A FIRST FOR AN AMERICAN PRESIDENT, AND A FIRST FOR DONALD TRUMP

In the final moments of his presidency, Mr. Trump is confronting an unfamiliar fate: He is being held to account as never before for things he has said.

President Trump at the White House on Wednesday. During the final days of his presidency, he is being held to account as never before for things he has said, finding his typical defenses insufficient.
President Trump at the White House on Wednesday. During the final days of his presidency, he is being held to account as never before for things he has said, finding his typical defenses insufficient.Credit…Oliver Contreras for The New York Times

By Matt Flegenheimer and Maggie Haberman

  • Jan. 16, 2021

When President Trump faced (and overcame) the gravest crisis of his first campaign, he defended his boasts of sexual assault on the “Access Hollywood” tape as ultimately harmless gabbing. “Locker room talk,” he said, nothing to dwell on.

When the president faced (and overcame) impeachment in 2019 after pressing the Ukrainian president to investigate Joseph R. Biden Jr., he insisted it was merely an innocuous case of two guys talking. “A perfect call,” he said, not a high crime.

And when Mr. Trump leaves the White House no later than Wednesday — amid the impeachment sequel and uncommon comeuppance he has encountered since inciting a riotous mob in Washington on Jan. 6 — he will surrender a valued perk: an executive phone system, he once enthused, that made it feel as though his words would self-destruct before they became self-destructive.

“The world’s most secure system,” Mr. Trump marveled in a 2017 interview during his first week in office, observing that no one was listening in and recording. “The words just explode in the air.”

Poof. Gone. Just as he likes it.

For most of Mr. Trump’s 74 years, the relationship between his words and their consequences has been fairly straightforward: He says what he wants, and nothing particularly durable tends to happen to him.

But in the final frames of his presidency, Mr. Trump is confronting an unfamiliar fate. He is being held to account as never before for things he has said, finding his typical defenses — denial, obfuscation, powerful friends, claiming it was all a big joke — insufficient in explaining away a violent mob acting in his name.

Aides could not do it for him, anonymously offering more palatable accounts.

Allies could not argue that he had been misunderstood.

His own words were all anyone needed to hear on this one.

Supporters of Mr. Trump stormed the Capitol this month after he held a rally.
Supporters of Mr. Trump stormed the Capitol this month after he held a rally.Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times

In almost certainly the most expansive series of penalties he has incurred in his life, Mr. Trump’s Twitter account has been banned, his business brand badly dented, his presidency doomed to the historical infamy of a second impeachment. His largest lender, Deutsche Bank, is moving to create distance from him. His New Jersey golf club was stripped of a major tournament. Some once-reliable Republican congressional loyalists are revisiting their commitment, threatening his grip on the party, even as the president’s popularity with much of his support base remains undimmed.

~~~ CONTINUE ~~~

‘I JUST FOLLOWED MY INTERESTS’: GARRY TRUDEAU ON 50 YEARS OF ‘DOONESBURY’

.


~~~ LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW ~~~

January 13, 2021

JON KALISH

Monday, October 26, 1970 DOONESBURY © G. B. Trudeau. Reprinted with permission of ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION. All rights reserved.ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

The ground-breaking comic strip Doonesbury has been with us for a half-century. It was the first daily comic strip to win a Pulitzer Prize for tackling social issues, politics and war. It’s also been censored for some of those same reasons. 

It all began as an irreverent strip called Bull Tales in the Yale Daily News when Garry Trudeau was a junior. Its main character was B.D., who was based on Yale’s standout quarterback, Brian Dowling. The strip caught the attention of a fledgling newspaper syndicate which told Trudeau the drawing and lettering needed work but also told him it read like dispatches from the front lines of the counter culture.

Doonesbury Decades: A Timeline Of Turning Points

“You can’t exaggerate the importance of novelty in jumpstarting a career,” Trudeau says. “People were so surprised by this strip that was about sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll and politics and all the things that I was concerned about and was thinking about in college that I got cut a lot of slack.”

The story of how Universal Press Syndicate recruited Trudeau reads like a story from the strip itself. One of the syndicate’s founders stumbled upon Bull Tales and approached Trudeau using a pseudonym, offering him a 20-year contract, which the cartoonist resisted. Then, after a deal was struck, a suitcase containing the first six weeks of the new strip was stolen from Trudeau’s car.

David Stanford, who’s edited the collections of Doonesbury cartoons published as books for some 40 years, compiled an oral history of the syndicate.

“They were just geniuses at trying things nobody else had thought of and being right many times,” Stanford says. “Doonesbury was the first big thing they launched and then [came] Ziggy and then CathyFor Better Or For Worse, The Far Side and then eventually Calvin and Hobbes.

In addition to running the strip’s web site, Stanford served as the “duty officer” for The Sandbox, a blog on the Doonesbury website where soldiers, their spouses and caregivers posted about the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Garry Trudeau is shown at his office on Dec. 22, 1972.AP

Although Trudeau has opposed most American military interventions of the last 50 years, he developed great respect for the men and women who have served in the all-volunteer armed services. Col. William Nash, a fan of the comic strip, arranged to have Trudeau snuck into Kuwait in the aftermath of the first Gulf War so the cartoonist could get a sense of military life. 

The retired major general recalls a time when he was with his unit in Germany and being stunned one morning to see Zonker Harris in Doonesbury reminiscing about the days he was dodging the draft and reading through some correspondence with a Col. Nash.

“It’s 6:00 o’clock in the morning. I’m reading this and suddenly I’m in a Doonesbury cartoon,” says Nash.

B.D. is his favorite character and he cites the Doonesbury strip in April, 2004, in which B.D. loses a leg during the Battle of Fallujah in Iraq.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004 DOONESBURY © G. B. Trudeau. Reprinted with permission of ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION. All rights reserved.ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

“He brought the reality of war to the American people. And that’s a very important thing to do,” Nash says, his voice choked with emotion. “Bringing the reality of the world through a cartoon, is his great contribution to our society.”

By then the Defense Department was well aware of Trudeau’s affinity for American soldiers, which was also expressed in a series of strips about veterans having difficulty adjusting to civilian life. The Pentagon brought the cartoonist into Walter Reed Army Medical Center, as it was then called, so he could get to know veterans who’d lost limbs in war.

Trudeau has riffed on other episodes of social upheaval, including the AIDS epidemic.

Doonesbury is credited with being the first major comic strip to have a gay character. Its stories about the AIDS epidemic were criticized by some gay activists but when the character Andy Lippincott succumbed to AIDS in 1990, the San Francisco Chronicle ran an obituary for Lippincott.

Thursday, May 24, 1990 DOONESBURY © G. B. Trudeau. Reprinted with permission of ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION. All rights reserved.ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

Another Doonesbury character who came out as gay is Mark Slackmeyer, a campus rabble rouser and DJ at the Walden College radio station. In a 1996 strip, Slackmeyer accidentally outed himself and his partner on the radio. They were co-hosting a program called All Things Being Equal. Slackmeyer’s former show was All Things Reconsidered. Shortly after the strips appeared, someone in the NPR New York bureau started paging Slackmeyer on the network’s public address system in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, May 29, 1973 DOONESBURY © G. B. Trudeau. Reprinted with permission of ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION. All rights reserved.ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

Through it all, Trudeau says he’s just written about what interested him.

“I think in the beginning, I naturally asked the question, ‘What might interest an audience?’,” Trudeau says. “But, as that’s always guesswork at best, I began to ask a different question: ‘What interests me?’ Because what you learn over time is that the answer’s the same to both questions. If I’m not engaged, it’s unlikely the audience will be, so I just followed my interests. Sometimes it led me into politics, sometimes to culture, sometimes to social or interpersonal issues.”

Trudeau embraced the feminist cause through the character of Joanie Caucus. The inspiration was the cartoonist’s cousin, who he describes as a suburban mom with three kids, “who had lived The Diary of a Mad Housewife experience.” She left her marriage and Trudeau visited her in Colorado.

Saturday, November 13, 1976 DOONESBURY © G. B. Trudeau. Reprinted with permission of ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION. All rights reserved.ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

“I spent three days in a sleeping bag on the floor of her apartment debriefing her,” Trudeau recalls. “‘What could you have been thinking? What’s driving this? How are you changing? How is your world changing? How are the genders changing in relation to one another?’ And from all those conversations, I went back and came up with the character Joanie Caucus.”

Trudeau said that he chose to give her the last name Caucus because he had been volunteering for the National Women’s Political Caucus.

While Joanie Caucus has aged visually as she went from being a mom to grandmother in the strip, Zonker Harris doesn’t look a day older than he did when he showed up in B.D.’s football huddle in September 1971.

AUTHOR INTERVIEWS 

Trudeau Reflects On Four Decades Of ‘Doonesbury’

“I would say that Zonker is probably the Snoopy of Doonesbury,” Trudeau says. “I don’t draw him any differently, haven’t given him any gray hair. I allow him to be kind of forever young, although he has become a little bit more responsible now that he’s running a business.”

The business being the cultivation of recreational marijuana. At Wesleyan University in Connecticut, students have for decades celebrated Zonker Harris Day in April to salute “New England’s Greatest Living Slacker.”

At its height, the strip was carried by nearly 2,000 papers, some on their editorial pages. But Trudeau takes issue with the perception that Doonesbury is a political comic.

Thursday, March 15, 2012 DOONESBURY © G. B. Trudeau. Reprinted with permission of ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION. All rights reserved.ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION

He stopped drawing the daily strip in 2014 to focus on television writing and on the Sunday comic, which hasprimarily focused on politics over the past four years. “The one thing I miss about not being able to write the [daily] strips is that I can’t tell stories anymore.” But Trudeau says he doubts he will return to writing a daily strip because he has fallen out of the rhythm of it. 

AUTHOR INTERVIEWS 

‘Doonesbury’ Writer Lampoons Tweeting Journalists

He has been enjoying time with his kids and grandchildren. He’s been developing movie and television projects but refuses to talk about them until they’re real. But he will say that on inauguration day, he plans to suspend work on the Twitter feed of his character Roland B. Hedley, Jr., which has been a comedy haiku that gave the cartoonist an opportunity to comment on the Trump administration. 

Looking for More? Dbury@50: The Complete Digital Doonesbury, celebrates the strip’s 50th anniversary, and includes a thumb drive with all 15,000 strips. And you can find a longer version of Jon Kalish’s interview with Garry Trudeau here.

THE G.O.P.’S NEW DISTANCING POLICY ~ NYT

After years of excusing or ignoring President Trump’s most inflammatory rhetoric, many Republicans are backing away at the last minute.

By Lisa Lerer

“Enough is enough,” says Senator Lindsey Graham.
“Enough is enough,” says Senator Lindsey Graham.Credit…Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

First came the mob’s deadly rioting. Then the G.O.P.’s reputation laundering.

With less than two weeks left in the Trump administration, a number of Republicans are experiencing some last-minute revelations about the president’s character, inflammatory rhetoric and polarizing leadership of the country.

“All I can say is, count me out. Enough is enough. I’ve tried to be helpful,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of President Trump’s strongest allies, who once promised “earth-shattering” revelations of voter fraud that he falsely argued had cost Mr. Trump the election. Now, after the violent breach of the Capitol this past week, Mr. Graham is refusing to rule out using the 25th Amendment to strip his former friend of his presidential powers.

Mr. Graham is far from alone in scurrying away from all the praise he’s lavished on the president over the past four years. As a shaken Washington recovered from the violent attack on the Capitol, Republicans embraced the traditional tools of political self-preservation, offering resignations and strongly worded letters, anonymously sourced accounts of shouting matches and after-the-fact public condemnations.

Administration officials anonymously spread the word, through Axios, that they would defy any requests from Mr. Trump that “they believe would put the nation at risk or break the law,” raising the obvious question of whether they would have carried out illegal or dangerous orders over the past four years.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos quit their posts, saying they were “deeply troubled” by the president’s handling of the riot. Ms. Chao, it’s worth noting, stood next to Mr. Trump at the 2017 news conference where he insisted that “both sides” deserved blame after white supremacists incited deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va.

At least seven lower-ranking members of the Trump administration also resigned, while many more fretted that they would be unemployable.

“Now it will always be, ‘Oh yeah, you work for the guy who tried to overtake the government,’” said Mick Mulvaney, the president’s former acting chief of staff who resigned Wednesday as special envoy to Northern Ireland

Mr. Mulvaney told CNBC that the president was “not the same as he was eight months ago,” when they spoke more frequently. Left unstated was whether Mr. Trump was the same as he was four years ago, when Mr. Mulvaney called him a “terrible human being” ahead of the 2016 election.ON POLITICS WITH LISA LERER: A guiding hand through the political news cycle, telling you what you really need to know.Sign Up

Mr. Mulvaney’s journey with the president highlights one of the most striking features of the ongoing Republican revisionism. Many in the G.O.P. warned publicly during the 2016 campaign that Mr. Trump was fomenting exactly the kind of violence that the country witnessed on Wednesday — concerns that were quickly set aside once he took office.The Presidential Transition

Of course, some Republican officials may be truly horrified by Mr. Trump’s egging on of his supporters on Wednesday and his refusal to take immediate action to stop a violent takeover of the Capitol. Many of those same Republicans frequently offered private condemnations of his actions throughout his presidency — objections they studiously kept off the record.

But with less than 275 hours left in the Trump presidency, it’s hard not to see the political posturing embedded in their now-public condemnations.

Many inside and outside Washington are setting their sights on the new political reality to come with a Democratic-controlled government. After years of declining to police Mr. Trump’s falsehood-filled and threatening social media posts, Twitter on Friday permanently suspended his @realDonaldTrump account“due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” Mark Zuckerberg had earlier barred the president from Facebook and Instagram through at least the end of his term.

Many of Mr. Zuckerberg’s employees noted that Democrats had secured control of the Senate before he took the action.

But at this point, it’s an open question whether any powerful Republicans will pay a serious price for their implicit or explicit support of Mr. Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric and dalliances with violence. So far, the penalties seem to be measured mostly in bad media coverage.

Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, who championed efforts to overturn the results of the presidential election, was publicly disowned by his political mentordisavowed by some of his donorsand dropped by his book publisher — a move he blamed on a “woke mob.” 

Other elected Republicans were condemned by their hometown newspapers in scathing editorials. Cracks even emerged in Rupert Murdoch’s media empire as The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, which has been a regular Trump cheerleader for years, called on the president to resign.

Meanwhile, Democrats are pressing for resignations and permanent bans from the public sector for Trump aides, supporters and allies. Many would like to see criminal prosecutions once President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Some are even pushing to rid the federal government of all political appointees and civil servants who supported Mr. Trump.

It’s unclear whether Mr. Biden will back such efforts. Tough investigations into the previous administration could complicate his campaign promise to unite the country and his ability to get Republican support for his legislative goals. On Friday, he avoided expressing views on specific punitive actions, saying that he’d leave those judgments to his Justice Department and that voters should determine the future of politicians like Mr. Hawley and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, another Trump ally who backed the effort to overturn the election results.

For all the Republicans attempting to distance themselves from the president, 147 of them still voted to reject the results even after the siege of the Capitol. Since then, a segment of the party has embarked upon an effort to reshape reality, downplaying the violence and suggesting that far-left activists had infiltrated the crowd and posed as fans of the president.

This is obviously ridiculous: The rioters discussed plans to invade the Capitol for weeks in public social media posts. And Mr. Trump didn’t blame antifa for the rampage — instead, he told the mob, “We love you.” Still, those claims will echo through right-wing media, major news sources for the large number of activists and voters who remain loyal to Mr. Trump.

Some Republicans may be trying to jump off the Trump train at the final station. But they’ve already spent years helping fuel the engine.

TRUMPISM SUFFERS UNTOLD DAMAGE IN ITS COLLISION WITH THE U.S. CAPITOL ~ NPR

RON ELVING

On Wednesday, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol as Congress was meeting to certify the votes of the Electoral College.Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

It took a building to bring down Donald Trump.

Unleashing the angriest of his supporters this week against the U.S. Capitol may have been only the culmination of Trump’s 60-month campaign against the Washington establishment.

But it was also its undoing. And his.

When the crowd that Trump whipped up on the Ellipse marched up the National Mall with his blessing and encouragement, they became a mob assaulting and invading the Capitol. 

The Capitol is the closest thing to a national civic temple we have or would ever want in America. People who have been there once remember the awe they felt. People who go there nearly every day can still have that feeling.

That was why we were sickened by the real-time video and endlessly repeated images of desecration and terror on Wednesday — images we will live with for the rest of our lives. 

In substance, the mob’s aim was to stop the orderly, bipartisan process of electing a president. Serious as that was, what gave it the force to shock and change minds was the spectacle of it happening where it did.

Americans were sickened, and they shared that feeling across a wider spectrum of the nation’s political sentiment than at any time since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. 

There are no words to capture the spirit of the Capitol. And it is no accident that the occasions on which Trump has seemed most presidential — and was most praised for it — were his State of the Union addresses, delivered to joint sessions of Congress in the House chamber. 

He entered that chamber for those addresses through a door that on Wednesday was barricaded with furniture, plainclothes officers crouching behind with weapons drawn. Rioters could be seen through the shattered windows. Members of Congress, old and young, men and women, Republicans and Democrats, ducked and scrambled and hid. 

Forgotten for the moment was the business at hand. But to its eternal credit, the Congress returned to that same chamber later that night. It resumed the counting of votes from the Electoral College, votes cast on Dec. 14 in 50 state capitals and in the District of Columbia. Votes certified by every governor in America. Votes upheld in more than 60 cases in state and federal court.

There had been talk of reconvening the session at a more secure location. There were obvious reasons to do so. 

But there was one overriding reason to come back to the Capitol. And that was the Capitol itself. No other venue could invoke the same history and convey the same legitimacy. The Capitol is the embodiment of constitutional authority – and also of our national spirit. A moving example for many was the sight of second-term Congressman Andy Kim of New Jersey, the son of Korean immigrants, down on his knees in the Rotunda after midnight, helping clean up of bottles and trash rioters had left behind. 

“Just ransacked, just garbage and debris everywhere, all of it all over the statues, all over the floor,” he told a reporter. “It was really painful to see this room and this building that I love so much hurting.”

Provocations aplenty 

The invasion of the Capitol was not the first act of resistance to the election by Trump or his most intense loyalists. The rioters wanted to stop the count because Trump had told them that would mean another election could be held — at least in the states he falsely claimed he had won.

Three days earlier, the nation was able to hear an exceptionally clear hourlong tape of phone call of Trump urging, cajoling and pressuring state officials in Georgia to “find” enough votes to change the outcome of the November election in that state. It was stunning, undeniable and potentially incriminating

And yet we heard few cries of impeachment, few calls for an early transfer of power. Until Wednesday. And since then, those cries and calls are coming from a growing chorus in Congress, including members of both parties. They are even coming from people such as John Kelly, the retired four-star Marine general who served as Trump’s chief of staff for a year and a half, and the iconic retired Gen. Colin Powell, a Republican who was secretary of state under President George W. Bush.

These calls came despite the fact that Trump is leaving office anyway, in less than two weeks. 

Why the sudden collapse of Trump’s presidency? Yes, part of what is happening relates to the pandemic and economic unease and all the other transgressions that led to his impeachment and to his electoral defeat. Yes, it stems from his refusal to accept that defeat. 

But the final nail was the assault on the Capitol. 

More than a physical space

The Capitol was begun in 1793 when George Washington laid the cornerstone, and it has been the site where Congress has counted the Electoral College vote every time since the election of 1800. Work on the Capitol Dome was finished during the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln insisted on its completion as a measure of faith in the future.

It has been assaulted before. British troops burned it in 1814, before it had even been completed. More recent violent acts have included bombings and fatal shootings. In 1954, a group of Puerto Rican separatists fired pistols from the House gallery striking several members of Congress.

Still fresh for many is the memory of the Capitol on Sept. 11, 2001, when members were told to evacuate because one more jet airliner hijacked that day was still aloft. A commission later determined that jet was destined for the Capitol Dome when its passengers retook the cockpit and crashed it into a Pennsylvania field. The thought of what could have happened has haunted everyone who remembers it.

But the comparative rarity of those attacks and the reverberating shocks from them underscore the building’s significance. The structure is magnificent, the art inside is priceless. The decisions and debates heard here shaped our history through two centuries. The most important of our leaders have lain in state here.

But that is not what lends timeless significance to the place. What matters most is the message it conveys. 

It is the manifestation of the concepts of liberty, self-determination and the rule of law. It embodies the sacrifices of all who have served the country, and especially those who died in that service.

If we still have the capacity as a nation to honor all of that, we should be as disturbed when a president defies the law as we are when rioters desecrate the place where the law is made.

