Sunday, April 28, 2019

Poetry Sunday

I didn't realize it until my friend and fellow blogger Kathleen pointed it out to me, but April is National Poetry Month. It's a shame that there's just this one last Poetry Sunday left in the month, but it's appropriate nevertheless to mark it with a poem suggested by Kathleen that's also one of my favorites ...

The Road Not Taken 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

As J.R.R. Tolkien put it, "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." Take the other road ... it may make all the difference.

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


Saturday, April 27, 2019

Cartoon Saturday

Oh, please ... just make it stop ...

North Korean strongman Kim Jong-Un was caught cheating on Donald Trump when he traveled to Russia for a date with Vladimir Putin; North Korea billed the United States $2 million in 2017 for hospital care for American student Otto Warmbier, and insisted that an American official sign a pledge to pay it before allowing Warmbier to return to the United States in a comatose state to die ... the pledge was signed by diplomat Joseph Yun on orders of Donald Trump, but it's not clear if the bill was ever paid; acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has been cleared by the Department of Defense Inspector General of allegations that he showed favoritism in system acquisition towards Boeing, his former employer; Donald Trump has been invited to make his long-desired and pageantry-filled state visit to the United Kingdom in June of this year; and former Vice President Joe Biden has joined the herd of Democratic hopefuls competing for the party's 2020 presidential nomination.

This week, in honor of the looming horror of the 2020 presidential campaign season, a few cartoons about politicians and their campaigns seem appropriate ...

Everybody's gotta start someplace ...

Something about watching sausage being made ...

The Donald Trump presidential library won't need a whole lot of space to include his major writings, all of which are either 140 or 280 characters long ...

Good question ...

Ah, euphemisms ...

Never trust a politician by the size of the flag he waves ... or hugs ...

I think that office is much too large ...

How the 1% views the two-party system ...

As fantasies go, it's not a bad one ...

 It's one of the fastest ways to lose out in DC ...

And that's it for this edition of Cartoon Saturday ... I hope you enjoyed the cartoons about politicians, because it's easier to laugh than cry. And lately, I've been crying a lot.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow, when Poetry Sunday returns. See you then.


Friday, April 26, 2019

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown for April, 2019

We've come down to the last days of April, and on this final Friday of the month it's time once again to find another Ass Clown worthy (and I use the term loosely) of recognition - however passing - above all others. The choice is always difficult, given the enormous number of candidates and the fact that I've already excluded Donald Trump (a lifetime award winner) from further consideration, but sometimes it's easier than others. So it is today.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, I give you

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown for April, 2019

and the award goes - for the fifth time - to

White House Press Secretary
Sarah Huckabee Sanders

As the public face of the an administration, the Press Secretary fulfills a vital function, presenting information to the public and answering questions about administration policies. This can be a difficult and thankless job even in a relatively popular administration, but it's an especially tough one when the administration is headed by an egotistical, prevaricating blowhard like Donald Trump. Nevertheless, Sarah Huckabee Sanders has risen (or sunk) to new levels of mendacity in her full-throated defense of the indefensible and her tendency, like that of her boss, to double down on falsehood even when confronted with overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Consider this excerpt from the Mueller Report:

"Sanders told this Office that her reference to hearing from 'countless members of the FBI' was a 'slip of the tongue.' She also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment she made 'in the heat of the moment' that was not founded on anything."

It's important to note that, when testifying under oath, Ms Sanders grudgingly admitted lying to the press and the American people. But once the report was published and she was no longer under oath, Ms Sanders reverted to type, shifting the blame for her performance to someone else, as is the style of the Trump Administration:

“Those were Mueller’s words that they weren’t founded on anything. What I said was that it was in the heat of the moment . . . meaning, it wasn’t a scripted thing, it was something that I said, which is why that one word has become a big deal. But the big takeaway here is that the sentiment is 100 percent accurate. The FBI is a better place without James Comey. He disgraced himself and he undermined the agency that he was supposed to be in charge of.”

I see no reason to take anything Sarah Sanders says at face value, and neither should you. And if she's not going to do a daily. Or weekly. Or even monthly press conference, why should we be paying her?

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is named as the Left-Cheek Ass Clown for April, 2019 - her fifth award, and well earned.

Have a good day, and be sure to come back tomorrow for more thoughts on Cartoon Saturday. You know you need it, the way things are nowadays.


Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Importance of Taking Notes

Many years ago, when I was serving on the Air Staff in the Pentagon, I worked for then-Major General Ken Minihan, who at the time was the Air Force's Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence. General Minihan was a great boss and a gifted leader, and we all enjoyed serving under him. But like all of us, he had his faults ... one of which was a very soft voice and a tendency to mumble, which sometimes made it difficult for us to follow what he was saying in meetings. This was coupled with a tendency to host lengthy brainstorming sessions with his staff to hash out difficult problems. He'd begin most meetings by telling us "now, don't write this down" as he went on to think through the issue of the moment out loud.

Naturally, because we were good staff officers, we did write everything down, and we used our notes later to reconstruct the discussions and document the results. This allowed us to create the staff packages that the General could use to make good decisions and implement sound policies. Taking good notes was a critical part of our jobs.

I've told you that story because I think that one of the most interesting things to come out of the Mueller Report on Russian interference in the 2016 elections and on the potential obstruction of justice by Donald Trump and his enablers is this: Trump doesn't like people who work for him to take notes.

General Minihan didn't want us to take notes because he didn't want us to waste our time writing when we could have been thinking and contributing to the discussion. Donald Trump doesn't want his staff to take notes because he hates leaving a paper trail that might come back to haunt him.

Donald Trump doesn't write much, unless you consider thousands of spiteful, insulting, and juvenile tweets to be presidential writing. Past presidents and their staffs left hundreds of thousands of pages of diaries, contemporaneous notes, and commentaries, and presidential libraries are treasure troves of information for historians. New discoveries and insights continue to be uncovered in the papers of George Washington, FDR, and other great presidents. One wonders what sort of presidential library will document the Trump administration. I suspect it will be very small, have few records larger than a tweet, and will not give future generations much insight into the workings of one of the most divisive and poorly-performing presidential administrations in our history.

Documenting what you do, particularly at the highest levels of government, is essential. Many presidential actions have results that will not become apparent for many years ... if nothing else, good documentation lets future administrations understand how and why decisions were made, and how plans and policies evolved in response to changing conditions. The presidential paper trail tells future administrations as much what wasn't done as what was.

It will take the United States decades to overcome the damage done by Donald Trump and his secretive, authoritarian ways. A hundred years or more from now, historians will look back and try to figure out why the nation elected such a man, why he did the things he did, and why so many members of his party ignored his blatant unsuitability for office and blindly supported him. It'll be tougher without the type of written record left by every previous administration.

Have a good day. Write more ... it may be the only way you'll be remembered*.

More thoughts tomorrow, when we name the Left-Cheek Ass Clown for the month. See you then.


* For my earlier rumination on how we'll be remembered, you can look at this post from November of 2009.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Musical Sunday

With the release of the Mueller Report, this seems like the appropriate song for this week ...

Send lawyers, guns, and money ... the s**t has hit the fan!

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


Saturday, April 20, 2019

Cartoon Saturday

It's been quite a week ...

The beloved cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris was severely damaged in a huge fire that apparently began when renovation workers sparked the blaze; an Alabama man who accidentally shot himself and his infant daughter with a gun carried in her diaper bag has died of his injuries; Special Counsel Robert Mueller's redacted report was released by Attorney General William Barr, revealing exactly what whoever reads it wanted to hear; the tabloid National Enquirer was sold to a magazine distributor for a reported $100 million; and the New York Yankees have dropped singer Kate Smith's rendition of "God Bless America" from their recorded music list because Smith evidently also sang some songs with racist lyrics.

This week, in honor of the release of the Mueller Report and its contribution to the full-employment program for lawyers, we feature cartoons about ... lawyers. Note: some of these have appeared on Cartoon Saturday before, but they're just too appropriate to the present situation to not use. Let's get to it ...

It's said to be in a tie for the title "The Oldest Profession" ...

If you read the written testimony provided to the Mueller investigation by the White House, you may recognize this one ...

Behind the scenes at the White House ...

Good point ...

I have this feeling every time I watch some high-priced lawyer bloviate on television ...

I'm sure Mr Trump gets a quantity discount ...

The nerve! ...

Yes, that's the Trump enabler version ...

Ain't that the truth? ...

The bottom line of the Mueller Report ...

And there you have it: another Cartoon Saturday dedicated to one of the world's oldest professions. Did I mention that I have tremendous scorn for the legal "profession?" Deal with it.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow, on Musical Sunday. See you then.


Friday, April 19, 2019

Great Moments in Editing and Signage

Here we go again ...

He can probably serve in Congress or most Cabinet positions in the current administration ...

Well, that would certainly point to a potential suspect ...

I think they should have bought a better model ...

Nothing like a job with really good benefits ...

Police work is getting more specialized all the time ...

I wonder how he got out of the bowl ...

It's an understandable mistake, although I'd have thought he'd be a better fit at the Interior Department ...

Must be a very specialized font ...

They even have procedures for it? This is worse than I thought ...

Sounds like my house ...

Is there an editor in the house? I thought not.

Have a good day. See you back here tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday - the non-redacted edition. More thoughts then.


Sunday, April 14, 2019

Poetry Sunday

You may recall that this past Wednesday, April 10th, we noted the birthday of William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army. Today, we present this poem by Vachel Lindsey that documents General Booth going to his reward ...

General William Booth Enters into Heaven
By Vachel Lindsay

[To be sung to the tune of The Blood of the Lamb with indicated instrument]

Booth led boldly with his big bass drum— 
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?) 
The Saints smiled gravely and they said: “He’s come.” 
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?) 
Walking lepers followed, rank on rank, 
Lurching bravoes from the ditches dank, 
Drabs from the alleyways and drug fiends pale— 
Minds still passion-ridden, soul-powers frail:— 
Vermin-eaten saints with mouldy breath, 
Unwashed legions with the ways of Death— 
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?) 

Every slum had sent its half-a-score 
The round world over. (Booth had groaned for more.) 
Every banner that the wide world flies 
Bloomed with glory and transcendent dyes. 
Big-voiced lasses made their banjos bang, 
Tranced, fanatical they shrieked and sang:— 
“Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?” 
Hallelujah! It was queer to see 
Bull-necked convicts with that land make free. 
Loons with trumpets blowed a blare, blare, blare 
On, on upward thro’ the golden air! 
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?) 

Booth died blind and still by Faith he trod, 
Eyes still dazzled by the ways of God. 
Booth led boldly, and he looked the chief 
Eagle countenance in sharp relief, 
Beard a-flying, air of high command 
Unabated in that holy land. 

Jesus came from out the court-house door, 
Stretched his hands above the passing poor. 
Booth saw not, but led his queer ones there 
Round and round the mighty court-house square. 
Yet in an instant all that blear review 
Marched on spotless, clad in raiment new. 
The lame were straightened, withered limbs uncurled 
And blind eyes opened on a new, sweet world. 

Drabs and vixens in a flash made whole! 
Gone was the weasel-head, the snout, the jowl! 
Sages and sibyls now, and athletes clean, 
Rulers of empires, and of forests green! 

The hosts were sandalled, and their wings were fire! 
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?) 
But their noise played havoc with the angel-choir. 
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?) 
O shout Salvation! It was good to see 
Kings and Princes by the Lamb set free. 
The banjos rattled and the tambourines 
Jing-jing-jingled in the hands of Queens. 

And when Booth halted by the curb for prayer 
He saw his Master thro’ the flag-filled air. 
Christ came gently with a robe and crown 
For Booth the soldier, while the throng knelt down. 
He saw King Jesus. They were face to face, 
And he knelt a-weeping in that holy place. 
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Somehow, I don't think I'll be hearing instrumental accompaniments like those when I shuffle off my mortal coil.

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


Saturday, April 13, 2019

Cartoon Saturday

The fun just never stops ...

Attorney General William Barr announced during a Congressional hearing that he suspected - admittedly without evidence - that the Trump campaign had been "spied on" and he intended to investigate; Donald Trump took another step toward weaponizing the immigration crisis by suggesting that asylum seekers be shipped to "sanctuary cities," most of which have Democratic administrations; Donald Trump last week privately told Kevin McAleenan, the border enforcement official he was about to name as acting secretary of homeland security, that he would pardon him if he encountered any legal problems as a result of taking illegal actions directed by Trump; the government of Ecuador revoked the asylum status of Wikileaks figure Julian Assange and expelled him from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, following which he was promptly arrested on a number of charges; and in Washington on Friday, a man set himself on fire in front of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Most days I don't feel my age. But on those days when I do, I really do. So how about a collection of cartoons about old age ...

Yes, this is me, especially after a few minutes of watching the news ...

Gardening is my version ...

I'm really not going there ...

When multiple problems collide ...

Technology is everywhere ...

I thought there was a connection there ...

I'm marching in this one ... I think ...

It's all in how you look at it ...

Ha, ha! ... There must be a lot of Mars Rover drivers here in NoVa ...

Giddyap ... but not too quickly ...

Have a good day and a great weekend. Good luck with getting older. More thoughts tomorrow, when Poetry Sunday remembers the founder of the Salvation Army. See you then.


Friday, April 12, 2019

The Right-Cheek Ass Clown for April, 2019

And it's that time again - time to recognize the one person who has risen above the surging tide of ass-clownery to become the latest representative face of the scourge that threatens our national sanity. It's never easy make the choice, but this time there's not much doubt - thus it is that we hold our collective noses, sigh, and announce

The Right-Cheek Ass Clown for April, 2019

and the award goes to

Attorney General
William P. Barr

Mr Barr, the first person to serve two nonconsecutive terms as Attorney General since 1850, was confirmed by the Senate in February of this year to replace Jeff Sessions*, who was hounded from office by Donald Trump for the sin of insufficient sycophancy. His nomination was widely viewed as an attempt by Mr Trump to install an Attorney General who was already on record as being skeptical of the Mueller investigation** and thus more likely to protect the president from any negative fallout.

When the 400-page Mueller Report was delivered to Mr Barr in March, 2019, the Attorney General quickly released a four-page summary that appeared to clear Mr Trump and his campaign of "collusion" with Russia, but declined to exonerate Mr Trump on charges of obstruction of justice. Mr Barr's thin summary was quickly seized upon by Mr Trump and his supporters, who quickly, loudly, constantly, and inaccurately trumpeted that he had been "completely and totally exonerated" from what the Trump partisans loudly and constantly declared to be a "witch hunt."

Although he had more-or-less committed to public release of the full Mueller Report, Mr Barr slow-walked the process of redacting various categories of information, delaying delivery of the full report to Congress and allowing the White House to loudly bang the exoneration drum before any more nuanced information contained in the report was revealed.

Later, during Congressional testimony on the Department of Justice budget which quickly turned to a discussion of the status of the release of the full Mueller Report, Mr Barr declared - without providing evidence - that he was preparing to review “both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign,” including possible improper “spying” by American intelligence agencies. This, of course, echoed complaints long shouted by Mr Trump and his supporters and further served to inflame partisan anger and complicate the search for truth.

For his obvious efforts to protect Donald Trump rather than to uphold the rule of law and the search for truth, Attorney General William P. Barr is named the Right-Cheek Ass Clown of the Month for April, 2019. Perhaps he will rise to the responsibilities of his office, but I'm not holding my breath ... and neither should you.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday - you know you need the laughs. More thoughts then.


* Amazingly enough, never the recipient of an Ass Clown Award of his own.

**  Narrowly viewed, an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and the possible cooperation of the Trump campaign with that interference. Later somewhat broadened to include an examination of whether or not Donald Trump or his enablers committed obstruction of justice by attempting to interfere with or derail the investigation itself.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Musical Sunday

When the news sucks as much as it has lately, I can always use good, uplifting music to help get past it. This wonderful song by Judy Collins, even though I've featured it here before, never gets old ...

Be someone's rainbow coming around the bend.

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


Saturday, April 06, 2019

Cartoon Saturday

If you thought April was going to be an improvement on March, think again ...

The UK has asked for yet another extension of its Brexit deadline in order to get its fecal material together, this time until June 30th; a teenager in Ohio was arrested and charged with 40 felony and 33 misdemeanor delinquency charges for making malicious "swatting" calls to police; members of Robert Mueller's investigation team are alleging that the summary of their report prepared by Attorney General Robert Barr misstates the report's content, which they claim is much more critical of Donald Trump; a nearly 20-hour long hostage situation in Georgia ended on Friday with a gunman and two hostages dead and two police officers wounded; and New Mexico became the 14th state* to pledge that its Electoral College votes will be credited to the winner of the nationwide popular vote, if enough other states agree to do so as well.

This week, in honor of the ongoing efforts to see Donald Trump's and Bernie Sanders's tax returns, and since the official tax deadline for this year is only ten days away, let's look at a few cartoons about one of the least funny of topics ...

Well, of course ... somebody's got to cough up the money to pay for that wall ...

A long time ago, in an accountant's office far, far away ...

Especially the lawsuit part ...

Maybe you can take it with you, but ...

I wonder if it also works for walls ...

Why I like the friendly lady who does our taxes for us ...

This is also a potential outcome of Congressional redistricting ...

How tax courts calculate prison time, at least for those who aren't rich enough to afford the right lawyer ...

The wages of sin are down everywhere ...

Tomato, tomahto ...

I hope this collection didn't tax your patience too much, and gave you something to chuckle at while you wait for the Trump/Sanders tax reveal.

Have a good day and a great weekend, and come back tomorrow for a Musical Sunday repeat visit to one of my favorite Judy Collins tunes. More thoughts then.


* The others are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington state, and the District of Columbia. Yes, I know DC is not a state.