Category Archives: Fog Of History

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.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Crossfire

Hollywood was emboldened by the war against the Fascist powers to make more socially aware movies. There were two anti-anti-Semitism movies released in 1947: Gentleman’s Agreement and Crossfire. The former was a prestige picture directed by Elia Kazan, and starring Gregory Peck and John Garfield. It could be called a “Gentile savior” film as journalist Peck goes “undercover” and poses as a Jew. It won the best picture Oscar but has not held up that well. It’s a good but not great movie.

Crossfire was a noirish genre film that told the story of an anti-Semitic soldier played by the great Robert Ryan. It’s a tight, compact thriller with a fabulous cast: Robert Mitchum, Gloria Grahame, Sam Levene, and a pipe smoking Robert Young. It’s a 4 star classic and a much more effective tool against anti-Semitism than the more genteel Gentleman’s Agreement.

Here’s the poster. It has one of the best tag lines ever:

Let’s all go to the lobby and check out this lobby card:

Crossfire was adapted from a novel by Richard Brooks who was the writer-director of such classics as Elmer Gantry and In Cold Blood.

Hollywood improved on Brooks’ title. You can see for yourself:

I was mildly chagrined to lean that I  used Crossfire for PFT 6 years ago. I missed the Brooks book so this post is better. It’s what happens when you’re prolific and occasionally prolix.

Poppy Bush

The MSM tends to the hagiographic when a former president dies. They were even relatively charitable when Tricky Dick went straight to hell without passing go. In the case of Poppy Bush, the people who covered him liked him as person, which makes it easier to gloss over his political flaws and vices. This was my initial reaction upon hearing that he’d died:

In its rush to paint Bush as a “kinder gentler” president, the MSM has focused on his thank you notes instead of his record.  As president, Poppy Bush was determined to disprove this Newsweek cover:

That was when Newsweek was owned by the Grahams and what it said mattered. Bush was a genuine war hero who should have been secure in his masculinity, but instead was overly fond of military solutions to political and diplomatic problems. His former boss, Ronald Reagan, spent Word War II in uniform in Hollywood, but he was more secure than his Veep so there was tougher rhetoric but fewer military deployments when he was what Gore Vidal called “the Old Television President.”

My head started spinning when I heard CBS’ Bob Schieffer claim that the “Wimp Factor” flap was caused by Poppy’s niceness and good manners. Wrong. It was caused by his obsequiousness as Reagan’s Veep. Bush was a moderate Republican who abandoned most of his previously held positions in a full embrace of Reaganism. It was Bush who dubbed Reagan’s tax cut plan “Voodoo Economics.” Bush arguably moved to Reagan’s right because the hardcore wingnuts never trusted him, so he was obliged to appease them. Appeasement is never appealing.

While we’re on the subject of Newsweek covers, Gary Trudeau did the mud bath cover that is this post’s featured image. He also did a hilarious strip wherein Poppy Bush “put his political manhood in a blind trust” for the duration of the Reagan-Bush administration:

Repeat after me: the Wimp Factor was about George HW Bush, subservient Veep. It was particularly noteworthy as he followed in office the first modern Vice President, Fritz Mondale. Mondale saw his mentor, Hubert Humphrey, humiliated by LBJ and insisted on becoming the first Veep to have any power and influence. Poppy Bush was a throwback Vice President as was his own Veep, J Danforth Quayle.  Ironically, W followed the Carter-Clinton model and gave Dick Cheney too much power. So it goes.

I gotta give Poppy Bush credit for being able to laugh at himself. He befriended Dana Carvey who was best known for his Bush impression on SNL. Carvey portrayed Bush as an amiable somewhat dim aristocrat. Carvey famously said his Bush combined Mister Rogers and John Wayne. It’s a good day in the neighborhood, Pilgrim.

Poppy even invited Carvey to do his impression at the White House:

There’s been a lot of babble on the MSM about Poppy’s decency. It’s been exaggerated BUT I’ve enjoyed it when it serves as a rebuke to the Insult Comedian. Trump has not been barred from the DC memorial service so, he’ll be there. I hope he’s not allowed to speak: eulogies are supposed to be about the dead guy, not the speaker. I don’t think Trump is capable of that. Besides, he might confuse Poppy with Jeb and say 41 is too low energy,

I still have mixed feelings about Poppy Bush’s presidency. He signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law and presided over the demise of the Soviet Union with skill and tact. His weaknesses on the domestic front emboldened the Pat Buchanans and Newt Gingrichs of the world, which gives Poppy some responsibility for the GOP becoming the Party of Me. I never voted for him and would give him a gentleman’s C as president. The worst thing about his Presidency is that it made the Bush-Cheney administration possible. I give them a lout’s F.

I wish hagiography weren’t the American way, but it’s as old as the Republic itself. See Weems, Parson. George HW Bush was neither all bad nor all good. I didn’t like his policies but, unlike the Current Occupant, he was not a raging gaping asshole whose hand I would have refused to shake. That’s about the nicest thing I can say about a Republican in 2018 except this: Poppy Bush was the best of a bad lot.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Deportee (Plane Crash At Los Gatos)

Roots by Frida Kahlo

I’ve been following the horrific events at the US-Mexico border. After a few weeks of relative quiet on the caravan front, the Insult Comedian has ramped up the war of words in this fake crisis. He added a new weapon to his usual arsenal of hot air and bullshit: tear gas. Trump claimed that it was “very safe tear gas” but there’s no such thing, especially since they tear gassed babies. Exposure to tear gas has detrimental effects on childhood development. It’s some nasty shit. I was exposed to tear gas in the Paris Metro many years ago. I don’t recall what the protest was about, but I recall feeling woozy, raspy, and weepy for hours after being tear gassed. I guess it wasn’t the “very safe” kind that Trump is so proud of. #sarcasm

Trump’s ridiculous claim that tear gas is “very safe” reminds me of an encounter with one of my Greek Greek relatives. I called him Theo (Uncle) Panos but he was married to my father’s  cousin. He was a proud and boisterous man who had a small business making and selling taverna-type chairs in the Monastiriki district in old Athens. He believed that everything Greek was the best. It was one reason he and Lou got on so well. I’ll never forget dining al fresco one evening with Panos and his family. There were flies swarming and  I kept shooing them away. Panos laughed and said, “Don’t worry. In Greece, the flies are clean and very safe.”

This week’s theme song was written in 1948 by Woody Guthrie and Martin Hoffman in protest of the racist treatment of Mexican nationals who perished in a plane crash in Los Gatos, California. 32 people died: 4 Americans and 28 Mexican migrant workers who were being deported to Mexico. The media of the day listed the names of the dead Yanquis but referred to the Mexicans solely as deportees.

Sometimes the “crash” in the title is replaced with “wreck” but the song remains the same. Deportee (Plane Crash at Los Gatos) is one of the great protest songs and has been recorded many times over the last 70 years.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: Woody Guthrie, Dave Alvin & Jimmie Gilmore, and Nancy Griffith.

Now that we’ve been deported, it’s time to jump to the break. We’ll try not to crash-land but I make no guarantees. Now where the hell did I put my parachute?

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The Fog Of Scandal: Individual 1

Image by Michael F

Thursdays are rarely important. But Thursday November 29, 2018 is the day that Donald Trump’s legal house of cards began to collapse. It was no surprise to this blogger: it was jerry-rigged and built on a rickety foundation of lies and greed.

I’ve used my friend and colleague Michael F’s images before but never the next day. The image above and the post title House Of Cads, seem almost premonitive in the wake of Michael Cohen’s latest guilty plea.. Yo, Michael, if you have any lottery number suggestions, I’m all ears.

Individual 1 is, of course, Donald J Trump, accidental president* and sleazy real estate developer. His story about the unconsummated deal for a Trump Tower Moscow was exposed as a lie yesterday. We don’t just have the former Fixer’s word for it: there are digital recordings and documents. Cohen’s bill of information is, well, informative.

Cohen pled guilty to lying to Congress. He lied out of loyalty to Individual 1 who went into full Insult Comedian mode upon learning of the plea. He called his former Fixer “not very smart” and a “very weak person.” There’s that word again.

This morning Trumpberius tweeted about his Russia un-deal:

He forgot to invoke McCarthyism, which is always hilarious given that his mentor Roy Cohn was Tailgunner Joe’s right-hand man.

I’ve had some semi-heated discussions with people about charging Trumpers with lying to Congress. People tend to be dismissive about perjury. It’s a sign of the times: lying is in fashion. Lying under oath is never “very legal & very cool.” A reminder that lying to the Senate Watergate Committee was one of the charges that brought down Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Mitchell. Are you listening, Junior?

The Mueller investigation is unfolding like a long running teevee drama; more like The Sopranos than The Godfather. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg but with each new court filing Team Trump melts a bit more. As Josh Marshall put it: “They all lied. They’re all guilty.”

Life Imitates The Godfather: Paulie, Won’t See Him No More

Clemenza and Paulie Gatto in The Godfather

There’s something about the Manafort-Trump relationship that makes me think of gangster movies. Imagine that. During Manafort’s trial, the Insult Comedian rhapsodized about Al Capone as a stand-up guy, so naturally I wrote a post called Life Imitates The Untouchables: Scarface Paul Manafort?

I’ve tried to avoid Godfather references in order to stand out from the mobster movie analogy crowd. And I realize the Clemenza-Paulie Gatto analogy is imperfect because Paulie G was whacked for betraying his Don whereas Paulie M first betrayed, then stood by Don Donaldo Il Comico Insulto. I should apologize for that long sentence but it would break my momentum. I don’t mess around with either Jim or Big Mo. The Seventies references are really flying today.

Now that I’ve Godfathered the hell out of you, let’s turn our attention to the Manafort at hand. After weeks of quiet, the Manafort case has exploded. Team Mueller pulled out of its plea deal with Manafort because of his incessant lying. Imagine that. Then, it got messier when the Failing New York Times broke the story that Manafort’s lawyer has been briefing Trump’s lawyers about their discussions with Team Mueller. There *was* a co-operation agreement between Teams Manafort and Trump but such deals usually end with a plea bargain. This is sleazier than hell but may not be illegal. It may, however, be actionable by the relevant bar association. Stay tuned.

Making matters even stranger is that mob buster turned wartime consigliere Rudy Giuliani was the source for the bombshell NYT story. We’ve gone from Gatto to Gotti in a heartbeat, a lovebeat. It’s unclear if Rudy did this out of an inability to NOT brag about the contacts or because he’s a stupid twat who thinks this helps his client’s case. It does not. It makes Trump look guilty. But Team Trump agrees with Tricky Dick:

This gambit is classic Manafort. He’s an expert at playing both ends against the middle. It’s why he’s in the jam he’s in today. But at least Trumpy loves him again.

I agree with those who think Manafort is playing for a pardon. He’s also playing the long game. Even for Trump, it’s politically impossible to pardon Manafort before the 2020 election. In his more lucid moments, the artist formerly known as Mayor Combover has admitted that a Manafort pardon would be disastrous politically. Of course, his idiot client is quite capable of impulsively issuing one just to blow shit up. That’s why I call him the Kaiser of Chaos.

There are many Manafortian theories out there. Former US Attorney, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, and MSNBC legal eagle, Harry Litman, has written a must read op-ed analyzing them. Unlike Litman, I believe that Manafort has a legitimate fear of being whacked by Russian spooks or wise guys in jail. It’s why he’s in solitary. It’s a plot line straight out of  The Americans.

The other Manafort news involves a story in the Guardian describing three meetings between him and albino devil Julian Assange. Many have discounted the story because of its sourcing. It *is* possible that the Guardian got played but the suspicion of the story strikes me as rank provincialism. The Guardian is one of the world’s great newspapers so its stories should be accorded the same respect as those in the NYT or WaPo. Besides, its sourcing is quite similar to many Woodstein Watergate stories. I also think the Steele Dossier implicitly supports the story. Stay tuned.

I’m used to making Watergate or Iran-Contra references about the DC scandal of the day. I am, however, unused to comparing our politics to gangster movies. What can I tell ya? I call them as I see them.

The last word goes to Corleone Caporegime Peter Clemenza:

Sorry for the last word fib, but I would be remiss in my duties as a mob movie maven if I didn’t post Clemenza’s lines after Paulie G met his maker:

Trump Fatigue

Image by Michael F

His detractors have long had it but Trump fatigue is afflicting many who voted for him. They’re beginning to spill the Trumper Kool-Aid instead of drinking it. The election was a disaster for the GOP: they lost the national popular vote by 8 points. As a point of reference, Ronald Reagan’s margin over Jimmy Carter in 1980 was 9 points.  Reagan was a master of expanding his base, all Trump does is shrink his.

In addition to being a corrupt obnoxious idiot, Trump’s primary political problem at this point is overexposure. Most of us would prefer not to think about politics on Thanksgiving. Trump was busy bragging, hate tweeting, and informing the country that we should be grateful for HIM.

The vast majority of people cannot sustain the level of intensity generated by this president*. People need a break from politics. Past presidents understood this, went on vacation, and made few public appearances during the holidays. Trump must always be the center of attention. He’s incapable of dialing it back during the holidays. That’s a big mistake. Thanks, Donald.

I had a brief encounter with an elderly Republican this week: “You were right about this guy. He never shuts up. He’s going to die of overexposure.”

That’s my new favorite image. Here’s another twist on it: the Donner party died of exposure, the Trump regime will die of overexposure.

As I wrote this, a classic Neil Young song lodged itself in my head. Neil gets the last word:

Sorry about your house burning down, man. I guess you should have raked more. #sarcasm.

