Robert E. Lee vs. Allen Toussaint

Like many others, the city of New Orleans is re-considering some of its place and street names. Jefferson Davis Parkway will soon be Norman C. Francis Parkway. Mr. Francis was the long-time president of Xavier University.

Allen Toussaint’s houses on Robert E. Lee Blvd. (NOLA Times-Picayune)

Hurricane Katrina forced Allen Toussaint from his New Orleans home in 2005. He relocated to New York City until returning to his birthplace several years later. He purchased and renovated his son Reginald’s former home—Reginald had also been washed out—and two adjacent properties on Robert E. Lee Boulevard. He also bought a house around the corner. The famed musician/songwriter/arranger/producer made one his primary residence, another a recording studio, a third for band members who needed a place to stay and the fourth for Reginald when he visited.

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Monuments… It’s Complicated

Ongoing protests have again brought to public consciousness that it’s way past time to do something about statues, monuments, buildings and military installations that honor traitors who took up arms against the United States. Demonstrators have defaced and toppled statues of Confederate luminaries and in some places have done the same to Founding-Father icons such as Washington and Jefferson, who were slave holders.

In the meantime, officials at the Stenton House Museum & Gardens in Philadelphia are planning a sculptural memorial for Dinah, who is credited with saving the mansion from destruction by British soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Museum directors are also searching for her burial spot, which they believe is somewhere on the grounds.

Stenton House was built for James Logan, who arrived from Ireland in 1699. He was secretary to William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, and friend of Benjamin Franklin. He named the house for his father’s birthplace in Scotland. Logan served as mayor of Philadelphia and on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. He assembled in his home one of the finest libraries in the colonies.

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Devin Nunes’ Cow

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”
– P.T. Barnum

Devin Nunes is a nine-term Congressperson from the California Central Valley. He is also a Putin-Trump toady. To keep his name in the news, Nunes lately has been a zealous foe of fake news. He has filed seven lawsuits alleging defamation of his character and reputation. Defendants are CNN, the Washington Post, McClatchy Company (owner of the Fresno Bee, Nunes’s hometown newspaper), Twitter, @mom_nunes (Devin Nunes’ Mom) and @DevinCow (Devin Nunes’ Cow).

@DevinCow scorns Nunes’s claim to be a dairy farmer. The family “moved” its farm from California to Iowa in 2007. The attorney representing Nunes recently admitted he is at a “dead end” in finding the person or persons responsible for the ridicule on the Twitter account.

Rep. Nunes does illustrate the Streisand Effect. When Nunes filed his suit in 2019 @DevinCow had a thousand followers. It now has 722,000.

Remembering Christo and Jeanne-Claude

“It will give shape to the wind. It will go over the hills and into the sea, like a ribbon of light.”
– from environmental-impact report for Running Fence

Lost amid the whirlwinds of news—COVID-19, the murder of George Floyd and resultant demonstrations, opportunistic rioting and looting—is the obituary of the artist Christo, who has died at age eighty-four.

With Jeanne-Claude, his wife and collaborator, Christo gave the world wondrous, larger-than-life art installations in public spaces. All were open to everyone at no cost; Christo and Jeanne-Claude financed the projects themselves. They were all temporary, gone without a trace after a couple weeks, with no environmental damage and no public expense.

Christo & Jeanne-Claude in Central Park
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Saudi Arabia: Friend and Ally

The current occupant of the White House is looking to burnish his self-proclaimed reputation as the world’s greatest deal-maker with another arms sale to Saudi Arabia. To get rid of any distractions, he has fired the Inspector General who was looking into last year’s artful eight-billion-plus-dollar deal that sent weaponry to the Kingdom last year, over the strenuous objections of Congress.

The Bush family, too, were long-time friends and business partners with Saudi Arabian potentates.

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Deja Vu All Over Again

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Let’s take a ride in the Wayback Machine. Forty years ago, we saw incessant news reports about Mt. St. Helens, kind of like the non-stop COVID-19 reporting today. For months the mountain had been bulging, and expelling steam and ash almost daily.

Scientists said there was imminent danger and the area should be closed off. Washington-state authorities agreed and put a quarantine in effect, blocking access into the danger zone. Right away noise began about infringing on people’s constitutional rights and the damage to tourism and the economy. The mountain’s burping was the new normal and nothing more was going to happen. (This was the era before patriots paraded in camouflage outfits and brandished combat weaponry.)

Interviews with one crusty old-timer, named Harry Truman, who lived on the mountain and said he wasn’t leaving, were a regular feature on the nightly news. According to Truman’s niece, “He thought (the volcano) would just go straight up and that somebody would be able to come and get him.”

Pressure to reopen the area increased. Officials met to discuss what action to take. Scientists expected reaffirmation of the closures and were surprised that the discussions were about plans to reopen the area. Five days later Mt. St. Helens blew. Mr. Truman and fifty-six other people died. Most died from thermal burns or inhaling hot ash. According to some estimates the death toll may be higher, that many unknown victims were swallowed by the debris flow.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.