Theresa May and the Grenfell Dragon

Poor Theresa May.  She’s had a rough six months.  Three homegrown and/or lonewolf terrorist attacks, an unnecessary election that backfired and now the Grenfell disaster.   The question isn’t how she’s going to govern with the Democratic Unionist Party riding herd, it is how long she’ll last as Prime Minister at all.

I’m not sure what the betting odds are that she’ll be able to keep her office, but I’m willing to bet she’ll be gone as soon as the Conservatives can remove her with a minimum of fuss.  I figure that would be right around the Europe/British summer holidays, i.e. August 2017.   Everyone’s out of town about that time and no one will care about politics.

The British Pre-Brexit Adventure continues, but not in the way anyone would have expected or anticipated.   The terrorist attacks, two in the heart of London and one in the heart of Manchester, were very effective.  They garnered hours of coverage on BBC, so much so that even the insular American television networks pulled their snouts out of the Trump Administration feed trough just long enough to send over a few correspondents.

In future, before a Prime Minister calls for a snap election, someone should check to see that all the guns have been cleaned first.  This backfiring business points to bad gun maintenance, not to mention hubris or, perhaps, just plain stupidity.   A little preparatory target practice would not go amiss, either.

Meanwhile, we find that the election, if not the polls (new saying, “assuming the polls are correct makes an ass out of you and me”) pulled Britain back from Brexit and Conservative government to a more global, Laborist view. The fact that Labor in the person of the stubbornly petulant Jeremy Corbyn was relentlessly ridiculed throughout the last six months was neither here nor there.  Unrelenting ridicule, as it turns out, may have been the best campaign strategy of all.

The Grenfell disaster points out that all that bitching during Prime Minister’s Questions comes from real problems.  The NHS is underfunded, both on the supply and demand sides.  Public housing, especially in the exorbitantly expensive city of London, is neglected to the point of criminality.  The educational system remains elitist, dependent upon money and class rather than merit.  Jihadis have infiltrated Muslim neighborhoods all over the country, feeding on despair and hiding in plain sight.

Much of the apparent voter turnaround has been attributed to who voted in one election as opposed to another.  It has been posited that older, disenfranchised people voted in the Brexit Referendum, just barely pushing it to the exit side, while younger, more globalist people voted in May’s snap election.  One of the most surprising things about the snap election was the fact that the Scottish National Party seemed to lose its steam for independence.  The world energy glut and the slumping price of oil may have had something to do with that.

The good thing about President Trump is that he has given us, as Americans, an indelible  picture of a president who has no leadership skills.  He has, rather, bullying skills – not the same thing.  Theresa May does not seem to be a bully.  Worse, however, she looks to be a coward,  especially in view of her  behavior in the ongoing Grenfell disaster.  She’s no Churchill.  She’s not Thatcher.  Even that slickster, David Cameron, is starting to look good right about now.

Even the Queen, decked out in one of those absurd mad hatter hats, showed up to talk to people at the burnt out Grenfell shell, giving comfort in her distant, regal way.  Corbyn showed up as well, hugging people, listening, giving reassurance.  May showed up only to scurry back to her black SUV amid boos and catcalls, making a beeline for the safety (for now) of 10 Downing.

President Trump may be a bully but he’s no coward.  May deserves to be gone.

Uh. . . well. . .

Now there’s a deep thought, as my grandmother used to say.  Silly stuff?  Stupid controversies?  Fiddling while Rome burns?  Pick whichever one you like or make up one yourself.  It’s fun.  Sort of.

For what it’s worth (thank you Buffalo Springfield):

U.S. (i.e. Trump) Withdraws from Paris Climate Agreement:  No brainer, guys.  This plays directly to Donald’s constituency and costs him nothing to achieve, politically or economically.  He can pull us out of the Agreement, which doesn’t kick in until almost the end of his first term, or end of his Administration, anyway.  He can grandstand, then gleefully watch impotent outrage from such coal burning nations as India and China and go on about making the American coal industry great again.  It would be, if it could export to India and China.  Meanwhile, if you travel to Beijing, a surgical face mask is recommended for any contemplated walks in the park.  Irony:  Even the bigwigs in Pittsburgh, that symbol of fossilized industrial, flyover might, object.  The regular guy, though, in from one of those depressed townships along I-79, likes the idea.  He’s retired however, so he just wants to get on with his shopping and go home before the traffic hits. All the better to catch Dancing with the Stars.

Kathy Griffin:  Bad taste photo/meme/gif.   Outrageous comedienne move/exercise in free speech, if in bad taste.  This does not make Ms. Griffin unusual, the bad taste part that is.  Bad taste sells.  It gives permission.  It makes you free.  Whatever.  It’s made Griffin a sobbing outcast, forsaken even by the near hysterical CNN.  I believe that Donald’s reaction tweet to this photo was the first respectable one he’s ever sent.   Ms. Griffin has done the impossible, she has made us sympathize with Donald Trump.   If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d say she and what’s left of the White House Communications Department cooked this up to give Donald a bit of good press.  Probably not but I stand by Donald’s philosophy:  all publicity is good publicity.  If that’s the case, you go Ms. Griffin.

Putin’s Interview with Megyn Kelly:  Predictable.  Big secret:  he’s lying.  Probably not worth watching. Wait for the press round up.  If you like watching video of the late Leonid Brezhnev making a speech to the umpteenth party congress, you will find this informative and about as truthful.  Otherwise, go back to binge watching House of Cards.  Putin’s in with the Donald Administration and he knows it.

End of the World (a specialty of the Internet):

Major Retailer Closing Doors for Good:  recycled business news.  This dire warning has been on the ‘Net for over a year.  Probable closures:  Sears, Pennys, Rue 21, American Eagle, Children’s Place, Macys and any number of local boutiques/specialty retailers.  Radio Shack is already gone.  For updates, visit your local shopping mall.

Explosives in Indiana Mailboxes:  Local police blotter stuff.

Gruesome Find Under Mattress:  Don’t read while eating breakfast.

Doe Menaces Neighborhood:  One phrase comes to mind:  Hunting License.

Waitress Stories:  Racist message on receipt and stiffed.  Lovely message on receipt and $100 tip. Waitress refuses to serve rude customer (if that happened all the time, very few people would ever be served).  Waitress drops something in someone’s drink. Waitress returns wallet to distracted customer, does not get reward/gets nice reward.  Waitress gives free dinner to down on luck patron but then finds out it will come out of her meager wages.

Big Surprises:  Indonesia is after anyone who’s gay or LGBT.  China does not believe in or condone religious freedom.  Japan’s population is diminishing.  Donald Administration sends travel ban to Supreme Court. Students surprise teacher (can be good or bad).  Military father/mother surprises spouse/children with unannounced return from deployment.  Despite heavy advertising to the contrary, you cannot pay your mortgage by driving for Uber/Lyft; you might make enough money to buy groceries, that is if you move in with your in-laws.  Ivanka tries to talk sense into father, although we’re not sure if Ivanka actually has any sense.  And, last but not least, Jared Kushner is really a mute.

Note to self:  Stop reading the phone at 3:00 AM.

Not Watergate, But . . .

It was a risk.  A big risk.  Sometimes big risks pay off.

Not this time.

It’s not all Trump’s fault, although he has become the fulfillment of the Democrat prophecy; that the government would be left to an incompetent narcissist with bullying tendencies.  Hillary Clinton, judging by her reaction to her loss, not to mention the hubris of her campaign, would have produced much the same result, although for different reasons.  She, however, would have bothered to staff the government, although if you were on the Clintons’ “Enemies List,” you’d be blackballed.

I have to agree with the level heads here; we are not in constitutional  crisis territory.  We are, however, in the vote of no confidence territory.  For all of you looking up Watergate on Wikipedia (the scandal, not the office building), it took Richard Nixon six years to get to the point of impeachment.   These days, however, knowing history just gets in the way.

The Watergate scandal began with what turned out to be an entirely unnecessary office break in at Democratic National Headquarters.  This was situated in The Watergate, then a relatively new building in an inconvenient part of the District of Columbia.

Irony abounds.  The Democratic Party managed to thoroughly bungle the 1972 elections all by itself, obviating the services of G. Gordon Liddy et al.  Nixon won the election in classic landslide fashion, pulling a Paris Peace Talks breakthrough out of the proverbial hat in October of that year.   The resulting rabbit gave the American electorate something it wanted more than anything:  visible light at the end of the Vietnam tunnel.  Instead of hanging G. Gordon and his anti-commie cohorts out to dry (as the Clintons would have done), Nixon proceeded to mount a cover up campaign, all the while making classic mistakes like purposefully recording every word he said in the Oval Office on a primitive tape recording system.

Trump has done nothing of the sort, all impeachment rumblings (and taping threats) aside.  So far as we know, he did not authorize anyone to break into the Democratic Campaign Headquarters. The Russians did that, ostensibly of their own free will and for their own purposes.  We can also assume that, by the same token, the Russians broke into the Republican Campaign Headquarters as well.  So far, no one seems to care about this possibility.

The fact that this all happened in the abstraction known as cyberspace shows you just how far away we are from 1972’s reel to reel tapes.

President Trump’s biggest sin so far is that he has been “unpredictable” (read: chaotic), but he has not, so far as we know, broken the law. That’s what Director Comey was attempting to find out before he was abruptly fired, quite lawfully (if ungracefully) by President Trump. This sort of thing is well within the sitting President’s prerogative.  Despite Mr. Comey’s dismissal, the investigation continues.

The President, however, with every mindless tweet and idiotic utterance loses credibility not to mention effectiveness. The fact that his spokesman was caught by the White House Press Corps hiding in the bushes last week, is not only bizarre, it points to fatal dysfunction.  President Trump with his reality show sensibility that nothing really matters, and despite his disingenuous interviews, seems to rationalize (when he thinks at all)  that he was not elected to get things done, he was elected to disrupt the government.  Steve Bannon is at the heart of this stupidity.

It was said that Nixon used to go around the White House in the late hours, talking to the portraits of past presidents.  Trump is said to yell at the cable news commentators/panels when they bring up the ongoing FBI investigation. Nixon didn’t have enough sense to just go to bed; Trump doesn’t have enough sense to turn off the TV.  It may not be Watergate yet, but it’s getting there.

Reality Show

Having got through the 100 days blather, the press stepped back and took a breather.  The Repubs in the House finally got it together and came up with a trial balloon healthcare repeal/replacement.  This, of course, shortchanges just about everyone in need of healthcare.  The upshot?  The Repubs are acting like Repubs again.  The current episode of  Invasion of the Political Body Snatchers seems to be over.

And this leads me to my topic, that is entertainment.  Or, to put it another way, the collective noun that is Hollywood.  This includes the Meryl Streeps and Tom Hanks of the world, along with the famous for nothing Kardashians and the 15 minute denizens of reality TV programming.  All of it, “crafted” or not, is entertainment.  News can be entertainment, as well; for instance all the fluff about Princess Diana and her now grown progeny is more entertainment than history.  I hate to tell you this folks, but The Crown, although a beautiful series, is not history.  It’s entertainment.

My point?  Hollywood, in its supremely unselfaware way, seems oblivious to the irony of the Donald Administration.  Take the White House Correspondents’ Dinner – please!  (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Over the years, this has become an increasingly glitzy affair, earning sobriquets like “nerd prom” for its parade of red carpet gowns and glitz.  The local DC social scene, not known for its beauty or media chops, along with numerous rumpled print journalists, loved it. By 2016, however, the last of the Obama White House Correspondents’ dinners incited a bit of commentary that perhaps the affair had gotten out of hand.

This year the whole business was much more laid back. This, however, was not due to any sense of restraint or decency.  It was, rather, due to the fact that President Trump, fighting headwinds of media disapproval, declined to attend.  It is not mandatory for the sitting President to attend, although it is customary.  The entertainment folks, not to be outdone, then put on something called Not The White House Correspondents’ Dinner, which gave Hollywood a chance to needle the Administration anyway.  Skits from this presentation made all the newscasts.  Strangely, the actual White House Correspondents’ dinner got almost no media coverage at all.

The love affair between liberal Hollywood and the Obamas continues unabated, as scenes from Obama’s post-presidential vacation attest.  Hollywood, at least the Hollywood that makes academy award wining movies and prestige TV, is an unabashed fan of the Obamas; from “informal” visits to various late night talk shows to airbrushed magazine covers, the Obamas were It.

Donald Trump, part of whose claim to fame is actually entertainment, has been met with nothing put virtual rotten tomatoes from day one.  One should remember, however, that The Donald is an old Hollywood hand.  He has done cameos in movies; he piloted The Apprentice through several successful seasons.  He understands media.  I daresay, he understands Hollywood a lot better than the Obamas ever did.

Yes, the Donald Administration is full of hypocrisy.  So was the Obama Administration.  Hypocrisy is the name of the game in politics.  Hollywood, however, cannot claim purity in this argument.   It underestimates President Trump if it thinks that it can level the trembling finger of righteousness at the doings of the current Administration.

The Trump people have a deep understanding of reality television, the money machine that keeps TV afloat. Accordingly, they run the White House that way.  So far this has worked, at least with the Trump “base” (whatever that is).   The Obama Administration, on the other hand, seemed to spend the last two years of its existence trying to recreate Mad Men which, I don’t know about you, left me cold in the end.  The point of the White House bully pulpit is to bring people over to your side.  Seems to me that reality TV works much better in the persuasion department than glossy I’m-glad-those-days-are-over nostalgia.

In short, the entertainment industry has been outdone by one of its own.  Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Mr. Spielberg, et al., they can harangue from awards show podiums, they can tweet, put out statements on Facebook or their own websites.  In the end, however, they have been bested.  Trump is the king of media.


Pledge Week

No I am not talking about membership in the Greek system (aka college sorority/fraternity membership drives). I am talking about the fund raising practices of the Public Broadcasting Service and the Public Broadcasting Corporation.  This is the part of American TV that’s supposed to be good for you.

PBS financed and televised Sesame Street back in the late sixties; it is the custodian of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, and the Joy of Painting.  It televised  high brow BBC stuff back when nobody in America knew what BBC was; I remember that our local PBS station in Charlotte, NC, televised the intense cold war drama The Prisoner (“Be seeing you!”) in 1967-68, in addition to documentaries and large portions of the national political conventions before C-Span came along.  The commercial stations were busy televising stuff like The Monkees and Laugh In.  Many PBS stations anticipated C-Span by providing wall-to-wall coverage of the Watergate hearings in 1974, as well as re-running the same in the evening hours for people who worked. This may have been one of the most patriotic things PBS ever did.

Like all media, PBS is a much different animal than the outfit that televised the Watergate hearings.  It now runs a serious news service, an alternative to radical right radio and TV (aka Fox News).  The flagship show is the PBS News Hour, which is worth a gander, at least every once in a while.  It is not as loud or as glitzy as the usual cable suspects, which makes it refreshing, although there is a discernable liberal bias.

Since those long ago glory days of Watergate, PBS has become ever closer to its British cousin, BBC.  For instance, back in the seventies you could catch Monty Python’s Flying Circus on Saturday nights or Miss Marble, Upstairs Downstairs (the era’s Downton Abbey) and, that lovely Masterpiece Theatre miniseries, Brideshead Revisited. The latter coincided with the ‘fairy tale’ wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.   Also, by that time, PBS had discovered what is known in American parlance as Britcoms; i.e., Are You Being Served? To the Manor Born, The Good Neighbors and the long running soap operaesque series, East Enders.

Americans would tune in in droves on Sunday evenings to watch Masterpiece Theatre.  This is still true of Masterpiece’s Sunday evening timeslot, which hosted the blockbuster Downton Abbey, amongst others.

PBS, with it’s mix of educational, local interest, cooking (it pioneered television cooking when it picked up Julia Child’s show in the sixties), documentaries and good drama, was thinking man’s television.  Sounds great, right?

Alas, there’s always a fly somewhere in the ointment.  For PBS the fly is that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (“CPB”), the mothership as it were, is funded by the U.S. Government.  This is not a large budget allowance but it is money and some Congressional/Administration wag is always threatening to do away with it.   Thus, your local PBS station, which most of the population receives via a cable TV system (average bill $130 a month), does not sell commercial time.  The station can’t run on air, however, so we, the viewers, must make up the difference between what the station may get from the government (funneled through CPB) and what the shows actually cost.

Remember, when you watch say, Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary, the station televising it had to pay Ken Burns’ distribution company for it.  Ken Burns can’t live on air, either.   What it got from CPB and what it had to pay Mr. Burns amounts to a deficit.  Therefore, we, the viewers are responsible for making up that deficit.  Thus, you have pledge week.

Or, I should say, pledge period.  My local PBS station (WETA, ostensibly in Washington DC, although they are actually located in Northern Virginia) has about four pledge periods a year.  These last from three to four weeks.  During this time, all the usual PBS programming is dispensed with and we are treated to banalities such as a pastiche of Peter, Paul & Mary’s later concerts, infomercials on how to keep your brain functioning after 60, how to keep your body functioning after 60, how to get and keep enough money for your retirement (little late for that one) and, on the weekends, hour after hour of Motown, Psychedelic Rock, Sixties Protest Music and/or The Beach Boys, all with looped concert footage of oldsters getting down, as much as they can anyway.  These outfits hawk CD (!) collections of the music featured in these “concerts” a portion of which goes to the station.  (Evidently most loyal PBS viewers have never heard of Spotify.)  You also get old TV show retrospectives, Carol Burnett and Laugh In being the most popular.  Only at the end of the period does the original schedule return, to be interrupted by the same people you’ve seen for years, pleading for your $10 a month in exchange for tote bags and mugs.

I have no interest in any of this; therefore, I turn off PBS for four weeks. That comes to about 16 weeks out of the year when I do not watch PBS at all.  I can’t be the only one.

In the DC area, however, we have a bonus PBS station, one that only appears on the digital spectrum; WETA UK.  This is all Brit all the time.  This station features 24/7 programming straight out of BBC and, recently, the Sky Network.  This is where all the old Inspector Morse reruns went, as well as Inspector Lewis, Midsomer Murders, Vera, Miss Marple, Doc Martin, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Call the Midwife, even Downton Abbey.   Britcoms have their place on UK, as well;  Are You Being Served is shown several times a day.  Doctor Who appears on Sunday evenings, as well as the occasional fluff piece about the Royal Family and the English countryside.  Even some of the more contemporary British sitcoms make an appearance.

UK has so far been a pledge free zone, but now the WETA people, never to be to done out of dunning their audience, have begun holding  the “new” (12th) season of Midsomer Murders hostage (in Britain, Midsomer Murders is into its 19th season and was renewed for a 20th).  You watch as the same people you’ve seen for years at the old WETA beg for that same old $10.  The subtle threat?  That this lovely set up will disappear and you’ll be stuck with the old WETA or, God forbid, Dancing with the Stars.

I hate to tell you this, guys, but I can get the entire Midsomer Murders library on Netflix and perhaps even Amazon Prime, for free, or a small fee ($99 a year/less than $10 a month).  I can check out CDs of Midsomer Murders at my local library.  I can watch Downton Abbey for free on Prime, as well as any number of BBC/Sky favorites.  I can do this at my convenience.  I swipe the screen and there it is.

I can do this with an Internet connection.  I do not need WETA or WETA UK.  I can get up to the minute versions of these shows, as well as the older ones if I so desire.  I currently pay over $200 a month for a cable/phone/Internet bundle.  I could eliminate the cable and lose at least half that monthly cost, something I am seriously considering.  This consideration is not helped by the fact that there you are as I sit down in front of my TV to watch a “new” episode of Midsomer Murders,  asking for my money or else.  Even if I pay the cheapest rate, $5 per month, that is $5 added to my cable bill.  If I went for $10, for that I could get another premium cable station that would provide first run movies and great contemporary TV, all commercial free.

Time to join the 21st Century, PBS (and CPB).  Start a streaming service, do some original programming, stop dunning cable subscribers, already paying through the nose, for more money.  Back in the day electricity and a roof antenna ran the TV.  Now, TV’s a lot more expensive, not to mention more complicated.  Find some other way to make your money, even if you have to go to tasteful commercials.  Stop treating us like elderly idiots and do some creative fundraising. Show stuff we’d actually like to see during your pledge drives, not infomercials for music we can get for free elsewhere.

The times, they are a’changing.  You should too.



End of Term Marks – Trump, Donald J.

Or first 100 days, whichever you prefer.  They are both arbitrary benchmarks.  As before, I am using the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry grading system.  Thus:

O – Outstanding, the student is brilliant and can move on; E – Exceeds Expectations, not perfect but the student can move ahead; A – Acceptable, pass but will have trouble moving ahead and may not be accepted into advanced courses of study; P – Poor, not passing, can repeat the course; D – Dreadful, failed, will get no credit for the course; and finally T – Troll, complete failure, perhaps the student is not Hogwarts material.

The courses were:  1) Accuracy, truth telling and transparency; 2) Economic affairs; 3) Foreign affairs; 4) Family; 5) Legislation – Immigration and Healthcare;

Accuracy, truth telling and transparency:  D – Dreadful.  The student is feckless, and has a tendency to mouth off at 4:00 AM after an unproductive night watching worthless cable news and information channels. Perhaps Professor Snape should assign a seven parchment essay:  Why Cable TV News is Completely Ridiculous – Discuss.  Note the unnecessary argument over the Inauguration non-crowds.  Truth telling is also problematic for this Administration, although this is true of every Administration. The student fails at this, however, because the student is unable to stick to his own version of the facts, such as they are.  Transparency is nonexistent, despite the neverending glare of increasingly silly photo ops. The fact that the student feels the need to obtain advice from right wing crazies and family members with no political interests or experience does not bode well for the rest of the course.

Economic Affairs: A – Acceptable with caution.  The student has  made the proper noises about bringing jobs back to flyover country.  The student’s evident inability to confront the Chinese on their cheap exports, however, does not invite optimism. We can conditionally accept student’s uncharacteristic hesitancy as proof that the problem is larger than the student anticipates and the student has opted for further examination before coming up with a trade policy.  The student is warned:  this new jobs policy is a small hourglass.  The student may have just two years to turn this around and we’re already 100 days in.  If not done in this this time period, the student may find that his flyover constituency will cast him aside, all conservative radio and TV rabblerousing to the contrary. This is the most fragile, and perhaps the most important, promise from the student’s campaign.

Foreign Affairs: P – Poor; the student is struggling.  The student is in love with gunboat diplomacy, aka carpet bombing diplomacy.  This didn’t work for Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and George W. Bush.  This will not work for the Donald Administration either. The bombing, however, of Syria (long overdue although largely useless except as an expression of disfavor) and the threatening talk to the Potemkin Village Republic of North Korea is an improvement on the Obama Administration’s almost cowardly reluctance to do anything except to come out with intellectual folderol when things went south.  Donald’s push to get the Chinese to help rein in the Kim regime is, however, good policy.  Note:  this will adversely affect our ability to get trade concessions from the Chinese until the current “crisis” is over.  When dealing with the North Koreans, however, the “crisis” is never over.

The relationship with Europe is at best stagnant and Donald’s reception of Angela Merkel, arguably the most powerful politician in what’s left of Europe, was downright rude, as was his treatment of the Australians.  Pushing Mr. Netanyahu into making promises during a news conference was also not good form.  It may have worked the first time, but Donald does that again and he will get major pushback.  I note that, surprisingly,  we are in the usual dance with the Russians.  I will take that as a good sign, in the short term.

Family: T – Troll, the student has failed completely and may not be White House material.  The sphinx like silence and absence of the First Lady is a disgrace, Barron’s private school or no.  We get pictures of her (her First Lady portrait was an exercise in cheesiness, frankly) but she is silent.  The Easter Egg roll, usually a no brainer when it comes to White House goodwill, was not only badly planned, the seeming reluctance of the First Lady with regard to the occasion was telling.  Because we do not know why she is silent we can only be charitable and say that she is distressed about her accent or that she is kept silent by Donald.  Or, perhaps we can be uncharitable and think that she does not care.  At this point, it’s a toss up.   Furthermore, using unqualified grown children and in-laws as political advisors smacks of Greek diner management, at best.  Remember the rule about nepotism:  the family is always right.  Review material:  The Godfather.

Legislation: All ’round grade: D – Dreadful. The student will get no credit, although he is in good company; the Obama Administration didn’t do much better.

Subset Grades:  Immigration: P – Poor; the student may repeat the course.  Bad political advice, mixed with prejudice and hurry up deadlines killed any reasonable attempt to reform and control the immigration process for refugees and people bootstrapping their way up the economic ladder.  Immigration, therefore, remains the mess it has been for decades.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, this failure was leavened by the common sense reforms on the H-B1 visa system which has been abused by American businesses for decades, something that the Obama Administration did not consider to be a problem.  Before you listen to the tech corporations go on about how they need STEM talent, remember the barrista who just graduated with a hard science or computer degree and can’t get a job he/she can live on.  Those who should be the most outraged by the H-B1 system should be our young people who are done out of their livelihoods by skin flint tech companies willing to hire foreign labor for slave wage salaries, many of whom have few English skills and are put up in crummy apartments where they sleep four to a room.   It’s the Palo Alto version of the Chinese factory.

Subset Grade:  Healthcare: T – Troll; Failed completely.  The Donald Administration has decided to try again.  Whatever. If a Republican (sort of) Administration and a Republican dominated House of Representatives cannot push through repeal and replace legislation overturning law that was hated from day one, the system is entirely dysfunctional.

Summary:  I’d say we’re in Dreadful territory.  The student can do better.  We hope.

Saved by Bashar al-Assad

Go figure. The Donald Administration so far has had a terrible 100 day roll out, what with the Inauguration non-crowds, being stymied by Congressional divisions when it came to repealing Obamacare and the immigration/travel ban grinding to a judicial halt.  Along comes a tin pot dictator by the name of Bashar al-Assad who unleashes chemical warfare on his own people (shades of Saddam Hussein).  This prompts the Trump people into decisive action.

Not rhetoric, action.  Approximately 60 Tomahawk missiles from a warship on the Med and Trump’s a hero.  Just like that.  The press, taken aback, shuts up and the everlasting cable discussion panels start jabbering about old school conflict with the Russians.

Fortune, such as it is, has taken a turn, sort of.  Strangely, the topic all weekend was not about our deteriorating relationship with Putin.  It was whether Steve Bannon and Jered Kushner can learn to get along.  Nothing more interesting than palace intrigue.  A victory of sorts for our Florida/golf loving president.  Melania even made an appearance, a sphinx in arriviste designer clothes.

The mini-summit with the Chinese seems to have gone fairly well (Walmart and Target are still selling those Chinese made t-shirts for cheap), and of course the foregone conclusion that Mr. Gorsuch would join the Supreme Court did not go amiss.  The Washington Post (New Tagline:  Democracy Dies in Darkness) took the downtime opportunity to do a piece on Steve Bannon’s history and finances, which was interesting and somewhat alarming.  The takeaway?  Bannon is not the standup, cardboard Darth Vader many thought.  As always, real life is more complicated than movies and/or election campaigns.  You have to admire Mr. Bannon’s willingness to persist and learn, if not his beliefs, such as they are.  Most important, you can see why Donald J. likes him.

Mr. Bannon, on perusal of said article, is a Mark Levin/Laura Ingraham, Deep State, The World is Coming to an End, Breaking Bad, Zombie Apocalypse conspiracy theorist.  He resides in the world of hydrogen bomb explosion stock footage and the sort of scenes they used in the film Reefer Madness back in the days of yore.

Alarming, true, but not out of character for our dear Donald J.  It’s not rocket science, or even good history.  It is, however, compelling on a National Enquirer level, which may be the key to whole Trump phenomenon.  The jury’s out on the other side of the triangle, Jered Kushner, mostly because he’s a political nonentity at this point.  Give that one time.

So, score one and a half for the Donald Administration.  I don’t count the folksy Gorsuch as a whole point because he was a shoo in.  On to tax reform (now taken off the table for more study) and a return to the redoubt of Obamacare.