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 premier 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. :-(  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Parties Are Over

Donald Trump gave the Democrats what they wanted?  Yes.  And the Republicans are really upset.
Trump agreed with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer to extend the debt ceiling by three months and to pass a stopgap spending bill to fund the government, which made the heads of House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell explode.  Ryan, McConnell, and other Republicans wanted an eighteen-month extension of the debt ceiling, hence it would have pushed a decision on the issue to March 2019 - after the 2018 midterms.  This deal between the White House and the Democratic congressional leadership ensures that the GOP will have to answer for its ineffectiveness in this Congress, and it allows Trump and the Democrats to govern in a bipartisan fashion.
But to what end?  It's no secret that Trump wanted the debt ceiling issue pushed back - and hurricane relief settled - to promote his tax plan, which would benefit the wealthiest Americans.  Also, even if his base doesn't necessarily vote for Republicans in the midterms, he's made himself look reasonable and eager to "get things done" - and keep his base in his corner for his re-election bid in 2020.  Thus, he could get re-elected.   And Pelosi and Schumer - both of whom have served in Washington since Ronald Reagan was President and are old enough to remember when Ronald Reagan was an actor - have just fallen into Trump's trap.  They are such clueless insiders that they demonstrate why seniority is just another variation of senility.  The Democrats need new, bold leaders who can stand up to Donald J. Trump, not a couple of old pros who are seasoned enough to screw up everything by dealing with him.  
As Martin O'Malley said, now we fight.  As Pelosi and Schumer say, "Who is Martin O'Malley?" 
The congressional Democratic leadership is not doing any favors by working with Trump.  You don't lie down with dogs . . . lest you wind up with fleas. :-p       
However, with the Republican Party having been burned by their own President and with the Democratic Party about to be burned as well, the resulting collapse of the current two-party system can only be a good thing.  Note to progressives: Call a convention and form a new party now.    

Saturday, September 9, 2017

DACA Caca

Trump got his henchman Jeff Sessions to announce that former President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for children brought into this country illegally by their parents was being wound down and terminated by March 2018.  Such individuals - called the Dreamers because they would benefit from passage of the as-yet unpassed immigration-reform Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act - are now in jeopardy of being tossed out of the country despite having been brought here as kids, despite the fact that they are now in college or in the workforce and are contributing to society, and despite the fact that they know no country other than this one.
Everyone, including I myself, agrees that Trump shouldn't have done this.  Now even Trump agrees that Trump shouldn't have done this.  Because although some liberal commentators have accused Trump of playing to his base of white men who want to make America more purely Caucasian than Sweden, he wants to try to find some way to get Dreamers to stay, because they themselves have done nothing wrong.  However, he believes - and to be fair, he has a case - that it is the legislative and not the executive responsibility to fix what passes for our immigration system. That's why he moved to let Dreamers know that he hopes to ensure that they'll be able to stay in the United States through congressional action.
Marco Rubio, Florida's Republican U.S. Senator and the son of Cuban immigrants, can relate.  "I know how difficult it is,"  He recently said, "I know how highly charged immigration can be as an issue. I know how difficult it can be to narrowly address one piece of the puzzle. So I’m concerned about those things."
So now it's crunch time.  Washington has to get this sucker fixed.  But don't expect Steve Bannon to give Trump a pep talk to get it done.  He's been insisting that the Catholic Church in America wants illegal aliens to swell their ranks.
Where's Martin O'Malley when you need him?
And by the way . . . we should stop calling Obama's program by its acronym.  No one knows  what it means, and DACA sounds like the capital of Bangladesh.  Also . . . the Dreamers?  They're immigrants, not Freddie Garrity's backing band. 
I'm telling you now . . ..

Friday, September 8, 2017

Music Video Of the Week - September 8, 2017

"Takin' Care of Business" by Bachman-Turner Overdrive (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

All My Trials

I am now able to tell all of you what I couldn't mention before.  I had federal jury duty.  That's not what I couldn't mention before.  What I couldn't mention before was the case I came close to being assigned to - the Robert Menendez trial.
Robert Menendez, of course, is the senior senator of my home state of New Jersey, and he was charged with bribery in a case involving an ophthalmologist friend of his, gifts, and Medicare fixes.  When I reported to the federal courthouse in Newark for jury duty in June of this year after getting a summons a month or so earlier, I and other prospective jurors were then told what the case would be, but I'd already figured that out before I reported, based on the who the judge was (William Walls).  Anyway, we were given questionnaires to fill out for review over the summer, and it took us forever to fill them out, because they were so darn long - asking us about our backgrounds, our previous jury experience, and all that bit.  In August, I was called back based on my answers and I had to go through two grueling days of jury selection - twelve regulars and four alternates - and I came close to being called for consideration.  First I had to wait in a jury waiting room.  Then I had to sit in the courtroom while the judge called prospective jurors and interviewed them, while lawyers for the prosecution and the defense approved or disapproved them for the jury.  When I didn't get called up, after sixteen jurors were selected,  I breathed a sigh of relief - until I was told to wait and see until September 5 if the judge still needed me and few others to come back.      
I indeed had to go back the next day, the start date of the trial.  One alternate had to replace a regular and two more alternates dropped out.  So the trial needed three more jurors.  I had to sit again through a long, grueling process before being called into the courtroom and having to go through waiting to be called by the judge for possible inclusion.  But the three vacant alternate-juror seats were filled before I was called, and I was finally dismissed.
Had I been called to serve on the jury, I would not have been sequestered and put in a hotel next to Newark Airport. But it still would have been grossly inconvenient.  Anyway, I commented on the Menendez case back in April 2015.  The trial kept getting delayed for over two years - and I had to let the judge and lawyers know about my media activity, and that I'd mentioned this case on my blog, so I doubt I would have been impartial.     
I'm glad that's out of the way.  Hurricane Irma isn't, though most of the computer models show New Jersey being spared, and while there are are outlier projections saying otherwise, it looks lke my blog will continue as usual.  I will likely go ahead and feature a new Music Video Of the Week tomorrow.  Stay tuned.     

