Category Archives: Diary

Your President* Speaks: Lost Causer In Chief

We all knew it couldn’t last. I’m referring to Trump’s second Charlottesville statement on Monday. Call it a brief spasm of coerced contrition over his initial reaction to Saturday’s neo-Nazi riot. Actually, it looked more like a hostage video of a man reading words he did not believe in. Believe me.

Tuesday’s ranty press conference was the latest in a series of  public meltdowns. This time he revealed himself as the Lost Causer In Chief. I halfway expected him to demand that statues of him be erected in towns across the country. He’s a big enough dick to demand such an erection, after all.

Let’s tackle a few of the Insult Comedian’s comments with the odd comment by your humble blogger. Somebody’s gotta be humble in a country headed by a blowhard and braggart. I forgot a b word: Bigot.

Q Let me ask you, Mr. President, why did you wait so long to blast neo-Nazis?

THE PRESIDENT: I didn’t wait long.

Q You waited two days —

THE PRESIDENT: I didn’t wait long.

Q Forty-eight hours.

THE PRESIDENT: I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct — not make a quick statement. The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement. But you don’t make statements that direct unless you know the facts. It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don’t know the facts. And it’s a very, very important process to me, and it’s a very important statement.

So I don’t want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts. If you go back to —

<SNIP>

And honestly, if the press were not fake, and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice. But unlike you, and unlike — excuse me, unlike you and unlike the media, before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.

Mr. Conclusion Jumper (no relation to Mr. In Between) wanted to know all the facts before spouting off? Even by Trumpian standards, this is preposterous piffle. He wouldn’t know a fact if it bit him in the dead nutria atop his head.

Esme Cribb of  TPM has compiled a list of all the times the Kaiser of Chaos leapt to conclusions about *other* terrorist episodes.  (I love her name: she sounds like a Dickens character.) Apparently, fact checks only apply when the terrorist is a Trumper.

Q Nazis were there.

Q David Duke was there.

THE PRESIDENT: I didn’t know David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts. And the facts, as they started coming out, were very well stated. In fact, everybody said, “His statement was beautiful. If he would have made it sooner, that would have been good.” I couldn’t have made it sooner because I didn’t know all of the facts. Frankly, people still don’t know all of the facts.

This latest idiocy is, yet again, about the fact that the people don’t love him and hang on his every word. We’re ingrates as far as Trump is concerned. He should be worshiped. Why? I’ll never know.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, what about the alt-left that came charging at — excuse me, what about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?

Let me ask you this: What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. As far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day.

It’s a documented fact that the neo-Nazi, neo-Klansmen, neo-Confederates initiated the violence. They were the ones who showed up clad in riot gear. That’s a whole lotta neos. If I were into The Matrix movies I might make a Neo joke but I’m not so I won’t. I just couldn’t get past the presence of Keanu Reeves, dude in the role of Neo, dude.

Now where the hell was I? Oh yeah, your white nationalist president* speaks.

THE PRESIDENT: But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

Q Should that statue be taken down?

THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me. If you take a look at some of the groups, and you see — and you’d know it if you were honest reporters, which in many cases you’re not — but many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.

So this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?

So, Trump is conflating the Civil War with the American Revolution now? The first and third presidents were present at the creation of the republic; neither committed treason like Lee or Jackson. Trump does have something in common with Stonewall Jackson though. They’re both sociopaths. Believe me.

I planned to save the reaction to today’s diatribe for the end but this one is priceless. It’s one New Orleanian quoting another New Orleanian on the tweeter tube:

Back to this episode of your white nationalist president* speaks.

Q Mr. President, are you putting what you’re calling the alt-left and white supremacists on the same moral plane?

THE PRESIDENT: I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I’m saying is this: You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs — and it was vicious and it was horrible. And it was a horrible thing to watch.

But there is another side. There was a group on this side. You can call them the left — you just called them the left — that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.

Q (Inaudible) both sides, sir. You said there was hatred, there was violence on both sides. Are the —

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I think there’s blame on both sides. If you look at both sides — I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it either.

<SNIP>

Q The neo-Nazis started this. They showed up in Charlottesville to protest —

THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, excuse me. They didn’t put themselves — and you had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group.

There are “very fine people” who are neo-Nazis wearing riot gear? That’s a new one on me. Neo-Nazis and white nationalists are not “very fine people” they’re what kids today call haters. It’s what they do. It’s what they live for. It doesn’t bother Trump because he’s one of them. The politics of grievance and revenge are Trump’s politics even though he grew up with wealth and very white privilege. I’d call it a paradox but I try to use language the Insult Comedian will understand. That was a lie; something he does understand. Believe me.

The most significant reaction came from the erstwhile Gret Stet Fuhrer:

That’s really all you need to know about the third Charlottesville statement. It pleased David Duke, Richard Spencer, and their neo-Nazi brethren. They didn’t buy the second statement, they didn’t even give it secondhand love.

Anyone who was shocked by Trump’s latest hissy fit has not been paying attention. He started toying with running for president in 2011, which is when he began beating the birther drum. His entire political career since then has been based on racism and bigotry. No shock to any of our readers but it apparently still is to the MSM and most Republican office holders. It’s who and what he is.

A personal note. I believe in free speech but I do not believe in being nice to neo-Nazis and white nationalists. My father and three uncles fought against fascism in World War II. One uncle was killed in action in Italy. We didn’t fight a bloody war against the real Nazis only to see them rise to prominence 72 years after their ignominious defeat. They’re LOSERS, Donald. So are the Confederates. So much for “so much winning.”

Speaking of veterans, some people are quoting remarks made by Bob Dole denouncing racism in his 1996 acceptance speech. The problem with that is that Bob Dole is still alive. Bob Dole endorsed Donald Trump in 2016. We haven’t heard a peep from him or most party regulars about the transformation of the GOP into a white nationalist party. I guess they’re afraid to have a cross burned on their tidy white bread lawns.

Here’s hoping that the Charlottesville is a turning point in the struggle against our white nationalist president* and his despicable supporters. Remember what Hillary Clinton said about the basket of deplorables? She was right about that and so much else.

Since the Pepe the frog crowd  is fond of using memes to wage their war against trite genocide, I’ll fight tiki torch fire with tiki torch fire:

Lost Causers Fester In Charlottesville

I’ve spent a lot of time in Charlottesville over the years. It’s a lovely college town with a population of 45K when the University of Virginia isn’t in session. Dr. A spent her formative years in Staunton 45 miles away, and studied and worked in Charlottesville. We know and love the place. We still have friends there including Parenthetical who wrote a guest post about the May warmup demonstration aka the Klanbake.

Charlottesville is not your typical “moonlight and magnolias” Southern college town. UVA alums think of their school as a Southern outpost of the Ivy League and the town is full of preppies, not bubbas. But just like ANYWHERE in America, there are bigots, xenophobes, and racists nearby. Never forget that one of the ugliest fights over school desegregation took place in liberal Boston. And the president* who gave a green light to the self-styled alt-right is from liberal New York. It may be trite to say it but racism and bigotry are an American, not Southern, problem. It’s everywhere.

About the post title. I’ve mostly used the labels Lost Causers and Lost Cause Fest to describe the anti-monument removal protesters in New Orleans. Since Richard Spencer is not tied to my city (David Dukkke must be slipping), we saw less neo-Nazi shit here but who are bigger losers in history than the Nazis? The Lost Cause label fits them and will remain affixed to their odious cause here at First Draft.

I’m a writer so words mean a great deal to me. I remain conflicted as to what exactly to call the self-styled alt right. I lean in the direct of calling them white nationalists as a way of linking them to the right-wing nationalist movements in Europe. I tend to prefer the label neo-Nazis to just plain Nazis because the latter word is tied to a specific time, place, and people. I am not, however, going to quibble over those terms: a Fascist is a Fascist is a Fascist.

It’s obvious that the right-wing extremist groups who gathered in Charlottesville hope to replicate the Nazi vs. Communist street thuggery that preceded the Nazi takeover of Germany. The anti-fa folks are playing into their hands but it’s hard to argue with someone who defends themselves. Tension in Charlottesville was exacerbated by Virginia’s status as an open carry state. While I think that’s madness, there is a way to reduce the level of thuggery at future demonstrations in open carry states. Many of the neo-Nazi, unmasked Klan types were carrying riot shields, helmets, and billy clubs or baseball bats. Those items can be proscribed in the permitting process thereby allowing the cops to remove a person possessing them from the scene of the future crime. Legislative action would be better but I’m not holding my breath.

I was at a birthday party for a good friend on Saturday night. There was much talk about Charlottesville and the Insult Comedian’s non-statement about the neo-Nazi riot. As Athenae pointed out yesterday, there aren’t MANY SIDES to this issue. It’s a choice between fundamental human decency and hate. I’d like to focus on another side of Trump’s poorly delivered and half-assed remarks:

My administration is restoring the sacred bonds of loyalty between this nation and its citizens, but our citizens must also restore the bonds of trust and loyalty between one another. We must love each other, respect each other, and cherish our history and our future together. So important. We have to respect each other. Ideally, we have to love each other.

On the surface this sound okay because he talks about love, trust, and loyalty. The key phrase is in bold face: this is whoever wrote the remarks (my money is on Miller) way of signalling to the Lost Causers that Trump is on their side. This march was allegedly about keeping a monument to Robert E. Lee and cherishing history as seen by Richard Spencer and erstwhile Gret Stet Fuhrer David Dukkke. It’s certainly how they understood his remarks as historian Rick Perlstein pointed out on his Facebook feed:

I let Rick read the Daily Stormer so we didn’t have to.

It’s telling that a president* who is willing to attack gold star families, disabled reporters, Kim Jong-un, and Chinless Mitch by name is unwilling to call out neo-Nazis and Lost Cause racists. Why? They’re part of his base. Even if Trump is forced into naming names, it will be grudging, half-hearted, and meaningless. We know where he stands. He’s one of them.

It’s time for some comic relief. One of the twitter feeds I’ve been enjoying of late is Yes, You’re Racist. This particular exchange made me laugh on a rather grim weekend:

The picture of that slack-jawed preppie moron led to this bon mot by one of my favorite people on the tweeter tube, me:

Mosley was, of course, the leader of the pre-World War II British Union of Fascists. I half way expected to see the banner of his party waved in Charlottesville last weekend:

If you see the flag at future Lost Cause Fest events, you know what it is.

The best thing I’ve read about the events in Charlottesville came from Slate’s Dahlia Lithiwck who lives there. Here’s how she finished her piece:

The Nazis may come to town, terrorize and threaten people with guns, even brutally murder a young woman. This president may fail to condemn it. But all right-thinking Americans will recoil in horror. And white supremacists will be replaced. There is no room for them here. On Saturday they were relegated to parking at the shopping mall and walking miles in the hot sun, in their sad supervillain Comic-Con outfits. Today they are already slinking back to their own homes, where they are also being replaced, by history, by moral justice, and by our children, who are growing up exactly where they belong, at home, irreplaceable, sacred, and, especially today, brave.

I should give Dahlia the last word but I want to circle back to the featured image of Captain American punching Hitler. I am not an advocate of violence but Nazi punching strikes me (pun intended, it always is) as the least bad and most understandable form of violence. People who attend a rally packing heat below their absurd tiki torches deserve mockery and the odd punch. I’ll stick to the former but I’m beyond sermonizing about the latter.

The last word is part of my continuing effort to prove that there’s a Kinks song for every situation. This song is about Captain America asking for help in a troubled time:

I remember, when you were down
And you needed a helping hand
I came to feed you
But now that I need you
You won’t give me a second glance
Now I’m calling all citizens from all over the world
This is Captain America calling
I bailed you out when you were down on your knees
So will you catch me now I’m falling

The song was written for 1979’s Low Budget album but rings truer than ever:

Saturday Odds & Sods: I Can’t Stand The Rain

Landscape in the Rain by Vincent Van Gogh.

It was the week from hell in New Orleans. There turned out to be much more human error involved in the flood I wrote about Monday. It has led to an orgy of recrimination and paranoia. The bottom line is that the city’s pumping system is in poor shape at the peak of hurricane season. It makes me glad to live in the so-called sliver by the river but it still bites the big one.

Mayor Landrieu has been re-enacting my Russell Long meme:

Comparisons to Katrina and the Federal Flood remain overwrought but things should not have gotten as bad as they did. It was also my birthday and in the future the August 5th flash flood will join the list of local flood dates. Heckuva job, Mitch. Btw, your fantasies of a presidential bid are underwater, both literally and figuratively.

This week’s theme song was an easy choice since I live in a city with marginally functional drainage as of this writing. I Can’t Stand The Rain was written by Ann Peebles, Don Bryant, and Bernie Miller. It was a big hit in 1973 and could be the theme song not only of this post but of the city of New Orleans in the summer of 2017. Heckuva job, Mitch.

Here are two versions of this superb song: the Ann Peebles original and a live version from the great Paul Rodgers. Rodgers recorded the song in Memphis for his Royal Sessions album. It was one of my birthday albums. It’s a good ‘un.

I’m feeling terse and not particularly funny as I write this on Friday morning. I’ve been on the receiving end of some extraordinarily bad customer service this week and I’m still fuming as you can see from this tweet:

The post was already assembled so I’ll play hurt as it were. We’ll see how that works out after the break. At least I’m not concussed…

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Only the kids have aged…

I spent the past week at our annual journalism conference, taking the chance to eat a lot of good food on my publisher’s dime and catching up with old friends. The funny thing? None of us seemed to age a bit.

I caught up with what was left of my doctoral cohort. Tracy, Andrea and I were among 17  Ph.D.-hopefuls who spent a chunk of our lives in a basement office loving dubbed “The Pit.” The place was so subterranean that you had to climb on somebody’s desk to open a grass-level window. The joke always was that they put the Ph.D. students there because you can’t commit suicide by jumping out of a basement window.

We ate dinner at a wine and chocolate bar because, hey, they had seating and we would have eaten at a food cart if we could have some time to catch up. The stories were the same: Weird colleagues, dopey campus situations, students who “just needed a little boost to pass…” We talked about possible promotions and what we were up to. It was like we were back in that pit: Tracy, loud enough to startle Chicagoans walking by and Andrea bright eyed and drawling her “y’alls” as the night progressed.

The only real way to know time had passed was when we talked about our kids.

Andrea’s daughter had just returned from a three-week trip abroad to take part in her sorority’s recruiting drive. Her son was still dating the same girl and had gotten his own apartment in advance of the upcoming school year. I remember the twins, as we called them, being at a doctoral faculty party some of us grad students had crashed. They were in their PJs, clutching stuffed animals and clinging to Andrea’s leg. “Mommy… We want to go hooooommmme…”

“Hell,” Tracy responded when I brought that up, “I used to BABYSIT them.” They lived next door and would often knock on her door and ask to play with Tracy’s dogs. Now, they could be in one of her classes, begging for “just a little boost…”

I caught up with Scott, who looked none the worse for wear after his heart transplant. Most of what we had to talk about was his move up the administrative ladder, with many of the stories reminding me why I never want to be an administrator. “Spending the day dealing with other people’s bullshit,” was pretty much the quote of the day.

In a more serious moment, he told me he had to wear a mask in public a lot, as his immune system was shit. He also had some health setbacks here and there, but overall, he was hanging in there. Life for him he said was a day-by-day measurement. Not years. Not months or weeks. Days. Each day was another moment to be on this side of the grass.

His son? He figured out hockey wasn’t going to be his future, even as he still enjoyed playing. He was going to be a college junior this year, on track to graduate. The freckle-faced kid who was riding bikes out in front of the house whenever I stopped by was now a junior.

I saw the guy who TA’ed my broadcast class in college: His sons were both in college. He, however, was the same guy who once chewed me out for running a clip of a used condom in a package I did on park sex. (My only saving grace was someone else in that broadcast included a shot of dead cats in a box as part of an animal shelter piece. Apparently, in the “what the fuck were you thinking?” spectrum a box of dead cats > a used rubber.)

My dissertation adviser? As vibrant as always, laughing at a reception with a half-empty glass of red wine in her hand. Her “7-year-old” daughter? Now out of school and married to an Army Ranger.

As I return home to add another notch on to my own kid’s age (12, she’s going to be 12. This is not possible…), I found myself smiling at the silliness of it all. Even as we all change and age, none of us is really different or older.

The only ones who really age are the kids.

 

Survivor’s Guilt Flashback

We had another weather event last Saturday. Parts of New Orleans got 8+ inches of rain in three hours. The rain was random and much worse in parts of the city leading to some flooding in the affected areas. Adrastos World HQ got 2 inches that day so we were fine.

Some of the post-rain incident discussion has danced on my last nerve. It’s not analogous to Katina/Federal Flood in that it didn’t impact 80% of the city and nobody died. It’s also less clear as of this writing that human error was a major factor as it was in 2005.  The human factor may have caused some problems around the edges but that sort of deluge is going to wreak havoc no matter how well prepared we are. Sometimes shit just happens. This was one of my initial reactions on social media:

There was much lively debate and disagreement on the thread but I remain convinced that we have to learn how to live with water in New Orleans as the Dutch have. We need cleaner catch basins and better infrastructure but severe weather is going to happen, particularly in the age of climate change. This was a random freak event and there will be more to come.

This is not the first non-hurricane/levee break style flood the city has had. It won’t be the last. One of my FB commenters, Carlos Froggy May, posted this list on the thread:

Summarizing between May ’78 and the 2005 Federal Flood, leaving out hurricanes/major tropical storms, New Orleans floods from rain alone include:

May 1978. Well documented.

Feb 1979. “Hundreds of Area Homes Flooded. New Orleans Times-Picayune, 7 February 1979 I”

April 1980. A few references.

April 1983. Major event. National media reporting.

June 1991. National media, though only sparse traces online. “The deluge, which started during the evening rush hour Monday, caught New Orleans by surprise. The downpour abated overnight, then resumed Tuesday morning.” “To have it flood two separate times in 24 hours is just unheard of,” said Rob Spangenberg, who measured 16 inches of water on the ground floor of his house.”

May 1995. Major event, very well documented online.

September 1998. Described.

June 2005. Seems largely forgotten given what happened a few months later. What have I missed?

Any time someone insists that people can triumph over nature, I think of a passage in one of Tony Hillerman’s Joe Leaphorn novels. Leaphorn is a detective on the Navajo tribal police in Arizona. I wish I could quote it directly but it involves Leaphorn marveling at white people planting lawns in the desert and being shocked when they die every time they’re planted. Hillerman’s point is that you have to learn to live with your environment. You can sand down the rough edges and minimize damage but nature will win in the end. Some may think this is fatalistic but I think it’s realistic. Can they abolish earthquakes in my native California?

It’s time to address the post title. Every time something like this happens, my post-K/Federal Flood survivor’s guilt kicks in. It’s a common malady for those of us who live in what has come to be known as “the sliver by the river.” We did not flood in 2005, so I do not like arguing with those who did. It makes me uncomfortable and uncharacteristically deferential. In the year immediately after the storm, I  cringed every time I had to tell *our* Katrina story to those worse off since we were so lucky. We did have $20K worth of damage and were in exile for 7 weeks but that was nothing compared to what so many others went through. Hence my survivor’s guilt and this weekend’s survivor’s guilt flashback. I re-posted my account of Dr. A and my sneaking into the city at First Draft in 2015. Here’s the link.

This was a terrible event but all the people acting as if it’s 2005 all over again need to take a deep breath followed by a chill  pill. Nobody died, only pockets of the city flooded, and nobody was forced out of their homes at gun point. I had some advice on twitter for local voters in the upcoming mayoral election:

Perspective not drama is called for. We should fix anything that contributed to the recent flooding but we cannot abolish nature even if there were times we wish that was possible. It is not.

That was exhausting. Any time I dredge up these memories, I feel rotten until the feeling passes a few hours later.

Finally, one of my theories in life is that there’s a Kinks song for every occasion. We’ll give the Davies brothers the last word:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Touch Of Gray

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère  by Edouard Manet, 1882.

It’s my birthday today. We’re planning a relatively quiet day with dinner at one of the great restaurants in New Orleans, Brigtsen’s. It’s located in an Uptown cottage, not far from the river. The service is great and the food is even better.

A note on the featured image. I’m such a Manet fan that I named a black female cat Manet. She was long-lived and lovable. We had a game that we played together wherein we compared artists. I’d ask “who do you like better, Picasso or Manet?” The answer was always the same: “Manet.” She lived to be twenty, dying in 2005 not long before Katrina. I’m glad she missed the upheaval and disruption of our nomadic evacuation. It’s hard to be a grande dame when you’re on the move.

It’s sad how few pictures we have of our pre-digital camera era cats. This is a good shot of Manet in her Dowager Empress period:

Holy lagniappe catblogging, Batman.

August 1st was the 75th anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s birth. I miss Jerry, which is why the Garcia-Hunter tune, Touch of Gray, is this week’s theme song. It was the Dead’s only genuine hit single, which is remarkable given their longevity and popularity.

We have two touches of gray for your listening pleasure: the  VH1 pop up video of their skeletony promo video and a live version from 7/4/1989 in Buffalo. Notice Jerry and keyboard player Brent Mydland touching their own gray hair before launching into the song. Oh well, a touch of gray, kind of suits you anyway. Literal but still swell. Brent died in 199o. I’ve often said that being the keyboard player in the Dead was much like being the drummer in Spinal Tap. I don’t believe in jinxes but this one has a kernel of truth.

Oh yeah, both videos were posted by someone who spelled gray with an E. So it goes.

Now that I’ve made y’all feel old and decrepit, let’s limp to the break.

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I got defriended by a “nice young lady in a blue shirt.”

The buzz about Stephen Miller’s “cosmopolitan” comment to Jim Acosta had me thinking about the reason he can actually get away with something like that. It’s the same reason why Gov. Scott Walker gets away with ripping the University System and it’s the same reason I usually tell people I “work at the U” in hopes that they think I’m a janitor.

We have far too many people who get excised about perceived slights and publicly draw attention to things that so many others would just look at and say, “Really?”

This week, I was trying to dodge summer grading when one of my friends on Facebook (a tangential connection based mainly on doc school and research connections) noted that she returned home after an exhausting 16-hour trip in which the highlight was being called a “nice young lady in a blue shirt” during a stop at a gas station.

The woman went on to say that she had a huge problem with this “framing” of her. She sees herself as being trained to be polite and that she was NOT young and that the shirt she was wearing was from the Kinsey Institute, all things that would have better indicated her actual self.

I naturally assumed that where she was when this happened (somewhere between Texas and South Dakota), it was some old codger who was making an observation. I asked if the guy was an asshole or something, as to try to understand why this was so offensive.

It turned out that it was actually a woman in her 20s-30s who was referencing her to someone else. Her response also noted was that she was NOT young (she was 40ish although any photo I ever saw of her would have had me pegging her at about half that age), calling her a nice lady was indicating that she was in some way a compliant, pliable figure and that her “ironic chastity” powder blue shirt should not have been the first thing the person noticed. She said it was quite upsetting and that it demonstrated larger societal problems regarding how people frame women.

I decided to step off the thread at that point, worrying I was hijacking this whole thing, even though other people (women, even) asked her what the problem was with the “young” thing and how she would prefer to be noticed in passing public situations.

For some reason, I couldn’t let this go. I was having trouble wrapping my head around how “nice,” “lady” and “blue” in this (or almost any other context) would connote such a dark subtext in a public situation as to undermine her as a person. I hopped on chat to ask one, private question:

Not to belabor a point in what is clearly something that won’t end well for me, but is it at all possible that through your self-framing, you’re reading way, way, way too deeply into this passing comment? A (person) at a gas station made an observation based on recognition (color) not cognition (Kinsey, ironic chastity) and made simple and positive reflection on an interaction (wow, she was nice).

The response was as follows:

The “you’re making too big of a deal out of this” has been used for a long time to justify discriminatory comments and behaviors. This comment had an impact on me. I don’t like it, and I am going to talk about why I don’t like it and find it offensive. If you think I am making too big of a big deal out of something that I find offensive, please feel free to unfollow or unfriend me because I am going to continue to talk about all the stupid things people say to me or about me.

 

I told her I was sorry I upset her, that I disagreed but that I would leave her alone and that I hope to see her at an upcoming conference.

She unfriended me later that day.

A couple things sat in my head both during and after this exchange:

  • I did not say she was making too big of a deal out of something. I asked if, in a perhaps more reflective moment later, given what others were asking, did she maybe read into this too much. A) I’m a scholar and I’ve read the lit on stuff like this and B) I’m not an idiot, so I could tell she was upset. Obviously there was something there for her, but I wasn’t seeing it, so I wanted to know if, after not really answering the questions as to why this upset her, maybe she figured that she had made a mountain out of a molehill.
  • The defriender told me that referring to her as a “nice young lady” (not to her, mind you but in describing her to someone else who asked about something) was akin to a white district attorney once having called a black lawyer “boy” in an attempt to discredit him. “There’s literature on this,” she told me. True, but there’s also literature on the “Passage of Salt” (obviously meant as a spoof but it actually got through; we use this one in our doc sem to show that sometimes, “Lit Happens.”) and the misapplication of literature is a common dodge when we’re wrong (trust me). It’s also true that common sense has to factor into life at some point. It wasn’t a white guy shitting on a black guy on a professional environment. It was one woman offering a description of another woman at a gas station. Of all the people involved in this situation, the one person who probably would never have guessed in a million years that this much shit had hit this much of a fan would have been the person at the gas station.
  • This is exactly the reason I hate dealing with academics. Yes, I have a Ph.D. but if anything, I’m a self-loathing academic: I get that theory, practice and research all have to coexist in a broader context, but I have always hated people who spend the majority of their time looking at things only through their hyper-educated lens of reality. It’s why I found myself once being screamed at for having the temerity to call a “personal street ingress” a “manhole.” I get that language matters, but if I fell down one of those things, I’d be dead before someone figured out where I was if you kept calling it that. It’s one of the many reasons I tend to now shy away from the “Big Name U” schools when I get the urge to go job hunting: The last thing I need is to spend half my life pondering the existential dilemma of comma usage and its ability to undermine developing social constructs.
  • I honestly felt sorry for her, which I’m sure would infuriate her more. It is absolutely exhausting having to ponder every, single aspect of life, acting or failing to act for fear of engendering a deeper subtext that would lead to public castigation. I imagine it is equally exhausting and infuriating to have to apply that level of analysis to the motives and actions of every single person you encounter on a daily basis. When I’m in church with The Midget and some 90-year-old woman in front of me says, “Oh, what a cute little girl you have there!” I don’t stop her and say, “By calling her cute, you denigrate her ability to rise past the social norms that women should be judged solely on their looks. She is unlikely to be treated equally in society if you and others continue to ignore her intellectual attributes.” I say, “Oh, thank you very much,” and smile because again A), I’m not an idiot and B) there is such a thing as context. When it was raining this morning, I was entering my office building in front of someone else dashing to the door. I held the door open for her and walked through. I did not do it because I was attempting to reinforce a gender code written decades ago that men should do such things, nor was I doing it because I was attempting to reinforce the stereotype that physical activities should be gender normed toward men. I did it because it seemed like the right thing to do for a fellow human being. (And yes, I have held doors for men before. This does not make me a weirdo.)

 

It’s interactions like this that stick with people and that open the door (so to speak) for people like Stephen Miller to create the “gods and clods” argument in his favor. It’s why the term “social-justice warrior” has become a pejorative term for anyone who doesn’t think that the world should be stuck in the 1950s. It’s the academic version of the surfer buying lobster with food stamps.

And yes, there are times when calling someone “young lady” or “young man” can come with the intent to demean. And we do need to stop people from denigrating others or casting aspersions because they need to know that “check out the tits on that chick” doesn’t cut it in polite society. However, of all the things this interaction could have taught me, I only came away with two:

  1. She’s not a nice person, lady or otherwise.
  2. If you want to be considered not “young,” you might want to grow the fuck up.

 

The Bayou Brief

In addition to my “duties” (it’s no duty, it’s a pleasure) here at First Draft, I’m pleased to announce that I will be joining the Bayou Brief as a contributing writer. It’s a brand spanking new progressive news site focusing on the Gret Stet of Louisiana.

My first task will be to write about the New Orleans Mayoral race. Don’t worry: I’ll still be here posting weird pictures, telling jokes, mocking the Insult Comedian, defogging history, and doing what I do. Saturday Odds & Sods and Friday Catblogging will continue. Oscar and Della Street will see to that.

Here’s the official, but not officious, Facebook announcement:

Saturday Odds & Sods: I Should’ve Known

Dog Eat Dog by Joni Mitchell.

It was a helluva week with one of the most eventful Thursdays in recent memory. We all thought the “skinny repeal” atrocity would pass. While I’m glad that John McCain voted NO, the real stars of the vote were Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Team Trump has done many stupid things since coming to power but threatening Murkowski takes the cake. This is one tough woman. In 2010, she lost the Republican primary to a teabagger, ran as an independent, and won. Threatening her with an open political grave was futile, she’d already been declared politically dead and came back with a vengeance. Besides, the Murkowskis are a dynasty in Alaska with a collective 36 years in the Senate between Lisa and her father Frank. Take that Ryan Zinke. Z is for zero, zed, and Zinke.

On the local front, the big news was the surprising resignation of Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand. Normand is one of the most popular elected officials in the Gret Stet of Louisiana and a genuine maverick. I’ve both praised and blasted him over the years. You may recall that he was the guy David Vitter hired a gumshoe to spy on. Normand played an important role in defeating Vitter’s goober bid in 2015. On the down side, he was named malaka of the week for one of many bombastic press conferences he gave as Sheriff. He’s becoming the afternoon man at WWL talk radio. I suspect that the station’s money was what did the talking.

The reasons for selecting an Aimee Mann tune as the Saturday post theme song for a second time will be made clear after the break. Suffice it to say that it’s a great tune with a message that fits the post quite neatly. We like things tidy here at First Draft even if  my house is a cluttered mess. Neither Oscar nor Della will lift a paw to help clean. So it goes.

We begin with the 1993 promo video followed by a live version on the Beeb.

I’ve always loved the “dot, dot, dot” harmonies. I originally thought they were singing “bop, bop, bop” but I should’ve known…better. Ponder that as we go to the break.

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An Eagle’s Eye View on Trump and the Jamboree

The media firestorm over Donald Trump’s address to the National Boy Scout Jamboree had me digging deep into the back of both my mind and my storage closet this week.

In 1989, I was one of 32,717 scouts who poured into Ft. A.P. Hill, Virginia for a week of camping and camaraderie. I was the only representative from my school, which meant I was stuck with another troop from Wisconsin for the duration of the event. I was one of four outsiders who didn’t come from this Evangelical school of overly sensitive kids two or three years my junior.

Three of the days we spent there were among the hottest ever on record for that area, so much so that soda was banned and mandatory hydration occurred. We had just spent a week on a bus getting there, crashing at various armories and gymnasiums on the way, so we were ripe to say the least. It also didn’t help that showers were tough to come by (a long, long hike with even longer lines, if memory serves) and a lot of us were trying to earn a patch or a badge that involved us completing a mud-filled obstacle course or a swampy nature walk.

By the time we got home several days after the event closed on Aug. 9, we were so fried that any one of us (including God’s Children who once were so offended when I told one of them to go to hell that they actually debated if I should be put on a plane and sent home) would have stabbed any other one of us for the simple crime of looking at us on the bus.

The trip wasn’t all bad, and I still have some memories of this weird adventure and some souvenirs in a plastic tub marked “Boy Scout Stuff.”

In digging through it this week, I found the package of astronaut trading cards I received, still in mint condition. Each troop received something like 15 copies of one guy or gal and we were supposed to meet people from all over the country as we traded cards to get a complete set. The kid was supposed to write his name and address on the back so we could remain pen pals after the event. Marring a card like this was appalling to me, so instead, I set up an exchange with other kids in my troop, paying them off in candy I’d squirreled away to go get a perfect copy of each card for me.

Even then, I was an industrious card enthusiast.

The cards weren’t the only cottage industry available to us. Each troop had a specialized shoulder patch for the members’ uniforms. You could buy extras in advance for trading with other troops, which I failed to do (again, one of the pitfalls of not being in with the in-crowd). However, somewhere along the journey, a lot of kids had spent their travel money down to nearly nothing and were in desperate need of cash for soda and candy. I bought them out of spare patches and went about mastering the trading game.

The trades were supposed to be one for one, but some patches were considered more valuable than others, based on design, colors and quality of manufacturing. Ours were at least a 2-1 trade, but there were some that were ridiculously “over-priced.” The Holy Grail of patches was the one from a Texas troop: As space travel was the theme of the event, that patch, which was twice as deep as a regular shoulder patch, had the shuttle flying out of the Alamo. To get one, even we were expected to give up at least six of ours to get one from anyone who had one.

Alamo-Area-Council-2017-National-Boy-Scout-Jamboree

One of the guys I hung with out there had the idea of avoiding the patch traders and trying to find the source. We went to the main office site of the Jamboree and found out who these guys were and where their campsite was located. We hiked something like three miles or whatever to get there and when we did, the adult leader said, “It’s a one-to-one trade for us. You guys really showed you wanted it.”

I still have that patch among the collection I kept in a paper bag at the bottom of my sleeping bag the whole trip, for fear of having someone gank my Alamo patch.

I remembered the presidential address, but I had forgotten if we had received it from George H.W. Bush as a VP or as president. I remembered that he spoke, but as God as my witness, I couldn’t remember what he told us. I found his speech online this week and read it top to bottom, recalling none of it. I just remembered that we were all tweaking out when we noticed the snipers set up along the tops of the giant video screens used to project his image to the scouts.

I also remembered how much it sucked to be there because we were all packed in a field, it was the middle of the morning and we had to be in full dress uniform for the event, which meant calf-high woolen socks, long-sleeve shirts and neckerchiefs. Doing laundry in the field was a haphazard act that usually left our stuff smelling worse than when we started. In fact, the last couple days, we just stuffed our dirty stuff in the bottom of our duffel bags and figured we’d get to it eventually as we survived on newly purchased Jamboree T-shirts and whatever socks and skivvies we had left.

(My poor mother. When I finally got home at something like 4 a.m., I tossed my duffel to the bottom of the stairs, expecting to do laundry when I got up. Mom got up early and began to sort through my stuff. At the bottom was a plastic bag that contained my swampy, obstacle course clothes, which had been cooked in the sun and then marinated under a bus for three days. When she broke the seal on that bag, she swore she almost passed out. Once she recovered, she threw whatever was in there into the outside garbage dumpster and coated it with Lysol.)

Of all the things I remember, my most vivid memory was Fucking Lee Greenwood serenading us near the end of the event. He sang, “Proud to be an American” for what seemed like an hour and a half, imploring us to stand up when he sang the line, “And I’d proudly STAND UP next to them…”

I stood up. Everyone else did too, because that’s what you did.

Everyone except for my tent mate, John. He not only stayed seated but he put his head down as well.

I tried to get him up. He resisted.

When we got back to the tent that night, I asked him why he didn’t stand up. It was such a little thing, a stupid thing, that there was no reason not to.

“I don’t like mob patriotism,” he told me. “I should feel free in this country to do as I please.”

John had that kind of “hippie” vibe to me at that point. He looked like Shaggy from Scooby Doo, he didn’t pray at meals (much to the consternation of the Evangelicals) and he did his own thing. He was also one of the four outcasts and a voracious reader, which is why we ended up tenting together. I didn’t get him then, but that always stuck with me. I never thought of patriotism as a “mob” issue until he put that thought in my head.

(Of course, I went back to high school and immediately became an active member in the Young Republicans, so I can’t say he really impacted me right away. Most kids rebel by smoking weed and hippie-ing out on their folks. I pissed off my mostly liberal teachers by becoming Alex P. Keaton. I doubt any of us are really proud of our high school years…)

This is one of the main reasons why I don’t fault the kids who booed Obama or cheered Trump’s applause lines: They’re like 12 or 13 years old. Between learning to do what adults tell you because they tell you it and the general peer pressure that had me standing up for a fucking Lee Greenwood song, I doubt there was malice or even understanding going on there.

One other item I found in that bin of stuff came along about a year after we got back from the Jamboree: My Eagle Scout medal. It was pinned to my uniform, next to the medal I received for the ad altare dei award (Catholic scout honors) and just below the Jamboree patch. I was only the second Eagle in our troop in almost 30 years, the first being my friend Kyle who earned his six months before I did. To me, it was a big deal, because it was one of the first times in life I stuck with something long enough to complete the task. The ability and desire to finish things, even those that seemed impossible, would eventually become my modus operandi, but it all started with reaching Eagle Scout.

I was sad to learn that a man in Moorhead, North Dakota had turned in his Eagle to the scouting office in protest after he felt the Scouting leadership didn’t do enough to deal with Trump’s unhinged speech. That award meant a lot to me when I earned it and it still does. I always thought I might be over-emphasizing it until I heard somewhere that Jim Lovell, the commander of Apollo 13 and one of the most experienced astronauts of the Apollo program, still listed his Eagle award on his resume. I don’t know if that’s true, but I still receive mail from the Boy Scouts for various campaigns and they occasionally have Lovell’s auto-penned signature on them.

To give up something like that, because of a clusterfuck caused by our human brushfire of a president doesn’t work for me. It seems more like cutting off your nose to spite your face than like Cassius Clay tossing his gold medal into the Ohio River.

It also bothers me that this quadrennial event might be tainted for this group of kids, most of whom will probably never attend another national jambo. Then again, if my experience is any indication, half of these kids probably skipped the damned thing to go catch a hike or do some rafting or earn a merit badge. Those kids who did attend were probably busy texting or screwing around, as seeing the president wasn’t nearly as cool at that age as people kept telling us it was. We wanted to get back to doing the stuff we came there to do. Having some old dude tell us about what life was like when he was a kid wasn’t anywhere in the top 20.

(I’m glad the head of the scouts apologized Thursday for not stepping in earlier and stopping this shit show. I’m sure at the time it was happening, it was like watching a car wreck. We all like to think we’d be like Neo in a situation like this, dodging bullets in real time as we deftly fought for justice. In most cases, we’d be like Roscoe P. Coltrane, flying off the damned road and crashing into a tree, even as we knew it was happening. Cut the guy some slack for not jumping in on the FUCKING PRESIDENT the minute he went off the rails. When the goddamned provost shows up at my office, I’m a babbling idiot for about the first half hour, for chrissake… )

People outside of the event have made this about Trump and what he said and how people reacted and what impact this will have on our kids and… Just stop.

The kids are fine. They’ll bring back their own version of card swapping and patch trading in terms of memories. (I took a look at the Jamboree website and found that they have a “patch trading app” that helps you suss out the fake patches that tend to infiltrate the trade. How things have evolved…) They’ll have some friends that last a week and memories that last a lifetime. They’ll keep a few patches and cards and such in a bin that gets moved from home to home throughout their lives.

As for Trump and his chaos, they should probably do what mom did for me: March the nasty shit outside, toss it in the dumpster and coat it with Lysol.

Friday Catblogging: Cheek To Cheek

Oscar and Della Street have a new spot by our vintage 1930’s bar. Yes, Oscar has a bald spot but the hair seems to be regenerating even if he’s out of the running to be the 13th Doctor.

One would never confuse Oscar and Della with Fred and Ginger. That’s why I’m posting Sinatra’s version of the Irving Berlin tune that gives this post its name.

Follow Me Boys To The Trumpers Jamboree

When I was a kid, I knew Fred MacMurray as the pipe-puffing, sweater-wearing single father on My Three Sons. He also did a string of successful Disney movies in the Sixties. That’s why I was shocked the first time I heard about Double Indemnity and The Apartment wherein he played rat bastards. When I saw the two great Billy Wilder films, I realized Fred was a helluva actor when he wasn’t playing with Flubber. Instant Old Movie Update: A friend just pointed out that I missed Fred’s rat bastard role in The Caine Mutiny. Oops.

Follow Me, Boys was one of MacMurray’s Disney flicks wherein he played a scoutmaster to a troop that included future movie star, Kurt Russell. The Boy Scouts  of America liked the theme song by the Sherman brothers so much that they considered adopting it as their anthem:

I was an enthusiastic Cub Scout but an indifferent Boy Scout. One camping trip and it was over for me as my father predicted. It wasn’t even an “I told you so” scenario. He *hated* camping because he slept on the ground for three years during World War II and vowed to never do it again. My dislike of dirt sleeping is in the genes, y’all.

I’m not sure if the preceding was a set-up, digressively Maddowesque or both. That brings me to the real subject of this post: the Insult Comedian’s appalling speech to the Boy Scout Jamboree in West By-Gosh Virginia. We’ve all gotten desensitized to the crazy that this president* brings to a big crowd but this was way over the line. Of course, erasing lines is what the Darnold is all about. He thinks that political Norms have something to do with George Wendt’s character on Cheers. Repeat after me: the president* is a moron.

The Boy Scouts are an inherently conservative organization but have traditionally stayed out of partisan politics. That brings us to this edition of:

Trump’s speech was depressingly reminiscent of another leader’s speeches to youth groups. You know, the guy who looked like Charlie Chaplin and ranted like a proto-Trump, only in the original German. Here are a few choice cuts of this rancid speech along with some spirited annotations by yours truly:

You set a record. That’s a great honor, believe me. Tonight we put aside all of the policy fights in Washington, D.C. you’ve been hearing about with the fake news and all of that. We’re going to put that…

We’re going to put that aside. And instead we’re going to talk about success, about how all of you amazing young Scouts can achieve your dreams, what to think of, what I’ve been thinking about. You want to achieve your dreams, I said, who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts? Right?

Remember when it was unseemly for a president to use even mild profanity when speaking to kids? It wasn’t that long ago.  Ideally, a president is supposed to be a role model for children. The Current Occupant is not.

You know, I go to Washington and I see all these politicians, and I see the swamp, and it’s not a good place. In fact, today, I said we ought to change it from the word “swamp” to the word “cesspool” or perhaps to the word “sewer.”

I cannot imagine why it’s become a sewer. Oh yeah, because the Trump crime family eats, sleeps, and grifts there now.

I wonder if the television cameras will follow you? They don’t doing that when they see these massive crowds. They don’t like doing that.

<SNIP>

The fake media will say, “President Trump spoke” — you know what is — “President Trump spoke before a small crowd of Boy Scouts today.” That’s some — that is some crowd. Fake media. Fake news.

Trump acts like his captive audience was there for HIM. You joined them, not vice versa, dipshit. This speech got tons of coverage. It’s only “fake news” because so much of it was unfavorable.

Secretary Tom Price is also here today. Dr. Price still lives the Scout oath, helping to keep millions of Americans strong and healthy as our secretary of Health and Human Services. And he’s doing a great job. And hopefully he’s going to gets the votes tomorrow to start our path toward killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare that’s really hurting us.

CROWD: USA! USA! USA!

TRUMP: By the way, are you going to get the votes? He better get them. He better get them. Oh, he better. Otherwise I’ll say, “Tom, you’re fired.” I’ll get somebody.

Does he think he’s still on The Apprentice?  That’s when he was mighty like an Omarosa

I decided to skip the weird sex yacht story and his bragging about the 2016 election. We’ve heard it all before. It would be more interesting if he bragged about how they stole the election with the help of his pal Vlad.

The Insult Comedian channeled defrocked teevee big mouth Bill-O in a bizarre non-sequitur:

In the Scout oath, you pledge on your honor to do your best and to do your duty to God and your country. And by the way, under the Trump administration you’ll be saying “Merry Christmas” again when you go shopping, believe me.

Merry Christmas. They’ve been downplaying that little beautiful phrase. You’re going to be saying “Merry Christmas” again, folks.

He’s ready to fight the war on Christmas now. It’s high time to bring his soul brother Bill-O into the administration*, at least he speaks in complete sentences. He could be minister of propaganda post-purge when Mooch becomes chief of staff.

In reading the transcript of the speech, it’s easy to discern the written portions. The digressions are all boiler plate Trumpspeak. Believe me.

The worst part of the speech was when he got the boys to boo former president Obama. Obama was a scout, Trump was not. He’s not into unselfishness, honesty or loyalty. He’s the kind of guy who would cheat in the soapbox derby. Actually, he’d hire somebody to cheat for him.

Every time I think Trump has hit a new low, he tops (bottoms?) himself. He thinks the world revolves around him and that everything is about him. There’s a word that describes what he is: psychopath.

Krazy author Michael Tisserand had a lot of fun with the scouting angle on the Tweeter Tube. Here’s a sampler:

I originally planned to give Michael the last word but then I remembered a Nick Lowe tune that, with a  quick title change to Trumpers Jamboree, would be a swell theme song for this post:

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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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.

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.

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.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Garden Of Earthly Delights

The Garden Of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch.

The first week of July is when it really heats up in New Orleans. The air is thick and smacks you upside the head when you venture outside. The pace of life slows to a crawl and Oscar and Della can be found sprawled out on our wood floors hoping to cool themselves. Nice work if you can get it.

Later today, I’m going to the silliest annual event in New Orleans. It’s a non-violent running of the bulls thingamabob. The “bulls” are roller girls wielding soft paddles. I do not run. Dr. A and I hang out with our friend Cait and the child army of darkness whilst her husband Dave runs. We all sweat. It’s minosas and donuts for me, y’all. Perhaps I should take a Spank paddle to liven things up:

This week’s theme song is inspired by our Boschian theme. You may have noticed that Hieronymus Bosch’s prot0-surrealist The Garden of Earthly Delights is the featured image. There will be more Bosching about later but I will never head to the mountains and drink Busch beer. You say Busch, I say Bosch. Let’s call the whole thing off. Stop me before I quote Ira Gershwin again.

Back to the theme song. It comes from XTC’s Oranges and Lemons album whose cover was featured of a Wednesday in 2014. That feature was sidelined this week but will return next Wednesay: bad scout’s honor. Welcome to the garden of earthly delights, y’all.

I have another Boschy song for your listening pleasure. It was written and recorded by that self-described “awful little man,” Graham Parker.

Now that we’ve listened to some late-Eighties alternative rock, you deserve a break today. OMG, I sound like Ronald Fucking McDonald. That simply will not do.

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“I had to eat.”

Three elderly men sat at an 8-foot plastic table outside the ballroom of the Red Carpet bowling center in Milwaukee. Among them, they possessed five NFL championships, three NBA titles, one World Series ring and the most famous home run ever hit in the annals of baseball.

It was the summer of 1987, still the height of the nation’s sports card craze. The card show was packed with people just inside the door behind this makeshift shrine to sports immortality. As was the case during that era, older athletes who lived near these shows would gladly pocket a few hundred bucks from the promoters to show up, sign autographs and tell stories.

The bald, gregarious man on the left was once the most feared man to ever remove his teeth and don a helmet. Ray Nitschke anchored the Lombardi defenses of the 1960s, prowling about his linebacker position like an animal waiting for the opportunity to ravenously pounce upon a fearful prey.

The dour-faced man on the right kept to himself, writing his name upon photos of himself in penmanship that bordered on artistic calligraphy. His claim to fame as a Milwaukee Brave was that he broke his ankle early in the 1954 season, forcing the team to call up a minor-league prospect by the name of Hank Aaron. Three years earlier, on Oct. 3 in the Polo Grounds, Bobby Thomson hit “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” to earn the New York Giants the pennant. At the time he signed a personalized picture for me, I knew none of that and only years later, after I had sanctified that homer, did I realize I had met Thomson. It was a sad disappointment in retrospect, in which the man had already undermined the legend.

The round-faced fellow in the middle was Gene Conley, a pitcher for the 1957 World Series championship team, who died this week at the age of 86.

Nitschke took off his Super Bowl ring and let me try it on. The golden circle heavily dangled from my 12-year-old finger, looking something like an expensive game of ring toss. Thomson wouldn’t say a word to anyone and refused to interact with the other men. My father tried to engage him and was cut down with a glare for his trouble.

Yet it was Conley, a man I never knew about before that day, who made the biggest impression on me.

As “Big Gene” signed a photo for me and a card for Dad, my father informed me that this gentle giant had not only won a World Series title, but also had three NBA championships to boot. It was around this time that Bo Jackson was playing for the Royals and considering a “hobby” as a running back for the Los Angeles Raiders.

“I don’t know why they’re giving Bo Jackson such a hard time for playing two sports,” Dad began. “This man played for the Braves AND the Celtics!”

Conley stopped in mid-signature. A blip in his penmanship remains a reminder in Sharpie of the moment I’ll never forget.

“Hey, wait a minute!” Conley said in a contradictory tone, punctuated with a laugh. “Don’t be comparing me to Bo Jackson! I had to EAT!”

The 6-foot-8 Conley earned $10,000 as a rookie in 1954, with $20,000 being the most he’d ever earn in as a pitcher. Like most players of his era, the off season meant it was time to find a Joe Job to hold the fort until the next season came in.

Yogi Berra sold hardware and worked as a restaurant greeter.

Phil Rizzuto sold suits at a store in Newark, New Jersey.

Jim Bunning and Rogers Hornsby were just two of hundreds who sold insurance.

Willie Mays and Willie McCovey sold vehicles of all kinds.

Jackie Robinson had a traveling vaudeville routine.

Conley’s height and basketball experience at Washington State College made him appealing to Red Auerbach and the Boston Celtics.

He earned about $4,500 a season playing basketball, a much better deal than having to hawk clothes or cars.

Baseball players weren’t alone in this need for off-season employment. The minimum wage for an NFL player in 1977 was $14,500, or about $60,000 in today’s dollars. As Herm Edwards said in the documentary “Broke,” players he coached in the 1990s and 2000s would ask him what he and his teammates did in the off season as a player.

“Guys WORKED!” he shouted.

Conley lived long enough to see men in his profession have enough money to never need an off-season insurance gig or even a deal selling autographs at a card show. Less than a week before Conley passed, Steph Curry signed a five-year, $201-million contract, the richest ever for an athlete. Seventeen years earlier, Alex Rodriguez became the first “quarter-billion-dollar man,” signing a 10-year, $252-million deal with the Texas Rangers.

Even in his comedic rebuke of my father, I never sensed that Conley begrudged the players of today for their fortunate timing of birth. I also never got the sense that he wished he could have spent his off seasons lounging around at one of his half-dozen McMansions. In 1960, the Phillies offered Conley $20,000 to NOT play for the Celtics. Conley refused and was shipped to the Red Sox in midseason.

He liked both games and enjoyed playing them. He also knew his deteriorating rotator cuff made it more likely that he could stick with basketball longer than baseball.

Plus, a man has to eat…

Proof Through the Night

I meant to set off fireworks last night. We were staying with friends for the long weekend, and Kick had sacked out despite the re-enactment of Yorktown going on in the street. Mr. A had purchased about $75 of NOT AT ALL ILLEGAL fireworks and we were gonna shoot them off the back porch after eating a metric ton of grilled meat.

You know, the way Washington and Hamilton intended.

But instead I fell asleep on the couch inside, far from bug bites and possible drone-fines and my beer-drinking compatriots. I was sunburned and my back still hasn’t fully healed from its most recent injury (I see a specialist next week) and I’d had way too much wine at dinner.

We’d driven five hours to see a woman who has been my best friend since I was 8 years old, who hasn’t lived in the same state as me and mine since we were 12 but who nevertheless has been a constant in my life for three decades. We drove through cornfields spotted with MAGA signs, and I spent four days doing my best not to check the news or read stuff online or text anybody. I’ve lost friends lately, and I felt like circling the wagons. I had the luxury of being able to ignore the roaring outside and I took it. There are so many things I’ll never be able to repay this girl for, not if I win the biggest lottery in all the world, and add this weekend to the list.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember what this looks like, America, in the aggregate. The view from space, from a rocket’s height, bathed in that red glare. It’s hard to remember what there is down here to love. The long view isn’t something any of us can afford right now. We’re all just trying to keep ourselves together and I’m doing a bad job of it lately, and I don’t think I’m unusual in that. I want to sing you all an off-key barroom ballad about our flag still being there. I want to sing it to myself. Everyone I know is so goddamn tired.

For the first time in a long time, I took my raging twitchiness and buried it in the laughter of a little kid running through a sprinkler and a cat to pet and parks to walk in. Apparently at midnight they’d burned through all the pyrotechnics, saw me asleep on the couch, covered me with a blanket and tiptoed upstairs.

We drove home with this on the radio. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what there is down here to love and sometimes I know exactly what there is for sure.

A.