Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Dump Day

I jot things on pieces of paper and stick them under the laptop and when it gets all wobbly...

Back when Howard Schultz was running that string of coffee dispensaries, he was too busy for more than one daily news program.  Unfortunately, he made it The Colbert Report without realizing it was satire.  When Stephen Colbert said, "I don't see color," Howie nodded and filed it away for future use.  It now forms the centerpiece for the racial philosophy section of his (possible) presidential campaign, and has already brought him enough derision to deter anyone who isn't an Olympic-level egomaniac.  Since the Schultz candidacy has aroused less interest than the design for a Hannibal Hamlin commemorative stamp, CNN probably wishes it had not given him a prime-time hour to share this and other pointless observations.

And CNN still has the Shutdown Countdown clock on the screen, which means Donnie is waiting for  surrogate parents Rush and Ann to say he can sign the latest temporary fix without threatening to withhold their love the way his stupid mother did.  Meanwhile, Ted Cruz, whose father probably killed Kennedy but everything is fine between him and Donnie, has come up with a cunning plan:  Make one Mexican pay for WALL.  Specifically, Joaquin Guzman, better known as El Chapo, who has gobs of money and is headed for prison in the USA.  The legalese may be hard to work out, but the politics will thrill all MAGAts except the ones on the border of Ted's state who definitely don't want their land seized or their access to the Rio Grande blocked.

This is a bad time for the red hat club.  The folks filling out their tax returns are perturbed at how much they owe, or how small their refunds will be, and no wonder.  For years the MSM have been following them down their burrows and reporting back that they support Trump out of "concern about the economy" and certainly not because they're racist or xenophobic or simply dumb.  ("I love the poorly educated!" -- Donald J. Trump, 2016)  I guess they can stop being concerned, because Betsy DeVos can finally afford that seventh yacht.  Hard to believe, none of the others could  accommodate a full-size replica of the Sistine Chapel.  But yachts don't grow on trees, so dig deep, Bob and Betty Scratchcards, because the TrumpMcConnellRyan tax "reform" has its laser pointed at you.

I was going to write about how Theresa May is a bad prime minister and Brexit is a slow-moving catastrophe, but I don't want to be called a terrorist and accused of hating the British.  It is the UK we're never supposed to criticize, isn't it?  Wait, let me check with Rep. Omar...never mind.  Rep. Omar says she has learned her lesson:  Never refer to money as "Benjamins," although it has been in common use for decades.  Also, do not use the alternative expression "dead presidents" unless you want to be accused of plotting Trump's assassination.  In fact, never engage with Rightzis at all, since their principal rhetorical device is the hysterical denunciation, sometimes augmented with the self-pitying lie.  Ignore them.

Former Trump bagman Michael Cohen has postponed his House hearing a third time because he has to have his teeth cleaned or something.  If I didn't know better I'd say someone is putting the screws to him.  We'll know if his scared-looking brother turns up at the hearing flanked by Stephen Miller and Kellyanne Conway.

As measles spreads among the unvaccinated, adolescents are defying their parents and having themselves immunized.  There is reason to be hopeful about millennials.

At least Trump has had a good week since Speaker Pelosi ("as I call her, Nancy") let him read Words to the Congress room and secured her place in history by giving him The Clap.   He also had his annual physical from The Candy Man, who pronounced him the healthiest person this side of Mo Farah, the great British long-distance runner, and much more smarterer.  Then he went to El Paso, which he thought might be San Antonio, but anyway, where the yugest of all possible crowds lapped up a comic monologue in the vein of Prof. Irwin Corey.  One man was inspired to assault a BBC camera operator, the Trump-rally equivalent of speaking in tongues.  And now he's playing with his new Executive Time toy, a $50,000 "room-size golf simulator," which means he doesn't even have to put on pants and waddle from a golf cart to a tee and back again.  It's good to be the king.  (None of your business who paid for it.  The Prince gives them away like business cards at a convention, so why not?)  By the weekend, Donzo was so happy and loosey-goosey that he tweeted, "The Democrats are so self-righteous and ANGRY!  Loosen up and have some fun.  The Country is doing well!"  Apart from the big border emergency which comes and goes like Brigadoon.  I'd love to try some of that Adderall one day.

Rudolph Giuliani has been sighted in Poland, ranting about Iran. No part of that sentence makes any sense, but the cable news channels have had a lot of time to fill.

Trump thinks Ralph Northam and Ilhan Omar should resign because they're racist.  This is like Mr. Creosote suggesting that you go on a diet.

Jerome Corsi is suing Roger Stone or maybe Robert Mueller for trying to make him have a stroke and die.  Trump is suing a former White House staffer for violating a non-disclosure agreement.  Wasn't there something about torte reform, frivolous lawsuits...?

It has been a year since the mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  I have nothing funny to say about that.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Also known as slavery

This is the most memorable Black History Month ever, not for any good reasons.  To prove his press conference was no fluke, still-Governor Ralph Northam went on CBS this morning to teach a history lesson to Gayle King:  It was exactly four hundred years ago that the Virginia colony welcomed its first shipload of "indentured servants from Africa."  "Also known as slavery," King interjected (the pupil surpasses the teacher!).  The First Families of Virginia had a policy of "First, do no work."  They had unsuccessfully tried to enslave the indigenous people, who simply sloped off home when the grandees' backs were turned.  Then they imported white people (indentured or enslaved) from the impoverished parts of the British isles,  but they either served out their time and had to be freed, or ran away, frequently finding a home with the natives.  So, Africans, kidnapped, shipped across the ocean, easily identified by their skin color and unfree forever, generation after generation.  Come on, Ralph, you're the fucking governor.  Read a book.  If you have time for one disastrous media interaction after another, you have time for more than a couple chapters of Roots, which you say you've finally gotten around to.

Read more than one.  Black Virginians gave you your office and continue to support you by a significant margin, recognizing your efforts to secure voting rights for all, including former felons.  In no other "democracy" is there such a determined effort to keep people from voting, so this is a crucial battle.  Clearly you're a flawed and possibly crippled chief executive, but if the grim choice is between a racist and a rapist, well, at least the racist is belatedly trying to deal with his past.

As for the disloyal opposition, they don't even know how racist they are.  A former New York Representative named Nan Hayworth (R-Ofcourse) thinks this will hurt the Democrats because "They all have the Virginia tar baby to deal with."  Doo-dah.  If all Republicans did was pose in unfortunate face-paint, this would be a more peaceful country, but they just can't help resurrecting the most infamous racist of the last century.  Weeks after Steve King asserted that there's not a thing wrong with "white supremacy," Hitler has been invoked to attack Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Green New Deal proposed by her and Sen. Ed Markey, and socialism in general.  Candace Owen, who fronts something called Turning Point USA, told an audience in Britain (!) that Hitler was fine as long as "he just wanted to make Germany great again."  He only became a problem when he went globalist (which I thought was code for you-know-who) and tried to make the rest of the world equally great.  Tom Cotton, the Arkansas senator who formed his own State Department during the Obama administration, quoted Churchill about how "socialism...always ends with the Gestapo," failing to add that this was part of a 1945 campaign speech.  British voters chose Clem Atlee and socialism anyway; instead of concentration camps, they got the NHS.

We can have nice things, too, now that the spectre of Communism no longer exists to intimidate anyone to the left of Adlai Stevenson.   More Americans worry about China's economic power than its imperial ambitions or contempt for human rights.  Trump's big wet crush on Kim Jong-un has rendered the Korean dictator cuddly and harmless in the eyes of the Trumpanzees, and that leaves what, Cuba?  If Venezuela really were socialist, people would at least have enough to eat and a share in the oil revenues.  Under Maduro it's merely ineptocracy, a word I just coined.  I've been to the mountaintop, and I've seen universal Medicare, affordable college, appropriate taxation of the rich, paid maternity and paternity leave, renewable energy, and the long-promised infrastructure restoration.  I may not get there with you...

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Can't anybody here run this state?

My internet was down for a few hours today, so maybe I'm not up to speed.  Apparently Ralph Northam is still the governor of Virginia, despite a press conference of cosmic awfulness.  Northam now says he is not the man in blackface in that 34-year-old yearbook photo (I don't know if he has also denied being in the Klan getup).  He knows this because another time he did black his face to portray Michael Jackson in a dance contest, which he won with his superior moonwalking moves (his wife had to intervene to prevent a demonstration).  He'd surely remember if he had also played Mr. Bones.  This might be the worst defense of all time, or at least since the defense in the Emmett Till case questioned the identity of the victim by saying something like "That river's full of bodies -- it could be anyone."  Yeah, we kill so many people, ain't no way to be sure.  Bill Frist, Tom Coburn, Ben Carson, Ralph Northam -- I'm starting to think doctors should stay out of politics and medical schools should tighten up their entrance requirements.  Just because you aced organic chemistry, it doesn't mean you have enough sense to get out of the rain.

I read yesterday that Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax has been accused of sexual assault in -- 2004?  So that's him finished.  The next guy, the Virginia attorney general, has apparently volunteered the information that he once wore blackface in public (for cod's sake why?), which leaves, well, I don't know.  The internet wits are calling it "Blackface History Month."  The over-reactors are yelling at Disney and Mary Poppins because Dick Van Dyke partially blacked his face to portray a chimney sweep.  That one moved me to a full-on Edgar Kennedy face-palm (look him up, or watch the lemonade vendor scene in Duck Soup*).  And since we're on movies, why has Liam Neeson chosen this moment to commit career suicide?  Worst publicity tour of all time.

We got a needed respite, and frankly a thrill, from "The Stacey Abrams Show" last night; she's a star.  Next time, lose the guy in orangeface who warmed up the crowd.  I thought he would never shut up.

*Unless you think you can't handle a stereotypical Italian being portrayed by a Jewish actor.  I don't want to make this thing any worse than it is.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Arguing it out

This is the pagan festival of Imbolg, which I don't celebrate because I'm an atheist and that includes the Great Goddess or it would be meaningless, right?

That was easy.  I've spent the day trying to arrive at a position on Minstrelgate, which is the name I have given to the scandal over the governor of Virginia posing in blackface for his college yearbook photo in 1984.  Unless he's the other guy in the Klan hood, but really, six of one, half a dozen of the other.  On the one hand, Ralph Northam seems like a good guy, and he's a Democrat, and this only came up because he's being targeted by the anti-choice mob.  He was on the radio talking about a proposed change in state law regarding the treatment of non-viable newborns who are going to die anyway.  (I'm guilty of redundancy because a lot of people don't seem to know what "non-viable" means.)  Of course they get put on NICU life-support while their parents face the crushing decision of when or if to remove them.  The law now stipulates that two doctors must concur with their wishes; Northam, who is a pediatric neurologist in private life, opposes reducing that to one.  The Rightzis have decided this means he (and all Democrats) want to MURDER defective babies and sell the parts, possibly to restaurants -- you know, their customary measured response.  So all that is on one side, and is a pretty good reason not to hand the crazies a victory.

The crazies want Northam to resign because he doesn't want these poor kids kept on machines for months or years like Terri Schiavo.  Other people want him to resign because he was a racially insensitive jerk, at best, back in 1984, when even the President couldn't recognize the token black member of his Cabinet.  Not a heroic age of civil rights, is what I'm saying.  It feels as if the incriminating photo was discovered long ago and kept for an occasion like this.  A great many of those calling for Northam to quit are black, and I am happy to let them take the lead.  I'm only offended as a friend of the family, so to speak.  Northam says he won't quit, but only last week a Republican in Florida quit when a picture surfaced of him attending a Halloween party dressed as a black female victim of Hurricane Katrina.  This was two months after the inundation of New Orleans and is bad on multiple levels.  Besides, the lieutenant governor of Virginia, Justin Fairfax, is African American.  He has issued a statement that doesn't call for Northam to resign but also says his behavior cannot be condoned and is redolent of Virginia's ugly past.  It sounds like he's as conflicted as I am.  Maybe he thinks it's unbecoming to salivate at the prospect of becoming governor.  After all, the voters chose Northam over the appalling Ed Gillespie.  Then again, the voters didn't have all the facts.

The confluence of race, politics and fetus-worship is a maelstrom I'm happy to avoid.  Maybe it's better if us wypipos just shut up now.      

Friday, February 01, 2019

Cold enough for ya?

A group of homeless Chicagoans were trying to keep warm around a propane tank when it exploded.  Hearing of this, a woman named Candice Payne pulled out her credit card and rented them a bunch of hotel rooms.  Others were inspired to do the same, and more than eighty people slept indoors while cold-temperature records were set.  Oprah could have accommodated that many in her house, but she didn't.  (We would have heard, and heard.)  No megachurch opened its doors.  The city shelters are full.  The federal government -- wait, do we have any?

Down in East Moline, a 69-year-old man named William Murphy was not so fortunate.  His frozen body was discovered at the FedEx facility where he worked.  The cause of death has not been announced, nor the reason a man of sixty-nine was still working.

The governor of Kentucky, one of those states that closes when it gets two inches of snow, says we're all a bunch of sissies for taking emergency measures to keep children from dying on the way to school.  It probably will surprise no one that Kentucky is the home of Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, Kim Davis and Covington Catholic School.  Also that dopey bible museum where the dinosaurs have saddles.

Some of Governor Bevis Bevin's constituents are going to be disappointed, because Customs and Border Protection stopped an assload of drugs from crossing the border -- 254 pounds of Fentanyl and 395 pounds of methamphetamine hidden in a truck full of cucumbers.  It was being driven through the Nogales, Arizona, checkpoint when trained dogs alerted the CBP.  In other words, a wall in the desert would not have been much use.  Or as Charlie Pierce wrote, "Screw the wall.  Hire more dogs."

Yes, the wall.   Trump and his babysitters have been busy, dumping sanctions here, backing out of the 1987 Intermediate Range missile treaty there, all but raising the Russian flag over the White House.  Every intelligence officer told Congress this is a bad idea, as bad as trusting the North Koreans and abusing the Iranians, but what do they know?  Russia definitely did not interfere in the 2016 election and they've promised that they're not doing it again, so that's that.  Besides, WALL.  Must have WALL or nothing else matters.   Trump called in a couple of  "reporters" from the Failing New York Times to impress them with his resolve.  He has "set the table very nicely," whatever that means, and he may possibly announce NATIONAL EMERGENCY, which will cause $5.7 billion to appear on his empty desk because after two years -- after seventy-two years -- he still has no fucking idea how government works.  Also how dare the FBI treat Roger Stone as if he did something wrong, and do you have any idea how much money he's losing by presidenting  all the time instead of running casinos, airlines and Trump University?  WALL!

As S.J. Perelman would say, baby, it's cold inside.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

My book report: Unstuck in time

At the Hands of Persons Unknown:  The Lynching of Black America by Philip Dray, New York, The Modern Library, 2002

Have you ever handed a book to a friend with the words "Read this!  It's the most depressing thing I've ever come across"?  Neither have I.  I have no idea how Mr. Dray finished writing it without killing himself.  I have spent weeks with this material, and he must have devoted years.  Along the way, I learned many things:

Lynching is older than America.  During the Revolution a Virginia justice of the peace named Charles Lynch organized an "informal court" to deal with suspected horse-thieves and Tories, usually by flogging, in the town of Chestnut Hill.  I imagine there's a statue.

The largest group of lynch victims is black men (just as Jews make up the largest group of people murdered by the Nazis), but lynching is an equal-opportunity atrocity -- the dead include black women, white men and women, children, and in one case that will haunt your sleep, an infant cut out of its mother's womb.

The "black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze" of Abel Meeropol's song actually had it easy if they were only hanged.  Lynching often involved mutilation (pre- and post-mortem), whipping and other forms of torture, shooting, stabbing or burning alive.  It usually depended on whether rape was suspected.  Sex -- and the imputation of uncontrollable lust to "the other" -- is at the bottom of everything.

Schools that have no room in the curriculum for Helen Keller or Anne Frank probably don't teach Ida B. Wells-Barnett, either; or a courageous Texas woman named Jessie Daniel Ames, who founded the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching in 1930.  They should.

The book's epilogue mentions non-traditional lynching victims like Matthew Shepperd and Amadou Diallo, but you may notice I've tried to use the present tense.  That's because the "determined men" who informally policed society in the past have traded their white hoods for red hats.  Last night on the frigid streets of Chicago they assaulted the actor Jussie Smollett, who is black and gay, shouting, "This is MAGA country!"  They poured bleach over him, broke one of his ribs and put a rope around his neck.  It might as well be 1930, or 1890.  Kamala Harris called it "a modern-day lynching," as if lynching belonged in the history books along with drawing and quartering.  It has never gone away.

I wonder if it ever will.  I wonder if someone will write a history of American vigilantism from Judge Lynch to the day it ended forever, or if, like America, this is a perpetual work in progress.  For now, everyone should be required to read this dismal book, written with a dispassion I could never manage.  Even people who will find in its pages only inspiration for their own crimes against humanity.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Hitman, or Thanks, Rachel

I appreciate critics who sit though awful movies so I won't have to.  Last night, Rachel Maddow explained how Trump came up with the captive-women fantasy he repeats at every opportunity.  There's a movie called Sicario (Hitman) which has it all:  human traffickers, duct tape, supercars the Border Patrol can't catch, Islamic prayer rugs, the whole cockamamie thing.  Apparently he clicked away from Fox News when one of its less sycophantic stars was on, landed on this movie and thought it was a documentary.

That answers one disturbing question but raises another:  Has Trump seen Machete?

Or the Saw series?  ("MS-13, horrible dudes, make people cut their own legs off...")

I guess we'll find out.