Monthly Archives: April 2017

President Pelosi


As you are aware, the tag line for this blog is, “Consider all the possibilities!”  To do that, you have to challenge conventional wisdom or the perceived boundaries imposed on us by law or tradition.  This tenet of critical thinking came to mind as many individuals are starting to wonder whether a President Pence would be any better than the current White House squatter, if and when he is impeached or forced to resign.  This line of inquiry is only relevant if you assume this is the prescribed Constitutional remedy when the nation’s highest office is vacant.  It also assumes any other outcome would be extra-constitutional (e.g. a special election for which there is currently no provision in the founding documents) and a greater threat to our democracy than Pence serving until the 2020 election.

I beg to differ.  In fact, it is a second maxim, “the law of unintended consequences,” which provides the road map for an alternative resolution of our latest national nightmare.  And, I cannot believe I’m saying this, we have Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate to thank.  For they were the ones who bent the rules to ensure Justice Scalia’s replacement was nominated and confirmed outside the regular order of business.

Consider the following scenario.  The FBI investigation results in criminal charges of treason against several Trump associates.  Comrade Trump, like Richard Nixon during the Watergate prosecutions, is named as an unindicted co-conspirator.  But one thing is clear.  The entire Trump campaign organization was engaged with the Russian government and its operatives.  Even though His Orangeness continues to rail against the media and the judiciary, an overwhelming percentage of Americans recognize neither Trump or Pence deserve to occupy the oval office.

In response, members of the Republican controlled House Judiciary Committee, in an attempt to protect their own political careers, threaten to begin impeachment proceedings if both Trump and Pence do not resign.  Their end game is to elevate House Speaker Paul Ryan to the office of president, something the GOP establishment likely preferred all along.  However, Democratic members of the committee join with the few remaining Trump loyalists to block the impeachment hearings.  The always delusional Trump believes, despite the growing evidence of treasonous activity, he can beat the odds, win re-election in 2020 and refuses to step down.

A two-way street?

Here is where Democrats have an opportunity to show  America they actually learned something from the Supreme Court coup perpetrated by McConnell and his Senate colleagues.  Delay until you are in a position to change the outcome.  Yes, the Constitution states the Speaker of the House is third in line for the presidency.  But Paul Ryan fits the bill only if he is still Speaker of the House.  Delay impeachment hearings until after the 2018 mid-term elections when the Democrats have a chance to again become the majority party in the House. Their choice for Speaker then becomes the legitimate successor if Trump and Pence are both forced from office.

Now, I will be the first to admit, if you want to heal a divided country, Nancy Pelosi is probably not the person most people would choose.  Which gives Pelosi and the Democrats a unique opportunity to demonstrate what it truly means to put country before party.  Knowing that the next speaker may soon occupy the White House, the Democrats choose a respected, experienced member of their caucus as Speaker, someone in whom the country will support as a caretaker until the 2020 presidential contest.  Pelosi is then elected majority leader and returns to the Speaker’s chair following the transfer of presidential power to the sitting speaker.

But I’m also not naive.  It would be understandably hard for Pelosi to forego the chance to be the first female president, even if the historical record has an asterisk next to her name.  As in the alternative scenario above, she could present herself as a caretaker by declaring she would not seek election in 2020.  Under the 25th amendment, she could nominate someone for vice-president who would likely become the front runner for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

I know! I know!  It’s hard to imagine all the pieces falling into place under which either of these story lines becomes a reality.  But, I ask you, are they any more unlikely than voters electing a narcissistic, misogynist, pathological lying, con man as president in the first place?

For what it’s worth.


Where There’s a Will (Rogers), There’s a Way

IImage result for will rogers am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat.  

Will Rogers

Never was this more true than now as I observe the party’s inability to capitalize on turning public opinion into votes.  Take the legalization of marijuana as an example.  Yesterday, a new CBS News Poll showed that 61 percent of Americans favor legalization.  More (71 percent) believe the federal government should not enforce federal marijuana laws in states where voters have approved medical or recreational use. (NOTE:  It is no coincidence the report was released on April 20 aka “Weed Day,” or as it was called in Colorado, Washington, Connecticut, Maine, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska and California, “Thursday.”)

And where is the Trump administration on this issue? On February 27, 2017, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions told a meeting of the National Association of State Attorneys General:

States, they can pass the laws they choose.  I would just say, it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.

He also took this opportunity to warn of the life-threatening danger of cannabis use, although there were no reported marijuana related deaths in Alabama in 2016.  In contrast, a 2014 Center for Disease Control report attributed 3,190 deaths due to drunk driving between 2003-2012 in Session’s home state.

This is just the most recent example. The same holds true for almost every Trump administration policy: immigration, health care, the border wall, marriage equality, consumer protection, net neutrality and privacy, campaign finance reform and changes to the tax code.  Republican positions do not match public opinion.  Regardless of whether they are successful in a GOP-dominated Congress, Democrats need to be sponsoring  and campaigning on legislative proposals NOW which respond to voters’ sentiments.

In the past, I have written about what I call “Kardashian Politics,” a phenomenon where voters are more interested in personalities than policies.  At the time I thought it explained Donald Trump’s appeal.  But a recent personal experience tells me that is just half the story.

In my other life, I am currently facilitating a visioning exercise for a local non-profit.  As the participants contemplate the organization’s future, it has become clear its success and shortcomings depended more on personalities than structure or procedures.  For example, many of the board members have maintained their positions and roles since the group’s establishment ten years ago.  That only works for so long.

The Republicans are now the party of Trump.  It is yet to be seen how long that will last.  Unfortunately, the Democratic Party is also guilty of “Kardashian Politics.” For a quarter century, the face of the party has been either a Clinton or an Obama.  Instead of asking, “Can Hillary Clinton hold the Obama coalition together?” we should have been asking, “Does the party still represent the people who historically agreed with us?”

I thought about this last night as I watched Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in the Georgia 6th Congressional District special election, being interviewed by Rachel Maddow.  When asked whether it helped that he was seen “as a national bellweather of sentiment for or against the new President,” Ossoff’s reply suggests he gets it.

One of the reasons why the campaign was able to perform as well as it did, I’ve been working on building a coalition around a vision for our local economic development and around shared values that unite people in the community rather than focusing on divisive, nationalized politics.

Which brings me back to Will Rogers. In his syndicated column, which appeared in the Tulsa Daily News on December 5, 1932, Oklahoma’s favorite son opined about Herbert Hoover’s electoral defeat a month earlier.

This election was lost four and five and six years ago not this year. They dident (sic) start thinking of the old common fellow till just as they started out on the election tour. The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickled down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the dryest (sic) little spot. But he dident know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands. They saved the big banks but the little ones went up the flue.

If I, like Will Rogers, dident know better, I would have thought his column appeared on December 5, 2016 and Jon Ossoff was campaigning for FDR in 1932.  DNC chair Tom Perez is hopefully listening to what both are saying.

For what it’s worth.


Здесь останавливается шайба

Yesterday, several media outlets disclosed the existence of a Russian think tank report, commissioned by Vladimir Putin in June 2016, which outlined a campaign to undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system.  Unreported were sections of the report which focused on other national institutions.  Page 214 of the document prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies is titled, “Здесь останавливается шайба,” or “The Puck Stops Here.”

The underlying premise behind using the National Hockey League, and the Washington Capitals in particular, as an element of the Kremlin’s campaign to create unrest in the United States is described in the following excerpt.

Americans believe in hope. They yearn for it.  They search for it everywhere.  They twice elected Barack Obama as their president thinking that the first African-American in the oval office would result in a new era of post-racial harmony.  As we have seen, Americans will quickly change their attitude if confronted with a different reality.  It was this change in temperament which made  Donald Trump’s success in the Republican race for the presidential nomination possible.

This should be our model for undermining Americans’ hope in every aspect of their lives.  Take sports for example.  An indication of  their confidence in a better future is embodied in their mantra, “Wait ’til next year.”  Do we need look any farther than the fans of the Chicago Cubs?  A hundred eight years without a championship.  And still they fill the stadium and cheer their players.  One can only imagine what a World Series title would do to bolster the American dream that anything is possible.  Unfortunately, intervention targeted at Major League Baseball would require starting from scratch as Russia currently produces no players likely to be courted by the owners or managers.

An easier target is the National Hockey League (NHL).  We have been watching closely and it appears the Washington Capitals could be easily manipulated.  During the 2015-16 season they had the best regular season record in the league.  But as they have done so many times before, faltered during the playoffs.  The media was filled with stories trying to explain the Capitals’ collapse.  Our goal should be to assure this happens year after year.

Alex Ovechkin and Donald Trump “face-off” at a secret location.

 Maybe it is coincidence, but this certainly explains how one of the three Russians on the Capitals’ roster, Alex Ovechkin, can lead his team to the 2016-17 regular season title and once again be named league MVP.  Yet as he did last year, become a relative non-factor in the first round of the playoffs.  As you know, I have avoided promoting conspiracy theories in  this blog, but the accompanying photo of Ovechkin and Trump meeting on the outfield of an empty National’s stadium raises questions.  Meeting at the Verizon Center would have drawn too much attention.

Though unconfirmed, an unnamed source claims the FBI requested a FISA court warrant to surveil Ovechkin. They intercepted transmissions from a meeting attended by Ovechkin and the two other Russians on the Capitals’ roster–Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov (code name “choking dogs”)–following Sunday’s loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.*  Russian handlers warned the players that blowing a 3-1 lead and possibly losing in the first round of the playoffs was too obvious.

Evidence suggests they may be right.  Capitals coach Barry Trotz reduced Ovechkin’s time on the ice in both games three and four of the Toronto series.  To deflect suspicion Ovechkin scored early goals in both games.  Whether the Capitals’ survive this Russian attempt to foment discord in the nation’s capital is yet to be seen.  Last night’s winning goal by American-born Timothy Leif “T.J.” Oshie, assisted by Niklas Backstrom of NATO ally Sweden suggests there’s still hope and proves that the North Atlantic alliance is not obsolete.  However, if you think there was finger pointing after Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016, it will be nothing compared to the second-guessing following a Capitals’ early exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs.

*NOTE: Secretary of Education Betsy de Vos recently thanked the Toronto front office for promoting the correct spelling of the plural for “leaf.”   

For what it’s worth.


Sing It Like It Is


Presidential candidates traditionally use popular music to set the tone for their campaigns, catchy tunes with which the office-seeker can identify. You may remember Franklin Roosevelt entering to “Happy Days Are Here Again” or Bill Clinton grooving to “Can’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.”  However, there was a time when campaigns would create their own versions of a popular song.  Examples include “High Hopes with Jack Kennedy” performed by supporter Frank Sinatra who sang the original Oscar winning version in the 1959 movie A Hole in the Head.  Or Ed Ames’ 1968 version of “Hello, Lyndon,” based on the title song from the musical Hello, Dolly.

On numerous occasions during the last election cycle, Comrade Trump appropriated popular music to accompany his entrance at rallies.  There was just one problem.  He often chose songs written and performed by musicians who abhorred him and everything he stood for. Examples included Neil Young who requested the Republican nominee stop using “Rockin’ in the Free World” or Adele protesting Trump’s use of “Rolling in the Deep” as walk-on music at a January 2016 event.  There was even what you might call a Zombie revolt.  Deceased musicians such as Luciano Pavarotti and George Harrison, represented by their families or estates, asked Trump to cease and desist using music with which they were commonly identified.

As Trump gears up for 2020, as evidenced by recent, so-called campaign rallies in several deep red states, I have a suggestion which would solve his problem.  According to U.S. statutes, “Works created and copyrighted (that is, registered or published) prior to January 1, 1978, are protected for 95 years from the date the copyright was originally secured.” (Source: Alter, Kendrick & Baron Guide to Copyright Law)  All His Orangeness needs to do is find a song which was published before 1922.  And, of course, I found the perfect match.

It is a little ditty from 1905 with words by Jean Lenox and music by Harry O. Sutton.  It was regularly performed as part of the Ziegfield Follies and eventually recorded by Eva Tanguay in 1922.  Subsequent covers were recorded by Judy Garland, Mitzi Gaynor and Eydie Gorme.  It is titled, “I Don’t Care,” and includes the following chorus.

dont-careI don’t care, I don’t care,
What they may think of me,
I’m happy go lucky,
Men say I am plucky,
So jolly and care free,
I don’t care, I don’t care,
If I do get the mean and stony stare,
If I’m never successful,
It won’t be distressful,
‘Cos I don’t care.

However, if the Trump campaign team really wants to get a crowd worked up, maybe they need something with a bit more audience participation.  Perhaps Ivanka and Jared came to the same conclusion during their Seder last Monday night.  The traditional Passover song “Dayenu” is the model on which Trump could create his own campaign theme music.  “Dayenu,” which means “it would have been enough” thanks God for the many blessings he bestowed on the Jewish people following their deliverance from Pharaoh’s rule.  For example, the person who leads the Passover service recites, “If He had brought us out of Egypt,” to everyone’s response “Dayenu,” it would have been enough.  Then, “If he had brought us out of Egypt and not executed justice upon the Egyptians.” Dayenu.  And so on.

Instead of “Dayenu,” the new variation could be called “Lo Eekh-Paht Lee,” or “I Don’t Care.”  Here are a few samples of the many verses.

Trump: If you think I flip-flopped on Chinese currency manipulation.

Audience: Lo Eekh-Paht Lee

Trump: If you’re unhappy that I didn’t repeal and replace Obamacare on my first day in office.

Audience: Lo Eekh-Paht Lee

Trump: If you thought I would actually release my tax returns as I promised to do.

Audience: Lo Eekh-Paht Lee

Trump: If you’re steeped in buyer’s remorse. (Last verse).

Audience: Lo Eekh-Paht Lee

An added bonus is that Trump and his campaign are, for once, operating within the law.  Since “Dayenu” first appeared in a ninth century Hagaddah, the book used during the Seder to tell the story of the exodus from Egypt, the copyright has surely expired.  Dayenu, it would have been enough.  But this version of “I Don’t Care” also falls within the fair use of copyrighted materials for the purpose of parody.  The only question left to answer? Is Trump also protected under Russian copyright laws?

For what it’s worth.

Beauty and the Bull


The date is March 8, 2017.  It was International Women’s Day.  And in honor of the celebration and as a reminder Wall Street and corporate America are still largely male-dominated, a new fixture appeared on State Street in the heart of New York’s financial district.  Under the cloak of darkness, sponsors installed a 50 inch, 250 pound statue titled “Fearless Girl” opposite the 11 foot, 7,100 pound “Charging Bull,” which has stood as a symbol of America’s economic strength since 1989.  (NOTE: According to ISS Analytics, only 16 percent of the board seats in Russell 3000 companies are occupied by women.)

Celebration soon turned to controversy.  Last Wednesday, Arturo Di Modica, the sculptor who created “Charging Bull,” held a press conference to attack the new art installation.  Di Modica claimed Fearless Girl “was an insult to his work. ‘She’s there attacking the bull,’ he said.” (Source. New York Times, April 12, 2017)  He also claimed this was a case of copyright infringement although no suit has been filed.  PLEASE! This is equivalent to charging Paolo Veronese with copyright infringement because his painting “The Wedding Feast at Cana” hangs opposite the “Mona Lisa” in the Louvre.

My first reaction was, “You must be kidding.” (Actually, it was a little stronger than that but I’ve promised my wife I’d tone down the language in these posts.)  But I soon realized Di Modica’s reaction should have come as no surprise.  For the last two years Americans have been instructed to fear everyone and everything.  Muslims.  Immigrants. Hollywood. Environmentalists.  Scientists.  The LGBT community. It was only a matter of time before we were told young girls with big dreams were a danger to our way of life.

Perhaps there is a deeper meaning behind the artistic confrontation between “Fearless Girl” and “Charging Bull.” Look closer at “Fearless Girl.”  Her hair is in a pony tail.  She is wearing a simple sleeveless dress.  She is not wearing any jewelry. Her eyes tell us she is in awe of something she is seeing for the first time. Her facial features suggest she is probably Caucasian.  In other words, she is more likely a New York visitor from the Midwest than the offspring of a Manhattan resident.

She is more than a little girl thinking about life’s possibilities.  She embodies the populist dissatisfaction on both the left and right.  And the bull represents the bankers, corporate raiders and hedge fund managers who have benefited most from the current recovery.  During the 2016 presidential campaign, both candidates pledged to reconcile this disparity between those who have flourished and those who feel left behind.  As the current White House occupant, Donald Trump is the one who must deliver on that promise.

How goes it?  Well, that depends on who you ask.  The administration was quick to take credit for the stock market bump since the November election.  Wasn’t that the bull speaking?  Fearless girl is more likely to have a lemonade stand than a stock portfolio. How about consumer confidence?  On December 27, 2016, U.S. News and World Report applauded as consumer confidence rose to a 15-year high.  But measuring consumer confidence is akin to market surveys about consumer products.  It is one thing to say, “I plan to spend money.”  It is quite another to reach into your wallet or purse and hand over your hard-earned cash.

To understand the economic mood of the general population, I prefer to look at the numbers which represent actual behavior, not speculation. Just yesterday, the Commerce Department reported retail sales in March fell for the second straight month.  Likewise, the Consumer Price Index declined by 0.3 percent last month, another sign the demand for goods and services has weakened.

Keep in mind these numbers are just a snapshot in time and may change over the course of the next few months or years.  Today, however, beauty and the bull are no closer to reconciling than they were on November 8.

For what it’s worth.