Category Archives: Fog Of History

Saturday Odds & Sods: Wooden Ships

A New Frontier by Alan Bean

Summer colds are the worst. I have one so I’m keeping this introduction brief. This time I mean it.

This week’s theme song, Wooden Ships, was written in 1968 by David Crosby, Paul Kantner, and Stephen Stills. There are two original versions of this song but I’m posting the Crosby, Stills & Nash one first because it was released in May of 1969 whereas Jefferson Airplane’s version came out that November.

Now that we’ve fled planet Earth, let’s jump into the void, I mean, jump to the break. I’m not sure if Kantner, Crosby, and Stills provided parachutes. They were hippies so I have my doubts. I’ll guess we’ll find out on the other side.

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Memorial Day: Who I Remember

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

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

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

Soldier Boy

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday Odds & Sods: I Want You Back

Rayograph by Man Ray.

This is the week Mother Nature flicked the celestial switch to turn on the steam bath that is summer in New Orleans. It hit 90 degrees for the first time in 2019. The cats slowed down, and your humble blogger started sweating like Bogie in the greenhouse scene in The Big Sleep. This sort of heat is why people in more sensible countries such as Spain and Greece take siestas. Did I just call the Greeks sensible? There’s a first time for everything.

The big local story was the death of writer, raconteur, and local character Ronnie Virgets at the age of 77. His prose style was unique as was his voice, which landed him on local teevee and radio. Ronnie was a man about town so I ran into him from time-to-time over the years. The last time was at the Krewe du Vieux captain’s dinner. Ronnie was our king in 1996. I told him how much I missed his Razoo column in the Gambit. His reply: “I ran out of shit to say.” It was said with a wink so I didn’t believe it for a second. Our mutual friend, Clancy DuBos, wrote a lovely tribute to Ronnie in which he compared him to both Damon Runyon and Jimmy Breslin. Yeah, you right, Clancy. They broke the mold when they made Ronnie Virgets.

Motown May continues with this week’s theme song. I Want You Back was written in 1969 by “The Corporation” aka Berry Gordy, Freddie Perren, Alphonso Mizell, and Deke Richards. The song was originally intended for Gladys Knight & the Pips but ended up being the Jackson 5’s first hit. Let me address the monster in the room: Michael Jackson did monstrous things as an adult but he was an abused child in 1969. Besides, my favorite thing about I Want You back is the production, especially the guitar riff that propels the song.

We have two versions for your entertainment. The Jackson 5 original and a cool cover by Graham Parker:

I hope you’ll still want me back after we jump to the break. If you don’t, who can blame you?

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Taking The Tsar Thing Literally

Kris Kobach has a high opinion of himself for a guy who lost a Governor’s race in ruby red Kansas. He fancies himself an immigration expert as well as a voter fraud maven. Think of him as Stephen Miller with better hair.

The Trump regime was interested in making Kobach its Immigration Tsar. I prefer the British  spelling to the American Czar. Besides, the post title has four Ts; alliteration not only rocks, it rules. It’s truly a pity that truly was the only t-word synonym for literally I could find. Damn you, Merriam-Webster.

Kobach issued a list of demands, which cost him a chance at rock Tsardom. The job went to Virginia wingnut Ken Cuccinelli instead but the Kobach rider is still worthy of mockery:

  1.   Office in the West Wing.
  2.   Walk-in privileges with the president.
  3.   Assistant to the President rank – at highest pay level for WH senior staff.
  4.   Staff of 7 people (2 attorneys, 2 research analysts, 1 scheduler, 1 media person, 1 assistant).
  5.  POTUS sits down individually with Czar and the secretaries of Homeland Security, Defense, Justice, Ag, Interior, and Commerce, and tells each of the Secretaries to follow the directives of the Czar without delay, subject to appeal to the President in cases of disagreement.
  6.   24/7 access to either a DHS or DOD jet. Czar must be on the border every week.
  7.   Ability to spend weekends in KS with family on way from border back to DC, unless POTUS needs Czar elsewhere.
  8.   Security detail if deemed necessary after security review.
  9.   Serve as the face of Trump immigration policy – the principal spokesman on television and in the media.
  10.  Promise that by November 1, 2019, the president will nominate Kris Kobach to be DHS Secretary, unless Kobach wishes to continue in Czar position.

Who the hell does this bozo think he is? Robert Plant? I wonder if he expected to have his M&M’s sorted by color. There’s precedent for such a move in Trumpistan: House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy has been known to sort the Insult Comedian’s Starbursts. The president* prefers strawberry and cherry. I don’t remember if they sorted Reagan’s jelly beans.

The title of this post could have been, Kris Kobach: Too Arrogant For Team Trump. I decided against it. Why? My motto is: when in doubt, use an historical analogy.

Pictured below are the wannabe Tsar Kobach and real life Tsar, Alexander III who was the autocrat’s autocrat. Alexander Romanov was a tyrant so bloodythirsty and repressive that Trump would fall in love with him if he were still alive. Believe me.

Perspective

I had no plans to write about the Game Of Thrones series finale. It feels like I’m poaching on Milady Athenae’s territory but some of the more overwrought reactions to the final season compelled me to write. Some of the agita was caused by the showrunners’ willingness to engage in “fan servicing,” a dreadful term that I’m loathe to use but what can I tell ya? When some Sopranos fans demanded “less yakking and more whacking,” David Chase didn’t give a shit. Pandering to one’s dumbest and most bloodthirsty viewers is folly.

I’m a casual fan who hasn’t read the books. I don’t bleed GOT dragon blood or even fire and ice. Here’s my verdict: season 8 was erratic. It had one of the best episodes of the series, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, and one of the murkiest, The Long Night. And I’m not 100% certain that I found the finale 100% satisfying but I never expected perfection. The show has always been messy and uneven: don’t get me started about Arya and the faceless whozit story line, which was the GOT equivalent of Vito in New Hampshire on The Sopranos.

The reaction I’ve found most annoying is the notion that the Khaleesi’s fiery atrocities came out of nowhere. I’ll let Vulture’s Hillary Kelly do the heavy lifting in her recap of the penultimate episode: 

In the days to come the battle among viewers will revolve around one big idea: Daenerys the Mad Queen giving in to her worst impulses and torching an entire city and its people to the ground. How can they drag a good woman down? the Twitterverse will wail. Crowds of angry viewers are going to revolt against the fact that this single woman isn’t keeping their feminist fantasies alive, that the showrunners would dare do something so complex as have a woman with rather questionable DNA, a devout belief in her divine rights, a propensity for crucifixion, a long storied history of being talked out of vicious acts by her advisers, and a savior complex the size of Wun Wun actually do the logical thing and go HAM. If you’re wondering how long this has been building, go back and rewatch Daenerys burn Mirri Maz Dur in season one, watch her burn Pyat Pree in season two, watch her burn Astapor in season three, watch her crucify the Masters in season four, watch her burn the slave owners of Meereen in season five, Vaes Dothrak in season six, the loot train and the Tarlys in season seven.

If anything, this squabble has intensified after the finale.  But I think everyone dug Drogon melting the iron throne, which was reminiscent of the death of Danny’s brother, Viserys, at the hands of Khal Drogo back in season one; before America had its own version of the Mad King.

Yeah, I know that I mocked bloodthirsty viewers but that was wicked awesome.

I am less mystified than many by the series ending since it seems to be based on history. The Council was the Westerosi version of the conclave that produced the Magna Carta in 1215. The British lords met and came up with a way to limit the so-called divine rights of kings. That’s a concept that would work quite well in a fictional landscape plagued by endless and endlessly violent power struggles. Westeros would do better as a confederation of principalities than a centralized monarchy. Think Germany before it was Prussianized by Bismarck and the Hohenzollern dynasty. That did not end well.

As to the installation of Bran the Broken as fictional monarch of the fictional seven kingdoms, it’s not entirely satisfying. I would have preferred his sister, Sansa. BUT it’s based on a venerable notion that the reluctant ruler is the best ruler. It’s part of America’s founding myth that George Washington did not want to be the first president and had to be talked into it by, among others, Alexander Hamilton. I guess that makes Tyrion the diminutive Hamilton. I can’t wait for the musical.

In a show about power, there was never going to be a happy ending. This is as close to that as Team GOT was likely to get. It was their creative choice, which pleases some people and outrages others. So it goes.

In the end, some perspective is called for. It’s just a teevee show.

The last word goes to Peter Gabriel whose position on GOT is unknown to me:

(War) Party Like It’s 2002

You know things are bad when you wish Steve Bannon was still a member of Trump’s inner circle. I cannot believe that I just wrote that sentence but I mean every word of it. Bannon’s sole redeeming characteristic is that he’s on the dovish side and was not a fan of the Iraq War. Trump’s ultra-hawkish national security team is ready for a sequel to the Mess In Mesopotamia: war with Iran.

