Sunday, June 25, 2017

Terror

Image result for grenfell tower fire
On May 22 at a concert venue in Manchester, a suicide bomber killed himself and 22 other people, some of them children, at the conclusion of an Ariana Grande performance. 

On June 5 two men drove a van at pedestrians on London Bridge, then attacked others with knives.  Eight died, including the attackers.

Last week two bombers in Paris and Brussels only managed to kill themselves.  A man who drove a van into a group of worshippers outside a London mosque is fine.  The imam protected him from the outraged crowd until police arrived.

This is how it's done:  You buy a highrise apartment block in the heart of London and "renovate" it with aluminum cladding and plastic insulation.  Provide no sprinklers or fire escapes.  This ensures that a small kitchen fire will engulf the entire 24-storey building within half an hour.  The exact number of victims may never be known, but is now close to 60.  Similar structures all over England are being evacuated even though there is no plan in place for housing the evacuees -- or for that matter, the survivors of Grenfell Tower (above).

Unlike the killers in Manchester and on London Bridge, these terrorists did not seek "martyrdom."  They were asleep in their beds while people jumped from high floors to escape the flames.  They did not want to establish a caliphate or punish Western decadence.  They just wanted the money.

When it comes to terror, all these angry young men and the organizations that inspire, recruit and train them are clumsy amateurs.  They can cut off hundreds, maybe thousands of heads, but they can't cut off health care for tens of millions.  That takes a terrorist like Mitch McConnell and his eager  stooges.  That takes Paul Ryan and Tom Price and Donald Trump, and those who put them where they are because they just want the money.

Americans will soon have a significantly better chance of dying because they were born with a heart murmur, or because the Planned Parenthood clinic closed before diagnosing their ovarian cancer, or because they can't afford their deductible, than from the actions of an amateur with a gun or an SUV.
Their children will die younger because of what is done, or not done, about climate change and environmental damage.  The only question is why we don't call this terror.           

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Thursday quick-step

There is no recording of the conversation where Trump "hoped" Comey to back off investigating Mickey Flynn -- but we had that here almost two weeks ago.  Hah!

Bill Cosby's lawyer says he will conduct a series of seminars to teach "young people" (men) how to avoid being accused of rape.  It is not known whether the tuition will include free Quaaludes.

HBO is being sued by coal operator Bob Murray over the John Oliver show critical of his methods, including the deadly accident he blamed, without evidence, on an earthquake.  Murray's lawyer points out, a propos nothing, that he is 77 and needs a lung transplant, probably not as a result of black-lung disease.

People in wheelchairs distressed by the Double-Secret Republican Health "Care" bill were manhandled out of the corridor near Mitch McConnell's office.  Good optics for the 2018 campaign.

Trump has showered Twitter with his "thoughts" on everything from the Georgia and South Carolina special elections to his continued persecution by the "WITCH HUNT!" but has yet to utter a word about the seven sailors who died when a container ship rammed the USS Fitzgerald last weekend.  Could it possibly have been...Obama's fault?

It looks like Sean Spicer will soon leave the White House Pantomime Briefing Show and return to his first love.  By next week he will be wearing a kangaroo suit and distributing coupons for Outback Steakhouse.  This represents a promotion from rodent to marsupial.  Good luck, Sean!

Trump's bittersweet romance with China appears to be off again.  "At least I know China tried!" is how his latest tweet ended.  It is not clear whether he was referring to the Warmbier case or North Korea's continued missile tests, or possibly something else.  We also don't know if anyone has told him about the Qatar crisis, or if he understood.  Nothing like foreign policy by Magic Eightball.  But damn, that was some chocolate cake!!

Remember when Ted Nugent invited Barack Obama to suck on his assault rifle?  It was around the  time he offered to sodomize Hillary Clinton with the same versatile weapon.  Meet Ted Nugent 2017, the kinder, gentler Nuge who want to bring civility to the national conversation.  Or he needs some TV time to promote his sad oldies tour.  Whatever, he has a willing dupe in Bill Maher, who never heard of a Rightzi he didn't want to book.  Because political correctness is bad!  Next thing you know the Speech Police expect you to apologize for using the n -- oh, right, he did.*

Did you know smaller planes can't take off when the temperature hovers around 120 degrees Fahrenheit?  Did you know this is the case all over the southwest, including Phoenix?  Did you know global warming is a hoax?   Hey, look, a hurricane! 



*I am willing to be offended if it's done with wit and purpose.  This has been my comedy policy from Lenny Bruce to George Carlin and Richard Pryor and on to Chris Rock and Louis CK.  Maher's use of the word was offensive, pointless and dumb, conveying nothing but the extent to which he relies on his writers.  When he improvises, it's a disaster. 










Saturday, June 17, 2017

Second Amendment pollution

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
  But in ourselves..." 


Some propositions:

No one should be shot with an assault weapon while playing baseball, or watching a movie, or sitting in a classroom learning to read.  Perhaps Rep. Steve Scalise will think about this the next time he votes on a bill to make it easier for insane people to buy guns.  Probably not, because the murder lobby National Rifle Association would drop his rating from A+ to A.  Then he might get primaried by someone who wants Glocks distributed free to insane people.  That might play well in a district which keeps electing Steve Scalise.

No one should be shot for being an asshole. 

No one should be threatened by assholes for being an actor.  I can't believe I just had to write that.  Apparently it really is a thing.  Acting companies all over the country, performing everything from Twelfth Night to King Lear, are getting death threats from morons who have been alerted that this guy Shakespeare is a Trump-hating liberal fascist who wants people assassinated, and is probably palling around with that uppity Frederick Douglass.  (In the words of President Josiah Bartlet, "We have to fix the schools and I mean right now.")  Gaudy abuse has been received by companies as far from Central Park as Dallas and Lenox, Massachusetts, indicating that Rightzis are no better at geography than they are at literature.  I wonder how many of these assholes have weapons. 

No one wants to find out.


Monday, June 12, 2017

On the way to the forum

One morning in May of 1972 I arrived at my early morning Shakespeare class in my customary half-awake condition.  I had a newspaper but had had no time even to scan the front page.  As we settled in, Professor Johnston (who happened to be African American) commented that the play under discussion, Julius Caesar, could hardly be more topical:  In Maryland, someone had shot George Wallace, the segregationist Alabama governor who was running for president.  Wallace lived, confined to a wheelchair, but his political career was over.  Nearly four hundred years earlier, Shakespeare had warned that violence solves nothing.  Caesar dies, but Brutus's hope of restoring the Roman republic is in vain. 

In the last century this play still had the power to galvanize an audience.  In 1937 Orson Welles directed a legendary -- not a word I use lightly but this is no showbiz hyperbole -- legendary production in modern dress, a commentary on the fascism then dominant in Spain, Italy and Germany.  The murder of Cinna the poet at the hands of a mob was considered particularly shocking, as Shakespeare no doubt meant it to be.  (There's a very good movie about this production called Me and Orson Welles, worth seeking out.)  Welles had just broken with the Federal Theater Project after it pulled out of presenting the left-wing agit-prop musical The Cradle Will Rock.  He and his producer, John Houseman, had formed the Mercury Theater, largely financed by Welles's earnings as a radio actor.  Their re-imagining of Caesar was a companion piece to the so-called "voodoo Macbeth" staged earlier at a Harlem theater with an all-black cast and musicians from Haiti. 

Many years and many productions later, Caesar is making people nervous again.  New York's Shakespeare In the Park is presenting a production by Oskar Eustis with an actor named Gregg Henry in the title role, and it seems he bears a striking resemblance to one Donald J. Trump.  One woman who saw it exclaimed, "It was the onstage murder of the President of the United States!" and that was enough to make Bank of America and Delta Airlines withdraw their sponsorship.  Outrage is percolating through the right -- it's practically an incitement to murder!  Although (as Erik Loomis points out at Lawyers, Guns & Money) they had no problem with a 2012 production starring Bjorn DuPaty as a black Caesar.  "Obama's Ides of March:  The Acting Company Production of Julius Caesar," was the title of an enthusiastic review by Noah Millman  at The American Conservative on May 21, 2012, which concluded by suggesting, "Perhaps Riddley [sic] Scott will make a movie?"  I still remember the tyrant Obama, who ruled by executive order and said he alone could fix stuff.  How did the republic survive?

Once again:  Julius Caesar is not a call to solve political problems through violence.  It is the exact opposite.  See it.  Read it.  Don't condemn it until you have. 
   
      

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Unharness the horses!

The ambiguous British election this week has left no party with a Parliamentary majority and Theresa May struggling to form a government through a Faustian bargain with a far-right Irish hate party, but it has also brought one unquestionable benefit to the UK.  Call it Trumpexit.

Metamucilini says he doesn't want to visit as long as there are going to be protests.  He needs to feel the love the way he did in Saudi Arabia, where public protests get you shortened by a head or so.  "No bad placards," as his ridiculous Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross noted approvingly.  Of course he didn't call the mayor of Riyadh "pathetic" or recommend arming the population to avoid terrorist attacks.  There were going to be a lot of bad placards from one end of London to the other, and the Thin-Skinned One can't stand even implied criticism. 

Call it an Official Birthday present, Your Majesty. 

Friday, June 09, 2017

I have the best oaths

To sum up the week:

1.  There is no tape of the table-talk between Comey and Trump.  If it existed, and if it vindicated Trump, we would have heard it by now.  Reporters will continue to ask about this piece of empty bluster at every presser about "infrastructure" or National Toothpaste Awareness Week or whatever, and they will not get an answer. 

2.  Trump will never answer questions about this or anything else under oath.  His lawyers will claim "executive privilege" and his flunkies will cite some crisis in Albania or Malaysia that requires his full and immediate attention, such as it is. 

3.  Trump will not sue Comey for "defamation," or for lying, or for "leaking" his own non-classified memorandum.  More empty bluster for which his personal shysters are well known.

4.  There is no pee-hooker tape.

In a way, I'm sorry about that one.  The Steele Dossier could turn out to be a MacGuffin, or it could be the most important document since the Zapruder film, but it won't be porn.  Comey said Trump called to tell him there was no tape of prostitutes, which struck him as odd ("Lordy!') since he hadn't brought it up.  I believe him, not because Trump said it -- I'm not a fool -- but because it fits what we know about his personality.

  a.  He's a germophobe.  Until recently he wouldn't even shake hands, and he's still not good at it.

  b.  He's disgusted by women's bodies and the things they produce -- blood, milk, babies (he has never been present at the birth of his children), and presumably urine.  Trump is only interested in putting things into women, and he requires a very specific type, which we can extrapolate from Melania's nude photos:  concentration-camp thin, with large and probably augmented breasts.  He satisfies himself and then turns to activities that bring him real pleasure, screwing employees, contractors, investors, charities, perceived enemies, etc.  It is impossible to imagine him wanting to be in the room while prostitutes were pissing, much less getting off on it.

If and when the Steele Dossier surfaces, it will be a roadmap for following the rubles and not something the networks need to pixilate for our protection.  Again, sorry. 

5.  The  Republicans, and not just Poor John from Arizona, will continue their efforts to somehow, anyhow, make this about Hillary.  They signaled that by putting Trey "Benghazi!" Gowdy in charge of the House Oversight Committee.  And all this chaos at Camp Runamuck (thanks, Charlie!) suits Mitch & Paul very well.  One day we will awaken to find that they have scuttled the EPA, Medicare, Social Security, the Department of Education and the National Park system, and Exxon is drilling in the Grand Canyon.

Meanwhile, at an air base in Qatar, ten thousand American military personnel would love to know what the fuck is going on.  Maybe their commander in chief could get together with his Secretary of State and let them know.   

    

Thursday, June 08, 2017

With friends like these...

"He's an outsider...a New York businessman."  (Chris Christie)  "He's not a Washington guy or politician" (Sen. James Lankford, R-OK) "He's new to government so he probably wasn't steeped into the long going protocols that establish the relationship between the DOJ, FBI and White House" (Paul Ryan).  In other words, ignorance of the law is no excuse unless you are president.   

This sounds a lot like the Firefly Defense:  "Chicolini may look like an idiot and act like an idiot, but don't let that fool you.  He really is an idiot."  (Rufus T. Firefly, president of Freedonia)

Roughly speaking, this was the defense Trump's supporters offered to rebut the testimony of James Comey before the Senate Intelligence Committee + One today.  (The plus-one was John McCain, who opted for confusion and obfuscation, which we will pass over in silence.)  That obstruction of justice is wrong is one of those things nobody could possibly know, like the complexity of health care, or the party affiliation of Abraham Lincoln, or the exact whereabouts of this guy Frederick Douglass.  So no harm, no foul, right?  And this whole Russia thing is a giant witch hunt.

There was no running rebuttal because, according to the New York Times, Trump's keepers top aides kept him "occupied, even-keeled and away from Twitter."  James Mattis and his lawyer Marc Kasowitz baby-sat him until it was time to read a couple of pages to a "Faith or Freedom" conference and played keep-away with his iPhone.  So we may never know what he meant when he said to Comey, "Besides, I have been very loyal to you, very loyal, we had that thing, you know."  Since they had just met, Comey says he had no idea what any of this meant -- "that thing"?  We'll always have Paris?  Pittsburgh?   Curiouser and curiouser. 

This just in:  Trump will hold a "news conference" tomorrow.  Really?  That's the way you want to go?