Get Me to Which Church on Time Friday, Feb 5 2016 

“Rubio himself goes to two churches. Sometimes the family attends a Baptist-affiliated service on Saturday night and a Catholic Mass on Sunday.” Gail Collins, The New York Times, Feb. 4.

In his 1969 biography of Huey Long, historian T. Harry Williams writes about the first time Huey, a north Louisiana Baptist, campaigned for governor in Catholic south Louisiana.

“When I was a boy,” he told his south Louisiana Catholic audience, “I would get up at six o’clock in the morning on Sunday and I would hitch our old horse up to the buggy and take my Catholic grandparents to Mass. I would bring them home and at ten o’clock I would hitch the old horse up again and I would take my Baptist grandparents to church.”

The Cajun Catholic crowd ate it up; after which Huey’s local campaign manager said admiringly, “Huey, you’ve been holding out on me. I didn’t know you had any Catholic grandparents”; to which Huey replied, “Don’t be a damn fool. We didn’t even have a horse.”

Question: On those Saturday night and Sunday morning churchgoing excursions, does Marco hitch up the family horse?

Sound bite to remember

“Huey bought legislators. I only rent ’em.”

Earl Long, on how his style of governance differed from that of his brother.

A Doomsday Scenario… Monday, Jan 25 2016 

…for a presidential election now only nine months away: It begins as Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination with the acquiescence, if not support, of Republican Respectables like Bob Dole, Orrin Hatch, and Charles Grassley. (They know he’s a demagogic madman but they simply can’t stand Ted Cruz’s rudeness in the Senate cloakroom.) Trump then names Scott Walker as his running mate, reassuring the Respectable Right-Wing base, i.e., National Review and its readers, that if he gets to the White House at least there’ll be a sane conservative around to restrain him (as if Trump were ever to be restrained by a mere vice president).

At the same time, Hillary Clinton, a candidate so flawed she had a hard time putting away a 74-year-old Brooklyn socialist, takes the African-American and independent vote for granted by naming as her vice presidential running mate Julian Castro, former mayor of San Antonio, overlooking (1) existing tension between the African-American and Hispanic base, which would diminish the African-American vote; (2) the fact that mainstream middle Americans, though not xenophobes, would have second thoughts about putting a young, little-known Hispanic named Castro one heartbeat away from the presidency; and (3) with Donald Trump, the “Mexican immigrants are rapists” candidate as her opponent, the Hispanic vote would have turned out if she’d named Donald Duck as her running mate (a Donald they’d consider preferable to the one she was running against).

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders supporters, as lunatic in their ideological purity as their Right-wing counterparts, place a Nader-like third-party candidate on the ballot in key states, and…

No. It’s all too far-fetched. Trump is a political hula-hoop, a fad that will soon pass way. It can’t happen here.


Sound bite to remember

Those princes who gain their princedoms by principled means do so with difficulty.

–Machiavelli, The Prince

Trump on Pennsylvania Avenue, 2016? Friday, Dec 4 2015 

The Washington Post, in a lead editorial on Donald Trump’s “politics of denigration” (11/29/15), deplores the fact that Republican leaders have not spoken out on Trump’s “despicable” campaign falsehoods and “mocking of others.” In previous editorials, the Post has condemned Trump for calling Mexicans “rapists,” favoring mass registry of Muslims and the closing of mosques, and for his vile comments about women and the disabled.

Oddly missing from the Post’s list of “despicable” falsehoods was his racist charge that blacks are the primary source of murders in this country – not only murders of other blacks but of whites and policemen. Not only did Trump make that charge but he posted a graphic fabricated by a neo-Nazi to support it.

Question 1: Why is it that the Post and other editorial voices outraged by Donald Trump’s vile campaign rhetoric have yet to address the issue of how such a racist xenophobe was allowed to acquire a historic landmark in the heart of Washington’s Federal Triangle – a 60-year lease on the Old Post Office building, halfway between the White House and Capitol?

The right to renovate the Old Post Office building into a modern hotel was handed to Trump, mind you, after a fierce bidding war with established and fiscally sound hotel developers. His typically grandiose, hyperbolic promise to “produce one of the great hotels anywhere in the world” persuaded Washington’s local officials – then-Mayor Vincent Gray, current Mayor Muriel Bowser, and congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton – that despite his record of hotel bankruptcies, Trump’s offer would prove a boon to the Washington economy. (Not to discount the possibility of other behind-the-scenes promises given Washington’s local officials.)

The artful deal was sealed in 2013, under pressure from Congressman Jeff Denham (R.-Cal.), subcommittee chairman for public buildings. Groundbreaking for the $200 million project came July 2014, a gala event centered around obsequious praise of Trump by Gray, Bowser, and Norton, who went so far as to say Washington would, thanks to him, finally have a first-class luxury hotel (ignoring the existence of the Four Seasons, two Ritz-Carltons, and the venerable 5-star Willard a block away).

Predictably, given Trump’s history of shameless self-promotion, problems weren’t long in coming. Once his campaign for the presidency got underway, he ordered a gigantic, block-long banner stretched across the reconstruction site, proclaiming COMING IN 2016 … TRUMP – offensive not only to the eye but the historic aesthetics of the Federal Triangle.

Protests followed, but – again predictably – local officials said there was nothing they could do about it. Then, after candidate Trump described Mexican immigrants as “rapists and criminals,” active street protests took place, leading Delegate Norton to ask that Trump apologize.

Not that he would but Norton, whose dealings with Trump deserve more attention than the Post has given them, didn’t pursue the matter. Nor has she or Mayor Bowser been heard to speak out on Trump’s racist use of neo-Nazi fabricated statistics regarding black crime.

Why not? Well after all, as Norton, Bowser and other local officials trumpeted at the groundbreaking a year ago, their friend Donald was bringing to the nation’s capital “a destination for power brokers, international visitors and luxury travelers.”

Oh, about the descriptive “international” – that’s actually the name the destination, when completed, will be known by: TRUMP’S INTERNATIONAL HOTEL; though judging by the owner’s campaign rhetoric, no Muslim, Mexican, Chinese or African American travelers need apply for reservations.

Question 2: How much “despicable” hate-filled rhetoric will it take for local authorities to speak out and take action to review and revoke the leasing of an historic Pennsylvania Avenue landmark to a revealed and unapologetic racist?

Sound bite to remember

“There but for the grace of God goes God.”

–Winston Churchill on Sir Stafford Cripps (1945) and what Winnie, if alive, would say of Donald Trump (2015)


About Donald Rumsfeld Wednesday, Nov 11 2015 

I’ve said it before (in a book eight years ago) but it bears repeating: Donald Rumsfeld is a miserable human being.

In Jon Meacham’s new biography of George H.W. Bush, the author quotes George the Elder’s describing Rumsfeld as “arrogant,” to which Rumsfeld, defending his role as an instigator of the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq, responded, “He’s getting up in years.”

The snide implication of course is that George H.W., now 91, is a doddering old man whose opinion is worthless; to which I would respond that in calling Rumsfeld merely “arrogant,” George the Elder was being both restrained and kind.

For a more accurate characterization of Rumsfeld I give you Lyn Nofziger’s response in the summer of 1980 when, after Ronald Reagan’s nomination at the Republican convention, someone suggested Rumsfeld as a possible vice presidential choice; to which Nofziger nodded, studied his cigar a moment, then said: “Rumsfeld? Yeah, he could be Vice President. But if he is, we’d better get Ron a food taster.”


Sound bite to remember (cultural note for the fall season):

“Football in the South helps define how we think about ourselves.”

–Whit Waide (Mississippi State faculty)

“Mississippi Flag Defenders Dig In” Friday, Aug 21 2015 

“Mississippi Flag Defenders Dig In” — headline, Washington Post, Aug. 18, 2015

Though writing about an already over-written topic goes against my grain, I can’t resist weighing in with a personal story involving undue exuberance for the Old Confederacy.

The time, autumn of 1951: The Korean War – or as the Truman White House euphemistically called it, “police action” – was underway and as a member of the 31st Infantry (“Dixie”) Division, I was temporarily stationed at Fort Slocum, just outside New York City.

Oh, about the Dixie Division. It was primarily composed of troops from Alabama and Mississippi, our uniforms bearing pin-on Confederate flags on both shoulders, and instead of Reveille every dawn we woke up to the sound of “Dixie” blared over a campwide sound system.

It was nothing out of the ordinary for someone who grew up in the South. Just out of the University of Alabama, I was accustomed to hearing the Confederate anthem played during football games and watching, whenever Ole Miss came to play, its student body waving the Stars and Bars.

All that would change, of course, when coaches in the Southeastern Conference found that, much as these symbols of the Lost Cause were revered, they drove away five-star African-American players who could help win football games.

But back to the autumn of ’51, a prime time to be stationed near New York, with young Tony Bennett breaking in at the Paramount, Rocky Marciano coming into his own at Madison Square Garden, and best of all for a jazz lover, Dizzy Gillespie playing at Birdland.

So there I was this particular night at Birdland, with a crowd of fellow jazz lovers, waiting for the King of Bop to show up; which he did, one hour late, explaining his tardiness with a story about playing a benefit on Long Island co-sponsored by the NAACP, the Knights of Columbus, B’nai Brith and — (pause) the Ku Klux Klan — (another pause) — with the punchline, “So you see, we’re lucky to be here at all.”

That brought on a big, forgiving laugh, but the best was yet to come. About to introduce members of his combo, Dizzy made mention of once having played a session down South, in Jackson, Mississippi. This brought on a whoop of appreciation from a table — fortunately not near mine — which led Gillespie to say, “Oh, someone’s here from Mississippi? You’ve come to the right place. It so happens we have the last Confederate flag ever flown. Pee Wee, show it to ‘em.”

At which point, Birdland’s diminutive emcee, Pee Wee Marquette, appeared onstage, took a flourishing white handkerchief out of his breast pocket, and waved it at the crowd.

According to the Post, today’s defenders of the Stars and Bars say the reason they stand by it is because it’s part of their past. One hundred fifty years after Appomattox they need to be reminded that the “flag” Pee Wee waved is, too.

Sound bite to remember

“I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.”

–Retired Confederate General George Pickett’s response (circa 1870) on being asked whether the battle of Gettysburg was lost because of Johnson’s failure to advance, Lee’s inertia, or Stuart’s negligence.

Myth, Crushed to Earth, Shall Rise Again Friday, Aug 14 2015 

Blasted into orbit by a trumped-up (if you will) impeachment and a stolen Presidential election… Stewart has lasered away the layers of hypocrisy in politics and in the media.

               —David Remnick, the New Yorker / August 10-17, 2015

I have been a subscriber to the New Yorker going on half a century and a follower of David Remnick’s career as a respected journalist since his days with the Washington Post. That said, the quote above, taken from Remnick’s column on Jon Stewart’s departure from “The Daily Show,” left me shaking my head.

What will it take, short of a shaft of sunlight and a wooden stake through the heart, to kill off the pernicious myth that George W. Bush’s election over Al Gore in the year 2000 was, as hot-eyed Gore supporters insist, “stolen”?

FACT: Following the 2000 presidential election, numerous independent investigations into the Florida vote count – including those of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal (pre-Murdoch) were made – extensive analyses of the returns in all counties. Without exception they came back with the same conclusion: Bush won the state, as the official returns had it, by 500 votes.

FACT: Yes, the outcome of the election was determined by the 5-4 decision of a Republican-majority Supreme Court. And had the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take the case? Then the Gore-tilted 5-0 decision of the Florida Supreme Court would have determined the outcome. The political composition of the Florida Supreme Court? Five Democrats, no Republicans.

FACT: Yes, one state, Florida, won the election for Bush, but if, like Remnick, you can’t shake a lingering resentment of the outcome, turn your peevishness toward the real culprit — a candidate who couldn’t carry his home state. Consider: In 1964 Barry Goldwater lost the presidency in a landslide, winning only five states — but Arizona, his home state, was one of them; in 1972, George McGovern lost in a landslide, but carried his home state of South Dakota; and in 1984 Walter Mondale lost in the worst of all landslides, carrying only one state — his home state of Minnesota.

Proving? That 2000 wasn’t a stolen election but an election lost by a candidate who had only to win a majority of the votes in Tennessee, the state where people knew him best. If he had, the Florida results wouldn’t have made any difference.

Not that all this will have any impact on the myth-makers of the Left, any more than a gilded birth certificate stating that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii has changed any minds among the mythmakers of the Right.

“Obama’s a Kenyan,” say Donald Trump and his fellow birthers. I expect no better from crackpots. But “Bush stole the election”? I expect better from the New Yorker and David Remnick.

Sound bite to remember

“The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage.”

         —Emperor Hirohito, breaking the bad news to his people, 70 years ago this week (8/15/45)


About Harper Lee… Saturday, Jul 11 2015 

…a final word. Her “new” novel titled “Go Set a Watchman” is out, and it’s a good title because we need one set to protect the old and out-of-it from financial predators. The book, a manuscript rejected for publication more than half a century ago, depicts Atticus Finch as a racist SOB. Does anyone seriously think that Harper Lee, of sound mind, would have agreed to publish a book that destroys an icon that made “Mockingbird” great and established her worldwide reputation?

Soundbite to remember (with apologies to P.T. Barnum)

There’s a bloodsucker born every minute.

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