Thursday, August 31, 2017

On This Day 129 Years Ago...

     ...Jack the Ripper killed his first victim, Polly Nichols. Read how Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull and Arthur Conan Doyle got him in TATTERDEMALION. The paperback version can be found here.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Devant Moi, le Déluge

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
 Well there's floodin' down in Texas
All of the telephone lines are down
And I've been tryin' to call my baby
Lord and I can't get a single sound
Well dark clouds are rollin' in
Man I'm standin' out in the rain.
 
- "Texas Flood", Stevie Ray Vaughan
 It didn't start out very promisingly.
     We'd known for days the Texas panhandle was going to get seriously slammed by Hurricane Harvey. Even without the aid of someone heading the NOAA, meteorologists had predicted days before the storm made landfall that it was going to be a Cat 3, perhaps a 4, and all the predictions and simulations were absolutely spot on. What they couldn't predict, however, was how devastating the flooding would be.
     But fear not, Deplorables, because Donald came to the rescue... sort of. After lambasting President Obama for appearing in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Trump sneered from his little blue perch about how Obama was "standing in a puddle" and "acting like a president." Which, of course, Mr. Obama was. The 44th president arrived in the most devastated areas while Trump said "neener neener" even as he was preparing to lay the groundwork for a new Trump Tower in Moscow. Meanwhile, the president brought tidings of hope, and followed through on them on the form of a $50.5 billion aid bill that 19 out of 20 Texas Republicans tried and failed to scuttle that put Chris Christie's fat little head on Mr. Obama's shoulder, thereby effectively ending his political ambitions outside of Trenton.
     Then, as with domestic terror attacks, a Category 4 hurricane in the Gulf region is virtually an inevitability for a new President. If nothing else, it offers the chance for photo ops and to act presidential and to show leadership even if, as with Bush, your heart really isn't in it.
     But Trump dragged his responsibilities, starting with the very rudiments of presidential optics and follow-through, down to a new low. While George W. Bush exactly 12 years ago surveyed the devastation in NOLA from a coign of vantage in Air Force One and began blabbering at Louis Armstrong Airport about his dissolute frat boy days in New Orleans, eventually Bush did the ten cent tour, visited the devastation and hugged a few victims.
     Trump stood on a loading dock behind a fire engine and a Suburban SUV in Corpus Christi, blathering on about the size of the crowd, essentially starting a Rodney Dangerfield routine ("What a crowd! What a turnout!"), said a few meaningless platitudes, circled around a 15 mile radius then was back in DC in time for lunch. Melania stood behind him thankfully not wearing the four inch stiletto heels she'd worn earlier that day on the way to Marine One. He'd warned his aides in advance not to let him get wet because, you know, gremlins. In that, he was spectacularly successful. Trump barely got the soles of his new boots damp and never met with a single victim in a state in which he'd beat Hillary by exactly 9 points. Oddly, the press didn't have a problem with that.

Houston, You Have a Problem But I Don't Care to Hear About It
CNN caved, Fox (of course) caved and even Joey Scar caved. Even Trump's most virulent critics are praising his so-called Texas visit because the MSM are so desperate to show the American public that Trump's visit was gaffe-free and presidential, they'll squint until they can't see any more to convince us, and themselves, that we actually have leadership during the greatest natural disaster in the US this year. But, as usual, Trump didn't get off to a good start.
     By that time five Texans drowned (that Trump still hasn't acknowledged any more than he's acknowledged the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville earlier this month). On Sunday at Camp David, Trump began his day at 7:45 AM pimping Sheriff David Clarke's new book of right wing conspiracy theories (Maybe if Houston buys enough copies, they'll finally be able to start soaking up the 20 feet of water). 19 minutes later, he essentially pats himself on the back for sitting on his fat, pasty ass in Camp David while actual rescue workers risk their lives to save the flood victims. An hour and 11 minutes later, he announces, "I will also be going to a wonderful state, Missouri, that I won by a lot in '16. Dem C.M. is opposed to big tax cuts. Republican will win S!" Because, you know, he won the presidency and won bigly in Missouri, in case you didn't know.
     By 9:44, he's harping on the wall again, and insisting Mexico will pay for it, despite threatening to shut down the government if he didn't get the wall funding from Congress in the upcoming omnibus spending bill. Oh, and Mexico's still full of criminals. Seven minutes later, still obsessed with Mexico, he then lambastes NAFTA as he had on the campaign trail and insists we still have to renegotiate it. Yes we do. But apparently, he thinks now's the perfect time.
     And Trump is a master of timing. He proved it when he pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the racist who'd yet to be convicted for violating a court order that forbade him from racially profiling Hispanics to check their immigration status. With the President of Finland standing next to him, Trump brazenly said he'd announced Arpaio's pardon to coincide with Hurricane Harvey because he thought he'd get "far higher ratings."
     Interspersed with the smattering of other August 27th tweets was Trump essentially saying, "Gee, who knew?"
     By today, Trump made good on his promise to go to Missouri to talk about simplifying the tax code because giving himself and his fellow billionaire scumbags a massive tax cut at the expense of needed services and agencies (such as, oh, I don't know, the NOAA) is exactly what the people drowning in Texas want to hear right now.

