Thursday, June 8, 2017

Musings on the Investigation

Let's start off with a few points:
First, I believe it's beyond doubt that Russia interfered with the 2016 election.  It may not have rigged vote tallies or physically interfered with voting apparatus; but it intentionally took action to, and likely did, influence votes through hacking, social media and otherwise. 
Second, to date, I do not believe there has been any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and/or administration on the one hand, and Russian officials on the other. 
This, however, does not necessarily render the current investigation(s) a "witch hunt" or otherwise mean that collusion did not occur.  The pro-trump headlines, and the statements from the Orange Orangutan in the Oval Office, declaring vindication, are simply wrong.  There appears to be plenty of indicia of wrongdoing to justify the appointment of the Special Counsel to investigate.  And it wasn't "fake news" that lead the Deputy AG to make the appointment.  Until the investigation is complete, conclusions are simply premature.
If this is truly smoke without fire, then Trump appears to be engaged in a cover-up without a crime.  It's hard to conceive of a way in which Trump could possibly look more guilty. 
Take, for instance, the timing of his firing of Jim Comey and the obviously pre-textual justification he gave in the termination letter (which he backed off of almost immediately the next day).  
Take his interactions with Comey prior to the termination in which he asked Comey for loyalty and asked him to cut Flynn a break.  Trump was either exerting pressure or engaging in wildly inappropriate conduct.  The Right claims he's merely inexperienced to the ways of Washington.  This explanation would be more credible had he not taken explicit action on these occasions to isolate himself with Comey.  Regardless whether Trump's actions were unethical and ill-motivated or simply based on stupidity (like, and unprecedented level of Presidential stupid), it does not look good.
Take Trump's lies about his interactions with Comey.  Comey testifies that Trump asked him for Loyalty.  Trump, during a prior interview on Fox, expressly denies the conversation took place.  Comey testifies Trump asked him to let Flynn go.  Trump, again, denies the conversation took place.  If you've listened to both sides, there seems to be little room for misunderstanding; one of them is lying.  Who do you believe?  Again, regardless whether there's any underlying crime, this paints Trump in poor light.
And then there's the clear pattern of omissions of contacts with Russians by Trump associates, from Flynn, to Sessions, to Kushner.  Standing in isolation, this might seem innocuous.  But, in  context, it appears strange at the very least.
Finally -- and this is the point that bothers me most -- given the Russian's actions to interfere with the 2016 election, why does Trump appear to favor Putin over our European allies?  Wouldn't any reasonable President be pushing back - HARD -- against the Russians given what our intelligence agencies now know?  Wouldn't the President be focused on sanctions and taking other action to prevent further Russian interference in our democracy?  But Trump has taken the opposite approach, exemplified by the absurd meeting with Sergey Kislyak and others in the oval office the next day after the Comey firing, during which Trump (a) invited no U.S. media, (b) bragged about firing Comey to the very people Comey was investigating, and (c) spilled classified information.  Taken in context, could Trump try harder to look in cahoots with the Russians?
Ultimately, despite the media and social media circus and constant headlines, this investigation is likely a long way from over.  Any legitimate investigation will follow the money trail.  What financial connections did Trump have with Russians.  How about his various corporations?  His kids?  His affiliates?  I'm confident that Director Mueller is pulling on these strings.  Was there collusion or other wrongdoing?  I have no idea.  I've yet to see any indication there was.  In the end, Trump's only crime may be being too dumb to lead.  I can certainly live with whatever conclusions Mueller draws.  But in the meantime, lets let the process play itself out.      

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Getting at It!!!

[NOTE:  Actual Poker Content Below]

Years ago, some friends and I hiked the Maryland Heights trail across the river from Harpers Ferry.  As far as hikes go, it was moderately challenging.  Approximately four miles in length, the first two miles is essentially an uphill hike.  Coming back down is also no easy feat, as the trail is rocky and you're constantly looking for footholds and trying to moderate your downhill momentum.  In short, it was a good workout.  Fast forward to several months ago, when, as you may recall, I did a 4-mile run from the Harpers Ferry National Park visitor's center to downtown Harpers Ferry and back.  Fairly standard.  Since then, however, I had been looking to combine the two -- do the run AND the hike.   Yesterday I found my chance to attempt it...

I drove to Charles Town after a mid-morning oil change and checked in to the local Hampton Inn around 1:00 pm.  After a quick change, I drove down the road to Harpers Ferry National Park where I set out to test my 44-year old endurance.  It began with an easy half-mile downhill hike from the parking lot to a tow path along the Potomac River.  From there, it was a 1.2 mile run to Harpers Ferry.    The run continued through the town, across the river and then down the C&O Canal Towpath until I located the trial head for the Maryland Heights trail.  I was close to 2.5 miles at this point.

Entering into the woods, the trail was congested.  For the first mile or so, at least.   At around the .8 mile mark, the hike presents a choice - you can walk on level ground to a scenic overlook; or you can head straight up to the peak.   It was here that nearly everyone opted for the view.  I took a left and proceeded to climb.  It was a fairly tough 1.2 miles.  I saw only a handful of people the entire way.  My legs were burning, as I counted down every tenth of a mile.  I was listening to the Indians-Royals game to distract myself.   After about 30 minutes, I reached the peak.

After a brief stop to take in the view, I scrambled back down the hill. The hike totaled approximately 4.5 miles.  My legs felt heavy as I began the 2 mile run back to the visitor's center.

At one point, I clipped a rock and took a tumble like a jackass.  A bit bloodied, I hopped up an continued on.  The run was not as bad as I had anticipated.  Finally, I was left with a half-mile climb back up through the woods and to the parking lot.  This is where I hit the wall.  I could barely make it up the steeper portions of the trail.  It was here too where I began feeling sick.  It may have been dehydration.  It could have been a lack of food.  Or, maybe just lack of conditioning.  Whatever the cause, I finished the hike and drove back to the hotel.   Total distance was exactly 9 miles . . .

Still feeling like crap, I headed across the street to the Local Appleby's, hoping some food and drink would be the cure.  About half-way through my first beer, I got the sweats, and proceeded to the mens room post haste.  I was likely the first guy, but not the last, to boot in the mens room that evening.  Eventually, I got some food down and felt better.  It was time for some cards at The Chuck down the road...    

I run like crap at Charles Town.  Don't know why.  But I have; for, like, years and years.  This evening would be no different. Twenty minutes in I look down at AT hearts.  I call $10 and flop and OESD and the nut flush draw.  Guy bets $20; I raise to $65, he jams $200.   I snap.  And whiff.  Of course.  Rebuy.  I go on to whiff two more nut flush draws.  Standard.  Then this hand:

Effective stacks about $280. Villain has me covered by, like, a lot.  I call $10 pre flop from the button with A8 spades (I was card dead most of the night, and found myself playing suited aces to keep from falling asleep...).  We go heads up to an 8-high flop.  Villain leads for $20, and I call.  Can't fold top pair here to this bet.  Turn is the 9 of spades, giving me the nut-flush draw.  Villain leads for $40.  At this point, I don't think he's barreling a big Ace.  I put him on an over pair.  While I figure I'm behind, once again, I don't think I can fold my pair and nut flush draw.  I make the call.  The river is the Ace of clubs giving me Aces up.  Not a bad card!  This time, Villain leads for $100.  I really think I just rivered him.  I make the call pretty easily. He shows down 99 for the turned set.  Ugh.  Rebuy.

At this point, I'm in the game for $600; but still having fun.  I was able to turn my evening around with, you guessed it . . . another suited Ace.

Sitting on $250 or so, I make a loose call of $12 with A3 hearts after two other callers.   Flop comes down 335.  Jackpot.  Original raiser bets $20.  Only I call.  Turn is a 7.  Dude bets out $30.  I raise to $75.  He snaps it off.  Interesting.   River is another 7 giving me 3's full.  Dude checks to me and I jam.  He goes in to the tank and starts trying to talk to me.  "Do you have pocket 5's?"  "You don't have a 3 or a 7 . . ."  "Do you want me to call?"  I just stare into space, thinking about how Gillian Anderson is nearly 50 and still hot as fuck . . .  "You know you can talk, right?"  I wonder what her natural hair color is. And whether she got her tits done.  They seem larger than when she was on the X-files. . . . Eventually, someone calls the clock.  Guy is still getting at me - "do you want a call?"  Ultimately, he says "Call."  I do nothing, as he hasn't touched a single chip.  After a few moments, dealer says "he called" and I flip over my 3  . . .  I'm back in the game!

The rest of the session was fairly uneventful.  At one point, got back within $25 of even; but I pissed some chips away near the end and ultimately walk with a $100 loss.  I still can't win at The Chuck.  But I generally have fun trying . . .