‘Your people I do not understand’


On Sunday night the Eagles won their first Super Bowl and there was joy in Mudville, a.k.a. South Philly. I could hear the revelers from my bedroom window, hooting and honking car horns, breaking glass, rejoicing. Reminding the world that that being a sports fan is like being a religious fanatic, but more fun because you can get drunk.

I went outdoors and saw cars gridlocked from Passyunk Avenue to Broad Street. Fans waved Eagles flags, climbed light poles, set fires, sang “Fly, Eagles, fly.” Was the war over or just beginning?

I’ve read that some fans attached symbolic meaning to the victory of the “working-class” Eagles over the “elitist” New England Patriots, which is funny. Both teams field millionaire players, and their owners are in the plutocrat gang that banished quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a favorite target of Donald Trump, for the crime of calling attention to racism and other real-world phenomena.

I like watching great athletes play football, but I confess to being tone-deaf to the allure of football culture. The NFL is not my friend. Teams get tremendous tax breaks from the cities that host them. NFL players hardly ever grow up in the cities they play for. They are gladiators, not homeys.

Speaking of tone-deaf, what was all that half-time noise about? Justin Timberlake is a talented guy, but his songs are about nothing. They are product. He is product.

Long ago, seven months before the first Super Bowl, there was a Jimi Hendrix song called “Third Stone from the Sun,” in which an alien checks out Earth from his spaceship. “Your people I do not understand,” he intones over guitar feedback and other effects.

I don’t understand them either, and I’m supposed to be one of them. Beam me up, Jimi.

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Trump’s defense: A house is not a hole


Leave it to the worst U.S. president in history to bring the office down a few more notches by making this remark at a meeting about immigration last week: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

The Washington Post reported the quotation, and that was that for a day or so, until it dawned on the dummy-in-chief that people outside his base thought his remark had been despicable.

So then, of course, he tweeted “…this was not the language used at the meeting.”

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who was present at the meeting, rebuked Trump for his denial and added that the “shithole” remark was in keeping with the rest of what Trump had said to those in attendance: “He said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly.” And Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham, also at the meeting, more-or-less went along with the Post’s account.

But then, incredibly, Trump attempted to turn the shitstorm in his favor by trotting out two Republican lackeys — Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, both at the meeting — who reportedly said that our fearless leader had said “shithouse” countries, not “shithole” countries.

Scholars took note. The leader of the free world might have said “shithouse” instead of “shithole.” Untold millions had begun to wonder if Trump harbored cruelly racist feelings about poor, non-white peoples and was stupid enough to voice those feelings in front of congressional leaders at a meeting about immigration.

Thank God he cleared that up!

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A big victory for vile but discreet


Last week, after Roy Moore lost the race for a Senate seat in Alabama, I wrote “Old-guard Senate Republicans don’t like over-the-top vile. They like guys who are vile but discreet.”

In other words, they prefer colleagues who are like themselves. But there’s always room under their tent for guys like Moore and Donald Trump, faux-populists who convince low-information voters (gotta love the euphemism!) that the GOP is more than just the party of the rich.

But that’s exactly what the GOP is. Congressional Republicans invariably push for legislation like the newly passed tax bill, which is nothing but a huge giveaway to the corporations and individuals that fund their campaigns and set their agendas.

Vile but discreet Republicans — the McConnells and Grassleys and Cornyns and so on — don’t grab pussies or wave pistols or publicly dismiss Mexicans as criminals. They pretend to be appalled by the antics of their overtly vile colleagues. They pretend to serve both rich and poor constituents, and to worry about the federal deficit.

Some of them — the pipsqueak Bob Corker comes to mind — even pretended to doubt the wisdom of the new tax bill before adjustments were made to ensure the bill would benefit them personally.

In the end, all the Republicans in the Senate and all but twelve in the House voted yes to the bill, because it will further enrich their masters and themselves.

Maybe passage of the tax bill will wake Democrats to their great opportunity to retake both houses of Congress next year in the midterms. But don’t bet on it too early — Dems are experts at blowing opportunities.

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Why Comcast sucks, in case you need a reminder


The Swamp Rabbit and I were weatherproofing his new shack in Tinicum Swamp and discussing the repeal of net neutrality rules. There is no end to a plutocrat’s money lust, I said, or to an oligarch’s lust for power.

“What’s the difference between a pluto-cat and an oligarch?” Swamp Rabbit said.

I had to think about that. “A plutocrat is a rich businessperson who is obsessed with becoming even richer,” I said. “An oligarch is one of a small gang of people who control the government. You can be a oligarch without being a plutocrat, but oligarchs these days are almost always plutocrats.”

Swamp Rabbit drove a nail into a crossbeam and said, “You mean like Brian Roberts, the CEO of Comcast? How much you think him and his pluto-cat friends spent on killing net neutrality?”

Good question. Comcast runs an empire of media outlets and has spent multi-millions on lobbyists. Verizon and AT&T other mega-corporations have also spent huge amounts. I said, “I’m not sure, but you can bet your scrawny rabbit ass that a lot of their lobbying money came from overcharging cable customers.”

You have to be persistent to become an oligarch, I explained. Comcast lobbied extra-hard to deep-six net neutrality rules installed in 2015, when Obama was president. Their efforts paid off bigly after Trump got elected and appointed Republican and former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai to chair the FCC.

“Damn!” Swamp Rabbit said. “Now the pluto-cats can make us pay more for faster internet connections, and they can block websites they don’t like.”

He drank from a bottle of Wild Turkey and coughed for a minute. Then he said, “I get it that a gang of corporate scumbags owns the media. But shouldn’t the gov’mint be worried that scumbags have all that power?”

“That’s just it,” I replied. “The scumbags are the gov’mint. They’re oligarchs, remember? Pass me that bottle.”

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If vile goes out of style, Trump is toast


The question for Roy Moore was “When was the last time America was great?” He replied:

I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another…. Our families were strong, our country had a direction.

A neo-nazi pining for the good old days of the Third Reich might have said something similar:

I think it was great at the time when families were united – even though we had the Holocaust – they cared for one another…. Our families were strong, our country had a direction.

But hey, who cared that the would-be senator preferred the antebellum South to the present? Or was a plausibly accused child molester and an ex-chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who was thrown off the bench in 2003 and again in 2016?

The bottom line was that Moore’s election would help Republicans maintain their slim majority in the Senate. They thought he was a shoo-in. An honest Republican would have put it this way: “Moore may be a bigot and pedophile, but he’s our bigot and pedophile. At least he’s not a Democrat.”

But Moore lost to the Democrat, Doug Jones. It’s too bad a guy so vile came so close to becoming a U.S. senator, but it’s amazing a Democrat won a Senate race in a state like Alabama, which Donald Trump won in a landslide last year.

Old-guard Senate Republicans don’t like over-the-top vile. They like guys who are vile but discreet. If they start thinking vile is out of style this election cycle, they will rethink their allegiances and turn on Trump faster than you can say Roy Moore.

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Another day, another new low for Trump


Let’s say you’re one of the Navajo veterans of WW II who used your native language to create coded messages that the Japanese military couldn’t possibly figure out. You survived battles in the South Pacific, where Japanese soldiers usually fought to the death rather than surrender. You’re 90-some years old now and at a White House ceremony in which the President of the U.S. is supposed to be commending you for your military service.

But this is no ordinary president; this is Donald Trump, a thin-skinned blowhard who turns every speech he makes into an opportunity to promote himself while defaming real and imagined foes. This time the target is Elizabeth Warren, who years ago invented the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and has criticized Trump recently for trying to appoint Mick Mulvaney as interim head of that agency. Mulvaney, a Trump toady, is on record as wanting to close down the CFPB.

But you don’t know any of this, so you listen to Trump’s speech and are amazed to hear him turn his tribute to you into an attack on someone he refers to as “Pocahontas.” You look at this bloated old white man with the orange skin and freaky yellowish hair, your president, and you wonder what the fuck he is talking about.

Afterwards, if you’re still lucid at your advanced age, you’ll find out Trump was ridiculing your heritage as part of a crude attempt to ridicule Warren, who asserted long ago that she is part Native American. You’ll find out he has a long history of putting down minorities, because that’s the sort of talk that appeals to his base.

You might hear of a press release from Debra Haaland, a Native American candidate for Congress in New Mexico: “I can’t begin to express how angered I am by the display of ignorance in our White House today. The president’s actions disgrace the history of Pocahontas, Native Americans, Navajo code talkers and all Native American veterans who served and died for this country.”

She got it half-right. Trump is as ignorant as a fence post, but his defining trait is malice toward anyone who ever criticized him or resisted his power grabs. He can’t disgrace you or any other Native American. He can only disgrace himself and all the white people who voted for him despite ample evidence he was a buffoon and a would-be dictator.

In the end you might ask yourself, hey, how did a sack of garbage like Trump make it all the way to the White House? Is this the country I fought for?

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I do not recall, y’all


My hard drive died last week, just like that, as if my laptop had had a heart attack. It’s the ideal way to go if you’re old — boom, lights out, that wasn’t so bad, was it?

Except that the last two chapters of my novel-in-progress were on the hard drive and I hadn’t made a back-up file, so everything I’d written was gone. A computer repair guy referred me to a forensics specialist, who told me how much he’d charge to recover the data. He might as well have quoted me a price for brain surgery, it was so far beyond my budget.

I tried to piece together the lost chapters from memory but came up with nothing but fragments of sentences and only a faint recollection of how I’d tied up the plot’s loose ends.

I kept thinking of U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions being asked under oath to help explain why he and many others in Donald Trump’s posse crossed paths with Vladimir Putin’s posse during the presidential campaign.

Sessions told House members “I do not recall,” over and over. He had “no recollection of the details” of his discussions about Russia with former Trump aide and convicted perjuror George Papadopoulos. Or of much else.

I thought damn, is my memory as bad as this dude’s? I have no recollection of the details of my lost chapters, only the memory that they once existed. I do not recall why I made the stupid mistake of not backing up my text.

But things could be worse.

I don’t look and act like the Ku Klux Klan’s elfin mascot.

I’m not an old Confederate masquerading as someone morally qualified to head the Department of Justice.

I know the difference between defective and selective memory.

Most important, I can dispense with my previous version of events and create a new one without having to worry about going to jail for it.

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