The Return of the Prodigal President
But in case you were one of the very few naysayers who still weren't satisfied that Trump could be all he could be, he's promised to donate part of one of his countless vacation days to return to Texas this Saturday. But one would justifiably be worried that Trump has all the facts in hand or that he even cares to know them. Yesterday, Trump essentially did a drive-by
     Because by today, Trump has already gone down on record as talking about tax cuts for others like him not once but twice yet has never once mentioned that Port Arthur, the birthplace of Janis Joplin, is now completely underwater. Something else our law and order, cop-worshipping president never saw fit to mention while hawking Clarke's book or his tax reform: A Houston police officer died in the line of duty trying to save people from drowning.
     By now, one could be forgiven if Trump privately wishes he could build that wall, a circular one, around Houston to better drown the very same brown people he'd lambasted on Sunday's tweet storm. Houston is, after all, 36% Hispanic, 25% of the city being of Mexican descent. As horrible as Bush's reaction was to Katrina and New Orleans, which was, before the right wing gentrification sank in, 66% African American, Bush at least tried to play the part.
     Let me again describe what yesterday was like: Trump stood on a loading dock at a fire station, far away from another living human being except for his wife. He never once mentioned the five we know of who were killed, never called on his fellow Americans to help in the relief and rescue efforts (Not that he needed to because fortunately we are a species that produces heroes where none are expected) and never made a plea for charitable contributions or advise people where to go to make them.
     While Texas is at high tide, Trump's "empathy", as usual, is at low ebb. While never mentioning the fatalities of our fellow Americans, one of them being a police officer, while never mentioning Port Arthur being completely submerged, he has mentioned high ratings and tax cuts and David Clarke's book. And, as usual, Mexico's full of criminals and we need a wall to keep them out.
     Undeterred, Mexico has offered help. They were there for us in the aftermath of Katrina when the Mexican Army helped save lives in New Orleans. Despite what buffoon is currently occupying the Oval Office, Mexico has offered their help again. And Trump's pride and racism will not let him accept that help even as thousands are still in danger of drowning in unprecedented floods.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Republican Creep Show

     Seriously, some of these guys give me the creeps.
     What we need to do as a nation is to objectively look at some of the current and past clowns of the Trump administration. Because some of these guys are so evil, it radiates through their physiognomies to the point where you actually can judge a book by its cover.
     Take ousted Deputy Assistant whateverthefuckhewas, Sebastian Gorka. Gorka always strikes me as looking like an Eastern European torture specialist getting a blow torch ready at a Russian garage in a Nicolas Cage movie and his statements match. Not only does he use a line from Star Wars (I guess he didn't stick around for the ending) to make some baleful statement, he threatens "the left" as if we're still a potent form of opposition that's bound to destroy whatever Death Star he's building in his Hungarian dungeon.
     As proof that you can judge a book by its cover, when I made that joke about Gorka looking like an Eastern European torture specialist, this was before I found out that while he served in the British Army, he was in an interrogation unit. Gorka is an unabashed alt-right operative (although we should call the alt-right what it is: Nazis and bigots), He also freely identifies with the Order of Vitéz, which was an honor given out to Hungarians who contributed to the Holocaust. As if this wasn't bad enough, he's also identified with the anti Roma as well as the anti-Semitic Hungarian Guard (both of which having been banned by the EU).
     Not only have Gorka's academic credentials been called into question, so has his sanity. He's generally considered part of the right wing lunatic fringe. So how did this open racist and anti-Semite get himself a job with such immense power in the administration of a man with a Jewish son in law and a Jewish daughter? Well, these are the men with whom Trump likes to surround himself. They're not necessarily all Yes Men (Mattis, Tillerson and other Cabinet officials have openly disagreed with Trump as recently as this week).
     Yet they tend to be men we warn our children about when he tell them not to talk to strangers. Another case in point is Felix Sater.

     I like to call Sater "Mr. Stabby Face" because he once stabbed a broker in the face with the jagged stem of a Margarita glass so many times it required 110 stitches to put his face back together again. What made him fly into such a rage? The fact that the commodities broker had the unfortunate task of informing Sater that he'd lost money.
     Like Gorka a naturalized US citizen, when you hear people call Sater a Russian mobster, they're stating a matter of fact and not resorting to hyperbole. In 1998, the managing director of Bayrock was convicted of a "pump and dump" scheme that was orchestrated by the Russian mob. And it just came out today that Sater bragged in an email two years ago, during the Trump campaign, that getting a Trump Tower in Moscow "will get Trump elected."
     So much for Trump's prior claim that he had no loans, no deals, no nothing with Russia. There may not be a Trump Tower in Moscow but it wasn't for lack of trying on the part of a certain face-stabbing Russian mafioso making a bad attempt at legitimacy and respectability.

     And then there's Stephen Miller, one of the very few survivors of the original Trump administration. One of the three S's (Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka that, appropriately make a Sss sound when put together), Miller became a conservative after reading a book by NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. Yes, that's all it took.
     As a teenage right wing nut job (that must've embarrassed his liberal-leaning Jewish family), Miller would scream at Hispanic students to speak English. While at Duke, he helped spearhead a fundraising drive for a debate that would've involved Richard Spenser, the notorious neofascist and one of the chief architects of the Charlottesville riots. Despite spending a huge amount of time together at Duke, both Spenser and Miller now deny the extent of their once-close relationship and now in his spare time, Miller pretends to repudiate Spenser's alt-right activities.
     The one-time Communications Director for noted racist Jeff Sessions eventually found himself at Trump's elbow. This dead-eyed sociopath would become one of the chief architects of the anti Muslim immigration EO that had been struck down by several federal judges. Miller infamously said the power of the president was "not to be questioned" and a few weeks ago had a shouting match with CNN's Jim Acosta over immigration and the Statue of Liberty.

     The recently-departed Steve Bannon was another piece of work. The former and current again Breitbart CEO has long had ties to white nationalist movements. The only difference between Bannon and Gorka is that Gorka is still squirting sewage at "the left" from the fringes of right wing media while Bannon is squirting sewage at the Trump administration from the fringes of right wing media.
     Like Gorka, however, Bannon's openly an anti-Semite, someone who once sparred with one of three ex-wives about putting their twin daughters to "The Archer School for Girls because there were too many Jews at the school and Jews raise their children to be 'whiny brats'." He once bragged that Breitbart was the official "platform for the alt-right" that, again, was responsible for the mayhem in Charlottesville.
     Bannon now lives out his days as an incidental useful idiot for the "vast left wing conspiracy" with which his old colleague Seb "Darth" Gorka is still obsessed.
     We had and are still having a lot of fun with peckerheads like Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer, Scaramucci (who only pretends to be what Sater actually is) and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. They're not the ones to worry about. With one exception (Mr. Stabby Face), all these people have worked for the Trump administration in several key capacities and they are the ones to worry about. You put these people together and look at their individual histories, it unerringly points to an administration that has literally openly embraced the alt-right and all the racists, anti-Semites, white nationalists and neo Nazis that come with them. Not only that but such a cast that looks like a lineup in a David Lynch movie proves that Trump loves to surround himself with some of the worst monsters walking the face of the earth.
     And when we lower the bar and shift Overton's Window that much more to the right, that's what makes plausible Senate candidacies by Curt Schilling, Kid Rock and 85 year-old racist Joe Arpaio.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

"They'll be safe. Good luck."

     Famous last words from the Slanderer in Chief as he scuttled off to Cape David for yet another mini vacation. The lead photo was taken this weekend in Houston and is going viral. This is a nursing home after the record flooding in the Lone Star state as Hurricane Harvey continues to rage across it. There are several reasons why Katrina is trending on Twitter and this, I suspect, is one of them. Remember hearing that horror story when Katrina hit Louisiana almost exactly 12 years ago, the one in which the staff had completely abandoned nursing home residents (although the owners were acquitted of any wrongdoing a decade ago)? Apparently, we have learned nothing and have certainly not gotten better in the compassion department.
     Where was the staff here? Why weren't the residents evacuated before the water got, literally, hip-deep? It's not as if experts didn't know that Houston and other parts of Texas would see record flooding unseen in 500 years. Well, except for this clown...
     ...which was written right after he wrote this:
     Remember when Houston served as, well, a sanctuary city after Katrina struck? It's time to return the favor.
     Remember when the Mexican military offered assistance, as had many other nations after Katrina and we shoved their offers back up their ass? If Mexico is magnanimous enough to offer aid again, we should take it. But you know Trump...
     By now, I'm sure you've already made note of all the aid agencies that are accepting donations (I wouldn't, however, recommend giving a penny to the Red Cross after their grand theft of a half a billion dollars in donations after the Haiti earthquake), so I won't bother listing them unless asked to. But, despite the half-assed efforts of a few right wing politicians to secede Texas from the Union, they're still our American brothers and sisters and they desperately need our help.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Why I Am No Longer a Democrat

(Tip o' the tinfoil hat to constant reader CC)
     The "Democratic" National Committee and the "Democratic" Party are now officially two conjoined rotting corpses. They are literally dead to me. As proof of this, when presented with a new voter registration form yesterday, I knew I didn't have to register again. Mine and Mrs. JP's voter registration status remain in effect in perpetuity until we move or other circumstances warrant a change. However, I filled it out and submitted it yesterday changing my party affiliation from Democrat to Independent (joining 53% of unenrolled Massachusetts voters.).
     And the reason I did this, which was long in the making and not one made lightly, coincided with the breaking but buried news that Judge William Zloch threw out the DNC fraud lawsuit, which effectively put the kibosh on the "Democratic" Party as a legitimate one. You can be forgiven if you'd never heard this late-breaking item from yesterday. With Hurricane Harvey beating the shit out of Texas, Trump pardoning fellow racist and felon Joe Arpaio and the Mayweather/McGregor fight, something like this would slip through the cracks.
     Yet the political and historical implications of this decision to effectively kill the "Democratic" Party, one fittingly made by a Republican appointee of Ronald Reagan, should not be underestimated. Because Zloch's decision (which can be read in full here [pdf]) to dismiss this case, thereby disallowing it to proceed to federal court, essentially shoves a glavius down the gullet of anyone who tries to pretend that the United States has a two party system of government.
     Yes, the world's oldest political party tried to reach its 200th birthday but didn't quite make it.
     To be fair to Hillary Clinton, the entire fault for this cannot be placed like a flaming bag of dog shit on her doorstep in Chappaqua. However, the lion's share of the blame must rest on her shoulders. After all, it was under her guidance that the DNC and its massively corrupt and corruptible superdelegate system of stooges put identity politics above party integrity, the sole identity being earnestly touted, of course, Hillary Clinton's and no one else's.
     There were six counts listed against the DNC, The DNC Services Corp and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. There were as follows:
     Count 1, fraud by the DNC Donor Class and the Sanders Donor Class.
     Count 2, negligent misrepresentation by the DNC Donor Class and the Sanders Donor Class.    
     Count 3, violation of Section 28-3904 of the District of Columbia code by the DNC Donor Class and the Sanders Donor Class.
     Count 4, unjust enrichment by the DNC Donor Class.
     Count 5, breach of fiduciary duty by the Democratic Party Class and
     Count 6, negligence by the DNC Donor Class.
     The crux of the lawsuit filed in the Southern Florida District Court was that the "donor class" and "Sanders donor class" two of three identified, that pool of people stupid enough to actually give money to the crooks of the DNC, were hoodwinked out of their money when the DNC told them one thing ("Oh, sure, we'll be impartial, whatever that means") and did another ("LOL! You actually fell for that? Hell, yes, we supported Queen Hillary and you should've known that.").
     And that last sentence was actually the defense used by Bruce Spiva, the DNC's attorney. "You should've known we were in the tank for Hillary the whole time, we didn't make any serious claims to the contrary and, well, caveat emptor, motherfuckers."
     In fact, this is what Spiva did, in fact, say in court (pdf) July last year:
“But here, where you have a party that’s saying, We’re gonna, you know, choose our standard bearer, and we’re gonna follow these general rules of the road, which we are voluntarily deciding, we could have — and we could have voluntarily decided that, Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way. That’s not the way it was done. But they could have. And that would have also been their right.... [T]here is no right to — just by virtue of making a donation, to enforce the parties’ internal rules. And there’s no right to not have your candidate disadvantaged or have another candidate advantaged. There’s no contractual obligation here.”
     Amazingly, despite that brazen of an admission of rampant political corruption and misrepresentation on the part of the "Democrats", it worked and Spiva and the rest of the defense team got their motion to dismiss. Because Spiva's sarcastically hypothetical situation, candidates being chosen over cigars in smoky back rooms, is precisely how Hillary Clinton got the nomination. By hook and lots and lots of crooks.
     It's hard if not impossible to understand why Zloch said and believed the things he did but one fact is clear: While the DNC and its officers and chosen candidate were engaging in a long-term, systemic campaign of corruption, obfuscation and gross misrepresentation of its avowed goals and policies (Which were rewritten after the disastrous 1968 Democratic convention), the defendants still did not violate federal law, thereby making the case ineligible to be heard and reviewed in federal court.
     Whether or not that's true, that means the defense and their aggrieved clients have been effectively cheated out of several salient issues needing to be heard and spoken about more often without closet right wingers shouting them down and crying, "Fake news!"
     Among these issues are the extremely suspicious death of Seth Rich, who was almost certainly Julian Assange's source of information.
     The obvious Russian hack of the DNC's servers as well as Clinton's unsecured servers and John Podesta's email account. This issue also keenly pertains to the identities and contact information of countless Democratic donors.
     The disturbing relationship between Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her former IT guy, Imran Awan, the Pakistani who, along with his family and friends, would've sold state secrets (if he hadn't already) to anyone if the money was right.
     It could have all come out and had been thoroughly unpacked and minutely, forensically examined for the first time, possibly leading to further lawsuits. Now, thanks to Judge Zloch, it will not.
     That's why it's highly entertaining to see "Democratic" Party officials, machine "Democrats", who are publicly lauding the judge's decision. It's entertaining in a Schadenfreude way because allowing the lawsuit to continue is the one thing that would've offered the most hope that the DNC would eventually regain its true north. That the party apparatchiks who brought about this fraud and, like Tom Perez, the current DNC chair, to ensure such fraud and deception continues clear into next year's midterms and beyond would've been expelled like so many little wouldbe Boss Tweeds.
     And I mention Boss Tweed for good reason. The biggest power broker in 19th century Tammany Hall had his downfall in 1871. However, that did not stop corruption from flourishing in Manhattan. Tammany Hall remained its epicenter. And, while the latter-day "Democratic" Party is just a high tech version of Tammany Hall (Oh, let's just call it what it is: Tammany Hall 2.0), putting the kibosh on all its operatives, from Hillary Clinton on down, would've gone a long way toward putting oil on the waters among disenfranchised Democratic voters and donors.
     But these "Democratic" scumbags are high-fiving each other because they know Zloch granting the DNC's shysters their motion to dismiss means business will go on as usual. It may not even result in an immediate drastic change in the DNC's balance sheets since social media tells me there are still plenty of fucking idiots out there who still insist there's a world of difference between the DNC and the RNC, between the Republican Party and the "Democratic" Party...
     ...despite the fact they both show contempt for their own voter base, will illegally kneecap one candidate in favor of a good ole boy (or girl), that they will skew primaries and entire elections and that they all work for the same Wall Street banks and corporations.
     But if history teaches anything, evil will eventually be caught by the consequences of its actions, that it is all-consuming. We do not have a two party system of representative government. We don't even have one. They're both, as Michael Collins puts it, "the Money Party", with just one wing of that party being more extreme than the other. And both wings belong not to an eagle but a tattered vulture, sick of its own sin but addicted to it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Night the Lights Died in Phoenix

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
To anyone in Phoenix, Arizona on Thursday, March 13, 1997, it was a night they'd never forget. Because 20 years ago on that early spring evening, tens of thousands of Arizonans witnessed the closest that a superior extraterrestrial civilization came to introducing itself to our poor species. It was even seen by the Governor at the time (who later made the tremendous error of dressing up his chief of staff in an alien costume in an attempt to ridicule what he and countless tens of thousands had witnessed and documented).
     To the more open-minded of us, perhaps many in Arizona that night hoped and prayed the aliens would finally descend and show themselves, to perhaps guide us to a better way of governance or perhaps even to transcend the need for governance. Perhaps many of us had wished that they would touch down and, having had enough of our clownish and destructive stewardship of this unique planet, would finally set us straight.
     Alas, the giant boomerang-shaped ship which shape was defined by its unforgettable lights merely scanned Phoenix below then slowly drifted off, never to be seen again. And last night in that great southwestern city, the lights figuratively died again when Donald Trump came to town to hold yet another fucking sloppy, rambling hate rally.
     To be fair to the presumptive President, it has been a rough summer. The health care repeal failed. He's under a very serious DOJ probe. Many top aides have either quit or had been fired by him or others. The more sympathetic of us might even say the Commander in Thief needed to have his spirits lifted and ego inflated with a few hundred fellow right wing nut bags, that 25% who recently said nothing Trump could say or do would make their support for him waver.
     Obviously, among those things were siding with neonazis and confederates, something no real President has ever publicly done, trying to steal health care from 22,000,000 Americans, firing the very people who could have functioned as a check and balance, some voice of reason on this rolling Dumpster fire of an administration.
     He teased the crowd with a pardon of infamously racist Sheriff Joe who violated a court order and was recently convicted for it, bemoaned the fate of "poor Jeffery Lord" who was fired by CNN for giving the Nazi salute on Twitter. He praised so-called clean coal and in between jeremiads took long looks to stage left and right, soaking up the usual idiotic, unconditional adoration. But I'm putting the jackass before the cart. Let's look at how it played out in chronological order.

The 75 Minutes Hate
It had all started out as well-meaning and well-choreographed, with four people taking to the podium to build a beautiful sand castle of all inclusion, telling those in attendance and all following on social media to not give in to the demons of hate. Even hate peddler Franklin Graham, son of anti Semite Billy Graham, even Franklin fucking Graham of all people joined in the construction of this wonderful sand castle in the sky.
     And then the world's oldest toddler took the podium and kicked it back into loose sand in three minutes flat.
     Yet long before Trump shambled and ambled in his usually sloppy, disjointed way to his peroration, people had already begun to leave or to tune out. Security cruelly had confiscated the water bottles of those who'd waited for hours in 107 degree heat. Trump railed for about 25 minutes on the "fake news" media, pulling his own quotes out of his pocket. He took pot shots at both of Arizona's senators without mentioning them by name (and patting himself on the back for acting "very presidential.").
     He took pot shots at the Republican party in general, at those who criticized him for his statements on Charlottesville (bragging that he lived in a better penthouse than many who call themselves elitists) and claimed that he took shots at the KKK, the white supremacists and other right wing factions whose faux outrage over Robert E. Lee's statue getting taken down by court order resulted in the death of a woman Trump still hasn't acknowledged. Forgotten was his taking it all back at Trump Tower the very next day in a combative exchange with the media.
     Lastly, he finally mentioned the antifa faction by name in much more withering terms than he'd ever mentioned the Klan, white supremacists or the neo Nazis. Few showed up for Trump's rally. There were much fewer there before he finally ran out of hot air that he already added to the stifling Arizona night.
     And that was because they'd heard it all before. Only the topical subjects of Charlottesville and his hideously bad response to it differentiated it from the countless hate rallies he'd held across the country while on the campaign trail. They'd heard it all before and quickly grew bored with the boilerplate, the self congratulations, the constant egoistic masturbation. And even the idiots who'd waited hours in nearly 110 degree heat to hear Idiot Zero speak eventually came to the conclusion that far from being a rally to prop up Trump's popularity, it was merely another exercise in making himself look good by tearing down others.
     Then, just when it couldn't have looked any worse for Trump, he called his new Chief of Staff, Gen. John Kelly, to the stage. But Kelly wasn't there. No doubt, after the debacle at Trump Tower, he knew what to expect.
     Donald J. Trump is a tired old comedian who many had taken way too seriously, a washed up, worn out comic who's too stubborn to get new material or use new props for his threadbare schtick. And America is slowly coming to the conclusion they've been conned.
     Aliens, if you're listening: We need an abduction to take place immediately and you can do with him what you wish (including anal probes). And when you pluck this miscreant from the earth, you can keep what's left over and jettison it into the sun.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Swamped

     Boy, that was fast.
     As I predicted in Sunday's post, Steve Bannon wasted no time ripping Donald Trump a new one for his speech on Afghanistan and not altogether without good reasons. In fact, Breitbart.com posted five furious articles in rapid succession criticizing Trump on his new Wag-the-Dog Afghanistan policy (Or, as Mrs. JP says at least once a day, "What part of 'graveyard of empires' does he not understand?").
     Predictably, Bannon was allowed to slither out of the undrained swamp of Washington DC and into his old chair at Breitbart and, even more predictably, to fire several salvos at Trump. It only remains to be seen how long it'll take for Trump to denounce the once staunchly pro-Trump Breitbart as "fake news" and label Bannon as the stereotypical "disgruntled employee."
     We all know the impetus behind this about-face: Bannon will always have a mad on about being ousted from a position of immense power after what he no doubt considers a year of faithful service to Trump as his campaign CEO then his Chief Strategist. But, really, at this point who cares? It's always vicariously entertaining seeing Republicans eating their own even if it comes at the expense of the Republic.
     Trump is essentially about to make the same exact mistakes Bush did when he'd unofficially declared war on Afghanistan and Obama during his own troop "surge." Trump said he wasn't going to talk about troop levels, which should strike a warning note for anyone with a child in the armed forces. In fact, Trump is so ignorant about Afghanistan that he thinks they have a Prime Minister (Ashraf Ghani is Afghanistan's President).
     In the interests of full disclosure, it ought to be said that Bannon united with Trump in pulling out US service members out of the 16 year-old war zone (although Bannon wanted to replace them with mercs, which worked out so well in Iraq). And it's odd that the same generals whom Trump had dismissed as ignorant during briefings with them while he was still President-elect were the same ones who had talked him into continuing this quagmire.
     Trump's speech in Virginia last night was notable for its lack of details and tone deafness in the face of a United States that's not only tired of war with Afghanistan but is hardly aware we still have a significant presence there. Prior to Obama, we steadily had 4500 troops there then Obama raised that to 8400 during his surge. Last June, Trump had already ordered the Pentagon to make plans to send another 4000 to Afghanistan (an order belayed by Defense Secretary Mattis until Trump would articulate an actual mission, which he hadn't done as of last night), raising the total deployment to 12,400.
     It's hard to see how we're going to take back a country in which every invading and occupying force had failed from Alexander the Great to the Soviet Union, especially when under Bush then Obama the Taliban began taking back key cities and provinces.
     Also not mentioned by Trump were the real reasons for our continued squattage in Afghanistan: Hundreds of billions of barrels of untapped oil, roughly a trillion dollars worth of undeveloped minerals and the poppy fields that are so necessary to the CIA to fund their endless incursions. Trump's right about one thing: It isn't about nation-building. Never was, isn't now, never will be. Every invading force leaves behind a kingdom of rubble in a nation that infamously refuses to be conquered.
     And good luck trying to get India and especially Pakistan on board. Trump tried putting the arm on them last night just as he had earlier this year during the G20 when he accused our NATO allies of not kicking in their fair share (several world leaders were openly snickering at him during his speech in Brussels).
     So as long as Bannon wants to play the part of useful idiot, I say we let him and enjoy the fireworks.

     By coincidence, this is the picture taken yesterday by the 82nd Airborne out of Ft Bragg NC. They scheduled a jump exercise during the moment of the eclipse so they could take this shot. After Trump's speech later that night vowing unprecedented victory in Afghanistan, Americans can be forgiven if that photo brought to mind this much more famous one:

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Future's So Not Breitbart

(Image courtesy of The Onion)
     Perhaps it's a bit premature to piss on Breitbart.com's grave but we can certainly be forgiven for being tempted to make its funeral arrangements.
     Let's take stock: Last February, its star reporter Milo was forced out just after he diddled into oblivion a $250,000 publishing deal with Simon & Schuster's right wing imprint, Threshold. Before that, the "news" organization took a hit after it had failed to defend one of its female reporters after she was assaulted by top Trump aide Cory Lewandowski. Then Steven Bannon, to no one's surprise, got sucked into Trump's seductive orbit and rode his over-sized tie all the way to the White House.
     Since then, the plummet in Breitbart's fortunes seem to coincide with that of Trump (He of the 35% approval rating) and that's no coincidence. Along with son in law Jared Kushner's Observer, Breitbart's alt-right (read: White nationalist) outlook was always slanted in favor of Trump.The two are virtually inseparable and while Trump has done far more to damage the site's brand name than Breitbart has done to Trump's still-lucrative brand, their fates still seem to be inextricably entwined in a slow motion death spiral one can but helplessly watch.
     Since Bannon waddled to the White House, they'd lost 90%, or 2300 of their sponsors (Don't worry, they still have Jazzy Jeff). The only reason they haven't dried up and blown away is because they still have the deep pockets of right wing hedge fund manager Robert Mercer.
     And then, the day before he himself was axed in this super-sized edition of The Apprentice, Bannon took a page from the Mooch and called up The American Prospect, to bloviate on all matters sundry. In the "accidental" on-the-record interview, an upbeat Bannon bragged about who he was going to fire at Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon. He was essentially a coked-up version of Karl Rove, sans filter.
     He called for trade sanction against China, perhaps forgetting, or not caring, that the Trump administration Organization is doing brisk business with the world's last Communist superpower, especially in the area of Trump-branded massage parlors and prostitution services. Bannon also struck an ominous note when he said his "hands were back on (his) weapons" and more than hinted he was, as he always had been, gunning after the GOP establishment.
     This can't be bad news for progressives and Republicans are shitting their pants that Bannon's planning on dismantling the party from the swamp on up. How much credibility Bannon still has after his site's plummeting fortunes and his own fall from grace remains to be seen but for now, he's looked upon by the left as a useful idiot.
     But a lot of people still listen to him, primarily the white nationalists he's enabled and glorified in the racist pages of Breitbart. And establishment Republicans like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, men who don't scare easily, are soiling their pants over what Bannon can still do to the Trump administration to which, as with Breitbart, they'd ill-advisedly had hitched their wagon.
     While it's too early to predict the demise of Breitbart, the now-defunct neo Nazi site Daily Stormer that had been hacked by Anonymous and killed off for good by its host GoDaddy after the disaster in Charlottesville can be seen as a bellwether. America has had it up to the stratosphere with the noxious racism and bigotry represented by Breitbart. Their best days are behind them. Now it only remains if Breitbart will hire Bannon back to dismantle the hideous machine they'd painstakingly built up, the smoking, clanging machine of the Trump administration.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Banned in Boston

     I'm not going to lie to you. Boston is one of the most racist cities in the northeast. African American ball players have it written into their contracts that they not be traded to the Red Sox (the last team to integrate, in 1959, one year after the Boston Bruins). Both the North Ends (Italian) and Southie (Irish) are infamously racist and I defy you to take a stroll through downtown Roslindale and report back to me if you find even one African American. If you don't believe me, check out the Rants and Raves section on Boston Craigslist.
     It was in the early 70's, well within my lifetime, when the Boston busing riots roiled our capital city. When my Dad was stationed in San Vito, Italy in 1970-2, Stars and Stripes ran stories about those riots that had been sparked by Judge Garrity's decision to integrate school busing. It wasn't exactly our finest hour. "Banned in Boston" became almost a punchline because the city's intolerance to so many things gave it a national reputation for being intolerant bigots.
     However, while doing research two years ago for my latest novel, Gods of Our Fathers, I saw a different side to Boston, the side that endures and outlives fashionable and stubborn biases and prejudices. It's the side that opposed the British during the Revolutionary War, the side that, in Boston, always seems to side with liberty.
     Because in the course of my research into the history of the Boston Police Department, I couldn't help but learn about Anthony Burns.
     And that's because Burns, a 19 year-old escaped slave from Virginia, was arrested on Court Street on May 24th, 1854. This was a day or two before the Boston City Council unified the day and night watches of the Boston constabulary, creating, for the first time, a unified, professional police force in the city's history. As these two events came within 24-48 hours of each other, one cannot learn of one without learning of the other.
     To the new Mayor, the new police and to President Franklin Pierce, the vitriolic reaction to Burns's incarceration and upcoming trial was shocking and surprising. Barnburner abolitionists (radicals such as John Brown) fought with the Nativist No Nothings and even the conciliatory "hunkers" (moderate abolitionists) openly warred with each other, resulting in acts of arson and other mayhem. 24 years before Posse Comitatus, Pierce sent 2000 federal troops into the streets of Boston to keep the peace. For the most part, it didn't work.
     Part of the reason was because the New England Transcendentalists got in on the act, publishing broadsides by Thoreau and others from the streets of Concord. Local religious leaders, such as Thomas Wentworth Higginson, reinforced the church's reputation of being a hotbed of abolitionist activity by delivering fiery antislavery sermons from his pulpit.
     The kangaroo court delivered its inevitable verdict: Anthony Burns was found guilty of violating the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and remanded back into the custody of his slave owner. The federal government, desperate to make an example of Burns, ordered all 2000 troops and even mercenaries known as "black legs" as well as all 253 members of Boston's police department to escort Burns to the ship that would ferry him to the other ship that would take him back to Virginia. (In today's dollars, this had cost the city, state and federal government the equivalent of just over one million dollars.)
     Forming a gauntlet down State Street, where the old Custom House still sits to this day, were thousands more Bostonians of every color, race and religion, condemning the violation of Boston's sovereignty and to Burns' freedom. We'll never know how many civilians were killed but we do know that one US Marshall was killed when a group of protesters used a wooden cross from the Tremont Street AME church and used it to batter the door of the judicial building on Court Sq (around the corner from where Burns was arrested), where Burns was incarceratedm after one of those fiery sermons by its African American pastor. The daughter of the recently resigned Mayor of Boston, Mary Elizabeth Seaver, wrote to her father on June 4, 1854, “In the center of a hollow square formed of volunteers… walked the slave, a good looking fellow. Each of these men had a drawn sword or knife. Several companies of soldiers marched before and behind, and the Artillery had a six pound cannon all loaded…”
     It was the Boston PD's baptism literally by fire. While it hasn't officially been christened as such, it could be said the capture and trial of Anthony Burns was one of the three seminal events that hastened the Civil War, the other two being the Dred Scott decision three years later and, two years after that, John Brown's failed but ultimately catalytic capture of Harper's Ferry.
     So, in our bifurcated city, we stand for universal freedom while standing against diversity. In 1854, we had found ourselves on the side of the angels, soiled as they may have been with blood, smoke and soot. And again, we found ourselves on the same side.
    Because, hoping for another "successful" march in our fair city, the KKK came to town and was essentially banned in Boston. As they were in 1854, the Boston Police found themselves pressed into service for the wrong side of history. But eyewitness accounts such as this one tell the tale:
Well that was a big bore, thank god. Got to the rally on the Common around noon. There was a 2-300 feet security perimeter around the Parkman bandstand, empty but for lawn and police. A few dozen Nazis were milling aimlessly around the bandstand. Couldn't hear a thing and there was no sign of a sound system or anyone making speeches. They were surrounded by maybe 100,000 protesters on all sides, a sea of people as far as I could see. The crowd was chanting "Can't hear you. Can't hear you." and "Black Lives Matter."
About 1:00, the Nazis were goose stepped by riot police to the park headquarters on Boylston Street, milled around some more and piled into four Black Marias. I was standing by the fence along the burying ground taking pictures, shooting through the headstones.
I went around to the driveway gate on Boylston Street and the paddy wagons were obviously pinned in by the crowds, chanting "Let them walk! Let them walk!" If they had they would have been torn apart. In the end, all they got thrown at them was flowers and "No Nazis!"
Good work Boston!
     Plainly lacking the numbers they'd enjoyed in Charlottesville a week ago, the KKK, neo Nazis and "alt-right" white nationalists suffered a crushing and humiliating defeat in the same city that nearly freed Anthony Burns and resisted the British after sparking the Revolutionary War. It was a disappointing reprise of the violent fascist rally that put nearly three dozen people in the hospital and one in her grave.
     And today, the angels showed up for work and made sure the good guys won. That would be the angels of inclusion, those immortal agents of grace that had stiffened the spine of every abolitionist in Boston 163 years ago this summer. The good guys won today and sent the assholes packing for the next city in their sad, psychological traveling side show. Those angels may have technically lost in 1854 but their voices and actions were heard today's resounding victory for love and all-inclusion.

Friday, August 18, 2017

From Der Fewer





Wednesday, August 16, 2017

No Wiggle Room

     The minute we begin to debate the legitimacy of Trump's bottomlessly despicable comments yesterday is the minute we've already lost the debate. Whatever your political stripe or ideology, one fact is abundantly, inescapably clear: Donald Trump is the first "president" ever to support Nazis and white supremacists and the very fact that opposition and criticism of that infuriates and baffles him just confirms what is already self-evident. That's all I have to say about that.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Shoeless Jim Crow

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time." -"President" Donald Trump, 8/12/17

In the age of terrorism, every US President must anticipate, and meet, practically as a rite of passage a crucible to test their leadership skills: An act of domestic terrorism. Bill Clinton had his very early in his presidency with the first World Trade Center bombing. George W. Bush had his on 9/11/01. Barack Obama was, strangely, almost immune to major domestic acts of terror except if you include the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and the San Bernardino shooting that killed 14 (The consensus among the reality-based community is that the Pulse Nightclub shooting, while it may've been carried out by a Muslim male, was more about self-loathing homophobia than Islamic terrorism).
     Yesterday, Donald Trump had his own domestic terror test that left a lovely 32 year-old woman dead. The overall grade, even from his fellow Republicans? F-.
     From his own golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump eventually pulled off his golf duds, shrugged into his Rodney Dangerfield costume and awkwardly read from a prepared statement that initially appeared to condemn the acts of white nationalist terrorism. Then Trump, lacking the concentration of even a goldfish, looked up and obviously went off script as he's wont to do and said directly into the cameras, "...on many sides." Then he immediately doubled down by repeating, "On many sides."
     To anyone whose brain can generate enough electricity to move a single finger over a keyboard, Trump stopped being the President in the minds of even his own party. As Mike Lupica pointed out last April, Trump is quick to tweet about terrorism and its preemptive usual suspects (Read: Muslims) in the abstract but not in the particular when it actually happens. That especially applies to acts of domestic terror carried out by white Christian males, such as the second San Bernardino shooting.
     Trump's wide brush response was immediately regarded as unsatisfactory at best, craven at worst, drawing the ire from even Republican members of Congress. It was a reprise of that telling moment when Trump had his feet put to the fire on live national TV and asked if he would repudiate the endorsement of the KKK. He pretended as if he didn't know about them or had even heard of them.
     In fact, this is what the man who's infamously hypersensitive and hypervigilant about anyone who's ever mentioned his name had said that fateful night in late February last year: "I don't know anything about David Dukes. I don't know what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacist. I don't know. I don't know, did he endorse me, or what's going on?"
      Purely in the interests of jogging 45's memory, a bizarrely rubbery-faced David Dukes essentially had this to say to Trump on Twitter and NBC News: "Don't forget who put you in the White House, asshole. We did this for you because you wanted us to." That included one of his sympathizers, James Alex Fields Jr, who did his part by plowing his car at 40 mph into a group of peaceful counter protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

Those Empty Shoes
     When one looks at the photograph above, one of several taken by eyewitnesses to Fields' act of terror, one is struck by the empty shoes that had until a moment before been occupied by human feet. It's also symbolic of the empty shoes vacated by President Barack Obama on January 20th that Trump hasn't even begun to fill.
     When Benghazi occurred on September 11, 2012, Republicans, starting with Mitt Romney, were quick to take to podiums and blast the President for the language he used in condemning the terror attack at our embassy in Libya. Of course, the President's response was swift, heartfelt and well-articulated but the obstructionists on the other side of the aisle heard one thing while mainstream America heard what was actually said.
     While Republicans may be raising whispers and tweets criticizing Trump, the backlash isn't nearly as fierce as endured (with grace) by President Obama after Benghazi. In fact, Republicans, starting with Romney in his little moment in the sun next to a strip mall pet store named "Blazin' Reptiles", essentially accused Obama of siding with the Muslim terrorists who killed four of our people in Benghazi. Romney was immediately shot down not only by liberals and progressives but by his own party. But the mainstream GOP response persisted at 300 decibels: President Obama was siding with the terrorists by not calling them out. Which was false, of course.
     But this is essentially what Trump actually is guilty of- Trump blamed "many sides" for the violence (while not once mentioning the fatality that already happened) in an amazingly brazen, boneheaded and dangerous manner on everyone who was at Charlottesville this weekend. Trump might as well have said, "You all have Heather Heyer's blood on your hands."
     That's dangerous: Right wingers automatically looking for phantom progressive suspects with the industry of Chris Kobach will take Trump's words at face value and seek out revenge among those they think are the most guilty- The counter protesters, the antifa crowd. Their most vocal critics.
     And considering David Dukes's risible condemnation of Trump when he didn't even single out the white nationalists, the KKK and the neoNazis in attendance, Trump might as well have done the right thing whether or not his heart was in it, to at least give the momentary appearance of leadership in condemning the right wingers in Charlottesville. But he didn't because he couldn't being himself to condemn his own base any more than he can condemn the guy who really put him in the White House: Vladimir Putin.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

"Many sides."

     By now, you must know that starting last night, neo Nazi white nationalist Richard Spenser led a protest in Charlottesville, Virginia that was hilariously dubbed "Unite the Right." That is, it was hilarious until some asshole plowed his car into a crowd of counter protesters, killing one and injuring at least 19.
     This resulted in the usual failure of leadership. Gov. Terry McAuliffe told them, "Shame on you, Go home." (Maybe he'll ground the white nationalists for the rest of the weekend.) "President" Donald Trump blamed "many sides" for the violence, trying as always not to alienate his white supremacist, neo Nazi base.
     And, proving they're just as completely worthless as our elected officials, the MSM still refuse to call this an act of terrorism. You see, when an ISIS terrorist plows a vehicle into a crowd of innocent bystanders, it's an act of terror. When a white American plows a vehicle into a crowd of innocent bystanders, it's "hit and run." Because, as we all know, the nation that invaded and occupied places like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan isn't capable of acts of terror. That would be beneath us.
     But Trump's despicable comments, made after that crowd was plowed into, after that person died, after such time when Trump must've known about the murder, was just that- A despicable act of cowardice, a refusal to rile the base of support that helped get him into the White House, a disgusting attempt to play Other Siderism.
     And the Germanic strongman running the world's newest emerging fascist state is playing the same game he was playing on the campaign trail almost exactly two years ago. Remember when two bone headed brothers in Boston beat up and urinated on a Hispanic homeless man? Remember Trump's despicable response?
     "It would be a shame.,, I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate."
     It was that same "passion" that today put 19 people in the hospital and one in their grave. Donald Trump, as with so many right wingers before him, is playing the tried-and-true "other siderism" game. Diffuse the guilt by claiming, falsely, that all sides are to blame for the right wing violence we've seen in Charlottesville since last night.
     No, you umber douchebag: It was not all sides that resulted in 20 casualties in that ISIS-style terrorist attack. That dead person's blood is on your hands as surely as it's on the hands of Richard Spenser and every other neo Nazi, white nationalist empowered by you and your fake presidency.
     I'm 58, going on 59. I'm old enough to remember the riots in Selma when white cops attacked peaceful black protesters with fire hoses and attack dogs. Then over a half century later, we've seen this nation come full circle, when KKK members, neo Nazis and white nationalists now openly flaunt their hatred in the streets and with police protection, at that. Ferguson and Baltimore showed us black people cannot peacefully assemble as per their First Amendment rights.
     Charlottesville taught this weekend white nationalists can and with the blessings of law enforcement and that their president will not condemn their actions even when human lives are taken. The collective guilt Trump tried to spread out among every faction of society is false. The collective guilt we should feel is in letting this racist freak pretend he's the president and costing us all our allies and perhaps even plunging us into a nuclear war.
     Sure, many sides are to blame: The white nationalists, the white supremacists, the KKK, the neo Nazis... Those of us who don't pattern our lives on racist hatred? We're not the ones who put that poor innocent victim in their grave.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

#MAGA

     Who knew that would some day stand for "Make America Glow Again"?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Good Times in Gotham City, 8/3/17


KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

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