Friday, September 28, 2018

Him too

Another exhausting week.  Donnie thought he was haranguing a mob of dropouts in Jawbone, Idaho, but those assembled at the United Nations failed to respond with "Lock her up! Build the wall!"  They laughed openly at him.  So that was fun.

Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about what Bret Kavanaugh tried but was too drunk to do to her when she was fifteen.   We've certainly come a long way since the Clarence Thomas confirmation, because Anita Hill didn't have to hire bodyguards and move into a motel to evade death threats.  Thank Kavanaugh's patron and the Internet.

A seal threw an octopus to a kayaker.  Don't know what that's about.  "So long, and thanks for all the Cephalopods"?

I was ready to turn off all the electronics and settle back with the fine minds at The New York Review of Books.  Mistake.  The October 11 issue was the fateful one which forced Ian Buruma, whose reviews I have admired, to resign as editor.  Normally, editors of the NYRB die in office, so this was a big deal.  The offending piece he published, "Reflections From a Hashtag" by Jian Ghomeshi, is indeed offensive, but also sadly illuminating.  I'll try to explain.

Ghomeshi, it says here, is "a broadcaster, musician, producer and best-selling author" who had a show on CBC Radio from 2007 to 2014, when "I faced criminal charges including...nonconsensual choking while making out with a woman on a date...Several months later, after a very public trial, I was cleared on all counts...There was no criminal trial."  (I'm confused.  Was there a trial or not?)  He was subject to "a peace bond -- a pledge to be on good behavior for a year," which I'm guessing is the Canadian equivalent of probation.  So, assuming he didn't choke anyone for a year, it's all good, right?

Well, no.  The gist of the piece (not that long by NYRB standards) is "How did this injustice occur when I'm such a good guy?"   His CV is enviably full of progressive folk songs he wrote, demonstrations he helped organize, T-shirts he wore, fund-raisers where he spoke.  He interviewed accomplished women like Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and Gloria Steinem.  He has a "female friend" who says he should get credit for being a "#MeToo pioneer" (a little Canadian irony there).  A bit later he confesses to being "emotionally thoughtless" and "demanding on dates and in personal affairs."  He even admits to "deep remorse."

But the overwhelming flavor of Ghomeshi's essay is self-pity.  He's the victim.  He lost his radio job despite being legally exonerated, and legal costs put a dent in his savings.  Well, yes, that's how it works when your job depends on the good will of the public and the financial calculations of your employer.  Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose have not faced criminal charges, but they're gone.  Roseanne didn't break any laws, she merely expressed her racism, and she's gone.  Garrison Keillor, Leslie Moonves, Bill O'Reilly, where are they?  Not whining in the pages of the Review, illustrated by a Munch painting called "Evening, Melancholy I," inviting us all to feel sorry for Ghomeshi.  Did you know he got a hate letter suggesting he go back to Iran, even though he was born in Canada and has never even been there?  Terrible.  Exactly the kind of thing thousands of Iranian-Canadians and Iranian-Americans experience every day, without having enjoyed eight years of well-paid celebrity first, and mostly without assaulting women, either.

The best Ghomeshi can manage is a bewildered "We learn from our mistakes," and it's more than we've had from O'Reilly or Kavanaugh but it's not enough.  The essay opens with an account of a woman who finds him charming until she finds out who he is, but has fun singing karaoke with him anyway.  It ends with a woman he meets on a train who finds him charming because she never learns his name.  See, I'm a nice guy.  I never punched or choked either one of them!  Not enough.

Like Kavanaugh, Ghomeshi doesn't see what he did wrong.  He still thinks those nameless women wanted to be hit and to have their hair pulled during "intimacy."  He wasn't a drunk teenager egged on by his friends, and he still doesn't get it.  "Women," notice, it's always plural because it never happens once.  From Bill Clinton to Bill Cosby, there are always multiple accusers, i.e., multiple victims.  It's not a stress-induced aberration or an alcohol-fueled mistake, it's a goddam hobby.  I'm sorry, can I have my nice life back now?

