Saturday, September 12, 2020

Friday, September 11, 2020

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Of Course He Knew. Of Course He Lied.

There is nothing surprising at all in the revelations in the tapes released by Bob Woodward about what Trump knew about Covid-19 and the threat it raised to us.  Of course he knew and of course he lied about it, not because he wanted to save us from panic, but because he wanted to be re-elected.

That’s not a news flash.  I have never doubted it.  His lies and denials and malfeasance have basically destroyed millions of lives, businesses, and he doesn’t care.  Again, not a news flash.  We all knew he was capable of it.  We knew it in 2015, and anyone who has paid the slightest attention to his career knew it long before.

There are those who create evil and make it happen for their own ends.  Our civilization is rife with examples from time out of mind to our own generation: men who purposefully set out to destroy lives and nations for their own ends.  And then there are those who ignore the existential threat, who refuse to accept the reality of a threat as it approaches and let it run roughshod over the land, destroying everything in its wake.  Trump has done both.  He has, from the beginning, planned to take over the country and remake it for his own profit and aggrandizement, and to achieve that end, he ignored the threat from the virus; minimized it, mocked those who warned of what would happen, and then allowed it to go on.

I know what this pandemic has done to our lives, our jobs, and the future of this country.  I see it every day in the empty streets, the silent school halls, the shuttered theatres, my friends looking for a job after losing theirs.  I hear it in the voices of friends I see via Zoom but can’t see in person or hug.  And I know that through Trump’s negligence, my father is dead, along with more than 191,000 men, women, children; young, old, rich, poor, in every part of the country.  So while I and my family mourn the loss of Dad, multiply that by the millions of others who are dealing with the very real loss that could have been avoided because Trump and his minions want another political victory.

Maybe more generous souls can find it in their hearts to forgive him.  I cannot, and as long as I live, I will hold him responsible, not just for my father, but for all the rest that this plague has wreaked on this world.  He must be removed by whatever legal means there are before he does even more damage.  In the name of everything we hold dear, sacred, and to our hearts, nothing else matters.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

His Own Private Justice Department

Via the New York Times:

The Justice Department moved on Tuesday to replace President Trump’s private legal team with government lawyers to defend him against a defamation lawsuit by the author E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of raping her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s.

In a highly unusual legal move, lawyers for the Justice Department said in court papers that Mr. Trump was acting in his official capacity as president when he denied ever knowing Ms. Carroll and thus could be defended by government lawyers — in effect underwritten by taxpayer money.

Though the law gives employees of the federal government immunity from most defamation lawsuits, legal experts said it has rarely, if ever, been used before to protect a president, especially for actions taken before he entered office.

“The question is,” said Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, “is it really within the scope of the law for government lawyers to defend someone accused of lying about a rape when he wasn’t even president yet?”

Not only am I not surprised that Trump would pull this bullshit, I thoroughly expected Attorney General Barr to go along with it. Trump sees the entire U.S. government as his company, and he’s the CEO, and Barr is his fixer.

This will go to a federal court where any judge who isn’t in the pocket of Trump will toss it. It will get appealed, aiming for the Supreme Court, and assuring that it will not be decided before November. That’s the whole idea.

It also tells me and the world that Trump is completely freaked out at the possibility of having to testify in court. He’ll commit perjury as he’s being sworn in to solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Going (For) Broke

Trump was supposed to be the guy who had all the money.  Turns out his campaign is hurting.

Money was supposed to have been one of the great advantages of incumbency for President Trump, much as it was for President Barack Obama in 2012 and George W. Bush in 2004. After getting outspent in 2016, Mr. Trump filed for re-election on the day of his inauguration — earlier than any other modern president — betting that the head start would deliver him a decisive financial advantage this year.

It seemed to have worked. His rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., was relatively broke when he emerged as the presumptive Democratic nominee this spring, and Mr. Trump and the Republican National Committee had a nearly $200 million cash advantage.

Five months later, Mr. Trump’s financial supremacy has evaporated. Of the $1.1 billon his campaign and the party raised from the beginning of 2019 through July, more than $800 million has already been spent. Now some people inside the campaign are forecasting what was once unthinkable: a cash crunch with less than 60 days until the election, according to Republican officials briefed on the matter.

