Category Archives: Fog Of History

Saturday Odds & Sods: Without You

Vue de Notre-Dame de Paris by Pablo Picasso

It’s been a tough week that got off to a bad start with the Notre-Dame fire. Instead of uniting people in solidarity, it led to petty bickering on social media as to which was worse, that fire or the church fires perpetrated by a racist in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana.  They’re equally terrible in their own way: there’s no need to weigh them on a scale of horror. Notre-Dame will be rebuilt and there’s an online fundraising effort afoot for the churches in Louisiana. Click here it you’d like to donate.

I nearly wrote a post about all the crazy hot takes on the tweeter tube until I realized that the last thing the world needed was my hot take on hot takes. Instead, here’s a funny story about flies. We’ve had some aggressive flies in the house this year: Paul Drake likes to chase them but rarely, if ever, catches them. His frantic efforts remind me of my father’s reaction to flies. Lou was obsessed with swatting and killing them. He was relentless. After years of observing him in action, I finally asked him why. It had to do with his service in the Pacific theatre in World War II. There were so many damn flies there that he hoped never to see them again once he was home. It made perfect sense so I stopped teasing him about his fly swatting exploits. It’s a good thing that he never lived in the Gret Stet of Louisiana.

Sorrowful times call for sad tunes. Pete Ham and Tom Evans wrote Without You for Badfinger’s 1970 No Dice album. The ultimate version of this song was recorded the next year by Harry Nillson who wrung every ounce of emotion out of the lyrics and melody. It was a monster hit: sitting atop of the US charts for 4 weeks.

It’s disambiguation time. This Without You was written by John Wetton and Steve Howe for Asia’s eponymous 1982 debut album. Holy power ballad, Batman.

Now that we’ve established our self-sufficiency, let’s jump to the break; either alone or together alone.

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The Mueller Road Map

Fog of Scandal meme

I’ve focused on Volume 2 of the Mueller Report thus far. As expected, it’s a road map for Congress and/or future prosecutors to Trump’s obstruction of justice crimes. Bill Barr has lied about pretty much everything in the report: Team Mueller’s decision NOT to charge is driven by the DOJ’s shitty policy that bars a sitting president from indictment. Barr said that it was not.

The evidence is even more overwhelming than expected but Bobby Three Sticks is a small c conservative prosecutor who was unlikely to go against the dreadful no indictment policy. Anyone else would have been indicted by now. Repeat after me: Donald Trump is a criminal.

I have a few random observations. I’ll bite the bullet and use bullet points:

  • The report is well and clearly written. You don’t have to be a lapsed lawyer like me to understand it. There *is* legalese but you can skim through it.
  • I was pleasantly surprised by the minimal redactions to Volume 2. Most of them involve our old pal Roger Stone who, absent a pardon, is royally fucked.
  • Most White House “insider” news stories have been accurate. Of course, given that Don McGahn was the source of many NYT stories as well as of the Report that’s no surprise.
  • Speaking of McGahn. It won’t be long until Trump starts calling him Traitor Don or better still McTraitor. He’s the source of many of the most damning stories about Trump’s misconduct in office. He also takes notes, which according to Trump good lawyers like Roy Cohn do not. Only mob lawyers do not take notes. That’s why they’re called mouthpieces.
  • Trump is convinced that the Attorney General is supposed to be a fixer for the president* He goes on and on about Bobby Kennedy and Eric Holder. While it’s true that RFK *was* JFK’s fixer, it’s simply not true about Holder. Obama didn’t need a fixer to get him out of tight legal scrapes: he’s an honest man. Trump cannot fathom such a person.
  • Trump’s attorney generals are reminiscent of Nixon’s first two, Mitchell and Kleindeinst; both of whom went to jail. Barr, however, is more dangerous than Sessions: he’s smart and competent whereas Jeff Beau is a dipshit and dumbass.
  • Like any good piece of narrative history, Team Mueller has woven together known facts into a compelling narrative. It’s all in one place now and the effect is devastating. Thanks. Bob.

I use the term road map quite deliberately. It’s what Team Jaworski gave Congress during Watergate. It’s the raw material to thoroughly investigate the Trump regime. It’s up to the House to decide what to do with it.

Impeachment is an unappetizing prospect. Barr’s version of the four corners basketball stall has delayed things considerably. It’s apparent that one reason Team Mueller did not try to subpoena testimony from the Insult Comedian is time. The clock is ticking as we approach election day.

There’s a defensible political argument to be made that the voters should decide Trump’s fate; impeachment is merely an invitation for the Senate to remove a president from office, which has never happened and is unlikely to occur this time around. BUT we can’t let this president* get away with his crimes, if we do we’re inviting future presidents to think that they’re above the law. The next criminal president might not be an incompetent fool. Impunity cannot be rewarded.

One more thing on the politics of impeachment. There’s a myth that Republicans suffered politically for the Clinton impeachment. They only suffered for one cycle: they elected a president in 2000 and re-took the Senate in 2002. That’s suffering?

There are no good options for House Democrats but they cannot let this evil fucker get away with the crimes he’s committed in office. Here’s my slogan for 2019: I is for Impeachment.

Axis Of Assholes

In his 2002 State of the Union speech George W. Bush denounced Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as an “axis of evil,” an inflammatory turn of phrase authored by David Frum. That’s right, the Frum who can be seen on your teevee as an anti-Trump conservative. He writes for the Atlantic Weekly now and still hasn’t topped the line that began life as “axis of hatred.”

In 2019, we face a corrupt, malevolent, and egomaniacal axis of assholes. They’re scattered across the globe, but the bull goose assholes are Bibi Netanyahu, Donald Trump, and Crown Prince MBS aka Mister Bone Saw seen above holding hands. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

The United States may be the most powerful country in the terrible troika, but Netanyahu is the powerhouse; both mentoring and setting a bad example for the Insult Comedian who aspires to Bibi’s level of malevolent malakatude. That makes Bibi  the Mr. Bad Example of the axis of assholes:

Netanyahu just won a scorched earth re-election campaign in which he demonized his opponents, the media, and the Israeli Arab minority. As depressing as it is for those of us who remember the Israel of Ben-Gurion, Meir, Rabin, and Peres: it’s Bibi’s country now. The Israeli left is dead as is the two-state solution. Netanyahu continues to transform Israeli democracy into a system akin to apartheid era South Africa or Jim Crow era America.

The Kaiser of Chaos aspires to Bibi’s level of strongman dominance. What’s not to love about a guy who was re-elected while under threat of indictment? Mercifully, Israel’s multi-party system makes that feat difficult to replicate elsewhere but the Trumpers are hoping to follow in Bibi’s sleazy footsteps.

New Yorker honcho David Remnick wrote a perceptive and must read post-election piece, The Trump-Netanyahu Alliance. These excerpts capture the zeitgeist of the axis of assholes. The he in question is Netanyahu but it could just as easily be Trump:

Practicing a politics of division, he targets enemies in the press, the academy, and the courts. Increasingly, he finds his global allies in the ever-growing club of the Illiberal International, from the Sunni Arab leaders in his own region to Viktor Orbán, in Hungary; Jair Bolsonaro, in Brazil; and Vladimir Putin, in Russia. He has determined that the world no longer cares very much about the Palestinians or about democratic niceties. He has marginalized the left––even the center-left. The “peace camp” that [Bibi’s father] Benzion loathed now barely exists.

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Just as Netanyahu provided Trump instruction on the political possibilities of right-wing populism, Trump has provided Netanyahu with instruction on the possibilities of outrageous invective, voter suppression, and disdain for the law. Netanyahu now delights in the use of such phrases as “fake news.” Investigations into his financial adventures are “witch hunts.” To suppress the Arab vote in last week’s election, his supporters mounted more than a thousand cameras at polling places where Arab citizens ordinarily vote, the better to intimidate them. And, of course, both men like a wall. As Trump put it, “Walls work. Just ask Israel.” To which his proud mentor tweeted, “President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.”

The axis of assholes sticks together. Neither Trump nor Netanyahu found the murder of Jamal Khashoggi objectionable and took MBS at his word that his regal hands were clean, not blood-stained. Liars tend to believe other liars.

There’s a lot of saber rattling in the direction of Iran right now. Since distraction is the only thing Trump is good at, there are well-founded fears of a “wag the dog” attack on Iran. I think the Trump regime is likely to sub-contract any such attack to the Israelis and Saudis because bombs are expensive and the president* is a cheapskate. Iran is why the leadership of those once bitter foes have converged. The Bibi-MBS nexus of the axis of assholes almost makes one nostalgic for bad old/good old days in the Middle East. The Palestinians must be.

It’s beyond ironic that the leader of the Jewish state has formed such close bonds with two anti-Semitic leaders but “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is the rule in that region. It should matter that Saudi Arabia was rhetorically pro-Nazi, but it doesn’t. It should matter that Donald Trump’s Archie Bunker-style philo-semitism is fundamentally anti-Semitic but it doesn’t. All that matters is power.

The only good thing about the axis of assholes is that it’s likely to be ephemeral. People like Bibi, the Kaiser of Chaos, and Mister Bone Saw invariably turn on one another. Cannibalism is part of assholery at this level of malakatude.

Speaking of cannibalism, the last word goes to Paul Kantner and Grace Slick:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Stop Breaking Down

Golconda by Rene Magritte

I’ve been busy putting the finishing touches on an epic piece I’m writing for the Bayou Brief about movies set in the Gret Stet of Louisiana, which is why this week’s outing will be relatively short. Hey, stop cheering out there.

The Jazz Fest merry-go-round keeps on spinning out of control. Stevie Nicks has pneumonia and Finnwood Mac have cancelled the rest of their US tour including Jazz Fest. They’ve already been replaced. That means Jazz Fest has descended down the rock evolutionary scale from the Rolling Stones to Fleetwood Mac to Widespread Panic. The last band’s name aptly described how promoters must have felt upon hearing about Stevie.

This week’s theme song was inspired by the Jazz Fest mishigas. Robert Johnson recorded Stop Breaking Down aka Stop Breaking Down Blues in Dallas in 1937. God only knows when it was written. Johnson was not big on record keeping.

I have two versions for your listening pleasure. Robert Johnson’s original and the Exile On Main Street version by noted Jazz Fest drop-outs, the Rolling Stones:

Ordinarily, I’d call a tow truck after breaking down but let’s hop, skip, and jump to the break.

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The Bland Bespectacled Bomb Thrower

Attorney General Bill Barr is so ordinary looking that he’d never stand out in a crowd. As a witness, he speaks softly and occasionally mumbles his responses. As a public speaker, he’s as charismatic as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State Warren Christopher who looked as if he stepped out of a coffin.  Barr is as dull as a lawyer can be until you closely examine his words: then you realize that he’s a bland bespectacled bomb thrower.

In front of House Judiciary Committee, Barr stuck to the basics of his cover-up line, which involves deflection, misdirection, and kicking the can down the road for as long as possible. In the friendly confines of Lindsey Graham’s committee, Barr sounded like a spokesman for the Freedom Caucus. I almost expected him to morph into Jim Jordan just like Bruce Banner transforms into the Hulk. Barr smash.

Given Barr’s background in intelligence, he knows how inflammatory the word spying is. He crawfished on the usage later but his work was done. The Attorney General of the United States has given the green light to wingnut conspiracy nuts everywhere. I think former Clinton-Gore-Biden-Obama aide Ron Klain put it best:

Klain is a Democratic utility infielder: he was also Chief Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and Attorney General Janet Reno’s Chief of Staff, so he knows the DOJ and how it’s supposed to work. This isn’t it.

Not only does Barr sound like a conspiracy buff, he sounds like a spokesman for the Trump re-election campaign. Their goal is to confuse the issues surrounding the Trump scandals and to discredit the Mueller Report when Barr finally gets around to releasing even a redacted version.

Barr’s testimony was all about placating the president* and the red hat set. There was no spying, only an authorized FBI counterintelligence probe.

The bland bespectacled bomb thrower is a throwback Attorney General. Before Watergate, it was not unusual for campaign managers to become Attorney Generals. On the good side, there were Robert Kennedy and Herbert Brownell who was Ike’s top legal eagle and the leading advocate of Civil Rights in that administration. On the dark side, there were Tricky Dick’s law partner John Mitchell and Harding’s venal AG, Harry Daugherty. That’s why I don’t want to hear that Barr’s conduct is unprecedented. It doesn’t make it any better but it’s not.

I like how never Trump Republican and all-around smart ass, Rick Wilson, described Barr:

William Barr’s tone was calm, but his agenda was clear: His job is to protect Donald Trump, no matter the prerogatives of Congress or any consideration of the rule of law. Bill Barr is not the attorney general of the United States. He is the Roy Cohn whom The Donald has craved since become president; an attorney general who sees his duty as serving Trump.

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Barr exudes just enough of the comforting style of the Washington insider to quiet the fears of many in the House and Senate. He comes across as pedestrian and legalistic, bordering on dull, but he’s the most dangerous man in America.

That’s why I called Barr a bland bespectacled bomb thrower. He’s there to help the Kaiser of Chaos foment, uh, chaos, not to the serve the public interest. Repeat after me: this is horrible but not unprecedented.

In other scandal news, the cover-up has spread to the Treasury Department. Mnuchin the Moocher is dragging his heels on turning over Trump’s taxes. He’s not supposed to have a role in this: it’s up to the IRS commissioner. The Moocher has tried kicking the can over to the DOJ but they don’t have a role in this either. The law is clear as it uses the mandatory shall, not might or maybe. The Moocher’s inaction could even put him in legal jeopardy. He should be careful: he’d look shitty in an orange jump suit.

I keep hoping that we’ll wake up and discover that the Trump regime was just a bad dream. Unfortunately, life isn’t like the series finale of St. Elsewhere. The nightmare is real.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Don’t Get Me Started

My Brother Imitating Scherzo by Andre Kertesz

New Orleans is a city of extremes. We do everything in an outlandish fashion and that includes the weather. I’ve been bitching about the pollen and the need for rain for months, but when it finally rained, it was a deluge. There are times when moderation is a virtue but it’s hard to find in this town. Oh well, you know what they say: “April showers bring the flowers that bloom in May.”

Traffic cameras have been one of the main topics of conversation locally.  Mayor Cantrell campaigned against them. She seems to have changed her mind as well as the rules governing them in school zones. The speed limit is 20 MPH but the city used to cut motorists some slack and didn’t issue tickets to folks within 5 MPH of the limit. They changed the rules without informing the public, which resulted in an angry debate on social media once the cat got out of the proverbial bag. Nobody likes paying $75 for going 3 MPH over the limit, after all.  This debate beats the hell outta talking about murders, mayhem, and the price of Jazz Fest tickets. Btw, the band whose latest iteration I call Finnwood Mac is replacing the Stones at Jazz Fest.

This week’s theme song was written by Rodney Crowell for his 2005 album, The Outsider. Don’t Get Me Started is something I find myself saying frequently in the Trump era. Don’t get me started about Herman Cain on the Fed, y’all:

Now that we’ve shared a rockin’ rant, let’s jump to the break or is that break to the jump? I hope break dancing isn’t involved: I’m not flexible enough to spin about on the ground. I leave such gyrations to young Paul Drake and the dude in the Andre Kertesz photograph above.

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Cover-Up In Plain Sight

We’ve entered a new phase in the war of the Trump scandals. Previously, it was like a series of air strikes. This week, it’s akin to hand-to-hand, house-by-house combat: think the Red Army in Berlin at the end of World War II. House committees have issued subpoenas for the Mueller Report, Trump’s taxes, and financial records. The House has not only crossed “the red line” they’ve hurdled it like Evel Knievel in his heyday. That may sound overly dramatic but I don’t think I jumped the shark. Team Trump, however, may have done so.

You know the worm has turned when the previously tight-lipped members of Team Mueller talk to the media. Both the WaPo and Failing New York Times have published reports of their consternation over the 4 page epistle from Trump’s handpicked Attorney General. They’re outraged that 22 months of hard work has been reduced to spin by Bill Barr. Here’s the lede of the NYT piece:

Some of Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators have told associates that Attorney General William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, according to government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.

The WaPo’s sources were less tentative but expressed the same frustration. It’s good to see that both papers have moved away from their initial acceptance of Barr’s “conclusions” but neither is willing to use the term cover-up. That’s what this is. It’s no less pernicious because it’s happening in plain sight. It’s worse.

