Thursday, September 14, 2017

Late Son Andrew’s Birthday, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Burma, North Korean Threat, DACA, Trump (inevitably), Hillary Clinton, Democratic Party, Gun Violence

This year, Labor Day fell on September 4, my late son Andrew’s birthday—this would have been his 50th birthday. Daughter Melanie joined me for that day’s observance, preparing a dinner we dubbed “Thanksgiving in September,” consisting of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, asparagus, cabbage, and with banana cream pudding for dessert. All that was missing was the cranberry sauce!

While hurricanes are assaulting the eastern part of the country, out west, forest fires are raging. Alas, the beautiful falls in the Columbia River Gorge that we visited in Oregon in late June has been devastated by a fire that has charred the surrounding hills. Here below were Multnomah Falls when saw them in late June.

No one in the US is paying much attention to floods ravaging several parts of Asia, more results from global warming. Mr. Trump is probably more worried about possible damage to Mar-a-Lago where he may well ask for (and grant himself) federal aid.

Good news, Peace Corps budget has not been cut as was proposed.

Reminder since the government website isn’t doing it any more, that open enrollment for Obamacare is Nov. 1-Dec. 15. 

 On his second visit to Texas, Donald Trump and Melania (still arriving wearing designer clothes and stilettos) served food to Houston storm victims for a photo op, just like Barack Obama and Michelle used to do in disasters, thus appearing more typically presidential. Trump even hugged a child. From Melania’s facial expressions, it seems she is not enjoying this part of her “job,” just as she seems not to be liking her position overall, not that Michelle particularly liked it either, but she made the best of it and found a niche for herself. Michelle often visited DC public schools to talk nutrition to the delight of some kids whom I know. Trump made a point in Houston of saying, as he donned plastic gloves, that he has big hands, a sore point for him during the presidential debates, when Marco Rubio implied that some other body part might be smaller than average. A website put up an actual outline of one of Trump’s hands measured from when he planted a handprint in cement somewhere), which, indeed, showed his short, stubby fingers. Putting my hand up against the template, I found that my own fingers are both longer and more slender, although my hands are not particularly large or long. Trump’s hands are indeed small for his gender and body size and his fingers are plump, like the rest of him.

Now with Hurricane Irma (and then Hurricane Jose) following on the heels of Harvey, is there no climate change? Just a series of amazing coincidences or maybe Mother Nature or the Almighty sending us a message on the burning of fossil fuels? No, say some evangelical leaders, it’s divine retribution for gay marriage. However, might the devastation of Irma result in an extension of TPS for Haitians? Logical idea. Struggling Haiti has suffered another enormous blow with this hurricane. Might Trump reverse the Haiti expulsion? Florida residents asked him to open Mar-a-Lago as a refuge (not likely, but it would be a PR win if he did).

My granddaughter Natasha and great-grandson De'Andre recently moved to Clearwater, Florida, where they survived Hurricane Irma fairly unscathed. Here above (right) \ is Natasha helping the city make preparations and after she had boarded up their home.

Above, my nephew Jim and his family drove north to the DC area from Del Ray, Florida, with their dog, sharing colorful meal cooked by their aunt in Takoma, Md. 
There may be a fine line between appeasement and principled engagement. In my Confessions book, I repeat arguments made to me by high-ranking Catholic prelates, including (recently retired) Cardinal Jaime Rodriguez, about the tightrope they were walking and the need to gain the trust of Communist Party officials to open a small measure of space while also attempting to moderate the party’s positions. Many Cuban expatriates and dissidents have labeled the church “complicit” as a result.

Likewise, now many democracy advocates have expressed shock and disappointment in Nobel Laureate Aung San Si Kyi’s apparent cooperation with the Burmese military’s mistreatment of Rohingya Muslims. I don’t know, but she may be doing her best. Objecting more openly might put her back into house arrest where she would have no influence at all. It’s a difficult calculation.

Trump has appointed some terrible people who have done real damage, but, so far, because of his ineptness, his administration hasn’t done as much damage as he might have, given a Republican Congress, so maybe that’s blessing in disguise. And Trump’s deals   with Democratic leaders are a welcome surprise, though it not something to be counted on, as the man likes to be unpredictable and to double-cross both supporters and foes. He is unreliable and untrustworthy in the extreme. Where does he stand? What’s his position on anything, except what gains him approval, fame, and money?

But the standoff of a guy like Trump with North Korea is really scary.
Now with North Korea ratcheting up its threats, what does Kim Jong Un actually want? Money, recognition, being treated as a normal leader from a normal country, or maybe as a world hero? He may just want to flex his muscles and engender fear. He certainly does not like seeing any defensive military action to protect South Korea. Apparently, he’s not interested in talks right now. If a missile deployed bomb should reach Washington, DC, I’m a goner, because my house is so close the capitol.

Ending DACA was an uncomfortable announcement that Trump avoided by outsourcing it to a very eager Jeff Sessions, probably because Trump didn’t want to be associated with ending DACA himself. After all, two of his three wives have been immigrants. He still wanted to appeal to his base without further alienating the majority of Americans who do support DACA and do not support him. It’s hard to take away a benefit already being granted, as Trump found out with the effort to repeal the ACA.

Sessions’ holier-than-thou speech and his references to “illegal aliens” and an “unconstitutional” power grab were calculated to grate as much as possible on the vast majority of Americans who actually support DACA. Sessions has long opposed DACA, so it must have given him satisfaction to deliver that message, a very mealy-mouthed, weasely statement, almost schoolmarmish and scolding in tone as he looked out over his tiny glasses. Because of his long history of racism, Sessions is even more reprehensible than Trump, who, however, bears ultimate responsibility for appointing him, even if done under Bannon’s influence. This administration is going out of its way to be mean and nasty to so many ordinary people. I could not feel sorry for Sessions when Trump was bad-mouthing him. Now, it’s time for the Republican Congress to stand up and be counted on DACA and let’s see how enthusiastically Sessions implements a new fully constitutional DACA, if he is still around if and when that happens. Republican icon Ronald Reagan supported a limited immigration “fix,” which did not hurt his reputation among conservatives or in the light of history. Nor should Democrats agree to fund Trump’s ridiculous, costly “fortress America” border wall in exchange for DACA. (Maybe, in exchange for a major concession, then only a very short, token section of a wall where Trump can pose for photo ops.)

Knee-jerk opposition by the Republican Congress to almost any Obama proposal on immigration led him to create DACA by executive action. Now, with a (nominally) Republican president, maybe Congress can agree to approve such a program. As I said in my Confessions book,

After my Honduran sojourn and starting Spanish interpretation work, I became an even stronger immigration reform advocate, although the very term “amnesty” as applied to undocumented immigrants has become invested with pejorative connotations, even though Republican icon Ronald Reagan practically invented the concept. Opponents of immigration reform are quick to label undocumented people “illegals,” as if legal status were an immutable condition rather than a creature of legislative will. After all, immigration laws are not the Ten Commandments handed down from on high! Heaven help tea-partiers and other bigots and hypocrites when they get old and gray and need immigrants to care for them. Let’s face it, we white-bread Americans aren’t producing enough offspring to replace ourselves or to support and tend us in old age. Neighboring Canada, in contrast, realizes the economic and social benefits of being immigrant-friendly.

Likewise, a bipartisan “fix” to healthcare is possible. If Hillary had been president, any tweaking of DACA or the ACA would have met the Republican Congress’s implacable opposition, just as Obama experienced. Now Republicans are confused. Whom are they opposing, the Democrats or Trump?

Whether due to Trump’s accidental assumption of the presidency (I hesitate to say that he was actually “elected”), previous Obama policies, or because of just plain good luck and current business expectations, at least so far, the stock market has rallied under Trump, so that’s a plus for his presidency. But the market did fall after the DACA announcement.

