Category Archives: Language

Life Imitates The Godfather: Chris Cuomo Edition

I realize that I’m a day late on the Chris Cuomo kerfuffle but I had jury duty yesterday. They keep the juror lounge so cold that one could store a Semifreddo therein without it melting. It’s a frozen Italian delicacy, which the CNN host would be well-advised to to emulate. The dude needs to chill.

Let’s recap our story:

A video emerged on Monday night in which CNN anchor Chris Cuomo can be seen engaged in a tense confrontation with an unknown man and threatening to throw him down some stairs after the man called him “Fredo”.

In the video, reportedly taken in a bar on Long Island on Sunday, Cuomo is irate over a perceived insult from the man, an apparent reference to a character from the Godfather film. Cuomo suggests in the video it was meant as derogatory term for his Italian heritage, similar to the “N-word” for African Americans.

“Punk-ass bitches from the right call me Fredo,” Cuomo says. “My name is Chris Cuomo. I’m an anchor on CNN. Fredo is from The Godfather. He was a weak brother and they use it as an Italian aspersion.”

Cuomo is the son of former New York governor Mario Cuomo and brother of the state’s current governor Andrew Cuomo.

“I’ll fucking ruin your shit,” Cuomo says as the argument continues. “I’ll fucking throw you down these stairs.”

I’m obviously not a fan of Trumper assholes accosting people they dislike in public but Chris needs to make like a Semifreddo and chill. I plan to use that analogy until my plate is clean…

Calling someone a Fredo is an insult, not an ethnic slur. If this MAGA Maggot walked into a Knights of Columbus meeting and shouted “FREDO” the reaction would NOT be akin to walking into a Zulu meeting and shouting the N-word. I suspect that most of the KOC guys would be confused as opposed to outraged. They’d rather be called a Michael or Vito, after all. Repeat after me: Fredo is an insult, not an ethnic slur.

I’ll give Cuomo credit for sounding more like Sonny Corleone than Fredo:

I am glad, however, that he didn’t beat the MAGA Maggot down and bop him in the bean with a garbage can lid. Sonny would have thrown that worthless fucker down the fucking stairs so Cuomo showed *some* restraint.

In claiming that Fredo is an ethnic slur, not an insult, Cuomo amplified the story. He’s the one who made it about The Godfather, not some loudmouth Trumper asshole. It can’t be easy being Son of Mario and Brother of Andrew: Cuomo’s overreaction seems to reflect a measure of insecurity. A simple “fuck you, asshole” would have sufficed.

The Cuomos have long been hyper-sensitive about the fictional Corleone clan. Papa Mario refused to see the movie for many years because he believed it perpetuated lazy stereotypes about Italo-Americans. Others thought the movies glorified the Mafia. That shows the power of Puzo and Coppolla’s vision: it provoked people and made them think.

In other Life Imitates The Godfather news, we turn to the Roger Stone case:

Stone on Friday told a federal court that he opposed the request by prosecutors to play a clip from Godfather II at his trial, slated to start in November.

The clip was a pivotal scene in the movie in which a witness to Michael Corleone’s criminal conduct recants his testimony at a high-profile congressional hearing. The witness, Frank Pentangeli, backtracks on his testimony after he sees his brother and Corleone show up to watch the hearing.

Prosecutors say they want to play the clip to put in to context messages Stone allegedly sent radio host Randy Credico, who was subpoenaed to appear before Congress. Stone repeatedly referenced Pentangeli in the messages to Credico, according to prosecutors. Stone is charged with making false statements to Congress and witness tampering. He has pleaded not guilty.

Stone has claimed that he referenced Pentangeli because Credico does a good impression of him.

I’ve been known to do Michael Gazzo as Frank Pentangeli myself. It’s painful: not my impression but the voice is so raspy that it hurts to do it. Here’s the scene in question:

Frankie and Freddie were great pals, they’d both surely agree that the real Fredo on our current national scene is this guy:

The analogy breaks down because Don Vito Corleone was brilliant and Don Donaldo, IL Comico Insulto is a dumbass prone to descibing himself as a “very stable genius.” Like father, like son.

It’s easy to imagine Trump Junior saying this:

Repeat after me: Fredo is an insult, not an ethnic slur.

Trumpism Is Hatriotism

The hatriot-in-chief hugs a flag.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deadbeat Asshole In El Paso

The Insult Comedian loves being an uninvited guest in places where he’s not wanted. What’s reality teevee without conflict? Boring, that’s what. The people of El Paso will be extras on Trump’s whirlwind “message I care” tour. He does not: he’s all hat and no cattle.

Team Trump has stuck the citizens of El Paso with a bill of over $500K for security costs associated with one of his hate fest rallies a mere six months ago. The president* should have  had the decency to pay up but his entire life is a string of unpaid bills and broken promises. Why should he do the decent thing now? He’s never done it before. He’s all hat and no cattle.

Teleprompter Trump’s muted critique of racism and white supremacy endured almost a whole day but, predictably, Twitter Trump is back in the saddle. The MSM bought into his “moderate” rhetoric because they’re desperate for him to be normal so they can resume covering politics as a horse race. He’s not normal. He’s already back to sowing the seeds of division and grievance like a one-man Festivus:

It’s scary that Donald Trump makes Frank Costanza look like a nice guy.

It’s folly for the MSM to expect the Insult Comedian to be the consoler-in-chief when he’s really the despoiler-in-chief.

