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Beltane

Today is Beltane, the Celtic fire festival that announces the beginning of summer. There’s a big fire festival on Calton Hill in Edinburgh every year with a procession of the May Queen to meet her Green Man. They are accompanied by Elementals representing fire, earth, air and water. The pictures are spectacular and it looks like everyone has a good time, running around half naked with bodies painted from head to toe.

You don’t need to be a pagan to appreciate nature and the change in seasons. I’m a water worshipper.

“And Flint still doesn’t have clean water”

Just sayin’.

I looked for Beltane songs online. A recommendation was “I Touch Myself” by the DiVinyls, which, I have to admit really taps into the spirit of Beltane but I think I’ll save that one for tonight.

Ahem.

Anyway, this one is pretty good for we water elementals out there.

Happy Beltane. Get your pagan on.

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#kissmyass A little more…

There is a lot of pearl clutching and toppling onto the fainting couch this morning about how “searing” and “vulgar” Michelle Wolf was at the White House Correspondents Dinner last night.

Here’s the best thing Michelle said last night:

“You guys are obsessed with Trump,”

“I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks, or vodka, or water, or college, or ties, or Eric—but he has helped you. He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster and now you’re profiting off of him. And if you’re gonna profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money—because he doesn’t have any.

You know what? I don’t want to fucking hear about how vulgar she was in the rest of her speech. She nailed it. Go read the two posts I wrote on Amy Chozick if you don’t believe her.

We are in the worst crisis in our nation’s history since the Civil War. In fact, we are in a second civil war right now. The rebellion has spread beyond the south and now its marbled in all of our communities. Some more than others. I am beyond relieved to live where I do in Pittsburgh surrounded by hard working honorable people who I respect and like. I feel very sorry for Democrats stuck in Jackson, Mississippi or backwoods Georgia. But make no mistake, it’s out there and the tension between the two sides is palpable. Some days, they win a battle, some days we do. And it takes all our concentration on a daily basis to not rage against the way good people are being treated just because they have a different skin color, or aren’t CIS or are women or are sick or mentally ill or not white Anglo Saxon Protestant males.

God help you if you are not worth at least hundreds of millions of dollars in America these days. If you aren’t, and most of us aren’t, then you are a complete loser to the Trump contingent and the well connected wealthy people who bought their congressional representatives. Trump gives his voters the cheap thrill of bullying people they think are below them in the social hierarchy while directing their attention away from the neo-feudal lords who are taking everything that isn’t nailed down. What could be more nasty and brutish than that? Are we saying it’s more important to protect the fee-fees of Sarah Sanders who willfully enables the wholesale slaughter of our democracy than to protect the people who are on the losing end of it?

All of those people who are getting all prissy about Michelle Wolf gave us this moron having “campaign rallies” continuously since he took office.

This is a man who called Nazis “very fine people”.

That is one of the most vulgar and offensive things I have ever heard coming from the ugly little fish mouth of Donald Trump. There is nothing even remotely fine about Nazis. It would be like promoting satanism as our state religion.

Before they bluster and sputter and grab their smelling salts about what Michelle Wolf said, they should hold this man and his loathesome, lying borg of a press secretary accountable for the harm they are perpetrating on the vast majority of Americans (and let’s not even get started on the obscene way he has treated our American citizens in Puerto Rico).

Until then, they can all kiss my ass.

Addendum: Our press is very stupid. They think they can continue to use Trump as a revenue enhancing gimmick without repercussions. Oh, sure, he’s getting down on the media but they’re protected by the first amendment. What’s he going to do? Change the constitution??

That’s very possible. They should be studying what happened in Turkey, Hungary and Poland in the last several years. In fact, without an independent corporate media, the freedom of speech would still exist. We just wouldn’t hear much of it. The news would be relegated to blogs, provided net neutrality obliteration let you get to them. Or newspapers on paper, provided tariffs on newsprint still made that economically viable. There is always HAM radios I suppose but they require government issued licenses. Good luck with that.