I was worried about this when John Bolton and his mustache of war joined Team Trump. Bolton is the ultimate chickenhawk: a man who loves war but has never fought except with his mouth. His flashback to his bureaucratic glory days is giving many whiplash:

With the Trump administration slipping onto war footing with Iran, there are growing fears inside Washington that John Bolton, the president’s hawkish national-security adviser, is plagiarizing his own Iraq war playbook. “Everyone feels the shadow of 2002–2003: The administration seems determined to find a cause for conflict; allies are aghast; the public seems disengaged,” a former senior U.S. official told me, shortly after The New York Times reported that administration officials had begun drawing up plans to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East. “It’s hard for anyone to fathom why [Donald Trump] would think a war of choice is a good idea, given what he’s said in the past about Iraq and Afghanistan.”

As we saw at the dawn of the 21st Century, war plans have a momentum of their own. Bolton may be a cartoon militarist BUT he’s one of the few members of Team Trump who is not a blithering idiot. He’s also a skillful bureaucrat who knows how to manipulate the levers of power.

Bolton has been dreaming of war with Iran for years. He thinks his time has come: he works for a president* who makes Dubya look savvy and well-informed. The axis of assholes is down with some sort of attack on Iran: Bibi and Mister Bone Saw would love to trick a gullible American president* into another Middle Eastern misadventure. Strike the word misadventure, a ground war with Iran would be a catastrophe. It has the potential to make Iraq look like the “cakewalk” of the neo-cons fever dreams.

If a story in the WaPo is to be believed, the Insult Comedian may be dubious of Bolton’s bolt to war:

But President Trump is frustrated with some of his top advisers, who he thinks could rush the United States into a military confrontation with Iran and shatter his long-standing pledge to withdraw from costly foreign wars, according to several U.S. officials. Trump prefers a diplomatic approach to resolving tensions and wants to speak directly with Iran’s leaders.

I hope the story is right but the thought of relying on Trump’s gut instinct gives me indigestion. I’m also leery of counting on his desire to keep a campaign promise. He can always change his story and lie about his previous views. He does it on a daily basis.

The last thing we need is a sequel to the Mess In Mesopotamia. We’ve seen this movie before and it’s bound to end badly.

The last word goes to XTC:

Memories Of The Muskie Administration

The MSM punditocracy hasn’t learned anything from the 2016 election. They’re still fixated on early polling and “discovering” bright shiny objects instead of reporting the campaign. I *had* hoped they’d learned that insider political journalism was bankrupt as declared by Ben Smith last summer. But they haven’t learned a damn thing and continue to focus on the horse race aspects of the “why not me” campaign. Remember the Avenatti boomlet? I’d prefer to forget it.

After declaring Joe Biden’s candidacy DOA, many in the punditocracy now think that he’s the inevitable nominee. They’re wrong in both instances. Frontrunner status has a way of bringing a candidate crashing to earth, especially in such a large field. Remember President Dean?

I have fond memories of the 2009-2017 Hillary Clinton administration. She was the frontrunner that time around and ended up losing the nomination. Secretary of State was a pretty damn good consolation prize. Thanks, Obama.

The ultimate Democratic frontrunner who failed was Senator Edmund Sixtus Muskie of Maine. 1972 was my formative year as a political junkie. It was the first time I was old enough to pay attention. I supported George McGovern but liked Muskie and didn’t understand why he was torn down by a media that had built him up as the inevitable nominee for two years. I was too young to get it then.

Ed Muskie was Hubert Humphrey’s running mate in 1968. The contrast between him and the man I refuse to claim as my countryman, Spiro Agnew, was stark. Muskie was calm, thoughtful, and qualified. The self-loathing Greek, Ted (Don’t Call Me Spiro) Agnew, was the exact opposite: bombastic, shallow, and unqualified. He was also a crook who took bribes while serving as Veep.

One of the best ads of the 1968 election cycle mocked Agnew:

Back to Ed Muskie. He emerged from the ’68 campaign as a national figure. His calm, reasoned reply to a frenetic midterm broadcast by Tricky Dick in 1970 made him a star and the ’72 frontrunner. The tall Senator was called Lincolnesque by many observers. What candidate wouldn’t want to be compared to Honest Abe?

Muskie led in every Democratic preference poll from that moment on. He was frequently ahead of Nixon in head-to-head polls through the early months of 1972. One of his campaign themes was Trust Muskie, drawing an obvious contrast to a president whose nickname was Tricky Dick.

This button is a good example of Muskie’s message:

Muskie was inevitable, until he wasn’t. His frontrunner status made him a target for Nixon’s dirty tricksters and at 6’4″ he was a big target. Attacks on his wife, Jane, caused Big Ed to snap and cry in public, which in the uber-macho atmosphere of 1972 helped doom his candidacy. Nixon and his lackeys had the opponent they wanted in the general election.

Among the many ironies of Muskie’s doomed campaign is that he actually won the New Hampshire primary, but the punditocracy, unaware of Nixonian dirty tricks, declared McGovern the “winner.” Muskie’s campaign might have come a cropper anyway: he was over reliant on big name endorsements and blurred his strongly liberal political views into blandness on the advice of his advisers.

Muskie was also dogged in 1972 by a bizarre and untrue story concocted by Hunter S. Thompson about his use of a hallucinogenic drug, Ibogaine. Thompson later claimed it was a joke and that nobody believed the story anyway. That just wasn’t so. I think of Ed Muskie every time I hear Hunter Thompson lionized as a voice for fearless independent journalism when, in fact, he was in the bag for Team McGovern. Projection thy name is Hunter S. Thompson.

What lessons can be drawn from my memories of the Muskie administration?

It’s not over until it’s over.

Don’t trust the MSM punditocracy and early polls. They’re both eminently changeable. Just ask former media darling Beto O’Rourke.

Insider political journalism *should* be dead, but it’s not.

The last word goes to Alice Cooper with a hit song from 1972:

Saturday Odds & Sods: You Haven’t Done Nothin’

Der Vogelmensch by Max Ernst

It’s been a good news, silly news week in New Orleans. I’m a good news first person: with the help of Governor Edwards, Mayor LaToya Cantrell has secured millions in tourism money to help fix our aging infrastructure. Here’s what I mean by aging infrastructure:

In silly local news, the Krewe of Nyx is planning a summer parade. Just what we needed: a sweaty-n-steamy faux Carnival parade. This is why I call them the krewe of mediocre themes and bad ideas. The only good thing is that they won’t be sweat-rolling on the traditional parade route near Adrastos World HQ. It’s a terrible idea: the allure of Carnival is enhanced by its seasonality. This is like eating oysters in a month without an R. Shorter Adrastos: Nix on Nyx.

Motown May continues with this week’s theme song. Stevie Wonder wrote You Haven’t Done Nothin’ in 1974 in response to the news of the day: Watergate. That’s right, it’s about Nixon. I’ve used it before but never as an Odds & Sods theme song. Since we’re in a slow-motion constitutional crisis, it works. Just think of Trump instead of Tricky Dick.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Stevie’s original and a 2018 cover by Roger Daltrey.

Now that we’ve trashed talked Tricky-n-Trumpy, let’s jump to the break.

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Case Closed?

The Turtle got up on his hind legs in the Senate yesterday and declared the Trump scandals over. He even had the gall to use the phrase “case closed” as if that would work. In 1993, Gerald Posner published a book about the Kennedy assassination. His theory was that the Warren Commission got it right and that Oswald acted alone. The title was Case Closed. If it was meant to cut-off discussion of that horrible day in Dallas, it did not work. We’re still arguing about it. McConnell’s statement will have the same effect or lack thereof.

Nixon tried the same gambit during Watergate. He declared the scandal over and done with multiple times. It did not work. Scandals have a life of their own and need to die of natural causes, pronouncements do not work.

The ineffectiveness of McConnell’s statement was shown by subsequent events of yesterday. The Michael Cohen-Jerry Fallwell Junior link resurfaced in a Reuters story. It implied that the former Fixer’s suppression of some “racy” Falwell Junior pictures *may* have had something to do with the second-generation bible-thumper’s endorsement of Trump. I don’t know about you but the last thing I want to see are racy Fallwell Junior pictures. Ugh.

A more important, albeit less salacious, development was the latest story in the New York Times series that I call Donald Trump Is A Criminal. The Times obtained copies of Trump’s federal tax work sheets from 1985 to 1994. The Eighties were ostensibly the Insult Comedian’s glory days as a tycoon. One might instead call them his gory days as he suffered $1 billion in losses. Our friend Scout Prime immediately dubbed him the biggest loser. He’s either the worst businessman ever or a monumental tax cheat; perhaps even both.

I’m not going to publish the First Flim-Flam Man’s attempt to spin the story. Suffice it to say that it’s as credible as the rest of his twitter feed. If his story is true: why not publicly release the tax returns sought by the House?

It’s self-quote time:

I have a new Fog of Scandal meme, a Magritte-like image, The Man and the Sea by Giuseppe Maiorana, I love the image of umbrellas dropping in the fog. Substitute shoes for umbrellas, you can catch my drift if you can see it amid the fog of scandal.

The shoes keep dropping despite the Insult Comedian’s lame attempts to explain away everything. That’s why this case will never be closed.

The last word goes to Randy Newman with a song about the kind of glitzy Eighties capitalism that the Kaiser of Chaos claims to embody:

It’s Trump’s money that matters.  Repeat after me: Donald Trump is a criminal.

Saturday Odds & Sods: What’s Going On

Jazz Fest is in its second weekend. I used to love this event, but it’s like an ex-girlfriend who I still like but am not always eager to see.  It’s become just another pop/roots rock/kinda sorta jazz festival in the last decade, which has made me lukewarm about attending. I broke up with Jazz Fest a few years ago and have an awkward relationship with it. I still may go this weekend but the thrill is gone, y’all.

In other New Orleans news, a water main broke a few miles from Adrastos World HQ. We had no water pressure for a few hours and are still under a boil water advisory. The pipe was laid in 1905. I should make a crude joke at this point but I try to ignore my inner Beavis and Butthead.

This week we celebrate the music of Marvin Gaye who would have turned 80 on April 2nd, which was the day that the USPS issued the Marvin Gaye stamp. I remember the dark day in 1984 when I heard about Marvin’s death at the hands of his father. It was April Fool’s day so I wondered briefly if the news was a cruel hoax. It was not. I even shed a few tears. I rarely cry but I wept that day. Rage, jealousy, and firearms are a toxic combination. For Marvin, they were fatal.

This week’s theme song was the title track of Marvin’s best album.  We have two versions of What’s Going On for your listening pleasure: Marvin’s original followed by a swell 1986 cover by Cyndi Lauper who really rocks Marvin’s composition.

Now that we’ve seen what’s going on, let’s jump to the break with our eyes wide open. I’ll skip the obvious Kubrick joke.

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Barr’s Testimony In A Wingnut Shell

I only watched bits and bobs of the Barr hearing. I have a hard time sitting through GOP crazy as expressed by old white dudes. Chuck Grassley is looking more like Abe Simpson every day.

Barr lied, dodged questions, and offered absurd defenses of his lord and master. I like what Comey said about Barr’s dignity wraith-hood in an op-ed written before the hearing:

But more often, proximity to an amoral leader reveals something depressing. I think that’s at least part of what we’ve seen with Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from. It takes character like Mr. Mattis’s to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.

I’m not sure if Barr ever had a soul but Comey has a way with language. It certainly explains how people pleaser Lindsey Graham went from McCain wingman to Trump toady.

TPM has the wall-to-wall coverage that I’m disinterested in providing. One more thing: the Mueller letter may be written in “snitty” legalese but it’s a big fucking deal. It probably was written by a staff member as Barr so dismissively stated BUT that’s SOP. I wonder if the first draft bore this salutation: Dear Fuckhead. I understand that Bobby Three Sticks is big on busting balls in private.

I originally planned for this post to be strictly a sight gag but I had a few jokes up my sleeve. Here’s Barr’s Testimony In A Wingnut Shell:

 

 

A New Low: Trump’s Blood Libel

In the first year of the Trump regime, I revived the “your president speaks” feature. It’s a Bush-era feature that was brought back upon the inauguration of another president* who said weird and wacky shit. As the lies mounted, I drew back from the feature because most of the Insult Comedian’s statements weren’t funny any more. It’s hard to spin comedy gold out of the rancid bullshit spewed by Trump and his lackeys. It made me feel like Rumple-fucking-stiltskin’s evil twin so I dialed the feature back. I’m *almost* nostalgic for the days when the Kaiser of Chaos threw rolls of paper towels to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico. Almost.

Trump’s latest major rhetorical outrage is neither funny nor surprising, but it’s so shocking that I feel compelled to write about it. Repeat after me: if we lose the capacity to be shocked, the Trumpers win.

I’m, of course, referring to crazy shit said by the president* on the stump in  Green Bay, Wisconsin where he replaced the Lambeau leap with the Trump stretch:

“The baby is born. The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully, and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.”

It’s not only a lie, it’s incitement speech.  There are not now, nor have there ever been, “executions” involving a mother and her doctor. These inflammatory remarks are analogous to the blood libel spread by the Nazis and their anti-Semitic fellow travelers. Here’s how the ADL defines the blood libel:

The “blood libel” refers to a centuries-old false allegation that Jews murder Christians – especially Christian children – to use their blood for ritual purposes, such as an ingredient in the baking of Passover matzah (unleavened bread). It is also sometimes called the “ritual murder charge.” The blood libel dates back to the Middle Ages and has persisted despite Jewish denials and official repudiations by the Catholic Church and many secular authorities. Blood libels have frequently led to mob violence and pogroms, and have occasionally led to the decimation of entire Jewish communities.

In this case, the blood libel is against women facing the worst moment imaginable and the doctors who are there to help them. Trump did not claim that evil pro-choicers use baby blood in some satanic socialist ritual but he might as well have. What does someone who “executes” a baby deserve? Lynching? Stoning? A second Trump term?

I take this personally. My wife is a medical educator. She and her colleagues try every day to instill ethical conduct in their students. I don’t recall hearing about a class in baby executions.

When I was young, most physicians were Republicans. They were against “socialized medicine” and wanted lower taxes on their earnings but were otherwise caring and compassionate people. In 2019, the majority of physicians vote Democratic. They no longer support the anti-science party, especially now that rabid anti-choicers denounce their OB-GYN colleagues as baby executioners.

Trump’s mouthing the most extreme “pro-life” rhetoric is, to be blunt, despicable. It’s a cynical exercise in rallying his base, which is another reason that it’s a blood libel. The facts and implications be damned. The president* just gave a green light to those inclined to attack abortion clinics. He’s big on giving a green light to extremists: remember the post-Charlottesville comments that will live in infamy. The people who chanted “Jews will not replace us” included some “very good people.” Yeah, right. #sarcasm.

In the 20th Century, there was a long running debate between two leading Hitler scholars, Hugh Trevor-Roper and Alan Bullock, as to whether the Führer was a true believer or a mountebank. That’s a fancy way of saying con man. In the end, it didn’t matter, the result was the same: war, genocide, death, and suffering. Hitler was a true believer, Trump is a mountebank. In this case, that may be worse, not only is Trump a con man, the only thing he believes in is his own awesomeness. That’s a crazy thing on which to base a political movement but it’s the putrid essence of Trumpsim. It needs to be extracted from our body politic like a malign tumor.

Quote Of The Day: Bill Weld On Trump

I’m a hardcore Democrat so I’m not supporting Bill Weld, BUT I got a kick out of that slogan when I saw it on the book of faces. As a longtime observer of presidential politics, I’m keeping an eye on Weld’s nascent challenge to the Insult Comedian. In the primary era, presidents who face a serious intra-party challenge lose re-election. By serious, I mean someone who can poll enough votes early on to inflict political damage such as Pat Buchanan or Gene McCarthy neither of whom expected to win the nomination. But Poppy Bush lost and LBJ withdrew. Mission accomplished.

Weld is something of an anachronism: a moderate New England Republican. They used to be plentiful but now they’re as rare as the dodo bird. Weld, however, is no dodo.

Massachusetts pols have traditionally done well in the New Hampshire primary. It’s also one of twenty states where unenrolled voters can vote in a party primary, which gives Weld a chance to bloody Trump’s nose with the help of  independents. And they’re plentiful in the Granite State.

Weld sat down for an extended interview with the NYT’s Jeremy W. Peters. I got a kick out of this exchange:

There’s conservatism and Trumpism. One is an ideology, the other is more of an attitude. But increasingly a lot of conservatives worry that the two have become inseparably linked. Are they?

They shouldn’t be. Trumpism is frankly devotion to Mr. Trump’s megalomania. I mean, he’s got a lot going on in his head. The man is so angry so much of the time. It’s hard for me to see how one single head could contain so much anger, so much wrath.

He says, “I’m a counterpuncher.” He is not a counterpuncher. He will take off with tweets or action after any slight, real or imagined. My read is the guy is terrified maybe he’s a loser, which is why he lashes out at anybody. I don’t know everything that’s going on there. But I do know that I would not want to have the president’s demons. I feel for the guy in a way. They’re not normal.

That reminds me of some venerable Neil Finn lyrics:

There’s closets in my head where dirty things are kept
That never see the light of day
I want to drag them out, go for a walk
Just to see the look that’s on your face
Sometimes I can’t be straight I don’t want to hurt you
So forgive me if I tell a lie
Sometimes I come on cold but don’t believe it
I will love you till the day I die

I guess the last line could be the president* referring to his true love, himself. Hell, the next couplet fits as well:

I believe in doing things backwards
Take heed, start doing things in reverse

That concludes what one could call the sub-quote of the day. I believe I just did.

The last word goes to Crowded House:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Back In The High Life Again

Mesas In Shadows by Maynard Dixon

I had a stupid kitchen accident this week. The sink was full-ish so I decided to pour boiling water into an airborne/hand-held colander. I missed and mildly scalded my left hand. It hurt like hell for a day or so but barely qualified as a first degree burn. I did, however, feel like a first degree dumbass. It was not unlike being an honorary Trump.

I just finished reading John Farrell’s fine 2017 biography of Richard Nixon. I learned two positive things about Tricky Dick. First, he broke his arm as a young politician after slipping on the ice outside his DC area home. The break occurred because he held onto his daughter instead of bracing for the fall with his hands. Second, Nixon was a good tipper. He tipped 25% in the late Sixties when 10% when standard and 15% was a big tip. Hell has frozen over: I just said something nice about Nixon.

After last week’s sad theme songs, I decided to elevate the tone a bit. Back In The High Life Again was written by Steve Winwood and Will Jennings in 1986. It was a big hit; surely aided by James Taylor’s gorgeous harmony vocals.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: Winwood’s chirpy original and a mournful interpretation by Warren Zevon, another wry and sardonic guy. We’re everywhere, y’all.

Now I want some Miller High Life, which is my favorite cheap beer. It’s even good enough for my beer snob/home brewer friend Greg. On that note, let’s take a swig of Miller, then jump to the break. Try not to spill any. Wasting beer is a sin.

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Massive Resistance

Massive resistance to desegregation was a thing after the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. The Supremes erred by using Felix (The Hot Dog Man) Frankfurter’s phrase that desegregation should be implemented “with all deliberate speed.” What followed was deliberate delay, not speedy progress.

Team Trump is following its own path of massive resistance in regard to Congressional subpoenas. The Insult Comedian has bragged that he runs the “most transparent administration in history” when, as always, the opposite is true. Projection thy name is Trumpy.

The Trump regime specializes in lies, cover-ups, and delay. They’ve made an art of kicking the can down the road in an audacious attempt to delay the president’s* day of reckoning. I halfway expect Rudy to use the phrase “with all deliberate speed,” he’s surely heard of it. Trump just as surely has not. Nothing exists if it doesn’t involve him.

The law is on the side of the House oversight committees but not only is the law an ass, it’s a slow ass. It’s one of the few things Trump knows: litigation is tantamount to delay. It’s why he *always* threatens to sue whenever things go against him. The good news is that Congress has deep pockets but the process is inherently slow. In fact, it moves “with all deliberate speed.”

 

Great White Hopes Or Killer Bees?

Everybody’s running for president; every Democrat, that is. Former Veep Joe Biden disregarded my unsolicited advice and threw his shades in the ring. Why not? He’s the polling frontrunner, which is a meaningless distinction at this point, Just ask Ed Muskie, Howard Dean, and Rudy Giuliani. That’s right, the artist formerly known as Mayor Combover was the early GOP frontrunner in 2008. In 2019,  the artist formerly known as America’s Mayor is reduced to being Trump’s mouthpiece. Where’s that rebuttal report, Rudy? Or was it just another lie?

I’m still undecided in the race. I like four candidates and consider them plausible presidents: Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar. Note that none of them is a white dude and three aren’t dudes at all. They haven’t received the level of media attention that four white dudes have: Bernie, Biden, Beto, and Buttigieg. I’m uncertain whether to call them the Great White Hopes or the Killer Bees so I gave the two labels equal billing in the post title.

Here’s the deal: I understand the attention paid to Bernie and Biden. The former was the 2016 runner-up and the latter has run twice before and was Barack Obama’s veep for 8 years. They have the name recognition to go along with the white hair of which Bernie has much more than Joey the Shark. They have another thing in common: they’re both septuagenarians, which is not disqualifying but gives me pause.

Mayor Pete seems to have supplanted Beto as the MSM’s darling. They both have slender resumes for putative presidents but it’s the Why Not Me election so they’re running. My preference is to have a nominee who has run and won statewide, which rules out the young gun set of the Killer Bees.

I will support anyone against Trump but the mayor of a  college town with a population of 109K? Really? Julian Castro also has not run and won a statewide race but at least he was a big city mayor and cabinet secretary. What’s the difference between him and Mayor Pete? Ethnicity. The campaign press corps has a hard time identifying with a Latino; even one with such an amazing Horatio Alger-type back story. Julian is just as cute as Pete and would also make history. Beto would simply be the latest white dude to be nominated albeit a white dude who used to be in a band. I was too. Perhaps I should run.

There’s another difference between Castro and the other young guns: he’s running a substantive campaign. He’s thought a lot about immigration and how the system can be changed and reformed. It’s badly needed after the chainsaw tactics of Trump and Miller. Castro is a longshot but he’s making a contribution to the dialogue in a way that neither Beto nor Buttigieg is. Frankly, I hope that Castro and/or Beto will drop out and run against John Cornyn back home in Texas. Winning the senate is every bit as important as retaking the White House. Democrats have been fixated on the latter way too long. We need to multi-task.

It’s still early and anything can happen in the Democratic field. There are two qualities that are being underestimated by observers thus far. First, the 2020 nominee has to be tough: Team Trump’s only path to victory is total annihilation of their opponent. Second, many voters want a restoration of what Gamaliel called “normalcy” and Adrastos calls normality. They are quite simply exhausted by the endless Trump scandals. I’m convinced that many 2016 Trump voters will pull the lever for peace and quiet in 2020.

The post title is, of course, wry and sardonic. None of the Killer Bees thinks of themselves as a Great White Hope although both Bernie and Biden need to do a better job explaining themselves to people of color, especially black women who are tired of being taken for granted. They should be: they’re the backbone of the Democratic base. That’s why the clips of yesterday’s She The People forum were so much fun to watch. Warren killed it. Bernie struggled. So it goes.

One reason I chose the featured Killer Bee image was the sign in the background: Swine Flu Inoculation Center. The executive branch is loaded with swines. We need to stop the disease called Trumpism in its tracks.  Additionally, the Insult Comedian has pandered  to the anti-vaxxers who have brought back measles.  Thanks, Trumpy. We need inoculation from these swines. If it takes the Great White Hopes or the Killer Bees, so be it. Just win, baby.

The last word goes to the original Killer Bees led by the great Elliot Gould:

I’m caught in another last word lie. Does that qualify me for a Trump regime cabinet job?

Let’s shut things down with the musical stylings of the Blues Brothers; some of whom were also Killer Bees:

Quote Of The Day: Impeachment Edition

I’d like to thank Lawrence O’Donnell for reminding us of the eloquence of a Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee who stood up for the rule of law and against a president of his own party in 1974. The father of the current Governor of Maryland, Lawrence Hogan Sr. was a FBI agent before entering politics. He was the only Republican to vote for *all* three articles of impeachment filed against Richard Nixon.

Here’s the QOTD:

Now, I`m a Republican. Party loyalty and personal affection and precedence of the past must fall, I think, before the arbiter of men`s action – the law itself. No man, not even the president of the United States, is above the law.

It isn`t easy for me to align myself against the president to whom I gave my enthusiastic support in three presidential campaigns, on whose side I`ve stood in many legislative battles, whose accomplishments in foreign and domestic affairs I`ve consistently applauded.

But it`s impossible for me to condone or ignore the long train of abuses to which he has subjected the presidency and the people of this country. The constitution and my own oath of office demand that I bear true faith and allegiance to the principles of law and justice upon which this nation was founded. And I cannot in good conscience turn away from the evidence of evil that is to me so clear and compelling.

My friend from New Jersey, Mr. Sandman, said last night he wants to see direct proof and some of my other friends on the side of the aisle said the same thing. But I submit what they`re looking for is an arrow to the heart. And we do not find any evidence an arrow to the heart. We find a virus that creeps up on you slowly and gradually until its obviousness is so overwhelming to you.

We have to step back and we have to look at the whole picture. And when you look at the whole mosaic of the evidence that`s come before us, to me, it`s overwhelming beyond a reasonable doubt.

<SNIP>

He consistently tried to cover up the evidence and obstruct justice, and as much as it pains me to say it, he should be impeached and removed from office.

It is, of course, difficult to imagine a current House or Senate Republican quoting Larry Hogan Sr. let alone matching his anguished eloquence. The rule of law *should* be more important than the Current Occupant of the White House whoever they may be. This president* is reckless and lawless and the 115th Congress needs to stand up and be counted like the 93rd Congress and members such as Larry Hogan the elder.

Impeachment is not easy. It’s not supposed to be easy.  It’s a political action that may be politically unwise. Many of the arguments against it are compelling, I find myself nodding in agreement when Josh Marshall argues against it, but then I recall my reaction to reading Volume 2 of the Mueller Road Map. We can’t let this president* get away with thumbing his nose at the constitution and the rule of law. The example that would set for the future is dire.

Not only has the MSM let the GOP off easy on impeachment, the “cult of the savvy” is calling Elizabeth Warren’s stand in favor of impeachment a gambit or a tactic. It was a sincere reaction to the disgusting details laid out in the Mueller Report. It was the same reaction I had. Sometimes you have to do the right thing regardless of whether or not it’s easy or expedient. As JFK said in his legendary 1962 Moon speech: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

The last word goes to the late Congressman Larry Hogan. The caption is wrong, it was a statement, not testimony but the words ring just as true in 2019 as they did in 1974:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Without You

Vue de Notre-Dame de Paris by Pablo Picasso

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

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

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

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

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

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The Mueller Road Map

Fog of Scandal meme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Axis Of Assholes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

<SNIP>

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

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

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

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

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

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