The The Saudi-Yemeni War (2015-) is well in its fourth year. The US suports Saudi Arabia in its bombardment of Yemen. The US helped start this war, and now more children have been killed.
Last season ended with a bang, but the Summer 2018 transfer window was silent for Newcastle, until the final stages of the FIFA World Cup.
Last season, Newcastle over-performed, winning most home matches from February onward, and finishing 10th in the table. Pundits credit manager Rafael Benítez for that surge, and predict that Newcastle will finish around 13th - closer to where they should have finished last season.
The manager and the supporters knew that the Summer 2018 transfer window would be similar to last summer, with more players being sold than being brought in. But I think that had to happen, as there were players of low quality or who didn't have the trust of Benítez. No one wanted Jack Colback on the payroll anymore.
In the summer window, which closed last week, Newcastle sold the following players:
- Aleksandar Mitrović (striker)
- Mikel Merino (midfielder)
- Chancel M'Bemba (center back)
- Adam Armstrong (midfielder)
- Ivan Toney (reserve striker)
- The club declined to renew contracts for Massadio Haïdara (left back), Curtis Good (center back), Jesús Gámez (right back) and Stuart Findlay (center back).
- They also loaned out Jack Colback (midfielder) and Dwight Gale (striker) to serve out their contracts with other clubs.
Newcastle brought in the following players:
- Martin Dúbravka (keeper)
- Sung-yueng Ki (midfielder)
- Kenedy (left winger, on-loan)
- Yoshimori Muto (striker)
- Fabian Schär (center back)
- Jose Salomón Rondón (striker, on-loan)
The loanees in particular are crucial signings, considering their talent and crucial roles. Kenedy, since joining the club on-loan in January, has proven himself to be the best left winger at the club since Jonas Gutierrez. Rondón was signed as part of a rare player swap. Newcastle loaned Dwight Gayle to West Brom, and they loaned Rondón to Newcastle. It is the hope of both clubs that the strikers will find more success with the change. I liked Gayle. But he wasn't the Number 9 striker Benítez needed. The manager is looking for a guy who can get over 10 goals per season. For a club that doesn't score often, that would be a start.
For the second consecutive summer, Newcastle sold or released more players than were brought-in. But the quality of this year's arrivals are higher than last year's, at least on paper. Newcastle have a star goalkeeper, a star winger (if temporary), a deeper midfield and two new strikers, who have replaced the ones the manager did not trust.
However, it's not all good news on Tyneside. Benítez is in the final season of his contract, and will not renew under the current ownership and board. The club needs to be sold, but it can't if the owner keeps "loaning" cash to the club and refuses all offers under £400 Million. The key loanees, Kenedy and Rondón, are bound to leave unless a new owner can come in and put the big money down to sign them to contracts. If someone is going to buy Newcastle united this season, they will have to pay more than the club is currently worth, approve some big contracts, and accept that it will take a while for the club to climb to a £500M valuation. It's going to take a new owner, a new board, and more patience - the kind of patience that Benítez has shown with this current regime.
Despite a frustrating loss to begin the 2018-19 season, the squad is positive and is poised to get their first win soon. They go to Cardiff next.
They and we are United.
There's a really good line in the underrated Brian De Palma movie, Casualties of War (1989). Following a big, emotional, confession scene for Michael J. Fox, the movie quickly shifts to an army court martial. De Palma and his trusty cameraman, Stephen H. Burum, know they have to present information quickly, as the movie is wrapping-up. But they avoid television courtroom lensing and framing. There's no panning to the bench or the counsel. They keep us staring at the witness chair, as each of the accused offer their versions of the atrocities that have taken place. The prosecutor grilling them is the versatile character actor, Gregg Henry. His character is based on a real Army prosecutor, but also reminds me of trial lawyer Richard Scruggs, who also served in the military and would be about the same age as the Army prosecutor. Henry delivers one of the best lines of David Rabe's script. He shouts the sequence of events in the case to prime defendant Sargent Meserve (the incredible Sean Penn), followed by, "DOES THAT ABOUT SUM IT UP!" I think that's a strong scene. Go see the movie if you can endure the intensity. De Palma's work is consistent. Almost all of his movies are good. Even Phantom of the Paradise (1974) is now being recognized as a good movie.
So to borrow that line, how is this sequence of events?
1973: Americans begin working longer hours while wages start to grow a little more slowly. Double income families become all but mandatory.
2000: Bush v. Gore reveals Supreme Court to be deeply partisan, and also protecting of GOP minority rule.
2001: The Enron accounting scandal ushers a swift recession and a new era of stagnant wages. Corporations realize they were foolish to throw raises at people in the 1990s. Salaries to remain flat for decades. The ‘gig’ economy slowly begins.
2010: Court rules in favor of Citizens United. Again, solidifying GOP minority rule.
2013: Shelby County decision guts the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Again, tightening the GOPs grip as a ruling minority. Several red states enact voter suppression laws and policies the day after the decision.
2015/16: GOP robs a sitting president of a Justice pick, setting off a quiet constitutional crisis.
