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Week's End Thoughts & Reflections, March 17, 2018

In an uncharacteristic display of good sense I decided to baby the recalcitrant right knee by skipping the Saturday run. My first thought had been to cut back on mileage, set out to go three or four miles instead of seven, nine, or ten, with a commitment to break off the run at first sign of discomfort. That might have done no harm, but in the end I opted for the more cautious course. The running had been going well, routinely notching twenty-five to thirty miles a week. At this stage in my career I may gain more from a little down time for my body than I lose by missing a few runs. Even so, I really hated missing the Saturday run. Still enjoyed the multigrain pancakes for breakfast.

A few weeks ago I toyed with the notion of signing up for the St. Patrick's Day Shamrock Run 15K. I dithered and never got around to it. The dithering turns out to have been for the best.

Amnesty International offers opportunities to "to speak up, show up, chip in, and stand up for human rights" at the Take Action page on the organization's website. The easiest way to take action is with participation in Amnesty's letter-writing campaigns on behalf of individuals and groups who are victims of human rights abuses. There are many cases in the US and around the world. You can pick and choose the ones that touch you most deeply and participate as you have time. Writing a letter or sending an email is something I can do that may help someone and is not likely to cause harm. My participation has been sporadic the past few years. It is good to get back into it.

I cannot write about these things without thinking of letters I wrote in the 1990s on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi when she was detained under house arrest by the Myanmar military junta. Aung San Suu Kyi is presently State Counsellor, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and de facto leader of the Myanmar government. In a sad turn she is charged with failing to halt or even acknowledge the ethnic cleansing of Myanmar's Muslim Rohingya minority. I do not regret my efforts on her behalf, but like many I am disappointed.

I have been a card-carrying, dues-paying member of Amnesty since 1987. For a spell during the 1990s my Thursday evening routine consisted of meditation practice at the Atlanta Soto Zen Center following which I made my way to Café Diem where an Amnesty group met for a letter-writing session. Good memories.

Another fond memory comes from the end of that decade, after Mom passed away in 1997. Mom had kept Aunt Edna, my grandmother's sister-in-law in Charlotte and something of a family matriarch, abreast of happenings on our branch of the family tree. After Mom's death I felt it was my place to pick up on that. Aunt Edna and I enjoyed a lovely correspondence until her death in 2002 at the age of 93. While trying to tell her a little about myself, I mentioned that I was a member of Amnesty International and Sierra Club. Aunt Edna responded that she had been a member of both of these fine organizations in the past. I thought that was pretty cool.

The nation's highest level of government brought us another wild week. It might be more appropriate to put quotation marks around "government" in this context. So much stuff hits the fan week in and week out that it is a formidable challenge to digest it all. Let me see, said the blind man.

Tillerson ousted, with Pompeo nominated to replace him as Secretary of State and Gina Haspel tapped to replace Pompeo as CIA director. It seems that the Trump regime handled Tillerson's firing with all the class and grace we have come to expect. The Daily Beast and other news organizations report that Tillerson, suffering from a stomach bug during a diplomatic swing through Africa, was on the toilet when he got the phone call from Chief of Staff John Kelly notifying him that he had been canned.

When did Gary Cohn resign? Was that last week?

The skids are being greased for national security adviser H.R. McMaster, with John Bolton bandied about as a possible replacement. Col. Lang at Sic Semper Tyrannis has had dealings with Bolton and some thoughts about this latest turn:

The rumor is widespread that DJT is seriously thinking of making Ambassador (recess appointment) John Bolton his National Security Adviser if LTG HR McMaster departs the job. I am no longer a great admirer of McMaster…but Bolton? Bolton? My god! Not Bolton!

At one time I had the chore given to me of visiting the State Department from DIA to explain various events. In the round table discussions at Foggy Bottom John Bolton seemed ever present. He was a brooding, glowering, presence seemingly filled with free floating hostility towards alien populations in the lands of the Saracens. We had a few snarling exchanges. (Carlson and Dobbs ripped John Bolton a new jingo. March 15, 2018)

Who would be the new NS adviser? Why not Sean H [Hannity], the world's most eligible jingoist high school drop out? He and Bolton would work admirably together. Two ferociously Type A people (a sort of people), both are filled with vindictive animosity directed toward any possible international rivals or any rival at all. They could team up with Pompeo and the torture lady who will be head of "Christians In Action" to form a Team of Sycophants competing for the fleeting attention which the Boss (Mark Twain reference) seems to give to those he saw last in person or on 24/7 TV. (Sean Hannity's time has come ... (irony), March 16, 2018)

"My God! Not Bolton!" I concur.

Then there is the mess with Andrew McCabe, fired on the eve of his retirement after 21 years at the FBI.

The charge of "lack of candor," which I take it means lying, during an internal FBI inquiry is serious. On the other hand, the president's public animus toward McCabe and the timing of the dismissal following what seems to have been, shall we say, an expedited review by the inspector general are reasonable grounds to suspect that political machinations had more than a little to do with the firing. The president's gleeful tweets celebrating McCabe's removal reinforce the suspicion.

Was this the rightful firing of a man whose actions tarnished the FBI's reputation, as Republican Representative Bob Goodlatte, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has it? Or was it retaliation for the investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 election and Moscow's alleged ties to the Trump campaign, per Democratic Senator Kamala Harris, who serves on the judiciary and intelligence committees? And maybe a flimsily veiled threat directed to those who continue to investigate? McCabe for his part alleges that his firing is part of an ongoing effort to undermine his credibility and investigations in the Russian involvement in the 2016 election. He has a point.

On the heels of McCabe's dismissal we have the president's personal lawyer, John Dowd, calling for Acting Attorney General Ron Rosenstein to end the Mueller investigations. How likely is it that Dowd come forward with this proposal without the president's approval?

I am tempted to say this kind of gives new meaning to the words "March Madness," but it has been standard operating procedure for the regime from Day 1.

Ah, happy hour approacheth. Time to break out a Deschutes Brewery Obsidian Stout and pick up Mick Herron's Spook Street, a Brit spy thriller marked by fine writing and the twisted, cynical humor the times call for. More anon.

Memo from the Editorial Desk

Ezra Klein's piece about the McCabe firing was posted at Vox after my piece was published here. It has been added to the list of references below because of its relevance. Klein lays out these key points:

There are real questions about McCabe’s performance at the FBI. But there are even deeper questions about Trump’s public vendetta against McCabe, and the role Sessions played in his termination.


McCabe acted improperly enough that it is possible to justify his termination. But Trump and Sessions have acted improperly enough that it is hard to trust the process that led to McCabe’s termination, or to believe that this is anything but what it looks like: an effort to punish and humiliate a perceived political enemy, and to send a message to others who might investigate Trump that they do so at their peril. References

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