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Monday, March 19, 2018

A Criminal Controls the Detective: Why Trump Will Soon Fire Robert Mueller

Investigators who have worked under Robert Mueller in the past say he always has the same investigative tactic: start around the edges and work towards the middle, picking off the easy prey at first, getting their cooperation by giving up others, moving slowly and steadily towards the main target, never forgetting that the money trail is hard to hide and a magnificent source of unhideable treasures when finally revealed for all the world to see.  This is exactly what Mueller has been doing for many months, and its scope is both broadening (not just Russia, but corruption in the Trump campaign, plus Trump financial dealings made off that campaign) and narrowing now as it hones in on Donald John Trump himself.  At Mueller’s side is an all-star legal team, experts in unearthing deeply buried secrets, dedicated to the truth.

When the investigation first started I didn’t think much would come of it.  It seemed to me that at most it would uncover piddling stuff, with some embarrassments perhaps for Trump and crew, but nothing major, nothing criminal, nothing worthy of, say, impeachment.

I’m beginning to think I was wrong.  All of those things are suddenly looming possibilities, now very real.  I am becoming sure that there are big things to find, things Donald Trump himself doesn’t want to thinks about: much actual documentable collusion with the Russians perhaps,  money dealings with promises made to whomever, false feeds to evil persons about Hillary, and perhaps even photos of that pissing game in Moscow that may or may not have happened.  Hmm. 

Here’s why I think all this is about to explode:

Trump’s behavior (always hard to explain unless you are a Kindergarten teacher who is constantly dealing with five year olds) has pointed us the way to his own guilt.  If there were nothing big to hide he wouldn’t keep making noisier and noisier stinks about it.  But every day it gets worse, and his nightly tweets now sound like the yapping of a particularly pissed off chihuahua.  It’s clear that aides, fearing a political catastrophe, have had to talk him out of firing the special counsel in the past when he was aching, aching to do so.  They just think he’s being, well, crazy.  I think he’s being, well, guilty and panicked. 

The Donald’s pissed all right, and the reason he’s so frantic is that he knows what the coming bad headlines will say, though the rest of us will have to wait for Mueller to reveal all before we hear the details.  When these revelations start leading on the evening news, the internet, and when indictments are filed in federal court, the Trumpster is right to worry they’ll quickly lead to (1) disgrace, (2) impeachment or resignation, (3) and/or prison.

Oh, but Our President can avoid all of this!!!  Just fire Mueller, claiming he’s a lackey of the Democrats who’s involved in a major witch hunt.  Refuse to allow further investigations.  Surely that will work!  He’s the President, by God!  And here’s what makes it all the more likely: Trump’s past life has been just like this!  Yes, he routinely has gotten himself into major trouble, even criminal trouble, but, with a payoff here and there, and some fancy maneuvers, he escapes more or less whole even if other enterprises (discrimination in housing in New York, casinos going bankrupt in Atlantic City, bad investments here and there, regular stiffing of people to whom he owes money, the bringing of endless baseless lawsuits, a major fraud with creating Trump University by taking the money of people who loved him—see below) crash and burn while he walks away, things collapsing in the background, and becomes a TV star.  Our President.  Donald Trump always comes out on top, and never mind the collateral damage.

Would it work out okay?  One more time?  Well, Trump hugely hopes so, but . . . well, he lives in a dream world as we all know.  Real life will be less friendly.  One of the major reasons Nixon resigned resulted from his firing of a lawyer investigating Watergate.  Almost no one supports the criminal dismissing the cop, and while the post-Mueller firing process will be longer and messier than a complete investigation by Mueller, it will likely end the same.

Maybe that’s enough for Trump.  Instead of being thrown out, say, later this year, he’ll make it to the next before he goes, possibly negotiating a deal that avoids jail at all.  That result would be worse for the country but perhaps better for Trump himself.

Asked to choose between those two (America, Trump) which do you think DJT will pick?

So, readers, that’s why I now predict Trump will fire Mueller soon.  I’d better hurry and post this or it will be old news.

Related Posts:

“Comparing Donald Trump to a Badly Infected Big Toe,” August 3, 2016,

“Trump University: A Fraudster for President”? March 10, 2016;

“President Preposterous: Donald Takes the Helm,” November 14, 2016;

“Calm Yourself: What Trump Can and Cannot Do About LGBT Rights,” November 16, 2016;

“Careful What You Wish For: Making Trump an Illegitimate President,” January 20, 2017;

“Fake News You Might Like to Read,” February 17, 2017;

Embracing Michael Pence’s Coming Presidency,” February 28, 2017;

“Is Trump Clinically Insane?  The Goldwater Rule Revisited,” June 29, 2017;

“Impeaching Donald Trump:  A Lawyer Looks at the Legal Issues,” August 16, 2017;

“Chaos in the Country: Eight Months of Trump’s Presidency”  August 28, 2017;

Monday, February 26, 2018

“That Goddamn Song!” David Vargo Turns 60 and Does It Right

The Birthday Boy at 60

My husband, David Vargo, has always been a talented man, much admired in the acting community, a terrific graphic designer, and the winner of multiple awards for various things (trophies fill our house).  It was therefore a major shock for him to realize that in 2017, like it or not, he was going to turn 60 on December 22.  SIXTY!  YIKES!  A HORROR STORY! 

More than that, in 2013 he had married into a chosen family that has rituals for Big Birthdays like this, and such momentous occasions do not pass quietly into the night but are instead celebrated with traditional major public happenings.  Oh, no!  NO, NO, NO!!!

One of these rituals, in which David, alas, has participated a couple of times over the last five years of our marriage as one of the singers, is the rendition of the “Big Birthday” song, about which I have often commented on in this blog.  It was written years ago by myself and my son Clayton (and rewritten a number of times since), and is used for those birthdays ending in a zero.  It has wicked lyrics.  Here they are (insert celebrant's name chorus at the end):

[Click To Enlarge]

When I turned sixty this song was sung to me at a major fete.  Here is the video of the end of that august occasion, where the festivities were led by Arthur Greenbaum and Thomas Jeffire in front of alcoholically-encouraged friends who sang it lustily;

In January of 2017, when poor aging David, a young 59, could see this all coming a mere eleven months away, he muttered in a low but determined voice, “I don’t want to hear that Goddamn Song!  I was—how shall I put this?—nonplussed at this startling sentence, and perhaps he noticed my poorly disguised hurt.  Two days later, in a conciliatory mood and with a soft loving voice, David cooed to me, “You know I was kidding, right?  I really do want to have ‘Big Birthday’ performed for my 60th this coming December.”  Uh huh.  David immediately added, as a joke, “Of course I want it sung in four party harmony.”  Right.

The solution was clear.  I have been writing songs since I was a boy (and I produced a record album—yes a real vinyl 12” LP record—in 1977 of my comic songs, called “Strange Songs”).  Thus all I had to do was write a new version of “Big Birthday” for David’s 60th and get our chosen family to perform it for him.  Piece of cake. 

Lorri and David at Party
By December David had begun to embrace his coming birthday with enthusiasm, and decided to go whole hog.  He and my chosen sister, Lorri Latek (Goddess of Parties), went hunting for a suitable venue, and ended by selecting an elegant private room (the Wine Cellar) at The Refectory, the premier high-end restaurant in Columbus, for the date of the actual birthday: December 22, 2017.  A multi-course meal would be served, and the fancy invitations explained that formal wear was expected, which had the men in tuxedos and the women in evening gowns!  David arranged for a violinist to play, and videographers to record the whole event.  The lovely place settings had a wine glass each with the guest’s name engraved thereon.  It was a major birthday celebration, as these photos demonstrate:

Lorri, David, and Pamela Maggied

I was in charge of the entertainment, and I told David that we were indeed going to sing the traditional “Big Birthday” song and then perform a skit.  That was a misdirection.
In mid-December I gathered our chosen family together, handed out the sheet music, and we rehearsed a new version of “Big Birthday,” now called “That Goddamn Song.”  It begins with the same first line as the original song, but then is interrupted by me with new lyrics and melody before it morphs into a bawler’s version of “Big Birthday” with some notes sung in four party harmony (or, as Arthur Greenbaum speculated, more than four parts, depending on the singer’s amount of consumed alcohol, enthusiasm, and musical imagination).  Here is the video of that sterling performance:

So in the end David Vargo turned 60 in a grand style, surrounded by people who love him very much, secure in the knowledge that when it came to this “senior” milestone he surmounted it with an evening to remember forever.

