Friday, August 30, 2019

Something to Know - 30 August

Jeff Danziger Comic Strip for August 30, 2019

One could spend a lot of time ruminating all the destruction Trump is leaving in his wake.  Some of it is immediately reversible, and much will take much longer to rebuild and repair.  However, one thing that in unmistakable and open for immediate discussion is the question of Character.   In this article, David Brooks uses an excellent measure to which Individual One can be compared.   General James "Mad Dog" Mattis is the standard in this argument.   The current occupant of the White House wishes he were like him, but he is not, nor could he ever be.

Jim Mattis in March 2018. He resigned as defense secretary in December.
Jim Mattis in March 2018. He resigned as defense secretary in December.CreditCreditMark Peterson/Redux

The Man Trump Wishes He Were

Jim Mattis and the formation of character.

Jim Mattis in March 2018. He resigned as defense secretary in December.CreditCreditMark Peterson/Redux

David Brooks


Opinion Columnist

  • Aug. 29, 2019

In the first few months of his presidency, Donald Trump surrounded himself with a certain sort of ramrod military man: John Kelly, Michael Flynn, H.R. McMaster and Jim Mattis. These men had or appeared to have the kind of manly virtues and bearing that Trump likes to see in himself: courage, toughness, combativeness.

But when you look at how someone like, say, Jim Mattis forged his character, you realize that he is actually the exact opposite of Trump. Mattis built strengths and virtues through the steady application of intense effort over decades. Trump is a man who has been progressively hollowed out by the acid of his own self-regard.

Mattis is a man who is intensely loyal to others and attracts loyalty among those around him. Trump is disloyal to others and attracts disloyalty in return.

The contrast between how these two men were forged is so stark that it throws into relief how character is and isn't formed.


Mattis was a mediocre college student. He partied too much and was jailed for underage drinking. But then he discovered the Marine Corps. His new book "Call Sign Chaos," which he wrote with Bing West and which will be released next week, is purportedly about leadership but really it is a portrait of Mattis's life-defining love for the Marine Corps.

His prose sings when he describes those times when he was out on some battlefield exercise with frontline Marines. When he is stuck away inside the Pentagon or high up commanding NATO, you feel his longing for their presence.

Mattis reads Roman writers like Marcus Aurelius, but he is no stoic. Decade after decade he is touring some front or another, starting a million affectionate conversations. "How's it going?" "Living the dream, sir," is how those conversations begin. He trusts his Marines enough to delegate authority down. He clearly expresses a commander's intent in any situation and gives them latitude to adapt to circumstances.

Love is a motivational state. It propels you. You want to make promises to the person or organization you love. Character is forged in the keeping of those promises. If, on the other hand, you are unable to love and be loved, you're never going to be in a position to make commitments or live up to them. You're never going to forge yourself into a person who can be relied upon.

Mattis's drive, born of his devotion to the Corps, is his most telling trait. He works insanely hard, propels himself extremely quickly, making himself, every day, a better Marine. Much of the work is intellectual. He thought the second Iraq war was a crazy idea, but when he was ordered to command part of it, he started reading Xenophon and ancient books about warfare in Mesopotamia.

x"If you haven't read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren't broad enough to sustain you," Mattis and West write.

He is also willing to submit himself to an institution. Somebody like Trump is anti-institutional. He thinks every organization is about himself, and every organization's procedures and traditions should bend to his desires.

But a person with an institutional mind-set has a deep reverence for the organization he has joined and how it was built by those who came before. He understands that institutions pass down certain habits, practices and standards of excellence.

Mattis asserts that his way of doing warfare is simply the Marine way. In the Marine way, for example, "Amateur performance is anathema, and the Marines are bluntly critical of falling short. … Personal sensitivities are irrelevant." Each mission gives him another body of knowledge, another strength, greater capacity to live his devotion to his country.

James Davison Hunter, who wrote, "The Death of Character," once noted that good character does not require religious faith. "But it does require the conviction of truth made sacred, abiding as an authoritative presence within consciousness and life, reinforced by habits institutionalized within a moral community. Character, therefore, resists expedience; it defies hasty acquisition. This is undoubtedly why Soren Kierkegaard spoke of character as 'engraved,' deeply etched."

In Mattis's career you see something one saw in the great George Marshall's career: That you need to work within a structure to be creative. Both generals were total company men, dedicated to their service, yet they were constantly trying to change its practices to keep up with the times.

Mattis barely mentions Trump in this book, and doesn't describe what must have been one of the truly challenging tasks of his life — working under Trump without getting tainted.

He didn't write about Trump because he didn't want to undermine the people still working inside the administration. But, he told Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic: "There is a period in which I owe my silence. It's not eternal. It's not going to be forever."

Like Goldberg, I think it would be proper for Mattis to end his silence about Trump before the next election. Voters need his firsthand perspective to make a judgment about the fitness and character of the commander in chief.


Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.
- Kris Kristofferson

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Something to Know - 27 August

Jeff Danziger Comic Strip for August 27, 2019

The inclusion of this story in this morning's NY Times is reflective of Jingoism of past United States of America foreign policy.  No matter that China or Russia would like to suck the natural resources out of Greenland and grab the strategic location of military power, who are we in today's world to say, "hey, we want to buy part of your house, and and its stuff".   The only difference between power and land grabs by us and others is that we are not sending military force to accompany our grab.   Greenland is "owned" by Denmark.  Without getting into issues of the residents and culture of Greenland, what does Tom Cotton and the rest of what is left of Trump's mind set in taking of a land mass of real estate and people several thousand miles away?  This whole idea is the personification of the Ugly American.   There is a diplomatic way that involves NATO, the European Union, and the United Nations to even begin a discussion.   You just don't go in through the door and yell it out.

Tom Cotton: We Should Buy Greenland

Trump isn't the only one to recognize the country's strategic importance. Beijing does, too.


Mr. Cotton, a Republican, is a United States senator from Arkansas.

Greenland's eastern coast.
Greenland's eastern coast.CreditCreditJonathan Nackstrand/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

After news leaked last week that President Trump had expressed interest in acquiring Greenland from Denmark, his critics predictably derided him as crazy. But once again, the president is crazy like a fox. The acquisition of Greenland would secure vital strategic interests for the United States, economically benefit both us and Greenlanders, and would be in keeping with American — and Danish — diplomatic traditions.

Strategically positioned in the Arctic Circle, Greenland has long attracted the attention of American policymakers. As far back as 1867, Secretary of State William Seward explored the acquisition of Greenland around the time that he negotiated the purchase of Alaska from the Russians. I myself raised the prospect of acquiring Greenland with the Danish ambassador just last year.

In 1946, the Truman administration offered $100 million to Denmark to acquire Greenland, arguing that the island was "indispensable to the safety of the United States" in confronting the growing Soviet threat, just as it had been in World War II when American forces used bases in Greenland to deter Nazi aggression. While the deal didn't go through, we kept troops on the island throughout the Cold War. Today, the Air Force's 21st Space Wing is stationed at Thule Air Base in western Greenland to support our ballistic-missile defenses and space missions.

America is not the only nation to recognize Greenland's strategic significance. Intent on securing a foothold in the Arctic and North America, China attempted in 2016 to purchase an old American naval base in Greenland, a move the Danish government prevented. Two years later, China was back at it, attempting to build three airports on the island, which failed only after intense lobbying of the Danes by the Trump administration.

Beijing understands not only Greenland's geographic importance but also its economic potential. Greenland is rich in a wide array of mineral deposits, including rare-earth minerals — resources critical to our high-tech and defense industries. China currently dominates the market in these minerals and has threatened to withhold them from us to gain leverage in trade negotiations. Greenland also possesses untold reserves of oil and natural gas.

An agreement to transfer Greenland's sovereignty must also serve the interests of our good friends, the Danes, and the 56,000 Greenlanders as well. Their considerations ought to include the fact that despite Greenland's long-term potential, a lack of infrastructure and financing still hamstring the island's economy today. Greenland's economy is less than one-tenth of Vermont's, America's smallest state economy. Every year, Denmark transfers $670 million in subsidies to support the island.

As the world's largest economy, the United States could more easily assume support for Greenland's communities while investing substantially in its future. The transfer of Greenland's sovereignty would alleviate a significant financial burden on the Danish people while expanding opportunities for Greenlanders. Just look at what American sovereignty has meant to Alaskans compared with conditions in Siberia under Russian control.

Despite the historical ignorance of the president's critics, the negotiated acquisition of sovereignty is a longstanding and perfectly legitimate tool of statecraft, particularly in the American tradition. More than one-third of America's territory was purchased from Spain (Florida), France (the Louisiana Purchase), Mexico (the Gadsden Purchase) and Russia (Alaska).

Indeed, Washington and Copenhagen have engaged in exactly this kind of transaction. In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson — the great champion of self-determination — paid $25 million to purchase the Danish West Indies, which have ever since been known as the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Who today believes the acquisition of Alaska was "Seward's folly"? On the contrary, it has been a great blessing to Alaskans and all Americans. Our nation has much to gain, as do the Danes and Greenlanders. While there are short-term obstacles, the same benefits could apply for Greenland today — and the manifest logic of this idea means that its consideration is here to stay.

Tom Cotton (@sentomcotton) is a Republican senator from Arkansas.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Andy Borowitz

Trump Blasts Media for Reporting Things He Says

Photograph by Joe Raedle / Getty

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—The Republican Presidential nominee, Donald Trump, tore into the media on Thursday for what he called its "extremely unfair practice" of reporting the things he says.

"I'll say something at a rally and I look out and see all these TV cameras taking every word down," Trump told Fox News's Sean Hannity. "No one in politics has ever been subjected to this kind of treatment."

"It's unbelievable and, frankly, very unethical," he added.

At a rally in Florida, the candidate lashed out at a TV cameraman whom he caught in the act of recording his words for broadcasting purposes.

"Look at him over there, picking up everything I'm saying, folks," Trump shouted. "Get him out of here."

In his interview with Fox, Trump hinted that he might drop out of this fall's televised Presidential debates if the media continues its practice of reporting the things he says.

"I've always said that I would be willing to debate if I'm treated fairly," Trump told Hannity. "But if the media keeps recording everything I say, word for word, and then playing it back so that everyone in the country hears exactly what I said, I would consider that very, very unfair."


Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Something to Know - 24 August

Donald Trump Dreams of Golf in Greenland


Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson

Friday, August 23, 2019

Something to Know - 23 August

Clay Bennett Comic Strip for August 23, 2019

Fire can spread rapidly.  Wild fires are are uncontrolled and can take over with horrific speed.   One bit of news that is not getting much traction here in the USA are the fires in the Amazon regions of Brazil.  Jair Bolsonaro is the Brazilian version of Trump, and is just as happy to see the forests burn away so as to allow commercial development of the land.  French President Emanuel Macron is demanding world action and is organizing the outrage to draw attention to the problem.   We are not getting this news on the front page, where it belongs.   Here are two sources for you to check on the stories.   The verbal narrative with text is informative, but the scope of the scorched earth with pictures plainly visible if you check out the graphics:


Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Something to Laugh About- 21 August

A day in the beclowning of the Trump White House

Add to list

Good Lord, when does it end?

President Trump speaks at the White House on Aug. 20. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)


I'd like to see Paris before I die... Philadelphia will do.
- W. C. Fields

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Something Else to Know - 20 August

My thanks to Kathy Chamberlain for this offering (Torrance News Bureau :)

How the British and others view Trump. Brilliant. Something I wish I had written:

Someone on Quora asked "Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?" Nate White, an articulate and witty writer from England wrote this magnificent response:
"A few things spring to mind. Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem. For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace - all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed.
 So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump's limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.
 Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing - not once, ever.
 I don't say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility - for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman. But with Trump, it's a fact. He doesn't even seem to understand what a joke is - his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.
 Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers.
 And scarily, he doesn't just talk in crude, witless insults - he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness. There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It's all surface.
Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront.
Well, we don't. We see it as having no inner world, no soul.
 And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist. Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that.
He's not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat.
He's more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.
 And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully. That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead.
There are unspoken rules to this stuff - the Queensberry rules of basic decency - and he breaks them all. He punches downwards - which a gentleman should, would, could never do - and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless - and he kicks them when they are down.
 So the fact that a significant minority - perhaps a third - of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think 'Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy' is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that: Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are. You don't need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.
 This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss. After all, it's impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum.
God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid. He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart. In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws - he would make a Trump. And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish: 'My God… what… have… I… created? If being a twat was a TV show, Trump would be the boxed set.' "


I'd like to see Paris before I die... Philadelphia will do.
- W. C. Fields