Category Archives: Law/Justice

Power Before Country

Comatose 2017

Krewe of Comatose float. Photograph © by Ride Hamilton.

It’s not original to think that the 21st Century Republican party *always* puts power before country. It’s Athenae’s pet hobby-horse. She wrote quite eloquently about it just yesterday. It’s time for me to climb on back of said rocking horse and join in. I’ll try not to break it. That would be too much like Henry Drummond’s Golden Dancer story in Inherit The Wind for my taste, and I try not to be overly derivative.

What am I on about? Read and learn:

I was seven years old, and a very fine judge of rocking horses. Golden Dancer had a bright red mane, blue eyes, and she was gold all over, with purple spots. When the sun hit her stirrups, she was a dazzling sight to see. But she was a week’s wages for my father. So Golden Dancer and I always had a plate-glass window between us. But—let’s see, it wasn’t Christmas; must’ve been my birthday—I woke up in the morning and there was Golden Dancer at the foot of my bed! Ma had skimped on the groceries, and my father’d worked nights for a month. I jumped into the saddle and started to rock— And it broke! It split in two! The wood was rotten, the whole thing was put together with spit and sealing wax! All shine, and no substance! Whenever you see something bright, shining, perfect-seeming—all gold, with purple spots—look behind the paint! And if it’s a lie—show it up for what it really is!

That’s how Republicans *should* have reacted to the Trump phenomenon from the git-go. The Trump “movement” is all shine and no substance, much like the Insult Comedian’s taste for gaudy, glitzy, goldleafy decor. I shuddered when I heard that the Trumps might redecorate the White House living quarters. It’s the people’s house and the thought of any of it resembling Trump Tower is nauseating. In the immortal words of Garth Algar: “I think I’m gonna hurl.” Holy crap, I’ve gone from Spencer Tracy and Fredric March to Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. And I’m okay with that. 2017 is the 25th anniversary of Wayne’s World, after all. Excellent. Party time.

Where the hell was I? Oh yeah, the rottenness beneath the surface shine of conservative ideology. They’ve made a deal with the devil to get tax cuts for the 1% and to take away people’s health care among other horrors. It’s being done in the name of freedom but it’s really just selfishness. In that way, Donald Trump epitomizes what has happened to the GOP since the Reaganite wave election in 1980. Who’s more selfish than the Insult Comedian? If you know anyone, please keep them away from me.

In the wake of the Out like Flynn moment, there was a fleeting notion that Congressional Republicans might conduct a proper inquiry of the improper Russian connection. That moment has already passed because they realize this fiasco is apt to land at Donald’s doorstep. He was warned weeks ago that Flynn was susceptible to blackmail and nothing happened until Monday night. Why? I believe Trump (aka Putin’s Pawn) knew of, and initiated, Flynn’s contacts with Putin’s people. Flynn is not the only senior administration* official who has been compromised by the Russians: every word spoken, and action taken, by Trump indicates that he is susceptible to KGB-style blackmail. As Josh Marshall put it this morning: Flynn doesn’t matter. This is about Trump.

I’m not sure where this is headed. Events have been Russian by at a break neck pace. Flynn resigned while I was publishing my post about him, which had my head spinning like Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist. It’s certain that Trump administration* is headed for the rocks, it’s only a question of how extensive the damage is and who will be forced to jump overboard along with Flynn. It’s irrelevant whether he was pushed or jumped. The scariest thing about this week’s events is that Bannon is piloting the ship. The B3 Brownshirts are trying  to turn the White House into the Brown House. They’ve even unleashed Bannon’s creature Stephen Miller on the media. Unlike the rocker, he’s no Joker. Maurice would kick the little bastard in the balls.

There’s been a lot of discussion about prosecuting Flynn and other Trumpers for violations of the Logan Act. I, for one, am leery of that idea. The statute has been on the books since 1799 and it has only been invoked twice with no convictions. It was passed by a Federalist Congress and signed by President John Adams. It was aimed at the Jeffersonian Republicans who sided with the more radical factions of the French Revolution. In short, it was designed as political payback. It was mentioned by pro-Roosevelt forces during the isolationist America First moment but was never used. Wise choice.

Dusting off a 218-year-old statute to go after the Trumpers is a bad idea as far as this lapsed lawyer is concerned. It is a very frail reed and could easily be ruled unconstitutional if tested in the courts. That means anyone convicted under the law would walk and the GOPers would scream political persecution. The potential for backfire outweighs any positives.

The Logan Act is much like Golden Dancer in Henry Drummond’s story. A conviction obtained under it would be like Henry’s rocking horse: “The wood was rotten, the whole thing was put together with spit and sealing wax! All shine, and no substance!”

There’s an understandable temptation to fight fire with fire and sink to the Republicans level. I’m all for the resistance but we lose if we become carbon copies of them. Unlike our enemies, I believe in putting country before power.

I’ll give Spencer Tracy as the Clarence Darrow-like Henry Drummond the last word:

 

Defending a Nazi Won’t Get You Into Free Speech Heaven

Angus Johnston, who you should be reading if you are not:

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Here’s why I’m not defending them.

I don’t care about them.

And I think most of the people who do, with the exception of true, TRUE civil libertarians like the fucking saints at the ACLU, are just showing off.

Here’s my problem with wanking all day on Twitter about if we should punch Nazis or not, if Milo should be allowed to yell incoherently and incite mobs to attack trans students on university campuses and whatever: I almost never see the “defend to the death your right to say it” absolutism being preached by anybody who’s not a straight white comfortable dude.

I would respect the argument that we should let Milo yell his yelling if that argument came from a trans student in actual physical danger from Milo’s idiot army. I would respect the argument that we shouldn’t punch Nazis if the argument came from someone who the Nazi thought was subhuman. If people who are gay, trans, Muslim, minority, poor, want to tell me that they will get in the street to support the right of total assholes to exhort others to exterminate them, then hand me a damn sign and show me where the pro-Nazi protest is.

What I will not listen to is one more person with zero skin in the game deploring the tone in the room.

Because that’s always what it comes down to, from the Internet Constitutional Lawyers who scold everyone else for applauding a protest that shut someone down. Some airy, detached examination of “the real issue” which is, naturally, the speaker’s making himself sound superior to those who get all uncouth and het up about their impending deaths in gas chambers.

It’s not that I don’t see the opportunity for academic debate, mind. Or for study. It’s that I don’t actually give a fuck right now about being scolded, not by people who are not in any kind of danger.

“Well, what would you say if it was YOUR campus homophobe protest that was being shut down, HUH? HUH!?” I would say the grown-ups are talking right now, hie your whitebread ass head to some sophomore college coffeehouse and see if the kids there will tolerate your snide shit because no one here cares.

A.

Let Me Make This Easy for You, Democrats

No.

Really? Still? We’re still doing this? It’s 2017. We’re fully more than a decade past the time when Democrats, eager to take the high road and do the right thing and be patriotic and put country before party, sucked George W. Bush’s strap-on and were rewarded for their decency by having the war hero they nominated for president derided as a commie faggot peace-freak appeaser. We jus spent eight years in which a Democratic president gave weekly speeches about nonexistent well-meaning Republicans who just disagreed on policy while they howled outside his windows burning him in effigy. And we’re still gonna do the right thing?

WHY?

I mean it, God, why? So rich fucks like Richard Blumenthal can look at themselves in the mirror and talk to their reflections about how they tried, or something? So they can feel good about themselves? So they can say they did the “right thing” as defined by some centrist think tank as its members hump the status quo like their lives depend on it? So they don’t ruffle any feathers on the half-plucked chicken we’ve placed in the executive branch? So that maybe next time they’ll get a freebie? How stupid are these people?

Let me explain this for everybody, the fucking club of the most of them, that just got here on the last bus out of Idiotville. Let me tell you what will happen if Democrats hold hearings and confirm this guy. Let’s imagine they do that, and somehow we all survive the next four years and come out alive, and it’s a Democratic president in that chair the next time. And maybe Ruth Bader Ginsberg or one of the other 400-year-old people decides to pack it in. Let me lay out for you what happens next.

