Sunday, March 31, 2019

Poetry Sunday

At least here in NoVa, March is going out like the proverbial lamb, setting us up for what we hope will be a pleasant April spring. This poem by Linda Pastan evokes the beauty of the new season ...


Our final dogwood leans
over the forest floor
offering berries
to the birds, the squirrels.
It's a relic
of the days when dogwoods
flourished—creamy lace in April,
spilled milk in May—
their beauty delicate
but commonplace.
When I took for granted
that the world would remain
as it was, and I
would remain with it.

Sadly, the world never remains as it was, and neither do we. Whether that's good or bad depends on your point of view. Enjoy the creamy lace of the dogwoods in April ... there's precious little beauty out there unless we decide to look for it.

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


Saturday, March 30, 2019

Cartoon Saturday

It's the last Cartoon Saturday for the miserable month of March, 2019. I thought it would never get here ...

Beginning on April 3rd, a new law comes into effect in the small southeast Asian kingdom of Brunei that will punish homosexual sex and adultery with death by stoning ... Mike Pence will lead a new presidential commission to determine how that law can be applied in the United States; British Prime Minister Theresa May offered to resign her position if the UK Parliament would approve any of eight different options for a Brexit deal ... she's still in the job and Parliament has rejected everything but the Magna Carta*; Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was forced to revoke her cancellation of funding for the Special Olympics after the move proved too mean-spirited even for the present administration; two people, including a tourist who was taking pictures, died at the Grand Canyon in two separate incidents; and a former contractor for the National Security Agency, described as a “hoarder” by his lawyer, pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally retaining a huge volume of government secrets at his house.

This week, in "honor" of all the attorneys on all sides who've spent the last few days foaming at the mouth on television over the outcome of the Mueller Investigation, I thought some cartoons about lawyers would be appropriate.

I'd long suspected that this was the final step in the education and preparation of many lawyers ...

Somehow I just can't see a lawyer as a superhero ...

Nowadays, it's a valid defense ...

It's a valid point ...

This makes perfect sense when you consider that God Almighty had Ten Commandments, and the US Legal Code has 50 "Titles" and consists of more than 23,000 pages of text ... 

This is pretty much how it seems any more, isn't it? ...

I'd love to have been on that jury ... 

If nothing else, the Mueller Investigation gave us the marvelous term perjury trap ... which is lawyer-speak for a devastating question the defendant really doesn't want to have to answer ...

Nowadays, the truth is what is shouted first, loud enough, and long enough to exhaust everyone into believing it's actually the truth ...

The Mueller Report in a nutshell ...

And the gavel falls on the last collection of cartoons for the month. I hope you enjoyed them, and they gave you a much-needed perspective on the legal profession. 

Have a good day and a great weekend, and come back tomorrow for the last Poetry Sunday of the month ... more thoughts then.


* British lawmakers rejecting every attempt at a Brexit deal, but with no plan of their own for a replacement deal, sounds a lot like US Republicans relentlessly attacking the Affordable Care Act with no clue how to replace it.

Friday, March 29, 2019

The On-Crack Ass Clown for March, 2019

March is one of those months in which the number of days and their distribution over the month allows us to name three, rather than the usual two, Ass Clown of the Month awardees. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not, because I already want to throw large and heavy objects at my TV screen or savagely rend my newspaper into fine shreds when I see or read about many potential recipients. Nevertheless, it's my job and I'll put on my hip waders and rubber gloves, hold my nose, and dig into the festering cesspool for the third time this month to name

The On-Crack Ass Clown for March, 2019

And the award goes to

Presidential Attorney and Media Gadfly
Rudy Giuliani

This is the second Ass Clown award for Mr Giuliani (the first was in October, 2016, which you can review here). At that time, Mr Giuliani was cited for his aggressive - bordering on hyperbolic - defense of then-candidate Donald Trump's every bizarre or questionable action. Today, the same commentary applies in spades as Mr Giuliani loudly, constantly, and inaccurately* trumpets that the Mueller Investigation has completely and totally exonerated Mr Trump. While this is apparently true in the sense that no "collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russia was proven, it is patently false in that the report specifically does not exonerate Mr Trump on the subject of obstruction of justice.

If nothing else, the two year period of the Mueller investigation has managed to highlight - in the person of Mr Giuliani and the other members of the Trump legal team - the worst of the legal profession. It's little wonder that lawyers are held in such low esteem.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, the On-Crack Ass Clown for March of 2019 is Rudi Giuliani, receiving his second award. He should just stick to chasing ambulances rather than spewing vast clouds of confusing legal jargon and smugly defending the indefensible.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday ... which we all really need right now. More thoughts then.


* The Muller Report actually says (as quoted by Attorney General Barr in his summary), “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime [obstruction of justice], it also does not exonerate him.” Make of that what you will.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Musical Sunday

Yesterday, March 23rd, we noted the birthday of German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, whose work developing long-range missiles for Nazi Germany provided the later foundation for the US space program. The checkered career of Wernher von Braun was celebrated by satirical singer Tom Lehrer in this classic tune ...

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


Saturday, March 23, 2019

Cartoon Saturday

Remember when we had normal weeks? Neither do I ...

From the Department of Staggering Hypocrisy comes a report that members of the Trump family and other senior administration officials are using personal e-mail accounts and insecure apps to conduct government business; British Prime Minister Theresa May secured an agreement with the EU to delay the UK's exit from the EU, as if that would allow her to finally get her government to agree to Brexit terms; Donald Trump announced that the US would recognize the Israeli annexation of the long-occupied Golan Heights; in the wake of the murder of 50 Muslim worshipers in New Zealand last week, the government of that country has announced that several categories of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines will be banned; and an explosion at a chemical plant in eastern China on Thursday afternoon has killed at least 47 people, according to state media reports.

Yesterday we celebrated the birthday of the great French mime Marcel Marceau, and so what could be a better topic for today's Cartoon Saturday than ... mimes?

How mimes ask for handouts ...

The Jedi Mime Trick ...

Quick, let Trump know that wind power even works on non-windy days! ...

When an invisible box isn't a good thing ...

Not a good fit for the job ...

I wonder if Trump has examined this option for the emperor's new walls ...

The right to remain ... well ... you know ...

Not cut out to be a cowboy ...

It's a new record! We think ...

21st-century young mimes ...

And there you go ... a bit of quiet humor at the end of a week full of stuff not worth listening to, anyhow. 

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow, when Musical Sunday visits with the great Tom Lehrer ... see you then.


Friday, March 22, 2019

Great Moments in Editing and Signage

It's that time again ...

Tomato, tomahto ...

Great page editing ...

He must be serving in Congress ...

Ta, ta ...

It must have been a close game ...

He was on the list of usual suspects ...

Yum! ...

Such a deal! ...

And we finish off with a pair of coupons that are good ... well ... I'm not quite sure when ...

And ...

And there you go! Have a good day, watch out for more editorial gems you can send to me, and come back tomorrow for a very quiet Cartoon Saturday. See you then.


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.