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The Damage So Far (and the Tsunami of Tsuris to Come)

Everyone wants to talk about Donald Trump ... or NOT talk about Donald Trump.  When we were in Mexico, everyone wanted to talk to us Americans about Trump. He is an international laughingstock, but his actions are not funny in the least.

In our house, we sometimes have to declare a "Trump-free" zone, just to get some relief from the almost constant, self-inflicted barrage of NYT-LAT-WSJ-MSNBC-CNN-NPR-FOX-Huff Po-Daily Beast-Talking Points Memo-Real Clear Politics-Daily Kos-Sirius Left-Sirius POTUS-Politifact-and Drudge.

But sometimes one has to face reality. Here is a partial list of some things that have happened in the first 137 days of the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

Trump has:

• Withdrawn the USA from the Paris Climate Accords, joining Syria and Nicaraugua as the only three countries to oppose the world-wide pact
• Fired the head of the FBI who was investigating his campaign's ties to Russia, with no replacement in sight
• Leaked intelligence about the Manchester bomber, leading the UK to stop sharing intelligence with the US
• Tried to impose a ban on immigration from six Muslim-majority countries, only to be struck down by the court system multiple times
• Offended traditional American allies such as NATO, the UK, France, Germany, Mexico, Canada, and Australia
• Settled a fraud case for $25 million over "Trump University"
• Failed to staff nearly 2,000 vacant Executive branch positions, including the heads of FEMA and NOAA as hurricane season begins
• Permitted and/or encouraged his son-in-law Jared Kushner to attempt to set up a secret back channel with Russia, outside monitoring by US      security agencies.
• Did nothing for 18 days after he learned that his National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was a possible blackmail target by the Russians
• Had his daughter Ivanka meet with the Chinese president the same day that her company won trademarks from the Chinese government.
• Named a climate denialist to head the Environmental Protection Agency, an enemy of public education to head the Department of Education, and an enemy of working people as Secretary of Labor
• Unveiled a tax-reform plan on the 96th day of his presidency that was less detailed than the blueprint he had campaigned on

• Declared the mainstream media the "enemy of the American people."

• Hiked mortgage premiums on homebuyers borrowing money from government
• Removed all Spanish content from the White House website
• Broke from decades of US foreign policy by abandoning a two-state solution for the Israel/Palestine conflict
• Skipped the release of the annual Human Rights Report
• Gave his daughter Ivanka an office in the White House and a security clearance — while keeping her immune from conflict-of-interest laws.
• Sought lobbying waivers for seventeen of his staff members – after vowing many times to "drain the swamp"
• Threatened to sabotage America's insurance markets as a means of coercing Democrats into voting for his plan to finance a large tax cut for the rich by throwing millions off Medicaid.
• Appointed a budget director who argued that cutting funding to Meals on Wheels is "probably one of the most compassionate things we can do."
• Held a nuclear strategy session in the public dining room of his Florida resort.
• Played golf twenty-three times

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Here Comes Summer

I love summer, but it can be a complicated season. When you're young, summer is fairly simple. "School's out" and you have the chance to be a different, a freer person. My childhood summers were spent at summer camps, an experience that left a very strong impression on me, cf. my novel WHAT IT WAS LIKE.

Summer promises all kinds of magic: the beach ... cool cars ... summer romance ... barbecues ... star-gazing ... summer songs ... sleeping outside ... fireflies ... outdoor music ... lemonade stands ...water balloon fights ... picnics ... watermelon ... drive-ins ... amusement parks ... boats ... marshmallow roasts ... summer movies ... miniature golf ... roadtrips ... fireworks ... long afternoon naps ... and endless games of baseball.

And when summer was over, you had to return to your "real" self and fall back to Earth. The cycle repeated itself, year after year, until it was all a blur. And one day, your childhood was over. 

Summer casts a special spell, especially on writers:

"Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." ― Henry James

"In summer, the song sings itself." – William Carlos Williams

"And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer." ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

"Summer was on the way; Jem and I awaited it with impatience. Summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the tree house; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape; but most of all, summer was Dill." ―Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

"The summer night is like a perfection of thought." -Wallace Stevens

"I almost wish we were butterflies and liv'd but three summer days — three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain." ~John Keats

"To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie–
True Poems flee — "
– Emily Dickinson

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Queretaro, the Best-Kept Secret in Mexico

The TG and I just came back from a wonderful week at my sister-in-law's amazing house in the city of Queretaro, the best-kept secret in Mexico. She lives in the historic center of Queretaro – the Centro Historico -- which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996, and it's a charming trip into another century.

The Centro Historico is a unique combination of the geometric (from the Spanish conquerors) and the twisty (from the original Otami, Tarasco, and Chichimeca inhabitants.) You can spend hours wandering the streets and alleys of the district. There are churches and piazzas, interesting stores and vendors, street entertainers and musicians. The area is filled with civil and religious Baroque monuments from its golden age in the 17th and 18th centuries. The city has an active cultural life, and an Arts Council that never quits.

Located in central Mexico, about a two hours drive, northwest of Mexico City, Queretaro is favored by a mild, semi-arid climate. There is a rainy season in summer; we missed. What I particularly love about Queretaro is its light. Sunsets are simply magical, especially from my sister-in-law's fabulous 360-degree-view roof garden.

The city of Queretaro is full of interesting sites including Los Arcos, an enormous aqueduct consisting of seventy-four arches, stretching more than half a mile, built in the 1700s to bring water to the city (and now used for art exhibits) ... the Church of San Francisco, the city's largest house of worship ... the Plaza de Independencia, the largest of city's many grand square and public spaces. We always say that walking around the Centro Historico is like taking a little vacation in Europe. The people are lovely, and the atmosphere is relaxed and convivial.

Regularly called Mexico's safest city and the city with the best quality of life, Querataro is a boom town with the second highest per capita income in Mexico. Fortunately, the restrictions required to remain a UNESCO World Heritage Site restrict changes in the Centro Historico, so this lovely area is well protected from the "progress" growing around it.

When you go to a restaurant in Querataro, there is no English on the menu: this is where Mexicans go on vacation.

I love going there, too.

And now, back to work.