Politics

STEAKS AND SNOWFLAKES
In case you were too busy munching on your hamburger which is contributing to global warming, the Houston Chronicle ran a story on the front page with pictures of important people attending the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland. This is one of those conferences with the depth of a PowerPoint presentation aimed at the kind of people who should not be put in charge of a broom closet, let alone nations.

For example, there was Chinese “president” Xi Jinping who, without a hint of irony, cast his country as a champion of free trade and stability: "Whether you like it or not, the global economy is the big ocean that you cannot escape from."

The Chronicle graphic contained photos of this year’s six attendees. Sandwiched among world leaders was actress Cate Blanchett. You can always count on votaries of culture such as Vanity Fair to put the right spin on such major events. Vanity Fair breathlessly reported, “But then, a bright spot in the Swiss darkness. Cate Blanchett, ambassador for flawless skin and also the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, was there as well . . .” At least the magazine has its priorities in order – flawless skin coming first. Oh, yeah, and those poor schlubs from third-world outposts.

Not to worry. While you’re hanging by a strap on the bus wherever you need to go, those caring souls converging in the Alps traveling first-class in jets have your best interests at heart, as well as polar bears now paddling furiously on shrinking ice floes. No less than the UK’s Independent warns us that the burgers sizzling on the grill are “now unambiguous contributors to the climate change problem.”

What goes best with that medium-rare steak – a bottle of St. Arnold Elissa, or a cup of melted snowflakes? - January 28, 2018

Report from Rachel--
"So I was shopping in a home goods store and found this really cute sweater produced by slave labor--I mean indigenous people who are obviously so proud of their products that they can't bear the thought of leaving their work station even after lovingly hand-stitching for 14 hours a day, six days a week. I mean, they really put their backs in it.

Just like everyone else, only blacker.
"Anyway, I just had to have it to show my support for their labor of love, but I couldn't carry it because my hands were already full of pottery jars and a bag of coffee produced from those civet cats that poop the beans in Indonesia. What to do? Well, a clerk suggested twisting it and pinning it on my head and wearing it like a turban. What do you think?"

PUSHING AL FRANKEN'S BUTTON
Throughout my life, I was blessed with teachers of the first water who oversaw my academic progress. Along the way, I developed a facility for the written word. I stress “written” because I sound like a blithering fool when I’m turned loose without a script in front of me. I naturally give latitude to people who are put on the spot with a microphone shoved in their turkey wattle.

“A tornado just ripped your house, your family and life apart. What is going through your mind right now?”

“Glghvbnbhmmph.”

Elected officeholders tend to be more gifted with extemporaneous abilities. Sure, we don’t expect much of what they say to be truthful, but if we don’t admire the substance of their utterances, at least we acknowledge their skills in English.

Lately, newly-appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been pilloried by the media for lying to Senator Al Franken in response to a question about being in contact with anyone in the employ of Putin. When put on the spot, Sessions pulled out a big red “reset” button.

Just kidding. 

What Sessions should have done in response to a question posed by Franken is to knit his eyebrows in puzzlement and ask, “With all due respect, Senator, and one who made a living as a scriptwriter and performer on Saturday Night Live, what the hell are you talking about?”

Here is the question posed by the esteemed solon:

“CNN has just published a story and I’m telling you this about a story that has just been published, I’m not expecting you to know whether it’s true or not, but CNN just published a story, alleging that the intelligence community provided documents to the president-elect last week that included information that quote ‘Russian operatives claimed to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.’ These documents also allegedly say quote ‘there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.’ Again, I’m telling you this is just coming out so, you know . . . but, if it’s true it’s obviously extremely serious. And if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russians in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”

Confused? Don’t feel left out. Fortunately, as someone with experience in copy-editing for a newspaper and tutoring at the collegiate level, I have some skills in interpreting this. What the senator really wants to ask is: “Does Putin have any embarrassing emails about me?” Just kidding. I’m such a madcap!

Seriously, ignore the blather about CNN and operatives, and focus on the business about “anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign.” Then ask yourself, what kind of senator and a senior member of the Armed Services Committee would NOT have met with someone from Russia? - March 5, 2017

DANCING CHIC TO CHIC
Recent events since the inauguration of Trump reminded me of a lengthy essay by Tom Wolfe – “Radical Chic.” Wolfe captures the essence of the ferment of the late 60s and the liberal guilt trying to atone for all the injustices committed since Cain bumped off his younger brother in a fit of pique that cattle breeders were more acceptable in God’s eyes than vegetable growers, putting an end to the rumor that vegetarians are non-violent.

As everyone knows, streets are filled with protesters because they’re angry that Nurse Ratched didn’t win as pundits had promised. The poised and polished pants suit pol got blindsided by an utter rube with a bank account to rival the foundation account founded by Hillary. They’re angry about a lot of other things, some legitimate, some frivolous.

Whatever the basis of their grievances, they have decided that the best way to get their point across is by dressing in costumes dreamed up by drunken gynecologists at a reunion in New Orleans. Many were also sporting pink knit beanies with two points that look like teats on an old sow.

At Berkeley in California, the home of the “free speech movement,” protesters chased off a Trump spokesman and smashed and vandalized property, set fires in the street and assaulted innocent individuals. Not even Starbucks was spared in the mayhem. They could write a 700-word essay on the concept of irony based on personal experience, assuming they are literate.


Tom Wolfe records the reaction of one wary gentleman at a trendy Manhattan party attended by Black Panthers. His words are worth pondering:
“He’s a magnificent man, but suppose some simple-minded schmucks take all that business about burning down buildings seriously?” February 19, 2017

INAUGURING IN
Tom Wolfe, author of The Right Stuff, a paean to the Mercury astronauts and test pilots of Edwards Air Base, introduced the colorful phrase “augur in.” An augur is a tool used for boring. No, not reruns of Hee-Haw, but a device to punch holes in the ground. Thus, a flier who “augured in” with his aircraft and the defective engine with one wing on fire basically drilled a hole into the earth, more or less obviating the need to dig another one. Just stick in a cross and a marker and call it a day.

As the nation prepares to dig in for another four years, it’s hard to tell who’s going to dig a deeper hole. Trump detractors highlight the numerous gaffes and spurious claims ever since he first descended The Tower to announce his candidacy. And to be sure, there were plenty. And yet not only did he NOT dig a hole from which he could not emerge, he built an even higher mound on which to stand. And the more dirt his opponents threw at him, the higher he built that mound.

Ronald Reagan was called the Teflon President because nothing ever stuck on him. Trump, on the other hand, may be the Magnet President. He seems to relish in the opprobrium.

And why not? Consider who’s throwing the dirt. Lately, Meryl Streep denounced the president-elect at one of the dozens awards ceremonies celebrities indulge in because of their oppressed status. Streep also stood up for Roman Polanski, a convicted child rapist, who received – wait for it – an award! From the Hollywood elite! When celebrities recognize someone who could not be present to accept it because he would walked off the stage in handcuffs, you can be sure the bar for moral standards has been set rather low.

The harder they hit the nail, the deeper it goes. And like it or not, the nails have been fighting back against the hammers. If you want your opponent to maintain his popularity, here’s how to do it

1. Send out a Tweet like Charlie Sheen, begging God to take “Trump Next Please!” six times. I guess he wanted to meet the limit on characters. Charlie Sheen appeared in an interview after getting fired from a TV show because of drug and alcohol abuse. He survived because he has “tiger blood.” He was also accused of holding a knife to the neck of his estranged girlfriend. Who’s winning now, Chuck?

2. Attempt a boycott of LL Bean – not exactly a hotbed of conservative activism – because one out of more than 50 family members contributed to a Trump political action committee. A donation of $60K is not pocket change to the average American, but a film doyenne like Streep might find this under the sofa cushion.  

3. Promise you’re going to move to Canada if your opponent is elected, then stay put. If you’re Alec Baldwin, you can do this as often as necessary. Otherwise, someone should invoke a law to apply to celebrities concerning endorsements.

Years ago, football legend Joe Namath wore stockings to demonstrate to women how good they would look on their legs. The FCC ruled that celebrities must actually use the products they endorse. Is it too much to ask that celebrities stand by their public vows? - January 17, 2017


CUPCAKES AND CRYBABIES
Well, how about THAT!

Nobody saw this coming. I was convinced that Nurse Ratched in a pantsuit was going to walk away with this, and both houses of Congress.

This year has not been an edifying lesson in Democracy. Trump didn’t deserve to win, but we didn’t deserve Hillary, either. But, as they say in poker, you gotta play with the hand you were dealt. Joker’s wild. We must simply hope that he turns out to be a better president than he was a candidate.

We’re already off to a good start. Trump kept Hillary out of the White House. She LOST. If she’s disappointed, imagine what Bill must be thinking. No living in the White House, stalking the corridors for interns; no overnight stays in hotels all around the world, stalking the halls for maids; no fundraisers, stalking the room for waitresses; no . . . well, you get the idea.

Another big plus is watching grown men crying on live TV. As the returns filtered in, with erstwhile blue states turning red – Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, etc. – Hillary supporters began looking subdued, then somber, then . . . are you crying? Really, a grown man, crying? Is that what too many Starbucks lattes do to you? Are you eating enough meat? You DON’T eat meat? Oh, well, have a granola bar. Crybaby.

The election brought out more crybabies than a maternity ward. Colleges across our fruity plain held “cry-ins” and allowed students to postpone exams because of emotional stress. The Washington Post reported that some colleges offered students Play-Do and therapy dogs. Seems to me therapy cats would fit in better. If you think losing an election is hard, wait’ll you graduate and have to show up for work. Every day. 

Suck it up, cupcakes. Everybody else feels the same way and their rainbow pony is stuck in traffic.


Many celebrities swore they’d move to another country if Trump won. It’s a lengthy list, but right at the top are Whoopi Goldberg, Amy Shumer, Lena Dunham, Miley Cyrus, and Jon Stewart. I’m retired, so I’d be happy to pitch in and help them pack. I’m not holding my breath, though. Alec Baldwin made the same promise if Bush were elected. He reneged twice.

If only a few of them follow through, we’ll be well on the way to making America great again. - November 11, 2016


DAYS OF WHINE AND ROSES
Every four years we get a reminder of how fragile psyches can be. Pundits refer to election year as the Silly Season. I prefer to think of it as the Days of Whine and Roses.
This is the time we hear from celebrities that if [fill in the blank] is elected he or she (or “ze” or “hir” or whatever pronoun is invented for terribly confused individuals) will move to Canada. Nobody ever wants to move to Pakistan or Iran where they throw people with made-up pronouns off the roof.
Things reached a fever pitch in 2000 when Bush the Younger ran for his first term as president. Alec Baldwin, with his customary cool and level-headed demeanor, announced that he would leave the country if Bush were elected. He reneged on his vow, however, and since then I have lost trust in all Hollywood guides of moral rectitude who made similar vows before Bush was re-elected.
I was reminded of this quadrennial threat to update passports and pack suitcases by an article in today’s Houston Chronicle about classic black-and-white films (“Today’s filmmakers drawn to TCM screen”). As a long-time aficionado of screen legends, I read it with avidity. I came to a paragraph about one Alexander Payne who said, “Turner Classic is the only thing that kept me a U.S. citizen during the Bush years.”
They just can’t help it. No matter how trivial or unimportant the topic, their one compass point leads north, to a land where Republicans aren’t allowed to hold office.
In anticipation of a possible Trump presidency, several celebrities have announced their plans to relocate, Miley Cyrus, Whoopi Goldberg, Symone Raven and Al Sharpton among them. Since when does a Man of the Cloth qualify as a celebrity? Cher plans to move to Jupiter, which is composed entirely of gaseous substances. She’ll fit right in. June 22, 2016

HARRY AND BARRY TAKE A PLUNGE 
Six years ago Obama took the White House with huge majorities in the House and Senate. This week, Republicans have taken control of the Senate by a comfortable margin. This, four years after taking control of the House. The chances of the Republicans taking the White House in two years are looking more favorable than ever.

As Darrel Royal would say, “It was like having a big ol' lollipop in your mouth and the first thing you know all you have is the stick.”

In the past, I always took a no-gloat rule before elections. Politics, like nature, goes in cycles, and it’s always a matter of time and terms when the pendulum swings the other way. When the Senate turned Republican for the first time in ages as Reagan took office, the Right crowed that times were a’ changin’. When the House turned Republican during Clinton’s term, the end times were here. Bush 43 defied history when Republicans picked up seats during his second term. Then the Deluge came. History was on the side of the Democrats, we were continually reminded. If Democrats were smarter in history, they would know that history is fickle.

Democrats scrambling to keep their seats were avoiding Obama like he had Ebola. It was downright amusing to hear one candidate avoid saying she voted for Obama in spite of the fact she was a delegate for him at their convention. Louisiana will make a final decision in December owing to their weird election rules (is ANYTHING normal in that state?) but Mary Landrieu may as well start packing her boxes before voters run her off in the run-off. I can garowntee you none of those votes that were split between the other Republicans will go to her.

Along the way, Harry Reid changed the rules of the Senate to grease the skids for judicial nominees. He was warned that this might turn around to bite him in the ass, but he was undeterred.

Watch for Harry standing like Henry IV in the snows of Canossa, begging the Senate to change the rules back after a change of heart. Watch for Harry and his cohorts in the House to warn their colleagues to read the bill before they vote on it.

Don’t count on any cooperation from Barry. Early indications are that he will double down on executive orders and keep making an end-run around Constitutional limits on power.

This year I did not take the no-gloat pledge. I want Barry and Harry to EAT it. Eat the whole crow, feathers, beak and all. Yes, things will probably change again in ten years if not sooner. There’s plenty of crow to go around. But in the meantime, we are rid of that pasty white Winnie-the-Pooh in Tigger clothing and that crazy-eyed woman in the House. You know, the one who had to pass a bill in order to find out what’s in it. November 6, 2014

MAKING THE WORLD SAFE FOR DEMOCRACY ONE COCONUT AT A TIME

Obama went to India for a three-day trip hoping to improve relations and work on international peace and all those other things beauty pageant contestants want when it’s their turn to speak while they’re still dressed in statesmanlike swimsuits and high heels. Personally, I’d be happy if he pushed for more understanding when it comes to dealing with the telephone clerks when I try to clear up a credit card bill.

Naturally, the government of India wants to ensure the safety of our president. Public relations might sour considerably were Obama to be attacked by crazed mobs reeking of curry and shouting “Allah u Akkkkkhbarrrrr!” Every precaution must be taken, from the motor pool to the hotel pool.

Interest in the details of the trip gave rise to some exaggerations of the cost of security. Some bloggers claimed that 34 ships AND an aircraft carrier would be on hand, a claim debunked by a Pentagon spokesman. After all, if you can’t trust a Pentagon spokesman, whom can you trust? Estimates of the cost of the trip rose to $200 million a day. This claim was refuted by Tim Geithner, Obama’s Secretary of the Treasury, who is very careful when it comes to money, especially when it comes to paying his taxes.

Okay, I made that up. Except the part about Geithner being Secretary of the Treasury. And that should tell you everything you need to know about this administration.

A lot of planning goes into any presidential appearance: parade routes, hotel safety, overhead flights, crowd control, menu selection. Of COURSE the menu has to be approved. He was going to India. Spicy food is to be expected, but you sure don’t want one of those bhut jolokias slipping in on a tray of canapes. The bhut jolikia, or ghost pepper, is native to India and makes the habanera pepper seem like raisins in comparison. According to the Scoville Scale of Pepper Hotness they are 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. Some intrepid voyager into food hell who ate one said it was like eating glass.

Nothing was overlooked, including one detail most people would never have remotely considered – removing dangerous coconuts that might land on the noggin of someone with the power to launch nuclear missiles. Imagine having to explain this to others.

"You have to WHAT?! No, really. What do you have to do? You're kidding, right? You . . . have . . . to . . . remove . . . co-co-nuts. Coconuts. You have to remove coconuts. So they don't fall on his head, right? Coconuts?"

We all know those coconuts have a mind of their own when it comes to landing on the head of heads of state. Especially the president of the United States. Someone who's so important that even coconuts pose a danger to his safety.

Hmp. And I wasted my life going to college to get a degree. I guess this is one job nobody minds getting exported. - November 2010

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