Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Flag Day Despoiled

I was going to write a piece about Flag Day with photos.

Now, the depressing news about the shooting at a baseball practice field of Republican members of the congressional baseball team leads to other thoughts.  Thankfully no one was killed other than the gunman.  Good riddance to him. And thankfully the brave Capitol Police were there to take him down.

But will this be a time that we pull together long after the incident?  Or will it just pull us further apart?

I’ve heard comments such as Representative Mo Brooks’  “It’s not easy to take when you see people around you being shot and you don’t have a weapon yourself.”  According to initial reports the deranged gunman had a military assault style weapon.  One can understand the helplessness and the impotence felt by Rep. Brooks.  It is an outrage that we cannot even enjoy our national pastime without feeling threatened this way.  And it is an outrage that political divisiveness should lead to any kind of violence.

But unless we all pull together the subsequent dialogue can go two divergent ways.  One could lead us down the path of greater authoritarianism and the call for arming more citizens (although a greater police presence is going to be necessary when many of our Representatives are in public venues).  The other path could call for the long-needed ban of military grade weapons.  Are we all supposed to be armed  with AR-15s on our baseball fields?  I’m no Pollyanna and know that such a ban would have little impact on what happens in the near future.  I’m thinking long term.  This is not about challenging the 2nd Amendment, and it is not about Republican vs. Democrat.  It’s about common sense banning military weapons, doing comprehensive background checks, expanding our treatment of mental illness, and developing better early warning signs of mentally disturbed people from social networks and prior arrests.

I worry about how this horrible incident will move the country in the future.  Will we come together, E pluribus unum, or be driven apart, politicizing this horror?  I look to the flag and wonder and hope.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Let the Games Begin

The “games” -- meaning the Congressional Hearings regarding the Russian influence on our election results and the possible “cooperation” of Trump and/or his legion of surrogates.

James Comey laid out his case in great documented detail.  Is there enough there to “prove” a case of impeding an investigation by a sitting U.S. President, or even impeachment.  No.  Not, yet at least.

And Trump’s reaction was predictable, cherry picking what he liked such as the three times Comey said he was not personally under investigation (he wouldn’t be – yet), then claiming other statements were “a lie,” such as demanding “loyalty” of Comey.

Trump also said he is “100%” committed to testifying under oath (watch out what you wish for).

It was a one on one conversation, so it boils down to who do you believe, the meticulous note taker Comey, or the off-the cuff reactions of President Trump?  Yet, they both may be telling “the truth.”  How can that be? 

At the risk of sounding like an armchair psychologist, simply put perhaps Trump believes his own lies, has created his own reality, and really does not believe he said or meant those aspects of Comey’s testimony.  Therefore, he can in good conscience testify to that effect. 100%.

As Eric Hoffer, author of The True Believer said, “We lie the loudest when we lie to ourselves.

Perhaps future candidates for President should be required to undergo physical AND psychological testing?  Aren’t we entitled to choose between the healthiest candidates for such an important office?

And from another site (there are many), “certain personality traits where pathological lying may occur include” (does any of this strike a chord?):

    Narcissism or self-centered behaviors and thought patterns
    Abusive attitude
    Obsessive, controlling, and compulsive behaviors
    Jealous behavior
    Manipulative behaviors
    Socially awkward, uncomfortable, or isolated
    Low self-esteem

Almost a month ago I wrote to our two Senators (Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson) and our Representative (Brian Mast).  This was before Robert Mueller was appointed by the Justice Department as special counsel but right after James Comey was dismissed as FBI Director by Trump.  I ultimately received responses from Nelson and Mast, those were after Mueller was appointed and thus their responses were understandably focused on that appointment.

Rubio on the other hand provided an automated response that a reply would be forthcoming and such a reply never did.  I find this interesting as Rubio’s questioning of Comey was definitely Trump predisposed.  Rubio seems to be committed to appealing to the base that got him elected.  This country has devolved into Newton's third law of physics, that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Just flip back and forth between MSNBC and FOX and you can experience the polarity.

Here is our letter first and then the responses.

May 13, 2017
Dear (insert name of Senator or Representative):

My wife and I, both retired, are distraught and anxiety ridden over the behavior of President Trump.  I can think of only two times we’ve felt so concerned:  during the Cuban missile crisis and during the end of the Nixon administration.  Luckily, a stable, resolute President Kennedy prevailed during the former crisis and our democracy and separation of powers worked to ensure the preservation of the Republic during the latter.

Where are the courageous Senators to insist on a special prosecutor (now that the FBI has been kneecapped) to investigate the extent of any possible collusion of the Trump election team with Russian operatives?  Where are the courageous Senators to insist on a complete examination of Trump’s financial dealings in light of the emolument clause of the Constitution or to consider whether his removal is justified by the 25th Amendment to the Constitution based on mental illness?

Perhaps you feel the same existential dilemma we do: how does one, as a citizen of a country he/she loves, support its new leader, given his unstable, even despotic behavior, one who relies on nepotistic advice? 

The concept of separation of powers and the role of the 4th estate are being severely tested and we look to the Senate as the last bastion of defense.  Will you and your colleagues rise to the occasion or are you going to allow this person to run amuck and jeopardize everything our founding fathers stood for?  His behavior is an affront to the dignity of the Office of the Presidency, weakening our country instead of protecting it, something he pledged to do when he was sworn into office.

We will be carefully watching your actions and depending on you to do the morally right thing to protect our country.



        Senator Marco Rubio
        May 13 at 11:54 AM

Thank you for taking the time to contact me. Your correspondence has been received and I welcome the opportunity to address your concerns. Hearing directly from constituents such as yourself is truly an honor, and your input is much appreciated.

Please look for my response in the near future. In an effort to serve you better, please do not duplicate e-mails into the web-form, as it may serve to delay the response to your concerns. If you need immediate assistance with a federal agency, please call (866) 630-7106, toll-free in Florida.


U.S. Senator Marco Rubio

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May 22 at 6:40 PM
Dear Mr. Hagelstein,

Thank you for contacting me in support of appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference in our elections and potential ties to the Trump administration. Your thoughts are important to me as I work to effectively represent you in Congress.

You deserve transparency and accountability in government. We should never run or hide from the truth. If we seek out truth and embrace it then Americans can know we all play by the same set of rules.

As you may know, in addition to ongoing investigations in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has appointed former F.B.I. Director Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel for the Russia investigation. Like you, I hope that Director Mueller can be looked at as unbiased and that his finding will be respected by all. The American people deserve answers, and I am committed to ensuring a transparent process as these investigations move forward.   

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.  If you’d like to receive updates about this issue and other news that’s important to our community, please sign up here.  To follow along with my work on your behalf, please join me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram   and YouTube.  If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me again.  As always it is an honor to represent you in the United States Congress.


Brian Mast
Member of Congress

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May 30, 2017
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Hagelstein:

 Thank you for contacting me about ongoing investigations related to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 Presidential election.

In March, I called for the appointment of a special prosecutor and/or the establishment of an independent commission to get to the bottom of Russia’s interference.

After the President fired FBI Director Comey on May 9, I repeated my calls for a special prosecutor and/or an independent commission. Shortly thereafter, the Department of Justice named former FBI Director Bob Mueller Special Counsel to oversee the Russia investigation. Bob Mueller has the experience to conduct a thorough investigation. Now, he must be provided the resources and independent authority he needs to follow the facts wherever they lead.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has pledged to continue its bipartisan investigation into Russian attempts to influence our election. In addition, I am cosponsoring S. 27, which would create an independent commission to investigate Russia’s attempts to interfere with the 2016 Presidential election.

According to the U.S. intelligence community, Russia is responsible for a number of hacks and the subsequent leaking of stolen information related to the 2016 Presidential election, at Putin's direct order. The attempt by an outside power to influence the election and promote a particular candidate is a very serious threat to our constitutional form of government.

On December 29, 2016, President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia in response to these hacks. I am cosponsoring S. 341, the Russia Sanctions Review Act of 2017, a bill that would keep sanctions imposed on Russia for election hacking and other aggression in place until Congress says otherwise.

As a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and Ranking Member of the SASC Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, I will continue to support policies that enhance our capability to deter and defend against cyber attacks from all enemies.

Now isn’t the time to cozy up to Russia, now is the time to stand up to Russian aggression.  I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this issue.

Sincerely, Bill Nelson

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Scouting Report

Over the years I’ve written up quite a few players we’ve seen play at Roger Dean Stadium Class A+ ball, the home of the Jupiter Hammerheads (Marlins affiliate) and the Palm Beach Cardinals (Cardinals affiliate). I’ve watched many “graduate” the most notables being Giancarlo Stanton (who played under the name of Mike Stanton when I saw him play for the Hammerheads in 2009) and Christian Yelich (who reminded me of Jacoby Ellsbury).  But I like to concentrate my “scouting” on the pitchers, my position way back as a kid when I dreamt of major league glory.  I’ve watched Jarlin GarcĂ­a, Justin Nicolino and Andrew Heaney make their way to the big leagues (Heaney is expected to miss the entire 2017 season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery).  I’ve written up others who are still seasoning in the minors but at a higher level.

I normally concentrate on the “home team” candidates but last Wednesday I wanted to focus on the Lakeland Tigers’ Beau Burrows.  He was the Tigers’ first draft pick right out of high school in 2015 and he is leading the Florida State league with a 1.23 ERA, a WHIP under 1, and more than a strikeout per inning.  He will probably be the starting pitcher in the league’s All Star game later this month. 
So it was with much anticipation seeing him pitch against the Palm Beach Cardinals’ Derian Gonzalez.  Ironically, it was Gonzalez who outpitched Burrows, throwing seven scoreless innings and the Cardinals winning the game 2-0.  Nonetheless, Burrows impressed. He’s powerfully built, 6-2” and 200 lbs.  He reminded me a little of another pitcher who came out of Texas, Roger Clemens.  Burrows allowed 1 earned run on 5 hits and 6 strikeouts in his 7 innings pitched.  He has all the stuff, including a fast ball approaching 100 mph and complements that with good breaking pitches.  What he didn’t have the other night was pinpoint control, too many well hit balls as a consequence, luckily, for him, usually right at someone.  It was not his finest outing, but he is a work in progress as it should be for a 20 year old.  If he doesn’t get hurt, look for him in the “show” in a year or two.  It was wonderful to see him work at this stage, up close -- the great advantage of seeing ball at the minor league level.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Unraveling of Democracy

It’s all so overwhelming, so disheartening, everything this country has stood for through so many presidencies, and now being sold to the highest bidder (I’m talking about principles).  A transactional President.  Let’s make a deal, Trump elbowing his way to the center of chaos, his ego knowing no bounds.  How could this have happened?  But more importantly, what can be done?


Let Congress and the appointee of the Justice Department do their job now investigating possible collusion with Russia in the election, presuming they are not thwarted.  I’ve argued in a previous entry that even without collusion, the gas-lighting, the poor timing of Comey coming out about more Clinton emails, and the exposure of the DNC communications by Wikileaks probably was just enough to tip the scales in four swing states.  Russia may have merely been the conductor of this dissonance, or, worse, perhaps the financial ties of the Trump empire to Russian oligarchy run deep.  Subpoenaing those tax returns that are under perpetual audit might do much to make that clearer. Hopefully that lies in the future.

Meanwhile, we are watching the dismantling of decades of foreign policy, trade, and environmental policy agreements, by a know-nothing administration under the cover story of creating jobs at all costs to our allies, and our environment.  Why? A show for his base. Corporatocracy.  Profit for those in power, sliding towards autocracy.

The withdrawal of the US from the Paris Accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions puts us in a select group with just two other countries, Syria and Nicaragua.  There are some 200 others still in the agreement.  Even Rex Tillerson, an ex CEO of Exxon, has advocated staying in the agreement.  So why does Trump want to withdraw?  Yes, we’ll hear about jobs (a canard, pure and simple, more the consequences of automation and that argument ignores the opportunities to create new jobs in technology and alternative energy) but it’s probably Trump’s ultimate f**k you to the world, something that obviously gives him pleasure.  He certainly doesn’t care about what people think, but that goes for psychopaths as well. 

“It is time to put Youngstown, Ohio, Detroit, Mich., and Pittsburgh, Pa., along with many, many other locations within our great country before Paris, France,” he said. “It is time to make America great again.”  But this is not at the expense of Paris, Mr. President, it’s at the expense of the world including our own country.  When Mar-a-Lago is knee deep in sea water, perhaps you’ll rue removing this country from a position of leadership in climate change issues.

His first foreign trip was revealing.  In Saudi Arabia, he obviously felt right at home.  In fact, it sort of looked like Mar-a-Lago and his quarters in Trump Tower, the glittering gold, the grandiose chandeliers, the kind of digs and “respect” to which he feels entitled.  And he did “deals” -- $110 billion in arms. Ka-ching, ka-ching!.  But outside that comfort zone it was different. 

Trump left a “message” in the Book of Remembrance at Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial for the Holocaust.” "It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends – so amazing & will never forget!"

“My friends.”  “Amazing.”  That’s it.  Just a few words, so vapid.

Here's what Barack Obama, then in the middle of his first presidential campaign, wrote when he visited in July 2008:  "I am grateful to Yad Vashem and all of those responsible for this remarkable institution. At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man's potential for great evil, but also our own capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world. Let our children come here, and know their history, so that they can add their voices to proclaim 'never again.' And may we remember those who perished, not only as victims, but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed like us, and who have become symbols of the human spirit."

Is it no wonder he hates Barack Obama?  No matter how much wealth he amasses, he will never have an ounce of Obama’s humanity or intelligence or capacity for empathy.   

His G7 meeting with the Europeans was a disaster, they sizing him up for what he is: the ugly American.  Swaggering, braggadocio, nouveau riche, bullying his way past Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic for a photo-op, he assumed an alpha male pose and scowl.  It inspired the author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, to tweet “You tiny, tiny, tiny little man.”  I’m afraid that’s what most Europeans now think of us and our leader.  Shouldn’t that matter to all Americans? These are among (or were) our most steadfast allies.

Frankly, I'm ready to accept a President Pense if impeachment or resignation is the result of the investigation. Never thought I could type those words.

Read Tom Friedman’s breathtakingly brilliant op-ed piece in yesterday’s NYT,  Trump’s United American Emirate.  It is so succinct, prescient, a sadly true overview of what this country is becoming under Trump.

I’ve often praised Tom Friedman, even nine years ago writing a tongue in cheek piece advocating him for President.  In retrospect, I should have been serious.    

Read his entire essay.  Not a word should be missed.  But I am concluding by quoting some of his main bullet points:

Merkel is just the first major leader to say out loud what every American ally is now realizing: America is under new management. “Who is America today?” is the first question I’ve been asked on each stop through New Zealand, Australia and South Korea. My answer: We’re not the U.S.A. anymore. We’re the new U.A.E.: the United American Emirate…..

So any lingering Kennedyesque thoughts about us should be banished, I explained. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay no price, bear no burden, meet no hardship, support no friend, oppose no foe to assure the success of liberty — unless we’re paid in advance. And we take cash, checks, gold, Visa, American Express, Bitcoin and memberships in Mar-a-Lago.

The Trump doctrine is very simple: There are just four threats in the world: terrorists who will kill us, immigrants who will rape us or take our jobs, importers and exporters who will take our industries — and North Korea. Threats to democracy, free trade, the environment and human rights are no longer on our menu.
Climate Change: More violent storms; higher water levels