Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Republicans, WTF is wrong with you?

I have struggled with what to say about this. The last time I felt like this, was after Donald Trump defended Nazis in the wake of the incidents in Charlottesville, VA. I honestly thought that was the bottom of the very deep, dark, dank hole that we, as a nation had fallen into. It seems, I was wrong.

The United States of America is now a nation that takes innocent children away from their parents, because their parents have come to this country illegally.

We, meaning all of us, are ripping children from their families and imprisoning them. In cages. I say We, because in the United States of America, We, the people, ARE the government.

Donald Trump and those who support him claim we HAVE to do this, because it is the law, “a democrat law” as Donald Trump likes to tweet. This is a lie. There is no law that requires immigrant families to be separated. When parents are charged with a crime, the law provides for the government, if need be, to take custody of their children. The decision to charge everyone crossing the border with illegal entry — and the decision to charge asylum seekers in criminal court rather than waiting to see if they qualify for asylum — are decisions the Trump administration has made.

Others have sought to defend this Trump policy by pointing to the laws that give extra protections to families, unaccompanied children, and asylum seekers. Saying these legal protections are “loopholes” and a “Democratic law”. This too, is a lie. The immigration law addressing unaccompanied children was passed overwhelmingly in 2008 and signed by George W. Bush.   When Donald Trump or any Republican says there is a law that requires us to take children from their parents and put them in dog kennels in an abandoned Walmart in Texas, they are lying. 

There is no law, there never was a law. No member of congress, Democrat, Republican, or Independent has ever introduced, sponsored, co-sponsored or voted on any bill that said, that the children of illegal immigrants must be taken away from their parents. No such law exists.

Donald Trump didn’t decide to do this to secure the border, or to stop some phantom threat from “MS-13” (the vast majority of whom are Americans already here, and not immigrants trying to get in). Donald Trump decided to do this, because it hurts people. Specifically, people who are not white, and hurting those people makes his base happy.

A very clear segment of Donald Trump’s supporters, love the idea of punishing brown people for trying to come to America, They cheered as Attorney General Jeff Sessions gleefully described it as “a powerful deterrent.“ Somewhere in the bowels of the Trump Administration somebody actually thought. Hey! I know! Let’s take their kids! That will show ‘em!

Not only did someone in the Trump White House think up such a thing, but they turned those thoughts into words, and actually then proposed such a thing, and it is Donald Trump who decided to do it.

Our immigration system in this country is a mess. Some of you have asked us, doesn’t it bother me or my husband to see people coming here illegally, while we are stuck in the very expensive limbo of his green card process. A process which prevents us at present, from even being together? Aren’t we outraged, as people who are obeying the law, to know others have just jumped the queue and are sneaking in?

No, and here is why...

I have always believed, as a descendant of immigrants who came to this country 111 years ago, that the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty was not just an invitation, but was an exhortation. A call to all who want a better life, a freer life. A life where your opportunities, your rights to live, worship, speak and pursue your own happiness, are greater than in any other nation on earth. It was and is, a call to come here.

I have never believed that we are a nation that kidnaps and cages children. I have never believed that we are a nation that sees our rights and opportunities as solely the prerogative of just a few. I have never believed that we are a nation that terrorizes children, for no other reason than it polls well with one party’s political base.

I have never, ever imagined this is who we are. But apparently there are people who can, and have.

Yes, we need a secure border. Yes, illegal immigration is a violation of the law. But this... the taking of children, this isn’t law enforcement. This is a grotesque, unforgivable and unimaginable violation of human rights. The likes of which we have not seen since the days when we rounded up whole families of innocent Americans and put them in camps, for the crime of... being Asian. 

This is not being done to enforce the law. You can enforce immigration laws without breaking up families. This is being done by Donald Trump, in our name,  not to protect you and me, but simply to be cruel to people his base likes to hate.

I don’t care anymore to what extent the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. We will likely never know how that collusion impacted the 2016 election. But frankly, it doesn’t matter at this point. Donald John Trump is a rancid stain on the fabric of America that must be removed either by impeachment or by his own forced resignation. Treason, money laundering, Russian hookers, adultery, fraud, corruption, even open love for, and active support of, brutal dictators; doesn’t matter anymore. It all pales by comparison next to this. There is nothing positive Donald Trump could ever do as President, that can negate the horror of this.

If you support Donald Trump. If feel this is who we should be, then you are completely un-American. If you, like many in the Trump base, feel good about what our country is doing, then you are a sick, twisted and heartless creature, who is simply revelling in the pain of people you dislike.

If you honestly think taking someone’s child away, is a really great way to punish them, just for trying come to this country. Then there is something seriously wrong with you.

Your bigotry and malice towards others has corrupted your basic humanity.

Friday, June 01, 2018

The Annual Pride Debate...

Well it's finally June... so we all know what that means...

As the rainbow flags go up on Market Street in San Francisco , the annual debate over the merits of LGBT Pride celebrations re-surfaces like a perennial weed that just won't stay down. It's a debate that rages both inside and outside the broader LGBTQ community. While inside the community,  the question always gets asked ; does some of the imagery of Pride celebrations hurt the cause of equal rights? In addition, in the wake of significant legal victories for LGBT rights, especially around Marriage Equality; Some are asking do we even need pride celebrations anymore?   

While critics and opponents of  equality love to point to that same imagery as evidence of Gay folks wanting "special rights", and then pull out their favorite chestnut, of asking why are Gay Pride Celebrations acceptable but Straight Pride celebrations are not?

Sigh.... Really? It's like asking why isn't there a "White History Month". I get tired of trying to explain to people who really do know better,  just how stupid they sound whey they try to make these types of arguments. But fine, since clearly there is some "genuine" confusion out there as to the reason for LGBT Pride celebrations , allow me to clarify.

  • The number of states in the USA where you can be fired  for  being  Straight = 0
  • The number of states in the USA where you can be fired for being Gay = 29
  • Number of countries that will execute you for being Straight = 0
  • Number of countries that will execute you for being Gay = 10
Growing up, how many books, songs, television programs, and movies did you see that featured straight couples meeting, falling in love and living happily ever after?

Pretty much all of them. Ask someone who is Gay how many positive images in popular culture they had growing up that affirmed who they are? The answer is, none, or at best few, if any at all.

Gay characters in movies and television were either creepy villains or camp comic relief. If you doubt that, you really should check out the groundbreaking HBO documentary, "The Celluloid Closet". It shows clearly the disparity in popular culture where messages about sexual orientation were concerned.

Then there is the area of religion. The number of straight kids who have been told they are going to hell simply for being heterosexual = 0. The number of LGBT kids who have been told that they are going hell simply for being homosexual = too many to even try to count.

In the light of LGBT rights victories in the U.S. over the past few years, it is easy to laugh at the various American Talabangelicals who shrieked hysterically how the US Supreme Court ruling on Same Sex marriage back in 2015, would result in nothing less than some sort of Gay, Nazi... apocalypse. But for a young person struggling with issues of identity and self acceptance,  these toxic messages of hatred and bigotry could cut right through you .

To my Straight friends, I have to ask, how many times have "respected" public figures, politicians, pundits and clergy gone on national television demanding that everyone be given the chance to VOTE on your civil rights?  How often has someone told you that not being able to discriminate against you was somehow an attack on them?  When was the last time you heard a member of the Supreme Court saying that simply by being allowed to exist, you were "an attack" on the moral fiber of America?

Anyone?? Yeah...I didn't think so... I have a flash of the obvious for you, every month is "Straight Pride Month."  There is a word for someone who truly feels that equal rights for people they don't like is somehow an attack on them. That word is "Bigot".

Saying LGBT people are human too, isn't an attack on straight people. Those people who really think it is, are, quite simply, bigots. People who say LGBT Pride celebrations need to be stopped, are in fact, the exact reason they all started in the first place.

Are pride celebrations good or bad for the cause of equality? The answer is both. With visibility comes closer examination. Anti-gay bigots love to show images of drag queens, leather daddies and nearly naked porn stars dancing on parade floats, and scream "See! it's not about equal rights! They just want to recruit your kids into THIS!!"

They never show the families, advocacy groups, welcoming and inclusive religious denominations, and workplace affinity groups who participate in Pride parades. After all, that wouldn't fit their desired narrative.

Media outlets are complicit in this, by the way.  CNN loves to show the drag queens  and semi-naked boys in their coverage, but when straight allies like the CEO of  the largest health care company in the United States rides  on a float  in the San Francisco Pride  parade every year, along with hundreds of his LGBT employees,  you'd think the guy was invisible.

Likewise, critics of  the concept of LGBT Pride , never talk about the rates of divorce, unplanned pregnancy, child abuse and neglect and domestic violence in Straight relationships.  You never see  folks like Tony Perkins, head of the certified Hate-Group, the "Family Research Council" on Fox News talking about Mardi Gras, or "Girls Gone Wild" on Spring Break.

That would be admitting something of an inconvenient truth.  It's much easier to just point at a group of shirtless men on a flatbed truck or women on motorcycles and say that they are the real threat to families.

I have always said that Pride celebrations are not really for the people who attend them. Instead they are for the people who cannot attend them. Growing up as a Gay kid in a small town in South Central Wisconsin, there were times when I was convinced I was the only gay person on Earth. The constant message from popular culture, religion, family and peer groups was "boy meets girl, they fall in love, get married (or not) and have kids and live happily ever after". There was no happily ever after for someone who felt what I was feeling.

Then, for one weekend in June, I would turn on the TV News and see thousands of people just like me, in places like New York, San Francisco and Chicago saying "No, that's not true, you are not alone, and there is a big wide world out here beyond Sun Prairie Wisconsin. So hang in there .... we're here and we're waiting for you!"

Now more than thirty years later, I watch coverage like this,  and it seems so endearingly cheesy. Yet at the time, it was a lifeline to people like me, living with the fear and isolation of being "in the closet".

Pride Celebrations are the original  "It Gets Better Project". 

My straight friends never needed to be told that being straight was okay, and that they were okay because nobody ever told them they weren't. Pride isn't about celebrating being Gay, it's about publicly showing that being LGBT is just as much a part of the the human experience as being straight is. I for one would love to see the day when Pride is obsolete. When that scared closeted gay kid, in some small town doesn't need to be told that he or she is fine just the way they are.

But until that day comes, I will be adding my voice to that joyous mob in places like Market Street in San Francisco, Oxford Street in London,  Halsted Street in Chicago, and Fifth Avenue in New York City, Hillcrest in San Diego, Montrose in Houston, and so many more.  If for no other reason to let that one scared  kid know, it really does get better. There is a world where  "boy meets boy" and "girl meets girl", where they fall in love and (f they want to) get married, and yes, even live happily ever after...

Happy Pride Everyone.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Happy Towel Day 2018!

The name of this rather modest internet effort (blog) has from its beginnings been "Funny Odd Thing...Life."  A reference to late great British writer, Douglas Adams.

 So it is in  that ongoing spirit of gratitude and homage  that we pause from politics, LGBT rights, and all other whatnot  to wish everyone a  Happy Towel Day 2018

Towel Day is celebrated every year on 25 May as a tribute to the Adams by his fans. Towels, as some of you may well know,  play an important role in Adams'   The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,

While  best known for his Hitchhiker's  books  Adams, aside from being a brilliant comedy writer,  was truly of the great thinkers of our age. and had a passion for humanity.  So on this Towel Day we remember Douglas, and in this age of  the insane reality show that seems to be our world in 2018 , recall his best bit of advice.   Printed in the large and now famously friendly letters on the cover of the "Guide"...


On February 8th, 2018,  Elon Musk's company SpaceX launched their  rocket Falcon Heavy rocket with a surprise - the payload was Musk's own Tesla roadster.  Seated in the front seat  was  dummy astronaut, and David Bowie's "StarMan" playing ona loop.  But there  emblazoned on the dashboard  was "DON'T PANIC" as a tribute to Douglas Adams. Now flying through space for all time. 

Life, The Universe and Douglas Adams, is a film by Joel Greengrass and Rick Mueller, and explores the details of Adams' life in a warm, funny, loving way.  Telling of his life, his work, his famous problems with deadlines, and his passion for technology, humanity and  world (and universe) around him.

The film offers a  realistic look at a real live human being from the points of view of those who knew him best. Interviews with Adams' early teachers and comedy partners and friends.

The commemoration was first held May 25th, 2001, two weeks after Adams' death on  May 11th.  

Monday, May 21, 2018

I get it now... It's hard to admit a mistake.

I think I have it figured out...

Like many people I have wondered how any American with any sort of conscience or common sense could still be defending Donald Trump Yet all you need do is surf over to fox news dot com and scroll through  the comment threads to find Trump Supporters who are desperate to talk about ANYthing but the core issues surrounding this President. 

President Trump said multiple times that he "had no deals with anyone in Russia".  That was a LIE he did.    President Trump said no one in his campaign ever met with Russians or people connected to Russia, That was also a LIE, there were multiple contacts on multiple levels.    The President says the Special Council investigation is run by Democrats, that is also a LIE Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein are both Republicans.
and... and... and... 

But Ok , I get it. They can't ever face those facts because it means admitting they got conned.  Like the little old lady who gives her bank details to the "Nigerian Prince" who emailed her for help, They fell for the scam hook  line and sinker. 
  • They voted to drain the swamp. President Trump filled it instead. 
  • They voted for America First, and President Trump has instead lost  Billions of dollars in Trade (specifically agricultural trade) to China and Russia. 
  • They voted for a POTUS who said  he'd  be too busy working to play Golf, and instead they got one who is too busy golfing to actually work. 
 So yeah, I can see why they feel so defensive.

Hey! I feel their pain! I voted for Barack Obama. TWICE, thinking I was getting passionate progressive, and instead I got a moderate corporate centrist who squandered his majority and mandate trying to appease people who were never going to work with him, even on things they had thought of, (like the Health Insurance Individual mandate - which was a GOP idea.)

The Republican Party was once a beacon of rational and inspired patriotism. Now it is addicted to crazy. And like most addicts the hardest thing is admitting you have problem. So I get it, Trump voters log online, rail and rant about the "libs" and "Fake News" but we all know the real issue is, they cannot bring themselves to admit they were duped.

 But admitting you made a mistake is the first step to fixing it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

I Hate It When I'm Right...

When you are a kid, of the best moments was always getting to say “I told you so!”. There was an infantile schadenfreude at having been proved right, (usually at the expense of someone else…) For the most part these moments for me, tended to be harmless and involved Northside Elementary School playground dares , like “bet you can’t fit 50 grasshoppers into one hand!” (For the record you can, but it gets kinda messy. But the scream you get from the playground teacher when she asks you to show her what’s in your hand, is totally worth it…)

As an adult however, often we find that moment can be a double-edged sword.  Especially when being proved right involves decisions and mistakes that have very real consequences.

Critics of what we will generously call Donald Trump’s “foreign policy”, might be tempted this morning to do a little “I told you so dance” over the news that North Korea did exactly what anyone with even basic knowledge of the reality on the Korean Peninsula said they would do.

CNBC Reports:

North Korea abruptly canceled talks with South Korea scheduled for Wednesday and threatened to walk away from talks with the U.S., according to media reports.
North Korea's state-run Central News Agency said the ongoing joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea are a "provocation" and a preparation for an invasion, according to a Reuters report that cites South Korean news outlet Yonhap.
South Korea's Unification Ministry said it received a fax Wednesday from the head of the North Korean delegation for the high-level talks, who said his country is "indefinitely canceling the planned high-level inter-Korean talks" due to the military exercises.
The regime of Kim Jong Un  just yanked the football away from Charlie Brown Trump as he lumbered forward to kick it through the goal posts of the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Which is exactly what  North Korea always does.  The basic reality of the unresolved Korean Conflict  boils down to a simple premise; The Kim family dictatorship doesn’t want any sort of deal.  They want things to stay pretty much as they are.  The whole purpose of pursuing Nuclear weapons was to have the ultimate safeguard against any sort of change.

For North Korea,  talks are never about agreements.  They are about time and concessions.  Dangle the prospect of a deal and get temporary sanctions relief and buy  time to  strengthen those safeguards against regime change.    As far as Donald Trump goes… Let’s be honest.  This whole push for a summit and deal with North Korea isn’t about world peace, or even peace on the Korean Peninsula.   

This is about  Barack Obama.

Yeah… This is STILL all about Trump’s  desperate need to “beat” President Obama.  To show that HE, Donald Trump could do Obama one better.  You have seen it on all the usual comment threads by Trumpsters online;     “ Hey Libs!  Obama won the Nobel Prize?  Well look!  Trump will too!  But Trump will actually DESERVE IT!  #MAGA!!”

How soon we forget, the whole reason Trump decided to run for President was because Barack Obama and Seth Myers made fun of him at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Which brings us to the real danger of Trump’s desperation to strike a deal with Kim Jong Un.  A brutal dictator guilty of untold numbers of human rights atrocities, who leads a regime with horrific labor camps where entire families are sent to instill terror and submission in a population that is literally starving to death to pay for the dictator’s lavish lifestyle.     

But none of that matters, as long as Trump can tweet about how he beat Barack Obama. This insecure manbaby in the White House is willing to abandon our nation’s core values and principles and ensure the continued long term survival of one the of the world’s most repressive regimes if doing so strokes his own ego.

In the days to come we will see the Trump Administration offer massive trade concessions to China in exchange for their help coaxing North Korea back to the table so Donald Trump can get his Photo Op. Trump will undoubtedly even  offer to ease or lift Sanctions.

 All the while, North Korea will be using the time to move their Nuclear program to new sites so they can show off the old empty old ones as “proof” of their willingness to join the rational international community.

Something that in reality, will never happen, as any  meaningful agreement is NOT in Kim's interest. Something that Trump doesn't get, but North Korea holding the football and smiling sweetly, offering the chance to kick it through the “See I beat Obama!" goal posts, will be irresistible to Donald Trump.

And North Korea and China both know it. So, yes, I told you so.   But being right in this case isn’t a win, for any of us.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Gospel According to Paul Ryan

One Monday, November 6th, 2017 Congress was debating the Trump/GOP tax plan. U.S. House of Representatives Chaplin, Father Pat Conroy opened the session with the following invocation.

(From the congressional record...)

The Chaplain, the Reverend Patrick J. Conroy, offered the following prayer:

God of the universe, we give You thanks for giving us another day. Bless the Members  of this assembly as they set upon the work of these hours, of these days.

Help them to make wise decisions in a good manner and to carry their responsibilities  steadily, with high hopes for a better future for our great Nation.

As legislation on taxes continues to be debated this week and next, may all Members  be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great Nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue  to struggle.

May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under  new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans. May Your blessing,  O God, be with them and with us all this day and every day to come, and may all we  do be done for Your greater honor and glory. Amen.

That  prayer apparently was just too much hippie leftist socialism for some Republicans who complained to  House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Mordor), who in turned fired Conroy for having to much of a  "tilt to the left".    Yeah...  you read that right,  Just  to be clear;  A prayer that simply called for lawmakers to have a sense of compassion for the poor and to work to ensure all Americans benefit from their actions,  was considered to be offensive and partisan by Congressional Republicans.

Additionally  there are rumblings that  Ryan also was trying to placate conservative evangelical members of the GOP Caucus who  may have anti-catholic sentiments. Something Catholic television network EWTN broadly hinted at:

The fact that  the Republican Party, and the broader American Conservative movement has had a decidedly revisionist approach to their "christian" faith is nothing new.   Comedian Will Ferrell was joking about it  over a decade ago..

In the 1980's the GOP ran against the threat of Soviet Communism. In the 1990's the GOP ran against the threat of Gay people. After 9-11 it was the threat of "Islamo fascist terrorism" and then in 2004 it was both Islamic terrorists AND the Gays. 2008 and 2012 saw the GOP come full circle and run campaigns that all but screamed "Vote against the SCARY Black Man! (Who was probably a Muslim too!)".

With this week's debacle over the firing of Conry , we have seen how clearly the GOP has created it's own religion, aligned to a warped fundamentalist extremism and the Golden Calf of the worship and protection of extreme wealth. Blessed are the top 1% and cursed be the poor for pulling resources away from the all deserving rich. in 2018 we have a GOP that is utterly disconnected from actual Christianity, while at the same time still claiming America is under dire threat from non-Christian extremism.

All the while carefully redesigning Christ into an image that fit their Grover Norquist/Koch Brothers talking points. Where poor people are lazy "takers" and it is wealthy or "job creators" as they were dubbed,  who were truly doing the Lord's good work and therefore needed all the support and protection Government could offer. 

One can't help but wonder how Evangelical Conservatives, having already sold their Souls to support Donald Trump. (A thrice-married serial lying adulterer, who pays off porn stars and centerfolds, and brags about being able to commit sexual assault because he is a "celebrity"); will spin their justification for the firing of a Christian minister for praying for compassion for the poor.

Then again, "blessed are the Rich"  has always been the Gospel According to Paul Ryan.  Who has spent his entire career in public life trying to destroy the Social Safety net of the United States and  turn it into tax cuts and benefits for the wealthiest of Americans.   For Ryan, killing any and all  programs that provide health care to poor Americans has been his most cherished dream since  his carefree college days.

Ryan's gospel doesn't just  insist (despite all evidence to the contrary), that  such redistribution would ultimately leave the poor better off, in part by improving the economy as a whole. But also he claims that his agenda was a moral one.  Saying  that the rich were the worthy "Makers” and the poor were the evil  “Takers”,  lazy people who subsist on government handouts.  Often citing  Ayn Rand, the libertarian philosopher, as one of his  major influences. 

Now we see this warped perversion of faith coming full circle.  Where even hearing in a prayer that they should be caring as much for the least of these, as they do for the wealthiest of these, was too much for Republicans  to take.   Faith as become  just another  GOP "alternative fact" .   One that elevates hypocrisy to the level of doctrine.     By their works shall Ye know them...

Here endeth the lesson.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Joining the League of Ordinary Nations...

This past week has been one of great historical and political contrasts.

The passing of former First Lady, Barbara Pierce Bush, provided a stark comparison between the comportment of the American Presidency past and present. I was reminded of my own small role in the Bush Campaign in 1988, as a College Republican campaign coordinator at the University of Wisconsin.  The Bush/Quayle campaign was the first time I was actively involved in a Presidential campaign.

I have vivid memories of meeting both President Bush and Barbara Bush and how I was struck by their sense of duty over self-interest.  History has, and will continue to debate the Bush legacy but that is a different discussion. 

Even those who take strong issue with the actions of the George HW Bush Administration can admire the way he and the first lady conducted themselves and the dignity they brought to the White House.

There was a fundamental doctrine of Presidential stewardship, that was clearly articulated by Bush in his inaugural address in 1989;

"Great nations like great men must keep their word. When America says something, America means it, whether a treaty or an agreement or a vow made on marble steps."

For most of the 20th century, an abiding belief most Americans have had is that we, the United States stood for freedom, and for fundamental human rights. Even when that belief was imperfect in its expression or application. At the end of the day. The United States was the force that stood against tyrants. Be they Imperialists, Fascists, Communists behind the Iron Curtain, drug kingpins and the corrupt politicians they controlled in Central and South America, or Terrorists in the Middle East.

We were (or at least honesty tried to be,) the good guys. Putting the collective interest of Humanity ahead of our own domestic politics, and backing it up with our national will and when needed, our military might.

How things have changed.

I have watched the Trump Administration's approach to dealing with the issue of North Korea with a growing mixture of dismay and alarm. Alarm at the eagerness that many in the Administration have expressed for military conflict on Korean Peninsula, and dismay with the extent to which Donald Trump is willing to completely abdicate American moral leadership, in a desperate attempt to score what he sees as a foreign policy "win" that he can boast about on Twitter.

The regime that rules North Korea is a brutal, viscous tyrannical dictatorship on par with Stalinist Russia in terms of human rights atrocities. The rule of three generations of the Kim Family, Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and now Kim Jong Un, has resulted in the murder of countless North Koreans. The Torture and imprisonment of countless more, and a web international crime that boggles the mind.

Those few defectors who do make it out, tell of the horrors of life inside North Korea and their extraordinary journeys to escape the country.

In addition North Korea is the number one global source for counterfeit US currency, mass producing fake $100 Dollar bills to finance both the North Korean military and the Kim Family's personal lifestyle. This current reality is, no country or bank will lend North Korea money. Because that the last time anyone did, they just refused to pay it back. So North Korea is a country that is desperate for hard currency to finance the regime's ambitions, and ensure its survival.

Which brings us to Donald Trump. Less than two years into his Presidency Trump is desperate for a "win". He couldn't kill the Affordable Care Act, his tax cuts are exploding the US Budget Deficit and National Debt. and his entire administration is mired in massive scandal involving Russian meddling in the 2016 Election.

At first Trump saw North Korea as a potential way to shift focus away from his own problems Tweet a few insults at the North Korean leader, threaten a preemptive nuclear strike and voila! You have changed the news cycle, at least for a few days.

One side effect of that, is China decided enough was enough. Faced with a President of the United States who did not seem to understand the basic truth that any military conflict on the Korean Peninsula would be catastrophic for everyone involved, earlier this month, China summoned Kim to Beijing, and made it clear that it was time cool things down.

Suddenly we all are talking about a Kim-Trump Summit. Giving Trump the chance to Tweet gleefully about it. Implying that he, the great negotiator, was on the verge of achieving what none of his predecessors have been able to. The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. All it will take is for him to sit down with Kim face to face and Trump the dealmaker will get it done.

I wouldn't hold your breath... Oh, you can safely bet that North Korea is serious about wanting to sit down and talk. Not change, not disarm, just talk.

Christopher Hill, the former US ambassador who led the negotiations in George W. Bush‘s second term, said at the time, ”The idea that North Korea will abandon its weapons programs in exchange for the promise of security and regime survival has failed whenever it has been tested.“

If you remember, the previous North Korean Leader, Kim Jong-il made a very similar offer. Making the US think we could woo North Korea into a deal by giving back frozen assets and removing the regime from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. It was all just a show. In the end, North Korean balked at even basic verifications to prove they had disarmed. And just like every other time before, Pyongyang pocketed the up-front concessions and used the talks to stall for time.

What IS different this time around, is North Korea knows Trump is desperate to use this situation to shift focus from his domestic problems. Donald Trump will put domestic political distraction ahead America's national interest, and that of our allies.

Donald Trump is right about one thing, he certainly is on track to do something none of his predecessors have; That is, to give the North Korean regime the international legitimacy it has craved, and up until now, has rightly been denied by every American President since Harry Truman.

By meeting with Kim, Trump is putting a petty murderous thug, guilty of heinous human rights crimes, on par with President of the United States. All because he thinks it gives him a "one up" on Barack Obama. Donald Trump has demonstrated a total lack of understanding of why that is bad, and what it would mean. Even going so far as to say that the Dictator of North Korea is an honorable guy.

The only nation that has ANY real influence with North Korea, is China. North Korea is completely dependent on China who for the most part, has been happy to let North Korea get away with being a thorn in the side of the United States. This is because that is something that benefits China.

China is quite happy to have North Korea keep Trump (and the U.S). focused on the Korean peninsula, instead of  China’s aggressive militarization of pretty much the entire South China Sea. The only way North Korea is really going to give up their nuclear weapons is if China makes them do so. And right now, China has no incentive to do that..

North Korea is never going to nuke South Korea or attack Japan, and no, North Korea is not going to launch an ICBM at the US. China would never allow a military conflict on their back porch. The real threat is that North Korea will SELL a nuke, or parts of a nuke to somebody who would use it.  ISIS, Al-Qaeda , Hezbollah, Boko Haram or who knows who else. THAT is the real risk, one that only China is in a position to mitigate.

Meeting with Kim, does nothing. but give him legitimacy. More sanctions on North Korea does nothing but make them ramp up their counterfeiting operations. It is China that needs to feel the pressure to fix this.

But to achieve that, America needs influence, and in year two of the Trump Presidency the United States has next to none. Trump is seen as a toddler to be managed and re-directed. American soft power (diplomatic, strategic and economic) has been decimated by this Administration.

The United States no longer has sufficient influence with our Allies let alone our adversaries, to exert the kind of diplomatic pressure on China needed to truly move the ball in terms of North Korea.

 The majority of the ASEAN countries are still without a current US ambassador. American influence in the Region is now clearly second to that of China.

Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and even Australia, New Zealand and South Korea are all looking to China for  leadership, in terms of the stability of the region.   Who can blame them?  It is region that The United States, as a pacific rim nation is part of, but is no longer sitting at the table. Our voice, and our influence have been muted, by the Trump Administration itself.

An administration led by a President who thinks he is going to win a Poker game with people who are clearly playing Chess.