Aug 292017
 

When I read this article from AlterNet, my mind immediately went back to Iraq.  With Trump saying “We are not nation-building again.  …”, what I heard was one nation, the US, justifying the rape and pillaging of another, Afghanistan. 

From AlterNet

The upsurge of the Taliban has nothing to do with the presence of ISIS in Afghanistan. It does, however, have a great deal to do with the entry of al-Qaeda fighters of various stripes from Pakistan into its ranks. But even al-Qaeda is not central to the Taliban’s surge.

That surge can only be explained by the slow desiccation of the Afghan government in Kabul. Despite billions of dollars of aid, Afghanistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world (31%) and half of Afghanistan’s children are stunted with a third of the population suffering from food insecurity.

The collapse of humane aspirations for the Afghan people certainly fuels the insurgency and the violence, making it harder to build state and social institutions to tackle these key problems, which once more fuels the war. This cycle of chaos could only be ended if regional powers agreed to freeze their interventions in Afghanistan and if the Afghan state would be able to robustly build up the infrastructure to feed and educate its citizens.

Trump’s comment that he is against ‘nation-building’ shows how little he understands war, for the only antidote to this endless American war in Afghanistan is for the people to reconcile around a believable mandate for human development rather than violence and corruption. No such agenda is on the table.

Late in July, before Trump made his recent announcement, one of Afghanistan’s most hardened leaders, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, held a press conference in his home in Kabul. Hekmatyar, who was a key CIA and Pakistani ally in the 1970s and ’80s, said that ‘neither the Afghan government nor foreign troops can win the war. This war has no winner.’ This is remarkable coming from Hekmatyar, who was known as the ‘Butcher of Kabul’ for his role in the siege of that city after the Soviet troops left Afghanistan (more Afghans died in that civil war than in the mujahedeen’s war against the communist government and their Soviet ally). He has called for negotiations between the Kabul government and the Taliban.

U.S. General Nicholson painted the Taliban as ‘a criminal organization, more interested in profits from drugs, kidnapping, murder for hire,’ but nonetheless called upon them to join a peace process. It is clear that whatever the U.S. thinks of the Taliban, they have positioned themselves to be a major political force in Afghanistan in the near future. This is why Nicholson and Trump have begun to distinguish between the Taliban (which should be in a peace process) and ISIS/al-Qaeda (which have to be destroyed). That al-Qaeda is now a key ally of the Taliban should sully this simplistic thinking. But it has not.

Negotiations seem far off in Afghanistan. The Taliban is well positioned to increase its bargaining power as its legions expand across the country. Surrendered Taliban leader Zangal Pacha (Amir Khan) recently left the fight in Nangarhar province with six fighters. He said that a foreign intelligence service—most likely that of Pakistan—has been egging the Taliban onwards to take more territory. Attacks on tribal elders and public welfare projects are being urged, largely to squeeze Kabul’s hold on the provinces and to strengthen the Taliban’s claim to being the natural rulers of Afghanistan. Pakistan has long wanted a friendly government in Kabul and it has seen the Taliban as its instrument. Whether the U.S. will once more turn a blind eye to al-Qaeda’s role in the Taliban is to be seen. History does repeat itself, particularly when it comes to geopolitical hypocrisy.

Rachel covered it in two segments.  In the first, she explains what she thinks Trump means and who is tasked with investigating the opportunity and bringing it to fruition.

In the second, she speaks with the former Special Representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan about Trump’s initiative.

When I first read this article, my thoughts went back to Iraq and the 2003 invasion by the US and the UK and allies, Australia and Poland.  Wikipedia describes the rationale for the invasion as follows:

“According to U.S. President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, the coalition mission was “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.””

However, in the years since, it has been generally acknowledged that oil was the goal.  Some of the first heavy fighting was around Basra in the south east by Kuwait and the Persian Gulf, an area rich in oil.  In his 2003 book, General Wesley Clark described talking to a senior military officer:

“As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.”” 

So when I hear Trump saying that the US is not into nation building, and saying that it will mine the mineral resources, particularly lanthanum, to pay for the war, it is déjà vu!

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Aug 292017
 

TC is off recovering from yesterday’s successful cataract surgery and should be back tomorrow so you are stuck with this “Crazy Canuck” for today.  BTW, “The Crazy Canucks was a group of World Cup alpine ski racers from Canada who rose to prominence in the 1970s and ’80s. … reputation for fast and seemingly reckless skiing in the downhill event.”  Well I don’t ski but with the heat, I wish I did so that I could find a nice little patch of alpine in which to cool off.  It has been a very hot day in Metro Vancouver with temperatures at 33 C (91 F) in my area away from the water.  Certainly my furbabes are feeling the heat of the past few days and will be happy with cooler temperatures and rain later in the week.  And before I forget, a big shout out to Wendy for looking after our Puddy Tat so well.  Thanks Wendy!!

Short Takes

The Last Word — Bill Moyers: Instead Of A ‘Soul,’ Donald Trump Has An ‘Open Sore’

Moyers commented that the Confederacy lost the Civil War, yet statues were still erected to honour losing generals like Robert E Lee.  Where else do the losers become idolised?  The Civil War and its generals, both Union and Confederate, are part of US history.  The statues do not belong in parks as Trump proclaimed, but they do belong in museums.

Business Insider — Just 10 days before Hurricane Harvey descended upon Texas on Friday, wreaking havoc and submerging hundreds of miles of land under water, President Donald Trump signed an executive order revoking a set of regulations that would have made federally-funded infrastructure less vulnerable to flooding.

The Obama-era rules, which had not yet gone into effect, would have required the federal government to take into account the risk of flooding and sea-level rise as a result of climate change when constructing new infrastructure and rebuilding after disasters.

Experts are predicting Harvey — the most powerful storm to hit the US since 2004 — will cost Texas between $30 billion and $100 billion in damage.

And in the coming days, Congress will be called upon to send billions of federal dollars to help with the state’s recovery and rebuilding efforts.

But because of Trump’s rollback of Obama’s Federal Flood Risk Management Standards, experts across the political spectrum say much of the federal money sent to Texas will likely be wasted on construction that will be insufficiently protected from the next storm.

Have a look at the video from the Washington Post  which shows some of the flooding in Texas.  This madman, Trump, obsessed with undoing anything involving Barack Obama, made the US less safe when he “signed an executive order revoking a set of regulations that would have made federally-funded infrastructure less vulnerable to flooding.”  Not only that, this pResident who represents the Republican party, a party of supposed fiscal conservatives, is setting up the nation for higher costs down the road. (no pun intended) 

Politico — Coastal state Republicans are bucking members of their own party and teaming up with Democrats as lawmakers struggle to salvage an agreement to keep the National Flood Insurance Program alive.

Dozens of Republicans from New York to Mississippi have fought proposals by the House Financial Services Committee that they say would make flood insurance unaffordable. A member of the House leadership, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, is among those uneasy with the panel’s plans. And in the Senate, Republicans are joining with Democrats to find a deal before the program lapses at the end of next month.  …

At issue is the future of a government backstop that protects millions of Americans from the financial risks of flooding, but at a steep cost: The program has racked up almost $25 billion in debt. Its survival is a concern that is being grimly highlighted this weekend as the remnants of Hurricane Harvey inundate Texas.

Factions of lawmakers are at odds over how to boost the insurance program’s bottom line. A key source of tension is to what extent homeowners should pay higher rates to put the service on stronger financial footing.
The political tug-of-war is spilling into the open as lawmakers spend time at home during the congressional recess. In Louisiana, where policyholders have received more than $19 billion in payments from the program since 1978, members of the state’s delegation are conveying the message that they’re unified and fighting to rescue it.  …

“It’s not just Louisiana,” he [Sen John Kennedy, R-LA]  said. “If you get 20 inches of rain in three days, you’re going to flood. I don’t care if you’re on Pikes Peak. You’re going to flood, and that can happen in any state, in any community, at any time, and I think most of the senators are starting to understand that.”

Click through for the rest of this article which is very appropriate now that Texas is feeling the full fury of Hurricane Harvey.  When I think back over the years to Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, Super Storm Sandy, and now Hurricane Harvey, there is no doubt that the NFIP is needed.  And as climate change raises its ugly head more and more, it is important that communities, states and the federal government make additional regulations and act to protect people.

Haaretz — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two cases, Israel Police confirmed on Thursday when it requested a gag order on the ongoing talks to recruit a state witness. The gag order was granted and is effective until September 17.

A response on behalf of the prime minister stated on Thursday: “We completely reject the unfounded claims made against the prime minister. The campaign to change the government is underway, but it is destined to fail, for a simple reason: there won’t be anything because there was nothing.”

UPDATE: Former Netanyhau aide Ari Harow reaches deal to become state’s witness.  This investigation, which is about 6 months old, is certainly not over but it spells aggravation for Bibi.  It will be interesting to see if it colours Israel’s relationship with the US. 

My Universe — Kitty yoga!

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Aug 252017
 

Another day, another dollar . . . or in the case of Canada, another 80 cents!  We were to have rain yesterday and last night but it passed over my area.  The US gulf coast won’t be so lucky as hurricane Harvey looks like it will bring storm surges and flooding to parts of Texas and other gulf states.  Please be safe all of you in those areas!  And tomorrow, my little girl will turn 9 years old so we will be having a celebration of fresh roasted chicken breast which is a real favourite with the furbabes!

Short Takes

CBC — It’s taken more than 150 years to erect a monument honouring the 40,000 Canadians who fought in the American Civil War, and Rob McLachlan is hoping next month’s unveiling near Cornwall, Ont., won’t be delayed by the controversies swirling around memorials to the Confederacy south of the border.

The founder of the Grays and Blues of Montreal, a Civil War re-enactment group, doesn’t think the Sept. 16 unveiling will be controversial. After all, some 90 per cent of Canadians who fought in the Civil War served with Abraham Lincoln’s Union forces.

“It’s not propagating Robert E. Lee or the Confederacy or what have you,” McLachlan told CBC News.

“It’s propagating the fact Canadians were involved, and the majority were in the North. It just recognizes that historical fact.”

Of those estimated 40,000 Canadians who fought south of the border, around 4,000 Canadians fought for the Southern Confederacy.

Prior to the recent deadly clash between far right protesters and anti-racist activists in Charlottesville, Va., over a   Canada has a statue dedicated to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, the only media paying attention to their monument on the grounds of the Lost Villages Museum in Long Sault, Ont., was the Cornwall newspaper.

I had no idea that Canadians had fought in the American Civil War, mostly for the Union side.  The terminus of the underground railway, spiriting slaves and others from the South, also was in eastern Canada.  During the American Revolution, the United Empire Loyalists fled the US and headed up to Canada.  Canada has a very long association with the US, including the War of 1812 when the British (Canada) beat the Americans.

Huffington Post — A science envoy for the Department of State sent a resignation letter to President Donald Trump on Wednesday with a not-so-subtle secret message: “IMPEACH.”

Daniel Kammen, a professor of energy at the University of California, Berkeley, told Trump in a letter dated Wednesday that his decision to quit his State Department post is “in response to your attacks on core values of the United States.” As one example, he cited Trump’s reaction to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, calling the response “consistent with a broader pattern of behavior that enables sexism and racism.”

But it’s Kammen’s acrostic — the first letter of each paragraph spelling out a word — that sends a blunter message to Trump: IMPEACH.

A number of higher profile people have or are in the process of leaving various positions in the US federal government in protest over Trump policies.  This letter is from Prof Daniel Kammen and the first letter of each paragraph spells out “IMPEACH”.  There is a similar acrostic in a resignation letter from the Arts and Humanities Advisory Council which spells out “Resist”.  You can see that letter at the link.  And in true Drumpf style, after the entire committee resigned, Drumpf dissolved the committee which had already ceased to exist.  Drumpf always seems to want the last word.  The last word I want Drumpf to utter is “I quit!”

Robert Reich — If you voted for Donald Trump, I get it. Maybe you feel you’ve been so badly shafted by the system that you didn’t want to go back to politics as usual, and Trump seemed like he’d topple that corrupt system.

You voted to change our country’s power base – to get rid of crony capitalism and give our government back to the people who are working, paying taxes, and spending more just to survive. Lots of Americans agree with you.

But now, the president is turning his back on that idea and the many changes he promised.

He did not drain the swamp. After telling voters how he would take control away from special interests, he has surrounded himself with the very Wall Street players he decried. Now, those who gamed politicians for tax loopholes and laws that reward the rich don’t even have to sneak around with backroom deals.

An excellent piece that even a Drumpf supporter should be able to understand.

CBC — Rain lashed down at a solemn ceremony in Ottawa today to mark the 75th anniversary of one of Canada’s bloodiest battles of the Second World War.

Shielding himself with an umbrella, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid tribute to those who fought and died with “grit and valour” in the Dieppe raid and to the parents, siblings, spouses and children who were left heartbroken.

Of the 5,000 Canadians who landed at Dieppe on Aug. 19, 1942, 907 were killed, 586 wounded and almost 2,000 were taken prisoner.

Trudeau said at that time, boys were forced to quickly become men — men of “tremendous bravery and fortitude, dedicated to country.”

“We often learn more about ourselves in our losses than our victories. We grow, we persevere, we learn hard truths,” Trudeau said. “The Dieppe raid was a devastating engagement for Canadian troops, and their loved ones back home. But, ultimately, our soldiers learned lessons that would help secure their victory two years later on the beaches of Normandy.

“For those lessons, we look back on the Dieppe raid with unshakable pride.”  …

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If you click on the “full screen” icon in the lower right corner of the video after you have started it, you will get the full picture.  CBC videos seem to split when they are embedded. 

“As we stand here 75 years later with this duty and this act of remembrance, it is all too fitting. Today and every day, we recommit ourselves to the pursuit of peace and justice for all. Today and all days, we remember.”

The battle at Dieppe is often overlooked, being outshone by D Day in June 1944.  In truth, Dieppe was a precursor to D Day, a failed attempt to free Europe from Nazi control, and from which much was learned.  Thank you for your service hardly seems adequate for those who were killed, wounded or captured.

My Universe —  I know, I know!  It’s a dawg!  The dawg’s name is Rudy and he just loves going to school!

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And now for cat lovers . . . my kind of people!

 

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Aug 202017
 

Today has been one of those days.  I did something I have never done before — I slept in until 1450 hours!  My furbabes did not even wake me up even though they were hungry!  Within 40 minutes, I showered, dressed, fed the babes and was half way to the bakery to pick up some bread before going to my favourite eatery to say goodbye to one of the hostesses who was leaving.  She is a wonderful young lady who will be finishing high school this coming year (Bye Andy) and says she will be checking into the blog.  Fortunately our temperatures have moderated here in Metro Vancouver so it has been quite pleasant this past week.  Nights have been quite cool so I think that autumn is truly on the way.

Short Takes

The Independent Iceland is close to becoming the first country where no-one gives birth to a child with Down’s syndrome.

Pre-natal tests were introduced in the early 2000s, and the vast majority who receive a positive test have terminated their pregnancy.

While the tests are optional, all expectant mothers are informed about their availability, and up to 85 per cent choose to take it.

