Well now we know.
As right-wing religious fanatics work to update the texts in our nations schools, their history focus is based on a three-pronged attack: 1) Slavery never existed; 2) Trump was the best President ever; and, 3) There is no place for Jews, Muslims or Buddhists in Jesus’ America.
Since my double major was history, I’d like to share a couple stories that have been missing from the national dialog for too long. And what better time than on the day we celebrate old glory holes.
One of them took place in the Lincoln White House. First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln’s bad press for being a whack job has obscured her many other talents. Few know she was one of the finest Constitutional scholars of the 19th Century.
Of the many insane voices competing for airtime in her frazzled mind, none were stronger than The Framers of the Constitution. Her personal hotline to the Philadelphia Convention made her an early proponent, and some say the founder, of the Strict Constructionist School of Thought.
These hallowed communications would often come to her in the middle of the night. She didn’t mind. What else did she have to do? It’s not like the rail splitter still came to bed bringing quality wood.
Lincoln recognized her gift and would often have her write his speeches. They turned out so well, rarely did he have to amend them. If he did, he proceeded with great trepidation. She did not welcome others tampering with her work.
It was on one such occaision a major row occured between them. Abe honestly didn’t know how to handle her anger. He tended to cut to the chase and get these exchanges over as quickly as possible.
“Now Bessie,” he said using a common, condescending nickname for women of the era, “what we have here is an excellent first draft. With possibly one small change. ‘Of the corporations and people, by the corporations and people and for the corporations and people’ just does not scan. It lacks the poetic timbre I’m going for. How about we drop corporations and just say people?”
Mary instinctively attacked. “Oh I see, it’s a matter of timbre. Is that one of the topics you discuss on your Body Electric retreats with that fruit, Walt Whitman? And is your mouth usually full when you have these discussions?”
There is no mention of business entities having the same rights as citizens in the Constitution, The Federalists Papers or in any of the debates of that period. Still the Strict Constructionists on the Roberts Court granted them such status. They have all the rights without any of the pesky burdens like serving in the military or paying taxes. Plus they have de facto immunity to any criminal prosecutions It’s true they can’t vote but they are free to spend as much money as they want to buy any election.
Mary championed this idea over a century ago and was not about to let her husband edit it out.. Her position was well known. Every White House guest received one of her needle point pillows that read Corporations Are People Too.
The President remained impassive, waiting the incident out. Mary tried to emulate him by quietly weighing her options. She maintained her composure for as long as she could, About three seconds. Then her fury erupted.
“You know what? Write your own damn Gettysberg Address you fucking loser.” With that she slammed her quill on the table splattering ink all over the President’s face. It was a tactic they often employed to cut down on his Just For Men Beard Dye expenses. This was the first time, however, the method had been serendipitously applied.
Mary turned and stormed out of the room. But not before getting in one last salvo. She stopped abruptly and shouted over her shoulder, “I hope you get shot!”
Another tale that has been erased from our books happened earlier that same century. It was a warm sunny afternoon at Monticello when Jefferson’s niece returned from Richmond’s farmers market. She was in an awful state. (Virginia.)
With a dazed, glassy eyed look she stood frozen in the foyer. She appeared as if she’d been through a dust storm, her hair was severely mussed and she was covered in blood. Jefferson rushed to her side and asked what had happened.
She exclaimed, “Oh Papa, it was terrible. I was bartering for some rutabagas when suddenly this crazed man pulled out a rifle and started shooting randomly. Anyone he saw. He just kept shooting and reloading,, shooting and reloading. It went on for half an hour. There must have been 40 killed, mostly women and children. It was horrid, Papa! Just horrid!”
After the former president ascertained that everyone in her party was safe and that they had, indeed, procured the rutabagas, his look of concern melted into one of slight bemusement. He pulled her close to comfort her.
“There, there Polly” he cooed, using a common, condescending nickname for women of that time. “It’s too complex to explain to a feeble woman’s mind like yours. You just have to trust me that we knew what we were doing when we drafted our Constitution. Suffice it to say that mass murders are a key and necessary component of our form of democracy.
“As Strict Constructionists, or SC’s as I like to call them–god, does my inventive mind never quit, ha! ha!–we’ve written a document that is airtight and more infallible than the Vicar of Christ. If it is followed to the letter, it is so specific and all encompassing it will last a thousand years.
“As to what you witnessed today it just reinforces what I’ve already so beautiully expressed: the tree of capitalism must be fed from time to time with the blood of the working class.
“Events like the farmer’s market are necessary to destabilize the lower echelons. I mean if you constantly worry whether your child will return home alive from elementary school, do you really care who’s running for Congress in your district? Or what Prop 17 means? Hopefully you’ll be so distracted and scared you won’t even vote.
“Suppressing votes is how a minority maintains control in an Oligarchy/Democracy. You know that was going to be our party’s name until Pinckney put a stop to it. He said in 200 years “OD” was going to take on a completely different meaning and that we’d be unmarketable. Not sure what he was talking about but I never question clairvoyance.
“SC’s see no point in extending the franchise to women and their garbanzo sized intellects. Nor do they want to interfere with the happy lives of the n-words toiling in the fields singing their lovely spirituals.”
TJ smugly paused for a moment hoping his niece would take notice of his modern jargon. She was too distraught to process anything he said. So he patted himself on the back by blurting out, “Did you hear that Polly? I said “n-word” and not that other word. That means I’m not a racist anymore. Ginni Thomas taught me that.”
Polly was almost as stunned by her uncle’s tone-deaf response as she had been by the massacre itself. But at least he was taking time to reason with her. Usually in a national crisis he’d just pack the family up and they’d head to Cancun. This day the old goat had another personal agenda item in his sights.
“Just put today’s events out of your mind, lambie-pie, they’re of no consequence. Scurry along now and get ready for this evening, the Bushes and Walkers will be joining us for dinner.
“They just wrapped up a sweetheart million dollar deal with the Canadian government for some Revolutionary War canons and a shitload of semi-automatic muskets. And I get my 15% cut for setting it all up. We’ll be in a joyous mood so the last thing we need is your namby-pamby whining about gun control.”
With a flick of his hand he dismissed her and told her to change her frock. Then he added:
“How about the blue calico? It brings out your eyes. And for Christ’s sake wash that blood off of you. Who do you think you are, Jackie Kennedy?”
From the distance of being just a fan, my reading between the lines leads me to believe Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich may have been good friends. The kind who make disparaging remarks about the other that sound bitchy. But that, in reality, reflect an irony they share and a confidence they hold that it’s not mean-spirited.
Judy told about running into Marlene in England in the early 1960’s. This was in the waning years of their careers when they were reduced to cabaret acts, As they semi-circled the demi-monde performing for Cafe Society, occasionally they’d be in the same city at the same time.
The Blue Angel invited Dorothy to her London suite. Over cocktails Marlene put on her latest live concert album. She was so pleased with it she stood by the stereo lifting and dropping the needle to play only the highlights.
Judy said the weird thing was she never heard the orchestra or any singing. It was just the thunderous applause at the end of one number then the needle was moved to the end of the next track. She went through the entire album that way then started over again.
With a roaring ovation as constant backdrop, Marlene kept turning and asking incredulously, “Do you hear that? Can you believe it?”
I thought of that story because there was a clip of her in my morning Youtube wake-up feed. She was performing at The Grand Gala du Disque in 1963 and it confirmed the applause addiction Judy had observed.
Marlene only did three numbers (that included an incongruous tribute to folk singer Pete Seeger) and left the stage. Then she came back three separate times for encores.
I’d recently read Dietrich’s sex goddess persona did not resemble the way she lived. She was most comfortable being a house frau whipping up sauerbraten and butterkuchen for friends and family. In place of the Swansdown White Fox Coat she flung on stage, at home she preferred capri pants and a tee shirt with her hair in a babushka.
My Youtube surf had begun with a link to The Rolling Stones in Munich two weeks ago. There are thousands of Stones songs on Youtube that I never click because I know them so well. But this one seemed odd.
Out of Time was a lovely 1966 song with a plaintive melody and a jaunty vibraphone part. It was one of their tier 3 hits whose claim to fame was being on Jane Fonda’s Coming Home soundtrack.
Every tour since 1969 has been rumored to be their last one. The Stones never encouraged sentimentality with “message songs” in the set list hinting they might be done.
Neither were these rumors ever addressed head on because scarcity helps fuel demand. And they didn’t know themselves what they would be doing. They plugged away through the decades ending up as one of the most regularly touring bands ever.
Even with losing their essential element Charlie Watts on the eve of the current tour, when they probably just wanted to throw it all in, they soldiered on. With a billion dollars in worldwide ticket sales you can’t just walk away.
They’ve never performed Out of Time live until this tour. And seeing Mick on stage in Munich you can almost feel the arthritis in his hips.
It was the hip that did Marlene in when she fell off the stage in Sydney and broke hers. Her career ended at 75. At 79. Mick is now the new record holder for oldest Grande Dame on Stage.
Throughout their career The Stones have had novel solutions to age-old show biz cliches. I’d hoped they’d do something equally inventive when it was their time to quit.. Like maybe strip down to an acoustic ensemble and become in-resident artists at the Carlyle. I would be there to cheer them on and throw my Depends on stage. (Hopefully a clean pair though one never knows these days does one._)
My love for the Stones began with indifference. Granddad was taking me for a ride in his new pickup when the WOWO DJ came on the radio saying he had the first release from England’s hottest new band. The British Invasion in early 1964 had included The Beatles, The Dave Clark Five, The Kinks, and The Animals. I couldn’t wait to hear what was next.
Their was a cautionary tone in the DJ’s voice, however, as he described this new group. The photo in their press packet showed an unkempt lot with messy hair and holes in their socks. I questioned how he could tell “they smelled” just by looking at a picture but I still believed only the truth was spoken over the air.
I was unmoved by Not Fade Away. It was okay but certainly not the best number on the charts at the time. I dismissed the group as also-rans.
The thaw began three months later with the release of It’s All Over Now. It had such a big sound that rolled over the airwaves. It just sucked you in. The ice break was taken to a low simmer in late winter with The Last Time. The song capitalized on the nihilism of youth with a riff you couldn’t get out of your head.
Finally, nine months after the fateful pickup ride, they soared past the boiling point and quickly hit hard ball stage with Satisfaction. The gestation complete, my life-long affection was sealed.
In addition to their music, in my youth I looked to them for clues on how to live my life (not being content with those I was getting in the corn belt.) Both for fashion and style. As a gawky teenager trying to decide how to act my choice was simple: just emulate Mick.
In high school Mother told me a coworker had noticed me walking downtown one afternoon. His comment was, “he’s awfully cocky isn’t he?” We laughed.
Fast forward 50 years to Palm Springs. Before I met my friend Roy he said he’d seen me around and was intrigued. He said I seemed so confident and unaffected by things.
And just a couple of weeks ago I was walking home from the store. A derelict sitting on the curb waiting for the 22 yelled at me as I passed, “hey, Mick Jagger!” Do you hear that? Can you believe it?
The one thing that bothers me about dying is that I won’t be able to have sex anymore. I’ve struggled mightily with this issue. I’ve sought the counsel of priests, rabbis and clergymen to see if there’s anything in the scriptures that would elucidate. They just stared at me as if I was from Mars.
Like the customer service departments of modern corporations, they’re only available to answer the easy questions. Anything more involved increases staffing that reduces profits which, in turn, robs shareholders. And nobody wants that.
It’s not everyday you encounter an ambitious 72-year-old. Ambition has driven me all of my life even though the goal of that drive has never been sufficiently defined. Whatever it is it’s probably going to continue for a while.
I can’t help it.
Happy Gay Pride you horny motherfuckers.
Post Script for Stones’ Devotees Only: In researching this post I happened on this live performance of Around and Around from 1964. At 1:40 and 1:53 watch how excited Keith gets, letting go of his guitar and egging Jagger on. So cool.
In an interview conducted 50 years after Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, one of her ladies-in-waiting shared her memories of the day. She along with her fellow bitches-who-hang were rather blase about the whole affair as they anticipated the Queen’s arrival on the steps of Westminster Abbey.
They’d been through numerous rehearsals and knew exactly what to do. Now it was a matter of execution. As members of Britain’s Aristocracy they were not that impressed. They were aware the real power was with their families who propped up the monarchy. These exercises in grandeur were annoying necessities to maintain the status quo
Their nonchalance changed dramatically when the crowd noise crescendoed to a deafening roar. Then the golden coach came into view as it turned into the street. Suddenly they were sucked into it all, collectively gobsmacked.
The sense of majesty was heightened as the coach came to a halt in front of them. The Queen cooly alighted then calmly mounted the steps. No cheesy smiles, no winks, no small talk acknowledgment of anyone. This was serious business.
After her climb she paused at the Abbey’s arched entrance to await her cue. The curtain was about to go up on the greatest Burlesque Revue of the Twentieth Century. She took the moment to turn and address her attendants. In her only royal directive to them that day she deflated the pomposity of it all with a casual, two-word aside.
Her Majesty has been a part of my consciousness since the days I started toddling. My childhood misconception was that she and Aunt Betty were the same person. I was still developing my personal myth making skills but I was convinced my Grandmother’s youngest sister was the Queen. It was only when I got to be much older, a first grader, that I straightened it out.
Aunt Betty was born in 1920, the same decade as the Queen, my Mother and Jackie Onassis. Their adolescent reading would have included the empowering values of Scarlett O’Hara which they tempered with traditional female socialization. That generation of women’s greatest conundrum was how to use their brains while remaining flirtatiously dependent on men.
Whereas Mother and Jackie were inclined to challenge norms, Aunt Betty was not. Like them, she was attractive and intelligent. Unlike them, Aunt Betty was not modern thinking. Neither was the Queen.
When swinging London stirred the 60’s worldwide youthquake, Queen Elizabeth was still doing the fox trot. Her unique position, however, required that she adapt non-traditional feminine skills in order to preserve the family business.
The Queen’s image has been digested by the world continuously for seven decades. As with any public figure, a skilled imager like Elizabeth puts out enough hints to manipulate the public into thinking they know them as a friend. The reality is nobody’s got a clue. That worldwide population of imagees has been left to process her into one personality. With billions of facets.
There’s no harm in playing along if we accept the limitations of the game: our imaginations. In scouring through millions of photographs, videos and published narratives we’ve endeavored to solve the enigma.
Queen Elizabeth II’s most striking attribute has been in how she openly courted leaders of African nations. Granted it was motivated by the underpinnings of capitalism and keeping business ties strong. It was part of her valiant attempt to shore up her father’s rather wobbly concept of Commonwealth. But it was not an act.
The Queen always seemed comfortable showing black leaders respect and currying their favor. She was genuine. Not just another mid-20th Century liberal inventing legislative gimmicks to paper over the Grand Canyon of racism. One can just imagine what the Architect of the Great Society, that Good Ol’ Boy Lyndon Baines Johnson, called these men behind their backs.
If there was any condescension in her attitude during these exchanges it was not because of skin color. It was because she more than most realized the transient effectiveness of politicians.
Another example of her example is how she succeeded in an all-male world without authoring a “how to” best seller on her secrets of doing it. Her training began at home in the way she handled the number one, all-time, super-alpha male husband of hers. She drew a line: you can rule the family but not the state. Then she never waivered.
When I came out and was first exposed to gay politics I had already been steeped in the writings of leading feminist authors. I was convinced of the validity of the Women’s Movement and immediately saw that, although our goals may have been different, we shared a common enemy: the concept of pater familias and the artificiality of a male dominated society.
For centuries sex was the reward gained for participating in a legally sanctioned union called family. With the identification of new sexual groupings and a better understanding of the difference between male and female sex drives, the time was right in the early 1970’s to define new kinds of behavior paradigms. Including one for some gay males that allowed for multiple sex partners. Therein is where I tried to lead by example.
Alas, my generation never got past the love and marriage goes together like a horse and carriage school of thought. Like all movements, the extreme elements identified an agenda with ideas that were impossible to attain. With the fear of radicalism implanted in their souls, the middle ground was prepared to accept softer solutions. Once the coast was clear, the bourgeois shopkeepers timidly emerged to get the city ordinances passed.
It takes all kinds to fuel progress. And failed ideals of youth are not necessarily a loss. They may be seedlings that achieve maturity in subsequent lifetimes.
Although Queen Elizabeth would never identify as a feminist (or any kind of -ist for that matter) her reign speaks volumes. In retrospect, her “Ready Girls?” on the Abbey steps was a broadside to half the world that it was time to make their move.
In the storied tradition of Lyndon Johnson, Mike Mansfield, and George Mitchell, we now are presented with something called a Charles Ellis Schumer.
As Minority Leader he was hapless in mounting any kind of opposition. As Majority Leader he has not accomplished much. Except, of course, his self-touted “most votes ever in a failed impeachment attempt.” Wow. Way to come in second, Chuck, in a two-horse race at that!
If Mitch McConnell had the same numbers that exist for Democrats today, with two senators behaving as badly as Sinema and Manchin have, he’d string them up by the balls to make them fall in line. (Well, Sinema anyway. I don’t think Manchin has anything to latch on to.)
Schumer seems lost. He has no tools, or inclination, to impose the advantage of the majority. And he’s quite comfortable with the aura of defeatism that envelopes him.
As a senator from New York, his main constituency is Wall Street. Their agenda is the Republican agenda. When it’s time for a show of bipartisanship, however, and Democrats gain control of a branch of government, they need someone in charge who is ineffective and doesn’t get in their way. They’ve found Chuck to maintain the status quo.
The great mystery remains the workings of the United States Senate itself. How can a drooling, jello mold loving 90-year-old have the mental capacity to fashion complex legislation? One guess is they can’t. They are mere cardboard cutouts propped up every six years for reelection. The real work is done by the Senator’s senior staff whose personnel are constantly shifting between the private and public sectors. Get the law written the way your industry wants to claim your reward in corporate America.
Then there’s the questions of why it’s so hard to unseat an incumbent or how an individual can become so wealthy pursuing a career of public service. Although it’s always fun to speculate how many millions Dick Blumenthal has made this month in spite of Senator Feinstein’s “Blind” Trust, there’s a real Dylan’s Mr. Jones quality to all of this. We just don’t know what it is.
Finally, when a member of Congress gets in financial disclosure trouble why is it always for such a paltry amount? Like $25,000. Seriously? That will barely cover the cost of Senator Manchin’s penile implant surgery. There’s got to be a lot more money than that changing hands.
What’s missing in the equation is the muckraking and investigative journalism of the past. An expose of of the upper chamber is long overdue. But those who know these things prefer to play the Washington insider game: leverage any damaging information on a politician by not publishing it to gain access to other information they may have.
The deal is to delay the eventual release of the embarrassing details until well after the news cycle has run on the story. The way Bob Woodward did not release anything on the craziness of the President at the height of the of the Trump Virus calamity when it could have informed the public on what was happening. Instead he held on to it for several months to publicize his latest “tell-all” with “explosive, never heard before” revelations.
With the demise of printed news and the Kardashianization of network news, the future of the fourth estate as a check on public officials looks bleak. And with Chuck Schumer’s Wall Street benefactors controlling the news feed, the voice of the people will be further diminished and the playing field even more unequal.
But, I may be wrong. Maybe in a couple of years you’ll walk into their Cupertino headquarters and see the shelves lined with Pulitzers and Peabody’s for Apple News’ investigative reporting on the predatory and monopolistic practices of big tech companies.
When I mentioned in a previous post that I hoped to have enough podcasts available to listen to on the drive to Grandma’s house, I assumed she lived in the same subdivision and one six minute post ought to cover it. My apologies to those who had a longer journey.
We are working diligently to get the best (a term the Legal Team has advised us to use with caution) posts converted to podcasts. Technicians are working 24/7 to accomplish this. Okay, more like 3/4 but we are plugging away.
I toyed with the idea of doing a This Week In Podcasting email but do you really need more of my junk in your face? Rather than spam you, just click the Podcast Emblem at the top of the home page for a current index of them all.
Likewise, any individual post that has been converted will display the emblem linking to its recording under its title.
As the struggle to bring the mountain to Mohammed continues, here is what is posted so far.
Turn on. Tune in. Drop out.
We don’t know what Tundra Trump-Kushner has been up to this year but there is news on husband Jared.
Jared, who now goes by the name Jaredina Kush-Tush and prefers the pronoun “whom-ev-aah”, has just returned from Van Nuys where whom-ev-aah guest lectured at the Caitlyn Jenner Institute for Hormone Studies and Canine Obedience. Whom-ev-aah’s topic was “Melania, Guuurrrl!! You’re Killin’ Me with that Tomahawk Chop!”
The best Middle East Envoy the U.S. has ever had and recipient of the Trump International Golden Globes Peace Prize, Jaredina is off to The Villages in Florida next weekend where whom-ev-aah will lead a round table on How to Muzzle the Academic Community in Pursuit of Free Speech.
25 years ago when I was in charge of the law firm’s website I was sent several audio files of attorneys speaking at our seminars. I was told to post them in this new format called “podcast.”
Each file was at least an hour long and I was tasked with listening to them in their entirety. This was to ensure there were no technical issues. And to provide fodder for writing a short summary of each one.
The process was like watching Warhol’s Sleep or Empire. You sat for hours waiting for something to happen and it never did. It was unbelievable anyone would subject themselves to such boredom. My opinion of the format was set then and there.
Fast forward to the pandemic (really, really fast). I was shocked to learn that podcasts are no longer just the purview of high-yield REITS and leveraged buyouts. They could actually be entertaining. So I’ve decided to record a selection from my 350 posts. Who says an old bitch can’t turn new tricks?
It is my fervent wish to have enough podcasts posted by Thanksgiving so you’ll have something to play on the drive to Grandma’s house. Then, after a hearty home cooked meal when all the strait-laced relatives are sufficiently liquored up, play them again. For everyone.
In some small way I hope it will contribute to your holiday memories. Even if it’s only a familial fist fight on the front lawn.
With that I give you my first podcast, Jesus and the Postman