The Widdershins

Looks like Winter Storm Jonas is a nasty one, dumping 2 feet or so of fluffy white material liberally down the Eastern Seaboard from New York through North Carolina, hugging the Appalachians through to Kentucky and Northern Georgia.  As for those of us down here Where America Ends, we are, have been, and will be treading water,  It had rained and rained, followed by brief cold fronts of 36 hours or so, then it warms up and rains and rains and rains, add cold front and repeat.  Rain is atypical at this time in SoFla – El Niño has a muy picante sense of humor.

I’m certain that those Widdershins who are covered with snow would gladly trade place with the wet Widdershins to your South, and I can somewhat see why, but ask yourself if you would enjoy three weeks worth of virtually unremitting rains interspersed with wildly fluctuating temperatures.  At any rate, the weather appears to be miserable for all in a variety of torments, so we make the best of it.

I’ve found a lot of songs about Winter, and any number about rain.  For the most part I’ve found them in Classic Rock, but I’m good with that.  Post your tunes as well as anything else that might strike your fancy in this absolutely open thread. 

Stay warm and dry, Widdershins.


(1) Rhythm of the Rain – The Cascades

(2) Who’ll Stop the Rain – Creedence Clearwater Revival

(3) Hazy Shade of Winter – Simon and Garfunkel

(4) A Winter’s Tale – Queen

(5) First Snow on Brooklyn – Jethro Tull




Ted Cruz is scary.  When I say scary, I mean puckering-up scary.  His ambition is singular and unwavering.  His Cruzcapacity for self-promotion is McCarthy-esque.  At best his ethics are, let’s say, pliable.

Ambition and self-promotion can be measured objectively, but ethics is different.  Ethical elements are subjective; they present greater difficulty in measurement.  Tangible examples are really the only telltale trail.  A fine example of the malleable nature of Mr. Cruz’s ethics was detailed in an article Wednesday.  So fine was the example, it suggests the pot at the end of the Cruz ethics rainbow is bone dry.

A bit of explanation is needed.

As you probably know, Cruz was a law clerk for Chief Justice William Rehnquist (with whom he regularly played croquet).  Each Justice, including the Chief Justice, is responsible for fielding emergency motions from an assigned federal court of appeals.  Emergency motions are a regular part of death penalty cases.

hands up CruzDuring the time crunch leading up to an execution, everyone within the appellate process is on full alert including the clerk of the Justice assigned to the particular Circuit.

A stay of execution might or might not be granted by the court of original jurisdiction.  If a stay is not granted, it is immediately transmitted to the appropriate Circuit Court of Appeals.  If a stay is again denied, it is immediately transmitted to the Justice assigned to that Circuit.

This is where clerks enter the process.  They review the documents and prepare a memo for their Justice with a recommendation.  They talk with the Justice, usually by phone since it is most likely after hours, and the Justice makes a decision.  The clerk then prepares a memorandum for the other Justices detailing the reviewing Justice’s reasoning.  From there, a vote is taken and a decision is made.Hands Cruz

During Cruz’s tenure, he was known for his review of death penalty cases.  He had fervor for such cases, described by one fellow clerk as a “dime store novel” view of the death penalty.  He punctuated his memoranda with any lurid or gory details of the underlying case.  One fellow clerk said, Mr. Cruz’s memos on death penalty appeals always boiled down to “frivolous, meritless, deny,” and she added his writing approach “made a lot of people really angry.”

Cruz’s attitude toward the death penalty is not what caught my eye since everyone “goes to the prom wearing their own dancing shoes” – meaning, everyone’s experiential data is unique.  What caught my eye from the article was this:

Mr. Cruz usually reserved his enthusiasm for the late nights when a prisoner from the appeals circuit under Chief Justice Rehnquist’s oversight was slated for execution. On those nights, when he was responsible for addressing the flurry of 11th-hour defense motions, he would rouse the chief justice at home, give his recommendation, get the chief justice’s vote and then write up a memo that explained why the chief justice had voted to deny an emergency postponement of the execution.

Per custom, Mr. Cruz, whom some clerks recalled as speaking flippantly of the execution during those solemn nights, would circulate that memo to the other clerks on duty, who would then call their bosses to vote on the appeal.

During one of those late-night executions, some clerks received an additional message from Mr. Cruz on the internal email pleading for more collegiality, especially toward him.

“We should all try and get along,” Mr. Cruz wrote.  (Emphasis my own.)

Cruz sidewiseLet’s review.  Whether you are pro or anti-death penalty, the taking of the life of a citizen is the gravest of governmental actions.  It is an act of finality where questioning certainty should always be foremost.  It is a solemn act that should weigh heavily upon the heart and soul of every citizen especially those involved in the execution process.

As an integral part of the ritualized process of capital punishment, Cruz chose to focus not on the import of the moment, not on the life about to be taken, not upon any potential for uncertainty, but instead chose to focus on himself and his desire to be treated with greater deference.

This is the only example I will ever need to understand Ted Cruz.


from Ann Telnaes of The Washington Post © 2016

Or in the world of Donald Trump, Part Second.Marriage Boot Camp

In our little corner of the internet, we were a full forty-eight hours ahead of the news curve talking about the covalent bonding of politics and reality teevee.  From the article:  “It’s so easy these days to go out there and become an Internet conservative celebrity by saying some things, and who cares if it’s true or makes any sense. And there’s no incentive to ever really bother with reality or to compromise.  There’s no money, ratings or clicks in everyone going along to get along.”

So in the spirit of Jeannie living in a magic bottle on Capt. Nelson’s coffee table, Laura Petrie contorting her face and crying, “Oh, Rob,” or even Samantha finding the right Dick to play her husband Darrin, (York not Sargent) yesterday we saw the merger of two reality brands in a real life Marriage Boot Camp:  Reality Stars.  If only “Malaria” and former Alaskan first Dude weren’t in the way of the inevitable synergy.

I'm with stupidHad Sarah and Donald met on or eHarmony there would have been undeniable compatibility in the:

(1) Ability to free associate without the use of commas, periods, or pauses;

(2) Hate for a certain darker-skinned occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue;

(3) Deep and abiding love of self;

(4) Traffic stopping self-gratification requiring only a mirror; and

(5) Absolute, total, world-class cluelessness.


It is indeed a rare event in which the post just writes itself and today is one of those extraordinary times.  Already Sarah has missed the stage call for a Trump rally and inquiring minds are wondering if Sarah picked up her check and called it a day.  I thought it might be entertaining if we try our collective hand at writing a Marriage Boot Camp blurb like those the program uses to fluff and flog itself.

Here are the barebones and if you are so inclined, please fill-in the blanks.  You can cut and paste the paragraph into your comments if you want.


This season, a celebrity couple, Sarah and Donald fight for their political relevance under the weight of a vicious tabloid scandal, _______________________. Before their honeymoon is over an unimaginable background truth emerges that ____________________, sending their world spiraling into chaos.

The drama unfolds on the campaign trail as the fighting begins.  Marriage Boot Camp is their last resort, but _____________________.  Once thought to be America’s picture perfect political sweethearts, the murky truth is that ___________________.


If your interest lies beyond our little Sarah and Donald workshop, please don’t hesitate to take the conversation in any direction you might deem worthy.

Have a great Wednesday and let your creative genius shine.


Good Monday Widdershin friends.  MB is swamped with work this week and the following is my paltry attempt at a little synaptic stimulation.  MB returns next week.Elephant on the back

Remember the old joke – “If Barack Obama cured cancer, Republicans would complain about the unemployment rate of chemo-therapists.”  During the State of the Union, we saw that joke played out in real-time Kabuki Theater.

When the President called for a “moon shot” to cure cancer, Paul Ryan sat there in his best Derek Zoolander scowl and would not applaud.

Paul Ryan did not clap for curing cancer.  Paul Ryan did not clap for the troops.  Paul Ryan became “wallpaper,” his word not mine, only allowing himself, “to be respectful and not wince or grimace or do anything.  So I just kind of poker-faced the whole thing, just out of respect for the institution, the office.”

To review:  The Speaker of the House, third in line for the Presidency, a former candidate for Vice President, is so frightened of the Fringers in his own party that he presented himself to the nation as a Thorazine enthusiast coming down off a three-day Molly ride.  Just as a point of comparison, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, applauded Dubya 33 times during his final SOTU address.

Derek Zoolander or Paul Ryan in workout gear...

Derek Zoolander or Paul Ryan in workout gear…

This toxicity played out again this weekend with the effectuation of the Iranian nuclear deal and the swap of five Americans and seven Iranians.  Those successes follow the release of ten sailors after just 14 hours of Iranian detention compared to a 2007 incident where British sailors were held for two weeks.

Ahead of schedule, the nuclear deal secured the reduction to 6,000 enriching centrifuges from 19,000 and eliminated 9,700 kilograms of already enriched uranium.  The prisoner swap accomplished the release of the five Americans traded for Iranians who had violated the trade sanctions – not exactly high value targets.

So how did the Kabuki chorus respond?  The Republican candidates were begrudgingly pleased with the release of the Americans, but they sang in full-throated condemnation of the Iran nuclear deal, criticized the feckless Obama, and promised to “tear up the nuclear deal on day one” of their imaginary Presidencies.  Nary one of the candidates acknowledged any American success or optimism.

My point is neither about the bad manners of Republicans, nor is it about the politics of being mindless oppositional automatons.  My point is that the anti-establishment Fringe virus has overtaken the host.  If Republican Party leaders and candidates are so frightened of a de minimus segment of their base, how can that party ever be capable of governing? Sick Repubs

Anger, fear, and conspiracy have replaced any notion of governing principles.  The genesis of this wayward languor is found in the symbiotic relationship between the party and conservative media.  Simply put, there is no delineation between the pabulum spewed by Fox and talk radio and the party’s rightward sprinting ideology.  If their ideology was coextensive with their disbelief in science, they should be falling off the edge of the planet right about now.

This summer I ran across the article, “They Don’t Give a Damn about Governing – Conservative Media’s Influence on the Republican Party.”  It was written by Jackie Calmes, a New York Times reporter, while she was a Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  It is a masterful explanation of the parasitism of conservative media as it digests the Republican Party.

The article is no light read – it’s about 17,000 words, but it is the most comprehensive explanation I’ve read about this historic devolution of the Republican Party.  The article is chocked-full of quotes and analysis by the endangered species of moderate Republicans.

The following is a sample of the insightfulness:

Searching for a Republican governing philosophy is not for the faint hearted...

Searching for a Republican governing philosophy is not for the faint hearted…

From a prominent, but anonymous Republican:  “It’s so easy these days to go out there and become an Internet conservative celebrity by saying some things, and who cares if it’s true or makes any sense.  It’s a new frontier: How far to the right can you get?  And there’s no incentive to ever really bother with reality or to compromise.  There’s no money, ratings or clicks in everyone going along to get along.”

A Republican Congressional staffer said, “Now it seems that so many people are going for the niche, for the red meat, and there are all these outlets where you can do that.  It’s playing to the base, but the base doesn’t live in reality.  And that’s the problem:  It’s taken the party in a really self-destructive direction.”  The aide continues, “When you’re setting down a marker and you know that your ask is unaccomplishable, that it’s not a goal that’s achievable, then it’s just about ratings and money.”

If anyone should ask, that is what this election is about:  Who is the best person to save this country from a governing agenda conjured by the fever dreams of talk radio and Fox.

This is an open thread.

Dear, dear Debbie Wasserman-Schultz*

Thank you so very much for not scheduling this debate against a football game.  Perhaps someone pointed out that Democrats and leaning Indies watch football, too?  Anyhow, the grateful, Democratic, football-lovin’ portion of the nation salutes you, and we’ll back that up with a toast.

Just for variety, let’s play bingo tonight.  The rules are simple – you check off a box, you take a sip.  You get bingo, finish your drink.  Oh, and you might want to yell “bingo” first, depending on the size/contents of the aforementioned drink.  At the end, let’s all have a toast to DWS and the gift of better timing.

See you on the other side for an open comments thread.  Bottoms up, Widdershins!

*Full disclosure:  DWS is my Congressional Rep.

Good Saturday to you, Widdershins.  I don’t exactly know why I selected this topic, perhaps it was because I listened to repetitive questions during the debate – followed by non-answers and innumerable “Hillary Clintons”, of course.  Anyhow, I thought that this might be the perfect weekend to explore songs that pose a question.

Once I got started, I found that there are literally hundreds of them to be found, in practically every musical genre that one might consider.  The songs seem to be skewed more toward open questions, but there are plenty of closed questions to be found, and your ninth grade English teacher will be proud of you if you can remember the difference without the Googles.

So, let the questions begin forthwith.  Otherwise, this is a totally open thread.  Here’s hoping for a great weekend for all, but stop by for a bit and post.

(1) Who Let the Dogs Out? – Baha Men

(2) Do You Believe in Magic? – The Lovin’ Spoonful

(3) Who Wrote the Book of Love? – The Monotones

(4) Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? – The Shirelles

(5) Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? – Chicago

13 Hours

Our session last evening produced over 160 comments.  That is a heavy lift for every refresh when loading the site.  Fortunately, there was an article today serving as a nice coda to Wednesday’s post.

In an exclusive interview with The Washington Post, the CIA officer in charge on the night of the infamous Benghazi attack has spoken out.  It is indeed worth a read especially since the 13 Hours movie opened this weekend.

The operative does not reveal his name since his identity has not yet been cleared by the CIA.  He is called “Bob” throughout the story and is described as:

[A] former Army medic who spent 32 years with the agency…Libya wasn’t Bob’s first war zone. The former veteran case officer, now in his early 60s, spent time in Central America, Iraq and Afghanistan as a clandestine case officer assigned to the Latin America and Near East divisions.

“Bob” unequivocally dismisses the claims made in the movie as to the notorious “stand down” order that September 11th, 2012 evening.  As we discussed Wednesday, Bob strategically ordered the contract security team to wait, “If there was any delay, it was a matter of minutes. It took a good 15 to 17 minutes just to get ready,” Bob said.

As you will note in the article, the book upon which the movie is based was not submitted to review by the CIA.  The anonymity of the security officers allowed the author to skirt a national security factual review.  That fact, in and of itself, should discount this Michael Bay pyrotechnic extravaganza.

Without a doubt, 13 Hours will become the truth of the conspiratorial Right.  As with so many things, the truth of the Right stands at the gate of the land of delusional sophistry.

As always, this is an open thread.

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