Happy Birthday, US of A!

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Today, the US of A celebrates its 241st birthday.

It was, like with any birth, one that was born out of travail, crying, shouts of glee, bloodshed and even death. Truly the continent was in heavy labor as the push and screams of thousands were heard around the world.

That sorrow and agony gave way, however, to jubilation as the nation emerged scathed and covered with the scars and trappings of nativity. But as difficult as that birth was, the struggle was not over.

There would be growing pains, illnesses and diseases to overcome. There would be those who would attempt to reclaim and to destroy that life which was born out of a pledge to devote honor, lives and fortunes to see this epic birth come to be and last through all time.

Through the years, as with any baby maturing to toddler to child to teen to adult, this great nation of states joined to form a “more perfect union” had to go through its share of perils, tests and trials. In each instance, in the end, the US of A emerged on the other side a better nation.

The most trying time is undisputed, which is what occurred during what I would call the teenage years, puberty, when literally brother was pitted against brother, sister against sister, sons and daughters against mothers and fathers. The greatest and most costly toll of lives and bloodshed threatened to tear the nation apart. Yet through the trauma of the Civil War, the War Between the States, a united and stronger country came of age.

Dark days still lay ahead, but it seemed the worst had passed.

Through more battles and more wars, we find ourselves today celebrating the nation we’ve become and feeling the pain of the mistakes we have made. We honor the lives who gave their all to keep this nation the home of the brave and the land of the free.

Now, we look forward to the days and years ahead.

We are traveling the rough and choppy sea of economic uncertainty, but which seems to be slowly recovering.

The ship of state must traverse the gulf as the skipper maneuvers the ship to avoid crashing on the rocks of lost hope, despair, keeping an eye on the course and the port of serenity which lies in the distance.

The tides of global unrest threaten to engulf us. We must stay resolute and strong. Together we can ride the waves and dock in safe harbor.

Many have lost hope.

Many no longer aspire to the American Dream.

Many wonder if the flag will still wave for much longer.

But we are Americans.

We will survive.

From the Cornfield, America, may she always be that shining city on a hill to which others seek to aspire.

Happy Independence Day!

7 Or 70

Days like yesterday it becomes difficult to determine if President Donald Trump is 7 or 70 years of age. After his childish tweet on Twitter, it is not easy to imagine it was sent by the Leader of the Free World.

Compounding the confusion is the National Press Corps acting like a bunch of second graders circling on the play ground screaming, ”Fight! Fight! Fight!”

While the folk in the Cornfield and throughout the Heartland sit back snickering and ignoring the lunacy.

We are more concerned with jobs, putting food on the table, having summer fun and our own health and concerns than the shenanigans of the Political Alter verse inside the Beltway.

Give us a break and focus on what really matters.

While I do not agree with the President in often what he tweets and the words he chooses to use, I do have an understanding of his mindset and the cultural setting for what most of us consider uncouth and un-called-for wording.

I discussed this nearly a year ago: Grandpa and Trump.

Grandpa and Trump

The White House Press Corps and others of the National Press are rightly criticized by those of us in the Heartland.

The bent of the journalists and their connection with life outside of the Coasts and the Beltway is far different from those of us in the Cornfield and the rest of the Heartland.

What matters to them, we find “too much ado about nothing.”

Time for the press to get out into the hustlings. Time for the President to put down his phone and focus on what is of importance to “we, the people.”

From the Cornfield, for a second day, we are being beset with talk about the President’s tweets and the National Press reaction and condemnation.

Time for both sides to give it a rest.

Both the President and the National Press are too defensive, too quick to throw bombs at each other and generally ready to step outside too often.

There will always be a certain amount of distrust and dislike between whoever is in the Oval Office and reporters who cover the White House, but at least the two should be able to act civilly with one another.

The Prez – A Review

Before we get started, pour yourself a tall one of This is Life, mixed not stirred, with the flavor of choice: Fox News, CNN, MSNBC or PBS. With that out of the way, let us move to the main course.

Grab a healthy slice of WWE Raw and knead with Survivor. Mix in a dallop of Big Brother and a bit of The Amazing Race. Blend until it consists of The Voice along with a tinge of American Idol. Sprinkle in The Real Life and a dash or two of Fear Factor. Garnish with The Apprentice. Bake and bank it like America’s Got Talent.

For dessert serve, hot or cold, The Bachelor or World of Dance (you may substitute Dancing With the Stars or So, You Think You Can Dance).

What you have concocted is the hottest dish on television this year, breaking all ratings and blowing up the Nielsen boxes – the reality hit – The Prez, starring Donald J. Trump and a host of snakes and gators slithering through the swamp.

So, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

We should have seen it coming. The critics should not be surprised. But in such a relatively short period of time it may have caught us all off guard.

Less than four score years ago, the first television President burst on our black and whites.  John F. Kennedy became a matinee idol to Richard Nixon’s five o’clock shadow of a villain in the making.

Bill Clinton took late night TV by storm and even rocked out MTV.

Barack Obama tapped into the new internet medium, but soon a new nerd came along to dominate social media – Trump. On our smart phones, our tablets, laptops and PCs, not to mention our flat screens, Everything’s Turning Up Trump!

The American viewing public is eating up as The Donald takes on the Main Stream Media and rubs the Dems and even his fellow GOPers noses in it.

Americans have become insatiable. More Facebook videos. More Twitter. More Youtube cinema masterpieces.

Howard Stern may be the king of all media, but Trump is the master of the medium of social networking.

America, you asked for it – you got it.

Those 24-hour news networks have fed the monster and shot it up with hormones, resulting in the award winning show of our first Reality Television Presidency.

Now the national press corps complains about the Frankenstein it aided the American public in creating.

Yet in the Heartland, in the Cornfield, people tune in to catch the highlights, but go back to living their lives. Folk here tend to care more about a job, paying the bills, living life, putting food on the table.

While the Coasts can’t get enough of the Beltway action.

The Heartland yawns.

From the Cornfield, how long will the show run?

Four years?

Eight years?

Will it crash and burn early with an impeachment to boost ratings?

Tune in tomorrow – same Bat channel, same Bat time.

The Day America Stood Still

On Thursday, June 8, 2017, America came to a grinding halt as people across the nation were absorbed in the Super Bowl of Politics – the appearance of former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

At stake was the presidency of Donald J. Trump and the American electoral process.

While there was a lot of thunder streaming across television screens, monitors and smartphones, there were no lightning strikes, no burning timber. The smoke at times became intense, but no flames erupted. Bars and taverns hosted watch parties. The crowds reveled in watching as Comey spoke and Senators questioned.

But to their disappointment, no resolution came, no validation of either support or opposition.

Those who favored the President still favored the President.

Those who opposed the President still opposed the President.

Today we have the pundits grousing over whether anyone came out a winner in yesterday’s hearing. Some are trying to make a case for criminal obstruction of justice by the President, while others a political case for eventual impeachment.

At this point in time, all are merely words without substance. Until the Special Counsel Robert Mueller finishes his investigation, the current scandal involving the President is a political fray. All other issues await the criminal investigation determination of Mueller.

What do we really know this Friday?

Not much more than we already knew from the leaked stories that have circulated in the press.

What was confirmed was that at the time of the firing of Comey, the President was not personally under investigation.

A cloud of bewilderment was raised by Comey about former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and her insinuated involvement with both the investigation into the private email server used by and candidacy of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her quest for the White House.

In spite of the hunger of the folk on Capitol Hill to pin blame on or exonerate the President during Thursday’s hearing, those questions remain and will remain until Mueller has concluded his investigation.

Another interesting outtake was learning that Comey was the source of some of the information being disseminated to the press.

Also of interest was the reasoning behind the leaking of information to the press was in the hopes that it would lead to an appointment of a special counsel.

From the Cornfield, those hoping to find the Trump house on fire were disappointed. Those hoping to see the phoenix rising out of the ashes were also disappointed.

Hang onto your hats, this is going to be a long and at times topsy-turvy ride before the end of the line.

Cornfield Perspective: Paris Climate Accord

The Cornfield’s own 8th District Congressman Dr. Larry Buschon provided his take on the Paris Climate Accord, from which President Donald Trump withdrew US participation in this week.

A Decision on Paris

  • President Obama entered into the Paris climate agreement on his own – he never sought the Senate’s advice and consent.
  • The agreement treats countries differently, with the U.S. cutting emissions more than Russia, China, Iran, and India.
  • The disparity puts U.S. businesses at a competitive disadvantage and raises energy costs for Americans. 

The Paris climate agreement was a vital part of President Obama’s attempts to build his legacy. The Trump administration is expected to decide the deal’s fate before the president attends the G-7 summit on May 26.

DISPARITY AMONG COUNTRIES

The United States pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent between 2015 and 2025. Meanwhile, Russia is allowed to increase its emissions up to 50 percent – and China refused to set any emissions limit at all until 2030.

After the agreement was signed, many nations indicated that they would only take action if they got a significant amount of foreign aid. Developing nations have requested at least $5.4 trillion in assistance. India requested $2.5 trillion, and South Africa asked for $909 billion. Iran made its commitments contingent on the removal of all sanctions and receiving $840 billion. President Obama transferred $1 billion from the State Department to the United Nations to implement the Paris agreement.

THE SENATE NEVER APPROVED THE AGREEMENT

President Obama knew that Congress would never approve such a flawed deal, so he refused to seek the Senate’s advice and consent. Instead, he labeled it an “executive agreement” and unilaterally pledged U.S. support. President Obama’s actions violated U.S. policy set during the Clinton administration requiring Senate approval for any international effort to set “targets and timetables” for emissions reductions.

POTENTIAL IMPACT ON AMERICAN JOBS

Many of America’s global competitors are unaffected by the Paris agreement, while the United States will incur significant implementation costs. President Obama pledged to cut annual greenhouse gas emissions by about 1.1 billion tons from 2015 to 2025. That’s on top of the more than 820 million tons the U.S. has already cut from annual emissions over the last decade. According to a March 2017 study by NERA Economic Consulting, the Paris agreement will cost America $3 trillion and eliminate 6.5 million jobs by 2040. Every sector of the economy will be affected, especially the U.S. industrial base.

Decline in U.S. Industrial Output Due to Paris Agreement in 2025

Source: NERA Economic Consulting

INCREASING U.S. OBLIGATIONS

The United States’ obligations under the Paris agreement increase over time. Under the agreement, the U.S. is required to update its emission-reduction targets every five years. The plain language of the agreement states that we can only pledge to do more – not less – as time goes on.

IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT

Despite the high costs, the agreement does not solve the environmental challenges it was meant to address. China is the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases. While U.S. emissions decline, those from developing nations like India continue to rise. That’s one reason why researchers at MIT estimate that the agreement will have a negligible impact on the environment.

 More here: https://www.rpc.senate.gov/policy-papers/a-decision-on-paris.

From the Cornfield, that is the perspective of one of its Congressional Representatives.

And what is your perspective on the President’s withdrawal from the PCA?

Salute! to Those Who Gave Their All

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Today is Memorial Day.

It is a time to stop, reflect and remember those military personnel who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to maintain and protect our freedom and way of life in the US of A.

The tradition of Memorial Day originally began in commemoration of those soldiers lost during the Civil War. It was known in various communities and states as Decoration Day. The date set aside was May 30. This was later changed to allow for a 3-day weekend by Congress to be the last Monday in May.

For the vast majority of Americans it is just another holiday weekend and the unofficial start to the summer vacation season. For many others it’s the weekend when millions around the world tune in to watch or listen to the greatest spectacle in racing, the Indy 500.

To too many it’s just a day to get together with family, have picnics and barbecues, go to the opening of community pools across the nation.

It’s a time to lay back and enjoy having three days off in a row with no worries.

Yet, Memorial Day symbolizes much more.

Ask any veterans’ organization or any military person in uniform or any family member who has lost a loved one in war, whether declared or undeclared, in peacetime or wartime.

Memorial Day was meant to be a day upon which a grateful nation pauses to remember those who donned a uniform and gave their lives in defense of our American way of life.

These brave men and women paid the ultimate price to make sure we could have our picnics, our barbecues, our splashing around in the pool.

The sacrifice of those who gave their lives is honored with each election where not by coup, but by ordinary Americans casting a ballot and choosing those who will lead and represent them.

