Another Day, Another Attack On The First Amendment

We do a lot of media criticism here at First Draft. It’s one of Athenae’s specialities with her takedown of Chuck Todd as the most recent example. Criticism is one thing but threats are altogether a different matter, especially from a president* who puts the bully in bully pulpit.

In his continuing campaign to distract attention from his administration’s failures and scandals, fake he-man Donald Trump is going after the “fake news” media. Along with kneeling jocks, minorities, and uppity women, the media are his go-to boogeyman. We all know what his definition of “fake news” is: stories that are critical of him. How has he retained his reputation in some circles as a tough guy? He’s got a glass jaw: real tough guys can take a licking and keep on ticking as an old Timex ad put it. The Insult Comedian is a whiny, titty baby who cannot handle criticism. What did he think he signed up for? This is the big leagues, not grade school t-ball.

The good news is that Trump’s threat against NBC’s broadcast license is an empty one:

There are a number of reasons Trump’s ideas about punishing NBC are, from a practical matter, unworkable.

First off, NBC itself as a broadcast network isn’t licensed by the FCC. NBC’s potential vulnerability would come as the owner and operator of 28 individual local stations, including its Telemundo station

(There are also dozens of NBC affiliates that NBC does not own and thus does not hold the licenses to.)

Second, the FCC license renewal process Trump suggested could be used to retaliate against NBC occurs every eight years. According to experts, it’s basically a rubber stamp and stations’ licenses are almost always renewed, though citizens in the localities of a station can technically challenge a license, as can a station’s competitors, if the station is doing competitive harm. To challenge NBC’s licenses, someone would have to do so in each of the individual local communities and they would face an uphill battle, legally speaking, especially after the deregulation that occurred starting with the Reagan administration.

“There are a couple of oddball cases involving smaller broadcasters, where they’ve gotten in trouble and not gotten their licenses renewed, but never about programming. No significant broadcaster of any size has ever lost a license renewal,” Schwartzman said

The threat may be empty but the mere fact that he made it is disturbing. The Nixon administration threatened the Washington Post company with revocation of its teevee affiliate licenses. I think you know why: Tricky Dick did not like its coverage of his administration. Nixon, of course, was smart enough to have surrogates do so privately as opposed to spouting off himself in public. That’s why they called him Tricky Dick. It’s one difference between Watergate and Moronogate.

I recently read an excellent 1982 biography of Mussolini by an Oxford Don, Denis Mack Smith. The parallels are disturbing. Mussolini was a mendacious, narcissistic opportunist who only believed in himself. Like Trump, he manipulated the mass media of his day to obtain power. In his case as a journalist who immediately turned against a free press upon becoming Duce. The good news is that it’s much harder for any American president to suppress free speech. The bad news is that we’re having this discussion at all.

Attempts to shut down a free press are not only unconstitutional, they’re the first step on the path to dictatorship. Trump is so unpopular and incompetent that it’s not going to happen. We need to be concerned about future attempts to do so by a demagogue who is cleverer and more knowledgeable.  It *can* happen here.

So, Who’s The Real Rocket Man?

Missile_arsenal_640

Though considering their mental ages/levels of maturity, maybe we should ask “who’s the real Missile Boy?” Adrastos has the details below; earlier this week Bob Corker told us what he really thinks (the Oval Office is functioning as a child’s playpen), and given Orange Narcissus’ record as well as his temperament…yeah, I think concern should be on our minds. Concern…and hope that the alleged grown ups keep a lid on things (who knew we’d be relying on the maturity of someone nicknamed “Mad Dog?”)

At first it sounded like hyperbole, the escalation of a Twitter war. But now it’s clear that Bob Corker’s remarkable New York Times interview—in which the Republican senator described the White House as “adult day care” and warned Trump could start World War III—was an inflection point in the Trump presidency. It brought into the open what several people close to the president have recently told me in private: that Trump is “unstable,” “losing a step,” and “unraveling.”

and

But what’s even more unsettling, as I have previously written, is that Trump has a history of making comments about nuclear weapons that both display his profound ignorance about this all-important subject and suggest he believes a nuclear conflict is inevitable and perhaps destined for the near future.

Oh, and while our reality show president pouts (and lashes out at NBC), Puerto Rico is becoming a humanitarian catastrophe, wildfires are raging in California…I think I’m getting tired of all this winning…

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Ghostly Hoofbeats

Here’s a two-fer: a Western ghost story. Yup. Boo.

Tea For The Tillerson: Moronogate Edition

I just realized that I haven’t milked my Tea for the Tillerson pun for quite some time. There’s no time like the present, especially when Rexit may be imminent. It could even be instant Rexit given the whimsical and capricious nature of the president* he serves. Ooh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world.

