“The President Looks Forward To A Twitter Forum” – H.R. McMaster, May 16th 2017. I think we can ALL agree that much is true!
It is interesting- if unsurprising- that people who yelled loudest that “those who wish for President Obama to fail are wishing for America to fail,” are now the ones looking for every reason imaginable to cut President Trump down to size on the topic of Russia, among other things. Before saying else, let me just add quickly that I am not normally a defender of Donald Trump. (Click here for supporting evidence.) It’s also reasonable to assume that if Barack Obama was still Commander in Chief, many Republicans and their allies would be as loud, if not louder- albeit smaller in numbers- about a President being so chummy with a foreign adversary. But for the purpose of this topic, I’m not any more interested in talking about alternative realities, than I am in talking about alternative facts. In THIS reality, by jumping to the most sinister conclusions without all the non-alternative facts to support their claim, most of Trump’s biggest enemies are doing themselves no favors.
“For Every Reaction, There Is An Opposite And Equal Reaction”
For much of the press, it has become a daily hobby to see just how far Donald Trump can push his “Performance Art Presidency”. From ranting like an angry teenager on Twitter, to contradicting his own staff, to contradicting his own SELF, he has not disappointed. Nevertheless, whatever his qualifications as a President (or lack thereof), the fact remains he IS the President, which means that he has some serious responsibility, whether he- or the rest of us- like it or not.
Part of being the President involves making difficult decisions, with ramifications spanning the entire globe, often out of the public eye. Since World War II, when we partnered up with the murderous Joseph Stalin to defeat the Nazis- ACTUAL Nazis, not those who annoy us online- the United States has had a very delicate balancing act with Russia. We are doing something similar today, as we look for allies, even unnatural ones, to defeat ISIS. Prior to Trump’s arrival into the political world, Democrats strongly believed in this geopolitical balance, far more than Republicans did. This is why they protested Reagan’s use of “Evil Empire” (even though he was right), as well as George W. Bush pulling out of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty. (If you’re a fan of irony, see how upset Democrats were, for Bush supposedly disrespecting Putin.)
But all that was before Wikileaks, the defeat of Hillary Clinton, and the unexpected rise to power of a man they despised. Truth be told, convincing oneself that Donald Trump is a traitor isn’t so hard for members of “The Resistance”. The logic goes something like this-
One of the worst things to accuse a President of is the act of treason.
Donald Trump is the worst.
Ergo, Donald Trump committed the act of treason.
To be fair, Trump and his people have given his domestic enemies plenty of ammo to suspect that something is going on, between the constant praise of Putin, the non-disclosed meetings with Russian officials, and the abrupt firing of James Comey. But all that is a long, LONG way from treason. (For anyone who thinks such activity is so unprecedented, click here , here, and/or here.) It should also be noted that President Trump ordered the bombing of a Syrian airbase, a move that even many of his critics- briefly and begrudgingly- praised at the time, and more importantly for the purposes of THIS topic, infuriated Vladimir Putin. Whatever else Donald Trump may be up to, that hardly sounds like the actions of a man willing to sell out his country to the Russians.
Finally, while it’s understandable that any sane person would question Trump’s motives on a variety of topics, there is no reason to ALWAYS assume the worst, particularly in this case. Those that remain unconvinced should try watching National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s outstanding press briefing on the subject, making a strong case that it is the leaker, not Trump, who is at fault for putting national security at risk here. (Relevant portion begins at 24 minutes.) As for those who still can’t let go of the fact that Donald Trump should be criticized at every turn, fear not- all indications point to having plenty of other opportunities to do so. From what we can tell so far, though, meeting with a Russian official to discuss defeating ISIS should not be one of them.
…which, unfortunately, are all too few and far between.
Let’s get something straight- Donald Trump is autocratic, bombastic, reckless, and impulsive, among other things. This is something we’ve known about the man, long before he got into politics. Those that have a passing knowledge of his past dealings also know that he will almost-literally bulldoze anyone in his way. (For those who don’t, click here.) Knowing all this about a guy who has been in public life for four decades, the abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey actually makes sense, relative to Trump’s “normal” modus operandi. But right now, we’re in a hostile, ultra-polarized political environment that’s anything but normal. On one side, there’s a treasonous conspiracy theory that spans the globe. On the other side, there’s applause for a move that we’re told was “inevitable”, even though we hardly heard anything about it before it happened. What should the rest of us believe?
To The Left, To The Left…
For the vast majority of Trump-hating liberals, this is more “proof” that he’s in cahoots with the Russians, something that they talked themselves into before he even got sworn in. (Of course, this was only after voter machine miscues and the original fake news accusations didn’t stick.) The same people who told us how “frightening” it was that Trump wouldn’t swear to unconditionally respect the election results, are the same ones who now want us to unconditionally question the election results, something they’ve done ever since the day their candidate didn’t win. This isn’t to say there’s NO evidence of Russian interference on behalf of Trump- far from it. (We’ll get to that part in the next section.) But with all the things that we know to be true about Donald Trump, let alone the things that are likely to be true, the idea that he’s specifically operating on behalf of Russia is only slightly less unhinged than the idea that he’s the next Hitler.
And since when have liberals cared so much about Russian dominance, anyway? In the one accidental moment of greatness (in hindsight) during Mitt Romney’s otherwise feckless campaign, his attempt at a serious discussion of Russian dominance was treated with ridicule and scorn, from none other than President Obama, among so many others. (Unsurprisingly, The New York Times wasn’t kind, either.) The investigation into Russian interference might seem more credible to skeptics, if its biggest advocates would admit it is COMPLETELY about stopping Trump, not Vladimir Putin. There have been plenty of opportunities to show real concern about Putin for two decades, but the western media has mostly been quiet, save for a few stories, lasting one or two news cycles, about some invasion or execution of a political opponent. (Truth be told, the most covered anti-Putin story was probably about the band Pussy Riot getting arrested for its lyrics, but that was largely because the lead singer was incredibly good looking, and the media had an excuse to legitimately say the word “pussy”.)
One final point, before examining the other side’s motives and “logic”, such as it is- it’s worth pointing that to the extent that Russia did successfully interfere, it was in exposing the Democratic National Committee’s activities in the primaries. Broken down into their most basic elements, critics screaming about Russian interference are essentially angry that voters found out how the DNC, under the leadership of Debbie Wasserman Schulz, was going to bat exclusively for Hillary Clinton, in an attempt to slow down Bernie Sanders momentum, and put Hillary over-the-top, once and for all. Oh, the irony.
Right Here, Right Now…
None of the explanations given above justify a single thing about the firing itself. In fact, the reckless way in which it was conducted by Trump, followed by the inconsistent stories given in its aftermath (they even tried to claim it was Comey’s harsh handling of HILLARY that led to the firing), have made it not only inevitable that the story would be covered, but it should be covered. Just consider the facts- The President of the United States fires the FBI Director, openly admits that the investigation into Russia is part of the reason for it, and then implies blackmail on Twitter if the poor guy doesn’t keep his mouth shut?! How can ANYONE defend that kind of behavior?! And yet…
Tucker Carlson applauded the move of Comey’s firing, implying he was an out-of-control threat from the highest reaches of government, that people were more fearful of criticizing than Trump himself. (I dunno, Tucker- YOU seem kind of fearful of criticizing Trump. But I digress.) Our old buddy Charles Hurt did the same thing, praising Trump for cleaning out “the swamp“. Conservative after conservative commentator could not stop bloviating about liberal hypocrisy in criticizing the firing, when liberals themselves had previously been so critical of Comey. In doing so, they completely disregarded the strongest point from the investigation advocates, and not-coincidentally the one gaining the most traction- the suspicious timing of the firing. Why now? You don’t have to be a Trump critic to want an answer to it, but you do have to be a Trump sycophant to NOT want an answer to it.
And At The Center Of It All…
This madness begins and ends, much like this blog post itself, with Donald J. Trump. This is someone who wants to be the center of a universe in which he is celebrated, feared and loved at the same time. James Comey threatened all of those things, and while no one can be sure of the main motivation of his dismissal- perhaps not even Trump himself- this seems far more likely as explanation, than the revelation of a “smoking gun” (sorry, left), or the fact that Comey was the one who was out of control (sorry, right).
But nothing about the firing reveals the nature of Trump more than the way James Comey was fired. From the New York Times–
“Mr. Comey was addressing a group of F.B.I. employees in Los Angeles when a television in the background flashed the news that he had been fired. In response, Mr. Comey laughed, saying he thought it was a fairly funny prank. Then his staff started scurrying around in the background and told Mr. Comey that he should step into a nearby office.”
Unreal, yet totally believable. Teenage Metallica showed more tact when they fired Dave Mustaine in 1983. Maybe Comey should’ve been fired. Maybe he shouldn’t. Maybe it’s part of a cover-up. Maybe it’s not. But the fact that the guy had to find out what happened to him from a TELEVISION SET WHILE HE WAS GIVING A SPEECH, shows yet again something we’ve known about Donald Trump, long before the Access Hollywood tapes, the wall, the comments about people from Mexico, the Birther movement, and all the other things that have come to define this guy in recent years- the man needs to be the center of his own (dysfunctional) universe. As others have pointed out, Trump publicly speculating Comey might have become more famous than Trump himself seems less a compliment of Comey, and more about Trump fearing the loss of his own spotlight. If his mission was to get it back, at least he accomplished THAT much.
Conservatives- “It was inevitable that this was going to happen, and it was a long time coming, even though I haven’t said anything about it until just now. But I applaud this move by our wonderful President, with his huge hands and amazing political insight. Clearly it had to happen, and liberals are hypocrites for criticizing it, after being so critical of Comey themselves. Sure, they’re criticizing the TIMING and not the move itself, but they’re still hypocrites. Why? Because! They…well, they just are, of course! They’re liberals! Liberals are hypocrites! Everyone knows that! Case closed! *places hands over ears* Lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalala!!! I can’t hear you! Lalalalalalalalalala!!!”
(If Seattle ever gets another NBA team, will players be able to afford to live there?)
Some direct quotes from the latest article in the Seattle Times about the Not-A-Bubble in real estate…
““I think that’s just going to become the new norm. There are no signs of it slowing down”
“Some buyers are even coming out and saying ‘I am willing to buy X dollars over appraised value just to close the transaction”
“brokers say buyers are “over-confident” that they can sit on their houses and sell later because prices keep going up.”
With only the tiniest hint of incredulity (“the greater Seattle real estate market…somehow keeps picking up even more steam“), the article’s accepting tone is almost as revealing as the cited facts themselves. There is not even a passing mention of the unraveling of the real estate market at the end of the previous decade. (The question of a whether a bubble can form- let alone whether there already is one- gets addressed briefly, only to basically be dismissed.) There is no mention of how interests rates are STILL lower than the supposedly reckless 1.0% that Alan Greenspan left the Federal funds rate for roughly a year. (Rates have now been LOWER than that for EIGHT years.) Heck, there is no mention of interest rates AT ALL- just low inventory. I guess that explains the whole thing, huh?
What else can be said, that hasn’t been said so many times already…
In pushing his political agenda, which one of these guys showed poor taste and poor timing?
One of the most underrated storylines of NBC’s “The Office” was the hostile dynamic between Michael Scott and Toby Flenderson, a kind-natured but tepid human-resource employee, just trying to do his job. Scott, a delusional middle manager whose mere presence was a demoralizing influence on those around him (at least in the early episodes), always assumed his verbal- and occasionally physical– abuse was exposing poor Toby to the world (or in this case, the viewers) as a reprehensible and intrusive buzzkill, while in actuality showing everyone what kind of guy Michael Scott himself was- and it wasn’t pretty.
This week in real life, we’ve seen a similar level of accidental self-reflection. It started after Jimmy Kimmel revealed the personal and painful trauma of living through his newborn son’s heart surgery. Kimmel is not normally one to bare his soul to the public, so it’s pretty clear that he felt and meant every word that he was saying. Not even the most cynical viewer could take issue with his tears. His words, however, were another story. Without getting into a detailed discussion of the speech itself (watch here to decide for yourself) there’s no denying that Kimmel has a very specific point of view on this subject- and, just like any specific point of view, it’s not going to be shared unanimously. After all, there are roughly seven billion of us nowadays, which leads to roughly seven billion different points of view. Not everyone is going to see things the way that Jimmy Kimmel does.
Enter Charles Hurt, a conservative Washington Times columnist who definitelyhas a different point of view from Jimmy Kimmel- and what a point of view it is. Like many of us, Mr. Hurt generally comes across in the flesh as a pleasant individual, but online often seems like a madman, writing up an angry screed on a bathroom wall (albeit with a better vocabulary). He took it to a whole new level against Kimmel, calling him- quote- an “elitist creep”, as well as a “dirty, self-absorbed, narcissistic exhibitionist”…and for what, exactly? Hoping that no parent would have to go through what he did, particularly poor ones that couldn’t afford the kind of care that a rich late-night talk show host could? While Jimmy Kimmel’s endorsement of expanded healthcare has merits that are certainly debatable, his motivation for it, much like his tears, should not have been. After all, this is a man with a newborn baby whose LIFE was in jeopardy. To paraphrase Tina Fey when discussing Dubya going after the guy that tried to kill his dad, people become superheroes over less!
A far better (if less newsworthy) approach than name-calling would have been to criticize the idea that any single anecdote should be the final word on a serious and complex issue. This is a common tactic to use in the Internet age- find a high-profile story that fits your worldview, share it on Facebook, and imply that you’ve just settled the debate, once and for all. Jimmy Kimmel has every right and every reason to share his beliefs on this subject, and the public has every right to take it under consideration. But that doesn’t mean that his experience should be the guidebook to shape public policy, any more than Kate Steinle’s tragic death should be the final say for dealing with illegal immigration.
Unfortunately, Charles Hurt didn’t take this tactic, instead deciding to malign a well-meaning individual- and by extension, the group which he belongs to. This brings us back to Michael Scott and Toby Flenderson. Assuming he’s being honest and not just trolling for publicity, Mr. Hurt seems to believe that he’s giving an example of why “America hates Hollywood” (his words), when in reality, he just gave Exhibit A for why so many Americans- and not just the ones in Hollywood, which is, in fact, a part of America- believe conservatives are heartless. Also, the like:dislike ratio is actually about 30:1 on Kimmel’s video- who knew that Hollywood was so much bigger than the rest of America?! If Charles Hurt’s intention was to expose liberals as the out-of-touch elitists, his tactic clearly backfired. By personally and viciously insulting a new father who’s just gone through a traumatic ordeal, Charles Hurt lives up to the worst caricatures of conservatives as greedy rich people, who don’t care about others- and make no mistake, a LOT of people believe that one, not just those that live in Hollywood. It might feel good to just take personal shots at people with a different point of view, but it’s a bad strategy long term- just ask Hillary Clinton.
Since Donald Trump’s victory, many people on the right have been laughing disdainfully at liberals living in their bubble. For the ones nodding approvingly at Charles Hurt’s needlessly angry column, it might be about time for them to step out of theirs.
While some might see that as an improvement, this post really has nothing to do with the Presidency. (To read more about that, Google pretty much any other site on the Internet.) Instead, we’re going to take a look at the latest stock market rally- a quick one, because like Stan Marsh after turning 10, I’m getting tired of the same old…well, if you haven’t see the episode, check it out sometime.
As of this writing, most American stocks are rallying substantially, with tech, in particular, rocketing to new highs. The explanation given is that globalist Emmanuel Macron will defeat nationalist gadfly Marine Le Pen, in a country with shores located more than 3,500 miles away from Wall Street, with a GDP of less than 1/5th of the U.S.’s. What does this have to do with the most expensive stocks in world history, increasing even more in value? Who cares? Buy stocks!
A less snarky explanation would be that with a global economy so interconnected, it is in need of its proponents to be in charge at all times. Macron supposedly keeps that order maintained. But even with THAT explanation, what does it say about the strength of the global economy, that if one of its leaders is voted out- and one not even in the top five in GDP– it puts the whole system at risk? Just how fragile is this thing? And how absurd is it that Wall Street puts so much faith in these leaders to begin with? Do they think its years (decades?) of easy money and endless bubble cycles can be maintained indefinitely, if they just keep people in power who believe in it?
To be fair, they’ve done a very good job with it so far- by their definition of “good job”. But make no mistake- this whole thing is primed for a popping, regardless of who is in charge, be it a nationalist, a populist, a duck, or a Trump. But as long as the party keeps going, enjoy your Rob Schneider movie collection, while you still can…
It’s nothing new to quote comedians who say things that are in tune with our own philosophy and ideology. In fact, it’s become so commonplace, it kind of feels like a lazy tactic to “prove” one’s own argument these days. For example, “South Park is SO spot on this season!” can be translated into plain English as, “South Park is saying things that I agree with!” What makes this quarter-century old clip from George Carlin so unique, is that he goes after a group that normally WOULD be in agreement with the types of things that he says- environmentalists. Carlin, like many comedians (and entertainers in general), was very much on the left on most issues, particularly social ones. But he was far from lockstep, which is one of many reasons why he was so great at what he did. Nowadays, he’d probably be labeled a climate change denier for making such claims, but his real message wasn’t about what was being done to the environment, but those who were trying to stop “it” from happening- whatever “it” may have been.
But this post isn’t primarily about George Carlin, or even yet another tired old argument about climate change- or “global warming”, as it used to be known as- which became an all-too-binary discussion all-too-long ago. In other words, most people think of climate change as either, “a hoax, from people that want to control your lives!” or “the cause our impending doom, which is clearly the fault of the denier and corporations!” The real issue is- or at least, should be– more nuanced. But this is 2017, and we don’t DO nuance very well in 2017.
Also being 2017, the problem has to be tied as tightly to President Donald Trump as possible. CNN’s Van Jones, normally one of the few seemingly reasonable commentators, sadly went off the rails a few weeks back, claiming that Trump, “may have just signed a death warrant for our planet”. At a bare minimum, coupled with the accompanying link about how “Trump’s climate policies put China in charge of our future“, this shows American arrogance at its finest, demonstrating yet again that “patriotic” conservatives don’t have a monopoly on this trait. How is a domestic policy supposed to single-handedly destroy the Earth’s environment? Donald Trump is an overbearing figure, but we’ve been destroying the planet longer than he’s been alive, let alone in power. And even assuming, just for the sake of argument, that Trump’s policy is as dangerous to the environment as Jones and so many others believe, how can ANY American policy stop the emerging world from doing what this country has done for nearly two centuries- that is, build an affluent, advanced society at the expense of the environment? Sure, it’s great for us to now say, “Gosh, planet, sorry we’ve screwed things up- but from now on, we’ll behave better- so you’d better do the same!” We’ve already gained the benefits of modernization, with all the unfortunate side effects of pollution that come with it. And now, we’re just going to wag our fingers at everyone else for doing the same thing? What makes ANYONE think that the rest of the world will go along with these grandiose regulations?
But even putting aside the hypocrisy of modern American environmentalism, as our society has benefited more from pollution than just about anyone else’s, what if we were just to start over? What if we just started doing “the right thing” now? What if we just didn’t pay attention to what was going on with the E.P.A., and became serious about making a positive contribution in our own, personal lives? Are we willing to do that? From what I can tell, based on a real life occurrence that was the catalyst for this entire post, the answer is absolutely not.
Nearly a hundred years after becoming a major city, Los Angeles has finally been making decent headway into expanding its Metrorail, the city’s mass transit railroad system that covers barely more than 10% of New York’s subway system. (Still, better late than never.) Along the Expo Line, which goes from Santa Monica into downtown LA, Culver City had become a major stop along the middle of the line, complete with hundreds of parking space. The Metrorail is not exactly a bullet train, so one of the major selling points for even using the train is parking.
So much for that idea. Not more than 5 years after the station opened, Culver City is now tearing down the parking lot for- you guessed it- shops and condos, because if there’s one thing LA needs more of, it’s shops and condos. *ahem* So where was the outrage over this? On Twitter- normally a breeding ground for the masses to vent out- the number of complaints could be counted on one hand. For one of the few people who DID criticize them for this move, correctly accusing LA Metro of discouraging people from taking the train, Metro responded with a 21st century version of “Let them eat cake”, essentially saying that anyone who lived in the new condos would have easy access to the train. Technically that’s true, but it’s also not reassuring for the 95% or so who won’t be living in or near the new development, that are also looking to use that train stop. Perhaps this would’ve generated more outrage- or any outrage, for that matter- if Kellyanne Conway had given such an absurd response. But since most people would rather have more fancy shops and condos over a large parking lot to take the train, it really isn’t that big a deal. (The breakneck speed that these stores and condos are getting built, not 10 years after the last time this scheme fell apart, is a whole other story.)
The bottom line is that it may be well-intentioned to criticize others for not doing their fair share for keeping the Earth cleaner than how they found it- or at least, making sure it doesn’t get any dirtier. But before that happens, try considering whatever small part YOU can play in helping out…and sorry, but mocking the Trump administration on Facebook for alternative facts or bad policy doesn’t count.
We all know that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but just how MUCH grease does that squeaky wheel need? Maybe that wheel needs to work on its defense, or three-point shooting, or ability to use metaphors!
In the case of the NBA draft, good intentions have led to unintended consequences, as with most things in life. The worst team is given the greatest shot at getting the number one pick, thereby leading teams to play for their future, instead of playing for pride. These two goals shouldn’t be mutually exclusive, so how about this- for the first and third worst teams, the number of lottery balls are reversed. In other words, the team with the third worst record will get the most to choose from, while the one with the worst gets the third most. (A flip like this would still keep the second worst team with the second greatest chance.) Under this scenario, the worst team would still have a sizable shot at the best pick, while ensuring that they no longer strive to be the worst team on purpose. Losing is bad enough, but losing on purpose demoralizes the players, the fans, and anyone else with a vested interest in the franchise. Taking away the incentive to do that would make tanking a thing of the past.