Monthly Archives: October 2019

Judy, Judy, Judy


DISCLAIMER:  The events described at the end of this post are parody.  There is no evidence Donald Trump or others said anything attributed to them.  I offer this declaimer because the White House and Trump supporters do not appear to understand the difference between parody and citation.

Cary Grant never said, “Judy, Judy, Judy,” in any of his movies although it became a favorite meme for Grant impersonators.  In Only Angels Have Wings, his female co-star’s character was named Judy, and the closest he came to uttering the triple moniker was, “Yes, Judy.”  And in Bringing Up Baby, he once agonized over Katherine Hepburn’s interference in his somewhat stable existence, saying, “Susan, Susan, Susan.”

But the Judy of this post is Judge Judy Sheindlin of television fame.  One of her favorite admonishments to the parties in her courtroom is, “If it does not make sense, it’s probably not true.”  I thought about Judge Judy as I watched clips from Trump’s 50+ minute announcement, press conference or whatever associated with the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The number of inaccuracies and inappropriate comments spewed by a commander-in-chief who thinks his green lighting the assault puts him in the same category as those who risked their lives executing the mission have already been documented by the media, with one exception.  Yes, reports from others involved in Syria and in DC suggest there was no way Trump knew Baghdadi’s state of mind immediately prior to his death.  So, the question is, if Trump was going to make up a story, why this one and equally important, why one that does not make sense?

My credentials as a psychoanalyst end with my barely passing an Intro to Psychology class at the University of Virginia.  But minimum knowledge of the discipline is enough to recognize projection when I see it.  Trump accuses everyone of corruption because he is corrupt. Trump wants you to believe Hunter Biden is taking advantage of his father’s name because he knows his own children’s sole qualification for their current careers is the fact they are Trumps.

So when Trump described Baghdadi’s demise, saying  “he died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering, crying, and screaming all the way,” was the projecter-in-chief giving us a preview of what to expect when he is forced to leave the White House following Senate conviction of high crimes and misdemeanors or defeat next November?  We already know the answer.  For three and a half years, we have watched him whimper and scream following each revelation of corruption, abuse of power and obstruction of justice.

Which brings me back to a more logical explanation of what happened last weekend in Syria.  I preface the following by saying it is a good thing that Baghdadi is gone.  The world is a better place without him.  But to believe Baghdadi is the coward Trump made him out to be, you have to ignore the following.

  • Baghdadi did not surrender.
  • He was wearing a vest filled with explosives.
  • He chose to die on his own terms rather than at the hands of the perceived infidels.
  • He did not give U.S. forces the opportunity to photograph his in tact body as was the case with Bin Laden.
  • Nor did he want Americans to handle his burial, even if it was done in accordance with Islamic law and tradition.

These are not the actions of a sniveling coward.  They better represent the characteristics of someone who chooses to die as a martyr for a cause, regardless of how irrational or evil that cause may be.  But what about his decision to make his three children die with him?  I do not understand why anyone would make such a choice even if  Baghdadi misguidedly believed he was acting in his children’s best interests.  It is not important what I think.  It is more reasonable to assume Baghdadi felt he could not let his children become a possession of his sworn enemy.  Compare that to Trump’s narrative and imagine what Judge Judy would say.  Right. “If it doesn’t make sense…”

Donald Trump has never been chased down a tunnel by armed adversaries.  However, throughout his life, he has found himself trapped at the end of figurative underground passages.  He has been pursued by creditors and surrendered through bankruptcy.  He has wrongly accused the innocent and never manned up to his errors.  And now he is cornered by the evidence and witnesses who are building a ever-growing case about his abuse of power and unfitness as chief executive of the United States.

So, sometime in the not too distant future, imagine the following scene at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Mick Mulvaney: Mr. President, there are several Republican senators demanding to see you.

Trump:  Did they knock on the door like normal people and ask, “May we come in?”

Mulvaney: Sorry, sir, but they seem determined enough to blow a hole in the Oval Office to get to you.

Trump:  Maybe we should retreat to the situation room.  Call Melania, Ivanka and Jared and tell them to meet me there.  And get me my vest.  You know, the one with built-in paper shredder.  I’ll be damned if I’m going to let anyone see what was really going on here.

Mulvaney:  Sorry, sir.  Ivanka and Jared said they’re busy.  But they did wish you luck.  Melania just laughed.

Trump:  Then, I guess it’s just the two of us.

Mulvaney:  What do you mean “us”, kimosabe?

[Trump seeks asylum in the situation room only to be followed by the Senate delegation.  They find him sitting on the floor in a far corner, crying and screaming.]

Mitch McConnell:  Mr. President.  It’s over.  You have to leave now.

Trump:  Can I at least make one phone call?

McConnell:  Of course, sir.

[Trump picks up the phone and punches in a number.]

Trump:  Hello?  Vladimir?

Hopefully, T. S. Eliot was right.  This is how the Trump era ends.  Not with a bang but a whimper.

For what it’s worth.

McGovern 2019


What was the first thing that came to mind when you saw the title of today’s post?  The parallels between the 1972 and 2020 campaigns of two Republican presidents seeking a second term.  Deep Throat explaining to Bob Woodward the motive behind the Watergate break-in and other dirty tricks.  “Who did Nixon want to run against?  McGovern!  And who did he end up running against?  McGovern”  Or maybe, a warning that a too far left 2020 nominee like George McGovern would assure Trump’s re-election.

Well, dear reader, you would be wrong.  This entry is about franchises.  It was triggered by an unacceptable experience I had several years ago at a hotel in Panama City, Florida for which I felt some compensation was in order.  After being told by the on-site manager he did not feel they had done anything wrong, I called customer service for the corporation whose name was on the front of the hotel.  Their answer went something like this.

Each facility is independently owned and operated.  They are part of our branding primarily for shared marketing.  We cannot do anything about your complaint.

Based on this response, I immediately cancelled my rewards program with the company and, to this day, have never stayed at one of their facilities.

Image result for mctrumpThis morning, there is another entity which operates like a franchise which I hope I will not have to patronize much longer.  Even though I wanted to call it McDonald’s, I did not want to infringe on a registered trademark.  Therefore, I will refer to it as McTrump’s, which by the way recently announced the CEO’s wife is redecorating corporate headquarters complete with a new sign which includes fallen arches and the phrase “…320 million illegally-served.”

The corporate entity operates under the brand name Trump, but like the hotel chain, it has outsourced most of its work to franchisees.  Consider the following.

  • Silencing playmates and porn stars was operated by a franchise owned by Michael Cohen and American Media, Inc., i.e. the National Enquirer.  Just like the hotel officials, McTrump told reporters, “I have nothing to do with that, ask Michael.”
  • Foreign relations is now left up to franchisees Moe, Larry and Shemp otherwise known as Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.
  • Middle Eastern affairs are now delegated to franchisee Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
  • Do not ask McTrump about health and human service policy.  All the employees of that Department were hired by and report to Mike Pence.
  • And of course, responsibility for the unfaithful execution of the Constitution and non-enforcement of the law is now the sole purview of franchisee William Barr.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.  The title “McGovern 2019” was a bit of a misnomer.  I apologize. It should have been “McGovernMENT 2019.”

For what it’s worth.


Russian Roulette


Image result for russian rouletteImagine the following situation.  You have been held hostage for over three years.  Your captors become increasingly unhinged by the day.  As crazy as the situation may have been for this long, you wonder if the insanity is trending toward a new level.  You decide to take what appears to be an irrational risk to extricate yourself from your captors hold.  Aware of their sadism, you propose a game of Russian Roulette.  You put three bullets in a six-shooter, spin the wheel and place the barrel up against your temple.

If you survive, your captors let you go.  If the cylinder lands on a loaded chamber, your fate is sealed.  Some would describe the 50/50 odds of freedom an act of desperation.  Yet, immediate resolution of the situation, either way, might be perceived as better than a drawn out affair in which you slowly go crazy or you are subject to a fate worse than death.

For the last three and a half years, America has been held hostage by Donald Trump and his cadre of syncopaths (pathological yes-men or apologists).  And, much like the hypothetical circumstances described above, the hovering prospect of impeachment has driven Trump to say things and make policy decisions that are either naive, ignorant, cruel, self-serving or all of the above.  As someone who wavered on the wisdom of initiating an impeachment inquiry, I now side with those who believe we do not have the luxury of waiting out the remainder of Trump’s term for 16 more months.

But there are two other people who do not want the house investigation to drag out.  Moscow Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.  Why?  Because the more voters are reminded of Trump corruption and the failure of sitting Republican members of Congress to hold Trump accountable, the greater the odds it will be a factor in the 2020 elections.  The question is, “Should Democratic representatives and especially House Speaker Nancy Pelosi use the GOP leadership’s fear of going down with Trump as an ‘all or nothing’ opportunity to bring a swift end to the Trump era?”

No, I’m not suggesting Pelosi offer to play an actual game of Russian Roulette to decide Trump’s fate, just the metaphorical equivalent.  Consider the following letter from Pelosi to the GOP congressional leadership with a copy to the American people.

To the Honorable Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy:

This week we are in basic agreement that Donald Trump has made a disastrous mistake by green-lighting Turkey’s incursion into Syria, leading to ethnic cleansing of Kurdish members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who led the battle to destroy the ISIS caliphate.  However, as outrageous as the decision to abandon these allies may be, I want to assure you and the American people, Democrats understand the difference between bad policy and impeachable offenses.  We believe the Syrian situation adds to the argument President Trump does not deserve a second term, but it is not grounds for immediate impeachment and potential removal from office.

That Constitutional remedy is reserved for betrayal of one’s oath of office which we believe is the case when any president is willing to extort the leader of a sovereign foreign nation for personal gain, political or financial.  A plurality of the nation now believes President Trump did exactly that based on the version of his phone conversation with Ukraine President Zelensky released by the White House.  You both have argued that it is not a “quid pro quo” and therefore not grounds for an impeachment inquiry.

What if the full transcript suggests otherwise?  Are you willing to bet your support for Trump on the assumption the released version accurately reflects a verbatim account of the call?  If so, we hope you will accept the following offer.  Join with us in demanding a verified copy of the complete and unredacted transcript which is now under “lock-down” on a code-word protected server.  If there is no difference between this version and the one released last week, we will immediately drop the impeachment inquiry and take our chances in the 2020 election knowing full well you will argue as vociferously as you can that Trump has been exonerated.

However, if the White House refuses to turn over the full transcript or it includes additional evidence of Trump’s extortion of President Zelensky, you will do the following.  Assemble a delegation of Republican senators to go to the White House and tell President Trump the evidence shows he has violated his oath of office, he is also guilty of obstructing Congress, you have asked House Republicans to support articles of impeachment, and you have enough Senate votes to convict him .  If he does not immediately resign, you will direct House Republicans to support articles of impeachment and expedite the Senate trial.

I am willing to bet my political future and reputation on the proposition there is a reason Mr. Trump has done everything in his power to prevent Congress and the American people from seeing exactly what took place on the July 25, 2019 phone call.  Are you?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

Does this game of “Ukraine Roulette” represent a major risk?  Absolutely.  Is it worth it?  You decide.  As in the hostage situation, is it time to take action that would end this latest “national nightmare” sooner rather than later?

For what it’s worth.


E Pluribus Me


On two occasions this past week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invoked Benjamin Franklin to validate the necessity of an impeachment inquiry to determine whether Donald Trump has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” worthy of removal from office.  The specific incident to which she referred was his response to a question upon adoption of the the United States Constitution, “Have you created a monarchy or a republic?”  Franklin’s reply?  “A republic if you can keep it.”

Call me a skeptic, but more than once in the recent annuls of political discourse, the words of the nation’s founding fathers have been twisted or, in some cases, manufactured to fit the needs of those who want history, real or imagined, to justify their actions.  So, I Googled Franklin’s words and the first hit was a commentary on the political process by Dr. Matthew Spalding on the website of that bastion of liberal propaganda (drum roll) The Heritage Foundation.

His July 2002 essay (conveniently for my purposes) titled “A Republic If You Can Keep It” begins with an almost verbatim transcript of Pelosi’s retelling of Franklin’s warning.  (Forget treason, I am surprised Trump has not demanded Pelosi resign as Speaker for committing plagiarism.)  Dr. Spalding goes one step farther.

But what the American Founders did not do-could not do-was guarantee the success of their creation. Franklin and the other Founders knew that their experiment depended on future generations, which meant the education of future citizens. “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization,” Thomas Jefferson once warned, “it expects what never was-and never will be.”

Yet something else is happening in America.  On today’s edition of Morning Joe, John Meacham, Rogers Chair in the American Presidency at Vanderbilt University and a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, suggested that knowledge loses its power if seen through an already biased prism.  He quoted the late political commentator and fellow Pulitzer laureate Walter Lippmann.

For the most part we do not first see, and then define, we define first and then see. In the great blooming, buzzing confusion of the outer world we pick out what our culture has already defined for us, and we tend to perceive that which we have picked out in the form stereotyped for us by our culture.

Related imageSeparated by centuries, Franklin and Lippmann have come together in a time warp to define the challenge we face in the months ahead.  “Poor Richard” reminds us the future of American democracy is not housed in some monolithic entity.  Its power comes from the distributed energy of millions of individuals, much like Skype which connects the capacity of an assemblage of devices under the control of Skype users.  In other words, the motto E Pluribus Unum refers not only to the diverse makeup of our population, but the civic obligation of every American (the pluribus) to uphold the ideals contained in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (the unum)

That would be tough enough if our understanding of current events was filtered through a cultural consensus, a prism with only one wavelength.  But, as we are too well aware, tribal factions, which as Lippmann points out define the way we see the world, explain how there can be two polar opposite interpretations of a partial transcript of a conversation between Trump and Ukraine President Zelensky.

I believe the question before us is not only, “Did Trump violate the explicit oath of office he took on January 20, 2017?”  Have we also, as citizens, violated the implicit oath to which we are bound by the phrase E Pluribus Unum?  When any occupant of the White House declares he or she “has an absolute right” to do anything (as Trump tweeted last night), have we betrayed the founding fathers because we have put ourselves (ME) above the singular principle of individual sovereignty on which America is based (UNUM)?  Have we become traitors when we put the promise of tax cuts and conservative judges above honoring the Constitution?  Do we dishonor Franklin, Jefferson, Adams and Hamilton when we place our allegiance in an individual, any individual, over the words and principles which have sustained our country for 232 years?

I can only imagine the following exchange between Benjamin Franklin and CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

CUOMO:  Mr. Franklin, based on what Donald Trump tweeted last night, do we still have a republic or is the United States becoming a monarchy?

FRANKLIN:  Chris, I’ll give you the same response Beto O’Rourke gave reporters when asked if Trump’s rhetoric was a factor in the wake of last August’s El Paso shooting.  Why are you asking me when you already know the answer?  Connect the dots.

For what it’s worth.


He Said; He Said


Related imageWith the Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs taking center stage in the sports world last night, I was reminded of my first recollections of the national pastime.  As a young child, my parents would take us to Parker Field on family night to watch the Triple A Richmond Virginians, a New York Yankees farm team, compete against one of their International League opponents.  To give you some idea how long ago this was, the International League was actually international.  Of the eight teams, three–Montreal Royals, Toronto Maple Leafs (or Leaves for the grammatically picky) and (pre-Castro) Havana Sugar Kings–were based outside the United States although “North American League” might have been a more accurate moniker.

As with any baseball stadium, one’s first encounter upon passing through the ticket gates was a man or woman, behind what looked like a podium, shouting, “Get your program!  Right here!  You can’t tell the players without a program!”  And back in 1958, 50 cents would buy all you needed to know about the players and coaches on the home and visiting teams.  Position.  Career performance, e.g. batting average for hitters and earned run average for pitchers.  Vital statistics such as height, weight.

Skip forward six decades and the importance of understanding baseball statistics is no longer art, it is a science called “sabermetrics.”  The discipline, as defined in Wikipedia, is “the empirical analysis of baseball, especially baseball statistics that measure in-game activity.”  (NOTE: “Saber” refers to the Society of American Baseball Research or SABR.)  Michael Lewis’ book Money Ball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game chronicles how Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, relying largely on sabermetrics, turned his team of bargain basement players into a legitimate contender against opposing squads with payrolls several multiples higher.

Sabermetrics plays an equally important role as teams make mid-course corrections as MLB’s July 1 trading deadline approaches.  For example, if during the first half of season, your team consistently leads games in the late innings but still loses, it is a signal for you to pick up a quality relief pitcher or two.  If batters, swinging for home runs, strike out with men on base, you focus on players with higher on-base percentages rather than power hitters, players whose skill is measured by a combination of dexterity AND personal strength.

While the answer may seem complicated, the question is simple, “Where are the gaps on my team?”  Or lacking the talent you need at every position, how do you compensate for these weaknesses.  In last night’s National League wild card game, both managers faced that question.  Knowing he lacked the starting pitchers he needed, Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell assembled a parade of his trustworthy relievers to face the Washington Nationals. In contrast, Nats manager Dave Martinez had little faith in his second-to-worst bullpen during the regular season.  When it became clear starter Max Scherzer, former Cy Young award winner, did not have his best stuff, he went to another starter Stephen Strasberg for three no-run innings.

Dr. ESP, are you kidding us?  With everything happening in Washington you decided to talk sports.  We want to know what you think about Mike Pompeo traveling the globe to solicit foreign assistance in debunking the Mueller report.  Or the transformation of Rudy Giulliani from “America’s Mayor” to his audition to replace the current “O! A Fool” at Renaissance Festivals.

Patience dear reader.  As Shakespeare tells us in Act 2, Scene 1 of The Tempest, “What’s past is prologue.”  Remember, I said the question is simple, not just in baseball, but in understanding the dilemma in which Donald Trump and his minions now find themselves.  In fact, the question is exactly the same.  “What are the gaps on my team?”  For this analysis, I will rely on “supermetrics,” named for my newly created Society for the Unraveling of Political Rubbish (SUPR).  The study requires a benchmark, in this case the Nixon administration, which represents the ultimate bad season, when a president not only came in last, but did not make it to the final game.  To understand the difference between a winning and losing season, I will focus on the last three administrations.

Starting with Nixon, of the 42 individuals who held a cabinet level position during his six and a half years in office, all were white men.  And when it came to senior advisors such as chief of staff, chair of the council of economic advisors and legal council, you guessed it.  More white men.  There was no Condoleezza Rice at the State Department as in the George W. Bush or a Loretta Lynch at Justice or Hillary Clinton at State during the Obama years.  Which brings us to Donald J. Trump.  His current staffing of the White House and major cabinet positions more resembles Nixon’s than either of his immediate predecessors.

In other words, “Make America Great Again” includes a return to governance by the good old boys club, or in this case, the Keystone Kops.  What’s missing is a woman who might admonish Trump’s inner circle to stop acting like frat boys and grow up.  One has to wonder whether the Trump/Zelensky call would have occurred if Trump had picked Nikki Haley to succeed Rex Tillerson at State and Joanne Young, co-chair of the Republican National Lawyers Association to replace Jeff Sessions at Justice.  Unfortunately, the trading deadline passed while the owner ignored the supermetrics.  And the current situation is what you get when the internal debate is solely a matter of “he said then he said then the other he said.”

For what it’s worth.