Category Archives: Hurricane Katrina & Federal Flood

Thank You. These Things Don’t End.

Today I’m sending $3,136 to the Houston Food Bank, that you all contributed in the past week. I can’t tell you what this will mean to the people there who’ll be dealing with this for decades: 

Low-income communities frequently sustain more damage in storms because they tend to be built on cheaper land that is often more flood-prone, said Shannon Van Zandt, an urban-planning scholar with Texas A&M University’s Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center, who spoke with me by phone recently. It can also be harder for poorer people — who may not have cars, may be more afraid to leave their possessions and jobs, may not speak English or may fear immigration authorities — to evacuate before disasters.

These things have a long tail. There will be people who will be lost from the storm, long after the storm is over. Years after.

A.

Old Tweets Never Die

There’s a  hurricane themed tweet from February making the rounds on the tweeter tube right now. I have no idea if the twit who tweeted it is a troll but it’s some crazy shit:

Where to start? Michelle Obama wasn’t FLOTUS in September, 2005 so it doesn’t matter if she went shopping. Besides, that’s a picture of then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They should be frying Rice instead of Michelle. I don’t give a rat’s ass if Condi went shopping right after Katrina. Correct me if I’m wrong but there appears to be an iPhone in the picture. The first generation iPhone wasn’t released until June, 2007. Oops.

I didn’t bother to investigate the Rice photo because it’s more fun to pile on to Bikergirl4Trump whoever the hell she?he/it is. My hunch is that it’s a Team Trump troll because the account wasn’t created until March, 2016. Neither subtlety nor accuracy is important in Trumper troll world.

Old tweets never die but I wish they would fade away.

Then & Now: Katrina & Harvey

People who know me well, know that I don’t care for poetry. One exception to this rather malleable rule is TS Eliot. I’ve been thinking of The Wasteland the last few days while watching events in Houston unfold. Eliot wrote “April is the cruelest month.” August is the cruelest month in the Gulf South.

I put it less elegantly but more succinctly on FB:

I’ve been pondering some of the differences between my storm, Katrina and Hurricane Harvey. (For the pedants out there, I’m lumping the federal flood  in with Katrina.) There weren’t a plethora of social media outlets in 2005. We had to rely on message boards, emails, phone calls,and smoke signals to get the message out.  Eventually, we got in touch with a guy in our neighborhood who told us that our house hadn’t flooded but that our neighbor’s tree was leaning on it. It turned out not to be a big deal. The tree was too weak to total the back of Adrastos World HQ. So it goes.

In 2017, social media is, on balance, a plus. I already know how my friends in Houston, Galveston, and Corpus Christi fared during the storm. They’ve been lucky so far. So far. If their luck holds, they’ll have to deal with the survivor’s guilt I’ve had since Katrina. It beats the hell out of being homeless or drowning.

Social media, however, is a double-edged sword. There are Trumpers informing us that the Kaiser of Chaos is doing a better job with Harvey than Obama did with Katrina. No fucking comment. Then there are some wayward lefties who remain convinced that red state residents are less worthy than those in blue states. This is, of course, rubbish as our old friend Jude pointed out on da twittahs:

There are also some folks who think that the “Cajun Navy” is a para-military group bent on mayhem and other assorted bad deeds. Why? Many of those guys voted for Trump and have some retrograde views. I don’t know about you but if somebody saves me from drowning, I’m not asking who they voted for. I had a surreal argument about whether members of the original Cajun Navy shot and killed people after Katrina. There’s no evidence that they shot anyone. I was asked to prove a negative: that they did not do so. I declined the invitation.  I guess this person would have been opposed to the demon private boats that did most of the evacuating at Dunkirk.

In fact, the Cajun Navy group that set off those people has been repudiated by other “units.” They claimed to have been robbed and were unmasked as scamsters. I told you so. I love saying that, y’all. The people I argued with still don’t get it. Schmucks.

Here’s the deal: help can come from the unlikeliest sources. People with crappy politics can help people too. We never had these arguments before 2005 and it’s outrageous how many people to my left sound like Republicans circa 2005. I’ll let it go now but first something from my friend Troy Gilbert who was part of the *original* Cajun Navy:

Anyone who thinks that’s sinister should put down the smart phone and take a break from social media. In a perfect world, it would be best for federal, state, and local authorities to take care of all relief and rescue operations. We don’t live in such a world and it’s getting more imperfect all the time. I guess I didn’t let it go. I will now.

One thing Harvey survivors will have to get used to is telling their hurricane story over and over again. Dr. A and I have done it many times over the years and it gets old but it’s usually asked out of curiosity and empathy. It’s what happens when you’re a part of a historic event. Anyway, prepare to expound, y’all. You might be able to get some free meals out of it if you play your cards right. My old friends Maitri and Domingo may have to charge double. They’re Katrina *and* Harvey survivors. Sadly, they’re not alone in this.

I bitched about twitter earlier. It’s only fair to share something positive even if it’s self-serving. It’s from a complete stranger:

I expect I’ll have more to say about Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. I wanted to keep this personal so I skipped discussing the Insult Comedian’s embarrassing Texas sojourn. I think there’s a Your President* Speaks post in my future.

Last word time. This has been my personal theme song for the last few days:

It’s The Water, Not The Wind

There’s a cookie-cutter aspect to teevee Hurricane coverage. They’re fixated on what category a storm is. It’s human nature to grab on to something tangible (in this case, a number) when confronting something inherently irrational such as a major storm system. Most of the damage Harvey has done has been *after* its category was reduced; it’s a tropical storm as of this writing. The wind is scary and produces spectacular pictures but it’s the water that does most of the damage.

Everyone who lived through Katrina and the subsequent federal flood is experiencing PTSD right now, especially since the 12th anniversary is a mere 2 days away. The images coming out of Houston are heartbreaking and depressingly familiar to those of us from the New Orleans metro area. We’re also hearing some of the same criticisms of those who live in Houston and elsewhere on the Texas Gulf Coast. Houston tried mandatory evacuations in 2005 and 2008. They were clusterfucks. What was called for this time around was an evacuation of low-lying and flood-prone areas. It would have had to start as early as Monday or Tuesday. It’s very hard to get people to do that. Additionally, many low-income people cannot afford the cost of evacuating for that long. There’s no easy or good way to handle a system as wet and dangerous as Harvey. Nature is always more powerful than human beings.

We’re seeing some tut-tutting on social media about the hypocrisy of Texas Senators Cruz and Cornyn right now. Let’s stipulate that they’re hypocrites and assholes. They’ve both been malaka of the week and I call them by nasty names: Senator Cornhole and Tailgunner Ted. That’s irrelevant. People are suffering and need help. It doesn’t matter who represents them or whether it’s a blue or red state. People on the left shouldn’t sound like right-wingers circa 2005. I firmly believe that you become what you hate. It reminds me of a line from Justified wherein Raylan Givens said: “If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole.” Don’t be that asshole.

Finally, the fact that this deluge is happening in Houston makes it doubly horrible. The people of Houston opened their hearts to people fleeing the floodwaters in Southeast Louisiana in 2005. Some of those Louisianians never left Houston and now many of them have experienced flooding again, It’s called a double whammy and it’s never been crueler than it is right now.

We’re trying to figure out how First Draft can help the people of Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast. We’ll have an announcement sometime in the next few days. Ain’t nobody getting into Harvey zone until the rain relents. It’s the water, not the wind.

The last word goes to Houston native Rodney Crowell with his hurricane song, Telephone Road:

 

 

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: I Can’t Stand The Rain

Landscape in the Rain by Vincent Van Gogh.

It was the week from hell in New Orleans. There turned out to be much more human error involved in the flood I wrote about Monday. It has led to an orgy of recrimination and paranoia. The bottom line is that the city’s pumping system is in poor shape at the peak of hurricane season. It makes me glad to live in the so-called sliver by the river but it still bites the big one.

Mayor Landrieu has been re-enacting my Russell Long meme:

Comparisons to Katrina and the Federal Flood remain overwrought but things should not have gotten as bad as they did. It was also my birthday and in the future the August 5th flash flood will join the list of local flood dates. Heckuva job, Mitch. Btw, your fantasies of a presidential bid are underwater, both literally and figuratively.

This week’s theme song was an easy choice since I live in a city with marginally functional drainage as of this writing. I Can’t Stand The Rain was written by Ann Peebles, Don Bryant, and Bernie Miller. It was a big hit in 1973 and could be the theme song not only of this post but of the city of New Orleans in the summer of 2017. Heckuva job, Mitch.

Here are two versions of this superb song: the Ann Peebles original and a live version from the great Paul Rodgers. Rodgers recorded the song in Memphis for his Royal Sessions album. It was one of my birthday albums. It’s a good ‘un.

I’m feeling terse and not particularly funny as I write this on Friday morning. I’ve been on the receiving end of some extraordinarily bad customer service this week and I’m still fuming as you can see from this tweet:

The post was already assembled so I’ll play hurt as it were. We’ll see how that works out after the break. At least I’m not concussed…

Continue reading

Survivor’s Guilt Flashback

We had another weather event last Saturday. Parts of New Orleans got 8+ inches of rain in three hours. The rain was random and much worse in parts of the city leading to some flooding in the affected areas. Adrastos World HQ got 2 inches that day so we were fine.

Some of the post-rain incident discussion has danced on my last nerve. It’s not analogous to Katina/Federal Flood in that it didn’t impact 80% of the city and nobody died. It’s also less clear as of this writing that human error was a major factor as it was in 2005.  The human factor may have caused some problems around the edges but that sort of deluge is going to wreak havoc no matter how well prepared we are. Sometimes shit just happens. This was one of my initial reactions on social media:

There was much lively debate and disagreement on the thread but I remain convinced that we have to learn how to live with water in New Orleans as the Dutch have. We need cleaner catch basins and better infrastructure but severe weather is going to happen, particularly in the age of climate change. This was a random freak event and there will be more to come.

This is not the first non-hurricane/levee break style flood the city has had. It won’t be the last. One of my FB commenters, Carlos Froggy May, posted this list on the thread:

Summarizing between May ’78 and the 2005 Federal Flood, leaving out hurricanes/major tropical storms, New Orleans floods from rain alone include:

May 1978. Well documented.

Feb 1979. “Hundreds of Area Homes Flooded. New Orleans Times-Picayune, 7 February 1979 I”

April 1980. A few references.

April 1983. Major event. National media reporting.

June 1991. National media, though only sparse traces online. “The deluge, which started during the evening rush hour Monday, caught New Orleans by surprise. The downpour abated overnight, then resumed Tuesday morning.” “To have it flood two separate times in 24 hours is just unheard of,” said Rob Spangenberg, who measured 16 inches of water on the ground floor of his house.”

May 1995. Major event, very well documented online.

September 1998. Described.

June 2005. Seems largely forgotten given what happened a few months later. What have I missed?

Any time someone insists that people can triumph over nature, I think of a passage in one of Tony Hillerman’s Joe Leaphorn novels. Leaphorn is a detective on the Navajo tribal police in Arizona. I wish I could quote it directly but it involves Leaphorn marveling at white people planting lawns in the desert and being shocked when they die every time they’re planted. Hillerman’s point is that you have to learn to live with your environment. You can sand down the rough edges and minimize damage but nature will win in the end. Some may think this is fatalistic but I think it’s realistic. Can they abolish earthquakes in my native California?

It’s time to address the post title. Every time something like this happens, my post-K/Federal Flood survivor’s guilt kicks in. 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.

This was a terrible event but all the people acting as if it’s 2005 all over again need to take a deep breath followed by a chill  pill. Nobody died, only pockets of the city flooded, and nobody was forced out of their homes at gun point. I had some advice on twitter for local voters in the upcoming mayoral election:

Perspective not drama is called for. We should fix anything that contributed to the recent flooding but we cannot abolish nature even if there were times we wish that was possible. It is not.

That was exhausting. Any time I dredge up these memories, I feel rotten until the feeling passes a few hours later.

Finally, one of my theories in life is that there’s a Kinks song for every occasion. We’ll give the Davies brothers the last word:

Jared Kushner: Renaissance Man?

See Jared Ski. Ski, Jared, Ski.

Trump’s son-in-law is everywhere. Jared Kushner missed the Trumpcare meltdown because he was skiing at that well-known populist resort town, Aspen. He’s being called before the Senate Intelligence Committee to testify about his meetings with the Russians. He still has a greasy finger in the foreign policy/national security pie. And today we’ve learned he’ll be in charge of deforming the Federal bureaucracy even though he never worked in government before 2017:

Kushner will report directly to Trump and will staff the office with former business leaders, according to the Washington Post. The office will work with business executives like Apple’s Tim Cook and Micrsoft’s Bill Gates, per the Post.

“We should have excellence in government,” Kushner told the Post on Sunday. “The government should be run like a great American company. Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens.”

So much for the president* as a different kind of Republican. This is GOP boilerplate. The problem is that government is nothing like business and cannot be run as such. The purpose of business is to make money and show a profit. That’s particularly true for privately held outfits like the Trump and Kushner family businesses. They have no accountability to shareholders or anyone else. Now that I think of it, Trump’s White House is run like his company only they’re LOSING, not winning as promised.

The whole “run guvmint like a bidness” meme reminds me of a certain former New Orleans Mayor who is currently serving a 10-year stretch in Club Fed. Like Trump, C Ray Nagin promised to run City Hall like a business. The result was comic ineptitude in his first term and a series of second term scandals that led to what Meshach Taylor’s character on Designing Women called his “unfortunate incarceration.”

Nagin’s downfall was caused by his propensity to shake down people  to use his son’s business, the hilariously named Stone Age Quarry. Nepotism has always been a thing in New Orleans. It certainly is with the Trumps and Kushners as well. Nagin at least had the sense-I cannot believe I used that word in a sentence with C Ray’s name-to hide his filial malefactions. The Trumps do it in broad daylight as the president’s* frequent forays to Trump branded golf courses and hotels indicates. They’re not only above the law, they think they *are* the law. Hubris is not only an unattractive quality, it usually ends up biting one in the ass.

Back to young Jared’s new role as the White House’s point man on guvmint innovation and “reform.” It’s usually wise to appoint someone who has worked in the Federal bureaucracy to change it. Jerry Brown’s 1992 Presidential effort was based on the idea that only a reformed fund-raising sinner could change the way campaigns were financed. It didn’t turn out that way but it was a pretty good argument.

More famously, when FDR appointed Joe Kennedy head of the newly formed SEC, he was accused of putting a fox in charge of the hen-house. FDR’s reply was that only a fox knew where the bodies were buried. He didn’t exactly say that but it’s the whole “it takes a thief to catch a thief” thing writ large. Just ask Cary Grant or Robert Wagner

The Trumpers have already planted hundreds of political spies/commissars at departments and agencies. In some cases, the appointees have been even less qualified than Jared including a recent high school graduate. I am not making this up. It’s another example of the almost breathtaking ineptitude of these bozos. They remind me of the title of a book by the late, great Jimmy Breslin: The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

I used the word commissars because those were the loyal communists the Soviets appointed to supervise all arms of government including the military. As far as we know, the Trumpers haven’t tried that trick. Yet. That brings me to a fascinating NYT article by Anne O’Donnell about a strike by Russian civil servants against the Bolsheviks in 1917. The employees resisted the new government and even though they lost, it’s still a fascinating chapter in history. I don’t think of Jared as the next Trotsky or Bannon as the next Lenin but they can dream.

I wonder if the Insult Comedian is inspired by the second Red Scare attack on government employees by Senator Joe McCarthy and Trump’s mentor Roy Cohn. There’s that name again. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Oy, such a mentor.

I suspect that this attempt to run guvmint like a bidness will end up on the ash-heap of history alongside other failed Trump ventures. I hope that Bill Gates and Tim Cook will reconsider co-operating with the Kushner initiative. The Apple honcho should know by now that working with the Trump White House is bad for business. Of course, it wouldn’t surprise me if that part of the story turned out to be another snow job.

I have a suggestion for Team Trump. The Insult Comedian could pardon C Ray and put him to work on this misbegotten effort to run guvmint like a bidness. Nagin may not have been a Trump-level asshole but he has one thing in common with the Trumpers: INCOMPETENCE.

Bannon’s B3 Brownshirts & The Chaos Principle

It’s official: Donald Trump had the worst first week of any President* in American history. It was so bad that I debated with a friend as to whether he was already the worst ever. I still think it’s too early to tell since Buchanan and W are responsible for wars and economic calamity. Trump hasn’t passed Andrew Johnson either BUT he’s building a strong case for worst ever and he’s only been at it for 10 days. I don’t think our cause benefits from hyperbole and overstatement. You can only fight lies with the truth and delusion with reality.

I admitted the other day to knowing very little about higher maths. I have, however, heard of the Chaos Principle:

Chaos is the science of surprises, of the nonlinear and the unpredictable. It teaches us to expect the unexpected. While most traditional science deals with supposedly predictable phenomena like gravity, electricity, or chemical reactions, Chaos Theory deals with nonlinear things that are effectively impossible to predict or control, like turbulence, weather, the stock market, our brain states, and so on.

It looks like Steve Bannon and his B3 Brownshirts are inspired by the Chaos Principle, at least by analogy. Team Trump is trying to inject so much chaos and confusion into our polity that repression will be required to maintain order. I seriously doubt if the Insult Comedian himself has such a plan: all he ever does is wing it without thought to the implications. Bannon, however, has emerged as first among equals in the West Wing. He’s capable of complex, devious, and downright evil thought. Bannon has Trump’s ear and the Dear Leader Wannabe seems to agree with the last person he spoke to.

In short, Bannon and his fellow white nationalists want to create the circumstances in which a right-wing revolution is possible. Those circumstances do not currently exist. Bitching about the government is as American as apple pie, it doesn’t amount to instant homegrown fascism. That is definitely a long-term threat but we have the mechanisms to stop it: people power and lawyers, lawyers, lawyers. Political courage on the part of elected officials seems to be in short supply but the longer this constitutional crisis lasts the bolder they will become. Talk of collaboration with the Trumpers has become much less common since they came to power.

The good news is that Team Trump’s Muslim ban was issued without co-ordination with the agencies obliged to enforce it and they didn’t even run it by their own lawyers. That makes it eminently susceptible to legal challenge. It was, apparently, pulled out of Rudy Noun Verb 9/11’s ass:

I’ll tell you the whole history of it. So when he first announced it he said, “Muslim ban.” He called me up and said, “Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.” I put a commission together with Judge Mukasey, with Congressman McCaul, Pete King, a whole group of other very expert lawyers on this. And what we did was we focused on, instead of religion, danger. The areas of the world that create danger for us. Which is a factual basis. Not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible, and that’s what the ban is based on. It’s not based on religion. It’s based on places where there are substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.

That is, of course, nonsense. The order discriminates against people because of their religion, and all the lies in the world won’t change that. The fact that an exception was made for Christians from the affected countries is proof of discriminatory intent as is Giuliani’s need to brag about his role in the ban. He’s really turning into his master. Giuliani’s success in masterminding the Comey coup has gone to his head, and he was already a raging egomaniac. This is terrific evidence for the legal eagles to pounce on. Thanks, Rudy. I can imagine Justice Anthony Kennedy’s head spinning as I write this. I am as likely to vote Republican as he is to uphold this executive order if it reaches SCOTUS.

This policy is based on Islamophobic fantasies, not reality. That’s a recurring theme for Team Trump’s Bannon wing. In addition to the Chaos Principle, they believe in what one might call the Goebbels corollary: the bigger the lie, the more believable it is. This is propaganda, not spin. The MSM is finally showing signs of coming to grips with that. It’s a pity that they didn’t do so during the late campaign. The MSM and the “Clinton is just as bad as Trump” crowd bear a lot of responsibility for the mess we find ourselves in. I hope the Steiners and Busters enjoyed the events of this weekend. They have a share of the blame. I may “Nazi punch” the next purity troll who tells me their vote didn’t matter because they were in a red state or some other lame excuse. Every vote in every election matters.

The Trumpers have clearly overreached. The order placing Steve Bannon on the National Security Council is the best example I can think of. That body has been moribund for many years BUT excluding the Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sends a dangerous signal that Steve Bannon is running the show. It doesn’t get much worse than that but the order’s impact is symbolic for now. For now. That’s always the rub with this crowd.

One thing I’ve noticed about Bannon and his B3 Brownshirts is that they admire Soviet-style tactics. They’ve done some things that Stalin would have applauded such as placing what amounts to “political commissars” at cabinet departments and agencies. This sort of convergence of the far left and extreme right doesn’t surprise me at all.  This creeping Sovietism/Putinism is also reflected by their Holocaust remembrance day proclamation. It’s the first time an American administration has referred to the Holocaust without mentioning Jews. They’re pandering to the Holocaust denialists and minimizers. What’s next? An invitation for Davids Irving and Duke to visit the White House? Nothing would surprise me in the Chaos Principle era.

The one piece of advice I have for the nascent anti-Trump movement is to pace yourselves. The world is a complicated place and it cannot be changed in a day. This is going to be a long, hard slog and burn-out is a risk. Make sure to do whatever it is you do for fun It’s a lesson that New Orleanians learned during the post-Katrina/Federal Flood era. We were widely criticized for having Carnival in 2006. We knew better. It was necessary for our collective mental health. We continued rebuilding and pressuring the local, state, federal government for assistance but we took time out to enjoy life. It’s something that we can teach the rest of the country. There *is* a constitutional crisis now but stopping it won’t be helped by freaking out. Instead of freaking out: become better informed about American political history, and organize, organize, organize.

Vive les Maquis.

Confessions Of A Keyboard Maquis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 casablanca-ending-meme

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

Saturday Odds & Sods: Showdown

Picasso Three Musicians

Three Musicians by Pablo Picasso, 1921

It’s been another “hot even for New Orleans” week. It was the second warmest August in recorded history; at least we weren’t number one. We dodged the Hermine bullet but apparently not everyone understands the gravity of even a lesser tropical system:

Florida is also where this charming chap resides:

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Holy Florida Man, Batman.

If you’re ever in Fort Lauderdale, you might want to give him a holla. I think the exclamation point was over the top but that’s just me. He looks like he mixed cigarettes, meth and Vodka. Ouch.

The college football season starts this weekend. My LSU Tigers are playing the Wisconsin Badgers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay later today. It should provide some diversion for all the flooded Tiger fans in South Louisiana. There’s even a comedic sub-plot: some LSU players are threatening to do the “Lambeau leap” after scoring. Les Miles has vetoed the idea and warned his players that they’ll be hitchhiking home if they try it. I’m seriously bummed about this. I was hoping Les would take the leap after our first score. Guess he’s channeling his inner Bo Schembechler this season. I prefer Goofy Les to Serious Les.

This week’s theme song selection started off simply but grew like bamboo. One of my earworms this week has been ELO’s hit song, Showdown. Just for the hell of it, I did a search on allmusic.com and learned that there are oodles of tunes with the same title.

I picked two Showdowns of a similar vintage to the ELO smash hit: one by the New York Dolls and the other by the Isley Brothers. Who among us does not love the flying fingers of Ernie Isley as well as his nifty headband?

Like the Isley Brothers’ Showdown, the Saturday post typically has two parts. We’ll part for the break and then resume the festivities such as they are.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: Here Comes The Flood

NOAA info via the Advocate.

It’s been an exhausting few weeks in the Gret Stet of Louisiana. Everyone I’ve heard from in the flood zone is okay but thousands of people are not. I’m proud that many of my friends are helping. We take care of our own here in Louisiana but we need all the help we can get. If you haven’t already done so please click on this link to see a few ways you can help. Your reward is a musical interlude from the Boss:

Springsteen mentions New Orleans in the song. Here’s how our brothers and sisters in Acadiana would put it: On prend soin des nôtres.

As you can see from the featured image,  a phenomenal amount of rain was dumped on the flood zone in a short period of time. Making matters worse, it sat there for days on end; longer than the chart indicates. This storm has been described as “like a hurricane in infancy” by the Gret Stet’s climatologist. It was an angry and bitter infant that left vast destruction in its path. It will take years for people to recover from the flood. The good news there are only 13 reported fatalities thus far BUT there will be deaths from natural causes related to the flood. Elderly people dropped like flies in post-K New Orleans. Let’s hope it’s not as bad this time around.

This week’s theme song is something of a no-brainer, which is a good thing since it’s so hot that one could fry an egg on top of my head if I were insane enough to spend an extended period outside. Here Comes The Flood debuted on Peter Gabriel’s first album after leaving Genesis. We have three versions: the original, a live solo rendition, and a version recorded with Robert Fripp in 2006. Btw, the King Crimson leader played on the first PG album and toured with him. I saw the Winterland show and Fripp sat on a stool in the shadows the entire time. Guitar heroes are rarely that shy.

This week’s edition is about keeping it snappy. Saying that makes me feel like I should don a zoot suit and snap some suspenders. Shorter Adrastos, we’re dispensing with the break and links to long-form articles.

and-now-for-something-completely-different-1

We begin with two pieces by Baton Rouge residents, one white, one black. They’re united in believing that the racial tensions that exploded before the Gret Stet flood of 2016 must be addressed:

Will The Great Flood Sink Baton Rouge Or Inspire Its Rebirth? by Robert Mann.

The Flood Brings Us Together. Let’s Not Forget The Divides by Raymond Jetson.

The Insult Comedian Cometh: Donald Trump and his Hoosier stooge Mike Liar Liar Pence On Fire staged a photo-op in Baton Rouge Friday. The Governor urged them to stay away unless they planned to volunteer or donate but Trump knows bestYou gotta love John Bel Edwards, y’all. When Bobby Jindal was Governor, every crisis was about him, he lived for photo-ops. John Bel just wants to get shit done.

Trump has a rather checkered history with the Gret Stet of Louisiana. He made a big deal out of building Trump Tower, New Orleans to help the post-K recovery. I reminded him of this on Twitter:

The location of the never built “tower” is downtown at the corner of Poydras and Camp Streets. As an old friend and post-K blogger comrade in arms pointed out:

Now that we’ve mocked Donald Trump’s malakatude for the gazillionth time, let’s pay some nice people a virtual visit.

Video Clip Of The Week: I mentioned Gret Stet Governor John Bel Edwards’ appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show in an update to my Heckuva Job, Advocate post. Here it is:

Since they’re still “trying to wash us away,”let’s move on to an album that has one of the greatest songs ever written about the Gret Stet of Louisiana.

Saturday Classic:  The album is Good Old Boys by Randy Newman. The song is, of course, Louisiana 1927. There are two other Louisiana-centric tunes on the record: Kingfish and a cover of Huey Long’s theme song, Every Man A King.

It’s one of my all-time favorite albums; featuring the daring satire of Rednecks who still “don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground,” since they’re voting for Trump. The record packs quite a wallop some 42 years later.

That’s it for this week. Hopefully, it will dry out in Red Stick and elsewhere in South Louisiana fairly soon. If only the hot air emanating from Trump’s mouth could expedite matters. Speaking of Insult Comedians, our closing meme features one of the greatest  ever,  Jack E. Leonard:

Jack E meme

Heckuva Job, Advocate

The “we’re all in this together” spirit still permeates South Louisiana BUT there are a few cracks in the wall of solidarity. Is that a thing? I hope not but I just said it. I’ve been hearing some muttering on social media from people who neither like President Obama nor wish him well. I had a few choice words about this on ye olde tweeter tube yesterday:

There’s also been some grumbling about national press coverage of the Gret Stet Flood of 2016. I, too, would like to see more BUT in 2005, we got wall-to-wall cable, network, and print coverage and it didn’t make a difference. The most important thing is the flow of money and help. In 2005, FEMA was run by  Heckuva Job Brownie who was the third disaster to strike the Gulf Coast. In 2016, it’s run by Craig Fugate and has not been subjected to the sort of criticism it received during the Bush Administration. In short, FEMA has been fixed. It’s now a professional organization like it was during the first Clinton administration. It’s what happens when a President who believes in government is in office.

Today the most banal criticism of all reared its damn fool head in an editorial in the Advocate demanding a Presidential visit:

Last week, as torrential rains brought death, destruction and misery to Louisiana, the president continued his vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, a playground for the posh and well-connected.

We’ve seen this story before in Louisiana, and we don’t deserve a sequel. In 2005, a fly-over by a vacationing President George W. Bush became a symbol of official neglect for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The current president was among those making political hay out of Bush’s aloofness.

Sometimes, presidential visits can get in the way of emergency response, doing more harm than good. But we don’t see that as a factor now that flood waters are subsiding, even if at an agonizing pace. It’s past time for the president to pay a personal visit, showing his solidarity with suffering Americans.

That’s still the case. Presidential visits complicate *everything* and interfere with relief efforts. If the Advocate editorial board deigned to read their own reporting, they would know that emergency response efforts are ongoing. This is all about an ultra conservative Obama hating editor seeing a chance to take a shot at him. The prime suspect is former Picayune and current Advocate editor Peter Kovacs who went on CNN to toot his own horn. On the behalf of Peters everywhere, I’d like to apologize for his malakatude.

The problem in 2005 was not insufficient Presidential visitation, it was the way the Bush administration played games with disaster relief. They did not want to take the blame for levee failures so they scapegoated then Gret Stet Governor Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat. Karl Rove spearheaded that successful smear campaign, which helped to make Blanco a one-term Governor. That, in turn, made Congressional Republicans balk over disaster relief for Louisiana. The tone set by Bush and his minions was the problem. None of that is happening in 2016. The Feds are just getting revved up and I’m sure President Obama will visit when things settle down in the flood zone. That is not the case as I write this even if the Advocate editorial board thinks so. They’re flat-out wrong.

This is just speculation but there’s also the possibility that Governor John Bel Edwards does not want POTUS here at this point in time. He’s a Democrat who has maintained a polite political distance from President Obama. It’s partially up to him if and when the President visits the disaster zone. A trip at this point would be purely symbolic and symbolism is cheap; what matters is results. The jury is still out but it’s bound to be better than 2005.

The Advocate should be ashamed of itself for printing this editorial. We’re facing a different disaster with a different set of facts from 2005. The feds *caused* much of the damage in 2005, that is not the case in 2016. There’s another difference: the Bush administration did not take disaster relief or the role of government in it seriously. The Obama administration does.

Here’s the deal. The Advocate’s news reporters are doing great work covering the flood. It’s a pity that the editorial page chose to play games with disaster relief. Shame on Mr. Kovacs and whoever else worked on or approved the editorial. Disasters are non-political events and the response to them should be too.

Heckuva job, Advocate.

8/19 UPDATE: Governor John Bel Edwards was interviewed by Rachel Maddow last night. Here’s what he had to say about a Presidential visit at this point in time:

“It is a major ordeal, they free up the interstate for him,” Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Thursday. “We have to take hundreds of local first responders, police officers, sheriffs, deputies and state troopers to provide security for that type of visit.”

“I would just as soon have those people engaged in the response rather than trying to secure the president,” Bel Edwards continued. “So I’d ask him to wait, if he would, another couple weeks.”

Repeat after me: Heckuva job, Advocate.

High Water Blues

I sat down at my desk thinking I’d write something about Trump’s ridiculous “extreme vetting” proposal. It gave the MSM a boner and delusions of the pivot they’re convinced will come. Then I saw this picture of flooding on the LSU campus:

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Photograph via AP.

It’s hard to see one’s alma mater flooded. It’s apparently not too bad, but it’s a symbol of what a tough few days it’s been in South Louisiana. Anyone who lived in New Orleans in August, 2005 is having flashbacks right now. I certainly am.

The whole thing has given me a mild case of PTSD. The picture reminded me of the time I lost my shit in a hospital in Dallas in September, 2005. My cousin’s wife had just had a baby and I learned of the suicide of a cop friend from the teevee in the room. I lost my shit, religion whatever you want to call it. I’m perhaps the least emotional Greek you’ll ever meet but I wept bitter tears that day. My cousin swept me up and out to lunch. I regained my composure but I’ll never forget learning of Paul’s death on the teevee. It’s not how ordinary people are supposed to learn of the passing of a friend; not a close friend but we were all one then. The people in the flood zone need to have the same feeling about one another. That’s the best way to pull through and survive this disaster.

The flooding has triggered memories of Dr. A and my friend Michel who was dying of cancer when the storm hit and ended up in Dallas:

After a week in Shreveport, we moved to my cousin’s house near Dallas. Dr. A kept trying to get Michel; one day she got an answer. It was the first time she’d gotten through to anyone from home on their cell phone. It turned out to be a bittersweet moment. The phone was answered by Michel’s girlfriend, Georgeanne. She, too, was in Dallas at a relative’s house. Michel’s mother Miss Evelyn, who is in her mid-Seventies but looks twenty years younger, was with her. We learned that Michel was still alive but fading fast. He’d landed in an hospice in North Dallas.

We fought the crosstown Dallas traffic and found the hospice. Dr. A was relieved to see that it was a clean and well-maintained facility. We had to do some fast talking to find Michel’s room. It was made trickier by the fact that his real first name was Michael. We told them that he had been evacuated from New Orleans and had lung cancer. One of the staff said: “Oh, you must mean that incredibly nice black fellow who came in a few days ago.” When we got to his room, we found Michel dead. He was still warm. We had just missed him.

That’s happening to people in other parts of South Louisiana as I write this. It’s the disruption and chaos of a catastrophe. It’s hard to say how bad the Gret Stet flood of 2016 will be. It doesn’t matter: nature has tossed South Louisiana in the air like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s up to the people in the flood zone to pick up the pieces. Louisiana is full of people with great virtues and outsized flaws. One of our virtues is that we’re tough and know how to recover from the High Water Blues. Repeat after me: there’s a Jayhawks song for every occasion:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey

Monkeyland

Sideshow banner by Fred G. Johnson

As much as I love Carnival, I’m always glad when it’s over. We live inside the parade box, which means we have to be cognizant of what’s going on even when the parade sucks. In short, we cannot monkey around even if it *is* the year of the monkey.

Chinese New Year was February, 8th this year, which was Lundi Gras in New Orleans. My father had many Chinese friends and business associates, which made him honorary Chinese as far as they were concerned. Dr. A’s best friend is Chinese so she has the same status. Me, I’m just a guy who loves Chinese cuisine and has never been involved in anything that remotely resembles the title of this song:

That obviously was not this week’s theme song. It was just more monkeyshines on my part. I suspect you’re used to that by now, especially on Saturdays.

This week’s theme song comes from one of my favorite records of all-time, the White Album. I was obsessed with it when I was a tadpole and Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey is one of my favorite tracks. It beats the hell out of Revolution #9, which is also a Lennon-centric track but Monkey works. Hmm, I wonder if the monkey in question is a capuchin helper monkey?

Since we ‘re talking monkey tunes, this early Boz Scaggs song was the runner-up as title song. It’s  got a good beat, you can dance to it, but the title isn’t as good even if it’s more concise:

Now that I’ve made the odd monkey joke and posted the odd monkey tune, it’s time to get on with it and brachiate to our next segment. That’s a fancy way of saying see you after the break.

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Saturday Odds & Sods: The Best of Adrastos 2015

Scrooge-Marley

Scrooge meets Marley’s ghost by E.A. Abbey, 1876.

Twas the day after Christmas and all that was stirring was a mouse and a keyboard. It’s time to embark on an ego trip and present the Best of Adrastos 2015 in lieu of a proper Saturday post.

I do have a theme song only it’s not the post title this time around. I’m not certain if it’s entirely accurate but, hey, it’s the Chairman of the Board. Who’s gonna argue with Francis Albert Fucking Sinatra?

I started off with 48 candidates before winnowing it down to thirty, which is still excessive but it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to or something like that. Jeez, now I sound like Al Lesley Gore. I’ve organized the posts into categories and I state that categorically.

I have no illusions that anyone will read all the posts in one sitting but they’ll be here awaiting your perusal.

Saturday Odds & Sods: I think of this weekly outing as my writer’s post. I assiduously polish and rewrite them instead of the more spontaneous approach I bring to the daily grind.

July 18, 2015: Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On.)  Tricky Dick meets Antoni Gaudi.

August 12, 2015: You’re With Stupid Now.   Mr. Truck meets Quentin Tarantino.

December 12, 2015: Sinatra Centennial Edition.  The title says it all.

As Frank himself would say, the best is yet to come after the break:

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Quote Of The Day: Bunk’s Bunkum Edition

Wendell Pierce is from New Orleans, left for many years to seek his fame and fortune as an actor, and has spent more time here since a certain event in 2005. His post-K track record is more mixed than the media would have you believe. He’s partnered in several enterprises with 2010 Mayoral candidate and developer Troy Henry including a grocery store “chain” that hasn’t lived up to the hype surrounding its launch.

Pierce has also engaged in an unseemly and inaccurate war of words with a neighborhood association that opposed one of his development plans. He threw around some buzz words such as “hipster” and “gentrification” that didn’t fit the circumstances. I think he spends too much time soaking up adulation on Twitter.  Like many post-K do-gooders, Pierce is hyper sensitive to criticism and freaks out when his motives are questioned. Good intentions are never enough. Remember when I said that New Orleans is a tough town? Wendell Pierce would be well-advised to remember that.

That’s the back story to the quote of the day, which comes from an interview Pierce did with Salon whilst publicizing his memoir:

It’s a decade past the flood. In some ways New Orleans has bounced back, but some things have not been restored. How does it seem to you?

It’s a tale of two cities. We have this great recovery, but there are some still left behind. It’s moving into the future, but holding onto some of the ugly vestiges of the past. It’s created a schism between the haves and have-nots.

Created a schism? That schism has always existed and has always been close to the surface in New Orleans. Our politics have been dominated by racial and class conflict since, well, forever.The city wasn’t preserved in amber or under a snowglobe when Pierce was out-of-town. There was no schism to “create” because it has always been there.

Pierce is not the only person to talk about “two cities.” While his point is well-taken, it’s an oversimplification. The haves *have* prospered, including Pierce himself, and the have-nots, uh, have not. (That’s a lot of haves for one sentence. Better have a loaf than none at all, I suppose.) New Orleans is a complex, multi-layered place, and one could come up with dozens of sub-sets if one were so inclined. I am not. But two cities will never suffice unless you’re Sidney Carton…

I *briefly* considered making this a malaka of the week post but decided not to. In part, because Pierce means well. While good intentions shouldn’t count for everything, they shouldn’t count for nothing either. And as someone who watched The Wire from the first episode, I have a soft spot for the Bunk and his partner, the character who Bubbles called McNutty. And that is why Wendell Pierce is NOT malaka of the week.

Here’s one of my favorite Bunk-McNulty scenes from The Wire:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Saint Dominic’s Preview

Sideshow banner by Fred G. Johnson.

Sideshow banner by Fred G. Johnson. Did he have Van Morrison in mind?

It’s been a relatively quiet week in New Orleans. We survived the Katrina 10 hype and got back to fighting over 21st century issues such as gentrification and short-term rentals as well as a resumption of the monument wars. The Vieux Carre Commission voted to remove the so-called Liberty Monument, the monument most egregiously tied to white supremacy. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Summertime always brings a spike in crime to New Orleans. Lurking beneath the party town facade is the reality that New Orleans is now and has always been a tough town. It’s a bad place to walk around with your eyes glued to your smart phone. That’s begging to be mugged or worse. In the immortal words of the desk Sergeant on Hill Street Blues, “Be careful out there.” Never forget: “to live in this town you must be tough, tough, tough.”

Now that I’ve quoted the Stones, it’s time to move on to this week’s theme song. It’s been a big few weeks for Van Morrison fans: his work is finally available on iTunes and there’s been a spate of articles about Astral Weeks as you will see in a moment. I picked Saint Dominic’s Preview as the theme song for a simple reason: it’s my favorite Van the man tune. The arrangement of the studio version is pitch perfect: from the horns to the tinkling piano to the judicious use of steel guitar. Van may be twice as grumpy as I am but Saint Dominic’s Preview is downright majestic. Van, in and of himself, *is* the human paradox alive.

We’ll start with the aforementioned studio recording, then follow it up with a live version from 1996 that has a Celtic folk jazz feel:

It just occurred to me that there’s another reason to select Saint Dominic’s Preview. I spend much of Saturday Odds & Sods previewing articles, films, and albums for my readers. I guess that makes it a preview without a saint. It does, however, always have a break.

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Presidential Pet Peeves

Last week New Orleans was awash in robustly resilient bullshit and Presidents, current and former. My buttons were pushed by the manner in which the Oval Ones were referred to. Bullshit is, of course, bullshit whether it’s robust, resilient, or just plain ridiculous. Those are the three Rs of contemporary New Orleans.

Where the hell was I? Oh yeah, the two common misuses of the language regarding Oval Ones that drive me crazy. First, civilians referring to the sitting President as the Commander-in-Chief. They’re only in command of the military, not us. There was, in fact, considerable confusion over an ad taken out by malakatude hall of famer Harry Shearer in the dead tree edition of the New Orleans Advocate:

Shearer full page ad in the Advocate

It was published on the day the sitting President visited and, as you can see, asked the “Commander-in-Chief” to admit to Federal responsibility for the flood, which President Obama did. There was a lively debate on my social media feeds as to whether it was aimed at President Obama or the Texas Napoleon who returned the next day to his Waterloo. I was pretty sure he was referring to Obama but, once again, neither the current Oval One nor his incompetent predecessor is the “Commander-in-Chief” of anything but the armed forces. In short, we don’t gotta salute. Now that I think of it, W deserves a one-finger salute…

My second Presidential pet peeve: referring to ex-Presidents by the title. There’s only one President at a time. Harry Truman preferred to be called Judge or Mr. Truman. When asked why by a college kid, he said, “There’s only one President at a time, son.” Harry was right and didn’t even engage in the robust bullshit for which he was known. Try fact checking Merle Miller’s Plain Speaking some time. Let’s just say that Harry was an old-fashioned storyteller in the vein of Sam Clemens…

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the media started calling ex-Oval Ones by the title and addressing them as Mr. President. For example, TR was *always* called Colonel Roosevelt as a former President. My hunch is that this imperfect practice was perfected between 1993 and 1994 when we had a bumper crop of former Presidents: five count ’em five. And two of those ex-Oval Ones, Nixon and Reagan, were notorious for an almost fetishistic love of the ceremonial side of the office. I suspect Nancy would have objected to people calling Ronnie Governor or Mr. Death Valley Days Host. He would have been okay with the Gipper…

I know, I know, people have been misusing the title for many years. That doesn’t make it right or any less annoying. One thing I love about the interwebs is that you can find stuff such as the Protocol School of Washington’s, Honor & Respect: The Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address. It’s a mouthful, I know. I must admit  that consulting it makes me feel oddly like Miss Manners. Here’s how the author, a chap named Robert Hickey, answered the question of how to address a former President:

I have been directing people to refer to former presidents as President (last name). Is that correct?
            — Anna McDonald, Stafford, Virginia

Dear Ms. McDonald:
This issue is complicated since we hear former Presidents referred to as President Clinton and President Bush on the media all the time; Here’s what is the correct formula as it appears in my book (assuming they didn’t have an honorific other than Mr./Ms. to go back to … as General Dwight D. Eisenhower did.):
Former President of the United States
    Envelope, official:
The Honorable
(Full name)
(Address)
   Letter salutation: Dear Mr./Ms. (surname):
    Conversation: Mr./Ms. (surname)

Here’s the WHY behind the correct form. This is the traditional approach for any office of which there is only one office-holder at a time. So, with officials such as mayors, governors or presidents … only the current office holder is addressed as Mr. Mayor, Governor, or Mr. President … formers are not addressed that way.
That’s not to say some reporter might not call a former mayor Mayor Smith or a former president President (Surname). But doing so is incorrect and confusing to the public. The former office holder is no longer due the precedence and courtesies we extend to the current office holder. He or she speaks with the authority of a private citizen. We honor former office holder’s service, but the ‘form of address’ — which acknowledges the responsibilities and duties of office — belongs only to current office holder.

Uh oh, looks like Harry was wrong about that whole Judge Truman thing. Since I’m going all Miss Manners and Perry Protocol on your asses, I might as well post Mr. Hickey’s answer as to how to address a former Oval One in person:

Greeting from Canada. I will meet President Clinton in a few weeks in person.  What should I call him when I meet him or when I introduce others to him: Mr. Clinton, or President Clinton? Thanks for your help.
— Politico, Toronto

Hi Politico:
Former Presidents of the United States are most formally directly addressed as Mr. (Name) and are identified as “President of the United States from Year-Year”.
You will hear the media say President Clinton in a news story to be clear who is being discussed. The media using “President (Name)” in the third person makes many think it is a correct form of address.
The correct form for formal introduction — e.g. from a podium before his speech to the audience would be something likeIt is my pleasure to introduce The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton.
In conversation address him as Mr. Clinton. 
If you make an introduction say Mr. Clinton may I present… 

— Robert Hickey

This Robert Hickey chap seems to be the Dear Abie of the protocol set. He is absolutely correct. There is only one President at a time unless, that is, Hillary is elected, then Bill may try to do some finagling. It won’t work: she’s banished him to the couch before and would have no problem doing so again.

I’m an unlikely person to be a stickler for protocol. I am, however, a stickler for the proper use of the English language. Additionally, I believe in honoring the modesty inherent in small r republicanism.  (That makes me what Gore Vidal called a citizen of the Old Republic, not the Empire.) The President is not a hereditary monarch who holds the title even after abdication. The people are sovereign, the sitting President is the temporary occupant of the White House.

The moral of the story is: don’t believe everything you see on teevee or read in the newspapers or online. Mister is good enough for former Presidents until, that is, we have our first woman former Oval One, then Ms. will be good enough for her.