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Most Powerful Atlantic Hurricane Ever

That would be Irma.
This storm is expected to make Katrina look like a drizzle.  Its path of destruction will likely surpass that of Harvey.  No more powerful hurricane has ever been recorded in the Atlantic basin. 
It's a Category 5 hurricane, meaning its winds are over 157 miles an hour.  Well over 157 miles an hour - 185, to be exact.  That's as fast as Joe Walsh's Maserati!
If you live in Florida, life won't be good to you much longer.  Irma is widely expected top ravage the state and possibly make landfall there.  Even if it doesn't make landfall there and does so over South Carolina or Georgia, it will do more than enough damage.  
And to think Rick Scott, Florida's governor, still doesn't want to guess one way or the other about climate change.  And in this flat state, surrounded by water on three sides, he's barred anyone in the state government from even discussing it.
There is a special place in hell for Richard Lynn Scott. >:-(     

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The H-Word

No, not "hurricane."  "Hydrogen."  As in a hydrogen bomb.  And North Korea has one!
And contrary to Rex Tillerson's insistence that Kim Jong Un (third from right) has shown restraint with nukes, he's tested this one, underground.  It even caused an earthquake!
Yeah, Uncle Rex, Kim's showing a lot of restraint, isn't he?
Kim doesn't believe that the U.S. doesn't want to overthrow him and reunite the Korean peninsula under the Republic of Korea government in Seoul.  But we should believe him if (when?) he promises to nuke Los Angeles if we don't get our troops out of South Korea.  Whether we do or not, Kim has sent a message to South Korean President Moon Jae-in that should be crystal clear - "Good night, Mr. Moon." 
And coming in February 2018 . . . the Pyeongchang Nuclear Winter Olympics! 
Who needs climate change and hurricanes that are so strong we need a sixth category for them when a country the size of Mississippi can bring about Armageddon in a matter of days? :-O 

Monday, September 4, 2017

IRMA???

Eleven months after Hurricane Matthew, I'm watching another Atlantic hurricane go full tilt boogie down near the Leeward Islands.  Irma could be a Category 4 hurricane at its peak, and if it hits the U.S., it may not be all that much below its peak.  Some models - computer models, not the models who wear designer clothes for display purposes and make teenage boys swoon - have shown a Category 3 storm hitting the Northeast.  I have decided, unlike during Matthew, not to show any such graphics here.  Following this storm online is scary enough.  
Irma is currently following the same course as Matthew, and while some projections have had it going out to sea by the time it reaches forty degrees latitude north, where Philadelphia is located, others have shown it hitting the Delmarva Peninsula, Philadelphia itself, New Bedford in Massachusetts - even New York City!  On September 11! 
If it affects the New York area, direct hit or not, this won't be Sandy Mark Two.  It will be exponentially worse.  We in the New York area were warned before Sandy that we were overdue for a cataclysmic tropical system.  Sandy was not it.    
I've looked at other storms that have followed the coastline and made landfall near New Jersey, along with the two that actually made landfall in New Jersey, Sandy and Irene - and the effects Irma could have if it follows the same course could be potentially devastating.  You know all about Sandy, and Irene was so bad for my area (even though I got through it without a scratch) that the name was retired in favor of . . . Irma. :-O
At this rate, the letter "I" will have to be retired because they're running out of reusable names that begin with it.    
I'm even seeing weird coincidences paralleling Sandy.  When Sandy approached New Jersey, my neighbors across the street were expecting a child.  As Irma threatens the East Coast, those very same neighbors are . . . expecting a child.  When Sandy approached, there was a remodeling job going on at a house two blocks away from me near a street called Harrison Street.  As Irma approaches, two new houses are being built two blocks away from me near . . . Harrison Street.  Hurricane Sandy hit on a Monday.  If Hurricane Irma hits here, it would likely be a week from today . . . Monday. :-O
September 11.
This coming week will be busy for me, and despite the fact that I have been blogging here daily for awhile, I may be blogging less frequently in the next few days.  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 8, I may not get to post one on September 15 if the power goes out and stays out for awhile!  (This would be Outage #42 since November 2009; Outage #41 struck overnight this past Saturday going into Sunday, lasting for forty minutes, as a result of Harvey's remnants.  The next street over was spared.)  Even if Irma were to hit slightly to the south and west, like at Cape Charles in Virginia or the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and go inland, I can't be assured that we'll be spared any hardship.  Right now, computer models are shifting Irma farther south and west, with a potential landfall somewhere between South Carolina and Florida.  Chances of it going out to sea are now slim to none, so if those of us in the Northeast hope it won't hit us, we're essentially putting ourselves in the ethically dubious situation of hoping it hits . . . someone else.  But even this late in the game, all of the East Coast is still in play.
So here we go.  Hopefully things will work out all right.  But be prepared to see this blog black out for awhile, just as my house might.  Fingers crossed . . .  

Sunday, September 3, 2017

No Cities Matter

Shortly after Houston (below) got flooded by Hurricane Harvey, messages and memes on Facebook suddenly cropped up linking the flood to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Come again?  Here's the deal.  To show how it doesn't make sense to answer the insistence that black lives matter with the retort that "all lives matter," folks have shown messages and memes saying, "I'm going to pray for Houston, but I'm also going to pray for (insert other city here), because all cities matter.  Now, see how stupid that sounds?"
No, I don't.  Because all cities do matter, or at least they should . . . except that in America, cities don't matter.
Look at the past sixty years of how we've treated cities in these United States.  We've denied them necessary federal funding,  we've imposed on them so-called "urban renewal" schemes that ruined their downtowns, uprooted whole neighborhoods, and replaced many established sections of cities with hideous university campuses, soulless housing projects and modernist office complexes, we've destroyed their public transit systems to make room for cars,  we've promoted car-based suburban development in the open spaces outside the cities that drained them of their middle-class populations, and we've rammed freeways through once-proud places like the Bronx and the West Side of Chicago.  We've treated our cities like they're irrelevant, and with a couple of obvious exceptions like New York, I guess they are.  But there was a time when even New York didn't matter, like when President Gerald Ford told New York in no uncertain terms that it would receive no federal help to get out of its 1975 financial crisis.  Look, I've seen my grandfather's old neighborhood in Philadelphia, and it looks like no one has cared enough to take care of it since he left for northern New Jersey in the fifties.  Did I not just comment on the twin fiftieth anniversaries of the major riots in Newark and Detroit and illustrated how those cities haven't mattered since?  Both cities still have a long way to go before they get back to where they once were. 
Houston, ironically, has been undone by its own growth; now the fourth-largest city in the United States, it's become a sprawling collection of suburban-style neighborhoods that have been built on the very land that was needed to remain undeveloped in order to absorb rain water - hence, the flooding.  No serious effort has been made in Houston to build storm water systems to alleviate floods, and no one there has dared challenge the idea that sprawl is the best way to grow and sustain a city.  But that's just another example of how a city in this country doesn't matter.  Houston's chef economy - oil refining, which led to the abundance of cheap gasoline, which led to the car-based living pattern that has destroyed other cities - led to its current predicament, with all of those refining facilities blowing up and causing environmental damage.  Shouldn't that at least matter?
As for older cities, the highways that were pushed through them became what James Howard Kunstler called "Chinese walls" that separated the cities from their suburban satellite communities, where all of the economic development relocated, and created in the central cities a "pathological ghetto culture" (Kunstler's phrase) that now includes rap "music," crumbling infrastructure, high crime, failing schools, deteriorating buildings, in the most extreme cases, dying downtowns.    
Do I have to show you pictures of abandoned skyscrapers in Detroit again?     
So, yes, I'm going to pray for Houston. And Detroit, which has needed a prayer for five decades.  And Newark, New Jersey.  And Newark's neighbor East Orange, a four-square-mile town of 65,000 residents that is bisected by two expressways and has been left to fend for itself against all the urban ills associated with larger cities.  And Baltimore, and other cities, because in a country that doesn't value any of its cities, these places need all the prayers they can get.  It is ridiculous to say that all cities matter, because, again - in America, no cities matter.
And while we focus on the flooding from Harvey, Hurricane Irma is churning out at sea, and the next city we'd better pray for could be Miami, or Charleston, South Carolina . . . or Norfolk . . . or maybe . . . New York. :-O
More on Irma soon.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Remembering Brian Epstein

Current events kept me from commenting on this event in Beatles history on anniversary of the day, but it was fifty years ago this past Sunday (August 27) that Brian Epstein, the Beatles' legendary manager, died of an accidental drug overdose.
The son and grandson of department store owners in Liverpool, Brian Epstein had been the Beatles' older-brother figure, a manager who took care of their needs and always gave them an honest deal.  An introvert in an outgoing Jewish family (and also a closeted homosexual at a time when his sexual orientation was illegal in Britain), he discovered his talent for promotion and for presentation when he took over the management of the record store his family opened in central Liverpool.  His customers' interest in a record the Beatles had made in Germany was what brought the group to his attention.
Epstein wasn't an ethically dubious man like most pop impresarios, but he knew that the Beatles had talent when he discovered them in 1961, and he could see their ability to make it to the top at a time when electric-guitar music was in decline (as it is today).  His refined manner and polished demeanor would make him as much a celebrity as the Beatles themselves, and he also guided other Liverpool acts - Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer, and Cilla Black - to stardom.  But the Beatles remained his biggest success and his most personal concern.
In the last year of his life, Epstein  had little to handle for the Beatles once they stopped touring, and he fell into a depression.  Many people still say he committed suicide, but there are two facts that dispel that theory. First, his father had died in July 1967, and he would not have burdened his mother with another family death by deliberately killing himself.  Second, though he had been in a bad mood for much of the summer of 1967, the near end of the season found him in good spirits.  He was already looking forward to life beyond the Fab Four after having failed to convince them to continue annual concert tours (although there was talk of a one-night-only Beatles concert in New York to promote Sgt. Pepper, with backing from the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Leonard Bernstein's direction).
Epstein had planned to travel to the United States and spend the month of September 1967 in New York and Los Angeles (and celebrate his thirty-third birthday in the States on the 19th).  I have been led to understand (but I can't say for sure if this is true) that he was planning to get involved in a stage production in New York.  He'd already been a successful show producer in London, having owned and operated the Saville Theatre there.  The plan was to arrive in New York, where he was to confer with his American business associate Nat Weiss, and look for apartment in the city; he was due to arrive in New York on Saturday, September 2, at the start of the American Labor Day holiday.  Ironically, he died during the British summer bank holiday the previous weekend; after failing to find any diversions at his country house in Sussex, he returned to London and - despite his ongoing battle with drug addiction - he took some sleeping pills to overcome an apparent bout of insomnia.  He took too many, and he died in his sleep.
The Beatles remain Brian Epstein's legacy.  Sadly, his influence did not extend to pop management itself.  A rarity among music moguls, Brian Epstein was a man who always honored a deal - the Beatles had to play shows for a pittance well into the earliest stages of Beatlemania because the deals had been made before they became famous, and Epstein thought it was unethical to renegotiate deals with promoters for more money - and he was more comfortable with a handshake than a signed document to seal a deal.  He also took care of all his artists and groomed them for success - it was he who got the Beatles to wear suits - and he never exploited any of them the way Colonel Tom Parker exploited Elvis Presley.  But Epstein was a minnow in a pool of sharks.  He could never have competed with the likes of Allen Klein or David Geffen; he was just too damn honest, and he was too much of a gentleman to play hardball.
Had Epstein lived (he would have turned 83 this year), the Beatles might have stayed together for some time into the 1970s, and the financial disputes that tore them apart might have been averted.  For all of the independence the Beatles exhibited in Epstein's last year on this earth, making him look like a manger in name only, the foursome needed him more than he needed them.  After being told that Brian had died, John Lennon thought to himself, "We're f--ked now."

Friday, September 1, 2017

Music Video Of the Week - September 1, 2017

"Are You Experienced?" by Jimi Hendrix (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Book Review: "Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign" by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes

"After the primary loss in Michigan, Hillary needed answers from her team about what they planned to do to make sure she didn't get blindsided again.  It was hard enough running against Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, the Republican National Committee, the FBI, the House Benghazi Committee, and the national media - plus slippery-lipped Joe Biden on any given day - without her own team screwing things up.  The one person with whom she didn't seem particularly upset: herself.  No one who drew a salary from the campaign would tell her that.  It was a self-signed death warrant to raise a question about Hillary's competence - to her or anyone else - in loyalty-obsessed Clintonworld."
Thus wrote political reporters Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes in their book "Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign," a book that simultaneously confirms the suspicions of Hillary Clinton's political opponents and surprises them as to how right they were and how much they didn't know.  Democrats who opposed Hillary's candidacy for their party's nomination feared - and Republicans hoped - that her own liabilities would doom her presidential ambitions, but "Shattered" presents a candidate and a campaign far more flawed than anyone ever realized. 
The book makes clear that Hillary Clinton was a troubled candidate who set out to win by default.  She cornered all of the top Democratic campaign experts and donors to clear the field of challengers for the party's nomination, refused to acknowledge any Democrats who did challenge her (and played mind games with Vice President Joe Biden to discourage him from running), and failed to present a solid reason for why anyone should vote for her.  But what is really eye-opening is how the campaign unfolded.  Both Hillary Clinton and her husband Bill are depicted as being cut off from reality and vindictive toward their critics within the party, and Hillary in particular comes across as being cold and heartless toward her own staff.  Campaign staffers, meanwhile, knew she was beatable and susceptible to being defeated by Donald Trump, yet they avoided communicating their concerns to the candidate out of fear of being seen as disloyal.  Hillary was astonishingly tone-deaf to warning signs of her vulnerability, such as on her e-mail issues and suspicions that she felt "entitled" to be the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.   She saw her problems with white working-class voters - the same voters she'd courted in the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries against Barack Obama - and made no effort to reach them, preferring instead to focus on minority voters and women.  And for all of her efforts, she failed to anticipate the rise of Bernie Sanders and how Trump would exploit the same weaknesses in Hillary's campaign that Sanders did.
"Shattered" depicts a campaign more animated by data and analytics than by actual voter outreach - so much, that entire states like Michigan and Wisconsin (which Hillary lost to Trump) were taken for granted in the general election.  Campaign manager Robby Mook tried to run an efficient, lean operation that emphasized the Democratic base rather than persuasion.  But Martin and Parnes keep coming back to Hillary as her own enemy (but not her worst).  One memorable tidbit is about how she was prepared to undermine U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland in his bid for the Senate when it became apparent that blacks were more likely to vote for his primary opponent, former Representative Donna Edwards, who is black, and because of the unions' ambivalence for her and their support for Van Hollen.  "Who gives a f--- about Chris Van Hollen?" she said. Hillary feared that too many union votes would help Bernie Sanders.  (Van Hollen won his primary in Maryland, as did Hillary.)  But there was another reason she was ready to undermine Van Hollen; the Clintons kept a Nixon-like list of disloyal Democrats to punish for their apostasy, and Van Hollen was one of their worst offenders.  This is one of many eye-opening stories, such as the preponderance of American flags at the Democratic convention to hide anti-Hillary delegates from TV cameras and concerns that Hillary was working too hard during the general election campaign when she should have been resting, opening her to concerns about her stamina.
"Shattered" isn't a perfect book, though; it downplays Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz's role in tipping the scales for Hillary (though the account of her lust for power made my jaw drop!), and the influence of third-party presidential candidates is completely overlooked; Libertarian Gary Johnson gets only one mention and Jill Stein doesn't even get that much.  But Martin and Parnes validate a lot of long-held suspicions about Hillary's deficiencies as politician and what ultimately made her unelectable.  The fly-on-the-wall accounts of campaign strategy alone are worth the time to read this page-turner.
Hillary Clinton is putting out her own campaign memoir in September 2017, with the infantine and obvious title "What Happened."  You don't need to read her memoir, because, in "Shattered," Martin and Parnes will tell you exactly . . . what happened.   

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Statues and Names

You knew this was going to happen.

With the drive to remove Confederate monuments in the South in full force, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is calling for the statue of Christopher Columbus in Columbus Circle to be removed.  The argument goes, after all, that Columbus was a genocidal maniac who exterminated indigenous tribes in the Caribbean and introduced slavery to the New World.  New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has acknowledged that the possible removal of the statue is under consideration, leading Italian-Americans to rally in favor of keeping the Columbus statue there, saying that Columbus had flaws like anyone and that he represents the presence of Italians in the New World.  (De Blasio, of course, is Italian-American.)
This is just the sort of Pandora's box that many liberals feared would be opened if the monument issue were taken any farther than removing statues of the leaders of the Confederacy - the so-called "slippery slope."  The statue of Columbus, erected in 1892 to honor the four hundredth anniversary of his arrival in the New World, was placed there with funds raised by Italian-American groups to celebrate their heritage.  The culture wars are being fought on battle lines drawn along ethnic groups . . . the Italians versus the Puerto Ricans, almost like something out of West Side Story.  Mark-Viverito, a Puerto Rican of partial Italian origin, will probably end up hating . . . herself.
Columbus Circle itself could easily be renamed if the statue comes down.  In Chicago, Columbus Park may not be renamed, but James Dukes, the pastor of the Liberation Christian Center Church on the South Side, is calling for the removal of a statue of George Washington near Washington Park and the renaming of Washington Park, as well as the renaming of nearby Jackson Park, because Washington and Andrew Jackson were slave owners. He proposed that the parks could keep their names, but in honor of other people similarly named - the late Harold Washington, Chicago's first black mayor, and civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who lived in Chicago in the 1970s and 1980s.  If naming Jackson Park after a living person named Jackson is a problem, Jackson Park could be named after another one of Dukes' suggestions - Michael Jackson.
What?
And now even monuments for Civil War Union generals are under scrutiny, such as the General Grant National Memorial - Grant's Tomb - in New York (and it's under scrutiny by the city, not the National Park Service that operates it) because Ulysses S. Grant is alleged to have been anti-Semitic, a canard that has since been disproved.  So, eh, how are you gong to take down a mausoleum?  And is Chicago going to rename Grant Park while we're at it?
Uh, yeah, this is what Steve Bannon wants.  More identity politics.  There are a great number of reasons to take down Confederate statues, and there may be good reasons to remove Columbus statues, but there is no reason to take down a statue of George Washington, the Father of Our Country and the man who got the Republic up and running, or renaming a park named for him.  Andrew Jackson is a more complicated figure, having driven Indians from their lands and having settled quarrels with duels but also having peacefully settled the question of the sanctity of the Union in the Nullification Crisis of 1832 and having expanded the democratic franchise, albeit selectively, beyond wealthy property owners.  And he defended New Orleans from the British.  Although Jackson didn't give the vote to women and to freemen of color, that would have been too radical for anyone to propose in the 1830s, and many Americans of the upper classes of Jackson's day found his advocacy for enfranchising the common man radical enough.
We can't really judge historical figures by the standards of our time.  Someone who doesn't seem enlightened now probably was for his or her own time.  In the 1850s, Abraham Lincoln believed that the black man was a human being, entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and had the right to be a free laborer instead of laboring for free - all radical statements in 1850s Illinois.  But his ambivalence toward black political rights - an ambivalence he had largely disavowed by the time of his assassination - was in keeping with the attitudes of the times.
Be that as it may, someone torched a Lincoln bust in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood recently - twice.  
Above is the Lincoln bust at 69th Street and Wolcott Avenue, which has since been removed to protect it from further vandalism at the behest of Raymond Lopez, a Chicago alderman, after it was vandalized.  The photo below from 2015 shows it before it was vandalized.
This is all getting crazy.
However, I would not be against other efforts to cleanse public parks and streets of the memories of history's more unsavory figures.  Like the statue in Philadelphia of Frank Rizzo, the racist mayor of the city in the 1970s.  And, back in June 2017, some Chicago kids petitioned the city to rename Douglas Park, named for Stephen Douglas, the nineteenth-century U.S. Senator from Illinois and would-be President, for Frederick Douglass by simply adding an "s" to the name . . . because Stephen Douglas championed slavery.  And he did.  While Douglas was consistent in his position that permitting or prohibiting slavery in a state or territory was for the people of said state or territory to decide - he supported the decision of the people of Kansas to ban slavery against the wishes of his own Democratic Party - he was by no means opposed to slavery itself.  He happened to own a plantation in Mississippi.  And it would also do Chicago good to remove the Balbo Monument on Lake Shore Drive and also rename Balbo Avenue, which honor Italo Balbo, an Italian aviator and military leader who flew a plane from Rome to Chicago in 1933 for Chicago's centennial celebrations.  General Balbo was in fact a minion of Benito Mussolini and a proud fascist.
Awk-ward!
Face it, Italo Balbo is heralded in Chicago simply for flying there from Rome and not crashing.
Anyway, Chicago is not about to rename Washington Park or Jackson Park.  Grant's Tomb in New York is safe.  And a lot of people are tired of hearing about the statue and name controversies that have gone beyond the Confederate monuments - which, again, should be removed, as they honor participants in an armed insurrection against the government - and want to hear more about jobs and the economy. And if the left gets bogged down in controversies over honors for Washington, Lincoln and, say, John F. Kennedy (why not change the name of New York's international airport back to Idlewild, since Kennedy was a grotesque philanderer who lied about his health?), it's never going to connect with voters' biggest concerns.
Me. I'd be happy if they just rename places for things instead of people, because if you name anything for anyone, you're going to offend someone for one reason or another.  Look, London has squares and circles, or "circuses," named for other places in England (Leicester Square, Oxford Circus), so why not name places in Manhattan after other places in New York State?  They could have Albany Square, Rochester Square, and in place of Columbus, Buffalo Circle!  Yeah, put a statue of a bison in the middle of it!
Yeah, they'll sell the naming rights to squares and circles first.  My least favorite  Manhattan place names are the names for squares honoring newspapers, one of which folded decades ago.  "Times Square."  "Herald Square."  Do you realize how ridiculous those sound?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Martin O'Malley World Tour

Martin O'Malley is touring the globe, but not with his Irish rock band.  After hiking in South America with disabled folks, he made his way to New Zealand to take part in a conference on using data to make government work better. He continues to promote technology to make government work more efficiency and provide better services and policies for the people.  
But for now, anyway, people back home couldn't care less.  
I'm still waiting for the inevitable mean joke that O'Malley is so irrelevant, he has to spend more time in New Zealand than in New Hampshire to get attention.
His television and radio interviews in New Zealand show that he remains deeply involved in how government works and can work better, and his analytical thinking and his commitment to good governance that benefits everyone still make him a worthy presidential contender.  But his biggest strength - making use of data - can also be a weakness; he's so involved in the data that he risks disconnecting himself from voters who want more than just a competent administrator in the White House.  To be fair, O'Malley still hits the right notes on social justice and promotion of the general welfare, and when he gets fired up, he can sound more Kennedyesque than Joe Kennedy III. I wouldn't have supported him for President if the opposite were the case.  However, as I already made clear, he still has to acknowledge his failures from relying on data too much - like the failure of the Baltimore criminal justice system. 
That said, O'Malley is still a viable contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, assuming there's still a Democratic Party by then.  His foreign travels are a double benefit in that they give him more of an international perspective than Trump will ever have, and they also allow him to get away from an American commentariat that cannot and will not stop ridiculing him while allowing him to formulate a vision of where he would take the country as our 47th President (because we know Mike Pence will finish Trump's term).         
In the meantime, those of us who are ready to back O'Malley should he run in 2020 should try to ignore the haters - some of whom are Hillary Clinton minions who complain about the "haters" of their heroine.  And in case you're wondering, no, I have never gone back to watching or listening to Ed Schultz since he ridiculed O'Malley the day after the last Democratic presidential debate O'Malley participated in (which was also, by coincidence, O'Malley's birthday).   I distinctly remember Schultz, who backed Bernie Sanders for President, saying that O'Malley was an annoyance and that nobody tuned into that debate to watch him.  Well, I did, so Ed Schultz called me a nobody.  (Since he joined RT America, Schultz has exposed himself as a fraud and as a hack - but that's another post.)  
So, 2020 is 50-50 for O'Malley.  He knows what to do if he wants to run for President again, and he's only just begun to do it.  But will he follow through?

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Very Brief Open Letter To Janet Evans

Dear Janet:
Now that Los Angeles is going to host the 2028 Olympics, I just have one thing to say to you today . . .

Happy birthday!
Forty-six years old . . . and you're still cute. :-)
 Sincerely,
Steven Maginnis
P.S.  When you passed the Olympic torch to Muhammad Ali in 1996, I have to admit . . . I was very jealous.  He was prettier than I am! :-D 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Giant White Hurricane

With Hurricane Harvey making landfall in Texas as a Category 4 hurricane and dumping rain from Corpus Christi to Houston measurable not just in inches and feet but also in yards - yards - and numerous aftereffects such as interminable power outages, tornadoes, nasty wind gusts, and flooding that could make much of the Texas coast uninhabitable well into 2018, I just have one thing to ask the voters of the Lone Star State, the majority of whom voted for Trump in November 2016 . . .   
Now do you believe in climate change?
Gee whizbangers, even our Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, currently your most prominent native son, believes that climate change is real, and he headed a company that hid evidence of it!
Just be thankful that my congressman, House Appropriations Committee chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, who's from New Jersey, will likely approve relief money for the cleanup.  As I recall, some folks in your part of the country didn't want to help New Jersey after Sandy.  

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Drastic Measures

The issue of criminal justice remains Martin O'Malley's greatest Achilles heel when the 2020 election cycle begins.  O'Malley has coyly hinted that he will run for President then ("I just might," he's fond of saying), but if he does, his oversight of the Baltimore Police Department as that city's mayor will remain an issue for his foes - and he has many in Maryland - to use as a club on him.  Which is ironic, since that's what Baltimore policemen are accused of doing - using clubs.  Among other things.
O'Malley (above, in 2002, when he was mayor of Baltimore) resorted to zero-tolerance policing when he took over the worst city in America for violent crime and used drastic measures to make the once-prosperous industrial city safer.  His policies, though, encouraged an already existing culture of brutality waged against civilians by the police, and much of his approach was challenged - successfully - by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  In January 2017 - ten years after he left office to become governor of Maryland - the U.S. Justice Department, in one of its last actions before Loretta Lynch handed the keys to Jeff Sessions, found numerous violations of the Constitution and of civil rights in investigating the Baltimore Police Department's patterns and practices that many people linked to O'Malley's policies.
The investigation, for the record, primarily looked at the Baltimore police's record in the decade after O'Malley left office, and one of his successors, former mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, admitted that change and reform can be slow.  Cops normally violate constitutional rights in Baltimore despite rigorous training, and they're partial to calling blacks by all sorts of racial epithets, and not just that word.  They get brutal with black suspects, and they get furious at and physically brutal against some black residents for just existing.  This is in a city that is two-thirds black.  Officers don't know how to handle sensitive matters that could and do get violent, and they're under pressure to show results to satisfy the city's Comstat system, a police-data system O'Malley initiated and has lauded,  which uses analytics and numbers to achieve efficient results.  
Anthony Barksdale, a high-ranking black police official in Baltimore who headed a squad focusing on the most violent offenders, insisted that the Justice Department's investigation of some circumstances made race more important than it appeared.  Barksdale noted that the massive arrests, stops and crackdowns in targeted neighborhoods was based on not the racial makeup of these neighborhoods but on the violent crimes in them.  "What the [Justice Department] didn't do is overlay the crime map on those stop maps," he says.
Barksdale said there was also training on constitutional issues and admitted that there were violations based on the failure of commanders to reinforce it, but he was optimistic that continued training can lead to greater reform.
Such nuances don't matter in politics.  O'Malley has shown time after time that he is no bigot, especially in his record as governor of Maryland and his commitment to equality for all.  But his failure to get a handle on the criminal element in the Baltimore police as mayor - as opposed to the criminal element the police are supposed to protect people from - will remain a sore spot for him unless he deals with it.  After all, he has the weight of constitutional violation by his police force around his neck, and if he ran for President he would have to do more than mend fences with black voters - he'd have to tear down the fence and start over from scratch.  Also, imagine an O'Malley still hobbled by his criminal-justice record going up against Donald Trump - blacks might just want to throw up their hands and stay home, crippling an already disabled Democratic Party.
As I publish this, Trump has pardoned former Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio for defying a court order against the illegal tactics he used to crack down on undocumented immigrants.  O'Malley has never done anything like that - he's a champion of immigrants' rights, incidentally - but given the Baltimore police's reputation for disregarding the law, a Democratic presidential primary opponent might want to draw a parallel between Baltimore and Maricopa County (which includes Phoenix) and make it look like Arpaio is O'Malley's brother in arms.  
If O'Malley is going to have a chance in 2020, he's going to have to acknowledge the Baltimore Police Department's mistakes - and his own. Like putting too much faith in Comstat.  "Comstat, or 'goal oriented community policing,' has saved thousands of American lives in cities all across our nation," he recently wrote in an online editorial.  "In some places, the improvement in policing continues as more and more lives are saved. New York and Los Angeles in particular have figured out how to improve public safety while, at the same time, improving public trust  -  the basis of all security for any free people."
Alas, OMalley wasn't the mayor of either of those cities.  He was the mayor of Baltimore, and while he may have inherited a city with a police department that makes the Los Angeles Police Department look like the Mayberry sheriff's office (and it was probably just as corrupt when Thomas D'Alesandro III - Nancy Pelosi's older brother - was mayor of Baltimore in the late sixties, during the last major  Baltimore riot before the Freddie Gray scandal), he didn't leave it in any better shape for the three black female mayors who succeeded him. Without intending to, he may have even left it in even worse shape to some extent.  Yes, Baltimore is a tough town to govern and make safe, and yes, all of these problems existed long before O'Malley was on the scene.  But none of Baltimore's other mayors ever ran for President, either.
The Justice Department's report came out long after O'Malley was forced to withdraw as a candidate for President, so this will just be one more weapon his enemies will use against him in 2020 if he choose to run for President then.  The only reason his record as mayor of Baltimore wasn't a big deal in 2016 was because he wasn't a big deal.  I can assure you, though, that had O'Malley emerged as Hillary Clinton's chief Democratic primary opponent, she would have used his criminal-justice record as Baltimore mayor to destroy him. 
O'Malley did what he did as mayor of Baltimore to fight crime because he believed that drastic measures were necessary.  This time he has to take drastic measures to fight to save his own viability as a presidential candidate.  I'm still for the guy, and I still want him to run for President again, but he has to do and say more than he's said or done so far about his criminal-justice policies.  And now.  And fast.
By the way, I'm not calling him Marty anymore.  He loathes the nickname.  Besides, that's what his worst enemies - not all of whom are in Maryland - call him.  

Friday, August 25, 2017

Music Video Of the Week - August 25, 2017

"Just a Song Before I Go" by  Crosby, Stills and Nash (Go to the link in the upper-right-hand corner.)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Trump and Afghanistan

So what did I think of Trump's explanation of his new policy toward Afghanistan?  Well, I thought he did a good job reading it off the TelePrompter.  The content?  Yeah, that . . ..  He has a plan to increase troop levels to stabilize the country, but he will not set a timeline to avoid giving the Taliban any clue as to when we're getting out.  He himself apparently doesn't have a clue as to what we're going to do . . . expect stay there in a war for all eternity - which could be sooner rather than later thanks to climate change.  I'm not even sure what "winning" in Afghanistan is defined as anymore.
Any chance to have any real success in Afghanistan probably evaporated when Bush pivoted to Iraq for . . . no legitimate reason.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Book Review: "Death of an Assassin: The True Story of the German Murderer Who Died Defending Robert E. Lee" by Ann Marie Ackermann

A forgotten murder mystery in a small Germanic kingdom and a forgotten war between the U.S. and Mexico intersect to help bring one of the most accomplished military men in American history to prominence. That's the intriguing tale behind Ann Marie Ackermann's "Death of an Assassin," a short but gripping book mixing true crime with history.
Ackermann writes about how a beloved mayor in a small town of what is now the German state of Baden-Württemberg was shot to death in 1835 in the dead of night.  Eduard Hammer is the intrepid police magistrate assigned to the case. He gathers clues along the way of his investigation, extensively interviewing people who heard the shots and were near the location of the shooting at the time it took place. As this is happening, young Army officer Robert E. Lee struggles to balance his military career with the demands of his family. The murderer is on the loose and makes his way to America; as several residents of this small German town remain under suspicion of the yet-unsolved crime, Lee achieves successes in peacetime, such as his direction of the Army Corps of Engineers to open the river harbor in St. Louis. When war is declared against Mexico, Lee sees his chance to prove himself in battle . . . and so does the German murderer, now residing in Philadelphia's German-immigrant community. The murderer will serve in the U.S. Army and defend - and die defending - Lee's division at the siege of the Mexican city of Veracruz.
"Death of an Assassin" brilliantly weaves two diametrically opposed tales with astonishing detail. Magistrate Hammer's investigation reads like a well-paced mystery novel, with dialogue taken from a nineteenth-century scribe's transcription of the interrogations along with minute descriptions of clues and ground-breaking forensic tests. Obscure moments in American history are seen through the eyes of a murder-immigrant directly and indirectly involved in them, and the reader learns a good deal about how America developed in the 1830s and 1840s. The siege of Veracruz is vividly brought to life, as is the heroism of the soldiers and sailors who fought there. In a letter home, Lee's poignant account of a man who died under heavy fire presents him as a multi-dimensional individual of honor and humanity. Little did Lee know that the man he eulogized was the man who shot a public official back in Germany.
Ackermann brings everything full circle by showing how one of the longest cold cases in German history was solved by chance in 1872 - long after Lee's death, the end of the Civil War, and the unification of Germany - and how the assassin was proven to be the same man Lee praised in his correspondence. Without the verification of historical record, Ackermann's book could easily be fiction. The realization that it's all true is one of the many surprises and twists in a book that entertains as well as educates.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse Day

I'm not going to say any more than that the total solar eclipse over the United States that everyone has been waiting for today, so I'm going to be out to see it.  With the proper eyewear. 
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon. :-)