While Trump might not be able to pardon himself if he is impeached, Mike Pence, as president, could and no doubt would pardon Trump, just as Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon. Pence, being a more traditional politician and a solidly right-of-center Republican, might be harder to oppose than the erratic and unpredictable Trump, so we must not push impeachment too hard, at least not before some Republicans are defeated in the mid-term elections. In polls, Pence is somewhat more popular than Trump, but not by much. Good that Bannon is out—things seem a little calmer at the White House since he left.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is out with a tell-all best-seller that attempts to settle scores, not only with Donald Trump, but with Bernie Sanders, who despite being a white elderly man—and not even a Democrat—appealed to young Democratic voters. His vision was and still is attractive to many—Medicare for all, free college tuition, tax the rich. While I am not against those objectives—what’s not to like?--I never thought they were totally achievable in the current political climate and under our present economic system. It was kind of like Trump’s promises in reverse, though not as extreme. I considered Bernie’s proposals wonderful aspirations rather than realistic objectives, which is why I voted for Hillary. I also think she got a bad rap simply for being a woman and that many of Trump’s smears against her gained traction because of her gender. But like Trump’s core supporters, Bernie’s supporters wanted all or nothing. Bernie, to his credit, is reacting to Hillary’s laments by saying that we need to move on. Hillary admits her mistakes—using a private server and the unfortunate characterization of many Trump supporters as “deplorables” (even though they may be). As the first woman presidential candidate, she could not afford even one mistake, although the same ones would not have sunk a male candidate. Bill Clinton remains popular despite the Monica scandal and Trump has weathered bragging about sexual assault and even has a Russian “pee-pee” dossier, while any hint of sexual shenanigans by a female candidate would spell the end. (Probably some men vicariously enjoy male candidates’ conquests.) Maybe after she has gotten many of her justifiable but seemingly “sour-grapes” complaints out of her system with her new book and book tour, Hillary can just move on. She says she is through running for office. No doubt, she gave the presidential campaign all she had.

Sanders and Joe Biden, both older white men, might appeal to that same demographic, but neither appeals to me. And not just because they are older white men, rather from how they have conducted themselves in office, nothing objectionable, but also not outstanding in their many years in office in my view. Sanders may steering the Democratic Party in a more progressive direction, which may prove helpful, but I don’t see him as electable as president—he should keep his bully pulpit in the Senate. I thought John Kerry showed more nuance insight as secretary of state, but he doesn’t seem up for another run and his personality does not lend itself to a campaign for national office—too cerebral.

Anyway, it’s time for our first female president; we got cheated last time. How about some new faces like Kirsten Gillibrand or Kamala Harris, or even Elizabeth Warren, not exactly a new face, but quite a dependable and thoughtful politician? I like Tim Kane because of his long-ago service in Honduras. After Trump, we need more stability and predictability in our politics. With the last election, many of us couldn’t imagine ever Trump winning (even he was surprised and woefully unprepared), so those of us who voted for Hillary and were confident of her victory didn’t support her as vigorously as we should have in hindsight. Even those who were not enthusiastic about her are sorry now. The choice was between Clinton and Trump, not anyone else. In that respect, Bernie was actually a liability and a distraction because, while he appealed to many, especially young people, it’s hard to imagine him winning a general election, which is why I hope he won’t try again. Of course, he was also trying to steer the Democratic Party in a more progressive direction. He should put his efforts toward supporting the Democratic presidential candidate and the same goes for Biden. Michelle Obama is reportedly a popular figure, but she has expressed no interest whatsoever in political office and, in her case, her denial of any political plans seems genuine. She was apparently never keen about Barack’s political career, but supported him as a loyal spouse. Now, she’s done.

The Democratic Party has been encouraging members to run for office, even beginning at the local level. I was briefly inspired to consider it, but realistically, in such a heavily Democratic city as DC with so many younger and more energetic people eagerly seeking office, my efforts would not be missed. If I lived elsewhere, I might try running for something like the school board or other local office, as my many civic involvements would be in my favor. Even then, assuming I were successful, I would be in my dotage (if not there already) with few years left to move up the political ladder to make a more significant impact. Ageism would work against me, of course, also my being a white female in a city with a big African-American population, a little less than 50% for the first time in a long time, but still the predominate ethnicity, so I don’t have a good demographic political profile for this city. If Hispanics could vote, I might capture them by speaking Spanish. It’s all a fantasy anyway, as I’m bowing out of politics except as a voter and advocate for others. However, I’m getting tired of the constant on-line appeals for signatures and money to overcome Trump’s many bad policies and appointments from organizations we know little about and what exactly the money will be used for.  (Meanwhile, NPR is also fundraising. Help!)

