Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Legacy Lost?

Donald Trump appears to have done what he set out to do - completely erase Barack Obama's legacy from the annals of history as sure as the Harding and Coolidge administrations erased that of Woodrow Wilson.
First up: health care!  Insisting that the payment of money to private health insurers to subsidize insurance plans for poor people under the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, Trump ended those payments and also allowed health plans to be sold across state lines without being subject to regulation.  The result?  Costs will go up for people who can least afford it, and a lot of people will be screwed.
Also: the Iran nuclear deal!  Trump decertified that Iran is living up to the deal, even though the deal has worked at preventing Iran from getting a bomb.  He wants to tie it with efforts to stop Iran from funding terrorist groups - a different issue - and his attempt to unravel a plan that would keep the Iranians at bay for several years has angered our European ex-allies (you think they'll be with us in solidarity after this?), destroyed American credibility, and pleased the paranoid Israeli right wing - including the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, who sees any effort at peace in the Middle East as threat to his nation.  Trump has indicated that he wants to fix parts of the deal, such as the part that allows the Iranians to test ballistic missiles, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has indicated that the U.S. hopes to use leverage in from decertifying the deal, but the Europeans have made it clear that renegotiation is, well, non-negotiable.  Congress can pass on re-imposing sanctions against Iran that would undermine the deal, but Trump could just as easily pull out altogether.
Why are Americans so hung up about making a deal with Iran, even if it keeps the mullahs from nuking anyone?  Two words - "hostage crisis."  The 1979-81 Iran hostage crisis is something we just can't let go of after thirty-six years.
So Obama's legacy is kaput?  Not entirely.  There's still one remaining piece of his legacy - Donald Trump.  By neglecting the need to build up the Democratic Party and placing at the helm of the Democratic National Committee the insufferable Debbie Wasserman Schultz - who tired to satisfy her lust for power by trying to satisfy the lust of the Clintons to get their power back - he paved the way a Republican comeback and, ultimately, for Trump.
Yes, he was the first black President.  But he may also be the last Democratic President - much like Millard Fillmore was the last Whig President.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Ophelia Hitting Ireland!

Tropical cyclones aren't supposed to form from non-tropical low-pressure systems.
Tropical cyclones aren't supposed to form on the eastern side of 30 degrees longitude west.
If tropical cyclones do from there, they usually head west, not east . . . and certainly not northeast.
And any storm moving northeastward  from 35 degrees latitude north certainly isn't supposed to become a major hurricane - especially with the ocean water at a temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit - much cooler than the current 86 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures of the waters in the Caribbean.
Also, any such storm, after losing its tropical characteristics, would hardly be expected to maintain hurricane-force winds once it hits land.  
Yet all of this is true about Hurricane Ophelia, the tenth straight hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic season and the sixth major hurricane of the season overall, which is still a powerful storm today, having hit . . . Ireland.
Ireland!?


Levi Cowan's GFS map shows me what I can't believe is happening to my paternal ancestral homeland.  Five of the Republic of Ireland's 26 counties are under a "status red" warning, the highest warning for storms in the country.  This is the first hurricane to hit the island since Hurricane Debbie in 1961 and also the worst storm ever of any sort to hit the island since Debbie.
That's right, a hurricane hit Ireland back when its most famous member of the diaspora, John F. Kennedy, was President of the United States.  Hurricanes affecting Europe are rare; the Old Country is mostly affected by remnants of storms that have a greater effect on the Americas, and the few hurricanes that did make it intact to Europe formed close to Africa, not in the middle of the ocean out of non-tropical low.  (Hurricane Faith in 1966 hit northern Europe by way of Bermuda after forming from a wave that generated near the Cape Verde Islands.)   The fact that Ophelia is so unusual, though, in its genesis, its strengthening, and its track proves that something is not right here.  It's very much likely the result of . . .
I can't say it if I want a job with the Environmental Destruction (formerly Protection) Agency, but it rhymes with "primate range."
I'm really depressed now . . ..     

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Beatles - 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 (1973)

Imagine a rock band so successful it takes the equivalent of a quadruple album to gather all of their greatest hits.  Now imagine a band so prolific and  groundbreaking it amasses such a list of songs in only eight years.  
The best greatest-hits compilations of the Beatles are by far the first two, issued in April 1973.  Numerous compilations have been issued since then, but the Beatles' 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 collections - respectively called the Red and Blue Albums for obvious reasons - gather all of the hits plus most of the popular album tracks that became staples of pop-music radio in the sixties and beyond.  
The Red and Blue Albums, both double sets, sequence 54 songs between them, based on the chronological order of the original British releases of the Beatles' work, and on the Red Album, the listener gets an idea of just how these songs fueled the rise of Beatlemania as they came out.  The excitement of the early hits, such as "Please Please Me" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand," lead to the top-notch exuberance of "A Hard Day's Night," "Help!," and "Day Tripper" with more groundbreaking fare like "I Feel Fine," the classically scored "Yesterday," and the folk-rock Rubber Soul track "Nowhere Man"filtering in to show how the Beatles went beyond the two guitars-bass-drum arrangements.  It captures the Beatles at the boldest, concluding quite smartly with "Eleanor Rigby" and "Yellow Submarine" from Revolver.
The Blue Album is just as consistent in its presentation of the Beatles' late period music, and it captures their more mature side.  Innovation in the tracks from 1967 on sides one and two yield to their more professional, seasoned work from the White Album, Abbey Road and Let It Be.   The songs here are more mature, more serious - a fascinating look at how John Lennon, Paul McCartney George Harrison and Ringo Starr aged in the 1960s.  The choice of cover photos for both albums, contrasting the fresh-faced kids from 1963 with the gentleman hippies of 1969, complements the albums' sequencing perfectly.  (Both photos were taken at EMI's Manchester Square office in London by Angus McBean; the earlier one was from the Please Please Me photo session, the latter for the cover of what became Let It Be as a parody of the earlier sleeve but not used.)
Apple Corps manager Allen Klein compiled these records just before he parted ways with the group's holding comapny, and it may be the only good thing he'd ever done for them.  His preference for originals over covers chronicles their development as songwriters, though George's early work doesn't appear on the first record - what, "Taxman" wasn't good enough? - and many of the songs he chose that were only available in Britain and America as album tracks were hits in other countries, demonstrating the Beatles' global appeal.  (Bet you didn't know, fellow Yanks, that "All My Loving" - the only song from With the Beatles here - was a number-one hit in Canada!)   There were obviously minor quibbles with Klein's choices overall, and aside from leaving out "Taxman," I could never understand why Klein couldn't have added A Hard Day's Night's "If I Fell," which seems to belong here more than Help!'s "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away," or "Do You Want To Know a Secret" (a number-two hit in America).  I mean, why only 26 songs on the Red Album when the Blue Album has 28?   But you do get "From Me To You," which hadn't been available in the U.S. for nearly a decade when these albums were originally released, on the Red Album and stellar B-sides like John's "Don't Let Me Down" and George's "Old Brown Shoe" on the Blue Album.  You can't go wrong there. 
The two sets have one weakness in that they fall into the easy trap of compartmentalizing the group into two distinct periods - the earlier period of two-minute lighthearted pop songs versus the later period of heavier songs as long as four or seven minutes, the touring years versus the studio years, the moptops versus the hippies . . ..  Sometimes I think the border colors of the sleeves predicted the present cultural divide in the United States, with the boy-girl songs on the Red Album appealing to Republican Middle America and the impressionistic verse of "Strawberry Fields Forever" and the commentary and satire of "Revolution" or "Back In the U.S.S.R." appealing to coastal Democrats.  But that division was too simple to be true; the Beatles offered some of their edgiest work in the days before Sgt. Pepper, and they did simpler songs like "Hello Goodbye" after they quit touring.  But the fact that Red and Blue albums, the only Beatles compilations from the vinyl age to make it on CD, feature so many different songs for so many different people makes the case that the Beatles' music is the people's music, and the Beatles were and remain the voice of the people.  Nothing demonstrates this more than the choice of this photo showing the Fabs among the people at a London church garden during their 1968 "Mad Day Out" photo session.  
Bottom line:  Every serious Beatles fan should have the entire original Beatles catalog, but if you're a casual fan that only wants the highlights, these greatest-hits packages are . . . all you need.   

