Monthly Archives: April 2017

Lost in Transition


This morning I received an e-mail from one of my unnamed, and totally unreliable, sources.

Sat 4/29/2017 1:06 AM

FROM: Unnamed and Unreliable Source

Attached is a copy of the draft remarks Donald Trump planned to give if he had attended last night’s dinner.  Although I cannot divulge how I procured this material, it came in a plain white envelope which only said the following,  “SALLY forth.  More to come.”


Woodward and Bernstein: Journalism  more crucial than everNormally, I would check the veracity of this kind of document before passing it on. But after listening to Carl Bernstein at the actual WHCA Dinner last night, I heeded his advice.  “Our objective as journalists is to get the best obtainable version of the truth.”  I can assure you there will not be any better obtainable version of Trump’s speech than this one.

Good evening, ladies and germalists. I know I promised to go to a 2020 campaign rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania instead of this dinner.  Imagine that.  Another broken promise.  Anyway, that poor city has already been exposed to enough nuclear radiation. 

Everyone looks so grown-up tonight.  It feels like a senior prom at Trump University.  The only difference is the cost of attendance is half what we charge and I don’t get my usual cut of the proceeds.  Maybe next year we can hold this event at a Trump property. I understand this year’s theme is “Russian to Judgement.” 

So this is what Washington looks like on a weekend.  Hard to tell the difference.  The House and Senate chambers are empty and Melania is in New York.  Melania sends her regrets.  She told me she had anything else to do.

Being here isn’t the first promise I’ve broken since occupying the dining room at Mar-a-Lago. I also promised to drain the swamp, hire the best people.  So what if there are investigations into criminal charges of some of my staff.  I didn’t practice saying, “You’re fired” for nothing.  Come to think of it, I’ve gone through more people than the survivors of Uruguayan Air Flight 571 after it crashed in the Andes mountains in 1972.  (anticipate groans) Too soon?

Speaking of going through other people, a big shout out to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.  With friends like Jack, who needs Vladimir Putin and Julian Assange.  And the campaign didn’t even have to pay Twitter.  I like to think of Twitter as the 7/11 of the internet.  Open all night and the potheads who drop in at 3:00 am for munchies make about as much sense as I do.

Speaking of 3:00 am,  I just learned North Korea is in a different time zone.  Not everyone knows that.   So when I get up at 3:00 am, it’s actually 3:30 pm in Pingpong, Putang, whatever.  So I can see what Kim Jong-Un is doing 11 and a half hours before it has any effect on the United States.  I can’t believe I’m saying this but California is in an even better position.  If the North Koreans launch an ICBM, San Francisco has three more hours than Washington to react.

Don’t worry.  I have a plan to neutralize North Korea.  We just have to wait for the next supreme leader Kim Jong-Deux.

One hundred days.  Can you believe it?  (anticipate more groans) You folks thought I was going to be a disaster.  Isn’t it a little unfair to expect so much so soon?  It took W two terms to destroy the economy.  I only hope I can be as successful with the environment by the end of my presidency.

In closing, I just want to let you know I am donating my salary for this quarter to the White House Correspondents Association scholarship fund.  And I hope you report it in tomorrow morning’s newspapers and  on the Sunday talk shows.  That way, when I accuse all of you of “fake news,” I will be right.

Good night and good luck.

After reading the draft for the first time, it is rumored Trump sent a note to Melania’s speech writer thanking her for such an original closing line.

For what it’s worth.

Everything Old is New Again


all_that_jazzThe 1979 movie All That Jazz includes one of my all-time favorite musical performances.  After protagonist Joe Gideon (played by Roy Scheider) learns his latest movie was not well received by critics, his daughter (Erzsebet Foldi) and girlfriend (Ann Reinking) cheer him up with a song and dance rendition of Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager’s 1974 song, “Everything Old Is New Again.”  (NOTE:  If you’re not familiar with the film, it was directed by Bob Fosse and is semi-biographical.  SPOILER:  In one of the more ironic final scenes in cinema history, Gideon suffers a fatal heart attack after a life of chain smoking, heavy drinking and many sleepless nights.  In what might be considered a documentary remake, Fosse, in the role of Joe Gideon, passed away from a coronary in real life on September 23, 1987.)

It’s funny how the creative process sometimes is triggered by more than a single stimulus.  It often depends on a thread of seemingly unconnected events which appear somewhat circular.  One event reminds us of another and then another until we return to the original concept, but with a great degree of clarity.  I have no idea why I started thinking about this particular movie scene as I heard the the latest economic news, the gross domestic product during the first quarter of 2017 had grown at a sluggish 0.7 percent, the lowest rate in three years.

My first reaction was, “Not much of a vote of confidence in Comrade Trump.”  But that would be unfair.  His Orangeness, to date, has done absolutely nothing which could have such a impact on the macro-economy. No ACA repeal.  No tax reform.  No withdrawal from any trade agreement.  No condemnation of China as a currency manipulator.  Second reaction, “Maybe the Obama era of economic growth had run its course.”  But private sector employment is still strong.  Inflation is under control.

Then it came to me.  The “everything old” referred to basic economic and business principles.  The “something new” was the current administration’s belief it had a revolutionary program which would supercharge the national economy. (Maybe someone should tell them it is merely a warmed over version of the discredited theory of trickle down economics.)

Where had I heard that before?  At the beginning of the dotcom boom in 1995, I was staff director to the National Governors Association Committee on Economic Development and Commerce. We had invited a panel of CEOs from high technology companies, mostly from Silicon Valley, to talk with the governors about the opportunities and challenges associated with this “new economy.”  As expected, the business leaders were optimistic.  In fact, one CEO predicted the boom and bust business cycle might be a thing of the past.

Then Colorado governor Roy Romer reminded us.  “The new economy still plays by the old economy’s rules.”  To prove his point, Romer suggested the technology boom was more about speculation than traditional business metrics.  Venture capitalists were investing billions of dollars into companies which had little revenue and less profits.  They hoped to recoup their contribution, not from the profitable sale of goods and services, but through an IPO or purchase by a corporate suitor based on an equally speculative market valuation.  How did that turn out?

So, what is a possible explanation for a downturn in the economy when there has been little, if any, change in policy?  What old economy principle is in play?  The business community seems largely optimistic the new White House occupant is going to make their lives easier.  Like them, he abhors taxes.  And despises regulation.  But there is one thing they hate more than either of these perceived inhibitors to growth.  UNCERTAINTY.

And that’s where the administration has failed dramatically.  You put off business decisions if you cannot tell whether the U.S. is pulling out of NAFTA in the morning and honoring the treaty in the afternoon.  Residential developers cannot price construction if they don’t know whether the Department of Commerce is going to place a punitive tariff on Canadian soft wood.  And you certainly don’t invest in technology companies if there is the slightest chance Silicon Valley will soon be represented by a mushroom cloud rather than a semiconductor.

11301Since Comrade Trump seems to be a visual learner, maybe he should screen All That Jazz.  I suggest he also add Horton Hatches the Egg to the video library in the White House theater.  Not only would a member of the GOP appreciate the symbolism of a pachyderm as the lead character.  Horton could also remind Trump flip-flopping is a sign of indecision and lack of conviction.  Or as Horton constantly tells those who challenge his commitment to protecting his egg, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant.  An elephant’s faithful one-hundred percent.”  Thank you, Dr. Seuss for showing us what the anti-Trump looks like and how he behaves.

For what it’s worth.


Fallen Acorns


Heaven forbid, I think I’ve been infected by Trump syndrome.  Before I caught myself, I started this post as follows.

The acorn doesn’t fall far from the oak.  You know, not everyone knows that.  It’s not as easy as it looks.  But after a 10 minute conversation with Chinese president Xi Jinping, I now understand it.

The adage about trees and their fruit generally applies to situations where offspring exhibit traits similar to those of their parents.  In Trump World, you don’t have to be a blood relative.  Consider the following two examples from this week’s news.

The BULL Market

Yesterday, Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy, who voted for Donald Trump in 2016,  compared the Obama attitude toward business to “economic waterboarding.” (CNBC, April 26, 2107)

I’ve been talking to lots of CEOs. I had one who said it very succinctly, a very large Fortune 20-type CEO, and he said, ‘All of a sudden after the election, the waterboarding, the eight years of waterboarding stopped.’

There are a couple of reasons McNealy’s comments should be taken with a grain of salt.  This is the first we’ve heard from McNealy for a while.  Perhaps because his company no longer exists, much like a Trump casino or Trump University. And like Trump, he is blaming everyone but himself.   McNealy is right about one thing.  It only took eight years for the company to fall from the 52nd largest U.S. corporation with a market capitalization of over $70 billion to being acquired by Oracle for less than 1/10 of its previous value.  During the same period stockholders saw per share price fall from a high of $309.75 to $9.49 at the time of the Oracle acquisition.

There’s only one problem.  The time frame associated with Sun Microsystems’  rise and fall was not Obama’s tenure in the White House.  The company’s high point was December 1999 and its fire sale to Oracle was negotiated in 2009.  Not only does McNealy share Trump’s acumen for running companies into the ground, he too chooses to avoid responsibility for his own shortcomings and revises history to point the finger at others.

So what really happened during the professed era of “economic waterboarding.”  For purposes of this discusses, let’s use the NASDAQ composite index which is viewed as the best indicator of the strength of new economy businesses.  When Barack Obama took the oath of office on January 20, 2009, the index stood at 1,440.86.  By the end of the Obama administration (January 20, 2017), the index rose to 5,555.33, an increase of over 300 percent.

So, if McNealy is telling me that waterboarding would have tripled my personal stock portfolio, I have only one thing to say.  Open the hydrants and hose me down.

Something’s A-FOOT

One example would have been enough, but maybe I missed the announcement.  April 26th must be “National Acorn Day.”  And who better to be the poster boy than Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz, chair of the House Select Committee on Intelligence.  Just nine days ago, Chaffetz announced he would not seek re-election in 2018.  Much speculation about this decision focuses on the following factors.  First, Chaffetz was unmasked as a shill for the White House by willingly playing the pawn in Trump’s efforts to justify the claim his predecessor had wire-tapped him during the presidential campaign.  Second, the congressman could not have enjoyed facing off with the raucous crowds at town hall meetings in his home district.  Finally, there are unconfirmed rumors of Russian money being funneled into his 2016 re-election campaign. (Imagine that.)

Now it seems Chaffetz has emulated His Orangeness in one more way.  Yesterday, he announced he is taking a leave of absence to recover from pending foot surgery.  Does the term “bone spurs” ring a bell?  I would not call it the equivalent of draft dodging, but it certainly looks like Chaffetz is avoiding national service.  The timing, as reported by several outlets, is confusing at best and a bit suspicious.  The procedure was described on Chaffetz’s Instagram account as necessary to correct a prior surgery which took place TWELVE years ago.  Many are asking why he waited until Congress reconvened after a two week break instead of scheduling it during the Easter recess.


In a previous post, I have referred to Trump’s counter-Midas effect.  Everything he comes in contact with is soon contaminated.  Preparing for this post, I decided to research the role of acorns in our eco-system.  I found the following fact to be of particular interest.  Because acorns are too heavy for wind-dispersal, they rely on dispersal agents.  These consist mostly of animals who consume unripe acorns and deposit them through subsequent evacuation.  In other words, an acorn’s life cycle often begins in a pile of manure.  Considering the flow of verbal excrement coming out of the White House, I wonder if we should be concerned a proliferation of oak trees will soon overtake the Japanese cherry trees in the D.C. tidal basin.

Finally, I try to avoid commenting on individuals’ personal appearance, but am I the only one who thinks both McNealy and Chaffetz have some woodchuck DNA in their background.

For what it’s worth.


We Have Met the Enemy


pogo-we_have_met_the_enemy_and_he_is_us-largeDespite economic and social theories which suggest individuals and civilizations will, in most instances, behave in their own self-interest, it seems there are more and more cases where the opposite is true.  This human condition was most famously articulated by Pogo creator Walt Kelly (1913-1973) on a poster he created to promote the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.  “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  (HISTORICAL NOTE:  The more often referenced version is attributed to a daily edition of the Pogo comic strip which appeared on April 22, 1971, to commemorate the first anniversary of Earth Day.)

I thought about Walt Kelly several times during the past week.  On Sunday, NBC News and the Wall Street Journal released the latest poll numbers on Comrade Trump’s voter approval as he approaches his 100th day in office. An article about the opinion survey on summarized the results as follows, “Trump is holding on to his base — but he’s losing nearly everyone else.”  Men, of whom 52 percent voted for Trump in 2016, now disapprove of his job performance by five percent.  Seniors, who voted for Trump by a margin of 52-45 percent also expressed disapproval by a margin of two percent.  Independents who favored Trump by 46-42 percent on election day reported a net approval rating of -23 percent.  Even Republican support has dropped from 88 percent on November 8 to 69 percent in the NBC/WSJ survey.

The only group which continues to voice overwhelming support for Trump (85 percent approval rating) are those who voted for the GOP nominee last November.  When you factor in the decline in generic Republican support, it’s clear die-hard Trump voters continue to be die-hard fans.  This should come as no surprise.  Remember, at a Sioux City, Iowa rally on January 24, 2016, Trump told the attendees, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”  And on this rare occasion, the liar-in-chief was telling the truth.

Which brings us back to Walt Kelly.  And why Trump’s decision to back down on funding the border wall as part of the pending budget resolution was a moment of personal enlightenment.  For 97 days, I and many others have wondered at what point would Trump voters realize they had been played.  Intervention in Syria and North Korea instead of “America First?”  “Drain the swamp” becomes a cabinet that looks like a board of directors marcelmarceaumeeting at Goldman-Sachs?  “I hire the best people” results in the immediate resignation of the national security adviser?  And most recently, “the most beautiful wall you’ve ever seen” is sounding more and more like a memorial to Marcel Marceau.  (No undocumented mimes need apply!)

Forget repeal of the affordable care act, ridding the nation of undocumented immigrants, protecting Americans from terrorist attacks and every other policy position espoused by the Trump campaign.  Donald has one, and only one, prime objective.  Prove the “fake news” media wrong.  And though he eschews polls, he would love nothing more than to get his favorability rating above water.  One need only examine the lengths to which this administration has already gone to achieve this goal.  To disprove mainstream media criticism of the now infamous Obama wiretap tweets, the administration went on a wild goose chase to find collaborating information, and in the process, exposed the chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence for the political hack he is.

That is why die-hard Trump supporters are their own worst enemy.  He can break every promise he made during the campaign.  He can make it easier for companies to poison their water with an executive order.  He can support a health care bill which is a front for tax breaks for the wealthy while taking away their health insurance.  It doesn’t seem to matter.  The only way Trump can raise his approval rating is by doing things he said he would never do.  Damn the deficit if he can pick up a little support through massive tax cuts and an unpaid for trillion dollar infrastructure program.  The cost of replenishing the military’s supply of Tomahawk missiles and MOABs is a small price to pay for gaining the praise of neo-cons.  Every time Trump supporters allow him to break a promise without consequences they are giving him a hall pass to continue screwing them over.

Okay, Trump voters.  You want us to believe you are not anti-Muslim, bigoted homophobes?  You want us to believe you supported Trump because you thought his professed policies were good for America?  Stand up for them!  Don’t give this con-man a pass.  Otherwise, we’re on to your con as well.

For what it’s worth.


Close, But No Cigar


Today’s lesson in critical thinking is about the value of information regardless of whether it seems relevant at the time.  I learned this from Andy Stefanovich, the self-proclaimed chief curator at Prophet Management Consulting in Richmond, Virginia.  Andy always carries a supply of blank index cards on which he obsessively captures random observations and thoughts.  He considers each entry a potential trigger for a creative approach to solving a future client’s need.

As I started to think about a different angle to explore Comrade Trump’s first 100 days in office, I decided to “dig deep down into the old pack of cigarettes” to find an appropriate metaphor.  (NOTE: I first heard the phrase contained in the previous sentence at a John Denver concert.  It was how Denver would introduce one of his old standards to the audience.)  And sure enough, recalling a two-year old story about a totally unrelated topic was the stimulus I sought.

On August 29, 2015, the Washington Examiner published an article by Bill Lalor in which the writer shared Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker James Harrison’s following view on “participation awards.”

I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned. And I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best.

For those unfamiliar with the Examiner, until 2013 it was a D.C tabloid which catered to a conservative audience, owned by Montana oil magnate Philip Anschutz.  After the demise of the print edition, the paper transitioned to an on-line publication.  (NOTE:  It is probably no coincidence Anschutz was born in Russell, Kansas, which is also the birthplace of former Senator Robert Dole.  Maybe it’s something in the water.)

In the 2015 article, Lalor declares, “Hillary (Clinton) is the participation trophy of the 2016 race.”  Comparing her many years pursuing the presidency as equivalent to being in the game without a victory, Lalor concludes 2016 will be no different.  People understand “the difference between ‘Everything is AWESOME’ recognition and actual achievement.”

participationWhich brings us back to Donald J. Trump.  I am not holding my breath, but I wonder if Bill Lalor is working on a piece for Friday’s edition of the Examiner which begins, “Donald Trump is the participation trophy of the American presidency.”  One cannot argue he has not been an omnipresent fixture on the field of play since January 20th.  And his staff believes he tried his best…or at least that’s what they say for his personal consumption.  For example, on his promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, press secretary Scary Spice said, “The president did everything he could on the health care bill.” (March 24, 2017)

The one thing that His Orangeness has also been pretty good at during the first 100 days is revising history.  Most recently, wrongly suggesting Korea was historically part of China and then blaming his ignorance on Chinese president Xi Jinping.  So, it is with great anticipation I await Trump’s presidential memoir To Russia With Love: The Sequel.  The question is whether he will bring his campaign bluster in line with the reality of his hopefully short time in office.  For example, will Trump revise the account of his September 9, 2015 rally at the Capitol building as follows.

The steps of the Capitol seemed the perfect venue to protest the lopsided deal President Obama cut with Iran to limit their nuclear weapons capability.  As I told the millions of people who attended the rally, “We will have so much participation if I get elected that you may get bored with the participation.  (Crowd cheers.) Believe me, I agree, you’ll never get bored with participation.  We never get bored.  We are going to turn this country around.”

Perhaps the phrase that best sums up this centenary milestone in this national nightmare is, “Close, but no cigar!”  According to Wiktionary, this expression originated “from the practice of giving cigars as prizes at carnivals in the United States in the 19th Century.  This phrase would be said to those who failed to win a prize.”  If anything, in contrast to every recent presidential experience, the last three months have certainly been more “a carnival” than “a honeymoon.”

For what it’s worth.