A Merry Christmas to All
(Here's My Xmas List)
In keeping with the Holiday Spirit, I thought I'd send out a short Blast, listing what I'd like for Christmas. I won't rail about how I think it's awful the way we deceive children with that whole fat guy down the chimney thing, or complain (again) about how too many folks are focused on the receiving rather than giving aspect of the holiday. And I won't remark (again) about how people get worked up into a frothing frenzy as we get closer to Monday, filling the Wal-Mart parking lot and acting anything but full of cheer when it gets to finding a parking space.
Nope. I'm going to keep it light and post my list without going into detailed explanations, hoping the items are self-evident and, more importantly, provide a laugh and a moment of "cheer" to your holiday madness.
My Xmas List
#1. The U.S. gov’t. trades Alabama for Puerto Rico as its 50th State. (No explanation necessary)
#2. Donald Trump contracts alopecia. (Thereby looking even more like Dr. Evil!)
#3. Ivanka Trump reveals “childhoold touching” by Daddy. (“He said it was just a ‘tickling’ game.”)
#4. People in Connecticut stop backing into parking spaces! (Is everyone driving a “getaway” car?)
#5. EVERYONE returns his/her grocery cart to its proper place!
#6. The Republican Congress wakes up on December 25th and finds their consciences under the tree.
#7. The Democratic Congress wakes up on December 25th and finds a coherent agenda and a backbone under the tree.
#8. The Yankees get a great young starting pitcher.
#9. Daniel Day-Lewis does not leave us with Perfect Thread.
#10. All my friends (and Blast readers) have a great 2018, despite the circumstances.
And to all, a good night! See you in 2018!
BLAST from the PAST
The Blast has not been "publishing" during this Holiday Season (thank god that "War on Christmas" is over, right?) as I have been trying to put together a book of Year One. Nonetheless, it's hard to ignore what's going on in the world and not make a comment. In this case, as I was organizing last November's Blasts for the book, I ran across one that seemed particularly relevant to today's tax bill vote. Written last November 12th it was titled "The Morning After" and listed items I believed Trump voters would feel "buyer's remorse" about. That Blast is presented here with the addition of comments (in BOLD) to update the essay.
November 12, 2016
The Morning After
for Trump Voters
What is the reaction going to be from those wearing the “Make America Great Again” caps when, during the next year, the following happens (or fails to happen):
The list could go on and on, of course, from the ridiculous (every Wofford College student would get a job at graduation) to the sublime (?) (allowing concealed carry in all 50 states while declaring no schools or military bases would be gun-free zones) (CONCEEALED CARRY HAS PASSED!) The point is simple and obvious --- Trump made a million promises that will be impossible to keep and, if some of them are enacted, they may well bankrupt America like one of his Atlantic City casinos.
There are also the frightening promises: deporting undocumented immigrants, including children; (The DACA “citizens” are hanging by a thread) banning Muslims (and even deporting some, while instituting surveillance of mosques nationwide); (This remains a rallying cry, of course) creating libel laws that would destroy first amendment protections for the press; (The press remains a daily target for Trump, as Fox News has become Trump TV) violating international law to interrogate suspected terrorist, while killing their families. There is a red-meat faction among Trump’s supporters who love these ideas but is there widespread endorsement of this across the Republican Party? (The republican Party has revealed itself to be a gutless party with no principles and no real patriotism) Or is it truly the Trump Party now, with no turning back? (YES!)
During the closing week of the campaign Trump tried to get early voters to change their ballot, if they had “buyer’s remorse” because they voted for Hillary. I’m wondering if Trump voters, like many of the Brexit supporters, will wake up one morning and say, “Oh, shit, is this what I voted for?” Buyer’s remorse.
I hope I’m wrong but I see no reason to believe otherwise. Trump is a shallow, ignorant, narcissistic misogynist at his core and, at 70 years old, there’s no reason to believe this leopard will change his spots. Progressives and fair-minded people across the political spectrum have to begin organizing now to meet the challenges we will face in the coming four years. “Mr. Unpredictable” should prove to be a true wild card in all the worst possible ways, wreaking havoc with both the left and the right. Preparing for the unimaginable is the challenge ahead and we need to be clear-eyed and well-rested for the battles we will undoubtedly begin waging on January 20th.
, This is a "Blast from the Past." Last December 5th, to be exact, and it's my take on the "season to be jolly" --- and worth a second look while I try to compile a years-plus worth of Blasts into a workable book form and finding an agent/publisher (any help in that area is appreciated!). Hope you enjoy this reprise.
Keeping the “X”
Friends and family alike will tell you that I am no fun to be around during the “holiday” season (which now runs from mid-October through New Year’s). The onslaught of advertising, ubiquitous piped-in (brain-numbing) music, impossible traffic snarls, and frothing shoppers everywhere turn me into Scrooge Squared. And it’s not my atheism --- far from it, in fact. I would have no problem whatsoever if the Holiday/Christmas season was truly about spending time with loved ones, sharing some great meals with family and friends, a couple of parties with colleagues & neighbors, and exchanging a gift or two with those you are closest to and care about most. However, through my entire adult life (since the 1970s) The Season has become more and more insane, with ugly Consumerism holding Christmas hostage, a pearl-handled luxury Swiss Army Knife at its throat. There has been a hostile takeover of what was once a lovely time of year.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a number of things about the holiday season that drive me (irrationally?) crazy. I don’t like bringing a dead tree into the house to decorate for a few weeks and then have to recycle it while those pine needles haunt our abode for months! The carols and hymns would be fine if we only had to hear them once or twice and not day-in, day-out, over and over again. It doesn’t take long before I want to shoot that Little Drummer Boy (even with Bowie & Crosby singing it) and turn Rudolph into venison stew! But that’s me and I might be more understanding or patient about it if I weren’t surrounded by people who have been driven to the point of wild-eyed hysteria by the Advertising Council of America and the constant bombardment from their television and internet outlets telling them they have to get this or that for this Holiday Season.
I do like the whole Christmas story, even if I’m a cynic and don’t buy into it as a matter of faith (as with believing in Santa, the Holiday, for me, is a season that abounds with fantasy). My senior thesis in college was about mythology and collective consciousness (and U.S. literature --- a lot of Joseph Campbell & Carl Jung) and I believe that humans need things to believe in --- and need to have common beliefs to knit a society together. Given that, I honestly like the whole story of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, the visit from the Wise Men, the star in the heavens --- it’s a great story and it’s about someone who became a critical figure in Western cultural history by preaching about peace and love! My early religious education made a strong impression on my young mind and the stories about Jesus, particularly, helped shape my values and view of the world as I grew older. Despite my problems with formal, organized religion --- and a basic scientific rationality that denies “faith” in a deity --- the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have had a lasting impact on my worldview.
Given that, the following Gospel passages are what strike me as being in direct contrast to what we have to deal with at this time of year.
And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade. John 2:13-16
And, if we read Matthew 21: 12-13 we get this version of the story:
And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
So, call me old-fashioned but I would really like to drive Toys-R-Us, Wal-Mart, and Amazon.com out of our lives, making the primary focus of the season the connection of people to each other, promoting compassion, empathy, sympathy and caring. I know, that’s schmaltzy. But it’s at the heart of what drives me crazy about each holiday season. If a news clip from any Black Friday doesn’t make you recoil in horror then you probably don’t agree with what I’m saying here.
I know I’m making a losing argument --- the horse is out of the barn, that ship has sailed, we’ve crossed the Consumer Rubicon and the 2017 Xmas advertising will probably start right after Labor Day Weekend. Nonetheless, I would simply like to put the “X” back in “Xmas.” Driving the merchants and moneychangers out of our lives, even to some small extent, might be a first step in that direction. We are trying to move that way this year --- all the adults in our extended family have agreed to forego exchanging gifts, as a trade-off for spending more time (that would have been spent shopping for grown-ups) with our respective families. Less time spent out with the manic, madding crowd and more with those who are nearest and dearest to us seems more in the true spirit of the season. (And maybe we can market the whole thing as a Reality Show!)
The Party of Straight,
When I visit my 90 year old mother, who watches the news regularly and is a dyed-in-the-wool left wing unionist, she often rails about Donald Trump and the Republican Party. It usually goes something like this: “I thought that Nixon was the worst but then we got Reagan. And I figured it couldn’t get worse than that but then we got that first Bush --- and then his idiot son. But now, now we’ve got this guy. This is the worst.” Granted, that is far from objective commentary and it comes from someone who lived through --- and still reveres --- FDR. The fact is, however, that this actually may be the worst --- and not just Donald J. Trump. The entire Republican Party is proving itself to be the Party of Straight, White Supremacist, Male Predators, modeling themselves after the Chief Executive. It’s as if Goethe sat down and recast his play with Mephistopheles making his bargain with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. “Yes, you can have your majority in the House and Senate. And through my earthly agent, Putin, you will gain the White House. In return, you must openly refute your morals, no longer call yourself the “party of family values,” denounce your opposition to the deficit and debt, openly embrace white supremacy, and allow male predators to gain positions of power, flagrantly ignoring all evidence of their transgressions to the contrary.” Mitch and Paul were happy to shake the Devil’s hand and we are now living with the results.
I’ve mentioned before, but have to bring it up again, the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954 when the Boston lawyer Joseph Welch had finally reached his limit in dealing with the demagogue, Joe McCarthy. At that point, Mr. Welch said the following:
Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency? (bold, mine)
That is the point I, like my mother, have reached. We need only look at a some quotes from Republicans not named Trump that were issued this week. Regarding this sham of a tax bill’s expansion of the estate tax (another gift to the top 1%), Grassley said:
I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.
Read that quote again. “Spending every darn penny they have, . . . on booze or women or movies.” Really? In case you have missed the last half century and the Republican Party’s development of carefully articulated “coded” language let me “translate” what that statement means. It refers to Ronald Reagan’s (mythical) “welfare queens” and all those other layabout, no good people of color who leech off the Federal Government and somehow don’t manage to save the millions they’re reaping from that same Government to benefit from the Estate Tax. Forget Grassley’s back pedaling about “family farms” (80 families with farms will benefit from the Estate Tax break) and he was taken “out of context” (the classic fall back position). These guys can’t help themselves. Give them a microphone and they’ll trip right over it.
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) was on the Senate floor explaining why the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIPs) was no longer being funded (taking basic insurance away from at least 9 million children). According to Hatch (now, please remember to look for the “coded” language in this statement):
I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves – won’t lift a finger – and expect the federal government to do everything. Unfortunately the liberal philosophy has created millions of people that way, who believe everything they ever are or hope to be depends upon the federal government rather than the opportunities that this great country grants them.
If you want to read a sterling example of White Privilege, that quote is pretty good --- and appropriately coming from the very Senior Senator from Utah (2% Black population, 13.8% Latino, 82% WHITE). You can go back to 1619 to begin reading descriptions of African-Americans as “people who won’t help themselves” (remember that’s why they needed to be slaves!). And it has been that damn “liberal philosophy” which has discouraged those same minorities from taking advantage of “the opportunities that this great country grants them.” Which, of course, makes them “ungrateful” --- just like the NFL players and other African-Americans that Donald Trump berates (calling Lavar Ball an “ungrateful fool!”).
The “President” has now come out and openly supported alleged pedophile Roy Moore in his Alabama Senate race and Mitch McConnell, who once said he “believed the women,” now agrees with the Chief that it’s more important to have a Republican in that seat rather than stand up for principles of morality and decency. But that is the state of the former Republican Party which is now, clearly, the Party of Trump. The Party of Straight, White Supremacist, Male Predators.
If you are a Republican you have to accept that this is now your party and you are not exempt. You are complicit. You DO support White Supremacy and Male Predation. You can’t have it both ways. You’re either with them or moral. Period.
This Was a Man!
His life was gentle; and the elements
So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, THIS WAS A MAN!
Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
Everything is context. To explain the importance of Vincent J. Scully, Jr.’s profound effect on the students who lived in Morse College from 1969 to 1971 at Yale University requires context. You need to understand Yale’s “residential college” system and you need to understand 1969 to 1971. And then you need to understand Vincent J. Scully, Jr. who was (in that hackneyed and worn out term) “a force of Nature,” himself.
Vincent Scully passed away on Thursday, November 30, 2017 at the age of 97. A good, long life marred only by the Parkinson’s he lived with at the end. For generations of Yale students, quite literally, he is still a whirling dervish of brilliant insights they remember teaching “Introduction to Art History” in the Law School Auditorium in New Haven. His influence on modern architects and architecture can’t be measured. As Paul Goldberger, the Pulitzer Prize winning architecture critic (and former Scully student, Yale ’72) put it:
I think he probably did more than anyone else over the last 60 years to affect not just architecture but architecture culture as well. He showed us that architecture is not just forms in a vacuum. It’s about what kind of society you want to build.
For those of us who lived in Morse College from 1969 to 1971, though, Scully was far more than the esteemed Art Historian he was to the rest of the world. He was the thoughtful, passionate, caring mentor who also happened to be the “Master” of Morse College. For those not familiar with the Yale residential college system, Wikipedia describes it thusly:
Yale University has a system of fourteen residential colleges with which all Yale undergraduate students and many faculty are affiliated. Inaugurated in 1933, the college system is considered the defining feature of undergraduate life in Yale College, and the residential colleges serve as the residence halls and social hubs for most undergraduates. Each college is led by a Head of College (formerly Master) who is usually a tenured professor, and a Dean in charge of student affairs and residential life. University faculty and administrators are affiliated with the colleges as fellows, and some live or keep offices in the college along with the Dean and Head. All fourteen colleges are built in an enclosing configuration around a central courtyard; all but two employ revivalist architectural styles popularized at Yale by James Gamble Rogers. Each has a dining hall, library, recreational facilities, a Master's House, apartments for resident fellows and Dean, and 250 to 400 student rooms, with most arranged in suites. Most reside in the colleges after their freshman year, during which they reside on the university's Old Campus. In addition to sharing common residence and dining facilities, students plan events, lectures, and social activities within their college, and compete against other colleges in a yearlong intramural sports championship.
Indeed, one’s residential college defines a great deal of an undergraduate’s "Yale Experience.” You may have noted that “all but two employ revivalist architectural styles.” The two that don’t, Morse and Stiles, were built in the early 1960’s and designed by Eero Saarinen, styled after a Tuscan Village, with “a reinforced rubble aggregate concrete wall system that was used for the entire complex, with large pieces of granite set in tan mortar concrete and stone walls.” (docomomo.us.com) They are on the northern edge of the campus and clearly do not ”fit in” with the rest of Yale’s neo-Gothic and Georgian style. Which made them a perfect place for Vince Scully to oversee and returns us to context.
In the spring of 1968 John Hall, a Far Eastern scholar and the Master of Morse College, announced he would be leaving the post as the Head of the residential college. As a member of the Morse College Council (the “student government”) I spearheaded a drive insisting the student’s should have a larger “say” in who the next Master would be. Hall, a very nice man, seemed distant and cold to many of us —- we didn’t really have much interaction with him. I was a “Master’s Aide” (my bursary/student work job) and couldn’t say I had any kind of “relationship” with Professor Hall. I was on the barricades proposing we get Norman Mailer or some other luminary as our next Master.
In their infinite wisdom, Kingman Brewster and “the powers that be” selected Vincent Scully to be the next Master at Morse. It was a brilliant choice. Scully started in the fall of 1969, just as the first class of women were admitted to the College in the freshman, sophomore, and junior classes. It was a match made in heaven.
Continuing in my role as a Master’s Aide, I immediately found Scully accessible, energetic, and brilliant (I was far from the first to make those observations). He seemed to like my energy and enthusiasm (particularly my public high school, “Boy, do I love Yale” approach to the place —- which he shared) and he allowed me to blatantly break the university rule of “no pets in the dormitories” when I brought home “Maxwell,” the stray pup I found in front of Hungry Charlie’s (now “Toad’s Place”), our late night burger joint. Scully loved Max and essentially made him the Morse mascot/dog. My role in the Master’s Office increased and, by Springtime, I was named “Chief Aide” for Senior year (even though I would be living off campus, another breach of University policy). Before that would happen, though, we faced MayDay —- a weekend of political demonstrations fraught with possible danger and destruction.
Scully not only allowed us to set up the first “Information/Communication Center” on campus (a model that was replicated across campus) but also gave us free rein in planning Morse College’s use when the expected 100,000 to 250,000 demonstrators/”outside agitators” arrived for the weekend. We withstood the weekend without serious incident and were horrified that Monday, May 4th, as we watched students gunned down at Kent State. We knew we had the complete and total support --- and love --- from Vincent Scully, particularly after that weekend.
As 1970-71 developed I got to spend a lot of time with Vince Scully, having dinner with him once a week (part of my “Chief Master’s Aide” responsibilities), and often walking around New Haven with him, talking about “the life of the college,” but often discussing the events of the day. It was at those dinners that I learned he had been a Marine in World War II --- something that seemed so incongruous with his sensitive, empathetic core (particularly compared with “the Marine Corps Generals” we see onscreen today). And it was walking around New Haven with him one day that I really began to learn about architecture from Vince. I forget which street, exactly, we were walking down when Scully literally recoiled, as if struck by lightning, exclaiming, “Oh my God, Snake, do you see that?” I had no idea what he was talking about --- and that’s when my tutorial began. With a sweep of his arm he said, “Look, look at that building! Look what it’s doing to this street!” As we proceeded down the block, I was given an in-depth explanation of how to look at architecture in the built environment. It was stunning. It was brilliant. It was Vince. It changed the way I saw the world.
And that’s what Vince Scully did for so many of my peers, as well as for so many generations of students at Yale. Years later, some time in the early 1990’s, Scully was giving a lecture at Christie’s in Manhattan for the New York Preservation Society. A friend knew my connection to Scully and got me a ticket for the event. Needless to say, I was thrilled and when I got there I found him pacing offstage before delivering his lecture. Totally enthused at seeing him, I all but ran up and greeted him. He looked up, gave me a brief “Hello,” and, to my mind, blew me off. (I was, needless to say, shocked and a bit “hurt”) He proceeded to deliver a brilliant lecture, promoting preservation of buildings around New York but also describing how NYC /Manhattan had three rivers running through it --- The Hudson, the East River, and Park Avenue. He then described Park Avenue as a beautiful river flowing up and down the center of Manhattan, with its lanes of streaming traffic separated by a beautiful green mall. And then, he dramatically paused, and looked at us, revealing the atrocity, the monstrosity that the MetLife (formerly PanAm) Building was --- damming up that Central River! "Just rotate it 90 degrees and the river flows!" It was brilliant, It was Scully at his best. He continued, describing how Route 95 was a social engineering project, clearly dividing neighborhoods along racial lines from Boston to D.C. Again, brilliant. Again, Vince.
After the lecture I lined up to thank him and say good-bye and was as shocked as I had been “hurt” when he gleefully threw his arm over my shoulder and proclaimed, “Snake, I’m so glad you’re here --- come meet these people.” I spent the rest of the evening meeting people from the NY Preservation Society and catching up with Vince, realizing that the early greeting was not a snub. He was so intense --- I was interrupting his preparation for the presentation. Once he was done with that, we were players in the locker room celebrating a victory, old comrades in arms. I was thrilled and he was that brilliant, generous Vince I had come to know at Morse College back in 1969.
In 1966, when I was scouting out colleges to apply to Time Magazine produced a cover page entitled "Great Teachers.” There were ten professors on the cover and Vincent J. Scully, Jr. was one of them --- 46 years old and at the height of his career (which would continue, unabated, into the next century!). Yale was my long-shot school, my “reach.” Looking back, I have to say that Scully’s presence on that cover did influence my applying there. Little did I know, or could I have imagined, that I would get to work with him so closely only three years later! I also have to say --- and I’m really happy I got to tell Vince this numerous times, long after I left Yale --- that Vince Scully’s greatest influence on me was to become a teacher --- and, later, a teacher of teachers. He was the teacher I wanted to be --- right up until the day I retired.
I was sad to hear about Vince’s passing on Thursday. I knew he was struggling with Parkinson’s, having talked to Tappy, his wife, several months ago. But Vince Scully has simply moved on to another plane. His legacy is all around us not only in the buildings that have been created as a result of his influence but also in all of the students, particularly that Morse College group from ’69 to ’71, who saw the world differently, and for the better, because of Vince Scully.
In the fall of 2007 I was working in the the Yale Teacher Ed Program and got to attend several of Scully’s “Intro to Art History” lectures in the Art Gallery Lecture Hall. We had lunch together afterwards and, as was always the case, I had to talk to him about something in his lecture that was an idea I had never thought of before. That’s what it was like to be Vincent Scully’s student or friend. You could not spend any amount of time with him and not learn something new, not see the world in a new light, and not feel energized by his passion and the power of his intellect.
That was Vince.
Blast from the Past #2
It's well over a year since the September 16, 2016 was first published. It seems an appropriate Blast for today. In light of the "President's" re-tweets from a British white supremacist conspiracy website, it's not like we didn't see it coming. What this Blast also notes is how expressing "regret" is not the same as an "apology," something we should particularly focus on as day after day men in powerful positions are toppled by their behavior and "apologize?" So, it's a Blast from the (recent) past, but a pretty relevant one.
September 16, 2017
Trump, the Moonwalk, and Apology/Regret
Five years ago Donald Trump began pedaling the idea that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and, therefore, is not a legitimate President. Even after Obama (and Seth Meyers) decimated him at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011, Trump persisted in claiming Obama was not a citizen. Typical of Trump, his lying has expanded to accusing the Hillary Clinton campaign of 2008 of starting this witch hunt --- with all evidence to the contrary --- and has also claimed that he did the nation “a service” in forcing the President to prove he is an American. It is noteworthy that 41% or Republicans still believe that Obama was not born in the United States. Trump’s claim is as credible as that of those who believe the July 20, 1969 NASA moonwalk was a hoax.
There is no way we can look at this claim and not see its implicit racism. That Trump, even in the current campaign, hints that Obama may be a Muslim (recently suggesting Obama would have attended Antonin Scalia’s funeral “if it were held in a mosque.”) is yet another example of how Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan is a thinly veiled plea to bring back a white, male, Christian run country that was only "great" when those men were at the helm. To deny the racism in Trump’s claims would be naïve, at best. To not make him accountable would be irresponsible.
Yet Trump, who seems incapable of admitting he is ever wrong, much less say “I’m sorry,” cannot bring himself to genuinely apologize for his Birther crusade. He may express “regret” but that is not the same as saying “I’m sorry.” A regret does not admit one is at fault, only that he is sorry he did something that may have bothered (or hurt) another. As Eric Schellhorn wrote in the April 8, 2001, SFGATE website (discussing the United States “regret” over flying into Chinese air space, when China demanded an apology):
From a semantic standpoint, regret or concern - "I'm sorry this happened" - is not at all the same thing as a full-fledged apology - "I'm sorry." The expression of regret sidesteps the central issue of fault, the admission of which is after all, what the aggrieved party is seeking.
An example I read somewhere used the scenario of a cheating husband who says to his spouse, “I regret that I cheated on you” as opposed to saying, “I’m sorry I did this and hurt you. I was wrong.” Trump, of course, ever the cheating/lying spouse (remember that Marla Maples thing?), cannot bring himself to ever admit that he is wrong. So, he twists the Birther conspiracy into a “service” to the country! Again, his claim that “many people” wanted to know about Obama’s nativity --- though none of those people are on record anywhere (but the far corners of the internet) claiming they wanted to know about Obama’s birthplace ---until Trump promoted the issue! Like those who disbelieve the NASA Moonwalk, Trump is susceptible to believing conspiracy theories that “people are saying” and that “I am hearing.” This is once again proof that this man is unfit to serve as Commander-in-Chief.
The Birther “movement” was as fraudulent as Trump University and just one more example of the pure audacity of this man to claim he is a legitimate candidate for the highest office in the land. That Trump has the cojones to claim:
Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the controversy. I finished it. President Barack Obama was born in the United States.
Really? That’s his statement? No, “I’m sorry?” Not even “I regret” that I started this fraudulent and false conspiracy and witch hunt? Of course the Trump campaign will throw its hands up and ask, “What does the Liberal Media want?” because he finally said the President was, indeed, born in the U.S. They will not admit to yet another lie ("Clinton started the controversy") or dog-whistling white supremacist groups as well as those down-and-out working class Rust Belt voters who feel powerless in a rapidly changing America.
In the final analysis, Trump’s “announcement” today is only further confirmation that this man is a seriously disturbed narcissist who, at his core, is a small-minded (and tiny–handed) bigot. That millions of Americans are swayed by a Reality Show huckster who won’t release his taxes, who lies at a rate that PolitiFact scores at a 70-91% rate, is a genuine concern for all serious thinkers. While I don’t believe Donald Trump will be elected, I find it truly disturbing that he is not only the candidate of the Republican Party but also that millions of Americans will vote for him on November 8th.
The "Best" of The Blast?
August 25, 2016
While The Blast is on hiatus, I thought it might be fun to bring back some of the earlier pieces that folks may have missed. Today's is Blast written back on August 25, 2016, speculating on Donald Trump starting a Media Conglomerate network if he lost the election. You may recall that there was a great deal of speculation at the time that, in fact, Trump was only running to pump up his "brand" and had bigger and "better" thing$$$ in mind than the Presidency. So, the following was my take on what a Trump Network might look like. Enjoy
Thursday, August 25th
The Trump Media Empire?
With the hiring of Stephen Bannon (of Breitbart News) and the “unofficial” signing on of Roger “Hey, Babe” Ailes, there has been talk that Donald J. Trump is not as interested in becoming President (too much work!) as he is in becoming a Murdoch-like Media Mogul. Even if he suffers a humiliating defeat, you know that the Trump brand will survive with flying colors and it’s not all that hard to imagine Trump creating his own network. With that in mind, here is what that might look like.
The following is a roster of potential programming for what I believe will be the Trump International Telecommunications System (TITS). Starting with Sunday, the lineup will be: 12 am to 6 am infomercials for, of course, Trump products. We can expect to see hour-long infomercials dedicated to selling Trump Steaks, Trump Ties, Trump Water, Trump Fragrance, Trump Magazine, and Trump University. From 6 am to 9 am there will be “news” delivered in a folksy format called “Where’s the Action?”, sponsored by Trump Casinos and hosted by Jeffrey Lord and Scottie Nell Hughes. Sunday morning, starting at 9, will feature a series of news panel shows, starting with The Sean Hannity Hour, in which the former Fox News sycophant will tell whatever outrageous stories Trump/Bannon/Ailes pass along (“Obama Started AIDS” “Chelsea Clinton is Married to a Black Man,” etc.). 10 a.m. will bring on “the Man” himself, with Meet Mr. Trump, a quasi-news “interview” show and then the 11 a.m. hour will be The Trump Group (an homage to the late John McLaughlin), featuring Mr. Trump as the host discussing the news of the week with Dick Cheney, Jim Gilmore, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry. From 12 pm to 11:59 pm the network will feature re-runs of “The Apprentice.”
The weekly scheduling will feature a wonderful variety of News, Entertainment and Sports programming. On the news front, there will be the nightly NRA Hour, hosted by Wayne LaPierre and, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, a live, call-in show, Here’s Vlad, featuring Russian President Vladimir Putin. The nightly news will see Jeffrey Lord and Scottie Nell Hughes as anchors with a special segment called “Point-Point” featuring Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich. A documentary-style news program will be Uncaptured Heroes, hosted by Jesse Ventura. Finally, there will also be a nightly feature hosted by Ann Coulter called “You’re the Bitch!” in which Ann will castigate various liberals and communists who refuse to appear on her show.
The Entertainment roster is bursting with great shows! There is the usual array of game shows, with all-new stars and approaches. Wheel of Fortune will be hosted by Michael “Sez who?” Cohen and Tiffany Trump pitting people’s real fortunes against each other's as prizes. Family Feud, hosted by Stephen Baldwin (with his classic Eric Trump hairdo), puts Donald, Jr. against Eric with their hand-picked teams; the winner gets to spend the weekend at Mar-a-lago with Dad. The Price is Right, hosted by Chris Christie, will auction off national park lands, offshore oil drilling as well as pipeline rights, throwing in some sweet government contracts “for services.” Let’s Make a Deal is hosted by Paul Manafort and involves numerous international “men of mystery” as contestants. Al Baldasaro will host an oirignal show called Firing Squad!, in which contestants shoot at effigies of Democratic politicians and whoever has the most "hits" wins a weekend with the host in his backwoods New Hampshire cabin.
As we head into the pure entertainment programming there is some exciting original programming as well as re-boots with great twists. Two fun, animated shows, created by the brilliant Seth McFarflung, are “The Towel Heads,” a raucous comedy about a Sikh family that moves into a “whites only” Queens neighborhood and “We Love That Wall,” about a heavily armed Texas family that lives in the shadow of a Mexican border wall. There is a wonderful travelogue, Sarah Palin’s Road Show, in which the former vice-presidential candidate travels around the country in a tricked-out RV looking for “the real America.” Then there's the reality show about the Mogul and his family called Traipsing with the Trumps. An afternoon talk show, Babes with a View, features Melania, Ivanka, Ivana, and Marla Maples as hostesses --- just watch the furs fly there. The remainder of the programming are shows like Duck Dynasty (as is), Scott Baio in “Chachi Loves Tila Tequila;” The Oddest Couple stars Wayne Newton and Gary Busey (arguing over who's more heterosexual); a family comedy called Eyes Right!, with Jon Voight, an aging Army patriarch (ret.), and Kirstie Alley a Marine matriarch (ret.) and their extended military family is guaranteed laughs! There will also be a hilarious re-invention of Anger Management, starring Bob "The General" Knight, the legendary basketball coach. Another original comedy stars Antonio Sabato, Jr., as Tony Black, in The Blacks, about a young family that has trouble finding housing in a neighborhood they want to live in (because of their name) until a kindly Real Estate Agent helps them out, becoming their best friend and mentor. Each show concludes with kindly Mr. Donaldson's catch phrase, "I love the Blacks!" Laudably, the TITS network has revamped a TV classic, calling it The Huxtables, starring Ben Carson and Omorosa Manigault as Cliff and Clair, now “empty-nesters” whose children never visit. Another re-boot, hearkening back to “I Dream of Jeannie” is The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, starring Katrina Pierson as a raccoon eyed political wannabe who falls under the spell of a handsome and charming billionaire (played by Tom Selleck, with a blond wig). Then, in a brilliant piece of original programming, Stephen Bannon produces, directs, writes, and stars in Whitish, a satiric and charming comedy about an alt-right Internet publisher who rails against the increasing diversity in his Upper East Side neighborhood. Two new music shows will be Ted Nugent's So You Think You Can Shoot --- AND Sing? which features gun-toting musicians who target-shoot while singing popular Nugent hit tunes. Loretta Lynn hosts a gospel/country hour called Grand Ole Plantation, which brings back mintrelsy, blackface and all! Talk about Blockbuster TV.
And then there is the Sports programming. John Rocker, with his show, Only the Baseball is White, covers America's pastime. Mike Ditka, the football guru, hosts Can’t Live with Them, No Wide-Outs or Running Backs Without Them. Basketball is covered by Dennis Rodman, who makes a case in N.B.A. – No Blacks Allowed highlighting great white players like Bob Cousy, Pete Maravich, and Larry Bird. Boxing programming has Mike Tyson offering insightful tips on his show, The Pigeon Whisperer. There will also be a Sports Quiz Show, hosted by Pete Rose. It will be a sports version of the old Groucho Marx program, You Bet Your Life! Finally, the TITS wrestling show, Peter Thiel’s WW-WTF! stars Hulk Hogan and Lou Ferrigno.
In all, one can see that the Trump International Telecommunications System, with a variety of platforms on-air and online, has potential to be a genuine media force that will immediately rival Fox, providing a substantive counterpoint to the extreme liberal media that surrounds us. Happy viewing!
See You in 2018!
Well, the Holidays are upon us and, if you didn't get trampled on Black Friday, you are probably gearing yourself up for the next few weeks of parties, shopping, and nonstop eating. Good luck!
The Blast is going on Hiatus until the New Year, 2018. I am attempting to put a year's (plus) worth of Blasts into book form and if I have to write a Blast on an almost-daily basis that will never get done. It would be great if Regular Readers of The Blast let me know of any particular essays they like (and think might be good "book" material).
In the meantime, there are 335 Blast's on the site (including The Blast (Archive)) and it would be great if folks decided to check out early Blasts (they started on August 16, 2016) and see if there are any earlier columns of interest.
So, I hope everyone has a great Holiday Season, a spectacular New Year, and reads a few Blasts (and maybe even writes a comment here or on Facebook), that would be great, too.
Happy Holidaze & have a Great New Year!
Pants on Fire!
You may not wake up each day and pick up the paper, or turn on the news, and cringe, as I do, when you remember that Donald J. Trump is the President of the United States. While I find that fact, in and of itself, incredibly hard to believe, I don’t have an alternative. It’s a fact. It really happened. The minority of American voters elected this man by way of an archaic electoral process that was designed to insure that political power in this republic would be wielded by the slave-owning class in the American South (Just look at our history from 1789, the beginning of the Union, up through the Civil War. Ten of our first 16 Presidents —- Washington through Lincoln —- owned slaves!). It is appropriate, then, that Trump is a dog-whistling racist who cannot even criticize neo-Nazis who defend Confederate General statues —- but condemns “ungrateful” African-Americans in sports, entertainment, or politics through Twitter, his preferred form of communication. This is our “President.”
One of the most incredible features of this Presidency, however, is that we, the American public, simply accept that this President will, on pretty much a daily basis, LIE. That’s just the fact of the matter. Trump speaks, Trumps LIES —- regularly, daily, sometimes hourly, very often in his Tweets. Facts aren’t even a consideration any longer, are they? We know that Trump supporters are low-information, fact-averse individuals, who are not going to change. We also know that all those people will support Trump even if, as he said, he shot someone on Fifth Avenue (hopefully, from his perspective, a Muslim).
Yesterday, the “President” released a Tweet in which he claimed that Time Magazine told him he was probably going to be their “Man of the Year” (again) this year. Here’s the Tweet:
“Time Magazine called to say that I was PROBABLY going to be named “Man (Person) of the Year,” like last year but I would have to agree to an interview and a major photo shoot. I said probably is no good and took a pass. Thanks anyway!"
Because they would need time to interview him and take photos, he graciously declined. He told them ‘No.”. Trump is like the guy who says "You can't fire me because I quit!"
Here’s what Time Magazine Tweeted this morning:
"The President is incorrect about how we choose Person of the Year, TIME does not comment on our choice until publication, which is December 6."
Time has rarely named someone Man/Person of the Year more than once (FDR, Stalin, Truman, LBJ, Reagan, Gorbachev, Clinton, W. Bush & Obama) but never two years in a row. And, by the way, what has Trump done to deserve that title for a second year in the row? Time notes that the title represents “someone who has, for better or worse, had the greatest impact on the events of the world that year.” (Wikipedia) Adolf Hitler was Man of the Year in 1938 and Josef Stalin in 1939 and 1942, for example. But that’s not the point. Trump created a fake Time Magazine cover naming himself “Man of the Year,” to hang in his various Golf Clubs around the country (he also created “fake history” about the Civil War at one of his Golf Clubs, too). Yet all of this is beside the point because it's about what Trump needs: he needs his name to be in the news every day.
Remember when he told us “you will get tired of winning?” We’ll, he really doesn’t seem to care much about “winning,” as far as legislation or foreign policy goes (both are up in flames, in case you haven’t noticed). “Winning,” for Trump is simply having his name front and center, every day. Reading a statement to the troops for Thanksgiving, Trump noted “We’re really winning now.” Previous administrations “weren’t letting you win before. Now we’re letting you win.” It is unclear, exactly, what and where “we’re winning.” The troops he was addressing were primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan, so I guess we’re all supposed to assume we are now “winning” in those conflicts. How we measure or gauge that “winning” is simply Trump’s statement that: we are. Yet, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Does he honestly care about anything beyond his own need for attention? (That’s rhetorical, of course)
One other thing: Trump’s reflexive phrase “Believe me.” “Believe me” is Trump’s “tell.” Anyone who gambles know that many players have a “tell” —- a tic or habit (spinning your ring, rubbing your nose) that gives away your hand (the ring means you’ve got a good hand, the nose, not so good). Trump’s “believe me” “tell” always follows a statement that is a LIE. It’s what a used car salesman tells you about the lemon he’s trying to sell you. “You won’t have a day of trouble with this beauty. No, sir, believe me.” It’s what the prosecutor with the weak case tells a jury. “Believe me, ladies and gentlemen, this man is as guilty as the day is long. Believe me.” Listen for when and how Trump uses it. “We’re going to build a wall and Mexico’s going to pay for it, believe me.” “We will terminate Obamacare and replace it, believe me.” “This tax reform is not good for me, believe me.” And the list goes on.
If you go to: http://www.politifact.com/personalities/donald-trump/statements/byruling/pants-fire/?page=1 you will find 4 pages of PolitiFact's “Pants on Fire!” ratings for Donald Trump’s statements from April 2011 through November 2017. Take a look for yourself at just how far our “President” will challenge your common sense and credulity with statements he will make without thinking twice.
He is an inveterate, pathological liar, pure and simple --- or, as he would say, “believe me.”
A Quick Look
Happy Thanksgiving. “President” Trump has been in office 307 days and this is his first Thanksgiving as Chief Executive so let’s take a look at what Thanksgiving Week has been like under the Tweeter-in-Chief.
“As many of you know, I have been very active in overturning a number of executive actions by my predecessor. However, I have been informed by the White House Counsel’s Office that Tater and Tot’s pardons cannot, under any circumstances, be revoked.”
There is still legitimate concern, of course, that Trump will use his pardon power to exonerate all those who might be convicted in Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. We’ll see. (And remember, you can’t “Self-Pardon)
2. Thanksgiving Message to the Troops
Trump couldn’t stay on script during his message to the troops. The “President” said: "You’re very, very special people. You’re fighting for something real, you’re fighting for something good.” Doesn’t that imply that, prior to his presidency they had, somehow, not been fighting for something “real” or “good?” He also “told the troops he’s working on ‘big, fat, beautiful tax cuts,’” failing to mention that most of those cuts would never apply to them.
3. Haitians are probably not having a great Thanksgiving
When campaigning for the presidency in Miami’s “Little Haiti” on September 16, 2016, Trump promised the Haitian audience “I will be your champion.” They may have been a little more than disappointed when Thanksgiving week started out with this: (Miami Herald, November 20, 2017)
The special deportation protection known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, will be revoked for as many as 59,000 Haitians living and working in Miami and across the U.S., Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke announced Monday The protection will permanently terminate July 22, 2019, allowing Haitians living in the U.S. under TPS an 18-month window to return to their struggling homeland.
So, Happy Thanksgiving, Haitians, from your “champion.”
4. Twitter Attacks
While we know Trump loves to attack Black athletes and/or their family members (Colin Kaepernick, Marshawn Lynch, LaVar Ball, Jemele Hill, Steph Curry) as well as Black congresspeople (Frederica Wilson & John Lewis) or Muslim Gold Star parents (the Khans), it’s interesting that he has no reaction to attacks against him by the White NBA coaches Greg Popovich and Steve Kerr. Popovich said:
"I'm still sick to my stomach, and not basically because the Republicans won or anything, but the disgusting tenor and tone and all the comments that have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic. And I live in that country where half the people ignored all that to elect someone. That's the scariest part of the whole thing to me. All the things he said during [the campaign], if our children would have said it, we would have grounded them for six months. Without a doubt." (ESPN September 25, 2017)
Kerr, the coach of the championship Golden State Warriors , in an interview for the September 24, 2017, Sports Illustrated talked about why the team balked at visiting the White House (with Trump then Tweeting a “withdrawal” of their invitation):
I’ve been fortunate enough to meet President Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton, and Obama. I didn’t agree with all of them, but it was easy to set politics aside because each possessed an inherent respect for the office, as well as the humility that comes with being a public servant in an incredible position of power, representing 300 million people. And that’s the problem now. In his tweet to Steph, Trump talked about honoring the White House but, really, isn’t it you who must honor the White House, Mr. President? And the way to do that is through compassion and dignity and being above the fray. Not causing the fray.
Kerr also said:
Remember, the president works for us, not vice versa. We elected him. He doesn’t just work for his constituents and his base. He works for every citizen. Once you take that office, you have to do what’s best for the entire country. Sure, you’re going to have policies that align with your party, but that’s not the point. Respectfully, Mr. Trump, the point is this: You’re the president. You represent all of us. Don’t divide us.
Bring us together.
Trump had no response and no attack to either White coach, but continues to go after the Black athletes, knowing it’s red meat for his base.
The “President” is spending the Thanksgiving Holiday at Mar-a-Lago and NBC and Politifact are keeping track of how many days he spends at a “Trump property” and how many times he plays golf, respectively. Remember Trump’s incessant criticism of Obama’s “constant” golfing? “The problem with the president, he’s played more than people on the PGA Tour.” (Sept. 15, 2017) He continued to use that accusation throughout the election campaign, to the cheers of his base. Just as a factual check: “as of November 13 in the first year of each man's presidency, the score is Trump 35, Obama 24.” (Politifact). The President has spent 100 days at Trump properties, out of 307 days in office, with 77 of those at Trump Golf properties. According to Politifact:
It’s not as easy to track Trump’s game as you might think. His staff has on several occasions declined to confirm he played golf while spending the day at his golf club. So in some cases, we have to rely on reporters’ observations and those of private citizens who spotted Trump on the course and posted pictures on social media.
Whatever the case, we’ll see if he plays any golf over this Thanksgiving weekend, keeping his pace ahead of PGA Tour Obama.