Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Bless Their Hearts

From Florida Politics:

‘Bless their hearts, they have no shame.’

One Florida congresswoman balked at U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson touting the heavy infrastructure investments at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor called it “awkward” and “shameful” to cheer a project funded by a $1-trillion infrastructure package Johnson voted against. Castor, a Tampa Democrat, supported that bill.

The infrastructure package passed on a 228-206 vote in the House, with just 13 Republicans crossing the aisle to support the bill. Florida’s House delegation broke along party lines.

The massive spending package included some $15 billion dedicated to airports. Much of that has landed in Castor’s district, at Tampa International Airport, and some went to a neighboring district represented by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican.

But neither Johnson nor Buchanan supported the package when it passed in Congress in 2021.

“The infrastructure dollars have been a godsend,” Castor said. “It did take some Republican votes to pass. But no Florida Republicans supported the infrastructure law. There are too many Republicans who voted against the infrastructure law who are taking credit now for improvements to airports, ports, toxic cleanups.”

“Bless their hearts, they have no shame,” Castor added, punctuating her disdain.

Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport specifically received $16 million in federal funding over three installments since becoming law. That’s a significant chunk of the $100 million expansion currently underway at the airport.

But at this point, Castor isn’t surprised.

“This is now a very awkward Republican tradition,” she said. “Sen. Rick Scott did it when he touted Everglades funding after he voted against it. These infrastructure investments are very popular with Floridians, who know they create jobs and are improving our lives.

“Speaker Johnson just joined the club of ‘vote no and take the dough.’”

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “Bless their hearts,” it’s Southern polite for “Fuck you.”

No surprise here that the Republicans who voted against the infrastructure bill would try to take credit for it; Joe Biden has said as much on the campaign trail in Iowa and other places where the money is being put to use and the local GOP toads are taking all the credit.  That includes Sen. Tommy Tuberville (RWN-AL), who has demonstrated that stupidity is a chronic condition.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Hey, Democrats, Try Something New

Here we go again: another round of polls that show the Democrats and their incumbent president in the crapper a year before the election, and the Very Serious Pundits and chat-show denizens believe that they’re doomed.

Bradley Beychok in Salon has some advice: knock it off.

After another blockbuster election night for Democrats, Chris Hayes tweeted, “The political experience of the Biden era for Democrats is: extended periods of intense anxiety about terrible polling, occasionally punctuated by strangely positive election nights. And then the cycle repeats.”

I’m here to let you in on a little secret – we don’t have to keep doing this.

If you want to put money on this election, smart money is on Joe Biden winning again in 2024. How do I know? I watch Republicans all day, I don’t have the mysterious presidential election cycle amnesia half of Washington has caught, and I trust election results over the poll du jour.

In 2010, I co-founded the opposition research hub American Bridge 21st Century. Our mission remains the same — to track Republicans and hold them accountable.

For thirteen years, I’ve gotten dozens of daily reports from our team monitoring GOP candidates across the country. Here’s what’s clear — Donald Trump cannibalized the Republican Party. A decade ago if you told me my inbox would be filled with mainstream Republicans defending insurrectionists, calling to ban Bud Light, and attacking our military, I would have said: Lay off the hallucinogens.

If you told me the GOP Speaker of the House monitors his own son’s porn consumption, I’m not sure I would have continued in this line of work.

But here we are.

Today, MAGA rules the day in Congress and up and down the Republican ballot. Voters outside the GOP primary ecosystem, especially women, have rejected these Republicans and their extreme abortion bans right where it counts: the ballot box.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the results we have seen since the midterms. Voters in Ohio overwhelmingly supported two ballot measures in favor of abortion and marijuana rights — not exactly Republicans’ favorite positions.

Kentucky Democratic Governor Andy Beshear cruised to re-election. In what Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade called an “epic failure” for GOP Governor Glenn Youngkin, Virginia Democrats held their Senate and flipped the House of Delegates.