‘BROTHER ROBERT’ REVEALS TRUE STORY OF GROWING UP WITH BLUES LEGEND ROBERT JOHNSON

December 29, 20203

BEN JAMES

~~~ LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW ~~~

Annye Anderson — stepsister of Robert Johnson — published her memoir Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnsonin June.Ben James

Blues legend Robert Johnson has been mythologized as a backwoods loner, his talent the result of selling his soul to the devil. Wrong and wrong again, according to Johnson’s younger stepsister, who lives in Amherst, Mass. She tells his true story in Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnson, a memoir about growing up with her brother she published in June.

Her name is Annye Anderson, but unless you’re older than she is — and fat chance of that, as she’s 94 — you better call her Mrs. Anderson.

“People say, ‘Don’t you have a first name?'” Anderson says from the couch in her living room. “I say, ‘Yes, I do.’ And they wait for it. But I tell them, ‘Mrs. Anderson will do just fine.'” 

Amherst is a long way from the Memphis of Mrs. Anderson’s childhood, where she grew up in an extended family of siblings, half-siblings and the guitar-playing older stepbrother she called Brother Robert.

“Brother Robert and I used to do the buck dance,” Anderson says. “Because you know he could move. People don’t know. He didn’t just sit and play like they showed him with that caricature.” 

Anderson’s childhood — back then she was Annie Spencer — was steeped in the tunes played by Johnson and others, along with all the popular songs they listened to together on the radio. 

But before his mysterious death in 1938, Johnson’s “Baby Sis” only ever held one of his records in her hands. It was “Terraplane Blues,” his first release and only record to gain any popularity during his lifetime. After he died, his 29 recorded songs were quickly forgotten.

YouTube

Anderson became a short order cook, a secretary at the pentagon, a teacher and school administrator. She moved to Washington, D.C. and, later, Massachusetts. In the ’60s, amidst the civil rights movement, she began to hear something familiar on the radio: her brother’s songs.

“During the movement, people were playing his music everywhere and his riffs everywhere,” she says. “Sound familiar, but we didn’t know they were copying from — we didn’t know about Eric Clapton, and Led Zeppelin, and Keith Richards, the Rolling Stones.” 

Music and culture critic Greil Marcus has been a fan of Robert Johnson for decades. Now he’s a fan of Anderson. Marcus praises her new book — and Johnson’s artistry — in the New York Review of Books

“There is something in Robert Johnson’s music that goes beyond, goes above, that is harder, that is deeper, that burrows beneath in ways that other music doesn’t,” Marcus says. 

The cover of Brother Robert shows the third known photograph of Johnson, never before seen by the public. Anderson and her older half-sister, who she called Sister Carrie, kept that photo close for decades, storing it in a box that originally held sewing machine oil.

Brother Robert: Growing Up with Robert Johnson, by Annye C. Anderson with Preston Lauterbach.

Hachette Books

Anderson’s story begins with her family’s roots in Hazlehurst, Miss. — including her first memory of Johnson in Memphis when he swept her up and carried her up a set of steps “like lightning” — and spans the decades after her brother’s death, when a mostly-white audience invented the story of Johnson selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads, a myth that was more racist caricature than anything having to do with his actual life. 

“I’m not saying he was an angel,” Anderson says. “And I’m not saying what he didn’t and did do. Because I didn’t have him in my pocket. But people like to be on the dark side. And that’s what they paint. He’s brilliant on one side. And he’s dark on the other. And I deeply resent that.” 

The second half of Anderson’s book recounts numerous ways in which she and Sister Carrie were excluded from Johnson’s estate while white music publishers and other opportunists sought to profit from his legacy.

Anderson co-wrote Brother Robert with historian Preston Lauterbach. She sought him out herself, she says, after his book The Chitlin’ Circuit fell at her feet in the music section at her local Barnes & Noble.

“I opened it and then I saw this white face,” Anderson says. “And I said, ‘Well, what does he know about the chitlin’ circuit?'”

She bought the book and read most of it that same night, deciding she needed Lauterbach’s help in her ambition to correct the record on the life of Robert Johnson. Anderson talked about the book for years, never believing that it would exist one day. 

“She felt that the story had been told badly by outsiders for long enough,” says Elijah Wald, author of Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues. “And she wanted to tell the story herself.”

Wald, who wrote the introduction to Brother Robert, says Anderson’s book offers a necessary corrective to the image of Johnson as a backwoods loner playing primal and haunted music.

“Robert Johnson was as much the guy from Memphis who went out in the country and was the hip city guy as he ever was the guy from the dark Delta who went up to the cities,” he says. 

Marcus concurs, saying what stands out most in Brother Robert is the sheer range of American popular music flooding through Anderson’s story. A couple pages in, he says, he started making a list of songs the family listened to or played.

“And the list just grew and grew until there were maybe 20, 30, 40 different examples. And I realized no one could have a richer, broader, more mainstream American cultural life than the one that Robert Johnson lived out,” Marcus says.

Some of Anderson’s favorites included The Vagabonds, Gene Autry, Clyde McCoy now, Count Basie, Fiddlin’ John Carson, Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong. 

“Brother Robert is the one that got me into country music,” she says. “‘Course, Jimmie Rodgers was his favorite. I will never forget ‘Waiting for a Train’ and doing it with Brother Robert.” 

The two would bust up laughing at the line “Get off, get off, you railroad bums.” And then came Rogers’ famous yodel.

“I tried to yodel,” Anderson says. “But brother Robert could yodel. He could mimic anything.

YouTube

In the memoir there’s a moment, toward the end of Johnson’s life, when a young Anderson walks her brother to a spot on Highway 61 so he can hitch a ride across the Mississippi. He smelled of cigarettes, Anderson writes, and Dixie Peach pomade:

“He would say, ‘Well, little girl, this is far as you could go,’ Because I wasn’t supposed to go but so far. He’d give me a hug — ‘Bye Little Sis’ — and tell me to go straight home.” 

Many of Johnson’s fans would likely sell their own souls to be able to follow him down that highway to his next house party and to hear his version of “Waiting for a Train.” Instead, they’ve got his 29 recorded songs. And now they have Anderson’s memoir.

caballero club de pesca

An afternoon on the river

Tenkara Master Liske stalking another victim

crédito total de la foto, rŌbert

Tenkara student, rŌbert

guided by Masters ~

temporarily interrupts Rainbow life

crédito total, Bill Liske

Frigley & rŌbert work on the release …

Tenkara and Netting Master, Bill Liske explaining the fine art of netting

Crédito total, Bob Newman

IN LAST RUSH, TRUMP GRANTS MINING AND ENERGY FIRMS ACCESS TO PUBLIC LANDS ~ NYT

The outgoing administration is pushing through approval of corporate projects over the opposition of environmental groups and tribal communities.

The Oak Flat area of the Tonto National Forest, east of Phoenix. Under a Forest Service plan to create a copper mine, much of Oak Flat would be destroyed.
The Oak Flat area of the Tonto National Forest, east of Phoenix. Under a Forest Service plan to create a copper mine, much of Oak Flat would be destroyed.Credit…Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

By Eric Lipton

In Arizona, the Forest Service is preparing to sign off on the transfer of federal forest land — considered sacred by a neighboring Native American tribe — to allow construction of one of the nation’s largest copper mines.

In Utah, the Interior Department may grant final approval as soon as next week to a team of energy speculators targeting a remote spot inside an iconic national wilderness area — where new energy leasing is currently banned — so they can start drilling into what they believe is a huge underground supply of helium.

In northern Nevada, the department is close to granting final approval to construct a sprawling open-pit lithium mine on federal land that sits above a prehistoric volcano site.

And in the East, the Forest Service intends to take a key step next month toward allowing a natural gas pipeline to be built throughthe Jefferson National Forest in Virginia and West Virginia, at one point running underneath the Appalachian Trail.

These projects, and others awaiting action in the remaining weeks of the Trump administration, reflect the intense push by the Interior Department, which controls 480 million acres of public lands, and the Forest Service, which manages another 193 million acres, to find ways to increase domestic energy and mining production, even in the face of intense protests by environmentalists and other activists.

When he takes office on Jan. 20, Mr. Biden, who has chosen a Native American — Representative Deb Haaland, Democrat of New Mexico — to lead the Interior Department, will still have the ability to reshape, slow or even block certain projects.

Some, like the South Dakota uranium mine, will require further approvals, or face lawsuits seeking to stop them, like the planned helium drilling project in Utah. But others, like the lithium mine in Nevada, will have the final federal permit needed before construction can begin, and will be hard for the next administration to stop.

Whether they are the final word or not, the last-minute actions are just the latest evidence of how the far-reaching shift in regulatory policy under Mr. Trump has altered the balance between environmental concerns and business, giving substantial new weight to corporate interests.

Mr. Trump chose former industry executives to run major federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department, and industry executives and lobbyists who cycled in and out of government positions were granted substantial influence in setting regulations.

For four years, Mr. Trump’s team and its allies have raced to roll back federal rules intended to protect federal lands and the nation’s air and water, as well as other safety rules in agencies across the government. The changes were often made in direct response to requests from lobbyists and company executives who were major donors to Mr. Trump and frequent patrons at his hotels and resorts.

The final push on the mining and energy projects has come in part from senior Trump administration officials, including the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, a steel industry investor before joining Mr. Trump’s cabinet.

Mr. Ross’s calendar shows at least three appointments with top executives at Rio Tinto, the Australia-based mining giant backing the Resolution Copper mine planned for construction in Arizona next to the San Carlos Apache reservation. Mr. Ross also made a trip to the mine site this year.

“As far as I am concerned, this is an invasion by a foreign power,” said Wendsler Nosie Sr., a former San Carlos Apache tribal leader who is protesting against the copper mine in Arizona.
“As far as I am concerned, this is an invasion by a foreign power,” said Wendsler Nosie Sr., a former San Carlos Apache tribal leader who is protesting against the copper mine in Arizona .Credit…Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

“This is a disaster,” said Wendsler Nosie Sr., a former San Carlos Apache tribal leader who in recent weeks has been camping out at the proposed mine site inside the Tonto National Forest to protest the pending decision. 

Backers of these projects say they are committed to minimizing the effect on public lands, sacred Native American sites and wildlife. ………. what bullshit! rŌbert editorial

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