Archive for March, 2018

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Shooting Themselves In The Foot.

March 30, 2018

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When Laura Ingraham set off on a tweet rampage to demean young David Hogg she unwittingly took on the wrong person.  She criticized David, who incidentally has a 4.2 grade average, for having failed to be admitted to four different colleges. David is one of the leading voices emerging from the Stoneman Douglas shootings, so how is her tweet relevant to the issues surrounding gun control?  Her inference is that he is not a good enough student to have a meaningful opinion.  It’s the lowest kind of smear, a cowardly personal attack on a young high school student, one that she obviously thought would be easy for her to pull off.  After all, she’s a powerful host on a Fox News show with a significant audience and influence and he’s just a young kid new to the public eye. She could not have been more wrong because she stepped into a pile of her own doo and slipped.  In an instant, Goliath had fallen to the young David.

How did this happen?  It’s significant to realize that she chose Twitter as the battlefield for her hate campaign, not her news program.  This was a calculated move.  I’m sure she thought this gave Fox News cover while allowing them to attack young David off-air through her, personally on Twitter. Ah, but if you think Fox was not behind it, then you are surely wrong.  How else did she learn that David had been rejected by four colleges if not through Fox. Don’t be fooled into believing that she took it upon herself to seek damaging information on young David.  No, this was done by Fox researchers and cleverly calculated to avoid negative public reaction by focusing Fox’s message to her devoted followers on Twitter. It reads like this, “David is too stupid to know what he is talking about.”

So, young David set about on a campaign of his own, shaming no less than eight sponsors to her show to drop their advertising. Ouch.  Backtracking under the cover of being in a generous mood during Holy Week, Ingraham apologized, but her efforts to repair the financial damage were in vain as David had the last word: “”She’s only apologizing after a third of her advertisers pulled out…I think it’s great that corporate America is standing with me and the rest of my friends because when you come against any one of us, whether it be me or anybody else, you’re coming against all of us. And I think it’s important that we stand together as both corporate and civic America to take action against these people and show them that they cannot push us around, especially when all we’re trying to do here is save lives.”

Ingraham apologized again to David after his rebuke.  In a second Tweet, she commended him for his 4.2 GPA and reminded him that her show was the first to feature him, making him a recognizable figure in the aftermath of the shootings at his school.

Hogg responded on CNN, “I think it’s really disgusting, the fact that she basically tried promoting her show after apologizing to me.”

Ingraham’s misplaced effort is but one of several examples of just how callous and insensitive GOP and NRA cheerleaders can be. Earlier in the week, Rick Santorum had this to say on CNN’s State of the Union: “How about kids instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations that when there is a violent shooter that you can actually respond to that.”

He went on to say that “if the rallies are about more than politics, then the country needs to have a broader discussion that doesn’t revolve around phony gun laws that don’t work” adding, “They took action to ask someone to pass a law. They didn’t take action to say, ‘How do I, as an individual, deal with this problem?’ ”

Just how did Santorum wander into this wasteland of ideas?  He followed his convictions rather than any wisdom.  There’s an old adage shared by carpenters.  It goes like this, “Measure twice.  Cut once.” Santorum and Ingraham need to heed this advice and think twice before uttering such ridiculous and hateful comments.  Unfortunately, we now live in the age of Trump and these types of expressions have been given permission to form our new normal. We don’t have to accept it.  Think twice. For now, they are aiming at you and only shooting themselves in the foot.  Tomorrow may be different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Managing Elections Through Chaos

March 27, 2018

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Elections are decisions.  Before a voter can make a good decision, the voter must be comfortable enough to regard the basis for the decision as being true.  If the truth is in doubt, the voter must weigh the various possibilities and try to sort the facts from the fictions. The more facts and fictions that exist, the more difficult the task.  At a certain point, the scales tip and chaos is achieved.  While some may understand the truth intuitively, chaos will invariably skim off many who hold uncertainties and the result will always be that some have elected to follow the course laid by falsehood.  Others will be reduced to inaction through a stalemate of opposing ideas and give up the cause.

Disinformation is a practice that has been and is being used today, by every intelligence agency in the world.  It is used to manage whole populations and affect national and international policy. In its mildest form, it is called propaganda, which does not necessarily contain falsehoods but can strictly by omission represent a form of heightened opinion supporting a policy position with a firm bias.

The purpose of disinformation is first to short circuit decisive action. This is typically done through fake news, saturating the media with many alternate versions masquerading as fact in order to create confusion and force a stalemate of democratic response. By spreading chaos, the truth becomes irrelevant because the numbers of those who can identify the truth are reduced. Chaos is effective.

Plausible deniability incubates in such an environment and allows the offenders, the creators of the disinformation to point to the chaos of their own creation and label it as simply conspiracy theories or ironically, fake news. It allows them to represent an unsupported position as a real possibility.

To be sure, it has created chaos.  Chaos is the very purpose of disinformation.  In this light, we must take Donald Trump at his word, “I like chaos” and recognize him for what he is, the chief agent of disinformation, the disseminator of fake news, not the victim of it.  He is not plausibly deniable. He revels in his fabrications, preying on the gullible, the naive and the innocent, the ones who think times have changed for the worse but do not understand why. Neither he nor anyone else can take us backwards to a future of greatness reveling in the chaos of disinformation.

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The Opioid​ Phoenix Riseth.

March 26, 2018

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It’s common knowledge that Kellyanne Conway is a successful pollster.  Her success in predicting Trump’s voter response during the campaign ensured her a place at the table in Trump’s Whitehouse. Largely used as a media surrogate, Kellyanne Conway was one of the loudest cheerleaders for the many of Trump’s questionable thoughts, actions and misdeeds, until she fell out of favor with the media and disappeared from the scene temporarily, only to emerge recently in a new form, as the Opioid Czar.

When I saw her the other day on the news, she seemed for the first time quite reasonable and on point. Focused and succinctly to the point, she made a compelling case for what needed to be done and offered several solutions that she would implement to combat the opioid crisis. No one has ever doubted her success, or her intelligence, or her loyalty to Trump, but the application of her talents to maintain a morally void and corrupt administration, through the use of spin and schoolyard tactics, has established a deplorable record for her since Trump took office.  Her repetitive deflections, predictable as they were, became old news and had the tired pall of that old schoolyard taunt, “I know you are but what am I?” C’mon Kellyanne, is that the best you can do?   The indefatigable energy and enthusiasm you brought to the daily combat seemed to indicate that you relished the process, so one has to question, just what is the source of this burning drive?  Can it be as simple as just misplaced values, or is there some other payday?

To look at the significance of her role, one must look at the Trump campaign holistically.  It was a many-pronged assault and unfortunately, the media has approached its analysis of the events as a modular problem to be deconstructed not a holistic one to be pieced together.  As Jared Kushner orchestrated communications between Cambridge Analytica, social media and his Russian connections, someone was needed to provide the necessary feedback to determine the effectiveness of his strategy–enter polling and Kellyanne Conway.

So, one has to ask, “Did Kellyanne Conway know about this intertwined relationship and therefore was she involved in Russian collusion or at the very least conspiracy to tamper with the election process?” Kellyanne had to have known about Cambridge, as the effectiveness of that campaign strategy could only be verified through her polling, which required targeting to determine.  Was her polling of Michigan and other swing states coordinated to complete the process?  To what extent was she involved?  It’s hard to believe that one so ardent was left in the dark and was acting altruistically, especially in the face of such blatant manifestations of malfeasance and suspicious activities.

Mueller should look at the focus of her polling and the timing to determine whether her role was as a willing participant in stealing an election.

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The Chameleon-in-Chief

March 23, 2018

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I’m more than a little tired of the media continually reporting that Trump is forever changing his mind.  This is blatantly a false and misleading opinion, not news.  It would be more correct to say that Trump changes what he says, not what he thinks.  Linking what Trump says to what Trump thinks is a colossal mistake.  Changing his monologue is just a reflection of one of Trump’s core strategies to keep the national audience off balance. It’s called diversion.  Just as a magician uses his glamorous assistant to divert attention from his actions, so too Trump uses his surrogates, attorneys, and appointees to this same end, for us to consider what he may or may not think, which is irrelevant at best since Trump is 100% predictable.

Rather than evaluating Trump’s ever-changing mind we should be looking at whether the pattern of his pronouncements reveals a change of heart, and clearly it does not.  Even in survival mode, when what Trumps says is a false reflection of what actions he intends to take, it would be foolish to think that Trump has had a change of heart.  He’ll say what is necessary to perpetuate his game, but how he really feels is the constant compass of his direction. He is the prisoner of his own inner demons.  Time and time again, Trump will follow his heart to its inescapable conclusion, terrible decisions and bad policy. He measures external reality against his inner illusions, sorting each instance as it relates to just two categories, “for me” and “against me.”

If only the media could see it in these simple terms, the quality of their reporting would benefit. Do they not understand what the 30% base of Trump’s die-hard supporters know, that Trump will never change, that Trump is unmovable? He is no more capable of change than a fossilized rock.  His 30% will be forever loyal because their loyalty is not based on trust, as it would be with any other candidate, but is based on observation of consistent behavior, where inconsistent pronouncements are of no consequence.

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Brothers Under The Skin

March 21, 2018

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Yesterday President Trump called Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his election victory.  In view of the many issues swirling around Russia’s malevolent practices in world affairs, election meddling, infrastructure hacking and the assassinations of political opponents, and considering Russia’s military activities in the Ukraine and Syria, taken together in the absence of substantive sanctions approved by Congress yet to be implemented by President Trump, it would seem obvious that a congratulatory call from the office of the so-called “Leader of the Free World” to one of its most aggressive transgressors would be inappropriate at best.  The fact that Trump would want this call to remain secret is not just bad optics but reveals malignant intent.

Yes, it has been reported that Trump is furious that the simple fact that he made the call has been leaked.  While not against the law to make such a call, his reaction and the reaction of others supporting him is to focus a light on the leakers and away from the action itself. Marco Rubio, in particular, revealed his true colors when he stated that he was more troubled by the leak than by the event and angrily added that “if you don’t like working for the President, resign your job.”  Perhaps Rubio does not understand that the leaker does not work for Trump personally, but is employed by the citizens of this country through its government, to whom they are responsible and have a higher loyalty.

To suggest that an employment issue takes precedence over a moral issue diminishes the importance of the electorate’s need to know the facts.  WHERE IS THIS NATION GOING AND WHY?  Does Trump’s admiration for Putin and other “strongmen” reveal itself as an imitation of their tactics of lies and secrecy or is it something much deeper, an inherent character flaw?   Lies and secrecy are always an obstruction.  Action or lack thereof is a form of collusion.

How can democracy work, if every action of its leaders must remain a secret?  Without leakers and whistleblowers, the innermost workings of corrupt individuals and organizations cannot be exposed. An uninformed electorate is an impotent electorate.  Offhand remarks like the one made by Rubio are most revealing.  Rather than a scripted response or a carefully managed statement, spontaneous remarks like his reveal their truth.  In this case, it reveals that Rubio joins Trump and Putin as “brothers under the skin.”

 

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Democracy Runs On Hope.

March 20, 2018

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Democracy could run so much more smoothly if only candidates would represent their ideas and their position accurately, and if elected, follow through to institute or support policies consistent with the statements they made to win office.  Ah, but we all know that is not the case.  Realists must recognize that policies change, positions change.  Candidates will say what is required to get elected, but all too often harbor intentions contrary to those positions, vote their true beliefs, or in weakness will seek the safety and support of the pack and vote in line with their party.

Wise voters must know that they cannot vote for candidates based on platform and expect to get results.  There are just too many factors. Consequently, wise voters must make their choice based on a candidate’s character, their core values and not their position. Policy will change but character will not. Core values will not. That is why political races have degenerated into mud-slinging character assassination. Most candidates accept that they must challenge their opponent’s character to win. Arguing policy will always remain hypothetical.  No one knows the future or the outcomes of policy.  It’s always going to be a best guess, trial and error.  Take the economy, for instance. Even the best economists cannot make accurate predictions based on potential policy initiatives. All systems are turbulent, reacting in echo-like waves to each reverberating change. So, what can we as voters depend on?

Established politicians, especially those who have held office for a long time, will certainly have a long history of life events that can provide fuel for challenges to their character–associations, mistakes, bad choices, personal and family conflict, mental health, addictions, legal or financial difficulties. In this way, established politicians are at a disadvantage.  Not so the political virgins of whom little or nothing is known.  Innocence and humility underlie core values that inspire hope and voters are attracted to hope like a magnet. It’s the one thing that infuses their vote.

Core values have been reduced to three principal categories to simplify voter choice: Progressive, Moderate and Conservative values. Candidates must choose a brand and make it stick or else be branded by their opponent. This is a delicate proposition for the faint of heart.  This is where character comes into play.  A candidate must walk the fine line between the difference of what the voters will agree to and their personal core values.  The trick is to align the voter’s perception of their core values with their district’s preference for one of the three categories that are used to define values in broad strokes, usually based on past voting statistics.  It’s a gross mistake to use this type of analysis when the dominant criteria will be change.

Conservatives define themselves as pro-family, anti-abortion, anti-gay, pro-gun, pro big business, anti-regulation, anti-taxation, pro-balanced budget, pro-military spending, and anti-deficit and have traditionally been positioned as anti-labor, anti-welfare, pro-privatization, anti-environment, anti-climate change acknowledgment, anti-union, anti the protection of natural resources, pro-coal, pro-oil and against sustainable technologies, pro-Israel and often pro policies that have racism as their basis.  Staking claim to the constitution they cloak themselves with the wrapper of “tradition” and thus clearly rooted in the past, their only idea of change is to return to the past but without acknowledging the principles on which it is based, principles like equality.  Trump’s idea of change is just an unadulterated form of nationalism and his tenor is fascist in nature.

Trump’s 30%, his core base, will not sway in their support for him.  His policies do not matter.  His effectiveness will not matter.  They do not support policy, but rather the man who they believe engenders their core conservative values.  They have seen change all around them—technology, the internet, globalism, social values– and powerless to control it, they seek the comfort of a billionaire braggart, an all-powerful messiah, to intervene on their behalf and return their beloved nation to a state the majority of them have never experienced.  They weren’t born in time.  It’s a myth they carry with them passed on by oral tradition of “the good ole’ days.” It’s a hope that can never be fulfilled.

All but a few progressives are scared of their own shadow, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren being the notable exceptions.  In the last election, only they inspired voters, and it was through their core values that their progressive policies were validated.  Each had an established record of action and voters were energized to turn out for them.  Obama took us there, but voters recognized that we needed to go further and that meant a turn to the progressive side of the party with candidates whose character and core values were aligned with progressive ideals.  Young voters and those with the most to gain, the jobless and those discriminated against, were inspired to action as evidenced in the support given Bernie.

Hillary assumed the moderate position. She tried to straddle the fence, but being a corporatist she represented something closer to conservative values than progressive.  She stabbed the Democratic party in the back by denouncing Bernie’s policies as impractical and impossible to implement.  She denied the voters hope and crippled the party far into the future with a division that remains today.

Obama ran on hope.  A relative political newbie on the national stage, his core values were reflected in the policies he ran on and once elected he moved to implement his values through policy. Trump did not run on hope but was elected by hope (election cheating notwithstanding).  A hope for change.  Trump represented change while Hillary represented same old, same old, neither the hope of an Obama nor the hope for change that Trump inspired.

Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell, none can lead this nation to fulfill its potential.  To be sure, Pelosi and Schumer are good people of integrity, they nevertheless do not represent hope.  They served well in their day, but that day is past. As for Pence and McConnell, I have nothing good to say about either of them, hypocrites and obstructionists both, each with different toolsets.

When the Democratic party takes back the house in the midterms, as they are most likely to do, the party will face a difficult choice.  Who will lead it and where will they go?

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Identifying Dead Weight.

March 15, 2018

 

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There’s an old adage, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.”  The combined prayers and wishes of at least 70% of the country have been focused on freeing us from the malicious management of established policies and resources by the many inept Trump appointees.  Far from the finest and the smartest people, Trump waded waist deep into the swamp with them, rewarding friends, family, loyalists and business associates, all opportunists, with appointments enabling them to take personal advantage, by abusing their authority and power to manipulate the rules by which the rest of us must live by.  Alas, it seems our collective wish is being fulfilled by Donald, himself, not as an answer to our prayers but as a response to that hidden voice within him, his personal God, and it’s much worse than we expected.

In the past, Trump was quoted as saying, “There are those that are saying it’s one of the finest group of people ever assembled as a Cabinet,” but recently he has been openly complaining to staff that his Cabinet has fallen well short of his expectations and that he wants to rid himself of all the “deadweight.”

After a year in office, having already cut over 43% of his appointees occupying key positions, and on Tuesday after firing Rex Tillerson, the Trumpster hinted that more changes will be coming, saying his ideal Cabinet is in the making. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of people very well over the last year,” Trump told reporters at the White House, “and I’m really at a point where we’re getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want.”

Gone, the 43%, those gullible and naïve expendables, all blinded by opportunism eventually have learned that it’s all about what Trump wants and nothing else.

Watch carefully, because, at this point, anyone accepting a position in the cabinet must by nature be suspect of bad judgment or malicious intent.  A smart person would see the trail of bodies and say to themselves, “I’m not going there.”  But there can be no accounting for ego and hubris.  The ones that say, “that can’t happen to me” are the ones you cannot trust, so look out!  Who would want to leave a solid well-paying job, divesting themselves of their financial interests for a fleeting appointment dependent on the whims of a narcissist liar? No?  You disagree?  Only yesterday, Trump bragged that he lied to Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau while discussing trade imbalance.  Is this the process of a stable mind?  And as a further measure of his loss of contact with reality, he amused himself publicly with thoughts of establishing a “Space Force.”  Ding-a-ling, call the men in white coats!

Yes, we need to cut the dead weight, but trimming the branches of the dead tree is not the answer.  In the coming storm, the tree will topple in the wind under its own weight. Just pray it doesn’t fall on you.  The wiser thing to do is remove the dead tree before the inevitable damage occurs.