In payment for Democrats being so nice and good, and voting to confirm this suit filled with cockroaches to the highest court in the land, Republicans will make the next Democratic nominee into the biggest screaming pinko terrorist butt-buddy to ever walk the earth. They will portray that person, most likely a semi-conservative career prosecutor or the like, as a grave threat to the Republic and come up with endless rationales for delaying and finally denying his or her confirmation, and after they do that they’ll take victory laps at CPAC so the frog-fuckers who vote for them can shower them with praise for saving the land.

That will be your reward, Democrats, for “doing the right thing” by Republicans. Would that any of you were half as interested in doing the right thing by your constituents, or by America. Would that you felt as strongly about doing the right thing for us. Would that that kept you up at night.

Schmucks.

A.

Bannon’s B3 Brownshirts & The Chaos Principle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vive les Maquis.

Welcome Back To Dizneylandrieu

Dizneylandrieu

It’s the time of year when I turn my attention to the zany, madcap antics of the satirical parade Krewe du Vieux. KdV is an umbrella organization made up of sub-krewes who design and execute our own floats and costumes. You may recall that I belong to the Krewe of Spank. In 2014, Spank’s theme was Welcome to Dizneylandrieu. It was our masterpiece wherein we mocked our pompous Mayor for encouraging the gentrification sweeping New Orleans post-Katrina. We called him Mitchey Mayor and marched as Mitchketeers. It’s a small fucking world, after all. Long before our take on the Gentrified Kingdom, locals bridled at attempts to transform the French Quarter-indeed the city itself-into Disneyland on the Bayou. Here we go again.

This time the theme is “security” in response to sporadic violent crimes in the tourist belt. Mayor Landrieu has announced a sweeping plan that could transform parts of the city into a 21st surveillance state:

An unprecedented number of electronic eyes will soon be deployed throughout New Orleans, watching over 20 different neighborhoods, tracking vehicles to assist police as they search for suspects and scanning French Quarter revelers to look for hidden weapons.

The massive security deployment, part of a $40 million crime-prevention plan unveiled Monday, includes pumping public and private video feeds into a centralized New Orleans Police Department command center that will be monitored around the clock.

“Here’s the first thing I want everyone to know: When you go on Bourbon Street now, everything you do will be seen,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said.

The proposal, drafted in the wake of a shooting on Bourbon Street on Thanksgiving weekend that left one person dead and nine wounded, also calls for efforts to tamp down on the atmosphere of street partying and entertainment that often overtakes areas of the Quarter into the early morning hours.

While no closing times will be imposed, bars across the city will be required to keep their doors closed after 3 a.m. to discourage patrons from spilling outside, and an early morning spraying of Bourbon Street will further discourage revelry there.

Here we go again. This scheme is an overreaction to bad press every time some jerk with a gun and no impulse control loses their shit after getting shitfaced drunk. That’s almost always the nature of crime in the Quarter.  It’s the hardest type of crime to predict, deter, or prevent. In lieu of any meaningful attempts to deal with gun violence, there will be 24-hour surveillance of people getting hammered and doing stupid shit on Bourbon Street.

There’s so much drunken malakatude on Bourbon Street that separating the dangerous assholes from garden variety assholes is a job best performed by foot patrols. The city is already full of “crime cameras” that do not work, why are we to believe that this will be any different? It’s called throwing money at a problem to counter bad publicity. $40 million is a lot of scratch, y’all.

The Mayor attempted to defuse criticism of this misbegotten scheme by extending the surveillance net to other “hot spots” around the city. That’s unlikely to work. Plans like this come down the pike every so often, and city government is all talk and no enforcement. It’s another in a long series of publicity stunts aimed at making white people feel safe in a majority African-American city. Short-term solutions rarely solve long-term problems, but what really matters is that tourists feel safer. #Sarcasm. In short, it’s an expensive PR stunt as opposed to a serious crime prevention proposal.

For many locals, the most controversial part of the plan is the bit about bars having to shut their doors at 3 AM. There are several bars within a 2 block radius of Adrastos World HQ, they keep their doors open all night, and we hear nary a peep. 24-hour bars may sound odd to some of you, but it’s part of the city’s culture. The only reason they should have to shut their doors is if they’re bothering the neighbors. Besides, there’s no longer smoking in bars (something I support) so smokers are going to spill on to the sidewalk in any event. Is the city planning to send inspectors out in the wee hours to enforce this scheme? I am dubious.

Here’s the deal: I’m not much of a bar person nowadays. I have poor hearing so I have difficulty following conversation in a loud barroom. That doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the vibrant bar culture of New Orleans. The Mayor apparently does not. He’s beginning to remind me of H.L. Mencken’s line about puritanism: “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

You cannot save a city by denying its very essence and turning it into a sanitized version of itself. Welcome back to Mitchey Mayor’s Gentrified Kingdom:

Gentrified Kingdom

 

The Son-In-Law Also Rises

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Hemingway week here at First Draft continues. If you haven’t read A’s great piece refuting Trump’s ridiculous claim to be the “Hemingway of Twitter” make sure you do so. On with the show, this is it:

As a Greek-American, I know a great deal about nepotism and cronyism. Both have long, uh, greased the wheels of commerce both in the old country and here in ‘Merica. Nepotism is one reason the wheels (there’s that image again) came off the Greek economy a few years ago. It’s not always a bad thing (the Karamanlis, Papandreou, and Venizelos dynasties produced some good leaders) but that’s only if the nepotee is competent and knowledgeable. That’s an open question when it comes to Trump-in-law Jared Kushner.

We know that Kushner did a decent job as the Insult Comedian’s campaign manager/enforcer. That doesn’t mean he’s qualified for a job at the White House since, like most Trumpers, he has no governmental or policy experience. Then there’s the pesky matter of the federal anti-nepotism law passed in response to JFK appointing his kid brother Attorney General. In that instance, Bobby *was* qualified: the bigger problem was having an AG who was a campaign manager. There’s no sign that Kushner has RFK’s moxie and intelligence. He does, however, seem to have the requisite ruthlessness and sharp elbows of RFK.

That brings me to the point of this post. There’s a must read article at NYMAG.com by Andrew Rice about Kushner and his background, power, and influence. His plan is to be one of the last people Trump speaks to when a decision is nigh:

Trump doesn’t really appear to listen to anyone, but he likes to hear a lot of advice. “We have no formal chain of command around here,” Trump said at a December boardroom audience with Jeff Bezos, Sheryl Sandberg, and other tech-industry leaders. Yet everyone knew who had played the biggest role in arranging the meeting: Kushner, who sat with his back to the cameras, directly facing the president-elect

Team Trump has come up with a novel argument to ward off the anti-nepotism law:

Trump is relying on an interpretation of the law itself, backed by a court opinion from 1993, as well as a separate provision of federal law from 1978 that allows the president to appoint White House staff “without regard to any other provision of law” dealing with employment.

But several law professors and ethicists interviewed Monday by The Associated Press were not so certain.

A “murky legal landscape” was the description given by Norman Eisen, who served as President Barack Obama’s government ethics lawyer.

If that strategy fails, Kushner’s plan is to defy the law with support from his doting father-in-law. The question arises: why does Kushner need a title and a West Wing office? History is replete with examples of outside advisers with outsize influence on past Oval Ones. Wilson had Col. House. FDR had Felix Frankfurter and a small army of other outside advisers. JFK, of course, had his father until the latter’s stroke. LBJ had Abe Fortas even after he was appointed to the Supreme Court. Fortas had an office in the West Wing that nominally belonged to someone else but he was the big macher in the Johnson White House. More recently, Bill Clinton had Vernon Jordan and Barack Obama didn’t stop listening to David Axelrod after he left his job at the White House. There’s ample precedent for this and no need to stir things up. Of course, that’s the Trumpers specialty: shit stirring.

Kushner’s lust for power isn’t the only thing that makes the incoming regime resemble an old school South American dictatorship. The Insult Comedian has appointed four Generals to senior roles, which is rather reminiscent of the right-wing populist dictator Trump most resembles: Juan Peron. We may all be singing Don’t Cry For Me Argentina before this is all over.

Trump is setting the stage for the most openly corrupt administration in American history. His holdings will not be placed in a blind trust, he will not release his tax forms, and his adult male spawn will run his empire. Past administrations at least had the good sense to hide their grifting. Instead the Trumpers will be transparently corrupt and damn proud of it. So much for the much ballyhooed populist uprising. Welcome to the new gilded age.

