Monday, July 24, 2017

New Press Secretary Questionnaire

     Well, it’s finally official. Sean Spicer is out and Sarah Huckabee Sanders is in. Rumors had abounded for weeks that President Trump had lost confidence in his press secretary and was looking to replace him. So it was not surprising to see the recent chain of events leading to the appointment of Sanders as press secretary and Antony Scaramucci as White House communications director, particularly given that anonymous sources within the administration had already earlier leaked the following job questionnaire:
THE WHITE HOUSE
NEW PRESS SECRETARY QUESTIONNAIRE

NAME:   ___________________
AGE:  ____
SEX:  Male ___   Female  ____
PARTY AFFILIATION:  Republican  _____  Other  _____ (if “Other”, dispose of questionnaire in nearest wastebasket)
ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH TWITTER?  Yes  ___  No  ___  (if “No”, this is not the job for you)
DO YOU BELIEVE PRESIDENT TRUMP REGARDLESS OF WHAT HE SAYS?  Yes  ___  No  ___  Maybe  ___  (only “Yes” respondents need continue; “Maybe” just doesn’t cut it even if the President issues contradictory statements or tweets)
CAN YOU BE LOYAL TO PRESIDENT TRUMP?  Absolutely  ___  You betcha  ____  So long as he is honest and loyal to me  ____  (We want to see both the first and second entries checked off; if the third one is chosen, you’re clearly not a  Trump team player)
DO YOU LIKE THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA?  Yes, so long as they’re fair to the President  ____  Yes, if it’s FOX News  ____  No, I hate the fake news including the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN  ____  (any response is acceptable; extra marks for choosing all three)
DO YOU BEAR ANY RESEMBLANCE TO MELISSA MCCARTHY?  Yes  ____  No  ____
(a “Yes” answer is disqualifying unless maybe you’re Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Melissa McCarthy herself)
DO YOU MIND WORKING IN THE DARK BOTH LITERALLY AND METAPHORICALLY?  Yes  ____  No  ____  (if “Yes”, best to look elsewhere)
IF A REPORTER RAISES THE ISSUE OF POSSIBLE COLLUSION BETWEEN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN TEAM AND RUSSIA, WHAT IS THE PROPER RESPONSE?
____  Scream at the reporter and threaten to take away his or her White House privileges
____  Repeatedly cry “fake news” and/or “lamestream media”
____  Why aren’t you investigating Hillary Clinton’s ties to (a) Russia, (b) e-mail leaks and (c) child pornography?
____  Put your hands over your ears and repeatedly say “I can’t hear you”, “I can’t hear you.”
____  Simply inform the reporter that the President is cooperating with any and all investigations and looks forward to the results
(any answer except the last one is acceptable; those choosing the last option have obviously been raised in the Washington swamp)
IF ASKED ABOUT THE PRESIDENT’S RELIANCE ON HIS FAMILY MEMBERS FOR POLITICAL ADVICE, WHAT IS YOUR ANSWER?
____  It is very common in world politics for a leader to rely on his family members
____  The President greatly values the insights of his family members except maybe for Tiffany
____  Any organization would be lucky to have Ivanka and Jared working for them
____  Donald, Jr. does not work for The White House
(full marks for answers 1-3 and partial marks for answer 4 depending on whether or not the President feels anyone needs to be thrown under the bus that particular day)

HAVE YOU EVER STUDIED UNDER KELLYANNE CONWAY?  Yes  ____  No  ____  (if “No”, consider enrolling in her next course; if “Yes”, welcome aboard)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Spicey's New Briefings

