Category Archives: Fog Of History

Saturday Odds & Sods: Long Black Veil

The Bird, The Cage & The Forest by Max Ernst.

This is the first time since the infancy of this feature that I’ve used the same featured image two weeks in a row. It captures my mood.

We’re attending a memorial service this morning for Gligamesh Homan who died in a horrible accident last week. He was the son of some old friends and was in his freshman year at LSU. I’ll have more about Gil in our second act. Suffice it to say that there’s an open  wound in my circle of friends right now.

I’m not feeling very expansive today so I’m going to keep this week’s outing relatively brief.

This week’s theme song was written in 1959 by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin for Lefty Frizzell. It’s become a staple of the country music repertoire and has been recorded countless times.

We have three versions of Long Black Veil for your listening pleasure: Lefty Frizzell, Gillian Welch, and the Chieftains with Mick Jagger on lead vocals.

Try not to trip over your long black veil as we jump to the break.

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Whistleblowin’ In The Wind

It strikes me as a good time to quote John Fogerty quoting Yogi Berra, “it’s like deja vu all over again.” Fogerty was referring to the Iraq War. I’m referring to Kremlingate: The Sequel aka Donald & Rudy’s Excellent Ukrainian Adventure. Duuuuuuude.

I grew up during the Cold War; like Vladimir Putin, I didn’t expect the Soviet Union to disintegrate so rapidly. Unlike Putin, I don’t have any nostalgia for the USSR. Putin is a KGB man at heart who pines for the glory days of the Soviet Union and wants to reassemble its lost empire. This irredentist stance led to the invasion of the Crimea and the pollution of the American political system by Putin and his little buddy Donald Trump. Every ventriloquist needs a dummy.

We returned to the scene of the Crimea this week with the release of the damning phone call memorandum and whistleblower report. This blew up in the Trump regime’s face leading to a formal impeachment inquiry focusing on the latest and most understandable scandal.

One reason Donald & Rudy’s Excellent Ukrainian Adventure is more understandable than Kremlingate is the brevity of the whistleblower’s charges as opposed to the 448-page Mueller Report. Additionally, this was not perpetrated in the shadows by underlings such as Page and Papadopoulous. It involves the actions of POTUS* and his current fixer, the artist formerly known as America’s Mayor. You know, this bozo:

Team Trump’s defense is different as well. Instead of “no collusion, no collusion” their current line is the less adamant, “we did it, so what?” They appear to believe that it’s no big whoop because he’s the president* and the Nixon-Barr doctrine applies:

Team Trump’s game plan is “same as it ever was, same as it ever was” ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK. The Insult Comedian trotted out another old favorite yesterday: witness intimidation. He made not so veiled threats about stringing up the whistleblower and others in the White House who helped him reveal this staggering abuse of power.

This is some serious shit, y’all. The staffers who enabled this scandal by “overclassifying” Trump’s call with the hapless Ukrainian president may face criminal liability. They’ve apparently done the same thing with other calls. What other White House Horrors are they hiding?

The term White House Horrors brings us full circle to Watergate. It was coined by Nixon AG/campaign manager/convicted felon John Mitchell. Another popular term in the Watergate lexicon was smoking gun. We interrupt this paragraph with a pertinent (impertinent?) musical interlude:

The so-called smoking gun tape was not released until August 5, 1974. We already have the Ukraine scandal’s smoking gun embedded in the whistleblower’s complaint.

We end the post, as we started, with a quote. In this instance, it’s a paraphrase of Bob Dylan: the answer, my friend, is whistleblowin’ in the wind.

The last word goes to a musical odd couple (trio?) Sam Cooke and Flatt & Scruggs:

 

Impeachment: Where Are We Going, Where Have We Been?

The post title is a paraphrase of a short story title. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? was written by Joyce Carol Oates in 1966 and tells the story of a young woman who is seduced and devastated by the devil incarnate, Arnold Friend. Sound familiar? Arnold Friend is Donald Trump. Donald Trump is Arnold Friend. Believe me.

The situation is as fluid as mercury in an outmoded thermometer and may have shifted as I wrote this post. It’s what happens when you have a president* who changes his story every few hours. It’s why nothing he says should ever be believed. If he says it’s raining, you need to step outside and splash about in a puddle.

Here’s how I summed up the state of play yesterday afternoon:

As First Draft readers know, I’ve been for impeachment forever BUT I’m aware of the perils and pitfalls of the path we find ourselves on. It’s not a time for high-fiving and spiking the ball. This is some serious, solemn shit, y’all.

