Category Archives: Fog Of History

Saturday Odds & Sods: Down On The Riverbed

Valley Farms by Ross Dickinson.

Dr. A and I are going to the Antiques Roadshow at the Morial Convention Center today. We’re not 100% certain what we’re taking as of this writing but I’m nervous that she’ll use me as her antique. While I have some patina, I’m not sure how valuable I am. On the other hand, if puns add value I might be worth a few bucks.

A quick political note. Here’s a tweet I sent out marking the resignation of Sean Spicer, the press secretary who could lie and chew gum at the same time:

I chose this week’s featured image because our theme song is tres Californian. So is the artist. The late Ross Dickinson was our friend Bonny’s grandfather. The Bonster went to grad school with Dr. A. End of cronyistic shout-out. Is cronyistic a word? Since I’m Greek I should know; of course, we specialize in nepotism. Unfortunately, the current administration* is giving nepotism a bad name. I take that as an affront to my heritage.

Down On The Riverbed was written by David Hidalgo and Louis Perez for Los Lobos’ fabulous 1990 album, The Neighborhood. The original studio version features John Hiatt singing harmony with some grit but without the syrup. Hominy grits you want with your eggs, Mr. Hiatt? Dave Alvin’s version comes from the 2006 album West of the West whereon he recorded some of his favorite songs written by California tunesmiths.

Now that we’ve been down on the riverbed without drowning, it’s time to don a life jacket (I wish they were still called Mae Wests) and go to the break.

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Still Worse Than Nixon

Another day, another blockbuster story about administration* criminality. Nothing they do or say surprises me even when it should. Now they’re talking about presidential* pardons including a self-pardon. I am not making this up, if I were nobody would believe me:

Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves.

Trump’s legal team declined to comment on the issue. But one adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller’s investigation.

“This is not in the context of, ‘I can’t wait to pardon myself,’ ” a close adviser said.

And we’re supposed to believe this? Why? I have a firm policy of believing nothing that anyone in this administration* says. And since when was Donald Trump curious about anything? Idleness many be his thing but idle curiosity is not. As you can see, all I have are questions. Answers are increasingly elusive as the Trumpers reel like drunk monkeys from constitutional crisis to constitutional crisis.

I wrote a post during the late election entitled Tweet Of The Day: Worse Than Nixon. It was about Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, an issue that is returning to the forefront as Team Mueller digs into the Trump crime family’s seedy business dealings. The point I made last May was that even Tricky Dick released his tax forms. Today’s point is that Nixon dismissed the notion of  a self-pardon out of hand. He thought that was beneath the dignity of the office. That was Richard Fucking Nixon who resigned in disgrace. Trump is still worse than Nixon. Now he seems hell-bent on emulating Tricky and disposing of a special prosecutor. He’ll have to find someone to do it since he doesn’t have the power to fire Bobby Three Sticks himself. If it happens, it will be a bloodier and stupider version of the Saturday Night Massacre.

The word of the day is seedy. We’ve had some shady characters work in and around the White House in our history. The Harding administration comes instantly to mind. Attorney General Harry Daugherty spent his tenure at DOJ shaking down suckers and funneling the money to his bag man, Jess Smith. The seedy Interior Secretary, Albert Fall, was involved in a sordid scheme involving oil leases at the place that gave the scandal its name, Tea Pot Dome, Wyoming. Daugherty, Smith, and Fall were choirboys compared to the thieves and blackguards surrounding the Current Occupant. This is much worse: Harding was a relatively honest dupe whereas Trump is so crooked that if he swallowed a nail he’d spit up a corkscrew. Uh oh, I sound like Gret Stet senator John Neely Kennedy…

Back to the pardon power. The constitution gives a president broad discretion in granting pardons. It’s unclear if Trump can pardon himself. Those are uncharted waters because we’ve never had a president as seedy and sleazy as Trump.  It *is* clear that he has the power to pre-emptively pardon his greasy relatives and criminal associates. The Nixon pardon serves as precedent but the scope of his crimes are beginning to pale before the unfolding Trump scandals.

I discarded my crystal ball last fall after Trump’s shocking electoral college win. I’m out of the prediction business but one thing I’m certain of is that this won’t end well for anyone involved including the citizenry. It’s what happens when a criminal is elected president*

And he’s still worse than Nixon.

Your President* Speaks: The Daily Constitutional Crisis

It’s no secret that Donald Trump thrives on conflict, chaos, and crisis. It’s also no secret that normal people find the constant chaos exhausting. I’m only marginally normal but find myself waking up and wondering what shit has hit the fan over night. Some days it’s a crazy tweet, other days it’s an interview. Whenever the Insult Comedian is interviewed by the NYT’s Maggie Haberman, the bats in his belfry come flying out.

Haberman wasn’t the only Timesperson involved in the interview but she’s the one with the knack of summoning the demons. Timing is, of course, everything. Even by the standards of the Trump presidency* it’s been a crazy few weeks: things are not going well in Trump World and when that happens, shit meet fan.

This time around there is *some* method in the president’s* madness. Events in the Trump-Russia scandal are moving at warp speed while the attempt to destroy the ACA is creeping along like a slug that’s been stepped on. The White House is issuing empty threats to Senators who are less and less afraid of the Orange Menace every day. It’s not unusual for a real president to want to change the subject but they rarely move on to an even more damaging topic. Ain’t nothing real about the pouty POTUS* on display today. Pouty POTUS*? I feel a new nickname coming on: POUTUS. I’m not sure if it requires an asterisk. The dumb fucker pouts constantly.

We begin with a comment inspired by his Parisian sojourn:

Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad. But I asked that. So I asked the president, so what about Napoleon? He said: “No, no, no. What he did was incredible. He designed Paris.” [garbled] The street grid, the way they work, you know, the spokes. He did so many things even beyond. And his one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death. How many times has Russia been saved by the weather?

Uh, POUTUS, it was Louis Bonaparte aka Napoleon III whose government laid out the street grid of which you speak. One would think Trump would like him since he was elected and then became Emperor/Dictator. Of course, he finished “a little bit bad” too. I bet the Insult Comedian has never heard of Napoleon’s nephew Louis. It would involve reading a book.

Next up is a comment about his unsupervised visit with Putin:

We talked about Russian adoption. Yeah. I always found that interesting. Because, you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Jr., Mr. Trump’s son] had in that meeting. As I’ve said — most other people, you know, when they call up and say, “By the way, we have information on your opponent,” I think most politicians — I was just with a lot of people, they said [inaudible], “Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?” They just said——

Adoption is Putinspeak for sanctions. They talked about something substantive with only Putin’s translator present. Btw, Karl Rove said he wouldn’t have taken that meeting. That’s right, Team Trump is worse than Karl Fucking Rove.

Constitutional crisis, come on down:

TRUMP: So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have — which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, “Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.” It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president. So he recuses himself. I then end up with a second man, who’s a deputy.

HABERMAN: Rosenstein.

TRUMP: Who is he? And Jeff hardly knew. He’s from Baltimore.

TRUMP: Yeah, what Jeff Sessions did was he recused himself right after, right after he became attorney general. And I said, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?” I would have — then I said, “Who’s your deputy?” So his deputy he hardly knew, and that’s Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, who is from Baltimore. There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any. So, he’s from Baltimore.

There’s a lot to unpack here. First, Sessions screwed up and did the right thing by recusing himself. He was following DOJ rules. Imagine that. Second, Trump refers to himself in the third person as the president* The only recent Oval One I can recall doing that was Tricky Dick. You know, the only president to resign in disgrace.

The bit about Rosenstein is classic Trumpian projection. Trump is a New York Republican who lost his home state 59-37 and did even worse in NYC. One would have thought Rosenstein would be his political soul brother. I guess not.

Next up is the part of Your President* Speaks in which American history is misinterpreted.

And nothing was changed other than Richard Nixon came along. And when Nixon came along [inaudible] was pretty brutal, and out of courtesy, the F.B.I. started reporting to the Department of Justice. But there was nothing official, there was nothing from Congress. There was nothing — anything. But the F.B.I. person really reports directly to the president of the United States, which is interesting.

The FBI has always been part of the DOJ and its director has always reported to the Attorney General. The president has always had the appointment power. One reason Mark (Deep Throat) Felt insisted on anonymity is that he was bypassed by Nixon to replace Hoover and didn’t want to come off as a disgruntled office seeker.

It’s time for Trump to threaten the Special Counsel:

SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?

HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t — I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make — from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that.

He didn’t definitely say he’d fire Bobby Three Sticks but the implication is clear.  Trump wants Mueller to keep his hands off the Trump crime family. We’ve had some phony Saturday Night Massacres in the past 180 days. Firing Mueller would be the real deal.

In a normal administration, we would have awakened to the news that Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein had resigned. To say that this is not a normal administration is a grotesque understatement. Normal presidents care about the appearance of impropriety and would never meet with a Russian president without a sidekick of some kind. Even the Lone Ranger would have brought Tonto along, but not Johnny Depp’s Tonto with the dead bird on his head. Hmm, maybe Trump should try that. Imagine a dead bird atop the dead nutria he has atop his head. It would be a fashion sensation, y’all.

That concludes this epic edition of Your President* Speaks. I haven’t even included Trump’s recent tweet storms. Twitter is ephemeral. The New York Times is the newspaper of record. Maggie Haberman is the Trump whisperer. The poor dear.

The Finger Of Blame

I don’t know about you but I’m enjoying all the finger pointing over the failure to repeal the ACA. The Turtle is violating every principle of Congressional leadership and making his caucus vote on a bill that cannot pass. Wait a minute, it’s what they’ve been doing since 2009. Of course, they’re in the majority and control the executive branch now. The finger of blame points at them.

POTUS* is pouting and pretending he had nothing to do with it. He claims that he doesn’t “own” this failure. Guess what, Donald, you don’t get to choose what you own when you’re the Oval One. That’s up to the voters. Democrats took the fall for the economy in the 2010 mid-terms even if the finger of blame pointed at the Bush administration and Wall Street greedheads. You don’t get to choose.

It must be great to be Donald Trump. Imagine never having made a mistake in your life. #sarcasm. It’s always someone else’s fault. Now he wants to burn down the health care house because he’s mad. Arson seems to be big in 2017. In politics it usually involves self-immolation. It’s a fiery finger of blame and it’s pointed directly at the Republican party. They own this president*.

It’s time to revisit my Russell Long paraphrase from Monday evening. His mantra was about taxes but all one needs to do is substitute blame for tax and Bob’s your uncle. I still don’t know who Bob is; perhaps he’s a white rural Trump voter or one of their explainers.

Since it’s 2017, let’s meme the Long paraphrase:

The original picture was taken on the 50th Anniversary of Huey Long’s assassination. It’s why he’s peeking out from behind Russell Long. If the Kingfish were around today, he’d probably wonder which part of this story fits the 21st Century GOP:

“The Democratic Party and the Republican Party were just like the old patent medicine drummer that used to come around our country. He had two bottles of medicine. He’d play a banjo and he’d sell two bottles of medicine.

One of those bottles of medicine was called High Popalorum and another one of those bottles of medicine was called Low Popahirum.

Finally somebody around there said is there any difference in these bottles of medicines? ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘considerable. They’re both good but they’re different,’ he said.

‘That High Popalorum is made from the bark off the tree that we take from the top down. And that Low Popahirum is made from the bark that we take from the root up.’

And the only difference that I have found between the Democratic leadership and the Republican leadership was that one of ’em was skinning you from the ankle up and the other from the ear down — when I got to Congress.”

As a seasoned Long paraphraser, I’d substitute McConnell and Trump for the parties, but I’m uncertain which is High Popalorum and which is Low Popahirum. Btw, this was a question posed to me on twitter by my friend Sam Jasper. I wish I had a better answer. All I have for her is a shout-out.

Back to the blame game. It’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys and more disconcerting than a ferret down your trousers. As of this writing, Corey Lewandowski  is claiming that the president* is going to close a deal on Obamacare repeal today. I can count both votes and lies. The votes for ACA repeal are limited and lies from Team Trump are innumerable. You’d think that they’d screw up and tell the truth at some point.

The finger of blame is a venerable phrase but it was used memorably by Neil Finn in the Crowded House song, Fall At Your Feet. I guess you know who has the last word:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Miles From Nowhere

Asakusa Hongan-ji Temple by Hokusai.

It was citywide election qualifying week here in New Orleans. I’m acquainted with three of the mayoral candidates but I’m undecided. It’s still early days in the race to replace Mitch Landrieu who is term limited and cannot run a fifth time to be Mayor. He’s a persistent bugger, y’all.

One person who talked about running was reality teevee star Sidney Torres aka the Trashanova. The Trashanova is a rich malaka who often wears a man bun, which is disqualifying as far as I’m concerned. Additionally, he’s  too closely tied to former Mayor Nagin to have a chance to win. Torres declined to throw his man bun into the ring and the city heaved a collective sigh of relief. Ta-ta, Trashanova.

This week’s theme song is a three-headed beast, sort of like me before my first cup of coffee in the morning. We have two  different songs titled Miles From Nowhere and one with a substantially similar title. I like to keep you on your toes.

After all the Tea for the Tillerson jokes, I thought it was high time to post a Cat Stevens song from the album with a substantially similar title. Substantially similar appears to be the two-word phrase of the day. Cat Stevens is followed (figuratively, not literally) by the Smithereens and Dwight Yoakam, which makes this a rather high mileage post.

Speaking of keeping you on your toes, we’re skipping the break and diving right in. Splash. Hopefully, it will be the deep, not shallow, end.

Your President* Speaks: It’s a long flight from DC to Paris so Trump had a chat with the press corps. He said some crazy shit about a transparent border wall. The “idea” is to see the “bags of drugs” flying over it or some such shit. That full quote is too long and rambling for this space but here are a couple of beauts annotated by yours truly:

So I was asked to go by the President [Macron], who I get along with very well, despite a lot of fake news. You know, I actually have a very good relationship with all of the people at the G20. And he called me, he said, would you come, it’s Bastille Day — 100 years since World War I. And I said, that’s big deal, 100 years since World War I. SO we’re going to go

The president* appears to think that Bastille Day is somehow connected to the Great War. It happened in 1789 and had something to with another famous event.

The other quote has the Insult Comedian sounding like his mentor Roy Cohn:

And I think what’s happening is, as usual, the Democrats have played their card too hard on the Russia thing, because people aren’t believing it. It’s a witch hunt and they understand that. When they say “treason” — you know what treason is? That’s Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for giving the atomic bomb, okay? But what about all the congressmen, where I see the woman sitting there surrounded by — in Congress.

Actually, Roy Cohn was a coherent motherfucker. That last sentence makes no sense whatsoever.

While we’re on the subject of the Darnold, there’s *another* excerpt from Joshua Green’s new Trump-Bannon book. It’s not as fun as the Bannon-Napoleon portrait one but it’s still swell. This excerpt is at Bloomberg News and discusses Trump’s time hosting The Apprentice. Fun fact: Trump was popular with minorities until the whole birther thing, which is when his ratings tanked. Sad.

Let’s move on to a segment about Trump’s longtime personal mouthpiece.

The Marc Kasowitz Blues: Pro Publica ran an eye-opening piece about Trump’s hard-drinking, foul-mouthed lawyer. One of the main points of the article by Justin Elliot and Jesse Eisinger is that Kasowitz will have a hard time obtaining a security clearance because of his drinking problem. I’m not sure how he can adequately defend the president* without one.

Kasowitz not only has a drinking problem, he has a nasty temper, which surfaced after a segment on the Rachel Maddow Show:

Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal attorney on the Russia case, threatened a stranger in a string of profanity-laden emails Wednesday night.

The man, a retired public relations professional in the western United States who asked not to be identified, read ProPublica’s story this week on Kasowitz and sent the lawyer an email with the subject line: “Resign Now.”

Kasowitz replied with series of angry messages sent between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern time. One read: “I’m on you now.  You are fucking with me now Let’s see who you are Watch your back , bitch.”

 In another email, Kasowitz wrote: “Call me.  Don’t be afraid, you piece of shit.  Stand up.  If you don’t call, you’re just afraid.” And later: “I already know where you live, I’m on you.  You might as well call me. You will see me. I promise.  Bro.”

Kasowitz’s spokesman, Michael Sitrick, said Thursday he couldn’t immediately reach Kasowitz for comment.

ProPublica confirmed the man’s phone number matched his stated identity. Technical details in the emails, such as IP addresses and names of intermediate mail servers, also show the emails came from Kasowitz’s firm. In one email, Kasowitz gave the man a cell phone number that is not widely available. We confirmed Kasowitz uses that number.

The exchange began after the man saw our story featured last night on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC. We reported that Kasowitz is not seeking a security clearance even though the Russia case involves a significant amount of classified material.

Moral of the story: always think twice before hitting the send icon Also, isn’t Kasowitz a bit old to call someone bitch or bro? He’s 65. The AARP weeps.

It’s unclear if Trump congratulated or castigated  Kasowitz for his mob lawyer outburst. It might be time to call in John Gotti’s lawyer Bruce Cutler seen below with his favorite client and a guy who looks like Paulie Walnuts’ unkempt cousin:

Bruce Cutler and John Gotti via the NY Daily News.

The Dapper Don in a turtleneck, not a tie? The fashion gods must have wept that day.

I’m sure Trump has met Cutler. I was disappointed not to find any pictures of them together when I asked first Siri and then Mr. Google. So it goes.

While we’re on the subject of the Trump-Russia scandal, next up is a “fake news” toon.

Cartoon Of The Week: I resisted the temptation to post Hokusai’s most famous painting, The Wave, as this week’s featured image. The Guardian’s Steve Bell, however, went for it in this cartoon about Trump Junior’s problems.

Holy shit storm, Batman.

It’s time to put New Yorkers and Muscovites in the rear view mirror and move on.

Warren Zevon’s Last Waltz: I’ve made a boatload of Zevon references recently so I reckoned I should share Jon Pareles’ classic 2003 profile of WZ as he faced death.

Since the story uses WZ’s last appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman as a backdrop, here’s that episode:

Enjoy every sandwich.

It’s time to sing the blues with a master of the form.

Saturday Classic: Albums featuring guest artists were the rage in the late Eighties and early Nineties. John Lee Hooker’s The Healer was one of the best of the bunch. It featured Carlos Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, Canned Heat, Los Lobos, George Thorogood, and Charlie Musselwhite. Enjoy.

That’s it for this week. I wrote more about politics than the average Saturday post, but I have Russia on my mind. I must be pining for cold weather. Our closing bat-meme features real life super villains Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Btw, Donny now claims that Vladdy was for Hillary in the late election. Oy, just oy.

The “Everybody Does It” Defense

I didn’t expect there to be a smoking gun in the Trump-Russia scandal. I certainly didn’t expect it to involve Trump Junior. I’ve always expected the Trumpers and their enablers in the Republican party to resort to the “everybody does it” defense. It’s what happens when past defenses are exposed as lies. Of course, nothing said by the Trump crime family and its lackeys is ever true. Nothing. No thing. Literally. Believe me.

The counterattacks are flying thick, fast, and unconvincing. They’re desperately trying to unearth past instances of a presidential campaign working with a HOSTILE foreign power. Good luck with that:

Moscow has, however, tried to meddle in previous American elections. The historian Michael R. Beschloss recounts in “The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev, 1960-1963,” an account of the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Kennedy presidency, that the Soviet ambassador in Washington secretly reached out to both John F. Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson, another Democratic presidential hopeful, during the 1960 campaign. The ambassador was rebuffed by both candidates.

Imagine that. Of course, Jack Kennedy had smart relatives involved in his campaign something the Insult Comedian is sorely lacking. Jared? Junior? Gimme a break.

Instead of listening to his lawyers and shutting his big bazoo, the idiot-in-chief has chimed in on the Tweeter Tube:

Hey, he’s not citing Fox News in support. This is some daring “thinking” on Donald’s part.

As the Trump’s tower of lies implodes, it’s time for Republican office holders to stop defending him or give up their frequent invocations of their secular saint, Ronald Reagan. Here’s the deal: I never supported or voted for Reagan but never doubted his patriotism. The current Russian kleptocracy is the successor state to the Soviet Union. Does anyone seriously think that the man who called the USSR “the evil empire” would accept oppo from a lawyer linked to the Kremlin?

Reagan may have been the leader who incubated what Charlie Pierce calls the GOP’s “prion disease,” but he was an old-fashioned patriot whose favorite president was Franklin Roosevelt. The Republicans have done a good job in the last 30+ years of making Reagan their FDR. Neither FDR nor Reagan would have colluded with a hostile power to gain political advantage. They didn’t need to do so to win elections.  Defending Trump’s perfidy means that the GOP *should* lose the right to invoke Saint Ronnie. Will they stop? Hell no, but their invocations ring hollower by the day.

The world has truly turned upside down when I praise Ronald Reagan. Trump is so horrible that he makes Reagan look good in contrast. So it goes.

The “everybody does it” defense is a feeble one. Nixon and his minions trotted it out during Watergate. It did not work.

I originally planned to play Irving Berlin’s Everybody’s Doing It Now at the end of the post until I ran into the tune below. It was the label on the record that clinched it: Carnival Records with a clown logo. The Trump crime family brought the circus to the White House. It took six months for some people to realize that they’d taken a giant dump in the Rose Garden. Some people do not have a good sense of smell but the stench is growing day-by-day.

The Beguileds

I violated my film buff principles when I went to see Sofia Coppola’s remake of Don Siegel’s The Beguiled. I hate remakes, especially remakes of good movies. I was convinced by an article in the NYT that Coppola’s vision was so different from Siegel’s that I should give the remake a chance. Coppola *is* a very feminine director and Siegel was a manly man director of genre films. Their interpretations *are* different but it’s hard to think of any changes that Coppola made that improved the story.  In short, I wish I’d stuck to my guns and stayed away.

Dr. A and I watched the 1971 version again a few days before going to the movies. It’s a terrific, suspenseful, and deeply weird movie with the Civil War as an important character. Eastwood plays a surprisingly chatty Union corporal named John McBurney. It seemed like a better fit for Paul Newman or Jim Garner BUT Clint rocked the part.

The Beguiled is fundamentally a Southern Gothic tale in the tradition of Flannery O’Connor. Coppola has removed some of the elements that made the story juicy, ripe, and entertaining. She’s also desexed the movie and reduced headmistress Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman)  to prim and propertude. Is that a word? Coppola’s movie removes the Gothic from Southern Gothic, which makes it feel more like a southern fried episode of Downton Abbey set in Virginia. It was, however, filmed in Louisiana which is obvious by the landscape. Siegel too filmed in the Gret Stet but his movie was set in Mississippi. That made much more sense.

Then there are Coppola’s offenses against history. First, the Civil War is an after thought to the story. The war provides a menacing backdrop to Siegel’s 1971 film whereas it’s incidental to Coppola’s fixation on atmospherics. Then, there’s the dismissal of slavery in a line of dialogue: “The slaves left.” This is a movie set in the South that has no black characters whereas one of the best performances in Siegel’s film came from Mae Mercer as Hallie the enslaved housekeeper.

I was surprised when I looked up the running times of the two movies and learned that the 2017 version is 12 minutes shorter than the original. It seems much longer as the pacing is as slow as molasses and little happens until the last act. Sofia Coppola has always been much more interested in atmospherics than story-telling.  It’s the fatal flaw in this movie: The Beguiled is not a subtle, nuanced story and Coppola’s attempt to make it one renders it dull and lifeless.

In the end, my issues with Coppola’s movie boil down to my taste in directors. Like the original French auteur theorists, I prefer the work of unpretentious genre directors such as Don Siegel to those filmmakers who are self-consciously arty like Ms. Coppola. It has nothing to do with gender but with style. It’s a pity because I *love* Lost In Translation but I cannot say the same about her latest effort.

I give Don Siegel’s 1971 version of The Beguiled 3 stars, an Adrastos Grade of B and an Ebertian thumbs up. As to the 2017 remake, I give it 2 stars, an Adrastos Grade of C and thumbs down. If anything, Dr. A disliked the remake more than I did because Coppola transformed Miss Martha, the head mistress played first by Geraldine Page and then Nicole Kidman, from a slightly crazy badass into a prim and proper Southern lady. Bad choice.

Next time, I’ll skip the remake.

First Draft Potpourri: I’ll Be Doggone Edition

I used to think of July as the dog days of summer when not much happened. Those days appear to be gone, doggone it, We’ve had another news-heavy weekend so I’m going to run several flags up the pole and salute them; some with a one-fingered salute. I may, however, let one of my handy colleagues above do the dirty work. It’s an all hands on deck moment for the Republic, after all.

No Polish Joke: The other day, I threatened to title a post Polish Joke when the Insult Comedian was delivering his triumph of the will rant in Warsaw. I did not. I didn’t want to revive shit like this:

Ethnic joke books like the one above were popular when I was a kid. It’s one reason I was concerned that Trump would start riffing on Polish jokes. He *is* the first Insult Comedian ever elected president*. Given the tone and nature of his speech, even the nastiest Polish joke would have been better than the mish-mash of white ethno-nationalist nonsense he delivered. The fingerprints of Stephens Miller and Bannon were all over the speech. Oh, goody.

Since there were two outstanding pieces about the No Polish Joke speech at the Atlantic, I’ll send you there for some serious analysis:

How American Presidents Used To Speak Abroad by James Fallows.

The Racial and Religious Paranoia of Trump’s Warsaw Speech by Peter Beinart.

You Say Collusion, I Say Conspiracy:  According to the NYT, the amoral nincompoops of Team Trump went fishing for derogatory material about Hillary Clinton in Russian waters. Trump Junior has told several different stories about this meeting. I, of course, do not believe any of them. Lying comes as naturally as breathing to this crowd.

I saw Junior referred to as the Fredo of the Trump crime family. I disagree, doggone it. They’re a family of Fredos. Only a Fredo would allow his daughter to sit in for him at a major international conference. Nepotism is in like Flynn as it were.

Vlad-n-Donny’s Love Fest: Team Trump spun the meeting as a win for their guy because he allegedly didn’t make any major gaffes.  It appears to have been a triumph for the Russians. It was four liars in a room with two translators. I believe Russian liar Lavrov’s account of the meeting and not the weak tea poured by the Tillerson. The former’s statement comports more with Trump’s previous comments as well as these post-meeting tweets by Putin’s Pawn:

The whole “let by-gones be by-gones” theme struck by both Trump and Tillerson gave Putin the win, doggone it. The sound you hear is past Republican Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan rolling over in their graves. In fact, I believe Ike’s hardline Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was briefly reanimated then died of a heart attack upon learning of the Putin-Trump encounter…

The meeting also inspired one of Trump’s dizzier ideas:

Fox meet hen-house. The reaction was so negative that the president* kinda sorta walked it back during this morning’s tweet storm:

I believe the Watergate conspirators would have called this a “modified, limited” walk back. They should try the Ron Ziegler method and call the  original tweet “inoperative.” If only we could declare the entire Trump administration* inoperative and rewind the past 170 days. It seems like 170 years, y’all.

I wish they’d give us back the dog days of summer but since they won’t, I’ll give Marvin Fucking Gaye the last word, doggone it:

 

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Garden Of Earthly Delights

The Garden Of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch.

The first week of July is when it really heats up in New Orleans. The air is thick and smacks you upside the head when you venture outside. The pace of life slows to a crawl and Oscar and Della can be found sprawled out on our wood floors hoping to cool themselves. Nice work if you can get it.

Later today, I’m going to the silliest annual event in New Orleans. It’s a non-violent running of the bulls thingamabob. The “bulls” are roller girls wielding soft paddles. I do not run. Dr. A and I hang out with our friend Cait and the child army of darkness whilst her husband Dave runs. We all sweat. It’s minosas and donuts for me, y’all. Perhaps I should take a Spank paddle to liven things up:

This week’s theme song is inspired by our Boschian theme. You may have noticed that Hieronymus Bosch’s prot0-surrealist The Garden of Earthly Delights is the featured image. There will be more Bosching about later but I will never head to the mountains and drink Busch beer. You say Busch, I say Bosch. Let’s call the whole thing off. Stop me before I quote Ira Gershwin again.

Back to the theme song. It comes from XTC’s Oranges and Lemons album whose cover was featured of a Wednesday in 2014. That feature was sidelined this week but will return next Wednesay: bad scout’s honor. Welcome to the garden of earthly delights, y’all.

I have another Boschy song for your listening pleasure. It was written and recorded by that self-described “awful little man,” Graham Parker.

Now that we’ve listened to some late-Eighties alternative rock, you deserve a break today. OMG, I sound like Ronald Fucking McDonald. That simply will not do.

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What is the 7th or 8th Commandment?

Thou shall not steal.

I doubt if they’d accept that answer in the form of a question on Jeopardy but different religious traditions number the Ten Commandments differently. Impressed with my indifferent biblical scholarship? Don’t be. I learned about the 4-4 split on Wikipedia. I like to show off my erudition even when I don’t have any. All I know about the Ten Commandments, I learned from Cecil B. DeMille and that big slab of Kosher ham, Charlton Heston. Kosher ham? I know that’s impossible but he played Moses so…

Now that I’ve blasphemed and shit, it’s time for today’s episode of Grifting For Jesus:

The packages that made their way from Israel and the United Arab Emirates to retail outlets owned by Hobby Lobby, the seller of arts and craft supplies, were clearly marked as tile samples.

But according to a civil complaint filed on Wednesday by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, they held something far rarer and more valuable: ancient clay cuneiform tablets that had been smuggled into the United States from Iraq.

Prosecutors said in the complaint that Hobby Lobby, whose evangelical Christian owners have long maintained an interest in the biblical Middle East, began in 2009 to assemble a collection of cultural artifacts from the Fertile Crescent. The company went so far as to send its president and an antiquities consultant to the United Arab Emirates to inspect a large number of rare cuneiform tablets — traditional clay slabs with wedge-shaped writing that originated in Mesopotamia thousands of years ago.

In 2010, as a deal for the tablets was being struck, an expert on cultural property law who had been hired by Hobby Lobby warned company executives that the artifacts might have been looted from historical sites in Iraq, and that failing to determine their heritage could break the law.

Despite these words of caution, the prosecutors said, Hobby Lobby bought more than 5,500 artifacts — the tablets and clay talismans and so-called cylinder seals — from an unnamed dealer for $1.6 million in December 2010.

There’s nothing that makes me happier than some psalm-singing Evangelical son of a bitch being caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar. Receiving stolen artifacts is a crime against history and, I daresay, the religion the Hobby Lobbyists flaunt or is that flout. This Mesopotamian mess has also inspired a mess of puns. I myself have been Babylon and on…

If you’re an irony fan, the most delicious thing about the Mess in Mesopotamia is that Isis could have been the original sellers. When they’re not destroying or defiling historical artifacts, they’ve been known to sell them to incurious buyers. I guess one could say that fundamentalists of a feather flock together.

I wonder if this puts the kibosh on the proposed bible museum and craft store the Hobby Lobbyists and others of their ilk plan to open at Washington City this fall. I suspect it will go on but there’s going to be some empty space where the stolen artifacts should have been. Perhaps they’ll order up a miracle of some kind. Stay tuned.

Holy Mesopotamian Mess, Batman. It’s what happens when you fail to heed The Ten Commandments of Love:

That concludes this episode of Grifting For Jesus. Dial H for Hypocrisy, pass the collection plate, and play some Genesis:

Saturday Odds & Sods: You Never Can Tell

It’s been a long week in New Orleans. It’s been wet, steamy, and crimey. Is that a word? The spell-checker wanted to change it to criminy. The local media have been in full freak out mode over a mugging/beatdown in the Quarter, which means we’ve had to see the video of the attack 444 times. They caught the muggers who appear to be Katrina kids left to their own devices after the storm. It’s a sad story all the way around. Criminy.

This week’s featured image is a photograph of the spectacular Babylon set built for D.W. Griffith’s 1916 epic Intolerance, which I mentioned the other day in my post about racist vandalism in Mississippi. The statues and other adornments were made of plaster and executed by artisans imported from Italy. Team Trump would want to deport them instead of celebrating their artistry. Unfortunately, the set was torn down but its glory is preserved in pictures and on film.

This week’s theme song was written by Chuck Berry. It’s a tune of many names. It’s also known as C’est La Vie or the Teenage Wedding Song. Berry’s original version turned up in Pulp Fiction as the soundtrack for the dancing scene between the two Ts: Travolta and Thurman.

Next up are two spirited renditions. The first comes from Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings. I stumbled into it whilst mocking the anti-Beatle diatribe of the Other Bill Wyman in this space not long ago. I had to, uh, Get Back at him.

The second version was requested of Bruce Springsteen at a 2013 show. It’s fun to watch the E Street Band work through it. Call it inside rock and roll:

Now that we’ve seen Uma dance and Bruce wing it, let’s go to the break. See you on the other side.

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Lost Cause Fest, Mississippi Style

Photograph by Alan Hammons.

The stock line for monuments Lost Causers has been “you’re erasing history.” As you can see above, that’s just what happened next door in Mississippi.

A civil rights historical marker in Mississippi has been vandalized, obliterating information about black teenager Emmett Till, who was kidnapped and lynched in 1955.

The slaying galvanized the civil rights movement when Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, had an open-casket funeral in Chicago to show how her 14-year-old son had been brutalized while he was visiting the Mississippi Delta.

Allan Hammons, whose public relations firm made the marker, said Monday that someone scratched the marker with a blunt tool in May. During the past week, a tour group discovered vinyl panels had been peeled off the back of the metal marker in Money, Mississippi. The panels contained photos and words about Till.

“Who knows what motivates people to do this?” Hammons said, noting that traffic signs are common targets for vandals and shooters in rural areas. “Vandals have been around since the beginning of time.”

I know what motivates people to do such a thing: racism. Given the marker’s relative proximity to New Orleans, it could also be misdirected payback for the removal of the white supremacy monuments here. If that sounds like a stretch, they’re still sitting hillbilly shiva across from the former Jefferson Davis monument. They’re only here on the weekends but they’re still at it.

This is not the first time the Till marker has been vandalized but it’s the most sinister. Bullet holes can be written off as the work of drunken peckerwoods. This cannot. It took time, effort, and planning. It’s the work of sober peckerwoods with malicious intent.

The electoral college victory of president* Trump has ushered in an era of intolerance as well as the new gilded age I’ve written about before. It’s fitting: Jim Crow swept the South *during* the Gilded Age. Trump’s rhetoric about political correctness has given racists and xenophobic bigots a green light to do what they do best; hate.

Trump is too dim and self-absorbed to feel any regrets over the malign forces he has unleashed. Shallow thy name is Donald. I’d like to point out that D.W. Griffith *did* feel some regrets over the turmoil caused by The Birth of a Nation. It led to a second epic, Intolerance. It was too diffuse and arty to have the same impact but it showed that Griffith was human and capable of  minimal growth. The Insult Comedian is not. But you knew that already.

Back to the notion of “erasing history.” I’m against it, but continue to believe that who or what we honor says a lot about who we are as a people. The Lee and Davis monuments were erected to honor white supremacy and a war that was waged to preserve human bondage. The Emmett Till marker was put up to honor a young man whose lynching helped inspire the Civil Rights movement.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: intent is everything. The Civil Rights movement is worthy of public celebration, white supremacy is not. It’s not the erasure of history to celebrate the positive whilst castigating the negative. I do not want anyone to forget slavery, segregation, and racial violence. I just don’t want them celebrated in the public green.

 

First Draft Potpourri For $400, Alex

Remember when we had the odd slow news weekend? That’s become a rarity in the era of the Insult Comedian and the failed Republican Congress. The scandals and bad legislation keep flying at us like Russian malware attacks. Hence this recurring feature. I’m not planning to restrict First Draft Potpourri to just one day. I prefer to be like the Scarlet Pimpernel:

They seek him here, they seek him there.

Those Frenchies seek him everywhere, that damned elusive pimpernel.

Frenchies? I guess that’s not too bad as ethnic slurs go. Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan stepped in a pile of guinea doo-doo by referring to “Dago Red” wine in an interview that consisted of slamming the Italian-American leader of his caucus, Nancy D’Alessandro Pelosi. Ryan subsequently apologized for using what he claimed was the local lingo in his part of Ohio. Attaboy, Timmy. I wonder if you’ve been called the other M word recently; Malaka. Probably not.

Many New Orleans eateries used to carry an item called the “wop salad.” I took the pulse of my community and found only one place in the metro area that still calls it that. It’s Rocky and Carlo’s in Chalmette. It’s in St. Bernard Parish which once had a councilman named Joey DiFatta. That’s apropos of nothing but I miss him. It’s doubtful that the Chalmatians feel the same way.

Let’s get back to Nancy Smash, she’s become the anti-pinup girl for GOP fundraisers and mad men. It’s no surprise: they’re particularly fond of slamming powerful women. I was, however, gobsmacked that some of the simpler folk on twitter think this is a new move. Wingnuts have always had a target or three in Congress: Ted Kennedy was their main whipping boy for many years. He was librul and came from a den of inquity/librul city, Boston. Nancy Smash, of course, represents San Francisco, but she remains at heart the daughter of  former Baltimore Mayor Tommy D’Alessandro. She takes the best of machine politics and mashes it up with progressive positions on the issues. She has her critics, but I say bring it on, Berners. If you can get the votes, you win. That is if you know how to count votes. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Speaking of vote counting, the drama over the Senate health care reform* bill is coming down to a head count. I’m neither as optimistic nor pessimistic as some pro-ACA observers. There are four GOPers who want a worse bill. I think they’re posturing: it’s what Ted Cruz and Aqua Buddha do. The so-called moderates are staging a “woe is me” pantomime but they tend to fold like a drunk with a pair of deuces. Besides, Chinless Mitch will not bring a bill to the floor that he doesn’t have 50 votes + Mike Pence. McConnell is a totally reprehensible human being but the fucker can count. There is, however, an outside possibility that he wants to lose the vote and blame it on the president*.

Time for an account of one of my favorite non-obscene LBJ stories. It involves  a conversation he had with Hubert Humphrey when they served together in the Senate. LBJ looked at HHH and said: “The problem with you liberals Hubert is that you cain’t count. That’s why you cain’t get shit done. Learn to count.” The no-account HHH learned his lesson and applied it when he was lead Senator on the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

I’ve heard rumbling about Jane and Bernie Sanders’ financial dealings for quite some time. Nothing seemed to come of it until recently. It turns out the feds are looking into issues surrounding her tenure as President of Bennington College. I have no idea if there’s anything to it but they’ve lawyered up; hiring Dollar Bill Jefferson’s mouthpiece, Larry Cassidy who also defended Scooter Libby. He lost those cases but has a good reputation. Stay tuned.

The Insult Comedian continues to tweet like a demented moron. It’s annoying as hell but it’s proof positive that he doesn’t know anything about the first rule of holes: if you’re in one, stop digging. He’s also denounced former President Obama for using the word mean. The Darnold seems to think he owns the word. I wonder if he’s coming after Crowded House next?

That concludes this edition of First Draft Potpourri. I’ll be stirring the pot again some time soon. I am relentless.

Quote Of The Day: The Fog Of Historical Analogy

Bottoms up with the Kingfish,

There’s an interesting piece at the New York Times by Moshik Temkin critiquing the “historian as pundit” trend. There have always been a few name brand popular historians punditting on the boob tube including such recent examples as Michael Beschloss, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Douglas Brinkley. But the Trump presidency* has transformed a trickle into a flood. Professor Temkin dissents from the trend with some vehemence.

The wonderfully named Moshik Temkin professes at Harvard’s Kennedy Scool of guvmint. His best known book is The Sacco-Venzetti Affair: America On Trial. I haven’t read it but I’ve heard good things.

The money quote in the article addresses comparisons between the Insult Comedian and the Gret Stet’s own Kingfish. Since I posted the Ken Burns film, Huey Long, yesterday, this was an easy pick as QOTD:

To take just one example, during his campaign, Mr. Trump was frequently compared to Huey Long, the Depression-era governor of Louisiana. Sure, there are similarities: Like Mr. Trump, Long ran in the name of the “people,” attacked the establishment and was labeled a demagogue and fascist by his critics. But the differences are even more important: Long was self-made, a genuine populist who took on powerful interests, and as governor was responsible for building roads, bridges and hospitals and helping the poor. He never engaged in race baiting — astonishing for a populist Southern politician in that era. The point isn’t that Mr. Trump is or is not like Long (and he’s not); it’s that the analogy is meaningless.

I don’t entirely agree that the analogy is meaningless. Anything that gets people interested in  history is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. I am more likely to object to politicians who warp history to serve their own purposes. Apparently, Vladimir Putin does so repeatedly in his interviews with that credulous boob, Oliver Stone. Since Stone is ignorant of Russian history, Putin can lie with impunity. Have I mentioned recently how much I hate Oliver Stone? He’s a heavy-handed film director having a second life as a dictator fan boy. So it goes.

Back to Temkin’s piece. I am glad that he understands that Huey P. Long was the ultimate mixed bag but his legacy is overall a positive one. All the Current Occupant wants to do is destroy his predecessor’s legacy as well as one of America’s greatest achievements, NATO. Additionally, Huey was brilliant and Trump is a moron.

Reading Professor Temkin’s piece for second time, I begin to wonder if he’s what Gore Vidal called “a scholar squirrel.” The scholar squirrels of the Master’s day were academic historians who were jealous of those who wrote popular histories or, in Vidal’s case, best-selling historical novels. Envy is never a pretty sight.

For now, I take Temkin at his word when he states categorically that Historians Shouldn’t Be Pundits. But I reserve the right to mock him if starts turning up on cable teevee as an expert and/or pundit. That would be confirmation that he’s a scholar squirrel; as such he should be pelted with envy-green acorns or pistachios. Others might feed him crow but I prefer dispensing mercy as well as mockery. It’s a kinder murder…of crows.

The last word goes to the late great Levon Helm performing a certain Randy Newman tune that I’ve posted before:

I hope y’all are proud of me for getting through the post without punning on the Professor’s name. I didn’t even call him Boychik but the Temkin was killing me…

 

Sunday Morning Video: Huey Long

It’s documentary time. The film that put Ken Burns on the map in 1985: Huey Long. 

First Draft Potpourri For $200, Alex

Last week’s potpourri post smelled sweeter than jasmine so I thought I’d do it again. Actually, I hate potpourri: I had a distant relative who had it everywhere in her house even in the urn with her late husband’s ashes. I am not making this up. It made me sneeze: the potpourri, not the ashes. I do, however, like Jeopardy-style potpourri.

Eat Two, Brute? We begin with the Trumpers who are outraged about the Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar depicting the Insult Comedian as Caesar. I guess the protesters never studied Julius Caesar in high school or they’d know that the plotters are NOT the heroes of the piece. Besides, there was a production a few years back with an Obama-like Caesar, which ran without incident. Details are beyond people who say shit like this:

“People like me, I don’t even know if they’d let me in,” Ms. Pujol said outside the Delacorte Theater, the home of Shakespeare in the Park. “I am not far right. No one here is far right. We’re only accused of being far right because we love America.”

You could have bought a ticket, ya cheap bastid. Shakespeare did not have the Scalise shooting on his mind when either he, Christopher Marlowe, or Francis Bacon wrote the play. It was first staged in 1599, after all. Besides, if you were a film buff you’d know that James Mason was in his villain phase when he played Brutus in the 1953 film version. Btw, he looked almost as good in a skirt as Brando.

Is He Is Or Is He Ain’t? Team Trump is confused. Anyone surprised? Me neither. Trump’s new mouthpiece Jay Sekulow claims the president* is not under investigation as opposed to what a certain Insult Comedian with cotton candy piss hair tweeted out:

It’s more likely than not that Trump hired Sekulow because the wingnut lawyer makes frequent appearances on Fox News. He’s NOT a criminal defense lawyer. For all we know, Trump hired John Dowd because the latter wrote the report that got Pete Rose banned from baseball in 1989. Trump *is* a Yankees fan and the Big Red Machine swept them in the 1976 World Series.

Trump’s defense is going to be as entertaining as it is inept. He’ll inevitably pit them against one another, not listen to any of them, and refuse to pay. Fun times. Believe me.

Rumor Mill Blues: This is a weird one. The Hill is mentioning New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu as a Democratic “dark horse” for the 2020 presidential race. The Mayor has shown no interest in running to replace Trump, Pence, or Ryan. It’s hard to tell which one will be Oval One in 2020. The Gambit’s Kevin Allman has the details.

Speaking of the local alternative weekly, they quoted yours truly in their commentary on the Scalise shooting. Thanks, y’all.

Tweet Of The Weekend: There’s a weird cat related tweet going around. I’m uncertain if it’s meant literally or as satire:

What about white cats? I had one that-to my everlasting shame-I named Q-Tip. He was too dim as well as too sweet to plot against anything or anyone. Believe me.

Finally, a more uplifting message from the NYT’s Charles Blow:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Get Back

Collage from Une Semaine de Bonte by Max Ernst.

The celestial switch has flipped and it’s full-tilt summer in New Orleans. We’ve also had a lot of rain but not in the classic downpour between 2 and 3 every afternoon pattern. Instead, we’ve had the sort of all day rain that makes one want to curl up in a ball. Of course, Oscar and Della Street need no such excuse, it’s what they do. It’s probably down to climate change but I’m not a meteorologist so what the hell do I know?

Today is the 45th anniversary of the arrest of the Watergate burglars. That scandal is much in the news for some peculiar reason. #sarcasm. One major difference between then and now is that many people argued that Tricky Dick was too smart to be involved in such a stupid crime. We’re not hearing that about the Current Occupant who is easily the most self-destructive and stupid president* in our history. Many think he’s already the worst ever. It’s too early to say, but he’s in a race to the bottom along with George W. Bush, Andrew Johnson, and James Buchanan

Let’s move on to a happier subject, this week’s theme song. The Beatles have tightly restricted online access to the original studio versions of their tunes. Fortunately, Get Back was performed by the Fab Four during their legendary London rooftop concert.  We also have Macca on the kinda sorta rooftop of the Ed Sullivan Theatre. I guess that’s what they mean by shouting from the rooftops.

Yeah, I know. It’s called a marquee; not be confused with les Maquis.

It’s unclear to me if Jo Jo ever got back to where he once belonged. We’ll resume our rooftop shout-a-thon after the break. Marquee my words…

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The Scalise Shooting

This one hit close to home for me. Steve Scalise represents the district next to mine. I don’t like his politics, but I want him taken out peacefully at the ballot box, not violently in a park.

I wrote about the good part of social media earlier today. We’re seeing the dark side of it now. This time around, it’s bipartisan malakatude since the shooter was a Sanders volunteer. To his credit, the Senator has already taken to the Senate floor to denounce the shooter. It’s not about him, it’s not about right or left, it’s about fundamental human decency.

Not everything is a political issue to be instantly batted about by social media trolls and keyboard warriors. That’s too abstract for my taste, it shows a fatal lack of empathy; a quality we need now more than ever. This is how I summed it up on my Facebook timeline:

Things were already terrible and this will only make it worse. Today, I don’t care that the shooter was a Berner. Today, I don’t care that Scalise has horrible views on everything under the sun. He does. I’ve even made him malaka of the week. But this is not how we *should* do things in America. Unfortunately, violence is as American as apple pie. Our reaction to this event should not be colored by our personal politics. We need to try to be better than that. There’s plenty of time to discuss gun violence and health care. This sort of event doesn’t lend itself to instant analysis. A deep breath is called for.

I told a funny story earlier today,  it’s time for a more serious one. I was a high school freshman when George Wallace was shot. I was a young McGovernite. It was the first time I volunteered in a campaign. As horrible as it sounds, I was in the mood to celebrate when I arrived at my Poli Sci class. My teacher was just as liberal as I was: we stuffed envelopes together at McGovern HQ both before and after the shooting. She informed me that gun violence is wrong regardless of the target. She reminded me that the main reason we both supported George McGovern was to end the war in Vietnam. I realized she was right and felt ashamed for trying to score political points over the Wallace shooting. If it had been George McGovern, I would have cold cocked a kid who was celebrating. She said something that has always stuck with me: “There’s a fatal lack of empathy in the world and that’s what we need.”

It’s true to this very day. The world needs not only love but empathy. Today’s social media discourse reminds me of Adrastos’ first two rules of satire:

  1. Always kick up, never down.
  2. Violence, especially gun violence, is only funny if its slapstick. It’s never funny when it’s real and life threatening.

I learned the second part the hard way when I wanted to tell Wallace jokes way back in 1972. I’m glad I had a teacher who straightened me out. I learned that what the world needs more than anything else is empathy.

I realize some of you won’t agree with parts of this post. So it goes. There will be a time when this is grist for the political mill. I think it’s a good idea to let the dust settle and know what we’re talking about. I prefer the clarity of facts to the fog of social media.

Make sure you read Athenae’s post on the shooting, You Never Thought. She comes at it from an entirely different angle. It’s good stuff.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Jim Kweskin’s America

Jim Kweskin was a respected folkie in the Sixties. He got involved with a semi-cult in Boston that was founded by the harmonica player in his Jug Band, Mel Lyman. There was a hair-raising story about the Lyman Family by David Felton in Rolling Stone in 1971. It was one of the magazine’s early forays into investigative reporting and it remains a helluva yarn.

The Lyman Family did not have an apocalyptic end a la the Manson clan or the Heaven’s Gate cult. Mel Lyman died in 1978 and members of the family founded a construction company, which is still active in Los Angeles. Jim Kweskin is a VP of that company: Fort Hill Construction.

Jim Kweskin’s America was recorded in 1971 during the heyday of the Lyman Family. It has a much longer official title as you can see from the cover. Richard D. Herbuck was a pseudonym for Mel Lyman. One cannot make this shit up. So it goes.

I’m not sure who did the album design but it’s a pretty good Sgt. Pepper inspired photo montage.

Here’s the album in the You Tube playlist format:

 

Sunday Morning Video: All The President’s Men Revisited

The 45th anniversary of the arrest of the Watergate burglars is next Saturday. And we all have Watergate on our minds right now for some odd reason. All The President’s Men Revisited was produced by Robert Redford in 2013. It got the WaPo band back together.

Speaking of All The President’s Men, Here’s a link to the podcast I did about the movie with my friends Dave Gladow and David Lee Simmons.  I’m the one not named David.