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.


Friday, October 13, 2017

American Psycho




Donald Trump is like those pop-ads that keep appearing in the margins of the web page.  No matter how many times you press the X button to get rid of them they just keep reappearing.  The guy certainly knows how to keep himself in the news.

Having failed to get any legislation passed regarding health care, Trump is now going after the ACA by executive order, cutting subsidies and making it that much more difficult for low-income families to have access to health insurance.  For a man who said that Obamacare was killing itself, he sure is going out of his way to speed up the process.

Of course, the Donald doesn't think of any of this on his own.  He has a core of advisers preparing these executive orders for him to sign, notably Stephen Miller.  Tom Price is no longer around to guide him on health care, not that the president had very much interest in it anyway.  Trump simply wants to undo everything Obama accomplished in his eight years as president.

He badly wants to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear agreement, but got enough pushback from his top military advisers that he has apparently retreated from his earlier hardline position.  He was notably upset over this but it seems in some little corner of his tiny brain something triggered him to follow the advice of his Secs. of Defense and State.  I'm sure Miller was pushing him the other way.

For whatever reason, Stephen Miller remains in the White House.  I thought he would have gotten swept out with Bannon and Gorka, but he has not only clung onto his position as policy adviser, but appears stronger than ever.  In many ways he is more dangerous than Bannon because he has managed to earn a small piece of respect within Washington for his dogged determination.  It also helps that he has Jeff Sessions backing him.

This is a guy who came up through the Tea Party, working as press secretary for Rabid Republican Representatives Michelle Bachman and John Shadegg before endearing himself to Sessions.  He is only 32 and is working hand in hand with Jared Kushner to shape Trump's major policy statements.  However, Miller moreso than Jared is keeping Trump to the hardline positions that won him the White House.

I guess the best way to look at Stephen is as a young Richard Nixon.  He comes from California, where he found himself constantly at odds with his liberal classmates at Santa Monica HS and plotted his revenge.  He has had an astonishing rise in politics, virtually unheard of until Trump became President and named him as one of his top advisers.

It was Miller who helped shape the first "Muslim ban," which caused pandemonium in airports and was quickly struck down by federal courts.  It seems his black heart was in the right place but he just didn't find the right language to get the ban to carry any weight.  The ban was subsequently revised and to some degree implemented, much to Trump's chagrin who was much more comfortable with the first ban.  After all, a Muslim is a Muslim, whether he has a green card or not.

Miller is a psychopath able to channel his killer instinct.  As such, he represents the cold, calculating determination to dismantle government as we know it so that all those effete liberals in California won't have any government goodies anymore, like health care.  They will have to pay for it like everyone else.  He doesn't give a fuck who lives or who dies in the process.

This is what makes him so dangerous.  Miller wins whether Trump loses or not.  He has been able to stick to his core ideology and endear himself to the conservative hard right.  He knows exactly how to address the press in the most blunt terms so as to gain maximum effect.  Jim Acosta could only look on in disbelief as Miller turned Emma Lazuras' famous poem into a feeble inscription on the Statue of Liberty.  This is a guy who has no time for the "huddled masses."

He is Donald Trump's id.  He pushes all those primal instincts within Trump's bicameral mind, making it hard for Kelly, Mattis and Tillerson to exercise reason.  We have to wait until Trump's speech today to see if he actually will certify the Iran nuclear agreement.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Stupid is as stupid does





"I think it's fake news, but if he did that, I guess we'll have to compare IQ tests.  And I can tell you who is going to win."

Just when you thought it couldn't get any more ..... moronic in the White House, His Trumpness challenged Rex Tillerson to an IQ test.  Sarah Huck-Huck-Huckabee says the Prez was only joking but CNN's Brooke Baldwin counted at least 22 times when Mr. Trump flaunted his self-proclaimed high IQ.  Mensa has offered to put the two to the test as it has no record of either Trump or Tillerson in its High IQ Society.

This was just the beginning of another calamitous week for the Trump White House.  Earlier, he got into a row with Bob Corker over his proposed tax cuts, upset that the Tennessee senator found fault with his plan.  This led to a nasty exchange in which Trump claimed "Liddle Bob" came to him for an endorsement in 2018, which he refused, and then Corker subsequently chose to retire.  On top of that Big Donald said Corker had wanted to be his Secretary of State.  Corker wasn't taking any of this nonsense and compared the White House to a Reality Show, saying he is seriously concerned this President could push the US into a world war.

Few Republican senators came to Corker's aid.  Lindsey Graham, who has been critical of Trump in the past, took time to brag about Donald's golf score.  Mitch offered faint praise for his colleague, but most others chose to sit this one out.

Then came the catfight between Ivana and Melania over who is the real "first lady" of the White House.  Ivana claimed the mantle as Trump's first wife, although she didn't seem certain of this.  This led to one of those rare moments when Melania speaks.  She said that Ivana is just an "attention-seeking" bitch, and that she had no time for this "self-serving noise."  How she has put up with her husband this long is anyone's guess.

Among all this noise, Trump still had time to weigh in on the NFL once again by congratulating Jerry Jones for standing up like a real owner.  Only problem is that no sooner did the Dallas Cowboys owner make his stand than some former prostitutes reveal what a big dick he is.   For his part, Texas Jerry says the photos "misrepresent" him in a restaurant five years ago.

One can imagine Vladimir Putin watching all this with a big bowl of popcorn in his hands.  How on earth can anything else on television compete with this!

The good news is that no one is talking about Puerto Rico, the failed health care bill, the unlikelihood of his budget and tax cuts being passed or anything else of substance.  Trump can once again hide behind the scandalous stories, enjoying another round of golf, his 64th outing of the year.  This from a man who was going to be so busy leading the country he wouldn't have time for golf.

He's backed himself into a tight corner with Tillerson.  If Tex Rex resigns, it would only add substance to NBC's story that Tillerson called Trump a "fucking moron" and threatened to walk out on him.  Rex claims he never made such a threat but refused to discuss whether he called the President a moron, which Trump all but confirmed by challenging Rex to an IQ test.

Trump's twitter war with "Liddle Bob Corker" has far deeper repercussions, as he needs every Congressional vote he can get to pass his proposed tax cuts.  Sen. Corker said he is not voting for any tax cuts that would add to the deficit, and according to leading economists Trump's proposed cuts would add $5 trillion to the deficit.  As a high ranking senator, Corker carries a lot of clout and one can bet other Republicans will follow suit.  Mitch must really be squirming in his seat because this means yet another failed legislative effort, resulting in a horrible year in which his Senate was unable to get any meaningful bill through Congress.

As for his wives, Trump had to know Ivana wasn't going to accept Melania getting top billing.  After all, she produced his first three kids, and according to her biography, Raising Trump, raised them solely on her own, as Big Donnie was never around.  In her mind, this makes her more "first lady" than the Slovenian trophy wife.

It's nice to see that this little incident lit a fire under the normally placid Melania, who obviously doesn't like living in the shadow of Trump's first wife.  However, this might actually help Melania as she is getting the sympathy vote.

The kicker was Sarah Huck-Huck-Huckabee calling Bob Corker's statements "ridiculous" and "outrageous."  Krazy Kellyanne voiced the same sentiments on Fox and Friends.  Both oblivious to how much the President himself has demeaned the White House with his rash statements and actions.

It's hard to know what is going on in the White House as Trump clearly has lost all control of himself.  So much so that there is a very clear and present danger that he might unleash a "storm" at any time.  After all, he and his less intelligent buddy Rick Perry hold the nuclear codes.

This is what any sensible person feared all along, but Republicans felt they could contain Trump.  They even brought in Ret. Gen. John Kelly to impose order in the White House, but someone forgot to put a monitor on the internet connection, blocking out Fox News and Breitbart, which it appears Trump listens to more than to his advisers.  Even if Kelly were able to screen Trump's news intake, Bannon still has surrogates in the White House, namely Stephen Miller.

As for the soft touch Ivanka was supposed to provide, that obviously isn't happening.  Trump is as surly as ever, taking his petty grievances out on twitter first chance he gets.  Worst of all, the media loves it.  They pile on the ridicule whenever Trump goes on one of his tirades, further galvanizing his support among his "basket of deplorables."

This is the group Bannon hopes to take advantage of in the upcoming primaries as he promotes his radical Republican candidates across the country.  Judge Roy Moore is just a warning shot.  He plans to go after all sitting Republicans that defy Donald Trump, or rather the agenda Trump represents.  Bannon had Corker in his cross hairs, which is why many political pundits figured the Tennessee senator chose to step down.

Alas, "Liddle Bob" is still in Congress through 2018 and if Trump expects to have any legislative victories he needs to find a way to appease these frustrated senators not just add further insult to insult.  The same goes with his cabinet and other WH adviser.  There is only so much of this shit they will take before invoking the 25th amendment.

Of course, it will still be a long four years with Mike Pence, as the hardline policies would remain the same.  At least the circus act that is Donald Trump will once again be relegated to the sidelines, where it belongs.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Grandstanding




This past weekend, Mike Pence attended an Indianapolis game seemingly for the sole purpose of walking out after the national anthem when several Colts knelt on the sidelines.  Jerry Jones issued a surly statement that he would bench any player that didn't stand for the anthem.  This political grandstanding drew attention to struggling football teams.  Indianapolis needed overtime to get past winless San Francisco and Dallas got thumped by Green Bay.

Maybe this was the "storm" Trump was referring to, as his White House is determined to win this battle with the NFL, using Pence as a proxy and allying Jerry Jones to its cause.  No other owners issued such an ultimatum.  You figure at some point, the NFL will reach a compromise with the players to end this stalemate that has drug into the fifth week of the season.

It would probably go a long way if the owners quit blacklisting Colin Kaepernick, who was passed over last week by Brandon Weeden when the Tennessee Titans went shopping for an extra quarterback.  This is utterly ridiculous since Weeden has never been anything more than a journeyman QB and didn't even play Sunday.  There was a rumor floating around that Kaepernick would stand for the anthem if called back to the league, but it turns out the story was unsubstantiated.

It would also help if the media would more often mention the reason for these protests, rather than focusing almost exclusively on the act itself.  Anderson Cooper hosted a town hall with players and activists to discuss police racial profiling and brutality, but Trump's tweets continue to get the most attention.  Nothing the media loves more than flame throwers, although for some strange reason Colin Kaepernick was not invited to the CNN town hall.  Nor did he appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated that featured players from around the sports world who support the protests.  That's just how toxic he has become.

Yet, Colin's no. 7 jersey remains very much in demand, and he is finding his actions being emulated by cheerleaders, anthem singers, college and high school players around the country, even if it means getting booted off the team.  There have also been similar protests at the pee wee football level.  This is an issue that isn't going away until the NFL and in turn the nation addresses it in a meaningful way.

Of course it doesn't help when you have an idiot in the White House throwing gas on the flames.  Trump took credit for Mike Pence's walkout.  I'm surprised he didn't take credit for Jones' surly statement.  But, all this grandstanding is counter-intuitive, as it has only served to draw more attention to the issue and result in viewers tuning into the games if for no other reason than to see if the players buckle under the pressure.  With the NBA regular season soon to kick off, the situation could get even worse, as back in 2014 several NBA players made their feelings known on the same issue long before Colin Kaepernick took a knee.

Athletes have every right to make their feelings known on issues they consider important to them.  This idea that their voices don't count is absurd and only reinforces the "plantation mentality" since virtually all the players being singled out in social media are black.  It doesn't matter that high profile white players like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers an Drew Brees have all voiced support for their teammates, the social media is obsessed with lightning rod players like Michael Bennett, offering up fake memes as red meat to the conservative audience.

A better president would seek to calm anxieties, offer a summit to discuss police racial profiling and brutality, which are very real issues in the Black and Hispanic communities.  Instead, we have a President who openly uses his Vice-President to stoke the flames of unrest, seemingly for no other reason to boost his approval ratings.  Sad.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

I Won't Back Down




It was odd seeing Tom Petty's song tied into the Las Vegas massacre, with Jason Aldean playing I Won't Back Down on Saturday Night Live.  I suppose it was meant in good faith, but the two are in no way related.

Petty spent much of his life battling the music industry over control of his songs, but with his death I suppose anything is fair game.  The Florida Gators similarly used the song during the break between the third and fourth quarters ostensibly as tribute to Tom Petty, but the athletic department said it hopes the song will become a "tradition."  Petty had no real relationship with UF other than working as a groundskeeper back in the 60's as a teen.  His band Mudcrutch played a few frat houses as well.

Gainesville was a hip place to be in the 60s and early 70s.  Not only did the university town produce Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers but Don Felder, who would become a part of The Eagles.  The Great Southern Music Hall was a popular venue, closing down in the early 80s.  Bands also played The Rathskeller, or more simply "The Rat," and The Eagles descended on Florida Field in 1980 on The Long Run tour.  Gainesville remained a happening place in the 80s, but no longer for new sounds.  Athens, Georgia, had become the hip place to be.

I saw Petty in Gainesville in the early 80s.  Not quite sure whether it was Fall of 82 or Spring of 83, but it was part of the Heartbreakers' Long After Dark tour.  In those days, a band went on tour to promote their latest album.  Petty was more famous at the time for penning a song for Stevie Nicks that became the signature hit off her Bella Donna album.

Like so many hit songs, Stop Dragging My Heart Around came about purely by chance.  It was never intended to be her song.  Petty and the Heartbreakers were planning it for their album Hard Promises, but Jimmy Iovine was also producing Stevie Nicks' first solo album and wanted songs to fill it.  He recorded a separate track with Stevie's vocals, and eventually had Shelly Yakus mix the vocals together, which resulted in the hit song that dominated the air waves in 1981.  Petty and Nicks also sang Insider together for his album, but it was pretty much forgotten.

I can't say I was a big Tom Petty fan at the time.  I liked You Got Lucky because the video reminded me of Mad Max, but beyond that I didn't much listen to him.  However, I was hooked after that concert, especially with Stevie Nicks joining him on stage near the end for a jamming version of Stop Dragging My Heart Around.

Within a span of a few short years, Tom Petty went from being a local boy who had done good to a rock icon thanks not only to his relationship with Stevie Nicks, but with Bob Dylan, who he met at Farm Aid in 1985.  He went on a worldwide tour with Dylan that year but still had time to record Southern Accents, which included a Stevie Nicks-inspired song, Don't Come Around Here No More, written by Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics.  As the story goes, this is what Stevie Nicks told Joe Walsh after they broke up that year.  If all this wasn't enough, Dylan hooked Tom into the Traveling Wilburys, a super group that included Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne.

Petty had moved out to LA in the late 60s hoping to catch a break, but found himself mostly fighting with record companies.  It wasn't until he and his Heartbreakers came out with Damned the Torpedoes in 1979 that they found success.  The album rose all the way to #2 on the pop charts. 

He and Stevie Nicks seemed a natural fit and it is a relationship they would maintain for many years.  It didn't seem to affect his marriage, as Stevie and Tom's wife, Jane, were apparently very good friends.   Edge of Seventeen even started out as a tribute to Tom and Jane, but evolved into a lament over the death of her uncle.

One finds out these things only after a favorite musician passes away.  I picked up Tom Petty albums along the way but pretty much lost track of him after his Wildflowers album.   Back in Seattle in 2004, I found a box set entitled Playback at a record shop and got interested in him again.  I had completely forgotten how good his early songs were.  Turns out Playback was from 1995. 

Never got a chance to see him again.  Virtually no interest in Tom Petty in Lithuania.  Not even a comment on his death in the national news.  He was very popular in Britain but mainland Europe acts like it never heard of him.  Even the Traveling Wilburys seem lost in the mist of time.

Tom Petty will not be forgotten.  He built up a legion of fans young and old.  Looking at the faces in the crowd at his Gatorville Concert in 2006, most are young and hanging onto each and every word of his songs.  Stevie Nicks joined him once again, singing a number of songs with him including Insider, which still resonates over the years. 

I just hope that I Won't Back Down doesn't become an anthem for whatever cause someone is promoting.  It was never intended to be used in this way.  The song and the album, Full Moon Fever, reunited Petty with Jeff Lynne and George Harrison.  It inspired Johnny Cash, who interpreted it in his own unique way on one of his final albums.  This is probably the way Tom Petty would like the song to be remembered.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Get Small




Sen. John Thune is taking a lot of flack for his comments on the Mandalay Bay Massacre, urging that "people are going to have to take steps in their own lives to take precautions ... as somebody said, 'get small.'"  Nothing wrong with his advice, but as the third highest ranking Senator, one would think he might be urging Congress to take action.

Instead, the Republicans are taking a pass.  Even Steve Scalise, who only recently returned to the House chamber after being shot by a lone gunman at a Congressional softball game, said the Las Vegas shooting only "fortified" his views against gun control.  I think the NRA should be credited here, as he like so many of his fellow Republicans have been paid off by the National Rifle Association.

Meanwhile, His Trumpness wasted no time getting to Vegas, offering a far more heartfelt speech than he did in San Juan the day before, and visiting survivors at the UNLV hospital.  I suppose by Trump's reckoning, this is a far worse crisis than Puerto Rico, as many more persons died.

It's hard not to get cynical when you see these types of reactions.  I was almost laughing this morning when I listened to CNN try to get into the mind of the killer with an FBI agent and criminal psychologist, both young and pretty,  like off the set of one of the CSI television shows.  The FBI agent couldn't believe Marilou Danley had any idea what was going on, even though it was reported that Paddock flew her off to the Philippines two weeks ago so that he could prepare himself for the concert.

A mass shooting like this took a lot of preparation and apparently he had been amassing his arsenal for the past year.  Doing so in a way that would attract little attention.  He also bought cameras to monitor the hallways outside his room and various other supplies to turn the 32nd floor room into a "sniper's den."  He had also worked out his angle of trajectory to get the largest range of the crowd below -- the so-called "trigonometry of terror."

So, no matter how "small" you made yourself, you were going to have a hard time avoiding a rain of lead bullets like that.  I would have liked to put Sen. Thune in that crowd and see how well he fared.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Mandalay Bay Massacre




It is safe to say that if the death of 20 elementary school children didn't lead to new gun laws, the death of 58 concert-goers aren't going to inspire any new legislation either.  We have created a war zone in this country, as this graph attests to:  1516 mass shootings in 1735 days.  Virtually no part of the country is safe.  Since July there were 58 persons killed in mass shootings before Stephen Paddock took out that number at a concert in Las Vegas.

On the left we see the same urgency expressed for tighter gun restrictions, and on the right the same equivocation.  Never the twain shall meet because in the eyes of too many persons the second amendment is sacrosanct.

The rest of the world shakes its head in wonder.  How can a country like the United States bring so much violence upon itself.  We have a staggering 33,000 gun-related deaths per year.  Most of them are suicides, but last year homicides topped 17,000, a substantial jump from the year before.  Not just Chicago, but small towns across America saw a sharp rise in homicides.   To put this in perspective,  at the peak of the war in Iraq, 29,500 persons were killed in 2006.  A soldier was safer in Iraq than a concert-goer was in Las Vegas Sunday night, as Stephen Paddock rained down bullets on the show.

Your only cover in a situation like that are other persons.  This is how gruesome it was.  Those who dropped to the ground simply made themselves targets.  Your only option was to run and hope that he isn't aiming your way.

Most of us will post our condolences and move on.  What else can we do?  The horror is too difficult to imagine.

Others will seek to gain some sort of political leverage from it, whether on the right or the left.  Alas, no amount of gun laws is going to erase the 350 million firearms in circulation.  A large percentage of them go unregistered, as you can buy firearms at gun shows, on the Internet or from your next door neighbor and never record the sale.  It doesn't matter if you can only buy a semi-automatic rifle, all you need is a "trigger crank" to increase your rounds per minute.

Americans have become very resourceful when it comes to firearms, finding all kinds of ways to modify their weapons.  Of course, they will tell you it is only for defense, but one has to wonder about these vast arsenals so many Americans now have, waiting for the Zombie Apocalypse to come any day.

From a geographic point of view, we live in one of the safest places on earth.  We went virtually unscathed through two World Wars.  North Korea has yet to develop a ballistic missile to deliver a warhead to our shores.  Russia seems pretty much content with the current geopolitical status quo.  What do we have to fear except ourselves.

We inflict more harm on each other than any country has ever inflicted on us.  The civilian death toll from firearms over the past 50 years is greater than the number of Americans who have died on battlefields since the Revolutionary War.  That number just keeps growing.

Stephen Paddock left few clues as to the reasons why.  All we have at this point is his paramour, who was brought in for questioning.  She apparently wasn't around when the retired real estate developer decided to go on his shooting spree.  Playing the slots or whatever downstairs.  You figure she had to know something, as this was very much a premeditated mission.  Even if we do learn what motivated him, so what?  Does it draw us one step closer to figuring out what goes on in the mind of a killer?  Hardly.

Gun violence is part of our collective DNA.  Most of us have become inured to it, unless it hits close to home.  Maybe then we start to question the permissive laws in so many states when it comes to guns.  Nevada is pretty much a wild west state at this point.  You don't need a permit to buy a gun.  There are no mandated waiting periods.  You can bring a gun into virtually any place, including a casino, so Stephen Paddock was perfectly within his rights to drag his arsenal into Mandalay Bay.

You can bet if the assailant had been Muslim, Trump would have been calling for a universal Muslim ban, but all he can do is offer his prayers to the victims and their families, mum on the potential consequences as a result of this latest mass shooting.  If only he could be so sanguine in regard to North Korea, which hasn't fired a single shot at us yet.

Alas, we shouldn't "politicize" these events.   That's what Fox News is telling us.  Shame on Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and all those other liberals calling for gun control so soon after the event.  But, when should one ask for more gun control?  It's been five years since Sandy Hook and laws have only become more lax, not more stringent.  Any city or state that tries to impose tighter gun controls finds these laws being challenged in the federal courts.

To be honest, I don't think there is much we can do at this point.  Ever since the ban on assault rifles expired in 2004, the number of such weapons on the market have increased astronomically, with little or no control over their sales.  As of 2016, there are at least 5 million AR-15 assault rifles in circulation.  Every time there is talk of tighter gun controls, sales jump.  If Alex Jones was looking for a conspiracy here, he need look no further than the NRA, which actively promotes the sale of such weapons, army-piercing bullets and other battle-ready equipment.

We have become a militarized nation.  As such, it might not be a bad idea to invest in a flak jacket and military-grade helmet when going to the next public event.




Sunday, October 1, 2017

Hef




With all the Viagra he has been taking, Hef probably died with a hard on.  It is difficult to feel much empathy for a man who spent his last years popping little blue tablets like skittles until he went deaf, just so he could satisfy himself with his harem of young women at his Playboy mansion in Los Angeles.  There was an initial outpouring of condolences from those closest to him, including a tearful video from Pamela Anderson.  Since then few tears have been shed for the "glorified pimp."

Hef liked to project himself as the man who emancipated women by ringing in the sexual revolution of the 60s, but to hear these women speak the Playboy mansion sounded like a Saudi Sheik's brokedown palace.  I guess after a certain age you just don't care that much about hygiene anymore.

For the girls, this must have been hell because Hef no longer carried very much clout in Hollywood.  The days you could use a Playboy photo shoot to jump start your career were pretty much over.  The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue had long supplanted Playboy as the hottest girlie magazine on the newsstand, ever evolving to include athletes and "curvy" women, while Playboy tried to cash in on the Eastern European market.

For a brief time, there was a Lithuanian edition of the magazine, but I guess the girls ran out after a certain point and the glossy mag disappeared from the shelves.  There still are Russian and Polish editions.  You figure all these magazines had to dilute the product, but Playboy kept trying to crack new markets as American sales dipped.  Hef even tried to break into Muslim countries like Turkey and Indonesia.  That must have been a pretty tough sell!

Through it all, Hef kept turning his harem over, finding new gals to sleep with him in the master suite.  It was no longer enough to have a girl on each side of him, he was often photographed with six scantily-clad women at a time.  I guess Sunday was a day of rest.



He supposedly found true love in Barbie Benton, at least he said so at the time.  In recent years, he claimed to have never found the soulmate he was looking for, resorting to the cliches you would expect from America's number one "ladies's man."

Hef  came to prominence with his television show, Playboy Penthouse, which aired between 1959-1961.  The magazine was a big hit by this point, but Hef wanted a venue to project himself onto a broader American audience.  The variety show was considered quite daring in its time.  He engaged in a faux banter with celebrity guests, showcasing his liberal views on sexuality.  He wanted to open up the show to black celebrities, but ABC said no.  He went to CBS, which let him bring Sammy Davis Jr. to his inner sanctum high above Chicago's downtown.  Americans apparently weren't ready for this and CBS pulled the plug after five episodes.  Hef had better luck a few years later with Playboy After Dark, moving his operations to Los Angeles.

He augmented his "men's magazine" with articles and interviews with leading figures of the day, giving the journal an air of sophistication, as if to say it is perfectly OK to revel in these little fun and games.  Gloria Steinem tried to blow the lid off this scam by famously posing undercover as a playboy bunny in the mid-60s, but it made little dent in his empire.  It did however show him to be as much a cheapskate then as now when it came to paying his "bunnies."

By the 70s there was Penthouse, Hustler and many other "men's magazines" to contend with.  Even magazines like Playgirl sprang up during this time to give women a bit of the titillation that to this point had been reserved exclusively for men.  Playboy appeared on the brink of collapse, but Hef managed to find a new angle to keep his empire going.

Barbi Benton is credited for coming up with the idea of the Playboy mansion, which she and Hef moved into in the early 70s.  It became a pleasure palace for the libido, with scores of women lounging around the pool in their bikinis and taking part in "slumber parties" at night.  Hef obviously had a hard time containing himself with so much flesh on parade.  Barbi had enough by 1976 and moved on.  It was one of the few times Hef was taken aback, not used to having a woman walk out on him like this.  But, he quickly got over it.

Whatever progressive ideals Hef once imagined himself projecting on screen were pretty much gone by this point.  This was all about satisfying the libido.  Celebrities flowed through his mansion on a constant basis.  Hef pretended that it was all on the up and up, but his women were expected to perform for their crisp one-hundred dollar bills.  How he got away with it is anyone's guess.  After all, this wasn't Nevada.

Eventually, the novelty of the fun house faded and Hef had to find other ways to keep his empire going: Playboy movies, his own cable channel and of course a wide range of products.  Surprised he didn't buy the patent for Viagra, as he could have marketed it with his little bunny on the pills, but I guess he was still virile enough not to need it.

The mansion suffered over the years.  It was listed on the market in 2016 but sold for much less than Hef was asking for it.  One of the stipulations was that he would be allowed to stay until his death.  Fortunately for Daren Metropolous that came rather quickly.



It seems Hef picked a good time to check out.  His empire was crumbling around him.  It is doubtful the magazine will last much longer, having gone "nude-free" in 2015, which his son says was a big mistake.  But, I suppose Playboy will live on in its international incarnations.  If not, collectors will be able to fetch even higher prices for their past editions.  A Marilyn Monroe 1953 Playboy magazine, the "holy grail," is worth between $20,000 and $40,000 in mint condition.

I thought it was a hoax, but Hef really did buy a crypt next to Marilyn Monroe in 1992, and this will apparently be his final resting place.  I suppose this is the "soulmate" he had been waiting for all these years, biding his time with "bunnies" until the propitious moment came for him to move to that great mansion in the sky with Marilyn.