Category Archives: Fog Of History

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:

Mandate Of Heaven? Regicide?

Trump’s supporters are becoming as unhinged as their dear leader. They’re having a hard time dealing with impeachment of the man who would be king. They’re increasingly incoherent as one of them shows signs of defecting from the MAGA cult. Can one undrink the Kool-Aid? That’s an existential question best left for another day.

We begin with teevee evangelist Pat Robertson. He’s distressed over the betrayal of the Kurds. He described his distress in rather colorful terms:

“I believe … the president of the United States is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven if he permits this to happen,”

Mandate of heaven? Is Trump the emperor of China now? They need to make up their minds as to whether Trump is Pu Yi or George III. They both had swell movies made about them: The Last Emperor and The Madness of King George. Life under Trump is truly stranger than fact-based fiction. As far as I’m concerned, he’ll always be the Kaiser of Chaos:

Speaking of kings, one of Trump’s nuttier fans, lawyer Joseph DeGenova was on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show and defended his demented liege:

“What you’re seeing is regicide. This is regicide by another name, fake impeachment. The Democrats in the House want to destroy the President.”

Impeachment is real, only your king is fake, Joey, baby. Given that you’re up to your eyeballs in the Ukraine mess, you might want to STFU. Silly me: that’s as impossible for Trump apologists as it is for Trumpberius himself.

Speaking of deranged Roman emperors, veteran biblebanger Ralph Reed has a new book in which he makes the case for the religious right’s continued obeisance to the Insult Comedian.  The original title is what Archie Bunker would have called a Real Pip:

According to the book’s description, obtained by POLITICO, the original title for the book was “Render to God and Trump,” a reference to the well-known biblical verse, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” The message from Jesus in Matthew 22, has been used in contemporary politics to justify obedience to government — or in the case of Reed’s book, to Trump.

Blind obedience is just as dangerous as blind ambition. Ralph Reed has exhibited signs of both pathologies in his long career as a wingnut.

What’s next? Will they call Trump a Pharaoh? His border wall is a monument to himself much like the pyramids, after all.

The last word goes to Richard Thompson:

 

Betrayal By Tweet

Image by Michael F.

President* Pennywise has been melting down for days. His Twitter feed gets crazier by the second. He wants to impeach people who are not subject to that process: Romney, Pelosi, and Schiff. He wants to jail Adam Schiff for being so damn articulate and right about everything. If only he’d threaten to hold his breath until he turns blue. That way he’d pass out and give it a rest.

The Insult Comedian has a nasty habit of agreeing with the last person with whom he speaks. He spoke to Turkish President Erdogan, then did his bidding by giving the Turks a green light to enter Syria and “deal with” the Kurds.

I’m not one of those Greek-Americans who pathologically hates and mistrusts the Turks BUT the Turkish strongman has those feelings about the Kurds. There’s a long history of enmity between the Turks and Kurds of which  President* Pennywise is ignorant. His ignorance could get people killed as well as ISIS prisoners released. It’s that bad, y’all.

Speaking of bad, President* Pennywise failed to consult with the military brass or any of our allies other than Turkey before firing off that Tweet. It’s madness. Speaking of which, this may be the craziest thing Trump has ever tweeted:

Great and unmatched wisdom? More like great and unmatched stupidity or great and unmatched lunacy. My hunch is that he’s parroting something Erdogan said on the phone. Turkish is a florid language. Trump speaks Jerkish, the only thing florid about him is his face.

An old friend of mine had an excellent response to that unhinged Tweet:

This isn’t the first time that the United States or another great power has betrayed the Kurds. BUT  in the past, it was done out of cynical calculation of national self-interest. This was done as part of a presidential* tantrum over impeachment. It’s President* Pennywise’s idea of notching a win that he can brag about at his next rally, which happens to be in the Gret Stet of Louisiana.

Repeat after me: Donald Trump is mentally ill. It’s time to fit him with a straitjacket, invoke the 25th Amendment, and remove President* Pennywise from office. I know it won’t happen but I can dream, can’t I?

The last word goes to the Kinks:

 

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: You Win Again

The Sources of Country Music by Thomas Hart Benton.

It was the hottest September in recorded history here in New Orleans. It’s still fucking hot: we had record highs the first four days of October. I complained about it in the Bayou Brief the other day so I thought I should here as well. We’re allegedly getting some relief next week but I’ll believe it when I see it.

We went to an event at the fancy new-ish Picvocate/Gambit HQ to see local pundits and Adrastos friends Clancy Dubos and Stephanie Grace. I considered heckling but Dr. A wouldn’t hear of it. They talked local and statewide elections. I’m still having a hard time deciding who to support for State Rep since there are 4444 candidates running in our district.

They only took questions via Twitter so I was unable to do my Eddie Rispone impression on the live stream: “Hi, I’m Eddie Rispone. I’m a conservative outsider and Trump supporter.” It’s their loss, y’all.

For the non-Louisianans out there here’s one of Rispone’s ads:

Moderator and Paul Drake fan Kevin Allman moved the questions to the Tweeter Tube because he did not want to have long-winded questions. A wise choice since I was in the audience. To placate me, he asked one of my tweeted questions and Clancy dropped my name so I guess I’ll survive.

Here’s the video of the live stream:

This week’s theme song was written by Hank Williams in 1952. We have two versions of You Win Again for your listening pleasure.: Hank’s original followed by the Grateful Dead. I discovered this and many other classic country song because of them. Thanks, Jerry

Let’s pay a visit to Disambiguation City and meet up with singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter. Her You Win Again was written and recorded in 1990:

Guess what? There’s also a 1987 Bee Gees song with the same title:

Now that we’re three-time winners, let’s jump to the break again and again and again.

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Turtle Watch

Image by Michael F.

Mitch McConnell is the most cynical and ruthless politician in the country. In fact, he’s the most cynical and ruthless American politician since Tricky Dick. The latter has been on everyone’s mind as the impeachment process explodes. Me, I’m on Turtle watch.

McConnell has been taciturn the last week. He’s popped his head out of his shell on procedural matters but has yet to defend the content of the Trump-Zelensky phone call.

Trump is in full panic mode. The Turtle never panics. He’s a cold-blooded reptile. Unlike his president* he looks before he leaps. He’s staring into the abyss right now, which is why he’s been quiet.

When impeachment was brought up after the Mueller Report was released, the Turtle implied that a trial wasn’t mandatory if the matter landed in his lap. Do Turtles have laps? That’s an existential question for which we don’t have time.

The other day, McConnell said that the Senate would have to hold a trial. Coming from another politician, it would have struck me as a gratuitous comment. Unlike his president* the Turtle speaks when it’s in his self-interest. He doesn’t just talk to talk.

In addition to being cynical and ruthless, the Turtle is patient. He likes to assess the landscape before making a move. It’s what he’s doing right now. His time as an ugly reptilian Tammy Wynette appears to be at an end. He’s not going to stand by his man forever, not if it bites him in the ass.

There are cracks in the wall of GOP senate support for the Kaiser of Chaos. They like being in the majority. The Turtle is the most powerful Majority Leader since Lyndon Johnson. He likes power and will do whatever it takes to protect it. He also does not want to have his finances and those of his wife investigated. If he loses his majority or his seat, that will likely happen.

I hesitate to predict anything in such a fluid political environment, but Mitch McConnell does not want to lose his majority. If he thinks President* Pennywise could cost him his majority, he’ll knife him in a heartbeat.

As of this writing, the Senate will not vote to remove Trump BUT the situation is fluid and subject to change. That’s why I’m on Turtle watch.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Long Black Veil

The Bird, The Cage & The Forest by Max Ernst.

This is the first time since the infancy of this feature that I’ve used the same featured image two weeks in a row. It captures my mood.

We’re attending a memorial service this morning for Gligamesh Homan who died in a horrible accident last week. He was the son of some old friends and was in his freshman year at LSU. I’ll have more about Gil in our second act. Suffice it to say that there’s an open  wound in my circle of friends right now.

I’m not feeling very expansive today so I’m going to keep this week’s outing relatively brief.

This week’s theme song was written in 1959 by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin for Lefty Frizzell. It’s become a staple of the country music repertoire and has been recorded countless times.

We have three versions of Long Black Veil for your listening pleasure: Lefty Frizzell, Gillian Welch, and the Chieftains with Mick Jagger on lead vocals.

Try not to trip over your long black veil as we jump to the break.

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Whistleblowin’ In The Wind

It strikes me as a good time to quote John Fogerty quoting Yogi Berra, “it’s like deja vu all over again.” Fogerty was referring to the Iraq War. I’m referring to Kremlingate: The Sequel aka Donald & Rudy’s Excellent Ukrainian Adventure. Duuuuuuude.

I grew up during the Cold War; like Vladimir Putin, I didn’t expect the Soviet Union to disintegrate so rapidly. Unlike Putin, I don’t have any nostalgia for the USSR. Putin is a KGB man at heart who pines for the glory days of the Soviet Union and wants to reassemble its lost empire. This irredentist stance led to the invasion of the Crimea and the pollution of the American political system by Putin and his little buddy Donald Trump. Every ventriloquist needs a dummy.

We returned to the scene of the Crimea this week with the release of the damning phone call memorandum and whistleblower report. This blew up in the Trump regime’s face leading to a formal impeachment inquiry focusing on the latest and most understandable scandal.

One reason Donald & Rudy’s Excellent Ukrainian Adventure is more understandable than Kremlingate is the brevity of the whistleblower’s charges as opposed to the 448-page Mueller Report. Additionally, this was not perpetrated in the shadows by underlings such as Page and Papadopoulous. It involves the actions of POTUS* and his current fixer, the artist formerly known as America’s Mayor. You know, this bozo:

Team Trump’s defense is different as well. Instead of “no collusion, no collusion” their current line is the less adamant, “we did it, so what?” They appear to believe that it’s no big whoop because he’s the president* and the Nixon-Barr doctrine applies:

Team Trump’s game plan is “same as it ever was, same as it ever was” ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK. The Insult Comedian trotted out another old favorite yesterday: witness intimidation. He made not so veiled threats about stringing up the whistleblower and others in the White House who helped him reveal this staggering abuse of power.

This is some serious shit, y’all. The staffers who enabled this scandal by “overclassifying” Trump’s call with the hapless Ukrainian president may face criminal liability. They’ve apparently done the same thing with other calls. What other White House Horrors are they hiding?

The term White House Horrors brings us full circle to Watergate. It was coined by Nixon AG/campaign manager/convicted felon John Mitchell. Another popular term in the Watergate lexicon was smoking gun. We interrupt this paragraph with a pertinent (impertinent?) musical interlude:

The so-called smoking gun tape was not released until August 5, 1974. We already have the Ukraine scandal’s smoking gun embedded in the whistleblower’s complaint.

We end the post, as we started, with a quote. In this instance, it’s a paraphrase of Bob Dylan: the answer, my friend, is whistleblowin’ in the wind.

The last word goes to a musical odd couple (trio?) Sam Cooke and Flatt & Scruggs:

 

Impeachment: Where Are We Going, Where Have We Been?

The post title is a paraphrase of a short story title. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? was written by Joyce Carol Oates in 1966 and tells the story of a young woman who is seduced and devastated by the devil incarnate, Arnold Friend. Sound familiar? Arnold Friend is Donald Trump. Donald Trump is Arnold Friend. Believe me.

The situation is as fluid as mercury in an outmoded thermometer and may have shifted as I wrote this post. It’s what happens when you have a president* who changes his story every few hours. It’s why nothing he says should ever be believed. If he says it’s raining, you need to step outside and splash about in a puddle.

Here’s how I summed up the state of play yesterday afternoon:

As First Draft readers know, I’ve been for impeachment forever BUT I’m aware of the perils and pitfalls of the path we find ourselves on. It’s not a time for high-fiving and spiking the ball. This is some serious, solemn shit, y’all.

Nancy Smash’s announcement is the culmination of months of investigation that was thwarted by Trump regime stonewalling. The process was already under way but the dam broke this week and it’s another self-inflicted wound by an incompetent and idiotic president*. That’s why I call him the Kaiser of Chaos.

I have thought all along that if we reached this point the House leadership wanted to be dragged along kicking and screaming. Speaker Pelosi has been leery of risking the majority on impeachment as she was willing to do to pass the ACA in 2010. While I’ve disagreed, I understand her motives: this will not result in the removal of President* Pennywise. I’m alarmed that many people do not seem to understand this.

WaPo foreign policy columnist David Ignatius has a succinct explanation for why this move was imperative:

Why is this more than just another Trump vs. Democrats mud fight? Because the Ukraine issue is about compromising U.S. national security — and direct pledges to allies — for the president’s personal political gain. That’s what’s so outrageous about Trump’s alleged push to get dirt on his potential 2020 rival, former vice president Joe Biden, in a July 25 phone call with newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Not for the first time, Trump was putting himself above his country.

Trump isn’t even bothering to deny the basics. He confirmed Tuesday that he had held up delivery of a promised $391 million in military aid for the Ukrainians in mid-July, before his call to Zelensky. Trump claimed he wanted to pressure “Europe and other nations to contribute to Ukraine.” Trump had suggested Sunday that in the July call he had urged Zelensky to investigate Biden’s son’s work for a Ukrainian gas company.

The call was made the day after Robert Mueller’s public testimony before Congress dampened enthusiasm for impeachment. Trump felt bulletproof so he overplayed his hand. It’s what he’s done his entire life. That coupled with his fatal inability to STFU made impeachment inevitable.

Impeachment was at death’s door until Trump reanimated it like a bizarro world Victor Frankenstein. It’s called pulling defeat from the jaws of victory. Thanks, Donald.

The administration is making a show of turning over documents to the intelligence committees. Does anyone trust this White House to turn over an honest transcript of the call? I would hope not. Besides, according to the whistleblower, the call is not the only reason for this crisis.

I think the process will move faster than most others do. The articles of impeachment almost write themselves. It will be interesting to see if cracks develop among Republican members of Congress. At some point, the politician’s instinct for self-preservation is bound to kick in. Of course, I’ve been saying that for years. Stay tuned.

Finally, there is no legal requirement for the House to send impeachment to the Senate, which will not remove Trump from office. I’d let it sit there like a loaded gun without a Senate trial or vote. Ending the process in the House would have the virtue of denying the Insult Comedian a victory lap. That would drive Trump nuts; make that nuttier.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

The Bird, The Cage & The Forest by Max Ernst.

I went on about Max Ernst at the Bayou Brief  so I decided to post another Ernst image here at First Draft. It’s surrealism at its finest. I don’t see a literal bird but that’s one of the things that makes it surreal. It’s weird, man.

I originally planned to put the bite on y’all for our annual fundraiser but I don’t have to. We met our goal so the tin cup rattling stops here and now. Thanks to everyone who donated. Our readers not only rock, they rule.

This week’s theme song was written by Neil Young in 1969 and was the title track of his second solo album. It’s old but still fresh; sort of like me.

We have three versions of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere for your listening pleasure: Neil’s original followed by covers from Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs, and Dar Williams.

While we’re in Nowhereville, here’s a song that you may have heard. If not, climb out from under that rock:

Now that we’ve submerged, let’s splash to the break. Do submarines splash? Beats the hell outta me.  I’m claustrophobic so I’ll never be a submariner like our old pal Jude who was the Prince Namor of First Draft.

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Eighteen Years

I try not to make solemn days of remembrance about myself. But I recently had jury duty, which is why I’m bending that rule on the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. September, 2001 was the last time I had jury duty until this summer.

In 2001, you were obliged to serve the entire month, which largely consists of sitting in the over-cooled basement room called the juror’s lounge. It’s uncomfortable so little actual lounging happens there.

I recall hearing a gasp from one of our keepers, followed by a rush to turn on the teevee set. That’s when we saw for the first time the sickening sight of the airplanes taking out the Twin Towers. We were all numb and the room went silent as Dan Rather came onscreen looking shaken and somewhat disheveled.

We were dismissed for the day and eventually for the month. Nobody at Orleans Criminal District Court felt like trying any cases 18 years ago today. It was time to mourn our dead.

My friend Parenthetical wrote a guest post here in 2017. I think he summed my feelings about 9/11 quite well this morning:

Thinking today about everyone involved who didn’t see it coming and got away from it, and thankful for everyone who signed up for any kind of job where you realize what happened and run towards it.

He went on to quote Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising:

Can’t see nothin’ in front of me
Can’t see nothin’ coming up behind
Make my way through this darkness
I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me

Lost track of how far I’ve gone
How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed
On my back’s a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile of line

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Left the house this morning
Bells ringing filled the air
I was wearin’ the cross of my calling
On wheels of fire I come rollin’ down here

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

The last word goes to Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band:

 

Moltin’ Bolton

It’s a testament to the times in which we live that John Bolton was fired for being right about something. John Bolton is almost never right about anything but he was right about the Taliban peace conference at Camp David. Be still my attacking heart.

I’m hoping for a war of words between Trump and Bolton. Both men need enemies and love to fight. But Bolton is much tougher than Trump: he’ll stab his enemies in the front. The Kaiser of Chaos is strictly a backstabber and twitter fighter. The term keyboard warrior was invented for him. Trump is a pussy. He should grab himself.

I was among those who thought the Bolton appointment would lead to a shooting war. I’m glad that I was wrong but it wasn’t for lack of trying. This cartoon still sums up my opinion of Bolton:

President* Pennywise is on the prowl for his fourth national security advisor; That would tie him for second place with Eisenhower, but Ike served two asterisk free terms. The record holder is Ronald Reagan who had six: two of whom were convicted of crimes related to the Iran-Contra scandal and one of whom was pardoned by Poppy Bush. The scary thing is that Trump’s scandals make Reagan look like a piker. So it goes.

Speaking of Iran-Contra, my friend Bill is “rooting” for Oliver North to be the Insult Comedian’s fourth national security advisor. Nothing this president* does surprises me BUT Ollie is at war with Wayne LaPierre and Trump is scared shitless of the NRA. Never gonna happen, my friend.

A brief word about the post title. It’s a play on the word molting, which is when a bird sheds its feathers or an arthropod loses its exoskeleton. Trump is forever molting senior advisers, this time it just happened to rhyme.

Finally, there’s some dispute as to whether Bolton jumped or was pushed. That’s why the last word goes to Richard and Linda Thompson although a gender switch/swap is in order:

 

 

The Boy Ain’t Right: Taliban, Ho

When Trump tweeted about the peace conference with the Taliban, I assumed he was lying. Meeting at Camp David with the terrorist group that sheltered Osama Bin-Laden this close to the 18th anniversary of 9/11 made no sense. Additionally, I assumed that even the Insult Comedian knew it was idiotic to leak news of a failure. I was wrong. It’s true and Trump *is* stupid and delusional enough to tweet about a failure.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

Here’s the deal: to make peace, one has to negotiate with one’s enemies. The Oslo talks between Israel and the PLO are the best example I can think of. But the leaders at the top of the food chain were not involved until a deal was sealed by their subordinates. Being a narcissist, Trump wanted to be the closer, which is one of many reasons this deal collapsed.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

A signing ceremony this close to 9/11 would allow President* Pennywise to make that solemn anniversary about him, not those who died in the attacks.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

The collapse of the negotiations and Trump’s leak make success less likely. I think we should leave Afghanistan as soon as possible BUT Trump has made that much harder. He’s not only discredited himself, he’s discredited peacemaking for the time being. Heckuva job, Trumpy.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

I never thought I’d say anything nice about Dick Cheney’s horrible spawn but at least Liz Cheney had the guts to criticize this move from the right. You know the world is upside down when I say anything nice about any Cheney.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

I wish I could figure out how to make lemonade out of this lemon of a deal. The best I can do is to give The Police the last word with a song that works even better now than it did when it was released in 1980:

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Town Without Pity

Cover art for Paul Eluard’s Reflections by Max Ernst.

Extreme heat is the price we’ve paid for missing out on Hurricane Dorian. As cranky as I am, I’m glad this heat-bringing high is warding off any tropical activity. I won’t miss it when it’s gone but I’m glad it’s here as Dorian creeps up the east coast. That storm is a relentless motherfucker. The fucker should return to the attic from whence it came.

Drew Brees ate my Friday morning. I hope he buttons his lip and keeps his foot out of his mouth until after Monday’s game.

The featured image is a collage done by the great Max Ernst for a book by his fellow surrealist, Paul Eluard. You may have noticed that I love surrealist art. I use it a lot in this space and have even threatened to post nothing but Ernst and Magritte featured images for Odds & Sods. I’ve also used an Ernst image for my new Bayou Brief column, 13th Ward Rambler.

This week’s theme song was written by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington for the 1961 Kirk Douglas film, Town Without Pity.  I’d never seen the movie until last weekend. It’s a cross between film noir, Italian neo-realism, German expressionism, and a Cassavetes flick. I liked it a lot and give it 3 1/2 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B+. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

We have three versions of Town Without Pity for your listening pleasure: the Gene Pitney original, Stray Cats, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. My boy Brian knows a hidden treasure when he hears one.

Let’s escape the bleak mean streets of a German town without pity by remorselessly jumping to the break.

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Fog Of Historical Pictures: Labor Day Edition Revisited

I had an idea for a post last night. I even dreamt about it but I never wrote it down. I have officially forgotten it, which means it wasn’t all that great to begin with.

In lieu of the lost post, it’s time to revisit a photo essay from Labor Day 2016.  Consider it part of my continuing campaign to demystify what happened later that year. Hell, three of these candidates lost too but they fought the good fight.

September 5, 2016

Labor Day used to be the official kick-off of the general election campaign. It no longer is. Campaigns get longer every cycle and that’s not a good thing. It’s even worse this year because the conventions were so damn early. I’m taking today off from politics except for posting some election year photographs of Democratic nominees on Labor Day. I skipped the 1972 and 1976 nominees because neither McGovern nor Carter had warm relationships with labor. Besides, that would have been overkill. I picked 1984 as an cut-off since Fritz Mondale was the last nominee with close union ties.

We begin with Harry Truman in Detroit in 1948:

Truman in Labor Day Detroit 1948.

I couldn’t find a decent picture of Adlai Stevenson parading on Labor Day but here’s a shot of him with AFL-CIO chief George Meany and UAW President Walter Reuther. We’ll see both Meany and Walter later:

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The year is 1960. The candidate is Jack Kennedy. The place is Cadillac Square in Detroit:

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Lyndon Johnson marching in Detroit with Walter Reuther in 1964:

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Next up is Hubert Humphrey on a New York reviewing stand in 1968 with ILGWU boss Louis Stulberg to his left and George Meany to his right:

1968

We skip forward to 1984 to HHH’s protege, Walter Mondale with his running mate Geraldine Ferraro marching in the New York Labor Day parade:

1984

Saturday Odds & Sods: Lament For The Numb

Pandora’s Box by Rene Magritte.

It’s been a rough summer in New Orleans. I’m ready for it to end without another flash flood or tropical system. That remains to be seen but one thing is certain: the heat will persist until early October. I’m hoping  my ennui will not.

Thanks, Ashley. I needed that. FYYFF.

We’re staying Down Under with this week’s theme song. Kiwi rock deity Dave Dobbyn wrote  Lament For The Numb for the 1993 album of that name. But it applies equally to America circa 2019. We’re all numb from the antics of our idiot president*.

Here’s another Dave Dobbyn song. It has no deep social significance. I just like it:

Now that we’ve gotten numb and danced with the belle of the ball, let’s jump to the break.

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The Spirit Of ’05 Revisited

Root Beer Blues. Photograph by Dr. A.

Last year I decided to do something different on the Katrinaversary. I’m posting it again on the 14th anniversary:

I hate to go Dickensian on your asses but the period after Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood was indeed the best of times and the worst of times. My Katrina experience was nothing compared to many people but it has stayed with me in a way that few life experiences have.

Each Katrinaversary gets a bit less painful. Today almost feels like an ordinary Wednesday but I still have the survivor’s guilt I wrote about last year when parts of New Orleans flooded on my birthday:

It’s a common malady for those of us who live in what has come to be known as “the sliver by the river.” We did not flood in 2005, so I do not like arguing with those who did. It makes me uncomfortable and uncharacteristically deferential. In the year immediately after the storm, I  cringed every time I had to tell *our* Katrina story to those worse off since we were so lucky. We did have $20K worth of damage and were in exile for 7 weeks but that was nothing compared to what so many others went through. Hence my survivor’s guilt and this weekend’s survivor’s guilt flashback. I re-posted my account of Dr. A and my sneaking into the city at First Draft in 2015. Here’s the link.

As bad as that period was for all concerned, there was an esprit de corps that I miss. Everyone was in the same leaky boat so we helped one another out. Spontaneous and random acts of kindness were commonplace. I recall a day when we helped our neighbors duct tape their dead refrigerators and drag them to the curb. It was dirty, stinky work but it felt good to help.

Cajun Tomb. Photograph by Dr. A.

The Spirit of ’05 endured for several years, which looking back is remarkable. It could not last forever but those were heady days. I wish we could recapture the camaraderie but crisis brings out both the best and worst in people. And when the crisis ends, everything changes.  I met many people after the storm, made some enduring friendships and others that were more fleeting. But I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything, it has made me who I am in 2018.

The lasting impact of the storm on my life is that I started blogging. I never expected to still be at it thirteen years after the day that everything changed, but here I am. I landed at First Draft because of Scout Prime who not only wrote about her experiences helping in New Orleans after the storm, but came up with the idea for the Rising Tide conference. My friendships with Scout and Athenae are two that have endured over the years. Thanks for letting me tell jokes here, y’all.

Speaking of enduring friendships, here’s an apt tweet from my dear friend Julie:

In past years, the blog has stayed dark for the entire Katrinaversary thereby allowing this solemn image to dominate:

I decided it was time for a change. I also wanted to mention my empathy for the people of Puerto Rico where  2,975 American citizens died as a result of Hurricane Maria. It’s what happens when you have bad leadership: in our case it was the Bush-Cheney gang, with Maria it’s the Trump-Pence regime; both of whom lost the popular vote, then lost the thread when it came to hurricane relief. It’s what happens when you give power to people who hate government. Heckuva job, Trumpy.

The Spirit of ’05 is a touchstone for all that’s good about human nature. It’s still lurking in a city that has changed radically since the storm and its aftermath. Here’s how I put it in a post five days before the 10th Katrinaversary:

After the water receded, there was a second inundation of people flooding into the city. Some were do-gooders, some were hipsters seeking the next trend, still others were here to make a buck. Very few of them understood the essence of New Orleans and what makes the city and its inhabitants tick. Many of them, especially on social media, have come up with an orthodoxy of what it means to be a New Orleanian. That has come to be known as copping a NOLAier than thou attitude, a swell phrase that was coined by Karen Dalton Beninato.  Some of the NOLAier than thou set seem to have spent way too much time watching Treme. Instead of a Cabaret, life is apparently a second line, old chum.

On the 13th anniversary, we continue to struggle with what happened that August day. There’s still a special feeling among those of who went through it together. If only we could fully recapture the Spirit of ’05.

The last word goes to Peter Gabriel with a song that’s been on my mind and in my head thirteen times over: