Category Archives: Fog Of History

It’s A Plame Shame

The MSM is full of former Bushies trying to convince the public that President Beavis was a prince among men compared to the Current Occupant. While it’s true that Dubya had better table manners, it should not be forgotten that the Beavis-Duce administration was almost as fond of smear tactics as the Trump regime.

According to Team Bush-Cheney, those of us who opposed the Mess in Mesopotamia were soft on terrorism at best, traitors at worst. The difference between Bushies and Trumpers is that most of the time Dubya let others do the lying and smearing on his behalf.  Genuine upper-class twits swells let the help do the dirty work for them: Poppy had Lee Atwater; Junior had Karl Rove. The Insult Comedian enjoys wallowing in the mud alongside Gym Jordan, Devin Nunes, and John Neely Kennedy. More about the latter next week at the Bayou Brief.

That brings us to two people the Bush administration gleefully smeared: the late Ambassador Joe Wilson and his then CIA agent wife, Valerie Plame. Scooter Libby was convicted of disclosing Plame’s identity: his sentence was commuted by Bush; Trump pardoned him in 2018. Karl Rove escaped indictment by the skin of his teeth; surviving to take up residence as a Fox News pundit. Robert Novak the right-wing columnist who published the story was not indicted either, but the man known as the Prince of Darkness finally went to hell in 2009. It’s unclear if he went there in a bucket: 

I think of Valerie Plame with each Republican demand that the Ukraine scandal whistleblower be outed. Here’s what the spy who was forced out of the cold has to say about it:

“I feel personally for this whistleblower. I know what he’s going through,” says Plame. “His career is over. His world, it’s already been upended. I don’t think he’ll remain anonymous for long.”

The good news is that Valerie Plame survived the Bush smear campaign, moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico and started a new chapter in her life. After a tough year in which her father and husband died, she’s landed on her feet again. She’s the subject of a flattering profile in the WaPo and is running as a Democrat for a House seat in New Mexico. This ad is a knockout:

The Plame-Wilson affair was such a cause celebre that a movie based on their respective memoirs was made in 2010, Fair Game. Naomi Watts and Sean Penn played the couple. It’s the rare case in which the real people were more attractive than the actors portraying them. It’s a good movie, check it out if you haven’t seen it.

There was also this song by The Decemberists:

The next time a Bush acolyte tries to tell you that their guy is a much better man than President* Pennywise, remember the smear campaign against Valerie Plame. Dubya just knows what fork to use and would have had the good sense to stay off social media. Otherwise, he set the table for the Insult Comedian’s smear tactics.

I couldn’t resist a rock and roll pun in the post title, so the last word goes to Peter Frampton:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Time Won’t Let Me

Hummingbirds by Walter Inglis Anderson.

I hope everyone had a festive and gluttonous Thanksgiving. We had a double header: first in Red Stick with the surviving outlaw, then in the evening with our friends Will and Jennifer. Will is the King Cake Baron of New Orleans. I just wanted to prove that I don’t hate *all* royals, certainly not those that may involve royal icing. I’m not sure if that joke made any sense but when did that ever stop me?

This week’s theme song was written in 1966 by Tom King and Chad Kelly in 1965 for their band, The Outsiders. It was a big hit, reaching #5 on the Billboard charts.

We have three versions of Time Won’t Let Me for your listening pleasure: The Outsiders original, a 1981 version by Iggy Pop, and a 1994 version recorded by The Smithereens for use in the movie Timecop.

Time for another timely tune; hopefully time *will* let me post it:

Time’s a wasting for us to jump to the break.

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Rex Meets The Greek Pretender

Elite New Orleans loses its head over royalty, fake and otherwise. That’s why a big deal was made about a recent charity soiree at Antoine’s:

Greek royalty was welcomed to New Orleans Saturday by New Orleans Carnival royalty during an elegant dinner at Antoine’s restaurant.

Prince Pavlos and Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece were greeted with a proclamation by the reigning Rex, King of Carnival, Robert S. Boh, during the dinner, hosted by John and Dathel Georges.

The Greek monarchs were visiting to commemorate the 1953 visit of King Pavlos and Queen Frederika, Prince Pavlos’ grandparents, to New Orleans. The dinner also served as a benefit for the Prince’s Trust, which helps needy children in Greece.

A monarch is one who either reigns or rules. The Greek royals do neither. The proper term for Pavlos is pretender. The Greek royal family have not reigned since 1967 when the pretender’s father, Constantine, connived with the Colonels in a coup against the legally elected government. Constantine’s attempt at a counter-coup failed and he was sent into exile.

This Greek-American is a small r republican when it comes to my ancestral homeland. It’s in the blood: I’m distantly related to President Eleftherios Venizelos who was instrumental in abolishing the monarchy in 1924. It returned in 1935 as the hand maiden of military dictatorship. I will, however, give them credit for not collaborating when the Nazis conquered Greece. They went into exile instead. They’re good at going into exile.

