Rabid Rudy just won’t fade away

In 1951, Douglas MacArthur, grand poobah of the armies and supreme egomaniac, announced his retirement by telling Congress, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”

That was then.

Nowadays, old soldiers and politicians and grifters and lawyers fight to their dying breath to not fade away. For example, Rudy Giuliani spent a decade and a half praising himself for having been mayor of New York in 2001 when those two planes took out the twin towers. As Joe Biden famously said, “…There’s only three things [Giuliani] mentions in a sentence — a noun and a verb and 9/11…”

But something new has come up. Giuliani, who more than ever looks and sounds like a rabid chipmunk, has elbowed his way back into the news by becoming the new legal rodent on Donald Trump’s sinking ship, where he’s quickly proven to be even dumber than long-time Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

On Wednesday night, Giuliani told Fox News talking head and Trump ass-wipe Sean Hannity that Trump had reimbursed Cohen for the $130,000 Cohen said he gave porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public about having an affair with Trump. This, of course, directly contradicted Trump’s claim that he knew nothing about a payoff to Daniels.

Stormy’s hired gun Michael Avenatti reacted to Giuliani’s remarks by telling CNN “I said it weeks ago, I’m going to say it again: Mr. Trump will not serve out his term. No way. No how. He will be forced to ultimately resign. This is a bombshell.”

A bombshell Trump set off by scraping the bottom of the barrel to find a lawyer who will delay the inevitable. Giuliani is doing the opposite. We should thank him for not fading away.

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Correspondents celebrate failure to do their jobs

I heard comedian Michelle Wolf interviewed on the radio today. She made news Saturday at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner by tweaking chronic liars Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway, but one of her best lines was directed at the liar-in-chief and his symbiotic relationship with correspondents and their bosses:

What no one in this room wants to admit is that … [Trump has] helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him.

It wasn’t even a joke, but that’s my point. Wolf isn’t a dazzling wit in the style of Stephen Colbert, who skewers Donald Trump on a nightly basis for fans who already know Trump is doing great harm to the notion that we live in a democracy.

In fact, Wolf is about as subtle as a flying mallet, maybe because she knows you can’t get the attention of the journalists who enabled Trump without hitting them over the head with the obvious — i.e., that they knew Trump was unqualified to be president and deliberately failed to communicate this truth when it could have made a difference.

Remember, Trump lost the popular vote by a large margin, and there’s a good chance he would have lost the election if swing voters, and non-voters, had known more about his background. But most D.C.-based reporters rarely questioned Trump’s boastful lies while he was campaigning, choosing instead to present them as what Conway would call “alternative facts.”

By shining a brighter light on facets of Trump’s career — for example, his years as a corrupt and incompetent casino owner in Atlantic City — the media could have totally discredited him. They chose instead to soft-pedal his rotten personal history, lest they be accused of liberal bias, a charge that might adversely affect their ability to suck up to the insiders who provide them with so-called scoops.

Check out how Margaret Talev of the White House Correspondents’ Association responded to Wolf’s performance:

Last night’s program was meant to offer a unifying message about our common commitment to a vigorous and free press while honoring civility, great reporting, and scholarship winners, not to divide people. Unfortunately, the entertainer’s monologue was not in the spirit of that mission.

Talev is an idiot, or worse. A free press cares about truth, not civility. The truth will inevitably “divide people” because it alienates those who want to suppress it. Any journalist who doesn’t accept these common-sense facts should be working for the other side.

Footnote: I don’t mean to imply Colbert doesn’t pack a punch. He used the flying-mallet approach to crush George W. Bush at the 2006 correspondents’ dinner. At least Bush, unlike Trump, had enough balls to show up for the event.

Another: Sure, a lot of mainstream journalists are doing good work now and might help topple Trump, but where were they early on, when the beast was slouching toward Washington, D.C.?

One more: None of this is to let Hillary Clinton off the hook for the terrible campaign she ran. A better candidate would have overcome the media’s reluctance to tell the whole truth about Trump.

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Starbucks helps widen the great divide

Headline from an opinion piece by a lifelong black resident of Philadelphia:
“Starbucks wasn’t created for black folks, it was made to push us out.”

The piece appeared this week in response to the widely reported arrest of two young black men at a Starbucks in Philly’s affluent Rittenhouse Square section. The store manager called the cops on the men, who were sitting at a table but hadn’t yet bought anything. A customer recorded the arrest with her phone, the video went viral, and protests ensued.

The Starbucks story sounds like it’s about racism, and it is, but it’s also about classism. The fact that arrests were made, and made almost immediately, demonstrates how high a priority Philly cops place on protecting residents of affluent neighborhoods from real and imagined dangers.

Put another way, it’s likely that arrests wouldn’t have been made — that police wouldn’t even have been called — if the incident had occurred at a Starbucks in a poor neighborhood, where people are less likely to raise a fuss unless something truly criminal is taking place.

Wait, I forgot — there are no Starbucks in poor neighborhoods. The mere presence of a Starbucks in a neighborhood indicates that property values are booming to the point where poor people, black and white, have been pushed out, or soon will be pushed out, by people who can afford higher rental and mortgage payments.

(Check out the Zillow study, conducted in 2015, that documents the role Starbucks plays in the “gentrification” of city neighborhoods.)

Now Starbucks has announced it will close 8,000 stores for an afternoon next month in order to hold “racial-bias education” sessions for its employees. This may be a smart corporate strategy for avoiding lawsuits, but it will do nothing to allay the xenophobia so prevalent in wealthy enclaves where residents have enough clout at City Hall to make cops jump through hoops at their command.

Racial bias sessions won’t keep wealthy residents from raising a stink when someone plays a flute in the square, or when the so-called Friends of Rittenhouse Square try to ban wall sitting there.

More broadly, the sessions will do nothing to relieve tensions in big cities like Philly, where the gulf between rich and poor residents continues to widen.

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Pistol-packing pol doesn’t mind dying

Now the senator came down here/Showing everyone his gun…
— Bob Dylan, “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again”

This guy isn’t a senator. He’s Rep. Ralph Norman, and he is fast, fast on the draw. So fast that he made the news last week by whipping out a loaded handgun and placing it on his table while having “coffee with constituents” at a restaurant in Rock Hill, SC.

“I don’t mind dying, but whoever shoots me better shoot well or I’m shooting back,” he later said.

“I don’t mind dying” is a line from Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” The narrator of the song is a boastful young rowdy looking to impress a girl named Arlene. Norman is a middle-aged Republican drone who’s also looking to impress Arlene, I guess.

The congressman told his coffee mates that he’d protect them with his gun. He vowed to not end up like Gabby Giffords, the ex-congresswoman who was shot in the head by some hombre while meeting with constituents in Arizona back in 2011.

But what if some bad guy had walked over to the table, picked up the gun, pointed it at Norman, and said “Who you gonna protect now, cowboy?”

Norman told reporters his intent was to demonstrate that “guns don’t shoot people; people shoot guns.”

One of them should have replied, “Anyone who would say something that stupid shouldn’t be allowed to have a gun, or hold public office.”

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Trump has nothing to lose

Reporters and White House insiders seemed to agree yesterday that Donald Trump was “losing it” I wondered what they were talking about. Did they mean his ability to put aside personal problems and focus on the welfare of others? Was it his sense of humor, his grip on reality, his human decency?

He never had any of those things, so how could he lose them? He is what he is – the ultimate ugly American, obsessed with the ownership and sale of things, content to believe that greed, fraudulence, ignorance and arrogance are virtues, not flaws.

Trump apparently threw a tantrum in the White House after learning the FBI had raided his personal attorney’s home and office. Later, in front of reporters, he called the raid “an attack on America,” as if nailing down evidence of his corrupt conduct, in and out of office, was akin to Pearl Harbor or 9-11.

But there’s no point ranting about Trump. What’s exasperating is his fan base, that malignant mass of white Americans who refuse to renounce him, to admit they were suckers for having voted for him. Many of them admire him, precisely because his persona reflects their own worst selves.

Trump tweeted this today:

Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!

Nice and new and smart. Gas killing animal. In a little while, Trump fans might get to see the real-world consequences of having elected a fake macho man who thinks it’s a good idea to risk World War III by punching adolescent threats into his phone.

The awful truth: Our fearful leader is happy to risk World War III, if only to divert attention from the Mueller probe, which seems to have hit pay dirt. That’s the kind of guy Trump is.

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From Iraq to Trumpland

Tom Engelhardt marks the 15th anniversary of the start of a war that seems more disastrous with each passing year:

In an act of pure wizardry, bin Laden drew out of Bush, Cheney, and company their deepest geopolitical fantasies about the ability of [the United States] … to dominate any situation on Earth. The early months of 2003, when they were preparing to invade Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, may have been their ultimate hubristic moment, in which imagining anything other than success of a historic sort, not just in that country but far beyond it, was inconceivable.

I read the above to my friend Swamp Rabbit and told him I’d felt at that time that something really bad might happen, something even bigger than 9/11 and another ground war. Everybody and their mother was flying the flag and pinning yellow ribbons on phone poles and calling Muslims rag heads. French fries were renamed “freedom fries” by a Congressional jackass who was mad because France wanted no part in America’s war plans.

Saddam and bin Laden weren’t in cahoots, far from it, but many people were too worked up to see they were being lied to by Bush and Cheney and others who stood to make big money when the bombs started falling. A huge number of Americans approved of the war in Iraq. Then they disapproved. Then they sort of shut up and went back to their video games and reality TV shows.

But fear and loathing of dark-skinned foreigners lingered, along with contempt for politicians of both parties who’d supported the war. As historian Andrew Bacevich recently noted, contempt was strongest in those communities that had been most affected by the war.

But the contempt didn’t coalesce, didn’t really have a face, until real estate hustler and reality TV star Donald Trump decided to run for president. Millions of voters spited the establishment and themselves by electing a bloated bigot with a bizarre comb-over who would seek to ban Muslims, build a border wall and “make America great again.”

Swamp Rabbit told me I should chill. “Trump ain’t nothing but a clown. You make him sound like an antichrist.”

John Lyden is an antichrist,” I said. “Trump is an anti-human. He uses fear and hate to grab power. A classic dictator type. The more he gets, the more he wants.”

Swamp Rabbit was annoyed. “Ain’t no call for that kind of talk. I can’t picture Trump becoming dictator. It can’t happen here.”

“Two years ago, you couldn’t picture him becoming president,” I said. “How’d that work out for you?”

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We’ve got a long way to go, baby


Last week Johnnie Walker Black Label, the scotch company, introduced “The Jane Walker Edition” in an effort to persuade women to drink more scotch and

…to coincide with Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day celebrations. In a multi-faceted attempt to support women in business, culture and politics, the company will donate $1 for each bottle produced to nonprofit campaigns like Monumental Women…

The ad campaign features a female version of the Johnnie Walker “striding man” logo and the slogan “With every step, we all move forward.” It’s like the campaign for Virginia Slims, a cigarette brand that appeared in 1968 and used the slogan “You’ve come a long way, baby” to persuade women to take up the smoking habit.

Here’s how far you’ve come, baby: You’re still being condescended to by con men who will voice support for just about any cause that might increase their bottom-line profits.

And here’s how far we’ve all come: We’re still being duped into accepting it’s perfectly normal to bow down to corporations that have perfected the art of convincing us to buy stuff we don’t need at prices few of us can really afford.

The Jane Walker phenomenon is not about promoting “gender equality.” It’s about teaching women to be good consumers and to endorse a corporate culture in which CEOs make about 350 times more money than the average worker, a disparity that no other country comes close to matching.

So drink up, boys and girls. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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