Author Archives: Peter Adrastos Athas

Sunday Morning Video: Bryan Ferry Live At Glastonberry 2014

This entry is dedicated to our newest contributor, Cassandra. She is not only a Watergate obsessive, but a big Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music fan as am I.

Guest Post: Take Me Home, Dunning-Kruger Effect

Cassandra by Evelyn De Morgan.

Cassandra is back. This time we learn that she’s also a Watergate obsessive, which is always a good thing in my book or on our blog.

The featured image is Cassandra by Evelyn De Morgan. She was an English painter who was associated with the Pre-Raphaelite movement early in her career. That’s a fact, not a prophecy.

-Adrastos

Take Me Home, Dunning-Kruger Effect by Cassandra

I have been interested in politics since I was 12 years old and fascinated with the Nixon administration. My fascination with Nixon and the Viet Nam war puzzled my parents because they did their best to limit my exposure (and that of my 2 sisters) to coverage of the war. Still, I managed to cobble together pieces of news and had an understanding that the US was losing and losing badly and that the troops needed to come home. I was a weird kid and I give my parents a lot of credit for letting me be me.

It should come as no surprise then to learn I was similarly obsessed with the Watergate scandal. I already had an affinity for law-based arguments, but the biggest single factor in my obsession was that the nuns in my tiny Catholic grammar school brought their portable TVs from their convent to our classrooms to watch the May 1973 Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. It was a revelatory moment:  the convent was a source of never-ending curiosity and I had no idea nuns owned televisions. And the fact that schoolwork was set aside for watching television left an indelible mark on my love for politics.

Naturally, I studied political science (as a “government” major, which appealed to my humanities-based approach to life) with an emphasis on political philosophy in college, along with history. (I tell you this for a reason, and not for self-aggrandizement…at least for today.) I loved talking to people about ideas, thinking critically about the past and the present, and always challenging people on their views, pushing them to provide the factual basis for their assertions, and debunking all the lies and half-truths I came across. And when I got online, I sought out those online idea exchange spaces, whether they were about my favorite bands or about current events. This was the pre-social media age, where you participated mostly via email, and where people took the time to fully explain their views or to critique yours.

At the same time, I knew enough not to critique stuff I didn’t know anything about and if I were a novice to do my research so I could be sure I wasn’t writing nonsense. It seemed clear to me that if you wanted people to take you seriously, you should be a purveyor of factual information.

Obviously, I’m a dinosaur when I roam about social media. I see people post compete garbage, with their actual names attached to it (!!!), and I am astonished every time. The other day one of my friends tagged me to ask me a few specific questions about the second Trump impeachment. Before I could compose a sensible response, one of her friends popped in with nonsense about Dominion voting machines, Nancy Pelosi having a hissy fit, and a prediction he would not be impeached (mind you, this was after he had already been impeached(squared), so clearly, he was no Cassandra).  I made my response, fact-based, with well-supported speculation as to what was going to happen next week, and he took that as his invitation to present more of his conspiracy nonsense. I pushed him to keep to facts, and he then told me that I was uninformed and should go read The Constitution.

It’s not enough to present facts to these folks—we have to convince them they don’t know as much as they think they do, to think critically, and to question everything (extra points for now seeing Spalding Gray drawing a box in the air).  But I have no idea what to do. I see these folks everywhere, and I think their world is about to come crashing down around them, and I don’t know how to help them sift through the rubble.

But I know we have bigger fish to fry these next few days. Joy be to you all.

Saturday Odds & Sods: You Must Go

Room In New York by Edward Hopper.

The cold weather is still with us in New Orleans. I’m getting more use than expected out of the light flannel shirts I bought on sale at the end of last winter. I call them my Fogerty shirts after a certain singer-songwriter you might have heard of.

The big local controversy involves the Houma based grocery chain Rouses. They came to New Orleans after Katrina. I’ve known for four years that former CEO Donny Rouse Senior is a Trumper. I processed the information back then and continued shopping there. Why? The employees at the nearby Tchoupitoulas store are so damn nice; many of them know Dr. A and me by sight and some by name.

It came out that Rouse Senior attended the Twelfth Night Trump rally. Despite claims to the contrary, there’s no evidence that he took part in storming the Capitol. A boycott movement has arisen, which I get. What I don’t get is how so many people didn’t already know about his politics. It was no secret.

I’m still where I was four years ago because 90-95% of Rouses employees in New Orleans are Black. They’re the ones who will suffer from a boycott, not the Rouse family who have stores in redder parts of the Gret Stet. Rouse Senior’s politics are terrible, but he’s retired. Additionally, the other major grocery chains are GOP donors. Boycotting Rouses to support Wal-Mart makes no sense whatsoever. I guess this means that I’m not woke. That’s okay because the idea of being woke puts me to sleep.

John Hiatt wrote this week’s theme song for his 1995 album Walk On. It’s one of the biggest-selling albums of his career.

You Must Go is the second track on the album. I’m using it to send a message to President* Pennywise: “there’s a place, you must go.”

Another reason I love You Must Go is that Jayhawks Mark Olson and Gary Louris sing back-up vocals. We’ll get to them later.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the Hiatt original and a recent cover by his daughter, Lilly.

