Sunday, March 31, 2019

Dial T For Treason

     Betrayal of the American people by aiding and abetting a hostile foreign power to subvert the electoral process for Donald Trump's personal and financial benefit then taking an oath to defend the nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic. is certainly a crime. It's called treason.
     One could see how little Trump cared about those hallowed American institutions in his final moments as a civilian while taking the oath of office on January 20, 2017. He cocked his head to one side and tonelessly and narcoleptically repeated Chief Justice John Roberts as if he was ordering a taco bowl from the Trump Grille.
     So why aren't the mainstream media doing their part and using the T word? That would be T for Treason. T for Traitor. Hell, even T for Treachery. Why is it up to guys like David Corn in non-corporate media outlets such as Mother Jones to remind those in the reality-based community what is palpably true? That Donald Trump is a traitor and not just any traitor. One worse than Benedict Arnold (Unlike the Russian plot to infiltrate and influence the 2016 election, the West Point plot involving Arnold was a bust).
     From practically the moment he took office, Trump would start treating the Justice Department as if it was his own private law firm and legal goon squad. He had made it plain that he'd appointed Jeff Sessions as his first Attorney General simply so he could spike any investigation into the Russian meddling in the election. Not long after Sessions had done the ethical thing and recused himself from any involvement or oversight of such an investigation, Trump publicly fumed that if he knew Sessions would do that, he never would've nominated Sessions, in the first place.
     Not long after Sessions was confirmed by the same Judiciary Committee of which he was a part, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, lifelong Republican, on May 9th (which triggered the Mueller probe a week or so later) when Comey refused to answer whether or not Michael Flynn was under investigation. Then the very next day Trump bragged about doing so with Russia's Foreign Minister Lavorv and then-Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak (whom several Trump insiders, including Sessions, lied about meeting during the campaign). He fired Comey, as he said in front of Tass photographers who were given the privilege of attending the Oval Office meeting that was denied US journalists, to relieve the pressure of the Russia probe.
     Others lied about meeting with Russian nationals and Kremlin-linked Putin insiders, starting with Trump's own son in law, Jared Kushner, who lied on his SF86 form (the security clearance application) and was allowed to revise no fewer than three times while still keeping his clearance. Flynn lied about meeting with Russians, Sessions lied about meeting with Russians (despite plenty of photographic evidence showing him speaking with Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel), his namesake Don Jr lied about the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 and even kept the meeting from the FBI, the Justice Department, the media and the American people. Then Trump Sr lied about the meeting again by dictating a memo on Air Force One about the meeting being about Russian baby adoptions and not sanctions.
     Trump openly invited the Russians to hack the DNC servers for Hillary's emails, which appeared on Wikileaks the very next day. That alone should've ended Trump's campaign but it didn't.
     So, after months of openly colluding with top level Russian government officials, then repeatedly lying about it, some of whom being sentenced to prison terms for doing so, after acting exactly the way a guilty man would act, how come the Mueller probe, according to Bill Barr's "I didn't read the book" book report on the report, gives Trump a free pass?
     The answer, of course, is it doesn't. Even the reliable right wing stooge Barr said in his ridiculous four page synopsis of the 320+ page-long Mueller report, culled from millions of raw documents, that it did not exonerate Trump of collusion or conspiracy to collude or anything specific. Trump was given, according to Barr, “multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.” And then, there was the closest thing that Barr would give us to a smoking gun when he wrote “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
     So, when one gives this even a cursory look, a disinterested bird's eye view of this whole sordid affair with a detached historical perspective, one has to ask why the mainstream media are not calling Trump's actions for what they are: Treason?
     Many Democrats are freely using the I word (Impeachment), something hardly ever uttered during the Bush years. Whereas the I word may have lost much of if not all of its shock value, the word treason has not and should not, considering the stakes. While Trump may or may not have colluded with the Russians to spike the election for his personal benefit, the fact remains, he knew about it, the Mueller report proves the Russians reached out with offers to help and, at the very least, he stood by and let them without once realizing they would immediately have leverage over him and his insiders (such as Flynn).
     Then there's Trump's post-election behavior while he slouches across the world like a bored, exhausted mall husband, the unconditional support for anything Putin wants: Lifting of sanctions on Russia, withdrawing from Syria (which still hasn't happened), walking away from the INF Treaty and a whole host of other wish list items. In short, anything that strengthens Russia and weakens the USA, you can be sure Trump will support.
     For his entire so-called presidency, Trump has been acting not just like a guilty man but a kept man, someone given an exalted slave position but is still a slave nonetheless, because his master has something compromising on him.
     These are words and ideas that people other than David Corn and Adam Schiff should be hammering home several times a day, every day. Goebbels once famously wrote that the way to make a lie the truth is to keep repeating it loudly and often until people accept it as truth.
     Might I remind us all that the same applies to the truth itself?

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Anti-Idiot Idiot

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
Anyone who's read Dostoevsky's novel The Idiot knows that it's an ironically-titled classic. The titular character, Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin, is actually Dostoevsky's ideal of what the perfect man is, someone imbued with all the good qualities of true, Christian love. He is considered an idiot by the supporting characters who misconstrue his innate goodness, sweetness and seeming simplicity for simple-mindedness, hence an idiot.
     And then there's Donald Trump, the exact analog, a mere useful idiot who unfailingly parrots the Kremlin's talking points and weakens the United States for Putin's own gain and who, ironically, never even got his Trump Tower Moscow OK'd by the same man he now obsequiously obeys and serves.
     Donald John Trump, accused child molester, philanderer, rapist, tax dodger, welcher, serial liar and draft dodger, a man who cherishes loyalty provided it's unconditionally given to him on demand without the burden of reciprocation, is the perfect, exact analog to Prince Lev Myshkin. His supposed Christian goodness is a mere projection thrust upon him by evangelicals who see in Trump a mere actuator, a shaky hand on a lever of the End of Days. His evangelical supporters viciously defend Jews and Israel while secretly looking upon them as another means to that end, the gathering of Jews for an Apocalypse for which they ceaselessly slaver in the interests of converting the last 144,000 of God's "chosen children."
     The Mueller report, now out for four days yet not out, thanks to the odious likes of the always furtive Mitch McConnell, who just yesterday blocked a non-binding resolution in the Senate to release the Mueller report in full, is still an unexploded land mine. Bill Barr, an obvious plant who has already played his part and is now just taking up space in the Justice Department, last Sunday delivered a four page Cliff Notes condensation of the 74 page Mueller report, one that took 22 months and 25,000,000 taxpayer dollars to assemble, to the Senate Intelligence Committee that has since been widely touted by the right as vindication, even though the still-hidden Mueller report doesn't come close to saying that. Even Barr himself had admitted that the report does not exonerate Trump. We just don't know in what way and against which charges he's not exonerated.
     And Barr's own simple-minded reaction to the Mueller report merely raises more questions than answers among those of us who still care to ask questions and be skeptical of so-called official findings. Former Attorney General Eric Holder recently asked what legal methodology did Bill Barr use in his ridiculous usurpation of the powers of judge and jury. It's like the latter day Joseph Smith and his Golden Bible, "Yes, my flock, I have seen the Golden Bible but you cannot. Trust me, it's... somewhere."
     Of course, there's always the possibility that the Mueller probe didn't find actionable evidence of collusion (and, don't forget, it was understood from the beginning the DOJ has a rule that a Special Counsel can't indict a sitting president, so him not recommending Trump's indictment shouldn't be a surprise) because the Trump campaign didn't need to collude with Russia. After all, Raymond Shaw, the Manchurian Candidate, didn't need to collude with the Communists who'd brainwashed him. And Trump simply didn't need to reach out to them because he knew the Russians already had his jiggling back.

Russia certainly was listening. Consider how truly corrupt the Republican presidential field was in early 2016. There were 17 candidates. Between crooks, con men, political hacks, feeble-minded idiots and nonentities, the Russians chose Donald Trump to support through their own GRU. Now, if Trump was the one they chose, hence the one over whom they exert the most leverage, think of how corrupt Trump truly is to stand out in a field comprised of, at one point, a Bush, a former Canadian rebranded as a white supremacist, an intellectual bantamweight from Florida, a mannequin from Indiana and the narcoleptic Ben Carson.
     Yes, Russia was indeed listening, knowing all too well that Trump wanted to build a tower across the street from the Kremlin not just in 2013 but way back in 1987. It was also during that time when, with his trademark brainless megalomania, he thought he could sign the Soviets to a deal that would lead to denuclearization, forgetting that Reagan had already done that. Now, Trump has "evolved" to the point where he no longer wants to put any constraints on Russia ramping up its nuclear arsenal by simply walking away from the INF treaty.
     Putin is smart enough to know a stooge when he sees it and he latched onto a rube in the throes of dementia who honestly never thought he'd win the 2016 election and, by all measurable standards of psychological sanity and political science, shouldn't have. But Putin also was quick to spot the racism, xenophobia, misogyny and general rage and anger of 62,000,000 Americans still infuriated over a black man running their country for eight years and wanted one of their own to put things right.
     If there's no actionable evidence that Trump conspired or colluded with the Russians, it's because Putin had his hands on the wheel the whole time. Trump was just the moron in the back seat whining, "Are we there, yet?" In July 2016, he openly begged for the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton's emails because he knew they already had and, in an absurd game of One Degree of Separation, established plausible deniability in funneling the stolen cache of data through Wikileaks while Julian Assange cowered in the Equadorean embassy.
     Donald Trump is not the rightful president. He's not even an accidental president like Gerald Ford because everything Russia did on his behalf, and the scores of indictments and half a dozen prison sentences prove there was something going on between Team Trump and the Russians, was entirely deliberate.
     With the unwitting or perhaps witting aid of Wikileaks and tech giants such as Twitter and Facebook, Putin's intelligence services and hundreds of paid trolls put together the slickest hacking and disinformation campaign ever seen in the history of the internet. Trump may be hopelessly demented, screaming, "No collusion!" to people instead of "Hello". But he was certainly with it enough to know that Russia was helping him for its own ends. It's no accident that nearly everything Trump has decided has benefited Russia in some way, shape and form. He is the perfect analog of Prince Myshkin if Dostoevsky's Idiot had an evil twin.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Gotham City Digest: No Collusion, No Obstruction, No Nuttin' edition

(In which, if the fix is in, we'll make it less transparent than the current administration)

     So, to recap: Bill Barr writes memo preemptively clearing Trump of obstruction charges.
     As a reward, Trump makes him the Attorney General, whom Mueller was forced to let decide whether Trump should be tried on obstruction charges.
     Barr then clears Trump on obstruction charges without releasing the actual report.
     And the lesson, boys and girls? Don't just follow the money, follow the sinecures, as well.

     "Why are you thanking me? I didn’t do anything. I didn’t help anyone. I just perpetuated a system of senseless violence." - former US Marine who served in Afghanistan.

     Thank goodness the corporate cunts at Verizon never waste a good opportunity for PR, even if it's the negative kind. I guarantee you they wouldn't have suspended him if he was white.

     Another Parkland survivor committed suicide. Sydney Aiello shot herself in the head last week. I'd say something about this but this meme is so much more eloquent:

     DNC and DCCC: "Oh my God, the socialist is going to beat Trump! Quick, get Hillary on the phone for advice on how to hamstring him!"

     I wish she hadn't given up as a Russian troll slayer, although I can understand why she had. But her work should've been taken up by other Russian journalists instead of them leaving her to wither as an outlier.

     Please don't, guys. A lot of people are about to be murdered. This is exactly what the fascist Israelis want you to do.

     A Fox "News" poll blew up in their faces. "Far more voters say they trust Special Counsel Mueller more than President Donald Trump when it comes to potential 2016 Russian interference..." However, most of the dummies polled said they'd back Trump no matter what the report says.

     Then someone please explain to me how Parkland happened. There was one cop there when the shooting started and he cowered and kept himself safe while students were getting butchered. Some alarming statistics:
     1.7 million students attend schools with cops but no counselors.
     3 million students attend schools with cops but no nurses.
     6 million students attend schools with cops but no school psychologists.
     10 million students attend schools with cops but no social workers.
     At least one school district has already hired mercenaries to patrol the halls. The militarization of our schools is not the answer, especially when school shootings continue to happen at an alarming rate.

     He's right. That's not his job nor should it be.

     Devin Nunes, who's suing a fake cow, thinks the Mueller report should be burned and that we should create another special counsel to investigate Hillary Clinton. Yet, Democrats are terrified of impeaching Trump for fear of looking "partisan." The right wing nut jobs dpon't give a shit about looking partisan. Why should Democrats and why should Repubs get a free pass every single fucking time?

     I can't believe Harvard is fighting the family over the photographs of their slave ancestors. White people used to own them now they own their family's histories.

     $80,000 for a light bulb? Sounds legit. Thanks, Boeing, for monetizing everything including warning systems that could've saved hundreds of human lives.

     Your presidential candidates who voted to INCREASE Trump's bloated military budget:
     Booker: 3 ‼️
     Brown: 3 ‼️
     Gabbard: 1
     Gillibrand: 1
     Harris: 2 ‼️
     Klobuchar: 3 ‼️
     O'Rourke: 3 ‼️
     Warren: 2 ‼️
     Sanders: 0.
     You're welcome.

     Seriously, England? You're going to war with nesting birds?

     Yes, zooming in on the unassisted elderly victim after her assault was a nice touch. I'm ashamed to say I come from the same city as these worthless assholes. It has a happy ending, though: They got the asshole.

     Streisand really disappointed me in saying this. She has a blind spot to the effects of child sexual assault as wide as the Grand Canyon.

     Ah ha! I knew it!

     Of course. Another white cop gets off after shooting a harmless black kid in the back. This one was on the job for just a few hours. Guess he couldn't wait to kill his first black person.

     My my, look at who the investors are in illegal oil drilling in Golan Heights. Cheney, Murdoch, Rothschild. Oh my.

     Three words spring to mind: Travesty. Of. Justice. OK, three more words: Alabama. Black. Man.

     Remember when Comrade Obama kowtowed to dictatorial Communist regimes like North Korea? Yeah, me neither.

     Trumpie the Clown blames Fox and the media for his ceaseless attacks on John McCain. Including on his Twitter account.

     Fucking Charlottesville again. But I'm sure he's a very fine student.

     Devin Nunes, cow hunter, got a new one torn by Tweetie himself.

     Another fucking moron offered an important post by Trump. This one suggested the man who declared bankruptcy four times, began a needless trade war that's cost jobs & threw national economies in turmoil and added over two trillion to the national debt in two short years should get the Nobel Prize for Economics.

     Breaking: Crook endorses another crook's ongoing land theft.

     "Here at Facebook, we take your privacy concerns seriously..."

     I think the most amazing thing about this is that anyone in the world still uses an AOL email address.
     So, to conclude, KT McFarland was using a AOL address to conduct nuclear sales to the Saudis,      Jared Kushner is using WhatsApp and his personal email address to conduct White House business, Ivanka's destroying emails and Trump is using an unencrypted Blackberry for his tweeting. Doesn't that just heighten your sense of security?

     Meanwhile, renowned renegade cow hunter Devin Nunes once had this to say about freedom of speech.

     "(A)ppears to be a case of racial profiling"?!

     So, this came out recently. Apparently, Acosta and his prosecutors and Epstein's defense attorneys were all on the same side and even conspired to lie to the judge presiding over the case.

     Dogs will lie to get what they want. Maybe now, Trump will appreciate dogs more.

     As I've been saying for nigh unto 20 years now, the only thing that'll save this nation is the stupidity of the Republican Party.

     The universe is out there, just waiting for Trump to destroy it.

     Most people have never heard of Nowata County in Oklahoma and for good reason. It's a tiny county of just 10,000 souls. Yet the political corruption of tiny Nowata County would almost rival that of Washington, DC. Consider the case of a corrupt judge who ordered a jail to be reopened even though its toxic conditions had sent several staff members to the hospital. The judge tried several times to bribe then threaten the sheriff into compliance. Instead, she and virtually her whole staff quit. The NY Times also wrote it up but, typically, completely ignored the corruption angle, even though the sheriff went into exhaustive detail over what was said to her by the judge.

     Power lines, landfill or umbilical cord around her neck? You be the judge.

     "For impeachment to succeed, it means capturing the votes of 20 Republican Senators. Republicans will only 'defy' Trump by supporting impeachment if supporting Trump proves to be a political disadvantage. That means making a case compelling enough for Republican voters to support." And finally...

     Remember back in the good old days when your parents' Republicans were redder than Karl Marx's asshole?

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Here's What Mueller's Report Won't Do

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
After 22 months of anticipation, mystique and speculation, Robert Mueller's report began to take on the dimensions of the Holy Grail- 
     Precious to those on both sides of the Great Ideological Divide but worrisomely elusive. It's like Frodo finally getting the ring to its rightful destination or the Red Sox bringing home its first World Series trophy in 86 years. Those on the left and right have been snatching at non-existent crumbs of speculation disguised masterfully as information. The left has been clinging to the hope that the fat bastard will finally fall while the right have been just as desperately clinging to the threadbare straw that neither Daddy Warbucks or his spawn have been indicted on collusion with the Russians... yet. And even if they are, well, it's fake news and Mueller had a vendetta, an agenda.
     The only thing that remains to be seen is what's actually in the fucking report. And, with right wing operative Bill Barr in sole possession of it, it's debatable that he'll even release the findings to Congress let alone the American public that had invested over $25,000,000 in it.
     But here's what it won't do:
     Regardless of the findings or lack thereof, it won't rid us of the political and spiritual rot that has more deeply infested this once-great nation. Hell, it won't even act as a spiritual deodorant. The corruption that currently infests Washington DC had its seeds laid at the same time as Jefferson's cherry trees and the foundations of the White House.
     It will not rid us of racism or the putrid neo Nazi nationalism that has wound its tentacles around this nation at a time when we thought we'd harpooned it forever. Counties that had held Trump rallies in 2016 saw a 226% increase in hate crimes. In other words, the dirt was already there. Trump was just the hate farmer who was savvy enough to cultivate something out of it.
     It will not prevent the Russians from meddling in the 2020 elections where they will once again bust a nut to keep their stooge Trump in office for another four years... if he survives until 2020. That's up to elections officials all over the country, our intelligence community and lawmakers on the Hill to prevent. As it is, just a month ago Trump's own people had issued dire warnings to the Senate Intelligence Committee that the Russians were planning to do just that.
     Mueller's absence of further indictments does not guarantee the Trumps will skate away into the palmy sunset of Mar-a-Lago. Collusion with the Russians during the 2016 campaign may have been the main focus but it was certainly not the probe's sole focus. Between Mueller's nearly two year-long investigation, that of the Southern District of New York and the United States Congress itself, other things have been investigated:
     Along with direct collusion with the Russians, there were also accounting irregularities in Trump's Inaugural Committee, larceny within the Trump Foundation, a part of which Trump's three oldest children have been legally barred as well as from all other New York state charities. There were violations of the Emoluments clause that had to be investigated. They looked into Trump committing campaign finance violations by directing his attorney to make hush money payments. There was tax evasion, the particulars of Trump's strange relationship with Deutsche Bank, obstruction of justice, money laundering. I'm sure there was more.
     And, lack of further indictments or no, several facts remain clear- Six Trump insiders, including his own campaign chairman and personal lawyer, have been sentenced to prison time. 37 indictments, over a dozen of which concerned Russian nationals tied to the GRU, were handed down. Plea deals had been struck by many, including Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen and, until he completely butt-fucked it into oblivion with his arrogance and stupidity, Paul Manafort. Immunity had been granted, starting with Allen Weisselberg, the CFO of the Trump Organization, someone who, if not the bodies, knows where the double ledgers are buried.
     Along with Roger Stone's home and Michael Cohen's home, office and hotel room, Deutsche Bank's offices were raided last November and its records seized.
     Six men in prison, not including a Russian spy named Maria Butina, homes and offices raided, immunity given to insiders in exchange for testimony and over three dozen indictments. And that's just what we saw on the outside looking in on these revelations bursting from the otherwise hermetic Mueller probe.
     And it's getting more and more impossible to believe that Trump surrounded himself with secret agents and spies, secret foreign lobbyists, porn stars, Russian gangsters and some of the worst scum crawling across the planet earth without him knowing what they were doing on his behalf. 
     And, at press time, even though the report was submitted to Bill Barr nearly 24 hours ago, Trump hasn't tweeted once, about anything, all day. Even he knows better. Either that or someone threw his unsecured Blackberry into Mar-a-Lago's sinkhole. If the report was that exculpatory, you'd think Trump and his spawn would be doing their 12th victory lap by now.
     But Robert Mueller's report won't open a Pandora's Box of vengeful legal warrior angels tasked with afflicting the man posing as the president or his family, it will not restore the earth onto its proper axis. Mueller's job was simply to investigate any potential wrongdoing between Trump's campaign, transition and administration and the Russians. His job was not to hand down grand jury indictments. The 37 indictments that were issued were incidental.
     And throughout it all, Trump has been acting the way a guilty man could be expected to act.
     And lastly, regardless of how damning or exculpatory the final report proves to be for Trump, it will not rid us of the toxic, racist menace that had been inflamed by him and with which we'll have to deal long after he's gone one way or the other. Robert Mueller was not a superhero. America still hasn't gotten the hero it deserves. All we in the reality-based community know is that that hero ain't Donald Trump.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Sarah Huckabee Sanders Claims President Trump is Actually Talking About John McClane

Washington--- In a rare press conference, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed to the press pool that President Trump has not been insulting the late Senator John McCain but fictional policeman John McClane.
     "Contrary to what the liberal fake news media has been saying, the president has not been speaking negatively about John McCain but John McClane. the so-called hero of the Die Hard movies."
     As proof of her assertion, Ms. Sanders had then produced a 5' 7' cardboard blowup of the lead image above, which appeared to show the fictional police officer on Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show in 2015. "This is where, when and how it all started," she said.
     Frowning at the press pool, Ms. Sanders added, "I mean, c'mon, fellas, why would the president keep picking fights with a rotting corpse? That would be, well, deplorable."
     CNN's Jim Acosta immediately contradicted the Press Secretary, saying, "Sarah. John McClane is a fictional character played by actor Bruce Willis!" To which Ms. Sanders replied, "Seriously, Jim? I've seen Bruce Willis and John McClane together, especially after that Nokatomi Tower terrorist situation."
     Several media outlets, including Fox News, begged to differ, adding there was ample proof that President Trump was plainly referring to the late Arizona senator, most recently at a tank manufacturing facility in Ohio then again during an Oval Office interview with Fox's Maria Bartiromo in which the president kept insulting the late senator then blamed the Fox Business anchor for bringing up the subject.
     "Look," Sanders said, plainly exasperated after just 30 seconds behind the podium, "we all know the president is seriously challenged in his elocution. Don't you remember, "God blesh the United Shtates'? Hello? Is it really beyond the realm of possibility that the president would be unable to form a simple consonant such as an 'L'? By the way, are any of you losers hiring?"
     In response to this amazing declaration of an alternative fact, Kellyanne Conway doubled down on Ms. Sanders' claim and stated before a skeptical Fox and Friends panel, "Fame just went to McClane's head after the Nokatomi and Dulles Airport thing. Then he started going around with that ridiculous Trump wig on talk shows. I mean, come on, guys, even Serpico had more class than that. He went into hiding in Sweden."
     This has resulted in a fresh round of controversy over whether or not President Trump was speaking of the late Senator McCain, with whom he had a brief but contentious relationship or the fictional police officer who'd been featured in five films by 20th Century Fox. When asked about it on the South Lawn on his way to yet another weekend of golf at Mar-a-Lago, the president was asked if it was true what his White House Press Secretary had claimed.
     "Yeah, whatever she said. Besides, I've always been a Cobra kind of guy. That Stallone-looking guy, I'd like to name him my new Secretary of Homeland Security." Then the president took a golf cart to the hundred or so feet to Marine One before flying off to Andrews Air Force Base.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Happy St Patrick's Day

     A conservative Irish judge went pub crawling after a hard Friday at court. He was known as a law and order judge and had an image to maintain but after such a hard day, his Irish thirst was raging.
     After he crawled out of his 6th pub, he vomited all over his brand new suit and racked his reeling brain for what to tell his teetotaling wife Brigit. Then he got a brilliant idea.
     He poured himself through the front door and said in an outraged voice,
     "Ah, Brigit, you'll never guess what happened to me this very night. I was walking home from the courthouse and this drunken yobbo staggers up to me and threw up all over me brand new suit. Well,      I had him arrested and when I see him in court on Monday, I'll be givin' him 30 days in gaol, I will. Now, be a dear, Brigit, and clean me suit, will you? There's a lass."
     "Very good, your honor," said Brigit and she set about cleaning his suit.
     The weekend passed and Monday morning arrived. The conservative judge, dressed in his newly-cleaned suit, thought it prudent to reinforce his lie one more time. At breakfast he said to his wife,
     "When I see that suit-soiler in court today, I'll be givin' him 30 days, I will!"
     "Well, your honor," began Brigit, "you'd better be giving him 60 days because he shit in your pants, too."

Friday, March 15, 2019

Not One Degree of Separation

     Shorter Fredo: "Let's not remind everyone the shooter is a fan of my Dad's and that he sees him as a ‘symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.’” (Incidentally, Fredo hasn't mentioned the shooting again since it came out he was a fan of Daddy's.)
     Last night our time, some lunatic walked into two mosques in Christchurch New Zealand with an assault weapon and killed 49 Muslims during their afternoon prayers and injured at least 48 others. The alleged shooter, Brenton Tarrant, live-streamed his massacre and left behind a typically long, rambling manifesto saying he wanted to kill Saddiq Khan, London's first Muslim mayor, and mentioned as his inspiration Anders Brevik, the Norway shooter, US right wing extremism and one Donald Trump, whom Tarrant sees as a "symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose."
     Yes, Tarrant, an Australian national, sees a kinship with ultra right wing extremism and terrorism. Trump, and the mouth breathers who'd voted for him, inspired him to carry out what was the worst terrorist attack in New Zealand's history.
     You'd think politicians the world over would be unconditionally condemning this mass murder but you'd be wrong.
     Some other far right lunatic, an asshole Senator from Queensland Australia named Fraser Anning, issued a pretty stunning statement blaming the New Zealand massacre squarely on its Muslim immigration policy.
     One right wing nut job on Twitter immediately tried to pull the disinformation thing on yours truly, telling me the shooter was actually someone who hated conservatism. When I showed him the first link in this article, he tried to counter with some sweaty Alex Jones conspiracy theory piece from Infowars.
     The block party started immediately.
     And this is symptomatic of what we can expect from the mainstream and right wing media alike: They'll pay the horrendous loss of Muslim lives the obligatory lip service then in the same breath blame liberals or Muslims or policies as Australia's answer to Steve King had (without once mentioing the shooter was a native of Oz.).
     They'll call Tarrant a generic psychopath but also a loner. He's neither.
     I again refer you to his own statement that Donald Trump, our so-called leader, is a "symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose."
     That would be the "white identity" that was very much in evidence in the wake of the Charlottesville riots of August 2017 in which Trump excused the murderous actions of his fellow white supremacists, his very base, even calling them "very fine people." Then there was his infamous Muslim ban that caused chaos at our airports.
     And, once again, he was inspired by the ultra right wing violence that he sees in America, the very kind excused and even inspired by Trump and escalating virtually with complete impunity. And Tarrant is very much what is becoming an eerily consistent fixture on the world stage: A lone wolf, right wing psycho who nonetheless feels a kinship with other like-minded right wing lone wolves who hate the same people.
     There is no longer any plausible deniability, not one degree of separation. Trump's white nationalism is now officially getting scores of innocent people killed the world over.
     Trump must go. What are we waiting for?

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Buying Into the System

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
There are two types of people who buy into the system, specifically the higher educational system.
     There are the average people, "the little people", as Leona Helmsley had once derisively called them, who figuratively buy into the system and its ceaseless, jingoistic diktats that hard work, diligence and a faith in that system will one day pay off, that luck and pluck will win the day, by gumbo! Granted, it'll involve working like a draft horse to get a decent scholarship and/or onerous student loans that often take decades to pay off but by Horatio Alger's sweaty balls, it is within reach!
     Then there are people like Laurie Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, for example, who literally buy their way into the system. With their husbands Mossimo Giannulli and William H. Macy (who wasn't indicted), respectively, they paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to get three of their four daughters into USC and an unnamed college. For Huffman, who played a character on Desperate Housewives who paid a bribe to get her kids into a private school, it was especially ironic because she and her character both paid the identical sum of $15,000, this time to have her daughter's SAT scores corrected.
     It all started out here in the Bay State as an accident, really. The scandal-spattered Boston FBI just stumbled over the cheating scandal while investigating an unrelated matter and then it finally bloomed in something officially called "Operation Varsity Blues." (Kudos, btw, to our G Men for picking that fantastic name). 50 indictments and arrests later, the scandal finally burst upon the national spotlight like a rancid, festering boil long overdue for a lancing, pushing Donald Trump and his spawn (albeit too hastily) off the front pages. And, granted, I have not seen the names and faces of all 50 people who have been charged in Operation Varsity Blues but, from we've seen thus far, all of them are lily white, including William Singer, the head of this $25,000,000 Great Pyramid of fraud.
     When the story first surfaced, the optics looked horrible in at least one aspect: Olivia Jade, Loughlin's daughter, was on a yacht belonging to a USC board of trustee official named Rick Caruso (whether or not he was one of the university officials who were bribed remains to be seen). Since the scandal erupted, Sephora, a beauty company, has already cut ties with the 19 year-old who basically has made a handsome living being the daughter of someone who was once famous.
     The primary takeaway from this, one sure to give satisfying ripples of schadenfreude to anyone coming from a solidly middle or lower class background, is the spawn of the rich are stupider and less athletically gifted than those from less affluent households. Part of the scandal arose when parents had Singer lie to the schools that they were, in fact, getting athletes when the students were no such thing. In the case of Loughlin's daughter Olivia, fake action shots were even staged to make it look as if she was on USC's crew team of which she'd never been a part.
     So, to go by this, the wealthy produce children that are stupider, less athletically-gifted and less motivated to even go to and excel in college than disadvantaged homes. This automatically betrays as a bald-faced lie that the rich are smarter, more athletic and more beautiful than those produced by "the little people" who have to labor to get whatever little the system offers them and have oodles of motivation to succeed. But that's not where we ought to stop analyzing.

The Varsity Blues and the Green-Eyed Monster
Making this scandal even more galling is the fact that some of the most prestigious colleges and universities are named. They're household names at least in the households of teenagers filing letters of intent to these institutions of higher learning they'd bust a gut, and do, to get accepted into. Among them were USC, UCLA, Georgetown, Yale and Wake Forest. And yet. according to Howard University counseling psychologist Ivory Toldson, this ought to be a blanket indictment of the entire system. Yet (even though it's still too early to tell), that's not how this investigation is shaping up.
     In a strange inversion of the usual way the DOJ and FBI conduct their business, they've only gone after individuals such as wealthy parents, school officials and Singer himself and not the institutions. No Deans, Chancellors or Presidents have been named in this scandal much less being placed into custody or under indictment. And, as anyone who knows anything about the DOJ and FBI knows, they conduct their business the other way around in going after entities and institutions and not individuals.
     Let's call a spade a spade: Singer may be a scumbag who'd diluted the academic and athletic talent pool in our schools of higher learning but he's obviously not a stupid man. And a stupid man would not invest five or six figure sums of money in companies owned by crooked soccer coaches or admission officials unless he knew those bribes were guaranteed to be efficacious.
     To use a (technically) unrelated story from 2017 that was updated yesterday in light of the scandal, the Daily Mail resurrected the hoary old story of how Donald Trump Sr bribed University of Pennsylvania's officials to the tune of a cool million and a half bucks to shoehorn his son Don Jr. 23 years ago and Ivanka into UPenn, another Ivy League School, 19 years ago. In fact, "after years of minimal involvement", Trump Sr suddenly got more financially involved the very same year Fredo matriculated into Daddy's old alma mater Wharton and donated $100,000 to the Penn Club.
     Of course, that didn't stop Daddy Warbucks' favorite irony-challenged, ambulatory hair product storage facility from blundering into, on Twitter of course, a culture of corruption from which he and his family had benefited so greatly. (Of course, showing that ever-present and famous Trump humility, Daddy sicced his shyster Michael Cohen on UPenn to threaten them with a lawsuit if they released his own grades from Wharton.).
     One would have to be a Pollyanna to believe that Singer is the only college admissions broker in the country and that this isn't a systemic failure on the part of collegiate America. We've known for decades that elite athletes got academic passes just to keep them on the teams for which they played. But this is the first time in US history that we've learned that the spawn from the 1% who are neither gifted athletically or academically nor even motivated to attend classes have been benefiting from the 1% version of Affirmative Action.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Interview with Jim Nesbitt

     What’s there not to love about a Dallas PI who’s more battered than an airport bollard and a saucy chick whose tongue can turn a cherry stem into the Gordian Knot? Add to that a scumbag named T-Roy who killed the PI’s partner long ago and a fixer who goes by the name of Mr. Badhair and you’ve got the fixin’s for a hard-boiled thriller named The Last Second Chance, the start of a trilogy featuring ex-cop Ed Earl Burch.

15) On your author site, you say that as a reporter you “chased hurricanes, earthquakes, plane wrecks, presidential candidates, wildfires, rodeo cowboys, migrant field hands, neo-Nazis and nuns.” From a humanistic standpoint, what’s the assignment/story that still stands out the most to you?

Hell, I loved it all -- from the adrenalin rush of heading toward a hurricane or earthquake when most normal people were headed in the other direction to ferreting out the regular folks swept up in a disaster or government policy change or turbulent social or political issue -- they give voice to the story and easy access for the reader, someone who strikes a chord with them. That’s the genesis of my belief that you ought to drive your crime novels with character and dialogue. Always had an eye for the former and an ear for the latter as a reporter. You had to be careful about that, though, because it’s way too easy to find the perfect Bubba or Bubbette that spins you off into caricature that isn’t true to the story. You have to exercise discipline -- sure, that guy in the beat-up Stetson and a big chaw in his jaw was right colorful and had some killer quotes, but the story ain’t about him, now, is it? I try to use the same discipline in my novels, although I’m sure some reviewers think I don’t exercise any restraint.

Thinking about your question brought to mind another story in West Texas I was chasing on the return of mountain lions. I was with my good buddy, ace photographer Joel Salcido, who has graciously let me pick one of his landscape photos to use on the cover of my next book, and we had spent the morning with two former bounty hunters at the Big Bend Ranch State Park who used to kill wolves and lions but were now working with wildlife biologists to find mountain lions and get tracking collars on them. We ended up at the Chisos Mountain Lodge in Big Bend National Park and walked all around the grounds, past an amphitheater, barn and corral, a concession stand, several long loop paths. I had missed connecting with a Texas A&M wildlife biologist who had studied the mountain lion population in the park, but caught up with her when I returned from my trip. Told her where I had been and she asked me to name where we went on our walk. After what seemed like every feature, she’d say ‘That’s where so-and-so lion likes to hang out. You probably walked right past her and didn’t know it.’ She had names for them and every place Joel and I had gone was another lion’s hidey hole. That’s on the slightly unnerving and cool side of the spectrum.

On the other side are ones that stay with you because they’re heart-wrenchingly emotional and sad. I interviewed the parents of a flight attendant who died in the Air Florida Flight 90 crash into the Potomac River shortly after takeoff and they spent a lot of time with me because they wanted their daughter’s story told. You get a bit schizophrenic during interviews like that -- the reporter part of you is saying ‘Jesus, what a great quote.’ The part of you that still has a soul is just aghast at the grief and range of raw emotions you’re witnessing -- and taking advantage of like a goddam vulture. That said, I always felt honored and obligated to tell the story of a dead loved one and never, ever asked the TV question ‘How did you feel when you learned your daughter was killed in that crash?’

14) Since your background’s in journalism, what’s the source for your information on law enforcement/private detection?

Like most print journalists, I cut my cub teeth on the cop shop and the court beat. Met a lot of cops during those years and what little I did learn about detective work boiled down to this -- forget Sherlock Holmes and the wizardry of deductive logic. Detectives are a lot like reporters -- lots of shoe leather, lots of phone calls, lots of running down routine details, lots of talking to people who may well lie to you, lots of record checking. The good ones have an intuitive feel for who to track and who to dismiss and where to find the key nugget of information that can make or break a case, but all of that rests on the results of a helluva lot of legwork. I also worked the court beat and met a lot of prosecutors and defense lawyers -- and one or two private investigators, most of them ex-cops. Those guys don’t have a cop’s authority and have to rely on guile, stealth and, if they’re working for a big-time lawyer, some long green to get what they want, but when you boil it down, the goal is the same -- getting the information you need to help a lawyer help their clients.  

13) You told me recently that, as with me, your biggest strength is in character delineation and dialogue (Like Chandler, you believe that “plot is secondary to characters and dialogue”) and that you’d most readily talk about that. So what’s your philosophy about character delineation?

I think character and dialogue go hand-in-hand, with dialogue, whether internal or external, being one of the primary ways you show who you characters are -- are they smart or stupid, wiseasses or strait-laced. There’s a dance going on with dialogue, action and how the character reacts and their interaction with other characters that ‘show’ the reader who this guy or gal is. You have to ‘tell’ a bit to flesh them out and give them depth, but I think the dance is where the reader gets the truest notion of a character. You and I have talked about the cliché definition of ‘character development’ used by bad reviewers and lousy contest judges. These folks seem to think that the only way to develop a character is give them a love interest or a dog or show them in their private life -- whatever that means -- doing something ‘normal’ -- damn if I know what that means, either. You see this even in the best crime novels, movies and TV shows -- Harry Bosch and his relationship with his ex and their daughter comes to mind. It seems to be an expectation; a must-have and I reject that as a cop-out. I try to flesh out all of my characters, even walk-ons, giving them a bit of backstory and letting them reveal themselves through dialogue and action. A lot of writers don’t bother and wind up with a lot of stick figures strewn about their stories, blowing the chance to add complexity and richness.

12) The Burch series would seem to be a period trilogy, since his birthdate of 1946 would put him in his 70’s. Why write period novels set in post-S&L Dallas and not contemporary ones?

I hit Dallas during the depths of the real estate and savings and loan bust that also wiped out some big Texas banks, making them bargain-basement targets for acquisition by out-of-state outfits that were on an expansion spree. What I saw in Dallas really made an impression -- met a lot of folks who were white-knuckling their way through bad times and bankruptcy, trying to keep up appearances. When I started writing the first Ed Earl Burch novel, having him chasing financial fugitives seemed to be a natural. I also wanted to make him about ten years older than me, which was a natural reflex because I’ve always hung out with an older crowd. The other reason, probably rooted in my days as a reporter, is my desire to keep technology at bay. No smart phones, laptops still a few years away and this thing called the Internet still Al Gore’s brainchild. It meant Burch had to rely on the things I relied on -- and the cops I knew relied on. Shoe leather, phone work, records archives, files, court documents and his connections with people. I write crime thrillers rather than whodunits, but I didn’t want to junk up my stories with cell phones and other technological trappings. In one of the late, great James Crumley’s final books, one of his two main characters, Milo Milodragovitch, seems to pull out a cell phone every two seconds and it damn near ruined the book for me. One thing I tried NOT to do was make my books a sepia-toned homage to a particular time. You see small references that let you know when the story takes place, but I don’t hit you over the head with it. You want to get the details right and not make a bone-headed mistake and include a glaring anachronism -- that will ruin your credibility and kill reader interest in your story. But I’d much rather let the story be driven by character, dialogue and a keen sense of place.

11) You create some of the weirdest bad guys this side of John Connolly. And weird, compelling but frightening bad guys are a personal fetish of mine. Who or what was your inspiration for Mr. Badhair?

Damned if I know. Both Badhair and Teddy Roy Bonafacio -- T-Roy -- leapt onto the page fairly fully formed. For Badhair, I had a vague notion of creating someone who was a really scary homicidal maniac with two ridiculous traits -- a high-pitched voice and that bad toupee. This really wasn’t on my mind when he appeared in the book, but it’s a good way to describe what I was going for -- what if Mister T really was a remorseless and hyper-violent killer instead of this gold-chained poseur with a Mohawk? T-Roy was the son of oil-field trash. He’s part Mexican, but it doesn’t show -- he’s skinny with a mop of red hair. El Rojo Loco. He’s delusional, believing he has the power of this weird hybrid religion practiced by this old woman and her sons he’s partnered with in the drug business, a combo of voodoo, Santeria and Aztec heart sacrifice. The power to cheat death. He also has visions in his dreams that quickly turn to nightmares of a winged serpent that wants to eat his heart. And he’s an impulsive killer just as liable to smoke a friend as he is to ice an enemy. Another example of characters hijacking your novel -- I meant Carla Sue Cantrell to be a very minor character, but she just elbowed her way into the story and became a major player. The interaction between Ed Earl and Carla Sue, their smart-ass banter and the bond they form during their fugitive run across Texas, defines them both, I think.

10) Was there a real life inspiration for Ed Earl Burch or is he an amalgam of several people?

There’s a lot of me in Ed Earl. I gave him my bad knees, bald head and beard, taste for bourbon and fatal attraction to smart, sharp-tongued and crazed women who can take a wooden stake to your heart. He’s got one more ex than I do. I smoked Luckies and carried a Zippo back in the day. Gave up the Luckies. Kept the Zippo. And we both prefer John Browning’s most famous and enduring gun design -- the 1911. But I’m not engaging in an extended ego trip or Walter Mitty fantasy with Ed Earl. What I’ve tried to create is a character who isn’t super sharp like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe or super cool like Frank Bullit. More of an Everyman. He’s tough, reckless and smarter than most, but dogged more than brilliant. With a mean streak and a willingness to shoot people ‘what need killin,’ as they say in Texas. What I was gunning for was an anti-hero more along the lines of Hammett’s Fat Man, the Continental Op. Or Crumley’s Milo Milodragovitch.

9) Give us a picture of your average writing day: Do you go Old School and write in just notebooks or do you go straight for the laptop? Do you set word count goals?

Used to be a night owl and could stay up writing till two or three in the morning, then put in a full day’s work. Still have a day job, but I’m older now and can’t pull the all-nighters. If I’m making notes about characters or plot, I grab a pen and a steno pad. But I write on a laptop, either sitting in a front porch rocking chair, if the weather’s good, or in a beat up leather recliner in my den. Usually with a cigar providing spiritual inspiration. I find I write best in a long session on the weekends -- six or seven hours, with occasional breaks to stretch the legs or get coffee and a fresh cigar. Still have a day job, so weekday writing sessions tend to be two or three hours, every other night. Never have set word-count goals or other milestone markers. I usually start out with a scene in my head that I want to get in the manuscript and set my cap to getting that done. Sometimes you surprise yourself and go well beyond that point and into fresh ground you may or may not have planned on plowing. Sometimes you’re chiseling rock with a ball-peen hammer.

8) The third Ed Earl Burch novel, The Best Lousy Choice, is about to launch in May or June. Can you give us a brief synopsis for it?

The Best Lousy Choice takes place about a year or so after The Last Second Chance.  Burch is an emotional wreck, living on the edge of madness, hosing down the nightmares of that last case with bourbon and Percodan, dreading the next onslaught of demons that haunt his days and nights, including a one-eyed dead man who still wants to carve out his heart and eat it.

He’s also a walking contradiction. Steady and relentless when working a case. Tormented and unbalanced when idle. He’s deeply in debt to his shyster lawyer who forces him to take the type of case he loathes -- divorce work, peephole creeping to get dirt on a wayward husband.

Work with no honor. Work that reminds him of how far he’s fallen since he lost the gold shield of a Dallas homicide detective. Work in the stark, harsh badlands of West Texas, the border country where he almost got killed and his nightmares began.

What he longs for is the clarity and sense of purpose he had when he carried that gold shield and chased killers for a living. The adrenaline spike of the showdown. Smoke ‘em or cuff ‘em. Justice served -- by his .45 or a judge and jury.

When a rich rancher and war hero is killed in a suspicious barn fire, the rancher’s outlaw cousin hires Burch to investigate a death the county sheriff is reluctant to touch.

Seems a lot of folks had reason for wanting the rancher dead -- the local narco who has the sheriff on his payroll; some ruthless Houston developers who want the rancher’s land; maybe his own daughter. Maybe the outlaw cousin who hired Burch.

Thrilled to be a manhunter again, Burch ignores these red flags, forgetting something he once knew by heart.

Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it. And it might just get you killed.

But it’s the best lousy choice Ed Earl Burch is ever going to get.

7) Burch strikes me as a “slow and steady wins the race” kind of private eye. He’s old, has got a paunch and bad knees yet is indefatigable. What specific, identifiable quality do you think makes Burch keep putting one foot in front of the other?

Yeah, he’s not quite as physically wrecked as I am. He’s an ex-jock gone to seed, although he still jogs and pumps iron and has some hard muscle under the belly fat. He can take a punch and dish one out. But he’s no super-hero with six-pack abs and bowling ball biceps. There’s a redemption theme running through all three books. Ed Earl used to be a murder cop and was pretty good at it. That gold shield gave him a sense of pride and a calling bigger than himself. He was a street cop who believed in nailing the bad guys to keep John and Jane Q. Citizen safe. He believed in evening the score -- rough justice instead of law book justice. When he gets bounced from the force, he loses that pride and sense of purpose -- and sometimes forgets the code he used to live by. When you meet him in The Last Second Chance, he’s retreated into this safe shell of office, apartment and favorite bar, chasing financial fugitives from the S&L bust and the occasional divorce case he loathes. At least, he thinks he’s safe -- until he gets yanked from his lair and plunged into action that reminds him of who he used to be and forces him to step up and live by his old cop reflexes, savvy and code or die. He’s as surprised as anybody to find he’s still got it and still believes in evening the score. That’s the lapsed Baptist in Ed Earl, with vengeance and revenge being very Old Testament motivations and redemption being very much a New Testament promise. I’d say Ed Earl has to be reminded of who he really is -- by a murder or an unpaid debt to a dead partner -- before that relentless and remorseless side of his character wakes up.

6) Now that you’ve established Burch as a character, do you have any plans for another series or standalones? Or are you just going to continue the series?

I’m already thinking about a fourth Ed Earl book. I think it’s high time I drop the notion of his really being a Dallas PI and somehow get him to West Texas. However, I’ve also thought about trying my hand at Westerns. A lot of folks think the Ed Earl books have the feel of a classic Western, underneath all the hard-boiled, noirish trappings. Maybe they’re right.

5) Plotter or pantser?

Very much a pantser. I’ll do a very rudimentary outline or eight or nine paragraph riff on what I think the book will be about and major turning points. Might even do some notes on characters. All on that steno pad. But once I do that, I shove that pad in a drawer and start writing.

4) Just to get back to him for a moment, you said you’ve read a lot of Raymond Chandler. Aside from characterization and dialogue taking precedence over plot, what else did you learn from him about crime fiction?

Chandler gets a lot of credit for defining the hard-boiled school of detective fiction because of his essay, The Simple Art of Murder, which was meant as a learned protest and denunciation of the dominant form of mystery -- the cozy or amateur sleuth solving a set-piece mystery with elaborate and often unbelievable plot twists and heavy use of deductive logic. Chandler did not intend for this to be an ossified checklist by which every detective novel or hard-boiled crime thriller would be judged from now until the end of time. And if you take a good look at The Long Goodbye, he seems to violate a lot of principles he set forth in his essay. That reminded me to chuck the template and write the story you want to write as well as you’re able to write it.

3) To talk about dialogue for a moment, you obviously have a keen ear for the patois of Appalachian America. Do you just give it straight to your readers or are you obliged to water it down in the interests of accessibility?

I’m the son of hillbilly Scots-Irish parents who were both raised in little mountain communities outside Asheville, N.C. I spent a lot of summers with the country cousins and we lived in my grandfather’s house for about two years when my dad got the chop at an oil refinery up north. My people were story tellers and the tales they told and how they told them fascinated me. I think that’s where I first developed an ear for quotes and dialogue and a keen interest in telling stories. I’m a writer, so I’m a failed talker, as the Irish would say. When you’re writing dialogue, you have to be careful with dialect -- at least, you get that hammered into you by all the know-it-alls. There’s hostility to dialect that seems to be rooted in a cultural correctness that seems to be snobbishness disguised as caring for the sensibilities of the poor rednecks your characters are supposed to represent. Thank the stars above that Erskine Caldwell and William Faulkner ignored this. That said, I try not to ladle the dialect too thickly in my dialogue. But I’m not as stingy with it as the nabobs of writing demand. And there’s a difference between the speech patterns you hear in Appalachia and Texas, where there’s a Midwestern influence -- and, close to the border, a Mexican influence. That’s more of a tonal and rhythm thing than something you can capture on a page. The further west you go in Texas, the stronger those influences are. Ed Earl and Carla Sue both come from hillbilly mountain stock, so it’s natural for them to sound a bit more like mountain grits and slip into the pattern of speech they grew up hearing from aunts, uncles and parents when bantering with each other. It’s the glue of the bond that forms between them.

2) If offered a Big Five contract for the entire Burch series, would you take it or would you proudly cling to your indie status?

Money talks. But at my age, I’m more interested in getting my books out there and not waiting for an agent to sell them to a publisher then get in the conga line for publication two years from now -- with loss of editorial control.

1) Who do you admire in modern crime fiction and are any of them influences on you?

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot from three writers I got to know at a Killer Nashville crime fiction conference two years ago -- Dick Belsky, Baron Birtcher and Rich Zahradnik. Like me, Belsky’s an ex-newsie. He lives in New York and writes fast-paced mysteries with reporters as the sleuths. Lots of plot twists and lots of snappy patter. His writing reminds me to keep my dialogue sharp and not let it meander.

Birtcher writes these very lyric novels that feature an Oregon rancher-turned-reluctant sheriff that are set in the 70s, but really have a timeless Western feel to them. His writing reminds me that it’s okay to ditch the terse, clipped staccato of the hard-boiled template and let your writing fly.

Zahradnik’s novels center on a New York reporter named Coleridge Taylor, who covers the cop beat and gets sucked into the stories he covers. All his novels are set in the New York of the 1970s and he really captures the time and the place without making his stories sepia-toned or nostalgic. A great example of how to handle novels set in a different time and place without making that the dominant note.

These three guys reinforced what I picked up from my early influences -- Chandler, James Lee Burke and James Crumley. I’ve talked about Chandler already, so I’ll focus on what I learned from Burke and Crumley. Burke reminds me it’s okay to let fly with the purple prose and rich description -- and, to flesh out your characters’ internal motivations, their fears, foibles and demons. From Crumley, whose novels are streaked with violence, sex, drugs and drinking, I learned to drop the euphemisms that insult the reader and write frankly about these touchy subjects.

KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

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  • Wikileaks.
  • The Peoples' Voice.
  • CIA World Fact Book.
  • IP address locator.
  • Tom Tomorrow's hilarious strip.
  • Babelfish, an instant, online translator. I love to translate Ann Coulter's site into German.
  • Newsmeat: Find out who's donating to whom.
  • Wikipedia.
  • Uncyclopedia.
  • Icasualties
  • Free Press
  • YouTube
  • The Bone Bridge.
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