Thursday, April 23, 2020

“The Liar Tweets Tonight”

From National Memo: “We're searching everywhere for funny and fresh home-produced content during the lockdown – and singer-songwriter Roy Zimmerman offers up ‘The Liar Tweets Tonight,’ his razor-sharp satirical version of the folk classic Wimoweh (sometimes known as ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’), accompanied by a grassroots Zoom chorus. You’ll want to play this charming video more than once.”

To enjoy the video, click here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

“Our Country’s Future Hangs on This Election”

After remaining silent through the Democratic Party’s months-long presidential nominating contest, former President Barack Obama today endorsed the man he once chose as his vice president, Joe Biden, to become the 46th president of the United States. From HuffPost:
“Joe has the character and the experience to guide us through one of our darkest times and heal us through a long recovery,” Obama said in a 12-minute video filmed at his home and posted on YouTube.

“I know he’ll surround himself with good people ― experts, scientists, military officials who actually know how to run the government and care about doing a good job running the government, and know how to work with our allies, and who will always put the American people’s interests above their own,” he continued. …

He praised the medical professionals, emergency services personnel and others at the front lines of the crisis, in addition to everyone “making their own sacrifice at home with their families, all for the greater good.”

“But if there’s one thing we’ve learned as a country from moments of great crisis, it’s that the spirit of looking out for one another can’t be restricted to our homes or our workplaces or our neighborhoods or our houses of worship,” Obama continued. “It also has to be reflected in our national government. The kind of leadership that’s guided by knowledge and experience, honesty and humility, empathy and grace ― that kind of leadership doesn’t just belong in our state capitols and mayors’ offices. It belongs in the White House.”
Again, you read this whole article here.

Friday, January 24, 2020

“You Know You Can’t Trust This President to Do What’s Right for This Country. You Can Trust He Will Do What’s Right for Donald Trump.”

U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (D-California) delivered eloquent closing arguments during Day 3 of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. As Esquire magazine’s Jack Holmes wrote:
Schiff's speech was brilliant because it didn't spend additional time on the established facts of the case, which no one seriously disputes, and got to the more essential issue: Donald Trump will never prioritize the interests of the United States—as he pledged to in his oath of office—over his personal interests. He is not capable of it. The evidence lies in his repeated calls for foreign countries to attack our democracy for his personal gain. The evidence lies in the bribe palaces he's running in hotels across the world, where some have started buying up huge blocs of rooms and not even bothering to stay in many of them. The Constitution is worth nothing to him because it does not benefit him personally. Neither is anything we might recognize as our national idea. Neither is the truth. He must be removed before his pathological self-interest can do any more damage than it already has.
No less impressed was The New York Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg, who observes that “Representative Adam B. Schiff, the former federal prosecutor who has steered the House impeachment investigation into President Trump, secured his place as a liberal rock star—and villain to conservatives—with the fiery closing argument he delivered Thursday night, imploring senators to convict and remove Mr. Trump because ‘you know you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country.’ By Friday morning, the phrase #RightMatters—from the last line of Mr. Schiff’s speech—was trending as a hashtag on Twitter, which was lighting up with reaction from across the philosophical spectrum.”

Walter Dellinger, a former acting U.S. solicitor general and a professor emeritus of law at Duke University, declared on Twitter that Schiff was “not just good,” but that he gave “one of the most impressive performances by a lawyer I have ever seen.”

None of this, however, guarantees that Republicans in the Senate will ultimately find courage enough to put their country before their petty partisanship and vote to remove Trump from the White House. None of this can stop Trump from lying to his cult-like followers, whining to them about how he’s been the victim of a “witch hunt” and is completely innocent of using his public power for private gain. (Do even those Republican senators likely to acquit Trump in this impeachment trial really believe he’s done nothing wrong here? Probably not.) And none of the powerful arguments put forth by Schiff and his fellow Democratic impeachment managers for Trump’s inglorious removal from office can ensure that the majority of Americans will vote for the Democratic presidential nominee in November, to rid the nation of a narcissistic chief executive with aspirations to become a dictator.

But at least for this moment, amid the powerful cadences of Adam Schiff’s Thursday night address, Americans living free of the Trump cult can know that their low opinions of Trump’s behavior, intelligence, and character; their fears about what damage he might yet do to the nation’s moral standing, international reputation, and strength as a democratic republic; and their increasing anger at Trump’s efforts to position himself above the law have been given voice.

That’s no small matter.

READ MORE:Schiff Closes With a ‘Love Letter to Truth and Democracy,’” by Nancy LeTourneau (Washington Monthly).

Thursday, December 19, 2019

A Historic Condemnation

Yesterday added a sad but necessary event to America’s timeline: the impeachment of Donald John Trump. Sad, because the office of the U.S. president is traditionally due respect, but Trump’s corrupt and unconstitutional efforts to pressure a foreign country (Ukraine) to interfere in the 2020 presidential campaign for his personal gain, and then his going to extraordinary lengths to cover up that perfidy, brings shame upon the office. Necessary, because as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-New York) put it, “We cannot rely on the next election as a remedy for presidential misconduct when the president threatens the very integrity of that election. He has shown us he will continue to put his selfish interests above the good of the country. We must act without delay.”

I didn’t vote for Republican Trump in 2016, and I never shall; I don’t believe he’s fit, either emotionally or intellectually, to fill the position he holds. What I have learned about him over the last few years—that he’s a bigot, a misogynist, a narcissist, and a serial sex abuser; that he cheats on his wives and demands loyalty from others, but will turn on anyone when the going gets tough; that he’s a braggart and a bully, a whiner and a con man; that he’s petty and paranoia, driven by grievance and a sucker for conspiracy theories; that he’s a habitual liar—none of those characteristics commends him as a leader or a role model, or even as a man.

Trump’s mendacity is particularly pernicious. It drew special attention earlier this week, when The Washington Post counted the lies he’s told over the last three years, and came up with 7,688. One of those became Politifact’s 2019 Lie of the Year: his assertion that the still-anonymous whistle-blower who first drew public attention to Trump’s Ukraine scandal was “almost completely wrong.” A more honorable, more thoughtful, and more experienced president would not be due such denunciations.

READ MORE:‘We’ve Seen Enough’: More Than a Dozen Editorial Boards Call for Trump’s Impeachment,” by Hannah Knowles (The Washington Post); “More Than 700 Scholars Pen Letter Urging House to Impeach Trump,” by Felicia Sonmez (The Washington Post): “Impeachment Is a Permanent Stain on Trump’s Presidency,” by Lili Loofbourow (Slate); “Opinion: Impeached Trump Forever Branded a Constitutional Criminal,” by Adalia Woodbury (PoliticusUSA).

Monday, August 20, 2018

Robert Mueller’s Indictment Song

To start your week off on a regrettable but still hopeful note! From The Late Late Show with James Corden:

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Only One Party Is Committed to Democracy

Illustration for Washington Monthly by SmartBoy10.

From “Winning Is Not Enough,” editor-in-chief Paul Glastris’ article in the July/August 2018 issue of Washington Monthly:
There was a time when divided government didn’t have to mean bad government. That time has passed. If the Obama years showed anything, it is that, when in opposition, the modern Republican Party has no goal beyond blocking the Democratic agenda, whatever that may be, and will transgress hitherto undisputed democratic norms to do so. Operationally, the GOP’s governing objectives have devolved to two base goals: transferring wealth upward, and staying in power. Because the former goal is unpopular, achieving the latter increasingly requires the party to rely on anti-democratic means: voter ID laws and voter roll purges designed to suppress minority and youth turnout; hyper-partisan gerrymandering; filling the federal judiciary with ideological conservatives committed to weakening the power of unions and enhancing that of corporations; and so on. (That’s all on top of constitutional features, like the Electoral College and the Senate, that give the GOP representation that is out of proportion to its votes.)

The election of Donald Trump has pushed the Republican Party even further in this direction, to the point where it is now openly enabling corruption and autocracy. Republican leaders have tried to stymie the Russia investigation. They have supported Trump’s effort to get the Justice Department to prosecute his political enemies. They have refused to investigate his brazen violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution (from, among other things, foreign governments spending lavishly at Trump hotels). They have barely raised a word of protest, much less taken meaningful action, when Trump undermines relationships with America’s democratic allies, does favors for authoritarian adversaries, and says nice things about white nationalists here and abroad. Republican lawmakers uncomfortable with their party’s drift are being forced either to fall in line or leave office, because base GOP voters, fed by right-wing media, demand nothing less. Under such circumstances, no good—and a lot of harm—can come from Democrats losing Congress in 2022 and sharing power with the Republicans.

The fact that America now has only one party committed to small-d democracy changes everything. It’s no longer acceptable for Democrats to look at politics as a way to win the next election so as to jam through a bunch of their preferred policies before the Republicans inevitably take back power. They must instead see the purpose of politics as building sustained power for Democrats, period—but, unlike the other side, they must do this in part by strengthening the democratic process, not by undermining it. If passing this or that liberal policy helps in that effort, fine, pass it. If not, don’t. The overriding aim has to be getting and holding power—not for its own sake, but to keep the flame of democratic self-government alive unless and until the Republican Party abandons its authoritarian ways or is replaced by a new, small-d democratic party. Indeed, such a transition, which many committed conservatives and lifelong Republicans are now desperate to see happen, is only likely to come about if the Republican Party is locked out of power for several cycles in a row.
You can read all of Glastris’ piece here.

Scudder’s Retirement Isn’t Working

Here’s a surprise for Lawrence Block fans: His beloved recovering alcoholic detective, Matthew Scudder, will be returning to the streets of Manhattan in A Time to Scatter Stones, a novella due out from Subterranean Press in January 2019.

This won’t be Scudder’s first resurrection in fiction. Remember, we thought he was gone after the Shamus Award-winning novel Eight Million Ways to Die (1982), only to see him return four years later in an equally powerful, sixth series installment, When the Sacred Ginmill Closes. And now comes this note from Block’s blog: “Just between us, I never expected to write more about Matt Scudder after A Drop of the Hard Stuff [2011]. I surprised myself once, with a final short story (“One Last Night at Grogan’s”), which closed out The Night and the Music [2011], and in a way that certainly suggested there’d be no more. And, really, how could there be? Matt’s the same age I am [80], and just as he’s way too old to leap tall buildings in a single bound, so am I a little old myself to be hunched over a keyboard, trying to coax cogent thoughts out of what remains of my mind.”

Despite all of that, we can look forward to seeing more of Scudder in about six and a half months. Subterranean Press gives this plot synopsis of A Time to Scatter Stones:
Well past retirement age and feeling his years—but still staying sober one day at a time—Matthew Scudder learns that alcoholics aren’t the only ones who count the days since their last slip. Matt’s longtime partner, Elaine, tells him of a group of former sex workers who do something similar, helping each other stay out of the life. But when one young woman describes an abusive client who’s refusing to let her quit, Elaine encourages her to get help of a different sort. The sort only Scudder can deliver.
A Time to Scatter Stones offers not just a gripping crime story but also a richly drawn portrait of Block’s most famous character as he grapples with his own mortality while proving to the younger generation that he’s still got what it takes. For Scudder’s millions of fans around the world (including the many who met the character through Liam Neeson’s portrayal in the film version of A Walk Among the Tombstones), A Time to Scatter Stones is ... a valedictory appearance that will remind readers why Scudder is simply the best there is.
I don’t see a listing on Amazon for this novella. However, the Subterranean Web site allows you to “pre-order” a copy of A Time to Scatter Stones in either a $45 signed-and-numbered limited edition, or a regular $25 hardcover edition.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

For Half a Century, Wholly a Classic

This week marks 50 years since the debut of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the landmark science-fiction adventure written by motion-picture director Stanley Kubrick and noted SF author Arthur C. Clarke (whose 1951 short story “The Sentinel” helped inspire the movie). 2001 premiered on April 2, 1968, at the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C., and then opened to wider U.S. distribution on April 3—half a century ago today.

One of the most beautiful and memorable aspects of that film was its musical score, employing a variety of classical works, among them Richard Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra,” which served as the main title theme. (Click here to relive the big-screen drama of that opening number.) What people forget, especially half a century on, is that Kubrick had commissioned Hollywood composer Alex North (Spartacus, Cleopatra) to create an original soundtrack for his film. However, as Wikipedia notes, Kubrick decided during his post-production work on 2001 to toss that score “in favor of the now-familiar classical pieces he had earlier chosen as ‘guide pieces’ for the soundtrack.” Wikipedia adds that “North did not know of the abandonment of the score until after he saw the film’s premiere screening.” One can’t help wondering whether 2001: A Space Odyssey might be remembered rather differently had Kubrick stuck with North’s musical score, the beginning of which—including an alternative main title theme—can be heard here. More selections from North’s 2001 score can be sampled here.

READ MORE:2001: A Space Odyssey 50th Anniversary: 5
Highlights from Original Soundtrack
” (Billboard); “What 2001 Got Right,” by Michael Benson (The New York Times); “Fifty Years Later, the World Is Finally Catching Up with 2001: A Space Odyssey,” by Owen Gleiberman (Variety); “2001: A Space Odyssey: Book Celebrates 50th anniversary of Sci-fi Movie Masterpiece,” by Brian Truitt (USA Today); “50 Years Later, 2001: A Space Odyssey Is Still a Cinematic Landmark,” by John Powers (National Public Radio); “Cannes Interview: Christopher Nolan,” by Eric Hynes (Film Comment).