Category Archives: Fog Of History

Quote Of The Day: Pete Hamill On Donald Trump

There’s a swell documentary currently showing on HBO, Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists. It’s about the great New York newspaper columnists, Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill. Not only were they fine journalists, they were great writers. I give the documentary 3 1/2 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B+.

On to the quote of the day. Breslin died in 2017 but Hamill is still with us. Neither of them cared for Donald Trump. Here’s what Pete had to say about Trump’s infamous 1989 Central Park Five ad calling for the return of the death penalty in New York:

“Snarling and heartless and fraudulently tough, insisting on the virtue of stupidity, it was the epitome of blind negation.

Hate was just another luxury. And Trump stood naked revealed as the spokesman for that tiny minority of Americans who live well-defended lives. Forget poverty and its causes. Forget the degradation and squalor of millions. Fry them into passivity.”

Pete Hamill wasn’t always right but he never minced words. That’s pretty good writing for a high school dropout. I like his first name too.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Fly Like An Eagle

Women and Birds at Sunrise by Joan Miro

Once again, New Orleans showed the world how to turn adversity into a party. I’m talking about the widespread local boycott of the Super Bowl. It was easy for me. I rarely watch unless I have a rooting interest in one of the teams. I wasn’t down for some of the dumber aspects of “no-call gate” such as claims that the Saints wouldn’t have gone to the big dance after a similar bad call, or that the Rams were cheaters BUT we *wuz* robbed. I blame the league and the referees, not the Rams who lost in one of the dullest Super Bowls in years. Yawn. Brady and Belichick won again. Yawn.

New Orleanians quickly moved from the Super Bowl controversy to an argument over the Krewe of Chewbacchus. It’s a geek/sci-fi parade that sprung up a few years back. I like the idea but hate the execution. I like parades to move quickly and not stall for hours as Chewbacchus invariably does. Yawn.

The head of the krewe styles himself, not as a humble Captain, but as “The Overlord.” He floated a trial balloon that they *might* exploit a loophole in city ordinances and allow commercial sponsorship. That’s a big NOLA no-no: the krewes, not corporations, throw a party for the city and its citizens. The “Overlord” quickly crawfished and claimed he was just joking but I know a deflated trial balloon when I see one. Pop goes the geek weasel.

This week’s theme song was written by Steve Miller and was the title track of his1976 hit album. The Fly Like An Eagle single was a monster hit, peaking at number two on the Billboard charts.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: the original SMB hit, a live version with guitarist Joe Satriani, and a cover by my homeys, the Neville Brothers:

Now that we’ve soared like eagles, let’s jump to the break, Hopefully, there will be a tailwind so we won’t break our tail feathers or is that bend? Beats the hell outta me.

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The Northam Minstrelsy Mess

A familiar line of defense has emerged in the Ralph Northam minstrelsy mess: YOUTHFUL FOLLY. Unfortunately for the Virginia Governor, he was a twenty-five year old medical student when the offending, and offensive, yearbook picture was published. Since this is NOT the NFL, I hereby throw a penalty flag on the youthful folly defense. I also wonder *why* the Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook published a picture of that dastardly duo in 1984. The current head of the med school wants to know as well and has launched an investigation.

You know things are bad when being the blackface dude is not as bad as the alternative. After initially admitting that one of the bozos in the picture could have been him, Doctor/Governor Northam changed his story. Like so many politicians in trouble, he violated the first rule of holes and kept digging. His denial included this astonishing admission:

“That same year I did participate in a dance contest in San Antonio in which I darkened my face as part of a Michael Jackson costume,” Northam told the crowd of reporters, later joking that it is difficult to get shoe polish off your face. “I look back now and regret that I did not understand the harmful legacy of an action like that.”

Northam said that he won the dance contest, and when a reporter asked if he could still moonwalk, he look around to see if there was space to show off the dance move.

He paused after his wife jumped in to say it was an “inappropriate circumstance.”

One could say Northam used a backhoe to keep digging his hole. The mere thought that it would be okay to  moonwalk at his Saturday presser should be grounds for resignation in and of itself.

Northam’s press conference was supposed to begin the healing process whereby he could stay in office but it had the opposite effect: all of the recent past Democratic Governors, Wilder, Warner, Kaine, and McAuliffe have called for Northam to resume the practice of medicine.

The good news is that Northam now seems open to quitting if he can longer be effective as Governor BUT he has not resigned as of this writing. To say he can’t be effective as a Governor leading a multi-racial state party after the minstrelsy mess is an understatement.

As wingnuts are fond of pointing out, the Democratic Party *does* have a checkered past when it comes to race, especially in places like the Commonwealth of Virginia. BUT those days ended when a Democratic president from the South passed major civil rights legislation and Richard Nixon became the candidate of the white backlash. Democrats are now the anti-racist party and need to have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to blackface minstrelsy and other examples of  the misguided humor of youtful folly. The election of Donald Trump and the rise of white nationalism in the GOP has made that even more imperative.

I believe Northam when he says that the 2019 edition of Doctor/Governor Northam is not a bigot and that he’s done many good things over the years. I believe he’s sorry about the picture on his yearbook page. BUT he forfeited any chance at being forgiven for his youthful folly when he crawfished on whether or not he was one of the pinheads in that yearbook picture. His hole is now a crater.

A quick resignation from office is also in Northam’s self-interest. He can retain at least a shred of dignity by cutting his losses. It’s time  for him to “jump Jim Crow” out of the governor’s mansion. Let’s hope he does it today.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Rainy Night In Georgia

Hummingbirds by Walter Inglis Anderson

The Super Bowl  will be played tomorrow in Atlanta, but ratings in New Orleans will be abysmal because of the infamous blown call. The game is being boycotted by most locals: Dr. A and I are going to two non-watching parties. I’m unsure if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be burnt in effigy at either soiree. One of them is a birthday party so perhaps there will be a Goodell pinata. Probably not: my friends Clay and Candice have a small child and the sight of Goodell is traumatic to most New Orleanians.

New Orleans and Atlanta have a longstanding and intense rivalry. And not just in football. They’ve topped us economically but we have better food as well as charm up the proverbial wazoo. Saints fans are also disappointed not to be Super Bowling in Atlanta because they’re losing out on some trash talking opportunities. So it goes.

This week’s theme song was written in 1967 by Louisiana native Tony Joe White who died last fall at the age of 75. Rainy Night In Georgia is a song that proves the adage that the best songs are sad songs: “looks like it’s raining all over the world.”

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: the songwriter’s original, Brook Benton’s 1970 hit version, and a mournful 2013 interpretation by Boz Scaggs.

Let’s put away our umbrellas and jump to the break. We’ll try not to splash land.

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Tweet Of The Day: Mo Howard Bashing

Not the late, great Moe Howard of the Three Stooges, I’m referring to the stuffed shirt on the right in the picture below:

The billionaire bozo’s bad roll-out bumbles on. He feels that a self-made man like him will restore dignity to the White House. Unfortunately, Howard seems to be as ignorant of history as the Current Occupant:

Oops.

The last word goes to another Schultz:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Back To Black

Bird Collage by Max Ernst

It was overwrought drama week in New Orleans. Saints fans are genuinely angry in the aftermath of the blown call but things have gotten silly. There’s a futile lawsuit filed by lawyer Frank D’Amico who advertises his services on the tube. He’s getting some free publicity by filing what is best described as a “feel-good frivolous” lawsuit seeking a Saints-Rams rematch. It has as much chance at success as I have of playing in the NBA.

My Congressman, Cedric Richmond, is doing a major pander by threatening a Congressional hearing over the blown call. Hey, Cedric, we’re having a constitutional crisis, and you want to spend time grilling Roger Goddam Goodell?

This week’s theme song was written in 2007 by Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson. Black To Black was the title track of Amy’s final studio album and the sub-title of the great documentary about her life. We have two versions for your listening pleasure:

While we’re at it, let’s throw two more blackened songs into the musical skillet:

Did I really use the term musical skillet? I must be slipping. Speaking of which, let’s slip away and jump to the break.

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Rudy: Confusion Will Be My Epitaph

“I am afraid it will be on my gravestone. “Rudy Giuliani: He lied for Trump.” Somehow, I don’t think that will be it. But, if it is, so what do I care? I’ll be dead. I figure I can explain it to St. Peter.”

Rudy Giuliani, 2019

“Confusion will be my epitaph
As I crawl a cracked and broken path
If we make it we can all sit back and laugh,
But I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying,
Yes I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying”

Peter Sinfield, 1969

The Human Smoke Machine known as Rudy Giuliani has been ubiquitous since the disputed Buzzfeed article was published. It’s a good thing that Rudy’s goal isn’t to clarify matters because he goes on and on and on, belching smoke like a coal-fueled factory. In the immortal words of Macbeth: “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”

Rudy’s bizarre defense of president* Trump seems to be as jinxed as a production of Macbeth aka The Scottish Play. Uh oh, I just used the M word twice, which means this post is jinxed too: “Double, double toil and trouble;  Fire burn, and caldron bubble.”

Enough with quotes from the jinxed play, back to Rudy who has made an even bigger mess of things than usual. First, he expanded the Kremlingate timeline by admitting that negotiations about the Moscow project continued during the 2016 election. The president* first claimed to have no business dealings with Russia, then changed his story several times. After walking back the claims he made to the Failing New York Times, Rudy said this to the New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner: “If he had a project in Moscow, there would be nothing wrong with it, but he didn’t.”

In his role as the First Criminal’s mouthpiece, Rudy constantly violates the first rule of holes: When you’re in one, stop digging. Rudy’s frenetic rat-a-tat-tat verbiage reminds me of an ugly version of Walter Burns as played by Cary Grant in His Girl Friday:

Like his client, Rudy has a fatal inability to STFU. They’re both “cock-eyed liars” who spread confusion every time they open their big fat bazoos. It’s proof positive that it’s easier to tell the truth: you don’t have to remember all the lies you told. The truth is alien to both Trump and Rudy. Lying is like breathing to them.

Rudy Giuliani used to be known as the “prosecutor who got Gotti” and as “America’s mayor.” He was even a serious presidential contender before his 2008 campaign collapsed into farce. Rudy is the ultimate Trump dignity wraith. Confusion will indeed be his epitaph,

The last word goes to King Crimson:

The More The Merrier

Welcome to the latest post wherein I steal the title of an old movie. The More The Merrier was a brilliant 1943 comedy about the wartime housing shortage in Washington D.C. It’s noteworthy as the last comedy directed by George Stevens before going off to war. Stevens was among the first Americans to see a Nazi death camp and stuck to more serious subjects after the war. As much as I love A Place In The Sun, Shane, and Giant, I wish Stevens had done some comedies after the war. Nobody did them better and his post Giant output defined the phrase mixed bag. That concludes the film buff portion of the post.

Let’s turn out attention to the 2020 presidential campaign. There’s some hand wringing among Democrats about the number of candidates who plan to run. I say the more the merrier. A diverse field of candidates shows the strength of our party. And a large field gives us a better chance to pick a candidate who will reflect the nation’s mood in November 2020.

It’s been forgotten what a large field of talented candidates ran for the 2008 Democratic nomination. It quickly boiled down to Obama versus Clinton, but John Edwards was a serious contender early on. We dodged that bullet but we could have found ourselves stuck with Edwards when the National Enquirer baby daddy story hit.

We know what worked in the 2018 midterms: new faces, especially women and minority candidates. That might be the right formula for 2020 as well but an experienced old hand such as Joe Biden might be appealing to voters sick of Trumpian incompetence by the time the election rolls around. Or maybe not. It’s hard to tell this far out from the election. Repeat after me: the more the merrier.

I remain undecided about 2020 but I find much to like in the candidacies of Warren, Harris,  Castro, and Gillibrand as well as the thus far undeclared cohort of Booker, Klobuchar, Brown, Beto, and others who are flirting with running. It’s a veritable cast of thousands: the more the merrier.

As to Mike Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders, I’m a fan of neither but let them run and see how they do. Bloomberg’s wanderings from Democrat to Republican to Independent and back to Democrat gives this hardcore Democrat pause. Similarly, Sanders’ status as a stubborn Independent is vexatious. I’m also unconvinced that a passion candidate like Bernie will do as well the second time around, BUT if both he and Bloomberg want to run, I say the more the merrier. Let the voters decide.

Everyone who is a native-born citizen over the age of 35 has the right to run for president even Tulsi Gabbard. I’m mystified as to why she thinks that running on a platform of compromising with Trump, Obama bashing, and Kremlingate skepticism will appeal to Democratic voters. I’ll skip detailing her anti-LGBT past, which has already crippled her candidacy.

Speaking of the Current Occupant, he’s the elephant in the room. If Trump runs for re-election, he will be the GOP nominee even if he faces a primary challenge. But I remain uncertain that he’ll be on the ballot in 2020. As a partisan Democrat, I hope the Insult Comedian runs because he looks beatable in the wake of the midterms, but as a patriot I hope he’s out of office ASAP.

Democrats need to be prepared to run against another Republican nominee, be it Pence or someone else. That’s another reason to be glad that the Democratic field will be so large. We need options. The more the merrier.

The last word goes to The Mighty Sparrow:

 

America Held Hostage Day 31

The Trump shutdown goes on and on and on. As does the president* himself: he tweeted 40 times yesterday according to Politico.

The Insult Comedian’s attempt to impose a “compromise” flopped. Bigly. It’s what happens when the “negotiations” involve only Republicans. It pissed off anti-immigration hardliners and was rejected out of hand by Nancy Smash *before* Trump spoke. She continues to play contract bridge while the president* plays go-fish.

The Turtle finally poked his head out of his shell but the proposal went nowhere Saturday and will not get 60 votes in the Senate. Democrats remain united even though reports of suffering federal employees are painful. We can’t negotiate with a gun pointed at our heads. If we give in, Trump will pull this stunt over and over again.

It’s Martin Luther King Day everywhere in the country except in Mississippi and Alabama where it’s MLK/Robert E. Lee Day. The Lost Cause dream dies hard in the cradle of the confederacy. I wonder if Jeff Beau Sessions is wearing gray today?

It’s “we wuz robbed” day in New Orleans after that egregious blown call in the NFC Championship game. There are even calls for a Saints parade on Super Bowl Sunday. I’m not crazy about the idea. I’d prefer placing the refs in the stocks and pelting them with stale King Cake, but that’s just me. Vengeance is sticky…

That concludes this edition of America Held Hostage. The last word goes to U2:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Drinking Again

Subway Portrait by Walker Evans

The weather roller coaster continues in New Orleans but nobody cares because the Saints are playing the Rams in the NFC championship game tomorrow. Our loud fans are bound to blow the roof off the Superdome and it’s going to be raucous everywhere in town. There’s some overconfidence among the fans but very little on the team itself. I still refuse to say Who Dat but I will say Geaux Saints.

In other local news, the Rolling Stones are playing Jazz Fest. I’ve seen the Stones 6 times, but I’m not shelling out $185 for their special day, which is especially expensive. I may just have to listen for free from my top-secret location nearby. Here’s my  only comment on the continuing gentrification of Jazz Fest:

This week’s theme song, Drinking Again, was written in 1962 by Johnny Mercer and Doris Tauber. We have versions by two of the greatest singers ever: Aretha Franklin and Francis Albert Sinatra. Bottoms up.

The song was reworked in 1968 by the Jeff Beck Group:

I hope you’re not too tipsy to jump to the break.

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America Held Hostage Day 26

Flags by Jasper Johns

I did a daily update on the 2013 Ted Cruz shutdown using the Jasper Johns image above and the *original* title of a teevee news show hosted by Ted Koppel. Here’s how I explained it back when Cruz was clean-shaven and idea of President* Trump was a punch line:

I keep dating myself (I kiss and tell too) on this blog but I do it for a good cause. I remember when ABC News launched a late night newscast after bored students stormed the US Embassy in Tehran and took a bunch of hostages to avoid studying for finals. The show was originally called America Held Hostage before morphing into Nightline, which is apparently still airing but I haven’t seen it in eons. A late night network news show is now kinda quaint but it was cutting edge in 1979.

The Trump shutdown is in its 26th day, which is the longest in American history. That makes it the latest in a series of dubious firsts for the Trump regime.

The modern era of extortion by government shutdown started in 1995 when Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House and Bill Clinton president. The Gingrich shutdown was the previous record holder at 21 days. Clinton stood frim and the GOP took the blame for that shutdown.

I feel the pain of federal workers who have missed a paycheck but it’s important for Democrats to hold firm on the Trump shutdown. If they cave, he will keep doing this every time his will is thwarted. It’s extortion pure and simple.

Speaker Pelosi’s SOTU gambit was smashing. She *is* the host of the event and is hoping that Trump will be unable to resist the clarion call of a speech in the most dramatic setting imaginable. The Insult Comedian loves the sound of sycophantic GOPers cheering his every lie, after all. He’s unlikely to revert to the pre-1913 custom of a written SOTU. Woodrow Wilson initiated the modern in-person SOTU but he was a noted orator, not a ranter like Trump.

It’s time to thank the president* for taking responsibility for the shutdown. I’ll never forget the smirk on Chuck Schumer’s face when Trump fell into that trap. It’s what happens when you have no impulse control and cannot STFU. That’s why Rex Tillerson called him a fucking moron. Thanks, Trumpy.

At day 26, it’s no longer just the Trump shutdown, it’s the Trump-McConnell shutdown. There are the votes in the Senate to override a presidential veto but Chinless Mitch won’t schedule a vote despite how badly Republicans are tanking in the polls. The Turtle has crawled back into his shell. I didn’t know they hibernated.

The last word on the Trump-McConnell-Limbaugh-Coulter shutdown goes to Josh Marshall:

Republicans are desperate – and not even doing much or well to hide it – to have Democrats start negotiating with them about a wall. We’ve moved on from demanding the chunk of money. Now it’s wanting to negotiate, begging frankly. For all the atmospherics and strategies, the only important point to make is that the President is holding the government hostage to force his way. That has to stop. The shutdown bacillus that Newt Gingrich injected into our political system in 1995 must be eradicated. It was dormant for almost two decades until Republicans (neo-Gingrichites) returned to power in the House in 2011. It’s wrong. It’s destructive. And it’s the same principle we apply to all terrorists. You can’t negotiate with terrorists or hostage takers, because it encourages the behavior.

Republicans In Disarray

It’s been a bad week for the president* thus far. His wildly unpopular shutdown enters its 27th day, he’s been mocked for serving cold hamberders to jocks from Clemson, and his administration* has been leaking like a sieve. The stories about his NATO-phobia and Interpretergate have been particularly damaging as well as damning. It’s been an excellent week, however, for Putin’s plan to foment chaos in what used to be called the free world. We’ll just have to keep on rockin’

Enough of the Insult Comedian, let’s talk about *other* Republicans in disarray. Two past malakas of the week have been in the news: Steve King and Chris Christie.

The Same Old Racist Iowa Cornholer: Emulating Captain Louis Renault in Casablanca, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy is shocked, shocked to learn that Steve King is a bigot. Based on his legendary “untrustable in hungria” comment, McCarthy is not the brightest bulb in the lamp. He’s also not very observant: Steve King was a racist long before he was stripped of his committee assignments.  I wrote about it in a 2017 post called King Of The Bigots and Trip Gabriel of the Failing New York Times has compiled Steve King’s Greatest Hits. What a long, strange Trip it’s been.

Perhaps Kevin hadn’t noticed before because his head is so far up Trump’s ample rump that he’s been blind to King’s racism. It’s a lame excuse: King has been saying this shit since he was a member of the Iowa lege. This quote comes from 2002, when the Trump presidency* was just a bad dream:

Mr. King, in the Iowa State Senate, files a bill requiring schools teach that the United States “is the unchallenged greatest nation in the world and that it has derived its strength from … Christianity, free enterprise capitalism and Western civilization.”

The Congressman from next door Metry and past malaka of the week, Steve Scalise, has been too busy selling books and pretending NOT to be a more politically viable David Duke to notice King’s bigotry either. Scalise prefers code words to raw naked hatred but he’s guilty of Renault-ism as well:

The King of Bigots took to the House floor yesterday to defend himself:

Dolts like King always twist history to justify their words and actions. Many abolitionists were racists and preferred emigration and separation to integration and equality. I wonder if King has ever heard of Liberia.

The only reason Republicans stripped the bark off King’s committee assignments is that House Democrats voted to rebuke the Iowa Cornholer’s latest statements. The vote was 424-1. And the no vote came from Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush who thought the House should censure the King of Bigots.

