Category Archives: Fog Of History

The Perfect Gift For The Lost Causer In Your Family

I heard from Deep Blog yesterday. Adding to the Deep Blog mystique is that he/she/it is a composite of people who prefer to stay off-stage. It’s not Mark Felt, y’all. Dead men leak no tales.

Anyway, Deep Blog got an email from the R.E. Lee Monumental Association offering what amounts to a Robert E. Lee lawn jockey for 300 smackers. Of course, they call it a replica statue:

This concrete statue stands at 3’6″, weighs 150 pounds, and has a circular 16″ diameter base. It comes in two painted finishes: bronze or multi colored.

The one on the right is why I called it a lawn jockey. It’s a Bobby Lee toon, y’all.

The R.E. Lee lawn jockey is a perfect gift for the descendants of:

Thousands of New Orleanians  [who] volunteered to defend their homeland and fought under General Lee as the “Louisiana Tigers” in the Civil War.

Who cares about the fact that the war was waged to preserve the peculiar institution of slavery or that Lee himself was opposed to Confederate monuments?

I haven’t had any hate mail from local Lost Causers for a while but I may hear from Forever Lee Circle Dude after this post. Unlike Deep Blog, he’s not shy.

The Latest Trump Dignity Wraith

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: everyone who gets involved with Donald Trump gets slimed. The latest example is Admiral/Doctor Ronny Jackson who had a reputation as a competent doctor and a nice guy during the Bush and Obama administrations. That began to change when he gave a preposterous briefing about Trump’s health. Then came his nomination to run the Veterans Administration, which is a nearly impossible job given the competing interest groups and the size of the agency.

Tonight there’s breaking news that could derail the nomination altogether:

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs committee is reviewing allegations he’s hearing about Ronny Jackson, the White House physician and President Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. It was unclear late Monday whether the Senate panel would postpone Jackson’s confirmation hearing, which was scheduled for Wednesday, in light of stories about the nominee told by current or former White House medical staff.

Sources familiar with the tales say that Tester’s staff is reviewing multiple allegations of a “hostile work environment.” The accusations include “excessive drinking on the job, improperly dispensing meds,” said one of the people familiar, who was granted anonymity to speak frankly about the situation. The other people familiar with the stories also confirmed those details.

If proven true, “it’ll sink his nomination,” said one of the sources.

This is what happens when you nominate someone without any vetting. There was no interview, no nothing, just a presidential* gut instinct that he liked Admiral/Doctor Jackson and that somehow made him qualified to run a massive bureaucracy. Trump’s gut may be large but his instincts are terrible. The incompetence, it burns.

I considered stealing a line from a tweet by Steven Beschloss, brother of historian Michael, but decided that was too Trumpian:

Excessive drinking can definitely make one hostile. The irony is that none of the post-Nixon presidents have been known as heavy drinkers. The last presidents to drink with their White House physician were FDR and Harry Truman and they were only occasionally hostile. Hostility is Trump’s speciality.

It looks as if Admiral/Doctor Jackson is the latest Trump dignity wraith. Stay tuned.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Up Above My Head

Trout and Reflected Tree by Neil Welliver.

The weather rollercoaster continues unabated in New Orleans. We’ve gone from air dish weather to heater weather and back again. One day of the French Quarter Fest was rained out, which resulted in wet tourists whining about the wash-out. It was a day I was glad to no longer be a shopkeeper. Dealing with drowned Quarter rats was never any fun.

One of Grace’s colleagues gave us fancy club seats to the Saenger Theatre’s Broadway series complete with free food and valet parking. Thanks, Ritu. We saw Rent, which I liked a lot. The best part of the evening was a bossy African-American woman usher who combined sternness and politeness.  One patron was confused about how they ordered the rows and the usher said, “You’re in row H. It’s the alphabet, m’am. It’s the alphabet.” Fuckin’ A.

You’re probably wondering why an agnostic is posting a gospel tune as this week’s theme song. It’s because Sister Rosetta Tharpe was an amazing singer, songwriter, and character.  Up Above My Head is also a real toe-tapper. What’s not to love about a church lady with an electric guitar? We have three versions: Sister Rosetta, Rhiannon Giddens, and the Jayhawks.

Now that we’re imbued with the spirit, let’s jump to the break.

Continue reading

The Americans Thread: Nothing Is Everything

Nothing is going right for our characters in Mr. and Mrs. Teacup. We see everything from failed missions to projectile vomiting to looming financial failure. It’s not a pretty sight. The only good news is that arms control guy Glenn Haskard’s underdog Twins will win the 1987 World Series.

The Americans is a unique show in several ways. First, as Soviet spies, Philip and Elizabeth are the ultimate anti-heroes. They make Walter White and Tony Soprano look like small fry. Second, the Soviets lose the Cold War while winning the espionage battle, so the Jennings’ efforts are ultimately for naught. This built-in futility is one reason so many of us find the show so perversely fascinating.

Nothing Is Everything is the parenthetical part of the title of a Pete Townshend song: (Nothing Is Everything ) Let’s See Action. It’s an ode to Pete’s guru, Meher Baba, but it somehow captures the spirit of this episode for me. I’m weird that way. Let’s play it before the spoiler break:

Continue reading

You Beto Your Life

It’s time to revisit the Texas senate race. Beto O’Rourke remains the underdog but I’m glad people are taking a flyer on his candidacy. If there was ever a year to try to win a statewide race in Texas, 2018 is the year. Besides, what would be sweeter than bloodying Tailgunner Ted’s nose even if he survives? It’s win-win.

