A Look At The New Saudi Arabia

I first wrote about Mohammed bin Salman and his profound, forward-thinking plan for Saudi Arabia in May of 2016 (search for Vision 2030 on this blog will to take you to the specific posting).

This weekend, the Crown Prince, also called “The Face of the Future,” took to task one of the salient commitments of Vision 2030, and that is:

[To] embrace transparency and, to that end, zero tolerance for all levels of corruption.

The weekend detention of 17 of Saudi’s most prominent princes and top officials demonstrated his commitment to the plan – and his country.  Those that put their personal interests over that of their country and who continue to steal public funds, found that the Crown Prince has a zero tolerance for the “old ways” of conducting business.

But that wasn’t the Big News Story of the day for Riyadh.

Intercepting a Burkan 2-H ballistic missile targeted for King Khalid Airport in the heart of the city was truly the breath-taking moment – for all of the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia has long had its differences with Yemen, but the Saudis see the bigger picture here – the one that suggests that Iran is subsidizing (and supplying) the Houthi rebels, as the weapon was disassembled, smuggled into Yemen, and then reassembled before being launched.  Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir claimed in an interview for CNN that the Saudis consider this act to be an act of war – and will “respond when the time is appropriate.”

Chilling words in an area where the balance of power can tip the scales at any given time; however, bold acts do not go unnoticed.  As the Foreign Minister stated, “Iran cannot lob missiles into Saudi cities and towns and expect us not to act.” No free passes here.

Make no mistake.  Iran is testing the young Saudi Prince’s resolve – at a time when all eyes are upon him as he committed to expel corruption at its highest level from Saudi Arabia.

If Iran’s boldness has been done with the perception that it has the power of Russia behind it – this could be a strategic miscalculation.  Russia looks out for Russia first.  It would not be surprising to find Mr. Putin looking the other way – perhaps foraging his own agenda with the new Saudi Arabia.

To that I would say … beware, my sweet Prince.

Shalom

The Art Of Hampering A President

 

*A 12-Count Indictment

*Requirements to post $10 million and $5 million-dollar bonds

*House Arrests

*Pleas of Not Guilty

Quite a Monday for Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, wouldn’t you say?

And yet, I sense the best is yet to come.

The thing about such comprehensive major investigations like the one Robert Mueller is conducting is that once the first indictments are announced, you are guaranteed to see bit-players come out of the woodwork, trying to make deals while deals can still be made – and before the next wave of indictments are announced.

And so was the case with George Popadopoulos, a foreign policy advisor to Donald Trump.  His arrest came early on – in July of 2017 — and it was only in October of 2017 that he finally plead guilty to charges that he lied to the FBI during their investigation of Russian meddling in US politics.

So, the question begs itself, what information has Popadopoulos imparted of his own free will in the three months that has passed since July?  To what extent did he have knowledge and opportunity that could lead to further substantiating evidence of Russia’s interference with our election process? Clearly, the evidence shows that the interest was there, so if there’s smoke, is there fire?

Meanwhile, back in Washington, Trump is publicly fretting that the investigation and its results, will “hamper” his ability to negotiate on a world stage.  To that I say, Mr. President, you have only to look at your own lack of credibility and inability to tell the truth as the cornerstones of your being “hampered” in negotiations – world-wise — or otherwise.

Bring it on, Mr. Mueller.  America is counting on you.

 

When Is A Deal — A Deal?

 

After years of intricate political diplomacy, six countries, Germany, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and the U.S., collectively known as P5+1, entered into an agreement with Iran in November of 2013 (and formally adopted in October of 2015) to halt Iran’s march towards nuclear proliferation in the hopes of stabilizing tensions in the Middle East.  Iran, for its side of the bargain, received the lifting of certain economic sanctions that had previously been imposed.  This agreement, however imperfect both at its time of inception and to date, was seen as a compromise, as well as a marked step forward in a region where news headlines daily reflected an area ripe for war.

This agreement did not come without a cost.  Our strongest ally in this region, Israel, objected strenuously to any deal with Iran.  First, because such a deal would, by its very nature, establish a precedence that Iran must now be recognized as a player in the Middle East; that the release of the sanctions would allow Iran to refocus its efforts on constructing more missiles for offensive purposes and provide further backing of the Hezbollah; and allow a larger presence in the Golan Heights, an area deeply divided, both geographically and politically.

However difficult and diplomatically uncomfortable, the P5+1 felt the stronger pull of potential peace in a region where such endeavors are few and far between and which are regularly breached for a variety of reasons.

Today, with Iran’s verifiable compliance, tensions have ebbed between our ally and its neighbor, but that is not to say that Israel has remained silent or is not vigilant.  Rather, Israel’s roles today are comprised of increased intelligence gathering, a strengthening of its defenses, and warnings of any potential violations to the Iranian agreement.

Given our President’s blatant lack of understanding of diplomatic endeavors and international relations, he has stated that he will not “re-certify” the Iranian agreement which is a condition of its existence and demanded every 90 days.  Rather, he has lobbed it to our Congress to revise or re-create a deal with more (as he says) “equitable provisions.”  Congress now is faced with three choices:

(a) Impose additional economic sanctions on Iran, even though they are in compliance with the existing agreement.  This would most certainly result in Iran’s immediate withdrawal from the agreement;

(b) Push for new negotiations which would result in the loss of credibility with other nations with which we have signed agreements (when is a deal a deal?); or

(c) Do nothing and the deal stands.

Even though (c) seems to be the correct answer here, I suggest that a better answer might be for Congress to push back and declare their independence from the Trump administration by standing by an agreement that was made with great difficulty and serves only to provide peace in a highly unstable environment.

And IF Congress could manage to agree and move forward in such an exemplary fashion, it might also consider going one rung higher and inform our President that the criteria for revisiting existing agreements should be for compelling reasons, and not just because it was conceived or executed under the previous administration.

Or, as an alternative, my fellow Congressmen and women, there’s always the 25th Amendment.  At this point, it would hardly be a stretch …. more like a slam-dunk, wouldn’t you say?

 

Keep Your Eye On The Ball

 

After having made a complete spectacle of himself in front of 193 world leaders this week by his wrong-audience address to members of the United Nations (the U.S. economy has boomed under his leadership and that job growth was at an all-time high; um, did anyone tell him the audience was not potential voters?), Trump decided to take another jab at an American tradition by categorically stating that any member of the NFL who does not stand for our National anthem should be “fired.”  Adding fuel to that fire, he added that they “should just be thankful for what you have and not make any trouble.”

Well, I’d be careful there, Mr. President.  No telling what happens when you poke the bear.

First, would someone please explain to Trump (with pictures) the case of West Virginia Board of Education vs. Barnette (1943)?  It was a rather prominent case because the Court found that no one has the right to make you pledge allegiance to our national flag, nor punish you for not having done so.  This could be broadly interpreted to include “taking a knee” in solidarity of a unified cause.

As to “making any trouble,” I, for one, hope our NFL members and other football players continue to “make trouble” as they have in recent weeks, for taking it upon themselves as citizens in a free society to solicit funds to help those victimized by recent hurricanes and those that have eagerly shown up and done what was necessary to bring aid and assistance to those in need.  Thank you for your service to our country and your fellow citizens, gentlemen.

And the very suggestion that these selfless people remain silent is insulting.  I hope they use their fame, their notoriety, and their platforms to continue to speak out (loudly!) to encourage unity, understanding, patience, and the willingness to work together to make this a better place than we found it.

It’s certainly more than you’re doing for our country, Donnie.

But don’t lose sight of the objective(s) here – keep your eye on the ball.  All of the hyperbole discussed above really isn’t what Trump is interested in.  At this point, he has two interests:

One is the rejection of the Iranian missile deal.  This action sends the clear message to Tehran that the U.S. has had a shift in policy; that it no longer is interested in stabilizing Middle Eastern interests. The result of that message was Tehran’s prime-time display of its latest ballistic missile – the Khorramshahr – carrying multiple warheads and having a range of 1,250 miles – clearing putting our allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, in Tehran’s sights.

Secondly, he continues to call out Kim Jong-un and the North Korean leadership, leaving them no choice but to show some form of missile capability to ensure that they are to be taken seriously by world leaders.  And what if Kim Jong-un does take the bait and launches a nuclear missile over the Pacific?  This, I believe, is exactly what Donald wants – justification for a nuclear strike on North Korea. He wants to raise his fist in defiance to the rest of the world with a clear message that no one should mess with America – and — in so doing, the unthinkable. Twenty-five million people would simply be vaporized.  And to think that this doesn’t horrify him enough to deter his actions, is unconscionable and clearly unfathomable.

If ever we needed some divine intervention – it is truly now.

Pray for peace, my friends – Shalom.

Wine & Prayers

Time for an update in the Wine Talk department.  (Please, feel free to share any good wines that you may have encountered.  I’d be happy to post them and your comments!)

In celebrating my birthday recently, our neighbors and good friends, Hugh and Jen, brought two lovely wines over to enjoy:

Let’s start with the Red:

Bend Cabernet Sauvignon

 

 

 

If you like the taste of black cherries and blackberries, this is the wine for you!  I personally love the variation of different berries in a Cab.  To me, they enrich and deepen its taste.  The Bend also leaves a hint of floral on your palette at the end – a lovely touch! This California wine (2015) is by Dario De Conti.

And for the White:

Tesoro Della Regina
Pinot Grigio

 

 

 

Another lovely flavor in this wonderful Pinot – this time it’s a blend of plum and cherry.  So delicious and refreshing!  Italian Pinots, like this, from the Veneto or Tuscany area never disappoint.

 

Both of these lovely wines are available at your local Total Wine and More at very reasonable prices.  Thanks to our friends, Hugh and Jen, for sharing such wonderful picks!

While you are sipping and sharing … please … take a moment this week to say a prayer for our friends and family in Florida as Irma sets her sights on our beautiful Sunshine State.

Stay safe, my friends.

Shalom

 

GOP: Listen Up!

Last night, all eyes were on the Weather Channel as we watched Hurricane Harvey slowly spin its way through the Gulf of Mexico with the south shores of Texas clearly in its sights.  We closed our eyes and silently said a prayer for those who were being affected.

Meanwhile, back in D.C., our President had more pressing priorities – like pardoning the former Sheriff of Maricopa County (Arizona) who had violated a court order to stop employing racial profiling tactics within his department and, in so doing, he was found guilty of criminal contempt of court.  This is an 85-year-old man who had no boundaries, no respect for the oath he took to uphold the laws, and one that appeared to enjoy doling out suffering and humiliation wherever and whenever he could.  You know, the proverbial bully in the school yard.  Let me tell you a little more about him.

Let’s take a look at these on-point examples evidencing behavior by his staff that went unheeded and clearly, unpunished.

On one occasion, one of his officers stopped a five-month pregnant Latina woman as she pulled into her home driveway.  When she got out of the car, the officer asked her to sit on the hood.  When she refused, he pulled her arms behind her and slammed her (stomach first) into the side of the vehicle three times, then left her in the back of a patrol car for 30 minutes with no air conditioning.  He cited her for not having identification; a charge that was later changed to failure to provide proof of insurance – which she later provided in court.

On another occasion, during one of the Sheriff’s well-known early-morning raids in an effort to round up undocumented immigrants, Sheriff’s deputies burst into an adjacent home (not the target) which was occupied by a Latino family, and searched the premises without a warrant.  They zip-tied a father and 12-year-old son (both U.S. citizens) and made them sit curbside with other illegal immigrants for more than an hour – in spite of having committed no crime and having no connection to the targeted house.

Both of these examples came directly from the Justice Department’s civil rights complaint – paragraphs 62 and 67, respectively.

This is a Sheriff who looked the other way when a young man who had been taken into custody was strapped down in a chair, restrained at the wrists, and had a towel placed over his mouth for an undetermined amount of time – until he died of “positional asphyxiation.”  Imagine that family’s pain.

This is also the Sheriff who failed to investigate over 400 sex crimes (the majority of which involved children) due to his directive to prioritize low-level immigration offenses over the more serious sex crimes, resulting in unspeakable pain to innocent children while he simultaneously failed to meet his law enforcement responsibilities – to say the least.

And then, upon hearing of the questionable status of President Obama’s birth certificate, this is the man who, unsolicited, took it upon himself to personally investigate the matter.  His investigation turned up nothing – except a $10,000 expenditure for a Hawaiian trip for one of his deputies for which the taxpayers were handed the tab.  It has been estimated that former-Sheriff Arpaio’s actions have cost Maricopa County taxpayers more than $200 million dollars and that figure continues to be adjusted upwards as claims continue to be filed.

This is also the man who sat before Judge Snow in his original trial, sworn under oath, who was finally forced to admit that he had hired a private investigator to investigate the Judge’s wife with regard to an alleged comment she made by an undisclosed source.  We all recognized that for what it was – dirt-digging – with the hope of using the results to derail the legal proceedings.

“A fine patriot!” is what Trump calls him.  A “good man.”  Someone who had performed an “admirable job at law enforcement at the federal and local levels.”

Mr. President, either read the whole article or get another advisor.  This man swore to uphold the laws, not break them or bend them to fit his will.

This pardon was at the least, undeserved and at the most, amoral, unethical, shameful, appalling, unconscionable, and an affront to the entire American judicial system.

GOP:  Listen up.  Trump is going to bury you.  By sitting back and taking no action and allowing this Presidency to play itself out does nothing except make you look weak, ineffective, spineless and cowardly.

Be advised that we will continue to speak to the injustices your myopic viewpoints have enabled.

And we will speak out loudly.

With One Voice.

The Dragon Rears Its Ugly Head

 

I am shocked and I am saddened.  Most of all, I am sickened by the ugly, heartless and brutal actions that occurred in Charlottesville.

This isn’t some peaceful protest on a far-away continent that somehow went horribly wrong.

This was right here in our own backyard.

White supremacy, bigotry, hatred, violence, murder.  People dressed up in riot gear, faces covered lest they be identified – too chicken to stand unmasked for what they believe in – and with sheep mentalities – spoiling for a fight and beating on an innocent man because of the color of his skin.  You disgust me.  And let me tell you – you disgust a lot of America.  You are NOT who we are or who we have become.

We fought this fight before – in the violence of the South that was prevalent in the 1950’s – and again – in the 1960’s when three civil rights activists in Mississippi were murdered and a prominent NAACP leader died in a fire bombing.

We did not rest until we avenged those deaths and brought those responsible, forward to face the consequences of their actions – and we will do so again.

And what do we say about Mr. Trump who cannot call it for what it is?  Did anyone hear the words “white supremacy” in his comments?

No, I didn’t think so.  And you may wonder why that is.

Are there people of power who really believe that this is a country only for white men?  Of course there are.  Look around.  They aren’t hard to find.  The real question is whether The Donald is one of them. What was it that Scare-A-Moochi said?  Oh, yeah … A fish sinks – from the head down.

The defense rests, Your Honor.

 

Chinese Laundry

 

In the early morning hours of July 4, 2017, US military and intelligence personnel watched as North Korean’s leader, Kim Jong Un, walked around the launch site of a ICBM missile – and they watched him for more than an hour.  Why not take the shot and end the drama?

First, we need to know what fuels Kim Jong Un’s hatred of the US.  It is a deep-seated and deeply-ingrained belief that everything evil — is the US.  Let’s take a look back.

At the end of WWII, US Col. Dean Rusk drew a line across Korea at the 38th parallel – a division across a disputed region that Russia agreed upon.  The Russians backed the North and installed Kim Il Sung to govern it, while the US backed the South.  In 1950, Sung invaded the South in an effort to “unify” Korea, only to eventually be pushed back by the arrival of Gen. Douglas MacArthur.  The Chinese became involved and pushed MacArthur back to roughly the 38th parallel.  It was a conflict that lasted three years, 1 month and 2 days during which time the US Air Force dropped 635,000 tons of explosives and 32,000 tons of napalm on North Korea.  When military targets waned, the military targeted hydroelectric plants and irrigation dams, flooding fields and ruining crops.  In the end, North Korea had 1.3 million civilian and military casualties; South Korea had a combined total of 3 million casualties; China lost 600,000 men; and the US lost 33,000 military personnel.  An armistice was signed on July 27, 1953 – signaling a truce between the North and the South.

North Korea never forgot that attempt of annihilation and vowed to begin a struggle against US Imperialism that starts as early as 5 years of age for North Korean children who are taught that above all else, they should grow to prevail over the clear certainty of an invasion from US forces.  This mandate is even more effective today because of Kim Jong Un’s tight control on outside forces.  There is no access to the Internet; communications are measured to reinforce the principles of self-reliance – to the extent that even today, many North Koreans have never seen an American, let alone be witness to the discrepancies between their teachings and reality.

While he attended Kim Il Sung Military University, it is likely that Kim Jong Un was made aware of other failed nuclear stands such as that of Muammar Gaddafi (former Prime Minister of Libya) who surrendered his nuclear weapons program in response to Western demands in 2003, only to be beaten to death 8 years later.

It appears that Kim Jong Un has a different vision for North Korea – one that will continue his country’s philosophy of “juche” – self-reliance and independence.  And the quickest and most effective way to communicate that to the world is through a display of nuclear prowess.  He has the fuel (the long-standing indoctrination against Western beliefs) and the weapon (ICBMs).

So, here we are – not willing to take a shot that could be heard around the world.

Frustrated, the Trump administration has turned to other methods of disarming Jong Un such as asking China to put trade sanctions in place for North Korea.  China (as I mentioned in an earlier blog) has absolutely no motivation to do so.

First of all, its sights and priorities lie elsewhere – in the South China Sea where rich deposits of oil and gas are reputed to be.   And strategically, the South China Sea can be seen as a military stronghold with its arms tightly around $3 trillion in shipping annually.  Currently, China has managed to reach agreements with the Philippines (after Duterte reversed his hard-lined stance against China in favor of better relations with Beijing), Indonesia and Malaysia – all who are regionally affected by activities in the South China Sea.

The administration has also asked China to put in place trade embargos that would freeze out Jong Un, when in reality, good trade relations with North Korea ensure regional stability for China.

In addition to that, any intervention that would result in a US victory would also put the US squarely at the front door of China and may also lead to throngs of immigrants from North Korean into China – something they do not want to see happen.

In short, America will have to find another solution to the growing concerns surrounding Kim Jong Un and the people of North Korea because as I see it, the sign says …

Chinese Laundry – Closed.

 

Let’s Talk Wine!

Today — a respite from the never-ending political spin of Washington — and on to something far more pleasant!

Yesterday, we had a small celebration in my family and we decided to try something new and different for our wines.  We have a Total Wine & More nearby that always has a great selection, so we rolled up on Friday to see what we could find that looked interesting.

My husband is the “red” between us and I’m the “white,” so there’s a little bit of something here for both sides of the wine path.

For red … a 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon called “Line 39” by a vintner of the same name out of Parlier, California.  It won Wine & Spirits Magazine’s Top Brand of the Year and blends the flavors of currant, blackberry, ripe plums and a hint of dark chocolate.  A real winner!  And what’s with the name? According to their label, the 39th parallel runs through California, separating the north from the south, and hence, the name “Line 39.”  Their tag line is “Discover wine without parallel.”  Not bad, huh?

Line 39

 

Here’s a snap of their label:

 

 

 

 

 

And on to all you white lovers out there … Italia for me!  I found this bottle of Pinot Grigio, a 2016 La Delizia (Delle Venezie) from northeastern Italy to be superb.  An well-balanced blend of citrus, flowers and herbs, along with a touch of apples and pears.  Especially delightful for summer tasting.

La Delizia Pinot

 

 

Yes, you are seeing correctly, that would be an empty bottle!

 

 

 

These two great wines will be added to our Favorites list and — best of all — at an unbeatable price of about $8 a bottle!  That’s a lot of flavor for a such a reasonable price.

Take them along to your next event … and enjoy!

Shalom … peace be with you!

America – The Beautiful

America the beautiful – the resilient.

How would you describe America in a few words?  What does our country mean to you?  How do you feel about it today, as we celebrate our independence?

Our forefathers had the following objectives in mind in framing the Constitution:

We, the people, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Can you imagine the clarity of the vision that each man must have had?  Can you imagine how many voices filled the air during their meetings?  Can you imagine the disagreements?  Can you imagine the eloquence it must have taken to have swayed your peers’ opinions?  And, in the end, to take pen to paper and express those agreed-upon concepts in such a way that they would form the support and foundation strong enough to build a new country on?

But, you see, that’s how America works.  That’s how our country was formed – and it has been the backbone of how we govern ourselves and protect our rights – the very rights that our founding fathers agreed would form our foundation.  We need to continue to have visions and ideas about the work we have to do in order to make this a better Union.  We need to continue to have those discussions and listen with an open mind because they facilitate the “back-and-forth” – a mutual exchange of ideas – in the hope that we all become more inspired and more thoughtful.  We can continue to disagree, as surely as our forefathers did, but do it as they did – with respect.  And most of all, to maintain our civility – something that seems to be slipping to the wayside these days.

It is also our duty to protect the Constitution and all of its Amendments – it is our legacy.

The 1st Amendment is particularly threatened of late with regard to its treatment by our Fearless Non-Leader in Washington – and those that serve in the House and Congress who have taken to having some trouble seeing and hearing lately.  Ladies and Gentlemen, it is also your duty to defend this Amendment.  In case you have forgotten, let me refresh it for you so that you will recognize it when our Fearless Non-Leader next goes tripping through it – you won’t have long to wait, I can assure you:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peacefully to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

And should our Fearless Non-Leader slip and fall somewhere in the middle of it – or feel that he is above the law (“I’m President, and you’re not.”) – you, Ladies and Gentlemen, are going to have to dust off the 25th Amendment which directly addresses Presidential Vacancy, Disability, and Inability [emphasis added] and figure out how to undo what you are trying so hard not to see or hear – because it will be your duty to do so.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of America will be watching and you can be sure that Our Voices will continue to speak up – and speak loudly.  One more thing – fair warning – should you decide to look the other way and do nothing to defend our Constitution, its Amendments and our country – you’ll need to be lining up other work come election time because America will prove once again that it is – if nothing else – resilient.