Monday, November 6, 2017

Fooey

Did you hear the Foo Fighters are coming to Memphis this coming May 3rd? I have- over a hundred times now. In fact, every time they cut to a commercial during a Grizzlies' game, there's Dave Grohl's ugly mug staring back at me. I'm guessing that I'm going to have to watch that commercial for the remainder of fall and all of winter and spring. Do you think they gave us enough advance notice? I understand that the Foo Fighters are America's favorite rock band and have been protecting this nation from foo since 1994, but personally, I can't stand them in general, and Dave Grohl in particular. Oh I know, all my musician friends tell me what a great service Grohl did with his 2014 mini-series, Sonic Highways, traveling to eight cities with unique musical histories and interviewing luminaries from those locations. He went to Chicago, Nashville, Austin and New Orleans but bypassed "Soulsville," primarily because he has no soul. He hammers on that guitar just like he used to pound those drums for Nirvana. At least Kurt Cobain wrote songs incorporating dynamics, using delicate melodies before plunging into thrash and crash. Grohl copped that much from him, but to me, the songs of the Foo Fighters sound like U2 on crank. I'm not expecting anyone to agree with me. After all, the band has nine albums and eleven Grammys, reflecting today's musical tastes, but this power-chord, neo-hard rock is not for me. So now, every time I want to watch a basketball game, I have to sit through several commercials while enduring the screaming of Dave Grohl, greasy hair streaked across his contorted face, resembling someone who's masturbating with steel wool. To each his or her own, but May? If they sell the thing out, perhaps the ads will cease, but I'm holding on to that "mute" button until the playoffs.

Speaking of annoyances on television, did you see that World Series? I'm not referring to the games, which were sensational, but the traditional "Seventh Inning Stretch." I used to love watching Harry Caray sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," when he was the beloved announcer for the Chicago Cubs. It was part of the joy of the game. Shortly after 9/11, sporting events in this country began taking on a militaristic air. I don't know why they have to play the National Anthem before a ball game in the first place, but replacing a jolly sing-a-long with "God Bless America," is a bridge too far. Maybe they sang them both, but all I heard was the announcer saying, "Please stand and remove your caps for the singing of "God Bless America." In the words of CeeLo Green, "FU." I already stood and removed my cap, why should I have to repeat the exercise to an Irving Berlin song written in 1918 during WW1? We don't stand for "White Christmas" or "Easter Parade," or even "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Why this particular Irving Berlin tune? Funny you should ask, so I'll tell you. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, an Assistant Media Relations Director with the San Diego Padres suggested that the song replace "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," and Major League Baseball instituted it league-wide. It's now supposed to be on a voluntary basis, but consider this: On August 26, 2008 at Yankee Stadium, a fan was detained by the NYPD and ejected from the game for walking to the restroom during the playing of the song, resulting in a lawsuit. Among the provisions was a court order demanding that the Yankees no longer restrict the movement of fans during the song. That hasn't stopped the National Hockey League from taking up the practice. Now, they even sing "God Bless America" before the Indy 500. Nothing like a patriotic song before burning lots of rubber and gas.

Speaking of anthems, the player protests in the National Football League continue, despite the idiocy of vocal team owners like the Cowboys' Jerry Jones or Houston Texans owner, Bob McNair, who recently said, "We can't have the inmates running the prison." There's many a slip between the tongue and the lip, and McNair accidentally let slip that the NFL is nothing more than a billionaire's private club, and you're not in it. Ornate stadiums dot the land, playing the role of giant plantations, while the team owner is the straw boss. In 1969, when St. Louis Cardinals' outfielder Curt Flood was fighting for free agency, he said, "A well paid slave is still a slave." Currently, there is a lawsuit pending against the NFL by Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the anthem in 2016 to protest police brutality against African-Americans. The suit accuses several NFL owners, including Jones, McNair, and Trump pal Robert Kraft, of collusion to prevent Kaepernick from playing in their league. Despite a spate of injuries to quarterbacks and sub-par performances by their replacements, Kaepernick (considered a premier quarterback) has not played for the past two seasons. The court has ordered seven team owners to be deposed and to turn over all cellphones and email records pertaining to Kaepernick or the players' protest. This might get good.

If I were a black athlete in the NFL, or any player with a conscience, I'd take a knee before the "Star-Spangled Banner" too, because our National Anthem is blatantly racist and needs to be changed. It stirs the hearts of millions who never paid attention to the third verse, which literally celebrates the deaths of slaves. I'll save you the trouble of looking it up: "No refuge could save the hireling and slave/From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave/And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave/O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave." If you were a descendant of slaves, would you stand up for that? The author, Francis Scott Key, was a wealthy lawyer from a Maryland plantation, who, according to Smithsonian.com, "not only profited from slaves, he harbored racist conceptions of...human potential." Serving as District Attorney for the city of Washington, Key said that Africans in America were "a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community." Key's song was only established as the National Anthem in 1931. That was just a few years before Irving Berlin wrote "Heaven Watch the Philippines," but we don't remove our caps for that. They don't teach you this stuff in White History. Speaking of white history, perhaps Dave Grohl could pen a new alt-rock national anthem and debut it during his visit to Memphis next May. He's only got six months. I can hardly wait.



 

Monday, October 9, 2017

El Pendejo

Here is my dream scenario. The Robert Mueller investigation finds that the Russians not only hacked individual polling places, but actually flipped the vote in certain precincts in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. It could happen. My wife, Melody, voted for Steve Cohen in the last election and the voting machine registered a vote for his Republican opponent. She had to get a poll-worker to help her correct the vote. If it happened to Cohen, it could happen with Trump. So, after finding that the actual vote count was tampered with electronically with the assistance of cyber-whiz Jared Kushner, Mueller discovers that Hillary actually won the presidency. Being in virgin territory, Congress flounders around for an answer and ultimately turns to the Supreme Court. Since the Court still has residual guilt from unconstitutionally handing the presidency to George W. Bush and setting the world aflame, this time they decide to do the right thing and nullify the fraudulent, dark-moneyed, treasonous, Putin-influenced election of Donny the Liar. Of course, Bush is so relieved that he has been removed from the presidential cellar, he has emerged in recent months looking like a distinguished elder statesman. The election results are overturned and Big Don and his family of grifters are ordered to pack up and get out of that dump called the White House. Then the indictments start to fly. The RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) statute, ironically signed into law by the criminal Richard Nixon in 1970, is invoked, stating that the leaders of a criminal syndicate are culpable for the crimes they ordered others to do, or assisted them in the doing. That should just about cover the Teflon Don, Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, Stephen Miller, Jared and Ivanka Kushner, and Kellyanne Conway. A nice, supermax federal prison awaits their arrival but because they are a security threat, they must be placed in solitary confinement and placed on a twenty-four hour watch list. Hey, I can dream, can't I?

The human hazmat suit proved, once again, his complete lack of humanity during his humiliating visit to the island formerly known as Puerto Rico. After publicly feuding with the capitol's mayor during an unprecedented natural disaster, Trump tweeted, "Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan (and other Spanish speakers)...who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything done for them." Carmen Yulin Cruz, San Juan's Mayor, graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BA in Political Science from Boston University, then earned her MS degree from Carnegie Mellon University. She has previously worked in human resources at Westinghouse, Colgate-Palmolive, and Cellular One before returning to her native Puerto Rico and entering politics. Cruz is perfectly capable of handling a buffoon like Trump, who practiced his jump-shot tossing paper towels to a pre-screened crowd of jolly hurricane survivors. While Carrot Top's biological father was tweeting insults from his seventieth day on the golf course, Cruz was waste deep in contaminated water begging the government for help. In an interview on the radical Christian network TBN, Trump defended his actions to Holier Than Thou Mike Huckabee, declaring, "They had these beautiful soft towels. Very good towels. And also, when I walked in, the cheering was incredible." 

After the predictable blow-back from actual human beings with souls, the walking circus peanut was forced to read from a prepared speech, "We must all be united in offering assistance to everyone suffering in Puerto Rico." Then, the Man With No Shame opened Hispanic Heritage Month by mocking a Spanish accent before a group of Latino leaders, saying, "We love Pueeerrrto Rico, or Portorico, as we call it." As late as last Sunday, under twelve percent of the island had power and only half the population had potable water. A power failure in a San Juan hospital caused the mayor to request additional help from FEMA, receiving zero response. On October 8th, eighteen days in from the catastrophic storm, Cruz tweeted, "Increasingly painful to understand the American people want to help and US Government does not want to help. WE NEED WATER." In return, Trump tweeted from the 14th tee, "Nobody could have done what I've done for Puerto Rico with so little appreciation." Reputably, posters have appeared all over the island with Trump's glowing mug over the lettering, "El Pendejo," which roughly translates into "asshole" in English. If further proof were needed to show Trump's shallow indifference towards Puerto Rico, FEMA Administrator Brock Long stated, "We filtered out the mayor a long time ago. We don't have time for this political noise." I wonder if "pendejo" is more or less offensive than the Secretary of State calling the president, "a fucking moron?"

Meanwhile, the five living past presidents; Saint Jimmy Carter, Poppy Bush, Bubba, Dubya, and Barack, established a joint project called "One America Appeal," a recovery effort for hurricane victims in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and what looks like Louisiana and Mississippi. Their efforts include a website where donated funds can be targeted to where they're most needed, and a Public Service Announcement that appeared before Trump's new whipping boy, an NFL game. The George H.W. Bush Presidential Library announced that all five presidents will appear at a Country Music concert on October 21st at Texas A&M stadium, including the ailing Poppy. Trump is not invited because he's not remotely in the same class as the previous chief executives. Remember when chief counsel John Dean told Richard Nixon, "There is a cancer growing on the presidency?" Trump is the cancer. He is the fungus on the pendejo of life. There is no joy in this White House. One glance at Melania's face makes it looks like she is the unhappiest woman in America, which brings to mind the old quote by author Jill Mansell: "When you marry for money, you usually end up earning every penny."

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Revenge Agenda

He sat there seething- stone-faced, jaw clenched, his surgery-resectioned hair lacquered down and bobby-pinned into a ducktail, staring straight ahead lest he glance left or right at the assembled dignitaries and media professionals all doubling over laughing at him- not with him. His customary orange spray tan had been transformed into a glowing burnt umber atop his blushing face. He grimaced and made a little wave but, that aside, he never cracked a smile. The night was April 30, 2011. The occasion was the annual White House Correspondent's dinner, and Barack Obama was getting some payback for Donald Trump's idiotic promotion of "bitherism," the racist idea that Obama was not born in the U.S. and was thus unqualified to be president. Trump even claimed to have sent an investigatory team to Hawaii to verify his theory, reporting, "they couldn't believe what they're finding." So, with Trump in the audience, it was only appropriate that Obama preface his remarks with a large-screen display of his long-form birth certificate. "No one is happier...to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald," the president said. "That's because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like: Did we fake the moon landing?" Donald squirmed, the president continued, throwing barbs at Trump's pet reality TV show, The Apprentice. "Just recently...the men's cooking team did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks. There was a lot of blame to go around, but you Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. And so ultimately you didn't fire Lil John or Meatloaf. You fired Gary Busey. And these are the kind of decisions that would keep me up at night." The crowd howled, Trump scowled. In fact, Obama had just ordered the raid on Osama Bin Laden which took place the following day. I've been convinced that from that night of public humiliation, Trump's vow for revenge emerged and materialized into a political campaign reeking with hatred and dependent on a backlash towards our first black president. I've heard of pendulum swings, but this one was straight out of Edgar Allan Poe.

Now, it seems I have company. The president's ghoulish pal, Roger Stone, said, "I think that is the night that he resolves to run for president. I think he (was) kind of motivated." His sycophant, Omarosa Manigault, a controversial contestant and documented liar from the first season of The Apprentice, who now makes one-hundred eighty thousand dollars a year as a presidential hireling, proclaimed, "Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It's everyone who ever doubted Donald, whoever disagreed, whoever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe." Revenge is the fever which motivates his Obama-obsessed presidency. His singular agenda is to overturn the policies and achievements of his predecessor and destroy the legacy of Barack Obama. According to the Washington Post, in his first six months, Trump has passed no new legislation but managed to roll back sixteen executive actions, sixty-three cabinet level decisions, and fourteen acts of congressional revue. His scorched-earth approach to governing is diametrically opposed to all things Obama, regardless of the consequences. Just look at his cabinet. Almost every pick was chosen with the intent of destroying the agencies they were appointed to oversee. Here's a sampling:

Rex "Tea for the" Tillerson: Secretary of State- Former CEO of ExxonMobil with close Russian ties. No government or public service experience.
Steve Mnuchin: Secretary of the Treasury. Trump's campaign finance chairman and former Goldman Sachs employee. Former owner of OneWest Bank, called a "foreclosure machine" by its detractors, which initiated foreclosures on active duty military families. Initially failed to disclose over one hundred million dollars of hidden assets in the Cayman Islands. Blamed it on the "complicated" disclosure forms.
Jeff Sessions: Attorney General. Denied a judgeship in 1986 for his racist past.
Mike Pompeo: CIA Director. Tea Party Kansas congressman who served on the House Intelligence Committee. Advocated the resumption of waterboarding, black sites, and the reinstatement of government programs that harvest communications of U.S. citizens.
Ryan Zinke: Secretary of the Interior. Strong supporter of coal and oil exploration. Claims climate change is not a "proven science."
Wilbur Ross: Secretary of Commerce. Billionaire recipient of the coal and steel industries. Implicated in the 2006 Sago, W.V. mine disaster which killed a dozen men because of overlooked safety concerns.
Ben Carson: HUD head. Lived in urban Detroit as a child. No bureau management or government experience.
Betsy Devoss: Secretary of Education. Lifelong advocate of charter schools and voucher programs. Wants to require government to pay for private school tuition. No experience in public education. Refused to rule out defunding public schools. Billionaire Republican donor and sister of Blackwater mercenary organization founder Erik Prince.
Rick Perry: Secretary of Energy. Famously stated that he wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy. Oops.
Scott Pruitt: Director of the EPA. Former oil industry lobbyist. As Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt repeatedly sued the EPA over Obama regulations limiting carbon emissions.

This deconstruction of the Obama presidency continues while the city of Houston is still bailing out from one hurricane, while another chews up the state of Florida. And there are two more storms out there after this one. For a moment, it looked like it was the Lord's will to take out Mar-a-lago, but at the last minute, Hurricane Irma made a left turn and said, "Screw it. I'm going to Disneyworld." If Trump's visit to Houston is a precedent, I pray for the people of Florida. While visiting a shelter for storm victims, Trump claimed, "We saw a lot of happiness. It's been really nice. As tough as this was, it's been a wonderful thing. I think even for the country to watch it, it's been beautiful." Tell that to someone who just lost everything they ever cherished. Then, turning to the crowd of hurricane refugees, Trump shouted, "Have a good time everybody." Hurricane Harvey is estimated to cost taxpayers one-hundred sixty billion dollars and the cost of Irma is sure to be immeasurable. When hurricane season ends in November, I guess we just won't be able to afford Trump's billionaire's tax cut anymore. Donald Trump is the Republican opposite of Teddy Roosevelt. While TR said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick," Trump's slogan should be, "Speak loudly and carry a small dick." All this is winning is upsetting my stomach. Please excuse me while I go take a Trump.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Many Sides

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
Edmund Burke 

We're now all contestants in a reality show that we never asked to be part of. And it gets more real every day. The shameful and deadly episode that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia last week was a gathering of white nationalists, ostensibly to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a city park. But the torchlight parade, the attacks on clergy, the Nazi regalia, the Klan robes, and the Stars and Bars carried alongside of a swastika flag revealed the assembly for what it was: a collection of hate groups with various agendas and a new alliance between neo-Nazis and neo-Confederates. The Southern Poverty Law Center said, "It was the largest hate-gathering of its kind in decades." The "Unite the Right" rally quickly descended into chants of anti-black, anti-Semitic, and anti-LGBT slogans that were as vile as your imagination will allow you to conjure. The eruption of violence between the so-called "alt-right" and counter protesters caused nineteen injuries, the deaths of two state troopers in a helicopter crash monitoring the scene, and a young woman crossing the street when a crazed true-believer rammed his car into a group of pedestrians. Whether this type of vehicular homicide occurs in Paris, London, or Charlottesville, it's known by the same name: terrorism. In the ensuing chaos, the forgotten man was Robert E. Lee.

There is free speech and then there is hate speech. Only one is protected by the Constitution. Yes, you can mount a platform and say, "Mexicans are rapists," or "Criminal aliens...take a young beautiful girl...and slice them and dice them." You can even urge your supporters to punch someone in the face if you say it was just a humorous aside. But when your words initiate violence, you are responsible for the consequences. From his New Jersey golf resort, Donald Trump read from a card, "We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides. On many sides." You know someone else wrote it because Trump doesn't know the meaning of the word "egregious." Before moving on to tout his achievements, ("We have companies pouring into our country."), Trump brought Obama into the controversy, claiming there were also hate groups and hate speech during the previous administration. By doing so, Trump is, in effect, saying, "Don't blame me." Since his rise to political prominence began by accusing Obama of being a foreigner and a secret Muslim, he has fed "his base," a constant barrage of inflammatory screeds against immigrants, the press, affirmative action, his predecessor, and particularly Hillary Clinton. On many sides? He forgets who the instigators are. Only one side chanted Nazi slogans like "Blood and soil." Only one side chanted "Fuck you faggot," and the ever popular, "Go back to Africa." If this assembly was about preserving Confederate monuments, there were similar far-right demonstrations in Portland and Seattle, where there are no statues of Confederate generals.

Trump's remarks drew criticism from all sides for his refusal to condemn the perpetrators of the violence, except from the white supremacists themselves. They loved it. Their popular web site, "The Daily Stormer," posted that the president "refused to answer questions about White Nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him." There's something grating about neo-Nazis invoking God. Why can't the president say the words, "Radical, right-wing, terrorism?" In his own admonition, you can't fight a problem if you won't name it. The "problem" was encapsulated by the words of former Klan Imperial Wizard and rally attendee, David Duke, who said to the cameras, "This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We're going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump, and that's what we believed in. That's why we voted for Donald Trump because he said he's going to take our country back." After blistering remarks from members of his own party, Trump issued a lukewarm tweet condemning "all that hate stands for," which, in turn, provoked a tweet from David Duke saying menacingly, "I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror and remember it was White Americans (sic) who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists."

The Charlottesville rally was disgusting but this clash between the emboldened neo-Nazis and those whose fathers and grandfathers lost their lives fighting the real Nazis is far from over. It has been suggested that if the counter-protesters just stayed away and ignored these racist rallies, there would be no violence, since that is the sort of narrative the alt-right seeks. Consequently,  there would have been no press coverage and no one would have died. I'm sure some German Jews said the same thing in 1929. Fascism must be confronted or it metastasizes. On a personal note: my grandfather was the only member of his family to escape Eastern Europe. His parents, two brothers, a sister, their spouses, and nieces and nephews, some small children, were annihilated by the Nazis despite his desperate efforts to free them. I inherited his letters. They are heartbreaking. While in Israel some years ago, I visited Yad Vashem, the museum of the Holocaust. There is a register of names of Jews murdered by the Nazis, but there isn't the slightest trace of my grandfather's family. They just vanished. So, if some neo-Nazi yuppie in a Trump inspired uniform of khaki pants, white polo shirt, and a red "Make America Great Again" cap, comes goose-stepping down my street waving a swastika, I'll do my very best to hit him in the head with a tire iron. Then, the Teflon Don can once again talk about violence, "from many sides."