     In the ongoing war between President Donald Trump’s press secretary and the media, Sean Spicer has gone on the offensive by prohibiting cameras from daily press briefings. This is just the latest salvo in the increasingly testy relationship between him and the White House press corps.
     Spicer has since escalated the war by refusing to release the recordings of audio-only briefings until after they have concluded. But it appears that this is just the latest step in a confrontation that threatens to escalate further.
     Seldom reliable sources have revealed the White House’s latest plans regarding upcoming briefings:
Brief briefings
     Sean Spicer will reportedly shut down press briefings earlier and earlier until there are no questions at all. Spicer blames the “fake news” for abusing the process and extending the gatherings to interminable and outrageous lengths. “It’s right in the name,” claims Spicer. “They’re press briefings not press lengthenings and some reporters are making a mockery of the whole process by asking more than one question.”
“I can’t hear you!” briefings
     Plans are in the works to simply ignore reporters in the Briefing Room. “Since they’re not interested in the truth and only want to spread lies,” says Spicer. “There’s no reason I should pay any attention to them at all.” Spicer reportedly plans to use the old time-tested schoolyard tactic of placing his hands over his ears and repeatedly yelling “I can’t hear you!” “I can’t hear you!”
Smoke signals briefings
     White House staffers claim that the rapid give and take of questioning during press briefings tends to confuse people, particularly Sean Spicer. To slow down the communication process and to clarify the President’s messages, press briefings will soon be conducted by means of smoke signals only.
Shark cage briefings
     White House maintenance workers are hard at work building a cage to enclose Mr. Spicer during his press briefings. The cage will prevent reporters from throwing items at Spicer or from physically assaulting him. “It hasn’t happened yet,” the Press Secretary said. “But the level of animosity of these left-leaning liars is off the charts and we just want to let the American people see what we’re up against here.” Presumably cameras will be allowed for these sessions.
The nuclear option

     The Trump team has made it clear that they have not ruled out the nuclear option. If necessary, that means handing over the press room podium to whoever can best baffle the assembled media representatives, whether it be Energy Secretary Rick Perry, HUD Secretary Ben Carson or Attorney General Jeff Sessions. If all else fails, rumor has it that the Administration will not hesitate to give over the briefings to its Queen of the Pivot: Kellyanne Conway.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Rotten Tomatoes: "The Trump Presidency"

It’s summertime and that can mean only one thing: big blockbuster movies in theaters across the land. Here’s the Rotten Tomatoes entry for the most unanticipated movie of the summer currently playing in a constituency near you:

THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY
Tomatometer     16%          Audience Score     35%

Critic Consensus: The Trump Presidency abandons the predictable narrative usually found in historical dramas and opts instead for a presidential term performed as farce. Promising to “Make America Great Again”, President Donald J. Trump and his Keystone Kops Kabinet break every promise, ignore every rule and threaten to destroy the country. Sadly, it’s unclear from the outset whether the directors wanted to stage this vehicle as drama or comedy.

Movie Info: Donald Trump (TV’s Apprentice), Melania Trump (various modeling runways) and a large supporting cast of enablers and hangers-on star in this political drama that follows the unlikely rise of a small-time real estate huckster to the most prestigious address in the country: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Violating every rule in the political playbook, Trump enlists the aid of dozens of foreign and domestic operatives to defeat his Republican rivals and then trounce Democrat Crooked Hillary to win the presidency in perhaps the biggest political upset of all time.

Rating: R (for crude sexual content, offensive language, some violence and repeated contraventions of societal norms)

Genre: Political Drama, Alt-Right Adventure

Directed By: Roger Stone, Corey Lewandowski and Steve Bannon

Written By: Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and forty years of rightwing Republican rule

Released: January 20, 2017

Box Office: $600 billion to date for the top one percent

Gross: Yes

Cast: Donald Trump as The President, Melania Trump as The First Lady, Kellyanne Conway as The Spinmistress, Sean Spicer as The Mouthpiece, Steve Bannon as The Devil, Michael Flynn as The General, Jeb Bush as Low-energy Jeb, Marco Rubio as Little Marco, Ted Cruz as Lyin’ Ted, Hillary Clinton as Crooked Hillary, Bernie Sanders as Crazy Bernie and the Koch Brothers as themselves

Critic Reviews
@ “The plot is so outrageous that I can’t believe any moviegoer would buy it. Plus, the movie can’t decide who the leading lady is: Melania, Ivanka or Kellyanne?”  -  Leonard Maltin
@ “Donald Trump is a phony and a fraud although I might have reconsidered my opinion if he had chosen me as Secretary of State.”  -  Mitt Romney
@ “Lordy, I hope there are tapes!”  -  James Comey
♥ “I like very much movie and not just because I was part of production staff.”  -  Vladimir Putin
@ “No comment” -  Melania Trump
♥ “I love this movie, especially the main character Donald J. Trump. I never called him a twelve-year-old, a thirteen-year-old maybe but never a twelve-year-old.”  -  Chris Christie
@ “I can’t believe this guy gets a free pass and I make one tiny little mistake and get impeached.”  -  Bill Clinton 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Gee!20!: Ivanka's Diary

July 5
     Daddy says he needs me to go with him to Hamburg for something called the Gee!20! but next week is fashion week in New York and I have a new line of Ivanka Trump eyelashes coming out. We’re calling them the Fake News eyelashes which Daddy thinks is very funny.
     Anyway, I asked why Jared couldn’t go to Hamburg but Daddy said Jared is very busy working on peace in the Middle East, reforming the criminal justice system and overhauling the entire government. I don’t see why Donald, Jr. can’t go instead but he says he has a very important interview coming up with the New York Times.
     So it looks like I’m stuck with Hamburg which at least is tastier than Frankfurt. See? Not only am I a strong feminist, I am funny and can make a joke.
July 6
     I’m so sick of family drama. Melania found out I’ll be traveling with Daddy and she went ballistic. She was so mad she was yelling in Slovenian but I think I know what she was saying.
     Ever since I turned twenty-one, Melania has been very, very jealous of me and with good reason. I’m smarter, prettier and younger than her and everyone knows that Daddy likes me better.  
     Imagine Melania sitting with the other nineteen leaders. How embarrassing. Thank God I’m here to save the day.
July 7
     It looks like I will get to do something important on this trip. Apparently Daddy’s not feeling well so I’m going to babysit Rex Tillerson at one of the Gee!20! meetings. I think it’s about Africa or something but Rex can fill me in.
     I think Daddy’s actually feeling fine. It’s just that he wants to get together with his good pal Vlad and doesn’t want anyone to know.
     Anyway, I’m more than happy to sit in for Daddy. I wasn’t that keen at first until I heard that that dreamy Justin Trudeau might be there. I think I’ll just play a little dumb and let Justin help me with the heavy lifting (wink wink nudge nudge). Maybe he knows something about Africa.
July 8
     Well I did it. I sat in on the Africa migration and health meeting and I nailed it. I didn’t even need Rex’s help since Africa hardly came up. Because Theresa May and Angela Merkel were there, I thought it appropriate to talk about fashion since Daddy says they’re both maybe a “three” at best and could really use some help in the style department. As for Xi Jinping, Recep Erdogan and Uncle Vlad, they’re all good pals with Daddy and did whatever they could to make me feel at home.
July 9
     We’re on our way home and everyone’s saying we were a big hit, especially me. Well everyone on FOX News, at least. Some members of the fake news were making snide comments about my brothers, calling them Uday and Qusay and saying that I was a lovely addition to the dictator’s ruling family. They’re all such mean losers.
July 10
     Because of all the great media coverage, I’ve decided to form an exploratory committee to consider my chances for running for President in 2020 in case Daddy decides to step down or something unexpected happens. After all, I am a strong, independent woman who has clearly made it on her own. However, it looks like that weenie Mike Pence is doing the same thing although once I tell Daddy, I’m pretty sure I’ll have the entire field to myself.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Trumpcare Is Fabulous

   

"I am going to take care of everybody…Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.” 


 - Donald Trump – “60 Minutes” – March 7, 2017

     It looks like neither the House bill nor the Senate bill will meet that standard or even come close. But fear not; the President has apparently been hard at work coming up with his own version of healthcare called Trumpcare. Look for these exciting new levels of coverage as described by Trump himself:
Bronze level
     This is the very basic level but it is still truly fantastic, much better than anything available from that disaster called Obamacare. Get this: $0 premium per month, $0 deductible and you can file as many claims as you want. The one small glitch is that there’s no reimbursement for any drug, medical procedure, doctor visit or hospital stay.
Silver level
     In the great American tradition of self-reliance, the silver level coverage let’s you take charge of your own healthcare. For only $5 a month, you get unrestricted access to such medical self-diagnosing web sites as WebMD and MayoClinic.org plus bonus pharmaceutical sites like Drugs.com. You don’t need those overpaid, loser doctors. If you’ve got a computer and a mouse, you’re half way to a healthier you.
Gold level
     For only $10 a month, we provide you with the phone numbers of billionaires like Robert Mercer and the Koch brothers and you can call them up and hope that they’ll help you out with your medical expenses. Given the new tax breaks they’ll get from the proposed cuts to Medicaid, maybe they’ll kick in a few hundred dollars for your next surgery but don’t count on it. They didn’t get to be billionaires by giving money to losers like you.
Platinum level
     This plan costs you $2,000 but it’s a one-time charge for lifetime coverage. What you get is an extensive home medical care package including a blood pressure monitor, a wall-mounted defibrillator, a wide variety of bandages, a beautiful Trump-branded first aid kit and a phone auto-dialer set to 911. You’ve got everything you need to keep you or your loved one alive until the EMTs arrive plus you can even pick up a few bucks on the side by ministering to your sick neighbors. (N. B. – no ambulance or hospital admission fee included.)
Diamond level
     A single, inflation-protected fee of $299 gets you our highest level of coverage. That amount guarantees you a one-way bus fare from your home anywhere in the continental United States to the closest Canadian border crossing. Declare refugee status and say hello to all-inclusive, no-cost, single-payer medical coverage. Just say Donnie sent you. (Residents of Hawaii can pay $799 for similar service by air.)

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Trump Security Advisory Determinator

       Remember the Homeland Security Advisory System? That was the five-color chart issued by the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11 to advise folks of the current threat level and to trigger preventative actions by federal, state and local governments.
     That system was retired in 2011 and replaced by the National Terrorism Advisory System which was designed to provide more detailed and helpful information regarding specific terrorist threats. But it looks like a variation of the old color-coded system is under consideration by the Department to warn not of threats to the White House but rather threats emanating from the White House.
     It’s called the Trump Security Advisory Determinator or #SAD for short. Seldom reliable sources have leaked the latest draft version of the proposed five-color chart:
GREEN – Low Risk
     Green signifies a low risk of incomprehensible or indecipherable communications coming from the White House. Generally, this risk level will be in place when the President is either out of the country or gone golfing or he has lost his smart phone.
BLUE – Guarded Risk
     Blue indicates a general risk of contradictory presidential outbursts including, but not limited to, general and/or specific denials of any outstanding negative news items. This risk level can usually be identified by a greater-than-usual number of references to “fake news”, “losers” and “Crooked Hillary.”
YELLOW – Elevated Risk
     Yellow tells us that there is a significant risk of Trumpian eruptions. Whether it’s a Mexican border wall paid for by Mexico, a Muslim ban that’s not a Muslim ban or repealing Obamacare and replacing it with something worse, when Mr. Trump starts making crazy promises, it’s time to be vigilant.
RED – High Risk
     Red typically signifies danger and that’s particularly so in the case of the White House. When President Trump repeatedly takes issue with his own people including Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway and just about every Cabinet member, even his closest advisors should beware and rely on such defenses as lying, pivoting and alternative facts. This threat level is usually preceded by an outbreak of outrageous pronouncements such as Inaugural crowd size exaggerations, Electoral College victory mismeasurements and erroneous statutory enactment claims.
ORANGE – Severe Risk
     Unlike the original five-color system, the Trump Security Advisory Determinator places orange at the top of the scale for obvious reasons. When Homeland Security raises the threat level to orange, reporters, newscasters and Democrats are advised to take all necessary precautions and immediately seek shelter. In fact, everyone should probably take cover in anticipation of probable extreme Tweetstorms.
     Rumor has it that if the resurrected color-coded system catches on, the Department of Homeland Security may fine-tune its scale to more accurately delineate the potential risks to the country. For example, GOLD may indicate an upcoming surfeit of visits by Mr. Trump to his various hotels, resorts and golf courses. SILVER could warn the public about imminent questionable profiting by the President from his office. BLACK could point to expanded international crises and a possible End of Days. And finally, WHITE could denote public surrender or maybe, just maybe, the commencement of impeachment proceedings.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Donald Takes A Holiday



   The school year is over and that means kids everywhere just finished writing their essays about how they’re going to spend their summer vacation. Here’s one from a Washington, D. C. student:

How I’m Going to Spend My Summer Vacation – by Donald J. Trump
     I live in a big white house in Washington, D. C. Sometimes I work there, too. Except in the summer. In the summer, I like to play golf. Lots of golf. Even more golf than I play during the winter.
     And I like to visit my resorts and golf courses. It’s fun to play golf and entertain people at my resorts. Especially when the government pays all the bills. Some folks say that’s not fair but I think they’re just sore losers.
     The best thing about summer vacation is that I don’t have to read. Not like I read a lot while I’m home but in the summer I hardly have to read at all. I just tell people to give me one-page summaries and, even then, I don’t really have to read them since I’m very, very smart and know practically everything about everything.
     My friends Steve and Reince and Jared think I should read more but I don’t want to. For example, they think that it’s a good idea if I read speeches from Teleprompters. I can do that but it’s not very much fun. That’s why I like to just speak whatever’s on my mind.
     Unfortunately, it looks like I’ll have to spend at least a few days in Washington because some folks on the Senate Intelligence Committee want me to come and share my extensive knowledge with them. Clearly they’re not that intelligent.
     My friends Sean and Kellyanne are telling me that I should study up before I appear before the Senate committee but I don’t think that will be necessary. I know way more than they do and I’m happy to help them out. And if it turns out it does involve a lot of work, I’ll just do what my friend Mike Flynn does and take the Fifth.
     Some of my friends say I shouldn’t use Twitter during the summer but I think they’re just jealous because they can’t tweet as well as I can. I am a fantastic tweeter and I write the best and smartest tweets of anyone.
     I really, really like summer vacation because then I don’t have to work very hard at all. Not that I have to work hard when I’m home in Washington. I wouldn’t mind working more but my pal Mike Pence usually does all the work for me.
     I tease Mike. I say “See Mike. See Mike work. See Mike operate as de facto President.”
     Mike doesn’t like to take vacations. Some people say that’s not healthy. Most people are thankful and say that’s a very good thing.
     I like summer vacations. I wish they would last longer. I would like to stay at my resorts all summer long.
     Some folks say that would be wrong. Others say it would be a good thing. I’m not sure why they say that.       

Friday, June 23, 2017

Dear Mr. President

MEMORANDUM – August 1, 2017
TO:        President Donald J. Trump
FROM:  The Department of Justice
RE:         Firing of Robert Mueller

Dear Mr. President:
     I acknowledge receipt of your memorandum of July 29th requesting that I fire Robert Mueller from his position as special counsel regarding the department’s investigation into the illegal involvement of Russia in the 2016 presidential election.
     First off, I’d like to say what an honor it is to receive such a memorandum from you. In my almost 35-year tenure at the department, I can say with certainty that this is the first time I have ever received a communication from a sitting president.
     I recall that my predecessor Joe Smith did receive a short note of congratulations from President Obama upon the occasion of his retirement from the department back in 2013. But I can’t recall anyone in my position receiving an official memorandum.  Believe me; I will cherish your communication for the rest of my life.
     But enough about me. As for the substantive matter at hand, let me just briefly summarize recent events. As I understand it, you want Special Counsel Robert Mueller fired but Attorney General Jeff Sessions couldn’t do it because he has recused himself from anything to do with the Russia investigation.
     Further, I understand that you then asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mr. Mueller but that he, too, recused himself on the basis that your direction to him to provide a memo recommending the firing of former FBI Director James Comey inadvertently involved him in the Russia investigation.
     Apparently you then asked the Associate Attorney General, that nice Rachel Brand from the fifth floor, to carry out your order. Last I heard, she also declined and rumor has it that you fired her.
     At this point, things get a bit unclear but I am given to understand that the Acting Solicitor General Jeff Wall was then directed in early July to fire Mr. Mueller. Members of my staff have reported to me that Mr. Wall’s office has been empty for the last three weeks and I must therefore assume that he either quit or was fired.
     Since then, there has been a series of dismissals from almost every floor including the Director of Legal Policy, the Director of the Criminal Division and the head of the Office of the Inspector General. Numerous additional subordinate employees have also apparently been let go.
     I recognize the importance of your request, Mr. President, but I must point out that as you have made your way rapidly through the department’s org chart, we have lost dozens of employees over the last couple of weeks. This has necessitated a significant amount of overtime work by our maintenance and cleaning staffs and I’m sure that you, as a deficit fighter, are as concerned about the added expense as I am.
     Anyway, enough said about that. I understand that you are writing to me as next in line and directing me to fire the special counsel.
     Mr. President, rest assured that I have given your request careful consideration and have consulted with my colleagues in the maintenance and cleaning sections. Much as I would like to accommodate you, I am not able to do so.
     First, I am not convinced that the chain of command reaches as far down as my position. Second, there is the issue of my collective agreement which I believe precludes me from exercising management responsibilities in the absence of a formal acting appointment. And finally, sir, with all due respect, I must inform you that I find your direction to be of questionable legality (see United States v. Mitchell, 418 U.S. 683 (1974)).
     I hope that my refusal to carry out your order will not result in my termination. However, if it does, I respectfully request that you do not then direct my subordinate Helen Powers, the Assistant Deputy Cleaning and Maintenance Officer, to fire Mr. Mueller. She has had a very busy month cleaning out all the empty offices and does not need the added stress.

Yours truly,
Fred Jones, Chief Cleaning and Maintenance Officer 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Jim Comey, Washington's Joe Btfsplk

     If you’re under sixty, you’re probably not familiar with the character Joe Btfsplk. Created by famed satirical cartoonist Al Capp, Joe was a well-meaning fellow who was always accompanied by a dark raincloud and was the world’s worst jinx. Kind of like James Comey.
     For all his good intentions and Boy Scout-like rhetoric, the former FBI Director seems to be a walking disaster. Everyone he encounters ends up jinxed or cursed by his Dudley Do-Right actions.
     First there’s Comey himself. He repeatedly and earnestly tried to do the right thing but somehow always failed and, in the end, it cost him his job. Rather than play politics like almost every other official in Washington, Comey bent over backwards to follow some impossible ethical standard and ultimately hoisted himself on his own pure petard.
     Next up is Hillary Clinton. The Democratic presidential nominee was sailing along to an almost certain victory when she was tripped up by the modern-day Joe Btfsplk. If Mr. Comey had just followed precedent and resisted the urge to inform Congress that he was reopening the e-mail investigation, Ms. Clinton would today likely be sitting pretty in the White House with First Gentleman Bill.
     Speaking of Bill, he’s the next jinxed victim in this story. Thanks to his ill-advised visit a year ago to then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch sitting in her plane on the tarmac of a Phoenix airport, Comey suggests he wouldn’t have gone public about the investigation into Hillary’s e-mails. A lesser person might have overlooked Bill’s faux pas but not the overly-earnest FBI Director.
     Like the pins in a bowling alley on a Friday night, White House officials came crashing down in great numbers thanks to Comey. His Russia investigation has felled one after another of Donald Trump’s compatriots starting first with Mike Flynn who had to resign as Trump’s national security advisor purportedly for lying to Vice President Mike Pence.
     Then Attorney-General Jeff Sessions was found out and had to admit to Russian connections. Although he didn’t lose his job, he did have to recuse himself from any related matters.
     Son-in-law Jared Kushner’s Russian connections are now under investigation and his foray into national politics may be short-lived. And as Jared goes, so, too, likely goes Ivanka.
     Finally, there’s Donald Trump himself. In fairness to Mr. Comey, he did all he could to avoid the president but Trump persisted. Not only did he speak to Comey on the phone, he even went so far as to invite him to dinner and to insist on a private meeting.
     If only The Donald had paid attention to the metaphorical raincloud above Jim Comey’s head, he might not be in the tenuous position he’s in today. The moral of the story? When Joe Btfsplk’s around, give him a wide berth.   

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Comey Week Is Over, Thank God!

   Thank God that’s over! I’m referring, of course, to Comey Week. For seven days, Americans have been inundated with media “covfefe” of all things James Comey.
    First there was all the pre-testimony hype leading up to Thursday morning. Then there was the wall-to-wall coverage of Comey’s appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee. And finally, there was the endless analysis and parsing of every word and gesture made by the former FBI director.
     As an observer somewhat removed from all the excitement (i.e. – a Canadian), I’m at a loss to understand what all the commotion was about. One commentator said Comey’s appearance was the most important Washington testimony since Anita Hill appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings back in 1991. Really?
     I watched the more than two-and-a-half hours of testimony and came away with one burning question: Did I learn anything that I didn’t already know beforehand? The short answer is no. The long answer is no except for the additional fact that Comey passed his written memos of his interactions with Trump to a friend with instructions to pass them on to the New York Times.
     As far as I can tell, we already knew that Comey didn’t trust Trump and thought he was a liar. We had already heard about Trump’s request for Comey’s loyalty and his expressed wish that Comey make the Michael Flynn investigation go away.
     I thought that I had heard a striking piece of news when Comey revealed that Bill Clinton’s ill-advised visit to then-Attorney-General Loretta Lynch on a tarmac in Phoenix in June of last year was the deciding factor in Comey publicizing the results of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. However, a quick Google search revealed that this information was already of public record when Comey testified last month before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (As an aside, if the former FBI director is in need of employment, he might want to apply for the position of professional Congressional committee witness.)
     Thus, from my perspective, almost nothing of note was revealed by Mr. Comey’s testimony (most of which he had already submitted in a written statement the day before). Yet immediately following the committee’s session, the talking heads went at it on every channel as if they had discovered a new version of the Rosetta Stone.
     So why do Congress and the American media go crazy for such testimony and turn it into a national spectacle? After all, it’s not like it was a slow news day given that the U. K. was holding an election, ISIS had carried out an attack in Iran and YouTube had posted even more adorable kitten videos.
     I suspect it has something to do with an ongoing investment in the “big story.” Countless Washington politicians and journalists have been following the various investigations surrounding Russia and the Trump campaign and, like anyone with a long term investment, they’re hoping that it will eventually pay off.
     You could see it on the faces of Senate committee members. This was their big chance to perform on a national stage and who among them could resist that temptation? And journalists and political commentators looking to become the next Woodward or Bernstein created what could only be called a feeding frenzy.
     Personally, I’d prefer that whatever Congressional committee, special counsel or FBI department is looking into these matters do so in a quiet, low-profile manner. If you turn up some important new evidence then let me know. Otherwise, carry on with your work and don’t excite everyone for no good reason.
     On the other hand, I do thank the Senate Intelligence Committee for three things: (1) its humorous oxymoronic name, (2) demonstrating a seldom-seen level of non-partisan cooperation and (3) revealing that John McCain is off his medication. For those reasons alone, I guess I have to admit it was worth the price of admission.    

Friday, June 09, 2017

Welcome Back, America

Dear America:
     Hi, it’s your northern neighbor Canada again. How’s it going, eh? Actually, I can see how it’s going and it’s clearly not going well.
     I hate to be impolite but it looks like your new president is a bit of a clown and your government is in disarray. Something’s got to give and, with July 4th just around the corner, I’ve got a modest proposal that you might want to consider.
     I know you’re awfully proud of your history, especially that Revolutionary War that we think of more as the American War of Independence. You like to view it as the triumph of the common man although, truth be told, it really was more a case of the replacement of one group of elites with another, right?
     The bottom line is that I don’t think you were really all that keen on breaking free from Great Britain. After all, you were British subjects and your complaints were rather minor.
     I suspect if King George III had made you any kind of reasonable offer, your thirteen colonies would have been just as happy to remain part of the British Empire. And that might have led to a far different result, one patterned more on our experience.
     I’m guessing you could have experienced a slow, orderly path to eventual independence much like we did. I’m guessing, too, that that orderly path could have included the eventual abolition of slavery without the need for a vicious four-year civil war.
     Just as we cobbled together our various colonies in our confederation of 1867, you could have created a 19th century colonial alignment to create an American union with the power of domestic governance. Like us, you could have slowly acquired more and more self-governance eventually leading to the status of a full-fledged nation state.
     Such a slow reasonable transformation could have avoided all manner of troubles and expense. You could have avoided the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the ongoing shame of slavery both de jure and de facto.
     But never mind; what’s done is done. No use crying over spilt milk at this stage whether it’s from a supply-managed system or not. You can’t turn back the clock.
     What you can do, however, is rethink your 1776 decision and rejoin the British Commonwealth. I know that sounds a bit radical but bear with me.
     You’d still be a sovereign nation with all the rights and privileges that entails. All that would really change would be your form of government. Instead of being burdened with an unpredictable president, you’d now have a monarchical representative as your nominal head of state.
     Think of it; instead of suffering the daily travails and embarrassments of a President Trump you could be assured of a more stable and responsible government in the form of a parliamentary democracy. Instead of being stuck with a president for four or eight years, you’d now have a prime minister who could be unseated at any time.
     As an added bonus, you could appoint Donald Trump as your first monarchial representative (what we call our Governor-General). Let’s face it; all Mr. Trump really wanted was to be king anyway and this would be pretty darned close. He’d get to enjoy all the pageantry but without any real power and none of the substantive duties and responsibilities of a real executive position.
     I know all this sounds a bit scary and overwhelming but not to worry; we can help you out. All the while you were killing and enslaving one another over the last 250 years, we’ve been slowly evolving into a kinder, gentler version of you: kind of an American dopplegänger, if you will.
     We’ve got the blueprint to help you transition to a British Commonwealth member. Trust me; it’s not that hard. Heck, we can even put in a good word for you with the Queen.   
  
Your northern pal,

Canada                               


Monday, June 05, 2017

Basic Manners In Diplomatic Encounters

     The United Nations has a Manual of Protocol which serves to provide “…basic guidelines and fundamental norms and practices of protocol and administrative requirements accepted at United Nations Headquarters.” Recent events have apparently necessitated the preparation of a supplementary manual entitled Basic Manners in Diplomatic Encounters as evidenced by the following leaked draft: 

UNITED NATIONS – Draft Document No. 89-17 – Classification: Secret
     In response to requests from the heads of state of various member nations, the United Nations Secretariat has prepared a basic manual of good manners to help guide participants in international meetings and conferences.
     Since the formation of the United Nations, we have never had to deal with the question of what constitutes a proper handshake. Apparently, at least one head of state has made it necessary to spell out in detail how and when to engage in manual greetings.
      Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has kindly pointed out that heads of state should always shake hands when meeting and that there should be no discrimination by sex. Without naming any names, Ms. Merkel simply wishes to state that it is very rude for a president, say, to refuse to shake her hand.
     Although there is no formal guideline governing the length of a handshake, it is generally agreed within the international community that a typical handshake should last approximately five seconds with an absolute maximum of ten seconds in the event that it is part of a photo opportunity. As noted by Japan’s Prime Minister Abe, nineteen seconds is way too long and verging on uncomfortable. In such a case, an eye-roll or a finger-point is a perfectly acceptable response.
     There are various styles of acceptable handshakes but all have several characteristics in common. Two right hands clasp and intertwine in a firm grip. The hands are raised slightly up and down several times and then they are released.
     Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, former FBI head James Comey and a number of world leaders have objected to the recent violations of the generally accepted handshake protocol and, in particular, the use of the inward “pull and tug” practiced by some. The UN is surprised by such an action and condemns it outright.
     However, in order to maintain the appearance of civility and good manners, we do not wish to outlaw such an action or to censure its practitioner. Rather, we urge victims and potential victims to consider the following defensive and offensive countermeasures.
     One successful response, known as the “Trudeau”, involves the use of one’s left hand to counter the tugging motion of the assailant. Gripping the offender’s right elbow with one’s left hand usually provides enough force and leverage to counter the tugging action.
     Another effective response involves a combination of opposite tugging and extreme hand clenching action by the offended party. Known as the “Macron”, one can gauge its success by the degree of whiteness appearing on the knuckles of the right hand of the offending party.
     Although yet untested, a third viable option has been proposed in the form of a passive-aggressive faux-submissive response. When the “tugger” forcefully pulls, the “tuggee” can simply succumb to the force and fall on top of the “tugger.” If possible, one should place one’s left hand on the opposite party’s chest in order to assist his backward fall and to cushion the blow for the “tuggee.”
     As for complaints about the crude and abusive behavior of any particular world leader, the UN advises that parties should do their best to avoid direct confrontation. We sympathize with leaders such as Montenegro’s Prime Minister Dusko Markovic but would urge them to show restraint in the interests of avoiding any international incident. On the other hand, if the offender can be surreptitiously tripped without notice, we have no objection.