Tuesday, July 25, 2017

July 25, 2017--Rudy & The Mooch

Desperate, Donad Trump and Republicans in the Senate are pulling out the stops--

First, there is the psychodrama playing out in the White House communications operation.

They pushed poor Sean Spicer so hard that he finally, in frustration and humiliation, resigned. Not only did he have to endure the mockery brilliantly served up by Melissa McCarthy on Saturday Night Live, with her motorized lectern, he also had to endure insults from his boss who couldn't get over Spicy's pudginess and ill-fitting suits. It didn't help that those off-the-rack outfits were a muddy brown and didn't include a pocket square.

So off he went to be replaced by Anthony (The Mooch) Scaramucci. After hijacking poor Sarah Huckabee Sander's live-on-TV news conference on the first day of her being named press secretary, after his overlong and obsequious "I'll-take-a-question-or-two" Q&A with the press, he asked her to make sure that the person who did his hair and makeup continued to be available to him.

So we know what he's about--in his bromance with The Donald ("I love the guy!") he knows the Boss will be checking out how he looks on TV. The good news is that he has the hair and bespoke outfits to keep Trump happy at least for a week or two.

Speaking of bespoke, did you notice what son-in-law Jared Kushner was wearing yesterday morning when he was set to testify before the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee? For the "prince of having it both ways" (called that in the Sunday Times by Frank Bruni), he knew who was watching on TV. From the threads and hair alone, we know daddy-in-law was for an hour or two feeling all was right with the world. Everyone was looking good. (The president in the meantime was continuing to swell up like a Macy' parade balloon.)

In the meantime, showing contempt for his own caucus, GOP Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell,  was getting ready to have his minions vote for a health care reform bill the contents of which were still, hours before the vote, unknown to them.

Would it be straight repeal or repeal-and-replace and if it was that, replace with what? Doesn't matter. What matters is that they vote for something. Anything. Since he and Trump do not care if what might come before the Senate will kick 30 or "only" 20 million covered now off the health care rolls, let's just vote and then move on to what really counts--a White House beer party for Republican senators and then the signing ceremony.

To make sure the vote goes his way, McConnell held off until poor John McCain could get out of his hospital bed to be trotted out just days after brain cancer surgery to vote yes, again for anything that has a chance to be passed. That McCain, who has his own existential healthcare issues to deal with, would allow himself to be used this way about such an issue, is a sad commentary on McCain himself who has gotten away with pretending to be a maverick during his too-long career in the Senate.

Sorry, senator, I know I am being insensitive, but you are bringing this final legacy down upon yourself. What you are too dramatically going along with will result in the premature death of hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans and even in your desperate condition you need to be called out for this act of, yes, cowardice.

Then there's poor Jeff Sessions. While he clings to political life it appears that Donald Trump and his nepotistic family are already making plans for what to do after they torture the attorney general into resigning.

Here's what they appear to be coming up with--

Sessions is twisting slowly in the wind (to resurrect an old Watergate trope) and we know will soon, Spicer like, say enough and resign. This should conveniently occur when the Senate is on its well-deserved 8th vacation of the year and Trump will make an interim appointment--name a new attorney general without requiring a vote of the so-called upper chamber. He should be able to find someone compliant enough to allow him to do this and in return will do the Big Guy's bidding and put the screws to special counsel Mueller.

Who, you might wonder, is so eager to please Donald Trump that he is willing to destroy his reputation by becoming his lapdog?

That's an easy one--Rudy!

So here's what we'll then have--a New York City all-star team of sycophants. Rudy, the Mooch, and all sorts of Goldman people in his cabinet or close-in advisors and flunkies.

To make this a trifecta of Tristate flunkiness, let's think about what Trump might come up with for Chris Crispy (as my mother used to call him). One thing we know, Christie will need to get a whole new wardrobe. If he's going to work for Trump, it's time for him to move on from the Men's Warehouse.

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

July 22, 2017--Imploding

No one should be surprised. Least of all Donald Trump. It has been clear for a half year or more where all this was headed.

It's always been about the money.

The denouement will not be about Paul Manafort's money or Michael Flynn's or Jared Kushner's or Ivanka's money, nor even Don Junior's.

