Category Archives: Fog Of History

Now Be Thankful

Adrastos’ late mother in her Chicago heyday.

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 16 yeas ago. 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 table-cloth. 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.

We spent many holidays with the outlaws in Red Stick over the years and are about to do so again. My mother-in-law has left the comfortable house that she shared with her late second husband Eddie to whom I pay tribute every Memorial Day. She’s 96 now and lives at St. James Place, which is a somewhat posh retirement community. We’ll be eating in the dining room but it’s still pretty darn homey: we’ve gotten to know many of the residents over the last decade. I am lucky that Dr. A and mother-in-law #1  get on so well. She is also a howling liberal (to use her own phrase) so there will be no Trump-driven conflict.

In recent years, we’ve expanded our Thanksgiving plans exponentially to what amounts to a triple-header. We have lunch in Red Stick, then it’s back to New Orleans for dinner with our friends Jennifer and Will and finally, unless we’re too wiped out, a nightcap with our de facto family: Cait, Dave, and the child army. It’s a sticky end to a long day and now I’m committed. I hope Dr. A won’t be too vexed with me but I fear the wrath of Cait as well as retribution from the child army of darkness.

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.

Family by choice are the best family of all but 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:

Pulp Fiction Thursday will return next week.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Land Of Confusion

From The Dictatorship Of Porfirio Diaz To The Revolution- The People In Arms by David Alfaro Siqueiros, 1957-1965.

It’s election day in New Orleans. We’re about to make history and elect our first woman mayor. I wish I were more excited about it but as I said Thursday, the campaign has been anything but elevating. I’m more engaged in my District City Council race, which pits Mr. Nice Guy (Jay Banks) against an entitled jerk. The race has gotten heated in the last week as the jerk (Seth Bloom, not Steve Martin) has gotten nervous that he’s going to lose. I sure hope he does. I’ve been feuding with him and his supporters online since they think it’s a good idea to fight with voters. Where they got that idea, I’ll never know. Schmucks.

In addition to being King Zulu 2016, another thing Jay Banks has going for him is the crucial child army endorsement:

Lagniappe, the Benevolent Dictator, the Gladowling.

With that much cuteness on his side how can he lose? They’re also his neighbors so Jay can harness the powers of the army of darkness at will. Btw, their mother nicknamed them that, not me. It fits: I’ve seen all of them in meltdown mode. If you live in District B, get out and vote for Jay Banks or they’re coming after you. It won’t be deadly, just loud and sticky.

A quick note on the featured image. It’s a section of a Siqueiros mural depicting the Mexican Revolution. In it, we see the dictator Porfirio Diaz who ruled the country for over 30 years. One of my guilty movie pleasures is the 1939 Warner Brothers “bio-pic” Juarez in which nice Jewish boys Paul Muni and John Garfield play Juarez and Diaz respectively. Oy, just oy. It’s a hoot but terrible history as you can see from the trailer:

This week’s theme song is a genuine rock classic. The video for Land Of Confusion is a mini-movie and one of the best of its kind. The use of the Spitting Image puppets is genius. The live version comes from a 2007 reunion tour which shows that Phil Collins has turned into his Spitting Image puppet.

Now that I’ve confused everyone, let’s jump to the break.

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We have no good way to talk about this and we never have

We have no good way to talk about this and we never have.

As a good friend and feminist scholar told me when the Weinstein scandal broke, “This isn’t about sex. It’s about power. That’s why we can’t talk about it.”

And yet it is the sex that draws the attention as we discuss the imbalance of power, so the two remain inextricably linked, creating problems as we continue to have these revelations of misconduct come to light.

The latest name added to the list of groping, rubbing, jerking, fondling, grabbing and forcing is Sen. Al Franken. Leeann Tweeden came forth on Thursday with allegations of Franken groping and sexually abusing her during a USO stint. Photographic evidence and Franken’s own apology clearly supported those charges of misconduct, leading to some of the most awkward public arguments on a subject like this since Todd Akin introduced us all to the concept of “legitimate rape.”

To clarify and codify the general issue, we should consider two questions and their unequivocal answers:

Were all of the victims of Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Donald Trump, Roy Moore, Louis C.K., Al Franken and others diminished and violated by people of power?

Yes.

Have we, as a society and in many cases individuals, for too long engaged in victim blaming and illegitimate parsing of disgusting behavior like this?

Yes.

Taking these two answers as clear and definitive, we now lock this discussion into an awkward position for people who will have to answer for these actions and the people who support them.

The questions will come in droves:

“Is what Moore or Franken did rape or sexual assault or sexual misconduct or what?”

“Does the “law and order” morality of Moore make it somehow worse than what Weinstein or Franken did because, hey, they’re liberal hedonists anyway?”

“Is it worse what Spacey did to young boys or what Moore did to young girls?”

“Should Franken be forced out for one incident while Moore’s accusers are multiplying like tribbles?”

What so many people are awkwardly groping for is some sort of “sex crime conversion chart” in which one boob-grab equals two ass-pats or one photo equals three teen accusers and one signed yearbook or something. We have finally started coming to the necessary conclusion that shitty behavior is shitty behavior, but people with myriad agendas want to create a hierarchy out of these behaviors, as if hierarchy itself weren’t the reason these messes exist in the first place.

It doesn’t work that way because it’s not about sex. It’s about power.

The only demarcation reasonable people could draw is the one between adults and children. There’s a reason you can peruse 10,000 nude photos of people age 18 and older without a legal problem, but your ass will be in the joint if you own one such image of someone under that age. Society and law have dictated a bright line for most conduct involving children and to cross that line is to engage in the unforgivable.

To that end, and only that end, could a few of these acts be viewed as somehow worse than some of the others. Regardless, each and every case involved a man with power over someone he perceived as lesser and he used that to his advantage to demean and diminish that person.

Why can’t we see this? For two simple reasons:

  1. We are seeing a wide swath of accusations that range from things that “everybody” could agree are horrible and evil to well… what? If the Al Franken “grope” photo is as bad as Roy Moore trying to bone the “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” demographic, how many men might have to look really hard at themselves? That time they got handsy at the company party? That time they catcalled a co-worker? That time they tried to “impress” the intern? How much of that happened and how does it feel to be lumped in with the Roy Moores, Anthony Weiners, Louis C.K.s and Harvey Weinsteins? The “I would never do something that despicable” becomes, “Actually you already did.”
  2. To see it, we have to talk about it and we have no good way to talk about this and we never have.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Don’t Get Around Much Anymore

Orestes by Willem de Kooning.

It’s been a weird week in New Orleans. I know, this is a weird place so why is that surprising? It’s not but I had a deeply strange encounter with a City Council candidate who I do not plan to vote for. Here’s how I described it at Zuckerville:

Seth Bloom is the candidate I mentioned last week in this space.  One of his opponents said this about him:

Having the temperament to work with the rest of the councilmembers is of the utmost importance – nothing passes the City Council without a minimum of four votes. Seth Bloom has habitually displayed a lack of self-restraint, professionalism, respect, and sincerity as he has campaigned for another public office. I am convinced that Seth Bloom is volatile, hostile, and vindictive – the residents of District B deserve better. The City of New Orleans deserves better.

BURN.

The good news is that his run-off opponent, Jay Banks, is qualified, famous for being nice, and was King Zulu in 2016. How you like dem coconuts, Bloomy?

Speaking of the 2017 New Orleans run-off election, my latest column on the increasingly bat shit crazy mayor’s race is up at the Bayou Brief: An Uncanny Mess.

I’ve been feeling a bit anti-social of late. That’s one reason I selected Don’t Get Around Much Anymore as this week’s theme song, but mostly because it’s a fucking great song. It was written in 1940 as an instrumental by Duke Ellington. The original title was Never No Lament:

Bob Russell’s lyrics were added two years later. I’m glad they changed the title: Never No Lament doesn’t sound like a hit to me.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure. First, the Ink Spots’ mega-hit version.  Second, the Duke and Louis Armstrong from what many call their genius sessions. Immodest but true. Finally, my favorite version. It was arranged by Billy May for the great Nat King Cole.

There’s nothing quite as good as jazz Nat even though lush string pop Nate is pretty swell as well. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s jump to the break.

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Your President* Speaks: Discovering Japan

The Insult Comedian  is on the road again. He is in the land of the rising sun after a stop  in Hawaii to plug a Trump branded hotel. He managed not to attack the Aloha state’s favorite son, Barack Obama, while there, but these protesters got in some shots at Trumpy:

Photo via The Hill.

Whatever are they referring to? he asked coyly. Btw, Japanese Prime Minister Abe dumped his box of fish food in the koi pond too. Koi carp are a delicate fish so they were both guilty of manly man overkill.

Shinzo Abe is a master of sucking up to Trump as you can see from the pictures embedded in this tweet:

Sadaharu Oh and Lefty O’Doul weep. End of cryptic baseball reference. Here’s a less obscure one: Fuck the Dodgers. I hadn’t done that for several days. That felt good.

I’m playing catch up with this feature and the Insult Comedian keeps shooting off his big bazoo, so let’s start with some authoritarian nonsense from last week:

“The saddest thing is that because I’m the President of the United States I’m not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department, I’m not supposed to be involved with the FBI, I’m not supposed to be doing the kinds of things I would love to be doing and I’m very frustrated by it. I look at what’s happening with the Justice Department, why aren’t they going after Hillary Clinton with her emails and with the dossier and the kind of money…?”

Why? There’s no crime there. Locking up one’s enemies is what they do in dictatorships. This is not a banana republic. Yet.

Along the same lines, Trumpy did an interviewy with wingnutty Fox News host Laura Ingraham:

“Let me tell you, the one that matters is me,” Trump said in an interview that aired on Fox News on Thursday night. “I’m the only one that matters, because when it comes to it, that’s what the policy is going to be. You’ve seen that, you’ve seen it strongly.”

The president was responding to a question from Fox’s Laura Ingraham, who asked him, “Are you worried that the State Department doesn’t have enough Donald Trump nominees in there to push your vision through?”

Ingraham added, “other State Departments, including Reagan’s, at times, undermined his agenda. And there is a concern that the State Department currently is undermining your agenda.”

Trump said, “So, we don’t need all the people that they want. You know, don’t forget, I’m a businessperson. I tell my people, ‘Where you don’t need to fill slots, don’t fill them.’ But we have some people that I’m not happy with their thinking process.”

The Insult Comedian’s real issue with people with expertise is that they THINK at all. I feel a musical comedy interlude coming on:

If only the president* would think about what he’s trying to do to us. Unfortunately, he’s incapable of complex thought. It’s as if a parasitical one-cell organism has taken control of the government.

We have learned that Trump knows what a samurai is. Here’s a report from the Japan Times:

Trump questioned Japan’s decision not to shoot down the missiles when he met or spoke by phone with leaders from Southeast Asian countries over recent months to discuss how to respond to the threats from North Korea, the sources said.

The U.S. president said he could not understand why a country of samurai warriors did not shoot down the missiles, the sources said.

I’m sure the Chinese are thrilled by Trump’s invocation of Japan’s warrior past. Dollars to donuts that he’s never heard of Japanese aggression against China or such atrocities as the Rape of Nanking. Of course, the Chinese will leverage Trump’s historical insensitivity against him when he meets with President Xi Jinping. They’ll combine it with flattery so the self-proclaimed master deal maker won’t even notice that he’s been had.

I’m astonished that, in addition to his twitter diarrhea, Trump gives so many interviews. Such overexposure is perilous as Bill Clinton learned early in his administration. Of course, Clinton didn’t say random, inflammatory, and stupid things. The silliest thing he did was answer a question about underwear. We learned that he wore briefs, not boxers. He never once gave a foreign leader an insulting nickname. Imagine that.

The last word goes to Graham Parker:

 

First Draft Potpourri: Dead Modem Blues Edition

I’m back online with an itchy trigger finger. There’s been so much news while I sat modem Shiva that I don’t know where to begin. That was a fib, I’d like to start with a few thoughts on the malakatude of my countryman, George Papadopoulous. We’ll break things down in segments Odds & Sods style but first a musical interlude:

Greek-American Hustler: There’s been some dispute as to the importance of George Papadopoulous. He’s been called the “coffee boy” by one Trump adviser and their opponents have tried to inflate his importance. The truth is, as is often the case, somewhere in between. Papadopoulous is a classic American figure: a young man on the make.

Team Trump is full of equally unqualified people who have been given important government jobs. As illustrated in this tweet/article by the WaPo’s Dana Milbank:

Recently defenestrated USDA appointee Sam Clovis is an Iowa talk show host who was appointed to a job usually filled by a scientist. His withdrawal came on the heels of the news that he testified before the Mueller probe grand jury. The ranking Democrat on theSenate AG committee, Debbie Stabenow of the mitten shaped state of Michigan planned to ask him about it. Oops.

Back to Papadopoulous. He clung to Team Trump like a barnacle on a shipwreck, which is an apt analogy for both. He did not get a job, but was a frequent visitor to the White House and was put in charge of schmoozing Greek dignitaries at the most attended inauguration in world history. #sarcasm. Here’s a tweet showing a picture of Georgie with the President of the Hellenic Republic:

It’s a photo-op, dude. Do you really believe the Insult Comedian thinks Greece is an important country?

It seems apparent that Georgie was making himself useful to the Trumpers whilst hatching hare brained schemes to write a book, run for Congress, or become the Patriarch of Constantinople. I made that last bit up: Georgie doesn’t have a beard so he’s SOL on that score. His plans to become Trump’s link to the Russians is also SOL. But George’s loss is Team Mueller’s gain.

