Sunday, April 19, 2015

Inside Team Hillary

Spring is in the air, and a young man’s thought turn to love.

Wait. Let me update that for the times: Spring is in the air, and a jaded middle-age man’s thoughts turn to … the upcoming Bush Clinton election farce. Egads, just when you thought hemorrhoids and heartburn were gone for good …

The words “orgy” and “indigestion” don’t often fit in the same sentence, but when I contemplate Bush v. Clinton they merge together as naturally as peas and carrots, or warm beer and a headache, or bunions and toe jam. I just can’t get over it.

We’ve got climate change and peak oil and wealth inequality and the death of the middle class. We’ve got major tectonic problems grinding below the surface, and the best that American democracy can come up with is … Bush v. Clinton? Burp. Scratch your balls and go back to sleep, Mr. America, there is nothing to see here.

I keep thinking Millard Fillmore or James Buchanan, or Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain, or any of the other dull gray epic failures of oligarchic democracy who preceded great disasters. They bumbled and dawdled and stooped and stuttered, like Mr. Magoo, while the ground split beneath their feet and dropped them into a void, and their only thought on the way down was, Where’s my hat?

There is a really obscene joke being played on us, people. Here are your hand-picked machine candidates, now do your civic duty and vote! The only interesting thing will be watching how both of these rich, inside baseball, orthodox establishment clones turn themselves into pretzels running against “Washington” and the “status quo” A public that accepts this deserves to get them, and, to paraphrase the great H.L.M., deserves to get them good and hard.

I’m getting chuckles watching Hillary’s populist “road trip.” Who thought that one up, I wonder? Has someone at Team Hillary recently watched Animal House? Did they take a fucking poll?

“Polls show people connect with the term ‘road trip’ more than’bus tour’. It resonates with them. I recommend we use that.”

“What do you think, John?”

“It has a hip quality that may appeal to younger voters.”

“What about African-Americans?”

“I have the numbers right here. African-Americans between 18-24 prefer ‘road trip’ to ‘bus tour’ by sixty percent. The numbers go down as you move up the age brackets, but most African-Americans show a clear preference for road trip. Bus tour is too old, too white. However, bus tour does edge out road trip by a small margin among African-Americans seniors between 65-75.”

“Hmm. Maybe I could say road trip to younger voters but bus tour to older groups?”

“It’s the safest play, Hill.”

“By the way, does it look more natural when I hold the corn dog in my left or right hand?”

“We don’t have the numbers on that yet, but we expect some preliminary figures by this afternoon.”

“Good, let’s keep on that.”
“Excuse me, Hillary? Rahm Emanuel’s on the line.”  

“Pardon me, everyone, I need to take this. Hi Rahm. Congratulations on your victory. Wait, Rahm, you’re getting emotional. Rahm, stab the table with a steak knife and pretend it’s one of your enemies. That always makes you feel better. No, Rahm, I won’t forget that progressives are retards. You know I had to say those nice things about Elizabeth Warren because I need her right now, We’ll discard her later, I promise. Yes, I’ll try to squeeze you in the cabinet somewhere. No, Blankfein gets Treasury whenever he wants the job, you know that. I agree that Jamie Dimon has better hair, but polls show that people trust bald-headed avuncular types in that kind of a position. It projects more maturity and gravitas. I know you’re fond of Jamie Dimon, but.… what? Huh? Well I don’t know, Rahm, why don’t you just come right out and ask him? Maybe he feels exactly the same way about you.

I’ve gotta run now, I have an important meeting coming up. What? Now? Okay, Rahm, but we’ll have to make it a quickie, I’m in a bit of a rush. Are you laying down? Okay, here goes: Rahm Emanual is bigger, badder and meaner than Karl Rove. Rahm Emanuel is bigger, badder and meaner than Karl Rove. Rahm Emanuel is bigger, badder, and meaner than Karl Rove. Did that work, Hon? Okay, cheers, love!”

Hillary hangs up and quickly scans the room. “Where’s my image consultant? She was supposed to coach me on how to be likable but she’s already five minutes late. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s unpunctuality! This tea is cold, John, get me another cup.”

I can’t believe we’re really going to do this. President Jeb, here we come.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The White Man’s Burden

Check out these photos of Donald Trump's kids on safari. I think it’s guillotine time, my friends. Well, okay, just make them wear name tags and work at Wal-Mart. I didn’t think people did this shit anymore, but apparently rich people are different.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Evil Teachers

I chuckle when I hear about what what fat and lazy parasites public school teachers are. I chuckle all the way to the mailbox, where I send my modest earnings to Chase Manhattan and Citibank, and thence to the campaign coffers of Republican politicians, who make profitable careers out of telling the public what a leech I am.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Your Daily Chandlerism

I’ve never read anything by Raymond Chandler, but I’m a big fan of Chandlerisms. Here are a few choice examples:
”She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight.” 
“I’m an occasional drinker.The kind of guy who goes out for a beer and wakes up in Singapore with a full beard.”
“If you don’t leave, I’ll get somebody who will.” 
“She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.”
“I felt like an amputated leg.”
“Then her hands dropped and jerked at something and the robe she was wearing came open and underneath it she was as naked as September Morn but a darn sight less coy.”
There are many, many more.