I’ll keep going. Democrats defeated Republican anti-abortion extremist Carolyn Carluccio, electing a liberal to serve on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court. And in April, Democrats flipped Wisconsin’s Supreme Court by 11 points.

Watching the news and hearing pundits breathlessly regurgitate presidential polls, like the recent ones from the New York Times/Siena and CNN, you’d think Democrats were doomed — not sweeping elections. I’ve been around this town long enough to remember this panicked framing always happens, like clockwork, and it’s always premature.

Here’s a quick look at some headlines at this point in the 2012 cycle: Poll: Obama hits all-time low, Obama trails Mitt Romney in new Quinnipiac poll, and Gas Prices Slam Mobility — and Obama’s Popularity Too.

Sound familiar?

I know what you’re thinking — there’s a big difference between President Obama in 2011 and President Biden now. You’re right. Biden’s economy is stronger, we have a lengthy list of legislative and policy-driven wins, and his likely opponent is a man facing 91 felony counts who’s been found liable for sexual abuse and whose biggest accomplishment was cutting taxes for the wealthy and big corporations — putting Social Security and Medicare at risk.

Another big difference between first-term Obama and first-term Biden? Republicans overturned Roe v. Wade. For the first time in nearly 50 years, abortion is no longer a constitutional right.

In red states and blue states, women voters have a unified message for Trump and his band of merry extremists: We’re not having it. Seven states have voted to protect abortion access since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.. Voters, especially women voters, are fed up and don’t want to support Republicans. The results at the ballot box prove that.

Trump may be able to shoot someone on 5th Avenue and walk, but as the face of the anti-choice movement, he doesn’t stand a chance of stopping this force. He nominated the justices who tore down Roe. He promised to punish people who had abortions. He’s been an anti-abortion extremist from the start.

Protecting democracy and reproductive freedom are the key issues fueling the electoral juggernaut that is women.

I propose Democrats create a new political experience for the next year – ignore these polls, talk to voters about the issues that matter to them (abortion rights, freedom, democracy), get folks to the polls, then repeat on November 5, 2024.

I get tired of having to tell people that polls this far out are as useless as tits on a snake, but it sells newspapers and gets the fretters time on cable TV.  Sometimes I think they do it because they like to see people freak out the same way they like to play Invisible Ball with the dog or laser pointer with the cat.  But even the dog gets wise, and the cat will crap in your slippers if you keep doing it.

I also think a lot of people like to fuck with the pollsters.  Certainly the temptation is there: “Hello, I’m calling from Fred’s Opinion Survey and I’d like to ask about your views on the upcoming election.”  At that point I am sure they get a lot of people saying they’d vote for Kwame Nkruma if he was on the ballot, and the fact that Trump is going around sounding off like Josef Goebbels about crushing vermin doesn’t get a rise out of people who are more interested in finding out who Taylor Swift is sweet on.  All the facts — and they are facts — about the rebounding economy, gas prices below $3 a gallon, inflation under 3%, and people are being hired in record numbers gets swept away by a TikTok video of someone with a $16 receipt from McDonald’s.

In some ways I wish the Democrats were more like the Republicans: falling in behind their leader regardless whether or not he’s sounding like a lunatic.  And can it with the chatter about a terrible choice between the two party leaders.  I’ve been hearing that as long as I’ve been watching elections: Kennedy vs. Nixon, LBJ vs. Goldwater, Humphrey vs. Nixon, Nixon vs. McGovern…. you get the idea.  Suck it up, promote the issues that matter, and vote already.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Sunday Reading

Those Cagey Canadians — Charlie Pierce on pushing the panic button over a car accident.

I have been long convinced that it’s time for this country to take a knee, take a few plays off, go into the tent on the sidelines, and enter the concussion protocol. Our bell has been rung so loudly that we can’t hear ourselves think any more, which is probably just as well, because what we’re thinking in many cases is not worth hearing anyway.

Earlier this week, a couple from Grand Island, New York, named Kurt and Monica Villani, were in something of a hurry to get to a night out in Canada. They headed at high speed toward the Rainbow Bridge that connects the United States and Canada. (Some reports have it that the Villanis, disappointed that a Kiss concert on this side of the bridge had been cancelled, were heading for a casino on the other side.) Video from the border crossing show a white car speeding around a corner and suddenly going airborne, banking just a bit to starboard as it goes out of frame. The car landed hard and exploded on impact, taking out a border security building with it. It is quite the video.

Shortly thereafter, elements of the American media and the American political establishments went completely out of their minds. They instantly snapped to a war footing, claiming that the car was coming from Canada (Wrong) and that it was loaded with explosives (Also Wrong) possibly to commit terrorism in the United States (Also, horribly, inexcusably wrong.) The original source for this wrongness was a quick-draw dispatch from a Fox News reporter. And that was enough for people who should’ve known better, but clearly don’t. Come on down, Vivek Ramaswamy. From the CBC:

That didn’t stop a candidate for president of the United States from appearing on Fox News to promote an aspect of his platform: Building a border wall with Canada. “I have been sounding the alarm bell about the northern border for a long time,” said Vivek Ramaswamy during a lengthy interview about an incident he did not witness, was not a subject-matter expert on, and had no insight into. “This is a mounting crisis. We’re ignoring it.”

Someone should explain the concept of “due diligence” to Captain Nuisance before his campaign finally crashed and burns.

Pretty soon, some of the rest of the boogedy-boogedy chorale chimed in, featuring guest soloist Senator Ted Cruz:

This confirms our worst fear: the explosion at Rainbow Bridge was a terrorist attack. Both attackers are dead, and one law enforcement officer is injured. I am praying that officer makes a full recovery and is able to spend Thanksgiving surrounded by family and loved ones. Thank you to our law enforcement officers who are remaining vigilant and working to protect Americans traveling for Thanksgiving.

This idiocy, first posted on Wednesday, was still up as of 2:30 p.m. Friday. If the senator wants to be a talk-show host, he should give up his day job because he is plainly not good at it.

Some of the lesser voices in the chorale had their moments, too. Kari Lake, the inexplicable presence from Arizona, blamed the administration’s “open borders” policy for this obvious terrorism event.

Rep. Byron Donalds, last seen being beheaded at a hearing by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, said, “Today’s apparent terrorist attack must be a wake-up call to all Americans.” Go back to bed, dude. Then there’s Senator Rick Scott: “We know that threats against America are on the rise.” Only if you go back into the health-care business.

And his colleague in the House, Anna Paulina Luna called for an immediate panic attack: “So it begins. We need to lock down the borders immediately. Full deportation efforts need to begin. The US does not need to be the world’s hospitality suite any longer.”

And because Florida insists on electing one of its roadside reptile farms to Congress, Rep. Cory Mills also suggested we have a national nervous breakdown: “Probing attacks, a compromised or detected bomber, secondary trigger man, malfunction, or diversionary attack away from S. Border should not be out of consideration.”

Especially on nights when Kiss cancels a gig.

The unreconsructed seditionist caucus checked in. Rep. Ronny Jackson, who once looked at El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago and saw Josh Allen, drew on his vast reservoir of intemperance: “God bless our Border Patrol. Early reports are that this attack in New York was terror related and that two people have been killed by this reported car bomb. This is terrible news for our country, but not surprising to anyone based on the wide open borders we have had since Biden took office.” Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, who wanted a pardon after January 6, was quite disturbed: “Praying for our CBP officials and first responders. Our borders are under attack and the Biden Administration continues to sit on its hands. It’s long past time to put Americans first.” And to obey all posted speed limits. And Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, of whom I know next to nothing, opined, “I’m incredibly alarmed by reports of an attempted terror attack at the U.S.-Canada border. For months, I’ve warned about the surge of suspected terrorists entering through our Northern border. We must greatly enhance border security at ALL of our borders, including the North.”

Political opportunism is one thing. I understand it. I expect it. But when its immediate side effect is having the entire country hide under the bed is a whole ‘nother thing. The Republic would be infinitely better off if politicians were banned from social media. I’m sorry if this inconveniences politicians I happen to like, but desperate times, etc. I’m fed up.

I had a hard lesson myself on this back on April 15, 2013. When the Tsarnaev brothers attacked the Boston Marathon, I wrote almost immediately that it was close to April 19, which is kind of a high holy day for America’s rightwing extremists. The Waco siege ended on April 19, 1993 and, then, Timothy McVeigh memorialized it by blowing up the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City two years later. When it became plain that the crime was perpetrated by a couple of local DIY terrorists from central Asia, I took considerable heat from starboard for pinning the act prematurely on America’s well-regulated duck boot militia. And, sadly, much of it was correct.

In fact, Canada has had the sad experience of Americans jumping to conclusions and landing on its head once before. From the CBC:

The afternoon of speculation rekindled rough memories for Canada from the 9/11 era, where American fears of cross-border terrorism resulted in a long-term tightening of the border. Incorrect reports that the hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001 entered from Canada compounded fears fuelled by the deadliest terrorist attack in American history. Canadian diplomats in Washington spent years trying to dispel that canard, as it had created a real-world impact on Canada’s economy and its major international border. On Fox News, one anchor was well aware of this history: network host John Roberts, a Canadian, said it wasn’t clear what exactly had happened Wednesday. Roberts asked: “Is this foreign-born terrorism? Is it domestic terrorism? We don’t know.” He did note, accurately, that, a year and a half before the Sept. 11 attacks, a would-be terrorist bomber, Ahmed Ressam, was stopped at the border entering from Canada.

Let us face facts. No country ever had a better neighbor than we have in Canada. We’ve invaded it twice, and even put two hockey teams in Florida, and they’ve been remarkably understanding of our now regularly scheduled mental-health episodes. We could learn a lot from that, once we’re out of the concussion protocol and declared physically capable of thinking again.

Doonesbury — Infectious humor.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Island Time

Allen and I visited the Caribbean island of Montserrat twice, first in November 1993, and again in 1994.  We stayed at the Vue Pointe Hotel in an area called Old Town. We were planning to return in 1995, but Mother Nature intervened.

I knew something of the history of the island and its colonization, but this is one of the more comprehensive looks at it in the past.

The Vue Pointe is closed now, and the only way to see the island as it was before the eruption is through these memories. In my novel Bobby Cramer, it is the island of St. Edmund, known to the locals as Holy Ned.  The original Irish settlers have been replaced by the Welsh, and the capital is New Cardiff.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Happy Friday

My idea of Black Friday is to remember the times when the Friday after Thanksgiving meant Allen and I were getting on a plane to fly down to a warmer climate than northern Michigan — such as Montserrat — and spend ten days storing up Vitamin D for the coming winter.

If you go out shopping, patronize your local vendors, don’t spend too much, and try to remember where you parked.

Orwellian History

From Charles P. Pierce:

Here is something I did not know. I’ve read all the literary highlights by George Orwell, but I did not know that, in 1940, he reviewed the latest edition/translation of Mein Kampf for the New English Weekly. Needless to say, it is brilliant and scathing, not merely concerning Hitler, but all the forces who enabled him to rise to power, thinking his movement could be controlled. It is also prescient — not merely for 1940, but for 2020 as well. (Orwell predicts that, their temporary alliance notwithstanding, Hitler would get around to attacking Russia.) Here are some passages from the review. See if there are modern…er…applications.

The initial, personal cause of his grievance against the universe can only be guessed at; but at any rate the grievance is here. He is the martyr, the victim, Prometheus chained to the rock, the self-sacrificing hero who fights single-handed against impossible odds. If he were killing a mouse he would know how to make it seem like a dragon. One feels, as with Napoleon, that he is fighting against destiny, that he can’t win, and yet that he somehow deserves to. The attraction of such a pose is of course enormous; half the films that one sees turn upon some such theme.

Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people ‘I offer you a good time,’ Hitler has said to them ‘I offer you struggle, danger and death,’ and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet. Perhaps later on they will get sick of it and change their minds, as at the end of the last war. After a few years of slaughter and starvation ‘Greatest happiness of the greatest number’ is a good slogan, but at this moment ‘Better an end with horror than a horror without end’ is a winner. Now that we are fighting against the man who coined it, we ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.”

I plan on printing this out and putting it on the old refrigerator in preparation for the 2024 election.

Share this with your MAGA friends, and remind them that while history may not repeat itself, it does rhyme.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Happy Thanksgiving

I’ve been looking back through some of my Thanksgiving posts over the years for some inspiration and perhaps a perspective on the holiday. Taking a day off to express thanks and brace ourselves for the rest of the holidays is a good time to reflect and be grateful for some of the good things we have and the memories, especially now that both of my parents, who made the holidays happen, are gone. The post below is from Thanksgiving 2007, when I was looking back at a special holiday weekend.

When I was a kid growing up outside of Toledo, we had some relatives in the area, and we also belonged to a local tennis and social club that served as a gathering place for a group of families like ours and we often went there for holiday dinners. It relieved my mom from cooking one of the two big meals at the holidays; if we had Thanksgiving at home, then we went to the club or another relative’s place for Christmas, or vice versa. We also would have the Thanksgiving meal later in the day — usually around the normal dinner time — because we had season tickets to the Detroit Lions football team, and we would go up to Detroit to sit in the freezing cold bleachers to watch the Lions play their traditional Thanksgiving Day game, then come home to the dinner.

It’s been a while since my family has gotten together for Thanksgiving. We’ve all moved on to different places and have our own families. It’s been many years since my entire immediate family — Mom, Dad, and my three siblings and their families — has been together for the occasion.

However, there was one Thanksgiving that I’ll never forget: 1967. I was a freshman at St. George’s, the boarding school in Newport, Rhode Island (and also alma mater of Howard Dean and Tucker Carlson). It was my first extended time away from home and I was miserable. My older brother and sister were also away at school; one in New Jersey, the other in Virginia. My parents made arrangements for us all to get together in New York City that weekend, and they booked rooms at the Plaza Hotel. We saw two Broadway musicals — Mame with Angela Lansbury and Henry, Sweet Henry with Don Ameche — and a little musical in Greenwich Village called Now Is The Time For All Good Men…. We went shopping in Greenwich Village, took carriage rides in Central Park, had lunch at Toots Shor’s (and got Cab Calloway’s autograph), dinner at Trader Vic’s and Luchow’s, and saw all the sights that a kid from Ohio on his second trip to NYC (the first being the World’s Fair in 1964) could pack into one four-day weekend. Oh, and we had the big Thanksgiving dinner in the Oak Room at the Plaza with all the trimmings. That night we went down to the nightclub below the Plaza and listened to smoky jazz played by a trio and a lovely woman on piano…could it have been Blossom Dearie?

It was a magical weekend. To this day I still remember the sights and sounds and sensations, and the deep sadness that settled back over me as I boarded the chartered bus that took me back to the dank purgatory of that endless winter at school overlooking the grey Atlantic Ocean.

I’ve had a lot of wonderful and memorable Thanksgivings since then at home and with friends, everywhere from Ohio, Michigan, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, and even one in Jamaica, but that weekend at the Plaza fifty-four years ago will always be special.


I’ll be on a holiday schedule until Monday. Posting will be light and variable, but tune in tonight for A Little Night Music Thanksgiving tradition.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

November 22, 1963

JFK 11-22-06Friday, November 22, 1963. I was in the sixth grade in Toledo, Ohio. I had to skip gym class because I was just getting over bronchitis, so I was in a study hall when a classmate came up from the locker room in the school basement to say, “Kennedy’s dead.” We had a boy in our class named Matt Kennedy, and I wondered what had happened: an errant fatal blow with a dodge-ball? A few minutes later, though, it was made clear to us at a hastily-summoned assembly, and we were soon put on the buses and sent home. Girls were crying.

There was a newspaper strike at The Blade, so the only papers we could get were either from Detroit or Cleveland. (The union at The Blade, realizing they were missing the story of the century, agreed to immediately resume publication and settle their differences in other ways.) Television, though, was the medium of choice, and I remember the black-and-white images of the arrival of Air Force One at Andrews, the casket being lowered, President Johnson speaking on the tarmac, and the events of the weekend – Oswald, Ruby, the long slow funeral parade, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” – merging into one long black-and-white flicker, finally closing on Monday night with the eternal flame guttering in the cold breeze.

I suspect that John F. Kennedy would be bitterly disappointed that the only thing remembered about his life was how he left it and how it colored everything he did leading up to it. The Bay of Pigs, the steel crisis, the Cuban missile crisis, the Test Ban Treaty, even the space program are dramatized by his death. They became the stuff of legend, not governing, and history should not be preserved as fable.

At the age of eleven, I never thought about being old enough to look back sixty years to that time. More than three-quarters of Americans alive today were not yet born on that day, and I doubt that other than here, there won’t be any commemoration of that awful day in the news. Today the question is not do you remember JFK, but what did his brief time leave behind. Speculation is rife as to what he did or did not accomplish – would we have gone in deeper in Vietnam? Would he have pushed civil rights? Would the Cold War have lasted? We’ll never know, and frankly, pursuing such questions is a waste of time. Had JFK never been assassinated, chances are he would have been re-elected in 1964, crushing Barry Goldwater, but leading an administration that was more style than substance, battling with his own party as much as with the Republicans, much like Clinton did in the 1990’s. According to medical records, he would have been lucky to live into his sixties, dying from natural causes in the 1980’s, and he would have been remembered fondly for his charm and wit – and his beautiful wife – more than what he accomplished in eight years of an average presidency.

But it was those six seconds in Dealey Plaza that defined him. Each generation has one of those moments. For my parents generation, it was Pearl Harbor in 1941 or the flash from Warm Springs in April 1945. Today it is September 11, 2001, and now January 6, 2021. And in all cases, it is what the moment means to us. It is the play, not the players. We see things as they were, contrast to how they are, and measure the differences, and by that, we measure ourselves.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Imagine That, George

Humor from Andy Borowitz:

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In an announcement that many in Washington felt was overdue, Representative George Santos said that he was resigning from Congress to spend more time with his imaginary family.

“As much as I’ve loved this job, it’s taken me away from my kids,” he said. “And to them I say: Blake, Kaylee, Agnes, Skip, Molly, Charlie, Leeann, and Rex, Daddy’s coming home.”

He thanked his children for taking care of his many imaginary pets, including a marmot named Jerry and a python named Estelle.

As for his future plans, he said that he would be leaving Congress “to go back to my first love: being a member of the Beatles.”

“Today is an emotional day for me,” he said. “If I don’t look emotional, it’s because of the Botox.”

So go already.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Quiet Week

My school is closed for the Thanksgiving holiday this week, and so I will be home doing things I would normally do when I’m at work: writing and crosswords.  Except this morning AT&T is coming over to fix my phone lines — yes, I still have a landline — and then get back to work on my new play.

I’ll be around here, too, after spending yesterday at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and a car show.  I didn’t get much time to stroll around other than judging cars for the beauty contest, but I still managed to remind myself of this beautiful spot in the middle of Miami (technically, it’s in Coral Gables).

Lily pond at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens.

Sunday, November 19, 2023