Category Archives: Language

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:

Quote Of The Day: Invective Edition

I rarely quote conservative pundits but I’m making an exception in this case. It comes from a colloquy between NYT columnists Gail Collins and Brett Stephens. The never-Trump conservative turns out to like Beto O’Rourke and despise Ted Cruz:

Because he’s like a serpent covered in Vaseline. Because he treats the American people like two-bit suckers in 10-gallon hats. Because he sucks up to the guy who insulted his wife — by retweet, no less. Because of his phony piety and even phonier principles. Because I see him as the spiritual love child of the 1980s televangelist Jimmy Swaggart and Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Shining.” Because his ethics are purely situational. Because he makes Donald Trump look like a human being by comparison. Because “New York values.” Because his fellow politicians detest him, and that’s just among Republicans. Because he never got over being the smartest kid in eighth grade. Because he’s conniving enough to try to put one over you, but not perceptive enough to realize that you see right through him. Because he’s the type of man who would sell his family into slavery if that’s what it took to get elected. And that he would use said slavery as a sob story to get himself re-elected.

Otherwise, you might say I’m his No. 1 fan.

Tell us how you really feel, Brett.

A serpent covered in Vaseline? I might have to steal that line. I’m also considering stealing the theatrical joke in this tweet:

I’m also terribly fond of Travesties; the Stoppard play wherein Lenin meets Tristan Tzara the daddy of Dada. It contains a line I’ve often swiped over the years: “My art belongs to Dada.”

First Draft Potpourri: Of Quislings & McCarthyites

I haven’t done a potpourri post for quite some time. The events of last weekend were stinky enough to revive this malodorous blogging tradition. The only kind of potpourri I like is the Jeopardy category, which is odorless since William Castle’s Smell-O-Vision process never caught on.

We begin with the artist formerly known as Rudy Noun Verb 9/11 Giuliani whose appearance on Chucklehead Todd’s teevee show created quite a stir.

Truth Isn’t Truth: Rudy Giuliani has turned into a giant gaffe machine. His latest soundbite echoed across the internet yesterday. Josh Marshall was present at the creation and captured the moment in its sublime newspeaky mendacity:

Rudy has tried to clean up his own mess but the original quote has the ring of authenticity. The Trumpers believe that there’s no such thing as objective truth and that they can say or do anything as long as it gets their dear leader out of trouble.

A reminder that the term truthiness was coined by Stephen Colbert during the Bush-Cheney administration. They may have had better manners than the Trumpers but equaled them in mendacity. Remember that the next time a former Bushie compares Trump unfavorably to W.

Let’s close out this segment with a tune posted on Twitter by my main man Monkeyfister:

Deanmania: I’m an unabashed fan of Watergate whistleblower John Dean. I’ve read most of his books and find his comments on current events incisive, insightful and other I-words. Apparently, Michael Cohen’s mouthpiece Lanny Davis is a Dean fan as well:

“I reached out to my old friend John Dean because of what he went through with Watergate, and I saw some parallels to what Michael Cohen is experiencing. I wanted to gain from John’s wisdom,” Davis told POLITICO.

“I certainly don’t want to raise expectations that Mr. Cohen has anything like the level of deep involvement and detailed knowledge that John Dean had in the Nixon White House as a witness to Nixon’s crimes, but I did see some similarities and wanted to learn from what John went through.”

Dean’s role seems to be that of informal adviser/whistleblower whisperer. If anyone can fix the Fixer, it’s Dean who was in a similar fix 45 years ago.

Here’s where McCarthyism fits into our Deanmania narrative, a series of angry tweets from Trumpberius:

Ironies about in the Insult Comedian’s Sunday tirade. First, calling John Dean a rat means the Kaiser of Chaos identifies with Tricky Dick. You know, the guy who resigned the presidency in disgrace 44 years ago. Second, Trump’s self-described mentor was Tailgunner Joe’s right-hand man, Roy Cohn. I’ve already covered that bit of sleazy ground in a 2016 post, Oy, Such A Mentor. The president* is engaging in projection yet again. As I pointed out in a 2018 post, Exhuming McCarthy, Trumpism is the new McCarthyism.

Let’s move on to a segment wherein I don’t link to my old posts but instead urge the revival of  a venerable term for traitor. Here’s a visual cue:

The Quisling Revival: I have watched in awe former CIA Director John Brennan’s attacks on Trump’s role as Putin’s Puppet. Brennan has decided to leave it all on the field in his effort to tell the truth about the First Liar. I have a suggestion for Mr. Brennan of something to call his unworthy adversary: a name that is synonymous with treachery and treason, Quisling who is depicted above side-by-side with his modern counterpart.

Vidkun Quisling was the Norwegian Fascist who sold out his country by facilitating the Nazi invasion in 1940. His reward was to become the Norwegian Fuhrer or so he thought. Instead, this delusional collaboraor became Hitler’s puppet who was expected to follow orders. Sound familiar? Quisling was tried and executed for treason in 1945.

Winston Churchill and the British press used the term Quisling as an epithet during World War II and I think the resistance should do likewise in 2018. Heeeere’s Winston:

A vile race of Quislings? Sounds like your basic Trump apologist to me.

Finally, on a lighter note, Dr. A and I attended a party “celebrating” Sharknado 6: It’s About Time. The party was thrown by our friend Will who has been Sharknado “obsessed” for years. He hosted Sharknado fests at his former business, Pizza Nola, for many years. The last Sharknado waltz took place at the Howlin’ Wolf and featured this cake:

The movie, of course, was dreadful. It was the first time I’d sat through one of these fakakta movies and I only survived by heckling/riffing. I realized that the final Sharknado featured no less than 5 Celebrity Apprentice contestants; proof positive that we’ve died and gone to hell.

The last word goes to (who else?) Tim Finn and Split Enz:

Civility Is Overrated

Anyone with a pulse should recognize that we’re going through another IOKIYAR moment. Republicans and their allies in the MSM as well as some spineless liberal pundits are lecturing us about manners and civility. It’s particularly rich when the party in power is led by the crudest and rudest president* since Andrew Johnson. We’re being told that manners are for Democrats and that it’s RUDER for Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be refused service in an eatery than for the Trump regime to imprison children. Once again: IOKIYAR.

I, for one, refuse to be lectured by the followers of a president* who sucks up to dictators while attacking our friends and allies. The rationale for tariffs against the best neighbor in the world, Canada, is national security. Justin Trudeau is a threat to our national security? Imagine if Barack Obama had insulted Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper in this manner when they were both in office. The outrage on the right would have exceeded Tan Suitgate. Once again: IOKIYAR.

The Insult Comedian’s persistent racism has inspired his supporters to go after religious, ethnic, and racial minorities. It’s become commonplace to hear of insults being thrown at people of color but when Maxine Waters attacks Donald Trump that’s out-of-bounds incivility. Once again: IOKIYAR.

Some intrepid soul on twitter dug up an article detailing how Paul Ryan celebrated a baker who refused to serve Joe Biden during the 2012 election.  The same Paul Ryan is lecturing us about civility. All hail the Miss Manners of Wisconsin. Once again: IOKIYAR.

Then there’s former Nixon and Reagan aide David Gergen who I thought had been put out to pasture long ago,

Since rampant both-siderism has broken out, I have an example from each side back then. On the right, Bull Connor sicced dogs on children protesting for civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama. On the left, a favorite chant of anti-war protesters was: “Hey, hey, LBJ. How many kids did you kill today?”

Sounds like incivility to me, but what do I know? I didn’t write dog-whistle laden speeches for Tricky Dick, which somehow makes Gergen an expert on civility.

I am in favor of civility in the abstract. I used to be able to discuss politics with conservative friends and relations without drawing blood. That started eroding when Bush the younger was president and ground to a full-stop when those folks wouldn’t admit racism was a factor in Obama derangement syndrome on the right.

There’s been plenty of incivility from the right in my lifetime. Those of us who opposed the Iraq War were accused of siding with terrorists and opposing the troops. The same bunch wants us to be civil in the face of children being torn apart from their parents; a policy that even Laura Bush finds rude. As they say across the pond, BOLLOCKS.

The MSM, Republicans, and their fellow travelers among the liberal punditocracy are using the word civility as a wet blanket to smother dissent. Genuine civility is based on mutual respect as opposed to unilateral verbal disarmament.

I think Amanda Marcotte summed it up nicely on the tweeter tube:

Civility is overrated. I’ll take honesty over hypocritical “niceness” any day.

Repeat after me: IOKIYAR.

Malaka Of The Week: Mo Brooks

Since November, 2016, one of the MSM’s favorite words is unprecedented. Everything is unprecedented. It’s hard to argue that a president* making foreign policy pronouncements on twitter while watching Fox News is NOT unprecedented. It is. It is also aberrant and a textbook example of malakatude.

I’m going to do something unprecedented myself: First Draft’s first two-time malaka of the week. In the past, I’ve avoided repeat offenders because there’s enough malakatude to go around without plowing the same furrow again. But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do and that is why Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks is malaka of the week.

Mo Brooks first wore the malakatude crown of shame on June 8, 2014 for some inflammatory and downright idiotic white nationalist rantings. Brooks puts the Mo in Moron. In 2014, Malaka Mo claimed Democrats were waging a “war on whites” because of their uppity president and such.

Since then, Mo finished third in the 2017 GOP Senate primary behind Judge Pervert and Luther Strange. He was only the second craziest candidate in the race. Go figure.

In 2018, we’re getting Mo of the same nonsense as Brooks claims that assassination threats are the reason so many House GOPers are retiring:

“One of the things that’s concerning me is the assassination risk may become a factor,” he said.

Brooks referred to the fact many members of the Republican baseball team are retiring, including Sen. Jeff Flake and Reps. Ryan Costello, Pat Meehan, Dennis Ross and Tom Rooney.

“You have to wonder with that kind of disproportionate retirement number whether what happened in June played a factor,” he said.

So, it’s not scandal or the fact that they’re sure losers in the fall? It’s the Scalise shooting? Does Darrell Issa know about this? Since Mo is running for re-election, I guess that makes him one of the brave ones. Of course, he represents Alabama’s 5th district where white Democrats are rare and you can’t shake a stick without hitting a neo-Klansman. Mo is one brave motherfucker as well as a tribune of malakatude.

My favorite bit of this imbecilic rant is when Mo makes a vague Chinese Cultural Revolution reference without showing any signs that he knows what a Maoist really is:

He also said the “socialist Bernie Sanders wing of society” was pushing for a revolution that would lead to Maoist level of violence.

“There are a growing number of leftists who believe the way to resolve this is not at the ballot box but through threats and sometimes through violence and assassinations,” he said.

Other than social media keyboard warriors, I’m unaware of anyone advocating violent revolution or tooling up to become a 21st Century Gang of Four. The idea of past malaka of the week Jeff Weaver, Nina Turner and cohort donning Mao shirts and waving the little red book at Our Revolution rallies makes me chortle, titter, and even guffaw.

Since Malaka Mo is trotting out the Maoist straw man, it’s time to trot out some good old-fashioned ChiCom rhetoric and call Mo a running dog of the imperialist Trumpist dynasty.

It seems as if Mo is starting a Congressional GOP baseball team conspiracy theory. They’re all retiring because the Mau Mau Maoists are out to get them, which makes this some kind of Obama-Gang of Four conspiracy. Does Alex Jones know about this? He might, however, confuse them with the British rock band of that name. He could always ask his pal Billy Corgan to clarify matters.

It turns out that Malaka Mo is one of the GOP baseball team’s “coaches.” Why does a pickup baseball team need coaches? Is Mo teaching them the spitball? He’s good at scuffing up the truth, after all. Coach Mo conjures up images of Coach, Sam Malone’s lovably dim sidekick/bartender on the early seasons of Cheers. Mo Brooks is his evil twin but every bit as dim. I guess I shouldn’t use the word dim or Malaka Mo will think I’m talking about dim sum, which could make me a Maoist or some such shit. Mmm, dim sum.

Congressman Brooks continues to put the Mo into Moron with his bizarre ideas and convoluted thinking. Republican Congresscritters are retiring because they think they’ll lose their seats and control of the House. Fear of violence is just another lame excuse. And that is why Mo Brooks is malaka of the week.