Category Archives: Satire

Breaking News: Massive Cave-in at White House

Here’s how it went down.

When Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, first learned that Trump was caving on the government shutdown and the fight over “wall funding,” he misunderstood and thought that one of Melania’s escape tunnels had collapsed. He soon learned the truth. Trump was backing down! This was mightily puzzling to McConnell who, despite leading one-half of the co-equal branch of government known as Congress, was in reality a vassal to his liege lord Trump and was being left out in the cold. What could possibly be going on?

McConnell ran to the White House to get instructions from the master negotiator himself, Donald J. Trump. Trump was, however, confused by his fight with the Democrats over funding for his promised “border wall” (or, as he now says, “whatever you want to call it”). Trump had repeatedly rejected border security funding proposals that did not include the “wall,” preferring to shut down the U.S. government and thereby show how tough a negotiator he is. Trump’s negotiating principle was: “give me what I want or I will hurt you … or someone else you care about.” You know, like a mob boss. Trump apparently believed that it would be effective to simply continue demanding the one thing the Democrats, in solid control of the House of Representatives, weren’t prepared to give, complaining all the while that the Democrats wouldn’t negotiate. McConnell was at a loss how to help his lord and master out of this jam.

Many theories exist about how to negotiate effectively. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of books have been devoted to the subject. The one tactic that virtually all negotiation authorities seem to agree on is that taking an extreme position at the outset and refusing to budge in order to get the other side to yield by simply repeating the position is the least effective approach to making a deal. Credible books on the subject devote considerable space to explaining how to deal with the “my way or the highway” negotiators because, despite their dismal record of results, there still are many “negotiators” who try the tactic.

Trump is a great example of this. By dint of his past position atop a real estate empire financed with other people’s money, he is accustomed to demanding and getting others to yield, lest he walk away or file a lawsuit (a favorite tactic). Surrounded by people eager to please, it appears no one told him that trying to negotiate by taking hostages and threatening to hurt them and continue hurting them is unlikely to lead to a favorable outcome. Even if someone told him, it’s unlikely he would have listened. Trump has made it clear many times that he already knows everything he needs to know about everything.

So, Trump shut down the government, loudly proclaiming that the shutdown was “on him” and no one else. Somehow, he thought that forcing hundreds of thousands of federal workers to either work for no pay (we’ll get back to you sometime later with your money) or stop working altogether without pay was going to force the Democrats led by the newly ensconced Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to yield and give him the wall money he wanted. Maybe he thought, “she’s a woman and cares about people, so she’ll crack. I don’t care about anyone but myself so I can outlast her.” Maybe he just thought she was a weak person, since he thinks most people, especially women, are weak compared to him. Maybe he just had too many hamberders and couldn’t think straight. We’ll never really know.

What we do know is that the hostages in Trump’s power play tended to blame him and the Republicans for their inability to do their jobs and pay their bills. Members of Trump’s cabinet, in their usual fashion, tried to prove their loyalty and come to his aid, by pointing out that federal workers without incomes could simply borrow from a bank or credit union. Another characterized the work of federal workers forced to labor without pay until an unknown future time as “volunteering.” The wife of one of Trump’s wealthy sons pointed out that while, yes, there was a “bit of pain” involved in being without an income, it was for a greater cause and thus everyone should be happy to sacrifice. And on and on and on. They gave new meaning to the phrase “tone deaf.” Future historians trying to explain this time will be stymied by the utter absurdity of the theater created by these buffoons, all appointed by or otherwise owned by Trump.

As the casualties piled up, and the airplanes began to stack up as air traffic control faltered due to inadequate staffing, Trump finally caved. He accepted a short term funding and reopening of the government with negotiations then to begin regarding border security. The same deal he would have had back in December and on multiple occasions since then.

In classic Trump fashion, of course, the cave in was accompanied by a meandering blathering incoherent speech about border security and, finally, a repeat of the same old threat: “give me what I demand or I will declare a national emergency, shut down the government again and build the wall with money I will steal from other parts of the federal budget.” Indeed, in a tweet following his Rose Garden speech, Trump flatly denied he had made a concession at all. He reframed his collapse as a decision to help the

“millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”

The “understanding” Trump refers to is only an illusion within his own mind, not something that involves third parties.

To remove any lingering doubts about that, the putative White House Press Secretary, who now has nothing to do but repeat Trump’s messages, tweeted:

In 21 days President @realDonaldTrump is moving forward building the wall with or without the Democrats. The only outstanding question is whether the Democrats want something or nothing. [emphasis added]

That must make sense to Sanders but for the life of me I don’t know what the hell she is saying. Someone I know well replied to her on Twitter with

Really? Trump caved to give Democrats another chance of yield to his demands? That’s your story?

So, apparently, if we’re to believe Trump this time, it’s still “my way or the highway” and this whole three-week suspension of the shutdown is only to help out the Democrats. Or the federal workers. Or somebody.

On that note, the “negotiations” will resume. Now, no one knows whether the courts will sustain a declaration of national emergency in these circumstances. Trump’s record in court is pretty bad, but this is largely uncharted territory. The data on border crossings do not appear to remotely support the idea that there is a national emergency but it remains to be seen whether the courts will simply defer to the “president’s authority” on this.

Of course, one must also wonder why, if Trump has the power to arbitrarily declare a national emergency, he would also have to shut down the government again. One may also wonder why, if he is so determined to build his wall, he doesn’t just use the powers he claims to already have and proceed to steal the money from some other budget item. But logic has never defined this presidency, so maybe that’s just a silly question. Or, just maybe, his legal advisors have warned him that he is on thin ice in claiming absolute power to build the wall on his own order. Again, we’ll likely never know what thought process, if any, actually underlies these twisted mental gymnastics. One thing we can reasonably be sure of – it’s not to help out the Democrats and it’s not about protecting federal workers, about whom Donald Trump gives not one … damn.

The other point to be made here was, I think, very well made in a Facebook post attributed to Dan Rather by the site, Truth Matters. Summarized, the argument is that to bring the issue of border security and the “wall” forward properly, Trump should have arranged for legislation to be introduced, after which hearings would be held, expert testimony collected and, ultimately, votes taken on the elements of a proper modern border security regime. In legislative terms, this would be called “regular order.” But, no, Trump thinks he is a dictator who can simply demand what he wants and everyone will yield as they did when he was in private life running his real estate companies.

The resistance led by Pelosi shows that at least one half of the Congress, under Democratic leadership, understands its proper constitutional role as balance against the executive. Trump thinks he’s going to win because he needs to satisfy his political base and he is blind to the reality that even some of that group of slavishly devoted followers were hurt by and disapprove of the government shutdown Trump directed and that he continues to threaten.

So, the negotiations will resume with Trump’s threat on the table: “do it my way or I will simply go around you.” This is not a formula for success and there is no reason for Democrats in the House to yield to this type of threat from the president. It is not in fact the Democrats who don’t want to negotiate – it is Trump who still insists “you will do it may way or else.”

I am not prescient and will not try to predict how this is going to come out, but it’s hard to be optimistic when one party takes the position of a 5-year old who won’t eat dinner unless he’s guaranteed two desserts.

When last seen, Mitch McConnell was seen standing in the cold in front of the White House holding a note addressed to the president. It read “My liege, what, oh what, do you want me to do now?”

Note: some of the above is satire but it’s impossible to know which part. It could all be true.

 

 

Experimental Blog Post re The Sound of Apple Carts Being Knocked Over

WARNING: Before getting into the substance, and because I am so ____ bewildered and more than a little ____ off, I have written this post with blanks so you, in the privacy of wherever you read these things, can fill in the blanks with whatever words you’re comfortable with. Such words may be namby pamby or they may be harshly vulgar. That’s up to you. No one will know but you. If so inclined, let me know what you think of this form of blog post as a way of communally but also privately sharing your feelings, at least with yourself. If that makes sense. I’m not sure it does. But whatever you do, when you come to one of the blanks do not think of vulgar words; think instead of something else that’s just as good. Really. Try.

Did you ever wonder what an apple cart sounds like when it’s knocked over? No? I thought not. Most people in the modern world never come in contact with an apple cart, let alone one that has been knocked over within earshot. But apple carts are being knocked over left and right (well, mostly left) in Washington with the arrival of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated a popular Democratic incumbent (actually the voters did it, but that’s a detail), and Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress. Ocasio-Cortez is also known as AOC. How cool is that? One week on the job in Washington and she’s her own acronym.  Donald Trumpski thinks she’s a new govt agency and can’t understand why he didn’t get to appoint her and can’t fire her.

Rep. Tlaib shocked the formerly Free World by using a profanity in a statement to a group of supporters, a profanity that, in the world of profanities, seems entirely suited to its target, the traitor-in-chief, Donald Trumpski. But you would have thought Tlaib had actually assaulted someone on the floor of Congress. The _____ Republicans were apoplectic. It’s one thing for Trumpski to say he could shoot someone and not lose votes, but for a woman, a freshman, a Muslim for _____ sake, to call Trumpski a “bad word, why this could be the end of civilization itself.  A “sad” day for the Republic, they said. Their delicate sensibilities couldn’t stand such coarseness. Oh my, I think I have the vapors, I may pass out.

The _____ Democrats too were quick to pounce on the use of profanity in politics. What have things come to? Not constructive, they said. Not moving in the right direction. ____ it. More on this in a moment.

So, what was the first reaction from the “establishment” on the left? Here are some examples:

  • Shut up!
  • Toe the party line
  • Mind your manners
  • Submit to the “rules” of decorum that we wrote in anticipation that one day someone like you might be elected
  • Stop calling attention to yourself, _____
  • Wait your turn – we’ll let you know, ______
  • Stay in your lane
  • Speak only when spoken to
  • Ask permission before proposing a policy your elders might not like
  • Above all – shut up: Congress is where good ideas go to die

And, on the right? Well, I’ll be ______, you’d have thought Mitch McConnell had voted for national health insurance. The right was both mightily offended and simultaneously gleeful that new targets for their misogyny and racism had arrived. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, unhappy with his new role of powerlessness, was quick to demand that Speaker Pelosi “reprimand” Tlaib. Pelosi rightly responded that she was not in the censorship business. _________. If hypocrite McCarthy wants to reprimand someone, he should start with the leader of his own party. When he brings Trumpski to heel, he can think about imposing his personal standards of propriety on others. What a _____ moron.

You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried. Republicans are having hysterical hypocritical meltdowns over a freshman Congressperson using a vulgarity in relation to the supposed President who has built his entire persona around “telling it like it is,” including the use of a multitude of vulgarities, all available on video even as he, with his usual practice of lying about almost everything, denies that he said what he said. Instead of ganging up on the Democratic newcomers, the _______ Democrats should be making videos of all of the lying and hypocrisy on the right, including their claims that they want to protect health insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions, then post the videos on every right-wing social media site every day until the next election.

AOC blew Republican minds when a video was released of her dancing in college. Imagine that! Dancing in college. _______! She responded … with more dancing. There was a profound lesson in that move that the Republicans, as usual, failed to grasp. Later, she spelled it out more clearly on Twitter:

“None of you understand. I’m not locked up in here with YOU. You’re locked up in here with ME.”

BOOM!! EMT squads were dispatched to Capitol Hill to resuscitate Republicans who suddenly found themselves unable to breathe. There were no reported fatalities but ashen-faced Republicans retreated to a secret meeting to discuss their next attacks on the freshmen Democrats who threaten the entire world order of old white men by having ideas and the willingness to express them.

It’s doubly interesting and profoundly disturbing, I think, that the media have played a facilitating role in the shock and dismay at Tlaib’s alleged darkening of political discourse in the Nation’s capitol. A front-page article in the New York Times on January 5, entitled “Cry to Impeach Upsets Agenda for Democrats,” described Tlaib’s remarks as an “expletive-laden impeachment promise” that was going to “upend the bonhomie of a new Congress.”

Bonhomie? Really? In _____ Congress? Give me a ____ break. One remark by a freshman congressperson upsets the entire Democratic agenda? That must have been some ___ agenda. Where does the MSM get this tripe?

The Washington Post joined the chorus with a front-page article the same day, entitled “House freshman’s cursing revives impeachment talk.” CBS News referred to the statement as “harsh.” https://cbsn.ws/2D374GL

There is so much here, I almost don’t know where to begin, but I will plunge ahead. I understand that media writers have little time to produce their stories against deadlines and the ever-present concept of “breaking news” that they employ to get our attention. But I still expect some respect for the English language by them and/or their editors. I was particularly struck by the use of “expletive-laden” in the Times piece. The click-bait title of a Jan. 4 piece by the Washington Post refers to the speech as “profanity-laced.” https://wapo.st/2M4nwtq

Google reports that “laden” means “heavily loaded or weighed down.”  Tlaib used the “bad word” once at the end of her remarks. I suppose one can argue that the word is so powerful in some way that even a single use infects everything adjacent that then becomes “laden,” but frankly, I think the Times andd the Post simply chose to make more of the statement than it could carry by itself. The so-called mainstream media had best be careful lest their already tenuous hold on the popular mind is completely severed. If they want to criticize, do some homework and use English. Leave the click-bait _____ to Twitter and Facebook.

The other thought is this: does anyone really believe that words like that used by Tlaib are not thrown about by politicians in the Capitol all the time when they don’t think anyone’s listening but their fellow inmates? Really? ____ that ____. And can it possibly be true that the Democratic establishment is not aware that many many many people have been openly talking about impeaching Trumpski for two years??? The talk started the minute he was elected.

The final thought about this particular dustup is that the Democrats who are running around giving quotes to the press critical of Tlaib are feeding the beast that threatens to defeat them and our democracy. The CBS News article cited above reports that a huge majority of Americans support impeaching Trumpski. If Democrats from the Old Guard think impeachment right now is a bad idea, fine, say so, but why join the ______ Republican feeding frenzy in attacking Tlaib for using a “nasty” about Trumpski. Why is it that the Old Guard doesn’t understand by now that things have changed?

The reality of national politics is that people like AOC and Tlaib are not intimidated by the mere presence of the Old Guard. They, and the Americans who elected them, are fed up with the Old Guard that opened the door to the election of a traitor and incompetent like Donald Trump and they are fed up with the _____ Republicans who are failing to do their job to rein in a president who is out of control and blatantly unqualified for his job. Democrats had best take heed or more apple carts will be knocked over and they won’t know what the ___ hit them.

Amazon & Pop-Secret Redux

You may recall that I recently wrote about Amazon’s delivery of a roll of industrial “contact paper” in lieu of the 6-pack of Pop-Secret Popcorn that I had ordered. Amazon had informed me, in the way that Amazon does, that I could not return the roll of paper but that it would re-send the popcorn I had originally ordered.

Well … the box came, it seemed a bit heavy, but, again, I was prepared to accept that popcorn weighed more than I expected. And, again, I opened the outer box and, again, nestled inside was the Pop-Secret-branded box containing … wait for it … another roll of industrial contact paper identical to the previous one. To quote Dave Barry, I am not making this up. I promise.

Here is the replacement popcorn:

It turns out that Amazon’s website is not programmed to deal with a repeat failure of this nature. Trying to communicate locked me into an endless loop. The site “believed” I was trying to return the popcorn that it had recorded as being delivered and rejected the return of a food product. So even though the Online Returns Center said you could return a “wrong item,” in fact you can’t in these circumstances. The computer thinks you received replacement popcorn and that, as the saying goes, is the end of that.

Well, not quite. I contacted the always reliable American Express on whose card the popcorn had been charged. An astonished but cooperative agent credited the popcorn charge back to my account. Eventually, I assume Amazon’s computers will “discover” that they haven’t been paid for the popcorn and inquire of me about it. Or not. To paraphrase Melania, I really don’t care.

But, I still want the popcorn. We love popcorn. Rightly or wrongly, we believe it’s a “good for you” snack. We eat a lot of popcorn. Sometimes we eat too much popcorn. Sometimes other do. In fairness to Amazon, it does seem clear now that the problem is not with Amazon but with Pop-Secret itself. So, I sent this message to Pop-Secret using the sense of humor for which I have become unjustly famous:

Houston, we have a problem. You should first read the part of this related to Amazon: https://shiningseausa.com/2018/11/23/black-friday-american-commerce-amazon-best-buy-cvs-whole-foods/   Amazon rejected my attempt to return the item & said it was shipping a new order of popcorn. That replacement order arrived 2 days ago. See attached photos. Clearly, there is a breakdown in the “food chain” somewhere. Since the inner boxes in the shipment bear your logo and are sealed when they arrive, it seems likely that the problem rests with you, not Amazon, though one would hope they’d wonder why the contents of a popcorn order shift around inside the box and weighs a lot more than popcorn. In any case, Amazon has no mechanism for returning or even addressing a 2nd delivery of the wrong product so I had no choice but to dispute the original charge. Maybe that will get their attention. Meanwhile, all we wanted was a reliable supply of your delicious popcorn for the holidays; our local market often runs out. We are frustrated and no longer amused by this strange business. I cannot begin to explain how rolls of industrial tape get into sealed Pop-Secret branded boxes. Perhaps you know. So that’s the story. Bizarre but true. Look forward to hearing from you.

After a brief silence, Pop-Secret responded:

We are sorry to hear about your experience with Pop Secret and we really appreciate you letting us know about it. We will pass this information and your comments along to our Quality Assurance Team, and also keep a record of it. [Somehow, I didn’t find this reassuring.]

Unfortunately, we are unable to explain why you rec’d the item you did through Amazon. [Very not reassuring] I will have the Sales & Marketing staff review and follow up with Amazon as best they can into this matter. [Really not reassuring]

We are sending a few free product coupons your way believing that you will have a great experience with our product next time. [Nothing like belief in the face of hard contrary evidence to make one feel right again] Thanks, again, for letting us know about this. You can expect the coupons to arrive shortly. [Shortly, eh] .… Please let us know if you have any further concerns or comments.

Unable to leave bad enough alone, I did have “further concerns or comments:”

You understand, I trust, that this happened twice, spaced a couple of weeks apart. My first reaction, as evidenced by my blog post, was that this was an Amazon problem, but when it happened a second time, in exactly the same way, I concluded it most likely was a problem that originated at Pop-Secret. I doubt, for example, that Amazon actually packages your 6-pack product into Pop-Secret branded boxes. That activity must occur where your product originates. Amazon then takes your branded boxes and puts them in Amazon boxes for shipment to its customers.

I appreciate the offer of coupons but I would like to know how the investigation ends. I plan to write about this again in my blog and want to be fair, and accurate.

Four days have passed and no reply. Now, we all know from past experience that, rightly or wrongly, I have a problem with being ignored. Sooo, I am recounting this saga here, fairly and accurately, as promised.

What happens next, the human mind may never imagine. Perhaps the promised coupons will arrive and they won’t say “good only on Amazon.com.” Maybe nothing will happen. Meanwhile, find something more useful to do with your time.

Black Friday & American Commerce at Work (herein of Amazon, Best Buy, CVS & Whole Foods)

Black Friday is here and America is ready for a shoppingpalooza to end all paloozas. It seems like a good time to remind everyone, with full expectation of being ignored, about how the American shopping experience can sometimes go wrong.

First, Amazon. The funny (in a perverse way) part. I have written twice about Amazon’s practice of waste in its inappropriate packaging choices. https://bit.ly/2PQ7VTp and https://bit.ly/2DVS4fR That part is not funny. Anyway, I was slightly surprised by the weight of the package that arrived supposedly containing a precious order of Nature’s great food: popcorn. But I had ordered a box of six boxes of six packs each, so it was, I thought, possible that popcorn could weigh that much. The item is depicted here:

Delicious! Since I had foolishly consumed our supply some days before, I was delighted to receive this package.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I opened the outer shipping box, and saw inside a box bearing the brand name of PopSecret wedged tightly into the outer box. Yes! Amazon is doing better! So, I slit open the top of the inner PopSecret-labeled box and saw this:

As best I can tell, this product is: Oracal 631 Matte Vinyl Roll 12 Inches by 150 feet – Black by Oracal

I would have understood if Amazon had shipped the wrong brand of popcorn or maybe even if it had sent another food product altogether. But Vinyl Tape instead of popcorn? Is this stuff arrayed on the shelves together? Does no one check these things before they ship?

We will never know the answer to those compelling questions. But we do know is that Amazon knows a bad move when it sees one and, as I have experienced in past product mix-ups, it advised me to just keep vinyl tape and it would ship the popcorn at no extra charge. Of course, the estimated delivery date is a week from the arrival of the tape, making a slight mockery of the Prime delivery for which I pay an annual fee. And the product listing for the popcorn now shows “Currently Unavailable,” so we could be cruising toward a losing situation. Time will tell. Meanwhile, I have laid in a supply of popcorn from the local market.

Moving on to something more concerning, I recently visited the local Best Buy on Broadway in New York City. Its website showed it had a software package for photo editing that I wanted to buy. And, I wanted to buy it right now! After reviewing the package for compatibility issues. So, I walked the half mile or so to the store, asked the young man on the phone at the information booth in front whether the software was downstairs. He nodded yes and continued his conversation.

To make a long story shorter, I walked around each floor of the store twice. No photo editing software to be seen. I did see one, yes, one other customer who was engrossed in playing with one of the electronic devices. I saw at least six Best Buy employees moving around the store, some of them speaking into walkie-talkies. I thought I would trick one of them into asking if I needed help by spending some time with the most expensive cameras. I showed serious interest, looking through view finders and manipulating the dials. No takers. Bottom line: I walked around the store acting like a confused consumer looking for something specific and not one of the employees asked if they could help me find something. I left.

I don’t know where the management was. Maybe one of the Best Buy people I saw was the management. In any case Best Buy, which is in direct competition with Amazon and many others for mostly commodity-type products, is running a losing operation based on this admittedly small sample size of its performance. Maybe I have it backwards though; the store was empty because everyone but me knows how bad the service is. Time will tell.

Now to get serious for a moment. A good while back, I wrote a post about a service failure related to a product branded by CVS Pharmacies  https://bit.ly/2DTcAgY

That little essay concluded with this:

“One thing is certainly true. I will not be ignored. And, thus, we are here, using the only tool at my disposal to try to shame CVS into responding to my documented complaint about a product sold under its brand. This is not the end of this saga but the beginning. I intend to file complaints in the near future with the Better Business Bureau and such other consumer protection agencies in New York City as I can find. CVS, this could all have been avoided if you had just acted responsibly.”

Not being one to make idle threats, I did what I had said and, finally, the sleeping giant awakened. Recall that I first contacted CVS in June 2018 about the damage caused by its product that had melted against the bathroom wall. My complaints to the Better Business Bureau and the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs apparently got their attention. A CVS message to the BBB took the issue back to Medline Industries that handles such things.

After the usual form apologies and assurances about how seriously they take the quality of their products and “value others input,” Medline, in October,  told me this was the first such complaint and that “the issue is considered to be isolated.” Then,

“It is likely that the issue occurred due to harsh conditions such as high heat and humidity in the storage area. All sanitary napkins, diapers and most food products are printed using the same technology that is used for this product and under normal conditions this issue does not occur. It is our recommendation that packages such as this should be kept in a drawer or cabinet where the exposure of the product to harsh conditions is minimal.”

My English translation of the Medline message:

“We don’t deny the problem occurred, but it’s your own fault because of the “likely … harsh conditions” in your bathroom (high heat and humidity) which are not “normal conditions” for a bathroom so you need to seal the product in a heat and humidity proof drawer or cabinet which we are sure, without investigation, you can readily find to protect this product that cost less than $3.00. While we would have to recognize there is no warning about “harsh conditions” on the package, you are surely aware of the famous old saying, “buyer beware,” so take ownership of your trust, however misplaced, in our branded products and go have yourself a lovely day in the harsh conditions in your bathroom.”

Oh, yes, CVS did not refund the price of the product, presumably because the whole thing was my fault for maintaining “harsh conditions” in my bathroom. Nothing more to say, except that this decision has cost and will continue to cost CVS a vastly larger, though in the scheme of its business, an insignificant loss, in diverted business to its competitor at … Amazon.

To end on a more positive note, in keeping with the season, we recently ordered, in person at the local Whole Foods store, a cake for an event. We wrote on a note the message that was to be iced on the cake. It was not a hugely expensive cake but it was a nice one for our small group. We were told to pick it up at 10 am on the date of the event. We arrived on time and were met with “what cake?”

It took all of two seconds for the assistant manager, who happened to be in the bakery section that day, to direct the staff to prepare the cake immediately, with the prescribed icing and “there will be no charge.”

THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is how it is done. It’s called customer service. No arguments, no excuses, just fixed it. Done and done.

Have a happy holiday weekend. Shop until you drop, if you must. Keep your guard up and stay safe.

BRAKING NEWS: Transcript of Private Trump-Putin Meeting Leaked

Washington, D.C. (former capitol of the United States) July 21, 2018

A partial transcript of the “no witnesses” meeting in Helsinki between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin has been provided to select media. It is reported that upon seeing the transcript, Fox News mouthpiece Sean Hannityovich said, “gaaahhorgggahiyi” and collapsed on the floor with foam streaming from his mouth. He was rushed to the local Minute Clinic and there is no official report on his condition.

The transcript is now believed to have been obtained and leaked by Melania Trump, First Lady of the former United States. It reads as follows:

[Trump & Putin shake hands and sit down; translators sit down also]

Trump: Well, Vladimir, here we are at last, just like I promised. Just you and me, babe. What do you want to talk about?

Putin: Donald, let’s cut to the chase, ok?

Trump: Wait, hold on! You speak English?

Putin: Of course, I do, Donald. What do you think I was doing all those years in the KGB? I am totally conversant in your language. It will be a shame when we have to ban it.

Trump: Wow. You really speak good English. As good as me and I have the very best words.  Everyone says so. I am impressed, Vladimir. I always knew you were smart. Not as smart as me, of course, but still pretty …

Putin: Enough about you, Donald. In fact, how about you just shut up for a few minutes so we can get some work done. I did not agree to this meeting just to make you look good.

Trump: Ok, ok, Vlad, don’t be upset. Whatever you want is ok with me.

Putin: Good. I thought it would be since you are president only because of the interference in the U.S. election that I ordered.

Trump: Well, that’s a little harsh, don’t you think? I mean, look at how many electoral votes I got….

Putin: Yeah, but what about her emails?

Trump: You got my message just right. I said, “Russia, if you’re listening …

Putin: I know what you said, Donald. Your American news media play it on TV every damn day! Listen to me. I have a very important thing to say.

Trump: [leaning in] I’m all ears, Vlad. What’s that?

Putin: You are going to invite me to visit the United States.

Trump: Sure, no problem. When you’re a star, they let you do what you want….

Putin: And while I’m there, I am going to defect.

Trump: …. Uh…er….

Putin: I am serious, Donald. You can close your mouth now. You remember when you made that comment about shithole countries? Well, Russia is one. I am sick of the winters here, the intrigues that never stop, people trying to stab you in the back, literally. All my opponents keep committing suicide, making me look bad. And, besides, I’ve always wanted to own a real democracy.

Trump: But, Vlad, I mean, uh, what would that do?

Putin: Nothing that you need to concern yourself with, Donald. You will move back to New York City, play golf every day, if you like. Live the life you always wanted.

Trump: They hate me in New York.

Putin: Yeah, well, what goes around comes around. But, listen, Donald, they are going to put you in jail. You have violated their constitution and made a hash of the U.S. government. I know how to run things efficiently. I will move into the White House. Melania can stay there if she wants. You know she sounds more like a Russian than an American. All will be well. Believe me.

[end of transcript]

The Sidestep — Trump’s New National Anthem

No need to worry about anyone taking a knee over Trump’s new national anthem. After witnessing Trump’s humiliation of himself and his country during the Appeasement Summit with Putin in Helsinki and the subsequent pathetic attempts to change what he said there, and his departure from the “non mea culpa” [not my fault] statement written for him by his staff, resulting in a “walk back” of the “walk back,” every coherent person anywhere in the world will acknowledge how perfectly this new anthem fits him.

It’s from the movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and is sung by the Texas governor who has been asked what he’s going to do about the Chicken Ranch, a whorehouse thriving in his state and which he had patronized himself on more than one occasion. Here is how it goes (for brevity, only one chorus fully spelled out):

“Fellow Texans, I am proudly standing here to humbly say.
I assure you, and I mean it- Now, who says I don’t speak out as plain as day?
And, fellow Texans, I’m for progress and the flag- long may it fly.
I’m a poor boy, come to greatness. So, it follows that I cannot tell a lie.

Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don’t-
I’ve come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step,
cut a little swathe and lead the people on.

Now my good friends, it behooves me to be solemn and declare,
I’m for goodness and for profit and for living clean and saying daily prayer.
And now, my good friends, you can sleep nights, I’ll continue to stand tall.
You can trust me, for I promise, I shall keep a watchful eye upon ya’ll…

Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don’t-
….

Now, Miss Mona, I don’t know her, though I’ve heard the name, oh yes.
But, of course I’ve no close contact, so what she is doing I can only guess.
And now, Miss Mona, she’s a blemish on the face of that good town.
I am taking certain steps here, someone somewhere’s gonna have to close her down.

Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don’t-
….

Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep…

And, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step…

Cut a little swathe and lead the people on.”

https://www.allmusicals.com/lyrics/bestlittlewhorehouseintexasthe/thesidestep.htm

March of the Tin Billionaires

[Warning: this post is long, but so was the speech]

I am not going to spend a lot of time or energy dissecting the State of the Union speech because that will be done elsewhere by persons more knowledgeable about the issues and more skilled in, well, dissecting political speeches. For that purpose, I recommend http://n.pr/2DSyH7G   which, in its typically matter-of-fact way, shows that nothing of substance about President Trump has changed. The outright lies, gross distortions, claiming credit for events he did not cause — it’s all there.

I must digress briefly, and I swear I am not making this up, but when the Cabinet entered the House chamber to much huzzahing from “Republican lawmakers,” the tune from the March of the Tin Soldiers entered unbidden into my head — except that the title was the March of the Tin Billionaires. It was quite a moment seeing deep thinkers like Rick Perry pretending he knows what his job is.

We should, however, admit that the President did a decent, if not great, job of delivering the lines written for him. Thus, we have confirmation that the President of the United States can read and speak the written word. Indications are that Trump loyalists loved it. Of course they did. He read his last speech to Congress without stepping on his … foot. While reading is not mentioned in the Constitution as a prerequisite to being elected president, it’s reassuring that under pressure the President can read.

He is also accomplished at narrowing his eyes and jutting out his chin to look … determined and, well, smug. I suspect those side shots with his head titled back were the way he sees his image engraved on a U.S. coin someday, commemorating the greatest president in the history of the world. Kind of like the Roman emperors. Before the Fall, of course.

Most prominently, Trump was really strong in leading applause. I may be mis-remembering but I don’t recall past presidents applauding so many of their own lines. He even motioned for groups of the audience to rise from their seats when, apparently, they were not responding to his remarks sufficient verve. None of that comes as a big surprise but it was more than a little strange to watch the putative leader of the Free World applauding himself repeatedly. This is, I think, what authoritarian personalities do – “watch me, I’m applauding, so you had better applaud too – I’ve got my eye on you.”

The speaker took care of his little “Puerto Rico problem” by promptly noting that some people were still recovering from the storms there and elsewhere but, don’t worry “we are with you, we love you, and we always will pull through together, always.”

I guess that’s what they mean about “tough love.” You say ”we love you” while withdrawing aid. It’s right out of the magician’s bag — distract attention with the left hand while …. It is reliably reported that four months after Hurricane Maria (the speaker didn’t name the hurricane because, most likely, the name is, well, Spanish sounding) almost a third of the residents have no electricity. FEMA apparently does not consider this an “emergency” any more. Tough love, baby.

The speaker quickly moved to a message, repeated throughout the speech, about what has come to be called “American exceptionalism:”

Over the last year, the world has seen what we always knew – that no people on Earth are so fearless or daring or determined as Americans. If there is a mountain, we climb it. If there is a frontier, we cross it. If there is a challenge, we tame it. If there is an opportunity, we seize it. So let’s begin tonight by recognizing that the state of our union is strong, because our people are strong.

The concept is that Americans are better than everyone else which is why they are entitled to act superior and treat “others” as lesser beings, not equal, “not up to it.” This view of the nature of the country informs virtually all of the administration’s policies. This may be what enables it to cynically espouse practices that threaten to despoil the landscape (level those mountains and you won’t have to climb so much), and poison the air and water in the name of economic growth — American’s are especially tough and they can take it. This is perhaps what enables Trump and his enablers in Congress to act like they are human beings while deporting harmless heads of families to countries they have never known in the interest of “protecting Americans from criminal elements.”

There is, however, some indisputably good news and we do want to be fair here. To quote the speaker: “The great news for Americans – 401k, retirement, pension and college savings accounts have gone through the roof.” Of course, the family in Puerto Rico is saying: “Hey, we have no roof but, yeah, there’s a lot of sunshine coming in.” And today, well, let’s just say that the stock market tanked and leave it at that. Tomorrow is, as the famous saying goes, another day.

Now I’m going to depart from the popular acceptance of what has become a tradition in the SOTU speeches.  I really really wish that presidents, all of them, would stop the practice of bringing various individuals into the House chamber to bleed all over the place or to be held out, to their apparent discomfort, as “American heroes,” exemplars of American virtue to which other humans may aspire but never measure up.

There can be no doubt that people whose daughters were killed by gang members deserve our sympathy but why do presidents believe it is helpful to parade their misery in front of the nation? In

Trump’s case, it is totally cynical — to support his message that those lousy people from south of the Texas border are evil and should be deported or worse. Let’s hope that his comments don’t lead o claims of “unfair trial” and prejudice by the defendants who were singled out for criticism and presumed guilty by no less than the President of the United States. If that happens, Trump will, of course, just blame it on some Mexican judge. And, certainly, the bravery of the helicopter pilot and the firefighter cannot be questioned, but, at least to these eyes, they did not look very comfortable being used as exhibits in support of the president’s agenda.

In one of the most disturbing statements, Trump said “So tonight I call on Congress to empower every cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust, or fail the American people.”

Phrased that way, few would object. However, what this likely represents is a further effort to undermine the civil service protections that have largely kept politics out of federal hiring/firing practices. Remove those protections and the way is clear for the administration to populate the civil service with political loyalists and unqualified hacks.

Speaking of which, I must, simply must, note that the day after the speech, Trump’s appointee to head the Center for Disease Control, who had just moved into position in July, resigned in the wake of reports, not denied, that she had been trading in … tobacco stocks. And stocks of major pharmaceutical companies.  And in stock of at least one health insurance giant. http://read.bi/2nyiVEQ

In case you missed it, a spokesperson for the CDC said this:

Dr. Fitzgerald owns certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC director….”Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr. Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period.

That is Washington horsepucky for “she couldn’t do her job due to conflicts of interest; resolving those would have cost her too much money so she quit.”

Are we to understand that the vetting process of this administration did not detect that this person was a stock investor; did they not discuss the self-evident concept of “conflict of interest” with her?  Oh, yes, I almost forgot: Japan Tobacco, the irresistible lure for Dr. Fitzgerald’s money, is one-third owned by the Government of Japan! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan_Tobacco. If you want to make yourself sick without smoking, take a look at this: https://www.jti.com/node/181. This is the same administration that has complained bitterly and falsely about the alleged failure of the prior administration to adequately vet incoming foreigners.

And while you’re at it, if you want to see another stellar example of an administration appointee to high federal office, feast your eyes on this video, if you dare: http://bit.ly/2E8sRy7 View only on an empty stomach.

But I digress again. I was writing about Trump’s SOTU speech.

He proudly declared that “we have ended the war on beautiful, clean coal.” Truly, no one knows what the hell he’s talking about. See the NPR critique cited above. Maybe he believes that there is a new kind of coal that is white or translucent, so breathing the dust can kill you but you won’t be able to see it, so what’s the problem?

Regarding energy, jobs and many other topics, my best analogy is to someone who walks to bank of a great river. The river is rising rapidly because of glacial melting and higher-than-normal rainfall hundreds of miles to the north. Noting the increased flow, Trump claims credit — “look at all that water; there has never been so much water until my administration came to power; now the river is rising like never before in history!”

Enough nitpicking the details.  The real issue here is, I think, Trump’s belief that the United States is under attack from every side. Immigrants cruising freely across the southern border to rape, pillage and murder. Foreigners coming here with no intention to work and no useable skills. Bad deals with foreign countries intent on plundering our wealth. And so on.

This is the Fortress American Deja vu all over again. Whether the President actually believes this or is simply playing to his political base that believes it is an open question. Many knowledgeable commentators have suggested that the President has no political philosophy or core set of beliefs at all, other than being a self-promoter and all that is implied by that term.

In any case, among other things, the President has translated the Fortress America concept into a new version of Us versus Them:

Last month, I also took an action endorsed unanimously by the U.S. Senate, just months before. I recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Shortly afterwards, dozens of countries voted in the United Nations General Assembly against America’s sovereign right to make this decision. In 2016, American taxpayers generously sent those same countries more than $20 billion in aid. That is why, tonight, I am asking Congress to pass legislation to help ensure American foreign assistance dollars always serve American interests and only go to friends of America, not enemies of America.” [emphasis mine]

The President has thus gone from “America First” to “America Alone” and in the process branded multiple former strong allies as enemies of America. While international diplomacy has a way of overlooking even the most heinous of hostile stupidities, it is clear enough why, since Trump was elected, the standing of the United States in the international community is at an all-time low, similar to the President’s approval ratings among Americans.

Isolationism has a long history in the United States (see http://bit.ly/1j8FAlI) but was often practiced in the breach as the U.S. extended its commercial hegemony wherever it thought its interests justified it. It has never been an effective foreign policy and was dashed on the rocks of reality when the United States was caught flat-footed by Japan at Pearl Harbor. That attack ended, among other things, the influence of the America First Committee. See http://bit.ly/2GENz7r. The current President did not invent the term ‘America First;’ he resurrected it from the garbage dump of history.

The United States was again surprised by the North Korean invasion of South Korea just five years after the end of World War II.  In the current world of highly interconnected digital communications, jet travel and the rest, it seems the height of folly to pursue a foreign policy based on the idea that the United States can “go it alone.” That nevertheless is the essence of the current President’s “policies” which, ironically appeals to his political base who will likely be among the first call-ups if we end up in a larger war.

And, so, my fellow Americans, we have a situation here where, as one of Trump’s followers said on Facebook the other day, “Obama destroyed America” and yet “the state of the union is strong.” Where we are under assault on every front, yet we are the greatest of all people on the earth and our economy is flourishing.

And, oh yes, where our President is under investigation for obstruction of justice and conspiring with actual historical and current adversaries of our country to fix the last election.

Undeterred by all the self-interested and self-contradictory blather from our disgrace of a national leader, I choose to end on the optimistic note: the American people are sufficiently exceptional that they will survive this blot on their integrity, the republic will survive, bruises and all, and in the end, Martin Luther King Jr. will have been proved right again — we shall overcome.