Category Archives: Gret Stet Politics

Tweet Of The Day: Pulitzer Prize Edition

The Advocate has won its first Pulitzer Prize. It’s not the first time a New Orleans newspaper has won a Pulitzer: the Times-Picayune won for its Hurricane Katrina/Federal Flood coverage. That was, of course, before that paper was hollowed out by its masters and transformed into the Zombie-Picayune.

Many former Picayune people are now with the Advocate. One of whom is my friend Gordon Russell who is the managing editor for investigations, and one of the winners of the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting. They won for a series about Louisiana’s non-unanimous jury system. It was reporting that made a difference as the voters abolished that Jim Crow relic last fall.

The tweet in question shows the paper’s New Orleans newsroom exploding with joy upon learning the news:

Congratulations to everyone at the Advocate for proving that local newspapers still matter. Well done, y’all.

Repeat after me: Not Everything Sucks.

Charles Blow On Political Folk Heroes

Donald Trump and Edwin Edwards in 1993. Photo via the Advocate.  

The Op-Ed page of the Failing New York Times gets a lot of abuse. While some of it is deserved, everyone should remember that Paul Krugman, Michelle Goldberg, Jamelle Bouie, and Charles Blow dispense wit and wisdom in their NYT columns. My focus today is on the man with the swell name, Charles Blow. The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind…

Mr. Blow is from the Gret Stet of Louisiana. He was born and raised in Gibsland in Bienville Parish and graduated from Grambling State University. He occasionally writes about his mother who still resides in Louisiana. He done it again in one of his most original and insightful columns thus far: Trumpism Extols Its Folk Hero.

Mr. Blow posits that, among the suckers who have fallen hardest for the con, Donald Trump has morphed from mere mortal to a legendary figure, a folk hero. For those of us who are immune to his snake oily charm, he’s an anti-hero.

Mr. Blow uses his mother’s affection for, and support of, 4 term Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards as an example of how a political folk hero can mesmerize their fans:

My mother is a devout Democrat, but also one of the most socially conservative people I know. This is typical of our home state of Louisiana among black citizens — they can be as conservative as any Republican, but are also completely convinced, by dint of history and experience, that the Republican Party not only abides racists, it courts them, and therefore they would die rather than vote red.

My mother is so austere that she never drank or partied in any way, except for the one time she told me that she went to a nightclub and tried a drink. She didn’t much like the dingy space or the bitter beverage, so she swore them both off.

She abhorred the showy, deeming it vulgar, so every single article of clothing in her closet was white, black, brown or navy blue. Red? Yellow? Green? God forbid.

And she was unshakable in her sense of moral rectitude, viewing sins like lying, gambling and philandering as absolute corruptions of character.

And yet, through my time growing up there and going to college there, she took a devilish pride in enthusiastically supporting and voting for the four-term Democratic governor, Edwin Edwards, a cocksure, gambling womanizer who would end up in federal prison in 2002 for bribery and extortion.

On the surface, it doesn’t make sense that my mother, who thought herself a moralist, would find a champion in a flaunting immoralist, but she did as did many other Louisiana voters. And I believe this was possible because Edwards achieved something that few politicians achieve: He transcended the political, and on some level even the rules of the workaday world, and entered the astral league of folk heroes.

The rules don’t apply to the folk hero. People don’t measure them by the same tape. Behavior that people would never condone in their personal lives, they relish in the folk hero.

Sorry for that epic quote but it’s too well-constructed to cut. Charles’ writing does not blow. And unlike the president* he’s not a blowhard.

Mr. Blow goes on to apply the rules of folk heroism to the Insult Comedian. I agree with his analysis as it explains the irrational, cult-like devotion to Trump among his shrinking base. I disagree, however, with his conclusion:

Anti-Trump forces must stop operating as if they are doing battle with a liar; they are doing battle with what his supporters have fashioned into a legend. How does one fight a fiction, a fantasy? That’s the question. Its answer is the path to America’s salvation.

What we have to do is to ignore hardcore Trumpers who are no more than 25-30% of likely voters. Trying to convert them is a waste of time: they’re fantasists who believe what they want to believe, which is that the Kaiser of Chaos is making America great again. They’re low information voters, trying to convert one’s crazy uncle who watches Fox News is futile. Shorter Adrastos: Fuck them.

A reminder that the GOP lost the midterms by 9 points nationally. Democrats need to keep our base as well as disaffected suburban voters mobilized and ready for action in 2020. If we do that, Trump will lose. Repeat after me: Trump’s only path to victory is to destroy his opponent. Believe me.

Pondering Charles Blow’s name has given me an earworm. The last word goes to McKinley Morganfield:

IOKIYAR: Gret Stet Of Louisiana Edition

There was a ridiculous flap in Gret Stet politics last week. LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron spoke at a fundraiser for incumbent Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards. Our old pal Senator John Neely Kennedy went batshit crazy. We present his tantrum  in two parts to capture its full lunacy. First, from an interview with the Zombie-Picayune:

“This is both-teeth-striped-down-to-the-marrow stupid,” Kennedy said in an interview with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune Friday afternoon. “He should not be endorsing Democrats, Republicans, socialists, communists, Hindus…”

It’s the Advocate’s turn to give Neely’s tirade a platform:

“I don’t want to watch LSU football and have to wonder if the coach is a Democrat or Republican. I’m so angry at this,” U.S. Sen. John Kennedy said during a five-minute diatribe on Baton Rouge radio Friday morning – a day after Orgeron introduced Edwards during a breakfast fundraising event. “It is a horrible mistake to politicize LSU and LSU football. I’m stunned that the candidate would even entertain, much less accept, the endorsement.”

What, no cornpone wisdom? A sound bite without a single Neelyism? The real reason that Neely and other GOPers were so upset is that neither of their challengers, Congressman Ralph Abraham and Red Stick tycoon Eddie Rispone, has caught on with the voters. It increasingly looks as if 2015’s dark horse candidate will be a shoo-in for re-election as Gret Stet Governor even without David Vitter as a foil.

It’s time to circle back to the post title. Anyone shocked to learn that Gret Stet GOPers are hypocrites on the subject of LSU football and politics? I would hope not.

Former Tigers head coach Les Miles and former Governor Bobby Jindal were as thick as thieves. Miles attended PBJ’s re-election victory celebration in 2011 as well as a reception after a fundraiser. The Mad Hatter even plugged PBJ’s doomed run for president. I survived these events with my LSU football fandom intact even though my hatred for PBJ is pure; the disgraced politician, not the sammich.

I *almost* dignified the GOP’s “substantive” objections by detailing them but, since Coach O cleared his appearance with the university, I will not. Instead, I’ll remind everyone that: It’s Okay If You’re A Republican:

Lost In The News

Transitioning out of the Mardi Gras bubble is always difficult. But there’s so much going on right now that I don’t quite know where to begin. I think a potpourri post full of quick one liners and, hopefully, pertinent observations is the best way to shake off the rust. Of course rust never sleeps so who knows if that will work? Only the Shadow or Neil Young know for sure. Hey, hey, my, my.

Stale News In Brief: I watched the Cohen hearing from gavel to gavel but had company that night for the Nyx parade so I couldn’t share any thoughts and/or pithy observations. I’ve been somewhat pithed about this momentary lapse of reason, which is why I’m writing about it a week later. Better late than never.

I had assumed that Cohen was a punk and a brain-dead doofus. I was right about the former but wrong about the latter. He was well-prepared, penitent, and surprisingly sharp in a street wise Lawn Guyland kinda way.

Cohen’s performance is proof positive that exposure to Donald Trump cuts people’s IQ’s in half. It’s one reason why the Kaiser of Chaos needs to go before we become a country of mouth-breathing morons who overuse the word very. Believe me.

Speaking of dumbassery, the performance of Oversight Committee GOPers was appalling. They’re the dumbest collection of congresscritters it has ever been my displeasure to observe. They were poorly prepared and dumber than a proverbial bag of rocks.

It *is* true that Cohen was a lying sack of shit in his days as Trump’s fixer. But that means that some of the shit leaked onto the president* for whom Cohen was lying. Gym Jordan and his gang of morons didn’t see it that way. Jordan makes Trey Gowdy look like Perry Mason as a cross-examiner. Oy, just oy.

The country saw Congressman Clay Higgins and learned what we in the Gret Stet of Louisiana have known all along: he’s a poser and a nitwit. He kept asking the same question over and over even though it had been “asked and answered” as the criminal law objection goes.

Higgins is a demagogue and dumbfuck of epic proportions. Additionally, his district director is an accused pimp.  It’s a pity that his name isn’t Willie. Jerod Prunty the Pimp doesn’t  have the same ring to it:

Investigation Mania: House Democrats are gearing up to get to the bottom of the plethora of Trump related scandals. The good news is that they can walk and chew gum at the same time as they’re passing a plethora of progressive legislation as well. It will all, of course, die in the Senate but it forces them to take unpopular stands against popular legislation such as gun background checks, which I believe even the ghost of Charlton Heston favors:

An interesting tidbit in the news is Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff hiring former SDNY prosecutor Daniel Goldman to spearhead his Russia investigation. Cable news viewers know him better as a telegenic teevee lawyer on MSNBC. The president* is bound to fear him because he’s been on the tube, which could have been a factor in Schiff making this hire. Goldman is also stone cold brilliant and knows his way around Russian mobsters and oligarchs. Watch out, Trumpy.

The Big Rebuke: There are enough votes in the Senate to shoot down the Insult Comedian’s fake emergency order. As of this writing, it’s not a veto proof majority BUT the fog of scandal continues to envelop the Trump regime. That, in turn, could lead more Senatorial rats to flee the USS Trump as it sinks in a sea of scandal. Holy mixed metaphor, Batman. Is it a fog or a sea of scandal? Actually, it’s both, which is a rare example of both-siderism on my part.

John Dean On Cohen: As a Watergate junkie, I would be remiss in not mentioning John Dean’s NYT op-ed article on the impact of being a star witness on the witness:

Mr. Cohen should understand that if Mr. Trump is removed from office, or defeated in 2020, in part because of his testimony, he will be reminded of it for the rest of his life. He will be blamed by Republicans but appreciated by Democrats. If he achieves anything short of discovering the cure for cancer, he will always live in this pigeonhole. How do I know this? I am still dealing with it.

Just as Mr. Nixon had his admirers and apologists, so it is with Mr. Trump. Some of these people will forever be rewriting history, and they will try to rewrite it at Mr. Cohen’s expense. They will put words in his mouth that he never spoke. They will place him at events at which he wasn’t present and locations where he has never been. Some have tried rewriting my life, and they will rewrite his, too.

Can I get a witness?

The last word goes to the late Marvin Gaye whose image will adorn a stamp to be released on April 2nd:

Tweet Of The Day: Louisiana 1993

The Insult Comedian is coming to the Gret Stet of Louisiana next week. He’ll be speaking at the Farm Bureau convention at the Morial Convention Center. Since New Orleans is one of the bluest cities in the country, there will be protesters. I may be among them.

That brings me to the tweet of the day. Thanks to my blogger buddy and Spank krewe mate, Noladishu, for sending this my way:

Trump’s casino bid crapped out.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Tangled Up In Blue

The Large Blue Horses by Franz Marc.

The weather has been wild and wacky in New Orleans. It was 80 degrees last weekend, then it plummeted to a day time high of 50 a mere two days later. It’s like being an extra in The Pit and The Pendulum. I have no idea what that means but it sounds good.

We had some car trouble this week. We convinced ourselves we might have major electrical issues. It turned out the car needed a new battery. Whew. Dr. A has named the new used car Hildy, after Rosalind Russell’s character in His Girl Friday. Neither Cary Grant nor Ralph Bellamy were consulted.

Am I allowed to brag? I promise not to go all Insult Comedian on your asses. The response to my Neelyisms: Translating Louisiana’s Junior Senator piece has been very favorable indeed. Thanks, y’all. I hope it will further one of my quirkier causes: getting people to stop calling him by his real name instead of my nickname for him. Repeat after me:  In politics, there’s only one John Kennedy, and his middle initial was F, not N. Just call him Neely.

This week’s theme song was written by Bob Dylan for his great 1975 album Blood on the Tracks. Tangled Up In Blue is one of my favorite Dylan tunes. It’s an almost foolproof song, which is why it has been covered so many times.

We have three versions for your listening pleasure: Dylan’s original, a 2017 cover by Joan Osborne, and a live version by the Jerry Garcia Band.

Now that we’re all tangled up, let’s jump to the break. I hope I can find my blue ripcord.

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Neelyisms At The Bayou Brief

My latest column for the Bayou Brief is online. In case you’re wondering what a Neelyism is, here’s a nifty definition:

Neelyism (noun): a scripted aphorism made by chronic kibitzer and soundbite machine Sen. John Neely Kennedy.

I’ve never created a noun before. I’m as proud as Octodad before he was thrown out the house.

You may have heard that Neely isn’t running for Gret Stet Goober. I was already compiling Neelyisms but his withdrawal made it a hot topic. Thanks, Senator.

I’m hoping my noun creation will lead others to refer to the Senator as Neely. In politics, there’s only one John Kennedy, and his middle initial was F, not N.

The last word goes to this splendid image created by my publisher, Lamar White Jr,. and the fine folks at the Bayou Brief:

Bayou Brief Briefs

My latest opinion piece for the Bayou Brief is online: The “Why Not Me” Syndrome. Here’s the blurb my editor/publisher, Lamar White Jr., wrote for it:

Peter Athas argues that in the age of Trump, former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has a compelling reason to look at the presidency and think, “Why not me?”

Lamar did some snazzy editing too. I particularly liked the Cheat Sheet to my Louisiana Lexicography. Gracias, amigo.

Speaking of Lamar, he’s made news as the guy who posted a video of Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith making a “joke” about hanging. It was neither funny nor a joke. It showed the Senator’s Miz Hyde side. Thanks to the Insult Comedian, open racism is back in fashion.

Follow this link to Lamar’s post at The Bayou Brief: Cindy Hyde-Smith Was Not Telling A Joke.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Running On Empty

Carnival Tryptich by Max Beckmann

It’s been an uneasy week in the Big Easy. There’s much outrage at the local utility company, Entergy, for hiring actors to attend City Council meetings. The company has made it worse by continuing to lie about it. It’s called Astroturfing, it’s not illegal it’s just sleazy. The more Entergy lies, the longer the story persists. Lying seems to be contagious in the age of Trump. Knock it off, y’all.

In other Gret Stet news, we’re voting on a constitutional amendment to end non-unanimous jury verdicts. Louisiana and Oregon are the only two states that have this system and we’re in a race for repeal. The odds are good that voters will end the practice next Tuesday: there’s broad bi-partisan support for the change. It’s good when the Gret Stet good guys win one. In fact, it’s great. Hopefully, that Tony the Tiger-ish sentiment will help LSU when they play Alabama tonight. Geaux Tigers.

This week’s theme song, Running On Empty, was written and recorded by Jackson Browne in 1977. It’s been used in two movies: Forrest Gump and gave Sidney Lumet’s great 1988 movie its title. We’ll have more about *that* Running On Empty after the jump.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure. Both feature brilliant lap steel playing by the great David Lindley of whom I’ll have more to say at the end of the post. Holy previews, Batman.

We may be low on gas but there’s enough in the tank to jump to the break.

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The Kavanaugh Mess: Monday Roundup

I vowed to take a break from the Kavanaugh mess until mid-week but like Michael Corleone in Godfather III:

I would never, however, wear a brown cardigan. Brown is not my color and who the hell wears a sweater in New Orleans?

The Kavanaugh nomination remains in limbo. It looks as if irony is not dead: the White House appears to be “rigging” the FBI investigation. Don McGahn *is* Kav’s friend so we shouldn’t be surprised. The only surprise is that Kavanaugh speaks to a non-Ivy League lawyer. It’s tolerant of him.

This weekend, I had several discussions on social media about what Kavanaugh’s small lies mean. While a stack of small lies do not necessarily add up to a perjury charge, they do damage Kav’s credibility, which *should* be important to a Supreme Court Justice.

Having said that, I agree that Kavanaugh’s wide array of lies under oath should be part of the investigation. There’s even an article in Politico about that very thing. Small lies often lead to big lies. I’m more concerned with stopping the nomination than prosecution since several of the undecided Senators have said lying under oath would be disqualifying. Whether or not they mean it remains to be seen.

Speaking of Tiger Beat on the Potomac, they have an  interesting piece about GOP strategy. Kavanaugh is getting conflicting advice as to whether he should go on the attack or lay low. I think he would be wise to dial it back since the fix may well be in. A certain rumpled Fascist fuck is quoted as saying:

“There’s no walking this thing back,” Steve Bannon, the former chief White House strategist, said in an interview Sunday night. “You get Kavanaugh, you’re going to get turnout. You get turnout, you’re going to get victory. This is march or die.”

Everything Bannon says sounds like it’s out of a World War II movie such as Operation Burma or The Sands of Iwo Jima.. Brett Kavanaugh is a far cry from Errol Flynn or John Wayne. Now that I think of it, he carried on like Flynn and drank like the Duke. Party on, Brett.

Speaking of drinking, regular reader Carroll tweeted an article at me about Kavanaugh’s boozy, boozy ways.

In addition to the cool story, I can add Nando to my acronym collection. It sounds a bit like NANU NANU. I wonder what Mork would make of the cosmic clusterfuck that is the Kavanaugh confirmation process? It’s a real suspender snapper.

In other Kavanaughpalooza news, the Guardian takes a closer took at Kavanaugh’s relationship with the notorious Porn Judge, Alex Kozinski. Kozinski used to serve as a feeder judge to his mentor Anthony Kennedy until the Porn Judge deservedly fell prey to the #MeToo movement. Kavanaugh has denied any knowledge of Kozinski’s lewd and lascivious ways, which many, including Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, find hard to believe. Dahlia clerked on the 9th Circuit and was well-aware of what the Porn Judge was up to even though she did not work for him.

It’s time to bring this closer to home. My Bayou Brief publisher Lamar White Jr. wrote about the reaction of Gret Stet Senators Bill Cassidy and John Neely Kennedy to the Kavanaugh mess. Cue Groucho and the You Bet Your Life duck for the GOP’s magic word:

As far as I’m concerned, both solons are overcompensating for their Democratic pasts by being strident Kavanaugh supporters. My magic word is malakatude.

Finally, a tweet that popped up after the Ford-Kavanaugh hearing. Some dude noticed that Kav makes possum faces.

In Mark Judge’s book there was a character based on his prep school pal, so we’ve gone from Bart O’Kavanaugh to Brett Opossum.

It’s time for me to stop playing possum and give the last word to the greatest opossum in American history, Pogo:

Kenna Brah Malakatude Update

I’m sure none of you have forgotten Ben Zahn who was crowned malaka of the week on Monday. Zahn took what he thought was a heroic stand for the flag and against Nike and Colin Kaepernick. Yesterday, Zahn caved and took a knee after four days as a punchline and punching bag:

“Acting upon advice of the city attorney, I have rescinded my memorandum of Sept. 5,” he said. “That memorandum divided the city and placed Kenner in a false and unflattering light on the national stage.”

<SNIP>

“I looked at what I saw happening on a national level with Nike as a whole, and I stayed to my values on that,” he said in response to a question during his brief news conference late Wednesday afternoon.

But he said he never meant to be divisive.

“This was not meant to do anything like that,” he said. “This was meant … to protect our patriot values, our fire, our police and also our taxpayers.”

It’s a pity that Mayor Kenna Brah didn’t make any sense while caving, but what can you expect from a bush league Trump? The original model doesn’t make any sense either.

Zahn conveniently neglected to mention the likelihood of litigation by the Gret Stet ACLU but the allusion to the Kenna Brah city attorney meant they knew it was a LOSER. Defending unconstitutional acts in defense of your “patriot values” is an expensive proposition.

I am convinced that another reason Zahn caved was the widespread circulation of these images on social media:

H is for Hypocrisy.

 

Malaka Of Week: Ben Zahn

I’m convinced that the great sneaker war of 2018 is the stupidest development yet of the Trump era.  It’s led to the stupid “boycott” of Nike branded products and to egregious malakatude of the part of a suburban mayor in the New Orleans metro area. And that is why Ben Zahn is malaka of the week.

Ben Zahn, a florist by trade, is a longtime GOP politico in Jefferson Parish. He’s the latest in a long line of “distinguished” mayors of an undistinguished burg:

That may have been overly self-referential but what’s wrong with a bit of self-branding among friends? The current mayor of Kenna, Brah caused a shitstorm with a memo dated September 5th that hit social media this weekend. There are pictures of the damn thing all over the interweb, but they’re hard to read so here’s the full quote in all its idiotic glory:

Effective immediately, all purchases made by any booster club operating at any Kenner Recreation Facility for wearing apparel, shoes, athletic equipment, and/or any athletic product must be approved by the Director of Parks and Recreation, or his designee. Under no circumstances will any Nike product with the Nike logo be purchased for use or delivery at any City of Kenner Recreation Facility.

The booster clubs mentioned are private groups many of which help underprivileged kids. That’s the face of modern authoritarian conservatism: government telling private groups what products they can purchase and where they can wear them. I believe it’s called censorship. Additionally, this proclamation of malakatude was issued by a second-generation small business owner. So much for free enterprise.

I suppose it’s time to explain the Kenna, Brah meme. I wrote about it back in 2012 when his predecessor, sexting perv Mike Yenni, was outraged by this Dirty Coast t-shirt :

The sexting perv, who is now Jefferson Parish president, was also outraged that people pronounced and spelled Kenner, Kenna. It’s called a Yat accent, Mikey. You’ve been topped in Kenna, Brah malakatude by Ben Zahn.

Mayor Malaka has thus far declined comment, but there are already moves to roll back this rolling First Amendment violation as you can see from a tweet from a friend of mine:

Julie pronounces her name Zhulie in the French manner, which uniquely qualifies her to comment on the latest Kenner/Kenna controversy.

I doubt that Mayor Malaka’s order will stand for long. Except for hardcore racists and Trumpers, the local reaction has been scathing. Any legal defense is doomed because of some earlier Zahniac comments at the ironically named Kenner Freedom Fest:

“I’m going to ask y’all to stand for what’s about to happen. … Because this is not the NFL football players, right?” he said before the anthem was sung, eliciting cheers from the crowd. “This is the city of Kenner. In the city of Kenner we all stand. We’re going to be proud of that”

Holy content based censorship, Batman. Then there’s the matter of freedom of association and on and on and on.

Perhaps Zahn is so strident about the stupid sneaker war because he’s a white politician pandering to his base in a community that’s majority minority. According to the last census, Kenna, Brah has a population of 66,954 of whom 47.8% are white, 23.9% Black, and 22.9% Hispanic.  If the non-white majority votes in greater numbers in future elections, you’d be wise to watch your back Mayor Kenna, Brah.

Ben Zahn fancies himself a super-patriot. He’s really a bush league Donald Trump with his own set of impulse control issues. The good news is that this unilateral move appears to be blowing up in his face. And that is why Ben Zahn is malaka of the week.

 

The Bayou Brief Makes Landfall

My latest piece at The Bayou Brief is a review of Landfall by Greg Meffert. Meffert was former New Orleans Mayor C Ray Nagin’s fixer. Meffert flipped on Nagin and testified against him at his 2014 corruption trial.

What’s a fixer to do after he gets out of jail? Write his memoirs, of course. Meffert has bills to pay and scores to settle, after all.  Click here for the gory details.

Everybody Plays The Fool: My Senator Tweets

Gret Stet Senator John Neely Kennedy continues his tiresome fake idiot/cheapskate routine:

This is, of course, genuine political imbecility. This could cost the Republicans several GOP-held House seats in Virginia and Maryland. The RNC is already considering cutting Virginia’s Barbara Comstock, who objects to this move, loose. Thanks, Donald.

I wonder if Neely will quote George Wallace next and refer to federal employees as pointy-headed bureaucrats who can’t park their bicycles straight.

Neely remains a political mystery. He’s an intelligent, well-educated man who persists in acting like a village idiot. As the old soul song goes, everybody plays the fool:

 

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Calling

Tales from Topographic Oceans by Roger Dean.

Summer colds are the worst. I’ve been laid low by one. Achoo. My nose looks as if it belongs to Rudolph and I sound like Froggy in The Little Rascals. Shorter Adrastos: I’m going to keep this introduction concise lest writing it winds me. Hopefully, the rest of the post will make sense: I’m blogging hurt. Make that wheezy. Jeez, that sounds like an episode of The Jeffersons.

This week’s theme song is the stirring album opener from 1994’s Talk by Yes. Like many other fans, I call the Trevor Rabin-era band, Yes West. They moved their base of operation to Southern California in the 1980’s, and had a different sound than classic Yes; pop-prog as opposed to pure prog. Hence Yes West. The Calling was written by Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, and Chris Squire and it rocks like crazy.

We have two versions for your entertainment. First, a video featuring a goofy cosmic introduction by Jon Anderson. Second, a live version from the Talk tour that commences with an instrumental Perpetual Change.

While we’re on the subject of Yes, the featured image is Roger Dean’s cover of Tales from Topographic Oceans without the lettering.

Now that I’ve gone all art rocky on your asses, let’s jump to the break.

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Paul Manafort Meets Dollar Bill Jefferson

I’ve been reluctant to write anything about the Manafort trial because I expect him to cop a plea before it starts. Why? The evidence against him is overwhelming and a guy who worked for foreign dictators is not the most sympathetic defendant imaginable. Additionally, his wing man Gary Gates is the prosecution’s star witness. Hopefully, I’m wrong because the trial is bound to be entertaining and informative.

The pre-trial period has gotten me thinking about my former Congressman, Dollar Bill Jefferson. The main thing Dollar Bill and Paul Manafort have in common is the most eccentric judge on the federal bench, TS Ellis. I followed the Jefferson trial closely and enjoyed Ellis’ judicial antics. He walked up to the boundary of reversible error in that case but never quite crossed it. Judge Ellis hasn’t changed, he’s as quirky as ever. Rachel Maddow has had a great time reading the pre-trial transcripts aloud on her show, which is another reason I hope the trial proceeds. I’d hate to deny Rachel that pleasure.

Superficially, Manafort and Jefferson have little in common. One is an Italian-American Republican, the other an African-American Democrat. In addition to Judge Ellis, they have three things in common: intelligence, greed and, most fatally, hubris. Dollar Bill was, perhaps, the smartest man in Gret Stet politics but greed led him to overreach, which, in turn, landed him in prison. At least he never worked for a foreign dictator, which makes Manafort far worse. I have also come to the conclusion that Manafort was planted on Team Trump by the Russians. Dollar Bill betrayed his constituents, Paul Manafort betrayed his country.

In a piece I wrote for the Bayou Brief last December, I described Dollar Bill as follows:

In 2017, Dollar Bill is a living, breathing cautionary tale.

<snip>

Dollar Bill’s political legacy was swept away in a tide of graft, greed, and corruption. He got away with it for so many years that he thought he was bulletproof. He was not. It’s a shame because he could have been a great man instead of what he is: a convicted felon who was so disgraced that he lost his final race in 2008 to a Vietnamese-American Republican who had never before held a political office, Joseph Cao.

Dollar Bill went to trial, the same path Manafort is on today. He should be a cautionary tale for Manafort as well: he was convicted and Judge Ellis threw the book at him. Ouch.

Finally, since it’s First Draft’s annual fundraiser and the Manafort-Jefferson connection is fueled by money, I thought I’d let Dollar Bill do some tin cup rattling on our behalf:

Click here to see Athenae’s fundraising post and please give until it hurts. Thanks, y’all.

Tweet Of The Day: PBJ Meets Mariia Butina

I keep waiting for former Gret Stet Goober Bobby Jindal aka PBJ to re-surface as a member of the Trump administration. I believe he’s already grovelled his way out of trouble for calling the Insult Comedian names when PBJ was a presidential candidate. PBJ is an expert brown noser when need be. It’s part of his kiss up, kick down persona.

Thanks to Shannon Watts, PBJ is back in the news after the indictment of Russian agent/NRA fan girl Mariia Butina. FYI, I conferred with a Russian speaker of my acquaintance and was informed that Butina is a 2-i Maria. You’re not seeing double, it’s spelled Mariia. That reminds me of the fine Louisiana name Couvillion. There are two-i and one-i Couvillions. My main man Eddie was a two-i Couvillion. The ayes apparently have it.

Ms. Watts is a pro-gun control/anti-NRA activist with 245K twitter followers. This week she posted a series of pictures of the Russian redhead with well-known wingnuts including the man who sacrificed the Gret Stet’s economy on the altar of his futile national ambitions.

One of the ginger influence peddler’s specialities is posing for pictures with defeated GOP presidential candidates. Here’s one with former Senator Man Dog Sex:

Rick Santorum is still a colossal dick as well as a Russian dupe.

Here’s Doc’s buddy Scott Walker with the gun nut femme fatale:

Finally, it’s the Grand Vizier of gun nuttery’s turn in the Butina barrel.

I’d like to thank Shannon Watts for posting this treasure trove of tweets. Keep up the good work.

I suspect PBJ may even be grateful for the attention. Unlike, Mariia Butina, he can’t even get arrested.

On Our Own Now: Justice Kennedy Exits, Stage Right

I planned to write about the McConnell Court after the appalling decision in the Muslim ban case, which featured an off-hand reversal of the infamous Korematsu ruling. I hadn’t planned to write about Anthony Kennedy but then the news cycle went berserk and my plans changed.

Liberal twitter was on suicide watch after Kennedy’s announcement. There was fear in the virtual air. Kennedy *was* a swing vote on some issues that matter to liberals: abortion, guns, and gay rights. BUT he was also a conservative Reagan appointee who voted with right-wing justices in 13 out of 13 5-4 decisions this term.

The great Dahlia Lithwick wrote one of the best pieces about Kennedy’s exit, stage right:

It was always more fan fiction than reality that Justice Anthony Kennedy was a moderate centrist. Democrats liked to soothe themselves with the story that Kennedy was a moderate because he’d provided the fifth vote to support continued affirmative action, reproductive rights, and gay rights and had strung the left along with the tantalizing promise of someday finding an unconstitutional political gerrymander. But we always knew that Kennedy was a conservative, indeed a very conservative conservative. Recall that in the famous study done in 2008 by Richard Posner and William Landes, “Four of the five most conservative justices to serve on the Supreme Court since the time of Franklin Roosevelt, including [John] Roberts and [Samuel] Alito, are currently sitting on the bench today.” And Kennedy? He was ranked in that study as the 10th most conservative justice in the past century.

To the extent we wrote paeans to Kennedy, it was for his occasional defections in areas that materially affect the lives of millions of people—women, minorities, LGBTQ couples, voters, Guantanamo detainees. And to be sure, each of those votes was well worth it. But we knew that for each such vote, there was a Bush v. Gore, a Citizens United, a Shelby County.

Kennedy’s opinions this term reflected an exhaustion with the law and the court that shouldn’t surprise anyone. He’s 81 years old and ready to sit back and do whatever retired Supremes do. We should have never regarded him as a legal savior of sorts. We’re on our own now.

I am not optimistic about the chances of defeating Trump’s next nominee BUT it’s a battle well-worth waging. The filibuster was nuked for SCOTUS nominees during the Gorsuch confirmation process BUT the GOP majority is nominally 51-49 but actually 50-49 because of John McCain’s illness. I am not optimistic about rhetorically pro-choice Senators Collins and Murkowski voting NO since Republican moderates almost always cave. Jeff Flake has made noises about holding up judicial nominees until McConnell allows a vote on tariffs but it’s unclear if that would apply to Kennedy’s soon-to-be vacated seat. Besides, Flake has been all hat and no cattle in his opposition to the Orange menace. We’re on our own now.

Having said that, Senate Democrats owe their base a fierce fight over this nomination. The future of Roe v. Wade is at stake. Overruling that 45 year-old precedent will NOT automatically render abortion illegal nationally, BUT it would allow states to do so. I expect the Gret Stet of Louisiana to be one of the early entrants in the odious race to abolish abortion. Louisiana Republicans have been working over-time to make Democrat John Bel Edwards a one-term Governor and a Roe reversal would hand them a cudgel. Edwards is rhetorically  pro-life and, like Justice Kennedy, has supported restrictions. But Governor Edwards would have to deal with an enraged Democratic base if he signed a bill banning all abortions. I somehow doubt he views that prospect with anything but foreboding. He needs Gret Stet liberals if he is to be re-elected. It will be a major test of coalition politics here in my backyard. Stay tuned.

Kennedy’s exit-stage right-is a reminder to liberals that we should stop looking for saviors. There’s no deus ex machina that’s going to drop from the sky and save us from the Trumper horde. We have to do it ourselves at the ballot box. There remains an excellent chance to flip the House but control of the Senate is up in the air despite the GOP’s narrow margin. It’s a tough map for Democrats, which is why everyone needs to forget about 2020 and focus on state and congressional elections. We on our own now.

Like many, I had hoped that Anthony Kennedy’s personal qualities would make him loath to allow the loathsome Insult Comedian to appoint his successor. Kennedy is famous for using words like dignity and respect in his opinions. Ain’t nobody less dignified or more disrespectful than Donald Trump who has already made the Kennedy retirement about himself. Dahlia Lithwick, once again, summed up my feelings on this point:

Many of us predicted that Kennedy would not allow Trump to replace him with someone who would dismantle his legacy. We were wrong. Many of us believed that a lifelong devotee of dignity, civility, and the rule of law would not want his work tarnished by a president who routinely attacks individual judges and the very notion of an independent judiciary. We were wrong. That two of Anthony Kennedy’s last judicial acts included a letter that opened “My dear Mr. President” and a vote to grant that same president a virtual blank check on the national security front certainly suggests that nothing about a president who liesbullies, and destabilizes the rule of law was any kind of real impediment to Kennedy’s departure.

2018 is the most important off-year election in the history of the Republic. It’s a chance to check the wild excesses of the executive and legislative branches.  Organize and vote like your life depends on it.

We’re on our own now.

INSTANT UPDATE: In the least surprising development ever, Jeff Flake has announced that he won’t put a hold on a Supreme Court nominee.

We’re still on our own.

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Day I Get Home

Fantastic Landscape (Volcano Erupting) by David Alfaro Siquerios.

Our visit to Virginia was a quickie. One of the highlights came on the return trip when we met longtime First Draft readers Lex and Carroll Alexander for lunch. We rendezvoused at Stamey’s in Greensboro, NC and ate the food of their people: barbecue. The meal included perhaps the best peach cobbler I’ve ever had. A good time was had by all but I’m afraid Carroll and I did most of the talking. She has family roots in the Gret Stet of Louisiana and I was eager to untangle them. Nosy might be a better word, but it’s always fun to learn someone has Momus/Comus/Proteus old line krewe types in the family. You never know what happens when you give someone’s family tree a shake. All sorts of oddities are likely to fall out.

On a weird note, I got into a twitter slagging match last week with a Gret Stet legislator’s wife. My crime was criticizing her hubby’s voting record. She was not amused and he contacted me by DM. “Perfection” is a terrible burden and they don’t carry it well. #sarcasm. I wound up inviting them to a “block party” so the fight would end. I’m not sure why they think fighting with citizens is a good move but they do.  I’m not the first person to have this experience and won’t be the last. Weird, weird, weird.

This week’s theme song wedged itself in my head on our trip home. The title is a minor misnomer  as we got home last Sunday. The very Beatlesque The Day I Get Home was written by Difford and Tilbrook for 1991’s Play album. We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the original studio recording and a swell live performance.

Now that we’ve trekked home, it’s time to jump to the break without crash landing. Knock on wood or some such superstitious shit.

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You Say Jungle Primary, I Say Open Primary

There’s even a third alternative used to describe electoral systems such as California and the Gret Stet of Louisiana: top two. I prefer open but hate the system itself. It led to much advance agita about yesterday’s election in California. There is rare good news: Democrats were NOT locked out of any Congressional primaries. A collective sigh of relief was heaved, otherwise we might have hurled.

I admit that I was surprised when California adopted an open primary system via ballot initiative in 2011. No state should emulate Gret Stet politics but they did. At least the California lege can pass a budget, which ours cannot do as I pointed out on the tweeter tube:

The premise of the open/jungle/top two primary is that the role of political parties should be limited. It’s a deeply silly goo-goo notion. Repeat after me: You can’t take politics out of politics. It’s the system that gave Louisiana the run-off from hell in 1991: the Charming Crook versus the Kreepy Klansman. Mercifully, things turned out well yesterday despite this goofy system. The best way to check the Kaiser of Chaos is to retake the House and unleash the subpoena power. Then Scott Pruitt will really have to go to the mattresses.

The teevee punditocracy insist on calling the open/top two system the jungle primary. It has the virtue of being dramatic, it certainly beats the hell out of a *fourth* term of art: non-partisan blanket primary. I hate to be a wet blanket but that sounds like a dull and wonky slumber party.

Jungle primary is a meaningless term that must have been dreamt up by someone who watched too many Tarzan movies on teevee as a kid. I watched a few of those fakakta flicks on TCM recently and I cannot decide if they’re from hunger or campy fun. Tarzan even fights the Nazis in a couple of war-time entries. Tarzan good, Nazis bad.

The news from New Jersey was also pretty darn good. Democrats have an excellent chance to flip four seats held by the GOP. There’s even a rising star in the bunch:  former Navy pilot Mikie Sherrill who’s also a graduate of the Naval Academy.

It was a another good night for Democrats. Turn-out was good and the enthusiasm gap was visible; something the inside the beltway pundit class continues to have a hard time spotting. I think Nate Silver nailed it:

They’d rather beat the drums for jungle primaries. You say jungle primary, I say open primary. Let’s call the whole thing off.

What would I do without Ira Gershwin? Or Ella and Louis for that matter: