LOOK AT ME

Daughter Trudy is one of my most loyal fans, but has difficulty dealing with our differing political orientations. On occasion our discussions of politics have even become a bit rancorous consequently; we have agreed to limit our conversations to apolitical topics. I have failed in spite of my best efforts to convert her to a more liberal point of view. She says I am brainwashed by CNN and MSNBC and I accuse her of being rigid (must have gotten that from her Mother). As a closely held critic, she has encouraged me to avoid political topics and stick to more pleasant subjects. She also admits to suffering Trump fatigue, a malady for which I can empathize. Nevertheless; as I expressed in a previous blog, I seem to be hopelessly addicted to this stuff, and in the tradition of addicts of all stripes feel compelled to “just do it one more time.”

Disclaimer + My View of POTUS’s Motivation
All this leads me to provide readers with the disclaimer that opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. In my last lambaste of the President I opined that he was not unpredictable, rather that his behaviors were consistent therefore foreseeable. Today, as the coverage of his latest barrage of misdeeds at the NATO conference were covered non-stop, I heard the experts on TV question why he does and says such outrageous things as they are clearly unproductive. The only coherent speculation was that it was to please his base. I have a different idea, i.e., he may be playing to his base, but his major motivation is to please himself and what is most pleasing to him is attention.

Attention at any cost
The NATO thing was a glorious opportunity for Trump. It is hard to imagine a stage with a larger audience and he was ready to deliver a masterful performance. To be seen as predicted, front row and center, in the class photo was only exceeded by the video of him insulting the German government. I couldn’t help but wonder if he had arranged for the camera to be there for him as he kicked ass. After all, what good is it to be the toughest kid on the playground if no one knows it? I can imagine some of his more vociferous followers with comments like: “He sure put that Kraut in his place. He ain’t gonna take no shit from nobody” and other raves of adulation.

Cracks in the Trump Wing
This all seemed too much for even his ardent followers and hangers on in the Senate for in anticipation of his rant, they passed a resolution with a vote of 97 to 3 in support of NATO. To me this was the first inkling that Trumpsters in the Senate realizing the very serious consequences of alienation of our NATO allies were willing to put country ahead of domestic politics. It gave me hope that the democratic process has not been entirely subverted. The most frightening aspect of Trump’s performance is that it was carried out despite warnings as to the possible consequences by his advisors and practically everyone else. He was undeterred however and proceeded to show the world his unparalleled negotiating skills which some might deign to call bullying. Unfortunately, in this instance there were no children whom he could lock up to use as bargaining chips.

Danger Zone
If my thoughts on this matter have any validity, we are in great danger. If decisions affecting the country, and indeed the whole world, are based on the status of one man’s ego, we are already in trouble for this one’s is likely a bottomless pit. Theodore Roosevelt’s mantra was “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Such advice is not likely to ever be heeded by our current President.

HAIL TO THE CHIEF

This morning as is my usual bent, I proceeded to the kitchen TV and my coffee in order not to miss the morning tweets and learn about the progress towards getting those Thai kids out of the cave. In spite of the worldwide interest in the kids, the major news (not exactly “breaking”) concerned the pending appointment to the Supreme Court. Our former President had been referred to as “no drama Obama” while our Mr. Trump’s moniker could well be “the show must go on, and on, and on ad infinitum”. It is not surprising that the sudden supreme court vacancy would be seen as an opportunity to milk the media for all the coverage, not taken up by some silly story about a bunch of kids who were in imminent danger of dying.
The mechanism to exploit the resignation of Kennedy was set in motion with even greater speed than Pruitt’s dismantling of those silly regulations regarding clean air, water, CO2 emissions and all that climate change stuff. It began with a barrage of tweets touting the wonderful opportunity to appoint a justice for whom the country would be proud. He acknowledged he had a list of potential candidates all of whom “were very smart” were imminently well qualified, and who would do a “great job.” In spite of some huffing and puffing among the democrats, it seems likely that Trump will have his way and confirmation will occur. Mr. Trump has turned out to be very adept at utilizing his marketing and showmanship skills to have his way. Who would have thought such tactics would take him all the way to the Presidency?
You may have noticed that Mr. Trump is very fond of superlatives and judges people as either the greatest or the worst the world has ever known and is certain to nominate “the greatest” candidate. Of course, in the all-around category that title would be reserved for himself.  Nevertheless, he announced he would give careful consideration as to his choice, and as planned, the speculation began. There has been a procession of experts speculating on which lucky person would be crowned. The world is now awaiting the roll of drums and the blaring of trumpets as the great, no the greatest one announces his choice.
When the curtain goes down, attention is soon diverted. Fortunately, he will finish the week with a trip designed to piss off our NATO allies and suck up to his buddy Putin providing worldwide attention as he remains bathed in the spotlight at center stage. This may require him to shove others out of the way in order to be front and center in the traditional photograph at the NATO meeting as he has done at other such get-togethers. Perhaps he could receive even more attention by once again expressing his admiration for some of the world’s dictators or by doubling down on his pronouncement that those reporting the news are enemies of the people. There is also the notoriety associated with his single-handed initiation of a trade war.
Even Trump supporters will acknowledge that humility is not one of his strong suits, and others, myself included, have labeled his ego needs so extreme as to be pathological. Is it an accident that these outrageous behaviors have appealed to so many people, or is it an example of Machiavellian genius? There seems to be no consensus on this point. If he believes a fraction of the untruths he tells he is indeed a sick man, if he knows they are all lies, how could he ever be trusted.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, I have long been concerned as to the mental stability of our President. Those whose egos require such constant attention are usually found to be fragile, and subject to decompensation under stress. In the event some of the investigations underway result in serious charges, the stresses could be overwhelming, and responses unpredictable. I am heartened by the fact that some in my profession have seen fit to attack the so-called Goldwater Rule which forbids psychiatrists from attributing diagnostic categories to public figures. One such protestor has resigned from a position in the American Psychiatric Association in protest of that rule. It has been pointed out this not only impedes free speech but denies those who are the most knowledgeable the opportunity to warn the public of potential dangers.
It is true that knowledge of any kind of emotional problems could be used against a politician as was the case with Tom Eagleton who was forced to leave his candidacy for Vice President in 1972 when it was learned he had been treated with Electric Shock Therapy for depression. It is also true that some of our most successful presidents have had significant problems with mood disorders including Abraham Lincoln and both Roosevelts. But there was also the case of Richard Nixon, who reacted to the stresses of office by becoming paranoid which undoubtedly contributed to his demise. We now know that Reagan was suffering the early stages of an Alzheimer’s type dementia during at least his last year in office. I am sure Nancy was a very nice person, but was she equipped to be an acting president. Should that information have been as available as that of his physical health?
You have probably noted that I am worried about the mental stability of Mr. Trump. I can only hope that in the event my dire predictions come true, the Vice President and cabinet would have the fortitude to initiate procedures to remove him from office as outlined in the 25th amendment.

OUR MAN IN THE WHITE HOUSE

This morning I awakened even later than usual (retirement has its perks) and as is my habit rushed to the TV to see what deeds our dear leader had perpetrate while I slept. I learned that he had given assurance that I was now safe from nuclear holocaust due to his superior skills in the art of the deal, and in a follow up tweet doubled down (see my previous blog) on previous assertions that the press was our worst enemy.

The Predictability of a Narcissist
Many describe Trump as unpredictable, but I insist that is not the case. When one is aware of his character flaws his behaviors are quite consistent. A narcissist can always be depended upon to make decisions which are self-serving and which can be used to confirm his inflated self-image. Prior to his love fest with the North Korean guy, I predicted that he would give the farm away and return home claiming a great diplomatic triumph, and he did not disappoint. I am told the North Koreans studied Trump extensively. Certainly, they must have learned that his major vulnerability would be his response to flattery. I found it interesting that following their joint appearance Trump put his hand on the dictator’s shoulder and seemed to guide him from the podium. In return this man alleged to be murderer and torturer of thousands appeared to be submissive.

You Just Got Played
As I witnessed this scenario, and listened to him praise this chubby little dude said to be the cruelest man on the planet, I thought “Yep, Trump has been played.” Trump had insisted that his superior mind reading powers would allow him to assess whether Kim could be trusted, and his analysis led him to believe he could. It was reminiscent of the time the younger President Bush reported that he had looked into Putin’s eyes, saw his soul and discovered he was “straightforward and trustworthy” as all the while Putin was deciding to annex Crimea and invade Ukraine.

The Truth is a Narcissist’s Worst Enemy
Although it is true that people, including Presidents, generally dislike criticism, our current leader has taken his antipathy to a new level with his pronouncement that the press is a danger to the country. It certainly is true that the media is a danger to him. In spite of the fact that his craving for notice leads him to continuously seek press coverage, he becomes irate when it is not flattering, and with the exception of Fox News there is little evidence of his greatness on display in either the print or broadcast media. Since he is the greatest human being on the planet, he can only conclude that most news is “fake”, and he is a victim of conspiracies.
It is understandable that he would not like anyone in the business of gathering news for their’s is a search for truth, and truth has never been Mr. Trump’s strong suit. As a matter of fact since the Washington Post has kept track of his publicly delivered untruths (mother said it is not polite to call someone a liar), he has set new records in that category. Once again a careful analysis of falsehoods would likely show that most have to do with self-aggrandizement.
A casual attitude toward truth was well entrenched in his personality long before Trump decided to reach for the nation’s top spot. Let’s just do a quick review:

  • He hung on to that birther thing long after it was proven to be absolutely false.
  • The Trump University thing ranked right up there with Brooklyn bridge sales on the outrageous scale, but he managed to quietly settle that one as it heated up.
  • There is also the promise to release his IRS records, and to separate himself from business interests.

His now famous book “The Art of the Deal” seems to suggest a large part of that art is deception, or is that just good business practice?

Unconventional or Unacceptable? Mind Games on Display.
His supporters use the term unconventional to describe his behaviors, but I find his penchant for insulting heads of democratic friendly governments, while complimenting dictators very disturbing. I am also concerned that behaviors, which in past years would have been abhorrent, seem now to have found widespread acceptance. One friend made the comment: “I know he is different, but he has done some good things” which made me wonder if we are entering into an era of situation ethics.  Is the end justifies the means to be our modus-operandi? Are we now willing to discard moral codes which were once revered? Perhaps there is now hope to be found in his new-found dream of winning the Nobel Prize, in that such a pursuit could lead him down a path which would not only satisfy those insatiable ego needs but be good for our country.

Meanwhile I will continue to be sucked into waiting with baited breath for the next round of tweets along with the rest of the world, thus remaining complicit in enhancing his power. I am sure he loves the ratings.

THE PREVARICATOR’S HANDBOOK

Much has been said recently about the scarcity of truth telling especially in the political arena. Other less gentile words are often used for this phenomenon such as falsehoods, alternate facts, untruths, deception, or distortions. In some cases those who deliberately evade the truth are called liars, a term infrequently used since it is still considered insulting even though such behaviors are no longer uncommon. In prior generations truth was so revered that to call one a liar was construed such an assault on one’s integrity that it could result in mortal combat.
HOW CAN YOU TELL?
There seems little doubt that in recent years lying has become much more fashionable in political circles. The statement that “they all do it” is frequently heard when political candidates’ lies are discussed. If further confirmation is needed note that we now have a new industry called fact checking which continues to document massive numbers of untruths. I hesitate to call all of these falsehoods as lies since to qualify as a lie there must be a deliberate attempt to deceive. If one passes on faulty information through ignorance of the facts, or because he has been duped into believing someone else’s lie he could hardly be found guilty of lying. There is also the problem of drawing erroneous conclusions from factual data. It is well known that the human brain is capable of confusing biases with logic, and in any given circumstance we can never know if a person believes what he is saying is true.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A POLITICIAN
Since lying has become a significant arrow in the politician’s quiver it occurred to me that a primer on the art of lying might be useful to those engaged in the great political debates of our time. As a matter of fact proficiency in the art of the lie is an effective tool applicable to any situation which involves human relationships.
You may be thinking that someone like myself who has spent a lifetime (and a long one at that) studying human behavior would be an expert on lie detection, but nothing could be farther from the truth. At one time or another I have been a sucker for every kind of con man on the circuit. These people whom we call sociopaths get their kicks from the con itself and monetary rewards are secondary. To get away with a scam is proof to them that they are superior. With that in mind when such people ended up in my office, I would assure them I would believe whatever they told me in hopes that would take the fun out of their deceptions.
YOU MUST HAVE THE RIGHT KIND OF FRIENDS
We can learn a lot about the art of lying from those with sociopathic personalities. After all they are the pros having practiced their craft for years. The constant ego enhancement gained from their perceived victories against we hapless suckers endows them with the confidence which is essential to being believable. While minor embellishments can usually be carried off with little training, an aura of absolute certainty is necessary if one expects to climb to the rank of teller of whoppers. There can be no equivocation, and the message must be delivered in a straight forward manner with no “ifs, ands, or buts”. When planning to deliver a major falsehood the wise liar will actually rehearse his lie.
DON’T EVER GIVE UP
With enough repetitions one can almost convince themselves that what they say is true, and there will be no non-verbal “tells”. This will also solve the oft quoted cliché that to be a good liar one must have a good memory. Once a lie is composed and memorized you will do well to repeat it at every opportunity. As with advertising the more a lie is heard the more believable it becomes. Always remember the first rule in lying is that people tend to believe what they want to hear therefore it is important that the attitudes and ideals of your audience be taken into account as you compose your lies.
COOL WAYS TO DECEIVE WITHOUT GETTING CAUGHT
The most talented of our politicians have found ways to pass out misinformation without need of a flagrant lie. A very effective ploy is to tell the truth, but not the whole truth. For example, an innovative liar can take an opponent’s statements out of context or leave out qualifiers which give an entirely different meaning to the quote. In a pure sense of the word he has not lied but gets the job done. The phrase “I don’t remember” is a bullet proof way to avoid perjury when testifying in an official investigation and can be helpful in other situations also. It is the perfect lie for who can prove you do remember.
GET WITH THE PROGRAM
Most of us have been taught to believe that honesty and truthfulness are virtues of the highest order. Such ingrained value systems must be navigated if one is to succeed as a competent liar and therefore a success in the game of life. Here again we find that those with a sociopathic personality have a significant advantage for a predominant characteristic of the sociopath is that he lacks a functioning superego (psych-speak for conscience).
Such antiquated moral codes can be a major impediment to one becoming a competent prevaricator. Feelings of guilt are difficult to hide and when present can cast doubt on the validity of one’s lies. You must learn to dismiss all those stories which promote the idea of lying as a sin. Forget about little George Washington and his stupid cherry tree. After all, he pulled off the perfect con by cloaking his confession into a lie with his famous “I cannot tell a lie” when everyone knows that all humans are perfectly capable of lying. If you find it impossible to shake these moral stumbling blocks, you may find ways around them by reviewing such works as Fletcher’s situational ethics or John Dewey’s relativism. Researchers have shown that repetition is most helpful in overcoming such compunctions. They have shown that frequent lying desensitizes one to guilt, so that the more one lies the easier it becomes. (Nature: Neuroscience Vol 19, #12, December 2016).
NO CREDIT UNLESS YOU KNOW IT IS FALSE
One should not claim lying proficiency simply because his perceptions are faulty. Of course, the extreme in such cases occurs in cases of psychosis in which a person may as a result of delusional thinking transmit information which is not only false but often bazaar in its content. Even those of us who are convinced of our sanity are limited in our ability to perceive reality by our special senses (vision, hearing, taste, and smell) and the ability of our brains to process the information which they transmit.
Multiple studies have confirmed that eye witness accounts vary greatly especially in emotionally charged situations. Recent studies of brain function has shown the brain is not static in its function, but possesses what has been labeled as plasticity meaning that it is constantly changing in ways information is processed. It appears that a person’s life experiences including our biases influence how information is processed and communicated. This is easily demonstrated in a well-known parlor game in which a person tells a story to one adjacent to him, and it is passed on through a group of people. Invariably in spite of their best efforts to relate the story accurately it will often be unrecognizable when it reaches the last person. This and other factors sometimes make it difficult to know if an untruth is a lie i.e. deliberately misleading or a misinterpretation.
THE VALUE OF SELF DECEPTION
There is also the enigma of the lies of those with narcissistic personalities. Are they really lies or do they actually believe all that grandiose stuff. In some ways they are the opposite of the sociopath in that the sociopath is attempting to prove to himself that he is the smartest, while the narcissist is already convinced that he is not only the smartest but the best at every thing he does. Nevertheless, we sometimes see people who seem to possess qualities of both disorders. The country song “its hard to be humble when you are perfect in every way” perfectly describes the narcissist. His exaggerated self-esteem is zealously protected, and failures are always blamed on other people or circumstances beyond his control. This often leads to the generation of conspiracy theories or paranoid ideation. Nevertheless, you will do well to mimic his self-confidence as it enhances believability.
HOW TO GO ON OFFENSE
As one progresses through the ranks from minor embellisher to Olympic class full throated liar, he needs to prepare for the inevitable challenges posed by those fact checkers whose goal is to denigrate the art of lying. It is good practice to anticipate exposure and be ready with an appropriate response. Naturally, one must never admit to lying, but find a way to skirt the issue. One time tested strategy when questioned as to the veracity of a statement is to go on the offensive by answering the question with a question. One can also question the motives of the attacker, become indignant, insulted, feign disgust or even sadness that one would sink so low as to attempt to sully a reputation for honesty and integrity. In a group situation such strategies if well done often enlist the support of the crowd. You must remember he cardinal rule to never give a direct answer to any question when interviewed. You will find that such obfuscation will stand you in good stead in future interrogations. A certain level of vagueness also provides wiggle room in case of later confrontation.
KEEP UP WITH THE LATEST TECHNIQUES
Our greatest liars are also innovators and a fairly new technique has evolved to fend off those truth seekers which is to “double down” i.e. to continue repeating that same lie over and over. Eventually, the challengers will be worn down, and repetition will produce true believers. There is also the old “taken out of context” excuse.
There may be times in your lying career when it may be advantageous to acknowledge that one of your statements is less than truthful in which case you will find it helpful to use the phrase: “I may have misspoken” without ever admitting to deliberate deception.
For those aspiring to become better liars, rest assured you have much company these days and the competition is fierce. Perhaps this introduction to the fine art of prevarication may be of help as you hone your skills.
I need to add the disclaimer that: “any similarities in this paper to people living or dead is purely coincidental”. Of course, you are free to speculate on the truth of that statement as everyone knows bloggers lie a lot.
EPILOGUE:
All spoofs contain an element of truth. Jefferson and others pointed out, that truth is absolutely essential for the survival of democracy. Many of our leaders seem to have little regard for it which leaves me to wonder: where is the outrage?
To add to my despair, as I was writing the last paragraph of this attempt to be funny, my phone bleeped with the message that the Supreme Court had just approved our state’s “use it or lose it law”. The gist of which is that if you do not vote in 2 consecutive elections you are removed from the voter rolls and must reregister. This has been said by many to be the most egregious of all the attempts to suppress voter turnout. It has been promoted as a solution to a voter fraud problem which doesn’t exist. The decision came about as the result of the usual 5 to 4 vote. It was written by Justice Alito who famously demonstrated his political bias by screaming “you lie” during President Obama’s state of the union address.

TRUMP FATIQUE

This morning I was struck with the realization that I am suffering from a horrible addiction complicated by an equally powerful revulsion of the subject of my addiction. Confused? So am I. Nevertheless, I will attempt to explain my dilemma. Perhaps a bit of personal history might be helpful in unraveling the chain of events that led me to such a no-win situation. As a responsible US citizen, I have always felt the need to be aware of current events both local and international, in order to be able to exercise my right to vote in a sensible manner. Since retirement I have been able to devote more time in the pursuit of such knowledge, and therein lies part of the problem.
THE GOOD OLD DAYS
In my earlier years I often did selective perusal of print media, augmented by nightly news broadcasts on radio. The broadcasters in those days were fastidious in their attempts to eliminate any appearance of political bias in their programs. I even recall one newscaster who said that he did not vote in any national or statewide elections as he was concerned that it might affect his objectivity. Newspapers likewise were careful to separate opinion from facts by relegating their interpretations to the editorial page. The print media in those days were very open about their biases, and there were papers with both liberal and conservative orientations.
GREAT PROMISE
But then along comes television. Initially most people could only get 2 or 3 stations unless they lived in a large city. The height of television antennas became the new status symbol, and the six o’clock news was now both seen and heard. I was now able to not only hear but see my hero Edward R. Murrow who was one of the few who challenged Sen. Joseph McCarthy during the senator’s communist witch hunt, and whose quotes are especially timely today https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/edward_r_murrow. One especially apropos in our current political climate even though 70 years old is: “I have an old fashioned idea that Americans like to make up their own minds on the basis of all available information”.
IT GOT BETTER
Of course, that would not be the end of it. The technology advanced so rapidly that one could barely keep up, much as is with the current electronic explosion. Color would soon be added, screens got larger and the ultimate boon for couch potatoes like myself was the invention of the remote. Now as more stations were added we could channel surf while needing to only exert the fingers of one hand. TV cameras were soon made small enough to be portable and along with the development of videotape it became possible to bring live news happenings to the screen. That may seem cumbersome now that we have trucks with equipment that send a live image directly back to the station, but it was big in those days. Many believe this ability to film live action in the field played a big part in the public renunciation of the Vietnam war. We who belonged to the fraternity of couch potatoes soon found it more satisfactory to get all our news by pushing a button rather than struggle with an unwieldy newspaper especially if we had to walk all the way out to the front yard to get it. True TV news only hit the high spots, but what the heck? Who had time to read all that stuff anyway?
NO MORE CLIMBING
The next big innovation was cable TV. All those antennas were either taken down or became flag poles. Then in 1980, just about the time that sitcoms were becoming really boring, along comes Ted Turner an audacious young dude who has inherited a small TV station, and decides to start a 24 hour TV news business called “The Cable News Network”. What a boon to us news junkies. Now we could stay up to date with little or no effort, and it was no longer necessary to make it to the armchair by six o’clock. When Turner’s crazy idea became successful there soon followed the formation of MSNBC, and Fox News.
THE WAR IS ON
MSNBC used the tag line: “The Place for Politics”, and it soon became obvious that they could have safely stuck the adjective liberal in there somewhere. Not to be outdone Richard Murdock a conservative international newspaper publishing baron established his competing network, Fox News, and compete they did. Fox and MSNBC see the world through different prisms. For example, this morning Fox blamed Obama for the recent killing of children in Syria with saran gas because he had not offered sufficient support for the rebels in the past while MSNBC placed the blame on Trump as he had recently announced he would pull out of Syria which they insist emboldened Assad.
WORK TOGETHER? ARE YOU KIDDING?
There seems little doubt that the animus between the two organizations has contributed significantly to the divisiveness which now plaques the country, but I am sure it also makes for good ratings. Studies have shown that we are influenced by what we see and hear on television. If that were not true, would companies spend millions of dollars on commercials? As a result those of a particular political orientation will likely migrate to the station which reflects their views, which will not only be confirmed but enhanced, the gulf grows wider and there is little chance of reconciliation.
I SAW THE LIGHT
In my younger days I was a card carrying conservative Republican who believed that government was too big, communism was our greatest threat, and those freeloading welfare bums would bankrupt the country. Shortly after I began my practice Medicare and Medicaid came into being and I was convinced it would be a disaster. As I came to know more about my patients I realized that Medicare and Medicaid were saving lives, people did not choose to be destitute, and the communist thing had been vastly overblown. Both parties decried all the wasteful spending, but did nothing about it so that issue was a wash. Eventually I fell in love with Jimmy Carter which cemented my transition.
HOMELESS
In spite of my becoming a tree hugging, soft hearted, wimpy democrat, I did hold on to a few conservative values consequently; I have always considered myself to be a middle of the road kind of guy. With that in mind I rejected the networks I felt to be extreme in favor of CNN which brings us to the root of my problem for you see CNN doesn’t do news anymore. In its stead they do Trump, and the President (ugh, that is hard to say) has made a fool of me. It has been well documented that Trump likes attention, and CNN is giving him all they have to give other than time out for commercials. To be fair, I must say they do use some time to report mass school shootings and such, but even then they find a way to bring him into the story.
NOT MY FAVORITE PERSON
In my writings, I have made no secret of my disdain for your President (I refuse to own him) which may lead you to ask why I continue to suffer those twinges of nausea all day long. The answer may lie in the fact that I am addicted not to CNN, but to that person. When Barb asks me why I am so eager to turn on the kitchen TV in the morning before I even get my coffee I answer I need to see what the asshole has tweeted now. From then on I am mesmerized as so called panels of experts discuss over and over his most ridiculous statement of the day. Perhaps it is similar to watching a horror movie which is really scarey, but you can’t stop watching.
NO WONDER I’M SO SCREWED UP
It is more likely that I continue to watch with the hope that something good will be announced much in the same way kids become addicted to their cell phones, gamblers can’t stop betting, or we play the lottery when the odds against our winning are monumental. After all it has been shown that intermittent positive reinforcement is the means by which addiction is produced. Ah Ha, that must be it, that Breaking News thing that keeps popping up on the screen every few minutes which 9 times out of 10 turns out to be broken news i.e. stuff they have been talking about for hours. Meanwhile I keep waiting for some good news to break, and since they only talk about Trump I leave it to your imagination to decide what that might be.
HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL
With that new insight I believe I can overcome this problem. I have already taken to listening to NPR and BBC radio both of which stream real news, not Trumped up news (did you get that). Maybe I can transition to getting some print news online and eventually kick the CNN gig.

FRIEND OR FOE

Since my previous blogs have not gone viral nor resulted in the fame and fortune for which I had hoped, I have decided to follow the Maggie rule and write about a subject of which I am more intimately acquainted. With that in mind, I have decided to forego any feelings of embarrassment or inadequacy to admit that I have recently become the subject of 24-hour surveillance. Lest you think I am wearing an ankle bracelet or being surveyed by Alexa let me assure you that I am speaking of an up close and personal observer whom I have not been able to shake since he moved into my own home and almost immediately took charge of my life.
RODNEY DANGERFIELD IN MY OWN HOUSE
He has no respect for my privacy and feels no compunction about following me into the bathroom and even walking into the shower at will. He violently objects to my physical contact with others, even my own wife. His impertinence extends to total disregard for the rights to my own property. For example, I am now forbidden to sit in my favorite arm chair, and he seems to find joy in destroying various objects around the house including my shoes. When not engaged in some other nefarious activity he is usually indolent, but when awake he has no compunction about leaping onto my bed and burying his slobbering head in my pillow. He even sees fit to leap onto my lap while I am quietly reading which does not work out well since he is much too large to be considered a lap dog. The accompanying slurp across my face by that wet tongue I also consider to be ungenteel. His assumption of control of the house has been extended to include the surrounding yard and gardens. In addition to his relentless efforts to poison my shrubbery he tracks in large quantities of his excavations which he deposits on the carpet in spite of Barb’s strong admonitions.
WHAT ABOUT MY RIGHTS?
In this country we all are endowed with the right to come and go as we please unless we are under some legally determined prohibitions, but this guy insists on accompanying me wherever I go. He is possessed of some satanically inspired sixth sense which allows him to know when I plan to leave the house, and I find him perched in the front passenger seat before I even get one foot in the door. Last Sunday as is usually the case he managed to worm his way into the car as I was leaving for church in spite of my best efforts to slip away. I did manage to lock him in the car to prevent his following me into church and creating an embarrassing scene however; as I prepared to leave after the service he managed to escape and bolted in through the front door headed for the sanctuary. Fortunately, he was intercepted by a fellow parishioner before he was able to reach the communion table.
IT GETS WORSE
The church incident, although some might call it blasphemous, is only one of a series of embarrassing situations initiated by my so-called friend Floyd, the most recent of which has become known as the IHOP caper. I must confess that I have a strong if not pathological affinity for pancakes, and I believe that with a lifetime of experience in the matter it is not inappropriate for me to assume the title of connoisseur. In my search for the ultimate pancake, I have found the excellent reputation of the International House for Pancakes is well deserved (this is not a paid advertisement) and was pleased when a facility was opened in our small town.
It was only my second visit to the new IHOP and as usual my nemesis was with me. Barb and I were seated by a window with a view of Floyd starring directly at us from the car, obviously coveting my pancake as is his habit with any food of which I partake. Once again as we were leaving I was unable to contain him and he was out of the car in a flash headed for the IHOP front door.
Fortunately, the restaurant entrance leads into a vestibule with a second door which he was unable to penetrate and he was contained by a pleasant young lady who immediately sensed my plight. He was not to be denied his pancake and was determined to make a scene as I struggled to get him out. I managed to drag him by his collar out on the sidewalk after he shifted to a passive -aggressive strategy of rolling over on his back and refusing to move. As I was attempting to get him up he managed to slip his head through the collar and headed back to the door.
Since Floyd, due to his behavior, could never be misidentified as a service dog, even had he been wearing one of those sweaters so designating him, it was clear that he would not be welcomed in IHOP begging for pancakes. Consequently, having been outwitted at every turn it was imperative that drastic measures must be taken. With that in mind, I courageously ignored my physician’s advice to avoid heavy lifting, picked him up and carried him to the car. For those who may be concerned rest assured that to date I am tolerating the pain with only conservative treatment; although a lessor man would undoubtedly have required hospitalization.
NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED
Those of you who recall my previous blog concerning misadventures with Floyd may remember his previous involvement in another plot to inflict serious injuries or worse. That assault resulted in a near amputation of my right ear which is just now finally healed. When one considers all that has been done for this animal including liberation from confinement and possible execution, it does not seem unreasonable to expect him to follow a few simple house rules, and evidence some concern for the health and welfare of his rescuers. To date there is no sign of compliance or of motivation to change his ways.
I SURRENDER
You must be wondering why in the world would I allow such a monster to continue to inhabit my home. The answer to that question is complex, but mostly evolves from Floyd’s expertise in carrying out false flag operations. He has perfected the use of those big brown eyes to convey messages of adoration which along with his plaintiff whines have captivated Barb and resulted in her having fallen hopelessly in love. He even works on me for approbation and acceptance. As a matter of fact he is now lying at my feet as I write this expose’e. When I look down upon him he catches my eye with that cherubic look professing undying love, and lapses into his “I will never be bad again Shtick”. He arises and proceeds to go through his entire repertoire as follows: he gets up, places his head on my leg, I scratch his ears, he lies down, rolls over on his back, and whines like a little puppy wanting to have it’s belly scratched. I am sucked in and realize that he is much better at what he does than I am at what I do, and I am stuck with him, besides the dog pound has a strict no return policy.

THE STATE OF THE UNION

The President “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” Article II, Section 3, Clause 1.

This week, I watched some of the 21st century version of this requirement of our government, and concluded that it bore little resemblance to how I interpreted that constitutional requirement. It was a show for which P. T. Barnum would have been proud. It was preceded by daylong hype via the so -called TV news channels with hints of what might be said enhanced by releases of just enough information to stimulate curiosity in order to enhance the ratings very much as is done by other such productions. Many of the beautiful people were invited along with a few brave souls about whom tear jerking stories could be told. The show begins when the House Sergeant at Arms enters, and with the voice of a side show barker announces the arrival of the great one.
The trip to the podium is tedious, there is much handshaking, shoulder touching and ear whispering as our fearless leader proceeds to his microphone. One is left to wonder how many of those congratulants were the same ones who were insisting that Mr. Trump was unfit to fill the office a little over a year ago. But then as my Grandmother often said: one “needs to know which side of his bread is buttered”, and at this point in our history the butter is found on the right side of that aisle. Nevertheless, it is a great show, this year starring a very experienced showman. It does appear to me however that the message delivered in this latest show does not seem to follow the script as laid out in the constitution. In particular I noted the phrase “recommend to their consideration” denoting a humility and even submissiveness which was hard to find in this latest version.
Scholars agree that the office of presidency was initially meant to satisfy an administrative function. George Washington fearful that the presidency might be seen as authoritarian eschewed titles suggested by John Adams, such as his highness, his majesty etc. Having recently escaped from the grip of monarchical power, he insisted on being addressed simply as Mr. President, and I doubt that his State of the Union reports were in any way self-serving. The state of the Union requirement was usually satisfied by a written report until 1913 when Woodrow Wilson came up with the idea of using the radio as a means to garner public support for his agenda. With the exception of Herbert Hoover that practice was continued until 1947 when Truman discovered television, and the race toward pomp and circumstance was set in motion.
The process has evolved now to this carefully choreographed spectacle which competes with the Super Bowl for ratings. To say these things are politically motivated is an Olympic class understatement. I was struck with the responses of the audience as the democrats sat immobile while the republicans stood and cheered whatever Trump said. On the other hand, the democrats would not have agreed to applaud a statement in favor of motherhood or apple pie. Of course, when Obama was in office the reverse was true with the right side of the aisle doing cadaver impersonations while the democrats cheered their man except for the one instance when in Obama’s 2009 speech a congressman shouted out “you lie”! There was a time when such extremes were not seen, when there would be at least occasional applause from the other side of the aisle indicating that some thought independent of party affiliation was given to issues.
In spite of my continued bashing of partisanship, rest assured that I appreciate the value of a two-party system. Recently Mr. Trump gave another of his stump style speeches in which he called the democrats refusal to applaud his tax plan “treasonous”. Thank God in America such a form of dissent is not treason for in some places as in North Korea for example such behavior would be called treason, and result in a lot of hangings. In most communist or other authoritarian governments a “loyal opposition” is not tolerated, and without choice freedom does not exist. My complaint is that those whom we employ to run the country show more loyalty to their own political party than to their country. In the parties’ war with each other they seem to view negotiation as synonymous with surrender. Both democrats and republicans treat each other as evil, and diminish themselves with personal insults, thus disrespecting the office they hold. Meanwhile as the bickering continues many of the country’s problems are ignored, our friends are dismayed, and our enemies cheer.
Recently there has been talk of the potential for a constitutional crisis. Whatever that is, it sounds like serious stuff. This Presidential investigation has further widened the gap between the two parties, and it is difficult to imagine a positive outcome no matter what emerges. Mr. Trump has preempted any results unfavorable to him or his family with his conspiracy theories designed to undermine the credibility of the investigators, and has even gone so far as to demand an investigation of the investigators. Should it all end in impeachment of the savior in chief, who knows how his many loyal supporters would react? If he is vindicated Democrats will ponder the question as to how he got away with it. Meanwhile, the Russian interference in our elections which precipitated the investigation, and which is said to represent a real and present danger to our form of government is totally ignored (talk about Nero and his fiddle).
After having witnessed government in action for a good number of years, I have concluded that politics is all about power. Whenever we elect someone to office we are investing them with a certain amount of power. Humans being what they are, generally want more of everything, but especially power. The President of the United States is said to be the most powerful man in the world, and the question arises shouldn’t that be enough? History shows that it is not; therefor leading one to believe the hunger for power must be insatiable. There are some who have been willing to sacrifice bits of power for the common good, but that is uncommon enough to be noteworthy.
Feelings of helplessness among the electorate usually result in their willingness to cede power. Such feelings are fueled by crises which have allowed Presidents to become much more powerful than in the days of George Washington who took the job under duress, much preferring to get back to the farm. As commander in chief presidents were most powerful during wars. Other domestic crises such as the robber barons who Teddy Roosevelt took on, Franklin Roosevelt during the great depression, Reagan with the Iranian hostage crisis, and most recently the twin towers attack are examples of how people naturally look to someone who can take charge when things are not going well for them or they are frightened of things beyond their control. We now have a large group of citizens who feel disenfranchised, so it is little wonder that they search for someone other than a conventional politician, but rather one who will promise to fix everything.
Television has affected politics in much the same way as it did the state of the union address. Personality and personal appearance have become a much more important part of the political scene, so much so that politicians stand in line to appear on the news channels, and let us not forget those marvelous performances when committees manage to arrange for their meetings to be televised providing another opportunity for posturing and preening in front of the folks back home.
The creativeness of our political class was displayed just this morning when CNN greeted me with the heart warming news that your President (I deny ownership) has directed the pentagon to plan a military parade in D.C. There have been no decisions as to what date should be commemorated, but it is clear that it will be an opportunity for the U.S. to demonstrate our military might, and for your President to stand on a podium saluting the troops in the manner of an array of dictators such as Kim un Jong. The avowed purpose of such a parade is to honor the troops, but others suggest it is to show Kim that “mine is bigger than yours”. Some cynics even suggest that the primary purpose is to honor Trump himself rather than the military. They point out that he had made a similar request for such a parade for his inauguration.
Regardless of what crises occur or threats we face it has been made clear that “The Show Must Go On”.