I’m not quite ready to let go. What about you: Are you ready to go? Asia sure was:

One more go song, make that Go-Go’s:

My get up and go seems to have gotten up and went or some such shit. Maybe jumping to the break will revive me. Let’s go.

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My Heart Stood Still

It’s time for this feature to return to its roots with a 1927 song by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. I was worried that Frank, Dino, and Sammy would haunt me if I posted a rock song this week. Who needs angry Rat Packers after them?

My Heart Stood Sill has been recorded 178 times according to Secondhand Songs. I leave the counting to them.

We begin with Friday Cocktail Hour regular, Ella Fitzgerald:

Cool Jazz icon Chet Baker recorded the song in 1958. It features a sweet trumpet solo from the Chetster:

Sinatra cut a lush orchestral version in 1963:

I did not know that the Supremes had recorded an album of Motownized Rodgers & Hart songs. Instead of dissenting I concur with the up-tempo arrangement:

Next up, Joe Williams and George Shearing with a quieter take on Rodgers and Hart:

The most recent version out there is by James Taylor from his 2020 album American Standard:

What would a Friday Cocktail Hour post be without a jazz instrumental version of the week’s song? This time around we have two:

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Oscar Peterson? I can’t say it enough.

That concludes this week’s edition of the Friday Cocktail Hour. Pour yourself an adult beverage and toast the end of the Trump era. It’s what Bogie, Betty, and Frank would want. Never argue with them.

 

 

Shitty People Piss Me Off

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are small and petty people. They treat everyone like servants, even people who are paid to take a bullet for them:

Many U.S. Secret Service agents have stood guard in Washington’s elite Kalorama neighborhood, home over the years to Cabinet secretaries and former presidents. Those agents have had to worry about death threats, secure perimeters and suspicious strangers. But with the arrival of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, they had a new worry: finding a toilet.

Instructed not to use any of the half-dozen bathrooms inside the couple’s house, the Secret Service detail assigned to President Trump’s daughter and son-in-law spent months searching for a reliable restroom to use on the job, according to neighbors and law enforcement officials. After resorting to a porta-potty, as well as bathrooms at the nearby home of former president Barack Obama and the not-so-nearby residence of Vice President Pence, the agents finally found a toilet to call their own.
But it came at a cost to U.S. taxpayers. Since September 2017, the federal government has been spending $3,000 a month — more than $100,000 to date —to rent a basement studio, with a bathroom, from a neighbor of the Kushner family.

That’s right, we’ve gone from Watergate to Kremlingate to Terletgate. Holy shitty use of taxpayer dollars, Batman.

I already knew that Jared and Ivanka were four-flushers. It turns out that they’re six-flushers.

It’s time for the obligatory quote from Scott Fitzgerald:

Given the scatological title, I thought I should class the joint up with a literary quote. Additionally, Jared and Ivanka remind me of careless rich people Tom and Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby.

The small things matter in life. I was raised to judge people by how they treat the “little people” such as janitors, maids, laborers, trash collectors, and the like. I recall my mom saying, “People who do the dirty jobs deserve respect.”

You know who deserves no respect whatsoever? Snobs like Kushner and Trump. It’s going to be hard for them to wash the stink of the Trump regime off themselves no matter how much money they have. And there’s one thing they can’t buy, class.

As a New Orleanian, this strikes close to home. During Carnival, bathroom access is imperative. Since we live near the parade route, we’ve allowed strangers to pee in our terlet on many occasions.

This level of tackiness really irks me, especially coming from people who have enabled a criminal president* who their apologists claimed they moderated. They may face criminal charges themselves. It couldn’t happen to a nicer couple.

I’ve written and thought very little about the couple the tabloids call Javanka. Their reputations have gone from shiny to shitty in four years. Their comeuppance is coming.

Javanka will forever be associated with the Dipshit Insurrection and rioters such as Camp Auschwitz Guy, Zip-tie Guy, and Confederate Flag Guy. Now that I think of it, their comeuppance is here.

The last word goes to Benny Grunch & The Bunch:

Friday Catblogging: CT TV

Claire Trevor may have been a movie star but she made the odd teevee appearance. Here is one of *my* Claire Trevor’s odder teevee appearances:

Here’s something I said to her last night: Are you going to be a good kitty or yourself? The jury is still out.

Life Goes On

Life is really fucking hard right now. The pandemic has gotten worse at the same time as white supremacists are rioting. The believe they can provoke a race war, their own personal Charlie Manson-style Helter Skelter. It was a demented fantasy in the Sixties and it still is.

I got sidetracked. Earlier this evening, there was a disturbing mass tweet from someone I don’t know well but care about. He’s lost some people to COVID and he was at the end of his rope. It was a classic cry for help and he got some. I understand he’s okay now but I get it. Life can be overwhelming at times, especially in the extended winter of our discontent. Those may not be words of wisdom but they’re all I’ve got.

That’s not really all I’ve got. As you know, I believe there’s a Kinks song for every occasion. There is for this situation as well, Life Goes On. It’s a song about someone who reaches the brink, but then pulls back. Since it’s a Ray Davies song, there’s a bit of mordant humor thrown in. I approve of mordant humor. In fact, I’m a proud practitioner of mordant humor.

I’ll post the tune followed by lyrics and there are a lot of them. Raymond Douglas Davies is a wise man.

The lyrics can be found after the break. I tried to format them so there would be spaces. It didn’t work. Oh well, what the hell.

