The Tortoise and the Hair

The McConnell vs. Trump war continues, as Texas freezes. Plus: music from Nancy Sinatra, The Clash, Ruben Blades with Jerry Garcia, and preview of the new Biggie film.

Given the freezing weather this week, it’s a good thing we’re not in Kansas anymore…But down below: hot takes and cool music. Let us know how we’re doing in Comments. And maybe subscribe—it’s still free!

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News/Politics

Al Franken last night on serving with Mitch McConnell in the Senate: "When I would talk to him, it would be after a very good speech…I just took a chance one day and said, 'Y'know, I really like your speeches better when they aren't in the service of evil.' And he said, 'I like the evil ones better.' And he meant it.”

Rush, to Judgment: It’s amusing to hear people, such as hillbilly elegist J.D. Vance, call on people to remain silent re: the late Rush Limbaugh’s words and legacy when he was so heartless and cruel to so many—right down to Chelsea Clinton as a 12 year-old. So get over it J.D. and your fellow snowflakes. Eric Lichtblau, a former top reporter at the NY Times, tweeted about the first major obits, “Most of the major media, including the NYT and the Post, glossed over Limbaugh's long history of outright racism, sexism and bigotry (a ‘provocateur,’ several of the obits called him) or excluded it altogether.”

The Times obit, which may be updated, merely accuses Limbaugh of using “racist language” in a long list of other missteps, avoiding the hard-earned “racist” tag. The Washington Post gently refers to his “comic bombast and relentless bashing of liberals, feminists and environmentalists.” The harshest criticism of him is attributed to “detractors” or “critics.” Both papers, you’ll recall, resisted until recently calling Trump’s lies…lies.

The Texas governor and Fox News hosts are falsely blaming wind and solar for the post-storm blackouts in Texas. Cue the schmaltzy old hit song, which we will paraphrase as “The Windmills In Their Minds.” In reality, it was poor preparedness and a foreshadowing of the problems the entire USA grid will face from climate change-induced extreme weather. Lawrence Wright: “We’re living through the weirdest slow-motion catastrophe in Texas, with no power, grocery stores with three hour waits and no food, and no answers about when it ends.”

Tweet this morning from NBC’s Texas-based Mike Hixenbaugh: “Last night, after we’d lost power & my pipes burst, my toddler choked on a peanut in our dark house. We rushed him across town on icy roads for emergency surgery at a hospital that does not have enough water pressure to flush toilets. Texas is a disaster.”

Jimmy Kimmel: “In New Orleans, they had the coldest Fat Tuesday in more than a hundred years. People on the streets were putting their tops on.”

Metaphor alert: They’re blowing up Trump Plaza in Atlantic City this morning. Wash Post: “When Donald Trump owned it, he once tried to use eminent domain to kick a widow out of her house. He wanted her property as a limo parking lot.” Here’s how to watch it. Then they will blow up the Chicken Man, again?

The hero of the Oscar-winning movie Hotel Rwanda (played by Don Cheadle) has been mysteriously arrested on terrorism charges in Kenya and faces a trial not likely to be fair.

Charlie Pierce at Esquire is not too optimistic about Nancy Pelosi’s proposed blue-ribbon panel to probe the January uprising.

There is no more terrifying a term in Washington for anyone who wants to know what actually happened than the phrase, “blue-ribbon commission.” It raises memories of past monsters like Simpson-Bowles, and Tower (Iran-Contra), and 9/11—flashy public hearings followed by reports with all the sharp edges sanded off by internal politics, followed by leaks from dissatisfied staffers in which the staffers claim that they had The Answer, if only the commission members weren’t so a) corrupt, b) partisan, and c) starstruck. In a few years, everybody gets jobs on cable news shows so they can opine on the work of the special blue-ribbon commission looking into whatever the next catastrophe is. A Blue-Ribbon Commission is the living embodiment of the concept of Better Than Nothing.

Son of longtime right-wing activist and media bloviator Brent Bozell (a founder of Newsbusters and Media Research Center) has been arrested on three federal charges for actions during the January 6 sedition. He was one of the nutters who made it to the floor of the Senate. Headline from Mediaite: “Brent Bozell Suggested Antifa Was Behind Capitol Riot—His Pro-Trump Son Has Just Been Charged in the Attack.”

Andy Borowitz claims that Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger, whose family is shunning him (as I noted yesterday) after his pro-impeachment vote, “is thrilled that he will no longer be invited to his cousins’ Thanksgiving. Speaking to reporters, Kinzinger said that he had been trying to get out of going to his relatives’ ‘excruciating’ festivities for years, but was never able to devise a successful strategy for doing so. ‘Little did I know that protecting and defending the Constitution from a violent insurrection was just the thing to get me bounced,’ he added.”

Dr. Bernard Lown, who I met back in my Nuclear Times days (mid-1980s), has died at the age of 99. Subhed on his obit: “He created the first effective heart defibrillator and co-founded a physicians group that campaigned against nuclear war, earning a Nobel Peace Prize.” That’s all?