Let’s move on to our next example of Republicans in disarray. The post title feels slightly illicit since it mocks a million such stories about Democrats in Tiger Beat on the Potomac aka Politico. Perhaps I’ll win the morning.

Governor Asshole’s Revenge: There’s a consensus out there that the Trump regime operates like a mob family. I’ve even given him a wise guy name: Don Donaldo Il Comico Insulto.

The man who wanted to be Clemenza to Trump’s Godfather has written a book that verifies the old Sicilian adage “revenge is a dish best served cold.” I wonder if the dish is pizza? I happen to like cold, leftover pizza for breakfast. I’ve also been known to hold a grudge.

Back to Christie’s upcoming tome, Let Me Finish. Yesterday, the Guardian published an exclusive article about the most explosive parts of the book, which involve the Governor Asshole/Slumlord Jared blood feud:

Christie blames this key player[Kushner] in the president’s inner circle for his ignominious dismissal shortly after Trump’s election victory in November 2016. Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, writes that Kushner’s role in his sacking was confirmed to him by Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign chief, in real time.

As Bannon was carrying out the firing, at Trump Tower in New York, Christie forced him to tell him who was really behind the dismissal by threatening to go to the media and point the finger at Bannon instead.

“Steve Bannon … made clear to me that one person and one person only was responsible for the faceless execution that Steve was now attempting to carry out. Jared Kushner, still apparently seething over events that had occurred a decade ago.”

The political assassination was carried out by Kushner as a personal vendetta, Christie writes, that had its roots in his prosecution, as a then federal attorney, of Charles Kushner in 2005. The real estate tycoon was charged with witness tampering and tax evasion and served more than a year in federal prison.

Apologies for the long quote but I couldn’t quite channel my inner Mario Puzo or David Chase this morning, so I let the Guardian guys do it for me.

I’ve missed having Governor Asshole to kick around. I’m glad he’s publishing an *almost* tell-all book about the Trump regime. I say almost because he’s softer on Trumpberius than on anyone else:

At his first meeting with Trump in 2002, at a dinner in the Trump International Hotel and Tower, in New York, Trump ordered his food for him. He chose scallops, to which Christie is allergic, and lamb which he has always detested. Christie recalls wondering whether Trump took him to be “one of his chicks”.

At another dinner three years later Trump told the obese Christie he had to lose weight. Addressing him like one of the contestants in Miss Universe, the beauty contest organisation that he owned, Trump said “you gotta look better to be able to win” in politics.

Trump returned to the theme of girth during the 2016 presidential campaign, exhorting Christie to wear a longer tie as it would make him look thinner.

Christie hates lamb? Fuck him and the long red tie he rode in on. Was that a bridge too far? Nah, in the immortal words of Bobby Bacala:

No, Bobby, I don’t. It’s what I do.

There’s one more example of Republicans in disarray. Chinless Mitch may be preventing a vote on re-opening the government but he lost a vote yesterday, which had to be one of the most newsworthy Tuesdays in history. One could even call it Christie Gras.

The Oleg Deripaska Sanctions Blues: Team Trump wants to lift sanctions on the Russian oligarch to whom Paul Manafort owes millions of dollars, Oleg Deripaska. 11 Republican Senators joined Democrats to stop this move in its tracks; one of whom, to my great surprise, was Gret Stet Senator John Neely Kennedy of Neelyisms fame. As Neely himself might put it, even a blind pig finds an acorn sometime. Boy howdy.

This was a preliminary vote: they need 2 more GOP votes to stop Mnuchin’s folly but any sign  of Republican disarray is inordinately pleasing. Props to Chuck Schumer for organizing this mini uprising. He’s showing more backbone since Nancy Smash became Speaker. Keep it up, Chuck.

That concludes this episode of Republicans In Disarray Theatre. The last word goes to the Gin Blossoms who have anthropomorphized disarray.

The Fog Of Scandal: Worst Case Scenario

Photo via radioopensource.org

I wasn’t surprised by Friday’s NYT blockbuster but I was still shocked. We need to retain the capacity to be shocked, if we lose it, they win. There are more stories of White House horrors in the pipeline, if we’re numb to the outrages, they win. This is not normal.

I’ve resisted the temptation to label Kremlingate the worst scandal in American political history, but that ended Friday with the confirmation that the FBI has investigated Trump’s sinister pro-Russian conduct as president*. Imagine if Woodrow Wilson had connived with the Kaiser in 1916 or if FDR was in league with Tojo and Hirohito in 1940. That’s where we find ourselves in 2019.

I deliberately picked the years before war was declared (a quaint thing we used to do in the pre-Korea/Vietnam/Gulf Wars era) to remind everyone that Trump’s peacetime affiliation with Putin’s Russia is subversion and sedition, not treason, which, as I pointed out early last year, is the only crime defined in the constitution:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

An additional definition is offered in the constitutional dictionary:

treason n the offense of attempting to overthrow the government of one’s country or of assisting its enemies in war.

We’re not at war with Russia and when it comes to the law words matter. I understand why the T word and its variations roll off the tongue and one’s twitter timeline but repeat after me:  Kremlingate is sedition, not treason.

I’m *almost* a Russia hawk but I don’t want war. Bullies like Putin should be resisted. But we should use the tried and tested methods of containment. It worked with the infinitely more powerful Soviet Union. Putin’s efforts to subvert small-L, small-D liberal democracy by stealth are an admission of weakness, not strength. Unfortunately, we have a fake tough guy as president* who is compromised by Russian intelligence.

Until last Friday, I was in favor of slow walking impeachment. I’m well aware that it’s a politically explosive topic. The last thing I want is for Trump’s eroding base to rally around him BUT with the latest confirmation of his seditious activities there’s no choice but to impeach. Timing remains important: the House should wait for Muller to issue his final report on the Kremlingate aspects of this sprawling scandal. BUT they will have to confront this issue directly this year even if the votes to convict in the Senate aren’t there. At the very least, impeachment will turn this president* into a political eunuch.

As I’ve said many times before, Watergate was my formative political issue. In fact, I’m currently re-reading Woodstein’s The Final Days. So, I’m loathe to admit that any scandal is worse than Watergate or that any president is more corrupt than Richard Nixon but the time has come to put aside my “childish ways” and agree with Congressperson Rashida Tlaib that it’s time to “impeach the motherfucker.”

Tweet Of The Day: Louisiana 1993

The Insult Comedian is coming to the Gret Stet of Louisiana next week. He’ll be speaking at the Farm Bureau convention at the Morial Convention Center. Since New Orleans is one of the bluest cities in the country, there will be protesters. I may be among them.

That brings me to the tweet of the day. Thanks to my blogger buddy and Spank krewe mate, Noladishu, for sending this my way:

Trump’s casino bid crapped out.

I’m Still Wild About Harry

As the Trump government shutdown tantrum slogs along for a sixteenth day, it’s time to take a fond look back at a leader who said what he meant and meant what he said, Harry Reid. And Harry knows what he’s talking about unlike a certain Insult Comedian about whom Reid had this to say:

“Trump is an interesting person. He is not immoral but is amoral. Amoral is when you shoot someone in the head, it doesn’t make a difference. No conscience.” There was a hint of grudging respect in Reid’s tone, which he seemed to catch and correct. “I think he is without question the worst president we’ve ever had,” he said. “We’ve had some bad ones, and there’s not even a close second to him.” He added: “He’ll lie. He’ll cheat. You can’t reason with him.” Once more, a hint of wonder crept into his voice, as if he was describing a rogue beast on the loose in a jungle that Reid knows well.

That’s one of many money quotes from Mark Leibovich’s marvelous profile in the Failing NYT Magazine. It gives me nothing to Leibobitch about. I should apologize for that tortured pun but that part of the governments is shut, unlike the president’s* stupid gob.

Back when many Democrats were too polite to play political hardball, Harry Reid was slugging it out on our behalf. He was one of the few public officials to sound the alarm on Kremlingate when it *could* have made a difference. Chinless Mitch and his ilk were too busy dreaming about huge tax cuts and wingnut judges to do their patriotic duty and call out Russian interference with the 2016 election. I refuse to call it meddling: that sounds like something  a Sixties sitcom mother-in-law would do. Inflicting Trump on the nation is a bit worse than Bewitched’s Endora calling her hapless son-in-law Derwood or Dolphin. Now that’s meddling.

Harry Reid’s main political legacy is his leadership of the Nevada Democratic party. Nevada was once a deeply red state but under Harry’s guidance Nevada Democrats have gone from strength to strength. Nevada’s slow and steady transformation from red to purple to blue was completed in November. It’s a road map that other state parties should emulate but it requires patience in an impatient world.

There’s some sad news in the Leibovich profile:

Reid, who is 79, does not have long to live. I hate to be so abrupt about this, but Reid probably would not mind. In May, he went in for a colonoscopy, the results of which caused concern among his doctors. This led to an M.R.I. that turned up a lesion on Reid’s pancreas: cancer. Reid’s subdued and slightly cold manner, and aggressive anticharisma, have always made him an admirably blunt assessor of situations, including, now, his own: “As soon as you discover you have something on your pancreas, you’re dead.”

Bluntness thy name is Harry Reid. It’s a pity that his health obliged him to retire right before his perfect foe/foil was elected to the White House. While Chuck Schumer is inclined to treat his opponents with kid gloves, Harry always strapped on his boxing gloves as you can see in this blast from the recent past:

In 2016, he dismissed Trump as “a big fat guy” who “didn’t win many fights.”

That’s why I’m still wild about Harry. The last word goes to Eubie Blake and Peggy Lee:

That’s Why I Call Him The Kaiser Of Chaos

Twas the Friday before Christmas and all was not quiet in the house or in the country. All Americans want  to do is to focus on holiday prep and look forward to time away from work and school. We need a break from the frenetic news cycle of the last two years. It was not to be. There are a series of crises involving the federal budget, major tsuris at the Justice Department, and the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The result is chaos and not the sort of chaos involving wrapping paper, presents, and family fights. I’m talking man-made chaos, Trump style. That’s why I call him the Kaiser of Chaos.

In stark contrast to his soon-to-be former boss, Mattis went out with style and class. He offered that rarity in our political history: a protest resignation. Mattis is the first Secretary of Defense to ever do so. Protest resignations by senior American cabinet officers are rarer than snow in South Louisiana. The only one I can think of in my lifetime was Secretary of State Cyrus Vance’s resignation in protest of the Carter administration’s botched hostage rescue raid in 1980.

Trump’s impulsive decision to withdraw from Syria was the last straw for Mattis. Here’s the deal: I’m not wild about the Syria deployment BUT a process is required for troop withdrawals. Trump is not big on process, the military is.

It’s also creepy that Putin and Erdogan are as pleased as punch by Trump’s Syria move. Putin wants a free hand in his client state, and Erdogan regards the Kurds much as the leaders of the Ottoman Empire regarded the Armenians. The Kurds are our only allies in the Syrian mess. When in doubt, Trump dumps on our allies, not our adversaries.

The Justice Department blew up with the news that Acting AG and Lex Luthor lookalike, Matt Whitaker, ignored the advice of DOJ ethics types to recuse himself from supervising the Mueller probe and issued his own findings. The DOJ issued conflicting accounts of what happened but that’s the bottom line. And the guy Trump has nominated as the permanent AG, William Barr, also has extreme views on the Mueller probe, which he offered in an unsolicited memo to the DOJ. Whitaker, Barr, and Trump agree with Tricky Dick:

On Wednesday, it looked as if Trump was prepared to fold on the government shutdown front. Then the flying banshees of wingnuttia began to circle the presidential* carcass like vultures around road kill. The government is shutting down because Rushbo and the Coultergeist challenged the Insult Comedian’s manhood over the wall.  Trump is a pussy. He should grab himself.

It doesn’t matter that Republican congresscritters want to go home for the holidays instead of being blamed for a shutdown: the wall is all. The votes aren’t there and the Mexicans won’t pay for it but the wall is all. Make that wall:

Here’s one of the weirder dimensions of late 2018 Trumpism. For reasons that are not entirely clear to me the word has apparently come down from the White House that the wall, as in the wall to be built along the southern border, must now be called “wall”. In other words, no definite article, no “the”. President Trump now does this. It was part of a DHS press release a week ago. And today in a congressional hearing, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told Rep. Tom Marino: “From Congress I would ask for wall. We need wall.”

Everything is weird about Trumpism, Josh. From provoking a government shutdown for which you will be blamed to shitting all over our allies to the president* recreating the madness of King George III. Nothing makes sense. That’s why I call him the Kaiser of Chaos.

The last word goes to Pink Floyd:

That was a bit too obvious. Now that I think of it, there’s another classic rock song that applies to Trump himself. Here’s how Ian Anderson explains the title: “it means as intelligent as a lump of shit.” That’s the president* in a wingnutshell.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Don’t Look Now

Dresden Street by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

I don’t usually go in for cross-cultural generalizations about the state of the world but for every rule, there’s an exception. And 2018 has been an exceptionally bad year. Hell meet hand basket.

The US, UK, and France have gone to political hell and back in 2018. Our main problem is obvious: a corrupt and deeply stupid president*. In Britain, they’re still paying the price for the Brexit referendum catastrophe, which has resulted in bad leadership in both of the “big parties” and political paralysis. In France, Emmanuel Macron compared himself to Charles DeGaulle once too often, now there are riots in the streets just like in DeGaulle’s day. In 1968, they waved red flags. In 2018, they wear yellow vests. There’s a good chance that Macron will be France’s third consecutive one-term president. Burning it down is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I wish I had solutions for these problems but I’m a pundit, not a prophet. I don’t even have a prophet and loss statement. I can hear them groaning all the way to Bunkie, so it’s time to move on.

This week’s theme song was written in 1969 by John Fogerty for CCR’s Willy and the Poor Boys album. The title has been shortened over time from Don’t Look Now (It Ain’t You or Me) by dropping the parenthetical aside. You may have noticed that I live for parenthetical asides but I can live with the deletion of this one. In fact, it’s a delightful deletion.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the Creedence original and a 2005 cover by my main man Dave Alvin.

Don’t Look Now is also the title of a fine film by director Nicolas Roeg who died last month. And don’t look now is excellent advice when one jumps to the break: every time I peek, I get dizzier than Tommy Fucking Roe.

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Staff Infection

Photo via Vanity Fair.

I used to think the Bush-Cheney administration was the most incompetent of my lifetime. But they occasionally looked as if they knew what they were doing. That’s something that can never be said of the Trump regime. If there’s a way to fuck something up, they’ll find it. It reminds me of a venerable military acronym: FUBAR. That stands for “fucked up beyond all recognition” although there’s a G-Rated version that substitutes “fouled up.” Fuck that version: Team Trump is fucking up the country, not fouling up, the foul stench emanating from the White House notwithstanding.

The ongoing saga of John Kelly’s departure from the White House is the best example of Trump’s staff infection. Kelly’s firing has been rumored since March but he’s become the Trump regime’s Keith Richards: a human cockroach who refuses to die.

The Kelly gag was perfected on Sunday when the guy who was expected to replace him, Nick Ayers, turned the job down. Hilarity and chaos ensued. Ayers is Pence’s chief of staff and a greedy hustler who wants to return to the private sector to cash in on his White House connections.

There are manifold reasons for Ayers to leave. Trump’s legal woes have led to an exodus of staffers who don’t want to have massive legal bills. Reporters have started asking Ayers questions about how a 36-year-old political consultant has amassed a vast fortune. The shortest reason is a classic: rats flee sinking ships. And Ayers is a blonde rat with a blonde wife and a blonde family. One could even call his life story Blonde Ambition but I think Reese Witherspoon would object. Who could blame her?

The main reason the Kelly exit is so FUBAR is because the train is being driven by the Slumlord and the Princess. Make that trainwreck:

After Nick Ayers, the Georgia political operative who was the president’s top pick, declined the job — something of a plot twist in a presidency notorious for its episodic cliffhangers — Mr. Trump is without a Plan B. Several of his aides expressed frustration that months of intense campaigning to replace John F. Kelly — an effort led by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s elder daughter and son-in-law — resulted in yet another chaotic staffing scramble in a White House splintered by factions and rife with turnover.

“Why would anybody want to be Donald Trump’s chief of staff unless you want to steal the office supplies before they shut the place down?” said Chris Whipple, who wrote a book on White House chiefs of staff called “The Gatekeepers,” expressing the views of many outside the White House about Mr. Kelly’s job. “If you’re coming into that job, you’ve got to lawyer up.”

The Other Mr. Whipple knows his shit. Javanka should have squeezed the political Charmin before assuming that Ayers would do their bidding. This was a shit show even for Team Trump.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m on about, here’s one of the “don’t squeeze the Charmin ads” featuring Mr. Whipple that ran for some 20 years:

The terlet paper analogy is apt. The Trump regime seems to be circling the bowl right now. His legal situation is dire and nobody reputable wants to be his chief of staff. Leo McGarry weeps. Perhaps Trump should hire an EMT for the job, they’re used to running toward danger.

As someone who watched a certain shitty reality show so you didn’t have to, I have some suggestions for the next chief of staff among Celebrity Apprentice contestants:

  • Gary Busey would appeal to the Trump base; ain’t no man whiter or angrier than Gary Busey.
  • In the unlikely event that the president* wants to expand his base and appeal to black voters, there’s always dreadlock wearing rapper Lil Jon.
  • If Trump wants to retain the support of Gret Stet Senator John Neely Kennedy, Meat Loaf is his man.

A side benefit of the latest White House shitshow is that it’s serving up an extra dose of humiliation for the ultimate Trump dignity wraith, John Kelly. The retired general has been behind Trump’s horrific immigration and detention policies from the git go. Instead of being the adult in the room, he was the other bigot in the room.

I will never forgive Kelly for lying about Congresswoman Frederica Wilson and dismissing her as an “empty barrel.” John Kelly has reached the bottom of the barrel. I hope he drinks deeply of the dregs and sickens himself.

Team Trump’s staff infection shows why nepotism is frowned upon in our government. The Slumlord and the Princess may be grand in a way that their cruder fathers never will be, but they haven’t the foggiest idea of what they’re doing.

As Trump’s legal woes mount and his popularity plummets, he will rely more and more on Javanka’s bad advice. The FUBAR watch remains in effect for the duration. That’s why I call him the Kaiser of Chaos. Believe me.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Tangled Up In Blue

The Large Blue Horses by Franz Marc.

The weather has been wild and wacky in New Orleans. It was 80 degrees last weekend, then it plummeted to a day time high of 50 a mere two days later. It’s like being an extra in The Pit and The Pendulum. I have no idea what that means but it sounds good.

We had some car trouble this week. We convinced ourselves we might have major electrical issues. It turned out the car needed a new battery. Whew. Dr. A has named the new used car Hildy, after Rosalind Russell’s character in His Girl Friday. Neither Cary Grant nor Ralph Bellamy were consulted.

Am I allowed to brag? I promise not to go all Insult Comedian on your asses. The response to my Neelyisms: Translating Louisiana’s Junior Senator piece has been very favorable indeed. Thanks, y’all. I hope it will further one of my quirkier causes: getting people to stop calling him by his real name instead of my nickname for him. Repeat after me:  In politics, there’s only one John Kennedy, and his middle initial was F, not N. Just call him Neely.

This week’s theme song was written by Bob Dylan for his great 1975 album Blood on the Tracks. Tangled Up In Blue is one of my favorite Dylan tunes. It’s an almost foolproof song, which is why it has been covered so many times.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: Dylan’s original, a 2017 cover by Joan Osborne, and a live version by the Jerry Garcia Band.

Now that we’re all tangled up, let’s jump to the break. I hope I can find my blue ripcord.

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Pearl Harbor Day Of My Mind

I had a dream that will live in infamy. Not really but it took place on the Pearl Harbor Day of my mind. It centered around the classic movie, From Here To Eternity.

For some reason, I was hanging out in a bar with Ernest Borgnine, Frank Sinatra, and Monty Clift. Deborah Kerr and Donna Reed were nowhere in sight, alas. I think Deborah was off canoodling on the beach with Burt Lancaster.

The air raid sirens went off and Borgnine bopped Sinatra in the bean with a bottle. They were clearly in character as Fatso Judson and Angelo Maggio respectively.

I awakened with a start at that point and the dream was over. I felt vaguely disappointed that I didn’t make Borgnine laugh. He had a great laugh. So it goes.

One more thing. The post title is meant to evoke Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of my Mind. The beat (poetry) goes on.