Friday, August 31, 2018

The Queen is dead

It wouldn't be black church without at least one perfectly mad hat, and Cicely Tyson wins the brass figlagee, with a number that looks like a cross between a beekeeper's headgear and those wigs that British judges still, inexplicably, wear.

I'm watching the funeral of Aretha Franklin on BET, which has more coverage with less annoying commentary than the other cables.  (C-SPAN, for some reason, is covering McCain.)  Rick Snyder, the Fiend Who Poisoned Flint, had to be invited, I guess, but most of the other speakers and singers were well chosen and right:  Jesse Jackson, Smokey Robinson, William Barber, Bill Clinton, Michael Eric Dyson, Eric Holder, Clive Davis, Al Sharpton, Ariana Grande, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Faith Hill, Tyler Perry, Isiah Thomas.  Nearly six hours -- the funeral of a queen, like a coronation, takes stamina.

I would say there were three pivotal singers in twentieth century popular music.  Bing Crosby taught the megaphone boys how to use a microphone, intimately, intensely, to sing to one person at a time.  Frank Sinatra took Bing's "crooning" style and made each lyric tell a story, for which he frequently gave credit to Billie Holiday.  Aretha Franklin brought gospel music, with its melisma and intensity, out of the church to transform popular song.  If you doubt, listen to any of these amateur-night shows on the networks.  You will hear aspiring singer after singer imitating Whitney Houston imitating Aretha.  That is as close as you want to get to a volcano.  And a volcano is almost as hard to ignore.

Her voice was a force of nature, and we have it forever.    

"...or of the press..."

It's a source of great unhappiness to Donald Trump that he can't order his secret police to kill inconvenient journalists, as his boss in Moscow does.  What he can do, and regularly does, is stir up his knuckle-dragging Trumpanzees to violence.  If they succeed, he will emulate Jones, Limbaugh et al. and disavow all responsibility -- "just exercising free speech here."  And I'm very much afraid it's a matter of time -- they have more firepower than Putin's thugs, and they're a lot more mentally unstable.  This week a man in California was arrested for making threats against the staff of the Boston Globe which the FBI found credible, and April Ryan of National Urban Radio has felt compelled to hire bodyguards.

Not that Republicans care about the Founders except as graven images to be worshipped, but they thought the news media important enough to mention in the First Amendment as something the Congress should never try to regulate, along with religion and free speech generally.  They would be disappointed at the spoonfuls of fact provided by networks and websites in between pill commercials, and downright shocked by the number of Americans who don't care, which probably exceeds the number mesmerized by propaganda and conspiracy gibberish.  I have a lot of problems with the mainstream media, their both-siderism, frequent pandering and lack of moral compass (not to mention hourly assaults on English), but it would be infinitely worse if they went away.  We are fortunate that journalists (reporters if they prefer) are a tough lot, venturing into places the cautious would never go to try to make sense of Yemen, Syria, Myanmar, Gaza, and the White House briefing room.

This will get worse until Trump is gone.  He needs someone to blame for his manifest incompetence, probable treason and growing unpopularity (the latest ABC poll numbers are gob-stopping), and to amplify his lawyer's assertion that "truth is not truth."  The press has had a rifle-sight on its back at least since the Republican National Convention of 1964, but this is the time for the Kevlar vests.  I have no money, but I subscribe to as many online papers as I can because they're under assault from every direction -- even their newsprint is more expensive because of Trump's idiot tariff fuckery and Canadian retaliation.  And every day it gets worse -- now Lester Holt and NBC stand accused of "editing" the interview where Trump admitted to firing James Comey to stop the Russia investigation, also known as obstruction of justice.  Oh, and Russia, if you're listening...relax.  It was China that hacked Hillary Clinton's emails.  This is why we need The Press -- somebody has to fact-check the lies on a tweet-by-tweet basis, if only to keep us sane.


Monday, August 27, 2018

Fun with flags

Image result for trump hugs flag gif

Donald loves the flag.  He likes to hug and kiss it.  He regularly abuses athletes protesting the killing of black people by police, accusing them of "disrespecting" the flag (and the troops, and veterans, and every other American institution) by kneeling while our long, lugubrious national anthem is sung.  He loves that flag.  But it doesn't love him back.

Last week at a hospital in Ohio, he joined a group of young children for a heartwarming photo-op as they colored paper American flags.  Donald's was the only one to feature blue stripes (like the flag of Russia, some mean-spirited observers pointed out).  It must be hard to get a good look at our flag when you stand so close, and when you are too vain to wear glasses, even when staring at a total solar eclipse.  No, not vain, what's the word?  Stupid.

On Saturday night John McCain died, and the next day flags all over the country were flown at half- staff.  They will remain that way until after his funeral (to which Donald has been disinvited).  Which might explain why many people were startled to see the White House flag at the top of its flagpole this morning -- like the Royal Standard when the monarch is in residence.  Many, many people complained, including the American Legion, and the flag soon slunk back to half-staff.

Flags are not sacred.  They are pieces of colored cloth which invite us to fill in our own meanings.  Simple decency, on the other hand, is too complicated for a great many people.  

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The great white dope

"Wherever a rich white man is being oppressed, I'll be there," Tom Joad didn't say ever.  Fortunately there is Donald Trump, who has ordered his secretary of  state to investigate the white genocide that is not happening in South Africa.  (After nearly two years, the United States has no ambassador to South Africa.)

Some facts:  A generation after the end of apartheid, white people make up eight percent of the South African population but own 72 percent of the agricultural land.  All major political parties agree that land reform is urgently needed, and President Cyril Ramaphosa wants to amend the constitution to allow for confiscation (think "eminent domain" land grabs for, oh, let's say a wall on the Mexican border).  Egged on by Fox News instead of reliable information, Trump is worried about the "large-scale killing of [white] farmers"; actually, the murder of farmers is at a twenty-year low.  From today's Guardian:

  "Trump's intervention was the first time he has tweeted the word 'Africa' since he became president.     Instead of myriad political, economic and security issues that he could have addressed, he
    offered support to the tiny population of white people on the continent."

I wonder why that is.

Sunday, August 19, 2018


A brief summary of the presidential* week:

Attacked a (black) woman he had hired four times as a "dog" and a "lowlife" because she revealed the astonishing news that he is a racist.  Ordered his attorney general, Three-Fifths of a Man Sessions, to arrest her, although publishing a book is not currently illegal.

Wrote his name bigly on the bottom of the John McCain National Defense Authorization Act without mentioning John McCain.

Got into a bizarre argument with a group of Vietnam War veterans who had come to ask for more assistance for victims of Agent Orange.  "You mean the stuff from that movie?" the stable genius asked.  Eventually it became clear that he was talking about Apocalypse Now, which is as close as Cadet Bonespurs got to the war.  No, they explained, that was napalm.  As in Col. Kilgore (Robert Duvall):  "I love the smell of napalm in the morning.  Smells like...victory."  Went around the table asking every veteran if that was "the stuff."  Still refused to believe it.  Lost interest in veterans and their so-called problems.

Handed out medals to the ICEstapo to recognize their fine work in protecting us from Central American  toddlers.  Continued to ignore a court order to reunite the children with their parents.

Had a shit-fit when told the price of the Mayday-in-Red-Square parade he covets for Washington, claimed he cancelled it and will use the money to buy more invisible fighter planes instead,  vroom vroom.  Threatened to attend Paris parade on November 11 marking the hundredth anniversary of the Armistice, to indulge his unhealthy obsession with the Macrons.

Marked the death of Aretha Franklin by noting that "she used to work for me," possibly confusing the Queen of Soul with the Help.  Actually, Franklin was among the hundreds of artists who wanted nothing to do with Trump's pathetic "inauguration."

Cancelled the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan in a display of bratty spite.  In response, retired Adm. William McRaven asked to have his security clearance revoked.  Adm. McRaven led the raid which killed Osama bin Laden and is now chancellor of the University of Texas.  He may be America's most distinguished badass.

Pointedly had nothing to tweet about the grand jury's finding that three hundred priests molested thousands of children in Pennsylvania, and that the Catholic Church systematically covered it up for decades.  (Imagine if it had involved three hundred imams...or three.)

Left on Friday morning for a badly-needed golf weekend.  (Piss Off Early, Tomorrow's Saturday.)   As always, accomplished more in one week than FDR in sixteen years.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Guest editorial

What with the multiple wives, the obesity, the megalomania, the yen to go after political enemies, the breaking of traditional structures for personal gain, and the overall petty meanness, Trump is basically Henry VIII...but if Henry VIII was the puppet of Ivan the Terrible.- Greg Olear
I don't know who Greg Olear is, or where he posted this, but now I keep wishing Charles Laughton was still alive to make the movie.  Oh, and he left out the ghostwritten book:  most historians believe Henry's Defense of the Seven Sacraments is actually the work of Thomas More, who he eventually beheaded.  (As Trump would love to do to Tony Schwartz.)

Friday, August 10, 2018

Meet the Knavses

Melania's Parents Receive Citizenship, Thanks To 'Chain Migration'
Since they're clearly too old to work, and are unlikely to start a business, it's not clear how America's newest citizens will contribute to their new country.  I assume they can live comfortably off the money they made selling their daughter to her rich old husband, and will not be applying for Social Security, Medicare, or any other geezer giveaway.  All we can be sure of is their pure Aryan blood and the inevitable Netflix satire starring John Goodman and Debra Winger.

Remember when Barack Obama's aunt was deported?  Now imagine if he had even made a phone call to prevent it.  Instant impeachment!

I miss the rule of law.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Dick Tuck's last hurrah

Last May, Dick Tuck died at the age of 94.  Tuck was a legendary Democratic Party strategist and hoaxer whose special joy it was to torment the humorless Richard Nixon (hiring garbage trucks to park outside the 1964 convention in San Francisco with signs that said DUMP NIXON, for instance).  At the end of his life, he created the ultimate prank, the conspiracy theory known as "QAnon," predicated on the fact that stupid people are stupid, and that Trumpism was crafted for the stupid.  The name is based on Al Anon, the support organization for the families of alcoholics; that's a bit mean, but it creates a sense of authenticity if you don't think too long or hard about it.  "Q" is actually a level of security clearance in the Department of Energy, but hardly anyone knows or cares about that.  To conspiracy mongers, QAnon is a person or group of persons working to bring down the "Deep State" and save the nation from Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, James Comey and all the other Usual Suspects who -- borrowing from Pizzagate -- are operating a pedophilia ring so vast, no one knows its true dimensions (possibly including colonies on Mars).  Is that nutty enough for you?  Needless to say, the "fake news" media are key to this plot, attempting to distract True Patriots with a constant stream of stories about the Helsinki surrender, Paul Manafort, North Korea's nuclear plans, climate change and similar trivialities -- as one Trumpanzee put it, the media have been "weaponized by the CIA."   Yes, the CIA is in on it, the DIA, the FBI, the IRS, the Federal Reserve, and of course [insert shadowy organization here].  Only Trump can save us.  He said so.  

Tuck gave himself away, deliberately I think, when he included Tom Hanks on his list of pedophile-plotters.*  How he must have laughed at the thought of all these poor dumb fish taking the bait, the hook, the rod itself.  The best jokes are cruel.  And cruelty is usually deserved.  The grotesques with the tiki torches are impervious to reason, but not to laughter.  Well done, Mr. Tuck.

*I'm reminded of Christopher Durang's play Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, where the title character reels off a list of people who are going to hell, concluding with Betty Comden and Adolphe Green.  Why?  Well, why not?