Monthly Archives: May 2017

The Americans Thread: The First Cut Is The Deepest

Season 5 of The Americans was about family as well as the innocents whose lives were affected by Philip and Elizabeth’s secret lives. The finale, The Soviet Division, was no exception. I do, however, take exception to some of the reactions to Season 5. It moved at a somewhat slower pace than past seasons BUT it has never been a Bond or Bourne-type spy extravaganza. Its closest kin is the work of John Le Carre; somber meditations on the lives of spies. The penultimate season was no different. Was it my favorite season? No, but it’s setting the stage for a wilder ride next season.

It’s time to dismount my soapbox and go to our spoiler break *after* playing a song that’s dedicated to Pascha and his soon to be divided family. It’s the first of five hit versions of a song written by Cat Stevens:

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Glengarry Glen Ross On The Potomac

I didn’t take part in the #covfefe war on Twitter.  It’s another meme that got beaten to death by conformists trying to be cool kids. I prefer to be as original as possible instead of joining in a dog pile over a typo by an idiot. It will all be forgotten in 48 hours. And Putin’s Pawn will still be president*. That concludes this rumination on the folkways of social media.

I’ve been pondering  movie/literary analogies for the news that Team Trump is starting a war room to deal with the escalating and multi-faceted Russian scandal. Since Slumlord Jared  is involved, it should be dubbed the cover up room.  The proposed war room is already down a body as David Bossie of B3 fame is begging out but Corey Lewandowski is still likely to bring his unique brand of malakatude to the cover up. He’s good at roughing up reporters, which seems to be a qualification for admission to Trumpistan’s inner circle. The fact that it was a chick reporter gives him bonus points with the pussygrabber-in-chief. Believe me.

The Trumpers claim that they’re going gangster. Movie:

The proposed war room, Axios reported, will be filled with “experienced veterans from the campaign trail who recognize the gravity of the situation.” In an apparent acknowledgment of the seriousness of the situation, Trump staffers have reportedly begun using the phrase, “Go to the mattresses,” a line from “The Godfather,” meaning to go to or prepare for war.

Godfather buffs should recall that  going to the mattresses was ordered by the ill-tempered fathead Sonny Corleone. It resulted in a protracted, futile, and downright stupid war with the Barzini and Tattaglia families. Downright stupid *is* a word associated with Team Trump but not one they should invoke themselves. The Insult Comedian is no Vito, and Jared is no Michael. Imagine anyone calling Michael naive? They’d get it in the eyeball like Moe Greene. Jared does have a Fredo air about him. Of course, there’s a lot of competition for the title of stupidest Trump. It’s a family of Fredos headed by a Sonny who lacks Santino’s violent bravado and good hair.

It strikes me that a better analogy for the war/cover up room is David Fucking Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. This play about sleazy real estate salesmen won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1984. The 1992 film version had an astonishing cast including Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, Jonathan Pryce, Alan Arkin, and Alec Baldwin. Yeah, the same guy who plays Trump on Saturday Night Live. Believe me.

Glengarry Glen Ross is set in a real estate boiler room where all that matters is closing the sale. Deceit is not only commonplace, it’s expected by the bosses.  They’re con men practicing egregious flim-flammery. Sound familiar? It’s Trump and Kushner’s world complete with exploding F-bombs. In my experience, real estate developers swear like sailors or Mamet characters. Fuck yeah.

I can just imagine Trump/Baldwin giving the war/cover up roomers a pep talk and telling them to do whatever it takes to fucking close the fucking story. Lewandowski will sucker punch a reporter and  Slumlord Jared will squeeze his tenants to inspire their war/cover up roomery. Is that a word? If not, it should be. It’s tremendous. Believe me.

There’s only one person to give the last word to: Alec Baldwin. First as asshole real estate developer Blake meeting his salesmen then as asshole real estate developer/president* Trump meeting his supporters.

Put that covfefe down, it’s only for closers. Another day, another last word fib.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: In Our Lifetime

In Our Lifetime was Marvin Gaye’s sixteenth and last Motown/Tamla album. It came at  a low point for the artist commercially, personally, and artistically. It represented something of an artistic comeback. He was ready to leave his ex-brother-in-law Berry Gordy’s stable of artists and gave it his best effort on his way out in 1981.

The deeply weird cover was designed and executed by Neil Breeden with input from Gaye. Marvin frequently spoke of the two Marvins: one angelic, the other demonic. The cover is particularly creepy because Marvin was shot dead by his father in 1984; a mere three years later.

There’s an odd but interesting essay about the cover art at Reading Vessel. This image comes from that post:

I’m pretty sure Breeden and Gaye were not predicting events that took place in the 21st Century. As Athenae said the other day, the world has always been on fire.

