It’s September and it’s still hotter than hell in New Orleans. Pandemic fatigue is widespread here just like everywhere else. Unfortunately, America didn’t do the work needed to suppress COVID-19 so we’re still muddling through.
The NFL season opens this week and I find myself utterly indifferent. I’m mildly amused by wingnut fans who say that they’ll boycott the season because the NFL has gone BLM on their asses. These are the same people who claim they want sports and politics on separate plains, make that separate planets. The Saints will be playing on Sunday at an empty Superdome. It’s hard to get excited about any of this. So it goes.
This week’s theme song was written by Tim Finn in 1982 for Split Enz’s Time and Tide album. It refers to the amount of time that it took British pioneers to sail to New Zealand and is also a metaphor for the songwriter’s nervous breakdown. That’s a lot of substance for a song that still rocks like crazy.
We have three versions of Six Months In A Leaky Boat for your listening pleasure: The Split Enz original; a 2000 live version by Tim Finn, Bic Runga, and Dave Dobbyn and a 2006 performance by a reunited Enz featuring some stellar keyboard work by the great Eddie Rayner.
Kiwi singer-songwriter David Dobbyn has his own nautical classic:
Now that we’re all seasick, it’s time to don a life jacket and jump to the break.
I’ve been rationing my Twitter use lately so I missed out on Trump soup canapalooza. This week’s featured image is my sole contribution now that it’s been beat to death. I’m also tired of talking about the Impeached Insult Comedian. It’s Joey Shark’s secret weapon in the campaign: people would like a break from politics from time-to-time. I’m not the only one suffering from Trump fatigue.
It’s time for a First Draft housekeeping note. The Friday Cocktail Hour was bumped so My Uncle Was A ‘Loser’ wouldn’t have to share the spotlight. I put a great deal of emotion and passion into that post. The reaction has been most gratifying. The Friday Cocktail Hour will return next week with a Duke Ellington song. Nothing but the best for my readers.
This week’s theme song was written by Tony Banks, Phil Collins, and Mike Rutherford for the 1980 Genesis album, Duke. Rutherford’s lyrics are about someone who watches way too much teevee and confuses it with real life. Much like the Kaiser of Chaos. So much for my avowed Trump fatigue.
We have two versions of Turn It On Again for your listening pleasure: the studio original and a live version:
One could even describe the character in this week’s theme song as follows:
Since we’ve reached a turning point in this week’s outing, let’s jump to the break.
I had a relative who tried every new age fad. One of the weirdest fads was rebirthing: the notion that if you regress to the womb, you will achieve enlightenment. Yeah, right. Whatever.
There’s a form of political rebirtherism abroad in the land. This time it comes not from gullible new age flakes but cynical “conservatives.” I put that word in quotes for a specific reason: ain’t nothing conservative about Trump era conservatism. Conservatism is supposed to preserve the best of the past instead of wrecking the present.
The people floating the racist “Kamala Harris is not a citizen” canard are not conservatives, they’re radicals out to deny and destroy the plain language of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
All persons means all persons, not just white Trump voters. One thing that the MSM has largely ignored in its stories about reborn birtherism is that John Eastman, who wrote the specious Newsweek article cited by the Impeached Insult Comedian, ran for California Attorney General in 2010. He finished second in the GOP primary in a race that was won by Kamala Harris in a general election squeaker. That makes this racist attack on Senator Harris a combination of sour grapes and right-wing ideology; a toxic blend if ever there was one.
I’ve read Eastman’s piece but I’m not linking to it because it’s what Sherlock Holmes would have called a tissue of lies. Instead, read Mark Joseph Stern’s brilliant piece in Slate. He ably disembowels Eastman’s tawdry theory so I don’t have to. Stern points out the links between this witless and baseless white supremacist theory to the Federalist Society and the Claremont Institute:
Why, then, do outlets like Newsweek and the Washington Post keep publishing articles that promote this lie? A coterie of racists based at the Claremont Institute hope that if they repeat it enough, they can leave the door open for a mass expatriation of second-generation Americans, most of them minorities. Indeed, there are few if any supporters of this falsehood who lack connections to the Claremont Institute. Eastman is a senior fellow at Claremont and the founding director of its Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence. Josh Hammer, the Newsweek editor who commissioned the piece, is a former fellow at the institute. Michael Anton, who manipulated the text of a quote from the Senate debate over the 14th Amendment in a Washington Post op-ed to make this lie seem more credible, is a senior fellow there.
The Claremont Institute masquerades as an intellectual salon of the right, but it is really just a racist fever swamp with deep connections to the conspiratorial alt-right. It even granted a fellowship to Jack Posobiec, who helped promote the notorious Pizzagate conspiracy theory. Claremont’s resident bigots offer deranged fantasies of violently expelling Americans from their home country because of their ethnic backgrounds. Their work deserves the intellectual weight given to that of David Duke and his Nazi-loving fellow travelers.
The principle of Birthright Citizenship was upheld by the same Supreme Court that validated Jim Crow in Plessy v. Ferguson. Children of immigrants who are born in America are Americans. Period. Case closed.
I remember when Newsweek was a vital and respected news outlet instead of a source of racist Trumper disinformation. I subscribed to it for decades. Unlike its rival Time Magazine, it stopped being vital quite some time ago. Newsweek alum Jonathan Alter sums it up perfectly:
Time Magazine, where my daughter @CharlotteAlter works, is still a terrific magazine. Newsweek, where I worked from 1983 to 2011, bears no resemblance to the old magazine, which should be allowed to RIP. https://t.co/pKIlR6a3zf
Finally, I have a new featured image as well as a new blog category: The Legal Docket. I like having featured images for my posts and I’m donning my lapsed lawyer hat so much that it was time to do this. The inaugural image is of Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan at the Scopes Monkey Trial. Film buffs will note what a good job Bud Westmore did of making Fredric March look like Bryan in the original Inherit The Wind.
I originally planned to write a more Newsweek focused post and use the song below for the post title. I believe in recycling so Jethro Tull gets the last word:
I cannot emphasize enough how wrong it is to push stereotypes painting racism as a product of economic deprivation and dwelling primarily in working class hearts. These Fox News-poisoned idiots are rich as all get out. https://t.co/Tw81W7buOM
Suburbs, and exurbs, really. Not that there aren’t racist assholes in cities, she says, two blocks from the city that perfected redlining. But the white-flighters are something else, not just racial hatred but the very specific fear of a black invasion of “their” neighborhood.
They’ve had stories handed down to them through two generations now about the beautiful places their grandparents and great-grandparents grew up in, that were “ruined” by “those people.” That those neighborhoods were ruined by deliberate and malicious government policies to devalue the property, that greedy real estate brokers and reptilian politicians are far more to blame, will never reach the ears of someone who drove past their mother’s house and saw a black family living there now.
They see litter on the streets and instead of wondering why their litter is picked up every night and this neighborhood’s isn’t, they cluck their tongues at closed doors without any idea who’s behind them.
“It was such a beautiful place,” they’ll say, “not like now.” And hey, it’s not like they’re using the n-word, right? It’s just … implied. Until it isn’t.
Until it’s wearing a pink polo shirt and pointing a gun at people marching in the street.
It’s astonishing how little distance there is from the kind of nice-lady racism that is so confused as to why “some of them” just “let their houses go” to the wild-eyed pistol-waving Chico’s kind of day Mrs. McCloskey up there was having.
I mean people have handed down these stories like they’re a secret language, and that language is one of war: This is what happened when “blacks” “crossed the line.” We thought such-and-such street would “hold.” You want to talk about the Confederate states holding onto their lost causes; ask a white man of a certain age in Chicago after a couple of beers what parish his mother belonged to. If only “they” had stayed down south where they “belonged.”
Yes, now Donald Trump is openly stoking the kind of paranoia that leads to front-porch displays of the kind of trigger discipline that would humiliate a bachelor party at the paintball range. But who primed these people to listen? Who made that a story they would find easy to believe?
Who told them everything they had could be stolen at any moment? Did they use an example? Was it their great-aunt’s house, where once you didn’t have to lock the doors, and now you couldn’t walk down the street without getting mugged?
There have been many articles over the years proclaiming the death of irony. It turned out not to be so: what’s more ironic, in a sick way, than one of the world’s richest countries having 1/3 of the COVID-19 cases? I am, however, concerned about the plight of nuance. It appears to be knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door.
Nuance and I are old friends. While many see life in stark terms of black and white, I revel in the gray and ambiguous. While I’m still burning a candle for it, I’m afraid nuance is dead in our public life.
I usually detest bothsiderism but both the right and the left share the blame for nuance’s demise. Nuance was finally banished from the Republican party upon the nomination of the Impeached Insult Comedian. House GOPers such as Louie Gohmert Piles, Matt Gaetz, and Gym Jordan have trampled nuance to death with their antics. It’s unclear if they’re three of the horsemen of the apocalypse or the Three Stooges. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.
Nuance suffered major blows in the last week with the toppling of a statue honoring General/President Ulysses Grant as well as the Lady Forward statue in Madison, Wisconsin. The latter became a symbol of pride during the anti-Walker demonstrations in what seems like another lifetime. Its downfall certainly vexed Our Scout Prime:
She's long been a beloved symbol of WI protest. This was a mistake and I'd hope people would own it rather than the weak justifications I've seen. Worse is the assault of an ally–Tim Carpenter, an openly gay Democratic rep. https://t.co/PofgyAC6sG
An appreciation for, and an understanding of, nuance would have prevented the toppling of a statue honoring the man who did more to defeat the Confederacy than anyone else, General/President Grant. His father-in-law was a slave owner (as was Lincoln’s) who gave Ulysses and Julia a slave. Grant found the whole thing embarrassing and freed the poor bastard within a year. Many have credited that incident with beginning the process of Grant’s enlightenment on racial matters.
As president, Grant joined forces with the advocates of radical reconstruction and equal rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was perhaps his greatest accomplishment as president. It was struck down by the Supremes in 1883, but it set the template for Civil Rights legislation in the next century. That’s right, Grant was the LBJ of the 19th Century; another historical figure nuance is needed to understand.
“A man too broad for prejudice, too humane to despise the humblest, too great to be small at any point. In him the Negro found a protector, the Indian a friend, a vanquished foe a brother, an imperiled nation a savior…”
Grant’s historical reputation was the first casualty of the cult of the Lost Cause. In recent years, his star has been on the rise because of his record on Civil Rights while Woodrow Wilson’s has declined because he was a segregationist. Nuance requires that I point out that Wilson was instrumental in passing significant progressive legislation as president.
I dislike criticizing those I agree with and rarely do so. I’m down with removing monuments to Lee, Davis, Calhoun, and others. I’ve even stopped making nuanced arguments about Jackson Square in New Orleans. While I understand the thrill of toppling statues, I prefer a legal process, which has the benefit of being safer. The bronze statue of General/President Jackson is heavy and could hurt someone if hastily removed. I’ll have more about that and the renaming frenzy next week at the Bayou Brief.
Perhaps the post title is melodramatic. Nuance will live as long as people take the time to understand the complexities of our history. History is made by human beings and we’re flawed and, well, human.
A final thought: while we know who is buried in Grant’s Tomb, why is there a statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square? That’s too nuanced even for me.
The last word goes to Oscar Brand with an 1868 campaign song:
While Baca is most known for firing shots, he is not currently facing any charges for it. Baca is facing aggravated battery and two battery charges for allegedly assaulting three female protestors.
Police initially charged Baca for the shooting, but the District Attorney dropped that charge pending further investigation. Baca’s attorneys have argued he fired his gun in self-defense because he was being hit with a skateboard.
In court, Monday, the District Attorney’s office argued that Baca was only at the protest to start trouble. However, with no criminal history and the state not yet finding any of the women Baca is accused of hurting, Judge Charles Brown released him on his own recognizance.
The story is an incoherent-ass mess — police don’t file charges, DAs do, and what does “most known for firing shots” mean, and there are other typos in the parts I haven’t quoted, but …
This guy brought a gun to a protest expecting there would be someone there he could shoot. He showed up at a place where people were protesting, with a gun, to make what point who the hell even knows, to defend the honor of dead conquistador, with firearms. What the FUCK.
There is one intention for something like this and it’s to intimidate people from protesting. From taking down statues. From creating in the world the images of it they feel should be represented. You don’t show up to that with a gun to protect yourself from being possibly hit with a skateboard, come on.
I know it’s tiring to point out how few consequences right-wing white men face for actions like this. Those Bundy assholes, everyone who ever attacked an abortion clinic, who get referred to in the press as acting in some kind of heroic insurrection against an oppressive government. I don’t know if this is a hangover from the Revolutionary War or what, but we keep treating these dinguses like they’re Paul Revere and it’s poisonous.
Using the political system to stomp on radicalized fringes does not seem to be very effective in getting them to eschew violence. In fact, it seems to be a very good way of getting more violence. Possibly because those fringes have often turned to violence precisely because they feel that the political process has been closed off to them.
Now contrast that compassion and generosity — extended, in the above case, to the murderer of a doctor — to what is generally said among the I’m No Conservative But crowd about the Black Lives Matter protests today.
I wonder if anyone thinks maybe, just maybe, the political process has been closed off to them?
Because that's not how rioting works. Riots often explode after sporting victories. The necessary determinant of riots is whether you think other people are going to riot too, diminishing your chances of getting caught, not whether your conditions are objectively getting worse.
We were planning on being in the parade until my husband dropped a whole ass IKEA shelf that weighed about 20 pounds and had a sharp metal edge directly onto his own head somehow. Two hours and seven staples and diagnosis of a mild concussion later, we decided he should not inflict his really gnarly head wound on a COVID-paranoid public.
So, to still participate somehow in the local Juneteenth parade my neighborhood decided at the spur of the moment to throw, Kick and I got busy making signs and recruiting friends to come watch from the sidelines, masked and appropriately distanced.
It was a car caravan, taking off from one corner of town and snaking all the way around it, ending at a local park. Before we went we talked about the end of slavery, about how people were still fighting to be treated fairly, we watched some kids’ history videos, but I think Kick just wanted to do anything that involved at least a couple of strangers for an hour or so.
We heard it before we saw it: horns honking, music playing, people cheering. It went on for a mile and a half.
It didn’t strike me until we rounded the corner and the first cars came into view just how long it had been since our streets had seen any public expression of joy.
At the rally in Oklahoma last night, the Trump faithful on Saturday lined up wearing Trump hats and shirts, and carrying flags — Trump flags, American flags, flags bearing images of Mr. Trump kissing an American flag. A “four more years” chant broke out before 7 a.m. For blocks, the scene was more reminiscent of a sports tailgate than a political rally, as music blared and beer flowed between supporters, some of whom had traveled hundreds of miles.
Salespeople set up tents hawking Trump memorabilia, and as attendees began to enter the checkpoint for the rally, they left lawn chairs abandoned on the street.
As the day wore on and rallygoers congregated in line, the group — which was overwhelmingly white — increasingly included both the most die-hard Trump supporters and also more rank-and-file fans of the president. Both sets of voters were skeptical that the virus posed a serious risk to them.
I was trying to follow the Trump event last night and …
During his speech, Mr. Trump delivered a defensive, 15-minute explanation of images that showed him ambling slowly down a ramp after delivering the commencement address at the West Point military academy last weekend. He blamed his slow walk on “leather soles” on his shoes and said he was trying not to fall on his behind.
He also took several sips of water out of a glass after video at the West Point event showed him struggling to bring a glass up to his lips. He said he was trying to make sure he did not spill the water on his tie. The crowd applauded wildly.
I don’t understand what his people get out of this. I honestly don’t and I never have. What help is it, to be this angry all the time? I’ve been angry since mid-March, since kindergarten got cancelled, since we started holing up in our house, since friends started getting sick, since their kids started getting sick.
Since the images of police beating protesters, jailing protesters, at the president’s express command, for doing exactly what we were there to watch at Friday’s parade.
Car after car, people leaning out the windows, up through the sunroof, cheering. Flags of African nations, signs that said CELEBRATE FREEDOM and END POLICE BRUTALITY. Black Lives Matter. People on the street watching had noisemakers, tambourines, cowbells.
In these stilted, inside times, that’s what a rally is for: To make some noise. Remind people that you’re still here despite everything that’s tried to kill you. Stand up for the world you want to see, vital and alive. Inside that hall in Tulsa, half-empty though it was, people showed the world they wanted to see.
They roared with approval when he called the coronavirus “Kung Flu,” a racist nickname even one of his own senior advisers, Kellyanne Conway, once called “highly offensive.” Chants broke out of “lock her up,” evoking the 2016 presidential campaign, even as the Democratic Party has moved on from Mrs. Clinton. Some people wore Confederate flags. Others brought signs that supported the QAnon conspiracy theory that claims a “deep state” plot against Mr. Trump and his supporters. (One of the president’s sons, Eric Trump, posted a QAnon image to his Instagram page Saturday afternoon before deleting it shortly afterward.)
Trina Moore, 61, drove 10 hours from Denver to attend the rally. Her children are essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic, she said.
“I’ve been home all myself during quarantine and I wanted a reason to go somewhere,” Ms. Moore said. “I just don’t believe in the virus thing. I’d go to Europe. I’d get on a plane. I’d do whatever.”
Out on the street, around the corner from my house, things looked different.
People came to watch, in masks, and people drove their kids, holding signs that said “my life matters.” No one declared their intention to die in order to prove a point or defy science or make liberals angry. No one mentioned making anyone angry at all.
It’s rally day in Tulsa for the Impeached Insult Comedian and his delusional supporters. After months of believing in the pandemic, he’s changed his mind, but his lawyers are still making attendees sign a disease waiver. That’s a wise idea because they’re cramming people in that arena like MAGA sardines. What could possibly go wrong?The term clusterfuck was created for moments like this. O is for Oklahoma and Oy, just oy.
This week’s theme song was written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen for Steely Dan’s 1976 album Royal Scam. The studio original features a brilliant guitar solo by jazz man Larry Carlton.
We have two versions of Kid Charlemagne for your listening pleasure: the Royal Scam original and a live version by the Dukes of September a combo that Fagen formed with Boz Scaggs and ex-Danman Michael McDonald.
Now that we’ve gotten (gone?) along with Kid Charlemagne, let’s move along to the break.
It’s a crazy news day even for the Trump era. It’s Juneteenth, which the Impeached Insult Comedian claims to have discovered or some such shit. It’s much like Christopher Columbus sailing the ocean blue in 1492 and “discovering” lands populated by indigenous peoples.
Repeat after me: Not Taking Sides Is Taking Sides.
There was some good news yesterday. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar removed her name from Joe Biden’s Veep list. She urged the former Veep to pick a woman of color as his Veep. This should boost Senator Kamala Harris’ chances, but like Klobuchar she’ll have to deal with questions about her prosecutorial past. I’d use the reformed sinner/it takes a thief argument; meaning that only those who understand the criminal justice system can fix it. Stay tuned.
The weather in New Orleans has been weird even by our standards this week. Last Sunday and Monday, Tropical Storm Cristobal was a non-event in the city, but it was followed on Tuesday by torrential rain that caused flooding. On Wednesday, it was gorgeous: warm but with low humidity. In a word: weird.
This week’s theme song was written in 1974 by Al Green and Mabon Teenie Hodges. We have three versions of Take Me To The River for your listening pleasure: Al Green, Talking Heads, and Syl Johnson.
Now that we’ve been to the river, let’s take the plunge and jump to the break. I hear it’s dry on the other side; at least I hope so.
I wish I could say that the Impeached Insult Comedian’s attack on Buffalo activist Martin Gugino showed that he’d hit rock bottom but there is no bottom with this fucker. It’s merely the latest new low.
Yesterday, Trump applied his unique brand of Twitter crazy to what happened in Buffalo:
Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?
I’m surprised he didn’t call it a flop, which is what an exaggerated fall to draw a foul is called in the NBA:
Flopping used to work but eventually the refs caught on; much like the voters with President* Pennywise. Everything he does, says, or tweets strikes the wrong note. His aides are said to be despondent over the how the flopping tweet flopped. Good. They *should* be despondent about what the Trump regime is doing to the country.
The reason I’m bringing up yesterday’s example of cluelessness, insensitivity, and cruelty is the nature of what happened. I’ve spent a lot of time around elderly people in the last 15 years. The thing they, quite rightly, fear most is falling. A broken hip can transform a spry old man into a broken one. Hopefully, Mr. Gugino will bounce back but he’s unlikely to ever be quite the same after being pushed around by the police.
I just came upon this tweet from a friend of Martin Gugino:
Kinda surreal when the President starts accusing your 75 yr old friend of being an agent of ANTIFA.
My friend Martin Gugino is an old man with cancer who is now in the hospital with brain damage after being pushed to the ground by a police officer he was trying to talk to.
President* Pennywise is spiraling as his failures mount. In the past, he was able to recover from his missteps because the crises were largely self-inflicted. This time, events are in the saddle, riding him. It’s about fucking time.
The sharks sense blood in the water. Suddenly, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is willing to stand up to the Kaiser of Chaos. When the kneeling shit hit the fan in 2017, the NFL was paralyzed with fear. Goodell is not mouthing Black Lives Matter rhetoric out of conviction; he’s blowing with the wind. The prevailing breeze is NOT coming from Trumpistan. Hell, even Drew Brees is suddenly a repentant sinner.
The White House somehow thinks that an oval office address on race and policing is the cure for what ails it. Such a speech has never helped Trump before and this one is being written by neo-Fascist Steven Miller. It’s unclear who will translate the text from the original German. Maybe William Hermann Goering Barr can lend a hand. He should change his name to Wilhelm.
Finally, it’s time to pitch a new theme song to President* Pennywise. It’s a tune that fits the moment even if it’s 53-years-old. That’s still younger than Martin Gugino. The last word goes to The Hollies and CSNY:
Greg Hoeft of Janesville brought 12 boxes of bees to the event.
The bees were on a trailer that he towed into the post office parking lot, just behind the protestors.
Hoeft, whose name was on the side of the bee boxes, posted his plans on Facebook: “The riot control bees are in their holding yard waiting to clear the streets of Janesville and keep peace to this county. I’m willing to bring them in and kick them over if things get out of control.”
A photo shows Hoeft loading the boxes of bees on a trailer.
Police learned that he planned to release the bees if the protest became unruly.
Activist Ja’Mal Green organized a rally on Sunday in the 11000 block of South Kedzie Avenue, where protests emerged the night before. The group was met with a large crowd of counter-protesters, which numbered in the hundreds and at points shouted racial slurs, according to DNAinfo. “The other group, which was mostly white, chanted “Blue Lives Matter” and “Trump, Trump, Trump,” reported WBEZ. “They held signs that read “Go home animals” and “You ruined your own communities, Don’t ruin ours.”
This Red State article made the rounds of white complacent Facebook this week, see how it echoes:
You’re far more likely to die in the suburbs than in the city in this situation. You may think moving the riots into neighborhoods is going to play out the same way. It’s not. You’re at a massive tactical disadvantage. The residents know these streets, the layout of their homes, and the defense capabilities of their residence and themselves.
You don’t. Each home will be different, each resident will have different approaches, and each home may have more than one or two gun wielders inside. The goal isn’t non-violent control of the situation now. It’s not about tear gas and high-pressure hoses now. Now it’s deadly force. You can’t just wash a bullet wound out and keep going. Even if they don’t have guns, they’re not going to stop hitting you with a heavy object or stop stabbing and slashing at you with cutlery until you’ve either been chased out or you stop moving. Understand. The chances of you dying are incredibly high.
Suburbanites have a lot more to lose and are going to be a lot more apt to go to extremes to make sure no harm befalls what they’re protecting. Too much rides on it. In the city, you were the pack of lions seeking whom you may devour. In the burbs, you’re the gazelle.
If government tyranny is an excuse to wave guns and threaten people, they’ll oppose government tyranny. If looters and riots are an excuse to wave guns and threaten people, they’ll cheer as the National Guard rolls in. It doesn’t matter as long as they get to yell really loud that they’re strong and you’re not. Stop looking for consistency and coherent political thought. Start looking for the guns and threats.
This is the stronghold: bullying. Not law and order, not even support of police or the military. The military said Eddie Gallagher shouldn’t be a SEAL anymore and ought to be in prison — we saw what Trump did with that finding. The minute a cop or member of any of the armed or civil services says hey, this isn’t cool, they become a liberal abortionist peacefreak instead of one of the Thin Blue Line.
And what frustrates me is there are still cops who think that if they keep the faith, the faith will be kept with them, as if our ‘roided up cop-culture isn’t littered with stories about corrupt cops getting each other killed to keep secrets. There’s no right way to be here if you aren’t a bully.
They don’t give a SHIT about you, and the way you know that is that they are deliberately creating situations that put cops in danger so they can yell things like LAW AND ORDER and LOOTERS WILL BE SHOT. That’s all they care about. If this was about supporting cops somebody would have said a long ass time ago that the easiest way to keep cops safe is to deal with the cops that keep provoking these situations by KILLING UNARMED BLACK PEOPLE.
But they don’t want to keep cops safe, the Trump administration and its allies in the FOP and other police-adjacent lobbying groups. They want to bully. They want to yell. They want to knock over a box full of bees, let it loose into the crowd.
I wrote this post yesterday morning. Since it’s about the big picture, I’ve let it be. The details will remain in dispute for quite some time. Besides, I can’t top A’s Sunday eloquence:
I appropriated the phrase The Fog of History in 2014 during the Ferguson police riot. That’s why it fits our current situation so well even if the image from The Lady From Shanghai isn’t precisely on point; it’s still cool. There *are* echoes of 1967 and 1968 but the context is not the same. A lot of pent-up anger and frustration has been vented on the streets of many of our cities; both short-term and long-term.
The short-term frustrations involve the pandemic and economic calamity brought on us by the Trump regime’s grotesque incompetence. People have been cooped-up for two months, so part of the unrest is down to stir craziness as well as the Kaiser of Chaos’ need to constantly stir the pot. Chaos is all he knows. He has neither the foggiest notion of how to unite the country nor the slightest inclination to do so. He just stirs the pot: consequences be damned. Fuck you. Donald.
The long-term frustrations involve the original reason for the protests, police brutality and racist violence against people of color. The encounter between George Floyd and MPD Officer Derek Chauvin was brief and brutish. It cost Floyd his life and Chauvin his job, which is not a fair trade off for such a cold-blooded act.
Charges have been filed against Chauvin. Allow me to put my lawyer hat on for a minute. The reason he’s been charged with 3rd degree homicide and manslaughter is a pragmatic one. Prosecutors will not have to prove INTENT, which is one reason police prosecutions often fall short. Defense lawyers invariably use a combination of self-defense and resisting arrest arguments to defeat murder charges. Removing intent from the equation strikes me as wise. I think there *was* intent, but convicting Chauvin is the most important thing. The recent case of Philando Castile is a bitter reminder that juries almost always defer to the cop’s judgment.
I nearly leapt into the murky waters of this story on Friday. But I wanted to have a better idea of who was responsible for the arson and looting and why it happened. The fog has lifted somewhat, and it appears that the worst of the non-police violence was instigated by far right and far left extremists. Shorter Adrastos: I see white people.
For all we know, it’s an unholy combination of the extremes. The right-wing extremists want to provoke a race war and the left-wing extremists want to provoke “the revolution” whatever the hell that means in the American context. Thus far, they’re making the streets of some cities look like Berlin in 1930.
The far right and far left have often converged in our history. I’ve closely studied the post-World War II Red Scare and it’s replete with stories of committed communists becoming McCarthyite witch hunters. Whitaker Chambers is the best example. He went from being a Soviet spy to an editor at Time Magazine, which was a festering pit of anti-communist fervor back then. That concludes this brief history lesson.
Back to the current unrest. I’m relieved that much of the violence is down to white extremist agent provocateurs as I think looting and arson are stupid. As Minnesota native Bob Dylan put it in a 1966 song, Absolutely Sweet Marie: “To live outside the law, you must be honest.”
I expect the Kaiser of Chaos and his supporters will overplay their hand and the pot stirring will blow up in their faces. People want their president to lead, not tweet and incite violence from the White House bunker. Any other president would have urged calm and asked both sides to stand down. President* Pennywise is incapable of such leadership. As our Scout Prime said the other day on Twitter, “I wish we had a president.”
I’m not making any other political or legal predictions about recent events. I’m keeping my head down and rationing my news and social media intake. Shit was already hard enough before this shit went down. Repeat after me: I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.
I realize Wake Me Up On Judgment Day is an odd title for an agnostic to use. It’s the title of a song on an album that’s been my “happy place” this weekend, Steve Winwood’s Back In The High Life Again. That’s why Winwood gets the last word with a song that reflects my unrealistic desire to hibernate until the shit is scraped off the proverbial fan.
The era of slavery was when white Americans determined that black Americans needed only the bare necessities, not enough to keep them optimally safe and healthy. It set in motion black people’s diminished access to healthy foods, safe working conditions, medical treatment and a host of other social inequities that negatively impact health.
This message is particularly important in a moment when African-Americans have experienced the highest rates of severe complications and death from the coronavirus and “obesity” has surfaced as an explanation. The cultural narrative that black people’s weight is a harbinger of disease and death has long served as a dangerous distraction from the real sources of inequality, and it’s happening again.
Reliable data are hard to come by, but available analyses show that on average, the rate of black fatalities is 2.4 times that of whites with Covid-19. In states including Michigan, Kansas and Wisconsin and in Washington, D.C., that ratio jumps to five to seven black people dying of Covid-19 complications for every one white death.
For YEARS I didn’t get a flu shot because my grandmother told us all about the one time she got one, and got sick for the one and only time in her entire life. I mean like I started getting the flu shot when I got pregnant, six and a half years ago. I was 38 years old, white and the daughter of a middle-class health professional, I went to college, I read books, I knew better, but: no flu shot for me, and even now, when I do get one, every year, somewhere in the back of my mind is my grandmother’s disappointment.
No voice is louder than that of family, ever, and yet we act like other people can just pick up and forget.
You can’t just walk away from what you created, ever. What stories did your grandparents tell? Mine talked about the Great Depression, about families with a dozen kids and no food, about orphanages and deprivation, making do and doing without. What the human body can survive is unbelievable. How hard we fight to stay alive, but that doesn’t mean any of it goes away. And we’re surprised there’s a retina burn on our history?
You’re staring straight into the sun now. What stories will the people most harmed by this tell their grandchildren, about deprivation, about want? About what they survived and what they had to do in order to do it, and who didn’t, and why? Those stories will determine the shape of their children’s worlds. It doesn’t even matter if they’re true, though I doubt anything is fiction anymore. I have no idea if my grandmother got sick from a flu shot; why would I look for proof? Her younger brother died of an infection today’s antibiotics would have cured in a week. Fear of want lurked beneath everything we did, though never for a day did we go without food.
There are aftershocks to every trauma; can you even begin to calculate what there might be, to something of this size?
While we’ve all had our eyes on the pandemic, despicable White House aide and self-hating Jew Stephen Miller has kept busy. You can detect his hand behind President* Pennywise’s immigration “ban.” It was, of course, devised to distract attention from the regime’s supremely inept pandemic response. They’ve tried lying their way through it and it’s blown up in their pasty, white faces or in Trump’s case, orange.
The other reason I’m plagued by thoughts about Miller is a Slate piece by Jeremy Stahl that reminds us of Miller’s racist malefactions. It’s part of a series about Trump administration malfeasance. This post is full of M-words. Here are two more: Miller is a malodorous motherfucker. That felt mighty, mighty good.
You’re probably wondering what I’m on about with the post title. It’s down to Richard Thompson-Edward Hopper month at Saturday Odds & Sods. I’ve been listening to RT’s back catalog a lot of late and one song in particular strikes me as relevant to this moment in time. Time is still on my mind as you’ll see later today. I’ve also thrown one more Hopper painting into the mix as the featured image. Never enough EH or RT.
The exact point-of-view of the 1979 Richard Thompson song, Civilisation, remains somewhat murky; something the songwriter is unlikely to clarify other than to state it doesn’t reflect his own political views. I’ve always interpreted it as a narrative tune with a far-right xenophobic protagonist spouting bigoted bile and nonsense about immigrants. Hence my idiosyncratic connection of it with far-right racist and xenophobic Trump aide, Stephen Miller. There’s occasionally method to my madness.
Civilisation is the opening track of the penultimate Richard and Linda Thompson album, Sunnyvista. It rocks like crazy and, as you might have gathered, has disturbing RT lyrics:
They’re not human, they’re with the Woolwich
They eat food I wouldn’t give to my dog
They’re hygienic, medicated
They wouldn’t live next door to no wog
They’re not human, where do they come from?
I don’t know what they’re living here for
They don’t belong here, on this planet
What are they doing in the house next door?
Wife’s tranquilized, milk’s pasteurized
Kid’s hypnotized by the t.v.
Dad’ll beat you, dog’ll eat you
They’ll treat you like family
All across the nation
They’re not human, they’ve got a new car
They’re going to polish it all the day long
Got a brand new rubber woman
They’re going to blow her up all the night long
They’re not human, it’s a double cross
They sold out for a handful of beads
They sold everything for nothing, just a
Headful of dreams and a handful of greed
Keep ’em happy, keep ’em drinking
Keep ’em laughing, no thinking
No dying, no weeping
Keep ’em hypnotized, keep ’em sleeping
All across the nation
Pack you off to school, get working
Get a steady job, no shirking
Get to sixty-five, get a handshake
You’re a vegetable with a heartache
All across the nation
I hear the sound of Stephen Miller clapping and nodding his head.
There’s an overly literal interpretive video of Civilisation on YouTube by a dude with a handle that I originally thought was German, Mehefinheulog. It turns out to be Welsh. He uses images of movie space aliens and includes frequent nods to Sir Kenneth Clark’s genteel and erudite teevee series, Civilisation. RT’s protagonist may be wordy but he’s neither genteel nor erudite.
Stephen Miller and his ilk believe they’re stalwart defenders of Western civilization instead of malevolent bigots. I assume his family remains ashamed of him. They should be mortified. That’s the last M-word of this post.
The featured image is of Max von Sydow playing chess with Death in the Ingmar Bergman classic, The Seventh Seal. Von Sydow had a long acting career in America; often playing in horror movies. He died earlier this week at the age of 90. This is the first time I’ve ever started a Saturday post with an obit. I like to change things up.
The Seventh Seal is set during the Black Plague. It was an era with clueless and ignorant leaders; much like the US&A in 2020. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
This week’s theme song continues our board game theme. The Game Pieces was written by Chris Leslie and Nigel Stonier for Fairport Convention’s 1999 album, The Wood and the Wire. Here’s a woody and wiry live version:
I’m a lousy chess player but I know a good song about chess when I hear one. Just say Yes:
Now that we’ve established that we’re all good people, let’s take a straight and stronger course to the break.
Cover art for Paul Eluard’s Reflections by Max Ernst.
Extreme heat is the price we’ve paid for missing out on Hurricane Dorian. As cranky as I am, I’m glad this heat-bringing high is warding off any tropical activity. I won’t miss it when it’s gone but I’m glad it’s here as Dorian creeps up the east coast. That storm is a relentless motherfucker. The fucker should return to the attic from whence it came.
Drew Brees ate my Friday morning. I hope he buttons his lip and keeps his foot out of his mouth until after Monday’s game.
The featured image is a collage done by the great Max Ernst for a book by his fellow surrealist, Paul Eluard. You may have noticed that I love surrealist art. I use it a lot in this space and have even threatened to post nothing but Ernst and Magritte featured images for Odds & Sods. I’ve also used an Ernst image for my new Bayou Brief column, 13th Ward Rambler.
This week’s theme song was written by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington for the 1961 Kirk Douglas film, Town Without Pity. I’d never seen the movie until last weekend. It’s a cross between film noir, Italian neo-realism, German expressionism, and a Cassavetes flick. I liked it a lot and give it 3 1/2 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B+. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
We have three versions of Town Without Pity for your listening pleasure: the Gene Pitney original, Stray Cats, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. My boy Brian knows a hidden treasure when he hears one.
Let’s escape the bleak mean streets of a German town without pity by remorselessly jumping to the break.
This particular Benny should cool his jets. I think President* Pennywise is doing an excellent job of delegitimizing, dividing, and demoralizing our citizenry. In his case, I would add a third D: dumbing down, dammit.
People have a hard time with complexity. It’s just more obvious (oblivious?) in the social media era. Ronald Reagan was a master oversimplifier. It was one reason he defeated the overcomplicator, Jimmy Carter. Reagan was a creature of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and his vision of our history was impacted by the movies he’d seen. In fact, the man Gore Vidal dubbed “the old TV president” was known to conflate movie plots with real life. Reagan also believed in the World War II slogan, KISS or “Keep It Simple Stupid.” In 1980 Reagan ran circles around Carter who thought and spoke like an engineer.
Life is complicated, American history even more so. Thomas Jefferson co-wrote the Declaration of Independence and was an unrepentant slave owner. The greatest liberal president of them all, Franklin Roosevelt, went along with the internment of Japanese-Americans without due process. There are thousands of similar examples but those are the best examples of our history at its worst and its finest.
Our history has involved a constant tension between our highest ideals and our worst impulses. It’s why I cannot stand with either the “America is pure evil” or “America: love it or leave it” crowds. They’re both wrong and guilty of egregious oversimplification.
Repeat after me: American history is a mixed bag. It’s what makes our national story so damned interesting as well as maddening.
The Brexit party leader was laudatory about the Queen – “an amazing, awe-inspiring woman, we’re bloody lucky to have her” – but abused her son, grandson and mother.
“When it comes to her son, when it comes to Charlie Boy and climate change, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Her mother, Her Royal Highness the Queen’s mother was a slightly overweight, chain-smoking gin drinker who lived to 101 years old. All I can say is Charlie Boy is now in his 70s … may the Queen live a very, very long time.”
I remember when British right-wingers were royalists. Additionally, the Queen Mum has been dead for seventeen years so one would think the Insult Comedian UK would let her rest in peace. Shorter Adrastos: Stay mum about the dead Queen Mum.
Farage also indulged in a bit of sexism and racism by going after Meghan Markle and her prince:
“Terrifying! Here was Harry, here he was this young, brave, boisterous, all male, getting into trouble, turning up at stag parties inappropriately dressed, drinking too much and causing all sorts of mayhem. And then, a brave British officer who did his bit in Afghanistan. He was the most popular royal of a younger generation that we’ve seen for 100 years.
“And then he met Meghan Markle, and it’s fallen off a cliff. We’ve been told in the last week that Meghan and Harry will only have two children … and we’re all completely ignoring, the real problem the Earth faces, and that is the fact the population of the globe is exploding but no one dares talk about it, no one dares deal with it, and whether Prince Harry has two kids is irrelevant given there are now 2.6 billion Chinese and Indians on this Earth.”
Remember the good old days when Harry did shit like this?
According to the Farage barrage, Harry’s soul has been hijacked by his harridan wife who has succeeded in “pussy whipping” him. And making matters worse to the bigoted Farage, she’s a woman of color and an actress to boot. Scary, scary, scary. The only trick he missed was using the Empire era slur, WOG. I guess that proves that Nigel doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. Now where have I heard that before?
I posted this Farage barrage as a reminder that other country’s politics have also gone to hell in an increasingly overcrowded handbag. And Nigel is only UK clown number two: Boris Johnson is prime minister. Bigotry is as big in Blighty as at the White House. Oy just oy.
As an antidote to Nigel’s awfulness, the last word goes to the Kinks:
It’s been awhile since I wrote about an American mass shooting. The reason is genuinely horrible: they’ve become so commonplace that we’re *almost* getting used to them. That’s an appalling place to find ourselves in, but that’s how things stand in the summer of 2019.
The El Paso shooting is particularly horrific: the shooter went to that Walmart because so many people cross the border to shop there. It’s what happens when Mexicans are demonized by a sitting president* for his short-term political advantage. As always, the GOP is offering thoughts and prayers without informing the public what will happen when they stop thinking and praying. We all know the answer to that: nada, bupkis, nothing.
It’s not just the ascendancy of white nationalism that’s causing this. It enjoyed a comeback in after Bill Clinton’s election victory in 1992 as well: Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was a white nationalist. The difference is that 1994 saw the last piece of major gun control legislation passed: the assault weapons ban, which was allowed the expire during the Beavis-Duce administration,
We keep hoping that there will be an inflection point in the ongoing gun violence crisis. This could be the beginning of one: the NRA is imploding because of internal strife and drama. It’s unclear if they will have the resources to be a major player in the 2020 election cycle.
It’s time for another full-court press to restore the assault weapons ban. It won’t pass Moscow Mitch’s Senate but it could prove to be a powerful issue in 2020.
The right is fond of talking about American exceptionalism. Is this what they have in mind?