2017/18: Constitutional crisis deepens as new president, assisted by at least five foreign governments, wins office despite losing popular vote. he then installs two justices to swing the court to the right for the next 20-40 years.
Does that about sum it up?
2018 has brought the chaos and instability that Trump couldn’t quite get started in 2017 (aside from the turmoil within his White House and the white nationalist invasion of Charlottesville VA). But now Trump is entrenched, strongly supported, and about to get away with the biggest political conspiracy in world history.
Think about it: Russia, Israel and the UAE (and probably also Saudi Arabia and Turkey) assisted in whatever way they could to get their preferred candidate into the White House. Aside from Russia, all of those nations didn’t stand to lose anything with Clinton. But with Trump, they stood to get more than Clinton was willing to give (such as an embassy in Jerusalem). They got greedy and preferred Trump because they correctly thought that Trump likes oppressive regimes, and hates the European Union.
Mueller will release a report that will detail how Trump is the head of a criminal enterprise, involved with money laundering, using his office to raise much-needed cash, selling access to the Oval Office, and partnering with foreign agents during the 2016 campaign without anyone reporting it. But he won’t be removed. He won’t be indicted (although his children might). No, Trump will survive. Considering that his approval rating with Republicans and Mormons is on the increase, there’s an excellent chance he will be re-elected in 2020. He will run a nasty campaign and motivate 60 Million people to vote fro him. The Democrats will have a tough time getting 60 Million votes, especially if they run a conservative candidate like Mark Warner or Eric Holder.
It finally dawned on smart journalists and scholars in June 2018. Trump is keeping the Republican minority rule alive. Led by Mitch McConnell, the Republicans have stolen two Supreme Court seats and a presidential election. 2016 should have been a definitive defeat for the GOP at the national level. Instead, they are going to remain in power for at least another generation (30 years). And locally, they have an iron grip on power thanks to dirty politics, voter suppression and gerrymandering. The Republicans are a ruling minority. And only a few of us noticed that this ruling minority began in 1994, with Newt Gingrich and the GOP's "Contract With America." The impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 was cynical, but it sent a message. The GOP was never going to play nice again. It was always going to remind the coastal Democrats that they, the corporations, the millionaires and the billionaires are in charge.
From what I can tell, hundreds of millions of US citizens don’t care about this destructive minority rule. They don't think about it, just as they didn't think about the temporary DHS policy to separate migrant children from their parents, creating up to hundreds of orphans. If they thought about it, they thought, “That won’t be me. I’m not a migrant.” That mural of Trump in one of the boys detention centers is somehow not surprising. Federal departments reflect the president at the time. And the sitting president is a fascist dictator, who looks to other dictators -friends and foes alike - as role models on how to appear strong. He likes them all. From Egypt and Saudi Arabia to China and Russia. In his first week in office, he lashed out at the Prime Minister of Australia. What did we think he was going to do in the 8 years to follow?
During Trump's time in office, Republicans have gone from distancing themselves from his conduct, to fully embracing him. Again, he is doing a fine job maintaining the GOP's minority rule. His Gallup approval rating among Republicans is now at an all-time high of 90%. Trump knows he’s going to get away with the illegal campaign assistance he received from Israel, Russia and the UAE in 2016. Trump is about to set up the Supreme Court to protect him and the party that put 5 Justices in their seats. Trump knows that his dirty tactics and white nationalist dog whistles will win him re-election in 2020. And I wonder if he thinks he can make himself a president for life. At the very least, he won’t move out of the White House on the day he’s supposed to move out. He’ll be in his bathrobe tweeting away while the next president is being inaugurated.
But now, we must acknowledge that Trump has already destroyed what's left of this republic for the lower 90%. No future administration can repair the damage that he has caused in just 18 months. And with a Supreme Court repeal of Roe v. Wade looming sometime in the 2020s, I'd say the USA is over. It's finished. And we liberals let it happen. We underestimated the anti-abortion movement to remain strong for over 40 years. We underestimated Newt Gingrich's platform. We let partisan politics infect the Supreme Court and steal an election for Bush 43. And we underestimated Trump and let him turn the presidency into a authoritarian platform. We didn't challenge him while he weakened our republic, or legal protections, the WTO, NAFTA, NATO, and our positive relationships with our allies. All we did was march on his first day on the job. And now it is all over.
When Rage Against The Machine debuted their first album in 1992, on the eve of Bill Clinton's election, I thought why all the anger and warnings about the government? Why all the calls for a revolution just as awareness of white privilege, the value of diversity, and the evils of sexual harassment were just being adopted by college-educated Americans? Now I know why. When citizens miss their chance to revolt, the next chance can be decades away, or never. I am leaning towards never in the case of the USA after Trump.
I woke up Friday to terrible news. I have been a big fan of Anthony Bourdain since 2004 or so. He worked with French oyster fisherman for a summer as a teenager. He worked summers in Provincetown as a sous-chef in his twenties. He moved to New York in the 80s, working as sous-chef at The Supper Club, One Fifth Avenue, and finally Les Halles, where he worked his way up to executive chef in 1998. He used his gift of writing to compose both fiction and a journal, the latter of which became his memoir of long days, whiskey and beer lunches, and cocaine nights, Kitchen Confidential (2000). Instant fame followed, with two Emmy-award winning food travel shows (roughly the same show but on two different networks).
Tony was a young man in New York at the right time - right at the end of the classic CBGB / punk era. He saw Blondie and Talking Heads gigs there. He idolized Iggy Pop and David Bowie. He became friends with Iggy. I don't think he ever met Bowie (who quietly moved to New York in 1993). Just a few months ago, Bourdain did retrace Pop and Bowie's footsteps in 1976 Berlin when they made their incredible trio of albums with Brian Eno (and couldn't avoid the heroin and cocaine).
I just watched the Hong Kong episode of Parts Unknown on CNN. He spent half the shoot with Wong Kar-Wai's former cameraman, the always drunken and talented Christopher Doyle. It's a classic Bourdain episode, with him eating and boozing his way through one of his favorite places in the world. Tony's world was Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, New York, Provincetown and France.
And he took his life where his life began, in France. His best friend, hotel staff and Éric Ripert found his body in his hotel room Friday morning, June 8.
Our world is depressing. And if Tony Bourdain, a man who lived for travel, food, music and sex, lost his will to live, then that doesn't bode well for anyone.
He leaves behind an 11 year-old daughter, Airiane. I think he never wanted kids. He said so before he had one. And now he has hurt someone who didn't deserve this. Just like Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, who shot himself with what was probably a vintage .45 pistol in February 2005 with his teenage son in the next room. What is it with my favorite alpha male writers?
A silly legal question from an armchair law aficionado: At what point does the wall between the White House counsel and the president's private, outside legal team come crumbling down? When will this firewall fail or be breached? Is it when Robert Mueller produces his report? Or could it be sooner, such as when the White House becomes involved in a cover-up or tries to obstruct the Special Counel's investigation?
Surely, it has to be when the White House gets involved in the cover-up of the 2016 Trump campaign's foreign collusion conspiracy?
We have heard the White House communications office use the phrase "outside counsel" quite a lot. Reporters are referred to Trump's private legal team for any questions relating to the Special Counsel investigation. But what happens when the White House Press Secretary lies in an effort to cover-up a detail in the alleged conspiracy between the Trump campaign and multiple foreign governments? Far more serious was the sighting of a White House lawyer at a classified DOJ briefing on the progress of the Special Counsel's investigation.
The White House counsel hasn't gotten much attention throughout Trump's first term, since most of the action has been conducted by his private legal team. But no matter how invisible or ineffective the White House team is, I think trouble is coming to them. Surely at leaast one of the fires Trump has set has gotten into our house.
Sanders' lying at the podium, and Republican efforts to obstruct justice should bring the Mueller investigation into the White House. "Outside counsel" is going to have to become White House counsel. There can't be a wall between Mueller and the White House any longer.
My head is still spinning from the news this past weekend. I consider myself someone who can keep up with all the big stories surrounding the corruption of the Trump administration and the criminal conspiracies of the Trump 2016 campaign. But I can no longer keep up. A conspiracy wall the size of a soccer field couldn't hold it all. My brain hurts.
So what happened this weekend? Trump and his legal team got angrier, sillier and more bold in their use of limited hangouts. At this stage, it appears that Trump is on the verge of torpedoing the Mueller investigation and claiming that anything less than shooting someone is a not a crime.
But this latest development is unfolding in a most terrifying way. First, let's accept the fact that most Americans don't care. That's terrifying in itself. Bush v. Gore shattered the republic. The endless war on "terror," the permanent state of fear, and the Patriot Act shattered it some more. The Republican-led Senate preventing a sitting president from filling a Supreme Court vacancy set fire to the house. Now, while the fire spreads to all the rooms under president Trump, most Americans are either too broken or simply not engaged to care. The disengaged post-Watergate future scholars warned us about is here. That sets the stage for even more, permanent oppression.
This weekend, we reached the stage where the president declared himself to be above the law. It took nearly two years for Richard Nixon to reach that stage. It took Donald Trump less than 15 months (since the Mueller investigation began). And just in case it wasn't clear, the president himself tweeted it on Monday morning as a kind of limited hangout that maybe he did commit a crime, but take it from him, he didn't! And as if that wasn't enough, he tweeted 90 minutes later that the Mueller probe is unconstitutional.
In 2017, tweets like this were met with some eye rolling and some gasps from Mika Brzezinski. It seems to me that this past weekend a large portion of the news media finally woke up and realized that these tweets are official presidential statements, and need to be taken seriously. Despite typos, misspellings and occasional humor, Trump has followed through on most topics he has tweeted about. From his "travel ban," to exiting the Iran deal, to starting trade wars, Trump eventually remembers what he's angry about and acts on it. And so, we have to assume that he is going to try to end the Special Counsel's investigation again soon. His staff might talk him away from the ledge, or he might take the dive, but as Trump always says before he does something big, "we'll see what happens."
We've reached the totalitarian stage of the Trump presidency. It was always there, beginning with the lie about the inauguration crowd size, but now it is fully out, 500 days into his first term.
In 2017, Trump reserved his angriest tweets for Saturday mornings. Now his manic, angry, desperate tweets are sent almost every morning - usually before 07:00 DC time.
Trump's tweets are bad enough. But Trump has found the recipe for motivating his base of 60 Million white supremacist supporters. His blistering, endless condemnation of NFL players who do not stand for the Star Spangled Banner before games is white nationalism wrapped in public patriotism, and it stirs his base into a frenzy. It is Trump's most successful tactic as president. No president has ever succeeded in doing this. Reagan came close, launching his 1980 campaign at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi, the same county where three civil rights activists were murdered in 1964. Ronald Reagan gave his base white nationalism packaged as an argument for "states rights." He demonized the poor and anyone who collected public benefits of any kind, claiming that they were a burden on working people, and that government, by aiding the poor, was too big and too intrusive. That was terrible at the time, coming on the heels of a dark but progressive era that brought bipartisan support for legal abortion, some equal rights, and even some environmental protection polices and causes (think Superfund sites and No Nukes). Reagan represented a right wing backlash to all that.
Trump represents an even stronger backlash to that, as well as all the social and economic changes that have come since the early 1990s. The USA is more Hispanic. The USA has many more people living in poverty. Our local law enforcement agencies are more militarized and use even more force against young black men and women. And the US has a furious white population, fueled by 22 years of Fox News, ready to go out as loudly and with as much violence and destruction as they can muster. If there ever is a serious attempt to remove Trump from office, there will be civil unrest.
Last September, Trump found this winning formula, and today, he deployed more furious tweets about black athletes, rallying his base. Trump's big ego has always been ridiculed. But now, with his more identifiable totalitarian posture, his inflated ego is finally being recognized as part of his 'strong man' style of leadership. It needs to be taken seriously.
It's a shame and embarrassing that one of the only public officials to condemn Trump's tweets today is the mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenny. Kenny was correct to speak out, of course. And his words were very apt:
2018 is beginning to look a lot like 1968. You don't need this little blog to tell you that. Look outside.
This blog was inspired by Sadly, No!, which was one of the best political blogs of the Bush 43 era. I forgot what me and my co-founder, Archtype, wanted to call it. It could have been Gin & Tacos, but that's taken now (and is still a good blog).
Whatever original names I was tossing around, my mom suggested the name I ultimately chose - Modified Limited Hangout. It helped that the domain was available, the name could be abbreviated, and it was a known phrase from the Watergate era. But it was an odd name. Very few people born after 1960 had heard of it. To make matters more complicated, it is a version of the CIA term, "limited hangout," which itself is a technical way of describing a "half truth." Coined on the fly by Nixon lawyer John Ehrlichman in 1973, it's a very unique phrase. A modified limited hangout is the public admission of a wrong in an attempt to hide a more serious wrong, while the media and prosecutors are investigating related crimes. It's a defensive tool in trying to cover-up a conspiracy.
The phrase carries a history, which has been repeated by several US presidential administrations. Back when I started the blog, the Bush 43 administration was dangling some limited hangouts regarding Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and even the timeline of a hunting shooting accident involving the vice president.
Since 2017, the phrase as made a comeback. The reason for this is obvious. We now have an administration that is simply unprecedented in the number of half-truths it disseminates. First, we seem to have an amazing number of leaks coming out of federal agencies and the White House, as employees are torn between preserving their careers, supporting Trump's aggressive policies, and coping with their inability to work for him. Second, we have a White House communications office that hangs out half truths and straight lies every day. Third, the president’s external legal team, led by Rudy Giuliani, is floating limited hangouts (or downright confirming allegations) every week. And fourth and most significant, we have a president who uses a social media platform to publish limited hangouts on a regular basis. Limited hangouts are back.
I didn't create this blog to generate a loyal readership. I knew going in that images and keywords would lead people here through Google searches. I made this blog for me. Once it was apparent that I enjoyed writing in this format, I moved this blog from Blogger to Squarespace. It was still a blog for myself, but it looked better than ever. And it continues to be polished today.
Thank you for visiting.
Ivanka Trump is the daughter of a mob boss (listen to the mob boss' lawyer). She is not innocent. She is one of the executives in the criminal family business. And as a White House adviser, she is complicit in Trump's destructive policies and decisions.
Samantha Bee called Ivanka Trump a feckless cunt. A fine and deserved insult, in my book. But apparently, that was unacceptable. Cunt is one of the Seven Words.
So I ask, what is acceptable? What do you call this criminal? Is there a style guide or rulebook I can consult?
And while we're at it, what do we call these cunts?
And this cocksucker?
And this motherfucker?
And this shit?
And this fuck?
"Big water," he said. "Ocean water."
The hurricane came at a bad time, he said. It kinda threw the 2019 Federal budget "out of whack," he said. Funny.
Puerto Rico sort of had it coming, he said.
Puerto Ricans are lazy, he said. "They want everything done for them." They. Them. Those people. You people.
Only sixteen dead, he said. "Sixteen versus literally thousands of people."
Except it was at least 4,000 people dead. It was in fact 70 times San Juan's official death toll. An impressive door-to-door study has proven it.
The United States virtually lost a territory in September 2017. Scores of sick and elderly citizens died in the days following the storm due to their inability to get medical attention, or because their closest healthcare provider was out of commission. Tens of thousands of citizens who lived in Puerto Rico, have moved to the mainland US because they can't make a living back home.
And no one cared. No one cared for many of the same reasons that Trump didn't care. Puerto Ricans are not seen as Americans.
It is past time for statehood.
And it is past time for this clown to rot in a federal prison. This fucking clown, who has gotten people killed.
I was going to post this in February. Then three months went by. Then I said, screw it, I'm gonna post it.
An unusual thing happened during NBC's coverage of the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. A commentator mentioned that South Korea's rapid growth as a technology leader was inspired by the success of their next door neighbor, Japan. I listened carefully to that description as it was broadcast. I found it to be somewhat accurate. It made no mention that the Korean-Japanese rivalry had anything to do with Japan's brutal occupation of Korea. It was an occupation that got worse each decade up to and including WWII. While that struck me as a historical whitewash, I thought that perhaps the comment relates to South Korea since 1987, when South Korea democratized. In that respect, the commentary was accurate.
In order for its economy to boom, Korea's military dictatorship had to end (much like Brazil's had to end before its economy could briefly grow). When the junta folded in 1988, Korea's gadget and appliance companies were Goldstar and Samsung. Within 30 years Samsung would become bigger than Sony and Goldstar would become LG, a giant in its own right. Even as little as 21 years ago, the Korean government retained some of its policies from its totalitarian past and censored all materials flowing in and out of the nation to protect its growing auto and technology sectors. I knew graduate students from Seoul who, like me, were studying news media and journalism. They would request VHS tapes of news broadcasts from home, and Korean customs would watch those tapes, looking out for any news about auto worker union strikes - or any negative news about Korean business or economy.
So I heard the comment. I raised an eyebrow. I moved on. But apparently South Korea couldn't let that one pass. So they demanded and received an apology from NBC for the network's historical oversimplification and disregard for atrocities.
Now I agree, that commentary could have been written far better. It seemed scripted. NBC had time -weeks probably- to write blurbs on each nation as its athletes paraded into the Pyeongchang stadium. But if NBC had to apologize for that misstep, I thought, what are we to do with decades of misreporting history by television networks?
A really good example is one of the first I was taught by Professor Justin Lewis. When the Sandinistas held elections in Nicaragua in 1990, news networks described them as their "first" free elections. That wasn't true. While the Sandanistas were not keen on elections, they did participate in a monitored, free national election in 1984. But in the US, the 1984 elections didn't happen. I believe ABC World News Tonight had a piece showing Daniel Ortega dancing, kissing babies, and campaigning while a narrator described it as the first time Ortega ever had to campaign. He and the Sandanistas lost, by the way. The US interfered with that election, by the way.
US news media seldom goes into the history of the Israeli-occupied territories. Furthermore, mainstream US media would ever interview a Palestinian. What's a Palestinian?
Same with American Indians and their townships. Townships? I mean reservations. L.B.J. called American Indians our forgotten people in 1964, and The Guardian reported it again in 2017. Isn't the United States sitting back and letting its native populations wither and die out? Reservations are sovereign, we say. Sure, sovereign and set up to fail. I've been to Navajo Nation. I've seen poverty and squalor that makes West Virginia seem downright prosperous. Sometimes I feel like I've been to the moon. Considering how few Americans have seen a real reservation -even the ones who live in Arizona or Utah- I think that's an apt comparison.
And to a lesser extent, the US news media wouldn't need to go into the dark history of the CIA, our nation's involvement with at least five major acts of genocide (Indonesia, Chile, Argentina, East Timor, El Salvador), or the times we stripped the constitutional rights of our own citizens (during times of national crises, "panics," "scares," wartime, or just routine denial of voting rights).
But yes, South Korea called out a US network for its tiptoeing around the Japanese occupation and legacy of rape and murder, and the network quickly apologized. If only we could get historical accuracy from our media so quickly and so easily every week.
I can't say much about Mike Piazza, because his story is known, and as far as I know, he is a good guy. No women have accused him of abuse yet.
Twenty years ago yesterday, the Mets acquired him in a trade, and twenty years ago today, Mike Piazza played his first game for the Mets. His arrival signaled the start of a big money era for the Mets. For the Mets to make it to the playoffs going forward, they were going to have to be a bigger club, like their bully next door neighbors. He got them there. And he was easily the best cacher the Mets ever had.
But I want to write this next point, finally, after 17 years. The worst thing Piazza ever did was deciding not to beat the living hell out of Roger Clemens in game 2 of the 2000 MLB championship (I don't use the W word). He had foreseen it. He knows he should have. I still wonder "what if" Piazza had not been classy, and instead tried to kill Roger. Could this championship series had gone longer? Would it have slowed down the Yankee dynasty, which ended the following year in Phoenix? Would it have helped the other Yankee haters, the Red Sox? What if?
What if, Mike?
And I agree with Charlie Pierce this morning. The crisis might come and go without the nation realizing it. And when it is over, there will be no more Republic.
It's here already.
In fact, we already had one, albeit slightly smaller. We had a political party refuse to consider a nominee to the Supreme Court until it took over the executive branch.
So Charlie is correct that these crises go unnoticed. Bush v. Gore was another. And it fractured the Republic. Now the third constitutional crisis in the post-Nixon era threatens to burn down what is left.
Foreign individuals or governments, representing at least four nations, offered assistance to the Trump 2016 campaign. In return, they received or are receiving favors from the Trump administration. Whether it's a new embassy in Jerusalem, or a bailout for Jared Kushner's 666 Fifth Avenue. We are witnessing transparent bribery, corruption and many quid pro quos. We only know a few of them.
And what has Trump done today? He's on the verge of blowing up the DOJ. He is demanding that the DOJ launch a politically-motivated investigation of itself in order to hasten the end of an investigation into a large and real conspiracy.
The crisis is here. And we're just watching the republic burn.
When an ignorant, volatile and incompetent President tries to run the executive branch with a small staff, and who thinks of himself as a "disruptor," he will, from time to time, throw a lit match into a lake of gasoline.
Update, May 15: This is not sustainable.
The Republic is doomed. A morally bankrupt Republic cannot stand. And yesterday, we saw confirmation of that.
Gina Haspel is a perfect CIA chief. She doesn't care what Congress thinks. She gives zero fucks about accountability, transparency, or human rights.
The argument goes that the US, as an empire, has to do this in order to survive. We have tortured. We do torture. And we will torture again. But for now, just take the word of our millionaire senators from both sides of the aisle that the USA is good, and stands fro truth and justice. Don't worry, and go back to sleep.
Gina Haspel will almost surely become the next CIA chief on May 9. She managed a torture site in at least one nation. The torture employed at her black site had the usual - dark isolation, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, physical torture, psychological torture, and water boarding.
Contrary to what Barack Oabma said, the USA never stopped its rendition and torture program. It's still with us. If we were serious about stopping it, there would have been a truth commission, investigations, reports and accountability. Of course that didn't happen, aside from one Senate report. Americans had more apps to play with one their phones and the CIA continued to orchestrate the torture of people all over the world. And now one of their torture managers will be head of the agency.
And what did the DC elite say when she was nominated to head the agency? They said that she was just being loyal and was following orders when she ran a black site in Thailand. It's the Nuremberg Defense.
I call this the good German defense, which was used by Adolph Eichmann when he was on trial in Jerusalem for his part in organizing the Holocaust. It was dismissed then, and should be dismissed now, and for the same reason. To argue that one may commit crimes against humanity because you were only following the orders of the legal authority in your country fails as a matter of law and a matter of morality. Such an order is illegal, always, and its immorality is self evident.
And I absolutely loved it.
The Ford Mustang is a car that has shadowed me my whole life. As I kid, I saw first generation Mustangs all the time. The Mustang was a triumph in marketing and design when it debuted 54 years ago in Queens. It was marketed as the sports coupe for the common man. The Pontiac GTO debuted the same year, and is the granddaddy of muscle cars. But the Mustang endures as the original American compact muscle car. For decades, it has a solid axle in the back, and was designed for drag racing. Not that Ford would ever promote drag racing or street racing by its customers.
The Fox Body Mustang shadowed my teenage years. I saw it in the final two seasons of Spencer for Hire and in a Vanilla Ice video. In its fourth generation, the Mustang regained its muscle car for the common man status. And while the GTO, Challenger, Charger, Chevelle, and Camaro disappeared temporarily or forever, the Mustang has endured.
This third generation of the Mustang brought back the GT trim line after a 15-year hiatus. Back in 1987, the 5-liter V8 in the GT was the old pushrod Windsor (originally known in the late 60s as the 302). Today, the 5.0 Mustang is powered by the third version of the Coyote V8. Same displacement (well, 307 cubic inches, up from 302). About twice the horsepower, torque, and acceleration. And that’s the first Mustang I played with, after all these years.
I did a solo trip to Central California to visit a friend and scout locations for a future Santa Cruz to San Diego road trip with Lady Sterling. I asked the good people at Sixt for a BMW 430i convertible. It’s luxurious and technologically advanced. It has BMW’s ubiquitous 2-liter turbo motor and ZF 8-speed gearbox. I saw myself getting 34 miles per gallon in that, highway coaster that I am.
But Sixt didn’t have a BMW convertible. They didn’t have a Mercedes C Class convertible either. The manager nodded at me and said “I’ll let you take a 5.0, no extra charge.” I got scared. I knew what he just said. I was getting a Mustang GT convertible for three days. So much torque. So much noise. So many ways to wreck a car in three days. I got nervous. But I let him punch in the codes. I signed the contract. And then there it was. A just-washed 2018 Mustang GT with just 636 miles on the clock. Within 30 minutes, I was in the parking lot of 4th Street Bowl, a midcentury style bowling alley with a “W” shaped canopy above the entrance. There were some sketchy men and women hanging out front, but I wanted to get settled with this beast. I put loose items away, put the top down, got my coordinates for Santa Cruz, and hit Route 17 south. It was a fitting introduction to this car. With the top down, I could hear every exhaust note, and the highway is an old 2-lane with lots of curves and elevation changes. It’s a little like the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut, only with many more hills.
The first thing I noticed was how the Mustang is narrow compared to the Challenger. I drove the Challenger 10 years ago, and it remains a 75-inch wide grand touring coupe dressed at a 1970s muscle car (which is fine). The Mustang is far more nimble in its handling, with far less body roll, and far more comfort in a dense, urban setting. I’m sure the latest Camaro is an even better handler, based on lap times and journalist reviews. But the Mustang is a contemporary car now thanks to its independent rear suspension. And man does it look great, fastback or convertible.
There have been enough detailed reviews for the Mustang, so I won’t go into one now after a long introduction. I’ll just list out some things.
Here’s what I loved:
It isn’t too low. Getting into and out of the car was as comfortable as a 1990s Japanese compact sedan (the 1990 Nissan Sentra was intentionally low for its time). It’s low, but not Chevy Corvette low, and certainly not super low like a Lotus. It didn't feel much lower than my Hyundai Elantra, and I found the height to be livable. I drove from Pebble Beach to Big Sur, and I must have stopped to get out and take pictures 20 times along the route. I would have noticed it the car was too low for my taste.
The exhaust note for the 5.0 GT is impressive and somewhat old school. It doesn’t burp and pop like a Jaguar F Type. It doesn’t have the Mad Max thunder of a Chrysler Hemi V8. But in an era in which the sound of the car is a big part of the retail price, $35-$55K for a Mustang GT is a comparatively excellent value for a car that makes this much noise.
And then there’s the bigger value - the torque and acceleration. The Mustang GT can go from 0-60 in 4 seconds. That’s faster than a 1984 Audi Sport Quattro. That’s even faster than a 2010 Audi S8 V8. It’s faster than any Aston Martin from the 1990s, as well as several 1990s Ferraris. Before the Mustang GT, the most powerful and fastest cars I’ve ever driven were the 2003 Lincoln LS V8 and the 2015 Volvo S60 T5. Both had 250 horsepower. Both could do 0-60 in 6 seconds. This thing is a level of fast I’ve never experienced before, and I know full well that it doesn’t impress journalists today since they get to drive 3 and sub-3 second cars.
And that power, while more than one needs, is actually practical. Getting onto a highway was never easier. Cruising in the travel lane was never more fun. Turning left with heavy incoming traffic was incredibly stress-free. The all-season Pirellis never lost grip, except in dirt on the scenic stops I made along California Route 1.
The interior is not as slick as a BMW, but it’s so well put together. Form follows function. The audio system has two big dials that move with a satisfying notchy feel. The interior is ergonomic, comfortable, and is an updated version of the Mustang interior that has been with the car since its inception. The inside of the Mustang has never been better. I could drive for hors and hours in that bolstered seat. The continued availabilty of My Color, used to customize guage and interior ambient light color is a great bonus.
The visibility with the top down rivals almost any non-convertible aside from a Jeep Wrangler with the top down. And surprisingly, visibility with the top up was as good as a compact crossover, like a Jeep Renegade. You don’t ride as high, but you see everything. Having wide-angle blind spot mirrors set inside each side view mirror helped out a great deal. Thank you, Ford.
Suprisingly comfortable. Even with 19-inch wheels, the Mustng didn’t feel like my Elantra Touring with low profile tires. Of course, being in a state with mostly smooth roads helped out a lot. This was not Manhattan. But when driving slow, the ride was classic Ford. It was like a lower Ford Taurus at slow speed. Smooth and comfortable. And at speed, I got almost the ideal amount of road feedback. The Miata and Audi TT are more connected to the road. But this was still very good. The ride was never harsh.
The base brakes are outstanding. A lot of owners would look to Brembo or Stop Tech upgrades. But the brakes out of the factory are fine in the GT. The stopping power was big, like the motor.
The Wet/Snow mode does its job at reducing torque (at least that’s what I think it does). Grip comes down to tires, of course, but for a rear wheel drive muscle car, this is a great feature.
All the exterior lights are LED. Love them.
I fit in the back seat just fine. I am 6’3” 200 pounds.
The trunk is about 4’ x 3’ and fits two rolling bags plus 1-2 carry-on bags just fine. For traveling couples, the Mustang convertible can securely carry your luggage. Nothing remians in the car to blow around when the top is down.
I am very surprised that I got over 21 miles per gallon in nearly 600 miles of driving. And I didn’t go easy on the throttle, like I normally do. I had some fun, and once unintentionally clocked 85 on the highway.
The Ford/GM 10-speed automatic transmission is super smooth and responsive. Like any contemporary gearbox, it is quick to upshift and hold high gears in order to conserve fuel. I caught it going into 10th gear at under 50MPH regularly. But it does not annoy. For someone who will never drive stick, it was great to have a responsive transmission that got the most out of what I wanted from the motor (which was simple, I drive slow).
And here’s what I didn’t like as much:
The volume controls on the steering wheel are too narrow.. You can find them by feel but they are tiny. I need an extra quarter of a second to find the center of each button with what I think are average-sized thumbs.
Android Auto sometimes cut out and returned me to the standard SYNC3 interface. I blamed my extra long, braided USB cable and not the car. But I had no shorter cable to use.
Collission warning and adaptive cruise control were not on my car, but I could have used them in my first hour. There was stop and go traffic leaving San Jose, and I would have appreciated a more active driver aid system. Consumer Reports argues that every new car should have these systems, despite adding at least $500 to the sticker price.
There is no sunroof option, unlike the Dodge Challenger. I take it that the Camaro has no sunroof option either. If you want sunshine, opt for the convertible.
And so far, that’s all I have found that I do not like. This raises a question for me, personally. I am currently shopping for a compact crossover. A Jeep Renegade is my ideal-sized vehicle for New York City. But could the Mustang be the car I am seeking? Probably not, as there is still the Northeast road quality issue. The potholes would still annoy me in a low-riding car. But in every other aspect I can think of, a Mustang would work. It’s the right size. With the 300 horsepower EcoBoost motor, I’d get closer to 30MPG. My wife could sit in the back when driving hose guests to and from the airport. There would be a need to switch to snow tires in November and all-season tires in April. But there are ways to make that work, even without a garage.
What I learned in my four days with the Mustang GT is that it deserves a place in the most iconic American vehicles made today. The Jeep Wrangler, Chevy Corvette, Chevy Camaro, Ford F-150 and Ford Mustang are living icons of the US auto industry. And of those, the Wrangler, Corvette and Mustang are the most iconic. I drove an icon. And now I want one. That’s why it’s easy to rent a Mustang convertible. They help sell Mustangs. I really want a mustang. A red one, with a red exterior, EcoBoost motor and a ragtop.
Ford brought cars to the masses in 1908 with the Model T. It cost about $20,000 in today's dollars ($1,000 back then).
GM perfected the market segmentation with their tree or pyrimid of brands.
Customers would start their car ownership years with a Chevy. Or they could start with an Opel or Saturn back when they were available. Then they could move up to a flagship Chevy (Tahoe, Camaro, or Corvette for example). Or, if they preferred, they could move to an Oldsmobile (Grand touring brand), Pontiac (Muscle car brand) or Buick (quasi luxury for Geezers, now Opels for for the Chinese). They could also switch to a GMC (luxury truck brand). And if they reach the top of the GM pyramid, Cadillac awaited them.
That paradigm seems to be under threat, at least temporarily until every automaker has an entry-level electric car.
Ford has announced that it is going to stop selling four cars in the US and Canada: The Fiesta, Focus, Fusion and Taurus. They are doubling down on crossovers and trucks, where the higher profit margins are. Ford had only recently given the Fusion a makeover, with a new 8-speed transmission, which is coming to the next Focus and Escape.
This means that later this year, the least expensive Ford in the US will be the front wheel drive EcoSport, at $20,000. Currently, the least expensive Ford is the base, manual transmission Fiesta at $15,000.
Gasoline prices will surely rise again. And when they do, Ford will lose market share to GM, Toyota, and Hyundai/Kia. But they have laid out their strategy of profit margins over market share. The Mustang, F-150, Bronco, baby Bronco. EcoSport, Escape, Edge, Explorer and Expedition will drive Ford sales in the US and Canada for the next few years. Plus their commercial vehicles like the Transit can and F-250 truck will continue to sell very well. By the time the Bronco and baby Bronco are released, we'll know if this was a smart strategy.
Donald Trump skipped her funeral, and I approve! She was a rotten, terrible human being. She was the mother of a war criminal and the wife of a former CIA head and insecure, war-mongering Vice President and President. I acknowledge quite a lot of things about her. I acknowledge that she had a hard life as a young woman. I acknowledge that she had a traumatic miscarriage. And I appreciate that she consistently supported reproductive rights (mostly privately, but sometimes publicly).
However, even after acknowledging all that, I refuse to forget all the terrible things about Barbara Bush. Somehow, we're supposed to forget that Bush was a racist, and had zero empathy or sympathy for the poor. She also had no desire to acknowledge the cost of our wars. At least Nancy Reagan was evil and had some polish (albeit creepy). Barbara was evil and gave zero fucks. She was a most inelegant person, like her husband. And no amount of being good early in life makes up for her being evil in the second half of her life. Some people need to be forgotten from history. Barbara Bush is one of them.
And I won't criticize her or George Sr. on their move from Connecticut to Texas. We Americans have the right to move to any state we want. But to anyone who made the argument that Barbara Bush was great Texan woman, I just have two words: Ann Fucking Richards.