Featured
Donald Trump Portrait in Words

Donald Trump Portrait in Words

Do you find yourself running out of words to describe President Donald J. Trump? Well then you’ve come to the right place. I started compiling a personal dictionary of adjectives to describe him since he began his campaign that I’d like to share with you now. This is a work in progress that I will keep at the top of the blog for awhile – maybe until Election Day. I plan to link the words to news stories and opinion pieces that are apropos to the words.

Here are the words you can use to meticulously describe President Trump.

Incompetent Aberrant Presumptuous Cynical Wanton Retaliatory Amoral Puerile Malignant Atavistic Neurotic Autocratic Bawdy Negligent Sordid Catty Malevolent Severe Belligerent Ignominious Mercurial Bigoted Tyrannical Incurious Salacious Brazen Calamitous Vindictive Rapacious Persecutory Sinful Churlish Evil Volatile Combative Lewd Confused Kackistocratical Resentful Hubristic Contemptuous Mendacious Contentious Impulsive Corrupt Vituperative Crooked Slimy Cruel Decadent Repetitive Indignant Deceptive Antagonistic Detestable Nihilistic Pugnacious Dictatorial Dumb Reckless Duplicitous Egotistical Extreme Feckless Amateurish Snide Glandular Rude Capricious Greasy Megalomaniacal Harsh Misogynistic Truculent Coercive Hostile Wicked Hurtful Ignorant Sneering Dim Immoral Arrogant Imperious Profane Inane Scandalous Petty Inimical Licentious Circumlocutionary Louche Aggressive Manipulative Vainglorious Mindless Wayward Narcissistic  Xenophobic Nasty Nepotistic Obscene Erratic Obstructive Paranoid Bellicose Destructive Perfidious Soft Petulant Crass Racist Defensive Rakish Annoying Ribald Demagogic Savage Desperate Scornful Captious Shameless Authoritarian Stupid Vexatious Abusive Vulgar Devious Bullshitter

False Claims of Election Fraud Should Be Illegal

False Claims of Election Fraud Should Be Illegal

Very first thing I would like to see addressed by Congress in 2021: make it illegal to claim that election fraud has happened or will happen where there is no evidence presented and no basis for an official investigation is established.

I have a hard time seeing how undermining faith in the core process of our democratic republic is any less dangerous than pulling a fire alarm in a crowded school hallway because you didn’t study, calling in a fake bomb threat at the airport because you’re running late, or spreading misinformation about a stock because you’ll make a fortune if the price tanks.

Afford our democracy the same protections that we provide the stock market: https://www.sec.gov/fast-answ​ers/answe​rstmanipulhtm.html.

The Supreme Court implicitly reaffirmed the right of government to regulate firearms. Thank goodness!

The Supreme Court implicitly reaffirmed the right of government to regulate firearms. Thank goodness!

The latest term of the United States Supreme Court delivered a mixed bag of decisions that, on the whole, should please conservatives even if appearances may be to the contrary. For example, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) won a temporary reprieve but only because of the typically sloppy way the Trump administration went about trying to end it. They will undoubtedly try again.

And whilst a Louisiana law that imposed a needless requirement for doctors at abortion clinics in the state to have admitting privileges at hospitals was set aside, this was primarily on the grounds that it was virtually identical to a Texas law that had been struck down just four years ago. Chief Justice Roberts only joined the more liberal justices because he felt bound by precedent but not before opening the door to future abortion restrictions, challenges to, which suggested, may be viewed more skeptically.

Finally, the very welcome news that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does prohibit LGBTQ employment discrimination may be undermined by the court’s fulsome embrace of religious rights that may override those of the LGBTQ community in where the two clash in the future.

However, somewhat overlooked this term was the court’s decision not to hear challenges by the gun rights crowd to a plethora of state and local firearms restrictions much to the chagrin it has to be said of its most conservative members. This is very good news indeed since it appears to reaffirm the majority’s view in a SCOTUS dominated by conservatives that the misguided decision in District of Columbia v Heller upholding the individual right to own a firearm nevertheless does not preclude reasonable regulation of that right by the government. The key here is clearly the Chief Justice and I can think of three reasons why he has sided with the liberals/moderates on this issue.

First, Roberts is no doubt mindful of Heller’s assertion that the decision did not mean that the regulation of gun rights was foreclosed. Casting doubt on that element of Heller would serve to undermine the entire decision and make it appear as a meaningless, not to mention dishonest, gesture to those concerned about gun violence. Second, to go further than Heller itself and eviscerate the ability of federal, state and local governments to regulate firearms would simply invite a future more moderate court (and, yes, that day will come) to revisit Heller as a whole, thus undoing one of the Roberts’ court’s landmark decisions. By refusing to go to the extreme, Roberts may protect Heller and his legacy.

Finally, whilst his most conservative brethren are likely driven by ideology to the exclusion of common sense, I doubt that Roberts wishes his legacy to add substantially to the carnage of gun violence in a nation already plagued with far more than any other advanced society.

Whatever his reasons Roberts in this case has done an enormous service to the country by ameliorating the otherwise pernicious effects of Heller.

Red States seek to gut the Affordable Care Act and make Blue States more like them.

Red States seek to gut the Affordable Care Act and make Blue States more like them.

In this timely piece from the LA Times we learn about two working mothers, one in California and one in Texas, and their very different health care experiences thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid to low-income adults, or lack thereof, in their states. The California mum (Jenny) whose state enthusiastically embraced the ACA, has health coverage which kicked in last year when she was hospitalized from a severe infection. Texas on the other hand opted out of the Medicaid expansion and the Texan mum’s (Courtney) experience reflects that fact; without health coverage she’s not able to afford asthma inhalers nor dental treatment for a broken molar she received in a domestic dispute. Courtney’s been living on Orajel, she says.

In fact recent research has concluded that the Red States who refused Medicaid expansion suffered a higher mortality rate among near elderly low-income adults compared to states that expanded the program. The result is that the states who opted out likely sustained almost 16,000 avoidable deaths during the period studied. 

The fate of the ACA now rests in the hands of an ideologically extreme right-wing Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in California v Texas stemming from an effort by Texas and 17 other Red States joined now by the Trump administration to overturn the ACA. (The result will not be known until next year). It’s difficult not to see this as anything other than a continuation of an expanding war on Blue States who typically provide their citizens with more and better services. It’s bad enough that Texas and the others demonstrate such a studied unconcern for the health and well-being of their own residents, but it’s truly reprehensible that they’re driven to seriously damage that of low-income people in the rest of America. Apparently, Texas politicians will not rest until Jenny’s experience in California mirrors that of Courtney. Misery really does love company it seems.

And if Republicans win the November election, we can be assured that any chance of a meaningful replacement for the ACA in the event that SCOTUS throws it out will be just as dead as those 16,000 people who died prematurely. Nor should we forget that if the law falls, all who enjoy private health insurance will once again be subject to caps on their coverage, prohibitions on pre-existing conditions and the other means of victimization in the tool bags of the insurance companies. 

All of which is a strong reminder that the sooner we crush the GOP at the ballot box, the better it will be for our collective welfare.

Some More of the Best Music of 2020 so Far

Some More of the Best Music of 2020 so Far

It’s been a month since I put up any new music, and I’ve discovered several albums that are worth adding to the list. Let’s start with Nick Cave’s cover of “Cosmic Dancer” by T. Rex from the upcoming all-star tribute album titled, AngelHeaded Hipster set to be released on September 4, 2020. It will be a double album with 26 tracks featuring U2, Elton John, Joan Jett, Perry Farrell, Sean Lennon, Lucinda Williams, and more!

X had planned on touring to promote their new album, Alphabetland and then the coronavirus pandemic started, so no 40th anniversary tour for now. Hopefully they can reschedule it after the pandemic subsides so we can see the original lineup perform the new songs on this album mixed in with their hits dating back to 1980. Here’s one of the new songs. The album was released on streaming services last month. The physical albums will be available August 21st.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit released the new Album, Reunions, this month. There was an early release on May 8th for independent record stores followed by a full release on May 15th. This album has garnered a lot of attention because of the stories of struggles Jason went through as he wrote the songs, including the one about drinking a shot of Listerine. If you want to learn more, watch his interview by Trevor Noah on The Daily Social Distancing Show.

I had never heard of Jaimie Wyatt until Greg Vandy played “Neon Cross” on The Roadhouse about a month ago. I really liked the song, so I did a little searching and found out it’s a song from her sophomore album of the same name produced by Shooter Jennings that will be released on May 29th. Jaimie says:

Neon Cross is a collection of my most vulnerable lyrics and vocal performances to date. My friend Shooter, our manager and most of the band had literally witnessed me as a walking disaster when I was grieving death, divorce, and trying to come out of the closet, while heavily self-medicating and nearly self-destructing with drugs and alcohol.

The album I’ve been listening to the most lately is Lucinda Williams’ Good Souls Better Angels. It’s a very bluesy country album with great guitar work by Stuart Mathis. The opening track is a cover of Memphis Minnie’s 1937 song, “You Can’t Rule Me”. It rocks.

The GOP Has Become a Malevolent Force in American Life

The GOP Has Become a Malevolent Force in American Life

Consider these words written in 2012 by non-partisan political scientists Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein:

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

Eight years on things have got demonstrably worse. Republicans continue efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act both legislatively (in 2017, which failed) or in court as GOP states led by Texas pursue a lawsuit currently pending before the Supreme Court that may see the ACA overturned next spring. The consequences to millions of Americans would be devastating.
This in the face of a virulent pandemic with more millions of Americans losing their jobs and their health care who will likely need the ACA. In the current health crisis, the Republicans’ rush to open up the economy before infection rates have decreased or we have adequate testing and contact tracing capabilities promises to cause thousands of unnecessary deaths – particularly among the elderly.

Meanwhile the GOP’s stubborn and obtuse denial of climate change threatens the future of our children and grandchildren. The depressing litany of destructive policies the GOP has embraced over the years whether its unravelling environmental protections and workplace safety regulations, beating up on the poor in America, suppressing voting rights of minorities to name but a handful, do enormous harm to the American people. The reality is of a political party and conservative movement that rejects the worth and role of government to do good and runs it incompetently to prove its point, while doing everything possible to impede the other party from governing effectively.

In this the GOP is robustly supported by its perpetually angry base, and a right-wing media machine that pushes both to the extremes. Negative partisanship is bipartisan but at least most Democrats get their news from reliable mainstream media as opposed to Republicans who are far more likely to be misinformed thanks to conservative media even on something as critical as the coronavirus. The latest conservative conspiracy theory, for example, is that the COVID-19 death rate is vastly exaggerated, a dangerous illusion that promotes a lethal complacency.

In short, Republican governance at every level is severely hazardous to our health and well being. In the present emergency, a GOP administration first weakened the federal government’s ability to combat a theoretical pandemic then thoroughly botched its response to a real one. And while a pragmatic Democratic House has tried gamely to bring some sanity to the government’s response to the economic and health calamities, it’s an uphill struggle against an ideologically driven, boneheaded GOP majority in the Senate. For example, an obvious need to support states with an infusion of federal funding as their economies tank and their revenues plummet is being blocked by a hatefully partisan GOP leadership that sees it as disproportionately (and erroneously) benefitting Democratic states.

When this catastrophe is finally over, Americans need to have a serious conversation on the future of our democracy in light of the bitter divisions that are unlikely to ameliorate even without the vile and divisive presence of either Trump or Senator “Moscow” Mitch McConnell. I don’t pretend to know the answer but I do know that we can never move forward as a country while this extreme polarization, without parallel in any other democratic nation, persists.

Trump Fucker Cocktail Recipe

Trump Fucker Cocktail Recipe

What should you drink during the six months between now and Election Day? I think you should try my tasty new cocktail recipe that allows you to vent your frustrations with Donald Trump while you make it, laugh while you sip it and savor the complex, somewhat bittersweet orange-spice flavors that result from the perfect harmony of ingredients and the cathartic process of preparing it.

Everything you need for a Trump Fucker cocktail.

Ingredients

  • ¾ oz vodka
  • ¾ oz Ferrand Dry Curaçao (this is important – do not substitute – and it’s also great in a Mai-Tai)
  • ½ oz dark rum (Pyrat, Cayman Reef Barbados, and Kōloa Gold are good choices for dark rum. Bacardi would probably be good too)
  • ½ oz Campari
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • juice of one whole small mandarin orange
  • 3 dashes of orange bitters

Preparation

Pour all the ingredients in a shaker about one-third full of ice cubes. Pick up the shaker and raise it to eye level. Imagine that it’s Donald Trump’s head and then shake it violently. Feel free to scream as you continue to shake it mercilessly until your hands are so cold they hurt.

Pour the drink into a old fashioned glass or rocks glass (or even an absinthe glass) with ice – preferably one large ice cube but, in a pinch, a few normal size cubes will do. The color of the drink should match the orangey hue of Donald’s spray tan.

Garnish with one or two lychee fruits and, for optimum presentation, place a blueberry in the opening of the each lychee. If you make it right, it looks like this.

A perfect Trump spray-tan color with white eye sockets.
“That fucking cocktail is such a pretty color. Reminds me of someone… Oh, right. Me! My beautiful self! So wonderful, so unbelievably wonderful looking… too bad I don’t drink, but you go right ahead and drink that beautiful cocktail. I heard it ends with a perfect, so perfect bitter aftertaste. Why is that? I wonder…” – Donald Trump

Trump’s character traits are really disturbing

Trump’s character traits are really disturbing

Near the end of a book I was reading recently was this description of a familiar political leader:

He was impervious to advice. He listened but did not absorb the opinions of others. If critics persisted (according to one of his senior staff members) ‘he would break into short-tempered fits of enraged agitation’. He brushed aside uncongenial facts so habitually that his staff began to filter out intelligence of the worst complexion. He displayed in all this not a shred of self-criticism. When things went wrong he blamed others’.

Characterizing his subject as sulky, vindictive, intolerant and irascible, the author goes on to cite his subject’s poor powers of leadership which were masked with a self-constructed myth of infallibility. Add a few more equally unpleasant traits such as bullying, endless lying and bullshitting, a complete absence of empathy and a demand for loyalty from others which goes unreturned and we have a fairly complete picture of Donald Trump, right? Indeed. But the the excerpt is from Why the Allies Won by historian Richard Overy, published in 1995, and the subject is Adolf Hitler.

Klessheim Palace (now a casino) to Mar-a-Lago (now a playground)

Now obviously Trump is no Hitler. For one thing, Hitler wrote a book, Mein Kampf. Trump, who has the attention span of a gnat and can’t even sit still long enough to read the President’s Daily Brief  (with potentially disastrous consequences) has likely never even read a book cover to cover much less written one (having a book ghost written for you doesn’t count). 

More significantly, there is no evidence that Trump harbors a megalomaniacal desire to conquer the world; in fact he has more of a penchant for retreating from commitments abroad and betraying allies – Kurds and Afghans so far, and probably our NATO allies too given half a chance. And whilst Trump is monstrously incompetent, narcissistic and vile (among other things), there is no evidence that he is an actual monster capable of acts of unspeakable evil. Fortunately for us, Trump is constrained by his own enormous limitations, principally his own monumental stupidity; for example, he is still unable to accept the deadliness of the coronavirus pandemic even after everything that’s happened.

There really isn’t much doubt about this and it has been amply demonstrated both publicly before our eyes and in myriad accounts from those who have had to deal with him. He has some smarts, of course, but they’re confined to a gift for relentless self-promotion combined with an uncanny ability to manipulate the media and to exploit the vulnerable by drawing out their very worst instincts.

Second his ambitions, thank the Lord, seem to be limited to getting re-elected and, as Max Boot writes, “..the rallies and the ratings“. His ineptitude protects us from his worst authoritarian instincts but also carries with it devastating consequences for the nation in the face of a deadly pandemic.

All the caveats aside, however, the similarities between the two men’s character traits are unmistakable. Trump’s demonstrated lack of empathy even for the people on whom he is depending for re-election echo Hitler’s studied unconcern for his people suffering privation and under constant bombing, or his soldiers later in the war sustaining one crushing defeat after another.

One more trait they share is a gross overestimation of their own abilities. Hitler thought he was a better general than his field marshals whilst Trump thought he could actually function as president of his nation. Both were wrong. For Germany it brought catastrophe but then a better future. Will America salvage something good also from our own ongoing catastrophe? The jury is still out on that one.

Grocery Store Heroes

Grocery Store Heroes

It’s not hard to be moved close to tears when we hear the myriad stories and see photos of our heroic doctors, nurses, medical technicians, EMTs and all of the hospital support staff who are risking their lives while striving to save ours in the midst of a pandemic that is lethal to so many. How on earth are we ever going to thank them or truly show our appreciation after all this is done? Their efforts and their sacrifices are simply beyond words.

There are others who have also carried on essential work at great personal risk to whom we owe our undying gratitude including public transit drivers, police officers, postal workers and others who have given a new meaning to the term “public service”.

But I would like to say a special word here for our grocery store workers who have served the public faithfully and well and without whom our situation would be dire indeed. They have done so despite often poor pay and the ever present risk of daily public contact that has resulted in an increasing death toll around the country.

For my family special thanks go to the hard working and devoted staff of Ballard Market (part of Town and Country Markets) where we mostly shop but also to PCC, Trader Joe’s, QFC (part of Kroger) and to our local Safeway. But to all the grocery store workers everywhere in the country: Thank you guys for sustaining all of us in this most difficult of times.

More of the Best New Music of 2020 so Far

More of the Best New Music of 2020 so Far

Many people are not familiar with Terry Allen and the Panhandle Mystery Band. I think I first heard him on KEXP’s Swingin’ Doors show around twenty years ago when Don Slack played “Gimme a Ride to Heaven” from the the 1983 album Bloodlines. I bought that album and have been following him ever since. No Depression describes his new album, Just Like Moby Dick, like this;

Instead of a voyage on the Pequod, Allen takes his listeners on a journey that covers a lot of ground, from Houdini facing death after life in “Houdini Didn’t Like the Spiritualists” to a town lamenting the loss of its last local dancer in “Death of the Last Stripper.” Allen brings clown-killing vampires into the light on “City of the Vampires” and delivers the storytelling masterpiece “Pirate Jenny,” which serves as a nod to Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s original of the same name.

Here is “Sailin’ on Through”. Enjoy!

Drive By Truckers have been putting out great southern rock music for decades now. They are not shy about expressing their political views, so it’s no surprise that during this year of a presidential election they have released their most political album ever, The Unraveling. Here’s their response to the nutjob, Christian, second-amendment crowd who won’t do anything about the epidemic of mass killings committed with ridiculously powerful automatic weapons except offer up their “Thoughts and Prayers”.

Stephen Malkmus has put out several solo albums, and they all sound a little different – some sound similar to his seminal band Pavement, some a little like Sonic Youth, some are bit electronic, and this new one titled Traditional Techniques is less rock, less electric, more acoustic, and maybe sounds a little bit like Wilco.

This next one is the title track from Tré Burt’s new album, Caught it From the Rye. You will probably find that the instrumentation and vocals sound very much like someone you know. Sean Jewell over at American Standard Time, in a somewhat amusing fashion, goes to great lengths not to name that singer/songwriter, because well… Sean has his own set of principles to which he must adhere.

I, on the other hand, will name that person. He happens to be an artist I have been listing to quite a bit lately. Bob Dylan has released two new songs on YouTube in the past three weeks. I won’t post the actual videos, because they are already ubiquitous on the internet. “Murder Most Foul“, about the assassination of President Kennedy and what it means to the American psyche, was released a few weeks ago. Today he released “I Contain Multitudes” which seems to be about all the things that have influenced his work.