Monday, February 24, 2020

Standing on the Grassy Knoll

This past weekend, I did something that has been on my bucket list since November 22nd, 1963: I stood on the grassy knoll.

The Grassy Knoll
Ostensibly, I went to Dallas, Texas for the wedding of a kid I've known since birth. His mom and I have been through all manner of life events over the years, and when she said her first-born was getting married in Dallas, there was no hesitation that would I be going to Dallas. And the first thing I did after checking into The Magnolia was to walk the short distance to the spot burned into my 6th-grade brain. Like any other sentient American, I can still see the pink pillbox hat, the President's hands reaching up to clutch his neck, the blood-spattered pink suit...and everything that came after that. I can tell you my teacher, Mrs. Keren, was wearing a burnt orange suit that day, and after she answered the class phone, she ran out the door, skidded, stopped, took her shoes off, and ran down the hall in her stocking feet, shoes in in hand, and there, in the classroom, with a look of puzzlement on her face, our Spanish teacher continued the lesson. Then the loudspeaker came on. And our principal, Mr. Young,  told us our handsome, noble President was dead. 

I was eleven, a most dramatic age, and for me, there was a disturbance in the Force that would forever ripple though my life. Eleven-year-old me believed in the myth of Camelot and the beautiful First Family, and the elegant perfections of the First Lady. As I practiced duck'n'cover around the time of the Cuban missile crisis, I believed with my whole heart and soul that gallant JFK would somehow save us all. 

Of course, I'm older, and years of reading history has taught me a number of different lessons about JFK, but he will always be the handsome, noble, leader with his handsome noble family. But that's neither here nor there. Reality always lurks around the corner.

When Russia meddled in Cuba, it was with physical missiles meant to intimidate the US into some sort of military action. It almost worked, and might have, given the right circumstances. The Bay of Pigs was a fiasco of the first order, but it's what JFK said in a State Department press conference on April 21st, 1961, that bears highlighting:
Well, I think in answer to your question that we have to make a judgment as to how much we can usefully say that would aid the interest of the United States. One of the problems of a free society, a problem not met by a dictatorship, is this problem of information. A good deal has been printed in the paper. I wouldn't be surprised if those of you who are members of the press would be receiving a lot of background briefings in the next day or two by interested people or interested agencies. 
There's an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan, and I wouldn't be surprised if information is poured into you in regard to all the recent activities. 
Now, I think we see some of the problems, to move from this particular case, in the problem of Space, where the Soviet Union -- no reports were made in regard to any experiments that they carried out. "Our man in space" -- I saw in a national magazine about some student said the Americans talk a good deal about their man in space. The Soviet Union says nothing and yet it wins. Well, that is one of the problems of a democracy competing and carrying on a struggle for survival against a dictatorship. 
But I will say to you, Mr. Vanocur, that I have said as much as I feel can be usefully said, by me, in regard to the events of the past few days. Further statements, detailed discussions, are not to conceal responsibility because I am the responsible officer of the government, and that is quite obvious, but merely because I do not believe that such a discussion would benefit us during the present difficult situation. I think you will be informed and some of the information, based on what I have seen, will not be accurate.
Can you imagine a statement of that depth and honesty coming from today's White House?

I am the responsible officer of the government. The enormity of that statement wraps itself around my reasons for wanting to believe in an honorable POTUS. Sure, lots of terrible information about Bay of Pigs followed, but President Kennedy never waver in his acceptance of total responsibility for the failure. He was the Commander-in-Chief and this happened on his watch. 'Nuff said.

On Saturday morning, I was able to visit the Texas Book Depository 6th Floor Museum

I cannot begin to describe my inability to breathe when I stood at the shooter's nest and saw the place where Lee Harvey Oswald took aim and shattered a piece of America. It's a small space, and the boxes have been carefully placed according to the photographs taken that day. To stand there is to more than imagine how he must've  narrowed his eyes to take aim before pulling the trigger. You do hold your breath when you approach; it is a sacred place because history happened there. It is palpable at best. Bone chilling at worst. It is hard to breathe because you know what happened and here you stand long past the moment when you could've done something to stop it. You are compelled to reach out, but you don't because the real moment said that it's a useless gesture.

And then you look out the window beside it, and you see two X's on Elm Street; X's that mark two spots. They are painted, so innocuous, so inauspicious when instead those marks should look like the great, gaping bomb-craters they are in American history. You look down at them from above, with cars driving right over them as though nothing ever happened there even though you know it did. But life, like the cars, goes on. 

I also understand that there are a whole lotta people who weren't around when JFK was assassinated, and don't have that same visceral memory many of us old folks have for that day, that moment. I get it. Soon enough it will be history only in books and no one will ever remember or care that Mrs. Keren ran down the hall in stockinged feet. Why would they? That's my memory and it has nothing to do with the loss of Camelot...even if it does for  me. It was a visceral reaction, one totally out of character for my teacher. That's why I remember it so vividly. It could not possibly have been real.

Zapruder's pedestal
Last Friday, as I stood with my hand on the pedestal upon which Abe Zapruder stood to get a better view, I didn't need a film clip to remind me. I could see it all unfolding on Elm Street in front of my eyes. I saw the President's  hands reach up. I saw the president's head explode. I saw Clint Hill running toward the car. I saw Jackie in her blood-spattered pink suit climbing onto the trunk. Standing there, at that spot, it was all vivid, real, and terrifying. 

I walked the edges of the grassy knoll looking down, just in case I saw a shell casing sticking up from the dirt.  Maybe there really was a second gunman on the knoll. Someone must know something that we don't know yet. Like I said....just in case. 

My eleven-year-old self longs for the simplicity of believing in noble presidents and elegance in the White House. That little girl desperately wants to believe that the family who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is full of honor and light and dignity and elegance. I want the cross-section of America to be welcome at that address. Whoever sits behind that desk has an august responsibility to We, the People, to behave with dignity and honor as befitting the high office that he or she occupies. 

Mrs. Keren is wearing the suit with the bow.
And yes, I am in the picture. 
See all those faces in that picture to the right? That's my 6th grade class. We were all in that classroom when Mrs. Keren ran out. We all heard the announcement.  We were all silent and scared. How could this happen here? In America? Now, we are all grown up. Most of us are still alive. I am sure we all still remember that afternoon as clearly as I do.

Should you ever find yourself in Dallas, Texas, visit the 6th Floor Museum at the Texas School Book Depository. It is exceedingly well done and well worth the visit. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
A great woman has shuffled off this mortal coil to become a star in space.
May the memory of 
hidden no more, 
forever be for a blessing 
for girls who want to reach for the stars and then some.
Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson
1918 - 2020

Monday, February 17, 2020

Dangling Party-Sciple.

Well, well, well. Is anyone surprised that Attorney General Barr is consiglieri to the Don? I mean, Rudy Giuliani auditioned for the role, but turned out to be completely inept and totally outta his league. Barr, on the other hand, seems to have a mastery of the English language as well as an ability to practice omertà while managing to look professorially appropriate. You just gotta know someone is danging the Notorious RBG's seat on the BIG bench in front of him like a goddamn orange carrot...or is that BY a goddamn orange carrot. Hmmm, either works. Hell, Barr may be a duplicitous SOB, but he ain't that stupid; he knows what's at stake if the Don gets voted off the island. He is not gonna do anything to risk that big brown chair. 

My friend Arthur the attorney wrote:
Every day we get a better understanding of how democracies die and witness what happened in the 1930s.
Unfortunately, I suspect he is correct. We are watching the demise of American democracy regardless of how imperfect a system it is. All things considered, 244 years for a democracy is a pretty good run. Only Switzerland, upon declaring its independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1648, has been a republic longer than We, the People, have been a republic. Let's face it, 244 isn't that long, and even longevity does not guarantee success.

However it happened, and Lord knows the Don didn't win the popular vote, we managed to install a repeat offender as President of the United States. Fine. It happened.  But what is so monumentally disturbing is that a significant portion of our population believes he is exempt from morals, scruples and the law of the land. If, three years into this term, you are still supporting him, then you must also own up to the idea that you think he is exempt from the law.  Do everyone a favor: just admit that out loud and let us understand with perfect clarity that this is what you think.

The Don...not Feckless Leader...not the, the Don is running this country like his own personal crime syndicate...without the hope that tax evasion will get him in the end, as it did Al Capone, he will continue to run this country as his own personal piggy bank. 

Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Recent revelations about the Department of Justice reinforce my belief that our system of checks and balances no longer exists. If the Senate can sit on 395 bills passed, many with bipartisan support, by the House of Representatives and refuse to act/review/bring to a vote any of them, then the Senate has abrogated its responsibility to We, ALL the People. If  the head of Department of Justice can inject himself into favors needed by the sitting president for a foreign, autocratic government like, say Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government in Turkey, then the Department of Justice is no longer that. Nor is it a Department of Justice when the head of it overturns recommendations from his own prosecutors, recommendations based on admission of guilt and established precedent. If the DoJ can do all that without blinking an eye, the Attorney General can, and most likely will, invalidate any election the Don does not like. The Don has bestowed this ability on the AG, and already uses it at will.

I keep hearing the theme from The Godfather like an ear-worm and offers Barr can't refuse twirl in an endless dance of constitutional death.

Yeah, yeah, so I'm an alarmist...but not really. I am listening to the rhetoric from both sides. The DNC is going a great job of sabotaging itself for a change, while  the RNC is terrified of what the Don can do to them. Like I asked last week, how many pee-pee tapes does this guy have? The Don is a collector of ammunition; he uses it  to shield himself. 

Next week will be a blog of a different color. I won't tell you what I'll be doing, but suffice it to say, I will be crossing something off my bucket list. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If you are really interested in effecting change,
run for a local office. 

Monday, February 10, 2020

I Am Not Spartacus

My Constitution-lovin' heart was broken last week not because the Senate absolved Feckless Leader from any wrong-doing. Not because the Senate did not remove him from office. Not because they acquitted a man who admitted he did the things they say he did. Nope. None of those things broke my heart because I didn't expect the Senate to do anything different. They lived up to their reputation as chicken-shit cowards too afraid of their campaign pot'o'gold to even as ask question. And that was expected, too.

What broke my heart was the part when John Bolton was refused the opportunity to testify before that once-august body. I have no idea what he would've said, if the would've pleaded the fifth, or if he would've explained how the moon was made of green cheese. That he was not permitted to testify said nothing about him, but spoke volumes about the Senate. A trial has witnesses, just as they did in the House. While the Democrats were presenting their case with videos and statements, however flawed a presentation it was, it was evidence presented. The GOP did not defend Feckless, they just said, over and over, "this is not an impeachable offense."  He did it, but he's not guilty by reason of status. 


Once upon a time, I had hoped John Bolton would be the adult in the room, the one to bring some semblance of order to the chaotic West Wing. Don't get me wrong, I'm not Bolton's greatest fan. He is the ultimate right-wing-regime-changing nutjob. He makes your run-of-the-mill hawks come off like hippy-dippy pacifists. This is the guy who claimed Cuba (yes, Cuba) had secret WMDs and both Iran and North Korea should be treated to "pre-emptive" strikes. So, yeah, I have some fundamental issues with him working in the White House. HOWEVER, stupid he isn't and he wanted to testify. We, the People were pretty vocal about wanting to hear him. Yet he was silenced.  Why did the White House stop him?

What is the White House afraid of? What is the GOP side of the Senate afraid of? If there was nothing inappropriate, why not have testimony to support that? How many golden shower tapes does the White House have on Senators?

Do I keep asking the same questions?

Well, I know one thing the White House is afraid of: Alexander Vindman. They are not only terrified of him, they are terrified of his twin brother, as well. 

There's a running gag on my family FaceBook page: every time I do something home-ownerish, I change my profile picture to Spartacus with the caption: I AM SPARTACUS.  This has been going on for as long as I've been on FB with the fam. 

This week, I change my profile picture to this:

I'm not Spartacus. 
THIS is the real Spartacus. 
He stood up, told the truth, and despite attempts to 
denigrate and humiliate this devoted-to-duty soldier, 
he will always be a hero to We, the People.

You don't get too many real-life heroes these days, people who stand up for what's right  while fully cognizant of the cost of that position. Lt. Col. Vindman knew exactly what he was doing when he testified in the House. He knew they would come after him. And in one of the most poignant moments ever experienced in the house, he assured his dad he would be okay because he told the truth:

I also recognize that my simple act of appearing here today, just like the courage of my colleagues who have also truthfully testified before this Committee, would not be tolerated in many places around the world. In Russia, my act of expressing my concerns to the chain of command in an official and private channel would have severe personal and professional repercussions and offering public testimony involving the President would surely cost me my life. I am grateful for my father's brave act of hope 40 years ago and for the privilege of being an American citizen and public servant, where I can live free of fear for mine and my family's safety. 
Dad, my sitting here today, in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision forty years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.
When historians talk about the moment the Constitution of the United States was in great peril of collapse from within the government, they will talk about Alexander Vindman's courage under oath.

Of course, they'll also talk about what a total doofus Gordon Sondland was, but they will also grudgingly admit he was also trying to do the right thing.

No one should be surprised by the head-rolling fiesta going on at the White House these days. I'm sure the Vindman twins weren't. But what should be troubling We, the People, is that Feckless Leader's behavior is now to be accepted as normal. And, as Stephanie Grisham explained, the president believes "people should pay" for the way he was treated.

I don't know about any of you, gentle readers, but I'm really tired of the toddler behavior. And I know toddler behavior when I see it; Young Sir will turn 2 at the end of the month. And he is perfectly age appropriate FOR A 2-YEAR OLD. He is not perfectly age appropriate to be President of the United States.

Speaking of appropriate behavior, did anyone happen to hear about the White Nationalist March on Washington this past weekend? The NYT wrote about it:
More than 100 members of the Patriot Front, dressed in khaki pants and caps, blue jackets and white face masks, shouted "Reclaim America!" and "Life, liberty, victory!" video of the march showed.

Patriot Front leader Thomas Rousseau told YV reporter Mike Valerio of WUSA: 
We organized the march to symbolically reclaim our nation’s capital from the Jews, Marxists, & anti-white enemies in government who want to see white Americans erased.
You cannot think things are going well when this stuff is growing in popularity, both here and in Europe. HOWEVER, they peacefully exercised their Constitutionally guaranteed  right of assembly. I may despise what they are and what they stand for, but they did nothing wrong. Wish I could say that about our president.

The Wifely Person's TIp o'the Week
Democracy is whatever you believe it is.
The only important aspect about a democracy is the vote.
If you don't vote, you get the government you deserve.
Just like we have. 

    Bonus Tip:
    May Kirk Douglas's memory forever be for a blessing. 
    He gave us Spartacus!

    Monday, February 3, 2020

    POP QUIZ: A Guy Walks Into A Crowded Bar...

    Scenario #1 

    So, a guy walks into a crowded bar waving a baseball bat and says to the barkeeper, "Gimme all your money." The barkeeper thinks for a moment and says, "Sure, I'll just open the cash register." While he's opening the cash register he trips the silent alarm. The cops come rushing in the door. What happens next?

    1. The cops ask the bartender what happened, and he says, "This guy threatened me with his bat and demanded I give him all my money."
    2. The cops ask guy with the bat what happened, and he answers, "Nothing. I asked him for a donation and clearly he called the cops. I didn't do anything wrong."
    3. The cops ask the other people at the bar what happened and they say the didn't see it. 
    Did you pick your description of the event? Okay. What do the cops do?
    1. The cops arrest the guy with the bat and charge him with attempted robbery
    2. The cops arrest the bartender for calling in a phony cop call.
    3. The cops explain to the bartender that since the guy didn't threaten to bash his head in or take any money, no crime had been committed. The cops leave the bar.
    Scenario #2

    So, a guy walks into a crowded bar carrying a baseball bat. He sets it down on the bar and says to the bartender, "I would really like to help you with your crime problem. All you have to do is give me information about every time Vasily, Ivan, and Vladimir come in, and I'll make sure that nothing happens to your little bar. If you don't agree to this, I'll make sure you have no protection and every crook in the neighborhood is gonna rob you with my blessing." The bartender happens to be wearing a wire and the conversation is recorded. After the guy leaves, the bartender calls the cops and tells them.  What happens next?
    1. The cops listen to the recording, then go arrest the guy for extortion.
    2. The cops go find the other guy who tells them it was a genuine attempt to help the guy out. It was perfectly innocent. 
    3. The cops explain to the bartender that the guy really just wanted to help him and no crime was committed. 
    Scenario #3

    The guy with the baseball bat gets arrested for attempted robbery and extortion. The district attorney files the charges. The case goes to court. The jury, as it turns out, was pre-selected and empaneled before anyone arrives at court. The judge is related to the baseball bat guy and owes him. The prosecution objects, and the judge overrules the objection. Opening statements proceed, and when they are done, the judge announces no witnesses will be permitted to testify. He instructs the jury to retire to another local bar to render their verdict. 
    TRUE OR FALSE: This is permitted in a US Court of Law?


    According to the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States:
    In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
    This is the part I don't get. If the accused is entitled to have a compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, why didn't the GOP want anyone at all to testify? One would think having witnesses speaking upon one's behalf would be a good thing, an entitlement one would want. 

    But no. The GOP didn't even want witnesses for the defense. What does that tell you? Everyone on that side, all those God-fearing good Christian soldier souls did not wish to perjure themselves under oath? That's the only logical thing I could come up with. 

     But wait....there's a phrase for this! Can you say, KANGAROO COURT, boys and girls?

    If you've heard the expression but are not sure what that means, here's the definition:
    kangaroo court is a court that ignores recognized standards of law or justice and often carries little or no official standing in the territory within which it resides. The term may also apply to a court held by a legitimate judicial authority which intentionally disregards the court's legal or ethical obligations.                                                                                   Wikipedia

    I am past party identification with this thing. I don't give a rat's ass if you're Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Pastafarian, Green, or Purple with Pink Polka Dots. It doesn't freakin' matter. What matters is that while all this bull-oney was going down, NO ONE was paying attention to the man behind the curtains as crucial regulations for land, water, and air were rolled back. We were too busy staring at the big green head. And near as I can tell, we're gonna keep staring at its hypnotic qualities until Wednesday morning, November 4th, when we wake up to learn that no matter who actually won the election, Feckless Leader will still be POTUS....even in Kansas City, Kansas.

    The Senate's greatest crime is not the acquittal of a criminal, but in the preservation of the great lie...that ethics and morals have no place in American. As a body, the Senate has overturned the Constitution and replaced it will nothing short of the Great Lie. Which makes me wonder why they don't want witnesses. That is such a complicated paradigm I do not even wish to unpack it. 

    Yes, I do have a theory as to why they don't want witnesses: because of transcripts. They do not want a written record taken verbatim from the testimony in Congress. As soon as an official transcript is created, it's all set in stone. And the last thing the GOP wants are incontrovertible, irrefutable, unimpeachable facts.

    More than democracy dies in darkness. So does hope. 

    The Wifely Person's Tip O'the Week

    This is not original thinking, although I wish it was. 
    From George Orwell:
    And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'                                                     
    Part 1, Section 3 ,  Nineteen Eighty-Four