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In response to three recent pieces—one discussing the public and private parts of the U.S. system of self-governance that are still working, another arguing that Donald Trump’s monologue to the New York Times represented a new frontier in self-revelation, a third saying that a handful of Republican Senators have the nation’s fate at their disposal—several reactions from readers.
What about the Democrats? A reader with long professional experience in government writes:
I just read your post calling for three Republicans to demonstrate civic courage. As you put it, “A country of 300-plus million people, with the world’s largest economy and most powerful military, should not rely for its orderly stability on the decisions-of-conscience of just three people.”
But it doesn’t—it relies on those three plus 48 Democrats. It is striking how often it’s just assumed that Democrats in this kind of situation will do the right thing.
But why should they? If the 10 Democratic senators up for reelection next year in states that Trump carried were consulting their political self-interest in the way that seemingly all Republicans are doing, some at least might not be resisting Donald Trump as they are. Yet they remain steadfast—just as Democratic members remained steadfast in 2009-2010 in voting for the ACA and cap-and-trade, even when their political futures were in jeopardy.
Perhaps it would be worthwhile sometime to do a post about how Democrats seem so much more able these days to maintain our standards of governance and to display civic virtue under pressure. That might be an edifying meditation.
What about the Attorney(s) General? In response to my noting that the Mueller investigation was (at the time) had not been derailed, a reader notes:
It is extraordinary that an article on this subject did not even mention the extremely important role played by the attorneys general of the several states in restraining Captain Combover. The role of the states in our political system has never been as significant as it is now.
Fair point. Last month at the Aspen Ideas Festival I did a very interesting (to me) Q-and-A with Xavier Becerra, long-time U.S. Representative from Los Angeles who has recently become California’s attorney general, on exactly this point. When a transcript or recording is available, I’ll post a link.
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It’s your comment of the week! Enjoy!
“Ok, I was wrong that Melvin would have needed super strength to carry so much gold. He got his giant worm to do it, so his ability is actually having friends, or at least being able to work with others. But those are still special powers in this comic, right?” –pachoo
It’s also your runners up! Enjoy these too!
“That’s my surprise — my son, Johnny. See, Johnny, I said ‘surprise’ this time, not ‘mistake.’ That’s better, right?” –BigTed
“Runaway trains hurtle, careen, or crash. They do not throb.” –Lorne
“Sure, it was exciting when they announced that the next star of Doctor Who would be female. But it’s only when Mark Trail announces that previously-unmentioned bank robbery accomplice #2 is also a woman that you see what a truly golden age we live in for female representation in the arts.” –Schroduck
“So the Rapid City FBI office is on the 7th floor of the Regional Hospital? Of course! That’s where the male pattern-baldness treatment program does business.” –Dennis Jimenez
“And that, friends, wraps up another thrilling Spider-Man adventure. Aunt May is going to marry an international criminal. ‘Melvin’ looted the national treasury of billions in gold and jewels. Aunt Anna has gotten laid by a real Hollywood publicist. That damn fire escape has been pulled down and destroyed. Welp, off to San Francisco, to meet new friends and new challenges!” –handsome Harry Backstayge, idol of a million other women
“Even though I grew up there, seeing South Dakota mentioned over and over in Mark Trail gives me the sense that it’s a fictional place.” –Naked Bunny with a Whip
“It appears that Rex is enjoying being a part of this strip just about as much as I enjoy reading it.” –Red Delicious
“‘And there are other mentions of you elsewhere on the internet’ could be a very menacing phrase of it weren’t directed at the two most dull people on earth. ‘TWO WASPS RAISE MILQUETOAST CHILDREN! WHAT HAPPENS NEXT WILL BORE YOU.'” –pugfuggly
“Seems to me sending a birth announcement to the hometown newspaper is more like something June’s mom would do. Which leads to the thought: why don’t we ever see June or Rex’s parents? I mean, I get it, Rex is an incredibly lifelike man machine, but June is presumably a normal human female? Or does the uncanny valley defined by Sarah repel even the strongest of meddling grandparent?” –pastordan
“It could explain why no one ever ages. Dennis, Mr. Wilson, everyone, they’re all clones. Normally they’re released as needed to replace their older selves but the mechanism is breaking down. It’s sending out more and more Dennis clones. It’s time to begin the culling.” –WLP
“Look, Mark Trail, I read the comics to escape. Continuing to feature a series of middle-aged office workers becoming increasingly confused about a series of rapidly changing facts is a little too close to home for my liking.” –James Dowd, on Facebook
“The strip needs to get back to its roots, showing random wildlife lovingly drawn in close up for no reason at all. There’s plenty of room on these guys’ foreheads to place a duck or raccoon.” –Rusty
“His name is John Carter — his daddy’s choice. Well, actually I don’t know who his daddy is, but we had sex in a theatre screening John Carter, because it was empty.” –Ettore
“It’s for work! I’m a grape.” –Ukulele Ike
“What I love about that old Mark Trail you linked to is how the ponytailed bank robber is fretting about the FBI. ‘They have that facial recognition software!’ When we in the audience know that that it took the FBI several weeks of obsessively re-watching the video to even figure out that one of the robbers is a woman. I think you’re okay, guys.” –Rita Lake
“C’mon, Jeffy. He’s wagging his ass in your face again. It would so easy to just reach up and push him over. Do it. Dooooooo iiiiiiiiiit.” –The Mighty Untrained FOOZLE
“‘They remember even longer than mommies!’ ‘That’s because they don’t have access to sweet, sweet booze,’ Thel whispers, as she reaches for her flask to take a few ladylike nips.” –Voshkod
“While I appreciate the inclusion of a Johnny Cash/Carter Family cameo, the artist has denied us the opportunity to see Rex’s face at the exact second he learns his smug supposition was incorrect.” –Joe Blevins
“In spite of the romantic turn the strip is taking I’m going to hold on to the belief that all the characters reproduce asexually, like corals or sponges. It helps explain their appearances.” –Spunky The Wonder Squid
“He killed himself driving drunk and left his boy to be raised by a single mama. Now, that’s taking a country music obsession a little far.” –Where’s Rocky
“Fortunately, he’s dead now, although I’m still feeling guilty for thinking that, so let me compensate by feeling sorry for myself. And how are you, June? Do you ever feel bad about being vastly overpaid for whatever it is that you do?” –But What Do I Know?
“Jaquan ‘The Don’ Case was a very transparent stand-in for LeBron James back when LeBron was still a high school phenom. Trey Davis ended up going to College of Charleston and I am pretty sure was drawn to be black back in 2003, and Hadley V. Baxendale discovered that Jaquan really loved studying and convinced him to go to college for 4 years and not make a trillion dollars in the pros, in the days before the NBA’s age minimum, when his school, Bishop James Tardy, replaced one of the lesser Valley Conference foes (Goshen?) when their entire team was suspended for drinking in the Drinking Cave. Look, I hate that I can recall all of these plot points with ease, but in my defense, I know absolutely nothing about Funky Winkerbean, so I can continue clinging to the remains of my self-esteem.” –Drew Funk
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I was perusing the Cake Wrecks Facebook page the other day (where every follower gets a free invisible puppy!!) when I came across a rather unusual request:
Ahh, so you want to pop open the hood and take a gander inside the wrecks, is that it, Jennifer?
Well, I'm glad you asked.
Hey, Jennifer, you ever wonder how cupcake cakes (ptooie!) keep their icing from falling through all those big gaps?
NOW YOU KNOW.
We just saw last week how a gender reveal cake failed to actually reveal anything - other than plain yellow cake - but here's the opposite problem:
The cake was blue inside with pink icing.
Now I'm going to show you my absolute favorite cake cake wreck of all time, Jennifer, and which I've been hanging onto for just this moment.
First, though, let me explain what (we think) happened:
A bakery was unable to sell a Halloween cake in time, but they didn't want to throw it away or reduce the price. So instead, they simply flipped the entire cake over, icing side down, and re-decorated the other side to make it into a generic birthday design.
CW reader Shannon had no idea of the skullduggery at work until she cut the cake, and found this:
That's a whoooole lotta icing, right there.
(And think how fresh!!)
And finally, I know I posted the video of this over on FB a week or two back, but here's a quick .gif reminder of the importance of proper wedding cake support:
(Watch the original video here to see them both continue to laugh hysterically, which is just adorable. Cutest couple ever!)
Welp, I hope that satisfies some of your blood lust for caketastrophe, Jennifer!
And hey, for the rest of you, the request line... IS OPEN.
Thanks to Cherie O., Leann S., Jaunna, Fribby, Sarah, & Shannon G. for reminding me of those times bakeries accidentally left scissors, a paring knife, and other various cutlery in their cakes - because that was a HOOT. (And also because "TRAUMATIC BIEBER" *still* makes me snort-laugh.)
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Gil Thorp, 7/21/17
AHHHH TREY DAVIS! Trey Davis is the ex-Mudlark who got name-dropped last December, which sent me into such public paroxysms of joy that I have to assume that his appearance now is entirely fan service, which is to say service for me, one of Gil Thorp’s twenty or so fans. I’m thrilled that we’re going to find out about his last decade or so of backstory! Did he get recruited to play college ball? Did he join the army? Did he dye his hair blond as part of the total transformation of his identity that accompanied his military service? Did he found Mudlark Force, an elite, secret special-forces unit comprised entirely of former Milford athletes who wage an undercover war against America’s enemies and learn lessons along the way? Are Heather and Kevin going to be in the Pakistani Federally Administered Tribal Areas less than 24 hours from now? I’M SO EXCITED!!!
Rex Morgan, M.D., 7/21/17
“Ah yes,” says Rex. “People who were popular in high school and got involved in ‘music scenes’ might be charismatic, but they’re generally bad people. You should really tell everyone you named your kid after the the sci-fi character who went to Mars to make love to their sexy princesses. It’s much more respectable.”
Gasoline Alley, 7/21/17
Oh, goody! One of Gasoline Alley’s least appealing regular characters will be engaging in some good old-fashioned sexual competition with a thoroughly unappealing newcomer! It’s a story that will have audiences saying “let’s talk about scrapbooking for seventeen weeks again!”
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By midnight on July 20, 2017, it seemed increasingly likely that Donald Trump will fire the special counsel, Robert Mueller.
Mueller embodies what is admirable in U.S. public service: a wounded and decorated Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam, longtime prosecutor and U.S. Attorney under both Republican and Democratic presidents, 12-year director of the FBI under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, unconnected to scandal or partisan suspicions at any point.
Donald Trump embodies the reverse.
Yet for now Trump has the legal power, directly or indirectly, to dismiss Mueller, if the investigation gets too close to Trump’s obviously sensitive financial concerns. And Trump himself, unaware of history and oblivious to rules, norms, and constraints, has given every indication that this will be his next step.
What happens then? Brian Beutler, of the New Republic, has just put up a bleak scenario, arguing that there really are no guardrails—or, as we observed in Mitch McConnell’s unprecedented stonewalling of a Supreme Court nomination, that the constitutional system’s real protections have been norms rather than formal rules. Someone unconcerned by those norms—McConnell last year, Trump now—can in fact blast right through them. “At the moment there are no reliable sources of accountability,” Beutler writes. “None.”
* * *
There are 52 Americans who have it within their power to prove that dark assessment wrong. Really, it would take a subset of just three of those 52. With the 52-48 current party lineup in the U.S. Senate, a switch of three votes of conscience is all it would take to have this branch of government fulfill its checks-and-balances function.
With three votes, a Senate majority could issue subpoenas and compel sworn testimony from Administration officials. It could empower its own thorough investigation, even re-hiring Robert Mueller to lead it. It could compel Donald Trump to release the tax returns about which he is so evidently nervous. It could act as if America in fact possessed a system of rule-of-law, rather than whim-of-one-man.
Ben Sasse could be one of those three, if he were willing to back up his lectures and essays about ethical public life. Lindsey Graham could, since he and John McCain have kept making the case about Trump’s recklessness. Chuck Grassley, who would be 89 years old the next time he’d have to face the voters. Dean Heller, who is in trouble anyway in a state Hillary Clinton carried, and whom Trump demeans and insults. Rob Portman, who has served in “normal” Republican administrations and could ally himself with his state’s governor, John Kasich, as forces for a principled future GOP. Jeff Flake, who in speeches has positioned himself with appeals to a more moderate politics, and who could take up the Maverick mantle of his colleague John McCain. Of course, McCain himself. Lisa Murkowski, who originally won without Republican Party support. Susan Collins, who drew a line at the rushed health-care bill. Richard Burr, who has made more-or-less common cause with his Democratic colleague Mark Warner on the Senate intelligence committee. Ron Johnson, who has just won re-election and appears to be mad at Trump. Rand Paul, also just elected, if he believed his radical limited-government pitch. Ted Cruz, if he had the courage of his anti-Trump stand at last year’s GOP convention. Even—let’s imagine here—the likes of Tom Cotton, if he were willing to roll the dice and elevate himself as a national figure, for the post-Trump leadership contest against the likes of Sasse, Cruz, and the rest. There are half a dozen other conceivable candidates. I’d like even to imagine John Barrasso, a broadly educated and broad-minded man who has for now thrown his lot in with Mitch McConnell.
It would take only three. Some—Grassley? Heller? McCain if he is able to vote?—might think: What do they have to lose? They might as well wind up with dignity. Others—Paul, Burr, Johnson, Murkowski—are so far away from re-election that a lot will happen in the meantime. And all of them are senators, part of a body self-consciously proud of its independence, its individual judgment, its role in defending the long-term principles of governance.
A country of 300-plus million people, with the world’s largest economy and most powerful military, should not rely for its orderly stability on the decisions-of-conscience of just three people. But the United States may soon be in that situation. These names will go down in history, depending on the choices they make.
Alice Grove is finished. I'm going to take some time to just do QC for a while and then start another side project sometime in the fall. Patreon subscribers will get sneak peeks, advance previews, and other stuff as it develops. Thank you for reading my comics.