If the press isn’t careful, it will be corralled into a metaphorical and actual free speech zone where they will have all the free speech they can eat and where they will disturb absolutely no one.

Second Addendum: the hypocrisy of the pearl clutches is over the top. Peter Daou puts it in perspective:

He’s talking about you, Amy.

She can dish it out.

Here are two more press related things.

First up, Michelle Wolf gets even at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Some of her jokes landed, like the ones about Trump’s wealth, some of them didn’t, like the ones about Sarah Sanders. I think of Sanders as the robotic experiment that crossed all the qualities of a refrigerator with the worst DMV clerk you have ever had to interact with. But what was missing in that image of SSDLX18 was her underlying religious zeal and dominant humorlessness. Wolf nailed it when she called Sanders “Aunt Lydia” after the sadistic capo in charge of the Handmaid’s training facility in the Handmaid’s Tale. (Season 2 is streaming on Hulu and it gets really dark this season. IKR?)

Wolf goes on to ping Sanders even more but probably no worse than how Trump treats everyone he doesn’t like. Remember how he made fun of Hillary and how he would never hit on “that!”? How about when he called Kim Jun-Un “little rocket man” and made fun of his “nuclear button”. Wolf was only settling the score since she was the most visible member of the Trump White House on the dais. Yep, called her a liar too. Calling someone a liar is never funny but she deserved it.

Wolf is not generally a political stand up. But after a year of the Trump administration, we’re all on our last nerves. Check her roast out here:

Second, I found another interview with Amy Chozick and one of the Slate group podcasts. This time, it’s I Have To Ask with Isaac Chotiner. I don’t want to put a Trump target on Slate but they’re flying under the radar as having some of the best and most biting commentary and analysis about the Trump era.

Isaac shreds Amy head on about the frothy, mean girl chatter that made up the bulk of the Clinton Campaign coverage in 2016. I don’t know whether Amy thought she was going to be interviewed by her own side or what exactly but this interview was even more revealing than Heffernan’s. It’s like someone gave Chozick truth serum but forgot to tell her to put a lid on her conspiratorial glee. You have GOT to listen to it to believe it. Here is part of the transcript:

When it comes to the issue of the emails, and the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of it, you say about the Times that “there was an insatiable appetite for email-related stories. I can’t explain it exactly except to compare it to a fever that spread through every newsroom and made us all salivate over the tiniest morsels.” You say you regret and resent this, but what role do you think the Times had in how big a story it became? And do you connect the way you describe the “salivating over the tiniest morsels” to your description of Ryan and the type of political stories the Times wanted?

I don’t say that it spread through the Times. I say it spread through every—the insatiable appetite is clearly across all media. It’s not specific to the Times in the book.

You say it “spread through every newsroom and made us all salivate over the tiniest morsels.” That presumably includes the Times.

“Us,” the media, yeah, the media including the Times. I think a lot of the furor over the emails came from cable news and what was feeding cable, so I want to make clear that that section wasn’t just about the Times. Look, I understand Hillary’s supporters complaining about the veracity and volume of stories around the email server. But I think it’s hard to say that the leading candidate for the presidency of the United States being under FBI investigation is a nonstory, which seems like what some of her supporters have argued. You can debate the legitimacy of the FBI investigation, but it was definitely a big story. There is an easy sense of comparing it to the scandals on the other side, on Trump’s side, and saying, “Well, compared to what Trump has done, it’s nothing.” I think it’s a dangerous proposition to say, well, because the other guy is beyond the pale, we are going to ignore this other big story.

That said, I do write in the book that I regret and even resent that it became the only story. We would go to see these press conferences when Hillary did them—because she rarely did—and reporters would just scream at her about emails. There would be people trying to get other questions in and it just got completely drowned out. My best example of this is that I spent a year trying to talk to this woman Sarah Ehrman, who was this feminist firebrand Democrat who Hillary lived with after law school when she was working on the Watergate committee and she was moving down to Arkansas to marry Bill Clinton. And Sarah Ehrman offered to drive her down and on the three-day road trip she tried to talk her out of it. She said, “You are throwing your life away. You are the most gifted woman I have ever met. You could do anything you want to do.” So I had wanted to re-create this road trip to show readers this vulnerable, different side of Hillary, and it took me a year to convince Sarah Ehrman to speak on the record. I had to bring her babka and wine, and finally I get the story together, and it posts [online] and three hours later Comey sends his letter to Congress, so the story never even made it into the paper. It was impossible to get other sympathetic stories to break through in the environment we were in.

“Yeah, it’s so strange how this environment got created. I have no idea how that happened. So, you know, we went for it because, what could we do??”

{{Oh my god}}

There’s more in that interview about the reason why they blew Hillary’s email story all out of proportion. She just wasn’t corrupt enough and the disparity between her and Trump was so big and glaring that it felt imbalanced. So they HAD to play up the email story because it was all they had. You’ve got to ask why it never occurred to the NYTimes that THAT was their story. She was squeaky clean and he was corrupt as f*ck. That was the story, Amy. You could have plumbed the depths of Trump’s corruption and compared it to Clinton. We had a right to know how corrupt he was in comparison to Clinton. Your job is to report reality, not distort it to sell papers.

By the way, Comey set the record straight about the “investigation”. It was more of an inquiry. There was never anything even the least bit criminal about her server and he anticipated from the beginning that the FBI wasn’t going to find anything. If the NYTimes had really been doing their work, they would have known all this from the beginning and they probably did. But just like Comey, they were afraid of looking like they were too soft on Hillary. Their audiences demanded blood in the water. Who were their audiences? Well, they were ALL of us. But they both overlooked that because… why exactly?

[It should be noted that Heffernan and Jacob Weisberg of Trumpcast reviewed Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, as well. Their review of his book was much more favorable. They think Comey is a good writer, and even though they didn’t always agree with his decisions, they understood what it was in Comey’s character and background that lead to them. Comey’s actions are explainable because they come from a core of a well defined personality.]

Comey is showing signs of definite remorse. He is painfully aware of what damage his letter did to his country and he reflects on his part in it. You can see him become more and more aware of this in his book tour interviews. He initially put aside his culpability but starts acknowledging it. Not so with Amy. For her it was all a big mean girl free for all where she played the more than witting. She knew what she was doing and loved every minute of humiliating Hillary.

I just want to know who put Amy up to writing this book in the first place. She comes across as the biggest ass kissing flying monkey to her editors. Or maybe she’s the sacrificial offering. Yeah, let’s make the overly eager wannabe from Texas the face of the NYTimes mean girl. She served her purpose. Amy acts like the Trump years are all going swimmingly as far as the Times is concerned or thinks everyone else in the media is kind of on its side. Turns out, not so much. Slate seems to have an excess of resistors at the moment and they are pulling back the dirty underside of the New York Times kimono. Amy is going to have to eat by herself when she gets back to her desk.

An open letter to Amy Chozick and the NYTimes.

Dear Amy et al,

I just heard your interview on Trumpcast with Virginia Heffernan about your experiences covering the Clinton campaign during 2016 that you write about in your book, Chasing Hillary. Heffernan made you squirm, didn’t she? She never mentioned Chelsea’s hair or popping Champagne. That would be a distraction from what Heffernan actually zeroed in on, which was how the NYTimes handled the hacked DNC emails.

I learned a little bit about you. I learned that you think you have an “Aw shucks, I’m just a girl from Texas” attitude. That’s your persona. You didn’t hobnob with your colleagues at Columbia or Harvard. Noooo, you’re from Austin, thrown into the big, competitive works of the NYTimes, wondering how you’ll fit in. Maybe that persona explains something about what you missed and what you failed to do when you covered Hillary in 2016. You were very revealing.

