Here’s a theme for this week. There are two high profile positions no one wants. They are hosing the 91st Oscars, and White House Chief of Staff. One requires two months of intensive preparation and execution. The other could last just six months and completely destroy a career. Why don’t you want these good jobs, America? These are really good, high paying jobs!
Newcastle United are too far behind to pull themselves out of the relegation zone. It’s too late to catch the bus. The bus is gone. They are going down next spring.
How quickly Newcastle have failed this season. And how accurate was manager Rafael Benítez, when he warned everyone this would happen.
I’m not sure if Rafael Benítez will be allowed to finish his contract, which expires at the end of May, 2019. Indications are that he will, as the candidate to replace him, Brendan Rodgers, is poised to complete a somewhat disappointing season at Celtic. Also, the Newcastle ownership and board have no desire to stay up in the Premiership, despite the extra revenue for doing so They seem perfectly content to watch this club go down.
The Red Sox are going to sweep the Dodgers. They have been simply incredible this October, particularly their three wins in Houston. Their pitching has been inconsistent, but their defense has been stunning, and their bats have been relentless. Who’s to say that the Red Sox won’t overtake the Cardinals for second most MLB titles?
A Deadspin article yesterday proclaimed that it “blows” that a Boston club is going to win another title. Excuse me?
Boston is a professional sports town. It has been a pro sports town since around 1912. It doesn’t care about the four NCAA hockey teams (yeah, the Beanpot is a thing, but not a big thing). It doesn’t care about Boston College football or basketball. It didn’t care about my U Mass and Marcus Camby making it to the Final Four in 1996. It’s pro sports all the way. Only Los Angeles comes close in terms of league championship diversity and frequency. And that’s pretty amazing, given how small Boston is compared to L.A.
What does “a pro sports town” mean? It means that each decade since the 1950s, at least one of its pro-sports teams has won a title (hmm, aside from the 90s, so my argument has a weak spot there, but moving on). The Celtics were unbelievably dominant in the late 1950s and through almost all of the 1960s. In 1967, the Red Sox awakened, ushering in a new era of fan support, revenue, and the quest to be the best team in baseball. They went from less than 4,000 tickets sold per game at Fenway to sellouts for over fifty years. What we’re seeing is the fulfillment of that 1967 dream. The Red Sox are about to add a ninth title to their trophy case - the same number that the Cardinals had at the end of 1982. The Red Sox now have the third most number of titles of any MLB team.
That 1967 Red Sox team didn’t just motivate the Sox. It motivated the other three pro sports clubs. And what we’ve seen since 2001 is a synchronization of their efforts. Boston has celebrated ten titles this century, soon to be eleven. That doesn’t blow. That’s what Boston is good at. Pro sports titles are its thing.
Some cities are great at being financial hubs. Some have a great music, restaurant, cocktail or coffee scene. Some are known as tech hubs. Boston is at least three things: a great higher learning town, a great medicine and biotech town, and the leading pro sports town in the US. Back in the 90s, when I had to describe Boston, I talked about 1967, 1972 and 1975, but I also had to stretch a bit and say that it produced a lot of FBI agents (it still does), and was the Mutual Fund capital of of the US (Fidelity). It had the best hospitals of course, but it couldn’t boast anything in pro sports besides Pedro Martinez being the best MLB pitcher since Sandy Koufax.
The New York-centric media didn’t groan when the Yankees won three consecutive titles (1998-2000). New York has two clubs that will never win another championship -the Jets and the Knicks. It has a National League team that should be making the playoffs more often given its revenues and my support (ha!). It has two NFL clubs that are really New Jersey clubs. One of them has four Super Bowl wins and the city doesn’t seem to care (although they are popular on Wall Street and outside the city). And New York has a decent Original Six hockey club. I would argue that New York is a two club town -the Yankees and the Rangers. Boston is all-in with its four leagues. And that’s what makes Boston the premier pro sports town in America.
Did anyone ever say, “We found another great rock band from Seattle. That blows.” Did a food critic ever write, “Well, Los Angeles has another amazing restaurant. That blows.” No. Boston is about to produce its 11th professional sports title this century. That’s what Boston does. People who complain about Boston winning follow teams that don’t win.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to sob about my Newcastle United, and how its disgusting owner is content to let them fall out of the top league for a third time in nine years. That blows.
Update, October 29 2018: The Red Sox nearly did it. They fell a couple of bad plays short of sweeping the Dodgers. Meanwhile, the crying and moaning from the New York-centric press continues.
The House will almost surely swing back to the Democrats. But our criminal president Trump is still in charge, and winning at everything. And his last victory, the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, is his biggest yet. He has broken the judiciary branch, just as he has broken the executive branch. The House is currently broken, so at the moment, Trump controls all three branches of government through the end of 2018.
We have already forgotten about the GOP resistance to Trump. There is none. Instead, we have a GOP that has been completely remade in Trump’s image, while the GOP base serves as the "anti-anti Trump". His supporters don't really care about policies or issues so much, but they love driving those who despise Trump crazy. They see liberal sophisticates as their contemptuous enemies, and anything or anyone who upsets them must be good. That makes Trump their hero.
The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh served three purposes. It stacked the Supreme Court, 6-3 in favor of Corporate plaintiffs. It gives Trump a chance to avoid being subject to subpoena or indictment while in office. And it served as the ultimate insult to American women. The message is load and clear. If a woman tries to hold a powerful white man responsible for criminal behavior, she will be annihilated.
If there was any doubt that the Right Wing has any sense of shame or decency in them, that too is annihilated. Here were are, in 2018, and credible character witnesses that would have sunk an Associate Justice nomination 10 years ago are totally ignored now. Hell, 13 years ago Republicans called out an unqualified nominee from their own party. We’re in a new era now.
Don't you just love the arguments these right wingers make today? We love the life-time appointment of judges who will faithfully complete the task of handing what's left of our democracy to the corporations, and of course we applaud the destruction of the environment and the wrecking of employee's health in the name of untaxed profits. And isn't the bloated and grotesquely out of control military budget wonderful? The rich and powerful have gotten richer beyond the dreams of avarice, and the plutocrats who fund the Republican Party run the economy and the nation to suit themselves. To these anonymous right wingers, all of this is unalloyed good. Unfortunately, the president who has delivered all of these wonderful goodies is so boorish, so vulgar, so embarrassing! If only he would stop tweeting, and become more presidential. Then, life for the Republicans would be perfect!
Some sort of backlash is coming now. But I fear it won’t be powerful or angry enough. The loss of the judicial branch out to send thousands of people into the streets in protest. I fear the majority of Americans, while opposed to Trump, are demoralized and deflated. A new period of national malaise is settling in as our big problems -both economic and environmental- become much worse.
And now the New York Daily news is being killed by its parent corporation, following a $15 severance payment to its former chairman, accused of sexual harassment by two women.
Corporations over workers. Jobs cut in lieu of absorbing legal fees and damages. I don't think this is legal is progressive nationals like Iceland. But in the USA, and especially under the Roberts Court, this is the proper order of society.
American cable TV news is sustainable for now. Enough older views keep that going. But the damage to US journalism is done. There are some amazing people who do investigative journalism for almost no pay. But there's no longer a healthy number of students majoring in journalism. Ten years from now, there there be any investigative journalists to speak truth to power, or even write about the Mets?
There's a revolution happening in Ireland, one of the last progressive nations left on earth. Ireland is coming together, while the UK is being torn apart.
After a century of relative stability following a Civil War, the Republic of Ireland is asking some big questions and making some big decisions. Same sex marriage is now legal. Divorce has now been legal for 23 years. And the Republic has taken the first step to legalize abortion for any reason a woman chooses.
This is a nation that has been closely aligned with the Vatican for centuries. A nation that served as a Catholic foil to England's Anglican patriarchy. A nation that, if the legend is to be believed, preserved Western European civilization during the Dark Ages.
But a new generation of Irish citizens do not fear the Vatican. They learned from their parents that upholding human rights is a cornerstone of Irish society. This nation of just 6 million people advocates for human rights from Yemen to Gaza to Syria to Burma and even the USA. And a disproportionate number of Irish people are members of Amnesty International. It was celebrity Irish Amnesty International members like Bono and Sinéad O'Connor who got me into human rights advocacy in high school. Watch sessions of the Irish parliament (Oireachtas Éireann) on YouTube or RTÉ and there's a good chance the term "human rights" will be spoken.
A fascinating awakening has occurred. Sometime between the late 1980s and today, the Irish people realized that they don't have to follow the Vatican in order to set a high standard for human rights. They are doing it themselves, in the secular sphere of diplomacy and trade. The latest generation of Irish adults are less religious than their parents. And slightly more of them speak the Irish language than the generation before them. We are witnessing an Irish awakening.
Which brings us to the elephant in the room - reunification. That process began with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. A lot of Irish Republicans feared that it would chill calls for reunification, and for a time it did. But just one generation later, the issue is in the spotlight again. The agreement allows citizens of Northern Ireland to easily apply for Irish dual citizenship. No one thought there would be a wave of Northern Irish applicants. Northern Ireland has better roads and infrastructure, some said, somewhat jokingly. Northern Ireland is just fine and stable, others said. But then in 2016, people began applying for Republic of Ireland passports in record numbers. This year, there have been 100,000 Republic of Ireland passports issued to citizens in the northern six counties. That's higher than the number of people who speak the Irish language daily in the Republic. It's a huge number, and it was set off by the 2016 UK European Union exit referendum ("Brexit").
And so the process to reunify has begun again. We didn't know it in 1998. We didn't know it in 2016. But it is happening now. It seems unavoidable. Even those who were once supporters of partition or the Ulster side.
Meanwhile, a hard UK exit from the EU appears likely. The Tories, in their downright bizarre quest to honor the misguided will of the people, have done nothing but destabilize themselves. Theresa May's government has been on the verge of collapse since June, and a hard Northern Ireland border with checkpoints appears likely, which would violate the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and accelerate the movement to unify Ireland. And on the UK side, an exit from the EU without terms in place would subject the nation to tariffs for just about everything, and would probably put an end to automobile manufacturing in the UK. Nissan, Land Rover, Toyota and others would move their manufacturing to the EU or China. Presumably, only Aston Martin would remain in the UK.
What the hell kept the Tories in power this long, two years after the disastrous EU exit referendum? There's no reason for a Tory government at Whitehall. Meanwhile, the Corbyn-led Labourites are in their predictable disarray. The whole British project, from the 1707 Act of Union, the installation of the House of Hanover in 1715, the creation of the United Kingdom and the mostly mythical Commonwealth, all look increasingly irrelevant, theatrical, even farcical. Let Scotland secede, the northern 6 counties finally reunite, and England and Wales do whatever the hell they think might work.
I'd say yes.
He may be, along with a certain Giant known as Willie Mays, the greatest defensive center fielder in the history of the game. He's not a great hitter, it's true, but he saves runs and games, and his contribution to the Red Sox is almost incalculable!
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?