The monarchy was formally abolished by referendum after the fall of  the junta in 1974. Even most Greek conservatives excoriated the royals at that time. Deposed King Constantine was in exile until 2013. The chances of a restoration are slim and none.

I originally planned to write a funny piece mocking two fake royals: Rex and the Greek pretender. When I reminded myself of the bloody anti-democratic history of the Greek monarchy that became impossible. I’m glad that money was raised for a good cause but pumping up the ego of the Greek pretender in the press is creepy.

The host of the event was vending machine and media mogul John Georges. He’s the sort of Greek-American who still calls Istanbul, Constantinople. He seems to fancy himself local royalty when he’s merely a rich guy with a media megaphone. I wonder if he’s hoping to become a fake count or phony duke some day that will never come.

I’ll take the honest fake royalty (if such a thing is possible) of Rex over the pretensions of a pretender any day. Besides, the family name is Glucksberg. Does that sound Greek to you?

The last word goes to Jackson Browne:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Behind The Wall Of Sleep

Sleeping Girl by Pablo Picasso.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the impeachment hearings ate my week. It wasn’t a snack, it was a tasting menu of scandal, malakatude, and heroism. Democrats have found their mojo: I was proud of their performance in the face of Republican shouting and conspiracy theorizing. That was down to Chairman Schiff  who refused to take any shit from committee GOPers. I’m less confident of the performance of Judiciary Chairman Nadler but the ball will soon be in his court. Stay tuned.

This week’s theme song was written by the late, great Pat DiNizio in 1986 for The Smithereens debut album, Especially For You. The band had been kicking around New Jersey for years before hitting the big time with this great rock song.

We have two versions of Behind The Wall Of Sleep for your listening pleasure: the original video and a 21st Century live version.

There’s a Black Sabbath song with the same title but metal is not my thing so I’ll pass.

Now that we’ve caught up on our sleep, let’s jump to the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Still Learning How To Fly

Der Vogelmensch by Max Ernst.

It’s been colder than hell in New Orleans this week. It’s not Wisconsin cold but it’s fucking cold. We had some electrical issues that one of my Spank krewe mates fixed. It’s good to know “people who need people” I understand they “are the luckiest people in the world.” I cannot believe I just went there. In order to salvage my cool cred, here’s some Oscar Peterson:

It’s election day in the Gret Stet of Louisiana. I’m cautiously optimistic that Blue Dog Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards will be re-elected. I hope the voters will remember that Coach O wants them to vote for the Governor. Geaux, Tigers. Geaux, Team Blue.

This week’s theme song was written in 2003 by Rodney Crowell. It’s the opening track of his Fate’s Right Hand album and features one of his finest couplets: “Life’s been good, I guess. My ragged old heart’s been blessed.”

We have two versions of Still Learning How To Fly for your listening pleasure. The original with a full band and a live acoustic rendition.

While we’re in mid flight, how about a song with a similar title by an equally great artist?

It’s time to land. See you on the other side of the break.

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Instant Analysis: Impeachment Hearing Day One

I saw most of today’s hearing. Here are my takeaways:

—Nancy Smash was right to make the intelligence committee and Chairman Adam Schiff the tip of the impeachment spear. He was unflappable even in the face of moronic provocations by the Republican minority. He ruled on their sporadically dumb motions and moved on.

—I might rather have a beer with George Kent (I’ve heard he’s very funny offstage) but Bill Taylor is an impressive and formidable man. He reminds me of the small c conservatives who used to be common until Newt, W, the Tea Party, and Trump dumbed the GOP down.

Taylor reminded me of my father’s friend Paul Haerle who was a San Francisco super lawyer and California Republican Chairman from 1975-77. He ran afoul of the right wing of his party for supporting Ford over Reagan in 1976, resigned the next year, and focused on lawyering.

A quick personal story: I worked as a paralegal on the plaintiff’s side of a massive anti-trust case for a few years. It involved accusations of price fixing by Kaiser and other cement companies. I worked on the document production at Kaiser cement HQ in Oakland with another young paralegal with whom I shared a mutual disdain.

Anyway, the jerk-alegal and I were present to shuffle papers for a deposition. Paul Haerle was there representing the cement overlords. My nemesis glared at me, but his face fell as I addressed his big boss:

PA: “Hello Mr. Haerle. I’m Peter, Lou Athas’ son. We’ve met before.”

PH gave me a big smile and said: “Great to see you again. I miss your dad. Haven’t been to our Kiwanis club for a while. Give him and your mother my regards.”

PA: “Will do, sir.”

PH: “When you talk to your mom, tell her I’d love to eat her delicious Greek cookery again.”

My nemesis’ head looked like it was about to explode. He was not invited to dinner at my parents’ house. Paul Haerle was, and a good time was had by all.

That was quite a digression even for me. I’ll try and do better; not that y’all believe that.

—Neither Taylor nor Kent fell into any Republican traps. They insisted that they were fact witnesses and that it was up to Congress to deal with impeachment. I was relieved that none of the GOPers called Kent a “bow-tie motherfucker.” I guess none of them heard Omar call Brother Mouzon that on The Wire.

—Jim Jordan was there: unjacketed and unhinged. He seems to think that talking really fast and loud will dazzle the witnesses. They were emphatically undazzled by the second-rate wrestling coach. Jim Jordan to the rescue? Not even close.

—The GOP’s defense of Trump is ridiculous. Just because the crime was not perfected doesn’t make it legal. The only reason aid to Ukraine was not withheld is that Congress intervened.

—Democratic counsel Danny Goldman rocks. He showed why Schiff opted to have a genuine trial lawyer handle much of the questioning. Much like when Law & Order‘s Adam Schiff had Jack McCoy do likewise. You didn’t think I’d pass a chance to make that joke again, did you?

—Finally, a point of order from the sensible party on the Tweeter Tube:

I did not know that. Unlike House Republicans, I learn something new every day. I’ll remember that the next time I order Chicken Keev.

The last word goes to ELP:

 

Language

Before I became an internet pundit, I occasionally wrote letters to the editor. I had a few published but was always annoyed with the end results. I gave it up when the Picayune so twisted my meaning on a long-forgotten subject that a conservative friend asked if I’d defected to his side. He was disappointed to learn that I had not jumped ship.

That was a long way of saying that I’m quoting a letter to the editor by 33 prominent writers. In this case, the meaning is clear. They want the New York Times and their MSM colleagues to use different language to describe the Trump scandals:

Please stop using the Latin phrase “quid pro quo” regarding the impeachment inquiry. Most people don’t understand what it means, and in any case it doesn’t refer only to a crime. Asking for a favor is not a criminal act; we frequently demand things from foreign countries before giving them aid, like asking them to improve their human rights record.

That is not a crime; the crime is President Trump’s demand for something that will benefit him personally. But using this neutral phrase — which means simply “this for that” — as synonymous with criminality is confusing to the public. It makes the case more complicated, more open to question and more difficult to plead.

Please use words that refer only to criminal behavior here. Use “bribery” or “extortion” to describe Mr. Trump’s demand to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, making it very clear that this is a crime. The more we hear words that carry moral imputations, the more we understand the criminal nature of the act.

As you know, I rarely, if ever, make moral arguments. In this instance, the strongest argument is for clarity. The Trump-Zelensky call reeks of extortion and attempts to bribe the latter with money already allocated to his government by Congress. It’s also called wire fraud. Those are all words that people understand. Latin is for legal eagles and Catholic clerics. It does not soar with the vox populi, I mean, general public.

Words matter. Language is important, especially in this age of obfuscation, truthiness, and newspeak. George Orwell summed it up best 73 years ago in his classic essay, Politics and the English Language. Here are a few pertinent passages. I’m snipping some specific examples to boil Orwell’s argument down to its essence.

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. <SNIP> Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.

<SNIP>

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.

News reporters should keep it simple and leave the lofty language and exaggerated metaphors to the pundits. Above all else, skip the Latin and call a bribe a bribe and extortion extortion. Enough with the quid pro quos.

The last word goes to Kiwi rock demigod Dave Dobbyn:

Armistice Day

It’s Veteran’s Day. The holiday was originally Armistice Day and commemorated the end of the Great War 101 years ago today, this hour.

In the UK, Canada, and Australia, it’s celebrated as Remembrance Day. It’s almost a talismanic holiday designed to ward off future calamitous wars. A red poppy remains the symbol of this solemn holiday in other English-speaking countries as it still was in the America of my childhood.

Armistice Day was generalized to Veterans Day in 1954 by General President Eisenhower.

As much as I honor the service and sacrifices made by our veterans, including members of my own family, I would like the holiday to revert to its original name and purpose.

Armistice Day’s original purpose was both specific and universal. It was a pacific, not martial holiday. We have plenty of the latter. War should always be the last resort. That was the lesson taught on Armistice Day for many years. It’s one we still need to learn.

The last word goes to Paul Simon and Midnight Oil:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Mystery Train

Train In The Snow by Claude Monet.

I had a head cold this week so I’m going to keep this introduction terse and, uh, heady. If nothing else, I want to prove that I’m capable of brevity. I gave the world a straight line when I called my bi-weekly Bayou Brief column, 13th Ward Rambler. As Captain Beefheart would surely say at this point, Woe-Is-Uh-Me-Bop.

This week’s theme song was written by bluesman Junior Parker in 1953. He cribbed some lyrics from the Carter Family’s Worried Man Blues, which, in turn, borrowed from an old Celtic folk song. That’s American music in a nutshell, y’all.  In 1973, Robbie Robertson added some lyrics to The Band’s version of this classic locomotive tune.

We have three versions of Mystery Train for your listening pleasure: Junior Parker, Elvis Presley, and The Band.

In case you were worried, man, here’s the Carter Family with some hillbilly lagniappe:

Now that I’ve worried you half to death, let’s jump to the break.

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Quote Of The Day: FDR Edition

I’m annoyed by all the Democrats who urge timidity upon our candidates. Some of those who came politically of age during and after the Reagan era are afraid of their own shadows but they’re wrong. The one-two “punch”  of George W. Bush and Donald Trump has shattered the Reagan coalition. We’re on the cusp of a new era and the future belongs to the bold.

The Warren candidacy has the greedheads of Wall Street and Silicon Valley reacting with a bizarre combination of terror and fury. But there’s nothing in Senator Warren’s political portfolio that would be unfamiliar to pre-Reagan era Democrats. I have one in mind, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. who said this in 1936:

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace–business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred.

I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.

Repeat after me: the future belongs to the bold. And the bold are not spooked by one poll a year before the election.

Vindman’s Good Twin & Other Oddities

We’re all familiar with the trope about evil twins. It turns out that key impeachment inquiry witness Alexander Vindman has a good twin:

Army Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, an NSC lawyer specializing in ethics, may be asked to testify in the wake of his twin brother’s, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s, bombshell hearing this week.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Yevgeny Vindman witnessed the decision to move the call memo of President Donald Trump’s conversation with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to the secure server. During that conversation, Alexander Vindman also voiced his concerns to NSC lawyer John Eisenberg about the content of the call.

What are the odds that twin brothers are both army officers working at the White House? Cue The Twilight Zone theme.

I’m surprised that the Insult Comedian and his media minions haven’t concocted some twin-based conspiracy theory to explain away Trump’s phone call follies. I guess none of them have seen David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers in which doctor twins trade places to be all evil and shit.  That would be too clever for the peabrains in the White House.

Instead, Team Trump is likely to mutter about foreignness and otherness. President* Pennywise seems to have developed a pathological hatred of Ukrainians, which is particularly obscene in regard to the Vindman brothers whose parent are Jews who fled persecution in the Soviet Union. Remember when the GOP was the party of the firiest  Cold Warriors? The airport guys, Ronald Reagan and John Foster Dulles, are rolling in the graves right now.

In other odd scandal news, I was struck by this image of former NSC Russia expert, Timothy Morrison, on his way to testify:

It looks like a scene out of the old teevee series Land Of The Giants. I googled Morrison’s height and he turns out to be a 7-footer. No wonder there are no pictures of him with his former master.

It won’t be long until Morrison is denounced by his fellow right-wingers as a teller of tall tales. Those are shots he’s likely to block: he’s certainly got the wingspan.

It’s time to tie the disparate threads of this post together with a They Might Be Giants song, My Evil Twin:

I know I said that Yevgeny Vindman was Alexander’s good twin. What’s a little artistic license among friends?

Speaking of twin tunes, the last word goes to Elvis Costello:

 

The Latest Smear Campaign

Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman is a dream witness. All of the legal commentators have been cooing over him. As the first witness to have first-hand knowledge of the Trump-Zelensky phone call, he’s one of the most important figures to emerge in the impeachment inquiry. Vindman is now one of the leading figures in what Jonathan Alter has called the “patriotic surge” of national security professionals testifying against Trump.

One side’s dream witness is the other side’s nightmare. You’ve heard about the smears so I won’t repeat them here. Suffice it to say pro-Trump pundits and media outlets have launched a xenophobic, bigoted, mendacious, and moronic assault on Vindman. They’re like monkeys throwing shit against the wall, hoping that some of it will stick. It’s what they do. They’ve been doing it for a long time.

The MSM has presented  as heroes the few GOPers who have expressed qualms about the attacks on a decorated military man. I call bullshit. Do I need to remind people about Liz Cheney’s deranged daddy? You know, the guy who sounded sane because he spoke in a monotone but was a batshit crazy chickenhawk who benefited from smears against those who served. Dick Cheney supported the Vietnam War but didn’t serve because he had “other priorities.” John Kerry opposed the war but served anyway.

In addition to calling bullshit on elected GOPers who were shocked, shocked by the Vindman smear, Charlie Pierce took on the Never Trumpers:

Where, for example, were the Never Trump concerns about slandering war heroes in 2002, when wounded veteran Max Cleland was slandered as a terrorist sympathizer by Republicans in support of Saxby Chambliss—a campaign, it should be noted, advised by current Never Trump hero Rick Wilson? (It was so bad that Republican senator Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran himself, threatened to come to Georgia and campaign for Cleland if the Chambliss campaign didn’t knock it off.) Where were they when the Swift Boats sailed in 2004? Where were they in New York at the 2004 Republican National Convention? Did they upbraid the people with the Purple Heart Band-Aids? Did they say squat about slandering that decorated war hero in the years between John Kerry’s defeat and Donald Trump’s victory? If they did, I didn’t hear it.

The sainted Rick Wilson? The guy who presumes to give advice to Democrats on how to do politics? Wilson *is* funny but anyone who was involved with the disgusting smear of Max Cleland should be shunned unless and until they issue a grovelling apology, which Wilson thus far hasn’t done.

Thanks to Charlie for pointing out Wilson’s role in the 2002 Georgia Senate race. I did not know Wilson was one of the monkeys throwing shit in that race. Remember that the next time you see him opining on MSNBC.

Wilson claims the Cleland smears weren’t about his “service but his votes.” You be the judge:

I think  calling someone unpatriotic *is* an attack on their service, especially when one  candidate was a disabled veteran and the other a Republican chickenhawk.

Lee Atwater apologized for his smear laden career. Why can’t Rick Wilson?

The Sound Of Boobirds

President* Pennywise attended part of a World Series game last night. The Washington Nationals did not invite him so baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is the most likely culprit. He went golfing with the Insult Comedian and Little Lindsey yesterday. Manfred Mann and the Red Baron should sue to get their name back.

Anyway, the fans greeted Trump with boos and catcalls:

I wouldn’t have yelled “lock him up” because it’s unoriginal but I have no problem with those who did unlike the pompous Morning Joe guy:

It’s called exercising your First Amendment free speech rights, Joe. Use it or lose it. The Insult Comedian would prefer the latter.

Here’s the Boss Lady’s take on the civility chorus:

America has a proud tradition of dissing the Chief Magistrate, especially when they’re not magisterial. We’ve held elections during wars for national survival: the Civil War and World War II; in both cases the incumbents were worried they’d lose. The Republic can survive a bit of heckling. The real question is whether it can survive an Insult Comedian with a nutria pelt atop his head.

Here’s an example of lese majeste circa 1974:

I considered making the Morning Joe guy malaka of the week but, as always, went with the better title. Besides, he’s not the only one pearl clutching this morning. I can still, however, call him Malaka Joe. That felt good.

As Americans we have the right to heckle, hector, boo, and even chant “lock him up.” The latter is called sarcasm, which is a tool the Insult Comedian uses all the damn time. It’s all projection which is a tool that the Kaiser of Chaos uses all the damn time. Civility and Trump are strangers. Why should we be polite to this mook? Rudeness is what the fucker understands. Fuck the civility chorus.

Remember when Trump mentioned Al Capone in the same breath as Paul Manafort? I had a ball with that. Capone, of course, was a Cubs fan and attended many games.  Matthew Dowd name dropped Scarface Al:

I’m pretty sure that’s Wrigley Field but the analogy is still apt. At least Capone took his kid to a ballgame, not Matt Gaetz, who’s just a juvenile delinquent.

Speaking of the Cubs:

It *was* Wrigley, not Comiskey. I like being right, as Gore Vidal once said:

This was fun. I got to mock one of my favorite targets, talk baseball, and quote one of my favorite writers. In the end, Trump might want to take this advice from WC Fields, which is not on his tombstone but should be:

That’s bad advice. It’s called irony like anti-Trumpers using a Trump rally chant. They’ll boo anyone or anything in Philadelphia. Philly Boobirds make DC Boobirds look sedate. I’d hate to give Malaka Joe the vapors again.

Repeat after me: heckling at a ballgame is as American as baseball and apple pie.

Finally, a reminder that  the great Tommy T is overheated from wearing a hazmat suit and dealing with the Freeper cesspool. He’s taking a well-deserved break. See ya  in the funny papers, pal.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Things We Said Today

Circus Sideshow by Georges Seurat.

Fall has finally fallen, fuck yeah. The AC is switched off since it has been in the low to mid 70’s all week. Autumn is a short season in New Orleans so we have to enjoy it while it lasts. I even wore a sweatshirt the other day. Not a big deal where many of you live but after the hottest September on record, I am giddy

In honor of the season, I’m growing a beard for the first time in several years. But if it gets too itchy, I’ll shave it off. Perhaps I should try some hipster beard oil or some such shit. I draw the line at a man bun; not that I have enough hair to have one but if I did, I wouldn’t.

The big local story continues to be the Hard Rock Hotel collapse. They imploded the cranes last Sunday, which made things less bad. We’ll take less bad, y’all.  I’m hoping that City Hall will learn a lesson from this mess and stop letting developers run over them in the future. Real estate developers are the worst.

This week’s theme song is credited to Lennon & McCartney but it’s more Macca than John. It’s one of my favorite early Beatles songs, yeah, yeah, yeah. Or as Paul would say, WOOOOO.

We have three versions of Things We Said Today for your listening pleasure: the Beatles original, Dwight Yoakam’s 1997 cover, and a more recent version by New Orleans singer, Debbie Davis.

It’s time to stop talking and jump to the break.

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Bush Era Flashbacks

 

Image by Michael F.

Athenae wrote an excellent piece the other day reminding us of the similarities between the last two Republican presidents. The arrogance and incompetence of the Bush presidency is being whitewashed by people who worked for him before joining the punditocracy. W had better manners and used his inside voice more often than the Insult Comedian but his administration was only marginally less mendacious than the Trump regime.

Two things happened today that gave me Bush era flashbacks. First, President* Pennywise gave his very own Mission Accomplished speech. He’s taking credit for a fragile cease fire imposed by Turkey and Russia, declaring victory, and pretending to withdraw from the Middle East. In fact, American troops are being shuffled to Iraq and Saudi Arabia. I was under the impression those were Middle Eastern countries.

Second, House Republicans are staging 2019’s version of the infamous Brooks Brothers Riot of 2000. The only difference is that Roger Stone stage managed the assault of the assholes in Miami. This time around it’s the Gret Stet’s own Steve Scalise. Roger couldn’t make it: he’s awaiting trial.

I don’t mind the Congressional stunt. It’s a noisy process argument and you know what I think of process arguments: THEY’RE LOSERS. It’s what happens when you defend the indefensible.

Another thing Bush and Trump have in common is that both lost the popular vote and were elected because of the archaic electoral college, which has always been a bad trip. It’s time for it to go.

Flashback Wednesday has been a bad trip. Bummer, man.

The last word goes to CSNY: we have all been here before.

 

 

Talking Turkey

The fog of scandal is thick and spreading. While it’s true that all roads lead to Russia, there’s at least a back road leading to Turkey. Trump loves autocrats and the Turkish model of government has long been elected autocracy. Erdogan is not the first Turkish strongman and he won’t be the last. It’s why Turkey has always been an odd member of NATO and cannot get into the EU: they have democratic forms but autocratic norms.

As a Greek American, I was raised to be skeptical of Turkish intentions. That upbringing has come in handy since the advent of the Trump regime. I’ve learned that many Americans are unaware of the back story of the Turkish Republic: the Armenian genocide and ethnic cleansing of Anatolian Greeks took place in the era of national hero Kamal Ataturk.

Ataturk was the first president of post-Ottoman Turkey and Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hero and role model. Admiration for a murderous predecessor is something Erdogan and Trump have in common: Ataturk and Andrew Jackson are peas in a bloody pod.

Donald Trump’s business ties to Turkey lurk in the background of this self-created crisis or is that self-inflicted wound? It’s both. It’s time to revisit Kurt Eichenwald’s classic 2016 Newsweek story about the impact of Trump’s business dealings on US national security:

Trump already has financial conflicts in much of the Islamic world, a problem made worse by his anti-Muslim rhetoric and his impulsive decisions during this campaign. One of his most troubling entanglements is in Turkey. In 2008, the Trump Organization struck a branding deal with the Dogan Group, named for its owners, one of the most politically influential families in Turkey. Trump and Dogan first agreed that the Turkish company would pay a fee to put the Trump name on two towers in Istanbul.

When the complex opened in 2012, Trump attended the ribbon-cutting and declared his interest in more collaborations with Turkish businesses and in making significant investments there. In a sign of the political clout of the Dogan family, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Trump and even presided over the opening ceremonies for the Trump-branded property.

Dogan’s subsequent falling out with Erdogan may well have given the latter leverage over President* Pennywise. That’s unclear but what *is* clear is that this is a glaring conflict of interest. Trump has been mighty solicitous of the Turkish president even parroting Erdogan’s talking points about the Kurds as “terrorists” and “no angels.” Neither Erdogan nor Trump are angels either.

Trump’s henchman Rudy Giuliani followed in the footsteps of Mike Flynn and lobbied the president* to eject Muslim cleric and Erdogan foe, Fethullah Gulen, which is one of the Turkish regime’s top foreign policy objectives. In case you’re wondering why, Gulen is a former Erdogan ally who provided much of the intellectual heft in the early days of the ruling Justice and Development Party. Few feuds are bitterer than those between former friends. It’s another reason the US should not expel Gulen: we shouldn’t help a foreign leader in a personal vendetta.

I wonder if Trump either knows or cares that Erdogan’s party origins are Islamist. That’s right: the anti-Muslim xenophobe is in bed with an Islamist leader. All the Insult Comedian cares about are his personal relationships with foreign leaders even if his friendship with Erdogan makes him a hypocrite. Trump is used to accusations of hypocrisy: his record is full of contradictions, after all.

I also wonder if Trump knows or cares about Turkey’s ambitions to become a nuclear power. The United States used to oppose nuclear proliferation but if you flatter the Current Occupant that can change. Just ask the Communist dictator with the bad haircut: he’s been playing this president* with his “beautiful” letters.

If the Kaiser of Chaos had any knowledge of, or interest in, history, he’d know that Erdogan is a “bad hombre.” Hell, even if he read his briefing papers or listened to his military advisers, he’d understand that Turkish intentions in Northern Syria are malign. They want to drive the Kurds out of that area, which constitutes ethnic cleansing. The Turks and their Sunni Muslim allies are not above genocide either.

The horrible thing is that this crisis all started with a phone call and a green light. Trump’s latest self-inflicted wound is getting people killed. All the denials and fake cease fires in the world won’t wash the blood off Trump’s hands.

I wrote this first thing Monday morning, but I need a shot of whiskey. Some musical Wild Turkey will have to do:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Begin The Beguine

Masks by Emil Nolde.

It’s been a long week in New Orleans. The collapsed Hard Rock Hotel sits there like a dagger pointed at our municipal throat. That’s led to concerns about damage to the beautifully restored Saenger Theatre across the street and other historic buildings.

There’s also been some serious conclusion jumping and finger pointing. It reminds me that *all* Americans love to jail people, liberals and conservatives just want to jail different people. TFC. What’s that spell? This Fucking City.  I’ve created a Fish Cheer for 21st Century New Orleans.

In addition to my acronymic exploits, I have a new catchphrase via the Insult Comedian: “They have a lot of sand over there; a lot of sand.” Believe me.

Cole Porter wrote this week’s theme song in 1935 whilst taking a Pacific cruise. It debuted in the Broadway musical, Jubilee.

We have two versions of Begin The Beguine for your listening pleasure: Artie Shaw and his orchestra, and Sheryl Crow from the 2004 Porter bio-pic, De-Lovely.

A quick note about bio-pics. Cary Grant played Cole Porter as a manly heterosexual in the 1946 movie, Night and Day. In 2004, Kevin Kline played Porter as what he was: a gay man in  a “lavender cover-up” marriage with a woman. There was no sex in the first movie, way too much in the second. Neither movie did a good job depicting Porter as a genius songwriter. That’s why we remember Cole, not who he slept with.

Let’s jump to the break whistling, You’re The Top. That’s bound to guarantee a smooth landing unless we land on the Tower of Pisa. In that case, we’ll just have to lean into it…

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Lock Them Up?

During a crisis there’s always the temptation to fight fire with fire, especially when the executive branch is trying to burn the government down. It’s tempting to say “lock them up” when an executive branch official under “orders” defies a congressional subpoena. But however appealing the idea is, it’s always wise to look before leaping into what could turn out to be a ring of fire.

I pride myself on my knowledge of Congress and its history. That’s why I’ve been telling people that Congress lacks the power to arrest contemnors and must rely on referrals to the Justice Department to enforce contempt citations. We all know how that would go with Bill Barr in charge. Those contempt citations would disappear into a black hole and become part of Barr’s contemptible cover-up.

It turns out I was wrong about the whole arrest power thing. Here’s how Cornell Law professor Josh Chafetz explains it in a New York Times op-ed:

The House should instead put back on the table the option of using its sergeant-at-arms to arrest contemnors — as the person in violation of the order is called — especially when an individual, like Rudy Giuliani, is not an executive branch official. Neither house of Congress has arrested anyone since 1935, but it was not uncommon before that point (and was blessed by the Supreme Court in 1927).

There are some major problems with the superficially appealing notion of Congress resorting to its power of inherent contempt. Let me list the defects:

First, any power that has not been exercised in 84 years is suspect. It opens the door to valid-sounding criticism of the majority. Just because Congress has this power doesn’t mean they should set the dial on the Wayback Machine to 1935 and dust it off. The mere thought makes me sneeze. Achoo.

Second, they do not have facilities to house contemnors (my new favorite word) and the US Marshal Service is unlikely to be willing to transport people to the nearest federal slammer. Their big boss is the Attorney General who is the Contemnor-in-Chief’s henchman.

That means that contemnors would have to be held in empty offices, the mail room, or subway tunnels. This would look ad-hoc and improvised as well as opening the door to valid-sounding criticism of the majority that could undermine the growing popularity of the impeachment inquiry. Why create martyrs? Especially when the other side is adept at playing the victim card. It’s one of the few things they do well.

Third, invoking inherent contempt gets us bogged down in another procedural argument that will lead to litigation. Political junkies, lawyers, and Senators may like procedural arguments but the public hates them. Procedural arguments are not only boring, they’re losers. We should stick to the substantive arguments in favor of impeachment and removal instead of discussing process. Hell, I’m a political junkie and my eyes glaze over when process is the subject of the day.

As emotionally satisfying as it would be to see Don McGahn, Rudy Giuliani, Hope Hicks, and other miscreants frogmarched to the pokey, it’s a loser in the court of public opinion and impeachment is a political process. Just because the Insult Comedian lacks impulse control does not mean his opponents should follow suit.

Adam Schiff’s big picture strategy of folding contempt of Congress into the articles of impeachment is a wise one. We already have the smoking gun: the White House memo describing the Trump-Zelensky call. Getting bogged down in procedural arguments will slow things down and make the fog of scandal even denser. There’s already too much denseness in Washington as is.

My answer to the rhetorical question posed in the title is a resounding NO. Democrats should be the smart party, let the Republicans be the stupid party. They’ve earned the title.

The last word goes to Crowded House:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Something’s Gotta Give

Piazza d’Italia by Giorgio di Chirico.

It’s election day in the Gret Stet of Louisiana. As I stated in my last Bayou Brief column, I plan to affix a clothespin and vote for Governor John Bel Edwards. Here’s hoping that we don’t have a run-off with more visits from the Trumps and Mike Liar Liar Pence On Fire. They’ve held events in small-ish venues but there have still been empty seats. A good slogan for Pence’s next event would be: Empty Seats For An Empty Suit.

We’re having our first cool front of the year. Fall hasn’t exactly fallen but we’ll take what we can get. The only seasons you can depend on in New Orleans are summer and carnival. I forgot football season: LSU and Florida are squaring off tonight in Red Stick. Here’s hoping the Tigers feast on Gator.

I have a new motto: Surreal times call for Surrealist art. This week’s featured image is by the Italian Surrealist, Giorgio di Chirico who was originally a Futurist. That gives me an excuse to quote Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto: “Oh, maternal ditch.”

If you expect me to explain that quote, you’re out of luck. I’m feeling cryptic like a proper Surrealist if there is such a thing. There were more than a few improper Surrealists if you catch my drift.

The title of this week’s theme song aptly describes our current national situation: Something’s Gotta Give. It was written by Johnny Mercer in 1955 for the Fred Astaire movie, Daddy Long Legs.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: Fred Astaire from the movie, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Lets make like Daddy Long Legs and crawl to the break.

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The NBA’s Chicom Sitcom

The Trump regime has been good for satirists, but I have Trump fatigue. I swore that I’d write about something, anything other than the Insult Comedian at least once this week. You’re probably fatigued by this expository paragraph. I certainly am but there’s a bit more to be said about the Insult Comedian before getting down to the matter at hand.

As you’re well aware, Trump is a fake tough guy. He’s been waging an “easy to win” trade war with China. The biggest losers thus far have been American farmers and consumers.

I remember when American conservatives disliked the Chinese Communist government for its repressive nature, not its trade policy. Who would have thought that aspect of the Cold War would qualify as the good old days?  Before Nixon’s trip to China in 1972, right-wingers referred to members of the ruling party as Chicoms. It was a political, not racial slur. When not conflating the two, conservatives used to hate commies more than liberals.

Now that I’ve emulated Rachel Maddow’s A block, on with today’s post:

I’ve been closely following the China-NBA mishigas. Last week, Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted in mild support of the Hong Kong protesters. The Chinese government flipped out, then demanded and received an apology. Morey nearly lost his job before the NBA placated the Chinese government. Apparently, the A in NBA stands for appeasement, not association.

This Chicom sitcom exploded because the Rockets are one of the most popular NBA teams in China. The greatest Chinese hoops player of all, Yao Ming, played for Houston from 2002-2011. Yao is currently China’s basketball honcho and NBA commissioner Adam Silver described him as “extremely hot” over this mishigas.

In recent years, the NBA has presented itself as the “woke” sports league, especially in contrast to the NFL. This claim is under pressure from the Chinese government, which cannot abide any criticism from its business partners. It’s a reminder that while China’s economic policy is capitalistic, they’re still Communists when it comes to human rights. Free markets have not translated to freedom on the home front and never will if entities such as the NBA kowtow to the Chinese government.

There was such a backlash to the NBA’s initial supine stand that Commissioner Silver felt obliged to defend freedom of speech but when push comes to shove, the almighty dollar will prevail. The Bubba Gump guy who owns the Houston Rockets will insist.

The Maddow Doctrine clearly applies to this unsporting sports fracas:

I agree with Slate’s Tom Scocca who wrote:

What are you going to do, after all, turn your back on 1.4 billion people? Or 1.399 billion, if you don’t count the 1 million Uighurs reportedly held in prison camps where their culture is trained out of them by force (in a territory where the NBA established a training camp)?

Yes. That is what to do. Especially for the NBA, whose relationship with China is chiefly monetary. NBA China is reportedly worth $4 billion. That’s a lot of money to walk away from over one tweet. And that’s exactly why the NBA should walk away now.

China has already played its hand. If Hong Kong is nonnegotiable, there’s nothing to discuss. The subject will become more sensitive, not less, if the Hong Kong police move from tear gas and rubber bullets to the routine use of live ammunition, or if the People’s Liberation Army moves in. Would the NBA muzzle its employees then? Would the players and staff of a globally prominent American company censor their own feelings to protect the Chinese market? Why not take the stand before it gets to that?

Ironies abound in this story. The Trump regime is not interested in Chinese human rights abuses and cozies up to the vicious Communist dictator in North Korean while resorting to red baiting in domestic politics. It also shows the shallowness of the NBA’s claims of “wokeness.”  To paraphrase Smokey Robinson and Bobby Rogers, first they look at the purse.

The last word goes to the J. Geils Band: