Category Archives: Diary

Saturday Odds & Sods: Don’t Do It

Lake George Reflection by Georgia O’Keefe

Today is our last day under quarantine. I’m relieved that neither of us were ever symptomatic. We were damn lucky.

This week’s theme song was written by the great Motown songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland in 1964. It was originally intended for the Supremes but wound up being recorded by Marvin Gaye. Its real title is Baby Don’t You Do It but I prefer The Band’s re-titling, Don’t Do It. Either way it’s a great song that’s been recorded oodles of times or is that scads? Beats the hell outta me.

We have five versions of Don’t Do It aka Baby Don’t You Do It for your listening pleasure.

The IT in question is “don’t you break my heart.” Here’s a Stones song that says doo doo doo doo instead of don’t:

Now that we’re all heartbroken and shit, let’s jump to the break.

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The Shape I’m In

This is usually a slow news week but since the Impeached Insult Comedian has been in extended tantrum mode, there’s a lot of stuff happening. Repeat after me: it’s NOT a coup, it’s an extended tantrum.

Dr. A and I remain under quarantine after she tested positive for COVID. We’re still asymptomatic and it looks as if we’ll stay that way. Good news all around. We even had groceries delivered for the first time. It was a break from the routine but did not involve poutine. Mmm, poutine.

Some friends brought us Thanksgiving dinner. It was amazing, awesome, and many other A words. Fried turkey not only rocks, it rules. Did I really just say that? We also had three kinds of pie: apple, pecan, and sweet potato. Mmm, pie.

I enjoyed having a quiet Thanksgiving this year. Instead of doing a holiday triple-header, we watched The National Dog Show, The Last Waltz, and some episodes of Cold Justice to add some grit to the holiday. I was also able to bask in compliments for my annual tribute to my late mother, Now Be Thankful.

Cue the original version of the song:

President* Pennywise continues to whine about his electoral defeat. It’s a way to stay in the limelight as his star recedes. He remains the president* of the Republican party and not much else. The rest of us are sick of his shit and wish he’d go away. Piss off out of our lives, Donald.

I nearly wrote an instant analysis post about the Flynn pardon on the day it happened. I had a good title too: Lame Duck Pardons Turkey & Traitor. I decided to leave it to Michael F. I knew he wouldn’t let down the side:

The Flynn case was born in scandal, lived in scandal, and finally died in scandal. Did I say it was scandalous?

Bill Barr’s conduct should be investigated and result, at the very least, in his disbarment. His name is part of the word, after all. As for myself I would never dis a bar, only a Barr, but not former Giants pitcher Jim Barr:

Dig those crazy sideburns, y’all. They were mandatory in the Seventies. It was a bad time for the Giants but a great time for sideburns.

In other Trump news, Rupert Murdoch is also sick of his shit as reported by Gabriel Sherman:

According to two sources, Trump’s attacks on Fox News are causing alarm in the Murdoch family. Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch is considering a plan to offer Trump a $100 million package that would include HarperCollins publishing Trump’s post-presidential memoir and Fox News giving Trump a contributor deal or his own show, the sources say. On November 10, the Murdoch-owned New York Post reported Trump could land a $100 million book advance, but made no mention of the Murdochs. “Rupert is going to make a humongous offer,” one of the sources said. “The thinking is, Let’s buy Trump off so he shuts the fuck up.”

Trump STFU? You must be dreaming. He cannot even shut up during the holidays when thoughts turn to turkey and shopping, not “baseless claims” of electoral fraud. Did I just say baseless claims? Holy shit, I sound like the Failing New York Times.

In the same Gabe Sherman piece we learned why Trump didn’t retreat to his Florida Elba:

But according to a Republican close to the White House, Trump’s decision not to travel to Mar-a-Lago is actually an indication that, privately at least, he’s preparing to vacate the White House in January. Trump is in the midst of a major renovation to his private apartment at Mar-a-Lago, which has made it uninhabitable during the holiday, the source said. “He wants to make it more comfortable as a full-time residence. It’s actually not that big,” the source said. The Mar-a-Lago renovation adds more evidence to the widely assumed view that Trump will make Palm Beach his permanent home after he leaves office, given his toxic relationship with New York.

The Kaiser of Chaos has essentially been booed out of New York City. It’s a tough town. In Florida, Governor De Santis can be his yard man as well as his yes man. Trump likes yes men instead of being blasted by De Blasio and criticized by Cuomo. It’s a tough town. If you don’t believe me, listen to John Lennon:

That concludes this rambling post in which I tried to talk turkey or is that cold turkey?

The last word goes to The Band:

Now Be Thankful

Adrastos’ late mother in her Chicago heyday.

It’s been a weird year. It’s going to be a weird Thanksgiving as well thanks to the pandemic and Dr. A and my being in quarantine. We both remain asymptomatic.

That’s why it struck me as a good time to post my fourth annual Thanksgiving tribute to my late mother and bring it home to First Draft after last year’s stint at my other home on the internet, the Bayou Brief. It brings a note of normality to a turbulent time.

Some changes were required because we’re not going anywhere this year instead of bopping from celebration-to-celebration. A friend is bringing us dinner, so we’ll be well-fed.

That concludes this year’s introduction. On with the show this is it:

The holidays are hard for me. I like Thanksgiving’s gluttonous aspects but it’s still hard for me. It’s when I think of my mother who died in 2001. My mother was the sort of person who took in strays for the holidays. We’d have up to 20 people around the table; some of whom were friends of friends of friends. Mom believed that everyone should have a home cooked meal on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many of our guests for Christmas dinner were, in fact, Jewish. No Chinese food for her Jewish friends.

Mom spent the day before Thanksgiving, and the day of, cooking away. She was a perfectionist when it came to entertaining: no holiday buffets for her. We had to gather around the table and it had to have a starched white tablecloth. There were no paper plates or people eating whilst milling about: fine china, silver, and crystal were mandatory for the holidays. She was informal the rest of the year but holidays were state occasions when, as my father was wont to say, we put on the dog.

When I got old enough, one of my jobs was to set the table. I made sure that Mom had final approval: she wanted everything just so. I recall feeling triumphant one Thanksgiving: I’d set the table perfectly on the first try. There were usually changes but not that year. I was inordinately proud of myself but she admonished me not to get too cocky. It was the Midwestern Norwegian Lutheran in her coming out. She left the bragging to my dad. It’s what Greeks do, y’all. Not me, of course, other Greeks…

I also helped make a fresh cranberry/orange sauce from the recipe on the back of the Ocean Spray bag. We had a venerable hand-cranked grinder that had to be attached to the kitchen table. We spread newspaper around it because it was messy. There was a bucket at my feet to catch the bitter red cranberry drippings. Mom was not sentimental about her kitchen gadgets: she bought a food processor the first time she saw one. I was away from home and past the cranberry grinding, table setting phase of my life by then.

My favorite part of the traditional turkey dinner was the stuffing. I looked forward to it every year. It was loaded with herbs as well as pine nuts and chestnuts. We didn’t exactly roast them on an open fire but I helped shell the bastards. They were uncooperative, downright surly, actually. When I was really young, I was convinced they were alive but my no-nonsense mother disabused me of that notion. She informed me that I’d seen the Wizard of Oz one too many times. As usual, she was right.

Unfortunately, there was often conflict at the dinner table during the holidays. I’m the youngest of three by thirteen years. My sisters were off living life and I was raised more like an only child. I admit to liking it that way. My oldest sister thrives on drama and conflict. There was always one big row per holiday, which drove my poor mother crazy. She was always the woman in the middle. When she died, so did our nuclear family for reasons too complex to go into. The good news is that holidays are more tranquil but I miss the glue of my family.

Thanksgivings in Louisiana had a familiar feel when I moved here. It’s all about the food, y’all.  I married into an old Louisiana family and learned some new traditions. What’s not to love about oyster dressing? I still missed my mom’s stuffing. It was a part of me.

My first wife was a petite, feisty, beautiful, and brilliant spitfire. She took the idea of being a redhead seriously: she had a temper to match my own. Her mother took me in as one of her own but made it clear that when we moved to Baton Rouge, we’d have to tie the knot. Unfortunately, my wife’s family tree was a witches brew of genetic maladies and she died of cancer during what should have been her final year at LSU Law School.

She passed away a week before Thanksgiving so the holidays were rough sledding for me until I met and fell in love with the tall, feisty, beautiful, and brilliant woman known to you as Dr. A. The good news is that Dr. A and my mother-in-law instantly hit it off and she was admitted to the Louisiana family post-haste. It was Dr. A who started calling our Louisiana family the outlaws and the nickname stuck.

I sat down to write a brief, nostalgic food-centric post and ended up explaining my tangled family tree. So it goes. I never hide the fact that I was a widower at a young age but I only tell people when asked how I came to the Gret Stet of Louisiana from California. It’s a long and painful story but I’m fortunate to have married well twice.

I still miss my mother. She could dance on my last nerve, but I miss our long conversations and teasing her about her crazy dog Brutus.

Mothers are powerful. They have the ability to make you revert to childhood. I know that many of your mothers get on your nerves. It’s what they do. Shrug it off and remember that they won’t always be with you. Around the holidays is when I miss my mom and Dr. A misses her charming, beautiful, and eccentric mother. Mother-in-law #2, however, was not a good cook and expected us to consume the radishes she’d lovingly cut. I hate radishes but her company was the best.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The last word goes to Fairport Convention with the gorgeous Richard Thompson song that gave this post its title:

Here’s another one from the songwriter. It’s a day for gluttony, after all:

 

Words Matter

I’ve been having a back-and-forth argument with some friends over the word coup and whether the antics of Rudy and other Trumpers constitute a coup d’état or golpe de estado. This is NOT a coup, it’s an extended tantrum. Why? Because words matter.

I’m a writer with a law degree so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I’m a stickler for precise language unless puns are involved. Then all bets are off.

I grew up on the Encyclopedia Britannica. Here’s its definition:

Coup d’état, also called coup, the sudden, violent overthrow of an existing government by a small group. The chief prerequisite for a coup is control of all or part of the armed forces, the police, and other military elements. Unlike a revolution, which is usually achieved by large numbers of people working for basic social, economic, and political change, a coup is a change in power from the top that merely results in the abrupt replacement of leading government personnel. A coup rarely alters a nation’s fundamental social and economic policies, nor does it significantly redistribute power among competing political groups.

There are other sloppier definitions out there, but this is the one I adhere to even if that sounds sticky.

As far as I’m concerned, no military involvement means that it’s not a coup. Neither the military nor security forces are involved in Trump’s attempt to subvert and steal the 2020 presidential election something for which we should be profoundly grateful.

There’s another reason that I’m adamantly opposed to a sloppier definition of the word coup: it elevates and dignifies a presidential* hissy fit and gives it some gravitas. This doomed attempt to steal the election is farcical unless you’re a right-wing conspiracy buff. Anything led by Rudy Giuliani is doomed to fail. He hasn’t succeeded at anything since he left Gracie Mansion other than making money. Remember his 2008 presidential campaign? Neither do I.

I remain convinced that the purpose of this extended political tantrum is to cause chaos and confusion and provide the Trumpers with a stab in the back narrative that they can use to explain away their defeat. That’s why I call Trump the Kaiser of Chaos.

I’m also exasperated with the MSM’s lazy use of language in other areas. The best example is the phrase the “Latin Vote.” The MSM is currently puzzled by why Biden did well with Latin voters in Arizona and not Florida. D’oh: they’re different groups from different places. They’re mostly Mexican in Arizona but Cuban, Venezuelan, and Central American in South Florida. When Cuban emigrees landed in Miami during the waning days of the Jim Crow era they were treated like white people. They still think of themselves as white, not brown. That’s why neither Marco Rubio nor Ted Cruz identify with minority groups. Blame Fidel.

This particular word game is a sign of media sloth and soft bigotry. When I was young, the punditocracy focused on how candidates did with various European ethnic and religious groups. They didn’t lump Italians, Greeks, Poles, Jews, and Slavs together because they had different interests, values, and religious affiliations. Clearly race had something to do with the avoidance of groupthink.

The same logic should be applied to the “Latin Vote” today. There is no monolithic Latin voting bloc much as the media and politicians wish that there were. Oversimplification is the enemy of clarity.

The last word goes to Stephen Stills:

Saturday Odds & Sods: This Wheel’s On Fire

Tragic Prelude by John Steuart Curry.

It’s been a difficult week in New Orleans. Dr. A tested positive for COVID and we’re under quarantine. Mercifully, we’re both asymptomatic.

This is an excellent example of how contagious COVID-19 is. As a scientist, Dr. A is careful and cautious in dealing with the virus. She caught it at work, not socializing. If you’re thinking of having a normal Thanksgiving, please reconsider. Anyone can catch this virus if they let their guard down. Help is on the way but it’s going to take time to vaccinate the entire population. Please be careful out there.

This week’s theme song was written by Bob Dylan and Rick Danko in 1967. It was first recorded by The Band on their debut album, Music From Big PInk. It’s been covered by a wide variety of artists over the years and was the theme song of the OTT British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous.

We have four versions of This Wheel’s On Fire for your listening pleasure: The Band live, The Byrds, Julie Driscoll, and Guster.

I have a confession to make. I’m a hardcore fan of The Band but I’m not crazy about Big Pink. It’s a brilliant collection of songs but they don’t swing like the Band did live. Hence the live burning wheel. I hope this won’t consign me to rock hell as the CW on Big Pink is that it’s one of the greatest albums of all-time. I like it but don’t love it.

Another song from The Band with Rick Danko on lead vocals:

Now that we’ve walked that highway til we die, let’s jump to the break.

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It’s All Over But The Pouting

Image by Michael F.

I’m still batting away coup chatter like a cat with a cornered cockroach. If someone wants to claim there’s a coup, I tune them out. I’m not even sure if many people who use the term even know what a coup really is. It’s certainly not what’s going on right now, which is driven by presidential * payback, petulance, and pouting.

Here’s what’s going on right now: President* Pennywise is pouting. One man’s petulant refusal to accept reality is slowing down the transition of power. Making matters worse are his GOP enablers. That’s the real problem right now, not a golpe de estado, which is Spanish for coup d’état. A real coup would make us all golpe, I mean, gulp…

President* Pennywise walked up to the edge of admitting defeat last weekend but couldn’t quite get there. A concession would be nice and good sportsmanship, but this guy is never going to concede. He’s incapable of doing the right thing. It’s not in his DNA. Instead, he pouts.

I have long thought that playing team sports is good for the participant even if they’re no good at the sport. I was a terrible Little League baseball player and an even worse church league basketball player. In fact, my father was the Holy Cross church hoops coach and he taught us the virtue of good sportsmanship and the vice of sore loserdom.

Trump claims to have been the best high school baseball player in New York state in his day but it taught him nothing about being a good sport. His claim is, of course, a lie. He played ball against future Hall of Famers Jim Palmer and Rod Carew. I think they were a smidgen better than the Impeached Insult Comedian. The only thing this asshole could have led the league in was trash talking. That he’s good at. And he excels at pouting.

Back to the transition. It’s being blocked by the Trump regime’s GSA honcho, Emily Murphy. She’s trying to score points with the boss when he only has 65 days left in office. She’s going to be replaced by Team Biden after this stunt, so she might as well go out in a blaze of glory by authorizing the full-blown transition required by law. Trump would fire her, but such a firing might help her employment prospects after the Kaiser of Chaos is out of office.

Perhaps a musical interlude will encourage Emily Murphy to do the right and legal thing:

The pandemic is the main reason the transition is so important. Team Biden is concerned that Trumpist recalcitrance will make the distribution of any vaccines problematic. Incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain put it this way:

“We now have the possibility — we need to see if it gets approved  — of a vaccine starting perhaps in December, January,” Klain said, appearing to refer to Pfizer’s recent announcement that early, independently reviewed data suggests that its COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90 percent effective in preventing infections. “There are people at HHS making plans to implement that vaccine. Our experts need to talk to those people as soon as possible so nothing drops in this change of power we’re going to have on January 20th.”

Klain stressed the urgency for Biden’s transition team to get the ascertainment from Trump’s GSA chief so that it can begin its plans to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we really want to see this week is the General Services Administration issue that ascertainment, so we can start to do the kinds of things you and I talked about a few minutes ago,” Klain said. “Meet with these vaccine officials, kind of get the intelligence briefings for the president-elect, the vice president-elect. That’s really the measure of how this is moving forward this week, I think.”

Unfortunately, neither Trump nor his party gives a rat’s ass. The GOP is the party of COVID denialism, which is not a good place to be as the virus surges. They seem to think that, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, if they click their heels together three times COVID will magically disappear. Freedom, man.

I think that Trump and other GOP bigwigs should be forced to wear this hat seen on last week’s Shark Tank:

There’s no doubt that COVID denialism and false claims of a rigged election are hurting the country. It’s what they do. Everything Team Trump has done since day one has hurt the country. They’ve graduated from owning the liberals to reckless disregard for human life during the pandemic. In many states, reckless disregard = manslaughter. That’s some serious shit. The GOP should care but they don’t. Freedom, man.

At some point the transition will kick into high gear, a rising body count may force the GSA’s hand. As to President* Pennywise, he can go fuck himself. All his lies and conspiracy theories don’t change the fact that he lost the election.

Putting Rudy Giuliani is charge of the post-election litigation is a sign of desperation. They haven’t won a single court case and the Million MAGA March flopped. So much for the civil war and coup chatter. The MAGA Maggots are pussies. They should grab themselves.

This whole mishigas reminds me of the venerable expression: It’s all over but the shouting. The Trumpified version is: It’s all over but the pouting.

The last word goes to Bobby Womack & Bill Withers, The Rolling Stones, and Grateful Dead:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: 4% Pantomime

The Card Players by Paul Cezanne.

I don’t know about you, but I’m still beat from the election and its aftermath. My sleep pattern resembles a crazy quilt right now. Hopefully, it will return to normal soon. I may have to perform some sort of sacrifice to Morpheus if it doesn’t.

In an indication that climate change is real, there was another late season tropical system in the Gulf of Mexico this week. It didn’t visit the Gret Stet of Louisiana so we should be grateful for small mercies. I’m also grateful that Team Biden plans to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords. Shit has gotten weird with the weather, y’all.

This week’s theme song was written on the fly in 1971 by Robbie Robertson and Van Morrison for The Band’s Cahoots album. Robertson had already started the song but finished it with the Grumpy One after he dropped by the studio.

We have two versions of 4% Pantomime for your listening pleasure: the studio original and an alternate version. The song features a duet between two great singers: Van and Richard Manuel and is loaded with card-playing imagery hence the featured image.

Now that we’ve gotten “wrecked, checked” let’s jump to the break. There’s more music awaiting us on the other side.

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Friday Catblogging: Happy Birthday, Dr. A

It won’t surprise anyone that I still miss Paul Drake. So does Dr. A. Below is PD’s gotcha day picture taken on Twelfth Night in 2018.

Today is Dr. A’s birthday. I’m not going to say how old she is since I’m older. BUT I can say that I’m a lucky man to have her as my wife and best friend. She loves me despite my flaws and I love her right back.

I almost made a Friday the 13th joke but instead I’ll quote Maybe Cousin Telly: Who loves ya baby?

The last word goes to Stevie Wonder:

One more Stevie Wonder song. The best version of Isn’t She Lovely:

 

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Get Up, Stand Up

Poster by Ben Shahn

I’m not alone in heaving a sigh of relief over the Impeached Insult Comedian’s imminent defeat. The extended election season made it difficult to do a typical Odds & Sods post. So, I’m going to do something different and post this week’s theme song at the end of the post.

Unlike the current occupant, I’m passionate about the right to vote. I agree with Joey B Shark that the “right to vote is sacred.” There have been a series of struggles over that precious and fundamental right. The 14th Amendment granted the right to vote to all males over 21. The goal was to enfranchise the freed slaves. The Southern states had a different idea. It was called Jim Crow.

Women were not enfranchised nationally until the 19th Amendment. They helped elect Warren Gamaliel Harding in 1920 but nobody’s perfect.

Black citizens were not fully enfranchised until the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The arc of history may bend towards justice, but it does so slowly.

The featured image is a poster from the 1944 campaign by the legendary lefty artist Ben Shahn. It was commissioned by the CIO, which was more militant before merging with the AFL in 1956.

The CIO were key players in the Roosevelt coalition. CIO leader Sidney Hillman was so influential that FDR allegedly told his people to “Clear it with Sidney” or that’s what their opponents said. Hillman was Jewish so that led to anti-Semitic attacks from the GOP:

Hillman’s nose was not that large. Anyone surprised? The same thing happened to Jon Ossoff this year. The more things change the more they remain the same.

The comparison of the New Deal to “foreign isms” was particularly odious. Negative politics are as American as apple pie. This pie had a worm in it.

Finally, this week’s theme song is an anthem of defiance written in 1973 by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Don’t give up the fight.

We have three versions of Get Up, Stand Up for your listening pleasure: the Wailers original, Peter Tosh, and a live version from the Amnesty International Conspiracy Of Hope tour.

That’s it for this week. The last word goes to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris:

 

Everybody Gets to Have Today

Because nothing else was going on yesterday, and it was incredibly gorgeous out, Kick and I walked over to the park, where I sat six feet away from a bazillion other adults all glued to their phones, and talked with friends while our kids ran screaming around the playground like spirits unleashed from imprisonment in amber.

And goddamn, so many of them were still worried. Still depressed. Still feeling that Tuesday night crush when we all realized it wasn’t gonna be a blowout like we’d hoped.

They were all, as I’d been right up until Wisconsin was called, finding reasons to be disappointed in what was happening.

But without the Senate …

So many people voted for him …

In two years …

No.

No way.

Not today.

WE HAVE THROWN A RACIST SEXIST FASCIST RAPIST INCUMBENT PRESIDENT OUT OF OFFICE IN THE MIDDLE OF A NATIONAL CRISIS AND WE GET TO HAVE TODAY.

I don’t want to hear the internecine bitchfest today. Shut up equally, Abigail Spanberger and everybody yelling at her. Stop. I don’t want to hear about next week, next month, January, 2024, none of it. I don’t want to hear about the failures and the things that didn’t happen couldn’t happen shouldn’t have happened.

Stop for a second and look at what just happened.

We’ve had so few victories in the past four years. So few things to feel good about, especially in the past year. And every single day they take something else away.

It’s going to be a long dark coldass winter and we’re going to be ALONE in it. For a quarter of a million people there will always be a hole in the world.

So don’t. Don’t take this away from YOURSELVES.

Don’t fall into the trap they set for you, making you hate and fear every good thing, because it will be pulled out from under you. It might be. But while you have it in your hands, look at it. Look at it while you still can.

Trump and Pence, out.

Pompeo, out.

Chad Wolf, out.

Stephen Miller, unemployed.

Kayleigh Whateverthehellhername is, unemployed.

Executive orders, done. Muslim ban, done. Sticking our dick in the CDC’s face for the sake of doing it, done. Rage-tweeting at Iceland on Christmas morning or some shit, done. Cruelty for cruelty’s sake, done. Gag rules, done. Supreme Court nominees who are RAPISTS FUCKING DONE FOREVER.

And the first woman vice president. The first black woman vice president. The first Asian-American woman vice president. In 234 years.

One of the worst things an abuser can do — and Trump is an abuser, survivors of domestic violence have told us this for years — is take away the belief in joy. In hope, in the future. Make you take it away from yourself, make you shy from it, make you dread it, make you actively work to prevent it because it feels so WRONG.

It doesn’t feel wrong. It feels different. It feels new. Lean into it. We don’t get many of these days. We don’t get hundreds of thousands of opportunities to be happy. Don’t take this one away in advance.

Make them rip it from your cold dead hands. Make them come, and take it.

A.

Confessions Of A Political Junkie

It feels like 2000 in reverse. In that year, I was obsessed with the Bush-Gore recount, which ultimately broke our hearts and led to the election of the second worst president in American history. The worst is about to lose but he won’t go quietly. He never does anything quietly. In fact, President* Pennywise’s big mouth may cost him Arizona as he continued his feud with John McCain after the latter’s death.

In 2000, I was glued to CNN. In 2020, I’ve watched a bit of CNN in the daytime when Anderson Cooper is in the anchor chair but mostly MSNBC. They pulled the plug on Trump’s vile speech not long after that specious harangue began. Kudos to them for a move that was soon followed by the broadcast networks. That speech led to the Gray Lady using the word lie in a headline and Trump lie-counter Daniel Dale to observe:

At this point, it would be easier to keep track of the Impeached Insult Comedian’s true statements than his lies. I’m not sure that there have been any.

In other news, Steve Bannon has been banned from Twitter for urging the beheading of Tony Fauci and other “bureaucrats.” That guy used to be on the National Security Council and now he’s under indictment. That’s why I talk about the fog of scandal.

I’m particularly revved up by the Georgia count. They should replace the Klansmen on Stone Mountain with a portrait of Stacey Abrams. She’s one of the uncontested stars of this contested election. She’ll remain just as busy as the two Peach state senate races will move to a runoff on January 5, 2021. Georgia will continue to be the center of the political universe.

The presidential race in Arizona has tightened but Mark Kelly has been projected to defeat the appointed senator. I’m thrilled by this development. Mark Kelly is one of the best people in public life and will bring integrity to an institution that needs it.

It looks like today is the day that the election will be called. Pennsylvania is the most likely state to push Biden over the top. I’ve been pulling for that because it’s the state of Joey B Shark’s birth and it would make the call a bit less bittersweet. As in 2000, the fight will continue to rage because the incumbent is pitching a massive tantrum right now and he loves to litigate; make that lives to litigate. He usually loses in court.

The last word goes to the great Robert Cray with an anti-Trump anthem:

I agree with Mr. Cray: “Who is this man In our house? Who is this man? Better get him out.”

Election Day In The 13th Ward

I slept in this morning. I can’t remember the last time I slept past 8. Since we fell back that means it was 9:18 to my body when I awoke. My insomnia has been back with a vengeance during the pandemic. This has got to be an omen of sorts. If nothing else, it leads to a swell musical interlude:

I did something else this morning: I voted. I’ve always liked the ritual of election day, especially in the 13th Ward. I prefer to walk 4 blocks to St. Katharine Drexel School to cast my ballot. Early voting is fine for other people. It breaks my election day ritual.

Hurricane Zeta nearly fucked up my ritual. There were widespread power outages in New Orleans. The Gret Stet used to have non-partisan Secretaries of State who wanted everyone to vote but now we have a GOP political hack named Kyle Ardoin. He refused to fund generators for powerless polling places. Fortunately, Entergy came to the rescue. Kyle Ardoin is such an asshole that he forced me to praise the utility company. He can go fuck himself.

It was a long-ass ballot. As I said last week at the Bayou Brief, there was too much on the ballot. This time, I even voted in a few judgeship races. I took great pleasure in voting against the Trashanova’s candidate. If you’re puzzled by that reference, click here.

Many people are worried about what Trump and his followers will do after they lose the election. I am not. Most Trumpers are as cowardly as their dear leader. They’re into performative politics, which I’m on the record as despising. Those guys who tote automatic weapons do it for show. They’d pee themselves if they had to use them. And the much ballyhooed traffic incidents of last weekend are just as cowardly: the Trumpers never left their vehicles. It’s all a reality show to them.

Could there be isolated violent incidents? Yes.

Will there be systematic violent incidents? Hell no. Planning and organizing are not natural to Trumpers. They’re better at moaning and whining.

Repeat after me: Trumpers are pussies. They should grab themselves.

A word about Joe Biden. He may not be the most eloquent nominee of my lifetime: Barack Obama and Bill Clinton take that prize. What Joe has in spades is passion and sincerity. When he goes after the Impeached Insult Comedian, he means every word, which reminds me of another old song:

I know, everything reminds me of an old song. It’s my affliction, what can I tell ya?

Election nights at Adrastos World HQ usually involve pizza. This year, one of our local pizza joints has added Detroit Pizza to its menu. It’s somewhere between New York and Chicago pizza crust-wise and it’s baked in a square pan. This year it will function as a tribute to voters in the swing state of Michigan.

I plan to make an early and relatively brief appearance at the Zoom Crack Van thingamabob. While I’m not as geeky as Steve Kornacki, I like to watch the returns closely. The last time I went to an election party was in 2008. I watched the returns while everyone else socialized. So it goes.

A quick programming note: I’m skipping Album Cover Art Wednesday this week. I’ll be up watching returns until some ungodly hour.  I’m paying special attention to Texas, Georgia, and Arizona.

Perhaps this should be my new motto:

For the kids out there, it’s a variation on “Cut off my legs and call me Shorty.” I obviously watch too many old movies.

The last word is dedicated to all the nervous Democrats out there. We got this. Mister Spock agrees:

1980 In Reverse

The 2020 campaign has easily been the weirdest one of my lifetime. We have a lunatic incumbent whose electoral college win was a fluke in the second weirdest election of my lifetime, 2016. President* Pennywise is the weirdest weirdo to ever win. That’s the appeal of his opponent, Joe Biden who is a normal human being with normal flaws. My belief is that a substantial majority of Americans are sick of the abnormal incumbent and ready for Gamalian normalcy.

I’m the house optimist at First Draft and this post posits the best-case scenario for 2020. Could I be wrong? Yes. I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be wrong again. Hell, I was wrong about the Democratic nomination contest. The voters of my party picked the tried and tested Joe Biden over more exciting alternatives such as my preferred candidate, Senator Professor Elizabeth Warren. I should have known that in a crisis, people prefer comfort food over molecular gastronomy. Joe Biden is comfort food and that’s what the voters want.

As I wrote last month, Joe Biden presents the perfect contrast to the Impeached Insult Comedian. Joey B Shark is as steady as Trump is erratic. Except for his diehards, whose number have always been overestimated, people are sick of Donald Trump’s shit. That’s why I think 1980, not 2016 is the right election to compare 2020 to. It’s also the best-case scenario for the sort of sweeping win Democrats need to put this election to bed early.

It’s time to do some time traveling, Wayback Machine-style.

My first vote for president was in 1976. I voted for Mo Udall in the California Democratic primary and Carter-Mondale in the general election. In those long-ago days, California was a swing state that leaned Republican in presidential elections. That changed in 1992 when my first home state became solidly blue in national elections.

I liked Jimmy Carter in 1976 but was concerned about his lack of political experience outside the Peach state. The hint of sanctimony he brought to his public pronouncements always bugged me. I was one of those liberals who was reassured by the selection of Fritz Mondale as Veep. I was not the only one troubled by Carter: George McGovern voted for Jerry Ford in 1976 because of Carter’s inexperience. He always denied that it was because of Carter’s leadership role in the ABM “movement” in 1972: Anybody But McGovern.

I realize this goes against the current conventional wisdom of those who were not adults during the Carter administration. I agree that he’s been an outstanding *former* president, but he was a mediocre to poor president and, much worse for 1980, a lousy politician. The words terrible and rotten also come to mind.

In his own time, Carter was often described as the most conservative Democratic president since Grover Cleveland. That’s why Ted Kennedy challenged him for the nomination and that’s why I supported Kennedy’s candidacy. To his credit, Carter has moved left since his defeat, but he was mistrusted by party liberals back then. My stock joke during the 1980 general election was that I was voting for Walter Mondale.

Carter’s re-election campaign was hindered by a dreadful economy and the Iran hostage crisis, which made him look like the Mr. Limpet of presidents. Who wants to be compared to a Don Knotts character?

Carter also went from being the man who would be “as good as the American people” to being something of a scold. The 1970’s were a tough time and Carter was out of step with the voters. That led to the Kennedy challenge.

The country had been moving right since 1968. The culture wars were raging as Rick Perlstein wrote in Nixonland, “By 1970, the only thing Americans were sicker of than the Vietnam War were the anti-warriors.”

Race was an even bigger factor in the move right. There was much grumbling among conservative whites about “uppity” and “ungrateful” you know whats. That opened the door to Ronald Reagan’s victory in the 1980 election. That and Carter’s tone-deaf approach to politics.

Because of Barry Goldwater’s landslide defeat in 1964, Team Carter was convinced that Reagan could not win because he was too right-wing. As a Californian I knew that Reagan was a formidable campaigner and that his cheerful facade presented a stark contrast to Carter’s dour 1980 persona.

Adding to Carter’s political woes was moderate Republican (they existed then) John Anderson’s independent candidacy. He ran because he thought Reagan was too right-wing to win. In the end, Anderson’s presence cost Carter several states including Massachusetts and New York. That’s right, Ronald Reagan carried both of those states twice. That’s why Democrats panicked after the 1984 election and moved to the center.

Election night 1980 was crushing. Carter’s support collapsed in the last week of the campaign so I knew he would lose. What was shocking was how many seats the Republicans gained in the senate: twelve to be exact. Among the incumbents who were drowned by the Reagan wave were such luminaries as Birch Bayh, Frank Church, Gaylord Nelson, Warren Magnuson, and George McGovern. I think McGovern was onto something about Carter, by George.

Many of those incumbents lost seemingly safe seats by narrow margins. One reason was President Carter’s shockingly early concession speech while the polls were still open on the West Coast and Mountain West. I told you he was a lousy politician. Many Western Democrats never forgave Carter for thinking only of himself, not the rest of the ticket. I am among that number.

That concludes my personal history of the 1980 race. It changed the face of American politics moving the country significantly to the right. The Roosevelt coalition was blown up and replaced by the Reagan coalition.

The strategies and tactics used by Team Carter are a major factor in why the elite media has been in the bag for the GOP for the last 40 years. Team Carter were in a tight spot and made everything worse by portraying Reagan as Dr. Strangelove. That aura of incompetence was one of many reasons the country decided to fire the sitting president.

It’s time to return to the present. Hit it, Mr. Peabody.

I believe we’re on the cusp of another change election. Donald Trump’s corruption, mendacity, and incompetence have fractured the Reagan coalition beyond repair. We’ve seen the largest number of defectors from a ruling party since 1972 when many Dems bailed on George McGovern. He did not deserve that. Trump does.

Democrats have an opportunity to flip the Senate the way the GOP flipped it in 1980. We all know who the most vulnerable GOPers are but a 7-11 point Biden-Harris national victory could lead to some major upsets in places such as Texas, Georgia, and Mississippi. Yes, I said Mississippi: Mike Espy is helluva candidate running against a Lost Causer who’s also a ninny.

Most voters in 2020 are used to close elections. As a young Democrat I was on the wrong side of landslides in 1972, 1980, 1984, and 1988. I don’t think 2020 will be another 1972 or 1984 but the chances of a ten-point sweep as in 1980 are good.

In 2020, we have an unpopular president* dealing with a pandemic, racial unrest, and an economic crash. In 1980, we had an unpopular president dealing with an international crisis and a rotten economy.

In the 2020 senate races, we have Republican incumbents elected in the 2014 wave election when President Obama was such a liability that he stayed off the trail. In the 1980 senate races, we had Democratic incumbents elected in the 1974 Watergate wave election who ran away from Carter.

I firmly believe that the country is ready to fire the Kaiser of Chaos. I think there are quiet Biden voters who live in areas where they’re surrounded by Trump supporters. Like most of us, they’re tired of Donald Trump’s shit.

There are, of course, substantial differences. Carter was decent man who accepted the election results as would have his opponent had he lost. It would not have occurred to either side to run a Psyops campaign aimed at undermining public confidence in the result. That was unthinkable until the only impeached president to ever run for re-election started stirring the pot in 2016.

Despite the big Axios story yesterday, it remains unclear how much of Trump’s post-election threats are bluster, bombast, and bullshit. He excels in all three areas. Team Biden is prepared for the worst and hoping for the best. The election may not end tomorrow or even Wednesday but we will win in the end. We’re about to learn how many Vichy Republicans are willing to go to jail for their dear leader.

The mere fact that Biden could win the popular vote by 7 points and still lose the electoral college is an abomination that supports my argument to ABOLISH THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE. Democrats have won the popular vote in 6 of the last 7 elections but lost twice. It’s time for the electoral college to go.

In past years, I would have posted an electoral college map predicting the outcome. I did spend some time fooling around at 270towin.com but I threw my crystal ball away after 2016. I’m willing to say that Democrats will win the senate and the Biden-Harris ticket will win from 313 to 413 electoral votes. In this cycle, I’m obsessed with Texas, Arizona, and Georgia because I’ve spent a fair amount of time in each state.  I refuse to ever predict an outcome again in Florida.

It’s time for them to go. Make it so, America, make it so.

The last word goes to Donald Fagen, Eric Clapton, and Bessie Smith with some florid Florida songs:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Bad Moon Rising

Masks by James Ensor.

I spent part of Tuesday and all day Wednesday fretting about Hurricane Zeta. That didn’t leave much time for assembling a proper Odds & Sods post. Instead we have an improper one. Of course, Halloween is for trick or treating. Consider this edition a trick.

This week’s theme song was written by John Fogerty in 1969 for CCR’s Green River album. In concert, Fogerty is known to substitute “there’s a bathroom on the right” for “there’s a bad moon on the rise” on the final chorus of the song.

We have four versions of Bad Moon Rising for your listening pleasure: the Creedence original, John Fogerty live, Emmylou Harris, and Queen Ida.

There’s no jump or second act this week. Damn hurricane. I did, however, prepare two third act segments before Zeta roared into town.

Separated At Birth Casting Edition: Tricky Dick is the man I love to hate. I hate Trump more but he’s not as interesting as the Trickster.

Here’s a Tricky Trio: Anthony Hopkins, Frank Langella, and the man himself.

True story: I fell asleep while seeing Oliver Stone’s Nixon bio-pic on the big screen. Stone’s movies usually give me a headache.

Saturday GIF Horse: I love the old Universal horror movies. I used to watch them on Creature Features on KTVU when I was a tadpole. Bob Wilkins was the host. So every time I was admonished  for my Dwight Frye as Mr. Renfield impression, I’d blame Wilkins. It was actually Dracula’s fault.

That’s it for this whirlwind edition of Halloween Odds & Sods. The last word goes to Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye:

Zeta, Man

Zeta’s Eye Over the 13th Ward photo by Dr. A.

Hurricane Zeta was the fifth named storm to make landfall in the Gret Stet of Louisiana this year. That set a record that we could do without. 2020, man.

Zeta was a weird system. Conditions were NOT favorable for development, but it blew up anyway. My favorite local teevee meteorologist was alternately vexed, puzzled, and apologetic about his forecast. No worries, Chris. 2020, man.

Winds in New Orleans peaked somewhere between 65 and 75 MPH. It was scary at points but since Claire Trevor lived through the big blow in Key Largo, she slept through Zeta. She *was* the hero of that movie: she slipped Bogie the rod that he used to vanquish Johnny Rocco. 1948, man.

We were lucky. We lost cable but not power. It’s a minor miracle. In 2012, we lost power for 7 days after Hurricane Isaac blew through town. As a result, I missed seeing Clint Eastwood talk to the chair at the Republican convention. 2012, man.

Adding to the oddity of Zetapalooza, the first cold front of the season is rolling through town. That makes it easier on those who lost power. We sweated like Bogie in the greenhouse scene in The Big Sleep after Isaac. 1946, man.

Zeta was a fast-moving storm system. The worst lasted only for a few hours. Since it was a direct hit, I experienced the eerie beauty of the eye for the first time. It was genuinely surreal. It was like a Magritte painting only without the bowler hats or are they derbies? That’s a question for another time.

The friend and Spank krewe mate who I call Nurse Candace wrote something lovely on my FB feed about *her* experience with the eye of Zeta: “The most poignant contrast of Nature’s fury and tranquility that I’ve ever experienced.”

The Zeta eye sky also reminded me of one of my favorite John Hiatt ballads. That’s why he gets the last word:

 

Too Much Is On The Ballot/Hurricane Zeta Update

My latest column for the Bayou Brief is online. It’s my reflections on the upcoming election with a local emphasis. Here’s the tagline:

13th Ward ramblings on the 2020 election, Orleans Parish style. Sidney Torres is NOT on the ballot; he just acts like he is.

In other news, Hurricane Zeta strengthened in the wee small hours of the morning. After half-a-dozen games of hurricane dodge ball it appears headed our way. I’m not sure how this will impact my blogging, but I expect to lose power as this is a wind event. Anything I’m able to schedule this morning will appear but it’s unclear if there will be a Saturday Odds & Sods this week. Only the Shadow knows and we’re not speaking.

We just moved our porch furniture inside. Claire Trevor digs it. I thought she’d be unnerved by the extra clutter, but she just sniffed it and moved on. Cats are much tougher than humans.

I’ll try and check in later today. I *was* planning to write about why the 2020 presidential election is NOT 2016 but I need to remove any possible projectiles from our back yard. The good news is that Zeta is moving fast. It’s always better when an uninvited and unwelcome guest does not linger.

Believe it or not, we’re having a cold front tomorrow after Zeta zips through. 2020, man.

The last word goes to John Fogerty:

I wouldn’t advise walking in this or any other hurricane, y’all.

One. Week.

Guys? Guys? Here on out, shit’s only gonna get stupider and crazier. Hold on tight, DM me on Twitter if you need anything, and I wouldn’t call it crazy to stock up on some groceries just in case shit goes sideways.

But.

I have faith. I always do, I did in 2004 and I did in 2008 (he was a black man named Barack Hussein Obama, maybe you forgot what country we are) and I did in 2016, and the times I’ve been wrong still sting. Still, I have faith.

Better to be absolutely poleaxed by reality every couple of years than be the guy going “I knew it” because you still get screwed AND you sound like a jerk. As I say to people all the time when they shove their cynical white-boy shit in my face: Why be so happy you predicted the avalanche, you’re still buried up to your neck.

Here are my predictions.

The mail-in ballots that don’t arrive by election day won’t matter. The long lines won’t matter and the weather won’t matter and whatever Joey B. Shark says to eat his own kicks in the next seven days won’t matter and whatever dumb slogan Democrats put on signs won’t matter. The shit we fight over on Twitter matters even less. A butterfly flaps its wings in Wisconsin and there’s a hurricane in Georgia and someone spelled a sign wrong on a golf cart in one senior citizen park in Florida, and all of it might make the difference, but I don’t think any of it will.

I think we are going to lift ourselves up in a way we haven’t seen in any of our livin’ lives and I think it is going to be overwhelming and I am tempting the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing but I think, I hope, I believe, that it was over after the first debate. That when those two men stood side by side, and one shouted about his opponent’s son and the other looked into the camera and said have courage and have hope and it will be all right, that it was over then.

Donald Trump is, like many of his GOP contemporaries, a small mean man who thinks everyone else is small and mean as well. The people who love him — I ain’t talking “hold your nose and vote because he’s better than the other person,” I mean his serious fans — love the excuse he gives them to chest-puff and yell. He lied to a lot of people that he cared about the things they care about, that he’d make their lives better. Yes, they should have listened when people who knew him said he was a liar, but you want to believe what you’ve always believed, you want not to have to change your heart.

No one has that excuse anymore. If you’re voting for him now, you know what you’re willing to put up with to get what you want, and you know who you’re willing to hurt to get it. And I can’t think of a less productive use of my time than talking to you about that.

All that matters now is turning out more people, more and more and more and more, until across this country it’s not like anything we’ve ever seen. Because the last four years have been like nothing we’ve ever seen, and we can’t see any more. We have to at least start seeing beyond this. We can’t fix what we can’t even focus on with all the noise.

So hold fast. Figure out who in your lives needs taking care of. Let your friends know if you have food, money, a safe place to sleep that you can offer someone, a place by the fire. If you’re well-supplied, supply someone else.

Put your time and money where it can do the most good. Pay for bail for protesters, masks and gas for organizers driving people to the polls. Give to Democratic candidates for state legislature who control the water you drink and the roads you drive on and how and when the kids go to school. Ask who has faith in the system they’re asking you to let them run. Ask who wants to govern, who wants to work and compromise and who believes in the idea that we can help one another.

That’s all there is. That’s what I believe. You don’t lose anything by believing, you don’t lose anything by working for what you care about, you don’t lose anything by loving the broken imperfect people around you so much you’ll make a fool of yourself over and over and over for them every time they ask.

One more week. Let us know what you need.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Fortunate Son

Target by Jasper Johns.

John Fogerty wrote this week’s theme song in 1969 for Creedence’s Willy and the Poor Boys album. It’s an unusual protest song in that its protagonist is a soldier lashing out at the rich kids for whom he’s fighting.  Fogerty recently enjoined the Trump campaign from playing it at their rallies. They don’t get the irony: Donald Trump is precisely the sort of Fortunate Son that’s lambasted in the song.

We have three versions of Fortunate Son for your listening pleasure: the CCR original, John Fogerty live, and Fogerty live with Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band.

I have “It aint me. It ain’t me” stuck in my head. Let’s dislodge it with this Dylan cover by Bryan Ferry:

Now that we’ve been mellowed out by Ferry’s silken tones, lets languidly jump to the break if such a thing is possible.

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George Wallace Called Him Mousey Tongue

The special Senate election in Georgia is getting nasty and weird. Doug Collins, seen above next to George Wallace, is attacking Kelly Loeffler over the Warhol that was spotted at her palatial crib:

George Wallace called him Mousey Tongue. How about you, Dougie?

Rich people have Warhols, Dougie. If your man President* Pennywise had any taste, he might own one himself. He did, however, consort with Andy and a polo pony:

I betcha thought I was making that up. It reminds me of a classic Ed Norton moment from The Honeymooners:

Polopopnies? Sounds like my ancestral region, the Peloponnesus.

My mother loved that Honeymooners routine. In fact, she added Poloponies to the name of the infamous Brutus the beagle chihuahua mix. Not my favorite dog: I caught Brutus peeing on the cover of my copy of Tupelo Honey by Van Morrison. It’s a pity that Van wasn’t there to admonish the dog who renamed that fine album Tupeelo Honey. Now I need some of this:

It’s funny to watch Collins and Loeffler try to be the Trumpiest Trumper in Trumpistan when the Impeached Insult Comedian is increasingly unpopular with other GOPers. Does that make them Throwback Trumpers?

If David Pecker still ran The Enquirer, he’d want to know. Enquiring minds and all that shit.

I don’t know about you but I’m rooting for this guy:

For some reason, Georgia has adopted the Louisiana open primary system. Who copies the Gret Stet in politics? Food, yes; politics no.

I refuse to call it a jungle primary because of connotations that George Wallace and Doug Collins would surely get.

2020, man.

The last word goes to Van Morrison:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Wang Dang Doodle

Brownstones by Jacob Lawrence.

We’re not playing hurricane dodgeball this week in New Orleans. It had to happen. In fact, we’re experiencing what some observers insist on calling a “cold front” but I call a cool front. As always, it’s likely to lead to an orgy of overdressing by locals desperate to wear non-summer clothes. My coats will remain in the closet. I might, however, be daring and wear a long-sleeved shirt. That’s as rad as I’m gonna get for now. It will be back in the eighties next week.

Willie Dixon wrote Wang Dang Doodle some time in 1959 or 1960. The chronology is almost as fuzzy as with this week’s Friday Cocktail Hour tune. Here’s how the songwriter described what the title of  this rollicking song means:

 In his autobiography, Dixon explained that the phrase “wang dang doodle” “meant a good time, especially if the guy came in from the South. A wang dang meant having a ball and a lot of dancing, they called it a rocking style so that’s what it meant to wang dang doodle”

We have four versions of Wang Dang Doodle for your listening pleasure: the original recording by Howlin’ Wolf, Koko Taylor’s hit version, the Pointer Sisters, and the good old Grateful Dead who performed the song 96+ times. All night long, all night long.

Now that we’ve pitched a wang dang doodle, let’s jump to the break.

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