🗯️ Lunchtime Impeachment Thoughts

userpic=divided-nationReading the news while eating lunch brought up some general observations on the impeachment circus:

  • The Republicans need to think beyond this moment and this President, and consider very carefully about what they are doing and the precedent they are setting. Pendulums swing, and eventually they will be out of power. Do they want a Democratic president, whom they believe to be abusing their power, to be able to be tried for impeachment and suppress all evidence and arguments in Congress? Do they want that Democratic president to be able to withhold witnesses? If this had been Bill Clinton, or a President Hillary Clinton, how would they have felt? One would think, if they weren’t under the cult of personality around Trump, that they wouldn’t want to be setting this precedent for the Democrats to abuse in the future.
  • The voting public needs to watch this process carefully, and ask the question: If the President was innocent of these charges, why wouldn’t he be having those who can prove his innocence going in front of Congress to make the case? Why is he suppressing all witnesses and all exonerating information? These considerations won’t make any difference to those already under Trump’s cult of personality (his diehard base), nor will they make any difference to the diehard Democratic base. However, those Republicans moderates who have been tolerating this President need to ask themselves those questions: Why isn’t he out there bringing in counter-witnesses that prove his innocence? What is he hiding?
  • Lastly, all voters need to consider this circus when determining their votes for their House and Senate representation. Especially for the Senate: they took an oath to be bipartisan, and to objectively consider the evidence. What does this say about their trustworthiness when they fail to keep that oath: they fail to allow bi-partisan evidence to be presented, and they fail to objectively obtain and review evidence.

There may be a long game at play here. Even though this attempt to remove Trump may fail, it is likely that Democratic control of the House will remain, and the Democrats may take the Senate. If that happens, and if Trump is reelected, there will be more impeachment charges … and this time, the subpoenas will fly, and all the dirty details will come out (unless Trump finds some excuse for an emergency and suspends Congress — which he can do under the Constitution). If that happens, we need to be really scared (although that does not give the President the power of appropriations or to make laws).


🗯️ Finesse, or Lack Thereof

userpic=trumpLet’s start off with the basics: Soleimani was not a good man. The world is a better place without him. But this is NOT how you do it.

Here’s the key point: Although he directed terrorist groups, he was not a “terrorist leader” unaffiliated with a government. He was a top General in the Iranian military — a country that Congress has not declared war against.

Just imagine if China or some other country with whom we have testy relations launched a drone strike against one of the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and killed him while he was in another country. How would we react? Would we treat that as an act of war?

This is why Trump’s attempt to “wag the dog” — to distract attention from his impeachment and draw attention to himself is so bad. His failure to think ahead, to think about the potential consequences of the action, has put the entire nation in danger.

There are many ways that this nation could have taken out Soleimani without it appearing to be a military operation approved by the President. That’s called finesse, and it is how you prevent war. But this President thinks only about himself and his popularity with his base, and how to look good in the news. He doesn’t know finesse.

The Iranian leadership has put a high bounty on Trump’s head. Just imagine the repercussions if someone takes them up on that offer.

They say they will only hit military targets. But again, imagine the repercussions if they do and American soldiers are killed. We, of course, will escalate … with a country that will not hesitate to do a small demonstration of their nuclear capability.

So suppose they make this personal, and go after a Trump property. Imagine how Mr. Ego will respond. Again, not good.

So suppose they take to the cyber-realm, and work against Trump in the election. Even that is fraught with peril, for it then provides the argument for him to invalidate the election results. After all, it’s OK if Russia meddles on his behalf, but for a country to work against him…

Although Soleimani’s death is a good thing, I can’t see how in the long run, anything good comes from this.


🗯️ Political Observations: Lessons To Learn

userpic=divided-nationOver the last week, a number of political thoughts have been swirling around my head. I think it is time to get them out:

  • While on a drive recently, I was binge-listening to the latest season of the Start Up Podcast on Church Planting. They had a very interesting episode on theology of evangelical churches. One standard position is “complementarianism”, which is the view that women is complementary to man, and that they should never have a leadership position. For the evangelicals, this may have been an unspoken reason why Hillary was unacceptable, and why there is so much hatred of her assuming leadership. But that’s the past. What is the lesson here?  Namely, a man of any color is more acceptable to them than a woman would be. If our goal is to retake the White House — which is a must in 2020 if not before — we need to keep this in mind when choosing candidates. We must take care to not needlessly shoot ourselves in the foot.
  • In fact, it would be astute of us to understand exactly why Evangelicals support Trump, despite all his faults. Here’s a good explanation. Here’s a real telling quote: “They want the return of Protestant privilege in American culture. The loss of Protestant privilege, and the reality of religious plurality, is driving them crazy.” For all their protestations about Sharia law, they want a Christian nation where Christians have the privilege, and those who are not are second class citizens. I’m not sure there is a way to turn these folks around, unless they can believe there is a different anointed candidate that will press their goals. What is the lesson here? We must work on the non-evangelical Christians — those who believe in what Christ actually said and did, as opposed to evangelical beliefs, and demonstrate how Trump is not building a better world.
  • Trump is also using fear to bring his supporters to the polls, implying that Liberals will use violence to overturn all he has done for the evangelical community. We know that is not the reality, but fear is a powerful motivator. What is the lesson here? We must work to counter that, and use all means necessary to turn out the vote: get people registered, help them get to the polls, and get all those who have been sitting on their hands not voting to get out and vote and make a difference.
  • We need to learn how Trump voters see themselves, and see the Liberals. Here, the name Dinesh D’Souza is critical. D’Souza’s latest movie, Death of a Nation, compares Donald Trump to Abraham Lincoln, and his Democratic opponents to Nazis. Yes, you’ve read that right. I have friends on FB that believe it — and this is what feeds into the fear of AntiFa. They don’t recognize the party ideological swap that occurred in the mid-1960s as a result of the Southern Strategy. What is the lesson here? We must continue to demonstrably counter — with patience — their view of Liberals. We need to demonstrate there isn’t a unified thought, and just as with Conservatives, there is a broad spectrum of views.
  • We’ve all commented on how many Trump supporters seem to have drunk the Kool-Aide, and think whatever he does will benefit them. I know many such supporters who are on limited means who have partaken that beverage. Yet he is making life more expensive. His tariffs on imported vehicles and parts will make even US made vehicles more expensive, and the new trade deal with Mexico will make them even more expensive. Will this awaken them? Probably not. What is the lesson here? We must keep hammering home how Trump’s policies are making things more expensive, and how wages are not increasing enough to compensate, making the economic condition of lower and middle classes worse (while the rich are getting richer).
  • One thing I’ve noted from many Trump supporters is an attitude of … not quite hate, but of “get off my lawn”. They seemingly are angry at everything: liberals, taxes, other people, society. Trump speaks to them because he reflects anger — his whole “schtick” is to intentionally do things that piss off the people he does not like, and to revel in their reactions. What is the lesson here? As Liberals, what must our response be to this? First, we must not react with anger in return, for that is the reaction that they want. We must learn to deflect that anger, and infuriate them even more by being nice and reasonable in response. Remember: Don’t feed the trolls. Set the example, and attract the moderates who are tired of the anger.
  • We’ve seen lately how Trump is angry at Google for returning more negative results about him. Setting aside the question of why the President is bothering to search himself online (narcissist, me thinks), what he doesn’t understand is that it is just an algorithm, one that returns what is out there on the web, and giving priority to links on sites that have proven themselves over time to be trustworthy. Algorithms can only return what is out there, and there is much less on the web that is positive about Trump, and the sites that are positive about Trump get much less links. What is the lesson here? If you have a blog, link to reputable articles only. If you are on Facebook, share reputable articles. Help the algorithms find the truth, simply by posting the truth.

📰 Lighting the Political Fires

As I continue the process of clearing out the news chum, here is a collection of articles that should serve as political incendiary catalysts, sure to light that political spark of discussion:

  • Nobel Laureate Economist Says American Inequality Didn’t Just Happen. It Was Created. Quote: “Those with power used that power to strengthen their economic and political positions, or at the very least to maintain them. They also attempted to shape thinking, to make acceptable differences in income that would otherwise be odious.”
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a Democratic Socialists of America member. Here’s what that means. Just as Trump was a whistle to the hard right folks, Bernie Sanders was a whistle to the hard left. We’ve seen the growth of a subgroup in the Democratic party called the Democratic Socialists. This isn’t a particular party, and it isn’t your father’s socialism. Further, it doesn’t add up financially.
  • Why Are Jews So Pro-Choice? Abortion / Choice. It is one of the driving forces of those on the right to oppose it. But it is also one of those areas where those who aren’t that ilk of Christian feel they are having a Christian moral shoved down their throats. Here’s an explanation of the Jewish position.
  • I Was Fired For Criticizing Trump. We have a President who seems to feel any criticism of him is fake, and he’s convinced some in the news profession that criticism is not allows. What happens when a liberal editorial cartoons runs into a change of ownership at his paper?
  • How to be an uncivil Trump resister without leading a vigilante mob. We’ve all heard the calls for civility. But when should you be uncivil, and how?
  • Immigration in America. Think immigration is a new problem? It is both what made America, and what some claim is destroying it. But do you understand it? Here’s a visualization of immigration to America as the rings in a tree trunk.
  • Trump’s Republican Party, explained in one photo. A real T-shirt at a Trump rally read: “I’d rather be Russian than a Democrat”. This captures what Trump’s identity politics has done to America, and how it can destroy this country. Since when has the Russian system of government with its dictatorship, false democracy, and draconian laws been better that what we have in America, even with the opposition party? I wrote about this with respect to Israel and their new National law about Jews coming first a few weeks ago. Identity politics — in which one group is 100% right and the other group is subhuman — is destructive.
  • Remaining Trump Supporters. What camp do you fall into: (1) Too arrogant to admit Trump was a mistake; (2) Too embarrassed to admit it; or (3) Too dumb to see it?
  • Fake News (no link here — just look at any Trump tweet). A challenge of the day, for those who purport that the news is “Fake”: Find multiple verifiable sources demonstrating a pattern of false news from the source claimed to be fake, other than the one making the claim that it is fake. A couple of times is human error: there needs to be a verifiable ongoing pattern of falsehood, from sources across the spectrum that can be verified.  Note: Bias is different than Fake. Biased news can have the bias filtered out, but is ultimately based on the truth and that underlying truth can be verified. Fake news is false and untrue, and cannot be verified.

As I say, “ready, set, discuss”.


🎭 Oh, the Pain! | Trojan Women and Asperger’s @HFF18

userpic=fringeBoth of our Saturday Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) dealt with pain, coming at it from two different angles. But that doesn’t mean the shows were pains: once was excellent, the other was pretty good. But first, however, my stock description of what the Fringe Festival is:

* For those unfamiliar with  Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), there are over 390 different shows occurring in the heart of Hollywood, with most along the stretch of Santa Monica Blvd from Western to W of LaBrea, and between Hollywood Blvd and Melrose. The shows run from 5 minutes to 2 hours, from one person shows to gigantic casts, from mimes to musicals. They have one — and only one — thing in common: they have to be able to load into a theatre in 15 minutes or less, and get out afterwards in the same time. You never know what you will see: it could be complete crap, it could be the start of a major new show. The shows and scheduling thereof are a nightmare to coordinate, but you could easily end up seeing four to five shows in a day. However, you can be guaranteed of a good time.

And now, on to our Saturday shows…. and note that, after the shows, there’s a little bit more. Suffice it to say it is a tribute to 140, or perhaps a bit more, characters.

Trojan Women (HFF18)Our first show, Trojan Women, was billed as follows in the Hollywood Fringe online catalog:

In perhaps one of the first recorded pieces of theater in the Western canon that passes the Bechdel test, Euripides’ Trojan Women tells a story of women who are stronger than gods. Trojan Women offers an unapologetic and powerful look at the act of community-building during times of grief, the gendered violence of war, and the messy aftermath of both real and mythic Greek conquests. Written circa 415 BCE and set immediately after the Trojan War, Trojan Women follows in real time the lives of nine remaining Trojan women (and two Greek men) as their city is captured.

For those unfamiliar, the “Bechdel Test” refers to a test was popularized by Alison Bechdel’s comic Dykes to Watch Out For, in a 1985 strip called The Rule.  It is used to evaluate how women are protrayed in fiction. It consists of three simple requirements: (1) It has to have at least two [named] women in it; (2) Who talk to each other; (3) About something besides a man. I’d say this is mostly true, although there are a fair references to men — both as part of the conquering force, the Greeks, and references to children lost. But first, I should perhaps describe the story to you. That, in turn, requires some background for those unfamiliar with ancient Greek myths. Here’s how the program described it, edited a little:

Well before the story in the play started, the Gods had a party on Mt. Olympus. They chose to not invite Eris, the Goddess of Discord, perhaps because they felt she would ruin the vibe. Angered by this slight, Eris devised a way to ensure that she ruined their night. She threw a golden apple (known always after as The Apple of Discord) on which she had inscribed “to the fairest” into the party. Naturally, Hera (Goddess of Women), Aphrodite (Goddess of Love) and Athena (Goddess of Wisdom and War) each assumed the apple was for them. A fight ensued, and the three goddesses demanded that Zeus determine which of them was the fairest and deserved the apple. Knowing better than to get in the middle of this argument, Zeus suggested that Paris of Troy, a mortal he knew to have good judgement, should make the call. Each Goddess promised something different to Paris if he chose her: Hera promised immense power, Athena promised incredible strength, and Aphrodite promised the love of the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris chose Aphrodite, and thus, the love of Helen was promised to him.

The events that followed, and why they occurred, are still up to interpretation. We know Paris visited Greece while Greece and Troy were on good terms, and we know that Helen left her husband, Menelaus, and got on Paris’ boat headed back to Troy. Upon hearing that Helen was gone, Menelaus approached his brother Agamemnon, and they decided to wage war on Troy. This war lasted for ten years, and ended with Odysseus’ Trojan Horse. Greek soldiers hid inside a giant steel steed, which they had presented as a “Congrats on winning the war” present. In the middle of the night, while the Trojans celebrated what they thought was a victory, the Greek soldiers crept out of the horse, unlocked the gates of Troy for the rest of the soldiers who were waiting, and sacked the city. During that night, Paris died. Priam, King of Troy, died. Hector, Troy’s most steady and masterful warrior, had died days earlier. Almost all of the city is killed or enslaved. Left behind are only the Trojan Women. And Helen.

This play, which was the third part of a trilogy about the Trojan War by the Greek playwright Euripides, opens on a war camp in Troy after the Trojans have already lost to the Greeks. What follows is detailed well in the Wikipedia synopsis; you may find the story harder to follow on stage (I did) due to unfamiliarity with the backstory and the style of language used.  Here’s the essence: The play follows the fates of the women of Troy after their city has been sacked, their husbands killed, and as they and their remaining families are about to be taken away as slaves. The focus is on how much the Trojan women have suffered as their grief is compounded when the Greeks dole out additional deaths and divide their shares of women. Through out play, a Greek herald, Talthybius, arrives to tell the women their fates. This includes the fact that the dethroned queen Hecuba will be taken away with the Greek general Odysseus, and Cassandra is destined to become the conquering general Agamemnon’s concubine. Cassandra, who can see the future, is morbidly delighted by this news: she sees that when they arrive in Argos, her new master’s embittered wife Clytemnestra will kill both her and her new master. However, Cassandra is also cursed so that her visions of the future are never believed, and she is carried off. From the widowed princess Andromache, wife of Hecuba’s late son Hector, Hecuba learns from her that her youngest daughter, Polyxena, has been killed as a sacrifice at the tomb of the Greek warrior Achilles.  Andromache’s lot is to be the concubine of Achilles’ son Neoptolemus, and Andromache’s her baby son, Astyanax, has been condemned to die. Helen, who started this mess although not one of the Trojan women, is supposed to suffer greatly as well: Menelaus arrives to take her back to Greece with him where a death sentence awaits her. Helen begs and tries to seduce her husband into sparing her life. Menelaus remains resolved to kill her. Near the end of the play, Talthybius returns, carrying with him the body of little Astyanax on Hector’s shield. Andromache’s wish had been to bury her child herself, performing the proper rituals according to Trojan ways, but her ship had already departed. Talthybius gives the corpse to Hecuba, who prepares the body of her grandson for burial before they are finally taken off with Odysseus. Much of the play is the women bemoaning what they have lost.

This is an ambitious play for a Fringe company to mount; I know the Santa Clarita Shakespeare Company is doing it for one weekend in July at the site formerly known as REP East. Luckily, Project Nongenue succeeded: the production was excellent. Even if you can’t follow the specifics of the story well, you can get the gist of the performances. And those performances? Just “wow”. Moving and beautiful, clearly demonstrating the anguish that these women were going through. Director Olivia Buntaine (FB), assisted by Elizabeth Jane Birmingham (FB), with movement direction by Christine Breihan (FB), have worked with the performance ensemble to create nothing less than a work of art.

Leading the performance team, at least in my book were Kay Capasso (FB) as Eris, who narrated the events, and Taylor Jackson Ross (FB) as the former queen, Hecuba. Ross draws your eyes; I found myself unable to keep my focus off of her when she was involved in the main action. Capasso, on the other hand, is always swooping around, narrating the action and providing sardonic commentary. Both were great.

The main cohort of women in the camp with Hecuba were Liz Eldridge (FB) as Leader; Elizabeth Jane Birmingham (FB) as Iris, and Avrielle Corti (FB) as Zosime.  All gave strong performance, although the version of the story didn’t allow the audience to learn that much about them individually and as characters.

Popping in and out of the proceedings, either as Talthybius the messenger, or as Menelaus, Helen’s husband, was Cameron Rose (FB). He had the unenviable job of (a) being the only man in the company, and (b) being the bearer of bad news. He handled both well.

The remaining characters generally came in for a scene or two, advanced their storylines, and departed: Kyra Morling as Cassandra, Celia Mandela (FB) as Andromarche, and Daphne Gabriel (FB) as Helen. All had strong performances; I particularly likes Gabriel’s Helen, and Morling’s Cassandra.

The production design of the show was simple: essentially clotheslines with cloth screens and some ladders, with a few props and use of fabric to represent the baby Astyanax. This design was by Cameron Rose (FB). It was supported by Leslie Rose (FB)’s lighting design, and Rich Rose (FB)’s scenic consultation. Costumes were by Elizabeth Jane Birmingham (FB). Robert Arthur Angell (FB) provided Dramaturgy. Al Washburn (FB) did the graphic/web design. Backstage drums by Robert Arthur Angell (FB) and Al Washburn (FB). The production was produced by Robert Arthur Angell (FB). No credit was provided with respect to the translation of the Greek playwright Euripides, or who adapted it for the Fringe stage and time limits.

As I write this, there is one more performance of Trojan Women: June 22 at 8pm.

Pain in My Asperger's (HFF18)A staple at any Fringe Festival is the one person show. Sometimes they are painful and self indulgent; sometimes they soar to wonderful places — but you can be guaranteed that if you go to a Fringe Festival, you’ll have a fair number from which to choose. HFF18 was no exception. We chose  Pain in my Asperger’s based on the subject matter; here’s the description from the Fringe guide:

Actor/musician, Jeremy Ebenstein, through story and song, takes audiences through his humorous, inspiring, yet often heartbreaking story of living a life with Asperger’s Syndrome. With eight original songs and compositions, Ebenstein chronicles his journey from childhood to adulthood, addressing universal issues like childhood bullying, hopeful romance, and overcoming depression, to his unique take on the struggles of everyday life, from relationships, to being able to hold down the simplest of jobs, yet always striving towards his dreams of being accepted and living a successful life. It’s a story of hope and love, not only for those suffering with Asperger’s Syndrome, who need to overcome the additional challenges that Asperger’s presents, but for all who have ever hoped and dreamed about making something of themselves.

Given that we work with engineers every day, are engineers ourselves, and know numerous folks on the spectrum, this show seemed to hit home. So we decided to see it.

In general, Jeremy Ebenstein (FB) does a good job. His story is moving, and it takes a lot of courage — especially for an Aspie — to get up on stage and tell it. It could use with a bit of editing — at times, it seemed to drag and one had to fight the urge to look at the cell phone for the time. But I view that as a side effect of the Aspie desire to tell too much information; I urge the directing and advising team to see if perhaps ten minutes might be cut — some repetitive examples, perhaps some of the approaches.

However, overall, the ultimate story told by Ebenstein was good. It captured well the difficulties for someone on the spectrum to achieve in the dramatic field. The stories of him in school, and his attempts at forming relationships, were quite good. Luckily, Ebenstein found his music — music is a wonderful too to help people get through so much. His rendition of “Over The Rainbow” during the show was astounding; his other songs were good, although a bit less memorable.

The script for the show was developed by Ebenstein with Jack Fry (FB) in the Jack Fry Solo Workshops. Direction was by Jack Fry (FB) . I’ll note that we’ve seen Fry on stage before, at HFF16, as EInstein. Debra Ehrhardt (FB) served as producer and creative consultant.

There is one more performance of Pain in my Asperger’s : 6/20 at 7:45PM.

The Daily Show Presents: The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter LibraryAfter the show, we had one more stop to make: we had to see the Donald Trump Presidential Library. To be more specific, it was the pop-up installation of The Daily Show Presents: The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library in West Hollywood (it was there last weekend and this weekend; today is the last day). This museum is dedicated to preserving Donald Trump’s favorite medium of communication: the tweet. The website has a virtual tour, but there are areas devoted to all aspects of his tweets: the people he mentions and disparages, his history of tweeting, the story of how he has used his tweets for good or bad; how he has tweeted about foreign countries, and so forth.

In some ways, this is serious. All Presidential Communications are part of the national archives, and his tweets are being saved in the National Archives. So this is probably the first … perhaps scholarly is too strong … study of these Presidential records. They paint a picture of a man with too much time on his handsa man who spends too much time on a gold-plated thronea man who watches far too much “Fox and Friends” … a man who prefers to take his constantly changing and contradictory messages directly to the medium in pre-packaged mouth-sized soundbites.

That give you indigestion.

Seriously, the exhibit was a hoot. It really shows who the man is, which is the point of these archives. Expect future archives of the ripped-up but later reassembled papers received in the Oval Office. Probably with the President’s scribbles annotations on them.

In crayon.

Plus, when you go the library, you get your own “Donald Trump Twitter Name”. I was “Oily Dan”.

The Daily Show Presents: The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library continues in West Hollywood, at 631 N Robertson, until 10pm today.


Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) [the company formerly known as Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)], the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FBז״ל, a mini-subscription at the Soraya [nee the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC)] (FB), and the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows:

It’s June — ah, June. That, my friends, means only one thing: the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), Here’s our June schedule:

July will be a tad less busy. It starts with the 50th Anniversary of Gindling Hilltop Camp, followed by On Your Feet at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). For the next weekend, as Jane Eyre The Musical from Chromolume Theatre (FB) looks to be a dead parrot ⚰🐦., we’ve replaced it with Tabletop, a reading of a new musical about tabletop RPGs at the Charles Stewart Howard Playhouse (FB). The third weekend in July brings a Bat Mitzvah in Victorville, and Beauty and The Beast at 5 Star Theatricals (FB) that evening on Saturday, and a hold for the OperaWorks (FB) “Opera ReConstructed” at CSUN on Sunday. The last weekend may be a Muse/ique (FB) show. August starts with Waitress at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) on Saturday, and the Actors Co-Op Too! production of Always Andrews: A Musical Tribute to the Andrews Sisters on Sunday at Actors Co-op (FB). The next weekend brings the last Actors Co-Op Too! production, Twelfth Night, or What You Will at Actors Co-op (FB). There may also be a production of The Most Happy Fella at MTW — I’m not sure about it, but the hold date is on the calendar.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-LemonsMusicals in LA@ This StageFootlights, as well as productions I see on GoldstarLA Stage TixPlays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.



The Danger of North Korea

userpic=divided-nationPresident Trump has just met with the leader of North Korea, and we need to be very very careful and be cautious…

…lest we shoot ourselves in the foot.

Perhaps I should explain. When I got up this morning, I was greeted with a barrage of posts from my friends on the right talking about the achievements of Trump in North Korea. I was also greeted from a barrage of posts from the left dismissing everything Trump has done there — he’s sold us down the river, he’s doing this to get a hotel, he’s doing this because I loves Kim, he’s being naive. Reading both side, it started this post welling up in me.

To my liberal and progressive friends, I want you to think back to those wonderful days when Obama was President. Are you in your happy place? Good. Now, think about how you felt when the right — the opposition to Obama — dismissed anything and everything he did. How in their book, Obama was a disgrace and it was impossible for him to get anything — a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g — right. How did that make you feel? How receptive did that make you to anything the other side side? How did that contribute to the growing divide between the left and the right?

Most of you are too young to remember Richard Nixon. He was a President during the Vietnam War, the man behind Watergate, and the only President to resign. He was an ardent anti-Communist, the VP under Eisenhower, at the height of the Cold War. Yet it was Richard Nixon that first went to China, and got us talking to that nation. It was often said, “Only Nixon can go to China”.

It may be that “Only Trump could go to North Korea”.

Whether initiated by the Democrats or the Republicans, talking to your enemy is a good thing. Establishing the dialogue. Remember when we were all in favor of it when Obama was President? Remember how we wanted him to talk to North Korea, but it was dismissed as dangerous by the right because he was too naive? Remember.

If we, as progressives, do not acknowledged the few things that Trump somehow does that are movements in the correct direction, anything we say will be dismissed out of hand. I like to say that even a broken clock tells the correct time twice a day. Think of Trump as that clock. If Trump is able to open a dialogue with North Korea, he has achieved something. He may not be the reason the dialogue has opened, but if it serves to increase understanding between the two countries, if it reduces nuclear tension, that that’s a good thing. More important, if we do not acknowledge it as good thing, we will be doing something the Democratic Party has been expert in: self-sabotage. We won’t need the Republicans to lose us the upcoming the elections, we can do it to ourselves. We did it in 2016, and we can do it again.

It is vital for the success of this nation that we do not self-sabotage, that we acknowledge that “Only Trump could go to North Korea”.

There are also some important things to remember:

First, Trump and Kim have supposedly signed an agreement. But remember, if it is a treaty or an agreement, Congress must ratify it. How many treaties have past Presidents signed that Congress never ratified, and thus the country was never committed. Right.

Second, it could very well be that Trump is doing this so he can personally gain by building in North Korea. That, actually, is neither here nor there. Remember what I’ve said about collusion: It could very well be that Trump didn’t collude with Russia. Collusion means there is conscious working together to achieve a particular goal. But two organizations can have the same goal and not work together. Russia could have been working to get Trump elected and to get Trump in power for their own reasons — and that includes behind the scenes subtle manipulation of Trump. But that doesn’t mean that Trump was working with them; he just had the same goal. This is the same way that “Independent PACs” can work to get a candidate elected without being in coordination with the candidate’s campaign. Similarly, Trump might be doing this for the personal gain, but that doesn’t mean the end result might not also lower the tension in the region.

The key point here is this: If we are so “knee-jerk” that we can’t acknowledge an occasional stumble into success, we (i.e., we progressives) will be dismissed out of hand by the other side. That, in turn, will make it even harder for us to gain any concessions or make any compromises. It will further solidify the divide in this nation. It could very well keep Trump in power and hurt the Democratic party.


Some People Just Don’t Think Things Through: Trump, Pardons, and Indictments

userpic=trumpThe Internet-verse has been filled today with commentary about Trump’s statement that he can pardon himself but he won’t, and how this is such a miscarriage of Presidential power and such. I call Bullshit. Most of these folks don’t understand what the Constitution actually says; they are pontificating based on what they think it says or what they want it to say. A few points of clarification, based on my admittedly limited knowledge in these areas:

  • The only thing the Constitution prohibits the President from doing is pardoning from impeachment. It also restricts the pardon to be for Federal crimes.
  • Whether the President can pardon himself has never actually been tested. Presidents before have followed normal behavior and haven’t run into this.*
  • Whether the President cannot be indicted while in office has never actually been tested. Presidents before have followed normal behavior and haven’t run into this.*
  • However, what is clear is that even if the President does pardon himself, he can still be impeached and removed from office. Impeachment and removal is a pretty bad stain on one’s reputation, even with a pardon.
  • If the President does pardon himself, that is an implicit admission that something was done for which a pardon was required, increasing the likelihood of removal from office.
  • If the President does pardon himself, he can no longer ‘”take the 5th”, as there is no longer any risk of self-incrimination. He must tell the truth about what happened and answer the questions. By the way, this is also true for anyone he pardons.
  • If there is enough material to indict and convict the President, there is likely enough evidence to get him impeached and removed from office.
  • Once removed from office, the President is no longer the chief law enforcement officer and can be indicted and convicted, unless pardoned for the specific crime.
  • Once removed from office, the President can be indicted and convicted for state crimes, and can still be subject to civil suits and damages, even if pardoned for Federal crimes.

So, folks, please think things through before pontificating on subjects. Not every statement is what it appears to be.

*: There may have been opinions issued. However, as no President has actually issued a pardon for himself, and no indictment has been brought against a President while in office, the opinion has never been tested.

References: What Trump Can Teach Us About Constitutional Law. Episode 14, Prosecuting a President. Episode 13, Criminal Justice and the POTUS. Episode 5: Presidential Immunity. Episode 3: Pardon Power. Episode 10: Impeachment.


Criticizing the Message | Attacking the Messenger

userpic=trumpTwo thoughts on the current kerfuffle regarding Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Michelle Wolf:

  1. I think it is wrong to make jokes about anyone based on how they look (or other similarly protected categories) … ANYONE. In terms of doing it in a political venue: If you would be bothered if the “other side” did it to you, don’t do it to them. There’s plenty legitimate things (actions) to poke at and make fun of.
  2. I think it is wrong to attack the messenger when it is the message that bothers you. If Trump had sent a member of his staff that actually creates policy in some way, go for it on that policy. But SHS is just a mouthpiece attempting to report on that policy; she doesn’t create the policy. You can make fun of over the tops effort to defend the policy, but attack Trump if you disagree with the policy. Again, remember the real source of evil.

In this day and age — the age of #MeToo and worries about cyberbullying — I find that much of what passes for comedy is veiled bullying by those who were likely bullied in school. I’m referring to comedy that makes fun of people for their attributes, looks, size, intelligence, job, etc. Perhaps it is fun in the moment, but it is teasing and bullying none-the-less, and we are better than that. I prefer the gentler humor of folks like Bob Newhart, Red Skelton, George Carlin, Steven Wright, and such. There may be an argument that that aspect of the Correspondent’s Dinner might have outlived its day. I’d disagree with that — the last thing we need to do is censor reporters — but I do believe the comedy that is there needs to poke at the message and the press/newsmakers role with respect to it, and not do attacks on the messengers.