Thursday, May 5, 2016

Failure To Rant

Please excuse the absence of any good rants lately. Real life has been getting in the way of my blogging habit. Semi-regular rants will resume shortly. In the meantime, Gin and Tacos has the best rundown of the degenerate farce that has been the Republican primary season.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Can You Spot The Real Friedman?

Two of the excerpts below are fakes from the Thomas Friedman Op/Ed Generator and one is an authentic Friedman. Can you identify which is which? The winner gets a cheap black turtleneck sweater from a Bangladeshi sweatshop. Second prize is a vial of mustache clippings. Here we go:
Yesterday’s news from Cambodia is earth-flattening, and it raises questions about whether there might just be light at the end of the tunnel. What’s important, however, is that we focus on what this means to the citizens themselves. The media seems too caught up in spinning the facts to pay attention to the important effects on daily life. Just call it missing the myths for the lie.
Here’s number two:
Imagine if industrial giants sat down with ordinary people like you and me and ironed out some real solutions to our transportation crisis.
And here’s number three:
You can learn everything you need to know about the main challenges facing Africa today by talking to just two people in Senegal: the rapper and the weatherman. They’ve never met, but I could imagine them doing an amazing duet one day — words and weather predictions — on the future of Africa.
Which one is the real deal?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Trump Thinks I’m a Very Bad, Sad Person

So what does Donald Trump think of you? Take the Trump quiz and see, and be sure to scroll down to see what fate awaits you under a Trump presidency. I’m a white heterosexual male, born in the United States, and I only scored a measly 649, which in Trumpspeak makes me a “very bad person, sad!” On the other hand, I would get a free subscription to Trump Magazine and stand an 80% change of becoming ambassador to Mexico, which consists of demanding money to build the wall, so I’ve got that going for me.

(hat tip P.M. Carpenter)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

“I Have Been Everything And It Is Worth Nothing.”

“I have been everything and it is worth nothing,” said the twenty-first Emperor of Rome, Septimius Severus, on his deathbed. He handed off power to his sons, Geta and Caracalla, and died, but not before dispensing some crucial practical advice to his boys: “Pay your soldiers well and to hell with everybody else.”

Caracalla promptly murdered Geta, and then built a huge bath house, which you can still see today. Caracalla followed his father’s advice and treated the troops well. Nonetheless, he was assassinated while peeing on a roadside by a disaffected soldier whose brother had been executed by Caracalla. Everything and nothing.

Caracalla was a scowling brute, one of many, many bad emperors that ruled Rome in the third century AD, which was one of the most dismal centuries in the entire history of Rome.

It’s symbolically interesting that just as Rome was entering it long, grinding decline, an emperor saw fit to build a gigantic bathhouse. Reinhold Niebuhr said something to the effect that societies build their gaudiest and most opulent monuments just as they’re on the verge of collapse.

Here are the Baths of Caracalla:

Whoops. That’s AT&T Stadium, Jerry Jones’ outsized monument to American vulgarity (not to be outdone, the Bay Area yuppies answered with Levi’s Stadium, an equally obnoxious structure). Here are Caracalla’s baths:

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Why They Like Trump

Here’s a good analysis of Trump’s appeal from Ian Welsh, one of my favorite writers on the Internets:
So, for damn near 48 years, poor whites have done terribly. For forty-eight years, ordinary politicians have promised to do something about it, and nothing has improved.

Do not tell me, or them, that they are “privileged.” Yes, it is better to be poor and white than poor and black, and better to be a poor white man than a poor white woman, but people who are in pain do not react well to some smug, upper-middle-class jerk telling them they are privileged when their lives are clearly terrible.

It is a FACT that working class whites will not see any improvement worth mentioning under any normal politician, including Clinton. They may see an improvement under Trump, they certainly would under Sanders.

They are voting for what they see as their interests, and they are not necessarily wrong. Certainly, Trump is more likely to help than Clinton, as the chance of Clinton helping them is zero. Zip. Nada.

It is insanity to expect poor white males to accept 48 years of decline and not get angry. It’s perfectly reasonable for them to respond to a man who offers them a better life in a way that is different from all the politicians who have failed them in the past.

Trump does not feel or campaign like an ordinary politician. Poor whites read this as: “He might not betray us like all the normal politicians do.”

At the least, it is worth a try.
It’s really pretty simple, but that won’t stop the onward march of “free trade.” That won’t stop the Mandarins of the Beltway, secluded in their bubble of neoliberal groupthink, from doubling down on the policies that brought us to this dismal state of affairs. As Welsh points out, they have no one to blame for Trumpian fascism but themselves: They produced the conditions that made it inevitable.

Nor will President Hillary save us. She won’t think twice about jamming TPP-style deals down our throats, creating even more pissed off lumpenproles to feed into the Trump machine (as well as alienating progressives, who will abandon her in the midterms, producing yet another shellacking for the Democratic party). Even if Trump doesn’t win this time, he or someone like him will after four years of Hillary’s stale, tone-deaf, unimaginative, business-as-usual Third Way New Democrat (i.e., Republican) “leadership.”

Thank You, Donald Trump, Now Piss Off

We thank Donald Trump for performing a vital civic duty that must needs bring joy to all patriotic Americans: He utterly vanquished Jeb Bush. He didn’t just defeat him. He crushed him. He humiliated him. He whipped, beat and bludgeoned him like a red-headed stepchild, and in the process showed he Bush family to be the stuttering dullards they are. He sent them limp and bleeding from public life for years to come.