Music

On this day in 1966, Bob Dylan recorded twenty takes of “Stuck Inside of Mobile” in Nashville. Out in Los Angeles, on the same day, Brian Wilson took the Beach Boys into the studio for the first recording session for “Good Vibrations.” But already out in that crazy world, Nancy Sinatra’s “Boots” made it to #1 in the UK—followed ten days later in the USA. All that’s missing above is an Austin Powers cameo. And check it out in case you think the music video was not invented until MTV came along.

Then read her recent interview on this and more at Rolling Stone, including how she semi-introduced the miniskirt to USA (although it was just a long sweater). And on Lana Del Rey saying she wants to be “a gangster Nancy Sinatra.” Yes, she has a new album collection, as she turns 80.

As I noted yesterday on the passing of salsa great Johnny Pacheco, I traveled with him and his Fania All-Stars for a two-week tour of Japan in 1976. One of the highlights, however, was meeting young, little known, singer Ruben Blades when he hooked up with us for a couple of West Coast gigs. Got to sit next to him on the jet back to NYC where this engaging, intelligent fellow talked about getting a law degree (which he would achieve, at Harvard, no less). Also, he vowed to return to Panama one day to run for president there—impossible! But he did it in 1994, winning 17% of the vote and later served in a cabinet post. Of course he also went on become one of the most popular salsa stars—and a well-established Hollywood actor, won Emmy Awards and most recently had a key role in Fear of the Walking Dead. Here he delivers my favorite of his songs with a very happy guest guitarist by the name of Jerry Garcia.

Rupert Neve, the “Steve Jobs of Audio,” has died at 94. Find out more.

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Film/TV

The HBO series covering the Woody Allen-Mia Farrow case (and focusing on daughter Dylan) is starting this weekend and is sure to be divisive. Here’s an early review from Variety: “When this series works best is in the moments it most resembles another recent project of its type, the Michael Jackson documentary Leaving Neverland. That film was tightly focused on testimony rather than expansive evaluation of the Jackson career and legacy; its accusers, like Dylan, had stories they were ready to tell.”

First trailer for Netflix doc on Biggie:

Somehow I missed until now the trailer for film called Me You Madness—written, directed, and starring Louise Linton, Steve Mnuchin’s wife. It dropped last weekend (like a rock), earning a whopping 22% at Rotten Tomatoes. Would love to see a poster with these actual blurbs: “To call this a vanity project is an insult to vanity projects.”— Hollywood Reporter. “A one-joke film”—Salon. “A female version of American Psycho shot like a car commercial.”—KPCC, Los Angeles.

Amend, a doc on 14th Amendment with Will Smith, launches today on Netflix.

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Media

Erik Wemple on CNN’s Chris Cuomo failing to cover, at all, his brother’s now-emerging failures in managing the Covid crisis in New York.

New book by former top 60 Minutes producer Ira Rosen skewers Mike Wallace and others. He describes feeling trapped and “enduring years of misery thanks to Wallace, whose workday behavior — sexually harassing women in the office; subjecting colleagues to tirades and tantrums — belied the righteous enforcer he played on camera for some 50 years.”

He also writes that Wallace regularly peppered colleagues with questions about their sex lives; lashed out at them for no good reason; grabbed the bottoms and breasts of women who worked in the office; pulled them onto his lap; and snapped bra straps…. And even if Wallace and [Don] Hewitt were geniuses, it didn’t excuse their Neanderthal behavior toward women. If I had been a 26-year-old woman working for Wallace in 1980, I doubt I would have survived the experience.” In addition to his icon-busting description of Wallace, Rosen paints unflattering portraits of two other “60 Minutes” correspondents, Steve Kroft and Katie Couric.

Speaking of unflattering, The New York Times reports: “In another sign of the financial industry’s increasing influence on the newspaper business, Tribune Publishing, the publisher of nine major metropolitan dailies including The Chicago Tribune and The Daily News, announced on Tuesday that it had agreed to give complete ownership of the company to Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund that has drastically cut costs at newspapers it controls….The Baltimore Sun, one of Tribune Publishing’s major papers, will not be part of the final arrangement. Under the agreement, it will go to a nonprofit formed by Stewart Bainum Jr., a Maryland hotel executive.”

Song Pick of the Day

The Clash made their NYC debut on this day in 1979, at the Palladium, and I was there, in the closing weeks of Crawdaddy, which had just changed its name (I was not involved) to the bland Feature. As memory serves they played this popular cover.

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Greg Mitchell is the author of a dozen books, including the bestseller The Tunnels (on escapes under the Berlin Wall), the current The Beginning or the End (on MGM’s wild atomic bomb movie), and The Campaign of the Century (on Upton Sinclair’s left-wing race for governor of California), which was recently picked by the Wall St. Journal as one of five greatest books ever about an election. For nearly all of the 1970s he was the #2 editor at the legendary Crawdaddy. Later he served as longtime editor of Editor & Publisher magazine. He recently co-produced a film about Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and now has written and directed his first feature, Atomic Cover-up, which will have its American premiere at a festival this spring.