Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Tax Day 2024

Happy April 15, a day most salaried workers in America believe should be recognized as April Fools Day when they compare their effective tax rate to those of real estate developers, day traders and hedge fund managers whose net worth dwarfs their own.  But that’s not what I came here to talk about.  Over the past 48 hours Americans have been subjected to a flood of “malarky” that has taxed the human brain beyond any sense of credulity. 

New Hampshire Governor Chris SuNoNo

During Sunday’s edition of ABC’s “This Week,” anchor George Stephanopoulos asked the New Hampshire governor about his support of Donald Trump in spite of his previous statements affirming Donald Trump’s role in the failed January 6, 2000 coup d’état. “You believe that a president who contributed to an insurrection should be president again?”  In a response that could only be imagined as a future teaching moment in Tying Oneself into a Pretzel 101 at the University of New Hampshire, Sununu explained:

His actions absolutely contributed to that. There’s no question about that. I hate the election denialism of 2020. Nobody wants to be talking about that in 2024. I think all of that was absolutely terrible. The reason I am supporting not just the president, but a Republican administration.

To be clear, an elected official, upon taking office as governor of the Granite State, must affirm, “I, NAME, do solemnly swear, that I will bear faith and true allegiance to the United States of America and the state of New Hampshire, and will support the constitution thereof. So help me God. (exact working and emphasis contained in Article 84. Oath of Civil Officers in the NH Constitution),”   Despite taking that oath, John Sununu admitted he will take the Constitution for granted (or is that “for granite” in native New Hampshirese), putting it before party, in return for lower taxes and less regulation.

But that is just half the story.  Does Sununu really believe a second Trump administration is going to be anything but a RINO (Republican in name only)?  Does he also believe Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Jeffrey Clark, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Vivek Ramaswamy will govern according to the traditional Republican values of Ronald Reagan, much less his own father former NH governor John Sununu. Let me paraphrase the late Texas senator Lloyd Bentsen, “During my time at the National Governors Association, I got to work with John Sununu, I knew John Sununu, I respected John Sununu.  Chris Sununu, you’re no John Sununu.”

The Road Very Seldom Taken

A quote often attributed to Oscar Wilde is, “When opportunity knocks, open the door.”  This was never more true than this weekend when Iran and its supported network of terror organizations launched a barrage of drones and missiles at Israel in retaliation for the targeted strike that killed an Iranian general in Damascus.  Fortunately, there was minimal property damage and a single injury (ironically a young Bedouin girl).  This outcome was due in part to support from U.S., British and (yes) Jordanian defense forces, one more sign Sunni Arab nations understand the value of alliances with Israel to deter Iranian aggression.

On Sunday morning, Iran’s mission to the United Nations released a statement declaring the drone and missile attack to be sufficient retaliation.  “The matter can be deemed concluded.”  In a subsequent phone call with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Biden advised the Israeli government to “take the win” and avoid any regrettable action that might increase the potential for a full-scale regional war.  The Israeli war cabinet has suggested otherwise but only time will tell if that is bluster or a promise of an actual military response.

Biden also suggested Israel’s next moves should be strategic rather than tactical.  It does not take a McArthur Genius Award winner to understand the Iranian attack is an opportunity to address multiple Israeli strategic goals. 

  • Secure release of all the surviving hostages.
  • Reverse widespread condemnation of Israel’s execution of the war by the international community.
  • Grow and solidify alliances with its Sunni Arab neighbors.

On today’s edition of “Morning Joe,” Israeli government spokesman Avi Hyman seemed to have opened that door.  First, he reminded viewers that Israel is still David, not Goliath.  In reference to Iran, Hyman said, “This is a large country attacking a small country.  It is funding its proxies in terror since the Islamic revolution, whether it’s Hezbollah, Hamas the Houthis, etc.”  He then thanked the U.S., Britain, and “allies in the region” who helped repel the missile attack.

However, when Politico reporter Jonathan Lamere asked whether Israel would heed Biden’s advice, Hyman replied:

As a sovereign nation we will have to make decisions in the best interest of defending our country.  At the beginning of the war we were told not to rush into Gaza, do not go in hotheaded. And we didn’t.  We waited it out.  We went in cool, calm and collected.

Yes, the ultimate decision how best to defend itself lies with Israelis and their government.  To suggest that the response to the October 7 terrorist attack was “cool, calm and collected” is less than credible in light of airstrikes less than 24 hours after Hamas’ attack and the use of bunker bombs in civilian-populated areas.

Political leaders seldom get a chance for a “redo.”  And on those rare occasions, they seldom learn the lessons of their own mistakes.  Hopefully, this time will be different.

The Latest Moon Shot

In his September 1962 speech at Rice University, President John F. Kennedy said, “We go to the moon, not because it is easy, but because it is hard.”  On Friday, House Speaker Mike Johnson gave Ukraine, Israel and U.S. national security a different kind of moon shot by again complicating the passage of the Senate supplement aid package.  He might as well have explained his actions this way.  “We stall this legislation, not because it is hard, but because MAGA likes to make the easy things hard if not impossible.”

Johnson was not the only MAGite citing the threat to Israel from the largely repelled Iranian drone and missile attack without acknowledging the constant destruction and death in Ukraine resulting from drones and missiles launched from by Putin’s Russia.  Therefore, one must ask, why is it okay for the U.S. to actively participate in the downing of Iranian armaments but the MAGA leadership in the House delays funding for Ukrainians to protect their territory without U.S. military forces involvement?  Could it be the influence of extreme evangelicals on MAGA party policies?  If so, would the situation be reversed if the “rapture” was dependent on every Ukrainian returning to their homeland, instead of Jews returning to Israel?

For what it’s worth.

You Break It, You Onan It

But for the times in which we live, the following lede would have appeared in The Onion rather than the Arizona Republic.

The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a 160-year-old law that bans abortions and punishes doctors who provide them, saying the ban that existed before Arizona became a state can be enforced going forward.

Therefore, based on this new high bar for fictional satire, I have decided to propagate my own spin-off of The Onion.  I call it The Scallion, a smaller, less pungent satirical platform.  Below is a brief summary of the main story on the front page of the inaugural edition.

Arizona Supreme Court Bans More Privacy Rights.

On Friday, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld a 5,645-year-old law requiring men to sleep with their widowed sisters-in-law.  According to archivists at the Creation Museum in Boone County, Kentucky, God enacted the law to repopulate the human species which had been decimated by dinosaur attacks.  During oral arguments, Zavapai County Attorney Dennis McGrane, who successfully represented those in favor of the 1864 statute banning abortions, also represented plaintiffs who claimed that “spilling one’s seed” should be left up to the states.  The court ruled that without repeal of Genesis 38:8-10, the violation of oneself remained in effect including punishment specified in Verse 38:10.  “And the thing which he did displeased the Lord; therefore He slew him also.”

The justices rejected Onan’s two defense arguments. First, Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes likened Onan’s refusal to impregnate his widowed sister-in-law to conscientious objection to war.  She reminded the justices Onan’s decision was based on his personal belief the practice of “levirate marriage,” in which the brother of a deceased man is obliged to marry his brother’s widow, was dishonest by pretending his seed was that of his brother, which it clearly was not.  Second, Onan felt that no one had the right to invade one’s privacy when it came to his sexual behavior.  Mayes added, “Just because Santa Claus knows when you are sleeping and knows when you’re awake, that does not give him the right to judge the actions of TWO NON-CONSENTING adults.”

Arizona Chief Justice Robert Brutinel, in a unanimous decision, left no room for ambiguity.  “In the 1864 statute case, we made it clear abortions are illegal in our state.  Based on the current case, even thinking about having sex and not completing the act as God intended, is not only illegal, it is a mortal sin punishable by death.”

In Tallahassee, Florida, State Supreme Court chief justice Carlos G. Muñiz bemoaned the fact he did not think of this first.  “I would hate to see Florida lose its reputation as the epicenter of radical legal nonsense.”

For what it’s worth.

UPDATE/Bad Ad Timing

One of the sponsors of NBC’s presentation of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament was Chubb Insurance.  During the broadcast they ran a spot which included the following:

In this high stakes, high pressure world, we help protect our clients from risk. And always keep our eye on the ball.  Chubb, insurance that protects when it matters most.

If you do not believe them, just ask Donald J. Trump.  On Friday, Trump’s lawyers announced they had secured a bond from an entity called “Federal Insurance Company” for the $83.3 million awarded to E. Jean Carroll in the second defamation trial.  However, New York Daily News journalist Molly Crane-Newman reported:

The entity through which Trump secured the bond is a member of the Chubb Group, a property and casualty insurance giant whose CEO, Evan Greenberg, he tapped to serve on his presidential trade policy advisory committee in 2018.

When reporters asked representatives of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York if they knew the source of the funds for the Chubb bond, they said they were not privy to that information.  For argument’s sake, let’s assume Evan Greenberg used existing Chubb assets to cover the $83.3 million dollars.  In that case, we can be sure Donald Trump did not have what Chubb calls their “Elite V” protection for director and officers liability.  How do I know that.? The 20-page document which explains the policy’s benefits includes the following definition of bail bond costs.

3. Definitions/Subsection 3.2

Bail Bond Costs mean the reasonable premium (not including any collateral) for a bond or other financial instrument to guarantee an Insured Person’s contingent obligation for bail or equivalent in any jurisdiction required by a court in respect of any Claim. The sub-limit of liability for Bail Bond Costs is 10% of the Limit of Liability.

Subsection 3.35 defines Limit of Liability as “the amount stated in Item 3 of the Insurance Policy.”

In other words, Chubb and Trump’s good friend Evan Greenberg violated two corporate rules.  First, they covered the entire bond, not just the “reasonable premium.”  Second, for them to put down $83.3 million, under the rules, Trump must have a policy with a “limit of liability” of (drum roll) $833 million dollars. [NOTE:  There is no truth to the rumor Barack Obama went on Fox News and demanded Trump release his “long-form policy.”]

Will Chubb also buy time during cable coverage of the election interference and business fraud case involving hush money payments to Stormy Daniels?  If so, I suggest, in the interest of truth in advertising, Chubb revise its March 9, 2024 advertisement as follows.

If you are a former U.S. president who appointed our CEO to a White House advisory board, regardless of our internal procedures and regulations, we will bail you out.  And always make sure you can make your morning tee-off time instead of holding a fire sale of your assets.  Chubb, insurance that protects Donald Trump anytime our CEO says so.

Disclaimer: This service is not available to any other policy holder so don’t ask.

For what it’s worth.

SOTU Random Thoughts

I just received a phone call from my 101 year-old mother.  “Did you see the president last night?”  I had just spent two days with her during which she once again reminded me of my obligation to her.  “If Trump wins and you decide to leave the country, you know you have to take me with you.”  I joked, “That’s why I’m doing everything I can to make sure Biden wins.” This morning, I wondered if someone had switched out her Ambien for some “happy pill.”  So goes my mother, so goes America.

After several weeks of the most depressing correspondence and phone calls with family, friends and colleagues, I feel no need this morning to talk anyone off the ledge.  Joe Biden did that for all of us last night.  Instead, with the extensive coverage of the State of the Union address, I decided to look for those things that were not mentioned.  Here are my six takeaways to add to the general euphoria.


The one thing Mom did not like about the broadcast was the number of times they showed Marjorie Taylor Greene.  She wondered why they promote her.  This was the one “off the ledge” moment in our discussion.  I told her I thought they did not show her or the other MAGA lemmings enough.  Biden was making contrasts in policy, but he also talked about decency and playing by the rules.  I want MTG to be the face of Donald Trump’s MAGA party.  She is uncivil, she is dishonest and she does not play by the rules including House rules which forbid partisan attire.  More importantly, she will remind voters that it is MTG and her MAGA colleagues who have blocked legislation that deals with the border, national security, codifying Roe v. Wade and inflation.  That she would rather pursue impeachments without evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors for political theater than do the people’s business.  She is a walking billboard why the MAGA party has proved it cannot govern and why we must return the majority and speakership to the Democrats.


Photos: Republicans Wear Pins Honoring Laken Riley at Joe Biden's State of the UnionLast week, Representative Rashida Tlaib encouraged Michigan voters to send Joe Biden a message on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  The punditry was awash with the implications for the November election if Muslin-Americans and Palestinian sympathizers stayed home.  Did Joe Biden or Michigan Governor Gretchen Witmer tell those voters, “We don’t need you,” a la Trump’s response to Haley supporters or Kari Lake’s 2022 rejection of McCain Republicans.  Many Democrats, knowing that a Biden win in Michigan was a foregone conclusion, accepted those voters’ chose as an appropriate opportunity to signal their concern for family and friends living in the war zone.  Last night she and other members of the Democratic conference held up signs that said  “Lasting Ceasefire Now” and “Stop Sending Bombs.”  Some may have been offended, but what better place than Congress to generate an actual policy debate.  Compare that to Congressman Troy Nehls (R-TX) who wore a tee-shirt under his jacket with the Trump mug shot and the words, “Never Surrender!”

Where was Congresswoman Tlaib following Biden’s address?  Did she walk out of the chamber like so many disgruntled (and hopefully embarrassed) members on the other side of the aisle?  No, as this picture shows, she is standing behind the president (literally).  She had to know there would be video and images of her with Biden.  The message.  We may still be unhappy, but this is someone who at least is trying to avoid a humanitarian crisis as evidenced by his announcement of the makeshift port to speed delivery of food and other necessities to Palestinian civilians.  On a night when Biden made the election about clear choices, I have no doubt Tlaib, given the alternative of a second Trump administration, will encourage her constituents to make the right choice.  (For the record, Representative Ilhan Omar encouraged a similar protest in the Minnesota primary though she endorsed Biden the day after he officially announced he was running for reelection.)


The overnight TV ratings for last night’s State of the Union are not yet available, but I predict the total may top Biden’s two previous addresses.  In 2022, over 38 million viewers tuned in.  Last year that number declined to 27.3 million.  The forthcoming number to watch is the Fox News viewership.  For weeks, right wing media promised their viewers a NASCAR race with Joe Biden driving a dilapidated late model vehicle which would be involved in multiple car wrecks.  Hopefully, the promotion worked. The only car wrecks were those occasions when Speaker Mike Johnson had to decide if stopping fentanyl at the board was worth a standing ovation (he chose NO) or every time Republican senators and representatives had their heads bowed in shame when Biden reminded them they were on the wrong side of virtually every issue and history.


This morning the Make America Great Again super PAC ran an ad titled “Jugular” on MSNBC, CNN, Fox NEWS and Newsmax.  It shows the president stumbling on the stairs up to Air Force One, verbal gaffes and asks the question, “Can Joe Biden survive until 2029?”  That might have played well a month ago, but not the morning after the State of the Union which produced the following headlines.

~Fiery Biden takes on GOP, makes case for second term (Washington Post)
~A Forceful Biden Takes On Trump and His Own Doubters (New York Times)
~State of the Union Shows There’s Life in the Old Boy Yet (Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal)
~Biden Roars on Big Night, Faces Down Critics (Drudge Report)
~He Nailed It (GOP Strategist Sarah Longwell/CNN)

Noonan’s op-ed was not just a kudos on Biden’s performance.  It was a change of heart.  On February 22, she wrote:

A good thing for the president: If he does a perfectly adequate job, the press will be inclined to call it brilliant. Expectations are low. There’s a politesse about State of the Union coverage, nobody wants to pounce. The media have been slapped around recently for taking notice of Mr. Biden’s age after three years of ignoring it.

Bad news: People won’t be impressed if anchors call it brilliant, because our media world is all broken up in pieces and anchors speak to mere shards. And most Americans aren’t watching. Viewership declines each year.

This morning she revised her assessment.

The great question the past month was about his persona. Would he walk in shakily? When he was done, would we be using words like old, frail, incapable, embarrassing? We won’t. People will say that guy has a lot of fight in him. He was wide awake, seemed to be relishing the moment, did not seem to tire much, and in fact improved as the speech moved along.

There are 10 to 13 percent undecided voters if the polls are accurate.  As you know, I have also argued Trump’s 45 percent is a ceiling.  Biden’s 43 percent is a floor.  Prior to last night’s speech, a March 6 Emerson poll now has Biden at +2.  The March 3 Morning Consult survey now has Biden +1.  Even in those polls where Biden still trails, most of which were completed before the end of February, the contest in now within the margin of error. 

Historically, an incumbent running for a second term gets a bump from their election year SOTU address.  Bill Clinton did in 1996 as did Barack Obama in 2012.  There was a lot of Democratic handwringing back then as the polls showed both behind to their opponents.  In the post-SOTU polls, the actual numbers are noise.  The trends are the signal.


House Speaker Mike Johnson gave his team a pep talk at a closed-door meeting of the GOP conference the day before the SOTU.  He told his colleagues:

Decorum is the order of the day.  We don’t need to be shrill, you know, we got to avoid that. We need to base things upon policy, upon facts, upon reality of situations. Let them do the gaslighting, let them do the blaming.

How did that work out, Mikey?  Even when he signaled for rowdy GOP members to tamp it down, they did not respond.  If Johnson’s world view is what he says it is, I guess it was God’s plan for there to be such an ineffective speaker of the house to remind us what true leadership looks like.


I wonder how many people stayed tune to watch Biden try to leave the House chamber.  Even when Speaker Johnson ordered the lights dimmed, the celebration did not end.  Joe Scarborough compared it to football players lingering in the locker room after a Super Bowl victory.  You don’t want to lose that great feeling.  There was one moment, however, where I found myself admiring Joe Biden for his physical ability.

An African-American, female representative wanted to take a selfie with the president.  She was so nervous her hand was shaking.  Biden took her hand and steadied the cell phone.  I suffer from a familial tremor.  When I saw that I thought, “Hell, I’m seven years younger and I couldn’t do that.”  And then I remembered, that was the perfect metaphor for “the steady hand at the helm” he promised in 2020 and will again this election cycle.

For what it’s worth.




[NOTE: The best way NOT to get my thoughts on a subject is to identify a topic and say, “You need to write about this.”  In most cases, the seed of a specific post comes from a personal discussion with friend or former colleague.  Then, something that emerges during the course of that conversation suggests a need for a deeper dive into the subject matter.  Or, in the case of today’s topic, my reaction to the issue under consideration is, “Where have I seen or heard this before?”]

For the past couple of days, I had a totally unrelated conversation with a long time mentor and friend about the importance of the humanities as part of a well-rounded education.  He asked my thoughts about how the humanities program at his alma mater might engage students in the STEM disciplines with the goal of helping them appreciate the value of literature, art and philosophy and their relevance to their career aspirations.  Knowing his affinity for the “Socratic method” of teaching, I was reminded of a PBS program (1977-81) called, “Steve Allen’s Meeting of Minds.”  For each episode, Allen cast an ensemble of actors to portray famous figures from the past such as Plato, Marie Antoinette, Martin Luther, Charles Darwin, and Catherine the Great.  The content consisted of a largely scripted conversation in which each opined about a current topic from their own historical perspective.

I suggested the university might revive this format as part of a series of seminars open to all students regardless of major.  I then asked ChatGPT to create a sample of what the script my look like.  “Create a dialogue between Edmond Burke, Thomas Paine and Machiavelli.”  And it did with Burke setting the stage.

Good evening, gentlemen. What an intriguing gathering we have here: the advocate of conservatism, the champion of revolution, and the pragmatist of power.

My friend responded with the following email which focused more on my use of ChatGPT than the content it generated.

A real challenge going forward!

To which I replied:

It is no coincidence that the emergence of AI should come at the same time as “Oppenheimer.”  Hopefully, we learned a lesson about the benefits and risks of technology from Einstein and Oppenheimer.  Though I doubt it.

My friend is not one to let me off so easily.  He came back with:

Ironically, we (referring to himself and his wife) just watched it, ending just 10 minutes ago, with very interesting observations from her.
Neither of you were witness to VJ Day!
However, no use of nuclear weapons since that fateful day!

The debate was afoot.  The following is an edited, expanded version of my next email about the perceived connection between the emergence of readily available artificial intelligence in the form of Open AI and a movie about the birth of nuclear warfare.

First, I wanted to correct the record.  I wondered if my friend assumed that I thought the decision to use atomic weapons to bring a quicker end to World War II was a mistake.  If you have read my book on the creative process, you would know I believe there is no such thing as a bad decision.  The outcome and long-term consequences of the decision may not be what we hoped for,  but at the time and circumstances under which the decision was made, it was not wrong.

What I find hard to believe, in hindsight, is that nobody, even as the Enola Gay took off from North Field in the Mariana Islands, asked the question, “What do we need to do on day one after Japan surrendered to ensure that this threat to humanity is properly managed?”  Especially, since they had to know Russia or someone else would master the technology to create their own bomb.

You might argue winning the war was such a priority, no one had time to consider what comes next.  But another situation in the exact same time period tells us that did not have to be the case.  Consider the almost immediate response to stabilize Western Europe after Germany’s surrender.  In 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall outlined what would become known as the Marshall Plan, authorized with passage of the Economic Cooperation Act of 1948.  Economic distress in Europe post-World War I was a major factor in Hitler’s rise to power.  The United States was determined to make sure that environment was not recreated after the Nazi defeat.

What’s more, the Western allies recognized there needed to be a credible deterrent to discourage future efforts by Germany or the Soviet Union to annex territory as Hitler did in Austria and Czechoslovakia.  The groundwork was laid by Great Britain and France with the Treaty of Dunkirk in March 1947,  The March 1948 Treaty of Brussels expanded the mutual assistance pact to include the Benelux nations.  The February 1948 communist coup d’état in Czechoslovakia became the catalyst for the establishment of NATO with the U.S. and Canada as members in April 1949.

From watching the movie about his life, one could contend Robert Oppenheimer was a visionary in the same mold as Marshall.  He knew what he created and the long-term dangers of an arms race.  His warning went unheeded.  The U.S. and other nuclear powers waited until 1968, 23 years after the wartime use of atomic weapons, to sign a nuclear proliferation treaty.  By then the genie was already out of the bottle.  Introspection about the estimated civilians who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even if justified from a military perspective, should have raised moral questions about “what next” to preempt or at least temper a multi-national nuclear arms race.

Should we not be asking those exact questions with the emergence of artificial intelligence?  Or, are we going to wait until AI produces some devastating outcome before we have mechanisms to manage its constructive use, potential benefits and unimagined dangers?

For what it’s worth.
Dr.  ESP