It will be about Donald Trump's money.

A good question--if he is so proud of his wealth how come he has refused to reveal his tax filings?

On the simplest level, he has resisted because he lies about how much money he has. He has a lot, about a billion or two, enough for most of us, but not the 5 to 10 billion he has long claimed.

Remember how Marco Rubio's crack during the primary debates about his small hands got under his skin? Well, this is the same sort of thing. Manhood. Size always mattered more to guys than to women.

But, he somehow managed to get elected and reluctantly moved to Washington and into the White House. Back in New York, in his Trump, Inc. operation, which was and still is a mom-and-pop business, he was used to being the only one whose ideas counted and he had no one ever pushing back on him when he went off and did something stupid. Like getting involved with gambling casinos in Atlantic City and Miss Universe pageants.

Over time, with the big boost The Apprentice gave to his brand, he effectively became a brand. Selling his name and endorsement to the highest bidders, raking in the licensing money with little effort other than keeping his name and gold-foil life style in the public eye. Thus, even the parade of girlfriends and wives, as he aged and swelled up, ones younger and younger, were a part of that charade.

Zeroing in--

When Trump needed to ante up money for a project or bail himself out of an impending bankruptcy, where do we think he turned for money? Citibank? Chase? Wells Fargo? Goldman Sachs? No chance.

We're talking chop shops like Deutsche Bank, loan sharks, and especially money laundries such as the Bank of Cyprus which until a few years ago was a favorite place for Russian kleptocrats to sanitize their dirty lucre.

In 2008, Trump Jr. on the record said that, "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia."

At least someone in his family is capable of letting the truth slip out.

Even a casual perusal of Trump's tax returns would reveal the sources of his money and income. Would it surprise anyone if we in this way discovered that he engaged in all sorts of shady deals and shenanigans with lots of money coming from Russia?

So when it finally dawned on Trump that special counsel Robert Mueller has the power to demand his tax and other financial documents, something Trump incredibly seems to have begun to pay attention to just this week, bells and whistles went off and that immediately became Trump's line in the sand--he told the New York Times he might fire Mueller if he pressed to scrutinize his finances.

We know for sure following the money trail is looming. It's Special Counsel 101.

And then, of course, Mueller would also see son Junior's and son-in-law Kushner's tax filings, which would make matters even worse.

What we'd be likely see is the inner financial machinations of a crime family.

Donald Junior is reported to be whining that he can't wait for this presidency to be over.

Well, he may soon get his wish. He may not have to wait another endless three-and-a-half years.

If Junior is unravelling as quickly as it appears, Trump's oldest son, feeling squeezed by the implosion, may follow in the footsteps of one of Bernie Madoff's sons. I can't bring myself to spell this out. If you don't remember the details, you're on your own to look it up.

So, here are the final steps. They will happen quickly because we have a talented and mobilized press corps. Much more so than during Watergate. Trump is getting back in kind for what he dished out to the "fake-news" press. I wouldn't have recommended messing with that sleeping giant.

I suspect he'll skip the firing-Mueller step and move right to the pardons. Sacking Mueller, assuming Trump has the power to do that, would bring down the wrath of not only Democrats (that would be predictable) but also rouse the up-to-now hypocritical Republicans who despise Trump but support his agenda, such as it is.

Thus, Trump has been asking about what pardon powers he has and boasting about it. They are constitutionally wide ranging. He'll pardon Flynn and Manafort, which should keep them from throwing Trump under the bus (elegant metaphor), and he'll pardon all his family members. Then, and he is looking into this too, unlike Nixon who had his successor, Jerry Ford pardon him, Trump will try to get away with pardoning himself.

This will go to the Supreme Court and, who knows, with Gorsuch recently nominated by Trump, he might prevail, 5-4. Remember Bush v Gore in 2000. Or then again, he may not.

Then we'll see what happens in the streets. Progressives will demonstrate once or twice but use most of their energy appearing on and watching CNN and "The NewsHour."

Trump people (that hardcore 35%) will go crazy. They'll see this crucifixion of Trump (that will become their preferred point of reference) as part of the ongoing liberal conspiracy. Tune into late-night talk radio if you want a preview of that. It will make Benghazi look like a tea party. Scratch that, a polite debate.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

July 21, 2017--The Universe

I've been reading Marcia Bartusiak's excellent The Day We Found the Universe, which is largely about how astronomers came to measure the size of our solar system, the galaxy of which our sun and the earth are a part, and ultimately the expanse of the entire universe.

Many astronomers contributed to what we now know about these cosmic distances. But Edwin Hubble is featured in the book as he is the astronomer who subjected all the partial theories to scrutiny and incorporated those that contributed to his own research about the size and components of the expanding universe.

He, thus, is thought to be the most important of cosmologists, the discoverer of the universe.

The book is primarily about sizes and distances. Less about motion and stellar velocities. But I have also been thinking about the speed of galactic bodies. For example, to complete one daily, 24-hour cycle how fast is the earth rotating? It turns out to be nearly 1,000 miles per hour.

Then there are other related, mind-boggling things to think about. For example, how fast is the earth moving as it completes its 365-day orbit around the sun? It turns out to be an astonishing 66,000 mph.

Earth along with the other planets and the sun that make up our solar system are also in motion.

That system is part of a vast galaxy, the Milky Way, and it circumnavigates that galaxy at 44,000 mph.

Also, the entire galaxy itself is in motion--it rotates-- and the earth, as part of the galaxy, rotates along with it as it, over 225 million years, completes one full rotation (a galactic year). The speed of rotation is an incomprehensible 483,000 miles per hour.

And finally, the galaxy itself is moving through space at 1.3 million mph.

To summarize these five interconnected movements--
  • 1,000 miles per hour is the speed of the earth's rotation;
  • 66,000 mph is how fast the earth goes about its 365-days-a-year orbit of the sun;
  • 44,000 miles per hour is how fast our sun and planets (our solar system) whips along as it circles the Milky Way galaxy;
  • 483,000 mph is how fast the Milky Way is racing to complete its 225-million-year circuit;
  • And 1.3 million miles per hour is the speed at which our galaxy moves through the universe.
It is a wonder that we aren't tossed off into space as the result of the sum of these five velocities.

The why of that is a whole other conversation.

Words, especially superlatives, fail me.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

July 20, 2017--A Week Without Trump

As previewed yesterday, here's what I wrote on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 after two days of trying not to mention him but then, succumbing, as if on autopilot, I referred to him that week four times on Monday and then three times on Tuesday.

*   *   *
Though I noted some improvement earlier this week--mentioning Trump a regressive four times on Monday and then doing a bit better yesterday, mentioning him "just" three times--perhaps, then, since I am still disappointed with my progress, maybe I need to adjust tactics for a day to get to my goal sooner--to shake my year-long addiction to all things Trump.

So today, midweek, I'm going cold turkey. I'm taking a day off from blogging. I have an early doctor's appointment to see if my Lyme disease has abated and so I thought to take advantage of my busy schedule and not write anything today.

That's one way to deal with my Trump problem--ignore it. Admittedly, not the best way to proceed--taking it head on would be more impressive--but perhaps it could still be therapeutic.

This of course means no comments about Trump's speech last night, no mocking allusions to his having just discovered that repealing and replacing Obamacare is "unbelievably complex" or, better for satire or snarkiness, that "nobody knew [it] . . . could be so complicated."


This latter comment alone could under prior circumstances have been subject matter for at least two blogs.

Ignoring Trump, as I am now doing, I will make no public comments about his budget outline that sees a ten percent increase in military spending offset by massive cuts in domestic allocations. This would mean gutting food and healthcare for the poor to build more weapon systems. Cruel priorities.

But, as I've indicated, I will have nothing to say about that.

I will also not comment on the attempts to plug leaks by White House staff and how press secretary Sean Spicer forced those reporting to him to turn over their cell phones so they can be checked to find out who's been talking to the New York TimesWashington Post, and CNN.

And I won't be writing about the White House banning reporters from these and other "fake news" outlets from attending the first Trump "gaggle." A briefing for a select group of reporters,
including one from Fox and another from Breitbart News, Steve Bannon's old shop.

Though I am tempted, you will not hear anything from me about this.

And you will not hear a word here about what is my thus-far favorite flap of the week--the Twitter storm about how Kellyanne Conway took her shoes off and folded her legs under her while sitting on them on the Oval Office couch as President Trump met with a group of distinguished presidents of historically black colleges and universities.

What was she doing there anyway? But you won't see me asking or speculating about that.

When Kellyann's disrespectful behavior was brought to the attention of Trump and his senior staff they were quick to publish pictures of Barack Obama sitting with his feet on the presidential desk. The same president Trump accused earlier this week of being behind all the leaks and leaving a "mess" when he left office.

But there will not be a word today about me about that. No leaking here. For me it's still Trump cold-turkey-detoxification time.

As New York City Mayor Ed Koch used at ask, "How am I doing?"

Rereading what I wrote in March, I see that (1) in spite of my intentions I did not take the day off from blogging, and (2) I mentioned Trump by name nine times. Nine! Not very impressive.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

July 19, 2017--Trump Fatigue

I try to write five of these a week. One a day Monday through Friday. I've been doing this for 12 years, from August 2005, and have thus far posted 3,158.

For nearly two years more than half my pieces have been about the 2016 election; the emergence of Donald Trump; his election; and, for six months, his presidency. On occasional weeks all five, one way or the other, have been about Trump. Such has been my obsession.

During the weekend, when not posting, I try to come up with two or three subjects to write about for the upcoming week. To get ahead of the relentless pressure to produce five. Sometimes it feels as if I am physically "producing" them.

This is not a complaint. I love doing this. I like the discipline, the motivation to think things through and to approach issues in hopefully fresh ways, and especially hearing from readers who half the time like what I've been writing. The rest of the time, especially the last year and a half when my pieces have been disproportionately about Trump, I've received a lot of criticism that by taking him seriously, by attempting to write about him dispassionately, I'm "normalizing" him, and by so doing have been helping to position him in the mainstream of American presidential history. Not as an incompetent and dangerous pretender.

So, this past weekend, with Republicans in the Senate once more trying to ram viscous changes in healthcare policy through the system while seemingly every day there was another bombshell story about Donald Trump, Jr. eager to hear what "dirt" Russian operatives were pitching to spread around to sabotage Hillary and elect Trump, what with reports of this and infighting in the West Wing and stories about our raging president talking back to the TV, one would think I'd have seven things to write about, not my usual five.

But, if you've read this far, you are catching me writing about not any longer feeling I have things to write about.

If I can make the comparison, Seinfeld-like--writing about not writing.

I did manage to come up with an idea for Monday for a piece about Trump in Paris for Bastille Day and the monarchal ambitions of the new French president. And for Tuesday squeezed out something about John McCain and the now possibly doomed Republican health care plan.

But this lethargy that is the result of feeling overwhelmed, I am thinking, may be the point of Trump's brilliant strategy for governing. (There I go again calling it "brilliant.")

So overload the system that we no longer can remember all the outrageous things he did during the campaign, since entering the White House, and even last week. This cascade of outrageousness elicits so much frustration and anger that our circuits are blown.

I don't know about you, but this is the way I've been feeling.

Chipped away at I am wanting to give up and return to my cocoon and my distractions. I noticed over the past weekend that I was watching a lot of television. Not cable news but tennis and the Yankees-Red Sox series. I even surfed around looking for Seinfeld reruns. Caught the one with Elaine at Yankee Stadium!

Having confessed this, tomorrow I'll be reposting something I wrote in February during five days that I called "A Week Without Trump."

Tomorrow, I hope you will take a look to see how I did.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

July 18, 2017--John McCain Would Already Be Dead

He would already be dead from his sub-dural hematoma if it weren't for his platinum senatorial health care plan which assures that he will be treated in the best hospitals and taken care of by the best doctors at virtually no out-of-pocket expense.

He's 80 years old, has a number of serious preconditions, including melanoma, and still suffers from various medical problems that are the result of his being held for six years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.

In other circumstances, if he had a job that didn't offer benefits, in the absence of Obamacare, if he needed to buy insurance in the free market Republicans revere, he would be refused coverage by insurance companies thinking only of their bottom lines. It would cost him at least $30,000 a year and he would have a deductible of tens of thousands of dollars.

And, if the bill currently before the Senate were to be approved and then passed in the House and signed by President Trump, he would not be able to secure any heath insurance at all. He would be among the tens of millions who will either lose their coverage or be unable to afford any.

Because of his current medical situation (he's recovering in Phoenix), the GOP Senate leadership is delaying the vote on its version of repeal-and-replace Obamacare legislation since they need McCain's assent to help assure there are enough votes to move it along in the process.

Here's my question--

Why would John McCain even for a minute think about voting for this nasty piece of legislation?

Again, he's 80 years old, is in his last term in the Senate, does not need anything from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and has a proud record of being a "maverick."

Some maverick.

In addition, we know he hates Donald Trump. Why would he want to be party to helping Trump have a cheap and mean-spirited political triumph?

Perhaps as he takes a few weeks off to recover from the cranial surgery he had over the weekend he'll think about those less fortunate than he and decide that 20 or so million cut from the health care rolls means that hundreds of thousands will die prematurely.

That's the real bottom line--thousands dying unnecessarily.

One last question--

Where are the plans for a five-million-person march on Washington to oppose the Republicans' dirty dealings? I suppose there isn't one because the people who have traditionally organized massive protests of this kind are in good shape with their employer- and government-sponsored coverage. If it doesn't affect me . . .

Who was it who said, "Let them eat cake"?

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Monday, July 17, 2017

July 17, 2017--Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

People are wondering why French President Emmanuel Macron invited Donald Trump to join him at last week's Bastille Day events. After all they had virtually arm wrestled when they first met at the recent NATO meeting.

Macron was said to be fuming that Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. In part, because the environmental accord was negotiated in Paris, in France, and the French, it is said, can be chauvinistic.

But I think Macron is too smart to take such things personally. In fact, he may turn out to be about the smartest European leader. Which takes us back to Trump in Paris.

Yes, the French were our first allies, substantially funding our Revolutionary War and sending a large part of their fleet to the colonies to engage the English directly. Yes, this year marks the 100th anniversary of our joining France and England and other allies in World War I. But this is an insufficient reason for Macron, seemingly spur-of-the-moment, to invite Trump to return to Paris just a few days after he was in Europe for the G-20 meeting. He knows how Trump hates France (ask his friend "Jim") and not sleeping in his own bed.

But in spite of that Trump accepted, thinking better to be in Paris than the White House while his scandal-ridden presidency crumbles around him. Recall, Nixon made a triumphant tour of the Middle East to get away from the impeachment process that was closing in on him.

This helps explain why Trump agree to go to Paris. But what about Macron? What was his motivation? Was he just feeling sorry for Donald and thought that a three-star dinner (without wine) would perk him up?

I suspect none of the above.

Little reported at the time but shortly after Macron was unexpectedly elected (like Trump managing to best Hillary), he was quoted as saying that the one thing the French miss is not having a monarch. He implied he might be available to fill that role. And thus he and his wife moved into the Elysee Palace about half an hour after winning the election and he immediately started reviewing French troops. He had the martial music, strut, and salute all rehearsed. And he pulled it off, looking as if he was doing this all his life.

Not quiet Charles de Gaulle-level posturing, but not bad for a diminutive 39 year-old who never served in the military. Recall that General de Gaulle led the victorious allied troops into Paris after the Normandy invasion and the retreat of the Germans. He pushed his way to the front of the line of liberators (sound familiar?) even though the French had done very little to bring about this victory.

It may be snarky to mention, but during the Second World War many said the French were better at surrendering than vanquishing. The Resistance significantly aside. So de Gaulle leading the allied liberators was a great act of political fake-news theater. (It didn't hurt that he looked as if he was seven-feet tall and had a wardrobe of great uniforms.)

So my guess is that Macron sees himself in the de Gaulle role. Leading France back to gloire and European leadership. With Angela Merkel, who everyone acknowledges is Europe's current leader, about to be elected to her 4th and likely final term as chancellor, who will succeed her is up for grabs. Macron is eager to step forward and if he can demonstrate that he is capable of maintaining a version of a close relationship with the United States, even with Trump as president, since we are, well, America, that would help his case.

Beyond Macron, who else looms as the de facto leader of the EU?

Then again, there's Putin. But . . .

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