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.    

Monday, January 28, 2019

This happened

Less than forty-eight hours after he was outsmarted and gutted by Nancy Pelosi, Trump tweeted that  Howard Schultz isn't tough enough or intelligent enough to be president.

In the midst of a hugely entertaining feud with Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter wrote, "At least I don't have to kiss [Trump's] ass."  Her resort to crude language was criticized by no one, least of all a bunch called Americans for Legal Immigration, who think she should run for president.

In other feud news, Jerome "Birther" Corsi says he would testify against Roger Stone.  A fantasist testifying against a liar would pose a challenge for any jury.

Alabama state auditor and fashion arbiter Jim Ziegler criticized Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) for wearing boots with a dress on the Senate floor.

The House Intelligence Committee can't question Michael Cohen or anybody else because it doesn't have a quorum; Minority Leader Kevin "Steve" McCarthy hasn't gotten around to appointing the necessary Republican members.  Busy, busy, busy.

Tom Brokaw appeared on Meet the Press, which is still on the air for some unfathomable reason, and suggested that Hispanics need to "work harder at assimilation."  Then he went home to yell at clouds.

Trump tweeted praise for state legislators who have introduced "Bible literacy" bills in a transparent attempt to slip religious indoctrination back into public schools.  In other words, the evangelicals are sticking with him like the band on the Titanic.

Venezuela appears to be headed for civil war or a coup or both.  Elliot Abrams has been dispatched to egg them on.  Venezuela has, of course, an astonishing amount of oil.  About a million Venezuelans have crossed into Colombia to buy food, pharmaceuticals and other goods, because there is no WALL.

In many places it's really cold.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Harmonic convergence

"Trump did get his wall, and her name is Nancy Pelosi."  El Jefe at Juanita Jean's, The World's Most Dangerous Beauty Salon.

Friday timeline:

Roger Stone arrested, escorted to court in Palm Beach to be arraigned for witness intimidation, six other charges.

FAA shuts down LaGuardia Airport due to shortage of air traffic controllers, causing disruptions at other US and Canadian airports.

Trump makes reporters wait in Rose Garden (in January, when there's a perfectly good press room going unused), then delivers long, rambling statement accepting deal to re-open government.  For three weeks.  With no money for WALL.

I've been waiting all day for the promised announcement, going back and forth from MSNBC to A Face In the Crowd, about a much more attractive, power-hungry populist.  (If Trump had a few baton twirlers like Lee Remick…)  Anyway, it seems we can all take a deep breath, especially the involuntary volunteers who have been keeping the lights on for a month and then heading to food banks and their new careers as Uber drivers to survive.  We applaud you, and we apologize for making you listen to the likes of Lara (Mrs. Eric) Trump and Wilbur (Secretary Clueless) Ross struggling with unfamiliar concepts like "mortgage payment," "utility bill" and "hunger."

In victory, magnanimity.  The Speaker and The Leader (who's your daddy, Mitch?) have graciously acknowledged their first big win and expressed a hope that Trump has "learned his lesson."  If so, it's the first thing he's learned since "don't rent to the coloreds" (Fred Trump, c. 1954).  Anyway, Donzo can head for the golf course while his friends safely land their private jets in Atlanta for the big game between New England and whoever provides the token opposition this year.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

You read it here

I think I know what they're doing.

See, Robert Mueller is nothing if not meticulous.  He knows he needs an airtight, waterproof case to bring down the Big Criminal.  So Trump and Giuliani (who couldn't possibly be as stupid as he acts) have a plan:  Trump will keep committing fresh crimes and Mueller will never be able to write his final report.

This week it's witness intimidation -- threatening Michael Cohen's father-in-law with being some sort of Ukrainian mafioso, causing Cohen to back out of his scheduled appearance before the House.

Next week, who knows?  Fabricating some kind of Gulf of Tonkin episode to involve the US in Venezuela's civil war?  Busting Paul Manafort out of jail?  The long-promised slaughter on Fifth Avenue?  When Fox "News" announced the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg I got a queasy feeling.

It ain't over till it's over.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Every day is Hump Day

And so:

Sen. Joni Ernst, who popularized bread bags as footwear in her Senate campaign, is divorcing her husband on the unique ground that he kept her from becoming Vice-President.  She is clearly the most entertaining of Iowa's many worthless politicians.

Congratulations to Juan Guaido, president of the Venezuela National Assembly. Trump says you are now president of the whole country.  Buena suerte!

Unsave the date:  February 7, when Michael Cohen will not testify to Congress.  He says Trump and Giuliani have threatened his family and he needs to find a place to hide them.  Apparently Trump suggested that somebody "investigate" Cohen's father-in-law.  My advice:  Don't panic.  How long has he been threatening Hillary Clinton?  Rudolph, on the other hand, probably knows people who could disappear them real good.

IRS employees ordered to work without pay have been calling in sick, and required to bring a doctor's note.  I predict an epidemic of BONE SPURS.

