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“My website was down”

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I hate those terrible words, which from time to time I’m forced to utter, by dint of circumstance. In this case, on Monday I found, to my horror, I could not get into what’s called the “back end” of my blog website—the administrative side. Nor could the public access the front end, which is what you see at steveheimoff.com. What to do?

You never know quite why these things happen or how to fix them. In the end, I’m still not sure what the problem was, although we appear to have resolved it. Thank you Jose, my wonderful webmaster, at Diaz Communications! Something went haywire that made the server think that it was being overwhelmed by traffic, and so, like a faulty immune system, it shut down. Apparently, this wasn’t a bot or anything malicious, just a one-off. As of this morning—Thursday—we’re back up. Thanks to those of you reached out to me, through email, to inquire what was wrong. It’s nice to be missed.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to lie and insult his way through this life. Somebody really ought to draw up a list of all the campaign promises he made that he’s already broken, the most recent being Gingrich’s announcement that “draining the swamp,” a central part of Trump’s campaign spiel, no longer is part of the agenda.

Imagine that! How and why Kellyanne Conway assigned this disinformation task to the reptilian Gingrich is not hard to figure out. Gingrich, more than any other Republican politician prior to Trump himself, was the official party insulter and character assassin. Who better to let the world know of still more Trump bull than the man who made his reputation smearing Democrats?

I sense, also, that the resistance to Trump continues to gather steam, thank goodness. I believe it was Keith Olbermann who coined #TheResistance hashtag on twitter, but we need a better rallying cry, because there’s too much other stuff under #TheResistance, including more hatred of Hillary Clinton. The hashtag #NotMyPresident has proven to have “legs,” as they say, as well as #StolenElection, #PutinPuppet, #ConflictsOfInterest, #NeverTrump, and—my favorite, thank you Hillary–#BasketOfDeplorables, which describes so aptly the nature of the people who voted for Trump. Republican propaganda portrays these people as decent Americans who are down on their luck in the Rust Belt, cheated out of their jobs by evil foreigners, aided and abetted by the Democratic Party, but I don’t buy it. The reason they’re deplorable is because they’re filled with hatred and bigotry, and they don’t have the common sense God gave to a grasshopper’s behind. If they did, they wouldn’t have voted for this fraud, this incompetent greedhead. But then, as Abraham Lincoln noted, you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Trump fooled, and continues to fool, some of the people all the time, but I have a hunch that sooner rather than later this con job he’s pulled off is running thin. It will be hard to wean his supporters off the political crack Trump’s addicted them to, but not impossible. Some are beyond redemption. Others may not have taken the full plunge into unreason and madness; it is they we have to hope and pray will return to their senses.


Obama and Electiongate: Stockholm Syndrome?

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Like many of you, I was puzzled by Obama’s curiously passive response to Electiongate at his Friday press conference. While most Democrats, and even many Republicans, view Russia’s actions as a form of cyberwarfare—some have called it a digital Sept. 11—Obama’s message seemed to be: This sort of thing happens all the time. No big deal. Chill out.

The President refused to blame it directly on Putin, as his CIA and FBI have done. He refused to say it influenced the results of the election, as Hillary Clinton has charged (and most of us agree with her). Nor did Obama point the finger at James Comey, whom most of us believe violated the Hatch Act for partisan reasons. And while Obama had called, a week ago, for an investigation into Electiongate, during his televised news conference he appeared peculiarly listless: no outrage, no sense of alarm or perturbation. This was “No Drama Obama” at his coolest, but it demands an explanation. Why the lack of passion? Why is he underplaying Electiongate’s severity?

As I watched the news conference—which was delayed a good 20 minutes due, I think, to the breaking news that the FBI had signed on to the CIA’s analysis—I kept wondering when Obama would let loose and scream bloody murder. To no avail: he was relentlessly unemotional, speaking in a monotone, frequently pausing to “uhh,” and refusing to take any bait offered by a press corps that seemed as weirded out as I was by the President’s lack of affect. It was all very frustrating and puzzling to those of us who thought that here, at last, was an opportunity for Obama to come out swinging, hard—against Russia, against Comey, against Trump, against the lies and corruption that brought Hillary down and have tried to destroy him as well. And yet he refused to do so. It was almost like watching a victim of Stockholm Syndrome.

I wasn’t the only one who noticed Obama’s mealy-mouthed response to Electiongate. Yesterday’s New York Times, on the front page, called him “wary” and “cautious,” polite terms, I think, for irresolute. Saturday’s Wall Street Journal had an editorial, “Obama Goes Off the Clinton Script,” that noted, astonished, how Obama claimed “the emails stolen from John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee were ‘not some elaborate complicated espionage scheme.’” Calling the hacking and subsequent leaking “pretty routine stuff,” the most severe Obama could get was to declare that he would “take action” against Russia and Putin. But when? How? FDR didn’t wait until some future date to retaliate against the Japanese for Pearl Harbor. Will Obama release the evidence of wrongdoing on Russia’s part, which many Americans are asking for? Why is he—who has twice won the presidency—not going off the rails at how this recent election was, in effect, controlled by the Russians with, probably, inside knowledge of the Trump campaign? I mean, how bad does it have to get before the President shows some righteous anger?

So I’m scratching my head. Here we have Democrats, and tens of millions of people who voted for Hillary Clinton, outraged at Republicans; we know now that Donald Trump “won” the presidency illegitimately, we know we warned the country for months this was happening, and we are demanding that something be done about it. And here we have a President who, on Friday, live on T.V., could have and should have given articulate voice to our outrage. Obama could have been FDR speaking to Congress the day after Pearl Harbor, or JFK talking about Cuba to the American people, or George W. Bush on top of that car at Ground Zero, talking into the bullhorn. Obama could have been a President who rallied the people to a justified cause, in this acute, massive scandal. Instead, Obama chose, for his own reasons, to make it sound like he was talking about soybean subsidies.

The only explanation I can come up with—and it’s not a very satisfactory one—is that Obama feels personally responsible for a smooth transition to a Trump presidency, and is concerned about how he would look if, in his remaining month in office, he were seen as creating even more partisan divisiveness. This may be so—that theory fits in with what we know of his character, which is generally averse to confrontation. But I must say that, this time, Obama has let me down. Fortunately, he still has time to seize the moral high ground and come out swinging against what he well knows are dark, evil forces. He should remind himself—or be reminded—that his responsibility is not to ensure a smooth transition to an incompetent, mendacious incoming President, but to speak truth to History.


How long does Trump have?

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This is a short post. Trump is off to the worst start of any President-elect of my lifetime, and I’ve seen a lot of them. He will take the oath of office—if he indeed does—under a dark cloud of suspicion. Democrats clearly are concerned about his massive conflicts of interest, which he has done nothing to dispel and in fact has only added to by letting it be known that his exotic animal-slaughtering sons will run his businesses. Republicans are rightfully concerned that Trump is an ignoramus who will get this country into crazy foreign policy debacles they will be answerable for. Trump’s love of Russia and Putin is the leading example of what Republicans are dealing with. The GOP is a party that has spent generations loathing the old Soviet Union and, since its fall, Russia. Now they have a President-elect who respects Putin more than he does most Republicans, and certainly more than he does the current President of the United States. There are many people, in both parties, who do not wish to see Trump inaugurated. There is pressure on the Electors to cast their votes for Hillary Clinton. I do not think it will work. Trump will be sworn in—but his problems will mount after that, because the internal contradictions of his vile campaign cannot be resolved, but will only grow and grow until—what? What will it take for his supporters to realize they have made the biggest mistake of their lives? I don’t know. Denial is “a river in Africa,” as they say, but it is also very hard to get people who are in denial to admit to their errors. Trump’s Republican voters are locked into their ideology: for them to admit they were mistaken to vote for him is for them to admit they are idiots. I think they are; I think they’re the most mentally unhinged people in this country; I fear them and pity them. But it doesn’t matter what I think, what matters is how they perceive the coming of this horrible liar and unhinged bully as Leader of the Free World, as we used amusingly to refer to the POTUS. When Trump starts losing them—and I believe he will, by Spring–he will have lost all, and then it’s up to Congressional Republicans to take the trash out.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Electiongate casts a pall of illegitimacy over Trump’s election

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When it comes to criminal investigations, there are two kinds of Republicans. The first kind is ALL Republicans when the alleged criminal offense concerns a Democrat, namely, Hillary Clinton and her private email server. The second kind is VERY FEW Republicans when the crime concerns a Republican, namely, the Trump campaign’s use of Russia interfering with an American Presidential election.

In both cases, there was the possibility of criminal activity: Hillary endangering national security through her use of a private email server, and the far more serious case of Putin’s Russia deliberately swinging the recent election to Trump. In Hillary’s case, even though there was not the slightest shred of evidence that she committed a crime—and the FBI exonerated her twice—every single Republican in Congress demanded that she be jailed, or investigated, hounded out of town, denounced. Now, of course, much to the chagrin of these Republicans, she’s been 100 percent, absolutely, totally exonerated, but have we heard a single Republican anywhere who’s come out and said, “I guess we were wrong about Hillary. Sorry, Ms. Clinton!” Nope. And there never will be, for Republicans never own up to their lies.

Now we have another instance in which there seems to be a crime, and a far more serious one, than the accidental use of a private server, and that is Electiongate. You’d think a supposedly reputable American newspaper, regardless of its political orientation, would want to get to the bottom of this unprecedented situation. But no, you’d be wrong. The Wall Street Journal thinks it’s all a “Democratic attempt to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election,” or so says their lead editorial from yesterday.

Which makes the Wall Street Journal the best and latest example of the second kind of Republican, the kind who doesn’t want an investigation if its target is a Republican. This is the same rightwing newspaper that was obsessed with jailing Hillary Clinton, whose editorial page ranted every chance they got about national security and coverups and how unfit for office Hillary was. When it all proved to be a big yawner (which most of us knew all along it was), did the WSJ apologize for their witch hunt? As if!

Now we have, as I say, a far more chilling scenario: Electiongate. And yet here’s the WSJ sucking up to Trump. They even have the nerve to portray Electiongate as “fake news” (!!!!), and they try to dismiss McConnell’s calling for hearings as a “non-story.”

Why not just call Electiongate a “third-rate burglary,” as Nixon did about Watergate, a scant 1-1/2 years before he was impeached? The Wall Street Journal has said some pretty awful things on their editorial page, but to attempt to sweep Electiongate under the rug is the worst ever. Nor will it succeed.

Look: there can’t be a single reasonable person in this country who doesn’t understand that we should at least expend the slightest effort to find out if, in fact, Putin’s Russia interfered with the recent election by hacking Democratic emails and leaking them to Wikileaks. Why would anyone be against hearings to get to the bottom of the matter? If there’s no there there, as Trump and the Wall Street Journal insist, fine. We’ll all be able to say, Well, we looked into it, there’s nothing there, so sorry, Mr. Putin, sorry, Mr. Trump. (Democrats, you see, do apologize when we’re wrong.)

But how are we supposed to know what really happened unless we investigate?  Because the truth is, until we know the truth, there IS a giant question mark hanging over the results of this election. There IS an air of illegitimacy, and there always will be, no matter how much the Wall Street Journal denies it.


New reviews, mainly Petite Sirah

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The wine still comes in, not the tsunami like when I was working, but apparently, some people still value my reviews. Here are two new wines from Adler Fels that show this venerable winery still knows how to roll, at a fair price.

Adler Fels 2015 “The Eagle Rock” Chardonnay (Russian River Valley-Monterey County); $20. A union of two appellations 200 miles apart, but both cool climate. The wine is made in the popular style, with its array of ripe, forward mango, pear, peach, vanilla and honeysuckle flavors. The texture is creamy, the acidity vibrant. Easy to drink. Score: 88 points.

Adler Fels 2014 Pinot Noir (Santa Rita Hills-Russian River Valley); $28. Another union of far-flung AVAs, but why not? The results speak for themselves. The wine is precocious at first. “Rude” is the first word that popped into my head. It will be better by, say, 2018, when the parts begin to meld. Raspberries, cola, red currants, licorice, spices and smoke are the flavors. The mouthfeel is delicate. Score: 89 points.

PETITE SIRAH

PS I Love You, the trade and marketing group, has sent me a bunch of Petite Sirahs for review, so here goes. But first, what do I look for in a proper “Pet”? Petite Sirah must be exuberant and robust. No wimpiness allowed! Among the fullest-bodied of red wines, it wants to feel Rubensesque in the mouth: voluptuous, big-boned, and curvy. At the same time, it wants to be red-carpet elegant. No mean feat! The wine is always going to be somewhat rustic, a word too often misunderstood to mean “cheap,” that derives simply from the Latin word for “agriculture,” and refers to the honorable ancient tradition of providing quality provisions from the earth. Columella, whose first-century book, “De Re Rustica”, gives us an accounting of Roman life, actually includes the first recorded recipe for olive tapenade, a dish with which a good Petite Sirah would be happy to conjoin. Petite Sirah used to be impossibly tannic; modern growing and production techniques have tamed it, but tannins—as well as dark color—remain mainstays of its personality. And it will always be heady. I am suspicious of Pets with alcohols below 14.5 as they may have been manipulated. Where does the variety grow best? Warm climates! If it’s not entirely ripe, it will reek of the veggies.

Stanton 2014 Petite Sirah (St. Helena); $45. Alcohol 15.3%, 300 cases produced. They grow really good Petite Sirah in St. Helena, where the grapes get ripe and the growers can afford the best viticultural practices. This is a remarkable wine, but be forewarned, it’s almost as heady as Port, although it’s entirely dry. Pitch-black in color, with a muted aroma, it wants a little time in the bottle, or in the decanter. The blackberry jam, cassis, chocolate and vanilla shavings, beef teriyaki, graphite and pepper flavors are deep, intense and long-lasting. In a word, delicious. Score: 93 points.

Kokomo 2013 Petite Sirah (Dry Creek Valley); $32, alcohol 14.5%. Inky-black. There’s quite a bit of new French oak here (30%), but the wine is so voluminous, it easily handles it. It’s big, jammy, thick in glycerine, and the winery has done the consumer a service by holding it back this long from general release so that it’s juuuuust beginning to soften. Tiers of blackberry jam, cocoa dust and crushed white pepper, with meaty, salty notes: beef jerky. As huge as the fruit is, the finish is entirely dry. These sorts of wines will age forever, but there’s no point in hanging onto it when you can drink it now with barbecue. Score: 92 points.

Page Mill 2014 Estate Vineyard Petite Sirah (Livermore Valley); $??. Another dark, thick, tannic Petite Sirah, flooded with blackberry jam, cassis, toast, beef jerky, cocoa dust and crushed white pepper flavors. There’s also quite a tang of acidity. The wine is a little clumsy now. Try stashing it for three or four years, then drinking it with barbecue. Score: 87 points.

Barra of Mendocino 2014 Petite Sirah (Mendocino); $22. Alcohol 14.5%. Inky black: check. Full-bodied: check (you can tell from the glycerine stains). Blackberry jam and chocolate shavings: check. Big tannins: check. Dry finish: check. This wine offers classic Petite Sirah personality, but it does turn a little overripe and raisiny in the finish, which is a problem. The wine is from inland Mendocino, in the Ukiah hills. Score: 84 points.

Bogle 2014 Petite Sirah (California): $11. Alcohol 13.5%. This wine isn’t very good, but it’s drinkable, and the price is everyday. The problem is ripeness and concentration. Both are compromised, so the blackberry flavors have a raw, veggie note of asparagus. Score: 82 points.

More reviews in coming days.


Could ElectionGate be Trump’s undoing?

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Many of us expected Trump to fail sooner rather than later. His lies and incompetence, his sheer cynicism, the banality of his thinking, his vengeance, the way he’s already selling out his supporters, stacking his administration with billionaire bankers, and—last but not least—the fact that a hell of a lot more people voted for Hillary Trump than for him: there have got to be karmic paybacks.

But who knew it would happen this soon?

ElectionGate may be the straw that breaks Trump’s back. We knew that a lot of Congressional Republicans didn’t like him. Ditto for Governors and other GOPers down to the precinct levels. His election caught them by surprise, as it did us Democrats, and many of them already had earned his resentment by not supporting him during the campaign. In my lifetime, I’ve never seen a President-elect whom so many people, including those from his own party, were waiting to fail.

For a while, Trump looked like Teflon. The insults and fabrications he threw out by the score after announcing his candidacy did him no harm. In fact, some people said they were exactly why his supporters loved him. After his election, his continued lies, like “I won in an electoral landslide” and “I won the popular vote if you subtract the millions who voted illegally,” also did little to shake the confidence of his true believers. One had to suspect, however, that Republican elected officials who weren’t entirely insane were shaking their heads at the prospect of such a mentally unbalanced individual becoming President; but they were afraid to say anything publicly.

What’s changing now is, of course, this unprecedented situation Trump’s gotten himself into with ElectionGate. He loses on every front: he looks like he’s sucking up to Putin and Russia, possibly for his own personal enrichment; he’s insulted his own national security apparatus via his attacks on the Central Intelligence Agency; and he’s enabled Republican Senators, including Lindsay Graham, Mitch McConnell and John McCain, to publicly break with him on the topic of hearings.

What could be motivating Trump? After all, this is pretty extreme stuff, even for him. We know he likes the publicity that attaches to controversy, but Trump is taking risks here that seem highly dangerous to him. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, starting with Putin. Trump’s made no secret of his inclination to re-jigger America’s relationship with Russia. I think a lot of Americans wonder why the U.S.-Russia relationship seems to be in tatters. Honestly, who cares about Crimea? Then too, Russia seems to be against ISIS in a major way. We say we are, too, so why can’t the two of us team up? And when it comes to Bashir Assad, isn’t he better than ISIS to lead Syria?

I wonder about these things. As a World War II history buff, I’m well aware that the U.S. allied with Russia to defeat Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan, even though politically we differed with them. Why can’t we do that now? Trump is raising an interesting question.

Still, for him to take on the CIA and the Republican establishment is a huge roll of the dice. Yesterday, McConnell announced he was onboard with a Congressional investigation into ElectionGate. House Republicans so far haven’t been as restive as their Senate colleagues, but that could change over the next few days, as the media seriously begins digging into this mess, and the public, when not preoccupied by the holidays, starts to take notice.

Incidentally, another Trump lie. This is from his twitter feed yesterday: Unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn’t this brought up before election?” This is so mendacious, I don’t even know where to begin. It’s a massive lie to say that nobody brought up the Russian connection to the emails before the election. It was all over the news throughout October; even I blogged about it on Oct, 18, and by Oct. 30, I’d learned enough from the mainstream media about Russia’s involvement to blog about it again, writing that “Putin…wants Trump to be President.”

But I’ve given up on Trump’s voters feeling indignation about his lies. They’re so lost in LaLa Land that, as he once boasted, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” You can’t fix stupid. But Congressional Republicans are different. A lot of them are stupid, but a lot aren’t. The question they face now with ElectionGate is whether to follow their consciences, or to follow Trump into the Land of Partisan Lies. Usually Republicans do the latter; they crossed the Rubicon into immorality years ago when they embraced the sick corpses of evangelicism and the alt.right. But sometimes, even a Republican can surprise you. Maybe McCain, Graham, McConnell and a few others actually remember a time when they were ethical. Maybe they miss those days, and long for a return to them. Well, ElectionGate is giving them the excuse they’ve been looking for. We’ll see if they have the cojones to take down this pathological liar.


ElectionGate: the Putin-Assange-Comey-Trump conspiracy

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I hate to play the “I told you so” game, but as far back as Oct. 30, I describeda conspiracy…hatched in darkness and anonymity, [whose] leaders are the foursome of Donald Trump, Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, Vladimir Putin and James Comey,” the latter being, of course, the discredited head of the FBI.

Their little plot was designed—by whom? When? We already know why: to defeat Hillary Clinton. It worked: Trump was indeed elected President, at least by the Electoral College, if not by the American people, who preferred Hillary Clinton by a wider margin—approaching 3 million votes—than ever before given to a losing Presidential candidate. (And by the way, another Trump lie: as recently as yesterday, he still was insisting that his victory was “an electoral landslide” when, in fact, his 302-232 margin ranked 46th out of 58 U.S. presidential elections.)

At any rate, over the weekend this thing has erupted. What shall we call it? #ElectionGate? At first, my worry was that the media was barely taking notice. But on Friday the HUUUGE news broke: “Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House,” the Washington Post reported. That same day, the New York Times put it in equally stark terms: “Russian Hackers Acted to Aid Trump in Election, U.S. Says.” The article explains: American intelligence agencies have concluded with ‘high confidence’ that Russia acted covertly in the latter stages of the presidential campaign to harm Hillary Clinton’s chances and promote Donald J. Trump…”.

Once upon a time, Russian meddling in an American Presidential election would have been considered a casus belli by Republicans and Democrats alike, back in the days of “Politics stops at the water’s edge” when patriotism, not politics, motivated Republicans. As this story unfolded in October and November, initial Republican tactics were their usual brew of obstruction and denial. GOP leaders have refused to support efforts by Democrats to investigate any possible Trump-Russia connections.”

But what a wild ride it’s been since last week. It started when the Washington Post reported that “Republicans [are] ready to launch wide-ranging probe of Russia, despite Trump’s stance.” What was that stance? “Trump mock[ed] American intelligence assessments that Russia interfered with the election on his behalf.” Now, as the war between Trump and the Central Intelligence Agency escalates, senior Republicans finally are getting nervous. Senator John McCain, the party’s 2008 nominee, “called for forming a select [Senate] committee…to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.” This is interesting. Some of us have been waiting for disgruntled Republican “moderates,” i.e. the non-Tea Party, less insane wing of the GOP, to strike back at Trump, whom they loathe and fear; but we knew it would take something extraordinary. #ElectionGate could be it. The President-elect, meanwhile, is doubling down on his mockery, telling Fox “News” yesterday the CIA’s finding was “ridiculous” and repeatedly insulting the agency. Now, we need to revert to the FBI’s head, the unfortunate James Comey, against this background: the FBI has always been a Republican-leaning outfit, ever since the conservative (and closeted) J. Edgar Hoover started it, in 1935.

That Comey illegally interfered with the election, there can be no doubt; as I pointed out on Nov. 2., Comey violated the Hatch Act law by “interfering with or affecting the result of an election,” a crime punishable by “remov[al] from his position.” Now, whether you think the U.S. should or should not shift its focus towards Russia and become friendlier—which is a political question about which reasonable people can disagree—you should nonetheless be concerned when a country of the size, power and ideological persuasion of Russia hacks into the emails of both political parties, conceals those of Republicans, forwards the Democrats’ to the Republican Julian Assange, who then sends them, albeit indirectly, on to the Republican James Comey, who then announces, a mere 10 days before the election, that his agency was re-opening its investigation of Hillary Clinton, a bulletin that he knew, and Assange knew, and Putin knew, and Trump knew, would destroy Hillary’s chances of getting elected.

Therein lies the commotion of this past weekend. Look: We, the American people, Republican and Democrat alike, have got to get to the bottom of this Putin-Assange-Comey-Trump conspiracy. Something horrible has happened that’s far beyond mere dirty politics. This has been an assault on our Constitution, our elections, our freedoms, our democracy, on America itself. If Hillary Clinton had been implicated in such a scheme, Republicans would be demanding her head on a pike. Are Republicans like McCain merely feigning outrage and hoping this storm blows over, as most storms do in our twitterized news cycle? Or are they serious about standing up to their President-elect and getting to the bottom of this? We’re about to find out.


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