This Is What Guillotines Are For

Some mornings I wake up and think, fuck it, break out the guillotines. We’re all going to hell anyway, we might as well get some gratification on the way down. I just stumbled across an excerpt from Elizabeth Warren’s book A Fighting Chance, in which she describes the following exchange she had with the Second Biggest Prick in the Known Universe Jamie Dimon*
When the conversation turned to financial regulation and Dimon began complaining about all the burdensome rules his bank had to follow, I finally interrupted. I was polite, but definite. No, I didn’t think the biggest banks were overregulated. In fact, I couldn’t believe he was complaining about regulatory constraints less than a year after his bank had lost billions in the infamous London Whale high-risk trading episode. I said I thought the banks were still taking on too much risk and that they seemed to believe the taxpayers would bail them out -- again -- if something went wrong.
Just a side note, Jamie Dimon reputedly has a sign in his office that says “No Whiners.” He is the epitome of the faux tough guy master of the universe Wall Street dickwad, an image which is undermined by the fact that he is the biggest whiner in the whole tribe, and he goes by the name Jamie, Jamie. What kind of a grown man calls himself Jamie? Jamie was the fat little mama’s boy who never got picked for a team at recess. “No fair, guys, we had Jamie on our team last time. It’s your turn!” Jamie sucked up to the teacher at ratted out the other boys.  Anyway,  let’s cut straight to the good part:

Our exchange heated up quickly. By the time we got to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, we weren’t quite shouting, but we were definitely raising our voices. At this point -- early in 2013 -- Rich Cordray was still serving as director of the consumer agency under a recess appointment; he hadn’t yet been confirmed by the Senate, which meant that the agency was vulnerable to legal challenges over its work. Dimon told me what he thought it would take to get Congress to confirm a director, terms that included gutting the agency’s power to regulate banks like his. By this point I was furious. Dodd-Frank had created default provisions that would automatically go into effect if there was no confirmed director, and his bank was almost certainly not in compliance with the those rules. I told him that if that happened, “I think you guys are breaking the law.”
Suddenly Dimon got quiet. He leaned back and slowly smiled. “So hit me with a fine. We can afford it.”
Let’s face it, this is who guillotines were made for.

*Who’s number one? Dick Cheney, of course.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

America’s Brief Reign

In retrospect, it will seem completely natural that America’s period of worldwide dominance only lasted a short time. It is intellectually unfit to rule the world. It just doesn’t pack the gear to handle the job. Just as Sparta couldn’t rule Greece after the Peloponnesian War, so America couldn’t rule the world after the Soviet Union went down. We just aren’t cut out for it.

Think about it: America’s moment as the super power du jour spans the lifetime of the baby boomers. That’s it. In history that’s the blink of an eye.

We talk up a storm and build gaudy monuments, but in reality we’re just trashy used car salesmen experiencing a chance, temporary monopoly, and we cant’t even handle that. We went from Jonas Salk to Rush Limbaugh in the time takes for hair to go gray. We went from the Marshall Plan to quantitative easing and Wall Street bailouts in my mother's lifetime.

She was born in postwar middle class splendor; she’s ending her days in a mobile home on social security.

(She grew up in Manhattan Beach, California, where I lived as a child; it was a beachy, middle class place. Now it is an exclusive rich suburb, home to obscenely affluent fuckwads like Sharon Stone and Tiger Woods, and a legion of sniffy plastic yuppies. Last time I was there, they were all racing out to buy mini-coopers, because they were just oh so fucking hip and trendy at the time, don’t ya know? God, that fucking place always makes me feel like I need a shower.)

(Although I did meet Chuck Woolery in the produce department at Ralph’s once, and I’m a better man for it.)

Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in one generation.

American exceptionalism will be a term that refers to the speed of our decline, not any special quality within us.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Parrots, the Universe and Everything

For a good time, listen to Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, describe his experiences researching several endangered species for a BBC radio documentary entitled Last Chance To See. These are animals that are being driven to extinction by mankind’s thoughtless intrusion into their habitats. If this doesn’t turn you into a conservationist nothing will, but his description of traveling through places like Madagascar, Komodo Island, China and New Zealand will have you rolling on the floor, so laugh and cry at the same time. You’ll be glad you watched this. Really, you will.

Adams died of a heart attack just a couple of days after this talk. He would probably have been saddened, but not the least bit surprised, that the things he describes here have only gotten worse over the last decade.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Jeb Will Beat Hillary

According to the latest Gallup Poll, Hillary Clinton is the most admired women in America, and she has been for 17 of the last 18 years. This will be used to help create the Hillary Is An Unstoppable Juggernaut narrative that is just getting underway and will soon become unendurable. The same process that brought us Regular Guy George W. and Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction is now going to sell us Hillary Clinton, Unbeatable Titan of 2016, and maybe even The Most Beloved Women in America Since Eleanor Roosevelt!

It’s just another bullshit media narrative. Once the meme machine shifts in gear it can con you into believing anything. It can convince you that goose eggs are caviar and grape soda is wine if powerful people want it that way, but it would still be bullshit. Hillary Clinton and the Beltway claque can delude themselves all they want about her inevitability and her appeal, the fact is it won’t matter when the campaign starts in earnest. She’s popular right now because nobody has seen her lately. She occasionally makes pronouncements about Important Events, but apart from that she’s largely been out of the public eye. Well, everybody loves their mother-in-law when she’s back home in Olathe, but during a two week’s visit at Christmas her virtues quickly fade.

Will Hillary Clinton still be the most admired women in America six months deep into the campaign? Will wall-to- wall coverage of her robotically calculating, condescending, transparently cynical politicking still warm the hearts of Americans? It won’t, and half the country will view her just like they viewed Ann Romney: an arrogant and entitled aristocrat who thinks the little people smell.

Meanwhile, another bullshit narrative will come barreling down the road and catch Team Clinton utterly flat-footed, just like in 2008. They will discover, too late, that “Vote For Hillary — It’s Her Turn!” is neither an appealing nor an effective campaign strategy. And once the Chris Matthews-Maureen Dowd set grab hold of this new bullshit narrative, Hillary will be in deep, deep trouble. That bullshit narrative might look something like this: Jeb Bush, A New Kind of Conservative, Nobly Fighting to Redeem His Family’s Name.

From then on, it will be Nurse Ratched Hillary (Is she too old to be president? Does she have health problems she’s not disclosing?) versus the Smart Bush, who’s wife is Hispanic and who ain’t his big brother’s kind of conservative. Come home, normal Americans, it’s safe to vote Republican again.

But what about all of Jeb’s shady business deals? Well, what about them? Poppy and Dubya’s shady business deals didn’t harm them at all. In the TV cartoon of American presidential elections, those kinds of details are dead air. No producer in his right mind would let such boring filler on the show unless he wanted to wind up mopping floors the rest of his life.

Besides, crooked financial dealings are a basic prerequisite for the job. The alarming absence of such deals on Obama’s resume meant he had to work doubleplus hard to convince Wall Street he was safe (and he succeeded).

If Jeb’s crimes and misdemeanors ever threatened to become a real issue, all he’d have to do is hunker down and stonewall for a news cycle or two. It wouldn’t be long before the media found more important things to cover. Sooner or later Hillary would get caught eating a hot dog with a knife and fork, or distending her pinky when sipping a beer, or committing some other dainty upper class faux pas while mixing it up with the folks somewhere, and the media would be off and running.

After that, Jeb’s chicanery will be as ancient as Watergate, and any mention of it will be met with the withering groans and eye-rolls of the Beltway Masturbation Brigade: “Ohhh, that’s soooo five minutes ago! Get over it. Get a life. Get hip and move on!” They will already have chosen Bush and built their narratives, and anything that contradicts them will be dismissed out of hand.  

But what about the base? Bush can’t win the base! I think he can. Just put a right-winger from a swing state on the ticket and let him roam the swamps and prairies of Red State America, tossing clay and raw pig intestines to the crowds. They’ll come around. When he goes too far he can just claim that his words were taken out of context. The entire right wing noise machine will leap to his defense and the mainstream media, terrified of being accused of liberal bias, will sheepishly concede the point. Meanwhile, Jebby can go on playing Mr. Nice Guy in more civilized venues.

Believe me, the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency will bring the NASCAR Jacobins out on election day, especially after Rush Limbaugh sends word down from his Palm Beach mansion that Jeb’s okay, which, after playing hard to get for awhile, he most assuredly will (although the Bush camp might have to procure a few underage Dominican hookers in order to, ahem, nail down the old boy’s endorsement. Winning ain’t cheap).

In the battle of the bullshit media narratives, Noble Son will beat Inevitable Queen Hillary, regardless of what the polls say right now. But Hillary and her complacent, high-paid flacks will go on believing their own hype. They’ll seek out every poll result and focus group that reinforces the notion of Hillary’s invincibility, conclude she has it sown up, and then play prevent defense and lose.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Auld Lang Syne

Anton Chekhov died in 1904 from tuberculosis at the tender age of forty-four. One of my old Russian instructors, an Armenian linguist and grammarian from the Soviet Union, met Chekhov’s widow when she was at an advanced old age. He asked her if she might say a few words about the great writer.

“Ehh, ” she shrugged, airily waving her hand, “it was so long ago I can barely remember.”

As The Romans Did

Have you ever wondered what public toilets in Ancient Rome looked like? Of course you have. They looked like this:

It was a social occasion. You could take a shit and talk shit at the same time (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).(It just sort of dropped out.)

This is one Roman custom I could bypass, although they had many I admire. For example, I can think of some prominent CEOs, politicians, and “public servants” I wouldn’t mind seeing get tossed to the lions, provided it didn’t harm the animals in any way.