Where We’re Headed

So yesterday, seemingly out of the blue, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (which supposedly has been investigating whether President Donald Trump’s campaign minions colluded with Russians to throw the recent election) held a press conference pretty obviously designed to provide cover to Trump’s recent outrageous lie that former President Obama “wiretapped” Trump Tower.

The chairman said he’d been made aware of unspecified reports from the U.S. intelligence community showing that communication from members of the Trump transition team were “incidentally collected” as part of broader surveillance that supposedly had nothing to do with Russia. He refused to provide sources for his claim, and did not share the information with members of his investigation committee. Instead, he made the claims in a press conference and then ran inside the White House to brief the President whose actions he was allegedly investigating.

It is worth noting that the chairman, Devin Nunes, R-California, was a member of Trump’s transition team and remains a big pal of the prez.

Here’s a fair analysis of what Nunes may be up to. In my opinion, he and the President are clearly and desperately trying to divert public attention away from an FBI investigation into the same thing Nunes’ committee was supposed to be investigating.

The diversion isn’t working.

From Jeff Horwitz and Chad Day at The Associated Press:

Before signing up with Donald Trump, former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly worked for a Russian billionaire with a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin Government,” The Associated Press has learned. The White House attempted to brush the report aside Wednesday, but it quickly raised fresh alarms in Congress about Russian links to Trump associates.

Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit President Vladimir Putin’s government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.

Manafort pitched the plans to aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP. Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.

“We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska. The effort, Manafort wrote, “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”

From Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, Shimon Prokupecz and Jim Sciutto at CNN:

The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.

This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, according to one source.

The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.

From Mike Allen, long-time reporter for the likes of The New York Times, the Washington Post, Time magazine, Politico and now Axios:

Watergate was a coverup of a burglary. This could be the coverup of a nuclear-armed U.S. nemesis that infiltrated our politics with the specific aim of disrupting the very foundation of our democracy — a presidential election — and did so, possibly, in a manner that elected its preferred candidate and locked in all party control that could decimate the opposition party for years.

From Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee that Nunes chairs:

“The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct, which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he’s going to act as a surrogate of the White House. Because he cannot do both.”

From me: Congress, dominated as it is by a strand of Republicans who put party and campaign contributions first and the country last, can’t be trusted to investigate the Trump administration in this mess, as more patriotic Republicans did in the Nixon era. It’s obvious the American people need an independent special prosecutor to lead an investigation. And it’s obvious we now need a Congress that puts America first.

Posted in Be Afraid, Politics

The Emperor Has No Clothes

On Nov. 9, I vowed to stop criticizing just-elected Donald Trump and give the guy a chance to rise to the occasion of his new office.

“For at least a time,” I wrote, “I am setting aside my doubts and cynicism in order to allow Donald Trump the chance to prove me wrong and operate to the best of his ability for all Americans. After listening to his acceptance speech, I believe this is possible.”

Now, four months later, I am sad to say that my doubts and cynicism were right all along. Donald Trump has exceeded my worst fears and, I am pretty sure, your worst fears, too.

There’s no sense in trying to enumerate all the horribly thought out actions he and his chief manipulator, Steve Bannon, have foisted on the American public. Nor Trump’s crazed rants and lies.

President Donald Trump cemented the case against himself Saturday morning when he actually publicly accused former President Obama of “wire tapping” his New York Trump Tower.

Gotta say this, folks, the president of the United States is pretty clearly delusional, and really needs a psychiatric evaluation. But how do you get that done?

Posted in Be Afraid, Government, Politics

Citrus Desparado

henley_lemons.jpg
This is a story about a man whose son supplemented his day-job income by working as kind of a jack-of-all-trades for a company that produced concerts and other shows at large entertainment venues in a particular mid-sized southern city.

One day Don Henley came to town. Former co-leader of the Eagles rock group, the singer-song writer-guitarist tours with his own band now, and was preparing for a local show.

It’s somewhat customary for well-known entertainers to request and be provided various foods and other comfort items for consumption before and after their shows. In this case, so the story goes, the owners of the concert venue required such items be obtained from a hotel attached to said venue and being operated by a national hotel chain.

But after an ominous breakfast, which included a salad containing metalic foreign objects, it became clear the hotel was not capable of providing this particular group’s needs.

For instance, the lemons were inadequate. “I hate small lemons,” Henley was quoted as saying, approximately, to the people producing the show. “Don Henley hates small lemons,” the production company officials said to the son mentioned above. “Go out and find us the largest lemons available.”

“You’re not going to believe this,” the son replied. “But it turns out that my father grows the biggest lemons in the world.” Then he drove to his home and retrieved a half-dozen lemons given to him by the man who is the subject of this story.

It turns out that man is me. While it is an exaggeration to call them the biggest in the world, it is true that I grow Meyer lemons, which are considerably larger than Lisbon lemons – the type almost always seen in grocery stores. Meyer lemons, more importantly, are incredibly flavorful and fragrant.

And while I have not been directly informed by any of his people, I have heard no complaints whatsoever about the lemons my son provided to Don Henley, and it is my belief that he probably found them of outstanding size and flavor, and may even recall them with fondness in the future in the likely event he is presented with some inferior lemon.

Which just goes to show you, anything can happen. I forget that sometimes.

As kind of a postscript, I have to say that my lemon tree was seriously damaged in our recent and uncommon freezing weather. I have hopes that the tree will survive, although nothing is guaranteed. I have decided that if the tree manages to live and produce fruit, I will heretofore refer to them as Desparado Lemons, just for fun.

Posted in Fruit, Garden, Kids, Metaphysics

Last Of The Red-Hot Mamas

Last Scotch Bonnets Before The Freeze
It’s been several years since the mercury has dropped down to 20 degrees around here. After predicting for days that we’d have some cold weather but nothing nearly so severe, the weather service boys suddenly said wait a minute, you’re all going to freeze your asses off for the next two nights.

That sort of talk keeps the tropical gardener busy, in an irate sort of way.

First, I had to crawl under the house to set some shop lights up near washing machine and kitchen sink pipes most likely to freeze otherwise. I used to have some old Christmas lights under there, set up just for such a task, but it’s been so long since we had this hard a freeze that the old lights are tattered, frayed and useless. So, temporary shop lights. Check. (A few strategically placed light bulbs, you see, will generate enough heat that you don’t think much about permanently insulating the yards and yards of pipes weaving around under the house as if it belonged to Rube Goldberg.)

The shed out back is packed tight with plumeria already, so all I had to do was make sure extension cords were strung to a heater I keep out there. Check. That just left the job of hauling the more-sensitive hibiscus plants inside, where the Christmas tree was. Oh, wait, the Christmas tree still was there, so first I took that down, then hauled the plants in. Check.

All done. But wait, there were still some red and orange balls of hotness growing on the ends of the scotch bonnet chili plants in the garden. Can you ever have too many hot peppers? Not really. So I picked those bad boys and took a picture of them sitting on the cutting board, then fussed with it on the computer box to make it look artsy. Check.

But wait, we never harvested the last of the Meyer lemons out front. By the time I remembered the lemons, the north wind had moved in, temperatures had dropped from 60 to the mid-30s and a nice, cold drizzle had begun. There were more lemons than I remembered. After picking and dragging two large bagfuls into the house, my hands were freezing, so I left a couple dozen on the tree. Check. Then, yesterday, I grated the peel from 15 or so very large lemons, giving me about a year’s worth for various future cooking projects, and froze several pint jars of lemon juice for future lemonade. I still had more than 100 lemons, plus a couple dozen from an earlier harvesting. Lemons up the wazoo. Check.

So last night, to make sure the pipes didn’t freeze, I ran a hot load of towels through the washing machine just before I went to bed. Check. I woke up with my spider sense tingling around 4:30 a.m., noted that it was nearing 20 outside, tried to run the same load through the washer a second time just for fun and – nothing. No hot water came through the pipes, meaning they were starting to freeze. I have spent time under the house during a similarly cold pre-dawn morning, with an extension cord and a hair dryer, thawing pipes. It sucked, as you may imagine, and I was not keen for a replay. Luckily this time, I prayed to the appropriate Deity, turned the washing machine temperature to “warm,” waited a minute, then turned it to “hot” again. Hot water began flowing. Check.

Even if in a relatively cold way, life is good.

Posted in Uncategorized