This was the most viscerally satisfying event in American politics since George Bush Sr. puked on the Japanese Prime Minister (while Barbara daubed his chin with a wet-nap and murmured, “That’s great, love, get it all up,” or when their dope son asked the Brazilian President, “Do you have blacks, too?”

Until last summer, I was convinced that 2016 would witness the blandest, most insipid and most demoralizing general election in American history, pitting Hillary Clinton against Jeb Bush. I thought this would lead to record low turnout, and regardless of who won there would be more free trade, more tax cuts at the top, more Very Serious and Responsible entitlement cuts for the middle, and a colder, wetter dog ditch for the coloreds and the poors at the bottom. In short, four more years of the same slow motion poison known as the “Washington Consensus” that is going to turn us into a third world slum before killing us off all together.

Then, inevitably, there would be another bank crash, another bailout, another terrorist attack and another failed war. It was at THIS point that I expected some proto-fascist Trumpian strong man to emerge, rising like some creature from a swamp, one part Mussolini, one part Andy Griffith, waving the flag and promising the folks he was going to make America great again (all the while playing slap and tickle with the banksters behind closed doors, who would be delighted to bankroll his movement if it meant getting rid of that fucking democracy once and for all).

Anyway, the Bushes are gone, and we must be fair and give credit where credit is due. Thank you, Donald Trump,and while I’m at it, let me thank you for fracturing the Republican party. It’s a pity the Democratic party can’t come up with anyone except another godammned Clinton to take advantage of this unique political opportunity. But then, the Democrats are just has hapless and pathetic as the Republicans whom you are destroying. We are going to find this out if Hillary should win, in which case the dismal scenario outlined above will, I believe, still hold true.

There. I said it. That’s the only nice thing I will ever say about Trump. Now piss off, Donald, and take your prick sons Uday and Qusey* Eric and Donald Jr. with you.

(*Stole that line from Thom Hartmann.)

Monday, March 7, 2016

American Fascism Has Arrived

Well, here it is. Take a good look (and listen to the lyrics). I always imagined American fascism would have a distinctly Midwestern and Christian aspect to it, but I suppose a crass, billionaire reality TV star is more in keeping with the current zeitgeist.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hillary Is Inept

I live in Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada border, so I get all the political ads for the upcoming Nevada caucus. In a two hour period I saw five or six different Bernie ads to Hillary’s two. Bernie’s ads feature restaurant and casino workers. They talk about Wall Street corruption and wealth inequality. Hillary’s ad tells us she supports children, and we see a montage of stale footage from the seventies showing Hillary droning on in robotic monotone about kids. The only thing that’s missing is Helen Reddy singing I Am Woman. From a purely marketing standpoint, it’s not even close. All the energy and verve is with the Sanders’ campaign. Hillary looks sclerotic and out of touch. It’s a rout.

Sure enough, I get an email from Team Sanders today showing that Hillary has blown a 35 point lead in Nevada, and the candidates are now in a dead heat. If I was a political naif, just some schlub working in a casino kitchen (which I have done, incidentally, for more years that I care to admit), I see one campaign that’s up at dawn hustling for my vote. I see one campaign with life and energy that talks about things of concrete, immediate importance to my my life. Meanwhile, Hillary gets up at noon and tells us she supports children. My God, her tone deafness is breathtaking.

Who’s idea was it to send out Madeline Albright and Gloria Steinem to browbeat women to vote for Hillary? What six figure consultant came up with that idea? Hillary’s flat-footed failures in 2008 were blamed on Mark Penn, the wicked, inside the Beltway consultant. Well, he’s gone, and the Clinton campaign is demonstrating the exact same leaden stupidity that brought it down in 2008. Who’s to blame? Wicked consultants? At what point do we wake up realize that the flaws of the Clinton campaign stem directly from the candidate herself? SHE IS INEPT.

She sells herself as the candidatate who can get things done, but all she’s shown is a remarkable ability to lose leads in state after state. She did it in 2008 and she’s doing it now. Will President Hillary be any more capable?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Another Grim Revelation

When I was a young man thinking about the future, I anticipated many things. I knew life would be hard. I knew nothing was free in this world and that I would have to struggle and fight and kick and scratch and claw for every benefit or advantage I would ever get. I knew love would be rare but pain would be plentiful. I knew happiness came in small doses, and that man’s natural estate was a steady grind of work, hunger, sadness, misery and boredom; a brief and futile war against disease and death that defeats us all in the end. I was ready for this.

But nothing prepared me to live in a world where adult human beings would pay fifteen bucks to see Batman vs Superman and think it was a meaningful topic of conversation afterwards. Nothing ever prepared me for that, and I really don’t know what to say about it.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Football Day In America

So which gang of millionaires do you want to see win today? Which multi-billionaire ego-maniac prick owner do you want to see even more enriched and bathed in glory at the end of this business day? Personally, I want the Cardinals to win, but that’s only because I like red and they have pretty little cartoon birds on their helmets. That’s the most compelling reason I can think of for rooting for any of them. Regardless of who wins, we’re still doomed to see Peyton Manning on TV every two minutes for the rest of our fucking lives on this lost planet … And that fuckin’ Papa John’s guy, oh that fuckin’ Papa John’s guy.