Reportedly, most mass shootings this year have involved domestic violence, a man killing his wife, ex-wife, or girlfriend and taking her friends or family along with her. These events were not reported prominently in the news, mainly by being overshadowed by other developments. Unfortunately, background checks would not have prevented most of these guys from getting a gun, because they often got their guns before they became violently jealous or vengeful. There needs to be a way to have fewer guns in circulation, but I know that’s a heavy lift politically right now, especially with this Supreme Court.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Climate Change, Baby Powder Threat, Cuba Exile Excoriates Trump in Art and Words, South Sudan Journalist’s Death, Comey Lecture Series, Arpaio Pardon, Emoluments, Hunger Strike for Immigrants, Artificial Wombs

So unprecedented torrential rains, floods, and hurricane force winds in east Texas three years in a row are not “climate change,” but “fake news,” according to Trump, whose administration proposes cuts to FEMA and Environmental Protection budgets? Facts on the ground may eclipse Trumpian spin and affect those elected officials still loyal to his pronouncements. Let them change their tune or be defeated at the polls. Of course, some will still say the Texas flooding was an act of God and had nothing to do with human activity, perhaps punishment for approving gay marriage and taking down Confederate statues? Meanwhile, Hispanic construction workers will be needed to re-build, so time to go easy on deportations. Trump’s threat to shut down the government contrasts with his pledge to provide flood damage relief so that the storm may have had a silver lining after all.

Just talked with Betio, a former Honduran environmental activist for whom I helped gain asylum here.  He moved with his family from the DC area to Houston, but, he says, in the outskirts, a little elevated, and water has not actually entered into their house. He and his sons expect to be able to go back to work in construction by next Tues. and there's a lot of work for them to do! 

This item below looks like Betsy DeVos’s doing:

With North Korea’s provocative missile launch over Japan, can the world and our country afford allow Donald Trump to have his finger on the nuclear trigger? Let’s hope that more sober folks are babysitting him on this.

With a large jury award going to a woman who blames her apparently terminal ovarian cancer on the use of baby powder, some mothers are wondering about the safety of baby powder for their babies. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, apparently it is possible for flecks of powder to migrate up through the genital tract into the ovaries and other areas, but there is no proof if that happens that the powder can cause cancer. It also seems likely that the powder could be inhaled—certainly it smells good. Given the concern, pediatricians have advised mothers not to use powder, to use a cream or Vaseline if necessary, or just to leave a baby’s bottom bare, as is done in rural Honduras. A photo of a bare-bottomed toddler is shown on p. 136 of my book Triumph & Hope. That way the child also learns to potty-train him or herself.

Here’s a guy who has done a number of anti-Trump TIME covers. He left with the Mariel boatlift like my late foster son Alex Lopez.
I fled despotism in Cuba. Now I’m fighting it in America.
 August 25, 2017, Washington Post

Criticize Venezuela dictatorship but mum on Cuba? That’s political hypocrisy. BY ANDRÉS OPPENHEIMER

Cuba does not seem to be a priority for Trump; he is leaving it to some of his advisers. He should do that with almost everything and not activate his tweeting finger or open his mouth on any issue. Then we might get some sanity and predictability in the government. I'm sure the Cuban government is wary of him and now, with the problems in Venezuela, is trying to hold things together without being too confrontational. After so many years and after Fidel's death, especially when Cuba's influence on Venezuela is viewed negatively, the Cuban regime doesn't have the worldwide support it once enjoyed. Russia and China are giving some economic aid, but have not been loudly touting the virtues of the Cuban Revolution. Of course, Trump put his foot in his mouth by threatening a "military option" in Venezuela.

Christopher Allen, an American freelance journalist, has been reported killed in the fighting in South Sudan. The people living in South Sudan were able to unite to obtain independence but their tribal leaders wasted little time in jockeying for power.