I’m one of the few people who remembers that dirty money from the Greek Junta played a minor role in Watergate. George Papadopoulous was also the name of the Colonel who became dictator/President in that benighted era of Greek politics. Actually, they’re all benighted but the Junta was worse than average.

The name George Papadopoulous brings two stories to mind. First, the most popular mass market cookies in Greece during the dictatorship were made by the Papadopoulous bakery. Greeks who disliked the junta were prone to say in a loud voice “I don’t like Papadopoulous” before lowering their voice and whispering “biscota” aka biscuits aka cookies.

The second story involves how the name Papadopoulous is mispronounced in the media. My Greek relations (among whom are some Pappas’, which is a frequent shortening of that name) pronounce it Papa-dough-poulous not Papa-dop-poulous. Dough, not dop. That reminds me of the time I met the outstanding Democratic Senator from Maryland, Paul Sarbanes. I shook his hand and said, “Nice to meet you Senator Sar-ban-as.” He smiled and said, “You must be Greek.” That led to a pleasant chat that included this name-based exchange:

Adrastos: “Does it bug you that nobody pronounces your name correctly? It sounds like sardines or something.”

The Senator: “It did at the beginning of my career and I tried correcting people. I soon learned that correcting voters was a sure way to lose an election, so I gave up. I’m still glad when someone gets it right.”

Adrastos: “And they’re always Greek.”

The Senator: “They’re always Greek.”

Btw, as a Congressman, Paul Sarbanes was a member of the House Judiciary Committee and voted to impeach Tricky Dick. It’s a lesson lost on the coffee boy. I wonder if it was Greek or Turkish coffee? Oh well, that’s a distinction without a difference except in Greece. Don’t use the T word there, y’all.

Repeat after me: dough, not dop.

Your President* Tweets: The Insult Comedian never uttered a peep about the Las Vegas shooter on his favorite medium. Instead of calling Bill DeBlasio or Andrew Cuomo, Trump sent out a series of inflammatory tweets followed by inflammatory comments on the electric teevee machine. I’ll keep it brief and post only one tweet. That’s more restraint than Trump will ever show:

If I were in the unenviable position of representing this defendant, I’d use Trump’s rhetoric in his defense. This intemperance reminded me of Tricky Dick whose pronouncement on a notorious case led to this legendary court room moment.

Nixon was more popular in his Southern California home region than Trump is in his hometown, so this came close to causing a mistrial. Plus, Tricky knew he fucked up: Trump shows no signs of getting it. So much for being tough on terrorism. Also, the much-ballyhooed travel ban doesn’t cover Uzbekis. Oops.

Sign of the Times: There was a second line in honor of the late Fats Domino Wednesday; ending at his former house on Caffin Avenue in the Lower 9th Ward. I didn’t make it, but my social media feeds were full of pictures including this one:

Photograph by Dakinikat.

Holy errant apostrophe, Batman.

Confessions Of The Fuck The Dodgers Guy: I had a lot of fun on social media during the World Series. I was rooting for the eventual champion Houston Astros for a variety of reasons: Hurricane Harvey and the presence of former LSU All-American Alex Bregman. Geaux Tigers.

I was, however, mostly rooting against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers and my San Francisco Giants are ancient rivals dating back to their days in New York. I’m a confirmed life-long Dodger hater, which is not that unusual for a Giants fan. I’m old enough to have experienced the blood feud of the mid-1960’s when the Mays-McCovey-Marichal-Perry Giants faced off against the Koufax-Drysdale-Wills Dodgers.

It’s strictly “sports hate” but I may have been guilty of a bit of overkill on the Tweeter Tube and Facebook. I earned a new nickname to go along with Shecky: The Fuck the Dodgers Guy. I can live with that.

Here are a few representative tweets in reverse order. My personal favorite skips the FTD shtick and mocks Larry King whose Dodger fandom dates from their days in Brooklyn.

That’s not a picture of the Dodger third sacker, it’s just  a dude who looks like him.

I hope I don’t experience Fuck the Dodgers Guy withdrawals but ya never know.

That’s it for this dead modem memorial edition of First Draft potpourri. Long live the new modem.

 

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

Swing Landscape by Stuart Davis.

We finally had a chilly day this week. New Orleanians tend to overdress when it cools off so there were many coats, sweaters, and scarves about town. This cold-ish snap is another example of how extreme the weather has been this year: the first cold weather doesn’t usually arrive until around Thanksgiving. I am opposed to turning on the central heat until November but dragged out the space heaters. It warmed up yesterday, but it’s going to be cold today. We’re back on the autumnal weather yo-yo. So it goes.

The big local story is the precipitous fall of celebrity chef John Besh. Picayune restaurant critic Brett Anderson spent 8 months investigating charges of sexual harassment in Besh’s empire. The story landed last weekend and Besh has resigned from his company and lost two casino based locations. I’d heard that he was a hound and a creep but hadn’t heard how systematic the problem was. The timing couldn’t have been worse for Besh since it followed the Weinstein revelations.  I am trying out a new word to describe the outing of sexual harassers: Beshed. It probably won’t catch on but if it does, you heard it here first.

Another big local news story popped up as I was Oddsing and Sodsing. It’s a flap involving  mayoral frontrunner LaToya Cantrell, her use of city credit cards, and the heavy-handed intervention of District Attorney Leon Cannizzarro who is supporting her opponent. So much for that campaign being dull. It’s New Orleans politics in all its seedy glory but I’m going to save it for the Bayou Brief. I’ll let y’all know when my column drops. I’m uncertain if it will be Ionic, Doric, or Corinthian. Corinthian leather?

Now that I’ve incited the wrath of Khan, let’s move on to this week’s theme song. It was composed by Charles Mingus in honor of his friend the great jazz sax player, Lester (Prez) Young.

Here are three versions for your enjoyment. First, Charlie’s original instrumental followed by Joni Mitchell who added lyrics for her Mingus album in 1979. Finally, a guitar driven version by Jeff Beck from his Wired album:

Now that we’ve tipped our pork pie hat to the great Lester Young, it’s time to say goodbye and jump to the break or something like that. Sometimes I even confuse myself.

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Flaking Out

I briefly considered calling this post Republicans in Disarray. It has the virtue of counter punching against years of Democrats in Disarray type headlines. It’s also true. Then I came to my senses, stuck to my punny guns, and went with Flaking Out, which has the virtue of sounding like the Bravo  reality teevee show, Flipping Out,  featuring the antics of another Jeff, designer/house flipper Jeff Lewis.  Of course, flipping out is what Donald Trump does whereas the junior senator from Arizona just flaked out on the people he should be leading into battle: Republicans who still have a semblance of common decency.

When historians ponder why members of his own party let the Insult Comedian get away with his shit, they’ll also wonder why his most prominent senatorial critics have punworthy names: Corker and Flake. I know I’m pondering it while trying not to be a ponderous pundit.

I’m somewhere in the middle on the Jeff Flake/Bob Corker question. Unlike some in the MSM, I don’t view either as “heroes” for standing up to a president* of their own party. I’m also not as hard on them as my publisher and others on the left, notably Rude Pundit and Charlie Pierce. I think it’s important for GOPers to call Trump on his shit regardless of their voting records. Remember: Trump does not care about substance so attacks on his  persona and style, or lack thereof, are infinitely more wounding that attacking his shifting views on taxes, health care, and Bob Corker’s height or lack thereof.

Flake’s speech to the senate was excellent but it would have been more effective if he planned to run for re-election, especially as an independent. His colleague Lisa Murkowski did so after losing in the primary to a teabagger in 2010. The Alaska Senator isn’t as eloquent as Flake but she was rewarded for her stand against extremists in her own party. Grit and determination matter. Jeff Flake lacked those qualities in handing a temporary victory to Trump and Bannon.

In fairness, Flake looks like a gone pecan right now BUT there’s over a year to the 2018 general election and an anti-Trump conservative might look appealing to Arizona voters by then. If standing against Trumpism and white nationalism is as important to Flake as he says it is, he should be willing to stand for re-election against long odds. Now that’s heroic.

One significant difference between Flake and Corker is to the former’s credit. Flake refused to endorse Trump in 2016 whereas Corker drank the orange Kool-Aid and campaigned with the Insult Comedian. It’s one reason I’m more critical of the Tennessean than the Arizonan. I do, however, believe that converts to the anti-Trump cause should be welcomed. We need all the help we can get in alerting people to the perils of having a deranged president* with his  tiny finger on the nuclear trigger.

The reason for my relative indulgence of dissident Republican is rooted in my formative political experience: Watergate. I know what you’re thinking, there he goes again. The reason Nixon was driven from office is that elected officials in his party turned against him. It was a slow process but it was devastating as the Republican dominoes tumbled; culminating in the Senate and House GOP leaders, Hugh Scott and John Rhodes, and 1964 nominee Barry Goldwater telling Tricky the jig was up in August, 1974. The latter two were Arizonans who showed courage in bucking a president who they owed politically. It should be easier to break with Trump but at this point in time Jeff Flake, who still opposes impeachment, is showing more profile than courage. He still has more balls than Trump’s chief enabler Speaker Ryan.

Unless more Congressional GOPers grow a pair, it will take a Democratic takeover of the House for an impeachment process to commence as I believe it should. Even if they lose their majority, Senate Republicans will be crucial to removing a corrupt, stupid, and deranged president* from office. The reason Bill Clinton survived impeachment is that he held Democrats whereas Nixon’s GOP support melted like an ice-cube in the Louisiana summer.

That’s why I look at the big picture and believe in encouraging Republican office holders when they break with Trump. The stakes are high: Trump shows signs of bumbling into war with both Iran and North Korea. The latter would be a catastrophe for our friends in the Republic of Korea and Japan. And war in the Middle East is folly as we’ve learned to our eternal regret.

Stop the madness.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Lover Of The Bayou

Photograph by CC Lockwood.

Fall has fallen. We finally had a week of temptingly temperate temperatures. Unfortunately, it’s oak pollen season, which means I’ve been wheezier than Weezer or Isabel Sanford who played Louise (Weezy) Jefferson on the electronic teevee machine back in the day. Where have you gone George Jefferson? Achoo.

It’s the week after the primary election and the Mayoral  run-off campaign is mostly bubbling under the surface. There was some horrible news involving third-place finisher Michael Bagneris. His daughter, Mia, was hit by a drunk driver while exiting her car after attending her father’s election eve soiree. Since New Orleans is the world’s largest small town, we have several friends in common. Her injuries were severe but it appears that she’ll make it. It’s going to be a long recovery. Best wishes to the Bagneris family. Drunk drivers are the worst.

This week’s theme song was written by Roger McGuinn and Jacques Levy. It has an interesting history. I’ll let the Wikpedia entry for the Byrds album (Untitled) fill you in:

For most of 1969, The Byrds’ leader and guitarist, Roger McGuinn, had been developing a country rock stage production of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt with former psychologist and Broadway impresario Jacques Levy.[16] The musical was to be titled Gene Tryp, an anagram of the title of Ibsen’s play, and would loosely follow the storyline of Peer Gynt with some modifications to transpose the action from Norway to south-west America during the mid-19th century.[5] The musical was intended as a prelude to even loftier plans of McGuinn’s to produce a science-fiction film, tentatively titled Ecology 70 and starring former Byrd Gram Parsons (no relation to Gene) and ex-member of The Mamas & the PapasMichelle Phillips, as a pair of intergalactic flower children.[12] Ultimately, Gene Tryp was abandoned and a handful of the songs that McGuinn and Levy had written for the project would instead see release on (Untitled) and its follow-up, Byrdmaniax.[4]

I told you it was a long story. We have two versions for your enjoyment, the original live Byrds version and a cover by Mudcrutch, which was Tom Petty’s original band brought back to life in 2008. Holy reanimation, Batman.

That concludes our trip to the bayou or does it? You’ll find out after we jump to the break.

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Your President* Speaks: The Boy Still Ain’t Right

Donald Trump’s big mouth and tiny tweeting thumbs have had a busy week.  He revisited one of his golden oldies yesterday: saying horrible things to a gold star family. It evokes memories of  his attacks on the Khan family last year. That should have disqualified him in the minds of the voters but it did not.

The president’s* latest monstrous comments come on the heels of his “Obama didn’t call” lie and attempt to drag General Kelly into the shitstorm, not in role as Chief of Staff but as a gold star father. As I said at the top of the post, it’s been a busy week. You’ve all heard about the latest atrocity but it bears repeating:

President Donald Trump, who unleashed controversy this week when he said that his predecessors, including President Obama, did not personally call families of fallen soldiers, a statement refuted by Obama officials, called Johnson’s pregnant widow Tuesday afternoon. His call, at 4:45 p.m., came just before Johnson’s body arrived at MIA.

Trump told his widow, who was in a car heading to the airport with her family and U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, that “he knew what he signed up for … but when it happens it hurts anyway,” according to Wilson, who heard the call on speakerphone in the car.

In a word: monstrous. It’s another self-inflicted wound from a man with no empathy. He *could* have  admitted that the “he knew what he signed up for” bit was callous and that he wished he’d used more sensitive language.  This president* is incapable of admitting error so here’s what the First Asshole tweeted this morning:

The Insult Comedian’s claim of proof proves only one thing: the story is true and he’s trying to lie his way out of a tight spot. He’s done this before on a wide array of clusterfucks, shitstorms, gaffes, controversies, whatever you choose to call them. It’s what happens when you bring his WWE/New York tabloid style to the national stage. Shut your big bazoo, you stupid motherfucker.

The good news is that his tactic of using the NFL protests controversy as a diversion has become less effective over time. I think Dave Zirin nailed it this morning:

Anyone with a lick of sense has known for quite some time that Donald Trump is the worst person ever to live in the White House. He’s also the most self-destructive, arrogant, and stupid person ever elected Oval One. He makes Gamaliel look like a genius and Andrews Jackson and Johnson look like nice guys. Trump is so arrogant that he thinks the first rule of holes (when you’re in one, stop digging) does not apply to him. He’s wrong. You cannot be the “patriot in chief” while simultaneously hurting gold star families. It’s monstrous.

Saturday Odds & Sods: So Far Away

Speciality Drawing by George Herriman, 1936.

It’s election day in New Orleans. It’s time to winnow down the lackluster mayoral field from 3 major contenders to a face off in the run-off in this off-year election. I hope that wasn’t off-putting. Only a mug would try to predict who will be in the run-off with the so-called big three clustered so tightly in the polls. As Dan Rather would surely say at this point: it’s tighter than a tick. Besides, I threw away my crystal ball after it cracked on 11/9/2016.

One more note on the New Orleans municipal election. I did a podcast about it with my friend Ryne Hancock yesterday. Here’s a LINK.

The featured image is a 1936 drawing by the great George Herriman. In hopes of uncovering a title, I asked Herriman biographer Michael Tisserand. It is, in fact, untitled. It was executed by the artist for a fan named Morris Weiss. It’s unclear if he was a Morris dancer. Btw, if you haven’t read Michael’s book Krazy, pick up a copy. It’s one of the best biographies I’ve read in years. He’s funny on twitter too. Believe me.

This week’s theme song was used in the penultimate episode of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, which is one of the most underrated teevee shows ever. There’s only one more episode left in the series but the first three seasons are streaming on Netflix. Check it out and tell them Adrastos sent you; not that they’ll give a shit but it will be good for my self-esteem.

So Far Away is my favorite Dire Straits song. I’m a big fan of wistful lyrics and Mark Knopfler’s guitar playing. This song obviously has both. I’m throwing in a partially acoustic live version as lagniappe.

 Since we’re so far away from one another, let’s bridge the gap by jumping to the break. I hope that made more sense to you than to me. Adrastos thy name is confusion.

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Another Day, Another Attack On The First Amendment

We do a lot of media criticism here at First Draft. It’s one of Athenae’s specialities with her takedown of Chuck Todd as the most recent example. Criticism is one thing but threats are altogether a different matter, especially from a president* who puts the bully in bully pulpit.

In his continuing campaign to distract attention from his administration’s failures and scandals, fake he-man Donald Trump is going after the “fake news” media. Along with kneeling jocks, minorities, and uppity women, the media are his go-to boogeyman. We all know what his definition of “fake news” is: stories that are critical of him. How has he retained his reputation in some circles as a tough guy? He’s got a glass jaw: real tough guys can take a licking and keep on ticking as an old Timex ad put it. The Insult Comedian is a whiny, titty baby who cannot handle criticism. What did he think he signed up for? This is the big leagues, not grade school t-ball.

The good news is that Trump’s threat against NBC’s broadcast license is an empty one:

There are a number of reasons Trump’s ideas about punishing NBC are, from a practical matter, unworkable.

First off, NBC itself as a broadcast network isn’t licensed by the FCC. NBC’s potential vulnerability would come as the owner and operator of 28 individual local stations, including its Telemundo station

(There are also dozens of NBC affiliates that NBC does not own and thus does not hold the licenses to.)

Second, the FCC license renewal process Trump suggested could be used to retaliate against NBC occurs every eight years. According to experts, it’s basically a rubber stamp and stations’ licenses are almost always renewed, though citizens in the localities of a station can technically challenge a license, as can a station’s competitors, if the station is doing competitive harm. To challenge NBC’s licenses, someone would have to do so in each of the individual local communities and they would face an uphill battle, legally speaking, especially after the deregulation that occurred starting with the Reagan administration.

“There are a couple of oddball cases involving smaller broadcasters, where they’ve gotten in trouble and not gotten their licenses renewed, but never about programming. No significant broadcaster of any size has ever lost a license renewal,” Schwartzman said

The threat may be empty but the mere fact that he made it is disturbing. The Nixon administration threatened the Washington Post company with revocation of its teevee affiliate licenses. I think you know why: Tricky Dick did not like its coverage of his administration. Nixon, of course, was smart enough to have surrogates do so privately as opposed to spouting off himself in public. That’s why they called him Tricky Dick. It’s one difference between Watergate and Moronogate.

I recently read an excellent 1982 biography of Mussolini by an Oxford Don, Denis Mack Smith. The parallels are disturbing. Mussolini was a mendacious, narcissistic opportunist who only believed in himself. Like Trump, he manipulated the mass media of his day to obtain power. In his case as a journalist who immediately turned against a free press upon becoming Duce. The good news is that it’s much harder for any American president to suppress free speech. The bad news is that we’re having this discussion at all.

Attempts to shut down a free press are not only unconstitutional, they’re the first step on the path to dictatorship. Trump is so unpopular and incompetent that it’s not going to happen. We need to be concerned about future attempts to do so by a demagogue who is cleverer and more knowledgeable.  It *can* happen here.

Tea For The Tillerson: Moronogate Edition

I just realized that I haven’t milked my Tea for the Tillerson pun for quite some time. There’s no time like the present, especially when Rexit may be imminent. It could even be instant Rexit given the whimsical and capricious nature of the president* he serves. Ooh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world.

You’d have to be living under a rock to not have heard of Moronogate and the fall-out from it. It’s been cuckoo for cocoa puffs even for Team Trump. Tillerson has refused to deny saying it and President* I Have A Very Good Brain challenged him to an IQ test smackdown. I’m reasonably certain no previous Oval One has challenged anyone to what amounts to an intellectual dick measuring contest; not even Harding who knew he was a dumbass in over his head. That makes him brighter than Trumpy.

NBC News has dominated Moronogate reporting and they broke another story this morning, which seems to explain the Secretary of State’s Rexclamation:

President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest-ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room.

Trump’s comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s. Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve.

According to the officials present, Trump’s advisers, among them the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were surprised. Officials briefly explained the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the buildup. In interviews, they told NBC News that no such expansion is planned.

The July 20 meeting was described as a lengthy and sometimes tense review of worldwide U.S. forces and operations. It was soon after the meeting broke up that officials who remained behind heard Tillerson say that Trump is a “moron.”

We don’t need any Rexplaining to know that the Man from Big Oil was spot on. Trump talks out of his ass every day so we, of course, believe that he’s capable of starting a unilateral arms race as crazy as that sounds. Crazy is the new norm in Washington City, which is terrifying given that a lunatic is in possession of the nuclear codes. The next thing you know he’ll fire the officer who carries the “football” for taking a knee…

One thing that fascinates me about the Trump-Tillerson death dance is how unusual it is. Don’t get me wrong: previous presidents and their secretaries of state weren’t always bosom buddies. Harry Truman was treated like a junior senator by Jimmy Brynes who was resentful that he wasn’t FDR’s running mate in 1944. (The big cigars of labor vetoed the South Carolinian for his anti-union and hardcore segregationist views.) But Byrnes or his people didn’t leak disparaging information about HST even when he was fired from Foggy Bottom. Richard Nixon and his henchman Henry Kissinger treated Bill Rogers with disdain but even Kissinger didn’t call him a moron. I believe dull and stodgy were the words Kissinger used to describe his rival. I wonder if Kissinger will back stab Trump after their recent meeting. He’s neither dull nor stodgy, alas.

More recently, Bill Clinton and Madeline Albright had their moments as did W and Colin Powell but they kept their tea and shade behind closed doors. It’s what diplomats do.

I find myself in the odd position of pulling for Tillerson in his dispute with the orange dipshit. I think Tillerson has been a terrible secretary of state BUT he has orthodox/sane views on issues such as nuking North Korea. It’s a low bar but Rex clears it.

One of the odder sub-plots of Moronogate is the fact that Trump hired Tillerson because he looked like a secretary of state. Apparently, Bob Corker was bypassed because he’s 5’7″. James Madison was 5’4″ thereby making an excellent case for short diplomats. I’ll take short and clever over tall and clueless any day.

The Trump-Tillerson smackdown would be more entertaining if the stakes weren’t so high. There’s always a lot of tea and shade in Washington but it doesn’t typically involve two of the highest officials in the government. It’s what happens when we have an angry lunatic in the Oval Office and an arrogant engineer at Foggy Bottom. In fact, one could say this is the foggiest it’s ever been at Foggy Bottom.

Let’s hope the Tillerson-McMaster-Kelly-Mattis cabal can prevent a nuclear exchange with a third-rate Communist dictatorship led by an equally deranged leader. Ooh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world.

The last word goes to (who else?) my many named countryman, Cat Stevens with an aspirational track that requires no Rexplanation:

A Corker Of A Feud

For most of his political career, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker has been an off-the-rack mainstream conservative Republican. His views on most issues are ready-made, not bespoke. His 2006 campaign ran a race baiting ad against his opponent but otherwise he’s been stolid, solid, and boring. That ended with the electoral college victory of the Insult Comedian. The two men have traded the odd barb throughout the year but it exploded into the president’s* latest WWE-style feud yesterday.

The response was perhaps the best I’ve seen from a politician:

I don’t know if Corker mans his own twitter feed but that’s a masterpiece of social media snark. If it’s a staffer give her or him a raise. They’ll be out of a job by January 2019, after all.

There’s a post smackdown piece in the New York Times wherein we learned that Trump lied about Corker “begging” for his support:

Mr. Corker flatly disputed that account, saying Mr. Trump had urged him to run again, and promised to endorse him if he did. But the exchange laid bare a deeper rift: The senator views Mr. Trump as given to irresponsible outbursts — a political novice who has failed to make the transition from show business.

CNN confirmed Corker’s account. Besides, anyone who believes anything that comes out of the Insult Comedian’s pie hole is too stupid to live.

More importantly, Corker expressed genuine concern in the same interview about the militant craziness of Trump’s foreign policy:

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

Corker is referring to Trump’s increasingly unhinged and inaccurate comments about North Korea. The Kaiser of Chaos keeps confusing Kim Jong-un with both his father and grandfather. It’s unclear if he knows that the guy he derides as Rocket Man is the third member of the Kim family to be dictator since 1992. My hunch is that he hasn’t a clue, which would be par for the course for this president*.

Trump is out to disprove Teddy Roosevelt’s famous aphorism “speak softly, and carry a big stick.” Trump is screaming empty threats at the top of his lungs. At least I hope they’re empty threats. I’m afraid that the triumvirate (troika?) of Kelly, McMaster, and Mattis will have to bodily tackle Trump to prevent him from nuking Pyongyang.

I, for one, am glad that Republicans like Bob Corker are speaking out against Trump. Yes, some of them are responsible for electing the crazy motherfucker but Watergate teaches us that you can only dispose of a criminal president when their own party turns on them. Nixon was headed to conviction in the Senate. The reason Bill Clinton survived was that his party stuck with him. Thanks in part to research by Abbie Lowell who is now Slumlord Jared’s attorney. Ironies abound, y’all.

I’m in favor of building coalitions on an issue-by-issue basis. If previously hawkish Republicans are aghast by Trump’s insane pronouncements, working with them to stop a nuclear exchange is not only sensible but imperative. Does anyone think that Bob Corker wants to nuke North Korea? Donald Trump is the only one who seems to think making such threats is a winning strategy. He should look at a map sometime and see how close Seoul and Tokyo are to Rocket Man’s missiles. Of course, that would involve work and that’s not what this president* does. Instead, he watches teevee, golfs, tweets, and lies.

I eagerly await the next salvo in the war of words between the Republican president* and the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committe. It’s a Corker of a feud.

Saturday Odds & Sods: How About You?

Court of the Patriarchs by Ansel Adams.

We had another boil water advisory in New Orleans this week. I’ve gotten used to them by now and don’t freak out. I’m married to a microbiologist so we ignore the “don’t shower” bit. It’s okay to bathe as long as one doesn’t have wounds or open sores. Besides, I’m not about to be stinky because the Sewerage and Water Board can’t get its shit together. Fuck that shit.

Oscar Update. It looks as if doubling his head meds and changing his diet has done the trick. Knock on wood. He hasn’t marked in several days and doesn’t look and act  like a scaredy cat. His tail is in the air when he walks instead of drooping. Let’s hope it lasts. Knock on wood. I had forgotten about that live Bowie version. Make sure you click on that last link.

In other New Orleans news, I wrote a second column for the Bayou Brief about the Mayors race. The campaign is so dull and listless that I refer to the candidates as The B-List.

This week’s theme song is inspired by last week’s Gershwin brothers reverie. How so? The opening lyrics:

I like New York in June, how about you?

I like a Gershwin tune, how about you?

That works for me.

How About You? was written by Burton Lane and Ralph Freed for the 1941 MGM musical Babes on Broadway starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. We have two versions for your enjoyment. First, the Chairman of the Board with a Nelson Riddle arranged version from an album you’ll hear more about later. Second, Harry Nilsson did an album of standards with *another* Sinatra arranger, Gordon Jenkins. Harry’s version was featured in Python alum Terry Gilliam’s best film, The Fisher King.

Heh, heh, heh. We just saw Robin William’s furry butt, he said in his best Beavis and Butthead voice. On that supremely lowbrow note, lets jump to the break.

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Ron Ziegler In A Frock

I don’t think many of our readers are old enough to have had the Ron Ziegler experience. Ziegler was, of course, Tricky Dick’s press secretary. He combined ignorance and arrogance in his dealings with the White House press corps. He was never (at the risk of sounding like Poppy Bush) in the loop and said many loopy things: my personal favorite was when he declared  his previous comments about the Watergate burglary “inoperative.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders (hereinafter Huck’s Horrible Spawn) is well on her way to becoming the most hated White House press secretary since Ziegler; even the dread Ari Fleischer had his supporters. Huck’s Horrible Spawn clearly knows nothing about what’s going on in the White House she pretends to speak for. Today she urged ESPN to fire Jemele Hill for criticizing her boss on the sacred tweeter tube. Apparently, Trump is the only one who can fire off insulting tweets. So much for free speech.

Huck’s Horrible Spawn also dusted off her non-existent law degree and proclaimed James Comey a criminal. This is simultaneously ludicrous and menacing. The White House is threatening its opponents with jail or, in the case, of Ms. Hill, loss of her livelihood. This is a classic authoritarian move, which is why I originally called this post Creeping Authoritarianism. The image of  Ron Ziegler in a frock is much funnier. And we need all the comic relief we can get in the Trump era.

There’s one good thing in Huck’s Horrible Spawn being Ron Ziegler in a Frock. Like the Z-Man she knows nothing, bupkis, zilch about the scandals that are hanging over the White House. She may not even need to lawyer up or testify before Congress about her non-existent knowledge. It’s good to be out of the loop and in over your head.

I don’t have a picture of Ron Ziegler in a frock but I found a picture of him with Elvis Presley. That will  have to do.

 

 

 

Walter Trump: Teevee Western Con Man

Lawrence Dobkin as Walter Trump.

I usually check Snopes.com when something on the interwebs sounds either too good to be true or bogus.  It’s usually the latter. I try not to go down the Snopes rabbit hole too often because one could spend days there. It’s better when one of my friends does it for me. My old pal, fellow OG NOLA blogger, and Spank krewemate, Lisa Palumbo linked to this intriguing and surprisingly true Snopes item about a fifties teevee con man:

The television series Trackdown really did produce an episode featuring a “Trump” character who came to town claiming that only he could prevent the end of the world by building a wall (and also sold special force propelling umbrellas to deflect meteorites). The episode (S1, E30) aired on CBS in 1958 and was titled “The End of the World,” featuring actor Lawrence Dobkin playing the role of “Walter Trump.”

We even have a snippet of dialogue from the episode in question:

Narrator: The people were ready to believe. Like sheep they ran to the slaughterhouse. And waiting for them was the high priest of fraud.

Trump: I am the only one. Trust me. I can build a wall around your homes that nothing will penetrate.

Townperson: What do we do? How can we save ourselves?

Trump: You ask how do you build that wall. You ask, and I’m here to tell you.

While it’s highly unlikely that Trump was inspired by an episode of a long-forgotten teevee oater, it’s a startling coincidence. Like Donald, Walter Trump is a flim flam man selling a cure to a non-existent problem. He also claimed to be the “only one” as did the president* in his apocalyptic acceptance speech at the 2016 Republican Convention. Holy Messianic Complex, Batman.

The guy who wrote the teleplay, John Robinson, died in 1999 without revealing any Nostradamus-like qualities. He’s best-known for producing the Steve McQueen western Wanted: Dead or Alive and for writing for Dragnet. That means that, like Joe Friday, he presumably stuck to “the facts, m’am, just the facts.” Nobody would have predicted the rise of the Insult Comedian in 1958 back when candidates were usually qualified to be president. Imagine that.

There’s another difference between Real Trump and the character actor who played Reel Trump, Lawrence Dobkin. The latter was an honest bald man as you can see in the featured image above whereas Donald wears a dead nutria atop his head.

It’s gobsmacking that there was a flim flamming, wall building fictional character named Trump in 1958. It’s equally gobsmacking that I hadn’t heard about it until this morning. I only know because of my pal Lisa Pal. I’ll be a pal and post the whole damn episode of Trackdown:

I *have* written about life imitating The Sopranos but I never expected to write about life imitating Trackdown. Hell, I’d never heard of Trackdown until today. It’s a funny old world.

First Draft Potpourri: Belabored Labor Day Edition

It’s been a long, hot holiday weekend in New Orleans but not as hot as in my native Bay Area where San Francisco had the hottest day in recorded history, topping out at 106 fucking degrees. It’s not supposed to be hotter in San Francisco than New Orleans in September. Climate change? What climate change?

The heat is one reason I changed my mind about joining Dr. A and our fellow Spanksters in the Decadence parade. My only regret is not seeing the expressions on the faces of the BYU fans who were in town to lose to my LSU Tigers. Decadence is a gay, not a Mormon, thing.

My main reason for bagging the parade is that I’m feeling rundown from a month of dealing with Oscar’s issues.  I don’t need to add heatstroke to the list of *my* issues. It seems almost silly to be this wrapped up in caring for an ailing pet but it’s how I’m wired. I come by it honestly: the only reason my mother didn’t have a massive menagerie is that Lou put strict limits on the number of pets in the house. One could even call it a critter quota. Okay, it’s time for me to stop all of my sobbing and move on.

The national media’s insistence on being upbeat about progress in Houston drives me nuts. The people who were flooded are about to face the reality of what they’ve lost. They’re throwing things out and eventually gutting their flooded houses. It’s going to be a long, slow road back, especially for those without the resources to rebuild quickly. The poor always take in the neck, alas.

The Jolly Insult Comedian: Donald Trump justifiably took a lot of heat for his inability to show empathy on his first Harvey related trip. He went to Houston and Lake Charles, LA and tried to show empathy but he cannot even fake it. You can tell he’s faced very little genuine adversity in life because he just doesn’t get it. He tried but wound up making small talk as tiny as his hands. By way of illustration, here are two tweets from Mark Knoller of CBS News:

I guess jolly platitudes are better than talking about your margin in Texas but only marginally. At least he and Melania didn’t wear those damn caps again. I thought that her FLOTUS hat was even tackier than his. I hope it wasn’t the millinery equivalent of a name tag. She’s not the only one who has a hard time believing she’s FLOTUS.

I did not, however,  join in the twitter mockery over Melania’s stilettos earlier in the week. It was classic tweeter tube dispshittery: focusing on the trivial, going for the cheapest laugh possible.

Speaking of shoes, I got a kick out of this picture from the Gret Stet leg of the trip:

The sign is swell BUT the t-shirt worn by the teenybopper is downright weird. It features the slogan of the Civil Rights movement and an image of Trump. Trump shall overcome what? His disastrous first 226 days in office? The country will have to overcome the way he’s hollowed out the EPA and State Department. Heckuva job, Donald. (Instant Update: Take a look at the comment by Alger below. The shirt says We Shall Overcomb. My eyesight sucks. But the paragraph is too good to cut.)

Joy Reid posed an interesting question on her teevee show on Sunday morning. Why does the media keep expecting Trump to act like a normal president? In a word: history. One of the founding myths of the republic is that presidents grow in office. It doesn’t matter that many have shrunk in office, it’s the myth. Trump is who and what he is. There will be neither growth nor a pivot. Believe me.

Let’s pivot to a loss suffered by rock music fans everywhere.

Walter Becker, RIP: Some sad news came our way on Sunday morning. Steely Dan co-founder  Walter Becker died at the age of 67. Becker was the quiet one of the songwriting team of Becker and Fagen. He let his music speak for itself.

Social media was abuzz about Becker’s passing. Here’s a wee sampler. First, from his old friend and partner in crime, Donald Fagen.

I shared a few thoughts of my own about Becker’s role in Steely Dan:

Finally, a cartoon in the style of Charles Schulz:

I recently assembled a Portable Steely Dan CD, which includes hits as well as lesser known album tracks. My tribute to Becker is to reproduce it here via the magic of the YouTube playlist format. There will be the odd commercial but what can I tell ya? Becker and Fagen are odd guys.

I was one of the lucky people who saw Steely Dan before they got off the road to focus on recording. That was how artists made money in the Seventies. That’s certainly changed. Steely Dan opened for Yes who were touring in support of Fragile. It was a Bill Graham bill made in music geek heaven. I saw Steely Dan several times after they reunited, most memorably at Jazz Fest in 2007.

One of the best loved lines in any Steely Dan songs is an odd one. Anyone surprised? I thought not. It comes from Kid Charlemagne: “Is there gas in the car? Yes, there’s gas in the car.” It looks like that mythic car finally ran out of gas for Walter Becker. He will be missed.

I just realized I wrote a Labor Day post without reference to the holiday itself. It’s supposed to be about working men and women, not grilled meat. It’s also about New Deal style Democratic politics as you can see from this sample of 2016’s Labor Day post showing Jack Kennedy speaking at a 1960 rally organized by the UAW in Detroit:

Happy Labor Day whether you’re laboring or not.

Houston: No Good Options

Hurricane Rita evacuation clusterfuck, 2005.  

I mentioned yesterday that an attempt to evacuate the sprawling Houston area for Hurricane Rita in 2005 resulted in an epic clusterfuck as you can see in the photo above.  Here’s how it was described by the Houston Chronicle:

“In the Houston area, the muddled flight from the city killed almost as many people as Rita did. An estimated 2.5 million people hit the road ahead of the storm’s arrival, creating some of the most insane gridlock in U.S. history. More than 100 evacuees died in the exodus. Drivers waited in traffic for 20-plus hours, and heat stroke impaired or killed dozens. Fights broke out on the highway. A bus carrying nursing home evacuees caught fire, and 24 died.”

This is why Texas Governor Greg Abbot and all the armchair evacuators on social media and the MSM are dead wrong. The state of Texas has declined to stage evacuation drills, devise an adequate contraflow scheme, or do anything that other jurisdictions-even the Gret Stet of Louisiana-do to facilitate evacuations. Texas conservatives hate guvmint even when it would help them personally. I guess the Texas GOP’s motto should be: Drown Free.

Any Houstonian who remembered the Rita clusterfuck would have declined to evacaute. The only way a mandatory evacuation would have worked is if it were ordered on Monday August 21. People simply would not have left then and many could not afford to do so. That’s something the armchair evacuators do not care about. They specialize in judging others while sitting high and dry in their Lazy-Boys, smart phone in hand.

I’ve evacuated twice for Hurricanes. It’s a miserable experience. I understand why people chose to hunker down. I have close friends in the Houston area and my stomach is in knots right now. Thus far none of them have had to boat out of their houses but it’s still raining in H-Town. What a fucking mess.

Hurricane Harvey is an unprecedented event. The rainfall totals are frightening. There were no good options available. It was going to be a clusterfuck no matter what. Backseat driving is always annoying. I suggest the armchair evacuators STFU and figure out how they can help after the waters recede.

Finally, Trump should stay away and not disrupt relief and rescue operations. He lives in an orange bubble and vaguely remembers that Bush got in deep shit over his response to Katrina. Trump should forget the photo-ops and give the people of Texas maximum federal resources and support. Go when the crisis subsides. The world does not revolve around Trump. He just thinks it does.

Since we’ve all got the Hurricane Harvey blues, the last word goes to Texas native Lightnin’ Hopkins with a song about endless rain you know where:

Saturday Odds & Sods: This Summer

Windmills on the Hill by Francoise Gilot.

Prologue/Forward: I wrote this post and timed it for publication before Hurricane Harvey made full landfall. It will be onshore as you read this. It’s gonna be a wet sumbitch. Best of luck to all my friends and readers in the impacted area whether you evacuated or hunkered down. Our thoughts are with you.

Enough sincere shit, it’s time for the main event:

The tropics are becoming more active as August nears an end. It’s unfortunate because the drainage system in New Orleans is still fucked up. I don’t usually get overly nervous when I hear about a new tropical system in the Caribbean, but this year is different. The odds of Adrastos World HQ flooding are slim. As to the rest of the city, that’s not the case. Hopefully, the City will get its shit together but competence is not a hallmark of government in the Crescent City. It’s time for an Adrastos nursery rhyme: Harvey stay away, don’t come again another day.

Have I complained about storm names this year? It’s high time.  The latest storm is Harvey, which is a funny name, not a scary one. Hurricane Harvey reminds me of Harvey the invisible rabbit, Harvey Korman, and this former major league baseball player, coach, and manager:

Admittedly, the chaw is a bit scary, but Harvey Kuenn was famous for being nice and for being the only batting champion traded for a home run champion, Rocky Colavito. Enough about the boys of summer since only Doc and I give a shit about Harvey Kuenn. I would, however, never knock the Rock…

Summer may be winding down where you live but September is often as hot as August in my sultry neck of the woods. We usually get a tease of fall weather but it rarely lasts long before the heat and humidity settle back in until October. That’s life in the Big Easy. Speaking of which, there’s a swell cover story in the Gambit Tabloid about post-Katrina life here: Is New Orleans worth it?  It’s, uh, worth a glance. It proves that old adage: the more things change the more they remain the same. So it goes.

Speaking of summer, it occurred to me this week that my favorite rock songwriting team, Difford and Tilbrook, have written a passel of tunes about summer. This week’s first theme song,  This Summer, begins with a classic line: “Brain engages mouth, mouth expresses thoughts.” That’s how it works in my experience.

I hope you noticed that the late Keith Wilkerson looks like Huntz Hall in this video. He’s the bloke in the blue ball cap. Not only was Keith was more likely to be an East Side Kid than a Bowery Boy, neither Difford nor Tillbrook resemble Leo Gorcey. End of obscure lowbrow comedy reference. I have a million of them…

Happy Days is a song of more recent vintage. It’s about getting out of London on holiday. As a non-resident, London is one of my favorite places to go on vacation. I would propose a house swap but who the hell wants to come to New Orleans in August?

Our final Squeezey ode to summer was one of the band’s first hits and evokes the beach on a warm summer day:

Now that we’ve gone behind the chalet and pulled mussels from the shell, it’s time to insert the break.

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