Saturday, May 26, 2018

The New Old Nationalism

(By American Zen’s Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
In Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York, modern day America was introduced to a new villain who was actually an old villain. Through Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis' epic if highly fictional portrayal, latter-day American audiences became acquainted with Bill "the Butcher" Poole (renamed Cutter for the movie). Bill Poole was a large figure in Lower Manhattan in the 19th century. He was a crime boss, Bowery Boy gang leader and Nativist political activist who headed the Know Nothing Party.
     Poole made no bones about the fact that he was bitterly opposed to the massive influx of Irish Catholics flooding into the Battery (used for immigrant entry before Ellis Island). The Scorsese movie would have you believe, among other things, that he was deeply in bed with Boss Tweed's Tammany Hall (the closely-followed template for today's "Democratic" Party). But nothing could be further from the truth.
     The former Bowery Boy commonly waged fist fights and gang wars with Tammanyites who, while they didn't have any special love for the unwashed rabble who sought refuge from the Potato Famine, nonetheless cynically used them, handing out bread and soup at the docks and perhaps an occasional job to the disembarking Irish. All Tammany required were their votes and their loyalty. And there was a certain cynical genius in doing so- Boss Tweed's Tammany Hall were essentially the only people in New York who were willing to give the Irish a voice and some middling power in their self-determination. Poole hated Tammany for that and he hardly acted as an enforcer for Tammany Hall during elections as the movie had portrayed.
     Poole represented the most virulent strain of short-sighted Nativism the 19th century could offer. His brief reign of anti immigrant terror would come almost exactly between the 1830 Indian Removal Act of Andrew Jackson and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that kept Chinese men from being reunited with their wives on American soil.
     Bill the Butcher was shot in a barroom brawl in late February 1855 (In spite of being shot multiple times, once in the heart, it still took him two weeks to die). At his funeral on Broadway, 5000 mourners showed up, plays on the aptly-named Great White Way were hastily rewritten so actors portraying Poole would take the stage at the end and say, "I died a true American!" (A line repeated by Day-Lewis after being mortally wounded by the fictional Amsterdam).
     Poole didn't actually say that. In fact, after being shot in the heart, he scrambled to his feet and his last recorded words were, "I'm going to cut your living heart out of your chest!" But the fact that Poole became a martyr to his rancid and ultimately losing cause to the point where Broadway plays were rewritten to include him and words he never, in fact, uttered, showed how popular the anti-immigrant movement was.

Vanilla ICE
Let us now move forward 163 years after Poole's death. Another New Yorker, like Scorsese a native of Queens, is against all odds still squatting in the Oval Office and the Nativist movement, now operating under different labels, is stronger and more institutionalized than Poole ever dared imagine. Nowadays, the Irish Catholics are not being ostracized and marginalized for the simple reason the Irish have become so ingrained in American society. Because now, we've found an abstract bad guy (America is never happy unless it has someone to demonize) that we hate more than the Irish Catholics, the Chinese or the Native Americans- Latinos.
     Hardly a week goes by when we don't hear some horror story or another about one of the Gangs of Washington or another ripping families apart, carrying out raids. And at its root is the toxic strain of Nationalism that's rapidly becoming mainstream, if it already isn't, from one Donald John Trump, the grandson of a German criminal and whose mother came from Scotland. It has nothing to do with border security, drug or human trafficking or anything that cynically noble- The ICE raids and crimes committed by the Border Patrol at the nation's southern border (There's a reason why we don't have nearly a viciously-protected northern border protecting us from nice white Canadians) are the actualization of Trump's irrational hatred of dark-skinned people, particularly Hispanics.
     We all know how Trump feels about African Americans. He likes them as window dressing, human scenery during photo ops and as tokens. When he rails about NFL players taking a knee during the anthem, he's really saying he has a problem with black players protesting unwarranted police violence against their people. And he made his thoughts on how much more he prefers white people to darker ones after last year's race riot in Charlottesville that left a white woman dead. The Muslim bans in his earliest days in office (and struck down by four federal judges), showcased his Islamophobia.
     And now we're hearing that even immigrants lawfully presenting themselves to Border Patrol agents openly seeking asylum are having their children ripped from their arms and scattered to the four winds. It's what Chief of Staff John Kelly, himself a noted racist and whose ancestors would've been reviled by Bill Poole, recently called, a "tough deterrence" to illegal immigration. Such children "will be put in foster care or whatever" he carelessly said on the 11th.
     The problem is, neither ICE nor the Border Patrol or any other monolithic federal agency tasked with immigration matters has a single policy in place for reuniting these frightened children, some as young as 18 months old, with their parents, especially if the latter had been deported. We also don't know who these so-called foster parents are. The government even had to recently admit that they lost 1500 such children since Trump took office before adding they weren't "legally responsible" for keeping track of them.
     And despite what Kelly said in his disturbingly cold-blooded manner, it is intolerably cruel to separate for long periods of time, if not permanently, parents from their young children. It's even crueler, not to mention abjectly inhumane and even inhuman, to agree to process claims at the border for immigrants but on condition they give up their flesh and blood in exchange for an asylum application. And losing track of 1500 immigrant children necessarily invites a connection between human sex traffickers and a federal government that pretends to be so heavily invested in combating it.

Gangs of Washington DC
The girl shown in the lead image was barely out of her teens. Her name was Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez and she was from Guatemala. After getting a college education in forensic accounting in her native country, she came with a group of other migrants and freely presented herself to Border Patrol authorities in Laredo, Texas. Then, for reasons that have yet to be made clear, a 15 year veteran shot her dead.
     The Border Patrol is now on its fifth version of what happened, each one less menacing than the last, and no doubt, since law enforcement is criminally mendacious, other versions will no doubt be forthcoming. They even cancelled a news conference on the matter. Luckily in the interests of justice, a woman witnessed and filmed the entire incident on Facebook live and now she's being harassed and stalked by Border Patrol officials who stop in front of her house several times a day. 
     This ought to be a turning point in the national dialogue about the safety of our southern border. Namely, all the violence seems to be committed by a street gang known as the US Border Patrol, which has actually partnered in the past if not the present with certain racist Minutemen groups that even George W. Bush called "vigilantes." Among the suspects in the murders of immigrants- Trump's very fine people, or neoNazis.
     And there's a reason why I say all the most serious criminal activity seems to be carried out by the very people tasked with securing our southern border. The day he announced his candidacy, Donald Trump said they were bringing drugs over but two years later almost to the day, a Border Patrol agent was caught doing the very same thing. Donald Trump called Mexicans "rapists" but it apparently all the raping is being done by ICE officials. And then there's the mantra of illegals trying to cross the border without proper documentation but documentation seems to be the last thing ICE in interested in. In fact, just last year, ICE requested they be allowed to destroy the most incriminating documents alleging their own rampant, unchecked criminal activity and Donald Trump recently allowed them to do so.
     Claudia Gonzalez didn't even live enough to get raped or have a child to get kidnapped from her. Our government is committing capital crimes forbidden to the rest of us with impunity and are now allowed to destroy the documentation of the existence of their countless thousands of crimes are doing it on the public dole and in our good names. Claudia was shot and killed by a racist cop who was alarmed that she approached him when all she was wanted was an honest job in forensic accounting.
     It is no longer alarmist to compare these largely hidden crimes of impunity in the name of racial superiority to the genocide artists of Hitler's Nazi Germany. The Master Race, too, thought they were superior to the Jews and did their best to exterminate as many as inhumanly possible. Neo Nazis are marching down the streets of America while being lauded by the first "president" to embrace their cause while African American football players are now forbidden to take a knee during the National Anthem (as during the Civil War, we like it when the "good ones" put their lives at hazard as long as they don't get too uppity)
     It doesn't take a genius to see where all this is headed because we human beings have been down this road all too many times before.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Gotham City Digest: The Gimp is Loose edition

     Donald Trump is the Gimp of the GOP, evangelicals and especially Putin's Russia, no doubt about it. And the news coming out of the beltway is, as usual, not very encouraging.

     Well, after all that superficial, play it fast and loose hoopla about the June 12 Singapore summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un, it looks as if it won't take place, after all. In a masterpiece of projection, Donnie Dumbo, aka the "Dotard", blamed Kim Jong Un for "tremendous anger and open hostility." Yes, the guy who called Un "Little Rocket Man" several times, including at the UN General Assembly, is calling out Kim Jong Un for acting like a flaccid dick. For good measure, he once again bragged about the size of his penis nuclear arsenal.

     Oh well. I guess we can still use the Treasury Department's hasty commemorative medallion as the world's most expensive pog.

     I guess one of the risks of draining the swamp is when all the water sinks underground, it creates sink holes like the one that appeared in Mar-a-Lago last summer during Trump's first Big Boy trip. Except this one is at the White House and it's getting bigger by the day.

     Donald Trump essentially has two focuses in his so-called administration- Fending off Robert Mueller and erasing everything the black guy before him did. That includes the watered down regulations and bills signed into law by Obama and even web pages lauding the Obama administration on FEMA's website. Back in the old days, when a tyrant replaced another one, this was what happened- Statues were torn down, temples destroyed, cartouches chiseled out, the last tyrant disavowed. Nowadays, deleting web pages belonging to the American people are deleted.

     Meanwhile, Trump's little snitch Devon Nunes, the chair of the (ha ha) House Intelligence Committee, has some 'splainin' to do. It seems his principle asset is in a winery in California that a few years ago hosted a sex party on a yacht (you know, the kind Trump loves to talk about with little boys). Only, this one involved cocaine and quite possibly under-aged sex workers. Apparently, the fat, greasy fucks who took part in this coke-fueled sex orgy were Alpha Omega's top investors... just like Devon Nunes. And while there's no evidence as yet that Nunes took part in it, it seems awfully suspicious to say the least that everywhere Trump and his cronies go, illicit sex and scumbags just seem to follow them like Pig Pen's dust cloud.

     Breaking: Man who met with Russian spies in infamous Trump Tower meeting and had lied on security clearance form several times has security clearance restored even after two meetings with Mueller. There is no hope whatsoever for this government. Doesn't that just heighten your sense of security knowing you could get fired from a minimum wage job at McDonald's for lying on your application once but if you're Jared Kushner and do it several times, you're still privy to virtually every national security secret the government has to offer?

     Of course he rolled back the water-logged Dodd-Frank, the piece of shit. The last people you want to piss off are your own money launderers.

     Remember when hipsters and Millennials thought Elon Musk was this hip, cool new type of businessman? Turns out he's just another job-killing, union-busting billionaire asshole straight out of the 19th century. May this cocksucker crash and burn like one of his Space X  rockets.

     Ever wonder what a billionaire Stepford wife would look and sound like? Look no further than Betsy fucking DeVos. DeVos was shoehorned in as Education Secretary for one reason and one reason only- To make charter schools even richer than they are, ignore concerns from students and Attorneys General while empowering banks, bigots and rapists. Her comedy routine on Capitol Hill this week proved that.

     Gee, who knew the presidency was nothing more than a spiritual deodorant? Yes, on the ironically-named Wallbuilders Live radio show, carnival barker and amateur historian David Barton actually said, “When we say Trump’s position and values, those were all in a former life. I’ve seen nothing in this administration to indicate a lack of good morals, quite frankly.” And quite frankly, Barton, you're a stupid asshole. And what's been lost on Barton, and everyone else, apparently, is that while Trump is busy dismissing news stories of his sexual peccadillos as "fake news", Barton essentially admitted Trump was a horn dog... up until right after he took the reins of power. Voila, spiritual deodorant. Of course, we now know the reason evangelical nut bags like Barton will never waver in their support of him- They see him as the useful idiot who will bring about the End of Days, after which (so their Master Plan claims), they'll get to convert the remaining 144,000 Jews to their religion. And finally...

     So, the old, white billionaires who make up Trump's base and for years strenuously ignored concussions, steroid use and domestic violence decide this is the hill they want to die on. The NFL is racist, plain and simple. Every player should go on strike after this, starting with the mandatory workouts in June. Of course, Trump agrees with this plainly illegal decision, which is a clear violation of the First Amendment.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Thoughts and Prayers

     According to Twitter, it's #EndangeredSpeciesDay. Cool! Let's get guns out of the schools and protect our kids because they're about as endangered a species as you can get.
     At Santa Fe High School, at least 10 people, presumably mostly students, who were alive this morning are now listed as dead. 10 people who should be looking forward to the prom or the junior prom, looking forward to graduation and a summer of fun or earning money, are now dead.
     They should've been captured in awkward driveway pre-prom photos taken by their parents and put on social media. They should be looking forward to going to college and worrying about student loan debt and making new friends on the new campus.
     Instead, the suits and dresses will be worn in their caskets when they're laid to rest just in time for the graduations and proms and parties for those who survived the Santa Fe High School shooting. So, you know what? Fuck your thoughts and prayers. If you must pray, they could go towards our vulnerable students and pray to get guns out of our schools. If prayers and disembodied thoughts actually made a lick of difference in this increasingly insane world, they should be used when and where ever you think they count, not to be withheld until the bodies start to pile up like cord wood.
     When Republicans offer thoughts and prayers they're basically telling you to shut the fuck up. Because thoughts and prayers are silent and we can't use the Santa Fe school shooting to talk about gun control and politicize the issue, now can we?
     And in case you think my comparison to the school shooting in Santa Fe and Planned Parenthood is a straw man argument, let me inform you that the Trump administration is seriously thinking of cutting off federal funding for clinics who advise pregnant women to get abortions, including Planned Parenthood. In other words, Republicans only care about kids when they're still in the womb. Then when they get killed 13-18 years later in a school shooting... Well, it's not time to discuss their needless deaths. That's politicizing them.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Gotham City Digest

     Where Comrade Ogilvie is always a war hero in the neverending war against Eurasia Eastasia.

     Remember a few days ago when Trump set everyone scratching their heads after he announced on Twitter that he was allowing sanctioned Chinese telecom company ZTE to purchase US-made parts (Yes, we actually do make something from time to time)? People thought it was just another hypocritical statement by Trump after he'd hammered Red China for stealing our jobs while simultaneously saying he was going to Make America Great Again. Well, it seems there was a wee bit of personal incentive involved in that decision, after all. Especially when Trump got confirmation that just 72 hours before Red China was loaning a half a billion dollars to a Trump-branded resort in Indonesia. And that's not even the worst of it.
     The sale of ZTE's phones have been banned by the DoD because they're deemed a security risk "to personnel, information and mission." They're illegal to carry on any US military installation in the world because they're essentially glorified GPS devices that can pinpoint the location of any service member carrying them. Which is, of course, the entire idea. Does Trump care about this potential security breach? Hey, fuggetabouddit!

     Remember that little meeting in Trump Tower in June 2016 that was attended by Donnie Dumbo Jr. Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and several Russian spies? Well, thanks to a document dump courtesy of the Senate Judiciary Committee, it seems Donnie Dumbo Jr's shyster, mob mouthpiece Alan Futerfas drafted a letter to music publicist Rob Goldstone to relay to the Russian publicist who arranged the whole thing. It seems that even Donnie Dumbo Sr. drafting that letter on board Air Force One for Donnie Dumbo Jr about the meeting being about Russian adoptions wasn't an original one because Futerfas already concocted that story. And if things had shaken out the way Futerfas instructed they be narrated, then such an email wouldn't have been necessary. There was also the bombshell that Donnie Dumbo Jr called a blocked number after the meeting with Kremlin-linked attorney Veselnitskaya. Who had a blocked number at Trump Tower? Donnie Dumbo, Sr. When asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee who gave us these documents had Donnie Dumbo Jr testify before them, he said "I don't know" a total of 103 times, including when asked if he'd called his father after the meeting. And then, there's this.
     Why did he admit to collusion? Because there was collusion with Russian nationals and intelligence operatives. And that, boys and girls, is why he's called Donnie Dumbo, Jr.

     By now, we know that we'd just repurposed a building in Jerusalem and turned it into the US Embassy in the "Israeli" capital while the IDF was slaughtering dozens of Palestinians from 150 feet away and wounded scores more. Well, just the day after that, when the White House, Israel and their right wing nut job dittoheads blamed the Palestinians and even Hamas for their own carnage, the IDF attacked a so-called Hamas stronghold, killing dozens more. If you can justify killing unarmed women and children by simply blaming Hamas, then theoretically anybody can be Hamas and everyone's fair game. It's long past the time to sanction the terrorist state of Israel and cut off their $3 billion in annual aid.

     ...and so it begins. Another plank in Trump's fascist platform. Remember when Trump said while on the campaign trail that the news media was the "enemy of the people of America"? Well, since Trump got "elected" by 62 million mouth breathers and the Russian government, it only follows that the Department of Homeland Security would begin compiling in chilling fashion a list of journalists and "media influencers" (whatever that is). Because making a list and checking it twice is how the Nazis knew where exactly to round up all the Jews, dissidents and noncompliant journalists. I wonder of one of those "media influencers will be Kanye?

     Remember that bloated, gap-toothed homunculus, Blake Farenthold? He's about to become a lobbyist and even after he'll start to rake in the moolah, he'll STILL refuse to pay back the $84,000 he stole from the US taxpayer to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. (Bonus question: remember that old law stating that congresscritters couldn't become lobbyists until two years had passed after their resignations? Whatever happened to that law?)

     Fucking moron. Like a guy who lied his whole life was going to suddenly become honest and trustworthy the minute he became a Republican politician? That's a special kind of stupid. I give... zero fucks. Good day, sir. I said, Good day!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Gotham City News Digest

     He hasn't even been sworn in as NRA President, yet, and Oliver North is already slandering the Parkland shooting survivors by calling them "criminals." Yes, the convicted thug who was at the center of Iran-Contra called Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg and the other teenage survivors of that nightmare "criminals." Projection, thy name is Ollie.

     C'mon, you didn't think that John Kelly, Trump's Chief of Staff, was actually the obligatory sane, rational, normal adult in this shit show of an administration, did you? After all, this was a guy who'd once infamously said on Laura Ingraham's show last October that "slavery thrived on compromise." Well, he just put his foot into the melting pot again when he said that, "most immigrants don't integrate well." Which would include, I imagine, Kelly's Irish Catholic ancestors when they first arrived, considering we weren't too nuts about anyone entering this country who wasn't white and Protestant. Kelly also seems to be unaware of the immigrants still coming into this country for skilled positions such as those in the medical and technology fields. There's a lot that John Kelly's unaware of. But he also said in the same NPR interview that Trump was "embarrassed" by the Russia probe. This is a guy who bragged about sexually assaulting women on a hot mic and compared his having unprotected sex with the risks and dangers faced by those who'd fought in Vietnam. No, Johnny boy, I don't think Trump's capable of being embarrassed by anything.

     Speaking of administration assholes named Kelly, why does Kelly Sadler still have a job when she said it didn't matter what McCain thought because "he's dying, anyway"?

     If Mike Pence was a detective, he'd be Inspector Clouseau. Because someone unearthed some audio from one of Pence's radio shows when he exploded, "Is adultery no longer a big deal in America? I believe the 7th commandment is STILL a big deal. It’s the most important promise you’ll ever make. Holding people accountable to those promises…what could possibly be a BIGGER deal?" Yes, Pence actually said that in a heated moment. Now think about who he works for, a guy who's been in more vaginas than Tampax, before, during and after his three marriages, the first two of which ended when he cheated on his wives. I guess the Commandment that means more to Pence than the 7th is Reagan's 11th.

     Poor Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. She's trying her damnedest to be the Mike Pence of Homeland Security. She's trying like a one-nut on his honeymoon to downplay Trump's obvious racism regarding his so-called immigration policy but that still isn't enough for Donnie Dumbo. Recently, during an immigration-themed Cabinet meeting, Nielsen tried to remind Trump about various immigration laws but Trump don't observe laws real good, bigly. In fact, he grew so frustrated with Nielsen, he publicly berated her for 30 minutes, nearly causing her to resign, according to the NY Times. I guess she didn't get the memo that Cabinet meetings with Trump are really just thinly-disguised verbal fellatio sessions to the tune of "Hail to the Chief."

     Chuck Grassley's got some career advice for Supreme Court Justices: Get the fuck out so Trump can pack the court with his own idealogues like another Germanic strongman had over 80 years ago. And when one looks at the current make up of the Supreme Court, you just know who Grassley was really talking about. Well, considering that Grassley's 84, just a year younger than Ruth Bader Ginsburg, perhaps it's time someone reminded him to put his own aging ass out to pasture in some Iowa cornfield. Oh, Bill Mumy, where are you when we need you?

     Lastly, it seems in his waning days of power, Paul Ryan seems to be vying for the title of the biggest cocksucker in the government. But, as usual, Trump's nipping at his heels, with Pence bringing up the rear.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Cheney Syndrome

(By American Zen’s Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
"Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying." - George Will, 5/9/18
It's a crowning irony that a man who for over seven decades has desperately yearned to be #1 in everything can no longer hold onto the one title to which he had any legitimate claim- Being the worst man in government. Yesterday. George Will took the liberty of abdicating Trump from his title.
     Mike Pence, who started his federal political career as just another whining ultra conservative voice in the wilderness of a US House, had become the latest beneficiary of what can be called "the Cheney Syndrome." That's when a presidential nominee picks the scariest standard bearer he or his staff can find outside of a Super Max. It is a warning by any Republican occupant of the White House, "If you impeach me, think of what this guy will be like."
     And Mike Pence is very, very good at his job. He always stands behind Trump's right shoulder with that deferential tilt pioneered by George HW Bush during the Reagan years but perfected by Pence. With the impeccable timing of an evil Bob Hope, he knows the exact moment to smile or laugh or nod seriously or with admiration or whatever the situation calls for. He's become a permanent backdrop to Trump's public appearances, the ultimate photo bomber, a white and pink presence that's as ubiquitous as the American flag or Robert Mueller's shadow.
     One can pinpoint the exact moment Mike Pence last had a working spine. It was on the evening of September 7th, 2016 at an Ohio restaurant. Pence was eating dinner with his daughter when, in an inversion of how news media is supposed to operate, Pence's entire press entourage force-fed him the news of the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women while a titillated Billy Bush giggled like Pence would learn to do in a few month's time.
     According to those present at that moment, Pence immediately got up and left the restaurant, leaving his press pool behind. By the next day, there were rumors that the uptight, caste iron Catholic was giving some serious thought to dropping off the GOP ticket just two months before the election.
     No one has seen Pence's spine since. Rumor has it he's capable of walking upright only by a two foot-long metal rod firmly shoved up his ass by his wife and three creaking, stainless steel back braces.
     It wasn't as if others in the party didn't give him enough incentive to do so- Future Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, obviously up for re-election in his native Wisconsin, immediately cancelled all future campaign appearances with Trump and, after some consideration, included Pence in the ban.
     However, after throwing a piece of straw in the air and testing the political winds, Pence decided it was worth staying on the ticket, after all. It was a win/win situation for Pence. If Trump lost, he could go back to being Governor of Indiana. But if he won...! Well, poor Pence couldn't resist the call of the tame.

Simply the Worst
In a kakistocracy unseen in the annals of human history, Mike Pence stands head and shoulders above the moral and mental palsies, lepers and quadriplegics of Trump's government. Knowing, or at least sensing the end is near, Pence is already drape-measuring in the Oval Office. For every puppy-eyed look of adoration he casts at Trump, one of those eyeballs is balefully cast on those drapes. Political pundits are savvy to these things and countless articles have already been written of Pence that he's hedging his bets and sucking up to Trump's rabid red meat base. Still smelling of white paranoia flop sweat from his keynote address at the NRA in Dallas, Pence went to Arizona just a few miles from the dying John McCain and said he felt "honored" to be in Joe Arpaio's presence.
     Perhaps McCain ought to think to extend his funeral uninvitations to Mike Pence, after all.
     Yet while George Will might have understandably given Pence the credit for being the poster boy for conservative cocksuckery, he certainly didn't invent it. The mealy-mouthed, ass-grabbing George HW Bush made a living for eight years at such political fellatio and, after him, Dan Quayle. That is the Vice President's job, to be at the big man's elbow like a suede patch, applauding everything he does or says and, if he's really lucky, to once or twice a year to cast a tie-breaking vote as president of the Senate.
     And although Trump's grasp on sanity is more problematic than climbing a greased pole in Philadelphia after a Super Bowl win, he was savvy enough to name as his running mate a man who sends shivers through everyone in the progressive community. For instance, here's a timeline going back just 15 years of Pence's hostility toward the LGBTQ community. While still Governor of the Hoosier State, Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law behind closed doors and surrounded by anti-gay lobbyists.
     And, more recently, there was Pence grandstanding by leaving the Colts-49er's game right after the national anthem so Pence could flaunt how much more principled was his blindness and tone-deafness to African Americans getting shot by police than African Americans' principled stand against the same. Then there was the last Winter Olympics in which Pence stood for just the American team and sat down when the newly-unified Korean delegation passed by the grandstand.
      While George Will may be right about Trump being "a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities", Pence is much more dangerous because he understands the political process, knows not how to ruffle the feathers of warhawks and deficit hawks who will be essential to his survival and relevance as the 46th President. He would put together a kakistocracy like the Bush administration on steroids.
     And Mike Pence will be the 46th president. Do not listen to those liberal wet dreams about Mueller coming in to save the country by declaring the 2016 election null and void because of proven Russian collusion. That is not his job, his purview nor his focus. Pence will not go down with Trump and you can tell by how he grips those drapes that he's even now measuring in the Oval Office while managing to applaud Trump during his hyper-extended 15 minutes.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Happy James Comey Shitcan Day

     Yes, it was one year ago today that James Comey got voted off the swamp by the King Gator himself. And that's what we get when we elect as our Commander in Chief a guy who once hosted a show in which a billionaire oligarch got to fire someone once a week.

     Note that at no point does the NY Times ever call these foreign workers "scabs." Even though that's what they are. Instead, they let an Arizona school district crow about how "innovative" their "recruitment" program is without even challenging it.

     So, bottom line- We live in a generous nation in which porn stars get paid $130,000 after not having sex with married billionaires and useless lawyers get paid $1.2 million upfront. Right.

     Just when you think Ted Cruz has a lock on the distinction of being the scuzziest member of the Senate, along comes Tom Cotton to challenge him for the title. And Cotton's stupidity during Gina Haspel's confirmation hearing is, well, torturous. And, as is usual in Trump World, if Democrats actually succeed in blocking Haspel, then Trump has an even worse candidate in mind- Namely, Tom Cotton.

     Watch Paul Ryan eat crow as he swears back in the very same Chaplain he'd fired for partisan reasons.

     So, Trump's legal team, or what's left of it, got a bright idea that they took to Robert Mueller: Instead of having Trump talk to you, how about you give him a bunch of questions and let him fill them out and we swear we won't do his homework for him, wink wink. Mueller said fuck you. Now Rudy's thinking Trump will take the 5th, which is something that Trump once said only mobsters do.

     Are the 2018 midterms beginning to look a little like a Mickey Spillane novel? There are several reasons why.

     So, the NRA went shopping for a new President (which is something the American people better start thinking about soon) and of course they settled on the guy who was right in the middle of the arms smuggling deal of Iran-Contra.

     By now, you may have heard that Sen. John McCain is throwing in the towel and making plans for his funeral. Not included in those plans is the guy who criticized McCain for getting captured (an opportunity Cadet Bone Spurs never gave the North Vietnamese a chance to do). Now, Orrin Hatch, a senior member of a party that's always screaming about liberals playing politics, is trying to talk McCain into inviting Trump, after all. Tell you what, Orrin- feel free to invite Trump to yours and make it snappy.

     You may have also heard that Melania launched her own cyberbullying campaign (Yes, the gold digger who's married to the biggest cyber bully on the planet). Problem is, it seems, is that she can't stop stealing from the Obamas because her pamphlet is a near exact, word-for-word copy of Obama's own FTC report from four years ago. Oh, and the same day Melania rolled out her purloined  "Be Best" program, Trump announced he wanted to cut $7 billion from children's health care. You tell me who the bigger thief is.

     Finally, just to let you know this isn't a blindly partisan blog, it seems New York's ex-Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, is also a misogynist, woman-beating prick. While there's no excuse for this, I also think it's bitterly hilarious that Hot Prick, Jr, who's facing a divorce over adultery, would pile on as if he has any moral capital whatsoever. And just a word to Andrew Cuomo, if you're looking for a new AG, I know a guy who needs a job:

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Interview With Mystery Author Cathy Ace

1) First, let’s talk about your longer and more established Cait Morgan mysteries. What made you decide to make this series so cosmopolitan? I’ve noticed every entry in this series takes place not just in another city but in a different nation.
It was a decision based upon two thoughts: first, I wanted to avoid what’s become known as “Cabot Cove Syndrome” where a certain locale becomes inundated by an ever-increasing number of corpses; secondly, I have always traveled a great deal – both for business and for pleasure – and wanted to share my experiences of all the countries where I have lived and/or worked over the decades.

 2) Every title in the series references a gem or precious metal. Why is that?

When I put forward the idea for a series to TouchWood Editions – the small, independent Canadian press which brought Cait Morgan to people’s books shelves – I knew I needed a “hook” for the series titles…something that would signal that they were of a certain type, and were, in fact, a series. Many series have an overarching framework for their titles, a case in point would be Katherine Hall Page’s Faith Fairchild “The Body in the…xxx” titles. In each Cait Morgan Mystery the titular victim is dead by the second page of the book (sometimes – as in the case of the first book where it’s in the opening paragraph – much sooner) so I thought that having the word “corpse” (as opposed to body, or murder, or killing etc, all of which were already being employed by other authors) in the title would signify the fact that a dead body would figure large in the mystery in question. Adding a “precious body part” came about because the victim in the first book was a silver-tongued devil, able to winkle people’s secrets out of them by dint of his captivating conversational techniques. I realized that, with a little conniving on my part, the rest of the general plot ideas worked well within such a framework too!

 3) The ladies of the WISE Enquiries Agency represent all four nations in the UK (Wales, Ireland, Scotland, England, making WISE an acronym). How difficult is it to balance all the different personalities and cultures so they work harmoniously?

Whilst Cait Morgan is an example of a woman who’s led a highly independent life, and therefore is comfortable investigating alone (with the aid of Bud) I wanted to tackle a set-up where women worked as a team, or even like an extended family. As a team, the four women each possess their own capabilities, and we see them each in terms of their strengths and weaknesses as the series develops. Overall, I haven’t found it difficult to portray them as working well as a professional team, but I knew from the outset that there wouldn’t be time for each character’s personality and back-story to be contained within just one book, so each has a turn in the spotlight, book by book. I’m hoping that – by the end of the fourth book in the series – readers feel they have a pretty good understanding about the women not just as proficient professional investigators, but also as people.

As for the cultural differences? Well, in the UK everyone makes assumptions about what a person will be like the second they know where they come from – be that geographically or when considering their social background. The general rule of thumb is that the Welsh, Irish and Scots make fun of the English as thinking the world revolves around them, while the English grumble about how annoying/lazy/good-for-nothing the Welsh, Irish and Scots are. We all understand this without having to acknowledge it, and generally we all play well together (though the tensions mount during the Six Nations’ Rugby Tournament each year!). As for the class differences, these are slightly more nuanced, and I have tried to portray them as such, without beating readers about the head with a class-war stick. There are enough jealousies, misconceptions, snobbery and name-calling to go around in such a set-up, but – and this is at the core of what I wanted to write about – these women realize they have more that marks them as allies than adversaries; they don’t just work well together, they have also formed true bonds of friendship, based on understanding of, and respect for, each other.

 4) On your site, you’d shown that you’ve read voluminously of mystery series from childhood to adulthood, ranging from the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. What are your favorite contemporary mystery series?

I’ll be honest and admit I find it incredibly difficult to read series these days – largely because I find my reading time diminished, and a series so difficult to get through, especially if it’s long; no time to play catch-up. There are many books I have read where I know I’d love to read the entire series (the Dandy Gilver Mysteries by Catriona McPherson, and the Kate Shackleton Mysteries by Frances Brody are two historical series I’d like to compete reading one day) but I know I won’t manage it for years!  There are some where I am almost up-to-date (the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffith, the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child, the Rebus series by Ian Rankin, the Vera Stanhope series and the Shetland series by Ann Cleeves). But standalones appeal to me more these days, because I know I won’t be worrying about what’s happening to characters I’ve grown to love.

 5) As with my last Author of the Month, Valerie Burns, you’re a big Agatha Christie fan. How do you think cozy mysteries have changed since Christie’s time?

I don’t think the idea that Agatha Christie’s mysteries were “cozy” would ever have occurred to anyone as they were being written and read for the first time. They were mysteries, and of a certain type – a type where a puzzling murder/case needed to be solved, and that was done by wit and mental capacity…with a smattering of real clues and red herrings…rather than by having folks running around with guns, or working through a factual or fictional series of police procedures. They were contemporary to begin with, but she wrote over so many decades that she ended up writing “historical” mysteries (except in the case of the Beresford books, where I was delighted to witness her characters age in real time). Other than in the broadest sense, I never thought of her works as formulaic, but I think when folks talk about “cozies” today, many imagine the sort of books with illustrations on the cover, usually featuring a cat or dog, and food, with a pun in the title. I have tried to differentiate between my two series by telling people my Cait Morgan Mysteries are truly traditional, closed-circle mysteries, where the sort of deductive reasoning epitomized by Poirot and his “little gray cells” is witnessed, whereas my WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries have much more of the St. Mary Mead about them, even though they are set in Wales.

 6) You had just returned from Malice Domestic a day or two before I made you Author of the Month. What interesting stories did you bring back with you to Canada?

Well, there are some stories I cannot tell – or then I’d have to kill everyone reading this, but there are some highlights. First of all, having met Ann Cleeves on several occasions before – and having benefitted from her insights during some wonderful heart-to-hearts – I was delighted to finally get to chat with her and Brenda Blethyn, who brings Ann’s character Vera Stanhope to life on the screen. I was fortunate enough to be seated next to them at the Agatha Banquet, when Brenda was presented with her Amelia Peabody Award. Sadly, I suffered “fan-girl syndrome” and found I wasn’t able to properly express to Brenda exactly how fabulous it is to see Vera made flesh. Ann and I managed quite well though! I was also thrilled to be interviewed by britbox. It’s a TV streaming service which brings the best of both the BBC and ITV to screens in the USA, and now Canada. They have some excellent British mysteries, and I was fortunate that they wanted to give me that chance to talk about some of my favorites. It was harder than I thought, because there are many TV series I have watched over the years that are dear to me, but I did my best.

 7) Describe your average writing day. Do you use notebooks, a laptop, a combination of both? Do you set daily or weekly word goals?

For the past two years I have been Chair of Crime Writers of Canada, and will admit that has meant a great deal more work than I had expected (and probably two books I haven’t written). As such, that and my own promotional work have become my “full time job”, with writing moving into the night shift. I do think of research, plotting and outlining as part of the writing process, and – as all authors know – you’re ALWAYS doing one of those things. But, when it comes to sitting at my laptop, with my notebook beside me containing my chapter outlines from which I work, that tends to run from around 9.30pm until 1am or 2am, usually for about six weeks at a time. Then it’s back to editing, which I try to fit into my normal work-day.

 8) When you get right down to it, all writing is information management, especially in mystery fiction that inevitably arrives at a denouement. What criteria do you use to decide what to tell the reader or not and when? How do you handle foreshadowing?

I try to follow fair-play rules, giving the reader everything they need to see, hear, smell, touch or taste to allow them to solve the mystery along with my protagonists. Those clues need to arrive in a drip-pattern throughout the book, to the extent that they are what keep the plot moving forward. I’m not averse to foreshadowing, though I’m not keen when it walks through the door and smacks me in the face.

 9) What would you like to see change in mystery and crime fiction?

This is a tough question, because I think it’s changing all the time. Maybe one thing…less use of the word “girl” in book titles, especially when the “girl” in question is older than 19.

 10) What brings a Welsh lady to Canada? Was it love, a vocational opportunity?

I was imported to Canada by the University of British Columbia to teach the marketing elements of their award-winning MBA program. I had sold my company in 1999 (I’m proud that I’d built it from scratch, to become the largest of its type in Europe, training non-marketing managers vocational skills, and preparing corporately-sponsored candidates for post-graduate marketing qualifications) and thought it would be a good time to “give back” by seeing what it was like to move from the business world to academia. A house-move meant my commute became five hours a day, so I was fortunate that Simon Fraser University invited me to teach undergraduate marketing and marketing communications courses, at their campuses which are much closer to my new home. I taught from 2000 until I “retired” from that second career in 2013.

 11) Speaking as a former citizen of the UK, what is it about murder both real and fictional that historically has fascinated the British so much?

I’m not so sure that Brits are more captivated by fictional or factual murder mysteries than any other group, but I believe we see crime fiction, and especially puzzle mysteries, as a valuable part of the heritage we have shared with the rest of the world, based on just how many of the stars of The Golden Age were British. Authors like PD James helped elevate the genre to the level of the socially acceptable, too, and the work the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 have done in bringing characters from the page to the screen means we all get to see beautiful British scenery, awash with corpses…always fun!

 12) What is your view on sensitivity readers and should they stay or go?

I think good editors, who work for good publishers, should be (and usually are) pretty well attuned to most issues that sensitivity readers look out for. Editors are the professionals who, on behalf of all the authors they work for, need to ensure they are clued into shifting paradigms of taste and style, and authors should be able to rely upon them. We live in times when sensitivity to any number of issues can change in a day, or a week, whilst others are matters of basic human respect. Many authors need to raise issues that create discomfort for readers, to allow tensions to be heightened, and, as such, might specifically choose to be “insensitive” when portraying certain characters. I think one of the important roles fiction can play in our lives is to cause us to question our assumptions about people, and to understand why people might do what they do…all of which usually means challenging the reader, and sometimes making them uncomfortable.

 13) With rapid fire developments and innovations in digital technology, publishing more than ever is in a constant state of flux. This includes the rise of small independent presses, making publishing much more democratic. Do you think we’ve reached a saturation point or do we need even more publishing entrepreneurs and platforms in the marketplace?

I’m not sure I could answer this usefully, even if I had a crystal ball! I have worked with small and medium-sized publishers, and am now also an indie-publisher, having incorporated last year. It seems to me that the critical factor is distribution, and accessibility to the work. The Internet helps readers around the world get their hands on books, but, for those who enjoy libraries or bookstores, that’s where the big publishers win hands-down…good distribution and huge promotional dollars tend to sell books. If more small organizations come along to offer access to the marketplace to more authors, they’ll still have to fight the big publishers and their imprints on the shelves, but at least they can reach out to the world through the ether.

 14) Plotter or pantser?

Plotter. I cannot start to write a book until I have everything planned out, and worked up into chapter outlines.

 15) The most colorful thing about cozy mysteries is the endlessly eclectic variety of protagonists and themes. What is one type of protagonist or theme that you’d love most to see in a series that hasn’t been thought of yet?

Sorry, I just don’t know, and that’s because I know I haven’t read everything that’s out there. I like strong female characters, but also strong male ones; my favorite type of character is one with both strengths and weaknesses, drawn on the page in such a way that I feel I understand why they possess both, and how those features affect their lives, and make their investigative technique what it is.
Cathy Ace's official website and links to her books' product pages can be found here.

KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

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