Friday, November 30, 2018

The Day of Reckoning is Nigh

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Americans who support Donald Trump--whether they consider themselves Republicans, conservatives, or simply people grateful for certain policies he has put forward--are soon to face a reckoning point.  That is, given what is certain to be shown as serial, reflexive dishonesty wrapped around utter disdain for anything but personal gain, the outcome of which has been an invigorated American left and a smoking wreckage of a GOP--how can one continue to support Donald Trump as President.

Notice I did not mention anything here impeachable. I do not think Donald Trump will be removed from office (though the House may impeach him). Not because I do not think he should be removed, but because as of yet, I have seen nothing to convince me that a sufficient number of Republicans in the Senate would vote to do so. That said, armchair Constitutional scholars will point to "...treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors..." without processing the larger point that what is impeachable ultimately boils down to what a majority of the members of the House of Representatives say it is.

Putting impeachment aside for the moment, we will soon be treated to findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has conducted his affairs in the highest of standards in stark contrast to the serial obfuscaters and sycophants who publicly slander him and his team, including the President himself. Mueller will deliver a report that will ultimately reveal several things which are simply beyond dispute:

--Candidate Trump's inner circle was deeply enmeshed in routine interactions with Russian government figures, Russian intelligence officers, and Russian organized crime figures, interactions that were routinely denied by both Trump and his circle.
--Candidate Trump and members of his inner circle were aware of in advance and supported the activities of Julian Assange and Wiki-leaks to reveal embarrassing emails from major Democratic figures in order to impact the Hillary Clinton campaign.
--Mr. Assange's and Wiki-leaks reputation as a front for Russian Intelligence was an open secret at the time. 
--Candidate Trump continued to pursue lucrative real estate deals in Russia that included solicitation of support from Vladimir Putin until the summer of 2016, six months after the Iowa caucuses. During this time, Candidate Trump made a number of "Putin-friendly" statements that were not aligned with prevailing Republican attitudes. 
--Candidate Trump and his inner circle actively sought to suppress potential embarrassment caused by revelations from former sex partners, to include financial payoffs. These revelations were vehemently denied by Candidate Trump, President Trump, and his inner circle. 

The points above represent what I consider to be irrefutable assertions based on what we know in court filings thus far in the Mueller investigation and that of the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Behind these indisputable assertions of fact lie some interesting inferences that not only raise the specter of impeachable offenses, but which make the point of reckoning mentioned above that much more real.

--Reports of the surprise of Candidate Trump and his inner circle that he prevailed in the election lead to the conclusion that he believed he would likely lose. What then, are the links (if any) between his business objectives and his campaign statements, especially those that were at best--soft on Putin, and at worst--admiring of him? Was the future President of the United States setting the course of US foreign policy in a pro-Russian direction simply as a hedging strategy for his own business? Just yesterday, he admitted as much. 
--Further to this point, there remain open questions about the suppression (by Paul Manafort) of a plank in the GOP platform in the summer of 2016 that advocated arming Ukranians in their conflict with Russia. Could this have been yet another instance in which Trump sought to curry favor with Russia in furtherance of his business goals?

Please notice--neither of the previous two inferences--serious though they may be--involve "collusion". Dead-ender supporters of Trump (the "I could commit a murder on fifth avenue and they'd still support me" types) have created a construct in which only a video of Trump and Putin strategizing in shirtsleeves would represent collusive behavior--so I'm not addressing these people. I'm writing for the rest of us, who--while we may be unable to believe that there was collusion (coordination, strategizing) between the Trump Campaign and the Russians at this point, are perfectly willing to entertain the possibility, presented with sufficient evidence. To that end:

--Was there any information passed from the Trump campaign--either directly or through intermediaries--as to where (geographically--remember, 80,000 votes in three key states tipped this election) "friendly" online activity ("fake new", targeted emails, etc) should be concentrated?
--Was there any coordination between the Trump campaign as to the timing of release of information damaging to the Clinton campaign, such as the release of DNC emails in close proximity to the "Access Hollywood" tape becoming public 2 days before the  second Presidential Debate?

Again---this post is not for the MAGA- hat wearing, dead-ender who simply wants to drink "liberal tears". This post is for thoughtful, patriotic Americans who have for one reason or another, continued to support President Trump in the face of serial dishonesty, churlish behavior, and disreputable dealing with friends and allies. The GOP just lost 40 seats in the house and squandered the most favorable Senatorial map in a generation, even as it gave back a third of the seats it won in state legislatures in the age of Obama. Things will not get better while this man is supported.

Cut this anchor loose; regroup, move on, and live to fight another day.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thoughts on Thanksgiving 2018

It is quiet, and I am sitting in the kitchen next to a gas fire with two lovable Labradors nestled about me. Soon this place will be a bustle of activity as Catherine and I bring off another Thanksgiving together. For now though, she and the Kittens slumber while I write to you.

Calm before the storm
 This year's feast brings the first real change in players, as Catherine's uncle and family patriarch Tiny died earlier this year. We'll miss Tiny. Eleven years ago I was invited to Thanksgiving in his house, just a few months after beginning to date his niece. His brother John having died the year before, he took the role of giving me the business seriously, but by the end of the evening, I felt that I had passed.

We have a new person joining us today, and that is my brother Tom. Tom is driving up from Richmond and will be spending the night. He and his wife split earlier in the year, amicably it would seem, and I jumped the gun on inviting him early on in fear of someone else obtaining his wit and presence at their table.

Both girls are home, and they've been busy helping Cat with pies and setup. It is good to have the whole team together, even if just for a few days.

I get a lot of grief for how early I begin to celebrate Christmas. People think I give Thanksgiving short shrift in the process, but nothing can be farther (further?) from the truth. I love this day--and I see it as part of a joyous season. This day serves almost as a ritualistic cleansing, a day for gratitude for all of the blessings we enjoy. I have read that "gratitude is the parent of all other virtues". I surely see it that way. Here are some things for which I am grateful.

--The health and love of my parents
--A supportive and loving partner
--Two accomplished daughters growing to honorable womanhood
--A large and loving family of siblings and their families
--Acceptance into Cat's family
--Meaningful work
--Close friends
--Citizenship in this great country
--Shelter and sustenance beyond what I merit
--The love and companionship of two cats and two dogs
--Four years at the University of Virginia followed by every day since

From Catherine, Hope, Hannah, and Bryan--Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sunday Potpourri

Last week on Saturday Night Live, on of the stars did a terrible bit about a Republican running for Congress who lost an eye in combat (Dan Crenshaw, who won his race), and so wears an eye patch. It was stupid. It wasn't very funny. It was pretty much panned by everyone who watched. Last night, this guy (Pete Davidson) made things right by asking the target of his ill-humor to join him as he publicly apologized. Watch below:

A couple of things. First, Dan Crenshaw handled this thing pitch perfectly from the very start--it was a pitch in the dirt and he didn't swing at it. Secondly, I thought Davidson did the right thing and he did it pretty well. Bottom line--I've said and written a lot of dumb and regrettable things in my life--and it is tough to judge Davidson too harshly given the stupidity I've engaged in.

About the election last week--I guess I got it about right, but the D's did a bit better than I thought they would. That didn't stop the President from claiming a great victory, but he's obviously full of shit. His firing of Jeff Sessions -- that is what it is called when you ask for someone's undated resignation letter and then release it when it suits you-- is all about the stew he's in with Mueller, which is only going to get hotter here in the very near future. Bottom line prediction: they won't get to Trump--but they are going to get to people who mean a great deal to Trump.

Speaking of our President--his performance in France was once again a shitshow. I can't even imagine the uproar from sanctimonious Republicans had Obama skipped a ceremony honoring war-dead because of a little rain. I am sure they'll come up with some lame rationale--but it will be just one more step into the abyss of relativism that the GOP has been undergoing since 2015.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Sunday Potpourri

As I look out my window at the newly harvested fields on the west side of our farm on a glorious fall day, I am filled with gratitude. To my teachers and professors for shaping my mind, to the Navy for shaping my character, to Catherine and the girls for shaping my compassion and to my parents for virtually everything else. I bitch a lot about the world we live in these days, but sitting here--in the present--I am embarrassed by my good fortune but thankful for it.

Tuesday will be a big day for the country, and no, not because your 2019 NCAA Men's College Basketball Champion Virginia Cavaliers kick off their season, though that is not unimportant. It will be a big day because we'll have a chance to collectively register our thoughts about where we are and where we are going as a country. My sense though, is that all we have a right to expect as a people is for our respective priors to be confirmed. It appears that the Senate will either stay Republican or get a little more so, and that the House will flip. Both sides will claim great victories, and neither will have a right to do so. We will find ourselves in a worse version of where we are now, and we have no right to expect better. We HAVE the government we deserve. Anyone who thinks we deserve better should show their work.

The trip to Charlottesville this past Friday for the game vs. Pitt was a mixed event. The game itself sucked. For the first twelve minutes of the first quarter I sat in a torrential downpour. Then the weather actually got pretty nice, but the team Virginia had on the field was pretty inept. Additionally, four starters were injured during the game, not a good sign for the future. I was worried about this one all week, I thought we were overrated, that we are a decent team in a terrible conference. I suspected Virginia fans were getting ahead of themselves, and I think I was right. We're not bad, we're just good. Barely.

I saw some of my best friends in the world the other night, guys I've had laughs with since the fall of 1983. At one point during the game, late, when it was clear we were going to lose, I just stood up and looked at them, and thought about how much time we'd spent together and how dear they are to me. This is the kind of thing I need to do more of, I think. Just being in the moment, not worrying about past injuries or future schemes. Totally present. It was sublime.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sunday Potpourri

Well, well, well, would you look at what's happening with my beloved Wahoos football team. They beat UNC yesterday (covered the spread) in Charlottesville and are likely to crack the Top 25 in voting later today. I'm a little dubious about their being ranked, this week--I'd prefer to wait until next week after we play Pitt on Friday night in Charlottesville, but the turnaround in this team the past two seasons is becoming undeniable. Really happy to see competent football return to UVA. If the football team does get ranked, it would be the first time since November 2011 that both the football and basketball teams were ranked at the same time. By the way, wanna know who has been a believer in the Hoos since the early season? The Hammer!

Speaking of basketball, the Hoo's had a "secret" scrimmage with Villanova yesterday.They do a good job of keeping the news from these games on the down-low. That said, I look at Villanova as the team the Wahoos are emulating, just a few years behind. Jay Wright had some real disappointments before finally getting his team to the Final Four, and now it is a machine. I'm hoping for the same with Tony Bennett. The boys (Rob, Tom) and I are heading to C'ville December 9th for the VCU game, which has me very excited.

Missed the football game yesterday because it was Kitten #2's final "parents weekend" at her school, and was supposed to be the final home field hockey game (rained out). Kitten #2 is a fierce field hockey player, with serious speed to burn. It is sort of a slow game, but she adds a little speed to it. We had a team/family party in the afternoon, and some of her younger teammates had wonderful things to say about her, her leadership (co-captain this year) and her kindness. It was too bad the room was so dusty, as I had a hard time watching without my eyes watering. I remember when she was a freshman watching this event and thinking how far away senior year looked. Those were the days.

While enjoying the festivities at Parents Weekend, I chanced to see the horrific news of the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh yesterday. Coming as it did on the heels of the (you can't call it anything but) mass assassination attempt on leading Democrats and Liberals, I found myself wondering deeply about the state of our country. We are sick, very sick. I'm not interested in whatever your comment section justification is, so save it. Actual ideas about how we might move forward in a more civil and rational way are welcome.

Someday, I may understand anti-Semitism. But this is not that day. Has there been a group of people more unfairly treated in modern history? I'm often surprised by the descriptions of those who attack the Jews in this country, specifically by what appears to be a significant lack of any real contact with Jews in a way that might contribute to the demented hatred. But no. Just looney-tunes.

The election is just around the corner, and it looks like we'll get just what we deserve...mixed results that everyone will be able to claim victory from. The D's are likely to take the House back, and the R's look to increase their margin in the Senate. No one learns anything, no one is taught anything, everyone will fall back on their familiar talking points and venom, and our collective descent into madness will continue.

Back to good news? Hunting season is just around the corner. I'm hearing more and more geese in the cove, taunting me whilst fattening up for my table. I haven't renewed my licence yet--need to get on it.

In the previous sentence, I misspelled licence. I always misspell licence. And initiative, which I just misspelled again.

Now through mid January is "silly season" in my line of work. Every year, same thing. More speaking engagements, more client meetings, more travel, more personal stuff (UVA football games), more stuff in general. Good problems to have, but problems nonetheless.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Sunday Potpourri

My women have abandoned me this weekend, leaving me free to pursue various methods of time wasting and reputational self-destruction which include both my Twitter habit and this blog on occasion. Fall and winter clothes in the attic are not going to bring themselves down to our closets, and the electric dog fence is not going to self-heal. There are things to do, but first, a few words.

I made a quick trip to New Jersey earlier this week to finalize preparations for my 35th high school reunion. We're essentially re-doing #30, but there are still details to be micro-managed. Having a bit of time before my meeting, I drove around some of the haunts of my youth, and I was amazed at how everything has shrunk. What I mean is that how I experience distance at 53 seems markedly different from how I experienced it at 17. My high school (Lenape, go Indians) is on Hartford Road in Medford, New Jersey. 

Driving to school each morning, either as passenger to an older brother or as driver, the distance between Elbo Lane and Lenape High School along Hartford Road seemed considerable. I also remember running to lose weight for wrestling, thinking that getting to Elbo Lane was a drudge. Driving this on Wednesday evening, I covered the distance in what seemed to be an instant. No, I was not exceeding the speed limit. And yes, my mind may have been elsewhere. But this phenomenon--the shrinking of familiar drives--repeated itself throughout the visit. Have any of you ever experienced this? Oh, and if you're Class of '83, don't forget about our reunion on October 20th at Ott's in Medford.

So much Kavanaugh in the past few days. I'd like to say I'm glad that's over, but I can't because it isn't. This is going to go on, and on, and on. We are a divided country and we see nothing but malevolence in the views of "the other". I am no angel--my problem is that I see malevolence on both sides these days, although I at least THINK that my ideology is based in principle. Others may not see it so. Former Republican national security guy Max Boot -- who has gone 180 degrees the other way and now identifies utterly with the Democrats-- and I had an exchange on Twitter this morning that raised a ruckus among others who rolled in on me from both sides. Trumpies don't care for me because I have no love for their man who I believe is doing long-term damage to our country. Liberals seem also set against me because my disdain for Trump is insufficient, I must go full Boot and declare my loyalty to their party.  I am comfortable where I am.

We are in the midst of college hunting for Kitten #2, which accounts for 2/3 of my women being gone this weekend, headed south to North and South Carolina on college visits. The college admissions game is much changed from the early '80's, and not for the better. First of all, the complete diminishment of any career not requiring a bachelor's degree has created a "demand" for undergraduate slots that is a distortion. Secondly, this demand has created (in my view) a situation in which the bachelor's degree is not worth very much, even as its cost explodes. Put another way, a degree from one of the top 50 universities in the country MAY matter, depending on what it is in. But outside of that group--unless you're in hard STEM stuff--the BA prepared you for little. The final piece of this pie is "the common app(lication)", which for those of us who hand-crafted four or five applications in the 80's without any similarity--sounds like a benefit. But it isn't. What it has become is a delivery vehicle for applications from unqualified--or worse--uninterested students who don't have as much work to do in order to apply to a school. And while universities are now able to point at how exclusive they've gotten (as their class sizes haven't increased as fast as their super-charged applicant pools), high school seniors work themselves into a lather when they see schools with what were (and are) middling reputations turning down 60% of their applicants. One hears from the next generation many tales of how much harder it is for them (likely every next generation has and will), but in this case, I think they have the facts on their side.

The geese have returned to the cove. Each season has its wonders here, and among those fall brings is the cacophonous arrival of geese. As I wrote this, a group descended noisily and distracted me from this post. And so I'll now pay them heed and wish you a good day.

Geese in the distance

Friday, October 5, 2018

Some More Thoughts on Kavanaugh

I look forward to the Kavanaugh vote, and I will accept the vote of the Senate however it turns out. This has been an entirely unsatisfactory period in our nation's history, and I look forward to its diminishment.

As I think about this whole sad and sordid affair, a number of things kept coming to mind, and I'll lay them out in no particular order. But the sum total of them has led me to be far more sympathetic to Kavanaugh than I would normally have been.

--This has never been about Kavanaugh, sexual assault, or teenage buffoonery. It has always been about Roe v. Wade and any attempt to make it about anything else is disingenuous. The left sees Kavanaugh as a potential fifth vote to whittle away at abortion rights, and they went to the mattresses in order to stop him. This includes willful manipulation of Professor Ford and her narrative and evidence.

--The degree to which the press has served as an advocacy arm of the Democratic Party in this sad affair cannot be overstated. There simply was no equality of effort in questioning the narrative of Professor Ford and the narrative of Judge Kavanaugh. Ford was believed, Kavanaugh was not, and it was open season on Kavanaugh. Ford's many, many, many inconsistencies, her failure to share even the evidence she had, and the indisputable lack of any corroborating witnesses--were never as interesting or salacious as the drinking habits of entitled young white men.

--The President's actions -- especially his performance at a rally the other night -- has been predictably gutter and utterly representative of this immoral and unethical man. That more Republicans did not vocally chastise the President is unfortunate, and unfortunately also predictable.

--The plain truth is that if the White House had pulled Kavanaugh's nomination, or if Kavanaugh had dropped out under this onslaught, a terrible precedent would have been set, one that would be more injurious to our Republic than the lifetime tenure on the court of a man who had been accused without evidence. The effort to get him to derail him guaranteed that a vote would occur.

I received a note the other day from a fellow Field Marshall in the #antiTrump movement who was dismayed at the degree to which I was not repudiating the GOP on its conduct in this matter. I reminded him of my lifetime disdain for the Democratic party and its tactics, and I pointed out that one of the things that he and I had been so vocally protesting--the destruction of political norms-- by Donald Trump, was EXACTLY what the D's were doing now with a wrecking ball (the media) at their control. I don't think the D's calculated the degree to which their efforts would cause a re-forming of the pre-Trump coalition on the Right. Don't get me wrong. I will not and can not every vote for Trump again, and I will not be a Republican while he and his ilk are ascendant. But they have the better of this argument and that's where I am on this.
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