Category Archives: Language

The Amateur Lawyers Are Killing Me

I don’t mean the killing me bit literally. It’s a vivid image that I’ve used countless times on Twitter. It’s also why I used the Hamilton Burger-Perry Mason featured image. Now that I think of it, fictional lawyers know more than amateur attorneys. The amateur ones are a Raymond Burr in my saddle…

I nearly used this title when I wrote The Law Is Slow, but I thought that title brought more light than heat. I’m big on bringing light when so many others only bring heat. It’s the curse of our age.

The latest know-nothing legal Tweet comes from former Tea Party dude turned Never-Trumper, the Other Joe Walsh.

I could just leave it there, but I feel like expounding. It’s what pundits do.

One of the most important recent legal developments took place a few weeks ago. It’s when DOJ announced that Trump regime officials could NOT invoke executive privilege. I celebrated it in a Not Everything Sucks post, but it was largely ignored by those who prefer drama to substance. That includes most of the MSM who miss the constant drama and leaks from the previous administration.

I think First Draft newbie Cassandra nailed it as a part of last night’s Other Joe Walsh conversation:

BTW, if you don’t follow Cassandra on Twitter please do so.  I’m uncertain if she’ll sing any strange opera, but she’s insightful and fierce as well as operatic. As long as it’s not Klingon opera, I can handle it.

Back to recent legal developments. Former acting Attorney General Rosen testified because of DOJ’s move on executive privilege. I hope nobody thinks that Bill Barr’s former deputy did this out of the goodness of his heart.  He’s hoping to avoid prosecution and/or disbarment. Besides, coup plotting was a bridge too far for both Rosen and Barr. I just said something nice about Bill Barr. There’s a first time for everything.

There’s been a lot of talk about the House Select Committee, but Dick Durbin the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is determined to get to the bottom of the intrigue at DOJ.

Josh Marshall nails the Durbin angle:

The Senate Judiciary Committee, under Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL), appears to be doing most of its work in private, rather than in set-piece hearings. Things appear to have kicked into higher gear after Attorney General Merrick Garland allowed former Trump-era DOJ officials to testify about what is now emerging as a fairly elaborate coup plot hatched in the waning months of the Trump administration. Judiciary committee investigators jumped at the chance and some who were involved in the plot – or at least were witnesses to the plot – have jumped themselves … to testify. Rosen apparently was in a bit of a rush to testify – once Garland gave the go-ahead – before anyone on the Trump side could get into court to try to stop him. The testimony was also conducted out of the press spotlight so it would be done before anyone who might want to block it knew.

That’s how investigations should be handled. It’s best to sneak up on suspected criminals before pouncing, especially when they’re former presidents*. One reason the Mueller Probe was a disappointment was that Team Trump saw it coming and mounted a concerted albeit mendacious counterattack.

All of these factors lead me to believe that there *is* a current investigation at DOJ. I realize the amateur lawyers don’t think so because they prefer to wallow in their “Merrick Garland sucks” narrative. Repeat after me: The law is slow.

Former US Attorneys Barbara McQuaid and Joyce Vance collaborated with Larry Tribe on a roadmap for a Trump investigation. When I saw Joyce discuss the piece on MSNBC, she said that she thought an investigation was underway. She added that she too preferred to investigate behind closed doors when she was a US Attorney. Always trust a cat person:

Another way in which the amateur lawyers are killing me is this: the incessant chants for Trump to be jailed immediately. While I’m in favor of prosecuting Trump, in America, we don’t just lock people up before filing charges. That’s what the Impeached Insult Comedian wanted to do to his enemies. It’s company that I don’t want to keep.

Even if Trump is indicted and convicted, he can still run for federal office unless the GOP changes its nominating rules. Anyone think that’s even remotely possible?

Here’s how I described the run from jail possibility in an earlier post, The Ghost Of Roy Cohn:

… a reminder that even if Donald Trump is convicted of a crime, he can still run for office from prison. Eugene V. Debs received 913, 664 votes while languishing in federal prison in 1920. Debs was a political prisoner locked up for his anti-war views. Trump is, of course, a criminal who deserves everything the justice system can throw at him.

The amateur lawyers of the MSM and Twitter need to learn patience. The law is slow, it doesn’t work as fast as Twitter, nor should it. We need to get this right, not fast.

The last word is an ironic one. It goes to the Real Joe Walsh with a song he wrote with Glenn Frey and Don Henley:

Ashli Babbittry

Sinclair Lewis is back in fashion because of his parable of American fascism, It Can’t Happen Here. I’m not sure how many people have read the novel as opposed to posting pictures of the cover on social media. That’s more common than you might think. It’s gotten to the point where I ask errant social media commenters if they’ve read the post of mine they’re attacking. They usually have not.

I had a high school English teacher who was kin to Sinclair Lewis. I don’t recall the consanguinity, but her stock line was “Sinclair Lewis, not Upton Sinclair.”

People were just as easily confused in the 20th Century as they are now. I wish I could say that Twitter birthed mass stupidity, but its been with us forever. Hell, when I ran a Google search for Sinclair Lewis, Upton Sinclair’s name came up almost as often.

That brings me to another Sinclair Lewis novel Babbitt, which is a fine example of satire circa 1922. It was the story of a Midwestern real estate developer named George Babbitt. He was the epitome of vapid conformity and banal boosterism.

It’s every writer’s dream to coin a word or phrase that makes the dictionary. That happened with Babbitt, which is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as:

“a person and especially a business or professional man who conforms unthinkingly to prevailing middle-class standards.”

A mini essay at Merriam-Webster.com adds this thought about Babbittry:

The values, attitudes, and mores associated with the American middle class in the 1920s can be summed up in the word Babbitry. It derives from the protagonist of Babbitt, a satirical novel by Sinclair Lewis published in 1922. George F. Babbitt epitomizes the unimaginative and self-important businessmen that Lewis found typical of the provincial cities and towns of America. Despite his evident prosperity and status, he remains vaguely dissatisfied with life and makes tentative attempts at rebellion; however, in the end, he finds his need for social acceptance greater than his desire for escape.

To a great extent that describes the conformism that is Trumpism. Trumpers tend to trumpet the cliches they’ve heard on Fox News, Newsmax, Breitbart, and other wingnutty web sites. Trumpism is a conformist creed that relies on talking points instead of independent thought hence the anti-intellectual attacks on science and education. Who among us isn’t tired of hearing about cancel culture?

The anti-intellectualism of Trumpism is nothing new. George Wallace was fond of attacking “damn pointy-headed intellectuals who can’t park their bicycle straight.”

The Impeached Insult Comedian was never that witty.

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Today on Tommy T’s Random Ruminations – Ants and Uncles edition

There’s a lot of jibber-jabber from the right-wing about Tim (Look! We have a black friend, so we can’t be racist) Scott’s responding to President Biden’s first address to congress.

Most of it centers around the “Uncle Tom” thing currently bouncing around in hashtag land.

I’m a musician. And an engineer/producer. I’ve had (and still have) a number of black friends and associates. And yes, I’ve heard the “Uncle Tom” thing used.

By them.

I’ve never heard one white person call a black person an “Uncle Tom”. Not one.

It’s  a term exclusively used by black Americans to describe someone they consider a sellout.

Like Tim Scott.

Someone like Tim Scott (or Diamond and Silk, etc.) who has acquired some money and/or prestige, and now wants to join the club that the right-wingers will never let him or her into.

They think they’ve won a place at the table, but they’re really just parking the cars.

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A Postcard From Menlo Park (CA)

Greetings From Facebook Jail

 

This week’s postcard is actually from several places.

It’s from Menlo Park. But it’s actually from East Menlo Park. To be more specific from the campus of Facebook in East Menlo Park.

More specifically it’s from the cyber location called Facebook Jail.

No, I’m not in jail, but in the last few weeks a couple of my friends have been placed there, so like in Monopoly, I’m just visiting. I get to pass Go and collect $200.

It’s the algorithms I tells ya, they rat you out before you can even finish the comment.

Take my friend Don. Nice guy. We used to write together. We even wrote a musical for him to star in.

He’s the blonde on the left. If you’re thinking to yourself I know that face it’s probably from one of his many commercials or appearances on Letterman. He semi-gave up the glamour of show business for the academic life a few years ago and now teaches creative writing at a college in Connecticut. Which makes his crime even more, what’s the creative writing term for it, ironic.

Why is he in Facebook Jail? Because he had the temerity to make the following comment as a reply to someone else’s post:

We have more stupid Americans than at any other point in my lifetime.

That’s it. That’s all. For making the rather obvious statement of fact/opinion that a huge swarth of the American public are stupid. If I’m not mistaken Tucker Carlson has built an entire career on the basis of that assumption. The Repugnicant party as well.

I can hear you now saying to yourself “self, what’s so bad about saying a great number of people are stupid? It’s not like he called a specific person a particular racial slur or maligned an entire group of people by saying all were stupid, he just said there are a lot of stupid people living in America.”

Well self here’s the answer. The algorithm Facebook uses to check for hate speech on it’s site considers the word “stupid” to be hate speech.  Why? Apparently because some people still use stupid as a derogatory synonym for mentally challenged, hence stupid in the context of other human beings is hate speech. Stupid in the context of The Bachelor is okay, though don’t call whoever is the bachelor on The Bachelor stupid even if he was mentally challenged enough to go on a reality dating show.

But stupid has other meanings in relation to humans.

  • “A benumbed or dazed state of mind” as in “I was rendered stupid for awhile after I fell off the ladder”.
  • “Tediously dull, especially due to lack of meaning or sense” as in “This party is stupid”.
  • “In a state of stupor” as in “I am stupid from staying up all night”.
  • “Annoying or irritating” as in “This recitation of all the meanings of stupid is stupid”

So Facebook, do I go to jail for saying “Man last night I was so stupid from going to that stupid party that I tripped on the curb, hit my head, and got stupid for so long that I was stupid to the guy who gave me a ride home”?

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I’m Dreaming Of A Slow News Day

I woke up with White Christmas in my head. I suspect you’ve heard of it. #sarcasm. It’s a Christmas song written by a Jewish guy and popularized by an Irish Catholic guy. The overwhelming popularity of the song always struck me as a bit odd since I’ve never lived in a place where a White Christmas is a likelihood. Hell, neither did Der Bingle: he lived not far from where I grew up.

This year, I’m dreaming of a slow news day just like the ones we used to know. Remember when presidents took a vacation during the holidays? That’s my dream: Reagan on his ranch, Poppy Bush in Maine, Obama in Hawaii. Unlike the Current Occupant, they knew the perils of overexposure.

American used to focus on the holidays on the Monday before Christmas. In 2020, the Impeached Insult Comedian is still working overtime to own the libs. Why not? It’s so easy. The whole Michael Flynn-Martial Law leak is classic Trump: blow smoke and sow seeds of confusion about something that is impossible. Repeat after me: IMPOSSIBLE.

I certainly believe that Flynn is capable of such an utterance, but he was pandering to the guy who pardoned him. Martial law isn’t a thing that can just be declared without planning and preparation. When did the Kaiser of Chaos ever plan anything? Martial law isn’t even an American thing: there’s no specific provision for it in either the constitution or federal law.

A reminder that the Joint Chiefs of Staff declared themselves out of politics before the election. You can’t have marital law or a coup without the military. The brass hate Trump. They’d rather have an asterisk-free president who doesn’t call veterans “losers and suckers.” I understand that there’s one available.

I have other dreams this chilly, not snowy New Orleans morning.

I dream that people will stop misusing words like coup, sedition, and treason. Things are bad enough without overdramatizing everything.

I dream that my social media feeds will not be clogged with people who hate authoritarianism so much that they want to throw everyone in jail. Proof positive that irony isn’t dead.

I dream that people will stop lamenting the hardship of a socially distant holiday season and focus on 2021 when the holiday season will be back to semi-normal. Life is hard enough without relentless kvetching. Repeat after me: Better stir crazy than dead.

I dream that we can go a week without thinking of the sitting president because he’s a normal guy, not a sociopath. I understand that there’s one available.

Living in interesting times is overrated. I’m dreaming of a slow news day just like the ones we used to know.

The last word goes to the Irish Catholic guy who popularized White Christmas:

Biden To Delouse The White House

After Joe Biden debated Paul Ryan in 2012, we had a lot of fun with then Veep’s use of figuratively and literally. In this case, it’s both a literal *and* figurative delousing. Who’s a bigger louse than President* Pennywise?

President-elect Joe Biden and his transition team are reportedly already making plans to ensure that the White House, which has been plagued with a series of COVID-19 infections thanks to President Donald Trump’s disregard for protective measures against the virus, is safe enough for the 78-year-old Biden to move in come January 20.

According to Politico, Biden’s transition team will have the White House fully cleaned by General Services Administration (GSA) staffers hours after Trump leaves the building.

A spokesperson for the GSA told Politico that the staffers will “thoroughly clean and disinfect” every area of the East and West Wings that people have touched, including furniture and doorknobs.

A private contractor will also reportedly provide “disinfectant misting services.”

You say disinfect, I say delouse. Let’s call the Trump presidency off.

I hope they plan to tent the place for literal insects and set extra-large rat traps just in case some human vermin linger. I’m speaking figuratively.

Since Joey B Shark is a good Catholic, he should have the house blessed and an exorcism performed if need be. Literally or figuratively.

The last word goes to Father Merrin of The Exorcist. He might be needed in case Ivanka refuses to leave:

Quote Of The Day: The Incredible Mr. Lindsey

There’s a lot of chatter on the Tweeter Tube about the man who convinced John McCain to put Sarah Palin on the ticket, Steve Schmidt. He’s currently the Lincoln Project’s honcho or co-honcho or big cheese or some such shit.

Schmidt’s new teevee persona is old testament prophet warning the world about Trumpism in hyperbolic terms. He often gets red faced as he rants, which happened yesterday on Nicholle Wallace’s MSNBC show.

I take Schmitty’s grandiose ranting with a grain of salt. He’s gone from an overly literal conservative true believer to overly literal Never Trumper. He’s also quite the drama queen. He’s one of those guys who insists on calling the absurd antics of Team Trump a coup. It’s not even a putsch, it’s an extended tantrum or hissy fit. Calling it a coup gives it a gravitas that it doesn’t deserve. Schmidt should cease the coup chatter, drink a Big Golpe, and import some edibles from Colorado. Calm the fuck down, man.

Warning: Baseball analogies ahead.

As a pundit, Schmitty usually swings and misses. If there were a Mendoza Line for pundits, he’d be below it. In this instance, that means he’s a .200 hitter who thinks he’s a slugger because of his orotund vocabulary.

Steve Schmidt is no Mike Schmidt who struck out 1,883 times, but also hit 548 homers in his 18 years with the Philadelphia Phillies.  Steve Schmidt wanted to be the MVP of this campaign but he’s no Mike Schmidt who was a three-time National League MVP. Both, however, would be booed in Philadelphia: Steve because he’s a former GOPer, Mike because he’s a retired Phillie. They boo everyone in Philly; even the greatest player in the history of their baseball team. End of the Schmidt comparison part of the post.

Occasionally, Schmitty digs through his over elaborate vocabulary and hits it out of the park. Hell, even Mario Mendoza hit 4 homers in his 9 years in the majors.  I said we were done with Schmidt comparisons, not baseball analogies.

I somehow missed this Schmidt gem from a January 6th article about Lindsey Graham in Rolling Stone. I’m glad it turned up on Twitter this morning:

“People try to analyze Lindsey through the prism of the manifest inconsistencies that exist between things that he used to believe and what he’s doing now. The way to understand him is to look at what’s consistent. And essentially what he is in American politics is what, in the aquatic world, would be a pilot fish: a smaller fish that hovers about a larger predator, like a shark, living off of its detritus. That’s Lindsey. And when he swam around the McCain shark, broadly viewed as a virtuous and good shark, Lindsey took on the patina of virtue. But wherever the apex shark is, you find the Lindsey fish hovering about, and Trump’s the newest shark in the sea. Lindsey has a real draw to power — but he’s found it unattainable on his own merits.”

That’s why I used the poster for the 1964 Don Knotts flick The Incredible Mr. Limpet as the featured image. In his Sixties heyday, Knotts’ persona was that of a nebbish who thought he was a tough guy. That’s Lindsey Graham in a wingnut shell.

When Don Knotts played Deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, kindly Sherriff Andy wouldn’t let him load his gun. I suspect kindly Senator Walnuts didn’t let Lindsey put bullets in his gun either. But President* Pennywise is a reckless predator who allows pilot fish Lindsey to load his gun. That’s the Trump-Graham relationship in a wingnut shell.

That concludes this basebally fishy post. The last word goes to The Jayhawks:

 

Words Matter

I’ve been having a back-and-forth argument with some friends over the word coup and whether the antics of Rudy and other Trumpers constitute a coup d’état or golpe de estado. This is NOT a coup, it’s an extended tantrum. Why? Because words matter.

I’m a writer with a law degree so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I’m a stickler for precise language unless puns are involved. Then all bets are off.

I grew up on the Encyclopedia Britannica. Here’s its definition:

Coup d’état, also called coup, the sudden, violent overthrow of an existing government by a small group. The chief prerequisite for a coup is control of all or part of the armed forces, the police, and other military elements. Unlike a revolution, which is usually achieved by large numbers of people working for basic social, economic, and political change, a coup is a change in power from the top that merely results in the abrupt replacement of leading government personnel. A coup rarely alters a nation’s fundamental social and economic policies, nor does it significantly redistribute power among competing political groups.

There are other sloppier definitions out there, but this is the one I adhere to even if that sounds sticky.

As far as I’m concerned, no military involvement means that it’s not a coup. Neither the military nor security forces are involved in Trump’s attempt to subvert and steal the 2020 presidential election something for which we should be profoundly grateful.

There’s another reason that I’m adamantly opposed to a sloppier definition of the word coup: it elevates and dignifies a presidential* hissy fit and gives it some gravitas. This doomed attempt to steal the election is farcical unless you’re a right-wing conspiracy buff. Anything led by Rudy Giuliani is doomed to fail. He hasn’t succeeded at anything since he left Gracie Mansion other than making money. Remember his 2008 presidential campaign? Neither do I.

I remain convinced that the purpose of this extended political tantrum is to cause chaos and confusion and provide the Trumpers with a stab in the back narrative that they can use to explain away their defeat. That’s why I call Trump the Kaiser of Chaos.

I’m also exasperated with the MSM’s lazy use of language in other areas. The best example is the phrase the “Latin Vote.” The MSM is currently puzzled by why Biden did well with Latin voters in Arizona and not Florida. D’oh: they’re different groups from different places. They’re mostly Mexican in Arizona but Cuban, Venezuelan, and Central American in South Florida. When Cuban emigrees landed in Miami during the waning days of the Jim Crow era they were treated like white people. They still think of themselves as white, not brown. That’s why neither Marco Rubio nor Ted Cruz identify with minority groups. Blame Fidel.

This particular word game is a sign of media sloth and soft bigotry. When I was young, the punditocracy focused on how candidates did with various European ethnic and religious groups. They didn’t lump Italians, Greeks, Poles, Jews, and Slavs together because they had different interests, values, and religious affiliations. Clearly race had something to do with the avoidance of groupthink.

The same logic should be applied to the “Latin Vote” today. There is no monolithic Latin voting bloc much as the media and politicians wish that there were. Oversimplification is the enemy of clarity.

The last word goes to Stephen Stills:

Why I’m Not Watching The Barrett Hearings

I hate Senate hearings, especially illegitimate ones. I’m usually the guy who says, “don’t boycott.” But this time I wish they had. I understand the reasons for Democratic members participating but I don’t want any of them catching COVID from the senator we know has had it, Mike Lee, or the senators who refused to be tested, Graham and Grassley. It’s not worth it, y’all.

I have a personal reason for hearing avoidance: the junior senator from the Gret Stet of Louisiana, John Neely Kennedy. I cannot stand watching him hick it up and sound like a hillbilly ninny. He’s the second phoniest man in American politics. Repeat after me: John Neely Kennedy can go fuck himself.

As to the process itself, it’s a rush job to cram an extremist judge down our throats. We all know that she’s itching to reverse Roe, but they keep denying it. I may not be watching the hearings but I’m reading about them and watching the clips. You could cut the sanctimony in that room with a knife.

I’m baffled by the Republican focus on the “injustice” done to Justice Bro. Why do they want to relive that nightmare? It’s not going to help them politically. Just ask Runaround Sue Collins. They know they’re losing, that’s why they’re putting their hypocrisy on parade.

I wish they weren’t there, but I agree with the Democrat’s focus on health care. The ACA and COVID are winning issues for Team Blue. Since this process is strictly political, they should milk it for all it’s worth.

The clips I’ve seen from day two show an over rehearsed almost comically evasive nominee. It’s the same act that GOP nominees have been doing since John Roberts, but he did it with style and panache qualities that Judge Barrett lacks.

I’m glad committee Dems are scoring points but life’s too short to invite Ted Cruz into my living room. I don’t want to traumatize Kitty Claire Trevor.

A brief thought about “court packing.” I think it’s high time for SCOTUS reform, but I wish our side would STFU about court packing. It’s a pejorative term that was used by FDR’s enemies during his attempt to reform the high court. Call if reform, call it anything else but don’t call it packing. Words matter. I agree with the headline of a recent Josh Marshall post: It’s Not ‘Court Packing.’ Don’t Be A Moron and Call It That.

It’s time to gavel this post to a close. In an attempt to inject some levity into the proceedings, we have two judge songs for your listening pleasure:

Bayou Brief: Mask Wars

Image by John Valentino.

My latest 13th Ward Rambler column is online at Bayou Brief. In Mask Wars, I ponder political performance art and three of its Louisiana practitioners: State Rep Danny McCormick, Picvocate columnist Dan Fagan, and State Attorney General Jeff Landry.

After the column was written, Landry tested positive for COVID, which gave me the chance to write a rather amusing afterword. He subsequently issued a legal opinion from quarantine that the mandatory mask order issued by Governor John Bel Edwards is unenforceable. The opinion is strictly advisory, so it amounts to sound and fury signifying nothing. It’s also much like this venerable expression:

“Offering an opinion is like peeing on yourself in a blue serge suit. It feels warm and no one knows you’ve done it.”

There’s a dispute as to who first said this, but I first saw it in Gay Talese’s NYT book The Power and the Glory. It was attributed to former Times executive editor Turner Catledge. Catledge was from Mississippi and retired to New Orleans. After Catledge’s death, Dr. A and I went to an estate sale at his Garden District house. I bought his copy of that Talese tome. If only I could find it among the book clutter in my study. So it goes.

In other Mask War news, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp finds himself in a peach of a pickle. In a breathtaking display of hypocrisy, he’s banning local governments from mandating masks. Other than party affiliation, why is he a hypocrite? He wore a mask while welcoming the Impeached Insult Comedian to Georgia the other day. Trump was unmasked. Freedom, man.

Finally, one more Mask War note. Earlier this week, historian and New Orleanian John Barry wrote an opinion piece for the NYT about the pandemic. It was excellent except for this passage:

Social distancing, masks, hand washing and self-quarantine remain crucial. Too little emphasis has been placed on ventilation, which also matters. Ultraviolet lights can be installed in public areas. These things will reduce spread, and President Trump finally wore a mask publicly, which may somewhat depoliticize the issue.

Trump flip flopped on mask wearing the day after this piece ran. I’m glad Barry hedged his bets by using the word somewhat. Never assume that President* Pennywise will stick to a position for more than a few days. As I said in Mask Wars, “He’s consistently inconsistent.”

The last word goes to Fleetwood Mac with a Christine McVie song:

Not Taking Sides Is Taking Sides

It’s a crazy news day even for the Trump era. It’s Juneteenth, which the Impeached Insult Comedian claims to have discovered or some such shit. It’s much like Christopher Columbus sailing the ocean blue in 1492 and “discovering” lands populated by indigenous peoples.

Trump’s comment is so moronic that it should be preserved for posterity or stuck up his posterior. It’s a coin toss as to which:

“I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous. It’s actually an important event, an important time. But nobody had ever heard of it.”

In the same Wall Street Journal interview, President* Pennywise also said that some people wear masks not for safety reasons but to signal disapproval of him. Seriously? Everything is about him

Trump was for preventive measures before he was against them. Oy just oy.

In other mask news, the story that gave this post its title popped up on the Tweeter Tube:

Too late, dude, You stuck your foot in a massive pile of dog shit and now it’s stuck in your mouth. Yuck.

I wasn’t planning to attend the movies until there’s a vaccine anyway, but it won’t be to an AMC theatre. We have three locally owned and operated cinemas so I’m sticking to them.

AMC does, however, have comfy reclining chairs:

Repeat after me: Not Taking Sides Is Taking Sides.

There was some good news yesterday. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar removed her name from Joe Biden’s Veep list. She urged the former Veep to pick a woman of color as his Veep. This should boost Senator Kamala Harris’ chances, but like Klobuchar she’ll have to deal with questions about her prosecutorial past. I’d use the reformed sinner/it takes a thief argument; meaning that only those who understand the criminal justice system can fix it. Stay tuned.

Finally, New Orleans writer Megan Braden-Perry has compiled a swell Juneteenth listicle for those of you who have heard of the holiday that the Kaiser of Chaos made “very famous.” Enough with the verys, dude. We’re very sick of them. Yea, verily.

Speaking of masks, the last word goes to Graham Parker:

Repeat after me: Not Taking Sides Is Taking Sides.

Still Can’t Trust That Day

Tropical Storm Cristobal was something of a non-event in New Orleans. Other parts of the broader Metro Area and Gulf South weren’t so lucky. We’re still experiencing the odd severe rain band but if this is our tropical system for the year, we’re lucky. Knock on wood.

An odd phenomenon of the social media era is people complaining about preparing for a storm then bitching about it not being severe. It’s what we want, y’all.  Is it my fault if you bought too much water and food you’ll only eat when the power is out? Talk about first world problems. Eat your Vienna Sausages and STFU.

A friend of mine made a more salient point on Facebook. Why can’t our brains process more than once thing at a time? Locally, we’ve gone from focusing on the pandemic to the protests and, briefly, to hurricane season. The MSM has this problem in spades: one major story at a time is all they can handle. The pandemic didn’t go anywhere. Our inability to multi-task is likely to lead to a second wave.

The Trump regime has largely abandoned the subject of the pandemic since it was a loser for them. They’re now fixated on LAW & ORDER. The big question for me is this: SVU; Criminal Intent; or the original Law & Order?

William Hermann Goering Barr faced the nation yesterday. It was a pitiful performance as he tried to argue that pepper spray and tear gas are not chemicals. It reminded me of a kid who discovers for the first time that a tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable. Barr is not a kid and ketchup is neither a vegetable nor a fruit.

There’s been much mockery of Willard Mittbot Romney for marching in the BLM protest yesterday. It doesn’t make him a hero, but I believe in coalition building so I’ll take allies wherever I find them. Besides, he earned some cred with me by voting to remove the Impeached Insult Comedian from office.

The Gray Lady seems to have recovered from losing its Cotton Pickin’ Mind after publishing a fascist op-ed from Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton. The opinion editor quit in the face of widespread unrest on the paper’s staff. Maybe the opinion page will abandon its recent obsession with trying to “challenge” the paper’s liberal readers. They should leave “owning the libs” to Fox News.

Finally, a few unfashionable thoughts about the latest craze: “Defund the Police.” In this instance, the details are, on the whole, good not devilish. Reducing the police’s involvement in things they’re bad at handling such as mental illness and domestic violence is a good idea. The label sucks. It implies that utopia will be the result of the George Floyd protests.

Violent crimes still need investigating; what is needed is to demilitarize the police and address racist violence by law enforcement. The overall idea behind “defund the police” is not a bad one but the presentation is terrible. It implies that “burning down” the system is a good idea. I had hoped that Trump’s “burning down” US foreign policy among other things would have disabused people of the notion that disruption and destruction are good ideas. Like Cory Booker, I prefer reform and rebuilding.

Repeat after me: Words Matter.

The last word goes to Stephen Stills with a song written in 1971 that’s still relevant today:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Snake Bite Love

Water Serpents II by Gustav Klimt

Perhaps I should have used Zachary Richard’s Snake Bite Love as our theme song while we were Festing In Place but I couldn’t let go of using Can’t Let Go last week. Besides, it’s never too late for a Zack Attack.

We have two versions of Snake Bite Love for your listening pleasure: the 1992 studio original and a 2009 live version from a Jazz Fest set I attended.

One more snake song before we slither to the break:

Ouch that hurt. Time to turn the virtual page.

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Stephen Miller’s Song

Shakespeare At Dusk by Edward Hopper

While we’ve all had our eyes on the pandemic, despicable White House aide and self-hating Jew Stephen Miller has kept busy. You can detect his hand behind President* Pennywise’s immigration “ban.” It was, of course, devised to distract attention from the regime’s supremely inept pandemic response. They’ve tried lying their way through it and it’s blown up in their pasty, white faces or in Trump’s case, orange.

The other reason I’m plagued by thoughts about Miller is a Slate piece by Jeremy Stahl that reminds us of Miller’s racist malefactions. It’s part of a series about Trump administration malfeasance. This post is full of M-words. Here are two more: Miller is a malodorous motherfucker. That felt mighty, mighty good.

You’re probably wondering what I’m on about with the post title. It’s down to Richard Thompson-Edward Hopper month at Saturday Odds & Sods. I’ve been listening to RT’s back catalog a lot of late and one song in particular strikes me as relevant to this moment in time. Time is still on my mind as you’ll see later today. I’ve also thrown one more Hopper painting into the mix as the featured image. Never enough EH or RT.

The exact point-of-view of the 1979 Richard Thompson song, Civilisation, remains somewhat murky; something the songwriter is unlikely to clarify other than to state it doesn’t reflect his own political views. I’ve always interpreted it as a narrative tune with a far-right xenophobic protagonist spouting bigoted bile and nonsense about immigrants. Hence my idiosyncratic connection of it with far-right racist and xenophobic Trump aide, Stephen Miller. There’s occasionally method to my madness.

Civilisation is the opening track of the penultimate Richard and Linda Thompson album, Sunnyvista. It rocks like crazy and, as you might have gathered, has disturbing RT lyrics:

They’re not human, they’re with the Woolwich
They eat food I wouldn’t give to my dog
They’re hygienic, medicated
They wouldn’t live next door to no wog
They’re not human, where do they come from?
I don’t know what they’re living here for
They don’t belong here, on this planet
What are they doing in the house next door?

Wife’s tranquilized, milk’s pasteurized
Kid’s hypnotized by the t.v.
Dad’ll beat you, dog’ll eat you
They’ll treat you like family

All across the nation
It’s civilisation

They’re not human, they’ve got a new car
They’re going to polish it all the day long
Got a brand new rubber woman
They’re going to blow her up all the night long
They’re not human, it’s a double cross
They sold out for a handful of beads
They sold everything for nothing, just a
Headful of dreams and a handful of greed

Keep ’em happy, keep ’em drinking
Keep ’em laughing, no thinking
No dying, no weeping
Keep ’em hypnotized, keep ’em sleeping

All across the nation
It’s civilisation

Pack you off to school, get working
Get a steady job, no shirking
Get to sixty-five, get a handshake
You’re a vegetable with a heartache

All across the nation
It’s civilisation

I hear the sound of Stephen Miller clapping and nodding his head.

There’s an overly literal interpretive video of Civilisation on YouTube by a dude with a handle that I originally thought was German, Mehefinheulog. It turns out to be Welsh. He  uses images of movie space aliens and includes frequent nods to Sir Kenneth Clark’s genteel and erudite teevee series, Civilisation. RT’s protagonist may be wordy but he’s neither genteel nor erudite.

Stephen Miller and his ilk believe they’re stalwart defenders of Western civilization instead of malevolent bigots. I assume his family remains ashamed of him. They should be mortified. That’s the last M-word of this post.

Saturday Odds & Sods: For Shame Of Doing Wrong

New York Movie by Edward Hopper.

I’m trying something different this month. I’m pairing the artwork of Edward Hopper with the music of Richard Thompson. Each Saturday in April will feature a different EH image and RT tune. I think they work well together.

My oak pollen allergy has been bonkers this year. We’ve hit a prolonged dry patch: no rain since some time in February. We tend towards extremes in New Orleans. It either rains too much or not at all. The happy medium is unknown in our forecasting annals.

The worst thing about this allergy season during the pandemic is that it’s hard for me to go outside at all. The last time I took a walk, I had a pollen related sneezing jag, which led some fellow strollers to glare at me as if I were Typhoid Mary. So it goes.

This week’s theme song was written by Richard Thompson for the Pour Down Like Silver album. I have a soft spot for that album: it was the first RT album I ever purchased but not until 10 years after its release. I was a late RT bloomer.

We have three versions of For Shame Of Doing Wrong for your listening pleasure: the Richard and Linda studio original, a poppy version produced by Gerry Rafferty, and a cover by RT’s former Fairport band mate, Sandy Denny.

Is it shameful that I like the poppy version from Rafferty’s Folly? Hell, I like the song below too. It was inescapable in 1978:

As I hang my head for shame of doing wrong, let’s jump to the break in a shameless manner.

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Let’s See Inaction

The New Orleans Toilet Paper Apocalypse is in its second week. Make that the national Toilet Paper Apocalypse (hereinafter TPA) as hoarding is in fashion. The TPA is also an indication that people remain poorly informed about the nature of COVID-19. Nobody’s going to shit themselves to death because of this virus. Scout’s honor. Scout Prime’s honor too.

NOLA Notes: There was some serious idiocy here last Saturday. Can idiocy ever be serious? That’s an existential question for another day.

Anyway, it was supposed to be the day of the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day parade so there was a de facto block party on the Magazine Street route despite the obvious health hazards involved.  Even a normal St. Paddy’s Day seems to lower IQs by at least 50 points, and normal came to a screeching halt last week.  NOPD were dispatched both there and to Bourbon Street where drunken idiocy reigned as well. Now’s the time to drink at home, y’all.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell held a presser yesterday. While she ranted about “irresponsible journalism,” she did not impose a curfew. It’s unclear as of this writing exactly what the Mayor was on about, but it seems to involve a reporter calling City Hall to ask about a rumor spreading on social media. The Mayor did not handle it well. The rumor mill will be working overtime as this crisis unfolds, and the best way to swat down rumors is by answering questions however ridiculous. We’re all a bit testy but it’s best for our elected leaders to keep their crankiness to themselves. Otherwise, the Mayor is doing all the right things thus far.

A note about language. The word irresponsible is in right now. In fact, it’s being overused. The word is inherently pedantic, patronizing, and other P words that will come to me later. I prefer to call the foolish white people who partied at an Irish bar, reckless and stupid. I know stupid is judgy, but it doesn’t sound as judgy as irresponsible, which reminds me of an old song:

If the Chairman of the Board were still with us, he’d call the Irish Channel revelers, “stupid bums” or something equally colorful. The man knew how to call a bum a bum.

Movie Notes: I’m watching too much teevee during this crisis so I’m putting on my film critic hat to recommend some movies to help you wile away the hours. Since old movies, especially in glorious black and white, are one of my passions, I’ll focus on movies released before 1970 except when I don’t. I am consistently inconsistent, after all. It’s part of my charm, such as it is.

Last night, Dr. A and I watched this 1950 movie:

We watched the TCM Noir Alley version. The host of Noir Alley, Eddie Mueller, essentially resurrected this undeservedly obscure 1950 movie. It’s a winner; filmed on the streets of San Francisco, featuring great lead performances by Anne Sheridan and Dennis O’Keefe and a stellar supporting turn by Robert Keith (father of Brian) as a quirky police inspector. Rembrandt the dog is doggone good as well. Arf.

I don’t want to give away too many plot details other than to say there’s a helluva twist near the end that I didn’t see coming. And I’m good at figuring out twists.

Woman On The Run is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. I give it 3 1/2 stars, an Adrastos Grade of B+ and an exuberant thumbs up. Check it out while it’s still “free” to prime customers.

I’m going to try and not just write about the COVID-19 crisis as it unwinds. But it’s all-consuming right now since it’s early days. I also need to stop calling all segments “notes.” That’s notably boring but so, too, is this crisis. I’m so bored that I have a motto for this pandemic:

BETTER BORED THAN DEAD.

It’s almost as good as STAY THE FUCK HOME.

A quick note about the post title; there’s that word again. It’s a play on the title of a Pete Townshend song, which was originally titled Nothing Is Everything (Let’s See Action). It contains this cool lyrical couplet: “Rumor has it, minds are open. Then rumors fill them up with lies.” Perhaps Mayor Cantrell should quote it the next time rumors are mentioned…

The Who’s version has always been called Let’s See Action, the Adrastos version is Let’s See Inaction. Inactive is the new in word for those of us who are hunkering down until the crisis eases. Beats the hell outta irresponsible…

Inaction is just for the citizenry: we want all levels of government to be active and responsible.

The last word goes to The Who live in 2000 with a sloppy but spirited rendition of Let’s See Action with guest rock star Eddie Vedder:

Let’s clean up that mess with the original studio version:

That is all.

The First Casualty

There’s an ongoing debate as to who coined the phrase “the first casualty of war is the truth.” Some credit California Senator Hiram Johnson who said something along the same lines in 1917. He was a progressive Republican, which was not an oxymoron in his case. He was TR’s running mate in 1912 on the Bull Moose ticket.

Others believe that the Greek tragedian Aeschylus coined the phrase. This one-two punch makes it win-win for me as a Greek American who grew up in California. Yay, Team Adrastos.

In either case, the phrase deserves to be in the pantheon of quotes as whatever this thing with Iran is evolves into. The most mendacious administration* in American history is focusing its talent for lying on the Iran crisis. Suddenly, some of Trump’s harshest critics believe his most extreme statements on this subject. Do they think he wouldn’t lie about this? If so, why? Here’s the warning I posted on the Tweeter Tube:

President* Pennywise has threatened to bomb 52 targets in Iran in twisted homage to the Americans held hostage in 1979-80. While it *is* an event that Trump has heard of, I doubt he can count that high. Hopefully, the military won’t screw up again by presenting him with another extreme option:

Pentagon officials usually include a far-out option when they present possibilities to the president in order to make the others seem less extreme. The other options presented to Trump in Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach resort, included strikes against Iranian ships or missile facilities or militias backed by Iran that are operating in Iraq. “The Pentagon also tacked on the choice of targeting General Suleimani, mainly to make other options seem reasonable,” reports the Times.

That’s okay with a rational leader but not with a mentally ill president who is eager to distract attention from his impeachment. It’s either dog wagging or dick waving. It could be both: he’s eager to offend. That’s why I call him the Impeached Insult Comedian.

The next time Trump tweets out some batshit crazy threat, give the Morton Salt girl a holler:

It’s currently pouring Trump regime lies and bullshit. Take everything they say with a massive grain of salt. That goes for the Iranian government: they’re contenders in the Liar’s War as well.

There are unconfirmed but plausible reports of Iranian Americans being detained at the border and airports. What’s next? An embargo on the upcoming season of The Shahs Of Sunset? Reza and I object:

The reason I’m making light of the current situation is my belief that mockery is the best medicine. Besides, we still haven’t the foggiest notion of what course this crisis will take. The Iranian regime is as ruthless and violent as that of Saddam Hussein BUT they’re infinitely more sophisticated. Hopefully, they’re too clever to provoke a land war. That statement comes with an enormous caveat: the Middle East is where prediction go to die. That coupled with Trump’s lack of impulse control makes it almost impossible to predict what happens next. You might as well ask the Morton Salt girl. She knows as much as the next pundit…

All I know for certain is that the first casualty of war is the truth.

Let’s close things out on a semi-optimistic note. The last word goes to the Police:

The Decayed Decade

There’s nothing like the end of a decade to inspire what I like to call Listomania. I succumbed to that temptation at the end of the aughties myself. I’m going to spare you another list after going on and on and on with the Best of Adrastos.

Instead of a list, I’m going to reflect on the downward national political trajectory of the Decayed Decade. I had forgotten that my 2009 list was called Listomania: The Decayed Decade so I’m repeating myself title-wise. Good wordplay is a terrible thing to waste.

The dawn of the 2010’s found us with a Democratic Congress and the first African American president in our history. Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, which was a first step in the direction of universal health care. The combination of “death panels, socialized medicine” and racism led to the Tea Party backlash midterm election of 2010.

The 2010 election was just the first backlash against the social changes sweeping the country. It’s not much discussed in 2019 but it opened the door for Trumpism, which is teabaggery without any pretense to principle. The Tea Party wave election dumbed down Congress and brought birtherism to the forefront of the national dialogue, which was capitalized upon by rank opportunists such as the Insult Comedian. The Koch brothers found Trump distasteful, but they set the table for a president* with lousy manners. The Trump regime belches Koch policy preferences without so much as an excuse me:

The political scene got dumber and grosser as the Decayed Decade marched on. Things got so bad in the House of Representatives that Speaker Boner stepped aside in 2015 as he couldn’t control his caucus because of all the yahoos and proto-Trumpers. It’s revealing of our current circumstances than I feel nostalgic for the Cryin’ Ohioan. He at least told the truth as he saw it as opposed to the rank fantasists who currently control the Republican party.

Lies and conspiracy theories became increasingly popular on the right as the Decayed Decade advanced. Democrats and Republicans now live in alternate universes. This is as good a time as any to re-quote a great American:

I wrote about the avalanche of mendacity and bullshit that overwhelmed our political dialogue in a recent post, Sound of Lies. The teabaggers and birthers got the ball rolling, then Fox News and Donald Trump brought mendacity into the mainstream, which is now muddier and more stagnant than a backwater swamp. The word fetid comes to mind.

The backlash was perfected with the 2016 election. The least qualified candidate in American history was elected president* with the help of the Russians and an archaic electoral college system. We’ve had rich businessman candidates before-Wendell Wilkie and Ross Perot spring to mind-but they had longstanding interests in public policy. Wilkie in foreign policy and Perot in the budget deficit. They both brought something to the table: Trump brought nothing but his ego and hollow rhetoric about “the swamp” and “forgotten man.” Both of which he forgot about upon his inauguration.

I don’t have to tell you in detail about the Trump regime’s small-minded and vindictive parade of policy horrors. Suffice it to say they were cooked up by Republican extremists long before Trump was taken seriously as a potential Oval One. Trumpism is Republicanism gone haywire. Extremists such as Stephen Miller realized that Trump was an empty vessel ready to be filled with xenophobic and hateful notions that had been percolating on the far right forever.

The result of the Decayed Decade is a GOP unrecognizable to Eisenhower Republicans such as my late father. They’ve gone so far off the schneid that I believe that Ronald Reagan would find it impossible to vote for the Impeached Insult Comedian in 2020.

A reminder that Reagan was a moderate on immigration and anti-Russian to his core. Putin is a KGB colonel who runs the successor state to the Soviet Union. His goals are indistinguishable from those of pre-Gorbachev Soviet leaders: destruction of NATO and the EU as well as a passion to regain lost territories such as the jewel in the crown of the Russian Empire, Ukraine. It’s called irredentism and Putin has a bad case of it. And Trump has a bad case of loving Putin:

Now that I’ve bummed you out, there are two positive indicators that the Twenties will be better than the Decayed Decade. Images of flappers and Gamaliel are dancing through my head now. The 1920’s roared until they didn’t.

First, the 2018 midterms were a pointed rebuke to the GOP and Trumpism. If not for gerrymandering, the seat pickup would have been greater as Dems won the popular vote by 8 points. For point of reference, the Reagan landslide in 1980 was by the same margin.

Second, impeachment. It shows that Democrats have become battle hardened by three years of resisting Trumpsim. I still hope that some Senate GOPers will vote against the party line BUT impeachment was a major triumph for the resistance. House Democrats did the right thing regardless of the political implications, which I happen to think will be positive. Of course, I’ve been wrong before and will be again. At least I get to call the president* the Impeached Insult Comedian. Thanks, Nancy and Adam.

It’s a relief that the Decayed Decade is just about done. Here’s hoping that the 2020’s will be politically kinder to the country. Who knows: perhaps the Charleston and Lindy-hop will stage a comeback? You never can tell.

The last word goes to Roy Orbison and Squeeze with different tunes titled It’s Over:

Language

Before I became an internet pundit, I occasionally wrote letters to the editor. I had a few published but was always annoyed with the end results. I gave it up when the Picayune so twisted my meaning on a long-forgotten subject that a conservative friend asked if I’d defected to his side. He was disappointed to learn that I had not jumped ship.

That was a long way of saying that I’m quoting a letter to the editor by 33 prominent writers. In this case, the meaning is clear. They want the New York Times and their MSM colleagues to use different language to describe the Trump scandals:

Please stop using the Latin phrase “quid pro quo” regarding the impeachment inquiry. Most people don’t understand what it means, and in any case it doesn’t refer only to a crime. Asking for a favor is not a criminal act; we frequently demand things from foreign countries before giving them aid, like asking them to improve their human rights record.

That is not a crime; the crime is President Trump’s demand for something that will benefit him personally. But using this neutral phrase — which means simply “this for that” — as synonymous with criminality is confusing to the public. It makes the case more complicated, more open to question and more difficult to plead.

Please use words that refer only to criminal behavior here. Use “bribery” or “extortion” to describe Mr. Trump’s demand to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, making it very clear that this is a crime. The more we hear words that carry moral imputations, the more we understand the criminal nature of the act.

As you know, I rarely, if ever, make moral arguments. In this instance, the strongest argument is for clarity. The Trump-Zelensky call reeks of extortion and attempts to bribe the latter with money already allocated to his government by Congress. It’s also called wire fraud. Those are all words that people understand. Latin is for legal eagles and Catholic clerics. It does not soar with the vox populi, I mean, general public.

Words matter. Language is important, especially in this age of obfuscation, truthiness, and newspeak. George Orwell summed it up best 73 years ago in his classic essay, Politics and the English Language. Here are a few pertinent passages. I’m snipping some specific examples to boil Orwell’s argument down to its essence.

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. <SNIP> Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.

<SNIP>

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.

News reporters should keep it simple and leave the lofty language and exaggerated metaphors to the pundits. Above all else, skip the Latin and call a bribe a bribe and extortion extortion. Enough with the quid pro quos.

The last word goes to Kiwi rock demigod Dave Dobbyn:

Bayou Brief: The Ghosts Of Saturday Night

My latest 13th Ward Rambler column for the Bayou Brief is online. It focuses on the remarkable events of Saturday October 12, 2019 including the Gret Stet Governor and Jefferson Parish President races, the Bad Shepherd’s comeback, the Hard Rock Hotel collapse, and the latest boil water advisory in New Orleans.  It was the opposite of this Macca song:

I use several tunes by Tom Waits to make my point such as it is. He’s the only guy who can give LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron a run for the money in the gravelly voice sweepstakes. Now that’s a contest I’d like to see.

I also add TFC to the world’s acronymic lexicon:

Every time something goes haywire in New Orleans, I mutter to myself TFC: This Fucking City. I love New Orleans but sometimes this town dances on my last nerve. Saturday October 12, 2019 was such a day.

This post just got even more meta: I quoted myself in a post plugging my writing elsewhere.

Speaking of meta, the last word goes to Tom Waits with a song that was the last word of the 13th Ward Rambler column that used another one of his songs as a title. Confused? Me too. I’ll shut up and let Tom Waits growl-sing at you:

Repeat after me: This Fucking City.