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The Disloyal Opposition

My late father was a conservative Republican. He was neither a crazy conservative nor “severely conservative” in Willard Mittbot Romney’s memorable formulation. He was a classic business conservative who hated red tape, supported a strong defense, disliked Communism, but also favored Social Security and Medicare. His father came to America alone at the age of 13. My namesake wanted to pull himself up by his bootstraps, so he joined what he thought of as the businessman’s party, the GOP.

Lou and I had many political arguments, but they were usually conducted with genuine civility (I’ll talk about phony civility later) and humor. In short, my father taught me how to argue. I remain grateful that he taught me how to disagree without being disagreeable.

I still lived at home for part of the Carter administration and his opening gambit for many political arguments was, “Your boy Carter did” XY or Z. After reminding him that Vice President Mondale was my boy, not his boss, we were off. In 1980, he supported Poppy Bush in the primaries, but wound up voting for Reagan twice saying that he’d “filed down the sharp edges” as president. I politely but firmly disagreed.

I put my father’s lessons to work many times over the years. I had a string of conservative friends with whom I loved to argue. As far as I was concerned, I usually won the arguments and I suspect they felt likewise. I learned a lot from the smarter ones. That’s right, there used to be many intelligent conservatives, which, even for me, is hard to believe after witnessing yesterday’s impeachment debate.

American politics has gotten ruder and cruder in the last 40 years but it’s not a new phenomenon. Regardless of Kevin McCarthy’s bizarre interpretation of the “civil” 1800 election, Adams skipped the inauguration and he and Jefferson hated one another for the next 20 years. We lived through the War of the Rebellion, McCarthyism, and the excesses of the war on terror. Critics called FDR a “traitor to his class” and implied that he was a Jewish communist. Of course, he was neither. He thought the whole Franklin D. Rosenfeld thing was hilarious.

The turning point in the modern civility wars was the election of Newt Gingrich to Congress. He was a bomb thrower who brought New Left tactics to the New Right. He was out of office by 2010 but the Tea Party wave election perfected the rise of the rude. Overt racism slowly but surely replaced the dog whistle culminating in the whole birther mishigas. Yesterday, Gym Jordan and his ilk accused Democrats of “hating President* Trump” but the cycle of hatred intensified with their racist attacks on President Obama.

I miss genuine civility but phony or forced civility is for the birds. 21st Century phony civility typically involves Republican demands that “the left” bow down and be nice to them. It’s never reciprocal. Genuine civility involves reciprocity: the relationships between John McCain and Joe Biden and John Kerry involved genuine civility, not the ersatz kind. Genuine political civility seems to have been interred with Senator McCain.

It’s time at long last to get to the post title. When I was growing up, we heard a lot about the Loyal Opposition. It was premised on the notion that the things Americans have in common are more important than our differences. It was a concept often honored in the breach, but it was important. It was like the way I discussed politics with my father, respectful disagreement without questioning the other side’s patriotism.

Respectful disagreement is out of fashion. It’s made impossible by the lunacy of the current Republican party and their dear leader, President* Pennywise. Yesterday, House Republicans gave lip service to the idea of unity without practicing it. Unity like genuine civility requires reciprocity. The extremism of Congressional Republicans makes that impossible.

As the Biden administration comes to power it’s clear that, to begin with, Republicans will be the Disloyal Opposition. It took a riot for many of them to admit that the Kaiser of Chaos lost the election.

The GOP not only nominated and elected a malignant narcissist, they’ve allowed right-wing extremists to infiltrate their party. The GOP is no longer a conservative party, it’s a far-right radical party. Genuine conservatives seem to be outnumbered by the wingnuts or they’re too afraid to stand up for their beliefs. That means their beliefs are meaningless. Genuine conservatives would have voted to impeach.

The Disloyal Opposition has been active since the election. There are now QAnon types in the House. They call themselves libertarians but they’re really anarchists. That’s why they refuse to go through metal detectors and insist on arming themselves. This sort of thinking led to the Dipshit Insurrection. Freedom, man.

There are credible charges from New Jersey Democratic Rep. Mikie Sherrill that some of her more extreme colleagues allowed insurrectionists to conduct what amounts to reconnaissance of the Capitol on January, 5. Group tours were once common, but they’ve been tightly restricted during the pandemic. The only way groups can tour the Capitol now is with the permission of a member and must be accompanied by a member or staffer.

I should have called her Lt. Commander/Representative Sherrill. She served in the Navy as a helicopter pilot. She’s a serious person who observed some serious shit. To prove her seriousness, she isn’t naming names publicly until she’s certain which members are complicit in the rioter’s reconnaissance of a building that’s a labyrinth. Even members sometimes get lost. The insurrectionists knew where they were going. That’s why I call House Republicans the Disloyal Opposition.

Several names have been floated but I’ll only mention one, Rep Paul Gosar of Arizona. That’s because his estranged siblings believe that he was involved in the planning of the Dipshit Insurrection.

The brother of Arizona Representative Paul Gosar (R) said he believes the congressman committed treason for his role in last week’s riot at the U.S. Capitol. Five people were killed, including a U.S. Capitol police officer.

“What he’s done personally is commit treason I think,” David Gosar told ABC15. “He has blood on his hands for those people dying in there.”

