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Last month, all nine Republican on the House Intelligence Committee signed a letter calling on Democrat Adam Schiff, the new chairman, to resign. They said Schiff made false claims that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians, so he ought to quit.

Never mind that we don’t yet know what Mueller uncovered about Trump and the Russians. The letter is just another example of the innate behavior of present-day Republicans. It’s distasteful, inappropriate and low-minded. It scrambles the facts in the classic manner of GOP nastiness. See for yourself.

Intel-1

Intel-2

Schiff’s response to the Republicans, apparently spontaneous, is a thing of beauty. Here is the transcript.

———

My colleagues might think it’s okay that the Russians offered dirt on the Democratic candidate for president as part of what’s described as the Russian government’s effort to help the Trump campaign. You might think that’s okay.

My colleagues might think it’s okay that, when that was offered to the son of the president, who had a pivotal role in the campaign, that the president’s son did not call the FBI, he did not adamantly refuse that foreign help. No, instead, that son said he would ‘love’ the help with the Russians.

You might think it was okay that he took that meeting. You might think it’s okay that Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, someone with great experience running campaigns, also took that meeting. You might think it’s okay that the president’s son-in-law also took that meeting. You might think it’s okay that they concealed it from the public. You might think it’s okay that their only disappointment after that meeting was that the dirt they received on Hillary Clinton wasn’t better. You might think it’s okay. I don’t.

You might think it’s okay that, when it was discovered a year later that they had lied about that meeting and said it was about adoptions, you might think it’s okay that the president is reported to have helped dictate that lie. You might think it’s okay. I don’t.

You might think it’s okay that the campaign chairman of a presidential campaign would offer information about that campaign to a Russian oligarch in exchange for money or debt forgiveness. You might think that’s okay. I don’t.

You might think it’s okay that that campaign chairman offered polling data, campaign polling data, to someone linked to Russian intelligence. I don’t think that’s okay.

You might think it’s okay if that the president himself called on Russia to hack his opponent’s emails, if they were listening. You might think it’s okay that, later that day, the Russians in fact attempted to hack a server affiliated with that campaign. I don’t think that’s okay.

You might think that it’s okay that the president’s son-in-law sought to establish a secret back-channel of communication with Russians through a Russian diplomatic facility. I don’t think that’s okay.

You might think it’s okay that an associate of the president made direct contact with the GRU (ed. note: Russian Intelligence) through Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks, that is considered a hostile intelligence agency. You might think it’s okay that a senior campaign official was instructed to reach that associate and find out what that hostile intelligence agency had to say in terms of dirt on his opponent.

You might think it’s okay that the national security adviser-designate secretly conferred with a Russian ambassador about undermining U.S. sanctions, and you might think it’s okay he lied about it to the FBI.

You might say that’s all okay. You might say that’s just what you need to do to win. But I don’t think it’s okay. I think it’s immoral, I think it’s unethical, I think it’s unpatriotic and, yes, I think it’s corrupt and evidence of collusion.

Now, I have always said that whether this amounts to proof of conspiracy was another matter. Whether the special counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt the proof of that crime was up to the special counsel, and that I would accept his decision, and I do. He is a good and honorable man, and he is a good prosecutor.

But I do not think that conduct, criminal or not, is okay. And the day we do think that’s okay is the day we will look back and say, that is the day America lost its way.

And I’ll tell you one more thing that is apropos of the hearing today. I don’t think it’s okay that during a presidential campaign, Mr. Trump sought the Kremlin’s help to consummate a real estate deal in Moscow that would make him a fortune. According to the special counsel, hundreds of millions of dollars.

I don’t think it’s okay that he concealed it from the public. I don’t think it’s okay he advocated a new and more favorable policy towards the Russians, even as he was seeking the Russian’s help, the Kremlin’s help, to make money.

I don’t think it’s okay that his attorney lied to our committee. There is a different word for that than collusion and it’s called compromise. And that’s the subject of our hearing today.

Mic drop

———

Schiff seems to be a decent and honorable guy. Unless he has me completely fooled, and I don’t think he does, he has integrity and compassion, wants to play fair, wants to do the right thing.

There was a time when you could say the same about some Republicans.

 

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The Mueller Report is all over the news these days, mostly in the form of speculation and spin, seeing as how Trump’s Justice Department has managed to keep it secret so far.

The Full Mueller will surface eventually, and the facts will be known. But really, the verdict on Trump came in years ago.

Donald Trump is an all-around awful human being. If you opened his head, crawly things would spill out and skitter away to find the nearest dark place.

He is crude, obnoxious, and vindictive. He is a bully, a blowhard, and a crook. He tells lies for sport. He has no qualifications for the job and no plans to acquire them. His business ties with Russian gangsters go back decades.

I could accept an offensive jerk as president, but not a no-talent gasbag who is in bed with the Russians. He is unfit for office for a thousand reasons and should have been ejected long ago.

Depressingly, plenty of people think otherwise. They seem to believe that our government and political institutions are so screwed up, so rigged to benefit either (a) the rich and powerful or (b) deadbeats and welfare queens, that we need someone like Trump to tear down the system so we can start fresh — in some ill-defined way that came to them in a fever dream.

Well, it’s true that the system is screwed-up and rigged. But if you think Trump is the solution, you’re addled.

The way to get rid of the parasites and, dare I say it, make America great again, is to start using our institutions as they were intended to be used. To play fair. Work together. Use our shared resources to help each other.

Things got off the rails because, over time, the rich and well-connected, including big corporations, have learned to game the system to their own advantage and the detriment of everyone else.

For example, Amazon.com, Inc. made profits of $11 billion in 2018. The company not only paid zero federal income tax, but also qualified for a tax rebate of $129 million. That’s gaming the system like a boss.

It’s undeniable that America has become more and more under the control of modern-day robber barons. Their ascendance in the U.S. has been more subtle than the rise of the Russian oligarchs after the USSR imploded, but the similarities are very real.

Meanwhile, the Republicans connive and cheat to hold down Democratic voter turnout through gerrymandering and voter suppression.

And Fox News and the rest of the right-wing propaganda machine keep the conservative herd in a lather by invoking inner demons and insecurities, including fear of black and brown people.

And the GOP base keeps voting for Republicans, who make saps out of the faithful by helping the rich get richer and the powerful become more entrenched.

There are plenty of Democrats in office who ought to be shown the door, but, in general, the Left gets it right. The Left hasn’t lost its mind, integrity, and sense of decency. Consider the formal Democratic Party priorities for 2019.

HR 1, the first bill passed by the new House, would institute campaign finance reform, add new restrictions on lobbying, and expand voting rights.

Democrats want to restore provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court shredded in 2013. Democrats want the federal government to build rural broadband systems.

They want to shore up the Affordable Care Act, lower prescription drug prices, pass some overdue restrictions on guns, and act decisively on climate change.

By the way, the Green New Deal, which the conservatives are straining so hard to vilify and belittle, is merely a label for taking climate change seriously. It isn’t a war on cows.

Whatever we do to go green will be insufficient, but if we can snap out of it in the 11th hour and decarbonize the economy to some degree, it might help the planet remain livable a bit longer.

The ideas on the list of Democratic priorities aren’t radical. They’re just common-sense efforts to face reality.

Contrast that to Trump and the Republicans, who say climate change is a hoax, who warn that malevolent forces are poised to storm the southern border, and who rarely favor anything that isn’t cruel, selfish, deceitful, or underhanded.

But that, I’m afraid, is innate right-wing behavior.

More on that subject in my next post.

Mueller et al

Don, Rod, Bob, and Smiling Bill.

 

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Brain Damage

Science, I love ya.

I am of the opinion, and have been for some time, that the mindset of people who are politically, socially, and/or religiously conservative is the product of some kind of mental abnormality. It’s a position I have expressed often on this blog, including posts here, here, and here.

I hold that view because right-wing thinking routinely ignores facts and logic. Conservatives are, by nature, remarkably closed-minded. Great numbers of them live their lives hating on and fearing various forces they perceive are out to get them, take from them, or diminish them. For psychological reasons, they seem to need an enemy they can blame for whatever upsets them.

Behavior like that isn’t normal or healthy. The negativity, the anger, the bunker mentality, the resistance to change — it’s always led me to suspect that something isn’t right up in the belfry.

Well, now there is new science that backs me up. Researchers at Northwestern University say they have identified a link between brain damage and religious fundamentalism.

According to their findings, damage to the prefrontal cortex — the “executive” region of the brain, which governs higher mental functions such as decision-making — can diminish “cognitive flexibility,” making the victim less open-minded, less accepting of new ideas, and correspondingly more extreme in religious beliefs.

Specifically, damage to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex has the reported effects.

prefrontal cortex

The Northwestern study compared two groups of Vietnam War veterans. One group had suffered damage to the prefrontal cortex, the other had not. The subjects were tested to assess the traits of cognitive flexibility and openness and to determine religious/political beliefs.

The subjects with trauma to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex scored lower on cognitive flexibility and openness and higher on conservatism and religious fundamentalism. The subjects who had suffered no trauma scored the opposite.

Why? Because of the difference between empirical thinking and religious thinking.

Empirical beliefs (science, learning by observation, etc.) are based on real facts in the real world. Empirical thinking also can accommodate change if new empirical evidence warrants.

Religious beliefs, on the other hand, are the opposite. Fundamentalism and conservatism are fixed and rigid. They discourage progressive thinking. They reject scientific explanations and new evidence. Anything that questions their beliefs and traditions is seen as a threat to group stability and may be opposed aggressively.

Cognitive flexibility, by the way, simply means flexible thinking. This trait allows the brain to switch lines of thought quickly, to consider new evidence, and to adjust beliefs and behavior accordingly. It’s a key survival skill in organisms large and small.

The Northwestern study noted that other factors can influence political and religious convictions, including social environment and innate personality traits. But they emphasized the need to understand the mechanics of how religion works in people because it is so influential in virtually every society.

To summarize:

(1) The trait of cognitive flexibility provides a mental edge in dealing rationally with the world and adapting to change.

(2) Researchers have found evidence that brain damage can reduce cognitive flexibility and lead to an increase in conservative/fundamentalist thinking.

Empirical thinking scores another point for empirical thinking.

Maybe damage to the prefrontal cortex, or faulty wiring in the brain from birth, helps explain the loony behavior of the Republicans in recent times. Maybe it helps explain the bizarre and creepy MAGA crowds that assemble for Trump rallies.

And maybe it sheds light on why an appalling number of people voted for Trump and still support him, despite the empirical evidence that he is a corrupt, amoral con man who is owned by Russian gangsters and should have been ejected from office long ago on grounds of collusion, negligence, malfeasance, and the commission of high crimes and misdemeanors.

But I digress.

fanboy

 

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A Malignancy

Well, this is one way to put it: someone pointed out that one-third of the men on the Supreme Court were confirmed despite being accused by multiple women of either sexual harassment or sexual assault.

That would be Clarence Thomas re the sexual harassment and Brett Kavanaugh re the sexual assault. In Kavanaugh’s case, the Republicans brushed aside three assault accusations. Their “investigation” of the women’s claims amounted to not looking into them.

That’s the way it goes. The truth can be a hot potato. Can’t let the truth derail your guy.

Frankly, I can feature a Democratic Senator wanting to know the truth, regardless of the consequences. But not the Republicans. It’s quite revealing how expendable fairness and integrity are to them.

At first, Jeff Flake got points for wanting the FBI to investigate the women’s charges, but that was just a feint. He accepted the faux investigation and voted to confirm.

Susan Collins, who has a knack for sounding almost objective, ultimately declared that the women’s claims were phony, and she gave Kavanaugh a full-throated partisan endorsement. She was “McConnell’s closer,” some observed.

I am reminded often these days of the old adage, attributed to Henry Kissinger, that Republicans have an instinct for the jugular, and Democrats have an instinct for the capillaries.

If you doubt that, you’ve forgotten what the Republicans did to Merrick Garland. Or else you’re a Republican and you approve.

As for the Supreme Court, I learned my lesson about that body long before Garland and Kavanaugh. At one time, the Court was a respected institution, and the integrity of the justices was rarely in doubt. But now it’s just another entity guided by politics. The conservatives have made it that way.

If you doubt that, you’ve forgotten what the conservative justices did in Bush v. Gore. Or else you’re a Republican and you approve.

The Kavanaugh episode was especially galling because he was a terrible choice for the Court. Some Republicans even warned Trump not to nominate him due to his long-time role as a political operative. Kavanaugh worked for Ken Starr during the Clinton-Lewinsky period.

For his service to the cause, the GOP rewarded Kavanaugh with a judgeship, which later became his stepping stone to the Supreme Court.

So, Kavanaugh was nominated to the Court already carrying the baggage of being hyper-partisanwell before the accusations surfaced by one, then two, then three women.

When he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he denied all charges, but chose to do it in a vitriolic tirade that blamed his Democratic enemies, including the Clintons by name, for being out to get him. And he did it with prepared remarks, not in the heat of the moment.

I didn’t plan to watch all of his testimony, but I did. It was surreal. Amazingly, he also was belligerent with the Democratic members of the Committee.

It was like a tantrum by a toddler, or a spoiled frat boy. A shocking display of anger and political bias. The temperament he displayed for all to see was anything but judicial.

That rant alone should have disqualified him from serving on the Supreme Court, or any other court. But, in keeping with the state of things these days, it did not.

Then, speaking of the surreal, there is Donald Trump, a man devoid of redeeming qualities. Trump is a disgrace. A philanderer, a pathological liar, an amoral creep. A daily embarrassment.

He’s also a treasonous crook. Trump has been owned by the Russian oligarchs since the 1980s, when he began accepting their money because banks in the U.S. stopped making loans to him. By many accounts, some of his companies were set up, and maybe still are, to launder dirty Russian money.

This vulgar man is President thanks to a witches’ brew of sordid factors:

Republican gerrymandering.

Republican voter suppression.

The right-wing penchant for playing dirty.

The mean, selfish, and increasingly wacko beliefs of the conservatives.

The malevolent influence of Fox News and the rest of the right-wing propaganda machine.

The artful interference of the Russians in our politics and elections.

Etcetera, etcetera.

Republican voters were — take your pick — callous enough, reckless enough, unhinged enough, deluded enough, or stupid enough to vote to make one of the most dreadful human beings alive our President.

Rational people knew full well that a Trump presidency would be a trainwreck. But the conservatives, to whom rational thinking has become an alien concept, voted for him anyway. And continue to support him, with relish.

Trump is deplorable to the core, surrounded by a rogue’s gallery of lesser deplorables. But, in truth, he is only a symptom, not the problem.

The real problem is multi-faceted:

– The negative, hateful conservative mindset that put him in office.

– The MAGA crowds that cheer and jeer when Trump holds a rally to attack some target of the moment.

– The morally bankrupt GOP politicians who abandoned their few remaining scruples and got in bed with Trump.

You’ll recall that a dozen of them recently used the same simultaneous talking point: people who wanted the accusations against Kavanaugh investigated amounted to an “angry mob.”

It’s a fact that today’s right-wingers are in favor of virtually nothing. They only oppose. They oppose people they distrust, people they fear, people not like them.

Sometimes, their opposition is merely a finger in the eye of their enemies. Plenty of right-wingers claim global warming is a hoax because doing something about it would be detrimental to capitalism. But probably just as many deny climate change simply to be contrary and in opposition to the liberals.

And consider that conservatives are almost exclusively white. In 2016, 63 percent of white men voted for Trump. 52 percent of white women voted for an admitted womanizer whose low opinion of women is obvious.

The 52 percent figure seems both high and counter-intuitive. But remember, women are just as susceptible as men to groupthink, mental aberrations, and delusional thinking.

Whatever their reasons for being on Team Trump, these are the people who have controlled American society since our founding. No surprise that they fiercely oppose any change that might diminish their power.

And really, the conservative way of thinking only makes sense as a product of their fear of losing their positions of privilege.

The conservative mindset is a malignancy that has impeded the advancement of American society for half of my lifetime.

As for the rest of us, we constitute a clear majority. The solution is to rise up, overwhelm their voter suppression efforts, vote them out, and put an end to it.

Early voting started yesterday in Georgia. I was at the head of the line.

The pols

The voters

 

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The ear tends to be lazy, craves the familiar and is shocked by the unexpected; the eye, on the other hand, tends to be impatient, craves the novel and is bored by repetition.

— W. H. Auden

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If things go wrong, don’t go with them.

Roger Babson

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I am fond of children — except boys.

— Lewis Carroll

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Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, women for their strengths.

— Lois Wyse

Auden WH

Auden

Wyse L

Wyse

 

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Quotes o’ the Day

Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

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You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.

— Indira Gandhi

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Better to get hurt with the truth than comforted with a lie.

— Khaled Hosseini

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I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.

— Oscar Wilde

Emerson RW-2

Emerson

Wilde O

Wilde

 

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(My report on The Village Idiot, a short-lived humor magazine at the University of Georgia in 1964, continues herewith.)

In 1956, Patti Carruthers graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Education. (I looked it up on the Google.) After teaching for a time in Missouri, she moved to Hollywood, where she worked as a substitute at a junior high school. Her salary was $550 per month.

In 1959, at age 24, Patti Carruthers accepted an offer of $1,000 a week to become a stripper at Hollywood’s Moulin Rouge. She took the stage name Patti White.

“I miss teaching because I love boys and girls,” she said in an interview at the time. “But this is a great switch, getting up late and sleeping late.”

Miss White, who measured 37-22-36, said she was glad she made the career change because “the traveling involved is so educational.” But, she added, stripping was just a stepping stone. She aspired to be an actress.

“Now I can afford acting lessons, singing lessons, and dancing lessons,” she said.

By 1961, due to circumstances I was unable to ascertain, Patti White was working as a stripper at the Domino Lounge in Atlanta.

VI-6

Promo flyer from the Domino Lounge, 1961.

And it was there that the editorial staff of the Athens magazine The Village Idiot (see my previous post) interviewed her…

———

Q & A

An Interview With Miss Patti White in Which She Exposes All

NOTE: This story was so important to our first issue that we decided not to entrust it to one reporter. Miss White’s tale, we reasoned, required the attention of our whole staff. So off we went to Atlanta and THE DOMINO, where the following conversation occurred.

Q. (By the staff) May we buy you a drink, Miss White?

A. No, thanks, boys. I don’t drink. Well, maybe just… you know. But, please be my guests. I feel I owe you a great deal, you know.

Q. Aw, you don’t owe us nothing, Patti. (Double scotch, waitress.) (A double CC, ginger chaser, doll.) (I’d just like a whiskey sour, please.)

A. But I do owe you something. Anything I can do, please ask.

Q. Well, now… (Shut up!)

A. I mean, really. After all, it’s not every day a girl gets to be the Village Idiot. I mean, I’ve just never been an idiot before, you know?

Q. Great sense of humor there, Patti. Great, just great. (Another Scotch, please.)

A. Now, boys, tell me about your publication. I’ve always been interested in books and things like that. You know, I’ve been thinking that someday I might go back to teaching again. Or maybe I’ll open a string of Patti White clubs. I mean, after all, why not? Playboy has its rabbits springing up everywhere, so why not me?

Q. Do you mean you’ll have white rabbits? Ha-ha. (Write that down.) (Yeah, we may have to use it.) All right to order another round, Patti?

A. Sure, boys. I get a discount. But let me tell you my idea. See, the Patti White clubs would have all these darling little waitresses — all young and beautiful and eager to serve, and guess what they’d be wearing!

Q. A happy face? (Scotch on the rocks.)

A. No, silly. You’re pulling my leg.

Q. (Pregnant pause while the Idiot staff grins.)

A. Now, in my club, the girls would be first class. They’d wear mortar boards and cute little shorty gowns. Wouldn’t that be clever?

Q. Sure it would. (Yeah, they could take orders on cute little blackboards.) (In chalk.)

A. Oh, that’s a wonderful idea. I ought to have you boys help me, you’re so clever.

Q. That calls for a drink, right Patti?

A. Right! And I’m buying. After all, a person in my position shouldn’t risk getting on the wrong side of the press.

Q. Speaking of blackboards and chalk, Patti, how did you happen to quit teaching and become a stripper?

A. Oh, I’m not really a stripper. I mean, well, I take off my clothes and all, but when I’m up there, I still feel like a teacher, you know?

Q. We’ll have to admit, it’s a revelation.

A. You see, I was really a dedicated teacher. I tried everything I knew to get across to my students, and I think, I mean I really do, that I must have been pretty popular with the boys at Sun Valley School. I mean, I could tell. hey would watch me very carefully, no matter what I was doing. But then, the administration began to watch, too.

Q. And what did they think?

A. Well, I think they looked pretty hard at me, too. But it wasn’t my fault I was a healthy girl. Why, ever since I was 14, I could pass for a… well, you know what I mean.

Q. Yes, ma’am, we know. (I can understand how you’d have trouble with the administration.) (Another Scotch, please.)

A. Well, the whole trouble was in the way I dressed. Do you see anything wrong with the way I’m dressed?

Q. No, ma’am.

A. So, either my clothes had to go, or I had to go.

Q. So, both of you went, huh? (Tragic loss to Sun Valley.) (Another example of inept administration.)

A. I keep hoping that someday, I’ll find a principal who’d like to have me.

Q. Well, now, I’m sure there must be many. (That brings up the big question, Patti.) (Anybody want another drink?)

A. Order up, boys. I have to perform in a minute. Say, you boys are pretty clever. I wish you’d tell me what you think of the act.

Q. I’d be glad to tell you. (Uh, the big question, remember?) Oh, yes. Patti, do you think a college degree is a liability or an asset?

A. Well, in my case…

Q. Thank you, Miss White.

A. I didn’t finish. You see, after college, I went into teaching. Now, the California system doesn’t pay too badly, but teaching doesn’t pay enough for what the administration wants you to do. Sometimes, I could hardly make out. But what was a liability in teaching turned out to be an asset in show business, and now I make up to a thousand a week.

Q. A thousand a week?

A. Oh, yes. I mean, well, I work very hard. Twice a night, six times a week.

Q. Wow! Miss White, we of the staff salute you. Now, gentlemen, let us quaff a final toast — one more, Patti? — to Patti White, the Idiot’s Delight.

VI-7

VI-8

———

The Patti White interview no doubt was the pride of The Village Idiot staff. They probably thought the story would make The VI an overnight sensation.

For all I know, it did. I didn’t exactly have my finger on the pulse of Athens in those days.

In truth, I was just an anonymous 20-year-old, no car, chronically broke, a guy with Buddy Holly glasses and a flat-top haircut. My chief interests, beyond keeping my grades respectable, were observing females and conspiring to get alcohol.

In other words, The Village Idiot easily could have been the toast of Athens that year without my knowledge.

Anyway, that’s the story of The Village Idiot. If you know what became of the magazine, the people who created it, or, for that matter, the lovely Patti White, fill me in.

 

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