It’s called the Combination Test, and uses ultrasound and blood tests – as well as factoring in the mother’s age.
This determines whether the foetus will have a chromosome abnormality, the most common of which results in Down’s syndrome.

The law in Iceland allows for abortion after 16 weeks if the foetus has a deformity, and Down’s syndrome is included in this category.

There is another video at the beginning of the article which I would recommend watching only after reading the article and watching the above video.  It is from Faux Noise (need I say more?) and is an interview with Tony Perkins (now I know I need not say more!).  To be clear, Iceland does not have a cure for downs syndrome, a genetic condition.  What they do have is a different way of looking at abortion than in the US.  As the Icelandic counsellor said: 

“We ended a possible life that may have had a huge complication… preventing suffering for the child and for the family. And I think that is more right than seeing it as a murder — that’s so black and white.”

“Life isn’t black and white. Life is grey.”

Personally, I am closer to the Icelandic view than the American view.  I believe it is up to each woman to decide what is right for her, and make that decision in consultation with her partner and her doctor. 

CBC — Around 4,000 people showed up at Vancouver City Hall to protest against a far-right rally on Saturday afternoon.

Tensions rose briefly as protesters from opposing sides began yelling at each other, but Vancouver police quickly escorted several far-right demonstrators away from the crowd. One protester was in handcuffs.  …

                                   Thousands showed up to protest an anti-Islam rally planned for Saturday afternoon at Vancouver City Hall. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Plans for the far-right demonstration began circulating on social media earlier in the week, not long after a deadly white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Va.

According to a Facebook page for the event, the rally is protesting Islam and the Canadian government’s immigration policies. The page is no longer live, but the demonstration was expected to begin around 2 p.m. PT.

By 3 p.m., a handful of far-right protesters appeared to have gathered. They held confederate flags and the “alt-right” symbols for Pepe and Kekistan. One wore a shirt in support of U.S. President Donald Trump.  …

Rowe-Codner said the coalition saw some pushback about the rally earlier in the week, and not just from the far-right.
“A lot of people [who lean left and central] are saying, maybe if you ignore this situation they’ll go away … But there are a lot of people and communities out there that face white supremacy and who can’t ignore it,” she said.

Ignoring the problem is the same as silence.  Silence is consent and THAT is just plain unacceptable!  I was very happy to see the numbers in attendance.  I had wanted to go but had another commitment.  Quite clearly, Charlottesville is having its effects felt far and wide.  It encourages me to see more people coming out in support of diversity than those showing up in support of a closed society.

AlterNet —  Felix Sater, one of Donald Trump’s shadiest former business partners, is reportedly preparing for prison time — and he says the president will be joining him behind bars.

Sources told The Spectator‘s Paul Wood that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s deep dive into Trump’s business practices may be yielding results.

Trump recently made remarks that could point to a money laundering scheme, Wood reported.

Sater, who has a long history of legal troubles and cooperating with law enforcement, was one of the major players responsible to for selling Trump’s condos to the Russians.

And according to Wood’s sources, Sater may have already flipped and given prosecutors the evidence they need to make a case against Trump.

For several weeks there have been rumours that Sater is ready to rat again, agreeing to help Mueller. ‘He has told family and friends he knows he and POTUS are going to prison,’ someone talking to Mueller’s investigators informed me.

Sater hinted in an interview earlier this month that he may cooperating with both Mueller’s investigation and congressional probes of Trump.

Read through to get an idea of a possible timeline.  If Sater’s timeline is correct, there could be a change in the leadership in the US before too long.  Of course, due process must playout.

CBC — Thousands of people took to the streets of Boston on Saturday to protest hate speech a week after a woman was killed at a Virginia white-supremacist demonstration, and their shouts drowned out the “Free Speech” rally that sparked the counter-protest.

Organizers of the rally had invited several far-right speakers, who were confined to a small pen that police set up in the historic Boston Common park to keep the two sides separate.

Police estimate that as many as 40,000 people packed into the streets around Boston Common.  …

On Saturday, Trump on Twitter praised the Boston protesters.
“I want to applaud the many protestors in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate. Our country will soon come together as one!” Trump tweeted.

Boston was peaceful this weekend as a “free speech” rally mostly fizzled from poor planning, and a larger, louder counter protest in support of diversity.  Charlottesville this was not, thankfully!  However Trump’s response was in direct contrast to his response to the Charlottesville riot.  Where he talked in support of white nationalists in Charlottesville, he applauded those that spoke out against bigotry and hate in Boston.  He is at odds with himself but I am inclined to believe that his response to Charlottesville is his true nature.

CBC — Meike Muzzi is not dressed for travel.

Hospital bracelets in all three primary colours encircle her wrinkled right forearm, a gold bangle on the left.

But she says she’s ready for today’s trip — the promise of an escape from the Toronto palliative care ward in which she’s spent the past five weeks waiting to die.

David Parker is there to fulfil that promise with the help of his virtual reality goggles.

“What you’ve brought me so far has been beautiful,” Muzzi says, settling the soft black material of the goggles into the creases around her eyes.

The pair has already travelled together through the plains of Africa. And Muzzi reminds her guest that she would have liked to linger longer with the elephants.

Parker already knows this.

He listens to her stories, interviewing Muzzi and all the patients he visits at Bridgepoint Health in Riverdale, so he can store the information away and use it to help them revisit the moments of particular meaning in their lives.

Parker’s idea to offer virtual reality therapy began at Christmas.

The IT consultant received the headset as a gift. He first used them to take his wife’s grandmother to Venice, gliding through the canals on a gondola. Then he realized he could offer the same experience to those in hospice or having long-term hospital stays.

That idea has bloomed into both a pilot project at Bridgepoint and a passion project for Parker. Right now he donates his time and the equipment, but says that — even though he runs a creative agency — he can see this becoming his life’s work.

One of the things that I learned while I looked after my mother was that quality of life is most important.  Quantity means nothing if there is no quality.  And what makes quality often depends on the person and their situation.  For my mother, it was sitting quietly as I brush her hair for hours.  For Muzzi, it is travelling and seeing things that gave her joy.  Click through for the rest of the story and watch the short video of what Muzzi was viewing.  Unfortunately, I could not embed the video properly so that you could see it all.

My Universe

 

 

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Aug 152017
 

Well finally we have some tolerable weather here in Metro Vancouver.  It is currently 22 C (72 F) with 53% humidity, bright sunshine and winds at 9 km/hour.  This is good and the furbabes are loving it too!  This is a busy week for me with lots of paperwork and appointments.  At the end of next week, my little girl will have her 9th birthday.  I plan for a fresh roasted chick breast for the 3 of them to share.  I will be more popular than ever!

CBC — U.S. President Donald Trump is lashing out at the growing number of corporate executives who are distancing themselves from his administration after his response to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that led to the death of one counter-protester last weekend.

A day after a number of high-profile CEOs started to resign from his business advisory council, the U.S. president lashed out.

“For every CEO that drops out of the manufacturing council, I have many to take their place. Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!”

 

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier’s

Brian Krzanich, Intel CEO,  Kenneth Frazier, Merck CEO, Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, and Kevin Plank, CEO Under Armour

Tesla CEO Elon Musk resigned from the manufacturing council in June, and two other advisory groups to the president, after the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. And in February, Uber’s then-CEO Travis Kalanick left the president’s side over his executive order curtailing immigration. Kalanick said the order was “hurting people in communities all across America.”

Walt Disney Co. Chairman and CEO Bob Iger resigned for the same reason from the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum, which Trump established to advise him on how government policy impacts economic growth and job creation.

Click through and listen to the video with Ed Rensi, the former CEO of McDonald’s USA.  He has some direct and sound advice for Trump and it is well worth the eight minutes.  We may not all agree with everything these executives do in their businesses, but they all are taking principled stands and no doubt there will be more.  As for Trump, Rensi said “It was childish, unprofessional and below the dignity of the guy holding that office. … shame on him …”  And on politics, he went on to say “In my opinion today, there is a ruling, imperial elite.  They make rules to keep themselves entrenched in government and now they’re going to pay the price because they have a president who is a wild card now.”  

AlterNet — Go home; leave the state; you’re not welcome.

That was Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s message to white supremacists who came to Charlottesville to show America that white rage is real and is coming out of the shadows.

But wait a second. Where are these domestic terrorists supposed to go back to? One of the first four people arrested was from Virginia. The others were from Ohio, Florida and Tennessee. Each of these states has been dominated by white Republicans this decade, who have methodically implemented racist election laws that gave them majority rule in state legislatures and their U.S. House delegations.

Election data geeks have looked at the results of 2016 and found it was one of the most anti-democratic elections in a century. As David Wasserman, U.S. House editor for the Cook Political Report, recently wrote, “In 2016, Trump lost the national popular vote by 2.1 percentage points, but Republicans won the median House seat by 3.4 points and median Senate seat by 3.6 points—that’s the widest Senate gap in at least a century.”  …

The white mobs rampaging in Charlottesville may want more privilege, segregation and wealth, but whether they know it or not—most probably they don’t—their Republican allies have been rewriting the rules of politics and elections to favor them for years.

Really, I don’t think that this will surprise anyone here.  Progressives need to get in at the ground floor and sweep it clean.  That means progressives from dog catcher on up; repealing discriminatory voting regulations, and redrawing voting districts so that they are fair.  No gerrymandered districts that slant the vote.  If the US wants to continue to be “the land of the free” then it must ensure that all its citizens can vote without undue restrictions like onerous voter ID.

YouTube — Stephen Colbert’s Monologue — Trump denounces white supremacists

I don’t think I have ever seen Colbert quite so serious.  Although there are a few lighter moments, clearly Trump has angered many, many people.  It is always a clear sign of anger when even comedians and political comics can’t make light.  Please do not misunderstand me, Trump’s behaviour over the past week is deplorable and well beneath the dignity of the office he inhabits.

 John Oliver — Charlottesville

I won’t repeat myself.  What I said about Colbert’s monologue applies to John Oliver’s piece.

Maclean’s — The escalation of tensions between the United States and North Korea over the past two weeks have left many quite anxious, including those of us in Canada. President Donald Trump’s “fire and fury” warning to Pyongyang, in particular, epitomized how quickly tensions could escalate in a matter of hours. It had an eerie doomsday-like tone commonly found in the propaganda materials of Pyongyang, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary James Mattis rushed to downplay the severity of Trump’s message. Some began to wonder: Will Canada be within the target range of the ICBMs? If the United States was attacked, would Canada be called upon to help as a NATO member?

And of course, there has been an exchange of hostile rhetoric between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, sparked by North Korea’s second test launch of Hwasong-14 on Jul. 28, its most potent Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) developed to date. In a rare moment of unity, the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution on Aug. 5 to impose toughest-ever sanctions on North Korea. In return, Pyongyang promised to retaliate by a “thousand fold.” Trump and Kim then traded threats over nuclear warheads, a potential attack in Guam, and even a pre-emptive strike by the United States. Just earlier on Monday, South Korea’s recently installed president Moon Jae-In told Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, that “our top priority is the national interest … and our national interest lies in peace.”

As a Pacific nation, Canada also has an interest in peace on the Korean peninsula. Canada’s free trade agreement with South Korea, which came into force in 2015, is our first in the Asia-Pacific region. South Korea is Canada’s seventh-largest trading partner, and the two-way trade is valued at more than $12 billion. More than a million people travel between Canada and South Korea every year. We have an active and thriving community of Korean-Canadians across Canada. What happens on the Korean peninsula matters to Canadians, and there is a role that Canada can play to alleviate tensions: Canadian diplomatic work in Seoul, Pyongyang, Washington, Moscow, and Tokyo would give genuine substance to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s proclamation in 2015 that “Canada is back.”

It’s clear that other voices beyond America are needed. Part of what has made the latest crisis so confusing was the lack of any coherent American policy on North Korea, aside from Trump’s tweets. Those mixed signals from Washington, however, reflect a broader underlying problem which began long before the Trump era: the United States has failed in devising a consistent policy for dealing with North Korea, a failure that only gave the Kim regime more time to improve its military capabilities.  …

Having a constructive and independent Canadian foreign policy means standing up for our values and using our resources to fight for what’s right. Louis St. Laurent did it with NATO and Canada in Europe; Lester B. Pearson did it on Suez; John Diefenbaker did it on South Africa; Brian Mulroney did it on free trade and the “Open Skies” initiative; Paul Martin did it on the establishment of the G20.

Click through for the rest of the article.  One of the things that I am very proud of as a Canadian is Canada’s oft repeated role of peacekeeper.  We would rather use diplomatic channels first.  When the US invaded Iraq, PM Jean Chrétien declined to join the fight because the evidence of WMD just wasn’t there.  The UK joined the fight however.  In Afghanistan, Canada sent troops in but certainly towards the end of our involvement, Canadians were building roads, schools and helping with local housing.  Having spoken with Afghani acquaintances that now live in Canada, they confirmed that they very much appreciated what the Canadians did for and in partnership with them.  But while that is our preferred method of contribution, we can fight as well.  During WWI, Canadian troops proved their mettle at the second Battle of Ypres and then again at Passchendaele (third Battle of Ypres) but at a high cost.  During WWII, we were at Dunkirk among other places.  We served in Korea 1950-53, but we refused to go to war in Vietnam.  We were in Cyprus as peacekeepers and again in Rwanda as part of the UN peacekeeping mission.  While Australian PM Turnbull has said that Australia will go to war against North Korea if the US declares war,  I hope Canada will take up her traditional diplomatic role before that happens.  However, with a loose cannon like Trump in the US and Kim Jong-un in the Hermit Kingdom, who knows.

My Universe — Every time I sneeze or blow my nose, my three furbabes run away fast and furiously!  Seems the sound is distressing to them but it usually helps me!

 

 

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Aug 152017
 

We have not heard a lot about Robert Mueller’s investigation into “Russia-gate” or whatever one chooses to call Trump and the Trump campaign’s association with Russia in the past few days.  Trump’s response, or better put, a lack of appropriate response, to the Charlottesville tragedy has taken over.  Is his “response” to the Charlottesville tragedy meant as a distraction from Mueller’s investigation?

AlterNet — MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow spent the opening of her Friday show doing a deep dive into the “extraordinary flim-flammery” of President Donald Trump’s past financial dealings.

As it turns out, the president once short-changed New York City to the tune of $2.8 million in a deal designed to avoid paying upwards of $150 million in property taxes.

Rachel Maddow presents a very interesting backstory as to a very possible motivation for why Trump did not want to release his tax returns like previous presidential candidates have done.

The second video explores the issue with journalist David Cay Johnston founder of DCReports.org .

I think both Rachel and David Cay Johnston make a very good argument as to why Trump does not want his financial records available for scrutiny by Mueller or anyone else for that matter.  And what about Trump’s ability to pardon himself or anyone else involved in criminal dealings with Russia or Russians?  The US Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 states in part (Wikipedia) “…  and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”  So Trump could pardon his kids or anyone else if they are convicted of a crime but he could not pardon himself if he is impeached.  However, were he to be impeached, he would be succeeded by VP Pence who likely would pardon him.  This is what happened with Richard Nixon . . . Gerald Ford, who succeeded Nixon as president, pardoned Nixon on 08 September 1974.  What are your thoughts? 

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