May 11, 2017

100 Words -- Firing Comey

Team Trump might have overbaked the irony when they in essence played the “Blame Hillary” card by citing Comey’s handling of the investigation into Clinton’s e-mails as the chief reason for firing him. Nobody believes it of course. As if to drive home the doubts, Trump mentioned the Russian investigation in the letter firing Comey (Paging Dr. Freud!!) and then invited the Russian foreign minister and Russian press to a private meeting … with the Russian ambassador as a surprise special guest, the very Russian ambassador at the center of the Flynn investigation. Does anyone know the Russian word for chutzpah?

April 30, 2017

100 Words -- Checks and Balances

The Constitution’s checks and balances were designed to make governing hard, as President Trump has discovered. In a recent interview, the president complained about the “archaic procedures” of Congress. “You look at the rules of the Senate, even the rules of the House … and some of the things you have to go through — it's really a bad thing for the country, in my opinion.” You could get more done in a streamlined system, but the Founding Fathers were more worried about the return of the king than getting things done. Maybe that’s why it’s easier to change presidents than the Constitution.

March 29, 2017

100 Words -- Stepping Out Of The Mist

I was watching a 1959 interview of Carl Jung. He was asked when he first felt conscious of his individual self. He immediately replied that it happened on the way to school at the age of 11. He stepped out of a mist and he knew he was what he was. My recall of the moment I stepped out from the mist of childhood remains equally sharp: waiting for a bus, in my mid-20s, not long out of Vietnam. It’s a powerful moment, that instantaneous awakening to a new sense of who you are with no way back, only forward.

March 28, 2017

Draining the Swamp

An article in Politico highlights why governance ain’t nearly as much fun as opposition. Conservative groups have turned on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt because he won’t reverse an Obama administration ruling that climate change endangers the environment. They want him to snap his fingers and say, “Make it so.” But that would trigger a court battle forcing the government to prove that climate change no longer poses a risk, raising memories of “Miracle on 34th Street,” where the government went to court to prove that Santa Claus doesn’t exist. It didn’t go well then, and it likely wouldn’t go well now.

Later in the article, Pruitt is said to be frustrated over the slow pace of appointing deputies to help him carry out his plans. Another article said the slow pace was intentional, part of Steve Bannon’s plan to deconstruct the administrative state. In fact, if Bannon had his way, most of these positions would remain unfilled. The fact that this undermines efforts to execute Trump’s agenda doesn’t seem to bother Bannon. It’s a helluva way to drain the swamp, especially when the alligators start fighting among themselves.

March 23, 2017

100 Words -- Hillary Lost! Get Over it!

I’ve met many Trump supporters whose fear and loathing for Hillary Clinton still burns brightly. They believe she was, is, and always will be a horrible human being who was crooked, a liar, maybe a murderer, and God knows what else we haven’t found out about yet. She is their all-purpose excuse, their last line of defense to ward off whatever second thoughts they might have about Donald Trump’s presidency. Hillary lost! Get over it! Trump will succeed or fail not because of Hillary or Obama or the dark government but because of his own choices. The buck-passing stops there.

March 19, 2017

100 Words -- Guarding The Trumps

The Judicial Watch, no friends of former President Obama, estimated that during his EIGHT years in office, $97 million was spent on what’s considered “extracurricular activities” (vacations, travel for family, etc.) for himself, his family, Joe Biden, and Biden’s family. In just nine weeks, taxpayers have shelled out $17.5 million just to cover President Trump’s weekends at Mar al Lago. Add in the expenses to cover all his family members and it rounds out to about $166 million for ONE year. So hell yeah, let’s eliminate the NEA and community block grants. Gotta pay for guarding all those Trumps somehow.

March 9, 2017

The Dawning Of The Age Of Stupid

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in an interview with CNBC, “I would not agree that CO2 is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. I believe that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. ... We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.”

What ineffable twaddle, to quote Dr. Watson. The idea that there is tremendous disagreement or that we need to continue studying this is always the last line of defense for those who would rather roll the dice on the world their grandchildren live in rather than sacrifice that last dime of profit to be squeezed out of coal.

The greenhouse effect was first postulated in 1824 and scientifically demonstrated in 1859 by John Tyndall, who measured the radiative properties of specific greenhouse gases. In 1896, Svante Arrhenius made the first quantitative prediction of global warming due to a hypothetical doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Translation: This science has been around for a long time.

In 1829, British coal production was 15 million tons. In 2006, world coal production was 6.2 billion tons. At the turn of the 20th century there were about 8,000 cars in use in the United States. At the turn of the 21st Century there were 450 million or so world-wide. Common sense tells us that if you start out with an atmosphere that contains a certain level of greenhouse gases that results in a given average temperature, and then the industrial revolution injects a massive amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, then something has to change. Logic says that at least one component of that change will be warmer temperatures in the atmosphere because that is what greenhouse gases do.

March 8, 2017

Lost Times

I got a manicure the other day … an acting thing. My manicurist was an Asian lady of uncertain age, maybe late 30s. We chatted haltingly across the language barrier. I asked her where she was from. Vietnam, she said. I spent some time there, I replied, feeling a bit awkward. She asked me where I was, but the places I named didn’t ring any bells. I got the sense that it was hard for her to relate to the fact that I was there as a soldier. She asked when I was there. It was before she was even born. The war-torn Vietnam I knew was not the Vietnam she knew growing up. This is a good thing, I thought. The scars from one generation should fade away with each passing generation. I’m sure others from her generation might feel differently, but I took some comfort in believing that for her, at least, the horror of those days had receded and seemed not to cloud her memories. It’s the best you can hope for, really.

February 20, 2017

100 Words -- Fake News

President Trump constantly decries fake news. If only we had known this sooner, think what the reaction might’ve been to the news in mid-October 2016 that the FBI had discovered new emails that could be pertinent to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Today, Trump supporters would say, “Not so fast, crooked media. This could be fake news! Let’s wait to see if this pans out before we draw any conclusions.” And don’t you know, right before the election the FBI says there’s nothing to it. Yessiree bob, Trump was right all along. Fake news will destroy America. 

February 16, 2017

100 Words -- Loyalty

Two things. First, Federal employees take an oath “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and to “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” The oath is to the Constitution, not the president. Second, during my time in the military I came to understand the difference between being in command and commanding loyalty. A new commander can give orders, but that only gets you a salute. Loyalty, trust, respect … those are earned. Comparing them to Nazis won’t exactly endear you to the troops. This would seem kinda obvious, and yet …

February 11, 2017

100 Words -- Sudden Deportation

I get that illegal immigrants can be deported, but this country has been sending mixed signals for decades. Ronald Reagan said, "I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though some time back they may have entered illegally.” Guadalupe GarcĂ­a de Rayos was convicted of using a false social security number. Every year, she’d check in with ICE. Every year she was allowed to stay. This year she’s deported with no warning. Talk about mixed signals. Maybe you have the right to do that, but that doesn’t make it right.

January 31, 2017

100 Words -- The Simple Life

Many Americans support President Trump’s move restricting refugees of certain countries from entering the United States. They fear another terrorist attack. They want to feel safe. After being around sudden death for a year in Vietnam, I offer this advice. You don’t need to look for death; death will find you when it’s ready. There’s no predicting when or how that moment will come. There’s no avoiding it. Here’s the thing. Death is forever. Life is not. This moment … that’s all you have. Don’t waste it worrying about dying. Enjoy life as best you can. It really is that simple.

January 30, 2017

100 Words -- On-The-Job Training

President Trump is ticking off his to-do list faster than a husband anxious to squeeze in an afternoon round of golf.  We get that you have campaign promises to keep, but there’s more to it than signing a piece of paper. You eliminated the second- and third-tier political appointees, leaving huge gaps in the chain of command. Now you’re learning that issuing executive orders is one thing, having them properly carried out is another. Let’s hope you figure it out before tackling Obamacare. Republicans will let you screw over the refugees … but twenty million voters? That will get their attention.

January 26, 2017

100 Words -- Job Story

President Trump has started a national conversation on jobs. I hope we talk about more than just trade. Many analysts argue robotics far outweighs trade as a job killer. I see this when my trash is picked up. The county used to have three-man crews:  one driver and two collectors. These were good-paying jobs with benefits, a toe-hold in the middle class. Now there is one driver. The two collectors were replaced by a robotic arm that scoops up the bin and dumps it into the truck. As a taxpayer I’m happy we saved money, but at what hidden cost?

January 25, 2017

100 Words -- When Winning Isn't Everything

Donald Trump says he lost the popular vote because people voted illegally. Now he wants an investigation, which hopefully won’t be as rigged as he claims the election was.  Hillary’s 2.8 million margin came mostly from California and New York. There are 22,345 precincts in California. If 2 million ballots were illegally cast for Hillary, that would be an average of 90 votes per precinct. If 1 million illegal votes were cast in New York’s 15,000 precincts, that would be 66 votes per precinct on average. Do you really think that scale of voter fraud would go unnoticed? Me neither.

January 23, 2017

100 Words -- Size Matters

Team Trump spent its first weekend defending President Trump’s complaints about reports that his crowds were smaller than the crowds at Obama’s 2009 inauguration because, you know, size matters. Instead of responding “Whatever!” and moving on, Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, vehemently denied the undeniable, creating a second controversy that went viral after Kellyanne Conway defended Spicer’s use of “alternative facts.” One actual fact emerged from all this. Despite promises to the contrary, Trump won’t release his tax returns because, well, he won so screw it. This was too much even for Julian Assange to swallow, and that’s saying something.

January 22, 2017

100 Words -- On Being In The Moment

Watching President Trump speaking in front of the CIA’s Wall of Heroes, making it all about him … well, it got uncomfortable, like when that guy who had one too many starts a wedding toast and soon folks are staring down at their feet, praying for it to end. I get that Trump has a different style, but sometimes you should be in the moment and show some class. When tragedy strikes or a crisis looms, we want a leader who raises our spirits and stiffens our resolve, a leader who makes us look up to him, not away from him.

January 16, 2017

100 Words -- A Legitimate President?

Representative John Lewis of Georgia poured salt on Donald Trump’s wounded ego, tweeting that Trump was not a “legitimate president.” Trump responded angrily, as one would expect. This isn’t the first time that a president-elect’s legitimacy has been questioned. In 1960 it was generally understood that John F. Kennedy owed his victory to creative vote-counting by Mayor Daley of Chicago. Richard Nixon took the high road and accepted Kennedy’s victory while his surrogates vigorously pursued recounts. Kennedy, who won by the slimmest of popular vote margins, stayed above the fray. In his mind there was no doubt who was president.

January 14, 2017


I’ve said before that the best part of working as a background extra has been the acting community. Sure, you hear stories about prima donnas and overbearing directors, but that hasn’t been my experience. Take my latest job, working an outdoor shoot late into the night as temperatures dropped into the thirties -- nature of the beast and no reflection on the production company, topnotch folks who manage the task of shepherding a very large group of people through multiple tasks with practiced ease and good humor. The background extras last night, many of whom I had worked with on other jobs, pretty much ran the gamut of humanity. From cast to crew to background, we worked together under increasingly difficult conditions. There were no arguments or tense moments, at least none that I saw. What I did see and hear was a lot of laughing and talking and supporting each other as we struggled to achieve our common purpose, the performance. In those moments you see what’s possible when we check our differences at the door and just work together to get the job done, making the most of whatever talents we have. That's the real magic of show business.

January 13, 2017

100 Words -- Replacing Obamacare

Passage of President Obama’s signature achievement -- The Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- took a heavy toll on his presidency, cementing a partisan divide that dogged his two terms. Obama may get some measure of revenge as the Republicans and President-elect Trump wade into the briar patch of repeal-and-replace with no agreed-upon alternative. It’s theoretically easier to revise something that already exists, but Republicans risk alienating millions of Americans who depend on the ACA if they can’t come up with something clearly better. This debate will dominate the early months of Trump’s presidency. The result will define the Republican Party for decades.

January 5, 2017

100 Words -- The Fog Of Intelligence

Donald Trump continues to cast doubt on the intelligence community’s conclusion that the Russian government hacked the DNC during the last election. His basic assertion is that there’s no way to be absolutely certain. In this he is absolutely correct. Absolute certainty, especially in intelligence assessments, is always rare. It’s true for this incident, just as it will be true for some future crisis, possibly one involving Russia, when he will have to decide whether or not to act based on intelligence that is less than certain. My hope is he’ll do okay. But for now, it’s only a hope.

January 3, 2017

100 Words -- Who Knows What The Donald Knows?

Donald Trump rarely uses computers. He avoids email like the plague. Who better to inform the nation on the real story behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee? He says he knows things that other people don’t know, that he knows a lot about hacking. Well it better not be some bullsh*t like, “It’s impossible to definitively pinpoint the perpetrators of malicious code.” Tell us something we don’t know, for starters who convinced you the CIA, Homeland Security, and the FBI are getting it wrong? There’s nothing much riding on this, just your credibility for the next four years.