Saturday, February 04, 2017

Friday, January 20, 2017

Thank You So Much, Mr. President!

READ MORE:The Most Successful Democrat Since FDR,” by David Leonhardt (The New York Times); “The ‘Most Successful’ Dem President Since FDR Ends on a High Note,” by Steve Benen (The Maddow Blog); “The Time Has Come to Say Goodbye to Obama. ‘Godspeed, Brother. You Did Us Proud,’” by Leonard Pitts Jr. (Miami Herald); “Thanks for Everything, President Obama. We’re Going to Miss You,” by Kevin Drum (Mother Jones); “Missing Barack Obama Already,” by Nicholas Kristof (The New York Times); “A Presidential Giant Exits the Stage,” by Steve Benen (The Maddow Blog); “How the Presidency Changed Obama,” by Julie Hirschfeld Davis (The New York Times); “How the Presidency Changed Obama,” by Julie Hirschfeld Davis (The New York Times); “My President Was Black,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic); “To Obama with Love, and Hate, and Desperation,” by Jeanne Marie Laskas (The New York Times Magazine); “Lessons Taught: Obama’s Legacy as a Historian,” by Jennifer Schuessler (The New York Times); “Pete Souza’s Intimate Portraits of the Barack Obama Years,” by William Boot (The Daily Beast); “Goodbye to All That: What We’ve Learned from Obama’s Presidency,” by Julie Azari (Vox); “The Challenge Posed by Obama’s Calm, Dignified Competency,” by Nancy LeTourneau (Washington Monthly); “The Literary Dividing Line Between Trump and Obama,” by Steve Benen (The Maddow Blog); “Every Book Barack Obama Has Recommended During His Presidency,” by Ruth Kinane (Entertainment Weekly); “Obama to the Press: ‘America Needs You,’” by James Warren (Poynter); “Obama Granted Clemency Unlike Any Other President in History,” by Charlie Smart (FiveThirtyEight); “Obama Has Now Granted 212 Pardons, and More Commutations Than Any President in U.S. History,” by Jen Kirby (New York); “Saying Goodbye: President Obama, Michelle Obama Thank America in Farewell Posts,” by Matthew Rozsa (Salon).

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year, Everybody!

The New Yorker, December 31, 1938, with art by Rea Irvin.

Let’s hope 2017 brings better luck to all of us than American and international observers have been predicting. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Too Late Already

I, for one, am tired of hearing people say we should give Trump a chance as president. Sorry, but ... no. I don’t base my opposition to Trump merely on the fact that I believe he will be a lousy, corrupt politician. I base it on the fact that he’s already proven himself to be a poor excuse for a man. He’s bigoted, homophobic, misogynistic, and a serial sex predator; he’s a greedy, bullying would-be autocrat with a narcissist complex; he’s a congenital liar, a con man, and he thinks Americans are too stupid to realize that he’s pulling the wool over their eyes, that he has no intention of doing anything he promises. I wouldn’t want Trump in MY house, much less the White House. So, no, I won’t give him a chance. In my book, he’s already shown himself unworthy of one.

Friday, November 25, 2016

What Every Trump Voter Should Hear

“I tried to be polite, but now I just don’t give a damn. Because let’s be honest, we don’t live in polite America anymore. We live in grab-’em-by-the-pussy America now. So thank you for that.”


Tuesday, November 15, 2016


I keep hearing that people who voted Trump into office shouldn’t be universally denigrated, because many of them supported him for reasons other than the hatred and arrogant disregard for others that he demonstrated. OK, I can have sympathy for them.

But while all of that may be true, it’s also true that every one of those people who voted for him now OWNS what Trump will do next, whether it’s stealing health care coverage away from 20 million Americans, forcibly deporting millions of undocumented immigrants from our shores, working to undermine and then destroy Medicare and Social Security, banning abortion, undermining efforts necessary to rein in climate change, abrogating international treaties and leaving the United States with fewer and fewer allies it may need in case of attack, or ignoring the Constitution in his efforts to curb press freedoms and limit free speech. Some voters may have somehow succeeded in ignoring or dismissing the clear and present danger bigoted billionaire Trump represented, but that does not absolve them of blame for the damage he and his fellow Republicans intend to do to America’s future.

READ MORE:Screw Your Feelings, Trump Voters,” by Aleksandar Hemon (Slate).

Disaster in the Making

This word will be much in use over the next four years:


(kak-i-STOK-ruh-see, kah-ki-)

noun: Government by the least qualified or worst persons.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Hillary

I’ve dropped two longish personal posts onto my Facebook page since last night, and thought it might be worth sharing them here, too. They clearly define my mood. First, from last night:
It’s 10 p.m. in Seattle, and I need to go to bed. But I do so with fear in my heart. If prognostications are correct, and if all the pollsters were wrong, the United States has just elected a bigoted, incompetent, inexperienced, misogynistic hatemonger, serial liar, and would-be tyrant as its next president. I never thought I would see the country of my birth set out on such a sure course to disaster.

Before I head off to bed, I want to first apologize to the rest of the world for my country inflicting upon it what will surely be four years of new wars, economic decline, diplomatic tensions, and a wave of hatred and xenophobic violence. If Trump does indeed become the next president, international trust in the United States will inevitably decline, and this country’s stature as a shining beacon of hope will dim severely, if not be extinguished entirely.

This sharp detour toward misfortune was none of my doing; I did not, and would never, vote into the White House somebody as hateful, vengeful, and willfully ignorant as Trump. Whatever motivated others among my countrymen to cast their votes in his favor, I cannot fathom. All I can do is hope that the United States somehow weathers this horror and puts itself to rights once more, even if I don’t live long enough to see how that is accomplished.

I am an American. But tonight I am ashamed of what my country has done.
And then from earlier today:
To any Facebook “friends” who voted for Trump: please unfriend me now.

I don’t care why you voted against Hillary Clinton. It’s what you voted FOR that distresses me. You voted for a more hateful country; a country that thumbs its nose at the rest of the world; a country that is OK with bigotry and racism and sexism; a country that denigrates people because of who they love; a country that doesn't care about affordable health care for all; a country that thinks women are mere objects for male entertainment; a country that accepts vulgar pronouncements from our “leaders,” without regard to how such language divides us and harms our youngest citizens; a country where elected officials encourage violence in order to maintain their fragile hold on power; a country that despises people for being well-educated and well-informed; a country where Big Business is allowed to run rampant, without legislative checks, and the rich are applauded for not paying their share of taxes; a country with a banana republic government and a megalomaniac at the helm; a country that fears international alliances and therefore must spend more and more money in hopes of self-protection; a country where short-term gains trump long-term accomplishments; a country that is not the country in which I was born.

Our views of the world, and of a productive U.S. future and what is right are too different to share the same space. You’ve voted for isolationism—get used to that by unfriending me now.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

It’s Time to Step Up and Vote!

Americans, at least those who have not already participated in early voting drives, have the opportunity today—November 8—to cast their ballots in what more than a few commentators have called one of the most important elections in modern U.S. history. It’s historic not simply because it may well result in this country being led for the first time in more than two centuries by a woman president; but also because her opponent has demonstrated a rank disregard for political norms such as disclosing his tax returns and graciously accepting defeat, and an authoritarian antipathy toward not only a free press and civil political discourse, but also shocking disrespect for entire swaths of the American electorate, including immigrants, racial minorities, and women.

Nobody who knows me personally or who has read Limbo over the years should be in any doubt of who I’m voting for this year. My enthusiastic support goes to Democrat Hillary Clinton, whose qualifications for the Oval Office (former secretary of state, former U.S. senator, former first lady of both Arkansas and the nation) are without dispute, and whose temperament and grasp of the issues and tough decisions facing this country over the next four years is far superior to her adversary’s. I didn’t vote for Hillary back in 2008, when she was running for the Democratic nomination against the more charismatic and inspirational Barack Obama. But I have more closely watched her perform on the international and national stage during the last eight years, and been mightily impressed.

Hillary Clinton may not be a perfect candidate for the U.S. presidency: no human being can be. Yet, in the face of often ugly, destructive propaganda from the Republican Party—born amid fevered partisan delusions and take-no-prisoners hatred in the 1990s, when her husband, Bill Clinton, was president, and still infecting politics two decades later—Hillary has maintained a steady and determined demeanor, and been a consistent and assertive voice for such things as human rights, women’s rights, and voting rights. Unlike her bombastic adversary, Hillary believes in the value of science and the dangers inherent in not acting against threats of global warming; believes in the value of maintaining historical alliances with other countries that the United States may need in the event of any emergency; believes that affordable health care should be a right of all Americans, not just those with deep pockets; and believes that the Supreme Court of the United States has an important role in improving our lot as citizens, and should never be held hostage to over-grown schoolyard bullies who contend that only Republican presidents have a right to choose new justices for that high bench.

As The New York Times wrote in its September endorsement of Mrs. Clinton to be the 45th U.S. chief executive:
The next president will take office with bigoted, tribalist movements and their leaders on the march. In the Middle East and across Asia, in Russia and Eastern Europe, even in Britain and the United States, war, terrorism and the pressures of globalization are eroding democratic values, fraying alliances and challenging the ideals of tolerance and charity.

The 2016 campaign has brought to the surface the despair and rage of poor and middle-class Americans who say their government has done little to ease the burdens that recession, technological change, foreign competition and war have heaped on their families.

Over 40 years in public life, Hillary Clinton has studied these forces and weighed responses to these problems. Our endorsement is rooted in respect for her intellect, experience, toughness and courage over a career of almost continuous public service, often as the first or only woman in the arena. …

Through war and recession, Americans born since 9/11 have had to grow up fast, and they deserve a grown-up president. A lifetime’s commitment to solving problems in the real world qualifies Hillary Clinton for this job, and the country should put her to work.
Of Hillary’s Republican rival … well, here’s what The New Yorker said about would-be demagogue and notorious pussy-grabber Trump:
On every issue of consequence, including economic policy, the environment, and foreign affairs, Hillary Clinton is a distinctly capable candidate: experienced, serious, schooled, resilient. When the race began, Clinton, who has always been a better office-holder than a campaigner, might have anticipated a clash of ideas and personalities on the conventional scale, against, say, Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio. Instead, the Democratic nominee has ended up playing a sometimes secondary role in a squalid American epic. If she is elected, she will have weathered a prolonged battle against a trash-talking, burn-it-to-the-ground demagogue. Unfortunately, the drama is not likely to end soon. The aftereffects of this campaign may befoul our civic life for some time to come.

If the prospect of a female President represents a departure in the history of American politics, the candidacy of Donald J. Trump, the real-estate mogul and Republican nominee, does, too—a chilling one. He is manifestly unqualified and unfit for office. Trained in the arts of real-estate promotion and reality television, he exhibits scant interest in or familiarity with policy. He favors conspiracy theory and fantasy, deriving his knowledge from the darker recesses of the Internet and “the shows.” He has never held office or otherwise served his country, never acceded to the authority of competing visions and democratic resolutions.

Worse still, he does not accept the authority of constitutional republicanism—its norms, its faiths and practices, its explicit rules and implicit understandings. That much is clear from his statements about targeting press freedoms, infringing on an independent judiciary, banning Muslim immigration, deporting undocumented immigrants without a fair hearing, reviving the practice of torture, and, in the third and final [presidential] debate, his refusal to say that he will accept the outcome of the election. Trump has even threatened to prosecute and imprison his opponent. The American demagogues from the past century who most closely resemble him—Father [Charles] Coughlin and Senator Joseph McCarthy among them—were dangers to the republic, but they never captured the Presidential nomination of a major political party. Father Coughlin commanded a radio show and its audience. President Trump would command the armed forces of the United States, control its nuclear codes, appoint judges, propose legislation, and conduct foreign policy. It is a convention of our quadrennial pieties to insist that this election is singularly important. But Trump really does represent something singular. The prospect of such a President—erratic, empty, cruel, intolerant, and corrupt—represents a form of national emergency.
Sadly, Trump has pulled the entire Republican Party down to his mud-wrestling level, endangering the future stability of our democratic republic and worsening tensions between the two major political parties. The deceptive practices, racism, sexism, petty vengefulness, and general hatreds Trump demonstrates, and which his fellow Republican candidates all across the country have endorsed (either overtly or through their timorous silence), have convinced me that what was once known as the Grand Old Party has fallen on hard times and must be reconceived; in the meantime, it cannot be trusted anymore with the levers of power. Therefore, not only have I voted for Hillary Clinton as president this year, but I’m casting a straight Democratic ticket. I want to be sure that the new President Clinton enters the White House supported by a serious, cooperative Congress that, beginning in 2017, can go back to legislating for the benefit of all Americans, not just Republican scorched-earthers.

Today promises a new era in U.S. history, whether favorable or divisive, depending on the vote outcomes. It’s up to all of us to take part in deciding what sort of country we want: one where voices are raised in optimism and mutual support, or where the angry shouts of right-wing extremists overcome common sense? So cast your ballot thoughtfully, as if your future depended on it … because it does.

READ MORE:The Imperative of Voting for Hillary Clinton,” by Richard North Patterson (The Huffington Post); “Hillary Clinton Has to Be Gracious to Donald Trump. The Rest of Us Don’t,” by Paul Waldman (The Washington Post).

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Five Years, 50 Years—Mission Accomplished

Tonight marks 50 years since the debut of the NBC-TV series Star Trek. Terence Towles Canote has a nice in-depth post up about this anniversary, which notes that
Since September 8, 1966, Star Trek has become the stuff of television legends. It was the low-rated science-fiction show saved by its fans from cancellation that became a phenomenon in syndicated reruns. While there is some truth to the legend (in its initial network run Star Trek’s ratings were always moderate to low), there is much about the legend that simply isn’t true. Indeed, even while in its first run there were signs that Star Trek was on its way to becoming a phenomenon.
Comic-book writer Christopher Mills offers his own thoughts on the show, in Atomic Pulp, explaining that the original, 1966-1969 Trek “inspired and informed the person I became.
I learned the value of reason and logic from an alien with pointed ears and a Satanic visage. I learned the nobility of humanity and compassion toward all life, regardless of shape, color or form, from an anachronistic Southern medic. And, most importantly, I learned about the worth of boldness, courage, and tempered wisdom from a charming leader with a confident swagger sporting a gold tunic. [Captain James T.] Kirk was a fighter, a diplomat, a philosopher—and a libidinous wolf—but in my eyes, he was the best of us as a species. He wasn’t perfect—and to his credit, usually admitted his flaws and acknowledged his mistakes—but he was also a man of intelligence and action, who sought out brave new worlds and always had his eye on the future.
My own experience with Star Trek didn’t begin until the early 1970s, when I was old enough and aware enough to appreciate television. To my mother’s regret and my father’s everlasting bewilderment, I became a Trek fan for life as a result of watching reruns of that series’ original 79 episodes about a multi-cultural crew of explorers who raced across the galaxy in a sleek starship, bringing help to humans and aliens in need, and taking with them a message of hope and love and peace. (It didn’t hurt, either, that there was the occasional Orion dancing girl to catch a young boy’s eye!) I have since seen all of the Star Trek spinoffs and every Trek movie save the most recent one. I even went with my niece one year to a Trek convention, during which I had the pleasure of listening to William Shatner recount his hilarious experience in traveling to Seattle for that event.

I think creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek has been greatly enhanced and deepened by some of the people who took over the franchise after his death in 1991, particularly executive producer Rick Berman. Yet Roddenberry gave television watchers the blueprint, and even half a century later, his “Wagon Train to the stars” is as durable and promising and hopeful as ever.

Live long and prosper, my fellow Star Trek fans!

READ MORE:To Boldly Imagine: Star Trek’s Half Century,” by Andrew Liptak (Kirkus Reviews); “Star Trek’s Still as Relevant on the 50th Anniversary,” by Dave Marinaccio (Bookgasm); “The Mission to Restore the Original Starship Enterprise,” by Jackie Mansky (Smithsonian); “Star Trek at 50: The Theme Song Has Lyrics. No, Really,” by Chris Barton (Los Angeles Times).

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Terrible ... or Terribly Good?

This is far from the first time I’ve written about the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which asks contestants to submit the worst (e.g., funniest and most outlandish) opening sentences from never-to-be-finished books. Yet the task never ceases to make me smile. As Neatorama explains, “The annual contest is named for Victorian novelist Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton, who once began a book with the phrase ‘It was a dark and stormy night …’ and cemented those words as a writing cliché.” 2016 marks the 34th year for this bad-writing challenge, sponsored by the English Department at San Jose State University.

Fifty-five-year-old Tallahassee, Florida, building contractor William “Barry” Brockett has been declared the overall winner of this year’s competition. His submission bears a distinctly hard-boiled air:
Even from the hall, the overpowering stench told me the dingy caramel glow in his office would be from a ten-thousand-cigarette layer of nicotine baked on a naked bulb hanging from a frayed wire in the center of a likely cracked and water-stained ceiling, but I was broke, he was cheap, and I had to find her.
The winner in the Crime/Detective category is Charles Caldwell of Leesville, Louisiana, who sent in this entry:
She walked toward me with her high heels clacking like an out-of-balance ceiling fan set on low, smiling as though about to spit pus from a dental abscess, and I knew right away that she was going to leave me feeling like I had used a wood rasp to cure my hemorrhoids.
But I am also rather fond of Akron, Ohio, resident Andrew Caruso’s “Dishonorable Mention” recipient in that same category:
As he gazed at Ming’s lifeless body draped over the sushi bar, chopsticks protruding from his back, Det. Herc Lue Perrot came to the sobering realization that tonight, there had been a murder at the Orient Express.
And I got an especially big chuckle out of the winner in the Purple Prose category, which comes from Rachel Nirenberg of Toronto, Canada:
She was like my ex-girlfriend Ashley, who'd stolen my car, broken my heart, murdered my father, robbed a bank, and set off a pipe bomb in Central Park—tall.
Click here to enjoy all of this year’s winners and runners-up.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Trump’s Failures Build

Based on this editorial in yesterday’s New York Times—pointing out the ridiculousness of Republican Donald Trump’s recent charge that President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton somehow co-founded ISIS—Daniel W. Drezner, an American professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, suggests on Twitter that Trump has “stumbled into a campaign doom loop”:
1. Trump’s polling gets a negative shock
2. Fewer moderates attend his rallies
3. Only hardcore supporters go see Trump
4. Trump tailors speeches to get a rise out of his audience
5. With an audience of crazies, Trump needs to sound
even crazier
6. In sounding crazier, Trump’s poll numbers sink, more voters
turned off
7. Back to #2

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Clinton Wins the Character Contest

This is a surprise. The Houston Chronicle, one of the largest newspapers in Texas (and a previous backer of Republican Mitt Romney) has just endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president.

And in no uncertain terms.
On Nov. 8, 2016, the American people will decide between two presidential contenders who represent the starkest political choice in living memory. They will choose between one candidate with vast experience and a lifelong dedication to public service and another totally lacking in qualifications to be president. They will decide whether they prefer someone deeply familiar with the issues that are important to this nation or a person whose paper-thin, bumper-sticker proposals would be dangerous to the nation and the world if somehow they were enacted.

Chronicle editorial page does not typically endorse early in an election cycle; we prefer waiting for the campaign to play out and for issues to emerge and be addressed. We make an exception in the 2016 presidential race, because the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is not merely political. It is something much more basic than party preference.

An election between the Democrat Clinton and, let's say, the Republican Jeb Bush or John Kasich or Marco Rubio, even the hyper-ideological Ted Cruz, would spark a much-needed debate about the role of government and the nation's future, about each candidate's experience and abilities. But those Republican hopefuls have been vanquished. To choose the candidate who defeated them—fairly and decisively, we should point out—is to repudiate the most basic notions of competence and capability.

Any one of Trump's less-than-sterling qualities—his erratic temperament, his dodgy business practices, his racism, his Putin-like strongman inclinations and faux-populist demagoguery, his contempt for the rule of law, his ignorance—is enough to be disqualifying. His convention-speech comment, "I alone can fix it," should make every American shudder. He is, we believe, a danger to the Republic.
The paper goes on to applaud Clinton’s opposition to Trump’s “ridiculous border-wall,” her support of the Affordable Care Act and immigration reform, and her serious approach to climate change before concluding:
These are unsettling times, even if they're not the dark, dystopian end times that Trump lays out. They require a steady hand. That's not Donald Trump.

The times also require a person who envisions a hopeful future for this nation, a person who has faith in the strong, prosperous and confident America we hope to bequeath our children and grandchildren, as first lady Michelle Obama so eloquently envisioned in Philadelphia. That's not Donald Trump's America.

It is Hillary Clinton's, who reminded her listeners Thursday night that "When there are no ceilings, the sky's the limit."

America's first female president would be in the Oval Office more than a century and a half after a determined group of women launched the women's suffrage movement, almost a century after women in this country won the right to vote. It's a milestone, to be sure. Few could have imagined it would be so consequential.
You can read the whole editorial here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Losing Patty

I'm so sorry to hear that actress Patty Duke has passed away at age 69. She was a fixture of TV reruns during my childhood.


READ MORE:R.I.P., Patty Duke,” by Ken Levine; “Godspeed Patty Duke,” by Terence Towles Canote (A Shroud of Thoughts); “The Hat Squad—Remembering Patty Duke,” by Toby O’B (Inner Toob); “Disastrous Demise: Patty Duke, 1946-2016” (Poseidon’s Underworld).