Thursday, April 18, 2024

Short Order

According to one source, it took less time for the Senate to toss out the articles of impeachment of Secretary Mayorkas than it did for the House impeachment committee to walk them over to the chamber.

I watched a bit of the Senate’s ritual and saw Ted Cruz get his tits in an uproar about how the immigration policy was just cause to impeach.  Funny how he didn’t think that storming the Capitol on January 6, 2021 was enough reason to hold Trump accountable, but Congress’s failure to pass an immigration bill for Secretary Mayorkas was.  Huh.

Meanwhile, The Trump jury selection resumes today.  Try to stay awake.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Sixty Years Of Mustang

On April 17, 1964, Ford officially introduced the Mustang at the New York Worlds Fair. Sixty years later, I’m still a Mustang guy.

This one looks a lot like my first one, bought in April 1969 from Brondes Ford in Toledo: 1965 Mustang 2+2, silver with a black interior, three-speed manual, 289 V8, AM radio and heater.

My second Mustang was a 1995 Mustang GT convertible, Laser Red with a 5.0 liter V8.  I bought it in August 2003 from my mom, who had bought it in 1998, trading in her twenty-year-old Volvo for it.  She sold it to me when she set her eyes on a 2003 Mini Cooper S, which she drove until 2021.

My third — and current — Mustang is a 2007 Mustang convertible, Windveil Blue with a 4.0 liter V6 and the basic options: AM/FM/CD, power windows and cruise control, and five-speed automatic.  I bought it from Gus Machado Ford (now AutoNation) in Fort Lauderdale in March 2009 to replace the 1995 which had been totaled almost exactly a year before.  The Pontiac filled in as my daily driver.

So far, I have no plans to replace the current model. It’s only got eight years to go before it’s an antique.

Book Report

Gov. Batsin D. Belfry signed a bill that indicates a retreat in his war on reading.

Florida residents who don’t have children attending school will have significantly fewer chances to challenge books in local K-12 libraries under a new law signed Tuesday by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Residents who don’t have a child in school will only be able to challenge one title per month under the new law.

Meant to curb what lawmakers described as a “logistical nightmare” facing school districts flooded with requests to remove books, the policy marks an admission from Republican leaders that last year’s expansions to book challenge laws may have gone too far after national backlash from free speech groups and even some conservatives.

Some book transparency advocates say the limit on challenges is “good on its face” yet falls short for not targeting the state rule surrounding book objections. They contend the law won’t slow down some of the state’s more prolific book challengers, such as one person in Clay County responsible for 94 percent of local objections.

I think that anyone who challenges a book in a school must first prove that they’ve actually read it. Per one commenter, “the book report must be original and written by the speaker and of the length expected for the grade level of the book, every negative point must be matched with a positive point, each point made must be supported with a relevant quote, quotes must be properly footnoted in the academic format used in the school. The book reports will be graded to the standards of the grade level for which the book is rated, including organization of thought and academic style, and the kicker: grammar, spelling and punctuation count! Book reports with a Grade below C are not accepted.”

Mrs. Cahill (Grade 5) would expect nothing less.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Nodding Off

Trials on TV such as Law & Order are ripped from the headlines.  Then there’s this:

Some observers at the trial say Trump may have nodded off during the morning’s proceedings, including New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who noted that Trump’s “head keeps dropping down and his mouth goes slack” before being “jolted back awake” after his lawyer passed him several notes.

HuffPost’s Sara Boboltz is in the courthouse and confirmed Trump had his eyes closed at certain points, but couldn’t definitively say the former president had actually fallen asleep.

Hey, I get it.  It happens.  But it brings a whole new meaning to the term “anti-woke.”

Monday, April 15, 2024

The Burden Of Innocence

Trump goes on trial in Manhattan (and he’ll try everything to get out of it).  Andy Borowitz, liberated from The New Yorker, is still at it:

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—Prominent legal experts believe that defendants who are innocent of a crime will usually do everything humanly possible to delay their trials.

Professor Davis Logsdon, who teaches a course about the behavior of innocent defendants at the University of Minnesota Law School, said that “if a defendant is strenuously trying to have his trial delayed, there is no clearer evidence that he is innocent of all charges against him.”

“Generally speaking, people who have done nothing wrong want to push the day when their name is cleared as far into the future as they can,” he said. “They will spend a massive amount on legal fees to have a cloud of suspicion hover over them for as long as possible.”

He said that there are “other signs” that a person is “completely innocent,” including “claiming immunity from all charges, defaming the judge and his or her children, and calling the trial a ‘disgrace’ or a ‘witch-hunt.’”

“If someone does all of those things, it’s so obvious he’s innocent that the case should be dismissed immediately,” he said. “The fact that such a trial is allowed to proceed is worrisome proof that our legal system is broken.”

Oh the humanity.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Day 6 – Intermission

We wrapped up the Desert Playwrights’ Retreat with readings, a dinner of plentiful leftovers, and one last swim.  I was inspired by my reading of two scenes in “Revival” to give it a thorough going-over before continuing, and I know it will be a better play.

This sort of time away from the daily rush of work and life — there was a TV in my room but I never turned it on — is regenerative.  I listened to ideas and learned from people who have interests so far from my known universe that I felt like I still have plenty of room to grow as a writer and as a person.  I may have been the oldest chronologically, but I felt like I was starting something very new.

This may be the end of this Retreat, but in a way, I’m not retreating at all.  I’m advancing.

Sunday Reading

Trump Did This — Susan B. Glasser on the mess he made on abortion.

Just about everyone knows that Donald Trump was for abortion before he was against it. But what, exactly, is the position of the formerly “very pro-choice” ex-President now that his four years in the White House resulted in what might be termed catastrophic success for the anti-abortion movement? That, it turns out, is one of the harder questions to answer so far in 2024. Trump, whose only ideology is opportunism, has been predictably all over the map on the repeal of Roe v. Wade. To right-wing audiences, he frequently and loudly brags about being the author of Roe’s destruction. Bragging is his happy place; of course he cannot resist taking credit for a historic accomplishment. “I was able to kill Roe v. Wade,” he exulted on social media in May of last year. “I did it and I am proud to have done it,” he said on a Fox News town hall earlier this year. “Nobody else was going to get that done but me.”

On Monday, in a video meant to explain his post-Roe position, Trump repeated this claim. “I was proudly the person responsible,” he said. The problem for Trump is that this is a losing position with voters—millions of whom have gone to the polls, in red states such as Kansas and in battlegrounds such as Michigan, to keep abortion legal in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, which allows individual states to set abortion policy. Since Dobbs, surveys have shown support for reproductive rights at record highs, and Trump himself blamed “the abortion issue” for Republicans’ failure to win back the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections.

Which is why, in his video, he seems like a man running for cover that simply isn’t there. Several times in the four-and-a-half-minute statement, Trump invokes the concept of states’ rights as if it’s a magic incantation, offering him free passage out of a political mess. The path forward, he insists, ought to be a simple matter of the “will of the people”—let blue states have their abortions and red states their abortion bans. This position, however, has so far succeeded mostly in angering all sides. On the right, Mike Pence called Trump’s announcement a “slap in the face”; he and others were mad at the former President for failing to endorse a national abortion ban that, when he was in office, he had promised to sign. (The congressional bill Trump backed during his Presidency sought to ban abortions after twenty weeks’ gestation; Trump recently suggested he was looking favorably on an even harsher plan to ban abortions after fifteen weeks.) On the left, the fear was that Trump might somehow manage to convince voters that he was, in fact, an abortion moderate, the extremist positions of the Republican Party over which he presides notwithstanding.

Whatever the explanation for his mish-mash of a statement, there was no doubt a certain amount of Schadenfreude in watching Trump squirm after all the mayhem he’s caused. The video, which featured a jittery Trump speaking to the camera in front of the Mar-a-Lago fireplace, was marked by abrupt edits suggesting that it had required many, many takes to shoot. Did I mention “I strongly support the availability of I.V.F. for couples who are trying to have a precious baby”? Did I mention that Democrats are the radical ones because they support abortion “up to and even beyond the ninth month”? Did I mention that even if you are mad at me about abortion you should still vote for me because we have to win “to save our country”? The whole production exuded a certain cry-for-help vibe: Perhaps Trump was panicking over the thought that his great victory in ending Roe could actually prove to be the one winning issue that Joe Biden has against him in their rematch?

Two recent court decisions, which bookended Trump’s video, underscored the former President’s bind so completely that they might as well have been ordered up by Biden’s campaign. Last Monday in Florida and this Tuesday in Arizona, state Supreme Courts ruled to allow highly restrictive abortion laws to take effect, even as voters in both states are expected to vote this fall on referendums that would reinstate reproductive rights. It was like an intervention from the reality-check gods: forget the Trump blarney. Abortion in 2024 is, in fact, a real crisis affecting real people. And it’s because of him. Where’s the moderation in an abortion strategy that lets Arizona reinstate a near-total abortion ban that was passed back in 1864, before Arizona was even a state? How is this a let-the-people-decide outcome at a time when close to sixty per cent of Arizona voters believe abortion should be always or mostly legal?

Trump insisted to reporters after the Arizona ruling that the judges had gone too far. “Yeah, they did,” he said. Still, he expressed optimism that the measure would soon be undone by the governor and the state legislature. “That’ll be straightened out, and as you know it’s all about states’ rights,” he said. But, by Wednesday, the Republican leaders in the Arizona state legislature had refused to allow a measure repealing the law to come to a vote. (Democrats in the chamber chanted “Shame!”) Kari Lake, the Trumpist Republican running for Senate in Arizona, tried to repudiate the Civil War-era law, only to have it pointed out that she had called it a “great law” just two years ago and demanded it remain on the books. Whoever told Trump that “states’ rights” was a safe way out of the abortion fight must have been hiding out in a Southern golf club since 1954, with the TV turned off.

Call it the abortion-news paradox: in the post-Roe era, every crazy court decision, every extremist vote by a Republican-controlled state legislature, may help the Democrats politically in the upcoming election, but it’s terrible in the meantime for the millions of women and girls who are affected. By the Biden campaign’s reckoning, one in three American women are already living in states where abortion is banned in some form—“with more on the way.” Until the Arizona court decision, signs were discouraging for Biden in a battleground state that he won by less than eleven thousand votes in 2020; now Republican strategists are moaning about an “earthquake” and a “shock to the Republican body politic” so terrible for their party that it will “definitely give Biden a leg up going into the election.” “That movement you feel under your feet?” the liberal columnist Laurie Roberts wrote in the Arizona Republic. “That’s one of America’s key battleground states swinging blue.”

Biden’s campaign shows every sign of having long been prepared to seize the political opening. Soon after Trump’s confusing announcement, the Biden team rolled out a powerful new ad. It features a young couple in Texas, Josh and Amanda, recounting how, because of a restrictive state law that, post-Dobbs, prompted a hospital to refuse her necessary medical care, Amanda nearly died from sepsis after suffering a miscarriage. The one-minute spot is intimate and devastating. At the end, a simple tagline appears, as the screen fades to black over the sound of Amanda crying: “Trump did this.”

Another ad, turned around quickly after the Arizona court ruling, features Biden himself blaming Trump for taking away women’s “fundamental freedom to control their own bodies” and placing women’s lives in danger as a result. If Trump returns to the White House, Biden asks, “What freedom will you lose next?” He ends the spot—part of a seven-figure ad buy in the state focussing on abortion—by looking into the camera. “I will fight like hell to get your freedom back,” he promises.

If Biden wins in November, I have little doubt that we will look back on the events of this week in Arizona as one of the reasons why.

Doonesbury — Say what?

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Day 5 – Preparing To Land

In a lot of conversations with fellow playwrights, I often compare writing to flying.  The take-off is easy.  You run through the checklist, make sure you have everything in place, then get to the runway, open the throttle, get up to speed, pull the yoke, and you’re in the air.  Whee!

Landing is another thing altogether.  That takes coordination, judging the wind, centering on the runway off in the distance, adjusting speed, angle, and gently coming down, bracing for the touch of the wheels.  Sometimes it’s a little rough, but as veteran pilots say, any landing you can walk away from is a good one.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time bracing for the landing of “Revival.”  I got to 49 pages and most likely the end of Scene 5, the next to last one.  I like what I have, but it’s tentative, and I hope that I’ve got all the characters lined up to come in for a smooth arrival at END OF PLAY.  We’ll see.

Meanwhile, we started sharing our work, each of us allotted 30 minutes to read and discuss our work.  My turn comes Saturday night.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Happy Friday

Drawing the week to a close here in Palm Springs at the Serene Oasis, which is the name of the house, not some resort.  But I still have two more days of writing and communing with fellow writers and denizens of the pool.

As I noted below, I’ve made progress in my new play and I hope to have enough of it done that it will stand on its own by the end of the month, which coincides with the Dramatists Guild annual End of Play™ exercise.  In the past, it has generated two new works: A Good Year and Watercolors.  In all honesty, neither of those plays were truly finished by the deadline of April 30, but it’s the thought that counts.

Meanwhile, it’s back to writing.

Day 4 – Progress

I finished Scene 4 in “Revival.”  It is now up to 40 pages, which is basically Act I even though I’m not breaking it into acts.  But the timing on it is probably about an hour which is about as long as the bladder of most people can stand without squirming.  So far so good.  And to show that I’m willing to throw caution to the winds, I built a page for it on my website and posted Scene 1.

I actually got in the pool.  It was warm and relaxing.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Day 3 – Getting Deep Into It

I was up at 5:30 a.m. PDT Wednesday morning and went to work on the play.

But then after lunch I took a break to stroll around the grounds.

And then went back to work.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Day 2 – Getting Going

Getting down to writing.  I was given a recipe for a playwriting challenge: write a ten-minute play with the following ingredients:

—An ending you find unsatisfying.

—Be familiar with a piece of literature/story for very young children.

—Three things (non-animal) in your home that AREN’T any of your devices (phone, computer, tablet) and three adjectives to describe each physically.

I came up with something that dealt with three objects in my house and made them come alive.  I won’t share it here because I haven’t shared it with my cohorts.  But here’s a look at the title page.