Slack Chat: Did I say that out loud?

T:  Hey J, how deep is Trump’s foot in it this time? He called the Floyd protesters thugs. The Floyd protest isn’t a thug movement, is it? I mean, Trump does the ‘thinly veiled racist comment’ thing all the time, but that’s a very thin veil.

J: At any other time and any other place, with any other voting base, that could literally end his chances of getting any non-racist votes.

T: But today, after four years of carpet-bombing the public with thinly veiled racist comments, it might not even be news.

Do you think this one sticks?

J: In the current environment it’s hard to say… there’s so much shit going down that it might get lost in the storm.

Speaking of shit, I really, seriously think that Trump’s cheese is sliding off his cracker, to coin a phrase. The dude is losing it, mentally. And it’s scary to watch, because his base still supports him even as he goes off the deep end.

T: Did he really threaten to shoot protesters?

J: He said something like “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” That goes back to some cracker mayor in 1967 Georgia, I think.

T: Lovely, quoting racists past.

Slack Chat — Revenge of the Betty III: The Class of 2019 Gets Dirty

T: Another year, another Betty White grave-dancing party.

J: I don’t think she really does that.

T: No, of course not. She just walks by the cemetery, blowing the smoke off her pistol.

J: She may outlive us all; she turns 98 in January.

T: She’s immoral, man.

J: I’m sure she knows her way around a French tickler, but I think you mean immortal.

T: Oh, crap. Yes, I’m referring to her longevity. Not her love of cheap hotels and dwarf tossing.

J: And Kirk Douglas can’t get a “huzza, whazzup?” to save his life. Which, incidentally, is still going; 103 and counting.

T: Holy crap … he was born in 1916. There are geological formations that aren’t as old as he is. He was born before radio, for gawd’s sake. He was born before Dr. Ruth, who has been old since I was a kid.

J: Dr. Ruth is still alive?

T: As of right now, yes. But I don’t have a direct feed to her Kevorkian personal physician.

J: How old is she?

T: She’s 91.

J: I guess all that penis-grabbing is healthy exercise.

T: Not for the husband. He died in 1997.

J: Cause of death?

T: Ain’t touching it.

J: That was the cause of death?

T: Can we move on? There’s got to be something better to do than thinking about a penis-grabbing old woman who looks like a Pomeranian Oompa Loompa.

J: You prefer to speak ill of the dead?

T: In this case, yes.

J: We’ve reached the end of 2019; I think it’s time for the third installment of our “Dirt Naps of the Too Famous to Sue Us for Libel” series. Whaddya think?

T: Absolutely, let’s do it. Another year, another long list of dearly departed cultural deities. You can throw out the first slack-a-bituary.

J: Slack-a-bituary?

T: Give it time, it’ll catch on.

J: Gawd, I hope not.

T: So who’s your opener?

J: At the top of my list, but only because he was 7 feet 3, is Peter Mayhew.

T: Was he a basketball player?

J: No, you moron. He was Chewbacca in all the Star Wars movies.

T: AAAAAAAUUUUUURRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!! I forgot!

J: That’s awful. Mayhew was probably more famous for doing less than anybody not named Kardashian. I mean, all he ever did was be tall and furry, arch his back and growl a lot. Again, kinda like a Kardashian.

T: I don’t remember any Kardashians being tall. Wide, yes. Tall, no.

J: Well, if they’re lying on their stomachs, they’re pretty tall.

T: If you were in the snack aisle and you came across something called a Chewy Kardashian, would you (1) buy it and eat it, (2) call security or (3) run?

J: I’d (4) Get someone else to eat it and watch them carefully for ill effects.

T: I imagine it would come in a tiny box, spilling out the sides, the top and the bottom.  Especially the bottom.

J: They’re all about the bottom.

Who’s at the top of your 2019 death list?

T: What are you saying? You don’t want to spend the next 10,000 words making up Kardashian jokes?

J: No.

T: Fair enough. My first grudging addition to the ranks of the departed is Tim Conway.

Tim was the ultimate scene-breaker, a guy who seemed to dedicate his entire career to making sure everyone around him was reduced to gooey spasms of laughter.

Not grudging as in I actually killed him. I want to be clear about that.

J: He was the ultimate second banana; he made everyone around him funnier, just by existing. Even if he didn’t do anything, you knew he was going to do something, so you watched for it.

And he never disappointed.

T: I think Tim’s greatest moment, in a career of great moments, was his Elephant joke during a Mama’s Family sketch.

J: The outtake sketch from that show might have been the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.

T: Tim did a star turn in McHale’s Navy that was well-received, but I wasn’t as big a fan of that performance. Tim was always at his best without a script chaining him to reality.

J: I’m not sure they even used scripts for him on the Carol Burnett Show. They just gave him a premise and let him run with it. That was why Harvey Kormann had such a legendarily hard time keeping a straight face; he never got what he thought was coming. I doubt Conway knew what was coming, either, most of the time.

 

T: I’m pretty sure Conway’s script just said, “go out there and fuck Harvey up.”

J: And he did. Over and over and over and …

T: Speaking of fucking people up, who’s your next victim?

I should stop implying that we are actually killing these people.

J: My next dirt-napper is one I’ve actually seen live; Eddie Money. I liked him because he never seemed to take himself too seriously.

J: I saw him in ’99 or ’00; it was at some kind of outdoor event, a fair or something. At one point people started drifting away to go do something else, and Money yelled, “Hey! This ain’t the fuckin’ MONKEES, here! This is Eddie Money!”

Whereupon, the band struck up “Last Train to Clarksville.”

T: I saw him about the same time – early 1999, on Fremont St. in Vegas – and he was terrific. Where were we?

J: We were about to get your second choice.

T: Got it. I’m going to go with Danny Aiello. He had a long career – six decades, something like that – but for me he was all about two movies, made fairly close together: Hudson Hawk, and Two Days in the Valley.

J: He had a distinguished career; “Michael Corleone says hello” is an iconic line. He started late; he didn’t get his first movie role till he was 40.

T: Hudson Hawk was roundly panned by critics, movie goers and even Bruce Willis, the guy who wrote it. But I thought it was a fun movie, and Danny was terrific as Willis’ sidekick. The two of them blowing up a castle with grenade launchers, all the while singing “Side by Side” like a couple of assholes on Karaoke night, was almost as fun as Willis shooting that stupid dog in the face with a tennis ball.

J: Hudson Hawk routinely appears on lists of the ten worst movies of all time. I don’t know if it’s that bad; it does have some classic comic scenes. The ambulance bit is as good as anything in Airplane!

T: I loved it. I think the critics always need something to hate, so they choose a movie that was interesting enough to watch but had some perceived fatal flaw. Hudson Hawk’s ‘flaw’ was that it wasn’t serious enough for all the Die Hard fans.

But that’s what made it so fun, to me. It was Bruce Willis from Moonlighting, making fun of Bruce Willis from Die Hard.

J: Aiello had a perfect Italian Mob associate face and manner, and he could have made a nice living playing nothing but stereotypical characters. To his credit, he rose above his natural look and showed a wide range of acting chops.

T: Who’s next?

J: Peter Tork. Speaking of the Monkees, he became the second of them to go to the great banana patch in the sky.

T: I don’t think they were actually monkeys.

J: Leave me alone. Despite the criticism leveled at the Monkees for not playing their own instruments, Tork actually did play keyboards, and quite well; that’s him playing the intro on “Daydream Believer.”

T: I think they were all musicians of a sort; the issue was muddled by Hollywood hyperbole. Because they weren’t famous musicians – just musicians – when the show hit big, the media mostly scorned them for not graduating from Julliard and spending 20 years on the road.

J: Weirdly, that lack of regard for the Monkees led to some famous bands that actually weren’t musicians.

T: Yeah, like the f*&#ing Partridge Family. David Cassidy could play, but the rest were just faking it. And don’t get me started about the (deleted) Brady Bunch.

J: And the Kardashians.

T: Who have the added advantage of being second-generation actual monkeys.

J: That’s just a rumor.

T: I know. I started it.

J: David Bowie’s real name was David Jones. He once wrote a fan “I don’t have to tell you why I changed it. No one’s going to make a monkey out of me.”

T: My next choice is Katherine Helmond. Like Danny Aiello, she hit her stride after turning 40, becoming a post-menopausal sex symbol as the star of “Soap” and the wisecracking cougar in “Who’s the Boss?”

J: Katherine Helmond…. it seems like she got a call in the slack last year, too, right? The Soap creator passed last year, too.

T: Yep. Take a mix of 30- and 40-something actors, add 40 years, and voila! Funerals everywhere.

J: Helmond was a rare bird, she got sexy in her 40s and 50s, at a time when you were disposable in Hollywood after your 30th birthday.

 

 

T: Who’s your next pick?

J: Daryl Dragon. The Captain of the Captain and Tennille. They were the hottest thing going for a while there when I was growing up.

T: Oh, for sure. I remember when they did “Love Will Keep Us Together” on the Merv Griffin show … they seemed really old to me, like grandparents old, but they were actually in their early 30s. Perceptions, I guess. All I know was that I loved the song, and apparently so did everyone else. It was the number one song of 1975.

J: They ended up getting divorced for health-insurance reasons a few years ago, after the Captain came down with Parkinson’s disease. They didn’t want everything they’d earned over the years to get eaten up by his care, so they put all their assets in her name and put him in a care facility. She was with him when he died. So, I guess love really did keep them together.

T: We know him as the Captain, of course. But he was also a member of the Beach Boys.

J: They were the ones that gave him the Captain nickname, for Captain Keyboard.

T: Speaking of keyboard idols, my next choice is Basin Street icon Malcolm John Rebennack Jr., known to the masses as Dr. John.

