Malaka Of The Week: Betsy DeVos

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Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus are going out of business later this year. I’m one of those who is sorry that they’re going, but once they put the elephants out to pasture it was over. The good news is that there’s another circus going on right now: the Trump misadministration confirmation hearings. The Senate is learning first hand that the Insult Comedian is surrounding himself with clowns and unqualified mediocrities. There is at least one animal act: HELP committee hearings on the nomination of a billionaire biblebanger from the state of Michigan. And that is why Betsy DeVos is malaka of the week.

Betsy DeVos is a voucherizing, privatizing enemy of public education. She’s hoping to bring the same chaos to the nation’s schools that she’s brought to the Wolverine State. Malaka DeVos has strong opinions but seems to have precious little knowledge to support her views. She’s ignorant but proud; as she proved under questioning from Democratic Senators. A few examples follow courtesy of Margaret Hartmann of NYMAG.com:

Privatizing Public Schools

Senator Patty Murray asked DeVos if she would promise not to privatize public schools or cut funding from public education. DeVos said, “Not all schools are working for the students,” and she hopes to work with Murray to find ways to “empower parents to make choices on behalf of their children that are right for them.”

“I take that as not be willing to commit to not privatizing public schools or cutting money from education,” Murray responded.

DeVos wants to slap a voucher on everything, which is privatization by stealth. Public education makes the droogs uppity, after all.

Education Policy

When Senator Al Franken asked DeVos to give her opinion on whether schools should be judged by students’ proficiency or growth, DeVos seemed unfamiliar with the terms. Franken explained that the question of which metric should be used in federal education policy has been a subject of debate for years. “It surprises me you don’t know this issue,” Franken said.

I bet Al was tempted to call her a big fat idiot but only two of those things are true: big and idiot. Now that I think of it, Malaka DeVos has a fat wallet and *is* a fathead. I wonder if she knows who Fats Waller or Minnesota Fats were. Probably not. That’s not on the test and everything must be on the test.

Speaking of teaching the test, my favorite “testy moment” came when DeVos was asked about firearms in schools:

Guns in Schools

DeVos told Senator Christopher Murphy — who represents Newtown, Connecticut — that she thinks the issue of whether guns should be allowed in schools “is best left to locales and states to decide.” Referencing an earlier remark from Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi about a school in his state that is threatened by bear attacks, DeVos said, “There’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.”

Potential grizzlies? Why does one need to shoot potential grizzlies? I think that guns in schools are a terrible idea even if you’re obliged to shoot real grizzlies. They do, however, get rather ornery when they’re drinking beer like the ones pictured in the Snap Wyatt sideshow banner at the top of the post. A drunk bear is a frightening sight to behold, much like the Insult Comedian as he tweets out lies.

This is another example of how the right is DeVosed (divorced) from reality on this issue, but one would hope they’d have a better reason than roving critters. Perhaps the states need to register the pestiferous animals they want to keep away from their schools with guns. Florida has a gator problem, Arizona has a rattlesnake problem, and Michigan apparently has a polecat problem since they let a wealthy stinker like Betsy DeVos meddle with their education system.

The incoming administration is full of rich dilettantes who think they know best because they have money. Betsy DeVos isn’t the only one who has brought the circus to Washington City but, other than the nutria pelt Trump wears atop his head, she’s the only animal act in town. And that is why Betsy DeVos is malaka of the week.

I’ll give Randy Newman the last word. I wonder if the Trumpers have tried to hire the act below for the inauguration?

 

 

Quote Of The Day: H.L. Mencken Edition

Mark my words, I had a lot of fun with last week’s Twain post so I decided to Menckenize First Draft. Henry Louis Mencken may not have created snark but he was one of its earliest masters. His politics were sort of a mishmash; one might call him a Jeffersonian libertarian conservative with a mean streak. He hated government. Actually, he hated everything except for beer.

Mencken would not be surprised by the advent of Donald Trump. He regarded most Americans as dolts and members of the booboise. He once memorably called the South: the Sahara of the Bozart, which is a swell pun on beaux arts. There is one quote, however, that stands out as being applicable to our troubled times:

As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

It’s hard to argue that point given that the Insult Comedian is about to begin his misrule. I know what you’re thinking, they elected a moron in 2000. But Bush was a genial moron whereas Trump is a moron who is proud of his assholery. There seems to be a pattern: morons lose the popular vote and eke out a win in the electoral college. So it goes.

Welcome to the New Gilded Age.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Blizzard Of Ozz/Diary Of A Madman

I am not a heavy metal fan: headbanging gives me a headache. That’s why I haven’t done any metal covers in this space before. I am about to rectify that omission but for an odd reason. Oddity is my forte as a blogger, after all. I’ve had Ozzy Osbourne’s tune Crazy Train on my mind of late. I cannot imagine why. #sarcasm

Since we’re about to ride the Crazy Train as a nation with Trump as the engineer and Steve Bannon as conductor, I give you Blizzard Of Ozz when it was reissued in 2011 along with Diary Of A Madman. Both titles really fit the moment; not that Trump as diarist is remotely imaginable. Sad.