Nancy Smash’s announcement is the culmination of months of investigation that was thwarted by Trump regime stonewalling. The process was already under way but the dam broke this week and it’s another self-inflicted wound by an incompetent and idiotic president*. That’s why I call him the Kaiser of Chaos.

I have thought all along that if we reached this point the House leadership wanted to be dragged along kicking and screaming. Speaker Pelosi has been leery of risking the majority on impeachment as she was willing to do to pass the ACA in 2010. While I’ve disagreed, I understand her motives: this will not result in the removal of President* Pennywise. I’m alarmed that many people do not seem to understand this.

WaPo foreign policy columnist David Ignatius has a succinct explanation for why this move was imperative:

Why is this more than just another Trump vs. Democrats mud fight? Because the Ukraine issue is about compromising U.S. national security — and direct pledges to allies — for the president’s personal political gain. That’s what’s so outrageous about Trump’s alleged push to get dirt on his potential 2020 rival, former vice president Joe Biden, in a July 25 phone call with newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Not for the first time, Trump was putting himself above his country.

Trump isn’t even bothering to deny the basics. He confirmed Tuesday that he had held up delivery of a promised $391 million in military aid for the Ukrainians in mid-July, before his call to Zelensky. Trump claimed he wanted to pressure “Europe and other nations to contribute to Ukraine.” Trump had suggested Sunday that in the July call he had urged Zelensky to investigate Biden’s son’s work for a Ukrainian gas company.

The call was made the day after Robert Mueller’s public testimony before Congress dampened enthusiasm for impeachment. Trump felt bulletproof so he overplayed his hand. It’s what he’s done his entire life. That coupled with his fatal inability to STFU made impeachment inevitable.

Impeachment was at death’s door until Trump reanimated it like a bizarro world Victor Frankenstein. It’s called pulling defeat from the jaws of victory. Thanks, Donald.

The administration is making a show of turning over documents to the intelligence committees. Does anyone trust this White House to turn over an honest transcript of the call? I would hope not. Besides, according to the whistleblower, the call is not the only reason for this crisis.

I think the process will move faster than most others do. The articles of impeachment almost write themselves. It will be interesting to see if cracks develop among Republican members of Congress. At some point, the politician’s instinct for self-preservation is bound to kick in. Of course, I’ve been saying that for years. Stay tuned.

Finally, there is no legal requirement for the House to send impeachment to the Senate, which will not remove Trump from office. I’d let it sit there like a loaded gun without a Senate trial or vote. Ending the process in the House would have the virtue of denying the Insult Comedian a victory lap. That would drive Trump nuts; make that nuttier.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

The Bird, The Cage & The Forest by Max Ernst.

I went on about Max Ernst at the Bayou Brief  so I decided to post another Ernst image here at First Draft. It’s surrealism at its finest. I don’t see a literal bird but that’s one of the things that makes it surreal. It’s weird, man.

I originally planned to put the bite on y’all for our annual fundraiser but I don’t have to. We met our goal so the tin cup rattling stops here and now. Thanks to everyone who donated. Our readers not only rock, they rule.

This week’s theme song was written by Neil Young in 1969 and was the title track of his second solo album. It’s old but still fresh; sort of like me.

We have three versions of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere for your listening pleasure: Neil’s original followed by covers from Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs, and Dar Williams.

While we’re in Nowhereville, here’s a song that you may have heard. If not, climb out from under that rock:

Now that we’ve submerged, let’s splash to the break. Do submarines splash? Beats the hell outta me.  I’m claustrophobic so I’ll never be a submariner like our old pal Jude who was the Prince Namor of First Draft.

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Eighteen Years

I try not to make solemn days of remembrance about myself. But I recently had jury duty, which is why I’m bending that rule on the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. September, 2001 was the last time I had jury duty until this summer.

In 2001, you were obliged to serve the entire month, which largely consists of sitting in the over-cooled basement room called the juror’s lounge. It’s uncomfortable so little actual lounging happens there.

I recall hearing a gasp from one of our keepers, followed by a rush to turn on the teevee set. That’s when we saw for the first time the sickening sight of the airplanes taking out the Twin Towers. We were all numb and the room went silent as Dan Rather came onscreen looking shaken and somewhat disheveled.

We were dismissed for the day and eventually for the month. Nobody at Orleans Criminal District Court felt like trying any cases 18 years ago today. It was time to mourn our dead.

