Category Archives: Adrastos

Saturday Odds & Sods: I Want You Back

Rayograph by Man Ray.

This is the week Mother Nature flicked the celestial switch to turn on the steam bath that is summer in New Orleans. It hit 90 degrees for the first time in 2019. The cats slowed down, and your humble blogger started sweating like Bogie in the greenhouse scene in The Big Sleep. This sort of heat is why people in more sensible countries such as Spain and Greece take siestas. Did I just call the Greeks sensible? There’s a first time for everything.

The big local story was the death of writer, raconteur, and local character Ronnie Virgets at the age of 77. His prose style was unique as was his voice, which landed him on local teevee and radio. Ronnie was a man about town so I ran into him from time-to-time over the years. The last time was at the Krewe du Vieux captain’s dinner. Ronnie was our king in 1996. I told him how much I missed his Razoo column in the Gambit. His reply: “I ran out of shit to say.” It was said with a wink so I didn’t believe it for a second. Our mutual friend, Clancy DuBos, wrote a lovely tribute to Ronnie in which he compared him to both Damon Runyon and Jimmy Breslin. Yeah, you right, Clancy. They broke the mold when they made Ronnie Virgets.

Motown May continues with this week’s theme song. I Want You Back was written in 1969 by “The Corporation” aka Berry Gordy, Freddie Perren, Alphonso Mizell, and Deke Richards. The song was originally intended for Gladys Knight & the Pips but ended up being the Jackson 5’s first hit. Let me address the monster in the room: Michael Jackson did monstrous things as an adult but he was an abused child in 1969. Besides, my favorite thing about I Want You back is the production, especially the guitar riff that propels the song.

We have two versions for your entertainment. The Jackson 5 original and a cool cover by Graham Parker:

I hope you’ll still want me back after we jump to the break. If you don’t, who can blame you?

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Spotify The Louisiana Tunes

By popular demand, here’s *my* Spotify playlist of my  Top 50 Louisiana Tunes. There are a couple of different versions based on spotty Spotify availability:

  • The Garth Brooks catalog is not on Spotify so I’ve replaced his version of #45, Callin’ Baton Rouge, with one by Brooks Jefferson.
  • Connie Boswell’s rendition of #32, Way Down Yonder In New Orleans, was unavailable so I substituted a live version by Louis Armstrong.
  • At #20 we have some Louis Prima lagniappe, a medley of Basin Street Blues and When It’s Sleepy Time Down South. More of the Wildest is always welcome.
  • # 2c, Zachary Richard’s No French No More is not available on Spotify.

I suspect I’m the only one who cares about these details but I do. Like the list at the Bayou Brief, it’s in reverse order.

Enjoy the playlist, y’all.

The Crazy, It Burns

Yesterday was one of those days when the deadly absurdity of the Trump regime got to me. The president* had public meltdowns two days in a row. Speaker Pelosi knows what buttons to push and when to push them. She doesn’t do it so often that the first dolt will figure out what she’s up to, but his inability to deal with a powerful woman results in craziness. Bigly.

I sometimes wonder if we’re living in Freedonia, the fictional country of which Groucho Marx was the president in Duck Soup. Groucho was a benign, albeit lecherous, lunatic whereas the Insult Comedian is a malign lunatic with no redeeming characteristics whatsoever. I guess I should resume calling him Trumpberius, which is a nod to the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Life not only imitates Duck Soup, it imitates I Claudius as I wrote last August:

Trump increasingly reminds me of another crazy Caesar who was also depicted in the classic teevee series, I Claudius: Caligula’s predecessor, Tiberius. In that great 1976 series, Tiberius was installed via the machinations of his mother Livia. That, in turn, left him dubious of his own legitimacy and led him to do crazy and extreme things. Sound familiar?

At the end of his life, Tiberius isolated himself from the court at Rome and spent most of time debauching at his version of Mar-a-Lago: his villa on the Isle of Capri. Neither golf nor cable teevee had been invented at that point but I’m sure Tiberius would have dug them.

Yesterday as the “extremely stable genius” made his aides publicly attest to his stability and all around awesomeness, I kept waiting for burly men in white to place this deranged narcissist in a strait-jacket. This insecure lunatic should be on Nurse Ratched’s ward, not in the White House. (That’s right, life also imitates One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.) Even for the Trump regime, it was a  bizarre spectacle to behold; with horror. Wednesday’s meltdown may have been calculated, this one was not.

Writing for First Draft is my therapy. The whole country is going to need therapy when this mishigas is finally over. The good news is that I believe that voters will vote to stop the madness next year. The bad news is that we have to put up with this insanity until January, 2021 since his cabinet is populated with non-entities and lackeys who cannot count to 25 as in the 25th Amendment. And impeachment is merely an invitation to remove an errant Oval One; only the voters can remove him since the senate obviously will not.

The last word goes to Rufus T. Firefly:

Friday Catblogging: Still Life Of Cat With Toiletries

Paul Drake is an expert at finding spots that are verboten. Who wants cat hair on their toothbrush? We’ve resorted to keeping the door shut to break him of his latest bad habit.

 

New Tea From The Tillerson

Image by Michael F.

Oil baron and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is back in the news. You didn’t really think I could pass this story up, did you? He was in Washington City to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. I guess the president* didn’t try to block his appearance. Maybe he thought that the “affairs” refer to international nookie or some such shit. He approves of foreign nookie, after all.

Tillerson not only spilled some tea, he threw some shade the Insult Comedian’s way:

Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Russian President Vladimir Putin out-prepared President Trump during a key meeting in Germany, putting the U.S. leader at a disadvantage during their first series of tête-à-têtes.

<SNIP>

Committee aides said that Tillerson refrained from openly disparaging the president but that his inability to answer certain questions was revealing.

In one exchange, Tillerson said he and the president “shared a common goal: to secure and advance America’s place in the world and to promote and protect American values.”

“Those American values — freedom, democracy, individual liberty and human dignity — are the North Star that guided every action I took at the State Department,” Tillerson said, according to a person in the room.

Upon questioning, Tillerson clarified that although he and the president shared the same goal, they did not share the same “value system.”

When asked to describe Trump’s values, Tillerson said, “I cannot,” the person said.

“Just as matter of fact, he stated that he couldn’t or wouldn’t unpack the president’s values for us,” a committee aide said.

It’s because Trump doesn’t have any values, silly rabbit.

The president* was not amused and took to the Tweeter Tube to rant:

And who appointed this “dumb as a rock” and “totally ill-prepared and ill-equipped” man Secretary of State, Donald? Look in the mirror, asswipe. It reflects badly on you. It’s more projection from the First Criminal.

We all know people who are incapable of seeing themselves as others do. The Insult Comedian, however, wins the booby prize (literally) as the least self-aware person on the planet. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have staged that fake tantrum when he met with Chuck and Nancy yesterday. Speaker Pelosi was having a tough week before that presidential* gaffe. She should write him a thank you note. “I don’t do cover-ups,” my ass. That will be the Trumpian equivalent of Nixon’s “I am not a crook.” Tricky was and Trumpy does.

That concludes this nostalgic look at the life and times of Rex Tillerson, tea and oil spiller. It finds the Trump regime miles from nowhere after the Kaiser of Chaos went out on strike yesterday. Do your job, dipshit.

The last word goes to (who else?) my countryman, Cat Stevens:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Toff On The Farm

John Creasey was a successful and highly prolific crime fiction writer. And when I say prolific, I mean it: he wrote over 600 novels using 28 pen names. He made Stephen King look like a slacker.

The Toff was one of Creasey’s best-loved series. He was a gentleman detective who specialized in “fish out water” stories: hence the urban and urbane Brit at a farm.

My late mother was a fan of Creasey’s work and they were among the first grown-up books I read as a tadpole. No wonder I’m an Anglophile, eh wot?

Bayou Brief: Louisiana Tunes

My latest for the Bayou Brief is another listicle, Louisiana Tunes: The Top 50 Songs About the Gret Stet. It could also be called the Son of the Louisiana Movie List.

Deluded Tweet Of The Day: Double Bill Cassidy Edition

My Senators are always up to something, but never anything good. The scary thing is that Double Bill Cassidy is worse than Neely. The latter is at least entertaining whereas Dr. Bill has his head so far up Trump’s ass that he hasn’t seen daylight since 2016.

In this tweet, Cassidy claims to be a key adviser to Trump on health care issues:

This is something to brag about? The Insult Comedian has probably asked Double Bill to inspect his ass for hemorrhoids. His head is always nearby, after all. Just give the fucker some Boudreaux’s Butt Paste and move on, Doc.

The last word goes to Double Bill’s constituents the Radiators:

Taking The Tsar Thing Literally

Kris Kobach has a high opinion of himself for a guy who lost a Governor’s race in ruby red Kansas. He fancies himself an immigration expert as well as a voter fraud maven. Think of him as Stephen Miller with better hair.

The Trump regime was interested in making Kobach its Immigration Tsar. I prefer the British  spelling to the American Czar. Besides, the post title has four Ts; alliteration not only rocks, it rules. It’s truly a pity that truly was the only t-word synonym for literally I could find. Damn you, Merriam-Webster.

Kobach issued a list of demands, which cost him a chance at rock Tsardom. The job went to Virginia wingnut Ken Cuccinelli instead but the Kobach rider is still worthy of mockery:

  1.   Office in the West Wing.
  2.   Walk-in privileges with the president.
  3.   Assistant to the President rank – at highest pay level for WH senior staff.
  4.   Staff of 7 people (2 attorneys, 2 research analysts, 1 scheduler, 1 media person, 1 assistant).
  5.  POTUS sits down individually with Czar and the secretaries of Homeland Security, Defense, Justice, Ag, Interior, and Commerce, and tells each of the Secretaries to follow the directives of the Czar without delay, subject to appeal to the President in cases of disagreement.
  6.   24/7 access to either a DHS or DOD jet. Czar must be on the border every week.
  7.   Ability to spend weekends in KS with family on way from border back to DC, unless POTUS needs Czar elsewhere.
  8.   Security detail if deemed necessary after security review.
  9.   Serve as the face of Trump immigration policy – the principal spokesman on television and in the media.
  10.  Promise that by November 1, 2019, the president will nominate Kris Kobach to be DHS Secretary, unless Kobach wishes to continue in Czar position.

Who the hell does this bozo think he is? Robert Plant? I wonder if he expected to have his M&M’s sorted by color. There’s precedent for such a move in Trumpistan: House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy has been known to sort the Insult Comedian’s Starbursts. The president* prefers strawberry and cherry. I don’t remember if they sorted Reagan’s jelly beans.

The title of this post could have been, Kris Kobach: Too Arrogant For Team Trump. I decided against it. Why? My motto is: when in doubt, use an historical analogy.

Pictured below are the wannabe Tsar Kobach and real life Tsar, Alexander III who was the autocrat’s autocrat. Alexander Romanov was a tyrant so bloodythirsty and repressive that Trump would fall in love with him if he were still alive. Believe me.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Bob Kames

Bob Kames nee Kujawa was a polka musician operating out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he was, apparently, a local legend. I’d never heard of him until my friend Marko Romano suggested one of the Bobster’s campier album covers. I went in another direction but I’d like to thank him for putting some polka into my life.

Here are two album covers:

What’s not to love about a happy organ, beer, and the chicken dance?

Perspective

I had no plans to write about the Game Of Thrones series finale. It feels like I’m poaching on Milady Athenae’s territory but some of the more overwrought reactions to the final season compelled me to write. Some of the agita was caused by the showrunners’ willingness to engage in “fan servicing,” a dreadful term that I’m loathe to use but what can I tell ya? When some Sopranos fans demanded “less yakking and more whacking,” David Chase didn’t give a shit. Pandering to one’s dumbest and most bloodthirsty viewers is folly.

I’m a casual fan who hasn’t read the books. I don’t bleed GOT dragon blood or even fire and ice. Here’s my verdict: season 8 was erratic. It had one of the best episodes of the series, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, and one of the murkiest, The Long Night. And I’m not 100% certain that I found the finale 100% satisfying but I never expected perfection. The show has always been messy and uneven: don’t get me started about Arya and the faceless whozit story line, which was the GOT equivalent of Vito in New Hampshire on The Sopranos.

The reaction I’ve found most annoying is the notion that the Khaleesi’s fiery atrocities came out of nowhere. I’ll let Vulture’s Hillary Kelly do the heavy lifting in her recap of the penultimate episode: 

In the days to come the battle among viewers will revolve around one big idea: Daenerys the Mad Queen giving in to her worst impulses and torching an entire city and its people to the ground. How can they drag a good woman down? the Twitterverse will wail. Crowds of angry viewers are going to revolt against the fact that this single woman isn’t keeping their feminist fantasies alive, that the showrunners would dare do something so complex as have a woman with rather questionable DNA, a devout belief in her divine rights, a propensity for crucifixion, a long storied history of being talked out of vicious acts by her advisers, and a savior complex the size of Wun Wun actually do the logical thing and go HAM. If you’re wondering how long this has been building, go back and rewatch Daenerys burn Mirri Maz Dur in season one, watch her burn Pyat Pree in season two, watch her burn Astapor in season three, watch her crucify the Masters in season four, watch her burn the slave owners of Meereen in season five, Vaes Dothrak in season six, the loot train and the Tarlys in season seven.

If anything, this squabble has intensified after the finale.  But I think everyone dug Drogon melting the iron throne, which was reminiscent of the death of Danny’s brother, Viserys, at the hands of Khal Drogo back in season one; before America had its own version of the Mad King.

Yeah, I know that I mocked bloodthirsty viewers but that was wicked awesome.

I am less mystified than many by the series ending since it seems to be based on history. The Council was the Westerosi version of the conclave that produced the Magna Carta in 1215. The British lords met and came up with a way to limit the so-called divine rights of kings. That’s a concept that would work quite well in a fictional landscape plagued by endless and endlessly violent power struggles. Westeros would do better as a confederation of principalities than a centralized monarchy. Think Germany before it was Prussianized by Bismarck and the Hohenzollern dynasty. That did not end well.

As to the installation of Bran the Broken as fictional monarch of the fictional seven kingdoms, it’s not entirely satisfying. I would have preferred his sister, Sansa. BUT it’s based on a venerable notion that the reluctant ruler is the best ruler. It’s part of America’s founding myth that George Washington did not want to be the first president and had to be talked into it by, among others, Alexander Hamilton. I guess that makes Tyrion the diminutive Hamilton. I can’t wait for the musical.

In a show about power, there was never going to be a happy ending. This is as close to that as Team GOT was likely to get. It was their creative choice, which pleases some people and outrages others. So it goes.

In the end, some perspective is called for. It’s just a teevee show.

The last word goes to Peter Gabriel whose position on GOT is unknown to me:

Saturday Odds & Sods: You Keep Me Hangin’ On

Golconda by Rene Magritte.

After a deluge on Mother’s Day, we’re having Indian spring in New Orleans. Is there such a thing? If there’s not, there should be. The best thing about it is that the oak pollen that plagued me got its ass kicked by the rain.

I’ve never re-used an Odds & Sods featured image within a month before, but it’s a perfect fit with this week’s theme song. Besides, if you blog long enough, you end up repeating yourself, repeating yourself, repeating yourself. One side benefit of the vinyl revival is that everyone knows what a broken record is, what a broken record is, what a broken record is. It’s time to lift the needle and move on.

Motown May continues with the Supremes. The crack songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote You Keep Me Hangin’ On in 1966. It was a number one hit song with a bullet, with a bullet, with a bullet. The preceding was an inside joke for hardcore Zappa fans. Everyone else can move on to the next paragraph.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the Supremes original and a 1967 “psychedelic rock” cover by Vanilla Fudge, which was also a  top ten hit. I put psychedelic rock in quotes because it’s one of those phrases that’s like ketchup or mayo: some people slather it over everything.

Now that we’ve hung on as well as out, let’s jump to the break. Perhaps all this hangin’ means we’ll land in a hangar. One more thing:

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Friday Catblogging: Gunga Paul

Those of you with long memories might recall that there was a post titled Gunga Della in 2015. It’s Paul Drake’s turn in the barrel:

You’re a good man, Gunga Paul.

