Archive for April, 2017

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Try This IQ Test

April 25, 2017

IQ

Most of us that have taken an IQ test have seen the question where we are asked to identify the one dissimilar object in a group of four objects. Considering the group of geometric shapes above, most people would select the circle as being dissimilar and they would be right, but this is a tricky question because three of the objects are all the same height and one is taller, so item three could also be correctly selected as dissimilar.

Now try this one,  It’s is a political IQ test and it’s even trickier.

Trump pigs

You may be having a hard time with this one since all four choices are misogynist pigs. You might say the farm animals are dissimilar since they are only doing what comes naturally for them, but you would be wrong in that line of reasoning as the other three choices seem to fall quite naturally into the same behavior.  Consider this: only one of the choices is not a Republican billionaire abusing their power and position.

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A New Civics Book is Needed

April 16, 2017

CIVICS

 

Try to imagine what it must be like to look at our democracy from the outside looking in.  What would citizens of other democracies think about our systemwide process?  Worse yet, what would the peoples of third world countries living under dictatorships or monarchies think?  If we made an objective analysis of the sequence of accepted practices from candidacy to office, promises to policy to law, would we be comfortable in rewriting our civics books to conform to a reality that we would be proud to teach our children?

If we printed the truth, here’s how the civics books should read.

In the United States candidates for President compete against one another in election party primaries.  The candidate who can get the most funding from corporate donations and (wink, wink) external support from organizations called Super-Pacs, who can spend unlimited amounts of their own money, makes implied promises to support their benefactor’s goals with favorable policy and by their combined and overwhelming  marketing efforts will, more often than not, win.

To further their mutual aims, a candidate is allowed to malign the competition with what are known as smears and dirty tricks.  It is not important that either are factual or true and it is best that they are most outrageous and even unbelievable.  To assure that they are memorable a candidate will invent a name for his or her opponent that marks them for the duration and will repeat the name calling at every opportunity.

Opponents are obliged to respond in kind and in righteous indignation call the offender to task, only fanning the flames of the controversy.  In a last ditch effort, with their dying breath, they exclaim the dark truth regarding the offending candidate, who after winning the primary, they will support in the national election as if their words were never uttered.  This is called party unity.

At some point there will be a debate.  The winner of the debate is the one who commits to nothing regarding policy but talks in broad terms about American ideals, patriotism and values, and more importantly has clever and witty retorts that play well in the news in the following days.

Once in office, the winning candidate must “pivot.”  To pivot is to change direction from stated goals to working policy which are always quite different.  The new President will praise his opponents and offer them positions in his administration. These much maligned losers will run to support their leader with new found praise extolling his or her “winning” virtues.  This is called building a consensus.

At the end of every chapter there is always a short quiz.  Here’s the one I think should be included.

1.) What is party unity and how does it advance democratic ideals on issues opposed by a majority of voters?

2.) If a pivot reflects what a candidate should have professed and truly believes, then why do they make promises they do not intend to keep?

3.) What is the value of a consensus if it sweeps the ugly truth “under the rug?”

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Moab, A City in Utah?

April 14, 2017

MOAB

Well, if you are like me then you probably thought that Moab was just a city in Utah, a desert vacation spot filled with buttes and arches, caves and petroglyphs, and you might be right save for one thing.  There’s a new MOAB on the scene and if anything about it is true, it is a cave buster for sure.

MOAB is an acronym that originally stood for “Massive Ordinance Air Blast,” which is an institutional name that has been usurped for a more folksy moniker, “Mother of All Bombs.”  And it is!  Weighing in at 21,000 lbs, it is over 10 times more powerful than the typical 2,000 lb bomb conventionally used, making it the biggest, baddest, non-nuclear bomb ever.  But alas, it had never found an appropriate target…  that is until yesterday, when it was dropped for the very first time on a network of tunnels and caves used by Isis on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border.  As Sean Spicer indicated it was used to destroy “a system of tunnels and caves that ISIS fighters used to move around freely, making it easier for them to target US military advisers and Afghan forces in the area.”

To all eyes this looks like the first promise that Donald Trump may be keeping when during the campaign he stated he would “bomb the shit out of Isis,” and for sure MOAB is just the bomb that can do that.  But the strangest thing has occurred.  Donald Trump, braggart extraordinaire, has seemed reticent to claim the credit for follow through on his promise.  So the media is asking, “was it the generals or Trump that ordered the strike?” And that brings us to a little discussion of strategy versus tactics.

By all account, the Pentagon claims that MOAB is a tactical weapon, not a strategic weapon and if you are like me, that kind of hair-splitting sets my head spinning.  So let’s take a minute to understand these terms in the most simplified way.

A strategy is a plan aimed at obtaining a specific goal or result. Tactics are the means by which the strategy is implemented.

The Pentagon’s claim seems to make the use of MOAB fall within their jurisdiction, as a tactical rather than a strategic decision, one they could have made without Trump’s approval.

As a strategy, we have to look at Trump’s “plan” through the looking glass of history to understand it’s potential.  Richard Nixon used his version of “bomb the shit out of them” to carpet bomb Vietnam.  Millions of tons were dropped on the villages and jungles of Vietnam killing Viet Cong, but in the mix many more civilians and livestock, with little consequence on supply routes and tunnel systems.  In a war waged against guerrilla forces that live among the population, civilians live in a “free-fire” zone of fair game license.  Isis is a similar enemy and to affect such a plan would result in massive civilian casualties.  No, “bombing the shit out of them” is never going to happen.  Stealth attacks, drone attacks, SEAL team raids, yes, but that type of “shotgun” strategy familiar on vintage T-shirts as “kill them all and let God sort it out”  will see little tactical support.

And another thing to consider is the cost to benefit ratio.  At the cost of $16,000,000.00 per bomb, exclusive of the flight, planning and support, the toll of 36 Isis killed is rather puny.  The cost per cadaver shakes out to be $444,444.444.  With attendant extras lets just call it an even half million per enemy killed.  We might be just as effective dropping 10 tons of porno magazines so they could beat themselves to death.

But in the broad scope of things, 16 million a pop is a pittance. It won’t fund a wall with Mexico. It can’t save healthcare.  You couldn’t even buy Mar-a-lago,  just another  weekend roundtrip flight from Washington on Air Force One, with the fighter jets and cargo transports filled with limos in tow.

So each passing day, as we focus our attentions on trumped up diversions, funding is cut on essential social programs and popular institutions, like CPB and PBS, The National Endowment for the Arts,  the Student loan program, Environmental protection, NASA, on and on, a litany of mistakes juxtaposed with policy failures set against the backdrop of weekend jaunts to Trump’s playground, a playground built on the swamp.

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Jesus?  I hardly knew the man.

April 13, 2017

Jesus 2

Have Trump and his disciples finally found religion?  Have they been studying the words of Saint Peter, who the day before the crucifixion, to avoid a similar personal outcome, denied knowing Jesus?  With certainty, even Peter knew that guilt by association was powerfully incriminating.  So it is that Trump and his surrogates cannot run away fast enough from the substance of their associations with players like Carter Page and Paul Manafort.

Apparently they have all conspired to agree that these characters from the real “House of Cards” had minimal contact with Trump and little to no effect on campaign strategy, management or policy, before or after the election, yet Paul Manafort was Trump’s campaign manager and is reputed to have been the driving force behind softening the GOP campaign plank towards Russia. Carter Page, for his contribution, was the first person named by Trump to his foreign advisory team.

And now, the de-facto SNL Potus, Steve Bannon, has fallen from grace and no longer carries the weight of being Trump’s chief strategist, but is just “one of the guys.”  Truth is that Trump can’t fire him without losing the support of the radical right, the wave of votes Bannon rode in on, so he’ll be kept around, in the room, just not seated “at the table.” Expect the distance will be ever increasing.  Trump knows a liability when he sees one.  I’ll give him that.  It’s just a solution like bankruptcy.  End the bleeding and create a rebirth for the company.  Make the investors take the hit.  That is the one true Trump strategy.  His business record bears that out.

But in all this drama, there may actually be some degree of truth, a very real alternative fact not being discussed.  Think about this.  Trump never expected to win.  He has admitted this in several interviews since the election.  So working with that premise, let’s take an alternate look at the actions of Manafort and Page.  If Trump had not planned on winning, then Manafort, Page and anybody else for that matter could have been dispatched to Russia or involved with Russian proxies on what they all believed was simply “business.”  What business you say?  Doesn’t matter. It’s simply the business of making money in a developing market.  Until we see Trump’s taxes we shall never know, but we also need to know if Trump and Tillerson and Manafort are the holders of the shares of Rosneft stock that were purchased prior to the election.

Manafort is first in line to take the hit, regardless, because he actively campaigned to affect GOP policy towards Russia, but even this may not have been breaking any laws.  It may just be that the whole Trump candidacy was designed to affect his business objectives in Russia. These are some pretty blurry lines, but I can see how they might claim that they were not acting as foreign agents.  If Manafort regarded himself as simply a businessman doing business, then there would be no need to register, but now that Trump has won, he fully realizes that he should have registered. That he never did may have something to do with the fact that he didn’t see this possibility coming and therefore not a conflict in the making.  Only recently in the last few days did he register as a foreign agent. CYA, Paul Manafort, CYA.

As to Page, well it appears that Trump did not need a real foreign affairs advisor, just the appearance of having one, a requirement of a bonafide candidacy.  After all if you never expected to win, what did it matter?  So it’s possible that there may be a large element of truth in all that Page has to say about his role orbiting Trump.  Meanwhile Trump will continue to say, “Jesus, I hardly knew the man.”

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The Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight

April 13, 2017

Appaloosa_Wallpaper_Smoking_Gun

Anymore it just seems like it’s harder and harder to keep up with all the chaos and turmoil stirred up every day by Trump and his gang that can’t shoot straight, each caught with a smoking gun. It’s not just that the many thread of intertwined stories are being untangled little by little but also that each day more new stories are added to the mix, and these, while not small events, are often avoidable mistakes, at the very least calling the competency of Trump as a manager into question over and over.

A couple more noteworthy shoes dropped yesterday, though they seemed lost in all the controversy swirling around Sean Spicer’s bonehead remark about Hitler’s non-use of gas weapons.

First it was revealed that both Democrats and Republicans on the Intelligence Committee have looked at the same “evidence” that Devon Nunes relied on for his remarks regarding inadvertent surveillance of Trump Tower and Trump’s accusation levied against Susan Rice of illegal unmasking. This was the very same evidence that was given by Whitehouse staff to Nunes and he in turn delivered to the President personally the next day, cloaked in all the pomp he could muster by a mini press conference with the Whitehouse as a backdrop, one designed to cover Trump’s tracks, cast by Trump like a warm blanket over the witless Nunes who took the bait and ultimately the blame.

Next, was this something of a shocker, or did we expect it all this time?  Perhaps it was a shock that it happened so soon, but it was revealed today that the FBI saw fit to get a FISA warrants to investigate Carter Page, a Trump Associate who is believed to be an agent working for the Russians knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on their behalf.

The FBI’s FISA Application cited meetings with named and unnamed Russian operatives going back to 2013, alleged meetings in Moscow and Page’s own public statements of record regarding Russian policy including a speech critical of the U.S. given in Moscow.  Page has time and again shown his colors, effusive in his praise for Vladimir Putin and harshly critical of U.S. sanctions for Russian military intervention in Ukraine but it seems that his intentions may have been strictly personal–making a lot of money.  Even the Russians thought so and commented on it in surveilled communications. Hmmmmm, sound like anybody we know?  By the way who did he represent and advise?  Hence the connection, and the fun is just beginning.

 

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Tongue Trippin’

April 11, 2017

sean tongue

Is there anyone in the Trump administration capable of thinking on their feet without tripping all over their own tongue?  As the latest statements made today by Sean Spicer attest to, the answer is still an unequivocal “NO.”  In today’s press briefing Sean claimed that Hitler did not use chemical gas weapons during World War II.  Reminded that he had overlooked the use of gas to kill millions of Jews in the holocaust, he tried to walk it back, saying that Hitler did not use gas to kill innocent civilians as Assad had and then realizing the gross negligence inherent in that refinement, had to walk it back a second time after the on-air briefing and say that he meant “dropped from the air.”

There’s an old saying among carpenters used to avoid mistakes.  It goes like this.  “Measure twice, cut once.”  Sean would do well to keep this in mind.  But following in the tracks of his fearless leader, Sean like every other Trump surrogate, talks first before getting his facts straight.  The cure for Trump was a teleprompter, but for Trump, with his limited reading skills, his speeches became concatenated fragments of three and four word phrases interspersed with moments of dead air, allowing him to process the next scripted phrase.  It killed Trump’s impact and left him saying pretty much nothing, since his emotional fabric had been laid bare. But as all conventional politicians concurred, it briefly put the reins on a runaway.

With Spicer that’s just not possible.  He can’t work his job from a teleprompter.  What he can do is try to answer questions intelligently without feeling the need to rebut every question with yet another combative question of his own or challenge the press with angry false remarks that obscure the issues.

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Collateral Damage

April 11, 2017

Blindfolded trump target

There seems to be an endlessly repeated refrain among Trump and his surrogates that began during his campaign and continues to this day:  He has a plan, but he’s not going to tell anyone.  Trump’s reasoning is that he doesn’t want to let his adversaries know what he is going to do, that they might devise a defense against his moves.  It could just be a poker bluff or he may really be holding all the cards, but either way, it’s a strategy designed to confuse and defeat his enemies. and the collateral damage is the American people, Congress and in turn any investigative bodies.  But consider this, it gives him the freedom to move in any direction without bearing the stigma of failure.

That’s right, if you don’t have a stated plan, then it can’t fail.  You can’t miss the target if you don’t have a target.  Take Syria for example, or healthcare, or the economy, or global climate change, or immigration, he has no plan.  Take anything he claims to embrace and the hard facts are that he has no plan at all.  Oh sure, he has the wall you say and Mexico will pay for it.  That’s a campaign slogan.  That’s not a plan.  When the cards are on the table and his bluff is called, his campaign slogans crumble under the weight of facts.  The wall is too costly. Mexico will not pay for it and neither will the American people pick up the exorbitant tax required to sustain an idea that has no positive net effect on its intended outcome. Healthcare? Well we all know what happened with that.  And how many more natural disasters, tornadoes, hurricanes, mudslides, floods and forrest fires will it take to convince him that the global climate has changed and we cannot stand idly by and simply say that we have no controls that we can exercise to create a positive effect other than to pick up the costs for the damage?  And why?  To protect a few coal jobs?  To support American petroleum companies by continuing an energy plan based on fossil fuels?  This is his plan?  To restore the do- nothing policies of the party of “no.” To poison our food supply by deregulating farmer’s use of insecticides?  To allow fracking which is proven to pollute drinking water?  This is a plan?  This is his target?  It goes on and on.  So he does one good thing and fires a few Tomahawks at Syria and whoop-de-do, we all cheer his bold move, but truth be known, he did it at Ivanka’s urging, because she empathizes with the death of the small children pictured in the news.  After all, she has small children of her own.  This is his conscience.  It’s external and lives outside his human form, as do his “plans.”

No, Trump is all about winning and that’s all there is for him.  He can’t lose if he never stakes his position with a plan. He’s untethered and blowing in the wind, a sail without a mast.  If we the American people are that mast, then he must tether himself to us by sharing a plan that works.  He must embrace the press as an ally, the congress as a partner, both parties and the entire political spectrum of the diverse population he claims to represent, and involve us in a cooperative way that begins with a stated plan.  It can’t remain a secret.

Or is that truly it?  Maybe not. There is another possibility, one supported with facts, and that is that Trump is really just plain clueless.  According to insiders and by Trump’s own admittance, he’s really from the same reading club as Sarah Palin and it seems obvious when questioned.  He exhibits the same depth of knowledge, but handles his response in a different way.  He says he has a secret plan.

Why?  Maybe because he seems to disdain reading and prefers to get oral reports.  After all in the days leading up to his presidency, he avoided his intelligence briefings, both written and oral.  Not on his agenda or was it just over his head?  Did he need someone else to explain it to him or did he just not care? His writing abilities seem to fit well with the Twitter limit of 140 characters. He watches Fox News about 4 hours each day. K I S S…  Keep it simple, stupid. This is where he gets his ideas from, but results, ah, there is where the line is drawn.  It wasn’t until H.R. McMaster took over the NSC and began cleaning it up that we started to see real results.  There’s an important lesson there. Governmental agencies work best when Trump stays the hell out of the way.

So give him his ballcap with the scrambled eggs, chicken feathers and lightning bolts and let him parade around our armada for photo-ops with all the pomp of a third world Generalissimo. Who cares.  Trump is a rubber stamp, a signature on other peoples ideas and policies.  He’ll say or do whatever he has to, to be perceived on the winning side. Eventually he may just come around and have to replace the many other bad choices he made in cabinet appointments.  He just has to figure out how to make it look like a win.  It’s our job to help him in that regard.  We have to get rid of the losers in congress and start electing winners who will get things done.  I don’t care on which side of the political spectrum you come from, we have to pull together, work together and channel this idiot to do the right thing for our sake.