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Showing posts from March, 2016

A Good Day to Die

Jim Harrison may be the best writer no one ever heard of.  Except for his novella, Legends of the Fall, which was made into a movie with Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt, it is doubtful few would know him at all.  His first full length novel Wolf was laughably turned into a werewolf movie starring Jack Nicholson, as I guess a young man trying to find himself in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan didn't suit Hollywood.

Legends was reportedly based on actual journals, but it struck me as a thinly veiled portrait of Rough Rider Teddy Roosevelt and his three sons, the youngest similarly dying in WWI due to poor vision.  It was easily adaptable into a film, but as a novel was rather weak.  Harrison improved considerably in his later efforts, notably Wolf and Sundog, both of which I enjoyed very much.

He kind of disappeared from the scene after the theatrical versions of his novels, content it seems to write poetry at his reclusive Arizona ranch.  Always an outdoorman, he preferred to commute…

The United States of Trump

Apparently Donald felt he wasn't getting fair treatment in the press and chose to sit down with the editorial board at the Washington Post for a wide ranging 60-minute interview that will leave you speechless.  The full transcript is attached so if you can't stand to look at him you can read what he had to say on what would be his policy as POTUS.

To WaPo's credit, they avoided editorial comment, pretty much going where Donald wanted to go on the subjects since he evaded any form of direct questioning on foreign and domestic policy.  He focused a lot on how he has been "treated very, very badly" in the press, including the Washington Post, and how he would "open up" the libel laws as President.  Obviously, this resulted in some consternation on the part of the WaPo editors, but they chose to give Trump room to expand on what he has said on campaign trail, rather than interject with their opinions.  They treated him much more fairly than he deserved.


Last Tango in Buenos Aires

It seems the biggest takeaway from President Obama's unprecedented trip to Cuba and Argentina is the tango he did in Buenos Aires.  This seems to have endeared him to his supporters and added one more reason for loathing and contempt by his detractors.  I think Obama's greatest fault in foreign diplomacy is that he makes it look like he is having a good time, enjoying every moment, unlike his predecessor who always looked at great pains in presenting himself to foreign heads of state.  But, here is Obama laughing with his fellow world leaders and joining a lovely young lady on the dance floor for one minute of the tango before returning to his seat to exchange more kind words with Mauricio Macri.

Lost on the news media and the American public in general is how important this state trip was.  It not only showed a tremendous good will on the part of the United States but re-opened our relationship with our fellow American countries, which had been severely strained over the yea…

Just Say No

News changes rapidly.  In the two weeks since Nancy Reagan's funeral we've had the SXSW music and film festival, Obama's historic trip to Cuba and another terrorist bombing in Europe, as well as the continual droning news about whether the Republican establishment can put Donald Trump in his place.  Yet, if there is any place where her signature message, "just say no" resonated it was in the Halls of Congress, where Mitch McConnell has chosen to stand firm on his pledge not to consider any Obama nominee for the vacant Supreme Court chair, even when the latest USSC vote split 4-4 as expected.

Amazingly, Mitch cited the NRA and not the Constitution as his reason for rejecting confirmation hearings, stating "I can't imagine that a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm, in a lame duck session, a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Association [and] the National Federation of Independent Businesses."  Apparently the 46…

Sex, drugs and vinyl

Some friends talked me into watching the pilot for Vinyl, a new HBO series by the "Dream Team" of Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger, Rich Cohen and Terrence Winter.  It gives us the cocaine-fueled early 70s when Rock was in decline and record companies had to sign Abba and Donny Osmond to stay alive.  You hear all the music from that era, including Led Zeppelin at the peak of its powers, but the record company is fictional as are the main cast of characters.

Richie Finestra is exactly like you would imagine a record producer from that era.  He's supposed to be cleaning himself up, no longer snorting coke as he tries to spend more quality time with his young family at his Connecticut estate, but he's got a pending sale with a huge German record label and has to make it look like American Century is worth the multi-million dollar buyout.  Not bad for a guy who started his label on $150,000 and apparently has Led Zeppelin as one of his clients, even if they were on Atlantic…

What would you like to read?

Now that we have gotten over American Colonies, maybe we should try another book reading group?  Hamilton is all the rage with his broadway musical.  It is based on Chernow's 2005 biography.  There's the more recent War of Two, by John Sedgwick, which treats the parallel lives of Hamilton and Burr.

With all the fuss being made over the empty Supreme Court seat, I'm inclined to read Notorious RBG, which looks like it could be a lot of fun. At 83, you figure Judge Ruth Ginsburg doesn't have too many more years on the bench herself, so Bernie shouldn't be fretting over not being able to pick a USSC justice himself, not that he is likely to have the chance to do so.

But, our choice doesn't necessarily have to be political.  All the Wild that Remains looks like a very good book.  I'm a big fan of Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey, and their visions of the American West.

Any other suggestions?

The Inconvenient President

It seems that whenever Mitch tries to talk tough, Obama has a way of undermining his authority.  Not much surprise the President has done it again, nominating a potential Supreme Court Justice that cleared the Senate with a 3/4 majority back in 1997. when the Republicans similarly ruled Congress.

Merrick Garland isn't going to set the world on fire.  He is about as centrist as you can get, which is why Bill Clinton then and Barrack Obama now see him as the perfect justice to present before a partisan Congress.  I had hoped Obama would have gone with Sri Srinivasan, who also has a moderate background but a much higher profile and would help balance the court a bit more in terms of the ethnic diversity of this country.  But, I suppose age was a factor.  Srinivasan is 49 and can be seen by incalcitrant Republicans as a means of stacking the deck.  Garland is 63 and not someone who has the potential of sitting on the bench for three decades.

It is now the Republicans' call.  Alre…

What have we learned?

or, how does the "Dumb Uncle" vote stack up in a General Election?

Another Tuesday chock full of primaries plus two this past weekend leaves us with a clearer indication of what is going on in this election cycle.  John Kasich proved he could defend his home turf, while Marco Rubio showed he could not.  As a result, another GOP presidential candidate bites the dust with more calls for unity in the party coming from both the Trump and Cruz camps.

The Republican establishment has yet to give in completely, although Reince Priebus has stated once again that the party will back whoever wins the nomination.  Given the low scores Politifact gives these candidates, Reince may be putting a little too much faith in them to believe they will actually keep their pledge.  Already, we see a groundswell emerging to run an alternative conservative candidate on the November ballot if Trump is the Republican nominee.

John Kasich still has an outside chance at the nomination, much to Erick E…

I've Got Life

Nina Simone is probably enjoying more attention in her afterlife than she did in life, with the notable exception of the Civil Rights movement.  This is the period most of the present-day attention focuses on because this was quintessential Nina, defiant and strong, voicing the frustration and anger of the movement through songs like Mississippi Goddam.

The song was penned in the wake of the bombing of the Sixteenth St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.  This moment has been captured in a recent play, Four Woman, loosely based on another song from the same era.  It wasn't like Nina herself was trying to capture the moment.  For her it was one more in a long line of terrible incidents that left her so outraged her first reaction was to make a zip gun and go out and shoot anyone who stood in the way of her people.

Claudia Roth Pierpont sums up Nina's tumultuous life in this article for TheNew Yorker.  It was written back in August, 2014, in response to the anger over cast…

Let them eat steak

You realize that this campaign has never been anything other than a promotional tour for Donald J. Trump when he pulls out all his products at a campaign stop in Jupiter, Florida.  Among the many items the television huckster had on display were Trump Steaks, one of his many failed ventures.  He also tried to start a mortgage company the same year in the midst of a housing collapse, a pretty good indication that his business acumen is greatly overblown.  He did benefit from the crisis, however, by buying up Patricia Kluge's Virginia winery at a fraction of the cost and labeling it his own.  He sacked Kluge and put his son, Eric, in charge.  As for his bottled water and other items on display that day, they can only be found at his hotels and resorts.

The steaks really stand out, as they were unpackaged and probably came fresh from the kitchen of his Palm Beach home -- Mar-a-Lago -- a hop, skip and a jump from Jupiter.  I suppose in that sense they were his own steaks, which he wa…

Walt Whitman: The Hospital Years

Walt Whitman has often been quoted on the Civil War, but few realize the extent to which he worked with the soldiers to get their message out to loved ones, so that they wouldn't be lost or forgotten.  Yet another letter has turned up, which Whitman ghostwrote for a soldier after the war to let his loved ones know he was still alive.

It all started with his younger brother, who was felled in the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862.  Whitman would spend the next three years tended to the fallen soldiers.  Given that many of these soldiers were illiterate or simply didn't have paper and pen to write a letter, Whitman was a godsend for these men, as he would visit the hospitals in Washington, DC, everyday and connect with them anyway he could.

His thoughts and letters were captured in Drum Taps and Memoranda During the War, but there was much more.  Angel Price offers a nice essay on the time Whitman spent at Washington's Civil War Hospitals.  Little wonder Whitman still remai…

The Curse of Lono

When it comes to politics, Hawaii doesn't get much attention.  You would think politicians would enjoy the break, but it is hard to justify a trip with all that staff out to Oahu, the most populated island.  The President has had a hard time defending his expensive trips to his native home these past seven years, especially since his official residence is in Illinois.  But, Obama likes to maintain ties to the Aloha State, which is why he is very popular there.

Hawaii is kind of a state that isn't really a state since it is so far detached from the mainland that it is like traveling to a whole other world.  With Alaska you can at least reach it by land through Canada or take a boat along the island-strewn Pacific northwest coast, at a fraction of the cost it would take you to set sail to Hawaii.  Plus, it's ruggedness inspires the American thirst for the West, which led to the Klondike Gold Rush in 1896, forever captured in arguably Charlie Chaplin's greatest film,   H…

The Nightmare Before the Convention

It isn't surprising that the Republican establishment has no idea what is going on.  They still believe they can contain the beast within the party.  Here's David Brooks offering his erudite spin, falling far short of the mark, as events have spun out of control.

Trump, Cruz and Carson have been combining for 60 to 70 per cent of the Republican electorate in the primaries, so even if the GOP chosen one, Marco Rubio, were to garner all the establishment vote it still wouldn't be enough to put him over the top.  With Trump polling 35-40 per cent in Florida and Cruz threatening to undercut Rubio in his home state, it is very likely young Marco could be out of the primaries after March 15.  The same goes for Kasich in Ohio.  This is turning into the very two-man race the GOP establishment was desperately hoping to avoid with no establishment candidate left for the remainder of the primaries.

Of course, there is data suggesting Trump has topped off and Cruz has limited strengt…

The Waterboy

There was a moment when it actually looked like Rubio would become a major player, but after the atrocious debate where young Marco went after Trump's hand size, he looked very much like a waterboy again.

This is the danger in playing to Trump's level.  Cruz can get away with it because he is aiming at the same disgruntled Republican voters who wallow in this kind of ribald humor.  However, Rubio is supposed to be the standard-bearer for the GOP.  The other establishment candidates essentially cleared the stage for the young Florida senator, and here he was going after Trump like two junior high school kids in the locker room arguing over who had the bigger dick.  Even Reince Priebus cringed, making the comment that debates may have to carry a PG rating from here on out.

The only establishment candidate remaining with any chance at the nomination is the untelegenic John Kasich, who has to rely on surrogates like Arnold Schwarzenegger to make him sound more tough by saying &qu…