The power and authority of those officials are transferred from one elected official to the next, from the precinct level to the highest office in the land, the Presidency, without the need for troops in the streets because of those who answered the call to duty, honor and service.

The ability to vote, the ability to choose, the ability to speak our minds, the ability to worship or not worship, the ability to write these words without fear, the ability to work, to succeed, to fail, to rise above our circumstances, all of this we owe to those men and women who fought and died for peace, justice and freedom.

None of our liberties came without cost and thus we owe a debt to those men and women who died in defense of our freedom.

On a personal note:

In those dark days following the sneak attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, four brothers from Nashville, Brown County, Indiana lined up at the recruiting office and joined the US Navy. These four brothers went off to save the world for democracy both in the European Theater and in the Pacific.

Three made it back home at the close of the war. The one who didn’t return was my Great-Uncle Homer. My grandfather and his other two brothers, Herman and Wesley, came home, but changed, never to be the same.

I never was afforded the pleasure of meeting my Great-Uncle Homer Powell, a sailor who gave his life for our nation during World War II and long before I was born. The family seldom mentioned his name, but it was apparent Great-Uncle Homer was not forgotten. His picture, in uniform, hung proudly in my Great-Grandpa Ancil Powell’s living room. In silence, his memory was honored.

Today thousands still are in the fight to keep us safe. Over the past 10+ years, thousands more have shed their blood and forfeited their lives. We must never forget their sacrifice, their bravery, the lives they lived.

This is why we owe a debt of gratitude we can never repay and should never stop repaying.

This is why the deaths of veterans waiting on care from the Veterans Affairs medical facilities is such a gaping wound on the American conscious and must be addressed not after another study, but with action now.

From the Cornfield, I hope each of you will take time from the barbecuing, the playing games with family, watching reruns of yesterday’s race or enjoying the water and sun to stop – remember our heroes who gave their all so that we can live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Politics Roundup: April 17 – 23, 2017

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Welcome to the weekly compilation of the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the comings and goings from the alternate world of reality – politics!

Monday, 4/17/17:

Ready…

Set…

Wait!

The Administration of President Donald Trump warned North Korea not to test American resolve.

The Chinese warned North Korea not to launch a missile.

Kim Jung Un, Young Leader of North Korea, ignored all.

A missile fired.

Five seconds after launch it blew up.

Did US cyber wonks have something to do with the explosion?

At the DMZ (demilitarized zone) in South Korea, Vice President Mike Pence warned the North Koreans the “era of strategic patience is over” and the US will stop any attack that might come from the North.

Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new President in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan,” the Vice President said after delivering a statement to the media alongside Hwang Kyo-ahn, South Korea’s Acting President.

North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region,” Pence said.

Citing unprecedented declines of up to 70% in illegal crossings in some areas during the past two months, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly said the government’s focus on the border – from a deportation crackdown in the interior to the preparations for the construction of a wall – has altered traditional traffic flows.

Texas Republican Congressman Mike Conaway, who is heading up the House Intelligence Committee look into the Russian interference in last year’s election and possible collusion by members of the Trump campaign, has flown to Cyprus to see and obtain information that may be pertinent to the Committee’s investigation.

The Prez is going to Wisconsin tomorrow to speak at a local factory in Kenosha. The President will visit the headquarters of Snap-On, a tool manufacturer.

A Gallup poll out early today finds only 45% of Americans think the President keeps his promises, down from 62% in a poll taken in February.

President Trump and First Lady Melania hosted their first annual White House Easter Egg Roll today, continuing a 150-year Washington tradition.

OOPs!

Did I say that?

One Congressman must be asking himself.

A Wisconsin Congressman told a town hall attendee who was concerned about the elimination of online privacy protections that using the Internet is a choice – a statement that has since drawn criticism on social media.

The question posed dealt with recent action that allows internet service providers to sell personal information of internet users. Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner answered this way:

Nobody’s got to use the Internet. … And the thing is that if you start regulating the Internet like a utility, if we did that right at the beginning, we would have no Internet. Internet companies have invested an awful lot of money in having almost universal service now. The fact is is that, you know, I don’t think it’s my job to tell you that you cannot get advertising for your information being sold. My job, I think, is to tell you that you have the opportunity to do it, and then you take it upon yourself to make that choice. That’s what the law has been, and I think we ought to have more choices rather than fewer choices with the government controlling our everyday lives.”

State Politics: A federal judge put a hold on Arkansas carrying out eight executions this week.

The judge said the prisoners will probably succeed in proving the state’s proposed method of execution, lethal injection, is unconstitutional.

The state says it wants to execute the inmates before its supply of lethal injection drugs expires.

Leaders of America First Policies, a nonprofit that supports President Trump, told The Washington Post on Sunday that their group is launching a $3 million ad campaign to support a dozen Republican House members who backed the Republican healthcare plan.

Georgians in and around Atlanta, Georgia go to the polls tomorrow to fill the vacancy in Congress left when Dr. Tom Price became Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The Democratic challenger is mounting a strong run for the office which has been in Republican hands for decades.

The President this morning weighed in on the Georgia contest, tweeting, “The super Liberal Democrat in the Georgia Congressional race tomorrow wants to protect criminals, allow illegal immigration and raise taxes!”

The primary includes 18 candidates – Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Republicans hope to force a June runoff with the GOP’s top candidate by keeping Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff below 50% of the vote.

Global Politics: Turkey has a new way of governing after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a close victory in a referendum to change the nation from a parliamentary to presidential system.

Turkey’s main opposition party today urged the country’s electoral board to cancel the results of a landmark referendum that granted sweeping new powers to the nation’s President, citing what it called substantial voting irregularities.

International observers who monitored the voting also found irregularities, saying the conduct of Sunday’s referendum “fell short” of international standards. It specifically criticized a decision Sunday by Turkey’s electoral board to accept ballots that did not have official stamps, saying that undermined safeguards against fraud.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel today urged Turkey’s President Erdogan to seek “respectful dialogue” within the country after his narrow win in a referendum extending his powers.

The (German) government expects that the Turkish government will now seek respectful dialogue with all political and social forces in the country, after this tough election campaign,” Merkel said in a statement issued jointly with Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

Ex-South Korean President Park Geun-hye was indicted this morning on abuse of power and bribery charges.

Javier Duarte, the fugitive former Governor of Mexico’s Veracruz State, has been arrested in Guatemala after a six-month international manhunt, Mexican authorities said Sunday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang voiced China’s opposition to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system at a regular briefing in Beijing, and also urged all parties to work together to maintain peace and stability in the region.

South Korean Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn and Vice President Pence today reaffirmed their plans to go ahead with the deployment of the system.

South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said that leaders should listen to protesters who have taken to the streets demanding that President Jacob Zuma resign or be removed after a Cabinet reshuffle triggered damaging credit downgrades.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged North Korea today to refrain from taking further provocative actions, comply with United Nations resolutions and abandon its nuclear missile development.

Tuesday, 4/18/17:

Tax Day in America.

Democrats are making hay with today being the deadline for filing income tax returns to try and pressure President Donald Trump to release his tax returns.

Protests took place around the country Saturday.

Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton was shouted down and booed by constituents at a town hall meeting yesterday for defending the President not releasing those tax returns.

Will it force the President’s hand?

Doubtful.

The Prez in the meantime flew to Kenosha, Wisconsin today to speak to workers at the headquarters of tool maker Snap-On and push his Buy American, Hire American policy.

While there, the Prez signed an executive order urging federal entities to do their best to both buy American goods and hire American workers for government products.

The order also aims to curb what the Administration says are hiring abuses in a visa program used by technology companies

Speaking in Wisconsin, the President set sights on Canada and vowing to solve the dairy “war” with our northern neighbor.

At issue is cheaper Canadian milk coming into the Cheese State to make the product for which Wisconsin is known to the detriment of local dairy farmers, who are selling off cows and getting out the industry.

The President refused to confirm or deny that US cyber capabilities were responsible for the failed North Korean ballistic missile test over the weekend.

At odds?

The State Department raised concerns about the referendum over the weekend which changed Turkey’s governance from a parliamentarian to a presidential system.

The President called and congratulated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the win and being a strong leader.

In Japan today, Vice President Mike Pence said the US would stand by Japan “100 percent” and keep pushing until North Korea curbs its missile and nuclear weapons programs.

President Trump “is determined to work closely with Japan, with South Korea, with all our allies in the region and with China to achieve a peaceable resolution and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” Pence said.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly today bluntly challenged members of Congress critical of the Trump Administration’s aggressive approach to immigration enforcement to either change the laws or “shut up.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is now saying his August deadline for a budget was too optimistic and will not happen.

Less than a third of people in the US approve of the way House Speaker Paul Ryan is handling his leadership role in Congress, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Monday.

The poll found that 29% approve of his job and a majority, 54%, disapprove of his job.

The White House is considering eliminating the popular petitions site We the People.

State Politics: The Supreme Court stayed two executions in Arkansas after an Appeals Court overturned a federal judge’s stay of all eight executions set within the next 11 days.

In Georgia, voters are turning out to vote for which Democrat and/or Republican will fill the vacancy in Congress when Dr. Tom Price became Health and Human Services Secretary.

Jon Ossoff is expected to be the Democrat to get the nod.

The Republican field is crowded with no clear front-runner.

If no one gets at least 50% of the vote, there will be a runoff election in June between Republican and Democratic candidate.

President Trump got into the fray urging Republicans to turn out and specifically to defeat Ossoff.

Turns out that Ossoff does not live in the congressional district is hoping to represent.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey today moved up the election to fill the Senate seat vacated by now-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to December because she said the original plan to hold it in late 2018 was not soon enough to meet state law. The primary election will now be held on August 15 and the general vote will be December 12, Ivey’s office said.

A South Dakota lawmaker frustrated with what he views as inaction over a secretive polygamous sect’s outpost in his district wants legislators to look into the compound, including why no South Dakota birth or death records have been filed from there over the last decade.

Global Politics: Kim In Ryong, North Korea’s Deputy United Nations Ambassador, said the US focus on the North Korean nuclear program reflected a “gangster-like logic” that’s turning the Korean Peninsula into “the world’s biggest hotspot,” creating “a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment.”

Turkey’s main opposition party on Monday called for election officials to nullify the results of a landmark referendum granting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers.

OOPs!

Or was it intentional?

On the same day that the world nervously watched North Korea stage a massive military parade to celebrate the birthday of the nation’s founder Kim Il Sung, and the press speculated about a pre-emptive U.S. strike, the US Navy put the the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, together with its escort of two guided-missile destroyers and a cruiser, more than 3,000 miles southwest of the Korean peninsula, which was more than 500 miles southeast of Singapore.

It definitely fooled the world and North Korea. The psychological effect was striking.

The number of people applying for asylum in Mexico has soared by more than 150% since Trump was elected President, according to Mexican data, as more Central American migrants seek to stay rather than take their chances in the United States.

France is apparently now being targeted for meddling by Russia in its presidential election in May as both Sputnik and RT are coming out with “news stories” in support of one of the candidates, which are in reality fake.

Wednesday, 4/19/17:

Debunked dossier.

That dossier released in the waning days of the 2016 election, prepared by an ex-British spy, was part of the basis for getting a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to monitor communications of former foreign policy adviser to the campaign of Donald Trump and ties to Russian officials.

The dossier had been widely panned as unreliable and much of the information unconfirmable, even by Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey.

The Trump Administration notified Congress last night that Iran is complying with the deal reached by former President Barack Obama on its nuclear program.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, however, in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan that the Administration is reviewing the deal, which President Trump strongly criticized during his campaign, to determine whether it “is vital to the national security interests of the United States.”

President Trump said Tuesday that his push for tax reform was “in very good shape.”

It’s going to make it much harder to pass tax reform with the president not releasing his tax returns because everything he proposes, people will say, I wonder if he’s doing it for the public, or for himself,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The Prez signed veterans healthcare legislation.

The bill expands the choice options for veterans to seek care from the doctor they choose and not be restricted to having to travel a distance or wait a long time to be seen by a Veterans Administration doctor in a VA medical center.

A new Harvard-Harris poll found that 57% of the public view the Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders favorably, making him the most liked politician in the country.

