Tuesday, July 26, 2016

If Clinton Loses, It Won’t Be Sanders’ Fault

I’ve been worried that if Clinton loses the general election her supporters would have a ready made scapegoat: the Bernie Bros. This meme has been transparently taking shape throughout the primaries, and I thought it reflected the deep and well-earned insecurities of the Clinton campaign. The primaries weren’t even half over and you could already see Bernie being set up to be the new Nader.

This would conveniently shift blame from the nominees own gargantuan flaws and give the Dems an excuse to move even further right, which is what they want anyway: See, progressives always cost us the general election. America is a center-right country!

(Don’t let last night’s Potemkin populism fool you. The “most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic party” will be luxuriously shat upon and rejected bell, book and candle the second Hillary Clinton is sworn in. The Clintons simply do not agree with it. It is not who they are.)

Anyway, somebody phone up the DNC with the latest: Ninety-percent of “consistent” Sanders supporters “favor Clinton over Trump.” It’s all hers to lose from now on, and I’ve no doubt her insular, lead-footed political team will find plenty of ways to do so between now and November.

Of course, if Clinton loses we’ll have much more important things to do than bicker over who was to blame, like scrambling to find which countries will accept a flood of desperate American refugees (as opposed to those who are simply going to slam their doors in our faces and throw a great big schadenfreude party.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Krugman Takes A Jog Through Versailles

Paul Krugman took a jog through the Upper West Side and concluded America’s just peachy again:
If you want to feel good about the state of America, you could do a lot worse than what I did this morning: take a run in Riverside Park. There are people of all ages, and, yes, all races exercising, strolling hand in hand, playing with their dogs, kicking soccer balls and throwing Frisbees. There are a few homeless people, but the overall atmosphere is friendly – New Yorkers tend to be rushed, but they’re not nasty – and, well, nice.

Yes, the Upper West Side is affluent. But still, I’ve seen New York over the decades, and it has never been as pleasant, as safe in feel, as it is now. And this is the big bad city! 
He took a jog through a rich part of Manhattan and it was, well, nice! There were happy couples holding hands and strolling in leafy glades, and people playing Frisbee and soccer. Some of these people were even brown, and yet they didn’t mug or assault a rich white academic as he was out getting his cardio!

There were a few homeless people, to be sure, but not enough to change the overall picture. You might say they were statistically insignificant and hence easy to disregard. Of course, economists make a living disregarding variables that don’t fit their models. That’s how they win Nobel Prizes and earn enough money to live on the Upper West Side, where they can deplore the evils of inequality without ever having to actually smell a poor person.

But there is a problem. If things are so good, why do so many people think they’re terrible? Why do so many people drink Trump’s Kool-Aid and agree with his dark description of America? The professor gives us his answer:
A lot of Republican-leaning voters apparently believe that the economy is terrible in the teeth of their own experience – that the pretty good job market they see is a local aberration. And “crime” may not really mean “crime” – it may just be code for “brown people.”
In other words, they’re just dumb racists who don’t know how good they’ve got it. They are willfully ignoring good economic news —presumably all those new jobs at Wal-Mart — and insisting things are rotten in the teeth of their own experience. Thus saith the rich man to the proles.

I think it’s true that many, if not most, of Trump’s supporters are ignorant racists, but Trump’s appeal goes much deeper than that. Many of these people are driven to racism and xenophobia because of genuine economic despair. Krugman does not acknowledge this. Instead, he paints a misleadingly rosy picture of the economy that enables him to ignore their legitimate grievances and characterize them as mere bigots.

It’s impossible not to notice that this is the same tactic Krugman used against Sanders and his supporters. Sanders — a demagogic narcissist by definition — pitched a falsely dystopian view of the American economy that his followers mindlessly lapped up, because all of his followers were, as all the grown-ups knew, just dupes, fanatics and possibly sexist “Bernie Bros.”

This condescending dismissal of people with real problems and legitimate complaints will lead to electoral defeat. If policy makers and influential thinkers maintain this attitude in the face of growing discontent it will lead to much worse.

Krugman was one of the few bright lights during the Bush dark age, and it’s disheartening to see an intellectual of his stature stoop to this kind of partisan hackery. More importantly, he’s displaying precisely the kind of elitist liberal arrogance that bolsters Trump’s appeal (and will also drive independents away from Hillary). When influential public intellectuals engage in this kind behavior, it lends credence to the notion that our elites are corrupt, dishonest, and completely out-of-touch.

