by John Walters
Deal Or No Deal
In the past week or so, with President Trump’s handling of North Korea (welcome back to the three prisoners) and now North Korea, we’ve learned a lot about his style of “diplomacy,” which is definitely 180 degrees different than his predecessor’s. In a nutshell: I have more power/money/weapons than you do, and I’ll be an even bigger bastard than you guys are if you force my hand.
It’s not something they extol at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, tyrannical diplomacy, but short-term, it’s working. Kim Jong-Un (or as Mike Pompeo calls him, “Chairman Un”; it’s “Chairman Kim”) appears to speak the same language and is now sending home three U.S. prisoners and talking about getting rid of his nukes. Will Iran, which took our money and then funneled (always with the funneling) a lot of it to militants we were fighting elsewhere in the Middle East, suddenly realize that we’re no longer the soft step-parent they assumed we were?
On the other hand, no one in Europe likes that Trump pulled out of the Iran deal. Moreover, the signal, and anyone who dealt with Trump the casino-0wner or Trump the real estate-magnate or Trump the husband could have told you this, Trump honors a deal only so far as it is beneficial to him. The moment it is not, he cuts and runs and cares not about the bridges he has burned. That’s what Michael Cohen and the slush fund is for, to assuage the hurt feelings.
Anyway, we’ll see. Trump is taking a victory lap this week. Is North Korea playing him, or are they really sincere because Trump has either 1) made some very dark threats or 2) paid them off in some secretive way? Will Iran become more or less amenable to behaving?
And finally, here’s a conspiracy theory: What if Trump is telling men like Kim and Putin and China’s Xi, “Look, dudes, the only thing keeping me from turning America into a dictatorship is the freaking free press. Help me score a few wins against them, turn the public further in my favor, and then I’ll be able to get away with being more punitive toward them. And then we’ll all get richer and America will be just like you.”
2. The Last BOY Scout*
*The judges will not accept “The Boy Scout Handbook of Mormon”
To read any Brigham Young University football media guide in the 1990s (and we read our share) was to discover that a disproportionately high number of Cougar gridders were also former Eagle Scouts. In fact, the other religion within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, i.e., the Mormons, is the Boy Scouts of America.
But, as of December 31, 2019, the Mormons and the B.S.A., who have a fruitful relationship for more than a century, will split. In a joint statement, the two organizations announced the divorce, with the increasingly global church announcing that it will form its own independent youth scouting group.
In 2013 the BSA announced that it would admit gay scouts. A year later, transgender scouts. A year after that, in 2015, openly gay adult scout leaders. And last week, it said that it would take the name “Boy” off the Scouts as to openly welcome girls into the program. So from whom do I buy my cookies now?
It might be fair to say that the Mormon church had finally had it with all this progressiveness. Can’t you just get a “Social Justice Warrior” merit badge and be done with it?
3. Three Months, Three No-Hitters, Three Countries
Since the baseball season officially began in March, we can say that this is its third calendar month. And last night in Toronto James Paxton, a pitcher for the Seattle Mariners who is Canadian, threw the third no-hitter of the young season. And for what it’s worth, it was tossed in the third different country.
The first, by the A’s Sean Manaea against the Boston Red Sox on April 21, came in Oakland. The second, a combined job by a quartet of Dodger pitchers against the hapless San Diego Padres, happened last Friday night in Monterrey, Mexico. And now a third in Canada.
Paxton, who threw a 99 mph fastball on his 99th and final pitch, becomes only the second Canuck (after Dick Fowler) to toss a no-hitter. And it’s the earliest point in the season baseball has had three no-no’s since 1969, a season that would see six no-hitters in all. It was also baseball’s 299th regulation-length (9 innings) no-hitter.
Paxton, a.k.a. Big Maple, made news earlier this season when an American Eagle landed on him during the national anthem.
4. Knotted at 116
You probably weren’t paying attention, but last weekend in Gulf Shores, Alabama, UCLA won the NCAA Beach Volleyball national championship. If you’re saying to yourself, I didn’t know there was an NCAA sport for beach volleyball, well, it’s only been around since 2016 (Title IX: it was cheap to add and creates more schollies for women and no, they don’t wear bikinis).
What makes the title newsworthy is that now UCLA and Stanford are knotted at 116 for the most NCAA championships won by one school. At No. 3, and you might have guessed, is USC with 104. But who’s No. 4? We’d never have reckoned, but the school has less than half USC’s total (51).
The answer, and we were shocked: Oklahoma State University, but unlike the other three schools, all of theirs are in men’s sports. How did this happen? Well, two-thirds of the Cowboys 51 titles have come in wrestling and another 10 in golf.
5. Funnel Of Love
Yesterday America’s unofficial special prosecutor, Michael Avenatti, who has gone from zero to household name in the past two months, released a report claiming that a Russian oligarch with ties to Vlad Putin wired at least $500,000 to Essential Consultants, LLC, a shell company set up by Michael Cohen.
Here is where it becomes far more interesting: in a time period stretching from just before the 2016 election to this past January, more than $4.4 million passed though Essential Consultants coffers, and some of those payments originated with “legit” companies: $99,000 from Novartis Pharmaceuticals, $200,000 from AT&T.
The largest payment known came from Columbus Nova, about $500,000, which is a New York-based investment firm owned by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
All of the above claim these were “consulting” fees, but let’s face it, you’d receive better advice, legal or non-legal, from your barber. This was pay-for-play to Donald Trump, with Michael Cohen acting as the intermediary. Is Trump that greedy or is he that broke, or is it a little bit of both?
Hal Holbrook said it best: “Follow the money.”
Legendary talent. Arguably the Abraham of rock and roll. Elvis Presley had it all: looks, swagger, a voice, charisma, musicianship and mystique. He was to culture what the atomic bomb was to warfare. By this time, 1970, he was a drug-addled shell of his former self, literally a Vegas lounge act. He’d die 7 years later, only 42 years old.
Who The F**k Is That Guy?
A documentary on the life of Michael Alago, a gay Puerto Rican kid from Brooklyn who in the early Seventies, barely a teenager, snuck into clubs such as CBGB to see the biggest names and music and within a decade or so was a 24 year-old A&R exec signing bands such as Metallica. He’s still only 53. If you love the seamy underbelly of the music biz, or at least learning about it, this is for you. It’s like HBO’s Vinyl but real.