Monthly Archives: September 2020

She’s Dead, and Life is Possible. She Made It Possible.

We had built a fire in the backyard on Friday because it was the first night it seemed cold enough to do so. It took forever to get it started. The wood was cold and a little damp from sitting in the garage all summer. The butane lighter was starting to run out of juice and we didn’t have any matches. We snapped sticks for kindling, crumpled up paper and scrap cardboard, lit it over and over and over again.

When the logs finally caught, we sat back in camp chairs, roasted marshmallows. I’d been telling myself and Mr. A and Kick, who is six, that we would get through the winter with this fire pit. Even if there was a foot of snow, we would shovel out a spot and have little parties out here, just the three of us and the very few people admitted into our quarantine circle.

It got dark. Kick counted stars. The logs popped and settled and I pondered building the fire back up. We could stay up late, could open another bottle of wine, could make just one more s’more. It took almost an hour to get this fire going. Seemed a shame to waste it.

Kick and Mr. A took a walk while I started a new book. They came back, sat down, and he looked at his phone.

There are, and always have been, ways to change a hopeless world. Maybe no one knew that as well as Ginsburg: 

Earlier, I spoke of great changes I have seen in women’s occupations. Yet one must acknowledge the still bleak part of the picture. Most people in poverty in the United States and the world over are women and children, women’s earnings here and abroad trail the earnings of men with comparable education and experience, our workplaces do not adequately accommodate the demands of childbearing and child rearing, and we have yet to devise effective ways to ward off sexual harassment at work and domestic violence in our homes. I am optimistic, however, that movement toward enlistment of the talent of all who compose “We, the people,” will continue.

Despair is an insult, to the memory of someone like that. So what’s to be done? Fight, obviously. Fight not just with words and statements and stern tweets but with quorum calls and sit-ins on the floor, with every tool your arsenal, with every inch of your resolve be it polite and acceptable to pundits or no.

The last time this happened, this what could have been done: 

First, they’d initiate a quorum call or a roll-call vote. This, of course, would require a Democrat to be in the chamber, and perhaps several other Democrats to support a request for a vote or quorum call.

However, their physical presence in the chamber does not mean they automatically count toward a quorum. The Senate does not have turnstiles to count people as they enter or exit; instead, senators usually count toward a quorum when they cast a vote or answer when their names are called during a quorum call (more on this below).

Getting a vote on a procedural matter would require some rejecting unanimous consent agreements that preclude spontaneous roll-call votes and some preparation, perhaps in consultation with the Senate parliamentarian.

Make them show up, every day, every time. Make them pick nits. Make them maneuver. Make them MAD. Make them tired. Make them work. Make them do it over and over and over again. Could they overcome this or any other parliamentary procedure you throw at them? Of course they could. THAT’S NOT THE POINT.

The point isn’t to win. The point is to fight. To slow it all down. To make them pay for every inch they take. To drag this out until it’s impossible to justify the cost of the fight. To make it politically unwise to continue. To focus attention.

And once and for all time to make it clear that when something matters you show up armed to the teeth.

For too long we’ve accepted “there was nothing else we could do” as if it’s somehow ever okay to say that as long as you’re alive. Yes, we continue to ride that Democratic pony because the choice is between that pony and an angry sexually ravenous wolverine with mange and we’re not idiots, but it doesn’t mean we can’t kick that pony in the ass. Especially when the pony keeps asking us for money.

We’re out here phone banking and letter-writing and digging pennies out of the couch cushions and throwing cash we can’t afford to give at candidates who have no shot in hell and what we want to see, as we home-school our kids and side-hustle for more side hustles to keep up with rising expenses and the absurd need for food and heat, is a level of fight that understands and honors that.

That feels as desperate as this does, as we do. That seems to suit the occasion. That takes us seriously. That doesn’t justify racism or bigotry but instead of acting like we’re in some kind of debating society calls fascism and idiocy what it is, punches it in the face and leaves it by the side of the road.

You want to say something matters to you? Then what are you prepared to do? I know people are sick of me saying this and I should probably grow up, but what are you prepared to do? If the answer from those who are empowered to represent us is something like, “sit around waiting for David Brooks to be disappointed enough to write a column about it” then get out of the goddamn chair and let someone else sit in it.

