Friday, May 26, 2017

He was on his best behavior


Yo, Angie....you know, for a fat girl you sure don't sweat much*

President Donald Trump has been on a whirlwind tour of the Mideast and Europe all week, wowing them with his unique flair for diplomacy.  He began in Saudi Arabia, smiled politely, didn't show them the bottom of his shoes, and even joined in a sword dance without cutting any of his hosts.  Good job Mr. President.

Then he flew on to Israel where he met with Benyamin Netanyahu, visited the Wailing Wall, the first sitting President to ever do that, and reassured them that he never mentioned "Israel" as the source of the information he gave the Russians.  "So, we're good, right?"  Sure, why not.

Next up, the Vatican, where he met with Pope Francis, completing his "Big 3 of Religion" trifecta.  It was reported to be a very pleasant meeting, with His Holiness and the Pope exchanging personal gifts.  *Umm, wait...maybe I got those...*



Seriously, it truly was a nice gesture by him to visit all three major religious centers in an effort to maybe help bring a little peace to the world.  Kudos President Trump.  Through all this he pretty much kept to the script his keepers prepared from him and avoided making any newsworthy gaffs.  Two thumbs up, sir.


Then he moved on to the NATO meeting in Brussels where he fell off his "good manners" wagon a time or two.  He lined up all his fellow NATO leaders and then scolded them publicly for going cheap on their defense spending.  He actually made a good point, but might have saved his 20 lashes for behind closed doors, just sayin'.  Or better yet, let one of his lackeys make his point for him, with a dash of tact added.  (I wrote several years ago that much of the generous social safety net many Europeans enjoy is due to them spending their money on popular social benefits instead of their own defense, passing that responsibility on to NATO.)  He left on a pleasant note, however, telling his hosts he thought Belgium was a beautiful city.  *How sweet*


So you're the Prime Minister of the newest NATO member, Montenegro?  Well, good for you.  Now outta my way, boy.

At this writing President Trump is at the G-7 meeting in Taormina, Sicily, and the Twitterverse is still calm.  He's supposedly going to bring up the need to review our current trans-Atlantic trade agreements.  Fair enough.  *Play nice, Mr. President*

All things considered, he seems to behave himself better overseas than he does in Washington.  Maybe we should up the limit on his Gubment American Express card and send him off again.  Can I get an Amen?

S

*  OK, I made that one up...he never said that.  To my knowledge.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself"


The bastards have done it again.  I'll take the ISIS communique at face value and say "a soldier of ISIS" has blown up himself and 22 others (and counting) outside a Manchester, England music concert.  The victims are likely to be mainly young people.

By all accounts the UK police, intelligence services, and counter-terrorist units are world class.  The coming investigation will likely not find they were asleep at the wheel when this happened.  Fact is, there are just far too many sicko's among us, and not enough law enforcement to watch them all.  That applies to France, Germany, Belgium, and the US, too.

Yes, us, too.  We've seen less terrorism than our European friends probably because we are farther removed geographically from the huge discontented population groups they have there.  But that doesn't mean we don't have any of their problems here.  We have sicko Islamist malcontents, nut-job white supremacists, and warped religious zealots of all kinds.  What happened there will...WILL...happen here.

A country as large, as populous, and diverse as ours has too many soft (largely indefensible) targets.  Eventually one of these fringe groups will attack here, too.  But before you freak out and pull the covers over your head, think of the odds you will be a victim.  If an attack someday kills 20 people here, then the odds are only 1 in 16,000,000 you will be one of them.  If you don't like those odds, then don't drive a car, ride a motorcycle or bicycle, or even walk and chew gum.
 
Just be aware of what's happening around you, know where doors are if you're out on the town, etc.  Hopefully this is what you normally do anyway.  If you know someone who seems to show a major change in attitude, seeming to be sympathetic to a fringe, violent group, don't ignore the signs.  Call your police and tell them of your concern.  

But by all means, go about your daily business.  Enjoy every day, work hard, play hard, and have fun. And may I suggest saying a prayer for our brothers in Manchester.

S



Saturday, May 20, 2017

Heroes or villains?

Washington has been turned inside out recently by leaks to the press telling us what's REALLY going on there behind closed doors.  Meanwhile the debate heats up....are the leakers heroes or villains?

Many see the issue in black or white terms.  The hard-core Trumpsters and Tea Party-types seem to think the leakers are all traitors, no exceptions.  "We need to find those who spilled the beans about President Trump giving away intelligence secrets and send them to prison for life + 20 years."  Ummm....what about the fact that Prez Trump GAVE AWAY INTELLIGENCE SECRETS?  That doesn't seem to bother them.

Then the crowd who has no love for Mr. Trump thinks that the leakers are all saints and deserve the Medal Of Honor.  Whether it's tidbits about whether the President's feet stink or whether he has a Russian KGB mistress on the side, it's all good.  Unless it smudges the reputation of one of their favorite mobsters politicians, then they want to lock 'em away, too.

It seems to me there is a huge gray area not being considered, namely WHAT is being leaked.  If the leaker sees what is going on behind closed doors and honestly believes a crime is being committed, or if they see a blatant misuse of power, and if they also see an active coverup in progress, then I can understand why they might want to put their career and maybe even their freedom on the line for the good of the country.  

A good example would be Mark Felt, the #2 man at the FBI during the infamous Watergate scandal back in '72.  He knew what was going on, saw the nefarious efforts being taken to protect President Nixon, and knew it was wrong.  His conscience told him to feed tips to Washington Post journalists Woodward and Bernstein, enabling them to get the truth out to the American people.  If his identity had been known he would surely have lost his job at the FBI and perhaps even been prosecuted.  (His identity was kept secret for 30 years.)

This contrasts to leakers like Wikileaks' Julian Assange.  He isn't leaking what he does out of some sort of righteous indignation of a wrong going unpunished.  He's just a prick.  He wants to pick and choose who he hurts and who he helps based on his personal likes and dislikes.  He just loves causing trouble and sticking a sharp stick in the eye of anyone who he feels slighted him or someday might slight him.  Plus he's a misogynist.

IMO, leakers can be both heroes (like Mr. Felt) or villians (like Mr. Assange), depending on their motives.  So far, the leakers who are coming out with disturbing info regarding President Trump and his associates and their actions vis a vis Russia seem to fall into the category of the former.  The copycat leakers likely to eventually show up with nothing more than embarrassing gossip looking for their 15 minutes of fame deserve the latter title.

Let's look at motives carefully before we assign either medals or prison uniforms.

S


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Old habits die hard


At age 70 Donald Trump became our oldest President.  Prior to his election he enjoyed a financially successful career in the rough-and-tumble, cutthroat world of high-stakes commercial development.  Deals are usually measured in the hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars.  It isn't a profession for the timid.  With that much money at stake, they'd throw their mama under the bus if that's what it took to close a deal.

There are no telling how many times in his career Mr. Trump has gone to a zoning official or building inspector, put his hand on his shoulder, and told him he'd "really appreciate it if you could make this little violation go away."  He might have even followed it up with "You're a smart guy.  If you ever get tired of workin' for city wages, come look me up.  We can always use someone with your talents."  And with that....problem gone.  And if not, a phone call later that zoning official or building inspector became the new South Side illegal dumping deputy assistant / third shift.  That's the way things often work in that world.

The problem for President Trump is that he brought that same method of problem solving with him into his White House.  


Early in President Trump's business career his attorney was Roy Cohen, the same Roy Cohen who made a name for himself representing Joseph McCarthy and later numerous organized crime bosses.  Mr. Cohen's modus operandi was simple:  Attack!  Bully!  Intimidate!  Bluff!  They hit you, you hit them back X 10.  They sue you, you counter-sue them for 10 times as much.  Wear 'em down.  Never admit anything.  Donald Trump was a good study.

Fast forward to January, 2017.  President Trump told Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates to defend his travel ban and she refused, saying it was illegal (and courts later agreed).  "You're FIRED!"

February, 2017.  President Trump (supposedly) asked FBI Director Comey for a personal loyalty oath, something not uncommon to demand from his former business subordinates.  Comey refused.  Then Trump told Mr. Comey he would like to see the investigation of Michael Flynn go away.  It didn't, and in fact the investigation widened.  "You're FIRED!"

It was a sleazy way to do business, and it's a completely unacceptable way to run a country.  At age 70 I doubt he is willing to change his ways.  "It worked then, why not now?"  The White House isn't Trump Tower, and Congress and the Courts aren't going to jump to attention when he snaps his fingers.  If he keeps this up, and I think he will, a taxpayer funded moving van will probably sooner rather than later be pulling up in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Stay tuned.

S


Monday, May 15, 2017

It looks like we put all our eggs in one basket, then dropped the basket


Unless you spent the entire weekend with mom slugging down mimosas in honor of her day, you'll probably know there's a nasty ransomware virus going around, infecting hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide that use the Microsoft Windows operating system.  Specifically, 200,000 computers in 150 countries have been hit so far, with the cyber-attackers demanding a $300 extortion to be paid in Bitcoins.  The UK's National Health Service, the German railway system, Chinese universities, many international businesses and others have all had their files locked up.

It seems that our NSA nerds found a flaw in the Windows system and utilized it to [CENSORED].  Unfortunately their secret got out and hackers developed it into this "Wannacry" virus, and now here we are all over the internet with our pants down around out ankles looking foolish.

Bad as this is, this is chump change compared to what might have happened.  What if they had hacked in and just hit the DELETE button?  What if all that info just permanently disappeared?  It could take months or even years to reconstruct it all, if that's even possible.  

As I've written about in the past, this is the new face of warfare.   No hostile military power is likely to roll 10,000 tanks across the border and invade the US or Germany or any other developed western nation.  There's no need to if they can just worm their way into our computer systems and knock out our stock exchanges, our medical centers, our research centers, etc.  They can bring us to our knees without firing a shot.

I know we have an army of cyber-security experts working to prevent this, but they will always be at a disadvantage.  Those on offense...in this case the cyber-attackers...know what they're going to hit, and when, and where, and exactly how.  Those on defense...our cyber-security experts...have to try and cover all bases all the time.  IF they can even identify all the bases.

This is the new normal.  We are hopelessly addicted to computers.  They control everything.  And with 90% of the world's computers running on the (apparently) super-vulnerable Microsoft Windows operating system, I have to wonder why we haven't kicked Microsoft to the curb years ago?  M/S seems to work 24/7 just developing new patches to fix their old patches.  DOH!  Isn't there anything safer/better?

Bottom line....there will always be hackers, and they will often win.  We will be increasingly inconvenienced, and likely even crippled now and then.  Count on it.  Individually, all I can think to do is hoard cash, for when our bank accounts and ATM's and such are zapped, cash will always be king.  I have no idea how businesses and other major institutions will defend themselves.  That's way above my pay grade.

S


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Poor guy can't buy a break. Well, on second thought, maybe he can.

Noooooooo!

President Donnie John Trump is now interviewing for a new FBI Director after he canned previous Top Cop James Comey earlier this week.  Many sources say Texas Senator John Cornyn is the front runner for the position.

So let's see....Sen. Cornyn is tall, well groomed, distinguished looking, very white....and tall, and.....umm....is not currently under indictment.  That pretty much sums him up.  But he's also NOT just your average, run-of-the-mill Senator.  He's the (Republican) Senate Majority Whip, second-in-command only to Mitch McConnell, which by definition means he's HIGHLY PARTISAN.  Mitch says "jump", Cornie says "how high?"  He loyally does what he's told.  That's how you get to an upper leadership position in either party.

Didn't The Donald supposedly ask James Comey for his loyalty over dinner one evening, and when Comey sidestepped the question, was shortly thereafter fired?  We know in his business dealings President Trump put a high premium on loyalty, which isn't an unreasonable thing to expect in a business setting.  But an FBI Director should show allegiance to the Constitution, not to the POTUS or any other individual.  

 Right now President Trump really, REALLY needs an FBI Director who will reign in the police dogs who are hot after him.

Having watched my state's Senator in action for some time now, I'm thinking Mr. Cornyn just might be the whore "yes-man" Team Trump wants to have on their speed dial.

We (The People), however, deserve better.  We deserve an FBI Director who is a seasoned federal prosecutor, a high-level law enforcement officer, or an experienced intelligence guy, someone not in the gravity field of either political party.  Is this asking too much?  Please, no more contaminated political hacks.

S



Thursday, May 11, 2017

Careful which horse you hitch your wagon to


Another day, another head-shaking, eye-rolling, LOL revelation surfaces in Washington, DC.  I must hand it to the Republicans....when they throw a scandal, they throw a doozie!  Take notes Democrats.  You're up next, and we don't want any lame "theft of government office supplies" crap.  Where's the fun in that?

Prez Trump fires the FBI Director, fired Acting Atty General Sally Yates said she drew them a picture of who was caught with their pants down (figuratively speaking), Flynn did this, Russia did that...*sigh*...this is a circus!

What I can't figure out is why virtually every House and Senate Republican is doing all he/she can to stonewall any investigation into what the Russians might have had to do with our recent elections and the Trump campaign?  There may not be any felonious flames visible, but there is enough smoke to be seen from outer space!

Meanwhile, virtually every Democrat is calling for a Special Prosecutor to be appointed to pursue a non-partisan investigation.  The Dems feel (probably with some justification) that Congressional Committees chaired by Republicans will just give Trump a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card.   They also know the Republicans will never give them control of any investigation (I don't blame them), and a Special Prosecutor is likely the only way to honestly find out WTH is going on.

If I was a Congressional Republican I would commit suicide welcome the opportunity to get myself out of all this Russia/Trump mess.  I would just say there was too much People's business to do to waste any more time on this sideshow.  Let a Special Prosecutor take it and run with it and see where it goes, if anywhere.  But they for some reason just keep doubling down and saying they can handle it in Congress, no Special Prosecutor, no no NO!

Where is the upside to defending Trump?  If he gets run out of town, they get the plastic white haired guy.  And if Trump survives, he'll be too toxic to associate with.

S