Sunday, February 3, 2019

No More Super Bowls, Please.

I really just don’t care about the Super Bowl. I don’t care about it any more than I care that Testiculus Maximus beat Biggest Dickus in the Roman Coliseum in 90 A.D. It’s just one more empty reality TV show, and it’s so sickeningly drenched in commercialism and military worship you feel like you need to take a shower afterwards.

Go on YouTube and find clips from any Super Bowl from, say, the seventies and eighties, and compare them to the hypertrophied cartoon spectacle you’ll see today. They’re low-key and down-to-earth. They’re actually about the game, not the effing Tostidos commercial at half time or the tedious personal mini-dramas involving this or that player. The announcers, for the most part, didn’t come across like the three loudest, most obnoxious salesmen on the lot, jostling and elbowing past each other to get in the last word. The screen wasn’t cluttered with graphics. It was just a football game, a big one, but just a game. Go figure.

P.S. I’ve been in self-imposed exile in the Arctic for the last seven months, hence my silence on the blogs. I wanted to get as far away from civilization as I could while remaining in the United States. I wound up in Barrow, Alaska, where I teach U.S. government to indifferent Eskimo kids. Oh, well. It’s a living, a weird one, but a living (teachers do quite well up here because of the, uh, challenges of the job, to put it mildly.) I’ll provide the gritty details in a future post. Do tell your climate denying friends that while its freakishly cold down there, it’s unusually warm here. The average temperature in Barrow, Alaska in February is minus 30. Last Monday it was 28 degrees. Today it is 15, and the highs are forecast to be above zero all week.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Democrats Will Lose Again

I was all set to rant about the ineptitude of the Democratic party, but William Astore at Bracing Views beat me to the punch:
Meanwhile, Democratic officialdom is looking backwards, not forwards.  The Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) idea of progress is to bring a lawsuit against Russia, the Trump campaign, and WikiLeaks for the 2016 election.  This act will “fire up the base,” or so leading Democrats appear to think.  But it’s really sour grapes, a loser policy conducted by pols who remain out of touch with the pressing concerns of ordinary Americans (you know, things like health care, a living wage, and other issues associated with Bernie Sanders’s campaign).  If only America had a true Labor Party instead of a DNC that mirrors the Republicans while lacking their focus and ruthlessness.
And it just gets worse. It turns out the the DCCC or the DNC or some other sclerotic party organ got their big six-figure brains cookin’ and came up with an exciting new message for the upcoming midterms. Or maybe not:
Democrats are looking back to the last time they took control of the House for lessons on what may work this year, and they’re starting to narrow in on a major theme: the Republican “culture of corruption, cronyism and incompetence.”
 Yes, the Democratic party, which has become a watchword for corruption, cronysim and incompetence, is running against corruption, cronysim and incompetence. Insert punchline here. In between attacks of aphasia, Nancy Pelosi has repeated the phrase numerous times:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is bringing back her 2006 refrain for this cycle. It first appeared in an April 6 statement calling for the resignation of Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, saying he was “a part of the Trump Administration’s culture of corruption, cronyism and incompetence.” It then popped up later that day in one of her press releases, and then three days later in a letter to her colleagues about their priorities in the coming months. In her weekly press conference the following day, she used the phrase twice, reminding reporters of that earlier election: “Some may recall that in 2005, 2006, one of our mantras during the campaign was to drain the swamp, to end the Republican culture of cronyism, corruption and incompetence, and that is exactly what we did. The president has misappropriated that term of art, ‘drain the swamp,’ and what does he do but have an administration that is wallowing in it.”
Is there anything more inspiring than a seventy-eight year old establishment politician repeating a slogan from 2006 over and over again? It’s just the spark we need to beat Trump and the Republicans. If Chuck Schumer takes it up, I just might have to slip into something a little more comfortable.

God God. Who will rid us of these moribund old fuddy duddies who haven’s had a new idea in thirty years? How much longer must the party be ruled by these stale, stagnant, calcified, ossified, visionless, unimaginative, doddering, corrupt cronyist incompetents? They’ve brought us nothing but defeat and humiliation. They’ve driven the Democratic party to the brink of extinction and delivered the country to Donald Trump. They are total fuckin’ losers and they need to go yesterday.

They lost to Donald Fucking Trump. Say those words over and over in a quiet dark room free of all distractions. Say them slowly. Let them linger. Wallow in each syllable until their full impact seeps deep into your brain: They lost to Donald Fucking Trump.

And just know that if the Dems don’t embrace a positive New Deal style populist agenda — an agenda that actually attracts new voters and enlarges the party — they will lose to him again.

But they won’t. They’ll sprinkle socially liberal confetti around to distract from the fact that behind closed doors they fellate the exact same banks, corporations and arms manufacturers who finance the Republicans. They’ll run an exact replay of the 2016 campaign, convinced, as always, of their superiority and wonderfulness. They’ll shiv progressives in the back, screech all day and night about Russia Russia Russia, and run against Trump’s bad manners. Meanwhile, they’ll continue to pray for St. Comey and St. Mueller to save us.

It’s possible that sheer revulsion over Trump might lead to a “blue wave” election, but I’m skeptical. The Democrats are just as arrogant and lead-footed as their standard bearer was in the 2016 campaign, and they show every sign of being similarly blindsided. One can’t escape the suspicion that they are sleepwalking into another massive defeat. They will not, cannot change their agenda. Nancy Pelosi came right out and said, in the wake of historic Democratic defeats, “I don’t think people want a change in direction.” Unstoppable force, meet immovable object. They’ll cling to their neoliberal Washington Consensus agenda until the whole ship fuckin’ sinks, which quite literally might happen, in a manner of speaking. Even if they should win, they must DO SOMETHING with their victory or Trump, or possibly Pence, will beat them again. At any rate, the pundits who are confidently predicting a blue wave  also confidently predicted a Hillary Clinton victory (and before that, they confidently predicted that Bernie Sanders would be out of the race by the South Carolina primary; for the last year, they’ve been confidently predicting, on an almost daily basis, the imminent demise of Trump. Forgive me for not popping out the champagne quite yet.)

This picture sums up how incestuous and corrupt our political establishment is more than anything else I can think of. It clues us in to what we have in store in the event of Democratic victories (hint: not much).

That’s Paul Pelosi, Nancy’s son, partying hardy in the Hamptons with Ivanka Trump, who has replaced Sarah Palin as every seventy year old Republicans favorite masturbation fantasy. That shows you everything you need to know about the impossibility of change in our current system. Viva la Resistance!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

On Never Trump Republicans

I get a kick out of the all those hunky, “moderate,” Never Trump Republicans that Democrats love to love, like David Brooks, David Frum, Andrew Sullivan and George Will. Trump hatred has reinvigorated them in a way Viagra never could, enabling these former patsies, foot soldiers and propagandists for the Bush administration to now pose as civilized moderates sounding the alarm about the dangers of Trumpism. David Frum in particular is enjoying something of a renaissance, disproving, unfortunately, F. Scott Fitzgerald's observation that are no second acts in American life.

You would never know that these rational conservative intellectuals, with their new found tender feelings for democracy and fair play, rode shotgun with the most vicious, hyper-partisan, wingnut loving administration in U.S. history prior to the advent of Trump.

Frum worked in the same White House as Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. Did he get the vapors when Cheney told Patrick Leahy to “go fuck yourself” in the well of the Senate? Where was Frum when his boss pushed the USA Patriot Act and lied us into war? Oh, yeah, he was boasting at Washington cocktail parties that he invented the term “axis of evil.” Likewise, when George W. Bush was riding high in the saddle, shocking and awing his way into historical infamy, Andrew Sullivan and David Brooks were cheering from the luxury boxes. I wonder, were their delicate sensibilities perturbed at the despicable swift-boating of John Kerry in 2004? What about Karl Rove’s smear campaign against John McCain in the South Carolina primaries in 2000, where Republicans let it be known that McCain had a little pickaninny brown baby that maybe, just maybe, might have been the love child from an illicit affair with a dusky-hued mistress. And let’s not forget George Will, the towering, Burkean conservative who condescendingly lectures us about the evils of big government but thought it was just dandy to go nation building in Iraq, and who had a weird, embarrassing man-crush on Donald Rumsfeld. It should also be noted that his wife worked for Ted Cruz’s campaign — Ted Cruz, one of the oiliest, most unctuous, most vile right wing Christian demagogues in our politics.

Now David Frum and David Brooks, George Will and Andrew Sullivan, affect to be horrified by Trump and his ignorant, racist base. They wring their hands like staid Victorian ladies who've just suffered the indignity seeing a young woman's ankle and decide to cry foul. Sorry. I'm not buying. They aided and abetted the most divisive, reactionary forces in American life for decades. Now the cute little baby crocodile that they nurtured in its swamp - feeding it, coddling it, and empowering it at every turn for their own short-sighted political advantage - has grown into a twenty foot long carnivorous monstrosity that is now, surprise, surprise, biting off their hands. Forgive me if I don’t weep.

But why? There isn’t much about Trump's agenda they oppose. Cut taxes on the wealthy? Check. Gut social spending? Check. Increase military spending? Check. Hobble and immiserate the EPA, the Department of Education, and other wicked manifestations of the nanny state? Check, check, check. He’s shrinking government to the size where he can strangle it in the bathtub, just as Grover Norquist, who is one of the most influential Republican operators in the country, has preached for years. Trump is picking up where Dubya left off and getting it done. So what is it about him that turns their stomach?

In part, I suspect, it’s simply a career move. Even dim bulb David Brooks has the percipience to know that anyone too closely associated with the Trump administration is going to look very, very bad in the cold glare of history. They won’t be in the same league as Himmler,  Goering or Goebbels who, if nothing else, had the virtue of being such delightfully colorful villains; no, Trump’s underlings more closely resemble the gray, toadying, supine boot-lickers and mediocrities in Stalin’s inner circle, who countenanced all manner of abuse from their bullying, uncultured boss, up to and including seeing their wives imprisoned and themselves being threatened with execution, and always came back for more, just like Paul Ryan and Lindsey Graham do.

Trump is the living, breathing, rabid, petulant, grunting, crude, sexist, racist visage of the Republican base and there is simply no ignoring it. Republican elites could deny this as long they were calling the shots in the Party and the rubes, after each election, could be safely locked back up in their pens and revival tents. This is no longer possible. With each Trump Tweet, David Frums, David Brooks, and Andrew Sullivan must confront the truth about the political party they belong to and their own complicity in birthing this nightmare.

But I think there are other, arguably more serious concerns at play. Namely, there might be deleterious social consequences for openly supporting gauche vulgarian Trump, such as having your membership at the Chevy Chase Country Club revoked or never being invited back to Cokie Robert’s house for tea and diet soda. Even though Trump was born to wealth, he still has the crass patina of the newly rich, and I think the beltway pundit’s hatred of Trump is largely based on sheer aesthetic revulsion and class snobbery. He’s just not one of them. He’s just not the right kind of people. If he had better hair and better manners, they wouldn’t make a peep.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Our Dangerous and Irrational Fear Of Russia

Good news. It turns out that wicked super villain Vladimir Putin, master spy, enemy of democracy, and computer hacker extraordinaire, is actually quite weak in relation to the United States. Russia is encircled by NATO and US military forces, whereas there are no Russian troops on US borders. Its  military budget of around $69 billion is a paltry sum compared to America’s, which is $600 billion and rising. Russia has one aircraft carrier, America has ten. Russia’s GDP is smaller than the state of California’s.

In fact, Putin is so weak, the only thing he could threaten us with was an astroturfing campaign that plagiarized hackneyed right-wing talking points from Fox News, Breitbart and the Drudge Report and disseminated them to an audience who was already sympathetic to their message.

That’s it. That’s all. The Lucifer in the Kremlin’s biggest play against America, the great opus generated by his devious and all encompassing super villain brain, amounted to nothing more than cranking up the right-wing noise machine half a notch. I’m not impressed.  In a country where political candidates are openly bought by wealthy plutocrats and special interests, and where such bribery has been legalized by the Supreme Court, you’ll forgive me if I don’t clutch my pearls and faint over Putin’s, “attack” on our, ahem, sacred democracy.

And I have to say, hearing officials from the CIA and NSA gravely announcing that Russia is trying to “undermine faith” in our democratic institutions is obscene beyond words. It’s like watching a pedophile lecture against junk food because it causes diabetes in children. Those crocodiles have done more to undermine faith in American institutions than anything any foreign leader could ever do in their wildest, wettest dreams. At most, Putin merely exploited a climate of cynicism and disillusionment that their own underhanded conduct and blatant mendacity  helped create.
There’s no proof of collusion, no evidence this influenced the outcome of the election, and all of the Americans who participated, save one, did so unwittingly. They were, to borrow Lenin’s term, merely useful idiots. The Russians who were involved won’t be extradited to stand trial, and this was all dumped on a Friday afternoon, where bad or embarrassing news is sent to die. In light of all the hype and hysteria surrounding this investigation, these developments are, to put it mildly, underwhelming.

People who’ve been pushing Russiagate the hardest insist this was a brilliant three-dimensional chess move on the part of Robert Mueller. It protects him from being fired by Trump and keeps the investigation alive. Maybe so, maybe not. I have no idea. Neither does anyone not involved with the investigation. At any rate, all of the hopeful speculation that Mueller “has the goods” and that there are bigger, juicier indictments on the horizon is beginning to smell like wishful thinking on the part of people who still, after more than a year, just can’t reconcile themselves to the fact that Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton, and that he did so not because he was helped by a hostile foreign power, but because he perfectly embodies the mental, moral, emotional, intellectual and epistemological retardation that characterizes an alarmingly high percentage of the US electorate. He’s our biological child, America. Get used it. It’s not Putin’s fault. It’s ours. We really need to stop blaming others for our problems and shortcomings. It’s a positively Trumpian bad habit.

Certainly, nothing in these indictments justifies the level of dangerous and irrational Russophobia that’s been fecklessly stoked up by hyperventilating TV pundits such as Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, as well as establishment beacons like the Washington Post, the New York Times and NBC. They told us that Russia hacked Vermont’s power grid, until it came out later that, on further review, they didn’t. Oops. Then we were told that Russians hacked into voter data in twenty-one states, until it came out later that, on further review, they didn’t. Whoopsie daisy. Perhaps the worst example came when James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence [sic], told Chuck Todd that the Russians are “genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever,” and that these sneaky and duplicitous traits were “typical Russian techniques.”

If a US official made this kind of statement about Mexicans, Israelis, Somalis, the Innuit, the Bushmen of the Kalahari or the Pennsylvania Dutch, every liberal pundit from Rachel Maddow to E.J. Dionne, to say nothing of every editorial page in every major newspaper in the country, would be screaming “racism” so loudly our eardrums would bleed. But corporate liberals have gotten the memo from the Department of Homeland Security and those much ballyhooed “seventeen intelligence agencies” that anti-Russian xenophobia is A-okay, and our genteel talking classes, who are usually so fastidious in their political correctness, didn’t say mum about this disgusting and utterly ridiculous slur. Chuck Todd didn’t even blink. It was all so normal and acceptable, you see. It was all so, dare I say it, Beltway hip?

Now there’s an outfit calling itself the Committee to Investigate Russia,  which was founded by actor Rob Reiner, who played Meathead on All in the Family and David Frum, who coined the phrase “Axis of Evil” for his former boss, George W. Bush, as they brazenly lied us into invading Iraq. The Committee to Investigate Russia has a few more members you may have heard about:
Other members on the advisory board include James Clapper, a former Director of National Intelligence; Charlie Sykes, a conservative commentator; Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; and Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
The same neoconservatives, national security hacks, pseudo-intellectuals and “resident scholars” from right-wing think tanks who brought you the Iraq disaster are now deliberately fomenting tension between the United States and Russia. Isn’t that comforting? I particularly like the inclusion of our friend James Clapper, who perjured himself before Congress by claiming the NSA didn’t spy on Americans until it came out three months later that, on further review, it did. Oops. No doubt Mr. Clapper lied out of his great love for American democracy. No doubt he was only trying to protect us from Vladimir Putin’s uncontrollable genetic drive “to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever,” which are well known, indeed, “typical Russian techniques” in its eternal war against democracy and its dastardly attempt to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids.

Here’s an ad they put out starring Morgan Freeman, who also, by the the way, shills for Citibank, but he’s cool because he wears an earring and supports pot legalization, so it’s okay if he pimps for Wall Street and spreads anti-Russian war hysteria on the side.


Russia has been invaded by Mongols, Swedes, France under Napoleon, and twice by Germany. The Russian experience of war has been one of unspeakable misery and surreal catastrophe. Its combined military and civilian deaths in Word War II were 24 million people (whereas America’s total deaths were 418,000). During the Siege of Leningrad, people had to eat wallpaper paste and sawdust to ward off starvation, and many were forced to resort to cannibalism. Your average American, who knows none of this and who has nothing in his historical experience to compare it to, sits on his well-padded derriere and smugly prattles about how war is good for the economy and military spending creates jobs.

Not many people realize that Russia was also invaded by a coalition of allied powers in 1918 who sought to overthrow the Bolsheviks and install a government that would keep Russia involved in the First World War.  The coalition included France, England, Japan and, yes, the United States.

Not one in a thousand Americans knows this. I assure you every Russian high school student does. Somebody tell Morgan Freeman and Rachel Maddow, Kieth Olbermann and Meathead, that the United States has actually attacked Russia with guns and bombs before, not just shadowy astrofurfing outfits and d-rate political ads. Somebody tell Morgan Freeman and Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann and Meathead, that when celebrities and pundits declare that Russia has attacked us and that We Are At War, and when a presidential candidate compares their leader to Hitler, it loudly reverberates all the through Russia, scaring the shit out of a country whose history has been marred by one brutal invasion after another and is currently surrounded by hostile military forces. Somebody tell them that this kind of stupid, ignorant, reckless nonsense can very easily drive us into a serious international crisis with a nuclear armed country.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Politicizing Tragedy

Once again, Republicans are out in force urging us not to politicize a mass shooting while wasting no time doing just that themselves. The Drudge Report (no link) has a picture of the shooter above a bold headline that says The FBI Was Warned, thus cleverly tying the Florida school shooting into its ongoing war against the FBI. Meanwhile, Ted Cruz appears on Fox News to send his thoughts and prayers to an anxious nation, sermonize about the inevitability of evil, and take a few swipes at the Democrats:
Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt noted that “Democrats are calling for gun control, they’re talking about not allowing you to buy the AR-15 anymore.” …

“The reaction of Democrats to any tragedy is to try to politicize it,” Cruz complained. “They immediately start calling that we’ve got to take away the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens. That’s not the right answer.”
And since it was Fox and Friends, and since he’s Ted Cruz, there was the obligatory swipe at Obama:
Cruz also asserted that President Barack Obama shared the blame for a mass shooting that killed 26 at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

“Had the Obama administration simply followed federal law and enforced the law, existing gun laws made it illegal for the Sutherland Springs shooter to buy a gun,” he opined. “But the Obama administration failed to report his criminal conviction so he wasn’t in the background check system.”
Just like that, Republicans turn the focus away from gun control and throw the blame entirely on the Democrats, all while lecturing us about not politicizing the tragedy. It’s transparently hypocritical and dishonest, but it works: mass shooting keep happening and nothing is ever done about it. Democrats might make a few good speeches, as Obama did after Sandy Hook and Chris Murphy did yesterday, but in the end, they trudge to the podium like eunuchs and whimper about the need for “sensible” gun control, which, when translated, means any kind of cosmetic gun control law their donors and the Republicans will allow them to have.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Black Friday Versus The Super Bowl

So which is worse, Black Friday or the Super Bowl? Which of these spectacles most accurately embodies the degraded soul of contemporary America?  I’m going with the Super Bowl. Let’s face it, Black Friday is strictly for the lower orders, a phenomenon of the poor and working classes, the kind of people who eat fast food, go bowling, shop at Wal-Mart and often have brown skin. As such, it can plausibly be rationalized as an outlier in the greater glory that is American culture. But the Super Bowl, ah, the Super Bowl, that implicates us all. Every demographic joins in for the fun, and the event itself contains every important theme of American life. Here is commercialism, nationalism, over-consumption and violent competition at its most hypertophic and grotesque, and it’s all centered around a sport that mimics warfare and causes brain damage in those who play it. Perfect.

This is what our descendants will remember us for when they’re languishing in post-industrial squalor, thirsty and famished, fighting over the few remaining scraps of arable land on an overheated planet. God bless America!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Democrat’s Feeble Response To Trump

I watched as much of Trump’s speech to the Reichstag State of the Union address as my forebrain, my common sense, and my generally good morals could allow. Trump’s lies didn’t bother me half as much as his open pitches to the worst, most reactionary, most fascistic sentiments of America: We love our police. We love our military. We love Jesus, and we love patriotic little boys who place flags at the graves of our soldiers. You’d better not be one of those traitors who doesn’t stand for the national anthem, or one of those countries who votes against us at the U.N., or one of those brown-skinned freeloaders who gets here through chain migration and drags your MS-13 affiliated grandmas and grandpas with you. If you are, we’re comin’ for you. This is one nation under god, and we’re gonna build a fuckin’ wall to prove it.

And this was done with the full, enthusiastic support of the entire Republican establishment. There was the beaming, grinning visage of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who just received $500,000 from Charles Koch as a reward for delivering on tax cuts; and there was the approving, creepily repressed grin of Vice President Mike Pence, who wants to ban the burning of the flag and believes fetal tissue from abortions should have burials, and who derides non-coercive interrogation techniques (i.e., not torturous) as “Oprah Winfrey methods.” They all clapped and clapped. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has gloated that this was the “best year” for conservatives in his entire congressional career.

There is not one single, solitary Republican who will go against Trump, not one, not he-man Lindsey Graham, not lovely Miss Moderate Susan Collins, not dying Sunday talk-show ‘statesman’ John McCain. Trump has sprinkled just enough sugar around to ensure their craven compliance, and the venal little cowards are all too happy to oblige. “How eager they are to be slaves, ” the Emperor Tiberius frequently said upon leaving the Roman Senate. Or, in the debased vernacular of our own grotesque reality TV dictator, “What a bunch a fuckin’ losers.”

We are one stock market crash, one war, or one terrorist attack away from this collection of Christian ghouls, reactionaries, grifters, militarists and thugs from taking over completely. How do I know? Easy: There is no opposition.

The Democrats, apparently thinking that the best defense against plutocracy is aristocracy, dredged up a fifth rate Kennedy whom nobody ever heard of to low soothing cliches in our ears about what wonderful people we are, how nice we are, how tough we are, how resilient we are, what survivors we are, and how we can do anything we want when we put our minds to it and join together. Words like “heartland” and “audacity” sprang mechanically from his lips, and by the time he busted out the alliteration (“Mississippi to Massachusetts,” “teacher in Tulsa”), I was convinced I was hearing the work of one of Obama’s speech writers on Thorazine.

One could see the handiwork of Democratic operatives making sure that all the appropriate groups were duly mentioned, all the correct positions were duly taken, and all the appropriate boxes were duly checked: Struggling rural communities? check. Opioid abuse? check. Coal miners and struggling single moms? check. Empty criticism about our rigged system? check.  Obligatory stab at the Russians? check, check, and double check — this is, after all, America, where there is always a wicked foreigner< plotting to ravish our goodness.

There was not a single memorable phrase, not a single original thought, and not a single hint of genuine vision or conviction, just a dull litany of platitudes delivered with all the inspiration of a Sunday school teacher giving the eulogy for an insurance salesman, capped off with the words you say when there’s nothing left to say, nothing left to hope for, and nothing left to do except go home and cry: Have faith

I couldn’t help thinking about how nifty he would look in a pink knit cap the next time the Democrats decide to make another bold stand against sexual harassment.

If this is the best we can do, you’d better renew your passport and get the hell out now.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Ezra Klein Makes A Blindingly Obvious Discovery

Ezra Klein bowed before a picture of the late, great David Broder, dean of DC punditry, as he did  most days, and humbly asked for guidance. “What is thy bidding, Lord Broder?”

With that, the voice of David Broder came unto Ezra. But His was not the thunderous voice of a jealous and wrathful god, issuing stern commandments and demanding blood sacrifice. On the contrary, Broder was a kind and polite, though never loving, deity. He spoke in a soft dull voice and used soft dull words; they made you think of quiet middle roads in the middle of nowhere that led to no particular place at all, where soft dull suns always shone on soft dull grass and the flowers were never too bright. It always made Ezra want to curl up on the sofa with a craft beer and watch old reruns of Washington Week and Meet the Press. Broder spoke:

“America has lost its quintessential optimism and self-confidence. If partisanship and gridlock continue, Americans will lose faith in their institutions. The only way to get it back is to follow the way of the Beltway pundit. What is the way of the Beltway pundit, Ezra?”

“The way of the Beltway pundit is to avoid extremes at all costs. He strives for bipartisan consensus in all matters, for that is the path toward light.”

“And how does the Beltway pundit achieve this?”

“The Beltway pundit achieves this by maintaining bland neutrality in all things, regardless of the moral consequences. He knows that both sides must always share equal praise and equal blame in all disputes, great or small. That is the DC way.”

“Is it ever acceptable for a pundit to take sides?”

“Yes, in fact, a Beltway pundit is obligated to take sides against any figure who is too extreme and threatens the Washington Consensus, but he must take care to do this only after he knows his opinion is safe and will not offend Those Who Matter.”

“And what happens if he offends Those Who Matter?”

“He’ll lose access to the powerful and never be invited on MSNBC or Meet the Press again. Chris Matthews won’t be his friend anymore, and David Brooks will use him as an example of the breakdown in our civic discourse. He might even be cast out of the Beltway and forced to live among Those Who Do Not Matter, where they drive Kias and smoke cigarettes.”

“But what happens if a pundit stays on the right path?”

“If a pundit stays on the right path, he becomes an insider, and once he’s an insider he’ll never be wrong again, even when he’s wrong; he can write of things he knows nothing about and still be considered an authority, and he can make trite observations that other insiders will pretend are original.”

“There’s nothing more I can teach you, Master Ezra.”

And with that, Ezra dashed off to make an observation about Donald Trump that has been blindingly obvious to anyone who doesn’t live within the blinkered confines of elite DC punditry:
The secret to Trump’s success, the insight that has separated him from his competitors, is that he has cared less about the nature of the coverage he received than that he received coverage at all.

“Even a critical story, which may be hurtful personally, can be very valuable to your business,” Trump said in his 1987 book The Art of the Deal …

This is the law by which Trump lives his life. Attention creates value, at least for him. Before Trump, every politician hewed to the same basic rule: You want as much positive coverage, and as little negative coverage, as possible. Trump upended that. His rule, his realization, is that you want as much coverage as possible, full stop. If it’s positive coverage, great. If it’s negative coverage, so be it. The point is that it’s coverage — that you’re the story, that you’re squeezing out your competitors, that you’re on people’s minds.

This was Trump’s true political innovation: He realized that presidential campaigns — and particularly presidential primaries — had become reality shows, and the path to victory was to get the most attention, even if much of that attention was negative.
Ezra Klein has just now learned something that Trump’s spiritual ancestor, P.T. Barnum, discovered in the nineteenth century: There’s no such thing as bad publicity. This is particularly true in our illiterate, TV dominated age, where shiny distractions are all that matter and people have the memory of gnats. Trump understands this with every breath he takes. It’s instinct for him. He’s a TV obsessed cretin in a cretinous TV age. Trump devours attention, good or bad, like a ravenous vampire and instantly craves more. The media give it to him because he’s good for ratings, and the public watches because they they bored, cynical and hopeless.

Trump also knows that our politics are a sick reality TV spectacle, whereas Klein is apparently just figuring this out. But that’s okay. Klein’s slowness to understand is, I suspect, a calculated career move. Being right or accurate, or having an insightful understanding of things, is not too highly prized on Planet Beltway; holding proper opinions is. One may only be right when it is right to be so, otherwise you might offend Those Who Matter and lose your place.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Our Degenerate Aristocracy

Look carefully at this picture and answer the question below:

Which statement best describes the photograph?
A. Every dog has his day. Miracles can happen.

B. He must be really charming!

C. This woman is obviously an escort.

D. None of the above.
If you answered D, congratulations, you win the prize, which is a dress shirt with pictures of little money bags all over it:

By now you’ve noticed that the same individual appears in both pictures. So who is he? Why, that’s world famous fashion designer Wyatt Ingraham, president, CEO and founder of a company called, logically enough, Wyatt Ingraham, which produces a line of men’s shirts known for their “bold and eclectic” designs. Here he is describing the philosophy that drives his life and work:


He’s bold, authentic, and always true to himself. He’s a gentleman too, but that doesn’t stop him from being tenacious in pursuit of his vision. Like Henry Ford and Steve Jobs, he grips it and rips it, and he always, always, always thinks outside of the box.

Oh, did I mention his full name? It’s Wyatt Ingraham Koch, son of Frederick Koch, nephew to Charles and David Koch, hence heir to one of the largest fortunes in America (if not the world). And he’s about to get a great big fat tax cut that you’re going to pay for, courtesy of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and their responsible “moderate” Republican colleagues, the ones who establishment Democrats and Beltway pundits habitually cream over, like John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins. They chose Wyatt Ingraham Koch over you. They’ve decided that his personal, corporate and inheritance taxes should all be lowered at your expense. It’s nothing personal. That’s just how they roll. You came from the wrong sperm. Better luck next life.

Oh well, look at the bright side. These tax cut will stimulate production at his company, so there will be plenty of those bold and eclectic shirts floating around the boardrooms, yachts and discotecas of Palm Beach.

Besides, Wyatt is a bona fide polymath and Renaissance man. In his spare time, he enjoys playing tennis at Mar-a-Lago, shopping at Neiman Marcus, and lunching at Cafe Sapori in Palm Beach. He also likes to chill out at his 450-acre ranch, Wonderland, where he plays paint ball and races dune buggies. Favorite TV show? Veep. Favorite meal? Spaghetti alla bolognese with an arugula salad. Favorite destination? Martha’s Vineyard, where he has “so many memories.” He also sings karaoke.

If only we could all be such prodigies. He’s so far outside the box, the very concept of shapes have no definite meaning for him, like when you’re two. His vision plumbs the outer limits of fashion while the rest of us are staring at our shoelaces. Where we see a piece of fabric that looks like Walt Disney puked all over it, he sees bold and eclectic apparel that, given the appropriate lack of self-awareness, can be worn in the boardroom, on the yacht, or at the discoteca with equal vim and dash. You can even wear it to Cafe Sapori and fit right in. You’ll never hear the Puerto Rican dishwashers laughing over what a clueless dipshit you are.

I could go on an extended rant about how inbred aristocracies always end up producing feeble and degenerate offspring, pampered and dimwitted mediocrities who are completely detached from reality and a have hyper-inflated sense of their own abilities, people like, for example, Wyatt Ingraham,  Jared and Ivanka, Nero and Caligula, and, of course, Eric Trump and Don Jr., who like to  shoot exotic animals and chop off their body parts for souvenirs. I could do that, but I don’t need to. The existence of Watt Ingraham Koch makes further ranting unnecessary. The argument is made, the thesis is proven. He speaks for himself, as do his shirts. 

See you at the discoteca! Ciao.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Love in the Time of Cell Phones

I fell in love for about thirty seconds the other day.

It was quite amazing. I really didn’t think it was possible anymore. After a certain age, you’ve learned too much about human nature to ever fall in love with it again, at least completely and unreservedly like when you’re young (I think Mencken said that, but I can’t remember). Nevertheless, I experienced a brief  resurgence of that long lost feeling that plagued me like a fever in my teens and twenties. Love? Lust? Infatuation? Who knows, who cares? It makes no difference. They all lead to the same ball flattening chagrin in the end.

I was in this depressing big-box store where you can buy cardboard flats of things like Stagg chili and Dinty Moore beef stew, and cases of frozen corn dogs at wholesale prices (except they don’t call them corn dogs. They call them deep-fried honey-battered frankfurters on a stick.) Occasionally you get lucky and find frozen hamburger patties or cans of dog food stamped “For Institutional Use Only. Not For Retail Sale.” Muddy wet footprints mar the entryway. Classic rock plays on the sound system.

This is where the dregs shop, the under-educated, under-employed, shuffling, dragging, stooped and hopeless lumpenproletariat of God and Milton Friedman’s own America, with their curious mixture of shabbiness and hipster chic, of poverty sprinkled with grunge and hip hop flair. There’s a twenty-something mom with two kids in tow, a tattoo on her lower back, a studded belt and freshly dyed pink hair; dad’s distractedly following in sagging jeans, a brand new Volscom hoodie and a backwards Dodger cap. They are the unique products of American consumerism in its twilight phase: grown-up people with grown-up problems who still reflect the habits and tastes of their teen years. Adolescence unto death!

So I’m walking around this smelly groin pit of American capitalism gone bad in search of cheap toilet paper and deodorant soap, when I chance upon a striking, totally unexpected vision: a stunningly beautiful woman, well-dressed and stylish, radiating good health and optimism. The one-two punch of a rotten economy and bad life choices hadn’t scarred her yet. She was totally out of place in that seedy warehouse of frozen food and type II diabetes, and made a striking contrast from its luckless and misbegotten clientele. What was she doing there? Was I imagining her? No, it couldn’t be. No hallucination could produce such palpable flurries of lust and hope in a soul as jaded as my own.

But still, she just didn’t belong there. This was most definitely not her world. Like those bored Victorian aristocrats who took day trips to Bedlam to gawk at the inmates or an anthropologist studying tattooed cannibals in some far off jungle, she was clearly only a visitor there.

Then a sound came out of her coat. A Red Hot Chili Peppers ring tone, Californication. Trouble. Apprehension gripped me. The hot bubbling froth in my loins began to cool and curdle. This beautiful specter was transforming in a split second before me. Then the wet blanket descended: In one smooth easy gesture, natural and instinctive, she drew out an iPhone, whisked it to her lips and said in a loud, nasally voice that sounded like two geese squabbling over a stray corn chip, “Whaddup?”

And then, “Just chillin’.”

And with that, my thirty seconds of love were over.