There are some people in Rice’s article who express hope that Kushner will be a moderating influence on his father-in-law. Given his close relationship with Steve Bannon that sounds like whistling past the graveyard. The only thing that will stop Trump is resistance and relentless ridicule. The Donald does not like being needled. That’s why resisting his legitimacy is so important. Our goal should be to turn him into the Jake Barnes of Presidents: a eunuch tweeting impotently to a world that no longer pays attention.

Vive les Maquis.

 

The Word Of The Day Is Salacious

Unless you live under a rock in an isolated part of Siberia, you’ve heard about the raw intelligence file posted by BuzzFeed. Many reputable news organizations, including Mother Jones, refused to publish it because it’s unverifiable. Slate’s Will Oremus describes how it finally came out after months of teasing:

The dossier was not new. Buzz Feed and multiple other news organizations had obtained it well before Tuesday and had been investigating its various claims. Mother Jones wrote about it prior to the election, on Oct. 31, and published a handful of quotes from it. Key figures in Congress had also seen it and even publicly alluded to it, and the Guardian reported on Tuesday that Sen. John McCain had passed it to FBI Director James Comey last month. But no one had published its entire, stunning contents before Tuesday—partly because, as my colleague Joshua Keating put it, “nothing in the memos has been confirmed, and even their provenance is murky.”

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Smith didn’t address why BuzzFeed waited until now to publish the document, and he declined to comment further for this article. But the move came almost immediately after CNN reported Tuesday that top U.S. intelligence officials had shown Trump and President Obama a two-page synopsis of the dossier. The synopsis was presented as an unofficial appendage to the classified security briefings they gave Obama and Trump about Russian interference in the presidential election, CNN reported. Sources also told CNN that the “Gang of Eight” Congressional leaders had been provided a synopsis of the dossier as well.

In short, the timing was driven by media momentum. It turns out that our old friend FBI Director James Comey has been sitting on the information. He apparently only publicizes unverifiable information about Hillary Clinton.

Twitter was agog last night over the ickiest part of the dossier: Trump’s use of golden showers as a soggy revenge mechanism.  While amusing that was NOT the most important passage of the dossier:

In terms of specifics, Source A confided that the Kremlin had been feeding TRUMP and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary CLINTON, for several years [see more below]. This was confirmed by Source a close associate of TRUMP who had organized and managed his recent trips to Moscow, and who reported, also in Tune 2016, that this Russian intelligence had been “very helpful”. The Kremlln’s cultivation operation on TRUMP also had comprised offering him various lucrative real estate development business  deals in Russia, especially in relation to the ongoing 2018 World Cup soccer tournament, However, so far, for reasons unknown, TRUMP had not taken up any of these.

However, there were other aspects to TRUMP’s engagement with the Russian authorities. One which had borne fruit for them was to exploit personal obsessions and sexual perversion in order to obtain suitable ‘kompromat’ [compromising material] on him. According to Source D, where s/he had been present, (perverted) conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew President and OBAMA {whom he hated] had stayed on one other official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a ‘golden showers’ (urination) show in front of him. The hotel was known to be under FSE control with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.

I don’t do terlet humor: it’s low-hanging fruit for low-brows. The jokes missed the ominous point of the memo: that the KGB’s successor agency, the FSE, has allegedly been blackmailing Trump because he was stupid and arrogant enough to have hookers pee on a bed the Obamas slept in. Both claims are plausible if disgusting. Trump *is* stupid and arrogant and blackmail has long been used by Russian intelligence as a means of gaining leverage over people. Anyone who has read John LeCarre or watched The Americans knows that. Of course, Trump doesn’t read books and is incapable of sitting still long enough to marvel over Philip’s wigs on the FX show.

I never thought I’d be writing about a President-elect, and peeing Russian hookers. This is the level to which Trump has dragged our national dialogue. I am, however, worried that the publication of the dossier will backfire and make people feel sorry for Trump. He deserves only scorn, not sympathy.

Last night I tweeted this out:

The NYT called the dossier salacious hence the post title. As of this writing, Trump’s first full-blown post-election press conference is still on. I’m skipping it. I’d rather read about it than watch it on the electric teevee machine. Why? After reading the raw intelligence file, I feel like I need delousing. I don’t want to go through that more than once.

Malaka Of The Week: James Woods

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Some actors who play villains are as sweet as pie off-stage. The late Robert Ryan, who played some of the vilest villains of the 40’s and ’50’s, was a kind, gentle, and liberal man. James Woods is none of those things. And that is why he is malaka of the week.

James Woods loves Twitter as much as his Führer, Donald Trump. He’s a glowering presence online and loves picking fights with all and sundry, especially people to his left politically. It’s a large group: Woods is the wingnut’s wingnut.

Befitting an actor who played Roy Cohn, HR Haldeman, and Rudy Noun Verb 9/11, he’s a bully with a glass jaw:

When “Abe List,” an anonymous Twitter user, called James Woods a “cocaine addict” on the social-media service back in July of 2015, he probably didn’t realize that he was starting a legal fight with the Hollywood star that would follow him not only to the grave but beyond it. But apparently he underestimated Woods’s obsessive desire for vengeance.

First, Woods famously responded to List’s ridicule by suing the tweeter for defamation, seeking $10 million in damages against “John Doe,” as he was named in the suit. Doe’s lawyer, Ken White (who writes about legal and free-speech issues under the pen name Popehat on his website and on Twitter), filed an anti-SLAPP motion seeking the case’s dismissal, arguing that “cocaine addict” was “a constitutionally protected political insult” in a Twitter context and shouldn’t be viewed as a statement of fact — especially given that Woods had used similarly inflammatory language to insult others on the social-media platform. The judge denied that motion in February, meaning the case could continue. Doe appealed that decision, but subsequently died, causing White to withdraw the appeal.

On Twitter, Woods celebrated. “The slime who libeled me just dropped his appeal contesting my victorious SLAPP motion,” he tweeted. Then, after someone replied noting that Woods had been “victorious” because his adversary had died, Woods tweeted (and later deleted), “Learn this. Libel me, I’ll sue you. If you die, I’ll follow you to the bowels of Hell. Get it?” He also expressed a hope that Doe died “screaming my name.”

He meant it! Woods decided not to let Doe’s death slow down the lawsuit, and at a deposition in mid-November, White refused to give up his client’s name, so Woods pressed yet further, filing a motion to compel him to. Now, reports The Hollywood Reporter, the presiding judge has ruled on that motion — White will have to reveal Doe’s identity. That is: the name of his client, who is dead, who was sued for $10 million for tweeting something mean at a celebrity. Woods’s lawyers had also sought sanctions against White for refusing to give up his client’s identity, but that attempt was rebuffed.

That’s right, James Woods is still suing the dead guy. And I thought I was a grudge holder. I’m a piker next to a man who once played a left-wing, albeit assholish, lawyer in True Believer. Woods made up for that momentary lapse by playing Trump buddies Cohn and Giuliani. Cohn was Trump’s mentor until diagnosed with full-blown AIDS whereupon the Donald dumped him. More recently, he discarded Rudy after the past malaka of the week helped him win the crucial FBI Manhattan field office vote. As I’ve said before, easy Comey, easy go.

We’re not out of the Malaka Woods quite yet. I visualize Woods sitting in a recliner as he simultaneously tweets nasty shit and fondles a taser. He’s suing the dead guy for the same reason he’s on social media: to take sadistic pleasure out of someone else’s pain. It makes one pine for the good old days when all he could do was insult waiters, bully stage hands, and leer at women he deems worthy of notice. He’s taken his ugliness to the internet for all to witness. Actors *are* exhibitionists, after all.

Life is a movie to James Woods. He’s the hiss-provoking villain preying on the so-called politically correct masses one tweet at a time. The Insult Comedian’s electoral college victory has only made him more insufferable. Thanks, Donald. And that is why James Woods is malaka of the week.

Joey No Socks Meets Don Donaldo, Il Comico Insulto

There’s a new Trump story for the MSM to ignore and/or explain away. The Insult Comedian spent New Years Eve with a guy named Joey No Socks Cinque:

Cinque can be seen in a video obtained by the Palm Beach Daily News, cheering loudly as a tuxedo-clad Trump runs through a number of campaign promises before the hundreds of guests attending the New Year’s Eve bash the President-elect threw at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida on Saturday.

“The taxes are coming down, regulations are coming off, we’re going to get rid of Obamacare,” Trump can be heard saying as an exuberant Cinque stands next to him, pumping his fists into the air.

Cinque’s Sunday appearance with Trump might raise some eyebrows.

Beyond a 1989 felony conviction for possessing nearly $100,000 worth of stolen artwork, Cinque “used to be friends with John Gotti,” according to a New York Magazine profile from 1995.

Cinque was also “shot three times and left for dead” in a 1980 incident that authorities described as “a hit,” according to the profile.

This is the company kept by the man who lost the popular vote. Of course, nobody should be shocked that Trump hangs out with wise guys or their associates. I wrote about that very subject last June in a post called Don Donaldo, Il Comico Insulto. I decided it was high time to revive the Italianate form of the nickname since Trump is poised to become America’s very own Berlusconi.

At least Cinque has a cool nickname: Joey No Socks is a new one on me. It evokes Joe Pantoliano’s childhood nickname, Joey Pants. He, of course, played Ralphie in The Sopranos. Cinque has also been called-get ready for it-the Preppy Don. Maybe that’s why Trump hangs out with him…

The real reason Trump likes Joey No Socks is that he runs a group that gives fake awards to rich egomaniacs. It’s something called the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. I wonder what science is involved? Chemistry or scammery? Probably the latter. Here’s a picture of Don Donaldo and his sockless felon pal from 2013:

joe-no-socks-trump

Imagine if the Clintons were seen bringing in the New Year with a guy described in his Wikipedia entry as a “small-time mobster, a scam artist, and an art fence.” It would be the lead story on Fox News and the respectable MSM would be all over it like a cheap suit worn by James Comey. I’m hearing crickets so far. The MSM is too busy giving Trump credit for the Congressional ethics walk back to be bothered. A new motto for the respectables: if Trump tweets it, it must be true.  #SARCASM

One oddity of this story is that Joey No Socks shares a name with the leader of the Amistad Revolt, Joseph Cinqué. The only difference in spelling is l’accent grave. There’s another difference, one of them led a slave revolt whereas the other is slavishly revolting.

When I first heard about the Trump-Cinque connection, I misheard the latter’s nickname as Joey No Shoes. That’s why I’m giving Frank Zappa the last word:

That concludes this edition of Life Imitates The Sopranos.

Saturday Odds & Sods: The Best Of Adrastos 2016

Nighthawks

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

It’s time to take a look back at 2016. It may be an exercise in egotism but it’s mine, all mine. Last year’s best of Adrastos was a top thirty list, this year we have a plus-one. Sounds like a dinner party, doesn’t it? It’s time to belly-up to the buffet…

2016 was a good year for satire, but a terrible year for the country. And I was a better pundit than prognosticator. So it goes.

Here’s this year’s crop of posts in chronological order:

January 7, 2016: The Fog Of History: The Wallace Factor.

January 16, 2016: Saturday Odds & Sods: Black Tie White Noise.

February 27, 2016: Saturday Odds & Sods: All The Things You Are.

March 28, 2016: The Fog Of Historical Pictures: Grace Coolidge’s Pet Raccoon.

March 28, 2016: Charles Foster Kane Meets Donald Trump.

March 31, 2016: Malaka Of The Week: John Milkovich (Not Malkovich)

April, 18, 2016: Oy, Such A Mentor

April 21, 2016: Malaka Of The Week: Jeff Weaver.

May 7, 2016: Saturday Odds & Sods: They All Laughed.

May 18, 2016: Speaking In Dudebromides.

June 3, 2016: Trump Violates The First Rule Of Litigation.

June 13, 2016: Still Comfortably Numb Revisited.

June 29, 2016: A Fatal Lack Of Cunning & Guile.

July 11, 2016: Jill Stein: Crunchy Granola Machiavelli.

July 29, 2016 DNC Wrap Up Finale: She Won’t Stay Throwed.

August 18, 2016: Heckuva Job, Advocate.

August 18, 2016: The Insult Comedian’s Not For Turning.

August 22, 2016: Every Flim-Flam Man Needs A Sucker.

September 8, 2016: Is Trump Really Running For Grand Nagus?

September 17, 2016: Saturday Odds & Sods: Birdland.

October 4, 2016: Instant Analysis: The Debate As Altman Film.

October 6, 2016: Absence Of Malice.

October 10, 2016: Breitbart-Bannon-Bossie Man.  Bloggers Note: This post was included by Batocchio in the Jon Swift Roundup 2016. 

October 17, 2016: Moe’s Wife Blames Larry.

November 2, 2016: Out Of Control FBI Playing By The Clinton Rules.

November 10, 2016: Sitting Political Shiva.

November 11, 2016: Confessions Of A Keyboard Maquis.

November 16, 2016: Malaka Of The Week: New Orleans Baby Cakes.

November 17, 2016: The Most Dangerous Game. 

December 1, 2016: Louisiana Politics: A Terrible Candidate For Terrible Times.

December 12, 2016: Hayes/Smith: Only Victims.

That’s it for 2016. It’s been a tough year but we’re still alive and kicking. I’ll give the last word to two guys we’re really going to miss:

obama-kerry-meme

 

 

Saturday Odds & Sods: End Of The World

 

wyatt-6

Sideshow banner by Snap Wyatt.

We’re riding a weather roller coaster here in New Orleans. I hate roller coasters and prefer consistent weather as long as it’s vaguely wintery be it Johnny or Edgar…

I’m still fighting a cold so this will be on the short side. I know, famous last words and all that shit.

I’m not feeling apocalyptic but many people are. I cannot blame them. It’s hard to be a glass half-full person right now and this week’s theme song reflects that. End Of The World was written by John Wetton and Geoff Downes for Asia’s 2010 Omega album. The melody is a bit too gorgeous for a truly apocalyptic feel but that’s what they do.

While we’re ending the world, we might as well give a certain REM tune with a very long title a spin:

If you’re feeling apocalyptic now, you might want to be patient. It’s bound to take longer than expected. Everything does.

Don’t worry. We’ll still be waiting after the break. The world isn’t going anywhere for the time being.

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Hayes/Smith: Only Victims

The most publicized criminal trial in New Orleans for at least 20 years ended with Cardell Hayes being found gulity of manslaughter. The whole mishigas was the result of a road rage encounter with former New Orleans Saints defensive captain Will Smith. Race was not an issue as both Hayes and Smith are African-American. Hayes was charged with second degree murder, so the reduced charge seems to be the result of a jury compromise. It means they were able to see through the smoke blown by both sides during the 7 day trial.

I’ve been sympathetic to Cardell Hayes. I have an elderly around the corner neighbor lady who knows him. She’s one of those people whose name I used to know but forgot. I’m now too embarrassed to ask since we’ve been chatting for 15 years. We had this conversation last week:

NL: You been following the Cardell thing?

A: Yes, m’am. What do you think about it?

NL: I been knowin’ Cardell and his people for 30 years. A nice man. What you call a gentle giant.

A:  What do you think happened?

NL: I believe Cardell. I think he scared that night. His auntie told me he broken up. Wishes he didn’t have that gun in his car. I liked it better when men settled their bullshit with their fists.

There it is in a nutshell. Despite being a very large man (6’6″ 300 lbs) Cardell Hayes had a gun. He got into it with another very large man with a gun in his glove box. No guns, no death. Cardell wasn’t cruising around looking for trouble. But he found it. Big time.

The crucial moment in this tragedy was when Will Smith’s car kissed bumpers with Cardell’s vehicle on Magazine Street. If Smith had gotten out the car, introduced himself, and inspected their bumpers, no road rage episode. There might not have even been a fight. Instead, Smith was driving shit-faced drunk and kept going. It was the prelude to this tragedy.

After Hayes caught up with Smith’s party, one of his cronies Richard Hernandez started screaming at Hayes and ripped his shirt off as if in a bad action movie. Another witness, former Saints star Pierre Thomas, said that in his neighborhood, when a guy rips his shirt off he’s ready to fight. Yeah, you right, Frenchy. It’s stupid in your hood and it was lethal in the Lower Garden District.

This is a tragic case. Nobody behaved particularly well at the scene with the exception of Raquel Smith who tried to defuse things. This was one situation where mentioning one’s celebrity status might have helped instead of coming off as pompous. Cardell Hayes did not know the identity of the large drunk screaming at him in the dark. He only learned that it was one of his favorite NFL players after the fact. He broke down in tears when he learned he had shot Will Smith. That’s the thing about football: the players aren’t always recognizable because of helmets and face masks. It helps them stay safe on the field, but it was perilous on that April night in New Orleans.

Speaking of bad behavior, the lawyers in this case traded barbs and insults from the moment John Fuller was hired to defend Cardell Hayes. Their petty bickering even came up during closing arguments. I’m appalled by this unprofessional behavior: nobody cares if they dislike one another. The trial isn’t about them, it’s about the defendant and his victim. Of course, the lead prosecutor is the Distric Attorney’s kid and Mr. Cannizzarro is not exactly warm and fuzzy. Like father, like daughter.

In the end, I think the jury reached a fair verdict. Second degree murder was an overcharge. What really happened out there remains murky but one thing is certain: if these men were not armed, Will Smith would be alive and Cardell Hayes would not be facing a long prison sentence. I hope that the Judge will be merciful. She has considerable discretion in sentencing since it’s manslaughter. I wish I could say that the Hayes/Smith tragedy will serve as a cautionary tale that it’s a terrible idea to go about armed but I know better. So it goes.

There were no winners in this case, only victims.

It Hurts to Take the Story Apart. Do It Anyway.

There’s a story we’ve been telling ourselves for a long time now, about how democracy works, about how it has to work in order for us all to get up in the morning. It involves how campaigns operate, how elections take place, how power is handed from one person to another and what is done with that power and to whom.

The story’s called America. It’s a few years old now. Maybe you’ve heard it: We are free, and we choose who leads us, and we have chance after chance to make things better. We’re in charge, you and me, for good and ill and sometimes both together.

It’s always been partly fiction. In our finest hours it’s always been a little frayed. But we’ve been able to tell ourselves the story while it’s still more knit than mend.

Can we do that right now?

The Russian state took an interest in our elections and tried to influence them. To what extent, with what effect, and for what purpose, those in power know and aren’t saying.

And over the past couple of days during discussion of that, and discussion of the popular vote imbalance, and discussion of voter suppression in formerly swing states, I’ve been hearing lots of variations on IT’S TOO HARD AND OMG MEEN. That political blowback would be intense for anyone who said hey, hold on, let’s figure this shit out. That we don’t have time between now and the inauguration (I guess there are too many Christmas parties?) and can’t we just put our heads down and power through this?

The vast majority of the GOP, of course, is hedging its bets as they have been since the primaries ended. Maybe this will all die down and they can get back to gutting the social safety net which is what they’re really here for. Maybe Donald Trump will just fuck up normally, like Dan Quayle or something, accidentally hit on a few prime ministers’ wives, do some blow in the Oval, and leave the hard work to them. That was their overarching rationale for endorsing his skeezy ass and they are desperately clinging to it.

It’s gross, of course, like a 15-year-old who still wants to bring his blankie to school, but we always underestimate how attached people are to their security objects.

But Obama and the Democrats? The purported grownups in the GOP in Congress and statehouses who either actively avoided mentioning Trump or flat-out said he was garbage? Those people? I don’t want to hear from THEM how difficult it is to take the story of America apart and put it back together again.

I don’t want to hear about concerns that they’d be perceived as helping Hillary, or that TV commentators would say things in that deep concerned voice they affect, or that frogs would yell shit online. THOSE AREN’T REAL CONSEQUENCES for people who are elected to do a job.

They aren’t elected to serve just to rename official state animals and pass continuing resolutions to hold up how much everything sucks right now. They are elected to fix what is broken even if that something is EVERYTHING.

Things have been breaking down for a while now. Redistricting to weight state legislatures overwhelmingly against Democrats and third parties, ballot initiatives designed to turn out opponents of one candidate or another, tax caps and institutional neglect and voting restrictions, and all of it leading to a campaign in which one candidate won the popular vote by 2.6 million and the other candidate — a racist sex predator — is president.

Things have been breaking down and politicians have been desperately pretending they are okay because, frankly, taking all this apart is hard. It takes time. It takes study and most of all it takes attention we don’t have because the decent public servants are trying to keep their constituents out of hock to the mob.

Which is a deliberate thing also, in case we didn’t have enough to deal with. I get ragey when modern American voters are described as being distracted by TV and video games; the club of the most of us is distracted by the trivial need to EAT, and I can’t imagine the calls district offices get asking for help with the few social programs we have left.

Still. Still and all. There have to be things big enough that we make room for them. The question of foreign interference in an election has got to be one of those things.

Winter breaks can be cancelled. Everybody can work late. We can stop talking about Twitter and we can take out a yellow legal pad and a box of black pens and a box of red pens and we can figure out how to investigate this and, if necessary, prosecute it. It’s not false and it’s not trivial and it’s certainly not too much for us.

We’ve built bigger than this. We can tear this down. We can take this story apart and figure out which parts are true and which are false.

Sack up, hos. Get to work.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Dead Flowers

Chagall The Drunkard

The Drunkard by Marc Chagall.

It’s run-off election day here in the Gret Stet of Louisiana. I’ll be voting later today in the Colonel Corpone vs. Foghorn Leghorn Senate race. Cornpone has it sown up and I don’t like Foghorn but I said I’d vote for him, so I’ll have to select an appropriate clothespin. I would say I was voting for the lesser of two hicks but Foghorn sounds like he’s been studying the oeuvre of Jeff Foxworthy. My friend Charlotte says he reminds her of Boss Hogg. Hard to argue that point, y’all.

The local news has been dominated by road rage and the law. The one many of you have heard about is the trial of Cardell Hayes for killing former Saints defensive captain Will Smith. I wrote about it in this space not long ago. It’s a very close case with the defense arguing self-defense. The local media have been all over it like turkey buzzards on roadkill. In this Saints obsessed town that was predictable and why the Judge sequestered the jury. The case *may* go to the jury later this evening.

The other road rage incident involved former high school football sensation and NFL player Joe McKnight. He got into it with some creep named Ronald Gasser and McKnight was shot to death. There was a huge stink when Gasser wasn’t charged immediately: he’s white and McKnight was black. Gasser was charged with manslaughter earlier this week. Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand held a ranty press conference, spending more time attacking Facebook trolls than discussing the crime. Normand hasn’t gone off like that in quite some time. It might have been calculated anger (more on that later) or he simply lost his shit.

This week’s theme song fits my somber mood. Dead Flowers was written when the Stones were hanging out with country-rock godfather Gram Parsons. It’s one of the best lyrics the Glimmer Twins have ever written. It’s limey country rock at its finest.

We begin with the original version from Sticky Fingers, followed by a live non-Stones version featuring Keith, Willie Nelson, and Ryan Adams to name a few luminaries.

I’m feeling relatively terse this week so I’m skipping the break and diving right in. I mentioned intentional ranting earlier. The master of tactical screaming was the late great rock impresario Bill Graham.

Bill Graham & The Art Of Tactical Screaming: I grew up attending Bill Graham’s shows in the Bay Area. They remain the best organized and operated rock concerts I’ve ever been to. One reason was the hands on nature of the producer. He was always visible both onstage and in the front of the house. You knew who was in charge. There was one time at a Dead show at Winterland that there was a flood in the men’s room. I ran into Bill in the hallway and informed him. He thanked me and went over there personally. I followed out of curiosity and watched him grab a plunger. Now that’s attention to detail.

My old friend Gus Mozart shared a link to an interview filmed in 1977. It’s called The Mechanics of a Show. It’s well worth watching if you’re a rock and roll history buff. It’s also available on the YouTube. Here’s the segment about yelling:

I saw Bill scream at people many times. He was almost always in the right. An aggressive New Yorker like Bill Graham scared the shit out of California hippies, so they tended to comply with his orders. Besides, it was Bill’s world and we were there as paying customers. He was the boss and the best.

The centerpiece of this week’s post are tributes to two men whose deaths were announced on Thursday. Other than fame they had nothing in common. One of them was 95 years old and lived a long and eventful life. The other died at 69 after a lengthy private battle with cancer.

John Glenn R.I.P. Hero is the most overused word in the English language. Very few acts are heroic and there are even fewer heroes. John Glenn was a genuine hero. It was a label that he modestly rejected but one that he earned over-and-over again.  Despite his advanced years, I was still deeply saddened to hear that he’d died at the age of 95.

All of the Mercury astronauts were brave men. They risked death every time they stepped into those tiny capsules. John Glenn made it look easy, but orbiting the earth was fraught with peril. People knew that and it was one reason they went nuts (in a good way) over Glenn.

Here’s what I posted on my Facebook feed:

John Glenn went on to a distinguished career as a four-term Democratic Senator from Ohio. The punditry briefly went nuts over his 1984 Presidential bid because it coincided with the release of Philip Kaufman’s brilliant film adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. Glenn was played by Ed Harris. It was the role that put Harris on the map. Glenn’s campaign went nowhere. Charlie Pierce pointed out why at his joint:

when John Glenn was preparing to run for president, I sat down in a bar on Beacon Hill in Boston for a chat with one of his chief strategists. This fellow smacked my gob across the room when he said that the campaign was planning to “downplay the hero stuff.” My god, I thought. Without The Hero Stuff, Glenn was just a kind of boring old sod from Ohio. Without The Hero Stuff, he wasn’t the first American to orbit the Earth. He wasn’t the guy who spent the last of those orbits in a tiny spacecraft with a problem the gravity of which the folks on the ground could only guess. Without The Hero Stuff, he wasn’t…an astronaut.

John Glenn was a modest man. It was how the best men of his generation comported themselves. As a Senator, he was a workhorse, not a showhorse, which is the highest praise I can bestow on a politician. He was also the antitheses of the braggart who won the electoral college and is claiming a landslide. They don’t make them like Senator Glenn any more.

He had a good life and a good death surrounded by his family. Godspeed, John Glenn.

Here’s a piece by Charlie Osgood broadcast on the 49th anniversary of Glenn’s historic Friendship 7 mission:

Let’s move on from the loss of an American icon to the passing of one of the pioneers of British prog-rock.

Greg Lake R.I.P. He was the original lead singer/bassist of King Crimson as well as the L in ELP. Greg Lake died at the age of 69 after a long battle with cancer.

I saw ELP several times at their peak. They were loud, bombastic, and pretentious. I loved every second of it. Lake was the steady, solid one while flamboyant keyboard player Keith Emerson and flashy drummer Carl Palmer whipped the crowd into a frenzy.

Emerson preceded Lake in death earlier this year. E and L are gone but P rocks on as the drummer with Asia. Here’s what Carl had to said about Greg’s passing:

The best way to pay tribute to Greg Lake is, of course, to post some of his music. I have used the opening lyrics for Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Part 2 more than once in lieu of an Odds & Sods summary: “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.” Greg Lake’s show has ended but the music never stops, corny but true.

Along with lyricist Pete Sinfield, Lake wrote one of the best rock Christmas songs, I Believe In Father Christmas. Here’s a live version from St. Bride’s Church in London with Ian Anderson and members of his band backing Lake up:

Ready for some live ELP? You have no choice:

I had hoped to post the original studio version of King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man but it eluded me. Another Lake-era King Crimson song will have to do.

“Confusion will be my epitaph.” Greg Lake will be missed.

That’s it for this week. May the Schwartz be with you:

yogurt-meme

Saturday Odds & Sods: Liar

It’s been another weird week in New Orleans. The weather has been yo-yo-ing to and fro. We reluctantly ran the AC on a particularly steamy day and we’re back to the heater right now. The kitties, of course, prefer the latter. So it goes.

There was a lethal shooting last weekend on Bourbon Street. It doesn’t happen that often but when it does the media, city government, and tourism establishment lose their collective minds. This time there are suggestions of metal detectors and limited access. That’s typical NOLA think: propose something that would be simultaneously costly and unenforceable. We live in a country and a state with an armed population and when you add booze and crowds to the mix, violence is not surprising. It’s difficult to prevent an asshole with a concealed weapon from discharging it. That may sound cold and harsh but “to live in this town, you must be tough, tough, tough, tough.” Thus spake Jagger and Richards. She-doo-be.

The mendacity theme here at First Draft continues with this week’s theme songs. That’s right, my obsession with different songs with the same title continues. We begin with Todd Rundgren’s 2004 tune Liar. It’s followed in quick succession by Queen, the Sex Pistols, Argent, and, of all people, Three Dog Night who covered the Argent tune.

I had no idea there were so many songs with liar in the title and that’s the truth. There will be more prevarication after the break, but first I need to find that lying sack of shit that we’ve heard so much about over the years.

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Malaka Of The Week: Konni Burton

A lot of things have fallen through the cracks of my mind lately because of the electoral college disaster. There’s a backlash brewing across the country against the progress that has been made on civil rights issues in recent years. To be more specific, against the remarkable gains made since 2008 on LGBTQ issues. One might even call it a lavender backlash. Yeah, I know, the term is retro but so is the backlash itself. You won’t be surprised to hear that one locus of the backlash is Texas. And that is why Texas State Senator Konni Burton is malaka of the week.

I was blissfully unaware of what was brewing in Austin until a tweet from Tim Peacock hit my timeline, which led me to a post at his blog, Peacock Panache:

As the state legislative session in Texas begins, state Senator Konni Burton (R) just filed legislation that would force schools to out LGBTQ students to their parents. SB242 takes aim at “the right of a child ’s parent to public school records and information concerning the child” on the surface. Under that veneer, however, Burton’s explicit intentions in filing the legislation are clear.

The bill was filed with the intention of subverting rules proposed by the Fort Worth Independent School District aimed at protecting the privacy rights of LGBTQ teens, especially transgender kids. It’s trickier than that so take a deeper dive into Tim Peacock’s piece.

Senator Burton claims that the intent of her bill is to provide parents with information about their children. It is, of course, a smokescreen (Konni job?) as is typical of so much discriminatory legislation. Haters not only have to hate, they have to hide behind family values rhetoric. Burton’s bill will effectively out LBGTQ students and that is what matters, not her increasingly strident disclaimers.

The implications of Malaka Konni’s bill are ominous and clearly stated by Tim Peacock:

As any LGBTQ person can confirm, keeping sexual orientation and gender identity/expression a secret from parents may literally be a matter of life or death. While society has made significant leaps forward in ensuring families with LGBTQ children are at a minimum tolerant, many areas of the and many belief systems still view being LGBTQ as wrong or criminal. Unwittingly outing a LGBTQ child or teenager to his or her parents can have devastating and sometimes lethal consequences.

If a student is transgender the chances of harm based on outing grow exponentially. A 2011 survey found that transgender people attempted to commit suicide at rates over 30 times the general population. And the causation behind that more often than not was discrimination, violence and/or rejection by those close to them.

While suicide is at the far end of the spectrum, LGBTQ students face a myriad of other consequence in having their identities unwittingly exposed to their parents including verbal and physical abuse, homelessness (after being kicked out) and involuntary conversation therapy (a practice condemned by the medical and psychological community though it’s still popular among anti-LGBTQ conservatives).

A quick reminder that Mike Liar Liar Pence On Fire has been a leading advocate of conversion therapy.

I recall reading some articles earlier this year about how our side had won the culture war. Since I live in a blue dot in a deep red state, I’m always skeptical of such claims. In the Gret Stet of Louisiana, socially conservative Catholics have an unholy alliance on such issues with Protestant biblethumpers. Like the people in Texas, we’re always on the lookout for crazy, retrograde legislation from our lege. It’s going to get worse after Trump’s electoral college victory. I eagerly await the backlash to the backlash. Now I’m feeling whiplashed, he said snidely.

I’d never heard of Senator Burton before her attempted Konni job. I hope to rarely hear of her in the future. If the people of Texas are lucky, she’s merely a malakatudinous comet streaking across the sky before crashing and burning. BTW, Burton was elected to replace Wendy Davis in the Texas Senate. That seat has gone from pink sneakers to lavender backlash in two years. And that is why Konni Burton is malaka of the week.

Saturday Odds & Sods: God’s Comic

man-ray-glass-tears

Glass Tears by Man Ray, 1932.

Facebook killed me off earlier this week. I even got a death notice from them but neglected to take a screen shot. I was not alone in receiving a premature memorial page notice from the Zuckerdudes. Facebook even whacked blog pun consultant James Karst:

Karst is dead.

I’m pleased to report that, unlike the late Johnny Winter, Karst is still alive and well:

I’ve heard several explanations as to what went wrong but there’s one I like. And I’m sticking to it even if it’s debunked as de bunk. Consider it my Ford factory relocation moment. Here it is: It may have been concocted by trolls who wanted to metaphorically liquidate people whose content they dislike. I wear their scorn as a badge of honor even if I have long believed that “we don’t need no stinking badges.” That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, y’all. Facebook and fake news go together like Lennon and McCartney before Yoko and Linda or Rodgers and Hart before Hammerstein. Oscar, Oscar, Oscar.

This week’s theme song is an obvious choice: God’s Comic by Elvis Costello. It’s written from the perspective of a dead guy. This may make EC the Nostraelvis of rock and roll since it was written for the Spike album in 1989 long before Facebook existed. Or is that Nostradeclan? I cannot for the life or death of me keep that straight. First the song followed by a few  lyrics:

EC is a notoriously wordy songwriter so there are a lot of lyrics.  Here’s the first verse followed by the chorus :

I wish you’d known me when I was alive, I was a funny feller
The crowd would hoot and holler for more
I wore a drunk’s red nose for applause
Oh yes I was a comical priest
“With a joke for the flock and a hand up your fleece”
Drooling the drink and the lipstick and greasepaint
Down the cardboard front of my dirty dog-collar

Now I’m dead, now I’m dead, now I’m dead,
Now I’m dead, now I’m dead
And I’m going on to meet my reward
I was scared, I was scared, I was scared, I was scared
He might of never heard God’s Comic

On that mordantly morbid note, it’s time for the break. We should move expeditiously before Facebook kills me off again and I go on to meet my reward.

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The Korematsu Case Revisited

korematsu

I remember very few papers I wrote as a college student. One exception is a paper about the horrific, anti-constitutional internment of the Japanese, including citizens, during World War II. It was an action initiated in panic by a racist Army General but ratified by some distinguished American liberals: President Roosevelt, Attorney General Francis Biddle, Justice Hugo Black, and then California Attorney General Earl Warren. It is a stain on all their memories and on American history. So much so that Congress and President Reagan formally apologized for internment in 1988. That right, Ronald Reagan knew it was wrong. There are ominous signs that the Trumpers do not.

TPM is usually the first political site I look at every morning. One headline was a real eye-opener, the textual equivalent of 2 cups of coffee, Trump Surrogate: Japanese Internment Camps A Precedent For Muslim Registry:

One of Donald Trump surrogate’s claimed Wednesday that the forced internment of Japanese Americans during World War II provided a “precedent” for the next administration creating a registry of Muslims living in the United States.

Carl Higbie, a former Navy SEAL and booster of the President-elect, told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly that such a registry was necessary until “we can identify the true threat” posed by Islamic extremists.

“We have in the past,” Higbie said. “We have done it based on race, we have done it based on religion, we have done it based on region.”

<SNIP>

“It is legal. They say it’ll hold constitutional muster,” Higbie said of the registry. “I know the ACLU is going to challenge us, but I think it’ll pass. And we’ve done it with Iran back a while ago. We did it in World War II with Japanese, which, call it what you will—”

I call it bigotry. That’s what I call it. Targeting a religious minority is also an egregious violation of the First Amendment. I am, however, glad that barking mad Naval Seal mentioned the Bush years. They were not big on the constitution either. It *can* happen here. In fact, it already has.

I have a a few questions. Will the “Muslim registry” apply to citizens? Is this partial payback for Khizr Khan? Trump is capable of such petty vindictiveness, after all. Who’s going to restrain him? Rudy? Kris Kobach? Jared Kushner? Not bloody likely.

Back to the post title. The Supreme Court upheld the Japanese exclusion order in Korematsu v. United States in 1944. Fred Korematsu, an American citizen, was convicted of “violating the civilian exclusion order.” SCOTUS upheld his conviction in an opinion by Justice Hugo Black with three Justices in dissent: Stanley Roberts, Frank Murphy, and Robert Jackson. It was not one of Justice Black’s finest hours but Justice Jackson’s dissent rings true in the wake of the comments by that barking mad Navy Seal:

Korematsu was born on our soil, of parents born in Japan. The Constitution makes him a citizen of the United States by nativity, and a citizen of California by residence. No claim is made that he is not loyal to this country. There is no suggestion that, apart from the matter involved here, he is not law-abiding and well disposed. Korematsu, however, has been convicted of an act not commonly a crime. It consists merely of being present in the state whereof he is a citizen, near the place where he was born, and where all his life he has lived.
<SNIP>
Much is said of the danger to liberty from the Army program for deporting and detaining these citizens of Japanese extraction. But a judicial construction of the due process clause that will sustain this order is a far more subtle blow to liberty than the promulgation of the order itself. A military order, however unconstitutional, is not apt to last longer than the military emergency. Even during that period, a succeeding commander may revoke it all. But once a judicial opinion rationalizes such an order to show that it conforms to the Constitution, or rather rationalizes the Constitution to show that the Constitution sanctions such an order, the Court for all time has validated the principle of racial discrimination in criminal procedure and of transplanting American citizens. The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need.

I added the bold face for obvious reasons. Korematsu has been discredited but never overruled. It still “lies about like a loaded weapon.” If the Islamophobes have their way, the chamber will be reloaded with their so-called registry. If that happens, all good people should try their damnedest to sign the thing in solidarity with those being oppressed. What’s next? A Yellow Crescent?

Campaign 2016 Odds & Sods

the-who odds--sods

I’m blogging hurt this morning. I’ve had a hellacious head cold the last few days. It’s best described as a chest cold. It feels like I’m carrying Oscar around in a Baby Bjorn. And he’s a big boy. There’s a krewe meeting tonight that I hope to attend, but I don’t want to spread this thing around: as far as I know, they’re all Hillary voters.

Having requested a mulligan even though I do not golf, let’s skip the foreplay and get down to it. Do I hear inane snickering? Is it Billy Bush? I must be hallucinating; told you I was under the weather.

The Hispanic/Latino Wave: I’m feeling wishy-washy so I’m going to alternate the terms. Whatever the label, Latino voters have arrived in 2016. It should not surprise anyone that a group that has been consistently denigrated by one candidate is supporting  his opponent. It has, however, surprised the inside the beltway punditocracy. I suspect that’s because, like  Trump, they think of them only as “the help.” They’re more than just cooks, dishwashers, yard men, housekeepers, construction workers, and fruit pickers. They’re human beings who are saying no to those who demean and degrade them in the best way possible: at the ballot box.

The reports of Hispanic turn out for early voting in Nevada and Florida has me confident that they will be colored blue on Tuesday. Trump needs to win both states to take the election. He’s toast. I don’t care if it’s close or not. He’s toast and marmalade for tea.

The other wonderful thing about the Latino Wave is that it reduces the importance of Iowa and Ohio. Hillary can lose both those states and still win.

A personal story. There are two Mexican guys doing some work next door. Like most of the migrant workers I’ve met over the years, they’re polite and cordial. I was outside and one of them pointed at my Clinton-Kaine sign and said, “My new hero. Hillary.”

Roll Latino wave, roll. Roll Hispanic wave, roll.

You say Latino, I say Hispanic. Let’s call the whole thing off. Now that I’ve quoted Ira Gershwin for the gazillionth time let’s move on,

Fear Is The Key: I was on Twitter Saturday during the LSU-Alabama game, which my Tigers lost 10-0. Our defense was magnificent and I think Nick Saban had poopy pants several times during the game, which is most gratifying.

Anyway, I was online when Team Trump’ did some epic conclusion jumping:

I guess that makes HRC a pussy but they didn’t go there. This was retweeted by all the Top Trumpers and they’ve made it into a thing even after the truth came out.

As everybody with a brain now knows, the incident involved a Never Trump Republican, Austyn Crites, a sign, and a fear-crazed crowd: 

“I had a sign that said ‘Republicans against Trump.’ It is a sign that you can just print off online.”

Initially, there was the expected reaction of people around him booing, he said. “And then all of a sudden people next to me are starting to get violent; they’re grabbing at my arm, trying to rip the sign out of my hand,” he said.

He said he could not be sure but “it looked like” Trump was pointing at him, and may have been “instigating something”. Either way, the crowd piled on him, he said, kicking, punching, holding him on the ground and grabbing his testicles.

He said he was a wrestler in his youth and used his training to turn his head to the side to maintain an airway open as he was being choked by one man who had him in a headlock. “But there were people wrenching on my neck they could have strangled me to death,” he added.

Crites said when he was on the ground he heard someone yell “something about a gun” and he kept telling those on top of him that he had merely been holding a sign.

Notice that the Trumpers *assumed* without any evidence that Crites was packing heat. It’s yet another sign of how fearful and paranoid they are.  It’s a good thing that there were metal detectors at the Reno event otherwise it might have been a bloodbath. It would have been blood red instead of silver and gold:

We’ve become so used to Team Trump lying that it’s not shocking that they continue to describe this incident as an assassination attempt. It’s what they do on a daily basis as described in a must-read piece by Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star, Donald Trump: The unauthorized data base of false things. Dale found over 500 outright falsehoods. Believe me. Don’t believe the Insult Comedian.

Since this is Odds & Sods, there has to be a Who song involved, amirite? It’s one by John Entwistle called Dangerous that closes with the refrain, “fear is the key to your soul.”

Docudrama Of The Week: Let me pose a quick question: What do Justice Robert Jackson and Donald Trump have in common? They were both played by Alec Baldwin. I just re-watched Baldwin’s fine performance as Jackson in the 2000 mini-series ,Nuremberg. It was a good way for this history nerd to pass a few hours whilst sick.

It’s on the YouTube if you’re interested. There’s also a clip of Baldwin as Jackson’s closing argument. The writers had the good sense to use Jackson’s own words:

I give Nuremberg 3 1/2 stars, an Adrastos grade of B+ and a rousing Siskelian thumbs up. End of this oddball but salient variation on a regular Saturday post feature.

Let’s finish things up with a discussion of the most disturbing thing about Campaign 2016: the awakening of dormant anti-Semitism. Thanks, B3 Brownshirts.

The Ugly Underneath Revisited: On October 13th, Donald Trump gave an ominous speech jam-packed with anti-Semitic code words. Here’s how I concluded a post entitled The Ugly Underneath:

I think it’s important for those of us who know history to take a firm stand against Trumpism. That’s why I’ve started comparing him to Hitler at his least disciplined. Hitler had the good sense to *keep* the ugly underneath until he had enough support to enact his racist program. Trump has no self-control but he is every bit as ugly, which is why he needs to lose in a landslide. Some of us are worried that he’ll refuse to concede on election eve, whip his supporters into a frenzy, and provoke a sort of American Kristalnacht. The good news is that most Trumpers are, well, pussies and are unlikely to riot if it’s a blow-out. Let’s hope so.

The B3 Brownshirts have adapted excerpts from that speech into a “populist,” rabble rousing “closing argument” teevee spot:

Railing against “elites” whatever that means is fashionable now. Three of the so-called criminal economic elitists shown in the ad, Janet Yellen, George Soros, and Lloyd Blankfein have one thing in common: they’re Jewish. Here’s what Senator Al Franken has to say about this noxious ad:

Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union, Franken told host Jake Tapper the advert was acting as a “dog whistle to a certain group in the United States”. He called the political commercial “an appeal to some of the worse elements in our society in the closing argument” of the election.

“I’m Jewish, so maybe I’m sensitive to it. But it clearly had an Elders of Zion feel to it, the international banking crisis conspiracy.”

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was a fabricated text first published in 1903 that circulated around Europe disseminating a vicious conspiracy about a Jewish plot for world domination over the economy and culture.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Al Franken?

Team Trump continually uses anti-Semitic rhetoric, code words, and dog whistles. Their defense is that the Insult Comedian’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is Jewish and Ivanka is a convert. You know, the old “some of my best friends are…” dodge.  Josh Marshall sums up my feelings about where Trump himself stands quite nicely:

… my general belief is that Trump believes in various anti-Semitic stereotypes, probably largely drawn from his upbringing – time and place. But I don’t think he holds or did hold any particular animus toward Jews. Indeed, we have pretty reliable accounts of his thinking in anti-Semitic stereotypes in a way that people often interpret as philo-semitism. Like he wants Jews with yarmulkes as his accountants and money managers and not blacks. A former Trump executive claimed he said: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”

That’s Archie Bunker-style anti-Semitism. He only wanted Jewish doctors and described his preferred law firm as “Seven Savage Jews.” I wonder if the Donald calls Jared meathead?

Here’s Josh’s closer:

So is Trump himself an anti-Semite? I have no idea. It doesn’t matter. He’s running an anti-Semitic campaign. That’s all that matters.

I’ve long thought that anti-Semitism is a “canary in a coal mine” form of bigotry. It’s somewhat easier to cloak in pseudo-populist dog whistles than other forms of racism. When anti-Semitism rears its ugly head, there’s more bigotry to come. As Josh said, I have no idea if Trump is personally anti-Semitic, but Stephen Bannon is, and he’s running an anti-Semitic campaign on behalf of Trump who’s clearly a textbook anti-African American racist. Thanks, B3 Brownshirts.

When I wrote the original Ugly Underneath post, I had a lively discussion on Social Media with some fellow music lovers as to whether that was the right XTC song to use as the post title. I remain convinced it was: anti-Semitism is the hate that can be cloaked in seemingly benign populist language. That’s why it’s the Ugly Underneath. One friend suggested the more overtly political song, The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead. It does feature an asssassination and since Team Trump has been on about a fake one, I’ll give Andy Partridge and XTC the last word:

I fibbed about the last word thing again. I couldn’t resist posting my lovely election picks map again:

2016

My worst case scenario is still pretty darn good: Clinton 324, Trump 214 and a 50-50 Senate. I stand by my earlier forecast, but cannot believe I forgot to mention Arab American and Muslim voters in Michigan as one reason Trump will not be the first Republican nominee to carry Michigan since 1988.

That is all.

 

Heckuva Job, Comey

It’s a beautiful autumnal Sunday so y’all might not know about the second Comey letter. Here’s how I heard about it:

I’m relieved, not surprised BUT this should have NEVER HAPPENED. I knew the FBI had the sort of software that could tear through the perv’s laptop in a jiffy and I’m glad this came out before the election. BUT Comey should have never sent the first letter, and he should have publicly criticized, then opened an investigation into the other leaks. The FBI is supposed to be above politics, instead of immersed in them. Heckuva job, Comey.

Comey has seriously damaged his own reputation and that of his agency for little reason. I am glad that it makes Jason Chaffetz look like a fool but he would have figured out a way to do that without Comey’s help. The other ray of sunshine is that this incident has destroyed what little was left of Rudy Noun Verb 9/11’s good name. If he had any shame, the Insult Comedian would put Rudy in campaign jail. He and Chris Christie could have adjoining cells. That reminds me of what I tweeted right after the Bridgegate convictions came down. I may have messed up The Godfather quote but it’s still on point:

Unfortunately, James Comey remains FBI Director. If he is even half the man that some believe him to be, he will resign after the election. His effectiveness and credibility have been destroyed by his reckless actions. As Al Gore was fond of saying of Poppy Bush during the 1992 election: It’s time for him to go.

Comey’s ham-handed, inept intervention in the 2016 Presidential election has already had an impact. Hillary Clinton was headed to a landslide win when the first letter came out nine days ago. Comey’s intervention led to a narrowing of the race. That, in turn, means that she will have a solid victory instead of a triumph that would be a complete repudiation of Trump and the horrors he has unleashed on the country. Comey’s job is to be above the political fray. He has miserably failed at that. Heckuva job, Comey.

It’s time for him to go. Let’s send him off with some music: