Tag Archives: EU

EU bans travel from U.S.? Wow!

Donald Trump can yap and yammer all he wants about all the “success” he is scoring against the COVID-19 virus.

His “allies” in the European Union have a different and damning view.

The EU is going to open its borders next week, but will ban travel from three key countries that it says haven’t done enough to stem the killer tide sweeping around the world. Those countries? Russia, Brazil … and the United States of America.

Axios.com reports: It’s an international rebuke of the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic. Millions of American tourists travel to the EU every summer, but that’s unlikely to happen until the U.S. gets the virus under control.

So, if you want to pack up and head for Paris, or to Rome, or the Greek Isles … forget about it! You ain’t going if you’re planning to depart from the U.S. of A.

It’s a preliminary recommendation to date. My hunch, though, is that the United States isn’t going to wrestle the pandemic to the ground between now and July 1, when the EU lifts its travel ban.

Infection and hospitalization rates are spiking in nearly half of our states, Texas included. Donald Trump’s response? He said we need to “slow down testing” because too many COVID tests produce too many positive infection results. We can’t have that in the middle of a presidential campaign, in Trump’s view of the world.

The EU’s decision isn’t going to sit well within the West Wing of the White House. Too damn bad! The EU wants to protect itself against further infection, just as Donald Trump wanted to protect this country when he banned travel from China when it dawned on him that the pandemic was a serious threat, except that he acted too late.

EU nations by and large have turned the tide against the medical nightmare. They want to ensure that COVID-19 remains suppressed, which the United States so far is failing to do.

Why do they deny hearing what the witnesses have said?

The much-anticipated public hearing on the impeachment inquiry being conducted by the House Intelligence Committee produced a serious exercise in frustration and futility.

At least for me it did.

The Intel Committee took into the public domain what it had heard in private about whether Donald Trump sought a “favor” from Ukrainian government officials who could dig up some dirt on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. The term of art has become “quid pro quo,” the Latin phrase that translates to “something for something,” or “this for that.”

It is the basis for the pending impeachment of the president of the United States.

White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged in the press briefing room that there was a quid pro quo, and then he told us to “get over it.”

Then came the testimony before the House panel from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, who said that “yes,” the president sought a quid pro quo. He heard him seek it in real time and told the committee what he heard from the president. He said everyone was “in the loop” regarding the quid pro quo.

The memo of Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president even mentions the “favor, though.”

Why, then, do Republicans on the House committee and others on Capitol Hill keep saying there was “no quid pro quo”? What are they not hearing? Did they cover their ears when Sondland testified to that knowledge at the House hearings? Did they not hear Mick Mulvaney’s assertion of a favor and his scolding us to “Get over it”?

I know these are rhetorical questions. They won’t produce any answers. They simply serve to symbolize the futility and frustration that this impeachment inquiry has produced … so far.

Maloney channels Jordan

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney got rough and tough today with Gordon Sondland. The New York Democrat asked the U.S. ambassador to the European Union “who would benefit” from an investigation of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Sondland was a witness at the impeachment inquiry hearing being conducted by the House Intelligence Committee. So, Maloney asked the question. He asked it repeatedly. Maloney’s voice became brusque. He bristled at Sondland’s initial semi-response.

I watched the exchange today and, to be honest, it made me uncomfortable. Then I recalled what I have witnessed from the get-go from a member of the Republican lineup on the committee, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.

Jordan was brought onto the committee to act — as I see it — as the designated hatchet man for the GOP House minority. He has been roughing up witnesses throughout the impeachment inquiry process, not to mention tossing insults at his Democratic committee colleagues, including Chairman Adam Schiff.

So, was Maloney totally out of line today? Maybe at some level. Sondland said he had testified in good faith to the committee, but Maloney wasn’t taking that bait. He mentioned that Sondland’s initial closed-door testimony didn’t go well and that he had to issue a clarification of what he said initially.

“I appreciate your candor,” Maloney said in a near-shout at Sondland, “but look what it took to get it out of ya.”

As a spectator with an admitted bias about these proceedings, I am left to suggest only that Sean Maloney was channeling his colleague Jim Jordan. He was dishing out just a little of what Jordan has been delivering all along.

Ambassadorships: political payola

The name of Gordon Sondland is about to become a household name.

He is the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. He has testified to House Intelligence Committee members that Donald Trump sought a quid pro quo — a political favor — from the government of Ukraine.

I want to mention Sondland because the media keep reporting that the ambassador “earned” his appointment from Trump because of his political friendliness with the president. As if that’s news? It isn’t.

Sondland is among an interminable list of ambassadors who have zero diplomatic experience. The nature of ambassadorial appointments makes them political payoffs. That’s what they have been since the beginning of the republic.

Perhaps there ought to be a monumental reform in the criteria that presidents use in nominating these individuals to the diplomatic posts. I would love to see ambassadorships awarded to career diplomats, individuals who have spent a lifetime in public service, who know something about the country where they would be stationed to operate on behalf of the United States of America.

That’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

I have known precisely one individual who received a presidential appointment as a U.S. ambassador overseas. The late Teel Bivins of Amarillo got the nod from then-President George W. Bush to become our ambassador to Sweden. Bivins was a state senator from Amarillo.

Did the newly named ambassador have any knowledge of Sweden? No! He had never even set foot in the country. He got the appointment because he had worked diligently on Bush’s winning presidential campaign in 2000. He ventured to early primary states to raise lots of money on Bush’s behalf. Plus, Bivins also was close to President George H.W. Bush, the father of the man who sought the office of president.

Bivins, though, did surround himself with competent staff. He had many career diplomats working for him.

To be sure, presidents of both parties have selected high-profile politicians to serve as envoys to major U.S. allies, such as Great Britain, Japan or China.

My point is that Sondland’s political standing is nothing new or unique as we start to examine his role in the Ukrainian matter that is threatening to result in Donald Trump’s impeachment by the House.

I am hoping the media can let go of this idea that Sondland’s political chops somehow make a big deal out of his EU ambassadorship. They don’t. It’s the norm.

Britain selects Boris Johnson as PM? This is just great!

As if the world wasn’t unsettled enough with Donald John Trump serving as head of government — and head of state — of the world’s most powerful nation.

Now the planet gets to watch another buffoon take control of another great power’s government. That’s right, Great Britain’s Parliament has selected Boris Johnson to lead the Conservative Party, which means Johnson gets to become prime minister.

Johnson is as much of a goofball/fruitcake/buffoon as his good pal, Trump. What’s more, he even sports what one must define as a ridiculous head of hair, again just like Trump.

But beyond all the personal stuff, we have this matter of the incoming prime minister spouting intemperate utterances. He wants to fast track Britain’s departure from the European Union, which many of us wish wouldn’t occur in the first place.

Johnson succeeds Teresa May as prime minister. Sure, she has her problems, but at least she knows how conduct herself with decorum on the world stage. Boris Johnson, on the other hand, well … once again, he reminds me of the president of the United States.

Trump and Johnson. Oh, my. These two were made for each other.

Mamma Mia! Take me back … to Greece!

It’s not often that I get moved by a film to visit a place where the film was shot. Such a feeling overwhelmed me today as my wife and I sat through a delightful musical, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.”

The music is fabulous. The cast is stellar, containing many of my favorite actors. But the setting! Oh, my goodness.

It was set in Greece, although the principal filming was done in nearby Croatia. My wife and I have been to Greece twice. My wife and I have been blessed over the years with the opportunity to travel around the world. She once told me after our first visit in 2000 that Greece is “the one country I’ve seen where I could go back again and again.”

Me, too, sweetie.

Greece is recovering from the financial calamity that befell the country. It’s trying to repay its enormous debt owed to the European Union; make no mistake, a payment in full is highly unlikely. The country, though, is in nowhere near the dire straits it found itself not long after playing host to the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Well, that’s another story.

I just watched a beautifully filmed movie that was set in a country in which I have a keen and lifelong interest. It’s my ancestral homeland.

I long have wanted to return. A musical film today added a lot of fuel to that burning desire.

I know. It’s weird. It’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

POTUS fatigue setting in?

I fear that I am on the verge of suffering from terminal POTUS fatigue.

I don’t expect to croak from it. I don’t even know if I’ll suffer an emotional collapse, or any kind of psychological breakdown.

I’m just wearing out. Maybe. Possibly.

The president of the United States is conducting himself and his office in a way none of us have ever witnessed. Do you remember “No Drama Obama,” with the previous president operating on level plain? He disliked the tumult, turmoil and tempest that occasionally comes with the office.

Donald John Trump Sr.? He relishes it! He looks for it! He wants to govern daily with chaos, confusion — and perhaps a bit of corruption — all swirling around him.

Good grief! He goes to Europe to meet with the most dependable allies this nation on planet Earth and then proceeds to p** them all off. He wasn’t done. Not by a long shot.

The president then goes to the United Kingdom, talks to the Sun newspaper, criticizes British Prime Minister Teresa May’s handling of the British exit from the European Union and then offers an endorsement of former British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson to be the UK’s next prime minister.

And then he denies saying it!

There’s more. He travels to Helsinki. He and Russian strongman Vladimir Putin meet for two hours, just the two of them. Then he comes out and declares that U.S. intelligence experts’ assertion about Russian attacks on our electoral process are not to be believed; he believes Putin’s denial.

And this is what happened just in the past week!

His entire presidency has been rife with weeks just like this, although the stakes of this week’s weirdness are getting more compelling all the time.

I need to get a good night’s sleep. I’ll awaken in the morning. I’ll be refreshed. I’ll get back at it.

How in the world does the president function like this?

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.

Trade wars aren’t ‘good,’ really, they aren’t

I believe it was the character Gordon Gekko, portrayed by Michael Douglas, who said in the film “Wall Street” that “Greed … is good.”

That was about three decades ago. These days, we have another character, who happens to be the president of the United States, who is saying that “trade wars are good.”

Well, greed isn’t necessarily good. Trade wars aren’t good, either.

Yet the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, has now officially gone to “war” with China, the world’s second-leading economic powerhouse.

Ladies and gents, we’re all going to pay for this.

Trump has imposed tariffs on Chinese imports. As the New York Times has reported: On Thursday, President Trump showed no signs of backing down from his fight, saying aboard Air Force One that the first wave of tariffs on $34 billion in goods would quickly be followed by levies on another $16 billion of Chinese products. And Mr. Trump continued to threaten Beijing with escalating tariffs on as much as $450 billion worth of Chinese goods.

How are the Chinese going to respond? That remains the open question. According to the Times: “At the moment, I don’t see how this ends,” said Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “This is very much in the president’s hands because he’s got advisers that seem divided, some substantively, some tactically. I just don’t think we’ve had any clear signs of the resolution he wants.”

Trump’s war against our traditional allies and trading partners has reached around the world. He’s imposed tariffs on Canada and Mexico, on the European Union and on Great Britain.

Tariff is another word for “tax,” meaning that the tax will add to the cost of producing the goods being shipped. If we’re going to impose these taxes on imported products, then the nation from which they come will respond with tariffs/taxes of their own on the goods that come from the United States.

Think, too, for a moment about the U.S. Labor Department’s report today that non-farm payrolls grew by 213,000 jobs in June. Good news, yes? Of course it is!

Will we continue to experience this continuing job growth if manufacturers no longer can afford to do business in this world of growing tariffs and taxes?

That’s my fear.

Trade wars aren’t good.

Motorcycle maker caught in crossfire

Hey, what’s going on here?

Donald J. Trump said that Harley-Davidson, the iconic motorcycle manufacturer, was going to benefit from his economic policies. The company would flourish from his protectionist measures. The tariffs and all that.

That’s not how it’s playing out.

Harley-Davidson has announced it is moving some of its operations offshore because it doesn’t want to get caught in the crossfire leveled by the European Union, which is retaliating against the president’s tariffs against EU nations.

As the New York Times has reported: Mr. Trump’s trade war is beginning to ripple through the United States economy as companies struggle with a cascade of tariffs here and abroad. While Mr. Trump says his trade policy is aimed at reviving domestic manufacturing, Harley-Davidson’s move shows how the White House approach could backfire as American companies increasingly rely on overseas markets for materials, production and sales.

Harley-Davidson is one of the few American companies that had resisted — until now — the temptation to relocate to sites overseas. They make Harleys in Wisconsin and the president was proud to hail the U.S.-made manufacturer as a beneficiary of the policies he is pursuing.

Of course, the president is distressed that Harley-Davidson would bail as a result of the tariffs and the trade war that has commenced between the United States and the EU. He said Harley-Davidson is using the tariffs as an “excuse.” He wrote in a tweet, according to the NY Times: “Surprised that Harley-Davidson, of all companies, would be the first to wave the White Flag,” he said. “I fought hard for them and ultimately they will not pay tariffs selling into the E.U., which has hurt us badly on trade.”

Well, Mr. President, you didn’t fight hard enough, apparently. The trade war has just produced some early casualties.

Nice going. Who’s next?