Monthly Archives: February 2017

Out, Out, Damn Spot!


The title of today’s post is the Shakespearean equivalent of the oft misquoted line, “Play it again, Sam,” from the film Casablanca.  Neither Ilsa Lund Lazlo (Ingrid Bergman) or Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) utter these words.  Ilsa says, “Play it, Sam.  Play “As Time Goes By.”  Rick’s actually line?  “You played it for her, you can play it for me.”

As was the case in Casablanca, misquoting Lady Macbeth’s words in Act 5, Scene 1 of Macbeth is an example of mental shorthand.  Without having to memorize the full scene, this not quite accurate four word synopsis is all we need to understand the Scottish Queen’s guilt for her role in Macbeth’s rise to power.

But, as we say in the world of counter-intuitive thinking, when you use mental shorthand, you fail to the see the trees for the forest.  Sometimes the parts are greater than the sum.  So let’s look at what Lady Macbeth actually says and what it may be telling us.

Out, damned spot! out, I say!–One: two: why,
then, ’tis time to do’t.–Hell is murky!–Fie, my
lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we
fear who knows it, when none can call our power to
account?–Yet who would have thought the old man
to have had so much blood in him.

First, Lady Macbeth’s guilt comes not from having killed anyone herself, but setting the stage for Macbeth’s murder of King Duncan.  In turn, she unleashes Macbeth’s darker side as he continues to eliminate others who might have claim to the throne or who might undermine his reign.

I first started thinking about Lady Macbeth following the January 31 attack on a Quebec mosque in which Alexandre Bissonnette, a 27 year old student, Canadian ultra-nationalist white supremacist who according to friends “really liked Trump” (Source: Le Journal de Quebec), killed six and wounded 19 Muslims who were present at the time.  But this is just one of many instances where Trump, using his bully pulpit (is that redundant in his case?) shares responsibility for the increasing wave of violence (Olathe, Kansas), vandalism (cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia, a Mosque in Tampa) and intimidation (bomb threats to 70 Jewish Community Centers).

No, neither Trump, his appointees nor his Congressional apologists pulled the trigger, tipped over tombstones, committed arson or made the phone calls.  However, like Lady Macbeth they set the stage and provided the justification for these crimes.  Therefore, each and everyone of them also have a spot on their hands that will not go away no matter how hard they try.  So why don’t they atone?  Look again at what Lady Macbeth tells us contained in the quote above.

What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to

During a dinner with friends and family last Saturday night, one member of our party asked a similar question.  Who is going to hold Trump and his enablers accountable?  He also wondered if the protests and newly aroused liberal activism makes any difference.  Here is one example where it has.

Last week, there was an under-reported special election for a vacant state senate seat in Delaware.  With a 10-10 split among sitting members of the chamber, the special election would determine which party controlled the upper house.  Republican John Marino came within two percentage points of winning the seat in 2014.  This time, drawing on the energy which began at the January 21 Women’s March event in Delaware, Democratic candidate Stephanie Hansen defeated Marino by a margin of 58.13 percent to 40.75 percent.  Of perhaps greater importance, the total Democratic vote increased from 6,230 in the 2014 general election to 7,314 for a special election, where turnout is always historically lower.  So the answer to my friend at dinner last Saturday?  Yes, activism can make a difference.  Viva la resistance!

There is one other important aspect of Lady Macbeth’s pivotal scene in Act 5.  She is sleepwalking, observed only by one of her ladies-in-waiting and a doctor of physics.  Is this not the perfect metaphor for Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Jason Chaffetz and most Republican members of Congress?  They are in a constant state of somnambulance.  Partly conscious, but mostly asleep.  And like Lady Macbeth, they too have a choice.  Take responsibility or as Lady Macbeth says as she exits the anteroom, go back to sleep.

To bed, to bed! there’s knocking at the gate:
come, come, come, come, give me your hand. What’s
done cannot be undone.–To bed, to bed, to bed.

Cannot be undone?  I beg to differ.  The Constitution provides a number of vehicles by which those who cloak themselves in the mantel of patriotism can put an end to this madness.  To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg.  “The world will little note, nor long remember, what you said here, but it will NEVER forget what you are doing here.”

UPDATE:  At last night’s Oscar ceremony, we were once again reminded that mistakes happen.  And fortunately, in this case the error was quickly corrected.  This is just one more reminder to sleepwalking Republicans and Trump-enablers that mistakes can and should be fixed.  DO YOUR JOB!

For what it’s worth.


WHITE Friday


Today, we are being exposed to just one more example of how the pro-Trumpsters are making every effort to give Agent Orange (my favorite euphemism for Donald Trump) credit before it is earned.  In this case, they are hailing Trump for the stock market bump since election day.  Conservative economists who have always warned against making long-term predictions on short-term market activity are shedding their own advice.

Consider the following example.  Steve Nicklas, a certified financial adviser who writes a weekly column for our local newspaper, included the following in today’s edition.

Despite a politically divided country, the U.S. stock market continues to reach new highs.  The markets obviously like the new administration’s prescription of lower taxes, less regulation and a stronger economy.  Even though outside businessman Donald Trump is far from your polished politician.

He references the $2.7 trillion in wealth created in the U.S. stock market since the November election.

Which brings me to the reason why I called this post, “WHITE Friday.”  Because Mr. Nicklas and other conservatives are giving the WHITE guy credit after 30 days with little acknowledgement the current bull market might just be a continuation of the momentum created by the BLACK guy’s policies and stewardship of the national economy.

To make my point, let’s look at what would have been Mr. Nicklas’ prediction if he had used similar methodology after the first 30 days of President Obama’s tenure in office.  On November 4, 2008, the day Obama was elected president, the Dow Jones industrial average (DJIA) closed at 9,625.28.  On February 30, 2009, 30 days after the inauguration, the benchmark index stood at 7,365.76.  According to Mr. Nicklas’ logic, the markets were responding negatively to the Obama program.

There are just two problems with that analysis.  One, the DJIA on February 20 was a snapshot in time of a trend which had begun on September 3, 2008 when the DJIA closed at a high of 11,532.88.  If I remember correctly, George W. Bush occupied the White House when the trend began.  Second, and equally important, the stimulus package designed to kickstart a tanking economy had not yet been implemented. So anyone making a prediction about the stock market based on the same time frame Mr. Niklas is using today would NEVER have imagined the DIJA would close at 19,804.72 on January 19, 2017, Obama’s last full day in office.

So, to be fair, let’s wait and see where the market stands on Donald Trump’s last full day in office regardless of whether we are talking about eight years, four years or something even less.  He has proposed another round of supply-side economics which has historically proven to yield long-term negative returns at both the national and state levels.  Like Bush 43 who turned low employment and a budget surplus into the worst recession since the Great Depression, Trump has the same opportunity to undermine a 4.7 percent unemployment rate and 75 consecutive months of job growth.  Need we remind Mr. Niklas lower taxes and deregulation were exactly what precipitated the great recession?

So let’s hold the praise until (1) Trump actually does something and (2) we see what impact it actually has.

For what it’s worth.


CDC Update


If nothing else the Center for Disease Control has been very busy since the November election.  First, as disclosed on this blog site on January 30, CDC warned of a new pandemic DJT (Duh Jive Truth).  Since the first report, DJT has spread like wild-fire infecting numerous members of the White House staff, Republican members of Congress and the alt-right media.

Today, CDC issued its second warning of a potentially deadly epidemic.  To date it has claimed seven victims who have one thing in common.  They have either been identified as potential sources for the information compiled in former MI6 agent Christopher Steele’s dossier on Donald Trump or have knowledge which could validate collusion between the Trump Organization/Campaign and the Russian government.  The victims include:

  • Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin who died suddenly of a heart attack on Monday at the age of 64.
  • Sergei Krirov, a duty commander at the Russian Consulate in New York, was found dead at 7:00am on November 8, 2016 (election day).  First reports indicated Krirov had fallen from the roof of the consular building.  Consular officials later told the police he had suffered a heart attack.  He was 64
  • Oleg Erovinkin, a former general in the KGB and its successor the FSB, was found in the back of a limousine in Russia.  His body was taken to the FSB morgue.  No cause of death has been confirmed.
  • Sergei Mikhailov, a senior officer in the FSB, has been arrested and charged with treason.  Among Mikhailov’s responsibility was oversight of the FSB’s cyberintelligence division which has been implicated in the hacking of the DNC.
  • In January, Andrei Malanin, director of the consular department in the Russian Embassy in Athens was found dead in his apartment.  Cause of death was reported as a heart attack.  Malanin was 55.
  • In December 2016, Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov was killed while addressing attendees at an art exhibition.  The assassin shouted, “Do not forget Aleppo,” before shooting Karlov suggesting he intended to revenge the lives lost in Aleppo due to increased Russian bombing of the city. Trump joined the Russians in condemning the assassin as “a radical Islamic terrorist” although there was no evidence of any connection to ISIS.
  • Several days later, Petr Pelshikov, a high ranking Russian diplomat who had recently left the foreign ministry was found shot in the head.  He was 56.

CDC has not as yet named the latest potential pandemic. Nominees include:

  • Botch-a-lism
  • Craniac Arrest
  • Obstructive (of justice) Pulmonary Disease
  • Alt-heimer’s Disease
  • Putin-ium Poisoning

The CDC alert warns Americans to avoid male Russian officials in their mid-50s to mid-60s, as they have the highest probability of being carriers although there is no evidence, as yet, US citizens can be infected by contact.  But there are no assurances the virus or bug cannot be transmitted to non-Russians. To paraphrase Trump during his pre-Super Bowl interview, “There are a lot of killer diseases.  You think our country’s so immune?”

For what it’s worth.


He Who Ignores History

I have heard more than one commentator over the last week compare the the raid on an Al Qaeda structure believed to house Yemen terrorist leader Qassim Al-Rimi to the failed Bay of Pigs invasion during the first days of John F. Kennedy’s presidency.  The focal point for comparing the two is that both military actions were planned by one administration and left for execution to the next.

One valid point does not a general comparison make.  While the planning and execution of both operations spanned two administrations, the Bay of Pigs invasion was a covert operation developed by the CIA and its success was predicated on the false assumption the Cuban people would quickly join the rebels (exiled Cubans trained by the CIA).  In contrast, the Yemen raid was planned by the U.S. Department of Defense and executed by U.S. special forces.  The goal of the Bay of Pigs was to topple the Castro government.  The goal in Yemen is less clear as Al Qaeda in Yemen is seen as a terrorist organization yet also is seen as an ally of the U.S., Saudi and UAE backed government in the civil war with Shiite rebels.  Similar to the conflict in Syria, as they say in baseball, you can’t tell the players without a program.

Which brings us back to January 25, 2017 and the White House dinner at which the commando raid was approved.  Despite the differences between the two operations, there were lessons from the Bay of Pigs which should have been early warning signs for Donald Trump.  In hindsight, Kennedy realized he asked the wrong question during CIA briefings prior to the Bay of Pigs invasion.  He admitted he wrongly focused on the level of preparedness of the CIA-trained exiles and the supporting air strikes.  Instead, of inquiries about what and when, Kennedy realized the real question was, “Should we undertake this operation at all?”  In documents archived at the Kennedy Presidential Library, the newly inaugurated commander-in-chief opined whether he should have restarted the decision process from square one.  If he was going to own the outcome, should he rely on his predecessor’s decision process?

Clearly Trump is not a student of history, or if he is, he did not do well in the class.  Assuming he was handed a proposal outlining the Yemen operation and was told the ONLY reason the Obama administration delayed execution was to wait for a moonless night, Trump should have seen numerous red flags. (NOTE: Obama officials involved in the decision process claim they felt uncomfortable because the on-the-ground intelligence was not sufficient to proceed.  They were proven correct when it was determined the protection around the structure was greater than anticipated resulting in a prolonged firefight.)

The circumstances remind me of two teenage boys trying to create a little mischief.  The first boy buys some cherry bombs and identifies the neighborhood targets (mailboxes and trash cans).  Then he gives the firecrackers to his friend and tells him to light them.  The friend asks, “Why don’t you light them?  You did the easy and safe stuff.”  His partner-in-crime replies, “But you get to do the exciting stuff.”  Right, exciting until he loses a couple of fingers.

And that is what happened in Cuba and Yemen.  Kennedy lit the fuse and had to take responsibility for the deaths of many of the Cuban exiles and the imprisonment of the invasion survivors.  Whether he takes responsibility or not, Trump must reconcile the loss of a Navy SEAL as well as the deaths of nine women and 10 children without achieving the goal of capturing or killing Al-Rimi.

There was a another lesson from the Bay of Pigs, which fortunately President Kennedy embraced.  “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”  (NOTE: Not to be confused with George W. Bush’s attempt, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”)

Experience with the Bay of Pigs debacle is partially credited for Kennedy’s response to the Cuban Missile Crisis in November, 1962.  Despite advice from his military advisers to use the placement of Soviet mid-range nuclear weapons 90 miles away from the U.S. coastline as an excuse for a second attempt to overthrow Castro, JFK knew he, and he alone, would have to answer for the outcome.

Why do I share this with you?  Because I believe there are two more historical parallels on the horizon.  And if the current occupant of the White House fails to take advantage of the lessons from past events, the botched raid in Yemen will be a footnote to his tenure in office.  The first comes from the Vietnam era.  The presence of the American destroyer USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin created a situation which was used to justify escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.  The result?  58,315 killed in action or non-combat deaths, 153,303 wounded-in-action requiring hospital care and 1,618 missing in action.  On February 17, 2017 the US Navy sent the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to patrol the South China Sea.  The American people and Congress should be wary of any reported incident or Chinese provocation, especially if it is associated with a proposed increase in military involvement in the region.

The second, of course, is the March, 2003 invasion of Iraq, attributed to false reports of weapons of mass destruction stockpiled by Saddam Hussein.  The result in this case?  4,424 killed in action and non-hostile deaths and 31,952 wounded in action.  A political and governmental vacuum which opened the door to Al Qaeda and ISIS.  All resulting from an imminent threat to the United States which was hardly a threat, much less imminent.

So when you hear of terrorist attacks in Bowling Green, Atlanta and Sweden, think of Iraq.  Terrorism is real, but it need not be exaggerated for political purposes.  And the fact there has not been an attack on U.S. soil directed from a foreign base since 9/11 should not be overlooked.  These are among the truths we should hold as self-evident.

For what it’s worth.


The Old Switcheroo

Longtime Seinfeld fans will recognize the title of this post.  On the sit-com’s January 5, 1995 episode, Jerry finds his current girlfriend’s roommate more appealing and asks George to help him find a way to make “the switch.”  George replies:

Do you realize in the entire history of western civilization no one has successfully accomplished the Roommate Switch? In the Middle Ages you could get locked up for even suggesting it!

no-nbcDespite this warning, NBC and its subsidiaries believe they can achieve the impossible.  After two years of aiding and abetting the normalization of Donald Trump, NBC is trying to switch roommates.  After spending 2016 and the transition in bed with Trump supporters, they are now trying to court the resistance.  Sorry NBC, too little, too late.

Chuck Todd  is being praised for his tough questioning of Stephan Miller last Sunday on Meet the Press and enabler-in-residence Matt Lauer tried to display his newly discovered journalist cajones during an interview with court jester Kellyanne Conway following the Flynn resignation.  Nice try, but none of this would have been necessary without NBC’s role in creating the Trump White House of Cards. Consider the following.

  • As chronicled in the September 8, 2016 issue of Fortune magazine, NBC literally rescued the Trump brand. Tarnished by casino bankruptcies and declining sales of Trump products and their properties, NBC offered Trump a television show (The Apprentice) that “would let Trump remake himself as he saw fit.”  Using manufactured situations and extensive editing, Trump was presented as a knowledgeable and decisive business leader to a whole new audience.
  • When behind the scenes rumors about The Apprentice host’s misogyny and prejudice became an issue following release of the Access Hollywood video, NBC was asked to provide outtakes which would either confirm or repudiate the gossip.  NBC accurately replied producer Mark Burnett owned the rights to the show, but added incorrectly the decision whether to share the raw footage was out of their control.  Wrong!  NBC could have given Burnett an ultimatum.  Share the video or cancel future seasons of his show.  Instead, NBC gave him cover.
  • The free rides provided by MSNBC’s Morning Joe are too voluminous to chronicle in a single post.  It all began on September 4, 2015.  This was the first time Trump was allowed to call-in an interview with hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.  The conversation lasted over 24 minutes and consisted mainly of Trump repeating his stump speech talking points. Keep in mind, at this time, Trump was still being paid by NBC as executive producer of The Celebrity Apprentice.
  • On November 5, 2015, NBC handed Trump a 90 minute infomercial as host of Saturday Night Live.
  • On July 18, 2016, the Golf Channel (owned by NBC) handed Trump a second 60 minute infomercial when he was the only guest on that night’s edition of Feherty.
  • On September 7, 2106, Lauer hosted what was billed as the “Commander-in-Chief Forum” on NBC during which he did not fact-check Trump’s responses to his softball questions and, in contrast, devoted 15 of 30 minutes of his time with Hillary Clinton to her emails.
  • On September 16, 2016, Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon soft-pedaled an interview with the Republican nominee including a “hair-rub” and faked, prolonged laughter at one of the guest’s clearly scripted jokes.  (NOTE:  Karma is a bitch.  For the week of February 6-10, 2017, CBS Late Show host Stephen Colbert, unofficial after hours spokesperson for the resistance, topped all competitors with an average of 3.01 million viewers.)
  • Following the election, NBC raided Fox News (aka the Trump echo chamber, although it is hard to figure out who is echoing whom) hiring long time Fox hosts Megan Kelly (January 3, 2017) and Greta Van Susteren (January 5, 2017).
  • The latest MSNBC ad campaign for Morning Joe promotes the program as a direct line to the news about the Trump administration.  I can only imagine what the meaning of “direct line” is.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.  Saturday Night Live and Seth Meyer’s “Closer Look” on Late Night have become major thorns in Donald Trump’s side.  And I must admit, I am addicted to both.  But I watch them on Hulu Plus, commercial-free.  Just as tells us how the resistance can vote with its dollars by boycotting Trump products and the retailers which offer them, I refuse to do anything which might line the pockets of Trump’s co-conspirators.

So, like Jerry Seinfeld, I’m not into the ménage. But NBC seems to think it can have it’s Kellyanne and eat it too.  My advice to NBC.  Just eat it.

For what it’s worth.