You’d have to be living under a rock to not have heard of Moronogate and the fall-out from it. It’s been cuckoo for cocoa puffs even for Team Trump. Tillerson has refused to deny saying it and President* I Have A Very Good Brain challenged him to an IQ test smackdown. I’m reasonably certain no previous Oval One has challenged anyone to what amounts to an intellectual dick measuring contest; not even Harding who knew he was a dumbass in over his head. That makes him brighter than Trumpy.

NBC News has dominated Moronogate reporting and they broke another story this morning, which seems to explain the Secretary of State’s Rexclamation:

President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest-ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who were in the room.

Trump’s comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s. Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve.

According to the officials present, Trump’s advisers, among them the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were surprised. Officials briefly explained the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the buildup. In interviews, they told NBC News that no such expansion is planned.

The July 20 meeting was described as a lengthy and sometimes tense review of worldwide U.S. forces and operations. It was soon after the meeting broke up that officials who remained behind heard Tillerson say that Trump is a “moron.”

We don’t need any Rexplaining to know that the Man from Big Oil was spot on. Trump talks out of his ass every day so we, of course, believe that he’s capable of starting a unilateral arms race as crazy as that sounds. Crazy is the new norm in Washington City, which is terrifying given that a lunatic is in possession of the nuclear codes. The next thing you know he’ll fire the officer who carries the “football” for taking a knee…

One thing that fascinates me about the Trump-Tillerson death dance is how unusual it is. Don’t get me wrong: previous presidents and their secretaries of state weren’t always bosom buddies. Harry Truman was treated like a junior senator by Jimmy Brynes who was resentful that he wasn’t FDR’s running mate in 1944. (The big cigars of labor vetoed the South Carolinian for his anti-union and hardcore segregationist views.) But Byrnes or his people didn’t leak disparaging information about HST even when he was fired from Foggy Bottom. Richard Nixon and his henchman Henry Kissinger treated Bill Rogers with disdain but even Kissinger didn’t call him a moron. I believe dull and stodgy were the words Kissinger used to describe his rival. I wonder if Kissinger will back stab Trump after their recent meeting. He’s neither dull nor stodgy, alas.

More recently, Bill Clinton and Madeline Albright had their moments as did W and Colin Powell but they kept their tea and shade behind closed doors. It’s what diplomats do.

I find myself in the odd position of pulling for Tillerson in his dispute with the orange dipshit. I think Tillerson has been a terrible secretary of state BUT he has orthodox/sane views on issues such as nuking North Korea. It’s a low bar but Rex clears it.

One of the odder sub-plots of Moronogate is the fact that Trump hired Tillerson because he looked like a secretary of state. Apparently, Bob Corker was bypassed because he’s 5’7″. James Madison was 5’4″ thereby making an excellent case for short diplomats. I’ll take short and clever over tall and clueless any day.

The Trump-Tillerson smackdown would be more entertaining if the stakes weren’t so high. There’s always a lot of tea and shade in Washington but it doesn’t typically involve two of the highest officials in the government. It’s what happens when we have an angry lunatic in the Oval Office and an arrogant engineer at Foggy Bottom. In fact, one could say this is the foggiest it’s ever been at Foggy Bottom.

Let’s hope the Tillerson-McMaster-Kelly-Mattis cabal can prevent a nuclear exchange with a third-rate Communist dictatorship led by an equally deranged leader. Ooh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world.

The last word goes to (who else?) my many named countryman, Cat Stevens with an aspirational track that requires no Rexplanation:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Curfew Covers

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu imposed a curfew during the run up to Hurricane Nate. He kept changing the times but left it in place until we were obviously in the clear. It was simultaneously annoying and confusing. It did, however, give me the idea for this post as did Michael Tisserand who posted the first cover on social media. Thank you, sir.

The next one comes from a Calypso artist who apparently needed to check someone else’s watch:

The last cover is the weirdest of a weird bunch. Oy, just oy.

Let’s hear some Calypso, mon:

 

Fight The Fights You’re Gonna Lose

God almighty, pull it together: 

Right now, for example, if you can believe it, the Democratic National Committee seems to be slightly baffled about what to do as regards the race for the open U.S. Senate seat in Alabama. The Democratic candidate is Douglas Jones, the former U.S. Attorney who sent to prison the last of the terrorists who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963. The Republican candidate is a lawless theocratic nutball named Roy Moore, who lost his job as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court twice because of flagrant judicial misconduct.

It would seem to the casual observer that people generally should realize it to be their patriotic duty to keep Moore out of the Senate for the good of the country. However, as reported by The Daily Beast, the Democratic Party apparatus can’t even decide if it should go all in for Jones.

Come at us all “winnable districts” and saving your powder. Let me ask you geniuses how you think the presidential election might have gone differently in Wisconsin if you’d fought Scott Walker like you meant it up there. So far all you’ve got to show for all your powder-saving is a giant pile of dry powder. So sit on that and sneeze.

How on earth do any of you expect people to believe you’ve got their backs if you won’t at least try to save them from Roy Moore, of all possible creatures? How are they supposed to buy what you’re selling when you’re out there worrying about whether they’re even worth making your pitch? When you don’t even TRY?

Some fights you fight not because you deserve to win them but because you’d be better off, for the sake of your immortal soul, fighting them and losing hard. At a certain point you have to be able to get up in the morning.

Donate to Doug Jones. It’s a waste of money, you say? Forget it, Jake, it’s Alabama? WELL DON’T YOU SOUND SMART. While you’re doing that, me and mine will serve the Lord, motherfucker.

A.

Selfish Bias Towards the Status Quo is Not Neutrality

I love it when a headline invites the interview subject to fuck himself: 

Chuck Todd Thinks It’s Important to Stay Neutral

We all have needs, I guess? People in Puerto Rico think it’s important to have electricity. Flint wants clean drinking water. The North Korean people are anxious that our president not start a nuclear war since they’ll all die. But you do you, Chuckles.

In politics, 90 percent of the disagreements are about policy or ideological point of view.

Yet you’re a fucking fashion blogger who thinks it’s a major issue that Hillary Clinton sounded ready to be president. The 10 percent of disagreements that are not about policy, why do you devote 90 percent of your show to them?

This whole interview with Chuck is just an excuse to let him drop this steaming turd:

Do you think you did a good job covering the events of 2016? I’m going to give you a Donald Rumsfeld answer: You cover the campaign that’s in front of you. You don’t get to cover the campaign you want. There are always lessons to be learned, and look, it’ll impact what happens next. Someday, we’ll say that somebody would’ve never been elected had 2016 not happened, right? Barack Obama might not have become president if Hillary Clinton had run in 2004. If Katherine Harris didn’t ever run for secretary of state in 1998, and the Democrat ends up winning that race against a scandal-ridden Republican incumbent at the time, whom Harris beat in the primary, so the Democrats control the certification process in Florida in 2000 — who knows what happens? That’s what I love about politics: that butterfly effect. We don’t try to erase a result; we just move on from it and build from it.

People are dying, you solipsistic prick. People are dying and being deported and every six weeks we need to scream at Congress not to take away our shitty health insurance. An economy that wasn’t really all that great is about to get really, really bad and there will be no help. Everyone in the White House is engaged in actively denying the president’s oncoming dementia, plus even when he’s with it, he’s a racist sexist old asshole.

Oh, and nobody’s asking you to erase the result. You don’t get to do that. This soulless butthole, he will be the 45th president of the United States forever, and you’re dumb but you’re not dumb-dumb, Chuck, you know that. You know that if you call a reasonable request to consider whether the old way of doing things is inadequate a request to nullify the election you get to call your critics unhinged and act like you’re somehow above it all.

Which pose wouldn’t offend me so much if you WEREN’T above it all. You’re not risking a damn thing going out there every Sunday reinforcing the view that Democrats are in disarray and Republicans are basically good and people of color/women always need to prove themselves twice as much and the world is basically the same as it was 20 years ago when we were all in school. You’re not gonna miss a meal because that’s all bullshit, so you go on, pretend there’s something noble in it.

FFS, this is what we think of in the journalism world as smart. This is who we elevate and parade around to our J-schools as some kind of celebrity speaker. This is who we teach the next generation of reporters to emulate. This is what we say has value in the world, this bullshit bias toward the status quo.

BTW, quoting Donald Rumsfeld, who should be in chains in the Hague, like it’s fucking cute is an example of the problem here. Donald Rumsfeld and the Iraq War are not neutral. Were not neutral. Were never neutral but that tells you a lot about where Chuck and his posse think the north-south dividing line really is.

It’s all a big ironic joke to them, and they mistake that for neutrality, and they mistake neutrality for virtue, and they think they’re gonna get out of this alive. Meanwhile Trump calls them the enemy of the American people and they profess shock and dismay at how we got to that point. Next on Meet the Press, Ann Coulter! Is she just a “misunderstood goddess” or what? 

A.