(War) Party Like It’s 2002

You know things are bad when you wish Steve Bannon was still a member of Trump’s inner circle. I cannot believe that I just wrote that sentence but I mean every word of it. Bannon’s sole redeeming characteristic is that he’s on the dovish side and was not a fan of the Iraq War. Trump’s ultra-hawkish national security team is ready for a sequel to the Mess In Mesopotamia: war with Iran.

I was worried about this when John Bolton and his mustache of war joined Team Trump. Bolton is the ultimate chickenhawk: a man who loves war but has never fought except with his mouth. His flashback to his bureaucratic glory days is giving many whiplash:

With the Trump administration slipping onto war footing with Iran, there are growing fears inside Washington that John Bolton, the president’s hawkish national-security adviser, is plagiarizing his own Iraq war playbook. “Everyone feels the shadow of 2002–2003: The administration seems determined to find a cause for conflict; allies are aghast; the public seems disengaged,” a former senior U.S. official told me, shortly after The New York Times reported that administration officials had begun drawing up plans to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East. “It’s hard for anyone to fathom why [Donald Trump] would think a war of choice is a good idea, given what he’s said in the past about Iraq and Afghanistan.”

As we saw at the dawn of the 21st Century, war plans have a momentum of their own. Bolton may be a cartoon militarist BUT he’s one of the few members of Team Trump who is not a blithering idiot. He’s also a skillful bureaucrat who knows how to manipulate the levers of power.

Bolton has been dreaming of war with Iran for years. He thinks his time has come: he works for a president* who makes Dubya look savvy and well-informed. The axis of assholes is down with some sort of attack on Iran: Bibi and Mister Bone Saw would love to trick a gullible American president* into another Middle Eastern misadventure. Strike the word misadventure, a ground war with Iran would be a catastrophe. It has the potential to make Iraq look like the “cakewalk” of the neo-cons fever dreams.

If a story in the WaPo is to be believed, the Insult Comedian may be dubious of Bolton’s bolt to war:

But President Trump is frustrated with some of his top advisers, who he thinks could rush the United States into a military confrontation with Iran and shatter his long-standing pledge to withdraw from costly foreign wars, according to several U.S. officials. Trump prefers a diplomatic approach to resolving tensions and wants to speak directly with Iran’s leaders.

I hope the story is right but the thought of relying on Trump’s gut instinct gives me indigestion. I’m also leery of counting on his desire to keep a campaign promise. He can always change his story and lie about his previous views. He does it on a daily basis.

The last thing we need is a sequel to the Mess In Mesopotamia. We’ve seen this movie before and it’s bound to end badly.

The last word goes to XTC:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: A Night For Treason

It’s time for another classic pulp image by Verne Tossey. The femme fatale on the cover may be ruthless but she’s well put together.

1956’s A Night For Treason was an early book by John Jakes who became famous for writing best-selling historical novels such as North and South. I don’t believe that there’s a A Night For Treason mini-series but Revlon or another lipstick company would have been a perfect sponsor. Oh well, there’s always Netflix.

 

Alabama Goddam

Photo via @ALostrich.

The Alabama lege has gone there by passing a bill that effectively bans safe, legal abortion. It confirms the asterisk placed on the state motto in the featured image above.

The Guardian nailed it with this brilliant headline: These 25 Republicans-All White Men-Just Voted To Ban Abortion In Alabama.

Governor Kay Ivey hasn’t announced whether or not she’ll sign the bill BUT she’s a blue-haired right-winger from central casting so she’s expected to do so. That will be the day that stars really fall on Alabama.

Anti-choicers have been “praying” for this ever since Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973. It’s why they support Donald Trump who has pledged to only appoint judges who will strike Roe down. Unfortunately, it’s the only promise he’s kept.  Thanks, Mitch.

I’m usually cautiously optimistic that Chief Justice Roberts will land on the side of precedent since he’s a genuine judicial conservative as well as an institutionalist. Unfortunately, institutionalism is on the run in the Trump era. Besides, the Chief’s record on abortion rights issues is clear: he’s apt to be just as eager to reverse Roe as his wingnuttier colleagues.

Justice Stephen Breyer issued a warning last week about the current court’s willingness to disregard precedent. Here’s an excerpt from a piece by Slate’s fine legal writer Mark Joseph Stern:

In dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer acknowledged as much. Overruling precedent typically requires a “special justification,” Breyer wrote, but “the majority does not find one.” Instead, it merely decides that Hall “was wrongly decided” and should go. “The law has not changed significantly since this Court decided Hall,” Breyer pointed out, “nor has our understanding of state sovereign immunity evolved to undermine Hall.” All that has changed is the composition of the court. He added:

“To overrule a sound decision like Hall is to encourage litigants to seek to overrule other cases; it is to make it more difficult for lawyers to refrain from challenging settled law; and it is to cause the public to become increasingly uncertain about which cases the Court will overrule and which cases are here to stay.”

It is “dangerous,” Breyer concluded, “to overrule a decision only because five Members” of the court disagree with it. “Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next.” And if there were any doubt which cases Breyer was alluding to in this dark denouement, he cited the portion of Planned Parenthood v. Casey that explained why Roe should be upheld. The justice has hoisted a red flag, alerting the country that the court’s conservative majority is preparing an assault on the right to abortion access.

Justice Breyer rarely writes such scathing dissents: he’s usually the soul of moderation and courtesy. That’s why we need to take him seriously. Shit meet fan.

I am not eager for the Alabama law to reach the Supreme Court but that’s its likely destination absent an unlikely veto by the Governor. We’re on our own now.

Tweet Of The Day: Gret Stet Sycophant Edition

The Insult Comedian was in the Gret Stet of Louisiana yesterday for an event in Lake Charles and a fundraiser in Jefferson Parish. The Metry shebang caused major traffic snarls and gave local commuters another reason to loathe the First Criminal.

When Trump landed at Armstrong Airport he was greeted by past malaka of the week and perennial frat boy, Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser:

Actually, the Nungesser piece was entitled Gret Stet Grifter but it began life as a malaka of the week post. The man some call Bordello Billy is a poor man’s Trump. He claims to be a self-made man but his father was the longtime chairman of the Louisiana GOP. He’s a Lost Causer who could care less about stirring up fear and resentment. And, like his hero, Nungesser talks tough, but is a pussy who should grab himself.

Nungesser is a bully and as with all bullies, he’s willing to abase himself upon meeting a superior bully. The Trump hair socks were intended to mock the Kaiser of Chaos, not praise him. I’m only surprised the Lt. Goober didn’t bring his Trumpy Bear.

The last word goes to LSU Journalism Prof Bob Mann with this rock-em-sock-em tweet:

 

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Love Me Or Leave Me

I did a search for Doris Day album covers. They were all flattering head shots and not terribly interesting. The cover of the soundtrack album of Love Me Or Leave Me was as atypical as her performance as torch singer and tough broad Ruth Etting. Does this look like a “professional virgin” to you?

Here’s a glamorous lobby card as lagniappe:

Finally, here’s the whole damn album:

 

Doris Day, R.I.P.

My parents were both Doris Day fans, so I grew up watching her eponymous sitcom, then her movies on the late, late show. They owned some of her records and my mom was known to sing along with Doris. She got a kick out of informing me that Doris Day was my dad’s celebrity crush. His response, “She’s my type. She’s a beautiful Midwestern blonde. Just like your mother.”

Doris Day died today at the age of 97. She lived a long, productive, and difficult life. She was a survivor: she made it through a series of bad marriages and outlived her only child, Terry Melcher, by 15 years. Terry was Manson’s real target on the night that Sharon Tate was murdered. He was never quite the same again but his mother persevered. People who grew up during the Great Depression and lived through World War II were as tough as nails; even America’s Sweetheart.

As much as I loved her movies with Rock Hudson and Tony Randle, it was a revelation when I saw her in the two movies whose lobby cards are this post’s featured image. She was a mom and wife in the Hitchcock flick but her turn in Love Me Or Leave Me as Ruth Etting, a torch singer married to a gangster, was unlike any other part she ever played. Ruth was one tough cookie as was Doris.

Doris Day was a legend: singer, movie star, actress, and animal lover. What a life, what a broad. She will be missed.

The last word goes to Doris herself with the theme song from Love Me Or Leave and the song from The Man Who Knew Too Much that became her signature number, Que Sera, Sera:

 

Memories Of The Muskie Administration

The MSM punditocracy hasn’t learned anything from the 2016 election. They’re still fixated on early polling and “discovering” bright shiny objects instead of reporting the campaign. I *had* hoped they’d learned that insider political journalism was bankrupt as declared by Ben Smith last summer. But they haven’t learned a damn thing and continue to focus on the horse race aspects of the “why not me” campaign. Remember the Avenatti boomlet? I’d prefer to forget it.

After declaring Joe Biden’s candidacy DOA, many in the punditocracy now think that he’s the inevitable nominee. They’re wrong in both instances. Frontrunner status has a way of bringing a candidate crashing to earth, especially in such a large field. Remember President Dean?

I have fond memories of the 2009-2017 Hillary Clinton administration. She was the frontrunner that time around and ended up losing the nomination. Secretary of State was a pretty damn good consolation prize. Thanks, Obama.

The ultimate Democratic frontrunner who failed was Senator Edmund Sixtus Muskie of Maine. 1972 was my formative year as a political junkie. It was the first time I was old enough to pay attention. I supported George McGovern but liked Muskie and didn’t understand why he was torn down by a media that had built him up as the inevitable nominee for two years. I was too young to get it then.

Ed Muskie was Hubert Humphrey’s running mate in 1968. The contrast between him and the man I refuse to claim as my countryman, Spiro Agnew, was stark. Muskie was calm, thoughtful, and qualified. The self-loathing Greek, Ted (Don’t Call Me Spiro) Agnew, was the exact opposite: bombastic, shallow, and unqualified. He was also a crook who took bribes while serving as Veep.

One of the best ads of the 1968 election cycle mocked Agnew:

Back to Ed Muskie. He emerged from the ’68 campaign as a national figure. His calm, reasoned reply to a frenetic midterm broadcast by Tricky Dick in 1970 made him a star and the ’72 frontrunner. The tall Senator was called Lincolnesque by many observers. What candidate wouldn’t want to be compared to Honest Abe?

Muskie led in every Democratic preference poll from that moment on. He was frequently ahead of Nixon in head-to-head polls through the early months of 1972. One of his campaign themes was Trust Muskie, drawing an obvious contrast to a president whose nickname was Tricky Dick.

This button is a good example of Muskie’s message:

Muskie was inevitable, until he wasn’t. His frontrunner status made him a target for Nixon’s dirty tricksters and at 6’4″ he was a big target. Attacks on his wife, Jane, caused Big Ed to snap and cry in public, which in the uber-macho atmosphere of 1972 helped doom his candidacy. Nixon and his lackeys had the opponent they wanted in the general election.

Among the many ironies of Muskie’s doomed campaign is that he actually won the New Hampshire primary, but the punditocracy, unaware of Nixonian dirty tricks, declared McGovern the “winner.” Muskie’s campaign might have come a cropper anyway: he was over reliant on big name endorsements and blurred his strongly liberal political views into blandness on the advice of his advisers.

Muskie was also dogged in 1972 by a bizarre and untrue story concocted by Hunter S. Thompson about his use of a hallucinogenic drug, Ibogaine. Thompson later claimed it was a joke and that nobody believed the story anyway. That just wasn’t so. I think of Ed Muskie every time I hear Hunter Thompson lionized as a voice for fearless independent journalism when, in fact, he was in the bag for Team McGovern. Projection thy name is Hunter S. Thompson.

What lessons can be drawn from my memories of the Muskie administration?

It’s not over until it’s over.

Don’t trust the MSM punditocracy and early polls. They’re both eminently changeable. Just ask former media darling Beto O’Rourke.

Insider political journalism *should* be dead, but it’s not.

The last word goes to Alice Cooper with a hit song from 1972: