Yes, Mr. POTUS, however …

Donald J. Trump said the following in advance of his meeting today with Vladimir Putin: “I think we will end up having an extraordinary relationship. I really think the world wants to see us get along.”

Great, Mr. President. I happen to agree with the notion that the “world wants to see us get along.”

But first things first.

Donald Trump needs to clear the air, lay down the law, get down to brass tacks … pick your throw-away phrase.

The president needs at the outset to deal forthrightly and in the strongest terms possible with the notion that Russian meddling in our electoral process is a total non-starter. He cannot continue to pass the Russian attack on our system of government off as somehow routine. He cannot say that “everyone does it,” and that the Russians are no worse than any other great power that seeks to do the same thing.

The two men are meeting at this moment. Whatever they said to each other behind closed doors remains a mystery.

I want to have faith that the president of the United States would give the president of Russia the trashing he deserves for doing what he did in 2016.

I am saddened at the lack of such faith that Donald Trump will do the right thing on behalf of the electoral system he took an oath to protect and defend.

Only then could the nations “get along.”

Anyone with a smart phone can be a ‘journalist’

A CVS pharmacy store manager is being investigated for questioning the authenticity of an African-American customer’s coupon.

A clown who berated a woman for wearing a Puerto Rico shirt, claiming that Puerto Ricans aren’t “Americans” has been charged with a hate crime.

A guy called the cops because a black woman was swimming in a public pool.

What do these incidents have in common? They all were recorded by people with “smart phones,” the devices that also serve as cameras/recording devices.

Dear reader, this is one of the many outcomes of social media and therein lies a valuable lesson that still gets lost on too many people.

Ignoramuses who choose to mistreat their fellow human beings do so at great peril. We live in a society where there is no escape. There’s virtually no way to avoid being recorded doing something stupid.

Man, we need to be on our best behavior at all times. It’s a similar circumstance that confronts those of us who live in states that allow folks to carry weapons concealed under their clothing. We in Texas should be acutely aware of the danger of flipping off a fellow motorist. I never have been prone to do such a thing. I damn sure won’t do it now that I live in a state where the guy I might flip off could empty a pistol at me.

So it is with these ubiquitous cameras.

The lesson as I understand it crystal clear. Do not mistreat anyone because someone is likely watching — and recording — your every move.

Besides, such mistreatment simply is intolerable even without the existence of smart phones.

Happy Trails, Part 114: Learning our way around

We have settled in our new digs just north of Dallas.

Our dwelling is comfortable. My wife has done a miraculous job of assembling it and putting everything (mostly) in its place.

Now the next big challenge awaits us: learning our way around in a community that bears little — if any — resemblance to the community we left.

Fairview is a busy place. We live just a stone’s throw from U.S. 75, aka the Dallas Central Expressway. Collin County comprises nearly 1 million residents. We’ve been fortunate to be able to avoid the freeway at times when virtually everyone in this county is on the road at the same time.

We’ve checked out local routes that enable us to get from place to place with zero hassle. We haven’t yet ventured too far away from our digs. We’ve located several grocery stores, a nice shopping area, some very nice eating establishments, entertainment venues.

What we haven’t yet mastered is how we travel from our small community to destinations some distance away. We know how to get from the Metroplex back to Amarillo; we also know how to get from Fairview to the Hill Country, or from Fairview to Gulf Coast.

We’re going to figure out how to transit easily from our dwelling to, say, Love Field or to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. There a number of communities nearby: Plano, Frisco, Sherman, Carrollton, Richardson. They’re all clustered in the region just north of Dallas.

We’ll find our way around in due course. Hey, it’s gone pretty swimmingly so far.

Until we commit these routes to memory, we’ll just have to thank goodness for Google Maps.

Immigration doesn’t harm culture

I just heard once again Donald J. Trump’s comments about “immigration” in Europe.

He told The Sun newspaper in London about how “immigration” was harming Europe. How it was hurting Europe’s “culture.” How it was going to change the continent “and not in a good way.”

What I didn’t hear from Donald J. Trump’s mouth was the word “illegal” preceding the word “immigration” or “immigrants.”

So, what are we to presume? I’ll take a leap and suggest that Trump doesn’t favor immigration. He believes the immigrants who are going to Europe — legally or as refugees from persecution in, say, the Middle East or Africa — present a problem for Europe.

Doesn’t the Xenophobe in Chief understand the value that immigrants bring to any region of the world? He, of course, has declared open warfare against immigrants who want to enter the United States. Yes, I understand that he has zeroed in on illegal immigrants. However, he continues to paint them all with the same broad brush, making damning presumptions about all of them: they’re coming here to commit violent crimes against Americans.

Fascinating, yes, coming from someone who has been married to two women who were immigrants, one from Czechoslovakia and one from Slovenia.

So what does the president presume to know about European “culture” that suggests immigration endangers it?

Moreover, how does he define “European culture”? Does he actually believe that the continent of Europe comprises sovereign nations that adhere to a singular culture?

We see yet again another demonstration of the president’s ignorance about the world, not to mention the very nation he was elected to lead.

Mueller is not ‘harming the country’

Donald J. Trump does not get it.

He keeps yapping about the “rigged witch hunt,” which is how he describes the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in our 2016 election.

He said over the weekend that the Mueller probe is harmful to the country.

Oh … my.

No, Mr. President. The harm to the country has come from the Russians who hacked into the Democrats’ election system. The harm was done by goons who sought to influence the election outcome. The harm occurred — and is occurring at this moment — by the discord that continues to tear at the fabric of our electoral process.

The president is going to meet very soon with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. He promises to bring up the meddling matter with him. Putin’s response likely won’t be reported fully; Putin and Trump will meet privately, just the two of ’em in the room. Nor will we likely know to what extent Trump calls Putin out on the meddling.

With all this as prologue, we keep hearing from the president about the evils of a “rigged witch hunt” that so far has produced multiple indictments, several guilty pleas, witnesses cooperating with the special counsel.

That is not a “rigged witch hunt,” let alone a probe that harms the United States of America. It will strengthen the nation once it’s completed — irrespective of what Robert Mueller concludes.

The harm is being done by those who have corrupted our election system. If only the president could acknowledge the obvious.

Conversation (continued) …

I’ve told you already about a fellow I met the other morning. We covered a lot of ground in the 10 or 12 minutes we chatted.

It centered mostly on the congressional hearing involving FBI agent Peter Strzok and his role in the Robert Mueller investigation into the “Russia thing.”

He mentioned he has been retired for 20 years. Then he asked me if I was retired. “Yes,” I said. “I’m a retired journalist. I was a member of the ‘Mainstream Media,'” I added.

He nodded. “Ahhh, that explains why you’re a liberal,” he said.

I stopped him. “No, sir. My job didn’t define me. My inherent bias is what informs my world view,” I told him.

He had described himself as a “libertarian,” who wasn’t aligned with Democrats or Republicans.

It dawned on me a long time ago, but his assumption that my more progressive/liberal tendencies are a result of my occupation drives home a key point.

Conservatives are winning the war of ideologies. They have succeeded in tarring media representatives and outlets as inherently “liberal.” The “liberal media” get blamed for all that is wrong with journalism.

My own view of the term “mainstream media,” though takes a different approach. I long have considered the “mainstream media” to be a much more diverse bunch than the way conservatives label them. I include many conservative-leaning outlets among members of the “mainstream media”: Fox News, The Weekly Standard, The National Review all belong to the MSM; I also might throw in Breitbart News just to get folks’ pulse to race a bit.

Indeed, I worked for three newspaper groups with ownership that was decidedly not liberal in its outlook. Scripps League Newspapers was run by an elderly scion from the E.W. Scripps newspaper empire; then I went to work for the Hearst Corp., another right-leaning outfit; my career ended while working for Morris Communications, which was a far-right-leaning organization led by a man who is the product of the “old South,” if you get my drift.

The media are as diverse as any other craft.

The gentleman with whom I had this exchange over the weekend likely didn’t intend to paint us all with such a broad brush … but he did.

I don’t yet know if I’ll see him again. If I do, I might take the time to inform him of my own view of what comprises the “mainstream media.”

I suppose I could ask him: If the “liberal mainstream media” are so powerful and pervasive, how do all those conservatives keep getting elected to public office?

What do you mean by ‘everybody,’ Mr. President?

Donald J. Trump sat down with Piers Morgan and made yet another astonishing exaggeration, which compels me to disabuse him of the idiocy he put out there.

Morgan asked the president if there is any doubt he will seek re-election in 2020. Trump said he’s all in for a re-election bid.

“Everybody wants me to run” for a second term, he said.

Huh? Wha … ? Eh? Everybody wants him to run?

Count me out, Mr. President. I am not a member of the Everybody Brigade he is citing.

Not only do I want him to walk away after his term, I want him booted out before the end of his term. Although I must concede that a President Mike Pence gives me pause as well, but for reasons that deal more with public policy than with general incompetence, ignorance, arrogance and rhetorical idiocy.

OK, I get that I’m likely nitpicking what Trump said about “everybody” wanting him to run again. However, if we’re being asked to take the president at his word, then I cannot remain silent when he blathers such absolute nonsense.

Soccer or football? Still a foreign game to Americans

I don’t know when — or even if — soccer will ever catch on in the United States the way it has in much of the rest of the world.

Indeed, the game we call “soccer” is known as “football” in places like Mexico, Brazil and in most of Europe. The Spanish term for “football,” by the way, is “futbol.” Get it?

The World Cup is over. They’re going nuts throughout France, which defeated Croatia 4-2 in the final game. I’m glad for the French. It’s their second World Cup title.

To be candid, I remain decidedly lukewarm toward soccer. It just doesn’t thrill me the way it would, say, my extended family members in Greece, where soccer is a big deal, too.

I’ve been exposed once in my life to World Cup fanatacism. It happened in June 2006.

My wife and I were in Copenhagen, Denmark. We caught up with some friends from Amarillo, Texas, who were in Copenhagen attending the same Rotary International Conference as my wife and me. We were strolling through the city looking for a place to eat.

We would stick our heads into this or that restaurant. They were full. Everyone was watching TV. Oh, what were they viewing? A soccer match between Denmark and (I believe it was) neighboring Germany.

The Danes were screaming their lungs out at every move their national team made on the field, er, pitch. We could hear them from everyone eating establishment up and down the street.

The four of us had difficulty that evening finding a place to eat. We finally did, though.

My point is that I had never witnessed such soccer/football fervor. It consumes Europe, Latin America, as well as portions of Asia and Africa.

I still get worked up over the Super Bowl and the World Series. The World Cup? Not so much. I’m afraid to tell my soccer-loving friends that at this stage of my life, the World Cup isn’t likely to hook me.

Will we stand alone at the next big attack?

A commonly held notion in the wake of the 9/11 attack was that we shouldn’t concern ourselves over if another attack would occur, but we need to focus on when it would take place.

It’s good to remember at this point that when we collected ourselves after the horror of that event and went after the terrorists who did the deed, we had much of the world rally with us. Our friends in Europe and the Middle East were there. So were our allies in the Far East and in South Asia.

The European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization both rallied behind us in our retaliatory strikes against the terrorists. Their fighting men and women died alongside ours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

OK, so let’s fast-forward to the present day.

Two previous presidents — George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama — have come and gone. We have a new one at the helm, Donald J. Trump.

Whereas Presidents Bush and Obama courted our allies and sought to ensure they would be there when the chips were down, we now have a president who has decided to call the EU a “foe,” he has denigrated NATO’s value in today’s world, while excoriating its members for failing to pay more for their shared defense.

All the while, Donald Trump has thrown himself at the feet of Vladimir Putin, the Russian strongman, and Kim Jong Un, the North Korean despot. He calls them “strong leaders,” “intelligent,” and people he “trusts.”

This leads me to the question that is lurking in the back of many observers’ minds. When the next terror attack occurs — and while none of us wants it to happen, we must be mindful that it very well could — are we going to be able to call on the very allies the president has insulted time and again?

My fear is that we’ll fight the next war alone.

You can take this to the bank: Never mind that Trump says that

“I, alone” can repair the nation’s ills, not even the greatest nation on Earth can fight wage this international fight all by itself.

Thus, we might be forced to reap what Donald Trump has sown.

McCain keeps fighting the good fight

I want to offer some kind words about John McCain.

One year ago, Sen. McCain received a medical diagnosis no one wants to hear: He had contracted an aggressive form of brain cancer, glioblastoma.

I don’t know what the docs told him about his prognosis. Sen. McCain has indicated it was grim.

But he’s still with us. For that I am grateful.

I’ll be candid about Sen. McCain. I disagree with his conservative political views. I did not vote for him when he ran as the Republican nominee for president in 2008.

However, I long have admired Sen. McCain for the valiant public service he has given to his country. It spans many decades, including his years as a Navy officer.

In 1967, the young aviator had the extreme misfortune of being shot down over Hanoi during the height of the Vietnam War. He was taken captive and held for more than five years. He was injured when he ejected from his jet fighter; his wounds never were treated properly. He was tortured and submitted to solitary confinement.

He persevered. McCain ran for Congress, being elected to the House and then to the Senate.

His courage has never been doubted. His heroism in a time of war is well-documented. I long have admired this man’s service and I have saluted him — through this blog — many times.

I just feel compelled to wish Sen. McCain well as he continues his valiant battle. I consider him a heroic figure.

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