North Korea, Stormy Daniels and this and that….

So many, so many possible topics, so let’s just take a glance at a few ongoing sagas…

Since it touches upon the prospect of nuclear war, let’s begin with North Korea, which is acting like it wants to develop its relationship with South Korea (you know, their athletes marching together at the Olympics, etc.).  NO KO and SO KO are setting up a hot line between their two nation heads and will have talks in upcoming weeks which may lead to talks including the U. S.

It sounds good, but NO KO has made peaceful overtures over the years, which wound up stalling periods while they continued to develop nuclear weapons. Perhaps the Trump crazy persona has prompted Jong UN to reconsider…………but more likely it is a clever ploy by UN, buying time and perhaps splitting our relationship with SO KO.

Stormy Daniels is a picayune topic, but much more fun, unless you are Donald J. Trump. The porn star/adult film actress (depending on how much you want to go “tisk, tisk”) refuses to go away.  It looks like she will become a bigger pain to the president as she is suing for the right to tell her story arguing the non-disclosure agreement is invalid as Trump never signed it.

Even if she must give the $130,000 back, she will undoubtedly make much more in appearance fees and likely some sort of book deal.  It should be fun to watch her buzzing around nipping at Trump like a clever mosquito.  Rumors say she has some photos she’d like to share.

The really big topic of gun control can wait, as Congress is slowly muddling through various proposals, never knowing what Trump would actually sign.  Meanwhile, some interesting reactions from business, in that two big sellers of guns, Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods, have established more restrictions on their own gun sales.  Also, numerous large corporations have stopped giving NRA members special discounts.

Of course, the drivers for ongoing work on this issue are the high school students organizing a big March in Washington later this month, and various walkouts at schools throughout the country.  And undoubtedly other events I don’t know about.  Of course Congress will do as little as possible, most thinking of how it will affect voting in the fall elections.  A hefty dose of determined idealism from the young adults gives me some hope the NRA won’t completely tip the balance as usual.

Speaking of changes, the White House just lost its 16th high level administrator when Gary Cohn, White House chief economic adviser, resigned.  Some kind of record exodus I think.   Cohn resigned after Trump refused to take back his suddenly announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, a move that has lots of critics besides Cohn, and few defenders.

For one, it could ignite a trade war, especially with Canada and Mexico, the two biggest exporters of those goods to us.  For another, there are a lot more people working in industries here that use those metals as opposed to those that mine them.  Tariffs will prompt price hikes that make their products less competitive.  Any employment gains in steel production seem likely overshadowed by losses in the steel using industries.

No matter to Trump as it is a great distraction from other issues and makes him look good when he goes to Pennsylvania soon to give a campaign speech in a steel producing area.  It is a complex matter, but no reason to say more yet, as Trump could completely rework this as it suits him.

And of course there is the Mueller investigation, which keeps coming up with more indictments and/or agreements for witness testimony.   Trump must be having some nightmares of looking around and seeing the terminator steadily moving towards him.

What else?  Remember the week the was supposed to be infrastructure week?  Well, forget it.  Nothing has happened there and doesn’t seem likely to before the election.   It looked like a bad idea at the time and has lost its impetus for now.

Speaking of delay, DACA comes to mind.  Since it will be tied up in the courts for months, my bet is Congress will do little or nothing for months.  Also being delayed are major steps to combat Russian interference in our election this fall.  Trump pretends otherwise with talk of a comprehensive study of the matter under way, but no specific actions and fall not far away.

Criminal, I say.  Criminal.

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Trump’s Triumphant Return from Asia

Full of himself as usual with all sorts of imagined successes, the president is back in town.   Well, at least we’re still not at war with North Korea, which I view as a plus.  Most concerning still is how war might begin by accident especially now that we have three carrier fleets in the vicinity which must look menacing to Kim Jung UN.  Maybe we want them to be a bit menacing, but definitely not to the point which will prompt him to cross some imaginary, hard to define line between us, the line of no return.

Fortunately – I guess – there are reports that Kim has hired American foreign policy experts to help him better understand Trump, so Kim at least is trying not to jump the gun.  On the other hand, I don’t know how well we understand the man despite all the theories that abound, so I’m not sure what image NOKO is getting.

In terms of North Korea, the most hopeful sign I’ve seen is news of a special envoy from China being sent to NOKO.  I choose to hope he will be of some help, even though there is no knowing why he is going.  Oh, I’m sorry.  My poetic nature is showing.

As for the rest of the trip, it seemed mostly just a lot of photo opportunities and Trump’s ego being assuaged by being treated like royalty.  Meanwhile those various Asian nations are working on business relations among themselves without the United States, since Trump pulled us out of the Pacific Trade Pact, with China courting all of them for closer relations.

While Trump wants to take us back to the 1950’s (his childlike version of Back to the Future), the Chinese are steadily working their away into the future with trade pacts  and much money spent developing anti-polluting energy technology.   As the prolific and incisive political theorist Thomas Friedman has asserted, the Chinese view the Donald as, “Trump the Chump”; they wine and dine Little Donnie to make him feel big, while they are steadily making themselves bigger on the world stage  apparently without his noticing.  His hats should be redesigned:  Make America Smaller than Ever.

You know how Trump keeps talking about replacing these multi-nation trade pacts with great trade deals he is going to arrange with individual nations.  Has there been even one so far?  After all he has had a year.  Have I missed it?

The only clear plus of this visit seems Trump’s help in getting those three tall UCLA shoplifters out of prison, but as with everything he touches, he smudged that, too.  With all that he might tweet about upon his return,  the always ungracious Trump chose first to lecture the boys on how they should thank him for his help,   Which they later did, to which Father Trump responded they should also thank Chinese leader Xi Jin Ping and should remember how life’s a winding road or something equally trite.

This is one of those moments when I’m certain his J. middle initial stands for “Jerk.”

Summing it all up, the trip was a typical performance by our Clown-in-Chief.  The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson describes the trip in a more fully developed and better written editorial:  “Clown Goes Abroad”.  My post might be viewed as an appetizer for his more satisfying meal.  I think he really nails the absurdity of Trump playing president.  Right here.

Wuz Up in Trumperland for November?

It has been over three weeks since I posted, an indication of how sick I am of writing about Trump, a man who deserves little written about him at all, except for one revolting fact:  He is the President, the only guy with a one man nuclear capacity.  Oh, right, there is also that North Korean guy.  More about the two of them below.

This seems a good time to make a few points as potentially important events might be in store for us this month and not just speculation and wild goose chasing launched by the President’s off hand comments in tweets and in public, a continuous fourth of July fireworks of distractions that usually leave us a little more divided each new day.

Here are three key areas to keep our eyes on over the course of this month despite whatever distractions that Trump trumps up:

The Mueller investigation has become more concrete in recent days with a couple of indictments and news of a guilty plea by one of the actors, George Papapodopoulis, a guy unknown to most of us, but with the potential of opening up Trump’s can of worms regarding connections with Russia.  What the indictments and plea deal suggests is that Mueller is sending a message to those tied to the Trump administration that they too could be indicted if they try to deceive investigators.   This could produce a number of real news events in contrast to the suffocating miasma of speculation that we have had to stomach for months now.

The second news thread to follow is the Republican tax “reform” plan that is supposed to be revealed today.  One key idea is that a few trillion in closed loopholes will be necessary to prevent this “reform” from ballooning our national debt, and as always, we all hate loopholes accept for those which benefit ourselves.  They couldn’t get a healthcare bill to pass and that seems a walk in the park compared to this.   If this is a park, it is replete with muggers.

Saving the worst for last is Trump’s upcoming 12 day visit to Asia starting Friday.   On the surface this would seem a good thing to do for several obvious reasons, except we are talking about Trump doing it, so who knows.   Of course, he will say it was all great, especially him.  I’ll say it was good if we don’t seem even closer to war with North Korea than we do now.

The NOKO issue is particularly scary because Trump and Kim Jong Un appear on a collision course, as the latter seems to see an expansion of his nuclear weaponry as the best way to keep his regime, especially himself, safe while the former seems unlikely to tolerate a NOKO capacity to strike our mainland with a nuclear weapon.

Something has to give here, or catastrophe on both sides seems inevitable.   An additional danger is that one of the bluster brothers might interpret some threat the other makes as a sign of imminent attack, prompting a preemptive strike.  I can’t recall who labelled North Korea the “land of lousy options,” but that’s remains a fine description.

Thanksgiving is in three weeks and while I have much to be thankful for in my personal life, I wonder how thankful I will feel regarding the three issues touched upon above.

“The Emperor has No Clothes” says Senator Bob Corker. Well, more or less.

I’ve been waiting for months for someone who has supported Trump in the past who finally can’t take it anymore.  Can’t pretend Trump’s administration is doing well.  That person turns out to be one Senator Bob Corker who, to the New York Times, “charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

If you haven’t heard of the tweet hand grenade exchange this weekend between Corker and Trump, it ended with Corker writing:  “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.” 

Can you guess the adult who requires day care?

You could say Corker started it with some criticisms of Trump’s handling of the Charlottesville protest last May, suggesting his comments were not up to the standards of a president.  That he needed to up his game.

Much more recently Corker referred to the trio of Secretary of Defense Mattis, Chief of Staff Kelly and Secretary of State Tillerson as what keeps the White House from falling into chaos, not something the blister thin skin of “our” president could take, so Trump went to tweeting to tear Corker down, which led to Corker’s reply above.

In typical Trump fashion, he is so intent on getting back at Corker that he pays no attention to the importance of having the senator as an ally in congress if he actually wants to get anything done.   I believe Trump doesn’t ultimately care what he accomplishes as long as we all stay riveted to his “show” and he can makes us believe he’s accomplishing a lot.  And where that fails to place blame on someone else, the reverse of Harry Truman’s the “buck stops here”.   With Trump the buck stops anywhere except with him.

I urge you to read the notes of the  interview with Corker in the New York Times.  Because Corker is the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and also on the Senate Budget Committee, this fall out between Trump and him could have numerous ramifications on what gets passed in congress and how our foreign relations develop, especially with North Korea and Iran.

A Drive By Glance at American Foreign Affairs

What with Hurricane Harvey, the Mueller investigation and the three ring circus of the daily Trump show (six ring…. nine ring?), short shrift has been given to events abroad of late.  For example, have you heard anything about Syria recently?   I hadn’t so I did some googling.

An LA Times piece this morning sums up the situation there as “Syria may be in ruins, but it looks like Assad ‘has won the war militarily.”   In short, there is no talk these days among national powers about “Assad must go.” Nations who had been involved with trying to make that happen have become distracted with their own affairs.    After firing a few missiles the U. S. has had little involvement other than in efforts to squash ISIS.

One of those distracted nations is Saudi Arabia, still struggling with a civil war it has abetted in Yemen and now in a diplomatic wrangle with Qatar, severing relations with that nation along with Egypt and a few others in the area, who accuse Qatar of bolstering instability in the region.  Under more normal circumstances that would be a big story, but we have too many of them already.   Interested in learning more?  Go here.

Back to Syria, the corker is that a few weeks ago the  “Damascus International Fair — once a showpiece of economic and technological prowess, attracting investors from across the Arab world and beyond — was held for the first time since being shuttered early in the war.”   I’m waiting for some friend to go there and send me a post card.

Moving on.  What about the Iran Nuclear Treaty?  Well, it is still holding, but Trump continues to want to find a way to scrap it.  Along with other treaties he doesn’t like.  Former  U. N. Ambassador Bolton has a plan to get us out.  Trump may embrace it or find some other way to break the deal.  If you want to dive into Bolton’s idea, check out this piece.

Moving on to Afghanistan.   The new U. S. policy there did make headlines briefly awhile ago, but really it isn’t a policy.  It is an open ended recognition that if we pull out we lose (and that locale becomes a haven for terrorists who might attack us again), so we won’t and hope the Taliban, etc., impressed by our resolve, will finally come to the negotiating table.  Reminds me of Korea, where our troops have remained for over half a century.

What a nice segue.  When it comes to endangering world peace, North Korea continues to appear the largest existential threat to those in the region and ourselves and maybe the entire world.   KIM JONG-UN’ s insistence on developing his nuclear missile program will have to change or a military confrontation seems inevitable.   Despite his ranting about fire and fury, not even Trump can believe that if it comes down to that the outcome will be anything short of horrific for friends and foes alike.

Things seem particularly tense now as is usually the case when we take part in joint military exercises annually with the South Koreans and others.   That always prompts an increase in saber rattling by JONG-UN.

But since we have our own saber rattler in the White House, it is impossible to know how something said or steps taken by either might cross some sort of line that triggers the war machines.

The talk continues to be that China must take a bigger hand in controlling NOKO, but that has been stated over and over for years now.   Can TRUMP pressure China enough economically to make a difference this time?    Well, if not, we are looking at a very sobering situation down the line that I will get back to later.

One thing I do applaud TRUMP for is the attention he has put on the Korean issue even if he leaves me nervous in the process.  Administration after administration has let the issue of a nuclear armed NOKO slide leading us to a point where there isn’t much of the slide left and we better slow things down or we will fall into an abys the likes of which is painful to imagine.