a look around the neighborhood

”money trickles up. give it to the poor fellow and the rich fellow will have it in his pocket by nightfall – but at least it will have passed through the poor fellow’s hands.”

-Will Rogers

There’s something you need to understand before reading much further, and that is simply this: I have the absolute best landlord in East Nashville. Hands down, easily several laps around the track from pretty much any landlord I’ve ever had – my rear view mirror is essentially a collection of long-distance, absentees who only really wanted a check in their mailbox every month and couldn’t be bothered to hear about much else…with the odd property management company and overly nosy micromanager sprinkled in here and there.

My current guy is the SHIT.

But – having put the miles on my odometer that I have, and becoming intimately familiar with the impermanence of these little snapshots of life that – once you’ve learned to recognize them – you can actually catch yourself looking around you from time to time and thinking to yourself, “I need to soak this in and remember as much of it as I can, as best as I can, because I’m gonna want to smile about this a few years down the line, and I don’t wanna forget the details.”

I think I’ve known for a long time that this whole Nashville adventure was a vacation stop, a layover on a longer trip…but I’ve actually enjoyed a lot about my time here in my current circumstances – with my son hunkered down in the basement apartment and my daughter less than a mile down the road. Even though I don’t see either of them as much as you might think I would under the circumstances, just knowing they’re within arms’ reach has been a source of comfort.

My landlord has an easy smile, he doesn’t sweat the small shit, he’s a great hang, and he’s extended me an extra day or two on the two occasions when I’ve needed it with barely a shrug.

Now, though, Nashville – in the midst of a sweaty fervor to destroy everything that brought people into its tax base in the first place – has rewarded folks like my landlord with a record property tax increase. A Google search of the phrase “Nashville Property Tax Increase 2017” will induce what’s become a familiar blend of rage and cynicism – alongside stories from April reporting “an average increase of 37 percent”, there are stories from January with headlines reading “Barry: No Property Tax Increase in 2017” (quite Trumpian, in retrospect…although I’m actually quite fond of our mayor and understand enough about how these processes work to know that it’s not the work of a lone assassin at the top of the political food chain. Still, best not to talk shit about things you don’t have control over.)

In talking to my landlord today, he pointed out that there are pitchforks on both ends of the handle of this club…because he’s getting calls from his insurance company now, saying that “gee, man…your property is actually worth THIS much? you’re underinsured…so we’re gonna need to raise your rates to get you up to where you need to be.”

He was incredibly gracious, and I could tell he was uncomfortable even having the conversation. “Hey, listen, man…I knew this day was coming as soon as I heard about this. I know the rent’s gotta go up. If you need to take some time to come up with a number, that’s fine, but I’ll try to be ok with whatever you come up with.” In the end, we actually came up with a number on the spot, and it was less than I expected it to be, frankly…but it feels like a sign of things to come.

I’ve perhaps been avoiding the subject internally, or fooling myself about it, or maybe just ignoring it altogether…

…but this is not sustainable in the long term.

I don’t know if it ever really was.

I’m waving goodbye to friends like Paul Griffith, who’s moving to the west coast, and will probably be gone by the time I get back to Nashville from a week of gigs and sessions in Philadelphia. I’m saying goodbye to places I’d fallen in love with – Charlie Bob’s, the perfect marriage of roadside diner and beer joint, a 5 minute drive from my house…Savarino’s, the closest thing to passable Italian food I’d encountered since I got here.

There’s still a lot to love about Nashville. It took me a minute to figure that out, but it’s not dead yet. My kids love it here, and that makes me happy. Having them close by makes me happy. The burgers at the Family Wash make me happy. Brown’s Diner makes me happy. Bumping into Phil Kaufman around town makes me happy. Carter Vintage and Fanny’s and Eastside Music Supply makes me happy. Dino’s makes me happy.

There’s a lot of good left around here.

But it’s definitely time to start thinking about what lies further down the road.

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never take a vote for granted

this is why I think we’ll wake up tomorrow morning to find the TrumpCare bill will have passed the House vote.

Sherrod Brown of Ohio wrote this editorial fourteen years ago…and if anything, things have only gotten worse.

Never before has the House of Representatives operated in such secrecy:

At 2:54 a.m. on a Friday in March, the House cut veterans’ benefits by three votes.

At 2:39 a.m. on a Friday in April, the House slashed education and health care

by five votes.

At 1:56 a.m. on a Friday in May, the House passed the Leave No Millionaire Behind tax-cut bill by a handful of votes.

At 2:33 a.m. on a Friday in June, the House passed the Medicare privatization and prescription drug bill by one vote.

At 12:57 a.m. on a Friday in July, the House eviscerated Head Start by one vote.

And then, after returning from summer recess, at 12:12 a.m. on a Friday in October, the House voted $87 billion for Iraq.

Always in the middle of the night. Always after the press had passed their deadlines. Always after the American people had turned off the news and gone to bed.

What did the public see? At best, Americans read a small story with a brief explanation of the bill and the vote count in Saturday’s papers.

But what did the public miss? They didn’t see the House votes, which normally take no more than 20 minutes, dragging on for as long as an hour as members of the Republican leadership trolled for enough votes to cobble together a majority.

They didn’t see GOP leaders stalking the floor for whoever was not in line. They didn’t see Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay coerce enough Republican members into switching their votes to produce the desired result.

In other words, they didn’t see the subversion of democracy.

And late last month, they did it again. The most sweeping changes to Medicare in its 38-year history were forced through the House at 5:55 on a Saturday morning.

The debate started at midnight. The roll call began at 3 a.m. Most of us voted within the typical 20 minutes. Normally, the speaker would have gaveled the vote closed. But not this time; the Republican-driven bill was losing.

By 4 a.m., the bill had been defeated 216-218, with only one member, Democrat David Wu, not voting. Still, the speaker refused to gavel the vote closed.

Then the assault began.

Hastert, DeLay, Republican Whip Roy Blount, Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas, Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin – all searched the floor for stray Republicans to bully.

I watched them surround Cincinnati’s Steve Chabot, trying first a carrot, then a stick; but he remained defiant. Next, they aimed at retiring Michigan Congressman Nick Smith, whose son is running to succeed him. They promised support if he changed his vote to yes and threatened his son’s future if he refused. He stood his ground.

Many of the two dozen Republicans who voted against the bill had fled the floor. One Republican hid in the Democratic cloakroom.

By 4:30, the browbeating had moved into the Republican cloakroom, out of sight of C-SPAN cameras and the insomniac public. Republican leaders woke President George W. Bush, and a White House aide passed a cell phone from one recalcitrant member to another in the cloakroom.

At 5:55, two hours and 55 minutes after the roll call had begun – twice as long as any previous vote in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives – two obscure western Republicans emerged from the cloakroom. They walked, ashen and cowed, down the aisle to the front of the chamber, scrawled their names and district numbers on green cards to change their votes and surrendered the cards to the clerk.

The speaker gaveled the vote closed; Medicare privatization had passed.

You can do a lot in the middle of the night, under the cover of darkness.

I’m willing to concede that there’s every chance I could be wrong about this, but I’ve got a hunch I might not be.

 

the past as prologue

Hello Blogness, my old friend…I’ve come to rant with you again…

It’s been a minute, ain’t it?

This thing is long in the tooth, to be certain.  It was here before social media, it’s been quietly preserving the posts left here during the reign of social media, and – at this point, I think it may be time to revert back to leaving certain things here, just because…well, just because.

Mainly because there’s just too much shit to keep up with these days…and this seems like a good place to start cataloging the insanity.

Grab something sturdy…

 

timelines are important

(Caroline – @rvawonk on Twitter – did the LexisNexis research that led to this rant, and gets full credit for it…this is the abridged version.)

Because talking points and soundbites seldom paint much of a picture, let’s put this whole Jeff Sessions thing into the context of what was happening around it at the time. Pay specific attention to the dates – they tell the lions’ share of the story, here.

Sessions’ second meeting with Russian Ambassador Kislyak was on September 8th.

Three days prior to that meeting, Obama and Putin were meeting in China at the G20 summit, discussing the sanctions that had been imposed on Russia on September 1st as a result of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine – where Putin was quoted as saying that they “did not discuss it in detail because I see no sense in discussing matters of this sort” – and clearly wasn’t pleased with the outcome.

On September 7th, DNI James Clapper publicly suggested for the first time that Russia was likely behind the DNC hack.

The following day – September 8th – the same day that Sessions met with the Ambassador – Trump told Larry King on RT (Russia Today) that he didn’t think that the Russians were behind the hack, and that it was Democratic propoganda. Later, both Trump and Pence were quoted in separate venues (interview with Matt Lauer on Today and in the NYT) praising Putin’s leadership style in contrast with President Obama.

And…as if by magic…after the Sessions/Kislyak meeting, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov releases a statement saying that “Moscow expects Washington to display political will on building good relations with Russia after the Presidential elections.”

So to recap – roughly a week earlier, in the aftermath of the G20 summit, Putin won’t even comment about the sanctions discussion and is notably agitated, and miraculously – a week later – his spokesman thinks everything’ll be coming up roses after the election.

THEN – five days later – on the 14th – the DNC emails were released to WikiLeaks.

If you want to read the supporting research on this timeline, pop over to Twitter and take a peek.  She’s on top of this.

 

indivisible

I know many of us remember 2009 and seeing the “tea party” protests that everyone is comparing the “indivisible” folks to…and in that instance, there were two major organizations (FreedomWorks and Tea Party Patriots) that acted as hubs and organizing forces for the folks who turned out. The first significant Tea Party protests happened during the August recess of 2009, over half a year after Obama took office…

…and now, barely a month after CheetoJesus unpacked his bags, there are crowds larger than 2009 showing up at town halls and protests and getting INCREDIBLY vocal – and getting folks’ attention.

I’m left to wonder: who are folks blaming as being the organizing force behind this? I know there are people who actually believe that George Soros is sitting in a bunker somewhere, lit by a single bulb dangling from the ceiling, signing checks to protesters for 22 hours a day and putting people on buses and creating fake ID’s and shipping them off to Mitch McConnells’ district so they can get in a verbal dig and land on CNN the next day…but I don’t think any sane individual believes that.

so…lacking the organizational force of a FreedomWorks-style front office, who’s running this show?

The most stark contrast I’ve been able to arrive at in observing this groundswell is that the 2009 movement started at the top, created ORGs, and recruited followers from the top down.

This movement has gone the other way – it’s grown up from the ground, from one pissed-off dude who turned into a dozen pissed-off dudes and they’ve managed to find each other and organize from the bottom upward. If you’ve seen any of the footage from these town halls over the past two days, it’s not the often-hyped conservative stereotypical protester that you’re seeing in these town halls.

Middle-aged White America is just as pissed off as the Occupy crowd right now, and they’re reacting predictably to having seen their lawmakers not even pretend to represent the will of their constituents anymore.

The clip of that woman, nearly in tears, telling McConnell to “answer me and I’ll sit down and shut up like Elizabeth Warren” is gonna be the clip you’ll see in the Ken Burns movie they make in 2038 about what took place in the aftermath of this embarrassment of a Presidential election.

(and the coolest thing about that future Ken Burns movie will be that Morgan Freeman will once again get to voice the character of Frederick Douglass.)

then…and now

in 2006, the Democratic party regained a majority in congress. they picked up a six seat edge in the Senate and a 31 seat edge in the house. in 2008, the pendulum swung even further to the left with the election of Barack Obama.
after he took office, there was a groundswell of opinion that the Left should pursue charges, should prosecute the architects of the Iraq Debacle and that those responsible for sending thousands of US troops to die in the desert should be held responsible for what was ultimately a mistake.

“no, no, no…” came the reply from the calmer voices now calling the shots. “we have to move forward, we have work to do that’ll be hindered by looking backward and rehashing those battles.”

so the lesson that the Right took away from the aftermath of the Iraq adventure was that – like the Nixon/Ford “arrangement” in the wake of Watergate, there would be no justice for those actually responsible…sure, Haldeman and Erlichman went to jail, but then as now, no one actually thought they were principally responsible for either the burglary or the coverup. and in 2009, the groundswell of voices demanding justice for the blunders of the previous administration never rose above a mumble.

now, over the past 8 years, we have watched Congress squander nearly a decade voting – over and over again – to repeal the ACA while knowing full well their futile efforts were nothing but posturing…because they lacked the power to override a Presidential Veto, and there was zero chance of actual repeal. they embarked on the Benghazi witch hunt, barely out of earshot of a dozen attacks on American embassies and consulates that resulted in over 40 fatalities during the Bush years that drew the ire of absolutely no one in the legislative branch, and…at every given opportunity, taking advantage of every chance to obstruct and block efforts from lawmakers on the Left in both the Executive and Legislative branches to move forward on any front.

last year, they found their own Pied Piper of Hamlin, whos’ promised them a ton of shit that he can’t deliver, whos’ convinced them that he has the power to turn back the clock to the 1950’s and restore America to its former Nick at Nite greatness – removing immigrants from the sidewalks of its pristine, ghetto-free cities and sending them off to their high-paying factory gig with their Thermos under their arm and lungs full of coal dust and asbestos.

somehow, enough of us collectively took leave of our senses to fall for his shit, and now – we’re all getting what they deserve.

but the wounds cut deeper, and don’t bleed as obviously as watching a bad haystack rant and rave about his electoral landslide three times a week on TV.
we now have the Right in charge in both houses of Congress – our last literal line of defense, as the battle lines currently stand.

let’s recap what they’ve done for us in the time since this nightmare started:

* they confirmed an Oil Man – the recipient of the highest civilian honor that the Russians can bestow on an individual – a man who’s worked his entire adult life for ExxonMobil – as Secretary of State.

* they confirmed an unhinged dumpster fire as National Security Adviser, who didn’t last a full month – but blessed us with a memorable WTF moment at a press conference before leaving in disgrace…and still may find his way to a prison cell, depending on future events.

* Six cabinet appointments from the Goldman Sachs roster.

* Jeff Sessions, deemed too racist for a federal judgeship back when Republicans were still a sane and reasonable political party, is now Attorney General. Voting Rights should progress nicely moving forward.

* Tom Price, known to have engaged in self-dealing while a sitting member of Congress, confirmed as HHS.

* Rick Perry. Ben Carson. Betsy DeVos. No explanation necessary.

* And soon, they’re going to vote to confirm Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma Big Oil stooge whos’ sued the EPA more times than anyone can count, to head the EPA.

right now, Jason Chaffetz, the Lost Osmond brother, is refusing to investigate Trumps’ ties to Russia, refusing to investigate whether Flynn broke the law by interacting with Russia DURING THE CAMPAIGN, and feels that the situation “has taken care of itself”…but did find time, earlier today, to indicate his desire to press criminal charges against the IT guy who maintained HRC’s email server…AFTER the FBI found no evidence to press charges against HRC personally. That’s tantamount to someone arresting you for buying and maintaining the car that a thief stole and used to commit vehicular manslaughter.

Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell both realize, as a result of observing the dynamic established over the past two decades, that there will be no fallout as a result of their complacency. They know as well as anyone could that their voters are too disconnected from the big picture to give a shit about anything but their loyalty to CheetoJesus. Paul Ryan found out firsthand when his OWN CONSTITUENTS booed him at a public event in his district for daring to step off the Trump bandwagon, and Mitch has never had an original thought in his career, and his voters love him for that. Marco Rubio’s body would reject the transplant if doctors surgically implanted a spine in his lifeless body.

A few weeks ago, former Florida congressman David Jolly prophetically said to an MSNBC commentator: “this is 2017. The president of the united states can destroy a member of congress with a tweet. and that’s why no member of congress wants to speak out.” Every Republican on Capitol Hill has long ago learned the Lesson Of Michelle Bachmann, which states: If you’re not Michelle Bachmann, you’d better become Michelle Bachmann, or you’ll lose your seat to Michelle Bachmann in the primary.”

There’s a majority of seats on The Hill that are occupied by a herd of folks who realize a number of chilling notions…

They know that there are political gains to be made by clinging to CheetoJesus, and they’ve seen the disadvantages that can arise from rejecting his mandate.

They know that there’s no political price to be paid for making crazy assed statements like “you should get all your news directly from the president” (courtesy of Lamar Smith of TX, the HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN, FOR FUCKS’ SAKE) – and in fact, the nuttier you appear, the more endearing you become to the anti-intellect crowd.

and lastly, they know that there’s no post-political price to be paid for governing like an asshole and just generally being a shitty person.

they know this intimately, because the Party Without A Pair has shown it to them time and time again.

Right now, your President has unleashed Immigration and Customs Enforcement with a mandate that every undocumented immigrant is at risk of deportation. almost 700 have been rounded up already, including incredibly dangerous criminals with offenses like using a friends’ SSN to get a job at a waterpark 22 years ago, and the acting ICE director told congress, today, that – literally – every undocumented individual living in this country is at risk, whether they’ve committed a crime or not, at the determination of the jackbooted enforcers on the streets.

If you’ve read this far, I don’t need to rehash the damage he’s managed to do in less than a month, and you don’t need me to. That’s not really the point I sat down to make tonight, anyway.

Watergate may have been the last time that an actual price was paid at the top of the food chain for a prosecutable offense by a President. Reagan paid no price for Iran/Contra, and Bush paid no price for misleading the country into war. Clinton was impeached for lying about a blowjob, because that’s what stirs the imagination of a certain demographic within our country, and our leaders.

There are those who believe that Trump won’t make it four years, that he’ll quit or be impeached or…whatever. I suppose I might have been inclined to think likewise at one time, but at this point I don’t see any reason to believe that our Legislative body will do so much as lift a finger to remove Trump from office.

He’s here for the long haul.

If you’re watching, if you’re paying attention to the degree of what’s perfectly acceptable by the Party In Power right now, you may be coming to the same conclusion yourself.

Slimy Asshole Criminal Banker guy at Treasury? FUCK YEAH!

Serial Polluter in charge of the EPA? BRILLIANT!

Redneck Racist Voting Rights Enemy for AG? PERFECT!

Investigate campaign ties to Russia during the election?

GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!

Strap yourselves in, y’all. We don’t have a dog in this race to look out for us.

Let’s just hope that when…not if, but WHEN – we get the keys back, we don’t roll over and let them pat our tummies and let them off the hook next time.

the new normal

we’re living in an era where stupidity gets a lot of press.

an era of YouTube people setting off sashes of fireworks wrapped around their torsos…late-night TV hosts interviewing people on the street who can’t name the Vice President or doesn’t know what “the equator” is…people who lack basic motor vehicle skills…people who can’t make change from a twenty dollar bill.

it’s rampant, and it’s not going anywhere, and yeah – it affects our politics.

but individual stupidity, in and of itself, is largely harmless to society.

you know what’s dangerous?

arrogance.
bravado.
misplaced confidence.
the absolute certainty in something one has no understanding of.
complete refusal to seek counsel from others.

when you combine those traits with a complete lack of experience and reckless conceit, then…well, you can begin to see a pattern emerging over these past two weeks.

Yemen.
Australia.
Troops to Mexico (and yeah, I know they denied it, but I’ve also watched a few of Spicer’s press briefings, and I know the value this administration places on the truth. pick your side. I’ve picked mine.)

Then, you get Pizzagate guy storming into the press briefing today to rattle his saber and talk shit about Iran, then leaving without answering any questions…and CentCom saying, essentially, that “this is the first we’ve heard about any of this…we saw it on C-SPAN, same as you did.”

it’s a little blurry now…those calm but unsettling days prior to Inauguration Day when we could actually go to bed without wondering if we’d wake up in the morning in a world where they’d outlawed conversations and we’re now at war with Mercury and Venus.

but I do remember them. and the thing that’s occurring to me tonight is that literally EVERY ONE of the emergencies and flare-ups that have been battering our sensibilities since DAY ONE have largely been manufactured.

Voter Fraud.
Crowd Size.
Bickering with Mexico.
Blitzkrieg Executive Orders.
Firing State Department employees.
Kicking out the AG.
Talking totally non-specific shit about Iran.

NONE of that stuff needed to be a crisis, but we’re being led by a guy who literally couldn’t keep from stepping on his dick if he were hanging from his ankles.

He inherited a growing economy, record low unemployment, and a pretty decent watch, statistically…and he’s managed to scare the shit outta everybody.

AUSTRALIA? how the fuck did AUSTRALIA become a goddamn problem?

Before you put your head on your sweat-soaked pillow tonight, kids, let’s look back fondly on the past two weeks and consider them through the telescope going back a century or so….

…September 11th.
…Cuban Missile Crisis.
…Stock Market Crash.
…Pearl Harbor.

How do you think this Oval Office crowd would handle an actual, legitimate come-to-Jesus moment if they’ve made such a shitshow out of the past two weeks?

Sweet dreams, children.