Ozzy

All aboard the Crazy Train:

 

The Media Myth of Powerlessness

Josh Marshall asks everyone to please grow up: 

It is vastly preferable to have a President who believes in or at least respects American and democratic values. But let’s get real: we don’t or won’t as of Friday. Trump is a would-be authoritarian and a bully. He’s surrounded by mediocrities who owe all to him and feel validated by enabling his endless transgressions. Of course, he’s doing these things. We know Trump’s MO. He will bully people until they’re cowed and humiliated and obedient. He’ll threaten to kick the reporters out of the White House and then either cut a ‘deal’ or make some big to-do about ‘allowing’ the reporters to stay. These are all threats and mind games meant not so much to cow the press as make them think Trump is continually taking things away from them and that they need to make him stop.

They don’t need to. That access isn’t necessary to do their jobs. And bargaining over baubles of access which are of little consequence is not compatible with doing their job. Access can provide insight and understanding. But it’s almost never where the good stuff comes from. Journalists unearth factual information and report it. If Trump wants to turn America into strong man state, journalists should cover that story rather than begging Trump not to be who he is.

Emphasis mine, because that’s been the undercurrent of all the coverage since the convention, and before that it was the undercurrent of all the coverage OF ALL THE OTHER REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES.

Like if only Ted Cruz was not a widely loathed and ineffective legislator, and seemed less like a bug in a skin suit, he’d be a great standard-bearer for the party!

If only Ben Carson was not so damn not-smart, and could learn what the debt ceiling was and stop lying about his own autobiography, he’d be the perfect candidate!

If only Marco Rubio was not 12 years old and perpetually acting like he crammed for the test in the limo on the way over here, he’d be our savior!

And if Trump, Donald Trump who was nominated and elected for being exactly what he was, was not what he was, but was instead something else, then we could all go back to doing chitter-chat in the hallways about who did a gaffe and whatever else we are supposed to care about on the morning shows about politics.

I swear political bias annoys me not a fraction as much as the bias toward the Way Things Are Done. I grew up listening to Sally Quinn and David Broder bitching all around Dupont Circle that the Clintons were trailer trash who didn’t care about using the fish forks properly, and dove headlong into eight years of George W. Bush literally sanctioning a torture regime because he used the right words unlike hippies, after which followed almost a decade of Obama Cannot Appear Uppity, so you’ll pardon me if I don’t join the White House Correspondents Association on the barricades over where their bathrooms are going to be.

Far be it from me to defend Donald Trump, but if the man has a use it is in exposing exactly how little of what we say is important actually is. It is not an assault on the First Amendment if Trump is mean to a reporter or refuses to give properly timed press conferences or switches seats around so Breitbart and Cat Fancy can be right up in front where Helen Thomas used to sit. It’s rude and dumb, but it’s not a Constitutional crisis.

It is not an assault on the First Amendment to say reporters don’t get desks in the White House anymore. It is, at most, an assault on the location of office furniture.

You know what IS an assault on the First Amendment? This fucking Muslim registry Trump and his idiot sons of whores keep talking about, on which reporters are free to report even if they have to do it from the Starbucks down the street. 

So instead of wishing Trump wasn’t so much like Trump, and was instead like a nice president who gave them cookies while he undermined and mocked them, instead of wishing Republicans were not Republicans but were instead something else, why not sack the hell up and act like the guardians of freedom and democracy you’re demanding we call you. Stop pretending to be powerless. It’s playing small, and it doesn’t suit the ideals in which you want to cloak yourselves.

A.

The Gong Show Presidency

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I’ve long been a consumer of trash teevee. I’m not proud of it but, as one of the real housewives would surely say, I own it. I’m not sure where the hell I bought it though…

One of my past guilty pleasures was The Gong Song, which was a untalent/game show mashup. They brought shitty performers on-some ironic, some clueless-and when the judges had enough they would beat the hell out of a gong like a demented, untalented Carl Palmer or this burly bloke:

One of the ironic gongsters, the Unknown Comic, inspired my nickname for the Darnold: the Insult Comedian. That, in turn led to this May 2016 post and meme:

.Unknown Insult Comic Meme

It’s time to circle back to the post title at long last. It’s a modest proposal for future Trump pressers. He’s notoriously thin-skinned as we saw last week when he refused to take a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta. Then there was the infamous “you’re the puppet” exchange with HRC when she called Putin’s Pawn a puppet. Here’s my helpful suggestion: the Trumpers should roll a gong out for future press conferences, which will allow the Insult Comedian to bang the gong when he gets a vexatious question. It would be a ratings smash. Literally.

If only we could end the Trump misadventure by beating the shit out of a gong. We cannot but it sounds like a swell way to vent, doesn’t it?

All this talk about gongs has given me a benign earworm, so I’ll give the late, great glam rocker Marc Bolan the last word:

One more thing. This post was inspired by a tweet by my online friend Megan Romer about the inauguration of his illegitimacy:

Guess I lied about the whole last word thing again. We are living in the post-truth world, after all.  So it goes.

Today on Tommy T’s mundane musings – the invisible man

Well, good people, I actually saw the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen on Facebook this week.

A wingnut in one of my political discussion groups actually replied to a liberal poster by calling him a “Commie”.

For reals.

Habit, I guess.

commiescleese

I’m thinking that he didn’t get the memo from The Darnold that red “commies” are the new black.

One more random musing, as Freeperville is still pretty boring (although I did save a thread about their former hero Paul Ryan’s town hall which was pretty amusing).

The Invisible Man

Being a bass guitarist is like being the invisible man of the band. The guitarists get all the attention, the drummers get all the women, and you get the bar tab. Bassists seem to compensate for this in several ways. Some jump all around in an attempt to be noticed (see Flea), some retreat even further into the shadows (see Entwistle), and some overplay (see me).

But do you know something? Without the bass line, the song falls apart. The rhythm stops. The guitar noodling with no sub-strata to hold it up just sounds like some guy practicing scales,  and the kick drum sounds like a petulant ex kicking the door to be let in.

And if your removal from the band’s sound doesn’t do this, you’re not doing your part as a bassist. Your contribution has to be just that – a contribution. Not a dull drone or a kick drum with a note attached to it, but an integral part of the sound.

If it’s not, you may as well just sell your shit and buy a motorcycle.

(bonus Musing below)

Tech Support Humour

Years ago, at my first tech support job, there was a Supervisor who had that obnoxious “You’ve got mail” .wav file tagged to his Outlook incoming mail event.

Fifty times a day. “You’ve got mail!” “You’ve got mail!” “You’ve got mail!” “You’ve got mail!” “You’ve got mail!” “You’ve got mail!”

I was pretty fed up after a week of this, and the next time there was a Supervisors meeting, I went to his machine, unlocked it with my Admin password, and replaced that event sound with one I had brought from home – the sound of someone violently projectile-vomiting.  It was in stereo, and so well-recorded that you could hear the secondary splatter and chunks falling from the wall after the initial – um, surge.

Then I turned the sound card volume up all the way, and removed the volume control icon from the systray. I went to several of the techs on the floor and had them prepare innocuous emails to the Supervisor and not send them until they saw him come through the door to the floor after the meeting.

He did, and they did. Puzzlement on his face turned to revulsion which turned to anger, which turned to horror when he realized that the puking and splattering that filled the air was coming from his machine. Panic when he was unable to mute the volume, and desperation as he yanked the speaker leads out of the back of the computer.

As Tech Sargent Chen from Galaxy Quest always says:

“It’s the simple things in life you treasure.”

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The Fog Of MLK Day History

I was among those NOT surprised when a tweet from some bozo in Biloxi “revealed” that today is Great Americans Day in the Magnolia State. White Southern conservatives have long resisted the holiday, massively. At least MLK *was* an American hero even if the Confederates his memory has been erroneously linked to were not.

The social media discussion of the Insult Comedian’s idiotic attack on John Lewis has been deeply shallow. Anyone surprised? I thought not. On the right, Lewis has been called a minor figure in the Civil Rights movement. On the left, I saw multiple tweets referring to him as a King lieutenant. Neither are true: he was a major figure as one of the leaders of SNCC and was often an irritant to MLK’s SCLC. Lewis was an ally, not a lieutenant.

I wish people would consult with Mr. Google so their social media sophistry would have a scintilla of substance. Better yet, read David Halberstam’s The Children to learn more about John Lewis. Shorter Adrastos, put down the smart  phone and read a book.

Happy MLK Day, y’all.

Get Out of the Office

Conventional wisdom:

 

Yeah. And. So. What? I swear, between Trump’s press conference shitshow last week and the high dudgeon over Trump’s spokesman saying maybe we won’t even GIVE you nice desks in the White House anymore, American journalism is having the biggest freakouts over the stupidest things.

Three-decade assault on the press, co-opting entire news networks to debate for days exactly how much they suck? YAWN. Move my mug of very special pens? AUX ARMES, AUX BARRICADES!

Of COURSE Trump beating on the press will make Trump’s voters happy. They voted for him because they wanted him to do stuff like that. They wanted him to make big, dumb, loud fart noises in the direction of everything that bugs them. But I don’t understand why the press should worry if Trump’s voters hate them.

They’re not running for office. They don’t get elected. Their jobs are not determined by anyone but them. It’s not a fucking beauty contest. If they know they are in the right — and they are, most of them, except those Breitbart tools — then Trump can hoot and holler and move their desks into the Potomac and the only thing that matters at the end of the day is if as much information as possible got to as many people as possible.

That’s it. That’s the job. And if you tell me you need a comfy chair to do it in, or a daily petting from a press secretary, I will direct you to half a hundred hungry people who will gladly shove your ass to the curb so that they can do the job from wherever they have to do it to get it done. Trump’s voters aren’t happy with you? His press secretary’s being mean? Well, why don’t you raise a big bitchfest on Twitter about it! That will surely not make you look dumb in any way.

Schmucks.

A.

What You’re Called

I don’t have a nickname. I mean, I have things not my formal name that people call me, ranging from “hey, when am I gonna get that thing you said you’d get me” to “Mama,” but I don’t have a shortened version of my name. Maybe because my parents didn’t give me one, so I grew up using my full name always, and s0 when I was old enough to notice, I didn’t want one.

Mr. A, when we were dating, called me “Allie” once. Once. I told him I didn’t like it, and he stopped.

That’s what I always come back to whenever the OMG POLITICAL CORRECTNESS IS RUINING MY ABILITY TO USE THE WORLD debate starts up again. (Don’t throw the Campus Wymyn’s Center in my face. There are like six of those people, and unlike half of Congress they hurt nobody.) It’s about determining what you want to be called. We ask it a hundred times a day: What’s your name? We abide by what we’re told.

If I don’t want to be called something, and I tell you that, why do you continue to say it? If I say, I prefer you address me as X, why do you say Y? To save yourself the embarrassment of learning? Is your saving face worth more than my name?

To bully? To be mean? I keep reading these stories in which middle class white women who voted for Trump talk about how all the race talk they’ve been hearing makes them uncomfortable and discomfort is the WORST SIN OF ALL TIME and why can’t people just put up and shut up again, now, forever.

Do they not understand how rude they’re being, not calling someone by their name? They’d correct you if you called them Miss and they were married. But correct them that you’re African-American instead of black, Asian instead of Oriental, and suddenly you’re trampling their right to whatever … and I know it’s tiresome taking that argument apart but these are the same types of women who raised you and me to never be rude. Could it possibly be persuasive to talk in terms of politeness? Is that something we might still all understand?

It’s rude not to call someone by their name.

What is your name? Did you choose it? Could you choose it? Has anyone ever tried to call you anything else?

A.

Sunday Morning Video: Austin City Limits Songwriters Special

This 2008 episode features the late Guy Clark, Joe Ely, Lyle Lovett, and token non-Texan, John Hiatt:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Don’t Dream It’s Over

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Everything Is Topsy Turvy by Goya.

It’s been a gloomy week in New Orleans and across America. The reality of who and what the next President is has started sinking in. It’s no longer an abstract concept: a man who is as erratic as New Orleans winter weather is about to be in charge of the IRS, military, FBI, and other law enforcement agencies. The intelligence community is in open-not covert-revolt, which is astonishing given that a Republican administration is coming to power. Spooks usually love GOPers. We are well and truly through the looking glass.

Goya was right: everything *is* topsy turvy. I find myself in agreement about the Insult Comedian with dissident neo-cons such as Max Boot. I have even praised a piece Boot wrote for the NYT wondering if Trump was a modern Manchurian Candidate. I’d rather give Max the Boot, but in a crisis you take your allies where you find them. They keep popping up in the oddest places.

As you can tell, I’m not in the mood for a full-blown Odds & Sods extravaganza. I’ve been battling a cold all week while still writing some pretty good stuff. I plan to keep this post terser than a Hemingway sentence. I may even grown a beard, but please don’t call me Papa or hold me to the short sentence thing.

This week’s theme song comes from the great Neil Finn and Crowded House. Don’t Dream It’s Over has a world-weary, anthemic quality that suits my mood as does the opening stanza:

There is freedom within, there is freedom without
Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
There’s a battle ahead, many battles are lost
But you’ll never see the end of the road
While you’re traveling with me

We begin with the original Crowdies video that helped the song become a world wide smash as opposed to Letterman’s production company, World Wide Pants:

Crowded House is one of the bands that had a “farewell” concert before the inevitable regrouping a mere 10 years later. The setting was dramatic: the Sydney Opera House. It was also the late Paul Hester’s last waltz with the band. I still miss his zany and madcap antics as well as his stellar drumming.

Don’t Dream It’s Over has been covered quite a few times; even on the teevee show, Glee. That was a nice pay-day for Neil but I prefer Diana Krall’s take on the song. Cue string section:

That’s it for this week. If you’re like me, you feel a bit lost as the news of Russian spying rushes by. That feeling, plus Athenae’s great Hemingway post, has me pondering the Lost Generation of the 1920’s That’s why I’m giving Hemingway and his frenemy Scott Fitzgerald the last word.

hem-fitz-meme

Friday Ferretblogging: Shelter Edition

I have a few Fridays off coming up, and I’m spending the mornings at the ferret shelter, so you know what that means? YOU GET SOME STUFFIES:

shelterferrets

A.

A bad week for journalism

If I were paranoid (which in this environment, I might soon officially become), I’d think that that world is conspiring against every profession in which I have ever worked. The levels of stupid coming out of various parts of our universe make it almost impossible to touch on everything that is killing us at this point, but I’ll spend this post talking about the drive-by shooting against my original profession: Journalism.

Speaking of things that happen quickly and painfully…
President-elect Donald Trump and his posse spent much of the week in the news, thanks to his quick movement through confirmation hearings, allegations that Russia could blackmail him and a press conference that made the WWE’s Vince McMahon go, “Dude, show some dignity.”

The confirmation hearings were laughable at best, except for the moment where the vast throngs of freedom-loving, justice-warriors took to the internet to confirm that all Asians look alike.

A video and several photos surfaced of a woman who was said to be taking photos of Rex Tillerson’s notes during a break in his confirmation hearing. The video is speculative at best, given that it looks like she’s just screwing around on her phone. (I would give almost anything for this woman to come forward and say she was playing Candy Crush at that point in time.) What made this even worse was when every Twidiot out there decided that the woman was not only a Chinese spy, but that she was Margaret Cho Constance Wu Tricia Takanawa Washington Post homepage editor Doris Truong.

Turns out Truong was off that day and didn’t know what was going on until someone reached out to her for a comment about the incident. By the time she got her shoes tied on this one, the trolls had run this bullshit around the world. People swore they had used “facial recognition software” to demonstrate it was clearly her. They also, naturally and rationally, called for her arrest, prosecution and so forth because after all, if it’s on the Internet, it’s obviously true.

HERE’S THE PROBLEM: When people ask why we need journalism or why certain blogs, social media and other shit isn’t just as good as a local newspaper or a national network newscast, this is Patient Zero.

It took almost no time for everyone to climb all over this story and shit all over Truong. Forget for a moment that no one could actually demonstrate that a) this was someone taking a photo of his notes, b) if this was some sort of crime or c) that Tillerson didn’t actually just have this on those pages. The biggest issue is that no one gave a shit if these people were right or wrong and just passed along the information.

In fact, it ended up coming across like a group of third-graders arguing on the playground: “My dad says we’re going to watch the Packers this weekend.” “Oh yeah? My Dad says we’re going to the game!” “Oh yeah, well MY dad says we have front-row seats at the game!” “OH YEAH?!?!? MY dad knows Jerry Jones and we’re going to be in his luxury box drinking Cristal!” “OH YEAH!?!?!?! WELL MY DAD….”

Some asshole said the woman was taking photos (no proof).

The next asshole said they knew it was Truong (wrong).

The third asshole swears that they used facial recognition software to confirm it’s her (lying and wrong).

The asshole after that swears they know it’s Truong and that she’s a spy for China because his friend works in the state department or something (wrong-ass, lying-as-fuck motherfucker).

Of course, by the time the potty-trained media got around to figuring out what the Insane Posse of Clowns was talking about, all the “no, it’s not her, you fucking idiots” reporting in the world couldn’t put out the forest fire of bullshit.

Speaking of the Internet…
Buzzfeed news stirred up a great amount of shit when it released a 35-page dossier of negative shit Russia supposedly had on Trump. Publishing source documents is nothing new in the field of media. The Pentagon Papers case centered on the issue of publishing source documents regarding the United States and the Vietnam War. The Progressive fought to publish the instructions for an H-Bomb. WikiLeaks is nothing but a series of documents that reveal a lot of unsavory things people have done behind closed doors.

And when it comes to leaks, unsavory things and closed doors, it’s the allegation that Trump hired two hookers in Russia to piss all over a bed that Obama supposedly liked. This sent journalists into a firestorm of debate, most of it centering on the AP style rules pertaining to “golden showers.”

The thing that makes this reveal more controversial than others is that Buzzfeed acknowledged what everyone else who was working on these documents knew about them: They were unverified. In short, they could be true or they could be false, but nobody knows for sure. So, yeah, here you go. Enjoy.

CNN reported on the documents as well, without releasing them, but that didn’t stop Trump from shit-ripping the network, calling them out in public and refusing to let them ask a question, noting CNN was “fake news.”

HERE’S THE PROBLEM: Most of my friends in the media are going back and forth on whether Buzzfeed should have released this or not as it wasn’t verified information. Some argue that this was nothing but a document dump, not real journalism, as it lacked the veracity of information we have come to expect with these things.

Others argue that instead of bitching about being scooped, the media outlets should go out there and do their jobs in reporting on this kind of shit.

You aren’t really getting scooped if you’ve chosen not to publish something because you don’t think it should be published. That’s more of an editorial choice. That said, pissing and moaning because others made different editorial choices doesn’t make you the stalwart emblem of dignity either.

I’m on the side that says don’t run this until you’re sure, primarily because a) I’m more conservative and b) I can’t tell you how much shit I’ve seen as a reporter that turned out to be total bullshit. We’re not all Dan Rather who can bounce back after shit goes south and it turns out we were wrong.

I’ve always espoused two philosophies when it comes to publishing: 1) If your mother says she loves you, go check it out. 2) I’d rather be late than wrong.

If you think all the shit in that file is real, go get enough verification that you feel comfortable saying, “Here’s what we did and we feel we met the burden of accuracy.” Don’t be like the mechanic who says, “We think we fixed the brakes, but you’ll figure that out soon enough.”

Speaking of the Trump press conference…
It looked more like a slightly toned down version of President Camacho’s address to Congress than what we’re used to from the Oval Office occupant. The president-elect had several people build him up before he arrived, like those shitty local bands that precede the main act at Summerfest. Upon his arrival, he gave a speech with the laser-like focus of a seizure-prone toddler with ADD who had just smoked a pound of meth. The speech included sentences like this one, which would have given Sr. Mary Kenneth a coronary if she had to try to diagram it:

But I do have to say that — and I must say that – I want to thank a lot of the news organizations here today because they looked at that nonsense that was released by maybe the intelligence agencies — who knows but maybe the intelligence agencies, which would be at tremendous blot on their record if they in fact did that, a tremendous blot.

(Side note: I couldn’t listen to the speech, as a) I had a class to teach and b) I was afraid of what it might do to my three remaining brain cells. Instead, I read the transcript that NPR put out on this. The level of annotation is incredible in here. We honestly just need to start giving the media red “challenge” flags they can throw.)

When he attacked CNN for running something they didn’t actually run (they reported on the dossier but did not reveal the gross shit and illegal shit inside), CNN asked for an opportunity to ask a question. Here’s what came next:

SPEAKER

Since you’re attacking us, can you give us a question? Mr. President-elect —

DONALD TRUMP

Go ahead.

SPEAKER

Mr. President-elect, since you are attacking our news organization…

DONALD TRUMP

Not you.

SPEAKER

Can you give us a chance?

DONALD TRUMP

Your organization is terrible.

SPEAKER

You are attacking our news organization, can you give us a chance to ask a question, sir? Sir, can you…

DONALD TRUMP

Quiet, quiet.

SPEAKER

Mr. President-elect, can you say…

DONALD TRUMP

She’s asking a question, don’t be rude. Don’t be rude.

SPEAKER

Can you give us a question since you’re attacking us? Can you give us a question?

DONALD TRUMP

Don’t be rude. No, I’m not going to give you a question. I’m not going to give you a question.

SPEAKER

Can you state…

DONALD TRUMP

You are fake news. Go ahead.

SPEAKER

Sir, can you state categorically that nobody —

DONALD TRUMP

Go ahead.

(APPLAUSE)

HERE’S THE PROBLEM: Even people like Nixon, who clearly hated the press and had an “enemies list,” didn’t treat the media like this in public. You who does? Putin.

And that’s not just my opinion. Read this piece from Alexey Kovalev, a journalist who spent more than a decade dealing with this dead-eyed despot, and you’ll see some pretty freakish parallels with this Trump presser.

Next, as Kovalev points out, nobody in the gaggle stepped out to help CNN at this point. I’m all for competition and trying to gain an edge with sources, but this is like watching a bully kick the shit out of a kid at the playground and not doing anything about it.

I’m not saying they should go all “Ray” from Season 2 of “True Detective” at this point, but if you get called on next, what’s wrong with, “Mr. President-elect, why do you see CNN as fake news and why are you afraid to give this reporter a question?” First they came for CNN, but I did not speak up because I was not CNN…

The only media that seem to be standing up to Trump at this point are the newspapers, particularly the old guard ones. For all the talk of newspapers dying in this country, some of them appear to be dying like Walt Kowalski: They’re old, angry and yet willing to fuck you up when you think you’re a bad ass.

It’s been a long week for the media and here’s the worst part: His term hasn’t even started yet.

Tweet Of The Day: Putin’s Pawn Edition

It comes from legendary chess champion and Russian political dissident Gary Kasparov:

That sums it up in a nutshell. It’s depressing to write the phrase Russian political dissident in the post-Cold War era but if the shoe fits, kick the Insult Comedian with it.

If Trump isn’t being blackmailed by Russian intelligence, he certainly acts like it. Gary Kasparov knows a pawn when he sees one. Trump may think he’s King but he’s really Putin’s Pawn.

Friday Guest Catblogging: Harold The Helper

Harold belongs to my friends Christy and Greg or do they belong to him? Recently, he decided to help one of his humans work by going all boneless cat on her laptop. So it goes.

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The Fog Of History: Mark Twain On The First Gilded Age

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In 1873 Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner published a novel called The Gilded Age: A Tale Of Today. It was one of the few times Sam Clemens worked in a band and not as a solo artist. End of tortured musical analogy. The book was not merely a “tale of today,” like much of Twain’s best satire it remains applicable to *our* today.

The Gilded Age was not specifically about the political culture of the era, but the term has come to be associated with the excesses of the one-party pro-plutocratic Republican rule of the postbellum age. I believe that the-ugh-Trump Era will be a New Gilded Age with the Darnold as robber baron-in-chief. We’ve had other Gilded Ages, but I expect the next four years will be among the most corrupt in our history. The fish rots from head, after all, and nobody is rottener than the Insult Comedian. Imagine the stench when the nutria pelt atop his head begins to melt. It’s bound to smell like cotton candy piss.

Pondering the man I insist on calling Sam Clemens (we’re old literary friends and brothers in satire) resulted in a Google search for quotes that are applicable to both his time and our own. History *always* repeats, y’all.

Below are a few Twain nuggets that I have excavated from the recesses of the internet mine. I’m all about tortured analogies today and they’re mine all mine. I am, however, neither a miner nor a 49er and don’t have a daughter named Clementine…

If you think income inequality is a recent phenomenon, Sam begs to differ:

“The external glitter conceals a corrupt political core that reflects the growing gap between the very few rich and the very many poor.”

Twain was the greatest satirist of his time. He was as fond of food analogies as I am:

“The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet.”

We’re inclined to think Trump is sui generis to our day and age.  But Sam knew the type only too well:

“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure. ”

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”

The Insult Comedian is not only insulting, he’s an habitual, almost obsessive liar:

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

Trump, alas, doesn’t even try to keep his lies straight. He counts on the short-term memory of his followers. It’s what fake populist strong men do.

The next Twain bon mot illuminates the difficult position those of us in the resistance find ourselves in:

“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

Nobody likes to admit to getting conned. The country is littered with people who fell for Trumpian flim-flammery. Many are still sleepwalking. It’s going to be ugly when they wake up and realize they’ve been had. Bigly.

Finally, I believe that the best way to undermine this illegitimate mountebank is with ridicule. Who can forget how he attacked SNL after Alec Baldwin nailed his cotton candy piss hair to the wall. Sam is in accord:

“Only laughter can blow [a colossal humbug] to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”

Ain’t no bigger humbug that the Insult Comedian. Believe me, he’s a tremendous gasbag.

Welcome to the New Gilded Age.

Vive les Maquis.

Malaka Of The Week: Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

There’s a lot of malakatude to choose from this week: even more than usual. I decided it was time to be bipartisan and select a Democrat with nutty ideas who is trying to sell-out to the Trumpers.  And that is why Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is malaka of the week.

It’s hard to live up to a famous father, especially one whose candidacy remains one of the great ifs of American history. That’s the burden RFK Jr. carries and I don’t envy him. For years, he seemed to be fighting the good fight as an environmental lawyer until he got hooked up with the anti-vaxxers. I’ll let Slate’s Susan Matthews explain the connection between his thinking and that of the Insult Comedian with whom he met this week:

This mistrust of expertise fits right in with RFK Jr.’s vaccination theories, which are built around the blatantly false idea that vaccines are unsafe, and the more paranoid idea that there is a conspiracy to cover this up extends from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to elected officials to journalists. My Slate predecessor Laura Helmuth got a full rundown of RFK Jr.’s vaccine theory when he called her to complain about our coverage of his views in 2013, which Slate referred to as “anti-vax,” a label that Kennedy rejected, saying he was “very much pro-vaccine.” Kennedy wrote a book that attempts to connect a component of vaccines to neurodevelopment disorders including autism, called Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak, and regularly attempts to meet with elected officials regarding his concerns.

In Helmuth’s piece, journalist Seth Mnookin succinctly describes Kennedy’s problematic assessment of the CDC: “What he has done is taken concern that there could be a problem as evidence that there was a problem.” This, coincidentally, is why putting Kennedy in charge of a commission on vaccine safety would be so frightening.

That’s right, Kennedy left his meeting with Trump claiming that he would be appointed to some role in investigating the vaccines that he claims not to oppose. Not so fast said Team Trump:

“The President-elect enjoyed his discussion with Robert Kennedy Jr. on a range of issues and appreciates his thoughts and ideas,” Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in a statement obtained by CNN. “The President-elect is exploring the possibility of forming a commission on Autism, which affects so many families; however no decisions have been made at this time. The President-elect looks forward to continuing the discussion about all aspects of Autism with many groups and individuals.”

Kennedy and Trump have both pushed the discredited theory that vaccinating children can cause autism, even though the notion of a link between vaccines and autism has been thoroughly discredited by the medical community. Trump has said that he has personally witnessed children who received “massive injections” of vaccines at once develop “horrible autism” as a result, while Kennedy continues to promote the myth that thimerosal, a mercury-based compound once contained in many childhood vaccines, causes autism.

The Kennedy-Trump confab could be called When Fabulists (Fantasists?) Collide. I don’t know who to believe since neither of them is credible. That tends to be the case with zealots and conspiracy buffs. As for Hope Hicks, I’d like to paraphrase something  the late writer Mary McCarthy said during her epic feud with Lillian Hellman: Every word she says [writes] is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’. That goes double for Hicks’ boss and his henchmen and henchwomen. I have a hench y’all agree with me…

Kennedy has gone from denouncing Trump to cozying up to him since they agree about a long discredited study. It’s what zealots and malakas do. And that is why Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is malaka of the week.

 

Surrealistic Bully

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I keep repeating it — apologies — but it’s gonna be a long four years. And that’s not to defend CNN or Buzzfeed… well, CNN, at least…which like plenty of other “news” organizations, sure as hell had tons of fun breathlessly reporting on all the HRC email and foundation non-scandals…while ignoring both serious and frivolous material about Trump. Go figure. Oh, and fuck James Comey, too.

Sadder still is that some — not a majority or even a plurality (I keep reminding myself) but some welcome this descent into Bananaland USA…at least until they get tossed into the frying pan. And when (not if) that happens, will they continue to blame libruls? Is the Pope Catholic?

Sigh–I thought Bush Junior was history repeated as farce…and maybe he still is. But that just means the old quote (from yeah, this guy) might need a modest revision or addition…first as tragedy, then as farce, and finally as … reality television. And that’s pretty goddamn depressing.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Fleming, Ian Fleming

My From Russia With Love post got me thinking about Bond, James Bond and the man who created him. Below are three UK paperback first editions of Fleming’s work via the Book Bond.

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The Son-In-Law Also Rises

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Hemingway week here at First Draft continues. If you haven’t read A’s great piece refuting Trump’s ridiculous claim to be the “Hemingway of Twitter” make sure you do so. On with the show, this is it:

As a Greek-American, I know a great deal about nepotism and cronyism. Both have long, uh, greased the wheels of commerce both in the old country and here in ‘Merica. Nepotism is one reason the wheels (there’s that image again) came off the Greek economy a few years ago. It’s not always a bad thing (the Karamanlis, Papandreou, and Venizelos dynasties produced some good leaders) but that’s only if the nepotee is competent and knowledgeable. That’s an open question when it comes to Trump-in-law Jared Kushner.

We know that Kushner did a decent job as the Insult Comedian’s campaign manager/enforcer. That doesn’t mean he’s qualified for a job at the White House since, like most Trumpers, he has no governmental or policy experience. Then there’s the pesky matter of the federal anti-nepotism law passed in response to JFK appointing his kid brother Attorney General. In that instance, Bobby *was* qualified: the bigger problem was having an AG who was a campaign manager. There’s no sign that Kushner has RFK’s moxie and intelligence. He does, however, seem to have the requisite ruthlessness and sharp elbows of RFK.

That brings me to the point of this post. There’s a must read article at NYMAG.com by Andrew Rice about Kushner and his background, power, and influence. His plan is to be one of the last people Trump speaks to when a decision is nigh:

Trump doesn’t really appear to listen to anyone, but he likes to hear a lot of advice. “We have no formal chain of command around here,” Trump said at a December boardroom audience with Jeff Bezos, Sheryl Sandberg, and other tech-industry leaders. Yet everyone knew who had played the biggest role in arranging the meeting: Kushner, who sat with his back to the cameras, directly facing the president-elect

Team Trump has come up with a novel argument to ward off the anti-nepotism law:

Trump is relying on an interpretation of the law itself, backed by a court opinion from 1993, as well as a separate provision of federal law from 1978 that allows the president to appoint White House staff “without regard to any other provision of law” dealing with employment.

But several law professors and ethicists interviewed Monday by The Associated Press were not so certain.

A “murky legal landscape” was the description given by Norman Eisen, who served as President Barack Obama’s government ethics lawyer.

If that strategy fails, Kushner’s plan is to defy the law with support from his doting father-in-law. The question arises: why does Kushner need a title and a West Wing office? History is replete with examples of outside advisers with outsize influence on past Oval Ones. Wilson had Col. House. FDR had Felix Frankfurter and a small army of other outside advisers. JFK, of course, had his father until the latter’s stroke. LBJ had Abe Fortas even after he was appointed to the Supreme Court. Fortas had an office in the West Wing that nominally belonged to someone else but he was the big macher in the Johnson White House. More recently, Bill Clinton had Vernon Jordan and Barack Obama didn’t stop listening to David Axelrod after he left his job at the White House. There’s ample precedent for this and no need to stir things up. Of course, that’s the Trumpers specialty: shit stirring.

Kushner’s lust for power isn’t the only thing that makes the incoming regime resemble an old school South American dictatorship. The Insult Comedian has appointed four Generals to senior roles, which is rather reminiscent of the right-wing populist dictator Trump most resembles: Juan Peron. We may all be singing Don’t Cry For Me Argentina before this is all over.

Trump is setting the stage for the most openly corrupt administration in American history. His holdings will not be placed in a blind trust, he will not release his tax forms, and his adult male spawn will run his empire. Past administrations at least had the good sense to hide their grifting. Instead the Trumpers will be transparently corrupt and damn proud of it. So much for the much ballyhooed populist uprising. Welcome to the new gilded age.

There are some people in Rice’s article who express hope that Kushner will be a moderating influence on his father-in-law. Given his close relationship with Steve Bannon that sounds like whistling past the graveyard. The only thing that will stop Trump is resistance and relentless ridicule. The Donald does not like being needled. That’s why resisting his legitimacy is so important. Our goal should be to turn him into the Jake Barnes of Presidents: a eunuch tweeting impotently to a world that no longer pays attention.

Vive les Maquis.