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Red Card

Are you kidding me?
Are you telling me that the United States men's soccer team, long the joke of international soccer, was finally getting somewhere after having won the 2017 Gold Cup and having beaten Panama 4-0 in a qualifying World Cup game, with this new team member Christian Pulisic being on the verge of becoming the first American male soccer player worthy of being compared to Pele, only to lose 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago - Trinidad and Tobago, a country so insignificant that its only contribution to civilization was Billy Ocean - and thus they missed qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 1986?  Which was the last time anyone ever heard anything from Billy Ocean?
Okay, I'm going to come out and say it.  In spite of Kanye West, in spite of his Kardashian in-laws, and in spite of Donald Trump himself, the U.S. men's national soccer team is easily the biggest  and most humiliating embarrassment to These States by a wide margin.  They are the most pathetic bunch of incompetents and never-rans I've ever seen.  They don't learn from mistakes, they don't capitalize on their improvements, and they always screw up when they can least afford to.  Their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup is the worst thing to happen to men's soccer in America since the Iranians defeated the U.S. at the 1998 World Cup in France and set them on a course to finish last.  As humiliating as it was for American soccer players to be defeated by a country that loves to hate us, at least that time our team, pathetic though it was, made it to the World Cup.  This is even worse than their failure to qualify for the 2016 Olympics, the importance of which pales in comparison to this.  Our men's national soccer team no longer sucks. Now it chokes.
This defeat will deal a huge blow to a sport that's already having trouble gaining traction in this country against the competition from basketball, baseball and most especially American football, which is more of a sadistic tribal ritual than a sport.  Soccer is already in trouble here, as opposed to fútbol americano, which thrives whether the players take a knee for the flag or not.  Major League Soccer (MLS) just can't compete with the NFL for interest and excitement.  You could fill two stadiums with Americans who can tell you who won the last Super Bowl, but you could probably fit all of the Americans who can tell you who won the last MLS Cup without checking Wikipedia on their smartphones in a broom closet.  American sportswriter and noted soccer-basher Frank Deford, who died in May 2017, must be looking down and laughing.
The American absence from the World Cup in 2018 will translate into even lesser interest in Major League Soccer, which means fewer people attending matches or even watching matches on television, and they're already difficult to find on TV in the first place.  That means it will be more difficult to cultivate new players and even more difficult for MLS to attract new homegrown talent; even Christian Pulisic plays professionally in Europe (Germany, to be precise).  Without the U.S. national team in the 2018 World Cup, TV ratings in the U.S. will be a disaster - assuming, of course, that any American television network will want to air it.  Look, when the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Olympics - which, coincidentally, like the 2018 World Cup will be, were held in Russia - to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, do you think NBC, which paid $87 million to broadcast that Olympiad, was going to air the Games without our athletes in them?  Of course it didn't!  As great as Sebastian Coe and Daley Thompson, the two track stars from the United Kingdom at those Games, were, do you think Americans were going to tune into the 1980 Moscow Olympics to root for the British?? 
The 1980 Olympic boycott occurred during one of NBC's worst ratings slumps, incidentally, when all the network had going for it were lame sitcoms like "Hello Larry."  At least "Hello Larry" star McLean Stevenson, unlike the U.S. men's soccer players, never embarrassed himself before an international audience.
Let's face it.  Despite some occasional moments of greatness - imagine a team so cursed it was considered a moment of greatness when it reached eighth place in the World Cup as it did in 2002 - our national men's team sooner or later regresses into mediocrity and has to strive to get back to something resembling a respectable position.  Sadly, our guys just keep falling flat on their faces; like a lovesick teenager who crashes the family car on his way home from a date in which he experienced his first kiss, our team suffers defeats that monumentally dwarf its triumphs.  We couldn't compete in men's soccer if our reputation depended on it, and because soccer is the world's most popular sport, it does.  Coach Bruce Arena's reputation certainly depended on a World Cup 2018 berth; he has since resigned.
We Americans are likely to shrug all this off and pretend it doesn't matter, because that's what we do when we suck at something, and we suck at a lot of things.  We happily ignore the fact that there are things we don't do particularly well at - literacy, health care delivery, infrastructure - and boast about being number one.  Number one in what?  Rich people?  Obese people?  Gun deaths?  Low voter turnout?  We don't stop to think about it. We're too busy congratulating ourselves for our greatness. 
The U.S. will still be a soccer powerhouse, though.  The women's team will likely be favorites in the 2019 Women's World Cup, because that's where the real stars of American soccer are; more people can name Mia Hamm or Brandi Chastain than Alexi Lalas or Landon Donovan.  So let's concede that, in These States, soccer is a "dame game."  Let's forget about the guys.  Really.  There's a better chance that the Washington Redskins will change their name than there is that the this country will ever win the World Cup.  However, we still have a better chance to educate our children well, improve health care,  create a passenger rail network with trains that don't look like they belong in a railway museum - in short, we have a better chance to make America a better place to live.  If we don't, we'll remain a laughingstock of the world, irrelevant and unworthy of respect.
Just like our men's soccer team.     

Friday, October 13, 2017

Music Video Of the Week - October 13, 2017

"Flagpole Sitta" by Harvey Danger  (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Lump of Coal For John Yang

On the PBS Newshour, reporter John Yang interviewed two individuals about Environmental Destruction Agency administrator Scott Pruitt's decision to cancel Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, which would have regulated emissions from coal-powered electricity-generating stations - one against the decision, one for it.  Opposing the move was Pruitt's predecessor as Environmental Destruction Agency (formerly Environmental Protection Agency) administrator, Gina McCarthy, and in favor of it was coal baron Robert Murray.  While Yang tried to play devil's advocate with McCarthy by pointing out that the energy market is moving away from coal anyway irrespective of whether or not the Clean Power Plan is implemented (it never was, due to court challenges), he pretty much let Murray get away with baseless claims that global warming is a hoax.  Murray claimed, and not for the first time, that four thousand scientists have told him that there is no global warming,  though he never explained who these four thousand scientists are.  He also insisted that the earth is cooling based on surface land temperatures (ignoring the far more relevant concern of warming surface sea temperatures).
Murray could have stopped there, but he also kept defending coal-based electrical power as "low-cost reliable energy" and dismissed regulations as illegal power grabs by the "Democrat Party" (referring to the Democratic Party by its demonym, which does not correspond to the party's actual name, an epithetical trick by the GOP to show disrespect for their opponents - not that the Democrats don't ever deserve disrespect, of course).  Yang simply thanked Murray for his time, and that was that - as if McCarthy's own comments in the debate were sufficient enough to rebuke him.  Except that McCarthy and Murray took turns stating their cases rather than debating each other directly, McCarthy went first and thus gave Murray the last word, and she was more on the defensive than the offensive.  What was offensive is how Yang (below) handled the issue.
As Pat Moynihan once said, you're entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts - and Yang entitled Murray to his own facts.  But even if Murray's argument had been factually based (yeah right), dig this - while it's usually best to present both sides of an issue, sometimes there's only one side to an issue.  And the one side to the issue of climate change is that climate change is happening.  Yang, a seasoned reporter who's worked for ABC and NBC, should have realized that.
Why does PBS tolerate this?  Two words - "federal funding."  Three more words - "Not the BBC."   

