Sunday in the Sun, 9 April ’17

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Rachel Maddow asserts that the Trump team is a “clown car of incompetent catastrophe”; the L A Times issues a blistering take-down of all things Trump in a five-part series of editorials. And in my seven decades of looking at the political landscape through the prism of my father’s experience, then my own, I’ve never seen anything like what’s going on is Washington these days.

At the top of the news, Trump and Syria, images of children choking to death after the Assad regime gassed it’s citizens – once again. Trump, long a critic of escalating our involvement, saw images of those children and something got through to him. The immense weight of being President, perhaps? Being the man who commands the tip of the spear. The awesome responsibility to act in a manner that befits the office.

My take? He passed this first test with flying colors. With Bannon in retreat and McMasters in firm control now, perhaps we’ll see a deeper retreat from the destructive course the alt-right seems certain to otherwise hold him to.

The House Republican Investigation into RussiaGate has stalled, and my guess is that’s more by design than accident. That Devin Nunes, a Trump loyalist, was ever put in charge of this inquiry is a sad comment on the state of the Republican Party. We need words like “impartial” and “independent” when the country faces an existential threat from a potent adversary, yet the Republicans continue to play their favorite game: Party over Country, time and time again, and even with his recusal another partisan hack has stepped into the breech. Where’s Howard Baker when we really need him. No, this isn’t your father’s Republican Party, and there are signs of hope, but too many mainstream Republicans are embracing Putin’s ‘New World Order.’ This new, rough beast is slouching towards Bethlehem as blindly as Putin could have hoped, enabling a ‘useful idiot’ with match in hand, all Putin needs to set our world ablaze.

So, is RussiaGate all just coincidence run amok? Hardly possible Trump knew about all this, you say? Read this for a look into the web of intrigue surrounding new developments that spring up every day.

Or what about Bannon’s ouster from the NSC? Is this really a war within the White House, a war between Bannon and the Nationalists vs the Goldman Globalists? Troubling question as we head into the first phase of Trump’s alleged realignment.

Then take the Gorsuch nomination, and all the bleating hysteria coming from Republican offices this week, which sounds like ‘Democrats are the cause of all this “nuclear option” talk.’ Well, does the name Garland ring any bells? Does taking a dump all over the Constitution and Senate rules come to mind? No, apparently not. Republicans cloak their mendacious, pernicious and, in the end, overtly cynical power-grab in all sorts of mind-blowing hypocrisy. Then they blame it all on Democrats. As in: SSDD = same shit different day. If the formula works don’t mess with it, so of course they triggered the nuclear option and set the Senate down the same dysfunctional path they’ve managed to create in the House. If nothing else, Republicans are doing Putin’s work for him. Obstruct, lie, create a new, alternate reality and move on. John McCain seems to be the last Republican to realize what’s going on, too. We know what Trump thinks of McCain, of course. Blame, blame, blame…’my heroes are the pilots who didn’t get shot down.’

Like Syria. Assad gases his own people in the worst chemical attack in the Syrian civil war, and who do Trump & Co blame in the run up to their attack? Obama. The Democrats. Of course, Trump’s been following the same tactical line in Syria that Obama did – and he has to unless he wants to commit US troops to another mindless, protracted religious proxy war – yet Obama’s strategy was one most of his generals wanted. Hypocrisy? Oh, heaven forbid! Just play to the base, blame it all on “that African-American” (insert the N-word if you want a full taste of Republican thinking) and everything else is just smoke and mirrors. Move along here, folks, no such things as facts anymore. Just put those news reports out of your mind…and remember, Reporters are your Enemy.! Truth is what we tell you it is!

But, enough of that. There are other things happening “out there” – some good, some not so good, and some just downright interesting in their implications.

Take, for instance, a semi-tractor trailer rig that traveled up Interstate 25 this week, carrying a load of beer from Colorado Springs to Ft Collins. Earth shaking news, right? Well, it was an earth shaking event. Know why? That’s right, the 18-wheeler was driverless. This news is anecdotal, too, as it wasn’t heavily publicized. Word reached me at my monthly Wednesday night tequila bash by way of a visiting Peterbilt exec. Long haul truck drivers take note: you better start looking for another line of work. You got about 5-8 years before your job is gone, first out west, then increasingly in the crowded Northeast Corridor. Trucking will increasingly be a hub and spoke operation too, with driverless long haul rigs running between regional distribution centers, where manned, much smaller rigs will complete local deliveries. Expect trains to re-emerge in this marketplace more heavily too. That’s the inside line, and you heard it here first. Well, maybe third.

So, about those Wednesday nights…well, once a month a bunch of old hands who’ve been involved in government one way or another get together for Carne Asada and Margaritas at a quaint old Mexican place in Steamboat, and there we compare notes and solve all the world’s problems in two hours and thirty seven minutes. We blow off steam, drink tequila, talk politics, drink tequila – and well, you get the picture, as long as that picture includes lots of tequila. Good group, too. My neighbor, the ex-Carter administration lawyer, a former NSC staffer in the Reagan White House, a retired ten term Republican congressman who now runs a transsexual escort service in Oak Creek… Odd group, very partisan make-up, but a very intelligent group of men. No women would dare join us, even if we begged them to, so that takes care of that. We had a chap from Australia sit in one night recently too, and the poor guy had never had tequila before. This hole in the wall has nice 30 ounce maggies, and this guy tossed the first one down like Gatorade on a hot summer afternoon. Within minutes a second one disappeared, then a third, and a fourth. Then the bloke tumbled into the restroom and went all Linda Blair on us in there. Very embarrassing. I thought Aussies could hold their liquor, but apparently not. I, for my part, went in and took a few pictures of him in action. I told him I plan to send him a new image every year on his birthday. I think he’s looking forward to my death.

Of course Trump dominates these discussions, as he has for over a year now, but Trump is the one thing that unites our little group, too. A year ago everyone hated Trump, ridiculed the very idea he could win, yet I was the lone hold out, thought his winning not only possible, it was likely. The old hands scoffed. What possible reason could you have to say that, they asked? Well, says stupid ole me, you underestimate the depth of anger in this country. Bosh – bah, humbug – no way. Still, our group is still united around the idea of Trump. He represents, to us, the end of the first phase of America, the first 240 years. What comes after is still anyone’s guess, but by the time Trump gets through with his demolition of the DC establishment, notably the Department of State, things will never be the same. Things will be less safe, less sane, and a whole lot more unpredictable, and it all comes back to that anger thing. Everyone is angry. Like long haul truck drivers are about to become angry.

Problem is: anger and clear thinking are rarely used in the same sentence. And we are generally correct about where angry thinking leads: Chaos and Confusion. Except word leaking out from staffers in the Trump White House is that Paranoia reigns supreme around those august water coolers. Like deja vu all over again, folks. The ghost of Nixon’s Past, come by for another little visit.

Many in our group are coming to another tequila-soaked conclusion: this country, perhaps life on earth, is one little miscalculation away from “some serious shit.” And with all that’s going on in and around our world, part of our group of old hands, the moderate Republican establishment part, sees one common denominator: China.

China, playing the long game, they say, working towards global dominance. Russia, Syria, the South China Sea. China is there, behind the scenes. Central America, West Africa, all over the Middle East – there’s China, soft selling a neo-capitalist version of Maoist revanchism. Kill the colonialists who dominated China for hundreds of years. Kind of a Freudian thing going on too, I think, but hell, tequila does that – just before you get dizzy and the room starts to spin.

China is dependent on Middle East Oil the way we were in the 60s. So, what do you think would happen if major instability engulfed, say, Iran, one of China’s biggest oil and gas suppliers. Why was the Iran nuclear deal so important? Well, it’s output is vital to one country: China. And China has bought off more politicians in our Congress than any other country, right Mitch? What about that wifey of yours? All those weird shipping deals you managed to sweep under the rug? Is that why she made it into Trumps cabinet?

Here’s the fly in your ointment, Mitch. What happens when Israel has had enough of your duplicity. Do they launch pre-emptive strikes against a whole range of targets throughout the Middle East, turn Iran into a glassed over parking lot? What does China do then? Or, say, what happens when someone in Washington kind of ‘wink-nods’ to Israel and hints ‘now’s the time to take out Tehran.’ Does Xi move on Taiwan then? Does Xi tell the fat kid to rattle a few sabers, maybe cross the DMZ and march for Seoul? It’s getting complicated, isn’t it, Mitch?

At any rate, I think it odd that these moderates see China as more dangerous than Putin. Their position is closer to the alt-right’s lead, the ‘civilizational threat’ model posed by Islam tied to global dominance of China through trade. Yeah, maybe, but Putin has his finger on the trigger. Xi poses a threat but not quite like a man in your house pointing a gun in your face.

So now Trump is making noises about Assad and Syria, like he’s got ‘all options on the table’ again (this seems to be his all-purpose bluff these days, doesn’t it?), yet after this attack Putin is not going to be happy with his puppet. Also, as Syria is Iran’s proxy in this whole Sunni-Shia mess, and if Trump plays escalatio with Damascus, what happens if that draws Iran in deeper. Say Iran decides to lob one at Tel Aviv in retaliation? Then what? This is high stakes poker, and Trump appears to be in way over his head. Yet with the military asserting control – call it a passive coup, perhaps? – our ability to handle these matters improved. Talk about a double edged sword.

And the real cup of fat: the Russians and Chinese signed kind of NATO thing of their own a few years ago, kind of a ‘if someone attacks you we’ll attack them’ kind of thing. How fast can things spiral out of control WHEN Trump has effectively killed off the one institution that could keep things sane, e.g., the Department of State.

Speaking of webs. Did you read all that stuff about Eric Prince of Blackwater acting as intermediary between Trump and the Russians during the transition? It’s kind of odd, too. The timing of things. The tit-for-tat. Like Eric Prince’s sister? Betsy De Vos, our new education secretary. The one with no experience in education? You didn’t know she’s his sister? And that Blackwater has what is essentially the largest standing army on American soil? Because it’s tentacles run into the heart of the American military, where does the center of power really reside? And wow! – the sister of a quasi-Amerikan über-monster is now in charge of shaping the hearts and minds of all our little children? Any idea what the military’s opinion of all this is? Well, read this one.

Try Nexxium. Works for me.

So I listen to that quote from Rachel Maddow, about all her clown-car presumptions and I’m here to tell you, she’s just way off base. Chaos and confusion, yes, but not unplanned. Cooler hearts and minds than ours are watching now, looking over plans placed in action decades ago, watching as things fall into place.

Big change coming, folks. Get out of stocks now. If you want to do research on buying opportunities, look at basic industries like tool & die manufacturers. This country will have to go, a la 1941, from fat, lazy service industries to hard corp industrial mobilization – just to keep the lights running and food on the shelves. That’s where the smart money is going these days. The smart money is betting on collapse, so what does that tell you about your retirement portfolio? About what lies ahead?

Maybe the warning wind is about to blow itself out. And that what comes next promises to be a real show-stopper.

(insert a military chorus humming Onward Christian Soldier right about here)


So, in the gnews. But first, what’s in a picture?


So, just who is this charming looking troll?

Next month’s centerfold from the Journal of Ufology?

The picture of a man-troll who just went down on a porcupine?

I don’t know, folks. This one eludes me. It can’t be Trump, because look at that hair. It’s red. Recent pictures of our befuddled leader show precariously white hair. Like something is happening to the old boy real fast. Kind of like the sturm und drang of leading the free world ain’t nothing like being a real estate developer? Golly, his daughter’s only worth 740 million. The poor guy.

The LA Times editorials are worth reading, as they encapsulate our uncertain zeitgeist quite nicely. Here’s a bit from part 1:

“In a matter of weeks, President Trump has taken dozens of real-life steps that, if they are not reversed, will rip families apart, foul rivers and pollute the air, intensify the calamitous effects of climate change and profoundly weaken the system of American public education for all.

“His attempt to de-insure millions of people who had finally received healthcare coverage and, along the way, enact a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich has been put on hold for the moment. But he is proceeding with his efforts to defang the government’s regulatory agencies and bloat the Pentagon’s budget even as he supposedly retreats from the global stage.”

The link will take you to part one, and you can follow the trail from there.

One other thought: the whole God thing seems to underly much of Republican thinking these days, but really, what’s this whole God thing all about? Well, here’s a lucid examination of the ideas linking God and political authoritarianism. Below, the opening paragraph of an interesting article:

“Of all humanity’s eccentricities, religion could very well be the most baffling. Even though no one has produced a fleck of evidence for the existence of the gods, people will engage in repetitive, often taxing behaviours, under the impression that some ethereal being out there knows and cares. And regardless of whether or not they believe, many thoughtful people have burned considerable numbers of calories trying to unravel the mystery that is God’s mind and the implications it has for, quite literally, everything.”

The political walls closing in on Trump? That’s one way of looking at it. Former RNC Chair Steele telling clients to prepare for President Pence? That’s another way of looking at things. Captain Sulu running against Nunes? Uh-huh, another way of looking at our changing world.

But “follow the trail of dead Russians?” In America? Well, only in Trump’s America. And yes, this is a headline from CBS news.

But what about the other America, the real America. Remember, back in the day, when Wal*Mart used to proudly advertise all their goods were Made in American? Been in a Wal*Mart lately? Even the hamburger meat comes from South America, or parts do, anyway. Still, things are about to get even more interesting. Enter: Amazon.

Another symptom of our times? How about cops getting armed drones. Sound far fetched? Well, don’t move to Connecticut anytime soon.

What is a hypersonic missile, and why should you care? Read on, carefully.

The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), America’s futuristic new aircraft carrier, will finally hit the open water for sea trials this week, and equipped with everything from a new, rapid fire catapult system that replaces the old steam system to missile systems and new hanger deck options, she’s something to behold. Looks different, too. Handsome. Worth a read if interested in these things, which I still am, but hypersonic missiles will make these beasts vulnerable. New arms race, anyone?

Oh, here’s a fun one about flying the A-10 Warthog. From a woman’s perspective.

“PHILADELPHIA—Visibly trembling as he wiped beads of perspiration from his forehead, Arcelis Pharmaceuticals CEO Paul Corrier told reporters Wednesday that he could stop profiting off the nation’s opioid crisis anytime he wants. “Getting these lethally addictive drugs into the hands of vulnerable communities across the country is just something I do from time to time for a little profit—I can drop it whenever I choose,” said Corrier, clawing at his sweat-drenched shirt as he insisted he could “quit in a heartbeat” if generating billions in revenue by misleading the public about the dangers of opioids ever got out of hand. “Sure, every now and then I’ll launch an aggressive marketing campaign aimed at getting doctors to overprescribe fentanyl sprays, but it’s honestly not a big deal. Seriously, it’s fine. Just because I’ll occasionally partake in making money off the devastation wrought by drugs hundreds of times more potent than morphine doesn’t mean it controls me.” At press time, Corrier had collapsed in a boardroom meeting and was choking on his own tongue after hearing the projected profit margins for a secondary medication used to treat opioid-related insomnia.” from The Onion (who else?)

Is there a common theme between Trump and Brexit? Read on, right here.

So, just how pernicious is racism in America, and perhaps, the world. One measure might be found in comic books. Marvel has recently introduced more minority superheroes, but how has the reception been to these changes? Surprising? No, not really, but read on for another glimpse inside our not-so-surprising world.

What would you do if you found out someone with your name and birthdate lived just a few miles away. And that this doppelgänger of yours was racking up traffic tickets and driving with a suspended license – and that the fallout was slamming into YOU. Interesting story with an unexpected ending.

At any rate, the tenor of the news these days is unlike anything I’ve seen during my lifetime. Even at the height of Watergate the sense of impending doom was never so troublingly strong, nor so pervasive. Recent polls by Pew, taken before the Syrian missile attacks, put Trumps approval at 35%, with a clear majority, in the mid-50s, saying that Trump is simply an embarrassment. Post missile attack polls will be interesting: my bet is Trump’s approval rating will jump to the mid-40s, and he’ll be seen as more ‘presidential’ in the aftermath. He should, too. I hope he reflects on the past two months a bit and changes course.

As I’ve said, in my mind the Trump phenomenon is all about anger – the long-haul truck driver’s anger, but I guess Hate is the real word at work here. As when Yoda said: Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hate, hate leads to the Dark Side. Well, we’re there, folks. The empire has struck back. Where do we go from here?

On the writing front, I’m taking a rest, taking care of some medical things the next few weeks. Working on Elemental Mysteries when I can, but it won’t be much. Don’t expect three stories a week…okay?

Happy trails.



16 thoughts on “Sunday in the Sun, 9 April ’17

  1. Do you think the use of chemical weapons in Syria was a deliberate test of Trump? Long haul trucking has become one of the few ways than someone with minimal education can achieve a living approaching middle class. The loss of those jobs would be very disruptive. Not so much in a company like UPS, who is already hub and spoke with long distances going TOFC, but independents and trucking companies would take a big hit.


    • Trump’s been in office +2 months and he’s viewed as wildly unpredictable, at best, so Assad wouldn’t have done this without tacit approval from Putin, and it’s doubtful the timing was accidental, not with Xi arriving during the same time frame for a protocol visit. What better way for Xi to measure his opponent than to watch him during the first crisis of his presidency? The bigger point, the Sino-Russian alliance is the one to watch. When China or Russia want to push our buttons, it will be a coordinated affair. If China makes serious moves in the South China Seas region, you can bet Russia will poke NATO at the same time. Asymmetric instability is basic geopolitical strategy, and it’s why we need 20 carriers, not 8-10.
      Those trucking jobs will be 75% gone within 8-10 years, according to projections at the big truck manufacturers. An odd element here, the machine-logic to put this in action is almost 90% Chinese made. And China owns Volvo. Need I say more?
      New England and perhaps the I-95 corridor will be the last to go, maybe another ten years as roads are modified and private automobiles become too expensive to justify for 90% of us. Traffic will ease when ride-sharing, co-op based car purchases become the norm, opening up congested corridors like NYC and Boston.
      Remember the Will Smith movie ‘I, Robot’? I doubt we’ll see personal robotics like that anytime soon, but by 2025 when you go to your primary care physician you’ll likely meet something like that for your first interview, maybe a human only if the machine can’t quite figure out your illness. Lawyers too will be replaced as machines diagnose a case and file the appropriate papers, leaving humans to attend to courtroom dramas.
      If humans are indeed going to be phased out, one has to ask to what purpose? In the end, things like a universal basic income will have to be phased in or the revolutions will be cataclysmic. Single payer health care will be the tip of the iceberg. Contrast that to a hundred years ago, and how railroads employed literally hundreds of thousands of people along a vast arterial network of iron.
      Again, what is the purpose of all this if most of the people on the planet experience life as a perpetual series of dire economic dislocations? Capitalism would have flourished if it had centered all it’s effort trying to lift everyone up; in the end it’s failed because it’s tried to reduce everyone to the lowest common denominator: the cheapest wage possible. Human life is a commodity now, to be exploited then discarded. It’s all very Freudian, even Marxist to me, in that he predicted so many of these trends, yet the elite class seems to be pushing the world to the very abyss he seemed sure would happen.
      Again, why? Is greed really the answer?


      • Phasing human endeavor and labor out strikes me as a very bleak, Harrison Bergeron type existence.


  2. The missiles used were Tomahawks, not the more powerful Tridents. Trump called Putin to let him (and thereby Assad) where and when the missiles were targeted. All personnel and equipment were removed by Russia and Syria a safe distance from the targeted airfield. Damage from the lesser payload of the Tomahawks to the empty airfield was minimal.
    I watched Charlie Rose tonight. He had as guests two Doctors who have spent a lot of time in Syria and who have constant contact with colleagues working in Syria “at his table”. TODAY, only hours after the show of force by President Trump, Assad used chemical weapons again. This time it was a combination of Sarin and chlorine gasses.


  3. Sounds like you need another tequila fueled intelligence gathering. In non end of the world news, I got to drive the A4 for the first time last night. What a fun car to drive. And the power curve, oh my.


    • She got red, correct? My Carter era neighbor went down to Denver yesterday and bought a new Miata. He’s too old to be middle-age crazy, but I swear he was wearing a ‘shit-eatin’ grin’ when he looked at that thing and got behind the wheel.
      I have about decided that as soon as I get somewhere with less snow I will get a TT, and retire the F150 to weekend lumber yard duties.
      Amazing how much we love our machines!


      • Yes, red. It has settings that let you change engine sound, steering response, and shifting. She has it set to sport, and being use to driving a F150, well, I gave it just a bit too much skinny pedal at a traffic light. Really fun to throw it into a corner and give it the gas. I still prefer the simplicity of my Army Jeep. But yes, we do love our machines.


  4. This is unrelated to your initial post, but in your years of flying, did you ever see anything like what happened the other day on the United flight?


    • Never. This is a story that seems more probable in Soviet Russia, an environment with unchecked police powers and zero accountability. The UAL CEO’s response is tragic, as well – a kind of ‘Us vs Them’ mentality was my first response. Even so, I wasn’t there, I didn’t see the prelude to the altercation, what brought it on. Reminds me of the Rodney King videotaped beating, too. The public saw the beating, but not the preceding 30 minute police chase, nor King’s initial assault on the first officers after he was finally pulled over. In this case, UAL seems hardly at fault; this was the action of a Chicago PD airport policeman, and the Chicago PD is a force with many instances of alleged attacks on minorities.
      No rush to judgement here, but the whole environment surrounding commercial aviation in America these days is troubling.
      Which is why I take Amtrak whenever I can, even long distance.


      • No excuse for the way he was treated, by the good Dr. Lost his license when he was convicted about 10 years ago of multiple felony counts of obtaining drugs by fraud.


      • So, he was de facto, if only just, impersonating a physician, which could be a felony (circumstances). No way for the arresting officer to know that, but what was a clear cut civil case just got kind of muddy.


  5. Would the officer have know of his felony convictions? Is that something TSA or the airline know about? I’m guessing if you know someone has felony convictions you are going to be approaching them differently.


  6. IFF TSA had prior notification of an outstanding felony warrant and/or IFF the officer had that information in hand – that would justify the response I’m seeing. I’m not at all certain an NCIC CCH (complete criminal history) is run on all passengers, let alone how readily available that information was in this instance, but a criminal history in and of itself would not be justification. Little old ladies often have a CH for petty theft. Would that response be warranted on her?
    I think that one of two things happened. The doc was asked nicely and he refused, not so nicely, and the officer overreacted. Or: the officer was in possession of knowledge we don’t have. Two law firms are involved now, and if the good doctor was a felonious pill pusher he probably knows how much he can milk out of the system. The cop will probably go down, regardless, unless his union saves him. If it’s determined the force used was unreasonable, and/or unwarranted, he’s probably in the wrong line of work anyway.
    The rule of thumb is simple: force, including deadly force, can only be used to counter an equal or greater level of force. If the doctor didn’t forcefully refuse to leave, the officer is going to have a hard time justifying his actions and clearing his name.


    • Thanks, that helps me to understand things a bit better. If you lose your license to practice, can you still call your self a Doctor?


      • I’m not sure about the legalities there. Calling yourself a ‘doctor’ is relatively innocuous; holding yourself out to be a physician is something else. Once he claimed to be a physician with patients that would be adversely affected, I think he crossed a line, but I’m neither a lawyer nor a judge. From a cop’s perspective, I’d think he could be in trouble. More likely? UAL will want this to go away asap; if these reports turn out to be true, settlement could be less lucrative for him. UAL is the big loser here, any way it plays out.
        When this guy allegedly shouted out something to the tune of “just kill me!” my internal alarm bells started going off. He’s either acting for the benefit of a smart phone audience or has some serious emotional issues, or both. Something don’t quite smell right, if you know what I mean.


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