My friend Parenthetical wrote a guest post here in 2017. I think he summed my feelings about 9/11 quite well this morning:

Thinking today about everyone involved who didn’t see it coming and got away from it, and thankful for everyone who signed up for any kind of job where you realize what happened and run towards it.

He went on to quote Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising:

Can’t see nothin’ in front of me
Can’t see nothin’ coming up behind
Make my way through this darkness
I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me

Lost track of how far I’ve gone
How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed
On my back’s a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile of line

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Left the house this morning
Bells ringing filled the air
I was wearin’ the cross of my calling
On wheels of fire I come rollin’ down here

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

The last word goes to Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band:

 

Moltin’ Bolton

It’s a testament to the times in which we live that John Bolton was fired for being right about something. John Bolton is almost never right about anything but he was right about the Taliban peace conference at Camp David. Be still my attacking heart.

I’m hoping for a war of words between Trump and Bolton. Both men need enemies and love to fight. But Bolton is much tougher than Trump: he’ll stab his enemies in the front. The Kaiser of Chaos is strictly a backstabber and twitter fighter. The term keyboard warrior was invented for him. Trump is a pussy. He should grab himself.

I was among those who thought the Bolton appointment would lead to a shooting war. I’m glad that I was wrong but it wasn’t for lack of trying. This cartoon still sums up my opinion of Bolton:

President* Pennywise is on the prowl for his fourth national security advisor; That would tie him for second place with Eisenhower, but Ike served two asterisk free terms. The record holder is Ronald Reagan who had six: two of whom were convicted of crimes related to the Iran-Contra scandal and one of whom was pardoned by Poppy Bush. The scary thing is that Trump’s scandals make Reagan look like a piker. So it goes.

Speaking of Iran-Contra, my friend Bill is “rooting” for Oliver North to be the Insult Comedian’s fourth national security advisor. Nothing this president* does surprises me BUT Ollie is at war with Wayne LaPierre and Trump is scared shitless of the NRA. Never gonna happen, my friend.

A brief word about the post title. It’s a play on the word molting, which is when a bird sheds its feathers or an arthropod loses its exoskeleton. Trump is forever molting senior advisers, this time it just happened to rhyme.

Finally, there’s some dispute as to whether Bolton jumped or was pushed. That’s why the last word goes to Richard and Linda Thompson although a gender switch/swap is in order:

 

 

The Boy Ain’t Right: Taliban, Ho

When Trump tweeted about the peace conference with the Taliban, I assumed he was lying. Meeting at Camp David with the terrorist group that sheltered Osama Bin-Laden this close to the 18th anniversary of 9/11 made no sense. Additionally, I assumed that even the Insult Comedian knew it was idiotic to leak news of a failure. I was wrong. It’s true and Trump *is* stupid and delusional enough to tweet about a failure.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

Here’s the deal: to make peace, one has to negotiate with one’s enemies. The Oslo talks between Israel and the PLO are the best example I can think of. But the leaders at the top of the food chain were not involved until a deal was sealed by their subordinates. Being a narcissist, Trump wanted to be the closer, which is one of many reasons this deal collapsed.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

A signing ceremony this close to 9/11 would allow President* Pennywise to make that solemn anniversary about him, not those who died in the attacks.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

The collapse of the negotiations and Trump’s leak make success less likely. I think we should leave Afghanistan as soon as possible BUT Trump has made that much harder. He’s not only discredited himself, he’s discredited peacemaking for the time being. Heckuva job, Trumpy.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

I never thought I’d say anything nice about Dick Cheney’s horrible spawn but at least Liz Cheney had the guts to criticize this move from the right. You know the world is upside down when I say anything nice about any Cheney.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

I wish I could figure out how to make lemonade out of this lemon of a deal. The best I can do is to give The Police the last word with a song that works even better now than it did when it was released in 1980:

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Town Without Pity

Cover art for Paul Eluard’s Reflections by Max Ernst.

Extreme heat is the price we’ve paid for missing out on Hurricane Dorian. As cranky as I am, I’m glad this heat-bringing high is warding off any tropical activity. I won’t miss it when it’s gone but I’m glad it’s here as Dorian creeps up the east coast. That storm is a relentless motherfucker. The fucker should return to the attic from whence it came.

Drew Brees ate my Friday morning. I hope he buttons his lip and keeps his foot out of his mouth until after Monday’s game.

The featured image is a collage done by the great Max Ernst for a book by his fellow surrealist, Paul Eluard. You may have noticed that I love surrealist art. I use it a lot in this space and have even threatened to post nothing but Ernst and Magritte featured images for Odds & Sods. I’ve also used an Ernst image for my new Bayou Brief column, 13th Ward Rambler.

This week’s theme song was written by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington for the 1961 Kirk Douglas film, Town Without Pity.  I’d never seen the movie until last weekend. It’s a cross between film noir, Italian neo-realism, German expressionism, and a Cassavetes flick. I liked it a lot and give it 3 1/2 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B+. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

We have three versions of Town Without Pity for your listening pleasure: the Gene Pitney original, Stray Cats, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. My boy Brian knows a hidden treasure when he hears one.

Let’s escape the bleak mean streets of a German town without pity by remorselessly jumping to the break.

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Fog Of Historical Pictures: Labor Day Edition Revisited

I had an idea for a post last night. I even dreamt about it but I never wrote it down. I have officially forgotten it, which means it wasn’t all that great to begin with.

In lieu of the lost post, it’s time to revisit a photo essay from Labor Day 2016.  Consider it part of my continuing campaign to demystify what happened later that year. Hell, three of these candidates lost too but they fought the good fight.

September 5, 2016

Labor Day used to be the official kick-off of the general election campaign. It no longer is. Campaigns get longer every cycle and that’s not a good thing. It’s even worse this year because the conventions were so damn early. I’m taking today off from politics except for posting some election year photographs of Democratic nominees on Labor Day. I skipped the 1972 and 1976 nominees because neither McGovern nor Carter had warm relationships with labor. Besides, that would have been overkill. I picked 1984 as an cut-off since Fritz Mondale was the last nominee with close union ties.

We begin with Harry Truman in Detroit in 1948:

Truman in Labor Day Detroit 1948.

I couldn’t find a decent picture of Adlai Stevenson parading on Labor Day but here’s a shot of him with AFL-CIO chief George Meany and UAW President Walter Reuther. We’ll see both Meany and Walter later:

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The year is 1960. The candidate is Jack Kennedy. The place is Cadillac Square in Detroit:

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Lyndon Johnson marching in Detroit with Walter Reuther in 1964:

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Next up is Hubert Humphrey on a New York reviewing stand in 1968 with ILGWU boss Louis Stulberg to his left and George Meany to his right:

1968

We skip forward to 1984 to HHH’s protege, Walter Mondale with his running mate Geraldine Ferraro marching in the New York Labor Day parade:

1984

Saturday Odds & Sods: Lament For The Numb

Pandora’s Box by Rene Magritte.

It’s been a rough summer in New Orleans. I’m ready for it to end without another flash flood or tropical system. That remains to be seen but one thing is certain: the heat will persist until early October. I’m hoping  my ennui will not.

Thanks, Ashley. I needed that. FYYFF.

We’re staying Down Under with this week’s theme song. Kiwi rock deity Dave Dobbyn wrote  Lament For The Numb for the 1993 album of that name. But it applies equally to America circa 2019. We’re all numb from the antics of our idiot president*.

Here’s another Dave Dobbyn song. It has no deep social significance. I just like it:

Now that we’ve gotten numb and danced with the belle of the ball, let’s jump to the break.

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The Spirit Of ’05 Revisited

Root Beer Blues. Photograph by Dr. A.

Last year I decided to do something different on the Katrinaversary. I’m posting it again on the 14th anniversary:

I hate to go Dickensian on your asses but the period after Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood was indeed the best of times and the worst of times. My Katrina experience was nothing compared to many people but it has stayed with me in a way that few life experiences have.

Each Katrinaversary gets a bit less painful. Today almost feels like an ordinary Wednesday but I still have the survivor’s guilt I wrote about last year when parts of New Orleans flooded on my birthday:

It’s a common malady for those of us who live in what has come to be known as “the sliver by the river.” We did not flood in 2005, so I do not like arguing with those who did. It makes me uncomfortable and uncharacteristically deferential. In the year immediately after the storm, I  cringed every time I had to tell *our* Katrina story to those worse off since we were so lucky. We did have $20K worth of damage and were in exile for 7 weeks but that was nothing compared to what so many others went through. Hence my survivor’s guilt and this weekend’s survivor’s guilt flashback. I re-posted my account of Dr. A and my sneaking into the city at First Draft in 2015. Here’s the link.

As bad as that period was for all concerned, there was an esprit de corps that I miss. Everyone was in the same leaky boat so we helped one another out. Spontaneous and random acts of kindness were commonplace. I recall a day when we helped our neighbors duct tape their dead refrigerators and drag them to the curb. It was dirty, stinky work but it felt good to help.

Cajun Tomb. Photograph by Dr. A.

The Spirit of ’05 endured for several years, which looking back is remarkable. It could not last forever but those were heady days. I wish we could recapture the camaraderie but crisis brings out both the best and worst in people. And when the crisis ends, everything changes.  I met many people after the storm, made some enduring friendships and others that were more fleeting. But I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything, it has made me who I am in 2018.

The lasting impact of the storm on my life is that I started blogging. I never expected to still be at it thirteen years after the day that everything changed, but here I am. I landed at First Draft because of Scout Prime who not only wrote about her experiences helping in New Orleans after the storm, but came up with the idea for the Rising Tide conference. My friendships with Scout and Athenae are two that have endured over the years. Thanks for letting me tell jokes here, y’all.

Speaking of enduring friendships, here’s an apt tweet from my dear friend Julie:

In past years, the blog has stayed dark for the entire Katrinaversary thereby allowing this solemn image to dominate:

I decided it was time for a change. I also wanted to mention my empathy for the people of Puerto Rico where  2,975 American citizens died as a result of Hurricane Maria. It’s what happens when you have bad leadership: in our case it was the Bush-Cheney gang, with Maria it’s the Trump-Pence regime; both of whom lost the popular vote, then lost the thread when it came to hurricane relief. It’s what happens when you give power to people who hate government. Heckuva job, Trumpy.

The Spirit of ’05 is a touchstone for all that’s good about human nature. It’s still lurking in a city that has changed radically since the storm and its aftermath. Here’s how I put it in a post five days before the 10th Katrinaversary:

After the water receded, there was a second inundation of people flooding into the city. Some were do-gooders, some were hipsters seeking the next trend, still others were here to make a buck. Very few of them understood the essence of New Orleans and what makes the city and its inhabitants tick. Many of them, especially on social media, have come up with an orthodoxy of what it means to be a New Orleanian. That has come to be known as copping a NOLAier than thou attitude, a swell phrase that was coined by Karen Dalton Beninato.  Some of the NOLAier than thou set seem to have spent way too much time watching Treme. Instead of a Cabaret, life is apparently a second line, old chum.

On the 13th anniversary, we continue to struggle with what happened that August day. There’s still a special feeling among those of who went through it together. If only we could fully recapture the Spirit of ’05.

The last word goes to Peter Gabriel with a song that’s been on my mind and in my head thirteen times over:

Donald Trump Is Mentally Ill

Image by Michael F.

I realize I’m preaching to the choir, if, that is, an agnostic has a choir to preach to but that’s an issue for another day. I’ve found that the other posts in what has turned into a series featuring blunt titles-Donald Trump Is A Criminal, and Donald Trump Is A Racist-have made an impact. I promise to get to Donald Trump Is A Misogynist the next time he uses the word nasty to describe a woman who won’t buckle to his will.

I’m not sure if the cause of Trump’s mental illness is organic and degenerative-his father had Alzheimer’s-or a lifelong case of narcissistic personality disorder and/or both. Whatever it is, it makes him the poster boy for the 25th Amendment, which allows an unfit president to be removed from office. The process must start in the executive branch, which is full of sycophants so it’s not going to happen. Hell, it didn’t happen when a drunk Tricky Dick was talking to portraits of dead presidents and he had a cabinet full of heavyweights. Of course, Spiro Agnew as Veep was a deterrent until he resigned in disgrace. Beware of Greeks with bag men.

Last week’s display of lunacy has revived talk of Trump’s mental illness and the story about his wanting to nuke hurricanes is certain to accelerate the concern among rational people that:

I’m an amateur shrink, here’s what a real one, Dr. Lance Dodes, has to say about the madness of King Donald:

He told MSNBC that Trump had “a fundamental need to be all-powerful and all loved and can’t stand challenges.”

“He can’t stand anything that disagrees with him, and the more you challenge him, the more unhinged he becomes, the more paranoid, and the more violent, potentially,” Dodes said

“He doesn’t really love anyone except himself. That’s not a slur, that’s a psychological fact. People like him are about him. If he’s not useful to him, he stops loving him. That’s part of the essential emptiness of Donald Trump. He doesn’t have real relationships with people.”

When Trump looked toward the heavens and bragged about being “the chosen one,” Dodes said it was another example of Trump’s grandiosity.

“There’s something fundamentally different about him from normal people. It’s a psychotic-like state. The more you press him, the more you see how disorganized and empty he is. The more he flies into a disorganized rage.”

White House flacks made like David Letterman and said the “chosen one” comment was just a joke: I halfway expected them to say “that’s why we call him the Insult Comedian.” If it’s a joke, it’s not funny ha-ha, it’s funny strange like the idiotic notion of nuking hurricanes.

Interestingly enough, the APA’s so-called Goldwater Rule was promulgated because of the 1964 GOP nominee’s loose talk about nukes, which led to this Democratic slogan:

The Goldwater Rule rule was wise in Barry’s case because he wasn’t crazy. He was sane enough to urge Nixon to resign in 1974, and I’m old enough to remember when he said this:

“I think every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass.”

Barry Goldwater was the John McCain of his generation: a straight-shooting, plain-spoken conservative who was willing to criticize his own party. Holy extinct species, Batman.

Goldwater may not have been crazy but President* Pennywise is. If he weren’t the Current Occupant, I might feel sorry for him but he is so I can’t. He’s a menace.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

The last word goes to Aimee Mann with the track that inspired her Mental Illness album:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Deeper Water

Gulf Stream by Winslow Homer.

Since we have something of a nautical-as opposed to naughty-theme I thought we’d dive right in without any dockside formalities. I won’t invite you into my stateroom because this might happen:

I would never take a cruise. The thought of doing so reminds me of the not so great Poop Cruise of 2013. Hell, I get seasick contemplating the Winslow Homer painting above.

Let’s move on to this week’s theme song. Singer-songwriter Paul Kelly is often called the Bob Dylan of Australia but he never broke through stateside. Kelly co-wrote Deeper Water in 1994 with Randy Jacobs of Was (Not Was) in case you was (not was) wondering.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure. First, the 1995 studio version that was the title track of Kelly’s tenth album. Second, a 2013 live version from a show Kelly did with Neil Finn. For some reason it’s listed as Deep Water but it’s the same tune. Wow, that’s deep, man.

I hope we’re not in over our heads. Let’s mount the diving board and jump to the break.

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American History Is A Mixed Bag

Like Athenae, I’m fascinated with the NYT’s 1619 project and appalled by some of the wingnuttier online responses to it. An exchange I was involved in this morning inspired this post:

This particular Benny should cool his jets. I think President* Pennywise is doing an excellent job of delegitimizing, dividing, and demoralizing our citizenry. In his case, I would add a third D: dumbing down, dammit.

People have a hard time with complexity. It’s just more obvious (oblivious?) in the social media era. Ronald Reagan was a master oversimplifier. It was one reason he defeated the overcomplicator, Jimmy Carter. Reagan was a creature of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and his vision of our history was impacted by the movies he’d seen. In fact, the man Gore Vidal dubbed “the old TV president” was known to conflate movie plots with real life. Reagan also believed in the World War II slogan, KISS or “Keep It Simple Stupid.” In 1980 Reagan ran circles around Carter who thought and spoke like an engineer.

Life is complicated, American history even more so. Thomas Jefferson co-wrote the Declaration of Independence and was an unrepentant slave owner. The greatest liberal president of them all, Franklin Roosevelt, went along with the internment of Japanese-Americans without due process. There are thousands of similar examples but those are the best examples of our history at its worst and its finest.

Our history has involved a constant tension between our highest ideals and our worst impulses. It’s why I cannot stand with either the “America is pure evil” or “America: love it or leave it” crowds. They’re both wrong and guilty of egregious oversimplification.

Repeat after me: American history is a mixed bag. It’s what makes our national story so damned interesting as well as maddening.

The last word goes to Elton John:

Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, R.I.P.

The first, and thus far only, woman elected Governor of the Gret Stet of Louisiana, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, has died at the age of 77 after a long battle with cancer. It’s often forgotten that Blanco was a strong, effective, and popular Governor on her way to re-election until Hurricane Katrina struck. It was a life changing event for all concerned and, unfortunately, led eventually to the election of Bobby Jindal who ran the state into the ground.

Much of the post-K criticism of Blanco was unfair. The storm was expected to hit the Florida panhandle until the 10 PM advisory on August 26. There wasn’t much time to prepare for a massive evacuation but it could have gone far worse. It *was* a mess but most of that was down to panicky and inept New Orleans Mayor C Ray Nagin. The subsequent flood was a federal affair.

The Bush administration, in conjunction with Nagin, chose Blanco as their political patsy. That was made obvious when the White House made Karl Rove its Katrina point man. Turd Blossom left his partisan stink all over the recovery effort and our Democratic Governor took the fall for Bush and Nagin’s mistakes. She stood her ground and won many battles, but lost the PR war.

Kathleen Blanco was a kind, compassionate, empathetic, and warm human being. She was “pro-life” but, unlike our current Governor, insisted that there be exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother in an anti-choice bill passed by the lege during her term as Governor. Her record otherwise was sterling, big-hearted, and liberal for a Blue Dog Democrat.

Blanco’s reputation has grown since leaving office. She was so effective in her dealings with the lunkheads in the lege that she earned the nickname, The Queen Bee. And the term steel magnolia seemed to have been invented for his charming, kindly but tough woman.

Other than shaking her hand at a public event, I never had the chance to meet Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, so I’m linking to three friends who had the pleasure of her acquaintance: Bob Mann, Clancy DuBos, and Lamar White Jr.

Finally, it was a rough weekend in New Orleans. Beloved local anchorwoman, Nancy Parker, died in an airplane crash while doing a story on the pilot. I’ve enjoyed her work over her 26 years as lead co-anchor at WVUE, but I’m a WWL news viewer. It’s a tribute to Parker that the competition has devoted so much airtime honoring her. Like Kathleen Blanco, Nancy Parker was famous for being nice. They will both be missed.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Boulevard Of Broken Dreams

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

I survived jury duty. I even got a diploma of sorts. I’m uncertain if it’s for good behavior; more like bored behavior. I was called upstairs for voir dire on the last day. I tweeted about it after graduation:

Canny is Leon Cannizzaro, Orleans Parish District Attorney. Here’s what I said about him in the Bayou Brief in 2017:

He’s a notoriously hardline, tough on crime District Attorney with the demeanor of an irritable undertaker and the strange uncharm of a grim Dickensian authority figure such as Mr. Murdstone. I had dealings with Canny when he was a criminal court judge and I was lawyering. He was arrogant, biased, rude, and dismissive. His success in electoral politics has always been a mystery to me but some people confuse assholery with strength. The Current Occupant of the White House is the best example I can think of. At least Canny has better hair.

Well, they asked for full disclosure…

People have been asking me if I planned to write at length about the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock. The answer is no. Why? Too many people focus on things other than the music and mud. Too many get bogged down in generational politics; one of the dullest subjects on the planet. It’s dull because it’s cliche laden: not all Baby Boomers sold out, not all Gen-Xers are slackers, and not all Millennials are twitter obsessed airheads. More importantly, not all members of the greatest generation were all that great. I often thought that my late father’s motto could have been, “We won the war so we don’t have to listen.” That concludes my rant about generational stereotypes.

This week’s theme song was written in 1933 by Al Dubin and Harry Warren. It was featured in the 1934 movie Moulin Rouge and sung by blond bombshell Constance Bennett. Ooh la la.

We have three versions of this torchy torch song for your listening pleasure: Constance Bennett,Tony Bennett, and Diana Krall. Ooh la la.

Constance and Tony are not related. His real name is, of course, Anthony Benedetto.

It’s time for a trip to Disambiguation City with a song written for the 2004 American Idiot album by the boys in Green Day. Same title, different song. Ooh la la.

Now that I’ve shattered your dreams, let’s jump to the break. Ooh la la.

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Quote Of The Day: Farage Barrage Edition

I couldn’t resist reviving my post-Brexit vote meme before moving on to slap Nigel Farage about. On with the show, this is it.

Farage paid a visit to Sydney, Australia and trashed the royals to a group of Ozzie wingnuts

The Brexit party leader was laudatory about the Queen – “an amazing, awe-inspiring woman, we’re bloody lucky to have her” – but abused her son, grandson and mother.

“When it comes to her son, when it comes to Charlie Boy and climate change, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Her mother, Her Royal Highness the Queen’s mother was a slightly overweight, chain-smoking gin drinker who lived to 101 years old. All I can say is Charlie Boy is now in his 70s … may the Queen live a very, very long time.”

I remember when British right-wingers were royalists. Additionally, the Queen Mum has been dead for seventeen years so one would think the Insult Comedian UK would let her rest in peace. Shorter Adrastos: Stay mum about the dead Queen Mum.

Farage also indulged in a bit of sexism and racism by going after Meghan Markle and her prince:

“Terrifying! Here was Harry, here he was this young, brave, boisterous, all male, getting into trouble, turning up at stag parties inappropriately dressed, drinking too much and causing all sorts of mayhem. And then, a brave British officer who did his bit in Afghanistan. He was the most popular royal of a younger generation that we’ve seen for 100 years.

“And then he met Meghan Markle, and it’s fallen off a cliff. We’ve been told in the last week that Meghan and Harry will only have two children … and we’re all completely ignoring, the real problem the Earth faces, and that is the fact the population of the globe is exploding but no one dares talk about it, no one dares deal with it, and whether Prince Harry has two kids is irrelevant given there are now 2.6 billion Chinese and Indians on this Earth.”

Remember the good old days when Harry did shit like this?

According to the Farage barrage, Harry’s soul has been hijacked by his harridan wife who has succeeded in “pussy whipping” him. And making matters worse to the bigoted Farage, she’s a woman of color and an actress to boot. Scary, scary, scary. The only trick he missed was using the Empire era slur, WOG. I guess that proves that Nigel doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. Now where have I heard that before?

I posted this Farage barrage as a reminder that other country’s politics have also gone to hell in an increasingly overcrowded handbag. And Nigel is only UK clown number two: Boris Johnson is prime minister. Bigotry is as big in Blighty as at the White House. Oy just oy.

As an antidote to Nigel’s awfulness, the last word goes to the Kinks:

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: Meet On The Ledge

Rain, Steam, and Speed by JMW Turner.

It’s the final day of one of the greatest musical festivals in the world: Fairport’s Cropredy Convention. Dr. A and I attended the event’s 40th anniversary in 2007. We actually took a tour, which gave us insider access including a chance to hang out with the super-nice members of Fairport Convention: Dave Pegg, Simon Nicol, Ric Sanders, Chris Leslie, and Gerry Conway. Nancy Covey’s Festival Tours organizes tours for people who don’t like tours. It was the trip of a lifetime and we formed many friendships that still endure. End of travelogue.

This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson in 1968 for Fairport’s What We Did On Our Holidays album. Meet On The Ledge is a song about death that is somehow life-affirming. It’s often played at funerals and is typically the last song played at every Fairport Convention show. At Cropredy, a cast of thousands joins the band onstage for an epic sing-along.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: the Fairport original with Sandy Denny on lead vocals; a solo acoustic version by Richard Thompson, and Fairport and friends closing Cropredy in 2017 with Simon Nicol and Iain Matthews on lead vocals

Now that we’ve met on the ledge and seen all of our friends, let’s jump to the break.

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Trumpism Is Hatriotism

The hatriot-in-chief hugs a flag.

You may have noticed that I love language, nicknames, and slang. I agree with Samuel G. Freedman that it’s high time to revive a venerable word that he stumbled into whilst researching right-wing populist demagogue Gerald LK Smith:

In an episode that anticipated Trump’s recent rhetoric treating representatives Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley as disloyal foreigners and telling them to “go back home” – even though all are American citizens and all but Omar were born here – Smith told a whooping crowd, “If the Jews don’t like our country, they can go back where they came from!”

As I slogged through such muck, I found a 1945 article from the New York Herald Tribune. It recounted Smith and similarly minded demagogues trying to crash a United Nations conference in San Francisco. Describing Smith’s crew, both the headline and the story used the word “hatriots”.

That term, a pithy conflation of “hate” and “patriots”, struck me as perfectly suited to our current moment. Read in the context of Smith’s divisive career, the word clearly referred to people who wrap toxic intolerance in the perfumed cloak of patriotism.

Freedman goes on a hatriotic journey to find the origin of the word and traces it to a 1941 editorial in a small-town Hoosier newspaper. It was fairly common journalistic parlance used to describe figures with Nazistic tendencies until some time in the 1950’s.

Another compound word that came up in Freedman’s piece is Ratzis. It was coined by the voice of The Untouchables, Walter Winchell. Ratzis: I like it so much that I’ll use it in a sentence, Trumper hatriots are Ratzis. That felt good.

I plan to work hatriotism and its hatriotic derivations into my writing as much as possible. Let’s make it a hat trick and use hatriot to describe individuals who worship the Insult Comedian and his invective.

Repeat after me: Hatriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Trumpism is Hatriotism.