Category Archives: Fog Of History

The Spirit Of ’73: The Unraveling

Two Flags by Jasper Johns.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

<SNIP>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s give Tom Petty the last word:

The Americans Thread: We Gotta Get Out Of This Place

Dyatkovo is a Russian town where atrocities were committed during the Great Patriotic War by the Nazis against Soviet POWS. The story of a Russian collaborator is the centerpiece of episode 11, Dyatkovo. Philip and Elizabeth are sent by Claudia to learn if a woman living in Newton, Mass is that person. I’ll return to that at the end of the post. It’s also where We Gotta Get Out Of This Place comes into play and gets, uh, played.

Let’s take an early spoiler break. There’s much to spoil in this episode and I prefer not to cry over either spoiled or spilled milk.

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Guest Post: Lost Cause Fest, Virginia Style

There was a rather Klannish Lost Cause Fest rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend. I have an old friend who is a native Virginian and longtime Charlottesville resident. I reached out to him, asking for a local’s perspective. He has blogged in the past as Parenthetical, so we revived that pen name for this post. We begin with a photo of  Lost Cause Fest, Virginia Style:

Take it away, Parenthetical:

It was a good weekend for home and garden sections around town. Richard Spencer, the UVA alumnus who has been banned from 25 European countries for his supremacist efforts, found an excuse to come back to Charlottesville last Saturday. Some folks carry a torch for their college sweetheart, but Spencer returned to carry a tiki torch for a Robert E. Lee statue that has been endangered by a recent bout of citizen input. Spencer’s appearance made national news because the unofficial leader of the Alt White got several dozen other folks to carry torches, too. (The revolution begins on Aisle 8, just follow the scent of victim complexes and lemongrass. Be careful with that lamp oil, Eugene.)

As an Albemarle County resident who lives about 10 minutes away from the statue, this protest was unwelcome, but even in a town like C’ville, it wasn’t that surprising. In the election-year yard sign wars, Trump/Pence dominated once you got even ten minutes out of town. Plus there’s the occasional Confederate flag you’ll still see in yards not much further out.

Another reason: I grew up an hour down the road in 1970s Richmond, where the memories and grudges of the Late Unpleasantness were so pervasive and entrenched that a kid wouldn’t even recognize them as such. Let’s hit the highlights.

My first Little League game was at Jefferson-Davis Elementary. My mother bought me some old Civil War board game at a yard sale, and I was always the South as a matter of course (my choice, she didn’t care). I went to private school for one year early on, and they used even/odd birthdays to divide us into two standing groups for purposes of recess/exercises/lunch/etc. You were either a Jackson or a Lee. This was over a century after Appomattox. Jacksons and Lees.

That doesn’t even get us down to Monument Avenue, with its stretch of formidable tributes to the Confederate giants. There’s Jackson, Lee, Davis … and thanks to his eponymous Circle, you even know exactly where J.E.B. Stuart is at all times (which goes to show how nostalgia always winds up improving on truth at least a little).

There’s a Southern accent where I come from, and I can’t imagine feeling truly at home anywhere else. Yet it was pretty easy to spend one’s entire youth blind to the discomfort and second-tier status that black families have faced daily from these persistent reminders, down to having to be a “Rebel” if you attend a certain high school (no, that hasn’t changed). You could probably still go your whole life in Richmond and never hear the word “treason” associated with the men so elegantly preserved for posterity on the avenue.

It was only well into adulthood before I recognized words like “treason” and “traitor” as relevant on par with the more familiar compliments. Yet all of those men knew exactly what they were doing back then. They surely knew that if they survived but weren’t victorious, they would likely face life in prison or death for their choice. Credit where it’s due, there’s bravery in that.

In the event that they lost, they sure didn’t expect to see their names plastered on dozens of schools and military bases for generations after the war. I bet those bleeding-heart Yankees regret going overboard with that aspect of postbellum make-nice — allowing names of the leaders of the insurrection to get set in concrete atop government installations(!), to be followed by their profiles cast in metal and literally placed on pedestals.

There they would remain throughout the South, waiting for the inevitable stares and questions from the next young wave of the Confederacy’s descendants, and then the next. They provided steadfast validation of the lost cause’s legitimacy, feeding an addiction to grievance when it should have been starved.

Which brings us back to Charlottesville 2017 and Klan Lite rallies, with milquetoast “What, these torches? But it’s dark out here!” attempts at intimidation by racists both too dumb and/or too timid to wear sheets. These folks like to lean on some government obligation toward “tradition” and “heritage” in these debates, but they don’t realize (or don’t let on that they realize) it was only the Civil Rights Act that brought the Confederate flag back out of the pickup truck windows and bedroom closets and museums and into vogue again around certain statehouses. Again, grievance about the loss of privilege, posing as pride.

Reasonable people can disagree about the statues. Even the mayor of this comparatively liberal island in central Virginia, a man who condemned this little tantrum flambe immediately, has supported keeping the Lee statue in place. It’s complicated. Still, when the mayor said, “This event involving torches at night in Lee Park was either profoundly ignorant or was designed to instill fear in our minority populations in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK,” all I wanted to say was, “Yeah, I think that’s what they call a false choice, bub.”

What government of the people and for the people can prioritize the discriminatory worldview of a long-gone era over the right of each living, breathing citizen to feel equally welcome in public spaces? Over a person’s confidence in the full true weight of their equality under the law? The next decision in the ongoing legal wrangling over the Lee statue is due in June.

At the end of the day, a culture should not ignore its history, but there’s a lot of room between remembering and celebrating. Buoyed by the knowledge of that history and the wisdom (hopefully) imparted by time, a community has the right to choose its heroes. Just ask all the folks who renamed their entire counties after Confederates. Today, we can surrender that power to now-dead, all-white committees who made decisions in meeting rooms down the hall from the colored water fountain — people who, let’s face it, weren’t commissioning those statues so we could “learn from the darker parts of our history,” — or we can choose better.

Don Donaldo Il Comico Insulto Rivisitato

L to R: Big Paul Castellano, Fat Tony Salerno, Roy Cohn, & Don Donaldo. 

In addition to Nixon comparisons, there have been mob movie analogies used to describe both the Comey firing and a witness intimidation tweet before Sally Yates testified. Let’s revisit them before going on and on and on:

The Insult Comedian uses air quotes like a teenybopper: often and badly.

Back to the mob movie analogies. They’ve been flying thick and fast on cable news. The most obvious one keeps getting thrown out there: The Godfather. It’s a flawed analogy because Trump is  too crude to be either Vito or Michael Corleone or the elegant Don Barzini who was played by one of my favorite film noir actors, Richard Conte. Trump reminds me more of one of the crude Jersey or Brooklyn hoods in The Sopranos. He’s more like a badly dressed Johnny Sack than anyone in The Godfather. His childhood story, however, is reminiscent of noted dumbass and wise guy spawn Jackie Aprile Jr. It’s also a bit like AJ Soprano: a conspiracy theory loving slacker with a brilliant sister. Trump’s sister is a highly regarded retired federal judge whereas he’s an active moron.

I doubt that a mob movie analogy is required at all. Trump has extensive ties to the real, as opposed to reel, mob. I wrote about it last June in a post entitled Don Donaldo Il Comico Insulto, which was, in turn, inspired by a Politico Magazine piece by David Cay Johnston. I also recycled the featured image from that post, showing the gangsters and mouthpieces the young real estate developer associated with. And Fred Trump had his own ties to the Five Families. Somehow people disregarded this and Trump won the electoral college with an assist from Russian intelligence and voter suppression laws. And he wonders why people question his legitimacy. He’s as legitimate as an earlier Oval One, Rutherford B. Hayes aka Rutherfraud or His Fraudulency.

I skipped earlier mob movies because both Edward G. Robinson and Jimmy Cagney played smart gangsters. But the Trump administration* as a whole is beginning to resemble Cagney’s “doomed gangster” classic, The Roaring Twenties. I only hope it doesn’t end like White Heat:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: One Hit (To The Body)

Baluster and Skull by Georges Braque.

It’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegone, I mean New Orleans. Where the hell did that come from? I’m not tall enough to be Garrison Keillor and I hate cold weather. I would not, however, mind being Guy Noir if a gig as Marlowe or Spade isn’t available. It actually has NOT been a quiet week in New Orleans but I’m taking a monuments moratorium. If a Lost Causer waves a Confederate battle flag at me, I’ll shove it up their ass. Garrison would never do such a thing…

This was the week that the Insult Comedian flipped his weave. Again. The MSM may have finally realized how stupid the president* is. They’re slow learners. They’ve yet to learn that he neither plans anything nor ever tells the truth. In short, the electoral college winner is a moron. The dumbest Oval One ever. God save the Republic from this dipshit.

This week’s theme song is the underrated Rolling Stones tune One Hit (To The Body.) It placed number 61 on a Vulture mega-listicle rating all 374 songs the Stones have recorded. I’ll take a closer look at the list later, but it’s time to rock:

The song uses a physical fight as a metaphor for a break-up. I’m not sure if they had a romantic relationship in mind. One Hit comes from Dirty Work, which was released right before the Stones took a four-year hiatus and nearly called it quits. Keith was so pissed at Mick that he recorded what amounted to his version of How Do You Sleep:

Now that I’ve landed some blows, let’s go to the break before somebody gets hurt.

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Lost Cause Fest Update: Two Down, Two To Go

My friend James Karst is obsessed with Jefferson Davis’ arrest by Union soldiers whilst in women’s clothing. I’ve written about this before in a Saturday post and even used the above picture. Davis in drag hardly paints the heroic picture that Lost Causers wish to portray. Wishful thinking is their forte. In fact, Davis was an incompetent leader closer in temperament and ability to Donald Trump than to fellow Lost Cause icon Robert E. Lee.

The Davis monument came down in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Even before a story was posted Wednesday night by the Advocate, it was the worst kept secret in town. That’s why I was vexed with people who were peeved about the article. There was no major violence last night and has been none since the process began thanks to some stellar work by NOPD. The citizens of New Orleans have a right to know what our government is up to. I still believe the monuments should be removed in the light of day. The Lost Causers are all hat and no cattle.

I’ve been pondering the significance of the Jeff Davis statue. It’s a monument that honors the leader of a defeated power. It’s as if Bismarck had a statue of Louis Napoleon erected in Berlin after the Franco-Prussian war. I don’t recall a flood of Kaiser Bill monuments in allied capitals after the Great War. It doesn’t even happen in other civil wars: Benito Juarez didn’t pay homage to Maximilian after winning that struggle. Juarez didn’t build a wall either. In short, the Davis monument is just plain weird unless it’s about white supremacy. It is.

Since I’m allergic to Lost Cause Festers and need my sleep, I was not there to bear witness to Davis’ downfall. One could even call it the second time Davis died in New Orleans. The local media were there, tweeting the night away. Here’s are some tweets from Danny Monteverde of WWL-TV along with some commentary:

This is my favorite detail of the process. I wonder if anyone was tempted to pop bubbles to annoy the Lost Causers.

Do they expect Zombie Jeff Davis along with Zombie Judah P. Benjamin to emerge and save the day? Btw, Confederate Secretary of State Benjamin is a local without a major monument. It may have had something to do with his faith. He was Jewish. White supremacists are typically anti-Semitic and don’t consider Jews to be fellow honkies.

I’d like to close this segment with a tweet that says everything you need to know about the Lost Causers:

This is proof positive that the Lost Causers who sat hillbilly shiva at this monument were “outside agitators,” not locals. Not even dread pro-monuments Lt. Gov Billy Nungesser would say such a thing. Stay classy, Lost Causers.

I hope Mayor Landrieu keeps his word that the remaining two monuments will come down “sooner rather than later.” We need to move past this and get back to what passes for normal in New Orleans. This process has dragged on so long that I’ve been tempted to put a dress on the Davis statue as a way of saying frock you to the Lost Causers.

Repeat after me: Tear them down now, Mr. Mayor. Stop the madness.

Tweet Of The Day: Don’t Know Much About (Virginia) History

I’m on some right-wing email lists. I like to know what the enemy is up to. One such group is obsessed with “drafting” Laura Ingraham to challenge Tim Kaine in 2018. If it happens, she needs to brush up on her Virginia history.

As everyone should know, Monticello was Thomas Jefferson’s crib. George Washington lived at Mount Vernon. I bet Ingraham thinks he lived in the White House as well.

Virginians take their history seriously. She hurt her chances in Albemarle County, which is where “Washington’s Monticello” is located.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is afflicted with right-wing transplants who move there and run for office: Ken Cuccinelli, Corey Stewart, and possibly Laura Ingraham. I hope you noted that I was polite and didn’t call them carpetbaggers. I’m working on my manners, y’all.

I suppose I should be gratified that she’s following events in New Orleans. I just wish she’d get her facts straight. If she decides to run against my man Tim, she needs a crash course in Virginia history. Now that I think of it, she shouldn’t bother. I had a twitter exchange on that very subject:

One more thing. Ingraham should learn an old Virginia adage: Virginia history is American history. One would think she’d know better: she attended James Monroe’s University of Virginia, after all. I could do this all day but I won’t. That would be strictly for the Byrds.

I’ll give the Other Byrds the last word with a song dedicated to the Lost Causers sitting hillbilly shiva at the former Jefferson Davis Monument. More on that later.

The Americans Thread: Welcome To The Machine

The Americans is gaining momentum as the season comes to a close. There are only 3 episodes left after Darkroom and I expect a helluva ride since it’s one of the best episodes thus far this season.

The post title comes from Philip’s EST seminar. The bullgoose EST-hole tells them that “we’re all machines” whose life consists of “stimulus and response.” Speak for yourself EST-hole. It does, however, seem to fit the latest development in the Paige saga as she inches closer to becoming a spy. Welcome to the machine, Paige.

More details on that after the spoiler break, but first some Pink Floyd:

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Easy Comey, Easy Go Redux

Longtime readers are aware of my fondness for cartoon imagery. On Monday, I gave you the Le Pew meets Le Pen post. Hearing the news that the president* had fired James Comey conjured up images of Wile E. Coyote lighting a bomb and it blowing up in his face. Meep, meep. It also allowed me to recycle a classic post title. Heckuva job, Donald.

As the Insult Comedian himself would put it:  it’s so very, very, very nice of him to fire Comey because he was so very mean to Crooked Hillary.  You know, the action that helped elect Trump. I did such a tremendous spit take when I heard that whopper that Della and Oscar ran for cover even though it interrupted their nightly food bowl vigil. Sorry, y’all. Talk about failing the smell test. That excuse was stinkier than a post-Katrina fridge. I somehow think it had more to do with the Russia investigation and the bad news on that front that emerged out of the Yates-Clapper hearing.

I know a cover up when I see one. This is a cover up. The good news for the Republic is that Trump never has a plan, he’s always winging it. If the preternaturally devious Tricky Dick couldn’t run a cover up, what chance does a clownishly inept president* with cotton candy piss hair have? He also has an administration* full of guys like Jonah on Veep. Not even his little buddy Jared can save the skipper from himself:

Hat Tip: Michael Tisserand.

Like Athenae, I’m skeptical that Congressional Republicans will dump Trump in the short term. The most cynical politician in recent memory, Mitch McConnell, has already defended the firing and rejected calls for an independent counsel. Mike Huckabee’s horrid spawn, Sarah, wants the country to move on and Kellyanne resurfaced from exile to praise her master. Astonishingly, the administration* didn’t anticipate the firestorm. I think they consulted with Jonad and he told them not to sweat it.

There have been many comparisons to the Saturday Night Massacre of Watergate infamy. It’s an inexact one with a major exception: both presidents fired someone investigating misconduct by their campaigns and administrations. The comparisons inspired some, uh, inspired trolling:

No, Tricky impulsively fired the AG, Deputy AG, and the Watergate Special Prosecutor. The impact will EVENTUALLY be similar. The wheels of the legal system grind slowly, but I think that some sort of special counsel is inevitable. It’s the only way the DOJ and FBI can regain their tattered credibility. The White House doesn’t have to worry about that. It never had any to begin with.

As to Comey himself, he deserved to be fired but not at this time and in this manner. Timing is everything and firing him in the wake of the Yates-Clapper hearing makes the Insult Comedian look guiltier than a bank robber caught in the act. It’s particularly funny that a man who made his name firing people to their faces on teevee didn’t have the guts to call Comey and use his own catchphrase: “You’re fired.”

It will be fascinating to see this play out. Given Trump’s eerie ability to make a bad situation worse, he may hire a political hack to replace Comey. How about a certain former US Attorney and New York Mayor? Now that would be hilarious.

I have some unsolicited advice for the president* put the fucking phone down and stop tweeting. It’s obvious that the Insult Comedian never learned the first rule of holes: when you’re in one, stop digging.

Programming note: I haven’t written my Americans recap yet. It will go up later this evening or tomorrow morning. I’ve been too busy pondering real Russian spies to write about fictional ones.

I’ll give Stevie Wonder the last word with his 1974 Nixon/Watergate song. It feels quite relevant in 2017:

 

The Fog Of History: Lost Cause Fest Update

Pro tip: the first T is silent.

There hasn’t been any progress on removing the white supremacy monuments since I last wrote about it on May 2. The Lost Causers continue to hang out at the remaining monuments, which are now surrounded with police barricades to help keep the peace.

There was a pro-removal march from Congo Square to Lee Circle on Sunday. I didn’t attend because I don’t agree with all of the aims of march organizers, Take ‘Em Down NOLA. I take a more nuanced position on future monument and street name issues. I am, however, delighted to report that there were no incidents of major violence on Sunday; just a bit of pushing , shoving, and punching. There were reports that heavily armed wingnuts might be descending on New Orleans, but if they showed, they kept their powder dry as it were. NOPD announced sterner measures and enforced them. The protest and counter-protest went off without a hitch. Let’s score one for Mayor Landrieu and Chief Harrison.

There was a brief flurry of activity surrounding the PGT Beauregard  statue at City Park. A pro-monuments group tried to obtain a temporary restraining order claiming that the statue is owned by the park, not the city. The TRO was denied but a hearing is scheduled some time this week Given the fact that the City Council voted to declare the four monuments “public nuisances,” this latest gambit is apt to fail. I won’t even dignify the law moving through the state lege with a comment. In and of itself, it’s a public nuisance. Retroactive laws are disfavored both in Louisiana Civil Law and American public law, so it should have no effect on the current controversy.

The Beauregard statue has always been the toughest case of the four scheduled to be removed. Gen. Beauregard supported racial equality and healing in post-bellum Louisiana. Whether or not he wore bellum bottoms is beside the point…

There’s an interesting piece at New Orleans Magazine’s web site by its editor, Errol Laborde. He wants to leave the Beauregard monument be. I don’t agree with him but he makes an intelligent, historically based argument. Unfortunately, nuance and this issue do not go together, which is a pity. History tends to be foggy, not black and white.

Very few people on the “let ’em stay” side have attempted to make a sophisticated argument like the one advanced by Laborde. More typical are the neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi hillbilly types who rant about heritage and against political correctness.  Then there’s this remarkable comment that popped up on WWL-TV News:

“We love our history,” said Melissa Wainwright. “We love the African-Americans. We love jazz. If it weren’t for slavery, as bad as it was, would we have jazz in New Orleans?”

Local Italo-Americans were also involved in birthing jazz and many of the early jazzers such as Jelly Roll Morton were descendants of free people of color. So, yeah, we would have had jazz without human bondage.

I glanced at Ms. Wainwright’s FB page and it’s full of right-wing conspiracy buffery and praise for the dread Milo Yiannopoulos. My least favorite ethnic Greek is her favorite gay. So it goes.

I’ve mentioned Michael Tisserand before as George Herriman’s biographer. He’s also the former editor of Gambit Weekly as well as an arm-chair philosopher or is that parader? He wrote an excellent op-ed piece for the NYT wherein he made an oft neglected point:

In the late 1980s, when I was visiting New Orleans, the city I now call home, I stopped in a neighborhood drugstore and met a charming and talkative pharmacist. As he rang up my purchase, he placed a thin newspaper in my bag. “You might like to read this,” he said.

Later, I opened the bag and saw the journal of the National Association for the Advancement of White People, filled with stories lauding the organization’s founder, David Duke.

I recall the initial shock but also a sense of recognition. It was just one of countless “just between us” exchanges that I had already been offered in my lifetime. A white-on-white “just between us” moment might take the form of a pointed comment or just a knowing glance. Once it came to me in the middle of a handshake.

They are not limited to the South, but I have come to know them well in the 30 years that I’ve now lived in New Orleans.

I’ve had many of those moments myself. It’s as awkward as hell. It’s gotten to the point where I no longer bite my tongue unless it’s going to waste too much time. People like that druggist aren’t going to be convinced by the likes of me or Michael Tisserand. It’s like trying to talk sense to a Trumper. Of course, they’re all Trumpers now.

Finally, I mentioned having a more nuanced position on future monuments controversies. I first stated it in a 2015 post, The Fog Of History: The Jacksonian Straw Man. I think that each park, school, statue, street name, or whatever needs to be asessed individually. We need to look at why they were named for a specific person and what that person’s local ties were. Intent is everything. All four of the monuments in dispute right now were erected to either honor the Confederacy or to advance the cause of white supremacy. That is why I favor their removal.

The Andrew Jackson statue at Jackson Square is a harder case. It was erected to honor his role in the Battle of New Orleans, not his slave ownership, rabid racism or overrated presidency. It’s definitely not a pro-Confederate monument. Union Gen. Benjamin Butler added a plaque during the Civil War that proclaims: “The Union must and shall be preserved.” I think the statue should stay but if folks want to add more information explaining Jackson’s role in our history, that’s fine with me. Intent and context are everything.

I realize that this is an issue where nuance went to die, but the simplistic solutions offered by people on both extremes will lead to endless controversy when there are other vital local issues that need to be addressed. I neither want to honor white supremacy nor witness a rewriting of history like that in the Soviet Union where St. Petersburg became Petrograd and then Leningrad before reverting to St. Petersburg. I give that a very low grad indeed…

The most important thing right now is that the three monuments be removed as soon as possible. The City Council has spoken. It’s time for Davis, Lee, and Beauregard to come down. It’s past time for the right-wing “outside agitators” to go home and bother people in their own communities.

Tear them down now, Mr. Mayor. Stop the madness.

The Americans Thread: Tuan Gone

Family matters dominate the latest episode, IHOP. Philip is obliged to contemplate his real son as well as two fake sons. It’s hard being a spy sometimes. Even worse, Philip’s resolve continues to be shakier than a Jello salad at a Midwestern church supper.

Another main theme of the episode is how overextended the Jennings are between travel agenting, spying, and parenting. In the immortal words of Johnny Mercer: Something’s gotta give. Something’s gotta give. Something’s gotta give.

On that cheerful note, it’s time for our spoiler break. But first, one of the songs I’ve been substituting Tuan for gone in. It’s a weird hobby, but it’s mine all mine:

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Lost Cause Fest: The May Day Melee

Photograph by Seymour D. Hipster.

Lost Cause Fest has been going on for about a week on the Jefferson Davis Parkway neutral ground. It is, of course, the location of the Jefferson Davis monument, which is slated to come down some time in the near future. It can’t come soon enough for us locals.

The Lost Causers come from redneckier parts of the South. Many seem to be Arkansans as well as a few Okies and assorted other peckerwoods. I’m relying on second-hand information since I have no desire to get caught up between the far-right neo-Confederates and the far-left antifa group. Some of the former are toting guns and many of the latter think that provoking them would be jolly good fun. The tactics of the far-right and left seem to be converging of late: here, there, and everywhere. The good news is that no shots have been fired and the cops were on top of things last night. NOPD excels at crowd control. We have Carnival to thank for that.

There were rumors that the Davis monument was coming down on May Day. I guess the Lost Causers think our gentrifying yuppie Mayor is a commie or something. Many of them, however, look like they might be wingnut wiccans celebrating Beltane. Actually, they look more like people who used to follow Lynyrd Skynyrd around the hookworm belt. I can imagine them trying to light each other ablaze during the Bic lighter portion of Free Bird. Nowadays they’re more into hippie burning…

While I have not ventured to Mid City, many of my friends have done so and posted their archaeological findings on social media. I didn’t see any maypoles but there *were* some red flags as well as Nine Inch Nails karaoke. I am not making this up.

Let’s start with a picture of a sign that makes me laugh. We all need some comic relief on the day after the May Day Melee:

Photograph by Skooks.

We love our signs in New Orleans. We usually make them to attract Carnival throws, not repel Lost Cause Festers.

Next up is local photog Cheryl Gerber who conversed with the Lost Causers including a black dude from Oklahoma. Hand to God, I am not making this up. I tried to embed the photo album link without any success, so click here. It’s worth it. Believe me.

I have a confession to make. I didn’t coin the term Lost Cause Fest. That dubious honor goes to First Draft pun consultant and Zombie-Picayune dude, Diamond James Karst.

On the scene for the maypoleless May Day Melee was Gambit Editor and Adrastos crony Kevin Allman who wrote a piece about it after posting some tremendous tweets.

No word on whether Kevin tried to pass himself off as kin to Duane and Gregg in order to get the deplorables talking. Of course, that’s all they seem to do. They could even be described as redneck yippies. There were more media and anti-Confederates there than so-called “monument protectors.”

I’m glad that NOPD has secured the area but it’s time for that statue to come down before things escalate again. We don’t want anyone to get hurt in this war over symbols. Jefferson Davis’ main link to New Orleans is that he died here in 1889. I don’t want anyone on either side to meet the same fate near the doomed statue.

There’s an oddball sub-plot to the monuments mishigas. There’s a bar near the Jefferson Davis statue: The Holy Ground Irish Pub. They’ve had a series of run-ins with Lost Cause Festers. They have a strict “our bathrooms are only for customers” policy. It’s especially relevant during Mardi Gras and not unreasonable the rest of the year. Instead of buying a beverage, the Lost Causers have taken umbrage at this policy and bombarded the bar with nasty social media reviews. That shows how tacky the neo-Confederates really are. Fuck them sideways. No Guinness or Jameson’s for you lot.

In solidarity with the Holy Ground Irish Pub, here’s a Celtic-rock selection from Wolfstone:

I’ll give the last tweet to the anti-confederates who serenaded the “outside agitators” with an obscene little ditty:

Notice how I said last tweet, not word? I’d like to address the orange elephant in the room: the Trump factor. There’s little doubt that the protests are larger and more voluble because the Insult Comedian is in office. He’s given the red light to the Lost Causers and I expect more of the same in the future.  I halfway expect the president* to sic Andrew Jackson on us.

The only good thing about Lost Cause Fest is that it’s allowed an old liberal like me to use the term “outside agitators.” That’s what the peckerwoods and Klan humpers called civil rights protesters back in the day. Turnabout is fair play, y’all.

Since I’ve gone on about May Day and maypoles, I’ll give the *real* last word to XTC:

 

Your President* Speaks: Don’t Know Much About History

A reminder that the Current Occupant is not only overexposed, he’s a moron. This quote comes from a SiriusXM show airing later today. What on earth is a president* doing on some rinky dink radio show called Main Street Meets The Beltway? Here’s the quote in tweet form:

We’re still re-fighting the Civil War on the streets of New Orleans and the Insult Comedian thinks General/President Jackson could have solved it easily? He not only died in 1845, he had his own internal Civil War raging: he was an ardent Unionist as well as an unrepentant slave owner. Such complexity is alien to a pea-brained potentate such as Donald Trump.

It may come as news to the president* but people ask the question “why” about that conflict every damn day. This is taking the “great man” theory of history way too far. Besides, there *were* a series of attempts to “work that one out” and they all failed because political liberty and slavery are inherently contradictory. There were even some “great men” involved including Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. Oy, just oy.

I could go on about the Insult Comedian’s recent wave of interviews but I already have a headache from thinking about his foggy history. I need both an aspirin and a defogging device so I’ll skip commenting on the whole “I thought presidenting would be easy” thing. Not an exact quote but you know what I’m talking about. Oy, just oy.

History is a dangerous weapon in the hands of a moron with power. Steve Bannon is to blame for Trump’s Andrew Jackson fixation. I suspect all the Insult Comedian knew about Jackson BB (before Bannon) was that he’s on the twenty-dollar bill. Would that it had stayed that way.

Oy, just oy.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall has a must-read take on Trump’s “militant ignorance” and the complexity of Andrew Jackson.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Into The Great Wide Open

The Millinery Shop by Edgar Degas.

It’s the first weekend of Jazz Fest. Absent free tickets, we’re not attending this year. We will, however, be going to our top secret location just outside the Fairgrounds to hear Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I’d be heartbroken if we didn’t do that. I hope that the weather will co-operate. There’s a chance of severe thunderstorms tomorrow. So it goes.

Hats are popular at Jazz Fest. That’s one reason I posted the Degas painting as the featured image. Another is that Degas spent time in the Crescent City visiting his Creole family; some of whom identified as black and others as white, much like the Herriman-Chasse clan I recently discussed in this space. It’s why gumbo is used so often as a metaphor to describe the natives. I’m equally inclined to compare New Orleans to a crazy quilt. The creator of Krazy Kat was born here, after all.

In other local news, the Saints have signed 32-year-old running back Adrian Peterson. His age is not my problem with the signing: it’s his status as a child beater. I wrote about it 3 years ago: Adrian Peterson Did Not Spank His Son, He Beat Him. So much for all of Sean Payton’s blather about bringing in players with “character.” This one has or had a “whooping room” in his Houston area house full of belts, switches, and the like.

This week’s theme song comes from the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album of the same name. Into The Great Wide Open is best known for its swell video and “rebel without a clue” chorus. The latter surely applies to the current occupant of the White House. The deplorables among his supporters are a rabble without a clue.

While we’re on the subject of Tom Petty, here’s a sleeper track from that very album:

I’m fond of that song because it reminds me of one of the main drags of my native Peninsula: El Camino Real. That’s the king’s highway in Spanish.  It spans several Bay Area counties and was where teenage me used to cruise. We didn’t have the internet to occupy us so we drove about aimlessly. One of my cronies always called it the Elk. That’s a bit too gamey or clubby for my taste. It must be time for the break.

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The Americans Thread: Slow Kung Fu & The Big Sex Guy

The post title comes from two off-hand remarks that were my favorite lines in Immersion. Elizabeth is pumping Morozova for info and she describes one of her students as a Big Sex Guy. She means a lady’s man like, say, Gorp Guy. Slow Kung Fu came from a scene wherein Elizabeth is doing tai-chi and Philip calls it (you guessed it) Slow Kung Fu. Sounds like a band name to me, ya’ll. The entire post title sounds like an ’80’s teevee show along the lines of BJ and the Bandit.

The Americans punditocracy seem to be losing patience with season 5. They’re not entirely wrong that it’s moving slowly, but its pace has always been more of a simmer than a boil. The show is fundamentally a psychological character study with moments of high suspense. It’s like criticizing Mad Men for not having any gun play. I do, however, think that things will pick up next week.

It’s time for our spoiler break, but first some Kung Fu Fighting:

I guess that’s not the same Carl Douglas who was on the OJ Simpson defense team. It would be fun if it were. I can see the headline:  Novelty Artist Becomes Legal Eagle.

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Vichy On The Potomac

Above is the Free French flag from World War II. It’s the classic tri-color with the Cross of Lorraine smack dab in the middle. America sided with Gen. DeGaulle’s Free French as opposed to the collaborationist Fascist Vichy government of Gen. Petain and Pierre Laval. Deny it as they might, the Le Pens National Front party are the inheritors of the legacy of the nationalist far-right; the ones who turned French and immigrant Jews over to the Nazis during the war. Despite Marine Le Pen’s cosmetic attempts to scrub the stench of anti-Semitism off her party by expelling her openly racist father, the National Front walks in the shoes of the Vichy government.

These are weird times. The current German government led by a conservative who was born in communist East Germany is waving the banner of liberal democracy and anti-Fascism. In France, Marine Le Pen wants to drag her country back to the dark ages with her extremist anti-immigrant platform. The good news is that pollsters nailed yesterday’s first round of voting in the French Presidential election:

On 21 April, the last-day predictions were published, an average of the election’s nine rolling polls put Macron on 24%, Le Pen on 22%, scandal-hit rightwing candidate François Fillon on 20% and hard-left veteran Jean-Luc Mélenchon on 19%.

The final results, declared early on Monday morning by the French interior ministry, showed respective vote shares of 23.75%, 21.53%, 19.91% and 19.64%. For each of the top four candidates, the polls had been out by less than one percentage point.

As I’ve said many time before: nothing is written but I think we can abandon the current CW that the biggest asshole in any race will always win. It looks like Le Pen will lose handily in the run-off  BUT she’s on course to double her father’s total in the 2002 run-off against Jacques Chirac. Jean-Marie Le Pen got 18% of the vote whereas his daughter is on course to get between 36 and 40%. That’s way too much for comfort. Bigoted nationalism remains on the march. Pun on Emmanuel Macron’s party name intended.

That brings me to my rather dramatic post title. Unlike past US Presidents of both parties, Donald Trump has no problem with Marine Le Pen’s Vichy Fascist National Front party. He implicitly endorsed them before the first round:

In an interview with The Associated Press, Trump said that while he is not explicitly endorsing Le Pen, the attack played to her strengths.

“She’s the strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France,” Trump said in the Oval Office interview. “Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election.”

U.S. presidents typically avoid weighing in on specific candidates running in overseas election. But Trump suggested his opinion was no different from an average observer, saying, “Everybody is making predictions on who is going to win. I’m no different than you.”

This is hardly the worst thing that the Insult Comedian has done since winning the electoral vote. It’s not an overt endorsement BUT it’s still sickening. It’s a slap in the face to Americans who fought against Nazism and Fascism. The current occupant has sided with Le Pen’s Vichy Fascism as opposed to the small-d democrats of both center-left and right. It’s a sad day for America as well as a sign that Bannon and his B3 Brownshirts still have influence in the administration*.

Writing a post with a Vichy inspired title turned my mind to last scene of Casablanca. Generations of Americans cheered when Claude Rains threw a bottle of Vichy Water in the garbage:

It may have been heavy-handed symbolism but I cheer every time I see it. With his de facto support of Marine Le Pen, Trump has taken the bottle out of the trash and put it on his desk for all the world to see. Rubbish is still rubbish.

The president* is utterly without shame but I have to say it anyway: shame on you, Donald for betraying all those who died fighting Nazism. You’re supporting a candidate whose party is honeycombed with Holocaust deniers and Vichy apologists. America should always stand with the Free French, not with the Vichy Fascists.

Vive les Maquis.

NOLA White Supremacy Monuments: One Down, Three To Go

The process of removing four Jim Crow era monuments from their current locations has begun. I wish that the city had NOT done so under cover of darkness but the Mayor has said that there were death threats against the work crew. Unfortunately, I believe him. BUT since other security measures were taken, I still think it should have been done during the day. I, for one, am proud of this action, which is why I don’t think we should be sneaking around. It gives the appearance of wrongdoing when they’re doing the right thing. Celebrating hatred and racism is unacceptable.

I also wish Mayor Landrieu would stop calling them Confederate monuments. The one that was removed this morning, the so-called Liberty monument, honors the triumph of white supremacy during Reconstruction. The remaining three statues honor Confederate dignitaries-only one local-and were erected in celebration of white supremacy, which is why I use that term.

It would have been better if there were a post-removal plan in place. I think some form of public display in a park or museum that places them in context is the way to answer charges that we’re trying to erase history.  The removal was relatively well thought out but the aftermath remains murky, which gives ammunition to the erstwhile Gret Stet Fuhrer:

The Alamo, of course, is a monument to Texas independence, not white supremacy. Context and intent are everything is this debate. How does Dukkke think we can “erase” the Founding Fathers? I think their monuments are safe. I would, however, like to shove the Washingtion Memorial up Duke’s ass.

Anyway, I came here to praise the Mayor, as well as to bury the white supremacy monuments, so I’ll stop quibbling about details. I’ll save the nitpicking for another day.

Here’s how one local teevee news organization covered the removal:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Fate’s Right Hand

Reply To Red by Yves Tanguy.

Spring is prime time for crawfish boils or as the natives say, berls. We’ve been to two in the last three weeks. The first one involved some of the usual suspects and nothing unusual happened other than a five-year-old girl pointing at the sacks of live crawfish and asking, “When will they be dead?” That’s a sassy Louisiana child, y’all. It’s one reason why her mama nicknamed her the Benevolent Dictator. I’m not so sure about the first bit though…

Something quite eventful happened last weekend at the second shebang. The berl was thrown (not by Milton Berle or Burl Ives) by one of Dr. A’s first year medical students. He’s an older student who was a helicopter pilot in the Army and is still a reservist. That’s one reason he lives at Jackson Barracks near Arabi, Louisiana. That’s right, it was an Arabi spring crawfish berl…

When I first heard our host’s name, I remarked that it was the same name as the man who sold us our house after renovating it in 2000. It’s a fairly common name so we agreed it was unlikely that her student was a Junior. Guess what? It’s a small fucking world after all. Our host’s father had indeed renovated Adrastos World HQ and Dr. A’s student had worked on the project. The latter was somewhat freaked out by the string of coincidences but I told him not to sweat it because it made him de facto teacher’s pet. Besides, the man knows how to boil crawfish. It’s an indispensable skill as far as I’m concerned.

This week’s theme song is the title track of Rodney Crowell’s 2003 album, Fate’s Right Hand. It seems that one of his daughters didn’t care for the song at the time. Somewhere in my archives I have a circa 2004 Crowell concert at which he introduced Fate’s Right Hand  more or less as follows:

“My daughter hates this song. She told me it’s undignified for me to talk about poontang and the narrator of the song having a pole in his pants. I told her that I’m a country singer and her mother and grandfather are both country singers. We’re not dignified people.  She reminded me that Grandpa Johnny was the most dignified person she knew. I couldn’t argue that point so I changed the subject.”

Fate’s Right Hand is a list song. The most famous list song I can think of is Irving Berlin’s You’re The Top. Another list song classic is REM’s It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine.) I don’t feel like listing list songs so here’s Fate’s Right Hand:

Rodney is fond of list songs. He wrote one about greedy yuppies for his 2005 album, The Outsider complete with the refrain: give it to me, give it to me. I will comply:

Give it to me, give it to me. You may not be as demanding as the coked-out greed head in the song but let’s take a break anyway. Give it to me, give it to me.

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Quote Of The Day: Lost Armada Edition

Every time I think Team Trump cannot be more inept, they top themselves. The Insult Comedian seems to think making national security policy is like playing Battleship or Risk. His approach is certainly risky business. Uh oh, if he sees that he might call on Tom Cruise for help. He does play action heroes nowadays. Does Trump prefer Jack Reacher or Ethan Hunt? I know he’s over the artist formerly known as the Governator.

It’s quote time. It comes from a Guardian column by Richard Wolffe:

Less than 100 days into this presidency, it is blissfully clear what kind of leader Trump is. He has made the awesome transition from a neophyte candidate into a neophyte president; from a man who bluffed and blustered his way in TV debates to a man who bluffs and blusters his way through international crises.

Here is a small-time businessman who knew nothing about foreign affairs, who has grown into a nuclear-armed president who knows nothing about foreign affairs. He used to fire B-list celebrities on TV; now he just fires off tweets and Tomahawks after watching TV.

To put it mildly, it is troubling for any White House – at a time of high tensions with a rogue nuclear state – to act as dumb or duplicitous as Donald Trump. Machiavelli argued that it is better to be feared than loved. It’s also better to look like something other than a fool.

Hey, he used a fancy word with historical connotations: Armada. Of course, it evokes the disaster of the Spanish Armada, which is not the happiest analogy to make.

Since Trump is an avid teevee watcher, he really should watch the video below about the defeat of the Spanish Armada. It uses stop-animation of various foods to depict the event so it’s not too complicated for him to understand:

Day-O. That video gives a whole new meaning to the Banana Boat Song. Day-O.

I hope the president* learns something from this video. My only worry is that it might inspire him to bomb a banana plantation. We must avoid war with Chiquita at all costs.

The Americans Thread: Gabriel’s Parting Gift

The Committee on Human Rights was something of a letdown after the dizzying heights of last week’s episode, Crossbreed. I, for one, wanted to see more of Paige and Gabriel together. The end of the previous episode led us to believe that there would be more to it than a brief, pleasant, and somewhat cryptic scene. Of course, Gabriel specializes in cryptic pleasantries.

The smile on Frank Langella’s face when he answered Paige’s inquiry as to whether he was a spy made this disappointing scene worthwhile. I wish Gabriel and Paige had burst out in song at the end of it. This would have been my choice:

Hmm, Peggy Lee was very blonde. I wonder if she was KGB? We’ll get to the same questions about Walk Away Renee later in the post.

The Committee on Human Rights is smack dab in the middle of season 5 so we shouldn’t be surprised that it set the table for the rest of the season. Besides, even a fair-to-middling episode of The Americans is better than most dramas. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: patience is the watchword for longtime Americans viewers.

Time for our spoiler break. Try not to cry over spilt Soviet milk as you click below.

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