Sarah Huckabee Sanders

A Profile In Obfuscation

The first six months of President Trump’s tenure was chaotic, but nowhere was the disorder more apparent than in the arena of communicating with the public and the press. The President’s first press secretary was Sean Spicer, who will be remembered for his condescending and contentious style. But Spicer will be remembered most for his claim that more people attended President Trump’s inauguration ceremony than that of any previous president – a claim that was patently false. Spicer abruptly resigned on July 21, 2017, after only six months on the job, when President Trump appointed Anthony Scaramucci to be Communications Director. Later that same day, Scaramucci announced that Sarah Huckabee Sanders would be the new White House Press Secretary. Ten days later Scaramucci was fired by the president because of derogatory statements Scaramucci had made about some White House staff staffers. From that day on, Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been the official voice of the President and the White House.

Most of this early tumult and controversy was over attempts by the president’s representatives to explain and make sense to the public and press members what the president was saying and tweeting daily. Not much has changed since those early days except that Sarah Huckabee Sanders has shown more willingness than others to use her position as press secretary to defend the President with all her might and at any cost, which includes inflicting damage to the country, the presidency and to her own credibility. It’s painful to watch Ms. Sanders as she tries to put on her best face and her best spin on answers to tough questions by press members about the President’s conflicting and dubious statements and tweets.

But give Ms. Sanders her due credit: she bites her lip, swallows her pride and bumbles and mumbles her way from one dubious answer to another, many of which are laced with obfuscation and misinformation. She stands firm in her unconditional support and defense of the President in the face of all criticism, and she does not admit to mistakes, mischaracterizations or misrepresentations. That makes her the perfect front for this president, and she has honed her skills to deflect as much criticism from his dishonesty as possible. President Trump lost his credibility a long time ago, and that of  Ms. Sanders is now tarnished beyond repair. I wonder how Sarah Huckabee Sanders feels about herself – knowing that most members of the press and much of the public do not trust her as an honest spokesman for this  dishonest president. I expect that historians will not judge Ms. Sanders kindly, and I wonder whether she will conclude in the end that her willingness to defend this president at all cost was worth the price of her credibility and integrity.

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Trump and Kim – A Preview

Introduction

Recently South Korean officials announced that Kim Jung Un, the leader of the North Korea Republic wants to meet directly with Donald Trump, President of the United States – and the president was quick to accept the invitation. Now the details and conditions of the meeting must be worked out between the two countries, like where and when the meeting will take place. The agreement on the place and time will likely be easy compared to such things as preconditions for the meeting and what will be discussed. Here are a few things which might turn out to be sticking points between these leaders.

What title or name will President Trump and Kim call each other?

This one might pose a few problems when one considers in what high esteem each leader holds the other. Here are just a few names each has called the other and/or comments each has made about the other:

Trump has called Kim “Madman”, “Rocket Man” and “Bad Dude” and has accused him of “killing his own People.” He has also said that aggression by the Kim regime against the United State will be met with “fire and fury.”

Kim has called President Trump “a gangster”, a rogue”, an “old lunatic”, “a frightened dog” and a “mentally deranged US dotard.”

Lots of people in and out of the US government, including some within Trump’s own political party, have openly referred to President Trump in terms no less flattering than those used by Kim Jung Un. Citizens and government officials in North Korea are prevented, under threat of retaliation, from criticizing Kim, but no doubt many, if not most, hold him in utter contempt. Let us hope that President Trump and Kim come to this important meeting with optimism and open minds and will demonstrate at least some courtesy and respect for each other. Here are my suggestions for how Trump and Kim might address each other:

Kim to Trump    –  “Your Orange-Haired Majesty and Most Gracious and Excellent Genius.”

Trump to Kim    – “Your Exalted Fat Highness and Leader of  the Not-So-Free Republic of Korea.”

Some Possible Demands

I really have no idea what pre-conditions President Trump and Kim will lay on each other before proceeding with this meeting, but I will discuss a couple of areas where each might begin.

