Thursday, January 30, 2020

Gotham City Digest

(Hail to the Dipsy Dumpster in Chief)

     #MoscowMitch would've had to have lost four Republicans minimum. Four plus the 45 Dems and two Independents (Sanders of VT and King of ME) makes the 51 votes needed for a simple majority. McConnell did not see any light. Nothing got his attention but the loss of those four votes. McConnell's a festering, squirming bag of pus who'd openly colluded with the White House to shape its own impeachment. He's defending to the bitter end a man who said the Emoluments Clause was "phony", who thinks it's "unfair" that American companies can't bribe foreign governments, that the Constitution gives him the right to do as he pleases, bribed or extorted a foreign government, an ALLY, to investigate a political rival to benefit him and him only, and is incredulous he can't openly hold fundraisers in the White House. Donald Trump is simply incapable of doing anything good, moral or decent. Even without knowing he's breaking a law, he'll unerringly choose that path, anyway.
    And Mitch McConnell is helping him bury the bodies, is cleaning the crime scene with bleach. McConnell is the most duplicitous, ethically pliable, morally gymnastic son of a bitch who's ever walked into the Senate building at least in our lifetimes.

     And let's not forget this blast from the past from Cadet Bone Spurs, who reprised that attitude this past week by blowing off the injuries suffered by 50 of our troops who suffered brain trauma in that Iranian attack on our base in Iraq as mere headaches. Every time it rains on this craven lump of misplaced trace elements, I like to think it's John McCain pissing on him from above.

    So the next time you hear Donnie Dumbo say how much he loves the Jews, think of this. He probably does believe he's being victimized by a "Jew coup."

     This is exactly the kind of right wing anti-Bernie bullshit you can expect from the corporate MSM between now and November.

     Yeah, I'm sure Simon & Schuster will get right on it.

     These are the types of corporate Democrats we need to vote out of Congress. These clowns Meeks & Gottheimer are no better than Chris Collins, a Republican who's now in prison for insider trading.

     Elizabeth Warren: Let's impose stiff criminal penalties for lying on the internet. Capital idea. Let's start with you.

     "Buelah, mah fainting couch and a mint julep, posthaste! Ah declare ah have the vapors!"

   This is why Mizz Lindsey suddenly scuttled a press conference at which he was expected Wednesday.

     Another right wing hit piece on Bernie from the corporate MSM.

     Nothing to see here, folks. No names to name. No, we're not buying votes. Where'd you get that silly idea?!

    No shit, I should write a satirical novel and entitle it, THE FLYING DUTCHMAN AND MR. HYDE. Actually, considering the facts, it doesn't need satire.

     From my friend Ira Lee White: "The Democratic Party has shown that it wants Hillary Clinton's agenda from the last election to be the platform. Almost all of the members nominated to the platform committee are her people as Jimmy Dore points out in this podcast. They don't want Bernie to win under any circumstances."

      Of course, it also didn't get any input from the Palestinians because, well, who cares what THEY think?

      Breaking: Customs and Border Patrol admit being helpless against new rapist, criminal and drug dealer called stiff winds.

     Spoken like a true Christofascist hillbilly. And I'm sure the son o' God would've given Donnie Dumbo a complete pass on all his many, many, many crimes.

     Meme intermission.

     Because, God forbid anyone should ask Republican deficit and fiscal hawks to pay their fucking bills.

     Florida Man, the world's worst superhero.

   Tom Cotton says that farmers victimized by Trump's trade war should be glad to sacrifice for Trump.

     My, how time flies in just three years.

     Make America Gatos Again!

     So, some of Trump's shysters at Dewey, Cheatham & Howe made campaign contributions to several GOP senators, including Midnight Mitch and Mizz Lindsey Graham. No, no corruption here, folks. Question: Why didn't anyone in the MSM spot this before the trial began? We know Trump gave Bondi $25,000 in 2016 to make her lawsuit against Trump University disappear (she'd said at the time that if she hadn't taken the "campaign contribution", it would've look like the bribe it was.)

     Cops who abuse the public trust, especially in cases of rape, should be put away for life, with no chance of parole.

     Oskar Schindler was a great man. I think we can all agree on that. But Carl Lutz made Schindler look like a piker.

      30-34,000,000 years ago, not only was the ecosystem and geography completely different, so was the planet's gravity (It was stronger, hence animals tended to be larger than today's). So this 30,000,000 year-old grasshopper trapped in amber is really a rare and fascinating find.

     Dershowitz during Watergate. But, yeah, Alan, keep posing as a Democrat. You have us all fooled.

     I'm so tired of this insufferable dickhead Murder Malibu Ken.

     Machine Democrats: "We must unite!"
     What Machine Democrats REALLY mean: "Unite behind me!"

     Look who got nearly straight A's across the board on environmental issues.

     Yes, Wilbur just said this out loud.

     Rand Paul, twice, to John Roberts: "Read this question containing the name of the whistleblower."
     John Roberts, twice, to Rand Paul:

     “They characterized my argument as if I had said that if a president believes that his re-election was in the national interest, he can do anything, even though that's exactly what I said."

     He's also trained to hock up fur balls wherever he finds drugs.

     How much you want to bet many of those firefighters helped to keep Notre Dame Cathedral from burning to the ground last year? And, finally...

     Boy, the Chinese-American museum dodged a bullet and, ironically, on Mulberry Street (Where the NYPD had its HQ for decades in the 19th century).

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Feels Like It's Been 15 Years

     If it feels like I've been around for 15 years, it's because I have been. Yep, the Jurassic One wrote his first blog post about John Kerry and the 2004 election 15 years ago yesterday, the first of about 5000 total posts covering three administrations, including eight sessions of Congress, and the lunacy in each one of them. So, in internet years I guess that makes me the Helen Thomas or IF Stone of political bloggers.
     For the first four years, I'd given it away. I'd just begun flexing my muscles in another arena of internet punditry and it was a sheer rush. Back then, as I've said often, I wouldn't have recognized Karl Rove if I'd shared an elevator with him. And, while the learning curve of political science is, like any other worthy discipline, a steep one, I felt as I was up to the challenge. I'd like to think I was correct in my assumption.
     But in 2009, I had to set up a Paypal account to supplement my income after I lost my home and family of 15+ years and especially after I lost my job of six years a month later. In the last ensuing 15 years, political blogging and my fiction have been the only two constants in my life. In the 10 years since I've been living in Casa de Gotham City (née Pottersville), I've churned out just over 3000 posts totaling perhaps between 2-3,000,000 words. This, obviously, plus the tremendous research involved subtracts time and energy from my fiction writing but I've still found time this past decade to write eight novels plus a couple of dozen unfinished projects.
     But my rent's gone up $150 from $600 to $750 over the last decade and since our lease is up at the end of next month, there's nothing to stop our landlord from jacking up the rent again before the next lease is signed. Earlier this month, I'd had to put back in the bank $500 I'd had earmarked for next month's rent which is due in three days (leaving us with just $250). Our monthly disbursement won't keep us solvent even with the shorter month coming up, especially as my auto insurance premiums doubled since my car accident in June 2018. We're going underwater and I have a girlfriend and a cat to provide for (We just had a medical emergency earlier this month that apparently MassHealth, our insurer, isn't totally prepared to cover since she was hospitalized for three days with pneumonia).
     So if you can help us out in any way possible, please do so. I hate writing these letters but I must if we're to keep living indoors during this winter and beyond. I don't write these posts out of greed. If you haven't been keeping up with my dispatches, then there's lots of new material to read by my alter ego Mike Flannigan and me including a goodie posted just this morning about Bolton's likely testimony before the Senate.
     On the literary front, my novel, TATTERDEMALION, is featured in the current issue of PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY so check it out and get a copy, if you haven't already. It's gotten a 4.5 average rating for some good reasons.

John Bolton is Now the Unexploded Hand Grenade

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
During the House Impeachment hearings, it had come out from Dr. Fiona Hill that John Bolton, after hearing the latest of Rudy Giuliani's duplicity in Ukraine, blurted out that the "president's" personal lawyer was a "hand grenade who's going to blow everyone up."
    Now, with Bolton's Senate testimony all but assured since McConnell now admits he doesn't have the votes to stop it, Bolton is now, ironically, the human hand grenade.
     And if the White House's past behavior is any indicator, and it infallibly is as behavior never lies, Trump and his flying monkey minions are already savaging the former National Security Advisor over his impending testimony. That can only mean they see him as a threat. Every time a former White House official or insider trots out a book, Trump inevitably sneers that they're liars, they're disgruntled ex-employees, they're just trying to sell a book, yada yada.
     And John Bolton does indeed want to sell a book. It's already been fast-tracked with a March 17 launch date. Thus far, the drafts that have been leaked to the press (obviously by the White House, perhaps even Anonymous, since Bolton is sending the drafts to the White House's National Security Council Office for clearance), contain nothing new about Donald Trump that we didn't already know.
    But if and when Senate Republicans cave to the mounting pressure to make Bolton testify, something they won't have try very hard to bring about as Bolton's said he's ready, willing and able to, that necessarily involves what he'll tell the Senate. Most importantly, it naturally begs the question of what he won't tell it.
     This is what I like to call the "Bob Woodward Syndrome."
     Bob Woodward, former star Watergate reporter, has been with the Washington Post for nearly half a century. On his Wikipedia page, he's still listed, risibly, as "an investigative reporter" and an associate editor with that paper. Yet for many years now, Woodward hasn't been an investigative reporter in any real sense. Still mining his countless contacts within the government that would make Sy Hersh drool with envy, Woodward has an uncanny knack for mining nuggets of what ought to be journalistic gold that, by rights, should go right into the WaPo.
    But Woodward doesn't do that. Instead, he puts them in one or another of an endless stream of books, as he has done since All the President's Men in the Nixon years to 2018's Fear. Woodward sits atop these juicy bits of information that would well serve the American people and Congressional investigators until the book's launch date, often years after they've lost their potency and relevance.
     I can perfectly see John Bolton doing this. The so-called revelations coming out of his book, that Trump withheld military aid on condition they announce an investigation into the Bidens and its own government's (debunked) involvement in meddling with the 2016 elections, are hardly revelatory and had been confirmed by many House witnesses. So the question is not what Bolton will say under oath but what he won't say for fear of denying future readers a reason to buy his upcoming book.

"We'd Like You to Do Us a Favor, Though..."
We've been hearing for months now that in exchange for witness testimony called for by the Democrats, they'll have to negotiate with the Republicans by allowing their witnesses to testify. Since last November, they've wanted Joe Biden, they want Hunter Biden, they want the whistleblower to come forward. Some Republicans, laughably, have even called for impeachment manager and House Intel Chair Adam Schiff himself to testify. 
    This is an impeachment trial. Only witnesses who can substantively add to or refute evidence should be allowed. This isn't nor should it be a hostage or prisoner exchange. Yet, the mainstream media seem to be OK with that, as if complex negotiations in these matters should be expected. In other words, Republicans want, dare I say it, a quid pro quo from Democrats.
     Of course, there's always the danger, especially on the Republican side of the aisle, that allowing Bolton would allow the flood gates to open and more witnesses would eventually come forward. They may look at allowing Bolton's testimony as triggering a safety valve. But if Bolton does testify and provides the damaging information both sides of the aisle expect, the pressure on the Republicans will just be starting.
     Because, after Bolton's testimony, assuming it's as damaging as the advance hype says it'll be, it'll just exert pressure on the Republicans, especially the 22 up for re-election this year, to explain to their non red meat base why they voted to acquit in spite of the overwhelming amount of evidence of Trump's guilt. It'll also tighten Trump's grip on the party whose heads he'd threatened to "put on a pike" if anyone voted to convict.
     Just a few hours ago, in their closing arguments, Trump's legal team of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe argued against the relevance of a Bolton round of testimony, which is a sure sign right there they're scared shitless of it as most people would be if an unexploded hand grenade dropped in their midst. It seems the only Republican who actually wants Bolton's testimony is Trump's erstwhile gadfly, Mitt Romney. If McConnell doesn't have the 51 votes necessary to block Bolton's testimony, you can be sure Romney's stuck his snout in the Big Blue Tent.
     The Senate's entrenched right wingers are all too conscious of the embarrassing goose egg in this so-called impeachment trial. That would be the zero signifying the number of witnesses who'd been allowed to testify this time as opposed to the 3 in the Clinton impeachment, 41 in Andrew Johnson's impeachment. In fact, according to Sen. Tammy Baldwin, in the 15 impeachment trials in US history, every single one had witnesses. Until now.
     It's that gaping vacuum at the testimony table that will literally have Bolton's name on it that's conspicuous, the invisible 8000 pound elephant in the room. But Bolton's testimony, coming from a man who was at Trump's elbow for months, could prove to be a lose-lose situation for the GOP. And, historically, as we'd seen in the '74 midterms and the 2000 general election, an impeachment had cost the GOP dearly in Congress and will surely prove so again this year.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

What a Rip Off

     Since last Saturday and over a month ago, in fact, I've been pimping this listing in PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY and Booklife. I found just yesterday that the $149 promo package DOESN'T include mentions in either PW's Facebook or Twitter accounts, even though an occasional shoutout would've cost them jack shit. Thus far, the alleged exposure that my novel TATTERDEMALION's received had translated into ONE sale for the title listed. And that's after I'd posted the permalink on the 50+ writer's groups to which I belong.
     Then tonight, as I'm finishing up tomorrow's article, I see a new email. It's an exciting new "offer" from the same Publisher's Weekly that would've gladly extracted nearly $150 from my depleted bank account if they hadn't fucked me the first time last September.
     I'll give you the full letter below and the numbers attached to it:

     "Dear Robert,

     Thank you for joining PW Select last month and being a new member of Booklife and PW.
     PW and Booklife are offering something new to its members that is very special and that we started this year at a discounted rate. We will be offering a Q/A with selected authors and have a limited amount of spots each month.
     We have some special rates that we are running for this feature. The way it works is that we get you in direct contact for a short Q/A with our editorial staff and then they profile you in both the print and in digital version of PW’s magazine in the next available issue on 3/9/20. It takes about 4-6 weeks in advance to reserve these positions because they are a bit more impactful then running an ad in our magazine and you do work with our editorial staff. I have attached a PDF with more details and pricing below
     These are the rates for each size classification

     Full Page $2500
     2/3 page $2000
     Half page $1500
     Quarter Page $1200"

My response was as follows:

     Wow! I can get PW to interview me and at the low, LOW rate of $2500?! Where do I sign up?
     Listen, pal, you fucked up on my only submission through Book Life. You rudely dismissed and rejected my novel, Tatterdemalion, for a review, then, to add insult to injury, sent three rejection letters in a row within 11 minutes. Not one, not two, THREE. So I let you guys know how I felt about that since that's happened to me with countless literary agencies who also weren't content with rejecting my novels just once.
     In an effort to put oil on the water, one of your people offered me for free the $149 promo package that seems to include everything EXCEPT mentions on PW's Twitter and Facebook feeds. You know, where it REALLY would've counted. Not so, I was told, and now have my book infrequently mentioned on Booklife's Twitter account that actually has several hundred fewer followers than my main Twitter account. Their Facebook page has only a few hundred more likes than my author page and I have over 3200 friends to their 2000+ likes. In other words, my reach is larger than theirs.
     I know you guys are running a corporation and a corporation's sole reason for existence is in making money. So while I don't have any delusions that a letter from an unknown novelist will result in any dramatic paradigm shift, I nonetheless have to get this off my chest:
     Between guys like you, Boobbub. Kirkus and a handful of other more or less official power brokers and gatekeepers, you make a handsome living off under-represented and underserved authors like me. You prey on the desperation of people understandably dying to break into a business that seems more and more tilted toward the Kool Kids in the Klubhouse, the Big Club that George Carlin told us they don't want us in. We get rebuffed with flunky-generated form letters from the literary agencies we're told we need to see first before daring to approach publishers with our properties.
     Then the agencies start slamming their doors in our faces, huffing and sniffing that they're closed to submissions or those that aren't by "invitation or referral only." You want face time with an agent? Just buy a round trip ticket to the London or Frankfurt Book Fairs and pay handsomely for the privilege of elevator-pitching your property to an agent in some ridiculous, sped-up literary speed dating scam.
     Oh, you can't afford to have face time with us, peasants? Sucks to be you, you know, since you're forbidden from writing to or calling us.
     And in the act of doing this, they're forgetting the collusive deal struck about four decades ago between literary agencies and publishers who'd decided they didn't feel like wading through the "slush pile", as they derisively refer to our work, and decided to use literary agencies as an unpaid weeding out process. In exchange, they offered them the chance to exclusively represent authors for whatever percentage they could agree on and they promised not to even look at the work of unrepresented authors.
     In other words, as scummy and collusive as the agreement was (Frankly, I'm surprised every day that it isn't enforceable under the RICO racketeering statutes), part of the idea was to continue giving authors an outlet for their work. Outlets that are now shrinking faster than billabongs in fire-scorched Australia. And they don't care.
     And the agents who don't tell us they're closed to submissions are telling us, instead, that it would help if you happen to have a track record with a Big Five publisher. It would greatly enhance your chances of your work floating to the top of the slush pile. In other words, the people we're told we need to have before we secure a publishing contract are now telling us we need a publishing contract before we can secure one of them.
     Then, just beyond this ludicrous hamster wheel, comes people like you, dangling vague promises of exposure, sales and what have you if you but hand us over $2500 that no one I personally know has to spare for the privilege of being interviewed by us.
     Well, let me tell you- My free $149 listing that dropped last Saturday has resulted in one, ONE sale of the title listed. The only good thing I can say about this experience is that it was given to me and that I didn't have to pay a penny for it (Not that I would have). Because the executives running your outfit know and count on authors like me being so desperate to break the stasis that seems put in place for each of us personally that we'll pay any amount of money to that end.
     Even if we don't have it. As long as the check or the credit card number clears, who gives a fuck if you can afford it?
     Well, count me as a hard pass, pal. I'm having a hard enough time just keeping the lights on and the rent paid without my filling your bulging, bottomless pockets.

     Robert Crawford

Gotham City Digest

(Fixed it.)

   Imagine resting in peace for 3000 years only to have it revealed you sounded like Pee Wee Herman?

    This is the arrogant asshole that removed Harriet Tubman from the $20 bill. Yes, a guy who used to make bad movies and evict 93 year-old women from their homes over pennies is in charge of the largest economy on earth.

   This right winger waylaid Elizabeth Warren in Iowa last Thursday for no reason. He wanted to know, since he'd saved up to put his daughter through college, if he'd get his money back. "Of course not," she said. So now he's playing the victim because he won't get reimbursed under Warren's student debt forgiveness proposal.
    What this right wing nut bag seems to forget is that her proposal is to help those get out from under the yoke of usury. That he wouldn't qualify for the program because he'd saved up and paid for his daughter's higher education out of his own pocket. In other words, he didn't "get screwed for doing the right thing" because he wasn't saddled with decades of student loan debt that would've been 70% interest.
     But right wingers can't be reasoned with, especially these days.

     Another needless murder of a female journalist.

     Sounds as if someone's been watching too many mafia movies.

     "The Boy Scouts of the Border Patrol." No, nothing like the Hitler Youth League.

     He bribed them with campaign contributions, golf outings to Camp David. Now he's resorting to medieval threats to put their heads "on a pike" if they vote against him.
     So he's hearing something on Capitol Hill that we're not.

     Blatant bigotry targeting #LGBT folks during this flaming dumpster fire of an administration has become normalized. Of course Pence would be there.

    McConnell is running a ‘scam’ to keep Bolton from testifying, plain and simple. Of course, it won't work since it's all but certain Bolton will testify in the impeachment trial. It won't change the fixed, predetermined verdict but it'll put pressure on Republican scum who voted to acquit.

    Mike Pompeo is a good man, a Christian man, a godly man o' God. He's also a complete right wing asshole and rage monster when asked why he won't defend Marie Yovanovitch.
     Then the F bombs start dropping...

     This is Pompous Maximus' whiny response the next day to his flaming train wreck of an NPR interview. Note he never addresses his screaming and cursing at her in the green room and even lies about her pointing out Bangladesh on the map instead of Ukraine. This asshole's a mini Trump. This is almost like the Hurricane Dorian Sharpie map all over again.

     First, it was no casualties, then there were 11, now the number of US soldiers with brain injuries is up to 34. "They're just headaches. It's not like they got bone spurs or anything," said Commander Covfefe from the billionaire playground at Davos.

     Ironically, the name of this racist high school is Barbers Hill.

     Better that than oil, plus it'll make the fish a lot happier.

     Another very fine person, one who thought it would be a good idea to run a fascist outfit in a recently Communist stronghold.
      Maybe he'll meet Stephen Seagall there, piss him off somehow and get his fucking neck broken.

     This is where we are right now in the land of the free, home of the brave- We have to train UPS drivers to spot and report signs of sex trafficking.

    While it's understandable that no one should trust anything Mike Pompeo says just on general principle, this journalist gives us explicit reasons why we shouldn't.

     This video of a mother fox willingly nursing baby koalas has gone viral for a good reason.

     The only novel actually written at Auschwitz is due to be published.

    Yes, he was legitimately pissed off that he couldn't hold fundraisers in the White House. He literally can't understand the concept of corruption because he thinks the whole world should be as corrupt as he, that such behavior should be the norm.

     Meme intermission.

     Trump sounds like an immature asshole when he calls his enemies, opponents and rivals names. But I really can't fault him for calling Joe Biden "Sleepy Joe."

     Don Lemon lost his shit when Rick Wilson inveighed against Trump last night. "Donald Trump couldn’t find Ukraine on a map if you had the letter u and a picture of an actual, physical crane next to it.” Never, not even during the worst of the Bush years, have I ever seen news hosts laugh so often at occupants of the Oval Office. And it's not just us, it's all over the planet.
     So, naturally, Donnie Dumbo responds by attacking Lemon on his ratings.

    A Fox poll from this morning shows half of all respondents, a majority well beyond the 3% margin of error, shows they want to see Trump removed from an office he never won, to begin with.

     God damn, this is tragic. Kobe was just 41, his daughter only 13 and had a daughter last June. RIP, Kobe.

     Meanwhile, speaking of Kobe's death, this wonderful bit of passive racism just went out over MSNBC.

     OK, unless Jeffrey Epstein's zombie was on that helicopter and caused the crash, Twitter better have a damned good explanation for this. (Tip o' the tinfoil hat to the Rude Pundit on Twitter for this priceless catch.)

    This is an incredible story of three men who were 10 men apart on a line at Auschwitz and met over 70 years later.

     Guess who’s in charge of security for the app being used in Iowa at all caucus locations to log the votes? Robby Mook, Hillary’s campaign manager from '16, one of the assholes who had his emails hacked by the Russians that year.

     Gwen Ifill, 2008: "Do you support gay marriage?"
     Biden: "No."
     That's pretty fucking unambiguous.
     7 years later, after Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that struck down gay marriage bans, Joe Biden was reported running around the White House like a five year-old wearing a rainbow flag like it was a cape. As if he was in favor of gay marriage all along.
      Joe wasn't. But Bernie was.

     Looks as if the Democrats, being your typical conservatives, refuse to learn anything from 2016. Tom fucking Perez,. the Chairman of the "Democratic" National Committee, has just stacked the three committees with Blue Dog and right wing ideologues. Among them: Hillary's former campaign manager John Podesta (D-Hacked), Barney Frank and Alex Padilla, who as CA Secretary of State, purged over 750,000 voters from the voting rolls. This has the clear earmarks of a contested convention. They're planning to steal the nomination from Bernie again even if it means putting Trump back in the White House. These fucking right wing assholes will never, EVER learn.

     This is a point I've been meaning to make for a while- Republicans fearing Trump (or his rabid fan base) apparently don't or won't understand this is a child they're dealing with. If they spring him, this won't be the end of his demands. It'll be something else then something after THAT. Acquitting him would be the ultimate abdication of the rule of law, the ultimate get out of jail free card.

     The Red Cross's director basically admitted they were stealing over $10 million they collected for the Australian brush fires. You'd have to be a total moron to give a cent to the Red Cross. I'll never forget the time they took in a half a billion after the Haitian earthquakes.
     They built them six corrugated tin shacks.

     Even though I think it's unfair to the rest of us when a public figure gets a book fast-tracked ahead of everyone else's, John Bolton's memoir, "The Room Where It Happened”, has a tentative launch date for St. Patrick's Day.

     Another good reason not to use Uber. If you download their app, you automatically waive your rights to sue them if you get injured in an accident.

     Right wing scum profiting off the tax scam bill. Wow, that was a shock to my system. I may have to lie down after that.

     And so the backlash against American Dirt begins...

     Your Awww moment of the day: Firefighters feeding baby koalas.

     The 28th Native woman to disappear in a Montana county.

     Didn't these guys get a shout out in THE WIZARD OF OZ?

     This is one of the most amazing things I've seen this year: Walking, wind-powered structures.

     We need to get rid of this racist asshole and the right wingers on the Supreme Court who support him. They just ruled yesterday that you can't come in if you're not rich enough.

     I guess Pompous Maximus has thinner skin than we thought.

     Who else is up for renditioning this piece of shit Eddie Gallagher and dropping him right in front of our embassy in Baghdad?

     Brainless cult: Check.
     Unconditional devotion to Dear Leader: Check.
     Drinking something that'll kill you: Check.
     Carry on, my wayward sons and daughters.

     It was 34 years ago today. Never forget them.

     Speakink off Dear Leader's impeachment ist VERBOTEN! MACH SCHNELL! And finally...

     Crook under impeachment hammers out deal with crook under indictment without input from Palestine. This ought to end well.

Monday, January 27, 2020

American Paydirt

     There seems to be some business dysfunction in both Hollywood and Manhattan that tells power brokers in both industries that if you throw enough money at an author and their book, buy enough radio spots and full-page ads in trade journals, it'll be a success. And the book business has its tentpole titles just as Hollywood has its tentpole movies. The thinking is that if a handful of projects make enough moolah, well, then the "others" can be excused while they lose money.
     American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins may have the misfortune to become a victim of its own success in both Manhattan and Hollywood.
     All auguries were of success. In a mad bidding war involving nine publishing houses, it eventually ending up with Flatiron Books, a Macmillan imprint that had shelled out an undisclosed seven figure advance against royalties. A movie deal was already in the works involving the people that had made Clint Eastwood's The Mule. The sky was the limit for this debut author in an industry in which debut authors typically don't make advances large enough to support themselves for even a year (which is the whole idea of an advance, or it used to be).
     So what happened?
     Well, in advance of last Tuesday's publication date, the furious backlash against American Dirt, to which product page I refuse to link, was already in full swing mostly from Latinx authors. It brought about a row involving the need for sensitivity readers, about cultural appropriation and, inevitably, white privilege.
     And, as it inevitably works out, those defending American Dirt, an utterly indefensible book in terms of cultural inauthenticity as well as on cultural grounds, just happen to be, by some happy coinicidence, those who have the most invested in it- The author, the publisher, the literary agency, Sterling (sniff) Lord (sniff) Literistic (sniff) that had sold it and the glitterati of the literary world that had reviewed it, including Stephen King and the aging poet laureate of white grievance, John Grisham.

     In what'll surely be one of the most embarrassing moments of the AD hype was Salma Hayek pimping the book to the heavens... before the backlash she claimed to know nothing about forced her to delete the tweet and Instagram post doing so. Oops, she also hadn't read it before reviewing it. I guess one can forgive her for jumping at the book knowing nothing about it save that it starred a Mexicana like her who owned a book store like Hayek's character in 1995's Desperado in what was, I'm sure, just yet another in a string of happy coincidences. (At least Hayek had the guts to distance herself from the book, which is more than one can say for certain parties who have a lot of money and credibility riding on this lame pony).
     Fancy that.
     Now, there's an old saw in both the film and book business that states, "There's no such thing as bad publicity." Well, Cummins' book will test that theory as no other ever has.
     Mexican-American author David Bowles wrote perhaps the most scathing critique of the book, yet. In fact, it's gotten so many upvotes on Amazon, it's the first one you see on the product page. Bowles states in part,
     Cummins screws up Spanish egregiously (especially nuances in Mexican Spanish). First, when depicting Spanish-language dialogue as English, she sprinkles it with Spanish words, which is ridiculous ("Hola, abuela" is just "Hello, Grandma," in English, not "Hello, Abuela," as Cummins prefers). Even if we accept this as poetic licence to add cultural texture, she does it poorly, never using Mexican Spanish terms, just sterile, standard ones. If you're going to add spice, make it chile, Jeanine.
     Actual examples of Spanish are wooden and odd, as if generated by Google Translate and then smoothed slightly by a line editor. The Spanish is … not idiomatic at all.
     Cultural references are often missed, and Lydia Quixano Pérez (what a name, huh) is ignorant of things that any Mexican knows. For example, learning a cartel leader is called "La Lechuza" (which Cummins incorrectly glosses as "the Owl") Lydia laughs. Owls aren't scary, she insists.
     Now, a "lechuza" is a screech owl. They have been feared throughout Mexico for literally THOUSANDS OF YEARS, considered harbingers of death, witches in disguise. Lydia's reaction is that of the White readers, not actual Mexicans. And this is just one of literally dozens of examples.
     But it has its defenders, namely its increasingly snotty and arch reviewers who have credibility at stake. Among them are fellow white authoress Ann Patchett, who in defending her review actually said, “I read the book and I loved it. That experience can’t be changed by people who don’t like it. Here’s a level of viciousness that comes from a woman getting big advance and a lot of attention. If it had been a small advance with a small review in the back of the book section, I don’t think we’d be seeing the same level of outrage.”
     Yet, it did involve a huge advance, got reviews from some of the biggest authors in the business and that's part of the problem. Also, her reflexive default to sexualizing the antipathy toward the book is made redundant and ridiculous when one notes that Michelle Obama's book made about half a zillion dollars last year and the spoken word album earned her a Grammy just last night. Outside of Trump's red hat-wearing Nazi base, no one ragged on the First Lady or her success. So much for that argument.
     Of course, part of the outrage from Hispanic authors is aimed not just at Cummins and her incredibly tone-deaf book but her publisher Flatiron. Last May, at a pre-launch party, Flatiron featured centerpieces made to look like part of the wall that's made Trump a laughingstock the world over, decorated with twigs made to look like barbed wire. The above picture was lifted directly off Cummins' own Twitter feed, showing both publisher and author alike are equally clueless at this casual cruelty. I'm sure a lot of Mexicans can tell you exactly what it feels like being torn apart by barbed and razor wire while trying to scale the wall that does exist in order to keep from getting killed by drug lords who aren't literary-minded as is Cummins'.
     To give you an idea of the sheer level of Cummins' tone deafness, she actually had barbed wire painted on her fingernails.

     In other words, Flatiron-Macmillan already has a lot of dough invested in this tripe (an initial print run of half a million copies was ordered, so Macmillan suddenly isn't so concerned about the cost of paper and ink) and they're not about to pull out. This isn't Hitler's Diaries. Deception is a lot more palatable if it's an avowed work of fiction, regardless of the social evils it represents. Oprah Winfrey can tell you all about that. Oprah announced as if finding the Holy Grail that American Dirt was just named to her book club list. Looks as if she didn't vet it any better than she had A Million Little Pieces by James Frey.
     But the book's ultimate main value is obviously going to be in inspiring some legitimate questions about what authors can or cannot write. For instance, should Mark Twain had been allowed to write for a character named Nigger Jim in Huckleberry Finn? Should James Fenimore Cooper (whose work was immortally savaged by Twain himself in his famous 1895 essay, Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses) had been allowed to write The Last of the Mohicans, which was about a Mohican named Hawkeye?
     Should I have been permitted to write a novel about a biracial cop in 1854 Boston who was also a former slave, as I had five years ago in Gods of Our Fathers? I'd like to think so, since I did the requisite research and took especial pains not to make my main protagonist Cornelius "Vesey" Van Zant a stereotype. (Plus the subject of slavery is such a remote historical artifact, one cannot be expected to faithfully recreate the entire experience. And, except on a more abstract academic level, who's around to tell us we're wrong?). But I'll circle around to authenticity a bit later.
     And should moral revisionism be applied to literary works written a century or more ago by long-dead authors who simply lived by a different belief system and culture?
     Well, that's automatically a slippery slope and you can argue all day about the moral worth of Twain, Cooper, Laura Ingalls-Wilder and the rest. (Jane Austen's exempt, She never offended anyone and her stature continues to grow.)
     For now, let's confine ourselves to the 21st century and a general belief system many of us share.
     Cultural appropriation is an increasingly thorny debate, one the publishing business strenuously pretends (as in the case of American Dirt), simply doesn't or shouldn't exist. It can be expanded exponentially to include hypotheticals such as, Can a gentile author write a novel with Auschwitz as a backdrop? Indeed, it seems every time an article supportive or critical of Israel is published, about 110% of the time, it's written by a Jewish journalist, as if his or her boss is terrified of being accused of anti-semitism.
     Well, I'm one to believe that anything and everything should be possible in, as Keats once put it in a letter, "the wide, arable land of events." Keats was also known to write that he didn't write poetry "that doesn't cover its ground well."
     And that's the key. The early 19th century Romantic poet hit the nail on the head. While he wasn't writing about cultural appropriation, he was talking about authenticity. Covering your ground well. In other words, doing your research and, even if you're writing about something outside your experience, make it authentic. When Stephen Crane published The Red Badge of Courage in 1895, Civil War veterans who'd read it were at first incredulous that it had been written by a boy of 24 who hadn't been born until six years after the war ended.
     So, writing outside your own experience, even outside your own time and place, is not only possible, it can be permitted, as long as you do your research. As long as you do not do an injustice to your subject matter.
     Cummins did not do the former but she'd certainly done the latter. It does not reflect the Mexican experience at all, say real Mexicans and Mexicanas. Her protagonist is agape at the horrifying violence surrounding her but not in a way that a Mexican mother fleeing a drug cartel would be but as a white summer tourist just looking for a tan and the perfect margarita.
     When you throw a ton of money at such a project, it automatically involves not just the publisher but a publishing industry that features only 3% Latinos, according to Publisher's Weekly last year, an industry in which Latinx authors are struggling to get their work even represented, much less published, much less published to equal fanfare.
     American Dirt and its author also came at exactly the wrong time. We live in an age that's looking more and more like Nazi Germany or at least WWII-era America that locked up Japanese-Americans in detention camps but not Germans or Italians. Donald Trump had inflamed passions, to put it mildly, that have practically turned our southern border into a war zone. We're kidnapping and caging children, tearing migrant families apart, making arbitrary mass arrests, sent troops to the border, and has otherwise turned us into what just five years ago would've been the makings for a dystopian near-future nightmare that Cummins also could have written.
     So, the passions involving immigration were already there and just waiting for the next ember, the next outrage to re-inflame the debate over white privilege. American Dirt has added immeasurably to America's enduring Caucasian-centric culture. Just not in a way that its apologists and investors had expected and hoped.

KindleindaWind, my writing blog.

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