What Not to Talk About in Christmastime

The House of Representatives is expected to impeach President Donald Trump today on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress today, giving Americans plenty to shout at one other about during their family Christmas celebrations. All the polls and other evidence the country is split pretty much down the middle on the matter, and neither side seems willing to listen to the other, so for now we suggest everyone talk about such anodyne topics as sports and whatever good news they have about the cute kids scurrying around the festivities.
Even so, we’ll be keeping an eye on the developments. This is only third time in American history that a president has been impeached — not counting the impending and inevitable impeachment that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation — and no matter one’s perspective it’s a subject of great importance. It’s very serious stuff, even if many of the arguments being made are utterly unserious.
On impeachment eve Trump issued a six-page letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on official White House stationery, and it has to be seen to be read. The president reportedly spent a whole week on it, with input from top White House advisors and Trump’s personal lawyers, and it’s clearly been spell-checked and made use of a thesaurus, but otherwise it’s just a longer-than-usual presidential “tweet.” The are the usual Random Capitalizations and excessive use of exclamation markets, easily disproved claims, personal attacks, and the standard Trumpian tactic of accusing his opponents of whatever he’s been accused of, as well as a complaint that the Democrats “have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!”
Nothing in the missive offers any credible refutation of the evidence that has been brought against him, nor any explanation about why he’s blocking key witnesses from offering any exculpatory testimony, but Pelosi’s response that the letter was “ridiculous” and “really sick” also wasn’t very substantive. We’re holding out faint hope that the arguments will be more high-minded during a Senate trial, which is expected to take place next month, but have no expectation that any of it will change anybody’s mind.
Anything’s possible, though, especially these days, and there’s no predicting what bizarre plot twists might unfold in this surreal reality show. We’ll keep an open eye on it, but during the Christmas season we’ll try to keep our mouths shut at the family get-togethers. Some Republicans are blaming the Democrats for impeaching Trump so close to Christmas, but some of them voted to impeach President Bill Clinton on Dec. 19, 1998, and even though our family was in favor of that we mostly talked abut sports and the young kinfolk during that holiday season.

— Bud Norman

 

An Impeachment Spoiler Alert

The main problem with this impeachment inquiry storyline in President Donald Trump’s hit reality show is its predictability. On Thursday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed that her overwhelming Democratic House majority will soon vote to impeach the president, just as everyone expected from the outset, and although there are bound to be further plot twists that make Trump look bad it seems inevitable the slight Republican majority in the Senate will prevent Trump being removed from office.
Even so, we find it all quite riveting. If not for a vested interest in the future of the American republic, we might find downright hilarious.
For those of you who haven’t been following the complicated plot from its improbable beginnings, the gist of it is that Trump stands accused of abusing the powers of his office to coerce domestic political help from beleaguered ally Ukraine and then to cover it up by by defying congressional subpoenas and other illegal means, and all the sworn testimony and documentary evidence and the White House’s open defiance of congressional subpoenas indicate that he’s guilty as charged. The Republicans are trying to counter-program with a story about how the Ukrainians are the bad the guys, not the Russians who have invaded their country, and how all the damned Democrats and their witnesses and documents are in on it, but the problem with that storyline is its improbability.
At the risk of spoiling the plot, we expect Trump and his apologists will eventually confess to everything and shrug their shoulders in a “So what?” motion and that the argument will win enough support in a Republican Senate to keep him in office. The testimony that Trump is blocking from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former national security advisor John Bolton and former White Counsel Don McGahn and especially current Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and one of his recently indicted associates might move public opinion, and their lack of testimony won’t look at all good who’s paying careful attention, but the Democrats are in such a holiday rush to get this over before the early presidential primaries that they won’t have time to sway a distracted public’s attention.
At the moment there’s a significant portion of the country, even a majority according to many polls, that favor Trump’s removal from office and have from pretty much since the day he was sworn in. There’s also a sizable percentage that consider Trump even greater than President Abraham Lincoln, and will say “So what?” about anything Trump does. Most of the country doesn’t seem to be paying much attention, as with the holidays coming up they’ve got other things to do than watch the news, and Trump is hoping that come next November his support is sufficiently spread out around the electoral map to keep him in office and immune from prosecution for another four years.
That’s the obvious post-Christmas next chapter of this desultory tale, and as improbable as it is at least it’s unpredictable. We don’t much like Trump or any of these damned Democratic candidates, and are trying to retain our faith in objective reality and Constitutional principles, so we don’t expect any Christmas miracles.

— Bud Norman

Sleeping In On a Black Friday

After a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with our folks and two of their good friends we came home and took a nice nap, and after that we dropped in on a heck of hootenanny at Kirby’s Beer Store, where our good friend Blind Tom Page and four other topnotch players from our surprisingly strong local music scene were playing some tasty Americana. After that we came home and watched the last hour of Martin Scorsese’s excellent movie “The Irishman” on Netflix, and after we finish penning this essay we plan to sleep late and forego the Black Friday shopping frenzy.
If it’s not too late, we’d advise you to do the same. The Wal-Marts are shopping malls are always unusually crazy on the day after Thanksgiving, and the same bargains will be available on Saturday when the shopping is less crazy, and for those who are up to date with these computer thingamajigs that bring us the latest Scorsese movie there’s Cyber Monday coming up when you can get even better deals and have them delivered to your porch.
Better yet that you forego all the crass commercialism of Christmas, or at least procrastinate to the last possible moment, and do some act of kindness rather than spending scarce money, as far as we’re concerned. After giving thanks to God for America and its democratic institutions and tasty meals and awesome music the nation rightly turns its attention to the miraculous and all-important birth of Jesus Christ, but we think our American ancestors were right to spend a only a week or so on it and try keep in it mind throughout the year and look forward to to celebrating Christ’s more all-important resurrection on a hopefully warmer Sunday Easter in the spring.
The weather around here was brutal on Thanksgiving, and probably will be until after Easter, but we’ll try to avail ourselves of the warming holiday spirit this cold and dark season somehow engenders. We’ll keep our eye on the nation’s politics, which looks to be turbulent, but try to keep the seasonal faith that it all works out well in the end..
The damnable corporations and the Christians and the popular culture have commenced the holiday season sooner than we would prefer, but our folks and their friends are doing fine enough despite life’s tragedies and there’s great music being played at Kirby’s Beer Store, so we’ll try to give thanks to God for each and every day. In a few short weeks we’ll celebrate Christ’s birth, and start looking forward to His resurrection in the far-off spring.

— Bud Norman

Happy Halloween, and All the Rest

Today is Halloween, and we have mixed feelings about the holiday. We’re in favor of kids dressing up in costumes and asking strangers for candy, and cherish our childhood memories of the strange custom, but everything else about Halloween is depressing.
Halloween means the World Series is over, so there won’t be any baseball until pitchers and catchers report to spring training in 102 long days, and even the arrival of basketball season offers only so much solace.
Around here Halloween always brings the first hard blast of winter weather, and this time around there’s even an early snow on the ground. On Sunday morning the clocks will fall back and sundown will start arriving an hour earlier, and we’re not looking forward an extra hour of darkness. These days all the advertisers skip past Thanksgiving and starting selling Christmas on the day after Halloween, and two whole months of Christmas cheer is more than we need.
This year Halloween also kicks off a rare impeachment season, which the Democrats hope to wrap up before Christmas, and that won’t do much for peace on Earth and good will toward men.
All the more reason to enjoy a happy Halloween, and keep a couple of candy bars for yourself.

— Bud Norman

A Good Day For Trump, For Now

A steady rain was falling on the just and unjust alike all across the prairie states throughout Wednesday, and it was a cold rain from a gloomy dark gray sky that to seemed to emphasize how all the Christmas cheer was over for another long year, but elsewhere President Donald Trump wound up having one of his better days.
The recently swooning stock markets had an unprecedented rally, and all the cable news networks were obliged to air some flattering footage of Trump being welcomed by the troops at an air base in Iraq, and pretty much everyone in Congress was back home with family and constituent and not making any news trouble for him. Although Trump might have preferred to be golfing at his ritzy Mar-a-Lago resort in sunny south Florida, as previously planned, he surely enjoyed a 24-hour news cycle for the first time in quite a while.
Today brings yet another 24-hour news cycle, however, so we’d advise Trump not to get too cocky.
Our best explanation for that inexplicable surge in the stock markets is that after the past few months of steep declines the investors woke up on the day after Christmas went bargain hunting and wound up in a bidding war, so there’s no telling how long that might last. The unemployment rate is still low by historical norms and the global and domestic economies are clearly slowing they’re also still expanding at their typically slow paces, but that’s all the more reason for the Federal Reserve Board to nudge interest rates slightly closer to historical norms, and a global trade war is still being waged, and there’s more than the usual amount of certainty in the politics almost everywhere, so we’ll wait and how the smart money sorts all of that out. If you’re at all familiar with the most fundamental laws of high finance you by now know that when the stock market goes up it is because of Trump, and when it goes down it’s somebody else’s fault, so no matter how it turns out at least we’d be willing to wager some serious dough on how Trump will spin the next few news cycles.
Even the “enemies of the people” in the “fake news” media had to acknowledge that Trump had paid a potentially risky visit to the brave and selfless men and women who had been working through Christmas in a war zone, so such old-fashioned Never-Trump Republican types as ourselves are also obliged to give credit where credit is due. The traditional presidential visit that all of the past several Democratic and Republicans presidents made came after nearly two years of criticism from most quarters for failing to do so, which was heightened last November when Trump skipped a visit to an American World War I cemetery in France during a commemoration of the centennial of Armistice Day, which was attended by all of the heads of states of the winning allies but skipped by Trump due to a light rain, and then again when played golf rather than the lay the traditional presidential wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Veteran’s Day, but there’s still no denying Trump did eventually make the trip.
The trip also raised questions about Trump’s overall foreign policy performance, though, which have been raised on both sides of the political aisle, and they’re likely to linger through the coming year of 24-hour news cycles and probably won’t provide such favorable photo opportunities. Trump felt obliged to explain his recent decision to withdraw troops from Syria and draw down troops in Afghanistan, which led to the resignation of the wise and wizened and widely respected four-star general who had been his Secretary of Defense, and although he’d earlier said that it because the mission of defeating the Islamic State had been won he wound up telling the troops that he expected our newfound friends in the Russian and Iranian dictatorships to help the Syrian dictatorship finish the job. Most of those brave men and women wearing boots on the ground have the poetic idea that theirs is not to make reply, their is not to question why, but theirs is but to do and die, and they seemed genuinely grateful for a visit from their commander in chief. Much of the higher brass watching over them seems to have its doubts, as do many of America’s erstwhile allies in Europe and the Middle East and elsewhere, and under a gloomy and rainy Kansas sky far away from the front lines we indulge in the luxury of our own worries.
All of those Senators and Representatives will be soon back in Washington and supplying critical sound bits to the cable news networks and damning quotes to the mainstream press, and early next year a sizable majority of the Representatives will be damned Democrats and lately even some of the slight majority of Republicans in the Senate have been restive on a number of issues. The special counsel investigation into the “Russia thing” will be back from its Christmas holiday, too, and it seems a sure bet that Trump will have some less happy 24-hour news cycles in the coming year.
He should get in a few more golf rounds, though, and we’ll generously wish him and the rest of the world nothing but fairways and greens.

— Bud Norman

On the Night After Christmas

Here’s hoping you all had a merry Christmas, or at least a merrier one that President Donald Trump seems to have had. For Trump, who was forced by public relations reasons to forestall a planned golfing vacation at his ritzy Mar-a-Lago resort in sunny south Florida, it wasn’t so much a Christmas as it was a “Festivus.”
Fans of the classic “Seinfeld” sit-com will recall that “Festivus” was a holiday the George Costanza character’s cranky father invented as an alternative to Christmas, and was devoted to the “airing of grievances” and “feats of strength.” Our cranky president spent most of Christmas Eve and Christmas airing a wide variety grievances via “Twitter” and a rare Christmas news conference, about everything from the damned Democrats to the special counsel investigation into the “Russia thing” to the alleged idiot that Trump appointed to chair the Federal Reserve, and trying his best to convince the public the he’s far stronger than any of them.
Although we try our best to ignore the news on Christmas Eve and Christmas, we read and watched enough that we were not convinced.
The third partial government shutdown of Trump’s first two years in office looks bad enough that Trump felt compelled to remain in frigid Washington rather than enjoy the sunny climes and opulent golf course at Mar-a-Lago, and the Democratic majority that’s soon to be installed in the House of Representatives has no apparent incentive to cave to the unpopular president’s demand for five billion dollars of funding for his unpopular campaign promise of a big and beautiful wall along the entirety of America’s border with Mexico. Partial government shutdowns are also unpopular, and although Trump is now blaming this one on the Democrats the “fake news” networks can gleefully replay the very real video of Trump recently bragging to the Democratic leaders in Congress that he’ll take all the credit for this one. Trump is already saying that he doesn’t need a wall across the entire Mexican border, and is talking about “steel slats” rather than the 30-foot-tall concrete and rebar structure he once envisions, and concedes that the Democrats can call it a mere fence if they want, and he’s pretty much given up on the campaign promise that Mexico will happily pay for it,
The former Federal Bureau of Investigation director and decorated Marine combat veteran in charge of the “Russia thing” probably isn’t much intimidated by Trump’s “tweets,” either, so we expect that will continue to vex Trump well into the next year. Trump’s remaining Republican allies in Congress are increasingly disinclined to protect Trump from that, too, and have increasingly little incentive to do so.
Our best guess is that the stock markets will continue their recent swoon when the reopen today, and that the Fed chairman Trump appointed and can’t fire without causing a political and economic crisis probably won’t be budged by any presidential “tweets.” The Fed has recently nudged the prime interest rate toward historical norms, but the markets are also spooked by the Trump trade wars that have raised the cost of a steel-slat border barrier by 25 percent, and the inevitable cyclical slowing of the global economy that won’t be helped if the central bank of the all-important American economy is perceived as acting in the short term political interests of an unpopular president, so once again Trump doesn’t seem to be negotiating or “tweeting” from a position of strength.
Starting today Trump will be dealing with all this with an acting Attorney General, an acting defense secretary, an acting secretary of the interior, an acting chief of staff who’s moonlighting on the job while running the Office of Management and Budget that’s overseeing the partial shutdown of the government, no ambassador to the the United Nations or South Korea at all, and an understaffed White House legal team responding to all the subpoenas that the “Russia thing” investigation and the incoming Democratic House majority will surely be serving in the coming weeks.. This isn’t likely to reassure the markets or Trump’s already skeptical international and domestic allies, but Trump’s die-hard fans can still reassure themselves that at least he fights.

— Bud Norman

Merry Christmas, 2018

Today is Christmas Day, and the only news story worth mentioning is now more than two millennia old. One of the first reports was in the Gospel According to Luke, a few decades after the fact, but it hasn’t been improved on since an angel of God first told it to some shepherds shivering in the cold outside outside a small town called Bethlehem.
“And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all peoples. For today in the city of David there has been born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Except to wish you and all those you love a most Merry Christmas, we’ll leave it at that.

— Bud Norman

Merry Christmas Eve

These days people tend to celebrate Christmas from Black Friday until the penultimate day of January, but we’ve always preferred to more fully focus our attention on Christ’s birth over a couple of days.
In our family we always decorated the house around mid-December but only began the festivities in earnest on Christmas Eve, when we’d share a feast of pizza and open all the gifts from family and friends, and sing carols and read from the Nativity scriptures, and then pose for the family portraits that Dad’s camera-and-flash-bulb timer always took several infuriatingly long attempts to get right. On Christmas morning we’d wake up with the brothers and greedily unwrap the presents that had been brought by Santa Claus — yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus — and then enjoy the traditional feast of turkey and ham and mashed potatoes with gravy and other all-American culinary delights, followed by televised football games, but at some point we’d sing a few more carols about that long ago Oh Holy Night and reflect on those scriptures that hinted at its ineffable meaning.
Over the the past many years we’ve added a tradition of attending the Christas party that our friends Art and Joanne annually host at our friend Stan’s house on the night before Christmas Eve, which is always the most swinging soiree one can hope to be invited to here in Wichita. Stan’s place isn’t much to look at if you drive by it up in North Riverside, but if you’re invited inside it’s as cool a bachelor pad as you’ve ever seen, and every year on the night before Christmas Eve it’s jam-packed with excellent people. Between Art and Joanne and Stan they seem to know every worthwhile beatnik and hippie and punk and musician and local media celebrity and ballet dancer in town, and it’s always nice to be reminded of how many of our friends are friends with other friends of ours in this small town of more than half-a-million souls. There’s always an open bar with a voluptuous barmaid, and no one’s singing Christmas carols or reciting Nativity scripture, but an appropriate feeling of peace on Earth and good will toward man always prevails.
We’ll probably wake up late today with a slight hangover, but as always with a realization that today is Christmas Eve, and that today is one of those special days of the year. We’ll have some sort of feast with our beloved parents at their swank retirement home, then maybe a beer with some of our weird friends at a nearby favorite dive of ours, try our best to ignore what’s going on with the government and the stock markets and the rest of the world, and to take a moment to reflect on the even better next world that Christ’s birth promises.
We suggest you do the same, and have a very merry Christmas Eve.

— Bud Norman

Happy Thanksgiving, A.D. 2018

Why at the hell on earth or in hell are e you here today, or anywhere else on the internet? Today is Thanksgiving Day, when you get a day off from the day’s news and a rare chance to reflect on all the rest of it, for which you can mostly be thankful for to God.
Better you should eat some turkey and drink some wine and be merry. for tomorrow we might die, as the Good Book suggests. Embrace yourself in the warmth of family and friends, and go ahead and watch some football if you’re so inclined. Tomorrow brings another dark and cold and dreary business day until the Christmas celebration of Christ’s birth, and we’ll be back on the glum job of noting it, yet no matter what comes in the next year this is as good a time as ever to be thankful for the best of life on God’s blessed Earth.
To all those who drop in even on days like today, we wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and a happy whatever other holiday your might celebrate at this otherwise miserable time of year.

— Bud Norman

Merry Christmas, 2017

Today is Christmas Day, and the only news worth mentioning is more than two millennia old. It was first noted in print in the Gospel according to Luke a few decades after the fact, but hasn’t been improved on since an angel of God first spoke ┬áit to some lowly shepherds who were shivering in the cold outside a small town called Bethlehem.
“And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the peoples. For today in the city of David there has been born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'”
Except to wish you and all those you love a Merry Christmas, we’ll leave it at that.

— Bud Norman