The guest here is Rudolf Wanderone. Now, you may not know him by that name, but you'll likely recognize him by his nickname -- Minnesota Fats. He's the real-life person who Jackie Gleason based his character on in the movie The Hustler, opposite Paul Newman.
Interesting, he's under-the-wire enough as a public figure to not be the Mystery Guest here, and no one on the panel has to be blindfolded. (Later in the show, the Mystery Guest is Ann Southern, who comes in around the 17:30 mark, for those interested). They also seem to keep getting his name wrong, since it sounds like they're calling him “Wandeowe” because when he signs in, he runs out of space on the chalk board, and it looks like “Wanderowe” and sort of sounds like that’s what host John Daley is saying.
What’s interesting is that when the audience is informed of the guest’s “line,” there’s polite applause – it’s only when the graphic adds that he’s ‘Minnesota Fats,’ that they break into an appreciative recognition, since the movie The Hustler has already been released four years earlier.
Also worth noting is that I remember seeing him a lot later in his career when he'd become more of a celebrity (he and pool legend, Willie Mosconi, had a televised match on Valentine's Day in 1978, hosted by Howard Cosell, "The Great Pool Shootout," as part of The Wild World of Sports, that was watched by 20 million people), and he had a very outgoing, swaggering, funny personality, in fact he was sort of trash talker during matches -- but here's he's quite low-key. Still, it's a pretty entertaining segment. If you want to jump to his segment, it starts at the 3:30 mark.
As a bonus, here's a TV show he did in 1986, How to Shoot Pool. I don't expect anyone to watch the whole thing, mind you, though you can check out a few minutes and see a far-more outgoing and swaggering character.
Back in March, I wrote about how I hoped Democrats would handle debates as campaigns approached the Midterms. At the time, I knew I was a bit premature in the one issue I thought was essential, since a great deal of news would crop up in the interim -- and has it ever... -- but since we are now nearing that period when debates will be starting, I thought it might be a good time to reiterate the point. And as it happens, considering all that news which has occurred in the interim, that point might even be all the more appropriate.
And so, I stand by my earlier thought about when Democratic candidates have a debate for the Midterms, all Democrats put front and center the statement that the Republican National Committee made, saying that the violent Insurrection coup attempt on January 6 was “Legitimate political discourse.” What I wrote was –
In fact, more than just making it the predominant issue, what I’d love to see is that at any debate where their Republican opponent has not criticized Trump and the RNC report, the Democratic candidate should say upfront ‘This is the ONLY issue I will be talking about tonight – because it’s the ONLY issue that matters. If my opponent and his party and the party’s leader Trump think that an insurrection to overthrow the government and democracy is ‘legitimate political discourse,’ then how any of use feel about infrastructure and health care and the environment will not matter. Because we will be living under fascist dictatorship. The ONLY issue that matters is that my opponent supports violent insurrection to overthrow the government as ‘legitimate political discourse.’ And so that is all I will be talking about tonight, whatever the question.”
Now, again, much has changed since then. And while I don’t think that the RNC statement is necessarily the sole, critical issue and therefore predominate -- after all, abortion and Trump stealing sensitive government defense documents now compete for that honor -- the umbrella of those RNC words, “Legitimate political discourse,” to describe a deadly Insurrection covers now a much wider range than before. Today, it includes what we’ve learned from the House Select Committee hearings, right-wing threats on the FBI, threats even against the National Archives, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) seemingly supporting violence if Trump is indicted, and President Biden referencing that the Republican Party has become “semi-fascist” – and more.
So, here’s hoping that this GOP concept of “Legitimate political discourse” is not something lost in all the hellishness that the Republican Party has rained down on the country since the RNC tried to whitewash a coup to overthrow democracy. There may be other critical issues to discuss, but this covers so much and is foundational to what’s at stake.
