Saturday, June 10, 2017

Semantics


Let's assume your boss calls you into their office, tells you to close the door and sit down. If you're like me, you're probably thinking, "Oh, shit, what'd I do now?" But let's leave my insecurity out of it for now, shall we?

Your boss hands you a piece a paper with a name and a phone number on it and proceeds to say the following: "This is the phone number of one of our customers and he's very upset. If it's at all possible I hope you can see your way to calling him and finding out what his problem is and then resolving it? I've dealt with him before and he's really a nice guy and a good customer of ours. Okay?"

Now, nowhere it the above paragraph does it say that the boss "ordered" or "directed" the employee to call the customer. Indeed, to the untrained eye, it almost seems as though the boss was merely making a suggestion, not unlike a friend who makes a suggestion as to what restaurant he or she wants to go out to. "You know, we had Mexican last week, how about Chinese tonight? Okay?"

But to the person who's spent more than ten minutes in the private sector - and I've spent a lot more than ten minutes, believe you me - this is anything but a suggestion. While the words "direct" or "order" do not appear in the paragraph, they are implied. This employee has bas been told by their boss to take care of a customer issue and if that employee knows what's good for them, they will comply.

That's how the world operates. Bosses tell their subordinates what to do all the time; some couch it differently, but in the end it's the same thing. Whether a boss says "I order you to do this" or says "If at all possible, I hope you can do this," is irrelevant. It's called semantics. One does not have to be a lawyer to come to that conclusion, merely a person capable of using the common sense God gave them.

James Comey knew exactly what Donald Trump meant when he said, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go." And the reason he knew that was because Trump told Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Vice President Mike Pence to leave the room. In other words, Trump and Comey were all alone in the Oval Office. One does not go to all the trouble of clearing a room to make a "suggestion." Just the opposite, one goes to all that trouble when what they are about to say is urgent and needs immediate attention. The boss asking their employee to close the door and sit down implies a seriousness that belies even the hint of a suggestion.

But it goes much farther than that. Not only was Trump directing Comey to drop the investigation into Mike Flynn, he was doing so in a manner that suggests he knew he was wrong. You don't tell your attorney general and vice president to scram if you're on the up and up. Quite the contrary, you do that when you know full well that what you're doing is illegal and you don't want anybody else to know about it. Comey got that, which is why he took great pains to document his meetings with Trump, all nine of them.

To suggest that because Trump never actually "directed" Comey to drop the Flynn investigation meant that he was not guilty of obstruction, as Idaho senator James Risch did, is absurd. Equally absurd, not to mention insulting, is the comment from Speaker Paul Ryan that Trump is "just new to this." Really? We're supposed to believe that a man who has had more litigation experience than Clarence Darrow is somehow "new" to investigations? Now that's what I call new.

I have two questions for both of these idiots: If either of them were to walk into a bank and hand the teller a note that read, "I hope you can see your way to giving me the money in your vault," 1) How long do you suppose it would take before he was wrestled to the ground, handcuffed and taken away by the cops? and 2) Would any defense attorney worth a damn actually have the balls to argue that his client was "new" to the banking industry? I'm guessing the answer to the former question would be about ten seconds and the answer to the latter would be never.

But in GOP land, where reality has been on hiatus ever since January 20 - some would say longer - both questions are perfectly valid. For four and a half months now, Republicans have been bending over backward trying to justify every stunt this president has pulled. No matter how outlandish or childish his conduct has been, the leadership of the GOP has turned a blind eye or a deaf ear to it.

And as if to add insult to injury, some of them are now going after James Comey for - get this - "leaking" his memos to the press. Yes, you read that right. Comey, not Trump, is the real villain here, because he leaked the contents of his communications with Trump. Never mind that those communications were neither classified nor privileged; never mind that Comey had every right to divulge those contents to whomever he felt like; and never mind that when it comes to releasing sensitive information, this president has been the Leaker in Chief, even before he took office. Trump, through his tweets, has shot himself in the foot so much, it's a wonder he hasn't bled to death.

And now this moron says he wants to testify under oath before special counsel Robert Mueller that Comey is the one who's lying, not him. Can you imagine Trump swearing under oath that he never told Comey to let the Flynn investigation go? Or that he demanded that Comey pledge his loyalty to him? I would love to be a fly on a wall in that room.

Then again, Trump is so brazen in his lies, so smooth in his deception, he might actually pull it off. The man has no moral compass, no discernment between right and wrong and no conscience to speak of. He's totally incapable of admitting he's wrong, even when the overwhelming evidence points to it. Next to him Jeffrey Dahmer is just someone with an eating disorder.

What we have here is more than just a textbook case of obstruction of justice and, thanks to his own big mouth, perjury. What we have here is a rogue president who lacks the basic abilities for the position he currently holds. Not only he is a threat to himself, he's a threat to the country and the world as a whole. Far from evolving into the job, he appears to be regressing.

And the Republican Party has apparently gone along for the ride, totally indifferent to their complicity. History will judge them accordingly. Forty-three years ago, the GOP stood up to a corrupt Republican president and told him he had to go. That was a difficult decision to make, but in the end they put their country before their party.

I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to follow suit.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Call It A Night, Hillary


There's this scene from the seminal movie A Night To Remember where Kenneth More's character, Second Officer Charles Lightoller, is having a discussion with a passenger in one of the Titanic's lifeboats as the rescue ship Carpathia arrives on the scene to pick up the survivors, and it goes like this:

Passenger: "Would that be the Carpathia?"
Lightoller: Nods.
Passenger: "Aren't you glad to see her?"
Lightoller: "Yes, I'm glad, but then I'm still alive."
Passenger: "If only she'd been nearer."
Lightoller: "There's a lot of ifs, aren't there? If we been steaming a few knots slower, or if we'd spotted that berg a few seconds earlier, we might not even have struck. If we'd carry enough lifeboats for the size of the ship instead of just enough to meet the regulations, things would've been different again wouldn't they?"

It was one of the more poignant moments in the epic disaster film that to this days still stands as the best depiction of the events on board the doomed ship, but it was all fake. The truth is that Lightoller, to his dying day, could never bring himself to acknowledge what truly happened on that fateful night of April 14, 1912. He blamed the disaster on many things: the berg had recently overturned so it was too dark to spot; the lack of a moon meant that visibility was limited; the ocean was a flat calm so there was no breaking water around the berg. Indeed, it seemed all the elements had conspired against them that night to bring about the calamity: one which Lightoller insisted was a once in a century event. Never did it occur to him that the principle cause of the disaster was gross incompetence on an epic scale. And if it did occur to him, he certainly never admitted it publicly.

How could he? Denial, it seems, isn't just a river in Egypt.

Listening to Hillary Clinton give excuse after excuse about why she lost to Donald Trump got me thinking about that scene and about Lightoller. I wonder what some actress portraying Clinton in the future might say about the events of November 8, 2016. Perhaps she, like More, might be humble enough to admit the obvious. And then, just like in 1958, poetic license would have its way. For you see in the movies, life imitates art, not the other way around.

But movies, no matter how realistic they may look, aren't real; they are vehicles which allow the audience to escape into a make-believe world where fiction is fact and reality is in the eye of the beholder. And that is a world that Hillary and her supporters are trapped in.

I've about had it up to here with Clinton blaming everyone but herself for last November's debacle. Can you believe it, now it's the DNC's fault that she lost to Trump? Yes, it's true, the Democratic National Committee is the latest villain in the never ending saga of "Who Stole Hillary's Election."

So far her list of bad guys consists of James Comey, the FBI, Vladimir Putin, Wiki-Leaks, Bernie's supporters, the racists, the sexists, the New York Times (apparently good journalism is bad for some political candidates) and now the DNC, the very organization that practically dry-humped her leg all throughout the primaries. I swear if Clinton had stopped short just once, it would've taken a crane to pry the DNC out of her ass. And now, she's turning on them. How typical.

My God, what is it about the Clintons that they can never bring themselves to accept responsibility for their own actions? I bet Bill still believes that his meeting with Loretta Lynch was completely innocent. And why shouldn't he? The man got a blow job in the Oval Office from an intern and survived, so what's a little conflict of interest during a criminal investigation?

I have bent over backwards giving Hillary Clinton the benefit of the doubt. I believed then, and still do, that had she won the election she would've made a very good president, perhaps a great one. And not just because of the shit-for-brains man child that currently holds the job, but because her resume speaks for itself. She was a tireless advocate for women's rights as first lady; she was a damn good senator from my home state; and, in spit of what the bat-shit contingent on the Right keep saying about her, she was a more than adequate secretary of state. Indeed, her husband was the first Democrat to win two terms in office since FDR. The list of accomplishments for the Clinton family is considerable and honorable. They and their party should be proud.

But the problems that have plagued the Clintons over the years have had little to do with their professional lives, but rather their private ones. If they had a theme song it would be "You're Living In Your Own Private Idaho." I've heard of people who live in bubbles, but this family takes the cake. For them, admitting to a wrong is like pulling a tooth from a tiger in the wild - without a tranquilizer.

And the sad thing about it is that it was never the actual act that proved to be their undoing, but rather their response to it. Bill gets a B.J. and spends the next three months denying it; Hillary has a private email server discovered and goes on a Ralph Kramdem "Hamana, Hamana" rationalization tour. Even after Comey called her on the carpet last July, she does an interview with Chris Wallace and, with a straight face, insists the FBI said she was innocent. Anyone who with two ears and half a brain, however, knew different.

It's one thing to be stabbed in the back by your opponents; it's quite another to push the blade in with your own hand. And that is exactly what the Clintons have done for most of their political lives. True, they've been the victims of some of the most vile and despicable conspiracy theories ever concocted. And equally true, the press and the media have done a mediocre job at best of debunking most of them. But who said politics was fair, or decent for that matter? As the saying goes, if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

So this is my message to Hillary Clinton: if you're looking for the person most responsible for putting Donald Trump in the White House, I suggest you look at the woman staring back at you in the mirror. Because she's the real villain in this tragedy. No one else.

Yes, Comey screwed you; and yes, Putin had it in for you; and the blame that NAFTA received for all those blue-collar job losses in Ohio and Michigan was completely overblown. I'll grant you all of that. But it wasn't Comey who decided not to visit Wisconsin once during the general election. Nor was it Putin who thought having a private email server in your basement was a swell idea. Those were all your doing. You don't get to go full speed ahead through an ice field and then blame the berg. It doesn't work that way.

You're pissed and your pride is wounded. I get it. You were supposed to win in a landslide and you lost. There will forever be an asterisk next to the 2016 presidential election and people for generations to come will remember you not for your service as first lady or senator or secretary of state, but as the person who gave us Trump. That's a heavy burden to carry. You are the Baltimore Orioles of politics, only it wasn't the Miracle Mets who beat you, it was the Bad News Bears.

And now you're embarking on yet another tour. You're going after Trump the way attorneys re-litigate the cases they've lost. Unfortunately, that never changes the jury's verdict. Nothing will ever undo November 8, anymore than replaying the Titanic disaster will make the great ship reappear or the 1500 lives that were lost restored. Time only flows in one direction: forward. The future belongs to those who can let go of the past. And, sadly, that is not you.

You are consumed by all the what ifs; what if this and what if that. That is certainly your right, but you don't have the right to take the entire Democratic Party down Recrimination Lane with you. There is too damn much at stake for such nonsense. What Trump is doing to this nation, dictators do to third-world countries. He must be stopped.

If you insist on throwing a pity party, knock yourself out, but leave us out. This is no time for pity. There's a special election in Georgia this month that will go a long way towards determining whether the Democrats have a shot at taking back the House. They need to win it by hook or crook. Then there are the 2018 midterms themselves. A net gain of 24 seats and they will be able to stop der Fuhrer in his tracks. To achieve that goal, they will need to focus all their energy on constructing a message that will resonate with voters, not licking your wounds for you.

Face it, it's over. You and your husband have had quite a ride. Bill a two-term president; you a two-term senator and secretary of state. That's more than most couples could ever hope for. And now, for the good of the Party, the country and whole fucking planet, it's time to pack it in. You've written your book, now go back to Chappaqua. They love you there; hell they love you in a lot of places, just not in the places where you got your ass handed to you, which geographically speaking covers a lot of ground.

The Democratic Party needs new blood and new leadership if it is to regain its once lofty status. It's amazing to consider, but just eight short years ago, it was the GOP that was the party on the run, bereft of ideas and hopelessly tied to a shrinking demographic. Funny how things can turn on a dime.

I implore you as one Democrat to another: if you truly love your country and would like to make one last contribution to its future, then do the right thing. Release the grip you and your husband have on this party. Allow it to regroup and heal.

Rick said goodbye to Ilsa; Willie Mays said goodbye to baseball. It's time for you to say goodbye to politics. And the sooner the better.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Don't Confuse Donald Trump With A Businessman



I've been hearing the above statement - or something similar - from a lot of people ever since il Duce rose to power. The failures of the Trump Administration, they argue, is proof positive that you can't elect business people to run the government. It's simply beyond their capabilities to handle.

To which I say, bullshit!

Look, I'm not suggesting that running a business and being the chief executive of the largest bureaucracy on the planet are analogous, and no doubt there are many facets of the latter which cannot and should not be run like a business. For instance, businesses must earn a profit and I wouldn't want agencies like the FDA or the FAA - which are tasked with regulating the food we eat and the planes we fly in - to be motivated by profit. Just the opposite, in fact.

But please, let's stop this nonsense that Trump's ineptitude is due to the fact that he has no experience in government and that he thinks like a businessman. Apart from Trump I know of no one who's successful in business who behaves like this idiot. Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, even Marc Cuban, none of them would act like this.

In fact the only person that comes even remotely close to matching Trump's bizarre and eccentric behavior would be Steve Jobs. But while Jobs did everything humanly possible to make people despise him, in the end he transformed an entire industry and invented another, creating millions of jobs in the process. Apart from making a few tax accountants filthy rich by keeping him from going bankrupt, the only thing Trump has managed to do successfully is to find enough gullible people to license his name to.

No, Trump's problems have nothing to do with his background, but rather who and what he is. The fact is we have a 70 year old man child living in the White House. He could've been a career politician and the results would've been the same. To quote Forrest Gump, "Stupid is as stupid does."

How can I be so sure? After all, how do I know that Bill Gates in his own way wasn't just as bad as Trump? The difference, one might argue, was that Gates lived in the world of technology, whereas Trump came from the real estate industry. The former was primarily a private person; the latter far more flamboyant. Maybe deep down, both men were just as egotistical and full of themselves and that the only reason we know about Trump's idiosyncrasies is that he chose to air them in public.

Okay, let's play this out. Let's assume that all successful business people have huge egos. After all, Gates's company Microsoft was once sued by the Justice Department because it was believed to be a monopoly. Though the suit eventually failed, it nonetheless tarnished the reputation of Gates. Cuban has been in the public spotlight more than the Kardashians these days. And he hasn't exactly been the poster boy for restraint of tongue. Bloomberg thinks so highly of himself he took advantage of a loophole that allowed him to serve three terms as mayor of New York City, then had the audacity to support a measure that would've restored the city's two-term limit, AFTER he had been elected for the third time. Now that's balls.

So why do these men get a pass and not Trump? Because while all three of these men, I'll admit, have huge egos the size of the Grand Canyon, all of them have had the good sense to surround themselves with quality people who - and this is the rub - actually run their companies. Yes, as strange as it may seem, successful businessmen and women hire people to carry out the day-to-day operations of their companies. As CEOs, they chart the course, then turn the helm over to their respective officers and management. In return those people are responsible to them for the results. Even with all their enormous egos, successful business people have enough humility to know they can't run the show by themselves. They are only as good as the people directly under them.

Just this past weekend I was one of about a hundred or so sales reps who were honored by the senior management of my company at a posh resort in the Dominican Republic. It was a proud moment for me. The senior vice president of the company started off by acknowledging the enormous contributions all of us had made to the company and said this weekend would not be possible without us. You see he knew that success is a shared accomplishment not simply a policy initiative handed down by the president. Without our efforts there'd be no company. He knew that and so do the Bill Gates and Marc Cubans of the world.

I can just imagine Trump addressing his people at a similar awards celebration. He'd probably say something like, "I'd like to thank myself, because without me none of you would be here today. My greatness is the reason you all have jobs and your failures are the sole reason we haven't been as successful as we could be." If you think I'm being too harsh, remember the Yemen raid that went bad a few months ago that led to the death of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens? Rather than take responsibility for the failure, the first thing Trump did was blame his generals. No real leader - or man for that matter - would ever have done that.

Another character trait of successful business people is that they know how to build partnerships. While they always put their own company's interests first, they know full well that without strong relationships with their partners they will inevitably fail. It's called quid pro quo and every salesperson I know has employed it to one degree or another. Successful negotiation involves giving up something to get something. Our economy - indeed the world economy - depends on this basic principle. It's the common thread that binds us all together. Only a fool would believe he could go it alone.

Take a good look at Trump and tell me what you see. If you can honestly say that you don't see any difference between how his administration and most businesses are run, I pray you never start one yourself. You'd be broke in six months. The truth is the differences are night and day. The chaos that has enveloped this White House is the direct result of a man who has all the machinations of a would-be king, but none of the wisdom. He hires people and then refuses to let them do their jobs. Worse, he often undermines them in public. He is the consummate control freak who needs to be the center of attention everywhere he goes. It isn't just that he has a YUGE ego; it's that he sucks the oxygen out of the room.

This isn't genius personified, it's the sign of a very insecure man who is deathly afraid of being found out. He almost reminds me of George Steinbrenner, save for the fact that while Steinbrenner was a notorious micro manager, he did have the good sense to hire Gabe Paul and Gene Michael as GMs. The former was responsible for building the team that won two consecutive World Series titles in the 1970s; the latter built the team that won four championships in five years from 1996 to 2000. And though Steinbrenner could be vindictive and often treated his managers terribly, he was also fiercely loyal and generous to a fault to those who worked for him. Billy Martin may have been fired by him three times, but he was handsomely rewarded while in his employ, as was just about everyone else who worked for him. He was the very definition of a contradiction in terms.

There is no such contradiction in terms with Trump. The man is as obvious as a wooden nickel and just as shallow. He demands complete loyalty from his employees, yet never shows any in return. He screws his partners, berates people he doesn't like and threatens those who challenge his authority, be they the press, the intelligence community or his own cabinet. He has no moral compass to speak of and openly flaunts his contempt for the law and those who enforce it. He does not inspire confidence in his employees, but rather fear and loathing. The massive leaks that have come to define his administration are a plea for help from those who are rightly concerned by what they are witnessing.

And what they are witnessing should terrify all of us. It is the understatement of the century to say we are in unchartered waters. The leader of the free world is running amok. He is not the answer to our prayers; if anything he is our worst nightmare come true. A man bereft of even the smallest semblance of humility, with no business acumen to speak of, zero communication skills and the maturity of a pro wrestler. As I said in my last piece, he has all the impulse control of a four-year old in front of a batch of cookies.

To confuse Donald Trump with a businessman is to impugn the integrity of millions of successful business people across the country and around the world. Maybe one day someone with an actual resume in the business community will get elected president. Then and only then will we finally be able to put this issue of whether a government can be run like a business to bed.

Until that day we are stuck with Donald Trump.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Now It's Mueller's Investigation


The announcement by Rod Rosenstein that he has appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to take over the Russia investigation is encouraging, and for two reasons: First, it's a ray of hope for millions of Americans who were rightly concerned that the wheels were coming off this democracy. Two, it's a thorough rebuke to this president who thought he was above the law but was rudely reminded of just how resilient the system truly is.

Whatever else you may think of the Mueller appointment, there are two things to remember: One, he is meticulously thorough as an investigator. Everyone who knows him has vouched for his character and professionalism. Two, he won't be bullied. [He once threatened to resign while head of the FBI over the NSA's eavesdropping program.] In other words, whatever is out there, Mueller will find it. Oh, and I should also point out that his close ties with James Comey doesn't exactly hurt matters.

But while Democrats are publicly lauding this move and progressives are absolutely giddy at the prospects of Donald Trump being led out in chains, I would hold off on the celebration. For one thing, we are still in the early stages of this investigation. It took almost two years of painstaking investigations by Congressional committees and a litany of courageous journalists who stuck out their necks in pursuit of the truth to bring down Nixon. From what we know of this investigation, there are many more layers and subplots. It could well take years before we know the full scope of what happened.

Granted, for all the parallels between this White House and the Nixon White House, there is one important difference: Nixon, despite his obsession for power, was very much an establishment Republican who, from all accounts, was an otherwise accomplished president. He did after all open the door to relations with Communist China, establish the EPA and took the U.S. off the gold standard. And his administration was for the most part functional.

Trump is the polar opposite. Apart from appointing a conservative to the Supreme Court he has virtually no accomplishments to show for his three and a half months in office. And his administration is in constant turmoil and chaos. Nixon chose his words carefully, Trump tweets the first thing that pops into his head. He has all the impulse control of a four-year old in front of a batch of cookies.

Still, as I write this, two things are certain: One, the White House did not want this, and that is a good sign. It means that they're very concerned about where this investigation could lead. But two, now that this investigation is in the hands of a competent and independent prosecutor, Republicans will finally be able to concentrate on their agenda: killing Obamacare, slashing every regulation on the books and giving YUGE tax breaks to billionaires and millionaires. Meaning Democrats are now going to have to focus their attention squarely on stopping Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell from destroying what's left of the middle class. So long as Trump was the center of attention, they were free to devote all their resources on him and the GOP was forced to play defense.

Funny how things can turn on a dime. Twenty-four hours go, we were talking about how this president both divulged classified intelligence to the Russians and attempted to impede the investigation of a member of his administration. The former has the potential to undermine our relationships with our allies and endanger our security; the latter, if true, is an impeachable offense. Now all the talk is going to be about Robert Mueller and his quest for the truth. The GOP catches a break and, for the time being at least, so does Trump.

As for the Democrats, they have an important special election in Georgia coming up, as well as the 2018 midterms to concern themselves with. Thanks to Rod Rosenstein doing the right thing, they will be forced to do something they haven't been very good at for quite some time: make the case to the American people for why they should be in charge.

Since Barack Obama's ascendency to power in '08, they have lost the Congress, the majority of state houses and the presidency. Rarely has a party's fortunes taken such a hit over such a short period of time. Rebuilding that fortune will be a tall task indeed.

Being anti Trump isn't going to convince the electorate to come back home. It was just that sort of delusional thinking that landed this man child in the White House in the first place.

Monday, May 15, 2017

What Schumer and the Dems Need To Do Regarding Comey's Replacement


It's nice that Chuck Schumer is drawing his own red line by demanding that any new FBI director not be a "partisan politician" from "either party," and that voting on James Comey's replacement might be contingent upon the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Donald Trump and his administration.

Unfortunately for Schumer, Democrats only have 48 seats in the Senate - that's why he's the minority leader and not the majority leader. At present, all Trump needs is 50 Republican senators to do what they've been doing since he was sworn in as president: turn a blind eye and pretend the Republic isn't in mortal jeopardy. Up until now, with a couple of exceptions, things have gone pretty much according to his plan.

So in order to deny Il Duce an opportunity to name a lackey that will ostensibly quash the Russian investigation, Schumer is going to need some help; and by help I mean finding three Republicans who will be brave enough to join ranks with his party. That won't be easy, not in this polarized environment. As we speak Mitch McConnell is working on a way to fast track an Obamacare repeal bill through the Senate without going through committee. In other words, despite their criticisms of the way the lower chamber handled the repeal process, the GOP is fixing to do virtually the same thing in the upper chamber. How's that for underhanded?

Still Schumer must do the seemingly impossible, even if it means sacrificing a rook or a knight to do it. As strange as it might seem, this latest stunt by Trump has aroused some concerns even within his own party. This could give Schumer and Democrats just the opening they need to block him and perhaps get the special prosecutor they've been asking for ever since Comey first went public about the FBI investigation.

Unlike the House, there are still a number of "moderate" Republicans in the Senate. I use the term moderate only because once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, they would've been referred to as conservative. They are basically what's left of the George H.W. Bush / Bob Dole wing of the party; just left of Reagan and a football field's length away from the current rank and file. You can count 'em on one hand plus one finger: John McCain, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Richard Burr, Rob Portman and Dean Heller. FYI: with the exception of Burr, they're also among the likely senators who could derail the ACA repeal effort. Just saying.

Schumer needs to find a way to entice at least three of these senators to not only block Trump, but to stand up with the Democrats and demand a special prosecutor. McCain would be my first choice. Call it my women's intuition - we all have it - but I suspect McCain has never quite gotten over Trump's slight at him during the primaries and would like nothing better than to return the favor. A "no" vote would do just nicely. As to a special prosecutor, McCain has been an advocate of it for weeks.

Next up would be Burr. As the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he along with Vice-chair Mark Warner, are currently investigating possible collusion between members of the Trump Administration and Russia. He is already on record as saying Comey's dismissal was "troubling." While Burr may not agree to a special prosecutor, he might be inclined to insist that any future FBI director be non-partisan.

My third choice would be Murkowski or Collins or both. If approached properly, I think both could be persuaded to, if not support a special prosecutor, than at least demand that Trump pick someone qualified, with no political ties to head the FBI. If both sign on that would give Schumer a total of 52 "no" votes with which to compel Trump to do the right thing.

But in order to get the aforementioned senators to jump ship, Schumer might have to give up something of importance. Obamacare shouldn't be it. The way Republicans are getting it from their constituents at town halls, why on Earth would Schumer part with that bargaining chip? More than likely, Schumer will have to blink on tax reform. Without a total repeal of the tax subsidies in Obamacare - which Republicans can do through reconciliation - McConnell will need 60 votes to get any tax plan through. Schumer could dangle some of his members support in exchange for getting some Republicans to show some spine. A quid pro quo of sorts.

It would be quite a gamble. The sort of tax reform the GOP is proposing would blow a hole the size of the Grand Canyon through the deficit and might well double or triple the debt over the next ten years. Schumer could make his members' support conditional upon some kind of role in the drafting of the legislation. While it's unlikely McConnell would agree to that condition, Schumer should at least make the attempt. If nothing else it would give Democrats another issue to run on in next year's midterms.

Grand speeches are laudable, as are declarations, but desperate times call for desperate measures. We are dealing with a would-be dictator who is doing everything possible to eliminate any and all obstacles to his authority. History will not care how he was stopped; only that he was.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Coup Begins


Let me state this as bluntly as I can. If you think for a moment that Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey because of the way he handled the Clinton email server investigation last year, I would strongly advise you to stay out of Vegas for the foreseeable future; you'll lose your shirt and the kids tuition to boot.

The firing of Sally Yates should've sounded the alarm. We now know that just days before she was removed from her post as acting Attorney General she warned the Administration that Michael Flynn was compromised; Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (which just happens to include Trump Tower), was unceremoniously fired; and now the man who was in charge of the agency that was conducting a criminal investigation into the Trump campaign has been terminated. These aren't mere coincidences, there's a disturbing pattern here.

These are the actions not of a president of a free and open society, but of a strong man of a petty dictatorship. Do not believe for a second the lame excuse from the White House that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's letter condemning Comey's conduct during the Clinton investigation - which, to be fair, is inexcusable - was the reason for this move. If that were the case, why not fire Comey on January 20? Why wait over three months to make a decision any reasonable person could've made on day one.

No, this came directly from the top, and the timing was so brazenly arrogant that it demands a special, independent prosecutor to thoroughly investigate the matter. Nothing short of that will suffice. We haven't had a Constitutional crisis like this since Richard Nixon fired Archibald Cox in 1973. It is clear the Department of Justice has been compromised and now, with Comey out of the way, the FBI's active investigation is in serious jeopardy.

Not all Democracies die by the sword; some die from a fountain pen. We are in treacherous waters as a Republic. We have a president who is openly contemptuous of the rule of law, berates judges who challenge his executive orders, calls the media fake news, pulls alternative facts out of his ass, heaps praise upon despots, appoints his family to ostensibly run his administration, and is taking steps to eliminate any threats to his authority from within the federal government. If that isn't a textbook definition of a coup I don't know what is.

It remains to be seen whether Republicans will finally show some spine and stand up to Trump before it's too late. Frankly, I wouldn't hold my breath. Both the Senate and House intelligence committees are woefully understaffed, meaning if Trump succeeds in getting the FBI to drop its investigation, Congress may never be able to get at the truth.

The courts may be the last vestige of hope for this nation if the legislative branch fails in its duty. But even they may not be able to thwart Trump entirely, especially since the Supreme Court has the final word and it is now fully manned with five conservatives and four liberals on the bench. In other words, we could be fucked.

I know progressives are concerned about the fate of Obamacare, women's reproductive rights, the environment, etc, and rightly so. But all of that must take second fiddle to what is happening right in front of our very eyes. I was only 13 years old when Nixon resigned in disgrace. Back then the system worked, and the Constitution, despite being severely tested, withstood the assault. I am not so optimistic that we will come out of it this time.

Some rabbit holes are too deep to climb out of.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

In Honor of My Father


Over the last couple of days I've thought a great deal about my father. Since it's hard to sum up a man's life, especially someone as complicated as dad, I thought the best thing would be to just make a list of bullet points and see where it took me. I hope I've done him justice.

  • Growing up, my father was a huge Brooklyn Dodgers' fan. His favorite Dodgers were Duke Snyder and Pee Wee Reese, though I suspect he probably held a special place in his heart for Johnny Podres, the pitcher who tossed a shutout over the hated Yankees in the 1955 World Series.
  • After the Dodgers left Brooklyn, my father would eventually become a Mets' fan, and it was only fitting that his son would follow suit. My father and I spent many an evening watching Tom Seaver and Rusty Staub together.
  • In fact, my father and I watched a good deal of sports on TV, from the Rangers to the Giants to the Knicks.  We celebrated the Rangers' upset over the Islanders in '79 and their Stanley Cup win in '94. When the Giants marched their way to championships in Super Bowls 21 and 25, I made two copies of the games: one for me and one for him.
  • My father was a World War II buff. His favorite movies were Patton and The Longest Day. On one of his birthdays I got him the entire series of Victory At Sea. I swear the man locked himself in the den and watched every episode. And when The World At War made its way to television, I taped it for him. He was like a kid with a new puppy.
  • Speaking of TV, some of my father's favorite shows were Hogans' Heroes, Get Smart and Rowan & Martin's Laugh In. He used to love the way Sgt Schultz would say "I know nothing." I think that's why he loved Laugh In so much. He got to see Arte Johnson dressed in a German uniform saying "Very interesting, but stupid."
  • Another show that my father would watch religiously was the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast. His personal favorites were Foster Brooks (the bumbling drunk) and Don Rickles (Mr. Warmth as Martin jokingly referred to him). I suspect had he'd been aware, he would've mourned the passing of Rickles.
  • And I would be remiss if I didn't mention Lawrence Welk. Every Sunday evening, the family would sit down in front of the TV and watch Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, followed by old Mr. Bubbles himself.  I'm being polite when I say sit down. As kids, it was the closest thing we knew to forced labor.
  • When it came to music, my father worshiped the Big Band era. His favorite band leader was Glenn Miller, though the Dorsey Brothers were a close second. And he probably wouldn't want me saying this, but the man had every Lester Lanin record ever made. Why? I have absolutely no idea. But then he was a complicated man.
  • The old man absolutely loved to drive, and often the family would pile into the car and go off for hours. It didn't matter where, so long as my father was behind the wheel. Some of my fondest memories were when dad would take me with him in the car, just the two of us. When I was maybe 6 or 7, I remember one time when we were in Nantucket. I got to sit on his lap and steer the car for a while. I think he got more of a kick out of it than I did. I should point out that I took my cue from dad when it came to driving, a fact my wife has never let me live down.
  • My father was a good provider and often made sacrifices for us. Every Christmas, the tree was overflowing with toys. My sister and I wanted for nothing as kids. On one occasion, he got a hold of a ticket to a Rangers' playoff game against the St. Louis Blues. Only one of us could go, so he gave me the ticket. I saw Barry Beck score the series winning goal at the Garden. It was a moment I'll never forget. I only wish he'd been there to share it with me.
  • But my father and I didn't just share a love for the local sports teams. We were both avid model rail roading fans. My father bought me my first train set when I was five. He set it up on a board that he hand-painted himself. When we moved out to Long Island, he and I spent many a day and night in the basement with the Baltimore & Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroads for company. Dad was more into the houses and the scenery; I was more of a track guy: the more the merrier. At one point I had three power packs running three separate trains on four boards. It was like Jamaica station during rush hour.
  • My father was never one for expressing his feelings. On the one hand we knew, as kids, that he loved us, but he just couldn't bring himself to say it. In his later years, my father and I grew closer and, after he moved down to Florida, we would often call each other. We always ended every call by saying "I love you." On my last call to dad, I told him I loved him, and he replied in kind, though by that point I suspect he was just repeating what he heard. Still it meant the world to me to hear him say it one last time.
  • As he grew more and more ill, I made it a point to visit him several times. We would just watch his favorite shows on DVDs that I had brought with me. They made him laugh, and it made me feel good that I was bringing some joy into the remaining months of his life. We even managed to shoot a game of pool.
  • Oh, did I forget to tell you tell you, the old man was one helluva pool player. We used to call him Massapequa Fats in the day. When we were kids, I remember my father and my uncle Syd would play pool down in the basement and we weren't allowed to make a peep. It was like watching Jackie Gleason and Paul Newman in The Hustler, that's how good the two of them were. It was a thing to behold.
  • And now he's gone. I miss him terribly, but I know that his suffering is over and that God has him in his care. One day I will be reunited with him in Heaven and we will watch those wonderful TV shows again, catch a ballgame or two and maybe even finish that pool game we started but never quite finished. Who knows, I might even beat him this time.
  • Rest in peace, dad. I love you.