was giving a speech and he claimed that he’s building a wall … in Colorado!

Colorado-wallColorado-wall-2

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Trump’s treatment of our Kurdish allies will not be forgotten any time soon.  Pulling our troops out of Syria, leaving the Kurds vulnerable to Erdoğan’s brutal attacks, was beyond unconscionable, and has shown our allies around the globe that the U.S. can no longer be trusted.

alliesKurds-1Kurds-2Kurds-3


The GOP once stood for “Grand Old Party”.  Those days are long gone, and for the past ten years or so, it has stood for only the wealthiest in the nation, willing to abandon the rest of us.  Still, I think they bit off more than they could chew when they nominated and later elected Donald Trump to the presidency, and they are now struggling to figure out how to support him, how to defend the indefensible.

GOPGOP-2Nick Anderson cartoon

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And last, but not least, since tomorrow is Hallowe’en …

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Have a safe and fun Hallowe’en!

Storm Clouds & Shrouds

Late yesterday came the announcement that Trump is sending an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East in response to the attack on two Japanese oil tankers last week. Trump claims Iran is responsible for the attack, Pompeo and Bolton concur, but then, they have both been itching to bomb Iran for decades. The U.S. is acting prematurely, and if one listens, one can hear the war drums beating. How do our allies view these events? How do the people in the UK and EU see this situation? Our friend David in Wales wrote a post expressing his thoughts and concerns that I would like to share with you today. If any of my other readers outside the U.S. would like to write a guest post expressing your own views of this potentially dangerous situation, please let me know … I would love to share your opinions. Thank you, David, for this timely post and for your generous permission to re-blog.

The BUTHIDARS

It has bothered me for some time now that Donald Trump would not agree to continue the agreement the other powers had in place with Iran. It kept Iran well away from developing nuclear material. Things seemed to be going nicely according to everyone except the American end, in particular John Bolton, who was responsible for troops going into Iraq under the guise of there being WMD which did not exist, during George Bush Jnr’s time. While I’m no fan of the Imams who practise Sharia law against the  people of their country instead of the Iranians deciding for themselves the type of Government they’d prefer, and they may well decide on a Religious Government, it’s none of my business.

photo from the New Yorker. John Bolton.

What is my business however is whether or not either Bolton or Trump or both together have fabricated evidence that Iran is responsible…

View original post 435 more words

Clear And Present Danger

What happens when you let a temperamental madman make uninformed and uneducated foreign policy decisions is that you end up with a heap of trouble on your plate.  We have all been so caught up in the day-to-day detritus surrounding Trump, his corruption, the Mueller report, ongoing obstruction of justice, and Mitch McConnell’s attempt to help the rise of a dictator that we may be ignoring some critical issues.  Our blogging friend Keith has recently noted that Donald Trump poses a “clear and present danger” to not only our own country, but to every nation on the globe.  He is quite right.

From the German newspaper der Spiegel

The Americans are currently escalating the conflict with Tehran — with unpredictable consequences for their allies in Europe. In Berlin political circles, worries are growing about the potential threat of war.

From the UK’s The Guardian

Donald Trump is doing everything possible to provoke a conflict with Iran while making it look like Iran’s fault.  A year ago, Trump withdrew the US from the deal that has successfully stopped Iran from getting nuclear weapons – despite the IAEA and even the Trump administration confirming Iran was abiding by the agreement. The day Trump took the US out of the deal, he lit the fuse of a potential crisis.

From Foreign Policy magazine

Before matters spin out of control, it would be wise for the administration to dial back the rhetoric, open high-level channels with Tehran, and signal a willingness to reenter the nuclear deal as a starting point for new negotiations. But there is zero prospect the administration will take this course. It is doubling down on a strategy of maximum tension, and there is growing evidence it is on a path toward war—whether Trump realizes it or not.

From The Economist

Just four years ago America and Iran were on a different path. After Barack Obama offered to extend a hand if Iran’s leaders “unclenched their fist”, the two sides came together, leading to the nuclear deal. That promised to set back the Iranian nuclear programme by more than a decade, a prize in itself, and just possibly to break the cycle of threat and counter-threat that have dogged relations since the Iranian revolution 40 years ago.

Foreign policy experts from all around the globe see Trump’s taunting of Iran as trouble.  Except, of course, our own National Security Advisor John Bolton, and Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.  Bolton has, in the past, advocated bombings, wars and regime change and is, in my book, a warmonger.  For two decades, he has called for military action in both Iran and North Korea. Pompeo is a bigoted Islamophobe who made it clear that he would do everything in his power to undermine the Iran nuclear agreement even before he was nominated for Secretary of State.

Just as he did with the Paris Accord, Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear agreement in May 2018. The excuse was that Iran had not upheld their end of the bargain, though Trump’s own administration, as well as international sources, claimed that Iran was in full compliance with the agreement.  But that was only the beginning …

After pulling out of the Iran nuclear agreement, he immediately re-imposed economic and trade sanctions on Iran, including an embargo on dealings with the country by the U.S., and a ban on selling aircraft and repair parts to Iranian aviation companies.  The U.S. has also been responsible for targeting the country with fake news and disinformation about its past nuclear activities and present-day links to terrorism.  Iran has faced cyber-attacks, its scientists have been assassinated, its ballistic missile program sabotaged – all by the United States.  Is it any wonder, then, that Iranian revolutionary leader Ali Khamenei announced on May 1st that he was placing Iranian forces on high alert and that he views Washington’s actions as “total war”?

The Trump regime responded by sending a carrier strike group and bomber taskforce to the region, further escalating the already high tensions. Earlier this week, Secretary of State Pompeo canceled a trip to Germany to travel to Baghdad with the goal of bringing the Iraqi regime on board with the Trump’s strategy against Iran.

And now, Iran has declared that it will not abide by some of its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  This is a blow to our allies, and to add insult to injury, Iran has given our European allies who are trying to hold the deal together just 60 days to find a way to protect Iranian oil exports and financial activity from U.S. sanctions.  If they are unable to do so, which is likely, Iran says it may back out of the agreement altogether and basically resume their nuclear program.

I leave off where I began … ignorance in foreign policy is dangerous, it is stupid, and in today’s world of nuclear warfare, it could lead to a level of destruction never before seen.  General James Mattis was the last prevailing ‘cooler head’ in the Trump administration, and now that he has left, it seems that the little boys with their war toys know no limits.  Donald Trump, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are trying to start a war that knows no bounds … and for what?  That is a question for which I can see no answer other than … power?  People will die to stroke the egos of these “men”.  Think about it.

A Tale Of Two Mikes — Part I

This week, the two Mikes, Pompeo and Pence, our two main global envoys, went abroad as ambassadors of the United States, representing our nation.  The blew it.  In keeping with Trump’s modus operandi, they pandered to corrupt strongmen such as Viktor Orban, but worse, they denigrated and threatened our true allies.  Their antics went largely unnoticed amid a looming government shutdown and then a trumped-up ‘state of emergency’, but We the People need to keep our eye on this ball, for the security and strength of any nation lies, in part, with its relations with other countries, particularly long-held close alliances.

The week began with Secretary of State Pompeo visiting Hungary, where he literally pandered to autocrat Viktor Orban, a virtual pariah in European capitals because of his embrace of “illiberal democracy.”  The Orban regime is noted for suppression of independent media, the judiciary, and civil society groups, corrupt cronyism, and demagoguery that drips with xenophobia and anti-Semitism.  Yet the Trump administration lauds him.  Perhaps it is that his rhetoric so nearly matches that of Donald Trump, as he calls immigrants a “threat to Christian culture” and speaks of building a fence along the country’s border to keep them out.

Next stop for Pompeo was Slovakia, where he met with Slovak President Andrej Kiska,  Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, and Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák.  Pompeo made it clear that the U.S. is putting strategic interests and great power politics ahead of human rights concerns.  Just last year in Slovakia, a leading journalist who exposed government corruption was murdered along with his fiancée.

Pompeo then went to Poland where he met up with the other Mike, Vice President Pence for a U.S.-organized conference on the Middle East.  The intent of this conference was to rally European and Middle Eastern nations against Iran.  It would seem that Trump and his minions have an ill-conceived intent to start a war with Iran!  Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement and impose sanctions on Iran was only one of his worst moves in the past two years, but one that has had serious consequences for our allies.

And so it was that Mike Pence made a complete fool of himself and further eroded our relationship with our allies.  Pence used his address to the conference to demand that European countries withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement. He further urged U.S. allies to back Washington’s sanctions on Iran. Long-standing U.S. allies in Europe favor staying in the deal and have sought ways to keep open trade and financial dealings with Iran.

“The authoritarian regime in Tehran represses the freedom of speech and assembly, persecutes religious minorities, brutalizes women, executes gays and openly advocates the destruction of the State of Israel.”

WHOA there, Mikey!  First, I might remind everyone that Mike Pence is one of the most homophobic people in our government, that as Governor of Indiana he signed into law a bill titled the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that allowed individuals and companies to openly discriminate against LGBT people!  And now he’s concerned about the rights of the LGBT in Iran?  I don’t think so.

But even more to the point, while this nation is supporting dictators such as Viktor Orban, Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Rodrigo Duterte, we are overlooking human rights violations around the globe. Trump has steadfastly refused to acknowledge the hard evidence presented by his own intelligence officials that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi.  And now he claims to be so concerned about human rights violations by Iran?!?!?  Can we say ‘hypocrisy’?

“Iran endlessly spews hatred against Israel, our most cherished ally,” says Pence.  What a slap in the face to our true allies, the EU, UK, Mexico and Canada, to name a few!  Israel is by no means our ‘most cherished’ ally!!!  Benjamin Netanyahu is just about as corrupt as Donald Trump … he’s just more intelligent and hides his crimes better, but he and his wife are both currently under investigation for multiple issues.  Israel has become a bully-nation just as Trump is trying to make the U.S. into one.

And then came Munich.

Initially I intended to make this a single post, but by the time I reached this point, I realized that the Munich Security Conference is important enough to warrant a separate post.  Stay tuned for Part II of A Tale of Two Mikes on Monday afternoon.

Au Revoir, General James Mattis 😢

Yesterday, the world became a little less safe.  U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, announced his resignation effective 28 February 2019.  It is understandable, and nobody could possibly blame him, for his has been a thankless job since the day he took office, January 20th 2017.  Mattis has disagreed with Trump on many things during his nearly two-year tenure, from climate change to Russia to pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal.  But the straw that broke the camel’s back was Trump’s announcement that he would withdraw the remaining 2,200 U.S. troops from Syria.  I don’t blame General Mattis for finally saying, “I’ve had enough of this mess” … don’t blame him at all.  But with his departure, the world … not just the U.S., but the entire world … became less safe.

Here are some of the more pertinent parts from the General’s letter of resignation:

  • I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies.

  • One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships.


  • My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues.


  • We must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances. 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America.

The threat of a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria and also Afghanistan is a disaster on so many levels, not the least of which being that it is a proverbial slap-in-the-face to our allies in Europe.  As the UK’s Middle East minister, Alistair Burt said …

“There are no vacuums in foreign policy, certainly not in the Middle East. In a fragile region every action is a catalyst for another. If allies cannot be relied upon, others are sought to take their place. Jim Mattis understood – vital any successor agrees.”

And UK’s Defense Minister, Tobias Ellwood …

“The most impressive military mind I’ve had the honour to know. Jim my friend – our world will be less safe without you.”

The co-chair of the European council on foreign relations Carl Bildt had strong words …

“A morning of alarm in Europe. Sec Def Mattis is the remaining strong bond across the Atlantic in the Trump administration. All the others are fragile at best or broken at worst.”

Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group in the European parliament, said…

“A victory for Russia, Iran, Turkey, Turkish proxies & the Syrian regime. Unsurprisingly, it leaves Europeans more vulnerable – and shows how wrong it is that we do not have a defence force able to help stabilise our immediate neighbourhood.”

Neither the Syrian withdrawal nor the prospect of cutting troop numbers in Afghanistan were preceded by any serious consultation with his European allies, many of whom either have ground troops or air forces operating in both countries.

Trump’s selection of Mattis for Defense Secretary was, presumably, because he believed Mattis had the knowledge and experience to be a key advisor on foreign policy and matters of defense.  So why does he consistently ignore the advice of this very knowledgeable man?  Ego, pure and simple.  And that very ego is likely, if left unchecked, to have a number of very serious consequences for the world.  The Middle East is a tinderbox that could well turn into an inferno in short order.  Our allies may well determine they are finished with this alliance and to hell with the U.S.  Who could blame them?

It is said that Trump made the decision to pull out of Syria after a phone conversation with Turkey’s President Recep Erdoğan, who is planning an attack on Kurdish troops in Syria at some point in the near future.  According to Senator Lindsey Graham …

“What Turkey is going to do is unleash holy hell on the Kurds. In the eyes of Turkey, they’re more of a threat than ISIS. So this decision is a disaster.”

Vladimir Putin was also pleased, saying he agreed with the decision.  But, of course.

Even most conservatives are horrified at the thought of Mattis’ resignation, considering it to be the loss of the last adult in the house.  Neo-conservative editor and political analyst Bill Kristol said it best …

“Never been more alarmed for the nation since coming to DC over three decades ago.”

Republican Senator Ben Sasse expressed deep concern …

“This is a sad day. General Mattis was giving advice [Trump] needs to hear. Mattis rightly believes that Russia & China are adversaries. Isolationism is a weak strategy that will harm Americans.”

Former CIA Director John Brennan weighed in …

“Okay, Republicans. How much longer are you going to let this farcical ‘presidency’ continue? At a time of such political, economic, and geo-strategic turbulence – both nationally and globally – are you waiting for a catastrophe to happen before acting? Disaster looms!”

Remember when then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson referred to Trump as a “f**king moron”?  He was right.

General Mattis’ departure did not come as a surprise, for the rumour mill has predicted it for a while now but make no mistake … it is a devastating blow, not only for the United States, but for the world.  Nobody can predict where we go from here, for there is a thoroughly unpredictable madman at the helm of this ship.  In light of Trump’s comment this morning that he is willing to keep the government shut down “for a very long time”, and his reckless decisions regarding Syria and Afghanistan, today I can no longer consider myself a citizen of what was once a respectable nation.  I believe it is time for serious calls for Trump’s removal from office, else next year at this time the world may look much different than it does today – and not in any good way.

Au Revoir, General Mattis … you will be missed.

And The World Laughed …

From the time I was born in 1951 until present, I see today as perhaps the darkest hour in the United States.   We should … every one of us … hang our heads in shame that we not only elected Donald Trump, but that he is allowed to remain in office and has the support of some 35% – 40% of the people.  Today, he took this nation down what is certain to be a very perilous path, a path apart from our allies, a path lined with brambles and briars.

This morning, Donald Trump stood before the United Nations General Assembly and started with …

“In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country. America is so thrilled.”

The entire General Assembly broke into laughter.

We, my friends, for the first time in the history of this country, are the laughingstock of the entire globe.  Do you want to hear the ultimate irony, though?  In 2014, read what Trump tweeted:Trump-tweet-laughingstockSay WHAT???  

But in addition to being pompous, Trump made it clear that he does not intend the U.S. to participate in the initiatives of the U.N. and that the U.S. would not support the U.N. Global Compact on migration.  A few pertinent snippets from his speech:

  • “America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism and accept the ideology of patriotism.”
  • “… America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, and I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live, work, or worship. We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.”
  • “… we will not allow our workers to be victimized, our companies to be cheated, and our wealth to be plundered and transferred. America will never apologize for protecting its citizens. The United States has just announced tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese made goods. The total so far of $250 billion.”
  • “… the United States will provide no support and recognition for the International Criminal Court. As far as we are concerned the ICC has no legitimacy or authority. The ICC claims near universal jurisdiction over the citizens of every country, violating all principles of justice, fairness and due process.” (Note: he is so very wrong, and I will be doing a separate post about this issue at some point in the future)

Well, you get the general idea.  Trump alone will decide what’s good for America and let everyone else be damned.  And what Trump has decided is good for us is to be isolated completely from the rest of the world, to have no allies, only a bombastic, hot-headed, ignorant and dishonest leader.

In 1941, the combination of the Great Depression and the memory of tragic losses in World War I contributed to pushing American public opinion and policy toward isolationism. U.S. citizens did not wish our nation to become embroiled in the war that was taking place on the other side of the world.  People in this country wore blinders, thinking that if we just didn’t take sides, stayed home and minded our own business, all would be well here in the U.S.  After all, it wasn’t our problem, right?  And then came 07 December 1941, and it very quickly became our problem when Japanese planes attacked our military base on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

You can wear your blinders, put in your earplugs and ignore the neighbor’s fight … until a bullet comes through your wall and strikes one of your children.  But we live in communities, and whether we like it or not, we are a part of the community we live in.  What happens in that community affects us.  That is the small scale, but the same concept holds true on a much larger scale.

Donald Trump and others, particularly within the Republican Party, have convinced a large portion of the people in this nation that ‘globalization’ is a bad thing, and that it is something we have a choice to participate in … or not.  All of which is a lie.  We live, like it or not, in a world that is increasingly shrinking due to technology.  The Internet has made instantaneous communication possible.  Air travel has made it possible to go from New York to Paris in approximately seven hours instead of the days it used to take by ship.  International trade promotes global economic growth; creates jobs, makes companies more competitive, and lowers prices for consumers.  And nuclear weapons have made the world a very dangerous place.

Certainly, there are downsides to globalization, BUT … it isn’t an option!  Trump appears to see his “America First” policy, which would more aptly be called “America Only”, as a viable option that he has a choice about, but he takes us down a perilous path.  When Trump took office on 20 January 2017, the United States had allies, and we engaged in global cooperation.  It is a process of give-and-take … sometimes you give more than you receive, other times the opposite is true.  In the long run, it balances out, and most importantly, you have allies that you can count on to come to your defense, as you will do theirs, in times of trouble.

In under two years, Trump has destroyed those alliances.  He has denigrated the leaders of our closest allies, Canada & Mexico, has insulted UK Prime Minister Theresa May, and also the leaders of most every nation in the EU, most especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  If Iran declared war on us tomorrow, I’m not sure that any of those nations would be eager to come to our aid.  They would, because they have committed to do so, but not gladly, as they once would have.  We are on a very perilous path, and we are on it alone, for the rest of the developed world is laughing from afar.  I am ashamed, I am embarrassed, and I see a very dark future if this ‘man’ is not reigned in very soon.  Please, folks, vote the boot-lickers out in November and let’s put some people with brains and consciences back into Congress next year.  Let us stop earning the title, Laughingstock of the Planet Earth.Laughing-earth

The Bully Goes To NATO 😱

Consider this:  you have a child who is cruel and a bully, the one who kicks sand in all the other children’s faces and shoves them off the swings.  Now, he is invited to a birthday party … not because anybody wants him there, but because the parents of the ‘birthday boy’ felt it was the right thing to do.  You understand all too well the dangers of your son attending the party, you realize he could spoil it not only for the ‘birthday boy’, but for every child in attendance.  Do you allow your son to go to the party, or do you do the right thing and keep him home, perhaps spend some time explaining why he isn’t being allowed to go?

We the People unfortunately have just such a bully, and later this month he will be attending an event that he seems prepared to ruin: the annual NATO summit.  Remember the last such event he attended, the G7 hosted by our close friend and ally, Justin Trudeau of Canada?  Remember how he insulted every one of the other 6 leaders there and demanded that Putin/Russia be allowed back into the group?  And remember how he insulted Trudeau after leaving the meeting, refusing to sign off on the joint communique?  Remember the 2017 NATO summit where he refused to endorse the collective defense clause and then … then in order to be first in front for a group photo, he shoved Dusko Markovic, the Prime Minister of Montenegro?

There is every reason to believe that this year’s NATO summit will turn into an even bigger disaster, for he has already laid the groundwork.  Last week Trump sent letters to eight of the 29 NATO members criticizing and threatening them for not yet having met the guidelines of defense spending.  Donald Trump has either no concept or an erroneous concept of how the NATO collective defense program works, and he sees his own role as being considerably larger than it is.

NATO is based on the principle of collective defense: an attack against one or more members is considered an attack against all. So far that has only been invoked once — in response to the September 11 attacks on the U.S. To make the idea work, it is important for all members to make sure their armed forces are in good shape. So NATO sets an official target on how much they should spend. That currently stands at 2% of GDP. The 2% target is described as a “guideline.” There is no penalty for not meeting it. It is up to each country to decide how much to spend and how to use the money.

A few things are worth noting:

  • Jens Stoltenberg is the Secretary General of NATO, not Donald Trump
  • The 2% target is a ‘guideline’. Many countries are not in a financial position to be able to spend 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on military, and at least one nation, Germany, has other reasons for not being able to spend 2%
  • The agreement was that member nations would work toward the goal of spending 2% of GDP on military/defense by 2024! This is only 2018
  • European members of NATO are spending more on defense than in the recent past. Most have increased spending as a share of GDP since 2014, and in economically difficult times
  • Nations do not pay this 2% to NATO and no nation owes any portion of it to the U.S.
  • Thus far, the U.S. has been the only nation to receive the benefits of this program

Trump is a bully, and the letter he sent to several nations was a thinly veiled threat.  Here is the letter he sent to Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada:NATO letter-Canada

He was also particularly contentious toward Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, that letter said to contain the harshest language of the eight letters, though I am unable to find a copy of the letter to Merkel.

Chancellor Merkel backs plans for Germany’s defense budget to eventually reach 2 percent of GDP. However, her Christian Democrats’ junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats, are against massive defense spending increases and demand funds be used more efficiently.  I would note here that the U.S. Congress should also be demanding that our own funds be spent more judiciously, for we have a ridiculously and unnecessarily burdensome military budget, while we are cutting safety net programs for the poor, ignoring infrastructure needs, and making health care unaffordable to all but the wealthy.  Our own priorities are truly skewed, and Trump reminds me of a little boy playing with his army soldiers.NATO defense spendingNote that there are only five nations that are currently able to meet the 2% defense spending goal, yet Trump singled out our closest allies for his letter-writing campaign. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accords, pulled out of the Iran deal, criticized our allies at the G7 summit, and harshly imposed unwarranted tariffs on our European allies, and now he is bullying them ahead of the NATO summit.  What could go wrong, eh?

“Why the president would find it necessary to send a letter like this in advance of the NATO summit is a mystery. It shows a lack of understanding … and sets the wrong tone in advance of an important summit in mid-July. This isn’t how you ‘prep’ for a NATO summit. Letters like this will only backfire.”  — Julie Smith, a Europe expert with the Center for a New American Security.

International relations are difficult at best when the parties involved have a full understanding of the issues.  Trump has no understanding and does not listen to those who do. He is a loose cannon and stands to do even further harm to our relations with our allies, making this nation far less safe than it has ever been perhaps since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. I do realize that nobody has the power to stop Trump from going to Brussels on July 11th, but I certainly wish there were a way to keep him home.  I’m thinking duct taping him to the potty?

 

Checks & Balances??? HAH!

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

That, as you all know, is the Preamble to the United States Constitution, the foundation for the government of the U.S.  Until recently, it was a representational form of government.  The Constitution calls for three separate and distinct branches of government in order to achieve a system of checks and balances so that no one branch has complete autonomy.  The reason is to protect our representational form of government from corruption, from making self-serving and destructive decisions. If there was ever a doubt in your mind that there are no longer checks on the executive branch, the presidency, you can put those doubts to bed now, for the proof is in the pudding that Congress, the legislative branch of government, is too afraid of Donald Trump to act on behalf of We The People.

You will recall that on June 1st, Trump imposed a 25% tariff on imports of steel, and a 10% tariff on aluminum, on the European Union, Canada, and Mexico – our allies – citing “national security” as the reason.  Our allies were, justifiably and understandably, disturbed by this move, as were many here at home. The tariffs were poorly received by the vast majority of economists; almost 80% of 104 economists surveyed by Reuters believed that tariffs on steel and aluminum imports would be a net harm to the U.S. economy.  The World Bank has warned that a spiral of rising tariffs could lead to a drop in global trade not seen since the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

The legal basis for Trump to impose the tariffs is questionable, at best.  It comes from Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 which under certain circumstances allows the president to impose tariffs based on the recommendation from the U.S. Secretary of Commerce if  “an article is being imported into the United States in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten or impair the national security.”  This section has never been invoked since the creation of the World Trade Organization was established in 1995, and I have to ask just how Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce, concluded that the import of steel and aluminum poses a threat to national security.

National security?  There is far more harm in starting a trade war and alienating our closest allies, our friends, than there is in free trade.  In fact, trade agreements such as NAFTA contribute to the economies and safety nets of the nations involved.

The tariffs garnered widespread criticism among members of Congress, even some conservative republicans!  On Thursday, June 7th, Senator Bob Corker filed a proposal to require congressional approval for President Donald Trump’s tariffs in the form of an amendment to a must-pass defense appropriation bill.   Corker was joined by Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander and eleven other senators who have grave concerns about the tariffs and the near-certain retaliatory tariffs and the damage that will be done to the U.S. economy, not to mention our standing with our allies.

Admittedly, Corker’s bill, even if passed in the Senate, stood a slimmer chance in the House, and was almost certain to fail passing with a veto-proof majority in both chambers.  BUT … it was a beginning that sent a message that perhaps Congress was finally willing to do their job, and it was gaining momentum.  BUT … on Tuesday, at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s request, Senator Jim Inhofe blocked Senator Corker’s tariffs bill from a vote.  The bill is now effectively dead, and Trump has once again proven that he has authoritarian powers.

Why did Senator Inhofe block the bill?  Because it would displease Trump.  Bob Corker said it best …

“The United States Senate, right now, on June 12, is becoming a body where, well, we’ll do what we can do, but my gosh, if the president gets upset with us, then we might not be in the majority. And so let’s don’t do anything that might upset the president. ‘Gosh, we might poke the bear’ is the language I’ve been hearing in the hallways. We might poke the bear. The president might get upset with us as United States senators if we vote on the Corker amendment, so we’re going to do everything we can to block it.”

trump constitution 1I am a voter.  I paid federal income taxes from the time I was 13-years-old until I retired a few years ago.  I am a citizen.  I do not want to live in this nation if Herr Trump can wake up one morning and make a decision without any oversight from our elected representatives, or if our elected representatives are so fearful of Trump that they refuse to represent us.  The majority of people in this nation feel the same.  If the “Mitch and Jim Show” can, with the snap of their fingers, render our voices silent by silencing the voices of those people we elected to represent our interests, then we are no longer a representational government, and rather than being citizens, we are now subjects.

Who Will You Blame Now … ?

So far, in his 13 months in office, Donald Trump has managed to blame everybody but himself for the things that went wrong, while at the same time taking credit for positive things that started long before he even took office.  Eventually, that doesn’t fly any more, and I think we are near that turning point.  I don’t think he will be able to blame President Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton for some of the mistakes he is making these days.  For instance, …

  • Who will you blame, Donnie, for the shutdown of the Kemper County, Mississippi “clean coal” plant that ran $2.9 billion over budget before it even fired up, and has now been converted to cheaper, cleaner-burning natural gas? Did not you promise them coal was making a comeback, that coal would be “king” again?

  • Who will you blame, Donnie, for the next school shooting? How will you answer those grieving parents when they ask you “WHY?”  Wasn’t it your job to lead the way for stricter regulations on guns that would have made their children safer?

  • Who will you blame, Donnie, when at the end of 2018, your constituents, those 37% or so who still believe in you, ask you why they are having to pay income taxes far beyond the initial $1.50 pay increase they saw on their weekly pay vouchers? Didn’t you promise them this “tax plan” of yours would put more money in their pockets?  Did you forget to tell them about all the deductions you cut out, so that at the end of the year they would owe even more than in years past, while all your wealthy donors are sitting pretty with their extra hundreds of thousands?

  • Who will you blame, Donnie, when every country we trade with imposes a tariff on goods they import from the U.S., when the price to the U.S. consumer on everything from food to clothing to household goods increases? Did you really think the EU, Canada, Mexico and the UK, not to mention China, would simply accept the tariffs on the goods they export to us without retaliation?  Will you blame Gary Cohn, who tried to explain to you why the tariffs were a bad idea?

  • Who will you blame, Donnie, when the people who placed their faith, their trust in you, cannot afford to buy a washing machine, a new refrigerator, let alone a new car, for the price of steel has increased by some 35%, raising the price of consumer goods containing steel by some proportional amount? And how will you explain the lies that you, Peter Navarro and Wilbur Ross told about the “minimal impact” of the steel tariffs?

  • Who will you blame, Donnie, when the drinking water in West Virginia starts making people ill because you rolled back the regulations that kept coal companies from dumping their waste into the streams?

  • Who will you blame, Donnie, when the rate of kids born with breathing conditions suddenly doubles because of the increased carbon dioxide that makes the air nearly unbreathable near major industrial centers?

  • Who will you blame, Donnie, when all the lies you have told, the promises you have broken to take care of the ordinary people, catch up with you?

  • And here’s the big one, Donnie … who will you blame when you finally taunt Kim Jong-un one time too many and he declares war, and none of our old allies come to our aid? Will that, too, be Barack Obama’s fault?  Will it be “Crooked Hillary’s” fault?  Will it be “Lyin’ Ted’s” fault?  Or perhaps you will blame Jeff Sessions for recusing himself?  Or perhaps it will not matter, for there may be nobody left to care.

For an entire year, you blamed everything on your predecessor for your mistakes, while at the same time stealing the credit that rightly belonged to him for a good economy.  For three years now, you have ranted about “Crooked Hillary”, who was in fact far more honest than you ever thought about being.  You have blamed the democrats for your woes, when it was your own party who holds a majority in both chambers of Congress.  The honeymoon is over.  There is nobody left to blame but Donald J. Trump for the ills of our nation.  The man who promised to “Make America Great Again” has failed miserably and now the time has come for him to accept the blame.

Until January 2017, we were mostly respected by our allies.  Now they mock and deride us.  The president of Mexico refuses to come for a visit.  The people of the UK do not want Trump to visit there.  To the best of my knowledge, Putin of Russia and Duterte of the Philippines are the only two leaders with whom Trump shares a camaraderie.  Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?  Remember the old adage, “We are judged by the company we keep”?  Think about that one.

No Laughing Matter …

The politics and inter-relationships of the Middle East are perhaps more complex than any other on the globe.  I have studied this area extensively for the past ten years, yet I do not claim to fully understand. What I can tell you, however, is that the Middle East has long been a powder keg, and is no less so today.  In fact, thanks to one Donald Trump, the turmoil in the Middle East is at an all time high.  Donald Trump does not, cannot possibly, understand Middle East politics and he does not appear to understand what he has caused.

jerusalen-2Trump, the ‘man’ who said on the campaign trail regarding numerous issues, “only I can fix this”, made a fateful decision on 6 December to announce that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will move the U.S. Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. With that one announcement, he made the United States look like fools in the eyes of the world, set off a wave of violence in the Middle East, and forfeited any hopes of a U.S.-brokered peace between Israel and Palestine. And still he has no idea what he has done, is seeing himself as the victim of the backlash that was inevitable in the face of his announcement.

He made this decision with the assistance of Vice-President Mike Pence, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and son-in-law Jared Kushner.  Not a single one of these four people have so much as a semester’s education in the history or politics of the Middle East.  Donald Trump is a former real estate developer and television sit-com actor. Mike Pence is the former governour of Indiana. Jared Kushner is a former newspaper man. Nikki Haley is the former governour of South Carolina.  The people who do have at least some experience in the situation in the Middle East, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis and their career staff recommended against the move. Trump chose, instead, to listen to newbies with no idea the havoc they were wreaking.

The results were swift and ongoing.  Our European allies sharply criticized the move.  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected any U.S. role in peace talks going forward. Christian minorities in Egypt rejected a meeting request by Vice President Mike Pence. Palestinian Christians are also organizing boycotts of Pence. In the words of Hady Amr and Arsalan Suleman, writing for Brookings Institute, “all indications are that the president focused narrowly on his political agenda instead of safeguarding U.S. national security interests.”

Trump criticized Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush for promising and then failing to deliver on the promise of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but both of those former presidents were smart enough to study the situation and listen to their advisors before determining that the consequences would be harmful to both U.S. national security interests and harmful to Israel itself. Trump, unfortunately, has no such intelligence.

But wait … now it gets even worse.  Fast forward, if you will, to yesterday when, in an emergency session, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to reject Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. 128 members voted on Thursday in favour of the resolution supporting the longstanding international consensus that the status of Jerusalem – which is claimed as a capital by both Israel and the Palestinians – can only be settled as an agreed final issue in a peace deal. Only nine nations voted against the resolution: the U.S., Togo, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands, Guatemala, Honduras and Israel.  Thirty-five countries abstained and twenty-one were absent.

Donald Trump, who of course must always be right, and who is a professional bully, threatened to withhold U.S. aid from any country that supported the resolution.  Nikki Haley said that the U.S. would make note and remember any nations that “disrespected” America by voting for the resolution.  Think about this one, friends.  Trump goes against all intelligent advice to interfere where he had no business, then threatens … yes threatens … our allies for voting in favour of a common sense measure to attempt to fix what Trump broke.  Donald Trump has, not for the first time, offended our allies and further isolated the United States, not to mention making us the object of worldwide scorn and derision.

This move by Trump has cast a long shadow over our relations with our allies. Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu declared that …

“I believe that even though we don’t have an agreement yet, this is what will happen in the future. I believe that all or most of the European countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem, recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and engage robustly with us for security, prosperity and peace.”

Guess again, Ben. Mexico, Canada, the UK and the EU Commission have all announced that they will not be moving their embassies to Jerusalem.

The United States passed through the ‘laughingstock of the world’ stage some time ago and is now racing toward the ‘most hated nation in the world’ stage.  All, for the most part, because of one ‘man’, one narcissistic fool who thinks his uneducated opinion is the only one that matters.  We must soon find our way to removing this ‘man’ from the White House, for he is jeopardizing not only our own security and future, but also that of the rest of the globe.  Nobody has that right, and the arrogance of the United States is in the spotlight now more than ever. The U.S. stopped being the “leader of the free world” on the day that Donald Trump was inaugurated. We are coming close to being ‘non grata’ around the globe.  For my part, I am once again ashamed of my country.