August 11, 2018

Another Governor’s Cup

Five years ago, I reported that Keuka Spring Vineyards won the Governor’s Cup for the top New York wine entered in the New York Wine Classic. Keuka Spring’s 2012 Riesling was a product of my son’s first full year as head winemaker at the winery on Keuka Lake.

In this year’s competition, a KSV wine has again won top honors, securing the second Governor’s Cup since August Deimel assumed responsibility for wine production and the third Governor’s Cup in the winery’s history. The winning wine was the KSV’s 2017 Gewürztraminer, one of three 2017 KSV wines featuring this less-than-famous cold-tolerant grape.

August is particularly pleased that one of his Gewürztraminers won this year, as he has a passion for this particular grape. Although the Finger Lakes region is especially well-known for its Rieslings, Gewürztraminer is another aromatic grape from which distinctive Finger Lakes white wines are made. In fact, August considers Gewürztraminer another signature grape of the region. The Governor’s Cup winner was intended to be what he has characterized as “the essence of Finger Lakes Gewürztraminer.”

Need I say that I am a proud father? I don’t understand how August performs his magic on grapes, but I am impressed with the results he gets. August is shown below with winery owner Len Wiltberger. (Compare this picture to the one in my post on the 2013 Governor’s Cup win. August now has longer hair and a slimmer body.)

Len Wiltberger and August Deimel

August 4, 2018

The Wisdom of Dumping Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi
Nancy Pelosi
Democrats have not learned one of the most important lessons of the 2016 election: Leaders with exceptionally high negatives are liabilities in elections. The well-established and well-recognized Republican loathing for Hillary Clinton made her a poor choice for the party in 2016. Of course, taking everything into account, it isn’t clear that Bernie Sanders would have been a better standard bearer. Hatred of Clinton, combined with a lackluster campaign that failed to generate an adequate strategy against an unconventional opponent gave us the Trump presidency.

Justified or not, Nancy Pelosi has been a lightning rod for Republican criticism. Replacing too many GOP House members with Democrats, so the argument goes, would make the hated Pelosi majority leader. The ability to articulate this argument makes Pelosi a liability going into the 2018 midterms. Replacing her as House minority leader before November would take a much-used rhetorical arrow out of the Republican quiver and would deprive Republicans of sufficient time to adequately demonize her successor.

Will House Democrats take this step to increase their prospects in November? Likely not.

July 31, 2018

The Donald Goes Rolling Along (Final Version)

I was reasonably satisfied with my original version of “The Donald Goes Rolling Along.” As is typical, however, the satirical lyrics to the U.S. Army’s official song could be improved by thoughtful revisions. I have made revisions and added the new version to my Web site. You can read the lyrics and my explanation of the changes I made here.

For what it’s worth, I have also updated the introductory page to the Poetry section of my Web site. You can find that here.

July 21, 2018

The Donald Goes Rolling Along

I have occasionally used this blog to display a poem in progress. I am doing that again in this post. I invite literary criticism in comments or by e-mail. Do be picky.

The poem, in this case, is a lyric to the tune of “The Army Goes Rolling Along.” The version of the U.S. Army’s official song is of the form verse-chorus-refrain, though other choruses exist. (Think of our National Anthem, whose first verse is the only one you are likely to hear.) You can find various sound and sheet music files for “The Army Goes Rolling Along” by following the first link above. If you would like to watch a YouTube version, you may do so here.

In order to offer more content, my satiric lyric is of the form verse-chorus-refrain-chorus-refrain. The text is the following:

The Donald Goes Rolling Along

Screw the poor, screw the sick, poison air and water, too,
Build a wall, and repeal every reg I can undo.
I am Donald, the lord of this land;
I am Donald, the brilliant and grand!

Every day, every night,
I am tweeting left and right,
And The Donald goes rolling along.
What I tweet might be true,
Though I really have no clue,
But The Donald goes rolling along.

Then it’s Hi! Hi! Hey!
The Donald’s on his way,
Where to, it isn’t very clear.
But where Donald goes,
Mister Putin knows
That the Russians have nothing to fear.

NATO’s bad, trade’s unfair,
Immigration needs repair,
And The Donald goes rolling along.
Pack the courts, help the rich,
Ethics really are a bitch,
But The Donald goes rolling along.

Then it’s Hi! Hi! Hey!
The Donald’s on his way,
Where to, it isn’t very clear.
But where Donald goes,
Mister Putin knows
That the Russians have nothing to fear.

I will copy a version of “The Donald Goes Rolling Along” to my Web site after I consider it further and react to any feedback I get. I have no problem doing a major rewrite if that improves the lyric. Can you help?

Update, 7/31/2018: As explained in a newer post, a revised (and I hope improved) version of “The Donald Goes Rolling Along” is now on my Web site here.

July 17, 2018

Mr. President, Time to Come Clean

I am not the only person who has called President Donald Trump’s performance at yesterday’s press conference with Vladimir Putin treasonous. We have a president who fights with our allies—and just about every other country, actually—but praises Russian and its virtual dictator Vladimir Putin. Trump appears, at least in foreign affairs, not to be interested in making America great again, but in making Russia great again.

Ever since Trump entered the presidential race, he has studiously avoided saying anything negative about Russian and its leader. He has had personal ties to Russia (which he has repeatedly denied) and has appointed people to office who also have had ties to Russia. And yet, to any objective observer, Russia is a bad actor.  It has a repressive government with an abysmal human rights record, has annexed the territory of another country by force and is supporting a foreign rebellion, has assassinated critics both domestically and on foreign soil, and has interfered in votes in democratic countries. Apparently, Trump is fine with this, yet he has no trouble castigating U.S. allies for virtually anything they do.

In an earlier post, I suggested that Putin has some specific hold on Trump:
Putin must have something so damning on Trump that our president dare not anger Putin, lest the Russian leader tell what he knows.
After yesterday’s dismaying press conference, the theory that Putin has blackmail material on our president is the only viable explanation of Trump’s behavior other than that Trump is an amoral imbecile. It is hard to pick one of these two theories as the more likely, but I am inclined to think that Trump is subject to extortion by the Kremlin.

How bad can it be, Mr. President? It is time to free yourself of Putin’s hold over you. We know you are a shady businessman; we have come to terms with the golden showers story; we know you are a sexist pig. Have you killed anyone (directly, anyway)? Have you cheated on your income tax? Fess up. Nothing you say will make us think less of you than we already do. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose by coming clean.

July 15, 2018

Peter Strzok on the Hot Seat

Peter Strzok
Peter Strzok
On television Thursday, I watched parts of the joint session of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees. Committee members were questioning FBI counterespionage expert Peter Strozok. It was exciting viewing.

Strozok famously exchanged anti-Trump text messages with attorney Lisa Page, with whom he was having an affair. Strozok and Page were both members of Robert Mueller's team investigating connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. When Mueller became aware of Strozok’s remarks to Page, Mueller dismissed him from the investigation. Republicans have aggressively tried to use Strozok’s alleged bias to discredit the Mueller probe as a political witch hunt. After extensive questioning of Strozok in closed session, Republican committee members expected to pillory him in public and advance their thesis about Mueller’s investigation.

The planned Republican exposé of Mueller team bias, however, turned into a donnybrook. Rachel Maddow described the hearing this way on her July 12 show:
This is not what Republicans were expecting or hoping for from their data—put Peter Strzok in the hot seat, right? They thought this would be beat-the-piñata day. Turns out, the piñata is alive and has its own bat.
Congressional witnesses tend to sit back and take hostile questioning from their interrogators. Not Mr. Strzok. He defended both the FBI and his actions as aggressively as Republican members attacked them. He asserted that he never has and never would lie under oath. Referring to FBI personnel above and below him, he argued, “They would not tolerate any improper behavior in me, any more than I would tolerate it in them. That is who we are as the FBI.”

Of course, it must be said that Strzok is hardly blameless. He used an official, rather than a personal, telephone to send his messages. His excuse that he did so late at night and without much forethought is a poor excuse. His comments using an official channel did nothing to advance the contention that his personal views were unconnected to his official actions as a member of the Mueller team.

What Strzok did not assert is that his suggestion that a Trump presidency would be a threat to the Republic was a perfectly rational evaluation and one held by many, perhaps even most, Americans. He did say that “we” would stop Trump was intended to refer to voters, not to himself or the FBI. Unless you are a member of Congress with an “R” by your name, that is easy to believe.

Strzok’s primary argument was that, in his professional capacity, he was able to set aside his personal views and perform his duties objectively. (His testimony was more compelling than this description suggests, but that isn’t relevant to the point I want to make here.)

Strzok’s GOP inquisitors refuse to believe is that a person can have strong personal views and yet keep those views from affecting one’s professional responsibilities. But this capacity is a foundation of our legal system. Jurors are expected to put aside their personal views and any knowledge remotely relevant to a case and to base their verdict only on court testimony and the law. Likewise, judges are expected to rule in accordance with relevant laws and regulations, to keep their own views from injecting bias into a case, and to fairly explain the law to jurors.

The irony, of course, is that the kind of disinterested execution of one’s duty appeared to be utterly foreign to Republican members of Congress, who, in former times, would have been expected to be seeking truth rather than mere partisan advantage, to be “defend[ing] the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic [emphasis added],” as their oath pledges. Instead, in attacking the FBI’s attempts to protect the country, they were playing into the hands of Vladimir Putin. Their objective was to smear Strzok’s name and promote their theory that the Mueller investigation cannot be an honest one because it was being conducted by people whose primarily failing is that they are human.

Hostility toward the witness reached its peak in the questioning of Texas Republican Louie Gohmert.
The congressman accused Strzok of lying when he said that his personal opinion did not indicate that he was biased in his work on the Mueller investigation. “I wonder how many times did you look so innocently into your wife’s eyes and lie to her about Lisa Page,” Gohmert said. Democrats on the committees were incensed at this uncalled for remark.

The failure to set aside personal opinion and agenda in the cause of good government, however, was most obvious in the congressman who chaired the hearing, Representative Bob Goodlatte of Virginia. Although he deserves credit for letting Strzok speak his peace, he was totally disdainful of Democratic attempts to make use of legitimate parliamentary maneuvers. When a motion was made to adjourn, it was ignored; pleas of personal privilege were ignored. A lot of shouting went on back and forth during the hearing.

In short, Republican committee members could not put their personal agendas aside to do their duty and to seek the truth, yet this is what they expected of Mr. Strzok. Ironically, there is no evidence to suggest that Peter Strzok did not do his duty as he was pledged to do. Republican members of Congress continue to protect the president at all costs.

July 11, 2018

Make American Great Again—Really

Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” played on the prejudices and misperceptions of one segment of the American population. It implied that America was not great but had been great at some earlier time. In fact, America under Barack Obama was great—less great because of a Republican Congress, of course—and could look forward to being even greater.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump is destroying much of what has been great about the United States—its strategic and moral global leadership, its acceptance of minorities, its protection for our environment, its willingness to welcome oppressed foreigners, its commitment to the rule of law, its protection of the least of society, its embrace of science and truth, and its striving for economic justice.

Ironically, as Trump destroys the best of America, “Make America Great Again” becomes not a piece of cynical propaganda but a rational goal of our debased democracy.

Let us indeed make America great again by getting rid of Republicans in general and Donald Trump in particular.

Trump’s slogan is beginning a beacon of hope.