The Hilarious, But Sad and Frightening Ending to Our Despot-in-Chief

by Thea Halo

For every loser there’s a winner, and after the polls closed on this divisive presidential election, the winner this time is the American people, and perhaps the entire world. However, as writer Oliver Goldsmith once said, “Every absurdity has a champion to defend it.”1

Rudolph Giuliani is only one of a multitude of Donald J. Trump’s champions. One has to question, however, just how much of a champion Giuliani really is. Perhaps not being privy to the joke Giuliani deliberately, or ignorantly played on him, Donald Trump first announced via Twitter that “there would be a ‘big press conference’ at the Four Seasons in Philadelphia.” Trump later had to clarify that the event would be at Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Philadelphia. One has to wonder if, in a last ditch effort to pretend to defend the indefensible, this was Giuliani’s way of making sure that Trump’s ending as our Despot-in-Chief was as ludicrous as possible.

Making the location for the ‘big press conference’ even more ludicrous, Four Seasons Total Landscaping is situated on the outskirts of town “between a crematorium and sex shop.”2 In fact, that seems totally appropriate since the first Republican poll watcher called to the podium to speak by Giuliani, was Daryl Brooks. Described as a political gadfly, he is also a convicted sex offender from New Jersey.

“Brooks served three years and eight months in prison in 1998 after he was convicted on several charges of lewdness, sexual assault, and endangering the welfare of a minor for allegedly exposing himself in front of two girls who were ages 7 and 11. According to NJ.com, Brooks maintained his innocence, claiming he was set up by Trenton police and other elected officials because of his work as a city activist.”3

Clever titles for the event immediately popped up to give the event and the location some context: ‘Make America rake again’ and ‘Lawn and Order’ were the apparent favorites. And they are right on target. President Trump wanted the citizens of this great nation to see him as the law and order president. However, it’s on Trump’s watch that Black men and women continued to be needlessly killed by police, and peaceful protests sometimes degenerated into riots.4 Frightened business owners across the country also chose to board up their store fronts, fearing Trump’s supporters might go on a violent rampage if Trump lost the election.5 When was the last time citizens felt so frightened because of an election in America?

Apparently, that fear is not farfetched. The NY Times reported that: A police chief in Marshall, Ark. resigned after he posted on a right-wing messaging site, a call for volunteers “to travel to Washington, D.C., to arrest, shoot and kill Democrats.”6 Add that to the foiled plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer,7 and a pattern of fear and intimidation from the more radical of Trump supporters seems to emerge.

Yet, too often, Trump’s supporters seem more afraid of ‘liberalism’ than policies that help destroy the quality of life of so many Americans, including theirs, like failing to warn us of the extreme danger of the Corona virus; failing to advise us on how to protect ourselves; failing to supply equipment to hospitals to do so; playing down the dangers of the virus; and in the midst of such a devastating health crisis, during which more than 10 million Americans were infected and almost 243,000 have died, trying to take away the health care that millions of Americans have come to depend on, with no replacement in site.

Donald Trump seemed to believe that the economy and the stock market were more important than American lives. But if so many Americans became sick and died, it’s like giving a party when there’s so few left alive to attend. Or perhaps Trump believes that the wealthy would survive because they have better means and could afford better care, just as he did. Or they could escape to their second homes to wait out the danger. So perhaps the party was only meant for them.

On this Veteran’s Day, it’s sad to remember how Trump insulted the military personnel who gave their lives in past wars. And his treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers is an insult to the many immigrants who joined our military to defend this country, some of whom also gave their lives. And it’s an insult to the many immigrants who actually helped make this country great.

So perhaps Giuliani isn’t as stupid as he sometimes sounds. Perhaps his choice of the landscaping company is a perfect metaphor for cleaning up the out of control ‘political landscape’ of the last four years. What better way to ding his employer than to choose a venue, with a name used by a famous high end hotel and restaurant chain, i.e. The Four Seasons, only to find it’s actually a landscape company. It’s as if Giuliani consciously or unconsciously wanted to make the comparison of where Trump started, i.e on top of the world, to where Giuliani has him ending up, at a tool shop on the outskirts of town, “Situated between a crematorium and a sex shop.”

I’m afraid you can’t make this stuff up to make it any sadder or funnier. The subtext is spot on and priceless. Yet some of our politicians deny they are liberals when accused, as if it’s something to be ashamed of or fear? Why haven’t reporters asked those Trump supporters who decry liberalism if they actually know what liberalism means? Some seem to believe it’s like communism, or a precursor to communism.

Here’s Wikipedia’s definition of Liberalism:
Liberalism is a political and moral philosophy based on liberty, consent of the governed and equality before the law. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but they generally support free markets, free trade, limited government, individual rights, capitalism, democracy, secularism, gender equality, racial equality, internationalism, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion.

So what’s not to like?

  1. Oliver Goldsmith was a writer born somewhere in Ireland, probably on this date in 1730. His most famous works are The Vicar of Wakefield (1766) and his play She Stoops to Conquer (1771). See Garrison Keeler’s Writer’s Almanac, November 10, 2020.
  2. Victoria Bekiempis, ‘Make America rake again’: Four Seasons Total Landscaping cashes in on Trump fiasco, The Guardian, 9 Nov 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/nov/09/four-seasons-total-landscaping-trump-gardening-merchandise
  3. Pilar Melendez, ‘Vote Fraud’ Witness at Rudy Giuliani’s Four Seasons Total Landscaping Presser Is a Convicted Sex Offender, Daily Beast, Nov. 09, 2020.
  4. Karma Allen, Man who helped ignite George Floyd riots identified as white supremacist: Police said. CNN. July 29, 2020.
  5. Alina Selyukh, A Sign Of The Times: Across U.S., City Storefronts Boarded Up Ahead Of Election, NPR, November 2, 20202.
  6. John Ismay, Arkansas Police Chief Resigns After Calling for Democrats to Be Executed, The New York Times, Nov. 9, 2020.
  7. Christina Carrega, Veronica Stracqualursi and Josh Campbell, 13 charged in plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, CNN, October 8, 2020.

Donald Trump, The President America Needed

by Thea Halo

Donald Trump has performed, and is continuing to perform, an important service for the American people. In the past, some might have complained that government wasn’t working as fast, or as efficiently as we’d like. Perhaps there was government partisanship on certain issues. But the Donald has shown us in no uncertain terms that our government is broken, and it has been broken for a very long time. It is so dysfunctional that Congress couldn’t even subpoena someone and compel that person to testify. He/she could simply blow Congress off as if it’s someone’s drunken uncle begging for money for his fifth pint of the day. Giving someone the finger has never been quite so dramatic… or revealing. Giving 435 members of Congress the finger is impressive. On the issue of Trump’s High Crimes and Misdemeanors, Congress seemed as useful as a toothache on a first date, especially when we have a majority Republican Senate (or should we call them Repugnican Senators) that didn’t even allow witnesses during the trial phase. In fact, we had the leader of the pack, Mitch McConnell, stating in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity:

“Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with White House counsel. There’ll be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this.”1

So how can we view the swearing in of the Senate for the Impeachment trial as anything but a joke? As both jurors and as legislators they take the following oath:

”I solemnly swear (or affirm) that in all things appertaining to the trial of __, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.” 

Before Donald Trump was elected, he publicly claimed “I Could Stand In the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” He was elected anyway, and, over the last four years in office, he has proven that he’s probably right. More recently, his lawyers, who argued against releasing his tax returns, claimed that Trump “could not be criminally investigated while in office.”2 In fact, they argued: “The President could ‘shoot someone on Fifth Avenue’ and not be charged in office.”3 And through it all, almost all of his Repugnican lapdogs stuck by their kingpin. Fortunately, the Supreme Court ruled otherwise. In fact, the president is not above the law. The Supreme Court’s Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. affirmed: “In our judicial system, ‘the public has a right to every man’s evidence. Since the earliest days of the Republic, ‘every man’ has included the President of the United States.”4

During the question and answer phase of the Impeachment trial, Alan Dershowitz made the ‘inane’ argument: ‘If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected [is] in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.’5 Really? Where have these people shoved their brains? He didn’t even seem embarrassed to allow that drivel to fall from his mouth. And he didn’t seem to care that his reputation, already badly tarnished with allegations of involvement with Epstein’s under aged victims among other allegations, would be irretrievably ruined by that idiocy. Dershowitz even had the audacity to claim that his job is to defend the Constitution. Nancy Pelosi suggested that Dershowitz and the rest of Trump’s legal team should be disbarred.6 Thankfully, the Supreme Court ruled that Trump does not have complete immunity. Did we really have to go to the Supreme Court to find that out? We were supposed to do away with kings in this country. How did the argument of complete immunity even come up?

Even more troubling, Trump’s behavior, and that of his lackeys, simply adds to Trump’s power and popularity with many in his base. Does his base see any of his alleged improprieties of asking foreign leaders for quid pro quo favors to defeat his potential political rival, or paying off prostitutes and grabbing women by their P…y, as aberrant behavior for a president? Apparently not. I’d venture to guess that they still see Trump as ‘draining the swamp’ while standing nose high in green, murky, swamp slime. “Everyone makes mistakes” is one excuse from the Trumpies. One supporter claimed he likes Trump because he speaks in plain language that he could understand. Apparently, for many, that’s the true measure of a great president. Do they care about the content of the language, or the integrity of their government officials? Apparently not. Inasmuch, Trump again does us a great service in helping us understand what many citizens hold most dear in their leaders. I vaguely remember that George W. Bush’s popularity among some of his supporters was due to a notion that one could comfortably have a beer with him. Joking about not finding Iraq’s nuclear weapons under the table even seemed to make the death and destruction Bush rained down on Iraq and her people palatable… even amusing. Why didn’t someone shout to his supporters: Then by all means, go and have a beer with him. But please, please, please don’t vote for him as our president!!!

Then there are the Evangelicals and their defenders. Dennis Prager, a non-Evangelical conservative radio talk show host writes in both the National Review and Town Hall, “this Jew would like to defend Evangelicals and other Christians who support President Donald Trump.”7 Apparently, although Prager sites four questions to be answered, his defense can be boiled down to two issues, anti-abortion and Israel. He asks:

“Who should pro-choice voters support: a pro-life activist of fine character or a pro-choice activist of dubious character?”

“Whom should pro-Israel voters support: an anti-Israel activist of fine character or a pro-Israel activist of dubious character?”

On point number one, Prager apparently got a little confused. I assume he meant just the opposite of what that quote implies. However, here again, Trump has done us a great service, by demonstrating how little a huge segment of our society gives a flying you know what about integrity, honesty, morality, the Constitution, and the rule of law when it comes to their celebrity king, and their own issues. Apparently, according to Prager, anti-abortion legislation and Israel, not the US Constitution or US interests, are worth anything else Trump throws at us.

We are the media generation. We’ve grown up admiring celebrities. Ronald Reagan was president for crying out loud. But at least Reagan helped bring down the Berlin wall, and made detente with a Russian leader to shut down the cold war.

What has Trump done other than renege on treaties; praise dictators and murderous strong men, openly ask foreign governments to interfere in our elections; allegedly try to bribe an ally to get dirt on his political opponent, using US allocated funds as the bribe; betray our Kurdish allies* by withdrawing US troops from Syria, while knowing Turkey would try to annihilate them; insult our allies; use the most vile policies against migrants and even their youngest children at our borders, and leaving around 500 children with no means of being reunited with parents. Some might consider this torture. Trump has also created drama with foreign leaders to make himself look tough with policies that sometimes hurt US interests; assassinate an Iranian official without congressional oversight, which risked the lives of our troops and might have gotten us closer to war with Iran—which some believe might have been his purpose—and, in general, use the office of the presidency to further his financial gains? The betrayal of the Kurds, the treatment of immigrant children, and his handling of the Corona virus pandemic will especially resonate through history.

Trump’s response to the Corona virus is akin to the following scenario:

Suppose Trump drove his pick-up truck …(just kidding). Suppose Trump had his security guards drive him into the wilderness for an outing. While there, still sitting safely in the car, he spots a pack of wolves chasing down and devouring a man and woman on the trail in front of him. Soon a group of hikers come along. Trump waves at them and wishes them a good day. The hikers return the greeting and keep walking. After a short time, some of the hikers come running out of the forest screaming for help. Trump rolls down his window and asks if they met up with the pack of wolves eating the unfortunate couple? They shout “why didn’t you warn us if you knew there was a pack of dangerous wolves in front of us?” Trump tells them, “it’s such a lovely day. You seemed happy to enjoy it, and I didn’t want to spoil it for you. You might have panicked. Anyway, I see some of you made it back alive. You should thank me.”

Would Trump’s supporters be as sanguine about that scenario? Because that’s exactly what Trump did, except we should replace ‘lovely day’ with “good economy/stock market”.

Trump now even warns supporters that if Biden wins, he’ll listen to scientists. Good lord almighty!! Not that!!! Don’t listen to scientist just because the world’s Corona virus cases have now surpassed 42 Million, and the US death toll is 227,399 and climbing during this second wave. Over 8 million Americans have been infected after listening to Donald Trump’s “not to worry” idiocy. Right on cue, Trump trashed Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, calling him and other experts ‘idiots’. Trump recently told his crowd at a campaign rally in Nevada. “If I listened totally to the scientists, we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression, instead of, we’re like a rocket ship. Take a look at the numbers.”8

So let’s take a look at the numbers of a nation that did listen to the scientists. In contrast to Trump’s approach to the Coronavirus, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, has successfully stamped out the virus in her country and brought the economy back to life in record time. New Zealand had only 1,934 cases with 25 deaths.

“New Zealand’s finance minister, Grant Robertson, said the government’s plan to go “hard and early” against the virus had been a success. “We have one of the most open economies in the world because we set out a plan and stuck to it. We have eliminated our second wave, as others are still grappling to get this virus under control.”9

That’s in sharp contrast to Trump’s response to the Corona virus, which his supporters seemed to accept without much ado, even with the extraordinary number of deaths and infections. In fact, “the U.S. has the highest COVID-19 case count and death toll of any country in the world.”10 

What a legacy!!! And still much of his base stands firm, with only a few hushed squeaks from a few GOP Senators.

Now we have a new problem, i.e. Trump’s selection of a very young lifetime appointee to the highest court in the land… an appointee who got soft ball questions and praise from the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and who refused to give straightforward answers to relevant questions put to her by Democrats that would allow us to know for sure what we all already suspect… that she is far right in her thinking and appears to be an ideologue with an agenda, rather than an impartial arbiter of the law.

As to Trump’s denial of climate change? Why would anyone believe that such an egocentric, maniacal blowhard such as Donald Trump would want the world to exist after he’s gone? Yet, apparently, here again our Congress seems to have no say in deciding whether the US withdraws from the Paris Climate Accord. This one man was allowed to decide the fate of one of the most important issues that is affecting the entire world. During the wildfires in California in mid-September, when Trump was reminded about the effects of climate change, Trump retorted: “It will start getting cooler. Just you watch.”11 Apparently Trump thinks the warming climate means its summer, and as soon as winter comes we’ll be fine.

I don’t suggest that all of Trump’s supporters are ‘deplorables,’ as the deplorable Hillary Clinton seemed to suggest. If, indeed, she was suggesting that they are all poor, under educated racists, she is wrong. I know some who voted for Trump who are well educated, well-off individuals. However, with these, the well-off aspect of the support may play a major role. The stock market was souring, and tax breaks for the rich are nothing to sneeze at. So what’s not to like?

And perhaps some of the other less fortunate admirers are hoping some of that elusive wealth will rub off on them through osmosis. Good luck with that! All they’re good for is paying higher taxes than Trump, who paid nothing for years and only $750 for 2016 and 2017.12 And evidence shows that Trump paid more to China in taxes than in the US13 and claimed millions in losses. Consequently, “the [US] government … gave back all of the federal income tax he’d paid from 2005 to 2008, along with interest,” amounting to $72.9 million.14 And yet many parrot Trump’s talking points as if they were gospel, instead of the rantings of an Islamophobic, racist, mean spirited, conman who simply uses language and sound bites he knows some of those powerless supporters understand and embrace.

What a relief it must be to have someone so powerful not only allowing one’s prejudices, but encouraging them with dog whistles of his own. Shouting “lock her up!” directed at a governor who had just narrowly escaped an attempt to kidnap her and do her harm by Trump’s supporters, should be the last straw for our congress. Yet all we hear is the deafening sound of silence. Where are the National Guard to haul his ass away and throw him in jail for inciting violence against a government official? Trump’s behavior is certainly a violation of 18 U.S. Code § 2385. Advocating the overthrow of Government, which includes the government of any state is a violation of that law. A partial reading of the law is as follows:

Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or

Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or

Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof—

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.

So where is our Congress with the handcuffs? What is Congress good for? And why is it possible without congressional oversight for one or two people in office to start wars, assassinate foreign officials, and grant foreign territorial transfers in countries that don’t belong to the US government? It’s as if the US President is some sort of ancient monarch, or a Mafia boss divvying up territories for future or past payment for his personal account? Even the ancient Romans demanded the Emperor get consent from the Senate when starting wars. So how can one man start wars and decide the fate of tens of thousands of former allies, by leaving them to Turkey, a country with the world’s 9th largest army, and one that still won’t admit to the Genocide of more than three million Christians: Greek, Assyrians, and Armenians during and after WWI? And how is he allowed to break treaties and reverse every initiative of the last president, because of what appears to be personal insecurity and spite? Where is congress? And where is their allegiance to the American people?

Trump’s blind supporters also include Republican Senators. Shouldn’t we assume they are also well-off and well educated, even if their choices at times are homophobic and racist and, in many cases, deplorable?

For the rest of society who struggle to put food on the table and who don’t have sufficient, or any healthcare coverage to allow them to concentrate on anything other than mere survival, the message is clear. Stop ruining the prestige of our major cities by being poor and sleeping on the street! Yes. Our Ill-lustrous president said the homeless were ruining the prestige of our major cities by being homeless. Trump even attempted to slash food stamps during the pandemic for 700,000 Americans, but was thankfully smacked down by a federal judge.15 Perhaps it was one of the judges Trump failed to place on the bench. So let’s hope Trump’s $4 million personal debt reported by the NY Times, isn’t what rubs off on his supporters in higher taxes for the already overly taxed, and his destruction of the Affordable Care Act doesn’t add them to Trump’s deplorable homeless lying in the street when their homes are taken away for failing to pay their medical expenses. There are clips as early as January 2017 of Trump claiming he has a better health care plan, and he has repeated his claim every year since. Apparently Trump’s plan will usually be ready in two weeks.16 Where is it? And why destroy one plan before his ‘superior’ plan is ready to be put in place? And let’s not forget Trump’s threat to Social Security and Medicare. Is it that Trump only loves dictators and despots? Does Trump simply despise the poor and struggling middle classes? Will his supporters ever wake up before they realize their lives are going down the drain?

It’s no surprise that Rudy Giuliani is Trump’s personal lawyer. When Rudy was mayor of NY, perhaps those who didn’t know him called him America’s Mayor, but some who did know him as Mayor of New York, called him ‘Mayor Mussolini’. The Rudy had a propensity for threatening the homeless with jail if they didn’t move out of downtown Manhattan to the Bronx or some other out of sight, out of mind location. No wonder Trump seems to have an affinity for ‘Mayor Mussolini’. I’m rather surprised that some of these Repugnicans, especially Trump, didn’t run on a platform of “Let them eat cake!” Perhaps that will be Trump’s last minute 2020 campaign slogan if he doesn’t get put in jail before then.

On second thought, that wouldn’t stop him. In fact, it didn’t stop a convicted murderer, who was serving a life sentence for two murders, from running for a U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota.17 And, of course, let’s not forget that Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens was convicted on seven felony counts of corruption, yet Stevens also ran for reelection.18 The only drawback for Trump would be his inability to vote for himself once convicted. But even that restriction has changed in some states. Perhaps he should make an executive order pronto to remedy that restriction, just in case.

Even when Trump designated his own resort in Florida as the next location for the G7, a clear violation of the Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution, Republicans hesitated to act. As Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) put it, the decision was “another outrageous example of the President using his office to funnel money from American taxpayers and foreign sources into his own pockets.”19 Walter Shaub, the former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, put it succinctly: “There is no definition of corruption that would not cover the president participating in a contract awarded to himself. So, if this is not corrupt, nothing is corrupt.” Shaub claimed that the decision was “so overtly corrupt that it can’t be viewed as anything but a loyalty test for Senators….If they are corrupt enough to look the other way, Trump will know he can do anything. In that case, he will do everything.”20 Yet, before Trump wisely scraped his intentions, Republicans announced they were ready to use Trump’s resort for their campaign event.

So where in the constitution does it say that members of Congress swear they will do all in their power to protect their own jobs, in this case by protecting what many believe is a popular ‘corrupt’ president, even if it means violating their oaths of office? Where in the constitution is it written that government was to be ruled by the highest bidder? Where in the constitution is it written that the president can rule the armed services without oversight; can break treaties; can enrich himself with his outside interests while in office; can forbid those in his administration to testify before congress; can incite violence against the press and anyone else he deems an enemy; can dismiss and smear loyal government diplomats who might not acquiesce to his plan of alleged corruption; to lock up babies and small children taken from their desperate parents at the border, and force them to live in filth; and to bomb sovereign nations, assassinate foreign officials and arm foreign militants without Congressional oversight?

I’ll say one thing in favor of Trump. He hasn’t started any new wars… although he’s not done yet. Let’s just hope he means what he says for once when he rightly claims that it shows more strength to not resort to war against Iran. That does not mean he’s a peacenik. Trump has accelerated Obama’s legacy of the long distance killing of thousands of people in multiple countries by drone strikes.21 Civilians who get caught in the fire be damned.

During the president’s NBC appearance on October 15, there was one bright spot when NBC moderator Savannah Guthrie questioned President Donald Trump about tweeting Qanon conspiracy theories. When Trump claimed he was only retweeting someone else’s tweet, Guthrie retorted: “You’re the president. You’re not just someone’s crazy uncle who can just retweet whatever!”22 If only Trump could remember that. But unfortunately, as his niece Mary L. Trump revealed in her book: ‘Too Much and Never Enough’, it seems Trump is also someone’s crazy uncle.

While it’s true that the American public doesn’t always get it right, our leaders are paid to get it right, but too often they too get it woefully wrong. And they get it wrong, not because they’re too stupid to know better. Trump’s presidency, perhaps more than any other, shows us in no uncertain terms, how deliberately dysfunctional, and even corrupt our government has become. When Republican Senator Lindsey Graham refuses to even read the transcript presented to Congress to see if indeed Trump is guilty as charged concerning a quid pro quo discussion with the Ukrainian president, you can be sure he doesn’t believe that his job description, and the job description of his fellow Republicans, is about truth and justice for the American people, or about the Constitution of the United States. It’s about their own hides and personal interests.

Salon.com reported that “Trump’s legal team gave thousands in contributions to Republican senators ahead of impeachment trial.” and that “Trump’s lawyers also gave thousands to Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and Ted Cruz before the trial began.”23 And Federal Election Commission records show that “President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign has repeatedly accepted donations from well-known white supremacists, extremists and bigots.”24

Someone once suggested that we should pay our politicians so much money they won’t be tempted to be corrupt. However, how often has anyone heard a rich man shout: “Please! Don’t give me any more money! I have more than enough already!” There are few so honorable.

No. It’s clear. That solution would not work. So here’s a novel idea. Perhaps our President and Congress should get no more than a priest might receive, plus room and board, or relative living expenses, because the job of running the country should be one that is akin to a higher calling… almost religious (no Mega Church leaders need apply). That should weed out those who are in it for the money. As it stands now, however, it’s difficult, if not impossible for most candidates to get the exposure they need without raising money for their campaigns. So perhaps legislation should be passed that allows qualifying candidates—those who have garnered enough signatures to warrant a run for office—to be sponsored by the US government, with equal funds going to each qualifying candidate regardless of political affiliation. For example, the government would pay to get each candidates to and from events held in public venues. The reasoning being, that such government expenditures would be in the public interest!

In addition—since campaigners would not be allowed to receive any funds from any entity other than the US government—in addition to the televised debates, each qualifying candidate would receive an allotted amount of time to state his or her platform on all relevant radio, TV, internet, and print news outlets if national, and in the relevant presses and stations when the election is local. This arrangement would be a mandatory public service by those outlets as a precondition for keeping their operating licenses. Candidates could also be given free air time on CSpan. In addition, anyone caught giving money or other unrelated services to a candidate for any reason should be promptly charged with, and arrested for, bribery and influence peddling. In the case of an organization or corporation, the head or CEO should be charged.

Because let’s not be afraid to say it loud and clear.

IT IS, AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN, ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS!!!

At least we should say to Trump: Thank you, Mr President, for making the dysfunction and corruption of our government crystal clear.

Here’s how the Swedes do government: https://thewire.in/books/sweden-politicians-equal-riksdag

* It’s important to note that, although the Kurds were considered US allies during the fighting against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the Kurds have much to answer for when it comes to their own inappropriate, and sometimes violent treatment of other minorities in both Syria and Iraq, namely the Assyrians and Yazidis. The Kurds have a long history of violence going back to Ottoman times when they were used by the Young Turk regime to kill both Armenians and Assyrians during the Christian Genocides of 1913-1923. After the Ottoman Genocides, surviving Assyrians fled Turkey and settled in various parts of northern Iraq, including in the Nineveh Plains—an ancient Assyrian stronghold—to join other Assyrians already living there. For years the Assyrians and Yazidis have been periodically attacked and harassed by the Kurds living in nearby villages, even before the US invasion of Iraq. Assyrian Churches in Iraq have been burned and Assyrian villagers periodically terrorized. To learn more see: ERASING ASSYRIANS: How the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Abuses Human Rights, Undermines Democracy, and Conquers Minority Homelands. For more information, see: 
https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/4ec518_18285c91d7924250aa1c52b0b4c7da9f.pdf
1. Mariam Khan and Libby Cathey, McConnell to work in 'total coordination' with White House on impeachment trial. ABC News, December 13, 2019. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/mcconnell-work-total-coordination-white-house-impeachment-trial/story?id=67707430

2. Michael Gold, Trump Lawyers Argue He Cannot Be Criminally Investigated, The New York Times, Sept. 23, 2019

3. Emily Saul and Lia Eustachewich Trump has blanket immunity even if he shoots someone on Fifth Avenue, his lawyer says, New York Post, October 23, 2019.

4. Paul Waldman, The Supreme Court just declared Trump isn’t above the law. But he also got a reprieve. Washington Post, July 20, 2020.

5. Allen Smith, NBC News, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry/dershowitz-trump-pursuing-quid-pro-quo-get-re-elected-not-n1125816. 1/29/20.

6. Mike Lillis , Pelosi says Trump lawyers have 'disgraced' themselves, suggests disbarment, The Hill, 01/30/20.

7. Trump shocks again by encouraging China to investigate the Bidens, PBS News Hour, Oct 3, 2019. Also see: David A. Graham, Trump Just Did It Out in the Open, The Atlantic, October 3, 2019.

8. Ryan Grenoble, Trump Blames ‘Fauci And These Idiots’ For His Own Coronavirus Ineptitude, HuffPost, October 19, 2020.

9. Martin Farrer, New Zealand's Covid-19 response the best in the world, say global business leaders, The Guardian, October 7, 2020.

10. Curtis M. Wong, Biden Has 1-Word Response To Trump’s Insult That He’ll ‘Listen To The Scientists.’ Huffpost, October 19, 2020.

11. Amy Graff, Trump on climate change: 'It will get cooler," he says without evidence during Calif. visit. SFGate, September 14, 2020.

12. Giovanni Russonello, The Trump Tax Bombshell, The New York Times, Sept. 28, 2020.

13. Lily Kuo, Donald Trump paid nearly $200,000 in taxes to China, report claims, Huffpost, October 21, 2020.

14. Nicholas Reimann, Report: Trump Only Paid $750 In Taxes For 2016 And 2017, Forbes, September 27, 2020.

15. Spencer Hsu, Federal judge strikes down Trump plan to slash food stamps for 700,000 unemployed Americans The Washington Post, October 18, 2020. 

16. Sara Boboltz, Senators Demand Answers On Decision To Hold G-7 Summit At Trump Doral, Huffpost, 10/18/2019. 

17. Associated Press, New York Post. July 13, 2018.

18. Del Quentin Wilber, Washington Post Staff Writer, Tuesday, October 28, 2008. 

19. Sara Boboltz, Senators Demand Answers On Decision To Hold G-7 Summit At Trump Doral, Huffpost, 10/18/2019.

20. Lee Moran, Ex-Ethics Chief: If Trump Resort Hosting G-7 ‘Is Not Corrupt, Nothing Is’. Huffpost, 10/19/19.

21. Daniel Larison, Trump Escalates Killer Drone War and No One Seems to Care, The American Conservative, June 26, 2020. 

22. Kathryn Watson, Savannah Guthrie calls out Trump: "You're the president — you're not like someone's crazy uncle.” CBS News,  October 16, 2020 / 12:06 PM.  https://www.cbsnews.com/news/savannah-guthrie-trump-town-hall/

23. Igor Derysh, Trump Legal Team Donated Thousands to GOP Senators Ahead of Impeachment Trial, Salon January 29, 2020. Also see: Graig Graziosi, Trump legal team made donations to impeachment jurors, The Independent, 10/29/20.

24. Christopher Mathias, The White Supremacist And Extremist Donors To Trump’s 2020 Campaign, Huffpost 10/24/20.

Thea Halo is the author of Not Even My Name; a former news correspondent for WBAI in NYC; and a former member of both the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) and the International Network of Genocide Scholars (INOGS). Ms Halo’s historical papers are published in a number of Academic books: Genocide in the Ottoman Empire; Sayfo 1915: An Anthology of Essays on the Genocide of Assyrians/Arameans during the first World War; and an upcoming anthology on the Genocide of the Pontic Greeks (during the first World War in Ottoman Turkey). You can view one of her presentations at the Boston State House @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzBfcE4PjTM

Homage to the 9/11 Victims and the WTC

by Thea Halo

The following was written on September 13, 2001.

From Greenwich Street looking towards where the WTC once stood

For those of you who are concerned and interested in what is happening in downtown NYC, I finally went back on Thursday to check on my loft. I live in Tribeca about 10 blocks from the Trade Center site. I had left my windows open when I left town, so I was concerned about smoke and debris. The drive back on Thursday afternoon was unobstructed, since the bridges and tunnels had only recently been reopened. At 21st Street, traffic was diverted away from the West Side Highway. At 14th Street, the streets were closed off to regular traffic. I parked my car on 8th Avenue and 18th Street and walked home, about two miles. 

At 14th Street there was a check-point where one had to show identification to prove he or she lived or worked below 14th Street. As I passed through Greenwich Village, smoke with an odor of burning rubber and plastics, began to fill the air. Passers-by commented that the fires must have resumed because the smoke had not reached so far uptown before. But a wind was blowing from the south, bringing the foul smelling smoke with it. 

Some restaurants were closed in Greenwich Village, but many were open for business. The sidewalk tables at the White Horse Tavern on 8th Avenue, about 1 1/2 miles from the site, were full of people eating an early dinner or having drinks. Signs in many restaurant windows invited police and fire fighters to come in for drinks and snacks. The most dramatic change that far downtown was the lack of car traffic on the streets, but the streets were still populated with people. Or perhaps the most dramatic change was that people looked each other in the eyes, bound together by a common feeling of loss. 

By Canal Street the people on the streets had diminished to only a few; an occasional group of relief workers wearing masks walking their way uptown away from the scene, or some stragglers pulling their luggage towards 14th Street. At Canal Street there was another check-point where again one had to show identification. Canal Street was lined with trucks and buses of various descriptions in which relief workers or other equipment had been transported. Further south, a street was lined with parked bulldozers. Another contained police vans and more buses, that had brought relief workers to the scene. The smoke had thickened considerably. On passing a relief worker who was loading a truck with water, soft drinks and masks, he asked if I wanted a mask. I had been holding my sweater over my nose to block out the thickening smoke. I gratefully accepted and continued to my street.

Walking down Greenwich Street below Canal, I could see the cloud of thick yellow smoke where the Trade Centers had once dominated the skyline and filled in the space between the buildings on either side of Greenwich Street. It was difficult to adjust to the empty space there. On my street, other trucks were parked on both sides. I am told they used my street to lay out bodies at one time during the rescue operations. Volunteers with masks hung out outside The Tribeca Grill, a neighborhood restaurant on my street that seemed to be open for the sole purpose of accommodating relief workers. Most of the relief workers that far south stood at check points or waited to be of use. I heard a great rumble and was told that part of the teetering wall of one of the buildings had finally come crashing down. Of course, the mood was somber. 

Upstairs my loft was full of smoke and a layer of dust from the disaster, covered everything. But the windows were still in tact and only a few papers had blown off the counter. I looked out of the windows to the empty smoke filled space that used to house the great rectangles of the World Trade Centers, and again the eerie knowledge that these two great monuments of our city were gone was difficult to grasp. 

I realized how much a part of us they had become over the years; how much they had dominated every visual aspect of the skyline and the downtown scene. They were the landmarks one told visitors to look for to get their bearings when they emerged from subways; the landmarks that would silently inform them which way was south, and consequently, which way was east or west. They were the landmarks on which one blamed the wind tunnel that blew diagonally uptown, so that on windy days one could actually be blown off one’s feet at 6th Avenue and White Street when taking the next step to cross the road. They were the landmarks from which Godzilla had dangled, and from which daredevils had performed their dare-devilish feats of bravery and skill. They were the landmarks that housed a diverse array of peoples in business, government, and the arts. Recently, artist’s studios had been offered at the Trade Center by one of the state or city arts counsels. I would like to think this last was meant as a thank-you to the many artists whose labors and love of lower Manhattan had brought the districts, now known as SoHo and Tribeca, back to life over the last thirty-five years. 

The Trade Centers were monuments of vast strength and proportion, dwarfing even the tallest surrounding skyscrapers, yet they appeared to be held up by the thinnest possible supports, like broad-backed spiders on needle-point legs. At times they disappeared in a cloud of mist, but always emerged again, gleaming with sparks of silver as the sun burned the mist away. They had always been there in the twenty-seven years I have lived in their grace. They were there on waking with their spiral antenna poking at a cobalt sky, or spearing gray, slumbering, clouds. And they were there at bedtime as the lights in thousands of their windows illuminated the night. 

What had begun forty years ago as the butt of jokes and criticism for the designers and financiers of these nondescript monuments to America’s financial domination, had somehow over the years become less like real estate, and more like old trusted friends; always there, always giving comfort that some things never change. With a capacity the size of small vertical cities, housing upward of 50,000 people, they became living, breathing entities at the edge of Manhattan; guardians that oversaw the whole of the island and outlying boroughs and states. And like parental figures, they had achieved a mysticism akin to the symbol of the flag still flying as bombs burst in the night. 

As I looked up from my debris encrusted windows to where the World Trade Centers once stood, I now saw only a cloud of yellow smoke rubbing its billowing haunches on a brilliant blue sky. It was difficult to imagine these friends would not emerge victorious this time as they had emerged from the mist so many times before. It was even more difficult to imagine that the remains of so many of their inhabitants, people from every spectrum of our great city, nation, and globe, who had breathed life each day into the halls and cubicles of these two great entities, were now inexorably mixed with the dust of their tragic demise. 

I offer my condolences to the multitude of people who tragically and needlessly lost family, friends, and co-workers to this senseless terror. And I offer my condolences to our great city for the demise of two beacons that had served as reminders to us and the world, of the extraordinary human capacity to achieve great feats, and that now remind us how fragile life is, and how tentative is our moment on the earth, even in the face of seeming strengths and apparent superhuman achievements.

As no other tragedy of recent times, this for me brings to mind John Donne’s famous Meditation XVII that “No man is an island entire to itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main …. Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”  

In demonstrating solidarity with Americans in this time of mourning, the world demonstrates the spirit of Donne’s sentiments that we are all “a part of the main.” I can only hope that in the days, weeks, and months ahead, when more talk of war whips the country into a frenzy of revenge, we can all remember that John Donne’s “every man”, knows no country of origin; no ethnic, racial, or religious separation. Perhaps heeding Donne’s sentiment can be the greatest homage one can pay to the victims of this sad event.

Photos by Thea Halo

Update: September 11, 2020.

Since writing the above article, the US has invaded Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. None of those nations had anything to do with the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. World opinion has shifted since 9/11. Many nations believe the US had squandered the good will demonstrated after the attacks. The following is only a partial list of responses from nations voicing their disappointment and concern. 

By 9/11/2006, NBC News reported: “A Divided World Remembers Sept. 11, 2001”

PARIS — The nations of the world joined Monday in solemn remembrance of Sept. 11 — but for many, resentment of the United States flowed as readily as tears. 

“Critics say Americans have squandered the goodwill that prompted France’s Le Monde newspaper to proclaim “We are all Americans” that somber day after the attacks, and that the Iraq war and other U.S. policies have made the world less safe in the five years since.

“Le Monde itself wrote an editorial stating that “since Sept. 11, America has not, it’s true, been attacked on its territory, but the world has changed for the worse.” 

Extraordinary Ordinary People Helping to Repair this Broken World

By Thea Halo

Apparently, you don’t have to be a billionaire to help repair this broken world. We all know there are a multitude of medical workers, and those who work in the medical industry behind the scenes, who potentially sacrifice their own health to heal strangers. However, there are many other extraordinary ordinary people around the world who save lives, simply because they see a problem, and take it upon themselves to do what they can to help. 

Take Lou Xiaoying, who lived in poverty in China. Yet, when Lou Xiaoying found an abandoned baby on a garbage heap in 1972—one of the unwanted girl babies of China’s one child policy—she took the baby home, nursed her back to health, and raised her. Lou Xiaoying would go on to save and raise 30 Children and was still at it even at the ripe old age of 82, when she and her husband saved and raised their last child.1 

You’ll also find “Gino Strada, an Italian surgeon and humanitarian who left a lucrative career in medicine to serve as a war surgeon with the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC). Treating civilians and soldiers around the world, many in some of the most war-torn and remote places, Strada spent the last two decades performing surgeries in addition to setting up hospitals in a wide range of countries that include Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq. In 1994, Strada co-founded an organization called EMERGENCY, that now runs over 60 hospitals, clinics and first aid posts, all of which offer free medical and surgical assistance to victims of war, landmines and poverty. Strada has personally performed over 30,000 life-saving surgeries to people who would not otherwise have access to medical care.”2 

Then there are numerous others, such as barbers who have taken it upon themselves to give free hair cuts to the homeless and others in need, to help them regain a sense of self. Cory Gilmour, aka ‘Happy’ Gilmour, whose barbershop is in Downtown Santa Ana, and other barbers “open their arms to homeless people and any other needy folks who’d like a free haircut.…The first 100 to arrive also will get a free burger and a drink from Monster Energy, which is helping to sponsor the event.3 Brennon Jones, a Chester native who now lives in West Philadelphia, has given haircuts to more than 1,000 people who are homeless, and Steve Powell are among numerous others. Powell “knew there was more to life than floating… Powell said he had a dream in which hoards of angry, disheveled people approached a building. They were hopeless and battered when they walked in. But when they walked out, their spirits were lifted — and they had new haircuts.” Although Powell was not a barber, he decided to buy a mobile barbershop, which “provides free haircuts and cosmetic services to homeless people, students, veterans, senior citizens and low-income families in the Jacksonville area.”4 There are many others not mentioned here. Unfortunately, Juan Carlos de Orca’s story, among others, is an example of how government sometimes thwarts such selfless acts.5

Then there is Gregory Kloehn, who has “built some 50 tiny houses and distributed them to homeless people in West Oakland,” in what some call “acts of guerrilla philanthropy.”6

And of course, there were so many people who risked their own lives to save Jews in Nazi Germany and elsewhere. And there are those who now risk their careers and reputations to speak out for the human rights of the Palestinians. There were also people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and the recently deceased Senator John Lewis, who fought for equal rights and got beaten and jailed for their efforts, but it didn’t stop them. Only death stopped Martin Luther King, Jr. We also have the longtime deceased, but not forgotten, Harriet Tubman, who was “Born into slavery in Maryland, … escaped to freedom in the North in 1849 to become the most famous ‘conductor’ on the Underground Railroad. Tubman risked her life to lead hundreds of family members and other slaves from the plantation system to freedom on this elaborate secret network of safe houses.”7 Tubman needn’t have continued after saving herself and her family, but she chose to continue to save so many more lives.

Yes, humans are sometimes the worse of Nature’s creations. But humans are also sometimes the best of Nature’s creations. Humans have the power and ability to make choices, and to prove there is something greater than one’s own selfish needs, as those listed above and so many others have proven. In fact, they have proven that the Christian proverb that ‘it is more blessed to give than receive,” not only helps the other, but it immeasurably helps the giver by making him or her an example, or a beacon of hope for all of humanity. It demonstrates that humans are capable of defying the more base instincts of nature to sit among the gods… to become immortal, in fact, because their names, and their deeds, will live on long past their physical form. Just check the internet and you’ll find the names and stories of those listed above, and so many other names and stories of otherwise ordinary people, who took the time to help repair this broken world. In other words, these extraordinary, ordinary people, might write on their tombstones:

I helped repair a broken world. 
Therefore I am, and always will be. 

  1. The Denver7 Team: https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/ordinary-people-who-stepped-up-to-help-others-and-became-extraordinary-heroes
  2. The Right Livlihood Foundation, Gino Strada Emergency, 2015 Italy. https://www.rightlivelihoodaward.org/laureates/gino-strada-emergency/
  3. Theresa Walker, Barber reopens in Santa Ana, will give free haircuts for homeless people, The Orange County Register, May 29, 2020. 
  4. Paige Cushman, Little Rock (KATV), September 25th 2019.
  5. Ed Fuelner, The cosmetology cops, The Washington Times, Monday, January 15, 2018. Also see: Brittany Hunter, Haircuts for the Homeless: The Latest Public Menace. Foundation for Economic Education, Thursday, February 16, 2017. https://fee.org/articles/haircuts-for-the-homeless-the-latest-public-menace/
  6. Paul Lewis, Tiny houses: salvation for the homeless or a dead end?, The Guardian, March 23, 2017.
  7. Harriet Tubman Biography (c. 1820–1913) Biography, Jun 5, 2020. https://www.biography.com/activist/harriet-tubman

Can We Help Fix This Broken World?

A belated Earth Day Message, Part 4
by Thea Halo

Leaving an Eternal Legacy:

Many of us have heard the proposition of French philosopher, René Descartes: “I think therefore I am.” Descartes never intended thinking to become a mere dalliance, however. Descartes’s first maxim provided guides or touchstones that would lead to the performance of morally good actions. Socrates posited that there were two roads to immortality. One is through procreation. The other through performing great works. So, how would this epithet look on one’s tombstone, or on a plaque next to one’s name at the UN? 

I helped repair a broken world, 
therefore I am, and always will be.

There is no logical reason why people living on this abundant earth should be starving, or deprived of clean water to drink and to clean themselves. There is no reason why people can’t depend on getting proper health care when the need arises. And there is no reason why children around the world can’t get a proper education. Actually, there is one reason: lack of sufficient interest to solve these problems by those who have it in their power to do so. Or perhaps it has been a simple lack of vision by otherwise willing participants.

Let’s concentrate on the more broken communities of the world… broken in the sense that too many in small villages around the world don’t even have the bare essentials that most people take for granted.

Suggested Plan of Action:

The following suggestions are for the first phase of a project to repair the world. These projects would also give much needed training and employment to members of the communities helped, by putting local villagers to work on the projects:

  1. Drilling communal wells in each village around the world where there is no clean water available for miles, as the first stage to eventually pipe water into homes; 
  2. Constructing sewer systems in each village, and constructing communal toilets and showers as the first stage to eventually supplying homes with indoor plumbing;
  3. Constructing roads from village to village… even rudimentary roads for a start, so that villagers can transport their produce or other wares more efficiently in order to sell or trade; 
  4. Building schools in villages around the world, supplying them with teachers and books, and inspiring students to think outside the box to help their own communities: See the film: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019); https://www.netflix.com/TITLE/80200047
  5. 1.2 billion people worldwide don’t have access to electricity. Brazilian mechanic Alfredo Moser, who worked with MyShelter,1 devised a simple, yet effective device that brought light to homes that had no windows. He used plastic water bottles filled with water and bleach. By slipping a test tube with a small LED lightbulb into the bottle, which in turn is hooked up to a mini-solar panel, the bottle can still refract outside light during the day, then also used as a lightbulb at night.2
  6. Installing solar panels to bring electricity to rural villages, i.e. street lighting for a start, and later bringing electricity into homes;
  7. Constructing health facilities in villages that rural doctors can visit; 
  8. Set up a program for medical doctors to train gifted villagers in the rudimentary practice of medicine, where there is no resident medical doctor on site; 
  9. Helping villagers set up victory gardens, and supplying them with seeds and fencing to keep out predators. Perhaps a goat can also be given to each family for milk; 
  10. Teach and implement sustainable organic farming, irrigation techniques, and pest control;
  11. Supply free birth control and other indispensable medicines.
  12. Encourage wireless companies to supply free wifi and/or cell service;

Tens of Thousands of Villages Could be Helped.

According to one website, the cost to build a septic system in Africa, for example, varies widely from as little as $1,500 to upward of $4,000.3 Water Wells For Africa (WWFA)4 claims the average well in Malawi and Mozambique, for instance, would cost $8,000. Combined, that would mean each village would need only $12,000 for those two vital services if they were communal. Doubling that amount for two wells and two septic systems for a slightly larger village, and we still only need $24,000. If each village was allocated $100,000, which would also pay for a solar system, a schoolhouse, a health center, and other basics, almost 21,000 villages could be served. If only $50,000 is needed to accomplish these rudimentary improvements in each village, 42,000 villages could be served.

Who would pay for these projects? 

According to Forbes, after the Coronavirus outbreak, there were still around 2,095 billionaires in the world — their (known) total net worth exceeds $8 trillion dollars as of 3/18/2020. Let’s say, for arguments sake, that each billionaire pledged to give a measly 1/10 % of one billion dollars to a project that would help bring the poorest villages around the world the bare minimum of services that most of the world takes for granted, such as wells for clean water, sewer systems, schools, health centers, solar power, victory gardens, and rural roads from village to village. If each of those billionaires contributed just 1/10% of one billion dollars, i.e. one million dollars, the total would amount to a staggering $2,095,000,000. 

Are we our brothers’ keepers? 

All of the major religions preach generosity for one’s fellow humans. Yet without fail, except for the relative few, those who practice those religions fall far short of the message, or they believe the message only applies to their own ethnic or religious communities.

Christianity’s Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Acts 20:35 “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Judaism: The Obligation of Tzedakah: Giving to the poor is an obligation in Judaism, a duty that cannot be forsaken even by those who are themselves in need. Some sages have said that tzedakah is the highest of all commandments, equal to all of them combined, and that a person who does not perform tzedakah is equivalent to an idol worshipper. 

Islam: One of the five pillars of Islam, is the obligatory charity known as Zakaat. 

Hinduism: Dana (giving) is an important part of one’s dharma (religious duty).

Buddhism: Generosity (dàna or càga) is a glad willingness to share what one has with others. Generosity is the proactive (carita) aspect of the second precept to abstain from taking what belongs to others. In Buddhism, generosity is seen as a strategy to weaken greed, a way of helping others and a means of lessening the eic disparities in society. 

Perhaps it’s time for our world’s billionaires to take these religious precepts to heart and head to the bank.

  1. MyShelter was founder Illac Diaz, a Filipino native. 
  2. Sarah Ruiz-Grossman, These Plastic Bottles Full Of Water And Bleach Light Up Homes Without Electricity. Huffington Post, July 19,1917. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/plastic-bottles-electricity_n_596e64f4e4b0000eb1968bb5
  3. Bonface, What is the best sewerage strategy for Africa? Construction Review Online: by Africa for Africa, Feb 4, 2016. https://constructionreviewonline.com/2016/02/what-is-the-best-sewerage-strategy-for-africa/
  4. http://www.waterwellsforafrica.org/projects/

How to Create a Broken World

A Reminder of Cause and Effect for the Refugee Crisis
A belated Earth Day Message—Part 3
by Thea Halo

One of the most ludicrous consequences of the dire circumstances millions around the world find themselves in, is the outrage of wealthy Western nations that have their borders bombarded by refugees searching for safety and a better life. Do any of the leaders or inhabitants of those wealthy nations believe in, or understand cause and effect? Do any ask themselves why they allowed or participated in the bombing of other nations? Do any ask why they allow or acquiesce to conditions that incite violence in parts of the world, such as the years of sanctions after the 1990 bombing of Iraq that caused the death of half a million Iraqi children? Do they understand that the callous remarks of then US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, might cause rage and animosity when she calmly claimed on National TV—and broadcast to the world—that the deaths of those half million Iraqi children “was worth it”?1 Would any Western Nation take such a callous statement about the death of half a million of their own children in stride?

Did the nations that took part in, or acquiesced to the bombing and destruction of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia believe that would mean the citizens of those countries would be happy to have their lives, homes, and countries destroyed, and they and their children would be content to sleep in a field somewhere and eat grass? In some nations, even grass is unavailable. And do they believe that starving and/or struggling against violence in Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere, with no change in sight would mean those citizens would be willing to simply give up while knowing there is a better life outside their own borders? When US legislators and the public decry the influx of ‘migrants,’—who should more accurately be referred to as refugees—do they ever ask why violent dictators are being propped up by the US in Latin America?

What did these leaders think would happen when cities and countries were destroyed? Or is it that they didn’t think past the moment? If these leaders are ignorant enough to allow the destruction of other countries, wouldn’t it be cheaper to quickly repair the damage to insure that citizens of those countries are not forced to flee to their countries to seek a safer life… countries that not only don’t want them, but decry the influx of refugees, as if the reason for the influx is some unforeseeable virus that has somehow developed from nowhere? In other words, wouldn’t it be more equitable to create an atmosphere in poorer and/or broken nations that make their citizens happy to stay in their own communities? Does it really take a rocket scientist to understand cause and effect—to understand that when a head of state is murdered and the country bombed, waring factions and/or criminals will often take over to fill the vacuum, which in turn often drives the population to flee for their lives?

These refugees didn’t spring from the earth. They sprang from the policies of those Western Nations that destroyed their homes, their countries, their infrastructures, and their lives. Afghanistan was attacked allegedly because the Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden without first given proof of culpability. Bin Laden was later found in Pakistan. Iraq was attacked allegedly to rid the country of Saddam Hussein while conjuring up fake stories of Al-Qaeda, and weapons of mass destruction. Libya was attacked allegedly because of the policies of Muammar Gaddafi, who inherited one of the poorest nations2 in Africa and turned Libya into Africa’s wealthiest nation, with a total adult literacy rate of 89.5% from 2008-2012.3 A release of Hillary Clinton’s emails “has revealed evidence that NATO’s plot to overthrow Gaddafi was fueled by first their desire to quash the gold-backed African currency, [that Gaddafi was sponsoring] and second the Libyan oil reserves.”4 Libya is now a failed state. Syria was attacked allegedly because of the policies of Bashar Hafez al-Assad. However, Assad’s Syria, although far from perfect, was the last secular state in the Middle East, and one of the countries the U.S. sent suspects to for U.S.’s deplorable rendition program after 9/11.5 Even more revealing: “Just as in Libya, … Mrs. Clinton championed the strategy of arming Islamist “rebels,” the Syrian “rebels” who ultimately received weapons included the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, and ISIS.”6

The fighting in Syria caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Syrians and sent millions of Syrians fleeing their broken homes and their broken lives. The accusation that chemical weapons were used by Assad on his own people seems absurd, since Assad was not only winning the war at the time, he was warned about crossing Obama’s ‘red line,’ the one thing that would cause the US to invade. 

Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, reported that “the Obama Administration falsely blamed the government of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad for the sarin gas attack that Obama was trying to use as an excuse to invade Syria; … Hersh pointed to a report from British intelligence saying that the sarin that was used didn’t come from Assad’s stockpiles.” In an interview with Alternet.org “Hersh was asked about the then-US-Secretary-of-State’s [Hillary Clinton] role in the Benghazi Libya US consulate’s operation to collect weapons from Libyan stockpiles and send them through Turkey into Syria for a set-up sarin-gas attack, to be blamed on Assad in order to ‘justify’ the US invading Syria.”7

Conflicting reports on the number of deaths, and speculation as to who was responsible, should also give us pause. “The US claims that Sarin nerve gas killed more than 1,400 people in the attack last month that triggered Mr  Obama’s call for military action to punish and degrade the Assad regime.  British intelligence said that at least 350 people died in the attack, which was ‘highly likely’ to have been carried out by Assad.”8 9 

The fact that Obama chose not to enforce his ‘red line’ threat after chemical weapons were used in Syria, suggests that Obama knew something the rest of us did not know. And perhaps, at the last moment, Obama decided he didn’t want to further tarnish his pre-election anti-war legacy by being responsible for yet another failed state.

So let’s not pretend that these Middle Eastern countries were destroyed for righteous reasons. Would any of the leaders of those Western nations, including the US, that took part in, or acquiesced to the bombings, honestly claim that it would be righteous to bomb a home in their own country, while the whole family was still inside the home, because the parent was a tyrant? Is that really the way one saves a family, or the population of a nation from a tyrant, by killing them and destroying their homes, towns, and infrastructure? And how is starving 22 million innocent civilians in Yemen, and bombing their towns and schools, and a school bus full of children righteous?10 Would any of these Western nations acquiesce to these deplorable acts in their own countries, or acquiesce to another nation interfering in their elections—as the US has done in Latin America—to put despots in charge, despots whose policies make the population run for their lives?

Julian Borger wrote in The Guardian: “The United States interventions in Central America have ranged from creating and arming right-wing death squads to propping up some of history’s most bloody dictatorships. The United States has over and over again put its ideals before the lives and well-being of the various peoples living throughout Central America, and because of that, much of the history of Central America has been that of violence, civil wars, and revolts.”11 12

Concerning the influx of refugees, how many countries must Western nations destroy before they realize that they have made their own beds, then they refuse to lie in them? 

As British Somali poet Warsan Shire wrote in her perfect poem called ‘Home’: “No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”13

  1. May 12, 1996. Madeleine Albright. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RM0uvgHKZe8
  2. Garikai Chengu, Libya: From Africa’s Richest State Under Gaddafi, to Failed State After NATO Intervention. Global Research , October 19, 2014. https://www.globalresearch.ca/libya-from-africas-richest-state-under-gaddafi-to-failed-state-after-nato-intervention/5408740
  3. Unicef. https://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/laj_statistics.html
  4. Sheep Media, Hillary Emails Reveal NATO Killed Gaddafi to Stop Libyan Creation of Gold-Backed Currency. Global Research, June 13, 2017. https://www.globalresearch.ca/hillary-emails-reveal-nato-killed-gaddafi-to-stop-libyan-creation-of-gold-backed-currency/5594742
  5. Mehdi Hasan, Syria has made a curious transition from US ally to violator of human rights, The Guardian, February 12, 2012. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/feb/19/syria-us-ally-human-rights
  6. Andrew C. McCarthy, Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi Debacle: Arming Jihadists in Libya . . . and Syria, The National Review, August 2, 2016. https://www.nationalreview.com/2016/08/hillary-clinton-wikileaks-benghazi-scandal-arm-syrian-rebels-al-qaeda-isis-libya-turkey/
  7. Eric Zuesse, Hillary Clinton approved delivering Libya’s sarin gas to Syrian rebels: Seymour Hersh, Global Research, May 01, 2016. Strategic Culture Foundation 28 April 2016. https://freeukrainenow.org/2016/05/01/hillary-clinton-approved-delivering-libyas-sarin-gas-to-syrian-rebels-seymour-hersh/
  8. Sarin gas used in Syria massacre – evidence against Assad growing all the time, says David Cameron. Evening Standard, September 5, 2013. https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/sarin-gas-used-in-syria-massacre-evidence-against-assad-growing-all-the-time-says-david-cameron-8800569.html
  9. Robert Parry, Consortium News, Was Turkey Behind Syria Sarin Attack? First published on April 6, 2014. https://consortiumnews.com/2015/09/16/was-turkey-behind-syria-sarin-attack-2/
  10. Moustafa Bayoumi, US bombs are killing children in Yemen. Does anybody care? The Guardian, 25 Aug 2018 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/25/us-bombs-yemen-children-humanitarian-disaster
  11. Website by Jason Rukavina (jruk@umich.edu) and Cyril Cordor (ccordor@umich.edu) for American Culture 213: Intro to Latina/o Studies, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
  12. Julian Borger, The Guardian, Fleeing a hell the US helped create: why Central Americans journey north. December 19, 2018.
  13. https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/home-433/

Thoughts on the Coronavirus Pandemic

Do Humans Deserve This Beautiful Earth?
A belated Earth Day Message—Part 2
by Thea Halo

During this Coronavirus pandemic we’re reminded of the multitude of people working on the front lines around the world, risking their own lives every minute of every day to save strangers they don’t even know, and the multitude of others bringing food and services to fellow citizens. We must also acknowledge the scientists who spend their lives finding solutions for such crises, or work to find ways to improve our lives in general. Most of these scientific discoveries are now intrinsically woven into our daily lives.1 Tim Bernes Lee’s invention of the World Wide Web, for instance, has connected us in ways not even dreamed of in former times. Other scientists we will probably never hear about are working to give us a greater understanding of the world we inhabit and the greater universe in which we live.

However, one has to wonder if pandemics such as the Coronavirus are Nature’s way of telling us that as a species we have failed in our stewardship of the earth and the creatures that dwell upon it. We have failed to listen to the warnings of those scientists. We have failed to heed the repeated environmental disasters: the floods, the mudslides, the wildfires, the tornadoes, the hurricanes. So now perhaps we’ll listen to the sound of hundreds of thousands of coffins being slammed shut around the world.

Even then, the sound of that warning may only be temporary, just as the observance of all other warnings were temporary, or even ignored. As in the past, everything will go back to the old normal soon after this particular crises passes. After all, even as thousands and perhaps millions around the world died from air pollution, and the weather became more erratic made worse by human activities, we went back to the devastating normal that created those crises. In fact, in the midst of this deadly virus, we read: “White House poised to weaken coal plant mercury rule. The Trump administration is expected to withdraw justification underpinning Obama-era environmental regulation…”2 The Trump administration even decided to weaken the auto emissions standards,3 and withdrew the United States from the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement, and the nuclear agreement with Iran. As late as April 02, 2020, in the midst of this deadly Coronavirus, Trump was still attempting to erase the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obama Care.4 It’s as if Trump thinks his penis will fall off if he doesn’t reverse all of Obama‘s initiatives.

How often must we read that certain species are going extinct because of the destruction to their habitat, because of poaching, or because some fool wants to hunt our most beautiful wild animals: lions, tigers, giraffes, rhinos, and elephants for sport. Think of that. For sport!!! We are wiping out some of the most beautiful creatures on earth for sport. Pangolins are being killed by the ton for their meat and scales, as are elephants and rhinos for their tusks. And people are eating bats. Can anyone claim that bats and pangolins were ever meant to be eaten by humans? Perhaps in the stone age or in desperately poor nations where the food source amounts to whatever one is able to find and kill, like eating rats and cats during world wars, and during periodic mass starvation as in China before the 1980s. However, for those nations that are responsible for most of the slaughters, i.e. those nations that create a market for these animals, such as China, that necessity no longer exists. Apparently, for some, old habits developed during times of famine or wars do not die easily. Consequently, there are too many who fail to realize or care, that each of those species has a purpose on this earth, such as helping to keep nature in balance. Or perhaps, they simply don’t care. Greed and immediate gratification takes precedence over conservation and the health of our planet. For the poorer nations where poachers rely on any means to support themselves and their families, we should ask why they are so desperate in a world where some have billions of dollars, while others don’t have clean water to drink?

“A study published … in the journal Cell found that antibodies in llamas’ blood could offer a defense against the coronavirus.”5 In other words, the animals we kill off may have been the saviors of the human species. Nature always provides unless we choose to annihilate her creations.

If these pandemics only killed off those who are responsible for the devastation, at least we could believe there was justice in nature. However, that we are all at risk, and sometimes suffer the consequences of these deplorable crimes, perhaps Nature no longer gives a damn who is at fault. Perhaps Nature behaves—and perhaps rightly so—as if we are all at fault, because let’s face it, we all continue in our old ways out of convenience or because we haven’t figured out how to effectively stop using non-recyclable plastic containers, for instance… how to demand pesticides are no longer used on our produce and land… how to stop companies from polluting our air and waters… how to stop nations from killing off some of these precious animals… and how to stop the wars and the insane targeting of minorities in various societies.

If this pandemic can destroy businesses in such a short span of time, perhaps we can go on strike against the large corporations, banks, and nations that refuse to abide by conservation and environmental standards, and the standards of decency, to give them an economic pandemic they won’t forget.

This Coronavirus pandemic may be Nature’s WWIII. Global carbon monoxide emissions were down by at least 17% during this pandemic, so perhaps Nature has won, if only temporarily.6

That should give us a hint as to where to go from here if we want to avoid an even greater pandemic in future. Our first step should be to vote for those politicians who educate themselves and who listen to and fund our scientists. The Coronavirus pandemic has proven that we are all connected around the world—that we are one people, regardless of race, religion, national origins, or economic status. We are all subject to Nature’s rules and, in the end, Nature will have her way with us.

  1. https://www.history.com/news/11-innovations-that-changed-history. Also see: https://bestreviewof.com/top-10-scientific-discoveries-that-changed-the-way-we-live-our-lives/
  2. Brian Snyder/Reuters, Aljazeera, April 16, 2020. https://www.aljazeera.com/ajimpact/white-house-poised-weaken-coal-plant-mercury-rule-sources-200416153114099.html
  3. Nathan Rott and Jennifer Ludden, Trump Administration Weakens Auto Emissions Standards, NPR March 31, 2020 https://www.npr.org/2020/03/31/824431240/trump-administration-weakens-auto-emissions-rolling-back-key-climate-policy
  4. Nan Aron, Trump Wages War on the Affordable Care Act in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Ms Magazine, April 2, 2020. https://msmagazine.com/2020/04/02/trump-administration-wages-war-on-the-affordable-care-act-in-the-midst-of-the-covid-19-pandemic/
  5. Matthew Cantor ‘Llamas are the real unicorns’: why they could be our secret weapon against coronavirus, The Guardian, May 17, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/16/llama-coronavirus-antibodies-study-benefits,
  6. Doyle Rice, USA Today, Coronavirus lockdowns have caused a whopping 17% drop in global carbon emissions. May 19, 2020.

The Crime of Breathing While Black

A belated Earth Day Message—Part 1
by Thea Halo

Perhaps the world has finally gone mad, and although the burning and looting of stores and buildings—that had nothing to do with George Floyd’s death—is rather mind boggling, the anger about the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd is not. That Police Officer, Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck and actually watched his life drain from him, as bystanders told him Floyd is now bleeding from his nose, and finally not moving, is the most cold-blooded crime I have ever witnessed. Even the video of Eric Garner’s murder, although equally reprehensible and criminal, doesn’t compare in how deliberate, calm, and cold-blooded Floyd’s murder was. There was no struggle from Floyd. He had no chance to struggle. He was pinned firmly to the ground on his stomach, with his hands cuffed behind him, and Derek Chauvin’s knee and weight on his neck. We all know there are compassionate cops. These were not among them.

Why Derek Chauvin and his accomplices are not charged with first degree murder is beyond reason. For what crime was Floyd murdered? For allegedly trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. Even if true, without an investigation, we have no way of knowing if he knew the bill was counterfeit. It could have been passed to him from an unknowing party. But even if Floyd knew the bill was counterfeit, does that really deserve a death sentence? As with Eric Garner’s murder, is selling loose cigarettes really a capital offense undeserving of a trial and a jury of one’s peers? Is it even worth a citation? Doesn’t selling loose cigarettes tell the police that this man is just trying to make a few cents, perhaps to buy food? In a civil society, the police would have asked Garner if he needed help, and directed him in how to seek help, instead of wrestling him to the ground and choking him to death.

Who are we as a country… as a people? How have we become so ruthless? How did those who are supposed to be entrusted to serve and protect become the people we must fear? How does Atatiana Jefferson, the 28-year-old Black woman who is simply playing video games in her own home with her nephew, get shot dead by police through her second story window? How does an innocent Black woman, Breonna Taylor, who is sleeping in her own bed, get shot dead by police who break into the wrong home? How does Philando Castile, a 32-year-old Black man, get shot seven times by police during a traffic stop, while in a car with his fiancé and her four-year-old child? What kind of trauma must that child face, not to mention the trauma to Castile’s fiancé and his family?

How does a stupid White woman, who is breaking a local leash law with her dog, think it’s acceptable to threaten a Black man—who simply reminds her to follow the law—that she is calling the police to tell them an African American man is threatening her life?

How did we get so ignorant and cruel as a society? Where is this heading? And how is burning and looting our cities supposed to help? Unless it’s to remind us that in some cruel way we are all to blame for not demanding that our police are not chosen from the bottom of the barrel. That they are tested and trained properly to deal with every situation to determine which situations are actually life threatening enough to need force. Selling loose cigarettes on a street corner is not life threatening to anyone. Nor is sleeping in one’s bed. Nor is playing video games in one’s home. Even passing a counterfeit bill threatens the life of no one.

However, instead of burning businesses and looting, causing trauma to even more people, which in turn may cause more animosity, wouldn’t it be more of a tribute to George Floyd’s memory if each of those protestors marched peacefully and gave even one dollar to help fund after-school projects in Black communities, or bought musical instruments and books for gifted Black children? With so many protestors, hundreds of thousands of dollars could have been raised to honor the life of George Floyd and the many other Black Americans whose lives were cut short by police brutality. There are so many others not mentioned here. They are all equally tragic.

Witnessing Chauvin watch Floyd die as he presses his knee into Floyd’s neck, while ignoring Floyd’s pleas that he can’t breath, is beyond cruel. It is almost inhuman. I say almost because, although humans are the most brilliant, creative, innovative, and versatile creatures on earth, and have a great capacity for compassion and kindness, we have demonstrated that we are also some of the most diabolical creatures on earth. Most other creatures on earth kill to survive. Nature is cruel after all. Every creature must eat. But humans sometimes kill for sport. We kill for revenge. We kill out of depravity. We kill to even scores. We kill because of greed. We kill in the hundreds of thousands, even millions, by dropping bombs. We sometimes even hire others to do our killing for us. What a legacy we have left on this earth.