Maybe only an academic could love this, but a scholar rooting in a historical archive uncovered a very topical piece of legitimate current events commentary. Will Kaufman, Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Central Lancashire in the UK, was nosing in the Woody Guthrie Archives in Tulsa when he discovered a lease from 1950. Woody had returned from his WWII hitch in the Merchant Marine and run smack into the post-war housing shortage. One response to the shortage was loans and subsidies to real estate developers from the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), begun in a racist time with actual written guidelines demanding racial segregation. Combined with VA racial discrimination in guaranteeing GI loans, the FHA policy meant that the ghettoization of U.S. cities was very much a federal project.
One of the “affordable housing” developments on the federal dime aimed at white veterans was Beach Haven, where Woody Guthrie signed a lease with one Fred Trump, father of The Donald, who credits Fred with teaching him useful skills and also instilling the ambition to serve a better class of tenants.
The scruffy Okie folk singer who would inspire a generation of more-popular entertainers—most famously, Bob Dylan—soon got crosswise with the racist policies of his landlord. The evidence was an unpublished and unrecorded tune, “Old Man Trump”, and in free verse all over Woody’s handwritten notebooks.
Woody was not writing for the public, exactly, but his private notes and unpublished song anticipated Civil Rights complaints against both Fred and Donald brought long after Woody’s death and reported in the Village Voice in 1979.
British academic Will Kaufman published his findings in The Conversation under a Creative Commons license, much like the body of Woody Guthrie’s work. I am required by the terms of that license to say that Kaufman does not endorse any conclusions I’ve drawn from his discoveries reported here.
Kaufman also uncovered a lost verse of the Woody Guthrie Dust Bowl tune covered by Bruce Springsteen on a tribute album. Listen to Springsteen and imagine an additional verse:
Beach Haven ain’t my home!
I just cain’t pay this rent!
My money’s down the drain!
And my soul is badly bent!
Beach Haven looks like heaven
Where no black ones come to roam!
No, no, no! Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!
Another confluence of Brits and Trump was in the news because a citizen petition in the United Kingdom attracted enough signatures to require a government response. The House of Commons spent three hours debating whether to ban Donald J. Trump from the country for hate speech. To require action, a petition requires 100,000 signatures. The anti-Trump petition got over half a million.
I learned something in the Commons debate, partially broadcast in the U.S. I already knew “buffoon” and “idiot” but I had to look up “wazzock.” Let me save you the trouble. It is British slang dating from the eighties and meaning “a stupid or annoying person.”
Anne McLaughlin of the Scottish National Party apologized on behalf of Scotland, since Trump claims Scots ancestry. She then pointed out that Muslims have been banned from entering the U.K. for less hateful remarks than several Trump made.
Free speech for rich people prevailed, and Trump was not banned.
Back on this side of the pond, The Donald’s Teflon streak continued with what shall go down in history as his Two Corinthians Speech at Liberty University, where he was blessed by Jerry Falwell, Jr. in spite of being—as Dana Milbanks wrote in The Washington Post—“a thrice- married head of a gambling empire who talks about the need to kill members of terrorists’ families.”
I was scratching my head how somebody with that biography could be sweeping the evangelical vote until my cousin Ray Sixkiller explained. “Trump is the only candidate who promises to fight the War on Christmas and win.”
The Trump campaign issued press credentials for a rally in the second largest city in Oklahoma, “Tusla.” I guess if they had spelled it right some reporter might have stumbled on the Woody Guthrie Archives.
Reality TV star Sarah Palin has endorsed reality TV star Donald Trump for president. The Hill reported that The Donald allowed Palin could “play a position” in a Trump administration.
Palin expressed an interest in being Secretary of Energy, a department she is on record as wanting to eliminate.
“That explains it,” Cousin Ray nodded. “She wants to be the U.S. Energy Secretary as much as she wanted to be Governor of Alaska.”
Meanwhile, The New York Times published an effort by Michael Barbaro to translate Palin’s endorsement rant to English. The effort was not completely successful, and Barbaro admitted to being stumped by this one:
Well, and then, funny, ha ha, not funny, but now, what they’re doing is wailing, “Well, Trump and his Trumpeters, they’re not conservative enough.”
True to form, Palin coined a new word, “squirmishes,” and a simile that will go down in history, “political correctness” is “worn like a suicide vest.”
Proving that justice exists, Ted Cruz, a major supporter of the Citizens United principles of “one dollar-one vote” and anonymous political cash is being attacked by dark money in Iowa. The ads attack Cruz’s Christian bona fides in a state where evangelicals are the key to victory, claiming Cruz does not tithe or even seriously donate to Christian causes.
On the Democratic side of the bipartisan mud fest, the redbaiting has begun, with Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill predicting that the Republicans will run ads with a hammer and sickle. “It’s a safe bet,” Cousin Ray observed, “that very few U.S. voters know what the hammer and sickle guys in the Soviet Union did to the socialists.”
You already read in this column that the Democratic National Committee is in the tank for Hillary Clinton and that’s why they limited the number of debates and put them at times inconvenient to watch. Now Ms. Clinton is in trouble and all of a sudden she needs more debates. The DNC rushes in to provide them after all these months of explaining why “the people” wanted few.
The big story of the 2016 elections is the establishments of both parties getting caught with their thumbs on the scales.
On the Republican side, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley used the GOP response to the State of the Union to deliver a rebuke to Donald Trump that was plainly approved in advance by the Republican National Committee.
On the Democratic side, the DNC first manipulated the debate rules to keep Lawrence Lessig from raising the issue of dark money corruption in both parties, then minimized the number of debates and pushed them into less desirable TV times when Hillary Clinton was running ahead. Now that the race is tightening and it’s in Clinton’s interest to have more debates, the DNC is happy to oblige.
The one bit of hopeful political news is President Trump’s promise that Sarah Palin can “play a position,” which is certain to mean full employment for political snark mongers like yours truly. With that, and because the NFL playoffs are rolling without the Washington team, it’s necessary to report a little about those who play games on purpose.
Cincinnati Bengals fans were riled when NFL Vice President of Officiating (I am not making up that title) Dean Blandino opined that a jaw-dropping athletic capture of the football against Martavis Bryant’s leg should not have been ruled a catch. The “catch,” which changed the outcome of a playoff game as certainly as any counterfactual speculation could be, survived instant replay.
If Bengals fans were unhappy with officiating on the field, they can take some consolation in a report on Cincinnati.com that the record number of fan arrests at the game (6) were evenly divided between supporters of the Bengals and supporters of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I note, in light of the NFL’s historical problems with violence against women, that two of the arrests involved “men” putting their fists to the face of women.
There was one woman-beater on each side of the field and, before you ask, the reporting on which team an arrestee was supporting was determined by the paraphernalia on display at the booking desk.
I noted that Sarah Palin managed to blame President Obama for her son beating up his girlfriend, and so I wondered if Obama had attended the Bengal-Steelers game. He didn’t.
I’ll never forget Antwaan Randle El’s 43-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward in Super Bowl XL. He played his college ball at Indiana University when I was teaching there, and he was enough to make you pay attention to football at a basketball school.
Randle El is now getting forgetful, as well as unable to walk up and down stairs. Football, he believes, has damaged both his body and his mind. He is wishing he had taken the offer to play baseball extended by the Chicago Cubs.
“We gotta know he’s serious,” Cousin Ray said sadly, “if he is wishing he was on the Cubbies’ roster.”
Turning to the other favorite American game—the one on Wall Street—MarketWatch had an article about stock advice that was really funny or really not funny, depending on whether you had skin in the game.
Since just before the crash in 2008, if you had invested every year in the ten S&P 500 stocks most highly recommended by professional analysts, you would be up 61 percent.
Sounds pretty good, right?
If you had just bought an S&P index fund and done no trading at all, you would be up 67 percent.
But that’s not the punch line.
If you had invested every year in the 10 S&P 500 stocks with the worst analyst ratings, you would be up 180%!
“Imagine,” the article asks, “what would happen if doctors’ diagnoses turned out to be less reliable than just randomly picking the name of a disease out of a medical dictionary.”
“What’s the big deal?” Cousin Ray asked, and went on to point out that the analysts have valuable information. “All you have to do is buy what they tell you to sell and vice versa.”
The Daily Beast reported that South Carolina Rep. Mike Pitts has introduced the South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry Law “to establish requirements for persons before working as a journalist for a media outlet and for media outlets before hiring a journalist.”
When I checked with my editor to see if ICTMN would pay for my license, he wanted to know what I was complaining about, because I could buy a gun in South Carolina?
Cousin Ray explained that going armed gets quicker interviews.
I was wondering if needing a journalism license means blogging is no longer allowed in South Carolina? Or what about reporting on other people’s blogs?
Cousin Ray shook his head. “They don’t call you ‘Loophole’ for nothing.” I wasn’t aware anybody called me “Loophole.”