Archive for October, 2017

Math

Today was a bit of a breakthrough day for Republicans speaking out against Donald Trump.  The latest defector is Jeff Flake from Arizona who announced he will not seek reelection in 2018, but also went on the record criticizing the president as a ‘divider’ of people and not a leader in any sense of the word.

This announcement followed Bob Corker’s recent story.  He also will not be seeking re-election and has denounced Trump as a serial liar.

Last weekend, John McCain made an appearance on The View and was asked if he was afraid of Trump.  Laughter ensued for an extended period after that question.  Of particular note though, was his comment about how the poor are at a disadvantage when it came to the draft in the 1960’s.  Poor people served.  Rich people got deferments for “bone spurs”.  Gee, I wonder who he meant by that comment.

The problem with all of this as I see it, is that Trump is terrible at math.  He’s got a 52 seat majority in the Senate and desperately wants a legislative ‘win’ he can hang his hat on (so far he has zero in 10 months).

I’m not sure why he’s so adamant about insulting the legislators in his own party when he needs their help to get his agenda moved along.  Let’s see, 52 – (Flake, McCain, Corker, Murkowski, Collins) == Oh crap, I don’t have enough votes to get this passed.

I’m thinking tax reform is doomed and it’s just as well.  The Ryan plan wants to eliminate the inheritance tax which affects earners who make over $5M a year, and pay for it off the backs of the middle class by eliminating the SALT (state and local income tax) deduction which, you guessed it, will be paid for by the middle class.

The trickle down effect of cutting the corporate rate from 35% to 20% or even 15% is a mirage in that corporations reward their officers with stock price gains.  So what do companies do with the savings from the tax cut?  They buy more stock.  I lived this nightmare at Xerox.  Every year Ursula Burns would announce more share buy-backs because it boosted her own personal compensation.  They didn’t hire more workers.  Quite the opposite.  They outsourced as much as they could, including my entire team of 6 engineers.  I’m not just making this stuff up, I lived through it.

Trump likes his war heroes to not be captured.  I like my presidents to be good at math.

 

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The Smothers Brothers

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“mom always liked you best” was an LP that influenced me a great deal growing up. I listened to it over a 100 times I’m sure. It’s hard to believe that these guys were the “rebels” of prime time TV in the late 60’s for having the audacity to partake in satire on racism, The President, and The Vietnam War.

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The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was a great combination of music and comedy but the brothers had a particular talent for discovering other talent and giving them a chance on their show.  Steve Martin, Rob Reiner, Mason Williams to name a few.

From Wikipedia: other guests included  George Harrison, Joan Baez, Buffalo Springfield, Cass Elliot, Harry Belafonte, Cream, Donovan, The Doors, Glen Campbell, Janis Ian, Jefferson Airplane, The Happenings, Peter, Paul and Mary, Spanky and Our Gang, Ringo Starr, Steppenwolf, Simon and Garfunkel, The Hollies, The Who and even Pete Seeger were showcased on the show, despite the advertiser-sensitive nature of their music.

David Bianculli wrote a book called Dangerously Funny that is a pretty good account of the struggles between Tom, Dick, and CBS over show content.  CBS had to try to balance the brothers’ loyal followers with letters from angry fans who wanted the show censored, and even reported pressure from the White House.  Eventually the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour had to be taped 10 days ahead of time so CBS could review/edit (sensor) content and not long after that the show was cancelled.

Donna and I randomly met a local gal at a party of a friend in Tualatin who dated Tommy Smothers in the late 1960’s. Their first date?  Tommy was a presenter at the 1968 Grammy Awards show.  She got a back-stage pass to the Grammys as a first date.  As the story goes, the relationship didn’t last because old Tom liked to indulge in the hooch a little too much for her tastes.

A few years ago we made a trip to the Chinook Winds casino in Lincoln City to see the Smothers Brothers, well past their prime, but still pretty funny.

 

 

 

 

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Contempt

Socrates, considered by many to be one of the wisest men of his time, is credited with the phrase:

“I know one thing; that I know nothing.”

This strikes me as a wise thing to say indeed. Here we are on this 8,000 mile wide ball, orbiting around the sun with few clues about how we got here or how far the galaxy extends. We know certain things to be true through rationalization. We know other things to be true through our experiences and sensory perception. But those 2 things only go so far.