Covering-up is what Bill Barr does. Beneath the owlish exterior and thick glasses, lurks a lawyer with extreme views on executive power. He’ll never be straightforward enough to quote Tricky Dick’s aphorism but he surely agrees with it:

This is not Bill Barr’s first cover-up rodeo. He was behind the mass Iran-Contra pardons issued in the waning days of Poppy Bush’s administration. It was so blatant that even former Nixon aide and conservative NYT columnist William Safire objected, calling Barr the “Cover-up General.” Safire, of course, moved on to the Clinton scandals and Barr returned to the private sector before emerging like a seedy Icarus to attempt to rescue the tawdry Trump regime.

Team Trump has vowed to fight against any and all encroachments on their executive powers. It will delay their day of reckoning but they’re more likely than not to lose court battles. Just wait until they claim that Trump’s tax forms and those of his nefarious web of LLCs are covered by executive privilege. That will get laughed out of any courtroom in the land.

The question that everyone should ask about the Mueller Report is a simple yet profound one. If it “totally exonerates” the Insult Comedian, why is he opposed to its release? To put it in terms that the president* would understand: no exoneration, no exoneration, no exoneration.

Today On Adrastos’ Obsession With Robert Caro

Regular readers of Saturday Odds & Sods are already aware of my Robert Caro obsession. I usually like post to pieces about and by him there. I thought it was time to let my inner fan boy shine on a school day. I don’t have an apple for the teacher but I do have some unsyrupy thoughts about Caro.

I first heard about Robert Caro from a Gore Vidal review of The Power Broker. I read the book and was enthralled by this, unknown to me, story. As a baseball history buff, I was particularly interested to learn that Robert Moses was one of the reasons the Dodgers left Brooklyn. Walter O’Malley had an inner city Brooklyn site in mind for a new ballpark that would be accessible to public transit. Moses wanted a more car-friendly location and insisted that the Dodgers move to the site where Shea Stadium was later built. O’Malley moved the team to Los Angeles instead.

One of the reasons I’m so drawn to Caro’s magisterial Years of Lyndon Johnson series is that he’s such a great storyteller. Who else would talk to LBJ’s high school and college friends as a way of illuminating his style as a politician? A typical biographer/reporter would talk only to the “important people.” I was raised to believe that how one treats the “little people” is more revealing of one’s character. Caro gets that as did David Halberstam before him.

Anyway, Robert Caro recently sat for an interview with David Marchese for the New York Times Magazine. I was particularly interested in how he used Georgia Senator Richard Russell to explain the South and Civil Rights:

So there’s this character, Senator Richard Russell. He’s fascinating because he’s so smart, he’s so learned. In foreign affairs he’s like a consul of Rome. He sees the whole world, you know? But he’s this son of a bitch.

And a racist. Yes. Here’s how I boiled that book down: I said that two things come together. It’s the South that raises Johnson to power in the Senate, and it’s the South that says, “You’re never going to pass a civil rights bill.” So to tell that story you have to show the power of the South and the horribleness of the South, and also how Johnson defeated the South. I said, “I can do all that through Richard Russell,” because he’s the Senate leader of the South, and he embodies this absolute, disgusting hatred of black people. I thought that if I could do Russell right, I wouldn’t have to stop the momentum of the book to give a whole lecture on the South and civil rights. What I’m trying to say is that if you can figure out what your book is about and boil it down into a couple of paragraphs, then all of a sudden a mass of other stuff is much simpler to fit into your longer outline.

Caro declined to be drawn into a discussion of the Trump presidency*. I’m glad: I want him to live to publish the final book in the LBJ series. Discussing Trump is bad for one’s health. Believe me.

While running a search on the NYT web site, I learned that late night funnyman Conan O’Brien shares my obsession with Robert Caro. His dream as a chat show host is to have Caro as a guest. I can’t  resist posting the full NYT link because the image is such a hoot:

Here’s one of many money quotes from the Conan piece:

Mr. O’Brien was insistent that Mr. Caro’s team has been nothing but polite in sending its regrets. In fact, a few years ago, Mr. O’Brien received a signed copy of “The Path to Power” with the inscription: “To Conan O’Brien. From A Fan — Robert A. Caro.”

The gift only confused matters.

“It just cracks me up,” Mr. O’Brien said. “It’s like the White Whale writing Ahab a note, saying, ‘Hey, man. We’ve got to get together. I’m a fan!’”

So, Mr. Caro, be well and finish that book. When it’s done, cut Coco some slack and grant him an interview. Then I can write a post titled When Caro Met Coco.

UPDATE: A pox on me for not googling Caro + Conan. I missed a piece in Vulture wherein we learn that Coco’s dream will come true later this month. Thanks to Mr. Cosmic Ray for the correction.

Tweet Of The Day: Dementia Edition

Donald Trump is a horrible person with whom it’s hard to empathize. Those without empathy receive little in return. I’m not a doctor, but yesterday he showed  clear signs of age-related mental decline. He clearly intended to denounce the “origins” of the Mueller but instead said “oranges.” On one level it was funny given that his own skin color resembles Kraft singles after spending time on the White House tanning bed. However, when one remembers that there’s a family history of dementia, it’s not as amusing.

Then there’s the matter of his latest mantra: “I’m very normal.” Like such past hits as “I have a very good brain” this is not something that one says if one is really normal. The First Creep is getting creepier by the moment.

That brings me to the tweet of the day. It comes from Media Matters editor at large Parker Molloy. Embedded therein is a series of clips showing how Trump’s speech patterns and cognitive functions have declined since 1988:

Donald Trump has *always* been a horrible person but he used to be a coherent horrible person instead of the rambling wreck he is in 2019. It’s hard not to be even more alarmed that he’s the Current Occupant. The people close to him are even worse than Trump himself: they’re using his power to enrich and empower themselves while ignoring signs of dementia. Come on down, Javanka.

We’ve had other presidents who experienced mental or physical declines in office; most notably Ronald Reagan. BUT we’ve never had such a vicious and vengeful man surrounded by sycophants. No wonder Rod Rosenstein talked about invoking the 25th Amendment. It’s a pity that he had neither the authority nor the will power to follow through on his loose talk. This is one ship that deserves to be sunk by loose lips.

The Trump regime is going to get worse before it goes. Trump’s mental decline makes that inevitable. It looks as if the voters are going to have to remove him at the ballot box. Let’s choose our nominee wisely. There’s a helluva mess to clean up.

The Veep Abidens

I remain undecided in the increasingly contentious race for the Democratic presidential nomination. I remain committed to the notion that anyone who wants to run, should give it a shot and see what happens. The more the merrier, let the voters decide. You’ve heard it all before.

I begin to wonder, however, whether or not former Vice President Joe Biden should throw his hat into the ring. It’s not for ideological reasons: anyone who was a Senator for 30+ years is going to have votes that look questionable 20 years later. It’s called the rule of unintended consequences and applies to the omnibus crime bill passed in the 1990’s. Its intent was NOT to throw more black folks in jail but that’s what happened. It has turned out to be a bad bill despite its strong gun control aspects, which proved to be depressingly ephemeral. Hindsight is always 20-20.

I’m less concerned with the “handsy Uncle Joe” stories than many. Arguably, these stories boil down to cultural, regional, and generational differences since they occurred in public view, not behind closed doors. Dr. A had a colleague who moved to New Orleans from New York in the 1990’s. She considered people calling her baby, sweetie, or darling to be sexual harassment. If that’s the case, it still happens to me every time I make groceries. In New Orleans, it’s just people being friendly. In fact, the colleague in question came to understand that. But I don’t think we should be having *that* particular argument during such a high stakes election.

I come from a touchy-feely ethnic culture in which hugging and kissing people of both genders is the norm. Having said that, I don’t recall ever kissing a woman on the back of the neck and sniffing her hair as Lucy Flores says Joe Biden did. That’s definitely creepy even if Flores herself thinks it was an invasion of her personal space and not sexual harassment. Is it disqualifying for a presidential candidate in the #METOO era? I’m not sure but it will  be a factor in a race in which there are multiple serious female contenders.

I’ve compared the early stages of the 2020 Democratic race to 1976 before. Joe Biden is an excellent analogue to the Happy Warrior of that era, former Vice President /Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey. HHH was more battle-scarred, but by 1976 he had regained his popularity among the Democratic base. He was repeatedly approached to join the race and was always reluctant because he knew he’d feel less love if he became an active candidate. He did not run.

There’s ample evidence that many Democrats have great affection for Joe Biden because of his 8 years as Barack Obama’s loyal Vice President. We at First Draft call him Joey the Shark, but many more people call him Uncle Joe. The Uncle Joe glow is already beginning to fade as Biden inches closer to running. It’s getting ugly out there. The axes are being sharpened over his voting record, loose lips, and back-slapping persona.

Then there’s the matter of Biden’s age. Dr. A and I paid a visit to an elderly relative yesterday. She’s an ardent Democrat but expressed her own concerns about Biden’s age. She said that she didn’t feel like an old lady even in her late sixties but when she hit her mid-seventies that changed dramatically. Joe Biden is 76 and, unless you’re a lazy lima bean like the Insult Comedian, the presidency is an arduous, stressful job, and campaigning is even harder.

My unsolicited advice for the Veep is to abiden by his beloved former colleague’s example and stay out of the race as Humphrey did in 1976. The supporters of at least one of his potential primary opponents are ready, willing, and able to throw everything they’ve got at him. If he runs, he needs to be ready to deal with them, then face the prospect of an ugly general election in which Team Trump will not only attack him and his family but create new charges out of thin air. Trump’s only path to re-election is total destruction of his opponent. Believe me.

Adam Schiff Is Okay

Controlled public anger is the best kind of public anger. It connotes passion, principle, and, well, control. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is ordinarily a cool customer, which is what made yesterday’s display of controlled rage even more impressive.

Here’s why Schiff lost his shit: nine Republicans demanded Schiff resign as Chairman of a committee that Devin Nunes made a laughingstock during the last Congress. They were doing the Insult Comedian’s bidding, which inspired Schiff to launch into what will surely be known as the “You may think it’s okay but I don’t” speech:

Schiff’s controlled tirade will go down  as one of the great moments in Congressional hearing history in the “shame on you” category. It’s right up there with  Joseph Welch’s “Have you no sense of decency” moment during the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954.

Adam Schiff is okay.

Tweet Of The Day: Opening Day Edition

I may not be as fanatical a baseball fan as I once was, BUT Opening Day is a big enough deal for me to capitalize it. The tweet comes from historian Michael Beschloss and features the patron saint of the modern Democratic party throwing out the first pitch in 1936:

The Washington Senators beat the Yankees 1-0 on Opening Day, which took place on April 14th. Two of the era’s quirkiest pitchers, Bobo Newson of the Senators and Lefty Gomez of the Yankees, both pitched complete games, which are rarer now than a slow news cycle.

The Senators went on to have had a pretty good season finishing 82-71, good enough for third place in the American League. FDR had an even better year: winning re-election with 60.8% of the  popular vote and 523 electoral votes.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Everybody Takes A Tumble

High Spring Tide by Jack Butler Yeats

It’s time for the annual Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day parade. This year it takes place on the day before the holiday but at least we got a wee break from Mardi Gras. Parading is hard work, y’all.

As always we’re going to our friends Greg and Christy’s open house to eat, drink, and be merry. The parade is exuberantly disorganized but the party is more fun than a snake down your trousers. It’s so much fun that one year a Leprechaun attended and posed for a picture with our hosts:

This week’s insidiously catchy theme song was written by Mike Scott and Anthony Thistlethwaite  for the Waterboys’ 2007 album Book of Lightning.  We have two versions of Everybody Takes A Tumble for your listening pleasure: the studio recording and a live version from Irish teevee:

Now that we’ve filled our tumblers with Tullamore Dew, it’s time to stumble to the break. I’m not sure if I’m capable of jumping.

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Beto’s Big Getaway

It took longer than usual to come up with a title for this post. I seem to have used up all my Beto puns last year and was reluctant to Beto the ranch on a new one. I consulted with Mr. Google and learned that Sam Peckinpah’s 1972 film of The Getaway was filmed in O’Rourke’s native El Paso. The book on which it’s based was written by pulp icon Jim Thompson and it’s Pulp Fiction Thursday hence the post title.

Another reason The Getaway provides a perfect title for a post about Beto’s belated campaign announcement is that its premise seems to be “vote for the cool kid” and nobody was cooler than Steve McQueen whose nickname just happened to be The King of Cool. Destiny or a fluke? You decide.

I just finished reading Joe Hagan’s ode to Beto in Vanity Fair. Both Hagan and the candidate think O’Rourke is a man of destiny:”I want to be in it. Man, I was born to be in it.”

I’m less certain. As to the tone of the piece itself, I’m inclined to agree with this tweet from Gambit editor and Adrastos crony Kevin Allman:

The puff piece article compares O’Rourke to Obama and JFK. It even hints at a “LBJ only cuter” analogy with an extended discussion of Beto’s father Pat, a failed politician, with whom the candidate had a contentious relationship as did Lyndon and Sam Johnson. It was the most interesting part of Hagan’s hagiography piece and included this bit of myth making:

One night in July 2001 the two had what Beto O’Rourke says was “the best conversation we ever had,” ranging over family, politics, personal history. “We just ate leftovers and drank a bottle of wine in the backyard,” he recalls. The next morning, his father was cycling along a quiet route outside El Paso when he was struck by a car and thrown 70 feet to his death. “I was at work and my mom called me and I just knew,” he says. “Because her voice was shaken and said, ‘Something’s happened with your dad. You should come to the store.’”

Neither Jim Thompson nor Sam Peckinpah could have concocted a more mythic end to this father-son relationship.

I’m already on the record as a “the more the merrier” pundit. Whoever wants to contend for the 2020 Democratic nomination should run and let the voters decide. I, too, think that the ability to defeat Trump should be an important factor BUT given the slippage in the incumbent’s support and the scandals engulfing him, I think that any plausible Democratic candidate has a good chance of beating him.  I’m concerned about governing: Trump’s successor will have an ungodly number of messes to clean up including the rebuilding of the NATO alliance. Being cool is not enough.

The Beto myth did not start with the Vanity Fair puff piece. After his defeat by Ted Cruz, people started comparing him to another politician who lost a senate election and was elected president in the next cycle. Comparisons to Lincoln, Kennedy, and Obama seem a bit over-the-top and even a trifle overwrought. What’s next? Are they going to trot out the old Todd Rundgren album title: A Wizard, A True Star? Annie Leibovitz took a picture of Beto “jamming” with his kids, maybe they can do their own version of that classic 1973 album.

Here’s the deal: I will support any Democratic nominee against anyone the GOP puts forward. I don’t even dislike Beto in the way I dislike Bernie Sanders who I would also support. I’m just skeptical that the guy who lost to Tailgunner Ted who lost to the Insult Comedian is the right person to become the next president. If you want healing, unity, and love, Cory Booker is already sounding those themes. Thematically, Beto is the white Cory, only the latter’s stage mannerisms are not reminiscent of revival tent preachers. I’ll spare you comparisons to Burt Lancaster as Elmer Gantry. The Steve McQueen shtick is enough for one post.

Beto brings another liability to the race. There’s a hunger in the Democratic base for a woman and/or person of color to top the ticket in 2020. Women and minorities drove the party to victory in 2018 and many believe that we should follow suit in 2020.  I remain undecided but I’m inclined to agree.

This post is not intended as a takedown of Robert O’Rourke. I just think he should be subjected to the same scrutiny as the rest of the field. One important question is whether or not he’s ever eaten salad with a comb a la Amy Klobuchar. Repeat after me: being cool is not enough.

Being urged to run by Oprah Winfrey is not a reason for non-celebrities to support a candidate. Thus far, all we really know about O’Rourke is that he’s an excellent campaigner and that the media and some voters are in love with him. It’s unclear what his raison d’être for running for president is: “Vote for Beto because he’s cool” is not enough.

It’s obvious that Oprah and former president Obama urged him to consider running because timing is everything in politics, and O’Rourke was the brightest and shiniest media object in the 2018 campaign. He also lost his race to Ted Cruz a man who is disliked even by those who agree with him. Moral victories are not enough: the stakes are too high.

While I wish that Beto was running against John Cornyn instead of jumping into the crowded presidential field, I understand that the adage “when you’re hot, you’re hot” applies to politics. The people who ran The Getaway‘s PR campaign understood that too. This alternate poster for that movie gets the last word:

Instant Postscript: I mentioned to a friend that I was doing a Beto post centered around the Steve McQueen version of The Getaway. He reminded me that there was a unnecessary and even gratuitous 1994 remake starring SNL Trump impersonator Alec Baldwin. Betomaniacs could argue that McQueen would kick Baldwin’s ass hence O’Rourke could whip Trump. It’s not a bad argument as fictional arguments go. Repeat after me: being cool is not enough.

The Fog Of Scandal: The Massage Is The Message

Backlash is a funny thing; funny strange, not funny ha-ha. It’s not surprising that there’s been a backlash to the election of the first African American president; it was predictable and began early on with the advent of the Tea Party.

The election* of Donald Trump perfected the racist backlash to the Obama presidency. In that instance, history repeated itself: there was an anti-Civil Rights backlash in the 1966 and 1968 elections. It is largely forgotten that Richard Nixon had been a moderate on Civil Rights before that consummate opportunist became the personification of the Southern Strategy. Tricky saw an opportunity to flip the solid South in the GOP’s direction and he took it. The party of Abraham Lincoln and Jackie Robinson became the party of Strom Thurmond and Curt Schilling.

There’s an odder form of backlash going on today. Barack Obama’s administration was one of the cleanest and least corrupt in American history whereas the Trump administration is in contention for the most corrupt. The competition is stiff but the Trumpers are equal to the task. The Insult Comedian is easily the most personally corrupt Oval One in American history: Grant and Harding were largely bystanders to the wholesale theft perpetrated by their minions and Nixon was a piker compared to Trump. Repeat after me: Donald Trump is a criminal.

Just when you hoped that there wouldn’t be any scandals to fog up the political scene even more, a new one breaks. The massage parlor access scandal at least has the virtue of being unintentionally hilarious. Given the way Mar-a-Lago operates, a pay for play scandal was inevitable. Club members pay for access to the club and its owner who just happens to be the deeply corrupt Current Occupant. What could possibly go wrong?

It turns out that Cindy Yang has ties to the Chinese government as well as to the GOP. It’s *almost* a relief that this scandal involves Chinese crooks instead of Russians. It’s good to change-up criminal associates in order to achieve maximum grift in a state known for its grifters: Florida. The Yang-Kraft-Trump connection sounds like the plot of a Carl Hiassen novel instead of something happening in the real world. You cannot make this shit up, y’all.

If the Cindy Yang pay for play scandal isn’t enough to rub you the wrong way, there’s a looming scandal involving president* Trump and the CEO of Boeing:

With more countries grounding Boeing jets and with lawmakers, aviation workers and consumers calling on the United States to do the same, the head of the aerospace giant on Tuesday made a personal appeal to President Trump.

Boeing’s chief executive, Dennis A. Muilenburg, called from Chicago and expressed to Mr. Trump his confidence in the safety of the 737 Max 8 jets, according to two people briefed on the conversation. Two of the planes flown by overseas carriers have crashed in recent months in similar accidents.

This phone conversation has the potential to kill people. Instead of leading the world in aviation safety, the United States is being held hostage by the First Criminal and one of his cronies. This goes beyond comic ineptitude to serious malfeasance. What else would you expect from a guy who wanted to appoint his personal pilot to head the FAA? He knows the best people, the best people. Believe me.

Personal relationships are always important in politics and government but Team Trump has taken it to a whole new level. The president* who “promised” to drain the swamp has become a swamp thing of historic proportions. The “promise” itself was a lie by the the most prolific liar in our political history. The massage has always been the message for Donald Trump. His whole life is a series of scams that dangle bright shiny objects in front of those dazzled by his wealth, celebrity, and power. It’s high time for the suckers to stop taking the bait.

I hope that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will exercise her authority to ground the potentially lethal Boeing planes but I am not optimistic. Her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is one of the foremost Trump dignity wraiths in the country. Why would she be any different?

The last word goes to Frank Sinatra with a song that could be retitled Come Fly With Me Except In A Boeing 737 Max 8:

Lost In The News

Transitioning out of the Mardi Gras bubble is always difficult. But there’s so much going on right now that I don’t quite know where to begin. I think a potpourri post full of quick one liners and, hopefully, pertinent observations is the best way to shake off the rust. Of course rust never sleeps so who knows if that will work? Only the Shadow or Neil Young know for sure. Hey, hey, my, my.

Stale News In Brief: I watched the Cohen hearing from gavel to gavel but had company that night for the Nyx parade so I couldn’t share any thoughts and/or pithy observations. I’ve been somewhat pithed about this momentary lapse of reason, which is why I’m writing about it a week later. Better late than never.

I had assumed that Cohen was a punk and a brain-dead doofus. I was right about the former but wrong about the latter. He was well-prepared, penitent, and surprisingly sharp in a street wise Lawn Guyland kinda way.

Cohen’s performance is proof positive that exposure to Donald Trump cuts people’s IQ’s in half. It’s one reason why the Kaiser of Chaos needs to go before we become a country of mouth-breathing morons who overuse the word very. Believe me.

Speaking of dumbassery, the performance of Oversight Committee GOPers was appalling. They’re the dumbest collection of congresscritters it has ever been my displeasure to observe. They were poorly prepared and dumber than a proverbial bag of rocks.

It *is* true that Cohen was a lying sack of shit in his days as Trump’s fixer. But that means that some of the shit leaked onto the president* for whom Cohen was lying. Gym Jordan and his gang of morons didn’t see it that way. Jordan makes Trey Gowdy look like Perry Mason as a cross-examiner. Oy, just oy.

The country saw Congressman Clay Higgins and learned what we in the Gret Stet of Louisiana have known all along: he’s a poser and a nitwit. He kept asking the same question over and over even though it had been “asked and answered” as the criminal law objection goes.

Higgins is a demagogue and dumbfuck of epic proportions. Additionally, his district director is an accused pimp.  It’s a pity that his name isn’t Willie. Jerod Prunty the Pimp doesn’t  have the same ring to it:

Investigation Mania: House Democrats are gearing up to get to the bottom of the plethora of Trump related scandals. The good news is that they can walk and chew gum at the same time as they’re passing a plethora of progressive legislation as well. It will all, of course, die in the Senate but it forces them to take unpopular stands against popular legislation such as gun background checks, which I believe even the ghost of Charlton Heston favors:

An interesting tidbit in the news is Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff hiring former SDNY prosecutor Daniel Goldman to spearhead his Russia investigation. Cable news viewers know him better as a telegenic teevee lawyer on MSNBC. The president* is bound to fear him because he’s been on the tube, which could have been a factor in Schiff making this hire. Goldman is also stone cold brilliant and knows his way around Russian mobsters and oligarchs. Watch out, Trumpy.

The Big Rebuke: There are enough votes in the Senate to shoot down the Insult Comedian’s fake emergency order. As of this writing, it’s not a veto proof majority BUT the fog of scandal continues to envelop the Trump regime. That, in turn, could lead more Senatorial rats to flee the USS Trump as it sinks in a sea of scandal. Holy mixed metaphor, Batman. Is it a fog or a sea of scandal? Actually, it’s both, which is a rare example of both-siderism on my part.

John Dean On Cohen: As a Watergate junkie, I would be remiss in not mentioning John Dean’s NYT op-ed article on the impact of being a star witness on the witness:

Mr. Cohen should understand that if Mr. Trump is removed from office, or defeated in 2020, in part because of his testimony, he will be reminded of it for the rest of his life. He will be blamed by Republicans but appreciated by Democrats. If he achieves anything short of discovering the cure for cancer, he will always live in this pigeonhole. How do I know this? I am still dealing with it.

Just as Mr. Nixon had his admirers and apologists, so it is with Mr. Trump. Some of these people will forever be rewriting history, and they will try to rewrite it at Mr. Cohen’s expense. They will put words in his mouth that he never spoke. They will place him at events at which he wasn’t present and locations where he has never been. Some have tried rewriting my life, and they will rewrite his, too.

Can I get a witness?

The last word goes to the late Marvin Gaye whose image will adorn a stamp to be released on April 2nd:

Quote Of The Day: Ode To Manafort Edition

If there was ever a convicted felon in deep shit and sinking fast, it’s Paul Manafort. Here’s one of his lawyers’ arguments from his sentencing memo:

“[Manafort has spent] a lifetime promoting American democratic values and assisting emerging democracies to adopt reforms necessary to become a part of Western society.”

Holy spit take provoking quote, Batman.

I’d never confused Manafort with Captain America before. I always thought he was a corrupt piece of shit instead of a democracy promoting hero. Who knew? Nobody.

I have some sympathy for his lawyers. They gotta argue something and their client has made it impossible for them to make any plausible arguments. Hence the “my guy wasn’t charged with collusion” defense.

What’s happened to Manafort should be a cautionary tale for his old pal Roger Stone. But he’s an attention junkie so he’s unlikely to learn anything. You need to listen to learn and Rog never shuts his big fat bazoo.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Moon River

Swing Landscape by Stuart Davis

Carnival is about to kick into high gear and it looks as if it may be a wet season. There are few things worse than parading or watching in the rain. What was the old cliché? Oh yeah, don’t rain on my parade. I’m not a fan of being fenced in either.

This week’s theme song is a longtime favorite of mine. It was written in 1961 by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer for the classic movie Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Moon River has some of Mercer’s best, and most evocative, lyrics. I’m still waiting round the bend for my huckleberry friend but they haven’t shown up. So it goes.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure:  a jazzy interpretation by the great Sarah Vaughan and a swinging version by my homey Dr. John.

Now that we’re huckleberry friends, we won’t wait until the end to jump to the break.

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Malaka Of The Week: Goodloe Sutton

KKK march on Washington, 1925

Goodloe Sutton is the latest in a long line of people I’ve never heard of who have emerged from obscurity to be “honored” at First Draft. He sounds like a mild-mannered small town newspaper editor but his name is misleading: Goodloe is a bad man who’s nostalgic for simpler, stupider times. And that is why Goodloe Sutton is malaka of the week.

Malaka Goodloe *is* a small town newspaperman but he’s anything but mild-mannered. His paper, the Linden Democrat-Republican, recently published an inflammatory editorial. It’s short, so here’s the whole damn, dim-witted thing:

Photograph via Montgomery Advertiser.

The story was broken by Melissa Brown of the Montgomery Advertiser in conjunction with the editors of the Auburn student paper, The Plainsman. They know malakatude when they see it.

I particularly like Malaka Goodloe’s claim that there were black Klansmen. It’s a feeble attempt to deflect charges of racism. It’s an epic fail.

Sutton’s paper is not online so it’s unclear if he’s written this sort of editorial before or if he’s yet another bigot emboldened by the Racist-in-Chief. He lives in a small town in Alabama near the Mississippi state line so neither possibility would shock me.

This editorial is Lost Causer-ism run amuck. The Klan sets fires, they don’t put them out. Back in the 1920’s, the Klan were kleptocrats, not krusaders against korruption. That whole K thing is, uh, katchy.

Malaka Goodloe should night ride home, watch The Birth of a Nation, then STFU. He won’t heed calls for his resignation: he owns the paper but decent folks in his area should find another news source. 1925 called and wants its editorial back. And that is why Goodloe Sutton is malaka of the week.

The last word (image?) goes to the movie originally known as The Clansman:

Quote Of The Day: Pete Hamill On Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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