President Jackass obstructs justice. Again.

So today the man-baby came clean about not having any recordings of his conversations with James Comey.  That in itself could be newsworthy, as Trump virtually never “confesses” to anything.

Actually, he didn’t “confess” this time either, but rather indicated that it was all a bluff to influence Comey’s testimony before congress – meant to keep him “honest” – and he bragged about how well it worked.

Hang on a second while my head stops spinning. There, OK. Let’s see if I have this right.

  1. The President of the United States fired the Director of the F.B.I., James Comey, and then explained on national television that he did so because he was unhappy with the investigation of Russian meddling in the election, and wanted to somehow end it. He thereby confessed to committing Obstruction of Justice.
  2. The President of the United States then tweeted a veiled threat about having recordings of his discussions with Comey before Comey was to testify before Congress.
  3.  The President of the United States is now bragging about not actually having any such recordings after all, but being successful in his attempt to influence Comey’s testimony (by “keeping him honest”), thereby committing Obstruction of Justice. Again.

The President of the United States appears to be a bit clueless about some of the basics of what is and is not appropriate for him to say. Actually, he appears to be a complete jackass.

As always, though, the people who need to understand this don’t care and aren’t listening.

 

trump blather

What’s with all the Pelosi hate?

In the aftermath of the most recent Democratic Party failure, the defeat of Jon Ossoff in the special election for Georgia’s 6th congressional district seat, I’ve seen approximately 10 zillion articles explaining the result as a repudiation of Nancy Pelosi.

The winner, Karen Handel had campaigned heavily on the made-up notion that Ossoff was a Pelosi admirer and therefore must be defeated. Here is an “explanation” piece about the Georgia election entitled “Nancy Pelosi is not where we need to go”, that says, in part,

Nancy Pelosi is not where we need to go. She’s failed leadership. While she might be doing some great things in her district, the truth is she’s the person who’s been leading this front that we’ve been running on for years, so she has to go as leadership.

What she’s doing isn’t working. She’s the leadership, it’s failed and, ultimately, it’s her responsibility.

Her name alone is apparently some sort of dog whistle about what’s wrong.

What’s going on? Maybe it’s because I don’t follow politics as closely as I should, but I am completely unaware of the damage Pelosi is doing and has done to America that makes her so radioactive. I mean, I get it, she’s the Minority Leader in the House, so she’s perhaps the most “powerful” Democrat left standing at the moment, but is that it?

Obama and Hillary are out of the picture (though Trump is still campaigning against both of them), so, um, we have to pretend Nancy Pelosi is the devil?

As far as I can make out, the knock on Pelosi is that she is from San Francisco, and that’s enough. That makes her “cosmopolitan” and not really “American”, a member of the 1% not like the rest of us, and someone who is heavily immersed in the “culture” that San Francisco represents, i.e. “progressive”.  She therefore is the poster-child for Everything That’s Wrong With America.

The comments section of the piece linked above has many mentions of Pelosi. All agree that she is the problem, but they’re all over the map about why. This one explains she’s not strong enough:

Time to face the facts, the Democrats are all but uselessly ineffective. They don’t have the machine, the rigged districts not the balls to deal with the GOP. It’s like watching a Girl Scout go up against The Hell’s Angels. Is it lack of guts, naivte, or just ineptness? Whatever it is, they can’t save us from even the likes of trump. An inconsequential bunch of flower children unable to stand up to real force. Step one, get some spokespersons. Nancy Pelosi may well be a brilliant strategist or diligent soldier but she is not the bulldog we need to hear from. Reserved and well spoken work best when the enemy knows you can actually bring something, other than shaming words, to the fight. They don’t see it. Take the gloves off or just go home, we don’t need anymore of your empty kumbaya pleading. It’s a knife fight, get up, get ready and go to battle!

While this one says she has the wrong focus:

I agree that Ms. Pelosi has to go. She is too closely aligned with Identity politics that panders (not addresses) to every minority concern. We as a nation must begin to break free of identifying ourselves as Liberals or Conservatives.

They don’t agree on why Nancy Pelosi is the problem, but they agree that she is.  And from the Republican point of view, Nancy Pelosi is the gift that keeps on giving. 

I really don’t get it, which, I guess, is why Trump is president and so many of us are wondering how it could happen.

 

 

You can’t stop free enterprise

Trump’s proposed budget includes steep cuts for many programs designed to help low-income Americans, the homeless, and others who need shelter. It keeps one program, though, and of course that program benefits Trump personally.

It’s a housing subsidy that pays landlords directly, and Trump has a 4% stake in a Brooklyn building that’s part of the largest subsidized housing development in the country. According to his recent financial disclosures, this position earned him $5 million between January 1, 2016 and April 15, 2017.

It doesn’t matter whether Trump is still personally involved with this investment in any way or whether he personally saw to it the subsidy wouldn’t be cut, though I would imagine that both are true given his long track record. What matters is that this is the very definition of “the appearance of a conflict of interest”, and the reason it is so important that elected officials avoid it by divesting such holdings. Except Trump, who has divested nothing.

starrett

Starrett City, Brooklyn

I simply do not understand why this one crazy bully is immune from standards that everyone in this country has been held to for years, irrespective of political affiliation.

Some prescient fretting about Trump’s “divestment” strategy in this WaPo piece from just before inauguration.

Another potential boost for Trump’s revenue could come if HUD reverses a 2007 decision in which the agency blocked owners from selling the property as Brooklyn’s real estate market boomed.

Trump clashed at the time with Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other opponents of the sale, who accused owners of seeking to make money at the expense of poor tenants. “You can’t stop free enterprise,” Trump told the New York Daily News. “This is not Communist China.”

pockets

Let’s go to the movies

Or not.

When was the last time you actually saw a movie in a theater? I’d need a very good excuse to get me to go to the nearest 13-Plex, and it’s been a long time since I had one. I finally broke down and went to see “The Martian” a couple of years ago, not because I was dying to see Matt Damon stranded on Mars, but because I wanted to finally see whether I thought 3D was a worthwhile innovation. It isn’t.

If I wanted to go back to the same place today, my choices would be: “Transformers: The Last Knight” (3D), “Cars 3” (3D), “Wonder Woman” (3D), “The Mummy” (3D), “Captain Underpants”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”, etc. You get the idea.

These are not movies, so much as they are theme-park promos, product placement vehicles, and transparent attempts to separate teens and pre-teens from their allowances. They are either “sequels” to previous successful efforts, screen versions of comic books, or full-length cartoons.

transformers

It all started in June of 1975, when “Jaws” was released. Prior to that, motion pictures were generally understood to be art which may or may not have commercial value. After “Jaws”, movies were understood to be commercial products which may or may not have some artistic merit.

In the years since “Jaws”, the “artistic” part has disappeared. You cannot get a picture made today without a strong business case, “bankable” stars, and an extensive plan for foreign distribution rights and subsequent DVD or Pay-TV revenue. All that matters is how much money can be made for the investors. The hell with “art”.

“Jaws” cost $12 million to make and recouped that and more in two weeks. In two months, it passed the record-holding $86 million made by “The Godfather”, and became the first ever to gross $100 million. It was the biggest money-maker ever seen. By 2013, it had grossed $470 million, of which $260 million was in North America. And now, the huge profits made by “Jaws” are just a basic expectation for studios and investors. In 2013, “Jaws”, 127 films had surpassed its revenue totals.

You can’t get a “small” picture made any more and, if you go ahead and make one yourself, there’s no place to get it shown. Real estate prices in cities where there may still be a market for “film” are too high for independent theater operators.

The rise of “home theater” and ubiquitous content availability via the internet have further hastened the final demise of the movie theater.

But, as Joni Mitchell once said, “something’s lost, but something’s gained in living every day.”  There’s plenty to watch on my screen at home. Whatever I want whenever I want it, actually. It’s nice. Convenient. Comfortable.

With a little effort, I can even find real movies to watch.

 

 

When Yankees-Red Sox meant something

It’s a little hard to remember now, but years ago it was a pretty common to see bench-clearing brawls between the Yankees and Red Sox. Catchers Carlton Fisk and Thurman Munson absolutely hated each other. Bill Lee vs. Mickey Rivers. Graig Nettles vs. Everybody.  You could almost bet something unusual would go down whenever the two teams met.  One brawl at Fenway Park was a little different, though.

It happened forty years ago yesterday. With Fred Lynn on first base, Jim Rice tried to check his swing off the Yankees’ Mike Torrez, but accidentally hit a blooper that dropped in front of right-fielder Reggie Jackson. Jackson came in a little casually to get it, waving off second-baseman Willie Randolph who had gone back for it. Rice took advantage of Jackson’s lack of hustle to steam into second with a double. He hadn’t meant to swing at all, but, hey, those things happen, and it should have resulted in Rice on first. But, because of Jackson, this time he was on second. Manager Billy Martin went ape-shit.

He came out to take Torrez out of the game, calling for Sparky Lyle, and, while he was at it, sent Paul Blair in for Jackson.  Embarrassed in front of 35,000 Red Sox fans (who always had plenty to say to Reggie even when things weren’t crazy), the astounded and insulted Jackson went at Billy as soon as he reached the dugout.

This dramatization from “The Bronx is Burning” shows what happened next, with actual footage interspersed with re-created dialog:

Trying to explain the rivalry in those days to someone who was unaware of it wasn’t easy. They’d say, “so, you mean it’s like Harvard vs Yale”, and you’d have to say, “No, more like Israel vs. Palestine”.

When Massachusetts native Jerry Remy was traded to the Red Sox from the Angels in 1978, Carlton Fisk, a New Hampshire guy, was the first to welcome him home. A couple of Remy’s Angels team-mates had been traded to New York at the same time, and when the Yankees played the Red Sox for the first time that year, Remy went over to old friend Mickey Rivers during warm-ups to say “hi”. Fisk ran out and grabbed Remy and told him, “We don’t talk to those guys”.

It’s different now. When you’re getting paid $15 million, you can’t afford to break a fingernail, much less dis-locate your shoulder, while shoving an opposing player. And anyway you really wouldn’t want to beef with someone that, in the free agent era, might very well be your team-mate next year, or maybe even later this year.

Free agency changed everything. Before 1975, the players were the property of the team, and could expect to spend their whole career with whoever owned their contract, unless they were traded away first, often without their advance knowledge or consent.

The Reserve Clause, which codified this indentured servitude, was overturned in 1975, mainly through the efforts of the director of the Major League Baseball Players Association,  Marvin Miller, now enshrined in the Hall of Fame. During Miller’s time in that job the average salary of an MLB player rose from $19,000 in 1966 to $326,000 in 1982. Jim Bunning was instrumental in getting Miller the job, and Miller talks about him in this piece, which says,

And to find Jim Freaking Bunning at the center of this relatively progressive piece of history is a little like learning that Dick Cheney once ran guns to the Sierra Maestras.

Now, the pendulum has swung wildly in the other direction. Now, it’s all about the players and their money.  The economics of the game has changed and so has the game itself. The players are the big winners and, in IMHO, the fans are the big losers.

Back then, it was about more than money. It’s gonna be a while before we see anything like this again:

Dylan’s Nobel lecture

So now Bob Dylan is being accused of plagiarizing the lecture that the Nobel Committee forced him to give as a condition of receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature. He didn’t care about the prize to begin with and he didn’t want to give the lecture. But everyone told him to just go ahead and do it because it would be better for everybody if he did, and the “controversy” of his “snubbing” them by not showing up at their ceremony would be set aside once and for all.

So he put together a speech explaining his influences, starting with Buddy Holly, and going on to describe how three books he read in grammar school stayed with him and inspired a lot of his writing: Moby Dick, All Quiet On The Western Front, and The Odyssey.

The accusation is that he took a lot of phrases from the SparkNotes summary of Moby Dick to make his point. This “outrage” is laboriously documented in a Salon piece.

Oy vey.

First of all, how many new ways are there to summarize the plot of Moby Dick? If you came up with something yourself today, completely your own original ideas, there’s no chance someone else hasn’t expressed the very same ideas before using many of the very same words.

Of course Dylan went to some summary source to check his memory of a book he read sixty years ago before grudgingly performing this compulsory exercise for the Nobel people! How could it be otherwise? Should he have attributed SparkNotes  in his Nobel lecture? Would that satisfy the critics or just open him up to other “criticism”?

Is he being accused of plagiarizing any of the work for which the prize was conferred? If he paraphrased or simply lifted some words from SparkNotes in the lecture, does that diminish his body of work or influence on culture? Do I care about this at all? No, no, and hell no.

Everything we see and hear now must be framed as controversy. or, even better, a scandal. Everything must be presented as a clash of adversaries. The internet demands it. The revenue model of “news” demands it. Our poor attention span demands it. If it’s an old white guy we’re trashing, so much the better, and so much easier for everyone involved.

Can we not give Bob Dylan a pass after all these years? Just this once? He’s Bob Fucking Dylan, for God’s sake.

bob