Entry 661: Totally Trumpian

The headline read: “Trump’s budget to include draconian cuts in major area.”

I hate click bait headlines. They make me feel manipulated. In this case, I simply refused to click through for the answer to the obvious question: “Is there an actual word that derives from Draco Malfoy, the sinister Hogwarts student of the Harry Potter books and, if so, why isn’t it ‘malfoyian’?”

So I looked it up. It turns out the word predates J.K. Rowling by more than a millennium. “Of or relating to Draco,” says Dictionary.com, “7th-century Athenian statesman and lawmaker, or his code of laws, which prescribed death for almost every offense.”*

This may explain both the low crime rate in ancient Greece and the declining population.

I looked up Draco (the Greek, not the Slytherin) on Wikipedia. Evidently, he didn’t have a second name, like the hip hop star Drake, who (and I’m just guessing here) probably did not name himself after either Draco. Wikipedia informed me that: “Draco was the first democratic legislator, inasmuch as he was requested by the Athenian citizens to be a lawgiver for the city-state, but the citizens were fully unaware that Draco would establish harsh laws.”

In other words, not only is Trump’s budget draconian, but Trump himself is someone draconian, inasmuch as the citizens who put him in power were fully unaware of what they were going to get.

It got me to thinking, though, about why we don’t have words that come from more modern people. You’ve got Draco from the 7th Century, and we call a schemer “machiavellian” after a 15th century Italian historian. If you’re a chauvinist you take after an 18th century French guy named Nicholas Chauvin, and if you’re a masochist you can thank Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the 19th century writer who wrote Venus in Furs, but who had nothing to do with the much more satisfying Sacher torte.

It’s difficult to think of a word that comes from a 20th or 21st Century person. I’m not talking about an invention or discovery that is named after it’s creator, like the Uzi (Major Uziel Gal) or the jacuzzi (Candido Jacuzzi), or the jacuzzi uzi, a fast-firing water gun that I just made up. I’m talking about words that describe a trait of the person they’re derived from.

Politicians often accuse opponents of McCarthyism, but you never hear an action described as “mccarthyist” with a lower case “m,” which would indicate that it is has become an actual word rather than simply a reference to a machiavellian senator from the 1950’s. You would think that “hitlerian” might be a word by now, but maybe it hasn’t because no one has since reached the level of pure evil that would merit being called that. I thought I had an example for a moment, but then it turned out that the word “ruthless” does not come from the state of the Boston Red Sox after they sold the Babe.

But I think “trumpian” has a good shot at becoming a word. I think it could mean “completely inappropriate,” as in “he took a trumpian glance at his daughter’s bosom.” Or maybe it could mean “uninformed,” as in “he made a trumpian statement about global warming as he waded through downtown Miami.”

Or it could mean just plain “stupid,” as in “When he arrived in Israel from Saudi Arabia, he pulled a trumpian gaffe when he said, “I just came from the Middle East.”**

Or perhaps it could mean “exaggerated,” as in “the crowd estimate was totally trumpian since the theater was half empty.”

Wait–that last one would be spicerian.

See you soon

P.S. Damn–I never did find out which areas of the budget were dracoed!

*I’ll tell you one thing: my wife wants to go to Greece for our anniversary next year, but I ain’t going unless they change that law!

**Although I guess anything that Trump actually says would be trumpian by definition.

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Entry 660: Only 1,260 Days Left to Go

In his first few months in office, President Trump has exhibited many of the traits that are the hallmarks of successful chief executives. Among them:

  1. Firing people who don’t agree with him.
  2. Playing lots of golf.
  3. Recognizing that, no matter how much money and power you have, family is still the most important thing, so you should provide them all with high-level jobs in your organization.
  4. Planning ahead.

It’s the last of those I want to talk about today. As a leader, whether it’s of a company or a country, you have to look beyond the current fiscal quarter or, in the latter case, the next bombshell scandal. You have to stay three or four tweets ahead of the competition so that you’re well-positioned to take advantage of a rapidly evolving marketplace or, in the latter case, some leaked emails or an intelligence report that a missile has misfired in Kim Jong-un’s bedroom.

President Trump has displayed that leadership skill in spades. And also in TV commercials. Those ads triumphantly tout his accomplishments as President so that you’ll vote for him in 2020. Because if you like what he’s done so far, really, nothing can go wrong between now and the next election.  (At left is a still from the commercial, depicting the President apparently directing the wrath of God down upon James Comey.)

Trump actually declared his candidacy for reelection the day of his inauguration, immediately after he finished counting the number of people who attended it. But he’s not the only one with an eye to the future. Because 128 other people have signed up to run against him.

To be fair, as was clearly demonstrated in the last campaign, you don’t need much to run for President.  All that is required, evidently, is $5,000 and the patience necessary to do a lot of paperwork. According to the Federal Election Commission:

“If you are running for the U.S. House, Senate or the Presidency, you must register with the FEC once you…receive contributions or make expenditures in excess of $5,000…you must file a Statement of Candidacy (FEC Form 2 [PDF]; Instructions [PDF]) authorizing a principal campaign committee to raise and spend funds on your behalf….your principal campaign committee must submit a Statement of Organization (FEC Form 1 [PDF]; Instructions [PDF])…”

I couldn’t find any reference online to who our 2020 candidates are (other than Trump), but, presumably, none of the other 128 is among those mentioned frequently as potential challengers.  I speak, of course, of the likes of Al Franken or Mark Zuckerberg who, according to NPR, was recently photographed

“…on a tractor, feeding baby cows, eating cheese curds, holding kittens, talking to cops, firemen and military leaders. He even ditched the hoodie for a suit in a black church.”

That sure sounds like Zuck is running for something and, after all, he’d have total control of all the fake news published on Facebook. I like Al Franken, kind of, but I don’t think anyone associated with an NBC TV show will ever be elected President again.

Lately, the one name that keeps coming up as a potential candidate is the actor and former wrestler Dwayne Johnson. Now, it’s entirely possible that it is some sort of publicity stunt for his new movie, Baywatch. On the other hand, when asked if he might run, Johnson replied, “I think that’s a real possibility.”

If he did, it would mark the first time since Michael Dukakis that a presidential candidate was People Magazine’s sexiest man alive. But, if he won, would he be “President Rock” or “President the Rock?” And could he challenge Vladimir Putin at Wrestlemania?

See you soon.

BREAKING NEWS:  Dwayne Johnson officially “announced” his candidacy on SNL Saturday night, with Tom Hanks as his running mate.  I’m pretty sure they were joking, but I’m also pretty sure that a Rock/Hanks ticket would win in 2020.  Unless their opponents leak this photo from Hanks’ sordid past.

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BONUS POST: He’s an Impeach of a Guy

There has been a lot of chatter lately about impeaching the President. In fact, according to Public Policy Polling, 48% of Americans would like President Trump to be impeached. That’s actually a higher percentage of the American public than voted for him in the first place.

But you have to understand that a President is like a hemorrhoid: once you get one it’s not as easy as you think to get rid of it. The difference is, in the case of the ass, you first have to impeach him.

Keep in mind, though, that impeaching someone is not the same as kicking them out of office. An impeachment is basically just saying that you’re fairly sure they screwed up somehow. It’s like being indicted by a grand jury. The House of Representatives needs to do this with a majority vote, and considering which party holds the majority, Trump would have to do something a lot worse than leaking a few secrets to the Russians for that to happen. I’m thinking something along the lines of bombing Des Moines.

But even if the house did impeach Trump, the Senate would have to convict him with a 2/3 vote, which they would only do over Mitch McConnell’s dead body.

So really, we can’t count on getting rid of our Presidential condition that way. Fortunately, a guy named Ross Douthat has a different idea. He proposed in a New York Times op-ed that we use an existing Constitutional amendment to cure our country’s Trumpitis.

I know what you’re thinking, and Douthat is not talking about the 18th Amendment, which was prohibition. While it certainly seems as though the President is often GWI (Governing While Intoxicated), especially when tweeting late at night, we must realize that, even if alcohol was banned, the President of the United States could probably get all the liquor he wanted anyway, especially if he likes vodka.

So, no, not the 18th Amendment. The Amendment Douthat wants to invoke is the 25th, which states that:

“Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

According to the website Vox, this means that “one vice president and any eight Cabinet officers can, theoretically, decide to knock the president out of power at any time.” This is a good thing, because we rarely have more than one vice president at a time.

Douthat, who, by the way, is a conservative columnist, thinks that Trump has clearly demonstrated that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office and adds “…leaving a man this witless and unmastered in an office with these powers and responsibilities is an act of gross negligence…”

Okay–now here comes the punchline of this whole piece. Someone named Jennifer Rubin wrote a contrary opinion in The Washington Post which suggests that Douthat “confuses unfitness with ‘inability to discharge the powers and duties’ and thereby recommends a disastrous process.”

Basically her argument is that Trump is perfectly able to discharge his duties, he’s just not able to discharge them well.  You know things are pretty bad when the person arguing that you should stay in office says she supports you because you’re merely incompetent.

In other words, the 25th Amendment is meant to cover a situation in which a sitting President becomes injured or gravely ill, but not dead. It’s not intended to be invoked when the President is already incapacitated at the time he takes office and, actually, during the entire time he ran for office.

To solidify her side of the debate, Rubin adds that the 25th Amendment is “not meant for a situation in which the president is so stupid as to raise questions about whether he is a danger to the country.”

Yes, sir. A strong endorsement indeed.

See you soon.

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Entry 659: Harry Potter and the Purloined Prequel

In 2008, in a demonstration of the fact that she could virtually print money whenever she wanted to, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling jotted down about 800 words on a card and sold it for over $32,000.

By way of comparison, some of my posts are 800 words, and all I get are a few “LIKES” occasionally.

Granted, Ms. Rowling is a lot more famous than your average muggle, and millions of people anxiously await anything she writes, even if it’s just a reminder on a Post-it Note. (“Note to self: Write more notes to self. I can get several hundred pounds apiece.”)

Of course, the beloved Ms. Rowling would never write something just to add a few bucks to her own coffers. She would only do it for charity. And the $32,000 I mentioned earlier went to an organization called English Pen which promotes literacy, but only with British spellings. (In fact, it’s actually an organisation.)

I should point out that the 800 words she sold weren’t just any 800 words. They were a brief comic scene featuring Sirius Black and James Potter in their youth, and offered a rare glimpse of Harry’s father, who has previously been mostly dead.

Anyway, nine years after she wrote it, that card with the 800 words is back in the news, and not because it has been turned into a movie. It was recently stolen.

According to The Daily Prophet, I mean The New York Times, the card was taken last month, along with some inconsequential, non-Potter jewelry, during a burglary in Birmingham, England. The police are asking for the public’s help in recovering the work, but they may be doing so rather half-heartedly, since the scene Rowling wrote depicts Sirius and James making fools out of a couple of constables. Here’s a taste of it, picking up after a chase in which the two officers corner the young wizards in an alleyway:

“There was so little space between the car doors and the walls of the alley that (officers) Fisher and Anderson had difficulty extricating themselves from the vehicle. It injured their dignity to have to inch, crab-like, towards the miscreants. Fisher dragged his generous belly along the wall, tearing buttons off his shirt as he went, and finally snapping off the wing mirror with his backside.”

And this is before the two officers mistake the boys’ wands for drumsticks!

Rowling, perhaps, realizes that Britain’s police force may be less than enthusiastic about tracking down such an unflattering representation of the country’s law enforcement professionals (she’ll probably find herself penning a few words on behalf of retired police officers in the near future), so she took to Twitter to take matters into her own hands. Interestingly, however, her tweet was not directed at the culprits. Instead, she addressed anyone who might consider purchasing the hot manuscript. “PLEASE DON’T BUY THIS IF YOU’RE OFFERED IT,” she tweeted in all caps, “Originally auctioned for @englishpen, the owner supported writers’ freedoms by bidding for it.”

I’m a bit puzzled by the logic of this. After all, English Pen has its money, whether the stolen piece is sold on the Sirius Black market or not. And the owner need not lose out. I mean, it’s not like they’ve been robbed of an irreplaceable handwritten Shakespearian sonnet. Rowling can simply recreate the card word-for-word in her handwriting. This would be easy enough to do, since the entire text is available online. I know the owner would no longer have the only copy, but perhaps J.K. could date the replacement and add something about it being the only authorized one or something. “DO NOT BUY ANY OTHER VERSION OF THIS STORY,” she could write.

I think the real reason she doesn’t want you to buy the stolen card (and I know you’re interested), is because it would incentivize similar thefts in the future. That might make people reluctant to get into a bidding war over “Dumbledore’s Teenage Love Affair” when it is auctioned off to benefit the UK LGBT Consortium.

See you soon.

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Entry 658: The Right to a Boring Vacation

In case you haven’t yet made plans for your summer vacation, the state of New York has a great suggestion for you.

In a new ad campaign, it is inviting visitors to tour all the equal rights attractions the state has to offer. “New York has a proud legacy of promoting equal rights,” said Governor Cuomo in a press release, “and this campaign will raise awareness of our state’s destinations surrounding those historic events.”

You may be wondering what an “equal rights attraction” is, and whether you have to be at least 48″ tall to ride one.

Well the first TV commercial is out, and it gives us an indication of the thrills that await you on your New York Equal Rights vacation. In the spot, we see a mother and her teenaged daughter in a car, the girl looking wistfully out the window as her voice-over talks to Susan B. Anthony about voting. Mom looks lovingly at the girl in the rearview mirror (because teenaged girls always sit in the back seat when traveling with their mothers), never even imagining that her daughter is insanely carrying on an internal monologue with a deceased suffragette.

We then see mother and child in Anthony’s house in Rochester, which I’m assuming is now a museum, because otherwise they’re breaking and entering. Finally, we see the teenager visiting Anthony’s grave and leaning a sign against the headstone that says “Thank You*” while her mother looks on proudly, perhaps trying to remember if their health plan includes psychotherapy.

The point of the commercial, of course, is that New York State is chock full of wonderful equal rights landmarks just like Susan B. Anthony’s house and grave. Literally, just like those. Because most of the attractions seem to be people’s houses and grave sites.

John Brown, Harriet Tubman, William Seward, Gerrit Smith, Alice Austen, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Matilda Joslyn Gage and Robert H. Jackson are all waiting to welcome you into their homes to look at their antique furniture and learn, in the case of the Matilda Joslyn Gage House, why there’s a room devoted to The Wizard of OzAnd when you’re done touring all those dead people’s homes, you can visit some of them again in their cemeteries!

(An aside: Alice Austen [not to be confused with Jane Austen or Austin Powers] was, according to the New York tourism guidebook, “one of America’s earliest and most prolific female photographers.” It doesn’t say what she had to do with equal rights; presumably before she came along, photographers were subject to anti-camera bias crimes.)

“But Governor Cuomo,” you might ask New York’s chief executive, “what if I feel like my family would be disappointed in a vacation highlighted by old houses and dead people? What if my family would sneak away from me and leave me stranded next to Susan B. Anthony’s grave so that I would have to write “Buffalo” on the back of a “Thank You” sign somebody left behind and hitchhike to our next stop, Forest Lawn Cemetery, where Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman in Congress, is buried? Are there any other types of equal rights attractions that are more likely to pique my children’s interest? Something interactive, perhaps, like joining an authentic reenactment of a melee with police outside a gay bar, or riding on a real underground railroad?”

Sadly, the answer is no, unless you want to count the New York City subway.  But to help you plan your trip, you can get a free Guide to New York State’s Equal Rights Destinations, which is helpfully divided into four sections: Abolitionists and African-American History; Suffragettes and Women’s Rights; Human Rights (which somehow doesn’t include the subjects of the first two sections); and Exploring New York State, which is where you’ll find the non-rights-related fun stuff that normal people do when they visit.

And when you plan your exciting New York equal rights vacation, don’t forget to include Jamestown, home to the biggest attraction of all, a monument to two people without whose sacrifices we could not enjoy the equal rights we all have today. I speak of course of…

…the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum and National Comedy Center!

Just as Susan B. Anthony stands for equal rights for women and Harriet Tubman for African Americans, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz stand for…


…well, I’ll let the Guide tell you:

“The museum in Lucy’s hometown celebrates her legacy as a television pioneer and the first woman to head a major television production company.”

So, basically, Lucy stands for equal rights for Oprah and Shonda Rhimes. Or something like that. It’s unclear who owes their freedoms to Desi Arnaz. Maybe nightclub singers.

In any case, book your vacation now. Maybe I can even meet you at the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historical Site,** which is “just down the road from the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

I guess Eleanor paved the way for the equal rights of first ladies to live separately from their husbands.

See you soon.

*Yes, thank you, Susan B. Anthony! You would be so proud to see how the U.S. election process has evolved, and the wonderful equal rights-oriented leaders it has resulted in!

**Eleanor, it seems, was a big Val Kilmer fan.

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Entry 657: CSI’m not Going Near That Thing

From time to time in this blog I have covered various ways of disposing of bodies. These methods have included turning them into trees, into raw sewage, and into diamonds, as well as shooting them off into space and burying them in your backyard.

What I’ve never discussed, however, is what to do with bodies that have already been disposed of. This, evidently, is a situation that occurs frequently in the Daytona Beach area. Often enough, in fact, that the local newspaper ran an article entitled “What To Do If You Find Human Remains.”

I would assume that the instructions for such a thing would begin after you’re done shrieking like a small child who has seen a clown in person for the first time. I still remember when this happened with my daughter when she was around two, and the clown said hello, and she screamed as if she had just come across some human remains.

Getting back to the newspaper article, Flagler County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jim Troiano had some helpful advice when the reporter asked what a person should do if they discover human remains. “Do not touch or disturb them,” he replied.  Troiano didn’t mention this, but perhaps you could outline the body with the chalk you apparently should always have with you if you live in Flagler County.

As someone who has seen every episode of The Walking Dead, I can assure Mr. Troiano that touching the remains would not be my initial response. I might be inclined to call out “Yoo hoo, are you dead?” from behind a rock several yards away, but that’s about as close as I would come to disturbing the remains in any way.

“Whom should they notify?” asks the reporter, a question which, while grammatically correct, is also pretty stupid. I mean, sure, if a millennial found a body they’d probably call their parents (after they posted photos of it on Instagram), but adults know to call law enforcement officials because our extensive life experience has taught us that the police enjoy being the first people to touch and disturb human remains.

Regarding photos, however, it actually is okay to take pictures of the remains. “Especially if they are in the process of being disturbed,” says Mr. Troiano.

Well, if it was me trying to focus my iPhone on the body, I would definitely be in the process of being disturbed. I might even remain disturbed for quite some time afterward. “If they did take photos,“ Troiano adds, “please be prepared to provide them to law enforcement.”

A quick tip here: you probably shouldn’t use FaceApp to make the remains look younger before you turn the pictures over to the sheriff.

Now if the remains appear to be recent, which I assume means there’s still skin and flesh laying around, you may be wondering if you should look for identification or, because I know you, valuables of some kind. Well, first, you should not look for identification if the body is naked. And second, you should not touch anything, not even that thick wallet laying in the mud a few feet away.

“Think like a CSI,” says Troiano. “What you bring to the scene with you on your shoes or person can contaminate the scene and when you leave you can take parts of the crime scene with you on your shoes or clothing.”

This is why Daytona Beach residents always carry a change of clothes.

If this happened to me (the finding the body part, not the being the body part), I would wait until I got home before taking off and disposing of my clothes at the front door.

“Why are you standing in the doorway in your underwear?” my wife would naturally ask. “And please come in before the neighbors see you.”

“I didn’t want to bring parts of a crime scene into our house,” I would reply. “Would you like to see pictures of the body?”

At which point my wife would either be completely grossed out or criticize my iPhone photography skills. (“You should have held it horizontally!”)

I’ll leave you now with one more piece of advice, and this is from me, not the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. If your local newspaper thinks it’s necessary to publish an article called “What To Do If You Find Human Remains,” don’t contact law enforcement.

Call your realtor.

See you soon.

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Entry 656: Hit or Myth

So I was scanning the Internet news one morning and I came across this headline:

Icelandic Farmers Find Real-life ‘Unicorn’ on Their Land

Well, I thought, at least the headline wasn’t total click bait. It’s didn’t say, for instance, “You’ll never guess what mythical feature was found in Iceland.” And it even put “unicorn” in quotes to tell me it wasn’t a real unicorn.

So, of course, I clicked on it. Here’s what I read:

“During the peak of unicorn food trends, Icelandic farmers came across the real thing. A ram, who was born last spring to Erla Porey Olafsdottir and her husband, Bjarni Bjarnason, is a real-life unicorn, according to a translation from the local newspaper the Iceland Monitor. The farmers appropriately named the creature Unicorn.”

It goes without saying that this raised two important questions:

  1. How the hell do people in Iceland pronounce each other’s names?
  2. There’s a unicorn food trend?

I don’t know the answer to the first question, although I suspect that when you visit Iceland, you hear many of the natives yelling, “Hey, you!” at each other. The answer to the second question was easy to find, simply by Googling “unicorn food trend.” The answer is: “Yes, yes there is.”

I was excited at first, because I was looking forward to trying some unicorn beef hash with a side of unicorn on the cob. It seems, however, that unicorn food does not involve the killing and cooking of unicorns.

Nor is unicorn food what you feed a unicorn. This is a good thing, because no one is entirely sure what a unicorn eats. According to a real website called “Harry Potter Answers:”

“The first hypothesis is that it eats as a normal horse would, grass, oats, hay and the like…The second, although seeming far-fetched and wild, is widely accepted. It is believed that the animal does not need to eat at all, being an animal of the Gods. It simply absorbs the solar power of the sun, drawing the energy directly from it. Many believe that the horn plays a major role in this process.”

Yes, indeed, that theory certainly is “far-fetched and wild.” Believing in magical beasts is perfectly rational, but thinking that they are solar powered is just crazy!

Where was I? Right–unicorn food. Apparently, that term refers to any edible thing that is multi-colored, whether or not it has a horn sticking out of it. I know that immediately brings pancakes to mind, but this trend goes way beyond that.

There are unicorn cakes, cupcakes, popsicles and donuts. There is unicorn hot chocolate. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, there are unicorn burgers, unicorn sushi and something called “unicorn poop veggie dip.” There is even a website with healthy unicorn recipes for dishes like unicorn noodles and unicorn energy balls (which, I’m assuming, you can only get from male unicorns).

Starbucks is selling unicorn frappucinos.

According to the New York Times, my source for all things unicornish, this horrible trend began when a “wellness blogger” named Adeline Waugh started experimenting with a natural food dye — beetroot — to “add a pop of color to my photos.” She posted them, and “all my followers started saying it looked like a unicorn…” Here’s a picture of her creation–toast. Looks just like a unicorn, doesn’t it? Maybe it would if you’d just consumed some rainbow mushrooms.

In any case, this all makes me very confused, primarily because I always thought unicorns were white.

And, by the way, can you guess which demographic group has embraced unicorn food more than any other? No, not the LGBT community. No, not children, but you’re getting warmer.

Yes, that’s right. Millennials.

It’s probably because they’re still sleeping in their childhood bedrooms with the My Pretty Pony posters.

See you soon.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, the Icelandic unicorn named Unicorn actually has a genetic defect that has caused its horns to fuse together. But at least people can pronounce its name.

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