Correcting My Previous Post

Dear Regular Blog Followers:

I have rewritten my May 18 post.   While I have made small changes in other posts after the fact, this is the first time in six years that I have made noteworthy changes.

Of course, I blame it all on Trump.

I was upset and a little inebriated when writing the previous version, and disliked the final product enough to take another shot at it.  Here’s a link to the site, if you’d care to give it another look.

Richard

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The Houston Area: Yet Another High School Massacre

It is just past noon and I am already into the wine.   Trying to figure out a post this morning among the near infinite possibilities was difficult enough and then I heard about the latest school shooting, this time in Texas with 10 killed and 10 injured.  That pretty much shut the door on my thinking.

Do these media types really expect us to watch the umpteenth repeat of the same old story?  The over speculations on causes and what we can do to make this “never happen again.”  Of course, it will happen again.

The assurances of our so-called president that these victims have “our support forever.”  Could words be any more empty?

And I can’t stand to listen to any more “how did you feel” interviews, or any of the other stuff that the cable stations wedge in to show they care.   And, though feeling some guilt, I don’t want to listen to another story of a child’s promising life that was so cruelly cut short.   I feel badly for those families, but when slaughtering school children becomes common place, I don’t want to know every detail.

Tell me something new.

What I want is more insights as to what sort of coordinated effort we might develop to reduce the chances of repetitions.  The bulk of coverage of these school shootings is so uniformly preliminary as to tell us nothing.  I’m still waiting for a detailed report of what happened in Parkland, which I hope can give us some solid clues as to how to better guard against future shootings.

Unfortunately, while the state of Florida has a commission working on this, the last I read in April they weren’t coming up with a full report until next January.  I hope they eventually do give us some useful insights, though the slow pace is maddening.  Given that the shooter was throwing up more red flags than a Moscow parade, I most want to know more about the failure among the various agencies involved – the police, schools, etc. –  to communicate with each other.

But that article points out other problems as well such as flaws in the school’s and the police’s response procedures.  One simple but huge problem source sticks out to me.  The classrooms could only be locked from the outside, so to lock up one’s room a teacher had to lock themselves out.

Mr. President, instead of being supportive forever, how about injecting some money into the Florida commission to help them finish the job sooner?  And then actually act on the conclusions the study draws.

For those interested in reading that April article, go here.

Trump is Betting Politics will Save him if the Law Won’t

Rudy Giuliani exploded on the Washington scene last week, supposedly coming on board the Trump legal team, but acting independently in what seemed like a loose cannon being shot at them.   He blabbed all sorts of contradictory statements and misstatements on various political talk shows, beginning with Hannity last Wednesday.

Giuliani seemed to be making Trump’s legal status worse off.  Turns out he hadn’t gone rogue, as he’d cleared much of what he would say with Trump, therefore surprising the legal team but not the president, who later seemed pleased with his work and kept him out there babbling.  I suspect the two bluster boys are working in tandem and let the legal team be damned.

I am guessing this reflects a decision by Trump that Mueller has the goods on him and he can’t escape this legally, so best to put all his money on winning the political game in the fall and afterwards.   Don’t agree to an interview or accept a subpoena and take it all the way to the Supreme Court next year.  Who knows?  There might be a new Trump friendly Supreme by then.

Meanwhile, just make the investigators look bad, so you have an excuse for not complying with their demands.  Trump has been driving his “witch hunt, no collusion” mantras into our brains for months in preparation for this shift in emphasis and the ongoing Giuliani show tells me Trump hopes his political narrative will save him where the law will not.

And part of that thinking is the Stormy Daniels case is a loss, but the kind of thing that Trump can use as an ongoing distraction because the media loves to cover it.  In the end, assuming Trump doesn’t perjure himself, what will the government do, fine him?  Convict him of some minor lie?   The guy that has rattled off about 3000 of them so far in office according to the Washington Post?

Big deal.

I think this kind of disproportionate coverage contributes to a sense of investigation fatigue as captured by this guy who tweeted to a cable host this Saturday:  “….. the length of the probe is making most of us numb to the issues that are lead stories in liberal media.  Wrap it up and let Potus do his job.”  

Of course, his base buys the whole witch hunt argument already, but even for non fanatics, if you are numb to the issues and want Trump free to do his job you just might be swayed by the great salesman’s relentless credit taking for everything deemed good in 2018, while ignoring the positive trends already well established during the Obama years.

I’m worried about numbed voters and I get nervous when I hear someone talking about an expectant “blue wave” in the fall elections.  Although I’d like to see one, so much seems a matter of how events smile or frown on the Trump presidency in the intervening months and how well Trump can sell his “witch hunt” narrative to those who feel numb to the issues and wonder why so much media time was being spent on such things as a porn star and her lawyer over a hush money payment that may have broken campaign financing laws.

What does that have to do with our major problems?  Hate to say it, but it seems kind of witch hunty to me.  Not the actions per se, but the way the liberal media dwells on them.

 

 

The White House Press Corps Owes Sarah Sanders an Apology

Ed Henry of Fox News , a former association president, spoke of Sarah Sanders’ mistreatment at the WHPA dinner:  We “invited her to be the president’s representative. We invited her to dinner, to our event, and we treated her like dirt. It was disgusting; I’m actually getting more angry just thinking about it.”  I don’t feel that angry, but I don’t like the way comedienne Michelle Wolf treated her.

Just because the president often acts like a complete ass, that’s not an excuse to emulate him.

Understand I don’t like Sanders’ dodging or stonewalling every uncomfortable question in White House briefings.  I was happy to hear of one reporter who got so tired of empty answers he stormed out calling her a liar.  But this was a different place and time and this time she was supposed to be a special “guest” of the press core, not a pinata, which is why she was seated on that stage, which made her particularly vulnerable to be batted around mercilessly in Wolf’s performance.

Except for the mean spirited it is not funny to call someone a liar and compare her to a loathsome character in a TV show, while she has to just sit there and take it.  This was a series of insults plain and simple.   Someone once said there is a fine line between the  prick of wit and the sting of insult.  The best roasts tend to be heavy on wit and light on insult.  When it goes the other way, it ruins the show.

Without Trump present, Sanders got to be the special target for vitriol.   Still,  you could tell by the majority of the audience reaction that Michelle had become all sting and little shared wit when it came to treating Sanders.

Watching Sanders squirm in her chair I thought she should get up and go, yelling on the way:   “I don’t need to listen to this crap.”  I could applaud that.

Now that I think of it, though, a number of reporters might have reflexively shouted back:  “Now you know how we feel.”

So, I’m ambivalent.  But bottom line Sarah was treated like dirt and deserves an apology from the White House Press Corps.

Nuclear Deals and Michael Cohen in Trumptopia

I have become stymied trying to write about the upside down weirdness in Trumptopia.  It feels like trying to wash your car in the midst of a mud slide.  Fearing I could freeze up altogether, I’ll say something about the Iran Nuclear Deal, North Korea’s Nukes, and the investigation of Michael Cohen.

Iran Nuclear Deal:   By May 12 Trump must either renew the Iran Nuclear deal or drop out of it.  If he doesn’t renew everything seems up for grabs as Iran as well as Russia and the European nations who signed the agreement say they have no interest in renegotiating it.   Perhaps the foremost reason Macron of France and Merkel of Germany  visited Washington this week was to push Trump not to pull out of the agreement.

One point made:  Dropping out of a previous agreement would not be a good way to preface a meeting with Kim Jong Un  to talk about a future agreement with him.   A couple of wild cards in this game are the recent appointments of long standing hawks, Mike Pompeo to be Secretary of State, and John Bolton as National Security Adviser, both of whom have been been staunch critics of the deal.   Lots of room for speculation.

NO KO’s Nukes:   It feels like we have moved from a nightmare scenario of potentially unimaginable destruction to a dream of peace on the Korean peninsula.  It’s a relief.  I just want to point out that we haven’t won anything yet and North Korea has.   It can be argued that Trump’s constant threats, ramped up sanctions and increased pressure on China played a major role in opening up the possibility of negotiations.

But I would argue even more important Kim Jong Un has gotten what he wanted, a nuclear weapons program that works.  Despite Trump’s huffing and puffing,  Jong Un  kept testing and developing and finds it useful to now be friendly.

Now he can afford to be conciliatory on such things as destroying a missile test site.  He’s happy to just hold the cards he’s drawn.   Other presidents could have met with him or his forbears, but they thought such a meeting would raise the prestige of a tin pot dictator.  Well, it has, hasn’t it?

I see Jong Un being all sorts of nice, smiles and warm handshakes with the president of South Korea and seeming open to Trump’s demands, but later drawing the process out, pushing things down the road, a series of steps, but not giving away the nuclear weapons he has.  Those weapons are what have pushed us to treat him as an equal in these negotiations, and he’s not about to give them up.  It is his ticket to be a major player and a key to his  survival.

Trump acts like he has brought a reluctant Jong-Un to the negotiating table.  Actually, Kim has just been waiting for an invitation.

Investigation of Michael Cohen:    While the Mueller investigation may produce either indictable offenses or reasons for presidential impeachment, the separate investigation of Michael Cohen, Trump’s occasional lawyer and frequent “fixer” may prove a sooner threat.

Just the fact the FBI got a hard-to-get warrant to raid his home, office and hotel room to gather information suggests Cohen is indictable for more than one offense.   So, the question is how might Trump be implicated.  The president made things tougher for himself and Cohen by claiming on Fox and Friends yesterday morning, in what amounted to a half an hour wandering rant, that Cohen has done only a “tiny” amount of work for him as a lawyer per se.

The pile of crap Trump stepped in with those comments is that most dealings he has had with Cohen that are recorded can not be protected by lawyer client privilege because Trump himself has indicated most of the work Cohen has done for him was not lawyerly.

So the prosecution can look at and use most of it.   This seems an impossible situation for Cohen, who could face many years in jail unless he “flips”, i.e. rats on the president.  OR, Trump pardons him.  Cohen has a reputation for loyalty to Trump, but he also has a wife and family he might want to continue living with.   He must be pondering whether he can count on a pardon.

I fantasize sometime this summer president Trump may be in the middle of a chummy meeting with Kim Jong Un talking about denuclearization, while back home there is a lot more talk about impeachment and/or the possibility of an indictment or two.

Hard to believe, but in Trumptopia nothing should be surprising.

Military Theater: Trump’s Surreal “Win” in Syria

The attack on Syria Friday seemed flawless and there doesn’t look like there will be strong repercussions from the Russians or Syria’s President Assad.  But the major reason for a lack of a big response was the strike was limited to chemical weapons production and storage structures, while giving Assad and his friends plenty of notice (beginning with Trump’s tweeted threats a week ago), so the Russians and Assad could move their troops and who knows what else out of the way of the most likely targets.

From what I’ve seen reported, amazingly no one was killed and only a handful injured.  That’s great, but when your destructive skill is so surgical as to leave not much of a scar, it gives me no cause to believe a U. S. government spokesman who expressed hope these actions would somehow draw Putin, Assad and the Iranians to some form of international negotiations.

What would they have to gain?  They have already won.  Other than a sizable Kurdish controlled northeast, Assad controls most of Syria, except for a few pockets.  That’s why I among many can’t figure out why Assad even used chemical weapons as his other weapons already seemed to be bringing the rebels to heel in the city of Douma, south of Damascus.

Why tug on Super Man’s cape, when unnecessary?  Trump was looking for a total exit of Syria only two weeks ago, before some advisers prompted him to think about it.  Why give him more reason to keep our forces in the area?  Was it Assad’s arrogance?  A joy in snubbing his nose at us?  A curious stupidity?

In any case, I’m glad we had a well measured response to those chemical attacks (reportedly the new Secretary of State John Bolton, a long time hawk, pushed to do more damage and trigger more danger, but Mattis prevailed).  However, the chest thumping from Trump and his subordinates, like foremost toady VP Pence, is unwarranted.  They act as if he had just won a war.

Yes, we pushed back on the use of chemical weapons, for many decades banned internationally, and that is good.  But it basically was an instance of military theater. By concentrating only on chemical weapons, we seemed to be saying all other weapons are fair game in Syria.  You stay away from chemical weapons and we’ll stay away from you.

Thousands upon thousands have been killed by the forces of Assad, Russia and Iran, mostly with other types of weapons, such as barrel bombs.  I guess the visuals aren’t as gut wrenching as seeing small children gasping for last breaths.  We’re not committed to preventing deaths in Syria, just the ones that look the most gruesome on TV.  Otherwise Trump can’t wait to get out.

So, when I hear various Trump spokespeople sound tough, talking about us being “locked and loaded” in case the Syrians dare use chemical weapons again, it is surreal like much that emanates from the Trump administration.

Why would they provoke more attacks from us, when Assad and his friends have plenty of other ways to kill and maim and destroy?  And we’ve provided a green light to use them.

The Fruition of Government by Chaos: What Will Happen in Syria?

Our boy-who-would-be-king is known to love governing by chaos.  Well, he should be ecstatic now.

For those who want to take a look at what a mess the white house has become, I recommend an article in the Washington Post titled:  “Trump is operating on a tornado of impulses – and no clear strategy – as he deals with Syria, trade and the Russia probe.”

The Syrian whirlwind seems most crucial to resolve right away as the president impulsively tweeted all sorts of threats when it appeared the Assad government had once again used chemical weapons on some of his people a few days ago. The Bloviator-in-Chief huffed and puffed signaling quick devastating action against Assad, but that has been delayed.

His impulsivity ignored the need to fully confirm the action, not to mention having an actual response plan, since our military seemed as surprised as the rest of us by the little king’s threats.  This especially because a week ago he wanted to pull our two or three thousand troops out of Syria, basically ending our commitment there.  Apparently he did not inform his advisers beforehand, and they pushed him to reconsider.

Now instead of pulling out, we seem on the edge of jumping in more in some way.  As I type I hear on cable TV in the other room, that the chemical use is now confirmed.  And decisions on Syria will come “fairly soon.”

In his carelessness, Mr. Impulsivity has put American prestige on the line and the trick is to make Assad feel he is paying a big price for those chemical attacks, while not igniting a military conflict with Russia in the process.  This feels like someone with fading eyesight trying to thread a very small eye of a needle.  It is hard to imagine a sanguine conclusion.

As to what will happen:  I haven’t a clue.  But it figures to be big news one way or another….soon.