Category Archives: Congress

Roll Over Josh Greenberg, Tell Matt Gaetz The News

I’ve assumed that Matt Gaetz’s pervy little friend Josh Greenberg would rat him out. The NYT confirmed yesterday that Greenberg has flipped like a flapjack or whatever your preferred name for a pancake is:

Mr. Greenberg began speaking with investigators once he realized that the government had overwhelming evidence against him and that his only path to leniency lay in cooperation, the people said. He has met several times with investigators to try to establish his trustworthiness, though the range of criminal charges against him — including fraud — could undermine his credibility as a witness.

Unlike the Gray Lady, the thought of a criminal testifying against another criminal doesn’t give me the vapors. Most witnesses in federal criminal cases are, well, criminals. Federal prosecutors are always looking for the biggest fish in any investigation. A congressman trumps a local tax collector with delusions of grandeur any day.

Speaking of delusions, Matt Gaetz has torn out a page from the Impeached Insult Comedian’s scandal manual and is on the attack. Of course, Trump was president* when he went after Team Mueller, which means the bully had the bully pulpit and the pardon power to dangle. All Gaetz has is big hair and an even bigger mouth.

It’s much harder to be Mini-Me than Dr. Evil and, at best, Gaetz is the former. His lord and master had the full-throated support of congressional Republicans whereas Mini-Me only has Gym Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene. In a word, pitiful.

There’s talk that Gaetzgate may be linked to a Florida election scandal. TPM’s Josh Kovensky thinks it’s a possibility:

Call it a harmonic convergence. Or simply too good to be true.

There are some indications that two scandals roiling Florida politics may actually be connected, tying the federal probe of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) to a slate of sham candidates that cropped up across the state in 2020.

Could that possibly be? This may not be the scandal we want, but is it possibly the one we deserve?

<SNIP>

And in the other, there’s an equally bizarre but perhaps more typical political scheme: a plot to run sham candidates across Florida to siphon votes away from the Democratic Party candidates.

It’s not clear how closely the two are connected. But what may bring them together is a confluence of money, Gaetz’s political connections, and a man loudly bragging at a Florida bar.

There’s always a man bragging in a bar with Trump scandals. My disgraced countryman George Papadopoulos’ loose lips eventually led to the Mueller probe, criminal charges, and a pardon from the Kaiser of Chaos. Trumpers do not know how to STFU.

Stay tuned.

The post title is a play on the Chuck Berry song, Roll Over Beethoven. That’s why Chuck, The Beatles, and ELO get the last word.

A Plea From The Republican Party

Republican Yellow Box

Great fallings will be onto you if you uncheck the box!

Wonderful greetings. I wish upon you peace and happiness on this beautiful day.

Please allow me to make my introduction. I am Great Honorable Leader Member of Glorious Senate Mitchell McConnell and I have a great and prosperous message for you please.

Here in my country the Republican States of American (g-d be praised) we are under attack from hideous outside force called Demoncrats. They intend to prey on all the innocents unborn and otherwise with their Satanic thoughts and way of life.

Their grandmaster the most dishonorable Joseph Hussein Biden wishes to undo all progress made toward our glorious and pure rebirth by the most splendid and definitely re-elected leader Donald Trump (blessed is his name).

  • He will bring forth a day when all you earn is given to those who do no work and live only for the convenience of the corner store and a pack of six liquored malt.
  • He will cleanse the air of your job and the water of your child’s and force you to take work for which you are untrained and unwilling to train.
  • He will force upon you more of the wicked Obamacare and make it more difficult for honest insurance companies to properly and majestically disapprove drugs and procedures “doctors” say are required.
  • He will send his murderous thugs to remove from your home your legally bought and honorably paid for AR15 which you use to protect your family only and has never been used nor will ever be used to commit the crime.
  • He will use his “justice department” to expel from the Congress the many defenders of the cause such as Her Rightness Margery Taylor Green, Her Eminent Lauren Boebert, and the very sexy and not at all creepy Most Definitely Not A Predator Matt Gaetz.
  • He wishes to bring us a great tithe called Increased Corporate Tax which shall take from those with no voice in Washington and give to those who do not look or sound like you. Why is it fair to tax our Corporate brethren so much when it should be Demoncrats who should pay the tax!
  • He wants to “rebuild” infrastructure. Of what use is that? We have all the bridges we need, all the roads, all the sewers. Even our unfailing electrical gridiron works perfectly, especially in states that rarely see snow or cold weather.
  • And worst he will make the elections by which our power is flowing impossible for us to win by allowing all the many infidels who follow him to vote as they please with no chance for us to properly determine if such votes are valid and real which of course they are not.

You MUST NOT allow these things to happen.  It is only through your contributions to the cause of freedom that we are able to prevent such disaster.

Please I beg of you to take a moment and send a contribution to us so we can continue to do the great work of preserving our Republican way of life.

We have made it super easy simple for you by already checking the yellow box above so you need not uncheck it. Remember IF YOU UNCHECK THE BOX OUR LEADER WILL BE ANGRY WITH YOU! You do not want to make our leader unhappiness. If you UNCHECK this box, we will have to tell the 45th(tm) you’re a DEFECTOR and have gone over to the Demoncrats.

Hoping that is never the case please feel the free to contact me with any ideas you may have. I am always in the love of hearing from good honest Republican citizens such as yourself.

Email: senator@mcconnell.senate.gov

Phone: 202-224-2541

With all the blessings of Trump, I remain as always, your most humble

Mitch McConnell

Shapiro Out

More Hick Schtick From John Neely Kennedy

The junior Senator from the Gret Stet of Louisiana is the man I love to hate. I considered two Sue Grafton inspired titles for this post, P Is For Phony or H Is For Hypocrite, before settling on this one. It would take a crack detective such as Kinsey Milhone to locate Neely’s integrity, after all.

Neely loves to go on teevee and denounce the liberals; one of whom he used to be. That was before he lowered his political IQ and became a Fox News favorite. He did it again the other day but first some background snark about Neely’s hick schtick.

As Treasurer of the Gret Stet of Louisiana for seventeen years, Neely was a publicity hound, but his brand was as a skinflint guarding the public coffers against both Democrats and Republicans, not the rabid wingnut of today. He was every bit as hard on Bobby Jindal as on his Democratic predecessor, Kathleen Blanco. Of course, he was a Democrat until 2007.

Neely didn’t start hicking up his accent and speaking style until he changed parties. Before then, he was not ashamed of being well-educated and articulate. The dumbing down began in his second run for the US Senate in 2008 against incumbent Mary Landrieu who had also served as Gret Stet Treasurer.

Neely perfected his hick schtick in his successful run for the Senate in 2016. Having secured the prize he’d spent his entire life chasing, he became one of the loudest Trump sycophants and enablers in a Republican party full of them. I wrote a long piece for Bayou Brief in 2018 about what I called his Neelyisms: the cornpone “wisdom” he dispenses on the boob tube.

The Neelyisms stopped being funny when he started using them to defend retrograde, racist, and downright stupid policies. After the slaughter in Boulder, Colorado he said that what America needed was idiot control, not gun control. He’s not really an idiot, he just plays one on teevee.

Neely popped up on Fox News the other day and deployed his cornpone “wisdom” against Major League Baseball for relocating the All Star Game from Atlanta to Denver:

Forget Mars. We need to search for intelligent life in the Major League Baseball commissioner’s office. I have never seen anything like this. Commissioner Manfred has a fiduciary responsibility to Major League Baseball. His job is to do the very best that he can not to suck. He has failed at that. Think about what he’s done. Major League Baseball is losing popularity to football and other sports. His job is to grow it. So what is the first thing he does? He decides to get involved in national politics and alienate hundreds of millions of Americans who actually like the Georgia bill and think that it is an honest effort for election security.

The commissioner hasn’t explained why he thinks these hundreds of millions of Americans who support the Georgia effort are a bunch of racists. He hasn’t bothered to explain why he thinks the bill is racist. The only excuse I can think is he made all of these decisions after his morning beer. I have never seen anything like it. It costs $150 to attend a major league baseball game in some cities. Is this going to encourage people to go? I just don’t think so.

This has nothing to do with Jackie Robinson. It has nothing to do with race.

It has everything to do with race, Senator. In fact, Jackie Robinson was born in Georgia, but his family fled Jim Crow and moved to California in search of a better life.

Republicans are afraid that they’re losing their grip on power in Georgia, so that state’s lege passed an atrocious bill that overwhelmingly effects black voters who are overwhelmingly Democratic. It might as well be called the Beat Raphael Warnock Bill.  One would think that logic would reach a man who was an adjunct professor at LSU law school for 14 years, but he’s only interested in the next election. His election.

Neely is also fond of mocking diversity and claiming that racism is not systematic. Our old pal Deep Blog saw the faux idiot on Faux News the other day and got a bellyful of his pseudo ignorant spiel. He sent me a screen shot of Vanderbilt University’s yearbook from 1973. John Neely Kennedy is second from the right on the top row:

The observant among you have surely noticed that, except for two Asian dudes, everyone on this page is of one race. It explains a lot about John Neely Kennedy. He not only mocks diversity, he’s uncomfortable with it. Imagine that.

Presumably, Vanderbilt is considerably more diverse in 2021 than it was in Neely’s day, which was a mere 9 years after that pricey private school was fully desegregated. In the Seventies, Black Commodores were still rare on the University’s Nashville campus unless some students owned records by the band then fronted by Lionel Richie.

John Neely Kennedy is a cornpone con man who thinks diversity is for suckers. To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, Neely talks loudly and carries a hick schtick. I look forward to voting against him in 2022.

Since Neely is so fond of guns, the last word goes to The Commodores with the title track of their debut album:

Gaetzgate: Blankety Blank

We begin with a couple of housekeeping notes. I wrote my maiden Gaetzgate post before hearing that the Panhandle Pinhead himself made a request:

I’ve decided to take pity on a doomed pol and spell it his way instead of in all-caps. Who knew that the Panhandle Pinhead’s fellow whiny man baby had the wit to make such a good pun?

Since Gaetz allegedly sough a blanket pardon, the phrase blankety blank immediately came to mind. I didn’t realize that it was the name of the UK equivalent of The Match Game. Where have you gone Gene Rayburn, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Brett Somers? They’re all long dead, alas.

Dead is also the word that best describes Matt Gaetz’s political career. It’s so dead that not even the Impeached Insult Comedian could revive it. He’s yet to defend his little friend, Matt; only Gym Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene have done so. How’s that for:

I know I’ve made that joke before but I can’t get enough of it. That concludes the classic rock jokes section of the post.

How was that for an epic opening tangent? It’s windy even by my standards.

Let’s move on to the opening lines I wrote immediately upon hearing about the latest Gaetzgate twist:

Blankets have been in the news recently. First Andrew Cuomo, now Matt Gaetz.

in the final weeks of Mr. Trump’s term, Mr. Gaetz sought something in return. He privately asked the White House for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed, according to two people told of the discussions.

Around that time, Mr. Gaetz was also publicly calling for broad pardons from Mr. Trump to thwart what he termed the “bloodlust” of their political opponents. But Justice Department investigators had begun questioning Mr. Gaetz’s associates about his conduct, including whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old that violated sex trafficking laws, in an inquiry that grew out of the case of an indicted associate in Florida.

It was unclear whether Mr. Gaetz or the White House knew at the time about the inquiry, or who else he sought pardons for. Mr. Gaetz did not tell White House aides that he was under investigation for potential sex trafficking violations when he made the request. But top White House lawyers and officials viewed the request for a pre-emptive pardon as a nonstarter that would set a bad precedent, the people said.

An idea so bad that even Team Trump flinched at the notion? That makes it a *really* bad even rotten idea. The whole Trump era could be summed up by the title of this failed Mel Brooks sitcom:

While Gaetz may not have known that a gate was to be affixed to his name when he begged for a pardon, he knew that his little friend Josh Greenberg was in deep shit and sinking fast. My hunch is that Greenberg was to be covered in the blankety blank blanket pardon. But was the My Pillow Guy involved? What’s a blanket without a pillow? I deserve to be given sheet for that joke…

I eagerly await the Panhandle Pinhead’s next PR gaffe. Who will he drag into his mess next: Hannity? KMac? BillO? Donnie Junior?

Stay tuned.

The last word goes to The Kinks:

 

Soak The Fat Boys & Spread It Out Thin

Hack Looks Askance At Hick Schtick.

Repeat after me: Soak The Fat Boys & Spread It Out Thin.

Thus spake Willie Stark in Robert Rossen’s brilliant film adaptation of Robert Penn Warren’s All The King’s Men. The line was adapted from advice Willie’s fixer Jack Burden gave him in the book after Willie delivered a dull speech:

“Just tell ’em you’re gonna soak the fat boys and forget the rest of the tax stuff…Willie, make ’em cry, make ’em laugh, make ’em mad, even mad at you. Stir them up and they’ll love it and come back for more, but, for heaven’s sakes, don’t try to improve their minds.”

I realize that sounds like something that pardoned felon Steve Bannon would have said to the Impeached Insult Comedian, but it’s sound advice for any politician even an honest one like Joe Biden. It certainly fits the time we live in:

Quite literally, the super-rich got richer, and the poor got poorer during the pandemic.

Repeat after me: Soak The Fat Boys & Spread It Out Thin.

One way to do this is to enact the Biden administration’s increase in corporate taxes. Another more satisfying way is to enact the Wealth Tax proposed by Senator Professor Elizabeth Warren. It will make the fat boys squeal like the pigs they are.

But will the Emperor of the Senate Joe Manchin support such a surtax? He’s from one of the poorest states in the Union but raising taxes became heresy for Blue Dogs after Mondale was blown out in the 1984 election and reinforced by the Gingrich wave election in 1994.

in 1984, Fritz Mondale made it a point of honesty in his acceptance speech:

‘Mr. Reagan will raise taxes and so will I. He won’t tell you. I just did.’

When I searched for the exact quote, it turned up articles warning Democrats not to raise taxes. All were written before the boom, bust, and boom of the pandemic.

Income inequality began its rise in the Reagan era, and exploded last year. Since the right no longer has an appealing salesman like Ronald Reagan, that makes it time to:

Biden’s infrastructure bill *should* be enormously popular. We can all cite crumbling infrastructure in our states and communities. In New Orleans, the greatest infrastructure need involves our water system. The vast majority of the pipes are over 100 years old. They burst with alarming regularity, which leads to frequent boil water orders. The city needs federal money to replace the system. It will take many years, but we need to get going as soon as possible.

I, for one, am relieved that Mitch McConnell has declared his entire caucus against the American Jobs Act. That means there will be no bad faith negotiations with Republicans as Leader Schumer plans to use the filibuster proof reconciliation process again. As with the COVID relief plan, I consider McConnell’s move to be cynical: GOPers will pop up to support projects if the bill passes.

It’s up to Democrats to find middle ground between AOC and the Man of La Manchin. It may sound hard but it’s easier than getting libertarian creeps like Aqua Buddha to agree to a spending proposal that’s guaranteed to attack income equality while improving roads, bridges, and the like across the country. It’s ironic that the original proponent of internal improvements, Henry Clay, hailed from Kentucky given the Turtle and Aqua Buddha’s posturing but he was a Whig, they’re Trumpified Republicans.

The Republican attack on the COVID relief plan was muted because they knew their states would benefit. I expect the same dynamic to play out here. Besides, the faux populism of Trump has seeded the ground for more government spending. Infrastructure week may have been a running joke under Trump, but President Biden hopes to make every week infrastructure week.

Willie Stark was famously based on Huey P. Long who was a blowhard with authoritarian tendencies, but he was big on infrastructure before it was called that. He talked a lot of rubbish, but delivered massive projects throughout the Gret Stet of Louisiana.

Joe Biden seems an unlikely heir to Long but the mere fact that he’s regarded as a moderate helped pass the first huge spending bill and will help pass the next spending bill if the Man of La Manchin allows it. He should follow the example of former West Virginia Senators such as Jennings, Byrd, and Rockefeller and take the money and run.

Make it so, Joe, make it so.

Soak the fat boys by passing a wealth surtax and/or corporate tax hikes, then spread it out thin by passing the American Jobs act.

The last word goes to the Steve Miller Band:

 

Quote Of The Day: Boehner On Birtherism

Barack Obama and John Boehner on St. Patrick’s Day, 2014.

The man I used to call Speaker Boner has published a memoir of his days in elected office. The Politico Magazine excerpt has a cool title: Panic Rooms, Birth Certificates, and the Birth of GOP Paranoia.

We can argue about the timing of the paranoia but not about its existence. It’s the sort of arguments we *used* to have with conservatives when we agreed on facts but not on policy.

Anyhoo, Heeeeeeere’s Johnny on what became the foundational big lie of Trumpism:

“In January 2011, as the new Republican House majority was settling in and I was getting adjusted to the Speakership, I was asked about the birth certificate business by Brian Williams of NBC News. My answer was simple: ‘The state of Hawaii has said that President Obama was born there. That’s good enough for me.’ It was a simple statement of fact. But you would have thought I’d called Ronald Reagan a communist. I got all kinds of shit for it—emails, letters, phone calls. It went on for a couple weeks. I knew we would hear from some of the crazies, but I was surprised at just how many there really were.

It’s quite a contrast with current House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy who is, to be blunt, a ninny and silly-billy. Who among us has forgotten the post I wrote about him in 2015 called Untrustable In Hungria. Most of you, I know, but it’s one of my all-time favorites so I trot it out whenever possible.

Even though I gave him an anatomical nickname, I was always fond of John Boehner. He’s a human being as opposed to the sock puppet McCarthy or the butt-plug Scalise.

Another image I keep trotting out. I got a million of them…

Another Boehner quote about the 2010 Tea Party wave election is quite revealing:

“You could be a total moron and get elected just by having an R next to your name—and that year, by the way, we did pick up a fair number in that category.”

Boehner’s Speakership coincided with the GOP’s headlong rush into full-tilt insanity. It turned his dream job into a nightmare. The same thing happened to our political system. We’re still trying to recover.

I get a kick out of the fact that Boehner is now a weed lobbyist. Party on, John.

The last word goes to the Chairman of the Board with a double dose of Cole Porter:

GAETZGATE?

I have Watergate on my mind because the nitwit who “masterminded” the break-in, G Gordon Liddy, died yesterday at the age of 90. Liddy was known for his mindless loyalty to Tricky Dick and post-prison talk radio windbaggery.

We go from no-hair Watergate to big-hair Gaetzgate.

Liddy’s death provided the backdrop for a blockbuster New York Times story about one of the Trumpiest Trumpers of all, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz:

Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida and a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump, is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, according to three people briefed on the matter.

Investigators are examining whether Mr. Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws, the people said. A variety of federal statutes make it illegal to induce someone under 18 to travel over state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value. The Justice Department regularly prosecutes such cases, and offenders often receive severe sentences.

It was not clear how Mr. Gaetz met the girl, believed to be 17 at the time of encounters about two years ago that investigators are scrutinizing, according to two of the people.

The investigation was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under Attorney General William P. Barr, the two people said. Given Mr. Gaetz’s national profile, senior Justice Department officials in Washington — including some appointed by Mr. Trump — were notified of the investigation, the people said.

The three people said that the examination of Mr. Gaetz, 38, is part of a broader investigation into a political ally of his, a local official in Florida named Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last summer on an array of chargesincluding sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl.

This is some serious shit, y’all. Greenberg is looking at an extended stretch in the slammer. If he can be induced to flip on Gaetz, the latter could be in deep shit. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

I realize that I’m on the record as opposing affixing a gate to every scandal. But this is an exceptional case because it’s punny and scans so well: GAETZGATE. I think it looks best in all caps.

Like his lord and master, Pennywise, Gaetz looks out for #1. In 2017, he was the only member of Congress to vote against an anti-human trafficking bill.

In response to the NYT story, Gaetz cried SQUIRREL and gave the media hounds something to chase: an alleged extortion scheme.

Gaetz even tried to use fellow wingnut shitbag Tucker Carlson as an alibi. Tucker may be a fucker, but he denied dining with Gaetz and a young lady who is NOT jailbait according to Gaetz. Would he lie? Hell, yes.

GAETZGATE. Try it, you’ll like.

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Talking Filibuster

Back in January I wrote about my love of politics and how I had high hopes that the Biden administration would make them great again. Over the last few weeks Senate Democrats have been hinting that the filibuster game is afoot. The Senator You Love to Hate, Joe Manchin, allowed that he would support a “talking” filibuster, where the minority would have to keep talking to delay the vote. Over the last few weeks, more and more of the Senate’s Democratic filibuster defenders have expressed their interest in either eliminating or reforming the current filibuster. Tonight Amy Klobuchar, the Chair of the Senate Rules Committee, said that the talking filibuster was coming in time for the voting rights bill.

Extremely Online Democratic Twitter is apoplectic over this change. “But it will still require 60 votes!!!” Yes, but only to break the filibuster. If the minority party stops talking (or goes off-topic if the filibuster is changed to specify only germane debate is allowed), the vote is called and a simple majority wins. Somehow this is a fatal blow to the…Senate Democrats.

The current composition of Senate Democrats is a recipe for Democratic success using the talking filibuster. While in the majority Senate Democrats are more disciplined than I had anticipated they would be, and they are able to work in tandem and to a scripted timetable (the current one being the growing support for a talking filibuster presented as minimal change to the process—and don’t underestimate this framing). Also, Senate Democrats are chockablock with nerds–glorious nerds who can hold forth with months of on-topic debate:  well-sourced, eloquent, affecting, persuasive debate–which will serve them well as a minority party.

Senate Republicans are supremely uninterested in governing, and even less interested in anything that can’t be repackaged into a FOX sound bite.  Remember, Senate Republicans got beat twice last month when they could not just sit in their seats while the Senate was in session (that’s how Merrick Garland’s filibustered nomination moved to confirmation).

Mitch McConnell knows this too, and he’s now regularly threatening to filibuster everything if the Democrats eliminate the filibuster. While using the status quo as a future threat is a bold move on his part, his panic is fueled by what is becoming apparent:  his beloved filibuster is staying, but it’s now going to require discipline and unity from his caucus. Maybe he should have been more specific in January when he asked for assurances that the filibuster would stay.

But my real enthusiasm to submit Senate Republicans to the talking filibuster is to laugh at them. One of the little things I like about the Harry Potter series is that the spell to banish the things that terrorize you is called “Riddikulus”. Laughing at things reduces them to a human size and form. And the current Republican Party is full of people to laugh at.

Here’s Louisiana’s John Neely Kennedy and his attempted slam dunk at a gun control hearing:

Here he is, again, mansplaining how the IMF works to Janet Yellen:

Rand Paul gonna Rand Paul:

Because I am merciful, I’ll spare you the video of Ted Cruz. Here’s what he tried to sell during the hearing on the voting rights bill:

This bill is the single most dangerous bill this committee has ever considered. This bill is designed to corrupt the election process permanently, and it is a brazen and shameless power grab by Democrats. That the number-one priority is not COVID or getting people back to work or getting kids back in school. It’s keeping Democrats in power for 100 years. And how do they do this? They do this by instituting a bill that will promote widespread fraud and illegal voting. Under this bill, there’s automatic registration of anybody if you get a driver’s license, if you get a welfare payment, if you get an unemployment payment. If you attend a public university. Now, everyone knows there are millions of illegal aliens who have driver’s licenses, getting welfare benefits to attend public universities. This bill is designed to register every one of those illegal aliens. What would the impact be in state elections of automatically registered millions of illegal aliens to vote?

Like the videos above, it is full of lies and magical thinking. Imagine televising dumb arguments like this to millions of Americans to justify denying us our vote.

 

Groundhog Day

I’ve written many times over the years about the latest mass shooting. I’m almost at a loss for words after 2 mass shootings in 9 days.

While I gather my thoughts, below are links to my past-post atrocity posts; many of which have a pink tinge, Pink Floyd, that is. I’m sure there are more but I’ve lost track after 12 years at First Draft.

12/3/2015: Still Comfortably Numb

06/16/2016: Still Comfortably Numb Revisited

10/10/2017: Still Comfortably Numb Revisited 2

10/29/2018: Kristallnacht In Broad Daylight

03/18/2019: Post Mayhem Rituals

08/05/2019: Still Numb

I guess I missed 2020 because of the pandemic. One of the few good things about the year of the plague.

There are guns in every country. The citizenry in the English-speaking world are particularly well-armed. But American-style mass shootings are rare elsewhere in the world. Why? Laws requiring firearms licenses, background checks, and above all else bans on assault weapons and their components.

The South is often demonized as a heavily armed region. My family is from the West and there were guns everywhere as well. Not in my house: my Republican father wouldn’t allow guns in his house after having to use one in World War II. He didn’t judge our relatives who had firearms for hunting and such, nor do I.

When I was growing up, mass shootings were rare. There were lunatic killers out there, but they weren’t packing assault rifles that made the Tommy Guns used by Prohibition era gangsters look almost as tame as this toy replica:

Then came the rise of the NRA and mass shootings became more common as they espoused a purist nearly theological interpretation of the Second Amendment.

Once the 1994 assault weapons ban was allowed to lapse, the 21st Century became the golden age of mass mayhem.

It keeps happening. The reactions on both sides are as predictable as they are tiresome: thoughts and prayers and yadda, yadda, yadda.

I don’t know about you, but I hate making the same mistakes over and over again. I try to avoid that in my own life. I prefer to make new and original mistakes.

As a country we keep making the same mistakes over and over again. The mass shootings keep coming and our reactions are almost stereotypical. We always have to hear from Joe Manchin who continues to value the filibuster more than the human lives lost in mass shootings. Remember the Manchin-Toomey fiasco in 2013? Manchin told us he could pass a modest gun control measure in the Senate. He failed. He’s likely to make the same mistake again in 2021.

We’re all trapped on a stationary bike, peddling fast but getting nowhere in a hurry.

I don’t mean to trivialize mass shootings by using a movie analogy, but we’re stuck in a post-mayhem stupid loop. It keeps repeating over and over again just like in Groundhog Day. We’re all Bill Murray.

I love Bill Murray, but I want to escape the endless time loop of mass shootings. The time to wake up from this nightmare is now: the NRA is enfeebled by scandal and bankruptcy. President Biden understands this issue and is prepared to act. It’s time for the United Senate to change the plot by acting. I’m tired of quoting Pink Floyd songs and being Bill Murray.

Stop the madness.

Thank You For Your Stimulating Gift

Joe Biden And The Checks

Joe Biden and The Checks sing their #1 hit “Pay Me My Money Down”

 

Thank you Mr. Biden for the gift of the stimulus checks we received recently. It was very kind of you and the Democrats in congress to think of us in this time of need for the entire country.

Just as my parents taught me to always write a thank you note, they also taught me never to speak ill of the dead so I’ll forgo saying anything about congressional Republicans.

The wife (Cruella) and I are in the fortunate position of having been able to weather, so far, the COVID storm financially solvent. We don’t need to use our $2800 to pay past due bills or rent or mortgage or put food on the table as I know many others must. On their behalf I thank you for that small lifeline as well as the extension of unemployment benefits and supplemental aid.

As for us we intend to use that money to do what it’s name implies, stimulate the economy.

Our local economy.

We could go out and buy something big and fancy. Frankly our refrigerator and dishwasher are both on the edge of extinction but they still work and should they stop working we have the space on our credit cards to go out and make an emergency purchase.

The idea of just going on a mad shopping spree and buying “stuff” isn’t very appealing. We have reached the age that makes us think before every purchase “will our kids have to get rid of that when we’re gone?” and in any case the reality is that COVID has made it more difficult to buy truly local. By that I mean just because you bought something at the local Target or Wal-Mart doesn’t mean you bought local. Shopping at the local outlet of those companies doesn’t keep them in business, it just adds to the pockets of the Walton or Dayton Families.

Don’t even get me started on Amazon.

With restaurants beginning to open back up for indoor dining the idea of eating out every night was bandied about, but we’re still a little leery about being in small enclosed spaces with people we don’t know. Besides we both like to cook. Going out to eat every night would be like cheating on our kitchen, a momentary pleasure offset by feelings of guilt every time we put pan to stove.

We’d love to use it to travel, but, well, you know.

Then we had the perfect solution sweep into our laps. A friend told us about a woman he knew who, having lost her job when one of the local wineries had to close their tasting room, had started her own housecleaning business.

  • We get a clean house, she gets the money.
  • We support a new local business, she gets the money.
  • We don’t add to a pile of “stuff” we don’t really need, she gets the money.
  • We stimulate the local economy, she gets to be stimulated.

That last one didn’t come out right but you get the idea.

$2800 will buy us a year’s worth of housecleaning, three hours once every two weeks. Our hiring her will potentially get our neighbors to hire her. They can tell their friends. Pretty soon she can build a business that will purchase supplies, hire others, pay taxes, help send her kids to college, you know, all those things that contribute to what we call the American Dream. That’s what I call stimulating the economy, exactly what your checks were intended to do.

I hope others who are in similar situations to ours will do the same.

If they chose to buy something, I hope they will try and buy it from a local company. Need a new refrigerator? Go to the local appliance store, not the local Best Buy. Want something new to hang on the wall? Support a local artist. Even if they do use the money simply for food, going to the local market will be a better use of the money then forking over to Costco or Wal-Mart. The reality is that local merchants and service providers can’t just issue more stock or take on a higher debt to survive this crisis, their debt is already up to their nostrils. They need butts walking through the door, ie,  the local community to survive.

My economics professor in college put it best. “Remember, when you buy from them, they can afford to buy from the guy across the street, who can then afford to buy from the guy across town, who then buys from your company and you get to keep your job”.

Besides, everybody ought to have a maid.

I was going to use the Nathan Lane Broadway version, but how could I resist Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers, and Jack Gilford. Bialystock, Bilko, and Cracker Jack. 

Shapiro Out

Malaka Of The Week: Peter Thiel

I prefer to celebrate people who are alumni of my high school alma mater. Hell, I even say nice things about Merv Griffin who was a lame chat show host but also gave the world Jeopardy. It’s impossible to say anything nice about a certain 1985 graduate of San Mateo High School. And that is why Peter Thiel is malaka of the week.

Peter Thiel is not the only notable wingnut to have been a Bearcat, there’s also Alicia Silverstone who continually lives up to the title of her most famous movie, Clueless.

Mercifully, we have some other alumni who one can be proud of: Cal Tjader, Kris Kristofferson, Barry Bostwick, and Dennis Haysbert to name a few.

Back to this week’s malaka who is all pay and no pal. Peter Thiel is a Trump-supporting, libertarian, litigious son-of-a-bitch. I use PayPal but not out of school pride. I do so because it’s easy.

The reason for the selection is Thiel’s attempt to buy a United States senate seat in a state in which he does not dwell:

Silicon Valley iconoclast Peter Thiel is placing the biggest political bet of his career, pumping $10 million into a super PAC that is supporting a former Thiel aide who may run for the US Senate in Ohio.

Thiel has cut a check of just over $10 million to an outside group backing J.D. Vance, the author of the bestselling book Hillbilly Elegy, a much bigger contribution than he made to support Donald Trump and Thiel’s largest disclosed political donation ever. Vance is one of several people in Thiel’s network who have weighed Senate bids in recent years and stand to benefit substantially from their ties to the billionaire investor.

Some hillbilly, some elegy.

The Bearcat billionaire’s involvement is one of the best arguments for overturning Citizen’s United I can think of. He’s “investing” in other candidates in the hopes of becoming a modern-day robber baron with a pocketful of senators. He still lives in California so the chances of his securing a senate seat for himself are slim and none and none just switched to Venmo.

Peter Thiel is a nasty piece of work who wants to elect fellow nasty “populists” to office. If he’s a populist, I’m a Trumper. And that is why Peter Thiel is malaka of the week.

A note on the featured image: that’s not the Bearcat logo from my day but I like it. It’s fierce. It makes me want to bleed orange and black; figuratively, not literally.

The last word goes to a San Mateo High alum of whom we can all be proud, Cal Tjader. It’s a 1958 instrumental ode to Giants great Orlando Cepeda:

 

The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia

Tuesday night a man whose name I will not use murdered 8 people; 6 of them were Asian Americans. Seven of the dead were women. Earlier that evening Donald Trump, while on live television, used a slur to refer to COVID-19. What did the media fixate on? That he had told everyone to get vaccinated. Somehow the year long rise in violence against Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, that began because the same racist former president consistently used racist language to describe a virus, wasn’t worthy of conversation.

Wednesday morning the Cherokee County, GA’s Captain Jay Baker told us that these murders did not constitute a racially-motivated hate crime. You see, the murderer was upset about sin and his “sex addiction”. And also? He’d had a bad day. And then we we found out that this same sheriff trafficked in anti-Asian memes. At that point I just couldn’t anymore with the hot takes that it wasn’t a hate crime, but someone mad at sex workers, with the undercurrent that while this was—you know—bad, it was pretty understandable. UGH UGH UGH.

And then Wednesday evening we learned more about 4 of the victims. It took us so long to find out about them because it required people who spoke Korean. These 4 women were in their 50s, 60s, and 70s. The narrative completely changed. The murderer wasn’t a young Christian struggling with sin and lashing out at the women he felt had led him astray. He was just a racist loser who lashed out at people he hated. He had a social media presence that was anti-Asian. He literally said on Tuesday night, as he was killing people, that he wanted to kill Asian Americans.

I thought I knew what I wanted to write about this tragedy:  a loser murders 7 young women because he has sexual hang-ups and had been indoctrinated into a pseudo-religious ideology that holds that sexually active women need to be strictly controlled. But the first 4 women we learn about are…like me. They are middle-aged to elderly. They most likely weren’t sex workers. This wasn’t about sin or sex addiction. This was about straight up racism and misogyny.

It’s the same behavior that happens on Native American reservations, where angry white men go to rape Native American women because they know they won’t be held accountable for their terrible deeds. This murderer was taken into custody alive and unharmed. The sheriff, himself a despicable racist, as we found out today, offered up excuses for the person he identified with. As it turns out, so did a lot of America.

Also on Wednesday the House of Representatives reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, and even after these terrible murders 172 House Republicans voted against it. Now we wait to see if it can pass the Senate. It is beyond infuriating that the passage of this bill in doubt, but abusers protect their fellow abusers, and they see no reason to break that cycle.

Let Them All Talk

There’s been some movement on the filibuster front. More and more senators are using the word reform instead of abolish as a way of picking up The Man of La Manchin’s vote. It seems to be working as Cassandra’s boy has admitted to a fondness for old-school talking filibusters. The man whose seat he filled in the Senate, Robert Byrd, was one of its foremost practitioners, after all.

I can live with that as can President Biden who had this exchange with my diminutive countryman:

STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you’ve been reluctant to do away with the filibuster. Aren’t you going to have to choose between preserving the filibuster and advancing your agenda?
BIDEN: Yes. But here’s the choice: I don’t think you have to eliminate the filibuster. You have to do what it used to be when I first got to the Senate … and that is, that a filibuster, you had to stand up and command the floor. … So you gotta work for the filibuster.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re for that reform? You’re for bringing back the talking filibuster?
BIDEN: I am.

That’s progress. Biden faces a recalcitrant Republican majority with a wily leader who I call the Turtle but who calls himself the Grim Reaper. Obstructionism is what he does best as reflected by this TPM headline:

McConnell Threatens To Grind Senate To Halt If Dems Don’t Let Him Keep Power To Grind Senate To Halt

How much worse can it get? It’s time for Democrats to call the Turtle’s bluff and whap him upside the head so hard that it will retract into its shell. It appears that Biden and Schumer are ready to rumble. They remember what happened in the first year of the Obama administration as does Ron Klain who is on his way to being the most effective White House chief of staff since Jim Baker.

Ron Klain is a special guy. He’s capable of playing both good cop and bad cop, which is a rare quality indeed. He knows the senate almost as well as his boss. It’s a pity that he can no longer brag about Kevin Spacey playing him in the HBO movie Recount. The reasons are obvious: Spacey was such a sexpest that he makes some of the others look like amateurs. So it goes.

It’s unclear how this drama will turn out but the mere fact that we’re having this discussion is major progress. It’s time to bring majority rule to the senate.

It’s been a long time since there was a talking filibuster. They *were* used for nefarious purposes by the likes of Strom Thurmond and Richard Russell but they’ve also been used to block shitty legislation.

I, for one, cannot wait to see how the many elderly senators in the GOP caucus react to the return of the talking filibuster. Chuck Grassley is apt to plotz when he sees the cots rolled out.

I hope that the senate will limit the talking filibuster to germane topics. We don’t need a latter-day Huey Long going on about potlikker for hours on end. And I’m talking about you, John Neely Kennedy.

I’m sure Neely fancies himself as Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington when he’s really sellout Claude Rains.

The last word goes to Elvis Costello:

The House Vax Refuseniks

It’s time for some more jab jabber but you knew that already because of the featured image of Richard Widmark with a needle. A friend asked me if I’d consider using the poster for The Panic In Needle Park but since that flick is about junkies, I told him to stick it. I suspect he’ll continue needling me. If you dish it out, you gotta be able to take it.

I’ve felt like a compendium of vaccine side effects since we last did some jab talking. Nothing major: just a bit of wooziness, soreness, minor swelling, and ennui, which is a fancy way of saying that I’ve slept a lot. I’m following my late mother’s admonition to sleep when under the weather. She was a smart woman.

The mere fact that I’m having side effects means the vaccine is working. It beats the hell out of one of the leading side effects of the virus: DEATH.

The vax news out of Congress is vexing. According to a piece in Axios:

Uncertainty about why only 75% of the House is confirmed as vaccinated against the coronavirus is fueling a debate about when the chamber can return to its normal rules of operation.

Between the lines: The other 25% of members have either refused to get the vaccine, have not reported getting it at home or are avoiding it because of medical conditions. Until the Office of Attending Physician is clear about this, it can’t make recommendations “regarding the modification or relaxation of existing social distancing guidelines.”

  • Congress has its own supply of the coronavirus vaccine. While it’s not certain which party is most to blame for any vaccine hesitancy, the phenomenon is higher among white Republicans than any other demographic group, as Axios has reported.

  • “I won’t be taking it. The survival rate is too high for me to want it,” 25-year-old Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) told Axios in December.

I yield the floor to my colleague from Gotham City to fire a bullet at those bullet points:

Is there really any doubt about which party is to blame? The GOP is the party of Mask Warriors as well as Dipshit Insurrectionists. And side effects of Trumpism include stupidity, malakatude, and COVID denialism.

It’s all about freedom, man. House GOPers also object to security measures adopted since the Twelfth Night White Riot. They impinge on their freedom, man. I suspect they concur with this nonsense from the stupidest solon:

Even though those thousands of people that were marching to the Capitol were trying to pressure people like me to vote the way they wanted me to vote, I knew those were people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law, and so I wasn’t concerned,” Johnson said in a Thursday interview with conservative radio host Joe “Pags” Pagliarulo.

“Now, had the tables been turned — Joe, this could get me in trouble — had the tables been turned, and President Trump won the election and those were tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and Antifa protesters, I might have been a little concerned,” he added.

The Boy Wonder is feeling feisty today:

Racism is one of the nastier side effects of white privilege. Ain’t nobody whiter than Ron Johnson.

Anyway, y’all get jabbed ASAP. If you’re still not eligible, sign up pronto. It’s important: side effects be damned.

The last word goes to Pat Benatar:

The La-Z-Boys of Politics

Martin Crane's La-Z-Boy

What did Tucker just say?! The Demoncrats want to what??!!

My First Draft colleague Cassandra had a piece this week about her Senator Manchin and how he and the Senate Dems played the Republicans to get the COVID bill passed by allowing the ludicrous charade of forcing a reading of the entire bill, then waiting till the Republicans had left the chamber while all the Demos stayed thus allowing Chuck “I’m Amy’s Cousin Not Her Uncle” Schumer to invoke cloture and move the bill, as well as Merrick Garland’s Attorney General nomination, to the floor for a vote.

In other words he used an old jujitsu move on them, allowing your opponent to be done in by their own innate nature.

And what is their innate nature? Very simply, conservatives are lazy. The inherent want of conservatism is for nothing to change because change requires work, sometimes hard work, to one degree or another. Conservatives want to take the easiest, simplest, path, the one that takes little if any work. The easy answer is always no. The hard is “let’s work to find a way”.

Think of any issue, political or social, and you will see this at, well,  work.

Climate change. The easy thing is to say it doesn’t exist and let’s just go on doing what we’ve always done. The hard thing is to say it does exist and new strategies have to be put in place to retard it, strategies that will mean those contributing to the change will have to work hard and maybe even give up some power, money, or influence.

Social justice. The easy way is to say there is no racial divide and those protesting police brutality or pay inequality are only doing so because they want something for nothing. The hard way means working to confront your own fears, prejudices, and greed to make the world more equitable for all.

Gun Control. The easy way is to say second amendment trumps all. The hard way is to note that unlike the first amendment, the second does not contain the words “Congress shall make no law” and then work to make laws that take guns out of the hands of sociopaths while allowing honest, small genitaled…er…I mean law abiding citizens to have them.

The COVID pandemic. “It’s just the flu” versus “Quarantine, social distance, wear a mask, get the vaccine” Whew, that’s a lot of work.

Voting rights. The easy way to win elections is to make sure only your people vote. The hard way to win elections is to have actual programs and ideas that benefit the electorate, then work to convince people yours is the better way.

I bring this up because the passage of the COVID relief bill was by the thinnest of majorities in both the House and Senate. The liberal, Democratic, view of the bill was that people need help and this will help them. The conservative, Republican, view is, well, I can’t really tell what their opposition to the bill was. In their lazy fashion they mumbled something about it being bloated, crammed with liberal policies (without naming those policies) and instead decided to start railing against Dr. Seuss of all people rather than come up with a competing bill because that would have taken work.

What is astounding to me is they didn’t need to be doing this. They could have had a nominal group of no worries about re-election lawmakers cry about fiscal responsibility and vote no and have everyone else join the Dems in voting for a bill that had an astounding 87% of the American people wanting to see passed. Bipartisanship in the cause of helping the American people in a crisis.

But that would have meant doing the work necessary to explain why, after a decade or more of decrying bipartisanship, they suddenly felt it was important to work together even when they didn’t do any of the work involved in writing the bill. It also would have forced them to tacitly admit that the president* they had supported should have done the hard work of fighting the pandemic instead of pooh-poohing it and saying it would like magic disappear once the weather got warm. Who knows, had he done that he might have won the 2020 election instead of having to falsely claim he did.

Now 250 senators and congress people will have to explain to their constituents that the imperative of preventing the economy tanking, people being forced from their homes, children going hungry, or the task of getting the vaccine in the arms of everyone wasn’t as important as the easy culture wars slight of hand of railing against the Seuss estate deleting six books from their back catalog.

Now some of their members are taking credit for the bill’s passage. Senator Roger Wicker tweeted how much the bill will help small business. That’s like telling your constituents to stay strong during an unexpected snow storm while you ride off to Cancun. Oh yeah, one of theirs did that as well.

Taking credit for the work of others. Some call it cheating. Some call it plagiarism. I just call it being lazy.

And to think that I saw it on Capitol Hill.

 

Shapiro Out

 

 

Things Are Looking Up

I made a Magritte joke this morning in my album cover art post. This time it’s a sight gag: the featured image is a Magritte painting called The Therapist, which is, in turn, a joke on the surrealist movement’s passion for psychologically provocative images. And some think Francophones have no sense of humor.

The lockdown phase of the pandemic began a year ago. It’s been tough. We’ve all despaired and been distressed. Things began to improve with the presidential election. There was a major setback with the Dipshit Insurrection, but things got better after the inauguration.

In my last 13th Ward Rambler column for the Bayou Brief I declared February to be the 14th Month Of 2020. That’s NOT how I feel about March 2021. It feels like a new era has begun. In the immortal words of the Brothers Gershwin, Things Are Looking Up.

The first verse of that song says it all:

If I should suddenly start to sing
Or stand on my head or do anything
Don’t think that I’ve lost my senses
It’s just that my happiness finally commences
The long long years of dull despair
Are vanishing into thin air
And it suddenly seems that I’ve
Become the luckiest man alive

Congress is on the verge of passing the most important piece of progressive legislation since the ACA in 2010. I would argue that it’s even more important because it was done without giving an inch to Republican “moderates” who sought to water it down. The MSM is obsessed with that point but they’re wrong. History will see that as a footnote and a minor one indeed. In the immortal words of Joey B. Shark, “This is a big fucking deal.”

I’m hoping that the COVID relief bill is a sign that Democrats have got their mojo back. The dual Reagan landslides in 1980 and 1984 were traumatic. They were really based on Reagan’s persona and extraordinary communication skills, but Democrats care about policy, so they convinced themselves it was about the prose of governing, not the poetry of campaigning. Are we still allowed to quote Mario Cuomo despite his jerk son’s malakatude?

Ronald Reagan was fundamentally a salesman. He gave his party the gift of messaging; something they still excel at, which can’t always be said for Democrats. Our mojo may be back, but our branding remains shaky. Repeat after me: The label on the package is just as important as the contents.

And now for a brief musical interlude:

In other optimistic news, things are looking up on the COVID front. It helps to have an administration that believes in government.  Team Trump dropped the ball on handling the pandemic, but Team Biden has recovered the fumble and done a helluva job at getting the vaccines out there.

The several states are ramping up their vaccination efforts thanks to the administration’s hard work on distributing the vaccine and ensuring adequate supplies. The Merck-Johnson & Johnson agreement is another big fucking deal. It shouldn’t be smercked at…

On the personal front, I got my first haircut in a year last weekend. Not much grows on top but the back gets bushy and curly. Who the hell wants this guy on the back of their head:

I don’t have that shocking contraption on my head. It was the weirdest GIF I could find so I went there. Poor Curly. I bet it was Moe’s fault.

Back to the real world. I’m getting vaccinated at the Morial Convention Center on Saturday. I qualified under the Gret Stet’s phase-2 guidelines since I’m old and overweight. Not long after I made my appointment, the governor loosened the requirements since the vaccine is flowing like wine. I’m not sure what that means, but it’s better than spilling it:

Now that there’s adequate supply, the several states should jab anything that moves. It should be like Word War II era draft boards who inducted anyone that could stand up even if Mr. Potter rejected Slacker George Bailey.

We need to vaccinate 75% of the population before things can get back to Gamalian normalcy. We’re finally on our way but there will likely be speed bumps ahead. Shorter Adrastos: DON’T SPIKE THE BALL.

One more quote from Ira Gershwin:

Bitter was my cup
But no more shall I be the mourner
For I’ve certainly turned the corner
Oh, things are looking up

The last word goes to dueling divas: Billie was a bit subdued whereas Ella was exuberant. I’m somewhere in between.

Impossible Things Are Happening Every Day

(That’s our cat Rey. She has just–and finally–figured out how to get into the empty bookcase space her (bigger and stronger) brother Finn has been obsessed with getting into for months.)

I had planned to write about the filibuster, but I had a rough couple of days. Nothing bad actually happened; I just had the Covid blues. I would say that I don’t have any right to have the Covid blues since our disruption has been minimal—I had already mostly been using my preferred grocery store’s pickup option for several months prior to Covid’s arrival, my husband transitioned after a week in the office at his new job to a 100% virtual setting where he was able to work seamlessly with his European counterparts despite never have being onsite (so there is one Covid casualty in our family:  the trip to France to visit that facility will never happen as it’s not needed now), and I was able to complete a big project despite social distancing. But the reality is that Covid disruptions are about a lot more than your bank account and how you get the goods and services you need. We’ve all been cut off from so many people we love. I haven’t seen my parents since May 2019. I miss them. I miss a lot of people and I really miss singing in my choir, but it’s not being able to be with my parents that has been bringing me down. They’re both in their 80s, easily living on their own, and completely with it mentally. They’re fun and funny, and they’re precious to me. We all have people we miss. All of our hearts have holes in them and that affects how we see the things happening around us. So yeah, I had a few rough days.

But the thing is, as Dr. Ian Malcom said, “life, uh… finds a way.” Here in far eastern West Virginia, my daffodils have buds, and my summer daylilies have peeked up to remind me they’ll soon be on the job. I haven’t heard my beloved peepers yet, but I think I will this week. Our political life is showing those same signs of life. Late Friday night, after the poor clerks had finished reading the text of the Covid relief bill, Senate Democrats, taking advantage of the complete lack of Republicans in the chamber, reduced the debate on the bill from 20 hours to 3. Then on Saturday they took advantage of Joe Manchin’s need to explore all of his options once the Democrats offered an amendment that differed from what the moderates had worked out with President Biden. To be honest, this completely mystified me. Why did the Democrats offer a different amendment? Why did Manchin agree to support 2 competing bills? Why did it take 11 hours to resolve this? The answer only became clear later:  because Senate Democrats had made the Republicans hang around all day and then started the Vote-A-Rama late in the evening, the Republicans gave up earlier and left the chamber before the Senate had been adjourned. And Senate Democrats remained so Schumer had his 3/5ths majority vote to invoke cloture and move Merrick Garland’s nomination to be Attorney General to a vote this week.

Then, on Sunday morning, after making all the liberals angry the day before, Joe Manchin let it be known that while he wouldn’t get rid of the filibuster, he wasn’t opposed to making it painful for Senate Republicans to use it, tossing out the idea that the minority party would have to stay in the chamber the entire time they were filibustering. The same Senate Republicans, who got outplayed twice over the weekend because they didn’t have the simple discipline to sit in their seats, were blind-sided. And he did it on FOX News!  All of those Republican senators crowing about how Joe Manchin was a bad Democrat pushing his colleagues into disarray got to feast on the sight of Joe oh-so-casually noting that he wouldn’t mind if obstructing the majority required discipline and creativity. There is crucial legislation in the congressional pipeline; legislation that will be our best, and maybe only, chance to keep our democracy. Maybe fundamental rights and justice find a way, too. I’m feeling more hopeful today that our foes will be defeated by the boring combination of hard work and perseverance.

Oh and my husband and I just got word that we are going to be vaccinated this week. Impossible things are happening every day.

Malaka Of The Week: Ronny Jackson

Prolonged exposure to the Impeached Insult Comedian can turn the strongest person into a sycophant. That’s not what happened in the case of Congressman/Admiral/Doctor Ronny Jackson who is not an admirable admiral. He’s a bully who met a more powerful bully who put him in touch with his inner sycophant. And that’s why CAD Ronny Jackson is malaka of the week.

The acronym for Congressman/Admiral/Doctor is perfect for Jackson. He’s a cad who worked for a cad and behaved caddishly. I wonder if he’s ever read this swell show biz memoir:

It’s an excellent book but unlike George Sanders, Ronny Jackson is neither witty nor urbane. He’s a caddish lout in the mold of his master, Pennywise who tried to appoint him Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Montana Senator Jon Tester foiled that attempt to foist an unqualified nominee on one of the government’s toughest jobs. Jon Tester is a mensch, not a malaka.

The long awaited report into Jackson’s conduct whilst the chief White House medico was made public last week. To say it’s unflattering is an understatement:

The inspector general’s report describes several instances of Jackson allegedly consuming alcohol while on duty during presidential trips, according to CNN. A witness reportedly told investigators that in one of those instances, he saw the doctor “pounding” on a female subordinate’s hotel door, then telling her “I need you” and “I need you to come to my room” when she opened it.

The episode reportedly marked one of several moments in which Jackson harassed a female staffer or made comments about her body; the report alleges that the doctor told a female subordinate that he would “like to see more of her tattoos” and that he commented to a male staffer that another female subordinate had “great tits” and “a nice ass.”

Investigators also reportedly found that Jackson frequently hurled abuse at his employees, saying in the report that a jaw-dropping 56 witness “told us they personally experienced, saw, or heard about him yelling, screaming, cursing, or belittling subordinates.”

No wonder Trump loves this guy so much. As long as his people kick down, not up the Kaiser of Chaos considers it acceptable behavior. Other than drunkenness, the IG report describes the teetotaling Trump to a tee. Jackson was Mini-Me to Trump’s Doctor Evil:

I wonder if they’re dancing to YMCA, which is one of Trump’s top rally tunes. I doubt that either of the two Trumper cads can dance like Evil and Mini.

Jackson currently represents Texas’ 13th District in the House of Representatives. It’s one of the reddest districts in ruby red Texas. His electoral platform was a simple one: Trump, Trump, Trump. The malakatude, it burns…

Is anyone surprised that Jackson denied the IG report or that he’s opposed to masking mandates? Lying and COVID denialism are part and parcel of being a Trump sycophant.

Jackson’s naval rank is fitting, he’s a Rear Admiral. He’s a horse’s ass who would be the rear end in a pantomime horse costume. He’s used to having his head up Trump’s rump, after all. And that is why Congressman/Admiral/Doctor Ronny Jackson is malaka of the week.

That concludes the first malaka of the week post of 2021. Songs with admiral in the title are rarer than Trumpers with integrity. That’s why I had to say uncle and give Macca the last word:

Day In, Day Out

Some days I want to make like Paul Douglas’ cop character in Panic In The Streets and shake some sense into people. In reality, I’m more like Richard Widmark’s doctor character, looking on before we nail Zero Mostel and Jack Palance in the last act of the movie. That only makes sense in the context of a post featuring random thoughts and ramblings. Some call it madness, I call it First Draft Potpourri.

I hate the culture wars. I’m sick of the right seizing on every momentary story, blowing it up, and giving it more significance than it deserves. This time, it’s the announcement by the Geisel estate that they’re pulling some of the Dr. Seuss books because of “hurtful stereotypes.” That’s not cancel culture, it’s keeping up with the times. Dr. Seuss would get it. He was a liberal, but he was a man of his time and place. Context is everything. For more on this inane dust-up, check out this interview with Dr. Seuss scholar Philip Nel at Slate.

Senate Republicans are getting dumber by the day. The dimmest bulb in the GOP caucus is Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson. He wants to delay the COVID relief bill by any means possible. He insisted that Senate clerks read the entire bill to slow things down. It took 10 hours and 44 minutes but it’s over.

Johnson is as dumb as Hey Abbott and Tater Tot. It’s scary that he beat Russ Feingold not once but twice. This was the biggest senatorial downgrade since J. Danforth Quayle beat Birch Bayh. Bayh was a distinguished senator and Quayle was the guy who couldn’t spell the plural of potato.

Speaking of potatoes, the right is trying to turn the Mr. Potato Head thing into a culture war issue. Really? Are they that intellectually bankrupt? That was a rhetorical question: the answer is a big YES.

I’m sorry that Don Rickles, who voiced Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story movies, isn’t around to mock the whole mishigas. Oy just oy.

And now for a musical interlude from the Kinks:

“Boiled, French fried, any old way that you want to decide.” That Ray Davies knows from taters.

I commend your attention to an op-ed piece in the WaPo by the great Norm Ornstein who has forgotten more about Congress that most of us will ever know.  He has some productive thoughts about how to reform the filibuster in a way that will get the Man of La Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema’s votes.

The senior senator from Arizona is an odd case. She’s bisexual and used to be a leftist. She morphed into a Blue Dog Democrat in order to win elections in the land of Goldwater and McCain. I’d call her an opportunist, but we need her vote. Read Norm’s piece to learn how that may be possible. That’s Norm Ornstein, not this guy:

Finally, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is a charter member of the Freedom, Man club. In his case, it comes with a dose of corruption. He’s taking care of his donors by making sure that they get vaccinated earlier than the cheapskates who didn’t pony up. That’ll show them who’s boss. For more on this Florida Man moron, check out this piece at TPM by Matt Shuham.

The news cycle is relentless. I had hoped that it would ease up when the Kaiser of Chaos “retired” to Mar-a-Doorn, but it hasn’t. It reminds me of the opening lyrics to the Johnny Mercer song that gives this post its title:

Day in, day out
The same old hoodoo follows me about

The last word goes to the Chairman of the Board:

We’ll hear more from Sinatra and Mercer later today. Cheers.

The Curious Case Of The Mean Tweets War

I’ve been on Twitter since its infancy, March 2008. I came to it via an OG NOLA blogger acquaintance who we nicknamed Trotsky because he had Leon Trotsky hair and fancied himself something of an internet revolutionary. I lost touch with Trotsky but as far as I know, he’s never been attacked by a Stalinist with an ice pick.

For many years, I engaged in some pitched online battles with people on political Twitter; some from the far left, others from the far right. Not long after the 2016 election catastrophe, I realized that fighting with strangers on the Tweeter Tube was a waste of time and energy. I stopped arguing with them because it was futile.

Twitter became meaner and uglier after its Trumpification and the battles became nastier. Many continued to fight with trolls and other pains in the ass; Neera Tanden is among those Twitter warriors.

I’ve been following Tanden for many years. Her feed is often amusing and informative. It’s also extremely combative. Neera Tanden is one tough broad and I say that as a compliment. She doesn’t take shit from anyone. I often wondered if she’d given up her ambition to serve in appointed or elective office since she tweeted with a blow torch.

We’ve heard much from the right and center-right about her mean tweets. We’ve heard less from the left: many of Tanden’s fiercest Twitter battles were with some of Bernie Sanders’ less salubrious supporters. Neera and Bernie have buried the hatchet and thus far there seems to be no *meaningful* real world opposition from the left to her nomination as budget director. The Twitter left is a different story but who the hell cares about them?

Unlike the girly men of the right, Bernie Sanders can take a punch and respects the toughness of Tanden. His opinion matters because he’s the chairman of the budget committee. He’s voting to confirm.

The mean tweets war accelerated when West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin announced his opposition based on Tanden’s mean tweets. In the past, Manchin has voted for the likes of Rick Grennel whose tweets made Tanden’s look mild-mannered in contrast. This is quite simply the dumbest reason ever for opposing a nomination. Say it ain’t so, Joe. Sorry, Cassandra, your guy got this one wrong.

There’s a clear double standard at work here. The Biden nominees who are having the most trouble are women and people of color. Imagine that. Additionally, the notion that Republicans object to mean tweets is preposterous. Before his exile, the Impeached Insult Comedian was the meanest tweeter of all as well as the biggest liar. Neera Tanden has a sharp tongue but speaks the truth.

It’s time for a brief musical interlude:

Tough-talking women are viewed with suspicion in our society. I not only embrace the tough broad ethos, I celebrate it. In this case, Neera Tanden is eminently qualified to be OMB honcho. Lapsed Republican/former Bush aide David Frum neatly summed it up:

Slowly but surely Neera Tanden’s tweets are turning into the 2021 edition of Hillary Clinton’s emails. It’s even more ridiculous than that ridiculous episode as the issue is her opinions, not any question of law or propriety however specious. Neera Tanden gets it: she was one of Hillary’s top aides in 2016.

This episode shows how low our body politic has sunk. Tweets, mean or nice, should have no bearing on anyone’s ability to serve in government. Twitter is supposed to be a lark, not all important. Note the motto on my own Twitter profile:

I guess I should amend my motto to: Nothing that happens on Twitter *should* matter.

The last word goes to Crowded House in the fog:

As of now it’s unclear where Neera Tanden’s “blind date with destiny” will take her. I hope she’s confirmed but the White House has made it clear that there’s a place in the administration for her regardless of how The Curious Case Of The Mean Tweets War concludes.