Bayou Brief Briefs

My latest opinion piece for the Bayou Brief is online: The “Why Not Me” Syndrome. Here’s the blurb my editor/publisher, Lamar White Jr., wrote for it:

Peter Athas argues that in the age of Trump, former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has a compelling reason to look at the presidency and think, “Why not me?”

Lamar did some snazzy editing too. I particularly liked the Cheat Sheet to my Louisiana Lexicography. Gracias, amigo.

Speaking of Lamar, he’s made news as the guy who posted a video of Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith making a “joke” about hanging. It was neither funny nor a joke. It showed the Senator’s Miz Hyde side. Thanks to the Insult Comedian, open racism is back in fashion.

Follow this link to Lamar’s post at The Bayou Brief: Cindy Hyde-Smith Was Not Telling A Joke.

The Crazy Is Contagious

I’m not sure if the inmates are running the asylum, but they seem to be running the White House. The president* has been in a week-long funk since he proclaimed victory in the midterms, a lie that not even he believes. He’s been lashing out, picking unnecessary fights, and behaving like a man who should be wearing a straitjacket, not an overlong red tie. Hence the featured image of Houdini in a straitjacket. There’s occasionally method to my madness.

Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman has filed a bone-chilling report about West Wing craziness:

As Donald Trump’s West Wing careens through one of the most turbulent weeks of his presidency, White House officials are struggling to understand the source of the fury fueling the president’s eruptions. “This is a level of insanity I’ve never seen before,” one former West Wing staffer told me. Current and former officials are debating different theories for Trump’s outbursts, ranging from his fears over his son Don Jr.’s legal exposure to the prospect that House Democrats will unleash investigations in January. “He’s under a tremendous amount of mental stress,” one prominent Republican close to him told me.

<SNIP>

Trump remained in a dark mood during his weekend trip to France to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. As The Washington Post reported, he got into an argument with British Prime Minister Theresa May during a phone call on the flight across the Atlantic on Friday. On Saturday morning, Trump skipped attending a rain-soaked ceremony at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery to honor the Battle of Belleau Wood. When his absence became a scandal, the White House said the decision had been made because Marine One reportedly could not fly in the rain, and Secret Service did not want Trump traveling by motorcade. One Republican briefed on the internal discussions said the real reason Trump did not want to go was because there would be no tent to stand under. “He was worried his hair was going to get messed up in the rain,” the source said. “[John] Bolton and everyone was telling him this was a big mistake.” A former administration official said Trump hates being outside in wet conditions. “What I honestly think? He woke up and said, ‘It’s pouring rain. This is a joke and I’m not doing this.’”

So it really was his hair. We’d all been making those jokes but even I didn’t think that was it. I wrote it off to another tantrum when it was a hairy tantrum. The whole incident is the best example yet of his lack of political acuity. The fact that this would become a huge mess was predictable but the president* was shocked. Listening to people can be a good thing. Try it sometime, Donald.

The Insult Comedian’s weirdest public quote of the week was this:

“The Republicans don’t win and that’s because of potentially illegal votes. When people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It’s really a disgrace what’s going on.”

I can’t believe I’ve never thought of this. Of course, I’m relatively sane.

A change of shirt is not enough, I’d add this to make it a better disguise:

Has this bozo ever actually gone to a polling place? We know that he was a sporadic voter before running for president* and it shows. This is what happens when low information voters elect one of their own.

The other White House crazy comes from the East Wing. Melania Trump got John Bolton’s right hand woman, Mira Ricardel, shitcanned. That was weird enough but the crazy was compounded by this:

In a White House where the drama has been constant, but almost always behind the scenes, an email to reporters on Tuesday from Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the first lady, was unusually direct: “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House.”

This led to lazy comparisons to Nancy Reagan’s problems with Ronnie’s second chief of staff, Don Regan. I never thought I’d defend Nancy BUT that dispute was largely kept behind closed doors. Nancy’s spokesperson did not issue a statement. It became a bigger deal upon the publication of Regan’s book about his time in the two-A Reagan administration. Unlike the Trumps, the Reagans were famously close: Nancy probably rolled over in bed and said, “That one-A Regan has gotta go.”

Back to Ricardel’s ouster. Who’s going to wax and oil Bolton’s mustache now? I was working on a Ricky Ricardo pun on her last name but decided to cut her some slack. Why? I’ll never know.

Finally, in the world of crazy there was this story out of Baltimore:

A man shouted a pro-Nazi and pro-Trump salute during a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre on Wednesday night in an outburst that some audience members feared was the beginning of a shooting.

Audience member Rich Scherr said the outburst happened during intermission. The man, who had been seated in the balcony, began shouting “Heil Hitler, Heil Trump.” Immediately after that, “People started running,” Scherr said. “I’ll be honest, I was waiting to hear a gunshot. I thought, ‘Here we go.’ ”

The man was escorted out a few minutes later and the show continued. But Scherr, 49, said it was hard to focus on the play after that. “My heart was just racing. I didn’t even really pay attention to the second act.”

Oy, just oy.

I think David Simon nailed it when he RT’d the Sun story:

Circling back to our featured image, this Nazi creep wouldn’t liked Harry Houdini any more than Tevye. Houdini’s father was a Rabbi.

The last word goes to Dave and Phil Alvin:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: All Quiet On The Western Front

The Armistice Day remembrances in France made me think of one of the greatest anti-war novels of all-time, Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet On The Western Front. It is not genre and/or pulp fiction but it has had many paperback incarnations over the years.

The 1930 film starring Lew Ayres won Best Picture and Director Oscars, It also had a swell poster:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: An Evening With Richard Nixon

Are you ready for an extra dose of the Weekly GV? Ready or not, here it comes. Gore Vidal viewed Tricky Dick with an appalled fascination. It resulted in Vidal’s 1972 play, An Evening With Richard Nixon.

I’ll let the Wikipedia entry describe it:

The play is a wry examination of the career and Presidency (up to that pre-Watergate point) of Richard M. Nixon (Irving). As it starts, two pundits, a William F. Buckley-like Pro (Rupert) and a Gore Vidal-like Con (Estredo) are debating the worthiness of Nixon. Unable to settle their differences objectively, they magically convene a tribunal of deceased, past Presidents — Eisenhower (Sterling), Kennedy (King) and Washington (Newman) — to review the Nixon career and pass judgment. The rules are strict: anything we observe in the central playing area, which is dedicated to historical recreation, is taken from actual public record; every word spoken by anyone is what that person actually said. This applies especially to Nixon, whose words, we are assured, remain in their original context. Only Pro, Con and the Tribunal speak freely in the immediate present. And of course, they have much to say.

I’ve only read the text, I’ve never heard the LP and it’s not online. But the album art by animator Paul (Sky Bear) Gruwell not only rocks, it rules.

Profiles In Phony Courage

It was quite a week for president* Trump. He pitched fit after fit, tantrum after tantrum. He confirmed that his picture is in the dictionary next to narcissist. He claims to have “won” the midterms, if so, he is an even sorer winner than usual. And his foray to France was the worst presidential* trip abroad since his trip to Helsinki.

Trump proved over and over again why I call him the Insult Comedian. He confuses bluster with bravery, whinging with winning, invective with courage.

It is not courageous to berate Jim Acosta and revoke his press credentials. Acosta *is* a loudmouth and a showboat, BUT he’s in the tradition of such pitbull teevee reporters as Dan Rather and Sam Donaldson. Donaldson was a burr in the saddle of both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. They dealt with it like adults, not professional wrestlers. Donaldson and I have a mutual acquaintance who assures me that Sam *is* a “rude, terrible person.” Dealing with obnoxious reporters is the Acosta of freedom.

It is not courageous to abuse black female reporters by calling them stupid and accusing them of asking “racist questions.” It seems to disprove the notion that the Insult Comedian is “the least racist person ever.” #sarcasm

It is not courageous to refuse to attend a ceremony honoring the Great War dead because it’s raining. Who is he now? The wicked witch of the West Wing? Is he afraid of melting?

It is not courageous to attack the people and government of California as wildfires rage. Is he suddenly a forestry expert? The only trick Trumpy missed was blaming Jerry Brown and calling my home state a socialist hellhole. He’ll have to blame Gavin Newsom after January. The taunts could even involve Trump Junior’s dating Newsom’s ex-wife. Stay tuned.

It is not courageous to make baseless allegations of voter fraud. It may, however, be a preview of 2020 if Trump is on the ballot and loses.

It is not courageous to scare the shit out of people over THE CARAVAN before the election, then drop the subject immediately thereafter.

I could go on and on about Trump the fake tough guy. Like former Vice President Dick Cheney, Trump is a scaredy cat pretending to be a bad ass. He’s all profile and no courage.

Repeat after me: Donald Trump is a pussy. He should grab himself.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Too Close For Comfort

Think Flag by William N. Copley

I’m keeping this week’s outing snappy because the time change has messed me up. My sleep patterns have been disrupted, as a result I’ve been groggier than hell. Additionally, Della and Paul do not respect day light savings time and demand to be fed at odd hours. Oddly enough, such oddity will inevitably impact Odds & Sods.

A quick note on the featured image. I cheated on Jasper Johns with a 1961 flag painting by William N. Copley aka CPLY. I think the think flag fits this moment eerily well. The country needs more thinking and fewer hot takes right now. Why are people bleating over Tucker Carlson when there are babies in cages?

This week’s theme song was written in 1956 for the musical Mr. Wonderful by Larry Bock, George David Weiss, and Larry Holofcener. I selected Too Close For Comfort because of all the votes that are still being counted, especially in Florida, Arizona, and California.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Frank Sinatra with the Billy May Orchestra, and a fabulous Ella Fitzgerald-Joe Williams duet with the Count Basie Orchestra. You know that I love me some Bill Basie.

Now we’ve gotten way too close for comfort, it’s time to jump to the break but first a reminder that Too Close For Comfort was also the title of a long-running Ted Knight sitcom that I watched only once.

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Florida’s Gotta Florida

It’s not over until it’s over in a Florida election. Election weirdness has been discovered in heavily Democratic Broward County where there were some 24K fewer ballots cast for the Senatorial candidates than Goober guys, Gillum and DeSantis. Oops.

This could be incompetence instead of Brian Kemp-style fuckery but that remains unclear. What is clear that we’re in for a good old fashioned political brawl ala the 2000 Gore-Bush recount battle. Will there be a second Brooks Brothers riot without Roger Stone to stage it?

Josh Marshall focused on the Governor Bat Boy factor:

Things are getting ugly fast in Florida. Rick Scott, clearly thinking he’s going to fall behind in the vote count and lose his campaign for Senate, is both filing lawsuits to stop the vote counting in South Florida and using his police powers as governor to do so. As in Georgia, having the candidate oversee the election has real shortcomings.

<SNIP>

Scott actually said this …

“Late Tuesday night our win was projected about 57,000 votes. By Wednesday morning that lead dropped to 38,000 votes. By Wednesday evening, it was around 30,000 votes. This morning, it was around 21,000. Now, it is 15,000,.”

And then this.

“Every Floridan should be concerned that their could be rampant fraud happening in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.”

It looks like I’m going to lose … ergo there must be ‘rampant fraud’ … ergo I’m ordering the state police to investigate the election administrators.

I should apologize for the long quote but the man nailed it. It’s too early for me to use a hammer even if I had a Hankering Aaron to do so.

Josh’s post is titled Getting Ugly Fast. Anything involving Rick Scott is de facto ugly:

Ain’t nothing like a Michael F image in the morning. It’s almost as good as a cuppa Tom Petty style Joe. Why TP? Gainesville, y’all, Gainesville. Dig the Florida Gator guitar wielded by Heartbreaker Mike Campbell in this clip from their 40th anniversary show in Gainesville:

Back to Florida election weirdness. I’m feeling as low energy as former Governor Jeb Bush, so I’ll post two tweets I fired off last night:

Bill Nelson has run statewide in Florida 6 times, winning 5 elections. He knows his shit, y’all. Mayor Gillum should follow suit and pronto.

Repeat after me: it’s feeling like 2000 in Florida.

Campaign Notes: The Homestretch

The reason I’ve always been optimistic about the midterms is that Americans like divided government. I prefer Democratic control of all the political branches but most Americans like checks and balances, especially with an unbalanced president*. The electorate appears poised to flip the House and I still think the Senate is in play. I’m confident of the former but tentative about the latter, which is strictly based on my gut instincts and what Poppy Bush called “The Big Mo,” which seems to be hanging out with Democrats right now.

I put absolutely no stock in generic Congressional polls. Reliance upon them strikes me as a fool’s game given the past decade of frenetic gerrymandering and red state voter fuckery. I remain a devotee of Tip O’Neill’s adage “all politics is local” as well as that of the late Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders owner Al Davis “just win baby.” I know Al has been dead for 9 years but my love-hate relationship with the old villain has ripened into affectionate remembrance.

I am also skeptical about reliance on early vote totals. I remain uncertain as to what impact they have on election day turnout. I prefer voting on election day: the same poll workers have staffed my polling place since at least 2008. Many of them are neighbors with whom I’ve had front porch/stoop conversations.

The early vote obsession is the contemporary equivalent of exit poll mania. I remember 2004 when the exit polls leaked and I thought John Kerry had won. It was much worse when we found out that he’d lost. The only good thing about that result is that we were spared having John Edwards as Veep. I am still convinced that Kerry’s own first choice, Dick Gephardt, might have made the difference in Midwestern swing states but that’s 14-year-old graveyard whistling.

Graveyard Whistling is the name of the most recent Old 97’s album. They’re originally from Dallas, Texas, which provides an awkward transition into a final look at Betomania.

I remain a Beto skeptic. I think he’s an excellent candidate who has run a good race but the idolatry on the part of some people is OTT. I’ve been a good boy and haven’t yelled at anyone who mentions Beto yard signs as proof that he’s going to win. Repeat after me: YARD SIGNS DON’T VOTE. That bit of virtual yelling felt good.

A side benefit of Betomania is that Texas Dems have a chance to flip some House seats including that of 11-term incumbent Pete Sessions in the Mixmaster metro area. That’s suburban Dallas to the uninitiated. Suburbia is fertile soil for Democrats in this cycle. Trump’s manners or lack thereof *do* matter to educated suburban voters, especially women. The gender gap will be something to behold tomorrow.

Until proven otherwise, Texas remains a white whale for Democrats. My skepticism is rooted in Team Beto’s reliance on young voters and Hispanic voters; groups that do not usually turn out in great numbers. Additionally, Hispanic voters are more conservative than many Democrats think they are. A substantial percentage of Hispanic men are inclined to raise the drawbridge to future immigrants. Sad but true.

I hope to be proven wrong about Texas. I think that it will eventually become a purple state and this election cycle has helped that along. Other than the 1964 LBJ landslide, my native California went Republican in every presidential election between 1952 and 1988. Now it’s a socialist hellhole according to Fox News. I wonder if the Foxers have ever called Jerry Brown a Blue Meanie?

I’ve also been avidly following the race in the Virginia 7th. It pits the aptly named teabagger Dave Brat against former CIA officer Abigail Spanberger. Dr. A and I have family and friends in that district and they’re hoping to have a Democratic Congresscritter.

Retired Republican Senator John Warner thinks Spanberger’s the best and Brat’s the wurst.  In addition to endorsing other Democrats, including the man who should be Veep, Tim Kaine, the former Armed Services committee chair and Navy Secretary has also denounced the Insult Comedian:

“It’s a very serious time for the country. I did not support Trump,” he said, and “I’m deeply troubled by the central issues. So much of my life has been devoted to the intelligence work and national security — and I’m just not comfortable with the way he’s handling these national security issues,” said Warner.

“He has no inner compass at all,” Warner said of Trump. “He’s put a tremendous divide in this country.”

I understand from a friend who used to work for Warner that he swears like a Marine when he discusses Trumpy behind closed doors.

John Warner is a patriot who believes in putting country before party. Unfortunately, there are few conservatives like him nowadays. Let’s hope that those who are vote Democratic to put a brake on an out of control president*.

I am excited about election day but will be glad when it’s over. I think the Democrats will gain anywhere from 25 to 50 seats in the House. The upside involves the hope that most of the close races will go our way. It’s what tends to happen when Big Mo has your back.

As to the Senate, I think we’ll do better than expected but fall short of a majority unless we run the table on the close races. John Ralston has convinced me that Dean Heller is going down in Nevada. Absent the return of the Bradley effect in Florida, I think Andrew Gillum will pull Senator Bill Nelson to victory. Btw, I think Gillum had the quote of the cycle, “I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I’m simply saying that the racists believe he’s a racist. ” Yeah you right, Mister Mayor.

I am also cautiously optimistic about Joe Donnelly in Hoosierland and Claire McCaskill in the Show Me State. I may be one of the few pundits who thinks Heidi Heitkamp could pull off another upset as she did in 2012:

The crazy Peach State Governor’s race seems headed to a run-off thereby keeping Georgia on my mind. Democrats are clearly gaining statehouses this cycle. I know Athenae will be pleased not to have Bruce Rauner to kick around anymore. Let’s all hope that First Draft alums Scout, Jude, and Doc will have a new Governor. It’s time to watch Scotty lose.

I understand why rank and file Democrats are nervous about tomorrow’s election. They’re still traumatized by 2016. Here’s the deal: I’m old enough to have lived through the White House wilderness years when we lost 5 of 6 presidential elections. It gave me thick political skin and a suspicion of political idolatry. I fell hard as a 14-year-old for George McGovern. That did not turn out well. The country preferred Nixon until it didn’t. A reminder from John Dean that the Kaiser of Chaos is worse than Tricky Dick:

While I’ve liked many candidates since 1972, I don’t fall in love with them. I prefer to keep a wary distance. I do, however, love my country, which is why I hope for a big turnout tomorrow and in all future elections.

It’s a cliché at this point, but this *is* the most important midterm election of our lifetime.  Its chance to vote for hope, not fear; the future, not the past; diversity, not bigotry. It’s time to give Fortunate Son Donald Trump and his enablers their comeuppance. Repeat after me: To Hell With The Trump Base.

Let’s end this omnibus homestretch post on an inspirational note with a Bruce Springsteen song that a certain valiant losing candidate used as his theme song in 2004.

The last word is a quote from one of my favorite movies:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Running On Empty

Carnival Tryptich by Max Beckmann

It’s been an uneasy week in the Big Easy. There’s much outrage at the local utility company, Entergy, for hiring actors to attend City Council meetings. The company has made it worse by continuing to lie about it. It’s called Astroturfing, it’s not illegal it’s just sleazy. The more Entergy lies, the longer the story persists. Lying seems to be contagious in the age of Trump. Knock it off, y’all.

In other Gret Stet news, we’re voting on a constitutional amendment to end non-unanimous jury verdicts. Louisiana and Oregon are the only two states that have this system and we’re in a race for repeal. The odds are good that voters will end the practice next Tuesday: there’s broad bi-partisan support for the change. It’s good when the Gret Stet good guys win one. In fact, it’s great. Hopefully, that Tony the Tiger-ish sentiment will help LSU when they play Alabama tonight. Geaux Tigers.

This week’s theme song, Running On Empty, was written and recorded by Jackson Browne in 1977. It’s been used in two movies: Forrest Gump and gave Sidney Lumet’s great 1988 movie its title. We’ll have more about *that* Running On Empty after the jump.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure. Both feature brilliant lap steel playing by the great David Lindley of whom I’ll have more to say at the end of the post. Holy previews, Batman.

We may be low on gas but there’s enough in the tank to jump to the break.

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Campaign Notes: Running Scared

Harry Truman has long been the patron saint of underdogs. As you can see, Senator Heidi Heitkamp had a Trumaneque election night moment in 2012. The North Dakota GOP has been working overtime to prevent another Heitkamp upset with an effort to suppress the Native American vote. The Senator is still fighting the good fight as the title of a profile of her by Irin Carmon illustrates: Heidi Heitkamp Doesn’t Care That You Think She’s Going To Lose. Here’s hoping that political lightning strikes again.

The tragic events of the last week have stalled GOP momentum in the campaign. Even the ordinarily obtuse and insensitive president* has noticed. Of course, he’s been whining about it instead of placing it in proper perspective and accepting his share of the blame because of his abhorrent behavior. The Insult Comedian is not big on perspective or accepting responsibility. He thinks the world revolves around him, not the sun. Believing your own rhetoric is hazardous to your political health, especially when it’s a tissue of lies.

As to the post title, Democrats are running scared and Republicans are running scary. Trump is incapable of running a positive campaign and not talking about himself. He is also scared to death that Team Mueller will come after him after election day. Count on it, asshole.

I remain optimistic about our chances in the House. The Senate map remains tough but if enough suburban voters are repelled by Trump’s hateful and hate-filled rhetoric there could be a surprise. The GOP deserves a comeuppance for foisting this third-rate strong man on us. Let’s hope they get what Bush called “a thumping” in 2006 and Obama called “a shellacking” in 2010.

Trump’s rhetoric gets more extreme by the day. He’s even dragging the military into politics by sending troops to counter the so-called caravan invaders:

Restating his vow to deploy thousands more troops to the southwest border, Trump fumed over border-crossers and said he had instructed U.S. military personnel to “consider it a rifle” if incoming migrants hurl stones at them: “Anybody throwing stones, rocks … we will consider that a firearm because there’s not much difference when you get hit in the face with a rock.”

I have a lot of respect for our armed forces. I’ve never met a single officer who would order their soldiers to fire on unarmed civilians for throwing rocks. It’s time for a musical antidote to the bigoted GOP campaign:

Trump knows nothing about the military. Not only did he not serve, NO MEMBER of the Trump family has ever worn a uniform; not even in World War II. Fred Trump was too busy screwing the poor to take up arms in defense of our country. All the military age men in my immigrant  family served in World War II and my Uncle Bill was killed in action in Italy. I take this personally.

They may be unwilling to go on the record but many GOPers expect Trump’s bigoted rhetoric to backfire bigly:

…but congressional Republicans battling for political survival in swing districts with large clusters of college-educated voters and women have grown increasingly worried that such groups are having trouble stomaching what Trump is dishing up.

“The kind of voters Trump is talking to right now, there aren’t enough of them in these areas to get us over the finish line,” said one GOP campaign official.

“We understand this is an issue that motivates his base, but the economic issues are what we really need to win these swing voters because they are who’s going to decide who controls the House,” the official told POLITICO, adding that Trump “is solidifying swing voters who were already leaning Democratic and are now definitely going vote for Democratic candidates.”

Make it so, voters. Make it so. The last word goes to the late, great Roy Orbison.

Oops, I forgot something:

4 DAYS UNTIL THE MIDTERMS. TICK TOCK, MOTHERFUCKERS.