How about starting with some good news.

Consumer confidence is higher than it has been since 2000. Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity. So if consumers are happy the economy clicks along. Economic growth is up over 3 percent for the second straight quarter. Home prices are up, unemployment is down and the stock market continues to hit new highs.

But the really good news is that this is all before the major tax overhaul that the Republicans in Congress are promising to pass this year, which is projected to cause the economy to take off.

One reason the Democrats are so apoplectic about President Donald John Trump is that they know presidents get reelected if the economy is doing well and lose if the economy is doing poorly. Trump has already done what former President Barack Obama was unable to do during his eight years in the White House, which is get the economy going again.

Although it may seem like a lot longer, Trump has been in office for less than a year, and he came into office not knowing a whole lot about the job.

Even presidents who have long experience in elected office and the federal government say the learning curve for being president is steep and there is nothing to really prepare you for it. Trump continues to learn more about the job every day, which means he will get better and better at his job. It’s already apparent that he would not make some of the mistakes he made in his first months in office.

The Democrats are right to be worried.

*****

The indictment of Paul Manafort by special prosecutor Bob Mueller has all the signs of a rush job that was done to get the Uranium One story and the Russian dossier stories off the front page and replace them with something the liberal mainstream media would go nuts over.

Mueller wants those stories buried and forgotten, but if the best he can do is indict Manafort and accept a guilty plea from George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign volunteer, he hasn’t got much.

However, as a public relations stunt, it has worked like a charm. The mainstream media are behaving like sharks with blood in the water.

Mueller had good reason to want to get the Uranium One story off the front page, because he is a player. He was head of the FBI that was supposed to be investigating things like the corruption that led to the Uranium One deal, where Bill Clinton ended up with $500,000 in his pocket directly from the Russians and the Clinton Foundation received donations of over $150 million from those involved in selling 20 percent of US uranium to the Russians. Mueller stood by with his hands in his pockets while all this took place, and you have to hope that he isn’t proud of that.

The Manafort indictment isn’t nearly as horrible as the mainstream media have played it up to be because it has nothing to do with the Trump campaign. The indictments all deal with events that occurred years before there was even the hint of a Trump campaign.

The indictment refers to Yulia Tymoshenko as a former Ukrainian president when she is in fact a former prime minister, a mistake that no doubt would have been caught if the attorneys drawing up the indictment had not been in a rush to get it done. These attorneys are supposed to be smart folks; certainly they know the difference between a president and a prime minister.

Also, they charged Manafort with violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). This is like charging someone with failing to signal before changing lanes. It is a law and people do get charged with it from time to time, but it isn’t enforced very often. Since 1966, no one has been convicted of violating FARA, so maybe it’s not like the turn signal violation because people have been convicted of that.

What the Justice Department normally does when they run across someone in violation is send out a letter telling them they have to register. What the Justice Department doesn’t do is break down their door in the middle of the night with drawn guns and start ransacking their house as they did with Manafort.

Mueller is operating as an arm of the Hillary Clinton campaign. He has hired a whole slew of people with connections to the Clintons to work for him and they are still working overtime to protect Hillary Clinton and bring down Trump by any means available.

Arresting Manafort moved the focus off the Russian dossier and Uranium One, and when they come back into focus Hillary Clinton can say what she has said a thousand times in her career: “Oh, I’ve already said everything I have to say about that.” The fact that she hasn’t said anything about it hasn’t bothered the mainstream media in the past, and it is unlikely to bother them today.

Imagine for a moment that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had informed Trump that if appointed he would have to recuse himself from any investigation of the Trump campaign, and as a result Trump had appointed someone else as attorney general who insisted that Comey be fired immediately and all the Obama cronies in the FBI and the Justice Department along with him.

The mainstream media would have gone ballistic for a few hours but the frenzy would have passed. The mainstream media have the attention span of a 2-year-old and Trump could have gone on with running the country instead of worrying about an investigation that so far has come up with nothing to indicate Trump colluded with the Russians, which is what the investigation is supposed to be about.

The charges against Manafort are all business related.

Then there is Papadopoulos, who pled guilty to lying to the FBI.

Papadopoulos was a volunteer trying to get a paying gig with the campaign. He was on a foreign affairs advisory board for the campaign that met once, evidently to get their photo taken, so Trump could say he had a team of foreign policy advisors.

The guy doesn’t appear to be very smart, believing what some Russian operative told him about being close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the actions he has alleged to have taken don’t even make sense. Papadopoulos and some Russian that no one had ever heard of were going to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin. As if Trump couldn’t call Putin and set up a meeting himself if he wanted to meet with Putin.

Papadopoulos proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that he was out of his league by lying about it to the FBI. Who knows, the supposed Russian operative could have been an FBI agent posing as a Russian operative. But with the FBI’s information gathering ability it takes a fool to lie to them.

The guy was a hanger-on trying to impress somebody, anybody, with the campaign in order to get a paying job. It didn’t work. He was never anything but a volunteer. If Mueller wants to spend a few more million American taxpayer dollars looking, I’m certain he can find Trump volunteers who actually went to Russia during the campaign. I bet he could find at least one that went and looked at the Kremlin with a busload of other tourists.

I bet he can find a Trump volunteer who has relatives in Russia, and that would certainly prove collusion, wouldn’t it, because the Trump campaign was supposed to vet all of its volunteers to make sure that none of them had ever spoken to any Russians.

The idea is absurd. There is no law in this country that makes it illegal for someone, even a paid employee of a presidential campaign, to talk to a Russian, even a Russian government official.

If this is the best Mueller can come up with, he needs to pack his bags and send his team back home because after months of investigation to find out that Manafort is a shady businessman really is not news. When Trump hired him, people talked about some of his questionable business activities, and in fact he was already under investigation by the FBI and had been since 2014.

To discover that a Trump volunteer who was on a campaign committee that once met with someone claiming to be a big-wig Russian means nothing except that Papadopoulos is a fool, and so far, unless you lie to the FBI about it, there is no law against being a fool.

Here is a well-known secret about campaigns at every level: They have all kinds of committees. Candidates figure if they can get someone on a committee they will get their vote, and maybe the votes of their friends. You can get on some committees by making a donation of a certain amount. Some committees never meet. Being on a Trump campaign committee and having a photo taken with Trump proves nothing except that you were on a campaign committee and had your picture taken with the future president.

I saw hundreds of people have their pictures taken with Trump. One of them could have at one time in their life been to Russia; maybe Mueller should start investigating them.

*****

What is really interesting is that Manafort, who was the campaign chair, had been working with the Podesta Group, which was the organization founded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta and his brother Tony.

So the Clinton campaign chair and the Trump campaign chair were united in this underhanded and, according to the FBI, illegal lobbying done on behalf of a Ukrainian political group with ties to Russia.

It proves once again that there is no political party once people get to Washington, DC. There are only piles of money lying around waiting to be scooped up. It looks like Manafort and the Podestas were doing some of that scooping together.

*****

Hillary Clinton is nothing if not predictable, and you have to give her credit – she sticks with what works. What works for Hillary Clinton is total denial. From the cattle futures scam to wiping her server, Hillary Clinton is the more modern day version of Sgt. Schultz on Hogan’s Heroes, “I know nothing.”

She may be the smartest woman in the world, but put her before a congressional committee and she won’t admit to knowing how to tie her own shoes or to having anyone tie them for her. She simply doesn’t remember how the shoes got on her feet, how the wig got on her head or how she was transported to the meeting.

Hillary Clinton, of course, had no idea that her campaign was spending millions of dollars to have some fake dossier written about Donald Trump based on rumors in Moscow.

You could have a video of Hillary talking in person to Christopher Steele and telling him exactly what she wanted in his report and she would still deny ever knowing anything about it.

It does show how panicked the Hillary Clinton campaign was after Trump won. Somebody came up with the idea of blaming the Russians and at least putting that dossier, which cost millions, to some use. But if they had paused for a moment, someone in the campaign might have been smart enough to realize that if they blame the Russians, an investigation might follow, which would lead to the world finding out that the Hillary Clinton campaign paid for the fake investigation that lead to the whole thing.

It might be hard to believe that the Hillary Clinton campaign was that incompetent, unless you consider that Hillary Clinton and her campaign took what just about everybody in the world said was a sure fire win and lost.

*****

It’s not exactly a kinder gentler FBI now that Comey is no longer there. How about a more honest, less smarmy FBI? Comey was already head of the FBI, so you have to wonder why he was so obsequious to the Clintons, but maybe he wanted to keep his job for another eight years and that seemed like the best way to do it.

But now that Comey is not there running interference for the Clintons, the FBI informant who knows all the dirt on the Uranium One deal that resulted in Bill Clinton getting $500,000, the Clinton Foundation getting about $150 million and Vladimir Putin getting 20 percent of US uranium has been freed to testify before Congress.

It is incredible that anyone can keep a straight face while claiming that there is nothing illegal about this deal.

*****

From the outside it appears that the government of Spain could not have handled the Catalonia move for independence worse, because it didn’t stop the vote, nor did it campaign against the vote. What the government did was declare the vote invalid so that people who didn’t want to secede were not inclined to go against the government and vote but those who did want to secede didn’t care what the government said so they voted. The result was an extremely lopsided vote in favor of secession.

It was a really dumb move by the government, but it may be that the government knew the secessionists would win any fair vote so they decided to try and delegitimize it, but kind of failed at that one.

Now they have a much bigger problem – a vote that indicates the overwhelming majority of people want to secede

*****

It certainly appears that the FBI has been compromised. The FBI considered paying Steele, who was providing opposition research for the Clinton campaign, which is highly unusual.

The FBI failed to prosecute Hillary Clinton although she had clear violations of the laws concerning top-secret documents.

The FBI helped cover up the whole Clinton Uranium One deal.

But perhaps most important, the FBI has failed to investigate the Clinton Foundation, which appears to have broken just about every law a foundation can break. A foundation is not supposed to be a personal slush fund for people where they can spend the money however they want.

There is not supposed to be a tax exemption for throwing big expensive parties or providing no-work jobs for people that you want to work on your campaign in a couple of years.

The Clinton Foundation is rife with fraud. The FBI has sent people to jail for far less. If Trump has not ordered a complete investigation of the Clinton Foundation then he isn’t doing his job.

*****

First Sen. Bob Corker then Sen. Jeff Flake, who’s next to announce that they won’t be running for reelection? Republicans can only hope that there are a host of other senators elected by the people of their state because they claimed they were conservative and wanted to do something about the disaster the federal government has become, only to get elected and fall under the spell of the mainstream media, which operates as an arm of the Democratic Party.

The reason Corker and Flake have boldly announced they aren’t running for reelection is not because of integrity or honor, or whatever reason they have given, it’s because they can’t win.

Before Steve Bannon announced he was recruiting conservative Republicans to run against the Republican senators, they figured they had a good chance with millions of dollars from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, more millions from lobbyists and the swamp in general, and they could drown any primary challenger in ads and innuendo.

They know they can’t do that with a candidate backed by Bannon and Trump. Imagine the horror of a sitting senator running for reelection when the president, extremely popular with the senator’s own party, comes to town to campaign against them in the primary.

At that point Corker or Flake would have to admit that they hadn’t done much in Washington, but they did want to get reelected because they really liked the perks, and the bean soup in the Senate dining room was every bit as good as it was cracked up to be.

*****

I don’t understand the uproar over the four American soldiers who were killed in Niger. It is always sad when young men and women in the military die, but they live in a dangerous world. The US special forces were not in Niger because it is a peaceful country with no history of rebellion. The US sends troops to trouble spots.

I certainly wasn’t surprised to learn that we had troops in Africa. We’ve had troops in Africa for years. Some are in more dangerous areas than others.

But even training in the military is dangerous, and it is not unusual for people in the military to die in training accidents.

If members of Congress were shocked to discover that we had troops in Niger, they need to start paying more attention to all that information they get.

*****

The liberals are so incredibly hypocritical, sometimes I wonder if they ever stop to think about what they are advocating

The Washington Post is all up in arms because a girl won a high school boys’ golf tournament and she didn’t get a trophy or recognition because she was ruled ineligible.

It was, as noted, a boys’ tournament. This was not a case of transgender or any of that, it just happens to be about a really good, young female golfer. The Washington Post believes there is nothing wrong with a girl winning a boys’ tournament, but if the reverse is allowed then that ends sports for young women in high school.

But there is no way a sensible person can advocate that girls should be able to compete on girls’ teams or boys’ teams, whichever they prefer, but boys can only play on boys’ teams. It is inherently unfair.

And to all you feminists out there, very few women can compete equally with men in sports. It’s actually for the similar reason that men don’t compete on the uneven parallel bars. Men and women are built differently, and men tend to be bigger, stronger and faster than women, which is one reason that women’s sports exist.

*****

It makes absolutely no sense that any federal judge can overrule the president of the United States, regardless of who the president is. The Supreme Court is supposed to be equal to the president, but there are over 860 federal judges who are not Supreme Court justices, and evidently any one of them can decide to overrule the president of the United States.

Trump has been repeatedly overruled.

Now, in North Carolina, federal judges are overruling the state legislature. According to the North Carolina Constitution, it is the legislature that draws election districts. If North Carolina had wanted federal judges to pick who draws the districts, it could have put that in the state constitution.

The judges refuse to tell the legislature what the rules are for drawing districts, and this is no accident. If the judges ruled for instance that no district can be over 52 percent minority, then the legislature could comply, but the way the federal judges rule, they say, no, this doesn’t comply, but they won’t say what does comply. This allows the judges to rule that any district they want doesn’t comply, and since it is abundantly clear that the federal judges want to draw the districts, it is exactly what they are doing.

I think the judges need to be challenged. I think the state should not comply but should appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court and see if the nine justices on the Supreme Court want the duty of drawing the legislative districts for every voting jurisdiction in the country.

This isn’t the first time Judge Catherine Eagles has ruled against the legislature in voting districts; she also ruled the districts for Greensboro were illegal in part because one district could not have the racial makeup it had if drawn by random. There is nothing in any redistricting law that states that the districts have to be drawn in such a way that they could be drawn by random. It is an absolutely silly idea.

It seems that in North Carolina, if anyone is not happy with the districts, then they can go to federal court and have them overruled. At that rate the only people who can draw districts are the federal judges themselves, or someone they handpick.

It is so undemocratic to have judges appointed for life drawing districts instead of legislators who are elected every two years. If the people of North Carolina don’t like the districts they can go to the polls and elect new legislators to draw new districts.

In fact, it is exactly what the people of North Carolina did; after over 100 years of having the Democrats draw the districts, the voters of North Carolina went to the polls and, in districts drawn by the Democrats to give the Democrats an advantage, elected a majority of Republicans to the state House and Senate.

If the Democrats don’t like the Republican-drawn districts, they can do the same and elect a majority of Democrats to the House and Senate and then they can draw the districts however they want.

That’s not likely to happen, but if it did you can bet big money that the Democratic federal judges wouldn’t find anything wrong with the districts drawn by the Democrats.

*****

The problem in the Trump White House was stunningly revealed in an article in The Washington Post that details Trump’s day from the moment he got up in the morning. It is written as if the reporter were there. No one is quoted. It doesn’t say, according to a reliable source that the president slept late and watched the news while he ate his Coco Puffs. It simply states what are supposed to be fact after fact about how Trump spent his day in the White House residence.

At the end, the reporters claim to have gotten the information from 20 unnamed sources in the White House. I doubt that. I imagine the reporters talked to 20 people in the White House and 18 or 19 of them told them to get lost. It sounds like it came from one or two sources, but talking to people doesn’t mean they said anything.

But whether it was one source or 20 sources, Trump needs to find out who it was and fire them immediately. Maybe he should fire all 20 just to be on the safe side.

Trump cannot continue to operate in a White House filled with people loyal to former President Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The biggest mistake Trump has made so far in his first year in office was in not cleaning out all the presidential appointees of the past president as other presidents have done when the White House has a president from a different political party than his predecessor.

This seems like the kind of exercise that Trump would enjoy, so it’s hard to understand why he left people loyal to Obama in place when he took office.

Keeping FBI Director Comey was a mistake, but so was allowing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to stay on in the Justice Department and Andrew McCabe, the deputy director at the FBI. McCabe has well known links to the Clintons, so why would Trump keep him on his team?

It’s never too late to clean house and Trump needs to bite the bullet, take the huge heaping of abuse from the press when he fires all of their best sources and then carry on. It is baffling that Trump shows such loyalty to people who have no loyalty to his presidency.

*****

If the Manafort indictments prove anything, it is that Mueller is not interested in Russian collusion, he is interested in bringing down Trump.

I keep reading about what an honest, trustworthy man he is, but the investigation of the Uranium One mess went nowhere under Mueller; why was that? Does Mueller believe that as long as the payment isn’t made directly to the secretary of state but to her spouse and her foundation that it’s OK?

The charges against Manafort are not exactly bogus, but they prove that if the Justice Department comes after someone they are going to find something. And the charges have nothing to do with Trump or the Trump campaign.

So Mueller’s charge is to investigate collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. As a result he finds a former campaign chair who worked for the Ukrainians years before the Trump campaign and didn’t comply with the Foreign Agent Registration Act, which nobody complies with unless they get a letter from the government telling them to comply, and then they do.

The Podesta Group didn’t comply with FARA either, but Mueller hasn’t arrested John Podesta or his brother Tony. Does FARA only apply to Republicans who worked for Trump?

Here’s a theory. The people in Washington talk about how honest and trustworthy Mueller is despite the fact that he filled his team of investigators with people connected to Hillary Clinton. Maybe he is honest and trustworthy for someone who operates in the swamp, but if he were in flyover country like most of the nation he would be considered a deceitful. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. And in Washington, maybe someone who greets you warmly and asks how your kids are doing before stabbing you in the back is considered an honorable guy.

 

Parisian Promenade at Bicentennial Garden