The next two most popular politicians among the public are Vice President Mike Pence and President Trump – each with 44% viewing them favorably.

White House Political Strategist Stephen Bannon, received the lowest favorability rating with only 16% viewing him that way.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions does not have a single US Attorney in place to lead his tough-on-crime efforts across the country.

Last month, Sessions abruptly told the dozens of remaining Obama Administration US Attorneys to submit their resignations immediately – and none of them, or the 47 who had already left, have been replaced.

Sessions is also without the heads of his top units, including the Civil Rights, Criminal and National Security Divisions, as he tries to reshape the Justice Department.

What’s the hold up?

President Trump on Tuesday said, “You always have to be concerned” about nuclear war when dealing with North Korea.

The Prez told CNN‘s Wisconsin affiliate WTMJ. “You don’t know exactly who you’re dealing with.”

Trump was talking about dictator Kim Jung Un of North Korea.

Now I’m put in a position where he actually has nuclear and we’re going to have to do something about it,” Trump added. “It’s a very, very tricky situation. Hopefully he wants peace and we want peace and that’s going to be the end determination, but we’re going to see what happens.”

The United States of America will always seek peace but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready,” Vice President Mike Pence told 2,500 sailors dressed in blue fatigues and Naval baseball caps on a sunny, windy morning aboard a carrier at the U.S. Yokosuka naval base in Tokyo Bay, Japan today.

The Environmental Protection Agency said today it would reconsider a rule on emissions from oil and gas operations and delay its implementation, marking the Trump Administration’s latest effort to dismantle Obama-era environmental regulations.

The man who gave Hillary Clinton a run for her money in getting the Democratic nomination for President in 2016, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders had this to say as he sat next to the Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, “No, I’m an Independent,” when asked by MSNBC‘s Chris Hayes whether he now identifies as a Democrat.

If the Democratic Party is going to succeed – and I want to see it succeed – it’s gonna have to open its door to Independents,” Sanders continued. “There are probably more Independents in this country than Democrats or Republicans. It’s got to open its doors to working people and to young people, create a grassroots party. That’s what we need.”

Wonder what Perez was thinking?

The Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots visited the White House today, but some boycotted the event, including star quarterback Tom Brady. But one of those footballers who did come to the White House, Rob Gronkowski, crashed today’s press briefing.

My distant cousin, former President George H.W. Bush is back in the hospital recovering from pneumonia, but reportedly in good condition.

State Politics: Democrat Jon Ossoff came up short to win the 6th Congressional District of Georgia on Tuesday and will face a run-off with his nearest Republican contender, Karen Handel, in a runoff in June. Although Ossoff garnered 48.1% of the vote, he is expected to lose to Handel, a former Georgia Secretary of State, come June.

Had Ossoff reached 50% in yesterday’s plebiscite, he would be the first Democratic Representative from the 6th in almost four decades.

California will get to choose a new Congressman next year. Republican Chairman of the powerful Government Oversight Committee Jason Chaffetz announced today he would not run for re-election in 2018.

Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske wrote in a letter Friday to DMV Director Terri Albertson that DMV workers had been accepting voting applications from non-citizens and forwarding them to the Secretary of State’s office. Cegavske said she had evidence non-citizens voted in the presidential election, but didn’t elaborate.

Florida Senate President Joe Negron said Miami-area Republican Senator Frank Artiles had asked to apologize on the Senate floor to Senator Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville. The Miami Herald reported that Artiles used a variation of the “n-word” during a private conversation at Tallahassee’s Governor’s Club with Democratic Senators Gibson and Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale on Monday night.

Global Politics: Venezuelans have taken to the street in the capital of Caracas in protest of the socialist policies and lack of food, basic necessities, under President Nicolas Maduro. The protest is being described as the “Mother of All Marches.”

We’re scared but we’ve got to do this,” said Carmen Medina, a 55-year-old Venezuelan social worker in the middle-class district of El Paraiso, where demonstrators were beginning to gather. “We’re marching for the freedom of our country.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May won Parliament’s backing for an early election today, a vote she said would strengthen her hand in divorce talks with the European Union and help heal divisions in Britain.

India’s top court has ruled that senior figures in the governing BJP will be tried for criminal conspiracy over the destruction of a 16th Century mosque.

Turkey’s President Tayyip Recep Erdogan will meet President Trump in May ahead of a meeting of the NATO alliance, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said today.

North Korea seemingly sent a message to the United States by displaying parts of America in flames during a military celebration.

Thursday, 4/20/17:

BREAKING NEWS: The US is prepping to arrest Wikileaks founder Julian Assange even as Ecuador readies to kick him out of its Embassy in Great Britain.

Resurrection?

Back on the plate when members of Congress return this coming week will be another go at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

But will it take a back seat or claim shotgun as Congress has to deal with funding the government by next Friday?

Irony?

The Hoosier born-and-bred federal judge in California who presided over the Trump University fraud case has landed a routine deportation case involving a so-called Dreamer, who was deported when he presumably was immune from that action until 2018.

President Donald Trump took on Canada again today about the “dairy war” going on between the two countries as he railed against the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The President made his remarks when signing an executive order to investigate if foreign countries are involved in unfair trade practices hurting the American steel industry.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer Wednesday denied that the Trump Administration misled the public last week by saying it was sending an aircraft carrier battle group to waters near North Korea to serve as a deterrent, when the ships were actually on the way to participate in joint maneuvers with Australia.

Tongues are wagging today after Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said there might be a new vacancy on the Supreme Court come summer.

I would expect a resignation this summer,” the Iowa senator said, according to the Muscatine Journal. Grassley’s comments came during a Q&A at a visit to Kent Corporation in Muscatine, Iowa.

Will it be swing Justice Anthony Kennedy?

Will it be the Court’s oldest Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg?

Then again, might it be Justice Stephen Breyer?

If either of the two liberal Justices, Ginsburg or Breyer, retire, it could cement a conservative bent to the Court for decades to come.

The President met today with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni of Italy.

During a news conference, the 2% of GDP, which member countries are suppose to pay to NATO was raised with Gentiloni by a reporter. The Prez said he wanted to know the Prime Minister’s response.

Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who announced he would not run again yesterday, as he mulls running for Governor, now is hinting he may not fill out his term through next year.

Chaffetz said in a text message: “My future plans are not yet finalized but I haven’t ruled out the possibility of leaving early. In the meantime I still have a job to do and I have no plans to take my foot off the gas.”

Will Democrats have a chance in the deep red, strongly conservative state?

Former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown has been tapped to be Ambassador to New Zealand.

State Politics: Arkansas’ effort to carry out a rush of executions before its supply of a hard-to-get lethal injection drug expires hit more setbacks on Wednesday, when the State Supreme Court granted a reprieve to inmate Stacey Johnson, who was scheduled to die today.

Separately, an Arkansas County Court judge blocked the state from using the drug vecuronium bromide, one of the three drugs in the state’s lethal-injection cocktail, putting all of the planned executions in limbo.

Democrats today launched a wave of attack ads against Jon Ossoff’s GOP opponent, Karen Handel, in the special election for the Georgia 6th House seat set for June, according to a new report.

Keep a watch what happens when Alabama conducts its special election for Senator with an August primary and December general to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Global Politics: General Motors said today that it had halted operations in Venezuela after the government seized its plant in the South American country. GM called the seizure of its local subsidiary, General Motors Venezolana, “illegal,” and vowed to “vigorously take all legal actions, within and outside of Venezuela, to defend its rights.”

ExxonMobil is seeking a waiver from US sanctions on Russia to pave the way for a joint venture with the Russian state oil company, Rosneft, to drill in the Black Sea, The New York Times reported.

A Moscow, Russia-based think tank, the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, is reported to have drawn up the plan to influence the US presidential election to throw the election to candidate Trump.

The Institute circulated the strategy papers in June and October, recommending that the Kremlin start a propaganda campaign to get US voters to elect a President who would be softer on Russia than the Administration of former President Barack Obama had been, and pushing voter fraud claims if Hillary Clinton beat Trump to undermine her power.

At least three people were killed, according to human rights groups, during the “Mother of All Marches” in Venezuela on Wednesday, bringing the death toll from recent protests to seven.

How long before Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is forced from office by the people?

North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States was looking at ways to bring pressure to bear on North Korea over its nuclear program.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, did not mince its words. “In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes,” it said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said during a visit to London, England the military option must be part of the pressure brought to bear on North Korea. “Allowing this dictator to have that kind of power is not something that civilized nations can allow to happen,” he said in reference to Kim Jung Un, the North’s dictator.

The United Nations Security Council today condemned North Korea’s latest failed missile test and demanded Pyongyang not conduct any more nuclear tests, in a statement that had been delayed as the United States and Russia sparred over language.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said today the United States should meet its own obligations agreed in a landmark nuclear deal in 2015 rather than making accusations against the Islamic Republic.

Russia’s Supreme Court has banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses from operating in the country, accepting a request from the Justice Ministry that the religious organization be considered an extremist group.

Iranian state TV says the clerical body charged with vetting candidates has disqualified former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from running in next month’s presidential election.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court today ruled there was insufficient evidence to order Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s removal from office over corruption allegations leveled by the opposition, but it ordered further investigations.

Friday, 4/21/17:

Free at last!

An Egyptian-American aid worker, Aya Hijazi, and her husband, Mohamed Hassanein, along with four other humanitarian workers are out of an Egyptian prison, where they had been falsely imprisoned, today.

The Administration of President Donald Trump had made the release of the woman and her compatriots a priority.

Those efforts paid off with the prison release after she had been arrested with the others in 2014.

This morning she met with the President in the Oval Office.

There are those grumbling and questioning if human rights issues were addressed with the Egyptian government or ignored in order to secure Hijazi’s release.

White House officials are pushing a new compromise version of the Republican healthcare bill in a bid to deliver on President Trump’s promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act before his 100th day in office, which comes a week from tomorrow.

Revisions aiming to please the conservative Freedom Caucus, such as eliminating guaranteed coverage for preexisting conditions, could stoke more opposition from moderate Republicans.

Facing a partial government shutdown if Congress does not act by a week from today, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said any stopgap spending bill must include $1.3 billion to start construction of The Wall.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said any inclusion of money for The Wall could be a deal-breaker and lead to a shutdown.

President Trump on Thursday ordered his Administration to expedite an investigation into whether foreign steel imports were threatening national security.

This is not an area where we can afford to become dependent on other countries,” Trump said.

First court vote alert: Justice Neil Gorsuch, Thursday cast his first major decision – to allow an execution to move forward.

Gorsuch joined Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito to clear the way for Arkansas to execute a condemned inmate. They didn’t explain their decision.

Reality bites.

The Prez is finding out that you can say anything on the campaign trail, but getting action from Capitol Hill is a different story.

As the President faces his first 100 days, what he promised in a contract with the country to accomplish sounded great, but reality makes mince meat of those words.

Is President Trump giving too much independence to the military to act?

The President signed a bill into law on Tuesday that will improve weather forecasting and researching capabilities across the American weather enterprise.

How did I miss this?

See this one?

A twice-convicted Russian pedophile imprisoned in a heavily forested gulag some 500 miles from Moscow appears to be the man a controversial dossier says helped hack into Democratic National Committee computers last year. (http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article145755049.html)

The House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s involvement in the 2016 US election, said today it had invited the Directors of the FBI and the National Security Agency to appear at a closed hearing on May 2.

Highlighting getting Gorsuch on the Supreme Court as a major accomplishment (which it is) in a tweet today by the President, I am reminded how his predecessor accented every speech over and over with “I got Bin Laden.”

Former President Barack Obama is stepping out of the shadows with a Monday town hall-style meeting with students at the University of Chicago will be followed by an awards ceremony in Boston; a series of public remarks as well as private paid speeches in the United States and Europe; and an appearance at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

OOPs!

Oh no he didn’t!

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday he was “amazed” a federal judge on “an island in the Pacific” had put a hold on the President’s travel ban.

The backlash was immediate especially from America’s 50th state’s two Senators.

For the top enforcer of the Constitution in the nation to so malign a state by calling it some island sitting in the ocean is pathetic to put it mildly.

Explains the following of why Americans are so low on pols in the capital of the nation.

The view by Americans is not good of Washington DC, the President, the Speaker of the House and either Democrats or Republicans.

Trust is a major concern and splits along political affiliation.

Get the full Pew Research survey: http://www.people-press.org/2017/04/17/public-dissatisfaction-with-washington-weighs-on-the-gop/

State Politics: After the Supreme Court refused to issue a stay, Arkansas carried out its first execution in more than a decade last night.

A Republican-drawn map setting the boundaries of Texas’ statehouse districts violates the Constitution by intentionally discriminating against minority voters, a federal court ruled on Thursday – the third such ruling against the state’s voting laws in roughly a month.

Questions are swirling around why the powerful Republican Congressman from Utah, Jason Chaffetz, would give up his seat.

Chaffetz did not shed much light when he told Politico, “I don’t know exactly where these winds are going to take me. I just know that I wanted to explore those. And by making the announcement early, it helps on several fronts. I can pursue those opportunities and see what is out there.”

However, Chaffetz specifically denied any hint of scandal was in the wings causing him to decide to bow out of Congress. Many believe he may run for Governor of Utah in 2020.

Florida State Senator Frank Artiles, who used a racial slur and vulgar language in a conversation with two African-American colleagues, is resigning.

Global Politics: Yesterday’s terror attack in Paris, France has candidates for the Presidential Palace off the stump, but not off Twitter and the airwaves. Voting begins Sunday.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said today that Syria had dispersed its warplanes in recent days and that it retained chemical weapons, an issue he said would have to be taken up diplomatically.

The bottom line is, I can say authoritatively they have retained some (chemical weapons). It’s a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions, and it’s going to have to be taken up diplomatically,” Mattis said.

South Korea said today it was on heightened alert ahead of another important anniversary in North Korea, with a large concentration of military hardware amassed on both sides of the border amid concerns about a new nuclear test by Pyongyang.

President Trump on Thursday praised Chinese efforts to rein in “the menace of North Korea,” after North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike.”

Beijing has demonstrated due enthusiasm for Washington’s newfound interest in a diplomatic solution and willingness to work more closely with it,” the state-run China Daily said in an editorial.

China’s Defence Ministry today denied reports that its bomber aircraft were on a heightened state of alert amid tensions over North Korea.

French centrist Emmanuel Macron is set to come out on top in the first round of France’s presidential election on Sunday as far right leader Marine Le Pen fell further behind him in an Elabe poll published today.

Venezuelans took to the streets again on Thursday, braving tear gas, beatings and bloodshed as they try to force President Nicolas Maduro to hold elections in the crisis-riddled nation.

Testing Trump will or sending a message?

For the fourth time in as many days, Russian bombers cruised close to the US coastline and were escorted away by US fighters.

Sunday, 4/23/17:

No worries.

President Donald Trump told The Associated Press in an interview Friday that “Dreamers,” young immigrants who were brought to America illegally as children, should not fear deportation because they are not being targeted.

Dreamers can “rest easy,” the President said, because his Administration is “not after the Dreamers; we are after the criminals.”

We’ll be having a big announcement on Wednesday having to do with tax reform,” President Trump said Friday, claiming his plan will offer businesses and individuals “a massive tax cut” that would be “bigger, I believe, than any tax cut ever.”

We are moving forward on comprehensive tax reform that cuts tax rates for individuals, simplifies our overly-complicated system, and creates jobs by making American businesses competitive,” a White House official said.

The Trump Administration denied ExxonMobil’s request for a waiver from US sanctions to work with Russia, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced Friday.

President Trump on Friday fired Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a holdover from the Administration of former President Barack Obama.

President Trump announced in February he would skip the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, which is scheduled for this coming Saturday.

Instead of attending the Nerd Prom, the Prez will hold a rally in Pennsylvania, the White House announced on Saturday.

President Trump continues to have record-low approval ratings with the general public, but he is maintaining his core base of supporters, finds a Washington Post/ABC News poll released today in advance of the 100-day mark of Trump’s presidency on April 29.

The big questions facing the coming week when Congress returns from being out among their individual constituents is whether:

1. a government shutdown is avoided come Friday night
2. a health care reform bill can be passed

Another pressing question is if a spending bill is passed and does not include money specifically for The Wall, will the Prez veto the bill and shutdown the government?

A revealing and troublesome response from the Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly:

There are so many aspects to this terrorist thing,” Kelly said on CBS NewsFace the Nation today. “Obviously you got the homegrown terrorists. I don’t know how to stop that. I don’t know how to detect that. You got other terrorist threats that come across the border.”

“It is a big problem,” Kelly said. “It is – you know, depending on where you sit is where you stand on this, It is a big threat. Is it the number one threat? I think it’s the most common threat. Unfortunately there are other similar-type terrorist threats that could come from outside the border. You know, the CIA, NSA, all the great men and women of DOD are doing a great job keeping them away from the homeland.”

The appeal I would make on the homegrown threat is if you see something, say something,” Kelly continued. “Whether you’re a parent, a sibling, an imam. And this extends frankly…to white supremacists and that kind of terrorism as well. If you see a young man or a young woman going down that path where they’re always on these kind of websites or saying things at church or in a mosque that are clearly disturbing, then tell someone about it so that we can help that kid, young man or woman, before they break the law.”

Kelly also said about the North Korea problem, “The instant they get a missile that can reach the United States and they have a weaponized atomic device, a nuclear device on it, we are at grave risk as a nation.”

The Democrats are feuding among themselves over whether you can be a Democrat and pro-life. The issue came to the forefront after a local mayoral candidate, who is pro-life and registered as a Democrat, affiliation was questioned by some fellow Democrats, who happen to be abortion-rights advocates.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has waded into the dispute.

Pelosi says that it’s absolutely possible for someone to be a member of the Democratic Party and also be against abortion.

I have served many years in Congress with members who have not shared my very positive — my family would say aggressive — position on promoting a woman’s right to choose,” told Chuck Todd on NBC‘s Meet the Press today.

DNC Chair Tom Perez and Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders received backlash this week from abortion-rights groups since they scheduled a rally with a mayoral candidate in Omaha, Nebraska, who previously supported an abortion-related ultrasound bill.

Speaking of Democrats, what’s up with 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton?

Hillary’s making the rounds and sounding like she is ready for another go around with the Prez, while still not admitting her own, personal shortcomings for why she did not win a majority of Electoral College votes.

Neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party shares average Americans’ concerns according to a new poll:

The White House announced today that President Trump will have dinner Thursday with the US Supreme Court.

State Politics: The North Carolina State Board of Elections reported 508 cases of voter fraud during the 2016 election. The vast majority were by active felons. The fraudulent votes represented a small fraction of the 4.8 million ballots cast. The report didn’t include any evidence of coordinated fraud, and many of the voters claimed to be confused about their eligibility. This was not enough to effect the outcome of any of the races.

Faced with three deaths linked to faith healing in the county over the last four months, Idaho’s Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue has launched a campaign to change the law, and remove any religious exemptions for the legal obligation to seek medical care for children.

Global Politics: French citizens headed to the polls today in the first round of presidential elections.

No one candidate was expected to take an outright majority; rather, four candidates are in contention to make it to the second round: far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen, center-right François Fillon, centrist Emmanuel Macron, and far-left populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

The top two candidates will face each other for the prize on May 7.

Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen advanced today to the runoff in France, remaking the country’s political system and setting up a showdown over its participation in the European Union.

The euro spiked against the dollar on today as early results from the French election showed Le Pen and Macron advancing to the runoff.

The United States will proceed with an agreement with Australia to help resettle refugees, Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday.

President Trump has made it clear that we’ll honor the agreement – that doesn’t mean we admire the agreement,” Pence said.

The arrangement requires the US to accept up to 1,250 refugees, many from Iran and Syria, from their present location in offshore detention centers in Australia. In return, Australia will accept refugees from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Now that we possess mighty nuclear power to protect ourselves from US nuclear threat, we will respond without the slightest hesitation to full-out war with full-out war and to nuclear war with our style of nuclear strike, and we will emerge victor in the final battle with the United States,” the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said on Saturday in a commentary that North Korea wouldn’t hesitate to launch a preemptive strike if provoked.

The US has now gone seriously mad. It is mulling frightening the DPRK and achieving something with nuclear strategic bombers, nuclear carriers, etc. However, the army and people of the DPRK will never be browbeaten by such bluffing,” it said, referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic Republic of Korea.

President Trump will host members of the United Nations Security Council at the White House tomorrow.

Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is serving this month as the President of the Security Council, a role that rotates each month among the five Permanent members: the U.S., Great Britain, France, China and Russia. There are 15 members of the group, but the others, right now including Egypt, Japan, Senegal, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Sweden, Ukraine and Uruguay are non-voting members.

Thanks for viewing!

Politics Roundup: April 10 – 16, 2017

politicsroundup

Welcome to the weekly compilation of the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the comings and goings from the alternate world of reality – politics!

Monday, 4/10/17:

Mixed signals?

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Sunday on Fox News Sunday that the US might take further military action against the Syrian government, but would not try to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on its own.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said President Donald Trump’s Administration’s top priority in Syria was still defeating the Islamic State.

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said defeating ISIS is the top priority, but “we don’t see a peaceful Syria with Assad in there.”

Which is it?

Or is it both?

Then today in his daily press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on three occasions mentioned that not only chemical weapons, but the barrel bombs, commonly used by the Syrian regime and Russian aircraft on rebels and civilians, were also a red line to the President.

Spicer indicated the US may act if the barrel bombings continue.

Thoughts turned to Russia ahead of Tillerson’s meeting in Russia tomorrow.

I hope Russia is thinking carefully about its continued alliance with Bashar al-Assad, because every time one of these horrific attacks occurs, it draws Russia closer into some level of responsibility,” Tillerson said on ABC’s This Week.

I think what we should do is ask Russia, how could it be, if you have advisers at that airfield, that you didn’t know that the Syrian air force was preparing and executing a mass murder attack with chemical weapons?” McMaster said on Fox News.

History was made today with the swearing in of Neil Gorsuch as a Supreme Court Justice.

Another bit of history was made with Gorsuch taking the bench since he is the first Justice who once served as a law clerk for a sitting Justice, Anthony Kennedy, and also serve with that Justice, who mentored the new Justice.

Gorsuch promised to be a “faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great nation.”

The Trump Administration’s proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency budget are deep and wide-ranging.

It seeks to shrink spending by 31 percent, to $5.7 billion from $8.1 billion, and to eliminate a quarter of the agency’s 15,000 jobs.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said today he is ending an Obama-era partnership with independent scientists that aimed to improve the reliability of forensic science, as longstanding concerns remain about the quality of such evidence in court cases.

White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney will this week send a memo to federal agencies instructing them to prepare for future cuts to funding and staff, according to a new report.

State Politics: New York will soon be the first state in the nation to make college tuition free for middle class students at two-year and four-year public colleges.

Governor Andrew Cuomo pushed for the plan earlier this year, finding success in the budget passed over the weekend by the State Legislature.

With the federal government vastly expanding who is considered a priority for deportation, the California State Senate approved a bill last week that increased protections for immigrants.

The measure prohibits local law enforcement agencies from using resources to investigate, detain, report or arrest people for immigration violations.

Supporters say the law, essentially making California the country’s first “sanctuary state,” would prevent immigrants, who face no criminal charges, from being turned over for deportation.

If approved, the law could directly contradict federal directives, putting local law enforcement agencies in the difficult position of deciding whether to obey Sacramento or Washington.

Legal battles are considered likely.

Other states are considering similar legislation.

Alabama’s House Judiciary Committee began impeachment hearings today of Governor Robert Bilbray over his alleged adulterous affair with a former top political adviser.

Global Politics: Protesters in Venezuela want all seven Justices of the Supreme Court gone, after the court issued a ruling (later reversed) that would have transferred power from the National Assembly to the court.

The Islamic State warned that it planned more attacks, following taking credit for the dual church bombings in Egypt Sunday, saying: “The Crusaders and their tails from the apostates must be aware that the bill between us and them is very large and they will be paying it like a river of blood from their sons, if God willing.”

A bombing Sunday in Somalia came three days after the country’s new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (also known as Farmajo), declared war on al-Shabab, and shook up the leadership of the army, police, and national intelligence service to go after the Islamist extremist organization.

The target was Somalia’s newly installed Army Commander, General Ahmed Mohamed Jimale, outside the Defense Ministry in Mogadishu. The General escaped unscathed, but a minibus was hit, killing 15.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday that the isolated communist nation was “not frightened” by the US Tomahawk missile strike against Syria, or by the Navy carrier strike group the US has redirected toward the Korean Peninsula.

What happened in Syria once again taught a bitter lesson that…one can defend oneself from the imperialist aggression only when one has one’s strength,” a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said according to state media. “Any aggression should be countered with force only and we were entirely just when we have bolstered our nuclear force remarkably.”

Israel has closed its Taba border crossing to Egypt’s Sinai peninsula following intelligence suggesting an “imminent” terrorist attack, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said today.

We rededicate ourselves to holding to account any and all who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world,” said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was not originally scheduled to attend a wreath laying ceremony at a site where Nazi Germany committed a war crime, wiping out an entire village during World War II, but wanted to be present at the with the Foreign Ministers of Italy, Germany and the European Union.

This place will serve as an inspiration to us all.”

Tillerson’s remarks came after the US launched a missile strike on a Syrian airbase where chemical weapons are believed to have been launched last Tuesday in violation of international law.

France’s far-right presidential contender Marine Le Pen has prompted a major outcry by denying that the French government was responsible for the roundup of Jews in World War II.

Le Pen said Sunday on RTL radio “I don’t think France is responsible for the Vel d’Hiv,”— a reference to the stadium where thousands of Jews were rounded up before being sent to Nazi death camps.

Turks will go to the polls on Sunday, April 16, to vote on constitutional amendments that would transform the country from a parliamentary democracy into a presidential system.

The Trump Administration will move forward with the sale of high-tech aircraft to Nigeria for its campaign against Boko Haram Islamic extremists despite concerns over abuses committed by the African nation’s security forces, according to US officials.

Tuesday, 4/11/17:

Policy?

What policy?

That’s the question around the world today.

What exactly is President Donald Trump’s policy on the situation in Syria?

Central Command’s General Joseph Votel said today that 57 of 59 targets were hit in the Tomahawk missle strike on the al Shayrat airbase.

Defense Secretary James Mattis said that 20 Syrian aircraft were destroyed in the attack.

Mattis said there is “no doubt” that the Syrian regime was behind the chemical attack.

Mattis also emphasized that defeat of the Islamic State is still the main goal of US involvement in Syrian.

The missile attack was separate and dealt only with violation of the 1925 Geneva Accord that outlawed use of chemical weapons, of which Syria was a signatory.

The President took to Twitter this morning to warn China that if it did not put the brakes on North Korea, the US would stop Kim Jung Un’s nuclear threat.

I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!” the Prez also tweeted.

The independent investigative unit of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, is reviewing the conduct of Trump’s transition to the presidency, including whether there were conflicts of interest or violations of protocol or security precautions.

During a visit to the US-Mexico border today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “This is a new era. This is the Trump era. The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws, and the catch and release practices of old are over.”

President Trump’s proposed wall with Mexico will kick off in the San Diego, California border community of Otay Mesa, Customs and Border Protection confirmed Monday.

The Trump Administration has temporarily suspended the publication of weekly reports detailing cities and counties that fail to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement directives over concerns about the accuracy of those lists.

Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino is expected to step down from his seat to take on a new role in the Trump Administration.

Multiple sources told CBS News that Marino will head up the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) also known as the nation’s Drug Czar.

A group of 55 House lawmakers have delivered a letter to President Trump telling him he should get congressional approval if wants to expand US involvement in the Yemen civil war.

As U.S. Representatives, we take seriously the right and responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of force, or to refuse to do so, as mandated by the Constitution and the 1973 War Powers Resolution,” the bipartisan group of Representatives wrote. “We expect that any direct military actions pursued by the administration against the Yemeni Houthis be brought before Congress for consideration and authorization for approval before they are executed.”

The lawsuit between the Prez and a chef, who backed out of his contract to open a restaurant at Trump’s Washington hotel, has been settled.

President Trump is reportedly on pace to spend more on travel during his first year in office than former President Barack Obama spent on travel during all eight years he served.

OOPs!

Allusions or comparisons to Adolph Hitler are never a good move by politicians.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer is learning this first hand today following his attempt to say that Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad was more evil than Hitler by using chemical weapons on his own people.

Social media blew up even as Spicer made his remarks at today’s White House briefing.

First Spicer tried to say not even Hitler used chemical weapons in World War II, ignoring the Holocaust and the six million Jews gassed along with gays and Gypsies throughout Europe.

Then when in trying to worm his way out of the remarks, Spicer not only stepped in it deeper, but fell down, rolled in it and stood up with a stench that reached to high heavens by saying Hitler did not use the chemicals on his own people.

Spicer said that Assad was worse because he dropped chemical bombs in the middle of village.

Sean, hate to tell you, but those gassed in the concentration camps – NOT Holocaust centers – many happened to be Germans.

OOPs!

Let’s hope members of Congress, the members Allegheny College has already honored – Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. John McCain – the women of the Senate, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Lindsey Graham – let’s hope that they and others of goodwill will lead in restoring harmonious work ways,” said 84-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in an address at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania on Monday as she accepted the Prize for Civility in Public Life, honoring her and late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Lindsey, we had no clue! LOL

State Politics: Alabama’s Governor Robert Bilbray resigned from office last night as he faced impeachment and was booked into jail on charges of corruption over an alleged affair with a former top staffer.

Kansans are voting today to fill the vacancy in Congress when Congressman Mike Pompeo moved to the Central Intelligence Agency to be its Director.

President Trump even weighed in with a robocall to keep the seat in GOP hands even though Pompeo won by 2 to 1 and the Prez won by over 30% points.

Georgians are also voting next week to fill the vacancy left by Dr. Tom Price from Representative to become the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

A Federal judge in Texas ruled for second time Monday that Republican lawmakers designed the state’s strict voter ID law to discriminate against Democratic-leaning minority voters.

Once one of the nation’s most popular, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is now the most unpopular governor in the US, a new poll finds.

Global Politics: North Korean state media warned today that the isolated communist nation might launch a nuclear attack on the US over any indication of a preemptive attack by a US Navy strike heading toward nearby waters in the western Pacific.

Our revolutionary strong army is keenly watching every move by enemy elements with our nuclear sight focused on the US invasionary bases not only in South Korea and the Pacific operation theatre but also in the US mainland,” North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said.

This goes to prove that the US reckless moves for invading the DPRK have reached a serious phase,” a spokesman for the North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said, according to state news agency KCNA.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is comparing the current accusations on the Syrian regime using chemical bombs on its own citizens a false claim similar to the US claim of weapons of mass destruction as a pretext to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Putin said the accusation is a pretext to go after dictator Bashar al Assad.

The US is countering that the Russian are covering up chemical weapons and attacks for the Syrian regime and even insinuating Russia was complicit in last week’s attack on Khan Sheikhoun, Syria.

However, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer pointed out there is no consensus in the intelligence community on Russian complicity at this time.

Facing growing pressure from the US and the western world, Syria and North Korea are renewing their ties of friendship saying in a message, the two rogue nations were “conducting a war against big powers’ wild ambition to subject all countries to their expansionist and dominationist policy and deprive them of their rights to self-determination,” KCNA reported.

The two peoples of Syria and the DPRK are as ever struggling for their rights to self-determination and national sovereignty and the security and prosperity of their countries,” it added, using the initials for the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Iran joined the Russians in rejecting the US version of why it attacked a Syrian airbase last week and doubling down on their expressions of support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

A fleet of North Korean cargo ships is heading home to the port of Nampo, the majority of it fully laden, after China ordered its trading companies to return coal from the isolated country, shipping data shows.

Wednesday, 4/12/17:

In or out?

Are the days numbered for White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Political Strategist Steve Bannon?

Will Spicer’s apology for his comparison of Bashar al Assad being worse than Adolph Hitler be enough to save his bacon?

I let the President down,” Spicer lamented.

Did Bannon lose out to First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner?

A Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant was issued to keep tabs on former foreign policy adviser Carter Page, when President Donald Trump was running to become President.

Page was being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a possible agent for Russia.

Page never met with Trump nor did he have a formal role in the Trump campaign. Page was, however, cited by then candidate Trump as being one of his advisers on world affairs.

Page, who previously worked as an investment banker in Moscow, Russia has not been charged with a crime, but the investigation into his contacts offered a clear sign of early suspicions that Trump associates were in contact with Russian agents at a time when US officials believe Russia was trying to tip the election to Trump.

After a review of the same intelligence reports brought to light by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides have so far found no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal.

In a surprise move, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today. The meeting was not scheduled and was not expected to occur.

Tillerson is in Russia meeting with his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, urging the Russians to drop support for Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad and show the evidence that Syria was behind the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria one week ago today.

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, speaking to the Security Council today, warned Russia that it was isolating itself from the rest of the world every time it continued supporting Assad when he “dropped another barrel bomb” on his own people.

The Prez earlier in an interview mentioned the use of barrel bombs by the Syrian regime as well.

Earlier this week Spicer had said that barrel bombs also crossed the President’s personal red line on retaliation.

Haley also said that Iran was “dumping fuel on the fire” of the Syrian civil war, which has raged for six years now.

Haley demanded Russia “get chemical weapons out of Syria.”

There are actions by the Assad regime we will simply not tolerate,” Haley said.

The President said about Assad, “This is an animal.”

Are we going to get involved with Syria? No,” the Prez said. But, he added, “I see them using gas…we have to do something.”

Point – Counterpoint:

LevrovWe have seen no proof the Syrian regime used chemical weapons on its own people
TillersonWe have incontrovertible proof the Syrian regime used chemical weapons on its own people

Both Tillerson and Levrov said that the relations between the two nuclear powers were at their lowest in decades.

There is a low level of trust between our two countries,” Tillerson said candidly.

Still, the Russians agreed to reinstate the deconfliction agreement to prevent an accidental confrontation as both countries fly over Syria.

President Trump said he will be taking action after North Korea’s President Kim Jong Un threatened to nuke US war ships.

We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier,” Trump told the FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo. “We have the best military people on Earth. And I will say this: he is doing the wrong thing.”

The President met in the White House today with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

The Prez said that NATO is “no longer obsolete.”

A change of mind, the President has decided not to label China as a currency manipulator.

The federal hiring freeze imposed by President Trump in January is slated to be lifted Wednesday, but agencies won’t be allowed to hire willy-nilly, the President’s chief budget officer said.

What we’re doing tomorrow is replacing the across-the-board hiring freeze that we put into place on day one in office and replacing it with a smarter plan, a more strategic plan, a more surgical plan,” said Mick Mulvaney, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

FYI: Under an obscure Internal Revenue Service rule, the tax returns of the President and Vice President are automatically audited, every year, no exceptions.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson was trapped in an elevator while touring a housing project in Miami, Florida for about 15 minutes today.

Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort is registering as an agent of a foreign government for work he did a few years ago for the Ukrainian government.

Great Britain’s Daily Mail and the Mail Online website today apologized to First Lady Melania Trump and agreed to pay her an undisclosed settlement over an article they published last year about her work as a professional model that suggested she had worked as an escort.

State Politics: From Alabama Lieutenant Governor to Governor, Kay Ivey saved the state $90,000 a year her first day on the job by accepting the resignation of the Director of Faith-Based Services.

That man is also happens to be the husband of the woman disgraced Governor Robert Bentley is accused of having an affair which led to his resignation this week and pleading guilty to misdemeanor corruption charges.

What is in the water in North Carolina?

After the big loss the Tar Heel State suffered over the “bathroom law,” you would think that Republican legislators would have learned.

Not so!

Three GOP lawmakers have submitted a bill to defy the Supreme Court ruling making marriage of same-gender couples legal in all 50 states.

The bill would not allow any marriage except man and woman, citing the Bible as authority, which in itself is a constitutional no-no.

By seven points, Ron Estes beat back his Democratic opponent in a Kansas special election to keep the seat in the House of Representatives, vacated by Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, in GOP hands on Tuesday.

An angry crowd in South Carolina chanted “you lie” to Representative Joe Wilson at a town hall Monday, using the Republican Congressman’s own infamous line against him, which he was rebuked for saying at a State of the Union Address to former President Barack Obama.

The Alabama Senate voted 24 to 4 on Tuesday to allow the Briarwood Presbyterian Church, a megachurch located in suburban Birmingham, to break with precedent and establish its own police force. The bill now moves to the House.

Global Politics: Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today unexpectedly filed to run in the country’s May election, potentially upending a race that many had predicted to be won by moderate President Hassan Rouhani.

The level of trust at the working level, especially at the military level, has not become better but most likely has degraded,” Putin said in an interview broadcast today by state television channel Mir.

We have seen very alarming actions recently with an unlawful attack against Syria,” Lavrov said to Tillerson, referring to the 59 Tomahawk missiles Trump launched at a Syrian air base to punish Assad for using chemical weapons. “We consider it of utmost importance to prevent the risks of replay of similar action in the future.”

South Korea’s Acting President, Hwang Kyo-ahn, has warned of “greater provocations” by North Korea and ordered the military to intensify monitoring.

Lee Duk-haeng, South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman, said South Korea, the United States and “other countries” were coordinating closely.

Japan announced two of its warships may join the US “armada” off the coast of the Korean Peninsula.

For the eighth time today, Russia vetoed a resolution in the United Nations Security Council condemning Syria for its war crimes – this time for last week’s chemical bombing.

However, following the meeting of Tillerson with both Putin and Levrov today, the United States and Russia agreed to work together on an international investigation of a Syrian chemical weapons attack last week that prompted retaliatory American missile strikes.

Washington blames Russia’s ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, while Moscow says Syrian rebels are responsible.

China abstained from the UN vote today.

In a phone call today on the North Korean nuclear threat, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed to President Trump that China “advocates resolving the issue through peaceful means,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

During the call, Xi told Trump that China remains “willing to maintain communication and coordination with the American side on the issue of the peninsula.”

Xi told Trump on the call that the Syria issue “must continue to move towards a political solution“, and that “any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said today it was “irresponsible and even dangerous to take any actions that may escalate the tension.”

All relevant parties should exercise restraint and keep calm, easing tensions instead of provoking each other and adding fuel to the fire,” he said at a regular press briefing.

China’s Global Times newspaper, which sometimes reflects the thinking of China’s leadership, said a new missile test by North Korea would be a “slap in the face of the US government” and that Beijing would not “remain indifferent.”

Presumably Beijing will react strongly to Pyongyang’s new nuclear actions,” it said, adding there was increasing popular support for “severe restrictive measures that have never been seen before.”

On Monday Montenegro became the 29th member of NATO.

Thursday, 4/13/17:

Key, “Changes” and enter President Donald Trump.

Change was the key word on Wednesday as several policies espoused on the campaign trail seemed to give way to the reality of world events.

OOPs!

The Prez during one of his interviews said the dollar was “too strong.”

This set off a firestorm of selling US currency, dropping the dollar’s value.

It’s very, very hard to compete when you have a strong dollar and other countries are devaluing their currency,” the President said.

Trump said he was open to reappointing Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen.

The President praised the Export-Import Bank, which he mocked last year, telling The Wall Street Journal the agency is “a very good thing, and it actually makes money.”

To get Democrats to work with him on health care, President Trump threatened to withhold $7 billion in cost-sharing payments for the Affordable Care Act.

ObamaCare is dead next month if it doesn’t get that money,” Trump said. “What I think should happen and will happen is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called Trump’s strategy “cynical,” saying the President was “threatening to hold hostage health care for millions of Americans, many of whom voted for him.”

The Trump Administration is exploring ways to put together a nationwide deportation force, something President Trump promised during his campaign, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing an internal Department of Homeland Security assessment.

President Trump signed legislation today erasing an Obama-era rule that barred states from withholding federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

Americans are unsure of the President’s ability to deal with North Korea:

Sixty-four percent of Republicans think that President Trump should publicly release his tax returns, according to a survey conducted by Global Strategy Group.

Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia. At the right time everyone will come to their senses & there will be lasting peace!” the President tweeted today after noting yesterday that relations between the two nations are a low point.

Virginia Congressman Dave Brat, one of the conservative Freedom Caucus leaders whose resistance helped undermine the Republican health care proposal last month, says White House and congressional negotiators are close to a compromise that he predicts will pass the House in the next three weeks.

Within a few weeks, I think DC is going to be a little bit shocked,” he said in an interview with Capital Download. “We’re going to get to yes.”

State Politics: North Carolina Republican General Assembly member, Larry Pittman from Cabarrus County, this week called President Abraham Lincoln “the same sort (of) tyrant as Adolf Hitler,” according to the Charlotte Observer.

As I asked yesterday, what is in the water in the Tar Heel State?

Pittman made the comparison on Facebook while responding to a commenter who was critical of legislation the lawmaker has introduced that seeks to bring an end to same-sex marriage in North Carolina, the Observer reported.

And if Hitler had won, should the world just get over it?” he added. “Lincoln was the same sort if (sic) tyrant, and personally responsible for the deaths of over 800,000 Americans in a war that was unnecessary and unconstitutional.”

Shaking My Head

Global Politics: There is a possibility that North Korea is already capable of delivering (via missile) a warhead containing sarin,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a Parliamentary Diplomacy and Defence Committee, referring to the poison nerve agent.

Opinion polls show around a third of France’s 45.7 million voters might abstain, an unprecedented number in a country with a long tradition of high turnouts.

Even among those who intend to vote, about one third have yet to make up their mind on how to cast their ballot.

The presidential election is in May.

The detention of a prominent feminist academic for criticising the Ugandan President on Facebook has been widely condemned by human rights groups.

Friday, 4/14/17:

Brink of war?

All eyes are on North Korea as it commemorates its most sacred holiday, the birthday of the nation’s late founder and grandfather of the Young Leader, Kim Jung Un.

Did President Donald Trump send the right message to Un to keep the North Korean dictator from doing anything rash?

Or did the President prime the pump for an eruption of war?

The Prez is monitoring the global situation this Easter weekend from Mar-A-Lago along with some of the top people in his National Security Council.

The US is prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test, multiple senior US intelligence officials told NBC News.

The White House is not commenting on the NBC report.

Talking about adding fodder to the fire, British spy agency GCHQ gave the US the first alert about possible ties between then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russian operatives, The Guardian reported Thursday.

GCHQ and other European intelligence agencies intercepted communications between Trump associates and known or suspected Russian agents as early as late 2015 and passed on the information to US officials.

The White House won’t make public the logs of visitors to the White House complex, breaking with the practice of President Trump’s predecessor.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $31 million in the first three months of the year, setting a record for the group’s typically sluggish early cash chase.

Observers say New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is already acting like a presidential candidate for 2020, increasingly positioning himself with party leaders, aiming his message at middle-class angst and touting measures such as free tuition as an example of the kind of big ideas he can accomplish.

He’s running. It’s pretty clear,” said University of Maryland political scientist Robert Koulish, who said the second-term governor appears to be positioning himself as a hybrid: a centrist in the mold of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton who supports social policies championed by liberals like Sanders. “Maybe he’ll present himself as a progressive who gets things done.”

State Politics: Republican Arizona Senator Jeff Flake Thursday faced off with angry constituents at a town hall, fielding questions about repealing ObamaCare and the Supreme Court.

Senator, my question is: when are you going to choose your country over your party?” one attendee at the Mesa, Arizona event asked.

Global Politics: China warned today that rising tensions over North Korea must be calmed before they reach an “irreversible and unmanageable stage.”

Lately, tensions have risen…and one has the feeling that a conflict could break out at any moment,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said. “If a war occurs, the result is a situation in which everybody loses and there can be no winner.”

South Korea said that a nuclear test or intercontinental ballistic missile launch by North Korea would be a “strategic provocation” that would provoke a “powerful punitive measure.”

North Korea accused the US of “seriously threatening peace” by sending “huge nuclear strategic assets” to the region.

Vice President Mike Pence is traveling to South Korea Easter Sunday.

We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhoun,” Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad told Agence France-Presse in his first television interview since the bombing by US fighters in retaliation for last week’s regime chemical attack. “Were they dead at all?”

France’s presidential election race looked tighter than it has all year today, just over a week before voting opens as a new opinion poll put the four leading candidates only 3% points apart.

Sunday, 4/16/17:

Cooler heads seem to be prevailing on this Easter Sunday.

North Korean Young Leader Kim Jung Un did attempt to test fire a ballistic missile early today, but it exploded within five seconds of launch.

So far President Donald Trump has not ordered any type of retaliatory action for Un defying his warning and that of Un’s only real ally, China.

National Security Adviser General H.R. McMasters flew to Afghanistan to meet with Afghan officials today.

McMaster met President Ashraf Ghani and other senior Afghan officials to discuss security, counter-terrorism, reforms, and development, according to a statement on the palace’s Twitter account.

The stakes are high,” said McMaster. “This is really the modern-day frontier between barbarism and civilization.”

McMaster said, “It’s time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully.”

President Trump asserted today that China was working with the United States on “the North Korea problem.”

Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens!” Trump tweeted.

Vice President Mike Pence, in South Korea today, told American and South Korea service members that North Korea’s latest “provocation,” a failed missile launch shortly before his arrival in Seoul, laid bare the risks they face.

Your willingness to step forward, to serve, to stand firm without fear, inspires the nation and inspires the world,” Pence told the troops.

Lamenting the election of President Trump, Senator Bernie Sanders had this to say today about the Democratic Party and the voter turnout in 2016:

So many of our people are giving up on the political process. It is very frightening. In the last presidential election, when Trump won, we had the lowest voter turnout over – in 20 years. And in the previous two years before that, in the midterm election, we had the lowest voter turnout in 70 years,” Sanders continued. “We’re going to be fighting to see that the Democratic Party becomes a 50-state party. You can’t just be a West Coast party and an East Coast party.”

Keep your eyes on Presidential Adviser Gary Cohn, former Goldman Sachs CEO and registered Democrat.

Tomorrow the traditional Easter Egg Roll will take place on the lawn of the White House.

President Trump and the Republican National Committee together raised $42.6 million toward the 2020 race in the first quarter of 2017, Federal Election Commission reports reveal.

State Politics: Republicans kept a Kansas seat in the House of Representatives this week and former Democratic presidential contender and independent Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders is not so happy.

Sanders said today that Democrats should’ve done more to support the party’s candidate, James Thompson, during the special House election in Kansas last week.

It is true that the Democratic Party should have put more resources into that election,” Sanders told host Jake Tapper on CNN‘s State of the Union. “But it is also true that he ran 20 points better than the Democratic candidate for president did in Kansas.”

This Tuesday, Democrats are trying to pick up a seat held by Republicans for decades in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

Global Politics: Turks go to the polls today to approve or disapprove of granting the presidency more power, moving Turkey from a dominant parliamentary system to a strong presidential system of governance.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pushing the measure which would ensure he remains in office for at least another decade.

Under the new proposal, the President would be able to dissolve the legislature, rule by executive order, and gain new authority over administrative and judicial appointments.

Erdogan celebrated what he said was a clear result in the referendum to grant him sweeping new powers, but opponents said they would challenge the vote count which gave a narrow 51.3% lead to Erdogan’s supporters.

China is seeking Russia’s help to cool surging tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions, the country’s Foreign Minister has told his Moscow counterpart, after Beijing warned of possible conflict over North Korea.

The European Union is set to inflict a double humiliation on British Prime Minister Theresa May, stripping Britain of its European agencies within weeks, while formally rejecting the Prime Minister’s calls for early trade talks.

Odebrecht SA, the Brazilian engineering company at the center of a historic corruption scandal in that country, paid out a total of about $3.3 billion in bribes in the nine years through 2014, according to testimony cited by local media on Saturday.

A yellow fever outbreak is tearing through Brazil leaving thousands dead in its wake – thousands of monkeys, that is.

Thanks for viewing!

Politics Roundup – March 27 – April 2, 2017

politicsroundup

Welcome to the weekly compilation of the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the comings and goings from the alternate world of reality – politics!

Monday, 3/27/17:

Deep Throat Redux?

Cloak and dagger activiities?

The House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes sneaking away from his own staff, changing cars, ending up on the White House grounds to meet his source the day before informing President Donald Trump about the unmasking of individuals associated with his Transition Team following the election?

Now news today that First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner will meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee about three meetings with Russians, including a representative of one of Russia’s largest banks, which was subjected to sanctions.

What does this all mean?

Cancelling of Intelligence Committee meetings are also raising eyebrows.

The Democrats are actively calling for Nunes to resign.

The President announced today the creation of The White House Office of American Innovation, described as a “SWAT team of strategic consultants.”

The new committee will be headed by Kushner

All Americans, regardless of their political views, can recognize that government stagnation has hindered our ability to properly function, often creating widespread congestion and leading to cost overruns and delays,” Trump said. “I promised the American people I would produce results, and apply my ‘ahead of schedule, under budget’ mentality to the government.”

The President is expected to issue an executive order on Tuesday reversing many of former President Barack Obama’s regulations aiming to fight climate change.

It will cover polices affecting nuclear power as well as domestic production of oil, coal, and natural gas.

Before the week’s out, Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling or face a government shutdown.

Democrats in the Senate have already been calling for a shutdown.

Will the Freedom Caucus confront the President again over the debt ceiling, as they have in previous years?

Hear about the latest stunt from Democrats in both chambers of Congress?

They have introduced the M.A.R.A.L.A.G.O. Act to get logs of who is visiting the President in Florida at Mar-a-Lago.

Defunding of sanctuary cities for non-compliance with federal law on immigration was announced today by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Sessions announced that it would be the policy of the Justice Department to deny department grants to “sanctuaries,” and possibly to fight to strip existing funding from them as well.

(More on this: http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/3/27/15076576/sanctuary-cities-jeff-sessions-trump-explained)

The President’s approval rating keeps going down instead of going up. 

Turns out after the fail of the American Health Care Act, 29% of likely voters “strongly approved” of Trump while 46% “strongly disapproved,” Rasmussen Reports found.

State Politics: A complaint has been filed calling for a criminal investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the top law enforcement officer in the nation.

Nearly two dozen people from five states are accusing Attorney General Jeff Sessions of lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his communications with the Russian government and subsequently trying to cover up that lie, according to a complaint sent to the Department of Justice.

Global Politics: Prosecutors in South Korea have gone to court to obtain an arrest warrant of ousted President Park Geun-Hye on charges of taking bribes and leaking confidential information.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s re-election bid got a boost Sunday when her center-right Christian Democrat Party won a state election that was widely seen as a test of her support.

The United States, Britain and France are among almost 40 countries boycotting talks on a nuclear weapons ban treaty at the United Nations, according to Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the world body.

Nine leaders of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement turned themselves in to police today, the day after the territory selected a conservative, pro-Beijing politician as its next leader.

NATO plans to spend 3 billion euros ($3.24 billion) to upgrade its satellite and computer technology over the next three years as the Western military alliance adapts to new threats, a senior official said.

Tuesday, 3/28/17:

Recuse or resign.

That is the demand from Democrats to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes.

Nunes said he is not going to do either. He said the investigation into Russian influence in the last election and any ties to the campaign of then candidate Donald Trump would be investigated fully under his leadership.

Nunes dismissed the calls from Democrats, whom he said, “want me to quit because they know that I’m effective at getting to the bottom of things.”

Some Republicans such as Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain are not so sure Nunes is the man for the job.

But for now, Nunes still has the support of House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The President tweeted that Congress should turn its attention to any ties between former President Bill Clinton and former Oval Office rival Hillary Clinton and the Russians instead of focusing on him and his associates.

President Donald Trump told the Environmental Protection Agency today to start the legal process necessary to rewrite former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which aimed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from electricity by 32% by 2030.

The White House said Trump’s order will increase the nation’s “energy independence” and restore thousands of coal mining jobs.

The cost of 62 miles of The Wall?

$1 billion.

The House Republican leadership team today vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act in spite of last Friday’s spectacular failure to get a vote on the House floor.

The President may have moved on to tax reform, but the GOP conference wants to keep working behind the scenes on repealing and replacing the ACA.

Did constituents give lawmakers an earful over the weekend?

Even some of the Freedom Caucus members are saying that they may consider finding an ACA repeal bill.

It is being reported that fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates was blocked by the White House from speaking to the House Intel Committee.

The White House denies this.

The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, asked the government ethics watchdog on Monday to review comments by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plugging The Lego Batman Movie, a film one of his companies produced, for a possible ethics violation.

State Politics: The “gentleman’s agreement” between Attorneys General across the country has been scrapped after Democratic Attorneys General have gone to the forefront in opposing the policies and going to court to sue the Trump Administration.

Republican Attorneys General are now going to work to unseat their Democratic counterparts.

The GOP AGs have also filed friend-of-court briefs in support of the President’s travel ban in opposition to the Dems who are blocking it in court.

My Congressman here in the 8th District of the Indiana Cornfield, Dr. Larry Buschon, had this to say about the non-vote on the American Health Care Act last Friday.

On Friday, the American Health Care Act was pulled from the House floor preventing a vote on the legislation from occurring.

While I believed the bill wasn’t perfect, I was prepared to vote to begin the process of repealing and replacing of Obamacare, which is a promise I made the constituents of Indiana’s Eighth Congressional District.

Unfortunately, a small group of Republicans chose to side with Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats by preventing passage of this first step in that process, even after receiving significant policy changes during the negotiations with President Trump. That’s incredibly disappointing because their obstruction solidified Obamacare as the law of the land for the foreseeable future. Make no mistake, what happened last week rests on the shoulders of a handful of Republican members; and their constituents will hold them to account for reneging on their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

Buschon also said, “I agree it is time to make the tough decisions necessary to move the country forward and undo the damage of the last eight years. That’s why we were elected.”

Democratic lawmakers in some states are pressing ahead with efforts to protect birth control access, Planned Parenthood funding and abortion coverage in case they are jeopardized in the future.

Global Politics: A Russian court on Monday sentenced Alexei Navalny, a leading opponent of President Vladimir Putin, to 15 days in prison for resisting arrest, following his detainment at a protest demonstration over the weekend.

Scottish lawmakers backed plans by the nationalist government in Edinburgh to pursue a second independence referendum, setting up what may be a lengthy and acrimonious showdown within the United Kingdom in the midst of Brexit negotiations.

Democratic Republic of Congo’s government confirmed today that two bodies discovered by villagers were those of two United Nations investigators who disappeared this month in an area wracked by a violent uprising.

A German State Minister today accused Turkey of “unacceptable” spying on alleged followers of exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for a failed coup attempt last year.

It is notable with what intensity and ruthlessness the people living abroad are being investigated,” said Boris Pistorius, Interior Minister of the northern German State of Lower Saxony.

It’s intolerable and unacceptable,” he said at a press conference.

Wednesday, 3/29/17:

Investigate or not to investigate – that is the question.

Is the House Intelligence Committee still looking into the influence of Russia on the recent presidential election and whether there was any collusion between the campaign of Donald Trump and the Russians?

With all meetings cancelled by embattled House Intel Chair Devin Nunes, that question is buzzing through the hallowed halls of the Capitol today.

Nunes refuses to recuse himself though Democrats are pressing for him to do that. House Speaker Paul Ryan remains firmly on Nunes six, giving him cover.

Ranking Member Adam Schiff said, “We can’t conduct an investigation this way.”

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers reportedly refuse to meet with the House Intel members until the Dems and the GOP come to a meeting of minds and stop the bickering.

Health care insurance reform is still very much alive.

President Donald Trump told Senators last night at a dinner where he invited all 100 Senators to join him, “I know we’re going to make a deal on health care, that’s such an easy one.”

Speaker Ryan said, “I won’t tell you the timeline because we want to get it right.”

In what I think is a bad move, the House of Representatives followed suit with the Senate approving legislation taking away internet privacy allowing internet services providers to sell personal information. The bill is now on the President’s desk.

Hopefully, the President will veto the bill, but that is doubtful.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez is cleaning house at the DNC, requesting resignations of all employees by April 15.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate will confirm Neil Gorsuch as a Supreme Court Justice a week from Friday, one way or the other. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer vows to filibuster Gorsuch’s confirmation.

The Senate Intelligence Committee will begin as soon as Monday privately interviewing 20 people in its ongoing investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 election as well as potential ties to the Trump campaign, Chairman Richard Burr and Vice Chair Mark Warner announced today.

We’re not asking the House to play any role in our investigation. We don’t plan to play any role in their investigation,” Burr said.

Over the last month we’ve seen some progress,” Warner said. Later, with a hand on Burr’s shoulder, he added: “I have confidence in Richard Burr that we together, with the members of our committee, are going to get to the bottom of this.”

FBI Director Comey attempted to go public as early as the summer of 2016 with information on Russia’s campaign to influence the US presidential election, but former President Barack Obama Administration officials blocked him from doing so, two sources with knowledge of the matter told Newsweek.

President Trump vowed today to step up efforts to combat the nation’s opioid addiction crisis. Trump said his administration wants “to help people who have become so badly addicted.”

First Daughter Ivanka becomes an official government employee, joining her husband, Jared Kushner, in serving as an unpaid adviser to her father in the White House.

Not only is the President not attending next month’s Washington Correspondents Dinner, the Nerd Prom, but White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and members of his staff also will not attend.

Speaking out today was First Lady Melania Trump at the International Women of Courage Awards.

The President has declined to throw out the first pitch Monday at the Washington Nationals’ game when baseball season opens, breaking a long-standing presidential tradition.

A lawyer for President Trump plans to file briefs seeking to delay a lawsuit filed by a former contestant on The Apprentice by arguing that the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause bars people from bringing state lawsuits against a sitting president, according to an article The Hollywood Reporter.

State Politics: This did not take long.

The City of Seattle, Washington has sued the Trump Administration over the President’s executive order that calls for cutting federal funding for so-called sanctuary cities and other jurisdictions that protect undocumented immigrants.

Global Politics: British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government today submitted a letter to the leaders of the European Union to formally begin the process to pull the United Kingdom out of the 28-nation trading bloc.

In a statement to British lawmakers, May said the kickoff of the process was “the moment for the country to come together.”

Prime Minister May’s government promptly denied the Scottish Parliament’s request for another independence referendum, saying it would be “unfair” to make people vote before they know what the United Kingdom’s relationship will be with the European Union after Brexit.

A Muslim organization in Norway has been criticised for hiring a communications officer who wears a full-face veil, or niqab. The Culture Minister, Muslim Members of Parliament and other Muslim organizations have condemned the Islamic Council of Norway’s move.

Israel said today it would cut $2 million from its already reduced contribution this year to the United Nations in protest at resolutions taken against it at the world body’s various forums.

US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is a “big hindrance in trying to move forward” to find an end to the country’s six-year conflict.

I’m not going to go back into should Assad be in or out, been there, done that, right, in terms of what the US has done,” she told the Council of Foreign Relations. “But I will tell you that he is a big hindrance in trying to move forward, Iran is a big hindrance in trying to move forward.”

Thursday, 3/30/17:

The Senate Intelligence Committee began its hearings into the Russian interference in the 2016 election and any possible collusion with the campaign of President Donald Trump today.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and Ranking Member Adam Schiff met today to try and work out differences.

Will it be enough to jump start the stalled investigations into Russian meddling and possible collusion by Trump associates by the House?

The New York Times is reporting that two White House officials, including a member of the National Security Council, showed the still secreted documents to Nunes, which have resulted in all the rancor and uproar with the House Intel investigation.

One of the experts speaking to the Senate Intel Committee today revealed that during the primaries, Russians targeted Senator Marco Rubio for elimination from the presidential race.

Rubio noted today that members of his staff are still being targeted by Russians.

Schiff vowed today at a news conference that the committee will “not be distracted” from investigating the Russian meddling and “getting to the bottom” of what occurred in 2016.

Part of the reason active measures have worked in this US election is because the Commander-in-Chief has used Russian active measures at time [sic] against his opponents,” said Clint Watts of George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, talking to Senators about Russian activity to effect election outcomes.

Senate Intel Chairman Richard Burr pledged a “thorough, independent and non-partisan review” of evidence potentially tying Trump to Russia, a commitment echoed by Vice Chair Mark Warner.

If we politicize this process, our efforts will likely fail,” Burr said at the outset of today’s hearing.

The White House invited the heads of congressional intelligence committees investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election to view materials found by the National Security Council.

The President has laid down the gauntlet to the Freedom Caucus.

In a tweet the Prez told the ultra-conservative members of the House of Representatives to get onboard and back the Republican agenda or be prepared to fight in 2018.

The President is hinting at reaching out to Democrats if Republicans are unwilling to work with him to fulfill his promises and agenda.

House Speaker Paul Ryan voiced his concern that the Prez may indeed reach out to Democrats if stubborn Republicans cannot be corralled.

OOPs!

The Environmental Protection Agency criticized the Boss’ executive order on climate change policies.

A news release from the EPA included a quote attributed to Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito, which actually was from Democratic Senator Tom Carper.

The offending quote:

With this Executive Order, President Trump has chosen to recklessly bury his head in the sand. Walking away from the Clean Power Plan and other climate initiatives, including critical resiliency projects is not just irresponsible – it’s irrational. Today’s executive order calls into question America’s credibility and our commitment to tackling the greatest environmental challenge of our lifetime.”

OOPs!

The Hawaii federal judge who blocked the new travel ban has now made his injunction indefinite.

The Gallup Daily Tracking Poll has the Prez at a super low 35% approval rating.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh is leaving her position.

Mark your calendar, Chinese President Xi Jinping will confab with the President at Mar-A-Lago April 6-7.

After Congress sent the President legislation putting a nail in internet privacy, allowing internet service providers to sell personal information and browsing history, funds are being set up to purchase the browsing history of those legislators who voted for the bill.

State Politics: After losing thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, the Republican-controlled North Carolina State Legislature went through with a “repeal” of its infamous “bathroom law.” It still bans communities from passing ordinances barring discrimination based on sexual and gender orientation.

Ohio Governor John Kasich signed an order today to fight the opioid addiction and overdose crisis in his state. The Governor’s order limits the amount of opiates primary care physicians and dentists can prescribe to no more than seven days for adults and five days for minors.

In addition to pill limits, Kasich said the new rules require doctors to provide a specific diagnosis and procedure code for every painkiller prescription they write.

Global Politics: German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday rejected a central proposal made by British Prime Minister Theresa May in her letter officially launching the process of Britain’s exit from the European Union, saying that the EU would only negotiate the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the trading bloc after its departure was arranged.

Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, said there would be “no winners” from Brexit, and the coming two years of negotiations would focus on “damage control.”

Accusations that Russia interfered in last year’s US elections are “lies” used for “domestic American politics,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said today.

We said on numerous occasions and I reiterate that we are confident … and know for sure that opinion polls in the United States show that very many people are … friendly towards the Russian Federation, and I’d like to tell these people that we perceive and regard the United States as a great power with which we want to establish good partnership relations,” Putin said on a CNBC-moderated panel.

All those things are fictional, illusory and provocations, lies. All these are used for domestic American political agendas. The anti-Russian card is played by different political forces inside the United States to trade on that and consolidate their positions inside,” Putin said in Russian.

The Trump Administration informed Congress it plans to approve a multibillion-dollar sale of F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain without the human rights conditions imposed by the State Department under former President Barack Obama.

Taking a page from President Trump, Canadians running to lead the Conservative Party are calling for a wall between the US and Canada to stem the flow of immigration. They also want to deploy the Canadian armed forces to stop would-be refugees from entering America’s northern neighbor.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in Turkey, has confirmed a change in US policy toward Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad. Tillerson said that it will be up to the Syrian people to decide if it wants Assad as leader or to boot him from office. This differs from the previous policy demanding Assad leave office in any peace negotiations.

The Attorney General for the western Mexican State of Nayarit has been arrested in Southern California on charges of drug smuggling.

Friday, 3/31/17:

Innocent, I tell ya! I’m innocent. But give me immunity. I got a story to tell.”

That’s the hue and cry of former National Security Adviser retired General Michael Flynn offering to bare all to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

Forget about what he said during the presidential campaign that anyone seeking immunity must be “guilty” of committing a crime.

President Donald Trump tweeted out today that Flynn should not only testify, but seek for immunity.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the Prez was not signaling the Justice Department or the Intel Committees to give Flynn immunity, but rather for Flynn to do whatever is necessary to allow him to testify.

House Intel Ranking Member Adam Schiff went to the White House to look at information recovered by the National Security Council, following the White House invitation on Thursday to do so.

The Senate Intel Committee, however, is not wanting to go down the street to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The Committee told the White House to send the information directly to them.

In response to the White House letter, the Committee has asked the White House to direct the agencies that own the intelligence documents in question to immediately provide them directly to the Committee,” a Committee spokesperson said in a statement.

The White House says it will release details this evening about the personal finances of senior staff members.

Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate yesterday to approve legislation that will let states cut off funding to Planned Parenthood.

Two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, have signed on to voting for Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice.

Manchin, who frequently crosses the aisle to side with the GOP, said he found Gorsuch to be “an honest and thoughtful man,” and that he had “not found any reasons why this jurist should not be a Supreme Court Justice.”

The President today took on trade abuse signing two executive orders. The Prez said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will spearhead the effort to eliminate abusive trade practices which harm the US market and companies.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson affirmed that the US commitment to NATO was “rock solid” today, but also urged members to pony up what they owed the organization.

This is the first campaign that I can recall where my party did not talk about what it always stood for, and that is how to maintain a burgeoning middle class,” former Vice President Joe Biden said at an event at the University of Pennsylvania.

And the truth of the matter is you didn’t hear a single solitary sentence in the last campaign about that guy working on the assembly line making 60,000 bucks a year and a wife making $32,000 as a hostess in a restaurant and they’re making 90 grand and they’ve got two kids and they can’t make it and they’re scared.”

I can tell you that hostesses around here in the Cornfield make nowhere close to $32,000 per year.

State Politics: California and several other states honored Cesar Chavez by closing schools and state offices today, the 90th anniversary of the birth of a man who went from a grape and cotton picker to an enduring hero for laborers, Latinos and justice seekers of all kinds.

Farmworkers in four states also plan to march Saturday and Sunday in honor of Chavez, who died in 1993, and in protest of President Trump’s immigration policies.

Global Politics: The European Union has offered to start negotiations with the United Kingdom on a future free trade pact, but only if London first accepts EU demands on the terms of Britain’s exit from the 28-nation trading bloc.

Those terms include paying tens of billions of dollars, and securing residence rights for 3 million EU citizens living in the UK.

The Israeli Knesset approved the construction of new settlements in the disputed West Bank. This will be the first such settlements approved in 20 years.

Ousted South Korean President Park Geun-Hye has been arrested on corruption charges.

Right now, [North Korea] appears to be going in a very reckless manner…and that has got to be stopped,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said at a press conference in London today.

Ecuadoran voters will elect a new President Sunday, and one of the two candidates, the conservative former banker Guillermo Lasso, has pledged to evict the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from the country’s embassy in London, England within 30 days of taking office.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has written to British Prime Minister Theresa May formally demanding that she allow a second referendum to be held on Scottish independence ahead of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.

Venezuela’s powerful Attorney General on Friday rebuked the judiciary’s takeover of congress, breaking ranks with President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government as protests and international condemnation grew.

It constitutes a rupture of the constitutional order. It’s my obligation to express my great concern to the country,” said Luisa Ortega, usually considered a key ally of the Socialists who have ruled Venezuela for the last 18 years.

Gibraltar’s leader Fabian Picardo on Friday hit out at an European Union proposal to give Spain a say in the future of the British overseas territory post-Brexit, branding it “unnecessary” and “discriminatory.”

The South African rand plunged more than 5% after President Jacob Zuma sacked Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, a man widely seen as a competent manager of one of the world’s most important emerging economies.

Serbia Premier Aleksandar Vucic, is headed for a landslide victory in Sunday’s presidential election.

The presidency is weaker on paper than the premiership, but we see it highly unlikely that Vucic will stop dominating Serbia politically from the new post,” said Nate Schenkkan, Project Director at Washington, DC-based Freedom House, an independent organization that advocates for democracy. “That creates a situation like what we have right now in Turkey, where the president de facto runs the country, even though it is still a parliamentary system.”

Sunday, 4/2/17:

Follow the money.

That has been the line of investigation which has tripped many a person over the years.

It may be what sinks former National Security Adviser retired General Michael Flynn as well.

But not only Flynn, members of the campaign of now President Donald Trump could be caught up in the investigation of Russian meddling in the presidential election.

Financial disclosures released by the White House Friday evening revealed Flynn made at least $1.5 million from Russia Today and other Russian entities, previously unreported.

Flynn is shopping around his story, but so far the players – the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees – are showing no interest in paying out immunity to get that story.

Those financial reports also showed First Daughter Ivanka and husband Jared Kushner are worth at least $740 million.

Remember that time in band camp when everyone made a big issue about Mitt Romney being worth $250 million?

Ranking Member of the House Intel Committee Adam Schiff reviewed documents provided by the White House Friday. He was told these were the same documents which were viewed by House Intel Chair Devin Nunes.

Schiff said the documents need to be sent for review by the entire Committee.

Schiff said “I don’t think we can say anything definitively at this point” about the probes of Trump and Russia.

Now it is three – the number of Democrats who will vote to confirm Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

The Cornfield’s senior Senator Joe Donnelly has come out in support of Gorsuch.

Donelly’s fellow Hoosier Senator Todd Young, a Republican, has already endorsed Gorsuch.

After meeting with Judge Gorsuch, conducting a thorough review of his record, and closely following his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I believe that he is a qualified jurist who will base his decisions on his understanding of the law and is well-respected among his peers,” Donnelly said in a statement.

Not surprising since Donnelly is up for re-election in 2018 in Indiana, which went overwhelmingly for President Trump.

The President and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a vocal critic on the health care insurance legislation, played golf with the Prez today. Paul came away saying that he and the President were moving closer to an agreement on the issue.

About the President’s favorite toy – Twitter – United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley had this to say, “I don’t hear about them. I don’t talk about them. I don’t have them interfere in everything that I’m doing. And so, to me, it’s chatter I don’t focus on.”

Haley also noted, “I think the foreign leaders are picking up the phone and calling him if they have an issue. And that’s what they’re doing with me. If they have an issue, they’re calling me. They’re not sitting there texting me and saying, ‘What was this tweet about?’”

State Politics: Return to Camelot?

Looks like the Kennedy political dynasty is ready to make its presence known once again.

A Kennedy is running for Governor in Illinois and another is mulling a run in Connecticut. While cousin Massachusetts Congressman Joseph Kennedy III is a leading voice against the President’s moves to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Global Politics: The Venezuelan Supreme Court reversed its decision to strip the country’s legislature of power after widespread foreign and domestic protest.

The Court’s review came at the request of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who couched his critique of the original ruling in terms of “maintain[ing] institutional stability and the balance of powers.”

In a print interview, President Trump put the pressure on China to do something with the North Korean problem. The President warned that if China was not willing to put the thumb on the Young Leader Kim Jung Un, the US would solve the threat.

Trump told The Financial Times, “China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. And if they do that will be very good for China, and if they don’t it won’t be good for anyone.”

China’s President Xi Jinping will meet with the Prez Thursday and Friday at Mar-A-Lago.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s one-year-old government retained most of its seats in Myanmar by-elections today, but braced for symbolic losses in ethnic minority areas as results from the 19-seat poll trickled in.

Ecuador votes today in a presidential runoff to turn the page on a decade under radical economist Rafael Correa and decide whether the country will follow Latin America’s recent shift to the right.

Thanks for viewing!

Divided We Stand

In my most recent unscientific survey from Cornfield Polls, trust was the thrust.

Not many participated, but from the results it is clear that we remain deeply divided.

So what are we to do?

Does it matter whether we are buying into facts or fiction?

Are Americans doomed to what the Scripture refers to as “believing a lie and being damned?”

Was the Apostle Paul right when he wrote about “ever learning, but never coming to the knowledge of the truth?”

From the Cornfield, our 16th and perhaps greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, cited the words of Christ when he intoned, “A house divided cannot stand.”

How can we as a nation hope to stand when we remain so divided even over whom to trust?