And the larger point holds, as well. The niceties of any debate are valuable. But we’ve seen Republicans over the years choose to discuss whatever they want, regardless of those debate niceties, most famously with Sarah Palin in her vice presidential debate with Joe Biden and, of course, most recently Trump. If the point of having a debate is for candidates to present to the voting public what they believe is important to the election, then sticking to addressing the full breadth of “Legitimate political discourse,” along with the banning of the right to abortion, reversing the right of same-sex marriage and the right to contraceptives, as well as semi-automatic gun massacres, the revelations of the House January 6 Select Committee, about Trump and Republican enablers leading a coup attempt to overthrow democracy, Trump stealing sensitive government defense documents – truly “putting us all at risk,” Trump riling up his supporters to attack the FBI, and more are what Democrats should focus on, period, and tie all Republicans together to it – and tie them to it legitimately because the Republican Party votes lock-step unanimous on almost all critical issues. Policy is great to discuss in normal times during a debate, but this is not normal times. This is what is essential, and this is what Democrats should hold Republicans to owning.
Indeed, when policy must be discussed, that’s when Democrats can tie this together with all the achievements of President Biden covering the Inflation Reduction Act, along with lowering drug costs and environmental protections, the CHIPs Act, all of which Republicans voted against unanimously. Not to mention the veteran’s health PACT Act that Republicans voted against at first, before they were shamed into voting to pass it.
This is not a “get into the deep weeds” on details election. This is a Big Picture election. This is a “Here is who the Republican Party is” election. A party that claims to be about “freedom,” about supposedly keeping government out of your lives – but is actually a party against the Constitutional right to abortion, against the Constitutional right to same-sex marriage, against the Constitutional right to abortion contraceptives, and actually against lower drug prices. Against Social Security and Medicare. Against the FBI, it turns out, too. And when it comes to what Republicans are for to supposedly "keep government out of your lives," that includes being for banning books, for watching if you travel out of state to have an abortion, for having the government tell schoolteachers what history is, what they can teach. And for going all-in defending the theft of sensitive government defense documents. For enabling a coup to overthrow democracy. For being fascist – unless the kinder “semi-fascist” is more amenable to public ears. And this a “Here is who the Democratic Party is” election. Protecting democracy, abortion, same-sex marriage, contraceptives, the environment, passing the COVID relief bill, the infrastructure bill, the CHIPs Act, the first gun safety bill in a decade, and more.
The Big Picture. What is actually at stake. What both parties actually are. Democrats are filled with flaws, every political party is, everyone is. But when Democrats screw up it’s not by taking away your Constitutional rights, banning books, spying into where you travel, illegally taking government defense secrets and staging a coup. And if Republicans want to have actual “Legitimate political discourse” – go for it! Because all of what they stand for and want to take away, that’s about as legitimate as political discourse gets. If Republicans want to play “But what about…” at debates, fine, have at it, but Democrats should push back with, “I’m here to talk about what’s actually important to America and saving democracy from literal fascism. If you want to throw these things to muddy the water and distract attention, whether any of it is even true or not, go ahead. I’m going to use my time on what matters to the lives of Americans and their children, and the security of democracy. For today and the future. This is legitimate political discourse, not storming the U.S. Capitol with violence to overthrow the government.”
Democrats must be focused and relentless making this what the election is about. Because Republicans must be put in the position of having no wiggle room explaining why they want to insist it’s acceptable, why it’s legitimate political discourse, why it’s their foundation to have a violent Insurrection to overturn a legal election and to have with riots in the street if the fascist, criminal, defeated leader of their party is indicted for his crimes. Crimes that they are all party to, whether directly or enabling them.
You want legitimate political discourse. There it is.
For the past 24 years, the Chicago Cubs have carried on the tradition of when TV announcer Harry Caray would lead the crowd singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the middle of the 7th inning -- always ending with "Now, Let's...Get...Some...Runs!!" What the team has done, after Harry passed away during the off-season, is bring in "guest conductors" to lead the singing. Some are national celebrities, some local Chicago celebrities, and occasionally they just gave a deserving local person the chance. And all continue Harry's tradition of how he began and ended the song.
The team had an online vote by season ticket holders of the Top 10 favorite guest conductors. Though most are national personalities, a few are local so you won't recognize everyone, but they have helpful graphics to put things in reasonable perspective. And performances range from really good to truly terrible to just plain fun. And I've even posted a few of them here on this site.
I don’t want to give away who’ll be appearing, but #4 and #5 are famous in Chicago for being absolutely, horrifically terrible. In fact, half the fun of #4 is watching the reaction of the fans in the stands, as well as announcer Steve Stone in the booth and most especially, showing how otherworldly bad this is, taking away their attention on the game, even the bewildered players in the Cubs dugout, who are used to hearing the singing every game. (As for #5, I actually heard it live, and it was hilarious at the time and remains so.) In fact, I heard several of these live. The only person I'll mention specifically is someone local who you won't otherwise know. It's Gary Pressy, who was the team's organist and accompanied all these "guest conductors" over the years. And when I say "all," I mean all. He played the organ at 2,633-consecutive games and didn't missed a day in 33 years. On the day he retired at the end of the 2019 season, the team had him not just play the organ, but be the "guest conductor" singing.
And I might as well mention Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder, who you can see below. He's a major Cubs fan, who's been "guest conductor" many times -- and when the Cubs made the playoffs in 2015, he was so upset that Pearl Jam had a concert tour set up and he couldn't attend the games that for the next year, he made sure the band had no tour in October -- which was a good thing because that's the year they won their first World Series in 108 years. That's when he was "guest conductor" below (though there's a bonus treat with it. I shall say no more.)
Sing along... A one, a two, a threeeee --
Last Friday, Salon had an article here by Amanda Marcotte titled, “Biden finally busts out the F-word: MAGA is "semi-fascism" — the only problem is the use of ‘semi’".
What I find most interesting is that Republican criticism of President Biden’s speech has pretty much come from the farthest-right part of the GOP, the full-fascist wing, rather than the more moderate members who allowed Biden to be polite enough to call the Republican Party only “semi-fascist.”
My favorite of these complaints came from Mercedes Schlapp who, along with her husband Matt, runs the CPAC convention, which is the foundation of the Republican Party and this year invited Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to speak – a man so fascist that his long-time advisor finally quit after saying an Orban speech was “pure Nazi” and “worthy of Goebbels.” In fairness, for all I know Ms. Schlapp may have been upset at the “semi” part, angry that it understated her beliefs. In her whining thoughts, she wrote that “"If I were Democrats, I would reevaluate these talking points.” Hey, if I was a Republican, I'd become a Democrat. But that’s just because I don't want to see America become full-fascist.
But Ms. Schlapp was not alone, there have been plenty of other far-right Republican fascists crying their tears out that the President of the United States had called them semi-fascist. (To be clear, lest it be forgotten, they were also initially outraged when Hillary Clinton called their faction “deplorables,” but then lovingly embraced the word, wearing it almost with pride. Apparently, it seems Republicans just don’t like when it’s explained what the heart of “deplorables” actually meant and that quiet part is said out loud.)
The charm of the Republican base acting like literal fascists by the actual book definition -- and then whining that they're called fascist -- has worn off. At the very least, they should learn what "fascist" means before getting upset at being described accurately. I did my best to explain what fascism is and how it exactly pertains to today’s GOP base in an article here.
The very short explanation is that there are three core tenets to fascism – Trying to undermine other sources of authority and power, like the press, intelligence services and court system. Xenophobic hatred of outsiders and those who are different. And the use of violence to create your authority. If you’re a Republican and don’t see that as the foundation of your party today, you aren’t looking.
To be clear, I absolutely know why most people don’t like being called “fascist” (though, yes, some do, and wear their shirts with false pride.) It’s a truly horrific term, a sick philosophy. But my theory is that if you don’t like being called fascist” or even just semi-fascist, then you shouldn’t act like one. Or enable them.
But what makes the Republican moans about being called semi-fascist (let alone completely fascist) stand out all the more is that for 70 years, Republicans have been calling Democrats “socialist” and “commies.” From the days of Joe McCarthy today. And never mind that there have been times in those 70 years when Democrats controlled Congress and the White House, and yet have never turned the country “socialist.” (The proof being that Republicans are still suggesting it’s what Democrats are trying to do…) More to the point, though, just like they don’t understand what fascism is, Republicans who try to call Democrats “socialists!” and “commies!” clearly have absolutely no idea what socialism is, what communism is.
Socialism is when the government controls the industry, production and distribution. It is not when the government provides health care to the public. Or forgives parts of one’s college loan. Or offers Social Security and Medicare. Or food stamps to help defray costs to those hungry and in need. One may not like that when it’s done – or fully support it. But that’s not socialism. It’s government helping society.
I understand those like Amanda Marcotte who thought the only quibble with President Biden’s speech was calling Republican’s merely “semi-fascist,” not the full monte. But I also understand why he only went with “semi-fascist” and just referenced some as “MAGA Republicans,” rather than the entire party -- and I thought him doing so was very smart. First, it limits charges of "Oh, that's just crazy Joe" hyperbole. Second, it’s accurate, not every single Republican today is a fascist. And third, it allows him to reach out more effectively to those who are just conservative, but not the extreme radical right fascist in the party.
The larger reality, too, is that while not every Republican today is fascist – the base is, indeed most of the party is -- and those in the party who are not nonetheless enable the majority of the party that is.
If you don’t like being called “semi-fascist,” then don’t act like one, or enable it. It’s an easy concept. But at the very least, understand what a fascist is before you start whining wrongly that it's not you.
I’m going to make a bold statement here. This may be my favorite Adorable Animal Video that I’ve seen. And given how many Adorable Animals Videos I've posted (not mention watched) that says a lot, most-especially given that it’s 20 minutes long. Yes, 20 minutes. This is no three-minute clip filled with well-earned "Awwws." This, by comparison, is Citizen Kane. A full 20 minutes. But it flies by, and is wonderful, fascinating, funny, smart and (above all) joyfully done. I almost didn't want to call it an "Adorable Animal Video," since that doesn't do it justice. It's in a category all its own.
And yes, I know that this is phenomenally high praise, since I don't like to overpraise things. It's so high to live up to that standard. But when you present an Adorable Animal Video that's 20 minutes long, sometimes you have to bring the descriptive adjectives and their friends out of your toolbox. I'll just this: I'm not saying everyone will love it as much as I do. Just that it's probably my favorite. But I do think, at the very least, it's hard not to enjoy and admire it.
It’s from a fellow named Mark Rober. He notes that “Squirrels were stealing my bird seed so I solved the problem with mechanical engineering.” But that’s like saying “Moby Dick” is about a guy who is mad at a big fish.
Among other things, Rober teaches a creative engineering course online. And it shows here.
I should note that the only reason I say this “may be” my favorite Adorable Animal Video I’ve seen is not likely the reason you think. It has nothing to do with other videos I’ve seen and love, or one's that I don’t necessarily remember at the moment. While those are both possible, the actual reason is that Rober did a 2.0 version a year later – and it’s…great, maybe even funnier than this! And this is…brilliant. It has more charm and whimsy, while 2.0 is more epic. So, personal taste.
(Not to worry, I'll be posting 2.0 soon...)
My favorite thing in his efforts is probably the “tourist trap.” It’s – oh, you’ll see. And to be clear, what makes the video maybe my favorite is not just what he’s doing, but how well this video is made. His narration is absolutely wonderful, and what leaps out most as that it goes on, despite why he says he’s doing all this, is his great affection for these squirrels.
There are certain markers one looks for to see how terrified people are in politics when publicly making their case when pushing back against bad news. At the low end is the “Wait, that’s all you have???” Syndrome. Often that manifests itself by a person going dark with total silence (perhaps the most passive, but wisest maneuver) or an aggressive “But her emails!!” reverse attack to try changing attention. Sometimes though pure desperation is the result, if the person being defended was arrested for the political equivalent of killing a family, crying out haughtily, “You’ll notice the police didn’t charge him with burning the house down!!’”
We’ve seen several of these at play with the Mar-a-Lago search. My favorite have been – “See how redacted it all is, that’s because they have nothing” and “There was nothing in the affidavit about nuclear weapons!!”, ignoring the reality that a) anything about nuclear weapons would be redacted, b) the affidavit was, however, filled with evidence of taking the most highly top secret documents, and c) the issue wasn’t about nuclear weapons but taking secret government property.
But one of the best examples of pure, jaw-dropping “Wait, that’s all you have???” emptiness in trying to defend Trump came this past weekend from Mick Mulvaney. While I know that he's just one voice (not that others have been much better), what makes his efforts all the more notable is that he was acting White House Chief of Staff for Trump, someone who more than most anyone outside of the Press Secretary should be adept at responding to attacks on his boss.
Actually, what makes this even more one of the best examples of pure, unabashed “Sorry, I got nothing” emptiness is because it’s a twofer.
First, Mulvaney tweeted --
“It appears this raid was, in fact, just about documents. As even some on the left have opined: that is simply outrageous.”
Putting aside that this wasn’t a “raid,” but a legally authorized search with a warrant --if this is the best a high-end Republican spokesman like Mick Mulvaney can do to explain Trump taking troves of sensitive government documents, some the most intensely-classified, highly secret, then they know they're in deep trouble. Mr. Mulvaney seemingly wants you to think the FBI was looking for hidden nuclear weapons. Or a secret radio hook-up between Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un and al Qaeda leadership with tapes of their plotting to overthrow the country. In fact, what we ALL KNOW and all knew from the very first and no one had any doubt to the contrary -- the FBI search was always and only about finding that contain the most-sensitive and top secret defense documents and are government property. Of course, it was “just about documents”!!!
Furthermore, as a bonus, Mr. Mulvaney ignores explaining who even remotely "on the left" has ever "opined" that looking for stolen documents at Mar-a-Lago was "simply outrageous." That is known as flailing wildly to the most overwrought degree with silly, desperate GOP smoke and hoping others are far too blinded and stupid (both are required) to notice you’re throwing around chimera but forgot the chimera. (By the way, the biggest clue of this is Mulvaney’s use of the word “opined. Any other specific word normally used in the English language would be dismissed at first glance. “Opined” is obtuse enough that people can scratch their head and wonder what in the world is he trying to suggest???”) The only other possibility is that by people “on the left,” Mulvaney just means to the left of himself, Trump and Attila the Hun on the far right, which would be normal right wing.
But that was only his start. Because along with throwing out his big ball of empty “Wait, that’s all you have???”, Mulvaney had to show his desperation with the GOP classic of doubling down. And so, what we got was --
“So, if the classified documents from Mar-a-Lago turn out to be from Crossfire Hurricane (the 2016 Russia hoax) and they exonerate Trump…what happens next?”
How empty is this as a defense? Let’s put it this way – Mulvaney’s question reminds of when years ago, when I was a counselor at Camp Nebagamon summer camp, there was this 11-year-old kid in my cabin, we’ll call him Jimmy Glipton, who one day got concerned about something and asked me (and I’m pretty close to be accurate with this, because it’s not a question you easily forget) – “So, Bob, so what would happen if all of a sudden, if suddenly the sky opened up and suddenly thousands of dogs started to fall down and also if also big lightning bolts crashed down and there were bombs dropping and everything and all over, and what would happen???”
I don’t remember my answer exactly, but it was along the lines of a calming, “That’s not going to happen.” Which interestingly is the same as I would say to Mick Mulvaney.
After all, given that what Mulvaney calls the "Russia hoax" was actually documented as being actually real in the Mueller Report (which actually said – in reality -- that there was contact with Russians, but that no charges could be recommended because there was regular obstruction from the Trump administration), the odds of his whimsical “what if” scenario is zero. In fact, Jimmy’s scenario is more likely. Meanwhile, far more to the point, the whole issue, the specific legal issue, the exact reason for the warrant is that Trump stole sensitive government documents -- whatever the documents say.
And as my friend Don Friedman wisely pointed out – “Seriously, if any of those documents exonerated Trump, he would have released them long ago, while he was still President. Give it up, Mick.”
And this is the best that Mick Mulvaney, former acting Chief of Staff to Trump has. Doubled-down. These are the best arguments from someone whose career was to explain away Trump’s actions as best he can.
They got nothing.
And making it worse is that for some reason, perhaps known only to God, CBS News has hired Mick Mulvaney to be an analyst.
It’s their decision whether or not they want to retain their credibility as a news organization and get rid of Mick Mulvaney. That’s out of my hands, of course. But if they do fire him, and are stumped trying to find another voice of reason at his same level, I can get them in touch with Jimmy Glipton.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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