Category Archives: Fog Of History

Saturday Odds & Sods: Dead Flowers

Chagall The Drunkard

The Drunkard by Marc Chagall.

It’s run-off election day here in the Gret Stet of Louisiana. I’ll be voting later today in the Colonel Corpone vs. Foghorn Leghorn Senate race. Cornpone has it sown up and I don’t like Foghorn but I said I’d vote for him, so I’ll have to select an appropriate clothespin. I would say I was voting for the lesser of two hicks but Foghorn sounds like he’s been studying the oeuvre of Jeff Foxworthy. My friend Charlotte says he reminds her of Boss Hogg. Hard to argue that point, y’all.

The local news has been dominated by road rage and the law. The one many of you have heard about is the trial of Cardell Hayes for killing former Saints defensive captain Will Smith. I wrote about it in this space not long ago. It’s a very close case with the defense arguing self-defense. The local media have been all over it like turkey buzzards on roadkill. In this Saints obsessed town that was predictable and why the Judge sequestered the jury. The case *may* go to the jury later this evening.

The other road rage incident involved former high school football sensation and NFL player Joe McKnight. He got into it with some creep named Ronald Gasser and McKnight was shot to death. There was a huge stink when Gasser wasn’t charged immediately: he’s white and McKnight was black. Gasser was charged with manslaughter earlier this week. Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand held a ranty press conference, spending more time attacking Facebook trolls than discussing the crime. Normand hasn’t gone off like that in quite some time. It might have been calculated anger (more on that later) or he simply lost his shit.

This week’s theme song fits my somber mood. Dead Flowers was written when the Stones were hanging out with country-rock godfather Gram Parsons. It’s one of the best lyrics the Glimmer Twins have ever written. It’s limey country rock at its finest.

We begin with the original version from Sticky Fingers, followed by a live non-Stones version featuring Keith, Willie Nelson, and Ryan Adams to name a few luminaries.

I’m feeling relatively terse this week so I’m skipping the break and diving right in. I mentioned intentional ranting earlier. The master of tactical screaming was the late great rock impresario Bill Graham.

Bill Graham & The Art Of Tactical Screaming: I grew up attending Bill Graham’s shows in the Bay Area. They remain the best organized and operated rock concerts I’ve ever been to. One reason was the hands on nature of the producer. He was always visible both onstage and in the front of the house. You knew who was in charge. There was one time at a Dead show at Winterland that there was a flood in the men’s room. I ran into Bill in the hallway and informed him. He thanked me and went over there personally. I followed out of curiosity and watched him grab a plunger. Now that’s attention to detail.

My old friend Gus Mozart shared a link to an interview filmed in 1977. It’s called The Mechanics of a Show. It’s well worth watching if you’re a rock and roll history buff. It’s also available on the YouTube. Here’s the segment about yelling:

I saw Bill scream at people many times. He was almost always in the right. An aggressive New Yorker like Bill Graham scared the shit out of California hippies, so they tended to comply with his orders. Besides, it was Bill’s world and we were there as paying customers. He was the boss and the best.

The centerpiece of this week’s post are tributes to two men whose deaths were announced on Thursday. Other than fame they had nothing in common. One of them was 95 years old and lived a long and eventful life. The other died at 69 after a lengthy private battle with cancer.

John Glenn R.I.P. Hero is the most overused word in the English language. Very few acts are heroic and there are even fewer heroes. John Glenn was a genuine hero. It was a label that he modestly rejected but one that he earned over-and-over again.  Despite his advanced years, I was still deeply saddened to hear that he’d died at the age of 95.

All of the Mercury astronauts were brave men. They risked death every time they stepped into those tiny capsules. John Glenn made it look easy, but orbiting the earth was fraught with peril. People knew that and it was one reason they went nuts (in a good way) over Glenn.

Here’s what I posted on my Facebook feed:

John Glenn went on to a distinguished career as a four-term Democratic Senator from Ohio. The punditry briefly went nuts over his 1984 Presidential bid because it coincided with the release of Philip Kaufman’s brilliant film adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. Glenn was played by Ed Harris. It was the role that put Harris on the map. Glenn’s campaign went nowhere. Charlie Pierce pointed out why at his joint:

when John Glenn was preparing to run for president, I sat down in a bar on Beacon Hill in Boston for a chat with one of his chief strategists. This fellow smacked my gob across the room when he said that the campaign was planning to “downplay the hero stuff.” My god, I thought. Without The Hero Stuff, Glenn was just a kind of boring old sod from Ohio. Without The Hero Stuff, he wasn’t the first American to orbit the Earth. He wasn’t the guy who spent the last of those orbits in a tiny spacecraft with a problem the gravity of which the folks on the ground could only guess. Without The Hero Stuff, he wasn’t…an astronaut.

John Glenn was a modest man. It was how the best men of his generation comported themselves. As a Senator, he was a workhorse, not a showhorse, which is the highest praise I can bestow on a politician. He was also the antitheses of the braggart who won the electoral college and is claiming a landslide. They don’t make them like Senator Glenn any more.

He had a good life and a good death surrounded by his family. Godspeed, John Glenn.

Here’s a piece by Charlie Osgood broadcast on the 49th anniversary of Glenn’s historic Friendship 7 mission:

Let’s move on from the loss of an American icon to the passing of one of the pioneers of British prog-rock.

Greg Lake R.I.P. He was the original lead singer/bassist of King Crimson as well as the L in ELP. Greg Lake died at the age of 69 after a long battle with cancer.

I saw ELP several times at their peak. They were loud, bombastic, and pretentious. I loved every second of it. Lake was the steady, solid one while flamboyant keyboard player Keith Emerson and flashy drummer Carl Palmer whipped the crowd into a frenzy.

Emerson preceded Lake in death earlier this year. E and L are gone but P rocks on as the drummer with Asia. Here’s what Carl had to said about Greg’s passing:

The best way to pay tribute to Greg Lake is, of course, to post some of his music. I have used the opening lyrics for Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Part 2 more than once in lieu of an Odds & Sods summary: “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.” Greg Lake’s show has ended but the music never stops, corny but true.

Along with lyricist Pete Sinfield, Lake wrote one of the best rock Christmas songs, I Believe In Father Christmas. Here’s a live version from St. Bride’s Church in London with Ian Anderson and members of his band backing Lake up:

Ready for some live ELP? You have no choice:

I had hoped to post the original studio version of King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man but it eluded me. Another Lake-era King Crimson song will have to do.

“Confusion will be my epitaph.” Greg Lake will be missed.

That’s it for this week. May the Schwartz be with you:

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Oy, Such A Force

May the Schwartz Be With You.

Oy, such Spaceballs nuttiness.

I’ve been walking the anti-Semitism beat all year. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the revival of open anti-Semitism is one of the most alarming things about the so-called Trump movement. This Thirties revival, if you will, has inspired the silly along with the sinister:

White supremacists are calling for a boycott of the latest “Star Wars” movie as evidence of a Jewish plot to foist racial diversity on whites, even as some on the “alt-right” say they watch the film and root for the evil Empire.

“(((Star Wars))) Is Anti-White Social Engineering,” a Reddit user named GenFrancoPepe posted in a forum for the “alt-right,” a hard-line white nationalist movement. The triple parenthesis, known as an “echo,” is a way anti-Semites online call attention to Jewish names or perceived Jewish influence.

The evidence: “Alt-right” writers point out the multiracial makeup of the stars in the new film, the female starring role, and that Jewish producers and writers were involved. Criticism of the film evokes one of the central tropes of modern anti-Semitism, envisioning a Jewish cabal promoting multiculturalism to suit its own nefarious goals — at the expense of an embattled “white civilization.”

One writer at the neo-Nazi site Infostormer called “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” slated to be released this month, a product of “anti-white hate” produced by Jews. “Nearly all of the major characters are non-Whites and the main character is an empowered White female,” the post reads. “This film should be boycotted.”

Is there a Jewish influence on the series? Yes. Is it sinister? No. Is it a plot? No, as pointed out in an earlier piece at Forward by Seth Rogovoy:

You don’t have to be a linguist to figure out that the Jedi knights, who use “the Force” – the spiritual power of good deeds, aka the mitzvot — to do good in their battle with the “Dark Side” – the yetzer hara, or the evil urge within us all – bear the Anglicized name of a Jew. In other words, jedi = yehudi = Jew. And the name of the wise old man Yoda, who passed away at the very Biblical age of 900 in 1983’s “Return of the Jedi” and who was voiced by Jewish actor-director Frank Oz, translates as “one who knows” in Hebrew.

Philologists have argued, on the other hand, about just what the very Hebrew-looking writing on Darth Vader’s breastplate says. It’s been surmised to be upside-down Hebrew that translates as “One shall be regarded innocent until he is proven guilty,” which of course fits the character of Vader and his true identity.

None of this was lost on filmmaker Mel Brooks, whose 1987 “Star Wars” parody “Spaceballs” relied on Brooks’s usual Yiddish-shtick humor, including the catchphrase, “May the Schwartz be with you.”

Mel Brooks is always there with the joke first. I guess that makes him one of the main conspirators in the alt-right’s Protocols of the Elders of Star Wars world view. I wonder if the farting scene in Blazing Saddles has a deeper meaning? Conspiracy theories and theorists are hot in Wingnuttia right now. Another alarming thing about Donald Trump is his love of conspiracy theories, the nuttier the better, such as birtherism. The MSM may have moved on from that but I have not. As far as I’m concerned the Insult Comedian will always be the birther-in-chief as well as the pussy-grabber-in-chief.

As funny as conspiracy theories cooked up by the Reddit Right and Alex Jones are, they can be lethal when paired with an unhinged mind as in the recent “Pizzagate” shootings at Washington City. Some ideas *can* be dangerous and must be fought with the facts. There is no child sex ring linked to Hillary Clinton and John Podesta. A variation on that bizarre claim even showed up in the creepier sectors of the hard left during the primary campaign.

The far right and left have always had more similarities than people on our side of the spectrum are willing to admit. It’s why so many hardcore lefties have moved to the far right over the years: notorious Islamophobe David Horowitz is a relatively recent example, but it’s an old story. The 1950’s red scare was partially fueled by Communists turned McCarthyites. So it goes.

Speaking of the neo-Nazi far right, there was firestorm of controversy this week in response to an Atlantic article, Are Jews White? The erstwhile Gret Stet Fuhrer, of course, chimed in:

Humor is the best way to attack Dukkke’s nonsense and here’s the best example I’ve seen:

Oy, such logic. It’s hard to beat, right? I know more than a few Jewish Deadheads and prog-rock fans as well. What’s whiter than British prog rock? Perhaps I’ve Seen All Good People is a plot against the white race by self-loathing honkies. Let’s see:

I am obviously an exponent of using humor to combat bigotry.Ridicule has long been an effective weapon against hatred and intolerance. And I’m not going to abandon it just because an Insult Comedian won the electoral college in 2016. Trump’s reaction to satire shows how effective it is. He keeps slamming Alec Baldwin’s bang-on impression of him. It’s not how it’s supposed to work: Presidents get mocked and even the humor-impaired Tricky Dick was able to publicly take a joke. I don’t think Trump will ever learn to take a joke. It’s what happens when you are one.

It’s time to conclude this rambling essay and give the penultimate word to Mel Brooks as Yogurt:

Oy, such a schwartz. Oy, such a farce. Oy such a force. Oy, just oy.

The Fog Of Historical Pictures: Bad Company

No, I’m not posting pictures of Paul Rodgers, Simon Kirke, Mick Ralphs or even the late Boz Burrell who is well and truly Gone, Gone, Gone. This post is about the bad company kept by Time Magazine: its latest person of the year, Donald Trump.

Time’s standard disclaimer is that the honor is based on who “for better or for worse…has done the most to influence the events of the year.” Whatever, y’all. The winners of US Presidential elections are customarily honored as were Trumpian lackeys Rudy and Newt.

I’m interested in the *really* bad company honored by Time over the years, especially the dictators. Here’s a sampler in reverse order.

We begin with the Insult Comedian’s bosom buddy, Vladimir Putin. I suspect both envision themselves as Tom Hanks, not Peter Scolari, neither of them wants to play Lena Durham’s father in Girls. I see Trump as a malevolent Forrest Gump instead. End of Bosom Buddies inspired riff. On with the parade of covers:

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I suspect manly man Vlad was bummed that Time gender neutralized the honor before he received it in 2007. Our next dictator is longtime KGB director and short-term Soviet leader Yuri Andropov. I suspect he’d be proud of the state sponsored hackerism Russia used to disrupt the 2016 election. Andropov was honored alongside his American counterpart who was a former movie actor, not a spook:

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Looks like they had each others back. Me, I would have dubbed them Men of the Yuri…

Speaking of bad company, Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was man of the year in 1979 even though he wore robes, not trousers. He certainly wore the pants in Iran for a decade.

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Here’s another honoree guaranteed to give the Islamophobes surrounding Trump the vapors. It’s an oil embargo based honor:

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Seeing King Faisal’s stern countenance reminds me of a pun made on the name of his oil minister by NYT columnist William Safire. The minister in question was Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, whose name inspired this 1981 column title: “Yamani or Ya Life.” Sounds like a real sheikhdown to me…

I’ve skipped several dictators including Khrushchev and Deng Xiao-Ping despite the latter’s punworthy name. All I have to say to any Deng fans out there is this: tough shit.

Our next dictator was a two-time honoree in 1939 and 1942. Time to introduce the mighty mite from Georgia aka the Red Tsar or Uncle Joe:

stalin-on-time-magazine-1939-and-1942

Just looking at Stalin’s ugly mug gives me a hangover. Vodka hangovers are the worst and Stalin loved drinking his associates under the table then mocking them for being hungover the next day. Nobody ever called him Comrade Nice Guy, after all.

Our last dictator is the worst company of all. A vegetarian teetotaler who loved dogs and Aryan children but hated everyone and everything else:

hitler

As you can see, Trump is in very bad company with this honor. Believe it. I’m surprised he didn’t insist on Time returning to the original man of the year rubric since he *is* the incoming  pussy-grabber-in-chief. I cannot wait until he starts bragging about it. In fact, I’m shocked he hasn’t tweeted about it as of this writing. It won’t be long.

Time to circle back to the beginning of the post and give Paul Rodgers and krewe the last word. They’re actually good company but Bad Company is a better band name:

 

The Fog Of History: Taiwan On

time china-1time china-2

It turns out that the phone call from the President of Taiwan to the Insult Comedian was a deliberate-as opposed to accidental-fuck up. The Trumpers want to be disruptive and shake things up. That’s how they’d characterize it. I’d call it dick waving or undiplomatic diplomacy. One thing we’ve learned from this episode is that the Trumpers plan to export their penchant for impulsive, poorly thought-out gambits to the world scene. Heaven help us; make that son of heaven since we’re talking about China policy.

I’ve seen some on the right argue that United States China policy makes no sense. The whole “One China and Taiwan is part of it” has been policy since the Nixon to China days. It’s a way to finesse Taiwanese independence without unduly pissing off the Kleptocrats who run China in Communist drag. I agree that it makes no logical sense.

Here’s the deal: American China policy has never made sense. In the late 19th and early 20th Century, we posed as benevolent benefactors trying to “Christianize” China whilst exploiting the hell out of it. Then we mindlessly supported Chiang Kai-shek and his Kuomintang government until they fled the mainland to Taiwan in 1949. After the advent of “Red China,” we allowed the China Lobby personified by Time-Life’s Henry Luce, to control Chinese policy from 1949-1972. In that era, we pretended that Mao’s China did not exist and that tiny Taiwan was the true Republic of China. Repeat after me: American China policy has never made sense.

One reason that Tricky Dick was able to do the Nixon to China thing was that Henry Luce died in 1967. Luce’s parents were Presbyterian missionaries. He was born in China and lived there until he was 15 years old. Luce was the most important GOP press baron for decades. He was convinced that Chiang was the Chinese George Washington and that Mao was Satan. Neither was true but Luce dominated US China Policy for many years. He was also the dominant force in the Dewey-Eisenhower-Nixon internationalist Eastern establishment wing of the GOP. A wing that is well and truly extinct. Poppy Bush was its last gasp.

The current “One China” policy is a way to keep the peace between the PRC and Taiwan. In the late 1950’s hostilities nearly broke out. It was even a hot issue during the 1960 Presidential campaign: Nixon and Kennedy spent time discussing Quemoy and Matsu, which were flashpoints in the 1958 crisis.  I bet most of you have never heard of Quemoy and Matsu. Why? Because of the “One China” policy. It makes no sense but it’s kept the peace. That’s what really matters.

There’s a certain irony that a man who rarely makes sense about anything has allowed ambitious staffers to shake things up in an area of the world that’s relatively stable right now. The idiomatic expression “bull in a china shop” applies here;  both literally and figuratively.

  1. an awkward or clumsy person.
  2. an inconsiderate or tactless person.
  3. a troublemaker; dangerous person.

That’s Donald Trump in a wingnut shell. Stirring things up between China and Taiwan can only cause trouble. It will not lead to an American China policy that makes sense. It never has and likely never will. I’ll take polite fictions or diplomatic niceties over macho posturing any day.

Since I opened the post with Time Magazine covers featuring Chiang Kai-shek, I’ll let the post-Luce Time have the last word, uh, cover:

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Sunday Morning Video: The French Resistance

Since I’ve gone on about les Maquis, here’s a pretty good documentary about the French Resistance. It’s an episode of the Secrets of War series and is narrated by Charlton Heston:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Liar

It’s been another weird week in New Orleans. The weather has been yo-yo-ing to and fro. We reluctantly ran the AC on a particularly steamy day and we’re back to the heater right now. The kitties, of course, prefer the latter. So it goes.

There was a lethal shooting last weekend on Bourbon Street. It doesn’t happen that often but when it does the media, city government, and tourism establishment lose their collective minds. This time there are suggestions of metal detectors and limited access. That’s typical NOLA think: propose something that would be simultaneously costly and unenforceable. We live in a country and a state with an armed population and when you add booze and crowds to the mix, violence is not surprising. It’s difficult to prevent an asshole with a concealed weapon from discharging it. That may sound cold and harsh but “to live in this town, you must be tough, tough, tough, tough.” Thus spake Jagger and Richards. She-doo-be.

The mendacity theme here at First Draft continues with this week’s theme songs. That’s right, my obsession with different songs with the same title continues. We begin with Todd Rundgren’s 2004 tune Liar. It’s followed in quick succession by Queen, the Sex Pistols, Argent, and, of all people, Three Dog Night who covered the Argent tune.

I had no idea there were so many songs with liar in the title and that’s the truth. There will be more prevarication after the break, but first I need to find that lying sack of shit that we’ve heard so much about over the years.

Continue reading

Tweets & Circuses

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Image by Michael F.

The outlines of Trump’s online propaganda operation become clearer by the day. Sometimes the Insult Comedian will lose his shit and tweet without thinking. Other times, he will use his favorite social media platform as a way to distract attention from his latest scandal or terrible personnel choices. Along with the Hamilton tirade, the flag burning tweet falls into the latter category:

Trump wanted people to stop talking about the lease of his Washington DC hotel, the NYT article about the inevitable conflicts of interest caused by his empire, and the appointment of wingnut Congressman Tom Price to head HHS. I may start calling the department Health and Inhuman Services now that Price has been nominated. He not only favors repealing the ACA, he’s a rabid frothing at the mouth Medicare privatizer. I don’t recall the TP ticket running to phase out Medicare. Their elderly supporters are in for a rude awakening. It’s not exactly unexpected: Trump is the rudest man in America, after all.

If Trump’s plan was to change the subject from health care policy-an important but somewhat dry topic-to flag burning, it worked. It’s much easier to discuss threats against flag burners than to delve into the details of Medicare. It’s also the nature of the twitter beast: instant analysis of superficial topics is the bread and butter of the Tweeter Tube.

I am not advocating that we stop paying attention to Trump’s twitter addiction, far from it. Instead, I believe that we should take a deep breath and think our responses through. Not everything requires a response within 3 minutes. We can take up to 20 or 30 whole minutes, which will let us prioritize the effluvia tweeted out in the middle of the night from Trump Tower. Here’s one rule of thumb: if Trump tweets something irrelevant out-of-the-blue, there’s a good chance it’s a distraction. That’s the flag burning tweet in a wingnut shell.

Twitter is the perfect medium for the Insult Comedian. It’s full of ignoramuses with short attention spans who personalize, and feel obliged to comment on, everything. Sound familiar?Twitter is Trump to a T. Any time Trump feels unloved or persecuted, a tweet storm ensues. Some have said that his people should call twitter’s people and pull the plug on the mad  tweeter. I prefer to know what my enemy is up to. I just think we need to try harder to discern what is important and what is a diversion. Both the twitteratti and the MSM have failed miserably at that so far. It’s what happens when you’re a conclusion jumper. I hate them almost as much as close talkers, y’all.

We’re navigating uncharted, shark infested waters. The electoral college winner is a mentally unstable showman with a short attention span. Twitter will play a depressingly important role in how this fake populist deals with the populace.

Michael F came up with the I Claudius style featured image for a post called If Caligula Means Little Boots as opposed to, say, little hands. The term “bread and circuses” was coined by the delinquent Roman wag Juvenal during the reign of Augustus; the man who finished off the Roman Republic. Unlike Trump, Augustus was a competent, intelligent man. The Insult Comedian is more reminiscent of that imperial pussy grabber, Tiberius who tried and failed to fill his stepfather’s strappy sandals. But Tiberius *was* able to provide bread and circuses for the masses. All the Insult Comedian/Sideshow Barker is likely to provide is tweets and circuses.

The next time anyone falls for one of Trump’s diversions, you could do worse than ponder the  following question posed by Pete Townshend, Why Did I Fall For That?

Repeat after me: tweets and circuses. Why did I fall for that?

Saturday Odds & Sods: Broken Arrow

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Right and Left by Winslow Homer, 1909.

I’m black and blue from pinching myself to prove that the Insult Comedian’s electoral college victory really happened. It’s a real life nightmare but at least we had our first cold front of the season. My colleagues in Chicago and Madison would call it mildly chilly but it’s cold by New Orleans standards. Cold enough to plug-in the space heaters and turn on the central. I’m not crazy about the smell of burning dust on the vents but it ends fairly quickly. The cats, of course, love bathing in the rays of the space heaters.

We’ve all been so focused on the electoral disaster that not enough attention has been paid to the South Dakota pipeline controversy. I plead guilty myself but I stand with the Standing Rock Sioux. If you’re like me and feel the need to be educated on the dispute, here’s a link to a FAQ about the situation.

It’s a much better way to spend your time than thinking about the December 10th Gret Stet Senate run-off. Here’s my position on the Neely-Foghorn Leghorn race in two tweets:

I forgot about two earlier ones, so make that four tweets:

Let’s move on to this week theme song. Make that theme songs as they’re two different tunes with the same title. The first Broken Arrow comes from Robbie Robertson’s eponymous first solo album. The second is a Neil Young/Buffalo Springfield numbah that shows how influential Sgt. Pepper was even with roots rockers.

We’ll put the broken arrow back in the quiver when we get the chance but it’s time for our first segment. Hint: it has something to do with a songwriter of Native-American heritage.

Robbie Robertson’s Testimony: The former Band guitarist has long been one of rock music’s best storytellers. He recently published his memoirs, Testimony. He sat down with Esquire’s Jeff Slate to discuss the book, Bob Dylan, the 40th Anniversary of The Last Waltz and his often rocky relationship with his former band mates of whom only keyboard wizard Garth Hudson still survives.

As a writer, I found this passage of particular interest:

Did you find similarities in the way you write music and the way you wrote the book?

Yeah, I think for me the voice is quite similar. The process is extremely different and writing this book was maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done. This isn’t just slamming down a bunch of words. This is writing a book! The detail! Writing songs is where we’re giving you an impression of a story. When you’re writing a book, you’re writing the story. There’s no skipping over stuff like you can in a song. It’s an art to be able to boil things down, and convey things with a sound and a mood. I love both things, but now, after writing this, I have the fever and I’m gonna write the next volume to it. In fact, it might be a trilogy!

I’m looking forward to reading the book. I wonder how deep Robbie goes into his issues with Levon Helm. I hope he clears the air, but since the major problem was money I have my doubts. I regret they never worked things out but as John Lennon said: “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

Before moving on, here’s one of Robbie’s lesser known masterpieces.

In the interview, Robbie mentioned working on music for the new Scorsese film, let’s move on to a story from tomorrow’s NYT Magazine.

The Passion of Martin Scorsese: It turns out that Marty’s passion project has been to bring The Silence, a novel about Catholic missionaries in Japan by Shusako Endo, to the big screen. It may sound like an odd project to those of you who think of Scorsese as a guy who makes gangster films but religion has always played a role in his films. It sounds like an interesting project. Paul Elie has the details.

I’m keeping it brief this holiday weekend so let’s dive into our next piece, which is about Scorsese’s fellow Italian-American filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola. I’ll let the NYT’s link icon thing herald the next segment:

I’ve seen The Godfather more times than I care to admit. Actually, I lost count long ago. The first two installments are close to perfect, and 3 would have been much better if Winona Ryder had played Michael Corleone’s doomed daughter. Winona’s fall from grace happened right before shooting and Sofia Coppola stepped in. It’s a pity, there’s much to like about the movie but, let’s just say, Sofia is a better director than actress.

Coppola sat down with Timesman Jacob Bernstein to talk about his Godfather book. Here’s a slice of the pie:

When was the last time you watched “The Godfather”?

Oh, I don’t know, years ago. For me, the memory of “The Godfather” brings great unhappiness. That movie took 60 days, and it was miserable, not to mention the months after of jockeying over the cut. So my reaction is usually of panic and nausea, but that has nothing to do with how it is for the audience.

Something I liked about reading your book was finding out how methodical you were. There’s a presumption that all great art is the result of a boundless imagination. This book shows that it’s a slog.

It was insecurity. I was so young. I was hired because I was young. A lot of important directors turned it down. Elia Kazan turned it down. Costa-Gavras turned it down, a whole bunch of important directors. So the philosophy was, let’s get someone young, who could presumably be pushed around. Also, I was Italian-American, and that was good, because it meant if the studio got flak they could simply say, “But it was an Italian-American director.”

It’s a pity that Coppola has been the Orson Welles of his generation instead of thriving like Scorsese. If you asked me back in the day who would have been more successful, my money would have been on Coppola. Sorry, Marty. It’s another thing I’ve been wrong about. Francis is a helluva winemaker though.

I’ve already done a list of my favorite Scorsese movies, so we’ll try something different. My ten favorite supporting characters in The Godfather trilogy in no particular order. I’ve excluded the males in the Corleone family from consideration. Sorry, Fredo.

  1. Talia Shire as Connie Corleone Rizzi.
  2. Abe Vigoda as Tessio.
  3. Richard Castellano as Clemenza
  4. Michael Gazzo as Frankie Pentangeli in 2.
  5. Lee Strasberg Hyman Roth in 2.
  6. Eli Wallach as Don Altobello in 3.
  7. GD Spradlin as Senator Geary in 2
  8. Richard Conte as Don Barzini.
  9. Sterling Hayden as Capt. McCluskey.
  10. Gastone Moschin as Fanucci in 2.

One flaw of the Godfather movies is the paucity of interesting female characters. David Chase did better in that regard in The Sopranos. Come on down, Janis Soprano and Dr. Melfi.

It’s time to make an offer you can’t refuse, and move on to our final segment.

Saturday Classic: I usually post albums in this space but I had never seen this half-hour Kinks set before. It’s Kinktastic, especially the Kick horns who have nothing to do with Athenae’s kiddo as far as I know.

That’s it for this week. I’ll give the greatest Gret Stet populists of them all the last word:

uncle-earl-meme

Electoral College Blues

Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report has been crunching the numbers and it looks as if Hillary Clinton will win the popular vote by 2.5 million votes. That margin is greater than the following post-World War II popular vote/electoral college winners:

1976: Carter beat Ford by 1,683, 247 votes.

1968: Nixon beat Humphrey by 511,944 votes.

1960: Kennedy beat Nixon by 112,827 votes.

1948: Truman beat Dewey by 2,188,055 votes.

Our 19th Century electoral system has bitten us in the ass for the second time in five elections. Unfortunately, it’s how we elect Presidents. The only way to change the system is for a party that wins the electoral college to propose its abolition. Otherwise it sounds like sour grapes or sore loserdom. It’s terrible when, as in 2000 and 2016, the stakes are so high. In 2000, the electoral college elected a genial simpleton. In 2016, they elected a nasty sociopath. Calling the situation worrisome is a grotesque understatement, but hyperbole got us into this mess so a bit of understatement is not a bad idea.

There are some novel electoral college ideas floating around the internet. I wish I thought any of them could reverse the election but, as of this writing, I do not. There are some faithless electors who hope to blow up the system. I have my doubts there are enough of them to throw the election into the House. That’s not a happy solution either since Republicans control it and Ryan is on the verge of realizing his dream of destroying medicare. Why that should be anyone’s dream is beyond me but it’s his. Hence Charlie Pierce’s nickname for him: the Zombie Eyed Granny Starver. Much of our effort should be focused on stiffening the spines of Senate Democrats to prevent this calamity. F is for filibuster.

The disparity between the popular and electoral vote is troublesome, especially given the allegations about Russian hackers and spooks. Oh my. A voting machine audit is a capital idea BUT it’s unlikely to reverse the results. I think it *should* be done if only to lessen doubts on our side. Given HRC’s margin in the popular vote, there will *always* be doubts about the 2016 election. I harbor them myself but we’re more likely than not stuck with the Insult Comedian as our next President. Having said that, I will never accept his legitimacy. I plan to resist in whatever way that I can. Vive les Maquis.

A more promising reason to challenge the results is contained in a piece by New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman. I’m squeezing it in here because this piece was 95.4% finished.

Hillary Clinton is being urged by a group of prominent computer scientists and election lawyers to call for a recount in three swing states won by Donald Trump, New York has learned. The group, which includes voting-rights attorney John Bonifaz and J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, believes they’ve found persuasive evidence that results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania may have been manipulated or hacked. The group is so far not speaking on the record about their findings and is focused on lobbying the Clinton team in private.

Deadlines are looming so Team Clinton needs to decide before cutting the turkey. I have no idea what will come of this but it means that Trump’s legitimacy is zip, zilch, and zero. Here’s a Yiddish word to annoy Bannon and the B3 Brownshirts: Bupkis.

(UPDATE: Data nerds Nates Cohn and Silver are skeptical of the claims made in Sherman’s piece. So it goes.)

The most thought-provoking piece I’ve seen about the Electoral College mess is by the Atlantic’s Peter Beinart. Here’s the money passage:

It is “desirable,” Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 68, “that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of” president. But is “equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station.” These “men”—the electors––would be “most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.” And because of their discernment—because they possessed wisdom that the people as a whole might not—“the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

As Michael Signer explains, the framers were particularly afraid of the people choosing a demagogue. The electors, Hamilton believed, would prevent someone with “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity” from becoming president. And they would combat “the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.” They would prevent America’s adversaries from meddling in its elections. The founders created the Electoral College, in other words, in part to prevent the election of someone like Donald Trump.

It’s hard to argue that point. This situation is unprecedented. Like all Democrats, I wanted the Florida recount to continue in 2000. When it ended, I was all like: He’s Poppy Bush’s son, how bad can it be? We know how that turned out.

In 2016, we are confronted with an electoral college winner who is stupid, mentally unstable, and has authoritarian tendencies. His claim that he alone can decide not to prosecute his opponent is how dictators talk. I wish I had a clear idea of how to deal with this menace by legal, political means but I don’t. Pointing out problems is easy, coming up with solutions is hard.

Where do we go from here? I wish I knew. Resistance, in ways both small and large, to the new order is in order. It is still possible that Trump’s incompetence will save the Republic but we cannot count on it. Team Trump were somehow able to win the electoral vote.

In 2018, Democrats need to show up at the polls to express our disapproval at the ballot box. The obsession with the White House at the expense of down ballot races has become an unhealthy addiction. We need to kick it and focus on organizing at the state and local level. That’s how a party is rebuilt and how autocracy is prevented.

2016 really sucks the big one. Happy Fucking Thanksgiving.

I hate to end on such a hopeless note, so let’s play the ultimate Yes song:

It’s your move. Vive les Maquis.

Tweet Of The Day: Pho Neo-Nazi Edition

tila-tequila

One reason I’m a faithful TPM reader is that I learn new things there, even those I’d prefer NOT to learn. Today for example, I read about the so-called Alt-Right meeting at Washington City this weekend. It was the first time I’d ever heard of Tila Tequila who is a singer and reality show type. She’s a N-list celebrity: N is for neo-Nazi. More shockingly, her real name is Thien Thanh Thi Nguyen. That’s right, a Vietnamese-American neo-Nazi. Hence the pho in the title. That delicious soup/stew is pronounced fuh. The tweet below made me want to say pho you to Tila:

I wonder if Richard Spencer has made her an honorary Aryan yet. I seem to recall Ribbentrop and Hitler doing racial backflips when they formed an alliance with Japan. Btw, Ms. Tila: Japan was one of the imperial powers that occupied your homeland. So much for Vietnamese nationalism.

There’s a large, lively Vietnamese community in New Orleans East. They tend to be conservative Catholics: the accidental former GOP Congressman Joseph Cao is a good example of their politics. Conservative but not nutty. I don’t think there are many white nationalist neo-Nazis among them. The mind reels at the thought, y’all.

Apparently, Tila Tequila has been an ardent Hitler fan for some time according to her wikipedia entry

In December 2013, Nguyen caused controversy by posting an article on her website titled “Why I Sympathize with Hitler: Part I”, although she stated that her views on Hitler were not derived from antisemitism on her part, nor any feelings toward Jewish people. Nguyen stated:

For those of you who focus on the victims of war well that is just part of war. What do you think war is about? People DIE in wars that is why I am against wars. It brought me to tears because I used to think all of those horrible things about him [Hitler] until I learned the truth about the war and what Hitler truly did and he was not a bad person as they have painted him out to be. Here is a man who was not a coward, stood up for his country in a DESPERATE TIME OF NEED (unlike all of our cowardly leaders), and yet not only did he try his best to help his country and people get out of what was a time of depression, economic collapse, high unemployment, amongst many other things.[61]

Honorary white person, neo-Nazi, and amateur historian. Tila is quite a piece of work. She also attacked the right-wing journalist Ben Shapiro after he quit Breitbart in protest of its Trumpiness:

…on May 6, 2016, Nguyen tweeted that Jewish-American political commentator Ben Shapiro should “be gassed and sent back to Israel” and later posted that “There are only two things in this world, for which I would gladly sacrifice my own life; the destruction of all Jews and preservation of the white race” and “You know what will help Asians earn respect? An Asian version of Adolf Hitler… I want that person to be me; I want to save the world from this Zionist disease.”[65]

.Onslow 2

This is what the country is up against now that Trump won the electoral college and the B3 Brownshirts plan to make the West Wing part of the even Whiter House.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders wants to take over a party he does not belong to and oblige it to “abandon identity politics.” The Independent Senator from one of the least diverse states in the country remains convinced that the Trumpenproletariat did not vote for him out of prejudice. I remain convinced that he is wrong, and that to follow his line is to abandon support for those female, black, brown, and Asian working class folks who voted for Hillary Clinton. We need to stand up to bigotry, not make excuses for it. Vive les Maquis.

As for Tila Tequila, I’m glad she’s changed her name from the Vietnamese equivalent of Smith. I’m sorry that she’s a self-loathing Vietnamese-American who thinks that white nationalists will accept her people. Does she really believe Trumper xenophobia does not include Asians? It’s hard to tell whether it’s naivete or delusion but both are in oversupply in 2016.

Finally, I’d like to apologize for the pho pun. Sometimes I cannot help myself. I am, however, not sorry enough to remove it. I plan to eat more pho in penance for the pho you pun.

Trump’s Tactical Tweeting

As much as I hate to give the Insult Comedian credit for anything, his use of Twitter this weekend as a distraction shows more cunning than usual. The big story *should* have been the $25 million settlement of the fraud cases against the Flim-Flam man’s fake “university.” That did not happen; instead it was the flap over Mike Pence being booed on Broadway.

Here’s the deal: politicians get booed at public events all the time. The current occupant of the White House was even heckled during a State of the Union speech. Remember the “You Lie” guy, Joe Wilson? Pence receiving a mixture of boos and cheers from the Hamilton audience is only a big whoop because his master’s voice made it one. Trump wanted to create a diversion and the bright shiny object of demanding an apology over this non-event did the trick.

The Hamilton story is a fun one. It *is* funny that the rudest man in American was Miss Manners all of a sudden. It is, however, not as important as the fraud settlement or even Trump’s tweets claiming he would have won those cases but settled for the good of the country. The Pence booing is easier to understand so the MSM and the Twitterati swallowed the bait. The latter has an excuse for being so shallow but the MSM does not. How to cover the Insult Comedian continues to elude them. And the “Presidents grow in office” myth is about to kick in. We’re really in for it if they don’t learn from their mistakes.

Jack Kennedy famously was the first President to master the use of tevee as a political tool. Many called his the Television Presidency. Donald Trump seems poised to become the Twitter President. Sometimes there’s method in his tweeting madness such as the Pence diversion. The good news for the Republic is that Trump is notoriously undisciplined and has hurt himself with his tweets i.e. the Alicia Machado tweetstorm. Let’s hope the MSM doesn’t go for the next shiny object dangled in a Trump tweet. I am not optimistic about this given the spontaneous on-the-fly nature of the medium.

Repeat after me: fraud is more important than booing.

The booing on Broadway gave me an earworm. It’s a good one. In my contemporary reading of this song, the lamb is the gullible MSM. Thus far the mendacious Trump propaganda team is slaughtering them. Time to give Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Steve Hackett, and Phil Collins the last word:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: God’s Comic

man-ray-glass-tears

Glass Tears by Man Ray, 1932.

Facebook killed me off earlier this week. I even got a death notice from them but neglected to take a screen shot. I was not alone in receiving a premature memorial page notice from the Zuckerdudes. Facebook even whacked blog pun consultant James Karst:

Karst is dead.

I’m pleased to report that, unlike the late Johnny Winter, Karst is still alive and well:

I’ve heard several explanations as to what went wrong but there’s one I like. And I’m sticking to it even if it’s debunked as de bunk. Consider it my Ford factory relocation moment. Here it is: It may have been concocted by trolls who wanted to metaphorically liquidate people whose content they dislike. I wear their scorn as a badge of honor even if I have long believed that “we don’t need no stinking badges.” That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, y’all. Facebook and fake news go together like Lennon and McCartney before Yoko and Linda or Rodgers and Hart before Hammerstein. Oscar, Oscar, Oscar.

This week’s theme song is an obvious choice: God’s Comic by Elvis Costello. It’s written from the perspective of a dead guy. This may make EC the Nostraelvis of rock and roll since it was written for the Spike album in 1989 long before Facebook existed. Or is that Nostradeclan? I cannot for the life or death of me keep that straight. First the song followed by a few  lyrics:

EC is a notoriously wordy songwriter so there are a lot of lyrics.  Here’s the first verse followed by the chorus :

I wish you’d known me when I was alive, I was a funny feller
The crowd would hoot and holler for more
I wore a drunk’s red nose for applause
Oh yes I was a comical priest
“With a joke for the flock and a hand up your fleece”
Drooling the drink and the lipstick and greasepaint
Down the cardboard front of my dirty dog-collar

Now I’m dead, now I’m dead, now I’m dead,
Now I’m dead, now I’m dead
And I’m going on to meet my reward
I was scared, I was scared, I was scared, I was scared
He might of never heard God’s Comic

On that mordantly morbid note, it’s time for the break. We should move expeditiously before Facebook kills me off again and I go on to meet my reward.

Continue reading

The Korematsu Case Revisited

korematsu

I remember very few papers I wrote as a college student. One exception is a paper about the horrific, anti-constitutional internment of the Japanese, including citizens, during World War II. It was an action initiated in panic by a racist Army General but ratified by some distinguished American liberals: President Roosevelt, Attorney General Francis Biddle, Justice Hugo Black, and then California Attorney General Earl Warren. It is a stain on all their memories and on American history. So much so that Congress and President Reagan formally apologized for internment in 1988. That right, Ronald Reagan knew it was wrong. There are ominous signs that the Trumpers do not.

TPM is usually the first political site I look at every morning. One headline was a real eye-opener, the textual equivalent of 2 cups of coffee, Trump Surrogate: Japanese Internment Camps A Precedent For Muslim Registry:

One of Donald Trump surrogate’s claimed Wednesday that the forced internment of Japanese Americans during World War II provided a “precedent” for the next administration creating a registry of Muslims living in the United States.

Carl Higbie, a former Navy SEAL and booster of the President-elect, told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly that such a registry was necessary until “we can identify the true threat” posed by Islamic extremists.

“We have in the past,” Higbie said. “We have done it based on race, we have done it based on religion, we have done it based on region.”

<SNIP>

“It is legal. They say it’ll hold constitutional muster,” Higbie said of the registry. “I know the ACLU is going to challenge us, but I think it’ll pass. And we’ve done it with Iran back a while ago. We did it in World War II with Japanese, which, call it what you will—”

I call it bigotry. That’s what I call it. Targeting a religious minority is also an egregious violation of the First Amendment. I am, however, glad that barking mad Naval Seal mentioned the Bush years. They were not big on the constitution either. It *can* happen here. In fact, it already has.

I have a a few questions. Will the “Muslim registry” apply to citizens? Is this partial payback for Khizr Khan? Trump is capable of such petty vindictiveness, after all. Who’s going to restrain him? Rudy? Kris Kobach? Jared Kushner? Not bloody likely.

Back to the post title. The Supreme Court upheld the Japanese exclusion order in Korematsu v. United States in 1944. Fred Korematsu, an American citizen, was convicted of “violating the civilian exclusion order.” SCOTUS upheld his conviction in an opinion by Justice Hugo Black with three Justices in dissent: Stanley Roberts, Frank Murphy, and Robert Jackson. It was not one of Justice Black’s finest hours but Justice Jackson’s dissent rings true in the wake of the comments by that barking mad Navy Seal:

Korematsu was born on our soil, of parents born in Japan. The Constitution makes him a citizen of the United States by nativity, and a citizen of California by residence. No claim is made that he is not loyal to this country. There is no suggestion that, apart from the matter involved here, he is not law-abiding and well disposed. Korematsu, however, has been convicted of an act not commonly a crime. It consists merely of being present in the state whereof he is a citizen, near the place where he was born, and where all his life he has lived.
<SNIP>
Much is said of the danger to liberty from the Army program for deporting and detaining these citizens of Japanese extraction. But a judicial construction of the due process clause that will sustain this order is a far more subtle blow to liberty than the promulgation of the order itself. A military order, however unconstitutional, is not apt to last longer than the military emergency. Even during that period, a succeeding commander may revoke it all. But once a judicial opinion rationalizes such an order to show that it conforms to the Constitution, or rather rationalizes the Constitution to show that the Constitution sanctions such an order, the Court for all time has validated the principle of racial discrimination in criminal procedure and of transplanting American citizens. The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need.

I added the bold face for obvious reasons. Korematsu has been discredited but never overruled. It still “lies about like a loaded weapon.” If the Islamophobes have their way, the chamber will be reloaded with their so-called registry. If that happens, all good people should try their damnedest to sign the thing in solidarity with those being oppressed. What’s next? A Yellow Crescent?

The Fog Of Historical Pictures: Oval Ones In Greece

Barack Obama is the fourth American President to visit Greece. In honor of his visit to my ancestral homeland, it’s time for a photo essay. I haven’t done one of these posts in a while. I guess this qualifies as “normalcy” in the Gamaleil sense of the word.

General/President Eisenhower was the first Oval One to visit Greece in 1959. Back in those days, Greece had a royal family. The only good thing the military dictatorship did was abolish the monarchy. They were Germans anyway. Here’s Ike with King Paul:

Ike Greece

Poppy Bush was the next Oval One to make a Hellenic trip in 1991. The only picture I could find was this interior shot of Bush with then President Konstantinos Karamanlis:

Bush Greece Karamanlis

Bill Clinton paid a visit in 1999. He toured the Acropolis and saw the Parthenon, which was under restoration. Even Grand Dames need a bath from time to time:

clintongreece-topper

President Obama is the latest to visit Greece. Here’s a picture of him with a typically stern looking Evzone:

ct-obama-greece-20161115

Photograph via TRONC.

The first time I visited Greece was with my entire family. We spent a lot of time with our Greek relations who were actual first cousins of my father as opposed to “cousins because we’re Greek.” The cousins took us to see Stamatis Kokotas who they swore was the Greek Elvis. Why? He was known only by his last name: Kokotas. Other than the mutton chops sideburns that were fashionable at the time, I didn’t see or hear any similarity. He was more of a crooner but was still pretty darn good. I’ll give Kokotas the last word:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: They Can’t Take That Away From Me

Allegory by Ben Shahn.

Allegory by Ben Shahn, 1948.

I’m not feeling funny ha-ha this week so I’m keeping this short. And I mean it this time. I wish I could say we were like Buster Keaton in Steamboat Bill Jr. where the building collapses around him but he emerges unscathed:

Given the names that are being floated for Cyclone Donald’s future misadministration, we’re in for a bumpy ride. PBJ? Newt? Rudy? Reince? Bannon? Palin? Oy just oy.

This week’s theme song is They Can’t Take That Away From Me. It’s one of George Gershwin’s loveliest melodies and one of Ira Gershwin’s most poignant lyrics. I selected it an antidote to the electoral college victory of the vulgar and crass Insult Comedian. In short, I’m trying to ward off the crass with some class.

It’s a foolproof Gershwin song, so there are many fabulous versions to choose from. I limited myself to three. We begin with (who else?) Frank Sinatra. The song became even more associated with Sinatra after Bill Zehme’s wonderful 1997 book, The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin’. Frank recorded several variations but my favorite is this torchy rendition, arranged by Nelson Riddle:

The Gershwins wrote They Can’t Take Away From Me for the 1937 Astaire-Rogers musical Shall We Dance. I prefer the way it was done as the closing number in Fred and Ginger’s last film together, The Barkleys of Broadway:

Who has more class than Sinatra or Astaire? Our next artists certainly equal those two gents in savoir faire. There’s a segment later about Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. I’ll let their singing speak for them right now.

Speaking of class, ain’t nothing classier than the band on Ella and Louis: Oscar Peterson, Buddy Rich, Ray Brown, and Herb Ellis. I’ll have more on the 60th anniversary of that classic LP directly.

Time to get arty but hopefully not farty:

Ben Shahn’s Allegory: Ben Shahn was a lefty artist/activist who lived a long and interesting life. I originally thought I’d use one of his WPA murals as the featured image, but Allegory is a more interesting painting:

Allegory represents an immense, red, lionlike chimera, shown in profile, its great head turned toward the viewer and surrounded with flames. The beast is lean and hungry — Shahn is careful to delineate his ribs, so we know that he (his gender is also clearly indicated) is hungry, and he seems like an imaginary lion in a Chinese opera, or like a strange composite animal in a painting by the great Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo.

Although it is smaller than a large dog in the painting itself, we realize just how huge the animal is in illusion when we see a pile of tiny dead bodies with white limbs and faces placed below its haunches, or a miniature forest in front of it.

Shahn himself tells us that the beast — he never quite identifies its species — is the embodiment of fire and that the entire painting emerged from a series of illustrations he made for the August 1948 issue of Harper’s magazine. The illustrations were commissioned to accompany an article on what was called “The Hickman Fire” written by the distinguished journalist John Bartlow Martin.

It’s a relief to discuss an allegorical beast instead of the real one stalking the country. It’s time for a few words about two national treasures: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

The 60th Anniversary of Ella and Louis: I’m referring to the first of three albums the dynamic jazz duo recorded for Verve Records. We all know something about the artists but the man who brought them together, Norman Granz, is less well known to the general public. Tom Maxwell has the details at Longreads.com.

Saturday Classic: I had thought that I’d previously posted Ella and Louis in this segment. It turns out I was wrong. That’s been happening a bit too much for my taste of late. I would have re-posted it in any event. This album is the best anti-crass serum imaginable.

That’s if for this week. I should be back in full-blown horrid punster mode next time around. I’ll also revive my regular Album Cover and Pulp Fiction features after a one-week hiatus.

It’s time to get back to what passes for normal here at First Draft. We need to be able to laugh through the horror as well as raging against the dying of the light. It’s what FDR would want us to do, after all.

FDR Meme

Confessions Of A Keyboard Maquis

First Draft and the original Netroots blogosphere arose in opposition to George W. Bush and the Iraq War. I started blogging in opposition to how the Bush administration mishandled Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. On every level imaginable, Trump is worse than W. So bad, in fact, that the former President refused to vote for him. When President Obama and many others said Trump was unfit to serve as President, it was not just campaign rhetoric. It was a blunt statement of fact.

In the wake of continuing reports of Russian meddling in the election, it’s time to stop mourning and get angry. What form that anger should take is the question on the table. It should and must be non-violent. Undisciplined demonstrators smashing shit is playing into the enemy’s hands. Yes, I did say enemy. I plan to give  a Trump presidency the same respect Republicans gave President Obama. None.

The Never Trump Republicans were fond of using French Resistance analogies. It’s beyond ironic that some of the same people who mocked the French as “surrender monkeys” and wanted to rename frites “freedom fries” are invoking the French resistance BUT it’s a useful analogy nonetheless. Frank Rich recently summarized the categories quite well:

Mike Murphy, the GOP strategist who ran a PAC for Jeb Bush’s ill-fated campaign, divided his fellow Republican elites into three categories: “Vichy Republicans,” who went along with Trump and the party base enamored of him; “Survival Republicans,” who tried to remain as neutral as Switzerland; and “Resistance Republicans,” who actively battled his nomination.

Obviously, none of  us wants to link arms with even the Resistance Republicans, many of whom will become collaborators, but the imagery is striking, especially on Veterans Day. That’s why I like the term Maquis. Trekkies may remember it from DS9 and Voyager but they took it from the French Resistance during World War II. The Maquis or Maquisards were small, scattered but still mighty rural guerilla bands. They were slightly more effective than the urban resistance because the Allies could air-drop supplies to them in the dead of night.

I am not advocating using Maquis tactics but adopting their attitude. Non-violent legal and political resistance are called for. Congressional Democrats need to be every bit as obstructionist as the GOP has been during the Obama administration. Remember: we controlled the Senate until the 2010 teabagger wave election and have more votes than the GOP did at that time. Their initial focus should be on salvaging the ACA and saving Medicare from the not-so tender mercies of the Survival Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. He’s collaborating with Trump to further his extreme Randian agenda. Trump has no ideas and Ryan has many bad ones.

The electoral college victory of Trump-Pence has unleashed a tidal wave of hateful shit. We’ve all heard reports of both verbal and physical attacks on minorities. Children are terrified and crying at school. Ponder that for a second. School is supposed to be a safe haven for learning, not a place that’s as scary as the world outside. What kind of country are we? We need to decide.

I feel older than I am right now. My main form of resistance to Trumpism in all its ugly manifestations is to do what I do best, write. Hence the post title: Confessions of a Keyboard Maquis. I think people should think about what forms resistance to the incoming regime should take. The great Al Giordano has shared his thoughts with the world beyond his subscribers, of whom I am one, and I’ll give Al the last word:

Those of us who have lived in countries under authoritarian rule have spent recent months having our own conversation about what is happening in the USA. We do it in whispers because most of you will not believe us no matter how loudly we shout about what a Trump election would bring down the ‘pike. We shake our heads and feel a great wave of pity for most Americans who have no idea what tyranny really looks or feels like. Tyranny – contrary to popular myth – is asymmetric. It hits from all sides, crevices, nooks and crannies, from the dark places, the shadows. The figurehead’s power above merely provides it cover. It has the same paramilitary logic of what was endured in Latin America’s dirty wars and the dictatorships across the sea that gave rise to the Arab Spring. When Donald J. Trump praises strongmen leaders across the globe he is giving his “tell” of how he would govern – with a clenched fist.

Worse, the response from that part of America that defines itself as “the left” (I am speaking of the white and academic “left” since so few organized people of color are foolish enough to claim an already discredited mantle) is totally unequipped to address it yet they will attempt once again to place themselves at the vanguard of resistance without any lived experience leading an actual resistance, much less winning one. Senator Sanders’ “Our Revolution” PAC will seek to fundraise off every injustice as aggressively as it has over the Native American resistance to the pipeline in the Dakotas. The remnants of “Occupy” now under a thousand new names will call for demonstrations without guidelines, training or discipline and that in the name of “diversity of tactics” allow any asshole who wants to call himself “Black Bloc” to don ski masks and toss trash cans through store windows. President Trump is gonna love those demonstrations because it will allow him to sell all kinds of repression to his base. White men will vault to the front of these groups saying, “follow me!” Yet they have not a clue as to how a real movement is built or won. They feel entitled to it anyway. It will be more of the same attempts to re-center whiteness and maleness with the cheerleading of Jacobin magazine, some writers at The Nation, Democracy Now and Reddit dudebro forums.

The election of Trump will mark the exact moment of failure of manhood in America. The only possible new leadership will have to come from women, especially women of color, who already live in Trump’s America and have more experience navigating such a world, far more than we guys can learn in the short time we’ll have to build an authentic resistance. Mexican-American and Muslim-American women will be the first hit and instead of letting the dudebro aspirants set the tone it will be up to all of us to follow those women into battle instead.

The only authentic resistance to the policies of a Trump presidency will make nonviolence its watchword, and unapologetically so. To participate, you’re going to have to get training in nonviolent civil resistance. I’m not speaking of the “express trainings” by dudebro groups like “Democracy Spring” with fawning celebrity dilettantes like Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, but, rather, sessions that last a minimum of eight hours or, ideally, an entire weekend or more and are led and organized by women of experience at it and especially women of color.

I obviously have a problem with the whole last word concept. I hope you read Al’s entire piece and that it inspires you to organize and act in whatever way you see fit. I now think of it as the Manifesto of the American Maquis. First get mad, then get even.

 casablanca-ending-meme

Finally, thanks to Doc for that fascinating post. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Now where did I put my trench coat? And that’s the last, last, last word.

Sitting Political Shiva

I started following the Israeli newspaper Haaretz’s Twitter feed during their last general election. As you may recall, the polls were wrong about that one too. An interesting link popped up on their feed:

I posted the tweet because Haaretz recently went behind a paywall with no free stories and Chrome’s incognito feature did not work. Oy, just oy.

I’m an agnostic who was raised Greek-Orthodox but most of my mother’s bridge playing and real estate cronies were Jewish, so I learned about sitting shiva as a child.  I remember going with her to Mrs. Rosenberg’s house when her husband died.  Mrs. Rosenberg was the Holocaust survivor I’ve written about before.  I didn’t even complain about going because Mrs. R and I had a mutual admiration society. She remains one of my heroes. She was also as funny as hell. I’m convinced that I learned the essence of black comedy from her. It’s the Shoah survivor’s ethos: nothing will ever be as bad as what they went through, in her case at Treblinka.

Just in case some of you don’t know what I’m talking about here’s a definition of shiva:

Shiva is the week long period of mourning following a loved one’s death. During this time, family members traditionally gather in one home to receive visitors. The word “shiva” means seven, signifying the seven day mourning period in which mourners are supposed to sit low to the ground.

When I saw the headline, I realized that I had metaphorically sat shiva all day Wednesday. For many of us, Hillary Clinton’s loss felt like a death in the family. If it doesn’t to you, please have some respect for those of us who are mourning. We’re sitting political shiva.

I spent the day trading messages with friends on social media and via text. One close friend works at an oil company and had to deal with triumphant Trumpers. He described the people of color at his firm as looking like they expected deportation or worse at any moment. I cannot blame them. Some of Dr. A’s med students came to her in tears yesterday. That gives me hope for the future of the medical profession.

I checked in with two dear friends in the afternoon. One of whom’s four-year old daughter was upset because the mean man beat the nice lady. It’s a pity that so many so-called grown ups couldn’t see what a child can and elected a goniff. That’s Yiddish for a thief, dishonest person, or scoundrel. That fits the Insult Comedian to a T.

After undergoing First Draft therapy by writing The Fearful Country and sitting virtual political shiva, Dr. A and I attended a Krewe meeting. Most of my Krewe mates looked as if they had slept precious little. I certainly did. Some of us had planned to suggest alternative election related themes but the Krewe wanted to develop a previously discussed theme. And that’s okay. The desire to move on from a trauma is understandable. The non-Krewe business conversation was about the election and how upset everyone was. The d word came up in the conversation: Devastated. The evening was a combination of sitting shiva and an Irish wake.

I sat next to my Spank protege who prefers to call me her Spank daddy. She converted to Judaism when she married. We talked about our mutual horror at how many forms of bigotry had been normalized by the Insult Comedian and his deplorable followers. The previously unspoken has been spoken. Loudly. Anti-Semitism has never left us but it’s back in its most virulent form since the 1940’s. An example of that is this:

That’s right, Kristallnacht took place on November 9-10 in 1938. America just elected a candidate who ran an anti-Semitic campaign. David Duke is celebrating with an exuberant, Heil, Trump. Yet another reason we’re sitting political shiva.

The mood on social media yesterday ranged from solemn to vengeful. The Trumpers were attacking perfect strangers for their supposed imperfections. One friend received hate messages from people who objected to a white chick being married to a black guy. This was deeply upsetting to me as they’re one of the sweetest couples I know. We’re also sitting shiva for the death of civility.

I had to deal with some vestigial Dudebros who wanted to say I told you so. I invited them to a “block party” but have no idea why they decided to crawl out of the woodwork. Actually, I do: everything has been normalized by the electoral college victory of the Insult Comedian. Btw, he’s attacked the electoral college in the past, now he loves it. Typical.

I think that the time for what ifs is down the road. I am skeptical that Sanders would have done better but I’m not certain about that. I do know that the stench of anti-Semitism was all over this election and a septuagenarian Jewish socialist would have felt it as well as incessant red baiting. Shorter Adrastos, I don’t know for sure and neither does anybody else. I am, however, not attacking individuals I disagree with on the internet. It’s called keyboard courage. Instead, I’m sitting political shiva.

My theory of what happened is a simple one. After a bruising primary campaign, Hillary Clinton had a great convention, won the debates, took a solid, steady lead and then came the first Comey letter. It depressed Democratic turnout and she lost the electoral vote but won the popular vote. The election was decided by James Comey, Rudy Giuliani, and the MSM’s sporadic attention to Trump’s scandals with an assist from Wikileaks, Russian intelligence, and the alt-right. Trump’s electoral vote victory has mainstreamed the latter. That’s another reason we’re sitting political shiva.

The Trumpers are already acting vengeful towards their enemies. The cartoon villain’s cartoon lackey, Omarosa, is openly discussing an enemies list. That’s right, a person who’s best known as a hiss-provoking reality show villain will have influence in the next administration. I wonder who will be Propaganda Minister: Bannon or Conway?

The awfulness of this election will endure for the next four years. Tolerance, mutual respect, and common decency were dealt a terrible, but not fatal, blow in 2016. Many of us are still reeling and that’s why we’re sitting political shiva. We need to grieve before we can move on.

The aftermath of this horrendous year and dreadful election result reminds me of what some New Orleanians did on Inauguration Day in 2005. We held a Jazz Funeral for Democracy to mourn Bush’s second term complete with brass bands and a horse-drawn bier. We did not know that disaster would come our way in a mere seven months. Here are two of Dr. A’s pictures of that march through downtown New Orleans:

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I hadn’t seen that Flickr photo album for years. The second picture made me smile. The gent in the top hat and tails is-not Fred Astaire-my old friend Bob Smith. He’s more likely to be seen in a kilt now but I know he’s grieving over what happened this week. We all mourn the passing of someone/something special in our own way: from jazz funerals to demonstrations to wakes to sitting shiva. Me, I’m sitting political shiva this week.

Back to the Jazz Funeral for Democracy. 2016 is one of the worst years in our nation’s history but so was 2005. Remember, we elected Barack Obama four years after Bush narrowly defeated John Kerry. We as a people should not have to go through this but we do. And that is why this gentile is sitting political shiva.

Campaign 2016 Odds & Sods

the-who odds--sods

I’m blogging hurt this morning. I’ve had a hellacious head cold the last few days. It’s best described as a chest cold. It feels like I’m carrying Oscar around in a Baby Bjorn. And he’s a big boy. There’s a krewe meeting tonight that I hope to attend, but I don’t want to spread this thing around: as far as I know, they’re all Hillary voters.

Having requested a mulligan even though I do not golf, let’s skip the foreplay and get down to it. Do I hear inane snickering? Is it Billy Bush? I must be hallucinating; told you I was under the weather.

The Hispanic/Latino Wave: I’m feeling wishy-washy so I’m going to alternate the terms. Whatever the label, Latino voters have arrived in 2016. It should not surprise anyone that a group that has been consistently denigrated by one candidate is supporting  his opponent. It has, however, surprised the inside the beltway punditocracy. I suspect that’s because, like  Trump, they think of them only as “the help.” They’re more than just cooks, dishwashers, yard men, housekeepers, construction workers, and fruit pickers. They’re human beings who are saying no to those who demean and degrade them in the best way possible: at the ballot box.

The reports of Hispanic turn out for early voting in Nevada and Florida has me confident that they will be colored blue on Tuesday. Trump needs to win both states to take the election. He’s toast. I don’t care if it’s close or not. He’s toast and marmalade for tea.

The other wonderful thing about the Latino Wave is that it reduces the importance of Iowa and Ohio. Hillary can lose both those states and still win.

A personal story. There are two Mexican guys doing some work next door. Like most of the migrant workers I’ve met over the years, they’re polite and cordial. I was outside and one of them pointed at my Clinton-Kaine sign and said, “My new hero. Hillary.”

Roll Latino wave, roll. Roll Hispanic wave, roll.

You say Latino, I say Hispanic. Let’s call the whole thing off. Now that I’ve quoted Ira Gershwin for the gazillionth time let’s move on,

Fear Is The Key: I was on Twitter Saturday during the LSU-Alabama game, which my Tigers lost 10-0. Our defense was magnificent and I think Nick Saban had poopy pants several times during the game, which is most gratifying.

Anyway, I was online when Team Trump’ did some epic conclusion jumping:

I guess that makes HRC a pussy but they didn’t go there. This was retweeted by all the Top Trumpers and they’ve made it into a thing even after the truth came out.

As everybody with a brain now knows, the incident involved a Never Trump Republican, Austyn Crites, a sign, and a fear-crazed crowd: 

“I had a sign that said ‘Republicans against Trump.’ It is a sign that you can just print off online.”

Initially, there was the expected reaction of people around him booing, he said. “And then all of a sudden people next to me are starting to get violent; they’re grabbing at my arm, trying to rip the sign out of my hand,” he said.

He said he could not be sure but “it looked like” Trump was pointing at him, and may have been “instigating something”. Either way, the crowd piled on him, he said, kicking, punching, holding him on the ground and grabbing his testicles.

He said he was a wrestler in his youth and used his training to turn his head to the side to maintain an airway open as he was being choked by one man who had him in a headlock. “But there were people wrenching on my neck they could have strangled me to death,” he added.

Crites said when he was on the ground he heard someone yell “something about a gun” and he kept telling those on top of him that he had merely been holding a sign.

Notice that the Trumpers *assumed* without any evidence that Crites was packing heat. It’s yet another sign of how fearful and paranoid they are.  It’s a good thing that there were metal detectors at the Reno event otherwise it might have been a bloodbath. It would have been blood red instead of silver and gold:

We’ve become so used to Team Trump lying that it’s not shocking that they continue to describe this incident as an assassination attempt. It’s what they do on a daily basis as described in a must-read piece by Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star, Donald Trump: The unauthorized data base of false things. Dale found over 500 outright falsehoods. Believe me. Don’t believe the Insult Comedian.

Since this is Odds & Sods, there has to be a Who song involved, amirite? It’s one by John Entwistle called Dangerous that closes with the refrain, “fear is the key to your soul.”

Docudrama Of The Week: Let me pose a quick question: What do Justice Robert Jackson and Donald Trump have in common? They were both played by Alec Baldwin. I just re-watched Baldwin’s fine performance as Jackson in the 2000 mini-series ,Nuremberg. It was a good way for this history nerd to pass a few hours whilst sick.

It’s on the YouTube if you’re interested. There’s also a clip of Baldwin as Jackson’s closing argument. The writers had the good sense to use Jackson’s own words:

I give Nuremberg 3 1/2 stars, an Adrastos grade of B+ and a rousing Siskelian thumbs up. End of this oddball but salient variation on a regular Saturday post feature.

Let’s finish things up with a discussion of the most disturbing thing about Campaign 2016: the awakening of dormant anti-Semitism. Thanks, B3 Brownshirts.

The Ugly Underneath Revisited: On October 13th, Donald Trump gave an ominous speech jam-packed with anti-Semitic code words. Here’s how I concluded a post entitled The Ugly Underneath:

I think it’s important for those of us who know history to take a firm stand against Trumpism. That’s why I’ve started comparing him to Hitler at his least disciplined. Hitler had the good sense to *keep* the ugly underneath until he had enough support to enact his racist program. Trump has no self-control but he is every bit as ugly, which is why he needs to lose in a landslide. Some of us are worried that he’ll refuse to concede on election eve, whip his supporters into a frenzy, and provoke a sort of American Kristalnacht. The good news is that most Trumpers are, well, pussies and are unlikely to riot if it’s a blow-out. Let’s hope so.

The B3 Brownshirts have adapted excerpts from that speech into a “populist,” rabble rousing “closing argument” teevee spot:

Railing against “elites” whatever that means is fashionable now. Three of the so-called criminal economic elitists shown in the ad, Janet Yellen, George Soros, and Lloyd Blankfein have one thing in common: they’re Jewish. Here’s what Senator Al Franken has to say about this noxious ad:

Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union, Franken told host Jake Tapper the advert was acting as a “dog whistle to a certain group in the United States”. He called the political commercial “an appeal to some of the worse elements in our society in the closing argument” of the election.

“I’m Jewish, so maybe I’m sensitive to it. But it clearly had an Elders of Zion feel to it, the international banking crisis conspiracy.”

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was a fabricated text first published in 1903 that circulated around Europe disseminating a vicious conspiracy about a Jewish plot for world domination over the economy and culture.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Al Franken?

Team Trump continually uses anti-Semitic rhetoric, code words, and dog whistles. Their defense is that the Insult Comedian’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is Jewish and Ivanka is a convert. You know, the old “some of my best friends are…” dodge.  Josh Marshall sums up my feelings about where Trump himself stands quite nicely:

… my general belief is that Trump believes in various anti-Semitic stereotypes, probably largely drawn from his upbringing – time and place. But I don’t think he holds or did hold any particular animus toward Jews. Indeed, we have pretty reliable accounts of his thinking in anti-Semitic stereotypes in a way that people often interpret as philo-semitism. Like he wants Jews with yarmulkes as his accountants and money managers and not blacks. A former Trump executive claimed he said: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”

That’s Archie Bunker-style anti-Semitism. He only wanted Jewish doctors and described his preferred law firm as “Seven Savage Jews.” I wonder if the Donald calls Jared meathead?

Here’s Josh’s closer:

So is Trump himself an anti-Semite? I have no idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s running an anti-Semitic campaign. That’s all that matters.

I’ve long thought that anti-Semitism is a “canary in a coal mine” form of bigotry. It’s somewhat easier to cloak in pseudo-populist dog whistles than other forms of racism. When anti-Semitism rears its ugly head, there’s more bigotry to come. As Josh said, I have no idea if Trump is personally anti-Semitic, but Stephen Bannon is, and he’s running an anti-Semitic campaign on behalf of Trump who’s clearly a textbook anti-African American racist. Thanks, B3 Brownshirts.

When I wrote the original Ugly Underneath post, I had a lively discussion on Social Media with some fellow music lovers as to whether that was the right XTC song to use as the post title. I remain convinced it was: anti-Semitism is the hate that can be cloaked in seemingly benign populist language. That’s why it’s the Ugly Underneath. One friend suggested the more overtly political song, The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead. It does feature an asssassination and since Team Trump has been on about a fake one, I’ll give Andy Partridge and XTC the last word:

I fibbed about the last word thing again. I couldn’t resist posting my lovely election picks map again:

2016

My worst case scenario is still pretty darn good: Clinton 324, Trump 214 and a 50-50 Senate. I stand by my earlier forecast, but cannot believe I forgot to mention Arab American and Muslim voters in Michigan as one reason Trump will not be the first Republican nominee to carry Michigan since 1988.

That is all.

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Just One Victory

FDR-LEHMAN

1932 New York  poster in support of Democrats Franklin Roosevelt and Herbert Lehman.

We begin this week’s misadventure with a New Orleans weather report: we just experienced the warmest October in recorded history. And it’s still too bloody, buggery, bollocky hot. It’s making me hot under the blue-collar or white-collar for that matter. Rumor has it that a cool front is on the way. Let’s hope so: I am ready to turn the AC off.

Election Day looms and Clinton supporters are as nervous as that proverbial long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. I’m uncertain of the origin of that countrified terms but I’ve always liked it. I thought we needed some rural contrast to the urban 1932 campaign poster that’s this week’s featured image. FYI: Lehman was running to succeed FDR as Governor.

A quick reminder: if our people vote we will spare the country the awful prospect of a Trump Presidency. Let’s not go from hope to grope, y’all. Just as important is electing a Democratic Senate. The GOP is vowing unprecedented obstruction and the first woman President needs a Senate that has her back even if the FBI is trying to stab her in it. Comey PAC will have to be dealt with later. End of yet another pep talk.

This week’s theme song is one of Todd Rundgren’s most anthemic tunes, Just One Victory. It first appeared on Todd’s modestly titled 1973 LP A Wizard, A True Star. It has long been a staple of his live shows, frequently as a set closer or encore. I’m posting it this week to inspire the First Draft base or some such shit. We begin with the original version complete with onscreen lyrics:

The next number is a bit of a cheat. It comes from a 1981 Utopia show wherein the boys in the band all wore camouflage before it was trendy. Todd always gets there before the rest of us. Holy avant-garde, Batman.

The aforementioned cheat is that it’s a medley of the theme song with one of Todd’s loveliest mid-tempo ballads, Love Is The Answer. What better antidote to Trumpism than love lovely love? You’ll have to click on the YouTube icon and watch it there for copyright reasons. It’s no big whoop.

I’m keeping things relatively brief this week. I know: famous last words but I mean it. We’re going to dispense with the break and dive right in. I’m not sure if we’ll be in the deep or shallow end. I’ll let you decide.

Our first segment is one of the best things I’ve read about the Trump phenomenon from a literary and cultural perspective. Yeah, I know: the Insult Comedian doesn’t read books but Slate’s Rebecca Onion does.

Bad Boys: In an article entitled No Girls Allowed Ms. Onion posits, as explained by the sub-header, that “America’s persistent preference for brash boys over “sivilizing” women fuelled the candidacy of Donald Trump.” That’s a mouthful but Onion delivers on her promise. In short, it’s a properly caramelized onion, not a raw one. Tic-Tacs are not necessary.

The Insult Comedian may not recognize the names Natty Bumppo or Huck Finn but he’s the latest in a long line of bad, bad boys that for good or ill have influenced our culture. Here are some excerpts from Onion’s eye wateringly brilliant piece:

Donald Trump is a baby; a child. Like a child, he whines, seeks attention, and throws tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants. It’s appropriate that the Access Hollywood tape takes place on a bus, since it captures Trump and Billy Bush acting like pubescent boys making their way to the seventh grade. Addressing her husband’s comments on that tape in a recent interview, Melania Trump dismissed the Trump-Bush conversation as “boy talk.” She joked that she sometimes feels like she has two children at home: Barron, age 10, and her husband, age 70.

<SNIP>

The belief in the incompatibility of violent, honest, and vigorous manhood, which is at its purist form in boyhood, with mannerly, educated, well-governed civilization is threaded through our cultural history. James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, published between 1823 and 1841, were among the first popular American novels. The Tales star Natty Bumppo, a man raised by Delaware Indians who chooses to live forever outside of civilized society—a boy for life. Bumppo straddles the boundary between white (civilized, in Cooper’s cosmology) and Native (free and vital, but “savage” and doomed). Despite his rough edges, Bumppo is well-educated and intelligent, but he can never marry, settle down, and have a family; he must continually flee west, looking for a place where progress has not yet reached.

<SNIP>

Trump represents himself as one of the only people in American politics who has been able to retain this uncommitted, honest [boyish] quality. Think of him on Howard Stern’s radio show, casually judging women’s bodies, or his inability—his unwillingness—to stay on message, routinely defying even the rules his own advisers try to impose to keep his campaign on course; he is not prisoner to his consciousness, or anyone’s. The candidate’s outspokenness is precious to his supporters, who see it as trustworthiness; as one, interviewed by CBS in September, explained, Trump “says the things that need to be said … about the truth that nobody else says.”

Talk about style over substance. What the Insult Comedian does is lie while sounding blunt and candid. Repeat after me: he’s a flim-flam man.

Onion’s tour de force looks at Emerson, Twain, Kerouac, Playboy Magazine, and movies such as Rebel Without A Cause and The Wild One. In that famous biker flick, a townie asks Marlon Brando’s character, “What are you rebelling against?” His response:

Brando Wild One

Heaven help us if the baddest bad boy of them all becomes President in 2017. Even fellow bad boy Howard Stern takes a dim view of that prospect. He’s supporting Hillz.

Before moving on to the next segment, a brief musical interlude:

Pop-Culture Conspiracy Theories: New York Magazine has been on a roll this year as has its pop-culture site, Vulture. There’s a fabulous piece there by Adam Raymond:  The 70 Greatest Conspiracy Theories in Pop-Culture History. It’s a multi-generational mega-list that’s well worth your time. I was familiar with many of them (Macca is dead, woo) and unfamiliar with others. This is perhaps the most far-fetched of all:

John Lennon, killed by Stephen King

Or maybe Chapman was a “paid patsy,” hired to take the fall for Lennon’s real murderer — Stephen King. That’s the argument made on LennonMurderTruth.com by a man who says Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and King conspired to kill the peace-loving rock legend. The evidence is in “government codes” printed in newspapers and magazines. The famous photo showing Lennon signing an album with Chapman lurking on the edge of the frame actually shows King. But why would King do it? Steve Lightfoot, the mastermind of this theory doesn’t seem to have an answer for that. But as his van says, “It’s true, or he’d sue.”

I did not know that. I do know that people can convince themselves of almost anything. The need to explain the inexplicable is part of the human genome. That’s a fancy way of saying that paranoia has always been with us. It has even inspired a few hit songs FWIW:

Let’s move from the convoluted to the earthy. Literally, not figuratively, as Joey the Shark would surely say at this point.

Dig This Story: I’m on the record as a fan of CBS Sunday Morning. I really dig it, especially this story by Mark Strassman about Everard Hall of Milbridge, Maine who has been digging graves for 49 years.

I really dig Mainers. And no Stephen King did NOT kill John Lennon. Everybody knows that Holden Caulfield did it…

It’s time to move on and dig a different kind of Graves.

Nick Nolte As Graves: I’ve always been a big fan of Nick Nolte. He’s a tremendous actor who kicked around the bush leagues for many years before making it big. In fact, my favorite cousin, Tina, acted with him in little theatre productions in Phoenix, Arizona long before it became a swing state. She liked him. Of course, she likes everyone, even me.

Anyway, America’s favorite gravel voiced leathery-skinned actor is back in a new comedy series on EPIX, Graves. I didn’t even know I had this cable channel but I’m glad I do. I really dig Graves.

Nolte plays former President Richard Graves, a conservative icon. A pundit dubbed him the “worst President ever,” so he reassesses his legacy and moves left. Hilarity ensues.

Nolte is fabulous as is Sela Ward as the former FLOTUS and family voice of reason.

Dig this trailer:

If you get a chance to see Graves, please do so. You’ll laugh your ass off.  Figuratively, not literally. It’s even inspired me to revive my Nick Nolte impression. I will do it at the drop of a hat. Dr. A urges you to keep your hat on your head…

Let’s move from the ridiculous to the sublime. It’s time to play in Traffic.

Saturday Classic: The first side of the original Traffic LP, John Barleycorn Must Die, is one of the best sides ever recorded. All three songs-Glad, Freedom Rider, and Empty Pages-have become staples of Steve Winwood’s live shows. I’m Glad they are.

That’s it for this week.  I expect we’ll be celebrating next Tuesday like we did in Philly this summer. It will be hard to top the balloon drop.

Balloon drop meme

Take A Deep Breath

Lucy shrink

I’ve been an amateur shrink as the election season reaches a climax. I spent part of Wednesday night on Twitter reassuring anxious people than things were going to go well next Tuesday. I genuinely believe that, but I also know how stressful the last week of any Presidential election is, especially this year with the threat of a Trump Presidency. He’s going to lose BUT he’ll get over 40% of the vote and that outrages many people. I get why it does but he’s a major party nominee, which means that he’ll get between 38-45% of the vote. It’s nuts but so is life. So it goes.

I even got a thank you tweet of sorts:

One thing I advise people to do is to not treat every new poll as if it’s life and death. Trump has not led nationally in any polling average since July. Hillary’s blue state fire wall is holding and in states with large Hispanic populations she’s doing better than expected. Hispanics do not like Trump or the Republicans. Imagine that.

I think that some folks who are likely HRC voters are underpolled. Hispanics for one, college educated Republican women for another. Some do not want to tell their husbands that they’re voting for a woman who has been demonized by the GOP since 1992. Repeat after me: it’s hard being a pioneer.

Then there’s the Democrats real ace in the hole: the ground game. We have a strong one and their candidate thinks it doesn’t matter so they don’t. It could be worth 1 to 4 points in the most hotly contested states.

The shitstorm of negative stories and egregious leaks is *intended* to depress the folks on our side. Fuck the FBI and Comey PAC. They know that Dems have a tendency to panic and/or freak out, which is why we should not. It’s what B3 want. Do not give them the satisfaction. Freaking out never made anything better. Don’t get depressed, get mad. Better yet, get even.

Rather than brooding take a walk, go out to dinner, go to the movies, have an adult beverage *instead* of checking 538.com every 20 minutes. One good thing about the 24-7 news cycle is that the information is always out there. Also avoid cable news if it gets under your skin. Above all, avoid social media if it gets you down.

The other thing that my online friend are worried about is the possibility of post-election violence and unrest when-not if-Trump loses. While it *is* possible that the odd deranged Trumper might flip out, I don’t take the talk of “revolution” seriously. The average Trumper is scared shitless. Scared people do not storm the Bastille as it were. They’ll go back to their lives and spend little time thinking about the losing candidate. Americans hate a loser: why should it be any different this time around? And Trump’s entire persona is built around winning.

I lived through the hopeless years of 1972, 1980, and 1984. I knew my candidate was going to lose in each of those elections. I do my best to stay as objective as possible even when the candidate is someone I admire such as Fritz Mondale. In 1988, I thought we had a chance to win until early October when it became clear that my countryman, Michael Dukakis didn’t have what it takes. I remain convinced a better candidate might have won that year but we’ll never know. Just as the GOPers who think they’d win in a landslide this year with another candidate do not know. This is the time to act, not to ask “what if?” That’s for the bedwetters and Nervous Nellies. I like my sheets dry, y’all.

The election is going to be closer than I had hoped but I am convinced the American people will not elect Donald Trump. People may want to “blow things up” in theory but not in real life. The stakes are too high. Trump will not be the first Insult Comedian elected President.

If you’re planning to vote *against* Trump, that’s okay with me. I am voting *for* Hillary Clinton who is the toughest and most prepared person to ever run for President. She’s been unfairly vilified, caricatured and maligned for years but she keeps on fighting. She’s not only running against the GOP but the FBI, alt-right, the KKK, and Russia. And she’s going to become our first female President next January.

I’d like to remind you what Bill Weld said about HRC earlier this week:

I have a lot to say about Mrs. Clinton that has not been said by others recently and that I think needs to be said. I mean I’ve known her for 40 years. I worked with her, I know her well professionally. I know her well personally. I know her to be a person of high moral character. A reliable person and an honest person, however Mr. Trump may rant and rave to the contrary. So I’m happy to say that. People can make their own choices.

 <SNIP>

Well I’m here vouching for Mrs. Clinton and I think it’s high time somebody did, and I’m doing it based on my personal experience with her and I think she deserves to have people vouch for her other than members of the Democratic National Committee, so I’m here to do that.

That’s a woman worthy of your trust and your vote. The best things in life are never easy. Let’s make history on Tuesday and break that proverbial glass ceiling once and for all.

I cannot resist giving the last word to Nick Lowe. I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass would be an excellent theme song for HRC:

UPDATE: Josh Marshall has some reassuring words about the end of the campaign. I’m also optimistic about Florida, Pennsylvania, and Nevada. One more thing: Fuck the FBI.