Trump’s Brief Shining Moment

For the briefest of moments, I almost believed. The strategic opportunity of the century seemed within grasp. The official end of the Korean War and a denuclearized North Korea rejoining the world are elusive goals.

The moment shattered by the reality of this Presidency.

North Korea was never serious about abandoning its weapons. They played the “master deal maker” for a chump. They essentially bypassed the US to deal with South Korea directly and maneuvered themselves out of sanctions with the Chinese and potentially the rest of the world.

All without giving up anything except a few well-placed explosives to offer a technically meaningless “coup d’état” to their already collapsed nuclear test site. They know, even if Mr. Trump might not, what the Libya-model means.

How did the “hermit” kingdom manage this? Because they understand Trump better than we do. Those of us who disagree with Trump’s policies and those who agree with them share common ground in one respect.

We all think he acts intentionally from a perspective of beliefs and deeply held philosophies. The difference is in our view of his motivation.

Some think him intrinsically evil and bigoted others seem him as a political outsider who cares little for the diplomacy of politics in favor of accomplishing goals and changing the fundamental nature of government.

Both positions give the man way too much credit. He is much simpler to figure out and to predict.

President Trump is consistent. His life has been one persistent crusade for self-aggrandizement and personal satisfaction. He is neither a bigot nor a buffoon, does not demonstrate savant business acumen or financial wizardry, nor does he follow a deep-seated philosophy of life.

He is a man incapable of empathy, devoid of feelings for others, and unable to concede the reality that everyone, including Donald Trump, makes mistakes.

Trump embraces a sort of twisted Buddha-like philosophy in the way he can ignore the past (as if it never happened) and hold no attachment to anything that does not suit him at that moment.

Trump lives in the now. Anything he said, or did, yesterday does not matter. His thought process, when confronted with past statement or actions, creates a three-pronged self-delusion.

I never said (or did) it.

I was misquoted (or they are lying)

It’s fake news.

And with that, he moves on without another passing moment to consider his actions. Each day for him is like a reboot with the same bug in the operating system.

In personal matters between a President and his wife, I do not believe them to be matters of national concern. They are private matters best dealt with in a private setting. But when the President tries to ignore legitimate questions of his truthfulness, such issues are a concern.

A person of character, when facing a personal crisis, takes responsibility for their actions. When Trump was confronted with a threat to unveil an affair outside his marriage, he opted to buy his way out. Had he addressed the issue within the confines of his marriage, and the story still broke, it would be a quick splash and then fade away.

Instead, it serves as another illustration of the man’s character. (For those of you who will feel the need to point out Bill Clinton did the same thing, yes he did. And the same standard applies. Still waiting on a similar episode with President Obama.)

Trump is neither a bigot nor a white supremacist. If Mr. Trump thought embracing MS-13 would help or enrich him, he’d be flashing gang signs and sporting tattoos.

If Mr. Trump thought for a moment that the “horde” of illegal aliens would support him with their vote, he’d disband the Border Patrol and send buses to the Mexican Border.

If Mr. Trump thought he could find a kindred spirit in Black Lives Matter or Alt-right groups, he’d invite them to the White House (but not the Trump Tower, those people don’t belong there.)

Kim Jong Un understands this. They share the same philosophy. If it’s good for me, it’s good until it’s not, then it’s wrong regardless of the cost.

With North Korea, Mr. Trump saw the shiny Nobel prize and wanted it. Even he might admit he is never getting a Nobel Prize for economics or science, so this was his one chance, Kim Jong Un was his opportunity.

And then it wasn’t.

Even when it appeared Trump had awoken to the realities and complexities of geopolitics and canceled the summit, in his letter to the North Korean leader he couldn’t help but turn it into a juvenile pissing contest.

“You talk about nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.” (https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/24/politics/donald-trump-letter-kim-jong-un/index.html)

The US would prevail in a nuclear war. Mr. Trump also knows the personal cost to him would be minimal. He and his family ( maybe Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh as well) would be safely ensconced in the bunker.

But the cost in human lives would be unfathomable. This is immaterial in Mr. Trump’s mind. Collateral damage is insignificant if there is a net benefit to Mr. Trump.

The hope those surrounding Mr. Trump bring sanity and a bigger world-view to the administration is fading. The John Boltons of the world are not known for rational and reasoned policies with any nuanced understanding of global complexities.

The Chief of Staff, John Kelly, despite his admirable record as a Marine, has been reduced to nothing more than a doorman at Trump Tower. He has the power to keep most out but can do nothing about those who have bought they way in.

The concept of Mr. Trump being a complex personality of deep thought and contemplation is a false one. He is a nuclear-armed sociopath with severe ADHD. The trick is to make sound policy attractive and, once it is set in motion, divert the President’s attention with something else.

I wonder if Stormy Daniels would consider helping us out, as a matter of patriotic service?

Thermonuclear Tweets (A Modern Day Version of Rome Burns while Nero Fiddles)

In the latest round of tweets out of the President, we have him mocking diplomatic efforts in North Korea and engaging in a juvenile name-calling tirade against a highly respected Senator.

neroHere are the tweets from @realdonaldtrump if you missed the latest.

Our country has been unsuccessfully dealing with North Korea for 25 years, giving billions of dollars & getting nothing. Policy didn’t work!

Bob Corker gave us the Iran Deal, & that’s about it. We need HealthCare, we need Tax Cuts/Reform, we need people that can get the job done!

I suppose if you consider avoiding war while slowing the development of nuclear weapons a failure, he has a point. But tweets as a platform for policy pronouncements is about as useful as a poem on an underground wall or graffiti on a railroad car. The choice of broadcasting the messages says more than the content.

Finding a way to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons to Iran and North Korea has failed. It’s where the leadership of President Trump takes us now that is the wild card. There is a vast chasm between nuclear proliferation and nuclear war. Wise counsel offers a chance to avoid the later, it’s the absence of wise counsel that concerns me.

Herein lies the real issue. The President’s public tantrums about any criticism of his policies, no matter how accurate the criticism, offers little hope for a considered and rational policy. The nature of war, in a world of nuclear weapons, has changed. And It is not just the nature of warfare that’s changed, it is the essence of what would constitute victory that’s different. If the death toll in five minutes of a nuclear exchange could exceed that of World War II and be considered a victory, it is Pyrrhic at best.

In the book, On War, Carl von Clausewitz wrote, “war is the extension of politics by other means.” The book is considered must reading for those who would engage in warfare, particularly as a commander. But, written in 1832, it concerned a world of weapons much different than today.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) was a US-born philosopher. She became famous for her work, The Origins of Totalitarianism, as one of the first to propose that Nazism and Stalinism have common roots. Her work, On Violence, published in 1970 offers a remarkable insight into today’s volatile nuclear-armed world.

She wrote in a world where the nuclear “club” had fewer members, but her words are prophetic.

The technical development of the implements of violence has now reached the point where no political goal could conceivably correspond to their destructive potential or justify their actual use in armed conflict. Hence, warfare—from time immemorial the final merciless arbiter in international disputes—has lost much of its effectiveness and nearly all its glamour. The “apocalyptic” chess game between the superpowers, that is, between those that move on the highest plane of our civilization, is being played according to the rule “if either ‘wins’ it is the end of both”; it is a game that bears no resemblance to whatever war games preceded it. Its “rational” goal is deterrence, not victory, and the arms race, no longer a preparation for war, can now be justified only on the grounds that more and more deterrence is the best guarantee of peace.

She spoke of the world of warfare described by Clausewitz, and it’s changing nature.

“Even more conclusive than this simple reversal proposed by the anonymous author of the Report from Iron Mountain—instead of war being “an extension of diplomacy (or of politics, or of the pursuit of economic objectives),” peace is the continuation of war by other means—is the actual development in the techniques of warfare. In the words of the Russian physicist Sakharov, “A thermonuclear war cannot be considered a continuation of politics by other means (according to the formula of Clausewitz). It would be a means of universal suicide.”

History is replete with examples of nations advancing their political policy through war. In the United States, for most of our history, we have gone to war to defend ourselves and our principles. There were exceptions, Vietnam being the most obvious although a strong argument can be made against our Iraq incursion.

This is meaningless in a nuclear engagement. The war game scenarios contemplating the results of a nuclear exchange with North Korea are bleak at best, and cataclysmic at worst.

Millions of people will die. The long-term environmental, geopolitical, and economic effects are unpredictable. The conscience of the nations that launch missiles will be tested.

When we need the best and the brightest guiding the nation and making deeply considered and crafted decisions, we have a tweeting fiddler fueling the fire.

For my entire life, my generation and those who followed have lived in a nuclear-armed world. As a child, the most significant threat I feared from atomic weapons was Godzilla. If the godless commies in Russia or China attacked, I had only to duck and cover and wait for the recess bell.

Now I know better. Now I know that, while not perfect, brilliant minds have so far steered the world away from nuclear conflagration. We can only hope the “child care workers” known as the President’s advisers can keep order in the White House adult day care center.

Or will we tweet our way to living with killing millions of people because we lack leaders with imagination and conscience?

Soothing the Savage Beasts: Trump vs.Kim Jong-un

William Congreve wrote in the play, The Mourning Bride, that “music hath charms to soothe the savage breast.”  The line is often twisted into “ soothe the savage beast” which may be more appropriate to this piece.Trump Jong

Our saber-rattling, questionably stable President is engaged in a contest with a questionably unstable Kim Jong-un.

Both men control nuclear weapons. The United States arsenal is immense, the North Korean’s minuscule. But even a small nuclear weapon can unleash unimaginable destructive power.

While both are armed with weapons of mass destruction, one must question if they are equally equipped with intelligence, rationality, and demeanor to solve this peacefully.

Near the end of the Cold War, the artist Sting released a song called “Russians.”  Here are a couple of lines from that song.

In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets.
MIster Krushchev said, “We will bury you.”
I don’t subscribe to this point of view.
It’d be such an ignorant thing to do
If the Russians love their children too.
How can I save my little boy from Oppenheimer’s deadly toy?
There is no monopoly on common sense
On either side of the political fence.
We share the same biology, regardless of ideology.
Believe me when I say to you,
I hope the Russians love their children too

It made many realize that ideological differences do not mitigate the similarities of our humanity. We are all human.

Even Misters Trump and Jong-un

Many would argue the Kim Jong-un is the more dangerous of the two. He must be insane to challenge the US. Perhaps he holds a messianic view of challenging the Great Satan as some others refer to the US.

I think not. Kim Jong-un’s history has been one of consolidating his power to survive and hold onto his position. Even if he doesn’t realize launching a nuclear weapon at Americans would cause the annihilation of his country, there are many others within the North Korean military that do. It is why Kim Jong-un purges the leadership on occasion. This is evidence of disunity within the command structure. Of some disagreement on policy. It is evidence of rational hope.

China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and other countries within striking distance of North Korea missiles have a vested interest in containing this challenge.  These countries will do what is in their best interest, and understand when we do what is in ours. But they will also look to us to act like a superpower, not a super-bully willing to decide international policies by bellicose tweets and empty, grammar school level rhetoric.

This is a geopolitical test of our President for which I fear his experience, demeanor, and unwillingness to listen to sage advice makes him ill-prepared. A misjudgment based on emotional militarized slogans puts millions of innocent people at risk.

This is not the time to beat plowshares into swords, but the sheath the swords to let rational discourse save the planet.

There is another song, by the Rolling Stones, which fits both the man in the White House and the cellar dweller in North Korea.

If you start me up
If you start me up I’ll never stop
If you start me up
If you start me up I’ll never stop

I’ve been running hot
You got me ticking gonna blow my top
If you start me up
If you start me up I’ll never stop
Never stop, never stop, never stop

You make a grown man cry
You make a grown man cry
You make a grown man cry
Spread out the oil, the gasoline
I walk smooth, ride in a mean, mean machine
Start it up

If Kim Jong-un fires the first shot, it will be his last. But we would be guilty of using a bomb to kill a fly. It is incumbent on us to remember that along with that fly we would kill millions of humans who love their children.

When diplomacy, rational toughness, deliberative thinking, and consensus building is most needed, we have a WWE Wrestling buffoon for a President.  Our only hope is he hasn’t bothered to read the instructions on unleashing the nukes.

 

Drake’s Equation: The Key to Stopping Terrorism

drake-equation-540pxI’m sure most of you immediately recognized the reference to Drake’s Equation and wondered, what does this have to do with terrorists?

Briefly, everything.

For my Red Sox fan friends who may be struggling with the analogy, Drake’s Equation was the brainchild of Dr. Frank Drake. In 1961, to stimulate discussion on the probability of intelligent life in the universe (leaving aside the argument if it exists here), Drake came up with a way to hypothesize the number of intelligent civilizations in the universe.

This is an inexact science.

But the salient point is one element of the equation, i.e. the fraction of intelligent civilizations who develop sufficiently advanced technology to make themselves known in the universe. We did it with television. Signals of everything from Hitler’s opening speech at the 1936 Olympics to Moe, Larry, and Curly are winging their way bringing tidings of our culture to ET.

The other element implied, but not explicitly stated, is the fraction of civilizations who develop advanced science such as nuclear technology and survive it. Thus, the link to radicalized fundamentalism and terrorists.

In 1956, the year of my birth, the idea that one day I would carry around a device capable of storing 128 gigabytes of data, or that the entire Library of Congress and almost every printed book that ever existed could be accessed by this same device, was the stuff of science fiction.

Such is the proliferation of technology in the intervening years.

In that same year, 1956, three countries had nuclear weapons. Today, there are at least nine. The US developed them first, followed by the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom. The technology proliferated through cooperation and espionage. The point being is it could not be contained.

Technology, once released, acts much like a virus. It infects the host (just look around at the cell phone addicts.) Jumps to the next host (because they desire the technology rather than by infection,) and the virus spreads exponentially.

Here’s how Drake can illuminate the solution.

Our response to terrorism is a single dimension solution. Kill them. However, like a virus, you can never quite kill them all. Now imagine if just one small cell of fifty radicalized virulent terrorists, intent on riding the mushroom cloud to the virgin happy hour, obtain a nuclear weapon? The inevitability of such an occurrence, given the unstoppable proliferation of technology, is sobering.

We need to fight more than the symptoms of radicalized fundamentalism. We need to identify and eliminate the underlying cause.  Therein lies the greatest risk. We have lost our ability to face complex issues. We want a 144 character answer for a problem requiring a doctoral dissertation.

Given the current inherent disdain for deep rational thought, I wonder if we have it in us as a people.

There are no simple solutions to this problem. How can we kill them all is the wrong question. We need to ask a different one.

Why do otherwise rational intelligent humans see killing themselves and innocent humans as a path to a better life after death?

The answer is simple. Because life for them and their families is not good. It would seem that trying to kill people who believe they would be better off dead is not a viable solution. Despite sophomoric cries to the contrary, it is not our job to arrange their trip to visit their god.

In the short term, we have no choice but the react and defend. But what about long-term?

If we want to survive long enough for the universe to know we are here, we must craft a long-term solution before we flunk the math of Dr. Drake.

drake-equation-540px

Future History

Scenarios for the Trump Presidency.

“Grandpa, were you alive when Donald Trump was President? We’re studying him in history.”

“I was, Billy, I was just a small boy, but I remember. They were scary times.”

“Why?”

“Because Mr. Trump said things that scared people. Mostly good people. It seemed he wanted to change America and not in a good way.”

‘So what happened?”

“Well, Billy, he surprised the world. He started like all the others, did what lots of politicians do. He said one thing to get elected, then, did something entirely different once he got in. Remember this, Billy. Running for President and being President are two very different things.”

“How Grandpa?”

“Because once you are in that office, decisions you make can affect millions of people. It can cost them their lives. President Trump turned out to be more thoughtful, compassionate, and intelligent than many expected.”

“So that’s why he’s up there?”

“Yup, Billy, that’s why he’s up there. Been a long time since we had a President who deserved this.  So, you ready to go?”

“I am, Grandpa, thanks for taking me here. Mount Rushmore is pretty cool.”

*****

“Grandpa, were you alive when Donald Trump was President? We’re studying him in history.”

“I was, Billy, I was just a small boy, but I remember. They were scary times.”

“Why?”

“Because he forgot about the history and dignity of the office of the President and the right of others to live their lives in a manner they choose.”

“So what happened?”

“Here, look through the telescope. You see that large debris cloud between here and Venus?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s all that’s left of the Earth.”

 

 

Random Thoughts

Here’s a rule to live by, if your thong bikini can double as a hammock for a normal sized human find another swimwear style

How to solve the perceived problem with Police shootings, make omniscience a job requirement. It seems it is expected anyway. That way, before they return fire, they’ll know the suspect shooting at them was a good boy/girl/man/woman just turning their life around.

For those of you that think because Cops wear vests, they should have to wait to be shot at before using deadly force, one of the things to keep in mind about Bullet-Proof vests is, they are not. Bullet-resistant, perhaps, Slow-the-bullet-down-a-bit, maybe, Reduce the force of impact, a little. However, BULLET-PROOF, definitely not.

Another rule to live by, if you are walking along and find yourself coming upon a huge amount of Bird shit on the ground, do not look up. Particularly with your mouth open.

It seems that those most enamored of criticizing cops base this opinion on Law Enforcement on what they’ve learned by (in no particular order);

Watching Television
Playing video games
Getting arrested
Bailing out relatives, friends, or neighbors that were arrested

When did holding a door for someone become extinct? Seems people now take pleasure it watching others struggle.

Ban the word, awesome. The correct meaning, something invoking an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear, has now been reduced to the level of meaninglessness.

I do not understand most tattoos. I get the meaningful ones, military, family members, the good old MOM, subtle messages of importance to the wearer that can be hidden, when appropriate. What I don’t get are the ones that are seemingly random images resembling color-by-number paintings done by a child that doesn’t know numbers yet and can’t color in the lines. When did we become a society of Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man?

Why is it that a significant number of people in this country couldn’t find Syria on a map, don’t know the name of their Congressman or Senator, yet can name all the cast members of Jersey Shore, have seen every episode of The Real Wives of (Insert City), and fret all week until the conclusion of Dancing with the Stars?

And a corollary to the above, even though unable to find Syria, or a host of other trouble spots, on a map, they know exactly how to solve the ISIS problem, the militant Islam problem, the issues in Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. (Hint: It usually involves the Military strategy of the Middle Ages, Kill them all, God will recognize his own) Just ask, they’ll tell you.

That’s all for now, must be this hot, Aruban sun.