Stop telling part-time Walmart workers with no prospects for a better life that the economy is pretty good and they have nothing to be angry about. Stop telling retail clerks and baristas who pay more than two-thirds of their income toward rent and student loans that they should be doing cartwheels because the unemployment rate dropped one percent. Stop pissing statistics down people’s backs and calling it rain!

But if you must, don’t do it from the Upper West Side, for God’s sake. Are you bloody daft, man? This is let them eat cake territory. This is an attitude that will catapult Donald Trump straight into the White House.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Adoring Waste of Souls

Here’s a poem by James Joyce, just for the hell of it:

Gaunt in gloom,
The pale stars their torches,
Enshrouded, wave.
Ghostfires from heaven's far verges faint illume,
Arches on soaring arches,
Night's sindark nave.

The lost hosts awaken
To service till
In moonless gloom each lapses muted, dim,
Raised when she has and shaken
Her thurible.

And long and loud,
To night's nave upsoaring,
A starknell tolls
As the bleak incense surges, cloud on cloud,
Voidward from the adoring
Waste of souls.

Pointless Observation

Donald Trump is the only thing on planet earth that makes Hillary Clinton look good.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Idiot America

Full grown adults are wandering into traffic and getting into accidents playing Pokemon. They also pay twelve bucks to go see superhero movies and think Batman versus Superman is a worthwhile topic of conversation. Donald Trump might become president.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this how a species goes extinct. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Hillary’s First Hundred Days

What can we expect during the first hundred days of a Clinton presidency? The New York Times let’s us know:
Should she win the presidency, Hillary Clinton would quickly try to find common ground with Republicans on an immigration overhaul and infrastructure spending, risking the wrath of liberals who would like nothing more than to twist the knife in a wounded opposition party.
Economic inequality is destroying the United States. It has fractured the Republicans, led to the emergence of a proto-fascist demagogue, and nearly cost Hillary the democratic nomination (to a socialist, no less). It is warping the entire character of this nation and gradually turning it into a third world country. It is the fundamental political problem of our time, and it’s causing upheavals not just in the United States but in Europe as well. Ignoring it constitutes political malfeasance of the highest order.

But our next president and her handlers, tucked away in the soundproof womb of the Beltway, don’t see or hear any of it. The tectonic plates of history are shifting and buckling beneath their feet, but when they put their big brains together all they can come up with is … bipartisan immigration reform!

This is vision on the level of a Warren Harding or a James Buchanan. At best, this is the usual bipartisan happy talk that all candidates have to use to sooth the folks and reassure the powerful. At worst, it reflects a staggering disconnectedness from the actual world.

And how will Hillary achieve this bipartisan miracle? Simple. she’s going to change the upholstery, and this is somehow going to make the car run better:
In her first 100 days, she would also tap women to make up half of her cabinet in hopes of bringing a new tone and collaborative sensibility to Washington, while also looking past Wall Street to places like Silicon Valley for talent — perhaps wooing Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook, and maybe asking Tim Cook from Apple to become the first openly gay cabinet secretary.

Women, gays and Silicon Valley CEOs are going to bring a new tone! Sounds like a brave new world to me. Why hasn’t anybody ever thought of this before?

This from a campaign that routinely derided Sander’s supporters as shallow naifs, as whiny children who believed in change fairies and unicorns and just didn’t grasp the tough nitty-gritty of politics.

She’s incapable of thinking beyond the narrow Washington group-think that has formed her entire worldview. She’s spent a lifetime inside the bowels of the establishment, which can only be done if you never rock the boat and never go below the surface politics of things. Even if she does grasp the fundamentals of our predicament, she would never have the political will to act on it. It would go against the grain of her entire life. She will tinker around the edges, like Obama and her husband before her, a nip here, a tuck there, and rainbow colored band-aids everywhere, while the great rotting barge of the country drifts ever closer to the iceberg. Putting her in the White House at this moment in history is like putting an orthodontist in charge of a major heart operation.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Name That Holiday

War movies and sports are on TV. American flags are everywhere. You smell hot dogs, and all day long you’ve been urged to give thanks and remember the troops (living or dead? You can’t remember) because they gave us our freedom. Every half-ass used car salesmen and furniture store is running ads that beat you over the head with their patriotism. There is a peculiar listlessness to it all. People’s joy seems perfunctory, or at any rate less natural than on a typical Friday night. They’re doing what they do because that’s what you do that day.

What holiday is being celebrated? Is it Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, or the Fourth of July? Does it matter?

Saturday, July 2, 2016

My Old Friends

Thanks to Facebook, I get to see which of my high school chums turned into right wing morons. There are a couple, mostly gun worshiping NRA zealots (with a smattering of climate change denial thrown in for fun. It reveals itself in smug quips that they think are debate stoppingly witty, but in fact are just witlessly, debate stoppingly stupid, like, “It just snowed here. Suck on that, Al Gore, yuk yuk).

