Category Archives: Fog Of History

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.

Saturday Odds & Sods: One Way Out

Part of the Migration Series by Jacob Lawrence.

It was politics Thursday here at Adrastos World HQ. In addition to Comeypalooza,  Oscar and I watched the British election returns. It’s always great fun to see the BBC’s venerable David Dimbleby at work in what are the wee hours in the UK. He gets a bit punchy whereas the young uns are falling out. I dig their graphics, especially the virtual House of Commons. It’s uncommonly cool.

The Tories ran a dreadful campaign and fell short of a majority in the House of Commons. The Maybot has vowed to soldier on with help from the Ulster Unionists but Tory knives are sharpening after her big gamble flopped. I’m not a huge Jeremy Corbyn fan BUT the man is a good campaigner and Labour made impressive gains. If the Maybot attempts to stay indefinitely there may be another election sooner than the British people would like. Stay tuned.

We return to our regularly scheduled Saturday programming.

The topic of who wrote this week’s theme song is the subject of considerable debate. One Way Out has been credited to both Elmore James and Sonny Boy Williamson. I haven’t the foggiest idea who the real songwriter is but it’s a helluva tune. There was even a 1965 variation by GL Crockett called It’s A Man Down There.

I’m not getting involved in the authorship fracas other than posting multiple versions of this blues classic. In fact, I’m staying out of the Sonny Boy/Elmore thicket altogether by posting the Allman Brothers Band, Crockett, and a rendition by John Hiatt from a Gregg Allman tribute. We begin with the version that I first heard on the radio longer ago than I care to admit. There ain’t nothing better than live Allman Brothers:

There’s only way out here at First Draft as well. I’ll show you the exit after the break.

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Everything In The World

It was confirmed  this weekend that everything in the world is about Donald Trump. The London bombings were somehow about his immigration policies. I’m not sure how that works anywhere but in his tiny mind. The Insult Comedian also decided it was time to go another round with London Mayor Sadiq Khan. I call it kicking someone when they’re down, but it’s just another day for the WWE/reality teevee president*. Khan’s staff kicked back and got the best of the exchange. It’s usually easy to outargue idiots except in the minds of other idiots. Too many people are worried about placating those idiots. Fuck them.

I spent quite a bit of time in London when the IRA was still actively bombing British targets during The Troubles. I don’t recall people blaming all Catholics for the Provos terrorist campaign. I recall some bad Pat and Mike-style Irish jokes but no calls for internment. Most Brits don’t scare that easily: memories of the Blitz are part of their DNA. That old school stiff upper lip comes in mighty handy at times like this, eh wot? We’ll leave the bed wetting to Trump sycophant Nigel Farage.

Let’s not kid ourselves that Trump’s clumsy attempt to manipulate public opinion after a terrorist attack is anything new. The Bush-Cheney administration waved the bloody flag of 9/11 until the bitter end. It worked during the first term, but eventually people started tuning them out except the same idiots who take Trump seriously. Repeat after me: fuck them.

My favorite response to Trump’s twitter antics came from Never Trump Republican and WaPo columnist Jennifer Rubin:

One is prompted to ask if he is off his rocker. But this is vintage Trump — impulsive and cruel, without an ounce of class or human decency. His behavior no longer surprises us, but it should offend and disturb us, first, that he remains the face and voice of America in the world and, second, that his fans hoot and holler, seeing this as inconsequential or acceptable conduct.

You may recall that Ms Rubin was so pro-Romney in 2012 that we called her his girl friend. I’m not sure if the worm has turned or she woke up and smelled the coffee, but I take special delight in the Never Trump conservatives who refused to sell their souls to the Orange Devil. Most Republican office holders have been binge drinking Trump’s orange Kool-Aid. I eagerly await the hangover.

I officially apologize for the string of cliches in the previous paragraph. It’s what happens when you spend too much time analyzing the Darnold’s thought process. Besides, they worked; certainly harder than the golfer-in-chief.

Just remember, folks: it’s Trump’s world. We only live in it. Since Difford and Tilbrook provided the post title, Squeeze gets the last word:

Instant Update: Trump has attacked Mayor Khan again. The Mayor is, of course, trying to keep his people calm. The Insult Comedian prefers panic in the streets.

 

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Eight Miles High

A New Frontier by Alan Bean.

It’s been a wet week in New Orleans. The rain, however, hasn’t stopped the Lost Causers from sitting hillbilly shiva. They’re down to the dead enders as I pointed out in this tweet last week:

One of the banners was a Trump for President flag. Now that’s one I’d consider burning…

Speaking of the Insult Comedian, he made news on Thursday. As usual, it was the bad kind. Bowing out of the Paris Climate Accord will be reversible when we have a sane and asterisk free president again. His “reasoning” was the bigger problem with this move. First, Trump wanted a “win,” he promised his supporters constant winning. Instead there’s been constant losing. He’s abandoned most of  his other promises, so he kept this one. The Russia scandal makes keeping the MAGA maggots happy paramount. Second, his baby man feelings were hurt by the mean old Europeans. They didn’t kiss his ass. The Darnold doesn’t like that. He was pouting over Merkel’s speech and Macron’s handshake victory so he lashed out and did something stupid and short-sighted.  This president* has made petulance the centerpiece of what passes for his foreign policy. Trump’s Razor remains in effect.

This week’s theme song was inspired by the featured painting by Apollo astronaut, Alan Bean. Eight Miles High was written by Gene Clark, Roger McGuinn, and David Crosby for the Byrds 5th Dimension album. I have three very different versions for your enjoyment. First, the Byrds original followed by spirited covers from Roxy Music and Husker Du.

Now that we’ve flown Eight Miles High, we’ll touch down after the break.

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The Americans Thread: The First Cut Is The Deepest

Season 5 of The Americans was about family as well as the innocents whose lives were affected by Philip and Elizabeth’s secret lives. The finale, The Soviet Division, was no exception. I do, however, take exception to some of the reactions to Season 5. It moved at a somewhat slower pace than past seasons BUT it has never been a Bond or Bourne-type spy extravaganza. Its closest kin is the work of John Le Carre; somber meditations on the lives of spies. The penultimate season was no different. Was it my favorite season? No, but it’s setting the stage for a wilder ride next season.

It’s time to dismount my soapbox and go to our spoiler break *after* playing a song that’s dedicated to Pascha and his soon to be divided family. It’s the first of five hit versions of a song written by Cat Stevens:

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With Friends Like Trump, Who Needs Enemies?

My preference as a pundit is to mock and skewer those in power. From time-to-time  I switch my tone to righteous indignation. This is one of those times despite the zany image above. Why? Donald Trump’s horrendous conduct on his overseas trip. It’s not because I’m surprised but out of indignation at his desire to blow up NATO to please his master in the Kremlin. Mad and/or Time got it right, y’all.

We knew Trump liked dictators more than democrats but it reached sickening levels on this trip. The Saudis did everything but publicly fellate his miniscule member and he fell for it. But when it came time for him to deal with our allies: he publicly dressed them down, threatened them, and even literally pushed one of them out-of-the-way. I guess he thought the Montenegrin PM was a waiter named Monty Negro or some such shit.  The help is always abused in the racist alternate reality known as Trumpistan.

Here’s the deal: NATO is our baby. It has kept the peace since it was founded in 1949. Thanks to NATO and the EU, Germany and France have gone from mortal enemies to friends and allies. Why would anyone want to blow that up? Obviously, the president* knows nothing about history but peace between those key nations means peace in Europe. The only ones who want to blow up NATO are extreme nationalists and the Russians. People around Trump speak of Russia as though it is not the successor state to the Soviet Union. It is. And they’re up to their old tricks. Only an idiot would want France and Germany at each other’s throats. Trump is a moron. It’s increasingly apparent that he’s either owned by Russian intelligence or is Putin’s useful idiot. Either way he’s the dipshit’s dipshit.

The Insult Comedian’s recent comments about NATO prove that he has earthly idea how an alliance works:

TRUMP: “I will tell you, a big difference over the last year, money is actually starting to pour into NATO from countries that would not have been doing what they’re doing now had I not been elected, I can tell you that. Money is starting to pour in.” — speech to U.S. troops in Sicily on Saturday

TRUMP tweet: “Many NATO countries have agreed to step up payments considerably, as they should. Money is beginning to pour in.”

THE FACTS: First, no money is pouring in and countries do not pay the U.S. Nor do they pay NATO directly, apart from administrative expenses, which are not the issue.

The issue is how much each NATO member country spends on its own defense.

<SNIP>

TRUMP: “But 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States and many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years, and not paying in those past years.” — remarks to NATO on Thursday

THE FACTS: Members of the alliance are not in arrears in their military spending. They are not in debt to the United States, or failing to meet a current standard, and Washington is not trying to collect anything, despite the president’s contention that they “owe massive amounts of money.” They merely committed in 2014 to work toward the goal of 2 percent of GDP by 2024.

Thanks to the AP for the fact check. It proves that Trumpy really thinks an alliance is a protection racket and that giving a political speech to the troops is appropriate. It is customary for a President to talk about the troops, not about themselves. Trump would rather brag about his phantom accomplishments than praise them for their service. Repeat after me: NATO does not “collect” money. Paulie Walnuts will not be knocking on the door at 10 Downing Street any time soon.

It saddens me that Chancellor Merkel feels she has to distance herself from the United States. It is also completely understandable. Donald Trump prefers palling around with dictators to having good relations with our allies. It’s stark raving bonkers but it’s where we find ourselves in 2017. As I’ve said before: the fate of liberal democracy is in the hands of a German Chancellor who was born behind the Iron Curtain.

It’s appalling but not surprising that national security-minded Republicans remain silent over Trump’s comments about NATO. I have a theory: the Bush-Cheney administration was big on unilateral action and did their share of undermining our alliances. Team Trump has taken that to its radical extreme in the wake of 8 years of temperate, moderate governance by President Obama. Heaven help the fool as Mr. T or Bob Weir would say at this point.

One more point about Trumper stupidity: the Kushner affair. The wispy slumlord is supposed to be in charge of a White House “war room.” They haven’t a clue as to how this looks. He’s under investigation himself. They should call it the “cover-up room” instead. And what is being described by the MSM as a “back channel” is actually espionage because it involved American citizens using a hostile power’s communication system. Sounds like they have something to hide; when there’s this much smoke, there’s always fire.

Back to the post title. There are always strains in any alliance but there’s never been anything like this in NATO’S past. I don’t recall an American President insulting a German Chancellor FTF before. Hell, even Bush and Gerhard Schroder  kinda, sorta kept up appearances for the sake of the alliance. It’s all about Trump in 2017. As far as he concerned, we all live in Trumpistan.

Since I prefer to be a “glass is half full” kind of guy, I’ll give the last word to Todd Rundgren and Daryl Hall:

 

 

 

Memorial Day: Who I Remember

There’s nothing like a national holiday to make one feel ritualistic.This post was written in 2010 and is making its eighth annual appearance at First Draft. It was also published in our anthology, Our Fate Is Your Fate.

I realize it *should* be posted on Veterans Day since my remembered soldier survived the war BUT old habits are hard to break. Besides, I would face the wrath of both Athenae and Dr. A if I didn’t post it. So, here we go again:

The veteran I’d like to remember on this solemn holiday is the late Sgt. Eddie Couvillion.

Soldier Boy

My family tree is far too tangled and gnarly to describe here but suffice it to say that Eddie was my second father. He served in Europe during World War II, not in combat but in the Army Quartermaster Corps. In short, he was a supply Sergeant, one of those guys who won the war by keeping the troops fed, clad, and shod. Eddie was what was called in those days a scrounger; not unlike Milo Minderbinder in Catch-22 or James Garner’s character in The Great Escape. 

Eddie’s favorite military exploit was running an army approved bordello in France after hostilities ended. He always called it a cat house and bragged that it was the best little whorehouse in Europe. One can serve one’s country in manifold ways…

Eddie died 5 years ago [2005] and I still miss him. He was a remarkable man because he changed so much as he aged. When I met him, he was a hardcore Texas/Louisiana conservative with old South racial views and attitudes. At an age when many people close their minds, Eddie opened his and stopped thinking of black folks as a collective entity that he didn’t care for and started thinking of them as individuals. Eddie was a genuine Southern gentleman so he’d never done or said an unkind thing to anyone but confided to me that the only one he’d ever hurt by being prejudiced was himself. I was briefly speechless because we’d had more than a few rows over that very subject. Then he laughed, shook his head and said: “Aren’t you going to tell me how proud you are of me? You goddamn liberals are hard to satisfy.”

Actually, I’m easily satisfied. In 2004, Eddie had some astonishing news for me: he’d not only turned against the Iraq War but planned to vote for John Kerry because “Bush Junior is a lying weasel and a draft dodger.” That time he didn’t need to ask me if I was proud of him, it was written all over my face. It was the first and only time he ever voted for a Democrat for President.

I salute you, Sgt. Couvillion. I only wish that I could pour you a glass of bourbon on the rocks and we could raise our glasses in a Memorial Day toast.

Saturday Odds & Sods: All Shook Up

March by Grant Wood.

The monuments aftershocks continue here in New Orleans. I went to a friend’s kid’s birthday party and was warned to skip the subject because there were some rabid Lost Causers invited. They went there, I did not. I asked for a gold star but did not get one. I considered pitching a fit but thought better of it.

While we’re on the subject of the late monuments, I have two articles to recommend, nay, commend. First, Adrastos acquaintances Campbell Robertson and Katy Reckdahl collaborated on a story connecting the monuments and family histories. Second, the local public radio station, WWNO, has a piece about a proposed monument to Oscar Dunn a former slave who was Gret Stet Lt. Governor during Reconstruction. The monument was never built. Dunn, however, is worthy of one. That’s where I’d like this process to go: Civil Rights figures. It’s what makes sense if we were striking a blow against white supremacy and the Confederacy.

I saw this week’s bucolic featured image on the Antiques Roadshow. I used it because I like the austere lines of the print by the austere Iowan, Grant Wood. Austere seems to be the word of the day. Besides, Dr. A won tickets to the Roadshow when it comes to New Orleans this July. I want them to know we’re coming.

I was horrified to learn from the Guardian that Elvis Presley’s spell is waning with the kids today. If they think of him at all, they think of bloated Elvis from the end of his life or the notorious body in the box picture.

As his peer Fats Domino would surely say, Ain’t That A Shame. Elvis brought rock-and-roll to the masses and was its first King, Besides, what will NOLA’s own Rolling Elvi do if the Elvis mystique is diminished?

Rolling Elvi, Muses Parade, 2011. Photo by Dr. A.

This week’s theme song, All Shook Up, was written by Otis Blackwell and recorded by Elvis in 1957. According to his biographer Peter Guralnick, the reason Elvis received a writing credit is that he came up with the title.

First up is Blackwell’s rendition followed by Elvis’ studio version and then the Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart belting it out.

I don’t know about you but I’m, uh, all shook up, which is why we’ll take a break at this point.

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The Americans Thread: The Penultimate Episode

I love the word penultimate as much as epistolary or eponymous and since I used those words earlier today, there was only one title for my recap of The World Council Of Churches.

The reason for that unwieldy, even bureaucratic, episode title is that the KGB secured Pastor Tim a sinecure in Argentina to get him out of the Jennings’ hair. I’m uncertain if it’s their real hair or one of their flotilla of wigs but, in any event, he’s out of it. And Paige is wigging out with glee.

Before taking our spoiler break, here’s a musical selection inspired by Phillip’s Brad the pilot persona. You know the guy who “adopted” Tuan. The pilot may be ready to drop the Vietnamese Kid if you catch my drift. More about that anon.

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Book Review: The Selected Letters Of John Kenneth Galbraith

Every once in a while I’m offered a review copy of a new book. It’s always flattering when someone is interested in what a mere internet wise ass has to say. This time around, I was contacted by Diana Rissetto of Cambridge University Press and offered a copy of The Selected Letters of John Kenneth Galbraith. I accepted with alacrity but it’s taken longer than expected to review this outstanding book. Ms. Rissetto has been as unfailingly patient as I have been dilatory. She also has a most amusing and witty Twitter feed, which is a plus. One can tell that I’ve finished the book because Galbraith’s style is contagious and this paragraph is redolent of it. It’s a good thing I’m under the spell of Ken Galbraith, not Pepe Le Pew. Le sigh of relief.

The British historian Thomas Carlyle dubbed economics the dismal science. Economists are not known for their prose style or sense of humor. It’s dry, dry stuff. John Kenneth Galbraith was an exception to that usually accurate rule. In fact, he’s one of my favorite writers of his era as he dabbled in writing outside his area; especially in the world of politics where he was a committed liberal Democrat with a wry sense of humor. No other economist ever made me laugh out loud, which I did repeatedly as I read this book.

The letters have been edited and annotated by Richard P.F. Holt. He did a smashing job ensuring that we know who Galbraith was corresponding with and why. I knew most of the names but there were some sleepers. Additionally, Holt has collected memos, speeches, and other non epistolary documents. Good job, sir.

Galbraith had an active sideline as an adviser to, among others, Adlai Stevenson, Jack Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, and-until they broke it off over Vietnam-Lyndon Johnson. While Ambassador to India from 1961-63, Galbraith was dispatched to Vietnam by JFK and asked for his input. He offered it to his successor as well until Johnson ended the correspondence. It was a pity that LBJ was less receptive to Galbraith’s advice on that lamentable conflict than to his suggestions on domestic policy. If LBJ had listened, he might have been our greatest President.

In addition to his political side, The Selected Letters, dips a toe into Galbraith’s personal life.  Most interesting are his exchanges with Jackie Kennedy. They’re flirtatious on both sides without being OTT. Ken Galbraith would have made an excellent courtier, which he was by analogy. He offered the Kennedys his loyalty but it was never blind fealty. Galbraith believed in plain speaking wrapped in wit when corresponding with the Kennedys. It’s a pity that the Current Occupant is surrounded by nothing but yes men, relatives, and non-entities. He could also use a decent joke writer. Believe me.

Galbraith had some close friends on the other side of the political spectrum: Henry Luce, William F. Buckley, and fellow economist, Milton Friedman. Friedman was the godfather of Thatcherism and Reagonomics but his correspondence with the uber Keynesian Galbraith was respectful and, at times, hilarious. Friedman did a better job of hiding his puckish side than Galbraith so I enjoyed their exchanges inordinately. That’s another Galbraithian word. I seem to be turning into him. I hope I don’t become 6’8″ at my advanced age: none of my clothes will fit…

I’m not known for my adherence to chronology, so let’s circle back to Galbraith’s war-time activities with the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS.) His letters home to his wife Kitty from 1945 are a must read for anyone interested in World War II. His service with the USSBS led to Galbraith being the only Harvard faculty member ever name checked by Pete Townshend in a Who song. Now that’s an honor.

Speaking of The Who, I considered reviewing this wonderful book as a Saturday Odds & Sods segment, but thought better of it. I think it’s time for a Galbraith revival. He was a witty and wise man who was usually right. He was an uncommonly good, decent, and intelligent human being; qualities we are badly in need of as we endure an uncommonly bad, indecent, and stupid administration*.

I highly recommend that y’all pick up a copy of The Selected Letters Of John Kenneth Galbraith. Ken Galbraith passed away in 2006 but he remains good company; pun intended, it always is. The only bad thing about finishing the book is that I will miss hearing his marvelously droll voice in my head as I read. For those of you unfamiliar with JKG’s cadence, here’s a 1986 interview with the man himself.

Who else but Ken Galbraith could possibly have the last word in this post?  That would be me. But I’ll use his typical epistolary closer, his Won’t Get Fooled Again as it were:

Yours Faithfully,

Adrastos

Malaka Of The Week: Lost Causer Karl Oliver

As I said in the last Saturday post, I’m burnt out on Lost Cause Fest. I’m ready to move on but as Michael Corleone said in Godfather III: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” In Michael’s case it was La Cosa Nostra, in my case it’s the Lost Causers. And that is why Mississippi State Representative Karl Oliver is malaka of the week.

