Saturday, December 30, 2017

Something to Know - 30 December

Jon Meacham is a writer and a historian of presidents.  Comparing the genial but firm composure of Eisenhower, the strength and compassionate ego of Roosevelt, and the tragic drama of Joseph McCarthy to Trump in this interesting essay makes for a good read for today.

Donald Trump and the Limits of the Reality TV Presidency

As with most politicians, Franklin D. Roosevelt loved attention and approval in equal measure. Once, after watching himself in a newsreel, he remarked, "That was the Garbo in me." On meeting Orson Welles, the president said, "You know, Orson, you and I are the two best actors in America!"

Reflecting on Roosevelt's determination to seek a third and then a fourth term as president, Harry Truman observed, "I guess that was his principal defect, that growing ego of his, which probably wasn't too minuscule to start with, though perhaps it was his only flaw."

And yet Roosevelt had the gifts of self-knowledge and a compassion for the plight of others, saving graces that enabled him to become one of a handful of truly great and transformative presidents. As important as he believed popular leadership to be — the Fireside Chats, the careful cultivation of public opinion, the weekly press briefings — he understood, too, that less was sometimes more.

"I know," he wrote in a 1935 letter, "that the public psychology and, for that matter, individual psychology cannot, because of human weakness, be attuned for long periods of time to a constant repetition of the highest note in the scale."

Roosevelt's first two years in office had been tumultuous as he launched assault after assault on the Great Depression. Now he thought the public needed something of a breather. "There is another thought which is involved in continuous leadership," he said. "Whereas in this country there is a free and sensational press, people tire of seeing the same name day after day in the important headlines of the papers, and the same voice night after night over the radio." A leader's balancing act was to educate and shape public opinion without becoming overly familiar or exhausting.

As in so many other things, we are living through a new test of that old truth as 2017 becomes 2018. President Trump is ubiquitous — a leader who seems devoted to not only political but also cultural domination. Yes, his bottomless thirst for attention is abetted by broadcast and social media; many Americans are locked in a codependent relationship with a president who's able to set new highs in lows on nearly a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. This month, The Times reported that before taking office, Mr. Trump told aides "to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals."

The presidency-as-production has been a good starter — Mr. Trump is, after all, the president of the United States — but history suggests that the means of his rise could be the means of his undoing. His understanding of the presidency is more informed by the values and folkways of show business (specifically, reality-based entertainment, from "The Apprentice" to professional wrestling) than by any larger sense of duty or dignity. And no show lasts forever.

Theatricality, it is true, is an essential element of power. Whether onstage or on a throne, whether in the Oval Office or the House of Commons, great leaders are often great performers, able to embody national purposes and hopes, projecting strength and resolve in moments that threaten to give way to weakness and despair. In the night before the Battle of Agincourt, Shakespeare's Henry V is racked by doubt and anxiety and fear, only to emerge in the sunlight to transform his men into a fabled "band of brothers."

Roosevelt's point in his observation about the need to ration his exposure was that Agincourts should be the exception, not the rule. Dwight Eisenhower, who served in the years of the rise of television, used to make the same point. "I keep telling you fellows I don't like to do this sort of thing," he told advisers who urged him to go on the air more often. "I can think of nothing more boring, for the American public, than to have to sit in their living rooms for a whole half-hour looking at my face on their television screens."

Presidents, as John F. Kennedy once observed, are subject to "clamorous counsel" — everyone, it can seem, has thoughts on how they could do the job better. When he was being told what to do and how to do it, Eisenhower — who, beneath his serene surface, had more than a bit of a temper — once replied: "Now, look, I happen to know a little about leadership. I've had to work with a lot of nations, for that matter, at odds with each other. And I tell you this: You do not lead by hitting people over the head. Any damn fool can do that, but it's usually called 'assault' — not 'leadership.'" He went on: "I'll tell you what leadership is. It's persuasion, and conciliation, and education, and patience. It's long, slow, tough work. That's the only kind of leadership I know, or believe in, or will practice."

If Mr. Trump is averse to heeding counsel from President Eisenhower — who, as a general with a fondness for businessmen, should be a congenial voice — perhaps he might learn from his own late lawyer. One of Mr. Trump's mentors from his New York days was Roy Cohn, who as a young man was chief counsel to Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, whose Communist-hunting from 1950 to 1954 transfixed the nation.

The conventional view of Senator McCarthy's ultimate fall turns on the Army-McCarthy hearings, when he showed himself to be dark and bullying. The iconic moment came when an opposing lawyer, Joseph N. Welch, asked, brilliantly: "You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

In the popular mind, that question brought McCarthy down. But Cohn believed something deeper was also at work. "Undoubtedly the hearings were a setback," he recalled in a 1968 memoir about McCarthy. "But there were other more fundamental reasons for his decline. By the time the hearings ended, McCarthy had been the center of the national and world spotlight for three and a half years. He had an urgent universal message, and people, whether they idolized or hated him, listened. Almost everything he said or did was chronicled."

And that surfeit of attention, Cohn argued, itself contributed to McCarthy's decline. "Human nature being what it is, any outstanding actor on the stage of public affairs — and especially a holder of high office — cannot remain indefinitely at the center of controversy," Cohn observed. "The public must eventually lose interest in him and his cause. And Joe McCarthy had nothing to offer but more of the same. The public sought new thrills," but "the surprise, the drama, were gone."

To everything, in other words, there is a season, and McCarthy's hubris hastened the end of his hour upon the stage. "I was fully aware of McCarthy's faults, which were neither few nor minor," Cohn said. "He was impatient, overly aggressive, overly dramatic. He acted on impulse. He tended to sensationalize the evidence he had in order to draw attention to the rock-bottom seriousness of the situation. He would neglect to do important homework and consequently would, on occasion, make challengeable statements."

The urge to overstate, to overdramatize, to dominate the news, was costly. McCarthy, Cohn said, was essentially a salesman. "He was selling the story of America's peril," Cohn recalled. "He knew that he could never hope to convince anybody by delivering a dry, general-accounting-office type of presentation. In consequence, he stepped up circumstances a notch or two," and in so doing he opened himself to attacks that proved fatal. He oversold, and the customers — the public — tired of the pitch, and the pitchman. For Mr. Trump, that's a New Year's lesson worth pondering.

Jon Meacham is a distinguished visiting professor at Vanderbilt and the author, most recently, of "Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush."

Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Something to Know - 26 December

Considering the turmoil that the 45th has brought to this country, he has added relevance to actions of push back to him and other similar distasteful moral and ethical players that have brought about resounding rejection of their ways.  No longer confined to op-eds, news stories, and parlor talk, what a college course named "Ethics", has now been woven into the main stream of Business School subject matter.  Having shown that powerful CEOs and businesses can be brought down by moral and ethical stink just as much as poor profit and loss performance, we are at a new milestone in our culture.  The revolution came about when the continuing cries from Women, an Angry Black Community, NFL football players, and others established a political foothold on affecting public policy.  Now that an M.B.A degree includes, success based on performing ethically and morally, there should be signs for a healthier business climate.

Business Schools Now Teaching #MeToo, N.F.L. Protests and Trump

NASHVILLE — Tim Vogus, a professor at Vanderbilt University's business school, was stoking the debate in his classroom one day this fall, asking first-year M.B.A. students about one of the most successful, and controversial, companies of the day. On the syllabus was Uber, a case study in both sensational business success and rampant corporate misbehavior.

"A toxic culture might be obvious when you think about Uber," Professor Vogus said. "But I'm an old person. What is this whole 'bro' thing?"

There were some awkward chuckles, and then hands started popping up. "It's carrying fraternity culture with you into adult life," said one student, Nick Glennon. Another student, Jonathon Brangan, said, "It's arrogance mixed with the feeling of invincibility."

"You basically have these 20-year-olds who are in charge of these companies that are worth billions of dollars," said Monroe Stadler, 26. "And they fly too close to the sun."

An M.B.A. education is no longer just about finance, marketing, accounting and economics. As topics like sexual harassment dominate the national conversation and chief executives weigh in on the ethical and social issues of the day, business schools around the country are hastily reshaping their curriculums with case studies ripped straight from the headlines.

At Vanderbilt, there are classes on Uber and "bro" culture. At Stanford, students are studying sexual harassment in the workplace. And at Harvard, the debate encompasses sexism and free speech.

"There's a turning point in what's expected from business leaders," said Leanne Meyer, co-director of a new leadership department at the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business. "Up until now, business leaders were largely responsible for delivering products. Now, shareholders are looking to corporate leaders to make statements on what would traditionally have been social justice or moral issues."

Several factors are contributing to these revised syllabuses. Bad behavior by big companies has thrust ethics back into the news, from Wells Fargo's creation of fake accounts to sexual harassment at Fox News to the litany of improprieties at Uber. Some millennials are prioritizing social and environmental responsibility.

And a new generation of chief executives is speaking out about moral and political issues in the Trump era. Just four months ago, prominent corporate executives came together to dissolve two business councils consulting with President Trump after he blamed "many sides" for an outburst of white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va.

"Something has changed," said Ed Soule, a professor at the Georgetown McDonough School of Business. "I would be kidding you if I told you there wasn't a different vibe in the classroom."

This fall, Professor Soule assigned coursework covering sexual harassment at Uber, how companies like Amazon respond when attacked by Mr. Trump and the social justice protests by N.F.L. players.

During one class, students debated whether players should have been more deferential to the wishes of team owners and the league, or whether the league should have supported players more vocally. The conversation grew tense when the topic turned to respect for the national anthem, and Mr. Trump's forceful response to players who continued to kneel as it was played.

"Ethics and values have taken on more significance," Professor Soule said. "It has to do with all of the things going on in this administration, often things that challenge our understanding of ethics and leadership."

Professors are reacting to the news, but they are also responding to calls from students for classes that deal with ethics. In recent years, students have said ethical issues, not finances, are a business's most important responsibility, according to a survey of business school students worldwide conducted by a United Nations group and Macquarie University in Australia.

"There's a growing body of M.B.A.s who are really passionate about this," said LaToya Marc, who graduated from Harvard Business School last spring and now works in sales and operations at Comcast. "It may not affect your bottom line directly, but it needs to be affecting how you make decisions."

Students also realize that as leaders of increasingly diverse work forces, they will need to understand their employees' perspectives on national debates, and how corporate decisions affect them.

"It is a shift, absolutely, mostly because all of our companies are just starting to look a lot different," Ms. Marc said.

Players for the Detroit Lions kneeling during the national anthem before a game in September. Corporate leaders are now expected "to make statements on what would traditionally have been social justice or moral issues," said Leanne Meyer, an administrator at Carnegie Mellon's business school. Credit Paul Sancya/Associated Press
One way that some business schools are responding is by drawing on the social sciences, like behavioral economics and psychology. The Stanford Graduate School of Business's ethics class — taught by two political scientists, one an expert in behavior and the other in game theory — sounds more like a course in human nature than in finance.

A new topic this year is sexual harassment, and how to create a workplace culture in which people feel comfortable reporting it. The Stanford students studied psychological research showing that people are more willing to challenge authority if at least one other person joins them, and discussed ways to encourage such reporting.

Next year, Fern Mandelbaum, a venture capitalist, will teach a new class to Stanford M.B.A. candidates called Equity by Design: Building Diverse and Inclusive Organizations.

"It's not just how the C.E.O. of Uber was treating women," Ms. Mandelbaum said. "The bias is throughout the system."

Carnegie Mellon started its leadership department after hearing from alumni that it needed more training related to skills like empathy and communication. This fall, Ms. Meyer's students studied a contentious memo written by a Google engineer, who was then fired, arguing that women were less suited to engineering than men.

"We said, 'This is not just a gender issue. It's a business issue,'" Ms. Meyer said. "It has marketing implications, legal implications, H.R. implications."

Gender is an issue that students are particularly interested in, according to the Forté Foundation, which works with business schools to help more women advance into leadership roles. The foundation has developed a tool kit for men, with tips like choosing a name such as "ally" or "liaison" to denote a sense of partnership, or using role-playing scenarios about sensitive situations, like what to do if a colleague says, "She only got the promotion because she's a woman."

Two dozen schools have started groups based on the program, including groups called the Manbassadors, for men committed to gender equity in business, at the business schools at Columbia, Dartmouth and Harvard.

The goal is "making sure that as men we're very aware of some of the privileges we're afforded simply because of gender," said Alen Amini, a third-year student at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and a founder of its Manbassadors group.

"Something has changed," Professor Soule said. "I would be kidding you if I told you there wasn't a different vibe in the classroom." Credit Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times
As previously taboo subjects enter the classroom debate, students and professors are still adjusting.

"It can get pretty controversial," said Aaron Chatterji, an associate professor at the Duke University Fuqua School of Business who is starting a class about activism among chief executives. "I've never taught a class where I've had students talking about gay rights or drug addiction."

At Vanderbilt, Professor Vogus solicited ideas from the class about how Uber might change its ways. One student suggested hiring fewer star engineers and more team players. Another proposed hiring a woman to lead human resources.

"We have a 'C.E.-bro' culture in the technology sector today, but we've had 'C.E.-bros' throughout time," said a student, April Hughes. "Enron was an example of this. All the guys there thought they were smarter than everyone else."

The class turned testy, however, as students debated whether Uber's hard-charging culture might have been an asset.

"Some of that brashness was actually critical to the company being successful," said one student, Andrew Bininger.

When the Uber conversation turned to gender and power dynamics, a female student suggested that women in the Vanderbilt M.B.A. program had to work harder than their male counterparts.

"The women who do make it to business school are all super strong personalities, whereas the men here can float through without being the cream of the crop," Natalie Copley said, adding of the women in the class, "They're not meek little timid things."

That drew jeers from the men in the group, and Professor Vogus changed the subject.

Follow David Gelles on Twitter @dgelles and email him at

Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Something to Know - 24 December

One of the ugliest trump wrapped boxes left under his tree of unpatriotic mean-spiritedness is this.   Instead of copying the whole text, and pasting it into a long and byte-hogging message, it is just the tiny URL  Let me know if this URL opens up the article for you, or not.   If it does, and you are not a regular NY Time digital subscriber, I will send these articles this way in the future,

Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson

Friday, December 22, 2017

Something to Know - 22 December

Sure, there are more worldly and seemingly important issues flying around this morning but this one grabbed by attention.   You have have read, or heard mentioned, about something surrounding tips and gratuities that customers offer to employees of establishments after having been served with good service.  The ugly part is that the current White House administration is advocating that the money involved does not belong to those recognized workers, but to their bosses.  This WTF issue causes me, and probably you great pause.   So, I pass this NY Times editorial for your perusal:

The Trump Administration to Restaurants: Take the Tips!

Most Americans assume that when they leave a tip for waiters and bartenders, those workers pocket the money. That could become wishful thinking under a Trump administration proposal that would give restaurants and other businesses complete control over the tips earned by their employees.

The Department of Labor recently proposed allowing employers to pool tips and use them as they see fit as long as all of their workers are paid at least the minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour nationally and higher in some states and cities. Officials argue that this will free restaurants to use some of the tip money to reward lowly dishwashers, line cooks and other workers who toil in the less glamorous quarters and presumably make less than servers who get tips. Using tips to compensate all employees sounds like a worthy cause, but a simple reading of the government's proposal makes clear that business owners would have no obligation to use the money in this way. They would be free to pocket some or all of that cash, spend it to spiff up the dining room or use it to underwrite $2 margaritas at happy hour. And that's what makes this proposal so disturbing.

The 3.2 million Americans who work as waiters, waitresses and bartenders include some of the lowest-compensated working people in the country. The median hourly wage for waiters and waitresses was $9.61 an hour last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Further, there is a sordid history of restaurant owners who steal tips, and of settlements in which they have agreed to repay workers millions of dollars.

Not to worry, says the Labor Department, which argues, oddly and unconvincingly, that workers will be better off no matter how owners spend the money. Enlarging dining rooms, reducing menu prices or offering paid time off should be seen as "potential benefits to employees and the economy over all." The department also assures us that owners will funnel tip money to employees because workers would quit otherwise.

It is hard to know how much time President Trump's appointees have spent with single mothers raising two children on a salary from a workaday restaurant in suburban America, seeing how hard it is to make ends meet without tips. What we do know is that the administration has produced no empirical cost-benefit analysis to support its proposal, which is customary when the government seeks to make an important change to federal regulations.

The Trump administration appears to be rushing this rule through — it has offered the public just 30 days to comment on it — in part to pre-empt the Supreme Court from ruling on a 2011 Obama-era tipping rule. The department's new proposal would do away with the 2011 rule. The restaurant industry has filed several legal challenges to that regulation, which prohibits businesses from pooling tips and sharing them with dishwashers and other back-of-the-house workers. Different federal circuit appeals courts have issued contradictory rulings on those cases, so the industry has asked the Supreme Court to resolve those differences; the top court has not decided whether to take that case.

Mr. Trump, of course, owns restaurants as part of his hospitality empire and stands to benefit from this rule change, as do many of his friends and campaign donors. But what the restaurant business might not fully appreciate is that their stealth attempt to gain control over tips could alienate and antagonize customers. Diners who are no longer certain that their tips will end up in the hands of the server they intended to reward might leave no tip whatsoever. Others might seek to covertly slip cash to their server. More high-minded restaurateurs would be tempted to follow the lead of the New York restaurateur Danny Meyer and get rid of tipping by raising prices and bumping up salaries.

By changing the fundamental underpinnings of tipping, the government might well end up destroying this practice. But in doing so it would hurt many working-class Americans, including people who believed that Mr. Trump would fight for them.

Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Something to Know - 21 December

It is all too easy to step back, barf a lot, and ignore what is going on, and await the moment that someone shouts that the witch is dead.  However, we need to be aware enough of the ongoing carnage to be aware of the situation, for two things.  First, we need to keep track of what bomb craters the GeeOpie has left behind so that we know what has to be restored, and two, we need to put a face on the issues, so that voters in the mid-term will know who to vote out.   This is a painful process, yes, but what other options are there?  The most obvious ones would get you arrested and thrown in prison, and that might be a worse place for you.

Congress Refuses to Do Right by Children's Health Care

As Republican lawmakers celebrate the passage of a tax bill that will make the wealthiest Americans richer, many lower-income families are faced with the real possibility that their children will soon lose their health insurance because Congress didn't care enough to renew funding for it.

The Children's Health Insurance Program has enjoyed bipartisan support since its creation in 1997. It covers about nine million kids from families who are not affluent by any stretch of the imagination but happen to earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. In the past, the program was typically reauthorized for five years with little controversy. Not this time. Republican leaders in Congress have been unwilling or unable to make CHIP, as the program is known, a priority since funding lapsed nearly three months ago. The situation has gotten so bad that families with young children who benefit from the program visited Capitol Hill this week to beg lawmakers to fund CHIP.

This has forced state governments, which run the program, to scramble. This week, officials in Alabama said they would drop the coverage of 7,000 children and freeze the program to new enrollees on New Year's Day. That state would have to end its program, which serves 84,000 kids in total, on Feb. 1. Virginia told parents of 68,000 children that its program could end on Jan. 31. Connecticut, Colorado and other states have issued similar warnings. All told, 16 states will run out of CHIP funds by the end of January, and another 21 will run out of money by the end of March, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Republican lawmakers say they will eventually get around to reauthorizing CHIP. First, though, they insist that Democrats must agree to cut other spending to offset some of the cost of the program. For example, they have proposed raising Medicare premiums on affluent retirees and cutting spending on public health programs created by the Affordable Care Act. Democrats have rightly balked at such demands, especially since Republicans just passed a tax bill that will mostly benefit corporations and the wealthiest families in the country while adding more than $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years. By contrast, CHIP costs just $14 billion a year, or $140 billion or more over a decade.

In dismissing concerns about the program, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah epitomized the degradation of so much of the Republican Party this year. Mr. Hatch, who helped create this program with Senator Edward Kennedy, said on the floor of the Senate, almost sneering sanctimoniously, "the reason CHIP's having trouble is because we don't have money anymore." Mr. Hatch and his Republican colleagues had no trouble finding boatloads of money to cut taxes on real estate developers, hedge fund managers and corporate chief executives.

This much is clear: Many children stand to lose access to health care if Congress does not act soon. States do not have the wherewithal to bear the full cost of CHIP. While some families who rely on the program might be able to get insurance for their kids through an employer or from the insurance marketplaces created by the A.C.A., many kids will end up losing coverage. CHIP is free or costs much less than private insurance depending on family income and state.

Two Republican lawmakers, Senators Lamar Alexander and Susan Collins, on Wednesday signaled that Congress would not fund CHIP until early next year. Lawmakers are now expected to head out of town after they pass yet another short-term extension of the larger spending bill needed to avoid a government shutdown.

President Trump and his fellow Republicans were desperate to pass a tax bill by Christmas but seem unconcerned about the more urgent and important work of making sure children can get the health care they need. That will be quite a legacy.

Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Something to Know - 20 December

It really is easy to disparage and pick apart what the GOP has placed under the Xmas gift pile.  First, it has upended the values which the GeeOpie characteristically ran under.  With the placement of Trump as #45, and the GOP elected legislators and a dedicated 30% voter base, it is hard to find anything that resembles a fair, inclusive, and progressive nation.  We should be alarmed that the rest of the world is looking at the United States of America as a nation that has lost its stature as the leader of the Western World.   BUT, do we remember, especially at the polls next time?

Democrats Are the New Republicans
 Frank Bruni

Family values. How long have we been subjected to that subjective phrase, championed by Republicans who equated it with heterosexuality, fecundity and Christian piety — and who appointed themselves the custodians of those?

Well, they lost any remaining claim to that mantle by embracing Donald Trump and then Roy Moore. Neither won the support of all Republicans, but both won the backing or complicity of enough of them to confirm just how hollow and hypocritical the party's attachment to conservative morality always was. Quote the Bible. Denounce abortion. Congratulations: You're upholding family values! No questions asked about the number of your marriages, the extent of your infidelities or the scope of your sexual predation.

Fiscal responsibility. How loudly have Republicans harangued us about that? It's a worthy harangue — or at least it would be if there were an iota of integrity and consistency behind it.

But Republicans are poised to enact a sweeping overhaul of the tax code that will add nearly $1.5 trillion to federal deficits over the next decade. In all the news coverage of their need to finesse the math so that they don't exceed that amount, the fact that they're plunging the country so much deeper into the red in the first place almost gets lost.

This, mind you, is the same political party that fetishized balanced budgets and browbeat Democrats about being the foolishly, fatally profligate ones. Republicans' actions routinely contradicted their words, and their tax reform is a contradiction on steroids. Where's the fiscal responsibility in legislation with such budgetary hocus-pocus as the expiration of individual rate cuts that the bill's authors fully expect other lawmakers to preserve down the road?

What pretty lies Republicans tell, most of all about themselves. And what a gorgeous opportunity they have given Democrats to steal that bogus rhetoric right out from under them.

Try this on for size: Democrats are the party of family values because they promote the creation of more families. They did precisely that with their advocacy of marriage equality, which didn't tug the country away from convention but toward it, by encouraging gay and lesbian Americans to live in the sorts of arrangements that conservatives in fact extol.

Democrats also want to give families the flexibility and security that help keep them afloat and maybe intact. That's what making the work force more hospitable to women and increasing the number of Americans with health insurance do. And Republicans lag behind Democrats on both fronts.

Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility because they don't pretend that they can afford grand government commitments — whether distant wars or domestic programs — without collecting the revenue for them.

Democrats are the party of patriotism, because they're doing something infinitely more urgent and substantive than berating football players who kneel during the national anthem. They're recognizing that a hostile foreign power tried to change the course of an American presidential election. They're pressing for a full accounting of that. They're looking for fixes, so that we can know with confidence that we control our own destiny going forward. The president, meanwhile, plays down the threat, and Republicans prop him up.

Democrats are the party of national security. They don't taunt and get into Twitter wars with the rulers of countries that just might send nuclear warheads our way. They don't alienate longtime allies by flashing contradictory signals about their commitment to NATO. The leader of the Republican Party does all of that and more, denying the G.O.P. any pretense to stewardship of a stable world order.

Democrats are the law-and-order party. While many Republicans and their media mouthpiece, Fox News, labor to delegitimize the F.B.I. and thus inoculate Trump, Democrats put faith in prosecutors, agents and the system.

Democrats are the party of decency and modesty. None of their highest leaders uses the public arena to bully private citizens in the way that the Republican president does. None advances his or her financial interests as brazenly or brags as extravagantly.

Democrats are the party of tradition, if it's interpreted — and it should be — to mean a news media that operates without fear of government interference, an internet to which access isn't tiered, judicial appointees who have a modicum of fluency in trial law.

Under Trump's thumb and spell, the Republican Party is watching the pillars of its brand crumble. Democrats should grab hold of and appropriate them. And they're starting to, fitfully and imperfectly. Jettisoning Al Franken as the Republican National Committee reteamed with Moore was part of that effort.

Who among us doesn't care about family values, defined justly and embraced honestly? Who doesn't see the good in patriotism, tradition and decency? They're neither hokey words nor musty concepts, and that's why Republicans have been using (and misusing) them. But in the age of Trump, they constitute a language that Democrats can more credibly speak.

Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Something to Know - 19 December


It has been a long time since I have passed on a contribution from Paul Krugman.   I like this article because it condenses a lot of the bad in the GeeOpie tax bill and personalizes the culprits.   I hope someone is keeping track of all of the sewage as it flows into the swamp so that we can reverse the flow when the political tide turns......and it will.

Passing Through to Corruption
 Paul Krugman

Unless something drastic happens, this will be the week Republicans ram through a tax cut that adds more than a trillion dollars to federal debt while undermining health care for millions. They will do so by violating all previous norms for major legislation, having held not a single hearing and rushed to a vote before the new senator from Alabama could be seated.

The question is, why are they doing this? For this bill isn't just a policy crime; it also seems to be a political mistake. It will, however, be good, one way or another, for the bank accounts of quite a few Republican members of Congress. Is that why it will pass?

About the politics: Normally, politicians willing to add a trillion dollars to the debt can hand out enough goodies to make their plans popular, at least for a while. The George W. Bush tax cuts heavily favored the rich over the middle class, but they contained enough clear middle-class tax cuts to have broad public approval, at least at first.

This bill, however, faces heavy disapproval. Ordinary voters may not be able to parse all the details, but they have figured out that this bill is a giveaway to corporations and the wealthy that will end up hurting most families. This negative view isn't likely to change.

Nevertheless, Republicans have persisted. Why?

One answer may be that they really believe that tax cuts will unleash a huge economic boom. There's almost complete consensus among experts that it will do no such thing — but the G.O.P. has been waging war on expertise in all fields. (Among the terms reportedly banned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are "evidence based" and "science based.")

So you get people like the Republican congressman who told CNBC's John Harwood that his colleagues told him there are models predicting huge gains (there aren't), that he doesn't know what those models are, but that he trusts his party's line.

Another answer may be that Republicans believe that legislative victories put "points on the board," helping their electoral prospects, even if the bills are unpopular. Obama officials thought the same thing back in 2009 — but they were wrong: Major legislative victories on economic stimulus, health care and financial reform did nothing to stop disastrous losses in the 2010 midterm elections.

The final, and most disturbing, possible explanation for the behavior of Republican legislators is that they're supporting legislation, knowing that it's bad for both the country and their party, because it's good for them personally.

Some Republicans have been quite open in saying that they felt compelled to push forward on corporate tax cuts to please their donors. But I'm talking about more than campaign finance; I'm talking about personal payoffs.

Raw bribery probably isn't the issue, although insider trading based on close relationships with companies affected by legislation may be a much bigger deal than most realize. But the revolving door is an even bigger deal. When members of Congress leave their positions, voluntarily or not, their next jobs often involve lobbying of some kind. This gives them an incentive to keep the big-money guys happy, never mind what voters think.

One perverse effect of this incentive is that recent G.O.P. electoral losses may have strengthened the party's determination to do unpopular things. Suppose you represent a mildly Republican-leaning district in, say, California or New York. Given what looks like a building Democratic wave, your odds of keeping that seat next year look low whatever you do — so it's time to focus on pleasing your future employers on K Street.

And when it comes to the Senate, bear in mind that many senators are personally wealthy, meaning that they might be swayed by policies that enhance their personal fortunes. Which brings us to the "Corker kickback."

Senator Bob Corker, citing concerns about the deficit, was the only Republican to vote against the Senate version of the tax bill. Now, however, he says he will vote for a final version that is no better when it comes to fiscal probity. What changed?

Well, one thing that changed was the insertion of a provision that wasn't in the Senate bill: Real estate companies were added to the list of "pass-through" businesses whose owners will get sharply lower tax rates. These pass-through provisions are arguably the worst feature of the bill. They will open the tax system to a huge amount of gaming, of exploiting legal loopholes to avoid tax.

But one thing they will also do, thanks to that last-minute addition, is give huge tax breaks to elected officials who own a lot of income-producing real estate — officials like Donald Trump and, yes, Bob Corker.

Corker denies that he had any role in adding that provision. But he has offered no coherent alternative explanation of what changed his mind about voting for a bill that explodes the deficit.

We may never know exactly what happened with Corker. But there's every reason to believe that Republicans in Congress are taking their cues from a president who openly uses his office to enrich himself. Goodbye, ideology; hello, corruption.  

The best summer weather in Southern California are the first three weeks in December
- Anonymoua

T'is The Season

To be JOLLY!

Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Roy Moore's defeat in Alabama's special election means that the Texas senator Ted Cruz will easily retain his status as the most despised person in the United States Senate, congressional insiders confirmed on Wednesday.

According to those insiders, Cruz had been secretly hoping that Moore's election would displace him from his unenviable position as the most vilified pariah in the upper chamber.

"Cruz was praying that, if Moore got in, that might change the daily conversation around here from 'Who has to sit next to Ted?' " one Republican colleague said.

Cruz, whom colleagues deem even more insufferable than such other senatorial ass-clowns as Mitch McConnell and Tom Cotton, was reportedly "distraught" upon learning that Moore would not be joining him in the U.S. Senate.

"Ted was absolutely positive that Roy would have been more hated than he is," one Senate colleague said. "But, to tell you the truth, it would have been close."

Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson

Someone to Know - 14 December

General Bonespur at your service:

Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Something to Hear - 13 December

This is the new Muszak sound track running in Alabama and certain hallways in and around the DC Swamp:

Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson

Monday, December 11, 2017

Something to Know - 11 December

A former CIA chief reflects on his intelligent analysis of the merits of former DIA and DIA chiefs (Hayden, Brennan, and himself) may or may not have accomplished, politically, for criticizing Trump.  So, he feels badly that the behavior caused Trump to sense that the Intelligence Guys were ganging up on him and created in him a sense of paranoia.  Well, I am sorry that Morell feels that way because he was totally correct in his assessment of Trump.

A former CIA head's worthwhile realization about criticizing Trump
By Aaron Blake December 11 

The former acting head of the CIA, Michael Morell, decided last year that it was time to get political. Concerned about the possibility that Donald Trump would become commander in chief, Morell wrote an August 2016 New York Times op-ed endorsing Hillary Clinton and calling Trump a "threat to our national security."

It sounds like he regrets it — at least somewhat.

In a very worthwhile Q&A with Politico's Susan Glasser, Morell reflects upon the decisions made by himself and other previously nonpolitical top intelligence officials to weigh in against Trump. And he suggests that it was counterproductive in one key way.

GLASSER: Okay, so, flash-forward a year [after the op-ed]. Was that a mistake?

MORELL: So, I don't think it was a mistake. I think there were downsides to it that I didn't think about at the time. I was concerned about what is the impact it would have on the agency, right? Very concerned about that, thought that through. But I don't think I fully thought through the implications.

And one of the ways I've thought about that, Susan, is — okay, how did Donald Trump see this? Right? And from — it's very important — one of the things we do as intelligence analysts is make sure that our guy — the president — understands the other guy. Right?

So let's put ourselves here in Donald Trump's shoes. So, what does he see? Right? He sees a former director of CIA and a former director of NSA, Mike Hayden, who I have the greatest respect for, criticizing him and his policies. Right? And he could rightfully have said, "Huh, what's going on with these intelligence guys?" Right?

GLASSER: It embroiders his narrative.

MORELL: Exactly. And then he sees a former acting director and deputy director of CIA criticizing him and endorsing his opponent. And then he gets his first intelligence briefing, after becoming the Republican nominee, and within 24 to 48 hours, there are leaks out of that that are critical of him and his then-national security adviser, Mike Flynn.

And so this stuff starts to build, right? And he must have said to himself, "What is it with these intelligence guys? Are they political?" The current director at the time, John Brennan, during the campaign occasionally would push back on things that Donald Trump had said.

So, when Trump talked about the Iran nuclear deal being the worst deal in the history of American diplomacy, and he was going to tear it up on the first day — John Brennan came out publicly and said, "That would be an act of folly." So, he sees current sitting director pushing back on him. Right?

Then he becomes president, and he's supposed to be getting a daily brief from the moment he becomes the president-elect. Right? And he doesn't. And within a few days, there's leaks about how he's not taking his briefing. So, he must have thought — right? — that, "Who are these guys? Are these guys out to get me? Is this a political organization? Can I think about them as a political organization when I become president?"

So, I think there was a significant downside to those of us who became political in that moment. So, if I could have thought of that, would I have ended up in a different place? I don't know. But it's something I didn't think about.

To some extent, this is the bargain you make with any political endorsement. If the other candidate wins, you have effectively made an enemy out of someone who just found themselves in a position of power. And in Morell's telling, the decisions by top former intelligence officials like himself, Hayden and Brennan to all speak out against Trump — combined with leaks that cast Trump in a dim light — created a kind of us-vs.-them situation, which may have led Trump to distrust the intelligence community. Since then, Trump has cast doubt upon many of the community's conclusions about Russian interference in the 2016 election and installed a loyalist as CIA director, Mike Pompeo, who has erred in Trump's direction on some key political issues. (Pompeo is supposed to be Trump's next pick for secretary of state, with another loyalist, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), set to take his place.)

That said, the idea that Trump would be more warm and fuzzy with the intelligence community were it not for the leaks and for decisions like Morell's to criticize him is a little far-fetched. Trump has shown he'll attack anything and anyone who stands in his way, and allegations of Russian interference can't help but call into question — at least somewhat — whether he would have won the presidency without it. Trump is clearly hugely sensitive to the idea that his presidency isn't legitimate, and he has demonstrated no qualms about attacking the institutions of American government. In that way, he was always bound to clash with the intelligence community.

But Morell's comments are well worth considering, including for the media and others who hold important, nonpolitical jobs. When that's part of the job description, retaining faith in your impartiality is paramount. Certain folks may decide candidates and presidents like Trump warrant an unusual approach — trust me, I've heard from them, and they have a point to an extent — but that unusual approach may have larger ramifications than you realize, and perhaps less of an upside.

Did Morell actually move any votes by endorsing Clinton? It's impossible to say. But he sure seems to see with clarity what the downside was now that Trump is president.

Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.
- Adlai Stevenson