In Our Lifetime is only available on YouTube in the playlist format. It’s worth a listen:

Profanity = State Sanctioned Violence Against Minorities

Every time I think we’ve reached Peak Both Sides, another mountain rears up in the distance: 

But now it isn’t just Mr. Trump. In their new “resistance” mode, Democrats have become just as nasty. Tom Perez, the Democrats’ new national chairman, has already earned notoriety for his use of profanity at rallies. At some of them, he has trouble speaking because the anti-Trump heckling is so loud.

Does no one have an editor anymore? Doesn’t someone in the newsroom say something like, hey, I read your piece, and I was just thinking that the power differential is so vast between “heckler at a rally” and PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED FUCKING STATES that applying laughably malleable “standards” to both is like asking your 8th grader and your dog to do math homework and getting mad when Fido pisses on the long division? I mean what the SHIT.

Whoops. More profanity. It’s just like I herded two dozen foreigners into a concentration camp with my filthy word hole.

For those of you not lucky enough to live through this during the early days of both the Iraq War and liberal political blogging, this was the entirety of the argument against us: Yes, you may be right, but you are right in a way that makes me feel bad, so therefore you are wrong. Because you smell. Hippie.

Like there were entire protests that got invalidated because someone wore the wrong T-shirt.

It was infuriating then and it’s infuriating now, for lots of reasons the very least of which was that nobody was chiding wingnuts to stop burning Obama in effigy and making birth certificate jokes and waving Confederate flags around because it would make THEM look bad, albeit for actually being bad, not for being right. Just fuck these people, is my point. Fuck them for a lot of things, but mostly for only being able to get offended by the word fuck.

A.

‘This is someone’s child’

It’s important to know that somebody fought back: 

“I was saying, ‘Creator – provide comfort to his family who don’t know you’re here,” she recalled.

An officer called out to her: “You did what you could, it’s time to come off the train.”

[snip]

The next night, Macy met Namkai-Meche’s mother and father at a vigil held by the train stop. She handed his father a purple-painted, heart-shaped rock, her prayer rock.  She said the victim’s parents thanked her for being with their son, telling her that she was “a mamma to our boy in that moment.”

Macy, a single mother of five children who rides the MAX to and from her community college courses at least three times a week, said she just did “what had to be done.”

“I just kept thinking this is someone’s child,” she said.

I read this right after Trump’s election, the idea that if you’re one of those people who loudly fantasizes about killing baby Hitler or whatever, you don’t need to go back in time to figure out who you would have been in the war. You’re in the war. Whatever you’re doing right now is what you would have done then.

(‘Twas ever thus, of course. The world has always been burning. I felt like this after 9/11, all those people talking about how a crisis made them realize what they wanted to be, like the fuck is wrong with you you don’t know what you want to be already? Sometimes my inner pissed-off 19-year-old gets the talking stick.)

So if you’re writing letters, calling reps, volunteering, working, creating spaces for people to think and breathe and be free, if you’re using your power to help others with less, if you’re trying every single day to be kind, to overcome paralysis and exhaustion and worry and reach out to someone else, if you’re doing even a little more than you think you can, that’s who you are in the war. You’re someone’s child too.

A.

With Friends Like Trump, Who Needs Enemies?

My preference as a pundit is to mock and skewer those in power. From time-to-time  I switch my tone to righteous indignation. This is one of those times despite the zany image above. Why? Donald Trump’s horrendous conduct on his overseas trip. It’s not because I’m surprised but out of indignation at his desire to blow up NATO to please his master in the Kremlin. Mad and/or Time got it right, y’all.

We knew Trump liked dictators more than democrats but it reached sickening levels on this trip. The Saudis did everything but publicly fellate his miniscule member and he fell for it. But when it came time for him to deal with our allies: he publicly dressed them down, threatened them, and even literally pushed one of them out-of-the-way. I guess he thought the Montenegrin PM was a waiter named Monty Negro or some such shit.  The help is always abused in the racist alternate reality known as Trumpistan.

Here’s the deal: NATO is our baby. It has kept the peace since it was founded in 1949. Thanks to NATO and the EU, Germany and France have gone from mortal enemies to friends and allies. Why would anyone want to blow that up? Obviously, the president* knows nothing about history but peace between those key nations means peace in Europe. The only ones who want to blow up NATO are extreme nationalists and the Russians. People around Trump speak of Russia as though it is not the successor state to the Soviet Union. It is. And they’re up to their old tricks. Only an idiot would want France and Germany at each other’s throats. Trump is a moron. It’s increasingly apparent that he’s either owned by Russian intelligence or is Putin’s useful idiot. Either way he’s the dipshit’s dipshit.

The Insult Comedian’s recent comments about NATO prove that he has earthly idea how an alliance works:

TRUMP: “I will tell you, a big difference over the last year, money is actually starting to pour into NATO from countries that would not have been doing what they’re doing now had I not been elected, I can tell you that. Money is starting to pour in.” — speech to U.S. troops in Sicily on Saturday

TRUMP tweet: “Many NATO countries have agreed to step up payments considerably, as they should. Money is beginning to pour in.”

