It’s the Pettiness…

Ok, so French President Emmanuel Macron tried a charm offensive with our National Embarrassment in an effort to talk him into staying in the Iran Nuclear Agreement.  There were smiles, many flattering words, much hand-holding.  Macron even brought a tree to the White House as a gift.

According to the Guardian, ‘The tree came from Belleau Wood, north-east of Paris, where 1,811 Americans died in a ferocious battle in June 1918.

In a tweet, Macron said: “100 years ago, American soldiers fought in France, in Belleau to defend our freedom. This oak tree (my gift to [Donald Trump]) will be a reminder at the White House of these ties that bind us.”’

They even planted it together in a big White House show…TreePlanted

So, then the meeting continues and, at some point, Macron becomes clear that Trump is too polluted by Fox “News” to understand actual, real-world details and seems poised to back out, despite Macron’s efforts.  (As of this writing, no decision has been announced…but c’mon…it’s Trump, fercrissakes.  If he can find a way to do the worst thing, he will…)

Now, to be fair, this realization seems to have irritated Macron who then went on to address a joint session of Congress and used the time to…well, I’m going to say “challenge”…pretty much everything our poor pseudo-leader thinks.

Now?

TreeGone

See that little yellow spot between the lamppost and the tree?  THAT’S where Macron’s gift was.  Apparently, Trump is okay with crapping on the memory of 1,811 American soldiers if he disagrees with something you say.  That’s just petty.  The tree has to go because Macron is smarter than Trump?  I’ll tell you this: pettiness is the mark of a small man…

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It seems Michelle Wolf is in trouble with conservatives after calling Sarah Huckabee-Sanders a liar.  Apparently, she should have used the preferred “alternative facts”.  The thing is, Sanders IS a liar.  Hell, she’s paid to lie.  That’s her job.  She accepted the job.  She does it every day.  She knows she’s lying.  Everybody else knows she’s lying.  Does it hurt her feelings to be called a liar?  No, though she might pretend it does.  It seems like advice people shouldn’t need but really, if you don’t want go down in history as a liar, don’t lie!  Just a thought…

Band of Brothers (Pee-Wee Edition…)

I own a small swimming pool service. By “small”, I mean one guy: me. The work is tedious and mind-numbingly boring but it’s honest work and it pays the bills so…I keep showing up. Some pools have a protective barrier called a safety cover. It’s not the little, blue bubble-wrap thing you sometimes see. It’s the cover that runs on tracks, driven by a motor. I actually saw a person walk across one, once. (She was a little old lady and it was an accident. DO NOT try that trick at home…) Anyway, one opens the cover using a key switch and the key is located pretty much anywhere the pool builder wants it to be, often down in the box where the motor that runs the reel resides.

I live in Black Widow country so I never reach down into a cover box without giving it a good look first. (At NO point do I schedule ‘Get bitten by a Black Widow’ in my day…) So, I’m at this one pool and, after having checked the box and opened the cover, I did my thing. Time to close the pool back up. I have to keep a bit of an eye on the cover as it runs on and off the pool to make sure it doesn’t bind but I don’t have to focus too closely on it so while the covers open and close, it’s a nice opportunity to look around at the landscaping and such.

So I’m squatting down by the pool, holding the key, kind of half paying attention to the cover when my peripheral vision catches some dark object on the cover passing by right next to me. It wasn’t there when I opened the cover so it naturally drew my attention. “Hey, a snake,” I think to myself. “I wonder where he came from?”. I focus more closely. “Oh, shit, that’s a Rattlesnake!” My eyes lock with his and I realize the snake has focused in on me, too. That’s not a comforting feeling. I moved away…fast! The snake didn’t move at all…

Now I’m a little embarrassed. As the existential panic passed, reason returned. The snake had passed so closely to me that if I had known it was there and been ready for it, I could have reached out and touched it without stretching at all. Of course, had the snake known I was there and been ready for it, he could have reached out and “touched” me, too. But by the time I had done my little life-saving scramble/stumble, the cover had carried the snake away from me far enough that I was probably safe before I ever moved. Probably…

The snake never broke it’s gaze with me. I decided he was probably trying to figure out what had happened to his dark little safe spot and just where the hell I had come from. So, using the lid to the cover box as a shield, I finished closing the cover. The snake never moved, except for it’s head which bobbed a bit as it kept watch. Really, pretty gracious of the snake to allow me those few moments to regain my composure…

So now I’m done and I can leave, except…no. I decided it probably wasn’t cool to leave a Rattlesnake on the cover and NOT warn the homeowner, Dan. So, I set down my tele-pole and knocked on Dan’s door. I detailed the situation – leaving out my little scramble – and Dan and I went over to look at the snake. He and I began discussing possibilities. You can’t really attack the snake on the cover without damaging the cover. Do we think the snake can get off of the cover by itself? Is it better just to let it do so? What if it just goes back down into the cover box?

As we’re considering variables, another guy shows up in the backyard carrying some plants. It’s to my discredit that I never got his name. He’s an “action” kind of guy and moves the story along but because I never got his name, he’s going down in history as “Dude.” So, Dude shows up, says, hello, and then realizes what we’re looking at. We catch him up on events. Then the deep discussions begin. There’s some sharing of stories about other Rattlers. Some stories of mountain lion sightings. Some talk about trying to move the snake at hand. Zero action. I laugh and comment about the specter of three apex-predators being held at bay by a single Rattlesnake that has YET to move beyond lifting it’s head.

Dude decides the snake is sitting is a small pool of water. As such, he’s probably too cold to make any fast movements. Dan and I agree that’s possible but, in truth, I didn’t see any small puddles under the snake. Fortunately, no small puddles under any of the apex predators, either, so…even score so far. Dan asks me if I think he can use his pool net to move the snake. For those of you not familiar, pool nets come with a lowered front edge for scooping so I consider that it may be possible. Then again, there is a specific tool for catching snakes and it’s NOT a net. It seems, to me, if a net was a good snake catching tool, snake catchers would use them.

Dude decides he’s going to try anyway. He grabs my tele-pole and net and moves toward the terrifying, existential threat that is this snake – which has, surprisingly by now, STILL not moved…except it’s head. We KNOW he’s not dead because of that head and it seems sufficient to indicate extreme caution. As Dude approaches his quarry, questions enter his mind. How fast is a Rattler? How far can a Rattlesnake jump in a strike? How are we going to get our guest OUT of the net after we’ve gotten him in? Turns out, none of us had any of that information immediately at hand. But Dude, being a man of action, starts trying to scoop the snake.

You might not be surprised to find that the snake did NOT want to be in a net. So now we know: Rattlesnakes strike FAST! And they strike over and over and over again, given the chance. Fortunately, he was only killing hell out of my net…but then he kind of jumped away, down the cover, rattle rattling all the while. Dude wasn’t giving up, though. He moved closer and tried to net the snake again. Similar results. Worse, each time Dude tried, the snake was moving closer to the cover box, which would have made him inaccessible. Dude was in the fog of war, though, focused completely on the snake and preparing to make another run so Dan and I suggested he stop. That’s when I realized the error in Dude’s approach.

I asked Dude to give me the net and stood on the opposite side of the pool. Using the net, I was able to “help” the snake lift up over the edge and move away, across the deck. As the three of us stood there, victorious, watching the snake slither away, we realized that it had a large bulge in it’s middle. In fact, the snake wasn’t that big. It was just in the middle of lunch when all of this started. That explained the lethargic attitude. After all, who doesn’t feel that way after a large meal?

Still, I’m now solid on the concept of the ‘Band of Brothers.’ Dude, Dan, and I had faced our enemy together in a life or death struggle and we had won! We had fought bravely, if not decisively, and brought honor to ourselves and our families. The snake was off the cover. None of us ever thought to kill it. For some reason, victory, for us, was in getting the snake off the cover unharmed. It crawled across the deck and up a rock wall where it found itself a nice, little crevice and disappeared. As it disappeared, Dan said, “That’s the part of the yard I was planning on working in tomorrow…”

Not In The News…

It sure is tough writing about politics, these days.  With our vaunted “fourth estate” in tatters, it’s hard to even know what’s going on.  Have you seen the cleverly edited video in which newsreaders were ordered by Sinclair Broadcast Group to read a script supposedly decrying the practice of forcing newsreaders to read scripts that “ some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think…”  These pieces are called “must-runs” as in, the given station is ordered to run them whether they agree with the content or not.

But when you get ownership groups pressing their agendas by using their platforms to complain about ownership groups using their platforms to press their agendas it becomes that much more difficult to figure out who’s trustworthy and who’s not.  Here’s a hint: American broadcast media is NOT trustworthy.  Print media is better because you have time to linger and think about what’s being presented but if it originates in America, you should assume it’s owned by one of the five companies that own most media in this once-great nation and accept that you’re getting either useless fluff or carefully edited news…

My greatest complaint tends to be around what’s NOT reported.  I’m not talking about conservative bubble “stories” only THEY get because they have their super-secret decoder rings.  (“Why, oh why won’t the mainstream media cover THIS?”  “Um, because it’s bullshit?”)  I’m talking about REAL news stories that don’t get carried for reasons that serve the owners.

As an example, these days, we’re treated to a semi-regular feature in which someone is asked for their “best” example of Trump/Russian collusion.  The most common answer I see is the pee tape.  (And how great IS it that we all get to talk about the President of the United States of America and a “pee tape”?)  They don’t ask me, though.  MY best example of possible Trump/Russian collusion is about a Tanzanian bank that operated mostly in Cyprus, FBME, or the First Bank of the Middle East.

It’s closed now.  Pretty good timing, if you ask me.  But before it was closed down, it was a known haven for Russian money laundering.  Some of the Russians laundering money were VERY close to Putin.  Do you know who else stands accused of laundering money through FBME?  Well, that would be Paul Manafort, the one-time campaign manager for Trump.  Manafort denies the charges.

Turns out?  Deutsche Bank was a Correspondent Bank for FBME.  A Correspondent Bank is one that provides financial services for the “partner” institution – wire transfers, accepting deposits and documents, that sort of thing.  Oh, and Deutsche Bank is, far and away, Donald Trump’s biggest lender.  Nobody else will lend to the guy anymore.  He’s too big of a risk.  But Deutsche went out of it’s way to find borrowers who were out of favor with more…respectable institutions and they found the Donald…

I’ll tell you this: in fairness to our crap media, Robert Mueller has played it pretty close to the vest when it comes to the details of his investigation – as he should.  But the Guardian from the UK covered it, so it was clearly “coverable.”  I guess it’s just more fun to salivate over Stormy Daniels’…um…accusations…

Syria’s Not The One…

A thought for my left-leaning brethren about Syria.  It’s been a widely held belief on the left that, sooner or later, our National Embarrassment is going to start a war as a distraction from all of his various and sundry investigations and self-inflicted wounds.  The result is, when a missile strike is issued, there’s not just concern but something of a group freak-out that “this is it.”  I think it isn’t and I’ll tell you why: France.

Do you remember when many Americans started calling the French “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” and eating “Freedom Fries” instead of French Fries?  That was because 43 and that Dick Cheney wanted to launch their illegal invasion on a foreign, sovereign nation based on trumped up “evidence” and France refused to allow the US to use French airspace for an attack they felt had no basis in reality.  (They were right.)

I’m not sanguine about declarations from the US government.  The fact that the UK goes along with the story doesn’t impress me, either.  The US and UK have been shown to conspire for oily purposes before and surprise is no longer on the menu for me where that’s concerned.  But France still seems to think verifiable evidence has a role in military conflicts.  I think it also matters that Macron doesn’t much like Trump (although the two seem to getting along a little better, these days).  I doubt they would “buddy up” for a military engagement lightly.

So when France came on board, I felt better that there was a solid basis for the action.  As it happens, France is MORE than “on board.”  France claims they directed the action, keeping the strikes to chemical weapons plants and slowing the so-called “President’s” roll a bit.  I’ll tell you this: if France thinks the evidence supports the position that it is, in fact, Assad using chemical weapons, I’m going to be comfortable that this is not just a distraction…

Stormy Sailing…

Apparently, James Comey has a new book coming out this Tuesday.  Now, I know that my conservative brethren have already dismissed it as full of lies.  They’re certain that it’s so full of lies it might not even be written in English, fercrissakes.   For the rest of us, I’d like to point out one small thing…

There’s an accusation out there that at one point, Trump hired a couple of prostitutes to pee on each other on a bed once used by the Obamas.  According to the charge, the Russians surreptitiously filmed the party.  According to Comey’s book, Trump repeatedly tried to get Comey to take some stand against the whole “pee tape” allegation, claiming that he (Trump) is a “germophobe” who would never allow himself to be anywhere near such an event.

This from a person who, apparently, went “bareback” with an adult film actress.  Now, I mean no disrespect to Ms. Clifford but even she would have to admit that she is certainly in a “high-risk” group for sexually transmitted diseases…

Anyone know Howie Mandel well enough to get a question to him for me?  You see, Howie Mandel is a long-known, well-documented “germophobe.”  He’s open and honest about it.  He doesn’t shake people’s hands; he does the fist-bump, that kind of thing.  I once saw him on a television show and he was having a difficult time just standing next to a stripper pole.  (He thought somebody should have at least wiped it down.  He might have been right about that one…)

Let’s ask Mr. Mandel if he would ever consider having sex with an adult film actress without using a condom.  I think the answer might provide some context as to how germophobes handle…you know…germs…

I have to say, with all of the other things swirling around him, I think it’s…appropriate that Trump’s illicit affair with a porn actress is increasingly looking like the thing that might bring him down and I’ll tell you this: I’ll bet Melania’s happy about it, too…

The Zuckerberg Show…

Did you catch Mark Zuckerberg’s performance?  Not great but apparently, good enough to bring the stock price back up so…goal met.  He dumped his trademark t-shirt and put on a suit.  You’d think with the kind of money he makes, he could find somebody to cut his hair for him but apparently, he prefers to do it himself.  In the dark.  With his eyes closed.  It was a dog-and-pony show.  The whole thing felt, to me, like it was set up on purpose to prop up a big business (donor) in trouble.  A whitewash.

He lied.  The Congress critters let him get away with it.  Asked about allowing users to control their own data, he was ready with his stock answer.  “Oh, we have a button for that”, he intoned without mentioning that the button is strategically located in some difficult to find spot and only works if you also check another box in a different strategic location.  No follow-up question.

Asked about Facebook collecting text and phone data, he claimed they only collect texts and only if the user opts in.  He got to say that even though recent news stories have claimed they were collecting text AND phone information.  No follow-up question.

He claimed users can delete their information and it’s gone.  Users can’t even delete their own accounts.  If you try to leave, Facebook just deactivates your account.  It’s a service done for you, you see.  All you have to do is sign in again and – voila! – you’re back in the saddle.  Meanwhile, Facebook will just hold on to this data – for your protection, of course…

Ted Cruz was kind of funny.  Cruz was a likely victim of the “election” irregularities and, I imagine, might well have some issues with the Data Analytics “breach.”  But he went all in on the ‘conservative-posts-are-being-deleted’ position currently being enjoyed by conservatives across the land.  I don’t accept the position.

Facebook makes it’s money selling YOUR data to other people – just like the hackers on “the dark web.”  It doesn’t serve their bottom line to marginalize any group, so long as the group itself won’t drive away a larger number of users.  In fact, it came out that Facebook has found a way around it’s own age limit policy by allowing younger people to “join” on their parents accounts.

That’s why people keep finding various unsavory accounts that Facebook “misses” until someone complains.  That’s why so much propaganda was allowed to flow so freely until the public became aware they had been duped.  NOW, Facebook has to make a big show of deleting “fake news” posts.  (Don’t worry, conservatives.  It will pass just as soon as the heat is off and the stock price rebounds a bit…)

Facebook habitually gets “caught” misusing the data they collect on their users.  From time to time, Zuckerberg is required to come out and claim “mistakes were made” and promising to do something about it “the very next time” a breach is discovered – or maybe the time after that.  Or perhaps the time after that…

I’ll tell you this: actions speak louder than words.  Call it an axiom.  Facebook isn’t going to stop doing what they’ve been doing.  They’re just going to engage in damage control from time to time.

Now…let’s see if I can post this to Facebook…

Making Money…

Okay, a mea culpa, of sorts; I’ve written in the past that I want to see manufacturing jobs come home from overseas.  I note two reasons.  One, I feel that American military strength has been weakened by the loss of working factories that might be converted during an actual, existential war.  (What, do you think China would continue to supply the US with steel should the US and China go to war?)  Two, they were good-paying jobs.  Both statements remain true but the second half, the “good-paying jobs” part needs a bit of an update.

I had occasion to watch Bernie Sanders’ internet Town Hall with Michael Moore and Elizabeth Warren.  They had a guest on the panel, Cindy Estrada – the current Vice President of the UAW.  She made the point – correctly, to my mind – that those jobs weren’t “good paying” because of the job itself but because they were unionized jobs.

A large segment of our society has been deceived by what people call Right to Work states.  28 states have instituted “Right to Work Laws.”  Right to Work takes the position that people have the right to work without joining unions.  Whenever I hear Right to Work, I always think, “Wait…the slaves had a “right to work” as well…”

The fact is, labor is a commodity.  The idea that workers might band together to protect worker interest is VERY “Capitalist.”  It’s just that the Capitalists don’t like unions.  Being forced to pay a fair wage, they contend, harms their overall profits.  I’d say that’s true.  The Antebellum South didn’t pay their “workers” at all and profits soared – for a few.  Today, the closer an employer can get to that model, the higher the profit for the company.  But it’s not good for the workers and, long-term, it’s not good for the overall economy.  The Antebellum South was a poverty-stricken hell-hole for most of the inhabitants.

So, in retrospect, it wasn’t “manufacturing jobs” the corporations outsourced so much as it was the UNION jobs.  They told us, honestly, that the US was going to become a “service economy.”  As it happens, many service jobs weren’t unionized.  Note that they were and are low-paying.  So, my correction is this: it’s less important to “bring back” manufacturing jobs (at least for that reason) and MORE important to start unionizing service jobs.

Yes, I include burger-flippers.  No, I don’t want to pay $15 dollars for a fast food product.  Of course, if all workers are paid a decent, living wage one COULD pay that but the truth is, these corporations make BILLIONS of dollars in profits every year.  They COULD pay a living wage and still make money – just not quite so much.

I’ll tell you this: when all is said and done, it all comes down to one point; if a person is ready, willing, and able to work 40 hours a week, they have a right to earn a living wage.

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Speaking of making money, I’ve begun to suspect that our National Embarrassment is doing so with his mouth (or his Twitter account).  He puts out a comment, say, about tariffs on Steel.  Stocks drop.  He updates his position.  Stocks recover.

During the drop – if you know it’s coming (because you’re about to say something that will bring it about) – why wouldn’t you use what’s left of the vast fortune your daddy built to buy the temporarily declined stocks at bargain basement rates and then “update” your position, bringing the stock price back up?

I’ll make the numbers up for an example.  Let’s say a stock trades at $10 dollars a share.  Trump throws out some threat and the stock drops to $5 dollars a share.  Trump buys 5,000 shares and then recants his threat.  He just made $25,000 and all he had to do was undermine the stock market for a few hours – or days, depending upon how much he needs.

Of course, Trump supporters (yes, there are still far too many) will call that “smart.”  I don’t think he’s smart.  I think he’s a schemer and schemers don’t have to be smart.  What I call it is illegal stock market manipulation.  Insider trading at it’s worst.

I’ll tell you this: I’ve stopped being surprised to find ‘Trump’ and ‘worst’ in the same sentence…