James Comey will give a lecture series here in DC at Howard University (he’d better have protection from Trump supporters).

Kellyanne Conway, with a straight face, told Pat Robertson on Christian News that Donald Trump’s most outstanding trait is his humility!

While Trump gets low overall support in national polls that include not only Republicans but independents and Democrats, polls of Republican voters show that he is still preferred when matched against other potential Republican candidates. Trump is taking no chances, apparently having started to collect funds and support for 2020 on inauguration day. Heaven help us if we have to endure an additional 4 years of a Trump presidency. Since he is already 71, maybe he won’t live that long. I hope that the Republicans lose control of Congress in the mid-terms, but because of gerrymandering and voter suppression in key states, that may not happen. Pardoning Joe Arpaio so soon after his conviction and even before sentencing, while an injustice to all those whom he has injured, was not terribly surprising, given his age and Trump’s promises. Trump should have the power to persuade and educate some of his most rapid and faithful supporters to soften their opinions, but he chooses rev them up instead. He would not lose most of his voters by tamping them down somewhat and might well gain others. He criticized Obama for commuting Manning’s sentence, but that was not an outright pardon after no time served, as with Arpaio.

Donald Trump is currently being sued by nearly 200 lawmakers for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution by taking payments from foreign governments through his hotels and resorts. And now Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch is headlining an event at one of the very hotels in question. The emoluments clause lawsuit could easily end up before the Supreme Court, and Trump continues to use the presidency to push his brand and make himself even more wealthy. 

Donald Trump, you are age 71, have bad habits, are overweight, and you cannot take it with you. So what’s the point of increasing your wealth? Why not have the Trump family make a generous donation for Houston flood victims? It seems where philanthropy is involved, Trump has always avoided actually giving anything himself while pretending that other donations filtered through him are actually his own—a charlatan and faker through and through. Now he has said he will “probably” donate $1 million for flood relief (an amount also pledged by donors of considerably more modest wealth). He has a history of not actually making promised donations with his own money, but bravo, if that turns out to actually be the case. Meanwhile, Mike Pence, in appropriate political fashion, greeted victims in person, rolled up his sleeves, and began clearing up debris, perhaps with an eye to 2020. As an experienced politician, he knows how to conduct himself. But, of course, he doesn’t have the fervent followers that Trump seems to attract.   

The event at which Gorsuch is scheduled to keynote is for the Fund for American Studies, a conservative group that touts limited government and free-market economics. It is being held at Trump International Hotel, a property that is at the center of the emoluments clause lawsuit. In fact, some think that the Fund specifically chose the Trump hotel as a message of support for the president's position on the emoluments case.

Is the Trump administration engaging in lawless deportations?

Ending DACA would be cutting off our nose as a nation to spite our face. Here are thousands of US-raised, English-speaking, educated, and productive young people whose deportation could wreak economic havoc on the country. Trump’s best bet would be to extend “study” of the matter, just as is happening with the transgender military ban, until after the 2018 elections, to see which way the political winds are blowing then. Maybe, just maybe, he will want to extend his appeal beyond his small base. His base, who love Donald Trump unconditionally, come hell or high water, are not going to abandon him on the DACA issue.

This is a longish but revealing article about Ivanka and Jared:

Here in DC, three Catholic activists have been on a hunger strike at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, asking for it to become an immigration sanctuary, protecting people from deportation.

Artificial Wombs?
The following article discusses experiments being carried out on sheep fetuses at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia as part of an effort to develop artificial wombs. So far, so good, as normal lambs have been born. Indeed, already, special care for premature human babies has almost put them into artificial wombs in NICUs as they continue their development. What would artificial wombs mean for the abortion debate, also for fathers’ rights, since once outside the birth mother’s womb, both genetic parents would presumably have equal rights?  No longer would the fetus be considered a parasite of the birth mother, but the whole issue of parental rights and responsibilities, and of abortion rights, would be turned on its head. For expectant mothers, assuming no harm would come to the child, it would certainly be easier than a 9-month pregnancy and childbirth. Meanwhile, contraception is increasingly effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Eclipse, Peace Corps, Reverse Culture Shock, Cuba, Gay Divorce, Trump Again, Julian Assange

Stephen from Nigeria just sent me this photo from late July of us on "graduation day" at GAO with the director there.

On Monday, Aug. 21, we saw a slight afternoon darkening--whether from clouds or the eclipse or our imagination, hard to tell, probably a little of each. My neighbor came out and we took a selfie with the sun behind, but if there was any encroachment by the moon on the sun here in Washington, DC, it was very slight—just a little nick. Later, we read that even a selfie with the eclipse behind is dangerous to look at because of radiation to your eyes from the screen, but we didn’t notice any effect. Donald Trump said he looked right at it. I recall having been in a bigger partial eclipse, but don’t recall when or where.

Under a directive from the Trump administration, Peace Corps is to cut 20 percent of its workforce, mainly by not filling positions vacated when employees meet the five-year employment limit. When asked about the proposed cuts to the Peace Corps budget, Acting Director Sheila Crowley focused on the positive. Peace Corps maintains tremendous bipartisan support, she said, and while we’re facing a reduction, she is confident that Peace Corps will not only maintain current numbers of volunteers, but make small incremental increases. Crowley acknowledged, “We won’t make 10,000 volunteers by 2018, but we can grow strategically.”

The following article describes reverse culture shock and how to soften it by maintaining connections with your ex-pat country, something I highlighted in my Honduras Peace Corps book. I certainly maintain connections with my ex-pat country by returning yearly to Honduras as a medical brigade volunteer, having Spanish-speaking friends, and working part-time as a Spanish interpreter (and by writing books and also articles for Huffington Post and giving talks about my Latin America and Peace Corps experiences). Two of my kids live in Hawaii and I've thought of moving there when we are in the depths of winter, but then I'd have to give up my interpretation work and annual visits to Honduras, as it would costly and impractical to continue that. 
I have been busy in my role as Amnesty Int’l USA in writing asylum support letters  for both DR and Cuba asylum  applicants, the 

Angola has rejected the offer of Cuba to send 200 medical personnel there, apparently because of the high price requested by the Cuban government, which keeps most of the earnings of the medical staff it sends to overseas missions.

If there is gay marriage, inevitably there will also be gay divorce, as a close friend is finding out, after 8 years f marriage and much longer in the relationship. But this guy is getting his due in a property settlement, very good.

The worst thing Trump could have done regarding Venezuela was to threaten to take military action—how and on what grounds, pray tell? Immediately, he gave Maduro an excuse to jail opponents and alienated Latin American countries opposed to Maduro who would have otherwise been our allies there. He keeps putting his foot in his mouth while others in his administration, like poor Pence traveling around the region, have had to try to do clean-up while not antagonizing Trump himself.  

Although other Confederate symbols, statues, and flags needed to be gone as they are hurtful, on this forum, I once said I did not think it necessary to remove all of Robert E. Lee's statues, as he was an important historic figure, and, from all accounts, a good leader, though on the wrong side of history and also a slave owner. On the other hand, now that Lee’s statues have been shown to be magnets for neo-Nazis, it may be best to get rid of them or else move them to a museum. After Charlottesville, it may be best to take them all out, especially Lee’ statue there that will, inevitably, become a symbol. Of course, Trump, who concocted birtherism, has railed against Muslims, and invited Bannon into his inner circle, has tried hard to avoid denouncing his core supporters. (But he can get back into their graces by pardoning racist former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.) Trump finally, two days later after Charlottesville, condemned neo-Nazis, probably under pressure from his new chief of staff and maybe from Ivanka and Jerod as well—he read a statement written out for him in a deadpanned voice. Then, after getting backlash from white supremacists, he went back to saying “both sides” were at fault and to blaming the “alt-left.” Trump lies so much and makes such extreme pronouncements that if he ever told the truth or said something sincere and normal, we wouldn’t believe it. It’s a bit late for him to reform and if he did, we wouldn’t trust his word anyway. He’s already revealed himself to be a liar through and through. He likes to pick public fights with everybody outside his own family.