Kamala Harris announced on Monday that she is running for president.  The first "birther" attack occurred less that twenty-four hours later, a new record.  She was born in California but her parents weren't.  How scary is she?  She has already raised more than two million dollars.

I have no idea who Cardi B is, nor do I know what it means to "dog walk" someone.  But whatever she wants to do to NRA spokesmodel Tomi Lahren is fine with me.

Trump's penchant for projection collided with his psychopathia sexualis in his latest rant about the cancelled SOTU:  Chuck Schumer "sadly is dominated by the radical left and he's dominated by Nancy Pelosi.  Very strongly dominated.  He can't move.  He's a puppet.  A puppet for Nancy Pelosi if you can believe that."  Oh, yes, she's got him tied up so tight, tape on his mouth, tape on his hands, oh, so much tape, domination, puppet, more ice cream, more ice cream...mmmmm……  It would be funny if he were still perving on teenage pageant contestants and hanging out with wrestlers.

Trump says Huckabee Sanders doesn't have to hold press briefings any more because they'll just report what she says and compare it with the facts.  This gives her more time to shop the Lane-Bryant catalogue and complain on Twitter about the media's shocking abuse of those lovely Covington boys.  Also plenty of time to go to the bank, because she still gets a paycheck.

Sebastian Gorka has outed Jim Acosta, the CNN reporter briefly exiled from the White House.  Hold onto your MAGA hat:  His real name is Abilio!  James is his middle name!  How can you believe anything he says?  Earlier we were just as shocked to learn that in high school, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was known as "Sandy," like about three million other people named Alexander, Alexandra, Alexandria, and whatever other variation you can find.  I think it's a conspiracy to mislead America and conceal the size of the Hispanic horde pouring in through the unfortified border.  Or in the case of the Acostas, the unfortified coast of Florida.  Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) is on it, though -- during a debate about WALL he yelled "Go back to Puerto Rico!" at Rep. Tony Cardenas, who is actually from California.   But, you know, close enough.

The FBI isn't getting paid, and the union that represents agents points out that subpoenas are not being served in cases of financial crime.  Curfew shall not ring tonight for the Kushner family!  Also hamstrung by the WALL tantrum are the crime lab and investigations of terrorists, like the four very fine people who were preparing to attack a Muslim community in New York.  In other words, it's working.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Retraction! Retraction!

It looks like we were wrong again.  Blame the Lying Media, including the Lying Twitter.  Those fine young men from Covington Catholic were the victims.

They came all the way from Kentucky with chaperones to lend their support to the Anti-Choice March organized by several groups of professional misogynists, filled with hope that Brett the Boofer will finally free America from Roe v. Wade and return abortion to the kitchen tables and defrocked doctors.  As you may have heard, thousands of government workers are enjoying unpaid vacations, so it's unpoliced chaos on the Mall.  The He-Man Woman-Haters found themselves sharing space with the Indigenous People's March and a tiny group known as the Black Hebrew Israelites, who are taken seriously by nobody but themselves.  Chaperones or no, this convergence spiraled out of control.  The BHI, occupying the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, began yelling incoherent insults at everybody, which is their thing.  Covington (Go Colonels!) responded with a "school spirit chant" which required one of them to get shirtless and all of them to imitate a Maori dance.  Nathan Phillips, an elder of the Omaha Nation, thought this might lead to violence, so he inserted himself between the Israelites and the Catholics and began to play his drum and chant.  Naturally, the boys found this hilarious and responded with shouts of "Build the wall!" and tomahawk chops of the kind familiar from Atlanta Braves games.  Maori dance, MAGA hats, and a demand to wall a Native America out of his own country -- it's a rich tapestry of stupid.

Everybody is Abraham Zapruder these days, so phone-video from all angles soon reached the social media.  Naturally the leftists were appalled, because they were blinded by their hatred of white people; they couldn't see that Mr. Phillips, and to some degree the Israelites, were the instigators.  A few of them made it worse by posting video of some earlier sons of Covington attending a basketball game in blackface and taunting a black player for the other team.  (Unfair!  Maybe it was Al Jolson Appreciation Day.)  They raised such a ruckus that the principal had to promise some vague, unspecified action.

Well.  From David Brooks to Dr. Laura, the Rightzi cavalry came to the rescue.  The chief smirker, Nick Sandmann, was invited to give his side on the Today Show.  The right blogosphere went to work -- maybe Phillips isn't a veteran.  Maybe he isn't even a real Indian, like that Iron Eyes Cody guy.  Why does the media hate the Catholic Church?  The public relations firm of RunSwitch, which represents Covington Catholic as well as the Republican Party -- quite a day for coincidences -- fired up the phones, and before you could say  "Tiki torch" all the proud boys were invited to the White House to get their MAGA hats signed and enjoy a meal of week-old hamberders. (If the government's still closed they're to knock three times and say "Rush sent me.")  I understand the deal was closed when a woman named Amee Vanderpool tweeted that a Covington had yelled, "It's not rape if you enjoy it!" which Stephen Miller should really work into Trump's next speech.

So justice for the victims at last, before they graduate and head for the Ivy League and their golden futures.  Apologies.  Next time I'll be sure to listen to Both Sides instead of relying on the evidence of my eyes, ears and brain.  Especially my brain, which is so tired.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Life imitates Python

Back in 1974 these people won the Most Awful Family in Britain competition.  Their domestic behavior, as documented by Monty Python's Flying Circus, was mild compared to the unnamed "family" of twelve to fifteen people (no one is sure) who spent their holidays in New Zealand, where they shoplifted, ran out on restaurant bills, trashed a hotel room and eventually got deported.

"Pray that there's intelligent life somewhere out in space, 'cause there's bugger-all down here on earth."

Super blood wolf moon

This is a national holiday, so in no particular order:

Let Me Grovel, the Chris Christie memoir eagerly awaited by no one, invades the bookstores this week.  Excerpts suggest that it's more like a book-shaped application for one of the many vacant jobs in Trump's regime.  To hear Governor Bridge-closure tell it, Trump is one of America's great men surrounded by "amateurs, grifters, weaklings, convicted and unconvicted felons," all of them his hires but none of them his fault.  Trump himself is "utterly fearless" and "a great communicator,"  morally neutral encomia which could describe anyone from Winston Churchill to Adolf Hitler.  And although Trump once insisted on ordering Christie's dinner for him -- lamb, which he dislikes, and scallops, to which he is seriously allergic -- that's just his impish sense of humor.  Like Lucy with the football, Trump kept dangling jobs in front of Christie and then yanking them away -- laugh, it's funny!  Trump gave him good advice, too -- wear ridiculously long ties, they're very slimming.  Apparently not a joke.   There, no need to read the "book" unless you enjoy verbal abuse of Jared Kushner, and I can do that myself.

Trump and Pence drove out to Arlington this morning, dropped a wreath in front of the King monument, and scuttled back to the White House before Rush and Ann noticed they were gone (they have one of those nanny-cams in the Oval Office).  A reporter who has to follow them around says the whole business took less than three minutes.  Because there are "very fine people" on both sides, so why antagonize the white supremacists?

Thousands of government workers have been ordered back to their jobs but will not be paid in the foreseeable future.  Making people work for no pay is the basic definition of slavery, which was outlawed (mostly) by the Thirteenth Amendment.  I know Trump thinks he can amend the Constitution by scribbling on a McDonalds napkin, but that's because he gets terrible advice from terrible lawyers.  Worse than the flagrant illegality, of course, is the spreading misery.  I have a lot of problems with Bill Maher, but he articulated what has so far been only tacitly understood -- government employees, the quintessence of the middle class, are in desperate straits because most of them have no financial cushion in the form of savings or assets they can borrow against.  They are the proverbial one paycheck away from disaster.  This is wrong, and most people can't remember a time when it was any different.  The rest of the vanishing middle class is in the same boat, liable at any time to be scuppered by serious illness, natural catastrophe or loss of job.  We hear a lot about Ogden, Utah, a sizeable town where the biggest employer is the IRS, whose shops and restaurants are empty because of "shutdown," which inevitably will lead to layoffs, bankruptcies, businesses not paying  bills, and so on down the food-chain.  And what is freshman Senator Romney* doing for his new constituents?  Howling along with the "WALL!" chorus.  Should I be saddened, enraged, or just carry on with cynical?  After all, they elected Mittens.

If MLK were alive, he would be ninety -- awesome but hardly impossible.  He would have lived through many historic changes, and he would find some things depressingly the same.  Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer who riddled Laquan McDonald with bullets and lied about the circumstances (aided and abetted by other CPD), was sentenced to six years in prison -- considerably less time, as some have pointed out, than Rod Blagojevich got for talking about selling a Senate seat.  His former colleagues were sentenced to nothing at all, because cops are expected to stand up for one another (or as my grandmother used to say, "One lies and the other swears to it").   King would not have been surprised.  He would have recognized the smirking, taunting kids who mobbed a Native American veteran, Nathan Phillips, in front of the Lincoln Memorial Saturday -- he saw them spitting and cursing at lunch-counters in North Carolina and at Central High School in Little Rock, only without the MAGA hats.  He would have been enraged at the likes of Mike Pence using him to blame the government paralysis on Democrats' refusal to "come to the table in a spirit of good faith," i.e., "GIVE ME WALL OR I DEPORT DREAMERS!"  He would have referred Pence and his master to the speech he made in 1964 denouncing the wall in Berlin, and then he would have called them straight-up racists for trying to wall out refugees and for taking away their children.  Oh, it would have been a birthday to remember.  And then King would link arms with William Barber and John Lewis and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Kamala Harris and Rashida Tlaib and Stacey Abrams and Maxine Waters and all of them would lead a memorable march.

*In fairness to Sen. Romney, he may have forgotten which state he now represents.  It's easy to lose track when you move around a lot.  If he were a Democrat the media might well call him a "carpetbagger."  


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunday, Sunday

(Dear God, please make people respect me like they did in 2001.)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Trump on a stump

The stump speech is a fixture of politics, the same words repeated at every stop by barnstorming office-seekers who haven't the time or the energy to craft one for every audience.  When Robert Kennedy ran for president in 1968, so the story goes, he joked about it.  He used to end his speech with a slight mis-quotation of a line in Back To Methuselah:  "You see things and say 'Why?'  I dream things that never were, and I say 'Why not?'"  When the weary reporters heard this coming, they would gather their belongings and prepare to leave.  At a rally in East Someplace, in a steady rain, Kennedy neared his climax:  "As George Bernard Shaw once for the buses."

Trump has been raising funds and running for re-election ever since his incredible, unparalleled Electoral College victory over two years ago, and his stump speech is so predictable that it resembles a Greatest Hits album:  No collusion, Crooked Hillary, "many people have told me," witch hunt, world's greatest expert on _____, lying media, Obama's mess, glorious economy, no collusion.  As an encore, he usually gives them Build WALL To Save America From Murderous Hordes/Terrorists.  Now, at every occasion (like a speech to agribusiness), the encore has become the whole show.  And frankly, it's creepy.

It's creepy because it bubbles up from the deep well of psychosexual disorder that has often been glimpsed, though never in this much lurid detail.  I think he's talking about coyotes, people who charge the desperate a lot of money to bring them into the United States:

"They come in through our southern border, into our country.  And they'll have women taped -- their mouths with duct tape, with electrical tape.  They tape their face, their hair, their hands behind their back, their legs..."  It sounds like Stormy Daniels got off easy, just having to spank him with a magazine and endure some boring vanilla sex.  And every time he brings it up, there's more tape involved.

Do I exaggerate?  I don't think so, because we've had other looks at his twisted mind, what's left of it.  Remember "I could show you one hundred pictures of [Mueller and Comey] hugging and kissing each other"?  Remember "[Kim Jong-un] wrote me beautiful letters...we fell in love"?  Remember the many stomach-turning descriptions of Ivanka's body?

Yesterday Nancy Pelosi showed why she's Speaker of the House and you aren't, Rep. Fudge.  She brought the lightning.  She "suggested" that Trump postpone his State of the Union speech until he finds the nerve to stand up to Rush Limbaugh and sign the continuing resolution and quit dicking over thousands of government workers and millions of others.  For security reasons -- the Secret Service agents charged with getting between his bloated body and a bullet aren't getting paid either.  The dotard was too enraged to tweet.  There was only ominous silence.

For SOTU is our State Opening of Parliament without the horse-drawn carriage and the fancy dress.  (Sensing this, Jefferson initiated the custom of sending a written message to be read out by a clerk, a custom which prevailed until the time of Woodrow Wilson.)  SOTU is on every network, soberly analyzed by capital-J Journalists, with Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather wheeled in from the Old Anchors' Home.  It's when someone gamely says, "Tonight Trump became presidential," meaning he read some words off a screen, stumbled and slurred only a few times, and didn't shit his pants.  He walked all the way down the aisle while some members applauded, he shook hands with a lucky few, he grinned and waved and introduced some widow or grieving mother in the gallery (Parkland and Sandy Hook parents need not apply), and he gave up a whole night of Fox News and Filet-o-Fish sandwiches, what a leader.  And even though nobody is wearing a "Grab My Pussy" shirt or yelling "Lock her up!" dear God he loves it so.

Disinvited?  You're disinvited!  About an hour before scheduled departure, Pelosi got a letter from the White House, with random words disturbingly capitalized, suggesting that she cancel a trip to Afghanistan or "fly commercial."  Hah!  That'll show her.  Also, now they know she's coming.  Very good.  Donnie didn't get a chance to regale the Congress in person with his bondage fantasies, so Nasty Pelosi (I anticipate a future tweet) doesn't get military security when she visits the troops.  Who's the big dog now?  Who pees higher on the tree, bitch?

I was looking forward to the response from Rashida Tlaib.  Maybe next year.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Double helix

To demonstrate its unalterable opposition to racism -- I'm kidding, of course -- the House Republican leadership has relieved Steve King (NSDAP-IA) of all his committee assignments.  This will give him more free time to spend caucusing with European nationalists, since Mike Pompeo can't be everywhere.  They also passed a resolution of disapproval, which is not even censure, much less expulsion, so just stop complaining and enjoy the shutdown caused solely by King's co-racist in the Very White House.  So far, the House Republicans have shown no inclination to do anything about him.  Only two things of cultural importance ever occurred in Iowa -- Bix Beiderbecke was born there (Davenport) and Cary Grant died there (also Davenport).  (Yeah, Meredith Willson, one-show wonder.)  It still has Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, so the hell with it.

In other distancing-itself-from-racism news, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory announced that it is revoking all honors and privileges of ninety-year-old James Watson.  Back in 1962 he shared a Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA, but now he says Africans are inherently less intelligent than Europeans and much as he wishes the races were equal, "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true."  He says this out loud, as old folks tend to do.  I don't know how much time he actually spends at the lab, but now he can spend it being interviewed by Tucker Carlson and complaining about the loss of his right to free speech.  Come to think of it, Bill Maher is back this week; it's right up his street.

If you watch the electric network "news," which I do out of habit, you must be amazed at the coverage of Jayme Closs, the teenager who escaped from her kidnapper last week.  I'm glad she's alive and free and reasonably well, but is this really as momentous a story as the amount of airtime suggests?  NBC has already aired a one-hour prime time documentary in addition to five minutes on every broadcast.  At this point, they're interviewing people who know people who know her.  Good news is rare and welcome, but it's not the only feel-good story.  I'd love to see something about another teenager, Rafah al-Qunun, who fled her parents and an arranged marriage in Kuwait.  Saudi Arabia revoked her passport and ordered her home to the land of bone-saw justice; Thailand, where she was holed up in a Bangkok hotel, tried to deport her for having no passport or plane ticket.  After being refused entry to Australia, she has found asylum in Canada.  Two brave young women, two happy endings...maybe just a consequence of cost-cutting at the networks and the closure of their international bureaus.  Or maybe one of them doesn't reflect well on the US and its Saudi ally.

The temper-tantrum paralysis of the federal government stretches into its fourth week, but that didn't keep Trump from welcoming the Clemson Tigers football team to the White House for a banquet of junk food.  These are fit young men, so the occasional lunch of cheeseburgers, pizza and KFC won't do them any harm; if they're tempted to pig out on a regular basis, they should be deterred by getting a close look at their bloated host in his grotesque orange make-up.  Of course, the lack of regular staff is entirely the fault of those Democrats who refuse to capitulate negotiate over WALL, but I'm sure the players didn't mind disposing of their own Styrofoam and plastic trash.  Did you know Trump hasn't left the White House in a month?  He said so. This raises the disturbing possibility that there are two of him, because one of them was seen in Texas as recently as Thursday.  Many a dictator has employed a double, including Stalin, Hitler and Saddam Hussein, so be on the lookout for a guy in a fat suit with a yellow coonskin glued to his head.

Pizza -- there's nothing it can't do.  Canadian air traffic controllers have been sending pizza to their unpaid counterparts in the States as a gesture of solidarity, with pepperoni and mushrooms.  No broccoli or pineapple, that's just wrong.  I'm sure our people will return the favor if Canada ever loses the will to govern itself.  In the meantime we're sending it Rand Paul, ophthalmologist, libertarian, and senator who has compared national health coverage like Canada's to "slavery."  But that was before he was attacked by a neighbor and left with a hernia.  He's headed to an Ontario hospital that specializes in ouchies like this because apparently he can't find a surgeon he trusts in Kentucky.  While Doctor Senator Paul wants it known that he's paying the bill himself, he must know this hospital stays open because of Ontario taxpayers.  After he recovers, he should ask the other patients if they look forward to emancipation.  As an American who will spend the next two-and-a-half years paying for surgery last summer, I can tell him that freedom from universal health care is overrated.


Friday, January 11, 2019

Last impressions

Watching Lindsey Graham morph from semi-reasonable Republican into raving trumpazoid, it's hard to avoid the suspicion that somebody somewhere has video of him going down on an entire football team.  Unless it's Clemson, the voters back home will not be in a forgiving mood.  And for what?  He's not getting a promotion; we know this because Midge McConnell told Trump to quit poaching senators for the White House jobs that open up regularly.  With the wobbly allegiance of Murkowski and Collins on issues like WALL, Midge needs all the votes he can get.

Remember the yuge crowds at the last inauguration, millions and millions of them, the biggest crowd ever?  Turns out most of them were Ukrainians with a vested interest in the new regime.  You can tell because their names are like Russian names if Trump spelled them:  Serhiy Lyovochkin, Andrii Artemenko, Vitaliy Khomutynnik, Borislav Bereza and Pavel Fuks.  Needless to say, they're pro-Russia Ukrainians, or as most Ukrainians call them, traitors.  So many Ukrainians that Robert Mueller has become interested in why they were in Washington, and how many of them were in business with Felix Sater and Paul Manafort, and how this fits in with Steve Mnuchin's eagerness to lift sanctions on Oleg Deripaska (not a Ukrainian), about which he failed to give a coherent explanation to the House yesterday.  It all goes together somehow, and I'm just glad I don't have to type those names again.  Also NO COLLUSION.

Is anybody surprised that Trump has no idea what "The buck stops here" means?  Alphabetically, he comes after Truman, and that's the only connection they will ever have.

Is anybody surprised that Trump would use his "national emergency" speech to raise money?  The MAGAts who went to the website were surprised, I'll bet, when they read:  "Donald J. Trump is a racist, a demagogue and a swindler.  He and his presidency are illegitimate, and his wall is nothing but a vanity project."  That's right, Trump or his minions had failed to secure the domain name.  Instead of donating to a Keep Out the Brown Hordes fund (actually the 2020 campaign), they were invited to send money to the Legal Aid Justice Center and Kids In Need of Defense (KIND).  Perhaps some of them did, being no more expert in technology than their hero.  Anyway, pretty funny.

There was a lot of derision about yesterday's history lesson, but I don't know.  Telling people that wheels and walls were invented in the Middle Ages is probably right in line with believing Jesus rode a dinosaur to school and Hillary Clinton runs a slave colony on Mars.  The key to any successful con is knowing how the marks think.

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) is unhappy about his party's racism as personified by Steve King.  We need to find the person or persons who kidnapped and drugged Scott, forcing him to join what is clearly, obviously and unquestionably no longer the Party of Lincoln.  Normally this would be a job for the FBI, but their union president Tom O'Connor says they've had it with going unpaid.  He even calls it a "national security crisis" and suggests agents may look for work elsewhere.  If other unpaid government workers were thinking of trying some bank robbery or truck hijacking, this could be a good time.  Just don't hurt anyone, OK?  Also, Miami International is closing a runway because of the TSA "flu," so don't plan on escaping that way.  More helpful survival tips will be posted here -- keep reading this blog!  (Next:  Get big $$$ for your rare type blood.)

I wonder who's enjoying this more, Steve Bannon or Vladimir Putin.

Kevin Spacey has to be tried in Nantucket?   His lawyers couldn't get a change of venue to somewhere less limerick-prone?

Lest you think all the suffering is on one side, Trump actually whined to his gunsel Hannity that his shut-down ruined his holidays.  He had to stay in the White House waiting for the Democrats (who had not yet taken over the House) to acquiesce.  Someone tell him -- NDP does not negotiate with terrorists.

This has been the longest week I can remember.  I'm finished.    



Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Glass half full

It's not all bad, this shutdown.

It's educational.  Did you know there's something called the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau?  I didn't.  They have to approve alcoholic beverages and their labels, and they're currently "on furlough."  So the Tin Man Brewery of Kokomo, Indiana, had to postpone the introduction of its new beer with a blend of hemp and hibiscus.  It's bad for the company, which can't market its product.  On the other hand, hibiscus.

It's exciting.  Back when the Department of Agriculture's food inspectors were on the job, there were sporadic outbreaks of salmonella and e-coli.  Now it's anybody's guess what those salad-eating elitists are consuming.  Russian roulette, with arugula!  Do you feel lucky, punk?

It's challenging.  Ask the 8,500 civilian employees of the Coast Guard, who got five pages of helpful suggestions on How to Survive.  Examples:  hold a garage sale, become a dog walker and/or babysitter, be a "mystery shopper," whatever that is.  And do it now, before the TSA agents snap up all the best gigs.  "Bankruptcy is a last option," it says, no doubt inspired by a certain bonehead casino owner.  The CG has always complained of being disrespected -- my father referred to it as "the knee-deep navy" and he was in the Merchant Marine -- and this is not going to enhance morale.  A lot of these people qualify for a housing allowance because they have to live in expensive coastal cities.  I hope they have understanding landlords, because babysitters and dog walkers don't even make minimum wage.

It's egalitarian.  The National Gallery of Art and the Library of Congress are closed to students, researchers, tourists, coal miners, truck drivers and Proud Boys alike.  Share the pain.

It's peaceful.  The White House switchboard is closed, but almost no one works there anyway.


Funeral march

Life comes at you fast, says a commercial for...I forget.  But it's true.  It's like we're in an opera where the action is shattering but everybody has to sing about it first.  Like Gotterdammerung, which deals with nothing less than the end of the world, but by then it's like one in the morning and you're thinking, Yeah, ride the horse into the pyre already, I have to get up and go to work in a few hours.

We were led to expect some kind of Drumpfendammerung, with martial law and troops in the streets, Democrats and reporters and other enemies of the people under house arrest, and no more of those damn elections except maybe in Texas.  Certainly this country faces multiple national emergencies:  gun violence, opioid addiction, obesity, access to health care, infrastructure, student debt, climate change, homelessness, racism, public schools, water and air pollution, and the perpetual threat of hostile foreign countries.  Any of these could be thoughtfully addressed by a chief executive who gave an actual damn about the United States, and it would be nine minutes well spent.

Instead, we got a lot of sniffing interspersed with lies about terrorism, drugs, steel slats, and how it's all the Democrats' fault because they won't submit.  For the last two interminable years, the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress -- couldn't they find the money for WALL without requiring their rich patrons to cough up an extra forty-two dollars in income tax every year?  The Cowardly Ryan and his caucus blew a hole in the deficit large enough for Ultima Thule to fit through, what's an extra five billion until Mexico's check clears?  Why is this now, now an emergency?

Could the answer be M-U-E-L-L-E-R?  Every day, like a Norn (see what I did there, Wagnerians?),  he weaves another strand into the fatal rope, an indicted Russian here, a money-laundering scheme there, a promise from the attorney general-to-be to keep his hands off the investigation.   Meanwhile the other sisters (still on Norns here, keep up) Barbara Underwood and Adam Schiff work away at their strands, only instead of cutting the rope they fashion a noose.  And this is only the prologue.

Distract, distract, distract.  So, a nutty tweet threatening California with FEMA cutoff unless the state gets its "Forrests" fireproofed (beautiful clean asbestos?).  So, back-pedaling about the big troop withdrawal from Syria.  Rep. Rashida Tlaib accused of "dishonoring her family" by the world's greatest expert on Islamic culture.  A helping of self-praise written in Valley Girl ("thank you for soooo many nice comments" on the speech -- as if).  The spooky assertion that former presidents support WALL, although all the living ones deny it; possibly talking to paintings in the late Nixon manner?).  Maybe when he visits The Border tomorrow he'll bring Melania, and she'll wear a jacket that says "The angels want to wear my red shoes" and we can spend three days arguing about what that means.

Sometimes, in the moment before sleep, I try to look into the future and imagine how historians will make sense of all this:  the Russians, the white nationalists, the climate change deniers, the staggering criminality, the role America once played in world affairs, the new generation of female politicians with no stake in keeping things the way they always were, the internet, and at the center the preposterous figure of Trump, a president dreamed up by Bertolt Brecht, Alfred Jarry and Joseph Heller to remind us that all empires fall.    



Saturday, January 05, 2019

If she can't dance, impeach the motherfucker

I don't know who Dan Jordan is -- a member of Congress, evidently -- or why he thought posting The Video would devastate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  You've seen it.  She's on a rooftop with a friend, dancing to a Prince song back when she was in college.  Everyone has seen it, which is why she's the most famous member of Congress after Nancy Pelosi.  Several million Americans are making plans to move to the Bronx so they can vote for her.  A beautiful, vibrant, sexy, crazy-intelligent young woman in power clearly scares the trump out of the grayfaces across the aisle, who booed when she stood up to vote for Pelosi as Speaker, and she has yet to introduce a single bill or even speak.  Nice work, Dan, got any other scandalous stuff for us?  Like maybe Ilhan Omar praying?  Wearing her Sharia hat?

It would be hard to come up with a better visual metaphor for the current mess than dancing Democrats and sclerotic Republicans.  For two weeks, their senile "president" has paralyzed the federal government over WALL.  It's  not just national parks and the Smithsonian.  TSA agents tired of working without pay are calling in sick, causing more chaos than usual at the airports.  The National Transportation Safety Board is not investigating accidents.  As this year's virulent flu takes hold, there will be no one at the Centers for Disease Control to track it.  Thousands of federal employees can't pay their bills; Trump thinks that's fine because "most of them are Democrats."  Jose Andres, who set up World Central Kitchen to feed disaster victims all over the world, is offering them free sandwiches at his Capitol Lounge in DC, which the Republicans have turned into another disaster zone.

Mitch McConnell doesn't even attend the White House meetings, and may be in hibernation.  Besides, his party has a bigger crisis to deal with:  Another uppity woman, Rashida Tlaib, used a swear while talking to supporters about the urgent business of getting Putin's puppet out of the White House.  Did you ever?  What a potty-mouth!  Won't somebody think of the children?  She made Kevin McCarthy soil himself amid anguished cries for civility.  Even Dick "Go Fuck Yourself" Cheney's daughter got into it, which means we're in for a golden age of hypocrisy.

And if you can stand a little more, Trump, Pence and the Cabinet Idiots will be getting raises this week.  Eleven grand doesn't mean much to the multiple-yacht crowd, but the symbolism means everything.  I imagine this is why James Mattis was told to leave now instead of the end of February.  Yes, they are that petty.  So dance like you don't give a fat orange fuck.        

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

'Twas the night before Nancy...

In less than twenty-four hours the new Congress will open for business.  I may sit up all night with C-SPAN 3 (that's the House) so as not to miss a minute.  Willard "Mitt" Romney, freshman Senator, is already in town giving interviews, trying to distance himself from Trump in advance of voting the orthodox Republican line on every terrible judicial appointment and vicious piece of legislation.  Like the late John McCain, he's only a maverick in his own preening press releases, though he has the distinction of being the first ex-governor of Massachusetts to represent Utah in the Senate.  One day he will achieve fame as a Jeopardy! question ("Political Freaks for two hundred, please, Alex").

Harry Reid has pancreatic cancer, and today he got some things off his chest:  "[Trump] is not immoral but is amoral.  Amoral is when you shoot someone in the head, it doesn't make a difference.  No conscience.  I think he is without question the worst president we've ever had.  We've had some bad ones, and there's not even a close second to him."  Which pretty much covers it.  Thank you for your service, Senator, and ignore all the social media ghouls gloating about your imminent death -- they're amoral, too.

Steve Doocy is scared.  Jane Curtin, one of America's premier comic actors and a founding Not Ready For Prime Time player, announced a New Year's resolution to "make sure the Republican Party dies."   Being humor deficient, Doocy was sure she "wants to murder people."  To be on the safe side, he invited a "humor expert" named Michael Loftus (I never heard of him either) to join him on the Couch of Wisdom and sure enough, Loftus agrees that Curtin is very dangerous.  It was a joke, you planks.

To impress them with his seriousness and all, Trump met Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi in the Situation Room, usually off limits to all but the national security people and visiting Russians.  Also that meeting in the Oval didn't go very well, and he's too fat to be comfortable in the chairs.  Schumer asked why the disastrous government shutdown is approaching the two-week mark, and all he could get was that ending it would make Trump "look foolish," which happened some time during the Nixon administration.  Then there was more ranting about WALL.  He thinks there's one around the Vatican and you wouldn't call the Catholic Church immoral, would you?  (Well...)  Also, he knows more about drones than anybody, he knows more than all the generals, he's totally popular in Europe and could win elections there, and NO COLLUSION.  If Trump wasn't such a stable genius, I'd say he's slipped the surly bonds of sanity at the prospect of all those committees and all those Democrats and the Mueller report yet to come.

You know who could use a wall?  Turkey.  According to the New York Times, nearly a million Turks have emigrated in the past three years, unhappy with the rule of Trump's good friend Recep Erdogan.  The country is being emptied of money and talent, with western Europe the chief beneficiary.  I don't usually make predictions, but I think something similar will happen now that Jair Bolsonaro has assumed the presidency of Brazil.  (Mike Pompeo was there to give this thug America's seal of approval, and the destruction of the rain forest and the indigenous people will begin in a few hours.)  Another wall?  Walls are pretty good for keeping people in (Gaza, East Berlin, the Warsaw ghetto), not so much for keeping them out.  Not since those two Ohio kids invented the flying machine.

A woman named Maria Butina has pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government, and testified before one of Mueller's grand juries.  In a clumsy act of retaliation, the Russians have arrested an American named Paul Whelan and accused him of espionage.  Word is, they want to swap him for Butina before she can reveal anything else about NO COLLUSION.  Happy New Year from the boss in the Kremlin, Donnie.

Any minute now, the Chinese Chang'e 4 lunar vehicle will land on the dark side of the moon.  Expect a large number of Pink Floyd references, especially from those perky folks who populate the morning shows.  I remember when Americans did cool stuff like that.  Whatever became of them?


Tuesday, January 01, 2019

My book report: A curious person's dream

Bruce Robinson, "They All Love Jack":  Busting the Ripper, Harper, 2015

Who doesn't love a good conspiracy theory?  And by "good" I mean a theory so determined and self-assured that it grabs you like the Ancient Mariner and makes you suspend disbelief for as long as it lasts.  None of this "it seems likely" or "some researchers think," no unanswered questions or loose ends, a theory that nails it, period, case closed.  With footnotes.

Alice Walker has been in hot water since she revealed that she is reading David Icke, the British writer who starts with lizard people and moves on to a Theory of Everything which strikes some people as a tad anti-Semitic.  Come on, it's lizard people.  Walker said it was "a curious person's dream come true," not that she buys it.  Maybe she's trying to figure out if it's satire or not.

I am certain that Bruce Robinson* believes he has identified Jack the Ripper after more than a century.  His book is an obsessive, cranky polemic that goes on for more than eight hundred pages and clearly reflects years of evidence-sifting (or rigging, take your pick).  Like any good Ripperologist (yes, Spellcheck, that's what they call themselves), he has a celebrity candidate abetted by a vast conspiracy.  I won't keep you in suspense -- it's the Freemasons.  Those guys again.

The celebrity, now forgotten, is Michael Maybrick, a popular concert singer and songwriter of the late nineteenth century.  Robinson is certain that Maybrick committed not only the Whitechapel atrocities but a dozen other murders while touring, and that he poisoned his brother James and pinned it on his sister-in-law Florence, who was duly convicted of murder.  Everyone who mattered in Victorian society was a Freemason, from the Prince of Wales to the top police, and they all knew Brother Maybrick was a mad killer and looked the other way.  Two problems with this:  Maybrick did not have the detailed knowledge of Whitechapel and female anatomy displayed by the Ripper; and the more people who share a secret, the less likely it is to remain a secret.  I enjoyed reading it, but I have to agree with the Irish Times, which called the book "wonderfully bonkers."

I wish it were true.  I hope it is.  Under the name Stephen Adams, Maybrick composed a number of the best-selling songs of the era, including "The Holy City," a/k/a "Jerusalem."  It makes me happy to think that slab of Victorian parlor-piety was the work of Jack the Ripper.

*Robinson, the writer-director of How To Get Ahead In Advertising and Withnail and I, is not the first filmmaker to devote himself to a cold case.  In 1967 King Vidor collected evidence on the murder of silent director William Desmond Taylor, which was published after his death by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick as A Cast of Killers.  Of Oliver Stone's meditation on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the less said the better.