Friday, December 29, 2017

A Delicious Serving Of Satire-Covered Bon Mots From The Late Great Jon Swift

Al Weisel, widely known in the blogosphere as Jon Swift, was the best satirist this side of . . . well, Jonathan Swift. Sadly and unexpectedly, Al left this mortal coil in 2009. Only the good die young, as they say, and he was a mere 46.
Al was a tireless supporter of small blogs like Kiko's House and I was honored innumerable times to have him link to my posts, usually so he could skewer someone with a faux conservative wit so sharp that some of his victims didn't even know that they were being filleted.  What that he had lived to see the coming of Donald Trump.

My thoughts invariably turn to Jon during this summing-up time of the year, and the keepers of his flame have again included my deathless prose in their 2017 blog roundup
Here are some excerpts from my Jon Swiftian favorites, which have a timeless quality as befits great commentary:
Why isn't anyone reporting on the War on Hanukkah (or Hannukah or Chanukkah -- I never really was sure how to spell it)? Recently, I went to see my town's Hannukah Bush and was outraged that they were calling it a "Holiday Tree." It's not a "Holiday Tree" it's a "Hanukah Bush" (or Chanukah Bush - not sure which) Unfortunately, the forces of political correctness and inclusion are bending over backwards not to offend Gentiles. This country was founded on the values of the Torah and its sequel. Then I was shocked to see pictures of President Bush lighting a Menorah (is that how it's spelled?) on December 6! Hanukkah doesn't begin until December 25. . . . Is he taking the day off on December 25 or something? I think we are owed an explanation. (12/17/05)

Can someone please explain to me what Jack Abramoff is guilty of? Abramoff donated money to polictical campaigns and lobbied members of Congress on behalf of his clients. What's wrong with that? The only thing Jack Abramoff is guilty of is practicing democracy and if what he did is against the law, then millions of Americans who donate money to political campaigns are in danger. In fact, the prosecution of Jack Abramoff is clearly unconstitutional and represents another sad example of the criminalization of politics. (1/5/06)

Is bipartisanship really such a great thing? Aren't bipartisans a little like bisexuals--people afraid to make a commitment? I suppose it's better than President Clinton's "triangulation," which I believe is a translation of the French word menage a trois. Maybe such things work in France, but I don't think they work here. During the Clinton and Reagan administrations we had divided government, which I think was very confusing for people. Lobbyists had no idea who to give campaign contributions to and they sometimes had to split their limited resources between two parties. (1/31/06)

But while [President Bush] has been making great strides in shoring up democracy at home, it appears that in Iraq we are installing the wrong kind of democracy. The new Iraqi Constitution sets up just the kind of weak "liberal" democracy that the President has been making efforts to reverse in this country, with all of its bothersome checks and balances on presidential power. The result of dispersing too much power and equality to the people could lead to an unstable government that would precipitate a Civil War in Iraq. (5/4/06)

It seems that any effort we make to appease critics of Guantanamo have only backfired anyway. Some of the men who were released have begun to wage a PR campaign against the United States, another insidious kind of asymmetric warfare. One of the men we released is now claiming that he was tortured at the prison, which, of course, the Bush Administration has repeatedly said in no uncertain terms that we don't do, although if we wanted to torture, we wouldn't be subject to the laws of the Geneva Convention (a treaty some other administration signed anyway) because these detainees aren't lawful combatants, so theoretically we could if we wanted to, but we don't because it is against our principles except in certain circumstances. In the end, however, we may discover that the only way to save the principles that make our country great will be to sacrifice them. (6/12/06)

Once someone has died, it's a lot more difficult to attack them without people thinking you are being unseemly. While it was very courageous of [William] Bennett to do so anyway, his words have opened him up to a torrent of criticism, the kind of criticism that [Gerald] Ford avoided by dying. Bennett realizes that it would have made him look a lot better if he had picked on a 93-year-old man while he was still alive instead of the day after he died, but Bennett cares more about this country than he does about what people think of him personally. It's too bad that Ford was not as brave as Bennett is. (1/3/07)