Repeat after me: Donald Trump is all hat and no cattle.

Trumper Incitement Speech

Just when we thought things couldn’t get any uglier, the Insult Comedian doubled down on his egregious bigotry. He briefly stepped back from the brink after Republican blowback over his remarks about “The Squad,” but he cannot help himself and was soon back to inciting the red-hatted hordes. It’s just the latest offensive language offensive by the party of Trump.

Trump’s latest racist comments led me to me ponder two legendary Supreme Court cases. In the first case, Schenck v. United State, Oliver Wendell Holmes (surely the best name in SCOTUS history) enunciated the “clear and present danger test.” 50 years later the Supremes limited that test in the case of a Klansman named Clarence Brandenburg, not to be confused with Clarence the goofball angel in It’s A Wonderful Life. In Brandenbeurg v. Ohio case, the Court held:

… that speech advocating illegal conduct is protected under the First Amendment unless the speech is likely to incite “imminent lawless action.”

When it comes to the First Amendment, I’m down with the late Justice Hugo Black who was a free speech absolutist. BUT just because incitement speech can be legal does not make it socially or politically acceptable. We cannot ban it unless it directly provokes violence BUT we can attack it at its source: the Trump regime and the GOP.

We’re seeing the effects of the Current Occupant’s vicious and racist attacks spring to life among his supporters. Rhetorical bombs are being tossed across the country.

Across the Big Muddy from Adrastos World HQ, a veteran Gretna police officer showed classic internet courage by first posting, then removing a Facebook thingamabob about Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez:

The Times-Picayune reported this weekend that police officer Charlie Rispoli had posted a threatening message about Ocasio-Cortez, who used to work as a bartender, on his Facebook page.

“This vile idiot needs a round…and I don’t mean the kind she used to serve,” Rispoli wrote in a caption above a fake article headlined with “Ocasio-Cortez On the Budget: ‘We Pay Soldiers Too Much’”

The cop seemed livid about the article, even though the site Taters Gonna Tate describes itself as a “satire” website and Ocasio-Cortez has never said that soldiers get paid “too much.”

A Trumper falling for a “fake news” article? Imagine that. Of course, anyone who has fallen for the Insult Comedian’s shtick is a fool and/or a poltroon.

Meanwhile, this happened in the Land of Lincoln:

Internet courage was also displayed by this group: they removed this offensive image as well as its even more offensive caption, “Political jihad is their game. If you don’t agree with their socialist ideology, you’re racist.”

That is, of course, Geoffrey Hughes’ character, Onslow, from Keeping Up Appearances, not one of the Illinois GOP honchos. But now that I think of it, all you have to do is add a Bears or Cubs hat and Bob’s your uncle. Your uncle, not mine.

They justified the racist image with this gobble-de-gook:

State Republican Chairman Tim Schneider responded to what he called the “bigoted rhetoric” in a statement, according to the Tribune.

“My intense disagreement with the socialist policies and anti-Semitic language of these four congresswoman has absolutely nothing to do with their race or religion,” he said. “I urge everyone who opposes them to keep the rhetoric focused on policy and ideology.”

Instead of gobble-de-gook, one might call this an Illini lie. Schneider is a German-sounding name, perhaps he should go back to Germany. Of course, German law takes a dim view of incitement speech for obvious reasons. Been there, done that.

The current political environment is ugly and getting uglier by the nano-second. Trump and his supporters will stop at nothing to keep him in office. I am genuinely concerned that this will result in even more politically inspired violence than we’ve already seen.

Like Pontius Pilate, Trump will wash his hands of any responsibility the next time someone gets hurt, especially if it’s one of The Squad. I have no sympathy for that devil, y’all.

And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Trump and his followers are stirring the pot with their incitement speech. At the risk of sounding like an entry in the dictionary of political cliches, they will eventually reap the whirlwind and pay for their actions in the fall of 2020. But it will take hard work and persistence. And Boris Badenov and ilk may help Team Trump just as they did in 2016:

Repeat after me: Republicans lost the popular vote in the mid-terms by 9 points. Their only hope for victory is to depress Democratic turnout by hook or crook and pray for protection from the electoral college.  Never forget: massive turnout by the people Trump is trying to otherize is the cure to what ails the country.

Since bomb throwing is the metaphor of the day, the last word goes to 10cc:

UPDATE: The Gretna, Louisiana cop mentioned above was fired.

To Sir, With Self-Love

Barack Obama is frequently compared to Sidney Poitier. They’re both dignified, self-possessed pioneers. I never expected to spin a Poitier movie title in a post about Donald Trump’s mendacity but I just did. The world works in mysterious ways, sir. Believe me.

Daniel Dale has been chronicling the Insult Comedian’s lies since he descended on that Trump Tower escalator and ripped into Mexican “rapists.” The lies, half-truths, and exaggerations have, if anything, escalated since that moment. Daniel Dale has been there for all of it; first at the Toronto Star and now at CNN, sir.

Dale’s systematic study of Trumpian mendacity turned up a word that is almost invariably a tell that the president* is lying. You guessed it; the word is SIR.

I’ve fact-checked every word Trump has uttered since his inauguration. I can tell you that if this President relays an anecdote in which he has someone referring to him as “sir,” then some major component of the anecdote is very likely to be wrong.

Lots of people do call Trump “sir,” of course. But the word seems to pop into his head more frequently when he is inventing or exaggerating a conversation than when he is faithfully relaying one. A “sir” is a flashing red light that he is speaking from his imagination rather than his memory.

In poker parlance, it’s a tell.

Yes sir, Mr. Dale, sir.

This is the most disturbing sir story by far, sir, because the stakes were so high, sir:

President Donald Trump told a dramatic story on Twitter last month.

Explaining how he decided to cancel a possible attack on Iran, he wrote, “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it…”

This was all so Hollywood that I would have been skeptical regardless of Trump’s choice of words. Because he included one particular word, though, I was almost certain the story was inaccurate in some way.

<SNIP>

My “sir” suspicions didn’t betray me on Trump’s Iran tweet last month. Later in the day he posted it, CNN reported that a White House official said Trump was given a casualty estimate much earlier than “10 minutes before the strike.” reported that an administration official said the “150 people” figure was given to Trump by White House lawyers, not in a cinematic exchange with a general.

Yes sir, Mr. Dale, sir. That’s a Lulu of a whopper, sir. Lulu, of course, sang the theme song for the 1967 Sidney Poitier movie To Sir, With Love. Hence the post title: To Sir, With Self-Love.

Another major Trump tell is when he ends a sentence with “believe me.” It’s an indicator that what preceded it is untrue. Believe me, sir. Uh oh, I just shot my credibility to hell.

The last word goes to Lulu:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: If You Can’t Stand The Heat

I whinged about the heatwave on Monday. I use the Britism whinged (whined to us Yanks) because that post led to this search: “album covers heat.” It turned up a 1978 album by the English rock band, Status Quo. I had no idea that they’d stuck around into the 21st Century, but they were always more popular in the UK than stateside.

The cover photo for If You Can’t Stand The Heat was taken by John Shaw whose work adorns 49 album covers including records by Adrastos favorites Wings and Jethro Tull:

I wonder if they thought about Harry Truman when they shot this cover. I did when I found it.

Here are the two singles from the album:

The Fog Of History: Semantic Antics

Choosing sides between Liz Cheney and Alexandria Ocascio-Cortez isn’t difficult. The latter called Trump’s migrant detention centers, concentration camps, and the former denounced this characterization. It’s a bit rich coming from a woman whose father is a torture fan but that’s life in the Trump era. It’s a theatre of the absurd more confusing than the crazy house/hall of mirrors scene in The Lady From Shanghai:

There’s a nightmare of the Trump regime’s creation at our Southern border. I’m glad it’s back in the spotlight but the semantic antics on the right are diverting attention onto their current bete noire: AOC. The implication is that calling a concentration camp what it actually is makes AOC some sort of Holocaust denier/minimizer; a David Irving with better dance moves. This is, of course, toxic nonsense.

Many scholars of the period have pointed out the difference between Nazi concentration camps and death camps. One could justly call the camps in which Japanese American citizens were unjustly detained concentration camps. This circular discussion reminds me of an absurd scene in another classic 1940’s film, To Be Or Not To Be:

The bottom line is that the United States government is holding migrants in camps wherein conditions are so appalling that they’ve resulted in 24 deaths. Adding horrifying insult to egregious injury is that children are being separated from their parents; in many instances permanently. That’s what matters, not what you call the camps. Words are important but people’s lives are infinitely more so.

Adding to the crazy house aspect of this debate is that babies are being locked in cages in the name of the rule of law. It’s beyond hypocritical coming from an administration that’s engaged in obstruction of justice on myriad fronts. It’s a small leap from myriad to the hall of mirrors in the crazy house.

Crazy House Mirror Maze

Image by Greg Biermann.

There are three articles about the Cheney-AOC debate that I highly recommend:

Dahlia Lithwick & Susan Mathews: The AOC-Liz Cheney “Concentration Camp” Fight Might Just Be A Distraction.

Andrea Pitzer:  How The Trump Administration’s Border Camps Fit Into The History Of Concentration Camps.

Eric Levtiz: With Trump’s Migrant Camps, The History We Should Fear Repeating Is Our Own.

Levitz issues a reminder about America’s inglorious history at our Southern border:

…progressives shouldn’t need to invoke the Holocaust to place migrant-detention centers in their proper context. The border separating the United States from lands dominated by nonwhite peoples has been a site of white-nationalist violence since the founding of our republic. America’s southern border is itself an artifact of a war of conquest that our government launched against Mexico — an invasion that Ulysses S. Grant called “one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.” According to General Winfield Scott, commander of U.S. forces during that war, American troops committed atrocities against Mexican civilians so egregious they would “make Heaven weep, & every American, of Christian morals blush for his country. Murder, robbery, & rape on mothers & daughters, in the presence of the tied up males of the families, have been common along the Rio Grande.” In the decades that followed, Klansmen, citizen’s militias, and the uniformed officers of the Texas Rangers regularly lynched Latinos whom they regarded as invaders or threats to America’s racial order and purity. This is the history that Trumpism emerged from; these are the atrocities it threatens to repeat. Before Americans likened the violence at our borders to the Nazis, the Nazis likened their conquest of Eastern Europe to the violence at our frontiers.

History has a funny way of repeating itself although the results themselves are rarely funny ha-ha. We’re currently trapped in a crazy house hall of mirrors and blinded by the fog of history. All the semantic antics in the world will not change that; only the voters can. Make it so.

Pondering the wingnutty reaction to AOC has given me an earworm. The last word goes to Bryan Ferry:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Right Place, Wrong Time

Swing Landscape by Stuart Davis.

I finished this post before hearing the terrible news about Our Della Street. I usually apply another layer of polish before publishing but I wasn’t feeling it. If it’s disjointed, so be it. Apologies to our late night Odds & Sods readers, I wanted my Della tribute to be at the top until 8-ish. She would have insisted.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming:

A wee cool front hit New Orleans this week. It’s still hot but not as muggy. It’s nice to step outside without breaking into an insta-sweat. It’s a minor triumph but we’ll take what we can get. It will be gone just in time for the weekend. So it goes.

The big local story comes from St. Tammany Parish. It used to be country but morphed into white flight suburbia in the late 20th Century. It’s the most Republican parish in the Gret Stet and its residents are wont to lecture us depraved city folk about morals and crime. They should knock it off. Former St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain was arrested this week on rape and incest charges. He spent several nights in the jail he ran for 20 years. Schadenfreude thy name is Adrastos.

I still have the late Dr. John on my mind so this week’s theme song is his biggest hit: Right Place, Wrong Time. He wrote it for his 1973 album In The Right Place, which was something of a New Orleans musical summit meeting. It was produced by Allen Toussaint and The Meters were Mac’s backing band on the album.

We have two versions for your listening pleasure: the original studio recording and a 1996 teevee performance with Eric Clapton.

I’m desitively confused by this song. I actually called it Right Time, Wrong Place when discussing Our Mac with my barber the other day. Mac’s penchant for malaprops seems to be contagious even for a man of my edumaction. Let’s jump to the break before I get even more tongue twisted.

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Taking The Tsar Thing Literally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bollocks To Brexit

The British Liberal Democrats have had an eventful decade. In 2010, they held the balance in a hung parliament and went into coalition with the Tories. In 2015, they suffered a catastrophic defeat: going from 23% of the vote and 57 seats to 7.9% and 8 seats. It was a fitting punishment for a center-left party who were the junior partners in the Posh Boys austerity government. Lib Dem leader and Deputy PM Nick Clegg lost his seat in 2017, then cashed in and became an executive with Facebook. Failing upward is not just an American thing.

In the snap election of 2017, the Lib Dems had a mild uptick in seats for a total of 12 but their share of the vote declined to 7.4%. Most observers expected the overtly pro-EU/Remain party to do better that time around.

Things are finally looking up for the Lib Dems. They did well in the recent local elections and hope to do better still in the upcoming European parliament election. They’ve gone all in with a mildly vulgar slogan:

Bollocks is a testicular euphemism and who can blame the Brits for being testy? Brexit is eating their country alive in the same way that Trumpsim is eating ours. One could even talk about the Dispirit of 2016 in both nations. It gives a whole new meaning to the term “special relationship.”

The Lib Dems did not invent the Bollocks To Brexit slogan. It’s been around for awhile. There’s even an anti-Brexit bus that’s toured the country complete with a Boris Johnson look alike:

The “it’s not a done deal” sub-slogan applies to Trumpism as well. Here’s hoping that both countries can reverse the Dispirit of  2016 and throw the dipshits out of office.

Speaking of buses, the last word goes to The Who:

 

The Bland Bespectacled Bomb Thrower

Attorney General Bill Barr is so ordinary looking that he’d never stand out in a crowd. As a witness, he speaks softly and occasionally mumbles his responses. As a public speaker, he’s as charismatic as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State Warren Christopher who looked as if he stepped out of a coffin.  Barr is as dull as a lawyer can be until you closely examine his words: then you realize that he’s a bland bespectacled bomb thrower.

In front of House Judiciary Committee, Barr stuck to the basics of his cover-up line, which involves deflection, misdirection, and kicking the can down the road for as long as possible. In the friendly confines of Lindsey Graham’s committee, Barr sounded like a spokesman for the Freedom Caucus. I almost expected him to morph into Jim Jordan just like Bruce Banner transforms into the Hulk. Barr smash.

Given Barr’s background in intelligence, he knows how inflammatory the word spying is. He crawfished on the usage later but his work was done. The Attorney General of the United States has given the green light to wingnut conspiracy nuts everywhere. I think former Clinton-Gore-Biden-Obama aide Ron Klain put it best:

Klain is a Democratic utility infielder: he was also Chief Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and Attorney General Janet Reno’s Chief of Staff, so he knows the DOJ and how it’s supposed to work. This isn’t it.

Not only does Barr sound like a conspiracy buff, he sounds like a spokesman for the Trump re-election campaign. Their goal is to confuse the issues surrounding the Trump scandals and to discredit the Mueller Report when Barr finally gets around to releasing even a redacted version.

Barr’s testimony was all about placating the president* and the red hat set. There was no spying, only an authorized FBI counterintelligence probe.

The bland bespectacled bomb thrower is a throwback Attorney General. Before Watergate, it was not unusual for campaign managers to become Attorney Generals. On the good side, there were Robert Kennedy and Herbert Brownell who was Ike’s top legal eagle and the leading advocate of Civil Rights in that administration. On the dark side, there were Tricky Dick’s law partner John Mitchell and Harding’s venal AG, Harry Daugherty. That’s why I don’t want to hear that Barr’s conduct is unprecedented. It doesn’t make it any better but it’s not.

I like how never Trump Republican and all-around smart ass, Rick Wilson, described Barr:

William Barr’s tone was calm, but his agenda was clear: His job is to protect Donald Trump, no matter the prerogatives of Congress or any consideration of the rule of law. Bill Barr is not the attorney general of the United States. He is the Roy Cohn whom The Donald has craved since become president; an attorney general who sees his duty as serving Trump.

<SNIP>

Barr exudes just enough of the comforting style of the Washington insider to quiet the fears of many in the House and Senate. He comes across as pedestrian and legalistic, bordering on dull, but he’s the most dangerous man in America.

That’s why I called Barr a bland bespectacled bomb thrower. He’s there to help the Kaiser of Chaos foment, uh, chaos, not to the serve the public interest. Repeat after me: this is horrible but not unprecedented.

In other scandal news, the cover-up has spread to the Treasury Department. Mnuchin the Moocher is dragging his heels on turning over Trump’s taxes. He’s not supposed to have a role in this: it’s up to the IRS commissioner. The Moocher has tried kicking the can over to the DOJ but they don’t have a role in this either. The law is clear as it uses the mandatory shall, not might or maybe. The Moocher’s inaction could even put him in legal jeopardy. He should be careful: he’d look shitty in an orange jump suit.

I keep hoping that we’ll wake up and discover that the Trump regime was just a bad dream. Unfortunately, life isn’t like the series finale of St. Elsewhere. The nightmare is real.

Saturday Odds & Sods: I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter

Sunrise by Roy Lichtenstein

I bet you thought I was done with the epistolary references but I’m made of sterner (sillier?) stuff than that. There’s even another Bill Barr reference coming up. Does that make this a red-letter day? Beats the hell outta me.

Since, unlike the first Barr letter, the post title is so damn long, the intro will be mercifully brief. I’m even skipping another epistle pun just to prove that I’m capable of restraint. Anyone buying it?

This week’s theme song, I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter, was written in 1935 by Fred E. Ahlert and Joe Young. It was introduced to the world by the great Fats Waller and has been recorded a zillion times over the years.

Since it’s one of my favorite tunes, we have a slew of versions for your listening pleasure.

Now that we’ve finished our correspondence, let’s put a stamp on it, mail it, then jump to the break. Continue reading

Saturday Odds & Sods: Hand Of Kindness

Still Life with Onions by Paul Cezanne

March is the cruelest month in New Orleans for allergy sufferers like me. The weather has been sunny and cool; perfect for outdoor activity. The rub is the oak pollen that can be found everywhere. It coats cars, sidewalks, and any surface it can light on. It makes me feel itchy and my nose run like a broken faucet. The most dramatic symptom involves my eyes, which resemble red gravy in sockets if such a thing is possible.

Enough bitching about my allergies. This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson and was the title track of his 1983 solo album. It was his first record after breaking up personally and professionally with Linda Thompson. It’s one of his finest albums featuring some of his best songs and that’s saying a lot.

We have two versions of Hand Of Kindness for your listening pleasure. The studio original and a live version from Cropredy circa beats the hell outta me.

Now that I’ve extended the hand of kindness, it’s time to jump to the break. Given the RT album cover, we may have to do so at the Chelsea Embankment. Splash.

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This ISN’T HELPING, Guys

Ugh, division and disagreement are so ugly, why can’t we all just get along on important issues like babies in cages and destroying the world? 

Contempt makes political compromise and progress impossible. It also makes us unhappy as people. According to the American Psychological Association, the feeling of rejection, so often experienced after being treated with contempt, increases anxiety, depression and sadness. It also damages the contemptuous person by stimulating two stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. In ways both public and personal, contempt causes us deep harm.

While we are addicted to contempt, we at the same time hate it, just as addicts hate the drugs that are ruining their lives. In an important study of political attitudes, the nonprofit More in Common found in 2018 that 93 percent of Americans say they are tired of how divided we have become as a country. Large majorities say privately that they believe in the importance of compromise, reject the absolutism of the extreme wings of both parties and are not motivated by partisan loyalty.

Our country did not “become” divided. A 24-hour propaganda network for the Republican party told half of us the other half hated them and they were being persecuted and put-upon by, in order, the Clintons, the Obamas, Democrats generally, liberals, women, gay people, people in cities, people who drank Starbucks I think, imaginary communists, and everybody younger than 30.

When liberals tried to say, erm, not really, we don’t actually think about you all that much, we’d just like to have health care, there was an 11-year screaming fit known as the Tea Party that was covered like it was the spontaneous emergence of a new species of humanity hitherto unknown.

Plus a bunch of racism, and Fox News cashed the checks.

This wasn’t a weather system that swept in. Errbody didn’t just wake up one day and say GOLLY GEE WHILLIKERS I FEEL LIKE HATING ON YOU TODAY. Facebook and Twitter have not helped, but if you think this strain of misery didn’t exist before we all started wringing our hands about it, you haven’t been home for Christmas with a bunch of relatives who want to shit on your humanities degree.

That a few liberals, sick and tired of being dumped on constantly, have now started saying HEY QUIT TALKING SHIT is not evidence of a divided country. It’s evidence that you can only kill so many of us (and Reagan and Bush killed quite a few) before we start, you know, objecting.

I mean, all weekend we’ve been hearing about how deranged and hateful CPAC is NOW, as if the 1990s rhetoric around the AIDS crisis was compassionate, or 9/11 wasn’t followed by a wave of hate crimes, or the Civil Rights movement wasn’t greeted with fire hoses and guns. As if Kent State was a peaceable meeting of equal opposites just trying to understand each other. As if Father Coughlin never took up the mic.

