President Harding: Everything Old is New Again

Interesting piece in the Times today about the President.

Warren G. Harding, the Pride of Marion, Ohio, and one of the worst American presidents. Evidently, he was swoon-worthy in his day. I don’t see it. |Image: Harris & Ewing Collection/Library of Congress.

Well, President Warren G. Harding, our chief executive from 1921 to 1923 and, by all accounts, one of the absolute worst of the lot. Perhaps Pierce, Buchanan, Bush #2 and Fillmore rank worse. Perhaps.

Harding was a known womanizer and there were plenty of rumors circulating at the time that he fathered a child with one of his mistresses and what do you know? Ninety-two years after he died, DNA has proven unequivocally that Harding was the baby daddy.

Ain’t that a pisser?

I love the fact that a century ago this was bedrock scandal of the first order. Today, who the hell cares? Heck, I didn’t care 20 years ago (-ish) when Clinton was being diddled under the desk. Why should I? Why should you?

Look, all men in power — old white guys — they all* have a bit on the side. The President of the United States is any different? Lucy Mercer … Marilyn Monroe … Monica Lewinsky … Even the old “bachelor,” James Buchanan had William Rufus King. Oh, look it up. Old Hickory called the pair “Miss Nancy” and “Aunt Fancy.” King was not only Buchanan’s live-in for a decade, he was Franklin Pierce’s vice president for a bit, but he died in office. AND, his relationship with Buchanan was likely the reason for Buchanan’s Southern sympathies, thereby hindering his ability to broker a peace with the secessionists and stop the Civil War.

Buchanan — another of the worst presidents.

*Yes, all is a strong word. I don’t mean all here; but I do mean most.

Most Gay Porn Watched in the South?

Actually, that makes perfect sense to me and, as this clip from the Rubin Report explains, we should not be surprised that the regions that have the most oppressive anti-LGBT laws are were we would see this bubbling under the surface.

The Rubin Report is something that I would encourage you to look into. Like the Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, Dave Rubin has fashioned a unique program that combines humor with discussions about real issues. And instead of pundit blathering, he uses comedians. Usually, and this is not a stretch to those that have been around this world, the comedians are some of the best interpreters of human emotions and often offer important dissections of events of the day.

Also, they’re funny. So, there’s that.


Indiana Loons

sticker,375x360Lots of flap about Indiana’s new “religious freedom” law that was signed into law this week by Gov. Mike Pence. And for many years, television has set the quirkiest and oddest sitcoms in the Hoosier state. Leslie Knope and her band from Parks and Recreation, the Hecks from The Middle, “Indiana Mole Woman” Kimmy Schmidt … it seemed as though every looney tune came from Indiana.

When I lived there, I took great umbrage at that.

Now? Turns out TV was right!

Hometown News

According to reports in the Baltimore Sun*, three more students have been stabbed on the campus of Morgan State University. The stabbings occurred outside of the campus cafeteria. The students were football players and reports indicate that it may have had something to do with a fight that broke out at a dance over the weekend.

This is the second time police have been called to the campus in a week for a stabbing. Last Friday, a student stabbed his roommate over their messy dorm room.

Word to the wise: neatness counts.

*Alert Baltimoreans of a certain vintage would call this publication “the Sunpaper.” Light for all, bitches.

Today the NYPD Hates Bill de Blasio; Tomorrow It May Be You

The Real Reason Police Hate Bill de Blasio.


New York Mayor Bill de Blasio

This is an excellent short piece from Daily Kos. New York City’s police (some of them) are up in arms about remarks made by newly-installed mayor Bill de Blasio. They have taken offense at some things the mayor has said in the wake of police shootings in Gotham lately. At one of these public gatherings, de Blasio said this about his biracial son:

Chirlane and I have had to talk to Dante for years about the dangers that he may face. A good young man, law-abiding young man who would never think to do anything wrong. And yet, because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face, we’ve had to literally train him—as families have all over this city for decades—in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.

Some members of the NYPD and some members of the public find these remarks insensitive. They say it shows the mayor doesn’t stand behind law enforcement. Really?

The mayor should never criticize law enforcement? Even when everyone knows there are serious racial problems, serious ethical problems, serious effectiveness problems in the force?

To me, not criticizing, not accepting ingrained bureaucracy and prejudice is both obscene and a dereliction of duty.

We need cops. I’m all for law enforcement. I’m all for peace officers. To protect and to serve. No matter who you are. What I’m not for are cowboys and race-baiters and gay-haters and misogynists. Saying that there are bad cops, telling your kid to look out for bad cops who will profile you — and maybe even rough you up — because of the color of your skin, that’s not anti-police. That’s intelligent governing and parenting.

Being critical of police is the only way we will make change happen. Otherwise, New York, greed, graft and corruption are self-perpetuating and hellish to get rid of. The corrupt love to hang onto power. If you’d like a primer on what corruption can do to a city — your city —please visit the Wikipedia entry for Tammany Hall.

Care to Have Independence? Anyone? Scotland? No, Okay

This is a pretty good analysis about how and why the pollsters got it wrong, courtesy of our favorite bunch of quants over at FiveThirtyEight:
Why Pollsters Think They Underestimated ‘No’ In Scotland | FiveThirtyEight.

The final numbers are fascinating and I am particularly enamored of the “Shy Tory” argument, which basically says they want to side one way but don’t want to be seen siding that way because of all of the passion on the other side. It’s a very good argument. Anyone who has ever been around elections understands it. Nate Silver expands the thought.


The Scottish Parliament building, a fascinating piece of modern architecture that stands out like a sore thumb against a backdrop of old Edinburgh.

In the aftermath of the Scottish vote, I feel compelled to roll my eyes at all of the “fake Scots” in the U.S. who are such dedicated separatists, who blame the English for the tragic history of the Scots peoples, who beat their breasts about the terrible oppression at the hands of the English overlords for so many years.

And then they quote Burns. And have a wee dram and toast to “The Forty-Five” and refight the Battle of Culloden and vow that they will take up arms in the next Jacobite rising.

But here’s the thing: isn’t that just a bunch of romanticized twaddle? Haven’t there been two or three too many viewings of “Braveheart” in this camp?

Don’t get me wrong, I love Scotland. Edinburgh is one of the most fascinating cities in the world. I would go back any day of any week, if I could. But, I’m also a practical Unionist and a lover of London as well.


Your faithful correspondent, mugging for the camera on Calton Hill, Edinburgh, in 2010. From my attire and from the sky, can you guess it is the middle of summer?

It seems to me that in 2014 the world is so intertwined that to separate one part of a major power and become a small power unto yourself seems a disaster waiting to happen. What about currency? And border patrols? What about taxes, the national health scheme, compulsory education, state-sponsored higher education, bank regulations, environmental regulations, the Navy, the power grid, elections, separation of powers — or not, weights and measures, language? The list is endless.

And, ultimately, that’s what those “Shy Tory” voters realized. It sounds good in a ripping good speech, but when you have to live it, well, let’s be prudent about it. To those abroad that are “sad for Scotland,” I say this: the people of Scotland voted. Overwhelmingly they said “nay.”

And, of course, I will remind those American Scots, pining away for a life in a motherland that they do not know and probably have never set foot in, of some other words of Robbie Burns: The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.

Can We Learn Anything from the Cancelled High School Production of ‘Spamalot?’

Two thumbs way up high to Howard Sherman for his excellent op/ed on Slate. It’s mind-numbing to me that stuff like this still happens in America but, you know what? It happens every single day. There are far more controversial things in the American musical theatre canon than the “gay themes” in Monty Python’s Spamalot. Good grief.

Another example of senior leadership being completely out of touch with young people. And you thought there was a “generation gap” in the 60s and 70s! Ha!

Sherman ends his essay thusly:

Students return to school in South Williamsport today with the false impression that their drama director provoked an unfounded controversy. What they don’t know is that their principal and superintendent assert that LGBTQ life is unsuitable for families to see, that their parents might be “afraid” of “small kids” seeing gay relationships even in a broadly comic setting, and that there are concerns about attendance at such a show because the material is “risqué.” The students also don’t know that their principal believes that LGBTQ representation might force some of them to make decisions about their personal beliefs, which is presumably part of education and maturation. There are important lessons still to be taught in South Williamsport, but only if the school administration and the community learn them first.

via Spamalot: Pennsylvania school cancels production because of “homosexual themes.”.

Pasadena’s Oscar-Winning Problem

Questions plague Pasadena college over Dustin Lance Black debacle –

Here’s the thing: I have spent the better part of my career in media relations work. And most of the last decade or so on media relations work in colleges and universities. I have been a spokesperson during tragedies, I have answered questions when good things have happened, I have stood up in front of God and the New York Times and punted like a son-of-a-bitch over and over and over again and managed to look like I knew what in the hell I was saying.

And I know one thing about Pasadena City College and Dustin Lance Black: there is something bad, bad wrong here. And I will guarantee you — I will absolutely back it up with money that I do not have — that somebody at Pasadena City College is lying through their damn teeth and it probably has nothing to do with Mr. Black.

This is an object lesson in how to do public relations wrong. This is how stupid people get institutions in hot water. And this is about how when you are the stupid party and the other party is whip smart, you will look like an even larger dumbass. And that bit of ‘dumbassery’ imprints.

Dustin Lance Black won the friggin’ Oscar. He’s one of our finest writers. He’s a great activist. He has a compelling story about community college helping him to get to the top. And you don’t embrace that for everything that it’s worth?

I had never heard of Pasadena City College before this. Now, whenever I hear the name, I’ll think, “Oh, yeah. That’s the place that fucked over Dustin Lance Black.” Morons.

Tales of Hoffman: Mourning, Madness, Misery, Mystery and Melancholy in the Wake of Senseless Death

Philip Seymour Hoffman was a genius. He was a mesmerizing actor on stage and on screen. Talented people stood in the wings and watched him work, their mouths agape.


Philip Seymour Hoffman.

He died yesterday at age 46. With a syringe in his arm.

That’s because Philip Seymour Hoffman was a junkie.

And that’s not an indictment of the man; that’s a fact. We have seen, all too often, creative geniuses who are drawn to substance abuse and who succumb to its lure. The question that I keep asking myself is why?

What is it that you are trying to escape? What is it that you can no longer endure? What pain is so searing that you crave any release?

I have no answers, it will remain a mystery to me, I guess, but I do know that substance abuse at this level is intensely egomaniacal. It is driven by something — some demon, perhaps — that makes you crave the high. The release. And not care about what happens to you. Or your children. Or your family. Or those who love you.

Hoffman was a shape-shifter; a big bear of a man who won the Academy Award for portraying the diminutive author Truman Capote. And he did this so effortlessly — it seemed — that the audience not only suspended its disbelief, we actually believed that he had become small and fragile before our eyes. That’s the hallmark of a master of his talent. But, as we have seen, that talent does not come without a price.

Today, I don’t know how to feel. Should I be angry at the people who sold him heroin? Should I be angry at Hoffman for giving in to the smack? For dying? Should I celebrate the body of work that he leaves behind? Should I be sad that he couldn’t overcome his demons. And that the demons won?

Life is such mercury: here one moment, there the next, then gone. Melancholia seems the overarching feeling of the day.

The Word of the Year is …. Selfie

Picture This: Selfie Is ‘Word Of The Year’ : The Two-Way : NPR.

The Oxford Dictionaries have decided that the Word of the Year for 2013 is “selfie.” The decision, says the NPR report linked above, was unanimous and beat out “twerk” and “binge watch” to take the top spot for pop culture verbiage. Besides, who’s taking them? Everyone with a cell phone seemingly. Even the Pope.


Selfie. With booze. 11-19-2013