Friday, August 18, 2017

In the Fight of Good v Evil Barack Obama Shows Leadership

With three simple tweets, former President Barack Obama gave Americans across the spectrum, and people around the world, what they longed for in the face of the Charlottesville tragedy: wisdom, sanity, compassion, leadership.

It's been distressing beyond expression to watch how the current administration has laid siege to everything that the best of America stands for and all the progress made by Barack and Michelle Obama and Obama's administration. When this couple were in the White House it was a place of knowledge, experience, respect, dignity, wisdom, inclusion, joy, exuberance, celebration of life and of people from every walk of life.

The shock of the election result wore off quickly, leaving grief, outrage and determination to preserve values without which no society can exist for long without imploding. The resistance, from Democratic politicians, citizens, academia and the liberal media, has been valiant and successful. But the constant deluge of scandals, back-biting, lies—scum of the earth stuff—has been exhausting to witness. It leaves you feeling dirty. It's hard to resist the idea that social progress in the US is being swamped and that everything the Obamas worked towards, every battle fought and won over the years for Civil Rights, equality and justice has been lost.

It's not true though. In the battle between Good and evil, so well illustrated by Charlottesville, and Donald Trump equating white supremacists and Nazi supporters to counter-protesters, Good has triumphed as Republicans, Democrats and world leaders condemned Trump's support of what has been recognized as evil for a long time now.  Nobody but Trump believes these people have a place at the table. Nobody but Mike Pence has stood with Trump.

Good can seem fragile in this battle, when overshadowed by monstrous forces, but in truth it has roots sinking deep into the human psyche, into societies. And that gives it, ultimately, much greater power.

America's social progress hasn't ever been a smooth journey. But it's been a real one with real successes. They, and the achievements of Barack Obama and his administration have been assailed, but not dismantled in a way that can't be fixed, even though the government is entirely GOP-controlled. Republicans are at war with each other and their constituents, and the 2018 mid-terms loom. The Trump administration has bully power but nothing else and it is disintegrating at the speed of light, as is Donald Trump himself. Out of control, dysfunctional, still obsessed with his campaign. Firing people at random when they get more attention than him or displease him, creating such havoc that nobody wants to work for him.

Now he's fired Steve Bannon, who has gone back to Breitbart News, thrilled at the prospect of war with the administration. Or so he says, as reported by The New York Post. That man's soul is rotten to the core. 

Meanwhile, for all the press Trump et al get, Obama's tweets about Charlottesville broke the record for the most Twitter likes. That's a pretty direct poll. And he's not getting any press coverage these days. There's power in the man, the kind that lasts because it has love and integrity as a foundation; it's the kind that rewards and builds.

In this existential battle in America—one that all of us can relate to in some way or another in our lives—Good has trodden and is still treading a steady path towards victory. It will come and then we'll see that social progress is not destructible by evil. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trump Throws His Weight Behind White Supremacists & Nazi Supporters

On Tuesday the world watched in sheer abhorrence as the US president, speaking at length for himself and without a teleprompter, unequivocally laid equal blame on the protests against racism and bigotry—which he called the alt-left—and the KKK, white supremacists and Nazi supporters gathered in Charlottesville.  

In the largest gathering in decades, and as if the Civil Rights Era had never happened, white supremacists descended at night on the University town of Charlottesville, Virginia with burning torches, confederate flags, nazi symbols and rifles, chanting "You will not replace us / Jews will not replace us". They surrounded a small group of non-violent counter protestors gathered at the statue of Thomas Jefferson.  Shock and horror rippled throughout the country and beyond its borders.
“I cannot believe in my heart what I am witnessing today in America. I wanted to think not only as an elected official, but as a human being that we had made more progress. It troubles me a great deal.” Rep. John Lewis.
But not, apparently, in the White House, which was mute. The next day, white supremacists, itching for a fight, attacked those protesting against them in ugly violence which culminated in a Nazi supporter gunning his car into a peaceful gathering of protestors, injuring 19 and killing Heather Heyer, a courageous young woman who had dedicated her life to fighting bigotry and hate.

Donald Trump, the man who can't control his Twitter compulsion, waited until late in the day to even comment. His repugnant refusal to name and shame the KKK, Nazi supporters and white supremacists drew immediate bi-partisan fire, Democrats not afraid to directly criticize the president. Some Republicans joined them.   

The next day, in a strangely surreal mini-speech, Trump, newly coiffed and made up, did as he had obviously been told to. He read clumsily from a teleprompter words that had been patently written by somebody else. Words that he was very uncomfortable with. Anybody who was fooled hasn't been paying attention for a very long time. Those of us who have, weren't surprised when he broke out and said what he really wanted to say on Tuesday at a "press conference" that was mean to be about infrastructure.

It didn't take Trump long to dump the script and lash out at length at the counter protesters, calling them the alt-left, blaming them for their violence and for attacking the white supremacists and fascists, giving them an unequivocal boost.
General Kelly stood behind Trump, severely troubled. Did he really think he could control this terrible excuse for a man? Kudos to him for being bothered, but he should have been severely horrified long ago, enough to refuse the job and publicly condemn Trump and his administration.

Other Republicans also reacted immediately, except for Mike Pence of course, who praised Trump for meaning what he says and saying what he means. Hard to understand the logic of that, given his teleprompted little speech the previous day. There is only one way for Republicans to illustrate that they have any integrity at all. Unequivocally condemn Trump, get rid of him, and clean out his administration. Any Republican who doesn't do that? Their words of protest now are meaningless.

America has a white supremacist supporter, a bigot, a serial sexual abuser, a snake oil salesman, a liar, a cheat and a very stupid man with severe personality disorders for a president, and too many Republicans have been fine with it. They may criticize him but they don't care enough to protect their country from him. And that's the truth.

Fortunately, the majority of America do care. Even Trump's base is dwindling. Ultimately all he'll be left with will be the KKK, neo-nazis and white supremacists. The toxic dregs of American society.
Embed from Getty Images

Democrats care a great deal. They have lashed out at Trump in no uncertain terms. Stalwart of integrity, Civil Rights pioneer and icon Congressman John Lewis, who has courageously and unerringly devoted his life to defending Civil Rights and said in January that he didn't consider Trump to be a legitimate president, spoke out at a town hall meeting in East Point Georgia.

"It troubles me a great deal… Speak up, speak out, get in the way, get in trouble - good trouble and necessary trouble. We have to tell our people to get out and participate in the democratic process."

And while all of this is going on, the Russia investigation is ramping up. To date, analysts have had little faith in the likelihood of impeachment, which would need a Republican Congress to act. Recently, as Trump has gotten more and more out of control, more Republicans are either speaking out clearly against him, or drifting away. Suddenly, impeachment is starting to look like a real option, because if the GOP lets Trump stay he'll take them all down with him.

It's been obvious from the start but they haven't wanted to face it. It's becoming harder and harder to ignore. America will be rid of this scourge. The world will breathe a sigh of relief. Until he goes, a Washington Post editorial says it all. The nation can only weep.
That car in Charlottesville did not kill or wound just the 20 bodies it struck. It damaged the nation. Mr. Trump not only failed to help the country heal; he made the wound wider and deeper.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

US President Thrills at the Idea of Killing Hundreds of Thousands

"There are no mixed messages… There are no mixed messages… North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen." Apart from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Lest we forget.

Relishing the idea of killing and maiming hundreds of people in the cruelest way imaginable, the US president continues to recklessly up his rhetoric, poking his middle finger in the eye of a sociopath. Because it makes him look strong. In his own eyes. In those of most Americans and the rest of the world? Not so much. The administration reiterates ad nauseam that there are no mixed messages, but of course it's just another alternative fact to add to the Trump Administration Collection.

Rex Tillerson has oxymoronically tried to perform the magic trick of toning down the inflammatory rhetoric, while also rationalizing it. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has spoken with solemnity, pointing out that nobody needs to be reminded of the terrible damage done by nuclear war. 

Nobody but the US president. And neither of them are telling him to zip it. Nor is General Kelly. Apparently that's not his job. Senator Lindsay Graham is enabling Trump, as is Nikki Haley and any number of other Republicans who cling to power, no matter the cost to any number of human beings on earth. Including Guam residents, who could be the first Americans to go. 

Trump had this to say to Guam Governor Eddie Baza Calvo:
"Tourism, I can tell you this — tourism, you're going to go up like 10-fold with the expenditure of no money so I congratulate you… We are with you 1,000 per cent, you are safe…You've become extremely famous. All over the world they are talking about Guam, and they are talking about you."
Calvo's response was that he felt 100% safe with Trump as president. The mind boggles. Fortunately, some sanity prevails in Guam, whose Homeland Security Agency put out advice for residents in the event of an "imminent missile threat". Residents should create emergency supply kits, have an emergency plan, and make a list of concrete shelters close by, especially ones underground. 

When an attack warning is sounded they mustn't look at the flash or fireball because it can blind, and they must run for cover. However, "Fallout radiation loses its intensity fairly rapidly. In time you will be able to leave a fallout shelter." 

The Homeland Security website also has a link to an American Red Cross guide on how to shelter-in-place if there's a chemical or radiation attack.

If Kim Jong-un launches missiles, the US has to hope that its missile detection and destruction facility works. Wolf Blitzer spoke to a military analyst who said it's been tested but never tried. It would take 14 minutes for a N. Korean ICBM to reach Guam, but the decision to destroy it or not has to happen immediately the launch has been detected. The US literally has a couple of minutes to make a decision to destroy the missile or let it continue, judging that it will land in the ocean and isn't dangerous.

If they get it wrong; if the missile doesn't have a miniaturized nuclear warhead and would have landed in the sea but the US destroys it, preferring to err on the side of caution, Kim Jong-un has justification in his own mind for a real attack.

And the US president, a man with the personality disorder, has his finger on the red button. But, sure, Donald Trump, show the world how powerful America is. That's real manhood. Real strength of character. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Hiroshima and Nagasaki Revisited as Trump Provokes N. Korea's Kim Jong-un?

On this day, 1945, the US dropped a nuclear bomb on Nagasaki, instantly killing about 40,000 people, having dropped the world's first nuclear bomb on Hiroshima three days earlier. The horror has lived on in everybody's minds and hearts.

Yet yesterday, Donald Trump threatened N. Korea with "fire and fury" over its nuclear capacity and its own threat to destroy the US. The world watches, tense, as this out of control, intellectually challenged man, unleashes his ego, too stupid to understand the consequences and how close he's pushing the whole world towards nuclear confrontation.

When asked what the government was going to do about N. Korea a short while ago, he said vacuously, "We'll manage it, we'll manage it." He wouldn't take any more questions on the subject. Because he didn't have a clue.

It's been 201 days of this inept, dysfunctional American president with severe personality disorders, living in a private bubble utterly detached from reality. Surrounded by bottom-feeders and acolytes, scrabbling for power like a bunch of starving hyenas attacking a bloody carcass, snarling and tearing at each other. The leader of the free world isolating America from international trade, separating it from the free and the just.

An ultra conservative government, largely driven by Evangelical Christian 'principles', dragging the most powerful democracy back into pre Civil Rights days wherever it can, back into discrimination, unfair treatment, bigotry, sexism and xenophobia. A climate change denier in charge of the environment.

The list goes on. It's endless now. Over 200 days of human rights violations, scandals, vulgarities, lies, corrupted souls,  hiring and firing at the whim of a sick man addicted to himself and his TV enablers. Furiously trying to cover his Russian connection tracks and losing the battle fast. Swamped by the relentless push of 5 major investigations. Desperately trying to distract, failing abysmally.

Hemorrhaging popularity and trust, even in his ever dwindling base. The whole world worrying about how he'll cope with a real, international disaster. And now it's about to happen, only he's the author of it.

Nuclear confrontation has suddenly and by degrees become a reality for all of us, as the sick man with tiny fingers recklessly provokes the world's most frightening sociopath, Who, it turns out, has the capacity to target the US with intercontinental ballistic missiles that have miniaturized nuclear warheads attached. It's alarming how so many military analysts are saying that Kim Jong-un isn't insane, he's strategic, he knows what he's doing, and he's homicidal but not suicidal.

He's just saber-rattling, saying that he'll destroy America. The only way to deal with him is to push back, show him that America means business. Threaten to annihilate N. Korea. He'll buckle. He knows that a full-on US attack will destroy his country. He doesn't want that. He just wants to be safe, he wants a deterrent, and to be treated like one of the big guys at the table.

They were wrong about how developed N. Korea's nuclear capacity is. The Washington Post reveal surprised everybody.  Anything from 25 to 60 missiles that could reach the west coast of the US and possibly even New York. But they're not wrong about Kim Jong-un?

The worry is that these military analysts are still burying their heads in the sand. The problem with sociopaths is that they don't function the way most of us do. They don't have a stabilizing component in their brains. They can be supremely logical, sure; but their wires are crossed, and their rationale for behaving anti-socially makes sense to them. We have a prime example in Donald Trump.

Watching Kim Jong-un survey his gigantic weapons displays, and his mechanized, mind-vacated, supremely controllable puppet troops and citizens, it doesn't take a genius to see orgasmic satisfaction that is insane. Out of control. Push him too far with threats and there's no guarantee that he won't lose it and push back with an attack because it will give him an orgasm. It'll be too late then, as American cities burn à la Nagasaki and Hiroshima, to say, Damn! We were wrong. Too late, also, for Trump voters—and die-hard Bernie Sanders fans—to realize they made a mistake.

Some of them might even be dead. Or mutilated beyond recognition. Or weeping over their screaming children, helpless to save them. We were all concerned about the fate of the planet because Trump and his government are in denial about climate change. We may not have to worry about that any more.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Can Democracy Withstand the Trump Administration Onslaught?

Democracy. In the West we take it for granted that once established, the power of its values and laws intrinsically protect society from corrupt governments forming and stripping people of their rights. The Donald Trump administration has proven us wrong.

Value systems have always collided. In the West the ugly stuff was protected by legislation and social mores that gave power and freedom of expression to racists, sexists, bigots, homophobes, xenophobes, cultural persecutors, and deprived the targets of a platform if not the right to express their frustration, anger, hurt and outrage and work towards gaining equality. Gradually, though, the underdog in every sector of society has gained power. Those who were open to enlightenment embraced the concept of human rights, and legislated to protect them.

But you can't legislate what people think, what they want, what they read. Laws can't control the racism and bigotry that lurks under the surface, building momentum, lying in wait for an authority figure to grant permission to come out into the open, be vented and acted upon.

Spiteful, mean-spirited, greedy for power, panting for the right to be cruel without facing punishment and consequence.

You can't openly legislate for how those who need protection choose to vote, but you can introduce laws that make it difficult or impossible for them to even get to the polling stations. You can gerrymander districts so that those who can vote to protect decent human values don't, effectively, have a voice. You can use the written media, TV, radio stations, the church, to manipulate minds that are already leaning that way anyway, distorting truth until it's unrecognizable. Exploiting fear of change, fear of dark skins, fear of the other.

You can target those who don't have resources, who, if they could, would vote for representatives whose aim is to enfranchise everybody, create a fair society where equality and equal opportunity are the main principles of every branch of government.

In a so-called free society, even in the strongest democracies, much of the principle of do unto others has to be left to the conscience of the individual. It's constantly evolving for many, as it should. If that many isn't the majority, or the minority gets the power, society has a problem. In the West we're used to seeing corrupt leaders in  countries with no functioning democracy. We're accustomed to watching them destroy economies, commit genocide, imprison, torture and murder opposition to the government, prohibit freedom of speech.

We've believed that America was above that. It had long been the leader of the free world. Free and fair elections, freedom of speech, protection of the press, the importance of equality at least valued by one major political party which had an equal shot at gaining the power to improve society at all levels.

But now? Freedom of the press is under threat, hate crimes are on the rise alarmingly. Truth, equality and equal opportunity are not valued by the government, nor are a clean environment or international co-operation. Greed and destruction prevail in every sector of the administration, out-picturing the mind of its dysfunctional, mentally unstable leader. As for elections, was 2016 free and fair? How is possible that a man who lost the popular vote by close to 3 million votes—more than any president in history—could become president? The point is made ad nauseam that Russian interference did not affect the actual vote tally. That's not accurate; it affected the minds of far left and far right voters very successfully. It's not hard evidence, but lack of evidence doesn't equate in reality to absence of truth.

Liberals tend to believe that the search for enlightenment in every aspect of life is innate to the human race, or at least to the vast majority, that do unto others makes sense to most of us and dictates how we relate to each other.
But in our everyday lives, why then are reality shows that thrive on humiliation,  emotional and physical punishment so popular? What about Mad Men? It depicted the sexism, feminism, homophobia, antisemitism and racism of 1960's America. Yet it was widely acclaimed as being the greatest TV show ever. Did the majority watch to be outraged and celebrate that we've moved on? I doubt it. Was it Roman-type lust for watching Christians being thrown to the lions and torn apart? Possibly. Most likely, in the light of the 2016 election result, it was a hankering after an era where social conscience was a dinosaur.

Now a vulgarian who epitomizes that dinosaur is president of what was once unquestioningly the most powerful democracy on the planet.

The biggest mistake we make in the West is believing that democracy automatically delivers what's best for everybody. It doesn't. It doesn't even deliver what's best for the majority, when the voting system has been so eroded that a racist, bigot, con artist, arch manipulator, sexual abuser, ignoramus and compulsive liar can win an election on a minority vote, with the assistance of a foreign power whose primary objective is to undermine western democracies.

The words the American people are bandied about a lot by the current Administration. Which American people would that be? Those who support the government and the President are in the minority. Donald Trump has exploited the fears and lusts of his base and successfully controlled the narrative for them. There's no doubt in reality that he is an abuser who uses whoever he can, tossing them aside like so much detritus when they no longer serve him. Yet they mindlessly endorse his abusive behaviour, his dysfunction as a president, when the policies he pushes threaten their own lives. They believe anything he says, even when he directly contradicts himself. Blind loyalty to an abuser? It's a kind of variation on Stockholm Syndrome.

The liberal press and Democratic politicians have striven valiantly to keep truth alive and democracy functioning, but in the face of Trump's monumental lies and his determination to thwart democracy, everybody is exhausted. 

For democracy to function as a force for good in society, truth must be valued. When it's under siege and the minority has power, it spells trouble. It always has. It always will. Ultimately it seems to be true, looking at the big picture, that good triumphs over evil. That's not much consolation to the lives that are destroyed in the process. It's no consolation to the Muslim, Jewish, Latino or African American children who are targeted at school, with the upsurge in hate crimes since Donald Trump's campaigning. Whose lives will never be the same again. It's no consolation to the parents who can't protect them.

It'll be no consolation to any of us if the values that keep society intact are eroded beyond recognition and democracy rendered impotent in the country that is supposed to be leading the free world. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

US President Shames America

It seems a century ago since a couple of the highest integrity occupied the White House; since America's reputation internationally was at the highest point it's been for decades; since the country was moving forward internally on all progressive social fronts, and internationally as a leader in diplomacy and tackling climate change. Freedom of the press was taken for granted. The right to a better life for all was recognized by those who had the power in government to work towards that end.

From the President down, the administration was filled with bright, informed, intelligent and highly qualified people. Issues were discussed at length from every angle. The President listened to his advisers and took the trouble to do what a president is obliged to do—he made sure that he too was informed on all aspects of every matter.

America had plenty of its own social and economic problems, but they were acknowledged, and steps were being taken to address them. The social, familial and individual values that allow for a society to function, address ills, and move forward, were respected. Truth was honored. This was a civilized, progressive, forward moving, first world country.

Both the President and the First Lady were recognized internationally for their leadership qualities. Both were having a huge impact on the world. The White House was a place that deserved respect.

From that to this. It's painful now to think back to the campaign trails of Hillary Clinton and the current occupant of the White House. There was so much hope that the US would keep moving in the direction it had been going for seven years. The candidate who was least qualified—a known liar, bigot, racist, con artist and sexual abuser with very low intelligence and total absence of integrity—publicly demeaned the Muslim parents of a soldier who had died in service. He cruelly mocked a disabled reporter, insulted women, labeled Mexicans as rapists and criminals, talked of banning all Muslims.

The outrage exploded. The world looked on with shock as Republican politicians,  desperate for power, made a deal with the devil and endorsed this low-life, as did a swathe of American citizens, punch-drunk on entitlement to ignore decent human values. Hate-crime burgeoned.

The putrid underbelly of American society that had been lurking just below the surface when an African American had the audacity to run for president and then to win, came into focus and gained momentum. On the other side, though, Hillary Clinton shattered the glass ceiling, despite the monumental obstacles thrown in her path. The Obamas campaigned for her passionately, articulately, energetically. The battle between good and evil raged, but good seemed to have the upper hand. The liberal press finally got off the fence, openly endorsing Hillary Clinton.

Unequivocally condemning the Republican candidate.  Who was then revealed to have been recorded bragging about doing whatever he wanted with women without their permission, and grabbing them by the pussy.

It was the last straw. Women and decent men of all races and lifestyles, in the US and around the world, expressed their fury, disgust and pure outrage. A global movement was birthed. Finally the world was acknowledging that this sexism was not normal, not acceptable and never would be. Speaking for myself, my world changed. I felt vindicated for my own rage at abuse I've experienced, and openly and unconditionally supported by millions of women and decent men. I felt taller, stronger. Shame was driven out.

Yet Republicans voted for this vile, debased excuse for a man. Voter suppression targeted Democrat African Americans. Russian interference, fake news, conservative media and the far right slagged Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party 24/7 and pumped the airwaves with untruths, myths, and wild conspiracy theories about her. Truth was a lone swimmer in a wild ocean filled with man-eating sharks and predators.

And the unthinkable happened. Evil triumphed over good. The White House descended into chaos as the current occupant's utter incompetency and mental and spiritual degradation spread like a deadly pathogen into every corner of the administration. The US back-pedaled faster than the speed of light.
Respect, honor, integrity, social values, competency, intelligence and truth have no place in the American government now. So it wasn't a surprise when the leader reverted back to his campaign modus operandi of publicly demeaning women.

The President of the United States. Whose tweets are official statements.

CNN host Brian Stelter set the record straight.
"I put lipstick on a pig", said Tony Schwartz, ghostwriter of Trump's book Art of the Deal, in July 2016. The words still ring true. Apology to pigs.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

AG Jeff Sessions Will Appear Before the Senate Intelligence Committee

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has agreed to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. He will be attempting to clear his name, after former FBI Director James Comey's explosive testimony last week, in which he spoke about the pressure he felt coming from the President to drop the investigation into Mike Flynn. Comey specifically called the President a liar, and also had something to say about Jeff Sessions' possible involvement in the investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election.
“Our judgment, as I recall, was that [Jeff Sessions] was very close and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. We were also aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.”
In his confirmation hearing, Sessions said he had not met with Russian officials during the Trump campaign, when in fact he had met with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. There was enormous Democratic resistance to Sessions' nomination before the truth was revealed, but Democrats were over-ridden. In the hearing, Elizabeth Warren tried to read out part of a letter written thirty years ago by Coretta King, widow of Martin Luther King Jr. It related to Sessions' failed judicial nomination in 1980 because of his racism.

Mitch McConnell shut Elizabeth Warren down, on the grounds that Senate rules prohibit one Senator from bad-mouthing another on the floor, and Republicans voted to support his move. It backfired spectacularly. Firstly it was pointed out that the rule could not apply during a confirmation hearing, and secondly McConnell had said nothing when Ted Cruz had accused him of being a liar. But worse, Elizabeth Warren ended up being heard by a much wider audience. She first tweeted about the incident, triggering off a viral hashtag #LetLizSpeak.
Then she read the letter outside the Senate, on camera, and posted the video on her Facebook page. To date, the video has had 12 million views.
“During the debate on whether to make Jeff Sessions the next Attorney General, I tried to read a letter from Coretta Scott King on the floor of the Senate. The letter, from 30 years ago, urged the Senate to reject the nomination of Jeff Sessions to a federal judgeship. The Republicans took away my right to read this letter on the floor – so I’m right outside, reading it now.”
In Sessions' confirmation hearings, on the 10th of January, Senator Al Franken asked (at 3:18 in the video), "If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government during the course of this campaign, what would you do?" Sessions replied, "Senator Franken, I'm not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, but I did not have communications with the Russians."

On the 17th, Senator Leahy asked him; " Several of the President-Elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?" Sessions said, "No".

Also on the 17th, Senator Feinstein asked if he would recuse himself "from any FBI or Justice Department investigation into whether Flynn’s communications were permissible under the law, including the Logan Act." Sessions replied "I am not aware of a basis to recuse myself from such matters. "

On the 1st of March, the Washington Post, which had exposed Mike Flynn's dissemination, leading to Trump being forced to fire him, reported that Sessions had spoke twice with Kislyak. At first Sessions dug his heels in, but later, amid Democratic calls to resign, was forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Trump was enraged, and called it all a witch hunt of an 'honest man'. But then he thought Mike Flynn was a 'good guy', even after his lies were exposed.

Since his inauguration Trump has been dogged the Russia investigation which, in spite of all his efforts to distract from it, continues to gather momentum. Having gotten his way his whole life, Trump took on the presidency believing it would be business as usual. He took a page from Putin's playbook, attempting to control the narrative and create an alternative to the truth.

But Putin, frightening as he is, is a clever man. Trump is not. So where Putin has succeeded, Trump's considerable efforts are failing miserably. Out of control, he is his own worst enemy. He continues to paint himself into an ever-diminishing corner.

Republicans and Trump supporters consistently insist that there's no there, there. No evidence of collusion. The process of unearthing it is moving along swiftly, the overriding response to Trump supporters being that this president has attacked every person under the sun, practically every world leader. Except Putin. And one after another of his staff, including his own son-in-law, have been exposed as having communications or suspected deals of some sort with Russians, including officials and/or people very close to Putin.

So Sessions' insistence that he didn't know of any activity between Trump campaign officials and Russians, apart from being a blatant lie on his own account, is unlikely to be true with regards to those who have now been exposed. And his recusal from the Russia investigation wasn't water-tight. Subsequently, he did get involved again, potentially violating his recusal pledge. On the 9th of May, Sessions wrote a letter to the president, recommending that Comey be fired.

Trump has admitted—and subsequently tried to deny—that he fired Comey because the Russia investigation was causing a cloud; it was irritating him.

In his testimony, Comey expressed said the president lied. Trump's response was to double down and accuse Comey of perjury. The problem for Trump is that he is, by his own hand, an established liar, and Comey, in his long career at the FBI, is a known truth-teller. Sessions has also been exposed as a liar. It looks like the chickens have come home to roost for him. It is unknown yet whether he will testify openly or in a closed hearing. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

James Comey Testimony Full Hearing and Highlights

James Comey's testimony was every bit as explosive as predicted, as he answered questions about his conversations with Donald Trump directly and honestly. He said that he had felt pressured by the president to drop the investigation into Mike Flynn, that Trump had tried to manipulate him into 'loyalty' and had said the Russia investigation was irritating him.

Comey believed that he was fired because he refused to protect Mike Flynn, or put a stop to the entire investigation.

He stated that the president lied when he said the FBI was in disarray. When asked if there was any evidence of collusion with Russia on Trump's part, Comey said he couldn't respond in an open hearing, leaving everybody to draw their own conclusions. Comey also had something to say about Jeff Sessions. “Our judgment, as I recall, was that he was very close and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. We were also aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.”

When questioned about leaking his memos to the press, Comey admitted that he asked a friend of his, Columbia Professor Daniel Richman, to share his memo of a meeting with the president with the press, because he was alarmed at the pressure being exerted on him, and hoped that his memo would prompt the appointment of a special counsel. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Global Reaction to Trump's Withdrawal of the US from the Paris Deal

Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has drawn fierce protest and criticism in the US and around the globe, proving that today's world is more intent on unity and progress than on isolationism and destruction, and that, notwithstanding the alternative narrative created by fossil fuel giants and their Republican puppet politicians, global warming is acknowledged to be a real and present danger.
Trump's idea that he could negotiate a better deal for the US was quickly quashed. There is no better deal, because each country that has committed to the accord retains the right to set their own targets. The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, called Trump's decision a "dramatic mistake", and leaders of Germany, France and Italy committed to work together, with the Paris deal as "a cornerstone" of their cooperation.
"We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies."
Japan's Foreign Ministry, New Zealand's climate change Minister Paula Bennett, Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, expressed their disapproval of disappointment in Trump, and reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris deal.

In the US, Climate Mayors, a network of 188 US mayors (up from 75 on May 27), have committed to adopt, honor and uphold the Paris climate agreement goals. 

Also known as Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, or MNCAA, the group represents over 54 million Americans in red and blue states. They are working locally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and supporting efforts for binding federal and global-level policy making.

MNCAA recently released an open letter to President Trump in protest of his anti-environment protection actions. To sign the statement, or for more information, email or visit
"As 180 US Mayors representing 51 million Americans, we will adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement. We will intensify efforts to meet each of our cities’ current climate goals, push for new action to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, and work together to create a 21st century clean energy economy.
We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice. And if the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks.
The world cannot waitand neither will we."

Bloomberg Philanthropies will pay $15 million to the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change (which coordinates the Paris Agreement), to cover the US share of the convention's operating budget.
"The pledge aims to fill a significant funding gap that comes as a result of President Donald Trump's announced withdrawal from the Paris agreement and proposed steep budget cuts for international programs, including on climate" .
The Mayor of Pittsburgh responded smartly to Trump tweeting that he was "elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris." 
Arnold Schwarzenegger's message to Donald Trump says it all.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A World in Disbelief as Trump Pulls US Out of Paris Accord

"A year and a half ago, the world came together in Paris around the first-ever global agreement to set the world on a low-carbon course and protect the world we leave to our children.
It was steady, principled American leadership on the world stage that made that achievement possible.  It was bold American ambition that encouraged dozens of other nations to set their sights higher as well... 
Simply put, the private sector already chose a low-carbon future.  And for the nations that committed themselves to that future, the Paris Agreement opened the floodgates for businesses, scientists, and engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation on an unprecedented scale.
The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created. I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack. But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this Administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got." Fmr President Barack Obama
On Thursday, after a week of indecision and keeping the world in suspense, and acting against the advice of 22 senators, Rex Tillerson, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Donald Trump breezed onto the lawn at the Rose Garden and announced that the US would pull out of the Paris Accord. Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and Scott Pruit had won the day. 

The world is used to hearing America described as the most sophisticated democracy in the world, the assumption being that true democracy is the best system for progress in society on every front. Barack Obama's election in 2008 seemed proof of it; it was miraculous that an African American could win the hearts of the majority of voters, in a country long characterized by racism and wealth of opportunity for one race group at the cost of all the others, but African Americans in particular.

That Obama pulled the US back from the brink and went on to achieve what he did for America and the world, despite rank opposition from Republicans, reinforced the idea that this democracy deserved the position of world leader.

There wasn't any doubt in the minds of the majority of people paying attention that President Obama deserved the role and did it proud. Under his Administration the focus of global affairs turned from the bully power of war to the transformative power of diplomacy. No doubt either that First Lady Michelle Obama transformed her role and became a world leader in her own right, championing education, health and children's rights within America and internationally.

This remarkable couple, whose lives and work were driven by a desire to see social equality in every realm, exemplified dignity. The White House was a transformed place. American democracy was safe in their hands. And it was something the world could and did respect.

But now, that same democracy has produced a president who is no better than a corrupted, severely intellectually challenged, if not mentally deranged, banana republic dictator.

Supported by infighting, back-stabbing liars, racists and bigots, (some of whom have zero qualifications for their positions of immense authority), who have no problem sacrificing the health of more than 20 million people, or pushing the world to the brink of potential nuclear confrontation with North Korea. They promote social inequality, bigotry and racism, and are very busy creating a culture of disinformation second only to Vladimir Putin's.

They supported a candidate who ran on exploiting fear, rage, white supremacy hatred and sheer ignorance. A man who had no qualifications to be anything, let alone a president, and who garnered votes by promising to roll back every progressive policy instituted by the Obama Administration. America may be the most sophisticated democratic system on the planet, but perhaps our idea of what that produces needs adjusting if elections can be swayed by foreign powers, if districts can be so gerrymandered that one party can't win, if information that voters rely on to make their decisions is in fact disinformation. 

Democracy is an imperfect system; it's better than pure socialism, but it's a work in progress. As the world gets more and more interconnected, the effects of national elections and the actions of political parties and leaders are felt by citizens of other countries. They can't vote, but they can act. They're mostly democratic countries.

The solution may not lie in democracy. International disbelief at the stupidity of America pulling out of the Paris Accord is matched by resolve to protect our planet at all costs. So China is stepping up, France and Germany are forging a stronger partnership, Europe is girding its loins, and within America, states, cities, counties, and corporations are forging ahead, investing in renewables and in globalization. Stronger together.

Those who are afraid, and who want to go back to a world where fossil fuels can be exploited and the consequences ignored, flex their bully muscles and exert control. But it's a death rattle, and in fact their ship has already sailed. The world is never going back to isolationism, or to using fossil fuels with reckless abandon.

And in reality, it will take years for the US pullout to be effected. In that time, Donald Trump will be gone, and Republicans will be out of power. Damage done will be undone. One step back, two steps forward.

The most sophisticated democracy in the world will have averted its own catastrophic disaster. Whether it will still be world leader is questionable.

If America recedes from the world stage for a while because of the stupidity of a president the majority didn't vote for and are now struggling to get rid of, perhaps it will be a good thing. It will give the country time to get its own house in order. Barack Obama is just getting into his stride, free now from the shackles of the presidency. Hillary Clinton has also come out of the woods. Rep. Adam Schiff is doing a sterling job on the Russia investigation. And the Democratic Party has never been so unified and so focused.

This is not the end of the world.