J: Dr. John was a Cajun icon all right. He was one of those real flamboyant guys, like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and a terrific musician.

T: A session player back to the 1950’s, Dr. John put out 30 albums and played with … well, with everybody. His Delta-tinged jazzy blues style had more Cajun flavor than a bucket of dirty rice.

The good Doctor was inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

J: A well-deserved honor. He did more to bring Delta music out of the bayou than, well, than anybody.

T: He was genuinely into voodoo, adding rituals to his shows and selling gris-gris next to his albums and t-shirts. A true Louisiana legend.

Who’s your next pick?

J: Jan-Michael Vincent. One of the great TV action heroes of the ’70s and ’80s. Airwolf was a great show. Lots of explosions and car chases, which appealed to a teenaged me. If they made a show just called Explosions and Car Chases, it’d pull big ratings among the teenage male demographic.

T: Family Guy did a sendup on him recently … I don’t remember him all that well. To me, I always sort of confused him with Val Kilmer. I think it was the feminine first name, plus they looked a little bit alike.

J: He was all over the place as a guest star; he was on Gunsmoke a lot, Bonanza, Dragnet… but he really didn’t hit his stride till Airwolf.

T: It’s funny how we are the same age, but we remember different people from our youth. While you were watching Airwolf, I was probably watching Emergency.

J: I remember that show, but only because they used the fire station that my uncle Jerry worked at for their location shots.

T: My next choice is Arte Johnson. He lived so long that the world forgot about him, but he was a big part of what made Laugh-In funny.

J: He didn’t do much on Laugh-In except say “verrrrry interesting … but schtupid” and hit on Ruth Buzzi, but those were some of the best bits on the show.

T: “Learn a German accent, or stay out of the act!”

J: As an aside, it’s remarkable how many of the pop-culture references that got started on Laugh-In are still around. “Sock it to me,” “Veerrry interesting”, “We’re the phone company: we don’t care; we don’t have to”, and on and on. That show had a huge influence on Americana.

T: The tricycle falling over, by itself, would make Arte an icon. And he did the German helmet bit, the old man hitting on Ruth Buzzi as you said, and (or course) his tag line — usually while wearing the German helmet but not always.

J: Elvis wanted to do that bit at the end with the tricycle… he wanted to do it in full costume, fall over and have the camera zoom in to show that it was really him. The Colonel wouldn’t let him do it, though.

My next choice is Rene Auberjonois, who played Clayton on Benson. I’ve always felt like I knew the Benson cast, because I actually did know one of them (James Noble, who played Governor Gatling) and he’d tell me stories about being on the set with them. Auberjonois was probably better known as Odo on “Deep Space Nine”, but to me he’s Clayton, now and forever.

T: Me too; one of the most difficult and thankless roles on sitcoms is the heel. Aujus … Aber … Eber … Rene was one of the more iconic heels of his time.

J: Who’s your next choice?

T: For my next choice, I’m taking my young ass back to Goat Hills. Dan Jenkins wrote for Playboy and Sports Illustrated for decades – well into his 80s – but to me he will always be the guy who brought Fort Worth drunk society to the masses with his books, the most famous of which was Semi-Tough.

J: He was the best sportswriter of our generation, and his best work stands up with the all-timers. Semi-Tough is one of the best sports books ever written, comedy or not.

T: He wrote a mix of autobiographical and fan fictionalized prose, mixing stories from Fort Worth with his redneck heroes mixing with New York society, playing them off each other in high and low comedy like an erudite fly on both walls. Which, of course, he was.

He brought us the Catcher’s Mitt (a chicken-fried steak big enough to fill a full dinner plate, covered in hash browns, pinto beans, red-eye gravy and eggs), Goat Hills (the long, flat, windy golf course in east Texas where MaGoo blowed the Open and Lee Trevino learnt to hit it low) and, of course, Billy Clyde Puckett, Shake Tiller and Barbara Jane Bookman.

Puckett was the first-person hero, a conventional straight man but no sissy. Tiller was the outrageous maverick who fulfilled all our rebellious fantasies, and Barbara Jane was the perfect Fort Worth hottie next door. Literally next door; they all grew up together.

J: My next dirt-napper is Ginger Baker. He was the drummer for Cream and played behind Eric Clapton for years. His drumming influenced a whole generation of musicians who came after him.

T: Cream was as famous as any band in their time, and they were considered more artistic, I think, than most of their contemporaries.

J: They did have a more traditional rock sound than some other groups, but they never got into the big prog-rock sound of groups like Yes or the Moody Blues.

T: They were before my time, but I think of them as one of the key bands that brought a more blues-based sound to the masses, paving the way for Led Zeppelin, CCR and the rest of the 1970s guitar-based, lick-based bands. A generation of guitar players learned Clapton’s licks, and a generation of drummers copied Baker’s patterns.

J: Who’s your next passenger on the Brass-Handle Railroad?

T: My next tribute act is Stewart Robert Einstein.

J: Who?

T: I don’t know if he’s related to Albert Einstein the physicist, but his brother is the comedian/writer/producer/director/all-around funny guy Albert Einstein, known to the masses as Albert Brooks.

Stewart, or Bob as he was known publicly, was most famous for three characters. The most recent character was Marty Funkhauser on Curb Your Enthusiasm; he also played Larry Middleman on Arrested Development.

But to me, and to most people our age, he was, is, and always will be Super Dave Osborne.

J: Super Dave was one of the most iconic characters ever created. He was funny as hell in those jeans commercials… “They’re still not wrinkled!” after being hit by a truck or smashed into a bridge abutment.

T: He was like a real-life Mr. Bill with a death wish. To Super Dave, the whole world was Sluggo.

In his natural persona, Einstein loved to tell jokes. Most of them were too disgusting for public consumption, but we aren’t exactly public, so here’s a medley from YouTube.

 

Who’s next?

J: I’m gonna go with one of the latecomers in this sweepstakes (well, lategoers I suppose), Don Imus. He paved the way for guys like Howard Stern and Opie and Anthony. He was the first of the shock jocks, and he kept on shocking people his entire career.

T: I personally despise the shock jock culture, but that’s just me. Imus was so famous that even I knew who he was.

J: I’m not really a fan of it either, but Imus more or less invented the genre. For good or for bad, he was a pioneer. He also was a tremendous philanthropist; he donated tens of millions of dollars to various charities. It was like there were two of him, the good one and the bad one. I think “Bad Imus” was a persona, something he used to get attention and ratings and stir up controversy. It wasn’t necessarily who he really was, although there’s probably at least some overlap.

T: Who did we miss?

J: There were some other pretty big names we lost this year, Valerie Harper, Doris Day, Rip Taylor, Gloria Vanderbilt…

T: How about big names to you personally? I don’t mean actual friends, but famous people who had a significant effect on your life?

J: I was a big fan of Jim Fowler when I was growing up; he did all the work on Wild Kingdom while Marlin Perkins sat in the Land Rover and drank martinis out of a Thermos. I always thought that he had just about the most exciting job in the world, except for the nearly getting eaten by tigers part.

T: I remember that show well, mostly for the Mutual of Omaha commercials and the jeep driving everywhere with Perkins perched in the back like Washington crossing the Delaware, but when they stopped and got out, l it was always Fowler getting his hands dirty.

J: Caroll Spinney was the puppeteer for Big Bird. I was exposed to a lot of Sesame Street when I was little, and Big Bird was a big (no pun intended) part of that.

T: Was Big Bird a puppet? I always thought there was a person inside a costume, like a mascot.

J: Yeah, there was a person inside, but he wasn’t eight feet tall… they used puppetry to work the eyes and mouth and neck.

T: Who wins in the octagon? Big Bird or Chewbacca?

J: Chewy would have Big Bird on his back on a plate surrounded by potatoes in no time.

T: “Laugh it up, fuzzball.”

“AAAAAUUUUGGGGGGHHHHH!!”

“Do you smell chicken?”

“Yeah … and barbequed grouch”

J: You know who we forgot who had a ginormous freakin’ influence on us? Jim effin’ Bouton of the major effin’ leagues!

T: Oh yeah, no kidding … Ball Four was just a book to the masses, but for us it was a 400-page list of sayings, tag lines and weird people who we wish we knew.

J: Ball Four was the first sports book I ever read. My dad told me I couldn’t read it because it had bad words and sex talk in it, so naturally I lost no time in checking it out at the local library. And yes, it was just chock-full of one-liners and taglines and a memorable cast of characters.

T: “All right, men. Act horny.”

“Why do I need a penicillin shot for his kidney infection?”

“I gotta take a shit, if that helps.”

J: ‘Hiya blondie, how’s your old tomato?”

“Just as I got called out on strikes, my greenie kicked in.”

T: “Shitfuck.”

J: “Give him some low smoke and we’ll go in and pound some Budweiser.”

T: “Fuckshit.”

J: “He said he was playing golf.”

T: “At three o’clock in the morning?”

J: “Who knows? Maybe he was.”

T: “You sure overestimated my curiosity.”

J: “The fine was more than I expectorated.”

T: “This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen in all my years in baseball.”

J: “Tell your statistics to shut up.”

T: We could go on forever.

J: Bouton was the first guy to really write a baseball expose. Before then it was all-American boys with good teeth and nice wives who didn’t smoke, drink, curse or have sex with groupies. Bouton ripped away the veil, and in doing so alienated a large part of the baseball establishment.

T: Bouton himself was not particularly revolutionary. He was a jock and probably an establishment republican most of his youth. He got caught up in the revolution, almost by accident, in the process of writing the book. But he was writing the book to make money. He was always an entrepreneur at heart.

J: That’s true; he was a revolutionary by accident, but never really a rebel. Big League Chew, his broadcasting career … he was at heart a conservative, at least financially.

T: Like a lot of us, I think.

J: You and me, for sure.

T: After Ball Four, Bouton made a comeback reminiscent of Rich Hill’s recent comeback, but in his case he decided not to continue once he demonstrated to himself that he could do it.

J: Hill signed a contract for $48 million. I’m sure Bouton would have kept going for that.

T: No doubt. As you said, he invented and marketed Big League Chew, and he was heavily involved in 19th century baseball reenactments later on.

Big-League Chew was originally meant to produce spit that looked like tobacco spit, but I think they got rid of that aspect. It’s still around; maybe we could try it. I’ve never actually tried any.

J: I tried it once; it’s basically shredded bubble gum. It’s not bad, if bubble gum is your thing.

I think a lot of the objection to Bouton writing the book was that he was a nobody; if it had come from one of the big stars of the day, no one would have said a thing. No one ever said that what he wrote wasn’t true; it was that he wasn’t a good enough player to tell the actual truth.

T: The Nixonian establishment went nuts … Bowie Kuhn, a tool of all tools if there ever was a tool, went to his own grave still bitter about how Bouton ruined baseball and milkshakes and white privilege.

J: After Bouton, baseball books went from assembly-line pap to assembly-line exposes. He forever altered sports books.

T: That may have been his most lasting impact. Not just in baseball, either. Writing in general opened up substantially after Ball Four; it may have anyway, as the Hunter Thompson/Dan Jenkins generation of writers took over, but I think Bouton helped make that transition easier, and it’s arguable that he made it possible. He brought counterculture to suburban baseball fans.

J: Like us?

T: Like us.

J: He was a pioneer, like Imus but more likable.

T: Was Bouton likeable?

J: More so than Imus, I’d venture. Idi Amin was more likable than Imus.

T: Bouton was persona non grata in baseball for years – Elston Howard died still despising him – but I think the general public sees him in a positive light. Imus was generally despised by people outside his circle, but quite popular within his circle.

So it could be said that they are opposites, maybe? Bouton told the truth, was ostracized by his peers but admired by the masses. Imus spouted off about whatever bullshit that came to his head, was worshipped by his followers but largely dismissed and despised by those who were not part of his cadre of hate-spewing trolls.

J: Both of them were ostracized for the things they said, but as you say for different reasons. Bouton’s sin was in telling the previously hidden truth. Imus’s sin was in being a racist, misogynist asshole. That’s where the difference lies to me.

T: The times were different, of course. Bouton was floutin’ the rules of secrecy, revealing truths that weren’t supposed to be revealed. People resented him – properly, I think – for basically spying on his teammates.

But in social media terms, Bouton was like the guy who shared funny memes around Facebook. Imus was a SPAM ad.

J: We need a Kardashian comparison.

T: I got nothin’. You?

J: I dunno …  something something Kim Kardashian’s butt.

T: Close enough.

Slack Chat: The not-so-grateful dead of 2018

T: Hey J, another year went by and Betty White is still here. And she still looks better than Ann Coulter.

J: Everybody looks better than Ann Coulter.

T: Well …
 
J: Everything old is new again. Even Betty White. But Paul Junger Witt didn’t make it.
 
T: Who?
 
J: Paul Junger Witt. Witt was one of the driving forces that moved TV comedy away from the wholesome “Dick Van Dyke”-style shows into something with more social consciousness; his shows dealt with racism, homosexuality, poverty, drug use, rather that relying on “Potato Poopies” for laughs.
 
T: Ok … but what did he do?
 
J: Soap, for one. And Benson, The Golden Girls
 
T: Oh, I know who you are talking about. I binged “Soap” the whole way through, all 93 episodes, and I did it the hard way.
 
Unlike now, when you can go to Netflix at your convenience, I had to actually be in front of the tube at the same time Monday-Friday (miss one and you have to start over) for nearly five months.
 
It worked out OK, since it was on USA or some network (can’t remember) at 2 p.m. and I worked at 3; I just watched it and left for work every day.
 
J: Billy Crystal get his start on that show, plus Kathryn Helmond became a sudden sex symbol right about the time she hit menopause, not the easiest trick in the magic book.
 
A couple of the actors on that show passed this year, too. Robert Mandan, who played Helmond’s husband Chester, and Donnelly Rhodes, who played escaped convict Dutch, joined Junger Witt in the sitcom afterlife. Which, of course, is syndication.
 
Stephen Hawking went to the afterlife too last year, not that he believed in it. The collective IQ of the human race dropped about four points when he croaked.
 
T: It’s that time of year, isn’t it? The time when everyone else figures out which resolutions they are going to keep until this weekend, and we celebrate the lives of the freshly departed. Last year we did “Dirt Naps of the Rich and Famous.” I think, for this year, we should come up with a clever new title.
 
J: How about “Dirt Naps of the Rich and Famous 2”?
 
T: That was easy. (editor’s note: we got bored and changed the title)
 
J: I’ll start it off.
 
T: Suits me.
 
J: OK. I’ll go with Hawking first; smartest guy in the world, humanity’s collective IQ dropped about four points when he croaked.
 
T: Was he really that smart? I mean, if he was that smart, he would have written hip/hop songs and gotten rich and bazooka laid.
 
J: He got rich all right, he wrote a bunch of best-sellers so he must’ve done OK for himself cashwise, and with the whole ALS thing I doubt he was much interested in getting bazooka laid
 
T: Actually, that was the only muscle that worked.
 
J: Dammit, don’t say things like that out loud. God, the mental image. I need a bottle of brain bleach.
 
T: What would you call Hawking’s signature achievement?
 
J: Well, without getting too technical, he figured out how the universe began and how it’s going to end. His theories are standing up better than Einstein’s.
 
T: Actually, that was the only thing about him that could stand.
 
J: What did I just say?
 
GettyImages-73992184T: My first-round pick is Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul.
 
J: Can’t argue with that… she was the greatest soul singer of them all, and a smart lady too… made people pay her in cash so she could pay her people in cash. She got screwed once by someone bouncing a check to her and she swore that’d never happen again.
 
T: My favorite memory of her was her “Respect” performance in the movie, “Blues Brothers 2000.” She added some extra sass and vinegar, and really drove the song home. Ironically, she sang the song to legendary blues cat Matt “Guitar” Murphy, who also passed this year.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 
 
J: That was the highlight of that movie. Probably the only memorable thing about it.
 
T: It missed Belushi’s voice – Akroyd can’t sing – but it was more cheerful than the original, which was pretty dark. And it had a tremendous soundtrack (better than the first one) and an epic chase scene. It wasn’t a great movie, sue me. But I loved it, especially the music.
 
J: Next on my list is Ray Thomas of the Moody Blues. He wasn’t the lead singer or anything, but his fluting (flauting?) made the Moodies’ sound unique, even more than Jethro Tull’s.
 
T: Did he write any of their songs?
 
J: Yeah, he collaborated with Justin Hayward on a lot of them, and the flute solo on “Nights in White Satin” is probably the most recognized flute passage in history.
 
He also played the harmonica on “I Am The Walrus”.
 
T: I know they were your boys, the Moody Blues.
 
J: I’ve always been a big fan of theirs. My sister introduced me to their music back in the mid-’70s. It was kind of underground because my dad hated all music and my mom would only listen to John Denver or Gordon Lightfoot, so I had to sneak downstairs to my sister’s room to groove on the Moodies.
 
 
 
 
 
T: Thinking about it, 2018 wasn’t as bad a year for musical icons as the previous couple of years. The ones that got to me weren’t the icons so much as the guys who played with the cool bands, like Ray Sawyer, the front man for Dr. Hook.J: I hadn’t heard about Sawyer. That’s a shame; I always liked Dr. Hook. “Cover of the Rolling Stone” is an iconic song.
 
 
 
 
 
 
T: Sawyer died on New Year’s Eve; I was shocked to find out he was 81 years old. That means he was in his 40s when Dr. Hook was in its heyday in the 1970s.
 
J: They morphed into more of a soft-rock band for a couple of years, but Sawyer always kept them from getting too soft.
 
T: He had sort of a gleeful edge to him, like bipolar Mr. Green Jeans or something.
 
J: How many Dexies it took to keep Mr. Greenjeans like that?
 
T: I’m afraid to ask. Who’s your next one?
 
J: My next choice is Penny Marshall.
 

She was a great comic actress; Laverne will live forever. But she was also a very successful producer in her own right, along with her dad.

 
T: For years I thought she was Peter Marshall’s daughter. Her brother Garry died last year, I think. I read a few things about her when she passed, but nobody mentioned that she got her start on the Odd Couple. I think she was Tony Randall’s assistant.
 
J: She was Oscar’s assistant, actually. Marshall was great on the show … she played a ditzy, Gracie Allen-esque character. But everyone will remember her as Laverne. She wasn’t what you would call a classic beauty, but I always thought she had a gawky sort of sexy charm.
 
T: The Ginger v. Mary Ann thing got stood on its head with Laverne and Shirley.
 
On Gilligan’s Island, Ginger was hot, worldly and wise while Mary Ann was the cute, virtuous and innocent; Ginger was the obvious choice – the glamorous one – but most guys felt compelled to choose Mary Ann if they didn’t want to be thought of as shallow and base.
 
On Laverne and Shirley, even though Shirley was the cute and virtuous one while Laverne was the worldly, wise one, the wise guys mostly chose Laverne because Shirley was considered kind of a tease and a little bit too full of herself.
 
 
 
 
 
So Laverne was the slut but still the wise guy choice, because while Shirley was the cute, pretty one, she was also the bitch.
 
Who’s your third-round pick?
 
J: Margot Kidder. She was the best Lois Lane of them all; she played off Christopher Reeve really well. And she was great in “The Amityville Horror,” too.
 
T: She had a tough life.
 
J: Yeah, she had a hell of a go off-screen, a nervous breakdown and all that stuff.
 
T: Noel Neill played Lois Lane in the original TV series, Teri Hatcher played her in the new series, and Kate Bosworth and Amy Adams have played her in the new movies
 
I think Teri Hatcher might have been chosen because she looked like Kidder … so she set the template. Who’s your third-round choice?
 
T: A couple of obvious choices jump out, George Bush and John McCain, but if I get going on either one of them we’ll be here for a week. So I’ll go with Blue Miller.
 
J: Who?
 
T: Blue Miller was Miller with the Gibson-Miller band, one of my favorite country bands from the 1990s. Their cover of “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babie Grow Up to be Cowboys” was part of the soundtrack to The Cowboy Way, and they put out a couple of really good albums before Gibson retired.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The guys in GMB were already oldish for the road when they hit it big; Nashville had a short period in the mid-1990s when older bands gained a toehold on the scene. It didn’t last long, but for a few years it was pretty awesome to have actual musicians playing the music.
 
The Tractors with Baby Likes to Rock It,” Big House with “Cold Outside,” Confederate Railroad with songs like “Queen of Memphis” and “Trashy Women,” etc. the Kentucky Headhunters were the first one, a few years earlier. I would not be surprised if that’s what started it; producers went out looking for bands that could replicate the Headhunters’ success.
 
Blue Miller was on the fringes of the music scene for years, playing sessions, writing, producing and singing harmonies, but he couldn’t get his own deal because he was too country for rock and too rock for country. He had a scratchy voice like Rod Stewart, somebody like that, but his musical sense was more country or Americana.
 
J: Did he do anything else after Gibson-Miller?
 
T: He spent the rest of his life working as a producer/engineer/writer, basically a studio rat. He worked on lots of albums, but his primary claim to fame was working with India Arie during her rise to fame.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
T: Who’s next?
 
J: Jerry Maren.
 
T: Who? We sound like stoned owls. Who? Who? Who?
 
J: Jerry Maren. He was the last surviving original Munchkin.
 
T: Munchkin … oh, the Wizard of Oz?
 
That’s a topical reference.
 
J: So it’s my fault he took care of himself and lived to 98?
 
T: So Maren was the last Wizard of Oz actor left, huh? I don’t suppose the dog that played Toto is …
 
J: The dog? That dog would be about 600 years old by now.
 
T: In dog year?
 
J: Um, yeah. He wasn’t Henry VIII’s dog.
 
T: My next one is Simon Shelton. Guess who he is.
 
J: The guy from “Big Bang Theory?”
 
T: No, that’s Sheldon Cooper. Or Simon Helberg. So yes, in a dismembered sort of way.
 
No, Simon Shelton played an iconic children’s character.
 
J: Was it Barney? Please, please, please let it be Barney. I hate that purple fucker.
 
T: Well, he was purple.
 
J:} There wasn’t a purple Power Ranger; Teletubbie?
 
T:Yep. He was Tinky Winky.
 
J: Was he the gay one?
 
T:I don’t know if he was or not. But he played one on TV.
 
J: Supposedly the one with the triangle on his head was gay. I don’t remember the rationale for it and I don’t feel like going down the evangelical rabbit hole to find it. They were kids’ characters, for God’s sake. Like Ernie and Bert. OK, bad example.
 
T: I never watched the Teletubbies, so I can’t say. Who is your next one?
 
J: Ken Berry
 
T: The outfielder?
 
J: No, the actor.
 
T: Oh, I remember him. F Troop, Mamas Family, Mayberry …
 
J: F Troop was f-in’ funny, even with the racial stereotypes. To this day, in our house we still pronounce both f’s in words that have two f’s at the end, in honor of ze Burglaire of Ban-ff-ff.
 
T: I don’t like to judge old stuff by modern PC standards; if we all did that, nobody would ever dare say anything. I consider most old, dated stuff in the category of period piece, as long as it isn’t preachy about it. If it’s preachy, it can just shut the f-f up and get back on the dusty shelf.
 
J: Makes sense. Time and place; like cocaine in the colas. And preachers have carbon half-lives like fruit flies.
 
T: Is Larry Storch still around?
 
J: Yes, he’s still alive… he’ll be 95 in a couple of days.
 
T: Wow, that’s incredible. I would have guessed he had been dead for decades. Does his wife know?
 
J: I would have thought so too, but he’s still here. His wife might even know, assuming she doesn’t think she’s a tuna-fish sandwich herself.
 
T: Wasn’t Ken Berry part of the Mayberry crew, too? I mostly remember him from F Troop and Mama’s Family, plus he was always on the Carol Burnett show.
 
J: Yeah, he was Sam Jones. He got more exposure on “Mayberry RFD” than he did on the Andy Griffith show.
 
T: Was he naked or something?
 
J: Well, there was that unfortunate incident with Aunt Bee, but he never liked to talk about that.
 
T: He was a really good straight man, so Caucasian and stiff that Larry Storch and Tim Conway could always count on looking ridiculous in comparison. I think that’s an undervalued skill for an actor; there is no good without evil, and no ridiculous without boring to compare it to.
 
J: I didn’t watch the Mayberry shows all that much, but the ones I saw were set up like that. Andy or Ken Berry would play straight, and everyone else would be weird around them. Harvey Korman had the same quality, the ability to not laugh no matter what weirdness was happening around them.
 
T: Well, in Harvey’s case, not so much. Tim Conway turned him to jelly.
 
J: That was the kicker, I think. Everybody loved watching Harvey lose his shit at Tim’s antics because he had always been such a good straight man. If Tim could break Harvey up, then nobody was safe.
 
T: I’ll choose another television character actor for my next one: Bill Dailey.
 
J: He was a good second banana, “I Dream of Jeannie” and the original “Bob Newhart” show.
 
T: I mostly remember him from Newhart; his running gag was that he had permanent jet lag.
 
He never knew what time it was, and he’d have to look around to make sure that he knew where he was.
 
J: He played the same kind of role on “Jeannie,” the somewhat befuddled astronaut.
 
T: His business card said “Bill Daily: Have befuddled expression, will travel.”
 
J: That expression gave him a long career.
 
My next one is Stephen Hillenburg.
 
T: Lemme guess … he wrote Hill Street Blues?
 
J: He was the creator of Spongebob Squarepants, which is almost the same thing.
 
T: So he was Tinky Winky with a wet butt?
 
J: I guess that’s one way to look at it. You could say he was the wet Tinky Winky.
 
T: He was Tinky Winky of Soggy Bottom.
 
Did you watch Sponge Bob? I don’t think I saw more than maybe part of an episode or two in passing.
 
J: I saw it a few times. We used to watch one of Ida’s co-worker’s kids and she loved it. It was actually kind of funny, it was like “Toy Story” in that there are adult-oriented lines in it that kids don’t get.
 
T: The best kid shows always had something for the parents to laugh at.
 
J: If they are smart.
 
T: My next choice is Michele Carey. She got her start in one of those Annette Funicello beach movies, but her main claim to fame was her role in El Dorado.
 
J: That was a John Wayne movie, right?
 
T: Yeah, John Wayne and Robert Mitchum, sort of a reboot of Rio Bravo with Wayne and Dean Martin. Michele Carey was known for her wild mane of reddish hair. Within a couple of years all the actresses had it, but Carey was one of the first who didn’t have her hair pinned and oiled into submission.
 
J: The thing about being in a John Wayne movie was that he sucked up so much of the air that he didn’t leave any room for anyone else. Michele Carey, Kim Darby in “True Grit”… fine actresses overshadowed by John Wayne.
 
T: She might have lost her career to looking a bit too much like Jane Fonda or Ann-Margaret; that’s a tough crowd to compete with. She did stay in the business for twenty-plus years, acting and doing voiceover work.
 
Who’s your next choice?
 
J: Vic Damone, one of the last of the mobbed-up lounge singers of the fifties
 
T: I heard his name all my life, but I don’t think I know anything about him.
 
J: He had the original hit with “On the Street Where You Live;” Sinatra once said that he had the best pipes in the business. I’m not sure whether he meant vocally or for busting heads down by the docks, though.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

T: When I was at EWU the first time, in 1981, Pat McManus was on the staff. I’s heard of him — people said he was a writer or something – but I hadn’t read any of his stuff. A few years later I got a boxed set with four of his books for Christmas; I eventually wore them out trying to memorize all his lines.

 
J: He was a big deal in outdoor writing, too, a regular in Field and Stream for decades. I had some of his books too; he was really good early on but tailed off towards the end. I figured he used up all his good stories by then.
 
“Never sniff a gift fish” is very sound advice.
 
T: No fish-sniffing unless you paid for it; agreed. You’re up.
 
J: .Luyanda Ntshangase.
 
T: Ok, dammit, who the f-ing hell is that? That name looks like a Swedish eye chart.
 
J: Luyande Ntshangase. He was a soccer player, got hit by lightning on the field.
 
T: Did the lightning knock half the vowels out of his name? I mean, seriously, it looks like his name was partially folded like one of those things in the back of Mad magazine.
 
J: Apparently.
 
T: So he got hit by lightning?
 
J: Yep. He was just trying to give the team a spark.
 
T: Oh, boo hiss. Tink. No Winky.
 
J: He’s just playing, doing his thing, then a voice from the heavens… “You’re offside.” BLAM!
 
I never knew God to take so much interest in soccer
 
T: “Is that yellow card on fire, or are you just happy to see me?”
 
J: We should probably stop joking about lightning; I have to go outside a lot.
 
T: That poor, unbelievably unlucky kid … my next one is Charlotte Rae. The Rack, as Peter Griffin called her.
 
J: Mrs. Garrett from Different Strokes and The Facts of Life.
 
T: Yes, Mrs. Garrett. But she got her start as a comedian.
 

J: Comedienne, you mean?

T: That’s racist.

 

J: What?

T: Never mind … I got confused there for a second.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
“Facts of Life” was on forever, but I stopped watching it after a while. Some of the girls famously got a little plump, but –
 
J: Some of them were plump to start with.
 
T: But I didn’t mind that they gained weight so much as it got kind of sad, seeing all those supposed teenagers turning 30 and they were still living with Mrs. Garrett.
 
J: The hazard of sitcom success. The premise gets tired long before the audience gives up.
 
T: Rae’s Mrs. Garrett goes on the list, with Frasier and Benson, as sitcom supporting actors who spun off to successful shows of their own.
 
J: Charlotte Rae, Dabney Coleman and Robert Guillaume, all in that category. And all dead, too.
 
T: Dabney Coleman? I forgot about him.
 
(checking …) He isn’t dead.
 
J: Only his career.
 
T: He was in Boardwalk Empire  a couple of years ago … What was his crossover show?
 
J: Now that I look, I don’t see one. I think I was thinking of Kelsey Grammer.
 
T: Who also isn’t dead.
 
J: Thought not for lack of trying.
 
T: No kidding. Speaking of 1980s sitcom heroes: we can’t leave this slack without talking about Harry Anderson.
 
J: Yes, indeed… Night Court was a classic show. The whole ensemble was excellent. Richard Moll, Markie Post, John Larroquette, Charles Robinson … great sitcom cast.
 
T: I think of Anderson in four ways, and not necessarily in this order:
 
Night Court
Harry the Hat from Cheers
His love of Mel Torme
His magic
 
To me, his Harry the Hat from Cheers might rank even over Night Court. Harry the Hat was one of the all-time classic recurring characters, as memorable as the regulars.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
T: Oh, for sure; Night Court had a fantastic cast. I already liked Markie Post from watching The Fall Guy, but everyone was great. Even the two chronic smokers they brought in to do a year and croak – literally as well as figuratively – as bailiffs.
 
J: And they would have smoked any sitcom cast in history in basketball. They averaged about six feet four.
 
T: No pun intended, of course.
 
J: No, (cough) I don’t think so.
 
T: Here’s one: Dick Tuck. Check out his Wikipedia page.
 
J: Oh, the places we’ll go with that one.
 
T: Plus he has a funny name.
 
J: That’s what was what I meant, smartass. We’re not gonna say a word about what he actually did with his life.
 
T: What’s funny is that his history with Nixon and creating dirty tricks is what grabbed me first. I didn’t glom onto the name until I typed it out.
 
J: I don’t think you should say Dick Tuck grabs you.
 
T: “Dick Tuck” would be a pretty sweet transvestite stripper name.
 
J: It sounds a little formal.
 
T: Formal?
 
J: Yeah, it would be better if his last name was Tucker.
 
T: Richard Tucker?
 
J: Plus it rhymes.
 
T: Rhymes with what?
 
J: Never mind.
 
T: Did his pranks inspire Nixon to send out Segretti and the other Ratfuckers?
 
J: Whose pranks?
 
T: Mr. Tuck.
 
J: Oh, right.
 
T: They were actually called that. Ratfuckers. Well done, whoever named them.
 
J: Probably Nixon.
 
T: It does sound like his style, doesn’t it?
 
J: I got one more: This guy was 104, died of assisted suicide.
 
I remember reading about him; I was like, “Dude, you’re 104. How much longer you think it’s gonna be?”
 
T: Talk about waiting until the last minute. If he dies before they hook the machines up, does Kevorkian still get paid?
 
J: It wasn’t Kevorkian; I’m pretty sure Kevorkian is dead, too.
 
T: Yep; died in 2011. Unassisted, too.
 
 J: This guy was boring in 1918; that was before commercial radio, before commercial aviation, before computers or TV. And he lived to see a Tesla fly past Mars.
 
T: And he got bored?
 
J: Apparently.
 
T: He was born during WWI, before women were allowed to vote. Babe Ruth was a pitcher, Al Capone was a low-level thug, prohibition hadn’t happened yet, American football and basketball were in their infancy and films were still silent. Woodrow Wilson was president. FDR hadn’t had polio yet and Teddy was still alive.
 
J: There still was polio, and tuberculosis, and smallpox.
 
T: George Bush, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, who all lived longer than any other President in history, weren’t born yet.
 
J: Cancer was pretty much a death sentence; cut it out and pray was the standard treatment – and 70 was a ripe old age.
 
T: Hell, in 1918 Africa was mostly pre-agricultural revolution; the vast majority of the continent was populated by herdsmen and foragers.
 
J: Is that a wrap?
 
T: I’d say so. Let’s hook this slack up to the machine and put it out of its misery.
 
download (2).png
 
 
 

Slack Chat: Laughter in the Drain

T: Hey J, if I’m to believe the mainstream news feeds, the impeachment proceedings are a swirling vortex of angry lunacy.

J: Well, they are not wrong.

T: What in hell is the GOP doing?

J: Um, lying.

T: I know that — we all know that, I think — but when did they stop ever telling the truth? I mean, they used to at least pretend to once in a while.

What will their endgame will look like?

J: I don’t think they’ll all fit in a bunker, so it might get ugly.

T: Yathink? It’s like the party chased Trump’s denial train down into the swirling sea of partisan backwash.

J: That’s a grotesquely overpopulated metaphor.

T: And the more they spin, the more they deny.

J: And the more they deny, the more they spin, I suppose.

T: Are you making fun of my metaphors?

J: I’m mostly trying not to get hit in the face with one of the strays.

T: Oops.

J: I am not a metaphor juggler.

T: Or a metaphorical one, I suppose.

J: Juggling metaphors is easier than juggling chain saws, and carries a much lower risk of appendage loss.

T: Does Ida juggle chain saws?

J: No, she just did tennis balls and rings, stuff like that.

She knew a guy who did, though. Lefty Leibowitz.

T: Lefty?

J: Don’t ask Ida how he got circumcised.

T: I think I’ll stick to juggling metaphors; life is a highway full of Red Bull salesmen and I’m a speed bump.

J: Wtf does that mean?

T: Never mind … so what’s the GOP’s next move?

J: I think they’re going to try to create as much distraction as they possibly can when the trial comes. They’ll subpoena the Bidens and the whistleblower and anyone else they can think of and basically ask them if they’ve stopped beating their wives.

T: I don’t want to just attack the GOP blindly, but the party line is literally a line now. I mean, they are just blatantly lying to our faces about everything; it’s almost Pavlovian. Ask a question, get a denial. Ask a true-false question, get a referral to one of their lawyers.

J: The bunker mentality.

T: I think that’s right.

J: They used to be pretty good at keeping one foot on the truth, but at this point I’m not sure they even care what the truth is.

T: Yeah … now they are just lobbing lie-bombs and sending everybody deep into the denial abyss to catch them.

J: What?

T: Never mind.

J: The denial abyss?

T: Leave me alone.

I think the increased lying, to the point where lying is automatic, is sort of learned behavior. The more the lying works, the more they do it.

J: Yeah … and the GOP knows that their base voters will believe them and won’t bother checking their facts. It’s a brilliantly malicious strategy.

T: Yup. But now they are stuck with it, like a video game where you start lobbing bombs. You are pretty much committed to the bombs until they find your bunker and pull out a can opener to disgorge, dismember and dismantle you.

J: That explains why Hitler was so against can openers.

T: He was?

J: As far as you know.

The GOP is stuck with it, lobbing those denial bombs and painting the media as complicit in the Democratic “coup” for pointing out that they’re lying like rugs pretty much every time they open their mouths.

T: I can’t see where this mess is going, partly because it’s sort of a partisan stalemate, but mostly because my confidence is shot by how poorly I predicted this mess in the first place.

Several years ago, somebody asked me what was the worst thing about social media. I said it’s that everybody wants to talk and nobody wants to listen.

That was it, right there, I think. A decade of all-talk, no-listen separated us into people who know how to call up Wikipedia (readers) and the people who get all their information from television and radio (viewers).

Readers and viewers. Is it that simple?

J: I think “everyone’s talking and no one’s listening” sums up the current situation very well. The truly independent voter is pretty much extinct in the wild; almost everyone has picked a side and gone over. It’s like 330 million people decided to play Red Rover. And no one’s going over.

T: Red Rover? Isn’t that the game where they run into a wall of people holding hands, trying to break the chain?

J: Ok, it’s hide and seek. And nobody is seeking.

T: Yaknow, that sort of works.

What’s blonde and green and sits in a closet?

J: Really? A blonde joke?

T: The 1952 hide and seek champion. Get it? HUH?

J: Gawd.

T: I’ll be here all week. Seriously, though; thinking about it … I think that maybe “all talk, no listen” was more of a 2015 thing, and that the 2018 thing might be called “stubborn denial.”

J: It’s 2019.

T: Common, 2018 wasn’t that long ago.

J: It’s December.

T: Ok, you win. The 2019 thing might be called “stubborn denial.”

J: I think that the coming embarrassment for the GOP will be good for them. Kind of like sometimes an enema is just what the doctor ordered, so to speak.

Trump will almost certainly be impeached by the Dem-controlled House. That will shift the spotlight over to the Senate, where the GOP is in control. That’s actually a bad thing for them, because they have no choice but to overplay their hand.

Trump will demand it. They’ll subpoena the Bidens and the whistleblower and everyone else they can think of, and their conspiracy-theorist defenses of Trump will be shredded, completely and publicly. They won’t vote to remove him; they’ll say “OK, he did it, but it wasn’t impeachable.” And the brainwashed masses of the Trump base will nod their heads.

And the GOP will go on to a historic loss in 2020.

T: I wonder if McConnell might simply hold a vote immediately and let the 53-47 advantage end the whole thing? He’d take the heat for a week, but as we both know, the news cycle will prevent any long term fallout.

J: McConnell won’t want to have public testimony after what happened in the House, so he’ll call for a vote as quickly as possible. He’ll lose a few politically vulnerable senators who are up in 2020 (Collins, Tillis, Ernst, Gardner) and maybe a couple on principle (Romney, Murkowski) but he can afford that. I’d guess that it’ll go 53-47 to convict, but since they need 67 Trump won’t be removed.

And then the real shitshow (the 2020 campaign) will start in earnest.

T: Thinking about it …. McConnell can have the vulnerable senators vote yes if they want to, since he has roughly 20 votes to play with. There is no reason for anyone to take a stand, as long as they are united in not taking one together.

J: United we fail to stand. How American.

T: How (cough) Kaepernickian.

J: Well, Kaepernick was actually taking a stand.

T: I know. English is confusing sometimes.

J: Tell that to the boys in Guantanamo.

T: What?

J: Never mind, that didn’t make any sense. So what’s the upshot in all of this?

T: Bill Clinton was impeached and then censured. I think that’s the most likely result, and it might be a politically savvy move, but I’m not sure it’s the correct move in this environment.

The GOP is mostly trying to govern only the part of the country that votes for them, and a censure would go against that strategy. I doubt they will be willing to admit that Trump did anything wrong.

J: The GOP would probably back a censure unanimously. It would give them an out to say “see, we punished Trump!” without actually, you know, punishing him.

I don’t think Trump would go for it though, given his complete inability to acknowledge that he actually did anything wrong. So McConnell will have to go through with the show trial. Gawd knows what else will come out between now and then, though.

T: We disagree a little here … can the GOP, at this point, can even admit they were wrong? To censure Trump would give lie to all their … well, their lies.

J: I think a censure is the natural consequence of the evolving GOP line, a line that will lead to a “well, he did something wrong, but it’s not worth kicking him out of office for” defense. And it would allow him to stay in office and let the voters decide in 2020 (another GOP talking point). So it would be a win-win for the GOP, or at least the best way out of the box that Trump has created for them.

But, again, I doubt Trump’s colossal ego will allow it.

T: My stance is that the GOP has taken on Trump’s ego as their own, and that it is the GOP, and not Trump, who is now unwilling to admit any wrongdoing. This might be a false perception on my part, driven by the House hearings. Devin Nunes is an unrepentant, blindly loyal Trump tool; the Senate might not be so blatantly Trumptoolian.

J: Noted. Trumptoolian?

T: “The Trumptoolian congressman unsurprisingly voted to have all immigrants summarily executed.”

J: Ooh …

T: Ok, J, it’s time for the 64 dollar question:

What would be the best result for the country?

I mean, something that could possibly happen, not some happy-go-bye-bye thing like “Trump’s dad pulled out and they decided to get a dog instead.”

J: I think a censure followed by an electoral trip to the woodshed for the GOP would be the best result for the country.

The GOP would at least be acknowledging that Trump did something wrong, which would at least somewhat appease the Democrats. And then an electoral enema along the lines of Reagan over Mondale (except with the parties reversed) to send the message to the GOP that their brand of toxic politics is no longer acceptable in mainstream America.

T: I agree with your assessment; while I believe Trump probably deserves to be drowned in pee from the women he’s assaulted, taxed to death by the IRS agents he’s lied to, beaten to death by the small businessmen and women he’s stolen from and kicked out of the country for not understanding that we are a melting pot – not a white cheese fondue – I do think censure and your electoral enema is the best thing for everyone else.

J: I’ll hold the enema bag.

download

Slack Chat — Maybe having Caller ID was a bad idea

T: Hey J, did you see this yet? It just came up on MSN.

I think Flake is right, but good luck proving it.

J: Most GOP Senators are afraid of getting primaried. If they could just vote their consciences, Trump would be history.

T: Why doesn’t Trump call him Jeff “Snow” Flake? Trump doesn’t do clever nicknames, though. His insulting names are more playgroundy than plays on words. He’s a wannabe mobster at heart; he’d call Flake Dumb Jeff or something.

J: Flake the flake?

T: Flake the Snake. No, still far too clever for Trump.

J: Crooked Jeff.

T: That’s more like it.

J: Did  you see this?

Trump’s misusing the classified system just to keep from having embarrassing stuff leaked. You have to wonder just what’s in those calls.

T: We need a little historical (hysterical?) context here. First, what are the current odds of impeachment — actual removal, I mean — and how do they compare to, say, last week?

J: I think they’ve shortened considerably, but they’re still fairly long. I’d say the line went from 50/1 to maybe 10/1. The odds of impeachment itself are probably about 1/10 now; it’s almost certain. Removal, though, is always going to be the bigger hill to climb because of the Republican Senate.

T: Second question … it’s not much of a stretch to equate Trump’s classified transcripts to Nixon’s secret tapes. Understanding that we know almost nothing about what’s actually on the Trump transcripts, how would you explain the comparison to someone who doesn’t know what Nixon’s secret tapes were?

J: I think that the analogy between the tapes and the transcripts is almost an exact one. Both were records of nefarious things that the respective Presidents really, really didn’t want to come out. Granted, we don’t know what was said on the calls that are still secret, but we do know from the one that’s been published that Trump basically put the arm on a foreign head of state to get dirt on Trump’s political opponent. Even if the others are just Trump and Putin exchanging recipes and cat pictures, he’s still got to be impeached.

T: Let me add a third item – Hillary’s missing emails.

Hillary’s emails have three factors particular to them that made it easy for Trump to use them against Clinton:

1) There were a lot of them — 33,000 was the most common reported number.

2) Clinton had a history of evasive behavior, partly by association (Bill’s impeachment proceedings, Whitewater) and partly her own (Whitewater, Foster, etc.).

3) because the emails were never found, they can be “called” just about anything. Even if they were mostly cat picture and recipes — or spam from her Uncle Mugambwe Rodham, the African Prince — Trump can call them anything from launch codes to the recipe for Mickey D’s secret sauce.

The Nixon tapes held a smoking gun (the admission that Nixon knew and was directing others in regards to the Watergate events), and I’m pretty sure Trump’s transcripts will be riddled with smoking … well, not guns, because Trump thinks and talks like a mobster. But just billowing clouds of coded gunspeak that anyone above the mental level of a moron can decipher.

J: Which, of course, excludes Giuliani.

T: Pretty much. Can you envision anything that might serve as a smoking gun? There is one already – the Biden request – but will that be enough?

J: We can expect some revelations about Trump’s dealings with Putin, perhaps nothing as direct as the Ukraine thing but certainly embarrassing. It’s also possible that the other documents that Congress is requesting will prove the quid-pro-quo (military aid in return for dirt on Biden). Right now it’s pretty clear-cut, but still circumstantial enough that the GOP can argue that it wasn’t actually Trump’s intention. We might get something incontrovertible as the process unfolds.

Also, the fact that it’s now an impeachment inquiry means that Trump’s standard tactics of delay won’t work anymore; Congress has explicit authority in the Constitution to conduct impeachment investigations.

T: That might be the key; if there is evidence that Trump withheld aid or promised aid to a foreign country in exchange for personal favors, he’s toast. Right?

J: That’s right; if there’s something that makes that hooded implication an explicit request, he’s done.

T: Legally, you mean?

J: Yes. Politically, it’s hard to get a hypnotized chicken to follow the letter of the law.

T: You got that right. Every time Trump does something illegal, it makes him stronger because his clucking base uses it as an excuse: “hey, they keep trying to get him, but they never do” absolves them from any obligation as Americans to actually judge the man.

J: It’s a catch-22.

T: Yep, the cry-wolf chorus has been coming from both sides for so long that the crying is just about all anyone can focus on.

J: Yep. And Trump just keeps getting away with more and more outrageous shit.

T: The funny thing about a drunk driver is that it can take forever for the silly bastard to actually crash and kill himself. Trump’s administration has been akin to watching a drunk driver careen safely home, over and over, with half the country calling him a legend and the other half cringing at every wide corner, taken screaming on two wheels.

Could this finally be the crash?

J: It could be.

T: Assuming the public can identify it as an actual crash, you mean.

J: Yes, that’s right. If it’s something that J. Q. Public can easily understand as wrong, and if it’s proved beyond doubt that he did it, public opinion will turn against Trump in a big way. It’s already started to turn.

T: Where do you think the next Trump approval dip will settle? Will he go to 39 and stay there this time, or even lower? Or will his approval pecentage just go back to forty freaking two again?

J: It will probably chip a few points off the 42… he’ll drop to 37 or 38. This isn’t going to go away in a few news cycles… it’s going to unfold over months, probably, and there’ll be new embarrassing disclosures regularly.

Do you think there’s a point when someone might prevail on him to resign? Will McConnell tell him “Look, your millstone has just gotten too heavy, and you need to resign before you take the rest of us down with you”?

T: McConnell is the fulcrum. If McConnell decides it’s best for the GOP that he resign, the word will get to the White House in about 15 seconds. The actual speaker won’t be McConnell, but the words will be his and the decision to say them will be his.

I’d still put resigning low on the list of possibilities, though; McConnell might ask, but Trump ain’t the resigning type. Weasels never fall on swords. They get impaled and deny the sword’s existence, even as they bleed out.

But if Trump’s approval rating drops below 35 again, it’ll be hard to keep the GOP rank and file in line. I’m not sure, between 35 and 39, where the line is.

J: Closer to 35, I think – 33 would be the impeachment line.

T: Agreed.

J: Film at 11?

T: Yep. And it ain’t nearly 11 yet.

Slack Chat: Rallying the … well, somebody

T: Hey J, we’ve been pretty mum about politics lately, haven’t we? Since the Mueller Report, there hasn’t been much for guys like us to hash over; Trump-bashing has become boring and pointless, and it’s too early to get serious about the 2020 election cycle.

But this might be worth a look:

J: Isn’t that the one they invalidated because of absentee-ballot fraud?

T: Yep. It was invalidated because of fraud by a GOP operative. Here’s that article.

J: Yeah, that’s the one. Reading the article, it’s a toss-up, although Trump won by 11 in 2016 and the seat has been Republican since 1963.

It’s risky to draw sweeping conclusions from one election, but that’s never stopped me before; if the GOP loses this seat, it’s a big, blinking, neon red flag for 2020. This is the kind of seat that Republicans just shouldn’t lose.

T: Both sides are treating it like a canary-in-a-cage election, like the special elections that seemed to happen every couple of weeks during 2017. The Dems kept losing those by less than expected, until Doug Jones actually beat that old pedophile GOP candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race.

J: North Carolina isn’t as Republican as Alabama; if the GOP loses this election it’d be a sure sign that the state is turning at least purple. And it’d be bad news from Thom Tillis; he’s already going to have the fight of his life to hold his Senate seat.

T: Thom Tillis?

J: He’s the Republican senator from NC, one of the seats the Dems are targeting for 2020… in a lot of trouble according to the polls.

T: Why Thom instead of Tom? Is the h silent?

J: Yes.

T: Why isn’t it invisible?

J: I don’t know, I guess you’d have to ask his parents.

T: I mean, why? Does he have an unnaturally large tongue?

J: His Secret Service code name is “Eyebrow Licker.”

T: Um … I think I’m backing away from that.

J: So what’s the skinny on the NC race?

T: I think it’s supposed to be close, with that 11-point natural GOP advantage washed out by three factors:

1: President Trump is unpopular.

2: The suburbs are trending left.

3: The Democrats are leading the generic congressional ballot by several points.

There is a lot of overlap in there; for example, Trump’s popularity affects the generic ballot and Trump’s big-muscle reputation is more popular in rural areas than in suburban areas in ways that are not common to all Republicans.

Each individual factor cuts into that 11-point shortfall but can’t erase it, in and of itself. The fate of the canary rests on whether the combined effect can cover the vigorish.

J: It looks like McCready has a narrow lead in the most recent poll, so maybe the combination of factors is enough.

T: He has some natural advantages of his own, in addition to the generic Democrat advantages: he has more name recognition than his opponent (Dan Bishop) because he was part of the 2018 election while Bishop was not. He’s a veteran and a self-described centrist who opposes impeachment, while Bishop seems to have tied his horse directly to Trump’s sidecar. How’s that for a bloated metaphor?

J: I had to read that metaphor a couple times to parse it, but I’m on the donkey now.

T: “What’s for dinner, mom?”

“Bloated metaphors, honey.”

“Can I have mine parsed?”

“No, dear, you always dribble when you parse your metaphors.”

“I never get to have any fun!”

“Now get back on the donkey, sweetie.”

J: Trump is going to hold a rally down there for Bishop; we’ll see if he can move the needle enough to swing it to the GOP.

T: Ding ding ding! We have a winner!

J: I think you mean “bong bong bong!”

T: This is North Carolina, not Colorado.

J: Jesus Jehoshaphat, I walked into that one, didn’t I?

T: To me, the salient dynamic that makes this dorky little local skirmish a national story is that the national GOP is so bent on winning it. If they didn’t care, nobody else would, either.

J: “Trumped up” used to mean … hell, STILL means making too big a deal out of something that’s not that big a deal.

T: It’s like Webster predicted Trump. Where was Nostradamus at the time?

J: That quack? Don’t get me started.

T: Anyway, Trump is coming down to hold one of his goose-steppy rock concerts to rally support while Bishop is hanging clownfaces on national democratic figures. And the only reason that there is an election in the first place is because the GOP got caught cheating during the last one.

What does all that mean, J? Why does the national GOP care so much about this tiny local election?

J: This is the kind of suburban district that is rapidly trending away from the GOP (about 60 percent of the district is the suburbs of Charlotte). It’s the kind of district that the Republicans lost a lot of in 2018, and it’s the kind they have to win back if they want to avoid another wipeout in 2020.

In my opinion, it’s an early test of just how toxic Trump is and how much of a drag he’s going to be on the national ticket. The national party is interested because every special-election loss makes the hill they have to climb to retake the House that much steeper. This is a seat that they feel they have a realistic chance of saving, so they’re throwing everything they’ve got at it.

T: But won’t this seat be up for election again next November?

J: Well, yes, but there’s another session of Congress next year too, and losing the seat means the Dem House majority is one seat bigger. They also want to show their donors that they can win these suburban seats.

T: Show the donors. I think you got that right; that sounds like the key reason.

To me, Trump coming down and trying to rally support is very Trumpian (hey, lookit me, me, me!) but not very GOPian. I mean, why risk another embarrassing defeat? Trump is a publicity hound, a glory hound and an autocratic campaigner who thinks he has to control everything. But why in the world would the GOP let him do it?

If McCready wins, the GOP will look like it emptied its gun and still missed its target. They will all look like fools.

J: Looking like a fool doesn’t seem to concern Trump too much (see Sharpie-gate). But his appearance is, of course, all about “Trump Trump Trump.” If Bishop wins, Trump will take credit. If he loses, Trump will forget he ever mentioned his name.

T: And, of course, his followers will “forget” immediately, too.

J: Yep. And we both know the GOP doesn’t “let” Trump do anything. He’s gonna do what he wants to do.

T: All those air quotes … is air quoting (excuse me, “air quoting”) an aerobic exercise?

J: I don’t think typing qualifies as exercise.

T: Well, the whole process down in Charlotte is so overwrought … obviously, we are talking about it, so it sort of matters nationally. But does it really matter?

I mean, we care because of the canary thing; it’s a September 2019 barometer measurement, a way to gage where the parties are heading into the 2020 election cycle. But with Trump coming down for a rally, the Pelosi/OAC clown masks and the cheating scandal it’s like the  GOP just can’t let even one small local election go without turning to their Snidely Whiplash tactics.

If the election is going to be a scale with the GOP’s thumb on it, will the results even be meaningful? It won’t measure the will of the public, it will measure the ability of the GOP to manipulate the “will of the public.”

J: You just burned 1.2 calories.

T: I feel so lithe now.

J: Don’t get too excited – I burned twice that much spellchecking this sentence.

If McCreary wins, the Dems will use it to boost their fundraising and so on (“See? We’ve got them on the run!”) They might do that anyway if he loses narrowly; remember, this is a seat that’s been Republican since 1963, my entire life. The fact that it’s even competitive is a win for the Democrats. It’s important to the GOP for the same reasons (“See? Not ALL suburban woman hate us!”) I think that the messaging coming out of this election is going to be far more impactful than whether or not the seat changes hands.

T: So it’s basically no more than a talking point, then. And if the result is close, as expected, then both sides will have their narrative.

In other words, is the point of this race that it’s really sort of pointless? Not to Bishop and McCready, of course — and it’s a huge deal to Charlotte — but in the national sense?

J: I think the national spin machines have already loaded up their spin, no matter what the result. The only question is which set of talking points are going to be spewed out.

I think the national impact will be bigger if McCready wins; it’ll be like that guy Lamb in Pennsylvania who won the special last year. It’ll be spun as a middle finger to Trump. If he loses, it’ll be, “well, in this district, it shouldn’t have even been close.” And frankly, it shouldn’t be. But Trump is a millstone on the necks of the Republican Party.

T: What a weird juxtaposition … Trump, six million dollars in national funds and the force of the RNC descending on a local election, and probably 95 percent of the local GOP officials are part-time volunteers.

J: Hunting rabbits with an elephant gun.

T: And if they lose, Trump will blame the locals, of course.

Some poor schlub, sorting buttons and yard signs in his time off, has to deal with whomever the current Priebus is, coming in to tear him a new asshole for losing the race.

“We gave you six million dollars and you lost to a dead country singer?”

“???”

“Wasn’t that the democratic candidate? Mindy McCready?”

“No, it was – what?”

“Was it Scotty McCreery?”

“Scotty Mc – no. No.”

J: Scotty McCreery is from South Carolina.

T: Yeah, like that’s the silliest factor in that scenario.

J: Didn’t McCready shoot a dog?

T: The guy in the election?

J: No, the dead country singer.

T: Oh, right. Yes, she shot her own dog and then shot herself.

J: Jesus Jehosaphat. That’s going to be an awkward moment at the pearly gates.

T: I got nuthin’.

Slack Chat: Shutdown III – Wag the Dog Slowly

T: Hey J, you nailed it on the shutdown. You win one internet; it’s in the mail.

J: Sure, and I promise not to come in –

T: Ok, it’s not really in the mail.

J: It’s good to see the end of the shutdown, even on a temporary basis. And I doubt they’ll play the shutdown game again. To quote Mitch McConnell: “There’s no education in the second kick of a mule.”

T: Yeah, but mules are way smarter than Trump’s base.

J: Good point.

T: I’m sure Trump’s pea brain is working feverishly on a slick, branded nickname for Pelosi. Trump is so simple and obvious. In his mind, I bet he still thinks he can declare a national emergency and get away with it. Or shut down the government again.

Editor’s note: three days later, Trump threatened to do both.

T: I wonder where this ends? Donald Trump is simply not capable of admitting defeat. He’ll start hurling weapons before he admits defeat on anything. Will the cabinet and/or Congress stop him if he tries to pull a Wag the Dog?

J: We’ll see what comes out of these negotiations. I suspect the Dems will throw Trump a bone and allow a hundred feet of cyclone fencing in San Antonio or something and let him call it a wall.

T: That’s pretty much my guess, too, some sort of face-saving gesture they can give Trump without him burying them in spiked footballs and neener-neeners while he gloats. They’ll consent to “some fencing” and that will replace Trump’s big, beautiful wall.

J: That would be a positive thing, I think. He is allowed to save some face, too. It’s how this shit works.

T: I think the key for Trump is that he gets the number. 5.7 billion.

J: I wonder if he might do something in Venezuela, make some kind of intervention there to protect diplomats or something?

T: That’s got “Operation Dick Waving” written all over it.

J: It would be so great if they actually called it that.

T: Did you see the article, right before the vote to end the shutdown, where McConnell let loose that he was pretty much ready to act on a veto-proof bill? I suspect that’s what got Trump moving.

J: I didn’t see that in so many words, but I did see something in the Washington Post to the effect that McConnell told Trump that he (McConnell) was losing control of the caucus, and that it was time to bring it to an end. Plus the air-traffic controllers all walked out, along with the IRS employees… Trump finally realized that he was holding a losing hand and it was time to fold.

T: Yeah, the actual story was an implied, “it’s time to act, before it’s taken out of your hands” from McConnell, after the lunch where a bunch of republican senators yelled at McConnell. McConnell said, in return, “are you implying that I’m enjoying this?”

J: Yeah, that was the message. And Trump got it.

T: McConnell acted in keeping with his personality and history, I think. Pelosi, put in the same position, likely would have acted the same way.

J: Are you softening on McConnell?

T: Maybe a little. I’m not in his shoes, so I might need to cut him a little slack for his horribleness. He might only be kind of horrible.

J: Horrible rhymes with adorable.

T: I didn’t say I want to date the sumbitch.

J: Noted.

T: Thank you.

J: I’m sure McConnell wasn’t enjoying the shutdown, and he’ll enjoy it even less if Trump tries to do it again. Second kick of a mule, right?

T: Problem is, Trump is way dumber than your average mule.

J: Well, more stubborn, anyway.

T: He thinks he’s the kicker, but he’s definitely the mule.

J: Yeah, Trump doesn’t seem to realize that he is usually the kickee, not the kicker.

Pelosi treated him like a mule – or a small child – refusing to even consider anything the Senate sent over till the government was open.

T: Tough love?

J: I don’t think “love,” “Trump” and “Pelosi” should ever be in the same sentence.

T: The same slack.

J: Not unless I get advance notice, so I can get a condom and a barf bag.

T: Pelosi won’t sign anything that says “wall” – she’d get roasted worse than Coulter is roasting Trump now.

J: The conference committee will come up with some face-saving measure to allow Trump to say he got something… but Pelosi clearly won the battle and will likely win the war, too.

T: I suspect we’ll either get a deal early next week, or we’ll wind up with Trump waving his dick at us with a national emergency move, which will wind up in the courts.

J: I tend to agree.

T: He’s asking Ivanka if he can declare martial law now, I bet.

J: I doubt they’ll run the clock down again, although Trump would probably like the attention he’d get for a week of, “will he or won’t he sign the bill?”

But the adults will get something done sooner, and he’ll grumble and sign.

T: I dunno about that last sentence, though. The question there is whether the “adults” can convince Trump to accept a deal without the words “5.7 billion” and “wall” in the agreement. I think Trump will metaphorically fold his arms and hold his breath until they give him those two words.

He blinked this time, but what will it take to get him to actually say uncle? I don’t think there is such a thing as a compromise without those two words. Congress isn’t dealing with a dealmaker, are they? They are dealing with a toddler. Plus Coulter and Limbaugh and the rest of those jackals will be demanding those two words.

J: I think he retreats, using mealy-mouthed words to pretend he actually won. He is already shifting away from the wall… before, it was a “big beautiful wall.” Now it’s a “smart wall” or a “barrier.” He said he never proposed a big concrete wall from sea to sea, although of course he did.

Trump is realizing that he’s just not going to get anything from Pelosi, and he’s backing down, little by little, until he gets to something Pelosi will let through the House. Coulter and Limbaugh will bitch, but then get behind the new deals.

T: How far can he back up?

J: Here’s a good analysis from that well-known liberal rag, the New York Times.

Here’s the key paragraph:

“Mr. Trump, for his part, has softened his messaging, conceding in a speech in the Rose Garden on Friday that ‘we do not need 2,000 miles of concrete wall from sea to shining sea — we never did.’ That semantic evolution could provide a face-saving way forward for both the president and Democrats, who have previously supported bills that include money for border fencing, though not a wall.”

T: Trump is trapped by his own lack of intelligence, isn’t he? Even in his conciliatory phrases, he still said, “we will build the wall!” I don’t think he ever cared about an actual wall, but he doesn’t know how to say anything else. He’s glib, but simple. He only knows a few key phrases – it’s all he’s ever needed.

Until now.

J: I don’t think he gives a shit about an actual wall either, except he feels like he needs it to placate his base. It’s important to them, so it’s important to him. If they lost interest, he’d lose interest. He has no interest at all in reaching out to anyone outside his base. That’s a losing long-term strategy, considering that the average age of a Fox News viewer is 66.

T: How many of his base (percentagewise) do you think actually cared about the wall before Trump made such a big deal out of it? I doubt it was even 10 percent. They care about the wall like they care about the players on their local football team.

If Trump dropped the wall, Coulter and Limbaugh would raise a ruckus, like a local sports-radio hack would if the star running back got traded, but his base would just follow the new one. He would lose some fans in the short-term, but I think most of them would come back on their conservative bungees.

J: I agree, 10 percent max. Before Trump, those people were way more concerned about the Second Amendment and health care than the wall.

The wall doesn’t really affect most of the people in Trump’s base; relatively few of them live in border states. But he appealed to their nativism and their racism, and he was able to make them care about something that didn’t actually have much, if any, effect on their day-to-day lives.

T: If Trump was smart, he would just stop talking about the wall. Give it a month and nobody would even care. He could — like you said — just brag that he got a good deal with all-around border security. I mean, he’s Mister Gaslighter. He can just keep saying he never said anything about a wall, and those morons will buy it in about ten seconds.

J: Just shutting up about the wall would be a smart play. It’d fall out of the news in a few cycles, and then they could quietly pass a border-security bill that didn’t include wall money and he could say that he got the bigliest deal ever on border security.

T: Bigly rhymes with jiggly.

J: Stop it.

T: Cake and Trump-y, sitting in a tree.

J: Egads.

T: k – i –

J: l – l – y – o – you.

T: Ok, ok … I’ll stop.

J: I need one of those flashers from Men in Black now.

T: Ok, so he’d get his bigly, jiggly deal.

J: Just bigly. But that’d be the smart play, which is why he won’t do it. He needs media attention like he needs oxygen. Maybe more so. “Quiet” just isn’t in his vocabulary.

T: He’s doing the #NeverTrump cause a huge favor by obsessing over the wall.

J: He’s giving the 2020 Democratic nominee, whoever it is, a whole lot of ammunition to use against him. People won’t forget about this shutdown; it did a lot of damage to a lot of people, hurt credit ratings and mortgages and budgets all over America.

T: Does Trump even run? I suspect he’ll know how bad it is (assuming he doesn’t get a lot more popular in the next year) and not want to risk his ego in what could be an embarrassing loss.

He’ll be a million years old, too.

J: There’s growing talk that he’s going to get primaried. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he, in his heart of hearts, welcomes it if it happens.

T: At this point I would put a second term at about 5/1 against, and I think it’s only going to get worse.

J: Unless he starts a war.

T: Wag the dog.

J: Yep.

Slack Chat: Shutdown II – Cake makes a prediction

January 24, 2019

J: Hey T, day 34 of the shutdown is here. What do you think of all this happy horseshit?

T: Another day, another round of rhetoric, but the shifts seem to be going the wrong way for the GOP. 

Adelson got his fealty pledge from Romney’s daughter but Romney himself crossed the aisle. Trump’s approval rating continues to tank, down to 39.5 and 56.8, the biggest spread in over a year. The votes today went two spots to the Dem side, not a catastrophe but not exactly a ringing endorsement for Trump’s wall.

Meanwhile, Trump is spouting the same line he’s been using since 2015 (gimme my wall!!!!) while the rest of the world is trying to say nice things about the need to compromise. What’s your take?

J: I think there’s going to be a compromise in the very near future. The Dems will roll out their border-security bill tomorrow and basically dare Trump to veto it… it’ll have money for everything in the world except the wall on it, and the fact that six Reps crossed the aisle should tell Trump and McConnell that this is probably the best deal they’re gonna get.

So Trump will agree to it and claim victory (as he usually does no matter how badly he’s had his ass handed to him). But I think we’re in the endgame now. I’d bet that the government is opened before the weekend’s out.

Editor’s note: the shutdown ended the following day.

T: I hope you are right. My intuition is that Trump won’t cave that easily, but he did cave on the SOTU speech. That surprised me.

Is he actually starting to feel vulnerable? Those tanking approval ratings sent a pretty strong message, didn’t they? I mean, 34 percent? That’s usually reserved for impeachments and depressions. My guess is that he won’t cave (wall or bust) but your guess has me doubting my guess.

J: He had no choice but to cave on the speech. Apparently it’s a law and not just a matter of policy that no one, not even the President, addresses a joint session of Congress without an invitation.

T: I thought he might hold a rally; somebody must have talked him out of it.

J: Schumer and McConnell are still talking… I think that they’re trying to get to a deal before the Dems roll out their border-security bill tomorrow. They’re apparently going to give $5.7 billion for other border-security measures, more Border Patrol agents, more judges, infrastructure at points of entry… it’s hard to see how Trump could say no to that.