Where did it go?

Brad Parscale, the former campaign manager, liked to call Mr. Trump’s re-election war machine an “unstoppable juggernaut.” But interviews with more than a dozen current and former campaign aides and Trump allies, and a review of thousands of items in federal campaign filings, show that the president’s campaign and the R.N.C. developed some profligate habits as they burned through hundreds of millions of dollars. Since Bill Stepien replaced Mr. Parscale in July, the campaign has imposed a series of belt-tightening measures that have reshaped initiatives, including hiring practices, travel and the advertising budget.

Under Mr. Parscale, more than $350 million — almost half of the $800 million spent — went to fund-raising operations, as no expense was spared in finding new donors online. The campaign assembled a big and well-paid staff and housed the team at a cavernous, well-appointed office in the Virginia suburbs; outsize legal bills were treated as campaign costs; and more than $100 million was spent on a television advertising blitz before the party convention, the point when most of the electorate historically begins to pay close attention to the race.

Way back in 1996, Sen. Phil Gramm (R) announced his run for the presidency, bragging that he had the biggest advantage over all the other GOP candidates: “Ready money.” That, however, didn’t help; neither did his prior investments in porn films (nowadays that would probably win him the GOP nomination) and he got run over by the Dole campaign. So even having a lot of money at the start doesn’t guarantee anything except a lot paperwork for the FEC.

It’s not how much you have, it’s how you spend it.

It’s also a part of the long con of conservative politics, according to Paul Campos at LGM:

Right wing politics in this country is basically just a series of elaborate con games, designed to separate frightened old white people from their money.

Yet it’s a sign of what an incredibly powerful force white supremacy remains in America that a malignant buffoon like Trump can spend his entire presidency stealing everything that isn’t nailed down, and a lot of stuff that is, and yet he still has a chance to actually get elected, despite openly turning the presidency into just another of his unending series of brazen grifts and rackets.

And while Trump and his enablers should all go to prison for the rest of their lives, it’s also true that everybody he is now ripping off absolutely deserves to get ripped off, given how utterly transparent his bottomless corruption has been for so very long.

Basically it comes down to the reason all those calls from “Microsoft” and “Apple” and the “extended warranty” keep ringing your phone: there’s always someone out there who will fall for it.


The New Machine

The new computer arrived Saturday afternoon, and within less than 24 hours, Flat Rate Geek here in Miami had migrated everything over without a hitch except for me remembering I had to download new drivers for the printer and camera.  It’s blazing fast, quiet — I had gotten used to the fan spooling up when I opened Firefox — and it’s a bit smaller than the old one.

As before, I have a wireless keyboard and mouse, which makes it convenient to use, and a nice big monitor for my old eyes.

The one thing it won’t do it make my writing any better. That’s up to me.

Monday, September 7, 2020

A Little Night Music

Why this?  Because on the day Allen was born — September 7, 1964 — my family was at Radio City Music Hall watching the film version.

Labor Day

Charlie Chaplin, Modern Times

Having grown up in a union town that was near a large city that relied on union labor, I’ve come to the conclusion that most of the people who most hate unions are folks who think that it is unconscionable that workers should have the same rights as the managers and the owners of the company. How dare they demand a living wage and safe working conditions. Who do they think they are?

Yeah, yeah; in every large group there are bad apples and examples of bad faith and extremism. Welcome to the human race. The Republicans hold the unions up as the boogeyman of the Western world and label them as thugs… and give tax breaks to the corporations because they know that if they don’t, the corporations will kneecap them. Not literally; they’ll just stop giving them money, which, in corporate circles, is thuggery. The people who whine about “class warfare” always turn out to be the ones who are winning the war.

Perhaps one of the reasons that union membership is down is that unions have accomplished a lot of what they set out to do 100 years ago. Factories are safer, working hours are reasonable, wages are better than the minimum, and pensions provide some security. The unions have learned, however awkwardly, to accept that they have been successful, but they also know that if some people had their way in the world, they would turn back to clock to 1911, put children to work, take away the healthcare, and demand more production. After all, it works for the Chinese, and look how they’re doing.

By the way, not all union workers are Democrats; they certainly weren’t were I grew up. A lot of them are hardcore Republicans or conservatives — including police officers — who don’t care about the politics; they just want to be treated fairly. And a lot of people who are not union members are working under union contracts; in most places there is no requirement to join a union to benefit from their efforts. So while actual union membership may be down to 15%, the number of people who are part of the union is far greater. That includes public sector jobs as well as private. So the next time someone feels the urge to union-bash, be sure you’re not peeing in your own campfire.

Full disclosure: I am a dues-paying member of a union of sorts; I belong to the Dramatists Guild. It provides services for writers and lyricists and makes sure that when our works are produced, we have a fair contract and get paid our royalties. The joke among us is that we don’t go on strike; we just get writers’ block.

[Originally posted September 2, 2013]

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Sunday Reading

The Most Infuriating Thing — Charles P. Pierce on the article in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg.

The two men were set to visit Section 60, the 14-acre area of the cemetery that is the burial ground for those killed in America’s most recent wars. Kelly’s son Robert is buried in Section 60. A first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, Robert Kelly was killed in 2010 in Afghanistan. He was 29. Trump was meant, on this visit, to join John Kelly in paying respects at his son’s grave, and to comfort the families of other fallen service members. But according to sources with knowledge of this visit, Trump, while standing by Robert Kelly’s grave, turned directly to his father and said, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” Kelly (who declined to comment for this story) initially believed, people close to him said, that Trump was making a ham-handed reference to the selflessness of America’s all-volunteer force. But later he came to realize that Trump simply does not understand non-transactional life choices.

“He can’t fathom the idea of doing something for someone other than himself,” one of Kelly’s friends, a retired four-star general, told me. “He just thinks that anyone who does anything when there’s no direct personal gain to be had is a sucker. There’s no money in serving the nation.” Kelly’s friend went on to say, “Trump can’t imagine anyone else’s pain. That’s why he would say this to the father of a fallen marine on Memorial Day in the cemetery where he’s buried.”

That is the single most poignant moment in Jeffrey Goldberg’s soon-to-be-legendary piece in The Atlantic. Except for the likely instant intervention of the Secret Service, I don’t know how John Kelly didn’t flatten the vulgar talking yam right there at Arlington. But John Kelly didn’t do that. In fact he stayed with the administration*, eventually taking a promotion from Secretary of Homeland Security to White House chief-of-staff. Kelly became the face of cruel and stupid immigration policies at the country’s southern border, defended the president* when the latter made similarly insensitive remarks to a Gold Star widow in Florida and then called Rep. Fredrica Wilson “an empty barrel” when she called the president* out for it, spoke warmly of Robert E. Lee and the armies of the Confederate States of America, and ultimately left the administration* to take a job with a firm that runs the largest detention facility in which “unaccompanied” migrant minor children are held. And John Kelly did all of this after the president* made those graceless remarks about Kelly’s son while standing aside the young man’s grave. Frankly, I don’t know how Kelly could even look at the man without vomiting after that.

That is the part of Goldberg’s piece that is the most infuriating. Yes, the president*’s remarks about all the “losers” and “suckers” who died in Belleau Wood are grotesque—although, to be fair, he isn’t entirely wrong about World War I. Yes, the idea that El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago avoided a trip to a military cemetery in France because rain might have damaged his coiffure is both sad and hilarious. Yes, his obsession with John McCain, which continues to this day, apparently, is the product of a bent and twisted mind. And yes, his apparent revulsion at the sight of wounded veterans is unbecoming in a president of the United States. All of these things are true. But all of these things were true at the time. Kelly and the president* went to Arlington five months into the president*’s term. Kelly worked for the president* for another year and, since then, until just now, he has maintained his silence as the president*’s assault on the rule of law and the Constitution only intensified. All of them—Kelly, H.R. McMaster, James Mattis—have been Good Soldiers rather than patriots. (Mattis did call the president* a threat to the Constitution in another Goldberg piece that ran in June. Of this year. Barn. Lock. Missing horse.) This is also the case for all the anonymous people behind Goldberg’s opus. Personally, I have more respect for the average kid marching in the streets than I do for all of them combined.

I don’t want to hear about “duty” and “service,” either. They took an oath to defend the Constitution, not to hold their tongues until they could get a book deal as a reckless vandal takes the Republic down, brick by brick. Of all the people whom history will account as being complicit in the attempted demolition of constitutional government, I rank them ahead even of the invertebrate Republicans in the United States Senate. I do not expect political courage from the likes of Mitch McConnell or Ben Sasse. I expect it of men who have demonstrated physical courage under extreme circumstances, but never has the difference between battlefield courage and political courage been more clearly drawn. I am glad that Goldberg has written this piece. I’m glad it’s out in the world. I’m glad that people are outraged about it, and I’m glad for whatever role it may ultimately play in lifting this scourge from the land. But I am sorry, and angry, that it has come to this, in 2020, when the vandals are still on a rampage that seems as though it can only end in annihilation.

Acting Out — Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Donald Trump should take an improv class to make the stories that he creates out of thin air richer in detail, a leading improv expert advised.

Harland Dorrinson, a founding member of Yes/And TheatreWorks, the legendary improv group in St. Louis, said that a grounding in improv would help Trump craft stories that “at least sound like they could be true.”

Dorrinson said that he recently watched a scene performed by Trump and Laura Ingraham, of Fox News, that demonstrated just how much the President could benefit from taking a beginners’ improv workshop.

“Laura Ingraham was giving him great prompts, but he didn’t build on them,” he said. “She asked him to describe the thugs on planes, and he had nothing.”

“He said that they were wearing ‘dark uniforms, black uniforms with gear and this and that,’ ” Dorrinson said. “Then he said that they came from ‘a certain city’ and that he heard all of this from ‘a person.’ If you did an improv that lazy on our stage, the audience would demand its money back.”

Despite his criticism, Dorrinson believes that Trump “has what it takes” to be a solid improv performer.

“He has a wild imagination and a truly demented stage presence, but he needs to get serious and put in the work,” he said.

Doonesbury — Color me furious.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

A Change Is Gonna Come

My nearly-twelve-year-old Toshiba laptop is about to retire, and the new kid that will be taking its place will be here soon.  I expect to begin the changeover sometime today and it will take a while for everything to be moved, so I’ve pre-posted tonight’s “A Little Night Music” and tomorrow’s “Sunday Reading” (without Doonesbury; sorry, I’ll get it posted when I get going again).

For the record, this will be my sixth computer.  I started out in 1984 with an Apple IIc, which I still have in boxes in the garage.  I paid $1,500 for it at Schaack Electronics in Boulder.  I wrote plays, short stories, and my doctoral thesis on it — the first accepted at CU printed out on a dot-matrix printer in 1988 — and also used it in my office in Harbor Springs, Michigan, doing window and door sales.  It was replaced in 1996 by a Gateway 2000 with a 2-gig hard drive and a monitor the size of a small car.  It came with me to Miami in 2001 and I started writing “Bobby Cramer” as well as “Can’t Live Without You” on it.  It was replaced in 2002 with a Toshiba laptop hand-me-down from my mom.  It met its demise in 2006 when the screen died and was replaced by an HP laptop that had issues from the day I bought it until it finally cratered in October 2009.  That’s when I got this very reliable Toshiba that has been the source of almost all my writing since then, has traveled with me around the country, including numerous trips to theatre conferences, to visit my parents, and even to Alaska last summer.  But even with the new solid-state memory and expanded RAM that were installed last fall, it has been struggling to keep up with the working-from-home and the Zoom meetings.  So, this dude has gotten a Dell.

But fear not; like me, this machine will go into semi-retirement.  It’s going to be scrubbed, tidied up, and spend out its days with my mom in her retirement community, reading blogs and playing lots of Solitaire.  It’s earned it.

I actually have another computer in the house: it’s a loaner from work called a Think Centre, but it’s very, very slow and I don’t have the patience to work with it.  I need to catch up on my reading.

Friday, September 4, 2020