Tag Archives: Australia

How’s Trump playing abroad? Not well, apparently

I have to share this e-mail, which landed in my inbox overnight from a friend who lives in Australia.

He’s a former journalist and is an astute observer of U.S. politics.

Here is part of what he wrote:

“To describe today’s events in the House Committee hearing as ‘riveting’ wouldn’t even begin to capture the breadth, depth, scope and implications of what is unfolding your way.¬†

“How long can Trump continue in this bubble, immune to the consequences of his words and deeds? By the looks of things, indefinitely… while his enablers continue catching his flak and dissembling incessantly.

“Surely after (FBI Director James) Comey’s testimony and its likely implications, half the bloody administration is likely to be marched out of the White House in handcuffs sometime soon to the nearest penitentiary to await trial for treason!!! For the life of me, I do not know how the country is still functioning in the midst of this. This must sit somewhere between Watergate and the Civil War in terms of crisis to the union.”

To my friend, and I’m sure he knows this, the country is “functioning” because the presidency is just one element of our government. Thank goodness for that.

Should we care what citizens of other countries think of what’s happening with Donald Trump and all this Russia business?

Uh, yeah! The president is managing to wreck the credibility of the high office he occupies.

That credibility involves our geopolitical relationships with other countries all over the planet … and that includes Australia, one of this nation’s staunchest allies and whose head of government received a tongue-lashing from the president, who¬†hung up on him.

What will it take for Trump to lash out at Putin?

Donald J. Trump is exhibiting a maddening — and¬†frightening — refusal to issue tough talk to Vladimir Putin.

It is baffling to many of us in the extreme. Hell, it’s worse than that! It’s scaring the crap out of me.

Trump tears our allies a new one: the Australian prime minister; the president of Mexico come immediately to mind. The Aussies have died next to our guys on battlefields around the world. The Mexicans are a huge trading partner and we share a lengthy border with them.

The president puts NATO on notice: Pay up or we might not come to your defense if the Russians attack any one of you.

But yet, 17 U.S. intelligence agencies conclude unanimously that Russia sought to influence our election; Trump dismisses their findings. Commentator Bill O’Reilly reminds Trump that Putin “is a killer”; the president says the world has “lots of killers” and adds that the United States isn’t “so innocent.”

The president continues to refuse to release his tax returns so that Americans can see with whom and/or what he does business. Many of us are left to wonder: Does he have some kind of business relationship with Vlad? It’s a fair question, given Trump’s stubborn and, frankly, inexplicable reluctance to talk as tough to Putin as he does to our allies.

Dude, Putin is no friend of this country! He reportedly has ordered the murder of journalists in his country, yet you say the media here are the “enemy of the people”; Putin’s actions against media representatives demonstrates that he share that hideous view.

I’m basically venting at this point. I know Trump isn’t going to do something that little ol’ me wants him to do.

For the ever-lovin’ life of me, I cannot fathom why our president can’t muster up the anger against a guy who in a previous life was spook in chief for the Evil Empire.

Trump not playing well Down Under

An e-mail came to me overnight from a friend in Australia.

My friend is a former journalist, an erudite man, a student of America politics. He knows far more about U.S. politics and policy than I do about Australia.

He writes this about the rant Donald J. Trump’s¬†launched against Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull while on a long-distance phone call with his colleague Down Under:

Shocking, yes. Disappointing, certainly.

Surprising, ‘fraid not!¬†

This was always on the cards, and I can’t help wondering whether Obama perhaps had laid this as a trap for Trump in the event he did win the presidency.¬†¬†

A good analysis from an Australian academic here:  


Trump picked his target well. Australia is small enough, friendly enough and inconsequential enough to be the perfect scapegoat for Trump to demonstrate what now substitutes for diplomacy.

He wanted to make an example of someone in his typical swingdick manner, and we fit the bill perfectly. Think of the school bully singling out the smallest kid in a group of friends and beating the s*** out of him just to show the others who is boss. That the leader of the US… any leader of the US… publicly behaves like this is sad, pathetic… and dangerous. I was going to say Leader of the Free World… but Angela Merkel has assumed that mantle, while China is showing maturity and poise in its stewardship of international trade.¬†¬†

Over here, we are dreading to think what favours Trump will extract from us if he’s going to honour this deal. Possibly military intervention in the South China Sea, which we cannot afford and certainly don’t need. Sadly our Prime Minister is a hostage to the hard right in his own party here, so us taking these unfairly-detained refugees is off the table for nothing more than base political reasons. Karma at work, some would say.

I thought the job of government was to bring order to chaos and protect the citizenry. I must be clearly mistaken.

Trump is scary alright … but Steve Bannon is terrifying! Him along with the cabal of crooks, vandals and liars they’ve assembled as an administration.

I know Michael Moore has suggested it’s actually a coup in all but name.

It’s a sad day when someone whose nickname is ‘Mad Dog’ stands out as the sanest person in the room.¬†¬†

I’ve been reading commentary this week suggesting either impeachment or the 25th Amendment as fail safes.¬†

My money’s on impeachment – tax returns, business conflicts-of-interest, or eventual proof of collusion between Russian hackers, Putin and the Trump campaign on the Podesta emails.

It’s in there somewhere! The question is, how much damage will be done beforehand, and to what extent will it be irreparable.¬†

Take care my friend … We’re still holding our breath over here.

Hmmm. So are many of us here.

So, this is how we act toward our friends?

Donald J. Trump is unchained, uninhibited … perhaps he has become unhinged.

The Washington Post reports today that the president of the United States got into a long-distance phone tiff with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and then hung up on him.

What gives here?

The Australians are among our strongest allies. They’ve been with us through thick and thin. They fought with us in Vietnam, in Korea, in World War II for crying out loud!

According to The Post: “It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief ‚ÄĒ a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America‚Äôs staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

“Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu¬≠gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.”


Does the president really believe Prime Minister Turnbull really cares about the size of Trump’s Electoral College victory?

I am not yet understanding how the 45th president intends to conduct himself on the world stage. Maybe that’s by design. Perhaps he is doing all this on purpose to keep our friends and foes off balance.

But, crikey, mate! This isn’t how you talk to a long-standing ally!

One view of Trump … from Down Under


I took the liberty the other day of reaching to the other side of the planet for an opinion on Donald Trump.

A fellow I met 15 years ago is a smart and savvy political observer and commentator. Peter Adams used to work as a broadcast journalist and he’s been an astute¬†observer of American politics for many years. He lives in Adelaide, Australia with his wife and children. He remains keenly interested in happenings in this country and we have stayed in touch over the years.

So, I asked Peter: What’s the word on the street in a major city Down Under about Trump’s Republican nomination candidacy? He¬†responded with this:

“Much of the TV coverage is devoted to his rather strident rhetoric, while the press/online coverage is already looking at why he won’t get the formal nomination.

“As indicated, we won’t switch on until the primaries next year …¬† so in the meantime we’re enjoying Trump as some sort of political comic relief.

“The fact that he’s even dishing out on Fox News hosts means he adheres to the concept of equal opportunity …¬† i.e. he’ll offend everyone!

“If the political process and media scrutiny don’t get him, satire will. Someone will rise to harpoon him much like Tina Fey did to Sarah Palin.

“A disaster was averted and the world got a bloody good laugh along the way.

” …Trump should be given every legitimate avenue the Republican Party allows to make it abundantly clear to its electoral colleges and the American people why he would be a domestic and foreign policy disaster and would reduce the US to an international laughingstock. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, they’ll eventually do the right thing … once every other option is exhausted. The Democrats will be licking their lips with delight at all of this. Hillary brings enough political baggage with her to fill a jumbo jet, but The Donald may well provide the lucky break that helps turn her career.

“But from there, I can only imagine the weapons-grade political conniving she’ll bring to the Oval Office.”

Strange, isn’t it, how the view from so far away looks so much — to my way of thinking, at least — like the view from right here?


Imagine that … MH 370 search questioned

Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing on March 8, 2014 … and then vanished.

Not into thin air. It wasn’t swallowed by a black hole, as at least one TV commentator theorized.

It likely crashed into the Indian Ocean.

But 16 months later, with no trace of the plane or its 239 passengers and crew, some are questioning the search techniques used to find the Boeing 777 — which, by the way,¬†happens to be a¬†very large commercial aircraft.


According to Reuters: “Experts involved in past deep water searches say the search to find MH370 could easily miss the plane as Dutch company Fugro NV, the firm at the forefront of the mission, is using inappropriate technology for some terrain and inexperienced personnel for the highly specialized task of hunting man-made objects.”

Australia has taken the lead in the search effort. The Malaysians have sent out all manner of conflicting messages. Search teams scoured one huge section of ocean, then shifted to another huge section of ocean floor. Where on God’s Earth is that jetliner?

Not a single sign of debris has been spotted. No human remains have been detected. A plane that large hitting the water, presumably at a high rate of speed, breaks apart.

And still no sign of it?

I’m amazed, to be honest, that it took this long for serious questions to come forward about the manner in which the search has dragged on.



Overseas travel awaits

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

You’ve heard about my plans to travel in a recreational vehicle with my wife throughout North America.

That’ll happen in due course. Some of it’s happening now as we take our fifth wheel out for long-weekend excursions. Retirement beckons. It’s coming closer every day and soon enough we’ll be free to hit the road.

However, we have some places we intend to see abroad as well.

My wife and I have compiled an official list of places we intend to visit once we decide we’re tired of working. More or less in order of preference, but not entirely so, here they are:

Australia: Neither of us has been close to the Down Under continent yet. I’ve been to Southeast Asia a time or three over the years. My wife has been to Taiwan twice with me. Australia is calling our name.

We have been communicating with a friend in Adelaide ever since we met this individual on another trip, in 2000, to Greece. We’ve indicated our desire to see him. He is receptive to our visiting him in the state of South Australia.

My fascination with Australia goes back to when I was about 13. My dad was entertaining a job opportunity in the coastal town of Rockhampton, between Sydney and Brisbane. I studied all I could then about Australia, anticipating a huge move. Dad didn’t pursue the opportunity. We stayed put. My interest in Australia, though, has remained high.

My wife has agreed that Australia should be at or near the top of our foreign destinations when the time arrives.

Greece: We’ve been there twice together already, in 2000 and 2001. I returned a third time in 2003. It is the land of my ancestors. My wife fell in love deeply with Greece almost from the moment we landed in Athens.

She has told me on more than one occasion: “Of all the places we’ve seen this is the one place I could return to again and again.”

It is magic. The scenic splendor is breathtaking. The antiquities are staggering. The people are charming.

We’re going back.

Israel: We’ve been there as well. We spent a week in the Holy Land after I had spent four weeks there leading a Rotary International Group Study Exchange. We stayed in Jerusalem and saw quite a few holy sites during our time together there.

We were unable to see a lot of other sites. We didn’t get to Galilee. We saw only a small part of Bethlehem. There were many other sites we left unseen. Time wouldn’t allow it.

Germany: Four years ago on a tour of Taiwan, I met a young journalist who lives in Bavaria, which I call “the pretty part of Germany.” He and I struck up an immediate friendship. We communicate regularly. He has invited us to visit him and his young family. Oh, how I want to see the mountainous region of southern Germany. We’ll get there.

Africa: I’ve long had a fascination with the wildlife of Africa. I want to shoot some of it — with a camera. The idea of a photo safari sounds like more fun than I deserve.

The Netherlands: The trip to Israel five years included my making some friends from The Netherlands. They traveled with our Rotary group. One of the Dutch group and I have remained in contact in the years since then and he, too, has extended the invitation for my wife and me to visit him there. How can I say “no” at the chance of seeing such a spectacular region of Europe?

We’re not yet ready to quit working. Indeed, I intend to keep writing for as long as I am drawing a breath.

It’s a big world out there and we’re excited about seeing more of it.

Search resumes for missing jetlner

It’s so hard to keep up with these compelling news stories that keep getting pushed away from the public eye.

You remember Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, correct?

It’s still missing somewhere in the Indian Ocean with more than 200 people on board. Searchers took four months off to map the floor of the ocean.


The crazy conspiracy stories have stopped. Malaysian and Australian government officials have more or less stopped issuing press releases. The loved ones of those on board have returned to their homes, although I’d bet real American money they haven’t resumed living “normal” lives.

The Boeing 777 disappeared on March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It’s now believed to have crashed while traveling more or less in the opposite direction of its intended destination. These highly sophisticated airplanes don’t do such things on their own.

The mystery still must be solved. It’s as compelling a problem to the loved ones of those who are missing and presumed dead as it was when it vanished without a trace.

For the rest of the world? We’ve been pulled so many directions since that terrible story broke it’s impossible to keep up, it seems, with where to turn our attention next.

I’m going to join many around the world, though, in hoping the resumption of the search will finally — finally — produce a discovery.

Malaysians have lost world's trust

Is it me or has the Malaysian government lost the trust of a curious world that wants to know about the fate of that missing jetliner?

I’m beginning to disbelieve almost anything that government is saying about the what it thinks happened to Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370 after it took off March 8. It disappeared. It had been headed due north from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Searchers have been looking due south, in the Indian Ocean, off the Australia coast.

Through it all, the Malaysian government has made a mess of the information it is supposed to tell people about what might have happened to the Boeing 777 and the 230 people on board.


The search area has been shifted, expanded, shrunk and re-expanded. The families of those missing and presumed dead have been pushed through an emotional sausage grinder. The Malaysian government informed the family members via text message that their loved ones likely are dead. Some members of the transportation ministry have actually said they’re holding out hope they’ll find survivors, giving grieving family members reason to hold onto the faintest of hopes in a hopeless situation.

The search has become the costliest and most extensive aviation disaster operation in world history.

It’s understandable that the search is being done in a treacherous, deep and rarely navigated waters. Everyone should grasp the difficulty in finding wreckage 3 miles below the surface of some rough ocean water.

It’s just that the Malaysian government — which is supposed to have taken responsibility for telling the world all it knows about the tragedy — has seemed to incapable of sending out consistent information about what it knows and when it knew it.

Australian underwater search devices have been deployed. They’ve found nothing so far. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says his government won’t stop looking until teams find the wreckage and recover those flight recorder devices.

That should provide some tiny measure of comfort for family members waiting to know what happened to their loved ones. They don’t seem to be getting it from the Malaysians.

That settles it: Australia, here we come

This is another in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on the onset of retirement.

Honest to goodness, my wife and I declared some years ago that our first overseas trip after retirement would be to Australia.

A recent study listing the world’s most livable cities confirms our choice to be a wise one.


The Economist Intelligence Unit cited Melbourne as the world’s most livable city. Also on the top 10 list of desirable cities were Sydney, Adeleide and Perth.

With that, I’m quite certain now that we’ll head way, way west and way, way south for our first trip abroad once we decide to quit working for a living.

It takes a good bit of time to get there by airplane. I hear it’s about a 24-hour journey all told, counting stops in, say, Los Angeles and perhaps Honolulu en route.

Even better news is that we have a friend who lives in Adelaide who I am hoping will extend some hospitality our way when the time comes. We used to be acquainted with a fellow in Perth — in Western Australia — but we’ve since lost touch with him. Too bad, I guess.

Our overseas travel plans also include a return to Israel, where we have several friends we want to see again; we hope to return to Greece, where we visited together twice in 2000 and 2001 — and where Kathy once described as one place on Planet Earth she could see again and again; we’ve also acquired friends in The Netherlands and Germany who already have extended invitations to us.

Australia, though, has been a Land of Mystery to me since I was a kid. I have wanted to see it up close since the time my father actually considered taking a job opportunity in a coastal city, Rockhampton. I was about 13 or 14 at the time and I read volumes of material about Australia thinking — no, hoping — Dad would take the job. He didn’t.

“We feel immensely proud that Australia’s fastest growing city has again been recognized as the most livable city in the world,” Agent-General for the Victorian Government in Britain Geoffrey Conaghan said in an emailed statement to MSN.com.

The Economist Intelligence Unit survey cited the city’s health care, infrastructure, culture and environment as factors contributing to its livability. That’s good enough for me.

The least livable cities in the world? How about Damascus, Tripoli and Cairo — all torn to shreds by civil war and bloodshed?

I will need no persuading to stay away from any of those hellholes. We do, after all, have our travel vehicle set to take us to view the splendor of our very own continent.