A sundry assortment of tidbits.

Credit where credit is due.  My father loved the phrase “sundry assortment” with its embedded redundancy. An assorted assortment with its, oh, I don’t know, je ne sais quoi quality to it.  This post feels like just such an assortment.

Robert Mueller: The Sartorialist

It was reported with much humor that Robert Mueller had Paul Manafort’s closet and suits photographed.  Haha!  (The Daily Show, Trevor Noah)

And I celebrate Mr. Mueller’s tenacity. A suit — especially color, texture, weave, cut — could triangulate with surveillance and other information to confirm the identify of Mr. Manafort meeting with low friends in high places.

Snap Elections & Campaign Fatigue

I am curious about and a little bit jealous of countries whose governance allows them to call for a snap election. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan is the most recent example. Teresa May called for a snap election for confirmation of Brexit proceedings.

Meanwhile, stateside in the US two (2) days after inauguration, Prescedense Trump started his 2020 Presidential election campaign.

And so I would posit that voters in the US suffer from campaign fatigue. Politicians should have a defined period of campaign silence after an election to focus on the work of governing.

Voters are more than hamsters on a treadmill. We need a break.

Tribalism

First, there was the boozy story that (Wisconsin) Badger fans drank the two bars in Provo, Utah dry.  Turns out the fans only hit it hard during the football game with BYU (Brigham Young University, Utah).

Ah, those Wisconsinites.  A cheerful, libatious tribe of good tippers!

And Andrew Sullivan, my favorite former social-political editor-blogger-writer, wrote a longer piece for the New York Magazine – “America Wasn’t Built for Humans.”

The entire article covers a whole lot of ground and is well worth the read if you have time but to support our ‘Tribalism’ heading above:

“One of the great attractions of tribalism is that you don’t actually have to think very much.  All you need to know on any given subject is which side you’re on.”

If you factor Citizens United and campaign fatigue in with tribalism, we will continue to get more divided.

Throwing money at the hamster voters, lets them off the treadmill.


(Aside note from me, to me): Mr. Sullivan’s commentary on Ta-Nehisi Coates is especially telling given that he left full-time blogging to pursue longer form journalism. It reads as Andrew’s justification to leave blogging before it wrecked his writing as compared to the arc of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ career who has wrecked his writing. Really? I don’t think so.

Also, Trump? Really, Andrew? You think Trump is part of the solution? I.don’t.think.so. One word: gaslighting.

And I have had a hard time forming my own opinions since Mr. Sullivan abandoned The Daily Dish. Not so much because I agreed with him, but because the variety of high-quality comments he published from his readers on topics far and wide were an education to me.)

I. Remembering …

President Carter. No, as of today, he is still with us.

I remember President James Earl Carter as the first POTUS I watched actively and avidly. During his administration, the Iranian hostage situation went on for so long, that in high school Physics class, another student wrote a problem story of Godzilla using a catapult to free the hostages for an assignment complete with equations, and solution. It was politically incorrect, but we were high school students tired of the counting of the daily counting of the days and after all, wasn’t it President Carter who brokered the Camp David Accords?

Yes, President Carter brokered the CDA. And President Carter talked of his wife Rosalyn and the other women he had looked at with thoughts and we believed that was honest, and prude, but TMI; and he talked about Amy – BTW, where is Amy now? – and if that helicopter hadn’t crashed in the desert on the way to rescue the hostages, he would have been a hero. There might have been no Reagan Administration.

And Reagan. I became an independent adult during the Reagan Administration. Life was more complicated due to many factors.

But I remember Carter and his decency toward … human beings and the human condition.

II. Remembering …

President Obama.  And no, as of today, he is still with us too!

And my heart is warmed knowing that there were many children, teenagers, young adults whose formative memory of national politics was made during the Obama Administration.

And in the slow arc of history, I hope those children, teenagers, young adults remember to bend toward decency and justice for all … human beings.

Trump: 9; Obama: 2

James Comey served as the seventh director of the FBI from September 4, 2013 to May 9, 2017.  Make what you want of his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee last week but what is most disturbing is not the testimony, but the facts. Oh and Viva loves regurgitating indisputable facts because this is where the trouble gets obvious:

  • James Comey was director of the FBI for a total of 1342 days.
  • Of those days, 1233 or 92% were served during the Obama Administration.
  • That leaves 109 or 8% served during the Trump Administration.*

In 109 days, James Comey documented nine (9) conversations with President Trump*. The FBI director even played coy by going undercover in the Oval Office drapes. And then whoa! one tête-à-tête included dinner! I can hear Bill Withers Just the Two of Us to set the mood but, what was on the menu? Is Comey leaving out salient details?

No.  James Comey is not leaving out salient details. He notes that during the Obama Administration, he talked with Obama twice.  And one of those tête-à-tête’s was for the purpose of Obama saying good-bye. Good luck. See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya …

Oh! We do like to make things up, but back to our love of data. On any given day during the Trump Administration, James Comey had an 8.3% chance of talking to the President (phone or face-to-face). During the Obama Administration, the chance of talking to the President was 0.16% (face-to-face). This makes the case for Comey keeping a Scarlett O’Hara suit at hand in the office closet. You just never know when you might need to blend with the drapes.

And if this were a game where scoring more meant you were winning, Trump would be killing it.  Nine (9) is bigger than two (2).  But Presidential contact with the acting FBI Director scores like golf.  A lower score wins.

And Trump is a loser.


* Yes Ann.  Both times. I just threw up in my mouth a little.

 

 

Qatar. Got to dance with those what bought you.

Oh my! What to say? Oh what a tangled, messy dance card.

My question for today at the moment:  How much of US foreign policy is now driven by Trump business concerns?

Monday, five (5) Arab nations cut ties — diplomatic and otherwise — with Qatar, a country rich by virtue of geography over huge oil reserves. Apparently, the Qatar monarchy has been giving succor to the Sunni Islamist terrorists and Iran. The Saudis and their friends, probably feeling empowered by the recent visit of dance with President Trump, decided to take action from the US diplomatic playbook and cross Qatar off their friend list.

Aside: In a statement loaded with irony, the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif weighed in on the action: “Coercion is never the solution.” Really?  Iran was sanctioned heavily in 1996. Exports dropped from $277M in 1995 to $200K in 1996. Although I don’t understand the trade trends with Iran since 1996, it has been reported that sanctions worked in bringing Iran to the table of nuclear negotiations.

But, but, back to Qatar.  What about the Trump Organization?  Both here and abroad, Trump is soaked in business dealings – give and take –  with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and … here’s a map.

And I miss Molly Ivins and her acerbic wit — “got to dance with those what brought you”.   With the muddlement and confusement of all that is the Middle East and a President not keen on details but wanting to make deals, we now wonder who has bought position on the President’s dance card for foreign policy decisions.

How much is Donald Trump, POTUS,* indebted to foreign interests?  We demand that he release his income taxes and divest himself of any business interests, or resign.


For reference: I peeked at the US trade in goods – import/export data for 2016:

Qatar: exports from the US of $4,925.7M, imports to the US of $1,160.3M for a net balance of $3,765M.  Note, that is ~$3.8 Billion net. Whoa! Qatar writes big checks.

Saudi Arabia: Exports of $17.9B, imports $16.9B, net $1B.  Bigger business, smaller net. Hmmm.

* Yes, it kills me a little, Ann.

I fling poo!

Hmm.  Yesterday the Justice Department appointed special counsel, Robert Mueller, to investigate the ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.   And the (initial) response of President Trump was to point at the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton’s campaign, witch hunts

 

On a business trip in Denver, CO several years ago,  a t-shirt in a window just cracked me up — a brown t-shirt with a smiling monkey and the words ‘I fling poo!’ next to it and today I am reminded of that goofy, simple t-shirt.

And I am saddened it is the presidency that sparked that memory.

Sports, politics, and analogies.

I love a good analogy.  But how do we determine if an analogy is “good”?  For me an analogy is good if I’m able to draw a clear picture connecting something I know nothing about to something I know something about.  Fair enough. But analogies fall apart and the connection of politics and elections to merely winning or losing a sporting event is a simple line drawing that needs to die.

In politics sports, the losers will get on their bus and drive back to where they came from until the next election game. The winners will obviously be, well, winners and do what winners do, right?  Take the ball and go home.

But hold on.   If we turn the analogy around and politics are sports, the losing team doesn’t get on a bus.  The losing team remains in the dugout, or on the bench. Stadium center might be configured as a tennis court, a baseball diamond, a rugby pitch, a hockey rink.  Fans remain in the stands.  The stadium continues to operate, concessions are sold and whether we’re interested or not, we all live together through all the games.  No one takes the ball and goes home.

And I hope the current cage-match the POTUS is waging against the office of President ends soon even as I recognize there are fans in the stand who came to see exactly that.  A cage-match.   And that’s hard to take, knowing that there are others who long for this kind of sport.

With Trump’s disclosure of classified information to Russian officials in the Oval Office, I’ve reached the conclusion that the primary havoc and damage he has done and continues to do is to the sureness, the authority, the dignity expected of someone sworn in to playing the position of President of the United States.

And if you happen to live in the red, white, and blue section of the stadium, whether you like the cage matches or not, he’s damaged us all.

Because after all, planet earth, this United States this stadium is home.