David Gosar and other members of the Gosar family are lobbying members of Congress for an investigation. They’re demanding an investigation to find out what role Representative Gosar played in organizing and promoting the mob scene at the Capitol.

Ali “Alexander” Akbar, the man who says he is responsible for organizing the Stop the Steal Rally, claims Gosar and Arizona Congressman Andy Biggs (R) were among those who helped with the planning. Biggs denies involvement.

“With his participation in the rally ahead of time, the lies he spread down there about the election, his meeting with Trump, he’s as instrumental as a member of Congress with what happened at that capitol,” David Gosar said from Wyoming where he is a practicing attorney.

If that’s not disloyal, I don’t know what is.

I’m not talking about loyalty to party or president. I’m talking about loyalty to the constitution and to our democracy. The peaceful transfer of power has been pushed to the limit in the past, but it’s always happened. Thanks to the Impeached Insult Comedian and his followers that’s no longer true.

The transfer of power will happen but there remains a chance of violence. The good news is that the federal government is prepared to meet the challenge with overwhelming force. The bad news is that it’s necessary because of the Disloyal Opposition.

The last word goes to Kiwi rock music demigod Dave Dobbyn:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Drummer

Drummer by Richard Carlile is the literary equivalent of David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs? Who knew?

The Impeached Impeached Insult Comedian

Image by Michael F.

I swore not to use the Impeached squared nickname, but the Insult Comedian was my first nickname for Trump, so I wanted to use IIIC in the post title. Holy long sentence, Batman. For the rest of this post I will call him President* Pennywise per the featured image.

10 Republicans joined Democrats in voting to impeach. Thanks to all of them for finally standing up for the country and the constitution they swore an oath to uphold.

Time for some random and scattershot observations in lieu of coherent instant analysis. Listening to GOPers whining is hard, man.

Gym Jordan wore a mask and his suit jacket. I didn’t know he had any of either. He, of course, lied relentlessly and spoke out of both sides of his mouth. So much for being a conviction politician. The mask muffled his rants so he wasn’t as loud as usual.

House Republicans admitted that Biden won the election and will be inaugurated in one week. Thanks for nothing, dipshits.

House Republicans should be glad that the speech and debate clause protects them for being charged with perjury. There was a whole lotta lyin’ goin’ on.

It was sickening to be told by people who have never criticized Trump for his divisive rhetoric that it’s time to unite. In between inciting a riot, Louis Gohmert Plies had the nerve to issue such an appeal.

I have an appeal to make. I am admirer of Abraham Lincoln. He was the best writer to ever serve as president. But he’s not the only quotable president. GOPers should try Reagan or even TR, he wouldn’t recognize today’s GOP, but he was a Republican until he wasn’t. Democrats, quote JFK, FDR or HST. Both sides quote Lincoln obsessively. Enough, I beg you, enough.

I’m not a big fan of Steny Hoyer but his closing was pretty darn good, especially how he quoted Liz Cheney. Have you ever noticed that she looks like Dick with hair?

Speaking of other members of the House Republican leadership, both McCarthy and Scalise gave tepid speeches. Like the Turtle they’re keeping their options open.

McCarthy was one of the few GOPers to admit that Trump made major mistakes during the Twelfth Night White Riot. He’s willing to censure but not impeach President* Pennywise. Trump would wipe his ass with a censure letter.

I’m tired and hungry from watching the House all day so I’ll close here.

More later or in the morning.

Lightning Strikes Again

The day before the Dipshit Insurrection I wrote a post called The Strangest Bedfellow Of All. It was about the op-ed written by the ten living former secretaries of defense reaffirming the non-political nature of our military. The bedfellow in question was Dick Cheney who initiated the piece. It was the first time I’ve ever agreed with the former Veep. I never expected to praise him, but the world is almost as crazy as President* Pennywise.

Lightning has struck again. Yesterday, Rep. Liz Cheney, who is a member of the House Republican leadership as well as Dick Cheney’s kid, announced that she would vote to impeach the Impeached Insult Comedian. This is, of course, a big fucking deal and gives a green light to right-wingers that’s it okay to abandon ship. Trump has repeatedly betrayed them and the constitution. It’s time for them to return the favor.

Unlike the McConnell leak that he now looks favorably on impeachment for political reasons, Cheney is taking a stand on principle. As with her old man, I never expected to praise her but her statement makes a unequivocal case for why Trump must be impeached in the waning days of his misrule:

“On January 6, 2021 a violent mob attacked the United States Capitol to obstruct the process of our democracy and stop the counting of presidential electoral votes. This insurrection caused injury, death and destruction in the most sacred space in our Republic.

I will vote to impeach the President.”

That’s not only unequivocal, it’s eloquent.

In other lightning strikes again news, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have issued a statement reaffirming their support for democracy, the rule of law, and the constitution. Well done, gentleman. Thank you for your service.

The last word goes to Lou Christie and Yes:

 

Quote Of The Day: Pence Follow-Up

I must admit to being proud of yesterday’s Mike Pence Is Made Of Calmer Stuff post. According to Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, and Annie Karni of the NYT, Pence *was* angered by Trump throwing him under the proverbial bus. But in true passive-aggressive style, he vented to others, not President* Pennywise. Mike Pence is a world class tongue biter.

The NYT’s take on the Pence-Trump dust-up is different than that of the WaPo. They obviously had different sources. One thing they agree on is that Pence viewed his role in the administration* as calming down the Kaiser of Chaos and shielding staff from his wrath. Once again, Mike Pence is made of calmer stuff.

You’re probably wondering where the quote of the day is. Here we go:

Mr. Trump was enraged that Mr. Pence was refusing to try to overturn the election. In a series of meetings, the president had pressed relentlessly, alternately cajoling and browbeating him. Finally, just before Mr. Pence headed to the Capitol to oversee the electoral vote count last Wednesday, Mr. Trump called the vice president’s residence to push one last time.

“You can either go down in history as a patriot,” Mr. Trump told him, according to two people briefed on the conversation, “or you can go down in history as a pussy.”

This quote is an exhibit in my ongoing case that irony isn’t dead. It works both ways. After years of being a pussy, Mike Pence finally stood up to his boss and will go down in history as a patriot for a day.

Repeat after me: Mike Pence is made of calmer stuff. During the Twelfth Night White Riot aka the Dipshit Insurrection it paid off.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Ringo

After the Bearles broke up, Ringo Starr wanted a hit album. In 1973, he got one with the help of producer Richard Perry and his former bandmates.

Here’s the whole damn album via Spotify:

Guest Post: A Postcard From Sonoma

One of the many unfortunate consequences of the Dipshit Insurrection is how it has overshadowed all other news since Twelfth Night. The pandemic has worsened dramatically since the beginning of the year. New mortality records have been set almost on a daily basis.  It’s a fucking mess, y’all.

In his second post for First Draft, my old friend Shapiro ponders the pandemic’s impact on his town, Sonoma, California.

-Adrastos

A Postcard From Sonoma by Shapiro

A tractor trailer rolled into my town last night.

My town is Sonoma California. To many of you that name conjures up images of vineyards and wineries, rolling hills in the distance, warm summer days followed by cool summer nights. A visitor once said to me he couldn’t even see the word Sonoma without imaging a wine glass in his hand.

In many ways Sonoma is just a small town like so many other small towns across America. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a guest tell me “It’s just like Stars Hollow!”, the fictional TV home of the Gilmore Girls.  We have a town square, historic in California as the spot where the Bear Flag Revolution began, the place where Californios, the Americans who came to Spanish, then Mexican Alta California, rebelled against the Mexican government who said they were not allowed to own land unless married to a Mexican. There is a large statue dedicated to those men, but most visitors pass it by as they head to picnic tables, laden down by wine purchases from nearby tasting rooms and emboldened by the fact it’s legal to consume alcohol within the square’s boundaries. During the summer, the square is the sight of a Tuesday night Farmer’s Market. Sonomans gather, folding chairs and tables in hand, picnic baskets filled, to see and be seen, to gossip and kibbitz, to lay down the workday and remember why we live here. Kids play on the swings, unbothered by helicopter parents, an admonishment only to be back when the streetlights come on. Occasionally people will wander over to the farmer’s stalls and pick up a few things or maybe get a churro or an Indian dish from one of the food trucks.

Across from the square on the east side is the Sebastiani movie theater, a single screen, real popcorn covered with real butter, first run, old fashioned movie house that on occasion will quietly show a new Pixar animated feature for a week before it’s official premiere since the guys who run Pixar, some of whom grew up in Sonoma, like to see their movies the way they grew up watching movies. Some nights the theater is given over to lectures or musical performances and, in the spring, it is the center piece for the Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF). The big movies get shown there, smaller ones are shown at the Arts Center around the corner, the Veteran’s Hall down the street, and some are even projected onto an inflatable screen set up on the runway of the prop plane airport over on 8th street.

Neat little shops line the four legs of the square as well as restaurants, bars, and even an upscale sausage emporium. The ice cream shop proudly advertises its strawberry ice cream is made with not just local berries, but exactly which local strawberry patch provided them. Early mornings are accented with the intoxicating aroma of freshly baked bread from the Basque Bakery. The ladies clothing store competes with the thrift store, modern versus vintage, each holding their own against the other. The jewelry store owner proudly will detail how she was once Bob Hope’s girlfriend and you smile and nod your head, indulging the elderly lady her stories until she points to the pictures on the wall of her and “Bobby” at the Brown Derby and the Biltmore Hotel. There’s even a store selling old fashioned candy and games you played as a kid on long car trips, shoved into your hands by parents who tired of the eternal question “are we there yet?”.

Just off the square are neighborhoods filled with houses, neatly tended gardens watched over by large dogs who lay in a corner, raise a head, and pant a smile at those passing by. It seems as if every house has a story connected to it. It was built by a winery owner for himself or it was built by a winery owner to house favored employees or it was built by a San Franciscan who came to escape the big city willingly or not. Occasionally as one walks down a street of 1920’s California bungalows, an Amberson like 1880’s mansion will rise from behind a row of immaculately tended hedges to remind the street of a more elegant if less technologically advanced time.

A tractor trailer rolled through those neighborhoods last night.

It’s no secret things haven’t been usual the past nine months. COVID came to America through the West Coast which might be why California initially responded so furiously. San Francisco and Los Angeles locked down early, the state prepared to turn convention centers and sports arenas into makeshift hospitals. Fortunately, we never needed them. The people of California, for the most part, accepted the idea of lockdowns, quarantines, and face masks, hoping the combination would get us at least to the point where science would come through with a vaccine.

And we believed. We believed the doctors who told us this was worse than the flu. We believed the public health officials who said wash your hands, don’t touch your face, keep your nose and mouth covered. We believed the government officials when they said how important it was to have ventilators and PPE and intensive care beds at the ready. We battled the federal government’s non-response, their non-belief, and got prepared. The virus came and we were ready for it.

In Sonoma wineries closed their tasting rooms, restaurants went to takeout only, the square was empty on Tuesday nights, the film festival was cancelled. A summer came and went with few out of town guests, but we kept telling ourselves do this now and maybe by the fall things will start to get back to normal. Maybe we can at least have a family Thanksgiving became maybe we could at least have a family Christmas which in turn became maybe next year we will get back to normal.

But they haven’t gotten back to normal.

Things didn’t get back to normal because while we prepared for the worst, the rest of the country debated if the virus was even real. While we politely told visitors to wear a mask, yahoos proclaimed that their freedom was infringed being told to wear one. Even when their Yahoo in Chief waddled out to a helicopter to be whisked to the most intensive of intensive care facilities his followers refused to take the simplest of precautions. Predictably the virus grew stronger, the toll became higher, the deaths piled up. Just when it looked like we might be able to open up a bit, the door was slammed shut again. Last Friday Sonoma announced the tough restrictions would have to remain in place for at least another month because even with all our precautions, all our mask wearing, all our hand washing, all our businesses shut down and our lives disrupted, even with all of that intensive care bed space was at 3% and projected to hit zero within a matter of days.

So last night a tractor trailer rolled through Sonoma on its way to the county seat of Santa Rosa. There it dropped its refrigerated trailer, doubling the county morgue’s capacity.

Shapiro Out.

Mike Pence Is Made Of Calmer Stuff

I haven’t spent much time pondering what makes Mike Pence tick. He’s so stoical, pious, and low-key that it’s hard for someone like me to find someone like him interesting. But I’m a writer and I’m interested in why people do the things they do. Additionally, there’s a fascinating piece in today’s WaPo about the collapse of his relationship with President* Pennywise. That’s why I have Mike Pence on my mind right now.

It’s not just buck-naked ambition with Mike Pence as it is with Ted Cruz. There’s a cultivated blandness there that has always made me uneasy. Pence is the kid in your class who tattles on his classmates and sucks up to the grownups. He was probably middle-aged at heart when the rest of us were having food fights and making crank calls. Mike Pence has never made a crank call in his life. He wouldn’t even know why this is funny:

Mike Pence is *always* understated hence his underreaction to the fly on his head at the Veep debate. The Veep has taken understatement to a whole new level in the aftermath of the Dipshit Insurrection. The mob was chanting “Kill Mike Pence” as they burst into the Capitol. A normal human being would pop their cork, lose their shit, or otherwise display emotion. Not Mike Pence, he’s made of calmer stuff.

A normal human being would have marched to the White House after the riot, demanded to see President* Pennywise, and screamed at him: “You told rioters to come after me, you twisted son of a bitch.” Not Mike Pence, he’s made of calmer stuff.

My father was obsessed with people’s national origins in a non-bigoted way. He was a proud Greek American and thought everyone else should be equally proud of their own ethnicity. This background led me to ponder Pence’s origins, he seems to be 3/4 Irish and 1/4 German. Even using the broadest ethnic stereotyping that explains nothing. Germans are allegedly calm but the Irish-at least on St. Patrick’s Day and in John Ford movies-are excitable. In theory, Mike Pence should only be 1/4 calm. Nobody would select this as Pence’s personal theme song:

Then I pondered his region of origin. He’s a Midwesterner and they’re prone to laconic low-keyness. Is that a word? If not, it should be.

In theory, his Hoosier roots should make him a calm basketball fan, but that doesn’t explain his eerie underreaction to the dipshit lynch mob that howled his name at the Twelfth Night White Riot. Hoosier hoops fans yell at the refs when they blow a call. Not Mike Pence. He worships authority even when it’s personified by an Impeached Insult Comedian with a dead nutria pelt atop his head. Why? Mike Pence is made of calmer stuff.

Next, I sought an explanation in his religiosity. Mike Pence is an evangelical Christian, but they’re prone to snake handling, speaking in tongues, and religious ecstasy. Mike Pence has never been ecstatic in his life. Mike Pence is made of calmer stuff.

If Mike Pence were a normal person, he would have run out of patience with the Kaiser of Chaos last week. We know Pence make some decisions that prevented Trump from issuing orders to the military, which is a good thing. What’s vexing is his refusal to assist in removing Trump from office via the 25th Amendment or urging him to resign. It can’t just be political calculation. Deep down, Mike Pence must know that sycophantic Veeps are rarely elected president or even nominated by their party. Just ask J. Danforth Quayle. He knows.

Most of us would have felt righteous indignation after a run-in with a feral Trumper mob. Not Mike Pence, he’s made of calmer stuff.

As you can see, I spent too much time yesterday pondering what makes Mike Pence tick. I am at a loss. I have a hard time understanding people with no sense of humor. Mike Pence wouldn’t know a joke if it punched him in the balls. Of course, his balls are held hostage by President* Pennywise and kept in an undisclosed location.

In the end, the only explanation I could up with is the one I started with: Mike Pence is made of calmer stuff.

The last word goes to Cyndi Lauper who is not a calm Midwestern evangelical Christian. Instead, she’s a girl who just wants to have fun. Mike Pence is not into fun. He’s made of calmer stuff:

 

Guest Post: Gently Rise and Softly Fall

You can’t shake a tree around here without a guest writer falling out. This time it’s a friend of mine from the internet music mailing list scene. It’s a scene that barely exists now because of social media but it was once lively.

In the great tradition of First Draft pen names, she is writing as Cassandra. Here’s hoping that her prophecies are not scorned by our readers.

-Adrastos

Gently Rise and Softly Fall by Cassandra

I woke up this morning in a really crappy mood, which is pretty normal given what is going on right now. When I sat down with my laptop, my first reminder was “write piece about joy”. OK, here goes nothing.

Last March, my husband and I were watching our cat Rey play with her favorite toy:  a spring coated in vinyl. Cats play when all their needs have been met and so they can expend precious energy for fun things. Rey stands up on her back legs when she plays with a spring, passing it from paw to paw, and dancing herself. She goes to the legs of the bar stools and climbs over and around the legs, with the spring turning round. It’s infectiously joyful to watch. I clearly remember saying that we needed to memorize that image because we were going to need to remember what joy looked like as the months went on.

Last January I started reading Wanderers by Chuck Wending, a book about a mysterious pandemic which also included the scenario of an authoritarian US president and a national election. I also stopped reading it in January as things got to be way too close to real life here in the US. (Don’t spoil it for me—I fully intend to pick it back in a week or so.) Even though I couldn’t read the novel, I came across some of his stuff on Twitter and found his blog. A week after I had that conversation with my husband, Wendig wrote this:

Also accept any joy you feel and do so without guilt. Joy is hard-won, and if you manage that victory, there’s no shame in that. Take the victory lap. We will have to hunt joy like an elusive beast across the wasteland.

If you capture it, celebrate.

I thought of both of those things that glorious Saturday when the national election was called for Joe and Kamala (the weirdness of a TV network calling an election is a conversation for another day).  I live in West Virginia, so there was no parade of cars through the streets, honking and beeping for joy. (I made do with yelling “BEEEEEEEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEEEEEEEEEEEP” all day around the house (my poor husband)). I don’t know that there was much uncertainty around the final outcome earlier that morning, but the joy was certainly real and comforting—because we could recognize what joy looked like.

I studied US history for a long time, and I have a lot of things to say about politics. I think last week was the worst week in US history, and this week has already said “Hold my beer,” so politics can wait another day. Find some joy today and hold it fast.

Disbar Hawley & Cruz

Josh Hawley’s pasty white fist is one of the indelible images of the Dipshit Insurrection. I’ve promoted it from uprising to insurrection since hearing reports of how violent it was. Heckuva job, Hawley.

There’s much discussion about how to punish the ringleaders of the attempted electoral college negation: Senators Hawley and Cruz who doubled down on their assholery after the sack of the Capitol. I suggested that the senate censure them yesterday since the chances of an expulsion are slim and none and slim is hiding out with the dipshit rebels.

A friend sent me a link to a petition that is circulating in legal circles urging me to urge my lawyer friends to sign it. It has a delightful name: Petition To Disbar Senators Hawley and Cruz:

In leading the efforts to undermine the peaceful transition of power after a free and fair election, Senators Hawley and Cruz attacked the foundations of our democracy. Nearly 160 million Americans exercised their right to vote in the November 2020 election. Dozens of courts rejected unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud, and the Electoral College formally ratified President-elect Biden’s victory on December 14, 2020. Despite these clear expressions of the will of the people—and with full knowledge of the implications of their actions—Senators Hawley and Cruz publicly announced their intentions to object to Congress’s certification of the Electoral College’s votes set for January 6, 2021.

In doing so, Senators Hawley and Cruz directly incited the January 6th insurrection, repeating dangerous and unsubstantiated statements regarding the election and abetting the lawless behavior of President Trump. A violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol. Five people have died. The nation and the world watched as rioters took over the very halls and chambers that embody our democracy. Yet after the violence and terror of the day’s events, Senators Hawley and Cruz still chose to stand in the chamber of the U.S. Senate and persist in their baseless objections to the will of the people.

I originally didn’t plan to sign it as I’m on the Louisiana Bar Association’s inactive list but decided to go for it after disclosing my current status. I’ll let the folks behind the drive decide how to handle it.

Any lawyers reading this should sign even you’re not admitted in Missouri, Texas, or the District of Columbia. This hits Hawley and Tailgunner Ted where they live. Both are fond of bragging about their Ivy League legal bona fides. Yale or Harvard cannot rescind their law degrees, but this would be a kick in the ego for both men.

Try as they might they cannot wash off the insurrection stink.

Self-Pardon Yourself, Donald. I Dare You.

Image by Michael F.

In the wake of the Twelfth Night White Riot, President* Pennywise has resumed his self-pardon musings. I am on the record as believing that a self-pardon would be unconstitutional and unlikely to survive a court challenge. If I were like my former law professor Con Law, I’d drop Larry Tribe’s name at this point. Oops, I did it again. I cannot help myself. It’s one of my favorite stories.

Why am I suddenly advocating an unconstitutional presidential* self-pardon? For two reasons. First, it’s doomed to fail in the courts. There’s no way even the current SCOTUS has a majority that will uphold an action that clearly makes future presidents above the law. It will also have the comedic effect of extending Team Trump’s legal losing streak.

Second, it will oblige the Department of Justice to indict the Kaiser if Chaos on federal charges. The Sovereign District of New York has been itching to indict Trump since the Stormy Daniels payoff case. A self-pardon will make such an indictment inevitable. That should open the floodgates on federal legal action against Donald J Trump and his criminal associates. A president who has acted like a mob boss should be treated like one. I may have to revive my mob boss nickname for Trump: Don Donaldo, Il Comico Insulto. FYI, I’m not adding Impeached to that nickname. I’m also uncertain if I will call him the Impeached Impeached Insult Comedian if he becomes the first person to be doubly impeached. Too much typing.

Enough about nicknames, back to the law.

A test case is not only necessary to test a self-pardon’s constitutionality, it’s imperative. If it is allowed to stand, all presidents would be above the law. President* Pennywise may like that idea but no one else should.

So, Donald, self-pardon yourself. I double dog dare you. One of your presidential predecessors, Ronald Reagan, was fond of quoting Dirty Harry Callahan played in the movies by Clint Eastwood. He gets the last word:

Censure The Dirty Octet

I’m calling them the Dirty Octet because I called the original group The Dirty Dozen as a sort of homage to my countrymen who were in that great action movie:  John Cassavetes and Maybe Cousin Telly Savalas. It’s easy to imagine Telly’s character, Archer Maggot, as one of the dipshit seditionists who stormed the Capitol on Twelfth Night.

That’s right I used the S word: Sedition, which requires action or force. That happened with the Twelfth Night White Riot. Mercifully, many of the dipshit rioters bragged about their exploits on social media, so there were a wave of arrests this weekend. If it were a movie it could be called, The Deep State Strikes Back.

The speakers at the Trump rally including the Impeached Insult Comedian could arguably be charged with inciting a seditious riot, but that’s unlikely to apply to members of Congress who did not speak at the rally. Voting for a challenge to electoral college results is inadvisable, but it *is* authorized by law. Besides, Democrats filed electoral college challenges in 2000, 2004, and 2016. I don’t think of Barbara Boxer and Maxine Waters as seditionists and neither should anyone else.

Expulsion is highly unlikely, but there *is* a sanction available to punish those members who voted to overturn results AFTER the riot: CENSURE. It’s much stronger than it sounds. I realize it’s hard to shame the shameless but censure would put them in the company of Joe McCarthy who is currently rotting in hell. I suspect Tailgunner Joe’s hell is booze and camera-free.

It was surprising that Ron Johnson and Kelly Loeffler did not vote to overturn the results. Johnson is one of the stupidest members of the senate and Loeffler ran a shameless, mendacious, and conspiracy riddled campaign, but they declined to join the Dirty Octet after having been members of the Dirty Dozen. Please listen for the sound of one hand clapping…

Speaking of the shameless and the stupid: John Neely Kennedy is officially more shameless than Loefller and Tuberville is stupider than Johnson. I once thought that Ron Johnson’s status as the stupidest senator was unassailable. Tuberville done trumped him. Tommy Tuberville replacing Doug Jones is as big a downgrade as Ron Johnson replacing Russ Feingold. Oy just oy.

The notion of censure applies to the 138 House GOPers who voted with the Dirty Octet. If the House GOP had any sense, Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise would lose their leaderships roles. Unfortunately, House Republicans are insensate.

I just dropped by to vent. The Saints are playing da Bears in a playoff game later today at the Superdome, so it’s time to turn my attention to more pleasant matters.

Ryne Hancock: The Fallacies Of Our Crushes

My friend Ryne Hancock’s first post of 2021 strikes a wistful tone. For the non-New Orleanians out there, Broadmoor is an Uptown neighborhood.

-Adrastos

The Fallacies Of Our Crushes by Ryne Hancock

In a few days, my friend Cait in Broadmoor will be turning 42.

Despite the fact that we are still in a pandemic, her birthday will include dinner, gifts from her kids and husband as well as well-wishes from friends and family for another trip around the sun.

During that same week in January of 1979, one of my first celeb crushes, Aaliyah, was born. If my memory serves correctly, according to Cait, she and Aaliyah were born two days apart.

As a wide-eyed sixth-grader, I dreamed of marrying Aaliyah. Apart from her looks, she was an honor roll student (she was valedictorian of her Detroit high school senior class) and seemed to be on the surface the type of girl you could actually take home to your mom.

Once I entered high school, Aaliyah had gone from teen prodigy to a superstar on the rise. Not only was she doing music, but she was appearing in movies such as “Romeo Must Die” with Jet Li.

Then it happened.

On August 25, 2001, Aaliyah was killed in a plane crash, dead at 22.

Unlike my friend Cait, Aaliyah never got the chance to experience marriage or motherhood. She never had the chance to mentor young ladies like KeKe Palmer (could you imagine the two of them on a podcast?), write books, and get her flowers.

In a few months, we’ll be celebrating 20 years without her on this planet, which means many of us have experienced a world without her presence almost as many years as she gave us her presence.

And it still hurts.