Saturday, March 31, 2018

Jukebox Saturday Night for March 31st, 2018: The Jeff Golub, Barry White, and Elton John Edition -OR- Maybe Mama Can Buy You Love

We'll start out this edition with something really nice ...

"Ain't No Woman (Like the One I Got)" by Jeff Golub feat. Richard Elliot from Golub's seventh solo album Grand Central (2007)

This album Grand Central has quite a list of guest performers including Richard Elliot (on saxophone). Of course, "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I Got)" was performed most famously by the Four Tops and appeared on the group's 1972 album Keeper of the Castle.

According to The Keeper of All Knowledge, the song was written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter and first recorded by the soft rock trio Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds for their 1972 Hallway Symphony album.


Next up, another great 1970s piece ...

"Let the Music Play" by Barry White from the album of same name (1976)

What an incredible voice that Barry White had. And this video version features a nice photo-montage of White.


And we'll end with something suitably Saturday night upbeat and all around wonderful ...

"Mama Can't Buy You Love" by Elton John from his Extended Play The Thom Bell Sessions (1979)

I'm not sure I like Elton John as a person today, but we'll leave that aside.

OK, that's all for now. Please see my previous entry for a Saturday Evening Post. My next planned entry might be tomorrow if only to note Yeaster, otherwise it will be early next week.


Saturday Evening Post for March 31st, 2018: The Marchzilla and Aprilster Zero Edition

**This entry was posted March 31, 2018.**

Daffodils along the Mt. Vernon trail with the Washington Monument visible across the Potomac River, March 29, 2018; photo by Matt McClain and taken from the below-linked CWG entry.


I'm home this Saturday night doing my usual routine: Watching the MeTV Super Sci-Fi Saturday Night and Sunday Red-Eye Sci-Fi line up of shows. I'm quite tired and really don't feel like posting any sort of entry except for a Jukebox Saturday Night entry a bit later (and before midnight).

A Bradford pear tree in floral bloom, 1400 block W Street NW, Washington, D.C., 4:55PM March 31, 2018.


Yesterday, I stayed at work quite late finishing up a response to a "sources sought" release from the agency my company supports. I then met Fred around 1015PM upstairs at Annie's (the only time of the week that I will go over to frickin' stale and awful 17th Street, and even then it's not every week). Anyway, I walked back home with him (he lives in the building next to my apartment building) and went home for a while before heading back out to Trade on foot.

I stayed there for about 90 minutes and then returned home (taking a conveniently timed S2 bus the short way up 16th Street). I got to bed around 430AM -- and didn't finally get up and out of bed until about 340PM. (OK, I got up occasionally, but then went back to sleep and had multiple dreams.) I made it to the gym by 5PM -- too late for any treadmill jog but instead I got in about an hour of weightlifting.

About William C. Smith's effort to evict me -- or rather, the preliminarily start that effort -- I have yet to get the "Notice to Vacate or Correct" affixed to my door, but I have an appointment with an attorney on Monday at 11AM to discuss the matter.

Right now, I'm watching the Svengoolie-hosted monster movie, and it is a very strange one even by the standards of the Godzilla franchise: Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero.

The MeTV schedule describes it thusly: "Aliens from Planet X request the use of Godzilla and Rodan to fight off King Ghidorah, but have a better use for the three monsters." That "better use" is an invasion and colonization of Earth -- which is repelled.

During one of the comedic intermissions, Svengoolie usually sings a little song parodying the movie he is showing, and the one for this movie is a real ear-worm, not to mention hilarious: "Deep in the Planet X's" set to the tune of "Deep in the Heart of Texas."

Later tonight, the Star Trek: TOS episode is "The Omega Glory"; the Battlestar Galactica episode is "The Magnificent Warriors"; and the "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" episode is "Primal Scream." I doubt I'll be able to make it up all the way to Land of the Giants.

I have my little air conditioner turned on although it isn't that warm outside (indeed, it is almost at the point at which the chiller function shuts off and it just is a fan blower).

ECMWF - EPS 15 day averaged 500mb geopotential height anomalies (in dekameters) for North America averaged or the period March 29 - April 13, 2018.


As for the weather, there is a chance of rain and maybe even a bit of a rain/snow mix on Monday. The pattern for the eastern U.S. is supposed to stay blow normal temp-wise (owing to a deep and persistent polar vortex trough over Hudson Bay). Hopefully, though, it will be wetter than normal in the mid-Atlantic. The "DMV" area -- District, Maryland, and (Northern) Virginia -- remain in a low-grade drought with a "moderate drought" right over the immediate D.C. area.

Drought Monitor, Baltimore/Washington NWS county warning area (CWA) region, updated March 27, 2018.


Here is a CWG discussion of the April outlook (and whence I found the 15-day averaged 500-mb anomaly forecast map and regional Drought Monitor map featured in this entry) (link embedded): April outlook: Cooler than normal with a very slow transition to spring.

The Yoshino blossoms -- among other flowering cherries and flowering tress -- are just starting to come out but "Peak Cherry" (as reckoned from those gnarled century-old trees along the Tidal Basin) is still about 10 days away, so it is late this year.

I'd really like to get into a discussion about this whole movement that has arisen since the Parkland mass shooting on Feb. 14th -- and there isn't anyone who deserves this sort of slap-down than the loathsome Laura Ingraham and Fox News in general -- but it's too much too go into now. As with Fox News in general and talk radio (and now the internet and social media), the decades of bile she has spewed into the public sphere as part of the overall rightwing political/media ecosystem has been severely damaging to the country's cohesion and left us where we are today.

As for Frank Stallone's tough-guy vulgarities against Parkland survivor and face of the new gun regulation debate David Hogg, I didn't even know Sylvester had a brother named Frank (and, wow, is he ugly). And as someone pointed out already (see image below), this tough guy immediately locked his Twitter account after what he wrote. Talk about a pussy coward.

This whole situation is (at least for now) is such cosmic justice way because this activism and energy that is threatening the satanic arms merchants of the NRA and the rightwing media/entertainment and political complex's grip is a homegrown, organic one that they didn't expect and (given that it is the country's teenagers and their own children) cannot fight.


OK, that's all for now. I intend to post a Jukebox Saturday Night entry shortly.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Evaluating the Trump Regime at Month 15, No Welfare-For-Working Class White People, Just Inequality for All: Excerpts of Slate's Interview with Author and Historian Timothy Snyder

For this entry, I want to excerpt and discuss this Slate article (link embedded): Democracy Down: An interview with Timothy Snyder about what ails our country, and why so many of us can't see it.

This Slate article features Isaac Chotiner's interview with author and historian Timothy Snyder, whose 2017 book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century was a best-seller precisely because it is so relevant. Prof. Snyder also wrote the 2010 book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin that earned him the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought in 2013.

Now he has a new book The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America that explores the "free market economics rules everything" complacency in Western societies at the end of the Cold War made themselves susceptible to ugly, anti-democratic forces even while Russia descended into Putinism, now a global threat.

This part of the interview really struck me:

Isaac Chotiner: We're 15 months into the Trump administration. What are you most concerned about, and what has changed in terms of your concerns, from when you wrote On Tyranny?

Timothy Snyder: People have been doing a lot of really good reporting, but we're still not doing terribly well as far as factuality. The robots are colonizing more of the intellectual space on the internet. The president is still doing an extremely good job of spreading unreality.

Factuality is the basis for a republic, so I remain concerned about that. For me, the Mueller investigation is about the rule of law. Fundamentally, it's about whether laws come first or men come first. If laws don't come first, then we're in big trouble, because all sorts of things are possible.

One thing that I wasn't sure about when I wrote On Tyranny, which was December of '16, and it seems to have cleared up by now, was whether they were going to go for actual national socialism -- that is, a welfare state for white people -- or whether it was going to be what it's turned out to be, which is more inequality for everybody. Both tyrannies are bad.

Isaac Chotiner: One of my actual concerns about Trump was that a Trumpist welfare-state-for-white-people ideology would be more popular, and therefore long-lasting. In a way, it is scarier, even though broadly I am more in favor of the welfare state than more inequality.

Timothy Snyder: Yeah. That’s a great point. That is of course what national socialism means. That's what it literally means. It means, "We agree that there should be socialism, but it's only for us and not for other people. We're going to exploit other people so that we can have socialism for us." That's the idea. I think there were plenty of people, Steve Bannon among them, who were thinking, "We really are going to do infrastructure."

Timothy Snyder: I think what we have is a different variant, which has its own dynamics. Those dynamics are, "We're going to increase inequality. We're not going to do anything about opioids. We're going to make sure that the people who put us in power, that is the nontraditional Republican voters, the people who voted for Obama and then voted for Trump, or the people who came out to vote for Trump who didn't vote for Romney in places like Pennsylvania or Ohio, we're going to hit those people.

We're not going to help them. We're going to hit them, and then when they're hit, we're going to give them more about the Muslims, and more about the immigrants, and more about the outsiders." I don't know whether that's going to work, but that's a different pattern of politics, where you tell people, “The state can't do anything for you,” but you tell them who they should be blaming. That's Trump's skillset. It turns out that's what he's good at.

From a certain perspective, this is oddly sad:

Whereas other countries that descend into the ugliness of ethno-nationalistic fascism and authoritarianism have leaders at least have the courtesy to help the favored ethnic group rabble that put them in power, in the United States, the Rust Belt white working class that gave us Trump just gave themselves the ultimate con artist.

That is, Trump is such an ignorant narcissist and sociopath that he can't even pretend to give them anything meaningful that would actually materially improve their lives.

Instead, Trump has simply turned over the policy agenda -- such as it is -- to the rightwing kooks and crazies and/or grifters and hucksters that long ago colonized the GOP. As for Trump himself, it's all about running his Putin / Russian oligarch-funded criminal enterprise for his own enrichment while living in some dissociated fantasy world about his greatness.

There is also the matter of Trump's mental derangement that seeks to "undo" everything Obama did, which makes it easy for the forces of GOP Dark Money and oligarchy to get their wishes -- namely, a complete smash-and-grab that is now underway. 


OK, that's all for now. I hadn't intended to post an entry tonight, but I sorta wanted to replace my previous entry with a new lead one.

About that topic, I am seeing a lawyer on Monday late morning to discuss the situation.

That aside, I made it to the gym earlier and now I'm home watching the late night MeTV line up.

The weather was mild today -- in fact, it was outright warm. Temperatures finally reached the 60F mark this month (something it hasn't done but instead all the really warm weather was in February). Not only did it reach 60F but it went way past it -- reaching 78F for a high at KDCA.

It is still at or about 72F at the 1AM hour with a cold front approaching with a line of broken showers. Rain showers are forecasted for tomorrow (later today) and then more seasonable temps with highs near 60F both Saturday and Sunday. We need more rain.

OK, that's all for now. My next planned entry -- or pair of entries -- will be Saturday night.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Old, Drunk, & Passed Out on Hallway Floor (Or "Notice to Vacate or Get Jesus"): Initial Eviction Proceedings Now Underway, Calling Perry Mason

I need Perry Mason.

That aside, I also hate this blog -- no really. And I'm not that keen on anybody who reads it for all the wrong reasons. Regardless, I'm home now at this late, wee, wholly ungodly hour.

Just so you know, my "landlord" -- the property management company William "C" Smith -- is trying to evict me from my apartment.

NO, it's not because of any failure to pay rent (SORRY, Wall-P, you money-mongering, shitty stooge-bot) or that I am "running a drug den." (OOOOOHHH, there is so much I could say about that involving two ex-friends, but let's just leave it at that.)

Instead, it's summed up by the weird landlord-tenet issue called "Notice to Vacate or Correct" -- and involves (at least as a final straw in my particular case) the non-criminal but annoying fact that I passed out drunk either IN or NEAR my apartment building - and if the former, which I think, then literally at the doorway outside my apartment.

I have a vague memory of that night involving two D.C. (MPD) police officers including a tall, thin, young African American guy.

Anyway, apparently, I'm all on camera and everybody is ready to eject me as I "scared" local residents (as in, the 85 year olds and sad, pathetic immigrants who pay $500/month and that William "C" Smith are waiting to die).

Fine -- I fucked up. And I can't fight it -- nor will I.

Let me say, though, that none of this (despite William "C" Smith's finest hope) involves anything criminal -- even though the building site manager clearly EAGERLY ran to her boss overlords and they tried to frighten me as such at my door.

Given all that, I am in the process of hiring a lawyer to defend my rights since during the 30-day "CORRECT" period, the entire idea of "CORRECTION" is to be determined by the very people who will decide are those who are eager for me to be gone -- to include a giant, fat, middle-aged white guy in a red sweater tucked into his over-stuffed white trousers who is high up at William "C" Smith -- so that they can rent out the dusty, dumb dump at 2-1/2 times the current rent to some shitty millennial.

Anyway, I stayed at work late -- and left around 9PM, stopping at Baan Thai and then Trade before coming home.

I'm home now watching the Perry Mason episode "The Case Of The Lawful Lazarus."

I really hate this blog. Oh, and fuck you, Timster and M. "WADE" TipaTrillyun.

OK, I'm done for the day and going to bed. I will not be posting a new entry until Saturday evening. And if I do have to give up this shitbag, dust-flea apartment, well, it's not the worst thing in the world. And now I'm going to bed and into dream world -- which can be awesome/wonderful or horrifying, but is always interesting. As for this blog, I probably won't update it again until Saturday night.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

HOORAY FOR HIPPOS! (It's a Very Good Day to Have a Hippo for Hope -- But When Isn't It??)

The George Washington University (GWU) Hippo and Me: 5:42PM March 25, 2018 (image 1 of 3)


The above picture and the two below were taken by my best friend Andrea toward the end of our afternoon-long walk that started in Bethesda (where we met for lunch at American Tap Room) and took us down the Capital Crescent Trail into Georgetown (where we stopped at Nick's Riverside Grill in the unusually blustery and cold late March afternoon) and through the George Washington University (GWU) / Foggy Bottom district including past the "River Horse" (Hippo) sculpture at 21st and H Streets NW.

The George Washington University Hippo and Me: 5:42PM March 25, 2018 (image 2 of 3).


The completely fictitious account on the plaque accompanying the hippo reads:

Legend has it that the Potomac was once home to these wondrous beasts. George & Martha Washington are even said to have watched them cavort in the river shallows from the porch of their beloved Mount Vernon on summer evenings. Credited with enhancing the fertility of the plantation, the Washingtons believed the hippopotamus brought them good luck & children on the estate often attempted to lure the creatures close enough to the shore to touch a nose for good luck.

The George Washington University Hippo and Me: 5:42PM March 25, 2018 (image 3 of 3)


So, too, many generations of students of The George Washington University.
Art for wisdom, Science for joy, Politics for beauty, And a Hippo for hope."

-- The George Washington University Class of 2000
August 28, 1996




Monday, March 26, 2018

New Study on Extreme GOP Gerrymandering Reveals Near-Impossibility for Dems to Retake House in 2018 Midterm Elections; Permanent Trumpist Republican Rule a Real Possibility

Above: The original "Gerry-Mander" map by engraver and cartoonist Elkanah Tisdale that appeared on March 26, 1812 in a local newspaper -- possibly The Boston [Commercial?] Gazette, although another version of it appeared in the Repertory & General Advertiser; source here.

I could not definitively identify the newspaper -- there appears to have been at least two Boston Gazettes, one of which (The Boston Commercial Gazette) eventually merged with the Columbian Centinel to form the Boston Semi-weekly Advertiser, which eventually became the Boston Herald.

The word "gerrymander" that resulted from Tisdale's drawing is a portmanteau of the name of Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry and "salamander" since the districts he had drawn in Essex County, Mass., to benefit his Democratic-Republican Party in the election of 1812 resembled a salamander, although in this drawing, it looks more like a dragon.

Yes, this appeared 206 years ago today -- and (coincidentally or not) on the occasion of a new study that is the topic of this entry.


Anyway ...

A new study has been just been released by the Brennan Center for Justice on the massive advantage the Republican Party has heading into the 2018 midterm elections -- which represent the last, best hope to stop the sprawling Trump criminal enterprise from doing irreversible damage to the United States and the world (natural and human).

Above: The cover to the new study "Extreme Gerrymandering & the 2018 Midterm."

This topic of extreme GOP gerrymandering that was created via Operation REDMAP in the aftermath of the 2010 "Teabag Wave" election year that coincided with a decennial Census has long been of keen interest to me.

The result of the extreme gerrymandering -- especially in certain states and even taking into account the upending of Pennsylvania's gerrymandered map -- is a locked-in massive structural advantage that the Republican Party possesses.

Result of gerrymandering after the 2010 Census; graphic by Mother Jones.


It is an intentional exacerbation of the natural advantage of rural and/or ethnically homogenous whites natural have over racially and ethnically diverse, younger Americans concentrated into urban areas and a small number of states as a result of the structure of the Senate and the Electoral College. Yes, there is an element of self-sorting to this (Nate Silver notes that in his tweet), but the gerrymandering is almost insurmountable.

In this case, the Republican Party voting base consists of rural, older and/or economically-stressed, angry and/or fear-laden ethno-nationalistically white Americans and have been ginned up into a state of near-hysteria by decades of Fox News propaganda, hate radio, and other appendages of the pro-profit rightwing media/entertainment complex as organized by the 0.1% overclass via Dark Money and today embodied in Trump's ruling kleptocratic kakistocracy.

North Carolina House election results for 2010 and 2012 following the 2010 gerrymandering.


The webpage to a summary of the study is linked here: Extreme Gerrymandering & the 2018 Midterm. The actual 57-page study by Laura Royden, Michael Li, and Yurij Rudensky is linked here.

Here is a teaser for the study:

Many Democrats are optimistic about their chances of winning a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections. But in a new report, we measured how much harder partisan gerrymandering will make it for Democrats to win seats -- and found that even a blue wave election akin to 2006 would be far from enough. Maps drawn after the 2010 tea-party wave to favor Republicans, particularly in big swing states like Michigan, North Carolina, and Ohio, mean Democrats would need to win the national popular vote in 2018 by the biggest margin in a midterm since 1982.

Wisconsin gerrymandering results: House district election results in Wisconsin in 2008, 2010, and 2012.

Click on this image for larger version. It shows the vote totals and number of districts won. The massive gerrymandering produced the 2012 results.


Below is an article from ThinkProgress discussing the new Brennan study. I'm reposting it in its entirely, along with some tables and figures from the Brennan study plus other relevant images that I found. The original ThinkProgress article is available here. It was written by Ian Millhiser, who has written quite a bit on this topic.

A new report by the Brennan Center for Justice suggests that congressional races are so heavily rigged in favor of Republicans that the United States can barely be described as a democratic republic. The upshot of their analysis is that, to win a bare majority of the seats in the U.S. House, Democrats "would likely have to win the national popular vote by nearly 11 points."

Figure 2 from study: Non-responsive party gerrymander.

Click on image for larger version with accompanying explanation (containing text from the study).


To put that number in perspective, neither party achieved an 11-point popular vote win in the last several decades. The last time this happened, according to the Brennan Center, was 1982, when a deep recession led the opposition Democrats to a 269 seat majority against President Reagan’s Republicans.

Projected Democratic House seat gain based upon national popular vote total win (from +2% to +16% in 2 percentage point increments); 24 is needed for a majority; table from the Brennan study.


The Brennan Center's estimate, it should be noted, is unusually pessimistic for Democrats, but consistent with a number of estimates showing that Democrats face an unfair disadvantage at the polls.

After the 2012 election — when Democratic House candidates won the popular vote by almost 1.4 million votes, but Republicans won a solid majority in the House — ThinkProgress estimated that Democrats would need to win the popular vote by about 7.25 points in order to take back the House. (Democratic prospects have improved since 2012, in large part due to a court decision striking down Pennsylvania's aggressively gerrymandered maps.)

Projected Democratic sea gain in highly gerrymandered states from Brennan study.


Similarly, data journalist Nate Silver estimates that Democrats could need to win by as much as 10 points to take back the House.

A series of tweets from Nate Silver in response to this study including an exchange with Nate Cohen.

I have included more tweets than in the ThinkProgress article -- which only had the top one.


One factor that contributes to the Brennan Center's pessimism is its analysis of congressional maps in red states. In Alabama, for example, Democratic House candidates could win as much as 47 percent of the statewide popular vote, and still only win one of the state’s seven House seats. In Georgia, Democrats could win 54 percent of the popular vote, yet only win 5 of the state’s 14 seats.

Forty must-win House races in the 2018 midterm elections; by Doug Johnson; source here.


Nor is the House the only place where American democracy is breaking down. Donald Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, yet he still got to be president. The 49 senators in the Democratic caucus represent nearly 40 million more people than the 51 senators in the Republican caucus.

And this last problem is likely to get much worse. According to Baruch College’s David Birdsell, by 2040 "about 70% of Americans are expected to live in the 15 largest states." As a result, 70 percent of Americans "will have only 30 senators representing them, while the remaining 30% of Americans will have 70 senators representing them."

Twenty House seats that Dems could theoretically win in 2018 for a majority in the next Congress; source above.


Moreover, if the parties continue to sort into diverse, urban Democrats and homogeneous, more rural Republicans, the GOP won't just gain a lock on the Senate. They could potentially ensure that no Democrat is ever confirmed to the federal bench again.

In 2016, when Senate Republicans successfully blocked Chief Judge Merrick Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court, the 46 Democrats in the Senate represented 20 million more people than the 54 Republicans. In 2017, when Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to occupy this seat, the 45 senators who opposed his confirmation represented more than 25 million more people than the senators who supported him.

The United States, in other words, is barreling toward a future where a younger, multicultural, more urbanized majority is ruled by an aging, white, rural minority. That's a recipe for civil unrest, or even a secession crisis.

At the very least, it casts a very dark cloud of illegitimacy over the entire United States government.

I very much concur with this analysis -- and don't see the GOP to include its atavistic "base" and its Dark Money oligarchical top relinquishing power anytime soon. Now I understand that things aren't entirely deterministic, but I'm very pessimistic on any prospect for removing the current Trumpist / GOP ruling claque.


View along the Capital Crescent Trail in Montgomery County, Md., 2:49PM March 25, 2018.


And on that note, I'll end this entry.

Well, actually, let me just post the quickest of updates ...

I'm back from the gym tonight watching the late night MeTV lineup following a regular work day. Yesterday, I met Andrea in Bethesda at American Tap Room in Bethesda, where we had lunch, and proceeded to walk on the Capital Crescent Trail all the way into Georgetown, where we stopped at Nick's Riverside Grill.

The day was chilly and variably cloudy -- with cloudy, gusty cool interludes and even occasional snow flurries / rain drops mixed with sunny spells.


Saturday, March 24, 2018

Jukebox Saturday Night for March 24th, 2018: Les Paul and Mary Ford "Bye Bye Blues," Police "King of Pain," and Katy Perry "Birthday" Edition

"Bye Bye Blues" by the husband-and-wife duo of Les Paul and Mary Ford (1952)

As the Keeper of All Knowledge explains:

"Bye Bye Blues" is a popular and jazz standard written by Fred Hamm, Dave Bennett, Bert Lown, and Chauncey Gray and published in 1925 ... It has been recorded by many artists, but the best-known recording is one made in 1952 by Les Paul and Mary Ford.

This recording was released by Capitol Records as catalog number 2316 backed with the Les Paul instrumental composition "Mammy's Boogie." It first reached the Billboard magazine Best Seller chart on December 27, 1952 and lasted 5 weeks on the chart, peaking at #5.

Paul and Ford in 1953.

As for Les Paul and Mary Ford, the couple divorced in 1964 and Ms. Ford died in 1977 at age 53 due to complications from alcohol abuse (she entered a diabetic coma). Hers was not a happy life.

Les Paul, on the other hand, lived to 94 -- passing away in August 2009 -- and had an active and distinguished career, receiving numerous accolades and awards including reportedly being the only person to be inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Left: Les Paul at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City in Oct. 2008 playing a solid body electric guitar that he helped design / invent and that bears his name: the Gibson Les Paul

The Les Paul Foundation he set up continues to support of music education, recording, innovation and medical research related to hearing.

Since I've spent so much time talking about them, it seems only proper to feature another song by them:

Here Les Paul and Mary Ford sing their popular 1951 version of the existing song "The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise." This is a live version from their TV show short called "The Les Paul & Mary Ford Show." 


Next up, a song I've always really loved -- music and lyrics:

"King of Pain" by The Police from the group's final and awesome studio album Synchronicity (1983)

"King of Pain" lyrics -- click on image for larger version.


And we will end with something Saturday night upbeat ...

"Birthday" by Katy Perry from her album Prism (2013)

This is not the main and rather elaborate video to this song -- featuring Perry in elaborate disguises as birthday party entertainers at five actual birthdays and unbeknownst to the people in attendance. Instead, this is the lyric video version featuring Perry and a series of cakes spelling out the words. I prefer this version. The main version is available here.

Both videos were released in 2014 -- a year after the song.


OK, that's all for now. Instead of a Saturday evening post prior to midnight, my plan is to write a regular entry with a particular theme (or themes) later tonight.


Friday, March 23, 2018

Reposted: Andrew Sullivan's "America Takes the Next Step Toward Tyranny: Trump's Dark and Dangerous, Wholly Unconstrained New Phase" -- The March to War Begins

This entry contains a full reposting of Andrew Sullivan's latest Daily Intelligencer piece about the deteriorating situation as a result of the Trumpocalypse being visited upon this country and the world.

Regarding the latest firing-and-hiring reality show-like frenzy down at (to quote Charlie Pierce) Camp Runamuck, a.k.a., the Trump White House, the decision to install John Bolton as National Security Advisor* has been greeted with horror from many media quarters (not to mention the foreign policy establishment). It greatly ups the possibility of war with both Iran and North Korea in the coming years.

*I'm using the spelling "Advisor" rather than "Adviser" although I've seen it both ways in major media outlets.

Last night, Chris Matthews on Hardball was in a state of appalled and even fearful high dudgeon over the choice. And it totally crowded out the news that Trump's lead attorney -- John Dowd -- resigned as Trump lays the groundwork for firing Robert Mueller.

As for Bolton, he has been described as a crazy neo-con WITHOUT any of the moral leavening that informs such a worldview and instead it is all about destruction and domination of "enemies" -- something that puts in well in sync with Trump's animal-like id.

There are other pieces specifically on Bolton and what it means including two by Jonathan Chait -- here and here -- and this one by Slate's Fred Kaplan. Oh, and there is this must-read piece by Charlie Pierce.

But for this entry, I just want to repost the Andrew Sullivan piece in its entirety.

As mentioned, the piece is broken up with natural scenery images just to serve as a counterpoint (and many of which I've already posted). (It's also because I simply don't have that many of my own pictures to post.) The pictures are not captioned -- but in some cases, the image file name provides more detailed information.

For tonight, I'm meeting Andrea at Old Ebbitt Grill and then I'll go to Trade and/or No. 9. Tomorrow is a gym day and then regular Saturday night at home -- laundry and MeTV-watching. I intend to update the blog then with my usual pair of entries.



America Takes the Next Step Toward Tyranny
By Andrew Sullivan
Daily Intelligencer
March 23, 2018

Source link here.

Every now and again, when I find myself buried in the latest blizzard of invariably disturbing news emanating from the Trump White House, I go back and remind myself of the core narrative. I read Plato’s Republic again, the prism through which I first raised the alarm about Donald Trump's emergence.

The prism is essentially how a late-stage democracy, dripping with decadence and corruption, with elites dedicated primarily to enriching themselves, and a people well past any kind of civic virtue, morphs so easily into tyranny.

When Plato's tyrant first comes to power -- on a wave of populist hatred of the existing elites -- there is a period of relative calm when he just gives away stuff: at first he promises much "in private and public, and grant[s] freedom from debts and distribute[s] land to the people and those around himself" (or, say, a trillion-dollar unfunded tax cut). He aims to please.

But then, as he accustoms himself to power, and feels more comfortable, "he suspects certain men of having free thoughts and not putting up with his ruling ... Some of those who helped in setting him up and are in power -- the manliest among them -- speak frankly to him and to one another, criticizing what is happening ... Then the tyrant must gradually do away with all of them, if he's going to rule, until he has left neither friend nor enemy of any worth whatsoever."

This is the second phase of tyranny, after the more benign settling-in: the purge. Any constraints that had been in place to moderate the tyrant’s whims are set aside; no advice that counters his own gut impulses can be tolerated. And so, over the last couple of weeks, we have seen the president fire Rex Tillerson and Andrew McCabe, two individuals who simply couldn’t capitulate to the demand that they obey only Trump, rather than the country as well.

And because of this small gesture of defiance, they deserved especial public humiliation. Tillerson was warned of his impending doom while on the toilet -- a nice, sadistic touch. McCabe was fired hours before his retirement, a public execution also fraught with venom. What kind of man is this?

We have become numb to it, but we should never forget how our president is a man who revels in his own cruelty. Revenge is not a dish best served cold for him. It's the reddest and rawest of meats.

No one with these instincts for total domination over others is likely to moderate the longer he is in power. Au contraire. It always gets worse. And so Tillerson has been replaced by a fawning toady, Mike Pompeo, a man whose hatred of Islam is only matched by his sympathy for waterboarders. Pompeo has been replaced in turn by a war criminal, who authorized brutal torture and illegally destroyed the evidence, Gina Haspel. Whatever else we know about Haspel, we know she follows orders.

Gary Cohn has been replaced by Larry Kudlow -- a sane person followed by a delusional maniac Trump sees on Fox, who instantly thought up ways for the president to cut taxes further without congressional approval. And the State Department, indeed the entire diplomatic apparatus, has, it seems, been replaced by Jared Kushner, a corrupt enthusiast for West Bank settlements who no longer has a security clearance.

Then the president's legal team was shaken up -- in order to purge those few who retain some appreciation for the rule of law in a constitutional republic and to replace them with conspiracy theorists, thugs, and the kind of combative, asshole lawyers Trump has always employed in his private capacity.

Trump is self-evidently -- obviously -- preparing to fire Mueller, and the GOP's complete acquiescence to the firing of McCabe is just a taste of the surrender to come. "Now I'm fucking doing it my own way!" was how he allegedly expressed his satisfaction at the purge, as his approval ratings from Republicans increase, and as the GOP's evolution into a full-fledged cult gathers pace.

And then last night, we saw McMaster fall on his sword, replaced by John Bolton, an unrepentant architect of the most disastrous war since Vietnam, a fanatical advocate for regime change in Iran, an anti-Muslim extremist, and a believer in the use of military force as if it were a religion.

And this, of course, is also part of the second phase for Plato's tyrant: war. "As his first step, he is always setting some war in motion, so that people will be in need of a leader," Plato explains. In fact, "it's necessary for a tyrant always to be stirring up war."

Trump somewhat confused us on this score at first, because of his contempt for the Bushes and the Iraq War and his use of the term "America First." For many excited (but utterly conned) conservative realists, he seemed to be returning to an older Republican non-interventionism. But of course, we now realize that his campaign screeds against the Iraq War were just his strategy to take out Jeb Bush and appeal to middle America; and that "America First" can also mean pure nationalist aggression overseas.

And everything we know about Trump's character tells us that war is probably the only aspect of foreign relations he intuitively understands. He cannot exist as an equal party in an international system. He has to dominate other countries the way he does other human beings. And, when you look back, you see this has been obvious all along.

On trade, he has long been rhetorically at war with our closest neighbors and trading partners, and now he has unveiled the contours of a major trade war with China; we already have a renewed and deeper presence in Afghanistan; and we have long been supporting the Saudi monarchy's proxy and inhumane war with Iran in Yemen.

The real possibility of a nuclear conflict with North Korea is getting more real by the day (can you imagine Bolton's counsel for the Kim Jong-un meeting?); and with Bolton in place, the groundwork for ending the Iran nuclear deal is also finally complete.

And what's noticeable in all this is the irrelevance of the Senate. They refuse to reclaim their treaty-making powers with respect to trade (they could end Trump’s China shenanigans overnight); they have abdicated any influence on foreign policy and war just as they have done nothing to protect the special counsel. They are just like the Roman Senate as the republic collapsed. The forms survive; there is nothing of substance behind them.

When the U.S. detonates the Iran Nuclear Accord, the European alliance, in so far as it still staggers onward, will reach crisis point; and the Iranian regime will likely accelerate its nuclear weapons program. They'd be crazy not to. At which point, the path to war starts (or rather is very hard to stop).

Kushner is the key figure here, I suspect. His support for the Israeli hard right (he doesn't just support the West Bank settlements, he funds them) and his very cozy relationship with the new Saudi prince/dictator both point in one direction: war with Iran.

Getting the Americans to launch such a war is Jerusalem's and Riyadh's wet dream -- which is why the reports of the Crown Prince's boasting about Kushner being "in his pocket" are far from implausible.

All of these developments, I bet, have reached a new intensity because of Robert Mueller's cumulative legal cornering of Trump, especially the special counsel's recent crossing the line into the finances of the Trump Organization.

At that point, I suspect Trump realized he was more vulnerable than he previously believed, and went on full offense everywhere. I was long a skeptic of Trump's alleged conspiracy with Russia in 2016, but every single development in the last few months keeps pointing in the same direction -- and it isn't Trump's exoneration.

Yesterday, we discovered that Guccifer 2.0, Roger Stone's online pen pal, is actually a Russian agent. Trump's initial refusal to say -- even through his spokeswoman -- that Russia is clearly responsible for the release of a nerve agent in a country which is one of our closest allies was simply staggering.

As is his continued refusal to confront seriously the threat Putin clearly poses to democratic elections in the West. The extraordinary leak of the warning from his national security team not to congratulate Putin during the recent call is yet another sign, it seems to me, that even those working closest to the president want to alert the world about the threat to our national security that is coming from the Oval Office itself.

Part of me, of course, has long worried and hoped that my assessment of Trump as truly the tyrant of Plato's imagination is melodramatic overkill. I'm given to excitability, even catastrophism. I’ve been wrong before. And there are many ways in which American life still seems the same. Political tribalism didn't begin with Trump; neither did the appeal of populist authoritarianism, or the celebrification of politics. We still hold elections -- even if the president asserts that they are all rigged against him.

In November, we have a chance to use the ballot box to save this country, and there are some signs that a wave is building. The courts still have some independence and feistiness; the media is still free, if now accompanied by a full-bore state propaganda channel.

But I worry that the more Trump is opposed and even cornered -- especially if he loses the House this fall -- the more dangerous he will become. If Mueller really does have the goods, and if the Democrats storm back into congressional power, then Trump may well lash out to protect himself at all costs.

We know he has no concern for the collateral damage his self-advancement has long caused in his private and public life. We know he has contempt for and boundless ignorance of liberal democracy. We know he is capable of anything -- of immense cruelty and callousness, of petty revenge and reckless rhetoric, of sudden impulses and a quick temper. We also know he is commander-in-chief, who may soon need the greatest distraction of all.

War is coming. And there will be nothing and no one to stop him.