Richmond, capital of the Confederacy, has a whole avenue of Confederate statues, so that poses an even bigger problem. A proposal has been floated there to put up statues of opposing historical figures—John Brown, Harriet Tubman, maybe even Abraham Lincoln, on the same plots—to give balance. In Durham, NC, a Confederate statue was toppled to the ground. In Maryland, most Confederate statues were summarily removed. We may also have some in here in DC.

As the alt-right and neo-Nazis have grown bolder under Trump, the opposition to them grows stronger too, leading to inevitable clashes. The country becomes more divided than ever and moderate and conciliatory voices are being drowned out. Bannon may be a casualty of this divide—if so, good riddance to him. He’s already done enough damage. Trump’s speech on Afghanistan, because he stuck to the script, was not too bad and shows the possible result of Bannon’s exit, since, unlike Trump’s promises during the campaign to get out of Afghanistan, now he is committing more troops, perhaps under the influence of all the generals with whom he has surrounded himself, but without specifics. It sounds now like an open-ended commitment. Will his reversal upset his diehard supporters? Probably not most of them, who worship Trump, the man, whatever he says or does.

There are speculations that if the Mueller probe gets too uncomfortable for Trump, he may quit the presidency, as he already seems to be tired of it and not having any fun. He would rather quit—after declaring that his was the most effective and awesome presidency ever—than be “fired,” that is, impeached or censured. Then he can go around the country holding lovefests with his supporters and playing golf along the way. Also appearing on the network, Trump TV, that he has reportedly launched.

A president elected by a minority of voters, and whose support grows smaller every day, is bound to engender resentment, especially when he supports policies that favor his minority. For now, Trump’s handlers seem to have put something of a break on his twitter account and convinced him to only give scripted speeches. That would help dampen down calls for him to undergo a mental health check or to be impeached. Fox News host Tucker Carlson praised Trump for looking at the sun during the eclipse without protective glasses as "perhaps the most impressive thing any president has ever done." Was that tongue-in-cheek?

In a recent issue of the New Yorker, there is a long article about Julian Assange who readily takes credit or blame for Trump’s presidential victory and Hillary’s defeat, along with the crucial massive data dump by Sgt. Manning. Thanks to them both, we are now suffering. So may Assange remain in the prison of his own making and may the UK Ecuadorian Embassy be stuck with him, since it offered him refuge. Assange laments not being with his children (I don’t how many he has or their ages, but he apparently wasn’t living with them anyway). They can always visit him at the embassy, I presume.

Friday, August 11, 2017

First Day at New School, Memoriam for Anna Adams, Benghazi, Anyone? What about Monica? Democrats—Get a Grip!

Already, my great-grandson De'Andre has started 4th grade in his new school in Florida, where he moved with his mother, granddaughter Natasha, in July. His teacher looks like a friendly lady.

Last time, I mentioned the death of my friend Anna Adams, just days before we were planning to celebrate her 80th birthday. She had a “green” burial without a funeral service. Here is something about her from my book Triumph & Hope: Golden Years with the Peace Corps in Honduras (pp189-190):

Another stateside visitor was Anna, whom I hadn’t seen since we were teenagers together in Colombia. After almost 50 years apart, we hardly recognized each other, but with our first embrace, it was like old times again. Valiant Anna, who still remembered Spanish, joined me on a medical brigade to La Ceiba, where a child’s father admired her beautiful blue eyes and begged her to marry him despite being already married, a rather minor detail.                  

On a side trip, Anna and I passed by some spikey pineapple fields en route to a mountaintop resort, Pico Bonito, where wild monkeys and toucans chattered overhead, then visited a Garífuna fishing village called Sambo Creek, and ended up eating at a Ceiba watering hole called Expatriates’ Bar. Next day, at a butterfly farm set among fragrant-blossomed orange trees, a crested lizard darted across our path, black birds with yellow wings flitted up to high-hanging nests, and flocks of wild parakeets chirped noisily overhead. We sampled bitter cocoa fruit and seeds, scarcely resembling processed chocolate.  

Back in El Triunfo, Anna contributed $35 to outfit Marina’s maid Sarita with prescription eyeglasses. When Sarita first donned the glasses, she marveled at the crisp, tiny details of flowers and insects never seen before.

Trump’s incitements to violence against Muslims, his urging of police to “rough up” suspects, do have real world consequences, such as with the attack on mosque in suburban Minneapolis. His threats on health care and uncertainty about the future of the ACA have led to premium hikes and triggered the very problems he direly predicted. Meanwhile, out playing golf on his so-called “working vacation,” he should put his twitter phone away.

Pence is wise to totally distance himself from speculations about a 2020 presidential run of his own, since for him to arouse even the slighest breath of suspicion of disloyalty toward Trump would put him immediately on the blacklist. He is in a very delicate position.

Where have Jared and Ivanka been? They were thought to be a moderating force. It will be interesting to see what sort of reception daughter Tiffany gets from other students when she starts at Georgetown Law School next fall. Being a Trump offspring is definitely a two-edged sword.

Trump likes to pivot to Hillary Clinton’s e-mails whenever asked a hard question about his own policies; now, reportedly Kelleyanne Conway has pivoted way back to Benghazi. Next, it’s going to be Monica Lewinsky.

However, as some pundits have warned, a national emergency, like 9/11, which put unpopular GW Bush over the top for a second term, could rescue Trump from the doldrums and have the citizenry rallying around him. Trump is already bungling his way into inciting a possible conflict with Iran and/or North Korea, which not only would be catastrophic in itself, but like GW Bush’s incursion into Iraq, actually win him a legitimate second term. The North Korean leader’s wild nuclear threats should not be met with the same from our side. Two crazies facing off, each with nuclear weapons, that’s very scary. Hillary warned during the campaign about having someone as unpredictable and unstable as Trump with his finger in the nuclear trigger. The stock market reacted negatively. Will I actually live to see the end of the Trump administration, something which is sadly affecting my daily mood and well-being? And there are millions more in the same situation.

Democrats desperately need an understandable platform or message and a dark horse presidential candidate—not Hillary, not Biden, not Elizabeth Warren, I fear, perhaps too far left, but still very likeable and smart and a woman! We women got cheated last time. Maybe she could actually make it?

“A Better Deal” trotted out as the new Democratic Party slogan does not grab listeners the way “Make American Great Again” has done. Democrats need to do better than that. Someone from Maryland has put his hat into the 2020 presidential ring, but the fact that I cannot even remember his name shows how much steam his candidacy has gathered so far. Tim Kane, though he was not stellar in his one national pre-election debate, is certainly a possibility too. As for the message, it should include something about not falling into a dictatorship, which seems to be what Trump is aiming for by making anyone who opposes him into an enemy; trying to gain control of the media; promoting jobs, protections, and benefits for himself and his family; falsifying data; controlling the electoral process; and withholding government subsidies and authorizations from those he does not like.

Jesuits close to Pope Francis are concerned about right-wing Catholic supporters of Donald Trump, according to a recent interview on NPR. (Apparently Catholics voted for Hillary by a slim margin.)

Someone freezing their head at death in case it can be thawed out later and grafted onto another (someone else’s) body is a fanciful and silly idea. Let’s assume it would work (very doubtful, at least with today’s knowledge); while it might be quite interesting for them to emerge later into a world that’s moved on from when they first “died,” once again, they will face the prospect of death. As far as we know, nothing is forever except maybe space-time itself. Everything, ourselves included, has a beginning and an end, earth and all the planets, even the sun and the stars. It could be argued that already some people are living too long, losing mental and physical faculties, not doing anything useful or even interesting in life, in a word, becoming bored and boring and needing a lot of help from others just to survive every day. We are creating societies of more people who need care and who are not contributing. That doesn’t seem wise. I will say that even if I end being one of them—hope not. Once I’ve started a steep decline, I’d like to go quickly for the good of all concerned, including myself. (Ask me again when that actually happens.)

Now, on the 72nd anniversary of American atom bombs being dropped on Japanese cities, I recall that even as child, I never accepted that as a right and moral action, something that sullied Truman’s reputation for me for evermore.

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