peripateticblogger.com

Thoughts on Events the Week of April 16

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on April 24, 2018

Russian Sanctions: Contrary to the announcement over the weekend by U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley that more, and more significant, sanctions against Russia would be announced on Monday by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, instead came the news that President Trump had killed the sanctions. The news shocked Trump’s aides, but not anyone paying attention to Trump’s relationship with Russia.

This change of mind, if there ever really was one on the part of Trump, left Haley’s cheese in the wind at the U.N. Larry Kudlow, the latest of Trump’s appointments whose primary qualification is having been on TV at Fox News, suggested Haley’s having “gotten ahead of the curve” with her announcement. Haley immediately slapped Kudlow around in public like an ugly stepchild. Kudlow, being a Fox News alum, where mistreatment of women is part of its misogynistic culture, reflexively took the Fox female putdown approach with a serious, grown up woman who wasn’t going to put up with that crap for a minute. Big mistake, Larry. It was delicious.

Don’t interpret my delight at Kudlow’s well-deserved putdown by Haley as an endorsement of her broader record. She is doing a credible job as U.N. Ambassador, which makes her stand out in the Trump administration, but overall, she is a hidebound, mean-spirited far right wingnut. As legislator and then governor of South Carolina, she contributed heavily to making it onto the Worst State list.

But the bottom line result of this fiasco is that many are still wondering why in the hell Trump treats Russian President with such deference. Pundits are reluctant to speculate too directly, but this week, I will post the explanations.  Spoiler Alert: Putin has Trump by the financial and criminal short and curlies.

James Comey’s Book: Comey’s kick and tell book came out Tuesday, but it was a partisan political football long before the official publication date, based on advance copies and Comey’s promotion tour.

I don’t read this books of  this genre – quick buck, tell all exploitation of current political events. I know exactly what they are going to say by who wrote it, and if there is anything new in one of them, it will be all over the news anyway. (I did start to read Al Franken’s memoir, AL FRANKEN: GIANT of the SENATE, because I knew it would be funny, which it is, but when he was sunk early by the sea change of the #MeToo Movement, I put it down, because what’s the point?

Comey’s book, and Comey himself, are being praised by many Democrats. Republicans, however, are universally smearing him to discredit Comey’s accounts of his conversations with Trump.

Much, but certainly not all, of what is in Comey’s  book holds together well, corresponding tightly and consistently with the contemporaneous notes he took about his meetings with Trump (which are now also released by the DOJ and leaked at the speed of light, as the FBI predicted would happen;  they were being given to politicians after all). I think Comey was being honest and accurate about Trump, and that most people sense it, which is why Republicans are trying to smear his reputation, since they can’t refute the compelling evidence.

But Comey destroyed his credibility with me long before Trump has tried by his handling of Hillary Clinton’s email “investigation.” Comey broke FBI and DOJ rules, protocols and guidelines, and I believe he did it deliberately, by his own choice, and/or under pressure from the FBI culture that surrounded him.

It was Comey, not the Russians, who cost Clinton the election. Americans don’t care a fig what Russia thinks or wants when we are voting. But we have (or had) a high regard for the word of the FBI, and Comey’s denouncements of Hillary, even as he was ostensibly absolving her, and releasing of a damning, and forged, it turned out, letter damaging to Clinton just before the election doomed her. Loretta Lynch should have fired Comey on the spot.

Some will say Lynch’s firing Comey would have made things worse. That Trump would have appointed someone worse than Comey and been able to do even more damage than he has done. I think not. If Comey had been fired and the reasons explained publicly, Clinton would have won the election, and we would have been spared all of this chaos. And even if Trump still had won, at least the DOJ would have done the right and honorable thing by maintaining its standards, protocols and integrity. As it is, we lost both ways.

Sean Hannity: What can I say? The man is a smarmy, lying, ultra-partisan pig part, whose journalism evokes Soviet era propaganda, and whose  behavior personifies conflict of interest. But let’s not dwell on his good qualities too much.

Hannity has defended Trump’s fixer-lawyer Michael Cohen viciously and incessantly on his TV show, about his (Cohen’s, not Hannity’s) arranging hush money payoffs to two women about sexual fun and games they had with Trump.

Cohen’s client list is very small – only three clients over the last year – and his practice seems to be very specialized, i.e., negotiating payoffs to clients’ sexual partners for their silence. To date, Cohen is known to have arranged such payoffs to strange for two of his three clients – Trump and Republican National Committee fundraiser Elliott Broidy. Here’s the good part.  Hannity, during all his public rants and smears and defense of Trump and Cohen, neglected to mention that he is Cohen’s third client!

I had hoped, in vain as it turns out, that when Rupert Murdock’s sons began taking over more of their dad’s business responsibilities, they would move Fox toward more traditional journalistic standards, or at least exhibit some shame. But not so far, and they are standing strong by Hannity.

It will be interesting to see how Fox will respond when we learn what Hannity’s business with Cohen was, and it will be learned. The current newspaper war will insure we find out. Journalists are on the trail as not seen since Nixon. Look at all the Pulitzers just handed out for their superb coverage of this bizarre administration. Bravo to the Fourth Estate.

Revisiting MLK’s 100th Anniversary: When Martin Luther King was murdered on April 4, 1968, I was 26 at the time, and it was the last straw for me, or so I thought. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. The obscene Vietnam War was raging, and the one person I thought would end it was killed, squelching that dream. Then King was killed, bringing the depth of the country’s racial bigotry into unmistakably sharp relief.

It couldn’t get any worse, I thought, but within just a few months, Robert Kennedy was assassinated, which lead to the anti-war riots at the 1968 at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago (viciously, quasi-militarily suppressed by Chicago Mayor Richard Daily, as if we were living in East Berlin, not a major American Midwestern city).

The public thuggery at the convention, the growing revulsion at the war and the refusal of Hubert Humphrey to denounce it – which everyone knew he opposed – out of loyalty to Johnson, doomed his candidacy.

This gave us more years of war under Nixon, though he ran on a platform of ending the war (more than 58,000 American dead all told). These deaths don’t include the four unarmed students killed in the Kent State Massacre in May, 1970 by the Ohio National Guard for protesting Nixon’s widening the Vietnam War by bombing Cambodia.

Finally, Nixon’s treasonous violation of his sworn Constitutional oath, his resignation in August, 1974 and his, to me, unconscionable pardon by his successor Gerald Ford immediately, in September, capped of an era of true American carnage.

So, all this began with JFK’s assassination (well, our Vietnam War experience began earlier, under President Eisenhower in the 50s, but that’s another story of leadership malfeasance), two months after my 21st birthday and ended on the month of my 30th with Ford’s pardon of Nixon. Pretty formative years for me.

This period explains, I think, why I hate war, despise bigotry, distrust government, am revolted by corruption, try to respect Nature and don’t believe in good as ludicrously conceived and hypocritically worshiped by man.

Status of the States: It’s like NCAA Basketball tournament around here. States are vying desperately for the worst state cup, as if it’s a win or go home event. Don’t worry this week’s losers. You’ll have another shot weekly.

Scott Pruitt keeps Oklahoma in the competition weekly with his smarmy ways. Note: The New York Times published a lengthy piece on Pruitt’s shenanigans in Oklahoma before he came to Washington and after he got there, which exposes Pruitt’s corruption there on a scale worthy of earning him a berth on the Trump ship of fools. I don’t see how Pruitt can last much longer, but hey, I’ve been wrong before.

Texas finally popped the zit that is former U.S. House Representative Blake Farenthold, who resigned effective immediately just before release of a report by the House Ethics Committee that would accuse him of committing acts of sexual harassment and more with his office staff, and then settled with an  accuser with public (read our tax money) funds.

Oklahoma scored another goal in its battle for worst state when another inconceivably unqualified U.S. House Representative Jim Bridenstein (R-OK) was confirmed on a 50-49 party line vote to be administrator of the National Aviation and Space Administration (NASA). Bridenstein is the first elected official to run NASA. Usually NASA is run by a, you know, scientist. Bridenstein is about as far away from science as you can get. He is a climate change denier with absolutely no scientific credentials. Oh, and he hates gays.

One Democratic Senator opposed Bridenstein’s nomination because he said NASA could not be successful working with Congress with a partisan politician at its head, and Bridenstein is about as partisan as you can get. Reading between the lines, I think the Senator thinks the new NASA administrator is a flaming asshole, but I’m speculating, based only on his wingnut record in the House.

To be fair, this appointment reflects worse on the Senate than the candidate. How in the living Hell could it consent to such a patently unqualified candidate? Talk about abrogation of responsibility.

Which brings Arizona’s champion into the competition – the aptly named Senator Flake. Jeff Flake denounced Trump and his administration so vociferously that he alienated Trump’s base to the point Flake would have lost his primary and decided not to run again. That freed him up to speak his mind even more forcefully. I had high hopes for his last political acts. Instead, Flake has caved on vote after vote after vote to advance the Trump agenda, including his vote to approve Bridenstein. I just don’t get it, but it is disgusting and disappointing from a man who spoke so tough and caved so fast.

Kris Kobach, former Kansas Secretary of State, debunked voter fraud activist and head of Trump’s disgraced and dismantled voter fraud investigation task force, was held in Contempt of Court for failing to obey a judicial order on a voter registration case in Kansas. What a sweet guy.

Alabama’s Beauregard Jefferson Sessions is still Attorney General, which is credential enough for his state’s qualification to his week’s competition.

South Carolina’s claim on the cup is due to the prison riot at the Lee Correctional Facility, in which seven inmates were killed in what was apparently a turf war. Lee is a maximum-security facility, and all those there are bad guys, including, apparently, the guards. This facility, like all such in South Carolina, is understaffed, underfunded, and unprofessionally managed.

It’s tempting to give all the worst states the cup in a tie, but I can’t do that with South Carolina, because Nikki Haley did her job correctly at the U.N., and it was fun to watch her spin Larry Kudlow around like a cat on a string (boy, that simile dates me).

 

 

Thoughts on Events the Week of April 9

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on April 19, 2018

Speaker of the House is leaving the building: Paul Ryan, leader of the Republican-controlled U. S. House of Representatives, announced that he will not seek re-election in the 2018 mid-terms, guaranteeing that there will be a new Speaker next year, whichever party controls the House.

It is unusual for someone to give up that much power and authority without a fight. I suspect Ryan became sick of fighting with his own tempestuous caucus, and I think he calculates that Democrats might very well win back the House in the next election and he wouldn’t have any power or authority anyway. He may also calculate that he would lose his own House seat against Democratic challenger Randy Bryce.

Ryan, 48, has been a rising superstar in Republican politics. He is what passes in Republican circles for a “policy wonk,” because he can put a patina of rationale over the most mean-spirited, preposterous or patently obvious rip-offs of the poor and elderly, with a straight face.

Ryan can take credit for guiding the obscene $1.5 Trillion tax cut for the already too richest of our fellow countrymen through the House. But, when people begin to experience the consequences of that tax cut, he may not be able to show his face in public again… perhaps another reason he decided not to run.

Taxes are the primary source of revenue by our government is funded. Taxes are also essential in implementing and influencing public policy. But they also reflect where our hearts, our morals and our values lie.

Justice, individual rights and compassion are human concepts. They don’t exist in Nature. They don’t exist in Paul Ryan either. He is the author and champion of vicious attacks on the poor, elderly and minorities among us.

It’s said that Ryan didn’t want the job of Speaker of the House, and had to be coaxed into taking it. This could be true. Ryan was instrumental in driving his predecessor – John Boehner – to resign in frustration and disgust at his own party. Ryan knew what a miserable, difficult, unrewarding job it could be to lead the deeply fractured Republican House caucus.

Ryan only agreed to take the job when both Republican factions – the right and the wing nut right – promised to stop fighting and follow his lead. Here’s the delicious part: the Republican’s brilliant policy wonk is so stupid he actually believed them. The warring factions were at each other’s throats again, and Ryan’s, before he could swing his new gavel.

Somewhere in Ohio, Boehner is smoking a cigarette, sipping bourbon and chuckling. Except for the cigarette and Ohio parts, so am I. Ryan is a truly bad guy, and I am glad to see his career come to such an ignominious end.

Syria: President Assad gassed his own people, again, and President Trump fired a bunch of missiles into Syria, again. The whole episode was a Kabuki dance, except, of course, for those Syrian citizens killed by their own president in the gas attacks. Trump’s missiles accomplished nothing.

Our “position” regarding Syria remains the same as it has for years. We don’t know what is going on there. We don’t know what we are doing there. We don’t know what we want to accomplish there. We don’t know our friends from our enemies there. We don’t have a clue, and yet we dance on.

Revisiting Good Friday: We celebrated this “holiday” last week, and our schools, public buildings and many businesses were closed, at least in Arizona. I am adamantly opposed to a public celebration on this holiday, in the interest of separating church and state.

I don’t mind celebrating Easter (well, not me personally, but Christians), because it always falls on Sunday and doesn’t cause any harm then anyway. For others, it’s just another Sunday.

And, I don’t mind celebrating Christmas, because it, and all the other holidays celebrated around that time, are all descendants of the Winter Solstice, something genuinely worth celebrating. No harm, no foul.

But Good Friday is an expressly Christian event, with a little Judaism thrown in, I suppose, forced into our holiday calendar exclusively for Christians, and that is not as the Constitution intends. So, take your palm fronds and your Hosannas and celebrate with them at home, with my blessing. But leave the schools open. Closing the schools on Good Friday is a poor way to teach students the Constitution.

Status of the States: Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is a stench that keeps on stinking. Among his most egregious abuses of the public financial trust is having installed a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility – called a SCIF for short in governmental jargon, and a Cone of Silence in episodes of the sitcom “Get Smart,” which anticipated this clown – in his own office, at a cost of around $43,000 of your and my money.

In practice, SCIFs are used by our military, national security and intelligence personnel to communicate sensitive, confidential or secret information securely. Although I can’t imagine why it would be needed, there is already a SCIF in the EPA building at Pruitt’s disposal, but he just had to have his own.

To add insult to injury with this abuse of the public trust, it turns out that Pruitt’s SCIF doesn’t even meet the SCIF standards, just like in “Get Smart,” so the $43,000 was a complete waste of our money.

To be fair to Pruitt, if I were constantly colluding with big business to roll back regulations that protect our environment but which business finds inconvenient, I probably wouldn’t want anyone to hear my conversations either. What a worst state cup-winning putz! He’s all yours, Oklahoma.

 

 

Thoughts on Events the Weeks of March 26 and April 2

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on April 14, 2018

I was so busy last week that I didn’t have time to produce thoughts on weekly events timely. But the topics this week are the same as last week (and so on and so on), with some new dollops of craziness poured on top. All of Trump’s weeks boil down to Russia, tariffs, immigration, corruption and scandal. So, this weekly blog is an aggregation of my thoughts on the basis of topic, not chronology.

Russia: President Trump called Russian President Putin to congratulate him on rigging his election, then asked Putin to come to his house for a play date, and maybe have a sleepover. Trump’s aides were stunned.

How must it feel to be an advisor to a fool who not only doesn’t listen to your advice, but tends to react to it in the opposite direction, and that this – being ignored or outright rejected – is the best you can expect from your employer? More typical is insult and termination. Also possible: subpoenas and prison.

Subsequently, after much refusal and stalling, and with tremendous pressure from the EU, Trump took his lips off Putin’s butt long enough to put some sanctions on Russia, though he told his aides not to make a federal case out of it (read don’t talk about it). Russia reciprocated.

Trump followed with personal sanctions on some of Putin’s cronies, a more meaningful sanction, atypical from him, which may or may not reflect the influence of a new hire. Trump’s default impulses toward Russia are fear and deference, but he has a new National Security Adviser-designate – John Bolton – who is barking mad, but who hates Russia. Awkward.

Tariffs: Lacking the most basic knowledge of international trade economics or policy, and misunderstanding the concept of trade deficits, Trump announced tariffs on more goods from China.

You’ll remember that Trump’s first announced tariff was on steel and aluminum, worldwide. Trump’s expressed target was China, but the tariffs were insignificant to China, from which we only import about 4% of our steel. The tariffs are very significant to Canada and Mexico, however, from where we get most of our steel imports. So, Trump exempted Canada and Mexico from the tariff, along with a lot of allies, with the result Trump’s tough tariff amounts to no tariff at all.

But this new one with China is serious, and it has been immediately reciprocated by China with tariffs on comparable amounts of our exports to China. A ratcheting up of tariffs has begun, which could lead to serious  economic trouble, but probably won’t, because Trump is bluffing, or so ill informed that when someone pours enough buckets of cold educational water on him, he will back down. What a putz!

Unlike Trump, China has targeted its tariff threats brilliantly, beginning with some targeted with surgical precision on the home states of Republican Congressional leaders McConnell and Ryan. In their subsequent escalation, China has threatened tariffs on many agricultural products – pork, soy beans, and the like – the very ones produced in Midwestern red states, by redneck Trump-voting farmers. Awkward.

While Trump was announcing tariffs, his Treasury Secretary was downplaying the possibility, and his shiny new TV-minted Director of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, was saying they won’t happen. Each time Trump or Kudlow speak in opposite directions on the subject, the stock market gets whiplash.

Immigration: Trump went particularly dark and mean on immigrants, reacting, apparently, to the agitation expressed by his base and Fox News because the wall isn’t in the annual budget.

Trump declared an end to any hope for DACA Dreamers. He halted the DACA program himself about a year ago, gave the Congress six months to address it, and said if they didn’t, he would. Well, he has addressed it alright, with a complete betrayal.

The Dreamers are the clearly innocent bystanders in the immigration debate, and a large majority of voters want a solution found for them. Unfortunately, this majority doesn’t include any of Trump’s rabidly xenophobic base or Fox News.

A group of Central American refugees from violence in their own countries have apparently banded together on the road for mutual protection, to march to Mexico and seek asylum there or the U.S.

Hysterically xenophobic Fox News has inflated the group into a national security threat, saying this “caravan” is planning to march to the Mexico-U.S. border wall and do something terrible there, though it is hard to imagine what that might be. It would be hard for a “caravan” to sneak across the border. Someone would surely notice.

Trump, watching this truly manufactured story on Fox, and seeing how his ignorant base has been stirred up by it, jumped in on the threat mongering and is sending national guard troops to the border.

You rarely see such ludicrous, irrational demagogic overreaction in such vivid relief. The Terri Schiavo case comes to mind, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terri_Schiavo_case).

Among other irrational ironies involved, Trump sought and got $80 billion more dollars in the last budget to build up the military, and ever since has been frivolously pissing it away, ordering a preposterous parade and sending troops to stand on the border across from poor Central American refugees on the other side and do what, exactly? What a putz!

Corruption: On occasion, we find one weak willed or greedy individual committing corrupt acts. But in organizations, the tone and example is set not by the outlying behavior of an individual, but at the top, which determines the behavior of the deputies below.

This informs why so many of Trump’s deputies are being caught with their hands in the corruption cookie jar. They see their boss scooping up graft and emoluments, so they think it’s OK for them to do so too. This also informs why the Obama administration was so corruption free.

Trump is a total outlier on the corruption spectrum, but corruption in the U.S., and our attitudes toward it, have changed over time. In the 50s, President Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff Sherman Adams accepted a Vicuña coat from someone interested in doing business with the government and the government came to a standstill. Adams, a heretofore reputable public figure, was forced to resign immediately. (In his memoir, Nixon said he was the one who had to fire Adams, but that’s not true; it was Meade Alcorn, National Republican Chairman who fired Adams.)

Scandal: I don’t really consider it a scandal that President Trump had a roll in the hay with a porn star. But one could argue that it is a scandal that Stormy Daniels’ attorney is smarter than Trump’s entire legal team and is running rings around them.

In the meantime, Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who paid Daniels $130,000 for no particular reason, with funds from no particular source, promises to keep this tryst on the front burner right up to the election, or Melania’s divorce filing, whichever comes first.

When this is over, Trump is going to wish he had just masturbated instead. As Woody Allen said, at least you’re having sex with someone you love.

Status of the States: Since I’m covering two weeks of cumulative thoughts, I will award two cups one to Arizona and one to Oklahoma – though unlike last week, both states deserve indictment.

Arizona, my own personal state at present, embarrassed itself when Joe Arpaio, convicted miscreant pardoned by Trump, who is running for U.S. Senate in the Republican primaries, told a conservative group that the reason he wants to get to the Senate is so he can prove that President Obama’s birth certificate is a fake and have him arrested.

Oklahoma’s shame, of course, is Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who is doing his best to despoil the environment while leading the Trump cabinet is corruption accusations, which is really saying something.

 

 

 

Thoughts on Events the Week of March 19

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on March 30, 2018

John Bolton, Truly Nuts: On one level, it’s kind of funny, really. When President Trump named his first Cabinet, many, including me, were concerned about having so many retired generals (Flynn, Kelly and Mattis, to start) in the pack.  Others were more optimistic, thinking flag officers might be able to bring understanding of the horrors of war to a president so removed from reality.

So far, it hasn’t worked out very well either way. Flynn didn’t last a month, so we’ll leave him to the tender mercies of John Mueller. He was replaced by another general, genuine war hero and soldier/scholar H. R. McMaster. Far too intelligent and mature for the Trump Administration, McMaster is out, leaving only Kelly and Mattis, and Kelly is hanging by a thread, which either Trump or he may cut any day now.

Ordinarily, I might feel sanguine about such developments, but Trump has replaced McMaster with John Bolton, who is barking mad. Bolton is a war monger. He advocates a preemptive strike on North Korea, which would in the first hour cause 100,000 deaths, about a quarter of them American troops stationed in South Korea. This doesn’t seem to bother Bolton.

Bolton also advocates breaking the nuclear agreement with Iran, which is working, and then bombing Iran. He was an aggressive promoter of the Iraq War to President Bush, the worst foreign policy catastrophe in our history.

This is the last man in the world who should be allowed in the White House. He might convince Trump that a nuclear exchange is winnable. We haven’t heard that kind of crazy talk since Air Force General Curtis Le May was George Wallace’s running mate in the 60s. (Even the Wallace campaign concluded Le May was a liability (read crazy.))

Privacy: I’m feeling pretty smug right now. I predicted this would happen. My strongly held opinions about privacy have been out of fashion for a while – I maintain that privacy should be cherished, and everyone, including celebrities and politicians, should have at least some measure of it – but younger generations have been OK with giving their privacy away.

I also maintain that so much information previously considered private is already out there, so that horse is out of the barn. We can no longer keep our information private, so we must control how it is used. The Facebook – Cambridge Analytica crime, for that’s what it is, or ought to be, proves my point.

It horrifies and mortifies me to think that information about me may have helped President Trump get elected in any way. I’ve canceled my Facebook page.

Stormy Daniels Speaks: OK, I admit it. I watched the interview of Stormy Daniels on “60 Minutes.” The term “affair,” seems somewhat exaggerated. The way Daniels described it seems more like dinner and a one night stand, with a little non-contact connection, petering out, so to speak, thereafter. Common as dirt. Hell, I’ve had lots of them.

I disagree with the pundits and lawyers who say the public has a right to know about all this. It’s consensual sex, and rather dated sex at that. None of our business.

Now, the payoff money is a whole other story. That turns a roll in the hay into a complicated, suspicious business transaction. We should know more about that.

A Bipartisan excuse for a Spending Bill: Congress passed and Trump signed a $1.3 Trillion omnibus spending bill to scrape by on until the end of the fiscal year. It is an obscenely odious bill in every way; too much money spent on too many of the wrong things. Couple this with the $1.5 Trillion tax cut and we’ve blown the deficit up like a hot air balloon. (We used to joke that a million here, a million there can add up to some money. Now, we’re joking that way about trillions.)

Mel Brooks famously said that some things are so awful the only thing you can do is laugh at them. I can’t laugh at the disgraceful way we are pissing away our own and our children’s future. I hope that when our teenagers have thrown out all the NRA-sponsored rascals, they will replace them with more fiscally responsible grownups.

Speaking of those Teenagers: whatever our personal opinion of the Second Amendment, and our expectations or cynicism of what comes next, you have to be impressed with those kids who organized, lead and performed so maturely and eloquently during the “March for our Lives” protest. It brought tears to my eyes to see their enthusiasm, their idealism, their determination…and their numbers!

Could it be that the end of the NRA’s reign of gun violence will be at the hands of high school students who are young enough to be traumatized by the mass murder of their friends and classmates; old enough to understand the trend in school student shooting; smart enough to see more such carnage in their future; mad enough to take action and able to speak up for themselves? Oh, and old enough to vote in 2018 and/or 2012.

Status of the States: Two of our worst states – Kansas and Arizona – beg mentioning this week, but not indictment. One mention evokes the past; the other the future.

Linda Brown, the symbol of “Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas,” the landmark Supreme Court decision of 1954 that outlawed segregated public schools, died this week. She was 75. So, the symbol is gone, but segregation still lives on in some spaces.

Arizona made the news because one of Uber’s self-driven test automobiles struck and killed a pedestrian near Tucson. The finding seems to be that the woman stepped into traffic quickly, at night and not in a crossing zone. Likely she would have been struck even if there had been a driver at the wheel, in those circumstances.

On average, 16 pedestrians are killed by cars each day in the U.S. Pedestrian deaths account for 15% of total motor vehicle related deaths. Self-driven automobiles are expected to improve automobile safety and reduce casualties and deaths. But oddly, pedestrian fatalities are increasing – up 11% last year – in the short term. Texting, by drivers and walkers, seems to be the culprit.

The evolving technology is clearly the future, and it will have very positive effects on our safety, the economy and the environment. But it will never be perfect, and it is useless to expect it to be. With human beings involved (such as morons who walk out into dark streets at night without a signal light or other crossing protection) guarantees that.

There will be more, though fewer, deaths and injuries, ultimately. I’m sorry Uber didn’t keep on truckin’, but they’ll resume soon. Technology will go where it can go.

 

 

Thoughts on Events the Week of March 12

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on March 21, 2018

Trump Tweets Tillerson: I have this comedic vision Rex Tillerson going home every night and beating his wife for talking him into taking the job of Secretary of State under President Donald Trump. Last night, I hope he went home and gave her a big hug, now that it’s over.

His wife was right, of course. When a president asks you to serve at the highest level, it is almost a patriotic duty to do so, even if you already hold an extremely important, and lucrative, position. That’s what qualifies you as Cabinet level talent. But Tillerson knew about Trump. We all did. Tillerson should have known better than to get within a mile of this president. Was he fooled by living in the far right wing echo chamber that is Texas?

The mystery is less why Tillerson joined than why he stayed so long. He had been the CEO of one of the largest companies in the world. He had more influence on national and international affairs as CEO of Exxon Mobile than at Trump’s State Department. Let’s face it, Tillerson was unsuited for this job, but a man of his stature I would expect not put up with Trump for one minute.

It’s ironic that Trump, who hosted a “reality” TV show in which he bluntly told underlings, “You’re fired,” doesn’t in real life have the cajones to dismiss people to their face, if at all.

Tillerson learned about his firing third person, from a Trump tweet to his base. James Comey learned about his on TV. Trump does his firing indirectly, preferably with his target out of town; ideally out of the country. This is who Trump truly is – a bully on TV, but in fact a cringing coward.

House Intelligence Committee Fin: This committee ended its investigation into whether Russia interfered in our national election just like it began: as farce. It is just as well. Nobody believed anything serious or credible would come out of this committee anyway. The news was taken with a yawn.

Stephen Hawking: Passed away.  He lived a remarkable life, both physically and mentally. At the age of 76, close to normal life expectancy, but diagnosed with ALS at 21, he lived 52 years longer than predicted by his doctors. It is a gift to us all that he lived long enough to give us his brilliant thinking, and his inspiration.

Mentally, he was a mega-thinker, about black holes, the beginning of the universe, and the “theory of everything.” He was also a brilliant writer, though with great physical difficulty. A Brief History of Time is among my favorite books.

Conor Lamb: (D-PA) won the special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th House of Representatives District. This is remarkable, because the 18th is a blood red Republican district, gerrymandered to make it impossible (until now) for a Republican to lose it. President Trump won this district by 20 points in 2016.

The analyzing and spinning has been intense as to why this happened and if it is significant harbinger of future success or an unimportant one off; whether Lamb was a Trump-like candidate at the right place at the right time, or whether his opponent was an incompetent boob who ran a disastrous campaign.

Given the result and the place, the unmistakable fact is that a Democrat won an election that no Democrat was ever supposed to win, in Trump-owned territory. Republicans are in serious mid-term electoral doo doo.

BTW, regarding Lamb in the 18th, look quickly or you’ll miss it. The 18th is so gerrymandered that it will be demolished before the next election,  and Lamb will have to run again in November, though in a more honest, and therefore probably more favorable, new district.

Russian Sanctions: President Trump finally, under serious political pressure, slapped some sanctions on Russia. These were sissy sanctions, symbolic, but not genuinely punitive. Trump isn’t going to punish Putin. One might wonder why he even bothered. I suspect it had to do with pressure from McConnell and Ryan after the Pennsylvania 18th election results.

Status of the States: Kansas gets the cup this week, because Mike Pompeo, a product of Kansas, will likely become Secretary of State. Pompeo is an enigma. He is a very intelligent, well-educated man, yet he espouses primitive, atavistic views. In this regard, he is like Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. Perhaps they both figured out that if you are willing to say really far right wingnut things in public, you can get elected in Kansas.

 

 

Andrew McCabe

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on March 18, 2018

Assuming, as I do, that the majority (but not all) of President Trump’s criminal activity occurred before he became president, what he did Friday night was the lowest, slimiest thing that his administration has done to date, and that is really saying something.  

At 10 pm, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe two days before his declared retirement date, and his birthday, damaging his reputation and denying him his pension.

The firing was a late night, under the cover of darkness injustice, but it had been plotted for weeks for maximum intimidation of the FBI and our justice system, maximum humiliation of McCabe personally and maximum smearing of his reputation as a witness in possible criminal or political proceedings against Trump himself.

Disgusted as I am by this event, it has not lowered my opinion of Attorney General Sessions. This is because my opinion of Sessions can’t get any lower. He is an ignorant, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic bigot, and the least qualified member of President Trump’s administration, which is remarkable since Trump’s cabinet includes Ben Carson, Rick Perry and Betsy De Voss. Besides, Sessions was just doing the bidding of President Trump. Sessions is a serf.

Trump has been maligning, slandering, libeling, insulting and trying to intimidate McCabe for months. This is Trump’s style. He sits in the highest office and rains personal insult down publicly on people below him who cannot defend them themselves, which exposes Trump for what he is, and disgraces the office he holds.

Trump despises our system of justice and is doing his best to destroy it. Trump longs to be an authoritarian leader like Putin of Russia, Erdogan of Turkey and Duterte of the Philippines, and the Justice Department is the main obstacle that stands in his way. It’s certainly not the Republican legislature.

Trump also knows that one day he will have to stand before Justice, and he wants to damage it as much as he can before that happens, no matter that he threatens justice for all of us in the process.

Trump cannot be allowed to get away with this. It must be made clear that this event was nothing but a plotted political character assassination.

I don’t need to know what McCabe is accused of doing to know that it was incidental to firing, nothing but vengeful and mendacious, and certainly not sufficient to justify his treatment, let alone the loss of his pension. If the Legislature has a pinch of honor or a single vertebrae of spine, they will see that McCabe gets his pension, if not justice.

I despise the Trump Administration, individually and severally.

 

 

 

Staffing

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on March 14, 2018

Perhaps the most important decisions a CEO makes involve hiring personnel. Staffing decisions should never be rushed and always carefully considered. A leader, however competent, it still just one person. But if he (or she) selects competent deputies and support, his effectiveness is expanded exponentially. On the other hand, a poor decision can be destructive, set things back, and take a lot of lost time to correct.

I’ve known creative directors – men of prodigious creative talent – the product of whose creative group was outmatched by directors with less talent personally, but who surrounded themselves with and developed a team whose total output far surpassed that of the brilliant individual’s.

It is provable based on turnover statistics alone that President Trump is a disastrously poor personnel decision maker. His decisions are impulsive, rushed and almost universally regrettable. His White House is constantly being set back by bad personnel decisions, firings and start overs.

Even when Trump finds some good people, as the blind hog occasionally finds an acorn, he doesn’t develop them. In fact, they are diminished by their association with him. Think Rex Tillerson. But that’s another, though related flaw.

Trump is so bad at personnel decisions that an astounding number of his choices are outright criminals, or in serious legal jeopardy. Recently, one was escorted out of the White House by the Secret Service without his suit jacket.

There is a clear lesson and cautionary tale for CEOs and Personnel Departments.

Thoughts on Events the Week of March 5

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on March 13, 2018

Talks with North Korea: South Korea is trying to arrange a playdate between President Trump and North Korea leader Kim. Generally, I’m with Stephen Hopkins on this, who said, “Nothing is so scary it can’t be talked about.” But this is really serious stuff, and people smarter and with a lot more experience in these matters than I, say this is not the way to go about it.

Besides, with deference to Mr. Hopkins, it’s not just what is being talked about, but also who is doing the talking. Trump is the last person I would send on such a mission. Dennis Rodman is too tough an act for Trump to follow. I can see Trump preparing for this meeting:

Trump: “Where is North Korea, again?”

Aid: “It’s the northern of the two countries on the Korean Peninsula, Mr. President.”

Trump: “What’s a peninsula?”

Aid: “It’s not important, Mr. President. We’ll be meeting at a neutral site, anyway.”

Trump: “Do they have geisha girls there?”

Aid: “No, Mr. President. That’s Japan.”

Trump: “Can we meet in Japan?”

Apparently, the way these things go is, deputies and experts meet first, and if things progress, it works up ultimately to a meeting between the top dogs. No negotiations with North Korea have ever gotten that far, because the way things go with them is, they make promises, get promises in exchange, then renege.

Leading off with a meeting with Trump is far too great a prize to give away to Kim on a first date (though the idea evokes pleasant memories of a first date I had once who asked, “Would you like desert before dinner?” But I digress.)

No, Trump’s meeting with Kim as a first step would be as stupid as, say, moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem with nothing in return from Israel. Oh, wait. Trump has done exactly that.

We can’t let Trump near North Korea! He’s dumb enough to believe that he can talk North Korea into giving up its nuclear arsenal. Please, don’t tell him where the Korean Peninsula is.

Seriously, this meeting is South Korean President Moon’s wish as much as it is Kim’s. Let South Korea do the spade work, say a mountain or two of it, and then get back to us with something more substantive than that Kim said the word “denuclearization.” That’s middle school gossip, not negotiation.

Trump’s Stormy Forecast: I think we may be underestimating this Stormy Daniels. She seems to have a good head on her shoulders for business (in addition to other impressive body parts), which informs her outing the Donald.

Stormy has Trump in a compromising position, so to speak, that Vladimir Putin must envy. She is, to quote a close friend about Melanie Griffith’s character in Something Wild, “Every man’s dream; every man’s nightmare.”

I hope to watch one of her movies. In fact, I already have. You may have, too. She appeared in “Knocked Up,” a stoner movie with Seth Rogan, which I  loved, and, according to the website “Ranker,” whatever that is, she appeared in “The 40 year old Virgin,” the only Steve Carrel movie I did not (though I did not see her name(s) in the credits).

Of course, Stormy’s forté is Porn, and she is a genuine pornographic super star. She has won every award and recognition possible in that industry. She acts and directs.

Stormy stands to make a whole lot of money off the Trump zipper saga. You can be damn sure her movie rentals and sales are skyrocketing. (I wonder how many evangelicals are watching them.) I expect she has an offer of much, much more than $130,000 for her story. What would some people pay for a photo of Trump’s fat, naked butt humping a porn queen?

I hope the dozen or more women who claimed to have experienced not consensual sex, but sexual abuse or assault, by Trump, without result, are enjoying this. Payback is a bitch, Donald.

Basketball: College basketball holds no interest for me, and less so the NBA. Oddly, however, I consider the NCAA Tournament the best event in sports, and I watch as many games as I can.

I’d like to be able to say I’m interested in how Oklahoma’s basketball team fares, but I’m not. Football is my drug of choice. (I do enjoy watching OU’s women’s softball team, though.)

I do know one thing about OU this year. It’s been in all the papers. After getting off to a good start – they were 14-2 and ranked #4 – they collapsed. OU ended the season 18-13, 8-10 in conference play. They were 1-11 for February!

I was, therefore, stunned to see them seeded #10 in the Midwest Region. OU has a good coach. I don’t know what happened this year, but apparently it wasn’t pretty. I don’t expect to see them in the tournament for more than one game.

Status of the States: A very good friend thinks I should have given the cup to Arizona last week. Actually, I did, but he says it should have been for a different reason, and he has a point.

So, I’ll give it to Arizona again this week for his reason, which is: The Republican controlled legislature is trying to screw with our bi-partisan, independent legislative districting commission.

Our anti-gerrymandering law was enacted in 2000 by popular vote. It established a commission comprising two Democrats, two Republicans and an Independent as chairman to draw the district boundaries, using professional help.

As soon as the work of the commission was announced, Republican Governor Jan Brewer saw that it was fair, and so she immediately tried to sabotage it. The commission has been a target of Republicans ever since.

Gerrymandering is corrosive to democracy, and its siren call is irresistible to politicians of every stripe. It is a chronic worst state condition.

This cancer will never be cured until there is an independent governmental agency of demographic and geographic experts charged with establish boundaries for every state.

Thoughts on Events the Week of February 26

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on March 5, 2018

The Trans Pacific Partnership: Significantly underreported, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (dumb bastard doesn’t even know how to spell Stephen correctly) indicated that the United States might be interested in joining the TTP after all, if we can get a better deal.

The Japanese gave a very polite response to this news, which translates in Japanese diplomacy roughly to “Go fuck yourself.” With the U.S. sitting outside, the TPP partners have already reached agreement. It is a fait accompli.

It will be interesting to see if they will even let us in (I’m guessing yes), and if they will make some insignificant change that will allow Trump to claim that better deal (I’m guessing no).

It will be interesting also to see how Trump will explain this to his base, especially if the TPP won’t change any elements of the deal and Trump and Mnuchin have to shuffle into the TTP hats in hand and eyes cast down. Trump’s pulling out of this deal was almost as stupid as Hillary’s turning against it during the campaign. Don’t any of these politicians have a shred of principle?

Trump Trade Trouble: Immediately after scaring Republicans by seeming to side with Democrats over sensible gun control measures and then doing a back flip through his asshole to backtrack after hearing from the NRA, President Trump announced a 25% tariff on imported steel and a 10% one on imported aluminum.

This announcement startled almost everyone in both parties. A few knee jerk liberal Democratic legislators from upper Midwestern steel producing states think this is a good idea, or at least one many voters think it is. They’re wrong. (Remember, a knee jerk liberal is a liberal who never read an economics text.)

Trump says he will execute this order next week (giving him time to recover from his last backflip and limber up for his next one, I suppose). The order will be based on an old law from the 60s, last used by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, which permits tariffs to protect national security. Trump’s impulse won’t help national security; it will make it worse.

The reason this law isn’t used any more is that these tariffs have been proven not to work, and are self-defeating. They endanger more jobs than they protect domestically, and they invite retaliation that increase our consumer prices, can escalate to trade wars and cause serious economic instabilities. In addition, tariffs aren’t used because, despite what Trump says and his voters think, global trade is a good thing, and no sane person wants to mess with it.

Like other low skilled jobs, those in our steel industry aren’t coming back. They are lost to technology, not overseas competitors, like China, who has been smart about building its steel capacity.

Trump says his tariffs are aimed at China, but it’s going to hurt everybody else more (he’s like the Dick Cheney of trade, shooting his friends), including our allies, and our own consumers and our businesses who use steel and that other stuff, which is so difficult to spell and pronounce that American English and British English differ on it. (As George Bernard Shaw said, “America and England are separated by a common language.”)

My guess is that Trump will walk back this announcement, but he will put a small tariff on escargot imports from China so he can declare promise kept to his base.

Trump v. Sessions: Trump said Sessions was “disgraceful” for doing his job correctly by handing an internal investigation over to the Justice Department’s Inspector General, as he should have. Sessions pushed back this time. But the irony is that Sessions is disgraceful. He’s a bigot, a xenophobe, a homophobe, and stupid. He’s only done two things right in his entire career, and doing the right thing pisses Trump off no end, even if it’s only occasionally.

Sudden Thought: The reputation of everyone who joins the Trump administration is sullied. When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas, as the saying goes. But in Trump’s administration, many already had fleas when they got there.

Football: Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett criticized his quarterback’s play extremely harshly, in public. Jason Garrett said everything about Dak Prescott’s game is all wrong.

Criticizing one’s quarterback in public is something a good coach never would do, proving again, as if more proof were needed, that Garrett is not a good coach. The Cowboys will never win it all until Garrett is gone.

Status of the States: Arizona, my own personal state, gets the cup this week, because the state legislature is taking some of the meager resources given to Arizona State University and creating schools within schools to teach revisionary classes, such as Aristotle from a “market based” perspective.

This is happening because the legislature feels that ASU, and higher education generally, is too liberal, and not good for society. To be fair, most Republicans in Arizona think so too. Arizona’s legislature is as fond of education as Huck Finn’s Pap.

 

Thoughts on Events the Week of February 19

Posted in Uncategorized by EloiSVM42 on February 27, 2018

Guns in Schools: I vowed not to discuss the gun control issue until something positive happens, but I can’t let this one pass. Besides, something positive may be happening. True, there has been not a centimeter of meaningful legislative movement, but a whole lot of articulate young people, at or nearing voting age, are seriously pissed about being shot at, and are challenging politicians and the NRA. This is a new and interesting development.

President Trump has glommed onto an NRA endorsed solution – arming teachers to shoot bad guys. Of course the NRA likes this idea. It means more gun sales, the only goal of the NRA, which is owned by the gun manufacturers. It is, however, an atrociously bad idea. Here’s a mathematical formula to explain why:

Guns in schools = gun shootings in schools

Every weekday, about 51 million school children K thru 12, go to 13,600 schools. If nobody brings a gun, there are no gun shots, let alone deaths. If somebody brings a gun, people get shot. No guns, no gun shots. Guns, gun shots. It’s that simple.

It is inevitable that if teachers have guns, students will find them eventually, and sooner than you think. Potential shooters won’t even have to sneak them into school. The guns are already there waiting for them.

If a shooter gets a gun into a school, or acquires one from a teacher’s desk drawer, there will be gun fire. If there are multiple armed teachers, there will also be crossfire, which is likely only to make matters worse. One can envision a teacher crouched behind the bodies of dead students shooting across a classroom at who knows who?

Especially in large schools, having a trained policeman on duty is not an abhorrent idea (though we saw how that worked out during the Florida high school killing spree). But patrolmen cost money, and I would hate to see it come out of the education budget. Here in Arizona, legislators are so parsimonious with education funding that we already 48th lowest of the 50 states in spending per student.

No, more guns is not the answer; fewer guns is the answer, starting with all assault rifles and military grade weapons of any kind. The assault weapons ban (AWB) enacted in 1994, with a number of loopholes, did not produce a statistically significant reduction in mass murders, it’s true. But data has shown large increases in the rate of mass shootings that began when the ban was lifted in 2004, thank you very much for not renewing it, President Bush. They have to go.

My lowest acceptable gun control measure would be a truly robust, universal background check system, which would prohibit unworthy people from being able to purchase any kind of gun legally, and prosecute anyone who sells them one, or gives them one knowing their status.

Those unworthy would include, but not be limited to: every convicted felon; anyone who has been institutionalized for issues of mental health; anyone found guilty of abuse; anyone brandishing a firearm in a public space; anyone making threats of physical violence on social media; anyone with a restraining order against them; every foreign visitor or non-citizen. By the time we get guns away from people who shouldn’t own them, there will be a lot fewer shootings.

CPAC: The annual convention of the truly crazies (no garden variety conservatives are allowed entry any more) was held this week. I only watch a little of it each year to get a reality check and a good laugh.

At least two high level representatives of the NRA were there the first day, ostensibly to give red meat speeches to the rabidly salivating attendees about the Second Amendment, but really to remind politicians who owns their base.

Oh, and Trump gave a speech there also. He began reading lines written by someone else, but spit the bit and began his typical rant. He shouted “Crooked Hillary,” and the audience shouted “Lock her up.” This is a year and a quarter after the election. I told you they are crazy.

Trump can only see backward; he can’t look forward. Like actual conservatives, he is afraid of the future. He has reason to be: Robert Mueller.

Sudden Thought: The Trump Administration wants to dismantle our institutions. I want them back. Does that make me a backward-longing conservative now?

Status of the States: Texas gets the cup this week, based on the stated positions on gun control of its two U.S. Senators, since the Parkland, FL high school shooting. Ted Cruz continues to stand firm against any measures. John Cornyn, Senate Majority Whip, has started saying we need to act, but his record thwarting gun control legislation of any kind, even as he talks the talk now, is unparalleled.