The Bobby Riggs Of The West Wing

I haven’t had a chance to see the Bobby-Billie Jean movie Battle of the Sexes yet. Storm prep is bad for moviegoing, y’all. Anyway, I thought of Riggs when I read this passage in a NYT profile of scared white boy Stephen Miller:

He jumped, uninvited, into the final stretch of a girls’ track meet, apparently intent on proving his athletic supremacy over the opposite sex. (The White House, reaching for exculpatory context, noted that this was a girls’ team from another school, not his own.)

We all did stupid shit in high school but not *this* stupid. This administration is chock-full-o-nuts as well as insecure guys with penis envy. Oy, just oy.

A Corker Of A Feud

For most of his political career, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker has been an off-the-rack mainstream conservative Republican. His views on most issues are ready-made, not bespoke. His 2006 campaign ran a race baiting ad against his opponent but otherwise he’s been stolid, solid, and boring. That ended with the electoral college victory of the Insult Comedian. The two men have traded the odd barb throughout the year but it exploded into the president’s* latest WWE-style feud yesterday.

The response was perhaps the best I’ve seen from a politician:

I don’t know if Corker mans his own twitter feed but that’s a masterpiece of social media snark. If it’s a staffer give her or him a raise. They’ll be out of a job by January 2019, after all.

There’s a post smackdown piece in the New York Times wherein we learned that Trump lied about Corker “begging” for his support:

Mr. Corker flatly disputed that account, saying Mr. Trump had urged him to run again, and promised to endorse him if he did. But the exchange laid bare a deeper rift: The senator views Mr. Trump as given to irresponsible outbursts — a political novice who has failed to make the transition from show business.

CNN confirmed Corker’s account. Besides, anyone who believes anything that comes out of the Insult Comedian’s pie hole is too stupid to live.

More importantly, Corker expressed genuine concern in the same interview about the militant craziness of Trump’s foreign policy:

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

Corker is referring to Trump’s increasingly unhinged and inaccurate comments about North Korea. The Kaiser of Chaos keeps confusing Kim Jong-un with both his father and grandfather. It’s unclear if he knows that the guy he derides as Rocket Man is the third member of the Kim family to be dictator since 1992. My hunch is that he hasn’t a clue, which would be par for the course for this president*.

Trump is out to disprove Teddy Roosevelt’s famous aphorism “speak softly, and carry a big stick.” Trump is screaming empty threats at the top of his lungs. At least I hope they’re empty threats. I’m afraid that the triumvirate (troika?) of Kelly, McMaster, and Mattis will have to bodily tackle Trump to prevent him from nuking Pyongyang.

I, for one, am glad that Republicans like Bob Corker are speaking out against Trump. Yes, some of them are responsible for electing the crazy motherfucker but Watergate teaches us that you can only dispose of a criminal president when their own party turns on them. Nixon was headed to conviction in the Senate. The reason Bill Clinton survived was that his party stuck with him. Thanks in part to research by Abbie Lowell who is now Slumlord Jared’s attorney. Ironies abound, y’all.

I’m in favor of building coalitions on an issue-by-issue basis. If previously hawkish Republicans are aghast by Trump’s insane pronouncements, working with them to stop a nuclear exchange is not only sensible but imperative. Does anyone think that Bob Corker wants to nuke North Korea? Donald Trump is the only one who seems to think making such threats is a winning strategy. He should look at a map sometime and see how close Seoul and Tokyo are to Rocket Man’s missiles. Of course, that would involve work and that’s not what this president* does. Instead, he watches teevee, golfs, tweets, and lies.

I eagerly await the next salvo in the war of words between the Republican president* and the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committe. It’s a Corker of a feud.

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – too stupid to breathe edition

Well, let’s get started.

Breaking – Shooter At Route 91 Music Festival At Mandalay Bay In Las Vegas
Twitter ^ | October 2, 2017

Posted on 10/2/2017, 12:50:18 AM by Pinkbell

Just breaking. A lot of repots on Twitter from people.

True Pundit reported this:

An active shooter reportedly on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay bar Hotel in Las Vegas has gunned down at least one police officer and others.

1 posted on 10/2/2017, 12:50:18 AM by Pinkbell
Annnd – we’re off!
To: Pinkbell

 

BLM has incited dozens of these. Why the F*!!* doesn’t the DOJ go after all these people that are funding/and inciting violence?

Didn’t they take an oath to ensure “DOMESTIC TRANQUILITY”?

Or, am I off base?

23 posted on 10/2/2017, 1:09:30 AM by Finalapproach29er (luke 6:38)

In the wrong ballpark, more like.
Freepers demand action!
To: Pinkbell
Has the President Tweeted yet? 

25 posted on 10/2/2017, 1:10:54 AM by grey_whiskers (The opinions are solely those of the author and are subject to change without notice.)
Of course, they all want to know who to blame :
To: Scott from the Left Coast

 

Obama soros black ops against country-music fans.

58 posted on 10/2/2017, 1:23:45 AM by Vision Thing (You see the depths of our hearts, and You love us the same…)

FacebookDumbCatStupidKitten
To: Vision Thing

 

The left and the muzzie brotherhood want to bring this country to crisis. They’ve given up trying to steal it through the ballot box. They’re going to do it the old fashioned communist way, through violence.

73 posted on 10/2/2017, 1:27:37 AM by Electric Graffiti (Obama voters killed America. Treat them accordingly.)

To: blu

 

Laws, laws. M O O N that spells Allah.

110 posted on 10/2/2017, 1:39:59 AM by bagster (Just make it quick.)

TheStandDumbass
To: Yaelle; laplata

 

I wonder if there are any mosques around there?

121 posted on 10/2/2017, 1:42:40 AM by Mark17 (Genesis chapter 1 verse 1. In the beginning GOD….And the rest, as they say, is HIS-story)

Maybe you should be proactive and shoot up a few?
More stupid below…

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

‘Fake News’ Didn’t Do Anything To You

Rich Republicans did: 

The same qualities that bind the townspeople together can, in turn, be alienating to newcomers. The refugee community has begun to experience this effect as its demographic makeup has changed. Over the past decade and a half, as conflict spread across North Africa and the Middle East, Twin Falls started to resettle larger numbers of refugees with darker skin who follow an unfamiliar religion — two things that make it difficult to blend into a town that is 80 percent white.

On a national scale, an ascendant network of anti-Muslim activists and provocateurs has exploited the fears brought on by these changes, finding a platform and a receptive audience online. The narrative they espouse — on blogs with names like Jihad Watch — is that America, currently 1 percent Muslim, is in the midst of an Islamic invasion. Central to the worldview of these bloggers, some of whom have celebrity-size social-media followings, is that Muslims have a propensity toward sexual violence. They seize on any news item that bolsters this notion.

This piece made the rounds and the framing of it makes me insane. This shit isn’t the fault of Facebook (though that company is on top of the Not Helping list right now) and it’s not the fault of the Internet. It’s the fault of rich asshole Republicans who used Facebook and the Internet to spew the same anti-Islam haterade they’ve been pumping out since the Iran hostage crisis to the detriment of literally everyone on earth.

This story delves into what happens when a town believes a bunch of bullshit instead of their generally reasonable authorities, but doesn’t once mention the funders of that bullshit: 

A similarly funded and probably even more conservative nonprofit, Young America’s Foundation, works to direct “public education on the ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise [and] traditional values and leadership,” according to its most recent publicly available tax form. YAF spent roughly half of its 2015 budget of $17.7 million on conference and lecture programs including “lectures on college campuses” and student chapters.

[snip]

A similarly funded and probably even more conservative nonprofit, Young America’s Foundation, works to direct “public education on the ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise [and] traditional values and leadership,” according to its most recent publicly available tax form. YAF spent roughly half of its 2015 budget of $17.7 million on conference and lecture programs including “lectures on college campuses” and student chapters.

I’m getting real damn tired of looking at the landscape of “fake news” and inciteful social media movements and shaking our heads like it’s just all so terrible and sad when we never even once acknowledge that A POLITICAL MOVEMENT DID THIS FOR ITS OWN GAIN. They did this on purpose and they paid for it, and they’re not even all that secretive about it:

The Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation is by far the biggest donor to YAF, and the Donors Capital Fund and its affiliate, Donors Trust, are also big contributors. The Bradley Foundation, three Koch family foundations and a foundation of the wealthy Mercer family have also given large donations.

It’s almost like nothing happens in the world without somebody getting paid so maybe instead of pretending this is just the world we live in now and it’s too bad — the optimist who jumped off a building, saying “so far, so good” every floor down — we start exploring where the money goes.

Or — AND THIS IS A CRAZY IDEA — using our own to build something that works like this, but isn’t terrible, and serves the ends of community and strength instead of hate and fear and greed.

A.

The Kids Will Save Themselves

Good kids: 

When I joined the March on Milwaukee 50th Anniversary Coordinating Committee in June of 2016, I had no idea learning at the feet of the elders meant I would become a privileged keeper of both their stories and, in some ways, their failed dreams. Over the course of learning about the history of the marches, I and the other “young” (i.e., those born after 1968) members of the coordinating committee have had a chance to experience what historian Manning Marable referred to “living Black history,” to place Black historical narratives at the center and to, consequently, see how these histories can and have shaped the course of Milwaukee’s past, present and future.

Witnessing the living Black history of the original marchers has often meant learning details about the marches from original marchers and coordinating committee members, such as NAACP Youth Commandos Prentice McKinney and Fred Reed, NAACP Youth Council member Dr. Shirley Butler and Dr. Margaret “Peggy” Rozga, who married Father Groppi after he left the priesthood. I learned some of the marchers, like current Wisconsin Congresswoman Gwen Moore, snuck out of their bedroom windows in order to participate in the movement. Or that my own husband’s grandmother, Juanita Adams, who marched for fair housing and the desegregation of Milwaukee Schools while six months pregnant, pushed her body against the pouring spout of a cement truck to prevent the building of a segregated school.

 

A.

SMV: Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Live In 1978

Here’s an appearance on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Some Fantastic Place

Early Sunday Morning by Edward Hopper.

I suppose you won’t be surprised that I’m not up for a full-blown Saturday post. It’s been a difficult week at Adrastos World HQ, which has left me too pooped to pun.

I should mention that a tropical system, Nate, is headed to the Gulf Coast. The good news is that it’s no Harvey, Irma, or Maria. It’s going to be a fast and dry system and it’s trending eastward as of this writing.  In the immortal words of Pete Townshend: it’s Going Mobile. The bad news is that we may lose power even if we’re just sideswiped. If I’m scarce next week, that will be why.

We’ve had a bit of fun this week because my 4-year-old de facto nephew is also named Nate. I was hoping that this would be the only Nate we’d encounter this weekend:

That’s why I call him Food Face Nate.

Speaking of messy and sticky situations, former New Orleans Congressman Dollar Bill Jefferson is about to be released from prison after 5 years. 7 of 10 corruption charges against him have been thrown out because he was convicted under the same law that the Supremes ruled portions of unconstitutional in the Bob McDonnell case. There will be a re-sentencing hearing at some point, but if his lawyers are any good, Dollar Bill may end up being sentenced to time served. Stay tuned.

Even abbreviated Saturday posts deserve a theme song. Some Fantastic Place was written by Difford and Tilbrook in honor of a close  friend who had died. It could be called Squeeze Goes To Church:

While we’re on the subject of mortality, this funereal Jayhawks song was originally titled Old Woman Of Red Clay. It features Heartbreaker Benmont Tench on keyboards:

One more morbid song. This Garica-Hunter tune is narrated by a man on his death-bed:

That’s it for this week’s truncated and morose edition of Odds & Sods. Things should be back to semi-normal next week. The last bat word goes to Della Street:

What’s in a name and how many lives is it worth?

When we discuss the idea of “fame” as a newsvalue in my journalism classes, I make a point that famous people can actually be infamous.

“How many of you have heard the name Jeffrey Dahmer?” I ask.

Every hand goes up, even though he committed his crimes and died in prison before most of them were born.

Dahmer is a name that remains as prominent now as it was in the early 1990s. A mass murder with an eating disorder, a TV show once quipped.

I thought about the man, the name and the crime this week when I heard about the Las Vegas attack that left 58 dead and more than 500 injured. Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old retired accountant with an arsenal at his disposal, hunkered down in a hotel room and fired round after round after round into a crowded concert venue.

Researchers and experts note this was the deadliest shooting on U.S. soil in modern history (whatever that means… It reminds me of “recently” which we used to define as “reporter lost the press release with the actual date.”). They also noted that in most cases the shooters wanted to make a mark, make a statement and make a name for themselves. As one expert lamented in discussing this topic, “Records are made to be broken.”

It was true for the Aurora, Colorado shooter James Holmes, who told a prison psychologist he wanted to be remembered as considered each death part of a score or tally. Holmes shot and killed 12 people and injured 70 others on July 20, 2012, when he opened fire on in a movie theater during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

It was true of Robert Hawkins, a 19-year-old man who killed eight people in an Omaha, Nebraska mall in 2007. His suicide note explained: “I just want to take a few pieces of shit with me… just think tho, I’m gonna be fuckin famous.”

It was true for Adam Lanza, who wanted people to understand what he saw as unrelenting pain. When a forensic scientist examined the case for a reason Lanza murdered 26 children and staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, the man said Lanza had a simple message: “I carry profound hurt — I’ll go ballistic and transfer it onto you.”

It was certainly true for Seung-Hui Cho, who held the “record” for the deadliest shooting carried out by a single gunman in U.S. history. This Virginia Tech student killed 32 of his campus colleagues and wounded 17 others on April 16, 2007. In his rambling manifesto, he noted: “Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and defenseless people.”

Know me. Fear me. Revile me. But always, always remember me.

What’s strange is that I don’t remember ANY of them by name. Perhaps the last two names I remember were the Columbine killers: Dylan Harris and Eric Klebold, who killed 13 people in their high school in 1999 and wounded 21 others. Even as other ratcheted up the body count to an almost incomprehensible level, these two appear to be the last of the “names” when it comes to this violent ticket to fame.

Before them, it seemed we all could remember the names of people who killed and killed.

Dahmer.

John Wayne Gacy

Theodore Bundy

David Berkowitz

Charles Manson

Charles Whitman

The names were cultural touchstones. Maybe it was because we all got news from the same places or maybe it was because we used to repeat the names so often, we couldn’t forget them. Maybe it was because there were fewer of them or they had such weird shit associated with them (A cannibal, a clown, a “sex symbol,” a dog whisperer, a lunatic and a sharpshooter).

Or maybe it’s just a sad truism that our social attention span is so limited, we’re never going to commit these new names to memory unless we take the “Arya Stark Hooked on Phonics” approach to it.

Our goal is to always forget. We have to get past it. We have to press on. We have to get back into life. Clear the mechanism.

For them, it’s a desire to force us to remember them, like they’re heavily armed Heisenbergs just begging us to hold fast to their pathetic outburst. Rest assured, people do remember them. Some will never forget, like the families of the dead, the scores of wounded and the rest of us who wonder why yet get no answer.

They are in our minds, even if their names aren’t on the tips of our tongues. Constantly at first, until life presses them and their actions to a back corner of our consciousness so we can move on and forget and live again.

Until the next time.

Friday Catblogging: Classic Oscar & Della

Many people have asked me how Della Street is taking the absence of her big brother. She’s confused. She’s spent some time wandering about the house looking for him. When Dr. A and I sit on the couch she scans us, knowing something is missing. The couch was Oscar’s natural habitat so that’s understandable. We miss him too, kiddo.

Here’s an old picture of Oscar and Della snuggling.

The Madness of King Don

madness_donald_350

“Let them eat cake. But only Trump Cake. Because it’s really terrific cake — the best, many people are saying — and believe me, I know cake.” 

Sad to say, I would not have been surprised if Trump had capped off his latest episode of Celebrity Apprentice POTUS by demanding the “lucky” recipients of — towels? — grovel forth and wipe his shoes. As Adrastos notes, it was an ugly parody of Mardi Gras throws, underscored by any number of statements his base might love, but which demonstrate also why his base loves, I don’t know, professional wrestling, massive wrecks at stock car races, etc.

Adding to the toxic mix we’ve got the Secretary of State making what looks like a hostage video where he non-denied calling Trump a moron and Bob Corker (note: both links have embedded video) likewise got a little too candid with what he really thinks of the Executive Branch…not that we didn’t know already, but Little Lord Donald is less actual POTUS and more spoiled brat using the Oval Office as a kind of playpen while the adults do their best to keep his grubby, smeary, stubby little fingers off the fancy stuff (and, heaven help us, the launch codes). I’m actually somewhat comforted by that.

But we’re still not even a year into this grand experiment in American “democracy” (with a lingering aroma of Russian, um, flavoring). And let’s not kid ourselves: the response to the natural disasters is hardly terrific or worth bragging about…and I doubt it will get any better from here. Good luck.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Gambler’s Girl

This cover was designed and executed by the noted illustrator Rudi Nappi. He obviously skipped the Nappi and was wide awake when he did this one. I dig the little men on poker chips hanging out with the chick who looks like Lana Turner.

Your President* Speaks: The Boy Ain’t Right

Just when we think the Insult Comedian’s behavior can’t get more bizarre, he tops himself by throwing paper towels to a crowd of Puerto Rican hurricane victims. It’s hard to tell if the stupid bastard thinks he’s on a Carnival float or believes he’s a mascot at an NBA game. For the latter, he’d need the T-shirt cannon. I’m glad Reince is gone, he probably would have gotten one for him.

The president’s* brief visit to Puerto Rico shows why I call him the Insult Comedian. I have to give him credit for originality, past presidents did not insult storm victims. Dubya left it to Congressional Republicans but Trump does his own dirty work. He has paper towels to clean up with, after all.

He gave us a lot of material to work with yesterday. There was the lazy Latin shtick. There were attacks on the Mayor of San Juan for insufficient subservience as well as the inevitable  bragging about what a beautiful and perfect job his minions have done. Another day, another lie.

I’ll let TPM’s Esme Cribb (my new favorite name) provide the gobsmacking narrative:

When he landed on the island, Trump informed Puerto Ricans that the federal relief effort to rebuild their shattered infrastructure is coming out of government coffers.

“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack, because we spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico, and that’s fine,” Trump said.

He then compared Hurricane Maria to Katrina, which he called a “real catastrophe.”

“If you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here with really a storm that was just totally overbearing, nobody has seen anything like this,” Trump said.

He compared the number of fatalities after each storm, though the present death toll on Puerto Rico is not final, and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said before Trump’s arrival that he expected the count to rise.

“What is your death count as of this moment?” Trump said. “Sixteen people versus in the thousands. You can be very proud of all of your people, all of our people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud.”

There’s so much to unpack here. First, as someone who went through Katrina, the federal flood, and its aftermath, I’m not big on playing comparative catastrophes. Before landing in San Juan, Trump talked about the island being “destroyed.” That’s a catastrophe where I come from.

Then there’s the bit about the budget. These are American citizens in need: penny-pinching should be on nobody’s agenda. Besides, this is the president* who wants to cut taxes on the rich without releasing his own taxes to prove that he won’t benefit. Of course, every time he opens his mouth, he lies. Sometimes impulsively, sometimes with calculation but he always lies. Believe me, not him.

I never thought we’d have a president* who would make Bush the younger look statesmanlike. Bush was capable of delivering a “national unity” speech and once he sent General Honore to take charge of the Katrina relief effort, shit got done. The General put in charge of Maria relief has only 5,000 troops whereas Honore had 10 times that many. The good people of Puerto Rico are being nickeled and dimed to death by Team Trump.

We’ve had some bad presidents in my lifetime but we’ve never had one who had no idea how to behave in public. I had to watch the video of Trump tossing paper towels to the crowd several times before I believed it.

Who does shit like that? It’s something one would expect an 18th Century autocrat to do. It’s as if Marie Antoinette lost her head and tossed cupcakes at the Parisian rabble. Trump expects the people of Puerto Rico to survive on crumbs provided by their betters. What a maroon.

I never thought I’d find myself quoting cartoon Texan and propane aficionado Hank Hill about a POTUS* even one with an asterisk. Hank did not understand his zany, non-conformist son Bobby. His stock line about the fat kid who wanted to be a rodeo clown can be seen below:

Of course, Bobby Hill was not only fictional, he was a kid.  Donald Trump only seems like a fictional character but he’s for real. He *is* a clown but this is no rodeo, it’s deadly serious. We’ve survived bad presidents, but Trump is already circling the bowl and he’s only been in office for 256 days.

Heckuva job, Trumpy. The boy ain’t right.

Tom Petty, R.I.P.

Benmont Tench, Mike Campbell, and Tom Petty at Jazz Fest 2017.

I rarely take celebrity deaths very hard and almost never personally. Tom Petty’s passing at the age of 66 is an exception to the rule. In part, because of the lengthy confusion as to whether he was alive or dead and, more obviously, because we’d made the difficult decision to put Oscar to sleep that morning. And because TP’s music has been a part of the fabric of my life for longer than I care to admit. Did I really say “fabric of my life?” Somebody call the cliché police.

The first time I heard Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was when American Girl came on my car radio. I was convinced it was a new Roger McGuinn song, which given my Byrds fixation is high praise indeed. It was a blast of fresh air in the disco era, especially since I was not much on punk rock either. It was something new and old wrapped together.

I avidly followed the twists and turns of TP’s recording career. Despite playing with the same musicians, each album sounded different from its predecessors. Petty’s knack for melody and deceptively complex lyrics kept his sound fresh over the years. I have most of his albums and there’s not a stinker in the bunch; even lesser Petty is better than the rest.

I also admired Petty’s willingness to stand up for himself and other musicians against the record labels. The people who ran the music industry were mostly a pack of thieves and TP refused to let them push him around or rip-off his fans. He lived the lyrics of I Won’t Back Down: “You can stand me up at the gates of hell but I won’t back down.”

As a band leader, TP brought out the best in the Heartbreakers. They went from being a band who played their songs note-for-note from the records to skilled improvisers. It helps when you work with the likes of Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench for 40 years.

Condolences to all the Heartbreakers and the Petty family. TP was a grandfather, y’all. Put that in your hookah and smoke it. Then don’t come around here no more…

The terrible coincidence of Tom Petty and Oscar dying on the same day is something for me to hold on to:

We could all do worse than that. Not bad company for a big-eyed cat from New Orleans.

After seeing TP and the Heartbreakers last April, I burned a CD of my favorites.  It’s structured like a short live set. Here’s The Portable Tom Petty as a YouTubular playlist:

Album Cover Art Wednesday will return next week.