Trump might propose the following – That Kim agree to renounce his goal of making North Korea into a nuclear power and to destroy its entire arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. North Korea must also permit the US government to station two brigades of US army personnel, together with all necessary provisions, in the Republic of Korea. The President would also require Kim to never again call him by an unflattering name – even if the name was completely appropriate and descriptive. I’m guessing that the last demand would meet the most resistance from Kim.

Kim might propose the following – That Trump agree to dispose of Trump Tower and his Mari-Largo Golf Resort, to play golf only three days a week and to spend more time with his wife and son, Baron. He must also fire John Jr., Ivanka and Jared from their Whitehouse jobs. Finally, Trump must release his tax returns for the last 10 years and agree to allow his hair stylist to be interviewed by Rachael Maddow of MSNBC. I’m guessing that Trump would give up, if grudgingly, his favorite properties for the good of his of country and agree to spend more time with his wife and young son. He would also likely agree to fire John, Jr. and Ivanka, and even Jared if he’s ever indicted by Bob Mueller. There’s a fifty-fifty chance that Trump would release his tax returns, provided he could redact anything he thought would threaten the nation’s national security (meaning his own interest). Now, if the deal comes down to agreeing to let Rachel Maddow interview his hair stylist on MSNBC, God help American.

 

 

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Fiction Writing – Ethical and Moral Guidelines

I love fictional literature, and from time to time I try my hand at writing an amateurish fictional piece here on my blog, as well as other places. I learned recently that other people have opinions different from mine about the purpose of fiction in literature, as well as what is considered ethical and moral in fiction writing. So, I write this post to make some brief comments on this, and I welcome your comments, whether favorable or critical.

I agree totally with the following quote which I lifted from an on-line article which you can read in its entirety at this link.

“Most fiction stems from real life, but if you think about the lives of ordinary people, there’s not usually a novel to be had. Real life is messy and complicated and doesn’t follow the rules of fiction; it’s also boring at times…mundane. The trick is to lift characters, events, tragedies, and triumphs from the pages of real life and create a new existence for them—using literary techniques and a good dose of creativity to make them more exciting, more interesting, more disturbing—more worthy of being read.”

According to one of my fiction-writing professors from years ago, imagination, not truth, is the most important factor in writing a good piece of fiction. In my opinion it makes no difference whether the fictional piece is totally true, totally false or part truth and part fiction. In fact, in some cases, it’s good practice to let the reader decide for himself about what is fiction or truth in an article which purports to be fictional, as that builds tension in the reader’s mind. Ethical and moral considerations come into play only when persons, situations, or events in the fictional article can easily be recognized and associated with real-life persons, situations and events. The degree of the offense depends on how your description reflects on the real-life people, situations events and circumstances identified by the fictional article. The writer must be careful not to state or imply something false about a person, especially something that might damage the person’s character.

In summary, real-life situations, which are part of the writer’s experience or that of other people can make for good fiction if the writer lets his imagination do the work. Furthermore, it doesn’t hurt to enhance the real-life story to make it more interesting. As for ethics and moral issues, I try to stay steer clear of describing my characters, situations and events in a way that would make them recognizable and associate them with real-life people, situations and events. That way I hope to avoid ending up in court facing a libel suit.

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Murder or Self Defense? – You are a juror.

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On one of my recent trips out of town, a stranger sat down by me in the rest area of a shopping mall, and after we had exchanged pleasantries, he told me a story which is as disturbing as it is interesting. He started out by letting me know that he was carrying a concealed weapon on his person. I asked him how long he had carried a concealed weapon and if there had been a specific event or situation which had prompted him to decide to do that. The stranger responded by telling me a story about an incident which he said happened late one night many years ago. He went on to say that after that incident, he had never been without his concealed weapon. The stranger told his story in a slow, deliberate and convincing manner which leads me to conclude that his story is at least partly true. Even though I cannot vouch for the truth of the stranger’s story, I can say that what I recall here of his story is accurate in its most essential details.

The stranger said that it all started late one night when he and his wife were awakened by a disturbance in the apartment neighborhood where they lived. I believe (but am not certain), that he said that his wife was pregnant at the time, which would have made the disturbance more objectionable.  The disturbance was caused by a group of men who were doing car wheelies in a grassy area just outside their apartment. The stranger said he got up and dressed and put his pistol inside the back of his pants and went outside to talk to the men. He did not at first reveal to the men that he was armed. He said he approached the men to a distance of about 25 feet and told them in a calm and polite manner that they were disturbing his and his wife’s rest and that he would appreciate it if they would stop the disturbance. One of the men responded by asking the stranger who did he think he was, then pulled out a pocket knife which he opened and lifted above his head.
“I’m gonna cut your head off” the man with the knife said and started walking slowly toward the stranger.
“You’re not going to cut my head off, the stranger said he told the man with the knife.
“I’m gonna cut you,” the man with the knife repeated.
“No you’re not going to cut me” the stranger said as he pulled out his pistol and pointed it at the man with the knife.

At that point, another man appeared at the stranger’s side with a drawn gun and said to the man with the knife, “no, you’re not going to cut this man.” The man who had just appeared then walked to the man who was still holding the knife over his head, stuck the barrel of his pistol to the man’s chest and shot three times.  The stranger said that three close-together bullet holes were found in the dead man’s heart. According to the stranger, the man who fired the shots was an off-duty police officer.  The policeman was put on paid leave during the police investigation, then charged with and tried for murder. The police officer, the stranger said, was found not guilty on the grounds that he had acted in self defense. I asked the stranger if he had testified at the trial, and he said he had. I then asked him if he had told the court exactly what he had told me, and he said he had.

The stranger didn’t mention any details about the court trial, like whether the police officer or any of the other men on the scene had testified or that either side had presented any evidence. Now, assume that you had been a juror in this trial and assume that the stranger testified to exactly what he told me. Further, assume that there was no other witnesses or evidence presented to confirm or refute the stranger’s testimony.  Would you have voted to acquit the police officer or to convict him of murder?

I would love to hear your answer, especially if you elaborate a bit.

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Super Bowl Winners and Losers

 

Introduction

There are many ways to gauge the success of teams in the National Football League (NFL) and winning must be included in all of these. Some would say that winning in the Super Bowl is the ultimate measure of success of NFL football teams and that the same logic can also be applied to measure the success of NFL quarterbacks who lead their teams. Let’s look then at the win-loss records of the teams that have played in the Super Bowl in its 52-year history and the win-loss records of the quarterbacks who have played in these games. The records I use can be found at this link.

Top-Ranked Eight Teams and Quarterbacks

The first thing that pops out in these records is how lop-sided the statistics are: The top-ranked 8 teams played in half (26) the Super Bowl games and they won a whopping 35 of the 52 games. The New England Patriots, whom some are calling the greatest football team ever, ranks 4th in these team records behind Pittsburg, San Francisco and Dallas. The top-ranked 3 quarterbacks are Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburg (4-0), Joe Montana, San Francisco (4-0) and Troy Aikman, Dallas (3-0). Tom Brady, the often- praised New England quarterback has a so-so Super Bowl record of 5-3. Note also that the often-maligned Washington Redskins are ranked 8th in these records and have played in 5 Super Bowls with a 3-2 record.

The above analysis is what these records show, but I have no way of knowing exactly why the teams are rated precisely in the order listed. I believe the Pittsburg Steelers deserve the #1 ranking given in these records, having played 8 times in the Super Bowl with a 6-2 record. The Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants both played 5 games each have 4-1 records but are listed at #5 and #6 respectively behind San Francisco, Dallas and New England, which has only a 5-5 record in the Super Bowl.

The Remaining Twenty Four Teams and Quarterbacks

The lower end of these records is as lopsided as the top end. Four NFL teams: Cleveland, Detroit, Houston and Jacksonville have never played in a Super Bowl game. However, Cleveland and Detroit each won four NFL Championship titles before the Super Bowl championship games began. Eight teams played at least one Super Bowl game, but never won. These include Buffalo and Minnesota, which each played 4 games. The biggest loosing quarterbacks in the lower end of these records is Jim Kelly who had a 0-4 record with the Buffalo Bills and Fran Tarkenton who had a 0-3 record with the Minnesota Vikings.

National Football Conference (NFC) VS the American Football Conference (AFC)

The first two Super Bowl games were dominated by the Green Bay Packers, but in 1969 Joe Namath quarterbacked the New York Jets to a 16-7 win over the highly favored Baltimore of the NFC, and the next year Len Dawson led the Kansas City Chiefs to a win over the Minnesota Vikings. The Jets, Chiefs or Vikings have never been back to Super Bowl. Both NFC and AFC have had their winning streaks, but after 52 Super Bowl games the win-lost record is nearly even: NFC 27 – AFC 25. Some of the games have been duds, others exciting, and this year’s game in which the Philadelphia Eagles (NFC) beat the New England Patriots 41-33 was a real thriller.

Closing Comments

We’ve heard a lot about across-the board parity among NFL teams, but history shows scant evidence of that. Money is likely the biggest factor that helps separate the big winners and the big losers, but there must be lots of other factors. The disparity between big winners and big losers across the NFL is not reflected in win-loss records over the 52-year history of the Super Bowl – that is the best team from each conference appears to have matched up pretty well in the Super Bowl games based on the 27-25 record in 52 games.

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Part#1 About Devin Nunes’s Memo

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 Introduction

On February 2, Devin Nunes (Rep. from California) released a memo written by Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee which they claim highlights abuses by the officials in the FBI in order to obtain FISA warrants to monitor Carter Page who is a former advisor to President Trump. The purpose is to show that these abuses are indicative of corruption in the way investigators are carrying out their mission – and to imply that the special investigation by Robert Mueller is thus tainted and illegal. You can read Nunes’s 3 ½-page memo here, as well as the 2-page letter from the President’s White House lawyer – which explains the decision by President Trump to declassify and release Nunes’s memo on Friday, February 2. The House Intelligence Committee has so far refused to release the Democrat-written version of the committee’s findings.

This post (Part#1 about the Nunes Memo) shows responses to the Nunes memo from prominent Republicans. The comments show that not all Republicans agree with the President on what this memo shows; some are luke-warm, other more passionate. I will appreciate your feedback and predictions on where you think this matter is going.

My comments below are in regular type while the comments of others are in bold type and are included in “quotes.”

Discussion

The President’s response was swift and, as usual, hyperbolic. He attacks the Russian Interference Investigation and declares the memo exonerates him from charges of Russian collusion and obstruction of justice. Note he refers to himself in the third person – “Trump.”

“This memo totally vindicates ““Trump”” in probe, But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. There was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead). This is an American disgrace!”

Former FBI Director Jim Comey who was fired by President Trump last year had this to say about Nunes’s memo:

“That’s it? Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.”

This excerpt from Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Press Secretary, shows agreement with the memo, but is less strident than the president’s response – and does not mention the Russian Investigation:

“The memorandum raises serious concerns about the integrity of decisions made at the highest levels of the Department of Justice and the FBI to use the Government’s most intrusive surveillance tools against American citizens.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan is more circumspect in his response on Saturday and says the memo does not impugn special investigation.

“The memo was merely about the oversight of a very few potentially bad actors in the FBI and Justice Department. It does not impugn the Mueller investigation or the deputy attorney general.”

Trey Gowdy, Rep. from SC, says he was involved in the writing of the Nunes memo and that it has nothing to do with the Robert Mueller’s investigation:

“As I have said repeatedly, I also remain 100 percent confident in Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The contents of this memo do not – in any way – discredit his investigation.”

“I was pretty integrally involved in the drafting of it. There is a Russia investigation without a dossier. So to the extent the memo deals with the dossier and the FISA process, the dossier has nothing to do with the meeting at Trump Tower.”

This excerpt is from Senator John McCain’s (Senator from Arizona) response to the Nunes memo is highly critical of what he sees as an attempt by the president and Nunes to undermine the Mueller investigation He starts out by discussing the Russian government’ s attempts to interfere with the US election in 2016, a claim that President Trump insists is a hoax and a lie. These are harsh words from a true American Patriot about a president who has never admitted that Russian meddling is real or that Vladimir Putin of Russian is anything but a great leader and upstanding man.

 “In 2016, the Russian government engaged in an elaborate plot to interfere in an American election and undermine our democracy. Russia employed the same tactics it has used to influence elections around the world, from France and Germany to Ukraine, Montenegro, and beyond. Putin’s regime launched cyberattacks and spread disinformation with the goal of sowing chaos and weakening faith in our institutions. And while we have no evidence that these efforts affected the outcome of our election, I fear they are succeeded in fueling political discord and dividing us from one another.

The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s. The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

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Real Poetry? – Nope, Just My Verse

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Note – Any text enclosed by  brackets [ ] is a link to further reading.

I have loved poetry as far back as I can remember, and now, after years of reading and studying poetry and poets, I have a little better appreciation and understating of what poetry is about. My all-time favorite poem [“Elegy Written a Country Courtyard”] by the English poet, Thomas Gray (1716-1771, a poem that is bound to stir the emotions of almost all readers. My all-time favorite poet is [Emily Dickinson (1830 –1886)] one of the most famous American poets, who lived almost her entire life in the same house in Amherst, Massachusetts and who wrote nearly 1700 poems.

This remainder of this post is not about poetry in general, but about my own amateurish attempts to express myself in verse. I started writing down lines of verse almost as soon as I starting to read and enjoy poetry. My preference has always been for pre-twentieth century poetry, which is mostly written in rhyme, so most of my verse has some rhyming scheme. Much of my verse is not original in style, but rather copies the styles of other poets. It was some time after I began writing verse before I realized that I was doing that, but I haven’t worried much about it. I have included some of my verse here, along with notes about the verse or circumstances under which I wrote it.

Portrait of smiling girl in white shirt sitting behind desk and

Katie Smiled

Katie Smiled when we met –
Looking up from the chair she sat in;
Ann Landers, you love to get
Sweets into your column –
So, put this in:

Say I’m romantic,
Say I’m a fool …
By looks and brains denied,
Say I’m over the hill –
but add: Katie Smiled.

I wrote the above poem about a real-life incident and a real person named Katie, but it emulates the style, form and content of the poem, [“Jenny Kissed Me”]] by Leigh Hunt.

A Promise Made

Alas, the last I saw my friend,
I told her I’d see her after;
Now all is left is my regret
And memory of her laughter.

The void between that promise made –
And when it’s finally kept
Exceeds the universe I know
In length – and height – and depth.

I wrote the verse above after the unexpected death of a dear friend. It is written in the style of Emily Dickinson, one that builds drama in the first stanza and then resolves that drama in the second. The verse is also similar in purpose to one of Dickinson’s poems.

Investor

If my being sad –
would make you happy,
I’d go out and gather grief –
Invest in desperation –
Beyond most all belief,
But if I saw you happy,
There would go my grief –
And with it my investment –
No bailout – no relief.

If my being happy –
would make you happy,
I’d go out and corner joy –
Invest in love and charity
And watch my fortunes grow.
I’d share that joy forever
Compounded interest – that –
No bank could hold the dividends
My investment would begat.

This above verse is also written in the style of Emily Dickinson, but using an investment metaphor for love was my own idea

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The Price of War

Join up brave young patriot –
Duty calls – and pride,
With flags a-waving smartly –
And a parent at each side:
One who asks you not to go,
And one who cheers you on,
Reluctant mother, willing dad –
The seeds unequal sown.

Welcome home fallen hero –
With solemn steps – and pride,
In flag-draped coffin – carried –
With a parent at each side:
One who begged you not to go,
And one who cheered you on,
Grieving mother, regretful dad –
The burden equal borne.

The verse above is one of my all-time favorites. It suggests a disagreement between a young soldier’s parents over his volunteering for military service which adds to the sorrow of losing a son – and it brings home the emotional conflict between service to country and the attendant sacrifices involved

One of my longer verses, [“This Man”] is written in mostly blank form. It’s about a man I knew when I was growing up in the small town of Toomsboro, Georgia.

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