THE FACTS: First, no money is pouring in and countries do not pay the U.S. Nor do they pay NATO directly, apart from administrative expenses, which are not the issue.

The issue is how much each NATO member country spends on its own defense.

<SNIP>

TRUMP: “But 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States and many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years, and not paying in those past years.” — remarks to NATO on Thursday

THE FACTS: Members of the alliance are not in arrears in their military spending. They are not in debt to the United States, or failing to meet a current standard, and Washington is not trying to collect anything, despite the president’s contention that they “owe massive amounts of money.” They merely committed in 2014 to work toward the goal of 2 percent of GDP by 2024.

Thanks to the AP for the fact check. It proves that Trumpy really thinks an alliance is a protection racket and that giving a political speech to the troops is appropriate. It is customary for a President to talk about the troops, not about themselves. Trump would rather brag about his phantom accomplishments than praise them for their service. Repeat after me: NATO does not “collect” money. Paulie Walnuts will not be knocking on the door at 10 Downing Street any time soon.

It saddens me that Chancellor Merkel feels she has to distance herself from the United States. It is also completely understandable. Donald Trump prefers palling around with dictators to having good relations with our allies. It’s stark raving bonkers but it’s where we find ourselves in 2017. As I’ve said before: the fate of liberal democracy is in the hands of a German Chancellor who was born behind the Iron Curtain.

It’s appalling but not surprising that national security-minded Republicans remain silent over Trump’s comments about NATO. I have a theory: the Bush-Cheney administration was big on unilateral action and did their share of undermining our alliances. Team Trump has taken that to its radical extreme in the wake of 8 years of temperate, moderate governance by President Obama. Heaven help the fool as Mr. T or Bob Weir would say at this point.

One more point about Trumper stupidity: the Kushner affair. The wispy slumlord is supposed to be in charge of a White House “war room.” They haven’t a clue as to how this looks. He’s under investigation himself. They should call it the “cover-up room” instead. And what is being described by the MSM as a “back channel” is actually espionage because it involved American citizens using a hostile power’s communication system. Sounds like they have something to hide; when there’s this much smoke, there’s always fire.

Back to the post title. There are always strains in any alliance but there’s never been anything like this in NATO’S past. I don’t recall an American President insulting a German Chancellor FTF before. Hell, even Bush and Gerhard Schroder  kinda, sorta kept up appearances for the sake of the alliance. It’s all about Trump in 2017. As far as he concerned, we all live in Trumpistan.

Since I prefer to be a “glass is half full” kind of guy, I’ll give the last word to Todd Rundgren and Daryl Hall:

 

 

 

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – Catchup and Flies edition

OK, good people – something old, something new this week.

Actually, it’s ALL old, because the Freeperati never change their pants stripes.

In brief – GiganticAsshole body-slams reporters – good.

Other gigantic asshole pushes to the front of group of world leaders – he should have body slammed them.

Think I’m kidding?

Out of my way, I’m in front! Trump shoves European leader aside to find his place at the center
daily mail ^ | 5/25/2017

Posted on 5/25/2017, 1:44:04 PM by RummyChick

A Trump moment went viral for the wrong reason on Thursday as he and the leaders of 27 other NATO member countries assembled for a photo at the treaty organization’s gleaming new Brussels, Belgium headquarters. As Trump made his way through the group to take his position in the front row next to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Montenegro’s Prime Minister Duško Marković was in his way. So Trump put his hand on Marković’s upper arm and shoved him aside.

1 posted on 5/25/2017, 1:44:04 PM by RummyChick

To: RummyChick

That’s how alpha males roll!

No, it’s how an asshole rolls.

Alpha males (which are dogs, BTW) would bite anyone in front of them.

Too bad it wasn’t a muslim! or Merkel! (that would have really had their panties in a twist!)

7 posted on 5/25/2017, 1:49:04 PM by Pilgrim’s Progress (http://www.baptistbiblebelievers.com/BYTOPICS/tabid/335/Default.aspx D)

Too bad Markovic didn’t just elbow The Darnold in the solar plexus.
And, of course:
To: RummyChick

A body slam would’ve been much better.

19 posted on 5/25/2017, 2:09:58 PM by TexasCruzin (Trump is the man. #TrumpPence16)

..and just as classy.
 .
Like I said – nothing new to see here. Same shit, different week.
 .
Follow below the fold for the Freeperati reaction to The Darnold wishing Mooslimes everywhere a happy Ramadan.
 .
HUH?????
 .

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Memorial Day: Who I Remember

There’s nothing like a national holiday to make one feel ritualistic.This post was written in 2010 and is making its eighth annual appearance at First Draft. It was also published in our anthology, Our Fate Is Your Fate.

