Category Archives: Adrastos

Saturday Odds & Sods: Down On The Riverbed

Valley Farms by Ross Dickinson.

Dr. A and I are going to the Antiques Roadshow at the Morial Convention Center today. We’re not 100% certain what we’re taking as of this writing but I’m nervous that she’ll use me as her antique. While I have some patina, I’m not sure how valuable I am. On the other hand, if puns add value I might be worth a few bucks.

A quick political note. Here’s a tweet I sent out marking the resignation of Sean Spicer, the press secretary who could lie and chew gum at the same time:

I chose this week’s featured image because our theme song is tres Californian. So is the artist. The late Ross Dickinson was our friend Bonny’s grandfather. The Bonster went to grad school with Dr. A. End of cronyistic shout-out. Is cronyistic a word? Since I’m Greek I should know; of course, we specialize in nepotism. Unfortunately, the current administration* is giving nepotism a bad name. I take that as an affront to my heritage.

Down On The Riverbed was written by David Hidalgo and Louis Perez for Los Lobos’ fabulous 1990 album, The Neighborhood. The original studio version features John Hiatt singing harmony with some grit but without the syrup. Hominy grits you want with your eggs, Mr. Hiatt? Dave Alvin’s version comes from the 2006 album West of the West whereon he recorded some of his favorite songs written by California tunesmiths.

Now that we’ve been down on the riverbed without drowning, it’s time to don a life jacket (I wish they were still called Mae Wests) and go to the break.

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Friday Catblogging: Yogurt Boxer

It’s time for Della’s Dannon box profile shot:

Still Worse Than Nixon

Another day, another blockbuster story about administration* criminality. Nothing they do or say surprises me even when it should. Now they’re talking about presidential* pardons including a self-pardon. I am not making this up, if I were nobody would believe me:

Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

Trump’s legal team declined to comment on the issue. But one adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.

“This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’ ” a close adviser said.

And we’re supposed to believe this? Why? I have a firm policy of believing nothing that anyone in this administration* says. And since when was Donald Trump curious about anything? Idleness many be his thing but idle curiosity is not. As you can see, all I have are questions. Answers are increasingly elusive as the Trumpers reel like drunk monkeys from constitutional crisis to constitutional crisis.

I wrote a post during the late election entitled Tweet Of The Day: Worse Than Nixon. It was about Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, an issue that is returning to the forefront as Team Mueller digs into the Trump crime family’s seedy business dealings. The point I made last May was that even Tricky Dick released his tax forms. Today’s point is that Nixon dismissed the notion of  a self-pardon out of hand. He thought that was beneath the dignity of the office. That was Richard Fucking Nixon who resigned in disgrace. Trump is still worse than Nixon. Now he seems hell-bent on emulating Tricky and disposing of a special prosecutor. He’ll have to find someone to do it since he doesn’t have the power to fire Bobby Three Sticks himself. If it happens, it will be a bloodier and stupider version of the Saturday Night Massacre.

The word of the day is seedy. We’ve had some shady characters work in and around the White House in our history. The Harding administration comes instantly to mind. Attorney General Harry Daugherty spent his tenure at DOJ shaking down suckers and funneling the money to his bag man, Jess Smith. The seedy Interior Secretary, Albert Fall, was involved in a sordid scheme involving oil leases at the place that gave the scandal its name, Tea Pot Dome, Wyoming. Daugherty, Smith, and Fall were choirboys compared to the thieves and blackguards surrounding the Current Occupant. This is much worse: Harding was a relatively honest dupe whereas Trump is so crooked that if he swallowed a nail he’d spit up a corkscrew. Uh oh, I sound like Gret Stet senator John Neely Kennedy…

Back to the pardon power. The constitution gives a president broad discretion in granting pardons. It’s unclear if Trump can pardon himself. Those are uncharted waters because we’ve never had a president as seedy and sleazy as Trump.  It *is* clear that he has the power to pre-emptively pardon his greasy relatives and criminal associates. The Nixon pardon serves as precedent but the scope of his crimes are beginning to pale before the unfolding Trump scandals.

I discarded my crystal ball last fall after Trump’s shocking electoral college win. I’m out of the prediction business but one thing I’m certain of is that this won’t end well for anyone involved including the citizenry. It’s what happens when a criminal is elected president*

And he’s still worse than Nixon.

Malaka Of The Week: Paul Congemi

It’s been quite some time since I wrote a “never heard of them and hope to never hear of them again” malaka of the week post. The time is nigh. And that is why Paul Congemi is malaka of the week.

Congemi is best described as a minor league Insult Comedian. He’s running for Mayor of St. Petersburg-Florida, not Russia-and lost his shit at a candidates forum the other night and attacked one of his opponents thusly:

After the assertion was made he was a “non-factor” in the race, Mayoral Candidate Paul Congemi snapped back at members of the Uhuru movement and their candidate, Jesse Nevel during a mayoral debate July 18 in St. Pete.

Congemi’s response was one many may not have expected.

“Mr. Nevel you and your people talk about reparations. The reparations that you talk about, Mr. Nevel, your people already got your reparations. Your reparations came in the form of a man named Barack Obama,” Congemi said, pointing a finger at the audience as he spoke.

He continued, “My advice to you, if you don’t like it here in America, planes leave every hour from Tampa airport. Go back to Africa. Go back to Africa. Go back!”

He seems nice.

This is what Trump has wrought. People feel free to say things in public that shouldn’t even be uttered privately. Malaka Congemi’s diatribe is not an isolated incident: hate crimes are on the rise. Do you want to see video? We have embedded video:

Perhaps the best thing about this story is the punworthy name of the reporter, Evan Axelbank. I could pun on that name until the cows come home but I won’t. Why? I don’t want a broken axel, you can take that to the bank. I guess that promise was evanescent…

I support the right of minor candidates to run for municipal office. Here in New Orleans, perennial candidate Manny Chevrolet Bruno is making his umpteenth run for Mayor with the recurring slogan, “a troubled man for troubled times.” Congemi is just plain trouble since this is his idea of an apology:

On Wednesday, Congemi clarified his remarks, saying that his advice was meant only for Nevel’s group of supporters. “Not all African Americans. Just those that Nevel represents,” Congemi wrote in a statement sent to the Tampa Bay Times.

The Uhuru Solidarity Movement organizes white people to join Africans in their struggle to “reclaim their land, labor, resources, and self-determination,” according to its website.

It fights for reparations to redress systemic discrimination against black people.

Oh, it’s only the uppity ones, not the good ones. Now where have we heard that before?

I wonder if David Dukkke has any plans to campaign for Congemi. The latter might as well go all the way in his campaign since he has no chance of winning. And that is why Paul Congemi is malaka of the week.

The last word goes to  my homeys, the Meters:

Oh yeah, hat tip to Lamar White Jr. of the Bayou Brief.

Your President* Speaks: The Daily Constitutional Crisis

It’s no secret that Donald Trump thrives on conflict, chaos, and crisis. It’s also no secret that normal people find the constant chaos exhausting. I’m only marginally normal but find myself waking up and wondering what shit has hit the fan over night. Some days it’s a crazy tweet, other days it’s an interview. Whenever the Insult Comedian is interviewed by the NYT’s Maggie Haberman, the bats in his belfry come flying out.

Haberman wasn’t the only Timesperson involved in the interview but she’s the one with the knack of summoning the demons. Timing is, of course, everything. Even by the standards of the Trump presidency* it’s been a crazy few weeks: things are not going well in Trump World and when that happens, shit meet fan.

This time around there is *some* method in the president’s* madness. Events in the Trump-Russia scandal are moving at warp speed while the attempt to destroy the ACA is creeping along like a slug that’s been stepped on. The White House is issuing empty threats to Senators who are less and less afraid of the Orange Menace every day. It’s not unusual for a real president to want to change the subject but they rarely move on to an even more damaging topic. Ain’t nothing real about the pouty POTUS* on display today. Pouty POTUS*? I feel a new nickname coming on: POUTUS. I’m not sure if it requires an asterisk. The dumb fucker pouts constantly.

We begin with a comment inspired by his Parisian sojourn:

Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad. But I asked that. So I asked the president, so what about Napoleon? He said: “No, no, no. What he did was incredible. He designed Paris.” [garbled] The street grid, the way they work, you know, the spokes. He did so many things even beyond. And his one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death. How many times has Russia been saved by the weather?

Uh, POUTUS, it was Louis Bonaparte aka Napoleon III whose government laid out the street grid of which you speak. One would think Trump would like him since he was elected and then became Emperor/Dictator. Of course, he finished “a little bit bad” too. I bet the Insult Comedian has never heard of Napoleon’s nephew Louis. It would involve reading a book.

Next up is a comment about his unsupervised visit with Putin:

We talked about Russian adoption. Yeah. I always found that interesting. Because, you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Jr., Mr. Trump’s son] had in that meeting. As I’ve said — most other people, you know, when they call up and say, “By the way, we have information on your opponent,” I think most politicians — I was just with a lot of people, they said [inaudible], “Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?” They just said——

Adoption is Putinspeak for sanctions. They talked about something substantive with only Putin’s translator present. Btw, Karl Rove said he wouldn’t have taken that meeting. That’s right, Team Trump is worse than Karl Fucking Rove.

Constitutional crisis, come on down:

TRUMP: So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have — which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, “Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.” It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president. So he recuses himself. I then end up with a second man, who’s a deputy.

HABERMAN: Rosenstein.

TRUMP: Who is he? And Jeff hardly knew. He’s from Baltimore.

TRUMP: Yeah, what Jeff Sessions did was he recused himself right after, right after he became attorney general. And I said, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?” I would have — then I said, “Who’s your deputy?” So his deputy he hardly knew, and that’s Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, who is from Baltimore. There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any. So, he’s from Baltimore.

There’s a lot to unpack here. First, Sessions screwed up and did the right thing by recusing himself. He was following DOJ rules. Imagine that. Second, Trump refers to himself in the third person as the president* The only recent Oval One I can recall doing that was Tricky Dick. You know, the only president to resign in disgrace.

The bit about Rosenstein is classic Trumpian projection. Trump is a New York Republican who lost his home state 59-37 and did even worse in NYC. One would have thought Rosenstein would be his political soul brother. I guess not.

Next up is the part of Your President* Speaks in which American history is misinterpreted.

And nothing was changed other than Richard Nixon came along. And when Nixon came along [inaudible] was pretty brutal, and out of courtesy, the F.B.I. started reporting to the Department of Justice. But there was nothing official, there was nothing from Congress. There was nothing — anything. But the F.B.I. person really reports directly to the president of the United States, which is interesting.

The FBI has always been part of the DOJ and its director has always reported to the Attorney General. The president has always had the appointment power. One reason Mark (Deep Throat) Felt insisted on anonymity is that he was bypassed by Nixon to replace Hoover and didn’t want to come off as a disgruntled office seeker.

It’s time for Trump to threaten the Special Counsel:

SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?

HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t — I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make — from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that.

He didn’t definitely say he’d fire Bobby Three Sticks but the implication is clear.  Trump wants Mueller to keep his hands off the Trump crime family. We’ve had some phony Saturday Night Massacres in the past 180 days. Firing Mueller would be the real deal.

In a normal administration, we would have awakened to the news that Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein had resigned. To say that this is not a normal administration is a grotesque understatement. Normal presidents care about the appearance of impropriety and would never meet with a Russian president without a sidekick of some kind. Even the Lone Ranger would have brought Tonto along, but not Johnny Depp’s Tonto with the dead bird on his head. Hmm, maybe Trump should try that. Imagine a dead bird atop the dead nutria he has atop his head. It would be a fashion sensation, y’all.

That concludes this epic edition of Your President* Speaks. I haven’t even included Trump’s recent tweet storms. Twitter is ephemeral. The New York Times is the newspaper of record. Maggie Haberman is the Trump whisperer. The poor dear.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Graham Greene

Graham Greene blurred the lines between literary and genre fiction. He was fascinated with the criminal element and spies but had an elegant prose style. He was quite simply one of the best writers of the mid-20th Century.

Here’s  a selection of some of Greene’s pulpier book covers:

Greene’s fertile brain also came up with the story and screenplay of The Third Man, which is one of the greatest films ever made.

The Finger Of Blame

I don’t know about you but I’m enjoying all the finger pointing over the failure to repeal the ACA. The Turtle is violating every principle of Congressional leadership and making his caucus vote on a bill that cannot pass. Wait a minute, it’s what they’ve been doing since 2009. Of course, they’re in the majority and control the executive branch now. The finger of blame points at them.

POTUS* is pouting and pretending he had nothing to do with it. He claims that he doesn’t “own” this failure. Guess what, Donald, you don’t get to choose what you own when you’re the Oval One. That’s up to the voters. Democrats took the fall for the economy in the 2010 mid-terms even if the finger of blame pointed at the Bush administration and Wall Street greedheads. You don’t get to choose.

It must be great to be Donald Trump. Imagine never having made a mistake in your life. #sarcasm. It’s always someone else’s fault. Now he wants to burn down the health care house because he’s mad. Arson seems to be big in 2017. In politics it usually involves self-immolation. It’s a fiery finger of blame and it’s pointed directly at the Republican party. They own this president*.

It’s time to revisit my Russell Long paraphrase from Monday evening. His mantra was about taxes but all one needs to do is substitute blame for tax and Bob’s your uncle. I still don’t know who Bob is; perhaps he’s a white rural Trump voter or one of their explainers.

Since it’s 2017, let’s meme the Long paraphrase:

The original picture was taken on the 50th Anniversary of Huey Long’s assassination. It’s why he’s peeking out from behind Russell Long. If the Kingfish were around today, he’d probably wonder which part of this story fits the 21st Century GOP:

“The Democratic Party and the Republican Party were just like the old patent medicine drummer that used to come around our country. He had two bottles of medicine. He’d play a banjo and he’d sell two bottles of medicine.

One of those bottles of medicine was called High Popalorum and another one of those bottles of medicine was called Low Popahirum.

Finally somebody around there said is there any difference in these bottles of medicines? ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘considerable. They’re both good but they’re different,’ he said.

‘That High Popalorum is made from the bark off the tree that we take from the top down. And that Low Popahirum is made from the bark that we take from the root up.’

And the only difference that I have found between the Democratic leadership and the Republican leadership was that one of ’em was skinning you from the ankle up and the other from the ear down — when I got to Congress.”

As a seasoned Long paraphraser, I’d substitute McConnell and Trump for the parties, but I’m uncertain which is High Popalorum and which is Low Popahirum. Btw, this was a question posed to me on twitter by my friend Sam Jasper. I wish I had a better answer. All I have for her is a shout-out.

Back to the blame game. It’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys and more disconcerting than a ferret down your trousers. As of this writing, Corey Lewandowski  is claiming that the president* is going to close a deal on Obamacare repeal today. I can count both votes and lies. The votes for ACA repeal are limited and lies from Team Trump are innumerable. You’d think that they’d screw up and tell the truth at some point.

The finger of blame is a venerable phrase but it was used memorably by Neil Finn in the Crowded House song, Fall At Your Feet. I guess you know who has the last word:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: The King Tito Puente

In 1968, everyone had psychedelic album covers even the King of Salsa, Tito Puente. In Spanish-speaking countries, of course, the tile was El Rey. Whatever you call it, it’s a swell record with a groovy cover, baby or is that  bebé ?

The good news is that the music isn’t a psychedelic knock-off but Tito’s classic mix of Cuban-Jazz and Salsa. It will make you wiggle in your chair. The entire album is not online but here are a few choice selections.

Quote Of The Day: Stay Up Late

Joshua Green’s new book, Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency, is the gift that keeps on giving. This is the third time I’ve quoted from it. I guess that means I should pick up a copy at some point unless someone wants to send me a freebie, that is.

It’s obvious that Bannon was one of Green’s main sources, especially of a story like this one about Paul Manafort and the Insult Comedian:

 After Trump decided to demote his campaign chair Paul Manafort, who drew negative attention to the campaign as reporters scrutinized his previous work for Ukrainian politicians with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump blew up at Manafort over a New York Times report that portrayed the candidate as intractable and inarticulate.

“How can anybody allow an article that says your campaign is all fucked up?” Trump shouted at Manafort, according to Green.

Trump demanded to know whether aides thought they had to make television appearances to communicate with him.

“You think you’ve gotta go on TV to talk to me?” Trump shouted. “You treat me like a baby! Am I like a baby to you? I sit there like a little baby and watch TV and you talk to me? Am I a fucking baby, Paul?”

I’m sure Manafort was tempted to say yes but opted not to. There was still money to be grifted as a result of his ties to the candidate and Manafort is all about the money. Plus, he had his very own Trump toddler tantrum. Lucky him.

There’s another swell quote from Green’s book. I never thought I’d agree with Bannon on anything but this is the exception to that rule:

According to Green, Bannon also waged his assault-by-epithet aloud in Breitbart’s Washington, D.C. headquarters: He described the House speaker as “a limp-dick motherfucker who was born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation,” a conservative think tank Bannon said was too close to the “globalist donor class.”

Nice imagery, Steve. We already knew that you and Ryan weren’t close.

Back to Trump’s “do you think I’m a fucking baby” rant. It gave me a benign earworm as well as a post title:

Instant Analysis: When The Spell Is Broken

The myth of Mitch McConnell as a master tactician and strategist took a huge hit this evening. His latest gambit to return the GOP’s position to repeal and replace the ACA is tantamount to declaring political bankruptcy. Repeal may not be dead forever but McConnell lacked even the votes to open debate in the Senate. Nobody should spike the ball in celebration because public pressure is what caused the Senate leadership, not the erstwhile moderates, to cave. People should keep calling their Senators but the spell is broken. The Senate seems to have resumed its role as a brake on rotten legislation.

Until the last few days, Republican Senators have been acting like cattle and following their leader and president* to the political slaughterhouse. They’re now in revolt against McConnell and his team. What form it will take is unclear because but they’re revolting in  different ways; pun obviously intended. Some of them like Aqua Buddha and his bobo Mike Lee want a *worse* bill; others are scared shitless of the reaction back home if they strip away aspects of the ACA that have always been popular including Medicaid expansion. Susan Collins was treated like a conquering hero in Maine because of her stand against Trumpcare.

I threw away my crystal ball after last year’s election but something fundamental has changed. It will be interesting to see how the blame game will unfold. It reminds me of an aphorism attributed to former Gret Stet Senator Russell Long: “Don’t tax you. Don’t tax me. Tax that fellow behind the tree.” All you have to do is substitute blame for tax and you have a winner.

Chinless Mitch is trying not to be the “fellow behind the tree.” I’m not sure who his designated patsy will be, but someone will have to take the fall with the more rabid members of the Republican base. It could be a lunatic with a twitter addiction or an overrated Speaker. In short, the Turtle has crawfished on Trumpcare.

Stay tuned

I’ll give Richard Thompson the last word:

First Draft Potpourri: Sanity Clause Edition

I’ve spent the last 177 days feeling like we’re living through a Marx Brothers movie. Until last week, I was certain it was Duck Soup wherein Groucho is the lecherous President of Freedonia, Rufus T. Firefly. The more we learn about Trump Junior’s infamous meeting with the Russian mouthpiece and a cast of thousands, the more it sounds like the stateroom scene in A Night At The Opera. That movie contained this classic exchange between Groucho as Otis B. Driftwood and Chico as Fiorello as they haggled over a contract:

Fiorello: Hey, wait, wait. What does this say here? This thing here.
Driftwood: Oh, that? Oh, that’s the usual clause. That’s in every contract. That just says uh, it says uh, “If any of the parties participating in this contract is shown not to be in their right mind, the entire agreement is automatically nullified.”
Fiorello: Well, I don’t know…
Driftwood: It’s all right, that’s, that’s in every contract. That’s, that’s what they call a ‘sanity clause’.
Fiorello: Ha ha ha ha ha! You can’t fool me! There ain’t no Sanity Clause!

There isn’t one when it comes to being president*, alas. The country needs a sanity pause as well as a sanity clause but we’re unlikely to get either as long as the Insult Comedian watches teevee in the White House.

Let’s break things down First Draft potpourri style. I should post the segment titles in the form of a question but it’s too hot to do so. I have to preserve as many of my diminishing little grey cells as possible.

The Dog Ate The Country: Trump spokescreeps and apologists have been making some very lame “the dog ate my homework” excuses. In this case, it’s more like the dog ate the country. One of my favorites is the “they’re inexperienced” excuse. Paul Manafort was at that meeting. He’s not a rookie, he’s a veteran shitbag. One might even call him a grizzled ratfucker.

The latest lame excuse comes from Trump’s  bible thumping shyster, Jay Sekulow. He opined that the Secret Service should have prevented Trump Junior’s stateroom scene meeting. The Secret Service is supposed to protect family members from outsiders, not themselves. They’d have to expand their remit dramatically since they didn’t stop Billy Carter from meeting with sinister Libyan types when his brother was president. I’ve gotten used to writing president with an asterisk and had to stop myself. We used to have real presidents instead of the mountebank we have now. So it goes.

Let’s move on to health care deform, I mean “reform.”

The Walnuts Factor: The fact that Chinless Mitch has postponed any votes on his health care bill until John McCain recovers from surgery and is back in town is an indication of weakness. As of now, they don’t have the votes.  It’s either going to pass 50-50 or lose by 6 to 10 votes. If it’s a sure loser, the rats will flee the sinking ship but we’re waiting on a third firm no vote to join Susan Collins and Aqua Buddha. Can they make like Claus vov Bulow and have a stunning Reversal of Fortune? Absolutely. As of now they’re more like the comatose Sunny von Bulow…

One more thing. I know people who think that Mitch McConnell is some sort of legislative wizard. When it comes to obstructionism, maybe so. This is an entirely different matter as it involves passing legislation. An online friend of mine compared him to Tom Brady who engineered a wild comeback in the last Super Bowl. A reminder: Brady led an undefeated Pats team into the Super Bowl against the New York Giants and lost. Shit happens. Nobody’s a wizard except in Harry Potter world.

Not Everything Sucks: This is Athenae’s mantra but I felt like borrowing it from her. You can have it back, A. Promise. The BBC announced the identity of the 13th Doctor Who and it’s the first woman, Jodie Whittaker. She’s best known for playing Beth Latimer in Broadchurch, which co-stars the 11th Doctor, David Tennant. It’s a splendid choice.

Some fan boys are acting as if they’ve been castrated but a female Time Lord comports with the Doctor Who universe. There’s *already* an evil female Time Lord, Missy. If you’re not a Whovian, I assume your eyes just glazed over like a rogue donut.

Here’s the BBC announcement tweet:

That concludes this edition of First Draft potpourri. I’m just trying to restore a hint of sanity to the world. I think a sanity clause should be mandatory for future Oval Ones.

I’ll give Groucho and Chico the last word:

Hail Freedonia.

Sunday Morning Video: Chick Corea Meets Herbie Hancock

The two great jazz keyboard players had, of course, met before this joint appearance on Soundstage in 1974. The show features short sets by Return To Forever and the Headhunters followed by a Chick and Herbie piano duet.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Miles From Nowhere

Asakusa Hongan-ji Temple by Hokusai.

It was citywide election qualifying week here in New Orleans. I’m acquainted with three of the mayoral candidates but I’m undecided. It’s still early days in the race to replace Mitch Landrieu who is term limited and cannot run a fifth time to be Mayor. He’s a persistent bugger, y’all.

One person who talked about running was reality teevee star Sidney Torres aka the Trashanova. The Trashanova is a rich malaka who often wears a man bun, which is disqualifying as far as I’m concerned. Additionally, he’s  too closely tied to former Mayor Nagin to have a chance to win. Torres declined to throw his man bun into the ring and the city heaved a collective sigh of relief. Ta-ta, Trashanova.

This week’s theme song is a three-headed beast, sort of like me before my first cup of coffee in the morning. We have two  different songs titled Miles From Nowhere and one with a substantially similar title. I like to keep you on your toes.

After all the Tea for the Tillerson jokes, I thought it was high time to post a Cat Stevens song from the album with a substantially similar title. Substantially similar appears to be the two-word phrase of the day. Cat Stevens is followed (figuratively, not literally) by the Smithereens and Dwight Yoakam, which makes this a rather high mileage post.

Speaking of keeping you on your toes, we’re skipping the break and diving right in. Splash. Hopefully, it will be the deep, not shallow, end.

Your President* Speaks: It’s a long flight from DC to Paris so Trump had a chat with the press corps. He said some crazy shit about a transparent border wall. The “idea” is to see the “bags of drugs” flying over it or some such shit. That full quote is too long and rambling for this space but here are a couple of beauts annotated by yours truly:

So I was asked to go by the President [Macron], who I get along with very well, despite a lot of fake news. You know, I actually have a very good relationship with all of the people at the G20. And he called me, he said, would you come, it’s Bastille Day — 100 years since World War I. And I said, that’s big deal, 100 years since World War I. SO we’re going to go

The president* appears to think that Bastille Day is somehow connected to the Great War. It happened in 1789 and had something to with another famous event.

The other quote has the Insult Comedian sounding like his mentor Roy Cohn:

And I think what’s happening is, as usual, the Democrats have played their card too hard on the Russia thing, because people aren’t believing it. It’s a witch hunt and they understand that. When they say “treason” — you know what treason is? That’s Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for giving the atomic bomb, okay? But what about all the congressmen, where I see the woman sitting there surrounded by — in Congress.

Actually, Roy Cohn was a coherent motherfucker. That last sentence makes no sense whatsoever.

While we’re on the subject of the Darnold, there’s *another* excerpt from Joshua Green’s new Trump-Bannon book. It’s not as fun as the Bannon-Napoleon portrait one but it’s still swell. This excerpt is at Bloomberg News and discusses Trump’s time hosting The Apprentice. Fun fact: Trump was popular with minorities until the whole birther thing, which is when his ratings tanked. Sad.

Let’s move on to a segment about Trump’s longtime personal mouthpiece.

The Marc Kasowitz Blues: Pro Publica ran an eye-opening piece about Trump’s hard-drinking, foul-mouthed lawyer. One of the main points of the article by Justin Elliot and Jesse Eisinger is that Kasowitz will have a hard time obtaining a security clearance because of his drinking problem. I’m not sure how he can adequately defend the president* without one.

Kasowitz not only has a drinking problem, he has a nasty temper, which surfaced after a segment on the Rachel Maddow Show:

Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal attorney on the Russia case, threatened a stranger in a string of profanity-laden emails Wednesday night.

The man, a retired public relations professional in the western United States who asked not to be identified, read ProPublica’s story this week on Kasowitz and sent the lawyer an email with the subject line: “Resign Now.”

Kasowitz replied with series of angry messages sent between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern time. One read: “I’m on you now.  You are fucking with me now Let’s see who you are Watch your back , bitch.”

 In another email, Kasowitz wrote: “Call me.  Don’t be afraid, you piece of shit.  Stand up.  If you don’t call, you’re just afraid.” And later: “I already know where you live, I’m on you.  You might as well call me. You will see me. I promise.  Bro.”

Kasowitz’s spokesman, Michael Sitrick, said Thursday he couldn’t immediately reach Kasowitz for comment.

ProPublica confirmed the man’s phone number matched his stated identity. Technical details in the emails, such as IP addresses and names of intermediate mail servers, also show the emails came from Kasowitz’s firm. In one email, Kasowitz gave the man a cell phone number that is not widely available. We confirmed Kasowitz uses that number.

The exchange began after the man saw our story featured last night on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC. We reported that Kasowitz is not seeking a security clearance even though the Russia case involves a significant amount of classified material.

Moral of the story: always think twice before hitting the send icon Also, isn’t Kasowitz a bit old to call someone bitch or bro? He’s 65. The AARP weeps.

It’s unclear if Trump congratulated or castigated  Kasowitz for his mob lawyer outburst. It might be time to call in John Gotti’s lawyer Bruce Cutler seen below with his favorite client and a guy who looks like Paulie Walnuts’ unkempt cousin:

Bruce Cutler and John Gotti via the NY Daily News.

The Dapper Don in a turtleneck, not a tie? The fashion gods must have wept that day.

I’m sure Trump has met Cutler. I was disappointed not to find any pictures of them together when I asked first Siri and then Mr. Google. So it goes.

While we’re on the subject of the Trump-Russia scandal, next up is a “fake news” toon.

Cartoon Of The Week: I resisted the temptation to post Hokusai’s most famous painting, The Wave, as this week’s featured image. The Guardian’s Steve Bell, however, went for it in this cartoon about Trump Junior’s problems.

Holy shit storm, Batman.

It’s time to put New Yorkers and Muscovites in the rear view mirror and move on.

Warren Zevon’s Last Waltz: I’ve made a boatload of Zevon references recently so I reckoned I should share Jon Pareles’ classic 2003 profile of WZ as he faced death.

Since the story uses WZ’s last appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman as a backdrop, here’s that episode:

Enjoy every sandwich.

It’s time to sing the blues with a master of the form.

Saturday Classic: Albums featuring guest artists were the rage in the late Eighties and early Nineties. John Lee Hooker’s The Healer was one of the best of the bunch. It featured Carlos Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, Canned Heat, Los Lobos, George Thorogood, and Charlie Musselwhite. Enjoy.

That’s it for this week. I wrote more about politics than the average Saturday post, but I have Russia on my mind. I must be pining for cold weather. Our closing bat-meme features real life super villains Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Btw, Donny now claims that Vladdy was for Hillary in the late election. Oy, just oy.

Friday Catblogging: Floor Show

Della Street is plugged in and Oscar is leaning in. So it goes.

Joyeux Quatorze Juillet

Liberty Leading The People by Eugene Delacroix.

Joyeux Quatorze Juillet is the correct way to say Happy Bastille Day even though the latter makes me want to storm a prison and free some prisoners. The French merely refer to it as La Fête Nationale and dispense with the greetings.

French President Macron is trying a new tactic with the Insult Comedian: treating him like a crazy uncle to be indulged instead of disdained. I have my doubts that it will work but at least Trump isn’t throwing verbal stink bombs at the French any more. He did, however comment on the French First Lady’s appearance. I expect his aides will argue that it’s age appropriate: Brigitte Macron is 25 years older than her 39-year-old husband.

Here’s one of Trump’s big quotes from his day with the Macrons:

“France is one of our oldest allies. A lot of people don’t know that, but it’s true.”

There was much mirth about this on social media today. Unfortunately, Trump isn’t the only one ignorant of this basic fact. Surely, I’m not the only one who remembers “freedom fries” and “cheese eating surrender monkeys.” Those were, of course, epithets hurled at the French after then President Chirac’s wise decision to stay out of the Iraq War.

Joyeux Quatorze Juillet. Vive la France.

 

Malaka Of The Week: David Brooks

I am an anomaly among veteran liberal political bloggers. I have never written about David Brooks. The man known as Bobo has long been one of Athenae’s favorite targets. I almost called him her whipping boy but I have sworn off bondage jokes after an incident involving this Zappa song:

In any event, Brooks has written a column so silly that even I have taken notice. And that is why David Brooks is malaka of the week.

I’m late to the whole sammich column debate, but suffice it to say that one of the things Bobo thinks is wrong with America are foreign ingredients:

Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named “Padrino” and “Pomodoro” and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.

We are well and truly through the looking glass. Malaka Bobo thinks that Italian meats that have been eaten for years by his swarthier countrymen are an indicator of decline. Really, Bobo? Trump is president* Mitch McConnell is trying to destroy Medicaid and prosciutto is the problem?

If David Brooks weren’t such a white boy, he’d know that many Americans, including the working class types he’s suddenly so solicitous of, have been eating ethnic foods for years. Sure, yuppies are into it but so is the average Italian Giovanni in Jersey, not to mention Cajun oil rig roughnecks and their demon boudin. Somebody should bop Bobo in the bean with a baguette and knock some sense into him.

The best thing I’ve seen about the sammich mishigas was a meaty post by Charlie Pierce who has been mocking Bobo for years:

Moral Hazard, the Irish setter owned for photo op purposes by New York Times columnist David Brooks, stood dripping and shivering in my foyer. I half-filled his dog bowl with Jameson and he took it down in several big gulps.

 “I had to get out,” he said. “It was starting to get crazy down there. Master’s off the rails and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. He walks around, day and night, mumbling to himself, saying weird stuff about community and prosciutto. People are starting to wonder. Douthat, the former houseboy, jumps into closets now when he sees him coming and Stephens, the new one, hides behind the sofa. Nobody wants to listen to 15 minutes on how Edmund Burke’s Reflections warned us against radicalism and balsamic vinegar. I mean, OK, hear it once and it’s interesting but around the third time, you want to talk about hockey.”
I’ll be doggone if I can top that but I’m glad to hear that Malaka Bobo has a commoner as a pal. It could explain why he’s so down to earth and in touch with white working class Trump voters. #sarcasm. I hope Breakfast for Bobo involves strictly American ingredients although I suspect we’d have to gritsplain a Southern breakfast to this pompous fool who thinks that croissants and cappuccino are ruining the country. And that is why David Brooks is malaka of the week.

The last word goes to the late Warren Zevon who knew a good thing when he tasted it unlike that silly billy Bobo.

UPDATE: It turns out that I wrote about David Brooks in 2014: Bobo’s Weed Screed. It was strictly a one off deal. Oh well, nobody’s perfect.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Big Steal

Don Siegel week continues here at First Draft. The Big Steal was Siegel’s first opportunity to direct a first rate cast and he made the most of it.

It’s trailer time:

The “Everybody Does It” Defense

I didn’t expect there to be a smoking gun in the Trump-Russia scandal. I certainly didn’t expect it to involve Trump Junior. I’ve always expected the Trumpers and their enablers in the Republican party to resort to the “everybody does it” defense. It’s what happens when past defenses are exposed as lies. Of course, nothing said by the Trump crime family and its lackeys is ever true. Nothing. No thing. Literally. Believe me.

The counterattacks are flying thick, fast, and unconvincing. They’re desperately trying to unearth past instances of a presidential campaign working with a HOSTILE foreign power. Good luck with that:

Moscow has, however, tried to meddle in previous American elections. The historian Michael R. Beschloss recounts in “The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev, 1960-1963,” an account of the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Kennedy presidency, that the Soviet ambassador in Washington secretly reached out to both John F. Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson, another Democratic presidential hopeful, during the 1960 campaign. The ambassador was rebuffed by both candidates.

Imagine that. Of course, Jack Kennedy had smart relatives involved in his campaign something the Insult Comedian is sorely lacking. Jared? Junior? Gimme a break.

Instead of listening to his lawyers and shutting his big bazoo, the idiot-in-chief has chimed in on the Tweeter Tube:

Hey, he’s not citing Fox News in support. This is some daring “thinking” on Donald’s part.

As the Trump’s tower of lies implodes, it’s time for Republican office holders to stop defending him or give up their frequent invocations of their secular saint, Ronald Reagan. Here’s the deal: I never supported or voted for Reagan but never doubted his patriotism. The current Russian kleptocracy is the successor state to the Soviet Union. Does anyone seriously think that the man who called the USSR “the evil empire” would accept oppo from a lawyer linked to the Kremlin?

Reagan may have been the leader who incubated what Charlie Pierce calls the GOP’s “prion disease,” but he was an old-fashioned patriot whose favorite president was Franklin Roosevelt. The Republicans have done a good job in the last 30+ years of making Reagan their FDR. Neither FDR nor Reagan would have colluded with a hostile power to gain political advantage. They didn’t need to do so to win elections.  Defending Trump’s perfidy means that the GOP *should* lose the right to invoke Saint Ronnie. Will they stop? Hell no, but their invocations ring hollower by the day.

The world has truly turned upside down when I praise Ronald Reagan. Trump is so horrible that he makes Reagan look good in contrast. So it goes.

The “everybody does it” defense is a feeble one. Nixon and his minions trotted it out during Watergate. It did not work.

I originally planned to play Irving Berlin’s Everybody’s Doing It Now at the end of the post until I ran into the tune below. It was the label on the record that clinched it: Carnival Records with a clown logo. The Trump crime family brought the circus to the White House. It took six months for some people to realize that they’d taken a giant dump in the Rose Garden. Some people do not have a good sense of smell but the stench is growing day-by-day.

The Beguileds

I violated my film buff principles when I went to see Sofia Coppola’s remake of Don Siegel’s The Beguiled. I hate remakes, especially remakes of good movies. I was convinced by an article in the NYT that Coppola’s vision was so different from Siegel’s that I should give the remake a chance. Coppola *is* a very feminine director and Siegel was a manly man director of genre films. Their interpretations *are* different but it’s hard to think of any changes that Coppola made that improved the story.  In short, I wish I’d stuck to my guns and stayed away.

Dr. A and I watched the 1971 version again a few days before going to the movies. It’s a terrific, suspenseful, and deeply weird movie with the Civil War as an important character. Eastwood plays a surprisingly chatty Union corporal named John McBurney. It seemed like a better fit for Paul Newman or Jim Garner BUT Clint rocked the part.

The Beguiled is fundamentally a Southern Gothic tale in the tradition of Flannery O’Connor. Coppola has removed some of the elements that made the story juicy, ripe, and entertaining. She’s also desexed the movie and reduced headmistress Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman)  to prim and propertude. Is that a word? Coppola’s movie removes the Gothic from Southern Gothic, which makes it feel more like a southern fried episode of Downton Abbey set in Virginia. It was, however, filmed in Louisiana which is obvious by the landscape. Siegel too filmed in the Gret Stet but his movie was set in Mississippi. That made much more sense.

Then there are Coppola’s offenses against history. First, the Civil War is an after thought to the story. The war provides a menacing backdrop to Siegel’s 1971 film whereas it’s incidental to Coppola’s fixation on atmospherics. Then, there’s the dismissal of slavery in a line of dialogue: “The slaves left.” This is a movie set in the South that has no black characters whereas one of the best performances in Siegel’s film came from Mae Mercer as Hallie the enslaved housekeeper.

I was surprised when I looked up the running times of the two movies and learned that the 2017 version is 12 minutes shorter than the original. It seems much longer as the pacing is as slow as molasses and little happens until the last act. Sofia Coppola has always been much more interested in atmospherics than story-telling.  It’s the fatal flaw in this movie: The Beguiled is not a subtle, nuanced story and Coppola’s attempt to make it one renders it dull and lifeless.

In the end, my issues with Coppola’s movie boil down to my taste in directors. Like the original French auteur theorists, I prefer the work of unpretentious genre directors such as Don Siegel to those filmmakers who are self-consciously arty like Ms. Coppola. It has nothing to do with gender but with style. It’s a pity because I *love* Lost In Translation but I cannot say the same about her latest effort.

I give Don Siegel’s 1971 version of The Beguiled 3 stars, an Adrastos Grade of B and an Ebertian thumbs up. As to the 2017 remake, I give it 2 stars, an Adrastos Grade of C and thumbs down. If anything, Dr. A disliked the remake more than I did because Coppola transformed Miss Martha, the head mistress played first by Geraldine Page and then Nicole Kidman, from a slightly crazy badass into a prim and proper Southern lady. Bad choice.

Next time, I’ll skip the remake.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Romeo’s Escape

Romeo’s Escape was Dave Alvin’s attempt to make a hit album. Things didn’t go as planned but it’s a helluva record with a swell collagey cover.

The album is only available on YouTube in the playlist format. It’s worth dealing with: