Monthly Archives: November 2018

No Shortcuts

Sometimes the process of writing can be as interesting as the product which emerges.

~Dr. ESP

As was the case on Thanksgiving Day, the inspiration for a particular blog entry often comes from Deprogramming101 subscribers.  Not when they share a news article or commentary and say, “You know, you should write about this.”  But in the course of every day conversation, when they ask a question or relate a personal experience.  Doug Hall, founder of Eureka Ranch, a corporate retreat outside Cincinnati, Ohio has based an entire career on helping others become more creative using this concept of “stimulus/response.”  However, the creative power of this technique grows exponentially when you meld it was other innovative tools such as the theory of synchronicity, the simultaneous occurrence of events which appear to have no connection.

On two occasions this week, individuals asked me questions which, on the surface, seemed unrelated.  My wife once again inquired, “Why is Mueller taking so long?”  And during a phone call with our daughter, she wanted to know if I had made any progress on the political novel I have been drafting for the past year.  For any event to shift from simple observation to stimulus, one must continually ask two questions.

  • What is this trying to tell me?
  • How is it relevant to something I am trying to do?

The first thing I needed to explore was the commonality between these two interactions with members of my family.  I did not tell her this, but my daughter’s question made me feel quite guilty.  The novel is a fictional telling of the Kennedy assassination.  And Thursday marked the 55th anniversary of the president’s fatal trip to Dallas.  For me, it represented one more year in which I missed a deadline, as I keep promising myself I will finish the text in time to release it “next November 22.”

Likewise, Robert Mueller has no set deadline.  His timetable may be influenced by external events, e.g. the dismissal of attorney general Jeff Sessions and the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting AG.  Or waiting for the transmittal of Donald Trump’s written responses to a series of questions about Russian collusion.  But, for all intents and purposes, Mueller (like me) controls when his work will be finished.

And that connection made me realize how Mueller’s task and that of any writer of fiction or non-fiction are linked.  While my first attempt at a novel pales in comparison to the importance of the special counsel’s investigation, we face the same challenge.  Will our individual results be viewed as credible?

For lack of a better word, Mueller is engaged in a search for truth which may eventually result in regicide, the act of disposing of a monarch.  And the king still has many loyal followers.  No easy task, complicated by the royal minions who will pick apart his work to find any discrepancy which tests the veracity of the narrative.  Though less consequential, my challenge is the same.  I believe the key to making an implausible story line real is in the detail.  I’ll give you one example.

Related imageI needed to find a place where members of President Kennedy’s secret service detail could meet privately without raising suspicions, a location where they might be seen in the course of regular business.  A Google search pointed to the James J. Rowley Center in Laurel, Maryland, a secret service facility where agents can practice defense skills and explore better techniques and strategies for carrying out their mission.  Just one problem.  Kennedy’s detail could not have been there as the center was not funded until 1969 and did not open until 1972.  Chances are the reader would not have known the difference or cared.  But I knew it would have been a flaw in the narrative and that was unacceptable.

Five years ago, a tale about a sitting president of the United States who colluded with a foreign adversary to win the election and then conspired to cover it up would be as implausible as my version of the Kennedy assassination.  Mueller will be under enormous pressure to defend his findings, regardless of the outcome.  If Trump is exonerated, his critics will be as skeptical as Turmp’s loyalists who will challenge every piece of evidence of conspiracy and obstruction of justice.  And you can bet the farm, any flaw in the accuracy of the smallest detail will be used to undermine the report’s veracity.  To get it exactly right takes time and requires every fact be checked and rechecked.

My book will be done when it’s ready.  As will Mueller’s report.  Writers, even novices like me, understand that.  The public should also.

For what it’s worth.


Two Bitcoin Whores

As bitcoin continued its downward slide Tuesday, U.S. regulators are reportedly looking into whether its record-breaking rally last year was the result of market manipulation.

~Kate Rooney, CNBC.COM

What a difference a year makes.  On December 17, 2017, Fortune Magazine writer David Morris reported:

The price of one bitcoin (BTC) reached a new all-time high of $19,783.06 early Sunday before dropping back below $19,500, according to Coindesk’s price index.

As of this writing, bitcoin’s price has risen more than 5% in 24 hours, and is up 1,824% since Jan. 1 of this year, when a single Bitcoin could be had for just under $1,000.

Funny how this precipitous increase in the value of a digital currency which operates independent of any central bank and is not backed up by any material asset such as gold or silver did not catch the attention of regulators on its way up.  Imagine, the same individuals who celebrate the virtues of a free market when they are making millions, if not billions of dollars, on pure speculation now are hopeful government regulators will step him and save their inflated earnings.  The message?  While business is great in the financial prostitution business, leave us alone.  But once the shine comes off of this substitute for real earnings, “HELP!”

Sound familiar?  Was it not 10 short years ago when  banks and hedge funds made a similar bet on mortgage backed securities and Wall Street brokers supposedly spread the risk across global markets with unsecured financial instruments like derivatives and insurance schemes like credit default swaps?  And how did the crisis get resolved?  With a $700 billion bailout of the secondary mortgage market funded by U.S. taxpayers, many of whom lost their homes when the housing bubble burst.  And how many perpetrators of these schemes forfeited the assets they accrued while gaming the system or went to jail for fraud and malpractice?  ZERO.

Related imagePerhaps its time former Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner Bud Selig becomes chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  Selig oversaw what can only be described as the sports equivalent of a looming financial disaster with the increased use of performance enhancing drugs by MLB players.

Much as the value of derivatives and bitcoins were unnaturally inflated, the number of players breaking records for home runs and power hitting was artificially high.  In 2006, there was an equally worrisome increase in PED use among pitchers.  MLB banned the use of performance enhancing drugs in 1991, but relied on an honor system without mandated testing.  In other words, when it came to steroids in baseball, “self-regulaton” was the order of the day.  However, as more and more players achieved unprecedented “success,” the guardians of the game realized something was not kosher.

Therefore, in 2003, the league introduced mandatory testing with a minimum 10 game suspension.  Between 2003 and 2014, 49 players were suspended ranging from the minimum to 162 games (the entire 2014 season) for Yankee shortstop Alex Rodriguez.  In March 2014, MLB adopted mandatory suspensions–80 games for the first offense, a full season for the second and a lifetime ban for the third.  To date, Mets pitcher Jenrry Meija is the only player to receive the lifetime ban though he is eligible to apply for reinstatement two years after the ban was imposed.

Is the steroid era for bitcoins over?  This morning the price of bitcoins opened at 4,253 U.S. dollars, a loss of more than 78 percent of their December 2017 value.  As with the Baseball Hall of Fame, maybe anyone who made the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest American based on subprime loan manipulation or by virtue of investments in bitcoins should have an asterisk next to their names. Or legalize their activity and relocate them to isolated facilities in rural Nevada counties.  Managers will still need college degrees.  Perhaps university departments of finance should start offering specialty MFBAs (Masters of Financial Brothel Administration).

For what it’s worth.

A Dead Horse

On the Friday following Veterans Day, our local paper published under my real name a version of “A Man, No Plan, Pandemonium,” the entry I posted here on November 11.  If you remember, I suggested if Donald Trump could not figure out how to get from Paris to Aisne-Marne Cemetery on a rainy day, should we worry he was equally unprepared for a major crisis.

We live in a very red county in Northeast Florida.  I anticipated, despite the fact this version focused on Trump’s actions and his own words, someone would find an excuse for his behavior.  I had no idea what was to come.  Yesterday the following appeared as a letter to the editor in the same publication.

Have a Nice Day

   With people like (my name) running around loose, who spilled his liberal thoughts in the Viewpoint of Friday, Nov. 16, it’s no wonder the country is in such political turmoil!  The Trump haters need to take a deep breath and smell the roses before the men in white coats come and take them away!  Enough of this ridiculous rhetoric that can only be attributed to poor losers the same as Bill Nelson and the not-so-great mayor of Tallahassee!
     Which political party to this day will not accept defeat?  That’s right, the Democratic Party!  Which political party will disparage a Supreme Court nominee with salacious lies and not blink an eye?  Again it’s Democrats!  Which political party attacks members of the government while eating at restaurants, walking through airports, leaving or entering a building?  You guessed it!  Which political party and its followers make sick threats against the children of the president and first lady of the United States?  You should get the picture by now.  So please, don’t spill your ugly thoughts by writing hateful messages that are old and tiring unless you wish to show just how ignorant you are!
     The last president who was obviously loved by the left and perhaps by the focus of this writing was a total loser to me and still is, but I didn’t go to the lengths that the crybabies on the left are today!  I knew that in time the voters would see him for what he is and that was proven in the outcome of the 2016 election.
     If we ever get a federal election without the fraud perpetrated by the left, yes the left, there would be no Democrat elected to any office which would be vindication for all the wrongs the “right” has had to face!  There are two systems of justice in this country, one against conservatives and the other for liberals!   Time for this to stop!
     To (my name), I hope you see the light, but whether or not that happens, have a nice day!

Rodger Woltjer
Fernandina Beach

I consider it a “badge of honor” when a Trump supporter chooses to “shoot the messenger” (in this case, me) than even try to counter the substance of the article.  For Mr. Woltjer to have spewed such vitriol, I must have really struck a nerve.  How dare a liberal, of all people,  be the one to point out Trump’s lack of respect for our troops.  There is a new  parlor game in Washington, D.C.  called, “What if Barack Obama had done that?”  During her current book tour, Michelle Obama admitted even she and her husband play it on occasion.  I can only imagine how high Mr. Woltjer’s blood pressure would have risen if President Obama had skipped a commemorative ceremony on Veterans Day.

I planned to take the response for what it was, the apparent rantings of an ill-informed resident of the area.  I did not for a minute consider wasting time addressing his hypocrisy.  I trust most people could figure that out for themselves.  However, last night, a loyal reader of this blog said he had done some research on Mr. Woltjer and found a similarly crazed letter to the editor in the Macon, Georgia newspaper during the 2014 mid-terms.  That reader turned my indifference into curiosity for which I thank him.

Are you sitting down?  Rodger Woltjer is a retired Air Force colonel who has been a college lecturer and written three books on the Civil War.  And yet, he was obviously more offended that someone would suggest the commander-in-chief should not have blown off a visit to a U.S. cemetery dedicated to American soldiers who had died in World War I than the fact the commander-in-chief actually blew off a visit to a U.S. cemetery dedicated to American soldiers in World War I.

Which brings me to the title of today’s entry.  Much has been said and written about what it would take for 2016 Trump voters to abandon their idol.  Well, it’s time for Democrats and progressive independents to stop beating that dead horse.  Did former Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen really think he would pick up votes from Trump supporters when he endorsed Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court?  Did soon to be former Senator Claire McCaskill pin her hopes on re-election to her tacit support for Trump’s immigration policies unlike “those crazy Democrats” (her words)?  How many times do we have to remind Democrats over 60 percent of Americans support a progressive agenda?  If they want to come along for the ride, great, but we do not need Trump supporters.  All we need to do is fight to make sure every American has the opportunity to vote and then make sure they go to the polls.

Which brings me to an inconvenient truth I avoided sharing during the mid-term election.  On September 6, when Andrew Gillum picked Chris King to be his running mate, I told my wife, “This will cost him the election.”  There were three reasons for my negative assessment.  #1: Chris King came in fifth among seven candidates in the Democratic primary with 2.5 percent of the vote, not exactly a ringing endorsement of his electoral acumen.  #2:  Three South Florida counties–Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach–are where Democrats win statewide election.  With Gillum being from Tallahassee, he needed to balance the ticket geographically.  King is from Orlando.  #3: King is an avowed evangelical.  And even though he campaigned as someone who professed true Christian values of compassion and charity, the likelihood of his flipping some if any of Trump’s evangelical support was dubious at best.  Gillum could have picked Jesus of Orlando as his running mate and the outcome would have been the same.

Whatever one thinks of Ron DeSantis, his selection of Jeanette Nuñez as his running mate sealed the deal. As the first Cuban-American woman* on a gubernatorial ballot, Nuñez’ presence on the GOP ticket made the difference in the only place that mattered.  Here are the numbers to prove it.  In 2016, Hillary Clinton garnered 63.7 percent of the vote in Miami-Dade County.  On November 6, Gillum polled only 59.9 percent.  A 3.8 percent difference of 790,000 total votes cast translates into a net loss of over 30,000 votes.  But that is just half the story.  The total vote for DeSantis in Miami-Dade county was 311,000 compared to 333,00 for Trump in 2016, a  decrease of only 22,000.  In contrast the Democratic deficit was 145,000 (623,000 for Clinton in 2016 versus 478,000 for Gillum in 2018).  Plain and simple, the Gillum/King ticket did not create the kind of excitement needed in Miami-Dade County to overcome the GOP margin in the state’s rural areas.

The lesson.  Take that dying horse off life-support.  The exit polls in Florida (YES, FLORIDA) demonstrate an overwhelming percentage of voters support progressive policies.  Consider the following.

Health care in the U.S. needs major changes/68%
Sexual harassment in this country is a serious problem/85%
Support for stricter gun control/56%
More protection of the FL environment/60%
Climate change is a serious problem/67%

These are policies on which the Democrats can campaign and win.  Stop chasing a unicorn.  Stop asking what it would take for voters like Mr. Woltjer and his ilk to finally abandon Trump.  The answer is NOTHING.   More importantly, you don’t need them.

For what it’s worth.

* Based on exit polling, Florida voters by a margin of 74 to 23 percent said it was important to elect more women to public office.

Executive Time Management

Donald and Melania Trump found time to honor a dead tree yesterday.

Image result for trump inspecting white house christmas tree

But Trump was too busy last Monday to honor members of the armed services who fought and died in service to our Nation.  Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilke headed a delegation to Arlington National Cemetery which included Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Homeland Security Secretry Kirstjen Nielsen and Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Image result for robert wilkie tomb of the unknown soldier

The following is the only November 12 entry in the White House official calendar of Trump’s activities (Source:


For what it’s worth.


Dumb Question Time

There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question.

~Carl Sagan

During my time as a professor at Miami University, once a week I would reserve 10 to 15 minutes for what became known as “Dumb Question Time.”  Students were offered an opportunity to challenge me with any question they always wanted to, but had never asked, a faculty member.  The topics ranged from “Do you have favorite students and does it affect how you grade them?” to “What are your guilty pleasures?”  And it was often the least expected inquiry which resulted in the most insightful conversations.

Image result for ari melberI thought about “Dumb Question Time” while watching MSNBC’s The Beat with Ari Melber last night.  A scheduled segment was interrupted with “breaking news.”  Ivanka Trump had conducted official government business using a private email account.  After hearing from the reporter who broke the story, Melber turned to Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones David Corn and said:

David, I could ask the question two ways.  I could ask you on the one hand, what do you think is the import of this story?  Or I could ask you, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

In that moment, Melber asked the “dumb question” every other reporter and pundit has failed to ask for the past two years.  Imagine how different the news coverage over the past two weeks would have been if representatives of the fourth estate as a whole had chosen a similar approach.

Imagine if Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace had responded to Donald Trump’s assessment the mid-term election “was a tremendous victory for me and the Republican party,” ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

When Trump said he was unaware of Matthew Whitaker’s criticism of the Mueller investigation, Wallace had again asked, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

When Trump  took the word of another autocrat Saudi Crown Prince MBS (which I believe is short for “Mega Bull Schiff”) over that of the CIA concerning the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the only appropriate response was, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

When Trump claimed the Secret Service prevented him from attending a commemorative ceremony at Aisne-Marne Cemetery in France, why didn’t at least one reporter ask, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

When Trump said he was too busy making phone calls to travel 4.5 miles from the White House to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to honor veterans last Monday, where was the resounding, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

When Kellyanne Conway compared the White House press office’s doctored version of the video of CNN’s John Acosta to instant replay at sporting events, it should not take a Carl Sagan to ask, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

I could go on and on, but you get the point.  Ironically, the only other people regularly asking the question, “Are you kidding me?” are Trump’s defense team when their client told Chris Wallace he alone had drafted the answers to Mueller’s questionnaire.


Speaking of the media and their coverage of current events, perhaps they should be paying more attention to journalist icon Edward R. Morrow who once said, “The obscure we see eventually.  The completely obvious, it seems, takes longer.”

On November 16, ABC News reported, “Nearly three dozen sealed criminal indictments have been added to the federal court docket in Washington, D.C. since the start of 2018.”  The press has offered two possible explanations.

  1. To avoid a “Comey Moment,” Mueller chose to keep the indictments under wraps until after the mid-term election.
  2. In anticipation of the firing of Attorney General Jeff Session, Mueller filed the indictments while Rod Rosenstein still was responsible for overseeing the investigation.

Both explanations are feasible with a couple of caveats.  If some indictments were filed as early as January, going forward immediately would not have violated the Justice Department’s “60-day rule” (assuming the policy is valid).  And, if you wanted to make sure Sessions’ successor did not intervene in the grand jury proceedings, why not move forward and issue arrest warrants for the targeted subjects?

Previous Mueller filings and indictments provide a better explanation for sealing the court documents.  In each instance, Mueller’s team laid out in great detail with substantial evidence each of the alleged crimes.  As the indictments move closer to Trump’s inner circle, we should expect no less.  This information would be invaluable to Trump’s defense team as it would offer an opportunity to manufacture alternative explanations for any perceived collusion or obstruction of justice.  I have no doubt Mueller wanted Trump to first give his side of the story (either through written answers or an interview) without benefit of what the Mueller team already knows.

As I have often said,  Occam’s Razor can be a blunt instrument.  In this case, it may be as sharp as a non-existent laser carving knife offered by Matthew Whitaker’s defunct company World Patent Marketing, Inc.

For what it’s worth.