Monday, July 16, 2018

What idiot says I have to like you to prosecute you?

Total canard? the whole "biased investigators/biased prosecution claim is a
giant Trump canard. By an interesting coincidence, Trump is already showing
up in rubber ducky stores in Amsterdam. The sticker on the cap he's holding
says, "TAKE QUACK AMERICA." — Photo by The New York Crank. And
sorry for the lousy line breaks. There's a glitch somewhere that I can't correct.
The snowflake-y whining by Donald Trump and his apologists that some of the investigators looking into his case are “prejudiced and biased,” is a load of superfluous baloney.

I won’t get into whether a few of the investigators slightly dislike, intensely dislike, or utterly loathe Trump. It doesn’t matter. 

Imagine what it would do to American jurisprudence if grounds for dismissal of a prosecution — or of a conviction — were, “Your honor, both the police and the prosecutor are biased against my client because their evidence makes him look like a murderer. The prosecutor clearly said — and you heard him say it — that murder is a despicable crime. And you further heard him say that he hates murderers. Hate, hate, hate! The prosecution is so biased and corrupt that it's practically guilty of a hate crime against my client.”

So what’s a poor judge to do? Throw out the case because somebody in the process that led to the conviction was biased against crooks and murderers? Or that they didn't like a specific crook and murderer?

Juries need to be impartial. Judges need to be impartial. Investigators need only to produce honest evidence, and prosecutors need only to honestly present it to the jury. So long as the evidence is real and not — dare I say it? — trumped up, the accused has no grounds for complaint.

Little wonder that a former Watergate prosecutor trashed a claim by the Trump camp that the poor little snowflakes had their case damaged because the investigators looking into their behavior don’t like it or them. Said the former prosecutor, Jill Wine-Banks:
The fact that people have opinions does not make them biased. It’s like being a juror. You can have an opinion. You just have to be willing to set it aside and to follow the evidence wherever it takes you.
And here’s Cynthia Alksne, another former federal prosecutor, on the same topic:
For example, I prosecuted the Klan. I don’t like the Klan. I never say anything nice about the Klan. And if you looked probably at my emails you would find that I’m very open about that. But when the time comes to make a decision about whether or not the Klan burned a cross in somebody’s yard , that’s a decision that’s straight facts. Either the guys were there and burned the cross or they didn’t.
So there! And either Donald Trump is a colluding puppet of Vladimir Putin or I’m the Emperor of Mexico, you sniveling White House snowflake.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Republican right wing is beginning to discover that it just shot itself in the … no, not in the foot. It’s another part of the anatomy.

With the inevitable addition of Brett Kavanaugh, the U.S. Supreme Court is about to swing hard to the right, no matter what Democrats do. And in the long run, Roe vs. Wade is dead. The only question is whether Roe will die hard and fast, or suffer a slow death of a thousand cuts.

So the so-called conservatives are out there dancing in the streets, right? Wait a second, not so fast.

The Federalist, a right wing journal that would warm the cockles of Justice Antonin Scalia’s wicked heart (were he still among us to have his cockles warmed) just put its finger on a small, umm, problem. It’s a replacement parts shortage. Human replacement parts.

To keep the wealth engine of the One Percent growing, the  United States population also has to keep growing. Otherwise, the very rich would have to pay more and more in taxes as the population declines, while having fewer and fewer people to sell their goods to.

Moreover, the rich need worker bees. You know, people who do the real work, whether that relates to picking fruit, picking up the toddlers after school, or picking their noses in front of a computer screen. But guess what?

Here’s what, according to Melissa Langsam Braunstein, who writes the “parenting” column online for the Federalist: 
“It’s just not clear we all enjoy raising flesh and blood miniature humans anymore.”
Quick Jeeves, the smelling salts! Oh my blinking stars! Say what, Melissa? 
“…it seems clear that millennials will either have fewer children than they’d wanted or opt out of parenthood altogether .”
What a terrifying thought! Who will keep our economic engine’s gears oiled and its wheels turning, and its innovations hatching if we don’t have enough replacement babies? For that matter, who will keep the ranks of our enlisted military populated? 

We used to have immigrants for all of that. But no longer, what with Trump slamming the gates shut, and a Supreme Court about to solder our national rudder in place so that hereafter we can turn only in rightward circles. Trump and his merry band of idiot bullies have just shot themselves — and the United States of America — in the testicles.

No wonder that  social conservatives, in addition to trying to eliminate abortion are going after birth control. Damnit women, they need your babies, even if it means confiscating your birth control pills so you’ll be forced to become a baby machine. Who knows? If it's deemed necessary, armed cops may be able to haul you away to the hospital and pry out your IUD with a wire cutter and a pair of pliers. But only to save the lives of the unborn, of course. Already one conservative publication, The National Review, is shrieking that IUDs are “contraception that kills.” 

But throwing you in the slammer if you dare to sell or swallow a birth control pill (or perhaps for using an IUD, you child-killing thug-ette) is a slow way to grow the population. Can’t we get all those potential handmaidens popping out babies any faster? What do we have to do? Arrest women caught with implanted IUDs for murder? And perhaps execute a few?

Not to worry. Federalist columnist Melissa Langsam Braunstein, has a solution: encourage millennials to have babies more often by brazenly misleading and confusing them. In a recent column entitled “6 Reasons Millenials Should Stop And Embrace Parenthood,” Melissa tries to sell you on having more pregnancies with reasoning like this:

1. Focus on What You Can Control. Among millennials with fewer children than they’d wanted, 49 percent said they’re “worried about the economy,” 37 percent are “worried about global instability,” 36 percent are “worried about domestic politics,” 33 percent are “worried about climate change,” and 27 percent are “worried about population growth.” Whew, that’s a lot of big worries!I understand wanting to err on the side of caution, but the world has never been problem-free, and sometimes we need to act in spite of that. Further, the most meaningful things in life often require a leap of faith at the outset. Or, in the wise words of a mentor, “Leap and the net will appear.”
Right, Melissa. Don’t fix the economy so that people can afford to have babies. Just encourage everyone to close their eyes and jump. Tell you what, Melissa. Go jump out of a window, preferably the window of a very tall sky scraper. If a safety net appears, as you promise, to prevent you from becoming a sidewalk serving of scrambled brains, I’m sure a lot more millennials will be convinced. Personally I prefer the old maxim, “Look before you leap.”
2. Paid Family Leave Is On The Rise. Parents, 39 percent of you say you’re having fewer kids than your ideal because there’s “not enough paid family leave” and 38 percent said there’s none. According to Working Mother, however, “Since late 2017, an increasing number of private employers have expanded their paid maternity leave and paternity leave offerings, some doing so dramatically,” all to attract and retain employees like you. Employers hear you, and they’re responding.
There's a small problem with that one, Melissa. You’re asking people to have babies on spec — the speculations that their own employers will read Working Mother,” take the cue, and “dramatically” increase parental leave. Not very damn likely in a nation that more and more is being run by so-called conservatives. 

More likely, FMLA, the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, will be repealed, either by Congress or by Supreme Court fiat. Employers who are freed from workplace discrimination enforcement will find your pregnancy a reason to not promote you, or even to fire you. Oh right, that’s already happening.
3. Child Care Is Tough But Not Impossible. Sixty-four percent of current parents and 31 percent of would-be parents cited the high cost of child care. I’m with you. It’s not only tough, but can also be expensive to find people you trust to care for your children.The good news is that it’s not forever. For most families, the first five years are the most costly in this category. Every family has different needs and preferences, but there are ways to control costs, whether it’s help from family members, parents adjusting work schedules to be home, or a trade between families who alternate watching one another’s children.
Right-O, Melissa. Parents can just go and tell the boss, “Now see here, I need to adjust my work schedule to take care of my child, so I won’t be able to come in Mondays and Thursdays. But I’m trading baby-watching schedules with my friends from the bowling alley, the Smiths. So Muffy or Chip Smith will be here to attend status meetings instead of me on Mondays.” 

Know what the boss is likely to say? Hint: It’s a favorite phrase of Donald Trump’s. It starts with the word “You’re...” and ends with an exclamation point. Your next persuasive point, Melissa?
4. Babies Don’t Need Houses. Now, among those without children, 24 percent of respondents remain so because they “can’t afford a house.” If you think you need to buy a house in a great school district, consider: You have five years and nine months (at least!) before your firstborn starts kindergarten. That’s several years to save and buy into your ideal district or devise an acceptable Plan B. Apartment living works just fine in the short-term.
Save how much, Melissa? How can you save a dime, especially in cities like, say, San Francisco where the median home value is now $1.61 million and rising fast. But you say, “apartment living works just fine in the short term.” In the short term, rents in the same city have risen 40 to 50 percent and the average rent for a two bedroom apartment in that town is now $4,382 a month. 

But do people have to go to San Francisco? Isn't life lots cheaper in Nowheresville? 

Yes, assuredly. The problem is, there are no jobs in Nowheresville. That’s why it’s so cheap. And that’s why everybody’s trying to squeeze into cities like San Francisco. So yeah, Melissa, saving up for a $1.6 million house in five years while paying $4,382 a month for rent and a wad of money for child care is no problem, no problem at all. Are you also selling bridges? How about the one in Brooklyn? People could buy it from you and live under it. Babies can live under bridges just like other homeless people, right Melissa?

Oh, and I'm not even going to think about what you mean by "a good school district." Well actually, I am. I think you mean, a district that doesn't have too many of "those people."

Next, Melissa suggests reducing student debt. I got all excited and upbeat about that one, until I read what she had to say about it.
5. Let’s Reduce Student Debt. Thirteen percent of respondents say they’re not sure about parenthood because they have “too much student debt.” Everyone’s situation is different, but this could be a good time for students, parents, and alumni to start pressuring the federal government to weigh practical solutions to the student loan crisis, including reducing the flow of federal dollars to universities (since that actually raises students’ costs).Here in Washington, DC, American University allows students to graduate in three years, saving families a whole year of tuition. Perhaps more schools should introduce such programs, and we should encourage students to talk to potential employers before choosing majors, so they know they’re employable post-graduation.
Right Melissa, by starving universities, you’ll force them to lower tuition. Could you show us how that works, please? No? The article you linked to certainly doesn't. It just makes what appears to be a baseless claim. 

And you’d also recommend turning college from a learning experience to a pressure cooker experience, blasting through four years of courses in three. The one thing you seem to have forgotten is Bernie Sanders’ proposal for student loan forgiveness, which would reduce student debt to zero instantly. While  we’re at it, tuition-free college supported by the government, working pretty much the way the GI Bill of Rights worked immediately after WWII, would prevent most student debt from ever happening. And that policy was part of an effort that unleashed a great wave of post-war prosperity. Oh sorry, I forgot who I was talking to.

Lastly, Melissa threatens us with self-inflicted death. 
6. Family Isn’t Your Jam. This is the group that most concerns me, amidst our crisis of loneliness, crisis of meaning, and the rise in suicides....
She goes on but I won’t, save to repeat that Trump and the Republicans have shot themselves and this nation in the testicles, aided and abetted by people like Melissa. We won’t be able to sustain the population internally. We won’t be able to replenish the population by letting in immigrants. Instead, we’re in danger of becoming a withering-away nation, our population aging, our ability to create prosperity falling, our future slowly going down the drain.

So the only solution the so-called Conservatives see is to force the majority of this nation’s women to effectively become unwilling handmaidens — baby machines serving the state. 

Very smart, conservatives. Very smart.

Friday, July 06, 2018

When Donald Trump sinks the economy and puts his followers out of work, will they still cheer for him? Probably.

The “master race” masters the art of surrendering with its hands 
on its head in this 1945 photograph of captured German troops. 
Are the troops of MAGA next?

During the Second World War, one of my aunts joined the Red Cross and ended up just behind the front lines, mostly serving donuts and coffee to war-weary GIs as they came back from combat.

But she had a chance to see plenty more than just tired American dogfaces. Her sightseeing, if you can call it that, included the insides of field hospitals where the patients were not only American soldiers, but also some of the wounded Nazi troops. She wrote home about her experiences. Some of what she saw was on a disturbing spectrum that spans the space between harrowing and hilarious.

I recall one paragraph in particular. It’s impact was so ironic, and yet so horrendous, that I’ve committed it to memory. Permit me to reproduce a few lines. She was speaking about Nazi soldiers in an American field hospital.

“I saw one soldier who was blind from his burns. His arms and legs were blown off. He was still waving his stumps and raving, at the top of his lungs, that Germans were the master race and that they were going to conquer the world.”

A few months later, the war was over. Germany lay in ruins. Der Fuhrer of the “master race” put a bullet in his  own brain, immediately after similarly executing his girlfriend.

I bring this up because there’s something about Trump’s followers that brings to mind the armless, legless, battle-blinded nincompoop Nazi. They are insanely raving in support of an evil cause that was built on ridiculous assumptions and doomed not only to fail, but to create misery for themselves and countless others in the process. 

In this case I’m talking about the assumptions that the Trump Administration has made concerning the economy. The information has been out there for a while — along with a constant gush of news about strategic and tactical mistakes made by the White House and Trump’s cabinet — mistakes that are plainly becoming catastrophes, either in the making or already made.

The sheer number of in utero calamities staggers the mind. Like Trump’s projectile vomiting of tweets — unrelenting, sometimes mutually contradictory, often completely false, overwhelmingly outrageous and disgusting — there have been so many that it’s hard put them in some kind of meaningful order. Or is even thinking that Trump’s assumptions and pronouncements can be put in a meaningful order inherently an oxymoron?

At any rate, let me start with one of Trump’s earliest declarations about how he’d defend and build the economy, “Trade wars are easy to win.”

To see what that can mean for China, check this out.

And to see more ramifications of Trump’s “easy-to-win” war, check out this clip.

Then, for some of the excruciating details concerning Trump’s economic policies, see Paul Krugman’s recent article here, from which I quote just a few paragraphs to raise the hair on the back of your neck:
On Sunday, Canada — a country that, by the way, imports about as much from us as it exports in return — announced retaliatory tariffs against $12.6 billion of U.S. products.
     The European Union and China have also announced retaliatory tariffs. Mexico, with its new leftist president-elect, is hardly likely to be accommodating. And the E.U. has warned that it will go much bigger if Trump follows through on his threat to put tariffs on European cars, potentially imposing retaliatory tariffs on almost $300 billion of U.S. exports.
     The U.S. is now behaving in ways that could all too easily lead to a breakdown of the whole trading system and a drastic, disruptive reduction in world trade.
And then this:
[American] Exporters will be hurt, of course — and exports support around 10 million jobs. Some industries that compete with imports might end up adding jobs. But they wouldn’t be the same jobs, in the same places: A trade war would cause huge worker displacement.
     And what’s especially striking right now is that even industries Trump claims he wants to help are protesting his policies, urging him to reverse course. General Motors warns that proposed auto tariffs could lead to “less investment, fewer jobs and lower wages for our employees.” 
     The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association has urged the administration to stand down, declaring that “counterproductive unilateral actions” will “erode U.S. jobs and growth” while doing nothing to protect national security.
But Trump isn’t budging. He won’t back back down because that’s simply not what he does. And doubling down instead will just double the misery — and the wave of unemployment to come — generated by his ridiculous notions.  The rest of the world retaliates by blowing our economy to smithereens with tariffs that have a nuclear impact. Moreover, we can’t say that Trump wasn’t asking for it.

And yet, as all this begins to unfold, Trump’s base remains firmly behind him.

He may get their jobs blown out from under them. His actions may render them essentially helpless and unemployed, perhaps even unemployable. But Trump’s die-hards are blinded. They’re waving their stumps and raving in the dark that they are conquering the world and making America great again. 

They shout ever more loudly as the world draws away from us and we turn our friends into enemies, leaving us isolated, economically disabled, and ready for conquest, perhaps by the Russians.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The United States of America is so screwed!

This just in at The Washington Post:

"Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced Wednesday that he is retiring from the Supreme Court, a move that gives President Trump the chance to replace the court’s pivotal justice and dramatically shift the institution to the right, setting up a bitter partisan showdown on Kennedy’s successor."

Welcome back to the 12th Century.

Monday, June 25, 2018

When you refuse to serve me, it’s your brave act of “religious liberty.” When I refuse to serve you, it’s my shameful act of disrespect — and the same goes for anybody whose name resembles mine. Do you see just a wee tad of hypocrisy here?


Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left. Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so

Moral: Red Hen? Actually, as used by the Trump Crowd, liberty of conscience is more like a red herring.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Hier woonde The United States of America

Will there one day be plaques in the sidewalk for America's immigrant children?
I came across them a few weeks ago in Amsterdam. Three of them — little brass plaques, each roughly the size of a bar coaster, imbedded in the sidewalk in a pleasant residential neighborhood, south of the center of town.

Each plaque  began with the words “Hier Woonde” — Here Lived.

Here lived Selina Hammelburg Presser, born in 1897. Died the 15th of November, 1943. And then the dreaded name. Auschwitz.

Here also lived Levie Hamelburg, born 1889. Died the 15th of November 1943. Auschwitz again.

And then one more, probably the daughter. Here lived Anna Marianne Hammelburg. Born 1924. Died the 31st of January, 1944. And yes, Auschwitz.

How eloquently they speak — these few terse words on some tiny brass plaques in a concrete sidewalk. They don’t get any of the attention and tourist traffic of the Anne Frank House downtown. There is no diary to tell us more about who the people were, and what they went through. We can only imagine the terror, the pangs of separation, the constant hunger, the eventual emotional numbness, their miserable deaths.

And yet we know.

And then I came back home to the United States of America, a nation with a huge statue standing in the harbor of its largest city to welcome immigrants, specifically according to the inscription in its base, “….your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teaming shore…."

It was the very promise of a new beginning in a new place for the forgotten, the downtrodden, the souls with a yearning for something better that gave America its own soul and truly made America great. In trying to wall immigrants out, Donald Trump is unraveling our greatness, turning us into a nation of small, selfish, inward-looking people. A nation ruled by third-raters and the cruelty and corruption they bring with them.

And now the President — who is said to have slept with a copy of Hitler’s speeches by his bedside — aided by his little Dr. Goebbels and his Eichmanns, Jeff Sessions, Steve Miller, and Kirstjen Nielsen, is separating the children from their parents, just as Hitler’s SS did at Auschwitz. The children are being housed, some reports say, in cages in a space that was formerly a Walmart. Nice place for a kid to grow up while their parents are punished for the crime of yearning to breathe free. 

The man in the White House has done something to us with his crimes against humanity from which we may never recover. 

Hier woonde The United States of America.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

I'm on vacation until later this month. Make sure Trump doesn't do anything crazy while I'm gone.

What, you thought I was going to blog on my vacation? You gotta be nuts! Nuts!

I'll be in Europe, checking out some stuff. Maybe I'll blog about it when I get back, later this month. Maybe Trump will inflate the trade war he has already launched against our allies into a shooting war, and I won't be able to get back. These days, nothing would surprise me. In fact, I'd welcome two days in a row without any surprises.

Anyway, don't expect me to post. And don't expect me to moderate any of your bright — or not so bright — comments.

I'll deal with that when I get back. Got that?

Yours very crankily,
The New York Crank

Friday, June 01, 2018

OR Slugfest! French Docs Duke It Out While Anesthetized Patient Lies On Table — A Perfect Metaphor For U.S. Government and Politics.

"You apologize!" "No you apologize!" "No you apologize!" "No you apologize!"

Lisieux, France: A urological surgeon and an anesthesiologist exchanged insults, blows, and worse while their unconscious patient lay on the operating table in mid-surgery.

The violent confrontation  appears to have been a pitch-perfect metaphor for the disfunction of the United States Congress, the Trump administration, the bureaucratic outrageousness of ICE in separating young children from their parents, and numerous intra-party rivalries among both Republicans and Democrats.

According to the online journal FranceTVinfo and others, the violence began when the anesthesiologist arrived in the operating room at 4 PM to help wake up a patient who had been under anesthesia during urological surgery.

Informed by the surgeon that he hadn’t finished yet, and that there was yet another procedure to be performed, the anesthesiologist evidently became irate. One report had him calling the urologist 
"an incompetent shithead" ("connard incomp├ętent," for those of you who'd like to learn to cuss in French.)

“We don’t treat emergencies in this clinic,” the anesthesiologist reportedly said. Furthermore, his lawyer declared, “In this clinic you’re not allowed to program surgery after 4 PM.” 

The news report did not explain the reason for the rule. Presumably, it’s because that’s quitting time, and like Donald Trump, golf and personal welfare are more important than life-and-death matters like an unconscious patient on the operating table in mid-surgery. Or like avoiding World War III.

Nor did the news report explain what a doctor is supposed to do with a patient if it's quitting time and the surgery isn't yet complete. But never mind.

In the operating room, the dispute between the two docs grew angrier and angrier. The surgeon became so enraged that he threw a bottle of antiseptic in the anesthesiologist’s face. In response, the anesthesiologist grabbed a pair of scissors and went after the surgeon until a nurse blocked him.

All this took place at the edge of the table where the patient lay unconscious. But it didn’t stop there. The confrontation continued in a changing room outside of the operating room, where the surgeon whacked the anesthesiologist in the eye with his computer case — so hard that the anesthesiologist suffered a blowout fracture.

“My client could have lost an eye,” huffed the anesthesiologist’s lawyer. 

Moralizing a bit about the insouciance of the other side, the anesthesiologist’s lawyer added, “This story would never have reached the disciplinary chamber if the surgeon had apologized before leaving.”

This last statement resonated here in the United States, where any time anybody says anything in public, the opposition demands an apology, most especially the people around a snowflake named Donald Trump, who is supposed to hurl the insults, and not get hit with any himself.

The French journal did not report what became of the patient. Or as an English-speaking French acquaintance of The New York Crank said, “Patient? What patient?”

The fight between the doctors occurred in 2017. It only came to public attention when a hearing was held about it recently. For all anybody knows, the patient may still be lying there, surgical instruments protruding from his body, by now conscious, in pain,  and screaming his head off.

Donald Trump, in a metaphorically-similar matter, answered the question of what happened to the patient by saying, “We shall see.”

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Hey there, you with the stars in your eyes!

Over on Crooks and Liars, Nicole Belle has a column quoting The Trumpster. She wonders if he fears that yet another set of indictments will soon descend on him.

That may be, she speculates, why The Trumpster is tweeting up yet another storm about the probe into the possibility of his collusion with Russia. For example, there's this piece of sanctimonious claptrap:

Who’s going to give back the young and beautiful lives (and others) that have been devastated and destroyed by the phony Russia Collusion Witch Hunt? They journeyed down to Washington, D.C., with stars in their eyes and wanting to help our nation...They went back home in tatters!
However, I have a different theory. I think The Trumpster is thought-projecting into the future, and that those young and beautiful lives are a lot closer to home than poor Hope Hicks. Why? 
To the best of my knowledge, Trump's compassion has never extended much beyond the length of his reputedly short, uh,  fingers. So I would go looking for the starry-eyed ragamuffins in and near one of the Trump towers.
Specifically I'm thinking Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and the original candidate for going home in tatters — or maybe going to someplace else. That would be Donald J. Trump himself.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Five crime writers, two funerals, and an obscenity-free cake or two

Mothers, don’t let your sons grow up to be crime novelists. There was a time in America when prolific authors of crime novels, even mediocre crime novels, could make enough of a living to own a house in a nice suburb, send their kids to college, and retire comfortably if they wished. These days it’s a different story.

I had dinner last week with five – yes five! – crime fiction writers. These weren’t mediocre authors or bumbling beginners. These were some of the best. They’ve all won prestigious writing awards. They’ve each published many, many times. Or at least they’ve published many times until very recently. Now they tell me they can’t seem to get themselves arrested. No pun intended. Well, okay, I did intend the pun. But let’s get to the point.

Suddenly, the book publishing industry has largely lost interest in crime novels. A literary agent who was also present at the dinner table let on that publishers will publish a few crime novels. But what the publishing houses seem to be looking for is limited to crime novels written by women and set in either the United States or England. That means no France, pal, and certainly not any Iraqs, Irans, or Indias.

But even being a woman crime writer is also not a guarantee of success. One of the five authors at that dinner was a woman. A publisher had just bounced her 11th book.

All the same, when crime novels about female heroines chasing down crooks in a few select English-speaking nations, as described by female authors, are the only crime novels, you can expect a lot of guys to start adapting female pen names. And indeed, one of my dinner companions reported, that’s exactly what he has done. 

Which brings to mind that in the 19th Century, a woman named Amandine Aurore Lucille Dudevant had to assume the pen name George Sand to get her novels published. These days, don’t be surprised if you read a book by someone named Amandine Dudevant and Amandine turns out to be some guy in a ribbed tank top undershirt, with hairy armpits, a five o’clock shadow, a fat cigar in his mouth, and beer on his breath.

What’s that? You're disappointed? You were planning to have a second career writing crime novels? Let me offer you an alternative suggestion. If you’re so good at plotting the perfect crime, for the love of heaven don't write about it. Just commit it. Trust me, the money you can make robbing banks is a hell of a lot better than the money you can make writing about make-believe bank robberies. And your long term chances for success as a bank robber are no worse than your chances as a crime novelist.

I’m sorry that the author and journo-stylist Tom Wolfe died recently. But I was even sorrier when he matured, several decades ago. This takes some background, so let's start.

The precursor to New York Magazine was the New York Herald-Tribune’s (R.I.P.) Sunday supplement, called New York. Wolfe wrote for it regularly. One piece in particular back in the Herald-Tribune days, made me nearly fall out of my chair. It was about the great publishing sleezemeister Bob Harrison, originator of Confidential Magazine and Inside News, as well as Beauty Parade, and two other girlie magazines named Titter and Wink. (You couldn't make this stuff up, because Bob already had.)
Bob Harrison — born 50 years
too soon to have been Donald

To the best of my recollection, Wolfe’s piece was called The Aesthetique du Schlock, although it appears in his book, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby under the title, “Purveyor of the Public Life.” I'll go with the original Schlock title, please.

I spent one week working for Harrison when I was 22 years old, and while I can’t come close to saying it was the best week of my life, it certainly was the most memorable. The memories start with the first day I met him. Harrison was looking for somebody with newspaper reporting experience to write for him, and I was the only ink-stained wretch in New York willing to take the job for $75 a week.

Harrison explained his theory of news by scribbling an invisible headline in the air while reciting it in a loud, gruff voice, and then quizzing me about it.


“Is that news?” he asked me.

“A drunk movie star killing six people? Sure that’s news,” I said.

“The hell it is!” Harrison roared. Anybody can get into a sports car drunk and kill six people.


That’s news!”

I told Bob I agreed with him — anybody getting drunk on water and then killing six people would be news. I only had one problem with his news theory. How could anybody possibly find a steady stream of stories like those?

“There’s only one way, kid,” Harrison told me. “You gotta make it up.”
Donald Trump — born 50 years
too late to have been Bob Harrison

But this vignette pales by comparison to the richness of Wolfe’s prose when Wolfe described Harrison. Before he matured and started writing novels that were merely wonderful, Wolfe wrote short pieces that were unrelentingly marvelous, like the piece on Harrison. 

Oddly, Harrison displayed some of the same narcissistic flare, and surrounded himself with the same sorts of irresponsible characters and self-generated chaos as the present occupant of the White House. In retrospect, they were soul brothers. But for a few twists of fate and timing, Donald Trump could have been a sleazy magazine publisher. And Bob Harrison could have been in the White House, wrecking democracy for everyone else. And you and I would hardly know the difference.

Go get yourself  a copy of the Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby and read it cover to cover. Spend extra time on his piece about Harrison, That’s the most fitting tribute to Wolfe you can make.

The world also lost Philip Roth this week. I can’t say I read everything Roth wrote. (He was the author of over 30 books.) Nor can I say that I adored everything of his that I did read. But certain works stand out — certainly his early works like Goodbye Columbus and Portnoy’s Complaint. But also The Human Stain, one of the earliest works of fiction to call attention to to the widespread paranoid hypersensitivity at colleges and universities to just about anything that doesn't sound perfectly, politically correct. 

And then certainly The Plot Against America, seems today to have been oddly prophetic of the kind of America we’re beginning to have under Donald Trump. 

Finally, the case of the censored cakes: Only a few months after the Supreme Court of the United States has heard (but not yet decided on) a discrimination case involving two gay guys who wanted a wedding cake for their marriage, and the Colorado baker who refused to bake it, (the baker claiming freedom of expression in that he doesn’t want to express any congratulatory messages to gay couples, the gay guys claiming the baker is guilty of anti-gay discrimination) we have potentially yet another censored cake case in the oven.

This time, the mother of a boy in Charleston, South Carolina, who graduated summa cum laude from a Christian home schooling program wanted  a cake honoring her son’s recognized academic distinction. She ordered the cake online from Publix, a southern grocery chain that has evidently gone into the cake censoring business.

Mom also paid for the cake online. It was supposed to be inscribed, “Congrats Jacob! Summa Cum Laude class of 2018.” But the supermarket chain took it upon itself to censor out the Latin word “cum” because it looked nasty. Or at least their computer algorithm decided it was nasty. Obviously, nobody at Publix was smart enough to take, much less to pass, an elementary Latin course. Summa cum laude means "with highest praise."

Cum is Latin for the word “with.” Now the well-meaning family was embarrassed by the absence of a key word on their cake, their son was embarrassed too, and the family had to explain to the boy’s aged Christian grandmother what “cum” means in English, and why Publix therefore refused to put the word on the cake and substituted dashes instead, even though the phrase was Latin.

Okay, so Publix is a corporate idiot and an algorithmic dolt. There’s are bigger issues than idiocy at work here. 
Where the hell does a supermarket chain get off telling anybody what a cake made for consumption in the privacy of someone's own home can say, or not say? To paraphrase the late newspaper columnist and poet Don Marquis, “To the devil with a country where people can’t mind their own business…The curse of this nation is the number of meddlesome Matties who are forever attempting to restrict the liberty of the individual.”

Meanwhile, for the religious nuts who started this whole argument, the case has now turned on them and bitten them in the, uh, gluteus maximus.

First, a Christian sues because he doesn’t want to put something on somebody else’s cake. But then a different Christian gets outraged because Publix didn’t want to put something on her own cake. Listen, Christians, are you for cake censorship, or against cake censorship? Decide one way or the other, please. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. And yes, I know it's a pun. You make them too easy.

More important, this is a perfect argument for bakers of all kinds to stop censoring cake inscriptions of any kind. Shut up and bake the damn cake. Either that, or go stick your head in your oven.

U.S. Supreme Court, are you listening?