We did not “become” divided. Many many more of us just became heard, and this newfound insistence on civility in communication is the response to that, and it doesn’t serve anyone but the wealthy and powerful who “divided” us in the first place.

This is exhausting:

Finally, we should see the contempt around us as what it truly is: an opportunity, not a threat. If you are on social media, on a college campus or in any place other than a cave by yourself, you will be treated with contempt very soon. This is a chance to change at least one heart — yours. Respond with warmheartedness and good humor. You are guaranteed to be happier. If that also affects the contemptuous person (or bystanders), it will be to the good.

It is true that in an argument between me and another middle-class white lady I should keep my temper and smile for the sake of peace in our well-appointed neighborhood where everyone contributes to the block party bake sale. In an argument between two middle-class white college students at debating podiums, certainly, by all means let’s be nice.

But in an argument between a middle-class white lady and the man who thinks she deserves to make a third less than an equivalent male colleague?

In an argument between trans people who want to live their lives and those who want to define them out of existence?

In an argument between a black mother whose son was just shot by police and the city government that covered it up?

In an argument between a Muslim traveler and the authorities who stop him at the airport with no pretext and no explanation?

In an argument between kids who want to live free of war and persecution and people who want them gassed at the border?

I would posit there is not enough contempt for the powerful on the part of the powerless in these conversations. In these situations, where lives are weighed against social comfort, lives should always win. There are worse things than division. There are worse things than conflict. There are worse things than saying mean things on Twitter.

Babies in cages, for example. Death from preventable disease. Schools with holes in the roof. Bullets, bombs and all the other horrible things our need for comfort make possible.

If calling someone who is trying to prevent me and mine from living our lives in peace a monster is divisive, then let division reign along with freedom, forever and ever amen.

A.

The Fog Of Scandal: Worst Case Scenario

Photo via radioopensource.org

I wasn’t surprised by Friday’s NYT blockbuster but I was still shocked. We need to retain the capacity to be shocked, if we lose it, they win. There are more stories of White House horrors in the pipeline, if we’re numb to the outrages, they win. This is not normal.

I’ve resisted the temptation to label Kremlingate the worst scandal in American political history, but that ended Friday with the confirmation that the FBI has investigated Trump’s sinister pro-Russian conduct as president*. Imagine if Woodrow Wilson had connived with the Kaiser in 1916 or if FDR was in league with Tojo and Hirohito in 1940. That’s where we find ourselves in 2019.

I deliberately picked the years before war was declared (a quaint thing we used to do in the pre-Korea/Vietnam/Gulf Wars era) to remind everyone that Trump’s peacetime affiliation with Putin’s Russia is subversion and sedition, not treason, which, as I pointed out early last year, is the only crime defined in the constitution:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

An additional definition is offered in the constitutional dictionary:

treason n the offense of attempting to overthrow the government of one’s country or of assisting its enemies in war.

We’re not at war with Russia and when it comes to the law words matter. I understand why the T word and its variations roll off the tongue and one’s twitter timeline but repeat after me:  Kremlingate is sedition, not treason.

I’m *almost* a Russia hawk but I don’t want war. Bullies like Putin should be resisted. But we should use the tried and tested methods of containment. It worked with the infinitely more powerful Soviet Union. Putin’s efforts to subvert small-L, small-D liberal democracy by stealth are an admission of weakness, not strength. Unfortunately, we have a fake tough guy as president* who is compromised by Russian intelligence.

Until last Friday, I was in favor of slow walking impeachment. I’m well aware that it’s a politically explosive topic. The last thing I want is for Trump’s eroding base to rally around him BUT with the latest confirmation of his seditious activities there’s no choice but to impeach. Timing remains important: the House should wait for Muller to issue his final report on the Kremlingate aspects of this sprawling scandal. BUT they will have to confront this issue directly this year even if the votes to convict in the Senate aren’t there. At the very least, impeachment will turn this president* into a political eunuch.

As I’ve said many times before, Watergate was my formative political issue. In fact, I’m currently re-reading Woodstein’s The Final Days. So, I’m loathe to admit that any scandal is worse than Watergate or that any president is more corrupt than Richard Nixon but the time has come to put aside my “childish ways” and agree with Congressperson Rashida Tlaib that it’s time to “impeach the motherfucker.”

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:

Very Deep Thought

I just saw the Liar-in-Chief on cable teevee. In addition to incorrectly claiming that Michael Cohen had already been sentenced to a long prison term, he used his favorite word:

Trump’s mangled and gnarly syntax has actually impacted my writing style. When I finish a draft of anything but a shopping list, I scrub out the verys. Occasionally they survive but that’s a very rare occurrence. Oops, I did it again.

The last word goes to Richard Thompson:

 

Trump’s Sordid Saudi Word Salad

I guess the Insult Comedian hadn’t heard about the decline and recall of the Romaine empire when he issued his appalling statement about the Saudis and their murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The statement is pure word salad, peppered with Satan’s punctuation: 8 exclamation points. The late language maven William Safire weeps as do I.

Trump is proud of this illiterate, immoral, incoherent, and imbecilic statement.  It continues his seemingly endless race to the bottom, which has the nation’s moral compass spinning out of control. It was dictated by the president* to enable the Saudi dictator. Sad.

In this despicable document, Trump informs us that money matters more than the truth, human life, or national honor. None of this is surprising but if we lose the capacity to be shocked by the baseness of this president* he has won. I dislike the clunky word normalization, but if  it ever fit a situation this is it.

Trumpberius and Slumlord Jared are all in on Mohammad bin Salman. In fact, Crown Prince MBS is making the already awful Saudi dictatorship even worse. It’s moving from a family owned, consensus oriented authoritarian state to one man rule. That’s why nobody believes his claims about the Khashoggi killing. Not even Trump, but as far as he’s concerned, it doesn’t matter:

Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that — this is an unacceptable and horrible crime.

King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!

Trump claims that there are 450 billion reasons why we should turn a blind eye to this act of barbarism. He is, of course, full of shit on the details, but it does not matter. The Saudi dictatorship butchered a legal US resident for the “crime” of being a dissident writer. That’s all that matters.

I’m grateful to whoever leaked the story of the CIA’s Khashoggi report. Perhaps the same person leaked this appalling story to NBC last week:

The White House is looking for ways to remove an enemy of Turkish President Recep Erdogan from the U.S. in order to placate Turkey over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to two senior U.S. officials and two other people briefed on the requests.

Trump administration officials last month asked federal law enforcement agencies to examine legal ways of removing exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen in an attempt to persuade Erdogan to ease pressure on the Saudi government, the four sources said.

The effort includes directives to the Justice Department and FBI that officials reopen Turkey’s case for his extradition, as well as a request to the Homeland Security Department for information about his legal status, the four people said.

The Trump regime subsequently denied the story but such denials ring hollow in the face of its overt hostility to human rights, and our country’s tradition of being a safe haven for dissidents. We should never extradite dissidents to their country of origin to face execution. We should never even consider doing so to help *another* dictator out of a jam. This is, in a word, reprehensible.

It’s indisputable that the American record on human rights is a mixed bag. We’ve done more than our share of dictator coddling BUT we’ve always aspired to be better. Even past “tough guy” leaders paid lip service to human rights This makes Trump and his lackeys worse than John Foster Dulles, Richard Nixon, or Dick Cheney. “Worse than Cheney” is not something anyone should want to hear about themselves. Trump, of course, hears nothing and learns even less.

I was raised by my parents to be proud of my country and tolerant of its flaws. I am ashamed to be an American right now. It hurts to say that but I know we can and will do better in the future.

The last word goes to Randy Newman:

Civility Rights

Be polite while we kill you.

Be polite while we erase you.

Be polite while we cage you.

Be polite while we shoot you.

Be polite while we fire you.

Be polite while you’re less than.

Be polite while you’re ground under.

Be polite while you let us walk all over you. Kiss the foot that kicks you. Thank us for our scorn. Be polite. Be polite. Be polite.

Above all, be polite.

Don’t talk about politics. Don’t talk about war. Don’t talk about race. Don’t talk about the inherent inhumanity of ripping children from their mothers’ arms, about drone-bombing villages whose names you don’t even know, about paying someone $8 an hour to scrub toilets and calling it a good job. Don’t talk about local races, national races, international relations, sexual harassment, rape culture, gun control, climate change, factory farms. Don’t talk about where your kids go to school and how they get there and how it gets harder every day to raise them as people with compassion and grace when the voices that are raised up to the halls of power are calling down every day in hatred. Don’t talk about any of that.

Shh. Shut up. Everyone’s looking. Be polite.

Polite protects power. Polite and nice are unquestionably good and good is just as we are meant to be and good needs no defense. There’s no defense for their monstrosity. There’s no defense for the lies they tell and there’s no defense for the truth, either. Someone sent out a memo yesterday, the day before: several thousand poor and starving people are going to walk into your country and take what’s yours so you’d better vote for Republicans, because we’ll build a wall to keep them out.

Several million poor people are living in your country and they’re taking what’s yours so we’ll cut your taxes to stop them.

Just over a million people are living their lives out loud for the first time and it freaks you right out so we’ll write a law to wipe them out of existence.

Oh, you don’t like that? You object? You protest?

We’ll laugh at you, we’ll threaten you, we’ll fight you, we’ll kill you.

You fight back? You speak out? You stand up? How dare you.

Can’t have that. We’ll tell you to be polite. Everyone agrees it’s too loud and mean in here these days. Everyone agrees it’s colder than it used to be out there. Everyone agrees our country is divided. Became divided. The political divide, it deepens every day, because of this incivility.

Power is always civil. Power deserves courtesy, deference, respect. It wears a suit when it puts your daughter in a cage. It wears a uniform when it shoots your son. It’s never messy when it closes down your library; after all, it’s not like power burned those books, right? It has a prepared statement to e-mail to the press, blow-dried shiny hair, a podium to stand behind. It sincerely regrets. It wishes this could have gone another way. It tells you this can’t be helped. It’s so clean.

You’re the messy one. Yelling. Hair all wild, eyes wide, top of your lungs. Who do you think you are? What do you think you’re doing? Who is all of this shouting supposed to convince, anyway? Who is the audience for it? What is the BRAND?

If you really want to make a difference, you should sit on a stage next to the monster, calmly debate him for an audience of journalists and lobbyists and hobbyists at being human. Their opinions REALLY matter. They’re thought leaders leading thoughts. They get their op-eds published, in the name of “free speech.” Your speech should be just as free. You should sit next to the monster in the exact same chair as him, so we can judge his suit against your hoodie with the rude slogan, and find you wanting, if in no other way than appearance.

Don’t like it? Don’t think it’s fair? That’s the way the world works, kiddo. Sarah Huckabee Sanders had a right to that cheese plate. You risk turning everyone against you by standing on the public street.

With your rude T-shirt declaring your rights, human rights.

With your sign.

That says, please don’t kill me.

A.

The Buzz Word Election

Buzz words are nothing new in American politics. They’re as old as the Republic itself. The Jeffersonians called John Adams a royalist tool of the English crown.The Federalists, in turn, called Jefferson a Jacobin tool of the French revolutionary rabble. And on and on and on.

The malevolent spirit of the Insult Comedian looms large over the 2018 campaign. Until recently, GOPers claimed that they’d run a campaign on taxes and the economy, which is straight out of the Reaganite playbook. That barely made a dent in the wall of noise and scandal surrounding the leader of their party. Even the author of the House tax cut, Pete Roskam, who is in a tough race, isn’t talking about it. Why? The majority of the country knows it benefits the 1% and nobody else. Besides, the Obama recovery seems poised to become the Trump recession. Trade wars are not easy to win.

When you’re losing, what do you do? Smear your opponents and resort to scare tactics no matter how preposterous. The Insult Comedian has laid the groundwork for the dumber elements of the Republican base to believe almost anything. That’s where buzz words come in handy. Besides, it’s 2 weeks until Halloween. Tick tock, motherfuckers.

In the Arizona Senate race, decorated veteran Martha McSally is running an aughties throwback campaign against her Democratic opponent Krysten Sinema:

Arizona Republican Martha McSally accused her Democratic opponent Kyrsten Sinema of once advocating for “treason” on Monday, calling out her rival’s old comments during the pair’s sole debate to fill the state’s open Senate seat.

“You said it was okay for Americans to join the Taliban to fight against us,” McSally said, raising her voice and pointing emphatically at Sinema, who stood about 10 feet away, as the debate neared its conclusion, referencing a 2003 radio interview. “I will ask right now whether you’re going to apologize to the veterans and me for saying it is okay — it is treason!”

Is it 2002 again? It sure sounds like it to me.  A reminder that there’s a dark side to the current warm and cuddly image being painted (pun intended, it always is) of George W. Bush. His favorite buzz words were “treason” and “soft on terror.” He learned scare tactics at his father’s knee during the 1988 mudbath. It’s not just Trump, y’all. It’s not just Trump.

McSally has resorted to scare tactics because she’s trailing in the polls. In Texas, Ted Cruz has been pulling ahead of Beto O’Rourke but buzz words are his thing. The two candidates debated last night and the non-asshole from El Paso barely got a word in edgewise as Slate’s Jim Newell pointed out this morning:

But I shouldn’t mock: Cruz is leading O’Rourke consistently by five to ten points in the many, many Texas polls that have come out in recent weeks, indicating that his strategy of casting O’Rourke as a far-left extremist in a center-right state is working. He stuck to it on Tuesday night, suffocating O’Rourke with so many allegations to respond to that he barely had the oxygen to tear Cruz apart.

By his closing statement, Cruz had successfully drawn his lines. If O’Rourke had his way, you wouldn’t be able to open your eyes in Texas without seeing an illegal immigrant having a partial-birth abortion. The economy would be in ruins as Democrats, led by Chairman O’Rourke, seized control to turn the nation into a bankrupt welfare factory—for illegal immigrants. Judges, with alarming word-per-minute speeds, would be typing radical left-wing regulations to ration health care and obliterate business. Border walls would come down, allowing the forces of Juarez to conquer El Paso and march to the east. Police? Forget about ’em. Banned.

“Do we choose fear,” Cruz concluded, “or do we choose hope?”

“I believe in hope.”

Tailgunner Ted’s rhetoric is smarmy, cynical, and self-contradictory. BUT he’s an effective debater and Texans have been programmed to believe this nonsense from birth. If he were so inclined, Beto could cite liberal Texans such as Sam Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson but his campaign seems focused on proving that Beto is cool. Look: he skateboards, was in a rock band, and quotes the Clash. Kewl. I don’t think Hispanic voters give a rat’s ass about how cool Beto is, which is why he’s underperforming in that vital demographic.

Here’s the deal: I like Beto. I think he’s an excellent campaigner but his team has focused on bragging about fundraising, yard signs, crowd sizes, and how cool he is. Repeat after me: yard signs don’t vote.

I think Texas will continue to be a Democratic white whale. I hope I’m wrong, but the election seems to be slipping away from Team Beto. The upcoming Trump-Cruz rally may prove to be the last nail in Beto’s very cool coffin. Texas seems poised to choose the Tailgunner over the Skateboarder.

It’s time for national Democrats to focus on other races including that of the uncool but competent Florida Senator Bill Nelson who is fighting off a challenge from Governor Rat Boy. The  good news is that Andrew Gillum’s bid to succeed Scott is generating buzz and he and Nelson should be able to help one another. Synergy is what a corporate puke would call the combination of the moderate white guy and the progressive black guy.  I call it political magic.

I remain cautiously optimistic about the House. I think that Republican voter fuckery and a decade of egregious Gerrymandering will keep our gains to between 25 and 45 seats. But  righteous indignation among women voters and the many gifted Democratic women running for office could change that. But voters will have to wade through a muck of Republican lies and buzz words. Let’s hope thebuzz words don’t sting too badly.

At the risk of being repetitive, Harold Lloyd in Safety Last gets the last word:

I am guilty of using my last word mantra as a buzz word. I think we need some inspirational music. Ain’t nothing more inspirational than the Boss: