Sunday in the Sun + 4 June 2017

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How full of irony our little world is.

Approaching yet another milestone in the relationship between the United States and Europe, the 6 June 1944 anniversary of the D-Day landings in Norman France, we have the President of the United States (and his cabinet) knee deep in illegal relationships with Putin’s Kremlin, repudiating the post-war alliance that kept the peace for seventy years, and taking action domestically and abroad to undermine the United States’ standing in the world. Not only that, we have the president’s party, the Republican Party, enabling all this disturbing activity, in effect not investigating these matters, and perhaps actively obstructing investigations. We have Republican Party operatives, in Portland, Oregon, stating that they need to enlist right wing militias to insure security at events like so-called ‘town hall’ meetings. If you’ve read history even a little, you can readily find ominous parallels between these militias and Hitler’s Brown Shirts. Be sure to read about the Night of the Long Knives, too, in order to appreciate the scale of the changes sweeping America now.

Europe, China and the rest of the world are correct to distance themselves from the United States now. The threshold has been crossed. If you’ve been wondering where the next outbreak of fascism was going to be, look no further than the good ole U S of A. While both established political parties stood by and, in effect, did nothing, radical Russian and American oligarchs have swept up the remains of political power in this country. Republicans may have openly courted this change, but Democrats did what liberals have done throughout history: they fractures and squabbled and became impotent, useful idiots. Well, maybe useless idiots.

My guess? The US dollar will soon fall out of favor as the international basket currency, and America will no longer be the refuge of choice when international financial markets begin to wobble. After that, look for a major implosion, first in financial markets within the United States and then a broader international collapse, followed by a short round of hyper-inflation on a global scale, preceding a massive depression that will, in the end, completely re-align the global order as we now know it. What that world will look like, no one knows – save perhaps a few oligarchs – but my guess is even they will be taken completely by surprise as events sweep them into the broader currents of history. A precipitating event? War, perhaps, when Russia moves into Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Bleak? Perhaps. With American participation gone and the future of the Paris Climate Accord potentially in tatters, bleak seems to be the order of the day. If America had an effective means to counter the pervasive influence of money in politics we might have had an effective role to play going forward. Like Angela Merkel, however, I think it’s time the rest of the world turn away from this country as it falls deeper and deeper into fanatical mysticism and fascism, looking to reclaim a mythic past that never really was what it seemed.

So, the irony of the day? Angela Merkel is now the leader of the free world. Donald Trump’s America just abdicated, the alt-right neo-fascist/isolationists have carried the day. What was America is now Germany. The Statue of Liberty should be returned to France, where it belongs now.

Welcome to the future.


So, some gnews.

A member of a rightwing militant group that has violently clashed with anti-Trump protesters has been given a commemorative portrait of Donald Trump by a Republican political operative who worked on the president’s election campaign. The Guardian


Nigel Farage is a “person of interest” in the US counter-intelligence investigation that is looking into possible collusion between the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the Guardian has been told. Sources with knowledge of the investigation said the former Ukip leader had raised the interest of FBI investigators because of his relationships with individuals connected to both the Trump campaign and Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder whom Farage visited in March.

WikiLeaks published troves of hacked emails last year that damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign and is suspected of having cooperated with Russia through third parties, according to recent congressional testimony by the former CIA director John Brennan, who also said the adamant denials of collusion by Assange and Russia were disingenuous. The Guardian


A major government agency refused to answer a Democratic legislator’s routine inquiry unless she got a Republican to co-sign her request, the congresswoman told HuffPost.

Rep. Kathleen Rice (N.Y.) said she faced an unprecedented barrier when she asked the Office of Personnel Management about its training process and suggested changes that would help the agency recruit more cybersecurity workers. Janel Fitzhugh, OPM’s legislative director, told Rice’s legislative aide that she needed a Republican committee chairman to co-sign the letter in order to get a response. Huffington Post


The US Air Force is deploying long-range B-52 bombers and 800 airmen to the United Kingdom in support of joint exercises with NATO allies and partners taking place across Europe in June. The nuclear-capable B-52 Stratofortress will take part in a series of joint exercises that primarily take place on Russia’s doorstep — specifically in the Baltic Sea, the Arctic and along Russia’s border with several NATO partners. CNN


A pair of Democratic senators asked then-FBI Director James Comey to investigate Attorney General Jeff Sessions, amid concerns that he may have had an additional meeting with the Russian ambassador the US, Sergey Kislyak, according to letters obtained by CNN Thursday. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Al Franken — Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee — sent the requests to Comey and, later, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe in three letters dated March 20, April 28 and May 12. “We are concerned about Attorney General Sessions’ lack of candor to the committee and his failure thus far to accept responsibility for testimony that could be construed as perjury,” Franken and Leahy wrote to Comey in their first request. The Democrats have not received a response from the FBI to their three letters, a Senate source said. CNN


Adam Entous, national security reporter for the Washington Post, talks about his reporting that Donald Trump is considering the return of Russian facilities in the U.S. just months after former President Obama ejected Russians from the compounds as punishment for interfering in the 2016 election. MsNBC  Washington Post


Anthony Hammond was screaming racial slurs in the parking lot of a California apartment complex before he pulled out a machete and stabbed an African American man, according to police.

The horrific Saturday night attack – which led to hate crime, assault and mayhem charges against the 34-year-old white suspect – received very little attention in US media during the Memorial Day holiday. Also lost in weekend news was the case of a white man in a pickup truck who police say intentionally ran over and killed a 20-year-old Native American man.

The lack of press for both racially charged attacks could be due to the fact that the nation was still reeling from news of a double murder in Portland, Oregon, in which a man stabbed three people who were reportedly trying to stop a racist attack on two young Muslim girls.

The series of attacks in one weekend, along with a threat from a Republican lawmaker to shoot his colleague amid an immigration battle, offer a stark portrait of the racial violence and hate speech in America that activists say have grown since Donald Trump’s election. From Washington state to Texas, the holiday meant to honor fallen soldiers was marred by gruesome assaults during a presidency that critics say has normalized white supremacy and emboldened bigots.

“Trump supporters are now feeling legitimized in their hatred and wanting to act out further,” said Ryan Lenz, senior investigative writer with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has tracked a rise in hate groups and incidents during Trump’s campaign and since his inauguration. “It speaks to a climate of hate and intolerance across the country. These three are not isolated.”  The Guardian


Throughout the investigation of Russia’s role in the 2016 election, President Trump and his allies have insisted that he’s innocent of the most serious charge: collusion. Every time a new link or contact is discovered—Russian payments to a Trump adviser, Russian recruitment of a Trump adviser, Russians boasting blackmail leverage over Trump—the White House repeats that there’s “no evidence of collusion.” But lately, some of these contacts have begun to look conspiratorial. So Trump and his surrogates have come up with a new line of argument: Collusion is OK.      SLATE


If you listen to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, the biggest environmental problem facing the United States isn’t climate change (he doesn’t think that’s real, anyway), or lead-tainted drinking water or brain-damaging pesticides. It’s that Barack Obama didn’t clean up the more than 1,300 most contaminated and hazardous sites across the country. A Fox News headline earlier this month declared that Pruitt was here to clean up the Obama administration’s “toxic mess.” The former Oklahoma attorney general would have the American people believe that what the Superfund program really needs isn’t funding, it’s the right attitude.  Huffington Post


The genius of Vladimir Putin is that he makes his aims crystal clear, as clear as a block of ice in the Arctic. Ice and cold have always defined and limited his vast country. For centuries the chief Russian geopolitical imperative was the search for “warm-water” ports to its south. Now the grand aim is to allow global climate change to melt the Arctic and turn the water at the top of the world into a lucrative oil and gas field, as well as a network of efficient new sea lines Russia will control. Putin, in essence, is gaining U.S. backing for his vision as his pal, President Donald Trump, signals that America will withdraw from the Paris Agreement on combating climate change. The Russian leader has made no secret of his plan. In fact, he has proclaimed it from the literal rooftop of the world, most recently at a conference on the future of the Arctic region in March. “Climate change brings in more favorable conditions and improves the economic potential of this region,” Putin said told CNBC while attending the International Arctic Forum in Arkhangelsk, Russia. “Today, Russia’s GDP is the result of the economic activity of this region.”  Huffington Post


President Donald Trump promised to rid the government of lobbyists. But a reported administration shake-up may put two Washington influence-peddlers in the White House. The New York Times reported on Friday that Corey Lewandowski, the former Trump campaign manager who attempted to turn his links to the president into a lobbying career, is ready to join a new White House war room intended to sharpen the administration’s adversarial message. On Tuesday, Axios reported that David Urban, a longtime Republican lobbyist and former adviser to Trump’s campaign, could take over as White House chief of staff ― replacing Reince Priebus. Trump promised as a candidate to “drain the swamp” in Washington and enact stringent rules preventing lobbyist influence in his administration. Within the first 10 days in office he signed an executive order imposing ethics and lobbying rules on executive branch officials. He said his order would supersede a previous executive order signed by President Barack Obama on his first day in office in 2009, which Trump claimed was riddled with loopholes.  Huffington Post


The anti-Muslim white supremacist charged with murdering two men in Portland, Oregon, when they intervened in his bigoted tirade at two teenagers is the kind of extremist that former Department of Homeland Security official Daryl Johnson worried about. Eight years ago, working in the department’s now-defunct Extremism and Radicalization Branch, Johnson authored a memo intended to warn law enforcement about the threat posed by right-wing extremists. It wasn’t just the election of the first black president, he wrote, but the troubled economic situation, the divisive political climate, and angry rhetoric about immigrants and outsiders that could spark attacks. Right-wing extremists, he wrote, could capitalize on “racial and political prejudices” to reach a “wider audience of potential sympathizers.” The backlash to Johnson’s 2009 memo was swift. Some conservatives portrayed it as an Obama administration attack on the tea party movement. Under political pressure, the administration backed away from the memo. They dismantled Johnson’s team. He left the government. In the years since, the U.S. has seen several high-profile incidents of violence by right-wing extremists. The latest tragedy occurred last week with the stabbing deaths of Ricky John Best, 53, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, on a commuter train. A third man, 21-year-old Micah David-Cole Fletcher, was severely injured. Jeremy Christian, 35, has since been charged in the incident. The men had confronted Christian as he was harassing two teenage girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab. Huffington Post


After a tumultuous week hosting U.S. President Donald Trump, European leaders will look to fare better when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visits Brussels on Thursday.

The two-day summit presents an opportunity for China to demonstrate its leadership on global issues from free trade to climate change at a time when the U.S. is turning inward. Yet European Union officials remain skeptical that China will follow through on President Xi Jinping’s commitment to global trade expressed in Davos in January, and the two economic powers remain mired in long-standing tussles over issues such as market access and selling goods below cost.

EU President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will attend the summit, where China will be looking for progress on the EU’s proposal to begin recognizing it as a market economy — a status that makes it more difficult to impose anti-dumping measures on its exports. The two sides will also seek to work on a stalled investment deal that’s seen as a precursor to a potential trade agreement.

“The country needs to walk the talk,” European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom told the European Business Summit in Brussels in May. “Whatever President Xi says in Davos, China is still far from a market economy.” Bloomberg


The near-daily revelations about Russia’s reported role in the 2016 election, as well as contacts between the Trump transition team and Russian government officials, have raised a number of questions, paramount among them: What exactly does Vladimir Putin want? This question became only more urgent after reports of Russian meddling in the French election and with Donald Trump straining the Atlantic alliance after a disastrous trip to Europe last week.  SLATE


Reports have zinged around the Internet this week about a sudden and mysterious surge in President Trump’s Twitter following, along with dark musings that something nefarious may be afoot.

The wildest of these claims — including the suggestion that Trump had gained up to 5 million followers in just a few days and that nearly half are “fake” — are clearly overblown, analysts say. But several researchers who study social media have also reached the conclusion that something fishy may be going on with Trump’s account.

That something fishy may involve the mass creation of “bots,” a catch-all term for accounts that are automated, meaning a single individual or a team can run hundreds or thousands at time. This is something Trump’s supporters have a history of doing well, far better than his political opponents, according to work by several researchers.  The Washington Post


Next year, about 14 million more Americans could be uninsured if the House-passed version of health care becomes law, according to the Congressional Budget Office analysis, a more pressing issue than the estimated 23 million expected to be affected by 2026.

In addition to the individual burdens of accessing health care without insurance, injecting millions of uninsured people into the health care system would have a sweeping effect on both the system and on public health outcomes, doctors and health experts say.

The revenue cuts “are like cutting off some of the body’s oxygen supply — partial strangulation,” Alan Sager, professor of health law, policy and management at the Boston University School of Public Health, told HuffPost. “They don’t make health care more efficient; rather, they mean that many people get less care.”

Should the law go into effect, lack of coverage will mean fewer people will have the resources to prevent conditions, effectively treat diseases or manage chronic illnesses before a crisis develops. Here are just a few ways that experts see reduced coverage affecting patients next year. Huffington Post


The fallout from President Trump’s disastrous trip to Europe continues to poison the trans-Atlantic climate. His comments about Germany have been particularly toxic—and, beyond that, stupid, reflecting no understanding of the country’s strategic importance or its dreadful history. Chancellor Angela Merkel stated the matter plainly in a speech on Sunday in Bavaria. Europeans “must take our fate into our own hands,” she said, because the “times in which we could rely fully on others … are somewhat over.” This, she added, “is what I experienced in the last few days”—a reference to Trump’s behavior in Brussels and Rome, where, among other bits of rudeness, he declined to pay even lip service to the pledge, enshrined in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, that the United States would defend any member of NATO that comes under attack. As if in piqued response, Trump tweeted on Tuesday, “We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO and military. Very bad for U.S. This will change.” While overseas, Trump had reportedly told Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Union, “The Germans are bad, very bad. Look at the millions of cars that they’re selling in the USA. Horrible. We’re gonna stop that.” Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied the report, which appeared in Der Spiegel, but Trump’s Tuesday tweet undercut the denial and underscored his complaint. It wasn’t some loose remark, he seemed to be saying; he meant it.  SLATE


Scientists in the United States have developed a vital tool in the battle against superbugs by re-engineering a decades-old antibiotic. A modified version of the antibiotic vancomycin is believed to be much more effective at fighting Enterococci bacteria, which is found in hospitals and can cause dangerous wound and blood infections. The drug, which has been used for 60 years, is described as an antibiotic of last resort, used only after treatment with other antibiotics has failed. But some infections have become resistant even to vancomycin in its current form. The research team, from The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, California, described the new drug as “magical” in its strength, the UK Press Association reported. It could be years, however, before the completion of clinical trials needed to turn the lab discovery into a mass-produced medicine, Dr. Andrew Edwards, a lecturer in molecular microbiology at Imperial College, London, told CNN.


President Trump escalated his feud with Berlin on Tuesday, even as Germany’s leader and Trump’s own spokesman tried to defuse the conflict, which has sent tremors through Washington’s core postwar alliances.

Before the presidential tweets began flying early Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel reaffirmed the importance of Germany’s ties to the United States. But she pointedly did not back down from earlier comments about Europe’s need to rely on itself rather than its friends.

The dispute started as Trump sped through meetings in Europe last weekand appeared to leave a trail of bruises in his wake. It heated up after Merkel did little over the weekend to hide her disappointment with Trump’s refusal to commit Washington to the climate change treaty. And it was further inflamed Tuesday at 6:40 a.m. Washington time when Trump fired a white-hot shot straight at Berlin’s glass-and-concrete chancellery.

“We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change,” Trump wrote in his early-morning tweet.

The fight has had few obvious practical consequences so far. But Merkel’s meetings this week — first a chummy meeting with India’s leader on Tuesday and then a sit-down with the Chinese prime minister on Wednesday — were bracing reminders of the trade ties being forged outside the United States as Washington moves toward a sharply more nationalist and protectionist agenda.  The Washington Post


U.S. Senator John McCain said Russian President Vladimir Putin is a bigger threat to global security than ISIS, and warned that the Senate would push for sanctions against Moscow for its alleged interference in the U.S. election. McCain, a leading foreign policy voice in the U.S. Congress, was speaking in an interview in Australia, where he has held security talks on his way to a defense summit in Singapore. “I think he (Putin) is the premier and most important threat, more so than ISIS,” McCain said in an interview on Australian Broadcasting Corp television. He said while there was no evidence the Russians succeeded in changing the U.S. election outcome, they were still trying to change elections, including the recent French vote. “I view the Russians as the far greatest challenge that we have,” said McCain, who is chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. “So we need to have increased sanctions and hopefully when we come back from our recess, the Senate will move forward with sanctions on Russia and enact other penalties for Russian behavior.” Reuters


Perhaps Jared Kushner really believed that his New York real estate skills set him up to bring peace to the Middle East, solve the opioid crisis, run a government Swat team of business experts and protect his father-in-law from disloyal White House advisers. And that he could do it all while observing the Sabbath and reserving enough time for family ski vacations with Ivanka and their three children.

Or maybe Kushner just calculated that all the hype surrounding his White House role was a not-to-be-missed family branding opportunity. After all, the Washington Post recently watched as his sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, hawked American visas in Beijing to would-be Chinese investors in a troubled Kushner New Jersey real estate development.

But in all his fantasies about conquering Washington at Donald Trump’s side, Kushner undoubtedly never imagined being ensnared in an FBI investigation.

All that changed, of course, when news broke late last week that Kushner had discussed opening up a secret back channel to Moscow last December in a Trump Tower meeting with the ubiquitous Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The Guardian


So, Happy Trails, y’all. It’s almost summertime, so I think I’m going to get out and enjoy this nice weather.

Oh, (above), that’s Hahn’s Peak, near Steamboat Lake State Park, as seen from the north, near the Three Forks Ranch area and on my way into town.

Ah yes, the second chapter of The Sunset Limited ought to post later this weekend, too.


And don’t forget, the 50th anniversary edition of Sgt Pepper’s just came out on iTunes! Spectacular audio, too! The above is NOT the cover.


Oh, a violent new sunspot appeared on 1 June, numbered AR2661. If you have a Coronado 60 or 90, now is the time to pull it out.


2 thoughts on “Sunday in the Sun + 4 June 2017

  1. I worry that the constant deluge of shocking developments, words, pronouncements and hysteria surrounding the Trump regime will numb us to the changes that previously would have been unthinkable in America.
    I have no doubt that many Republican senators and representatives in Congress are dismayed by what is going on with their chosen leader; unfortunately they’ve all so completely tied their words, actions and deeds to marching in lockstep that they are incapable of independent thought or action. As this goes on and they turn a blind or perhaps jaundiced eye to Trump, we may yet see an American version of”The night of the long knives” that Hitler used to finally consolidate power and firmly and effectively quash any opposition from those that might have had any prospect of success. The parallels to 1930s Germany are startling…….I guess we really don’t learn from our past. Final thought, perhaps Cory Gardner might grow a set and actually represent his constituents and the interests of the United States as a whole rather than making sure he’s goose stepping in time with the other morons. Wishful thinking……
    Thanks as always for your blog and your stories.


    • There’s a lot being written about these issues, very thoughtful material it is, too. And very little gets “out there” or is widely discussed. Information overload, I guess. Next weeks edition will focus on some of these essays easy to miss pieces.
      We’re in the midst of a vast paradigm shift – whose contours are not yet easy to grasp. While History may be a useful guide – to those willing to take the time to sit back and recall such things – I suspect ‘overload’ and a lack of time may be a greater issue than we’ve appreciated. We’ve, as a civilization, rarely confronted a transitional period where events are as immediately known – and as hard to evaluate – as this one. The current “Republican” noise machine drowns out thoughtful discourse with tailored propaganda through multiple outlets, while alt-right and White Nationalist storm troopers are out converting the remaining pockets of dispossessed. Liberal are clueless, of course, sitting in Starbucks sipping six dollar lattes while people in Appalachia starve.
      Venezuela may be a more prescient model of where we’re headed, but I hope not. Soylent Green, anyone?


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