Monthly Archives: January 2019

Professor Heal Thyself

What a week!! Not just for Donald Trump, but also for yours truly. Just one more experience proving that we should all practice what we preach.  While teaching a course about imaginative problem solving, I would tell students to make sure they did not mistake symptoms for the root cause.  Yet that’s exactly what I did this week.

  • On Monday afternoon, I began to experience sharp pain in one of my right front teeth.  To hopefully relieve the discomfort, I used my wife’s Sensodyne toothpaste that evening.
  • Tuesday morning, the pain persisted so I went to the dentist first thing.  X-rays showed no trauma and the dentist suggested it might be the equivalent of an arm bruise.  Give it a day or two and if it persists call us back.
  • That same morning I noticed my lip was swollen and I was developing a rash around my mouth.  The only recent routine change was switching toothpaste.  I Googled “Sensodyne rash” and found others had the same experience.
  • Wednesday, I developed an earache.  Possibilities included an extension of the tooth problem or the allergy rash. Or was the result of overuse of earbuds.
  • It was worse on Thursday morning; so I went to the UrgentCare center where we live.  The doctor looked at me no more than 30 seconds and said, “SHINGLES.”

Image result for shinglesThis root cause explained each and every symptom.  Shingles break out in one’s nervous system and travel along the network laterally.  That explained why each symptom was on the right side of my face and how it had advanced from the mouth area to my right ear.  The lesson?  Internet sites like WEBMD.COM are useful but they focus on symptoms.  They do not connect the dots as did the UrgentCare physician.

What made me want to share this experience with you?  Ann Coulter’s appearance last night on Real Time with Bill Maher.  Coulter had been scheduled as the opening guest weeks before she posted the following Tweets yesterday afternoon.

Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States.

Trump tweets about Roger Stone raid, “Who alerted CNN to be there?” Just think! If you were president, you could haul the FBI director’s ass into the Oval Office and ask him yourself.

Maybe the solution to the border crisis is not deporting 22 million illegals but one Jared Kushner.

Image result for ann coulter bill maherReferencing the Tweets, Maher teased, “So, exactly when did you realize Trump was a lying conman?” Coulter argued her dissatisfaction had nothing to do with character (she finds his puffery to be charming), it was his breaking a promise he voiced every day for two years.  Trump did not just let her down.  She was simply representing his supporters whom he had let down.  And that is when I realized the lesson I learned from my week of discomfort eluded Ms. Coulter.  Her continued support for the wall and other anti-immigration policies, she claimed, was from her allegiance to the cause of the economic unrest among middle and lower income Americans.   Her thesis being they are continually screwed by both parties, the U.S. Chamber or Commerce and individuals like the Koch brothers who, for different reasons, want unabated immigration.  If she honestly believes immigration is the root cause of income inequality, Cornell University should rescind her BA in history.  She went on to suggest Trump will not survive without the strong support of the base which carried him into office.

I believe the exact opposite to be true.  To bolster this opinion, one need only look at the Republican Party’s willingness to ignore the most thoughtful and honest political analysis produced in the past quarter century.  Unable to understand how the party had twice lost the presidency to a first-term, Afro-American Senator and former “community organizer,” RNC chair Reince Priebus launched the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” which later became known as the GOP autopsy report.  Consider the following excerpts.

The perception, revealed in polling, that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the Party and its candidates on the federal level, especially in presidential years. It is a major deficiency that must be addressed. [Dr. ESP: I guess Wilbur Cohen, Lara Trump and Sara Sanders missed that one.]

America is changing demographically, and unless Republicans are able to grow our appeal the way GOP governors have done, the changes tilt the playing field even more in the Democratic direction.

Demographics may change America, but American history shows that it is the power of ideas that changes us the most. Republicans should never look at one group of Americans and assume we can’t reach them. Good ideas reach everyone.

Damn good advice.  Instead, the GOP jumped on the bandwagon of the individual who daily violates all three of these core principles: empathy, diversity, sound policy.  Whether Trump won the election legitimately or not is unimportant.  Once Trump took office, the GOP leadership shelved the autopsy in favor of a short-term salve that temporarily treated the rash but masked the root issues responsible for a problem, to some extent, Ann Coulter correctly identifies: income inequality.

It is still a mystery to me that anyone who feels the American economy has left them behind would think Donald Trump is the answer.  As they say in Texas, Trump is “all hat, no cattle.”  That became quite clear over the course of the last month.  And if the polling is correct, the pool of reliable Trump defenders is shrinking.

The question going forward is, “Will the Democrats pay more attention to the GOP autopsy report than the people who commissioned it?”  Especially, “good ideas reach everyone.”  I would add one more prerogative.  Democrats must do a better job of selling good ideas in a way the message reaches everyone.  Not with the BandAid-du-jour slogan like “build that wall.” With a legible road map which explains how a decision or policy at Point A gets us to the destination Point B.  And more importantly, talking about the root causes of a problem or situation, not just the symptoms.

Unlike my situation, that will take more than 30 seconds and more than the single word “shingles.”


Because I am on Medicare, the total cost to diagnose and treat shingles was $75.00, a $15.00 co-pay at UrgentCare and $60.00 for the medication.  Without coverage it would have been over $400.00.  Getting old is a bitch, but it has its perks.

For what it’s worth.

American Madrasa

I believe that there is a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service. And the real concerns is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums.

Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN)
April 6, 2009

Just when you think Michele Bachmann, who upon retiring from Congress in 2014 said she was not going away, had not been seen or heard of since, an incident which has been in the news recently reminds us her spirit still lives.  The above quote was in response to a Senate bill introduced by Ted Kennedy called the National Service Act, an expansion of the AmeriCorps volunteer program.  Although the occasion was wrong, this weekend I began to think her warning contained more than a kernel of truth.

The occasion?  The video of an incident involving Black Hebrew Israelites, a Native American elder and students from a Catholic High School in Covington, Kentucky.  Before getting to the main point of this post, let me first say the incident itself is irrelevant and did not deserve the attention it received from the media which then botched the narrative from every perspective.

Anyone who has spent time in a major U.S. city understands Black Israelites, who believe they are decendants of the ancient Israelites and seem to have one purpose in life. They are “sidewalk ministers” who stand on street corners and yell at people of all races, nationalities and religions.  The are equal opportunity high-decibel evangelists.  And when you encounter them, you have a choice.  You stop and take in this unique tribute to the First Amendment of the Constitution or you ignore them and go on your way.

A delegation of 231 students from Covington Catholic High School likely had not been prepared for their introduction to this religious sect.  And they took the preaching far too seriously.  (I’ll get to the question “Where were the adult chaperones?” later.)  They stupidly chose to confront the Black Israelites.

Which brings us to the Native American elder Nathan Phillips.  He could have been an innocent bystander, but believed he could diffuse the tension.  I do not know if the students’ response to Mr Phillips was based on his heritage or their surprise he seemed to be sticking up for the Black Israelites.

Shit happens.  And in my humble opinion that is exactly what this was.  Shit happening.  But when you make so much of shit happening, you miss the big picture and more importantly, the big questions.  Which brings me back to Ms. Bachmann and the opening quote.

The big question?  “What were 231 students and their chaperones from Covington Catholic High School doing in Washington, D.C. at the March for Life?”  This is where Michele Bachmann, unwittingly, reminds us that there are re-education camps in America.  Were the Covington students not put in mandatory service to attend a political rally?  They were not required to attend, but it was a trip sponsored and organized by the high school.

And Covington students, when they say the pledge of allegiance each morning, add the words “born and unborn” at the end.  Is this not training young people in a philosophy the current government puts forward?   And finally, was not the March for Life “a politically correct forum” from the school’s perspective?

There even seemed to be a dress code, a “Make America Great Again” cap, which raises a whole other set of questions.  No doubt Covington Catholic operates as a 501(c)(3) educational non-profit.  If so, they would be prohibited from endorsing any political candidate.  Where did all those caps come from?  And is it just a coincidence Donald Trump’s current White House legal counsel Pat Cipollone is a graduate of (drum roll) Covington Catholic High School?

Doing the research for this post, I tried to find out more about the school itself.  Among the more interesting facts is the school has approximately 550 students and 42 teachers, a student/faculty ratio any public school would die for.  But as SiriusXM Insight talk show host John Fugelsang noted on Tuesday’s episode, the entire faculty is white. (For the record, when I went to verify this, the faculty section of the website had been removed.) Hence, the title of today’s post.  I doubt there are many Catholic or Jewish faculty on staff at a Saudi Arabian madrasa. You don’t want to muck up your message by bringing in teachers who may have a different life experience.

This evening I went back to the school’s website to verify other secondary information on Wikipedia and local newspaper articles about the school’s history, curriculum and mission statement.  The entire website had been deleted so I will not share other sources’ reports about questionable teaching practices.

So, with only what we do know, what are the takeaways?

  1. This is America and the Constitution still guarantees freedom of speech and religious expression regardless of how sane or insane the message is perceived to be.  For all I care, as long as they are modifying the pledge of allegiance, Covington Catholic could change the opening line of “My Country Tis’ of Thee” to “My Country’s Not for Thee.”  It is their constitutional prerogative.
  2. Covington Catholic should not have had to close for two days this week due to threats to the students and their families.  The perpetrators of those threats deserve the consequences of their actions.
  3. And perhaps most important, we should not focus our attention or anger at the students.  How could the administration think using their students as props to inflate the crowd at the March for Life was a good idea?  Or that a horde of young white males brought up in a culture where a teacher in an official 2014 promotional video tells future students a Covington Catholic education prepares them to be president of their college fraternities are the best advocates to challenge a woman’s right to control her own body.  (Source: “Examining a Covington Catholic Promotional Video,” Rolling Stone, January 23, 2019)  Where were the adults and what did they instruct the students to do in case of a confrontation?   Hopefully, the students could have figured this out on there own.  Unfortunately they did not. After all, they were only doing what they have been socialized to do at their re-education camp.

Thank you Michele Bachmann, for reminding us of how truly reckless that is.

For what it’s worth.


The Bullock Pulpit

Today’s post is a lesson in political geography.  It was triggered by the first announcements by Democrats of their intention to seek the party’s nomination for president in 2020. In particular, the fact three out of the first four candidates out of the gate are from reliably BLUE coastal states: Kamala Harris (CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Elizabeth Warren (MA).  The exception is Julian Castro (TX).

However, if you are a Democrat and more interested in retaking the White House in 2020 regardless of the nominee, you might want to pay attention to the home states of past nominees for the last 75 years.  Since Franklin Roosevelt’s nomination to a fourth term in 1946, only one Democrat–John Kennedy (MA)–from a BLUE coastal state has been elected president.  The other winning candidates include Harry Truman (MO), Lyndon Johnson (TX), Jimmy Carter (GA), Bill Clinton (AR) and Barack Obama (IL).  In contrast, three unsuccessful Democratic nominees during this period include Michael Dukakis and John Kerry (MA) and Hillary Clinton (NY).  Ironically, during this same time span, more Republicans from these stronghold BLUE states have occupied the oval office than Democrats:  Ronald Reagan (CA), Richard Nixon (CA) and Donald Trump (NY).

What could possibly explain this phenomenon?  Consider the following.  The George Bush/Al Gore campaign was one of the first where likability became a hot topic.  Remember when pundits were saying the election might come down to which candidate you’d most like to have a beer with?  I think there may be a better test.  Which candidate are you more likely to go to sleep with?  No, it is not about sex.  It’s about late night television.  With the exception of Jay Leno (New Rochelle, NY), four of the icons of late night TV grew up in the Midwest or farm states:  Jack Paar (Canton, OH), Johnny Carson (Corning, IA), Dick Cavett(Gibbon, NE) and David Letterman (Indianapolis, IN).  The current late night darling of liberal Democrats is not Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel, both from New York.  It is Steven Colbert who, although born in Washington, DC, grew up on James Island, South Carolina.

Image result for steven bullockWhich brings me to the title of today’s post.  It is a reference to Montana Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, who is contemplating a run for the White House.  Yes, Montana, home of the survivalist movement, where according to a local real estate company, “Everyone in Montana loves hunting season more than the Christmas season.”  Montana, the bastion of libertarian-ism where the speed limit is “You Decide.”  Montana, which voted for Trump over Clinton by a margin of more than 20 percentage points.

Dr. ESP, say it isn’t true.  Have you joined the wing of the Democratic party which says we need to appeal to Trumpsters to defeat him?  Don’t you realize the BLUE WAVE last November was about progressive issues with which most Americans agree.  Were you staring at the super wolf blood moon too long last night?

NO!!! Just the opposite.  Bullock has twice been elected Governor of a RED state even though he has taken the following positions on national issues.

  • Bullock is pro-choice and vetoed two bills restricting late-term abortions.  In 2013, he received a 100 percent rating from NARAL.
  • He is an advocate of campaign finance reform and as Montana’s attorney general challenged the Citizens United decision.
  • He supports DACA and last April refused to deploy National Guard troops to the Mexican border.  He supported the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Montana despite opposition from the Republican legislature.
  • In 2014, he supported legislation which made Montana the 34th state to legalize same sex marriage.
  • He opposed the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality and signed an executive order prohibiting any internet provider with a state contract from blocking or charging fees for faster web service.
  • He is pro-labor and has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO and Montana Education Association.
  • He supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election.

Am I ready to jump on the yet to be fired-up Bullock bandwagon?  No.  I am just pointing out Democrats do not need to moderate positions to attract Trump supporters.  What they do need are more people who can explain to those voters, from their own perspective, why they should support mainstream progressive issues and candidates who espouse them.  Steve Bullock is a good role model.

For what it’s worth.



One of the recurring themes in the month-long punditry over the partial government shutdown is how Donald Trump’s obsession with building a wall on the Southern border is unlikely to expand his electoral base.  This is especially disconcerting to establishment Republicans as it flies in the face of what became known as the 2013 GOP Autopsy Report which acknowledged the need, after presidential losses in 2008 and 2012, to reach out beyond the party’s dwindling base of older white males.

Image result for michael steeleFormer RNC chair Michael Steele, on several occasions, has suggested Trump did just the opposite, alienating minorities, women and young voters.  In an interview last January with Melissa Quinn of the Washington Examiner, Steele went so far as to call Trump a racist and misogynist. Citing specific comments and actions, Steele concluded, “I think at this point the evidence in incontrovertible.  It’s right there.”

For two years, pundits speculated whether they might again be misreading Trump’s appeal to American voters and whether polls did not reflect support for the Trump agenda.  Speculate no more.  The 2018 mid-terms provided empirical evidence Trump has not expanded his base of support.  In fact, a 2.5 percent loss in the 2016 popular vote grew into a 7.9 percent margin in the aggregate vote for Congress in 2018.  Why would any rational individual think this is a path to victory in 2020?  Believe it or not, there is a justification when you look at the situation from a business perspective versus a political one?  Not that I would ever imply Trump is a successful businessman.  I’ll get to that later.

In the documentary STARTUP.COM, aspiring entrepreneurs Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman schedule a meeting with Robert Higgins at Boston-based Highland Capital, seeking an investment to expand their fledgling business providing state and local governments with a digital platform to offer on-line services (e.g. license renewals, parking tickets).  Assessing the company’s chances of success, Higgins shares a rule of thumb he says applies to almost every industry.  There are two to four major players who achieve success with a plurality (not a majority) of the market.  Then a few mom and pop niche providers.  Followed by a lot of failures.

Think about it.  In domestic air transportation we have United, American, Delta and Southwest.  The mobile phone industry is dominated by AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint.  And consider an industry where Trump tried to make his mark: gaming.   The domestic giants are Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts and Caesar’s Entertainment, all very successful yet none has more than 12.8 percent of the market.

When you approach the world from this perspective, who would not be ecstatic about a 35-40 percent market share? Just think if Trump Casinos had 35 percent of the gaming industry.  It would have eclipsed the combined total for the next three competitors.  Keep in mind, Trump, Roger Ailes and Steve Bannon contemplated building a media empire assuming a GOP defeat in 2018.  Do not for a moment think that plan is off the table (minus Ailes, of course).

Trump believes diluting the message which accounts for his current 35-40 percent support has little likelihood of expanding his adherents and and is more prone to alienate some of his current followers.  And he is probably right.  In the world of commerce, think about disasters such as Coke II or the Kodak disc camera, efforts to gain market share which backfired dramatically.   Or when Cadillac entered the compact market in 1982 with a rebranded version of the Chevy Cavalier called the Cimarron. In the political sphere, consider how Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh are quick to jump ship at the least hint of protecting the “dreamers,” even temporarily.

So give Trump credit where credit is due.  He seems to understand commercial markets.  Unfortunately, that lesson pales in comparison to the one that actually determines success or failure.  It is not about the concept or the market.  That is only the opportunity.  Success depends on implementation and execution.  Failing to learn that lesson explains why Trump’s model of entrepreneurship will never work for long in the private or public sector.

For what it’s worth.

Business As Usual

The  ongoing  case of Trump v. BuzzFeed v. Mueller v. Cohen over the last 48 hours provides just one more example which proves one of the basic principles of not just journalism, but almost every profession.  It is more important to understand WHY than WHO, WHAT, WHERE and WHEN.

To recap.  Thursday night BuzzFeed reported it had sources who claimed the special counsel’s office (SCO) had evidence Donald Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress concerning the timing of negotiations with Russians over a Moscow Trump Tower.  Although other media outlets reporting on the BuzzFeed story prefaced their coverage with comments such as “If true,…” or “We have not yet confirmed the story,” the feeding frenzy was on.  Last night, the SCO issued the following statement.

BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate.

Unwilling to take the statement at face value, the lead in the Washington Post’s coverage begins:

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office on Friday denied an explosive report by BuzzFeed News that his investigators had gathered evidence showing President Trump directed his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about a prospective business deal in Moscow.

Did they really?  There is a big difference between flat out saying Trump did not direct Cohen to lie and letting us know reporting on the evidence which may or may not lead to that conclusion was inaccurate.  I am not going to take sides on this one, which is why I continue to urge followers of this blog to wait until Mueller and his team present the whole story.  But no one asked the most basic question, “Is it possible both parties are right?”  I’m not saying this is the case, but the BuzzFeed story characterized (SCO’s term) the evidence as “internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.”

At first glance, that does NOT make sense.  If you want to prove Trump personally directed Cohen to lie, the last place you would see that is in emails and text.  Trump does not use either.  But we do know Cohen recorded conversations with Trump.  Isn’t that how Cohen confirmed Trump was lying about the hush money to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal?  What if the SCO questioned the characterization of evidence by BuzzFeed because it does not want anyone to think they would rely on secondary sources?  That would hardly be ironclad proof of a felony.  An email from someone within the organization other than Trump which says “Mr. X told me Mr. Trump is putting pressure on Michael to tell Congress they dropped the Moscow project in January,” can be dismissed by the White House legal team as gossip or hearsay.  I have no doubt if Mueller plans to charge Trump with suborning perjury, it will be based on something more than second-hand information.

Every story about the Trump organization, campaign and tenure in the oval office is beginning to have a common theme.  If nothing else, Trump and his abettors are consistent.  They know only one way to do business, thus the title of today’s post.  Take example number two, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report on Wednesday about payments by Cohen to James Gauger, CIO at Liberty University, to rig on-line polls beginning in 2015 to raise Trump’s image and brand prior to the 2016 election.  Consider the following.

  • Gauger’s results were dismal.  In the CNBC poll of most successful American businessmen, Trump did not crack the top 100.  So much for hiring the best people.
  • Dissatisfied with the results, the Trump Organization paid Gauger much less than the contract called for.  Where have we heard that before?
  • One of Gauger’s tasks was to create a Twitter account for #womenforCohen.  This morning, former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks could not understand why anyone would do that.  This is why lawyers should stick to lawyering.  This was a beta test of the algorithms and messaging Gauger would later use to rig polls in Trump’s favor.  Using Trump’s name would have signaled something they were not ready to air publicly.

The only person who seems to get this is frequent Morning Joe panelist Donny Deutsch an advertising executive who has known both Trump and Cohen for years.  (How close?  Last January, New York Magazine reported Deutsch was dating Mrs. Trump #2 Marla Maples.)  Deutsch consistently points out Trump’s management style in the White House should come as no surprise.  It is an extension of Trump Organization “business as usual,” which explains a lot.  It also explains why the media continues to make the same mistakes over and over.

For what it’s worth.