What’s the deal with the sheep “mowing” Ypsi’s Riverside Park?

If you live in Ypsi, chances are, over the last few days, your social media feeds have been filled with images and videos of sheep wondering across Riverside Park, adorably chewing up grass to the delight of young and old alike. Well, local filmmaker Dan Blakeney went one step further and didn’t just document the chewing, suckling and baaing, but actually interviewed the shepherd behind Project Mow, Yuko Frazier… Enjoy.

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Donald Trump’s “Fall of Western Civilization” tour

The big idea behind this, Trump’s first international trip, was to establish him as a legitimate statesman, and not just some detestable, thin-skinned, pussy-grabbing turd who lied himself into the most important job on earth with the assistance of the Russian mob. It was, of course, destined to failure, as Trump not only really is a detestable, thin-skinned, pussy-grabbing turd who lied himself into the most important job on earth with Putin’s help, but because, instead of surrounding himself with competent people who actually understand how government works, he’s chosen to rely on a cast of enablers, wealthy golfing buddies and dim-witted anti-government crusaders, none of whom could organize a small town Klan rally in rural Alabama, let alone run the most powerful government on earth. And, for this reason, it shouldn’t be terribly surprising to anyone that the trip has been a nightmare from start to finish.

And, for what it’s worth, I’m not just talking about the footage of Trump dancing awkwardly with a sword, or those photos of him rubbing the glowing orb, surrounded in the darkness by what appeared to be the board members of SPECTRE, or even the fact that we saw the First Lady slapping his sweaty, pink, little hand away from hers. Sure, any one of those things probably would have sunk the Obama administration, but that’s just bad optics. There were real, serious things that have happened on the trip as well… things that very well could, if allowed to fester, destabilize the international order.

Today, if you missed it, Donald Trump visited NATO headquarters in Belgium, where he not only failed to assure America’s allies of our commitment to NATO’s shared mutual defense pledge, and rebuked them for what he called their “chronic underpayments”, but apparently told a reporter from Der Spiegel that the Germans are “very evil”, in response to a line of questioning about the current trade imbalance between our countries… Oh, and news also broke that England, our closest ally, has, at least temporarily, stopped sharing intelligence with us in response to our pathetically undisciplined administration’s non-stop leaking of classified information. [Speaking of which, two days before, news had broken that Trump had boasted to the President of the Philippines about the presence of two U.S. nuclear submarines near North Korea.]

For those of you who enjoy visuals, here, if you haven’t seen it yet, is a little piece of footage from earlier today that pretty well sums up our President’s time in Brussels. In it, you can see Trump shoving aside the Prime Minister of Montenegro in order to take a position at the front of a group photo, and then straightening his jacket and settling into some kind of power pose, like a complete douchebag… And, no, this, like those things I mentioned above, isn’t just a case of bad optics. This is our President, like a preening sociopath, pushing aside the leader of a small Balkan country that just a few weeks ago joined NATO, despite threats of reprisal from the Kremlin. This is a key ally in our new cold war with Russia, and our President doesn’t even seem to understand that. Either that, or he’s purposefully working to undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of NATO. As the folks at Foreign Policy just wrote, Trump, consciously or not, handed Putin a win today by alienating allies and once again calling into question our resolve in this longstanding international partnership – the only international partnership, by the way, standing between Putin and world domination… Now here’s that video.

So don’t get caught up in all the stupid missteps and ridiculous comments; the footage of a seemingly terrified Steve Bannon surrounded by Muslims, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross happily commenting about the refreshing absence of protesters in Saudi Arabia, apparently unaware that protesting is punishable by death, the White House releasing statements about how Trump hopes to “promote the possibility of lasting peach” between Israelis and Palestinians while in the Middle East, and comments by the President that would seem to indicate he’s not even aware that Israel is technically in the Middle East. It’s all stupid, and funny, but it’s not important. What’s important is that our President is a pariah that our allies don’t want to even go near, and he apparently can’t help but undermine U.S. foreign policy wherever he goes, making the world a less safe place in the process.

Here’s hoping the indictments start coming out against him soon, before too much more damage can be done.

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The generals who serve Trump, why they do it, and at what cost

An interesting question was posed in the Washington Post today… “Is it still possible to honorably serve in the Trump administration?

The article was inspired in large part by a recent profile of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in the New Yorker, which included the following passage.

…When Mattis asked Michèle Flournoy, the former Undersecretary of Defense under Obama, to consider becoming his deputy, she was torn between her admiration for Mattis and her discomfort with the Trump Administration. “I lost a lot of sleep and felt sick to my stomach,” she told me. At Trump Tower, she was interviewed by a group of aides with no national-security experience. Among their first questions was “What would it take for you to resign?” Flournoy, alarmed, told Mattis that she couldn’t take the job.

Three months into the new Administration, the Pentagon is being run by a skeleton crew; career officers and civil servants are doing jobs that are supposed to be performed by political appointees. “It’s like going to work on a Sunday — there’s no one there,” the former defense official told me. “If my printer doesn’t work on Sunday, I’m screwed. That’s what the Pentagon’s like every day.”

Leon Panetta said that in normal times the Pentagon could probably carry on without a full complement of senior leaders — but, if there was a prolonged international incident, it would come under severe strain. “I’m worried about a crisis,” he said. “Whenever I had a crisis, I would gather my senior people together. If you recommend military action, you’ve got to think, What forces, what targets, what consequences? That requires a lot of thinking and a lot of smart people. Mattis is basically by himself”…

It’s a complicated question that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately… whether or not, if asked, I could bring myself to serve this administration. Thankfully, it’s a question that I’ll never have to answer in the real world. Many, like Mattis, however, are being put in that unenviable position, and, while part of me wonders why in the hell they’d concede to do such a thing, I respect them for it. As the author of the piece in the Washington Post concludes, we need people like Mattis in the administration to ensure that Trump’s “bad rhetoric” doesn’t find itself translated into “bad actions.” And, for this reason, the author and I agree, we should hope that more competent people come forward to sacrifice themselves for the good of the country.

Which brings me to yesterday’s Fresh Air segment with author and former Pentagon corresponded Tom Ricks on the generals serving under Trump, which goes into some depth about the generals serving under Trump, why they’re doing it, and the clear toll it’s taking on them. Here’s the audio, which I’d encourage you to listen to in it entirety, followed by a clip I thought you might find of interest.

GROSS: So we have several generals now in major positions of power in the Trump administration. The first general we had was Michael Flynn. He was forced out. But now there’s James Mattis, who’s secretary of defense’ H.R. McMaster, national security adviser who replaced General Flynn; and General John Kelly, who’s the head of homeland security.

One way of looking at this is to say this is pretty worrisome because – you know that old adage about if you go to see a surgeon, he’s going to recommend surgery because that’s what surgeons do? And it’s easy to think, if you have generals in charge of major portions of the government, they’re going to take us to war because that’s what generals do. They fight wars. You know these guys. So do you think that’s a logical conclusion to jump to?

RICKS: I do know these guys. And as you listed them, what struck me as I envisioned each is what a diverse group they are. General Flynn, I think, rose to levels above his level of competence, is a very naive man, not well-informed about the world despite being an intelligence officer. And I wasn’t surprised to see him flame out very quickly.

General Mattis is almost the opposite of General Flynn. Mattis, who’s now the secretary of defense, is one of the more thoughtful people I’ve ever met in uniform or out. And he is an example that goes against your surgeon’s analogy. Mattis has publicly advocated in the past for a bigger budget for the State Department. In fact, he said to Congress once, look, you can either increase the State Department’s budget, or you can buy more bullets for me because if you don’t increase your diplomacy, we’re going to have more fighting. I would rather have more diplomacy. Mattis is a very thoughtful man, and I think he’s handled the job very well.

McMaster is from a generation after Mattis. McMaster was a captain in the 1991 Gulf War and actually led a cavalry troop in one of the key battles in the ’91 war, which was very short but did have some battles, called the Battle of 73 Easting in which his unit attacked a much larger group of Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles and trucks and utterly destroyed it in about 20 minutes of fighting. McMaster, again, years later, was a colonel in Iraq and did an extraordinarily good job in departing from this very clumsy, stalemated operation that the American military generally was enforcing and operating on in Iraq and instead took a new counterinsurgency approach that proved very successful and became the model for what General Petraeus tried to do a year later.

It’s been sad for me to watch McMaster in recent weeks because he’s a thoughtful man as well – more emotional, more big and physical than Mattis but an intellectual himself. He wrote a very good book, called “Dereliction Of Duty,” about the Vietnam War and the failures of American generals to tell the truth to American politicians, especially President Lyndon Johnson. And so it’s almost Shakespearean to see McMaster in the White House as the national security adviser faced with the same situation, in many ways, that the Vietnam generals had. And when it’s his job to get up and speak truth to power, instead he appears, in recent days, to have stood up and shielded the president from the truth and dissembled about the truth rather than insisting on the truth. And I think that…

GROSS: Specifically, what are you referring to?

RICKS: I’m referring to after The Washington Post ran a story about a week ago saying that President Trump had blown an intelligence source in front of the Russians by talking about very secret intelligence on ISIS and about a very new thin bomb they had developed that could be put inside a laptop. And he had talked about the actual city where this information came from. McMaster got up and called the story false. And then the following day…

GROSS: He called the story that Trump had said this is false?

RICKS: Yeah. And then the next day, he got up, and he kind of quibbled on that a little bit. He said, well, he actually confirmed the facts of the story, but then said the premise of the story was false. I’d gone through the same situation with McMaster where I’d written a story about McMaster in Iraq in 2006 that put his unit in a very good light and him in a very good light about the work they had done in taking a new approach in fighting the war.

But there was one paragraph in it he disliked. He didn’t dispute the truth of it. He just disliked it, and so he called me and yelled at me for two days over the phone in Iraq to complain about it. And I heard that exact same tone when he got up at the White House and called the story false. He actually never said what he thought the wrong facts were, but he basically was saying I don’t like that story.

GROSS: Well, you wrote a column about this, and what he didn’t like about the article you wrote is that you criticized his unit for what it did before he took it over. So you weren’t criticizing him at all, but I – sounded to me like he didn’t like the idea of you criticizing, you know, the military. He didn’t want to break rank with that.

RICKS: That’s exactly right. He specifically wanted to defend his unit, his regiment and protect the morale of troops who he thought might be demoralized by seeing the previous tour of duty that they had criticized. I…

GROSS: And you think that’s what he’s doing now is trying to kind of protect the president or protect the morale of the administration.

RICKS: Yes. And I think he failed to see that his job is not to protect the president. It’s to protect the nation. And what I fear General McMaster has done in recent weeks by coming out and seeking to protect the president is not his job. He shouldn’t protect the president. He should protect the nation. And I fear that through his recent actions, he has enabled President Trump to continue to operate in this very reckless, ignorant way. Now, I think what McMaster thinks he’s doing is the best he can do in that situation. What I fear he doesn’t see is he’s enabling it to become worse.

GROSS: So you’ve written that you don’t think that McMaster will dutifully defend President Trump for long. Why do you think that?

RICKS: It’s a crushing burden to be in political power in Washington these days, and you see people almost lose their souls. I think Sean Spicer, the president’s spokesman in recent weeks has been pushed almost to the edge of a nervous breakdown from his public appearance. And he’s kind of lost a big part of his soul, and I think that’s true of some other people. And H.R. McMaster is a man of great soul, of great feeling. I remember talking to him in Iraq, and his voice would grow thick. And when he was kind of angry a little bit, he’d rolled his shoulders as he talked to you, almost as if to loosen up those back muscles.

And watching H.R. McMaster, an officer I do admire, over the last few weeks, I feel like I’ve seen him come out and give up a slice of his soul a few times. And I wonder how many more times he can do that before he just says I am becoming part of the problem, not part of the solution here…

Again, I’d encourage you to listen to the entire interview, as it’s absolutely fascinating. Ricks not only talks at length about these generals serving under Trump, but he also does a nice job of tying in Churchill and Orwell, who are the subjects of his new book, The Fight For Freedom… a book which, by the way, ends with the following, very timely passage: “The fundamental driver of Western civilization is the agreement that objective reality exists, that people of goodwill can perceive it, and that other people will change their views when presented with the facts of the matter.”

When Gross asks Ricks to elaborate on this quote, he says the following. “That’s my conclusion – that this is the essence of Western society, and, at its best, how Western society operates,” Ricks says. “You can really reduce it to a formula. First of all, you need to have principles. You need to stand by those principles and remember them. Second, you need to look at reality, to observe facts, and not just have opinions, and to say, what are the facts of the matter? Third, you need to act upon those facts according to your principles.” That’s Western civilization in a nutshell, and that’s what’s we’re now watching disappear right before our very eyes.

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On the eve of Montana’s special election, the Republican candidate, tech millionaire Greg Gianforte, assaults a journalist on tape, throwing him to the ground and punching him in the face

Sadly, I suspect it could help him with some percentage of the Republican base, but, earlier this evening, Greg Gianforte, the tech millionaire running for Montana’s single House seat, literally attacked a reporter from the Guardian, throwing him to the ground and breaking his glasses in the process. Reports are sketchy, but it sounds as though Gianforte may have taken off before being questioned by police at the scene… Here’s the incredibly unsettling audio.

Yup, all the reporter asked was whether or not Gianforte would be supporting the President’s health care bill, which, according to a report released by the Congressional Budget Office today, would rob 23 million Americans of their health insurance coverage over the next decade. Apparently that question did’t sit so well with Gianforte, whose lead has been steadily shrinking over the past several weeks, in part because he refuses to state publicly where he stands on health care reform. [Behind closed doors, for what it’s worth, he’s praised the Trump plan.]

The following coverage of the assault comes from the Guardian.

…“He took me to the ground,” Jacobs said by phone from the back of an ambulance. “This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics.”

Jacobs subsequently reported the incident to the police. The Gallatin County sheriff’s office is investigating the incident.

A statement by campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon blamed Jacobs for the incident, saying that he “entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions”.

“Jacobs was asked to leave,” the statement reads. “After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground.”

“It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”…

That version of events, of course, doesn’t jive at all with the audio, or the firsthand accounts of the Fox News crew that witnessed the attack, saying that Gianforte not only bodyslammed the reporter, but actually punched him in the face. But who cares about facts, right?

I don’t know that it’ll do much good right now, seeing as how it’s the election is tomorrow, but, if you’d like to join me, I’ll be making one final donation to folksinger Rob Quist, Gianforte’s Democratic opponent, right now.

Here’s hoping the good people of Montana see this incident for what it is and do the right thing tomorrow… If you have friends or family in Montana, now might be a good time to call them.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, it was just a matter of time before something like this happened under the rule of Trump, a man who, much like Hitler, ascended to power by demonizing the “lying press”, even going so far as to excuse Putin’s murder of journalists.

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My last post on the hypocrisy and broken promises of Donald Trump

To quote John Lydon, “Did you ever get the feeling that you’ve been cheated?

I think, pretty soon, I’m going to stop talking about Trump’s hypocrisy, as I think it’s probably no longer all that effective as a tool to convince his supporters to rethink their alliances. Almost everyone capable of rational thought, I’m pretty sure, has already jumped ship by this point. And, for what it’s worth, a lot of folks, at least based on the most recent Fox News ratings and the polls we’re seeing out of Georgia, have already made the decision to walk away from Trump and the Republican party. I do, however, want to take one last crack at it, just in case anyone out there may still be on the fence.

Trump just released his budget, and, not surprisingly, he’s gone back on his campaign promise not to cut Medicaid. His new budget, if it passes the Republican Congress, would not just trim the health care program millions of Americans depend on, but slash it by a reported $800 billion. And, furthermore, Trump’s budget would cut $11 billion from public education, eliminating things like after-school programs that serve nearly 2 million children, most of whom are poor. And, not surprisingly, all these proposed cuts would land hardest on the working class men and women who put Trump into office.

Here, for those of you who are visual thinkers, is evidence of the above.

But, again, I don’t know that it really helps to point things like this out any more. I mean, we all know what’s happening by this point, right? We already have all of the evidence that we need. We’ve already seen Trump, who ran on the promise to provide health care for everyone, turn around and support a bill that would actually take health care from an estimated 24 million Americans. And that, as we all know, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his broken promises.

He promised to “drain the swamp” and purge lobbyists from the White House, but instead we’re reading today that he’s blocking an ethics probe into ex-lobbyists on his payroll. He told us that, if we elected him President, he’d be too busy working to play golf, and endlessly derided Obama for playing the game, but he took 16 trips to play golf in just his first 100 days in office, spending millions in tax payer money at his own resorts. And, of course, he said he’d share his tax returns with the American people, which he never did… The list goes on.

Trump has, without exaggeration, lied more and broken more promises in just four months than any president in United States history.

But, for some reason, people continue hold on. Maybe they’re stupid. Or maybe they just don’t want to face the fact that they’ve been duped. Or maybe they don’t give a shit about the lies, just so long as Trump makes good on the underlying promise to deliver smaller government and tilt the playing field in favor of older white men like myself. And, that, sadly, is what I think most of this is about. Those who are still with Trump, in spite of all the evidence, I suspect, don’t give a shit about the facts, and they never did. They didn’t care that Trump’s “show us your birth certificate” campaign was bullshit, and they didn’t give a damn about what really happened in Benghazi. All they care about… all they ever cared about… was putting Obama and Clinton in their places, and, for a minute, feeling better about their lot in life. For lack of a better analogy, I suppose you could say their ongoing support of Trump is essentially an instance of jury nullification, a situation where people are knowingly doing something they know to be wrong, but they’re doing so in order to rebalance what they see as a system that’s dangerously out of line. Let’s call it Democracy nullification. [Democracy Nullification: when voters select and support a leader contrary to the weight of evidence for reasons of fear and anxiety.] They’re wrong, of course, but it makes sense, doesn’t it?

The good news is, we now know where the bottom is. Thanks to Trump, and everything he’s done thus far to show us what he truly is, we now know how significant the problem is. To borrow a phrase, as his more reasonable supporters have abandoned him, we’ve drained the swamp, and we’re now looking at the creatures that are left… the some 38% of American voters who, according to polls, still approve of his performance.

But, who knows. A few more may decide to defect. By the time Nixon resigned from office in 1974, his approval rating had dropped to 24%. So maybe there’s hope that, with the water level in the swamp dropping, more will pull themselves out from the muck… Regardless, though, we can move forward with the 62% of American voters who know what in the fuck is going on. And that, I think, will be my approach from now on. Yes, I think it’s finally time for me to rapture away, and leave some of you behind.

Oh, and one last thing. Trump’s proposed budget also cuts approximately $73 billion from Social Security, another program he assured us would be safe in his hands.

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