If I seem to be ignoring the boys and young men abused by celebrities and clergymen and wrestling coaches, I'm sorry.  The fact of their sexual victimization reduced them to the social status of women, objects to be utilized by stronger, older males.  So it's really the same thing:  Let's all quit raping each other.  Just. Stop.  It.

 Jian Ghomeshi gave me some insight into the mindset of Bret Kavanaugh and Donald Trump and all the other pussy-grabbers who still think it's no big deal or a giant conspiracy to deprive them of their entitlements.  I'm sorry it cost Buruma his job, but this was the worst possible moment to publish this De Profundis knockoff.  The letters next week should be illuminating, like a fire.


Monday, September 24, 2018

My book report #1

I'll Be Gone In the Dark, One Woman's Obsessive Search For the Golden State Killer, by Michelle McNamara, HarperCollins, 2016

This might be the saddest true-crime book I have ever read, because the argument can be made that the author was the final victim.  Michelle McNamara was only 46 when she died suddenly in 2016, leaving the case unsolved and this book unfinished.  As far as I know, no official cause of death was determined.  It's probable that she was simply worn out by her obsessive search, too many sleepless nights spent poring over faded evidence, the emotional highs and lows of thinking the case closed and realizing it was not, while coping with the everyday events of raising a daughter, preparing Thanksgiving dinners, and living with a comedian who was chased by his own demons, her husband Patton Oswalt.

A quick visit to Wikipedia will tell you more about this monster than McNamara ever knew:  Joseph James DeAngelo, born 1945, arrested April 2018, two months after the book was published.  Former police officer in Exeter, California, where he was promoted to sergeant.  Known during his crime spree as the Visalia Ransacker, the Original Night Stalker and the East Area Rapist; it was McNamara who named him the Golden State Killer when it became apparent that he (I have to say allegedly) murdered thirteen people and raped more than fifty women and girls all over the state between 1974 and 1986.  Reading this book left the distinct impression that California was teeming with serial killers, rapists, burglars, stalkers and peepers in those years; they must have been bumping into one another in the dark on every new subdivision and tree-lined street.  She was right about one thing:  it was DNA evidence that cornered him.  Apparently a relative innocently sent a saliva sample to one of the commercial ancestry-tracing companies, and it raised a red flag with CODIS (the Combined DNA Index System).  It also raised some scary Fourth Amendment issues, which the book brushes off but which will no doubt be aired by DeAngelo's lawyers if he ever has a trial.

Completed by Paul Haynes and Billy Jensen from McNamara's notes, the book necessarily feels like a rough draft, with a few sentences that don't quite make sense.  An index would be helpful.  I'm sure a future edition will bring the story to a more or less satisfactory ending, but damn it, I wish Michelle McNamara were here to write it.  She deserves to be.


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Vote early and often

People are voting already.

A chain of sandwich shops called Taylor Gourmet will close its stores in the District of Columbia and Chicago this weekend and file Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  They were doing fine until the CEO, Casey Patten, was spotted at a small business roundtable at the White House in January 2017.  (This is a happening where lucky people get to sit around a table and tell the Pretendident he's the greatest thing since the development of agriculture, and maybe even more awesome.)  Business was off by 40% the next day, and it never recovered.  Condolences to the soon-to-be unemployed.  Of course, it could be that customers suddenly realized a hoagie ain't nothin' but a hero.

Speaking of heroes, Nike's stock price is up by 36% and analysts are calling Colin Kaepernick the company's Six Billion Dollar Man.  He's expected to be worth that much to them.  Lefties continue to wrestle with the irony of supporting a corporation with exploitative labor practices because they talk the talk at home.  Such is the nature of capitalism.

They can gerrymander, purge the voter rolls, limit early voting and demand all kinds of identification, they can let the Russian hackers run amok in the databases, but as cummings's olof said, "there is some s. I will not eat."

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Comfort ye

"All the people at the controls are opportunists or gangsters...There  doesn't even seem to be a normal intelligence at work in the affairs of the nation.  Aren't you frightened by it?!"

That's from a letter Tennessee Williams wrote to his publisher, James Laughlin, in 1947, when both America and Williams are considered to have been at their confident best (we were the only country with nuclear weapons and unchallenged economic power, and he had just written A Streetcar Named Desire).  It's always the worst time to be alive.

Be not afraid, and hang on.  Here endeth the lesson.

Friday, September 14, 2018

World elsewhere update

You might not know it from the teevee news -- I don't think there's anybody left in the Outer Banks but anchors and journalists -- but the world goes on.

Set your irony detector on stun:  North Koreans are the most notoriously underfed people on earth in a country not (technically) at war.  But in South Korea, some young men are stuffing themselves with pizza and burgers in an attempt to fail their physicals.  Everyone is supposed to do nearly two years of military service, with exemptions only for winners of classical music competitions and medalists in the Asian Games and Olympics -- no bullshit about "bone spurs" or ass boils.  Now I understand the intensity of all those gymnasts and volleyball players.  I'll have to pay more attention to classical music competitions.

Pope Francis met for an hour with some of his bishops to discuss the ever-growing child abuse scandal (now including Germany and dating back to the end of the war).  No word on when he plans to meet with the victims; he may need more than an hour, and a larger venue than St. Peter's.  Trouble is, the Catholic Church has never made up its mind who the victims are -- the traumatized people pursuing lawsuits and cooperating with prosecutors, or the Church itself, surrounded by scandal-mongers and heretics.  So far, all the former have had from the Keeper of the Keys is the Roman equivalent of thoughts and prayers.

Friday quiz:  Which of these applies to Donald J. Trump?

   1.  Lied about donating $10,000 to the Twin Towers Fund*, a charity for the children of victims of the 9/11 attacks

   2.  Collected $150,000 from the Empire State Development Corporation fund to assist small businesses affected by the attacks, because he allowed rescue workers to use 40 Wall Street (undamaged)

   3.  Claimed he lost "hundreds of friends" in the towers but never attended one memorial service

   4.  Claimed he saw "thousands of Muslims" celebrating the attacks in the streets of New Jersey

   5.   Boasted that he now owned the tallest building in lower Manhattan

   6.   Did not attend the annual memorial service in New York until 2016

   7.   Arrived in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, last Tuesday pumping his arms like a victorious wrestler, to read a speech in which he interpolated the phrase "radical Muslim terrorists"

All of them, Katie!

*Full disclosure:  I donated $50 to the fund.  When I learned that Giuliani had put his wife Judith in charge, and that she was to be paid $500,000 a year, I requested a refund.  I never got it.  Not only do grifters gotta grift, they look out for each other.


I have lived in apartments for a significant portion of my life, and for a significant portion of my life I have been driven bonkers by The People Upstairs.  There was the woman who slammed down the toilet lid every time she flushed, and the family that let their four-year-old run around the rugless floor like a puppy on crack, and Six A.M. Exercise Man, and don't get me started about the music.  So I completely get the impulse to go up there and kill somebody.  I never did, because I knew that a. It's wrong, and b. I wouldn't get away with it.

It remains to be seen whether Officer Amber Guyger of the Dallas Police Department will get away with killing her upstairs neighbor, Botham Jean.  (Let's get this out of the way -- she's white and he was black.)  Her story is that she parked her car on the wrong level of the apartment complex, proceeded to the wrong apartment, found the door ajar, walked into a completely dark apartment, saw a large silhouette in an interior doorway, shouted some official police-type commands, and then put two rounds in the torso of what she assumed was a burglar/rapist/who the hell knows.  Anyway, she feared for her life.

The complex manager's story is that he got noise complaints from Mr. Jean's downstairs neighbor, which would be Officer Guyger.  The story of two witnesses is that they heard a woman pounding on Mr. Jean's door and shouting, "Let me in!"  shortly before the gunshots.  So that's a manager and two residents with nothing to gain by lying versus a white cop with two bullets missing from her service weapon.  Sounds pretty conclusive --

No!  Hold on!  The local Fox station reports that marijuana was discovered during a search of the dead black man's home.   Crazed on drugs, who knows what he might have done?  He didn't have a gun, but neither did scary Michael Brown in Ferguson.  Manslaughter?  Maybe they'll throw her a parade.

Eating Cereal In Your Own Apartment While Black.  Botham Jean joins the never-ending list of fatalities that probably began when a kidnapped African made a run for it on the Charleston docks in the seventeenth century.  The next time someone says Black Lives Matter is demanding white genocide, the next time some racist calls Colin Kaepernick a "son of a bitch," think of the many thousand gone.  Gone and still going.    

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Finished your BLT?

North Carolina is home to many industrial hog farms, which produce lagoons of this stuff.  They will soon be inundated by Hurricane Florence, overflow, and contaminate everything for miles around.  In addition to weeks without electricity and other modern conveniences, people will not be able to use their water.  Isn't science swell?

Well, there not so much.  In North Carolina, it's actually a crime to invoke "global climate change" in planning for things like coastal erosion.  Yes, according to the state legislature, that solves the problem.  Duke Energy and its coal ash pits?  Don't give it a thought -- the lawmakers don't.  All the arsenic, lead and mercury left over when they burn beautiful clean coal to keep the lights on, perfectly fine in the environment.  This is a state run by Republicans.  I prefer pig feces and urine.

Maybe the magic spell cast by Pat Robertson will avert disaster.  Maybe FEMA will do a better job than it managed in Puerto Rico, which, I understand, is an island.  (Apparently you can't drive trucks to an island.  Why didn't Obama ever tell us that?  Unstable not-genius.)  After all, the administrator, Brock Long, lives in Hickory; he has himself driven home frequently, in government vehicles and at our expense, which has attracted the attention of the inspector general of the DHS.  On the Trumpite Grift Scale, this is barely a bump, unless he stops on the way to party with hookers and cocaine.  Besides, nobody who died in Puerto Rico really died except maybe from old age, crisis actors, fake news, a plot by Democrats to divert money to the island.  Speaking of diverting money, guess who chose the height of hurricane season to divert ten million dollars from FEMA to the ICEstapo?  No, not crooked Hillary.  Guess again.

Saturday, September 08, 2018


I could almost feel sorry for Donald Trump if he were not such a loathsome piece of shit.

Michael Wolff and Omarosa are journalistic lightweights, but when Watergate Woodward comes at you with one of his cannonball-size books, it's time to move into the bunker.  Three days before it's published -- excuse me, released -- Fear is already atop the Amazon list of best-selling books, and quotations from people like John Kelly ("This is Crazy Town...this is the worst job I've ever had") have passed into popular lore.  With sentiments like that from the White House Chief of Staff, albeit one who is regularly shut out of important meetings, it was only a matter of time before the anonymous "Resistance" essay found its way to the New York Times.  It has become routine to refer to the as-yet-unnamed author as "Anonymous," which is particularly cruel for Trump, who cannot pronounce it.  This has not stopped him from raging against it, demanding that the Times be "investigated" and the author "turned over" to his justice (the same way he was ready to turn over former Ambassador McFaul to Putin's interrogators, I imagine).  One tweet said merely, "TREASON?" which is not a word you want to invoke when Robert Mueller is working his way through your associates and, to employ a Watergate-ism, following the money.

Et tu, Nike?  The sporting goods giant chose this of all weeks to unveil its new ad campaign starring Trump's favorite "son of a bitch," Colin Kaepernick.  And here's the difference between Wall Street and Main Street:  While Nike stock closed lower yesterday, the digital commerce research company Edison Trends reports a 31% increase in Nike sales over the Labor Day weekend.  They're calling it the "Trump bump."  Of course, that could have been fueled by die-hard Trump supporters buying high-price shoes and tennis rackets so they can burn them.  They don't quite get how this whole boycott deal works.

In a clear case of piling on (football reference, see what I did?), even Miss America contestants are getting in their licks.  Miss West Virginia Madeline Collins, questioned about current events in lieu of the old swimsuit competition, said, "Donald Trump is the biggest issue our country faces.  Unfortunately, he has caused a lot of division."  Miss West Virginia!  Doesn't she know what he has done for her state and its beautiful, clean coal?  I can't wait to hear from Miss California.  (Is there a Miss Puerto Rico?)

Yesterday came the biggest blow of all.  Trump was in Montana to support the Republican challenger to Senator Jon Tester, allegedly, but really to salve his aching ego with one of the lock-her-up hate rallies he does best.  There is some evidence that "supporters" were recruited locally by offering a cash payment -- allegedly! -- and even that failed.  One young man strategically located behind the Leader made so many unimpressed faces during the "speech" that it was thought prudent to remove and replace him, while a woman nearby was caught on camera wiping her nose with an American flag.  This is known in politics as "bad optics."  The oration was a typical brew-up of fear-mongering (Tester wants to take your Social Security away and raise your taxes!), empty boasting (the employment numbers are rather good but no competent economist thinks lunatic tariffs and the destruction of NAFTA had anything to do with them) and a long, weird comparison of Himself with Abraham Lincoln.  Not the Lincoln who wanted to re-locate former slaves to South America or the Lincoln who suspended habeas corpus, you understand, but the incomparable Lincoln of the Gettysburg Address.  Somebody told Trump that everybody hated the speech but now it's admired, and so will his word-salads be in fifty or a hundred years, and besides, how can be talk without notes for over an hour if he's as mentally strip-mined as everybody says?  How indeed?   For about an hour, I couldn't talk at all.  Trumpiosis makes me lapse into a twilight sleep during which I could probably undergo root canal.

I snapped out of it when Lincoln was mentioned again, this time as a founder of the Republican Party.  I sat up and put on my glasses and sure enough, it was him -- Barack Obama, in Urbana to accept an award from the University of Illinois.  He's back.  God, is he back.  Just in time, the DCCC came to its senses and decided he should campaign for Congressional candidates after all.  (Remember how they didn't want Bill Clinton to campaign for Al Gore in 2000?  That went well.)  Obama sounded confident, energized, and more than a little angry, asking at one point, "How hard is it to say Nazis are bad?"  And many other things that wouldn't need saying if we weren't all stuck inside Crazy Town.  Today he was in California speaking on behalf of Congressional candidates by  actually telling the crowd something about them, which wouldn't occur to the Narcissist-in-Chief.  Complete sentences!  I miss them.  We live in interesting times, and the next two months should be especially interesting.

Do you suppose Trump even knows what state Gettysburg is in?


Thursday, September 06, 2018

Thursday chemtrails

Welcome to another edition of Cleaning the Crap Off My Desk.

To paraphrase Kenneth Mars in Young Frankenstein, "A Constitutional crisis is an ugly thing...and I think it's time we had one."  The anonymous resister who wrote the infamous Times op-ed says he and his co-conspirators considered triggering the Twenty-fifth Amendment but didn't want to set off a political earthquake.  That's the whole point of the democratic system they claim to be preserving -- it has a process.  Twenty-five is the process.  Stealing papers off the president's* desk while he's in the bathroom (twenty Diet Cokes a day!) is not a Constitutional remedy, it's a Saturday Night Live sketch.  And now he knows what you're doing.

It's a day that ends in "y" and that means it's time for Calling the Cops on Black People.  We go to Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, where eighteen-year-old Akil Carter was removed from a car and briefly handcuffed until one of the two (white) women in the car identified him to police as her grandson.  As a point of interest, two black people assumed he was robbing the women and called the po-po.  So that's different.

Ted Cruz was giving a campaign speech somewhere in Texas, and when he mentioned his opponent, Robert "Beto" O'Rourke, someone yelled, "Send him back to Ireland!"  Cruz, who was born in Canada and whose father was born in Cuba, paused and acknowledged the witticism with what he considers a laugh.  Savoring the irony, Ted?  Can irony live in the Texas climate?

Trump now claims he considered making Robert Mueller director of the FBI but decided against it because Mueller is the BFF of James Comey.  (Not true, according to those who know them.)  Of course, that wasn't enough for He Who Doesn't Know When To Shut Up, who continued, "I could show you one hundred pictures of him and Comey hugging and kissing each other."  No such pictures exist, but the glimpse into Trump's psychological state these days is...chilling?  Hilarious?  Let's go with creepy.

Roy Moore -- "Uncle Roy" in the nightmares of too many Alabama women -- is suing Sacha Baron Cohen, Showtime and its parent company CBS for $95 million, claiming defamation, fraud and "emotional distress."  Baron Cohen, whose modus operandi is all too familiar by now, pretended to be an Israeli government official with an award for Moore and then deployed a "pedophile detector" which beeped when in his proximity.  I don't find Baron Cohen funny (he has hoaxed many others including Howard Dean), but the best way to promote his career is hopeless lawsuits like this one.  Moore was crying poverty not long ago despite a generous pension from the state of Alabama, and soliciting contributions to cover his legal expenses.  This is making my "desperation detector" beep.

Marco Rubio and Alex Jones got into a slap-fight in a hallway at the Capitol yesterday.  Don't know what that's all about but, you know, "Go it, Alex!  Go it, Marco!"

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee may not be able to prevent Koathanger Kavanaugh (no, but I wish I had) from becoming a stain on the Supreme Court, but they're having a swell time trying.  Yesterday Kamala Harris (and to a lesser extent Pat Leahy) questioned him like a particularly shifty defendant on Law & Order:  Your Vanishing Rights, and today Cory Booker released two documents His Honor had already lied about (and which the Republicans had classified) and triple-dog dared John Cornyn to kick him out of the Senate or take away his bathroom key or whatever their weird-ass Rules require.

My favorite tidbit from Bob Woodward's book (so far):  Trump apparently ordered "the military" to kill every important member of the Syrian government, but the order was quietly countermanded by James Mattis.  I'd say Bashir al-Assad owes him a beer.

If you've been calling the New York Times with a question about today's crossword and couldn't get through, it might be because Sarah Sanders posted their number and invited her Twitter followers to call and demand the identity of the "gutless coward" who wrote yesterday's op-ed.  I immediately thought the same thing -- wait, Sanders has Twitter followers?  Since she employed the phrase "failing New York Times," she may not be the actual author of this tweet.  It's what we old English majors learned to call a kenning -- a ready-made phrase from the time of oral epic poetry, something a bard could employ to save time and effort, like Homer's "wine-dark sea" and the Beowulf author calling the ocean a "whale-road."  And who relies on kennings like "failing New York Times" and "Crooked Hillary" and "Little Rocket Man" (until Kim Jong-un made the list of Most Favored Tyrants)?  Not Sanders, who has a lot of faults but never proclaimed herself "the Hemingway of 140 characters."

I knew that English degree would come in useful one day.  This is the day.    

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Least resistance

"I am part of the resistance inside the Trump Administration," begins the anonymous op-ed in the New York Times.  The self-described "senior official" delivers a condemnation of Trump that must have surprised exactly nobody who has paid attention to him for more than three minutes -- "amorality," really?  You just picked up on that?  But Senior Official wants to make it clear, with sneering quotation marks, that he is not of "the popular 'resistance' of the left" by praising all the wonderful tax cuts for the rich and the not much else accomplished by Dear Leader (no mention here of caged children, the flop North Korean summit, subservience to Putin -- need I go on?).  The game of Who Wrote It? has gone on all day, but it's obvious that Steve Bannon is not the only Trumpite who likes to suck his own cock (as Anthony Scaramucci so elegantly put it).  Anonymous just loves himself for saving America from the monster who employs him while neither quitting nor signing his name.  A coward after Cadet Bonespurs's own heart.

Soon after dinner I finally remembered where I read such an exercise:  "The Schmeed Memoirs" by Woody Allen, the reminiscences of the Third Reich's leading barber.  "Toward the end," he writes, "I thought of loosening the Fuhrer's neck-napkin and letting a few hairs go down his back, but my nerve failed me."  Read the whole piece.  It's a parody of the self-serving memoirs of Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments and exploiter of who knows how many thousands of slave laborers, who got off with twenty years by acting all contrite at Nuremberg.  No doubt Speer fancied himself a resister, though one who managed to avoid both Stauffenberg's sacrifice and Goring's fate.  Vicious regimes never lack weasels.

And shame on The New York Times for making me agree with Trump:  If anonymity was the price of this "scoop," it was too high.  And now I have to shower.