Let me divert you with a story of my own. When I was a freshman, I had the choice to study a hard science or the classics. My academic advisor got rave reviews from my classics and writing professors. They wanted me to switch my major and go to law school down the road.

I thought about it. I loved my classics and philosophy courses and persuasive writing. Law school would have been a natural fit for me. But when I thought about it, I couldn’t stomach the idea of learning torts. I projected myself down the road and decided that I found the workings of the cell and nature to be much more interesting if less lucrative and impressive.

I got a degree in Chemistry instead. I have never regretted that decision.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this.

Recently, after years of unemployment, when the pharmaceutical industry collapsed, throwing hundreds of thousands of us out of work and into an extended period of unemployment, I wondered if a law degree would have been a better economic cushion. By now, I would have been well established. I might have had different expectations in my personal life. I would have been more secure financially.

But I would have been a less good lawyer without the experience and discipline of mind that I acquired with my years in research.

I am bringing this up because, as a journalist, you have reached the pinnacle of your profession. You have a job at the New York Times, the “paper of record”. But you are not a very good journalist.

Yes, you might be able to write well. Yes, you can attract readers with what you write. Yes, you can win prizes someday. But success is not the same as quality. No one would argue that McDonald’s is quality cuisine even if the company is successful.

I think Heffernan got under your skin because she related her own experience at the NYTimes when she was involved in writing about the diplomatic cables that Julian Assange gave the papers. They were probably in the cache that Chelsea Manning brought to WikiLeaks. It was giddy for Heffernan and Keller to be in on something that said something so important about the moral authority of the United States in Iraq. You can criticize the source of the material but Manning’s action was driven by an idealism about how our behavior in Iraq conflicted with our national values. She felt that Americans needed to know about what the government was doing in our name.

But the hacked DNC emails that the NYTimes obtained from what was eventually discovered to be a Russian initiative, did not highlight any national interest hypocrisies. They were just embarrassing to the campaign of only one candidate to the benefit of the other candidate. They revealed a campaign that had some internal divisions, just like any campaign. They revealed that the actors were flawed. They weren’t criminally or morally flawed. They just weren’t perfect. And to those of us who were Clinton supporters, no one’s minds were changed.

The reason our minds weren’t changed is because the behavior of the other candidate was so alarming and over the top that we couldn’t believe that Hillary wasn’t already ahead of him by 40 points. Instead of seeing critical coverage of Donald Trump’s background, his flimsy “policies” and a historical retrospective analysis on how Trump’s tactics resembled other dangerous leaders, you focused on peccadillos of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

I keep meaning to go over the concept of false equivalence. You journalists keep using those words. I don’t think they mean what you think they mean. Someday, I’ll give you my anecdotal review of what the media’s coverage was doing to undecided voters I met.

But back to Heffernan’s interview. She asked you about the decision to release the memos. You explained that the decision wasn’t in your pay grade or something to that effect. But Heffernan is crafty. She’s a much better critical thinker. She got you to admit that you didn’t make the decisions, you were just following orders.

And that was all I needed to hear about the book you wrote that I will not waste my last audible credit on. By the way, I read a lot of non-fiction, history and other books that require concentration. I’m not an Einstein but I think it’s important to exercise my mind. So, buying your book was one of my options for that last audible credit even if I didn’t think I was going to agree with most of it. I like to challenge myself. I recommend In The Garden of Beasts by Eric Larsen to understand how we got to this point. It was published well before the 2016 election season but it was eerie to watch how journalists blithely fell into the same pattern 80 years later.

Heffernan was relentless. She’s a damn good interviewer. She got you to admit a lot of things you probably would have preferred to have left unsaid. What I got out of it was that you may have the ability to think critically and act ethically but you choose not to. You think your role is to remain detached from taking sides and in the end, this detachment allows you to not make moral decisions, even when your country’s future is at stake. You expect us to believe that a person who got to this point in your career did not have any idea who might have been behind all the hacking and ratf*cking stories about Clinton even after your paper was on record teaming up with some unseemly operatives who had written some over the top character assassinating publications on Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.

I’m going to guess that in the excitement of a “knock down drag’em out” campaign season when calm rationality seemed boring and passé compared to the unhinged guy on the other side who said whatever popped into his mind without restraint, anything controversial must have added fuel to an already blazing inferno of hyperbolic coverage. It was very easy to let your standards slip because, what the hell, everyone else was letting it all go.

Coverage of Clinton got to be so petty and personal and gratuitously mean in the New York Times that even Paul Krugman pleaded in October 2016 for you and your colleagues to pull back before you destroyed her momentum past the point of no return. Do you remember that, Amy? It was a frantic plea for you guys to stop your senseless feeding frenzy before it was too late.

I sometimes wonder if we should attribute your contribution to Hillary’s loss as a matter of malice or stupidity. I think it’s neither. The problem was lack of self-restraint, critical thought, the ability to do thought experiments, and lack of concern for your country. I come to that conclusion because in spite of all your efforts, 65 million people were able to apply those thoughts and reached the conclusion that as imperfect as the most qualified person we have ever had running for office as she was, she was a much better choice for running the country and would have protected us from the awfulness that would follow if she lost.

Surely, that was more important than “just following orders” and basking in the status of being a “journalist” at the NYTimes. What you told me today was that you are unable to carefully evaluate the news around you, put it in perspective and tell people what they need to hear. You may think it wasn’t your job to tell us about the massive destructive hurricane that was bearing down on us and what we could expect if Trump won, ie his lack of policy, his unsettling nationalism, his hostility to the press. You weren’t even protective of yourself.

Maybe we gave the NYTimes too much credit in light of what we learned about its complicity in the run up to the war in Iraq. How did we forget so quickly about Judy Miller drinking her first post-incarceration cocktail from a “gorgeous glass”?

I think many of us are wiser now. There are good reporters at the Times. The ones covering the Weinstein sexual harassment scandals are good. The one that covers the cost of medicine is extraordinarily good. I would have given a Pulitzer to those reporters. Maggie Haberman got a Pulitzer because she represents the “failing New York Times” in a hostile White House. I’ve read her and I’ve stopped reading her. I find her shallow and not particularly informative or insightful. But I understand why the Pulitzer committee gave it to her. It was supposed to send a message to the Trump White House.

But the NYTimes will never be the same to me after 2016 and it’s partially because of the coverage of the Clinton campaign. I’m not sure I learned anything of value about the news business except that reporters who allowed themselves get caught up in the melee without critical thought and a complete absence of a sense of goodness, probably don’t merit the title of journalist. You got distracted from telling us what happened from day to day in the context of the country in which we live. That’s what I learned. Well, that and that you probably would have been better off if you’d spent time doing research before you decided to go into journalism.

Sincerely,

RD

One of these things is not like the other.

1.) Egypt and Israel peace accord with Jimmy Carter at Camp David

2.) Ireland and Britain agree to peace with Bill Clinton assist.

3.) East and West Germany reunite with the help of Mikail Gorbachev and Bush Sr.

4.) North Korea and South Korea agree to end their war after 66 years.

Hmmmm….

My best guess about this is that Kim agreed to end the war before Donald could get his dirty little hands on the peace process to mess it up. Moon is living in a country where the US has had a presence for over 60 years. It was pretty clear that Trump actually wanted a war on the Korean Peninsula. I don’t think that was just bluster to get the two Koreas to talk. I think he was getting troops ready for it.

I dunno, I’d be really offended if someone wanted to start a war in my region without my permission.

Trump is not in the picture. This happened pretty swiftly. I think it came as a surprise to the White House. It’s intended to send a message, one that will likely go over the heads of most Trump supporters. The craziest most dangerous man in the world is the guy who can’t help using stupid nicknames for other countries’ leaders.

I’m not about to trust Kim. He’s got a lot to answer for and his country’s citizens are living a nightmare. But when it comes right down to it, North Korea was never more than empty threats. Kim likely enjoys poking Trump in the eye. In this case, Trump was outplayed by both Koreas. He’ll try to take credit but the pictures speak for themselves.

Accidental confession or innoculation?

For more than a century, devout Mormons carefully sequestered themselves from the knowledge that their prophet, Joseph Smith, had multiple wives. It was actually worse than that. He coerced several of them by telling them their salvation depended on sex with him. And at least one wife was originally someone else’s wife. Sooooo, there’s that…

But Mormons who grew up in the church were blissfully unaware of all of that. Their lives were laid out for them from cradle to grave. As long as they stuck to the plan, they had a lifelong community and they could stay mostly in Utah with their hard bright blindness of ugly things.

That started to change with the Internet. It started before that to be honest. There are always a few outliers who didn’t quite fit in or students who went rummaging around in the archives for some graduate thesis and ran across documents that made them go “hmmm…”.

In the past decade, a number of these outliers got to be visible and a little noisy. They started blogs and podcasts and talked about what they found and church doctrine. That started to affect church numbers as more and more people started snapping out of their Book of Mormon induced stupor.

So the church took some drastic measures. It decided that it was better for Mormons to hear the truth from the church itself instead of being inundated with an unfiltered version on Mormon Stories. The church wrote a series of essays where they broke the truth to the congregation gently. They hoped that it would make them immune to social media versions. In other words, they innoculated the faithful with just enough information that would acknowledge that Joseph Smith was human and they did it in the context of church theology. This would curb the infection through herd immunity by keeping everyone together on the same page.

That’s what I was thinking when I heard Donald Trump losing his shit on Fox and Friends this morning. He confessed to hiring Michael Cohen as his lawyer to handle the Stormy Daniels problem. And he also confessed to staying over in Moscow for a night that would make the prostitution pee tape possible.

Sure he sounded unhinged. But his congregation heard him confess to his sins on national TV. He acknowledged that he paid off a porn star who he had a fling with and he insinuated that the golden showers thing probably happened.

So what, his faithful are thinking. That just means he’s human. Now the FBI should just get off his f*cking case already. Sleeping with a porn Star is not illegal.

Now, I could be wrong about this and Trump really was losing it and didn’t realize what he was saying. But if there’s one thing I’m fairly certain of it’s that as a flim-flam man, few surpass Donald Trump. He’s dumb as a box of rocks in every other respect but you can’t get rich that way. You can’t even have the illusion of wealth for as long as he has for long without some kind of gimmick. He knows his audience and knows just how much bullshit he has to feed them to make them turn their attention away from the big steaming pile of manure that’s staring them in the face.

It will work for awhile. Maybe even through the mid terms. Who knows, it might be just enough immunity to keep him in office after he decimates the justice department to keep it from investigating him on collusion and obstruction of justice and who knows what other high crimes and misdemeanors. But sooner or later, enough information is going to show up on the Internet for a few higher energy Trumpers to start putting 2 and 2 together. And then the church of Trump will start facing an exodus and even more drastic action will need to be taken to exile the apostates and stuff a sock in their mouths.

I’d prefer that he had a meltdown. But I suspect he was just administering a vaccine.

Aw, darn!

Bob Dorough, the creator of Schoolhouse Rock died today at the age of 94. Anyone who was a kid in the 70’s learned a lot about grammar, history and government from Bob. His tunes were catchy and memorable. I rank him right up there with Vince Guraldi as a composer who has left an indelible stamp on American music.

Here’s my favorite Schoolhouse Rock tune. I love it because it came out right about the time I learned to sing harmonies. It was perfect.