Malaka Oliver fits into the category of “honorees” I’ve never heard of before and hope to never hear from again. His sole current claim to fame is a Facebook post that surfaced via Mississippi Today:

I’m glad that so many posted screen shots of this unhinged rant because it may disappear much like the Lost Cause itself; other Mississippi GOPers have condemned the remarks because he used the L word: LYNCHED. It’s a word that should never be used but seems to be making a comeback in the age of pro-Trump alt-right shitbirds.

Lost Causers like Malaka Oliver aren’t big on facts. It was not the “leadership of Louisiana” that removed (not destroyed) the white supremacy monuments, it was the City of New Orleans. I remember when conservatives favored local self-government but that seems be a cause as lost as the Civil War and Jim Crow. As Mayor Mitch Landrieu put it while the Lee statue was coming down: 

“The Civil War is over; the Confederacy lost and we are better for it.”

That would appear to be evident but apparently denial is a river that runs through Karl Oliver’s district. It’s a Lost Cause because y’all lost the war. Unfortunately, they won the peace both on the ground and in the history books. That’s life in what Gore Vidal (who had deep Southern roots) called “The United States of Amnesia.”

This is an issue of local self-government. If other municipalities choose not to remove their monuments, ain’t nobody’s business but their own. I don’t believe in telling other people what to think or believe. It’s up to them. Malaka Oliver would be wise to mind his beeswax and butt out. And that is why Lost Causer Karl Oliver is malaka of the week.

INSTANT UPDATE: Malaka Oliver apologized under pressure for using the L word.  I guess this peckerwood shit stain won’t show up with a rope in New Orleans any time soon then.

I have some Lost Cause Fest lagniappe. First, a letter to the editor published by the Advocate, which is, in a word, unhinged. It’s amusing to see my yuppie, gentrifying Mayor referred to as having “a program of Social Marxism.”

Second, a NYT opinion article by Brent Staples about the motives of Richard Spencer and the tiki torch protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. It has a pretty darn catchy title, How the Swastika Became a Confederate Flag.

Finally, my own Krewe of Spank posted this reminder of  2016’s Arthur Hard-On Mardi Gras Guide on the book of faces. The post wouldn’t embed, but here’s the picture:

Spanks for the memories.

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)

Struggle For Existence by Clifford Odets.

The unseasonably cool weather continued through the middle of this week in New Orleans. Summer’s cauldron is finally upon us, but this May has a chance to be one of the coolest on record. The coolish weather has thus far kept the Formosan termite swarms in check in my neighborhood. I have another theory: that the new and very bright street lights on Napoleon Avenue are attracting the swarms and keeping them away from Adrastos World HQ. It’s  just a theory but if I’m right it will be a less swarmy and pestiferous year.

Here’s last year’s termite theory in Tweet form:

Actually, I should give credit where it’s really due:

Let’s get back to where we once belonged, 2017.

I’m burnt out on Lost Cause Fest. I’m glad that the Lee statue came down in broad daylight yesterday. At 16 feet tall, it was too big to be removed at night. I’m just glad it’s over. I haven’t gone to spectate at any of the removal spectacles; mostly because it’s slow, arduous, and somewhat boring. Lost Cause Fest involves statues but it doesn’t rock. This front page headline does:

Photo by Milo’s human.

This week’s featured image is a 1947 painting by Clifford Odets. Until I saw last Monday’s  Antiques Roadshow, I had no idea that the playwright/screenwriter was a gifted painter. I guess that’s why they call PBS educational television.

This week’s theme song was written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer for a 1943 Fred Astaire movie, The Sky’s The Limit.  One For My Baby (And One More For The Road) is the torch song’s torch song or is that the saloon song’s saloon song? I am easily confused but you already knew that. If I were pretentious, I’d tell you that I curated three versions of the song but I’m neither a curate nor a cure-all…

We begin with Fred Astaire singing to an indifferent bartender named Joe followed by fabulous versions by Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday. Frank called it a saloon song whereas Billie torched it up, y’all. There will be more about torches anon.

Now that Joe has set ’em up, let’s go to the break. It’s not a spoiler break as with The Americans recaps, it’s more of a length break. I do tend to go on.

Continue reading

Washington Beatdown By Erdogan’s Goon Squad

The news has been crazy all week. I thought it was important to focus on something that has been undercovered because of the Trump-Russia mishigas. Turkish President Erdogan was in Washington this week to visit Trump. I wonder if he gave the Insult Comedian any tips on how to transform a democracy into an autocracy. Even if he did, the president* never listens to anyone so any dictator tips would be lost on him as he contemplates a nice piece of chocolate cake.

Erdogan’s bodyguards were busy too; busy kicking the shit out of demonstrators outside the Turkish Embassy. The beatdown was captured on video by a Turkish dissident group, Turkey Untold. Here are a series of tweets documenting the beatdown. Make sure to watch the embedded videos.

The last time I recall this happening was when the Shah of Iran visited President Carter in 1977. Reza Pahlavi’s goons kicked the living shit out of Persian protesters on that occasion. It’s a sad commentary that I’m comparing a NATO head of state to a tyrant like the Shah.

I’ve never had traditional Greek views about the Turks. In fact, I’ve been known to tweak my Greek-Greek relatives who have such views. One of my older Greek cousins took umbrage when I called  my morning beverage Turkish, not Greek coffee. We didn’t even go into the origins of baklava and other tasty delicacies that are commonplace throughout the former Ottoman Empire.

I do, however, object to the current Turkish government’s treatment of Kurdish demonstrators on the streets of my country. Trump doesn’t think it’s a problem.  Criticizing dictators isn’t his thing. And his former national security adviser was a paid agent of the Turkish government whilst advising Trump. At least the Washington police intervened to protect the protesters as Erdogan gawked like a spectator at a soccer match. Politics as blood sport. Literally.

Contemplating the Carter-Pahlavi meeting put me in a Seventies frame of mind. There’s a perfect song to conclude this post. This is it.

The Spirit Of ’73: The Unraveling

Two Flags by Jasper Johns.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Watergate was my formative political experience. I lived through it and experienced the drip, drip, drip of daily revelations. Part of my teenage rebellion was arguing with my father about Watergate. He was a Nixon delegate in 1972 and didn’t buy any of it until, that is, the summer of 1974. He met Barry Goldwater Jr at some function. Goldwater told Lou that John Dean was a close friend of his and that he believed his story. Lou’s belief in Nixon was badly shaken although he continued to tell me not to be gleeful over his downfall. I continued dancing on Tricky Dick’s political grave. I have the same plan with the Insult Comedian.

Something fundamentally changed with the Comey memo revelation. The Trump-Russia scandal reached critical mass on that day followed by the appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel yesterday.  When I heard the news, I couldn’t resist saying “I told you so” on Social Media. The Cardinal rule of American politics is NEVER MESS WITH THE FBI. Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon all wanted to fire J Edgar Hoover. Harry Truman despised Hoover. None of them fired him because, in LBJ’s memorable phrase, they preferred him inside the tent pissing out to outside the tent pissing in. NEVER MESS WITH THE FBI.

Messing with the FBI was Nixon’s undoing. The infamous “smoking gun” tape involved his attempt to get acting FBI director and Nixon sycophant L. Patrick Gray to kill the investigation. Gray tried but, in the end, messing with the FBI destroyed his reputation. He was one of many Nixon dignity wraiths. Sound familiar?

I was a “who was Deep Throat” buff until Mark Felt revealed his identity in 2005. He was on my short list along with Alexander Haig. Haig was my number one candidate because Woodward and Bernstein wrote so glowingly about him in The Final Days. That’s Woodward’s typical modus operandi with anonymous sources but he didn’t do that with Felt. The lesson of Deep Throat: NEVER MESS WITH THE FBI.

The timing of the Mueller appointment is no accident. Rod Rosenstein is testifying on Capitol Hill today. It’s also an attempt to scrub some of the tarnish off his reputation. It’s what happens when you become one of Trump’s dignity wraiths. It reminds me of a line from the super trashy movie The Oscar: “You lay down with pigs, you come up smelling like garbage.” That’s the fate of Trump’s dignity wraiths.

It’s time for his staff to lawyer up and/or resign. Trump destroys everything he touches. I like what Never Trump conservative Rick Wilson had to say about this:

Every day you get up, slide into the seat of your Prius or Tahoe (and if you’re senior enough, exchange a few polite words with your driver) and start checking Twitter. Whatever it is that you’re feeling, it doesn’t feel anything like Morning in America. It feels like some faraway kleptocracy where the center hasn’t held, the airfield and radio station have fallen to the rebels, and the Maximum Leader is holed up in his secret bunker waiting for the other shoe to drop.

<SNIP>

Sticking with Trump to the bitter end and pretending the unfolding chaos is just “fake news” won’t save your reputation as the walls close in. It won’t ease the judgment of history. It won’t do anything to polish up your future Wikipedia entry.

Cutting ties with a man who is destructive to our values, profoundly divisive, contemptuous of the rule of law and incontrovertibly unfit to serve in the highest office in the land just might. Do it now.

Shorter Rick Wilson: don’t be a dignity wraith, jump in a lifeboat and paddle like hell to the shore. Congressional Republicans would be well-advised to do likewise but they’re slow learners. It will take time for them to come around. They won’t do it out of patriotism or principle but because they’re staring into their political graves. Even Mitch McConnell will betray Trump eventually. He’s the most cynical man in public life and would sell his grandmother to maintain his slender majority. But it will take time. It’s what happens when you mess with the FBI.

The good news is that this sort of scandal consumes Washington and the worst parts of Trump’s agenda are in serious jeopardy. Here’s Rick Wilson again:

…your president botched Trumpcare 1.0 and contributed little as House Speaker Paul Ryan managed to ram public-relations nightmare, Trumpcare 2.0, through the House at the cost of much political blood and treasure. Instead, Trump’s fumbles have left many members of Congress ducking town hall meetings like they’re in the Witness Protection Program. The DOA tax bill and the rest of Trump’s agenda are deader and more pungent than six-day-old fish.

Senate Democrats need to keep the pressure up. For one thing, they should fight anyone Trump appoints to head the FBI. The administration’s* flirtation with Joe Lieberman only shows how out of touch they are. He’s unpopular with Senate Democrats and loathed by the rank and file. This can only be explained as an attempt to buy off Little Lindsey and Senator Walnuts.

As for the president* himself, Trump’s Razor is still in effect. Bigly. When there’s a problem, he only makes it worse with whiny, outlandish tweets and inappropriate public comments. The Coast Guard’s commencement ceremony is not a place for political comments such as this:

Never, ever, ever give up. Things will work out just fine. Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can’t let them get you down. You can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams. I guess that’s why we won.

I guess he forgot that his proposed budget cut the Coast Guard by 14%. The Insult Comedian is not a details man. The Trumpian toddler tantrum continued on twitter this morning. This is what some internet smart ass had to say about it:

Trump is not only the whiner-in-chief, he’s the arsonist-in-chief. I think David Bowie put it best in the song below, “He’s putting out fire with gasoline.”

Trump has the power to fire Mueller and is stupid enough to do so. But the reaction to that would make the Comey firing look like a weenie roast. Mueller is one of the few genuinely non-partisan figures in public life. He’s been appointed to high office by Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. Bobby Three Sticks survived the Bush years with his reputation intact, in part, because of his opposition to torture.

It’s time to circle back to the post title. Because of my Watergate fixation, I am usually the first person to tell people NOT to compare a given scandal to it. The events of the last two weeks have led me to invoke the Spirit of ’73, which was when people stood up to a criminal enterprise operating out of the White House.

While it’s true that Trump cannot be indicted while in office, the pressure from the Mueller investigation and others will make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to finish his term. Another question posed by the unraveling is: what happens to his sanctimonious Veep? He appears to be implicated in the Flynn cover up. He may need to pardon himself as well as his master.

The unraveling will take time and patience but Trump sealed his eventual fate by firing Comey. Repeat after me: NEVER MESS WITH THE FBI.

Let’s give Tom Petty the last word: