TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Leakers Or Patriotic Whistle-blowers?

It appears that some media types and supporters of President Trump, hereinafter referred to as 45, are having difficulty with how to describe those in government positions who are providing information that is classified to those who will publicize it.

The naysayers suggest those whom they term “leakers” should be sought out, identified and then fired or criminally prosecuted. In a perfect political world that might make sense … but this is not a perfect world from any standpoint.

A quick dictionary search defines a “leaker” as someone who lets people know secret information. I think the more appropriate term would be “whistle-blower.”

A “patriot” is someone who feels a strong support for their country. “Patriotism” is defined as an attachment to the homeland. It can be viewed in terms of differences relating to the homeland, including but not limited to ethnic, cultural, political or historical aspects.

(If you Google each of these terms, the definitions do vary widely. I’ve used the shortest versions here.)

Individuals within the White House, FBI, Homeland Security and other agencies of government have released information that causes us to focus on certain behaviors that truly endanger this country and everything it stands for. These whistle-blowers are supplying information because they place the future of their country before all else. Individually, they have nothing to gain and everything to lose by their actions.

Some will call them leakers. I call them whistle-blowing patriots. The information they have released so far and continue to reveal does not create harm to this country … but screams that we must protect (and in some cases restore) those values that set the United States of America apart from any other nation.

POTUS 45’s suggestion that those who work in government should pledge their loyalty to him personally is not American. It is Russian and echoes all other dictators throughout time. In our community, we are taught to report anything we deem suspicious. Our schools teach us to be good citizens and not tolerate nor accept crime and or other misbehavior … not blindly follow any man.

We are, in fact, taught right from wrong, even when it sometimes seems that distinction is fading. When we sense wrong, we should address it.

Maybe some would consider me a bad person because of my belief on this subject. But if I had taken an oath of secrecy and then learned of a plot to murder someone, do you think for one instant that I’d consider that all right? Each and every one of us was born with a brain. If it functions as it is supposed to, it helps us determine right from wrong … and wrong from sheer insanity.

One of the many problems facing elected officials is their fear to call “foul” when they see a wrong! They place party above country and loyalty to party above all else. They can’t get it through their muck-filled brains that their loyalty belongs to our country first, as well as the people they represent.

This is a time in which government, specifically the criminal justice system, demands nothing less than best and the brightest. Now, though, 45 is considering Joe Lieberman as a finalist for the directorship of the FBI. Yet he now works for the very same law firm that represents 45. He’s 75 years old. While he’s been in politics a long time, he has zero federal law enforcement experience. Prior appointees have been former federal prosecutors and judges. (I cannot conceive of a reason why a federal judge would leave a lifetime appointment to the bench to accept a not-so-safe appointment to a position 45 could terminate.)

My point is that, aside from working for a law firm that represents Trump, Lieberman is a good, honest man. But he’s simply not qualified for that position, so I hope common sense will be factored into the appointment.

Andrew McCabe, acting director of the FBI, has all the relevant credentials, is clearly his own man and would not be influenced in the slightest by 45 trying to direct his investigations. The FBI trusts him. In this era of 45 attacking all investigations of his administration by the FBI, his constant assaults on the media, and his childish name-calling — a well-trained and respected director is needed.

Whether one liked former Director Comey, his qualifications, sincerity and integrity were and still are above reproach.

Once all these House, Senate, FBI and Special Counsel investigations are complete, I predict the next step will be the courts. As I’ve already said, I expect them to potty-train 45 to understand the concept of three separate but co-equal branches of government. There will be criminal prosecutions resulting from the investigations.

My strong sense is that, given the difficulties the Constitution presents when dealing with 45, it may well result that a competency hearing. It isn’t much of a stretch to imagine that this president of the United States is unfit to hold office. The 25th Amendment may be the option that saves us.

* * *

Why is it that Sen. John Hoeven and Congressman Kevin Cramer cannot condemn even one of the inappropriate actions 45 has taken?

The president promised he would run the country like he runs his companies; that’s one promise he has kept. In business, he repeatedly ran up the bills and then didn’t pay the little guy for what he’d ordered. He promised health care for all — but forgot to mention the caveat, “if you can afford to pay for it.” His climate change denial and his poorly thought out executive orders clearly show that he has no concern at all for wages, jobs and the average citizen.

All this … and not one word of criticism from North Dakota’s Republican senator and congressman.

Minnesota is really well-represented. Its senators and representatives, even though from different parties, have not forgotten they work for the people, not vice versa. Then again, Minnesota has a two- or even three-party system. North Dakota does not.

* * *

Fargo attorney Leo Wilking has successfully dealt with health issues, as have I, at Sanford Health. The doctors, nurses, therapists, receptionists, those who clean rooms and even volunteer drivers like Roger Mjones make Sanford what it is — a first-class organization. I join Wilking in his recently published opinion: If Sanford wants to throw a party to celebrate its new Fargo facility, have at it! Your people have more than earned it.

I’m sure some of you are waiting for me to add something political at this point. Not gonna happen this time! Have a great week. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Inspired By A Young Man Who Loves It Here

This past weekend, while I was shopping at one of the big-box stores in Fargo, I noticed a young black man who appeared to be in his early 20s. This lad was helping everyone within “hello” distance and had a smile that lit up the room.

I watched him for about 10 minutes. His mood improved my own so much I walked over and struck up a conversation. He told me he was from North Carolina. I asked him how he liked our area, since he was so far from home. He replied without flinching, with that incredible smile going all the time, “I love it here.” I pressed him for his reasoning. He told me the people are warm and friendly; jobs are plentiful; and — most importantly — he loved local law enforcement because when he waves and says “hi,” they wave back.

Perhaps he exaggerated (or maybe not, since I’ve not been to North Carolina), but he implied there wasn’t much communication between the law and people of color in that state — and certainly no small talk. After listening to him, I gained a much better understanding of life in the Deep South from the viewpoint of one individual.

There are those in this community who would not have spoken to this young man under similar circumstances. The sadness of that is it’s hard to understand the lives some have to live if you don’t speak to them.

The young man did not know me from the man in the moon, yet his response was as open and friendly as those from other people of color I’ve met since retiring from the bench. But I’ve also met many young men who have felt the same type of prejudice right here in River City. That’s sad. I’m referring to Native Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and immigrants whose only apparent problem is that they aren’t the same color as we are.

The only color that matters is “red.” We all bleed that color. For my purpose here, that designates what it takes to be an American. What clothing we wear and how we wear our hair (or shave our heads) does not show who we are as a people — just what our individual tastes may be.

I personally don’t care if you believe in God, in Allah, in any other Creator … or don’t believe in the afterlife at all. If you are a good person, live an honest life and treat others as you wish to be treated, you are making this world a better place to live. If ever we’ve needed these types of people, it’s now more than ever.

My conversation with that young man from North Carolina piqued my interest in the state he came from. The North Carolina Legislature has been trying to set the clock back on civil rights. It is particularly active now in the time of President 45, who doesn’t recognize there are three co-equal branches of government. As he systematically tries to destroy the criminal justice system and remake it in his own image and likeness — the courts are once again reminding him and his supporters that this country is governed by the rule of law. God help us if that ever changes.

As in many states, North Carolina’s voter suppression attempts are being stomped on. That state accepted a variety of government-issued photo ID cards — drivers licenses, passports and military ID cards. However, in a not-so-subtle attempt to keep minorities from voting, this state would not accept public assistance card used disproportionately as identification by minorities in North Carolina. Legislators also tried to cut early voting days and end same-day voter registration. There was nothing subtle about their attempts to discourage and limit certain voters. Were it not for the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against them, they would have succeeded.

It’s one thing to be prosecuted because you have done something wrong. It is quite another to be persecuted because you exist.

Some might say that I take bigotry and prejudice personally because of the legacy of my father, Judge Ronald N. Davies. They’d be partially right. My father turned the spotlight on the problems of bigotry and prejudice for me, and it has never dimmed. I am so proud of that.

* * *

When my wife went to the lake this weekend with one of my daughters, each brought a dog. I stayed home because I was going to (and did) cut and apply weed killer to the lawn. Our dog chews crabgrass like a doper smokes pot, and I didn’t want to take any chances with him getting into the treated lawn. So Maureen will be hearing about my adventures at North Fargo Hornbacher’s for the first time as she reads this column.

Apparently Saturday must have been Tattoo Day for grocery shoppers there. One young lady was showing off some writing and some kind of picture emblazoned just above her (slightly exposed) boob line. At my age, the body parts were of no interest. But as I tried to glimpse what the writing said, this lady— not a teenager, but in her 40s or 50s — looked me right in the eye and said, “Do you like what you see?”

With the speed of light. I replied, “Don’t flatter yourself, I wouldn’t have to squint if the print was as large as you-know-what.”

That was not the end of my violating social taboos. In front of me in the checkout line was another woman, a younger one, with an exposed back. I looked away at something as she stood there talking to her friend. When I glanced back, her tattoo caught my eye — it looked just like a real spider. I let out a whoop and a holler and jumped back before I realized what I was looking at. I had to explain to the startled teen how I am deathly afraid of spiders. I don’t think she, the clerk or the others who witnessed the event stopped laughing until after I’d left the store.

* * *

Here’s a special shout-out to Justin Benson, Erik Benson and my grandson, Rhys Luger, for becoming Eagle Scouts at the Boy Scouts of America Troop 214 ceremony on Mother’s Day. Until I saw the list of accomplishments required to earn this honor, I had no idea of the dedication each of these young men demonstrated to achieve his goal.

There is no doubt in my mind these young men will succeed in life. Their achievement is also a testament to their parents who supported them. Awesome job, young men! Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Ask What You Can Do for Your Country

In his inaugural address, President John Kennedy challenged the youth of our country to “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

If ever there was another time to rally to that call, it is now. We have an administration led by a president with no soul, no moral compass — a man with no empathy nor concern with the problems confronting the elderly, the average wage earner, women, all minority groups — and, worst of all, one who has developed an environment where absolute lies are acceptable.

POTUS 45 slammed President Obama for his vacations and golfing, and took special exception with his executive orders. That was on the campaign trail. Now that he occupies the White House, his actions are enough to qualify President Obama for sainthood.

Kennedy’s call to the youth of our country takes on particular significance today. POTUS 45 has promoted a travel ban from seven Muslim countries; rolled back clean air and water regulations; tried to give political cover to extremist religious groups, including churches, to promote politics from within, violating the separation of church and state; cut funding to sanctuary cities; taken steps to discriminate against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community; and — last but not least — promoted a replacement for the Affordable Care Act that gives tax breaks to the wealthy while depriving tens of millions of affordable health care.

I could go on til the cows come home, but the political picture would not improve a bit. The samples I have provided should give the youth of this country — to me, that’s anyone under 55! — solid reasons to get involved in learning much more about our government. It should scare the bejeezuz out of the over-75 crowd. (I’m 78, so that includes me.) We might lose our health coverage, too, along with the right to affordable health care.

Follow what 45 is doing, not what he has said. So far, the Republicans are claiming that health care will be “available” for all. They don’t say, though, that it will be affordable for all. Don’t be lulled to sleep by false promises. The ACA should be repaired (for it does need repairing) — but not replacement.

Last week, the dingbats in Congress voted for an act they had not even read. Go back to Ryan and his ilk, who yowled like a castrated pony back in 2011 because Obama and the Democratic majority “rushed” (over the course of two years) to pass the ACA, while the R’s passed their miserable repeal-and-replacement in just two weeks.

Watch what is being done, not what was said. He who campaigned on “draining the swamp” and attacking Goldman-Sachs has surrounded himself with the Wall Street firm’s former executives and other extremely rich folks who have never had to deal with the real-life problems of the average citizen.

The worst thing that can be said of our fearless leader (so long as he has security and the military to protect him) is his vindictiveness. Anyone who criticizes him is on his personal hit list. He’s after “Saturday Night Live,” late-night comic Stephen Colbert and other critics too numerous to name.

I’ve recounted all this cannon fodder to make my point about another president … a prime example of a man among men; a man whom we should all model our lives after, a man who cares about Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants: Former President Jimmy Carter.

After Jimmy Carter left the White House, he devoted his life (and still does) to helping the underprivileged, the downtrodden, the poor and the sick. He has traveled worldwide to help those in need. He has worked tirelessly to improve their quality of life and to bring them food, medical care and housing assistance when no one else would. Regardless of your opinion of President Carter as the head of our nation, you can’t question his contributions as a giving, caring human being, doing the best he can with the time he has for his remaining years on this earth.

Carter was no fan of 45. He has made that clear. So 45 must have his revenge, and it has been both childish and predictable. President Carter was nominated for Argentina’s highest distinction offered to a foreign person, the Order of the Liberator General San Martin, the equivalent of the United States Medal of Freedom. The award had been approved by the Argentine foreign ministry and was published in their Official Gazette. He was chosen for his contributions to human rights and his work for peace during Argentina’s last military dictatorship during his tenure as president — as confirmed by the reporters of CNN.

Now, enter our immature, vindictive child-president. Carter had not been nice to 45. (Not many intelligent people have.) So, with all of the venom an infantile kindergartener could possess, 45 and his administration pressured Argentina to cancel the award honoring President Carter. A kind, decent, caring human being like Jimmy Carter, who has devoted his life for the good of mankind, did not deserve this meddlesome and juvenile treatment.

We who care about this country have to get involved. One bad election with horrible results, to date, does not identify who we really are as a people. How we move forward and deal with this administration certainly will.

This is a time for all people to care about each other: to stand up for each other, to protect this earth we occupy and to take on those who do not have our best personal and economic welfare in mind.

For those who believe we have but one creator — God, Allah, or whatever you call him or her — the name doesn’t control us. Our beliefs do. For those who do not believe … then believe in your fellow human beings and the earth we must save for generations yet to come.

We have an administration that has outlined priorities that benefit the few, but it only prevails if we the people allow it.

“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” The “who” is us! The “when” is now! The “what”? We must get involved to protect our country. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Civil, Friendly Discussion Still Needs To Be Based On Facts

Sometimes a friend can jolt you into his reality. I was having that kind of conversation with a lifelong friend … someone with whom I rarely discuss politics. I didn’t know what his politics were until we had this talk. My wake-up call was loud and clear.

Before I get into the subject, I think it’s best to validate my claim that I vote for the person I deem best qualified without regard to their political party. Here’s my record:

My first vote went to John F. Kennedy in 1960, followed by Lyndon Johnson in 1964; Humphrey in 1968; Nixon 1972; Carter in 1976 and 1980; Mondale 1984; George H.W. Bush in 1988 and 1992; Clinton in 1996; Gore in 2000; Kerry in 2004; and Obama in 2008 and 2012; In 2016, I definitely did NOT vote for Donald J. Trump. Some of my votes went Republican, and some Democratic; obviously, I did not pick winners in every case.

Back to last week. What brought things to a head with my old friend was my saying some unflattering things about Trump. He replied, “Obama lied every time he opened his mouth.” He told me he believed nothing that he said.

I’ve heard many reasons why some did not like POTUS 44 (Obama), but lack of truth was not one of them. I countered that 45 (Trump) is a proven liar. You can go to any news source — radio, TV, print, the Internet — and find all kinds of his statements that have been absolutely false. He questioned Obama’s birth certificate; he insisted he received not only the most Electoral College votes (true) but also the most popular votes (false). He claimed the crowd at his inauguration was the largest ever, despite photographic evidence this was not true. I could go on and on with his false claims. Only a small percentage are true.

Obama had a scandal-free administration … but my friend didn’t care. He demonstrated great family values … but my friend didn’t care. When pressed to cite any specific lies he’d told, I got no response.

My friend and I are both grandparents, and our grandchildren will, I hope, have good role models. When I asked him about 45’s infidelities and sexist comments and his attitude toward women, my friend had no response. He didn’t agree. He simply failed to respond.

POTUS 45’s continual lying and demonstrated lack of knowledge, his self-centered approach to everything, his childish name-calling and attacks on the media along with everyone who does not agree with him: None of it seemed to concern my friend. If it did, he kept silent.

I’ve been learning fast that if you want to comment on politicians — or anyone, for that matter — fact-checking is a good idea. There are so many false stories circulating, particularly on Facebook, Twitter and the like. Someone gets a thought in their head, it comes out their mouth, and suddenly it’s perceived as fact. When you think about it, you all know this is true … and, to an certain extent, I think we all do it.

Cable and network news often have their own slants. Some are strictly factual and report what is; but others slant their approach to the news to support their editorial viewpoints. That, too, can be very misleading.

My wife reminds me to watch Fox News if I want the Trump view but MSNBC for the other view. In between, you have reliable sources on CNN, which I consider the most balanced news program on cable air. While public TV and radio are sometimes accused of being left-leaning — by commenters on the far right — in my view, they are fair and balanced.

It’s very important to learn more about what others think and why they think it. That’s why I am definitely a news junkie. Talk radio is another thing, however. My view is that there is one powerhouse regional station with a large audience that definitely leans Democratic. Another station with a much smaller audience falls into 45’s camp, loud and clear. Our third talk radio station, which is second in size of its listening audience, seems to cover both ends of the spectrum rather well, but with a definite tilt towards the party of Trump.

My friend claims (and I believe he’s a straight shooter) that he doesn’t watch the news. He says he no longer has TV and doesn’t listen to talk radio. That pretty much leaves two alternatives: talking directly to the source or, worse yet in my opinion, making a choice based on single-issue religious teachings.

If you wish to slam someone without specifying your factual basis — politician or not —you are simply urinating into the wind. Facts really do count. I can’t understand the sometimes-unspoken religious fanaticism that permeates the world today.

Trump says he wants to repeal Roe v. Wade (if you believe that, I have a little air left over for free in my backyard), while POTUS 44 was satisfied to leave the law as it stands.

Is it wrong for women to be in charge of their own bodies? Is it right for someone else (usually men) to tell a woman how to regulate her health care? Is it consistent to want the victim of incest, rape or a pregnancy that could kill the mother to carry a fetus to full term? Is it right that the fetus is the only thing the Right to Life groups think should survive?

We are bombing the hell out of Mideastern countries and killing unknown numbers of civilians. Where is the concern for them? The president has ordered our military into pointless, thoughtless actions in which they die for lack of planning. Where is the concern for their lives? Many of the same folks who worry so much about the fetus in every single pregnant woman’s body don’t comment or oppose the ravages that these conflicts inflict on humans who are already born. We wonder why other nations may not hold us in high esteem. Well, think about what we have done.

Our current president, a man who has the worst case of diarrhea of the mouth that the Lord ever allowed to live, is now thumping his “never been in the military — never held elective office” chest at North Korea. He wants to show the North how tough we are.

Perhaps if 45 had ever read a history book, he would know that when North Korea invaded South Korea almost 70 years ago, the Chinese then joined the North to draw the war to a stalemate. The armistice that ended the fighting still stands today in a divided Korea.

The U.S. dropped more bombs on North Korea during the Korean conflict than during all of World War II. We indiscriminately bombed civilian targets and used napalm. Entire cities and their populations were destroyed. I doubt the young hereditary president of the North needs reminding of what the U.S. is capable of — but this certainly does demonstrate why he wants whatever weapons he is trying to develop. His military also must be well aware that any offensive attack on this country or its allies would result in the immediate and total destruction of North Korea.

If ever this country needed real and wise leadership, it is now. If ever we must stop bashing each other and restore civility, it is now. It’s easy to taunt judges and others by calling them names … a lot easier than civilly discussing issues without judging.

I try to base my observations and what I see, read and digest. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I do expect, however, that if you support someone, you can explain why, and if you oppose them, you can also explain your reasons. If your opinion is based on facts, then state them. Without grounding your opinions in facts, they’re just empty words … and that’s not worth losing friends over.

My old friend is still my friend, but I still don’t understand what he sees in 45 or why he hated 44. I know he’s not racist. Maybe it’s that religious fanaticism that people don’t like to talk about. He may be wrong but, as my dad used to say, he’s still my friend. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — The Rule Of Law May Not Make America Perfect, But No Other Compares

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is amazed that a judge “sitting on an island in the Pacific” can issue an order blocking POTUS 45’s travel ban. He then opines the president has the constitutional authority to act as he did.

As attorney general of the United States, Sessions has taken an oath to uphold the constitution and lawful court orders. He apparently doesn’t understand that we have three separate but equal branches of government: executive (the president), legislative (Congress), and judicial (the courts).

The attorney general and 45 have one thing in common — disrespect for judges who rule against their positions. For 45, the cause is ignorance because he has no concept of “separate but equal.” For Sessions, it’s that he has crossed the ethical rules and regulations that govern attorneys.

While it may not seem so, the legal system is based on laws and respect for those laws. Sessions crosses both legal and ethical boundaries with his uninformed comments.

The Hawaiian judge who issued the order received a confirmation vote from then-Sen. Jeff Sessions. Like all federal judges, his appointment is for life. For 45 and his appointed court jester to continually attack him and other federal judges is personally baffling to me.

I discount 45 because I have no respect for him as a man, husband, father and as president. Sessions, on the other hand, knows better. He’s not the private attorney for 45, but he’s acting like it. As a lawyer, he’s charged with knowledge of the law.

Remember, the federal courts represent all of us, whether we like it or not. The attorney general is supposed to represent the United States, but this one is in lock-step with the dictator-wannabe who appointed him.

The first thing Sessions did (after promising one New York U.S. attorney he wanted him to stay on) was to fire every United States attorney. As of April 24, not one single replacement has been nominated. So much for the lack of leadership by the top officer of the Justice Department.

The U.S. attorney who was asked to stay on — and then immediately fired when he later refused to resign — was in charge of an investigation into the possible criminal wrongdoing of the current administration, including members of POTUS’s family.

While the federal attorneys general have great support staff, this lack of leadership in the number one spot is absolutely inexcusable …  particularly at a time when the Russian influence in our election and — more troubling — its influence with Trump himself and his family members has not been resolved.

The FBI will gather the information, but all prosecutions must be approved by the attorney general himself or U.S. attorneys — and 45 and Sessions have put a roadblock in their way.

Although I don’t intend do go into the unlawful “pattern” of this administrations actions, or lack thereof, there “is” a pattern. Following the cleansing of the leadership of the U.S. attorney offices, the uninformed one heading our government also fired top leadership in the State Department and has yet to appoint any replacements.

Methinks all of the bluster between United States and North Korea is simply a lot of swaggering boastfulness between the two egomaniacs leading each country. It’s 45, once again deflecting attention from the criminal investigation. The village idiot knows that if North Korea launched a nuclear weapon at any other country, our nation would cause it to cease to exist. Everyone wants to blow his own horn, but even the crazies do not want nuclear war. If it occurred, there would be no winners.

The State Department represents all aspects of our international relationships. To operate properly, it must have a staff that includes the support employees who actually allow it to function. When 45 gutted the Department of State, he gutted this country.

He appointed a secretary of state with no experience and with personal and financial ties to Russia and basically made him dictator of a rudderless ship. State needs staff, and the states need U.S. attorneys.

Remember all of those promises to bring jobs back to the USA? Recall 45’s and Ivanka’s calls to buy only made in America … as they now continue to promote their own foreign-made products?

Made-in-China steel was supposed to become a thing of the past by the Exalted One’s executive order. That made for good public relations — but steel made in China will in fact still be used for the DAPL. Meanwhile, I don’t see any new American steel plants opening!

POTUS 45 proclaimed he would bring back the auto industry and all of its lost jobs. But he’s either lying to the people or just plain uninformed if he doesn’t understand that it was not foreign countries that killed many of our factory jobs. It was automation.

What we need is new jobs to replace those that are permanently gone.

Now, about supposedly making America great again: The Elected One promised to promote infrastructure — bridges, roads, airports, trains, buses and all modes of public transportation. It seems to me that transportation and all area of infrastructure create jobs.

But wait a minute. Not so fast! This president and a few of his supporters want to build a wall between Mexico and America before taking any actions that would impact upon the vast population of this country. At the same time, he uses the threat of potential enemies to justify a great expanse of military spending … notwithstanding that the military itself has made no such request.

The current administration is promoting substantial tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals and corporations. Yet it has produced nothing to show how it will pay for any of it except at the expense of those of us who can least afford another burden.

Currently he who promotes (but has not produced) jobs also has shoved Amtrak onto the chopping block. Instead of modernizing and upgrading the railroad, he wants to cut it.

Give him enough time, though. If he doesn’t get us into a war to distract from all of the legal investigations, he will manage to destroy our internal functions. By “destroy,” I mean that if we don’t upgrade and repair — everything — we will degrade everything.

Who benefits from all of the confusion in the leadership — from utter inaction, other than the tweets of a madman in the White House? A guy named Putin and a country called Russia.

I often use that term “madman” as an exaggeration, but not in this case. With all of the news coverage in the past year — some confirmed, some not —  President 45 has yet to question any actions of Russia.

The answer to so many unanswered questions lies in 45’s tax returns. If they would show nothing that would damage him, why would he not release them? On the other hand, if they reveal the personal financial ties between 45 and his offspring and Russia, it might well result in removal or impeachment. At the very least, he’d face so many additional lawsuits that he’d have to leave his country club, go back to the White House and do what Barack Obama did — work to the best of his ability to serve all of the people of this country.

I’m not talking about Republican or Democratic issues. I speak as an American about American issues. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — We Are Not Alone

This past Easter week was an unusual experience for me. I was sitting on my deck overlooking Elephant Park in north Fargo, watching the cloud formations. The white fluffy clouds against the dark blue background of the sky were beautiful.

I then noticed a very large flock of turkey vultures riding the winds high above the clouds. Unlike eagles and ducks, the vultures really cruise at altitude and rarely flap their wings.

Each time I’ve noticed them, they’ve been in very large flocks. This prompted me to wonder where they live, as I’ve never seen one close up. I took to the bird book my wife has literally worn out and found the following:

  • They nest on bare ground, in hollow stumps, caves, cliff ledges or old buildings.
  • They feed by scavenging on carrion, fresh or decayed.
  • They find food by sight and scent while soaring.
  • They are mostly seen coming to and from nightly communal roosts, which may be located on tall buildings, towers or large trees.
  • They use thermals and updrafts to glide. When these terminate, they land because they don’t like flapping their wings.
  • When they sight live prey, they fold their wings tight and dive.

Given that they glide thousands of feet above the ground, you just have to imagine how good their eyes and sense of smell are to enable them to focus on their target. The book said nothing about their braking systems, but you have to wonder how a bird with a 26-inch wingspan can target its victim from thousands of feet overhead and brake at just the right time to strike its prey and not crash into the ground. It really makes you wonder.

Next I spotted two eagles flying around, much lower than the vultures and majestic with their white heads and wingspan. As you drive around Moorhead-Fargo, you’ll see them perching on trees, usually along the river. You can get within 100 yards or even less before they decide when to fly away. They don’t spook — they just take off, flap a few times and glide to their next perch.

In our area, we have bald eagles:

  • They have a wing span of 30 inches but appear larger, as they fly lower.
  • They build nests in tall trees, and they are massive. If you’ve ever seen one, it’s as if they’ve cut down an orchard and flown it to the top of a large tree, then lined it with whatever.
  • They too use sight and smell to hunt. When they spot prey as they glide over their target, they tuck their wings and dive straight down.

As with the vultures, you have to marvel at the eagles’ ability to dive and brake as they hit their prey without slamming into the ground.

Now, we have a number of bird feeders in our backyard and all kinds of small birds visit us. Sparrows, American goldfinches, house finches, junkos and blackbirds spar for the food.

We have Cooper’s hawks in the neighborhood. You know when they’re around because, all of a sudden, the small birds start flying into the windows and the side of the house, and then just disappear. No birds anywhere!

Of course, our cats, which are inside looking out, go flying into the glass doors trying to catch the birds on the outside as they panic into the glass. The birds don’t knock themselves out — they just go “bang” and flee. The cats are another matter. They hit the glass, then just sit, switching their tails and lying flat as they try to figure out how they missed those birds.

Enter the dog, which up ’til now had been resting. It sees the cats attacking the window and jumps all over the cats, trying to get them to settle down. It’s a show worth filming … but I digress.

We have rabbits under our deck, our neighbor has rabbits under his patio, and a third has them in the bushes in his backyard. Those damned rabbits have learned that if the neighborhood dogs are inside the fence, it’s OK for them to run by on the outside from yard to yard. I’ve seen dogs (not mine) run headlong into the fence and bounce off it while going after the rabbits. I mean, they smack the fence, stagger up like a drunken sailor, and then do the same time after time.

My border collie (crossed with an elephant) has her own way of dealing with the rabbits. She sees them and just chases after them right up to the fence … where she stops. They, of course, don’t stop — they keep on running. I just noticed what her fun is. She tries to get the angle on them as they go by and races them to the end of the fence. I now know the rabbits would be well advised not to show themselves if Ellie is off-leash because she can, in fact, outrun them.

I spent a few hours (“spent,” not wasted — I’m retired) watching four rabbits across the street at the base of a very large pine tree. They were running, jumping over each other and acting like they were playing tag. I’ve been told they weren’t playing but were, in fact, breeding. If they were breeding, then it’s the first time I’ve seen sex on the fly. From what I saw, breeding must involve spitting at each, if you get my drift. I saw no touching, only a fly-by or jumping-over-and-round technique. End of story on rabbits.

Now, we’ve also had a lot of squirrel activity — animal, not human. It’s fun watching how they interact … play tag, fight, chase each other all over. When the dog and cats were inside looking out the glass door, those squirrels (and once in a while the rabbits) would take a short cut across the deck. The dog would just bark and let it go, but one of my cats would go bonkers. She’d go from window to window around the whole house, tracking the rabbits as they played. I’d be lying in bed, trying to go to sleep and hear the sound of that cat tearing across the floor, ricocheting off the wall, tearing across the carpet and slamming into the window where she’d assume the rabbits went.

I have observed her on more than one occasion and have to admit I laugh because I can’t figure out how she bangs into so many things in her quest and never gets hurt. Of course, when she is on the rabbit run, that wakes up the dog, which thinks there’s a burglar at the door. If the cat hasn’t awakened us up, the dog will.

Our second cat, a male, simply watches all the activity and doesn’t get involved in the foolishness.

I’m guessing people without animals haven’t read this far. But animal lovers have and may be wondering, what’s my point? Well, the point is you read this far, and that’s why I write. Have a great week. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Misguided Missiles Accomplish Little Beyond Distraction

It didn’t take POTUS 45 long to once again deflect attention from the interference of Russia with our election by bombing a Syrian air base. That’s resulted in some proclaiming him a hero.

Apparently, our president tweets when he ought to be watching the news he’s quick to call “fake.” If he had paid attention to the real world, he would have known that “little babies” have been murdered ever since the Syrian conflict began.

Had he paid attention, he would have known that it makes no difference what is killing the population — including men, women and children and as well as his “little babies” — from the standpoint of the families who do survive.

Does our president think that being burned alive, having limbs blown off, surviving with horrible burns and being buried alive are something new in this conflict?

Obviously, 45 didn’t see the picture of that cute little boy who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea while his family tried to escape the butchery that is Syria today. His photograph touched hearts around the world. He was just another innocent little boy, and not “a little baby” who died from chemical weapons. Where was the president’s compassion and outrage for him?

In their coverage after 45’s “presidential” attack, the media conveniently failed to report that the bombing of hospitals — just as both Syria and Russian have been doing since the war began — is a war crime. Where is the outcry? Where are all those “Right to Life” groups” while these horrors have been taking place?

Now the present administration is criticizing President Obama for failing to act in 2013 when the Syrian government crossed the “red line” he’d established. Congress refused to authorize military action. Instead, here’s what he did: He and Putin together came to an agreement that all weapons of mass destruction would be removed from Syria. He believed that Russia would act in good faith, and his belief prevented mass casualties all around at that time.

What Obama did not know was that either Russia lied, or Putin was played like a fiddle by his Syrian ally. Since no one plays Vladimir Putin and survives, that leads us to only one conclusion: He did, in fact, lie.

If Putin had honored his pledge, then President Obama would have been a hero. But because Putin broke the agreement … they say Obama is somehow the bad guy. Where in hell is the logic with that argument? How can any of our elected leaders buy into it?

Here is a simplified statement of fact. We are asked to believe that Russia had no knowledge that Syria had these chemical weapons … notwithstanding that we have photographic surveillance proof that the Syrian planes that dropped barrels of sarin gas took off from a base where Russian aircraft were stationed. Hmm, coincidence? I think not.

The 59 Tomahawk missiles fired from U.S. warships had to fly over a Russian airbase in Syria to reach their target. Russia has air defenses that could have shot down the missiles as they crossed overhead — but did not do so. Do you think the air defense folks at the Russian base were sleeping? I think not.

I think it’s safe to assume that 45 gave Putin a heads-up about the upcoming strike. In return for their not interfering with the attack, we agreed not to damage the runways. No sooner had the Tomahawk missiles (manufactured by an American company named Raytheon) hit the Syrian base, than the Syrians had their planes back in the air from that very same base … and once again they bombed the hospital where the victims of the chemical attack had been taken. Any of those “poor little babies” that 45 was concerned about who survived the initial attack died in the subsequent one.

Did 45 go back in and teach them a lesson for their murderous actions — another war crime? Nope. Instead, he basked in the sunlight of those who extolled what a fearless leader he was. And he accomplished what he really had in mind. It took the public’s focus off investigation of the Russian attack on our democracy and his possible involvement in it.

It has been demonstrated that rarely does 45 do anything that doesn’t get him either good press or good profits. This is more of the same. You’ll remember I emphasized Raytheon, the company that built the Tomahawk missiles. That’s because 45 owns a lot of stock in that company. By early Friday, its stock price was rising dramatically on Wall Street. Surprise!

If the president’s military action was serious, then it failed. If it didn’t fail, then something else is afoot that could get us into World War III. Whoflung Dung, the leader of North Korea, is the only other world leader with as little experience as 45. It is my fervent hope that the two most uninformed leaders in the universe don’t play a game of chicken with nuclear weapons. We have folks who could lock our president in a closet if he tried to use the weapons, but that would also require taking away the code box so he can’t use it.

Since I’m quite sure that 45 and his pal Putin read the Moorhead Extra, I recommend to their advisers that they take the appropriate action right now to keep us out of war.

If 45 really feels concern for victims in Syria, perhaps he should be consistent. He can do that by withdrawing his Muslim ban and either allowing victims into our country as refugees, or at the very least reinstating the foreign aid he canceled. Get together with our allies -— fund and protect refugee camps until the madness subsides. The money blown on that pointless attack on the air base (while leaving the runways intact) could have been put to much better use.

I’m no military man, but I’ll bet if our military had dropped a few runway-wrecking blockbuster bombs, it would have shocked the enemy into listening. Just as good, at the same time it would have prevented them from taking off from those very same runways within hours. I’m told that if one of those much more powerful blockbusters had been dropped, the shock wave alone might have exceeded the total damage of all those million-dollar Tomahawks.

And oh, did I mention the price of oil went up after the bombing. Don’t 45 and most of his cabinet have investments in oil? Gee, no conflict of interest there, huh?

Syria, Russia, Iran and some of the feuding factions now refer to the USA as an outlaw nation.

Right after the president of China left our air space after his visit with 45 at Mar-a-Lago, the New York Times reported: “Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency, on Saturday called the strike the act of a weakened politician who needed to flex his muscles. In an analysis, Xinhua also said Trump had ordered the strike to distance himself from Syria’s backers in Moscow, to overcome accusations that he was ‘pro-Russia.’”

I don’t want to see us to go to war. Exposing the administration for what it is carries a high degree of importance to me, as it should for all Americans. This is still the USA of old, but we are now in a hole we’ve dug for ourselves. But we will survive. As I’ve repeatedly said — if ever there was a reason to vote your conscience, the time is now. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Frack You!

After some reading and TV reports on the relationship between fracking and earthquakes in oil county, I’m concerned.

Studies have shown that oil extraction by hydraulic fracturing is behind a number of earthquakes in areas not usually associated with seismic activity, especially Oklahoma. There are two forms of man-induced earthquakes. One is clearly related to fracking.

Hydraulic fracturing involves the injection of water and other additives deep underground, where the pressure causes cracks to form in the shale rock. The resulting pressure is intense enough and lasts long enough to influence nearby faults and produce periodic earthquakes that can last for months.

While the quakes diminish once fracking stops, any fault remaining under fluid pressure is still subject to persistent quakes in the weeks and months that follow. Fracking operations can trigger fault slips up to six-tenths of a mile away.

In terms that I’m more familiar with, the fracking process can be compared to placing a lubricant (most likely WD-40) between two flat pieces of rock and pressing on them until one slides over the other.

So what has triggered my growing interest in fracking? Consider this.

Assume, for the moment, you have a lake cottage or home on a nearby Minnesota lake. Assume, further, that you live near a public access — one that’s used by thousands of people each year. (Yup, it’s a pretty big lake!)

You’ve been on this lake for many years. Many of your neighbors are senior citizens. There are businesses that depend on you because they sell groceries, gas and other necessities. The lake is great for fishing and other recreational activities year-round.

Now then, let’s pretend that over your objections the government agency that oversees oil well site permits grants permission to erect an 11-well unit … within just 800 feet of your public access in an area where many, many families have summer and year-round lakeside homes.

Sure, the oil company promises to insulate the drilling pads with the most updated equipment and do its best to protect your quality of lake life. Don’t be angry with the oil company itself that’s doing business legally with the state — but ask yourself this. When does profit trump your quality of life?

Well, Minnesota friends, we can relax. This isn’t happening in our own lake country. But this is exactly what is occurring right now on the Van Hook Arm of Lake Sakakawea in western North Dakota. Slawson Exploration has already begun construction on an 11-well site 800 feet from the ramp at Van Hook Recreation Area with the blessing of the state, which granted the permit.

I cannot fathom the thought process within state government that would tolerate and allow this scenario to go forward.

Now, these are known facts: Fracking can, in fact, cause earthquakes. Fracking will be used at every well site. Fracking-related water pollution is a real possibility. Pipes leading from the ground to storage can rupture, leak or explode, and the resulting petroleum or fracking liquid can make its way to the lake.

What possible justification can there be for creating, allowing and legally permitting such a venture — well-drilling pads within 800 feet of that heavily used public access! Just try to tell me now that money doesn’t talk.

It’s interesting that the oil companies are capable of drilling miles down and sideways. Yet somehow they figure they’ve got to install their pads so close to lake residents and the public access.

I guess the thinking must be that because the Van Hook situation doesn’t adversely impact the masses in North Dakota, those who do live there and use the lake can be sacrificed. But that simply calls the entire process into question. Those who should have looked out for the Van Hook welfare … did not.

This is so much like what is happening on the national scene. Money talks, and people haven’t counted ….

But we are counting now. We North Dakotans and Minnesotans are also Americans, and we will not forget. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — No One Wants Parking Meters But Out-Of-Touch Politicians

Moorhead, prepare for a possible influx of new business. It seems that North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and his gang are pushing for a law authorizing the use of parking meters — for downtown Fargo.

Never mind that he has substantial holdings in Central City, and never mind that the cost of each unit, including installation, could be in the area of $1,000. (My info comes from the Web, which referred to both cash-operated and the more modern credit-card-operated units.) They would basically benefit no one other than those who live downtown and want traffic to move.

Never mind that merchants have always known that meters don’t bring in shoppers! Customers don’t want the hassle if they have alternatives like Moorhead and the area shopping centers. But Burgum doesn’t own properties in those other parts of our towns — no need to worry about meters elsewhere!

Proponents claim parking meters will eliminate the need for the parking officers who now patrol the area. But they have yet to answer one interesting question: If those meters expire and no one checks them, how are violators going to be punished?

* * *

It’s also too bad Burgum didn’t take former Gov. Ed Shafer’s advice and veto the law that allows anyone to open-carry guns without a permit or training.

The Moorhead Police Department will have a field day with the warriors from North Dakota when the latter drive into Minnesota and strut their gun stuff … only to find that said exposure and carry is not legal in Minnesota.

Legalizing open carry without training is a bad idea. It does seem to go hand in hand with North Dakota’s ranking as tops in driving under the influence and other alcohol-related offenses. Here’s just one example of the stupidity that could arise: A person is stopped for possible DUI. He has a prior record and panics; or he panics, even without a prior record. What do you think law enforcement officers will be thinking as they approach that vehicle in an open-carry state?

Will arguments formerly resolved by fists now be resolved with guns? Throw in alcohol and drugs, and this law simply adds fuel to the fire. Gov. Gun Supporter doesn’t have to enforce the law. But he just greatly increased the risks for those who do.

The National Rifle Association has a stellar record of buying politicians who then support their legislation, whether or not it’s good for those who voted them in. That’s a fact of life, one that we ought to concentrate on a lot more than we do.

Our state-level clone of POTUS 45, a.k.a. the governor of North Dakota, also sent a letter urging the repeal of the Affordable Healthcare Act on the very day the Speaker of the House of Representatives withdrew the Republican attempt to repeal and replace. Burgum, along with other Republican governors, did that with the complete knowledge there was no “repair” or “replacement.” He was prepared to throw the elderly, the infirm, the students and everyone else off their current plans.

Unlike Gov. B, the general population of North Dakota is not in the superwealthy class. The average person — me, for instance — would take it in the shorts. I live with diabetes from damage to the pancreas, meaning I now have a pre-existing condition. He would have thrown me and many others to the wolves.

Nursing homes, hospitals and rural clinics would all have been adversely affected. People who do not have knowledge about how the average citizen manages to survive should not be making decisions that will hasten their demise.

* * *

It seems Fargo City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn has stepped in it again with his divisive comments and actions relating to the cost of immigrants in our community. He’s dead wrong; he is in lockstep with the likes of 45 and Burgum.

But his actions, as offensive as they are, do not — in my opinion — justify recalling him.

Those who are unhappy with any politician ought to redirect their energy into finding suitable candidates to run for office and replace those they don’t support. With a recall, you have no idea who the successor will be. But you can bet that all kinds of self-interested individuals will come out of the woodwork to fill the void.

One thing 45 has done is to wake the sleeping giant known as the American Voter. From all appearances, the weirdly incompetent anomaly known as Donald J. Trump won’t happen again in this century. Voters will be alive and well to take on the the next batch of local, state and federal elections because we have been reminded what is at stake by silence and inaction.

* * *

By the way, did anyone remember to tell ISIS they should stop fighting and go home? I mean, 45 did announce he would cause the destruction of ISIS within the first 30 days of his administration. But by golly, he said the same thing about the Affordable Care Act … yet Trumpcare failed, just like all of 45’s private enterprises — Trump casinos, Trump steaks, Trump University and so many more.

I think a good many people really did think that Obamacare and the ACA were two separate things. They didn’t like Obamacare because of the man whose name it was stuck with, but did like the ACA, which benefited them. Of course, the two are one and the same.

When people make promises, we have to look behind them and consider whether they have the means to do what they say. Take the ACA, for example. After eight years and 60-some votes to repeal it, the Republicans now in the majority had neither a repair or replacement plan. Eight years of political BS! And still the politicians drew their pay. In the private sector, the clowns of “The Party of No” would have been fired. Maybe that will happen now.

I have one growing fear about 45. Each day, either through his tweets or his minions, he does something to divert the news from the serious topics of the day. The media are on to him now, and they’re starting to tune out some of his antics That’s why I’m getting more and more worried that the Orange One will ultimately start a military action to divert attention from the more and more damning investigations. I hope I’m wrong.

And one last travesty. Congress has voted to repeal protections for wolves and bears on Alaska wildlife refuges. They have legalized killing wolves, bears and their babies in their dens. What a piece of cold blooded stupidity! Sen. Heidi Heitkamp opposed the measure. POTUS 45’s faithful servant, Sen. John Hoeven, supported eliminating the protection. Shame on you, John Hoeven. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Budget Cuts? Middle-Class Taxpayers Take It on the Chin

Not that this will surprise any nonbelievers, but the absolute and total lie by POTUS 45 — that President Obama ordered some sort of wiretapping or surveillance on him or his administration — has now been revealed by all the government agencies involved in security to be false. (Or as that idiot Sean Spicer, 45’s official press spokesman, would say: “No, no, they didn’t say it wasn’t true, they just said they couldn’t prove it.”)

Every time a newsperson speaks on a subject Herr Spicer doesn’t like, he either cuts them off, presents 45’s bizarre version of facts or insults them. He gives new meaning to the euphemism “donkey hole.”

I repeat myself when I say that I don’t fault 45’s supporters who supported him because they felt ignored — but I assume that even they know by now that 45 lied about what he’d do from the day he first announced he was running. He has actually done one thing he said he’d do, though. He has drained the swamp. Now it’s all in the White House.

I have nothing against wealth, but his filling Cabinet with nothing but extremely wealthy people provides ample evidence that the Republican president has no idea of what the problems of working Americans are. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth (and a spade up the other end), Trump has no concern for the very people he promised he’d support.

Remember his promise that everyone would have health care and no one would lose what they have? Now, apparently, it is “access” to health care that will apply to all. That means you get it if you have the means to pay for that access. Otherwise, you are, in fact, uninsured.

The party of “no” had eight years to modify the ACA — it’s the Affordable Care Act, not Obamacare — and it didn’t come up with one damned thing except this: 20 million are going to lose coverage under Trumpcare.

I am not now and never have been knowledgeable about budgeting and taxation. I do, however, understand what it means when a person says one thing and then does something else.

Take the Republican-sponsored bill before the Minnesota Legislature. The Republicans want to cut taxes $1.35 billion in the next two years, claiming they’re emphasizing help for the middle-class.

How will they do this?

They are not cutting income taxes. They’d like to freeze the automatic increase in the tobacco tax, which is used primarily to address health issues and fight smoking. Meanwhile, they strive to make sure statewide business taxes will disappear … another example of benefiting the top 2 percent at the expense of those who need the relief the most.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar has outlined how 45’s proposed federal budget supports (not!) the middle class. She leaves nothing to the imagination. Here’s how she says POTUS’s budget will directly impact Minnesota, North Dakota and the rest of the Upper Midwest:

1. Cuts the DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE by 21 percent, slashing job training and other vital programs throughout the Midwestern farm states.

2. Eliminates RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS to improve drinking water and sewer systems on the heels of the disaster in Flint, Mich.

3. Cuts RURAL HEALTH INITIATIVES that fund telehealth programs, rural senior services and rural hospitals.

4. Eliminates the GREAT LAKES RESTORATION INITIATIVE, a program with bipartisan support that helps protect the Great Lakes — so important to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan. The initiative’s planned elimination also has Canadian provinces gravely concerned, too.

5. Cuts CRITICAL MEDICAL RESEARCH happening at the National Institutes of Health, many great Midwestern universities and Midwestern medical research gems from Rochester, Minn., to Cleveland.

6. Eliminates funding to support RURAL AIRPORTS in North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Indiana and every other Heartland state.

7. Cuts the NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION, which is needed for Warning of Extreme Weather. (Note to the Administration: We have a lot of extreme weather in the Midwest.)

8. Cuts state and local FEMA GRANTS, which have helped Midwestern communities from North Dakota and Minnesota through Iowa and Illinois prepare for floods.

9. Eliminates the MANUFACTURING EXTENSION PROGRAM that helps small manufacturing companies create jobs.

10. Cuts a critical HEATING ASSISTANCE PROGRAM that helps 339,000 Minnesotans — and so many other Midwesterners in cold-weather states stay warm all winter.

Note to the White House: It gets really cold in the Midwest, and most people can’t get to Florida every weekend.