Thursday, October 11, 2018

Small Blessings

Sometime scrolling through a news feed can be frustrating.  Trying to find something interesting to read that doesn’t have me reaching for a second dose of BP meds is difficult enough with idiots and racists running the government, but the sheer stupidity and hypocrisy of a lot of what passes for news as we ramp up to the midterm elections makes it even harder to find something to laugh at, which is why I chose that little piece of Chico and Harpo Marx tickling the ivories for ALNM last night.

This morning it wasn’t a whole lot better: Trump would rather do Nuremberg 2.0 in Pennsylvania than stay in D.C. to monitor hurricane relief, even though we know that’s just for optics because there’s not a lot he could do even if he was competent; that’s what FEMA is for.  Hillary Clinton said it’s time for the Democrats to take the gloves off and the right-wing Orcosphere goes nuts, but that’s their setting anyway anytime she says please pass the butter.  A stringer reporter disappears in Turkey at the hands of the Saudis and suddenly the White House doesn’t even know how to get in touch with the perps.  The Supreme Court is already showing their complete disdain for Native American voters in North Dakota; they can’t be real voters if they don’t have a street address like real Americans do in all the cul-de-sacs in Maryland where teens really know how to par-tay (right, Brett?).

So now what?  The mid-terms are in a few weeks, and so now we have to switch to the cable pundits wondering just how the Democrats will blow their lead just like they did in 2016.  It’s enough to make me turn off the TV and start Googling cheap retirement in the Caribbean.  But you have to balance it out.  There’s good stuff to be had, even if it’s small or seems trivial.  The Miami Metro Rail ran on time yesterday.  (Karma alert: the trains were messed up this morning.) My friends up in the panhandle checked in safe after the hurricane passed.  My friend Christopher got a great write-up in the New York Times about his play opening next month on Broadway.  Someone shot a Youtube of the Miami International Auto Show and included nice things to say about Memory Lane and my car.

So while the news may be depressing, aggravating, annoying, and laugh-so-that-we-may-not-weep, sometimes we just have to remember that there are small blessings, too, and it does put it all in perspective.  For a little while, at least.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Random Thought

I’m slightly amused by all the guessing about why Nikki Haley resigned her post as UN ambassador and what she’ll do now — run for president?  When? — and even more slightly amused by the speculation that Ivanka would or could get the job.

Whoever it is will be appointed by Trump and therefore will be just another sycophant or nationalist, so it really doesn’t matter.  We might as well argue who was the better Darrin on “Bewitched.”  Either way, you end up with a Dick.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

An Angry Mob, You Say?

From the Washington Post:

When thousands of furious, screaming protesters marched toward the Capitol over the weekend as Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh was confirmed, Republican staffers peered out at the scene from the windows above. They were not alarmed but elated.

Weeks ahead of the midterm elections, Republicans have cast the Trump resistance movement as “an angry mob,” a term used by many of them to describe a faceless amalgamation of forces that they say threaten the country’s order and, they hope, energize their voters.

President Trump and the GOP firmly control Congress and the White House and have massive financial and media infrastructure behind them. But in an effort to flip the midterm elections from a referendum on the unpopular president, they are casting themselves as defenders at the barricades.

In Virginia, Rep. David Brat (R) is running against the “liberal mob,” and GOP Senate candidate Corey Stewart has decried the “mob tactics” that “tried to destroy” Kavanaugh.

“When we’re out at grocery stores or at events, we’re finding swing voters are turned off by how Kavanaugh was treated,” Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) said. “Chasing senators down the hall, running up the stairs at the Capitol — we’ve been taken aback by how people have reacted to it. And we’re responding.”

The characterization evokes fear of an unknown and out-of-control mass of people, and it taps into grievances about the nation’s fast-moving cultural and demographic shifts that Republicans say are working against them. With its emphasis on the impact on traditional values and white voters, particularly men, it strikes the same notes as earlier Trump-fanned attention to immigrants, MS-13 gang members and African American football players protesting police treatment of young black men.

So the angry protestors that disrupted town hall meetings in 2009 at the instigation of the poorly-disguised GOP-led Tea Party and the White Pride march in Charlottesville, Virginia, that killed a woman and were told that there were “good people” doing it; those were just good citizens exercising their First Amendment rights, is that it?  Oh, and all those people chanting “Lock her up!” and beating up demonstrators at the encouragement of their dear leader, why, that was just good old American freedom flexing its muscle.

The ironic thing is, though, that this country was founded by an angry mob: the American revolution wasn’t a polite disagreement, and if we’d let the fear of the unknown hold us back, we’d have never expanded this country beyond the Appalachians.  But the Republicans and the Trumpers are masters at exploiting fear and loathing; it’s the only way they’ve won elections in the last fifty years, and they know that there are enough weak-willed and blustering bullies out there who will either fall for their line or make money off it.

We’re better than that.  But don’t take my word for it.  Take it from a man who couldn’t even stand on his own two feet without help but who faced down fear and anger and turned it into good.

This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

Now’s the time to do it again.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Moving On

Now is not the time to dwell on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, but gather our forces and our voices and vote on November 6.  Let the right-wingers gloat and tease and be the typical sore winners that they are; we have work to do.  Don’t overthink the polls that show energizing Republicans; they have the attention span of a fruit fly and will soon find something else to be outraged about.

What does concern me is the historical pattern that this trend in our history seems to be rhyming, if not repeating.  Thanks to Hunter, I went to Hullabaloo and read this rather sobering assessment of the past and where it led.

This piece is meant to alarm. It should. We are all watching this unfold on a day to day basis, many of us stressed out and upset, aware that this is a very scary historical inflection point. Something has gone very wrong and we aren’t quite sure how to deal with it. I will just point out that the world may end up being lucky that the worlds only superpower produced the demagogic authoritarian Donald Trump instead of someone who was either more intelligent and competent or more malleable in the hands of an alt-right manipulator like Steve Bannon. That is small comfort, though. Incompetent imbeciles are often more dangerous than efficient geniuses.

So, as the piece in yesterday’s Sunday Reading noted, this is not the time to dwell on the past.  It’s a call to action, to do something, and to get out of your cocoon or bubble or whatever it is that protects you — and I’m just as guilty as the next one, bingeing on “The West Wing” and junk TV — but now is the time to get off our collective asses and vote these bastards out.

Happy October Holiday

To some, today is Columbus Day. In some places, school is out and it’s a holiday. Not in Miami-Dade County, though, which means I’m at work, and to some people, celebrating the arrival of Christopher Columbus is seen as not necessarily a good thing.

In Canada, it’s Thanksgiving Day. That means they get a six-week jump on Christmas shopping. I am sure they are thrilled to be inundated with jingling bells and heralding angels before the leaves are off the maples.

Anyway, enjoy the holiday if you celebrate it.

Canadian Thanksgiving

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Sunday Reading

A Defeat Or A Call To Action? — David Rothkopf at Deep State Radio.

What do you do when your country breaks your heart? When not once but repeatedly it fails to live up to the aspirations of even those citizens with the most modest of aspirations for it? When the ideals of its founders are left to yellow and be forgotten in archives and museums?

What do you do when the political discussion is commandeered not by those with merely a different ideology but by people who are fundamentally corrupt, evil and valueless?  Who drape themselves in the flag and profess devotion to their God and demean both every time their lips move?

What do you do when their champions in the media are a brigade of third and fourth-rate intellects, sneering, hateful, sanctimonious arsonists of journalism, enemies of truth, defenders of the indefensible?

What do you do when reason is so often confounded and decency so regularly kicked aside? What do you do when liars and thieves and abusers are lifted up and public service ceases to be even the nominal objective of public servants?

What do you when those who seek power do so only to enrich themselves and their cronies and then to tear down the institutions on which this society like any other depends upon to survive, when they attack the system of justice, the rule of law and basic ethical standards?

What do you do when they turn against those they are supposed to serve–women, people of color, immigrants who have come to our country to help build as has been done for generations before ours, the LGBTQ community, and even their own “base” that they ruthlessly exploit?

With each of their victories we drift further from who we are supposed to be, worse still from who we might become. And it is heartbreaking. Shattering. Demoralizing. Over time, the unthinkable becomes commonplace and the unacceptable seems to demand to be accepted.

What do you do then? Curl up in a ball? Weep? Lament it to your friends? Tune it out? Shake your fist? Give up? Or do you recognize that moments like these are when the character of a democracy is tested? Do you realize that it moments like these that make rebirth possible?

At the beginning of this country we faced worse. When slavery divided this country we faced worse. When world wars threatened this country we faced worse. When depression rocked our economy we faced worse. The enemies today are bad, as evil and corrupt as we’ve ever seen.

But they are not so bad that we cannot be reborn of this crisis as we have been so often before. he least among us is better than them. They remind us of that daily. The secret is in seeing their depredations as inspirations, today’s defeats as the start of tomorrow’s victories.

We should only lament our future if we lack the will to fight for it. I’ve found this week to be one of the worst in my memory. I have been heartbroken. But I also recognize this week’s defeat as a call to action. There is an election in just a month.

We must remember their fears of the results of that election–that the American people will make themselves heard–is what made them rush for with this bleak charade of a Supreme Court nomination battle. They know we can win. They expect us to win.

And now we must do what we have to to win. Use how bad this moment feels. Use how angry you are. Use it to mobilize friends and family, to become the activist you never were, to be a donor, to be an advocate, to turn out the vote.

The final verdict on how the Kavanaugh vote will be seen will not be in the newspapers this weekend or in how the White House spins it. It will come on the night of November 6th when we see whether it mobilized America to turn the tide against these enemies among us.

And it will come thereafter as Democrats, now again empowered, have the opportunity to show what real leadership is, what an appreciation for American ideals can bring when it is embraced by our leaders, what the rule of law should mean, the role decency can play in our lives.

Today is the first day of the victory for America that was inspired by the abuses of the Kavanaugh nominating process, of a president who has betrayed the country, of children in cages, of the tragedy of Puerto Rico, of humiliation abroad, and of rampant corruption everywhere.

That’s what happened today. It won’t be reported in the news. But I believe it. I believe it will be seen as a turning point. I believe this is a moment for great hope. But if that is to be true, it is also a moment for resolve and action. Now. Starting right now.

And if we don’t do it, who will?

Doonesbury — Check that.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Friday, October 5, 2018

Down To The Wire

There will be a vote at 10:30 a.m. in the Senate for cloture on the Kavanaugh nomination, which means that if there are enough Republicans to vote yes — assuming no Democrats do — the Senate will then move forward with the confirmation vote on Saturday.

According to Adam L. Silverman at Balloon Juice, as of last night it was still a near thing whether or not there were enough votes for cloture.  At least one Republican will not be there on Saturday because of a family wedding, and wavering Democrats — the ones who are up for reelection in red states such as South Dakota and Indiana — are making their intentions known, however cautiously.

I’m thinking — and it’s based purely on history and age-old cynicism — that we will be will-o’-the-wisp hopeful that the Senate will not confirm him because of some kind of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” bravery from a few Republicans who would rather stand for decency than poll numbers.  But we know how this movie ends; if you’re over 30 you saw how it went with Clarence Thomas in 1991, and I’m yet to be convinced that we, and especially the old-boys club in the Senate, have evolved beyond that time.  I’ve also yet to see anyone of substance call out the Republicans for their rank hypocrisy in demanding due process for Brett Kavanaugh — innocent until proven guilty! — but chanted “Lock her up!” at Hillary Clinton and now Prof. Blasey Ford.

Their motives, by the way, are not to put just this one man on the court.  As far as his judicial rulings go and his history on the bench, he’s one of many conservative judges to pick from, and if for some reason Brett Kavanaugh doesn’t make it there will be plenty more for Trump to choose from, if he hasn’t already.  But with the slim possibility of the Senate flipping and the attitude of the GOP leadership being what it is, it’s more about sticking it to the Democrats than it is about the future of the Supreme Court.  They’re still pissed off that America elected a black man twice as president when everyone knows that the White House belongs to the rich white guys, not the descendants of the slaves who built it.  This is their continuing middle finger to the rest of us, including old white guys like me who happen to believe that everyone is entitled to a place at the table, not just the dudes and bros who puke beer, grope women, and go to Yale because, hey, it’s what’s expected.  It’s the continuing reinforcement of the idea that the Republicans don’t govern, they rule.

So I’m not holding out a lot of hope that there will be profiles in courage emerging from the Senate today or tomorrow.  I hope I’m wrong, but then, hope is my greatest weakness.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

This Vicious Buffoon

Charles P. Pierce:

Everyone who does not agree with me is a traitor and a scoundrel.

—HRH George III, King of Great Britain and Ireland

This video should be the only news from now until Election Day, and probably beyond that, all the way to the next Election Day in 2020 as well.

This video captures perfectly where we are as a nation at this moment in history. It shows with startling clarity the end result of civic disengagement and democratic apathy. It shows without question that we have allowed our republic to fall into the hands of a sociopath whose feeling for his fellow human beings can be measured against a poker chip. It shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the better angels of our nation have been sold out to anger, and greed, and stone hatred. It shows precisely the depths to which our fellow citizens will follow this bag of old and rancid sins. Some of those citizens know better. Some of them don’t. All of them are dangerous blockheads.

Look at the man behind the seal of the President of the United States, mocking the recollections of a survivor of sexual assault. In my life, I have watched John Kennedy talk on television about missiles in Cuba. I saw Lyndon Johnson look Richard Russell squarely in the eye and and say, “And we shall overcome.” I saw Richard Nixon resign and Gerald Ford tell the Congress that our long national nightmare was over. I saw Jimmy Carter talk about malaise and Ronald Reagan talk about a shining city on a hill. I saw George H.W. Bush deliver the eulogy for the Soviet bloc, and Bill Clinton comfort the survivors of Timothy McVeigh’s madness in Oklahoma City. I saw George W. Bush struggle to make sense of it all on September 11, 2001, and I saw Barack Obama sing “Amazing Grace” in the wounded sanctuary of Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

These were the presidents of my lifetime. These were not perfect men. They were not perfect presidents, god knows. Not one of them was that. But they approached the job, and they took to the podium, with all the gravitas they could muster as appropriate to the job. They tried, at least, to reach for something in the presidency that was beyond their grasp as ordinary human beings. They were not all ennobled by the attempt, but they tried nonetheless.

And comes now this hopeless, vicious buffoon, and the audience of equally hopeless and vicious buffoons who laughed and cheered when he made sport of a woman whose lasting memory of the trauma she suffered is the laughter of the perpetrators. Now he comes, a man swathed in scandal, with no interest beyond what he can put in his pocket and what he can put over on a universe of suckers, and he does something like this while occupying an office that we gave him, and while endowed with a public trust that he dishonors every day he wakes up in the White House.

The scion of a multigenerational criminal enterprise, the parameters of which we are only now beginning to comprehend. A vessel for all the worst elements of the American condition. And a cheap, soulless bully besides.

We have had good presidents and bad—a Buchanan is followed by a Lincoln who is followed by an Andrew Johnson, and so forth. But we never have had such a cheap counterfeit of a president* as currently occupies the office. We have had presidents who have been the worthy targets of scalding scorn, but James Callender went after giants. We never have had a president* so completely deserving of scorn and yet so small in the office that it almost seems a waste of time and energy to summon up the requisite contempt.

Watch him make fun of the woman again. Watch how a republic dies in the empty eyes of an empty man who feels nothing but his own imaginary greatness, and who cannot find in himself the decency simply to shut the fuck up even when it is in his best interest to do so. Presidents don’t have to be heroes to be good presidents. They just have to realize that their humanity is our common humanity, and that their political commonwealth is our political commonwealth, too.

Watch him again, behind the seal of the President of the United States. Isn’t he a funny man? Isn’t what happened to that lady hilarious? Watch the assembled morons cheer. This is the only story now.

Amen.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Tech Support — Can You See This?

I got an e-mail from a loyal reader who said the blog was stuck on Tuesday, September 11.

That was the day we migrated BBWW to a new server and added site security, which is why you now see a little green padlock and an “s” in the https:// in the URL.  But it also means that we’ve had a technical issue that effected some users.  We think we’ve fixed it, but if you missed the last month of posts, please comment below with a note, and perhaps what operating system (Windows, Mac, etc) and what browser (Firefox, Chrome, IE, Edge, Safari, etc). and I’ll turn it over to our crack team of experts.