Saturday, November 18, 2017

Say it isn't so, Al




Our dear President had no problem attacking "Al Frankenstein" on twitter, but offered no words of condemnation for his buddy down in Alabama, Roy Moore.   Maybe it is as Trump says, the picture "speaks a thousand words," but so does an audio tape, in which Trump was caught admitting many of the same things to Billy Bush.

Supposedly Al's groping was meant in jest, being a former comedian, but it wasn't taken that way by Leeann Tweeden, nor was the big wet one he planted on her at a USO tour in Afghanistan.  Al immediately apologized after Ms. Tweeden exposed him, something Trump has never really done.  The Artful Dodger minced words back on the campaign trail before trying once again to turn the issue to Bill Clinton's past indiscretions.  I suppose this is why Leeann is forgiving Al, but Trump's accusers are still waiting for their day in court.

Even more interesting is a recent HuffPost/YouGov survey that found that Donald Trump voters are more likely to believe allegations of sexual abuse leveled against Bill Clinton than they are their President.  The gap is staggering -- 84 per cent as opposed to 6.  This despite Trump's numerous admissions to Howard Stern and Billy Bush, among others.  There is a gap among Hillary Clinton voters as well but not as extreme -- 53 to 83.  Trump and Hillary voters are relatively evenly split on Harvey Weinstein.

No wonder Alabama voters appear to be brushing aside the accusations against Roy Moore, at least among Evangelicals, who continue to support Moore by a staggering 73 per cent.  Some would call this hypocrisy, others would call it political expediency.  Evangelicals know how Moore will vote on issues dear to them.  They're not so sure about Doug Jones.  However, Alabamans in general appear to be turning toward Jones in the closing weeks of this brutal campaign, as he at least represents a decency they would like to see projected on their state, not a twice-deposed judge who liked to solicit teenage girls in shopping malls and restaurants.

The charges against Moore are pretty damning.  Although still in question, one woman claimed she was responsible for getting Moore banned from the Gadsden Mall in the late 1970s after numerous solicitations of teenage girls.  The former judge hotly denies this and other allegations, and now claims his missive in a woman's yearbook from the 1970s is forged.  If nothing else, cast doubt on the allegations since there are no pictures to "speak a thousand words."

For his part, Trump is willing to give Moore a pass, in part because he has shown a predilection for teenage girls himself, which also came out on the campaign trail last year.  Trump faced numerous charges of sauntering into the Miss Teen USA dressing room, although he only admitted to peeking in on the Miss USA dressing room to Howard Stern.

"Al Frankenstein" on the other hand is an easy target, because Al has been pretty harsh on Donald, and Trump saw this as an opening to exploit, especially if he could help his buddy Roy out by deflecting sexual abuse charges to another Senator.  I assume Alabamans know that Moore is not running against Franken.

It seems GOP strategists weren't able to get any dirt on Doug Jones, so they decided to expand the territory.  Or, they just figured if they lost the Alabama Senate seat they could get a Democrat ousted in turn.  Franken will go through an ethics probe on his own volition, but it is doubtful he will be expelled. 

However if Moore is somehow able to survive this election, how will he be treated in the Senate?  At that point Franken may indeed be the sacrificial Democratic lamb to Moore's predatory wolf.   This in turn will open Congress to further inquiry on the subject, as it is highly doubtful other members haven't groped or solicited women in the halls.  At that point, everyone will be fair game.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Center Will Not Hold




A few years back, Everyman's Library came out with a collection of Joan Didion's essays entitled We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live.  Many of her essays were available on the Internet so I took a pass, but after watching the recent Netflix biography by her nephew Griffin Dunne the book is on my Christmas wishlist.

It was touching documentary, as Dunne probed his aunt's private life, which he was privy to.  Joan had a way of finding the essence of a story that few journalists are able to do.  This was true of her early work in California as well as her later work in New York.  She was one of the few journalists to see that the boys accused of killing the Central Park jogger in 1989 were innocent, turning her famous essay into a mediation on race and privilege in New York.  It is one of the themes her nephew explores in the film.

Decades earlier, Didion had captured the pulse of the hippie generation in LA, culminating in the murder of Sharon Tate.  Her White Album focused on Nancy Kasabian, who sold out the Manson clan.  It must have been a very difficult essay to write, as she grew quite intimate with Kasabian, helping her to pick out a dress for her trial, and engaging in domestic banter far removed from the heinous crimes the young woman was involved in.  It is from the opening sentence of this essay that the title of the Everyman's Library collection comes from.

As it turns out, many of her essays are still available on-line, a testament to her lasting power.  Anna Wintour notes in the documentary that Joan not only had the unique ability to find the kernal of a story but was an impeccable craftsperson as well.  Anna learned much of her craft from Joan at Vogue back in the early 60s, one of the few to survive the tough editor.

It was at Vogue that Joan honed her talents, writing essays that went far beyond fashion and cosmetics.  She met John Gregory Dunne in New York.  He wanted a change in 1964 and they came out to the West Coast to begin life anew, at least for him, as she was a California pioneer's daughter from Sacramento.  They made their homestead in Malibu, and also rented a huge house in LA, perfect for Hollywoodesque parties that stretched to the early morning hours.  She became a celebrity herself thanks to the many stories she wrote that pulled the veil off the glamorous life, culminating in perhaps her most famous collection of essays, Slouching Toward Bethlehem.

Over the years, her personal bibliography grew to include novels, movie scripts and even a theater adaptation of The Year of Magical Thinking, starring Vanessa Redgrave, who similarly had to deal with grief in the loss of her daughter Natasha.  Joan and Vanessa grew quite close, as seen in the documentary.

It's a poignant biography of Joan, showing how time has softened the edges but you can still feel the toughness inside her at 82.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Ultimatum

or Covfefe Anyone?




You know things are getting dicey if Sean Hannity issues an ultimatum to Roy Moore to come clean on the allegations that he propositioned teenagers while Assistant District Attorney of Etowah County, Alabama.  Sean had been one of the Ten Commandments Judge's staunchest defenders. but when the former judge's wife used a five-month old letter to show her husband still had the support of 53 pastors, even Hannity had to wonder what was going on here.

Allegations broke last week when the Washington Post ran a story on the former judge's numerous solicitations to minors.  He was an assistant DA back then, but apparently liked the suffix DA so much he used it to sign a girl's yearbook.  The former judge tried to write it off as a smear campaign, but even his good friends at Breitbart were unable to refute the stories, leaving the judge to answer for himself.  Things went downhill from there.  Still, Sean was willing to buy the former judge's version of events.

Then came the backlash, not just against Roy Moore but against Sean Hannity.  Sponsors began pulling their ads, including Keurig coffee maker, which proved an easy target for Sean.  He exhorted his viewers to take their wrath out on Keurig machines on social media.  Surprisingly, Keurig buckled and began running ads again, which made Sean feel like a million bucks.  That euphoria was short lived, however, as Sean was finally forced to admit there might be something to all these allegations that had piled up during the week.

If all this makes about as much sense as Trump's infamous covfefe tweet, join the club.

Hannity has found himself up against a wall, similar to the time he defended Cliven Bundy.  Just about everyone wants Moore to drop out of the race.  The US Senate threatened to expel him if he wins the special election, but Judge Roy still refuses to back down.  This puts Republicans in a tough bind as well as they now stand to lose a Senate seat to the Democrats if Doug Jones does the unthinkable and wins in December.

This was considered a very safe seat until Moore upset Luther Strange in the primaries.  Luther has his own problems, but they are much easier to reconcile than soliciting 14-year-old girls.  Even Stephen Bannon didn't see this one coming, as he was banking on a Moore insurgent win as the first step in his take-over of the Republican Party.  Bannon had vowed to run insurgent candidates against all the incumbent Republican senators.  He might want to vet them more closely in the future.

As for Sean, he hopes to make a silk purse out of sow's ear, turning what had been his questionable defense of Roy Moore into a crusade against him, but few are buying it.  He dug another hole for himself and like Moore will have to dig himself out of it on his own.  This time there might not be a Keurig coffee maker waiting for him in the break room.


Monday, November 13, 2017

The Old Lunatic




The last stop on Trump's really big trip through Asia saw him in Manila for the ASEAN summit hosted by the Philippines.  For a guy who said "ixnay" to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP as it was called, it is easy to see why he was at great pains to participate in the group handshake among Southeast Asian leaders.

It was a rough trip for the Donald, thirteen days all together, putting him in contact with a number of world leaders he probably had no idea existed before.  He was even forced to visit Vietnam, which he went out of his way to avoid as a young man.  Yet, here he was getting a hero's welcome.  God knows why Vietnamese should be so enthralled with Trump.  Maybe they are big Apprentice fans?

Elsewhere, Trump is not so popular.  Only 17 per cent of South Koreans expressed confidence in his world leadership, as opposed to 88 per cent who were confident with Obama.  This is largely due to his handling of North Korea.  He was astonishingly quiet in Seoul.  I guess he didn't want to give away his GPS location to the "Rocket Man," while in his missile range.

Trump got a very warm welcome in China.  He was so impressed by President Xi  that he blamed his Oval Office predecessors for the trade deficit, being the bad negotiators that they were.  Who wouldn't take advantage of bad deals like that?  Later, Tillerson tried to clarify the president's comments, saying he was just making light of the situation.

In Vietnam, Trump could no longer hold himself in on Kim Jong Un.   He didn't take kindly to being called an "old lunatic" while in South Korea, but that is exactly how he appeared on this trip.  He used Vietnam as an opportunity to briefly meet with Putin, and accepted the Russian leader's claim that his country played no role in the 2016 US election hackings, referring to the ongoing investigation as a "Democratic hit job." 

This, of course, led to a flurry of condemnation among Republicans and Democrats alike, leading Trump to rephrase his comments in Manila.  He now said that he thought Putin genuinely believed his government played no role in the hacking, but that he still supported his intelligence community.  "Fake News" wasn't buying it though, leading many pundits to speculate as to what Putin holds in his hand to make Trump so acquiescent anytime these two meet.

It seems all these foreign leaders have learned that flattery is the best policy when confronting Donald Trump, except Kim Jong Un of course.  For his part, Rodrigo Duterte  sang him a song uring a lavish dinner, apparently at the President's request.  Trump has shown a lot of admiration for Manila's strongman and other Asian autocrats, no doubt wishing he had that kind of authority in America.  Instead, he has to deal with a pesky Congress that continues to question his leadership.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Democrats' Big Day!


Say hello to Danica Roem, Virgina's newest House of Delegates member

Maybe it took Trumpism to rattle Dems enough to get to the polls.  They turned up in big numbers in Virginia, New Jersey, Maine and cities across the country, where Democratic candidates won big.  It wasn't even close in the closely watched governor's election in Virginia.  The milquetoast Lt. Gov. Northam pummeled the insurgent Ed Gillespie, who went all in on Trumpism.  Not only that but Dems did extremely well in state assembly elections and are on the verge of taking back the House of Delegates.  They are only two seats short with five to be recounted.

The most interesting race in Virginia was between Danica Roem and Bob Marshall, the incumbent Republican.  Marshall is an avowed homophobe who sponsored a "bathroom bill" in the assembly, only to lose to a transgender woman.  A record number women ran for office in Virginia and at least 25 Democratic women took assembly seats.

Donald Trump was quick to distance himself from the debacle, calling Gillespie a lousy candidate after publicly endorsing him on election day.   Even the GOP bemoaned this as a repudiation of Trumpism.  His toxic image has turned off suburban voters in the state.

Trumpism didn't fair any better in New Jersey where Phil Murphy easily defeated the Republican challenger Mary Guadagno, although you can probably blame the highly unpopular Chris Christie just as much.  Republicans never had a chance in the state, which is why there was so little national attention.  Still, Guadagno dragged out all the appalling Trumpian tactics hoping to turn a few votes her way.

Despite all the criticism de Blasio has taken, he scored an easy win over Nicole Malliotakis in NYC.  Democrats won big in cities across the country.  Democratic women scored victories in Seattle, Charlotte, Manchester and will run off against each other in Atlanta.

Republicans have to be shaking their heads, especially in Virginia, where they saw a 66-34 House majority evaporate before their eyes.  If the Democrats flip Virginia this will be a huge victory.  Right now it is looking like a 50-50 split.

It is all rather amazing given the Democrats haven't been doing well in soliciting money and didn't seem to have a clear ground game.  Northam was widely seen as vulnerable heading into the election, especially after he flipped on sanctuary cities.  As it turns out, Virginia doesn't have any sanctuary cities, so it was pretty much a moot point.

Whatever momentum the New York truck attack might have given Republicans, the Texas church shooting had to weigh much heavier on voters' minds.  Phil Murphy made guns a big issue in his state, proposing a gun tax among other gun control measures.  Ralph Northam had similarly pushed tighter gun controls in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting.  Like Trump, the NRA is now seen as a liability in swing states.

In Maine, health care was a big issue with a referendum on Medicaid expansion.  The vote on Tuesday negated Gov. LePage veto of the bill.  A bruising loss for the staunchly conservative governor and avid Trump supporter.

All of the sudden, the special election in Alabama looks interesting, as conservative voters appear to be abandoning the Republican party.  Doug Jones is polling well in the race for Jeff Sessions vacated Senate seat.   A Fox Poll had him even with Roy Moore, aka the Ten Commandments Judge, as of October 18.

This eradicates whatever momentum the Republicans had from the Congressional House special elections back in June, which Trump referred to in his tweets.  Even in Georgia, Democrats made gains in the House of Delegates, and have been chipping away at state assemblies across the country.

Knowing that Trump's instinct is always to double down, this does not bode well for Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections.  They clearly have an albatross around their necks in the President, who continues to make a fool of himself at home and abroad.  He could get a bump if the Republicans are able to push the "Cuts Cuts Cuts Act" through Congress, but the overall consensus is that this bill would add trillions to the national deficit without giving average Americans much in the way of tax relief, thanks to the new tax brackets the bill proposes.

It seems voters are becoming much more circumspect in the wake of Trump's big win last November, no longer trusting him or the Republicans to do anything in their best interest.  The Bushes recently came out against Trump, opening up the fault line in the GOP.  With Hillary now out of the picture there is even less reason for Republicans to stick with Trump or the brand of politics he promotes.

Americans are looking for new leadership across the board. The pressure is on Democrats to deliver in key states so that Congressional candidates will have something to extol in the midterms.  This is a golden opportunity to take back Congress, rendering Trump irrelevant for the remainder of his term, assuming he even lasts out the term.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Japan loves Ivanka

Trump not so much





Ivanka Trump told reporters she is ready to take over for her father should he decide to step down before his term is over.  President Trump offered no response to his daughter's strange announcement other than to say she would make an excellent president.

This followed a number of odd comments by the President during his tour of Japan.  Earlier he had pleaded with Prime Minister Abe, whom he called President Abe, to build Japanese cars in America.  When told by PM Abe that Toyota produced over 2 million cars last year in North America, President Trump simply murmured, oh.  President Trump also said he was astonished by the number of countries in the world when addressing a banquet the first evening.  Who knew?


Mr. Trump also seemed visibly agitated by the prospect of feeding goldfish, or koi as they are called in Japan.  He followed the Prime Minister in scattering a couple spoonfuls into the pond and then simply dumped the rest of the contents in the wood box, patting the Prime Minister on the back afterward as if to say, good job.

Ms. Kushner, nee Trump, seems equally confused by the customs of Japan, thinking Japanese anime was an appropriate precedent for skirt lengths when addressing a conference with the President, er Prime Minister of Japan.  All though, I must say she looked stunning in her Japanese-inspired floral dress, created by Italian designer Johanna Ortiz.  "Kudos, baby," said her father.


By contrast, the First Lady Melania Trump opted for a concentration camp blue dress, designed by Christian Dior no less, when visiting an elementary school with the Japanese First Lady.  I don't know if she was paying tribute to the American POWs held in Japan during WWII, or simply thought it was the appropriate attire for young children.


The Trumps will continue their Asian tour in South Korea, but not before a friendly game of golf with the Prime Minister.  Someone should brief the President that Hyundai also makes cars in America so as not to make another miscue in Seoul.  As for Ivanka, she might want to add to her hemline as South Korea is even more conservative than Japan.


Monday, November 6, 2017

Time to look in the mirror




One of the things about living in America is that one mass killing quickly cancels out another.  It had been less than a week before Devin Kelley obliterated any memory of the New York truck attack by venting his rage on a rural church between LaVernia and Stockdale, Texas.   Our President was quick with prayers, but he isn't blaming Greg "Wheels" Abbott for allowing such a heinous crime to happen on his home turf, unlike his twitter attacks on Chuck Schumer last week.  Instead, he considers the Sutherland Springs church attack a "mental health problem."

It was also interesting the local police were slow to name Kelley, as if they wanted us to imagine for a moment it could be another ISIS attack.  After all, former Texas Governor Rick Perry had long been warning us of terrorists spilling over the Mexican border.  Turns out Devin Kelley is entirely homegrown and served in the military, but was court-martialled in 2012 for assaulting his wife and child.  Seems like things pretty much went downhill from there.

We can expect little outcry from conservatives, just talk of another lone gunman having lost his marbles.  It doesn't matter that this guy was dressed in full tactical gear, unloading his AR-15 semiautomatic rifle on the church.  Probably even had a notorious bump stock on it to increase the firing rate.  The NRA has voiced some concern with these bump stocks, but it is little more than a ploy to turn away our attention from the more than 5 million assault rifles in circulation since the ban was lifted in 2004.

The zombie-killing rifle has become a favorite of weekend warriors, but all too often ends up in the wrong hands.  It is the closest thing to a military-grade automatic weapon you can get your hands on legally, and has been behind the most lethal mass shootings in American history.  However, it is highly doubtful you will hear any talk of renewing the ban on Capitol Hill.  At best, we can hope for a ban on bump stocks, not that it will make one iota of difference.

What galls me is not so much the widespread availability of these guns but how conservatives turn the other way when one of their own is behind the shootings.  These same blowhards want to end the diversity visa lottery program and ban Muslims from entering the country whenever a deranged individual like Sayfullo Saipov decides to vent his anger.

Like Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas, there was little to suggest Saipov was a dangerous man.  Law enforcement agents say it appears he acted alone.  Whatever relationship he had with ISIS was one he invented for himself.  ISIS was slow to take credit for the attack, but then they are mired down in their own battles in Iraq and Syria to take notice until the damage is done.

These incidents point to something far more insidious than outside agents.  Mass shootings occur almost daily in America.  Nearly 900 persons have been killed in gun violence since Stephen Paddock's assault on Las Vegas.  This is a major epidemic, yet our government at both the federal and state level refuses to recognize it, unless of course the attacker is a Muslim.

The United States has literally become a war zone with more than 17,000 persons reported killed in 2016, and we are well on pace to match that number this year.  Murder rates in small towns have significantly increased over the years, showing this is a problem that goes well beyond the notorious inner cities of Chicago and Detroit, which Trump vilified on the campaign trail in 2016.

Firearms are now so widely available that any attempt to curb their sales would have little impact.  One can try to limit the amount of ammunition available, but this would only lead to gun enthusiasts stockpiling ammo until such laws were passed.  Bump stocks sold out within a week when talk of banning them surfaced in the wake of the Mandalay Bay Massacre.

The odd part is that the number of Americans owning firearms has actually declined over the years, which means firearms are becoming consolidated in fewer hands.  The average gun-owning family now has no less than six firearms in their household.  Little wonder kids have so easy access to them.  If all this isn't enough to make your head spin, I don't know what will.  However, most Americans appear inured to the violence until it happens in their school or church.

We prefer scapegoats like Sayfullo Saipov rather than homegrown products like Stephen Paddock and Devin Kelley, so we can easily blame immigration as the problem.  Yet, the vast majority of these mass killings are carried out by white Americans.  Woe be it to blame ourselves.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

What a Week!




The White House has become a dysfunctional family sitcom, kind of like Homer Simpson in the Oval Office.  Trump's minions have tried their best to cover for him.  Gen. Kelly attacked Frederica Wilson's account of the phone call Trump had with Myeshia Johnson.  Sarah Huckabee defended Gen. Kelly in turn, telling us we have no right to question generals, as if they are the ultimate authority on all matters, including the Civil War.  But, according to the creator of Dilbert, Trump is more than capable of handling his own with his never-ending supply of "linguistic kill shots."

Scott Adams has arisen from nowhere to become an expert of sorts because he predicted Trump would "win bigly" with a probability of 98% back in November, claiming Nate Silver only gave the Donald a 2% chance.  For the record, Nate gave Trump a 28.6% chance of winning, which he got chastised for being too high.  No matter, Scott Adams used his best "persuasion" skills to convince a doe-eyed Smerconish how right he was then and now about Trump.

Adams, like Michael Moore, think we are badly misjudging Trump's persuasion skills.   He feels Trump has his finger on the pulse of America and knows how to play the country better than anyone.  It is hard to fault him since Donald won, but did Trump really pull this off on his own?

I liked Michael Stipe's take back in November 2016.  Americans weren't being racist, he said, but voting to "smash the machine."  Trump was the equivalent of the guy running for homecoming queen and the university students thought what the fuck, why not!  All those insults, or linguistic kill shots as Dilbert calls them, reduced the playing field to Donald Trump's level.  The more Hillary was touted as the most qualified candidate ever for the job, the more voters were willing to accept the Trump campaign's "Crooked Hillary" narrative.

In voters' minds, the system was rigged.  Donald pointed this out on numerous occasions, boasting that if he lost Pennsylvania, a key blue state, then you knew the Democrats had bought the election.  As it turned out Donald not only won Pennsylvania but Michigan and Wisconsin too, cementing his incredible upset.

Was all this clever stagecraft, as Dilbert and Moore suggest, or just being in the right place at the right time as Michael Stipe suggests?  Probably a little of both, but if there was any clever wizard here, it was most likely Stephen Bannon,  the man behind the curtain in this campaign who no doubt came up with most of the linguistic kill shots Trump effectively deployed.

Whatever the case, we are now stuck with Trump.  The news media counts the days on the wall like an inmate would his jail time, only in this case the situation is reversed.  It is Donald who is holding us all hostage with his endless stream of tweets.  A great panic was created when some disgruntled Twitter employee temporarily deleted the realDonaldTrump account.  The real question should be why does Trump still have a personal account after repeatedly violating twitter user policy, not how this outgoing employee was able to purge the account himself?  But, this is the perverted reality show Donald Trump's White House has become.  We seem to enjoy living in this prison we created for ourselves.

When has the media ever had more fun bashing a President?  I suppose they are trying to make life in the White House as miserable for Donald Trump as they feel he has for Americans.  There's a literal "whack-a-mole" game going on as the White House continues to try to find the moles divulging all the discord going on inside, which Trump continues to deny in his tweets and Sarah in her press conferences.  But, are we really that miserable?

If we are enjoying this White House sitcom, even in a perverse way, it will come to an end, as all sitcoms do, except maybe the Simpsons, which had predicted Trump long before Dilbert or Michael Moore did.

The only question is how low will Trump sink the White House before he is ousted from the Oval Office.  Many of us would like to think Robert Mueller has the silver bullet, but more likely we will be forced to endure Donald for the remainder of his term.  It's like we are trapped inside the television set with Homer Simpson, having to endure all those puerile jokes and pranks again and again and again.

These "linguistic kill shots" proved to be an effective campaign tool, but they haven't served in anyway to deflect our attention away form Donald Trump during his presidency.  They've only showed how truly incompetent he is, as his tweets affected the Bowe Bergdahl case and may undermine the case against the New York truck attacker, Sayfullo Saipov.  Similarly, he is again mouthing off at Jeff Sessions, which may lead to long overdue obstruction of justice charges being brought against him.  At the very least, a gag order, which may finally result in the deletion of his twitter account.


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Tails you lose




Papa John is blaming $70 million in third quarter losses on the NFL.  He claims the anthem protests have cut into his business, and is now re-evaluating his sponsorship.  This isn't the first time Papa John has used controversial issues to explain quarterly losses.   However, his arguments are usually pretty thin, as Pizza Hut pointed out.

Pizza has become the latest thing to be politicized in the Age of Trump, as Schnatter tries to once again leverage his business capital on a highly divisive issue.  I suppose he thinks he can court more customers from right wing conservatives.  However, this publicity stunt may cost him left wing liberals.  Little Caesars is being pitched as the liberal alternative to Papa Johns, when it was discovered that its owner, Mitch Ilitch, had been quietly paying Rosa Parks rent and supporting a number of other liberal causes all these years.

Pizza is a staple of football games whether fresh or frozen.  DiGiornio has similarly said it has seen no fall off in sales during the protests.  Papa John was quick to retort that frozen pizzas aren't in the same league with his pizza, but that's a pretty flat argument given that Schnatter's pizzas aren't exactly top of the line.  If you want a good pizza you go with your local pizzeria, not some chain pizza.  This is simply about sating hunger during the game.

Most likely, Papa Johns is looking for any leverage to renegotiate its NFL sponsorship to help offset its slumping sales.  Schnatter is worth a reported $880 million.  Maybe if the board cut CEO pay and perks it could balance the ledger sheet?

It is doubtful the NFL will give into Schnatter.  So far, it has seen little reaction from corporate sponsors to the anthem protests.  Now that Trump has tired of his twitter attacks, the NFL appears to have weathered the storm and will ride out the year having suffered little damage.  Their biggest worry at the moment is settling a grievance suit by Colin Kaepernick, as it looks more and more like the owners colluded to freeze him out of the league.

With so many quarterback injuries in the NFL, you would think teams would be interested in Kaepernick.   The latest injury was the highly talented rookie Deshaun Watson, who put on quite a show in Seattle last weekend, only to tear his ACL in practice during the week.  No chance Houston Texans owner will take on Kaepernick, as he was more than willing to unload the vocal Duane Brown to the Seahawks for future draft picks, rather than put up with an unruly all-pro lineman on his team.

I think the protests could be settled quite easily if a) the NFL allowed Kaepernick back into the league and b) addressed the issues the players are raising with their anthem protests in a meaningful way.  As it stands now, the NFL is headed toward a players strike if it doesn't make more of an effort to accommodate the players' concerns.  Then it will really be bad for business all the way around, not just Papa John.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Upside Down

If I was a conspiracy theorist I would be jumping all over this track attack in New York City.  The timing couldn't be more suspicious -- one day after two indictments were handed down to Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and an associate of his, Rick Gates.  It's long been known that Manafort had ties to Russia, notably in advising former Ukranian President Yanukovych, who was supported by the Kremlin.  In fact, it was this money trail that tipped off investigators, as Manafort never reported the millions he had received in payments from Yanukovych as an "image consultant."  

Not that they come as much of a surprise, but the indictments have put a lot of unwanted attention on the White House and what better than to create a little diversion to get persons to look the other way again.  Trump was quick to tweet on the truck attack,


It's like something ripped out of the script of last season's Homeland, where a similar truck attack was used to turn attention on unwanted Muslim immigrants living in America.  Eventually, the truck attack was linked to a shady set of ties between rogue CIA operatives and a right-wing radio host.  Interestingly enough, the series also delved into the use of trolls and bots to spread fake news stories through social media, very much like what Russia is being accused of in this past election.

Who is to say who ordered this truck attack.  I'm sure ISIS will take credit for it soon enough, but then they also took credit for the Las Vegas shooting, claiming they had "flipped" Paddock.  More likely, the attacks were motivated by events closer to home, and if I want to play armchair conspiracy theorist, orchestrated by some "sick and deranged" right-wing news editor like Stephen Bannon, hoping to deflect attention away from the ongoing investigations, now that it has hit close to home.

Bannon is certainly capable of anything, including providing a conduit for Russian news sites to funnel their fake stories through American social media.  Not that they would have needed much help, since RT, or Russia Today, already has an enormous audience worldwide.  Still, the aim was to direct these "news stories" to specific viewing audiences and Bannon would have been the man to do this.

What I also find odd about many of these terrorists is that they hail from former Soviet states like Uzbekistan or repressed Russian provinces like Chechnya.  It seems that Russia not only funnels fake news stories but also terrorists abroad to help shake things up in the Western world.  I suppose they see this as a form of payback for the sanctions the West has leveled on Russia.



So, we have this guy sitting in Paterson, NJ, just waiting for a call and it comes on Monday.  There's a truck waiting for you at Home Depot in your name, pick it up and see how many persons you can take out on a busy street or bike path in New York.  Who knows where the call came from or if he got some message via the Internet.  Completely untrackable, so he will go down as just another "sick and deranged person" who happened to be of Muslim descent with an ax to grind.  Trump wasted no time assigning blame for the attack, hatching his own conspiracy theory thanks to his "friends" at Fox.  By the end of the week few persons will be talking about the indictments that were handed down on Monday.

This is the cynical world we live in where fact and fiction have become interchangeable and can be easily manipulated through television and the social media.  I would like to think that Robert Mueller is up to the task of sorting all this out, but he is "old school," and those rules no longer apply in a world that now seems "upside down."

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Fats




I'm surprised Trump didn't find a way to politicize the death of Fats Domino.  He politicized almost everything else last week including what should have been a simple Halloween trick or treat session with the kids of the White House press corps.

Many already thought Fats Domino was long gone until he was discovered in flooded New Orleans.  He had been awarded a National Medal of Arts by Bill Clinton in 1998, but Fats had pretty much disappeared from the music scene.  He wasn't touring.  There appeared to be little interest in his music with only a handful of compilations available on CD.  There was no great tribute band for him like there had been for Chuck Berry, B.B. King and others from his era.  Fats was living a quiet life in the lower ninth ward until Katrina hit.

His rescue became front page news and soon artists were scrambling to put together a tribute to him, releasing Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino, which included Robert Plant, Elton John, Paul McCartney among many others.  He put out a new album of his own, Alive and Kicking, showing he still had the groove in him after all those lost years.

It's really amazing that one of the pioneer figures in rock and roll music could be forgotten, but this is what happens when you have a 25 year gap between albums.  Even his 1981 album was no more than a compilation of hits.  He hadn't released anything new since the early 70s.

Not like B.B. King and Chuck Berry were doing anything new, but they were both very active with Eric Clapton and Keith Richards putting together albums for them, and assembling star-studded bands to back them up.  You have to make yourself visible if you want to be seen.

After the 2007 tribute album, Fats was pretty much forgotten again, but at least he enjoyed a small measure of comfort in his waning years.  His house had been rebuilt.  A few of his possessions restored.  He still garnered attention in New Orleans.  The home town Saints were not going to let him go out without making a special tribute, which they wore in this past Sunday's game.

Now that the city has taken down its Civil War memorials, there should be place for one of its truly great native sons.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Steele Dossier




Just when the media had Trump on the hook, they got distracted and let him go.  Once again, we are back to Hillary.  This time in relation to the Steele Dossier, a report initially commissioned by Republican opposition in the primaries and eventually funded by Democratic opposition during the general election.

We knew about this dossier since at least October 2016 when Mother Jones ran a story on it, but news of this infamous report had been leaked to the press long before.  In it, Christopher Steele, a former MI6 intelligence officer, outlines how Russia had Donald Trump by the balls, to put it bluntly, but some of what was in the report seemed too far-fetched to use on the campaign trail and so the report was shelved.

Then in January 2017, shortly before Trump was inaugurated, Buzzfeed published the entire report, which was roundly criticized by the national media, claiming there was no substantiation to the allegations.  But, the FBI was interested in it anyway, and in August contacted Christopher Steele, who revealed some of his sources.

This spurred a so-called "independent watchdog group" to file a complaint against Hillary and the DNC for not reporting the funds allegedly provided Steele.  So now it is Hillary who is to blame for the Russian collusion charges that have haunted Trump since last October.

As expected, the media has gleefully run with the story, even the Washington Post, which Sarah Huck-huck-huckabee cited in her tweet on the "fake" dossier, after claiming that the Post itself was "fake news" at a press conference the same day. 

We all know that someone with links to the DNC paid for the report.  This was cited in the Mother Jones story back in October 2016.  The client wasn't necessarily a part of the Hillary campaign or the DNC itself.  TheWashington Post also points this out, but Sarah only read headlines.

It seems the dossier was privately funded, first by Republican backers and later by Democratic backers, looking to paint Trump into a corner.  How true any of the allegations in the dossier turn out to be is anyone's guess, but the Trump camp has found a way to spin it to once again put Hillary in the media cross hairs, while Donald plays another round of golf.

Sadly, this has been the pattern throughout his administration.  The media simply can't stay focused, and to a large degree that is because Trump appears to have a myriad of rabbit holes underneath the White House.  I'm beginning to worry he might just elude the media for the entirety of his administration because journalists are too busy chasing him down these rabbit holes rather than keeping their eyes trained on the White House.

Whether or not the DNC or the Hillary campaign paid for the dossier in part or whole is no concern.  Obviously, neither felt there was enough in it to use against Trump during the campaign.  He was too busy giving them juicy material, such as attacking Gold Star families, shitting on a former Miss Universe, and revealing himself on Access Hollywood, none of which made a dent in his campaign.  Even if he had this reported "golden shower" in a Moscow hotel room where the Obamas once slept, it is doubtful it would have had any impact either.  By October 2016, everyone knew what a shit Trump is, yet many Americans voted for him anyway.

For all we know Christopher Steele may have played disgruntled Republicans and Democrats in the same way Natalia Veselnitskaya and some Russian businessmen played Donnie Jr., by providing some juicy information that led nowhere.  It's one of those classic red herrings that leads sleuths off the trail.

One can only hope that what remains of our "independent media" gets back on the trail, and returns to Trump, who continues to drag the reputation of the United States into the sewer.  He has Senate leaders scrambling to resolve the crisis he created by not certifying the Iran nuclear deal, trying to come up with some plan to keep DACA, and hoping to find a bipartisan compromise on the ACA subsidies, all because of his impulsive need to rid the world of the Obama legacy.   These are far more important stories than the Steele Dossier.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

So long, Harvey




It seems Harvey Weinstein's and James Toback's "casting couch" is being taken to the cleaners as many women have come out with their stories of sexual abuse these past two weeks.  The most vociferous has been Rose McGown, who claimed she was raped by Weinstein and subsequently gagged when she settled her sexual abuse case out of court.  She has vented her anger not just on Weinstein, but Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and George Clooney as well, who she said were fully aware of Harvey's sexual predation.

All three  Hollywood A-listers have since offered mea culpas of sorts, saying they should have exposed Weinstein long ago, but it is hard to bite the hand that feeds you.  True for many women as well, although they had sufficient reason to fear they would be blacklisted, as Rose says she was anyway.  No one wants to work with a "difficult actress."

It all began with the sagas of Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski, both notorious womanizers.  The first allegedly drugged his victims to make them more pliable.  The latter had a thing for teenagers.  Roman's first love-child forgave him, but there has since been more revelations.  To this point, Polanski has enjoyed immunity abroad, continuing to make movies and generally held in high esteem, but if Marianne Barnard's allegations prove true it is doubtful he will be able to escape the scrutiny that now envelopes Hollywood.

No producer, director or actor is safe.  The #MeToo campaign has gained significant momentum with many A-list actresses speaking out, including recent Oscar winners Jessica Chastain and Julianne Moore.  They repelled Weinstein's and Toback's advances, but many others fell prey.  Harvey and James used their positions of power to extort young actresses into sex, an all too common practice in Hollywood.

Jessica Chastain tried to remind persons that this kind of abuse goes all the way to the top, but so far our Groper-in-Chief has managed to steer clear of the allegations swirling around Weinstein.  Oddly enough, it has been Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other Democratic leaders who have come under fire for "enabling" Harvey because they took campaign contributions from him.  Yet, here was Philandering Don at an after-dinner party with Harvey and their young wives in 2009.

Turns out Harvey wasn't so much interested in making movies as he was creating an environment in which he could pick and choose among hot young actresses.   For all his talk of producing the best films in Hollywood, he had only one Oscar to his credit.   He never had any respect for anyone around him, known for his tirades and severe editing to make films "watchable."  He was nicknamed Harvey Scissorhands.

Toback is pretty much a third-rate director and writer with the only decent film to his credit being Bugsy, which he wrote the script.  He tried to lure Julianne Moore to his apartment back in the 80s.  Maybe he imagined her in The Pick-up Artist opposite Robert Downey Jr., a role that eventually fell to Molly Ringwald?  More likely he just liked what he saw. The funny part is that Toback used the exact same pick-up line a second time, leading Moore to ask, "do you even remember me?"

He offered a more lame excuse than Harvey for his behavior, saying that for the past 22 years it has been "biologically impossible" for him to engage in the behavior ascribed to him, as he suffers from diabetes and a heart condition.  Tough break.

It is hard to say what will become of these Hollywood predators or if the industry will clean itself up.  The Motion Picture Academy has given Harvey the boot, but still retains Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski.  James Toback apparently never qualified to be a member.

It seems that the ladies have finally gotten their due in Hollywood and they aren't going to relinquish it any time soon.  So, beware whose ass you grab at the next party, Ben, it just might be your last "Buttman."


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Our Narcissist in Chief




I stumbled across an article this morning which tries to explain why Trump is still fighting with Frederica Wilson and Myeshia Johnson.  Simple enough explanation -- "he's a cruel bigot."  The article references a piece Nate Silver wrote at the end of last month when Trump was similarly engaged in a twitter war with Carmen Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Silver added irrational and incompetent.

Nate said there is no point looking for some broader story, as Rachel Maddow and other liberal conspiracy theorists do.  The truth of the matter is that we are dealing with a man-toddler prone to impulsive outbursts, especially when criticized for his rude behavior.  Silver noted an ominous trend in the targets: women and minorities.

However, Trump hasn't been very kind to white males either.  He continues his feud with John McCain, has been particularly harsh on Bob Corker, and has hurled all kinds of abuse at Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.  Maybe money is a factor as well?  Being a Fortune 500 billionaire, he feels he is above everyone, even those above him on the list like Jeff Bezos, who he has teed off on in the past.  Fortune offers this explanation for Trump's surly tweets, although Alana Abramson is forced to admit there isn't much logic to his arguments.

Psychologists have provided a clinical explanation for his erratic behavior, labeling him a malignant narcissist, evidenced by his "grandiose sense of self-importance," no doubt fostered at a very young age.  His father tried to instill some military discipline in teenage Donald, but it is hard to believe his record is real.  How could Donald be good at all those sports given his bone spurs, which he used as deferments from the draft?  The Washington Post tried to get to the bottom of this military prep record, forever earning his enmity.

It doesn't do much good to get in a twitter war, as he simply refuses to acknowledge any shortcomings, even when so obviously in the wrong.  Instead, his staff feeds stories to the press of war widows who have been content with his phone calls and letters, making Myeshia Johnson appear like an embittered war widow with a grudge to bear.  This will only lead to more anguish on her part.

This kind of bullying fits with his psychological profile, which includes narcissism, paranoia, antisocial personality and sadism, according to psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg.  Making matters worse, it is not just Trump you are going up against but a veritable "clown posse," which goes out of its way to reinforce his behavior, much like one can imagine his mother did all those years ago.

What seems to be missing in all these assessments is the high degree of resentment Trump exhibits, probably aimed at his father who so often bailed him out of financial crises and no doubt thought less of his son in the process.  It has also been directed at specific individuals who slighted him in the past, notably Barack Obama who turned the 2011 Correspondents Dinner into one of the most humiliating experiences in Donald Trump's life.  A grudge he has harbored for 6 long years and is carrying out his revenge with all the gusto of a sociopath.  It has been said that he even wanted to change the name of Mt. Denali back to McKinley just to spite Obama, but Alaskan senators said no way.

This pettiness combined with his position of power makes Trump a very dangerous man, which is why so many psychoanalysts are doing what they have said they would never do -- diagnose a patient based on what they see on television.  After all, we can't be 100% certain it is not an act.

Rachel Maddow continues to insist Donald is playing some dark Machiavellian game and that we shouldn't take our eye off the ball.  Each week, she tries to dissect his seemingly erratic behavior as part of a much larger conspiracy with Trump fully aware of the role he is playing.  After all, he has managed to stay out of jail all these years despite the many shady deals he has been part of.

However, I would posit that it isn't so much Trump is aware of what he is doing as it is other persons are able to use him for their own deceitful purposes.  Steve Bannon saw a golden race horse in Trump and rode him to the White House.  Granted, it was a bumpy ride but Bannon is still using "Trumpism" to get rogue conservatives elected in Republican primaries, and if he is true to his word will challenge each and everyone of the incumbent Republican senators up for re-election in 2018, save Ted Cruz.  All Trump has to do is be his own troubled self, as he was at an Alabama rally back in September, even if he was endorsing the wrong candidate.

Trump relishes these twitter moments.  He will face off against any person who impugns his imagined integrity.  Myeshia Johnson is just the latest victim, and if she persists, he will persist, just like he did with the Khan family last year.  She will never get any soothing words from this president, only more anguish.

However, it isn't so much that Trump is a bigot.  He's just not responsible for his actions.  He truly believes he is above everyone on this planet.  He has taken his malignant narcissism to a level normally associated with sociopath killers.


Monday, October 23, 2017

The Never-ending Horror Story




My daughter got me hooked on American Horror Story, which I'm beginning to regret.  The newest season, Cult, started out well enough with a Michigan town under siege by a demented clown posse.  However, it has taken so many twists and turns that whatever political message it had is awash in so much carnage that it no longer seems to really matter who is behind the masks.

It is tough to make any sense of the events since "119," the morning after Trump's unprecedented victory.  The series peaked at episode four and it has been all downhill since as the creative team doesn't seem to know where to go next.  What had been an intriguing gang of misfits appears to have morphed into a white supremacy group now that the fearless ringleader has gotten the blessing of Eric Trump.

Trumpkins aren't at all happy with the series as they see themselves openly portrayed as a "basket of deplorables."  I suppose they can take some solace from the fact that the clowns are winning to this point, although the former girlfriend of Valerie Solanas appears to have added a new dimension to the series.  Sadly, the fear factor that had made the first four episodes so compelling has given way to mass slaughter, as is all too often the case with "horror" movies.

Still, I get a kick out of some of the references, like projecting Valerie and her gang of "feminazis" as the Zodiac Killer, having turned the SCUM manifesto into an all-out war against men.  How this will turn against the blue-haired ringleader remains to be seen.  I'm not expecting a satisfying conclusion.

AHS tries to turn our worst political fears into a macabre reality, getting away from the usual ghosts, witches and vampires that dominated their past storylines.  The anti-hero Kai Anderson wins his council seat by a landslide after personally making the seat available by killing one of its members.  He has managed to generate so much fear with his clown posse that the locals will elect anyone who promises to restore law and order.  Kai has replaced his killer clowns with a gang of jackboots.  Not very subtle but effective.

This is certainly the fear Stephen Bannon is exploiting by rallying conservatives behind the most vile candidates imaginable, namely Judge Roy Moore of Alabama, who can be seen brandishing a revolver at one of his recent Alabama rallies.  This is the toxic society we have become, and the viewing public can't get enough of it.

Ed Gillespie's Virginia governor campaign was floundering until he turned to Trumpism and immediately closed the gap on Democrat Ralph Northam.  Republicans are confident they can reawaken the beast of 2016, turning Virginia into an "American Horror Story" for Democrats.  No state would any longer be "safe."

There had been signals the tide was turning in favor of Democrats but Northam is the equivalent of stale white bread.  So, Obama has stepped into the breach hoping to convince Virginia Democrats of the importance of this election.  This is looking sadly like "119" all over again.

People truly enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere of these elections.  The more absurd the better.  This is what the creators of Cult are projecting on their liberal hamlet in Michigan.  At what point do we come to realize it is no longer a joke?



Sunday, October 22, 2017

The General and the Madam




In more ways than one Frederica Wilson exposed the White House.  We all know Trump is an asshole, but to this point many thought Gen. Kelly was one of the few sane persons in his administration, trying to bring some order to the White House.  That all flew out the window this past week.

Not only did Kelly allow Trump to politicize the death of his son in response to the media questioning the president's sincerity when it came to providing comfort to Gold Star families, but tried to play Trump's hatchet man in regard to Congresswoman Wilson's condemnation of his commander's brusque response to a war widow in Miami, who she happened to personally know.

The former general was wrong on so many levels that probably his best course at this point is to resign.  He hasn't been able to bring order to the White House and now he has revealed himself to be little more than a stooge, willing to do anything to protect the president. 

Gen. Kelly had been noncommittal during the campaign, saying he was willing to work with either Trump or Clinton when the question came up, but then he was still serving in the military.  Many assumed that he would be a non-partisan member of Trump's administration, as many feel Gen. Mattis is as well, but it seems he is firmly in the Trump camp, willing to defend anything the president says even when it goes against his personal and military grain.

One can only assume the former general tried to coach the president on these phone calls since Trump would have had no experience in this regard.  He had probably been after Trump for days to call the grieving families of the four soldiers that where ambushed in Niger, but the president was too busy playing golf and carrying on a twitter war with the NFL to pay much notice.  When Trump finally got around to doing so ten days later, he did so perfunctorily not expecting anyone to call him on it.

Enter Ms. Wilson who happened to be in the car with Myeshia Johnson when Trump called, along with an aunt who similarly heard the call on the speaker phone.  Ms. Wilson wasted no time in calling out the president, and her account has been confirmed by Ms. Johnson's aunt.  This left Trump having to claim some kind of "proof" otherwise, which turned out to be Gen. Kelly being there with him when he made the call.

Gen. Kelly probably could have gotten away with it had he kept his message simple.  Instead, he chose to go after Frederica Wilson's character, calling her an "empty barrel," and suggesting she was using the incident for her own political gain.  There is some truth to this allegation but it didn't address the main issue of whether Trump had any idea who he was talking to or who he was referring to on the phone, since he apparently didn't mention Ms. Johnson or her husband by name, repeatedly referring to the fallen soldier as "your guy."

The former general has since claimed that he was the one who told the president to say much that was in the condolence call, including the infamous "he knew what he signed up for," which is what most rankled the Johnson family and Ms. Wilson.  Families are expecting to feel a little warmth from the president at a time like this,  Ms. Wilson said, not being reminded of their loved ones' duties.

None of this would have mattered if Trump hadn't politicized these condolence calls by trying to claim he went beyond any former president by both calling and writing all the relatives of the fallen soldiers.  As it turns out, Trump has only been in contact with about half of the relatives based on a sample taken by AP.

The White House response to all this is the media should quit criticizing the President and the General.  Ms. Huckabee chastised reporters on Friday for questioning the General's account, even though he got many things wrong about the incident he used to cast Ms. Wilson as an "empty barrel."

Like everything else surrounding Hurricane Donald, this incident will probably be swept away.  The media milks it for what it's worth and moves on.  However, if the White House was hoping to gag Frederica Wilson, the opposite has happened.  She is now a national figure, and one who will continue to go after Trump every chance she gets.  I suppose in a perverse way she can thank Gen. Kelly for that.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Downgraded




Receiving the news that he had been downgraded to #248 on the Fortune 500 List, Donald Trump was livid.  "What is this fake news!  I'm worth at least $10 billion," he yelled to everyone with in earshot.  "Where did they get these figures anyway?  I didn't release my tax returns."

We spent the rest of the day trying to calm him down, which was why he was in no mood to deal with sending condolences to Gold Star families.  "If anyone should be getting condolences it should be me for this incredibly sad news.  Pathetic.  Cut my subscription to Forbes right now," he shouted.

Gen. Kelly persevered, saying it is important to talk to grieving spouses and parents.  They want to know you care for them.  "Oh, all right, give me the phone," snatching it out of the general's hand.  It was all he could do to feign sentiments, so when he got to Myeshia Johnson he was rather brusque. He referred to her husband as "your guy" because he was no longer looking at the list.  He couldn't stand her crying so much and finally said, "look, he signed up for this, sorry," and hung up.  Gen. Kelly gave him a reproachful look,  but the president just turned his back and stared out the window, wondering how much money he could be making if he was back in the real world.

"I'm only president for 8 months and already my kids have blown $600 million.  At this rate there will be nothing left when I get out.  Should have set up that blind trust like my lawyers told me," he mumbled to himself.

"What was that sir?"  Gen. Kelly asked?  "Nothing.  Get out!"

The president was in a first class funk.  Only a round of golf could cure something like this but it was only Tuesday.  No way to justify a trip to his country club in the middle of the week.  "What the hell did I get myself into!" we heard him shout through the walls.  I had to go into give him a security briefing.  Gen. Kelly said he had enough of the man-child for one day.  I knocked on the door.  "What now, Church Lady!"

"It's me, sir.  This is the latest briefing on Secretary Tillerson's negotiations with North Korea.  It doesn't look good."

"Give it to me in a nutshell."

"Basically, they're not going to stop making missiles.  It says something about proving to that 'dotard' we can hit one of his towers if we want to."

He really became unhinged at this point.  "Get me the Church Lady!" -- "He left sir." -- "Dammit, where's that guy when I need him.  OK, get me Jared."

Jared came in.  He tried to calm his father-in-law down, telling him they were only bluffing.  "Why do we even negotiate with this guy?  Complete waste of time.  We should have bombed him when we had our ships over there."  Jared said the ships are still there.  "Maybe I should bring in Four Eyes (referring to Rick Perry) with the nuclear codes?"  Jared said we should at least wait until Sec. Tillerson came back.  "Christ, this is insufferable!"

President Trump was looking at his cellphone by this point, reading a message a Florida Congresswoman had posted of his call to Mrs. Johnson.  "What the hell is this?  I didn't say anything like that.  I don't even remember what I said."  Jared looked at the tweet.  "It's easy enough to counter," he said, "we'll just say we have proof you didn't say that, and no one will be the wiser."  The president wasn't even listening, busy typing his own tweet about the fake Congresswoman.  "Maybe I should read that first," Jared said.  "Too late," the president replied before sending the message on its way.

"I really have no time for this.  People actually expect me to send condolences each time someone gets killed.  I'm not a funeral director.  Where are my tax cuts?  I promised I would have them passed by Christmas.  Mitch better get this bill through the Senate or that's it with him."

Jared informed him that the process had only started and that it will take weeks before a bill is on the floor.  He didn't want to tell the president that Rand Paul was already balking after having played golf with him the past weekend.  The president thought he had Senator Paul in his pocket.

Ivanka came sauntering in at this point.  She was happy about her global fund for empowering women finally getting off the ground and wanted her father to give it a plug.  "Look, baby, I've got a lot on the plate right now," but Ivanka was insistent, "you promised, daddy."  She knew he couldn't resist when she called him daddy, and so he said he would say something about it at his next press conference.

"OK, everyone out!"  There was a long silence.  We could faintly hear him clicking away on his cellphone.  We all looked at our phones for his message to appear.  

"Forbes is totally fake news!  I'm worth $10 billion, I tell you.  Not 3.1 bil.  Pathetic."


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Hebron




Who knew a small city in Palestine could madden American officials so much that they chose to pull out of UNESCO, the educational, scientific and cultural wing of the UN.  The bone of contention wasn't so much putting Hebron's Old City on the World Heritage List, but treating it as a part of Palestine.

Back in the 1980s,  the United States similarly was upset with UNESCO, which it felt had grown too big for its britches with over 160 member countries.  All these new members diluted the "original intent" of the organization to act as a cultural propaganda arm of the United States during the Cold War.  After all, the US footed most of the bill and expected UNESCO to act in its best interests.

The US didn't return to UNESCO until 2002, which Olivia Waxman feels once again was politically motivated as the Bush administration was looking to build an international coalition against Afghanistan and Iraq.  I suppose he felt that after the Taliban had destroyed the Buddhist monuments in Afghanistan in 2001 this wouldn't be too hard to do.  However, this isn't what UNESCO is about.  It is about promoting peace and reconciliation, not revenge.

This is what led UNESCO to recognize Palestine as a member state in 2011, which also didn't go down well with the United States.  Since then the US has not been paying its dues, building up a $550 million debt, which Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the US State Dept, said would have to be evaluated on a cost-benefit analysis before paying any of its arrears. 

Obama was bound by Congressional law to withhold any dues to a UN agency that recognized Palestine.  I guess UNESCO did a cost-benefit analysis of its own and decided it could make up the shortfall in cash other ways.  The US lost its vote in UNESCO, not that it seemed to have any active interest in it other than to "protect" Israel's interests.

It's not like UNESCO ignored Israel.  There are several important cultural and historical sites on the World Heritage List, even the Modernist "White City" of Tel Aviv, designed by prominent Jewish architects like Erich Mendelsohn, who fled Germany before WWII.  More sites would be included if Israeli ICOMOS members took the time to prepare the evaluation forms.

The US ICOMOS branch has virtually ignored the World Heritage List with only a small sampling of its many cultural and historic sites on the list.

ICOMOS is short hand for International Council of Monuments and Sites.  It is composed of archaeologists, architects, anthropologists, planners and other professionals from around the world, who each year meet to assess the state of world heritage monuments.  Last year, I went to a conference in Istanbul.  This year, I will be going to Delhi with my wife.  I can say firsthand it isn't in the business of politicizing important cultural and historic sites.

The reason for admitting the Old City of Hebron and the Caves of the Patriarch as Palestinian sites is simple.  They are part of Palestine.  Not only UNESCO but the UN recognizes Palestine as an "observer state."  The US and Israel are the ones politicizing this decision, not UNESCO.  If you look at the new entry for Hebron on the World Heritage List, you will see that all three religions are mentioned, as the city spans three millennia of history.  The Cave of the Patriarchs has yet to be listed.

What we see is the typical knee jerk reaction to anything the UN does in relation to Palestine, no matter how benign.  This simple recognition has no impact on relations between Palestine and Israel, much less warranted the over-reaction by the Trump administration.  Bibi Netanyahu says Israel will pull out too.  Maybe the US and Israel should pull out of the UN all together since they get so easily miffed each time Palestine comes up?  It's like two unruly kids trying to rule the schoolyard.

For Hebron this is a big deal, additional tourism is associated with being a world heritage site.  Thanks to all the attention it is receiving by the US and Israel, it may get even more tourism in the coming years.  Unless, of course, Israel stands in the way.