No confetti and noisemakers for me this year –- I chose to let others ring in the New Year while I gently snoozed, knowing that rest would be a good idea before jumping feet-first into the mire of 2020.
For better or worse, this is going to be a tremendous year, one of the most significant for the state of our Union that we’ll ever be around to witness. And I think it’ll be better rather than worse. As a nation, we’ve reached a historical fork in the road, and when you come to a fork in the road, I say dig in and take a big bite.
Over the Christmas holidays, the only forks most of us noticed were on tables at party buffets. But while most of us were rightly focused on family, friends, food and festivities, the world kept turning and news continued being made. I wonder how much time off U.S. Attorney John Durham took for Christmas; it couldn’t have been long, as his investigation into the murky origins of the “Trump/Russia” counterintelligence probe has widened and appears to be proceeding full-speed ahead. The same goes for those relatively few members of the media who are covering him. Just before Christmas, Matthew Cole at THE INTERCEPT had a piece about the latest official to meet with Durham. In the week since, a few others in the media have passed along the story, but mostly it’s been pretty quiet.
According to Cole, Adm. Mike Rogers, who retired in 2018 after serving for four years as National Security Agency chief and head of U.S. Cyber Command, is cooperating voluntarily with Durham and has met multiple times with him. It was Rogers who, in October of 2016 (right after the first warrant to spy on Carter Page was signed), first advised the FISA court of abuse by the FBI, in the form of a National Security Agency report accusing the FBI of improperly pulling data on Americans. He also played a key role in the intel community’s assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Last Respects of 2019
By “Huckabee” writer/pop culture maven Pat Reeder (http://www.facebook.com/hollywoodhifibook )
During our brief holiday break from the daily news, a number of prominent people passed away. We’d feel remiss if we didn’t take a moment to tell you about them and pay our final respects.
The beautiful actress/model Sue Lyon passed away in Los Angeles at 73. She first came to fame in Stanley Kubrick’s controversial film “Lolita,” then appeared in many movies and TV shows throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s before leaving show business in 1980.
It seems somehow sadly appropriate that TV animation producer Lee Mendelson died on Christmas Day at 88, of heart failure after a long fight with cancer. He was remembered by many who worked with him as one of the nicest and most honorable men in a sometimes disreputable industry. Mendelson and partner Bill Melendez won 12 Emmys and 4 Peabody Awards for their work, mostly for all the classic “Peanuts” specials. Those include the first, and still the greatest Christmas special in history, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” for which Mendelson wrote the lyrics of “Christmas Time is Here.” CBS nearly refused to air it originally because it broke every rule in the then-book, from using real kids as voice talent to the Vince Guaraldi Trio jazz score. But what they most objected to was Linus explaining what Christmas is all about by quoting the story of Christ’s birth from the Bible. Charles M. Schulz refused to budge, CBS caved, and the rest is history. Can you even imagine being able to do that today, when networks cringe in fear that some triggered atheist will complain on Twitter?
One of Broadway’s greatest composers and lyricists, Jerry Herman, died at 88 on the day after Christmas (ironically, he wrote one of our most beloved Christmas songs, “We Need a Little Christmas.”) Sometimes derided by critics for his crowd-pleasing shows and catchy melodies, he gave the world such timeless hits as “Hello Dolly,” “Mame” and “La Cage Aux Folles.” Even his rare flops, like “Mack and Mabel,” are fondly remembered for their great scores. For some reason, his trademark became songs in which the male chorus hailed the female lead as she entered down a big staircase. Songs like “Hello, Dolly,” “Mame” and “When Mabel Comes in the Room” became known in the biz as “staircase numbers.”
Two days after Christmas, radio legend Don Imus died at 79 of undisclosed causes. In his long and tumultuous career, he was a DJ, stand-up comic, and eventually, one of the most listened-to interviewers and commentators in the worlds of politics and pop culture, with a caustic, uncensored style that sometimes got him in trouble with the PC set. His career covers too many interesting corridors to explore here, so check out the link for more.
Finally, I’m sorry to report that Neil Innes died at 75 on December 29th. His mixture of music and surreal comedy in the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band helped inspire such influential British comedians as the Monty Python troupe. He later contributed music to Python’s shows and records, and with Eric Idle created the best pre-Spinal Tap fictitious rock band, the Rutles (a parody of the Beatles.)
I’ll leave you with my favorite Neil Innes quote. He sometimes performed as a parody of a Bob Dylan-style folk protest singer, and before launching into an off-key song, he would tell the audience:
“I’ve suffered for my music…Now, it’s your turn.”
I wanted to make sure you also read these comments:
Congratulations to Ezra Klein, founder and editor-at-large of Vox.com, for managing to sneak in the last bit of anti-Trump fake news of 2019 just under the wire on New Year’s Eve. Klein tweeted a study claiming that counties that hosted Trump rallies in 2016 saw a 226% increase in hate crimes. He didn’t mention that researchers at (yes!) Harvard debunked it long ago, pointing out that when you controlled for changes in population, the effect of Trump rallies on hate crime reports was (like Vox’s credibility level) “statistically indistinguishable from zero.”
In fact, using the same flawed model, Reason magazine found an even bigger spike in hate crimes after Hillary Clinton rallies.
Maybe if Vox hadn’t shilled for a California law aimed at forcing union-style benefits to be given to contract workers, and then fired hundreds of California-based freelance writers they could no longer afford ("You're welcome!"), someone would’ve been around at Vox to point out to their founder that he was distributing long-debunked horse hockey. But then, considering how many people have performed that service on Twitter, and Klein still hasn’t apologized, corrected or deleted the tweet, maybe that wouldn’t have mattered.
Who needs to pay hundreds of writers to make up fake news when you can just retweet old, already-debunked fake news, and your true believers don’t even care?
Democratic hopeful Pete Buttigieg doesn’t just misinterpret the Bible. He also occasionally spreads blatant falsehoods about American history. Over the holidays, a public TV show from 2014 surfaced in which Buttigieg told some schoolchildren (whose parents should demand a tax rebate) this: “It’s an embarrassing thing to admit, but the people who wrote the Constitution did not understand that slavery was a bad thing and did not respect civil rights. And yet they created a framework so that as the generations came to understand that that was important, they could write that into the Constitution,””
At that link, Ted Cruz and Randy DeSoto of Western Journal offer a long list of quotes from the Founders, including Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and others, about the evils of slavery, their efforts to abolish it, and the importance of protecting civil rights. They thought these rights so important, they put them into ten Amendments to the Constitution known as the “Bill of Rights,” which were ratified at the same time as the Constitution in 1787, not in the 1960s.
One of the many great things about America is that this nation was founded on the noblest of principles, and even when times and circumstances make it impossible to achieve them, Americans continually strive to improve things and create a "more perfect union." Yes, it’s tragic that the Founders were unable to outlaw slavery from the moment of the nation’s birth because of opposition from the South. But let’s not mislead children into thinking they didn’t try (they got a provision to ban the importation of slaves into the Constitution, and it became law 20 years later), or worse, that they were somehow too dumb to realize slavery was “a bad thing” or that civil rights were a good thing.
When it comes to intellectual firepower, I think I’d trust Ben Franklin, James Madison or Thomas Jefferson over anyone currently running for President on the Democratic ticket.
Bible Verse of the Day (KJV)
"And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them."
- Acts 16:25
Did you miss reading a newsletter recently? Go to our archive here.