The ants in my back yard have a perception of the universe and it extends across about a 100 square foot area. They know nothing of Tigard, Sacramento, New York or London. It’s beyond their comprehension.

What if humans are the same way?  Pythagoras figured out the relationship of the sides of triangles (C^2 = A^2 + B^2) that we know to be the indisputable truth. Einstein gave us E = MC^2. Certain things we can prove. Other things we cannot so we are left to be the judge and jury based on sensory perception. As intelligent as we humans are, it occurs to me that we’d be wise to admit, like Socrates, that we’re incredibly dumb.  Why?  Because there are many things beyond our comprehension.

This is what bothers me about the Trump administration. They think they have all the answers and know best. There isn’t an ounce of humility in the lot. Not only do they ignore science, they actively try to purge the EPA staff of people with opposing views on climate change. It’s Orwellian.

Every administration is only as good as the people it hires. Trump has made some enormous blunders in the hiring department as evidence by the revolving door at the White House. This is what happens when you run a business modeled after the Corleone Family and then try to butt-fit that into a democratic government. Loyalty is all that matters. Other qualifications be damned. Let’s review who we have here and start with my least favorite hire, our ignominious attorney general.

Jeff Sessions. Sessions drew fire during his confirmation hearing for previous comments about the KKK and his long-standing feud with the NAACP. As attorney general he seems to be exercising a subtle form of racism under the guise of “law and order”. There appears to be fringe elements of the police force that believe they have permission to fire on people of color with reckless abandon because one thing they can count on is not being held accountable. Race relations appear to be headed on a steep decline. According to Jeff, you’re a law-abiding American if you stand for the anthem and abstain from pot. That’s all he seems to care about. Oh, and don’t laugh at him in public or you might find yourself in jail like Desiree Fairooz did.

Sebastian Gorka, former Deputy Assistant to the President. His job (apparently) was to appear on television and be the most arrogant tweazer-beak imaginable. His 15 minutes of fame were up after the 9th circuit struck down Trump’s executive order and his signature issue – the now infamous travel ban.

Steve Mnuchin, Treasury secretary. His qualifications for the job are that he was a hedge fund manager and former CIO of Goldman Sachs. So much for draining the swamp. Steve likes to get around in private jets at our expense in case “he needs to take a secure call.” Oh, and he likes to bring his wife along in case there’s an eclipse to see. My biggest problem with Steve though, is that he bets my grandchildren’s future on “wishful thinking”. The tax cuts being proposed, which he has his fingerprints all over, are based on the faulty assumption that cutting taxes for the rich will somehow stimulate the economy enough to make up for the losses. We’ve tried this experiment before and it didn’t work very well. The rich bought quite a few new yachts though, and that industry thrived (on the bright side).

Tom Price, former Health Secretary.  Tom got canned for flying around on private jets.  Additionally, as the guardian of our “health” he was on the front lines of the AHCA which would have taken away health coverage for tens of millions of Americans.  Tom never gave a damn about healthcare.  It’s always been about the tax cuts.

Stephen Miller, Senior policy advisor to the President, is that guy in high school who tried to get attention by doing stupid stuff. Stephen likes to pontificate and say things like “The president’s authority on this issue shall not be questioned”, which is embarrassing for him when a few days later the 9th Circuit strikes down the Travel Ban. Stephen likes to fancy himself a cog in the Trump wheel because he’s aligned with Trump on deporting 12 million people – at least he likes to talk about how that’s the right thing to do.

Steve Bannon, former Chief Strategist. Now the Managing Editor of Breitbart News. An extremist if there ever was one. Need I say more? I didn’t think so.

Betsy DeVos, Education Secretary. Betsy is atop America’s biggest pyramid scheme, Amway. She’s so rich she uses her own private airplane so as to not get in trouble for spending tax payer money. Must be nice. She’s quoted as saying “It’s possible” that her family donated as much as $200 million to the Trump campaign (and another $921,000 to 21 other Senators). More swamp draining! I’m pretty unclear on how an Amway executive’s skill-set translates into Education Secretary, and I’m sure the donations had nothing to do with the appointment. Betsy is aligned with Trump’s vision of destroying public education in this country by starving the beast and promoting charter schools. I’m not against charter schools. I just think it’s incredibly naive to think that the solution to our failing school system is to throw the baby out with the bath water. Oh, and Betsy is an advocate of guns at school — in case any Grizzly Bears are on the prowl out on the back playground.

Paul Manafort, former campaign manager.  The problem with Manafort is that he’s a career lobbyist.  If you’re promising to drain the swamp, you shouldn’t need a lobbyist on staff with close ties to The Ukraine.  Time will tell, but the betting odds are with Manafort doing time in the slammer for his efforts in the Trump campaign.  The easing of sanctions on Russia in exchange for campaign help has a nasty smell to it and the FBI knows it.

Sean Spicer, former press secretary.  It’s kind of hard to be angry with Spicer sometimes because he provided so much material for Saturday Night Live.  The Melissa McCarthy skits behind the podium are near the top of the list as some of the best skits ever.  Spicer’s downfall was on day one of the job.  For some reason he decided to introduce himself in his new role by having a hissy fit about the reporting on the inauguration crowd size.  It didn’t carry any credibility what-so-ever though.  The pictures don’t lie.  He got off to a horrid start and never really recovered.

Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor.  Flynn set a record for the shortest stint before getting your hand caught in the cookie jar; 24 days.  Another staffer with a footprint in Russia dealings including accepting money from foreign governments on the side.

Anthony Scaramucci, former press secretary.   This guy walked around like the BMOC from day one.  His ego rivaled Trump’s, which is to say it was off the charts.  In the end, his own stupidity did him in.  Another hedge fund manager with ties to Goldman Sachs, the trash talking press secretary got his tit in a ringer by going off on a 10 minute rant reminiscent of Sonny Corleone to Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker.  It wasn’t as bad as Trump’s Access Hollywood tape, but it was pretty close.

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president.  Kellyanne’s contribution to the United States since becoming a cabinet member is she invented the term ‘Alternative Facts’.  That in itself is going to prove to be a very nice gift come 2018.

Ben Carson, HUD Secretary.  Ben’s a fine fellow.  Hard to dislike Ben.  I’m sure all neurosurgeons are ten times smarter than I am, but he destroys his own credibility when he says the pyramids were built as grain silos originally.  And the sheep nod in unison.  Ben has zero qualifications for the job of HUD secretary, but he wouldn’t be the first person in this position.  It’s not his fault, really.  Trump chooses to reward Carson, DeVos, and Sessions for their loyalty and generosity with no regard to how well they might perform in the position.  That’s the part that stinks.

Rick Perry, Energy Secretary.  He’s from Texas, he must know something about oil/energy right?  The problem is he’s a climate denier, is on the Trump train for promoting coal, could care less about the environment, offers up “oh well” on Sandy Hook, and thinks Obergefell v. Hodges should be overturned.  Just the kind of alt-right conservative we don’t need right now.

Lynne Patton, HUD development office for NY and New Jersey.  Lynne must have done a heckuva job as Eric Trump’s wedding planner because her loyalty was rewarded with a government position.  Like Carson, DeVos and Sessions, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Jared Kushner, senior advisor to the president.  Might as well employ some nepotism while he’s at it.   Jared’s initial claim to fame is that he married Ivanka Trump.  His final claim to fame will be that as a senior advisor to the president, he advised Trump to fire James Comey.  Well, that didn’t work out so well now that we have Bob Mueller on the case.  Or did it?  Jared also got the job of bringing about peace in the middle east.  He’s been over there at least once, but so far no agreement.  Who knew that negotiating a peace deal could be so hard?

Calista Gingrich, United States Ambassador to the Holy See.  This one cracks me up as the 3rd Mrs. Gingrich is going to represent the US to Vatican City. And I’m not being judgmental about divorce. I’ve failed in this area as have many. But Newt’s failures are off the charts cruel to his ex-wives. I mean, who brings up divorce papers to sign to a woman who just finished a chemotherapy treatment?

Mike Pence, Vice President.  Not a lot unlike Rick Perry, there are so many irritating things about Mike Pence that it’s hard to articulate them all.  Suffice it to say the hypocrisy of being a right-wing conservative who supports the Republican ideals of Darwinism while bowing in prayer every 15 minutes is enough to make me puke.

So that’s quite a staff that Trump has surrounded himself with.  Crooks, liars, hypocrites and nar-do-wells.

The Second Tier – The apologists

The first list was a list of people actually hired into the Trump administration.  That would be bad enough by itself but we’ve got legions of Trump apologists who know he’s nuts but refuse to call him out (more on the why of this later).   Let’s see, we’ve got:

Lindsay Graham talks a good story every once in a while, but at the end of the day he’s been a loyal supporter of the unhinged one.  Reminds me of that saying about it’s not what you say, it’s what you do.

Tom Cotton, Joe Barrasso, John Cornyn — Leading republicans always huddled around the podium in support of Mitch and Paul.

Mitch McConnell, senate majority leader.  The architect of the block on Merrick Garland will never be forgiven for his disregard of bipartisan efforts.  The republicans thought they could go it alone this time with control of the Senate, the House, and the White House.  That turned out to be wrong.  Karma’s a bitch.

Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House.  Paul should have been a magician.  Never before have I seen someone come across as so reasonable, so mild-mannered, so … sensible while overtly trying to pick the pockets of the American people and reward his donors.  A self-proclaimed Ayn Rand follower, that’s pretty much all you really need to know about Paul Ryan.  He’s quiet on Trump because he’s has a private love affair with Tax Cuts for the wealthy.

Mike Lee and Ted Cruz.  These 2 guys get a category all by themselves.  Two of the original Tea Party renegades, Lee and Cruz definitely disrupted Washington.  The problem with obstructionism is that what goes around comes around.  Cruz is actually an intelligent guy.  Anyone who has argued cases before the Supreme Court is no dummy.   That’s what’s scary about it.  They know exactly what they are doing and they want to take the country back 50 years on social issues.  Al Franken, in his book “Al Franken Giant of the Senate” stated it well about Ted Cruz: “I like Ted Cruz more than all of my colleagues in the senate do.  And I hate Ted Cruz.  He’s that guy who will rat out your NCAA office pool to senior management and cook fish in the company microwave.”

Marco Rubio, Chuck Grassley.  Complicit in their silence as the Trump train is derailing.   I can hardly wait for after the resignation to read about how they didn’t really support him all that time.

Devin Nunes.  The guy who works on a bi-partisan investigation into Russian interference in our elections, and without prior authorization or permission, runs to Trump with sensitive information about the investigation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your Republican party.

The reasons I hold Trump and the Republicans in such contempt:

  • Blatant Racism
    • Charlottesville
    • Puerto Rico
    • Completely missing the point on NFL player protests
    • White Supremacists are now becoming more overt in society, feeling empowered/supported by the Administration
    • His mistreatment of Muslims. By painting all Muslims with a broad brush, he fails to realize the obvious. If we are to defeat extremists, we need the help and cooperation of moderate Muslims, who number in the billions (that’s billions with a B)
  • Violations of the Emoluments Clause
    • Lining his own pockets at taxpayer expense and he couldn’t care less about the lack of ethics involved
  • Conducting foreign policy via Twitter
    • Throwing Tillerson under the bus in the middle of negotiations
  • Attacking private citizens
  • Ignoring the Russian Sanctions vote
    • The senate voted 98-2 for the Sanctions.  It’s a month past the deadline.  No action from the White House.  Seems kind of suspicious.
  • Zero transparency on his own Tax Returns
  • Killing DACA
    • He’s got no solution himself, so he came up with the brilliant strategy to kill it and then make it congress’ problem.
    • Even many republicans think deporting millions of hard working, law abiding, tax paying people who came to the US as children and know no other country is cruel.
  • Reckless tweeting with respect to foreign leaders
    • Rocket man
    • Mexico will pay for the wall
    • Somehow I feel less secure when the thin skinned one starts yammering on about nukes as options on the table
  • Destroying the environment
    • Pulling out of the Paris Climate accord
    • Deregulation means more Flint, Michigan stories just around the corner.
    • The consequences of the GOP strategy are irreversible
  • Tax cuts for the wealthy
    • A canard from the Reagan years that just won’t go away
  • Trump’s obsession with coal
    • The US is missing a huge financial opportunity to be a world leader in clean energy
    • Automation is the real jobs killer, not coal mining jobs.  Why isn’t the focus on retraining centers?
  • The war on climate change believers
    • Federal employees who believe in climate change have been targeted with witch hunts
  • Purposely destroying the ACA exchanges
  • Trump’s election ‘fraud’ commission head by Kris Kobach and Mike Pence is a voter suppression commission in disguise.  Republicans are actively gerrymandering districts for 2018.
  • Blatant disregard for US intelligence agencies
    • He’s still not sure if it was Russia or China or “some 400 pound guy in his bed” who interfered in the elections even though there’s mountains of evidence to the contrary.
  • Petulant behavior on a daily basis
    • “Ariana Huffington is unattractive, both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.”
    • “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”
  • Obstructing justice on the Russia investigation
  • Failure to acknowledge the 2016 interference and make sure it’s fixed/secure for 2018
  • Head in the sand approach on gun law reform
    • There are several other country models we could learn a thing or two from… if only they weren’t bought and paid for by the NRA
  • The complete lack of a moral compass
  • Letting the CHIP program expire which supported 9 million women and children
  • Liar in chief.  The Politifact Scorecard rated his statements as follows
    • 21% True
    • 12% Mostly True
    • 67% Half True
    • 21% Mostly False
    • 33% False
    • 15% Pants on Fire

So there it is.  And that’s the short version of why I cringe when I see some of these people on television.  They don’t represent me and I don’t think they represent anyone but themselves and their donors, frankly. You have to ask yourself, is this what making America great again is supposed to look like?

Getting back to the original point about downplaying one’s belief that he/she is smart and  has the power to solve the world’s problems all by themselves, I leave you with two Trump quotes that I believe illustrate root cause:

“I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.”

“I alone can fix it”

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Now we’ve got overt racism in the ‘burbs

[ Note: I’m refraining from writing about recent events in Las Vegas because I think it’s disrespectful to politicize a tragedy before the bodies are even cold yet.  Saving that topic for another day.  But it’s a safe bet that I will eventually politicize it.  In spades. ]

Sunday I had a couple of errands to run over in the cozy little Sherwood, Oregon.  If you’re looking to visit a slice of Americano suburbia, go to Sherwood.  Shopping malls, fast food galore, Home Depot, great schools, nice neighborhoods.  Until Sunday I had never run across anyone in Sherwood who was anything but accepting of their fellow man.

I had decided it was time for a haircut and needed to pick up a few things at the grocery store.  Shortly after pulling into the miniature strip mall parking lot, I parked my truck.  Getting out I noticed a confederate flag bumper sticker on the back window of the truck next to me.  This one was different though.  It had a snake superimposed on it with the caption “Don’t tread on me”.  I immediately drew the conclusion that this guy is a first-rate imbicile and was hoping I our paths didn’t cross.  don-t-tread-on-me-rebel-flag-9

Taken aback sightly at the overt nature of displaying a symbol that is offensive to so may, now we’re implying that you’re the hard-working stiff and the rest of us are trying to mooch off you.  My first thought was get thee back to thy trailer and STFU (the truck was about a 15-year-old Ford popcorn wagon that can fit about 3 boxes in the back if they aren’t too heavy).

Just when I get my experience with Jasper behind me, at Safeway I see this bald guy with shades on, arms tattooed to the hilt (so far, no problem), but for attire he decided to put on a t-shirt with a message that had sociopath written all over it.  This within an hour’s time.

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Like 99% of the blog posts I write, I blame the Republicans for this.  Trump specifically, with his “both sides” defense of the “Unite the Right” Nazi contingent at Charlottesville who murdered 32-year-old Heather Heyer. But I blame the rest of the Republican party for their complicity.   It’s as much about what they refuse to say versus what they do say.

Paul Ryan for example won’t be baited into saying nary a word against the man who promises to bring him a divine, heavenly Tax Reform package that punishes the blue states and rewards the 1%.  Ryan was recently asked if he had any issue with Trump’s handling of Puerto Rico and replied with “I think his heart is in the right place.”

The pattern hasn’t gone unnoticed.  Hurricane hits a red state, he’s sending orders right away to get his underlings down there.  Hurricane hits a territory with mostly brown people, call me after my tee-time this Sunday.

I’m thoroughly convinced Trump’s denigration of Muslims, Mexicans, and indirectly, African-Americans, his abject failure to condemn the Nazi’s, along with the establishment Republican silent complicit behavior are the reasons I’m seeing an uptick of these outward symbols of hate and racism. They are sanctioned. There’s no other explanation for it.

I’m also convinced Republicans have been having a wet dream about tax cuts ever since November 8th, and absolutely nothing shall stand in the way.

You can label me disappointed in my fellow-man.  But I’m furious with the Republican establishment.  The Tea Party / Duck Dynasty crowd are too dumb and too far gone to fix.  But the establishment Republicans know better and they are complicit.  At the end of the day it’s all about greed and Tax Cuts.

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