Presidential parade

An ex-presidential line-up.

That was taken at ex-First Lady Barbara Bush’s funeral.

President Trump didn’t attend the funeral, which was not out of the ordinary. USA Today: President Trump was not at Barbara Bush’s funeral – here’s why

President Trump did not attend former first lady Barbara Bush’s funeral on Saturday in Houston.

Instead, first lady Melania Trump was there representing the Trumps, continuing a tradition of first ladies attending the funerals of their predecessors.

The White House told the BBC Trump wouldn’t attend “to avoid disruptions due to added security, and out of respect for the Bush Family.”

Trump’s absence isn’t unusual for a sitting president. The last president to attend a first lady’s funeral was John F. Kennedy, who went to Eleanor Roosevelt’s service in 1962.

Former president Barack Obama did not attend Nancy Reagan’s funeral in 2016 or Betty Ford’s in 2011, and Bill Clinton did not attend the funeral of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Clinton did speak at a graveside service for her at Arlington National Cemetery in 1994.

A president in attendance would be potentially quite disruptive with all the security involved.

CNN: President Trump won’t attend Barbara Bush funeral, to ‘avoid disruptions’

Former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter will not attend, as Jimmy Carter will be on a trip overseas and Rosalynn Carter is recovering from recent intestinal surgery, a spokesperson for the Carter Center said in a statement Thursday.

Bush, the matriarch of a Republican political dynasty and a first lady who elevated the cause of literacy, died Tuesday. She was 92.

There could have been unnecessary controversy if Trump had attended, as Barbara Bush had strongly criticised him during the presidential campaign. Snopes has a summary:

During the 2016 campaign, Barbara Bush didn’t hold back in her critiques of then-candidate Donald Trump. In the course of a CNN interview, for example, she proclaimed that “[Trump] doesn’t give many answers to how he would solve problems. He sort of makes faces and says insulting things … He’s said terrible things about women, terrible things about the military. I don’t understand why people are for him, for that reason. I’m a woman … I’m not crazy about what he says about women.”

In another interview with CBS, Bush again lambasted Trump for his comments about women and called him a “comedian” or a “showman”:

Trump beat off a challenge from her son Jeb Bush in the Republican nomination for the 2016 presidential campaign.

 

 

 

Trump wants ‘really clean coal’

Donald Trump has issued another executive order, this time to roll back Obama environmental regulations and climate change initiatives.

Notably Vice President Mike Pence said they were ending “the war on coal” and Trump promoted ‘clean coal, really clean coal”. He says this will bring back mining jobs, but there is no guarantee it will swing energy use back to coal. The surge in fracking enabled natural gas has reduced the demand for coal anyway.

Time:  President Trump Will Sign Executive Order Rolling Back Obama-Era Environmental Regulations

President Donald Trump will sign a sweeping executive order Tuesday intended to shift the direction of U.S. environmental policy and begin the process of undoing some of the most prominent Obama-era environmental regulations, according to a senior White House official.

The executive order, billed as a measure to promote “energy independence” and create jobs, will target a slew of environmental measures aimed at combating climate change including the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of President Obama’s global warming efforts. Some directives take effect immediately, like the end to a moratorium on new leases for coal mining on federal land, while others, like the review of the Clean Power Plan, require a rule making process that could take years to complete.

President Donald Trump will sign a sweeping executive order Tuesday intended to shift the direction of U.S. environmental policy and begin the process of undoing some of the most prominent Obama-era environmental regulations, according to a senior White House official.

The executive order, billed as a measure to promote “energy independence” and create jobs, will target a slew of environmental measures aimed at combating climate change including the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of President Obama’s global warming efforts. Some directives take effect immediately, like the end to a moratorium on new leases for coal mining on federal land, while others, like the review of the Clean Power Plan, require a rule making process that could take years to complete.

“For too long, we have accepted a narrative that if you’re pro-growth, pro-jobs, you’re anti-environment,” Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said in an ABC News interview previewing the order on Sunday. “The executive order will address the past administration’s effort to kill jobs throughout the country through the Clean Power Plan.”

The are worried about “killing jobs” through environmental protections but don’t seem to care about killing people through pollution.

I guess there will be resistance to these changes.

Video of Trump here.

“We’ve already eliminated a devastating anti-coal regulation, but that was just the beginning.

Today I’m taking bold action to follow through on that promise.

My administration is putting an end to the war on coal. We’re going to have clean coal, really clean coal.

Maybe Trump can use the really clean coal to manufacture all the really safe bombs he wants to invest in.

Trump tries to explain on wiretapping

Donald Trump was interviewed by Tucker Carlson on Fox when he tried to explain how solid his claims were when he accused Barack Obama of wiretapping him.

He also explained how Twitter lets him get his message out to avoid failing fake news media.

Exclusive: President Trump on his use of Twitter, its role in his presidential victory, his attitude toward the press coverage he receives from ‘fake new media,’and more

Trump: Twitter allows me to get my message out

Here is some of the transcript (highlighted on Twitter by @BraddJaffy)

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That is the President of the United States of America.

Trump asked for wiretap evidence

Donald Trump has been asked by the House intelligence committee to provide evidence in support of his claim that President Obama ordered wiretapping of him and his campaign. John McCain has also asked the current president to front up.

But White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway has dismissed demands – and made some odd accusations herself, including an alternate fact, saying that monitoring could be done with “microwaves that turn into cameras,” and “We know this is a fact of modern life.”

Fox News: Conway brushes off McCain demand to prove wiretap claim or retract

White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway on Monday brushed off a demand by Sen. John McCain to either provide evidence of President Trump’s wiretapping claims or retract the allegation, saying the White House will wait until congressional committees release their own findings.

“We will comment further after those findings are made clear,” Conway told “Fox & Friends.”

She was responding to McCain, R-Ariz., who on Sunday said Trump has “one of two choices” to make regarding his explosive allegation two weekends ago that former President Barack Obama tapped his phones.

“Either retract or … provide the information that the American people deserve, because, if his predecessor violated the law, President Obama violated the law, we have got a serious issue here, to say the least,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Top lawmakers also expressed doubt Sunday that the Justice Department would meet a bipartisan request to provide evidence by Monday.

Not only is Team Trump supporting and defending his unprecedented and unsubstantiated accusations, they are adding degrees of bizarreness.

USA Today: Kellyanne Conway suggests even wider surveillance of Trump campaign

The White House is offering yet another wrinkle in its attempt to support President Trump’s allegation — unfounded, so far — that his campaign headquarters in Manhattan was wiretapped by the Obama administration. The latest comes from Trump’s senior counselor Kellyanne Conway.

She says the “surveillance” may be broader than even Trump suggested.

In a wide-ranging interview Sunday Conway suggested that the alleged monitoring of activities at Trump’s campaign headquarters at Trump Tower in Manhattan may have involved far more than wiretapping.

“What I can say is there are many ways to surveil each other,” Conway said as the Trump presidency marked its 50th day in office during the weekend. “You can surveil someone through their phones, certainly through their television sets — any number of ways.”

Conway went on to say that the monitoring could be done with “microwaves that turn into cameras,” adding: “We know this is a fact of modern life.”

Conway did not offer any evidence to back up her claim. But her remarks are significant — and potentially explosive — because they come amid a request by the House Intelligence Committee for the White House to turn over any evidence by Monday that the phones at Trump Tower were tapped as part of what the president claims to be a secret plot by the Obama administration to monitor his campaign.

The White House has not said whether it will provide any corroborative support to back up the president’s claim of the alleged wiretapping.

If they don’t substantiate Trump’s claims it will add weight to the likelihood that his Tweets were based on the rant of a right wing radio crank and a report by Breitbart, an activist ‘news’ site that campaigned for Trump and against Hillary Clinton, and whose CEO is now virtually CEO of Trump’s White House.

Trump alleges Obama ordered Tower wiretap

Donald Trump has accused Obama of ordering a wiretap on Trump Tower during last year’s  election.

No evidence so far.  Is it a leak from an anonymous ‘source’? Trump has slammed leaks and anonymous sources.

NBC News: President Says Obama Wiretapped Trump Tower During Campaign

On Friday, Fox’s Brett Baier asked House Speaker Paul Ryan whether he was concerned “that the Obama Administration may have been surveilling members of the Trump campaign in a pretty detailed investigation during the election?”

Ryan responded by saying: “I don’t think that’s the case.”

Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security adviser to Obama, said in a tweet that presidents can’t simply order wiretaps as Trump suggests.

So, is this a conspiracy theory? An attempted diversion? Both?

I think that would be illegal.

The Hill: Obama spokesman: Trump wiretap accusation ‘simply false’

No Obama administration official interfered in Justice Department investigations or ordered surveillance on any American, much less President Trump, a spokesman for former President Obama said Saturday.

“A cardinal rule of the Obama Administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice,” Kevin Lewis said in a statement.

“As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen,” he added. “Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”

I’d be looking for what Trump may be trying to blow a smokescreen over.

It was not immediately clear whether Trump had any proof or was referencing a report. Breitbart News on Friday reported on conservative radio host Mark Levin’s claim that Obama executed a “silent coup” of Trump via “police state” tactics. White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon was the executive chair of Breitbart before joining Trump’s team.

A common Breitbart tactic is to accuse others to divert from attacks – and the more outlandish the accusation the better as it attracts more attention.

And it appears that Trump’s accusation is based on a Breitbart story.

Donald Trump Questions ‘Sick Guy’ Barack Obama for ‘Wire Tapping’ His Campaign

Trump is likely referring to calls from talk radio hosts Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh to investigate the nature of the Obama administration’s investigations of his campaign aides for their communications with Russia, as Breitbart News editor Joel Pollak reported. 

Breitbart also have a record of getting false stories circulating amongst their (and Trump’s) base. And the Pollak story seems to be accusing Obama as a diversion from what Trump’s campaign is accused of doing.

In summary: the Obama administration sought, and eventually obtained, authorization to eavesdrop on the Trump campaign; continued monitoring the Trump team even when no evidence of wrongdoing was found; then relaxed the NSA rules to allow evidence to be shared widely within the government, virtually ensuring that the information, including the conversations of private citizens, would be leaked to the media.

Levin called the effort a “silent coup” by the Obama administration and demanded that it be investigated.

In addition, Levin castigated Republicans in Congress for focusing their attention on Trump and Attorney General Sessions rather than Obama.

Perhaps Levin should be investigated.

Some actual background in this Twitter thread:

Obama to push TPP

President Obama has said that he will try to push the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement through Congress, despite both presidential candidates publicly strongly opposing the trade deal.

Newshub: Obama set for ‘full-fledged’ TPP push

US President Barack Obama is launching “a full-fledged, full-throated effort” to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership mega trade deal through Congress in the final lame duck months of his presidency.

The TPP would be the final landmark piece of Mr Obama’s presidency.

“This will be a full-fledged, full-throated effort,” Mr Obama’s deputy US trade representative, Robert Holleyman, told an event this week at Atlanta’s Commerce Club.

The Atlanta event reflected the huge divide between TPP supporters and critics in the US.

David Abney, the chief executive of the world’s largest package delivery company UPS, talked up what he believed would be the TPP’s ability to cut red tape for US small and mid-sized businesses entering new Asia-Pacific markets.

As Mr Abney spoke, UPS drivers and union representatives supporting them protested outside the Commerce Club.

“We’re opposed to the TPP because we feel like it’s going to undermine American workers’ standard of living,” Teamsters Local 728 political director Eric Robertson told theAtlanta Journal-Constitution.

Mr Obama has put Congress on notice he will be sending a TPP bill their way.

The White House has also organised 30 pro-TPP events to support Democrat and Republican members of Congress who favour the legislation.

It will be difficult for Obama. He hasn’t much time left in his second term, and has to get the TPP through in the ‘lame duck’ period after the election and before he leaves the White House in January.

Obama on the worst and best of politics

The fourth of President Obama’s main points in his State of the Union speech was on the worst and best of politics.

And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?

That’s a huge challenge for the US – see US dysfunctional democracy.

“We the People.” Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we’ve come to recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together, and that’s how we might perfect our Union. And that brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important thing that I want to say tonight.

The future we want — all of us want — opportunity and security for our families, a rising standard of living, a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids — all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates. It will only happen if we fix our politics.

Fixing toxic politics is a major modern challenge.

A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country — different regions, different attitudes, different interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, fiercely, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice. It doesn’t work if we think that our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise, or when even basic facts are contested, or when we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get all the attention. And most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some special interest.

Unfortunately the old media are tending more towards promoting extremes, and the newer social media seems dominated by more extreme views and more extreme behaviour.

And politicians and parties use and abuse this.

In New Zealand division seems to remain a major political weapon.

Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. I have no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.

But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task — or any President’s — alone. There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber, good people who would like to see more cooperation, would like to see a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the imperatives of getting elected, by the noise coming out of your base. I know; you’ve told me. It’s the worst-kept secret in Washington. And a lot of you aren’t enjoying being trapped in that kind of rancor.

Most people who dislike the the rankor are turned off by and turn away from politics.

But that means if we want a better politics — and I’m addressing the American people now — if we want a better politics, it’s not enough just to change a congressman or change a senator or even change a President. We have to change the system to reflect our better selves. I think we’ve got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around. Let a bipartisan group do it.

Our political systems are close to being good enough in New Zealand, but they way they are misused by parties remains a problem.

We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families or hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections.

Money is nowhere near the same level of problem in New Zealand. Last election voters rejected the big money of Colin Craig and Kim Dotcom.

And if our existing approach to campaign finance reform can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution — because it’s a problem. And most of you don’t like raising money. I know; I’ve done it.  We’ve got to make it easier to vote, not harder. We need to modernize it for the way we live now.  This is America: We want to make it easier for people to participate. And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do just that.

Changing big money dominated campaigning in the US will be very difficult, if not impossible.

But I can’t do these things on my own. Changes in our political process — in not just who gets elected, but how they get elected — that will only happen when the American people demand it. It depends on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.

But politicians have become notorious at ignoring the people, or only listening to the people that suit their way of thinking.

What I’m suggesting is hard. It’s a lot easier to be cynical; to accept that change is not possible, and politics is hopeless, and the problem is all the folks who are elected don’t care, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter. But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future. Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure. And then, as frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into our respective tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.

We can’t afford to go down that path. It won’t deliver the economy we want. It will not produce the security we want. But most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.

There are many contradictions with how the US acts and how the world sees it.

So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, whether you supported my agenda or fought as hard as you could against it — our collective futures depends on your willingness to uphold your duties as a citizen. To vote. To speak out. To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us.

People need a collective way of doing that. Most don’t feel they have any way of being listened to.

We need every American to stay active in our public life — and not just during election time — so that our public life reflects the goodness and the decency that I see in the American people every single day.

That’s totally unrealistic. You can’t make people feel engaged and be engaged in politics all the time. People need to feel they have the opportunity to be listened to, but want to be able to forget and ignore politics when they choose.

A significant number of people probably never will want to engage in politics. They can’t be forced to.

It is not easy. Our brand of democracy is hard. But I can promise that a little over a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I will be right there with you as a citizen, inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that helped America travel so far. Voices that help us see ourselves not, first and foremost, as black or white, or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born, not as Democrat or Republican, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word — voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.

So when he has far less power and influence he will start to change things then, after eight years of being top dog in US politics? Sounds like too little far too late.

That’s the America I know. That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Undaunted by challenge. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

‘Unconditional love’ is an odd thing in the mix, especially when Obama is so intent on destroying enemies.

‘Unarmed truth’ is very ironic from the leader of the most powerful armed forces in the world. Many people will be sceptical of ‘truth’ associated with politicians and big government.

Unique strengths?

Excerpts from President Obama’s final State of the Union speech.

Our unique strengths as a nation — our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery, our diversity, our commitment to rule of law — these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come.

What’s unique about those strengths? It reminds me of a joke:

What’s the difference between the USA and England?
England invites other countries to world championships.

That might be a bit unfair, in recent years the US has ‘invited’ other countries to join it in stirring up the hornets’ nest in the Middle East.

So let’s talk about the future, and four big questions that I believe we as a country have to answer — regardless of who the next President is, or who controls the next Congress.

First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?

A major challenge for every developed country.

Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us — especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change? 

Another major world challenge, although as a leader in technology and in pollution the US has a significant role to play.

“We’ve protected an open Internet” has a degree of irony given US efforts to monitor and control what everyone else does on the Internet.

Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?

Perhaps they could start by becoming a much better example. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ is a bit outdated.

“We have to take them out.”

“We just need to call them what they are — killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.”

“With nearly 10,000 air strikes…”

“If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, authorize the use of military force against ISIL.”

We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis, even if it’s done with the best of intentions. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately will weaken us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam; it’s the lesson of Iraq — and we should have learned it by now

“When you come after Americans, we go after you. And it may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limits.”

Standing up and fighting is sometimes necessary, but ultimately to win against warmongers you have to show there are better ways than waging war.

The US should have learned from Vietnam, where they used brute force and overwhelming arms superiority to try and annihilate their enemy and destroy large parts of the country. That failed.

That’s American strength. That’s American leadership. And that kind of leadership depends on the power of our example. That’s why I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo.

Eight years of keeping on working to shut down Guantanamo is hardly a sign of strength of leadership or power of example. Guantanamo remains a major embarrassment for the US.

And that’s why we need to reject any politics — any politics — that targets people because of race or religion. Let me just say this. This is not a matter of political correctness. This is a matter of understanding just what it is that makes us strong.

That will be controversial, but it’s quite right.

The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity, and our openness, and the way we respect every faith.

Blind to reality – a major problem is that many in the world do not respect the US, and sometimes for very good reason.

When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. It betrays who we are as a country.

But things like 10,000 air strikes against Muslim targets diminishes the US in the eyes of parts of the world. Does Obama or his speech writers fail to see that? Or deliberately ignore it?

And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?

That’s worth a separate post. See Obama on the worst and best of politics.

Word from the Arab street

From Twitter, one of the clearest explanations of what is happening in the Middle East.

All of this.

Spying on us

Spying on us