I check the meaning of the word “don” in the online free dictionary, and am told it means either “A person of great importance (arch.)” or “The head of a Mafia family”. The latter sounds like more fun, so let’s pursue it. But wait, a lady from St. Louis, Missouri, has already done so, as I found from reading the Toronto based Globe & Mail newspaper. Her name is Sarah Kendzior. Let’s see what she wrote just as she wrote it:

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 4.42.17 PMIn May, Americans learned that under its new seemingly autocratic administration, the subject of an investigation can fire the investigator. One month later, that fired investigator, former FBI head James Comey, appeared before the hearing to describe an executive branch that operates less like a democratic institution and more like a cross between a Mafia shakedown and an audition for The Apprentice. Transparency, checks and balances, and due process have been replaced by secret dinners, loyalty oaths and casual declarations of obstruction of justice.

Fortunately, James Comey took notes.

On Wednesday, Mr. Comey released a copy of his opening statement describing his private meetings with President Donald Trump, culled from memos he wrote immediately after their encounters. They would make a great crime novel, if the crime weren’t the desecration of democracy and we didn’t have to live in it.

According to Thursday’s testimony, Mr. Trump – like a Mafia don – demanded unquestioning loyalty from Mr. Comey. And like a good public servant, Mr. Comey said he could only offer honesty. The President bargained that down to “honest loyalty,” which can be interpreted as a demand that Mr. Comey sacrifice his professional integrity for blind devotion to Mr. Trump. “We had that thing you know,” the President said, a phrase the former FBI director claimed he did not understand but which evokes Cosa Nostra a bit too well.

Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 4.51.17 PMThen, of course, Mr. Trump fired him.

Since taking office, the President has run the U.S. more and more like a kleptocracy – a predictable move given his shady international ties and the corrupt nature of many of his past business ventures. But while Mr. Trump evokes foreign autocrats, his management style resembles that of an American mafioso. He views NATO as akin to a protection racket, public officials as personal minions, and the GOP as bound to a vow of Omerta. Refuse to comply, like Mr. Comey did, and face consequences.

His hearing was an important alternative to the obfuscation and propaganda of the Trump administration. Unlike most U.S. pundits and politicians, Mr. Comey called a lie a lie. He noted that for the first time in his tenure, he felt obligated to document his meetings with the President because he assumed that the President may be dishonest about their encounter. He said he needed his own records to defend not only himself, but the FBI.

This is a horrifying revelation on several levels. Mr. Comey confirmed that the President could not be trusted to look out for anyone’s interest but his own, and that threats to national sovereignty were of lesser concern to him than whether he and his cronies are implicated. In other words, the person tasked with protecting the American people is a person from whom the American people need to be protected. Mr. Comey strongly affirmed that the U.S. had been attacked by Russia, and gave no indication that in their interactions, Mr. Trump found this situation undesirable.

Mr. Comey kept a diary as democracy was dying – his own job among its casualties. By recording the meetings as they occurred, Mr. Comey’s records are legally admissible, bypassing the hearsay rule. But will his efforts matter? The hearings gave no indication that the GOP is willing to act on the evidence not only of collusion, but of flagrant obstruction of justice.

Republicans who once called for a non-partisan investigation of Russian interference now seem frightened into complicity. Former staunch Kremlin critic Marco Rubio – who had dinner with President Trump a few days ago, seemingly with a side order of a loyalty oath – treated Mr. Comey like a hostile witness. John McCain, who initially led the investigation charge, was barely coherent, confusing Mr. Comey with Mr. Trump and implying Hillary Clinton’s e-mails were somehow behind it all.

Mr. Comey’s firing showed how casually the Trump administration will violate norms, and the President’s open admission that he did so in order to get Mr. Comey off his back showed how casually he will disregard laws. This disregard is based on confidence that there will be no repercussions, and the cowed performance of the GOP makes his assumption seem reasonable. Even if the investigation is carried out, and crimes are confirmed, who will act on the findings?

Likely not Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, who as Mr. Comey noted, participated in his firing despite the fact that he is supposed to have recused himself from an investigation in which he, too, is implicated. The rot of the Trump administration runs deep, and extends beyond the U.S. borders. In a heartbreaking hearing, James Comey pledged allegiance to a version of the United States that is slipping away.

“A republic, if you can keep it,” Ben Franklin famously said. Mr. Comey tried.”

Well, there you have it. I don’t necessarily agree, mind you, but mark the “necessarily”. Thank you for this, Sarah Kendzior.

We Brits sure know how to have fun! Last night as the sun was settling down behind the mountains on the western horizon, in the gardens of Santa Monica’s very stylish Fairmont Miramar Hotel overlooking the beach, there was a promotion and celebration of all things British as it exists in the fair city of Los Angeles, California.

It was a kind of fancy dress party, inspired and themed by some members of the DOWNTON ABBEY cast who were present and being honored. This is Hollywood, after all. So we “expats” were invited to attend dressed up, if possible, in something suggesting the flapper era of England, circa 1920.

Since the story begins around the time of the S.S.Titanic sinking, and progresses on up into the twenties, there was scope for a wide choice of costume. The only other fancy dress ball I ever attended was as a child when my parents sent me as a choir boy and I won first prize. So I decided to be a man of the cloth, dressed in a cheap RC priest outfit (their robes don’t change an inch), and for good measure took a young friend who came dressed as a prostitute picked up on the way in, and whom I’d brought with me to convert. She was bursting out here and there, torn slip, retro French knickers, suspenders, seamed stockings and all. There we were, arm in arm, and quite a few heads turned.

And so the evening began, with Tin Pan Alley entertainment, tapdancing exhibitions, a lively banjo-led band, and touchy feely dancing. And we know how to enjoy being silly and sexy, as well as serious.

An Irish tourist came running up, fell to his knees, and begged me to hear his confession. He wanted to know where my church was. He was quite serious, if a little drunk on the great spiked Ginger Beer coolers. I told him I was a traveling priest, used a kind of modest curtained pope-mobile, and could come his way on prior notice. He scribbled me his motel address. It was only when I told him to bring his Master Card or cash, that he figured out that I was maybe not what he thought I was. Then I saw a couple of very attractive women sitting in a corner. I asked who they were, and they rather sheepishly confessed they were on the organizing committee, and were — Americans!

I found again many of my old and dear friends, and we duly swapped cards, past attitudes forgotten and forgiven. Attached to my business card is my California Notary card, designed unsubtly to let people know that I am able to 1. tell the truth, 2. keep secrets, and 3. uphold the law. This is Hollywood.

Famous British companies are well represented, Boots, Jaguar, Cunard and all, and I look forward to wandering around this week in search of having a good time while learning more of the business side of it, which in this economy gets to be the point. But as of this week, with the stock market at all time highs and employment improving, there is hope and a renewing spring-like step in the air. Entrepreneurship is budding.

The Lesula monkey, above, hidden away in the jungles of the Congo, was previously unknown to scientists.

Does he (or she) know something that we don’t?

Let’s take time out, and marvel at the stunning mysteries still waiting to be discovered, and shared, on our amazing planet.

March 20, 2010

Dear old Noel.  After a series of health problems, including heart bypass surgery, strokes and cancers, he finally succumbed to prostate cancer today around noon.

He was a quite a character.  From Dorset, England, he emigrated to the States many years ago, and never lost his Dorset accent.

I first met him at Elysium, Topanga Canyon’s much-missed nudist retreat, where he lived in a little cabin by the pool, and where we had many a long chat, mostly about our sailoring days in the British merchant navy. He drew my logo up above, "Showbiz Meets the Law".

His many friends will miss him, his stories, his writing, his sketching talents, and his skewering caricatures.

This says it better than I can.