Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

It’s Time for Vitter to Go

Headline: “Under Pressure, Vitter Concedes, ‘I Failed My Family’

I'm sick and tired of right-wingers committing despicable or duplicitous acts, and then asking for public absolution because ... well, they’re ostensibly religious, or they’ve apologized to all aggrieved parties, or they have somehow talked with God (what's His phone number again?) and been assured that they’re forgiven for their all-too-obvious transgressions. This is just another way for Republicans to not take responsibility for their actions.

Face it: David Vitter’s prostitution scandal was not forced upon him; he was not an innocent party in the whole affair. And while his acts alone don't necessarily reflect something broken and weak about his character, his subsequent denial of wrongdoing and dismissal of its importance does. This “family values” Republican seems to have learned nothing from the scandal. He’s just another right-wing ideologue who hopes to impose his short-sighted views on everyone else. He’s no more fit to be the governor of Louisiana than he is fit to be a husband. Voters should reject his candidacy, not only because he’s a liar and a cheat, but because it took a campaign that’s about to blow up in his face before he was willing to be halfway honest with the public at large about his misbehavior. He’s now hoping that enough people will be fooled by his camera-ready contrition to reward him with an office he doesn't deserve.

I hope his faith in public gullibility is misplaced.

READ MORE:David Vitter’s Long-Delayed Political Punishment,” by Russel Berman (The Atlantic); “David Vitter is a Cheap Political Prostitute: Even Louisiana Racists Smell the Desperation in His Foul New Campaign Ad,” by Robert Mann (Salon); “How Bobby Jindal and a Decade-Old Sex Scandal Might Bring Down David Vitter,” by Marin Cogan (New York).

Thursday, October 15, 2015

“The Republican candidates may have a lot of fun campaigning for office, but they haven’t a prayer of knowing what to do if they ever enter the White House.” -- The New York Times, October 15, 2015

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Trump’s America vs. Clinton’s America

After slogging her way through the three 2016 Republican presidential debates so far, and also last night’s more substantive Democratic face-off, Heather Digby Parton--who writes the political blog Hullabaloo--sums up the radically different ways that Republicans and Democrats look at our modern world in this piece for Salon:
Republican America is a dystopian hellscape in which evil, violent foreigners are trying to kill us in our beds while rapacious jackbooted government thugs try to wrestle our guns from our cold, dead fingers and Planned Parenthood sociopaths are committing mayhem on children and selling the body parts. And that’s just for starters.

Democratic America is a very powerful nation struggling with a declining middle class and economic insecurity at the hands of the ultra-rich, requiring some energetic government intervention to mitigate income inequality, solve the looming crisis of climate change and manage global crises without plunging the nation into more wars. They also must hold off that anarchistic opposition which sees the world as a dystopian hellscape and that may be the greatest challenge of all.

A little over a year from now voters are going to decide which country they want to live in. Let’s hope they choose wisely. The rest of us are going to have to live in it too.
READ MORE:Sorry, Haters: Hillary Clinton Won the Democratic Debate,” by Amanda Marcotte (Salon); “Hillary Clinton Won the CNN Debate with a Surprisingly Spectacular Performance,” by Josh Voorhees (Slate); “Why Clinton’s Debate Dominance May Change the 2016 Race,” by Steve Benen (The Maddow Blog); “Hillary Clinton Passes Her First Major Test and Momentum Is on Her Side” (NBC News).

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Class Is Now in Session

The beginning of a new school year in the United States led me to investigate vintage education-themed paperback novels. I've showcased 86 enticing specimens in one of my other blogs, Killer Covers. Enjoy!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Taking the Bouchercon Stage

I see that other crime-fiction bloggers, including Peter Rozovsky and Les Blatt, are telling their readers what appearances they will be making during Bouchercon 2015 (October 8-11) in Raleigh, North Carolina. So I guess I should share my own such information.

By my choice, I am slated to take part in only one panel discussion, on Thursday, October 8: “Stop! Tell Us Your Favorite Crime, Mystery, & Thrillers.” Despite that title’s stumbling grammar, the round table conversation itself should be fun. We’ve been asked to share some of our most satisfying and surprising reading experiences within the genre. Stan Ulrich and Lucinda Surbur from the Web site Stop, You’re Killing Me! are to be the panel’s co-moderators, while my fellow “guests of honor” will be George Easter, editor of Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine, and Janet Rudolph, who edits Mystery Readers Journal and the blog Mystery Fanfare. I shall undoubtedly be the most nervous and uncomfortable member of this group, as I abhor speaking in public; I’m a much better writer than I am an orator, and if it weren’t for the fact that my good friend Ali Karim has been so deeply involved in programming events for this convention, and asked me to take on this panel assignment, I would’ve gladly remained in the audience at Bouchercon events.

According to this updated schedule, there will be half a dozen other Bouchercon events taking place at the same time as my panel talk, some of which will likely draw larger crowds (including one that features both Reed Farrel Coleman and Michael Koryta). But if you’re interested in hearing what books Easter, Rudolph, and I think ought not be overlooked, note that “Stop! Tell Us Your Favorite Crime, Mystery & Thrillers” will be held in meeting room Congressional AB, beginning at 1 p.m. on Thursday the 8th.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

How Far Down Can They Go?

This cartoon is the work of Randy Moulton, who works for the Asheville, North Carolina, Mountain XPress.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Come Hell and High Water

It’s no coincidence that I have been listening recently to CDs by New Orleans street musicians, wearing T-shirts I picked up during Mardi Gras more than a decade ago, and gorging myself on episodes of David Simon’s wonderful HBO-TV series, Treme (a show I had never watched until this month). I knew today was coming--the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s deadly assault on Louisiana’s most beautiful city.

It should really be New Orleanians commenting on this occasion, as they are doing in the pages of The Times-Picayune newspaper. I’m not a native of the city, and have visited there only a handful of times, most recently in 2007. I can’t speak for the people who weathered Katrina’s wrath or aftermath. But I wrote a great deal about the storm and the flooding and the incompetence of George W. Bush’s administration back in 2005 and 2006, when the disaster occurred. And I’ve kept up ever since with efforts to restore New Orleans in ways that don’t steal away its charm or historical significance. I even trained, shortly after Katrina struck, to be a Red Cross volunteer, hoping to be dispatched to help residents of the flooded Big Easy recover from the devastation. (Unfortunately, the Red Cross stopped sending people there before I had completed my preparation.) So I feel compelled to at least acknowledge this anniversary and send my best wishes to everyone in New Orleans who is still trying to get back what they lost in the storm, whether it be a home or a job or a familiar way of life.

I was pleased earlier this week to see President Barack Obama visit New Orleans, to hear him speak about the vast social inequalities that had weakened the Crescent City even before Katrina’s approach, and to hear about the extraordinary efforts by his administration to put the metropolis back on its feet. I am no less pleased to read this editorial in The Times-Picayune, which maintains that “The progress is palpable in New Orleans”--even if crime rates are still up, school quality is down, “African-American residents especially feel the unevenness of recovery,” and many folks have not yet received the loans or insurance money they need in order to rebuild. Someday I hope to see New Orleans again, and find that--as it did after another Category 4 hurricane, the one that struck a century ago, in 1915--the city has made a new order for itself and achieved a new vitality, even if it’s not exactly the same place it was.

On this anniversary Saturday, here are a few other related stories worth reading: “Anatomy of a Flood: How New Orleans Flooded During Hurricane Katrina,’ by Dan Swenson (The Times-Picayune); “These Maps Show the Severe Impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans,” by Esri, Katie Nodjimbadem (; “Hurricana Katrina, in 7 Essential Facts,” by German Lopez (Vox); “The Flooding of America” (The New Republic); “People of New Orleans Say Government Didn’t Do Enough After Katrina,” by Natalie Jackson (The Huffington Post); “These New Orleans Residents Are Still Trying to Go Home,” by Bryce Covert (Think Progress); “Images of Abandoned Iconic Spots in New Orleans Urge Us Not to ‘Forget’ About Katrina 10 Years Later,” by Eleanor Goldberg (The Huffington Post); “‘It’s Not Just a Party, It’s Our Life’: Jazz Musicians Led the Way Back to the City After Katrina--But What Is This ‘New’ New Orleans?,” by Larry Blumfeld (Salon); “Gulf Coast Residents Mark Katrina Anniversary: ‘We Saved Each Other’,” by Rebecca Santana and Kevin McGill (Talking Points Media); Front Pages from Katrina’s 10th Anniversary,” by Kristen Hare (Poynter); “Unnatural Disasters, or Queering Katrina,” by Jonathan Alexander (Los Angeles Review of Books); “17 of the Best Things Ever Written About Hurricane Katrina,” by Nick Baumann (The Huffington Post); “Ex-Aides: Bush Never Recovered from Katrina” (Associated Press); “After Katrina, Disgraced Former FEMA Director Continued Disaster Aid. It Didn’t Go Well,” by Emily Atkin (Think Progress); Jeb’s Massive Katrina Fail: New Campaign Ad Features Infamous ‘Heckauva Job Brownie’,” by Sophia Tesfaye (Salon); “Is Your City Ready for the Next Katrina?,” by Rebecca Leber (The New Republic).

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Batgirl Hangs Up Her Cowl

This is very sad news, coming from The Catacombs:
On Monday actress Yvonne Craig lost her grueling two-year battle with breast cancer. Of course everyone knew her as “Batgirl” from the classic 1960s television series, but she made memorable impressions on other well-loved series such as Star Trek, The Mod Squad, 77 Sunset Strip, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, and many others. She appeared twice on film with Elvis Presley. Her trained dancer’s figure made her a popular glamour, pin-up and ad model during her heyday, and her long film and television resume belies the fact that she did not originally pursue an acting career.
READ MORE:Yvonne Craig, TV’s Sexy Batgirl of the 1960s, Dies at 78,” by Mike Barnes (The Hollywood Reporter); “Yvonne Craig, TV’s Batgirl, Dies at 78,” by Bill Koenig (The Spy Command); “The Late Great Yvonne Craig,” by Terence Towles Canote (A Shroud of Thoughts); “Yvonne Craig, 1937-2015” (; “Yvonne Craig, R.I.P.,” by Mitchell Hadley (It’s About TV!).

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

GOPers Fear the Monster They Made

In a piece posted today on the Washington Post Web site, columnist Paul Waldman nicely sums up the nightmare Republicans face as they try desperately to figure out what they can do to prevent off-the-rails presidential candidate Donald Trump from further damaging the GOP’s chances with America’s minority and mainstream voters:
I think there’s something going on here that goes beyond Trump, and beyond the issue of immigration (on which all the Republican candidates have essentially the same position). It’s been said before that Democrats hate their base while Republicans fear their base, and the second part seems to be more true now than ever. The Tea Party experience of the last six years, which helped them win off-year elections and also produced rebellions against incumbent Republicans, has left them living in abject terror of their own voters.

It’s as though the GOP got itself a vicious dog because it was having an argument with its neighbor, only to find that the dog kept biting members of its own family. And now it finds itself tiptoeing around the house, paralyzed by the fear that it might startle the dog and get a set of jaws clamped around its ankle.
READ MORE:Why Trump’s Surge Among GOP Voters Matters,” by Steve Benen (The Maddow Blog); “How Did This Monster Get Created? The Decades of GOP Lies that Brought Us Donald Trump, Republican Frontrunner,” by Heather Cox Richardson (Salon).

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Good Gaul-ly!

Today is of course Bastille Day, marking the 136th anniversary of the public storming of Paris’ Bastille Saint-Antoine and the start of the French Revolution. By way of celebrating this occasion, I’ve put together--in my Killer Covers blog--what I think is a rather handsome selection of more than 50 book fronts that owe their inspiration to France or, specifically, Paris. Click here to enjoy the whole set.

READ MORE:Bastille Day: Mysteries Set in France,” by Janet Rudolph (Mystery Fanfare).

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ah, the Beauty and Power of Words


“Obamacare” Wins Again!

This will undoubtedly be the best news I hear all this week. As reported by The Huffington Post:
The latest and possibly the last serious effort to cripple Obamacare through the courts has just failed.

On Thursday, for the second time in three years, the Supreme Court rejected a major lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act--thereby preserving the largest expansion in health coverage since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid half a century ago.

The stakes of the case,
King v. Burwell, were enormous. Had the plaintiffs prevailed, millions of people who depend upon the Affordable Care Act for insurance would have lost financial assistance from the federal government. Without that money, most of them would have had to give up coverage altogether. But two of the court’s conservatives, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined the court’s four liberals in rejecting the lawsuit in a 6-3 decision. Roberts delivered the opinion for the majority.

The decision is a major defeat for conservatives, who have been trying to wipe Obamacare off the books ever since its enactment in 2010. The sweeping reform law, a key component of President Barack Obama’s legacy, now appears to be secure at least through the 2016 elections. Its fate beyond that will depend on who becomes president next year--and whether Republicans in Congress are willing to keep fighting for repeal.
Republicans on Capitol Hill and in red states nationwide were so sure that their right-wing allies on the U.S. Supreme Court would do whatever it took to undermine and destroy the Affordable Care Act, even if it meant damaging the Court’s reputation. Yet … that didn’t happen. Justice and progressive values won the day. The U.S. economy won’t have to suffer again under ever-escalating health-care costs and Americans won’t be forced once more to sell off their futures in order to obtain health insurance. It’s a good day, indeed.

READ MORE:They Won’t Admit It, but Republicans Dodged a Health Care Bullet,” by Steve Benen (The Maddow Blog).

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

So What Else Is on the Menu?

Late last week, when I published my Rap Sheet piece about Roger Kastel’s work on the Jaws film poster and paperback cover, I noted that his artistry had inspired myriad thematic imitations. Since then, I’ve come across two more posters that probably would not have existed without Kastel’s influence. Below, please enjoy an advertisement for the 2011 direct-to-video horror flick Sand Sharks and another one touting the 1981 film Piranha II: The Spawning, a sequel to 1978’s Piranha.

Interestingly, Pirahna II was one of the early motion-pictures directed by James Cameron, who later gave us Aliens, Titanic, and Avatar.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Open Wide

Today marks 40 years since the cinematic debut of Steven Speilberg’s 1975 summer blockbuster horror yarn, Jaws. To commemorate this occasion, I have posted in The Rap Sheet a gallery of book and magazine covers by Roger Kastel, the artist responsible for the 1975 paperback front of Peter Benchley’s novel as well as the iconic poster advertising Spielberg’s box-office hit. Check it out here.

READ MORE:So What Else Is on the Menu?” by J. Kingston
Pierce (Limbo).