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Put a Corker In It

Republican U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who's not running for re-election in 2018, is speaking out against Donald Trump's handling of the job he was elected to.  He said that Trump is treating the Presidency and setting the nation "on a path to World War III" in his handling of the Korea crisis and by his undermining of key foreign-policy aides and and advisers. 
"I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it's a situation of trying to contain him," Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,  said, comparing the Oval Office to an adult day care center.  This comes right after Corker (below) said that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and White House chief of staff John Kelly are the only three men keeping us out of chaos.
The problem is that Tillerson's efforts at diplomacy to handle the crisis in Asia were scuttled by Trump himself, Kelly is one facepalm away from quitting the White House after Trump's United Nations speech, and Mattis can't contain the President alone.
Trump is blundering his way into a major catastrophe just like the European powers walked in to a major conflagration to save face after the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which sparked World War I by stoking nationalist resentments that had been building up in Europe for decades.  Trump could start a war with North Korea's Kim Jong Un by doing and saying the wrong thing to provoke the North Koreans  . . . and maybe also the Chinese, considering his airheaded remark on trade.  The good news is that other Republicans agree with Corker.  The bad news is that they don't want to say or do anything about it because they have to get their tax reform bill through.
And despite all of this, former Bill Clinton adviser Doug Sosnik, noting tensions within the Democratic Party and a dispirited and disorganized opposition to Trump, believes that Trump can get re-elected in 2020.
The good news is that Democrats, despite what Sosnik says, don't have to worry about 2020.  The bad news is that's because we're not likely to make it to 2019 . . . or 2018. :-O

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Martin the Liar

I'm not calling Martin O'Malley (below) a liar for making promises as a presidential candidate that he could never have kept as President.  I'm calling him a liar for saying he could win the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.  But I'm not accusing him of lying to his supporters - all ten of us.
The person he lied to was himself.  
In the eight months that he was an active presidential candidate, O'Malley campaigned hard despite the fact that there was never any way he could win the nomination.  You could fit all the celebrities and Democratic office-holders who supported him in a broom closet.  Hillary Clinton sucked up all of the establishment support early, and thanks to Bernie Sanders, O'Malley couldn't get any traction for the anti-establishment crowd.  The Democratic National Committee made damn sure that O'Malley couldn't even be strong enough to be an also-ran (a point of fact reflected by the inconvenient truth that Hillary didn't even mention him in her campaign memoir).  And yet he kept telling himself the big lie that he could win.  Long odds?  No problem, he told himself (and everyone else), he'd faced long odds before in his political career, he could do it again.  I love his reaction to Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb quitting before the primaries and caucuses even started - he was looking forward to a three-person race with Hillary and Bernie, where he could stand out more.  "We've got 'em where we want 'em," he told a CNN reporter without irony.  And yet when he participated in Democratic forums, taking his turn before or between Hillary's and Bernie's turns, no one paid attention to him -  the audiences in these forums disregarded him, and the pundits didn't talk about him afterwards.  At the end of his turn in the November 2015 MSNBC candidates' forum in South Carolina, the camera panned across the audience and showed a black woman shaking her head, symbolizing both O'Malley's problems with black voters and the determination of Democratic women of all races, creeds and colors to make Hillary the nominee.  (I'm not convinced that this moment wasn't staged.)   
Only after the 2016 election was over did O'Malley admit what most people already knew - the Democratic National Committee was out to stop him and everyone else who wasn't Hillary, the media wanted a two-person race between Hillary and Bernie for the party's presidential nomination, and the rules were written specifically to ensure a Hillary nomination - and realize that it hadn't made sense to run for President in 2016.  O'Malley actually said that early in 2017 - "None of it made any sense."  He'd stopped lying to himself.  He finally told himself the truth.  But remember, he wasn't lying to us, his dear supporters.  Because he'd told himself he could win, he believed he could win when he told us so.  As the saying goes, it's not a lie if you believe it.
Now I'm wondering if I've been lying to myself about 2020.  I've been telling myself that O'Malley can win the Democratic presidential nomination and the Presidency in 2020 and that Donald Trump can't destroy American democracy and America itself before then.  Really?  Martin O'Malley as the 2020 presidential nominee of a party full of people who hate him and think he's an annoying schmuck?  Democracy in America still strong after four years of Trump, who's caused more division in America and done more damage to this country's political institutions in eight months than a Ronald Reagan or a George Walker Bush ever did in eight years?  I actually believe things can turn around?  Or is that just a lie that I tell the man in the mirror when I get up in the morning?  I've had serious doubts about all of this, and I've been wondering whether I should just give up and quit this country altogether before Trump realizes that his walls and travel bans can be used to keep people in America as well as out of America.  I keep telling myself things will work out for the better in the end, but I look at the United States in 2017 and realize that . . . none of this makes any sense.
Lying to yourself is worse than fake news.  You can spot fake news if you're sharp enough.  But you can be the sharpest tack in the box and be fooled by your own perspective on reality . . . which may not be connected to reality at all.  When you start to doubt what you tell yourself, that's when you have to wonder if you're being truthful with yourself.
I want to see Martin O'Malley - or, if he doesn't run for President in 2020, someone like him - turn things around and dispose of the Trumpster.  Most of all, I want to believe that it can and will happen.  But I just don't know anymore. :-(  

Monday, October 9, 2017

Number Nine . . . Number Nate . . .

The good news is that Hurricane Nate became a tropical storm and then a depression quite rapidly, and its remnants will produce no more than a lot of badly needed rain for my area.  The bad news is that it's the fourth Atlantic hurricane to make landfall on either the continental U.S. or its territorial possessions within a month . . . and it's the ninth straight tropical system in a row - in a row - to become a hurricane this season.
Did I happen to mention that five of those nine hurricanes were major?  Including Lee, which made it no farther than a tropical storm and first and degenerated into an invest . . . only to regenerate and reach Category 3 status?  At least that one was out over the open ocean.
I wonder how many more hurricanes have to hit the U.S. before the Republicans - never mind Trump, he's far from being the only Republican to deny climate change - realize that climate change is real?
Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Gulf Coast . . . the Northeast hasn't been hit yet, but we all know how a late-season storm could form in the Caribbean and make it as far north as New York City or New England.  Maybe after, say, seventeen hurricanes have formed and we think we're in the clear, just like it was with . . . Sandy.
Hurricane Sean, anyone?? :-O
And if that happens, Sean Spicer's head will probably replace the cyclone symbol on track maps circulated on Facebook. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Bitter Pill

Okay, in light of the fact that Trump has expanded the ability of employers to deny women contraception coverage through the Affordable Care Act based on religious or moral objections, let me see if I have this straight (bear with me here):
Many Democrats, especially many female Democrats, were so insistent on making Hillary Clinton the first female President that they rigged the system to ensure her the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.  The party needed to win the 2016 election.  They needed to win to protect the advances in women's rights against misogynistic Republicans.  They wanted to ensure that contraception coverage and other women's health services would remain available to all women.  But at the same time, they were so desirous of getting a woman in the White House that they got behind Hillary Clinton, a lousy candidate whom many people suspected could not win a general election.  There were ten women that the Democrats could have nominated for President in 2016.  The first was Hillary and no one cared who the other nine were.  And they cared even less about any of the cisgendered white males who were Hillary's opponents for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.
Moreover, Hillary partisans tried to shame women who dared to support one of said opponents, namely Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley.  Remember when Madeleine Albright said there was a special place in hell for women who didn't support Hillary?  And how about Gloria Steinem's comment that female Sanders supporters were only supporting Sanders to meet guys?  The message was clear: Hillary was going to be the Democratic presidential nominee because it was not just a woman's turn, it was this woman's turn - and cisgendered white males need not apply.  Despite everything at stake for women's rights, the Hillbots were hell-bent (Hill-bent?) on making Hillary Clinton the Democratic presidential nominee and counting on her to make history for women in America by getting elected President, even though it turned out that she could not beat Donald Trump, instead of nominating a man - Sanders or O'Malley - who could have beaten Trump and would have protected contraception access and other women's health services.  But Democrats just weren't going to bother with a cisgendered white male nominee.  Now we have a cisgendered white male Republican President taking away contraception coverage for millions of American women . . . all because the Hillbots in the Democratic Party preferred a woman who couldn't win over one of two men who could have won.
You Hillbots didn't think this thing through, did you?
I could have told you that this was too big a risk to take back in 2016, but ahh, who would listen to a cisgendered white male like me anyway?
And you really blew it by choosing not to at least consider Elizabeth Warren.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Long After Dark

Tom Petty, who died earlier this week at the age of 66 of cardiac arrest, was probably rock's own greatest fan.  He met Elvis Presley as a boy on the set of the Elvis movie Follow That Dream when his uncle, a crewman on that movie, invited young Tom to watch the filming.  Petty got into Elvis's music and developed an interest in rock and roll.  He was further inspired to become rock and roller when he saw the Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and soon took inspiration from Bob Dylan's raw voice and songwriting abilities and the Byrds' fusion of Dylan's folk and the Beatles' rock.  Petty - who also dug the Rolling Stones - became one of the prime movers of post-punk rock, leading his own band the Heartbreakers and delivering a sound that spoke to Middle America with its jangling guitars and steady rhythms while adding a New Wave edge that made his music sound as modern as it was a throwback to the sixties music he loved.
Petty's love for that music led him to work with his heroes.  After several collaborations with Dylan, he would join him in the Traveling Wilburys with rock and roll founding father Roy Orbison and former Beatle George Harrison (not to mention Electric Light Orchestra leader Jeff Lynne, whom PBS's Petty obituary did not mention in referring to the Wilburys).  The Traveling Wilburys were both a supergroup and a men's club of comrades who gave each other support on their own records.  (Petty also collaborated with Roger McGuinn on one of the former Byrd's solo albums.)  Petty's own records, from his and the Heartbreakers' 1979 album Damn The Torpedoes and 1982's Long After Dark to  The Last DJ from 2002, as well as solo albums like 1989's Full Moon Fever, produced a string of classic songs - "Refugee," "Don't Do Me Like That," "You Got Lucky," "I Won't Back Down," "You Don't Know How It Feels" – that had a lot of grit and a lot of heart even as songs from other "artists" in popular music increasingly displayed neither.  Petty not only savored his famous associations, he savored rock and roll and was passionately committed to keep it strong and vibrant even as the recording "industry" seemed to work against it - consider the title song from The Last DJ and its biting commentary against Big Radio for neutering rock radio's spirit.  (And it's gotten worse since then.)
The world not only lost a rock fan in Tom Petty as well as a great artist, it lost an advocate for the music.  Petty did not suffer fools in popular music gladly; he famously lamented that twenty-first-century rock and roll was populated by too many bands made up of guys that "you joined a rock and roll band to get away from."  A great loss, indeed,  RIP. :-(  

Friday, October 6, 2017

Music Video Of the Week - October 6, 2017

"Refugee" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Going Nuclear

I thought we'd be spared any more saber rattling between Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un.  U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (above) has been in talks with the Chinese in an attempt to cool the tensions between the United States and North Korea and said there would be "lines of communications" with Pyongyang to prevent what Tillerson called the "dark situation" of a nuclear crisis. He even got China to approve sanctions on North Korea.
Then Trump told him to cut it out.
Trump told Tillerson that his efforts were a waste of time and added, "Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!"
This sounds like a man who sees the danger of the North Korean crisis and is ready to take bold and decisive action to resolve it.
I meant Rex Tillerson.
It just flabbergasts me that Trump would rather risk - nay, start - a full-scale war in Asia and turn half if not all of Korea in to an ash pit than do anything that could avoid it.  Such a war could easily engulf a good chunk of the rest of the planet.
Both Trump and Tillerson have grandchildren.  The difference between the two is that Tillerson, who also opposed pulling out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, wants his grandchildren to live in a clean, safe world.
Tillerson obviously views his grandchildren differently.  He actually loves them.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

I Gotta Get a Grip

You know all of those times on this blog that I accused Hillary Clinton of telling Martin O'Malley to "get a grip" when he went off a tirade about gun control in a Democratic presidential debate?  Well it turns out that I misremembered what was said.
In the Democratic 2016 presidential debate that took place in December 2015, O'Malley blamed the federal government's failure to pass gun legislation, an action he achieved in Maryland as that state's governor, on the "flip-flopping political approach in Washington that both of my two colleagues on this stage have represented there for the last forty years."
At that point, Sanders replied, "Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Calm down a little bit, Martin."  Hillary Clinton then said, "Let's tell the truth, Martin." 
"I am telling the truth," O'Malley replied.
Clinton and Sanders then responded by saying that O'Malley had misrepresented their records on gun control, but O'Malley refused to concede the point.  Whether he was telling the truth about his primary opponents' positions on guns or not, though, Hillary Clinton did not say to O'Malley, "Get a grip, Martin."
The funny thing is, I watched that debate myself, and I could have sworn remembering that she did tell him to "get a grip."  But the transcript of the debate shows otherwise, and a USA Today article about that very moment in the debate concurs with the transcript.  But then, there have been times when I can't even remember what I had for lunch the day before, and there were a couple of times when I distinctly remembered things that could never have happened, as I explained in this blog entry from a few years ago.  So, no, Hillary did not go nasty on O'Malley and tell him to get a grip, and I apologize for having said - here and elsewhere - that she did.
I also apologize for the sore-thumb typos in my since-fixed post about what happened in Las Vegas. :-O
However, I maintain that when Bernie and Hillary descended on O'Malley in that moment during that debate, Bernie acted like he was O'Malley's dad and Hillary acted like the aunt you can't stand but tolerate because she's married to your mom's brother.
Ugh.  I think I need a vacation.  I've been having a tough time lately . . .. :-( 

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Greatest Mass Shooting In American History

Bullets rained down on a country music festival from a hotel in Las Vegas.  At least 58 dead, maybe more.  More than four hundred injured.  The shooter was a 64-year-old man from a retirement community outside the city.  No indication that it was a political act of terrorism, no motive, no context to put it in.
For those thinking that America has hit rock bottom, I have news for you - life in the United States is never to bad that it can't get any worse.  

Trump's PR Problem

Donald Trump's response to the devastation in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria got off to a shaky start and has been progressively worsening ever since.  His initial explanation that Puerto Rico's geography was a detriment to aid-delivery efforts didn't go over to well with folks who were never going to take his comments at face value anyway, but there was an element of truth to it - with the island a thousand miles away from the American mainland, it is more difficult to send aid there than to send aid to an area in the lower forty-eight in need of help, and the ships and planes needed to send aid to Puerto Rico were impeded by damage done by the storm to the airport at the territory's capital, San Juan, as well as to the city's harbor (the "rich harbor" where San Juan was established less than five hundred years ago gave the island its name).  Puerto Rico's governor, Ricardo Rosselló, was, at first, very complimentary toward Trump and his administration for their response to the crisis and the handling of the situation.
So where's the aid?  Uh, yeah, that's the part Trump can't figure out - actually getting all of the supplies to the island.
It's been nearly a week since Trump said he was taking charge, and many if not most Puerto Rico residents are still without clean water, electricity is sporadic at best, and gasoline lines are rivaling those of the 1973 fuel crisis that affected the fifty states as well as the territories.  A hospital ship based in Norfolk just left for the island over the weekend and is not supposed to arrive there until later this week, having set sail later than she could have.  Supplies are taking forever to get to Puerto Rico, and both the geography issue and the damaged-port defense are wearing awfully thin.  Rosselló has grown more impatient.  But Trump still brags about the "fantastic job" that thousands of federal employees are doing in putting everything back together.  And, to paraphrase the late Muhammad Ali, it's called bragging only when you can't back it up.
But get this.  Trump not only said that Puerto Rico is to blame for its own troubles because of all of the mismanagement of the island's finances that occurred before Maria (imagine Obama telling New Jersey after Sandy that the state's financial troubles brought on the aftereffects of the storm on itself - you can't, can you?) but he's also blasted San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz for poor leadership.
You mean leadership like this?
Oh yeah, he also said that Puerto Rico residents aren't doing enough to help themselves and shouldn't rely so much on outside help.
Uh, they're on an island with no phones, no lights, practically no gas for their motorcars . . .. Even Gilligan and his fellow castaways had more luxuries!
Thus was the last straw for Americans of Puerto Rican descent, including Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda, who minced no words and pulled no punches when it came to expressing his thoughts about Trump. "You're going straight to hell," he told Trump via Twitter. "No long lines for you. Someone will say, 'Right this way, sir.'  They'll clear a path."
And maybe he'll meet Rick Scott on the way down.
But then Trump is not only evil, he's stupid. He explained Puerto Rico's geographic isolation by saying that it is "an island surrounded by water, big water, ocean water"  (of course it's surrounded by water, it wouldn't be an island otherwise, would it?) and also that it's sitting in "the middle of the ocean" when it is in fact a part of a chain of islands separating the Atlantic from the Caribbean.  He didn't think to waive a law protecting an American monopoly on interstate and state-to-territory maritime commerce that is responsible for making things in Puerto Rico expensive until enough people complained about it.  And his advisers are no help.  Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke probably cost herself the job on a permanent basis by saying that it was a "good news story."
Puerto Rico is an island of nearly three and a half million people, all of them American citizens (not too many people seem to know that!).  Yet Puerto Rico residents cannot vote in presidential elections and their non-voting territorial delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives can't even vote in the Committee On the Whole (which I explained here).   They have no political power outside the island, and now they have no electrical power either.  They're in dire straits.  And Trump is wagging his short finger at the people of Puerto Rico and telling them to pull their own weight in this crisis while bragging about what a wonderful job the federal government is doing when he can't make the claim?  No!  This is not a good news story.
Trump is trying to convince everyone that he's on the ball with this crisis, but here's the truth.  He has a catastrophic mess on his hands in Puerto Rico, and his efforts to make himself look good with a smarmy public relations campaign make him look exponentially worse.
In other words, he has a bad PR situation compounded by a bad PR situation.
Hence, the double-entendre title of this post.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Price Is Wrong

Having bilked the taxpayers to the tune of a million dollars for chartered flights on government planes, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is out.  He was forced to resign before Trump had the chance to say, "You're fired!"  
There's something of an irony to this. As the Democrats are slowly beginning to get their mojo back by winning hyperlocal special elections, Price is now out of government after having quit his House seat in Georgia to join Trump's Cabinet, that House seat now occupied by another Republican.  Democrat Jon Ossoff, having failed in his bid for Price's House seat, must be laughing his Ossoff!   
Price, an orthopedic surgeon by training, now has to have required surgery on his reputation.
To think, after all of his attempts to help Trump get rid of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act is in place and Price is out of Washington.  But at the same time, he won't be in a position to ignore and underfund the Affordable Care Act in order to undercut it.  Trump can do that simply by . . . not replacing him.
Because the incoming Acting HHS Secretary, Don Wright, will have an appropriate title, doing no more than playing a part in Donald Trump's new reality show.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Mainline Florida

The Washington pundits have been talking about how reactionary Alabama ex-judge Roy Moore, who won the special Republican U.S. Senate primary this past week, is likely to win the special general election for Jeff Sessions' old Senate seat in December, and how that will make an already dysfunctional Senate even more so - or Moore so.   But meanwhile, in Florida, a Democratic victory in a special election could portend what's to come in 2018. 
Former Miami-Dade County Democratic chair Annette Taddeo (above) just won a special election to fill a vacancy in the Florida State Senate, and the seat, which is in a Hispanic-majority district, had been previously held by a Republican.  The Miami area's Cuban-dominated Hispanic population has been solidly Republican for years, so the victory of Taddeo - a Colombian-American - is a big deal.  It shows that more voters are beginning to doubt the GOP's effectiveness at governance at the state and local level, and it demonstrates just how serious some Democrats - maybe even DNC chair Tom Perez (ha!) - are at winning back state legislative offices in order to put themselves in a better position to win congressional (the word "congressional" refers to both the House and Senate here) and gubernatorial elections in 2018.  
Taddeo's victory doesn't give the Democrats a majority in the Florida State Senate, but it should go a long way toward energizing Florida Democrats as they look to 2018, when Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson is up for re-election and the state's voters choose a new governor to succeed the insufferable Rick Scott, who is thankfully ineligible to run for a third term.  Taddeo is the seventh Democrat to flip a former Republican state legislative seat since Trump won the Presidency.  Martin O'Malley and Joe Biden - both potential candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination - campaigned for her.  They get it.  Let's hope Perez finally does as well.   
(P.S.  Also, in New Hampshire, Democrat Kari Lerner won a special election for a seat in the state House of Representatives, defeating her Republican opponent in a upset and becoming the eighth Democrat to flip a former Republican state legislative seat since November 2016.)

Friday, September 29, 2017

Music Video Of the Week - September 29, 2017

"The Morning After" by Maureen McGovern (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Monday, September 25, 2017

September Slowdown

I can't take it . . .
This month, September 2017, has been a real bummer for me.  Not just the hurricanes that have persistently threatened this area, but also because of other things.  I've been having trouble concentrating on things at home and getting things done, and I've had a hard time at one of my jobs.  I've had to deal with a lot of personal problems and even when things turn out alright, they haven't stayed that way for long.  What has stayed around for long is a growing anxiety about, well, everything.
I've also been spending more time on the computer than I'd like, and not just assembling my blogs day by day.  Attempts to curb my online time haven't worked out, and I've been spending less time doing the other things I like to do.  I feel grumpy, tired, frustrated and general ticked off.
And I'm sick and tried of trying to get a handle on typos.
So I think I'll be posting less for the rest of this month.  And even though Hurricane Maria isn't going to hit the New York area, meaning that I don't have to worry about going offline against my will, I may not post much of anything here for awhile going into early October.  I'm just worn out trying to keep this blog up when so many things are going on in and outside of my personal life.
So you'll be seeing less of me here for awhile, at least for a week or so.  My Music Video Of the Week feature will continue as scheduled, and I'll still have more posts on my beautiful-women picture blog - already set up in advance and ready to go - this week and in the month ahead.  But as far as up-to-the-minute blogging on issues of the day or on whatever else happens to be on my mind in this space . . . not so much.  
This past Thursday marked the fifteenth anniversary of this blog.  Don't be surprised if one day I decide to pack it up and quit before I do it for another fifteen years.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Grand Casualty Act

That's what the Graham-Cassidy Act should be called.
Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (SC) and William Cassidy (LA) have this really dandy idea to replace the Affordable Care Act - give block grants to the states and let them decide how to allocate health care coverage to their residents.  Well, what could be so terrible about that?
The answer would take more paper than was used to write the Dead Sea Scrolls.  But here are the highlights - heavily Democratic states that signed up for Medicaid expansion would get stiffed, more money would be diverted to Republican states before it dried up completely by 2026 - a "sucker punch" as Democratic Senator Tim Kaine would call it - with each state seeing an average 17 percent cut in funding overall in the meantime, premiums would go up for everyone by 20 percent each year, there'd be no protection from higher  insurance costs due to previously existing conditions, and up to 32 million people would lose coverage.  
The Republican leadership in Washington - and Donald Trump - want this bill rammed through the Senate before September 30 so it can pass with only 50 votes plus Vice President Mike Pence's vote due to arcane rules requiring a three-fifths majority when the new fiscal year begins October 1.  (Don't ask me to explain it any further because I'm too angry to bother!)   Then the House would have to pass it as is, without amendments. Why?  Because Speaker Paul Ryan said so.
Right now, Rand Paul of Kentucky refuses to support this repeal of the Affordable Care Act - because it doesn't go far enough! -  and John McCain refuses to do so because it's being rushed without any meaningful debate.  If one more Republican votes no - count on Susan Collins of Maine to be that one more Republican - the bill won't go anywhere.  And then the effort to repeal and "replace" the Affordable Care Act - will be dead for good.
Ha ha!  You thought  I was serious just now, didn't you?  No, efforts to repeal this law are going to go on for as long as there is a Republican Party, and right now it's the Democrats who are in danger of disappearing due to their inability to reverse years of sucking and lameness and become a competently functioning political organization.  Health care repeal is the Hurricane Jose of legislation . . .it just . . . won't . . . go away!    
On the other hand , Hurricane Jose has probably adversely affected fewer people's lives than this bill would if it became law, and even that storm finally dissipated. :-O :-(  

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Clarification: September 23, 2017

In my August 3, 2017, post about Maryland congressman John Delaney, who's running for President in 2020, I said he was "the only Democrat in Maryland's U.S. House district that the AFL-CIO wouldn't support in the 2016 congressional elections." I meant to say that he "was the only Democrat in Maryland's U.S. House delegation that the AFL-CIO wouldn't support in the 2016 congressional elections." Maryland obviously has more than one House district, unlike, say, Vermont.  The original error, which I regret, has since been corrected.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Music Video Of the Week - September 22, 2017

"Peg" by Steely Dan (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Maria, Maria, Maria, Maria . . .

The most frightening sound I’ve ever heard.  All the horrifying sounds of the world (particularly the sounds of climate change) in a single word.
Hurricane Maria went full tilt boogie over Puerto Rico, setting that island back about five hundred years.  There isn't a single resident of the island with electricity, and only one in ten residents of Puerto Rico have running water.
I'm sorry to say that restoring power there isn't going to be a piece of cake.  San Juan may be without power for up to six months.  It's worse than Irma hitting Florida. Not everyone lost power, and those who did got help from utility companies outside Florida, like Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) of New Jersey and New York), whose crews drove their trucks down to the Sunshine State  to get everyone who lost power back online.
I regret to point out that Puerto Rico is different for one obvious reason: PSE&G doesn't have boats. :-(
And Maria's future path?  Computer projections have mostly been consistent showing a scenario that involves Maria coming north along the East Coast and making a close call - the Outer Banks of North Carolina and either Virginia Beach or the Delmarva Peninsula would be likeliest places for a glancing blow - but the upper air patterns steering the storm and jet stream going over the continent, the idiosyncrasies of which I do not pretend to understand, could move Maria toward a possible landfall.  Some forecasts even note a disturbance coming in from the est that could interact with Maria and create a Sandy-type "superstorm."
Also, Jose - now a tropical storm is doing what the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) said it would do, even though it seemed comical at the time - looping around in a cloverleaf off the coast of Massachusetts, like it had done near the Bahamas, and possibly heading back to the coast near the Delaware Bay as a depression.  This looping could either help steer Maria out to sea or pull Maria into the East Coast and cause to make landfall somewhere between Virginia Beach and New York City.  Or, Jose could dissipate and allow Maria to go out to sea or make landfall.
Got all that?
Anyway, here's an ensemble of all the hurricane path projections as of 6 PM Eastern, September 20, from the Global Ensemble Forecast System, courtesy of weather geek Levi Cowan's Tropical Tidbits Web site:
As you can see, the ensemble is very confident that, despite everything in play, Maria will miss the East Coast completely.  But because everything is in play, landfall somewhere north of the 36th parallel can't be ruled out yet, and as Mr. Cowan noted on this very map, you should not use this map to plan or decide anything.  After all, this is projection and not a forecast.
On a personal note, this September has been a lousy month for me.  I've had issues too personal to share here, and I've had to deal with a lot of crap in between.  With all that in mind, and after anxiety over Irma and Jose, the last thing I need is yet another hurricane to worry about, especially if this one turns out to have a better chance of hitting the area where I live than the previous two.  I just hope everyone in Puerto Rico - including someone I know and friends of relatives of mainland Puerto Ricans I know personally - are all right. :-(

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Trump's United Nations Speech

Why would a President who's against globalism and diplomacy even be invited to the United Nations to speak? 
Donald Trump's problems with the United Nations have mostly been explained away as issues with corruption and bureaucratic ineptitude, but he revealed to his speech to the United Nations that he has no interest in its goal of providing a more peaceful, verdant or secure world.  He encouraged other countries to follow his administration's example of looking out for themselves first and the rest of the planet rarely.  He tried to deflect from his misogynistic domestic policies by promoting programs that help women in other parts of the world - programs that could be cut if the United States cuts its U.N. dues.  He complained how the U.S. is one of 193 U.N. member nations but pays for 22 percent of his budget, as if, say, Surinam or Equatorial Guinea were in any position to pay more. 
Then he went nuclear - literally.  He not only wants to rip up the Iran nuclear deal (any day now), he  also threatened to nuke North Korea if Kim Jong Un doesn't stop testing missiles.
And I'm worried about hurricanes?          
No sane world leader - that obviously leaves out Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel - can feel assured of a brighter future after the declaration of war that Trump just delivered.  Some of his  comments seemed to come right out of his Twitter account - he called the North Korean leader "Rocket Man."  Elton John and Bernie Taupin, call your lawyers!
I can't help but think of how we ended up with the Bush-Clinton continuum that gave us Trump.  It's highly likely that neither the Bushes nor the Clintons would have ended up in Washington if the elder George Bush hadn't been helped by the Democrats' lack of a strong presidential nominee in the 1988 election - in other words, if Gary Hart hadn't been felled by a sex scandal.  During that scandal, conservative columnist Cal Thomas, who rendered Hart unfit for the Presidency based on a possible extramarital affair, asked while on a TV-show panel, "What could be worse than adultery?"  Democratic strategist Mark Green, another panelist, replied, "Nuclear war!"
And while Trump was talking about annihilating North Korea, there was Melania, his marriage to whom being a by-product of his womanizing, looking on and listening.  That's irony for you.
And even though Gary Hart was self-centered, egotistical, paranoid toward the press, angry at the world, and aloof, even I have to concede that, while there's no guarantee that he would have been elected President if the Bimini affair hadn't happened, we would have been better off if he had.  
We're in trouble going forward.  If you thought 2017 has been a bad year, the year 2018 could be a darker, more dangerous. and more disastrous year for America and the world.    

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton

Dear Hillary:
Stop it.  Just . . . stop it.
Stop blaming everyone else for your loss in the 2016 presidential election.  Why do you even go on about it?  
I'm not going to read your book "What Happened," because, as I've already made it clear in this blog, I know what happened.  You ran a lousy campaign and you gave no compelling argument for why you should be President.  All you did was make an argument against Donald Trump.  But I didn't need you to make that case for me.
Oh, I'm sure there were other factors.  I know the Russians pulled a few tricks here or there, even though I don't think they cost you the election. And I'm not going to deny that voter suppression occurred in certain states.  But you're the one the blame the most for your loss, and downplaying and even denying your culpability by overplaying culpability elsewhere does not do you or the Democratic Party any favors.    
Once your book tour is over and your book is forgotten, just go away.  Walter Mondale went away.  Michael Dukakis went away.  Please do the same, unless you plan to fight climate change or go back to the State Department in a future Democratic presidential administration (assuming there ever is one), which is how Al Gore and John Kerry respectively redeemed themselves after losing their presidential bids to George Walker Bush (although Gore actually won).  Otherwise, we don't need you anymore.  And we don't need or want you to run for President again.  We need . . . 
. . . new leadership.
Sincerely, 
Steven Maginnis
P.S. When you come to Montclair, New Jersey for a book-signing event on September 26, just remember that a hurricane might disrupt your plans.     

Monday, September 18, 2017

Climate Change Change?

Hurricane Jose is not going to hit land, but it is still causing enough trouble to warrant a tropical storm watch for several coastal communities along the U.S.'s eastern seaboard before it spins out to sea . . . and then back towards the coast as weaker post-tropical storm.  And then along comes Maria.
Hurricane Maria is headed to the same small islands in the West Indies that got pummeled by Irma, and it may go over Puerto Rico and Hispaniola as a Category 3 or higher.  If it does go there, the mountains on those islands could tear it up a bit.  Beyond that, well, computer projections have had it go everywhere from out to sea to hitting the Carolinas, making landfall on the southern tip of Florida before moving on to the northern Gulf Coast, and there may yet projection showing landfall in New York City by the time you read this.
Maybe the idea another hurricane of any consequence hitting the U.S. mainland or its Caribbean dependencies is what caused the Trump White House to suggest over the weekend that it's willing to re-engage in the Paris Agreement on climate change at a Montreal summit on the issue.  European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete has stated, according to the Wall Street Journal, that the United States "has stated that they will not renegotiate the Paris accord, but they will try to review the terms on which they could be engaged under this agreement,"  hoping to find a solution more favorable to this country.
Here's my solution.  Get Donald Trump out of the White House.  Preferably in a straitjacket.
Trump, meanwhile, denied that he's softening his position on the Paris Agreement to make it look like he's not backtracking.  But dig this. He recently said that he had never seen hurricanes as large and as powerful as Harvey and Irma and didn't even know there was a fifth category for hurricane strength on the Saffir-Simpson scale.  And he probably didn't know there was such a thing as the Saffir-Simpson scale.  But just when you thought he'd come around on climate change and how it's causing these really nasty storms, he backtracked and started talking about similarly powerful storms dating back to before his own time - "the thirties and the forties," and also "the teens" - the 1910s, to be exact.  Btu that was exact as he got.  Oh, he's right about the thirties - the 1938 Long Island Express hurricane that destroyed Providence, Rhode Island is one example - but he didn't actually offer that particular hurricane - or any other from before his birth in June 1946 - as an example.  Nor did he concede that most of the Atlantic season in decades past had fewer storms, with seasons like the 2017 season being anomalies.  Screw the nineteen-teens anyway -we have to deal with the twenty-teens! We have to deal with the here and now! And that means dealing with  climate change.
Yes, I still think it.  The United States deserves swift and severe punishment for nixing the Paris Agreement.  And God is indeed punishing this country - with Mother Nature, God's bratty kid sister, dishing out the punishment in the form of these hurricanes.  Texas, Florida, the Southeast . . . is the Northeast next?   If not this year, maybe next  . . ..

Sunday, September 17, 2017

A Single Man

That would be Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders just unveiled a single-payer health care plan based on expanding Medicare to everyone.  His plan has gotten mainstream media attention.  Republican senators are exaggerating and also just plain lying about the flaws of such a system by overhyping the problems with wait lists in Canada.  Trump called Sanders' plan a curse on America.  This is all a good thing; it means that more and more people want it, and the powers that be that force us to live - and die - like we do are afraid of the people getting ready to rise up for something they want.  They're going to brought to their knees one day.
Of course there are naysayers even among Democrats who want nothing to do with Sanders' ideas; Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer won't support it, believing that the health care issue has been settled.  Hillary Clinton - she of the book explaining why she's not to blame for losing the 2016 presidential election and of the pity-party tour to promote it - has been against it also.  And truth be told, some Democratic-friendly commentators fear old wounds being reopened if the party pursues Medicare expansion; they fear that a new debate on health care could undermine the Democratic Party going forward into the 2018 and 2020 elections. 
With all due respect, it's hard to imagine how the Democrats can be undermined even more than they already are.  Nevertheless, the fact that sixteen U.S. Senators have signed on to the bill as co-sponsors - including my own U.S. Senator, Cory Booker of New Jersey -  means that the issue has legs, even if the bill has no chance of even getting a vote in the Republican Senate.  It's an aspiration that inspires voters later more than a policy that could actually be pursued now.  And 53 percent of Americans support single-payer health care at this point.  If more Democrats get behind this, this could allow the party to return to its progressive base - a base it has refused to acknowledge for the past 45 years.
Martin O'Malley, meanwhile, has trumpeted the all-payer plan, in which all third parties pay the same rate for services from hospitals.  I've mentioned that before.  Unfortunately for O'Malley, not too many people have done so, and no one wants to listen to him when he brings it up.  Sometimes they tell him to shut up about it  - yes, John Dickerson, I'm talking about you!  I've looked at this idea, and it sounds like it could work, and it may even serve as a stepping stone to single-payer.  If O'Malley can find a way - any way - to get it into the debate, it could help him in the event that he runs for President against any of the Democrats who back Bernie on a single-payer "Medicare for all" policy.  It might even help O'Malley win the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
If only John Dickerson will let him talk about it.   

Saturday, September 16, 2017

No Way - Jose?

Hurricane Jose, after spinning aimlessly in the North Atlantic for a week, is moving again, and it's heading toward the American Northeast.
Jose was expected to move north and then head out to sea, but the chances of it being just a fish storm are now small and diminishing with each passing advisory from the National Hurricane Center.  Computer projections have pushed the storm closer to the coast by September 19 or 20, and while there's no evidence that it will make landfall in the New York City Tri-State area, it will comethisclose to it, pushing waves against the shore even with the center a couple hundred miles away.
We in the Greater New York area can't even look at the bright side of Jose weakening and likely falling apart from being over cooler waters at or around forty degrees latitude north.  That, according to The Weather Channel, is only going to expand the wind field and possibly bring tropical-storm-force winds well inland, even where I live.
There are no watches or warnings yet, and the forecast, as I type this, calls for showers and inconsequential winds where I live.  But all it takes is for the track of the storm to nudge just a little to the west for Greater New York to get Sandy Mark Two.  
I'm not going to rest easy in the meantime.  It's been like this all week.  Just when I think I can rest easy, another computer projection shows the storm  as a greater threat to not just the Greater New York area but also to coastal New England.   And to add insult to injury, Jose isn't going to head out to sea and dissipate after it passes through the waters off the American Northeast.  First the Euro, now the GFS, both have it looping around in a big circle - like a car on the Capital Belaway around Washington - and possibly heading back toward the North American mainland.  The Euro even has it merging with . . . another tropical storm!  Jose is the storm that won't go away.
Needless to say, I might have to deal with Power Outage #42 in a few days, and I may have to shut down my blog - maybe even take down my current Music Video Of the Week early, since any outage  I get might last beyond this coming Friday (September 22) - and computer projections show another storm, a storm that hasn't even formed yet, after that.
Stay tuned.  I may be around.      

Friday, September 15, 2017

Music Video Of the Week - September 15, 2017

"Psycho Killer" by the Talking Heads (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The End Of "The Middle"

"The Middle," that underappreciated (when compared to "Modern Family") ABC sitcom starring Patricia Heaton about an utterly hapless and disaster-prone blue-collar Midwestern family, will begin its ninth season next month (October 3 is the premiere date - as they say, check local listings for air time), and, regrettably, it will be its last.  The show's creators decided that now was a good time to stop.
I can see why.  Frankie and Mike Heck's children are getting old, and, as you may have already noticed, so are the jokes.  Axl has graduated from college and now has to make his way in the world as his own man - and trust me, there's not much humor in a subject like that.  Sue is now a college junior, while Brick - that cute, quirky kid we all remember from his grade school days - is a high school sophomore and his voice is beginning to change.  And how many more work mishaps can Frankie and Mike have?  Simply put, the comic possibilities of the Heck family are close to being exhausted, and show creators Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline (who based Orson, the fictional Indiana town the show is set in, on the real Indiana town of Jasper - Heline is from Muncie) are right to end it now, while it's still funny.
"The Middle" is a relatable show to anyone who's had to muddle through bad breaks in small-town or suburban America - namely, almost all of us - and its comic twists and turns are hilarious enough to avoid the use of a laugh track (which is dumb anyway),  thanks to the idiosyncratic traits of the characters.  You have Frankie's overworrying, Mike's lack of emotion, guitar-burnout Axl's failure to connect with reality, and Brick's introverted nature and obsession with books and print fonts, as well as his penchant for lowering his head and repeating in a whisper the last few words of a sentence.  But Sue, with her eternally and unrealistically optimistic outlook - punctuated by a record of failure that doesn't get her down - takes the cake. As played by Eden Sher, Sue is a bundle of nerdy, nervy energy that offers light in an otherwise depressing situation.  
Of course, the Hecks have had to deal with their own shortcomings even while being reminded how imperfect they are by the quintessential perfect family, the Donahues, those well-traveled, well-heeled overachievers, with their perfect matriarch Nancy Donahue (who is not, as far as I can make out, named for the veteran fashion model of the same name, who of course is a friend of mine).  But when they have to deal with the even more down-and-out and totally uncouth Glossner family (with a mom played by Brooke Shields), they're only reminded of how things could be much worse.
I'm going to miss "The Middle," and once it's gone, I won't have much to watch on TV.  "This Is Us" - that's it, really.  The only other TV programs  I watch anymore are documentaries, TV news broadcasts, and old reruns of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," which, ironically, was set in a TV newsroom.   
(Oh, and also reruns of Bob Newhart's sitcom - not the 1980s show, the 1970s show with Suzanne Pleshette.)    

