PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED US ALL – REBLOG – The Shinbone Star

Say every bad thing you want about Vladimir Putin, but also give him credit: Planting a real, live Russian agent in the Oval Office! What a coup!

Maybe that claim is a little hasty, but the FBI didn’t think so, going so far as to launch a counterintelligence investigation of President Donald Trump in 2016 on suspicion that his activities as president were so off-the-wall crazy that he could be an agent of a hostile foreign government — Russia.

The status of that investigation, since taken over by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, is uncertain. Mueller’s report can’t come too soon.

The story about Trump as possible secret agent was published last week by our sister paper, The New York Times, and was followed by a report from our other sister paper, The Washington Post, which said that Trump has kept his own staff in the dark about his communication with the Russian president. In fact, The Post reported that Trump went so far as to confiscate a translator’s notes after a conversation with Putin so the notes wouldn’t become part of the federal record.

Trump’s action, as reported in both newspapers, is dangerous, suspicious and unprecedented in the history of the American presidency.

Homer Simpson as Vladimir Putin

While Putin might receive kudos for the success and sheer audacity of his spycraft, his choice of an actual spy leaves much to be desired. However much Trump sucks as president, he seems equally inept as a secret agent. Putin has to be smacking his own forehead in frustration at the way Trump has given himself away.

We Americans have to count our blessings where we can, so just imagine how much worse things might be if Trump were actually good at his job.

Imagine if he hadn’t fired James Comey, but had been smooth enough to keep stringing the former FBI director along. What if no special prosecutor had been appointed and what if Trump hadn’t mouthed off about Russia and Comey in that interview with NBC’s Lester Holt? What if he’d had the foresight not to invite those Russian diplomats into the Oval Office for a tête-à-tête held out of American media earshot? What if he’d been savvy enough not to parrot the words of his handler, Putin, in spurning his own U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia had meddled in our election?

Instead of the suave, sophisticated Agent 007, Putin seems to have installed a bumbling pussy-grabber into the White House, someone more akin to Austin Powers than James Bond. Imagine if Trump hadn’t been so blatant in his groveling. Imagine if he hadn’t telegraphed his allegiance to the Kremlin with every move. He’s been so obvious that only the most shatteringly ignorant troglodytes in a base hardly known for scholarship can fail to see where his loyalty lies.

As scary as it is to contemplate that a Russian agent with access to the nuclear codes might be sitting behind the Resolute Desk as we speak, I also find these thoughts unsettling:

  • Republicans in Congress continue to support Trump despite evidence that he’s a numbnuts, at best, and very possibly a treasonous bastard worthy of a Tom Clancy novel.
  • Despite the Russian-sponsored election cheating that took place in 2016, enough Americans were stupid enough to fall for it and for Trump’s toxic blend of xenophobia, misogyny and racism. Congratulations, doofuses, it’s sure starting to look like you elected an actual fucking Russian asset!
  • Although the visible damage wrought by Trump is catastrophic, what else might he have already done or might he still do that we don’t know about?
  • How long will it take to repair the incalculable damage to U.S. integrity and esteem? The preeminent democracy in the world has harbored a Russian spy as its commander and chief and done nothing about it for two years and counting. It’s not a good look. Never think that Putin hasn’t diminished this country on the world stage. Mission accomplished!

There are times in life when something so devastating happens that all you can do is laugh. It’s gallows humor, like when one guy gets kicked in the nuts and his buddies stand around and guffaw while thinking, “Thank God that wasn’t me.”

But it IS me this time. In fact, it’s all of us. America’s president acting on behalf of a hostile foreign power. An entire country is left squirming on the floor, and it sure ain’t no laughing matter.

QUEST: HOW TO HAVE A SHUTDOWN WITHOUT SHUTTING DOWN? Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Wednesday – QUEST

The government has recalled all the airline repair and inspection — and engineering — guys to work. It’s too dangerous, they said, to not have them working. The government is also calling back the TSA guys because it’s dangerous to not have them, either, and closed airports are not helping anyone.

And finally, yesterday, the IRS recalled more than half its workers. Haven’t you heard? It’s tax time … and if we don’t have tax people working, there won’t be any money coming in which definitely wouldn’t make anyone happy, at least not in the government.

How long before they recall the food inspectors? And everyone else?

Bit by bit, group by group, they will recall all of the ousted (outed?) workers. I’m pretty sure the Trump will eventually realize that he cannot serve foreign dignitaries McDonald’s, either. He doesn’t care, but other people will.

We aren’t going to end the government shutdown. We will have a permanent shutdown during which everyone works. This will continue to be a government shutdown — even though nothing is shut.

Protesters rally in Federal Plaza against the partial government shutdown, Thursday afternoon, Jan. 10, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Life, such as it is, can proceed more or less normally. This will make Trump feel like his two-year-old behavior is “doing something” while his moronic base can feel he is keeping his word.


NOTE: How can Trump be considered as “keeping his word” when he has never kept his word? About anything?


I’m sure this will be considered a “win” for everyone. People will work, the government will govern, Trump will believe his tantrum is accomplishing something …. and we can march forward to the next election.

You think?

WHEN TO WALK AWAY FROM THE TABLE – Garry Armstrong

The lyrics of Kenny Rodgers’ “The Gambler” are applicable in many places today, from sports to politics and beyond.

In the classic western, “Shane”, the hero has sharp words with greedy land baron, Ryker, about violence and the days of the gunfighter being finished. Ryker implies it’s “over” for gunslingers like Shane.  Shane retorts “Yes, it is. The difference is — I know it.

The closing scene of another classic western,  “The Magnificent Seven,” has the same message. After the heroic gunfighters have driven a horde of bandits away from a poor village, they are thanked by an elder who tells them the farmers are the only victors because they survive to continue normal lives. Will the gunmen be able to ride or walk away from the profession that has given them fame and money?

The Magnificent Seven

As the two surviving gunfighters reluctantly leave the calm of the village, Chris (Yul Brynner) wryly observes. “The old man was right. Only the farmers have won. We lost. We’ll always lose.”

It’s the observation that their way of life is essentially over. They need to find a new way to live if it is possible.  The day of the feared, idolized gunfighter is passing into history before their eyes. It’s a bittersweet ending for our heroes.

As I write, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are giving the Los Angeles Chargers a nasty whipping in a playoff game that many felt would show cracks in the vaunted Patriots’ success, would show signs that Brady, the esteemed “GOAT” (Greatest of all time) would show age catching up with him.  So far, Brady and the Patriots are winning,  running the table with impressive success.

If victory is sustained, will Tom Brady continue to play until he’s in his mid-40s — or retire while he’s still at the top of his game and is recognized as the greatest quarterback in professional football history? It appears to be a no-brainer for Brady while many of his greatest admirers feel Tom Terrific should walk away he’s still physically intact.

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – JANUARY 13: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots throws during the first quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Los Angeles -Chargers at Gillette -Stadium on January 13, 2019, in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

When to walk away is a problem faced by many successful people who never want the music, money, or applause to stop.

In politics, it goes beyond the lives of the public official and his family. It impacts countless families represented by the Pol. Power is the elixir that our elected officials are reluctant to yield.

John McCormack with President Ford

I remember afternoons with the legendary John McCormack,  the one time widely respected Speaker of the House. I lunched with McCormack who usually sat alone at one of Boston’s iconic restaurants. “Old Man Mac” as he was affectionately called by friends, would observe people at other tables. Usually younger politicians, their aides, and lobbyists trying to curry favor.

“Mac” would chuckle to himself, wiggling his fingers at the other tables. He’d speak to me in a somewhat hoarse voice. “Son, those fellas don’t get it. It’s not a game. They don’t know what they’re doing and don’t care. They’re ignorant and blissfully happy in their ignorance.”

I’d listen closely as this venerable man schooled me in living history. He said the younger officials were making deals for reelection while ignoring promises made in their previous campaign. He laughed sadly, “You’ll never get the job done unless you listen to the people. It takes years.”

He paused, shook his head and continued, “Just when you get to know what you’re doing, it’s time to walk away.”   I stared at John McCormack. “You must walk away because you’re too old. Your mind argues with your body. But it’s obvious when you shave with toothpaste.”

I repressed a smile but he was laughing. “It’s not funny, really. You’re young, but it’ll happen to you. Trust me.”

I remember sharing the McCormack stories with Tip O’Neill, another widely respected Speaker of the House who shared lunches and stories with me.

Garry with Tip O’Neill

All Politics Are Local was O’Neill’s mantra. He was a man of his word. He nodded in agreement about John McCormack’s advice about knowing when to walk away. Tip O’Neill was keen about helping young politicians who could “carry the ball” when he walked away. He shared stories about colleagues who snored their way through crucial hearings. I’m sure Tip had advice for then young and rising Congressmen like Ed Markey — who we profiled in a shameless rip off of “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.”

These days, we look at video snippets of veteran pols who walk in lock step with the President.  These are seasoned officials who’ve made countless promises to do the right thing for their constituents. The recent mid-term elections were loud mandates for some of these pols that it’s time to walk away from the table.

Kenny Rogers – The Gambler



It appears some of our leaders prefer to hold their cards. Maybe they should listen to “The Gambler” again.

2020 is coming … and hell’s coming with it.

MARSHA STILL HATES HIS LIPS – REBLOG – The Shinbone Star

I’m still waiting for the OTHER shoe to drop. Because I’m sure there’s another shoe.


 

THE SHINBONE STAR

For Trump, tonight’s address to the nation was about everything but a wall. For the Democrats it was about obstinance, unreasonableness and lying. What it wasn’t about was a flat rejection by either side for the proposals of the other.

Somebody really smart got to Trump. He is too pig headed to listen to people who know more about many things than he does otherwise. The fact that he mentioned the so-called “Wall” last, after a recitation of horrors designed to set the mood, suggests he is ready to abandon his lost cause by transforming it into another manufactured crisis waiting in the wings.

The Dems, on the other hand, with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) so somber at the podium, looked like they were offering a requiem for a pathetic soul who had died unloved and soon to be forgotten in their…

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REMEMBER BEING UNDERDOGS? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Underdog

It seems so long ago … but it’s just 15-years.

For some of you kids — Note: If you are under 40, you’re a kid — that’s a long time. For us older fans, it was just the other day. After 86 years of being the downtrodden underdogs of baseball, the Red Sox rose from their ashes and won a world series. They won another one in 2007 and 2013 — and nailed it again last year.

So I guess we aren’t underdogs anymore. But we still think like underdogs. We are always surprised when we win, amazed when we recover from losing to winning.

Then there are the Patriots. I remember when they never won anything. Then, one day, there was Tom Brady … and since then, we’ve been winning a lot. Not every year, but often enough that it feels like every year.

A lot of younger sports fans can’t imagine a year when the Patriots aren’t in the playoffs at least and usually in the Super Bowl. They aren’t old enough to remember. But Brady is 41 and no matter how hard he plays, he’s going to give it up sooner rather than later. Then, it will be time to rebuild and everyone will be very grumpy.

It’s gone the other way for the Celtics. I remember when it either LA or Boston winning every year. Year after year. And then they got old and the team had to rebuild. They did it, came back … but now they are rebuilding. Again.

That’s the way it is in sports. Players are great, they get old, they retire and they start over. Maybe that’s how we should do our government. When they all get old, time to sweep them away and rebuild.

I know in this age of hanging on the edge of constant crisis all-the-time, many people think sports are trivial. Personally, I think it’s the government that’s trivial. At least players on the field have actual skills. They can hit the ball, throw a pass, take a jump shot.

What can politicians do except argue and never get anything done?

Really, sports is something in which you can be involved that is not political. You can root, rage, and rant. Regardless, you know that win, lose or draw, the world won’t end. You can love your team, but if they lose, there’s always next year and no one will die because the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins, or Celtics didn’t go all the way.

Fenway Park, Boston – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Politically, we may indeed be heading for the end of the world, but at least we understand sports begin and end in a stadium or arena. If they lose, there’s always next year. And the year after — assuming the rest of the world doesn’t end before we get there.

CLUTCHING AT FREEDOM – Marilyn Armstrong

I want everything to last forever.

When I buy a television, I don’t expect to ever buy another one. I will keep using the old one until it simply won’t work anymore … or someone gently tells me that I really need a new one.

“Oh,” I say, “But I just bought this one.”

“You bought it 14 years ago. I can’t even connect most things to it. It doesn’t have the right connections.”

“Is it really that long ago? It seems like yesterday.”

It does seem like yesterday because I can remember buying it. I remember deciding which TV would give us the best pictures, be reliable. Which is how come it lasted 14 years. Actually, it still works. It’s just too old to be of much value — and too huge to get rid of, so I guess it will live in the basement forever.

The only things I buy more or less on a schedule are computers because operating systems change and software won’t run on old systems. I don’t want to get new computers. In fact, I hate new computers. Setting them up is a total pain in the butt. But I cope because I need them.

On the other hand, things like refrigerators, washing machines, ovens? The roof, the water heater, the floor, the sinks, and toilets — aren’t they forever? Don’t you buy them once, then never have to worry about them again?

I’m on my third water heater and beginning to worry about the roof. I’m discovering that the vinyl siding wasn’t a permanent investment as I thought it was. And the ants keep coming back.

Just to remind me how impermanent the world truly is, the rights we fought so hard to create, the young are fighting for them. Again.

Early 1900’s protests against the czar in Russia

How can that be? How can we have made so much progress and find ourselves back — not only where we were, but back to where my parents were. I feel like we haven’t regressed to the 1950s, but more like the 1930s.

The changes we make, the changes we paid for, fought for, battled for … they are supposed to be forever or at least for our lifetime. The roof should never need to be replaced. The heating system should be a lifetime investment.

Freedom should be given — and once achieved, you should always be free. We should never need to battle again for the right to live our lives as we please. I don’t think we should have to fight for it in the first place. We should be born free and take on obligations as a conscious choice.

Freedom has come and gone many times throughout human history. Rome was free until it wasn’t. Greece was free … until it wasn’t. Many countries were briefly free until swallowed up or conquered by others. I guess it’s our turn, my turn, to realize that the freedom I thought we’d won was merely a respite from the despotism of the world.

I’m not sure why it’s like this. Why is it freedom for which we need to fight? Why doesn’t tyranny require a battle? Why do the bad guys always seem to have the upper hand?

I think it’s because we let them. We say “Oh, a few huge corporations won’t really matter” and then we look around and the entire world is made up of huge corporations and we don’t matter. We give up our freedom incrementally.

We surrender it for higher wages, cheaper toys, nicer cars. We give it up because it sounded like fun and we don’t see the downside. We elect the wrong people because they sound good. We fail to examine if they are really who they say or are capable of being who we need.

We do it. Ourselves. We give up our freedom in tiny pieces until we have nothing left to lose.

Freedom is a costly gift which does not come to us without commitment and a battle. I didn’t imagine I would live long enough to need to fight for it again.

Is that some kind of bizarre payback for living longer?

THE HOLIDAY SEASON – Garry Armstrong

It isn’t depression.  It isn’t anger or melancholia. Maybe, it’s just a case of the “blahs,” the post-Christmas brain drain.

Last Night, Marilyn and I were doing our usual Christmas ritual of watching a classic, old holiday movie. We started with “A Christmas Story” which is always good for laughs. Darren McGavin is a treasure as the embattled but nice Dad. Peter Billingsley’s “Ralphie” captures a little of all of us when we were kids.

We were still smiling as we went to our second feature, “Holiday Inn”. This is the 1942 version (the year many future legends made their début on the world stage): Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire with lots of Irving Berlin classics including “White Christmas” making its début with Crosby, pipe smoke billowing, crooning in familiar style.

There are problems with “Holiday Inn” which we usually ignore but really couldn’t this year. The biggest is the Blackface act with Crosby and cast singing “Abraham” to mark a holiday. I left the room as the scene began and found chores to do until the next scene.

Blackface — which has stirred new controversy — has always troubled me deeply.  This classics movie lover usually fast forwards through similar scenes in beloved films from old Hollywood where racism was a staple and white stars would usually laugh benignly at the characters played by Black actors. The Stephen Fetchit, Amos ‘n Andy factor.

An old friend emailed a few days earlier, expressing her distaste for the “Holiday Inn” scene. It had made an admired film unwatchable for her. The racial controversy took a back seat as we enjoyed the rest of “White Christmas,” it’s creaky plot and great music. But it left us both feeling uneasy.

I had “A Christmas Carol” (The Alistair Sims version) ready for our holiday movie trifecta. Marilyn said she wasn’t in the mood for any more holiday movies after “Holiday Inn.” I usually stand up for old movies but I instantly knew what Marilyn was saying.

The Blackface scene reminded us of much of what’s wrong in our world now.  You can’t escape it by watching another old movie. The melancholia had settled in. We had striven all day to keep our minds off reality and just enjoy Christmas.  We couldn’t maintain the happy glow. I was reminded of Commander-In-Chief Donzo’s insensitive remark to a child about believing in Santa Claus.  All of the bad stuff started to march forward in our brains.

We settled on watching “Midsomer Murders,” a BBC series we’ve grown to love in recent years. That was the temporary Rx to our blahs as the dogs found their second wind and raced outside to bark at the moon, serenade our neighbors, and irritate the bejesus out of me now that I can hear them with my Cochlear implant.

Marilyn and I discussed some upcoming stuff and, clearly, we had lost the thin veneer of holiday cheer. We touched on my overfeeding the dogs which we’ve discussed before and I have ignored.  It endangers the furry kids’ health.  Marilyn’s point is on target even as I used their begging as an excuse to shirk responsibility.  The mood was clearly changing as we tried to engage our attention on “Midsomer Murders”.

The dogs provided some humor with their barkathon, my racing in and out to admonish them with no real success. I focused on Duke who was the main noise culprit. At one point, Duke raced into the crate before I could order him to do so as punishment.  We all laughed at the silliness of the moment. I think some of our good humor was restored as Christmas night drew to a close for us.

It’s still interesting how quickly things can change compared to the yesteryear world of Ralphie and “A Christmas Story”.