Keeping the minimum wage at the inflated rate of $5.15 an hour for a decade has been a terrible drag on our economy. The number of millionaires in the United States, for example, grew only 11% from 2004 to 2005, to 8.9 million. It now takes an entire day for a CEO to earn what the average worker earns in a year. . . .Compared with most countries in the world the U.S. minimum wage is extremely high. Of course, there are some worker-coddling welfare states that have higher minimum wages. In France, Great Britain and Australia, the minimum wage is more that $10 an hour. But when compared with countries like Botswana, Latvia and Papua New Guinea, we are significantly overpaying our workers. (1/30/07)

Last week millions of nervous Americans gathered around their televisions to see if Sanjaya Malakar, the 17-year-old Indian-American contestant with the face of an angel and the voice of . . . something else, would finally be kicked off of American Idol. But once again Sanjaya defied all expectations and common sense and survived another round in the contest that defines this country as much as Nascar, the Superbowl, presidential elections and monster trucks. It is finally time to acknowledge that the inexplicable and frightening Sanjaya juggernaut has reached crisis proportions and something must be done about it before it is too late. (3/24/07)

I don't care if Alec Baldwin's daughter is 11 years old or 12 years old or however old she is, she is a disgrace and her treatment of her father is beyond the pale. . . . Apparently this "rude, thoughtless little pig," as Baldwin called her, who doesn't "have the brains or the decency as a human being," either doesn't know or doesn't care how her inconsiderate actions affect her father. While not answering the telephone when your father calls may seem trivial, even the smallest of cruelties can be very hurtful to a parent. Fathers are extremely vulnerable and children should be very careful about what they say and do to them. Above all fathers need to know that their children love them. What Alec Baldwin's daughter did to him is the kind of thing that could emotionally scar him for life. (4/22/07) 
Robert De Niro's endorsement of Obama would not be problematic if he had only made films like The Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. But how does Obama explain Meet the Fockers? Or Showtime? Or The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle? Has Obama distanced himself from those terrible films? By accepting De Niro's endorsement does he in turn endorse the practice of aging actors' mugging for the camera and becoming little more than parodies of their former selves? Is he also soliciting the endorsement of Al Pacino? (2/28/08)

Conservatives have always hated McCain for his support of immigration reform, campaign finance reform and moderate judges, and his opposition to torture and the Bush tax cuts, until he changed his mind and kicked his principles under the Straight Talk Express, though not soon enough for most of us. But after he picked Sarah Palin, conservatives took another look at McCain. That was when we noticed that McCain is really, really old and sometimes he doesn’t look all that well (wink!). And then it dawned on us: McCain will probably die in office! We may not be all that happy with McCain, but we are practically giddy at the prospect that he won't last that long. He could even keel over right after the Inauguration. (11/2/08)

Thanksgiving celebrates the day that Pilgrims and Indians sat down to eat together before the gay secularist Indians divided this country and tried to foist their atheism and savage decadent culture on the God-fearing pilgrims. The pilgrims were rightly appalled by Native American culture where transgendered "two-spirit" people or "berdache" were accepted as normal members of the tribe. . . . The pilgrims did not care what Indians did in the privacy of their own teepees, but they did not want their children exposed to this immorality. So the pilgrims were forced to defend themselves, just as Proposition 8 supporters, under assault from gay activists, must defend themselves now. (11/27/08)

Conservatives must face reality the way Bush and Reagan did and realize that the only way to preserve our ideals may be to sacrifice them for a time and reluctantly accept government checks. Once we have gotten back on our feet again, then we can go back to doing what we do best: condemning lazy welfare queens and berating the poor for not raising themselves by their own bootstraps. (12/4/08)

It's different when unmarried teenage mothers come from conservative, wealthy Christian families. Although it would be preferable if her child had a father, even a white trash one, [Bristol Palin] will still be able to raise her child with the kinds of values that liberals, poor people, gays and non-Christians would not be able to give to their little bastard children who are destined to become our future criminals. Why are conservatives so reluctant to point out this obvious fact? (1/12/09)

While Obama seems like a nice young man, kind of like a young Sidney Poitier, is handsome and polite, seems well educated and articulate, and even brought Republicans candy and flowers, [Rush] Limbaugh was not fooled for a minute. If Obama succeeds, who knows what kind of man America's daughters will bring home to dinner next? Since Obama is trying to seduce Americans by giving them hope, Limbaugh knows that we Republicans must have our own message of optimism and hope. (1/30/09)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

'It’s Christmas . . . For Those Heaven Bound And Those Forever Banned'

(ca. 1963) 
Their eyes blear,
their voices coarse,
they wander from tavern to bar,
full of fear
and cheap remorse;
they know death is not far,
and that the Lord on high
will not come for them;
He would rather drop
a bomb on them;

He does not heed their grumbling,
He does not hear their curses,
He does not hear them mumbling
as they scrabble through their purses
and their wallets made of plastic
for the price of a glass of Ortlieb’s
or, tripping the dark fantastic,
perhaps also a shot of Schenley’s.

These are the damned, these
who seek but know not pleasure,
damned once,
damned twice,
damned thrice,
and damned once again for good measure.

Their eyes bloodshot,
their noses bulbous and red,
their flesh carbuncular,
where it is not the color
of the belly of a week-dead
these are my friends.

I see them at Pat’s,
at the Huddle,
and at the Green Parrot;
I see them at the VFW,
and at the Knights of Columbus;

Some of them even have wives
or husbands as the case may be;
many of them have children,
even grandchildren
(unlike bachelor me);
they all have homes of some sort
a rowhome, apartment, or rented room,
most have jobs of some kind,
working at the Heintz factory
or at Philco or Tastykake,
but this is their real job,
sitting in a bar, staring at
the TV playing I'm Dickens, He's Fenster,
sitting silently,
or talking petulantly,
this is their calling
and their place,
in the legions of the damned.

Yes, some sit silently on their stools
but most will talk at the slightest
provocation, or even if there is none,
even if they have nothing to say
which is nearly always,
because the hell they carry within
loves to overflow into the hell
outside them.

At last the bartender, last call
long called, stands in his coat by
the door. “This is not a hotel,”
he yells. “You don’t have to go
home, but you can’t stay here.”

One by one they shuffle through the
door and out into the cold,
into the night, from one hell
into another, and off they stumble,
to rowhome, apartment or rented room.

Gay colored lights are strung 
outside the windows of the modest homes,
and along the shops on Fifth Street,
for it is Christmastime,
the anniversary of the birth
of the Savior, of someone’s savior,
but not theirs, not these,
who are beyond saving;
It’s Christmas on the streets of Olney,
and a gentle snow begins to fall,
on these the damned who have
nothing to look forward to
but another hangover.

It’s the eve of Christmas Eve,
the cold wind licks their faces,
the snowflakes find their way into
the collars of necks whose scarves
have been left in the sawdust of the
barroom floor.
A shortcut is taken through Fisher Park,
but the scrubby grass is slick and wet;
a fall is taken down Dead Man’s Hill
where the children love to sled
on their Flexible Flyers:
down, down he tumbles, down and down,
until finally he lands at the bottom,
in the slush and jagged ice,
where, in pain,
which means at least not dead,
not yet, he lies on his back,
howling at the universe,
the snow rushing down
heedlessly into his face,
and somewhere among the rowhomes
on Nedro Avenue, a dog replies,
howling also, and then another on
Sixth Street, and yet another on Spencer,
and soon a whole chorus of dogs join in,
drowning out the screams of the human,
or of what once was human.
Yes, it’s Christmas,
for God and man and dog,
for those who are heaven bound
and for those forever banned
from paradise.
This is Christmas,
Christmas among the damned.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Your Russia Scandal Year In Review: Putin Wins, America Loses, Trump Survives

Before we break for the holidays, let's take a moment to congratulate Vladimir Putin.  The year almost passed was a bargain-basement dream come true for the Russian leader, who for a mere $500,000 investment not only greased the skids for Donald Trump to become president, but gleefully watched the U.S. devolve into chaos as his boy toy undermined democratic norms and did so much to abrogate America's world leadership.  Just like Putin had hoped.
That $500,000 is an estimate of what it cost the Kremlin to run an "active measures influence campaign," in spy parlance.   This was a remarkable return on investing in troll farms that flooded the Internet, including fake news disguised as real news, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook and other targeted information -- all designed to divide the electorate and screw Hillary Clinton. 
Could Putin have done it without the help of the Trump campaign and perhaps the candidate himself? 
That is unlikely because Trump and Putin are such a great fit: A billionaire New York real estate mogul and reality television star who wanted even more money and power and would do anything to get it, and an autocratic thug who wanted even more power and money and would do whatever it took to return the former Soviet Union to its Cold War glory by undermining America's standing as the sole surviving superpower. 
Putin's gambit was not a total success, but that had nothing to do with Trump. 
Despite the campaign's dutiful embrace of Putin's agenda, including surreptitiously rewriting and dramatically watering down the Republican National Convention platform on Ukraine, Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine still has not been recognized as legitimate.   And Trump, boxed in over the summer by Congress, not only has not repealed Obama era sanctions imposed on Russia as a result of the annexation and election interference, but toughened them in defiance of the president's oft-stated desire that they be lifted.   
This, of course, was before the Republicans in control of Congress backslid into endorsing Trump's madness.
It should be noted that while there still are some hardheads who continue to question whether Russia even interfered in the election -- including Trump himself, who in the recesses of his diseased mind understands that to acknowledge interference would be to further delegitimize his "victory" -- there are skeptics not in the thrall of the right-wing Republican noise machine who do not believe Trump's campaign colluded with the Kremlin.   
This despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary:
(1.) Neither Trump or his campaign advisers ever cultivated contacts with the governments and surrogates for any country except Russia.  Not with key allied countries like Britain, France or Germany, let alone China. 
There is a good reason for this.  Federal law prohibits political campaigns from having all but the most cursory contact with foreign governments, let alone receiving material or financial assistance from them.  
(2.) There were at least 31 contacts, including 19 face-to-face meetings,
between campaign advisers and the Russian government or Putin surrogates.  The campaign has repeatedly denied they occurred or lied about them.
These meetings were not unexpected encounters in a hotel hallways.  They were meticulously planned in most instances and understood to be two-way efforts to share information about Clinton and the election. 
(3.) Trump repeatedly and vociferously vilified Clinton, Barack Obama, Meryl Steep and The New York Times, among others, but never uttered a negative word about Putin although was the leader of America's arch foe. 
In fact, by the end of the campaign Trump's fawning embrace of all things Russian had become such a concern to campaign insiders that they urged him to acknowledge that the Kremlin had interfered.  He raged that he would not. 
(4.) Trump owes his financial survival to Russians.  Many tens of millions of dollars have flowed from Russians into Trump Tower, Trump's other luxury developments and Atlantic City casinos. 
Virtually all of this money came from oligarchs and mobsters and was used as pass-throughs for laundering illicit riches stolen from the Russian government or acquired through organized crime.  
(5.) Despite being briefed by the FBI that Russia might try to infiltrate the campaign, Trump never passed that on . . . because Russia's involvement in the campaign was an open secret. 
No one associated with the campaign spoke out against that collusion nor resigned over it.  No one ever went to the FBI to report the multiple contacts.  In fact, those contacts were encouraged.
Some of this evidence is circumstantial on its face, but the sheer number of contacts and wall of silence from the campaign in the face of the FBI warning betrays the larger truth. 
We will know in the coming year if Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has the evidence to prosecute over that truth.  That is, if Trump has not fired him.

Click HERE for a comprehensive Russia scandal timeline.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Trump's Scandal Go-Free Card: What Is True Is False & What Is False Is True

If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell. ~ CARL SANDBURG 
Even with compelling evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin hiding in plain sight, it was inevitable that the congressional investigations into the Russia scandal would descend into mudslinging as conservative Republican calls for Special Counsel Robert Mueller's firing reach a fever pitch, giving the president an opening to again play his favorite responsibility ducking go-free card -- what appears to be true is false and what is false is true -- for perhaps the highest stakes of all.  That would be preserving his feeble and endangered presidency.   
What is so frightening is that this Orwellian subterfuge might work. 
By my own count, there were 31 instances where Trump campaign officials communicated with Russians with ties to Vladimir Putin's successful cybersabotage of Hillary Clinton, including 19 face-to-face meetings.   Predictably, these what-is-true facts have failed to move the conservative media-driven Trump sycophancy in Congress, who with the hot breath of a 2018 midterm election meltdown blowing on their crimson napes are yelling like hell that what is false is true, that Mueller's probe is a Democratic plot and it is the investigators who should be investigated.   
After all, Trump famously believes that the rules don't apply to him, so why should they apply to the Republicans standing between the president and the constitutional imperative of impeachment. 
Leading the charge is Newt Gingrich, that "waddling eminence," in the words of one pundit, who has gone from praising Mueller's appointment as a "superb choice" and a pillar of "honesty and integrity" to using the craven, soul-selling argument that the special prosecutor is engineering a deep-state coup.   
Not coincidentally, all of this pre-emptive screeching is occurring as plain-vanilla and nationally distributed USA Today, of all papers, editorializes that:
With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office. Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low. . . . 
president who'd all but call a senator a whore is unfit to clean toilets in Obama's presidential library or to shine George W. Bush's shoes.
And The Washington Post, in its latest and most damning investigative blockbuster, reveals in deep-sourced detail how Trump continues to manically refuse to acknowledge Russian election interference while pursuing Putin's affections. 
The breathtaking takeaway grafs:
Nearly a year into his presidency, Trump continues to reject the evidence that Russia waged an assault on a pillar of American democracy and supported his run for the White House.  
The result is without obvious parallel in U.S. history, a situation in which the personal insecurities of the president — and his refusal to accept what even many in his administration regard as objective reality — have impaired the government’s response to a national security threat. The repercussions radiate across the government.  
As I noted here, if Trump moves against Mueller, it is likely to be sooner rather than later.  The Washington swamp jungle telegraph says before Christmas, while Trump said on Sunday he has no plans to fire him (cough, cough).  
The reason Trump may get away with all this is that he can.  And he can because we keep losing sight of the big picture.  (How about you, bucko?) 
"It's not a Republican thing or Democratic thing — it really is an American thing," former FBI Director James Comey said of the threat from Russia in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June.  And you'd better believe Trump's comrades are preparing a 2018 encore.  Yet as the WaPo story noted, he hasn't convened a single Cabinet-level meeting to discuss Russia, while his Presidential Daily Briefing is delivered orally and parts are censored because the Russian intelligence it sometime contains might provoke him to fly into a rage. 
As I have written over and over -- and over -- the Kremlin plot to elect Trump was an unprecedented assault from America's greatest foe on the bedrock of our democracy.  It is the most explosive scandal since Soviet spies stole atomic bomb secrets over 70 years ago.  It may well be considered the crime of the century, yet it has devolved into just another partisan food fight in the eyes of too many people.  Our inability to recognize the scandal for what it is because of a toxic mix of avarice, apathy and naïveté has become a moral failure so profound as to boggle the mind. 
Mine, anyway.

Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Bright Side Of Life: 'Cheer Up Ya Old Bugga C'mon Give Us A Grin! There Ya Go'


Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse
When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best

And . . . 
Always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the light side of life

If life seems jolly rotten
There's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing
When you're feeling in the dumps
Don't be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle -- that's the thing
And . . . 

Always look on the bright side of life
(Come on!)
Always look on the right side of life

For life is quite absurd
And death's the final word 
You must always face the curtain with a bow

Forget about your sin
Give the audience a grin
Enjoy it -- it's your last chance anyhow

So always look on the bright side of death
A-Just before you draw your terminal breath

Life's a piece of shit

When you look at it

Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true
You'll see it's all a show

Keep 'em laughing as you go

Just remember that the last laugh is on you

And . . . 
Always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the right side of life
Always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the bright side of life

(Worse things happen at sea you know)

(I mean - what have you got to lose?
You know, you come from nothing
- you're going back to nothing
What have you lost? Nothing)

Always look on the right side (I mean) of life

(What have you got to lose?
You know, you come from nothing
- you're going back to nothing
What have you lost?)

Always (nothing!) look on the right side of life

(Nothing will come from nothing, ya know what they say
Cheer up ya old bugga c'mon give us a grin!
There ya go, see!)

Always look on the right side of life...
(Cheer up ya old bugger)
(C'mon give us a grin!)

(There ya go, see!)