Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

Category: Media

The Times Still are A-Changin’

 

Our law school put on a show every year, spoofing the faculty. Ham that I am, I participated  in all three shows. I want to tell you about one of them. 

It was 1977, and I was in my second year. Two classmates and I wrote the script, and two others penned lyrics for our song parodies. Except for two that I had written. One was a parody of Ray Charles’ “What I’d Say.”  It was called “Res Ipsa Loquitur,” which means “the thing speaks for itself,” riffing on accident lawyers. The lyrics were funny enough, and we had a tort professor named Robert Waters, who many students called Muddy. The other song was an original entitled, “Be My Chicken.”  It was a pastiche of blues songs with risqué double-entendres. It had nothing to do with law.  

I rehearsed both songs for the cast and crew. They decided that the Chicken song was too dirty. It included the word “cock,” as in rooster. But I didn’t  mean rooster, Besides, rooster didn’t scan. The Chicken song was cut, but the ambulance chaser song remained, and it got lots of laughs.  Did I mention that Professor Waters was African-American, and I performed in black-face? In today’s America, the reactions would be the opposite.  I still do the Chicken song at parties, while the other received a suitable burial. I am embarrassed by my lack of judgment and empathy, but it was Florida in the Seventies. Red Ipsa Loquitur, y’all.

“My Fair Lady” is a 1956  musical about an uneducated Cockney girl who becomes  an elegant, middle-class woman under the tutelage of a self-proclaimed misogynist and elitist.  They fall in love – sort of—and she comes back to live under his aristocratic roof, the curtain falling as she retrieves his slippers.  She makes this choice despite the declared affections of an idle-rich young man, who haunts the woman’s neighborhood, winsomely singing,”Let the time go by, I don’t care if I can be here on the street where you live.” In other words, a Stalker.

In the 1978 film, “Animal House,” all types of debauchery and mayhem are exploited for laughs, including a college freshman’s attempt to intoxicate and have sex with an under-age girl. Statutory Rape.  Now that scene would end up on the cutting room floor.

Also in 1978, Rodney Dangerfield joked,” I have three children —one of each.” His joke about homosexuality was a harbinger for the politics of gender identity and its bathroom conundrum.

These are cultural touchstones marking the changes in sensitivity on issues of race and sexuality in American culture in the last sixty years.  We can look at the past as unenlightened, but except for myself perhaps, the talents behind these celebrated works were not cave dwellers. The current outpouring of accounts of sexual assault helps us as a culture move from the theoretical to the actual.  Millennials may know intuitively what we boomers had to learn. 

Victims of sexual assault have broken free of repressed and suppressed recollections, many involving cultural icons.  The accounts offer a look into sexual roles  going back thirty or more years to the present. Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein have been accused of rape. Bill O’Reilly has paid off cases of sexual assault.  Kevin Spacey and Roy Moore allegedly forced themselves upon minors.  Louis C.K. has admitted to exposing himself and jerking off in front of  several female comics,  a rumor that had circulated for years.  Those women have issued reports now.   At first, they did not speak up, in deference to his power in show business and that he’d been generous helping them build their careers. 

The case of Al Franken raises different  issues.  Franken, then a comic on a 2006 USO tour, admits  to aggressively kissing another entertainer in a scene calling for a “stage kiss.” This scenario was a recurring gag in 1982’s “Tootsie,” in which Dustin Hoffman’s cross-dressing character is repeatedly over-kissed by her soap opera co-star with a reputation for such hi-jinks. By the way, Dustin Hoffman himself stands accused of misconduct. The USO tours were enormously popular during earlier wars, when Bob Hope paraded a number of voluptuous women, immodestly dressed, in front of an audience of drooling GIs.   With Franken, the kiss, which was immediately repulsed by the victim, was embellished by a photo taken of Franken fondling or appearing to fondle the victim’s breasts while she was asleep on a transport plane.  The photo was included in a commemorative album distributed after the tour,  to the victim’s horror. 

Franken’s behavior creates a different kind of problem for the people who traditionally side with the victim.  Franken is now a U.S. Senator for the State of Minnesota, and he unfailingly takes the victim’s side in these situations. His allies and constituents are forced to reconcile Franken’s private lechery with his admirable public work.  Michelle Goldberg, a New York Times columnist, has called for his resignation or at least an ethics hearing. He is receiving a pass from many of his supporters.

The politics and the less invasive nature of the offense support Franken, but so do the outdated  mores of earlier times.  Franken grew up in the sixties and seventies.  Our “take” on sexual matters was different. A male was expected to be the initiator, and the female was the boundary setter. “No” was the word when uttered in combination with a physical withdrawal. The line was thus drawn. One might say that “No”  should have been sufficient.  But there was countervailing  part of the ritual that called for a certain amount of female protest, as if to say, “I don’t l, do this but, well, because it’s you…” Face was saved, parental encomiums heard but not always followed.

Franken and his fellow player were performers in a show. This isn’t meant to suggest that Franken was justified: it was “Tootsie” for real.  As a performer, he knew better. The photo was at the least in bad taste and at worst evidence of a battery, touching without consent while the woman slept.  Franken crossed the line.  Yet, I can’t equate it with the other scandals because it is by degrees closer to the aggressiveness that once was condoned.  However, if later we find out that Stuart Smalley really wasn’t good enough, his show will be canceled too. 

 

Beltway Media, Are You Listening?

Despite all the self-flagellation over  missing the story of the 2016 Presidential election, the pundits of the Beltway still don’t seem to get it.  Last night, the President gave a speech to – or past – a joint session of Congress.  Past, because it was not really intended for the members.  He spoke of American greatness and American destiny, which have been forfeited by the Obama administration.  Trump, in effect, gave an update of his stump speech. Then, former Kentucky Governor, Steve Beshear, followed with the Democratic response, from a diner in Lexington, Ky. Surrounded by a few customers presumably or hostages, perhaps,   Beshear, elderly, dressed in a cardigan, a Mr. Rogers for the People, peered at the camera with his pale blue eyes and grandfatherly smile, telling the President and the audience that, in spite of the Presidential breast-beating, in the first month of the new administration, nothing has been done to help working families.  

The pundits pounded away on both Trump and Beshear. Trump brought nothing new, no detail.  Apart from a Justice Department task force on violence, which is not targeting hate crimes, he proposed no steps to curb the racial and anti-Semitic violence he finally condemned.   The rest of the speech was aspirational, laying out his agenda and asking for a bipartisan Congress to act on it.  “Act on what?” cried the pundits, who pointed out that Trump peppered his statement with 51 misstatements of fact during a 60-minute speech.  

Beshear, they complained, was a dumb choice; a Bobby Jindal moment for the Democrats, who should have pushed forward one of their young Turks: Christopher Murphy, one of the Castro brothers, even Chuck Schumer for crying out loud!  Beshear is a slow, old tub, when what they need is a turbo-charged speedboat.

As Archie Bunker would have said, “Wrong again, Maude!”  Beshear and Trump were both speaking over the heads of the pundits and politicians, going straight to the heart of mid-America.  Beshear won’t be running for President, but he was there to remind folks that Democrats also live in the heartland, and they are watching out for their neighbors and fellow worshippers.  Before rolling out Democrat 2018, they are trying to claw back some of what they lost in 2016.  Beshear was there to say that the Democrats care, just like a friendly Grampa, not like that Wall Street-loving plutocrat in the White House.

The Beltway media need to get out a little more and talk to somebody besides each other.  The two parties know where control of power lies, and they are reaching out to connect to Uncle Henry and Auntie Em.  The pundits are fact-checking when they should be minding the storm-cellar.

Give a Leak, Take a Leak: Welcome to Washington

Leaks

 

Leaks come from disgruntled career bureaucrats, or disgruntled  former security contractors and  internet provocateurs, or candidates floating trial balloons,  or political opponents with scores to settle. And now that war has gone digital, leaks can be a military offensive.

 Take a leak like the outing of bad boy Mike Flynn. His past successes  taught him to ignore the rules. For example, when he was in charge of routing ISIS, he decided to leak  US intelligence to Pakistan about Pakistan. Just to show those bastards we know where they live. Well of course we do; we have GPS. It was a blatant violation disclosing classified information. But he got away with it. 

Now the tables have been turned.   His back channel bromance with Russian ambassador Kislyak became front page news. So did his lying to Mike Pence about their sanctions pillow talk. Out came the secret, and down went Flynn.  The source of the leak is a mystery still. Like one of those English mystery stories where the stiff had so many enemies, lots of suspects had opportunity and motive.

 So who are the suspects in this one? The intelligence community for sure. Just yesterday, they said they’re going to withhold information from the President because they don’t trust him. Imagine that. They don’t trust Him with their information because they think he’ll give it to America’s enemies. You don’t need Julius Rosenberg if you’ve got Donald Trump.

A lot of media outlets are pissed off at this administration too. They’ve all been thrown out of the press conferences except for Breitbart and Golf Courses of the World. Not that it matters.  Nothing really is being said at press conference these days that isn’t contradicted  by somebody else in the administration five minutes before or after.  

 If I had to guess, though, I would say it’s some career government employee, stashed in one of the intelligence agencies,  who got so pissed off that he ended up blowing the whistle. Kind of like Milton in the movie, “Office Space.” You just don’t screw around with a guy’s stapler.

 Deep Throat, America’s most famous leaker, is gone, but his advice still rings true: follow the money. It’s a little more challenging though when we have to convert from dollars to rubles.

Leaks are political safety valves and have a purpose; a fact of nature, like gas escaping a Swamp.

© 2017 The Revolted Colonies ™

 

Bring Your Daughter to Work

Presidents are parents too.  In addition to his duty of attacking the media and the judiciary, insulting America’s allies and threatening its adversaries, the current officeholder is the latest daddy to defend the honor of his daughter. Yesterday, he took to the cybersphere after Ivanka’s fashion line was dropped by Nordstrom, the prominent national retailer.

Give ’em Hell, Harry!

Le Grand Orange follows in the tradition of Harry Truman. First Daughter Margaret Truman received generally negative reviews of her professional singing engagements. Washington Post reviewer Paul Hume wrote in 1950 that Margaret Truman was “extremely attractive on the stage… [but] cannot sing very well. She is flat a good deal of the time. And still cannot sing with anything approaching professional finish.”

Papa Harry, rising to the defense of his daughter, wrote to Mr. Hume. “Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!”

 

 

A Matter of National Security

From his personal account, the President pro tem tweeted, “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by ‪@Nordstrom‬. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!” A few minutes later, the blast was retweeted from his official government account, sparking a debate about over ethical violations.

The tweet hit the internet at about twenty minutes into a national security briefing. It would seem that his concern for protecting America from radical Islamic terrorism competes for time with his daughter’s fashion accessories line, a business she had supposedly dropped.

The Rack Fights Back

A Nordstrom spokesman responded by stating that the decision to drop the Ivanka line reflected poor sales, nothing more. Its publicly traded shares wobbled just after the Presidential tweet. By the end of the trading day, the stock had risen 4%.

Many shoppers, mostly those associated with the  #grabyourwallet boycott, have attacked retailers carrying Trump lines. Many other tweeters attacked Nordstrom and backed the President and his daughter. They pledged to boycott the retail giant for yielding to the pressure of liberal shoppers.

The Trump clan views the White House as the world’s greatest branding opportunity. So far, Donald, Daughter Ivanka, First Lady Melania and Son Eric have experienced recoil from the Law of Unintended Consequences. Much to Daddy Donald’s chagrin, there is no judge to blame.

Melania Goes to Court

With Donald Trump as President, upon my first glance at the newspaper each morning I ask, “What fresh hell is this?” This morning’s edition carries an especially odious story. Melania Trump has refiled her lawsuit in a federal court in New York against the Daily Mail over her claim that it falsely accused her of working for an escort service in the past. Her first filing in Maryland was dismissed on procedural grounds.

The Article

In August, the Daily Mail ran a story reporting that a Slovenian periodical had run an article stating that Mrs. Trump, a Slovenian native, worked as a high-end escort before marrying the New York mogul.  The Daily Mail retracted the story.

The Mouthpiece

Nevertheless, Melania hired Charles Harder, an American attorney, to attack the Mail and Webster Tarpley, a blogger, for posting and publicizing the Slovenian report.   Mr. Harder recently had celebrated his victory over the Gawker, driving it out of business,  for posting a story about former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan having sex with his former manager’s wife. The wife had admitted that the story was true and that she had leaked it to the Gawker.  Mr. Harder was just the guy for Mrs. Trump. See Escort-Gate.

This morning’s paper reported the refiling of the suit, calling attention to the $150 million claim for damages, as follows:

Plaintiff had the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person…to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world.

“These product categories would have included, among other things, apparel, accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance….

The case is Swiss cheese. The claim of defamation is dubious. The Daily Mail only reported statements made by a third-party, disclaiming any knowledge of the facts and casting no judgment on its veracity. Then, Melania Trump is a public figure, and under the libel law, she must prove that the publication was malicious. The claimed harm, the damages, are speculative unless Mrs. Trump had a contract that was canceled; negotiations that were terminate; or a prospect business partner who ran from her like she’d had the Plague.

An Honor to Serve

What was most sickening was that the First Lady is suing because her plan to use her status for financial gain had been torpedoed.  Interestingly, Mrs. Trump has not moved into the White House or assumed any duties, although she did hire a chief of staff last week.  Lindsey Reynolds, a former Bush White House employee, has been named to oversee the First Lady’s portfolio, the first item of which is to clean up the White House so that the tours will be “top-notch.”

It was too much to expect that Mrs. Trump would take on a public service role, like advocating against childhood obesity, as did Michelle Obama, or lobbying for early education, as did Laura Bush.  But it is sad to see that she planned to turn the East Wing into a shopping mall.

Things That Go Tweet In The Night

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Donald Trump’s stock is slipping. His 3 a.m. tweets are like Nixon talking to the White House paintings. When I first heard about his Insomnia, I thought it must be a daughter from a prior marriage. Alas, now is the Autumn of the Megalomaniac, and it’s feeling like an early Winter. However, Trump refuses to give up although “even if he doesn’t win” has crept into the campaign chatter. For a final assault on his opponent, Trump has threatened to play the adultery card. Whose — his?

Donald Trump peddled himself at one-time as the playboy billionaire. From a guest appearance in a soft-core erotic film to his days of loitering with Hef at the Playboy mansion, from producing Miss Universe pageants to surrounding himself with beautiful women, Trump’s persona is based in part on his lothario image.

Why then would he decide to go after Clinton for siding with husband former President Bill for his infidelities, including most pointedly Monica Lewinsky? The argument against Clinton is multi-faceted. The left criticizes her for attacking the women for preying upon her husband, rather than denouncing him as a philanderer and predator. The right attacks her for defending him because his affair took place while he was President and in the White House. The Stand By Your Man crowd called her stupid for staying, just as the Stay At Home crowd had condemned her for saying in 1992 that she wasn’t the kind of woman to bake cookies.

As a calculating politician, she might have stayed in the marriage until after her election as Senator. In the middle of her first term, with Hillary in Washington and Bill in Westchester, a press release announcing the decision to part and a private separation agreement would have been the best way to walk. But she didn’t do it. Rumors of Bill prowling the estates of Chappaqua did not provoke her to leave. Bill’s expurgated telling of their story at this year’s nominating convention made only passing reference to the bumps along their road. Although the Clinton team has wisely minimized Bill’s role in the campaign, they and Chelsea remain a tight family unit. Someday, the story of the Clinton marriage will be told but that will be after they have receded into history. For now, they are the nation’s most prominent power couple (condolences to Brangelina) in an unconventional marriage.

Trump has nothing to gain by going after the Clinton marriage. It won’t hurt Clinton; actually will probably push more fence-sitters in her direction. Mainly, Trump needs what he does not have: a convincing reason for putting him in the charge of the American government. He hasn’t come up with anything yet, but I will continue to check the tweets over my morning cup of joe.

 

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