Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

Category: Government (Page 2 of 9)

The Trump Base is Hitting a Wall

I ran in an election once. Each candidate had to give a speech before the assembled student body.  During my speech, I referred to the low pressure in the school water fountains, eliciting titters from the crowd.

I won the election but I got my comeuppance about a month later. A student passing in the hall asked, “How are you doing with those water fountains?” I hadn’t done anything.  In fact, I knew when I’d said it that I couldn’t get those fountains fixed.  I’ve harbored a certain cynicism about elections ever since.

The memory brings me to Ann Coulter, the chronically skeptical conservative commentator who led the charge for Citizen Trump.   He had her the moment he glided down his gilded escalator, railing against Mexican rapists and promising to build a Wall – a Big, Beautiful Border Wall — and get Mexico to pay for it. Coulter is now a Former Trumper because he is not fulfilling his promise to build a wall. She and her cohort were the voters who forgave him all his character deficits and vulgarity. They’d walk through a wall for him if only he would build it. 

  During her interview with long-time sparring partner Frank Bruni, Coulter expressed her growing  disaffection.  “He had absolute, rock-solid, locked us in, on support [sic] because we thought we wouldn’t be betrayed — finally. He could sell Ivanka Trump merchandise from the Oval Office if he would just build the Wall.  If he doesn’t have us anymore — no, that’s what he should be worried about because, you play those people for suckers, the ones who stood by him through thick and thin, and thought this was finally something different. Finally we have a politician who wasn’t going to lie to us. No, former Trumpers should put the fear of God in him.”   

The sad-faced Coulter looked like a vampire at dawn who could not find the keys to her crypt.  She elaborated on what she has coined, “Former Trumpers,” registering her utter disappointment. 

“Don’t act like I’m a nut for wanting a wall. That was the chant at every rally. I didn’t make this up…I promise you we want a Wall. We don’t care who pays for it.”

The constitutionally acerbic Coulter has been around long enough to know Trump’s playbook, and she’s nobody’s Pollyanna.  She wouldn’t be gulled by his wacky campaign promise.  She’s speaking for the Trumpers, those people who don’t care who pays for it.  She’s signaling Trump that his base is slipping. 

Trump heard the drumbeat.   That’s why he exploded with tweets this morning accusing Democrats of killing the DACA deal, the one he agreed to make and later reneged.  He’s accused Mexico of allowing Central American migrants to pass through the country and across the border.  In fact, despite Trump’s hawkish immigration policy, the number of people crossing has reached the same level as it was at its peak in the Obama era.

Coulter also must realize that her man’s Congressional support is flagging.  He had his best chance to get his wall funded within the first 100 days of his term.  It was a double bumble. Not only did he fail to make the Wall the first item on his agenda, but he and his party also squandered their pledge to repeal Obamacare by trying to ram a terrible health care bill down America’s throat.

He managed to get only $1.3 billion for the Wall in the recent spending bill.  That’s enough to cover the design and scale modeling, assuming they don’t go hog-wild on the dining room set. It’s not going to cover the cost of building a Beautiful Border Wall, unless in his classic form, Trump stiffs the contractors.  So there is not going to be a wall this year, and next year is not looking too good.  He and Coulter had to know it.  They must have thought that his supporters wouldn’t notice.

Back to the Future

This weekend shapes up to be uneventful, and that’s a good thing. There’s too much going on, especially here in the land of the free and the home of the brave . We’re  going through another national identity crisis. It happens every fifty years or so.

Watergate

There is a podcast series called “Slow Burn,” a retelling of the story of the Nixon presidency. By design, its creators stuck  to the 1972 campaign and its aftermath.   They couldn’t stop Candidate Nixon from putting in an appearance.    In a foreshadowing of Watergate,   Nixon directed H.R. Haldeman, his chief of staff, to  disrupt  the Paris Peace Talks to forestall US withdrawal from the catastrophic war in Vietnam.  Johnson in effect sued for peace, which brought the warring parties to the table. 

Historians do not all believe that Nixon personally stopped the peace talks. Certainly, some people close to him believed that he did. 

Applying the Brakes

“There’s really no doubt this was a step beyond the normal political jockeying, to interfere in an active peace negotiation given the stakes with all the lives,” said John A. Farrell, who discovered the notes at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library for his forthcoming biography, “Richard Nixon: The Life,” to be published in March by Doubleday. “Potentially, this is worse than anything he did in Watergate.”

The Special Plan

“Jack Farrell is the F. Scott of The Boston Globe,” fellow columnist Maureen Dowd blurbed. I’ll credit him for being a reliable source.  His quote refers to a note hand-written by H.R. Haldeman, Nixon’s chief of staff.  Nixon said that a ” special  intermediary ” should continue to persuade the South Vietnamese to delay the talks until after the election. The suggestion being that Nixon would not sell them out, as Johnson was doing.

While one of Nixon’s men held off the parties from getting to the peace table, Nixon campaigned that  he had a plan for ending the war.  George Romney, another candidate for the nomination, asked Nixon about the Secret Plan,  and the moniker stuck. There was no secret plan. Instead, Nixon escalated a war that  was impossible to win,  as the mounting evidence  of Johnson’s mess showed; nevertheless, for his political advancement. purposely undermining Johnson’s effort to end it. 

Conspiracy Theories

It’s not hard to see Nixon’s prints all over this caper.  No one can say for certain that Nixon’s deceit was the reason for his victory.   It was a close race, and it could have made  a difference.  The Watergate story was a reminder of the 1968 campaign and the pre-Watergate dirty tricks that Nixon’s plumbers carried out on his enemies. Then,  I couldn’t help thinking about Sirhan Sirhan,  convicted assassin of Robert Kennedy. I’ve made a note to check if any of Nixon’s men were in Los Angeles that horrible night in June when Bobby Kennedy was murdered.

Of course Nixon didn’t achieve victory in Vietnam, quick or otherwise.  He expanded the theater of battle, chasing  the Viet Cong into neighboring Laos and Cambodia before coming to the same  conclusion as Johnson: the war couldn’t be won. Prolonging it would capsize his presidency.  Four years after Nixon touted his Secret Plan, in the waning days of the 1972 campaign National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger went before the American public on TV and announced that “peace is at hand.”  It took another two years to extract the last American.  Not much  later,  Saigon fell.

Nixon’s Ghost

The world of 2018 feels like reminds me of  the Vietnam War. Candidate Trump,  a political neophyte,  didn’t understand the risk of aligning himself with Vladimir Putin  Maybe he thought that, as Masters of the Universe, he and Volo would’ve been the best of friends. Or maybe the Russians were so deep into Trump that they started spilling out the other end.  Either way, in this remake Putin got to be the master, and Trump got to be the puppet state.

You and Your AR-15

The AR-15 is a rifle used in Vietnam to replace the M-14,  the last, official U.S. battle rifle.    As the nature of war changed, the instruments of war changed with it.  As a military weapon the AR-15 (M-16) was fully automatic.  In its civilian incarnation, it is semi-automatic, meaning each bullet fired requires a separate squeeze of the trigger.  The AR-15 can be accessorized with scopes, lasers and more. One of the mores is the bump stock, which uses the recoil of the weapon to reengage the trigger, converting it back into an automatic weapon. It takes about ten minutes to install, unless you blow your hand off. Then it  takes s little longer.

Even without a bump stock, the AR-15 is a very effective weapon, It has high muzzle velocity, and with a .223 caliber round with its violent ricochet, it can cause a freakish amount of damage if it hits something organic.

Simply put, even as a semi-automatic rifle, the AR-15 is capable of firing repeatedly. It’s a lot lighter than the traditional carbine rifle and has far less recoil. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the NRA’S TOP TEN REASONS FOR OWNING AN AR-15.  

Reason No. 10: It is America’s Rifle:, the “musket of its day.”  A seasoned musketeer could get off two or three rounds per minute.  Statistics are inconclusive because not very many esrly Erivan tepieces came with sweep second-hands.  If you grew up with a phone on your wrist instead of a  watch, you might need to google that.    America’s rifle, you say? The NRA calls on no less an authority than former Navy SEAL turned Second Amendment advocate Dom Raso:

“I guarantee you, if the Founding Fathers would have known this gun was going to be invented, they wouldn’t have rewritten the Second Amendment, they would have fortified it in stone. Because they knew the only way for us to stay free is by having whatever guns the bad guys have. 

Well, hell’s bells!  I didn’t know that the Founding Fathers said anything about bad guys.   The second amendment mentions bad hombres, as I recall. And they  didn’t need to fortify it in stone due to  the invention of parchment – talk about a difference in muzzle velocity!  

Reason No. 9 Bringing Women Into Shooting.   The days of the derringer are long gone. No dainty handgun for the ladies. With those big pocketbooks, you can stuff an AR-15 right in the bag.  Apparently, the distaff side likes the “cool” feel of the gun and no hard recoil.  Gee, I’ve never heard it put that way.

Reason No. 8. Disaster Preparedness. Should you encounter a preemptive strike or the Zombie Apocalypse, which is what the NRA means by doomsday scenario, you would do well to have an AR-15 by your side.  Actually, I don’t think it would help with the bomb, but it’s a winner against the zombies, as long as you discharge before one of them eats your brain.  

Reason No. 7 Competitive Shooting.  I have friends who shoot skeet – they also shoot trapped, defenseless and mostly flightless birds I have never seen one of them use an AR-15 to do it but if you are having a dinner party for 20, or Mort, you can’t waste a lot of time shopping for the entree. 

Reason No. 6  Farm/Ranch Use. A farmer like Oliver Wendell Douglas  from Green Acres would need a semi-automatic to take down a fox or coyote.  Then again, he packed up and went back to Park Avenue. It’s ideal for predator control, when faced with a pack of coyotes or foxes-although, come to think of it, they mostly don’t travel in packs.

Reason No. 5 Tinkering.  It’s fun for kids of all ages!  Add a scope, a laser, change the hand guard or pistol grip.  Build your very own from scratch with a kit and a choice of wrappers. You’ll find a kit in your local Hobby Lobby.  If you really want to tinker, you can weaponize your Lego’s too!

Reason No. 4. Hunting.    For those of us who really do eat what we kill,  it has been scientifically proven that animals could not be bagged with a manual bolt gun or a bow and arrow, which is why we are all maturally vegetarians. Besides the lead fusillade adds that iron-rich flavor to your bison steak.

Reason No. 3 Teaching/Learning.   Do  you want to know the truth?  Can you handle the truth? We need the rifle to teach other people how to use the rifle.  If you didn’t have the rifle, how could You Tube  teach anyone to use it?   You need to hold it one to learn to handle one.  That’s also why bull whip practice is part of the core curricula for K-6 in charter and home schooling accreditation.

Reason No. 2. Fun and Recreation.   If you can impress your girl on a date with that “cool” recoil.  or bond with your kids  learning to tinker and discharge the AR-15, what could possibly be more satisfying? Imagine a snowy, winter day, just you and your brood competing to see who could break down and reassemble that little beauty the fastest. Girls, let those boys win once in a while!

Reason No. 1.  Self-Defense. How can anyone dispute the need to have a repeating rifle to fend off an intruder or put down a street attac?. You can’t take a chance of lodging one shot in the dark – you need to unload a clip or two to make sure you’ve nailed the creep.  Or picture yourself walking home from a night at the drive-in, when a homicidal immigrant attacks you, saying, “Gimme your iPhone!” You can draw that  AR-15 out of your Louis Vuitton and gun the rapist down.  

Picture  your old math teacher, chalk in one hand, AR-15 in the other.  Who’ve says our kids don’t learn the basics?

By now, I am sure you are as convinced as I am that the AR-15 is as American as apple pie. It is not just America’s rifle. It is America itself.

My only question is, if owning the AR-15 is America’s First Freedom, why is it only the Constitution’s Second Amendment? Let’s restore it to its rightful place. 

House of Thugs

Kail

     “Lock Them Up,” the chant rises up. The tall dark-suited, white-shirted men, with monochrome neckties and spray-top haircuts will exit in the same kind of black SUV which had brought them to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and with the force as if they’ve been belched from a furnace, which, in a way, they have.
An estimated 130 White House staffers all in need of security clearances for their work, have been rolling along, their superiors and themselves oblivious to the risk they pose. This dereliction by senior personnel is on a par with giving the Lamborghini to your kid with the newly-issued learner’s permit. “Have fun in Vegas, Junior.” What could possibly go wrong?

     It’s not that serial wife-beater Bo Porter was planning to sell the daily intelligence briefing to the highest bidder.  It’s that he could be forced to cough up classified information to anyone possessing photos of his black-eyed ex-wife.  People with shameful secrets are vulnerable people, ripe for exploitation.
Son-in-law Jared Kushner, senior adviser and roving envoy to Russia and the Middle East, does not have and never will get security clearance. Nor will Princess Ivanka.  Kushner is being denied clearance for denying his meetings with Russians, exactly the kind of behavior an unclassified White,House Official should never do undertake. Like trying to establish a back channel to the Kremlin, kept secret from American intelligence. This intention to commit crimes is well beyond the obvious Trump amateur hour.

     And there are still 128 to go. The White House filled up its ranks with people having criminal histories. Ruling this pandemonium, floating above it all, is Gen. John Kelly, the chief of staff, brought in as the new sheriff hired to restore peace to this wild-west town. But the opposite has occurred. Kelly has been fully aware that a sizable part of the administration staff was a ticking bomb. He has been compromised and will be leaving soon. Even Sara Sanders won’t shill for him. She’s dodging Kelly Questions at her daily briefings, forcing him out into the open. Kelly has been spinning stories about his ignorance  of Porter’s violent history.

     “Thug” is derived from India. The Thugs were a gang of men , of criminal and violent disposition, engaging in assassination and other mayhem in devotion to Kali, the Hindu goddess of death and destruction, but also regarded as the mother of the universe.  This brings a nice irony to Kali’s followers, as well as the lawless mob now inhabiting the highest precincts of the American government.
It was thought that incompetence would be the worst part of a Trump presidency. In his thuggishness, he is far worse than incompetent. Trump’s lawlessness, his hostility to the rule of law and to those who honor and enforce it, make him a Thug, in its original and contemporary meanings. This White House is a place of evil, violence and lawlessness.

Command and Control at the Polling Station

 

Last October lawyers of the Supreme Court battled over the composition of the House of Representatives for the foreseeable future. Two cases address the extent to which a party in power is permitted to reshape its state’s districts to maximize that party’s partisan advantage. Yesterday a federal district court held that a North Carolina Redistricting plan violated the Constitution. The case joins cases from Wisconsin and Maryland which call into question whether the rule of law governing partisan gerrymandering needs to be revised.

Courts have previously decided that gerrymandering along racial lines is unconstitutional, and they have stated in principle that doing so along partisan lines is as well. Improved use of computer modeling provides legislators with more sophisticated ways to shape congressional districts. These models use the traditional rules to generate the optimum configuration within a state for the benefit of the party in power. The term, “efficiency gap,” has been employed to describe the inversion of representation in proportion to the voting population. We can expect to hear that term more in the coming years.

While partisan gerrymandering is banned in principle, courts have struggled to create a test that bars it effectively. This being Llaw, the wording of the test is decisive. The language of the rule affects the outcome of later cases, as lawyers and judges tinker with possible interpretations. Eventually the Supreme Court’s words will be read back to it, and the nine Justices, not necessarily the same nine, will have to interpret its interpretation.

Karl Llewellyn, a noted 20th century legal scholar, stated that the law is the way people resolve disputes. The statement itself is subject to interpretation. It is at once both self-explanatory and impenetrable. Indeed, in a given case, a dispute is adjudicated. But Law is a judicial tool used to set parameters for personal freedoms, culture, business and suffrage. The Law is more than a means of calling balls and strikes. Its a means of defining the strike zone.

 

Learning to Spell Papadopoulos

“We’ve met the enemy,”  Walt Kelly’s Pogo once said, ” and it is us.”  Actually that epigram came from a poster exhibited at the first Earth Day celebration in 1970.  It meant that we are killing our planet and therefore ourselves.   It’s recalled best through the Pogo comic panel and has become a touchstone of American self-destructiveness.

The George Papadopoulos drunken confession must be added now to Richard Nixon’s tape system and Bill Clinton’s leaky faucet as examples of political self-destruction.  It turns out that Papadopoulos was the one who squealed to the FBI on the Trump-Russia connection. Only he didn’t know it.

 Papadopoulos first was seen clawing his way out of the primordial ooze to become  senior foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.  He was largely overlooked then, rating only a passing reference as one of a handful of geniuses working for the radioactive candidate.

The next sighting of Papadopoulos occurred in October 2017.  Special Prosecutor Mueller announced the Manafort and Rick Gates indictments in connection with the Russia probe, but the wily former FBI Chief buried the lede. His team also filed a one-count guilty plea by Papadopoulos for lying to the FBI. It was largely obscured by the feeding frenzy over Manafort’s indictment.  The White House immediately disavowed any knowledge.  Sarah Huckabee Sanders diminished Papadopoulos’ significance, calling him an unpaid volunteer and describing his activities as “unofficial.” 

The indictment elaborated that Papadopoulos was working through a professor in London to make contact with a “Russian national” who had dirt on Clinton.   Papadopoulos concealed these facts when questioned by the FBI, earning him the false statement conviction.   Papadopoulos’ new-found celebrity caused the press to re-examine campaign materials. They found the photo above, showing Papadopoulos as one point of a triangle formed with Russia Recuse-nik Jeff Sessions and Trump as the other two.  The unpaid volunteer possessed of the Russian dirt was hanging with the campaign heavies.  There is no audio to go with the picture but it’s safe to assume that they were not discussing Micronesian trade policy.

Today, the significance of Papadopoulos’ London jaunt became clear.  During his March sojourn an ebullient Papadopoulos also met with an Australian diplomat. Over the course of an evening of inebriation, he actually was a volunteer, coughing up that the Russians had the goods on Hillary.   The man from Oz filed away this information until July, when he heard about the Russian dump of Clinton and DNC email.  He reported his conversation to Australian intelligence. They in turn reported it to their American counterparts.  Ironically, the Australian Prime Minister was one of the first Heads of State to be bashed by Trump after the election.

Upon receiving the news the FBI launched its investigation into Russian involvement,  one that so far has brought down Manafort, Gates and General Michael Flynn, along with Papadopoulos.  Trump has continuously called the Russia investigation a hoax. Every picture tells a story, though, and this one has Lyin’ Don and the little volunteer making serious face time.

Today’s bombshell puts the guilty plea into perspective. Papadopoulos was the first domino to fall because he is the taproot of the investigation.  The Trump campaign itself spilled the beans.  Not only was the Russia issue for real, but the FBI got it from the horse’s mouth. For work this good, Papadopoulos deserved to be on someone’s payroll.  

I expected another indictment before the New Year but instead we got this leak about the Australian connection  The information connects the dots between the London meeting and the one two months later that took place in Trump Tower. The pieces are beginning to fall into place, and a complete story is beginning to emerge. The future ex-President predicted that the Russia investigation would be over by the end of the year. This is probably not what he meant.

 

It’s Midnight in Mobile

Dateline – South of South Carolina     

     Alabama will decide tomorrow whether Roy Moore or Doug Jones will be its next U.S. Senator. Forecasters say the election is too close to call. That’s because the forecasters are using polling data. You know how unreliable polls can be. 

     If anybody knows who the winner will be, she’s in Alabama right now and has been there all her life.  She talks to lots of people in her line of work,  hundreds of people every day, and she knows her people.  She’s right there, standing on the street or sitting in a car or behind a store counter.  She knows but nobody’s asked her.

     Roy Moore was a legend long before this election. He first surfaced nationally when he  defied a court order directing him to remove a Ten Commandants display from his courthouse. He was booted off the Supreme Court of Alabama.  He got reelected a few years later but he got removed again.  This time he ordered Alabama judges not to recognize same-sex marriages after the US Supreme Court said that was unconstitutional. 

      Moore ran for Governor twice, both times losing in the primaries. He ruled on a few sexual assault cases.  Jones put out an ad saying that Moore ruled in favor of the sex offenders. That isn’t quite true;  his votes would have affected a re-trial of the cases.

      His opponent and the media have taken a lively interest in Moore’s misadventures since a woman in her thirties accused Moore of assaulting her when she was 14 years old. In Alabama, that was and is against the law.  And Moore must have known, because he was a district attorney at the time, one of those fellows whose job is to put away people who break the law.    

     Other women have told similar stories.  Moore admits to dating some teenagers when he was in his thirties but says the girls were all of legal age.  Ah, but did he check their learner’s permits?  The age of the girls is not the point.  The point is that they saw Moore as a powerful man, and that’s the reason that a lot of girls  wouldn’t stop him or didn’t tell their stories.

       At any other time, Moore would have been run out of town on a rail. But this is not just any time. It’s tax bill time.  First, the Republican National Committee pulled back and cut off funds to the campaign. Realizing that they would need Moore’s vote to pass their tax plan, the Republicans have closed ranks. Even the future ex-President flip-flopped for Moore.   At least Trump was candid: anyone but a liberal democrat.

     You don’t hear much about Doug Jones.  He started as a staff attorney for the U.S, Senate Judiciary Committee.  After that, he went home to Dixie to serve as an Assistant U.S. Attorney.  After a few years he went into private practice but returned to government work when Bill Clinton appointed him U.S. Attorney.  After that, he’s bounced in and out of government appointments.  His appointments have been political.  There’s no record that Jones had to be relieved of  his post.   Jones considers himself a middle of the road kind of guy.  He wants to reduce corporate taxes but would vote against the tax bill.

     Democrats have been pouring money and a ground-game into the Jones campaign, especially in the last few days. If there is a big turnout, particularly among African-Americans, Jones could pull off an upset. The Republicans are all-in too. They are throwing all their resources at this election, because a Moore victory makes passage of the tax bill feasible, and a Jones victory makes it dead on arrival.

      In all the hullabaloo about the political impact of the election,  some people have taken their eyes off the sparrow.  Not Richard Shelby, Alabama’s senior senator and a Republican.  Shelby said he believed the accuser and added that Jeff Sessions said he had no reason to doubt her story.  Shelby said, “”I didn’t vote for Roy Moore. I wouldn’t vote for Roy Moore. I think the Republican Party can do better.”  Shelby made his statement on CNN, which guarantees it would be aired three times per hour,  not at a Birmingham Botanical Garden fund-raiser.  

     The odds are good that even if Moore wins, he won’t be in Washington long; maybe long enough to cast one vote.

Update: what-the-hell-is-happening-with-these-alabama-polls?

Al Franken’s Final Bow

When Scott Fitzgerald said that there are no second acts in American lives, he could have been talking about Al Franken. The curtain is about to ring down on his second – and likely final – act as junior Senator for the State of Minnesota. Many of his Democratic colleagues and lots of his Republican adversaries have demanded his resignation over a growing number of sexual misconduct incidents. After all,   Conyers is gone.  Roy Moore may be walking into a shooting gallery. Franken will resign. The culture demands it because the Groper-in-Chief is the elephant in the room.   All of the fallen misogynists are placeholders for the future ex-president. Their careers are dying for his sins as well as their own.

If Franken’s follies were limited to his first act, comedian and humorist, he might have survived. Not that shoving his tongue down Leann Tweeden’s throat passes for stagecraft or that the prank photo of Franken seeming to grab her breasts would get him on the short list for the Mark Twain Award. But USO shows have never been high-brow affairs. Bob Hope ran on fumes for decades by parading Ms. Va-Va-Va-Voom in front of our weary troops. Different times, different mores perhaps, but Bob probably kept both hands on his own putter. 

As a Senator, Franken supported legislation that called for equal pay for women and freedom in their reproductive rights choices.  He sponsored a bill from which he has removed his name.  After the USO scandal broke he stood defiant, calling  for the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate him.  No Senator had been unseated for acts undertaken before taking office. He thought he could withstand the scrutiny.  Not any more.

The funny man got the hook when more victims stepped forward, complaining that Senator Al groped them during photo ops at the Minnesota State Fair. Franken said he didn’t remember; between the fried mooseburgers on a stick and the Four-H shows, one could lose their mind and forget locking their mitts like a vice grips on a voter’s buttocks.   Five was too much, though, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the list continues to grow.  In fact, he’s lucky that the sheep and cows have maintained their vow of silence.

Franken has been a hard-working Senator, and he has taken his state’s interests seriously and knowledgeably. He’s a smart and articulate guy. He’s done his homework and has gone after Jeff Sessions and Betsy Devos in their confirmation hearings, nailing them with their own words.  Being an honorary Minnesotan, I’ve observed his supporter’s silent disapproval. His constituents were not calling for his ouster but they were ashamed of his behavior. Liberals wanted to give him a pass, but he should not get special treatment. It doesn’t matter if his heart is in the right place if his hands are not.

 

A Half-Week in Review

It’s only Thursday night so it’s cocky  to think of this as a whole week in review. Maybe a half-week. Things could look different Saturday night. Not so different, though, to make this snapshot obsolete.

The tax bill is taxiing on the runway but it’s anybody’s guess if that mountain of guano has enough ground speed to take off. Late arriving analysis makes the deal a stinker on taxes. Not to mention all the social policy it tries to shove down everybody’s gullet. As it stands, a lot of members of Congress who vote for it will fall on their swords if the bill becomes law. Donors love the bill. Voters don’t.   As for me, everything besides the tax bill is only noise. The bill is radical. It’s not just a tax bill.

For the still-curious, there’s a new wrinkle in the Russia probe. The future ex-President was strong-arming Senators to shut it down last summer. That’s not necessarily a crime. It sure makes Comey’s firing more about Putin than Clinton. The Troll in Chief says this will be over in a month. Thanks, but I’ll take the points.

Staggering Rex Tillerson. Don’t call the boss a moron, especially if he is. The insiders say Rex is out. Pompeo goes from CIA to State and Tommy Cotton of Arkansas leaves the Senate to be the Spook in Chief. Arkansas holds on to its GOP Senate seat. Whispers are that this positions the CIA to stonewall investigators. None of this eyewash has amything to do with diplomacy or espionage. It’s doubtful that this subtlety originated in the Oval Office. So, who is calling the shots?

Did any sexual predator get outed today? The heat is turned up on Franken and Lauper. Keillor is benefitting from a backlash and a weak case. The Reign of Terror is not over. The accusations are looked at more closely. Why does Santa have all those kids on his lap? Is it really St. Nick filling up his list?

The stock market crashed 24k today. A lot of Americans can’t buy in. It’s no Party for them.They will get hosed on taxes without any payoff. Meet the new Serf, same as the Old Serf.

The details may change in the next few days. The big picture is the so-called tax bill, and it won’t change. Besides the trillion dollar payback to the plutocrats, it changes health care and education policy. The rich get rich, and the poor get children. The big payback won’t go into new domestic jobs. The U.S. will be a friendlier tax haven for the Global Parasites. 

The Times Still are A-Changin’

 

Our law school put on a show every year, spoofing the faculty. Ham that I am, I participated  in all three shows. I want to tell you about one of them. 

It was 1977, and I was in my second year. Two classmates and I wrote the script, and two others penned lyrics for our song parodies. Except for two that I had written. One was a parody of Ray Charles’ “What I’d Say.”  It was called “Res Ipsa Loquitur,” which means “the thing speaks for itself,” riffing on accident lawyers. The lyrics were funny enough, and we had a tort professor named Robert Waters, who many students called Muddy. The other song was an original entitled, “Be My Chicken.”  It was a pastiche of blues songs with risqué double-entendres. It had nothing to do with law.  

I rehearsed both songs for the cast and crew. They decided that the Chicken song was too dirty. It included the word “cock,” as in rooster. But I didn’t  mean rooster, Besides, rooster didn’t scan. The Chicken song was cut, but the ambulance chaser song remained, and it got lots of laughs.  Did I mention that Professor Waters was African-American, and I performed in black-face? In today’s America, the reactions would be the opposite.  I still do the Chicken song at parties, while the other received a suitable burial. I am embarrassed by my lack of judgment and empathy, but it was Florida in the Seventies. Red Ipsa Loquitur, y’all.

“My Fair Lady” is a 1956  musical about an uneducated Cockney girl who becomes  an elegant, middle-class woman under the tutelage of a self-proclaimed misogynist and elitist.  They fall in love – sort of—and she comes back to live under his aristocratic roof, the curtain falling as she retrieves his slippers.  She makes this choice despite the declared affections of an idle-rich young man, who haunts the woman’s neighborhood, winsomely singing,”Let the time go by, I don’t care if I can be here on the street where you live.” In other words, a Stalker.

In the 1978 film, “Animal House,” all types of debauchery and mayhem are exploited for laughs, including a college freshman’s attempt to intoxicate and have sex with an under-age girl. Statutory Rape.  Now that scene would end up on the cutting room floor.

Also in 1978, Rodney Dangerfield joked,” I have three children —one of each.” His joke about homosexuality was a harbinger for the politics of gender identity and its bathroom conundrum.

These are cultural touchstones marking the changes in sensitivity on issues of race and sexuality in American culture in the last sixty years.  We can look at the past as unenlightened, but except for myself perhaps, the talents behind these celebrated works were not cave dwellers. The current outpouring of accounts of sexual assault helps us as a culture move from the theoretical to the actual.  Millennials may know intuitively what we boomers had to learn. 

Victims of sexual assault have broken free of repressed and suppressed recollections, many involving cultural icons.  The accounts offer a look into sexual roles  going back thirty or more years to the present. Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein have been accused of rape. Bill O’Reilly has paid off cases of sexual assault.  Kevin Spacey and Roy Moore allegedly forced themselves upon minors.  Louis C.K. has admitted to exposing himself and jerking off in front of  several female comics,  a rumor that had circulated for years.  Those women have issued reports now.   At first, they did not speak up, in deference to his power in show business and that he’d been generous helping them build their careers. 

The case of Al Franken raises different  issues.  Franken, then a comic on a 2006 USO tour, admits  to aggressively kissing another entertainer in a scene calling for a “stage kiss.” This scenario was a recurring gag in 1982’s “Tootsie,” in which Dustin Hoffman’s cross-dressing character is repeatedly over-kissed by her soap opera co-star with a reputation for such hi-jinks. By the way, Dustin Hoffman himself stands accused of misconduct. The USO tours were enormously popular during earlier wars, when Bob Hope paraded a number of voluptuous women, immodestly dressed, in front of an audience of drooling GIs.   With Franken, the kiss, which was immediately repulsed by the victim, was embellished by a photo taken of Franken fondling or appearing to fondle the victim’s breasts while she was asleep on a transport plane.  The photo was included in a commemorative album distributed after the tour,  to the victim’s horror. 

Franken’s behavior creates a different kind of problem for the people who traditionally side with the victim.  Franken is now a U.S. Senator for the State of Minnesota, and he unfailingly takes the victim’s side in these situations. His allies and constituents are forced to reconcile Franken’s private lechery with his admirable public work.  Michelle Goldberg, a New York Times columnist, has called for his resignation or at least an ethics hearing. He is receiving a pass from many of his supporters.

The politics and the less invasive nature of the offense support Franken, but so do the outdated  mores of earlier times.  Franken grew up in the sixties and seventies.  Our “take” on sexual matters was different. A male was expected to be the initiator, and the female was the boundary setter. “No” was the word when uttered in combination with a physical withdrawal. The line was thus drawn. One might say that “No”  should have been sufficient.  But there was countervailing  part of the ritual that called for a certain amount of female protest, as if to say, “I don’t l, do this but, well, because it’s you…” Face was saved, parental encomiums heard but not always followed.

Franken and his fellow player were performers in a show. This isn’t meant to suggest that Franken was justified: it was “Tootsie” for real.  As a performer, he knew better. The photo was at the least in bad taste and at worst evidence of a battery, touching without consent while the woman slept.  Franken crossed the line.  Yet, I can’t equate it with the other scandals because it is by degrees closer to the aggressiveness that once was condoned.  However, if later we find out that Stuart Smalley really wasn’t good enough, his show will be canceled too. 

 

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