Sunday, November 27, 2016

Our Horrifying Prospects

Four years of Donald Trump is almost too much to bear. For the record, I don’t think he’s a genuine Nazi or a fascist. I think his racism was an election ploy. He scoped out a demographic and hit their sweet spots. The real danger of his presidency will stem from the fact that he’s temperamentally unsuited to lead. He’s more interested in tweeting and grabbing pussy than doing the dull work of governance. He just doesn’t have the patience or the attention span to be a genuine dictator. It’s hard work — no one put in more time and effort than Joseph Stalin, who toiled into the wee hours signing execution orders and concocting five year plans. Trump just doesn’t have it. He’ll be a strutting, tweeting, TV nation Mussolini while the real business of government is carried out by Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, and they are going to unleash the most reactionary, corporate friendly agenda we’ve ever seen. It’s going to be worse than Bush’s first term. It’s the Koch Brothers’ country now, and they’re going to nail down the plutocracy and make it a permanent fact of our national life. Given the state of the climate, it’s questionable whether the planet can endure the four years of witless environmental despoliation that Trump and the Republicans are promising to bring. It is horrifying beyond words.

On the other hand, Trump is an extremely vindictive man and he holds grudges. He’ll abuse his power in a multitude of petty and evil ways. He will bully and browbeat the press. He will sue newspapers into bankruptcy. He’ll sic the IRS on his political opponents. He may well fling bombs all over the Middle East. If the economy crashes or we suffer a terrorist attack, America will be finished. We really are entering one of the darkest periods in our history.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Führer For Our Time

A question often served up in middle-brow documentaries and popular history books is to wonder how Germany, one of the most advanced and civilized countries in Europe, could have sunk into Nazi savagery. How did the nation of Goethe and Beethoven produce Hitler, Goebbles and the Holocaust?* Future historians, assuming there will be any, won’t face any such troubling questions about America’s lapse into right wing authoritarianism. Their task will be much simpler. They won’t have to ask how it happened, they’ll simply scratch their heads and wonder what the hell took it so long.

They’ll note that the country had a trial run between 2001-2004, when a virulently right wing administration assumed unconstitutional police powers and effortlessly lied the country into war. They’ll remark how easily the population was cowed by phantom dangers, and how readily they sold out their vaunted principles of freedom and constitutional government in exchange for security. The USA was kidnapping people and throwing them into torture chambers overseas, and its people cheered (or, more typically, yawned). The White House spokesman at the time, Ari Fleischer, warned Americans that they needed to “watch what they say, watch what they do,” and announcing that you were opposed to the invasion of Iraq invited suspicious glances from good solid middle class Americans who regarded such an opinion as seditious. In fact, were it not for the staggering hubris and ineptitude of the Bush administration, the USA might well have expedited its date with fascism by a good twelve or thirteen years.

As it happened, America was granted a reprieve, but not because of the virtues of its people, which our future historians will find lacking. They’ll note that a majority of Americans never traveled outside of the country, didn’t read books, and knew almost nothing of their own history. They acquired their knowledge of the world exclusively through commercial television, talk radio, pop culture entertainments and bogus social media memes. This produced a dangerously ignorant population that was peculiarly vulnerable to demagogic manipulation. They proudly didn’t do nuance and it showed: They confused crude nationalism with genuine patriotism. They regarded unrestrained consumerism as a god given American right — indeed, a patriotic virtue — and they demonstrated on more than one occasion that they were willing to bomb and kill others for it. They were easily and pathetically frightened by foreign dangers, whether real or imagined, about which they knew little and understood less.

All that was needed, it turned out, was a Dear Leader who truly reflected their hopes, fears and aspirations, however stupid or irrational. I always imagined a telegenic social conservative, a Bible thumping, flag waving, gun totin’, free market luvin’ Midwesterner who was more Texan than Texas and more Christian than Christ; a slick hyper-patriot with one foot planted in the revival tent and the other planted firmly in Wall Street cash; a grinning, back-slapping reptile with the down home charm of Andy Griffith and the soul of Ted Cruz.

Donald Trump just didn’t fit that bill. A thrice married billionaire Manhattanite with zero charisma and bad hair just didn’t cut it. He might bamboozle Wrestlmania fans and a few racist malcontents, but there was no way he could win over enough demographics to pull down 270 electoral votes.

But I misjudged the tenor of the times. Now, looking back, of course it had to be Trump. Who else embodies the zeitgeist of America more perfectly than he? Who better to lead us than a greedy, boorish, transparently phony con artist whose only unqualified success in life has been as a reality TV star? This is nation that invented the Ponzi scheme, sub-prime mortgages, credit default swaps, the prosperity gospel, Enron, trickle-down economics, the War on Terror, Mormonism, Scientology, cheese filled pizza crusts, deep fried Twinkies, Kim Kardashian and Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? Our culture is based on nothing but greed, fraud, deception, stupidity, tacky celebrity and meaningless junk. It’s what we are. It’s all we are. Trump’s not an aberration. He’s the entirely organic creation of a thoroughly trashy and decadent culture. He’s the apotheosis of the modern American soul. He’s the leader we deserve.

(*To which the answer is, the same country that produced Bismarck, the Kulturkampf, Kaiser Willhelm II, unrestricted submarine warfare and mustard gas attacks.)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Stabbed in the Back?

When I played football, our coach forbade us from complaining about bad calls. If you lose a game because of a bad call, he sternly admonished us, you didn’t deserve to win in the first place. “Winners win in spite of adversity!” was his blunt response to whining of any kind.

This was Pop Warner, mind you, and I was only about, oh, eleven or twelve. It’s a pity the leaders of the Democratic party never received this bit of Pee Wee football tough love. Apparently they don’t teach it on the playing fields of Palo Alto or the Acela Corridor, or any of the other nurseries of the best and the brightest. They’re primarily responsible for a Dubya-sized political disaster, but rather than admit any culpability, they’re blaming everyone but themselves.

It was Jill Stein. It was the Bernie Bros. It was Putin. It was Wikileaks. It was the media. And now Hillary herself is whining that is was all James Comey’s fault:
“There are lots of reasons why an election like this is not successful,” Clinton told top donors on a farewell conference call Saturday.

“But our analysis is that [FBI Director James B.] Comey’s letter raising doubts that were groundless, baseless, proven to be, stopped our momentum,” she said.

What, one wonders in despair, will it ever take to make these people stop and question their analyses? Not since the economic crash, when Alan Greenspan admitted there was a flaw in his model of how the world worked, have we seen such a stark example of elite cluelessness and failure, but rather than admit that her campaign may have been flawed, Hillary is complaining she lost because she was stabbed in the back.

Yeah, that explains the amazing feat of losing Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, states that have been reliably blue for decades. It had nothing to do with the fact that these states are sunk in stagnant misery, and Clinton offered them nothing but four more years of the same doldrums. It had nothing to do with the fact Team Clinton strolled into the game thinking they could win with one or two predictable stock plays — “Trump is a horrid meanie!” and “I’ll be the first woman president ever!”— while making no further adjustments and offering no positive reasons to vote for her at all. One waited in vain for Clinton’s campaign to start hammering through the wall of Trumpian bullshit with ads about what she would actually do as president. It didn’t happen.

She took it for granted that all she had to do was scare people about the monster Trump, just as she took it for granted that she would sail to the nomination in 2008, and then again in 2016. She was consistently overconfident, consistently made miscalculations, consistently took the wrong advice, and consistently failed to see threats that were visible from a mile away. What makes you think she would have governed any differently?

She stood flat-footed at the plate, reflecting on which Maya Angelou poem to recite in her inaugural address, while a big fat soft ball floated right past her and struck her out.

Enough with the Clintons. Enough with the Robby Mooks, John Podestas, Donna Braziles, Paul Begalas and Ed Rendells. They’ve forfeited all claims to my support. They grossly mishandled the election, partly because they are blinkered and out of touch, and partly because they didn’t really want to do anything for people at all. They just wanted to scare us into voting for them so they could go back to pushing the same neoliberal shit that got is in this mess in the first place. Now that they’ve gotten they’re asses whipped, they’re poking around looking for scapegoats and concluding that, well, Virginia, I guess half the country is just deplorable. Yeah, well, they’re deplorable too.  

Friday, November 11, 2016

Clinton 2020!

Don’t despair, my friends. Things are bad but they’re not hopeless. The Force resides in another who is destined to come along and save us from our national nightmare:
While some pundits are declaring the Clinton political dynasty dead, sources tell us that it is far from over. Chelsea Clinton is being groomed for the New York seat held by Rep. Nita Lowey.

Chelsea could run for the seat in NYC’s 17th Congressional District once Lowey, a respected, 79-year-old career politician with nearly 30 years in office, decides to retire, we have exclusively learned.
The Clintons are taking a much needed break in order to regroup, but Chelsea, we’re informed, is poised and articulate, just like Mom, and would be “the next extension of the Clinton brand.”

Granted, this is The New York Post, but still. Words fail.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Trump Is Coming To Town

Well, well, Trump is coming to town tomorrow night. It's already sold out so I won’t get to hear him speak, but I’ll go see if there are any protests going on outside. If anything interesting happens I'll snap some photos and give you the lowdown (I doubt it, but I'll go check it out anyway).

Friday, August 19, 2016

Obama Rethinks America’s Capabilities

Obama realizes he overestimated the American people and has readjusted his priorities accordingly.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Vote For The Crook, Not For The Fascist!

Bob Morris directs our attention to the 2002 French election, which pitted corrupt establishment politico Jacques Chirac against right wing horror Jean-Marie La Pen. They circled the wagons and supported Chirac. A popular slogan at the time was “Vote for the crook, not for the fascist.”

As uninspiring as it is, we have to vote for the crook, not for the fascist. It’s our only move. Hillary is awful in more ways than I can count, but Trump is a spoiled twelve year old boy who must never be given power, ever.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Kopkind on Clinton Culture

Andrew Kopkind nailed the essence of Clintonism way back in 1992, when it was brand new under the American sun, sort of. Reading this filled me with deja vu and deja entendu, malaise and despair. Nothing has changed.
It’s difficult to convey the feel of the Clinton culture. Like the Kennedy culture thirty years ago, it is a stir-fry of blatant self-promotion, unexamined idealism, cynical sophistication, suspect intellectual certainty and an arrogant race and class snobbery that can be oppressive to those without the necessary credentials. It comes off as hip and liberal, but it panders to the right and abhors any person or movement to its left. It is suffused with a gestural sentimentality about racial harmony, but its commitment is to white power and privilege.
And it is “ever-willing” he continues, to sell out any principle for the sake of achieving “political viability within the system.”

And here we are, forced to choose between these calculating yuppy slicksters and Donald Trump. What a world. Does this rise to the level of a crisis of democracy yet, or are we to take this as politics as usual in a country that’s become thoroughly corrupt and mediocre?

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Attacking Trump’s Racism Is Not Enough

Last week’s pep rally was a big success. It showed that the Democrats are fundamentally decent people who won’t blow up the world or throw Muslims into concentration camps, and they did a fine job highlighting the contrast between themselves and the bigoted cave trolls in the Republican party. This is a good thing and Hillary’s surrogates should continue to do it.

But we already knew all of this. We already knew that Democrats aren’t racist and won’t mock the disabled. We already knew they’re nicer people, listen to better music and are more fun to be around than Republicans. And we already knew that Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine are, in contradistinction to Donald Trump, sane, level-headed professionals who won’t rock the boat and spook the markets. Believe me, we know this. We know this all too well. It is as familiar to us as that first stabbing pain in the bowel that unmistakably signals an attack of diarrhea. But it won’t be enough.

“We’re nice people and Donald Trump is an evil racist” just won’t get the job done.  After the warm and fuzzies from last week’s multicultural love fest wear off, we’re left with the unsettling fact that Republicans control Congress and a majority of state houses, and they’ll probably continue to do so after the election. The ugly truth is that the racist, xenophobic, fear-mongering, Bible-thumping, modernity-hating, knuckle-dragging troglodytes who goose step in Trump’s torchlight parades are, as far as the election goes, half the country. Demonizing Trump while offering nothing but business-as-usual is a woefully deficient strategy.

Frank Bruni discusses this problem today, and mentions some interesting poll results:
In a Gallup poll two weeks ago, just 17 percent of respondents said that the country was on the right track, while 82 percent said it was on the wrong track. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shortly before that, the corresponding figures were 18 percent and 73 percent.
A poll is a poll is a poll, it’s true, but I think these results accurately reflect the mood of the country. Things are not good and they’re going to get worse. I bring this up, yet again, because it’s exactly the kind of thing that the smug neoliberals in Hillary’s pampered inner circle will completely misunderstand or ignore. They’ll view it as a mere messaging problem and combat it with spin, double-talk, and statistics. They won’t acknowledge the reality of the problem or address it in a substantive way.

My hunch is that there are a lot of closet Trump supporters out there, a lot. I think there are a great many people who won’t admit in polite society that they support him but will, in the secrecy of the voting booth, pull the lever for him just to shout “Fuck you” to an establishment that is so corrupt, so unresponsive, so utterly worm-eaten and foul, that they’re willing to watch Trump dynamite it all to hell regardless of the consequences. These people aren’t going to be reached by calling Trump a racist meanie.

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.