The Year of the Dog

Salty was on the 71st floor of World Trade Center Tower 1; Roselle was on the 78th.  Both were at work when terror struck on 911, serving as guide dogs for their blind masters who worked in the building.  Salty and Roselle were yellow Labrador retrievers, trained at Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, and had been with their humans since the late 90s.  When the plane hit the building and panic, death, and chaos surrounded them, Salty and Roselle went to work. 

Salty was sitting next to Omar Rivera, blinded 14 years earlier by glaucoma.  Omar grabbed for Salty’s leash and the dog calmly threaded his way through people and debris to the fire escape.  At one point, a well-meaning but unknowing co-worker tried to grab Salty’s leash, thinking the dog needed help.  Salty refused to leave Omar’s side and made it clear he had everything under control.  It took 75 minutes to descend 71 floors to the lobby.  They were a few blocks away when the tower collapsed.  Salty had saved them both.

Roselle was asleep when the building was struck by the aircraft 15 floors above the office where she and her human, Michael Hingson, worked.  Michael was blind since birth and met Roselle in 1999.  Roselle, like Salty, rescued her human companion, along with 30 others who followed them down the fire escape.  About half way to the lobby they passed several firefighters who were climbing the stairs and Roselle stopped to greet them.  After descending 1,463 steps, Roselle and Michael were on the ground floor.  As they left the building, Tower 2 suddenly collapsed, spewing debris that showered on them.  “She saved my life,” Michael said later.  “While everyone ran in panic, Roselle remained totally focused on her job. While debris fell around us, and even hit us, Roselle stayed calm.”  She led Michael to a subway station, where she rescued a woman who had been blinded by flying dust and debris.

The reason I’m thinking about Salty and Roselle, as well as Trakr, who discovered the last human survivor of the 911 attack, is because we are about to commence the Year of the Dog in the Chinese Calendar.  Now, for a thought experiment.  Remove all the dog references in the foregoing paragraphs and substitute the word, “Rooster.”  I know:  you can’t.  It’s impossible to imagine the same scenario if Salty and Roselle were roosters.  Dogs rescued their humans and others.  A rooster would have been a cock-a-doodle-do-nothing.  It’s time to bid farewell to the Year of the Rooster, also referred to as the Year of the Cock.

Was it ever!  “The year of the Rooster is a time to cockadoodle-do about your accomplishments,” writes Avia Venefica in whats-your-sign.com.  According to chinahighlights.com, one of the lucky colors of the Year of the Rooster is gold and the lucky directions are south and southeast.  Can you think of anybody who rose to prominence in the Year of the Rooster, who likes to crow about his accomplishments, loves the color gold, and escapes to his favorite property (Mar-A-Lago) in the Southeast?  Yes, the Year of the Rooster was the year of the crowing, strutting, gilded rooster who rules the Oval Office. 

The waning year was also the year of Harvey Weinstein and boorish males eager to drop their trousers and flash their roosters at vulnerable women in board rooms, casting studios, even medical offices.  They strut and puff out their feathery chests, brandishing spurs and combs while crowing about their greatness, oblivious to their loathsomeness.  They include the First Rooster, with his “Access Hollywood” braggadocio who sympathizes with wife-beaters, but not their victims.  He defended his “Access Hollywood” remarks as “locker-room banter.”  It’s not locker room.  It’s barnyard.

Roosters have their place, but mainly they strut, crow, fight and have their way with hens.  Compare that to the wonderful array of dog behaviors.  Dogs can read our emotions, can tell when we are lying, and can even detect cancer.  Have you felt a special bond when you look a dog in the eyes?  So did the dog.  Both of you experienced an Oxytocin rush, accompanied by a sensation of bonding and connectedness.  Dogs and humans are wired to love each other.  Can you imagine an Oxytocin rush when you look into the eyes of a rooster?  Or Donald Trump?

What of the Year of the Dog?  Ms. Venefica writes, “the year of the Dog is one of understanding, faith and devotion,” that has a “kind of advocate feel to it.”  “Those who have no voice to speak are somehow able to get their point across in the year of the Dog,” she adds.  “Those who cannot stand on their own, will somehow have the support they need. This year is all about acknowledging those we have forgotten, and paying mindful respect to the unspoken heroes who deserve it.”  The dogs will lead us faithfully and bravely through the rooster tail of dust and debris spawned in the wake of the most dysfunctional individual ever to sit at the Resolute Desk.  What a year it can be for victims of sexual assault and harassment, for the rural poor dealing with the opioid epidemic, for Forest Rangers striving to preserve our natural reserve, for minority individuals still battling red lines and inchoate racism, for Dreamers and their families, for victims of sex trafficking, for the disabled, for the land, air and sea.  This is a year to roll up our sleeves, pull up our boots, and chase off the roosters.

Time to let the dogs out.

© 2018 by Mike Tully


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The Nunes Memo and Trump’s Greatest Fear

The Nunes memo was not just a “nothing burger,” it was a double-whopper nothing burger that drew derision and disdain.  It’s a pundit’s piñata, with commentators hammering the memo and its hyperventilating advocates.  MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program aired a video mashup comparing the hype over the memo to Geraldo Rivera’s “Al Capone’s vault” fiasco, featuring horse poop hucksters like Sean Hannity, who said the memo uncovered “the biggest abuse of power … in American history.”  That’s like conflating a sex fantasy with syphilis (Capone sub-reference intended).  But the memo might inadvertently suggest Donald Trump’s greatest fear.

The memo is not only insubstantial, it’s illogical.  Nunes claims the FBI submitted a misleading declaration to surveil Carter Page, a foreign policy advisor on Trump’s campaign team.  He alleges the FBI failed to disclose that some of the evidence in the declaration came from a source funded by the Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).  “I don’t believe that somebody like Mr. Page should be a target of the FBI,” Nunes told Trump News, “especially using salacious information paid for by a political campaign…”  The “salacious information” is in a dossier prepared by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele, who had been hired by research firm Fusion GPS to investigate Trump’s Russian connections. 

Nunes impeached his own memo on “Fox and Friends,” when he conceded a footnote in the warrant application stated the information was paid for by a political entity, although it did not specifically mention the Clinton Campaign or DNC.  Nunes called that a material omission that misled the court.  Isn’t it likely the court might have suspected the Clinton Campaign and DNC?  If the court wanted to learn the identities of the funding source, all it had to do was ask – which it probably did.  The memo is based on a premise that its primary author admits is flawed.

Page is unquestionably “somebody (who) should be a target of the FBI.”  He showed up on their radar in 2013, when they warned him he was being recruited by a Russian spy.  One of Page’s Russian connections was eventually tried and imprisoned for espionage.  That would motivate most Americans to avoid contact with Russians, but not Page.  Only months after the FBI met with him, Page wrote, “I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin.”  The FBI first obtained an eavesdropping warrant against Page in 2013.  Page maintained his Russian contacts in March of 2016, when he was appointed to Trump’s campaign foreign policy team and bragged in December of that year, “I’ve certainly been in a number of meetings with (Trump).”  In July, 2016, while still serving on Trump’s campaign team, Page gave a speech in Moscow criticizing “Washington and other Western capitals” for “their often-hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.”  The FBI reopened its investigation into Page after his Moscow speech and he resigned from the campaign in September of 2016.  When Nunes claims Page, a man with links to Russian government spies, who gave a speech critical of his own country while serving as a presidential campaign advisor, is not somebody who should interest the FBI, he has escaped the gravitational pull of Planet Logic.

So why did Nunes and Trump – who claims the Nunes memo vindicates him – rely on a sketchy character like Carter Page?  That makes no logical sense, until you consider that Page opens the door to attack the Steele dossier and, by extension, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.  Page and former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort are the only Americans mentioned in the dossier known to have been the subject of foreign intelligence eavesdropping warrants connected to Mueller’s investigation.  Manafort, under indictment, is even sketchier than Page, who is not consequential to the scheme; Trump’s target is the Dossier.  What is it about the Dossier that worries him?

It’s unlikely to be the “salacious” portion, a report that the Kremlin has videotapes of Trump engaged in acts of sexual perversion with government-paid prostitutes.  That information is not verified and never will be, because the Russians need their blackmail victims to believe them.  Blackmailers are most effective when they can demonstrate they will conceal damaging information as long as the blackmail target cooperates.  If the “salacious” video exists and the Russians disclose it, they would compromise future blackmail attempts because the victims would not trust their promise to withhold damaging information in return for cooperation.  The tape is not getting out.

The danger to Trump lies in Steele’s reference to payments to Internet hackers.  The hackers who stole emails from Clinton and the DNC are not all spit-and-polish military operatives – many are criminals, who are in it for the pay.  They are paid to conduct the hacking and paid to keep quiet afterward.  And Steele says Trump contributed to the payments.  Put aside concerns about the Trump Tower meeting and phony Facebook bots.  The strongest case against Trump will be built by following the money.  That’s why Mueller has gone after Trump-related financial records at Deutsche Bank.  The strongest case against Trump will not be based on witness testimony, which is not always reliable or credible.  It will be based on checks and ledgers, the green-shade forensics that Mueller’s team understands better than anybody.  Witnesses forget details.  Ledgers and spreadsheets have impeccable memories.

Trump is not fixated on Steele because of a videotape.  He’s afraid of the money trail that can tie him to the Russian hackers.  If such a money trail exists, Mueller’s team will find it and Trump’s allies and sycophants will disappear like frost in May.

© 2018 by Mike Tully


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Devin Can’t Wait

Nowadays men lead lives of noisy desperation.
– James Thurber

Devin Nunes, a California Congressman with the I.Q. of a trilobite, is the scary clown in the Trump circus, tasked with undermining the investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion by Trump and/or his family members and staffers.  His mission:  to create the illusion that the investigation is an illegitimate political attack by the FBI, headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and facilitated by high-ranking officials of the Justice Department.  His method, according to the New York Times:  a secret memo, written by Nunes without the input of the Justice Department or F.B.I. and without Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, which Nunes chairs.


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Happy Birthday, or Something

In the Hawaiian Islands, the first birthday is a very big deal.  The celebrated “first baby luau” is a coveted invitation in social circles and has been for generations.  The first birthday is important throughout Polynesian culture and elsewhere – Korea, for example.  The importance of the first birthday has its roots in much earlier times, before advances in medical science reduced a heartbreaking frequency of infant mortality.  Contemporary Hawaiians use the first baby luau to celebrate and honor a new life with a view to the future.  Their ancestors celebrated because the honoree still inhabited the planet.  The earliest first luaus were focused less on optimism and celebration than survival.  Congratulations, you’re a year old and still alive.  That’s worth celebrating all by itself.

Which brings us to the first anniversary of the Czar’s administration, which was more like the ancient first birthday celebration than the modern one.  Congratulations, you’re a year old and still alive – barely.  On anniversary day, January 20th, the federal government was shut down by political infighting after the self-professed master dealmaker proved incapable of actually making one.  There was nobody there to blow out the candle.

 


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