Category Archives: International news

No need to lock him up . . . at least not yet?

Michael Flynn went before the judge today and got a snootful from the jurist who holds the man’s future in his hands.

The former Donald Trump national security adviser, though, was spared a prison sentence from U.S. District Judge Emmitt Sullivan until after Flynn is finished cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the alleged Russia collusion matter during the 2016 presidential election.

To be totally candid, I don’t really care whether Flynn serves time in prison for the felony crimes to which he has pleaded guilty. Mueller is asking the judge to spare Flynn prison time because of the extensive cooperation he has given the probe into allegations of collusion, conspiracy and perhaps other matters relating to the Trump campaign — if not the presidency itself.

Sullivan reminded Flynn this morning that he is under no obligation to follow Mueller’s recommendation and scolded the retired Army lieutenant general for being an “unregistered agent” for a foreign power while serving as national security adviser. Sullivan told Flynn that “arguably you sold your country out.” The hearing reportedly was contentious as Sullivan — who was appointed to the federal bench by President Clinton — gave Flynn the holy what-for in connection to his admitted involvement with the Russian government.

Mueller is going to get more information from Flynn as he seeks to conclude his investigation. I hope the end arrives sooner rather than later.

As for Flynn — who once led Republican National Convention cheers to “lock up!” Hillary Clinton for using her personal email server while she was secretary of state — all I want from him at this point is full cooperation with Mueller and his team of legal eagles.

Something tells me Flynn has more beans to spill regarding Trump’s campaign and whether the president himself committed illegal acts on his way to being elected to the nation’s highest office.

It ain’t the ‘Democrat Party,’ young man

I now want to pick a few nits with one of the right-wing wackos who works for Donald John Trump.

Stephen Miller, a senior policy guru for the president, says the administration will do “whatever is necessary” to build a wall along our southern border.

Oh, but then he relies on that goofy perversion of the identity of the opposing political party.

“The Democrat Party has a simple choice,” Miller said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “They either can choose to fight for America’s working class or to promote illegal immigration.”

Democrat Party? That’s what he calls the Democratic Party.

Hey, I get that it’s a minor point, but then again it really is more of a major point than the Rs would care to acknowledge. The hard-liners’ insistence on using the perverted ID of the Democratic Party is intended to demonize a great political organization. One does not hear such a thing coming from Democrats who might be inclined to refer to members of the “Republic Party.” That, too, would disparage — if not denigrate — the other great major political organization.

As for Miller’s assertion that Democrats might want to “promote illegal immigration,” that is another branch broken off from the demagogue’s tree. No patriotic American wants to “promote” illegal immigration. We all want border security. Many of us just don’t want to build a wall to seal us off from our neighbors.

Those Republican demagogues, though, are intent on demonizing the opposing party (a) by perverting the party’s name and (b) by suggesting they want to “promote” the commission of crimes.

Get serious, young man.

Trump on the wall, who’ll pay for it and that shutdown . . .

Donald Trump is sending a dizzying array of mixed messages — on a single issue all by itself.

  • The president wants to build a “big, beautiful wall” along our southern border.
  • He insisted again today that Mexico is going to pay for the wall; Mexico’s government has said it won’t do as the president insists.
  • Democrats in Congress say that Trump’s insistence that Mexico pay for the wall takes Congress off the hook; there’s no need for Congress to worry about the money.
  • Thus, we need not worry about a government shutdown, which Trump insists will happen if Congress doesn’t cough up $5 billion to pay for the wall that he insists Mexico will finance.

Are you as confused as I am? If so, then I don’t feel so badly.

I cannot keep up with Donald Trump’s messy mix of messages.

Who’s next, those who fled the Holocaust?

Donald J. Trump is expanding his campaign to rid the nation of political refugees, or so it appears.

The president now reportedly is taking aim at those who fled Vietnam during the war that tore that country apart. The Vietnam War! The one that ended in 1975 when the communists rolled into Saigon and took control of the country. They renamed the South Vietnamese capital city after Ho Chi Minh and set up a repressive government that rounded up those who cooperated with the United States and sent them to what they called “re-education camps,” which was a euphemism for “concentration camps.”

Now, more than four decades later, the president wants to round up many of those who came to this country and send them back to Vietnam. What in name of human decency has possessed this guy, the president?

According to The Atlantic: This is the latest move in the president’s long record of prioritizing harsh immigration and asylum restrictions, and one that’s sure to raise eyebrows—the White House had hesitantly backed off the plan in August before reversing course. In essence, the administration has now decided that Vietnamese immigrants who arrived in the country before the establishment of diplomatic ties between the United States and Vietnam are subject to standard immigration law—meaning they are all eligible for deportation.

Trump believes many of those immigrants have taken up lives of crime, corruption and assorted mayhem, that they pose a hazard to Americans.

Here’s what the White House needs to consider: Vietnam is still a hardline communist country. Many of those refugees who fled their homeland did so to avoid persecution by the government, which looked harshly on those who aided U.S. forces and diplomats during “the American war.” Returning them to Vietnam well might subject them to imprisonment — or worse.

Yes, we now have full diplomatic relations with our former battlefield enemy. Do we really want to imperil that relationship over a demagogic campaign promise to crack down on immigration, to “put America first”?

Don’t go there, Mr. President.

France shooting = U.S. border security?

I need help connecting these dots.

A fellow who was born in Strasbourg, France, opens fire and kills a fellow French citizen. A French citizens commits mayhem against his countrymen. Is that right?

OK, then the president of the United States seems to use that incident as an argument for his desire to build that “beautiful wall” along our southern border to keep the bad guys from pouring into the country.

Then he rakes Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi over the coals because Democrats don’t want to spend the amount of money the president wants to build that wall.

Trump put this message out on Twitter just this morning:

Another very bad terror attack in France. We are going to strengthen our borders even more. Chuck and Nancy must give us the votes to get additional Border Security!

I need help understanding how the president can connect the these incidents together.

This individual, the president, is out of control.

The ‘best’ are great, the worst are, well, something else

Donald Trump has shown an ability to hire a wide-ranging array of key administration officials. They run from the brightest of lights to the dimmest of bulbs.

I consider Defense Secretary James Mattis to be among the stars of the Trump administration. He’s a retired four-star Marine Corps general; tested in combat. He’s dedicated to the defense of this country. Thoughtful, learned and a totally competent strategic thinker.

I hope he stays for the duration of the Trump administration, although Mattis’s tenure is beginning to show signs of wobbliness.

Then there’s the president’s latest selection to be our ambassador to the United Nations.

I am having difficulty wrapping my noggin around this one. Heather Nauert is nominated to be our nation’s top envoy on the world stage. Her credentials? None. She has nothing to offer.

Except for this: She once was a “news” personality on the Fox News News Channel, the president’s network of choice. She did a co-hosting gig on “Fox & Friends.” She dressed up in goofy costumes and acted totally, well, the way morning “news” talk show co-hosts often act.

Then she got a job as spokeswoman for the State Department. You might be recall how she sought to praise U.S.-Germany relations by citing, for instance, the upcoming D-Day commemoration. D’oh! Wait a second!

Our guys fought the Germans to the death on the beaches at Normandy, France. We were at war.

This is the kind of “experience” the president sought when he named this person to be our advocate on at the United Nations.

Weird, man.

Time of My Life, Part 2: In the presence of greatness

I once belonged to an organization called the National Conference of Editorial Writers. The group occasionally sponsored remarkable overseas trips to members, editorial writers and editors such as yours truly.

In the summer of 2004, I had the distinct pleasure of attending the International Conference on HIV/AIDS in Bangkok, Thailand. It was my second trip to Southeast Asia with NCEW; the first one was in 1989, and I am likely to tell about that journey at another time.

This installment wants to focus on my being in the same room with one of history’s towering giants.

The AIDS conference focused on the disease that ravages so many millions of human beings. Our journey was aimed at studying the impact of the disease on Asia; in Thailand, Cambodia and India.

But there was a side story to cover as well. Tuberculosis is another killer, communicable disease that afflicted this great man: I refer to Nelson Mandela.

The former South African president came to Bangkok to tell attendees that TB needs the world’s attention, too.

Mandela staged a press availability in a room full of attendees, including our NCEW delegation. I stood about 30 feet from the microphone where Mandela would stand and speak.

He contracted TB during his imprisonment on Robben Island, where he was held prisoner for 27 years before his release in 1990. He had the temerity to protest against South Africa’s apartheid policies; the government threw him in the slammer because he demanded human rights for all of his country’s citizens, not just the white minority that ran everything.

By 2004, Mandela’s place in world history had been established. He stood as a giant among giants. To see this man in person was one of the thrills of my life as a working journalist.

I remember seeing him walk into the room and I was struck by something that was said about Robert Kennedy, which was that when RFK walked into a room, everyone else turned to black-and-white, while Bobby stood in magnificent color.

You could say the same thing about Nelson Mandela.

The great man told us about TB, his struggle to overcome it and urged the HIV/AIDS conference attendees to look for cures to TB. He took a couple of questions and then left.

We were instructed before Mandela came into the room to avoid flash photography, as he had developed acute sensitivity to bright lights during all those years he was kept in the dark on Robben Island. And, to no one’s surprise, some nimrods in the crowd took pictures with blinding flashes of light.

I didn’t get to speak to the great man. I don’t even know what in the name of star-struck wonder I would have said to him.

To be totally candid, just being able to see this man in the flesh was enough of a thrill to last my entire lifetime.

Is this one of ‘the best people’?

Remember this name: Heather Nauert.

She is Donald J. Trump’s latest incarnation of the “best people” he has vowed to hire to help him “make America great again.”

Oh, but who is she? She is the president’s nominee to be our nation’s ambassador to the United Nations. Nauert will succeed Nikki Haley, who is leaving government at the end of the year, possibly to pursue other political ambitions.

OK, what about her credentials to speak for the United States of America in the body aimed at keeping the worldwide peace and working around the globe?

She has zero foreign policy experience. Nauert has limited government experience of any kind; she joined the Trump administration in April 2017, becoming a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who then slammed the door shut on Nauert. Tillerson managed to get fired and his successor, Mike Pompeo, has welcomed Nauert into State’s inner circle.

But . . . this must be what put Nauert into the hunt for the UN job: She was a top news correspondent for Fox News and served for a time as a co-host on the president’s favorite “news” and gab show, “Fox & Friends.” These are the folks who never ask him tough questions, fearing, I suppose, that they would be lumped in with those other “fake news” outlets. We can’t have it, right, ladies and gents?

So, there you have it. The president of the United States has handed the UN envoy job to someone who has not a single thing to show her fellow diplomats that she knows anything about the world around us. Indeed, she has only a little less government experience than the man who nominated her, Donald Trump.

Hey, she appears to be the perfect pick for the president, who defines “best people” in ways I cannot possibly fathom.

GOP schism with Trump growing over Saudis

Well, what do you know about that?

U.S. senators have heard from the CIA director herself about what the spy agency has concluded about the conduct of our key Middle East “ally” involving the gruesome murder of a U.S. resident and journalist.

Senators weigh in on Khashoggi murder

The senators, Republicans and Democrats alike, are siding with CIA Director Gina Haspel’s view that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Haspel actually has heard the recording that purports to depict Khashoggi’s death screams while he was being murdered and allegedly dismembered by his Saudi captors.

GOP senators who heretofore had become Donald Trump’s strongest allies now are siding with Haspel and her agency and against Trump, who is trying to give the crown prince the benefit of the doubt. The president says bin Salman “might or might not” be culpable. The president, who has said he relies on his “gut” more than he relies on “other people’s brains,” is taking the prince’s side because the Saudis do so much business with the United States, buying jets and other weapons they use against terrorists and their terror-nation sponsors.

Khashoggi’s life? It’s not nearly as important as those deals, according to Trump.

I’m done going soft on Trump. The president is in growing trouble politically. The special counsel might be closing in on Trump in his meticulous probe into the “Russia thing.” Meanwhile, the president continues to demonstrate his hideous blind spot as it regards despots and authoritarian regimes.

He does so even at the expense — to his great discredit — of the intelligence agencies and their leaders who take essentially the same oath that the president does: to defend the United States of America.

Those agencies are doing their job. The president, it pains me to say it, is not.

Listen to the lame duck senator

Let’s connect a few dots.

CIA Director Gina Haspel, who was kept away from an earlier congressional briefing on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, today told senators that the Saudi crown prince ordered the journalist’s death in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Donald Trump has cast doubt on the CIA’s findings. He said Prince Mohammad bin Salman “may have or may not have” played a role in the murder of Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen who worked for the Washington Post.

OK, then Haspel tells senators what she and her agency believe.

Senators from both parties then came out of the closed-door meeting and talked publicly about what they believe. The crown prince is dirty; he’s filthy; he did what the CIA says he did.

Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who is leaving office at the end of the month, said there is “no doubt” that if the crown prince were put on trial for the murder, he would be “convicted in 30 minutes.”

Corker isn’t a lawyer by training. However, he’s a smart fellow who listens to what others tell him.

If only the president of the United States would trust implicitly the intelligence experts’ view that our so-called Middle East “ally” is a cold-blooded killer.

And if only he would act appropriately with that knowledge.