Thursday, October 5, 2017

Clark Kent aka Scott Pruitt

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s . . . .

The mystery is solved. The mystery is why does Scott Pruitt think he needs a $24,750 phone booth installed in his office at the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s because . . . . But I get ahead of myself.

Scott Pruitt is the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The phone booth that is being built for him in his private office, at a reported cost of $24,750, is being built by Acoustical Solutions. That company builds a variety of sound-dampening and privacy products. The booths that the company builds are used for hearing tests where complete soundproofing is important. A sales consultant for Acoustical Solutions, however, said that Mr. Pruitt wanted: “a secure phone booth that couldn’t be breached from a data point of view or from someone standing outside eavesdropping.” The fact that Mr. Pruitt says he needs a sound proof phone booth in order to have private conversations when in his office with the door closed, comes as something of a surprise to those who have entered federal buildings in Washington. Those people know that it is not possible to walk into a federal building and stroll from office to office at leisure, entering private spaces without vetting of any sort. Indeed, to visit EPA headquarters it is necessary to present forms of identification that are prescribed by the agency.

An obvious question presented by construction of a telephone booth in Mr. Pruitt’s office is, why hasn’t one been installed in DJT’s office. Pictures of the Oval Office do not show the presence of a sound proof phone booth. The reason is that DJT does most of his important communicating by means of the tweet, and a tweet is, by its very nature, only effective when it is not distributed quietly. Therefore, a secure phone booth is not needed in the Oval Office. What we have now figured out, however, is that privacy is not why Mr. Pruitt wants a sound proof phone booth. He wants it because he thinks it will enable him, in the future, to avoid the criticism he has received from the press for taking charter flights at taxpayer expense instead of flying commercially. His affinity for charter flights is shared by a number of the swamp like creatures who inhabit DJT’s cabinet. They, too, prefer the elegance of the charter flight to the plebian mode of travel favored by the average citizen.

According to one report, during his first months in office, Mr. Pruitt’s non-commercial airplane travel cost taxpayers more than $58,000. He went home to Oklahoma at least ten times, often flying there at taxpayer expense. On a trip to visit a mine in Colorado with the governor of that state and other officials, Mr. Pruitt declined the offer of a free ride on the governor’s plane, preferring to charter a plane for himself and his staff. And here is why Scott Pruitt, a man who lives in the past and denies climate science, needs a phone booth in his office.

Phone booths, as older readers recall, were formerly found all over the country. The only way of making a phone call, if away from home, was to enter one of those booths, deposit the money in the appropriate slot, dial the number, and proceed to talk with the party on the other end of the line. For one famous comic book character from many years ago, however, it served an even more important purpose. The comic book character was Clark Kent, a man of extraordinary talents, whose day job was as a journalist for the Daily Planet a newspaper in the town of Metropolis. Clark, however, had another persona that he used for the benefit of humanity. When the need for his services arose, he entered a phone booth and within moments emerged from the phone booth as Superman, a man of extraordinary strength who was able to fly all over the world without the aid of an airplane to rescue those in peril. Mr. Pruitt devotes himself in his new day job to help the industries that he, as the EPA’s administrator, regulates. Mr. Pruitt does not believe that climate change is real. He is dismissive of scientists who think otherwise. He has replaced dozens of members serving on EPA’s scientific advisory boards. And he wants to put an end to the criticism he has received for using chartered airplanes to visit and dine with the executives of energy companies he regulates and has befriended. Recalling Clark Kent, Mr. Pruitt thinks that by installing the phone booth in his office, he will be able to follow in Clark’s footsteps and fly as Superman did, thus saving the taxpayer considerably more money than the cost of the phone booth. The odds are that he will be sorely disappointed when he comes out of the phone booth. He will still be Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The rest of us will also be disappointed because we know that the phone booth is nothing more than another example of Mr. Pruitt’s ability to find ways to have the taxpayer fund his foibles.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Sticks and Stones Can Break My Bones but. . . .

False words are not only evil in themselves
But they infect the soul with evil.
— Plato, Phaedo

I should have known, and am embarrassed by my initial reaction. My reaction was triggered by the headline on the front page of the New York Times on September 23, 2017. It said: “Dictator’s Reply Turns Personal.” I immediately assumed it was referring to, among other things, DJT’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly, in which he called North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, “rocket boy,” and said Mr. Kim was “on a suicide mission for himself.” On twitter he said Mr. Kim is “obviously a madman” and “will be tested like never before.” As I said, I should have known. The “dictator” to whom the NYT was referring was Kim Jong Un.

It was, of course, DJT who introduced the concept of “personal” into the verbal exchanges between the two men during the week in which DJT addressed the U.N. General Assembly. Mr. Kim’s rejoinder was considerably more poetic than the DJT insults, and if we were confronted with the possibility of a formal declaration of a war of words between the United States, let by DJT, and North Korea, led by Kim Jong Un, there is little question who the winner would be.

In a lengthy commentary entitled “Statement of Chairman of State Affairs Commission of DPRK,” that was said to come from “Respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, Mr. Kim explained what he had expected from DJT’s remarks. “Shaping the general idea of what he would say, I expected he would make stereo-typed prepared remarks a little different from what he used to utter in his office on the spur of the moment, as he had to speak on the world’s biggest official diplomatic state.” Instead, said Mr. Kim, DJT “made unprecedented rude nonsense one has never heard from any of his predecessors” adding, perhaps for color, “A frightened dog barks louder.”

Continuing his commentary on DJT’s speech before the U.N. General Assembly, Mr. Kim seemed to be anticipating DJT’s address in Alabama that was given by DJT in the evening of September 23, the same day Mr. Kim’s remarks were published. Perhaps as a word of caution, Mr. Kim said that DJT should: “exercise prudence in selecting words and . . . be considerate of whom he speaks to when making a speech in front of the world.” That thought was given voice only hours before Mr. Trump gave free rein to all, to call those of whose actions one disapproves, “sons of bitches.” Parents who, until that moment, had thought that particular pejorative should be reserved for the locker room, were surprised, if not appalled, that it would be used by the president of the United States when “making a speech in front of the world.” Parents were not the only ones who were appalled.

The foregoing were not the only sensible thoughts that emanated from a man known to be a mad man who, as DJT said in a tweet, has “starved and killed his own people” including, but not limited to, his uncle, his half-brother and assorted other family members. Mr. Kim also said that DJT’s remarks “remind me of such words as ‘political layman’ and ‘political heretic’ which were in vogue in reference to Trump during his presidential election campaign. . . . After taking office, Trump has rendered the world restless through threats and blackmail against all countries in the world. He is unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme commander of a country, and he is surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician.” Although those words aptly describe Mr. Kim, they undeniably apply to DJT.

The high point of Mr. Kim’s comments, from a literary standpoint, came when Mr. Kim introduced the word “dotard” into the conversation. Its appearance in his prepared remarks sent many U.S. citizens rushing to their dictionaries to learn its meaning, and it is almost certain that, thanks to Mr. Kim, “dotard “will find a presence on the verbal stage that it has not enjoyed for many years. Mr. Kim first used it saying: “Action is the best option in treating the dotard who, hard of hearing, is uttering only what he wants to say.” Later Mr. Kim again used the word saying: “I am now thinking hard about what response he could have expected when he allowed such eccentric words to trip off his tongue. . . . I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.” Probably knowing that he was losing the war of words in which he was engaged, DJT responded to Mr. Kim’s statement saying: “Kim Jong Un of North Korea who is obviously a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!”

With these two buffoons on the public stage, the public is being tested like never before. So sad.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Home Tweeet Home

Knowing I lov’d my books, he furnish’d me,
From mine own library with volumes that
I prize above my dukedom.
—Shakespeare, The Tempest

It was simply two coincidences that gave birth to the thought. It started on September 14, 2017. That was the day that conservative columnist and commentator, Ann Coulter, disclosed a dramatic change of heart. She, it will be recalled, was one of DJT’s early and ardent supporters when he was running for office and, subsequently, elected. In a book she wrote that was devoted to DJT, she even had a chapter with the captivating heading: “I Don’t Care What They Say, I Won’t Stay in a World Without Trump.” Although I’ve not had the pleasure of reading her book or even the cited chapter, and am not sure what she suggested she would do were he not elected president, the chapter title suggests an enthusiastic, if mindless, supporter. Mindless perhaps, but reflective of the millions who supported DJT. As so often happens when a lover is jilted, wild enthusiasm is replaced by mindless recrimination, and Ann Coulter is nothing, if not a jilted lover.

Senator Chuck Schumer and Democratic House Leader, Nancy Pelosi had not had time to fully digest the White House dinner they enjoyed September 13, 2017, when the jilted lover (who had not even been invited to the dinner) responded to its news. The news, as most readers know by now, was that, contrary to what DJT had said earlier, he was no longer committed to deportation of those who were the beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) should Congress fail to act within the six-month period he had set earlier. Employing the means of communication that is now preferred to thoughtful comment, Ann tweeted: “At this point, who DOESN’T want Trump impeached?”

Her jilted lover response had been building slowly since DJT had assumed office. In May she had expressed distress over how quickly DJT’s positions seemed to shift and how slowly things were progressing in the construction of the promised border wall between Mexico and the United States. In a phone call with the Daily Caller she had said: “I think everyone who voted for him knew his personality was grotesque. It was the issues.” To describe a former adored candidate as possessing a “grotesque” personality suggests the person doing the adoring is lacking in judgement. Be that as it may.

On a much happier note, the following day former President Obama spoke at an event that took place in downtown Chicago. It pertained to his Presidential Library that is being built on Chicago’s South side. In his comments, he emphasized that the library should be used to afford opportunities for young people who want to have careers in architecture, construction and technology. He urged architecture and tech firms to hire apprentices in order to give them career opportunities in those fields. Reading former President Obama’s comments caused this writer to consider that it is not too soon to start thinking about a Trump Presidential Library. Although the prospect of impeachment seems, at this point remote, (Ms. Coulter’s tweets to the contrary notwithstanding,) it is much more likely that at some point in the not too distant future, DJT will announce that, having accomplished in only a few months more than any other president ever accomplished in the history of the country, he will resign from office to resume the vacation he was enjoying before it was rudely interrupted by his tenure in the White House. And that being the case, it is none too soon to begin thinking of a presidential library.

As followers of such things know, there has recently been a great deal of interest in tiny homes. Tiny homes are dwellings of somewhere between 120 and 500 square feet in size. Colorado has some 12 businesses that are specializing in their construction, and in an event known as the Tiny House Jamboree that took place in 2015 and 2016 in Colorado Springs, tens of thousands of visitors showed up. DJT communicates largely through the tweet and is known to read little, if anything. Although few of his formal writings are public, (if any exists), the Tweetessphere is full of what passes for thought when promulgated by DJT. Accordingly, a proper presidential library would be a repository for his tweets and a tiny library would be ideal. It would, of course, be more elegant than the typical tiny home, and thought would have to be given to proper organization of Tweets for easy retrieval. Fortunately, there is already one site that has anticipated the need for tracking tweets. It has carefully catalogued what DJT has tweeted and organized them by word and concept going back at least as far as 2012. The authors of that site would almost certainly be happy to begin working with architects to see how best to organize what would be known as The Tiny Trump Presidential Library. Beneath the name of the library in smaller print might appear: “Tiny Thoughts from a Tiny Mind.” Some people may object to the inclusion of all Trump tweets, since some of them make light of violence or are astonishingly crude. It would, nonetheless, be a mistake to omit them. They do, after all, accurately portray the president of the United States who has, as Ann Coulter accurately says, a grotesque personality. Quite sad. Christopher Brauchli can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com