I have a suggestion for the Beto Bunch. It’s in the nature of a stunt. Those of us who are old enough to have voted in 1992 should recall Chicken George. He was the dude in the chicken suit who followed Poppy Bush around. The chicken came out of the coop when Poppy initially refused to debate. It was a Democratic stunt to bug Bush and benefit the Clinton campaign. It worked.

I think the gag could be updated but with a retro twist. Not only a retro twist but another pun on the Congressman’s nickname. Puns are important, y’all.

Let me clarify something: I may be old but I’m not old enough to have seen You Bet Your Life when it first aired. I saw the re-runs. Ya got that? I don’t want to have to make like the late R Lee Ermey and go Full Metal Jacket on your asses.

Back to Grouco Marx. Anyone who has ever seen his venerable quiz show knows that there was a secret word, when a contestant said it, a duck puppet dropped down and the contestant won some cold, hard cash. The duck puppet/muppet/marionette, whatever it was, looked like Groucho and evoked Duck Soup as opposed to Daffy Duck or Duck Dunn.

I suspect you’re wondering where the 2018 tie-in is. Here it is: the Beto Bunch should station a dude in a duck suit at every Cruz event. He could carry a pole with a You Bet Your Life style duck marionette that looks, not like Groucho, but like Rafael Edward Cruz. Every time Ted lies or mentions the name Donald Trump, the Duck Dude can quack and wave the marionette.

As a reminder of Cruzian spinelessness, there could also be a sidekick waving a placard with these National Enquirer front pages:

On second thought, the placard is probably a bad idea. Some of Cruz’s supporters may be packing heat and if it’s duck season, the Duck Dude and sidekick could be in deep doo doo like Daffy.

Duck Elmer GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

This proposed stunt is a bit complicated and I realize not everyone will get the joke, but I like to be helpful. Maybe the Duck Dude could duck and cover when Cruz advocates bombing a country. The possibilities are endless as well as endlessly silly.

The last word goes to the Kinks:

The Americans Thread: The Baby Spy Blues

There’s so much food chat in Urban Transport Planning that was I was tempted to call this recap Puckett and Pizza. Puckett after the Minnesota Twins great and pizza after, uh. the doughy delicacy. Glenn the arms control dude is a huge Kirby fan and his Twins were headed to a world’s championship in 1987. Other cuisines mentioned included Chinese and Russian but we’ll get to that after the spoiler break. Hint: the dishes involved are neither chow mein nor borscht. Here’s Puckett without pizza:

Glasnost era tensions continue to fill the Jennings ranch house. Philip is pro-Gorbachev whereas Elizabeth is the hard liner’s hard liner. They bicker about what people think back, back, back in the USSR until they realize the absurdity of the argument since neither has been home in 20 years. The key difference between them is that Philip likes being an American but Elizabeth hates it. It’s spy vs. spy, married couple edition.

A brief pre-spoiler break musical interlude. Macca live at Red Square in Moscow. Woo:

And yes, that *was* Putin in the crowd at the 15 second mark. Rock on, Vlad. Woo. Continue reading

Never Again

It’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. It’s a movable commemoration so perhaps I should post this explanatory passage from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

The internationally recognized date for Holocaust Remembrance Day corresponds to the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar. It marks the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In Hebrew, Holocaust Remembrance Day is called Yom Hashoah. When the actual date of Yom Hashoah falls on a Friday, the state of Israel observes Yom Hashoah on the preceding Thursday. When it falls on a Sunday, Yom Hashoah is observed on the following Monday.

In 2018, today is the day. I take this solemn event personally because one of my mother’s closest friends was a Holocaust survivor. She was always Mrs. Rosenberg or Mrs. R to me. I don’t think I ever knew her first name. That’s okay, I don’t need to know that to honor her memory and that of those who were murdered by the Nazis.

I wrote about Mrs. R twice in 2016. The first passage was written after a series of horrors. I was trying to make sense of things that do not make sense.

July 17, 2016:

In searching for an antidote for this palpable fear and paranoia, I thought of the Holocaust survivors I’ve met. One of whom was one of my mother’s best friends, Mrs. Rosenberg. She was a plump and cheerful woman who lived down the street from us when I was a small child. One day I noticed the tattooed numbers on her arm and asked her about them. I was about 8 years old and my mom gave me a stern look but her friend waved her off and told me what they signified. It was the first time I’d ever heard of the Shoah. I was horrified and asked how she could be so cheerful after so much loss and suffering. Mrs. Rosenberg smiled, patted me on the head, and said: “When you’ve been to hell and back, nothing else ever seems so bad.”

My first post 2016 election post, Sitting Political Shiva, also mentioned Mrs. R.

November 10, 2016:

I’m an agnostic who was raised Greek-Orthodox but most of my mother’s bridge playing and real estate cronies were Jewish, so I learned about sitting shiva as a child.  I remember going with her to Mrs. Rosenberg’s house when her husband died.  Mrs. Rosenberg was the Holocaust survivor I’ve written about before.  I didn’t even complain about going because Mrs. R and I had a mutual admiration society. She remains one of my heroes. She was also as funny as hell. I’m convinced that I learned the essence of black comedy from her. It’s the Shoah survivor’s ethos: nothing will ever be as bad as what they went through, in her case at Treblinka.

Never Again.

Speaker Disconnected

I’m old enough to remember when being Speaker of the House was the ultimate accomplishment for Congresscritters. There was a long line of Speakers who, for good or ill, served forever. Gerald Ford accepted the Vice-Presidency because his ambition to be Speaker was thwarted by Democratic control, which lasted until 1995. Wise choice, Jerry.

The great Texas Democrat Sam Rayburn served as Speaker from 1940-1947, 1949-1953, and  1955-1961. Mr. Sam loved his job and his members as did Tip O’Neill who was Speaker for 10 years. Those days came to a screeching halt after the Tea Party wave election of 2010. Paul Ryan has finally had enough and decided not to run for re-election this fall. I, for one, am not surprised.

The most ardent teabaggers have morphed into the so-called Freedom Caucus who have specialized in making first John Boehner’s, then Paul Ryan’s life a living hell. We all know the line about herding cats. Dealing with the so-called Freedom Caucus is like herding FERAL CATS. Do I have any sympathy for the man Charlie Pierce memorably dubbed the Zombie-Eyed Granny Starver? Hell to the no. I never bought into his previously glowing reputation, which is gone, gone, gone after 2 years of bowing and scraping to the Kaiser of Chaos.

There have long been rumors that Jenna Ryan is not down with her husband’s politics much like Ronald Reagan’s chirren with Nancy. Snopes has found these rumors to be unproven. I have something to throw in the hopper. It’s more in the nature of gossip or hearsay but I hope it’s true. I have a friend who has a friend who knows Jenna Ryan quite well. Supposedly, she’s banned all mention of Donald Trump from the family home and dinner table. Who could blame her?

The other good news is that Ryan’s seat could flip in the fall without him defending it:

In the words of the Insult Comedian, that would be beautiful, tremendous. Not as beautiful as Ryan losing to a Democrat in the fall but still tremendous. There’s a chance that up to 50 House Republicans may retire instead of facing the voters. Those skeptical of a Blue Wave can put that in their pipe and smoke it.

Ryan’s Randian views have long been repugnant to right-thinking people BUT he used to have the reputation of being a nice guy off-stage. That ended with the advent of Trump. Speaker Ryan is the latest in a long line of Trump dignity wraiths. Everything Trump touches turns to shit.

I wrote about Ryan on the day he became Speaker in 2015. In a fog of history post, I compared Lyin’ Ryan to James G. Blaine “the continental liar from the state of Maine.” I also posted a Separated at Birth image of him and Eddie Munster.

I’m sure Grandpa Munster would have been disappointed in him: the late Al Lewis was a lefty activist when not playing a zany vampire. We do not have to Snopes that.

The last word goes to Keane with this peachy video with a horror movie feel. Much scarier than the Munsters’ house at 1313 Mockingbird Lane but not as scary as the current House of Representatives or one led by the Gret Stet’s Steve Scalise.

An Attack On Our Country?

There’s been a feeding frenzy over the raid on Michael Cohen’s office, apartment, hotel room, and hot tub. I made the last bit up. There’s even been some tut-tutting about Cohen being Trump’s “lawyer.” At the risk of sounding like a broken record: Cohen is not a lawyer in the usual sense. He’s a fixer/gangster. He’s more like a caporegime in the Trump crime family than a “personal lawyer.” It looks as if the fixer is fucked. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

More alarming was Trump’s latest public meltdown, which may be the creepiest one yet. He was surrounded by the military brass and his national security peeps including John Bolton and his mustache. The meeting was ostensibly about Syria. Instead of refusing to comment on Cohen, the Kaiser of Chaos lost his shit:

So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys — a good man. And it’s a disgraceful situation. It’s a total witch hunt. I’ve been saying it for a long time.

<SNIP>

And it’s a disgrace. It’s, frankly, a real disgrace. It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.

Like a Good Banana Republican, the Insult Comedian conflates his own legal woes with the problems of the nation. The presence of men in uniform evoked a cabinet meeting in Peron’s Argentina, Pinochet’s Chile, or better yet, Noriega’s Panama.

Trump keeps setting firsts. No previous president has ever ranted in public like this. Even Tricky Dick only did it in private. The world was privy to Trump’s unhinged internal monologue this afternoon. I usually find him annoying, this tirade was scary and like the Tom Petty/Mudcrutch song, I don’t scare easy.

As an opponent of Trump’s I’m glad he keeps lighting his own house on fire. His fatal inability to shut the fuck up will be his eventual downfall. The only question is timing. It can’t come soon enough for most of us, but it may take years. We’ve had bad presidents before but only Nixon approached this level of lunacy. The immediate future looks bleaker than it did when Tricky left office. Solid, sensible, mainstream conservative Jerry Ford succeeded him. Mike Pence is no Jerry Ford. He’s more like Spiro Agnew on steroids.

Shorter Adrastos: the fixer is fucked and the country is fucked up. Fuck that shit.

Malaka Of The Week: Ralph Norman

addtext_com_MTAzMjQ4Mjk1MQ

A friend asked me the other day why I’m doing fewer malaka of week posts. Surely, he said, malakatude is not decreasing. It is not. There’s been an explosion of malakatude in the Trump error era. Norms are being discarded willy nilly, especially on the subject of guns and that is why Congressman Ralph Norman of South Carolina is malaka of the week. Yeah, it happened last week but let’s not be pedantic about dates. Genuine malakatude is timeless.

It’s a pity that the Congressman’s parents didn’t name him Norman Norman. Not only would that get him a shout-out at Cheers, I could call him Norm Norman while pointing out the pulling out a loaded gun in a room full of constituents is not normal, Norman.

