Tag: Donald Trump

CORONAMADNESS! From Slippery Slope To Water Slide (and not the fun kind)

venice_beach
Does this look like “essential business” to you?

Since it’s official founding nearly two and half centuries ago, the United States of America has led a charmed life. Every potential threat, regardless of size, seems to just come and go.  Even more amazing is how quickly the country emerges from each crisis, becoming stronger than ever!  Whether the coronavirus can be added to that list remains to be seen, but early indications are alarming, with stunning, unprecedented economic damage in particular.  But it’s not the disease itself that has ravaged American life overall, tragic as the loss of life has been in certain areas. Instead, it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as big as our lawmakers, media, and selves have treated the virus with the seriousness of a new plague. While remodeling society based on the worst case scenarios, we are living in a reality that would have been unthinkable as recently as the beginning of this year- and as this blog post is being typed, this year is still not even half over!

The very fortunate truth is that so far, the disease now known as COVID-19 (after the Chinese government expressed displeasure to The Powers That Be at the term “Wuhan Virus”) has not been nearly as bad as we were told it would be. And just to be clear, this is not to say that it hasn’t been awful. In a few select pockets across the eastern half of the United States, it surely FEELS like a worst case scenario, for those who have to deal with it upfront. But the fact is that as of now, COVID-19 has been far closer to the other deadly viruses of the early 21st century, such as SARS, Ebola and H1N1, than it has been like the Spanish Flu, the deadly disease of the early 20th century. But that hasn’t stopped the comparisons, no matter how increasingly misplaced they appear to be.

HOW WE GOT HERE

As the Federal Government (aka “The Trump Administration”, although this post is trying to stay away from specific partisan politics as much as possible) did not initially take the threat posed by coronavirus seriously- China travel ban notwithstanding- the reaction had to be that much stronger, once it was undeniable that the virus was about to hit our shores. In mid-March, led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, we were told that we needed to enact the policy of “social distancing” to “flatten the curve”. Two phrases that had no meaning in American life were about to become more popular than “We The People,” in more ways than one.

In my first blog post on the subject slightly over a month ago, I openly admitted to having no idea how much damage the virus would cause, but was very quick to criticize the measures taken to allegedly slow it down. It seemed like no matter how much damage the virus was about to do, the (from my point of view) overreaction was about to do more lasting damage to our way of life than the virus ever could, particularly with our economy. It just didn’t seem like such extreme measures could save many lives, without wrecking so many more- and that’s assuming that these measure COULD save as many people as they were claiming to begin with!

No matter how strongly I felt early on, though, I literally lived and breathed the events as they unfolded, doing my best to keep an open mind that maybe there was something that I didn’t understand about what was happening. More than a month later now, I feel even MORE justified in my early warnings and misgivings, than I did when I made them in the first place.  In all honestly, though, I do recognize how out of hand the situation could have gotten, had an overwhelming number of people needed critical care, overwhelming hospitals past their breaking point.  Initially, I underestimated this.  But here’s the thing- for the most part, that’s not what happened.

While there were a few dire areas, most noticeably New York City- and, to a lesser extent, New Orleans and Detroit- these have been the exception, not the rule. The doctors and nurses who heroically worked- and are STILL working- through these conditions, putting themselves at risk in the process, truly are heroes, no less than the firefighters of 9-11. But throughout the country- and this is beyond dispute, by all accounts- the enormous number of hospital beds readily available all across the country have not been needed. Many so-called “elective surgeries” have been put on hold to direct resources to handle the coronavirus, causing stress for the medical practitioners who perform them, as well as the patients who need them.

But while the highly contagious virus itself created far less devastation than expected in the United States, the countermeasures created quite a bit more. Rather than start to relax some of the unprecedented restrictions on the American economy- not to mention life itself- some governors doubled down. In Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer banned home gardening supplies from many stores, as well as various other goods, deeming them “not necessary”. Hunting and fishing were also banned as non-essential activities in some places throughout the United States, apparently stemming from the urban mentality that food comes from restaurants. And in Los Angeles, with a very strained budget, expensive bulldozers were sent in to fill a skating park with sand, just in case a rogue skater or two wanted to get some exercise. As all this happened, many Americans- although not ENOUGH Americans, in my view- became restless. As some of us suspected, the two or three weeks that we were initially told would flatten the curve was little more than a trial run. As the curve was flattened and the death toll predictions were decreased daily, the return to normal life was postponed, regardless of how flattened the curve became.  Very quickly, the time frame changed from weeks to months.

DOWN THE WATER SLIDE

Now, I can’t speak for anyone else, but this was the last straw for me. I have openly admitted to not being on board with the plan from the beginning- this blog’s archives confirm that– but I was at least willing to recognize that it would take some time to see how this played out. Since we now have a sample size well over a month on this pandemic now, we have seen the initial projections become meaningless. Yes, it’s entirely possible that the social distancing- which Americans were astonishingly cooperative on, no matter how much griping there is that “people aren’t listening!”- may have played an enormous part in this. But even with that in mind, the BEST case scenario projections, which INCLUDED social distancing, were far worse than what we’re seeing play out. On top of that, thanks to the Trump Administration’s early disregard for ANY chance that the virus would be a threat, we got a late start on the practicing of social distancing. Had the coronavirus been as deadly as first thought, it would have been too late to stop the overwhelming carnage. But as of now, we’re nowhere near that.

So why the change in objective? If this wasn’t the plan all along, why did the shutting down of America go from weeks to months, without any new evidence? Why have we gone from “flattening the curve” to “crushing the curve”? Why have we gone from making sure our healthcare system didn’t get overwhelmed, to getting the number of deaths as close to zero as possible, regardless of any other factors to consider? And most troubling of all, why are we hearing about needing a vaccine to get back to normal (?!) only AFTER the disease turned out to be less of a threat? These are questions nobody of prominence is asking. The mainstream media is consumed with reminding everyone of how flat-footed Donald Trump and his allies were in the beginning, while the conservatives are fixated on putting all the blame on China and the World Health Organization.

But that’s only part of the story. The media will do what the media always does- peddle fear, sensationalism, and political bias- but the complete change to American life would not be successful, without a public so willing to go along with it. Instead of asking questions about the change in objectives, the media have managed to paint the protesters and their allies as selfish “covidiots”. Recruiting beloved celebrities, such as Larry David and Samuel L Jackson, the “Stay at home!” message has become deeply ingrained into American culture now. With the initial misstep of the ridiculous “Imagine” video, Hollywood retooled their strategy to get America onboard with the quarantists’ plan, with overwhelmingly successful results.

But the entertainment industry sending out a message doesn’t automatically make it a bad thing. What DOES, however, is the scapegoating that has emerged. Instead of blaming the government for misleading us on the plan going forward, as well as the lies told early on (ie. “masks don’t work!” to “masks are mandatory!”), the fingers are pointed directly at Florida beach-goers and the protesters of the freedom-restricting laws, none who can be found in areas that have been largely effected by coronavirus. Give credit where credit is due, though- this was likely the quarantists’ plan all along. Knowing that the public would never knowingly scrap their way of life in an instant, they were told to “rough it out” for a few weeks. Once the time went by, a small but vocal minority of people would start defying the rules, at which point THEY could be blamed for the extension of the lockdown.

Okay, that might be too cynical for some people to digest, and as someone with no inside knowledge besides what exists within my own head, it’s unfair to definitively assume such nefarious intentions in others. What is NOT unreasonable, though, is to point out that this is exactly how the situation has unfolded, and many politicians (not least of all Dr. Fauci himself) have seized on the opportunity.  Yes, many people are increasingly alarmed at the direction of the country, but nearly all of them are the same ones who were dissatisfied to begin with. For the overwhelming majority who bought into Dr. Fauci’s plan, the protesters and beach-goers are public enemy #1, selfishly making life more difficult for the First Responders. Some even accuse them of causing death! This is why the image of a racist moron, screaming at someone who appeared to be a health worker of Asian descent blocking traffic, to “go to China” has resonated. This is exactly what the mainstream media had been looking for, as it encapsulated their worldview so perfectly. (As a side-note, though, for those who compare it Tienanmen Square- seriously, just stop.)

But the personal animus goes even further. Politicians have been relying on informants to snitch on neighbors, businesses, and even just random citizens, who are not following the quarantine guidelines. (As Randy Marsh might say, “I’m sorry, I thought this was America!”) And, perhaps most repugnant of all, some people have openly called for the “covidiots” to actually be denied medical care. Just imagine doing this for other people who are “asking for it”- motorcyclists, drivers who were speeding- you name it. Hell, MURDERERS get medical treatment! What is going ON here?? Regrettably, not enough people are interested in finding out.

The final issue worth dealing with here, because this blog post can probably go on forever at this point (much like the quarantine- hey yo!), is who really need to be pushed back. Before the pandemic hit, America’s culture war already seemed close to a boiling point. Although most everyone did cooperate for a few weeks at first, it now looks like everything is boiling over, and it’s a zero sum game. That doesn’t mean that one side needs TOTAL victory, and the nice thing about a two party system- crooked and dysfunctional as it has become- is that both sides have enough of a say within certain regions of the country to try it out their way. At the very least, everyone is starting to acknowledge that one size does not fit all, but with a situation that is life and death, we are nowhere near agreeing to what those different sizes actually might be.

The MyPillow Fight- What It Was Really About

MyPillow
Send this picture to someone in 2015, and they’d probably wonder why Reality TV Star Donald Trump is standing next to the President.

In these trying times, it’s nice that we can still take a short break from harrowing events, to fight online about things that are absolutely meaningless. At yesterday’s press conference, Mike Lindell, better known as “The MyPillow Guy”, was given a high profile opportunity to address the nation from The White House. Normally, this sentence might seem absolutely surreal, if not for the fact that Donald Trump- DONALD TRUMP- is The President of The United States! Anyway, at a White House press conference with millions and millions of viewers, Mr. Lindell announced that his company was making 50,000 masks, a very necessary step in the fight against the coronavirus. In addition to this announcement, he threw in some very nice words about God and Donald Trump himself, although it’s unclear if the President was able to make the distinction. But I digress.

Anyone who spends too much time online could see what was coming a mile away. On one side, there would be snickering about the spectacle of watching a guy from late night infomercials, addressing the nation during a very serious crisis. On the other side, there would be people countering against these “elites”, daring to mock a man for showing his faith, while contributing his company’s services to the only cause that seems to matter these days. Of course, very little of this was actually about Mike Lindell at all. He was merely a proxy for the ideological battle that has been going on in this country for decades now, and particularly since Donald Trump was elected. Throw in the fact that our sports leagues have been taken away from us- hopefully not for too much longer- and THIS has become the nation’s pastime.

Without diving further into this issue- I mean, seriously, there are far bigger things to worry about- what Mr. Lindell is doing is a net positive for the country, and we need industry to step up with these types of efforts as much as possible. But for those who are not MAGA types, let alone those who identify with “The Resistance”, the presentation seemed tacky. We’re in the middle of a life or death situation, and this guy is giving a speech that could could have easily been saved for the Republican National Convention! Surely there are other companies out there who have also reallocated their resources to “fight the good fight”, but those companies are not headed by big-time Trump supporters, so they won’t be getting valuable prime airtime that could have been put to much better use. Some liberals even suggested that Lindell used his time in the spotlight to cynically promote his company, to which conservatives defiantly responded by saying they would be sure to make purchases from MyPillow. None of this resolves anything, of course, other than confirming that Mike Lindell really does know how to advertise.

All in all, though, the whole thing provided a somewhat entertaining, if unintentional, distraction for us. And regardless of what you think of Donald Trump, Mike Lindell, or the MyPillow product itself, we could all use a little bit of entertainment these days, whenever and wherever we can find it.

Coronavirus Fallout- Seriously, What Are We Doing?

distancing
So much for “social distancing”

It seems surreal to think that not even two months ago, we were treating the tragic death of Kobe Bryant as the defining moment of a generation. Indeed, the events around it were extraordinary, and in terms of public figures, his death alone was AT LEAST on par with that of Princess Diana and John Lennon. Factor in that his daughter and seven others were in the private helicopter with him, and it made the whole event even more painful to think about. Nevertheless, Kobe Bryant was still just one man, and outside of the few individuals close to him, his daughter, and the others lost in the accident, life would go on the same for all the rest of us.

But here we are, barely on the other side of an event that apparently changed American life more than anything since December 7th, 1941. (Yes, including 9-11.) The Coronavirus, something that entered our lexicon at the end of 2019, has fully taken over our society, days before the Spring of 2020 commences. Indeed, its spread has taken on a life of its own, like the deadly virus that is, but at least so far, in a very unexpected, ironic way. Rather than infecting our immune systems at the exponential rate that has been predicted, it has infected our society and way of life, in a way that we will likely not recover from any time soon. By trying to preemptively stop the virus from harming us in mass numbers, we have ended up harming ourselves. The whole thing kind of feels like the episode of South Park, where the parents banished the children from the town, in the hopes that they wouldn’t be kidnapped.

None of this is to make light of the Coronavirus itself. It has created chaos in the health industry across the rather motley crew of Iran, Italy, and especially China, where the virus started. It is far deadlier than the “common” flu, and more contagious than other diseases that have made their way to the headlines in the early 21st century, such as Ebola, SARS, and H1N1. But in a highly interconnected world of 7+ billion people, these types of disease are, unfortunately, inevitable. While the worse case scenario projections are terrifying, the reality so far is nowhere near a fraction of that. Nothing in our lifetimes- at least for those of us under 80 years old- has ever altered the course of our collective lives so dramatically as this. We still do not know if these draconian actions are justified, as only time will tell. But what we DO know is that there is no turning back.

But what exactly caused this event to “succeed”, in a way that The Cold War, Radical Islamic Jihad, the aforementioned diseases (H1N1 killed over 10,000 Americans), climate change, and various other scares did not? Part of it is the spread of social media, which in some ways, behaves in a virus-like way itself. As news permeates through the internet, stories that have “sizzle” manage to grow exponentially. We watched through the news what was happening in China, and knew that it was only a matter of time before SOME variation hit home. Then in early March, Rudy Gobert, a star player in the NBA who had mocked the Coronavirus with a crude “prank” just days earlier, was diagnosed with the disease. Within two days, professional sports leagues were shut down, creating shock not experienced in generations throughout society. Sure, this happened for a very brief time during 9-11, but that was because the country was in mourning. This time around, sports leagues, along with all the industries that followed, were shut down as a preventative measure for a microscopic menace, fearing that those in crowded spaces could catch the virus very easily. It also didn’t help matters when Tom Hanks, a larger-than-life figure in a similar vein to Kobe Bryant, turned out to be mortal as well. People don’t like to say it out loud, but when bad things happen to these “invincible” celebrities, we wonder what kind of chance the rest of us have.

So now, we have toilet paper shortages- another irony, seeing how Coronavirus is not THAT kind of disease- as well as soap, hand sanitizer, and other products that are running low on the shelves. But all that is merely a warmup act for the TRUE damage we are just beginning to experience- the shutting down of the global economy, “led” by the American consumer. For a small, vocal minority that included yours truly, this has been in the pipeline for decades, as financial institutions and their willing-if-unknowing accomplices have been kicking the can down the curb, hoping to put off the inevitable juuuuuuuust a little longer. It was always heading for disaster- glimpses of that could be seen after the DotCom bust, followed by the one in real estate a half decade later. What’s so surprising is that it is not an external event that likely took the whole thing down, but that it was dismantled willingly by a society fearful of what MIGHT be. And make no mistake- even if the shutting down of commerce “only” lasts for two weeks, as unlikely as that seems, it will cause catastrophic waves that will be felt for years to come. The global economy was set up with an appetite similar to the hummingbird- it needs to be fed constantly, or it will die. Whatever unprecedented measures await us to keep it afloat, on top of the unprecedented measures that DID keep it afloat up until this point, they will have unintended consequences that will likely change the way business is done forever.

And what of this soon-to-be defunct economy, that is all most of us have ever known? If we’re looking for silver linings- and if we ever needed silver linings it would be now- one might be that the power will be shifted away from industries that have done more long term harm than good. Around the same time that the current President made his infamous comment about Mexican immigrants in 2016, Michael Bloomberg, the wealthy tycoon and former New York City mayor who ran a disastrous Presidential campaign, said something arguably as offensive and ignorant. Trying to make a point about the superiority of the Information Age businessman over the seemingly-archaic blue collar farmer, Bloomberg implied that those who succeeded in the Information Age (eg. people like him) did so because of superior intellect, whereas “anybody” could learn how to farm. Bloomberg, who apparently thinks his food is grown in a Sparrow’s pizza chain restaurant, completely disregarded the critical importance of the farmers that allow us Americans to take for granted just how easy it is to fill our bellies whenever we feel like it. As the financial system that helped Bloomberg become one of the world’s wealthiest men crumbles in real time, while our digestive systems still demand three meals a day, it will be interesting to see whose skills are really necessary to keep the world going.

Finally, a cold, perhaps even cruel question that needs to be asked- how many deaths will justify the dismantling our way of life? Until the last few weeks, we were told that the largest threat to our society was climate change, although very few practical changes were made, even by those who claimed to be most concerned. If the Coronavirus has taught us anything, even in its early stages, it’s that our fragile society can be hit by any threat at any time, without any time to prepare. Now that we have been caught flat-footed, our leaders are trying to make up for it by overcompensating. When we look back at the actions that are being taken as this blog post is being written, will we be able to say it was worth it? More than half a generation ago, George W Bush got lukewarm support for the invasion of Iraq, on the grounds that Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction. A few empty canisters later, the whole thing appeared to be a catastrophic miscalculation at best, a deadly set of lies at worse. This is obviously a different threat, in that we KNOW it’s real. But justifying our countermeasures will be a Catch-22. If the number is too low- let’s say, below the number of people killed by H1N1- the whole thing will be seen as a supersized, overly sensationalized media news cycle. If the number is too large- let’s say, approaching or, heaven forbid, EXCEEDING the Spanish flu of 1918, the last TRUE American plague- we’ll say that the social distancing movement was a giant failure. So, the number probably be somewhere well above H1N1, but well below the Spanish flu, to even TRY to justify the current actions being taken.

If I may emphasize the point, I know how heartless this sounds, and it’s not to minimize the tragedy that we have already seen, nor the tragedy that still lies ahead of us. But sometimes, overreaction can be as bad or WORSE than doing nothing at all. (Keep in mind Saddam Hussein was, after all, a mass murdering tyrant.) For those who think that these actions are justified, even if they only end up saving a relatively small number of lives, consider this- is bringing the national speed limit down to 25 miles per hour worth the tens of thousands of lives that would be saved on the road? Remember- throughout most of civilization, the only time anyone traveled more than 25 miles per hour was when they lost control of their chariot.

Anyway, best of health to anyone reading this. Let’s hope that when it’s time to look back to see how well this blog post held up, we’re all around to do so.

The True Meaning of “Stick To Sports”

(Shameless self-promotion- for a blog that TRULY sticks to sports, check out http://www.dodgersfyi.com!)

A couple of years ago, an unhinged leftist shot up a baseball park, where Republicans politicians were practicing for a game.  One congressman in particular, Steve Scalise, was critically wounded.  I usually leave my political rants on Twitter, saving my Facebook page for typically lighter content, to not offend those that I know personally.  But this story seemed so abhorrent, I figured I’d make an exception, as no one could POSSIBLY take issue with a call for unity.

I was wrong.  One of my Facebook friends, an acquaintance in real life, took great exception to my exception, telling me that I had decided to focus on a story for a privileged white man, ignoring many other atrocities that occur in our country on a regular basis.  That’s not how I meant it at all, but I did understand her point, however distant it would be from my own.  That was the last time I posted any “soapbox” material on Facebook again, deciding to keep away from controversy.  There are plenty of other places for me to discuss opinions that some might consider incendiary…such as this one, for example.

lebatard.pngI bring this up now because on the day I’m typing this, July 19th, 2019, sportscaster Dan LeBatard decided to use his sports platform for something that had absolutely nothing to do with sports.  Assuming that the issue he was addressing was so abhorrent that it transcended any “cowardly” (as he saw it) boundaries that had been put upon him by his bosses at ESPN, LeBatard went on a screed about Donald Trump, his supporters, Colin Kaepernick being blackballed, the civil rights movement of the sixties- a movement that he claims hasn’t seen change (?!)- and “old rich white men” that falsely (again, as LeBatard sees it) believe they have grievances against anyone who isn’t like them.  Most jarring of all, LeBatard gave this impassioned monologue under the premise that this was all rooted in fact, not his personal opinion, and that- quote- “this isn’t about politics”.

If there’s nothing else I say here that you agree with, dear reader, at least believe me on this- whenever someone feels the need to declare, “This isn’t about politics,” it is, in fact, about politics.  In this case, BY DEFINITION, it’s about politics, because LeBatard was defending Ilhan Omar, a congresswoman from Minnesota, against President Donald Trump and his supporters.  Both Trump and Omar, in the most literal sense of the word, are politicians.

By now, people all over the world have seen the, “Send her back!” chants at Trump’s rally, along with Trump’s indifference (if not tacit approval) as he allowed the chants to continue.  For what it’s worth, I thought the chants were despicable, and I am not a fan of the President.  I didn’t vote for him the first time, and won’t vote for him the next time. (I only bring this up because I have no doubt that many will read this, and picture me writing this with a MAGA hat on, and a Confederate flag draped from my wall.  Not that this disclaimer will change that false image.  But I digress.)

What LeBatard left out in his high pitched angst is that Omar herself is a divisive figure, with many beliefs and actions that many also consider troubling.  Before becoming a national figure, Omar publicly tweeted hope that the Muslim god would awaken the world to the evils of IsraelSince becoming a national figure, she assumed American support for Israel was made possible by Jewish-American money.  She publicly shamed the Covington Catholic high school kids, wearing Trump hats, latching on to the erroneous narrative that they were bullying women and minorities, while previously asking a judge for leniency of Minnesota men who intended on joining ISIS.  (She deleted the Covington tweet, although did not offer an apology nor an explanation on it.)

None of these facts are designed to change anyone’s mind about Omar- she is a very popular figure among some, and as troubling (if not more so) than Trump among others.  They’re merely included to help demonstrate just how much more complex this debate is than LeBatard’s one-sided argument is, and how the roots of the division go beyond Donald Trump and his supporters.  And yes- millions of people are applauding LeBatard’s words as I’m typing this, but I’m betting at least 99% of them already believed everything that he said, prior to him actually speaking.

Whatever its problems are, ESPN is there to provide sports entertainment– that’s what’s in the name itself!  Dan LeBatard is not secretly broadcasting from some clandestine spot in a dictatorship- no matter how much Donald Trump may act like a dictator, this is still very much a free country, one which has more platforms than ever for discussing every issue under the sun.  Sports fans tune in to ESPN, FS1, and the other sports networks, in part, because they want to escape the ultra-polarized environment we find ourselves in.  Those who buy what LeBatard is selling already made the purchase.  Those who don’t will just tune into something else.  In fact, there’s probably a third category that isn’t being considered here- those that do agree with LeBatard, but are just looking for something else at the current time.  (Sorry, but no matter how impassioned someone is about ANY issue, it’s unhealthy to be Lisa Simpson all the time.)

So personally, I agree with some of LeBatard’s points.  I disagree with some of his others, particularly that this “isn’t about politics”.  But my personal opinion isn’t what matters to me here.  There are plenty of other outlets for LeBatard to discuss his personal beliefs.  Heck, he can start a blog!  But he was hired, and paid good money, to talk about sports.  There are plenty of other career choices he can make for himself if he wants to expand upon that.  Until then, when a company is paying him well to discuss sports and that’s it, he should…well, you’ve seen the title of this blog post.  You get the idea.

⚾️🏀🏈🥎🏐🏉🎾⚽️

 

H.R. McMaster Makes The Case That President Trump Is Not A Traitor…No Matter How Much Some Wish That He Was

H.R. McMaster Makes The Case That President Trump Is Not A Traitor…No Matter How Much Some Wish That He Was

“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-

  1. One of the worst things to accuse a President of is the act of treason.
  2. Donald Trump is the worst.
  3. 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.

The Most Likely Explanation For Comey’s Firing Is Right There, For Those Who Want It…

The Most Likely Explanation For Comey’s Firing Is Right There, For Those Who Want It…

…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.”

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—President Trump clearly didn’t like the bright lights being on someone else.

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.

Summarizing Talking Points About Comey’s Firing  (It’s A Quick Read, There Are Only Two)

Summarizing Talking Points About Comey’s Firing (It’s A Quick Read, There Are Only Two)

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!!!”

Liberals- “Russia!  Russia!  Russia!  Russia!  It’s like Watergate!  Russia!  Russia!  Russia! Impeach now!  Russia!  Russia!  Russia!  Russia!  Russia!  Nixon!  Russia!  Russia!  Russia!  Russia!  RUSSIA!!!!!!!!

Seriously though, President Trump- you couldn’t even CALL the man directly, to let him know he’d been fired?  The FBI does have phones, you know- man, do they have a lot of phones!
👌😣👌
Basing Public Policy On Emotion Is A Bad Idea.  Maligning A Suffering Parent Is An Even Worse Idea.

Basing Public Policy On Emotion Is A Bad Idea. Maligning A Suffering Parent Is An Even Worse Idea.

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 definitely has 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.

It’s Fine To Cheer For The Demise of Michael Flynn- Just Admit What The Celebrating Is Really About

It’s Fine To Cheer For The Demise of Michael Flynn- Just Admit What The Celebrating Is Really About

With a highly opinionated yet even tempered article, Bloomberg’s Eli Lake makes an excellent case that the political targeting of Michael Flynn wasn’t actually about Flynn himself, at least not primarily.  As if to prove Mr. Lake’s point, a disgraced former news anchor insists that this might be the worst scandal since Watergate. And hey, you can trust him this time- no, really!

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“Wait, wait- I can explain!” You won’t have THIS guy to kick around anymore, but you’ll have others. So many, many others.

This is not intended to defend a guy that was supposed to be one of the gatekeepers of national security, yet couldn’t even be forthcoming about his own international affairs.  It’s hard to be sympathetic towards someone who makes such a careless and arrogant mistake, any more than for a baseball player getting thrown out a second base, because he wasn’t hustling.  (“I swear that ball was going out!”)  But given how many enemies President Trump has, ESPECIALLY from the political establishment, it’s difficult to believe that the primary motivation behind all the outrage is for Flynn’s specific act, rather than for the greater goal of bringing the Trump administration to “justice” altogether.  Maybe you think that’s a good thing, but the level of indignation directed at Flynn, like so many other things we’ve seen in recent months (going on years now), is comically disingenuous- particularly when so many thought that this gem from the previous administration wasn’t worthy of more than a news cycle or two.

 

The bottom line is that a lot of people find the current administration be so repugnant, even dangerous, that they don’t want to wait until the next election to see it brought down.  If that is one’s prerogative, so be it.  But if that’s the case, then just admit it, and stop with the grandstanding over these fairly pedestrian scandals, when we’ve seen so much worse overlooked for so many years (decades?) already.
A Message To The #NeverTrump folks, from A Gary Johnson voter

A Message To The #NeverTrump folks, from A Gary Johnson voter

I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, for most of the same reasons that half the country didn’t vote for him- his incendiary comments, his lack of political experience, his shady business dealings, among other things.  You know the list.  But give the man his due.  His detractors ridiculed him for getting a head start in life from his father’s success, yet these are the same people that act like Warren Buffett built his empire from a lemonade stand.  (Howard Buffett, a successful businessman and congressman, gave young Warren a start that was light years ahead of the one that Fred Trump, a successful real estate investor, gave Donald.)  For all the times that Trump declared bankruptcy, he always came back, bigger than ever.  He’s made his enemies along the way, but for better or for worse, he’s overcome them all.

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Get used to saying it – “President Donald Trump”

And this brings us to the #NeverTrump movement, mostly well-intentioned but quixotic from the start.  From the beginning of this campaign, these people made every excuse in the book for Trump’s success- the primary field was too wide.  The liberal media was intentionally propping up this weak buffoon.  The voters were being conned.  But at the end of it all, Trump rose above it, as he always seems to, beating the greatest American political machine of our generation, in spite of (because of?) the opposition of the media, the entertainment industry, and even prominent members of his own political party.

And it’s that last group that, above all else, needs to understand what happened here, because as I’m typing this, the earliest indicators are that they still don’t get it.  Well, I’ll do my best to clarify it for them.  The anti-Trump conservatives that want to pretend that other candidates could have done so much better than Donald Trump- most notably Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio- are trying to convince everyone that it’s only because Hillary Clinton was a weak candidate.  There is this belief of false equivalency going around right now, that only Hillary could lose to The Donald, just like only The Donald could lose to Hillary.  Two problems with this-

1) The entire Democratic establishment was all in on Hillary.  The entire Republican establishment was all in AGAINST Trump.

2) Donald Trump DID beat Hillary Clinton.  Hillary Clinton did NOT beat Donald Trump.

In addition to these two seemingly self-evident facts, The Donald’s detractors refuse to acknowledge that he possesses something which alludes most politicians, particularly those on the right- a genuine ability to connect with people.  And if this is STILL not enough to convince his many detractors and critics how remarkable Trump’s triumph actually was, they should consider this…From the beginning, the corrupt Clinton machine, with Bill’s draft dodging, and sexual assault, and secret deals with China for campaign cash, and endless character assassination on not only political opponents, but those who simply “got in the way”, combined with Hillary’s smearing of a 12 year old rape victim, and Whitewater dealings, and Benghazi, and mishandling of classified materials, CONTINUOUSLY stepped on the Republicans for a quarter of a century, almost uninterrupted.  In turn, these Republicans feebly tried kicking Bill out of office, practically hanging all hope on a technicality, yet instead ended up launching Hillary’s political career.  Some of them even openly SUPPORTED HER FOR PRESIDENT, as  the #NeverTrump movement, with very few exceptions, became little more than Hillary’s minions.  And yet, Donald Trump, with all his faults and NO POLITICAL EXPERIENCE, managed to end the Clintons. Whatever else happens from this point forward, he deserves serious recognition for that act alone.

As for what does happen next?  That’s anybody’s guess.  We’re in uncharted waters now.