America needs an enema

That was one of many great lines delivered by Jack Nicholson in Batman.  At one point, I would have suggested that Washington DC was that town.  Now, I think this entire country is constipated.  Just look at the way people interact with each other.  Check the differences in how media is disseminated or viewed.  We are in a state of utter chaos, and much of it is of our own doing.

For starters, VOX ran a very interesting article on the difference in news coverage on the Trump/Russia issue between the right-wing media outlets and everyone else.

The past week of Trump scandals for people reading mainstream news outlets has gone something like this: President Trump fired the FBI director who was investigating his campaign’s connection with Russia — and then the next day, Trump shared classified information with Russian officials.

But on conservative news outlets, the narrative was very different. It was about an FBI director whose firing was long overdue, and a liberal media desperate to take down Trump.

You can find the entire article here, and it is well worth the read.  The gist of the article shows that we are living in two different realities.  People who only get their news from one source or from within their own safe zone are talking entirely different incidents with people in other news circles.  When you hear Trump supporters dismissing the news reports, it’s not a defensive measure in as much as they believe something totally different because of what their media is telling them.

Then, there’s the sheer flood of “leaked” information.  As a federal employee, I find it difficult to believe that my colleagues have suddenly found it impossible to do their jobs without potentially violating the law by discussing classified information or other things.  When administrations change, the appointed positions change.  The rank-and-file workers don’t.  I was hired in under GW Bush, and if I remain until retirement, there’s no idea of how many other presidents I’ll serve.  That said, the person sitting in the WH doesn’t change my work ethic one bit.  I still try to do my job to the best of my ability now as I did when I was first hired.

The amount of the leaks makes part of me think it’s intentionally done to sow discord.  Let’s face it, there is enough discord in America right now to circle the world about a dozen times.  People are literally at each other’s throats.  A right-wing white supremacist killed two people on a commuter train in Portland after hurling slurs at two passengers who were thought to be Muslim.  There’s all kinds of crap going on everywhere, and it seems like it will only get worse.  The pejoratives fly out of people’s mouths like breath on a cold winter morning.  We’ve found out that even the FBI had false information that was meant to disrupt the system.

This country needs to take a massive dump.  We need to purge all the bulls**t out of our system.  Some of us need to be reminded that, regardless of ideological beliefs, we are not enemies.  I cringe whenever I hear Americans referring to fellow Americans as enemies.  I don’t even refer to football rivals as enemies.  That word carries powerful and dangerous connotations.  Someone needs to find an equivalent to a giant bottle of Fleet, shove it up the figurative ass of America, and squeeze that mofo until it turns to powder.

We’re full of sh*t, both figuratively and literally.  We cannot continue as a country like this without doing damage to our society as well as relationships to our allies.  If we don’t unclog the system, something is bound to happen.  We’ve gone from being an example of democracy to looking like a disturbed red ant hill.

I don’t like it.  I don’t like it one bit.  I honestly hope that the investigators take thing seriously and act appropriately on their findings.  If nothing has occurred, then everyone should be able to see the information from the investigation to see where that conclusion was drawn.  Likewise, if there was any bad behavior between Americans and outsiders to influence the election, there should be no sparing of the powers of the judiciary to give America the justice we deserve.  That’s the only way we will begin to remove this sh*t from our system in order to recover to what we were before.

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Bless their hearts

Going into the first full week of the Trump Era in America, I think I know what Trump’s job creation strategy will be.  He and his administration is going to create unheard of job growth in the media field if for nothing more than publications having to hire mass amounts of fact checkers to deal with the onslaught of “alternative facts” that seem to appear from thin air.

When I first heard that term alternative facts, I had one of those WTF moments complete with the head twist like dogs do when they see something interesting.  Facts are facts.  There is no alternative to them.  They exist or they don’t.

This whole issue came because of the new press secretary trying to defend his boss’ ego by claiming the inauguration was attended by far more people than actually were there.  There was no reason to lie about it.  The inauguration was on TV.  When the POTUS has an ego so frail that he has to lie about any and everything, it doesn’t set a good precedent for his term, especially considering we haven’t made it a full week into the four years yet.

From the inauguration speech to his address at the CIA, President Trump is setting himself up for four years of defending the most miniscule crap that he shouldn’t have to waste time dealing with.  Who cares how many people attended your inauguration?  You are not the most popular president in history, not by a long shot.  If you keep acting the way you do, you won’t become more popular than you are now.

I really want to give this president the same respect as I did the two previous that I served under.  However, I don’t trust people who are habitual liars.  Without trust, there is no respect.  Period.  I will always respect the office, but I don’t have to respect the person sitting behind the desk to show respect to the office they hold.

If we can’t get the administration to be honest about the most ordinary of things, what do we do if/when a crisis occurs and they’re responsible for telling us what is going on?  When the press secretary can’t tell an honest fact and has to spin a tale based on alternative facts, the administration should expect for the press to call them on it.  If you spread manure on a plowed field, you can’t complain about the stench afterwards.

I sincerely hope the media doesn’t cower to the threats of intimidation and other schemes to manipulate stories.  We need a strong press to keep fact separated from fiction.  If not, we risk falling for lies and misdeeds and allowing bad things to happen without any repercussions.  At the same time, the media doesn’t need to try to over hype things just to sell ad space.  This administration appears to be one that will be great for the for-profit media as well as the rest of the press.

I purposefully tried to unplug over the past few days, just to spend time with family away from electronics and such.  When you see those closest to you suffering from anxiety over the unknown, you have to do those kinds of things to ensure that they’re okay to function.  If the next four years are anyway like the past few days have been, we’re all going to need to take care of ourselves and others to stay sane and avoid being screwed over.

Searching for that silver lining

As the incoming Trump administration is still coming together, I’m trying to search for signs of how things will go.  I’ve heard both sides argue how Trump is going to do what he said he was going to do, and I’ve also heard the doom and gloom predictions of what’s coming down the pipeline.  Personally, I like to see who the president picks to make up their cabinet and advisors before I try to predict what’s going to happen.  I did that with both Bush and Obama, so I will extend the same courtesy to Trump as well.

Given his picks so far, the one thing I can come away with is that we’re going to be in for a long, long 4 years.  Trump rode populist anger against “elites” yet his picks are all pretty much elites and/or billionaire donors of some kind.  I don’t see any earthshaking “drain the swamp” picks as much as I see standard right-wing ideological picks that any Republican ideologue would choose.  From the pick of Steve Bannon as a White House advisor to Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, this country is going to swing so hard to the right that NASCAR may have to switch to running races in the opposite direction to avoid having to make left turns.

There’s also the issue of ethics that the administration will have to come to terms with.  Many of his picks have deep and varied investments that would likely face scrutiny during confirmation hearings.  As for Trump himself, he’s already stated “As far as the, you know, potential conflict of interests, though, I mean I know that from the standpoint, the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest.”  Trump’s businesses make their fortune from the marketability of his name.  Add the title “President” before that name, and the marketing potential shoots through the roof.  What person or company in any country would refuse to engage with any Trump related business now?  I don’t think anyone, the Founders included, ever contemplated such a complex issue to ever reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

To further complicate things, America will also have to deal with whether outside influence tilted the balance of this election.  I read a story today from Philly.com about Russian influence in American politics this year.  It’s quite interesting, and I included a link if you want to check it out.  A Google search for Russian troll factory returns numerous articles about how Russia used social media to spread propaganda, including fake news stories.  America probably got taken for a ride this year in more ways than one, and only time will tell whether that’s true or not.

Maybe that’s the silver lining in this election.  We’re going to hit rock bottom so hard on ethics that people will realize that the government is not a business and being an expert in business does not make one an expert in running a government.  Maybe Trump will indeed make America great again by ensuring people become civic engaged and we find some ethical people who actually care about running the country.  I’ve already been working on my playlist for the next four years.  I’m starting off with Zoom by The Commodores because a brother can still have a dream nowadays:

I’m searching for that silver lining
Horizons that I’ve never seen
Oh I’d like to take just a moment and dream my dream
Dream my dream

What’s next after Secret Service director steps down

Source: Washington Times

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, who has been skewered by critics over the Sept. 19 White House security breach, has resigned, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“Today Julia Pierson, the director of the United States Secret Service, offered her resignation, and I accepted it,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement this afternoon. “I salute her 30 years of distinguished service to the Secret Service and the Nation.”

Johnson has appointed Joseph Clancy, formerly special agent in charge of the Presidential Protective Division of the Secret Service, as the interim acting director.

“Mr. Clancy retired from the Secret Service in 2011,” he added. “I appreciate his willingness to leave his position in the private sector on very short notice and return to public service for a period.”
Source: ABC News

So, Ms. Pierson steps down.  What happens next?  More than likely, another director will step in and things will continue down the same path.  We’ve seen this play out time and time again, and I don’t recall any government agency that did an abrupt 180 degree turn just because a new person was put in charge.

As with any political scandal, there always has to be a sacrifice.  We saw this with the CIA.  We also saw this with the Veterans Administration.  Now, it’s the Secret Service in the hot seat.  At some point, we are going to have to recognize that constant turnover in leadership hurts the agencies just as much as having “ineffective” leaders.  Whack-A-Leader has never been proven to be a successful workforce model to sustain any government.

I’m not trying to demean the leadership capability of anyone, but leadership only goes so far.  If the workers are not up to par or refuse to do their job, then no amount of leadership will make up for sub-par performance from the people who actually do the job.

The issues with the Secret Service are serious. From the shooting at the White House to the guy on the elevator, there have been some security issues with the presidential protection detail that should concern all Americans.  It doesn’t help the image of the agency or the leader when they try to hide their failings as well.  There are some things that I feel should stay secret without blasting it all over the news, but unfortunately that is not the case.

The Secret Service is charged with protecting the leader of the sole superpower in the world, and that is no small feat to accomplish.  Nobody celebrates the days they complete their mission without any incident occurring, but when something goes wrong, they will take heat as though everything they’ve done is a failure.  They can be right 99 times out of 100, and that one failure will tarnish their records with people considering them failures.

There has to be better oversight within all agencies and not just the Secret Service.  A leader can positively or negatively affect performance and moral amongst his or her team of workers.  That said, if a center fielder drops a pop-up fly that causes their team to lose the World Series, that dropped catch can’t be blamed on the manager.  The player has to take responsibility for his actions.  I think that is the same case for federal workers.

Far too often, problems within agencies get blamed on the leadership, and they may be deserving of that blame.  In this case, I fell that Ms. Pierson should step down.  Not because of the mishaps, but I think that she failed her duty by trying to deceive everyone about the nature of those mishaps.  There also needs to be accountability for those on the front line who fail to execute their duties as they have sworn to do.  All federal employees take an oath of office.  If they can’t uphold that oath, then they should be the ones resigning, and not the leaders.

Shinseki’s gone, now what?

After the uproar over the Veterans Administration issues, Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned this past week.  Now that he’s gone, what comes next?

I don’t know everything about the VA or the insides to the problems there.  However, it seems that the problems that plague the VA are systemic in nature, and removing the head of the agency does nothing to change that.  Our government is designed to be deliberate and slow to do things.  Every 4 or 8 years, we have new heads of agencies, departments, and cabinets that are put in place by whatever administration takes over in the White House.  I don’t recall very few holdovers, such as Robert Gates, from different administrations or from different parties taking control.

How can an agency, group, or any type of organization function with that kind of constant changeover at the top of the chain?  I don’t personally blame Sec. Shinseki for the problems at the VA any more than I blame his predecessor.  The problems don’t appear to have originated from orders received from the top offices, but I’m hoping any investigation will determine whether or not that’s what really happened.  For any group to function well, there has to be structure and continuity.  Government agencies are not set up for that based on our political cycle, so I don’t understand why anyone would act surprised at any government inefficiency found.

Once again, Republicans have caused enough of an outrage that they’ve claimed a victim of Obama’s administration.  Now that Shinseki is gone, what are Republicans going to do to remedy the situation within the structure of the VA?  What are Democrats going to offer as a means of repairing the problems that have long plagued the VA?

Some people feign outrage as though this stuff started in the last 5 years, but the VA has long been plagued with issues.  Does Walter Reed ring a bell?  You can do a Google search for Inspector General reports on the VA for any given year and read reports on issues that plague the system.  It doesn’t matter which president or party was in control of the White House, the VA has continuously had issues that have remained unaddressed.  Every few years, the reports are bad enough that there’s an episode or two of public outrage, but once that outrage dies down, the problems still remain.

Given the additional patients that have come because of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, I don’t foresee any relief for problems in the near future either.  I don’t see how anything short of completely regrouping the agency and doing away with the change of control every 4 to 8 years will make any long-term positive change for this or any other government agency.  Some have said the problem is systemic, and indeed it is.  When politics and politicians have more control over things, they usually end up in a big messy pile.  I don’t think any DC politician will make the bold step to remove themselves from the issues, so unfortunately, Secretary Shinseki resigning does nothing but add fuel to an already blazing inferno.  We’re basically adding to the problem by calling for resignations as the constant changeover is part of the problem itself.

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