Friday, November 20, 2015

Dog Thoughts

Debra gets home after I do on Tuesdays and Fridays now, which means I feed our beagle, Sam, when I get home. He has been in the house, with doggy door out to a small yard for the day, which combined with some pretty swanky sleeping arrangements constitute the criteria typically imagined when invoking the phrase, “a dog’s life.” Still, from the dog’s perspective, it must bear some equivalency to an open-air prison of sorts, a kind of Palestine in the Los Angeles suburbs, weirdly lorded over by an irreligious Jew and a similarly disposed Catholic. By the time I park and get to the door, his toenails are tapping a novel in Morse code across the vertical panes of glass that flank our front entance. He doesn’t stop until I am inside the door, at which point he launches himself at me in a series of corkscrewing trajectories and emitting a river of continuous yelps. I bow to him and extend my arms, and he calms enough to place his front paws on the insides of my forearms and we bury our heads next to one another and we wriggle in calm nonsense for a moment. He breaks our clinch and darts toward the kitchen. He will be fed.

He eats a half of a can in the morning and a half of a can at night, and after dinner (about fifteen seconds later), he begins a second Saint Vitus dance, one that cajoles me to get the leash and climb the local hills to a dirt mound with a view, a journey with incline enough to get us both panting. The trip up those hills, while largely single or double story suburban ranch houses with drought-resistant lawns, stone arrangements and cacti, also features a few sudden small conifer groves with dirt patches, and it was in one of these that Sam found a dead rat tonight, probably having staggered away from a nearby house in his death throes after eating the D-Con, a front paw on an opposite breast, tearfully sparing his family the piteous sight of him dying, “Ma, they got me, they got me good this time ma, take care of the kids, ma, I can’t…let them…see me…like this!”

I had been letting Sam lead the way to that point, rushing when he rushed, having picked up a scent, and stopping when he stopped, having lost it. So he had his snout well into the maggoty rat by the time I figured out what he was onto and drew him away with the leash. He launched a loud, focused hound bleat and I praised him for his excellence as I led him away from the carcass. I had a tissue so I scrubbed his gob of death bugs and we continued on up the hill. The next adventure in the mighty quest for a tired beagle was the dump. And of course I had forgotten the bag. But what this animal did for me, what this magical creature did, was to pull over into the next little miniature pastoral area between houses for his sworn duty. He chose a spot in loose dirt below, with an ample supply of more loose dirt and fallen leaves right nearby. There was a steep embankment that tumbled down a good fifteen feet just another foot away. I covered the Los Angeles Steamer in loose dirt first, then in fallen leaves and gave it a sweet little boot over the lip of the ravine. 100% biodegradable, and with an El Niño predicted, I guarantee that thing will not see the springtime. On we went.

Sam went berserk at the next little forested area, and it was something really special. Another dog’s shit. Here he had just made some, so it was only natural he review the work of his peers, see where he might need to sharpen his game a bit, maybe get some ideas about style or content. Who knows what goes through a dog’s mind? Not me, certainly, as I have never had a dog call me Dad so I’m pretty new to all of this. I have a suspicion though about the opinion dogs have regarding the way things smell. They don’t qualify them per se. They identify them, but even though their sense of smell, especially hounds, is around forty times more sensitive than a human being’s, they don’t establish nearly the spectrum of nauseating to intoxicating that humans ascribe to smell. The difference between suddenly presenting someone with a fly larvae-ridden rat corpse and a cup of freshly brewed coffee is dramatic. The beagle makes no such value judgments. I see the beagle’s sense of smell as being able to differentiate what a thing is and where it is with a stunning accuracy, the way most people see colors or the way Mozart heard music, vividly, in great detail, without question. What does not particularly exist within the beagle purview is much of a qualitative assessment. The gradations boil down to good, better, best.

Better would be what food smells like, best is what people food smells like, and good is everything else. I don’t think anything smells bad to a dog. Shit smells like shit, dead rats smell like dead rats, and both can be filed under “good.” Sam is a not only a good dog, he is a springboard for endless ruminative amusements.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A lamentation for Paris

Why write if you don’t have answers? It’s like forgiveness I guess, of which I have none right now. It’s like forgiveness in that it’s for the forgiver. Writing is for the writer. A lucky and uniquely skilled few writers have legions attuned to each word, but those must be the writers with answers. After all, who needs more questions, especially from a writer? Readers have plenty of their own. So I’ll write some thoughts on it all just to pass some time with it, to be still with it for a moment. I’ll post it I’m guessing, but for now it’s for now.

Squad terrorism describes this thing I guess. That’s its type, its genus, coordinated and simultaneous, kind of in the Mumbai tradition. Commandos. Death squads. So damn sick. Arranged, but scattered, an assault on bars and restaurants and a young band. So I guess that was it. Youth. Kill a bunch of kids. It seems to be a fierce jab with a spear of so dull a point as to mean nothing. Is this the new version of the new warfare? It’s asymmetrical and now it’s nonsensical as well? Enough of looking for poetry in murder, I suppose.

What is it then? Maybe I’ll try a few answers. Politically it is born of our love affair with the House of Saad and our indirect funding of the tools of oppression against the average Saudi schmuck, who runs for solace to the Saudi mullahs preaching a uniquely Gulf State Wahaabist Islam that extolls violence against the infidel. Historically, it is born of a century of capricious blunders in the Middle East that have not taught us either how to partner with or exploit the region. Economically it is born of reliance on oil. Practically, with Iraq now gone to the dogs, or the Russians anyway, our most potent ally in the Middle East (besides Israel) might be Iran. That’s how inside out the Middle East is right now. East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet. But we keep trying. The urge now is for vengeance, but that’s been tried before. We in the US are experts in blind lashings out in vengeance’s name, and it does not work. The one thing that has not been tried, disengagement, is impossible absent a dramatic social shift in the West and a dramatic intellectual shift in the East.

So those are my answers. And they’re not answers at all. They’re thoughts. I recommend you be suspicious of anyone with definitive answers on this. People better informed than me might have the next level past a thought, which is an idea. Ideas are good. The next level past an idea though, is an answer, and as pertains to the Middle East, anything characterized as an answer should be suspect. But, if you’re bound and determined and you’re looking for answers, you can go on Twitter and find more than 140 characters who have it all figured out in less than 140 characters. Most of what I have here is more questions, and a parting thought that apart from its rich cultural heritage, France has a noble history of the greater good eventually prevailing in politics, so let’s hope she can begin to make sense of this and find a way to mend her greatest city. Mon coeur est brisé.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Load the 12-guage and batten down the bulkhead: there's a war on Christmas.

Just how prepared are you for the war on Christmas? It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, and as evidenced by the new Starbucks holiday cup design, already the first salvos of intercontinental ballistic mistletoe have been fired. Go ahead Starbucks. Take the Christmas trees off the cup. Take the snowflakes off too. We know what CEO Howard Schultz means by that. Starbucks and the other foot soldiers in the war on Christmas are already poisoning poinsettias and putting the “no” in Noel. Will the forces of Islam, Judaism and irreligiousness turn your Christmas sleigh into a Christmas slaying? Will the nice cede to the naughty? Or will you be a proud Christmas nutcracker and meet these Yuletide challengers with cup of hot chocolate to the face? Only by fortifying your manger with gingerbread army men will you be able to fend off the Scrooges and fruitcakes that mean to crash your crèche and wassail you with songs of apostasy. Put a lump of Koch brothers coal in the stockings of those turkeys who encourage the snowballing anti-Christmas sentiment and shove a Yule log where the sun doesn’t shine. If these Rudolph and Jesus naysayers want their next stocking stuffer to be a body bag, that’s a Christmas wish I can be joyful about. And if you want to ring someone’s bell this Christmas, strap on your Santa boots and knock the chestnuts out of some candy cane trying to make mince meat of my merry. To put a bow on it, get a noggin full of eggnog and go caroling in Crown Heights. The blizzard of anti-Jesus, anti-wise men bluster is already pouring down your chimney, so don’t get caught with your decorations in your hand. The only way to fight the war on Christmas is with a preemptive strike. Figure out what myrrh is and get some. Figure out what frankincense is and get some. And yes, buy gold. Knock back a couple snorts of Christmas cheer, stock that fireplace and put on your cap because we’re trading shifts at the lookout and it’s going to be a long winter’s night, especially with no Starbuck’s. Be prepared to share your cider and cookies or tidings of piping hot lead from your Christmas Glock, but remember to have your toboggan ready for a fast getaway. You don’t want your Christmas goose to be delivered from behind.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Things You Should Know When You Go to a Blues Jam

When you go to a blues jam, you should know some standards, you should know how to hear and play through common progressions, and you should know how to communicate with the rest of the musicians. The first two items on the list must be developed over time, but the final item, communicating with the band, can be learned quickly. There exists a pretty graceful nomenclature for laying out a road map for the band, and it’s worth taking a few minutes to learn these terms and how they work together.

The first things you’re going to want to communicate are the feel and the key of the song you want to play. Your basic choices for rhythm are as follows: Texas shuffle, Chicago shuffle, swing, 12/8, Latin, rock and roll, funk or slow. When you step up to the mic and turn to the band to let them know what you’re looking for, here are a few samples of how to call songs, along with some examples of songs that fit the description:

Texas shuffle in E: Pride and Joy, SRV
Chicago shuffle in A: Every Day I Have the Blues, BB King
Swing in G: See See Rider, BB King
12/8 in F: Bring it on Home to Me, Sam Cooke
Funk in D: Help the Poor, Robben Ford
Rock ‘n’ Roll in A: Keep Your Hands to Yourself, Georgia Satellites
Slow blues in B: Red House, Jimi Hendrix
Latin in A: Teeny Weenie Bit, Jimmie Vaughn

Tempo is vitally important, and it is critical that everyone in the band has a clear understanding of the intended tempo. Don’t be shy when you stomp it off. It might be a good idea to cut the time on the first bar of your two-bar count-off. Get the tempo straight in your head, and then in clear and authoritative voice, count it off: “One, two, one-two-three-four…”

A lot of blues songs have what is commonly referred to as a “Fast IV.” What that means is that instead of riding on the first chord for four bars before going to the IV chord, you go to the IV on the second measure, then back down to the I for two more bars, then back up to the IV chord on bar five. Good examples of this are Bo Diddley’s Before You Accuse Me and Robert Johnson’s Sweet Home Chicago.

Some blues songs start on the IV chord. In this case, it usually goes four bars on the IV, then four bars on the I, followed by two bars on the V and two bars on the I. Buddy Guy’s Mary Had a Little Lamb fits this description.

There is also a tradition of the “Long I,” in which the progression stays on the root tonality of the key for eight bars instead of four. BB King’s Better Lovin’ Man and How Blue Can You Get, also by BB King fit this description.

Another common variation is the “Long V,” in which rather than playing V-IV-I-I for the final four bars of the twelve bar progression, you sustain the V chord for an extra bar, making the final phrase, V-V-I-I. There are other such variations, and for the most part, they are easy to hear and feel coming if you are sitting in, and also easy to telegraph if you are leading.

If you want to lend a bit of arranging to your performance, you can embellish the intro considerably by starting from bar nine of the 12-bar progression. The typical shorthand is “From the V.” When starting from the V, you essentially start the tune with the final four bars of the progression, V-IV-I-I. It is also quite common on the final (12th) bar to go back to the V.

Here’s a typical call, incorporating several elements of this blues patois: “Before You Accuse Me, Chicago shuffle in A with a fast IV. Take it from the V, right about here (snap your tempo). One, a-two, a-one, two, three…”

So that’s how you kick it off. Once the jam is on, if you are leading the tune, be bold. Pick the order of solos and communicate them unambiguously to the players. Don’t feel like you’re being bossy. Players infinitely prefer being directed to not knowing what’s next and trying to decide by committee at the turnaround. On that subject, maybe you need to look at your hands while you're playing. Keep playing and eventually you won't but maybe you still do. You need to pay attention at the turnaround. Maybe the leader will be wildly gesticulating for you to solo but you are so buried in your fretboard, you miss the cue. At bar eleven or so, pick your head up and watch for a transition from soloist to vocalist, from vocalist to soloist, or from one soloist to another.

The other important arrangement opportunity for you is the ending. Typically the most graceful ending is achieved by repeating the final four bars. Sometimes it is repeated once, sometimes twice. It is easily called for by a signal from the leader, very often an index finger twirled in the air in a sort of a “whoopee” gesture. Your attentive band will already be looking for it if you’ve sung, cued solos and then returned to a final vocal verse. If they seem a little out-to-lunch, communicate with the bass player and the rest of the band will get dragged into your arrangement whether they like it or not!

There are several standard blues endings, and most of them you can direct, either by jumping in with confidence and getting the band to follow you or by gesticulation. Check out the ending of Ellington’s Take the A Train for one standard up-tempo ending, and check out the Allman Brothers’ One Way Out for a slow ending to an up-tempo tune.

There is a vast canon of material within the blues catalog, but there are some hundred or so songs that you run into pretty regularly. I have culled a list of 25 songs that are a good idea to have in your repertoire when attending a blues jam. Some are male vocal pieces, some are some are female vocal pieces, some are instrumentals and some are guitar oriented. The songs appropriate for female vocalist are denoted with an asterisk. You may notice that a lot of songs specifically oriented toward the female vocalist are more song-oriented and less based on common blues form.

I Got My Mojo Working
Killing Floor
Teeny Weeny Bit
Next Time You See Me
Before You Accuse Me
See See Rider
I’m a Man
Yonder’s Wall
Walkin’ the Dog
Love Me Like a Man*
Hoochie Coochie Man
Cross-Cut Saw
Ball and Chain*
Handy Man*
I Just Want to Make Love to You*
Born Under A Bad Sign
How Blue Can You Get
Key To The Highway
I'll Play The Blues For You
Tell Mama*
I'd Rather Go Blind*
Wang Dang Doodle*
Bright Lights, Big City*
Baby What You Want Me to Do
Big Boss Man
Stormy Monday (as overplayed as it is, it's necessary)
Mustang Sally (See Stormy Monday)
Help Me

That’s about it! The blues are a deep and sacred music form, and a lot of people have a lot of themselves invested in it. Thinking that “it’s only three chords” is a great way to become an average to bad blues musician. Thinking about economy of musical language, tone, phrasing, grace and restraint, and marveling at the beauty of a single perfectly placed note is a great way to become a fine blues player. Enjoy the music, enjoy your instrument, and we’ll see you out at the jams!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Some Thoughts on the Confederate Flag Debate

There is a lot of heat and passion surrounding the Confederate flag, and everyone seems to have made their stand. The federal government, liberal America, most minorities of all kinds and much of the South have ceded the symbol’s relevance and propriety. 

What Southerners should remember in figuring out their position is that there were always two Souths, and even before slavery, the great crime of the largely English 17th century settlers was a ruthless pursuit of cheap labor. It was first indentured servitude of local Indians, but they could easily run away and hide with associated tribes in far away regions for a time if need be. They tried the same with poor young men and women from England, but they were wont to run away and blend in with the other populations that were emigrating from their native lands, the Scots Irish, who settled in large numbers in the Ozarks and Appalachia.

Slavery was the ultimate solution to this obsession with cheap labor and it was pursued to a vicious extreme. Politically, economically and with brute force and intimidation, these slave owners and the politicians who backed them formed a mighty coalition. The poor Scots-Irish were never their ilk, and were always apart from and resentful of the Southern elite.

As it always is with war, it was a design of the elite. Their obsession with preserving the slave economy was the driving precept, and the poor Scots Irish from the mountains were pressed into service as were the Atlantic seaboard’s young men and women, as were the inland cities where the textiles were loomed and packaged. They were lured with wages and propagandized, and the poorest were leveraged with tendencies to prosecute loitering and other petty crimes.

The Civil War has been sold for decades in Southern education systems as having been an ideological compromise in that the North learned of the importance of state’s rights, whereas the south learned of the importance of the union, which is a farce. It was a battle over a cheap labor system and nothing more. Read the Texas articles of secession if you doubt that.

As to the flag itself, there is a lot of detail available about it formerly being square, it flying in Virginia and in Tennessee, and it having been appropriated by the KKK in the 1920s and on and on. In my opinion, none of that is relevant to its current iconography. It is the prevailing accepted symbol of the Confederate revolution that was defeated in 1865. As such, it should be a slight, small or large depending on your nationalism, to all patriotic Americans. And to Southerners, the Civil War should be understood as an expression of the wills of the slave-owning elite, their customers and the politicians who were their clients.

There was a movement to abolish a business model they had been comfortable with for centuries and they used every bit of their economic might to hold on to it, in great part at the expense of people who lived wholly apart from slavery-related industry, and whose lives owed nothing to the preservation of the plantation system. The poor rural South has always been exploited by the plantation elites, from the earliest pre-slavery cheap labor, to cannon fodder in wartime, right down to being defacto defenders of a flag that never flew for them in the first place.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ted Cruz: an opinion article that doesn't mention Canada!

More than any presidential candidate before him, Ted Cruz has energized medium-deep pools of the fundamentalist Christian base in all of its many schisms, and that is an astounding feat. In polls that ask some version of the question, Cruz or Hillary for president, 35% choose Cruz. He has very little support among non-fundamentalist Christians or certainly among non-Christians, so between voters who would rather vote for a ham sandwich than a Democrat and actual enthusiastic Christian Ted Cruz supporters, more than a third of the country would in some way condone a Cruz presidency. I have to hope the current hatred of Obama is transitioning naturally to Hillary in this poll and the truth of the matter cannot be that 35% of Americans want the Christian practical equivalent of Sharia law. The unifying thread among the ticket-holders for the rapture that Cruz has tapped into is just as deep as I always knew it was, but its breadth surprises me.

It doesn’t take much of a rift within a lot of Christian sects to escalate a theosophical quibble into a crisis of confidence. Pretty soon someone buys a barn across town and starts preaching the gospel and passing the collection plate himself, and then these factions fissure further until they’re all capillaries in the same vein that still somehow retain a healthy contempt of one another. But here is Ted Cruz, experiencing a general welcome from most of the various corners of American Christianity. If you thought politics made strange bedfellows, try biblical literalism. You will sample the jabbering inebriant and the graceful intellectual, the abortion clinic bomber and his victim’s funeral celebrant. Ted Cruz is slowly packaging a gift basket of that most precious electoral commodity, votes, accruing while not a representative slice of America, still a ransom fit for a king, or as I suspect we will see, a shot as a presidential running mate. 

I have a friend who rents party boats, and he tells me he can seat Muslims, Jews and Christians together and everyone gets along, but when a Methodist One sits next to a Methodist Two, or when two adjacent passengers are on opposite sides of the Anglican split, that’s when the sparks fly. Ted Cruz has done the impossible. He has brought the lion in with the lamb, by that I of course mean the Baptist with the Lutheran, and as a result, when shopping for a heart the lack of whose single beat becomes the only thing between himself and the level of influence he actually craves, he can present some number of millions of votes in a tidy little basket in exchange for a coronary’s-eye view of the presidency. It will be difficult indeed for any candidate to say “no” to the ten to twenty million votes that come with a Ted Cruz running mate selection.  

So how has Cruz succeeded in getting churchgoers’ general approval? He has telegraphed to many fundamentalist Christians the idea that endorsing Cruz’s presidential candidacy is in fact a measure of their faith. Cruz has successfully thrummed into the minds of the American Christian base, “Support for me equals faith in God.”

Given what he stands for, this for now mostly tacit or mumbled approval of Ted Cruz as a serious political candidate reflects terribly on America. His candidacy presents a desire for a theocracy, and to see any level of embrace for that is disheartening. An individual with a heavy academic background like Ted Cruz’s ought to be more considered of the state of climate research, rather than half-heartedly arguing the subject only a moment before telegraphing his petulant boredom, as is his typical canned reaction to specific and difficult questions. He even sometimes does the doe-eyed, “It sure is snowing in New Hampshire” defense, which adds the charges of coy cynicism and personal condescension to the egregious one of willful ignorance regarding overwhelming scientific consensus on a potentially existential matter. 

His preference is for God to work it out. While my God has worked a lot out for me, I do not count on him to clean up messes that I made. A United States president must be a willing to lead in the direction of a cleaner nation and cleaner Earth. Cruz is a fracker, an EPA castrator, and the worst kind of steward for the environment imaginable. His antipathy toward any injustice that befalls people of alternate sexual identities and lifestyle is a disgrace. American progress in this area is shamefully behind the rest of the civilized world, but he seeks to stall it and even dismantle existing protections. Doesn’t everyone have gay friends? I guess not.

The main reason Ted Cruz getting anywhere near the presidency is unacceptable and dangerous though is his limitless ego, bullheadedness and poor judgment. He drove the shutdown of the government almost singlehandedly in a fit that earned the disdain of much of even his party. He is widely reviled as disloyal and inelegant, and a poor team player, which in general makes for a poor team leader. It is madness to let a hothead who is counting on the rapture anywhere near the presidency. Ted Cruz, a big fan of Revelations, is himself a sign of the end times.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Love Letters in the Sand: a Billet-doux From the GOP to Iran

The rhetoric is dramatic: treason, sedition, traitorousness. Is it melodramatic though, or does the GOP Senate members’ initiative in writing to Iran’s state department merit this characterization? Was the communication illegal? Was it unprecedented?

In order to answer the first and more important of those two questions, you probably have to answer the second one first as in legal matters, precedent usually takes precedence. So, has a senator or a group of senators ever orchestrated anything similar in type, and if similar in type, also similar in degree? A separate but equal question is if so, was that action brought before a court, and again if so, what were the court’s findings?

Everyone is an armchair Constitutional lawyer this week, and I am no exception. So please, feel free to object. Anecdotally, and admittedly without contemporary US history being my specialty, I can’t recall anything much like it in my now considerable lifetime. Under Bush, there was nothing close to this level of senatorial mutiny in terms of submarining ongoing foreign policy negotiations. Nor was there with Clinton. Neither Bob Dole nor Harry Reid would have condoned anything of that nature.

I am not an eidetic accumulator of political events chronology, but I try to pay attention along the way, and I cannot remember any similar act over the course of these past two administrations that approach this level of hubris and disregard for the president in an ongoing foreign policy negotiation. Add Obama’s first term, with plenty of venom but never this level of diplomatic sabotage, and you’ve got at least twenty years without a remotely analogous act of such wanton foreign policy disruption.

I had a chat with a friend about this, and he being about my vintage but having lived a life that didn’t leave his fine-aged mind with enough holes in it to serve as a wind chime on breezy days, he mentioned George McGovern’s trip to Cuba in 1975 in direct defiance of the very staunchly defended embargo.

On May 5, 1975, McGovern set off to Cuba and spent three days there in meetings with high-level officials including Castro himself. McGovern had been a longtime proponent of normalizing relations with Cuba, and as the embargo’s actual demise and its results become manifest, I hope history will applaud McGovern as having been ahead on this issue. 

Some members of Congress, however, decidedly did not applaud McGovern’s trip, one must assume because of an utter disinterest in baseball, cigars and fantastic jazz piano. So persistent was the chorus of boos that State Department attention was brought to it, but the agency elected to pass on indicting McGovern under the Logan Act, stating, “The clear intent of this provision is to prohibit unauthorized persons from intervening in disputes between the United States and foreign governments. Nothing in section 953 [Logan Act], however, would appear to restrict members of the Congress from engaging in discussions with foreign officials in pursuance of their legislative duties under the Constitution. In the case of Senator McGovern … the executive branch, although it did not in any way encourage the Senator to go to Cuba, was fully informed of the nature and purpose of (the) visit, and had validated (his) passport for travel to that country.”

There has only been one very spurious indictment under the Logan Act at the turn of the 19th century, utterly misapplied, and it was not pursued and quickly forgotten. Reagan waved the Logan Act a couple of times during his presidency, mostly as a rhetorical cudgel, and Peter King artlessly characterized Nancy Pelosi’s dialog with Syrian officials as a violation of the Logan Act. A movement King fostered to cripple funding for these meetings petered out quickly, as well as King’s pursuit of indicting Pelosi under the Logan Act.

The Logan Act is rarely evoked, even as a tool for bringing a certain drama to foreign policy discrepancies, kind of like saying, “J’accuse!” except not in French. As far as I can tell, the furthest pursuit of the Logan Act in our history is in the McGovern case. Following the initial template I laid out for myself in this essay, the question becomes, “Is the poison pen letter from the 47 senators of the same type as the McGovern visit, and if so, was it the same degree?”

I have to conclude that it was wholly another type. The first key difference is the openness of the communication. The letter from the 47 senators was drafted and sent, and the White House was briefed simultaneously, whereas if you are looking for documentation of implied consent, McGovern’s passport was of course validated by the United States for the trip. There was regular communication between McGovern and the rest of the senate and with the Ford White House beforehand, albeit without approval or certainly any “attaboys.”

After State Department scrutiny - the Ford state department let’s remember - the sought indictment was more or less brushed away. Cuba policy was McGovern’s pet issue and the subject of his new report, and he was among the nation’s leading experts on all things Cuba. McGovern's meetings were in no way seeking to guide specific items of foreign policy in the direction of normalization. Rather he was on a fact-finding mission, seeking to inform his perspective with a deeper understanding of Cuba, and the disposition of its leaders and citizens.

The 47 senators who signed the letter touted no such standing, no such gravitas or expertise on the subject of Iran or Middle East affairs in general, no specialized experience in defense, treaties or even tangentially related areas of concentration that might earn them consideration for butting into the negotiations like they did. What they have solely in common is a collusive nature and an utter beholdenness to partisan politics.

As to degree, the letter from the 47 senators, ironically the same percentage of ‘takers’ Mitt Romney believes to comprise our nation, was far more pernicious than anything McGovern’s talks with Cuban officials in their most cynical interpretation could possibly have had as their result. This purposeful submarining of an ongoing nuclear arms treaty is about as insane as I have ever seen America get. The bombastic intrusion was boorish and clumsy and at the same time dangerous at an existential level for all of the Middle East.

Though it’s already been shown to you by my fellow armchair Constitutional lawyers with varying levels of pomp and bluster I am sure, here it is again, the Logan Act: 

“Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

If you want to chop out the juicy part as far as these proceedings are concerned, here you go: “…with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government…” It’s textbook, really. This is what The Logan Act was written for. Imagine if the executive branch had one foreign policy, and the US Senate had another. Why don’t we give the House of Representatives one of its own while we’re at it, and just so they don’t feel left out, let’s let Hall & Oates have their own foreign policy as well. Yeah. Hall & Oates. I could go for that.

The GOP senators are of course not stupid. They are merely cynical, and they are, rightly I think, counting on the administration’s reticence to pick this hill to die on, especially when the Logan Act’s as yet untried teeth would be its chief weapon. The 47 got their licks in and were able to at least on its surface disrupt The United States’ communication with Iran a little bit, so seeing as there will likely not be indictments sought under the Logan Act, I think the GOP may have won this round. But kind of like someone who wins a round at a pit bull fight; is it really anything to be proud of?