Monthly Archives: September 2019

Saturday Odds & Sods: Dark Star

Flying Eyeball by Rick Griffin.

Dr. A and I went to the batshit crazy Saints season opener against the Houston Texans. The game had everything: bad calls, great plays, and a crazy ending. Most importantly, the Saints won with a 58 yard field goal by Will Lutz. It was his career long. The crowd was stunned in a good way. My personal streak of the Saints always winning when I sit in our friend Fred’s end zone seats was imperiled but it’s intact. Stay tuned.

This week’s theme song was written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter in 1968. The music of Dark Star is often credited to the entire band, which seems only fair as it’s the ultimate jam band song.

We have two versions of the Dead’s Dark Star for your listening pleasure. First, the single version, which clocks in at a modest 2:44. It’s followed by a more typical second set medley that commences with Dark Star. It comes from the 12/31/78 closing of Winterland show that my younger self attended.

It’s time for a visit to Dismbiguation City with a swell song written by Stephen Stills and recorded by Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1977.

Now that we’ve bathed in the glow of the Dark Star, let’s jump to the break before the Dead go into The Other One. “Coming, coming, coming around.”

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Garry Wills On The Rights Of Guns

Garry Wills is one of the smartest people and best writers in the country. He’s spent a great deal of time pondering the role of guns in American culture. He nails it in this piece for the New York Review Of Books:

“Gun rights,” as used by devotees of an absolutist Second Amendment, means their right to own guns. But as used in real American life these days (or real American deaths), it means the rights of guns. Guns themselves possess even more rights than persons do.

<SNIP>

Guns’ exemption from common-sense legislation guarantees them not only rights, but also rites. Guns are sacred objects. They should not even be insulted, which is blasphemy. They are “the American way.” They are more than things, more even than persons. They are an unstoppable force, a god. They are, indeed, Our Moloch.

Those are the first and last paragraphs in Wills’ recent piece, The Rights Of Gun. How right is he? Totally. The NRA has become a cult whose second amendment absolutism verges on idolatry. A good example is the fetish some gun worshipers have for strapping on their weapons to go shopping. Who the hell needs a long gun whilst thumping melons at Wal-Mart? Mercifully, they’ve banned such performative rituals and other retailers have followed suit.

I know many gun owners; none of whom feels the need to strut about in public with their weapons. Some hunt, others like to target shoot but they all lock their guns up. OTOH, at an estranged friend’s house, I once sat on the couch and felt something beneath me: a package of bullets. I think he was just a rotten housekeeper but I was not amused.

I’ve never owned a gun. They were verboten in my house. My father was a veteran but he disliked guns. Since he was an interpreter, I doubt if he ever shot anyone but he knew what pistols are for: to kill people. And rifles are for hunting, not grocery shopping. Assault weapons are for the military, not civilians.

I admit to being mystified by the religious fervor exuded by the more extreme gun worshipers. Perhaps it’s a result of having the man who played Moses, Charlton Heston, as NRA president for five years. Whatever it is, it’s creepy and the country is overdue for some sensible gun control measures. It’s time for people to have rights, not guns.

Friday Catblogging: What Do They Have In Common?

Paul Drake and Omar Little both like Honey Nut Cheerios.

Here’s a clip from The Wire:

Mark Sanford Hikes The Appalachian Comeback Trail

It’s getting crowded and confused on the campaign trail. As the Democratic presidential field narrows, the Republican field expands. The latest entrant is former Palmetto State Governor and Congressman Mark Sanford. He’s best known for two things: an embarrassing sex scandal as Governor and losing a primary to a Trumper last year.

Sanford is challenging the Kaiser of Chaos from the right. Even though he voted for the Trump-Ryan tax scam, he’s running as a fiscal conservative. Perhaps he’ll branch out and discuss the other disasters wrought by Team Trump but right now Sanford is lost in the fog of scandal.

Exploding the budget deficit strikes me as one of the lesser Trump scandals. It’s what Republican presidents have done since Reagan: cut taxes, explode the deficit, then try to shred the social safety. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.

Sanford’s fellow former “Freedom Caucus” member, Justin Amash, has cited Trumpian gloating after Sanford’s defeat as a decisive factor in his departure from the GOP. The Insult Comedian is not a gracious winner.

A reminder of  Sanford’s hilarious 2009 sex scandal. He went missing as Governor. While he was holed up in Argentina, his aides claimed that he was “hiking the Appalachian Trail.” He was exposed as a liar, resigned as Governor, was divorced by his wife, and married his Argentine lover. One would think the Insult Comedian would identify with a liar and a cheat but apparently not.

The lame Appalachian Trail excuse was in the news again the other day. Without a hint of irony or self-awareness, Trump has taken to mocking Sanford for it but he’s easily confused: the other day he called it the “Tallahassee Trail.” There is no such thing and anyone who hikes in Florida’s capital city in the summer is apt to get heat stroke. Holy trail mix-up, Batman.

If Sanford had a sense of humor, one of his campaign planks would be to save the Appalachian Trail from the Trump regime and the oil companies. It’s under attack and needs all the help it can get.

There are now three primary challengers to the Current Occupant: Sanford, the Other Joe Walsh, and Bill Weld. The more the merrier. If one of the cable networks schedules a GOP debate, it’s easy to imagine Trump impulsively deciding to participate thereby violating the iron clad rule that incumbent presidents do not debate intra-party challengers because it elevates them. His handlers would be wise to place him in a straitjacket so he won’t accept. It’s where he belongs anyway.

In other campaign news, the Democrats are debating on ABC tonight. I’m undecided as to whether I want to watch. I might have better things to do but if I don’t, I’ll file an instant analysis post.

That’s all, folks.

All Your Base

all_your_base_covfefe_750

Not exactly news, but the competitive North Carolina election was not decided by swing votes. The difference was large numbers of, well Trump voters voting for Trump. It happens, especially in a state Charles Pierce calls newly insane.

However, as I’ve said, Trump is bluffing. Yeah, with some effort, he or his proxy can pull out a bare victory in a solidly red Congressional District, and maybe even motivate a few die-hards who normally don’t vote at all. And in 2016, against a candidate who’d been pummeled for decades and who didn’t exactly inspire, it made for a razor thin “victory” despite a not particularly close loss.

If the Democrats don’t lose (yeah, I know)…they can win. But they won’t win by flailing about in a desperate attempt to triangulate. Trump voters are Trump voters. Reagan Democrats don’t exist anymore.

Same with undecideds. As if anyone could be undecided.

The path to victory is make your base belong to you. Motivate them, and get them to the polls. And it matters in 2020.

After that, depending on the outcome, it might not.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Town Without Pity

You’re not seeing double. The theme song for Town Without Pity was indeed the theme song for the last Saturday Odds & Sods. I did not, however, include a movie poster or book cover. Here they are:

Here’s the trailer for this underrated Kirk Douglas classic:

Finally, one more version of the theme song; this time an instrumental.

Eighteen Years

I try not to make solemn days of remembrance about myself. But I recently had jury duty, which is why I’m bending that rule on the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. September, 2001 was the last time I had jury duty until this summer.

In 2001, you were obliged to serve the entire month, which largely consists of sitting in the over-cooled basement room called the juror’s lounge. It’s uncomfortable so little actual lounging happens there.

I recall hearing a gasp from one of our keepers, followed by a rush to turn on the teevee set. That’s when we saw for the first time the sickening sight of the airplanes taking out the Twin Towers. We were all numb and the room went silent as Dan Rather came onscreen looking shaken and somewhat disheveled.

We were dismissed for the day and eventually for the month. Nobody at Orleans Criminal District Court felt like trying any cases 18 years ago today. It was time to mourn our dead.

My friend Parenthetical wrote a guest post here in 2017. I think he summed my feelings about 9/11 quite well this morning:

Thinking today about everyone involved who didn’t see it coming and got away from it, and thankful for everyone who signed up for any kind of job where you realize what happened and run towards it.

He went on to quote Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising:

Can’t see nothin’ in front of me
Can’t see nothin’ coming up behind
Make my way through this darkness
I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me

Lost track of how far I’ve gone
How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed
On my back’s a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile of line

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Left the house this morning
Bells ringing filled the air
I was wearin’ the cross of my calling
On wheels of fire I come rollin’ down here

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

The last word goes to Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band:

 

Moltin’ Bolton

It’s a testament to the times in which we live that John Bolton was fired for being right about something. John Bolton is almost never right about anything but he was right about the Taliban peace conference at Camp David. Be still my attacking heart.

I’m hoping for a war of words between Trump and Bolton. Both men need enemies and love to fight. But Bolton is much tougher than Trump: he’ll stab his enemies in the front. The Kaiser of Chaos is strictly a backstabber and twitter fighter. The term keyboard warrior was invented for him. Trump is a pussy. He should grab himself.

I was among those who thought the Bolton appointment would lead to a shooting war. I’m glad that I was wrong but it wasn’t for lack of trying. This cartoon still sums up my opinion of Bolton:

President* Pennywise is on the prowl for his fourth national security advisor; That would tie him for second place with Eisenhower, but Ike served two asterisk free terms. The record holder is Ronald Reagan who had six: two of whom were convicted of crimes related to the Iran-Contra scandal and one of whom was pardoned by Poppy Bush. The scary thing is that Trump’s scandals make Reagan look like a piker. So it goes.

Speaking of Iran-Contra, my friend Bill is “rooting” for Oliver North to be the Insult Comedian’s fourth national security advisor. Nothing this president* does surprises me BUT Ollie is at war with Wayne LaPierre and Trump is scared shitless of the NRA. Never gonna happen, my friend.

A brief word about the post title. It’s a play on the word molting, which is when a bird sheds its feathers or an arthropod loses its exoskeleton. Trump is forever molting senior advisers, this time it just happened to rhyme.

Finally, there’s some dispute as to whether Bolton jumped or was pushed. That’s why the last word goes to Richard and Linda Thompson although a gender switch/swap is in order:

 

 

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Ol’ Yellow Eyes Is Back

I’m a slacker Star Trek fan. I don’t speak Klingon and I wasn’t aware that Brent Spiner had recorded an album of standards in 1991: Ol’ Yellow Eyes Is Back.

The album title is a play on Sinatra’s Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back. Spiner’s eyes were yellow when he played Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation and subsequent movies.

The album cover is unremarkable. I picked it because of the punny title and Star Trek connection. The music is pretty darn good as well.

Here are some selected tracks:

Help Women Spread the Vote

DAME magazine, which occasionally lets me write things for them, is running a GREAT campaign to help get out the vote and sustain their women-run journalism at the same time. 

Between now and November 3rd, 20% of DAME’s membership proceeds will go directly to Spread the Vote’s fight to increase access to the polls, remove barriers to voting, and GOTV efforts.

Go, read about it, help if you can!

A.

Giving Us a Monster to Hunt

This essay’s going around and while I haven’t read the book it talks about I found this passage about our current national hellscape very interesting: 

Like McIntosh, I observe little that suggests America has learned anything about race over the past 30 years besides how better to conceal its racism. Trump’s election may have made some anti-racism work easier—getting butts in seats and books in hands—but it also gave well-meaning white people a monster next to which their casual racism now seems tame. It is enough to admit racism exists, that whiteness might be a problem. Any lower and the bar will be in Hades.

Because it will all be over someday, and then we will have to reckon or the beneficiary of all of this will be Nice Polite Republicans  who deplore openly calling a black person the N-word while closing low-income women’s health clinics.

I don’t for a second think the GOP wanted Trump in charge right now, but once they got him, boy did they ever see his uses and maybe this is the biggest one: He gives us a monster to hunt, a grotesque creature locked up in a tower to shake our pitchforks and torches at. He is real, and he is dangerous, and the gargoyles and serpents surrounding him do genuine evil in his name.

But let’s not pretend the countryside stops burning once we rid the castle of the beast. The work of reckoning with the systems we have created and enforced along racial lines since this country’s beginnings is the work of years, and it’s not just in the capital. It’s on every street, in every school, around every corner. I can’t wait until Trump is out of office and we don’t have to pay attention to his stupid tweets anymore but if the kids stay in the cages we haven’t won shit.

Slay the dragon, sure. But then tear down the castle and use the stones to pave a market road. Melt down the candelabras and sell off the art and give the riches of the kingdom to the poorest of the serfs. Let the princes till the soil a while.

A.

Not Everything Sucks

Tom Hanks continues to exist and dork out about powerful women:

In related news this is about to become a Hustlers fan blog, get ready fuckers.

A.

The Boy Ain’t Right: Taliban, Ho

When Trump tweeted about the peace conference with the Taliban, I assumed he was lying. Meeting at Camp David with the terrorist group that sheltered Osama Bin-Laden this close to the 18th anniversary of 9/11 made no sense. Additionally, I assumed that even the Insult Comedian knew it was idiotic to leak news of a failure. I was wrong. It’s true and Trump *is* stupid and delusional enough to tweet about a failure.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

Here’s the deal: to make peace, one has to negotiate with one’s enemies. The Oslo talks between Israel and the PLO are the best example I can think of. But the leaders at the top of the food chain were not involved until a deal was sealed by their subordinates. Being a narcissist, Trump wanted to be the closer, which is one of many reasons this deal collapsed.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

A signing ceremony this close to 9/11 would allow President* Pennywise to make that solemn anniversary about him, not those who died in the attacks.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

The collapse of the negotiations and Trump’s leak make success less likely. I think we should leave Afghanistan as soon as possible BUT Trump has made that much harder. He’s not only discredited himself, he’s discredited peacemaking for the time being. Heckuva job, Trumpy.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

I never thought I’d say anything nice about Dick Cheney’s horrible spawn but at least Liz Cheney had the guts to criticize this move from the right. You know the world is upside down when I say anything nice about any Cheney.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

I wish I could figure out how to make lemonade out of this lemon of a deal. The best I can do is to give The Police the last word with a song that works even better now than it did when it was released in 1980:

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

Quote Of The Day: Pence Does Ireland

On Saturday, I said that Drew Brees ate my Friday. I was being literal, not facetious for a change. I had originally planned to quote the Guardian quoting Miriam Lord of the Irish Times then, but I wanted Drew Brees Agonistes at the top of the blog all day.

It’s never too late to post an anti-Pence quote so here it is:

The Irish Examiner accused Pence of trying to “humiliate” the republic.

But Lord struck the most telling blow.

She described the impact of the Pence visit on Ireland as “like pulling out all the stops for a much-anticipated visitor to your home and thinking it has been a great success until somebody discovers he shat on the new carpet in the spare room, the one you bought specially for him”.

“As Pence read from the autocue and Irish eyes definitely stopped smiling,” she added, “it was clear he was channeling His Master’s Voice. Trump is a fan of Brexit and of Boris.”

“Pence,” Lord continued, “is Irish American and wastes no opportunity to go misty-eyed about his love for the ‘Old Country’ as he lards on his Mother Machree schtick on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Snap.

I might have called it his Quiet Man schtick but that was even funnier. It evokes Pence in a  green bonnet and pantaloons. Pantaloons is one of the funniest words in the language.

Make sure you read Miriam Lord’s column in its entirety at The Irish Times: How Mike Pence Shat On The New Carpet In Ireland’s Spare Room. It was more meta to quote the Guardian quoting her. I like to be meta whenever possible.

The Pence visit was a fiasco. Ain’t nothing worse than a sanctimonious liar. Plus he lied about lining his Master’s pockets by staying 140 some miles outside Dublin at Trump’s Irish joint, which is like staying in Mobile when you’re visiting New Orleans. That’s why I call him Mike Liar, Liar, Pence On Fire.

I guess they didn’t refuel in Scotland but there’s always next time. That’s why I call it the Fog of Scandal.

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – random hysteria edition

Let’s go back and look at an older thread, shall we?

For anyone wondering what the Freeper reaction to the shooting massacre du jour was – I present – Code Toady!

Active shooter reported in Odessa, Texas
Newswest 9 ^ | August 31, 2019 | Victor Blanco

Posted on 8/31/2019, 4:50:31 PM by LUV W

ODESSA, Texas — UPDATE: ACTIVE SHOOTER REPORTED STAY INDOORS FOR BOTH cities

Police confirm a second shooter is in the areas driving a stolen mail van.

Officials are responding to an active shooter in Odessa.

According to the Department of Public Safety, the shooter is in all Gold Passenger car armed with a rifle and headed from Odessa to Midland.

Several people [now reporting 30 shot in Midland and Odessa] have been injured including police and civilians.

1 posted on 8/31/2019, 4:50:31 PM by LUV W
Before we get started, I’d like to compliment long-standing Freeper LUV_W for not changing his/her handle.
Obviously crafted from ancient hand-tooled artisanal stupid, this tribute to once hero / now despised GOP-e icon Dubya shows long-time dedication, and short-term memory loss.
To: maxwellsmart_agent

Where are armed citizens to defend themselves?

8 posted on 8/31/2019, 5:01:16 PM by Reno89519 (No Amnesty! No Catch-and-Release! Just Say No to All Illegal Aliens! Arrest & Deport!)

From someone driving down the highway blasting away with a long gun?  Um – yeah.
To: LUV W

My local news is quoting the New York Times about 2 deaths…they are clueless!

26 posted on 8/31/2019, 5:20:10 PM by KittenClaws (“There is no 1502 Johnson” ~ Joan Hamilton)

How DARE they?? There will be a nasty letter about this tomorrow in the New York………….hmmm.
To: LUV W; null and void
Just in time for the September reconvening of the House and Senate!

Imagine that coincidence!

52 posted on 8/31/2019, 5:39:28 PM by Lazamataz (We can be called a racist and we’ll just smile. Because we don’t care.)

DAMN those deep state congresscritters!!  They’re all in cahoots!
To: LUV W

I know I don’t get out enough, but why do I never get an active shooter loose in my area?

58 posted on 8/31/2019, 5:42:29 PM by Trailerpark Badass (There should be a whole lot more going no than throwing bleach, said one woman.)

Lucky at cards, unlucky at love?
.
“KittenClaws” takes exception to “Trailerpark Badass”s flippancy :
To: Trailerpark Badass

This is the last time I report on local happenings. I’m live in Odessa…and you bunch of chit chats don’t give a crap.

59 posted on 8/31/2019, 5:44:38 PM by KittenClaws (“There is no 1502 Johnson” ~ Joan Hamilton)

This diverts the discussion a tad :
To: KittenClaws

FR is not the friendly community you imagined it was. I know.

62 posted on 8/31/2019, 5:47:27 PM by HalfIrish

Duh.
.
And now, everyone – as promised – CODE TOADY!!
.
To: KittenClaws
“and you bunch of chit chats don’t give a crap.”

What exactly were you expecting, a bunch of caterwauling and FReepers losing their minds???

71 posted on 8/31/2019, 5:51:39 PM by CodeToad ( Hating on Trump is hating on me and Americans!)

That’s tellin’ her, by jingo!
To: CodeToad

Get Bent Toad

77 posted on 8/31/2019, 5:55:04 PM by KittenClaws (“There is no 1502 Johnson” ~ Joan Hamilton)

And – we’re off!
To: KittenClaws

It seems you are bent. Maybe you need to straighten out and stop being such an emotional liberal wanting to cry over everything and demand everyone else joins you.

80 posted on 8/31/2019, 5:56:21 PM by CodeToad ( Hating on Trump is hating on me and Americans!)

Yeah, you liberal whiner! Just because you’re in Odessa and a potential target is no reason to cry over things like mass murder and 17-month-olds getting shot in the face.
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More below the mouldy fold…

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Do the Job Right

Adrastos pointed this out to me last week and I love every word of it: 

What has happened to media revenues in general has happened worst, fastest, and hardest to local publications, newspapers most of all.

This is part of the reason Deb Fallows and I have been reporting on local-journalism innovations (and successes) we’ve seen, such as the Report for America initiative I mentioned in June, and the business model behind the last family-owned daily in MississippiThe Commercial Dispatch in Columbus (and, long before that, the former alt-weekly that has become a leading statewide news source in Vermont, Seven Days, of Burlington).

There’s a few key points here. First, don’t ever give up ownership or control to some outside conglomerate chain bullshit:

Also, like The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi, the paper’s family ownership means that it can spend its modest resources as it chooses. It is not under external-ownership pressure to meet regular profitability targets, which has sent so many small papers into cycles of cutback and decline.

Yup. It’s not so much that being part of a chain will give you more or less money, it’s that it will give you more or less control over what constitutes enough resources to do your job. Shutting down successful profitable operations because they miss quarterly revenue targets, for example, or some other such arbitrary trash.

Quit cutting:

“I think it’s important for newspapers not to keep cutting,”Edward told me at The QT’s office. “If you keep cutting, there’s less and less reason for people to buy the paper. If you want to keep a healthy circulation, you have to make the investment in reporters and providing the news that people can’t find anywhere else.” If there is a “secret” of the paper’s success, he said, it is “that you’re providing information that people can’t find any other place.”

And cover the stuff you need to cover, not the stuff you see other people covering:

“I believe that daily newspapers struggle because they’re so often repeating what’s already been presented, either in social media or on the television news,” Edward said. “But when you have a local newspaper that is presenting news people aren’t going to find anywhere else, I think there will always be a need for that. I think that will allow local newspapers to survive very well.”

You wouldn’t think these would be genius-level insights but you know what I don’t read in here? Any customer-blaming, paradigm-shifting, content-funneling nonsense that implies that what’s working for this small paper isn’t what they should keep doing.

A.

Fine, Let’s Talk About Despair

Ross, like Brooks, always opens his enormous yawp when it’s my turn to blog and I PROTEST, ADRASTOS, HE CAN BE YOURS FROM NOW ON: 

Now a new report from the Senate’s Joint Economic Committee charts the scale of this increase — a doubling from 22.7 deaths of despair per 100,000 American in 2000 to 45.8 per 100,000 in 2017, easily eclipsing all prior 20th-century highs.

By way of comparison to climate change, this summer’s National Climate Assessment estimated that rising temperatures could cause between 4,000 and 10,000 additional heat-related deaths annually by the end of the 21st century. But had deaths of despair remained at 2000-era levels, approximately 70,000 fewer Americans would have died this year alone.

Okay, so clearly “despair” here is designated as “bummed-out feelings” and not “my house is underwater and the insurance won’t pay for it because it was categorized as ‘flood damage’ and I didn’t have a flood rider, and also a hurricane wiped out my hospital and I can’t get my chemo by just like walking into the 7-Eleven and the company I work for doesn’t exist anymore because the goddamn peninsula it sat on washed away last year so yes, I fucking despair.”

Ross’s column is the equivalent of that asshole who, when you mention you are undergoing treatment for depression, tells you he was once a little down because his second cousin died but then he got over it without the help of “pills.”

Let’s dig further into his toolery:

Despite the absence of a CNN marathon on the issue, it’s possible to discern several working theories of the crisis, and to imagine roughly how a “deaths of despair” debate might go:

The Technocrat (voice of Pete Buttigieg): “This is primarily a drug abuse and mental-health crisis, and the only way to solve it is with more and better drug treatment programs, more and better psychiatric care. We’ll save these lives one patient, one addict, one treatment center at a time.”

HAHAHA WHAT A LOSER NO ONE NEEDS MORE MENTAL HEALTH CARE.

The Socialist (voice of Bernie Sanders): “This is obviously an economic crisis! People are despairing because their jobs have been outsourced, their wages are stagnant, the rich have hijacked the economy. Tax the plutocrats, raise the minimum wage, give everybody health insurance, and you’ll see this trend reverse.”

I would never say money solves everything. I know lots of fucking miserable rich people who have no life coping skills. But you know, two thirds of the fights people have with their kids and each other are about money and not having those fights is some kind of solution to despair.

The Cultural Healer (voice of Marianne Williamson): “You can’t just medicate this away or solve the problem with wonkery alone. There’s a spiritual void in America, a loss of meaning and metaphysical horizon. The problem is cultural, spiritual, holistic; the solution has to be all three as well.”

She’s an anti-science crackpot who in no way will be president but she ain’t WRONG, in that people are constantly told the only meaning they can possibly find is in jobs that don’t pay them enough, family that hates them, or a punishing God who tells them they’re sinners.

We don’t validate joy and from the top of this country to the goddamn bottom we’re told all our problems are unsolvable and this column is no exception.

I have written this for the voices of Democratic candidates, but there is an equivalent for Republicans: Instead of the Technocrat, imagine the Enforcer, talking about drug interdiction and border security; instead of the Socialist, the Populist, talking about China and wage subsidies and industrial policy; instead of the Cultural Healer, the Preacher talking about the need for a religious revival while the Online Nietzschean bellows from backstage about restoring masculinity.

Well, honey, at least you know.

This conclusion fits with an earlier argument from The Washington Free Beacon’s Charles Fain Lehman that we should subdivide the “despair” problem into distinct categories: A drug crisis driven by the spread of heroin and fentanyl which requires a drug policy solution; a surge in suicides and depression and heavy drinking among middle-aged working-class whites to which economic policy might offer answers; and an increase in depression and suicide generally, and among young people especially, that has more mysterious causes (social media? secularization?) and might only yield to a psychological and spiritual response.

As advice to policymakers this disaggregation makes a lot of sense, not least because the next president is more likely to improve drug policy than to ban iPhones or usher in religious renewal.

Ban iPhones. You fucking idiot. Young people aren’t upset because they have iPhones, they’re upset because *gestures broadly at everything including the nonstop drumbeat from the pages of our august publications that they’re stupid and doomed to fail.*

Following the link Douthat puts in instead of doing research, we find that OH GOSH BIG SURPRISE the study he’s so obsessed with here is primarily concerned with the “despair deaths” of … white people:

For decades, mortality rates had been falling across the developed world. But in the paper, Case and Deaton identified something odd: Mortality among middle-aged, non-Hispanic whites actually began to rise in the late 1990s, upending the popular assumption rates would decline indefinitely.

Once again, the Times is only concerned with the problems of the suburban mommy and the white coal miner. The rest of us can get fucked.

But at the same time the simultaneity of the different self-destroying trends is a brute fact of American life. And that simultaneity does not feel like just a coincidence, just correlation without entanglement — especially when you include other indicators, collapsing birthrates and declining marriage rates and decaying social trust, that all suggest a society suffering a meaning deficit, a loss of purpose and optimism and direction, a gently dehumanizing drift.

The solution is always for white people to have more babies. Amazing.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Town Without Pity

Cover art for Paul Eluard’s Reflections by Max Ernst.

Extreme heat is the price we’ve paid for missing out on Hurricane Dorian. As cranky as I am, I’m glad this heat-bringing high is warding off any tropical activity. I won’t miss it when it’s gone but I’m glad it’s here as Dorian creeps up the east coast. That storm is a relentless motherfucker. The fucker should return to the attic from whence it came.

Drew Brees ate my Friday morning. I hope he buttons his lip and keeps his foot out of his mouth until after Monday’s game.

The featured image is a collage done by the great Max Ernst for a book by his fellow surrealist, Paul Eluard. You may have noticed that I love surrealist art. I use it a lot in this space and have even threatened to post nothing but Ernst and Magritte featured images for Odds & Sods. I’ve also used an Ernst image for my new Bayou Brief column, 13th Ward Rambler.

This week’s theme song was written by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington for the 1961 Kirk Douglas film, Town Without Pity.  I’d never seen the movie until last weekend. It’s a cross between film noir, Italian neo-realism, German expressionism, and a Cassavetes flick. I liked it a lot and give it 3 1/2 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B+. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

We have three versions of Town Without Pity for your listening pleasure: the Gene Pitney original, Stray Cats, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. My boy Brian knows a hidden treasure when he hears one.

Let’s escape the bleak mean streets of a German town without pity by remorselessly jumping to the break.

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Drew Brees Agonistes

I wrote about Drew Brees and his unfortunate relationship with Focus on the Family in my new not-so secret identity as the Bayou Brief’s 13th Ward Rambler, I should give credit where it’s due to Jenn Bentley of Big Easy Magazine for breaking the story, which, in turn, raised a ruckus on social media. I have a reading assignment for my readers: watch the video, read my piece, then Ms. Bentley’s before proceeding.

Welcome back.

The Saints QB responded yesterday in an awkward not terribly straightforward way, which made matters worse with the folks who were angry and/or disappointed with him. He provided an answer to the question I posed at the Bayou Brief: Wingnut or Conservative. Unfortunately, it’s the former but he’s still a great QB.

My friend Picvocate/Advoyune columnist Stephanie Grace wrote about Drew’s weaselly response so I don’t have to:

After several day of controversy, Brees responded that he knew nothing of the group’s anti-gay activities or “any type of hate-type related stuff.”

“I was not aware of that at all,” he said. He also insisted that the video was not meant to promote any group, and certainly not any group “that is associated with that type of behavior.”

“To me, that is totally against what being a Christian is all about,” Brees said.

Maybe he should have just stopped there, instead of adding that it’s a shame that people are using the controversy to “make headlines” and get clicks. Brees really has nobody to blame for that but himself.

Yeah you right, Stephanie.

Liberal Saints fans seem to be divided into two camps. Those who didn’t already know about his politics are up in arms about the whole mess. Others, like me, are well-aware that Brees is a right-winger. His association with the Focus on the Family fucks dates back at least to 2015 and perhaps even farther. I’m inclined to view this flap as part of what might call the Brees bucket, which contains both The Bad and the Beautiful as the title of one of my favorite movies goes.

One thing we’ve learned about Drew Brees this week: He’s a genius on the gridiron, not off field. Nobody should be surprised by this: the NFL is full of wingnutty white boys. Drew Brees is just one of many.

This episode is simultaneously saddening and maddening. The New Orleans Saints have long been a unifying force in our community. When owner Tom Benson threatened to move the team to his other hometown of San Antonio post-K, the community arose in such righteous indignation that they remained here. Saints fandom was an integral part of what I’ve previously referred to as The Spirit Of ’05.

Drew Brees’ first year with the Saints was 2006 and the team went to its first NFC Championship game. Then they won the Super Bowl after the 2009 season. This season there are high hopes, which, hopefully, will not be dashed on the rocks of controversy.

This mishigas is a vivid reminder of the perils of athletes dabbling in politics, particularly in the Trump era. If you take a stand, someone in your fan base will be offended. That’s especially true in New Orleans, which is a very blue city whereas the Gret Stet of Louisiana is ruby red.

Repeat after me: I’m disappointed by his wingnuttery but not surprised.

The last word goes to one of my favorite writers, the 13th Ward Rambler:

Does this alter my Saints fandom? Hell, no. Football is full of right-wing white boys and I’ve known for years that Drew Brees is one of them. Besides, his views on the Kaepernick kneeling contretemps were more nuanced than expected; he even criticized  President* Trump. That’s why I have no plan to renounce my Saints fandom or return my tickets for the season opener.

I simply want to know if our QB is a wingnut or a conservative.

The answer is, alas, wingnut. As Stephanie put it, Drew Brees should have known better.

Friday Catblogging: Still Missing Della

I’ve mourned all of my cats but this has been the worst. Here’s one of my favorite pictures of the sassy Miss Street.