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Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts? I’d Worry More About the Saudis.

May 25, 2017

Try finding photos of any of the excessive personal gifts the Saudis gave to the Trump family on Donald Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia and you are likely to come up with virtually nothing. Google the necklace of precious stones and diamonds valued at $200 million, you’ll come up short. The same goes for the 25 kilo (55.1 lbs) pure gold Saudi diamond and jewel-studded sword he reportedly received, or the world’s biggest yacht which was personally gifted to him.  Just precisely how much these, and other, personal gifts the Trumps received will never probably never be known – nor are they likely to be donated – like those given to other presidents – to the National Archives.

Given Donald Trump’s plunging popularity at home in the polls, the continued Congressional investigation of his ties to the Russians that won’t go away with the shadow of impeachment proceedings hanging over him, and the fact that he needed some relief from the announcement of his budget to Congress which axes social programs, government regulation to a degree never seen in American history, the president needed something – anything – to counter the storm of protest he and his advisers very well-known was in the offing.

He needed a win, proof that he could follow through on his campaign pledges to strengthen the economy and – whatever this might mean – to “make America great again.” For that a little help – or a lot of help – from foreign friends was needed. Having so few that are in a position to help him out of his current dilemma (otherwise known as possible impeachment) he turned to one country where he could be confident that his visit would not provoke angry demonstrations, Saudi Arabia. If a person can get 100 lashes just for writing a mildly critical blog, imagine the fate of those who might dare to stand on the streets of Riyadh with placards critical of Trumpty-Dumpty? Saudi was the perfect place, in fact, the only place, where Donald Trump could count on a warm welcome.

But like most everything else the Saudi’s do, their welcome to Donald Trump was overdone, excessive in its lavishness to such a degree that it was, in a word, nauseating, a circus. I’ll deal with the military and political agreements signed elsewhere (in an extensive interview done with Ibrahim Kazerooni and myself on KGNU  May 23, 2017) but for now I want to focus in on the more personal exchanges that the Trump visit to Saudi Arabia entailed.

Left out of the mainstream media reports in the United States – or hardly mentioned – is the fact that during his visit to Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump, not only signed extensive agreements with the Saudis but that he and his family were showered with personal gifts. Whatever their ultimate value, the Saudis admitted that  these gifts are the most expensive in their country’s history.  The exact value of the personal gifts offered to the Trumps is hard to calculate, but several sources place the combined value somewhere between $1-1.4 billion. The mainstream media in the United States did report that Trump received a gold medal, placed around his neck as he knelt before the Saudi King, but that is chicken feed compared to the rest of the package.

What’s all this extravagance, lavishness about for the U.S. president?

Not complicated really – it’s a rather crude effort  – no, extraordinarily crude effort – to buy political support from the president, to cement his cooperation and leadership in leading an anti-Iranian coalition – the so-called “Arab NATO” in overthrowing the current Iranian government. There is nothing new about the Saudis buying influence, either domestically, regionally or internationally. They’ve been doing it since the end of World War II through the decades. The only difference this time, is in the size of the gifts granted, meant to tie the United States ever more closely to Saudi regional hegemonic goals after Barack Obama strayed (just the slightest bit) by signing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal). Iran’s increasing influence in the Middle East is at the expense of Saudi (and Israeli) regional hegemony.

What’s $ 1 billion worth of personal gifts if they can buy influence. Isn’t that  what American corporate and financial interests do – as well as pretty much all foreign governments, big and small – do both in Washington?

Ignored in the US, but reported widely in the Arab media, the personal gifts the Saudis showered upon the Trumps are the “largest gifts granted by Saudi  Arabia to a foreign  President.” The Saudi king had insisted that these gifts are for  Donald Trump personally, and not to be placed in museums America, but are to be his personal property. The gifts accorded Donald Trump and his family – for personal use, against U.S. law – include the following:

  • Rare and expensive precious stones and diamonds.
  • A rare pistol of pure gold with a picture of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz on the handle.
  • A sword of pure gold, weighing more than 25 kg (55.1 pounds) of gold studded with diamond and rare stones worth more than $ 200 million (so he can continue with his interest in sword dancing)
  • 25 pieces of jewelry made of  diamonds and gold for Trump and his family, valued at about $ 200 million.
  • More than 150 watches with gems for him and his family in different sizes; they will be shipped off the US presidential plane to Washington.
  • A miniature statue of the American Statue of Liberty made of gold, diamonds, rubies will be produced It will be transferred in a private cargo plane to the White House and US President Trump.
  • A yacht worth $ 800 million length of 125 meters, is the longest yacht in the world, especially for personal use. It featuring 80 rooms with 20 suites, a royal and most of its components of pure gold; it will be transferred back to the United States by the US Navy.

In addition, the Saudis have committed to carve a  statue of Trump to be displayed in Riyadh which will be placed on Riyadh’s largest street, itself to be named for Trump in appreciation for the United States  confronting Iran and its allies.

But did the gifts given include Saudi sword dancing lessons for the President and his Secretaries of State and Commerce, who were having troubles keeping is step?

 

 

 

The Graceless Trio: Donald Trump – King Salman – Benjamin Netanyahu Love Fest – The Political Economy of Trump’s Middle East Trip. KGNU’s “Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues” ; Tuesday, May 23, 2017; 6-7 pm Mountain Standard Time. On KGNU – 88.5 FM, 1390 AM; Live Streaming at www.kgnu.org.

May 22, 2017

Trump and the Saudi’s – Waltzing With Swords

The Graceless Trio: Donald Trump – King Salman – Benjamin Netanyahu Love Fest – The Political Economy of Trump’s Middle East Trip.

Hear Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince on KGNU’s “Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues” with Jim Nelson. Tuesday, May 23, 2017; 6-7 pm Mountain Standard Time. On KGNU – 88.5 FM, 1390 AM; Live Streaming at http://www.kgnu.org.

The Owls of Estes…

May 22, 2017

Estes Park’s Great Horned Owls: owlets on the left, Mama on the right

A couple of days ago I was complaining to a friend about how few owls I’d ever seen in Colorado – although I’ve been here now for 48 years – and have been told that owls abound. There was one – a small one – who held court for a few short days in a hole in a large maple tree across the street from our home. But that was ten years ago. College friends, Nancy and Bob Stocker, serious wild life photographers, have studied small burrowing owls just off of Pena Blvd on the way to Denver International Airport. I keep thinking of asking to go out with them on one of their sojourns, but then, as usual, forget to do so.

My owl drought ended yesterday, here in Estes Park. Ran into an owl bonanza after a visit and hike in Rocky Mountain National Park, a week prior to the opening of the tourist season. First a bit about the Park, then the owls. Read more…

Goat Hill and Our Lady of Visitation Parish: Part Four: Demonstrating on Archdiocese. Property..The March That Almost, But Didn’t, Happen

May 6, 2017

Sole Garcia addressing the April 30, 2017 rally in front of the Denver Archdiocese

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(The experience of excommunicated Cleveland priest, Father Robert Marrone, at St. Peter’s Church, parallels the forced closing of Our Lady of Visitation in Colorado.)

“We didn’t leave the church; We were shoved outside because we wanted to stay together.” As a March 5, 2012 article in the National Catholic Reporter noted: “This separation was not about any hot-button issue, as has been the case elsewhere. It wasn’t about ordination of women or married men or anger at what a new pastor was doing. It was about wanting to remain in the community.”

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Introduction

It – a demonstration on Denver Archdiocese property – had been planned, announced for some time, giving the Archbishop something to think about.

After what was mandated by the Denver Archdiocese to be the last mass of Our Lady of Visitation Parish  (OLV), in Southwest Adams County, Colorado, the parishioners would go to the spacious grounds of the Archdiocese to protest the decision and ask for a reversal – that their parish should remain open and continue as it had in the past. The parish council and the parishioners as a whole had already  convincingly countered all the arguments the Archdiocese had given for closing OLV. Their repeated requests for a meeting with the Archbishop, the Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila, had met with a five month wall of silence.

Armed with 1200 signatures of parishioners and Goat Hill supporters calling on the archbishop to reverse his decision, the entire congregation had mobilized to have ” a prayer-vigil-demonstration at the archbishop’s residential complex down at South Steele St. in southeast Denver. It was a well-organized, politically carefully targeted action.The press was notified, buses and vans loaded up after the “last mass” and a group of about fifty supporters was waiting at the Archdiocese’s entrance.

At the last minute things changed. Read more…

Goat Hill and Our Lady of Visitation Parish: Part Three: Jerry Roys’ Brief History of Goat Hill and Our Lady of Visitation

May 2, 2017

Jerry Roys (center with sun glasses), Goat Hill Historian, in the midst of a April 30, 2017 demonstration in front of the Archdiocese of Denver, protesting the closing of Our Lady of Visitation Parish

by Jerry Roys.

(Jerry Roys, a roofing contractor by trade, a local historian by passion and competence. Roys grew up in Goat Hill and attended Our Lady of Visitation where he was a choir boy. )

Former Colorado House Legislator and Senator, Polly Baca grew up in Greeley, Colorado Polly says living in a bigoted town was not easy, even when it came to attending church. Polly’s parents were parishioners at Saint Peter, the only Catholic Church in Greeley. One of her earliest memories is attending church with her parents. The church was segregated and says in those days everything was segregated; even the Catholic school allowed only Anglo children to attend.

“I grew up in Greeley, Colorado. My earliest memory was when I was three years old. We went to church, the only Catholic church in town. I saw these little girls in white dresses and knew they were going to march around the church, and I wanted to watch them from both sides. You know how little kids are, I insisted on sitting in the center and my parents went to the center pew. The usher told us we couldn’t sit there, because the church was segregated. Mexicans, Mexican Americans, Latinos, and Spanish Americans all had to sit in the side aisles. The center aisles were reserved for the Anglos in the community.”(Polly Baca recorded interview, August 5, 2013, August 13, 2013, and August 25, 2013). Read more…

Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East by Karl E. Meyer & Shareen Blair Brysac. (Norton: 2008. ISBN 978-0-393-06199-4) – An Extended Review

April 30, 2017

Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East by Karl E. Meyer & Shareen Blair Brysac. (Norton: 2008. ISBN 978-0-393-06199-4) – An Extended Review

1.

One comes across good histories of the Middle East infrequently. Books are rare that offer some perspective on the current mess in the region, that provide some insights into how the history of the past 150 years can be explained to develop a framework to understand the present realities. But every once in a while a gem is produced that hits the nail on the head. Needless to say, no 423 pages of text can cover more than an outline of the region’s history, yet, a well-structured book can help readers make some sense of it all.

Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair-Brysac have produced such a volume in their Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East which was published by Norton in 2008. Nearly a decade later, the book still resonates. Were I still teaching “History of the Modern Middle East Since 1800″ Meyer and Brysac would be one of the chosen texts, if not the main one. Besides the fact that it is gracefully written and well researched, in probing the lives of the so-called “kingmakers” it provides biographies of some of the people in the context of the times in which they lived and worked. The book focuses on mostly British colonial administrators with a few American C.I.A. operatives thrown in towards the end. They were all instrumental in shaping the region since the late 19th century. Read more…

Support Our Lady of Visitation in its Protest Against the Archdiocese’s Decision To Close It – Tomorrow – Sunday, April 30 at 12:45 1300 S Steele St, Denver, CO 80210

April 29, 2017

OLV parishioner at April 27 press conference outside the church hall. The Archdiocese prohibited the parishioners from holding it in the hall itself

Dear Friends…

Tomorrow, Sunday, April 30 at around 12:45, after what might be the last mass that the Archdiocese will permit at their church, the congregation of a small Catholic parish< Our Lady of Visitation, just north of Denver in an overwhelmingly working class Chicano neighborhood called Goat Hill is going to engage in what they call a “prayer-vigil-demonstration” at the residential complex of the Archbishop of Denver, Samuel J. Aquila at 1300 S. Steele Street.
The parish is the center of this community. The community itself is quite unique – as if northern New Mexico (Taos-Mora) and Southern Colorado was transplanted in this small but lively neighborhood (approximately from 64 to 72 avenues east and west of Federal Blvd in Adams County. It was built by the parishioners who are, to put it mildly, deeply upset that it is being closed down by the Archdiocese. It is unusual to see a Catholic congregation to oppose a local archbishop and even more so that deeply religious Catholics would protest at his residence. Deciding to do so was not easily arrived at.
Of course the religious element of what the OLV parishioners are doing is central, but beyond that I want to emphasize that this is more than a church – it is the heart of a community. I don’t need to emphasize that in the era of Trumpty-Dumpty how vital it is to maintain such institutions that by their very nature will be in the forefront of defending the economic, social and spiritual rights of this population.
The parishioners and Church Council of OLV have asked for public support. I hope that you will join me in a show of solidarity.
My support is guided by knowing how precious this church is to its membership and of course, by the famous quote by Bonhoffer, on display at the U.S. Holocaust Museum

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Hope to see you there.

For more information I include the following links:

https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/started-street-car-mission-church-near-denver-faces-rail-threat

https://robertjprince.net/2017/04/27/goat-hill-and-our-lady-of-visitation-parish-part-two-remarks-of-federico-pena-former-denver-mayor-at-a-press-conference-at-our-lady-of-visitation-parish-actually-outside-of-the-parish-protestin/

https://robertjprince.net/2017/03/29/goat-hill-and-our-lady-of-visitation-church/

Best,

Rob P.