Category Archives: Fog Of History

Chiming In

I’m on the road and should zip my lip but I’m not very good at being silent when there’s this much news. I guess you’ve noticed that already. I prefer writing on the mighty Wurlitzer that is my desktop keyboard but a laptop will just have to do. I’m not, however, a fan of track pads. I find them user hostile and unatracktive…

The G-7 summit was a Trumped up fiasco. Remember when even jerky American presidents made nice with our allies?  How is it possible to fight with Canada, which currently has one of the most amiable leaders in the world, Justin Trudeau. Trudeau has followed his father’s playbook in dealing with Donald Trump. Trudeau the elder disliked Nixon but forged a decent working relationship with him. When he learned that Tricky had called him an asshole on the White House tapes, Pierre Trudeau had an elegant response: “I’ve been called worse by better people.”

Everyone is better than the Insult Comedian.

The Dictator-Dotard summit was a farce. Trump left it spouting North Korean propaganda. If they allowed dancing in the streets in Pyongyang, they’d be doing it as I write this. If this is winning, I’d rather lose.

The good thing about being on the road is that I’ve missed all of Trumpy’s teevee bragfests. I like how my friend Laura described his appearance: “Even sitting down for an interview, 45 is gross. Looks like he is working hard to have a bowel movement.”

Hey, at least he gives a shit…

In election news, Never Trump Republicans are doing a rotten job of “taking back” their party. Exhibit A: Mark Sanford. Exhibit B: Corey Stewart. Virginia Democrats are thrilled that Lost Causer Corey will be Tim Kaine’s opponent this fall. It’s yet another sign that the GOP is well and truly Trumpified.

That’s it for me. I have a high school graduation to attend. I’m glad that relatives don’t have to wear caps and gowns. It’s not a good look for anyone, especially a grown man with a size 8 head.

That is all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Saturday Sun

Cafetiere et Carafe by Jean Dubuffet.

It feels like August outside as I write this with the ceiling fan whirring up above my head. It’s time to dispense with the weather report lest I sound whinier than I am. And I’m pretty damn whiny even though, unlike Della and Paul, I don’t have a fur coat to contend with. Paul Drake deals with his by shedding copiously. Della Street rages against the elements in her own way. She is one mouthy cat, y’all.

I may have cats on my mind but the rest of the city is obsessed with rats in a French Quarter eatery. There’s a viral video and everything. Oh wait, there’s always a viral video in 2018. As someone who worked in the Quarter for many years, the thought of rats near the Big Muddy is not shocking. I’m not planning to go to that restaurant but even good places with clean kitchens have the odd rat. Repeat after me: to live in this town you must be tough, tough, tough, tough. She-doo-be.

The new Mayor is “being intentional” by launching a PR campaign dubbing New Orleans the City of Yes. In the immortal words of movie mogul Sam Goldwyn, include me out, unless it involves the veteran prog rock band. I’m still trying to figure out what the hell “being intentional” means. So it goes.

When I started this regular feature in 2015, I used songs about Saturday as theme songs for the first few weeks. Saturday Sun is one I somehow missed but I’ve had Neil Finn on my mind and in my ear of late. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the promo video and a live performance on the BBC.

Now that we’ve basked in the Saturday Sun, it’s time to put on some sun screen and jump to the break.

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Burning Down The (White) House

Donald Trump, amateur historian, has struck again:

President Donald Trump reportedly justified the tariffs he placed on Canadian steel and aluminum by asking Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a phone call: “Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?”

CNN reported on the exchange, citing sources familiar with the call. The British burned down the White House in the War of 1812, when Canada was a British colony. CNN reported the President may have been joking, but the tariffs, justified on national security grounds by the Trump administration, have left Canadians furious.

“To the degree one can ever take what is said as a joke,” one source “on the call” told CNN, when asked if Trump meant the comment as a joke. “The impact on Canada and ultimately on workers in the U.S. won’t be a laughing matter.”

I guess we can be grateful that Trumpy didn’t go on about Dolly Madison pastries while tossing zingers at Trudeau the Younger in pursuit of his stupid trade war. He probably doesn’t know that James Madison was president in 1812 and that Dolly was a legend in her own right. The Insult Comedian will inevitably claim that he gave Madison his period nickname, Little Jemmy.

Only in the Trump era would the words Canada and trade war be found in the same sentence. Canada is the best damn neighbor in the world and Justin Trudeau is the most amiable of world leaders. Oy, just oy.

Since Trump makes all educated Americans feel like Charlie Brown, it’s time to pass the zingers:

Now that we’ve had an afternoon snack with Charlie Brown, Lucy, Sally, and Linus, it’s time to make like the Canadians:

Wait. Talking Heads aren’t Canadian? Who knew? Certainly not president* Trump.

It’s Good To Be Kaiser

The Kaiser of Chaos was feeling feisty this morning. He tweeted out a preposterous assertion of executive authority:

So, why tweet this if you’re a not guilty man? (Like “collusion,” “innocent” is not a legal term of art: please substitute “conspiracy” and “not guilty.”) Something big is going on behind the scenes right now. This is the latest in a long line of panic tweets sent by the man who thinks he’s dictator. He’s a dictator in his mind only but the public needs to pay careful attention when he gets like this.

Trump’s plan is to live and die by the tweeter tube so it’s only fitting to post a twitter riposte to the president*:

I’ve complained before about amateur internet and cable teevee lawyers. Trumpy is by far the worst of the bunch. Frankly, his real lawyers aren’t much better after that fakakata memo they sent to team Mueller asserting that it’s legal for the president* to shit on the constitution and wipe his ass with the bill of rights. And of course Mayor Noun Verb 9/11 has been all over teevee belching and farting smoke. I’ve come to the conclusion that Rudy and Trumpy are the same dude. Heckuva job, Rudy.

Very few genuine legal eagles think that Team Trump’s claims hold any water. If they did, we’d already be living in a dictatorship instead of watching a pre-Great War style autocratic hereditary monarchy creep up on us. There are signs of it every day; particularly in the admonitions to exempt Trump’s family from criticism and scrutiny. His son-in-law and daughter are White House aides so they’re fair game. Junior and Eric have big mouths so they are too. I feel sorry for Melania and cannot blame her for disappearing. Lord, what a family.

Back to legal scholars. I’d like to direct your attention to two op-ed pieces in today’s Failing New York Times. The first by a Democrat: former Deputy Attorney General and US Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Harry Litman. The second piece is by former Reagan and Poppy Bush White House counsel, Douglas Kmiec. who deftly lays out precedents on executive power. Holy bipartianship, Batman.

There are also some swell pieces at Slate. The first by Jed Shugerman posits that Trump’s lawyers seem to have admitted that he obstructed justice. It’s a detailed essay so you should read it for yourself but it’s as convincing as hell. We already knew that a legal team featuring Jay Sekulow, Rudy Giuliani, and the departed John Dowd was not ready for prime time. The Shugerman piece confirms that belief.

Finally, the divine Dahlia Lithwick conducts an extended interview with Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe; known to our readers as Larrrr-eeee Tryyyyyy-buh. Tribe and Dahlia both urge Democrats to avoid “magical thinking” and understand the limits of what can be accomplished by Team Mueller, impeachment, and the 25th amendment.

These are perilous times. We have a petulant president* who believes that he is above the law. He’s surrounded by yes men and women who only tell him what he wants to hear. He conducts himself like a medeval monarch dispensing justice to his followers and denying it to his opponents. I’m fond of the Kaiser Wilhelm II analogy because *that* fucking moron was deposed at the end of the Great War. Like Trump, he was an arrested adolescent who fled to Holland to avoid being arrested. I wonder if they’d take Trumpy in? Not bloody likely.

One more tweet before we go. If only the Kaiser of Chaos would listen to Jerry Ford:

For the record, Ford’s Attorney General, Edward Levi, was the one who cleaned house at the Justice Department after Watergate. It’s his legacy of apolitical justice that’s under attack by the Kaiser of Chaos and the Duke of Deception, Rudy Giuliani.

The last word goes to the late Tom Petty. All you have to do is substitute Kaiser for King:

The Americans Thread: Brothers In Arms

I expected a series finale curve ball from Americans honchos Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields and we got one. It was a curveball that Minnesota Twins super fan Glenn Haskard would have appreciated since his boy Bert Blyleven had the best hook in baseball history. I knew a curveball was coming but I wasn’t prepared for this particular break.

Even the finale title START was a curveball. It was named for the next generation disarmament pact that was finalized during Bush 42’s administration. But it sounds more like a series premiere. It’s The Americans way.

I “studied” for the finale by watching big chunks of seasons 3 and four in preparation. I’m not sure if I aced it, but I’m hoping to give Henry a run for his money grade-wise. Please grade me on a curve or is that curveball? You decide.

After several relatively silent episodes, music was prominent in the series finale. I’ll get to the use of U2’s With or Without You after the break. The dirge-like Brothers In Arms was brilliantly used in the episode and since it’s one of my favorite Dire Straits songs, I decided to make it the post title. It will also be burned on my mind as the theme song of Philip and Stan’s doomed friendship.

Let’s play it before the spoiler break:

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Memorial Day: Who I Remember

There’s nothing like a national holiday to make one feel ritualistic.This post was written in 2010 and is making its ninth annual appearance at First Draft. It was also published in our anthology, Our Fate Is Your Fate.

I realize it *should* be posted on Veterans Day since my remembered soldier survived the war BUT old habits are hard to break. Besides, I would face the wrath of both Athenae and Dr. A if I didn’t post it. So, here we go again:

The veteran I’d like to remember on this solemn holiday is the late Sgt. Eddie Couvillion.

Soldier Boy

My family tree is far too tangled and gnarly to describe here but suffice it to say that Eddie was my second father. He served in Europe during World War II, not in combat but in the Army Quartermaster Corps. In short, he was a supply Sergeant, one of those guys who won the war by keeping the troops fed, clad, and shod. Eddie was what was called in those days a scrounger; not unlike Milo Minderbinder in Catch-22 or James Garner’s character in The Great Escape. 

Eddie’s favorite military exploit was running an army approved bordello in France after hostilities ended. He always called it a cat house and bragged that it was the best little whorehouse in Europe. One can serve one’s country in manifold ways…

Eddie died 5 years ago [2005] and I still miss him. He was a remarkable man because he changed so much as he aged. When I met him, he was a hardcore Texas/Louisiana conservative with old South racial views and attitudes. At an age when many people close their minds, Eddie opened his and stopped thinking of black folks as a collective entity that he didn’t care for and started thinking of them as individuals. Eddie was a genuine Southern gentleman so he’d never done or said an unkind thing to anyone and confided to me that the only one he’d ever hurt by being prejudiced was himself. I was briefly speechless because we’d had more than a few rows over that very subject. Then he laughed, shook his head and said: “Aren’t you going to tell me how proud you are of me? You goddamn liberals are hard to satisfy.”

Actually, I’m easily satisfied. In 2004, Eddie had some astonishing news for me: he’d not only turned against the Iraq War but planned to vote for John Kerry because “Bush Junior is a lying weasel and a draft dodger.” That time he didn’t need to ask me if I was proud of him, it was written all over my face. It was the first and only time he ever voted for a Democrat for President.

I salute you, Sgt. Couvillion. I only wish that I could pour you a glass of bourbon on the rocks and we could raise our glasses in a Memorial Day toast.

Saturday Odds & Sods: A Mess Of Blues

The Star by Benny Andrews.

There’s a system forming in the Gulf, which has led to the inevitable widespread panic on social media. And I’m not talking about the jam band either. It’s a bit early for this but when did the weather care what I thought? I do wish people would stop Chicken Little-ing. That never makes anything better.  Ya heard?

Dr. A and I celebrated our anniversary at one of our favorite local eateries, Gabrielle Restaurant. It’s a reboot of the beloved restaurant owned and operated by Greg and Mary Sonnier before Katrina. They revived it some 12 years after the original Mystery Street location flooded. The food is fabulous and the new space on Orleans Avenue is warm and inviting. Grace and I know Mary and her charming daughter (some would say clone) Gabie aka the girl for whom the joint is named. Put it at the top of your list the next time you’re looking for a great meal and fabulous service in New Orleans. Greg is one of the best chefs in the Gret Stet of Louisiana and that’s saying something. That concludes this brief commercial announcement. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

This week’s theme song was written in 1960 by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman for Elvis Presley. It was the b-side of It’s Now Or Never but it also charted at number 32 in the US and number 2 in the UK. It was recorded at the same time as Elvis’ post-army comeback LP Elvis Is Back but was not included on the original album, a common practice in those days: you wanted the kids to buy both the 33 and 45. Colonel Parker knew how to shake down the suckers, y’all.

We have two versions of A Mess of Blues for your listening pleasure: the Elvis original and a 1995 cover from the great John Hiatt.

Now that we’ve messed around with the blues, let’s jump to the break.

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So Much For That Nobel Peace Prize

The cancellation of the “two madmen for the price of one” summit was the least surprising development ever. The summit was conceived on an impulse and cancelled on one as well:

Early Thursday morning, after a flurry of calls with a handful of senior advisers, an angry President Donald Trump personally dictated the three-paragraph letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that canceled the scheduled summit between their two nations.

It had been less than 12 hours since Trump and his team began grappling intensely with the prospects for shelving what would have been a historic meeting between the two heads of state.

But the president, fearing that the North Koreans might beat him to the punch, wanted to be the one to cancel first, multiple officials told NBC News.

The president’s* fatal lack of impulse control has bitten him in the ass again. After weeks, of fulsome flattery, the two sides started trading barbs. I kept waiting for the D-word: DOTARD. Instead, the North Korean side used a different D-word, calling Vice President* Pence a political DUMMY. It’s an apt analogy: he *is* a dummy and his ventriloquist is an Insult Comedian with a dead nutria pelt atop his head. It reminds me of the venerable ad:

Infighting between Mike Pompeo and John Bolton also doomed this misbegotten venture. Once Bolton used the phrase “Libyan solution,” the ill-conceived summit was bound to be flushed. The kid with the bad haircut wants *his* family business to survive unlike that of Colonel Gaddafi. Knowing Bolton and his mustache as I do, it was a deliberate act of sabotage. Is there anything Trumpier than self-sabotage?

I almost called this post “Trump’s Dear Jong-Un Letter” as a pun on a Dear John letter. The missive he dictated to the dictator sounded like a spurned lover. He may have wept bitter orange tears for all we know. I dig Josh Marshall’s take on the break up letter:

The words resonate with a genuine hurt and anguish, mixed with moments of menace and still hope for the future. It reads needy. It’s like a letter you write to a romantic partner who has abandoned you without saying so. You write, hurt, finalizing what is already clear.

<snip>

There’s one other point worth noting. We often discuss how President Trump seems to see diplomacy in highly personal terms. Things depend on how he and the other man or woman get along personally. There’s his military, his diplomats, his cabinet secretaries. He has little sense that the US and other states may have foundational interests that trump any personal chemistry between the leaders. This letters suggests (unsurprisingly) that this feeling of personal investment is quite real, not only on the ‘positive’ side but on the negative side as well. He seems truly hurt and angry. “A wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me” … “that was a beautiful gesture” … “please do not hesitate to call me or write” … “We were informed that the meeting was requested by North Korea, but that to us is totally irrelevant.” It’s not good to have a President who is this emotionally needy or one that conducts dangerous foreign policy on whims and ignorance. The entire thing is a ridiculous and embarrassing chapter in our history.

Another striking thing about the demise of the “two madmen for the price of one” summit is that the White House made the decision without consulting anyone. Not only were the Chinese, South Korean, and Japanese governments not informed in advance neither was Mike Pompeo. This is no way to run a railroad or a foreign policy. It reminds me of the Kissinger-Rogers, Brzezinski-Vance, Rice-Powell duels between the NSC and State Department. Hell, at least McMaster neither baited Tillerson nor served him poison tea.

Back to the post title. Despite the fervent wishes of Trump’s sycophants in the House of Representatives, the Kaiser of Chaos was never going to win a Nobel Peace Prize. The Swedes are not zany enough to do such a thing.

A different administration would learn from this mistake. It’s no fun wiping egg off your face and pretending it’s an omelette. But they won’t learn a damn thing. Trump will continue to think that foreign policy negotiations are akin to real estate deals and that winging it is okay. Past presidents have learned from their mistakes, this one won’t even admit to making one.

The Americans Thread: Topsy Turvy

We’ve reached the penultimate episode of the final season of The Americans: Jennings, Elizabeth. The title refers to a FBI data base search run by Stan, which comes up empty. I was not surprised: the many wigged spy has always excelled in staying off the radar screen. That time, however, has come to an end. It’s time for the end game of this great series. My withdrawal symptoms increased dramatically after re-watching the episode.

I try not to use anachronistic music in my Americans recaps.  But every rule was meant to be broken, especially when a title is so spot on. From 2001’s Houston Kid, Mr. Rodney Crowell:

It’s spoiler break time. See you on the other side.

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Stupid Watergate Goes Postal

I try not to write about the same things as Athenae BUT a bloggers gotta do what a bloggers gotta do. Besides, I’m coming at the fake billionaire president* versus real billionaire publisher smackdown from a different angle, and this post title was too good to waste. I, too, am a grudge-holder but I’d prefer a Coke Zero button on my desk to a Diet Coke one any day. That may be a distinction without a difference but there you have it. Btw, I still don’t think my favorite soda pop tastes different now that it’s been rebranded as Coke Zero Sugar. It’s soda spin as far as I’m concerned: pop goes the marketing weasel.

In case I’ve confused you more than usual, I’m talking about the Insult Comedian’s harebrained scheme to screw Amazon by changing their postal rates. He and Melania seem to have a reverse Ricky and Lucy thing going on. He has the crazy ideas, she has the thick accent. It’s unknown if she ever sings Babalu.

Trumpy even called in the Postmaster General who tried to explain that she doesn’t have the power to unilaterally change rates or cancel contracts:

President Trump has personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages, according to three people familiar with their conversations, a dramatic move that probably would cost these companies billions of dollars.

Brennan has so far resisted Trump’s demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission, the three people said. She has told the president that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service and gave him a set of slides that showed the variety of companies, in addition to Amazon, that also partner for deliveries.

This president* doesn’t do process. I suspect he recalls his father Fred talking about his dealings with the Post Office back when it was a patronage spigot under FDR’s man Jim Farley. That changed in the 1970’s. Trump is usually stuck in the Eighties so this is at least a slightly different form of malakatude. I imagine him straightening his weave and saying in his best Archie Bunker voice: “My foddah told me about dis here t’ing.”

Once again we’re in Stupid Watergate territory. Nixon infamously tried to use the IRS to screw his enemies. He had John Dean hand the enemies list to the IRS commissioner who proceeded to sit on it. Nixon was not a fucking moron so he acted through intermediaries instead of doing the dirty work himself. Trump is still worse than Nixon. He’s always been stupider.

I’m not sure where Trump fits on the George W. Bush bad president scale because he hasn’t started a war or crashed the economy yet. He has, however, politicized the Justice Department and CIA just like the president who many are trying to rehabilitate. Just say no to that, y’all, just say no.

The last word goes to Rachel Maddow with a brilliant segment from her May 18th show. Rachel may not call Trump’s latest fakakta idea Stupid Watergate, but she places it in the proper historical context.

 

The Americans Thread: Only Human

There are only two episodes remaining in the final season of The Americans. The episodes keep getting more and more intense. The Summit was the best installment thus far. It contained a major plot development that surprised even me and I’m watching closely. We’ll get to that after the spoiler break.

It’s odd that the show runners haven’t used any Todd Rundgren, with or without Utopia, songs over the course of the series. (I googled it and couldn’t find any without going down an epic rabbit hole. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.) It’s time to rectify that with what amounts to a theme song for this recap.

I’ll explain Only Human‘s relevance after the spoiler break; even if the post is a day late, I know not everyone was watched The Summit yet. Here’s a hint: Gorbachev is the chap in the fedora, the better to hide the splotch on his head.

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Tom Wolfe, R.I.P.

Tom Wolfe died Monday. It was his 88th birthday. The reason Wolfe was such a great reporter and novelist was that he was an acute observer of people. He was not interested in people who were just like him. His interests lay in telling the stories of quirky people in wildly different walks of life in his uniquely zippy prose style. For example, he had little in common with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters but he preserved their spirit for the ages. This quote captures his spirit of literary adventure:

“To me, the great joy of writing is discovering. Most writers are told to write about what they know, but I still love the adventure of going out and reporting on things I don’t know about.”

Reading all the tributes reminded me of how Wolfe’s vivid and lively prose influenced me as a writer. There’s a major exception. I hate exclamation points and Wolfe oversalted his writing with them:

“People complain about my exclamation points, but I honestly think that’s the way people think. I don’t think people think in essays; it’s one exclamation point to another.”

Since his stuff had the right stuff, it was easy for me to forgive the wild punctuation. Wolfe not only delivered the goods, he always made me laugh. His book titles were as amusingly flamboyant as his punctuation: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid TestRadical Chic & Mau-Mauing The Flak Catchers, From Bauhaus To Our House, and his fictional masterpiece, The Bonfire of the Vanities.

Wolfe’s politics listed to the center right but he was a satirist and iconoclast, not an ideologue. He was a natural-born contrarian, if there was a conventional wisdom on a subject, he mocked it. Even his clothing reflected his worldview:

But as an unabashed contrarian, he was almost as well known for his attire as his satire. He was instantly recognizable as he strolled down Madison Avenue — a tall, slender, blue-eyed, still boyish-looking man in his spotless three-piece vanilla bespoke suit, pinstriped silk shirt with a starched white high collar, bright handkerchief peeking from his breast pocket, watch on a fob, faux spats and white shoes. Once asked to describe his get-up, Mr. Wolfe replied brightly, “Neo-pretentious.”

Wolfe got his start as a magazine writer, primarily for New York Magazine. I first read The Right Stuff when it was serialized in Rolling Stone Magazine. I recall eagerly awaiting the arrival of each issue to get the straight poop on the Mercury astronauts. It made me feel like a throwback to the days of Trollope, Dickens, and Zola who published their major works in the same way. Speaking of Zola, here’s what Wolfe had to say about the fierce French realist:

My idol is Emile Zola. He was a man of the left, so people expected of him a kind of ‘Les Miserables,’ in which the underdogs are always noble people. But he went out, and found a lot of ambitious, drunk, slothful and mean people out there. Zola simply could not – and was not interested in – telling a lie.

It’s odd to have had so much fun researching a tribute to a recently dead writer but I had a blast visiting quote web sites and reading some of Wolfe’s tastiest bon mots. It’s made easier by the fact that the man lived such a long, eventful, and witty life. As a close friend of mine observed after attending his elderly grandmother’s funeral, “That was the period at the end of the sentence. You only use an exclamation point when it’s someone who was too young to die.”

I’m not certain that Tom Wolfe would agree with that sentiment but I’m writing this piece, not him. He does, however, get the last word. Make that last words.

We begin this section with some pithy quotes, followed by short excerpts from some of Wolfe’s major works:

“If a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged, a liberal is a conservative who’s been arrested.”

“I have never knowingly, I swear to God, written satire. The word connotes exaggeration of the foibles of mankind. To me, mankind just has foibles. You don’t have to push it!”

“The problem with fiction, it has to be plausible. That’s not true with non-fiction.”

“A cult is a religion with no political power.”

“We are all of us doomed to spend our lives watching a movie of our lives – we are always acting on what has just finished happening.”
― The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

“Sir Gerald Moore: I was at dinner last evening, and halfway through the pudding, this four-year-old child came alone, dragging a little toy cart. And on the cart was a fresh turd. Her own, I suppose. The parents just shook their heads and smiled. I’ve made a big investment in you, Peter. Time and money, and it’s not working. Now, I could just shake my head and smile. But in my house, when a turd appears, we throw it out. We dispose of it. We flush it away. We don’t put it on the table and call it caviar.”
― The Bonfire of the Vanities

“Le Corbusier was the sort of relentlessly rational intellectual that only France loves wholeheartedly, the logician who flies higher and higher in ever-decreasing concentric circles until, with one last, utterly inevitable induction, he disappears up his own fundamental aperture and emerges in the fourth dimension as a needle-thin umber bird.”
― From Bauhaus to Our House

“A persistent case of the bingos was enough to wash a man out of night carrier landings. That did not mean you were finished as a Navy pilot. It merely meant that you were finished so far as carrier ops were concerned, which meant that you were finished so far as combat was concerned, which meant you were no longer in the competition, no longer ascending the pyramid, no longer qualified for the company of those with the right stuff.”
― The Right Stuff

That concludes a tribute with more exclamation points than a year’s worth of Adrastos posts. It was a sacrifice well worth making. In his quirky, contrarian, white-suited way, Tom Wolfe had the right stuff. He will be missed.

Saturday Odds & Sods: In The Still Of The Night

Contrasting Sounds by Wasilly Kandinsky.

It’s been an eventful week in New Orleans. The city celebrated its 300th anniversary and inaugurated our first woman mayor. I expressed my reservations about Mayor LaToya Cantrell on ye olde tweeter tube:

The slogans included “We are woke” and “We will be intentional.” I’m uncertain if that’s intentional grounding or an intentional walk. I dislike the latter baseball tactic as much as exclamation points. I still wish the new mayor well. Her propensity to mangle the language is good for the satire business, and there’s no business like giving a politician the business. I believe in taking care of business, every day, every way.

This week’s theme song, In The Still Of The Night, was written by Cole Porter in 1937 for the MGM movie musical, Rosalie. It was first sung by Nelson Eddy who was in a shit ton of hokey costume movie operettas with Jeanette MacDonald. I am not a fan of the duo but I am a die-hard Cole Porter fan as evinced by the frequent appearance of his work as Odds & Sods theme songs. I considered counting them but I’m feeling as lazy as the president* today. Where did all my executive time go?

We have two versions of the Porter classic for your entertainment. First, the elegant jazz-pop baritone Billy Eckstine aka the Voice of God.

Second, the Neville Brothers featuring some gorgeous sax playing by Charles Neville. He was an acquaintance of mine. Charles died recently at the age of 79. He was a lovely man with a kind word for everyone he met.

It’s time for a journey to Disambiguation City. Fred Parris wrote *his* In The Still Of The Night for his doo-wop group The Five Satins in 1956.

Yeah, I know, Boyz II Men also had a hit with the Parrisian song but I’m not going there. Instead, let’s jump to the break. Now where the hell did I put my parachute?

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Malaka Of The Week: John Kelly

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: John Kelly is a more polished version of Donald Trump. Like his master, he has a tendency to shoot off his mouth and say horrible, xenophobic things. And that is why General/White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is malaka of the week.

Kelly firmly believes in pulling up the drawbridge and excluding immigrants. He also believes in demeaning and degrading those who want to emigrate to our country. Kelly expressed these views in the crudest possible terms yesterday:

“Let me step back and tell you that the vast majority of the people that move illegally into the United States are not bad people. They’re not criminals. They’re not MS-13. … But they’re also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society. They’re overwhelmingly rural people. In the countries they come from, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm. They don’t speak English; obviously that’s a big thing. … They don’t integrate well; they don’t have skills. They’re not bad people. They’re coming here for a reason. And I sympathize with the reason. But the laws are the laws. … The big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States, and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.”

Here’s a reminder to Kelly of how his own people, the Irish, were viewed in their early days in America.

That was a cartoon by Thomas Nast depicting an Irishman as a sub-human, drunken papist who got his orders from the Catholic Church. Nast was a legendary 19th century satirist who worked for high-toned publications such as Harper’s Weekly and the New York Herald-Tribune. But Nast also trafficked in the bigoted stereotypes of his day.

I assume that Kelly would find Nast’s anti-Irish cartoons to be offensive.  I wish that he’d understand the analogy, but I have my doubts. Like the president* he serves, he is incapable of empathy or understanding the other person’s point of view. And that is why John Kelly is malaka of the week.

The Americans Thread: Philip The Axeman

There are only three more episodes remaining in the final season of The Americans. Harvest may well have been the best episode of the season thus far. There was action, revelations, and Philip and Stan both staring off in to space at the conclusion of their scenes. In Philip’s case, it’s a spy stare; in Stan’s case it’s a cop stare. Enough staring.

I try to learn something new everyday. In Harvest I learned about food combining, which was apparently big with rich ladies in 1987. It sounds like something that the rich ladies on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills aka Rich Ladies Doing Things should know about. They could combine food combining with shopping, lunching, and fighting.

The episode title gave me an earworm. I might as well post it before the spoiler break. I could combine it with something but I’d rather not.

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The Fog Of Scandal: The Fixer Meets Spiro Agnew

We’ve finally learned why Team Trump freaked out over the Michael Cohen raid. It looks as if the Fixer has been a busy boy shaking down big corporations and getting paid off by a Russian oligarch. He’s been doing business as Essential Consultants: the business is selling access to the White House. Remember when the Insult Comedian went on about pay for play during the 2016 campaign? It was classic Trumpian projection. Anyone who found the Fixer’s services essential was paying to play and some of the action involved Russian money.

Kremlingate and the Stormy shitshow have publicly intersected for the first time. There’s bound to be more to come. There’s a lot of dirty Russian money out there that needs laundering and some of it may have landed in the president’s* greedy hands. It’s a small palm to grease but money may well have flowed from Cohen’s shell company to one of Trump’s shell companies. Does anyone still think Kremlingate is too complicated for people to understand? People understand pay-offs and bribes.

This is a good time for everyone to brush up on the Agnew resignation. Tricky’s Veep was caught taking bribes from contractors back home in Maryland. The graft continued *after* Agnew moved from Annapolis to Washington City. Since federal prosecutors were uncertain if a sitting Veep could be indicted, a plea bargain was struck in exchange for Agnew’s resignation from office. This is a scenario that should be added to impeachment and the 25th Amendment in 2018. The Agnew scenario may be what Michael Avenatti has in mind when he confidently asserts that Trump will not finish his term.

This is getting more entertaining every day. I guess I have to take back my criticisms of Avenatti’s camera hog ways. Unlike Rudy Giuliani, he’s a camera hog who delivers the goods.

I originally titled this post The Fixer On Shakedown Street, so the last word goes to the Grateful Dead.

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Hanging Upside Down

Self Portrait with Halo by Paul Gaugin.

Early summer has arrived in New Orleans. This week featured temperatures in the 80’s as well as the return of Formosan termite swarms who are more annoying than the average tourist. I realize I write a lot about the weather in this space. I became weather obsessed after a certain event in August, 2005. Can you blame me?

This week’s theme song comes from the David Byrne songbook. We saw him at Jazz Fest last Sunday. I’ll review it after the jump. He didn’t play Hanging Upside Down but it’s one of my favorite tunes from his salsa influenced period. It rocks with a jazzy Brazilian beat.

Now that I’ve hung you upside down to dry or some such shit, let’s jump to the break.

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The Americans Thread: Rififi

There are only 4 episodes left in the final season of The Americans. I’m excited to see the finish but will mourn the series when it concludes. Life will be empty without Elizabeth’s spy glower, Philip’s spy frown, and Paige’s hideous baby spy wallpaper.

I nearly called this the DVR edition because it’s coming a day late as I was under the weather yesterday. I’m sticking with the episode title Rififi because there’s an Adrastos-Zelig story attached to it. Elizabeth meets a young cinephile at a showing of Jules Dassin’s caper classic. It’s a honey trap operation meet cute as he works for Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Sam Nunn.

Here’s my story: I met the blacklisted American director in Athens at a party at a family friend’s flat. Unfortunately, it was *before* I’d seen Dassin’s great late Forties film noirs: Brute Force, The Naked City, Thieves Highway, and Night and the City. All I knew at the time was that he was married to the Greek actress Melina Mercouri and had directed her in Never On A Sunday.  A lost opportunity for an even better Adrastos-Zelig story. So it goes.

Instead of posting a period appropriate rock song before the spoiler break, here’s the trailer for Brute Force, one of the best prison movies ever made. It features a brilliant performance by Hume Cronyn as a sadistic albeit diminutive prison guard:

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Dr. Bornstein Meets The Stupid Plumbers Unit

The first time Dr. A heard that Trump was appointing “his doctor” to run the VA, she thought it was this guy:

I disabused her of that notion but told her that Admiral/Doctor Jackson was as unqualified as Dr. Harold Bornstein. Doctor Ronny is slowly but surely receding from the limelight but our old pal, Dr. Bornstein, is taking a curtain call of sorts. I’ve missed the shaggy haired medico and am glad he’s back with us. The president* is not.

Dr. B has fallen out with his most famous client. Apparently, it’s over Bornstein’s loose lips about Trumpy’s use of a drug that helps the follically challenged. Dr. B thought he was authorized to talk about Trump’s health after signing the ludicrous letter that Trump wrote about his own health during the 2016 campaign. Pretty much everyone thought the Insult Comedian dictated it but Bornstein has confirmed his authorship. Believe me.

The Insult Comedian decided to go medieval on the good doctor’s ass last year and dispatched a goon squad to secure the records. There’s a problem: the originals of medical records belong to the physician. The goon squad was led by former Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller who was a federal employee when this happened. They also neglected to provide the standard consent form. That’s a bozo no no, y’all.

There are HIPAA violations up the wazoo on both sides. (I bet Bornstein knows what a wazoo is since he’s a gastroenterologist.) If you’re not hip to HIPAA, it’s a federal law that guarantees patient privacy. It’s a good albeit burdensome law but the Chaos of Kaiser does not think it applies to him. Anyone surprised?

There’s essentially a Mexican stand-off on the HIPAA issue since both sides broke the law and neither is willing to pay for the wall. But the originals of the medical records belong to Bornstein, which could make this a robbery by the Stupid Plumbers Unit.

Our esteemed blogging colleague Driftglass has been calling the Trump scandals Stupid Watergate for quite some time. I bow to his coinage but would like to extend it to the Stupid Plumbers Unit. Watergate buffs out there will recall Nixon’s Plumbers Unit whose job was to plug leaks. They were also into a bit of breaking and entering; most notably the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s shrink, Dr. Lewis Fielding.

The analogy is imprecise since the plumbers got away with it until the other White House horrors were exposed. Plus, they had the good sense to do it covertly, not in broad daylight. Nobody ever called the Current Occupant Tricky Donald, after all. Additionally, G Gordon Liddy and E Howard Hunt were titans compared to the Stupid Plumbers Unit. Hell, Hunt even published a shitload of thrillers under various pen names. It’s unclear if Schiller has read a book since his school days. He’s been too busy listening to his master’s voice go on and on and on and on…

Donald Trump better hope that there’s no criminal liability for Keith Schiller. I suspect the bodyguard knows where the bodies are buried  and he could be as dangerous a witness for the prosecution as the Fixer. We live in exciting and stupid times. You say Stupid Watergate, I say Kremlingate. Let’s call the whole thing off.

Since I don’t know any plumbers songs, I’ll pipe down and give the last word to Elvis Costello:

Malaka Of The Week: Mo Brooks

Since November, 2016, one of the MSM’s favorite words is unprecedented. Everything is unprecedented. It’s hard to argue that a president* making foreign policy pronouncements on twitter while watching Fox News is NOT unprecedented. It is. It is also aberrant and a textbook example of malakatude.

I’m going to do something unprecedented myself: First Draft’s first two-time malaka of the week. In the past, I’ve avoided repeat offenders because there’s enough malakatude to go around without plowing the same furrow again. But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do and that is why Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks is malaka of the week.

Mo Brooks first wore the malakatude crown of shame on June 8, 2014 for some inflammatory and downright idiotic white nationalist rantings. Brooks puts the Mo in Moron. In 2014, Malaka Mo claimed Democrats were waging a “war on whites” because of their uppity president and such.

Since then, Mo finished third in the 2017 GOP Senate primary behind Judge Pervert and Luther Strange. He was only the second craziest candidate in the race. Go figure.

In 2018, we’re getting Mo of the same nonsense as Brooks claims that assassination threats are the reason so many House GOPers are retiring:

“One of the things that’s concerning me is the assassination risk may become a factor,” he said.

Brooks referred to the fact many members of the Republican baseball team are retiring, including Sen. Jeff Flake and Reps. Ryan Costello, Pat Meehan, Dennis Ross and Tom Rooney.

“You have to wonder with that kind of disproportionate retirement number whether what happened in June played a factor,” he said.

So, it’s not scandal or the fact that they’re sure losers in the fall? It’s the Scalise shooting? Does Darrell Issa know about this? Since Mo is running for re-election, I guess that makes him one of the brave ones. Of course, he represents Alabama’s 5th district where white Democrats are rare and you can’t shake a stick without hitting a neo-Klansman. Mo is one brave motherfucker as well as a tribune of malakatude.

My favorite bit of this imbecilic rant is when Mo makes a vague Chinese Cultural Revolution reference without showing any signs that he knows what a Maoist really is:

He also said the “socialist Bernie Sanders wing of society” was pushing for a revolution that would lead to Maoist level of violence.

“There are a growing number of leftists who believe the way to resolve this is not at the ballot box but through threats and sometimes through violence and assassinations,” he said.

Other than social media keyboard warriors, I’m unaware of anyone advocating violent revolution or tooling up to become a 21st Century Gang of Four. The idea of past malaka of the week Jeff Weaver, Nina Turner and cohort donning Mao shirts and waving the little red book at Our Revolution rallies makes me chortle, titter, and even guffaw.

Since Malaka Mo is trotting out the Maoist straw man, it’s time to trot out some good old-fashioned ChiCom rhetoric and call Mo a running dog of the imperialist Trumpist dynasty.

It seems as if Mo is starting a Congressional GOP baseball team conspiracy theory. They’re all retiring because the Mau Mau Maoists are out to get them, which makes this some kind of Obama-Gang of Four conspiracy. Does Alex Jones know about this? He might, however, confuse them with the British rock band of that name. He could always ask his pal Billy Corgan to clarify matters.

It turns out that Malaka Mo is one of the GOP baseball team’s “coaches.” Why does a pickup baseball team need coaches? Is Mo teaching them the spitball? He’s good at scuffing up the truth, after all. Coach Mo conjures up images of Coach, Sam Malone’s lovably dim sidekick/bartender on the early seasons of Cheers. Mo Brooks is his evil twin but every bit as dim. I guess I shouldn’t use the word dim or Malaka Mo will think I’m talking about dim sum, which could make me a Maoist or some such shit. Mmm, dim sum.

Congressman Brooks continues to put the Mo into Moron with his bizarre ideas and convoluted thinking. Republican Congresscritters are retiring because they think they’ll lose their seats and control of the House. Fear of violence is just another lame excuse. And that is why Mo Brooks is malaka of the week.