Someone who has ideas about what to do, instead of how to get away with doing nothing.

The fire burned out fast. I wanted another drink but wanted to check in on friends too and I’m too old to drunk-text with any dexterity; it was time for Kick to go to bed and she didn’t understand why her parents were upset. I pulled her close.

Someone important died, I said. Someone who cared about the kinds of things we care about and was in a very powerful position to protect people. And we need all the people like her we can get right now.

“We are going to try to make the world better for you,” I told her. “We try to do that every day.”

Less a lie, I hoped, looking at her face, than a prayer.

The coals were settling, sparks drifting upward. Her hair smelled like smoke. How long have we sat around fires, promising our children tomorrow would be better than today?

As long as there have been children. As long as there have been fires.

A.

After Justice Ginsburg

Krewe of Mishigas Float, 2019. Photo by Dr. A.

The news came on a Friday night. Because of the pandemic, most of us were home. It lit up new media and old, social media and anti-social media. Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died at the age of 87.

This frail-looking and petite woman was so mentally and morally tough that some thought she was immortal. I’ve spent a lot of time around people over 80 in the last decade, so I was not surprised. It was a nearly unparalleled act of will for her survive the sort of major illnesses that would have finished off lesser beings. As depicted by the Krewe du Vieux sub-krewe of Mishigas in 2019, Justice Ginsburg was a fighter,

There have been many marvelous tributes to Justice Ginsburg. Here’s a brief list:

Pierce made an apt comparison between Ginsburg and Thurgood Marshall. As a litigator, Ginsburg followed the trail blazed by Marshall and fought to establish important rights for women. Thurgood Marshall, however, was a reluctant judge. He preferred being on the other side of the courtroom. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was just as distinguished a jurist as an advocate. Those two skills rarely coincide. She was a remarkable person who led an exemplary life both personally and professionally. Above all else, she was a fighter.

While I wish that Justice Ginsburg had retired while Barack Obama was still president, her reasons were based on her experience as a Justice. Each generation of Justices learns a different lesson: Bill Brennan and Thurgood Marshall retired when they did because of the negative example set by Hugo Black and Bill Douglas who stayed on the Court too long. Ruth Bader Ginsburg saw her friend and colleague Sandra Day O’Connor regret her retirement to care for a husband who died while she was still on the court. That was a major turning point as her replacement was Samuel Alito who is an unbending member of the conservative bloc whereas O’Connor was the ultimate swing vote.

We’re on the cusp of another turning point with Justice Ginsburg’s death 46 days before the election. Those of us who admire Justice Ginsburg should follow her example, get off the floor, and fight back. I heard despair and defeatism this weekend. That’s a shitty way to honor a tough old bird like RBG, Dahlia Lithwick said it best:

America has lost a warrior, and it’s OK to be crushed. I am flattened. And I will mourn, because she deserves to be mourned. But we are also facing an almighty battle that will rage in the coming weeks, with attempts to fill her seat in an unseemly and grotesque manner. It will be hard and painful, but if you find yourself feeling hopeless and powerless, then you are emphatically doing it wrong. Because if anyone had a right to say “nah,” it was the woman who couldn’t get a job or a clerkship after graduating at the top of her class. But she pushed on, and then she pushed forward. She stepped into the fight of the phenomenal women who paved the path before, and now, well, it’s time to step into her fight and get it finished. I think the Notorious RBG would have peered owlishly out at all of us tonight and asked what the heck we are waiting for. And I think we can probably honor her best by getting to it.

The confirmation battle is joined. The most cynical man in politics has already discarded the rule bearing his name. The Turtle plans to move a Trump nominee through the Senate. I suspect he’ll do the most cynical thing imaginable and hold the vote in the lame duck session. To do otherwise, would doom the only thing that McConnell cares about as much as SCOTUS, his Senate majority.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham has already flip-flopped on his pledge not to push a nomination through in an election year. Nobody should be surprised. In 2016, Graham called Trump “a kook and a con man” among other ephemeral epithets. Now they’re golfing buddies.

The Democratic minority should announce a concrete and specific Court reform plan. (Don’t call it court packing, that evokes FDR’s failure in 1937-38.)  It should expand the number of Justices to eleven. They should also pledge to abolish the filibuster if a Trump nominee is rammed through. It’s time for it to go.

I saw some despairing tweets that a SCOTUS battle would decide the presidential election in Trump’s favor. Color me skeptical. Conservatives who care about SCOTUS and abortion sold their souls to President* Pennywise long ago. In 2020, it’s more likely to galvanize Democrats. A reminder that the Kavanaugh Mess did NOT turn the 2018 mid-terms in the GOP’s favor. The number that counts is this: 204,122 and counting dead of the novel coronavirus.

Back to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was an inspiring figure who will be missed, especially by the young women she inspired to fight the good fight. Women will decide the 2020 election. My hope is that they will be inspired to keep fighting until Democrats recapture the White House and Senate. Vote like the fate of the Republic depends on it. It does.

The last word goes to RBG’s close friend Nina Totenberg with a tweet for the ages:

Please, They Already Have My Vote

Mitch McConnell tries to have phone sex with me:

Donald Trump makes me want to vote for Biden twice:

Joey B. Shark is an enormous dorkwad on his best day, there has been nothing cool about him since 1957 and that’s actually one of the coolest things about him, but damn if Republicans aren’t going out of their way to make him look BADASS.

I mean it. Every day some YAF-minted dickwad in a $14 suit hops on Fox to say Joe’s going to let the Black Panthers run the State Department I’m like shit yeah, let’s rumble.

They post “what a pussy” pictures of Joe in a black facemask and suddenly Joseph Robinette Biden becomes a BRILF, a Bank Robber I’d Like to Fuck.

Joe “about that busing thing” Biden wants to abolish the police and give your McMansion to welfare people. It’s ABOUT TIME he went in that direction, who needs a 6,000 square foot house to themselves, you can give BLM some room in there, you won’t even notice.

He wants to burn down the Burger King! Have you EATEN at a Burger King lately? Bring. It. On.

If the Democrats retake the Senate they’ll pack the courts with ideologues and make a bunch of places states and suddenly we can put an NFL team in American Samoa that will fuck up the entire rest of the league? DOOOO EEEEET.

Biden hates the police! WELL half the comments on cop PR posts are firefighters bragging they’ve spit-roasted the entire department’s badge bunnies. Whose side you want to pick in that fight, the guys who rescue children and kittens or the ones who empty a mag into anything that bugs them and then whine when someone’s sign is rude?

They keep this up, I’m going to take their advice and vote eight times, one for each orgasm.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Wasted On The Way

Three Musicians by Pablo Picasso.

New Orleans dodged a wet and windy bullet earlier this week. Hurricane Sally dumped two feet of rain in some areas on the Florida-Alabama border. I don’t guilty for being relieved. If I were Poseidon, I’d send all tropical systems out to sea. I do, however, feel bad for folks in the affected areas. They got slammed by that evil bitch Sally. Blow ill wind, blow.

I had put this feature to bed and tucked it in when I learned of Justice Ginsburg’s death. I wish everyone would dial their predictions back. It’s unclear what impact RBG’s death will have on the election. I also wish that those who admire Justice Ginsburg would show more respect for her passing, especially since it’s Rosh Hashanah. There was, however, a moment of unintentional levity when the crowd outside the Supreme Court started singing Amazing Grace. It’s a Christian hymn, y’all. I’ll have more on Ginsburg’s passing on Monday.

In some ways, this week’s theme song matches the featured image. Three Musicians = Crosby, Stills & Nash. Graham Nash wrote Wasted On The Way for CSN’s  1982 Daylight Again album. Eagle Timothy B. Schmitt added harmony vocals making that Four Musicians. So much for the Picasso analogy. Oh well, it was imperfect to begin with.

We have two versions of Wasted On The Way for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a live version without Timothy B. Schmitt. Go, Team Picasso.

Stills’ intro to the live version is poignant. I rarely do poignant but sometimes the mood strikes me.

Before we jump to the break, a Neil Young song from the Buffalo Springfield days:

Holy Wall Of Sound-style production, Batman.

Time to take the plunge. See you on the other side.

Continue reading

Ill Wind (You’re Blowin’ Me No Good)

This week’s edition is dedicated to those in Alabama and Florida who took it in the chin from Hurricane Sally.

Ill Wind was written in 1934 by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler for The Cotton Club Parade. It’s a sad song with lyrics and a melody that fit our troubled times. It *was* written during the First Great Depression, after all.

We begin with a 1955 version from the patron saint of the Friday Cocktail Hour:

Next up, a late career version from Lady Day featuring some stellar guitar picking by the great Barney Kessell:

Sax great Ben Webster blew on Billie’s Ill Wind, then recorded it the next year:

Lonette McKee performed Ill Wind in the troubled 1984 film, The Cotton Club:

Finally, an appropriately bluesy instrumental interpretation by jazz guitarists Larry Coryell and Emily Remler:

That’s it for this week. Pour yourself a drink and toast those who survived Hurricanes Sally and Laura. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want you to do. Never argue with them, y’all.

Abolish The Electoral College

I realize that I’ve said it before and that I’m preaching to the choir but one of things the Biden-Harris administration should do is abolish the electoral college. It’s done nothing but cause mischief in both the 19th Century and early 20th Century.

The electoral college is not only anti-democratic, it focuses candidates on specific often unrepresentative states. Just think of all the times candidates have been obliged to support ethanol subsidies to win votes in Iowa. It even happened to fictional candidates such as Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) in The West Wing episode King Corn.

The loser of the popular vote has won the electoral vote five times in our history. It didn’t happen for 112 years after Benjamin Harrison lost the popular vote by 90,956 to Grover Cleveland. We all know what happened in 2000 when one of the best qualified candidates in American history, Al Gore, lost the electoral college to a dipshit named George W. Bush. History repeated itself in 2016 when Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2,868,518 against a criminal dipshit named Donald J. Trump.

The Bush-Cheney administration played favorites at times, but the Trump regime has gone to extremes in favoring “their people” and “their voters.” As we’ve seen time and time again, President* Pennywise only cares about his people, his voters. Any time there’s an issue in a blue state, he has no interest in addressing it. If the electoral college were abolished even Trump would have to think about Republican voters in blue states.

Here are the Top Six Trump Popular Vote States:

  1.  TEXAS                    4,685,047
  2. FLORIDA                 4,617,886
  3. CALIFORNIA           4,483,814
  4. PENNSLYVANIA      2,907,441
  5. OHIO                       2,841,006
  6. NEW YORK              2,819,557

If the electoral college did not exist, Trump would have been obliged to deal fairly with the states he won his 3rd and 6th most votes in instead of focusing on the 31.49% and 36.51% of the vote he received in California and New York respectively.

Democrats have suffered as a result of the current system BUT this is about democracy, not partisan advantage. The Republicans won’t see it that way, but this is about truth, justice, and the American way. I’m not sure what the exact mechanism would be but there’s a long article by Lee Drutman in the Washington Monthly that looks at the issue in historical context.

It’s time for the electoral college to go. It was nearly abolished in 1970 but fell prey to a filibuster by Southern Senators. It’s also time for the filibuster to go. It’s done in more progressive legislation than Mitch The Grim Reaper McConnell.

It’s time for a change. The last word goes to Sam Cooke:

 

Quote Of The Day: Watch What They Do, Not What They Say

I’m alarmed by the number of people who are taking the wilder statements by Team Trump literally. I thought we’d gotten over it, but there’s been a widespread relapse of late. Perhaps it’s caused by the stresses of the campaign or the pandemic. Nonetheless it’s alarming. The default should always be that they’re lying. They’re the lyingest liars who ever lied, after all.

The quote comes from page 263 of Bob Woodward’s book Rage:

Kushner said one of Trump’s greatest strengths was, “He somehow manages to have his enemies self-destruct and make stupid mistakes. He’s just able to play the media like a fiddle, and the Democrats too. They run like dogs after a fire truck, chasing whatever he throws out there.”

Don’t fall for it. Don’t let Slumlord Jared and the Kaiser of Chaos play you. Set your bullshit detector to maximum the next time something crazy comes out of their mouths. There are plenty of actions to be alarmed about; don’t take the bait.

The last word goes to Rachel Maddow:

 

Friday Catblogging: Claire’s Toys

Claire Trevor likes to leave her catnip toys in the doorway. Beats the hell outta finding a lizard, bird, or mouse there.

Herd Mentality

The Impeached Insult Comedian gave another incoherent teevee performance this week. This time, it was not in the friendly confines of Fox News but on ABC. The host was my diminutive countryman George Stephanopolous who was able to get Trump to repeat his COVID disappearing act. If you pretend it’s not there, it’s gone.

The post title is the latest Trump malaprop. He said, “herd mentality” when he meant to say, “herd immunity.” That seems to have become U.S. policy by stealth as the Shrugging Doctor, Scott Atlas, and the White House Coronavirus Task Force have told states with high infection rates to cancel mask requirements. Midsommar In America has arrived. Freedom, man.

Pondering the presidential* malaprop made me realize that herd mentality describes the entire Trump phenomenon. Hardcore Trumpers are an unruly group when it comes to “owning the libs”but submissive to the whims and wishes of the Kaiser Of Chaos the man whose only plan is to foment enough confusion so that he can stay in office to avoid federal criminal charges. Freedom, man.

Team Trump seems to have given up on conventional campaigning in favor of tweeting out nonsense and holding super-spreader rallies for the foolish faithful. I’m on the record that the Trump cult is smaller than believed. There are, however, lemmings among them:

Freedom, man.

Younger Trumpers think that prancing maskless through a Target is a cool thing to do:

Florida Man meets Freedom, man.

Team Trump is blowing a lot of smoke right now but there’s one positive development.  Crazy Caputo at HHS has taken a 60-day leave of absence. This is the bozo who talked about armed scientists taking to the streets if Trump is re-elected. Despite working with the CDC, Caputo obviously hasn’t met many scientists. They’re not exactly a group of gunslingers. Caputo turned out to be too crazy even for Team Trump. That’s what happens when you let a Roger Stone protege enter the corridors of power. Mercifully, Caputo is Kaput.

Things are so nutty right now that I have a sudden urge to rake the forests, commit election fraud, or do something equally Trumpy. That’s what happens when you’re caught up in the herd mentality. That would also be a swell name for a band: HERD MENTALITY.

The last word goes to the Beatles with some advice we should all heed:

Grotesque

I did not know this, but Grotesque is an architectural term, a sort of generic Gargoyle, i.e., not all Grotesques are Gargoyles, but all Gargoyles are Grotesques…

And what’s a more appropriate monument to the Trump era?

His policies and rhetoric are political runoff wastesewagebilge water.

Just add some gold paint that looks like gold leaf…paint because he’d peel off actual gold leaf and stuff it into his pocket or under the first available mattress.

The election will be more than just the cult of Trump versus, well, those of us who aren’t brainwashed.

It’s grotesque superstition versus the modern world.

Not really much of of a choice if you think about it, no pun intended.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Old Battle Ax

In my extended family battle ax is an affectionate term. My favorite aunt prided herself on being a battle ax and a tough broad. This post is a tribute to all the battle axes out there. Long may you run.

I just gave myself an earworm. This is a song about a car but it works: my Aunt Mary had a radar detector in her car when she was 80.

 

 

Free Chicken

I was an Alexander Vindman fan boy during his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee. He’s the poster for bad shit happening to good people in the Trump era. Telling the truth cost him his military career, but not his integrity. That’s something the Trumpers will never understand because they haven’t got any.

It’s been a big year thus far for Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg. First, the “losers and suckers” story. On Monday, he published the first post retirement interview with Lt. Colonel Vindman. Vindman let it rip calling the Impeached Insult Comedian, “Putin’s useful idiot” among other things.

One reason I liked Vindman as a witness so much was his utter lack of guile and cynicism. That made smears against him ineffective except among the Trump cult. Fellow witness Fiona Hill summed it up brilliantly to Goldberg:

It is noteworthy that two other key witnesses in the impeachment—Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and Fiona Hill, formerly the senior director for European and Russian affairs at the NSC (and Vindman’s boss)—were immigrants. Yovanovitch was born in Canada and grew up speaking Russian at home; Hill came from England. “The truth is that Masha and Alex were very good in their roles, but they were in shock much of the time as this all unfolded,” Hill told me. “Mugged right outside your own door. You can’t quite believe it, because this is not the America that they idealized. I idealized it too, when I got here. There’s no Rudy Giuliani playing this kind of role in your American dream.” William Taylor, who served as acting ambassador to Ukraine after the Trump administration removed Yovanovitch, said of Vindman, “One thing Alex Vindman is not is cynical. I’m absolutely convinced he’s a patriot, to the point where he’s a bit Boy Scoutish.”

Vindman is an intellectual and a straight arrow. That’s why he was such a breath of fresh air even for a hardened skeptic like me. Trump and his minions are incapable of understanding the Alex Vindmans of the world. They cannot be bought, which is a rarity in Trump’s Washington.

My favorite Vindman quote from the Goldberg article is in the second paragraph below:

But do you think Russia is blackmailing Trump? “They may or may not have dirt on him, but they don’t have to use it,” he says. “They have more effective and less risky ways to employ him. He has aspirations to be the kind of leader that Putin is, and so he admires him. He likes authoritarian strongmen who act with impunity, without checks and balances. So he’ll try to please Putin.”

Vindman continues, “In the Army we call this ‘free chicken,’ something you don’t have to work for—it just comes to you. This is what the Russians have in Trump: free chicken.”

I wonder what kind of chicken: Kiev? Pot pie? Tandoori? Kung Pao? Popeye’s? KFC? Super Chicken? Foghorn Leghorn?

Or is there a musical component? There’s always a musical component with me. That’s why the last word goes to Little Feat:

Bayou Brief: Stuck On Stupid

My Bayou Brief column is usually published every other Wednesday. That changed this week because of Hurricane Sally. I was concerned that many of our readers would lose power and internet connection. Instead, Sally decided to visit Alabama and Florida. My condolences to everyone in the impacted areas.

Here’s the tag line for this week’s column, Stuck On Stupid: “13th Ward Ramblings on the Louisiana Democratic Party, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, and wayward wingnut pundit Dan Fagan.”

The part about Gret Stet Dems has received the most attention but my favorite bit is about former Picvocate pundit Dan Fagan. That’s Fagan with an A, not an Fagin with an I like this guy:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Stop The World- I Want To Get Off

Stop The World- I Want To Get Off is a title for our times. The stage show premiered on London’s West End in 1961. It told the story of a young man’s rise from lowly tea boy to rich dude. The setting was a circus; every time something bad happened to the lead character, he said “Stop the world.” Disappointed that it’s not about the apocalypse? Audiences in the Sixties were not.

On to the covers, we have the original Broadway cast album and the 1966 movie soundtrack album:

There was a 1978 revival of the show on Broadway.  Here’s the revival soundtrack starring Sammy Davis Jr:

 

 

Happy Biden/Harris/BBarryBamz Thing

There’s so much noise that we forget we can have any fun at all with the campaign. We need to have a little bit of fun.

I really wish I could take Kick to hear Kamala speak.

A.

Maliciousness

I’m never one to credit evil as an explanation where stupidity will do nicely, but as this post points out, this is starting to surpass the “wishful thinking” phase: 

You pushed faculty to offer in-person classes or classes that could at least have an in-person component. Classes that drew students to campus and put butts in classroom seats were valued. You created all sorts of untested hybrid options with the idea that some personal interaction was better than none. Faculty objected and students went with online options when possible, but still you persisted.

You created pokazukha websites and plans and fliers for your students and faculty, complete with testing sites and “dashboard numbers” of tests and cases. You told them that “We’re all in this together” and that things would be fine because you were locked and loaded for this war.

Then, you passed the buck to a group of 18-to-22-year-olds and told them, “We want you to have a normal college experience” in the same breath that you layered on admonitions and restrictions that made such an experience impossible. You also told these students to act in a fashion that belied your decades of experience observing students, even as you lacked the resources or structure to enforce such edicts to the extent necessary to avoid case spikes.

It’s becoming clear that the spike in cases in the Midwest is due to college reopening (not to mention GOP legislatures and GOP-appointed judges overthrowing safety measures in the name of having something to yell to their resentment-roided supporters about) and I’m about 100 percent done with blaming kids for not doing what grown-ass people cannot do without throwing a fit in the Trader Joe’s.

And let’s not let municipalities off the hook here. My entire neighborhood melted down over the weekend about a house party some high schoolers threw that infected a whole shitload of people and we were 100 comments into “when do I get my tax money back from the school since these kids obviously didn’t learn anything” by the time someone pointed out that Illinois is in Phase Four. Gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed. Legally.

Restaurants are open. Stores are open, and not just grocery stores. Bars are open, and you know, the longer this goes on the more sympathy I have for people who need a drink with friends. I’m more open to going to a bar where I know they clean the place, than I am to the HomeGoods where who the hell knows where half that stuff’s been, and do you really need a throw pillow at the moment? Sports are going on every single weekend on every single soccer and baseball field. Some schools are open, too.

So if a group of students does something perfectly legal, who are we to then take to the internet and shame them? You don’t like what they’re doing? THEN CLOSE THE FUCKING BARS. CLOSE THE FRATS. CLOSE THE DAMN CAMPUS. SEND EVERYBODY HOME. I hate this idea, I hate everything about it, I loved college and I still love my university more than anyplace else on earth including my current actual house. But I want everybody to live is the thing.

The post above references canaries in coal mines and to spin that out to its end, the canary didn’t lock itself in the cage and carry itself down into the dark. We are so busy yelling at the canaries that we let the company that built the mine pack up and leave without a single consequence.

A.

Sally Can’t Dance?

It’s time to sally forth on another week. There’s a storm in the Gulf, which will make landfall near me. It’s taken a jog to the East so New Orleans is  no longer in the bull’s eye but we could still lose power. If that happens, I wanted to chime in early as opposed to often.

I set a precedent with Hurricane Laura of using a featured image from the movie Laura. Today, I’m using my favorite fictional Sally. It’s Sally Rodgers as played by the late, great Rose Marie. She’s surrounded by Dick Van Dyke as Rob Petrie and Carl Reiner as Alan Brady. They’re three zany peas in a wacky pod. If the Van Dyke and Reiner clans were humorless, I’d apologize for using a picture in which Dick and Carl are semi-decapitated. It adds to the surreal nature of this Monday. We still can’t trust that day.

First, our good friend and beloved colleague Tommy T is having some health issues that prevented him from posting this morning. If you’re religious, pray for him but whatever you do, don’t prey on him. Get well soon, buddy.

Best wishes to my West Coast friends who are dealing with a deadly and smokey round of fires. They’re wearing masks for more than one reason today.

We continue with a quote from a Flynn case filing, which means we need a proper subject header:

Retired federal judge, former Gotti prosecutor, and all around badass, John Gleeson filed a brief last Friday blasting Bill Barr’s corrupt DOJ. Here are some snippets provided by TPM’s Josh Kovensky:

The Justice Department’s move to drop charges against Michael Flynn “reflects a corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system,” the court-appointed attorney arguing against the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss stated in a Friday filing.

“In the United States, Presidents do not orchestrate pressure campaigns to get the Justice Department to drop charges against defendants who have pleaded guilty — twice, before two different judges — and whose guilt is obvious,” wrote John Gleeson, a former federal judge and prosecutor appointed to oppose the Justice Department in the case.

The extraordinarily scathing brief alleges in detail and with precision that the Justice Department broke from decades of procedure to help out a friend of President Trump’s. Dripping with contempt for the government’s position, Gleeson argued that federal prosecutors were too lazy to respond to earlier arguments he had made, including whether the content of Flynn’s lies was material.

He added that the DOJ typically does not “make a practice of attacking its own prior filings in a case, as well as judicial opinions ruling in its favor, all while asserting that the normal rules should be set aside for a defendant who is openly favored by the President.”

“Yet that is exactly what has unfolded here,” Gleeson wrote.

Tell us what you really think, Judge. John Gleeson is not afraid of a mean tweet from the Impeached Insult Comedian. He’s the guy who got Gotti, after all.

In other news, President* Pennywise is still holding super-spreader campaign events despite remonstrations from state and local officials. This 74-year-old man is acting like a rebellious teenager. His followers are even less mature. It’s time for them to go. Make it so, America, make it so.

I’m an avid consumer of local news during Hurricane season. I had this amusing exchange with a local weatherdude:

I am easily amused this morning. I tend to laugh in the face of disaster. So it goes.

There was much talk about Sally songs this weekend. Here’s a selection of them beginning with the song that gave this post its title:

The last word goes to Wilson Pickett. If he were still with us, he’d insist:

The Cannon Fodder Objects

My first newspaper: 

As more than a quarter of Wisconsin’s record-breaking 1,547 new daily cases came from UW-Madison students on Thursday, the situation in Madison is increasingly worrying. Continued spread among off-campus communities endangers all of Madison and Dane County, jeopardizing lives, local businesses and any return to normalcy. This doomed attempt to reopen will ultimately saddle local authorities with an outbreak that continues long after campus facilities close.

In short, what we all had feared — what we knew would be inevitable — has come true. The exponential growth of COVID-19 cases, the lockdown of campus dorms, with the misdirection of faulting individualistic behavior, UW-Madison has now fallen to the same fate as other universities around the country. And if leadership had made responsible decisions from the outset of this crisis, that is to protect its students and the greater Madison community, we would not be here, and we should not forget that.

My local Facebook group is a massive shitstorm of shaming right now because, get this, a bunch of high schoolers had a party and now two dozen of them are sick. I’m not immune to have side-eyed a dude or two (it’s always a dude, sorry) either not wearing a mask or taking it OFF once he’s inside (the FUCK, fellas) but let’s not confuse encouraging healthy behavior in our neighbors with collective action by our government.

People keep remarking on the lack of mourning for the COVID victims, especially compared with those of 9/11. It’s really not that hard to figure out why “we” aren’t “united” in our attempts to stop the virus and keep each other safe. There’s no incentive to do it. The point of things like that is to spur us to action. There was tremendous incentive to pull the country together after 9/11: it fed our need for a nice long war, in the endlessly good name of making sure this never happened again.

What is the incentive to collectively mourn the dead of coronavirus? It’s not like collective action to improve the lives of citizens by curing disease is something our GOP leaders are interested in. What purpose would it serve, for them? It would only remind people that when we’re not led by venal garbage trash we can do big things well and save one another.

There’s nothing in it for them.

And with the exception of kids like those above, nobody’s speaking up for those being fed into the woodchipper of this virus, whether they’re college students or delivery drivers. We need to amplify the voices saying this isn’t the way things had to be, and go to hell with the idea that it is.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Six Months In A Leaky Boat

Blue Painting by Wassily Kandinsky.

It’s September and it’s still hotter than hell in New Orleans. Pandemic fatigue is widespread here just like everywhere else. Unfortunately, America didn’t do the work needed to suppress COVID-19 so we’re still muddling through.

The NFL season opens this week and I find myself utterly indifferent. I’m mildly amused by wingnut fans who say that they’ll boycott the season because the NFL has gone BLM on their asses. These are the same people who claim they want sports and politics on separate plains, make that separate planets. The Saints will be playing on Sunday at an empty Superdome. It’s hard to get excited about any of this. So it goes.

This week’s theme song was written by Tim Finn in 1982 for Split Enz’s Time and Tide album. It refers to the amount of time that it took British pioneers to sail to New Zealand and is also a metaphor for the songwriter’s nervous breakdown. That’s a lot of substance for a song that still rocks like crazy.

We have three versions of Six Months In A Leaky Boat for your listening pleasure: The Split Enz original; a 2000 live version by Tim Finn, Bic Runga, and Dave Dobbyn and a 2006 performance by a reunited Enz featuring some stellar keyboard work by the great Eddie Rayner.

Kiwi singer-songwriter David Dobbyn has his own nautical classic:

Now that we’re all seasick, it’s time to don a life jacket and jump to the break.

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I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)

I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good) was composed in 1941 by Duke Ellington with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster. It’s been covered many times over the years and is one of Duke’s most beloved compositions. It suits my mood on this pandemicky Friday. Is that a word? Maybe not; it sounds a bit too much like Mantle, Dolenz, or Mouse…

We begin with an instrumental version from the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival. The standout is Johnny Hodges on sax.

Next up Friday Cocktail Hour regular Ella Fitzgerald backed by the Duke Ellington Orchestra:

As one would expect, Sinatra’s version is epic.

I heard Dianne Reeves’ fabulous 1987 interpretation for the first time last week.

It’s time to go avant garde on your asses with some Monk; Thelonious, not Adrian:

That’s it for this week. Pour yourself a beverage and unwind after another frenetic news week. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want. Never argue with them, y’all.