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.

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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.

A Day Without You Know Who

It is 6:00 a.m. and normally I would be sitting on my couch channel surfing between MSNBC, CNN, and FOX, watching the latest so-called news, mostly speculation, about you know who (YKW).  I don’t recommend starting your day that way, as I’m usually left with a slight nausea, and feeling in desperate need for a spark of enthusiasm to meet the rest of the day.

While my goal with this blog is to shed a little light to dispel here and there the Gotham-like miasma that YKW cloaks the truth with by the hour, I can’t help but feel I’m just another pawn in his game.  I am one of the many who spend way to much time focused upon him.  And in writing this blog I am pushing others to do the same.  All just what he wants.  It is a conundrum.

This came to mind when I sent a friend/blog-reader a web site which tracks the YKW roller coaster ride daily.  His name is John and his wife Deb.  While he thought the site could be useful, he added:  “Deb and I are trying to persuade each other to spend less time watching cable news because you just get spun around faster and faster into the vortex, and you end up knowing only what you knew before the dizzying spin”. 

In other words, thanks but no thanks for more about YKW.

I can hear you, man.  My excuse is I’m addicted.

But I still haven’t turned on cable news and hope not to, while referring to the oversized boy who would-be king as YKW adds some distance, too.  If his name comes up later in the day it won’t come out of my mouth.  And I’ll keep mum if others talk about him.  Or at least try to.

It is only one day, but you know how it is with us addicts.  We take it one day at a time.

Can the Revival of the Rosanne Show Help Us Talk about Trump?

The original Rosanne Show lasted about 10 years, ending in 1997.  The success came from (A) many found it funny and (B) it felt like a realistic portrayal of working class life.  It had moments of heart and soul other sitcoms lacked.  A reboot of the show  just returned last week to an audience of about 18 million, enough to promptly give the show an extension.

Whether it is more the Trump factor – Rosanne doesn’t just portray a Trump supporter on TV, she is one in real life – and/or a nostalgia wave that has brought other old shows back, the show seems likely to be around for awhile and my hope is that it can open up small possibilities for never-Trumpers like me to actually talk with and listen to Trump lovers or at least likers (like they like how the economy has picked up over the past year, give Trump a lot of credit for it, and can live with him being a jerk as long as he gets things done they like .  I would argue their joy is fraught with danger but let’s forget that for now).

Though I’m tempted to skewer those bubbles of beliefs, that would not get us any closer to actually being able to talk about Trump without yelling or stamping off.   The crux of the tension so far on the show is that Rosanne’s sister Jackie distains Trump as much as Rosanne likes him.  But other touchy social issues are brought up as well and, as others have observed, the show is more about family than politics.  Efforts to maintain family ties push all sides to rethink what they are saying and doing, at least a little.

To me the key is there are lines that can make many of us on both sides of the divide laugh.  If we can share a laugh, maybe we can share a bit more.  Though the humor at times is forced and feels it is rubbing on sores, everyone gets ribbed, so there is not much to resent.

Of course, it is awkward, but that’s the way things are.  Let’s face it, those of us on each side of the divide think those on the other side don’t know what the hell’s going on.  That provides grounds for dislike, but also for humor.

I lived through the Vietnam war which rent our society apart.  I was a protestor while one of my brothers was in the air force in southeast Asia.  We didn’t talk much about the war, but the divisions weren’t as bad as they are now.  I never thought the whole country could be broken up over those schisms, but I do now.  If we can’t talk with those who believe very differently than we do, we will rely more and more on force to get what we want.  And with force, each action prompts an opposite reaction.  And those forces tend to grow.   Isn’t one civil war enough for us?

Soon I am going to go for a walk with a friend, Ken, who still supports Trump despite hours of my wise counselling.  For all other intents and purposes – he appears to possess a brain (and is happy he is getting a little more money in his paychecks, one reason to like Trump better than Obama.  I’d call it a pittance compared with …..oops, there I go again).

On the phone with Ken I recounted a scene in the show where  Jackie surprises Rosanne appearing at her door wearing one of those pink hat’s from that women’s march and a T-shirt with the words “Nasty Woman”.  She greets Rosanne with:  “What’s up deplorable?”  Made me laugh.

As I was about to hang up, I said:  “See you in awhile deplorable.”  My friend laughed and had a comeback that was kind of funny, for a Trump supporter.  If I had one of those pink hats I’d wear it to see him.  Would make him laugh.  Maybe we can agree on something in our walk today.

The next Rosanne episode is Tuesday evening on ABC.  I missed the debut but caught in on my DVR On Demand.   If you plan on watching Tuesday, you might want to look up the first one first…………or not.

The WSJ Editorial Board Can’t Stand Trump’s Behavior, Either

The right leaning editorial board of the Wall Street Journal tends to say nice things about Trump when they are somewhat warranted, rather than attack him, but even they are getting sick of his juvenile behavior as reflected in yesterday’s editorial titled:  The Tale of Stormy Donald:  His willful self-indulgence catches up to President Trump.

There are tons of left leaning and centrist criticisms of Trump, but when the WSJ mirrors them, it suggests there is some sense of a common reality among those across the political spectrum.  The White House does not only look chaotic to liberals, but to thinking conservatives as well.

“Every sentient voter in 2016 understood that Donald Trump had a bad history with women. He survived politically because his opponent had spent 20 years denying or apologizing for even worse behavior by her husband. But mistakes of character tend to catch up with everyone, and that’s what is now happening with President Trump and his many women.

Stormy Daniels (real name: Stephanie Clifford) may be a porn star and admitted liar with a shark for a lawyer, but her tale on CBS’s “60 Minutes” Sunday still has the potential to harm Mr. Trump. That’s not because of the 2006 hookup or its mockable details. Mr. Trump denies that it happened, but then why did his lawyer Michael Cohen go to such lengths to keep it quiet before Election Day in 2016?

The problem as ever is the cover-up. The Journal broke the story earlier this year that Mr. Cohen paid Ms. Clifford $130,000 in late October of 2016 not to talk about the liaison with Mr. Trump. On Sunday Ms. Clifford agreed it was “hush money.” The legal agreement has now broken down in mutual recriminations, and Mr. Cohen insists that he paid the $130,000 on his own without any discussion or repayment from Mr. Trump.

The legal issue is whether Mr. Cohen’s payment violated campaign-finance laws by exceeding the $5,400 donation limit from any individual. John Edwards, the former Democratic vice presidential nominee, was indicted in 2011 for using illegal campaign donations to conceal news about his mistress from voters.

A jury acquitted Mr. Edwards in 2012, in part due to the complexity of campaign-finance law, but that may not matter to Robert Mueller. The special counsel is supposed to be investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election but has already gone far afield to indict Paul Manafort and Rick Gates on money-laundering charges. Don’t be surprised if he also tries to squeeze Mr. Cohen to get to Mr. Trump.

It’s impossible to predict how all of this will play out politically. Many Trump partisans will refuse to believe it or claim it’s irrelevant. But our guess is that at the margin this contributes to a growing public belief that Mr. Trump’s personal flaws are undermining his chances for a successful Presidency.

Two months ago he had emerged from a tumultuous first year with the triumph of tax reform and rising poll numbers. The strong economy had Republicans closing the gap with Democrats on who should run Congress next year. But Mr. Trump can’t resist promoting White House strife and making himself the center of political tumult.

His recent selections of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo for his security team are first rate. But Mr. Trump’s reality-TV dismissal of their predecessors was nasty and chaotic. On Friday he threatened to veto a budget bill his own staff had been negotiating for weeks—further souring voters on the GOP Congress. Doesn’t he realize that if Democrats win the House, they will vote to impeach him?

Mr. Trump can’t retain the best legal counsel because no one wants a client who ignores all advice. He wants to answer questions from Mr. Mueller but probably won’t prepare enough to avoid even accidental self-incrimination. The Stormy Daniels case is typical of Mr. Trump’s pre-presidential behavior in thinking he can, with enough threats and dissembling, get away with anything. He’s never understood that a President can’t behave that way, and this may be the cause of his downfall.”


P. S. – There has long been a split between the news division and editorial division of the WSJ.  The news division comes up with some great scoops regardless of their political impact, scoops that provide facts not necessarily supportive of their editorials.   Anyway, the above is an example of the two divisions coming together on the issue of Trump’s behavior.   I guess as he touts, in some cases he is a unifier.

Michael Avennati, Game Playing and Public Opinion

While I still think Stephanie Clifford is much more honest than Donald Trump (a low bar I know), her lawyer, Michael Avennati, undermined the power of that contrast by trying to get too cute regarding the 60 Minutes interview with Clifford yesterday.

Last week he popped up everywhere on politics TV, teasing out all sorts of possibilities of what Stormy would reveal Sunday, implying hard evidence would be displayed.   It turned out no hard evidence was produced and the only thing significantly new was her assertion that a man physically threatened her in a parking garage if she didn’t shut up about Trump.  No proof was given, so how do we know she didn’t make that up?

In the court of public opinion it comes down to whether you tend to believe her or not.  Does she deserve credit for standing up to Trump, or is she just playing us a long as Trump regularly tries to do.

I feel played and I feel pissed.

You can’t project yourself as a truth teller and then offer no proof and/or little in the way of new information, especially after hyping the appearance for days.

Being known as a “porn star” provides a couple of strikes against Clifford’s character to begin with.  Implying goods would be revealed and then holding them back Sunday further diminishes trust in her and her arguments.

I don’t want to hear anything more from either of them unless it is accompanied with the hard evidence they keep implying they have.

Truth and Lies: Stormy Daniels vs. Donald Trump

I’m writing about Stephanie Clifford (a. k. a. Stormy) because, foremost, she is the only topic in Trumptopia that makes me smile.   Secondly, every other topic I can think of is too complex and/or given to too much speculation.  The speculation is more contained with Stephanie’s issue.   It boils down to who is telling the truth, and it looks like Trump won’t get away with this lie as he has with so many others.  Ironically, Stephanie is a real person known by a fake name, while Trump is a fraud known by his real name.   But not always, as we soon shall see.

As you probably know, Stephanie had an affair with Trump a few years before the election and was paid $130 grand shortly before the voting to hush up about it.  Of course, as with any of his sexual indiscretions (big and small) he denies it ever happened and denies he knew anything about the hush money paid by a long time personal lawyer Michael Cohen.  The fly in the ointment is their account of the story is impossible to believe, unless you have stopped thinking altogether, reminding me of an old Scottish aphorism:  “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”

True, Trump has been a Houdini in escaping a multitude of previous webs, but I’m betting Stephanie can be the one to nail him.   Way before Mueller gets around to it.  If the affair never happened, why did Cohen pay Stephanie all that money?   All I’ve heard from Cohen is, yes, he paid the money, but no Trump didn’t know and the affair never happened to begin with.   Ah……could you run that explanation by me again?

Also, why would Trump’s organization and Cohen now be threatening to sue Clifford for $20 million for things they fear she might expose on 60 Minutes this Sunday and who knows when and where afterwards?

As Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti has described the whacky scenario in a tweet:   “How can President Trump seek $20 million in damages against my client based on an agreement that he (Trump) and Mr. Cohen claim he never was a party to and knew nothing about?”

Avenatti says they aren’t afraid of Trump’s threats, as they argue the non-disclosure agreement was invalid because Trump never signed it, not even signing in the blank space over his alias in the suit, David Dennison.  My guess is they thought if Trumped signed it (bring in the hand writing experts), he couldn’t completely deny knowing about it, even if he signed Santa Clause.

I’m smiling thinking of this, as Clifford and Avenatti appear to have Cohen and Trump caught in their own twisted web, beating them at their own manipulative game.  Avenatti  has been making the political talk show circuit implying all sorts of goodies Stephanie has to share with us Sunday, offering up a lie detector test she passed in 2011 as an appetizer.

You may have noticed, I have avoided the terms “porn star” or the somewhat less derogative “adult film star” in reference to Ms. Clifford because the more I’ve read about her the more respect I feel.  She seems smart and tough and brave.  Sure she welcomes the money and attention but, unlike Trump, if she wins this game it is because her claims are based on facts and honesty, in contrast with Trump’s success formula, a web of deceit spun over years.

If she triumphs, it will help the legal cases against Trump of  a former Apprentice contestant and a former playboy model, not to mention those dozen plus women who accused Trump of molesting them prior to the election, tossed aside because Trump denied the claims of all of them.   And the press let them fall by the wayside, too busy combating Trump’s latest lies after he became president.

It all fits so well in the upside down world of Trumptopia whereby the porn star is actually the one who can be trusted while the president can not be.


P. S. –  Want to know a little more about Ms. Daniels?  Go here.