A little bit of this, a little bit of that this Wednesday

Happy hump day. Let’s cruise into the downside half of the work week. With multiple themes percolating in my mind, here are few little bits of this and that to bite into.

Former host of “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart has been fiercely active in helping gain funding to pay for the medical costs of the 9/11 first responders in NYC. He gave an “out of the pool” criticism to a Congressional Committee in person as the funding has run out. He said in essence the first responders did their jobs, now you do yours. Forceful is an understatement. Let’s hope it sinks in. Congress and this president need to be shamed like that when they fail to do the obvious. In essence, he said I don’t give a crap about your politics, do the right thing. Amen brother.

The greatest talent of the current US president is marketing schtick. He can make a pair of twos look like a full house better than anyone. Like this analogy, most of what he does is untrue or blown way out of proportion. He knows fear sells, so he sells it daily, if not hourly. One of his greatest triumphs is to convince his followers that everyone is against him and that only he speaks the truth. He has his followers parroting his remarks saying “you just don’t like him” or have “Trump derangement syndrome.” In other words, it is your fault he lies far more than he does not.

The best line I read recently in a letter to the editor was an attempt to combat this. The letter writer said it is not the media and not the Democrats who are causing all of this chaos. He noted that the US president does not need any help in causing chaos and defaming his own character. He does a very good job on his own. I have said it differently – the greatest enemy of Donald J. Trump is the person who looks back from the mirror when he shaves. One of the reason why the volume of criticism is so high toward him is to combat the significant number of mistruths and the fact he has so many followers who see his lies on their phones.

Kudos should again go out to Republican Congressman Justin Amash from Michigan and Senator Richard Burr from North Carolina. Amash is an attorney and has read the Mueller report. He is a very lone and lonely voice in saying in writing that there exists grounds for impeachment of the president. It should be noted over 1,000 former federal prosecutors agree with him. Yesterday, he resigned from the Freedom Caucus and the vindictive president said he would “squash” Amash. To me, I see Nikita Khrushev pounding on the table at the UN with his shoe saying “we will bury you.” Fear sells.

Burr is also a lonely man, but he at least got a little air cover from Mitch McConnell. Burr subpoenaed the Junior Trump in to testify to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Burr got backlash, but Junior was a “no-show” twice, so Burr asked a judge to get Junior’s fanny in to talk. The issue is Junior may have lied to the Committee about his awareness of the Moscow Trump tower that attorney Michael Cohen briefed him on. Junior said he was only a little aware of the Moscow development issues, but Cohen said he briefed him 10 or 12 times. Like father, like son.

Finally, I have been conversing with our astute British blogger Roger. We are of a like mind (note he is astute even when I don’t agree with him) that the Brits are looking to a very Trump-like prime minister in Boris Johnson. That is not meant to be a compliment. The only poetic justice is if the he wins and the Brits do a hard-Brexit, Johnson will be front and center in the mess he helped create by being untruthful. I understand the rationale, but am not a fan of Brexit – it will dampen the British economy and global clout and that saddens me.  But, if the UK follows through, please, please work out a deal. A hard Brexit, so says business leaders, would be as unwise a decision as the country leaders could make (or fail to make in this case). It should speak volumes that Trump, Johnson and Nigel Farage want a hard Brexit.

That is all for now. Have a great rest of the week.

 

Stating obvious truths

I feel like I am walking around in a constant state of disbelief. How can people rationalize certain behaviors as acceptable when they are obviously abhorrent, petty, childish, unethical, illicit, etc.? So, let me state some obvious truths.

It is not OK to shrug off as “well-intentioned” the fact staff members tried to protect the President’s fragile ego and hide the name of an air craft carrer honoring three American heroes named John McCain. This is petty and childish.

It is not OK that a Republican operative known for his gerrymandering skills left a smoking gun reference to adding the citizenship question on the 2020 census to enable more gerrymandering to help the GOP. Folks, this is cheating. Both sides have done it, but the GOP through ALEC is cheating in an organized manner.

In the UK, Boris Johnson may be on trial for actively lying about the financial impact of Brexit. He also is a candidate to be the next Prime Minister. In Texas, they would define someone who was long on talk and short on substance as “All hat and no cattle.” That would define Boris’ modus operandi quite well.

Now that Robert Mueller reiterated what is in his report, he directly and subtlely contradicted the President and his Attorney General. It could simply be said that “there is something there there.” The President’s staff and sycophants are doing there best to say “don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain,” but do pay attention to him. And, ask your Senators some why quesfions.

Between going against his staff to belittle Japan’s legitimate fears over North Korea to making yet another surprise announcement to impose tariffs on Mexico if they do not do even more to halt migrants entering the US, here are two more painful examples that the President is a loose cannon. The military has a term for short-sighted and poorly planned (and communicated) decision-making that puts people in harm’s way – they calk it a clusterf**k. That aptly defines the President’s modus operandi.

People can rationalize away, but the above is pretty obvious to me. And, these examples are not anomalies, The horribly conceived, unplanned and poorly conceived travel ban that was pulled in two days is similar to the Mexico tariff announcement. It reveals the President still has not learned from his mistakes.

A few odds and ends

Absent a large theme, let me toss out a few odds and ends for your digestion. In no particular order:

– When the pro-Brexit planners were organizing the vote, they tolerated Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson’s efforts, but did not involve them in the planning process. To see those two once again involved is not encouragjng to any future organized departure.

– There is a reason a certain US President does not want people looking down the Deutsche Bank rabbit hole. Malfeasance abounds with all parties, including the bank itself, which has been required to pay fines for money laundering. When you add to the mix a real estate developer who cannot get a US bank to lend him money and no better to place to launder money than in real estate, and it is not hard to fathom unscrupulous behavior.

– The US leaving three agreements will make the world less safe and prosperous, including the US. The Trans-Pacific Partnership was designed for the eleven participating countries to compete against China; with the US withdrawing, the other ten countries moved ahead, but it lost some clout without the US. Leaving the Iran deal (which they were in compliance with) was unwise. Instead of some stability, we are at risk, as much from Trump as from Iran. And, leaving the Paris Accord on Climate Change made us an outlier at a crucial time for our planet.

– Anti-immigration rhetoric abounds, yet facts are usually casualties in the debate. Rather than have a healthy, data-centric analysis, fear and blame are the selling points. It was succesful in the US, in the UK and in Hungary. People have a right to feel the way they do, but if they heard thoughtful discourse, they may be less zealous with their hatred.

– The ecologist and biologist Sandra Steingraber once wrote environmental impact tests are too geared toward a fifty year-old man, when children are more susceptible being closer to the ground, outdoors more, putting their hands in their mouths and mouth breathing more and without fully developed lungs and brains. I read yesterday, the Trump EPA is defunding tests to perform chemical impact analysis on children. Why? Steingraber, a bladder cancer survivor, notes we do not consider the environment enough as a cause for poor health.

That is enough for now. Let me know your thoughts.

 

Wednesday wanders and wonders

With the backdrop of Del Shannon’s “The Wanderer,” let me wander a little as I wonder. In no particular order:

HBO is running a movie called “Brexit,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the lead of the “Vote Leave” campaign. I would ask my British friends to comment, but it is interesting as much as it is scary. There are several takeaways – the slow realization by the “Vote Remain” campaign that the leave movement was playing off fears and insecurities that had been festering over time. The others are how targeted the analytics and persuasion technologies are and how poorly thought of the faces of the leave campaign – Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson – are by their own side. One thing is for certain, the leave campaign glossed over how long and complex leaving the EU would be, per the words of the man who led the campaign in later testimony.

On a related, but scarier front, it was reported today that Russia and China are filling the global void being left open by a retrenching US and a very distracted UK. This is not a surprise as it is part of a presumed strategy to disrupt the west. The elegance of Putin’s strategy is not just helping promote the election of a mercurial US President, the leave vote with Brexit or the disruption of Syrian refugees in Europe, it is the divisiveness in each of the affected countries that continue to this day. To Putin, social media is like shooting fish in a barrel, as that is what he was trained to do.

Tomorrow, the US Senate is having two base appeasing votes to reopen the government, neither one standing a chance of passing. The hope is they will get down to business afterwards and come up with an acceptable compromise. To be frank, I am long passed tired of legislators governing off the extremes. If the President continues to be influenced by entertainers and personalities rather than sober, sound data-driven advice, then good governance will prove difficult. It is equally imperative for the Democrats to govern less from the extreme. A closed government is hurting people. It matters not which party is to blame.

I want these three items in your mind as you think of this last thought. As the US and UK chase their tails at home, the leaders of these two countries are absent from a global economic forum in Davos. To me, that speaks volumes.