I realize it *should* be posted on Veterans Day since my remembered soldier survived the war BUT old habits are hard to break. Besides, I would face the wrath of both Athenae and Dr. A if I didn’t post it. So, here we go again:

The veteran I’d like to remember on this solemn holiday is the late Sgt. Eddie Couvillion.

Soldier Boy

My family tree is far too tangled and gnarly to describe here but suffice it to say that Eddie was my second father. He served in Europe during World War II, not in combat but in the Army Quartermaster Corps. In short, he was a supply Sergeant, one of those guys who won the war by keeping the troops fed, clad, and shod. Eddie was what was called in those days a scrounger; not unlike Milo Minderbinder in Catch-22 or James Garner’s character in The Great Escape. 

Eddie’s favorite military exploit was running an army approved bordello in France after hostilities ended. He always called it a cat house and bragged that it was the best little whorehouse in Europe. One can serve one’s country in manifold ways…

Eddie died 5 years ago [2005] and I still miss him. He was a remarkable man because he changed so much as he aged. When I met him, he was a hardcore Texas/Louisiana conservative with old South racial views and attitudes. At an age when many people close their minds, Eddie opened his and stopped thinking of black folks as a collective entity that he didn’t care for and started thinking of them as individuals. Eddie was a genuine Southern gentleman so he’d never done or said an unkind thing to anyone but confided to me that the only one he’d ever hurt by being prejudiced was himself. I was briefly speechless because we’d had more than a few rows over that very subject. Then he laughed, shook his head and said: “Aren’t you going to tell me how proud you are of me? You goddamn liberals are hard to satisfy.”

Actually, I’m easily satisfied. In 2004, Eddie had some astonishing news for me: he’d not only turned against the Iraq War but planned to vote for John Kerry because “Bush Junior is a lying weasel and a draft dodger.” That time he didn’t need to ask me if I was proud of him, it was written all over my face. It was the first and only time he ever voted for a Democrat for President.

I salute you, Sgt. Couvillion. I only wish that I could pour you a glass of bourbon on the rocks and we could raise our glasses in a Memorial Day toast.

The Gods Lift Those Who Lift Each Other

Two quick hits.

One: 

Oklahoma stands out for the velocity with which districts have turned to a shorter school week in the past several years, one of the most visible signs of a budget crisis that has also shuttered rural hospitals, led to overcrowded prisons and forced state troopers to abide by a 100-mile daily driving limit.

Democrats helped pass bipartisan income tax cuts from 2004 to 2008. Republicans — who have controlled the legislature since 2009 and governorship since 2011 — have cut income taxes further and also significantly lowered taxes on oil and gas production.

“The problems facing Oklahoma are our own doing. There’s not some outside force that is causing our schools not to be able to stay open,” said state Sen. John Sparks, the chamber’s top Democrat. “These are all the result of a bad public policy and a lack of public-sector investment.”

Two:

I’ve been thinking about the latter since first reading it, because it articulates so perfectly what we’ve lost in the last 60 years (lost, never forget, at the hands of racist rich men who found the GOP eager to provide a political “philosophy” to sell their hate and selfishness). We’ve lost not the idea of kindness but the ability to clearly articulate the benefits of community. Not that helping others is some abstract good for which we will be rewarded in heaven, but that it directly benefits us right now today.

White Male America didn’t succeed in the 1950s as a result of keeping black men and women down. White Male America succeeded because of public policies designed to enhance the lives of many. The GI Bill, robust and widespread public schooling, infrastructure improvements that started before WWII and affordable public college provided by land grant universities all lifted vastly more people than tax cuts ever would have. Wild amounts of government spending, union jobs, pensions, and honest-to-god public assistance without ponderous and intrusive means-testing bullshit, all provided a framework for everyone to succeed.

And then a bunch of people came along and said this can’t continue, because it’s starting to benefit black and brown people, and if they win you lose. If you talk about the collective good you’re a commie. If you want to be fairly paid you’re a feminazi. If you criticize foreign wars you’re an egghead elitist SJW coastal fifth columnist who loves terrorism and hates America. If you’re different in any way, you’re a threat.

Who did that? Who’s responsible? Who sold that line, and who bought it? We still can’t identify the perpetrators in public. We talk all day long about how “Washington” is “broken,” how “politics” is “broken.” We talk about “the age of Trump” like it’s a tornado that just descended from the clouds. Someone MADE US THIS WAY and made money from it, and we can’t even bring ourselves to name the force that did it.

If Democrats are going to articulate a policy that is about helping ourselves, instead of helping “others,” because of course they’re the same thing, then they need to get real about what they’re fighting and why. A return to New Deal/Great Society rhetoric isn’t going to cut it in the face of the GOP puke funnel. I don’t think the concept of pity is the main problem here.

A.

Journalism Wants the Status Quo More Than the Truth

Something an editor told me once, when we were digging into a story about public malfeasance:

“It is always worse than you think it is.”

At the time, the story we were in the middle of, I thought it was pretty bad.

“Always. It’s always worse.”

He was right. Every story’s an iceberg; for every single sharp thing you see there are a thousand others below the surface waiting to gouge holes in your boat.

I thought of that when I read this thread today, about Trump and Russia, though to be honest it could be about Trump and just about any other thing:

A lot of people will say “biased” instead of “hesitant” and some of that’s true, but mostly it’s “lazy,” instead of “hesitant.”

See, if there are two parties, and they’re both equally righteous but just disagree about the role of government, then when you’re doing A Politics Story you call them both, and you get Both Sides, and you’re done. You’ve done your job, and you get to go home. It’s not about political bias, it’s about ass-covering. Have you seen journalism lately? There are six reporters left and three of them cover People and the other three cover Stuff, while their 57 corporate imagineer synergizers write memos about feeding content into a fucking funnel. Things are not good, so if there’s an easy way to get out of every week alive, generally people are gonna take it.

We’ve Offended Everyone So We Are Good, which kind of worked as long as you genuinely had two parties who disagreed about the fundamental role of government. We haven’t had that since about 1964, however, but it was getting worse slowly. If you were the kind of white, middle-class, generally male kid who went to journalism school, you saw things getting worse slowly, until 2016 when everything got a lot worse very fast.

And by that point the laziness had become paralysis, on almost every journalistic front. You know depressive avoidance behaviors, how sometimes you don’t do the dishes and you spend three days walking past the pile of dishes and it just keeps getting bigger and you feel worse and worse and less and less capable of doing the dishes and why are you such garbage why can’t you do the dishes and you spend hours more worrying about the dishes than it would take to do them? Like that, but a whole industry. A whole country, unable to wrap its mind around what it had elected.

Every story out now is the result of one or two or six people overcoming that just-keep-walking impulse and doing the damn dishes. Taking the fiction that makes it possible to go home at 5 and have a drink and exist in the world absolutely apart until every ugly machination on the part of the GOP is exposed and raw and of COURSE it’s all just too outrageous, that’s how things usually are under their skins. What made journos skeptical wasn’t reluctance to believe the breathtaking scope of Trump’s venality. What drove their skepticism was a sober assessment of the amount of work it would take to prove it, weighed against a desire to get away on the weekends.

When you get right down to it, journalism as an industry wanted the status quo more than it wanted the truth. That’s not a condemnation; all our systems are made up of people and people are what inertia eats. It makes it all the more laudable that there are journalists who are able to overcome the desire to sink into the couch for the next four years binge-watching Call the Midwife, because this is gonna get worse than we can even imagine.

It always does.

A.

Sunday Morning Video: Gregg Allman, R.I.P.

Gregg Allman died yesterday at the age of 69.  There’s no better way to pay tribute to one of the pioneers of Southern rock than posting the Allman Brothers Band’s 40th Anniversary show.

Saturday Odds & Sods: All Shook Up

March by Grant Wood.

The monuments aftershocks continue here in New Orleans. I went to a friend’s kid’s birthday party and was warned to skip the subject because there were some rabid Lost Causers invited. They went there, I did not. I asked for a gold star but did not get one. I considered pitching a fit but thought better of it.

While we’re on the subject of the late monuments, I have two articles to recommend, nay, commend. First, Adrastos acquaintances Campbell Robertson and Katy Reckdahl collaborated on a story connecting the monuments and family histories. Second, the local public radio station, WWNO, has a piece about a proposed monument to Oscar Dunn a former slave who was Gret Stet Lt. Governor during Reconstruction. The monument was never built. Dunn, however, is worthy of one. That’s where I’d like this process to go: Civil Rights figures. It’s what makes sense if we were striking a blow against white supremacy and the Confederacy.

I saw this week’s bucolic featured image on the Antiques Roadshow. I used it because I like the austere lines of the print by the austere Iowan, Grant Wood. Austere seems to be the word of the day. Besides, Dr. A won tickets to the Roadshow when it comes to New Orleans this July. I want them to know we’re coming.

I was horrified to learn from the Guardian that Elvis Presley’s spell is waning with the kids today. If they think of him at all, they think of bloated Elvis from the end of his life or the notorious body in the box picture.

As his peer Fats Domino would surely say, Ain’t That A Shame. Elvis brought rock-and-roll to the masses and was its first King, Besides, what will NOLA’s own Rolling Elvi do if the Elvis mystique is diminished?

Rolling Elvi, Muses Parade, 2011. Photo by Dr. A.

This week’s theme song, All Shook Up, was written by Otis Blackwell and recorded by Elvis in 1957. According to his biographer Peter Guralnick, the reason Elvis received a writing credit is that he came up with the title.

First up is Blackwell’s rendition followed by Elvis’ studio version and then the Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart belting it out.

I don’t know about you but I’m, uh, all shook up, which is why we’ll take a break at this point.

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I want to meet Mick Mulvaney…

I want to meet Mick Mulvaney, this man of billions who has the audacity to call people like my mother-in-law thieves.

She sat in a hospital recliner this week with a giant blackening scar running down her leg as a stream of people she barely knew entered and exited at a rapid pace, spewing information into her stroke-impaired mind. She looked like a child who had lost her mother at the grocery store as doctors changed orders and nurses took readings, her eyes darting from one to the other as they spoke over her in multi-syllabic jargon.

She had put off a knee replacement until she cleared 65 so that her Medicare would help cover the bills. Each day, she rose on two dysfunctional joints that had worn ligaments, cartilage and bone. Her entire left side remained frozen in a tense and contracted state, the result of a massive stroke several years back.

The doctor decided to do her “good” leg first, so it could heal and provide the most support. When my wife protested, the doctor noted it was the only way to move forward with this. He also promised she’d be “good as new” after her two-night stay in the hospital and ready to go home.

My wife knew better.

Her mother couldn’t go but short distances without pain or exhaustion and that was when the “good” leg was working. Her bladder failed her often, as she tried desperately to make it to the bathroom before suffering the indignity of asking for a fresh nightgown. She rarely left the house and her movement was mostly confined to a wheelchair.

She needed a lot of rehab and she would need a nursing home to do it, my wife argued. The doctor didn’t think so at the time, but he eventually came around to it. However, the rule of Medicare is a three-midnight stay, or no nursing home.

My mother-in-law spent most of her two days in a drug-induced haze of opiates and numbing agents as we kept trying to figure out with these people how all this would work. By the time they had us convinced if we were there 24/7, we could keep her at home, they changed their mind and set up a nursing home bed.

The cost was more than $350 per day, not counting therapy and meds. Mom subsists on about $800 of social security and a $200 pension, the result of decades in the Catholic school system.

She cashed in her state pension, earned through years of working at northwoods schools near the UP of Michigan, a total of $8,000, but the nursing home needed two weeks up front.

As these numbers and costs and such flew around her head, I saw her bright blue eyes and I almost broke.

If the eyes are truly the windows to the soul, her eyes showed terror; they had the look of a child witnessing an unspeakable act. They told of loss, panic and fear rolled into one.

This is why I want to meet Mick Mulvaney.

I want him to see those eyes and tell her how this budget he proposed can be anything but a decimating blow to people like her who have no hope but the mercy of the government.

I want him to drive out to this rural town of 3,300, many of whom voted for his boss, and call my mother-in-law a thief. This woman, who once was horrified that her father taught her child to grab a grape from the grocery store and try it before buying it, is a thief?

I want him to stand there and explain how she’s not a taxpayer who put up with so much in her life to support a family of five and worked until she was physically unable to any more.

I want him, with that “Leprechaun-meets-Jack-Torrance” look on his face, to say to her, “I’m sorry you’re hurting, but that’s not my problem. This nation has bills to pay.”

If this country is worth anything, it’s because of people like my mother-in-law. She spent her life teaching Sunday school to poor children and working with the autistic kids whom society discarded. She kept food on the table and her family in line for nighttime meals and homework sessions. She pushed herself out of pure American grit: The idea that you don’t take from others, but you work so you can give back.

When people like her break down, it’s not out of greed or laziness or a sense that they are owed something. It’s because something happened beyond their control and they need the rest of us to say, “Relax. We got this.”

Tax cuts don’t do that. Medicine does.

GDP growth charts don’t do that. Safety nets do.

This is something the Mick Mulvaneys of the world will never get: Money isn’t everything. It’s what we do with the money that defines our humanity.

Friday Catblogging: Carnival Flashbag

The title isn’t a typo, it’s a pun on flashback. Another day, another pun. Oscar and his pesky kid sister belatedly discovered a Carnival throws bag that’s been sitting next to the fireplace for months. I never claimed to be a good housekeeper or to read Good Housekeeping for that matter.

The kitties are now so obsessed with the bag that Della gave me a warning hiss as I walked by the other day. Silly cat. That’s why we call her the butt-head.

GOP Impulse Control Blues: Greg The Goon & The Insane President Posse

Trump spawn and Greg the Goon. Photo via the Toronto Star.

A venerable expression of disputed origin that I’ve been using for years has become a cliché or truism. There’s a reason for that: “a fish rots from the head down” is true. It certainly applies to the Republican Party whose members have gotten crazier and crazier since the Insult Comedian became its bull goose loony. One wouldn’t think that impulse control would be a problem for candidates and office-holders, but it is in the New Gilded Age. Trump sets the tone for his party.  It’s an ugly and discordant tone; not unlike skinhead thrash metal complete with guttural vocals. Tremendous. Believe me.

I suspect you’ve all heard about the special behavior exhibited by Montana special election candidate/rich Republican malaka Greg (The Goon) Gianforte. He assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs last night. Jacobs’ offense was asking a question about Trumpcare. Gianforte does not like the Guardian because they wrote a piece about his ties to Russian companies. (Why is it always Russia with these fuckers?) Greg the Goon has been charged with misdemeanor assault for body slamming the bespectacled journalist. He should be charged with rampant mendacity as his campaign’s account is contradicted by a Fox News crew’s account:

Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna, field producer Faith Mangan and photographer Keith Railey witnessed the incident at Gianforte’s campaign headquarters in Montana, according to an account published on the Fox News website. After Jacobs asked Gianforte his question, Acuna wrote: “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him.

“Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of ‘I’m sick and tired of this!’ … To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies.”

That’s right, Fox Fucking News; the home of Sean Hannity’s falling ratings. I wish I could say I was surprised that many GOPers defended Greg the Goon. Said defense inspired a brisk rejoinder from Never Trump conservative Rick Wilson. Here are the first three tweets of a 12-part tweet storm:

Yeah, you right, Rick. The president* has brought the WWE mentality to national politics. Only the impulse control impaired party practices it. You guessed it: the GOP. It’s not very grand of them is it? G should be for goon from now on.

It’s a pity that Greg the Goon may still body slam his way to victory. The downside of early voting is that 50% of the ballots have been cast. The race, however, has been tightening and Montana has election day registration. The assault cost Greg the Goon some newspaper endorsements. The Missoulian don’t play that.

Greg the Goon isn’t the only Republican having impulse control issues. The GOP’s bull goose loony, president* Trump has them as well and in a more lethal form.

I am referring, of course, to Trump’s propensity to leak classified information whilst in the throes of braggadocio. In addition to his Oval Office exploits with the Russian Foreign Minister and GRU Rezident/Ambassador. Trump bragged to fellow insane President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philipines about submarine positions. This is a big no-no: loose lips sink ships, especially subs. Submarines by their nature are stealthy. It would be a mistake for Trump to tell the leaders of Britain, France, or Japan let alone a member of the Insane President Posse.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is pissed off at Team Trump for leaking details about the Manchester bombing including the name of the alleged bomber. May plans to admonish Trump but it’s unlikely to have any impact. One doesn’t learn impulse control at age 70. Besides, Trump never listens to women even Brexiteering ones.

We’re at a depressing stage in the history of the Republic. One of our major parties is in the hands of a leader who reflects all of its worst qualities. The few diehard Never Trump GOPers are not office-holders but people like Rick Wilson, Ana Navarro, Evan McMullin, and David Frum. Congressional Republicans are content to be pro-Trump as long as they think he’ll sign anything they send to him. The good news is that scandals like the Russian affair have a way of paralyzing government, especially when the Insult Comedian’s specialty is making things worse.

I’ll give Peter Gabriel the last word with a song from the PG3 aka Melt album. Greg the Goon certainly had a meltdown last night as well as no impulse control whatsoever.

At the risk of being branded a last word liar, I came up with the second part of the post title after it was written. The piece was too tight to disrupt, so here it is. Greg the Goon & The Insane President Posse is a helluva band name innit?  I see them riding off into the sunset on their pygmy ponies after checking out the dental floss bushes. You really didn’t think I’d do a post about the place Gus McCrae always called Montany without mentioning Zappa did you?

Ecce Ryancare

Ecce_Homo_Ryancare

There, fixed it.

Or Trumpcare, or whatever you want to call it. We got a sneak preview last month, but it was finally scored by the CBO, and the verdict is…no amount of lipstick, perfume, paint, wire, chewing gum, or whatever else can hide the fact that it’s one giant shit sandwich:

A bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act that narrowly passed the House this month would leave 14 million more people uninsured next year than under President Barack Obama’s health law — and 23 million more in 2026, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. Some of the nation’s sickest would pay much more for health care.

[The CBO] warned that a last-minute amendment made to win conservative votes would result in deeply dysfunctional markets for about a sixth of the population. In those places, insurance would fail to cover important medical services, and people with pre-existing illnesses could be shut out of coverage, the budget office said.

It’s enough to make a wingnut candidate for Congress body-slam a reporter.

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Robert McGinnis Meets Perry Mason

I wrote about artist Robert McGinnis at the end of April in a Saturday post. Here are two covers he did for Perry Mason novels. The feline Della Street approves.

The Americans Thread: The Penultimate Episode

I love the word penultimate as much as epistolary or eponymous and since I used those words earlier today, there was only one title for my recap of The World Council Of Churches.

The reason for that unwieldy, even bureaucratic, episode title is that the KGB secured Pastor Tim a sinecure in Argentina to get him out of the Jennings’ hair. I’m uncertain if it’s their real hair or one of their flotilla of wigs but, in any event, he’s out of it. And Paige is wigging out with glee.

Before taking our spoiler break, here’s a musical selection inspired by Phillip’s Brad the pilot persona. You know the guy who “adopted” Tuan. The pilot may be ready to drop the Vietnamese Kid if you catch my drift. More about that anon.

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Book Review: The Selected Letters Of John Kenneth Galbraith

Every once in a while I’m offered a review copy of a new book. It’s always flattering when someone is interested in what a mere internet wise ass has to say. This time around, I was contacted by Diana Rissetto of Cambridge University Press and offered a copy of The Selected Letters of John Kenneth Galbraith. I accepted with alacrity but it’s taken longer than expected to review this outstanding book. Ms. Rissetto has been as unfailingly patient as I have been dilatory. She also has a most amusing and witty Twitter feed, which is a plus. One can tell that I’ve finished the book because Galbraith’s style is contagious and this paragraph is redolent of it. It’s a good thing I’m under the spell of Ken Galbraith, not Pepe Le Pew. Le sigh of relief.

The British historian Thomas Carlyle dubbed economics the dismal science. Economists are not known for their prose style or sense of humor. It’s dry, dry stuff. John Kenneth Galbraith was an exception to that usually accurate rule. In fact, he’s one of my favorite writers of his era as he dabbled in writing outside his area; especially in the world of politics where he was a committed liberal Democrat with a wry sense of humor. No other economist ever made me laugh out loud, which I did repeatedly as I read this book.

The letters have been edited and annotated by Richard P.F. Holt. He did a smashing job ensuring that we know who Galbraith was corresponding with and why. I knew most of the names but there were some sleepers. Additionally, Holt has collected memos, speeches, and other non epistolary documents. Good job, sir.

Galbraith had an active sideline as an adviser to, among others, Adlai Stevenson, Jack Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, and-until they broke it off over Vietnam-Lyndon Johnson. While Ambassador to India from 1961-63, Galbraith was dispatched to Vietnam by JFK and asked for his input. He offered it to his successor as well until Johnson ended the correspondence. It was a pity that LBJ was less receptive to Galbraith’s advice on that lamentable conflict than to his suggestions on domestic policy. If LBJ had listened, he might have been our greatest President.

In addition to his political side, The Selected Letters, dips a toe into Galbraith’s personal life.  Most interesting are his exchanges with Jackie Kennedy. They’re flirtatious on both sides without being OTT. Ken Galbraith would have made an excellent courtier, which he was by analogy. He offered the Kennedys his loyalty but it was never blind fealty. Galbraith believed in plain speaking wrapped in wit when corresponding with the Kennedys. It’s a pity that the Current Occupant is surrounded by nothing but yes men, relatives, and non-entities. He could also use a decent joke writer. Believe me.

Galbraith had some close friends on the other side of the political spectrum: Henry Luce, William F. Buckley, and fellow economist, Milton Friedman. Friedman was the godfather of Thatcherism and Reagonomics but his correspondence with the uber Keynesian Galbraith was respectful and, at times, hilarious. Friedman did a better job of hiding his puckish side than Galbraith so I enjoyed their exchanges inordinately. That’s another Galbraithian word. I seem to be turning into him. I hope I don’t become 6’8″ at my advanced age: none of my clothes will fit…

I’m not known for my adherence to chronology, so let’s circle back to Galbraith’s war-time activities with the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS.) His letters home to his wife Kitty from 1945 are a must read for anyone interested in World War II. His service with the USSBS led to Galbraith being the only Harvard faculty member ever name checked by Pete Townshend in a Who song. Now that’s an honor.

Speaking of The Who, I considered reviewing this wonderful book as a Saturday Odds & Sods segment, but thought better of it. I think it’s time for a Galbraith revival. He was a witty and wise man who was usually right. He was an uncommonly good, decent, and intelligent human being; qualities we are badly in need of as we endure an uncommonly bad, indecent, and stupid administration*.

I highly recommend that y’all pick up a copy of The Selected Letters Of John Kenneth Galbraith. Ken Galbraith passed away in 2006 but he remains good company; pun intended, it always is. The only bad thing about finishing the book is that I will miss hearing his marvelously droll voice in my head as I read. For those of you unfamiliar with JKG’s cadence, here’s a 1986 interview with the man himself.

Who else but Ken Galbraith could possibly have the last word in this post?  That would be me. But I’ll use his typical epistolary closer, his Won’t Get Fooled Again as it were:

Yours Faithfully,

Adrastos

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Graham Central Station

Larry Graham is one of the best bassists of all-time. He started off with Sly and the Family Stone but got tired of  working with the band’s brilliant but unreliable leader. He quit in 1972 and formed Graham Central Station, which is a pun on his name. No wonder I love this guy.

Graham Central Station were pop-soul-funk pioneers who have become, if not forgotten, overlooked. That’s one reason I’m posting the cover of their eponymous 1974 debut album. Another is that the photographs were taken by the great Bay Area rock photographer, Herb Greene. Finally, they’re my homeys and I saw them more than a few times when I was a wee laddie or is that shorty?

Here’s the whole damn album. As their funk contemporaries The Meters might say, get ready to funkify your life.