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Rush To Wishful Thinking

Rush Limbaugh called Hurricane Irma a hoax and also called it a story that was deliberately overhyped to promote Al Gore's climate change agenda.  Another Al who believes in climate change - that would be Al Roker, the NBC weatherman - called Limbaugh's statement dangerous and counterproductive.  Then Rush had to evacuate his own home in Florida.  So liberals have decided, given this humiliation, that Limbaugh's long and peculiar career as a right-wing political commentator is over.
Yeah, about that . . .
I remember folks saying that Limbaugh was finished when, in 2012, he attacked Sandra Fluke, the law school student who achieved fifteen minutes of fame by defending contraception in a congressional hearing and then in 2014 ran for a seat in the California State Senate, and how numerous advertisers were pulling ad accounts from his show.  Talk-radio consultant Holland Cooke noted on Ed Schultz's MSNBC show that Limbaugh's show was migrating from AM radio stations with strong signals to AM stations with weaker signals.  The sun was finally setting on conservative political talk radio and talk radio in general.  Ed Schultz himself was getting out of the talk-radio business and going only to podcasts.  A new media era was dawning . . .
It was a mirage.  After the Fluke fluke, Rush's ratings did change. They continued to go up.  Here are some unfortunate numbers courtesy of Wikipedia: Premiere Radio Networks, which syndicates Rush's show, and iHeartMedia - formerly Clear Channel Communications, the company with which he signed his contract - noted in 2016 that Rush's audience grew 18 percent among adults 25-54 and experienced even more growth with women in the same age group - 27 percent.  How do you think Donald Trump got elected President?  Meanwhile, Limbaugh hardly needs to worry about any of the advertisers who bailed out on him in 2012 over Sandra Fluke.  With a reported ad revenue growth of 20 percent year over year, he'll continue to make a lot of money for the advertisers who stood by him - and, coincidentally, for himself.  Maybe that's why his 2008 contract with iHeart - set to expire this year - was renewed in advance last year through 2020, keeping him on the national airwaves for 32 years, longer than Johnny Carson hosted "The Tonight Show."
Oh yeah, a Zogby 2008 poll found that Rush Limbaugh was the most trusted "news personality" in America, with one of eight respondents giving him a thumbs-up over numerous news personalities who are actual reporters and editors.  Walter Cronkite, in pace requiescat.
Limbaugh has since tried to spin the media's negative reaction to his Irma statements by saying that he never told anyone not to evacuate and that his remarks were taken out of context.  Incredible, but people will believe him.  Meanwhile, Sandra Fluke, who lost her bid for office, lived up to her surname, and Ed Schultz, long gone from MSNBC, is a discredited hack working at RT America as an apologist for Vladimir Putin.  (I neither know nor care what Holland Cooke is up to.)  Unless the Communications Act of 1996, which put terrestrial radio in the hands of fewer people and dictates who and what we get to listen to even if don't like what we get, is repealed, get used to the future of American talk radio looking more like the hideous and godawful present, only more so.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More

Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker, who died last week at 67, was as vital to that group's success as his partner Donald Fagen was.  While Fagen was the face of Steely Dan, with his cynical voice and his fluid keyboards, Becker's cool jazz guitar and his stellar bass lines gave the group - originally a sextet but later just Becker and Fagen and whatever session musicians they brought into the studio with them - its jazz undercurrents and its soul vibe.  Becker was just as responsible for the band's lyrical fascination with all sorts of seedy and moody characters as Fagen was, and with Fagen he brought a new sophistication and clever cheekiness to pop songwriting.  The best way to describe Steely Dan?  Imagine Chuck Berry hanging out with Charlie Parker in the 52nd Street clubs in New York back in the fifties.
Donald Fagen has vowed to keep the music of Steely Dan alive by continuing to perform it as a solo artist and in different revues like the Dukes of September, but the chemistry that made Steely Dan possible is now gone.  Fagen will no doubt honor their legacy with respect and dignity, and that is gratifying to know.  But if you want to know just what made Steely Dan - whose most popular album, Aja, was released forty years ago this month - so unique, do yourself a favor and listen to Aja . . . or their greatest album, 1974's Pretzel Logic.  RIP.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Irma . . . Jose?

On this anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, we're taking stock of the aftermath of a disaster of a different sort. 
Hurricane Irma slammed into Florida yesterday, blowing street signs and trees out of the ground, turning pieces of buildings into deadly projectiles, flooding Miami (above), leaving nearly six million people (at last check) in the dark, and rendering the entire state as a wasteland.  And a friend of mine,  a sister of another friend, my maternal cousin, and my paternal uncle and his wife are all in the middle of it. 
And Irma isn't done yet.  It's moving into the Atlanta area and the South Central states, and it will likely bring more misery.  And even with all that, there is still . . . 
. . . Hurricane Jose.
Jose formed on September 5 and is currently looping around in the warm waters of the North Atlantic Ocean just east of the Bahamas.  It won't be a threat to anyone for at least a week, but by next weekend things may change.  Jose will start to move northward, and while it may go out to sea, computer projections from the Global Forecast System and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts - the so-called GFS and Euro models, respectively - show it moving north close to the U.S. East Coast and possibly, sometime during the middle of next week,  hitting the Canadian Maritimes, hitting New England, or . . . making a direct hit on New York City or on Washington, D.C. via the Chesapeake Bay.
Here we go again!
One GFS model run even showed Jose making a hard-left turn, in the manner of Sandy, into southern New Jersey and moving westward toward Baltimore.  And all of these models show Jose's central pressure anywhere between 935 and 955 millibars - which would indicate a more powerful storm than Sandy was.
How much more powerful?  I don't let myself think about it.
To be honest, no one knows what's going to happen with Jose.  New Jersey weather blogger Jonathan Carr notes that the storm could fall apart while it goes around in a circle near the Bahamas and get taken out by trade winds to the northeast or remain intact and still stay out at sea.  But a hit on the Northeast or on southeastern Canada is also possible.  We'll just have to wait.
So, I have to repeat the same spiel I offered here this time last week, albeit with changes of dates.  I may end up blogging less frequently in the days leading up to wherever this hurricane is going. And if it turns out that the storm is zeroing in on New Jersey, I will be putting this blog on hiatus and shutting down my Music Video Of the Week page temporarily, because while I may be able to post a new video on September 15, I may not get to post one on September 22 if the power goes out just before then and stays out for some time to come.  My beautiful-women picture blog - front-loaded with posts scheduled to publish automatically all the way to the end of October - will continue, with or without me. 
It wouldn't surprise me if Jose hit my area of the country.  First Harvey hits Texas, then Irma hits Florida . . . the Northeast would logically be next.  It's as if America, so long a country dedicated to plundering the environment and denying climate science, is suddenly being punished by God, with God's bratty kid sister, Mother Nature, dishing out the punishment.  Twenty seventeen has been a tough year for  this country, with hurricanes on the coast and wildfires in the West.  And even if Jose spares the U.S., worse will almost certainly follow. :-(