Category Archives: Diary

She Didn’t Believe in Transcendence

This is a piece about sexual harassment. Reading it may be difficult or upsetting for survivors of sexual violence. If you need to talk, the National Sexual Assault Hotline is available for help and support 24/7 at 800.656.HOPE (4673) & online.rainn.org.

When I heard the news that Andrew Cuomo is a sexual predator, I just felt…really, really tired. I have no emotional investment in him, and frankly I don’t care for any of the Cuomos. Now I care even less. But after 4 years of the trump assault, no one needed this, least of all his victims. There are now 3 women on the record, but we all know there are a lot more. There always are. No one should be surprised either at how freely he treated women in this disgusting manner. No one should be surprised because when they are in a position of power where there is no one to push back, abusive men talk to women like this—degrading comments, intrusive questions meant to humiliate, the literal and figurative breakdown of our personal space—ALL THE TIME.

I was sexually harassed on the job. I had finished my first round of graduate school and was at home for a few months before I moved to Boston with my best friend. I found a long-term temp job that would carry me until we moved and I actually liked it. It was a family-run company that made some kind of light industrial goods that I don’t remember. The secretary was going out for surgery, but as she told me as she trained me my first day, she was never coming back. I could handle the bookkeeping and accounting so I was happy to have the steady income.

The day-to-day management had passed from the father to his son, who was in his 40s and a big flashy spender. He had a fancy car and an airplane and was desperate to impress me.  As it was summer and all of my siblings were working, I got dropped off and picked up as part of the roving family carpool so I’d bring my lunch and eat in the little anteroom to the women’s bathroom. It was clean and private, and I was the only woman working there so it was fine. I always had a book and it was a quiet hour alone. Or it was when my boss didn’t come in to chat with me about whether I had a boyfriend or what I liked to do for fun (sound familiar?). I began to dread my lunch hour.

Luckily the shop foreman saw him go in one noontime and came and called him out to the shop floor. Later the foreman came to see me, apologized profusely for not knowing, told me he’d told my boss never to do that ever again, and gave me the keys to the company pickup truck ostensibly so I could go the bank and make the daily deposits but really so I could get out at lunch time.  I’ve never forgotten his kindness. And naturally that didn’t stop my boss, it just redirected his efforts into trying to let him fly me up to Boston for my job interviews, you know, to save time that we could then spend together sightseeing. Ugh. That bothered me less because it was nowhere as menacing as being shut up in a small room with him, but it was still unwanted, unwelcome, and pathetic.

And that’s the thing the I see so clearly in Cuomo’s behavior:  its pitifulness. It’s the behavior of insecure, socially deficient men, the kind of men that women immediately know to avoid at gatherings. I’ve been online a long time and one of the communities where I hang out is, and has always been, overwhelmingly male. The women who hang out there tend to either be pleasers or tough, intelligent women who stand up for themselves. Over the years, the pleasers have disappeared and the women who stayed insist on being treated respectfully. This sets up a lot of confrontations with a segment of the male membership. There is the obvious group, the ones who call women disgusting names to their virtual faces. And then there are Cuomos, the ones who are obviously forked up when it comes to women but who don’t immediately call you the c word.

Years ago, in a smaller private subgroup of the community, one of the women shared some intimate details. Years later, and in a less private community subgroup, a guy who had once told us that while he was in his truck he threatened to run over a woman he had catcalled and who flipped him off in return (he later told us that he was “joking” and that it never actually happened—he just thought it would be a funny story to tell (of course it really happened)) started a thread to demand she tell him all of the details again. When she got upset, he essentially pulled a Cuomo. It was supposed to be funny! It was just a light-hearted request! OK, well if you were offended then I apologize! Geez! I was only joking! You’re so uptight! Lather, rinse, repeat.

I hope all the women Cuomo demeaned and harassed and assaulted come forward and sink his political career. It’s time for a few small repairs.

Postcard From Sonoma 2

Greetings From Sonoma

It’s been a few weeks since I last sent you a postcard from my hometown. In those few weeks a lot has changed.

Saturday morning, I went out for a walk in the bright sunshine and 65 degree weather. The sky was cloudless and clear, the kind of light that glistens off every tree and accents every birds’ tweet. Though still technically weeks away, it truly felt like spring.

If spring is rebirth, it almost felt like a rebirth of my little town.

Sonoma Valley High School, home of the Dragons and recently converted into a vaccine distribution center, had it’s parking lot filled with eager seniors (in age, not grade level) lining up to receive the first of their two Moderna shots. We have just moved down from 75 to 65 year-olds getting the jab and I was seeing a lot of pent up desire in the faces of the about to be newly inoculated. Concern and a sense of hope hung on the faces of the soon to be inoculated.

The other vaccine center in town is the Veteran’s Building, set up specifically for anyone eligible for VA benefits. It also had a lineup of eager wannabe jabees, though the folks here seem to have reverted to their military ways as the line was more disciplined, straight, and orderly. Muscle memory, it takes more than time to leave the system.

Passing by the Little League fields I saw try-outs were in progress. Skinny legged boys with hand printed signs pinned to the backs of their shirts, numbered so no team coach can play favorites, threw, hit, and fielded as naturally as if they hadn’t been in utter disruption for most of the past year. The kids reminded me of young colts frolicking in a pasture, happy to just run, their energy a tonic for the extra long winter we’ve all endured. I was not the only one to stop and join with parents and siblings watching the play.

Of course there still was a reminder of the times as everyone, kids, parents, passerbys, all were masked. One thing about Sonoma, we take our masking seriously.

Sonoma Square was filled with people, not quite Tuesday Farmer’s Market level, but pretty close. There were pockets of ladies in circles of folding chairs spaced six feet apart  holding forth on what I suspect was claimed to be a book club but in reality was a coffee klatch. The picnic tables were filled with old men, well older than I, containers of coffee in their hands declaiming their opinions on what should be done with the state of the world. Young children swung on the swings and slid down the slides, their high pitched shouts piercing the air with a joy that was intoxicating till reminded by nearby mothers to put on their masks, their joy at the spring like weather tempered by the tunnel of worry we still need to exit from.

Over in the vineyards the sheep were gently grazing. No, really, sheep are used as “woolie weeders” to remove the grass, weeds, and mustard flowers that grow in the lanes between vines. The perfect organic farming machine, they weed, they aerate, and they fertilize, all in one compact unit. And when all the work is done they make a fine lunch. Just kidding they make too much money for the guy who rents them out to ever be turned into kebobs.

Sheep grazing in vineyard

This job ain’t half baaaaad

In the evening the wife (Cruella) and I met with another couple, determined to do one of those civilized things couples did in the Before Times — go out to dinner together. Restrictions have eased to where we can once again dine in at a restaurant provided the dine in is outdoors. The town has given over about a quarter of the parking spaces on the Square for tables and chairs, creating small parklets of dining for eating establishments that do not already have patio dining.

Though the sun had gone down and the temperature had cooled it was still a pleasant evening which probably contributed to our having to try eight restaurants before finding one that had a table available without an hour and a half wait. I was rewarded by Oso Sonoma for my patience with a grilled achiote chicken breast with red onions and jalapeno aioli, paired with fingerling potatoes roasted in duck fat. A bottle of 2016 Gundlach Bundschu Merlot made the cooler air irrelevant.

You could close your eyes and almost imagine things being normal again. Of course upon opening them you’d realize you’re still wearing a mask, sitting outside in the now cold night air, and with a waitress standing ready to disinfectant the table as soon as you leave.

Baby steps.

Shapiro Out

Tagged , , ,

Saturday Odds & Sods: Do You Feel Like We Do

Cocktails by Archibald Motley.

The cold weather is gone for now. We haven’t run the heater for a few days. Yay. I shudder to think what our next utility bill will be, but it won’t be like the budget-busters in unregulated Texas; at least I hope not. Freedom, man.

I’m feeling cautiously optimistic on the COVID front. But some people are already getting carried away. That’s been the pattern and it’s a lethal one. I’m keeping my guard up even after I get vaccinated, which should be in the next few weeks. Let’s be careful out there.

The featured image is by Archibald Motley who was a Jazz Age modernist active during the Harlem Renaissance. The image is of well-dressed Black ladies having cocktails. I’d call them flappers but that could cause a flap, Jack…

This week’s theme song was written by Peter Frampton for his 1973 semi-solo, semi-band album Frampton’s Camel. It’s the ultimate rock hangover song.

An edited version of a live version from the monster hit album, Frampton Comes Alive later became a hit single. How’s that for a version diversion? I hope it was diverting.

We have two versions (there’s that word again) of Do You Feel Like We Do for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a 2000 live performance.

We’ll have more about Peter Frampton after the break. We might as well go now.

Continue reading

The Curious Case Of The Mean Tweets War

I’ve been on Twitter since its infancy, March 2008. I came to it via an OG NOLA blogger acquaintance who we nicknamed Trotsky because he had Leon Trotsky hair and fancied himself something of an internet revolutionary. I lost touch with Trotsky but as far as I know, he’s never been attacked by a Stalinist with an ice pick.

For many years, I engaged in some pitched online battles with people on political Twitter; some from the far left, others from the far right. Not long after the 2016 election catastrophe, I realized that fighting with strangers on the Tweeter Tube was a waste of time and energy. I stopped arguing with them because it was futile.

Twitter became meaner and uglier after its Trumpification and the battles became nastier. Many continued to fight with trolls and other pains in the ass; Neera Tanden is among those Twitter warriors.

I’ve been following Tanden for many years. Her feed is often amusing and informative. It’s also extremely combative. Neera Tanden is one tough broad and I say that as a compliment. She doesn’t take shit from anyone. I often wondered if she’d given up her ambition to serve in appointed or elective office since she tweeted with a blow torch.

We’ve heard much from the right and center-right about her mean tweets. We’ve heard less from the left: many of Tanden’s fiercest Twitter battles were with some of Bernie Sanders’ less salubrious supporters. Neera and Bernie have buried the hatchet and thus far there seems to be no *meaningful* real world opposition from the left to her nomination as budget director. The Twitter left is a different story but who the hell cares about them?

Unlike the girly men of the right, Bernie Sanders can take a punch and respects the toughness of Tanden. His opinion matters because he’s the chairman of the budget committee. He’s voting to confirm.

The mean tweets war accelerated when West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin announced his opposition based on Tanden’s mean tweets. In the past, Manchin has voted for the likes of Rick Grennel whose tweets made Tanden’s look mild-mannered in contrast. This is quite simply the dumbest reason ever for opposing a nomination. Say it ain’t so, Joe. Sorry, Cassandra, your guy got this one wrong.

There’s a clear double standard at work here. The Biden nominees who are having the most trouble are women and people of color. Imagine that. Additionally, the notion that Republicans object to mean tweets is preposterous. Before his exile, the Impeached Insult Comedian was the meanest tweeter of all as well as the biggest liar. Neera Tanden has a sharp tongue but speaks the truth.

It’s time for a brief musical interlude:

Tough-talking women are viewed with suspicion in our society. I not only embrace the tough broad ethos, I celebrate it. In this case, Neera Tanden is eminently qualified to be OMB honcho. Lapsed Republican/former Bush aide David Frum neatly summed it up:

Slowly but surely Neera Tanden’s tweets are turning into the 2021 edition of Hillary Clinton’s emails. It’s even more ridiculous than that ridiculous episode as the issue is her opinions, not any question of law or propriety however specious. Neera Tanden gets it: she was one of Hillary’s top aides in 2016.

This episode shows how low our body politic has sunk. Tweets, mean or nice, should have no bearing on anyone’s ability to serve in government. Twitter is supposed to be a lark, not all important. Note the motto on my own Twitter profile:

I guess I should amend my motto to: Nothing that happens on Twitter *should* matter.

The last word goes to Crowded House in the fog:

As of now it’s unclear where Neera Tanden’s “blind date with destiny” will take her. I hope she’s confirmed but the White House has made it clear that there’s a place in the administration for her regardless of how The Curious Case Of The Mean Tweets War concludes.

Bayou Brief: The 14th Month Of 2020

I took a break from my other home on the internet, Bayou Brief. The hiatus is over: the 13th Ward Rambler is ready to rumble.

In my return column, I ponder Carnivals past and present and take aim at New Orleans tourism honcho, Stephen Perry. It’s called 14th Month Of 2020 because it feels like it. Make it stop.

I’m not sure if I’m on fire but the Neville Brothers certainly were at this 1987 show:

Have I mentioned lately how much I miss Art Neville?

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, R.I.P.

I’m about to do something I’ve only done before on special occasions: repost a previously published piece. This qualifies as a special occasion. The great American poet, bookseller, and rabid San Francisco Giants fan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has died at the age of 101.

Larry was not only a literary legend, he was a helluva nice guy. I knew him in another lifetime. Last October, I wrote about it in A Coney Island Of The Mind.

I closed by saying:

“I originally planned to save this story for a tribute to the great man but thanks to Amy Coney Barrett, I’m telling it today. Go figure.”

Let’s begin again with with the featured image:

“I am waiting for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe for anarchy”
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, A Coney Island of the Mind: Poems

Ever since the Impeached Insult Comedian nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, I’ve had Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poetry collection, A Coney Island Of The Mind on my mind. I know it’s strange, but you must be mindful of how my mind works. I’m not only a punster, I free associate like crazy. Just don’t call me crazy, okay? If I were rich, you’d call me eccentric.

Another reason I have Felinghetti on my mind is a thread going around Twitter asking who is the most famous person you’ve ever met and spoken to. My reply was “a toss-up between Frank Sinatra and Willie Mays.”

I also met Lawrence Ferlinghetti in my wayward youth but beat poets aren’t as famous as saloon singers and baseball superstars.

I used to hang out at Vesuvio Cafe, which is a bar in San Francisco across the alley from Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Bookstore. I got a kick out of bellying up to the Beatnik Bar, drinking Irish coffee, smoking Camels, and pondering if Jack Kerouac or Neal Cassady had ever sat on the same bar stool. The only beatnik accoutrement I lacked in those days was a proper beret.

One day a bearded gent sat next to me and struck up a conversation. I realized that it was the legendary poet. I knew Ferlinghetti loved baseball, so we talked about the Giants Sixties glory days when immortals such as Mays, McCovey, and Marichal were blown about windy Candlestick Park. I told him that I knew Gaylord Perry from my suburban neighborhood. I scored points by telling him that Perry’s daughter, Allison, deflected the notion her dad threw a spitball by calling it “a hard slider.” It was a wet slider: Gaylord’s memoirs were called Me and The Spitter.

Being a relatively well-brought up young man, I called him Mr. Felinghetti. He shook his head, slapped me on the back and said, “Call me Larry.”

I chatted with Larry several times without getting the sub-text until he joined me and my future first wife at a table at Vesuvio’s; not its name but I always called it that. Dee was more of a poetry buff than me, so they talked about Anne Sexton and Sylivia Plath instead of flashy former Giant infielder Tito Fuentes who was a particular favorite of Larry’s. I realized that she was holding my hand rather tightly. She explained why after Larry left us:

“He was cruising you.”

“Really? I had no idea.”

“It’s okay. He’s obviously a man who can take no for an answer.”

I realized she was right. It was the first time she’d been with me when I spoke with Larry. I was flattered then and even more so as I look back on that evening in North Beach. Nobody’s going to cruise me in my current decrepitude so it’s nice to remember that I was once cruiseable.

I originally considered weaving my thoughts about Amy Coney Barrett into this post but why spoil a pleasant memory?

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is still very much with us at the age of 101. His longevity is impressive but unsurprising. He’s a life force.

I mentioned Larry’s love of baseball. One of his poems is called Baseball Canto and it mentions the aforementioned Tito Fuentes:

And Tito Fuentes comes up looking like a bullfighter
in his tight pants and small pointy shoes.
And the right field bleachers go mad with Chicanos and blacks
and Brooklyn beer-drinkers,
“Tito! Sock it to him, sweet Tito!”
And sweet Tito puts his foot in the bucket
and smacks one that don’t come back at all,
and flees around the bases
like he’s escaping from the United Fruit Company.
As the gringo dollar beats out the pound.
And sweet Tito beats it out like he’s beating out usury,
not to mention fascism and anti-semitism.

I originally planned to save this story for a tribute to the great man but thanks to Amy Coney Barrett, I’m telling it today. Go figure.

The last word goes to Lawrence Ferlinghetti reading Baseball Canto:

Good-Talking Candles

I thought I wanted to write something about the budget reconciliation process, but I’ve been feeling sad these last few days:  sad because a dear friend lost her mom on Friday, sad because that dear friend and her youngest son and her husband have COVID-19 and it involved a hospital stay, sad that 500,000 people have died from this disease, and sad that we have no organized communal mourning with its permission to just exist in the ever-present grief.

Every year I drag my feet when it comes to taking down our Christmas decorations. I don’t really do a lot of decorating, but I do fill the house with lights. This year I lit some new areas and turned down the regular lighting. The ambient light was both comfortable and cheering, like having “good talking candles” all around a la Richard Brautigan:

I had a good-talking candle last night in my bedroom.

I was very tired but I wanted somebody to be with me,

so I lit a candle

and listened to its comfortable voice of light until I was asleep.

I dreaded having to put everything away so to motivate myself I began to explore options for adding soft light to the rooms and I found a set of origami boxes attached to string lights and they are now haphazardly on the fireplace mantel. They need to be more artistically arranged, but the soft warm light is providing badly-needed comfort.

The Biden/Harris inaugural COVID-19 remembrance at the Lincoln Memorial was a stunning use of soft-talking candles (albeit ersatz). The darkness invited you to be contemplative, the lights provided comfort, and the Reflecting Pool doubled the light and made it move. It was inviting and beautiful, but most of all it was quiet.

The last 4 years have not been quiet. They were not designed for contemplation or healing. They were meant to assault your ears, your eyes, your mind, and your feelings. They targeted your reserves. They were a grinding torture of constant apprehension and anxiety. They were psychological warfare, and noise is an effective tool in that arsenal.

I happened to turn on the TV yesterday afternoon while President Biden was speaking. He spoke softly, but with great emotion. He invited us to remember what our losses, COVID-19-related or not, felt like. He allowed us to stop for a moment and to just be. And then he was silent, too, and the South Portico, previously a center of noise and anger and hate and bombast, was revealed as a place of silence, of reverence, of love, and of grief.

I’m a practicing Episcopalian and we have a wonderful guide for our worship, the Book of Common Prayer. The funeral service includes some of its most beautiful passages. I’ll close with one of them after our night of shared mourning:

Give rest, O Christ, to your servant(s) with your saints,
where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.

You only are immortal, the creator and maker of mankind; and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and to earth shall we return.  For so did you ordain when you created me, saying, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

I wish you all light and healing.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Stage Fright

Two Comedians by Edward Hopper.

I’m  a slacker publisher. I have not formally welcomed Shapiro and Cassandra to the First Draft family. I’ve known both of them for years and they still speak to me. They’re clearly tolerant types.  Thanks for bringing your life experiences and insights to our humble blog. There’s only one rule:

It’s still cold as hell in Louisiana but our infrastructure has held up better than that of Texas, which is a much wealthier state. It helps to have a competent governor as opposed to one who lies on Fox News. Cue Lou Costello impression:

When I searched for the phrase HEY ABBOTT, I kept seeing images of wingnutty former Aussie Prime Minister Tony Abbott. He’s much scarier than the Mummy Bud and Lou met but not quite as scary as Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Even scarier is the thought of Ted Cruz on the beach in Cancun as his constituents freeze their asses off. Are you in a narcissism contest with Pennywise, dude? Tommy T will have more on Teddy Boy on Monday. Stay tuned.

This week’s theme song was written by Robbie Robertson for The Band’s 1970 album of the same name. It was inspired by Robbie’s own issues with stage fright. FYI, a 50th anniversary remixed and reordered version of that album was released last week. It’s a dramatic sonic improvement on the original. It also features an insanely great 1971 live show from the Royal Albert Hall in London. 4 stars all the way, baby.

We have two versions of Stage Fright for your listening pleasure: the studio remix and a live version from The Last Waltz.

I didn’t know until recently that there’s an instrumental of the same title. These dudes composed it.

In addition to stage fright, I’m contemplating mummy’s right now. I guess it’s time to meet the Son Of The Mummy:

None of that Brendan Fraser shit for me, dude. It’s Karloff and Lee all the way.

Now that I’ve exhausted my mummy jokes, let’s wrap our first act up and jump to the break.

Continue reading

A Racist Pig Is Dead

Image by Michael F.

I was raised not to speak ill of the dead. It was something that bothered the younger me. I recall asking my mother, “What about Hitler? Is it okay to say bad stuff about him?”

She smiled the smile that was reserved for me saying something amusing and said: “There are exceptions to every rule.”

Rush Limbaugh is one of those exceptions. He was a terrible human being who helped transform conservatism from a respectable philosophy into one focused on owning the libs, especially if they were “uppity” women or Blacks. Cruelty was his calling card and he played it relentlessly. He put the pig in the expression male chauvinist pig. Oink, oink the pig is dead.

Limbaugh’s appalling radio gasbaggery opened the door for obnoxious creeps like Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, and Ted Cruz to become national figures. It should not be forgotten that the sainted Poppy Bush relentlessly sucked up to Limbaugh after it became clear that his reelection bid was in “deep doo-doo.” I am not making this up: the former president uttered those insipid words during his doomed 1992 campaign.

Then there’s Donald Trump. One of the best anti-tributes I’ve read was by Jonathan Chait: Rush Limbaugh Taught Republicans To Love An Angry, Racist Bully. Chait described Limbaugh and Pennywise as “almost the same person.”

Rush and Donald were two sides of an obnoxious, racist, sexist coin. They were made for each other. Limbaugh made it possible for a cruel and crude asshole like Trump to seize the national stage and pollute it with his noxious bigotry.

Rush Limbaugh was the worst of the worst. An ugly man who made fun of other people’s looks.  An unfunny man who thought he was hilarious. A satirist who invariably kicked down. He did, however, make a difference. He made the world a smaller and pettier place. The MSM should be ashamed of itself for treating him as anything but a turd to be flushed.

The last word goes to Pink Floyd with a song that predated Limbaugh’s rise but could have been about him:

“Big man, pig man
Ha, ha, charade you are
You well heeled big wheel
Ha, ha, charade you are
And when your hand is on your heart
You’re nearly a good laugh
Almost a joker
With your head down in the pig bin
Saying ‘Keep on digging’
Pig stain on your fat chin
What do you hope to find
Down in the pig mine?
You’re nearly a laugh
You’re nearly a laugh
But you’re really a cry”

UPDATE: Athenae shares her thoughts about the pig’s passing at Dame Magazine.

Ashen Wednesday

The weirdest and coldest Mardi Gras Day of my lifetime ended with a whimper not a bang. There were rolling power outages in New Orleans last night, but we were spared. We seem to have good power karma: as you may recall, we didn’t lose power during Hurricane Zeta. Perhaps the whole Greek alphabet thing worked in my favor or the ghost of Maybe Cousin Telly has some pull with the power gods. Whatever it is, I’ll take it.

There was a minor icepocalypse this morning on the elevated highways in downtown New Orleans. We only had a mild freeze last night, but my people don’t know how to drive on ice and neither do I. It was that kind of morning in the Big Freezy. We are not ice people but we’re competent during hurricane season. I dare people in Frostbite Falls Minnesota to handle our summer climate.

It was too cold for me yesterday but Dr. A went out for a few hours to check out house floats and such. She brought me home a Moon Pie from our friends Bob and Julie’s joint. They did not float their house, but they had a beloved parade throw to pass out. Moon Pies are usually part of our Carnival diet then we don’t eat them for another year. I wish I could say that I gave them up for lent but that would be a fib. My motto is neither a lenter nor borrower be…

I should compensate for that groaner with some music from the North Country:

There’s a genuine winter apocalypse happening down Texas way. Their privatized electrical grid has had a meltdown leading to widespread outages throughout the Lone Star state. I don’t approve of those on social media who say that Texas had it coming. I’m with President Biden who declared miles and miles of Texas a disaster area. I know what it’s like to be neglected by national politicians. It happened to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. National disasters shouldn’t be wished on anyone even if Greg Abbot is one of the Trumpiest Trumpers out there.

A brief musical interlude before our next segment:

In any crisis, Republican politicians have gotta lie. Some Texas pols are blaming their problems on windmills. What is it with windmills and wingnuts? Windmills are harmless. The Dutch have been using them for centuries. Who’s more harmless than the Dutch or Dusty Springfield for that matter?

In other lying GOPers news, the stupidest man in the United States senate, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, is spinning fractured fairy tales about the Dipshit Insurrection:

But Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Monday argued that it’s wrong to describe the group as “armed” and accused Democrats of “selectively” editing videos to exaggerate the threat posed by a mob that came within feet of Vice President Mike Pence and other elected officials.

“This didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me,” Johnson said on WISN. “When you hear the word ‘armed,’ don’t you think of firearms? Here’s the questions I would have liked to ask: How many firearms were confiscated? How many shots were fired?”

Johnson added, “If that was a planned armed insurrection, man, you had really a bunch of idiots.”

It takes one to know one, Senator. That’s why I call it the Dipshit Insurrection.

That’s it for this random and discursive potpourri post. The last word goes to John Lee Hooker with some blues for an ashen Wednesday:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Trick Bag

Skeletons Fighting Over A Pickled Herring by James Ensor.

This should be Carnival’s biggest weekend. I’ll miss our pre-Tucks peregrinations on Saturday and company on Thoth Sunday. Wait until next year.

The impeachment trial ate my week, so I’ll keep this short. It’s what usually happens the Saturday before Fat Tuesday in any event. So it goes.

This week’s theme song was written by NOLA’s own Earl King in 1962. It’s tricky, it’s baggy, it’s early, it’s kingy.

We have four versions of Trick Bag for your listening pleasure: the Earl King original, the Meters, Johnny Winter, and Robert Palmer.

Now that we’ve pulled some tricks out of the bag, let’s jump to the break.

Continue reading

Saturday Odds & Sods: Dirty Boulevard

Elevated Columbus Avenue, New York by Gifford Beal.

Lou Reed wrote this week’s theme song for his 1989 album, New York. I’m on the record as thinking Reed was a better musician than a human being. New York is a good example of this dichotomy. It’s one of his best albums complete with catchy songs and razor-sharp insights.

We have two versions of Dirty Boulevard for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a live version with David Bowie.

The spelling of boulevard in listings of the song is erratic. Sometimes it’s spelled out, other times it’s abbreviated. That concludes this abbreviated comment on abbreviation.

Let’s try and clean up before jumping to the break.

Continue reading

Time Enough For Counting When The Dealing’s Done

While I appreciate the time and study people put into chess (and no, I have not yet seen “The Queen’s Gambit”), I much prefer things I am naturally good at, like Setback, the card game I grew up playing in New England. (The rest of you play Pitch, but in Connecticut we have our own variant.) My extended family played it all the time, and the rite of passage for the kids/cousins/grandkids was to be asked to sit in for a hand or 2 when one of the adults needed to step away from the picnic table. My favorite aunt patiently taught all of us to play, and you sat in on a hand when she deemed your play satisfactory. Setback is precise and calculating, but it also requires spontaneity and creativity.

Setback is politics, and I love politics, and I don’t mean the endless, grinding living history we have been through since that awful escalator ride of 2015. I mean actual politics, the art of compromise and the precise weighing of advantages, the impulsive offer, and the workaround based in rules no one else remembered. We’ve seen very little politics in the last few years because, like Setback, politics needs adversaries and partners, and the Republican Party gave up all of its policy-making expertise to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), first at the state level, and then at the national level (which is itself a conversation for another time, along with how woefully under-prepared most state legislators are for their second jobs).

Of course, that deficiency wasn’t a problem for Republicans—they had no intention of writing legislation themselves, preferring to hand that off to lobbyists and special interests. And since the GOP was going to rig every election for the next 50 years, it wouldn’t matter because they weren’t ever really going to be accountable to the people. That’s what allowed Mitch McConnell to wield so much power because he only had to stop everything he didn’t like. There were no politics. And it was dull.

But now politics are back with a former senator in the White House. I’m loving the sudden interest congressional Republicans have in bipartisanship and regular order. And what about those 10 Republican senators who met with Joe Biden? Bless their hearts. Didn’t they look sweet and earnest, putting forth their ideas about what the country really needs? I have no idea how they didn’t think this was going to entirely backfire on them. A list of demands from one political party isn’t a bipartisan effort. And, more to the point at hand, not 1 of those senators holds any power in the Republican caucus. They drafted a bunch of “no soup for you” points and then went to see the most powerful politician in the country and expected him to capitulate. Have these people never played cards?

They weren’t the only senators who got a political education in the last few weeks. McConnell was fobbed off with a non-binding statement from 2 Democratic senators who owe him nothing (but payback). I wonder how long it took for him to realize he’d been rooked? And Republican senators weren’t the only ones who got drawn into a hand. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema had to hastily play partners when Vice President Harris etherily showed up in their states to talk directly to voters about the things the COVID-19 relief bill would do for them. All Manchin could do afterwards was complain about the points he’d lost with his careless play. Oh, and Kevin McCarthy played a hand too this week, and he chose to protect his leadership position instead of the GOP with the vote on Marjorie Greene.  Given what we’re going to find out as investigations uncover the ties between Republicans in Congress and the insurrection’s leaders, this seems a bit short-sighted, no?

I have no idea how all of this is going to play out, but I’m glad that Joe Biden has made American politics great again.

Lawyer Quest 2021

I’m writing hurt today. That’s why Shapiro took the prime morning spot with his Jewish Lasers post. It’s good to have him aboard: I’m just an honorary member of the tribe, he’s the real deal. Hopefully, it will lead to more Yiddish usage here at First Draft. Thus Spake Shecky.

There’s turmoil at Mar-a-Elba as Pennywise shuffles his legal team like a deck of marked cards. His South Carolina lawyers seem to care about their reputations and future livelihoods. That’s why they quit: he wanted them to argue election fraud in his senate trial, which amounts to an affirmative defense of the Dipshit Uprising. They were unwilling to face disbarment or worse in order to list lawyer to the former president* on their resumes and Linked-In profiles.

The Impeached Insult Comedian’s new lawyers are beauts, I believe that’s the technical term. I can’t find my Black’s Law Dictionary. It must be under a pile of books somewhere. I know, I know, I could look online but I have to feed the running joke beast about my untidy home office.

Back to the new shysters. The headline on a WaPo piece says it all:

One of Trump’s new lawyers declined to charge Bill Cosby. The other maintains Jeffrey Epstein was murdered.

It’s good to see that the Kaiser of Chaos hasn’t lost his touch when it comes to hiring weird mouthpieces. I’m waiting for their first press conference. It’s a pity it won’t be at Four Seasons Landscaping. It wouldn’t surprise me if Rudy and Sydney Powell showed up and heckled the new hires. I can dream, can’t I?

Senate Republicans are prepared for a constitutional argument as to whether a former Oval One can be tried. The good news is that was voted down in a procedural move attempted by Aqua Buddha. The bad news is that 45 senators voted to bury their heads in the sand and pretend the Capitol wasn’t sacked by Trumper barbarians.

A better defense would be that Pennywise’s speech did not directly incite the riot. It’s unclear if Trump will go along with it. He seems to want to go big and justify the whole mishigas. In any other courtroom in the land, that would lead to a conviction, but this is a political, not a legal proceeding. After briefly showing some gumption right after the riot, there’s been a sycophancy relapse among the manly he-men of the Republican caucus.

What Pennywise really needs is a mob lawyer who’s willing to stand up on his hind legs and lie like a rug for him. (Apologies for the double cliche, I told ya I was writing hurt.) Once again, he needs his Roy Cohn but will have to settle for Roger Stone’s lawyer and the bozo who sued a Cosby victim after he lost his race for DA in Montgomery County Pennsylvania. I am not making this up.

The Kaiser of Chaos will once again be poorly defended but it doesn’t matter: Senate GOPers are his sheeple. The spell remains unbroken even after an insurrection, which left five people dead. All they care about is their base who are, for some mysterious reason, okay with the storming of the Capitol.

Oy just oy.

The last word goes to Lou Reed with a legal term that does not apply in this case. I just felt like using it:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Circle Back

Blue Night by Edward Hopper.

Today is supposed to be the Krewe du Vieux parade. It was cancelled because of the pandemic. The timing was good for me: last year was the worst Carnival season I’ve had since coming to New Orleans in 1987. I wrote about some aspects it in a piece called The Cursed Carnival?

Shorter Adrastos: I needed a year off from Carnival so I’m not as unhappy with the situation as most people are. Some of the Krewe du Vieux sub-krewes including Spank are presenting art installations instead of marching. Since I wasn’t feeling it, I did not participate. So it goes.

John Hiatt wrote this week’s theme song for his 2003 album Beneath This Gruff Exterior. It’s one of his fatherhood songs as it describes taking his daughter to college. It also rocks much harder than the cradle ever should.

We have two versions of Circle Back for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a live version. Both feature Sonny Landreth and the Goners.

I mentioned Hiatt’s fatherhood songs. Here are two more:

Now that we’ve rocked the cradle, let’s jump to the break before we get too dizzy.

Continue reading

Saturday Odds & Sods: Pirate Radio

Rooms By The Sea by Edward Hopper.

It’s been a long week at Adrastos World HQ. I’ve been tidying up my study/home office to make it easier for an AT&T tech to upgrade my internet service. It’s a daunting task. I’m a notoriously bad housekeeper so I’ve discovered dust bunnies the size of the late, great Paul Drake as well as the odd desicated peanut and Cheerio under the desk and book stacks. Clutter thy name is Adrastos.

Because of my clean-up attempt and hours spent watching the inauguration, I’m keeping this short by ditching our second act altogether. Who has time to write about longread-type articles when you’re at war with dust and clutter?

This week’s theme song is a lesser-known John Hiatt rocker. It’s a particular favorite of mine. It’s a road song that was written in 1997 for the Little Head album.

We have two versions of Pirate Radio for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a 1997 live version with Hiatt’s then crack band, the Nashville Queens:

While we’re being all piratical and shit, here’s ELP with a prog pirate song:

It’s time to shiver me timbers and jump to the break.

Continue reading

Cassandra: For There is Always Light

Cassandra is back with her reactions to the Biden-Harris inaugural.

-Adrastos

For There is Always Light by Cassandra

Sometime yesterday afternoon I realized could breathe again. I had actually started breathing again before that, during the inauguration ceremony as I watched Michelle Obama greet Kamala Harris, and when the Biden grandgirls made their neopolitian and sneakered entrances. I was breathing again when I cried as amazing women shared their talents with us, even though I hadn’t quite realized it yet.

I consciously started breathing again when the Biden clan clambered out of fortified vehicles and made their way up Pennsylvania Avenue. I know that piece of pavement well, because I had a part-time job when I was in grad school in DC, and my bus stop was right there, in front of the Treasury Department (this was back in the days when there was unfettered access to the area in front of the White House.), with the grandchildren bickering about whether they should hold hands as they walked and then deciding it was too corny. I breathed again as I watched President and Dr. Biden stand at the front door of the White House and hug each other in amazement and relief and joy.

And I bawled through fireworks. FIREWORKS! I love fireworks and for 20 years watched them on Independence Day, either from The Mall or up at the bell tower at National Cathedral (I was part of the change ringing group there and we had an excellent vantage point to watch them, plus I only lived a few blocks away), but I have never cried during a display. Somehow the exuberance of that display shook the last bits of fear and dread out of me (and it was really loud because my friends in DC who never hear the Independence Day fireworks immediately started tweeting and posting on social media how it scared the crap out of them at first).

Wasn’t it wonderful to wake up this morning without that burden of dread about what the president had done? I know there are a lot of very serious problems that remain unsolved, but we’re no longer helpless and at the whims of severely damaged men.  I worried at the start of the pandemic that we might lose our collective ability to recognize joy. Yesterday proved I was wrong to worry. Joy be with you all.

Shapiro: To My Nephew Ben

When I contacted my friend Shapiro about writing for First Draft, one reason he accepted was to reclaim his surname from the dread wingnut pundit, Ben Shapiro.

That sounded like such a noble cause that I suggested he write about his Shapiro quest. The result is this open letter to Ben who is neither gentle nor a gentile.

-Adrastos

To My Nephew Ben by Shapiro

Dear Nephew Ben:

Let me say right off that no, you are not my nephew. We share a last name that’s more common amongst those of our lineage than those outside the tribe suspect. Some of our forebearers came from the old countries with it, some were given it by a harried immigration official at Ellis Island. Whatever. I do have a nephew who is like you in that he is married to a professional woman (a lawyer, I believe your wife is a doctor) and both you and he each have three kids. Like you he trained as a lawyer after attending private schools his entire academic career. Also like you he claims to be conservative bordering on libertarian. Have to wonder if private schooling begats conservative thinking. Nah, don’t have to wonder about it, it’s pretty obvious it does.

I’m writing to ask you to stop using our common name as a way of selling books. It’s a proud name, the name of poets (Karl), scientists (Norman), businessmen (Herman), lawyers (Robert), a few mobsters, singers (Helen who had an opening act called The Beatles in the early 1960’s), and thousands of everyday people who just go about their lives trying to do good and raise their kids to be decent human beings. You are using our name to pridefully insist that you are the smartest kid in the room, that you know better than anyone else. You seem to have forgotten, or perhaps you were never taught, that the smartest people in the room are the ones who know they can still learn from someone else and who can process new information and even change a long-held opinion.

When I use my name it’s in the service of making the world a better place. You use it in a vain attempt to blow up 2000 years of western civilization just so you can buy a bigger house. Even the most ego driven capitalist never went that far; the soon to be booted president being the exception. Then again, he’s a goyim and that’s their gig. We don’t believe in that.

We believe in Tikkun Olem, the concept of repairing the world. Surely at that LA Yeshiva you went to high school at they must have mentioned it, but if they didn’t it basically means live your life in a way to better the lives of others. It is a great way of living; I’ve been practicing it for over 60 years. It’s garnered me absolutely wonderful friends, compelled me to travel to far distant places, to care about my community, and to be able to sleep well at night. I don’t know how well you sleep at night, but if I were calling large swarths of humanity somehow less than human, it would probably be with one eye open.

When you say LGBTQ people should have no rights to marry, let alone no rights at all because they are somehow lesser as human beings for choosing to love a person you wouldn’t choose to that’s not making other people’s lives better. That’s going out of your way to put a vile hateful message out into the world that someone, already filled with rage and hatred, will take as an excuse to assault, and even kill. “Well that smart Jew fella told me I should”.

You call Jews like myself Jews In Name Only (JINO) and deride us because we think that global warming is a greater threat to mankind’s survival than if Exxon gets to hit its stock valuation. You say we don’t care about Israel because we think human rights are a greater imperative than subjugating an entire group of people. You have said that doctors who perform abortions should be prosecuted but prosecuted for what? In case you were absent that day in law school abortion is a legally protected medical procedure. What you call “cancel culture” the rest of us call the consequences of your actions. What you disdain as “political correctness” we simply call good manners. And then of course there is the whole “Big Tech is stifling the voices of conservatives” brouhaha to which I can only say hahahaha. The highest rated cable news network is a conservative mouthpiece plus now there are two competitors that are even more conservative. Big Tech doesn’t seem to have stifled any of those voices. Oh yes, that little KKK koffee klatch called Parler got taken down but that was because the owner didn’t want to abide by the rules that he agreed to when he set up the site. Wow, imagine that, a tech company enforcing their rules. Next thing you know restaurants (when we can go to them again) will enforce “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service”.

Oy, just oy.

And now you’ve stepped into another minefield with this piece you wrote for Politico.

The events at the Capitol on January 6 were not directly at your command, but you gave the mob an intellectual underpinning that allowed what we have been seeing in all the days that followed from Republicans and their allies:

“STACEY ABRAMS never accepted her election loss (she still claims she was the victim of voter suppression).”

Stacey Abrams’ followers never marched on the Georgia statehouse calling for the beheading of the governor, nor did she incite them to.

“The real impeachment charge against Trump is extraordinarily reckless and inflammatory rhetoric and behavior. But that sort of rhetoric is, unfortunately, commonplace in today’s day and age, and sometimes even ends with violence (see, e.g., a Bernie Sanders supporter shooting up a congressional softball game).

First of all you are in large part responsible for the commonality of inflammatory rhetoric and behavior today. And if you don’t want to admit credit for that you must at least admit that you yourself do nothing to tamp down that vitriol. As for the guy who shot up the congressional softball game, he was a nutcase acting alone with (and I can’t help myself on this point) LEGALLY purchased guns not under the direction of anyone other than the voices inside his head. The President of the United States didn’t tell him to do it.

Then there’s this infamous Tweet:

Where do I start with that one? I tell you, let’s just leave it at no one has ever used a Hefty bag zip tie to secure, well, even a Hefty bag let alone a government official.

You could do so much to make the world a better place. You have the intelligence and charisma to command attention and thoughtfully delineate a point of view. Instead you choose to take those gifts and throw firebombs. In fact, you’re not just yelling FIRE in a crowded theater, you are locking the doors from the outside, calling the fire department telling them to disregard the alarms, and forcing ambulances down the wrong street. You incite instead of inspire, tear down instead of buildup, negate instead of collaborate. You hate with a ferocity generals would want in their shock troops. Those are characteristics I find abhorrent in anyone, but in someone with the same last name as mine I take an even greater offense.

One last thing, you are not a conservative. By definition classical conservatism does not reject change, but insists that changes be organic, rather than revolutionary, arguing that any attempt to modify the complex web of human interactions that form human society purely for the sake of some doctrine or theory runs the risk of running afoul of the law of unintended consequences and/or of moral hazards. No you are as revolutionary as they come. The reason you write and speak and broadcast what you do has nothing to do with a desire to make the world better, but to enrich yourself and those who have placed the MAGAphone in your hands. You could say you believe in oligarchy. I would say you believe in fascism.

My editor, Adrastos, suggested I call this piece Give Me Back My Name after the Talking Heads song. After reading so much of what you have spilled out into the world, I thought a more appropriate song reference would be from Bob Dylan, Idiot Wind:

Uncle Shapiro Out.

 

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.

Continue reading