Category Archives: opinion

If you think things have only recently gone a bit nuts …

Lewis Lapham is an American writer and editor, who commented widely on American society and politics in the 1980’s. Here he is looking rather dapper

Image result for Lewis Lapham

This paragraph is from a sermon he delivered in 1988 called “!Fin de Siecle”. Stripped to the essentials, Lapham blasts those who think them know more than they realistically could.  Enjoy!

Unhappily, (the) egoism (of the Ayatollah) has a familiar sound. In the United States for the past twenty years, spokesmen for various agencies of the higher consciousness have located the world’s wickedness in the personae of oil companies, media syndicates, big business, black men, white men, the federal government, homosexuals, and real estate developers. During the heyday of what was known as”The New Left”, Susan _Sontag identified the white race as the cause of the world’s sorrow. The triumph of the neoconservative right shifted the blame to black welfare mothers and Columbian drug dealer. Attorney General Edwin Meese wishes to search the American electorate for impurities in its blood, its urine, and its speech. The Reverend Pat Robertson promises the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire that if elected President, he will purge the State Department of diplomats stained with the sins of the eastern establishment. As a defense against AIDS, Mayor Koch exhorts the people of New York to swear the vows of monastic celibacy, and the Reverend Jerry Falwell goes about the country, accompanied by a choir and a battery of American flags, assuring the faithful that “Jesus was not a pacifist” and inciting them to rise up against “the infidels” in the public schools who teach Satan’s doctrine of “secular humanism”.

Ah, the memories!

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Yes, the Trump Administration is Taking Stupid Pills!

It appears that Rachel Maddow may have been right. She argued the other day that Present Trump blurted out his absurd and disrespectful comments about prior presidents not offering condolences to the families of slain US soldiers in order to distract attention from something. It was a tactic. From what? From the question how those 4 US servicemen were killed in Niger.

Last night, she followed up that story — and hold your nose, this really stinks

  • The country Chad has played an instrumental role in fighting Islamic extremism in central Africa – including Niger. Their troops are effective and experienced.
  • Meanwhile, Trump wanted to extend his stupid travel ban regime, and his administration alerted all countries to offer sample passport pages within a set period of time or be included in the ban.
  • In Chad the government wanted to comply, but had run out of the special paper they use and asked for more time so that they could get new paper
  • The Trumpsters denied their request and listed Chad in an updated travel ban
  • Chad promptly withdrew its troops that had been helping keep the peace in Niger
  • Meanwhile, we find out that US servicemen were routinely patrolling  areas in Niger. It was considered safe because of the presence of Chadian military units.
  • As soon as the Chadian soldiers withdrew, a routine patrol of US servicemen was ambushed by Islamic militants and the four US soldiers were killed.

As Rachel pointed out, of course Trump did not and does not want to talk about this.

It is an mix of stupid policy, outright incompetence, blind stubbornness, insensitivity,  lack of understanding of the international situation, and failure to adjust to situations on the ground as they change, all shrouded in secrecy, that put US servicemen in harm’s way.

I vaguely recall that Trump had promised to build a first class administration, peopled with the best and brightest people around. We got this instead.

Quick follow – I bit on Rachel’s narrative. Apparently not everyone did and they dispute that the withdrawal of the Chadian forces was connected to an enhanced security risk. Let’s see how this plays out.

A Pompeo Whopper!

Mike Pompeo is the Director of the CIA and is a Trump appointee.  This is a highly sensitive top level position. You expect CIA directors to be careful about what they say. Right? Well, fasten your seat belts.

Speaking at the national security summit in Washington, Pompeo said: “We conducted an election that had integrity. And yes, the intelligence community’s assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election.”

Errr … Apparently this misinformation was so egregious that the CIA had to issue a correction

“The intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed, and the director did not intend to suggest that it had,”

To be clear — the assessment in question was in a report. That report said that it was the Russian government’s intention to influence the outcome of the election.  The report did not assess the impact of its efforts.

Wishful thinking Mr. Pompeo? And what were you saying about integrity?

Trump Has Lost it. Will America Lose it as well?

Last night I watched Rachel Maddow get rather agitated about the latest Trump fiasco. This time it is over his communications with the family members of slain US soldiers. BTW, his promise to send a check to the father of a slain soldier and then not doing it — until it came out in the press — is indeed sleazy. And it fits the pattern of Trump promising charitable donations and then not following through. That is an old story.

But Rachel went beyond the sleaze to make a point. Her point is that Trump does this outrageous stuff in order to manipulate attention. Remember Trump accusing Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower? Rachel argues that he did it to distract attention from revelations about Russia meetings by his top advisors and family that came out the same day. And Rachel thinks Trump is playing the same game now in order to distract attention from the question what US green berets are doing in Niger.

BTW, that is a good question. What are US troops doing in Niger? How did the ambush that killed 4 green berets happen?  It seems that no one really knows, which is a bit creepy.

Is Rachel right? It is an intriguing theory. But I am skeptical that Trump is capable of the self-control that such a tactic would require.  It is as likely that Trump lashed out in the Rose Garden the other day simply because of something he had heard behind the scenes that he wanted to get off his chest.