They are walking, talking examples of the need for increased spending on education, which of course they oppose with guns at the ready, like Thomas Jefferson would have wanted (and George Washington too, or didn’t you commie libs learn American history in school?)

It’s a study in disappointment, another grim life lesson learned. They were so nice and fun when we were young, and now they are just, well, not. Sometimes it’s better to lose touch.

I’m not the butter-cheeked optimist I used to be either, but I didn’t become a belligerent, gun-loving misanthrope the day I discovered the boss is an asshole. These guys did. These guys became touchy and defensive “libertarians” the minute they had to start paying child support or were fined fifty bucks by the DMV. Such are the mundane traumas that drive our hysterical right; such are the oppressions that call these patriots to arms.

If I was watching from a different planet I’d piss my pants laughing, assuming I hadn’t been bored into a coma first.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Our Hideous Prospects

Okay, I won’t bash Hillary anymore. We’re acutely aware of her flaws. We know she is distressingly hawkish and neoliberal. We know she is a dull, stale, depressingly conventional figure and her policies will reflect that. She is going to deliver four years of tepid, lackluster, gruel and tap water “leadership” that’s going to teach us all what it was like to live under Millard Fillmore. “Living History” indeed! Her atrocious sycophants — the Lanny Davis, Susan Estrich types — will invade the airwaves like a pestilence to convince us she’s the greatest thing since Roosevelt, and they will accuse the opposition of sexism at every goddamn turn because that’s all they will have.

Meanwhile, the screeching apes on the right will howl that she’s a lezzo fenminist pinko bent on destroying the Constitution. Good God, it’s enough to make us want to renounce our citizenship and become a gardener in Uruguay.

And every evening we will scratch our head and wonder how the country of our birth degenerated into such a ludicrous cartoon madhouse. Are we really this awful?

Obnoxious sound and obnoxious fury signifying absolutely fucking nothing.

But we must vote for her, and we will, because her opponent is Donald Trump, a dangerous, stunted narcissist who must never, ever, ever be allowed to wield power.

This is the best we can do.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Inside The Clinton White House, 2018

Once again, the Democrats have been shellacked in the midterms. There is stunned disbelief in the White House. Niether Hillary nor her political team saw it coming, which was surprising because they were the most diverse group of experts ever to be assembled from both Harvard and Yale. They were the brightest minds in the country, a group Thomas Friedman compared favorably to presidential brain trusts of the past. Think JFK with an iPhone, he gushed, trying to convey something of their sheer dazzling awesomeness to an unenlightened public.

They were young, hip, dynamic and cutting edge. Thinking outside the box and pushing boundaries was mother’s milk to them. Hell, they practically did it in their sleep. They watched Game of Thrones, compulsively used Twitter, and put cute little emojis in their email correspondence …

They told Hillary to resurrect TPP and fast track it through Congress. She did. They told to her cut Social Security. She did. They told her to go easy on Wall Street. She did. They told not to raise the minimum wage. She didn’t. They said strengthen ties with Israel, get tough with Putin, and when it came to Syria and ISIS, there were only four little words: boots on the ground. Done, done and done.

Then, shockingly, the Democrats got trounced, and none of Hillary’s bright young political sharpies had the faintest idea why. They frantically texted back and forth that it was, like, the Dark Side had won, and, like, Sith lords controlled America! Their emojis told the story:

Now Hillary was staring down the barrel of Republican domination and one term mediocrity. Was it possible that the most qualified candidate in the history of the universe would rank alongside like Herbert Hoover or, gasp, G.H.W. Bush? Despair grips the White House. The atmosphere is funereal.

President Clinton gazes out of the Oval Office, cradling a cup of herbal tea with both hands. It is her second cup in a row - an unseemly indulgence, to be sure, but these were extraordinary times. Surely Hugh Rodham, glowering down from his Methodist heaven, wouldn’t begrudge her this minor lapse? She had, after all, earned straight A’s at Wellesley and became America’s first female president.

Huma Abedin tip toes up as quietly as a mortician and whispers in Hillary’s ear: “Jeb Bush sends his condolences. He says he knows exactly how you feel.”

Indeed. Hillary nods and turns away. Needing no verbal instruction, Huma withdraws as silently as a ghost. A natural born servant, Huma is psychically in tune with Hillary. She anticipates Hillary’s needs with uncanny prescience, materializing like some wispy spirit at just the right moment with a cup of hot tea here, a gluten-free macaroon there, or a clean salad fork when Hillary noticed water spots on the old one — something that unfailingly incurred Her displeasure.

Hillary was Huma’s whole world, her sun and her moon, the lodestar in her firmament. Without Hillary she would be utterly lost and helpless, like Barney without Fred or Boo Boo without Yogi. Because of her link to Hillary, it wasn’t even that bad when her husband got caught putting pictures of his weenie online. There had been titters at the gym, the Whole Foods, and her favorite trattoria, but safe within Hillary’s orbit she was able to weather the storm. She recalled the amazing moment Hillary came into her life, and Shangra-La had opened its doors. It was like meeting the Dalai Llama, attending an Amway seminar, and doing Pilates all at the same time!
“You know these things that happen in your life that just stick? She walked by and she shook my hand and our eyes connected and I just remember having this moment where I thought; “Wow, this is amazing,”’ said Abedin. ‘And it just inspired me. You know, I still remember the look on her face. And it’s funny, and she would probably be so annoyed that I say this, but I remember thinking; “Oh my God, she’s so beautiful and she’s so little!”’
On the strength of this vapid epiphany a beautiful relationship was born. Now Huma waited on Hillary with Goebbels-like devotion. She believed implicitly that Hillary was always the smartest and most competent person in the room, and those who refused to acknowledge this basic fact were swiftly and deservedly removed, often under the approving glare of Huma. She was quick to smell treason in the ranks and gave Hillary frequent updates on those deemed insufficiently loyal.

Hillary has assembled an impromptu meeting with her economic team, which consists of Larry Summers, Robert Rubin, and Secretary of the Treasury Jamie Dimon, who is, however, busy playing racquetball at the moment. He sees no reason to forgo his daily workout on account of a meeting with a mere president. Alan Greenspan, who will never die or go away, ever, is on speaker phone, and friend of the administration Paul Krugman shuffles in late, harried and disheveled, papers sticking out of his briefcase.

Rahm Emmanuel and David Brock are off in the shadows, huddled together like two adolescents engaged in naughty shenanigans. As Huma passes by, she hears Rahm say to David, “That’s when I discovered frogs have more highly developed central nervous systems than insects, which makes their pain much, much more exquisite.”

“Sit down, Paul,” Hillary coldly orders. There is a hardness in her tone that makes Krugman uneasy.

“What happened, Paul?”

Krugman fidgets and stutters. “Well, uh, gee, you know, um, I’m just an academic with a beard, you know? And, um …”

“Come to the point, Paul.”

“Progressives! It’s all the fault of progressives! They just don’t vote in the midterms.”

Larry Summers speaks up. “We disagree, Paul. We have the finest political team in existence, and they assured us that we wouldn’t need progressive votes. They told us progressives are outliers.”

Krugman protests. “But, uh, even Ezra agrees with me, and we’re pretty smart guys. We look at charts and graphs!”

“Paul,” Hillary says, “we think these results are a clear mandate that the American people want us to turn right. We need to change course. The administration just can’t afford to be associated with someone as liberal as you at this juncture.”

Bob Rubin chimes in. “We feel the administration needs to become more market friendly. ”

Rahm Emmanuel and David Brock stand up and slowly walk toward Krugman. Their shadows darken his face, and Krugman physically appears to shrink.  He does most intellectuals do when faced with danger. He drops to his knees and begs: “B-b-b-but, b-b-b-b-but … ”

Emmanuel and Brock gently but firmly take Krugman by the arms and lead him toward the door. Krugman’s sense of reality evaporates. Beads of sweat materialize on his forehead. Hillary speaks sharply, relishing the chance to be play the bad-ass CEO.  “You’re out, Paul!”

Rahm Emmanuel and David Brock pull on Krugman harder. He seizes up like dog being dragged to the vet, his heels digging into the rug. “But Hill, I did everything you asked. I bashed the Bernie Bros! I said big banks didn’t cause the recession! I said inequality was shrinking! I lied for you, master!

Hillary is unmoved. Great leaders couldn”t afford to be swayed by sentiment and emotion. They had to stand pat and make tough decisions. “You just can’t help us win anymore, Paul.”

Lawrence Summers is ecstatic. His fleshy fat face pulsates with repressed joy. It is red and sweaty, like a piece of linguica about to explode in the microwave. There were insiders and outsiders. Paul was now an outsider. He couldn’t resist a parting kick: “Oh, and Paul? We fully expect you’ll be on board for the administration’s next roll out: I’m Still With Hill!

Rahm and David shove Krugman out of the White House. He gradually pulls himself together, wipes his chin, and consoles himself with the knowledge that, sooner or later, Ani Di Franco just had to be coming out with a new CD …