From the Charleston Post & Courier’s Palmetto Politics section:

A South Carolina Republican congressman is not backing down from critics after he pulled out his own personal — and loaded — .38-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun during a meeting with constituents Friday.

U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, told The Post and Courier he pulled out the weapon and placed it on a table for several minutes in attempt to make a point that guns are only dangerous in the hands of criminals.

“I’m not going to be a Gabby Giffords,” Norman said afterward, referring to the former Arizona Democratic congresswoman who was shot outside a Tucson-area grocery store during a constituent gathering in 2011.

That was a real low country low blow as Malaka Norman seems to imply that it was Ms. Giffords’ own fault that she was shot. A scathingly polite reaction to that came from Jeff Flake who served in the House with Giffords:

Palmetto state pols have long been known for their bravado, bluster, and bullshit. Who among us can forget Joe (You Lie) Wilson? Then there was that Southern charmer Congressman Preston Brooks who attacked Senator Charles Sumner with a cane in 1856:

That may be a low country low blow but Malaka Norman deserves whatever he gets for mocking Gabby Giffords and for this bit of Palmetto state poo-poo:

Norman said he pulled out the gun, pointed it away from the meeting attendees and put it on a table for about five minutes while they continued their conversation over breakfast.

The move, Norman said, was intended to prove “guns don’t shoot people; people shoot guns.”

Norman is a state concealed carry permit holder and said he regularly brings his gun with him when out in public.

If anyone walked into the diner and started shooting, Norman told the attendees, he would be able to protect them because of his gun.

“I don’t mind dying, but whoever shoots me better shoot well or I’m shooting back,” he told The Post and Courier.

I’m not sure if that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard but it’s on the list. Repeat after me: gun nuttery is an ideology and the NRA is a cult. What would this bozo do if an angry white man with an assault weapon came after him? It’s unclear if Norman can do anything but shoot off his mouth. He’s good at that. In my experience, braggarts are rarely heroic. Remember the last politician who waved a gun around in public?

Norman may not be a pervert like Roy Moore but he *is* a real estate developer. That figures: they’re world-class assholes who make car dealers look honest. Exhibit A is the Insult Comedian, the braggingest man on the planet. Norman is on that list as well. And that is why Ralph Norman is malaka of the week.

Saturday Odds & Sods: In The Mood

Swing Landscape by Stuart Davis.

It’s crawfish season in New Orleans. I’m talking about eating, not catching them. I leave that to the experts. We went to our longtime boiled crawfish restaurant, Frankie & Johnny’s, with some friends from Richmond this week. Several of them were uncertain they’d like the mudbugs but they did. It may be hard work peeling them but it’s worth it. Mmm, berled crawfish.

We’re attending a benefit crawfish boil tomorrow. It’s in support of Team Gleason, a group dedicated to helping ALS patients and their families. It was founded by former Saints player Steve Gleason who has ALS but keeps on fighting the good fight. He’s a remarkable man and it’s a worthy cause. Plus, there’s crawfish and beer involved.

I’m in a swing mood this week so it’s time to break out some Glenn Miller. We have two versions for your musical amusement: Glenn Miller and his orchestra in the 1941 movie Sun Valley Serenade and the Brian Setzer Orchestra’s Gettin’ In The Mood with lyrics by Mike Himmelstein. The tune is the same. Oh yeah.

Now that I’ve got you Lindy Hopping, it’s time to jump to the break but try to do it on the beat.

Continue reading

Why I’m Not Writing About 2020 Yet

Several people asked me this week about the 2020 presidential election. They want to know why I’m not writing about it yet. The main reason is that it’s too damn early. I prefer to focus on the fall election, which may well be of greater significance than 2020. I’m going to break my rule this one time in order to explain my temporary silence.

Another reason to skip 2020 chatter is that we’re uncertain if Trump will run again and who will muster the balls to challenge him in his own party. Republicans are all profile and no courage. It will take a deluge this fall for a candidate to pop their head above the parapets and challenge the Insult Comedian. I hope for a challenge because incumbents tend to lose when they face a serious primary opponent. Hell, even Poppy Bush lost in 1992 and his challenger was proto-Trumper Pat Buchanan. I’m skimming over the Perot factor because that was a fall phenomenon.

On the Democratic side, the early field is depressingly elderly. Surely we can do better than a septuagenarian: Biden, Warren, Hillary, and the gruff independent will all be too old. I’m not sure which fresh face I’d like to see atop the ticket but we’ve done well with candidates under 50 in the past: JFK, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama spring to mind this spring.

Then there’s the ultimate “why not me?” pretender: outgoing New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Trump’s fluke electoral college win will inspire others. It reminds me of the post-1976 political environment when Jimmy Carter’s out-of-nowhere victory inspired a generation of “why not me?” candidates. The chances of a big city mayor being nominated by either party are slim. The last former mayors to be Oval Ones were Calvin Coolidge and Grover Cleveland; both of whom became Governors first and one of whom was an accidental president. Remember the 2008 Giuliani or 1972 Lindsay farces? I thought not. Sorry, Mitch.

Endless speculation about 2020 is for weak minds like Chris Cillizza. Surely nobody out there wants me to be like that dolt? Besides, Democrats have been *too* fixated on the White House at the expense of down ballot races. Flipping Congress and as many leges and Governorships as possible is a worthy goal and will send a message to the Kaiser of Chaos.

I realize that I just wrote a quick and dirty essay about 2020 to explain why I’m not writing about it yet. It’s akin to falling off the wagon and explaining one’s fall. I hereby renew my pledge not to write about 2020 until the votes are counted this November. I almost said “believe me” but I’ve been admonished not to do so. I could bring back Carter’s “you can depend on that” line but given how that worked out in 1980, I’ll pass. Instead, let’s revive Al Gore’s line from 1992: “It’s time for them to go.”

The Americans Thread: Tell Tchaikovsky The News

A sense of doom and foreboding hangs over the second episode of Season-6, Tchaikovsky. Elizabeth seems to think her time on the planet is winding down. She even asks Claudia to look after Paige’s spy life after she’s gone. Remember when she hated Claudia? I do and it had nothing to do Margot Martindale turn as evil hillbilly matriarch Mags Bennett on Justified.

Division continues to be one of the main themes of Season-6. We meet an American hawk who is worried that Reagan is about to give away the nuclear store to Gorbachev. He mutters to Elizabeth about rumors that Reagan is showing signs of senility hence his arm control mania. Reagan *was* showing signs of dementia BUT underneath the bluster, Reagan had long wanted to ban nuclear weapons. He was influenced by his wife, Nancy, and by the sci-fi movies of the 1950’s. This was one time where Reagan’s movie mania put him on the side of the angels. Maybe he was afraid of turning into The Fly after seeing David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake:

Jeff Goldblum GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Now that I’ve grossed you out, it’s spoiler break time. But first, here’s the lone rock song used during the episode. The producers have a thing for Talking Heads. Besides, what’s slipperier than a spy? Only Jeff Goldblum as The Fly. My, my, my.

Continue reading

The Fog Of Scandal

Donald Trump seems to be surrounded by a magnetic field that attracts greedy and venal people. The greed field seems to repel anyone with integrity and even an ounce of human decency. The schlemiel phase of the regime ended with the departures of Reince, Gum Spice, and the cameo appearance of the Mooch. It’s in the full-tilt cartoon villain phase as names such as Pruit, Zinke, Devos, Carson, Ross, Mnuchin, and Kudlow continue to make headlines for all the wrong reasons.

In addition to the greed field, the Trump regime is encased in a permanent fog of scandal. It’s a fog as dense as the Insult Comedian’s intellect and nearly as impenetrable. The people around Trump are the sort of rich people whose only goal in life is to further enrich themselves now that they’re in public office. As I said in a different context the other day, they can’t help themselves. I’m reminded of one of the cornerstone lies of the Trump campaign:

“My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy,” declared Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign. “I’ve grabbed all the money I could get. I’m so greedy. But now I want to be greedy for the United States.”

In addition to good old-fashioned plundering and theft, Team Trump and its allies are trying to turn the clock back to the early 1880’s. That was before the civil service was introduced to the federal government by, of all people, a legendary grifter, Chester Arthur. Arthur was a hack placed on the 1880 GOP ticket by New York Senator Roscoe Conkling whose picture is still in the dictionary next to the word corrupt. Welcome to the New Gilded Age.

The dread Newt Gingrich has been trying to eradicate and/or erode the civil service for decades. He appears to be making some headway since Trump’s idea of “draining the swamp”is to eliminate non-partisan experts and bring on the greedheads and lackeys. Believe me.

There’s a swell cover story in New York Magazine wherein Jonathan Chait argues that Democrats should run against the fog of scandal enveloping the nation’s capital:

“Small episodes of corruption can play an outsize role in American politics, since the human scale of petty self-dealing is often easy to understand. And in Trump’s case, the smaller and larger scandals reinforce each other. Why is Trump giving rich people and corporations a huge tax cut? Why has he been threatening to take away your health insurance? Why is he letting Wall Street and Big Oil write their own rules? Above all, if Trump supposedly believed that “if I become president, I couldn’t care less about my company — it’s peanuts,” why are his children still running it? For the same reason he has let his Cabinet secretaries run up large travel expenses, and why his son-in-law met with oligarchs in China and the Gulf States whose money he was trying to get his hands on.”

Chait argues at the beginning of the piece that Kremlingate is:

“…substantively important, but it is also convoluted and abstract and removed from any immediate impact on voters’ lived experience.”

I agree with Chait that Krelimgate is complicated and foggy in its own way. BUT it’s the spoke on the wheel of scandal that’s driving the country over the cliff. I may need some anti-metaphor medicine, I seem to be wheeling them out left and right…

The only way people can prevent the Trump regime from driving the country into a ditch is to organize and vote in such great numbers that the voter suppression mechanisms devised by Republicans will be overwhelmed.  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker appears to be terrified of a blue wave that could wash away the fog of scandal both in Washington City and the state capitals.  The good news is that the Kaiser of Chaos is oblivious, basking in the applause of his supporters and staff of sycophants. It’s what happens when you live inside the bubbly right-wing echo chamber. Believe me.

The last word goes to Todd Rundgren and Utopia’s cover of the theme song of Trump’s shitty reality show:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Don’t Be Cruel

Two Flags by Jasper Johns.

I suspect you recognize the featured image. I’ve used it many times during government shutdowns; most notably in my epic America Held Hostage series in 2013. It’s nice to have some Jasper Johns flags about the virtual house to plug-in when the GOP next decides to shut the government down. If only they’d shut their fucking mouths…

Easter Sunday and April Fool’s Day coincide this year. I  expect more bunny related hoaxes than resurrection pranks. The pagan spring fertility thing is more palatable than what Easter means to believers. I’m not one but I like holidays to be straightforward. Now that I think of it, I’m surprised that the biblebangers have never banged on about a war on Easter. It’s bound to happen, they’re the whiniest people in the country. It’s probably why they like the Insult Comedian. It can’t be the hair.

This week’s theme song was written by Otis Blackwell in 1956. Don’t Be Cruel was originally the B-Side of Elvis’ Hound Dog 45 before becoming a hit in its own right. We have two versions of the Blackwell song for your listening pleasure. One from Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show, the other from Cheap Trick.

It’s time for Nick Lowe’s variation on the cruelty theme with Cruel To Be Kind on Live From Daryl’s House:

Now that we’ve declared our hostility to cruelty, let’s jump, jive, and wail to the break.

Continue reading

The Americans Thread: When Oleg Met Philip

I was on the fence about recapping the sixth and final season of The Americans. But the minute the episode commenced with Don’t Dream It’s Over, I was hooked, fished in, captured, and dragged off to a safe house.

There’s been a substantial time shift. The show has moved forward three years to 1987. Holy Quantum Leap, Batman. A lot happened during those three years, especially the seismic changes brought about by the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. Everyone on both sides is divided as to how to deal with Gorby including our characters.

The 1987 divide remains resonant in 2018. America is badly divided and it’s partially due to Russia. The victory of the “Russian good guys” was ephemeral. We know where Putin stood at the time and he continues to promote irredentist policies to avenge the demise of the Soviet Union. Spies are back in vogue on the Volga.

Before our spoiler break, let’s squeeze into a Crowded House:

Continue reading

First Draft Potpourri: The Legal Merry-Go-Round

I originally considered giving this post the sub-head, The Legal Docket. But given that it’s partially Trump related, I think Merry-Go-Round is more suitable. Trump’s legal woes do make me dizzy, and when I contemplate Stormy/Stephanie spanking him with a magazine with his face on the cover, I feel like puking. Somebody  pass the barf bag. Please.

Let’s start with the funniest legal story of the week thus far.

The di Genova Fiasco: So Trumpy decided to hire Fox News legal big mouth, Joseph di Genova after seeing him on teevee. He *thought* he liked the cut of his jib, not that the Insult Comedian knows what a jib is. What could possibly go wrong? Everything.

The announcement was made *before* the president* met di Genova in person. What could possibly go wrong? Everything.

It turned out that Trump didn’t like di Genova and his wife/law partner Victoria Toensing as much IRL as on cable news:

The senior administration official said the couple also looked disheveled when they came to meet with the president on Thursday, which helped convince Trump they weren’t the right fit for the team.

That trumped their obvious conflicts of interest. It’s always appearances with the Kaiser of Chaos. He hired Tillerson because he looked distinguished and Mattis because of his nickname, Mad Dog. The good news is that , unlike his boss, the general isn’t one.

So, Trump’s teeevee watching cost him his lead lawyer, John Dowd, and he’s still scrambling to find a decent replacement. We’ve come to a weird moment: no reputable lawyer wants to represent the Current Occupant. The reasons are manifold:

  • He’s known to stiff people who work for him.
  • Taking him on as a client would piss-off female partners at large law firms and hurt efforts to recruit women associates.
  • There’s an excellent chance that Trump would ask them to do something unethical and/or illegal in defending him. Who the hell wants to be disbarred because of an Insult Comedian with a dead nutria pelt atop his head?
  • Life’s too short to have a raging, gaping asshole as a client.

No wonder nobody wants to work for him, not even tribal GOPers like Ted Olson. Maybe Michael Cohen can help, uh, fix the Trump defense team. If they settle the Stormy/Stephanie case, maybe Michael Avenatti can rescue Trump’s leaky legal ship.  #sarcasm

The Stevens Bombshell: You’ve all read or heard about retired Supreme John Paul Stevens’ op-ed piece in the Failing New York Times. Justice Stevens advocates repealing the Second Amendment. I’m certain that Stevens knows how difficult it is to repeal an amendment. I think he dropped this bombshell to get our attention and make us focus on the lunacy of the NRA/GOP’s absolutist position on guns in the post District Of Columbia vs. Heller world.

Stevens also wanted to remind us of conservative/Nixon appointed former Chief Justice Warren Burger’s view of the Second Amendment:

During the years when Warren Burger was our chief justice, from 1969 to 1986, no judge, federal or state, as far as I am aware, expressed any doubt as to the limited coverage of that amendment. When organizations like the National Rifle Association disagreed with that position and began their campaign claiming that federal regulation of firearms curtailed Second Amendment rights, Chief Justice Burger publicly characterized the N.R.A. as perpetrating “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

I’m glad Stevens has lobbed a hand grenade into the gun control/safety conversation. It’s also an excellent time to revisit his scathing dissent to Scalia’s fakakta majority opinion in Heller.

Let’s move on to another legal eagle op-ed in the FNYT. This piece comes from Duke Law Professor and former Clinton administration Solicitor General, Walter Dellinger.

Indict The Fucker Now, Try Him Later: Dellinger, of course didn’t refer to the president* as a fucker but I like to be direct. Dellinger was the lead government lawyer on the Clinton-Paula Jones case when the Justices ruled that a sitting president *could* be sued. He believes that the logic of the case applies to Trump:

In Clinton v. Jones the entire court agreed that the fact that a federal court’s exercising of its constitutional power to hear a case “may significantly burden the time and attention of the chief executive is not sufficient to establish a violation of the Constitution.” Mere indictment of a president would not meet the stringent standard in Clinton v. Jones for presidential immunity from ordinary legal processes.

Read the whole thing. It’s clear that current DOJ guidelines *only* bar trying a president while in office. An indictment is a whole ‘nother thing.

Repeat after me: Indict The Fucker Now, Try Him Later.

That concludes this brief ride aboard the Legal Merry-Go-Round, which is a term I prefer to carousel since it’s infinitely more evocative.

The last word goes to the Waterboys whose song, Room To Roam, has a merry-go-round feel to it. I hope it doesn’t make you dizzy.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Caravan

The Egg by Tarsila do Amaral.

We suffered from weather whiplash in New Orleans this week. It was 84 degrees on Monday within 36 hours the temperature had dropped 40 degrees. My, my, my.

It’s election day in next door Jefferson Parish where they’re about to elect a new Sheriff. Long-time incumbent Newell Normand resigned last summer to become a talk radio big mouth. I don’t get talk radio: the idea of listening to anyone bloviate for three hours does not float my boat. It might even sink it.

The one certainty of the race is that a Republican with an Italian name will be elected. Interim Sheriff Joe Lopinto was anointed by Normand who, in turn, was anointed by the late Harry Lee. His opponent, John Fortunato, was the department spokescop for many years. He’s best known for bringing Steven Seagal and his crappy reality cop show, Lawman, to Jefferson Parish.

If Lopinto wins, it may be down to an error made on live teevee by Fortunato. He said that he’d support pervy parish President Mike Yenni about whom I’ve written in this space. Oopsie. He changed his mind but the damage was done. This ad tying the unfortunate Fortunato to Yenni has been running constantly this week:

It’s a powerful job and Lopinto has momentum as the campaign winds down. Winning the election could be a guarantee of lifelong employment: Lopinto is only the fourth Sheriff since 1964.

Welcome to Disambiguation City with this week’s theme song. (It’s not far from Sufragette City. Wham, bam, thank you m’am.) We have three different songs titled Caravan for your listening pleasure. I give you in chronological order: Duke Ellington, Van Morrison with The Band, and Todd Rundgren and Utopia.

Now that we’ve ridden across Eastern Europe with a Romany/Gypsy caravan, it’s time to jump to the break. Happy landings.

Continue reading

First Draft Potpourri: Carrey On, Wayward Sons

There’s something about Surrealist art that fits our moment in time. Surrealism came of age during the 1920’s and ’30’s in Europe. They were crazy times with rampant political instability after what one historian called The Fall of Eagles, I’d call it the overthrow of stupid hereditary monarchies who lost the Great War. Of course, what followed was worse: Nazism in Germany and Bolshevism in Russia. Things can always get worse, y’all. They can also get better. It’s why I’m a political surrealist nowadays. It’s a survival tactic.

Surrealism was not an overtly political movement: there were right-wing surrealists-Dali and di Chirico-and left-wing surrealists such as Max Ernst who came to America as a political refugee from Nazi Germany. That’s a long-winded explanation for why I’ve used an Ernst collage as the featured art for this feature in the past, and today am using a Magritte painting that I’ve nicknamed the Dumbbell Caveman, which is perfect for the Current Occupant. Believe me.

I should apologize for going down that rabbit hole but I enjoyed it too much to grovel in the gravel as it were. Or was it a Bungle In The Jungle? Now that we’ve reached daylight, let’s get on with it. We begin by kinda sorta explaining the post title.

Carrey On, Wayward Son: I’ll explain the plural “sons” in the next segment. Jim Carrey won the tweeter tube this week. The boneless comedian turns out to be a pretty good artist: human toon as cartoonist. His caricature of dread White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, raised some hackles on the right:

Carrey captured Huck’s horrible spawn’s inner ugliness quite well. Wingnuts and the flying monkeys of the right were not amused. Fuck them sideways, they’re the ones who are forever commenting on people’s appearances.

Speaking of flying monkeys:

It’s a pity that the body politic can’t melt its way out of this mess. Alas, Trumpy still has the ruby slippers on or, in his case, the overlong red tie. I guess Fred Trump was too busy practicing housing discrimination to teach Donald how to tie a necktie. Dude, it’s way too long and points at your teeny tiny weenie. Not a good look.

Before ending this segment, let’s take a trip to Kansas:

I always thought the title of this tune was Carry On My Wayward Son. My, my, my. Unlike the Insult Comedian, I learn something new every day. My, my, my.

It’s time to explain the plural “sons” in the post title, as if anyone but me gives a shit. Hint: it involves the Biden-Trump mishigas. They’re the wayward sons in question. My, my, my.

Septuagenarian Smackdown: The president* was in full-tilt WWE wrestling villain mode this morning in response to comments by former Veep Joe Biden:

The most amusing aspect of this stupid spat is that the Failing New York Times covered it in vintage Gray Lady fashion:

Mr. Biden, speaking at a University of Miami rally to combat sexual assault, said, “A guy who ended up becoming our national leader said, ‘I can grab a woman anywhere and she likes it,’ ” according to an Associated Press report. Mr. Biden was referring to an Access Hollywood audio recording in which Mr. Trump is heard boasting about kissing and groping women without their consent. Mr. Biden continued, “If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.”

The back-and-forth blustering between two men in their 70s comes a day after Mr. Trump criticized two of his predecessors, Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, for not being able to improve relations with Russia. And Mr. Trump is facing revived sexual misconduct accusations after a New York state judge ruled that a defamation lawsuit from a woman who has said Mr. Trump made unwanted sexual advances could go forward.

Remember when the right-wing media called Barack Obama’s tan summer suit unpresidential? Not only is this tirade unpresidential, it’s straight out of Dumb and Dumber  or is that Stupid and Stupider?

It’s not exactly presidential for Joey the Shark to talk about opening a can of whoop ass on Trumpy but he’s *our* grumpy old man. I guess that makes him Jack Lemmon. That means Walter Matthau is Trump. I’d like to apologize to the late actor’s family for that analogy. Perhaps I can make up for that by re-posting this image from The Sunshine Boys:

Speaking of unvicepresidential, this 1976 picture of Nelson Rockefeller still floats my boat:

I believe the MSM referred to this as an “untoward gesture.” Rocky was flipping off right-wing hecklers.  And now we have a cartoon villain for president* who panders to the folks who hated his fellow wealthy New Yorker. Oy, just oy.

Let’s circle back to my wee essay on Surrealist artists and give Paul Simon, Rene and Georgette Magritte and their dog the last word:

When Scandals Collide

I’ve considered starting a regular feature: the scandal of the week. The problem with that notion is that it’s more like the scandal of the day, hour, or second. There are so many Trump administration* scandals, that my head is spinning like Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist:

We’ll skip the projectile vomiting GIF even though Team Trump makes me wanna hurl.

One of the funnier minor scandals is brain-dead retired brain surgeon Dr. Ben Carson’s $31K table at HUD. He’s acting like a character in a sitcom and blaming his wife. You cannot make this shit up, y’all.

This tweet from a Herriman biographer and Laissez Boy Michael Tisserand sums it up:

Of course, Ralph Kramden was smarter than Ben Carson. I’ve decided Dr. Ben is a surgical savant. The man is a blithering idiot in the rest of life. He should heed my advice in this post from 2015: Brain Surgeon, Heal Thyself. I lied about the advice thing. I mocked him relentlessly in that piece. Trumper mendacity appears to be contagious.

Looks like I got sidetracked by what is best described as a brain surgeon fart. The focus of this post is *supposed* to be the two scandals that are consuming the president*: Kremlingate and the Stephanie Clifford Shitstormy. You can tell that Trumpy has retreated to the panic room of his mind when he attacks Hillary Clinton and tweets WITCH HUNT, WITCH HUNT. Insult Comedian meet Kaiser of Chaos.

Trump knows from witch hunters, his mentor the dread, as well as dead, Roy Cohn was Tailgunner Joe McCarthy’s sidekick. Cohn may have been an evil asshole but he was an excellent lawyer as opposed to the misfits, has-beens, never-wases, and wannabes Trump has assembled.  There’s been tremendous turmoil and tumult on Trump’s legal team: they’re playing T-Ball while Team Mueller is playing hardball. It’s been hilarious to watch Dowdy, the Mustache Man, and company bumble. Making matters worse, Trump has added Fox News conspiracy theorist Joseph  diGenova to the team; mostly because he saw him lying on Fox and Friends or some such shit. Shit meet storm.

In the Stormy Daniels case, Trump’s mouthy fixer, Michael Cohen, is up against a superb lawyer, Michael Avenatti. Cohen and his idiot client have stumbled into every trap laid by the cunning Avenatti. The non-disclosure agreement was supposed to keep Trump out of it by calling him David Dennison: chili magnet. Instead, Trumpy filed a massive counter-suit thereby outing himself. Dumbass.

Like Putin, Stormy/Stephanie must have some serious dirt on Trump or he wouldn’t be fighting back so hard. We all know that the overgrown, brain addled frat boys who make up much of Trump’s base envy his affairs with porn stars and Playboy playmates. My hunch is that he’s one of those rich guys who’s submissive and likes his bum bashed. That would not go down well with his debased base who mysteriously think this whiny baby man is a stud. Once again, weak lawyering makes Trump’s situation worse: Michael Cohen is a fixer, not a litigator. He’s in quite a fix right now.

The Stormy/Stephanie shit storm is a mere sideshow to the main event: Kremlingate. Trump is thrashing about, threatening people, and acting like a methy teenager. For the moment, he seems to have abandoned the “be nice to the wolf at your door” approach preferred by Cobby and Dowdy. That does not mean he plans to fire Bobby Three Sticks. Plan is a word that is not in the Insult Comedian’s vocabulary. Anyone who tells you that the Kaiser of Chaos is either going to fire or not fire Mueller is talking through their hat as a character in a Thirties Warner Brothers film would surely say at this pont. Nobody knows. Deranged people are unpredictable. He’s likely to do anything. Right now, he’s dangerous because he’s cornered. I have studied this president* very closely and cannot say for certain what will happen next. Believe me.

We had something confirmed last week with the firing of Andrew McCabe. In addition to liking blondes with big boobs, Donald Trump is a sadist and Jeff Sessions is a weakling. Firing McCabe at 10PM right before he planned to retire is an act of petty vengeance that will backfire. It’s called witness tampering and it’s something that Roy Cohn and your basic mob lawyers are adept at. Cohn would not have done it openly and never would have bragged about it on twitter. Of course, he died in 1986 but maybe they have social media in hell.

The Congressional Republican leadership continues to pretend all is well and that Trumpy is normal and worthy of defending. If the president* were not guilty, he would not be trying to derail the Mueller investigation both publicly and privately. He’s acting guilty because he is. The good news is that his efforts are clumsy and stupid. The bad news is that this criminal was elected at all.

Watching scandals collide is not pretty. It’s what Gret Stet Senator John Neely Kennedy would call “as ugly as boiled sin.” Stay tuned. The worst is yet to come.