Related Posts:

 “The Evil Big Birthday Song November 5, 2010;

"Strange Songs, Inc.," September 29, 2010;

The Carolers: A Comic Christmas Song,” December 7, 2010;

“When My Family Turned Into a Criminal Gang: Charleyne’s 70th Birthday,” November 30, 2017;

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Opening in Another Play: The Pulitzer Prize Winning “Proof”

John Sorenson and Me

Last night we opened in “Proof” for a three week run at Little Theater Off Broadway in Grove City, Ohio (a suburb on the south side of Columbus). It's a drama with some very funny parts and involves a woman's search for identity in the shadow of her brilliant but mad father, a titan in the world of mathematics.  Her problem is that she had to care for him during much of his later life, slowing her own pursuit of mathematics.  After his death she produces a brilliant new mathematical proof that amazes everyone who sees it.  She explains that she wrote it, but even those close to her believe it is really the work of her father and she is either (a) lying or (b), like him, crazy.  The terrific play by David Auburn not only won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in in 2001, but also the Tony Award that same year.

There are four characters: Catherine, the young woman in question, her sister Clare, a young mathematician named Harold Dobbs (who is romantically involved with Catherine), and the father, Robert.  The very talented young actors playing the younger roles: Megan Freeman has the lead as Catherine, Katie Wenzel is Clare, and John Sorenson (who I was pleased to act with in the Albee drama “Seascape” in 2014) is Harold.

With Megan Freeman and Katie Wenzel

I play the father, and it’s a great part, though the smallest of the four.  He is in three scenes and appears in very different lights in each: as a happy healthy man, as someone who is clearly crazy, and as a ghost!  All these scenes are interesting to play, and the mad scene is frankly disturbing.  Much of the time there is a light tone, and even some major laughs, but there are also major profanities (Robert uses the word “fuck” like a sailor) and two arguments, one almost violent.  Challenging work for an actor.  It’s a role I've longed to play for years.

Our director is the wonderful Kathy Hyland, with whom I have worked often in the past.  She directed me in my first show when I retired from teaching and went back to doing theater: “George Washington Slept Here”(2005), then I directed her “The Curious Savage” (2008), and subsequently she was the stage manager for two shows I directed, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (2009) and “Art” (2013).  Our stage manager is the terrific Lauren Wong.

With Lauren and Kathy

We play for three weekend, including Thursdays and three Sunday matinees.  Contact information is below.  Come see us!

Related Posts:

“Douglas Whaley, Actor,” August 14, 2010;

“On Stage Again: Acting in Edward Albee’s “Seascape,” February 26, 2014;

Monday, January 15, 2018

A New and Valuable Word for Your Vocabulary: “UNC” [“Under No Circumsances”]

Maria and Clayton
When my husband David and I visited my son, Clayton Whaley, and his wife Maria, in the Seattle, Washington, area this past summer, at one point we were all standing in their kitchen and Maria playfully suggested something to Clayton as a possible thing he should do and he replied without hesitation, “That’s an UNC.”  [It rhymes with "dunk."]  David and I both laughed.  Who knew?  My son and daughter-in-law use “UNC” too!  Clayton must have gotten it from me, and, happily this very useful meme has now been handed off to a new generation.  I was very pleased.

The initials mean “Under No Circumstances,” and are used whenever what has just been proposed has no chance of happening if the speaker has any control over the situation.

It comes up often, for example, when David and I are sitting in a movie theater watching previews prior to the showing of the feature film.  Some film previews, of course, highlight movies we will likely see, and we make a mental or verbal note to do so.  But others are so warningly horrible that one or the other of us will mutter aloud, “UNC,” instantly banishing the offender to unviewed hell.

There are many traditional ways of expressing this same thought: “Never in a thousand years,” “Over my dead body!”, or (in a similar funereal vein) “I’d die first,” etc.  But these time-tested phrases required multiple words.  “UNC’ is brutally short, efficiently dismissive.  Further, should it catch on, the cognoscenti will be strangely satisfied by its abrupt, contemptuous finality.  The speaker is freed from further discussion.  Appeals are usually futile and much discouraged.

I’ve written before about other solutions allowing me to move things along at an efficient pace.  In one blog post I described my frequent usage of the phrase “I’ve ceased to care,” appropriate when deciding I now know all I want to know about whatever is being described—similar to (but not the same as) “Too much information”; ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­“A New Motto: ‘I’ve Ceased To Care,’” December 31, 2015;  In another post I explained how I have avoided thousands of hours of TV commercials by DVRing everything I plan to watch and then skipping through programs to avoid commercials and other interference so as to view only the salient parts; “How To Make Television Your Slave and Not Your Master,” July 20, 2017;

Robert Whaley
My life is filled with such shorthanded phrases and practices, and my friends, family, students, and, of course, poor David, are exposed to them all.  Many of these phrases or practices are inherited from my father, Robert Whaley [see “The Sayings of Robert Whaley,” May 13, 2010;
], and, the best of these, “One more and quit forever” (used in connection with the question whether or not to have another drink of alcohol) has spread from Dad’s first utterance to various parts of the country where people he knew and their friends now reside.  My ex-wife Charleyne says it, Clayton and Maria also, dozens of people in Columbus, Ohio, can quote it, and Dallas, Texas, where he lived for ten years at the end of his life is filled with devotees.    For Christmas one year, David gave me a plaque of this saying, and it hangs in a place of honor in our kitchen, visible from the living room where I can simply point to it whenever offering guests a refill of their drink.

“UNC” is the opposite of “One More and Quit Forever.”  No renewal is allowed.  The UNCed item is immediately banished from the speaker’s universe and pre-UNC harmony is restored.  This accomplished it’s probably time for that drink.

Related Posts:

“The Sayings of Robert Whaley,” May 13, 2010; 

“A New Motto: ‘I’ve Ceased To Care,’” December 31, 2015;

“How To Make Television Your Slave and Not Your Master,” July 20, 2017;

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

My Button Is Bigger Than Your Button: A 71 Year Old Child and a 33 Year Old Child Blow Up the World

Looking back on World War II it is almost incomprehensible how someone like Adolph Hitler could have persuaded the German people to embrace his madness.  And, minor student of history that I am, I’ve often wondered that it really happened.  I’m half German (my mother’s side) and the Germans are a very practical people, rooted in reality, dedicated to making things work.  How could they have become so accommodating to evil to elect that awful government into power and then allowed it to thrive until it almost conquered the globe with its deadly choices?  Certainly, this madness, so demonstrably wrong, couldn’t happen again, and particularly not in an age where information is available at the touch of a phone pad and facts are widely spread so that truth is obvious to anyone paying attention to the issues.

Then came the election of Donald Trump and now I nightly slump in my chair at the renewed madness loosed upon a world that gapes at his crudeness as he, smirking from the edge of the precipice, tweet by tweet, pushes us over, perfectly willing for us all to fall with the rest of civilization as long as it’s the greatest plunge of them all!

Matching this madness on the other side of the world is an infant with comic book hair in charge of North Korea’s nuclear time bomb, a boy whose ego and instability mirrors Trump misstep by misstep: Kim Jong Un.  His priorities are not to help his starving people, nor to care for them in any way at all.  Instead of domestic leadership he wants world domination, and he has the weapons to make this goal a serious threat.  His recent ballistic missile tests can plant nuclear bombs on any part of the United States he wishes to annihilate.  Our experts (on last night’s news) say that North Korea still has some technical details to work out before this mission could be successfully accomplished.  How comforting!  A few technical tweaks and then a giant mushroom cloud will blossom directly over downtown Chicago. 

I have been listening to the audiobook called “The Accusation” by a North Korean using the pseudonym “Bandi.”  The book, smuggled out of North Korea, contains six short stories each depicting a different horror of current life in that dismal country.  They are so hard to listen to (even though very well told and quite enthralling) that I’ve ground to a halt after the first three, almost afraid to continue.  In one, a woman who gets into a dispute with her neighbors in Pyongyang ends up being sent to a concentration camp because her small child laughs inappropriately at a giant picture of the North Korean leader, leading them both to be convicted (without trial) of “insufficient fervor” for the glorious ruler.  In another a man meets a similar fate for trying to visit his dying mother without having the right travel papers (only available to those with money enough to bribe the appropriate officials). One story after another gives new depth and meaning to the word “depressing.”  It is horrible to think that any people must live like this.  For North Koreans outside the model city of Pyongyang (where disabled people are banned), starvation is the chief problem.  Those who manage to flee the country do so at the expense of loved ones left behind, who will be jailed or murdered as punishment for the exodus of their kin.  When Kim Jong Un turns on one of his advisors (like his uncle, shortly after Kim took over) that man is publicly executed and then his body thrown to pigs to eat;  Kim Jong Un’s half brother (one with an arguably better right to lead the country than Kim) was murdered in another country in an airport by two young girls smearing his face with poison, his death being almost instantaneous.  It sounds like I’m making this up.  I’m not.

The two women hired to kill Kim's half brother (center)

We can be grateful, I suppose, that so far at least our president doesn’t have the latitude to dispose of those he dislikes so efficiently.  Oh, but surely Trump, if he had these powers, wouldn’t use them to dispose of those who displease him.  Surely not. 

This week these two loonies are on the verge of setting off big bombs.  To write that sentence is scary.  It too sounds like hyperbole, but few people reading it would think that’s actually the case.  In the latest bombastic exchange between Trump and Kim, Kim first bragged that he had a nuclear button right on his desk.  Trump immediately replied that he had an even bigger button on his (an exaggeration—he only has a nuclear football which has to be programmed).

This schoolboy braggadocio would be funny or merely boring except for the terrifying fact that each truly has such destructive power, each is unstable, and each has the unfettered ability to push that button without having to get the permission of anyone else.  What?  Of course dictator Kim has that power, but Trump?  Doesn’t our president have to clear a nuclear attack with some person or some agency?  Nope.  I’ve explained this before.  Most people think there are checks and balances that would require such a decision to have a consensus among governmental officials, but that’s just wrong.  The whole system these days is set up for “rapid response,” and it’s totally up to the president to choose that response.  Under relevant law Donald Trump is the only person who can launch the nuclear bombs.  He is required to consult with two military officers, but they cannot change or interfere with his ultimate decision to bomb or not to bomb.  If he gives the order, the bombs will go off where he points them.

Even worse is that North Korea just agreed to have talks with South Korea to calm things down, and a judicious president would have taken the opportunity to massage that possibility with the hope that nuclear war can be made unlikely.  After an initial response saying this sounded like a good idea, Donald Trump immediately entered into the “my button is bigger than yours” exchange with Kim.  Both of these loonies react before thinking, and neither can stand the thought of being taunted or bullied by anyone else.  This would be merely annoying if they didn’t have those buttons within easy reach, but I am not alone in worrying that one or the other (or both) will find himself—perhaps reluctantly, perhaps with glee—pushing that button before 2018 is over.  Now tell me you’re not worried about that same thing.

What can be done?  Well, one thing would be for Congress to act and put some limitation on the ability of the president to start a nuclear war.  Perhaps it would be as easy as adding the necessity for the cooperation of another government official.  Who?  Well, probably not the vice president, since he/she would usually be under the control of the president.  Same problem with members of the cabinet or the military.  I would suggest choosing a member of Congress, and the Speaker of the House comes to mind as an appropriate person.  I am no fan of Paul Ryan, but he is an intelligent man and would not lightly agree to push the big button and start a nuclear war.   Certainly having Paul Ryan’s required cooperation in any launch of nuclear missiles is much better than leaving the decision to Donald John Trump alone.

Kim Jong Un is a mad man.  Donald Trump has traits that lead many experts to say that he too has major mental problems, particularly when it comes to the issue of self control.  These two irresponsible men are playing chicken with the future of world.

Trump’s tweet-ending “Sad” isn’t close to being as big a word as we need to describe the horrors to come if something isn’t done to curb his power to wipe out the nation that so foolishly entrusted him with its future.

Related Posts:

“Is Trump Clinically Insane?  The Goldwater Rule Revisited,” June 29, 2017;

“Impeaching Donald Trump:  A Lawyer Looks at the Legal Issues,” August 16, 2017;

“Chaos in the Country: Eight Months of Trump’s Presidency”  August 28, 2017;