Category Archives: Politics

Toxic leadership writ large

“Men lived like fishes; the great ones devoured the small.”

– Algernon Sidney

Here’s a link to a short bio on Algernon Sidney, a seventeenth century British politician, who penned a political treatise, Discourses Concerning Government in 1698, which gained popularity decades later during the American Revolution.

I also have another Algernon Sidney quote in my old quote notebook:

“Liars ought to have good memories.”

– Algernon Sidney

An amazing aspect of  many of the media and pundit reactions to President Trump’s behavior is that so many of them seem stunned each time he attacks, even people in his own administration.  He is the living, breathing embodiment of the definition of a toxic leader.

So, what is a toxic leader?  Here’s an excerpt from a 2014 Forbes article, Toxic Leaders And The Social Environments That Breed Them:

“Toxic leadership is a combination of self-centered attitudes, motivations, and behaviors that have adverse effects on subordinates, the organization, and mission performance. This leader lacks concern for others and the climate of the organization, which leads to short- and long-term negative effects. The toxic leader operates with an inflated sense of self-worth and from acute self-interest. Toxic leaders consistently use dysfunctional behaviors to deceive, intimidate, coerce, or unfairly punish others to get what they want for themselves. The negative leader completes short-term requirements by operating at the bottom of the continuum of commitment, where followers respond to the positional power of their leader to fulfill requests. This may achieve results in the short term, but ignores the other leader competency categories of leads and develops. Prolonged use of negative leadership to influence followers undermines the followers’ will, initiative, and potential and destroys unit morale.”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/darwinatwork/2014/01/10/toxic-leaders-and-the-social-environments-that-breed-them/#70da5aa4dac5

President Trump often lashes out about the leaks coming from Obama holdovers or former Obama officials, but the media report many of their sources for these leaks are often Trump White House officials.   With a White House staff shake-up in the works, the new WH communications director, Anthony Scaramucci,  stated that trying to plug the leaks is a top agenda item:

“Anthony Scaramucci, President Donald Trump’s new communications director, said on Sunday that one of his first tasks will be to halt leaks and that staff on his team would be fired if the leaks do not stop.

“If we don’t get the leaks stopped, I am a businessperson, and so I will take dramatic action to stop those leaks,” Scaramucci said on Fox News Sunday.”

http://www.businessinsider.com/r-new-trump-communications-director-promises-crackdown-on-media-leaks-2017-7

This morning President Trump has been tweeting again, attacking his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for taking “a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!”  It’s petty and vindictive, but also meant to not only prod Sessions to resign, but to instill fear among his staff, that they could fall into disfavor and be publicly humiliated too.

Now, I am going to quote  a blog post,  My review of the GOP field, that I wrote December 14, 2015:

“In the GOP camp, Donald Trump creates drama, chaos and endless controversy.  Assuredly, on the big issues he champions, he mouths many home truths that are inconvenient for the DC cocktail party crowd to hear and acts like gasoline tossed on the liberal press and pundits’ self-righteous, politically correct  pieties.  He’s reduced their arguments to a heaping pile of ashes and for that alone, we should all cheer.  However, there are several “buts”, like, but he doesn’t have a clear grasp of The Constitution and his cures often come without clear plans and overstep constitutional bonds.  Of course, those who believe in his great business acumen, don’t harbor the doubts that I do – they see the great American success story, while I see the  yuge glowing red warning sign of toxic leadership.

I left my job at a retail store earlier this year, where I  worked for a man, whom I believe was the most talented merchandiser I have ever seen.  Along with that talent came a huge ego and the worst people skills I have ever seen in my life, that is, until I’ve watched Donald Trump brag, insult, bash and mock his GOP rivals.  This man threw anyone under the bus to make himself look good and he bragged as much as Trump.  He loved to fire people, very much like Trump.  One tirade too many right on the sales floor and I decided to put in my two week notice, after working there many years.  He was my 8th store manager and I had never had a single problem with any of the others.  YUGE relief is what I feel not having to deal with him anymore!

The only team The Donald is on, is his own.  He does not care about the GOP party or causes per se, they’re just the vehicle he is driving to become President, where he believes his dynamic business acumen will single-handedly “make America great again”. ”

https://libertybellediaries.com/2015/12/14/my-review-of-the-gop-field/

Jeff Sessions might resign, but no matter who President Trump selects as a replacement, the leaks will continue, the chaos will continue and the total dysfunction of this White House will grow.  Most of us learned how this story ends as children:

“A vain emperor who cares about nothing except wearing and displaying clothes hires two weavers who promise him the finest, best suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is either unfit for his position or “hopelessly stupid”. The emperor’s ministers cannot see the clothes themselves, but pretend that they can for fear of appearing unfit for their positions, and the emperor does the same. Finally, the weavers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him, and the emperor marches in procession before his subjects. The townsfolk play along with the pretense, not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or stupid. Then, a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the emperor is wearing nothing at all, and the cry is taken up by others. The emperor suspects the assertion is true but continues the procession.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Emperor%27s_New_Clothes

The problem is not the people around this president; the problem is that this petty emperor has no clothes.

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Filed under General Interest, Politics, Worthwhile Quotations

Talking to ordinary people

“My country is the world and my religion is to do good.”  – Thomas Paine

Here’s another quote I had typed on a piece of my “cute” stationery in the 70s, which was in my beat-up quote notebook.  The type is fading on these saved quote loose pages, but then again that old typewriter I used in the 70s was a second-hand, manual one my Pop found somewhere.

I had mentioned that I wanted a typewriter and Pop came home with a used one shortly thereafter.   My Pop always encouraged my interests.  When I came home with stray pets, he let me keep them, when I told him I really wanted a large desk, he found an old wood schoolteacher’s desk.  The top was badly damaged, so he covered the top with a woodtone formica, which I absolutely loved.  I didn’t have to worry about damaging the top when I set a glass of iced tea or cup of hot tea (my two favorite drinks – always) on it.  In 7th or 8th grade, I needed to do a science project and science is not my strong suit.  I decided I wanted to order some liquid that I saw in a science catalog a boy in my class had.  It could preserve snowflakes on glass slides.  My mother helped me order the liquid and sure enough, my Pop came home with a microscope and slides, he found somewhere, probably a flea market.  It worked and I got an A on that “saving snowflakes” project…

After looking through my old quote notebook, I decided to tape the falling apart cover back together the other day, using some dollar store, red duct tape I had in my sewing/craft room.  It might be good for another 40 years:

The quote at the top of this post is from Thomas Paine, one of America’s foremost political theorists, activists, and revolutionaries.  He fought with words. The American Pamphlet Debate, probably set the stage for how big issues in America are fought in the public square, as intellectuals, politicians, and often, unheard of American citizens rise from the rabble, with a voice or message that will not be silenced.  America has always had a very egalitarian view when it comes to the voices that gain prominence and effect enormous influence and change.

I like The Smithsonian magazine, because in every issue there are so many articles that spark my interest.  From the July edition I mentioned the article on the history of maps a few days ago.  There’s a very interesting article on Earl Shaffer, who was the first person to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in 1948, that’s definitely worth a read.   Another article in that edition, What Happened to America’s Public Intellectuals?, written by Elizabeth Mitchell, got me thinking, again, about America’s long history with our very open, often loud public debates.

Mitchell lays out the current angst with America’s seeming dismissal of experts, in favor of populist fervor:

“This painful conclusion weighs heavily on public intellectuals, who created the country during the 116 steamy days of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, when Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and crew crafted a new nation entirely out of words. Then they bolstered it with 85 newspaper columns under the pen name Publius, now known as the Federalist Papers, to explain and defend their work.”

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/what-happened-americas-public-intellectuals-180963668/#yVyIdqRP8zD3WrGS.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
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Understanding America’s long tradition of public debate leading to great political and cultural changes leads me to believe that public intellectual battles, to win American hearts and minds, are ingrained in the American psyche and I don’t believe the soul of America is lost.

Millions of Americans may have fallen for a fast-talking, NYC real estate hustler/con man turned reality TV star, but even with the power of the bully pulpit of the Office of the President of the United States and his just “great” tweet storms, brimming with 140-character rants, he still seems to have a public image problem, if his flagging approval poll numbers are to be believed.  While some of the self-professed “experts” on politics and national security fuss and fume daily, via their own tweet storms, about how people aren’t listening to them, perhaps many of them have the same problem as Trump – overblown egos and constant braggadocio repel many people.

America’s Pamphlet Debate began more than a decade before the Revolutionary War.  I mentioned the 2-volume Library of America set, The American Revolution: Writings from the Pamphlet Debate 1764-1776, in a previous blog post.  The set was edited by Gordon S, Wood and it includes many of the most influential pamphlets in the Pamphlet Debate, which really defined both American political beliefs and principles and later, the very framework of The Constitution. Volume 2, which covers 1773-1776, includes this explanation on Thomas Paine’s writing approach:

“Paine was determined to reach a wide readership, especially among the middling sorts in the tavern and artisan centered worlds of the cities, and to do more than explain and persuade; he wanted to express feelings — even revulsions and visions — that the traditional conventions of writing tended to disparage.  He refused to decorate his work with Latin quotations and scholarly references; instead , he relied on his readers knowing only the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.  He used simple, direct — some critics said coarse, even barnyard– imagery that could be understood by the unlearned.  He wrote for ordinary people and forever changed the rules of rhetoric.”

p.647,  The American Revolution: Writings from the Pamphlet Debate 1773-1776, edited by Gordon S. Wood, published by The Library of America, copyright 2015

President Trump may have lowered the bar with his effort to reach the common man, resorting to ruthless, modern mass media information warfare tactics (GOP insurgency, indeed), but Americans, even “the worst deplorables”, are not beyond having their hearts won over to American principles, defending The Constitution and above all treating other people respectfully.   Even with FOX news serving as a powerful Trump propaganda platform, America is not becoming Trumpistan.

The real crisis for America’s current intellectual class, is not Trump, but that many Americans are sick of puffed up pontificating pundits, parading a pile of degrees from posh pillars of academia, posing and primping before the cameras  — talking down to them.  Trump, while certainly no Thomas Paine (or Mussolini, for that matter), has learned the fine art of the con man, he identifies his mark and speaks directly to him.  That is why Trump relates to ordinary people – he knows he’s got to get them and keep them buying into him.  He talks to them.

The media faces the same problem as many of the pundits, especially given how many times, in recent months, the media spun themselves into a tizzy with a new, devastating revelation about Trump, which within 24-48 hours fell apart, as the facts in these stories turned out not to be facts at all.  The constant media and punditry Trump hysteria is destroying their credibility way more than anything Trump can do.

I agree with Mitchell’s view on America’s present crisis of spirit.  She writes:

“If we look back at our history, public intellectuals always emerged when the country was sharply divided: during the Civil War, the Vietnam War, the fights for civil rights and women’s rights. This moment of deep ideological division will likely see the return, right when we need them, of the thinkers and talkers who can bridge the emotional divide. But this time they will likely be holding online forums and stirring up podcasts.”
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/what-happened-americas-public-intellectuals-180963668/#yVyIdqRP8zD3WrGS.99

One of the things I love about YouTube videos is that I can find so many crafting and sewing tutorials.   I can watch several videos on how to make something and get different approaches about how to make it.  I don’t have to buy an entire book or magazine for directions for one project.   Often, I end up using bits and pieces of instructions and advice from several videos.  Many of these videos are made by ordinary people and completely amateur.  Yet, some of these amateur videos are carefully edited and produced with the dedication of professional videographers.  Some have tens of thousands of subscribers.

Most of America’s intellectuals and experts on politics and public policy talk to each other, not to ordinary Americans.  And while castigating Trump’s use of Twitter, many of America’s intellectuals lazily lecture and throw temper tantrums about Trump, daily, on Twitter, and of course, boringly brag about all their “expertise”.

Love him or hate him, Trump talks to ordinary people.

Note: Here is a podcast that is a Library of Law and Liberty conversation with Gordon S. Wood, discussing the American .Pamphlet Debate

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Filed under American Character, American History, Culture Wars, General Interest, Politics, The Media, Worthwhile Quotations

The value of a Goodwill book?

My kids were teenagers in the late 90s, so I got exposure to “reality TV” with garbage like MTV’s Real World.  I hated it!  There were others they watched too and I was a harsh critic, even back then.  I rarely watch TV these days and if I do, I don’t watch reality TV shows.  I never watched Donald Trump’s reality TV show, but now, as a political news junkie, here I am stuck watching The President Trump Reality Show.  It is disgusting, demeaning to the Office of the President, a national embarrassment and exhausting.   President Trump is as disgusting, perhaps even more so, than the Democrat partisans, who will do or say anything to advance their political agenda, that I’ve harshly criticized for years.

Frankly, if he gets impeached, I’ll probably breathe a sigh of relief, even though another impeachment drama would be very damaging to the country.  At this point, I don’t know which would be more damaging – a full-term of this President Trump Reality Show or impeachment.  It seems to me we are headed toward a constitutional crisis either way.

Yesterday was Jeff Sessions turn to be thrown to the wolves or under the bus, depending who was behind the leak of the Russian ambassador’s accounting to his superiors in Moscow, that Sessions discussed campaign-related matters in their conversations.  This is high-level, national U.S. intelligence intercepts being leaked to the media.

When Trump’s tax return from long ago, showing he paid a lot in taxes, was leaked, I suspect that Trump was behind that leak.  He played it for all it was worth, extrapolating that one tax return as indicative of all his tax returns.  It was a self-serving leak, I suspect.

With the intel being leaked, it doesn’t matter who leaked it or why they leaked it, it’s completely illegal and beyond that this scorched earth partisan use of national security intel is completely corrupting the national security system.  If high level officials, based on their own whims, can use intelligence for partisan political objectives, then what good are any of the rules?

Trump’s leaked tax return, well, if someone else leaked that without his consent, the law was broken, but even if he leaked it himself, while perfectly legal, lying and acting like someone else leaked it is very unethical and a corrupting influence on the country’s moral fiber.  Yeah, yeah, I know – we don’t have much moral fiber left or the two major political parties wouldn’t have chosen Trump and Hillary.

During the election many conservatives, who should have known better, fell sway to Trumpthink, espousing morally bankrupt talking points to keep the Trump GOP insurgency ruthlessly laying waste to all rules and decorum, with a cutthroat scorched earth information war against, not only Hillary, but also the mainstream media.  Hillary and much of the mainstream media were definitely colluding to wage a scorched earth campaign to dump anything and everything on Trump in an information war too.  Here we are 6 months into Trump’s presidency and this scorched earth information war is still raging, showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Yesterday I had to go to the vet to pick up some dog medication refills and on the way home I decided to stop by the Goodwill to look for cheap books that I wouldn’t mind cutting up for this “junk journal” hobby.  The picture at the top is a 1995 perpetual calendar book, I found.  There are lots of great quotes in it and my first thought was, I can cut a lot of these out and put them in my new quote junk journal.  I think the lady at the Goodwill charged me 39 cents for this calendar, but many of these quotes are priceless.  I also found a few other books, like this 1941, A Treasury of Gilbert and Sullivan, filled with music for 50 cents:

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Later in the evening, I sat flipping through the pages of The Little Book of Virtues and I realized that I didn’t want to cut this little calendar book apart.  In fact, I doubt that I will cut the music book apart either, since it’s very difficult for me to tear any book apart.  So, I spent some time thinking about books that matter to me and then I watched a few videos on how to repair old children’s board books.  Yes, I want to repair my little, Prayers For Little Children  book.  I also have the old, large dictionary that came with our set of World Book Encyclopedias, when I was a kid, which is in need of repair too:

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Instead of buying anymore books for “junk journaling”, I think my next purchase will be a Speedy Stitcher sewing awl, so I can properly repair my little prayer book….

I decided to set that virtues calendar book on a shelf here on my hutch and enjoy a new quote on virtue every day:

Since endlessly writing about how corrupt and unfit President Trump is for the presidency won’t help anyone or add anything to the political debate, I might share some of these quotes on virtue instead.

Of course, I also wish President Trump would have this book on his desk in the Oval Office, but I doubt he would read it.

He prefers tweeting…

I can hardly stand so much “winning”…

 

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Filed under Corrupt Media Collusion, General Interest, Politics, Public Corruption, Quotes To Ponder, Things That Matter

Bursting into a full bloom summer scandal

After hearing about Russian collusion, breathlessly reported by Democrats and the media since last year, I had  pretty much written it off as mostly wishful thinking or feverish dreams by Trump’s ever-growing throng of opposition – until Don Jr.s meeting with the Russian lawyer came to light.  In over a week of that story budding, then bursting into full bloom, the story moved from a closed up bud of a few people met with Don Jr and Kushner in June 2016 and it was a nothingburger meeting, no collusion,  the Russian lawyer wasted their time talking about Russian adoption and the Magnitsky Act, to full bloom scandal.   More petals unfurled, with flaming colorful tidbits, like an allegation that Don Jr. and Kushner were handed information, purportedly dirt on Clinton from the Russian government.

The interesting tipping point, if it comes, will be when big name Trump supporters jump from the Trump ship, which is taking on quite a bit of water in the past few weeks.  I referred to them as 5th Avenue Loyalists and perhaps they will cling to him until the bitter end.   Then again, sleazy politicians, like Newt, will assuredly abandon ship and become a pious Trump critic rather than go down with the ship.

Don Jr.’s own words moved the perception of the Russian collusion story from overheated Dem wet dreams to a serious matter worthy of full investigation.  Don Jr.’s explanation of that meeting clearly states that Don Jr. and Jared Kushner walked into a meeting intending to initiate Russian collusion.

The thing I’m watching for is the “what nows” if President Trump fires Robert Mueller.  I still believe my November 2016 prediction, that we are headed toward a constitutional crisis with either Trump or Hillary.  I’m sticking to that prediction.

Today, Bloomberg is reporting that Mueller’s investigation is expanding:

Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions

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An odd addendum

I decided not to post anything about the Don Jr. meeting with the Russian lawyer, because frankly I have no idea what to believe at the moment.

Now, the Chicago Tribune is reporting on the death of  Peter W. Smith, the deceased Republican operative, who was trying to locate Hillary’s missing emails by offering to buy them from Russian hackers:

“Republican donor and operative from Chicago’s North Shore who said he had tried to obtain Hillary Clinton‘s missing emails from Russian hackers killed himself in a Minnesota hotel room days after talking to The Wall Street Journal about his efforts, public records show.

In mid-May, in a room at a Rochester hotel used almost exclusively by Mayo Clinicpatients and relatives, Peter W. Smith, 81, left a carefully prepared file of documents, including a statement police called a suicide note in which he said he was in ill health and a life insurance policy was expiring.”

Further in the story it states:

“Smith’s death occurred at the Aspen Suites in Rochester, records show. They list the cause of death as “asphyxiation due to displacement of oxygen in confined space with helium.”

Rochester police Chief Roger Peterson on Wednesday called Smith’s manner of death “unusual,” but a funeral home worker said he’d seen it before.

An employee with Rochester Cremation Services, the funeral home that responded to the hotel, said he helped remove Smith’s body from his room and recalled seeing a tank.

The employee, who spoke on condition he not be identified because of the sensitive nature of Smith’s death, described the tank as being similar in size to a propane tank on a gas grill. He did not recall seeing a bag that Smith would have placed over his head. He said the coroner and police were there and that he “didn’t do a lot of looking around.”

“When I got there and saw the tank, I thought, ‘I’ve seen this before,’ and was able to put two and two together,” the employee said.”

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-peter-smith-death-met-0713-20170713-story.html

Smith died 10 days after his interview with a Wall Street Journal reporter.

I wonder why the WSJ didn’t mention that Smith committed suicide in a hotel room?

Curious, for sure…

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The real Trump

“But it is the unscripted Mr Trump that is real.”

The above line from Australian ABC political editor, Chris Uhlmann, should be the response every time Trump apologists once again mention that Trump can “act presidential”, as they cling to scripted speeches he delivers and speeches which he has no real input into their creation.  Other presidents relied on speechwriters too, but those presidents had political ideological core beliefs and principles.  Even for people like me, who vehemently disagreed with President Obama on almost every issue, I do not doubt for a minute his sincerity and conviction on issues.   This editorial is a must see report.  It is the grim truth:

“He is a character drawn from America’s wild west, a travelling medicine showman selling moonshine remedies that will kill the patient.

And this week he underlined he has neither the desire nor the capacity to lead the world.”

And:

“There is a tendency among some hopeful souls to confuse the speeches written for Mr Trump with the thoughts of the man himself.

He did make some interesting, scripted, observations in Poland about defending the values of the West.

And Mr Trump is in a unique position — he is the one man who has the power to do something about it.

But it is the unscripted Mr Trump that is real. A man who barks out bile in 140 characters, who wastes his precious days as President at war with the West’s institutions — like the judiciary, independent government agencies and the free press.”

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-09/did-trumps-g20-performance-indicate-us-decline-as-world-power/8691538?sf96473247=1

Here’s what I wrote August 29, 2015 about what we should demand of a president and I think I was right:

“America needs to hold all of its presidential candidates’ feet to the fire.  Expecting intelligent, well-reasoned arguments and explanations for their policies and ideas, should be the standard we demand. We need leaders who read extensively, who will study issues carefully and at the heart, being President is the highest political office in the land, so demanding a president who has mastered government policy issues is a must.  Expecting that all of our elected officials, both in Congress and the President possess an in-depth understanding of The Constitution, a breadth of knowledge on US history and a strong foundation on foreign policy issues should be our minimum expectation.”

https://libertybellediaries.com/2015/08/29/he-never-means-anything-serious-till-he-talks-about-justice-and-right/

Trump’s competent cabinet members aren’t advancing Trump’s policies, they are doing damage control, assuring America’s counterparts around the world that America led by President Trump can still be relied upon and I suspect some like McMaster, Kelly,  and Mattis are there, not out of loyalty to Trump, but out of a sense of duty to try their best to keep America safe, .  However, the constant discordant messages between what these cabinet members say vs. whatever capricious nonsense Trump spouts are being noted around the world by not only our friends, but especially among America’s adversaries.

 

 

 

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Filed under Foreign Policy, General Interest, Politics

More on the WSJ story

This is an amazing story, replete with another Brit, albeit not as salacious as the Steele dossier.   I am sure Robert Mueller’s team will unravel:

The Time I Got Recruited to Collude with the Russians

The author of this piece tells his account of how he was contacted by Peter Smith, the GOP operative, mentioned in the WSJ story.  Here’s this British guy’s bio:

Matt Tait is the CEO and founder of Capital Alpha Security, a UK based security consultancy which focuses on research into software vulnerabilities, exploit mitigations and applied cryptography. Prior to founding Capital Alpha Security, Tait worked for Google Project Zero, was a principal security consultant for iSEC Partners, and NGS Secure, and worked as an information security specialist for GCHQ.

 

 

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