The bottom line here is that we have learned from repeated unpleasant experience that the dude can’t help himself from stirring the pot. He just did it again with a tweet where he asks who paid for the Steele dossier — suggesting that it might have been among others …  the FBI!  Here is the tweet

Workers of firm involved with the discredited and Fake Dossier take the 5th. Who paid for it, Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all)?

Huh?

As Vox reports

… we know who paid for it and it wasn’t the FBI: (it was) private American political donors, first supporters of Trump’s Republican primary opponents and later Democrats trying to torpedo his general election bid.

This is classic Trump. Throw out an outrageous suggestion in order to fan the flames of controversy and engage his base. You can just imagine him giggling as he wrote it. Politics as professional wrestling. Truth? Why let that get in the way!  I have axes to grind!

Or perhaps Trump’s private investigators are still somewhere in Hawaii digging up “incredible” information about Obama’s birth certificate. Remember that absurd episode brought to you by the Donald before the election? Does anyone care now that the Donald never produced any information or even any real investigators? It is just one discarded story line in the enormous garbage heap of Trump’s ongoing mendacity.

The situation is untenable. The question is how do we get beyond it. At this stage, I do not think that the republicans in Congress will suddenly decide that Trump should be impeached. Folks who feel otherwise may not like this, but we should accept it as their decision. And they and Trump should be held accountable for the mess that we now are in as a result of Trump’s repeated malfeasance and republican decision to ignore it all.  Scandal? What scandal? In other words, the way beyond the mess is through the 2018 mid-term elections.

Don’t just sit there – get ready, get set, get out the vote! And if you do not vote, don’t blame anyone else if this nonsense becomes the defining feature of American politics for the foreseeable future.

Nervous about Information Flow?

Some years ago, I found myself in an argument about American culture. My friend had said that American media is controlled by American corporate interests, and the notion that America has a free press is largely a myth While I agree that American corporate interests do try to manipulate media, I disagree that the system is controlled. To the contrary, it is a free for all.

I still think this is the case. And I am more persuaded when I compare the flow of information in the US to other countries. The Russian model? Errrr … state funded troll farms in St. Petersburg? And China? Fred Wilson writes from Shanghai

… the entire notion that China has chosen to block some of the world’s most essential services inside of China’s borders seems crazy to me.

I do not mean to say that all is well in the US and not anywhere else. But there is a big difference between what is happening in the US and in Russia and China. And the scary part is that at the current moment, it is not clear that more freedom will trump less freedom.

Larry David is Right. Hollywood is About A**holes

This post is a reaction to the Harvey episode. For years, he lured young vulnerable women into “meetings” and once there, he got his rocks off by forcing his sexual inclinations upon them. Vomit.

How could one be for Harvey? Could one say without a pre-check with one’s psychiatrist that Harvey is  misunderstood?  Of course not! Like Ailes and  Cosby., we feel and show collective revulsion.

And yet …. this was the norm within certain circles. This has been a rite of passage that young women had to endure in  order to make  it in the entertainment industryJennifer Lawrence, for example,  in a nude applicant line up? Come on! And yet, there she was. Told that the photo of her nude with other models might be an inspiration to lose weight.

The bottom line is rather simple — power breeds contempt. And Hollywood has a rather intense power structure. We should not be surprised, therefore, that Hollywood systematically endorses contempt for young people. Sexually and otherwise.

The most obvious solution here is to think why we give Hollywood such power? Why do we create the opportunity for predators like Harvey Weinsten to do things over decades that cause such harm?

This is not Hollywood as entertainment. It is Hollywood as gross out.

Is This About Trump or Us?

I reached the breaking point a long time ago. The reason was that I could not stomach accepting a man as “leader” who repeatedly lies about core issues and then never owns up to his falsehoods.

I could, btw, stomach leaders who made boneheaded decisions. I was prepared to say, “ok, Let’s disagree, but I respect that you might have a reason for taking your view. Let’s see how it turns out.! ”

Trump has gone so beyond that ! His decisions have no basis in policy thinking or in reality. The reflect his personal pet peeves. They reflect the desire of a 72 year old white male to turn the clock back to 1950.  Sorry, Donald, that is not going to happen.  And they destroy our ability to track what decisions add value and what decisions destroy it.

Let’s get down to brass tacks. we are all now left with a choice. Do we want a politics that endlessly rehashes debates about the past or do we dare start thinking about the future?

BTW, if you are wondering how the phrase “getting down to brass tacks” came into popular usage, here is a link for you!

Think about it. You might be surprised by how much our current discussions have nothing to do with the future. That, my friend, is a scary thought!

A quick follow – After I wrote the above, I watched again David Jolly’s comments to Lawrence O’Donnell. Jolly is a republican, but of the older school. – he has no sympathy for the tea party. Jolly said bluntly that the country may be better off if in 2018 the democrats take control of Congress. The reason is simple – republicans have shown that they cannot oppose Trump effectively.  That is food for thought.