Who knew?

On the surface, he was his usual imperturbable, confident, genial self. In reality, however, he was shaken, resentful, angry, and determined to get even. Francis Biddle, who served as solicitor general and attorney general under Roosevelt, once described him as “an Old Testament Christian, who believed that his friends should be rewarded and retribution visited on his enemies, for….once his will was marshaled behind a defined vision, it became sinful for others to interfere with its fruition.”

According to the journalists Joseph Alsop and Turner Catledge, FDR “had made up his mind that if he had to suffer, the men in Congress whom he held responsible would suffer doubly later on.” Urged on by his closest advisers, he decided to lead an effort in the 1938 congressional primaries to defeat a select group of conservative Democratic senators and congressmen who had opposed the court-packing proposal. (Wheeler [the Montana senator who had led the opposition], who was not up for reelection that year, had his income tax return audited for the first time in his life.)

(Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939–1941, Lynne Olson, 2013)

Franklin Roosevelt earned his monument in Washington. But there’s a reason the Founders put checks and balances in their system…and a reason the Creator put limits on a man’s lifespan.

I mean, if I had played a game and substituted Donald Trump’s name for FDR’s….hahahahaha!

WHEN SATIRE IS BEING “DISCUSSED”….(Segue of the Day: 1/1/18)

…It’s best to keep a safe distance.

The greatest living satirist, Tracey Ullman, (and yes, greatest living satirist is a low bar, but she really is good) has done a few skits on her latest British show that poke fun at anti-Christianity. This is so devolved that no one quite knows what to make of it as, going by the Twitter feeds and comment sections I follow, both Christians and anti-Christians suspect the laugh is on them.

I know what to make of it. It’s something we should be laughing at together….if only that were still a thing.

And anyway, it’s not Tracey’s first job interview…

….I suspect the interviewers are from the same gene pool, but the applicants are not. But your mileage may vary.

Either way, Happy New Year everyone!

HOT CHOCOLATE FOR CHRISTMAS (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End #126)

I spent a good bit of last week listening to Hot Chocolate’s eight-album collection that gathers all those albums that used to be hard to find in one place. I’ve listened all the way through before a time or two. I haven’t come anywhere near plumbing the depths. What stood out this time was an Elvis Costello cover….not exactly what you expect to find in the deep cuts of a Hot Chocolate collection.

But it’s a revelation. Costello’s first three albums helped define a certain aspect of my life, but I can’t say I ever thought of him having an emotional core. Paranoia worn as a suit of armor doesn’t really invite that style of intimacy.

Errol Brown got under the armor….to the real paranoia. Listening now, I realize it’s something a West Indian migrant who made great records for a solid decade, and fought his way to the top of the charts Elvis Costello affected to disdain, without ever touching the lionization Costello received (including rapid induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, while Hot Chocolate, like all the other great interracial funk bands who weren’t Sly and the Family Stone remain ignored as the years turn to decades) might have understood a bit better than the song’s author.

Who did put those fingerprints on my imagination?

Merry Christmas ya’ll….


The Salt Lake City reports that appeared on the morning of the 6th were generally discredited in New York and Washington. The War Department cautioned against believing them. Congress discussed the matter and concluded by assigning the whole affair to the panic of a demoralized scout who had fled in the heat of battle. The Senate passed a resolution, however, requesting information from the President, and perhaps not unrelatedly gave favorable treatment to the pending bill for the transfer of responsibility for Indian affairs from the Interior to the War Department.

A reporter for the New York Herald sought out Generals Sherman and Sheridan, both of whom were in Philadelphia. Sheridan declared that the news had arrived by a very circuitous route and had come “without any marks of credence.” Sherman was in the midst of pointing out to the correspondent that the absence of any official report from the field opened the rumors to serious question when an aide handed him a note. It was the official confirmation from the field.

(Custer and the Great Controversy, Robert Utley, 1961)

Having shaken their readers with the biggest news break of the year [i.e., the destruction of Custer’s command], the newspapers eagerly devoted column after column to reports arriving from the frontier. The wildest rumors and grossest fabrications were printed and avidly read by a fascinated public. From the papers they found their way into popular literature, into folklore, and into history. Almost every myth of the Little Bighorn that one finds today masquerading as history may be found also in the press accounts of July 1876.

(Custer, Utley, op cit)

CONFESSION: I’ve heard Donald Trump compared to a lot of historical figures in the last two and half years, by himself and countless other. ‘I’ve compared him to a few people myself. Until I read this, it hadn’t occurred to me to compare him to Sitting Bull. Hmmmm….

THE OTHER EVERLY (Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End #125)

I just found this on YouTube… The tune’s from Dylan and a touch ragged, but it’s still proof that, years before she exploded “When Will I Be Loved” from the inside, Linda Ronstadt had a special ear for things Everly….In a better world there would be at least an album’s worth…They brought out the best in each other.


I’m not sure reacquainting myself with Eric Ambler’s Judgment on Deltchev was the smartest practical means of dealing with a blue funk….but it has reconfirmed my belief in it belonging with the great, unsettling tradition of  espionage/security state novels that do more than thrill: with The Princess Casamassima and Under Western Eyes and Bend Sinister, then.

From Chapter Fourteen, on the affect of “leaks” in a free state (a subject not without interest these days, when spin and counter-spin compete so furiously that merely keeping up with the fundamental narratives would require abstinence from all other normal human behavior, including sleep, forget the additional effort involved in trying to decide which are “true”):

It is, I find, extraordinarily embarrassing to be described in print as a member of the British secret service. The trouble is that you cannot afterwards convince people that you are not. They reason that if you are a member you will still presumably have to say that you are not. You are suspect. If you say nothing, of course, you admit all.

(Eric Ambler, Judgment on Deltchev, 1951)

Well, merry freakin’ Christmas to you too!


During a much needed week off, whilst re-reading one of my favorite novels, Eric Ambler’s Judgment on Deltchev, and keeping up with the “news” and “social media” on reading breaks, I came across this:

Petlarov’s comments were not reassuring.

‘After sitting for three days in that courtroom,’ he said, ‘you may realize that not one single piece of evidence that could be called evidence in a civilized court of law has been offered in support of the charges and that the only piece of sense uttered has been supplied by the the prisoner in his own defence. And yet already much damage has been done. The grocer I now visit again–thanks to you, my friend–is an intelligent man and a supporter of Deltchev. He detests the People’s Party and suspects what he reads in the controlled press. Yet the trial is important to him, and as he cannot attend in person, he must read official reports in the newspapers. He reads with great suspicion, of course, and he discounts much of what he reads. But where is his standard of measurement? How can he discriminate? He reads that Minister Vukashin’s evidence proves conclusively certain accusations against Deltchev. Can he ask by what rules of evidence Vukashin’s statements are held to constitute a proof of anything except their own dishonesty? Of course not. He is a cautious man and hard to convince, but when I asked him today what he thinks, he is uneasy and does not like to meet me my eye. “Evidently,” he says to me, “there was much evil that we did not know about. Even if these pigs must find it out, it is best that we know. We are in a mess all right.” And you know, Herr Foster, for the Vukashins and Brankovitches, that is success. The disillusioned do not fight.’

Ambler’s novel is set in a fictional country behind the Iron Curtain at the dawn of the Cold War, during the show trial of a deposed political leader.

These days, it reads like straight reporting from the New York Times….If reporting is the word.

And I think that grocer is on my Twitter feed.

There’s nothing the Overlords can do to us that we haven’t already done to ourselves.

Or, as Conway Twitty once put it….”My reasons for cheating, they’re as good as lies can be….”

Our only salvation thus far is that the Overlords are still too stupid to ban spy novels and country music.

Get it while you can…


“Cherry Baby”
Starz (1977)
US #33
Recommended source: Brightest Starz: Anthology

Despite its impeccable Big Thing antecedents (Beatles, Beach Boys, Who), Power Pop never quite made it to Next Big Thing status on its own. It hung around–over ground in the music of Badfinger, Raspberries, Cheap Trick, Cars, Go-Go’s and underground (Big Star, Flamin’ Groovies and several hundred lesser bands)–without taking over. Even with the bleedover from bigger-than-the-genre bands like Blondie in the 70s and the Bangles in the 80s, and the inescapability of the Knack’s “My Sharona” in the late 70s, there simply weren’t enough hits.

And, as an unabashed fan of the genre (or maybe the word is concept), I have to say there weren’t enough hits because there simply weren’t enough great records.

Outside the bands I mentioned above and a few, mostly Brit, tweeners like Small Faces and the Move, Power Pop in its heyday promised more than it delivered. In the 70s, when there was still a chance it would be more than a sub-genre of the perpetually underachieving New Wave, only two records ever grabbed me.

One was Sniff N’ the Tears’ “Driver’s Seat,” which actually made the American top 20 and isn’t eligible for my little category here.

The other was Starz’ “Cherry Baby.”

1977 was the year the rock and roll experiment really started to waver. Besides “Cherry Baby,” Shaun Cassidy’s three great singles (“Da Doo Ron Ron,” “That’s Rock and Roll” and “Hey Deanie”) the radio was as dead to anybody who, from ignorance or otherwise, was holding disco at arm’s length as everybody claimed it had been in 1963, before the Beatles came along and saved us all.

In 1977, the Sex Pistols were apparently supposed to do it all again. They failed. Mostly because their records couldn’t compete with those made by black people.

They still can’t.

“Cherry Baby” did and does. If Starz (who preferred being billed as a metal band anyway) had been able to come up with another dozen of these, who knows….

Alas, there was only one. But it still makes me smile.

And, as I’ve learned long since, that’s not nothing.


I’ve just started dipping into Robert V. Remini’s massive (and likely definitive) three-volume biography of a certain president to whom Donald Trump likes to compare himself. This bit comes after Remini, writing from the seventies’, before Trump was even a twinkle in post-modernity’s eye, strongly suggests that Andrew Jackson’s force-of-nature personality might, indeed, have found a solution short of secession and war for the great divide that became the Civil War (for which suggestion Trump took a great deal of ridicule some months back). Democrats, the media, Special Counsels and Never Trumpers would do well to remember it as they surround Trump yet again some time next week, only to find themselves–for the twenty-ninth month running–surrounded in turn a few days later.

From page 9:

“I could throw him three times out of four,” said one classmate (of Jackson), “but he would never stay throwed.”

(Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Empire: 1767–1821, Robert V. Remini, 1977)

Me, I’m still too depressed to think real thoughts.

But I know the path to some good advice when I see it:

Stop expecting Jackson’s philosophical and spiritual heir to STAY THROWED!

The bio runs to 1600 pages. Assuming I discard this funk, I expect to finish it before 2020.


Goodness. The off-hand points I made in the immediate wake of the Harvey Weinstein mess/scandal/implosion/pity party are still turning up as freshly switched-on-light-bulb thought balloons over the heads of various and sundry Good Thinkers:

Here’s the New York Times, today, finally catching up

I didn’t mention Annabella Sciorra in my original piece because she hadn’t yet told her story. I did say “and that’s only the ones we know about.” I don’t doubt there are quite a few more, including some we will never know about. But I’ll just add that the Times is not only trailing me by nearly two months (understandable…perfectly understandable). They’re also trailing Dana Stevens and Mark Steyn by a month-and-a-half.

For that, there can be no excuse. Know your George Clinton folks….It ain’t illegal yet.