Sunday, March 17, 2019

Poetry Sunday

At this tortured point in our history and our national discourse, perhaps we ought to listen to the words of a great American poet ...

Preface to Leaves of Grass 
by Walt Whitman 

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.

NOTE: stand up for the stupid and crazy does not mean you should blindly follow demagogues ... rather, go ahead and dismiss whatever insults your own soul. You'll feel better.

Have a good day and enjoy the rest of your weekend. More thoughts coming.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Cartoon Saturday

Just when you thought things couldn't get much worse ...

Scores of people were murdered and dozens of others wounded in massacres at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand; in an interview with Breitbart News, Donald Trump again tacitly suggested violence against his political foes, claiming that "I have tough people, but they don't play it tough until they go to a certain point and then it would be very, very bad;" British Prime Minister Theresa May continued to struggle with her government to get approval of a deal with the European Union for the British departure ("Brexit") from the Union; both houses of Congress approved a resolution to overturn Trump's declaration of a national emergency at the southern border - a resolution Trump immediately vowed to veto*; and the US government finally caught up with the rest of the world and grounded Boeing 737 Max 8 and Max 9 passenger aircraft following a deadly crash in Ethiopia.

This week, a look at the much-maligned but - especially nowadays - essential news media ...

No escape ...

Chyrons in history ...

The way it really works ...

The warning notices that we really need ...

True ...

One way to minimize the stress of following the news ...

I like this one better ...

It couldn't hurt ...

I wondered how that worked ...

Fox News did this already, just without the animation ...

Have a good day and a great weekend. Don't let the news get you down, as difficult as that may be. More thoughts tomorrow, when Poetry Sunday returns.


* He announced his intention in the shortest tweet he's ever sent ... the single word "VETO!"

Friday, March 15, 2019

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown for March, 2019

Yes, Dear Readers, it's that time again ... time for us to pull on our shoulder-length rubber gloves and reach deep into the swirling cesspool of stupidity to pull forth the latest example of stupendously award-worthy ass clownery. And because it's my duty, I've done that on your behalf, and so I am prepared now to announce

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown for March, 2019

and the award, in a tremendous landslide, goes to

Tucker Carlson

One of the most popular and outspoken of the shouting heads on Fox News, Tucker Carlson has made a name for himself with his extreme conservative commentary and insult-laced tirades against Democrats, liberals, socialists, and just about everyone to the left of Genghis Khan. But recordings recently released by the progressive group Media Matters for America provide dozens of instances of crude, racist, and misogynistic comments made by Carlson on a shock radio show* between 2006 and 2011. Examples include:

Describing Iraq in 2006 as "... a crappy place filled with a bunch of, you know, semiliterate primitive monkeys...", and as "... a culture where people just don't use toilet paper or forks";

Speaking of Afghanistan, he said that “It’s [Afghanistan's] never going to be a civilized country because the people aren’t civilized.”; and,

Speaking of race, he said, "... everybody is so intimidated by, you know, the Democratic Party and those whackies in the media on this race and gender nonsense. The country's so f****d up on the subject that getting a white man, I mean everyone's embarrassed to be a white man I guess, that's a bad thing."

Speaking of women, he commented, "... If you’re talking to a feminist and she’s given you, 'Well, men really need to be more sensitive,' no, actually, men don’t need to be more sensitive. You just need to be quiet and kind of do what you’re told."

And he also minimized the actions of cult leader Warren Jeffs, wanted by the authorities for his involvement in arranging illegal marriages between adults and underage girls. Carlson described him simply as a man with "a different lifestyle that people find creepy."

It goes without saying that Carlson has refused to acknowledge, accept responsibility, or apologize for those remarks, saying he "... will never bow to the mob. Ever. No matter what." What else do you expect when the role model is Donald Trump?

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, Tucker Carlson - a man who could almost make Donald Trump look like a well-spoken statesman - is named our Left-Cheek Ass Clown for March, 2019.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, when we lighten things a bit for Cartoon Saturday.


* "Bubba the Love Sponge."

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Impeach? Not So Fast ...

Let me say at the outset that I believe Donald Trump is a complete disaster as a president. He has demeaned the dignity of the office, trashed our valuable alliances, cozied up to dictators, and given voice and cover to the worst elements of our society. On a scale of one to ten, with one being Millard Fillmore and ten being George Washington, Trump merits - on his best day - a minus five.

So, what do we do about him?

The first thing to remember is that he has very strong support among a significant part of the population, mostly in the "flyover country" of Middle America that feels its interests have been ignored by traditional political parties and politicians. There is some truth to that.

The main method we have in this country for getting rid of politicians we don't like is the simplest - voting them out of office. Unfortunately, we've gotten to a point where it's more important to some people to protect their party or their incumbent than it is to recognize their faults and vote them out. Republicans despise Democrats and vice versa. Fiendishly gerrymandered Congressional districts protect party politicians long after they've failed to deserve protection and re-election.

The other method we have of getting rid of politicians - specifically, presidents - is impeachment, which is enshrined in Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution:

"The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

There are two important things to remember about impeachment:

1) Impeachment takes place in the House of Representatives. Conviction takes place in the Senate. If you insist that Trump be impeached, consider that it can be made to happen in the Democratic-controlled House, but that he will never be convicted in a firmly Republican-controlled Senate. Unless there is unshakeable bipartisan agreement on specific, proven-beyond-any-reasonable-doubt-or-objection-and-so-blindingly-obvious-that-even-the-worst-die-hard-partisan-can't-deny-them impeachable crimes*, the time and effort put into impeachment is wasted, and could have been better spent on other important issues.

2) The Constitution does not clearly define the terms treason, bribery, and high crimes and misdemeanors. Axis Sally and Lord Haw-Haw were clearly guilty of treason as it is traditionally understood; but does Trump's cozy relationship to figures like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un equate to treason? It depends on your politics and your degree of sanity. I think it's naive and dangerous, but I don't think it's treason. What's the difference between huge, anonymous campaign contributions from a Super Pac, a corporation, or a friendly billionaire and bribery? Again, it depends on your political point of view: defenders call campaign contributions (of any size) Constitutionally-protected free speech; opponents call it bribery**. And what is a high crime or misdemeanor? Murder, probably. Abuse of presidential power? It depends on your politics - what to one party is forceful and determined leadership can appear to be reckless abuse of power by the other.

Where am I going with all this?

I tend to agree with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on the impeachment issue. In a recent press conference, Ms Pelosi said that

“. . . Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.”

That's not what most people who despise Donald Trump as much as I do want to hear, but it's the right answer - Constitutionally, procedurally, legally, and morally. The right way to get rid of Trump is not to waste time and effort on an impeachment fight that will go nowhere, but to come up with a legislative program that makes more sense than his, and addresses the problems of many Middle Americans in a rational, Constitutional, and economically sensible way. And, in 2020, to vote him out and let the courts decide*** any civil issues arising from his behavior in (and outside of) office.

People who think Trump doesn't just walk on water, but changes it into wine and then walks on it, will never change their minds. An impeachment fight will just let them blindly justify their support for a man who doesn't deserve it by allowing them to picture him as a heroic figure beset by evil and relentless enemies who don't recognize his greatness.

He's just not worth it.

Have a good day. See you back here tomorrow, when we name the Left-Cheek Ass Clown for March.


* And legal experts aren't quite sure what those might be, believe it or not.

** I call it "bribery," too, but I'm no lawyer. Thank goodness.

*** I find the legal idea that "you can't indict a sitting president" to be pretty stupid, as it implies that the president is above the law. Again, it's a good thing I'm not a lawyer ... I'd probably die of terminal cognitive dissonance.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Yes, You Can. But Should You?

One of my Mother's favorite maxims was: "Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it."

I think about that a lot lately, usually when the news announces that Donald Trump has done some questionable thing because the president has the authority to (fill in the action du jour). Want to override the advice of intelligence and security professionals and demand that your children get top secret security clearances? The president has the authority to grant security clearances*. Want to launch missiles at (insert country here)? According to the War Powers Resolution, the president has the authority to commit forces without a Constitutionally-mandated Congressional declaration of war**. Want to build a wall that Congress won't support? The president has the authority to bypass Congress by declaring a national emergency***.

It doesn't just apply to Mr Trump, either. Upset at election reform legislation passed by the House of Representatives? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was able to prevent it from having Senate action because I get to decide what we vote on. Angry because you can't get Congress to do anything? President Obama had a phone and a pen.

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it, as Mom would have said. Or, in the words of Dan Carlin, imagine that power in the hands of someone you hate.

Food for thought, for those of us still thinking nowadays.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


* 50 USC §3341 specifies the process for granting security clearances, but as far as I can see it only gives the president the authority to designate agencies to grant clearances. It does not grant the president the power to grant clearances on his own, although this may be considered a derivative of his other powers ... I'm not enough of a legal eagle to decide.

** Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to raise and support an army and to declare war. The last time there was a formal declaration of war was in 1942, when Congress declared war on the Axis allies of Germany, Italy, and Japan.

*** 50USC §1631 "Declaration of national emergency by Executive order; authority; publication in Federal Register; transmittal to Congress. When the President declares a national emergency, no powers or authorities made available by statute for use in the event of an emergency shall be exercised unless and until the President specifies the provisions of law under which he proposes that he, or other officers will act. Such specification may be made either in the declaration of a national emergency, or by one or more contemporaneous or subsequent Executive orders published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress."

Monday, March 11, 2019

Questionable Responses

If you're connected with me on Facebook, you've already seen this rant, so you can stop reading now if you like. If not, read on.

As faithful readers of this blog know, I greatly enjoy writing (and receiving) letters, and over the years I have become an occasional pen pal with some of you. Letter-writing is a dying art, and I'm doing my part to keep it on life support ... now that I'm retired, I've resolved to write more letters to family and friends. And to my elected officials, which brings me to my point ...

In February of 2017, I wrote letters to both of my senators (Mark Warner and Tim Kaine) and my representative (Don Beyer) to express my frustration on the lack of rational attention to the problem of immigration reform, and enclosed with each a copy of my proposed Immigration Reform Plan (which I have also shared with you on this blog ... see here for the latest iteration). In due time, I received replies from all three individuals, all variations on "thank you for your interest in this important topic" and none of them mentioning anything about my proposal.

It's about what I expected, but was still disheartening.

Last month I wrote to the same three elected representatives again, expressing my concern over the Trump "national emergency" and urging that they and their colleagues demand the White House produce hard evidence to prove the existence of such an "emergency."

On March 7th, I received a reply from Senator Kaine. When I read it, it seemed familiar, and so I went back to my files and dug out the 2017 letter from the Senator. Lo and behold, it was virtually identical to the one I'd just received, differing only in some formatting and updated statistics.

I find myself a bit cranked over this.

Now, I understand that my elected reprehensives are busy people who don't have time to read every letter they receive ... they need to spend a lot of time raising money, after all, and so they have staffs who read correspondence from lowly constituents and draft replies to those deemed worthy of response. That's fine. I suspect that what happens is that only a representative few (if any) letters actually make it to the Big Desks; if anything, the staffs probably condense them down into PowerPoint charts or Excel spreadsheets showing broad areas of public interest to be accommodated or ignored as needed.

What irritated me was not that I had received such an obvious a form letter, but that:

a) it was virtually identical to the first, which dated from two years before; and - most importantly,

b) it had no relation at all to the topic I'd written to the Senator about. I hadn't written about immigration and immigration reform, but about the need to push back against questionable presidential actions. I have to wonder if anybody read my letter any further than to see whether it contained certain words that would permit it to be shoehorned into a particular subject bucket that would trigger Form Letter A7 or D4*.

And to date, I haven't heard anyone in Congress really demand evidence.

So ...

I still love to write letters, and I'll keep writing them to my family, my friends**, and my elected reprehensives, but I'll only expect to get meaningful replies from the first two ... unless I enclose money.

Have a good day. Write more letters ... they may be the only way you'll be remembered many years down the road.

More thoughts coming.


* Thanks to my old boss, mentor, and friend Hank for this expression.

** I'll write to you, too ... you just have to agree to write back.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Musical Sunday

This past Tuesday we celebrated the birthday of singer/songwriter Edmond Montague "Eddy" Grant, whose hits included "Gimme Hope, Jo'anna," "Romancing the Stone," and this one, which I like for its relentless beat ...

Rock down to Electric Avenue, why dont'cha?

Have a good day and enjoy the rest of your weekend. More thoughts coming.


Saturday, March 09, 2019

Cartoon Saturday

I need a better all-purpose word than "oy" to refer to weeks like these ...

Trump associate Paul Manafort, convicted on numerous counts of financial fraud, was sentenced to four years in prison - far short of the sentence sought by prosecutors and viewed falsely by Donald Trump as "proof" of "no collusion;" dozens of people were killed by tornadoes which devastated towns across Alabama; starting in 2021, Americans will need a visa to visit countries that are part of the European Union; Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson resigned her position to become President of the University of Texas at El Paso; and White House Communications Director and former Fox News executive Bill Shine resigned to take a position with Donald Trump's re-election* campaign.

This week, in honor of the spiraling number of investigations into the Trump Organization and its questionable** business practices, I thought a collection of cartoons about pirates might be appropriate ...

When pirates go high-tech ...

Captain Hook lucks out ...

They use the same lawyers and media consultants that the Trump Organization does ...

When pirates go high-tech, part 2 ...

I couldn't let this post go by without at least one groanable pun ...

When a pirate is your banker ...

Mrs Pirate, fashion consultant ...

Caddies for golfing pirates have a special skill set ...

Mr Trump interviews for his defense team ...

Sadly, some skill sets don't translate well to new employment venues ...

AAAAARRRRR, mateys! We be finished with the cartoons for this week, an I hope ye enjoyed 'em.

Have a good day and a great weekend, although the cold weather is likely to shiver your timbers. More thoughts tomorrow, when we welcome Eddy Grant to Musical Sunday.


* Gawd help us.

** Or illegal, or scandalous, or unethical, to delve a bit deeper into the thesaurus.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Great Moments in Editing and Signage

Well, here we are at the second Friday in March, and it's our first installment for the month of Great Moments in Editing and Signage. You've been waiting long enough ... let's get to it!

Well, that's some good winter driving advice ...

... and gets a job as an editor ...

Somehow, I'm not surprised ...

Um ... I can't see the new eye doctor, either ...

Your police force at work! ...

I'm not sure that that's necessarily a good substitution, but as conservatives will tell you, the marketplace is always correct ...

I think I'll go next door ...

They're expensive to buy uniforms for, but it'll be tough for miscreants to outrun them ...

I'm not sure I feel sorry for them ... 

She didn't read the fine print ...

And there you have it - the first collection for the new month! I hope you enjoyed it.

Have a good day, and come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday ... more thoughts then.


Sunday, March 03, 2019

Poetry Sunday

Now that I've decided to start writing letters to family and friends once again, I'm faced with the usual problem of making those letters interesting so that people look forward to receiving them. It's not always as easy as you might think, especially when life is just flowing along normally and without drama, or when there are two children in the same house who each want their own (non-identical!) letters. Here's a good poem on the topic ...

In your next letter,

          please describe
the weather in great detail. If possible,
enclose a fist of snow or mud,
everything you know about the soil,
how tomato leaves rub green against
your skin and make you itch, how slow
the corn is growing on the hill.
Thank you for the photographs
of where the chicken coop once stood,
clouds that did not become tornadoes.
When I try to explain where I’m from,
people imagine corn bread, cast-iron,
cows drifting across grass. I interrupt
with barbed wire, wind, harvest air
that reeks of wheat and diesel.
I hope your sleep comes easy now
that you’ve surrendered the upstairs,
hope the sun still lets you drink
one bitter cup before its rise. I don’t miss
flannel shirts, radios with only
AM stations, but there’s a certain kind
of star I can’t see from where I am-
bright, clear, unconcerned. I need
your recipes for gravy, pie crust,
canned green beans. I’m sending you
the buttons I can’t sew back on.
Please put them in the jar beside your bed.
In your next letter, please send seeds
and feathers, a piece of bone or china
you plowed up last spring. Please
promise I'm missing the right things.

Have a good day and enjoy the rest of your weekend. Write someone a letter ... they'll appreciate it.

More thoughts coming.