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 …

Saturday, June 18, 2016

An Ethical Dilemma

(This is kind of an oldie, but I decided to resurrect it for your consideration)

Scene from a library: Here am I, scanning and posting my umpteenth resume for the umpteenth freakin’ time, growing dejected, disillusioned, dismayed, demoralized, deflated, and every other bad thing that starts with “D”. My angst grows with each ruthless tick of the clock. The window is closing. My horizon is dimming. Time is running out. Nobody ever calls except Citibank. Walt Disney lied to me.

Suddenly, an obnoxiously LOUD cell phone rings, and an obese lady with a broken leg leaps up with a start to answer it. As she does so, her chair rolls out from underneath her. One of her crutches bangs into the computer, and she falls to the floor with an enormous leaden thud, like a giant bowling ball being dropped in wet cement - THWUMP. The floor vibrates as if a small earthquake just occurred, and everyone in the place is jolted from their digital stupors long enough to look around to see what the fuck caused that noise.

A man instinctively rushes over to assist her, but surprisingly she refuses his help. “No,” she insists, politely but firmly, her face beat red. “I’m fine, I’m fine.” This is odd, because the woman is obviously too fat and too wounded to get up on her own. What gives?

So the man returns to his computer, and the woman just stays o the floor, gasping and heaving like a harpooned walrus, and talks on her phone for a good minute or two.

And then, after she finishes her call, she motions for the same guy to come over and help her back into her chair and he does!

Question: Is this a positive or a negative of statement about human nature? What would have been the proper thing for her or him to do in that situation? Was it right for her to push him away order to take a phone call, and then lay claim to his compassion minutes later at her convenience? And was he right to oblige her in this way?

(And no, I didn’t get the job.)

What Would The NRA’s Ideal Country Look Like?

I’ve never had strong opinions about gun control, but I find myself utterly detesting the NRA and and its legion of brain dead gun zealots. They just drive me up the wall. I don’t really care that much about guns. If Billy Bob and Darrell want to run off into the woods in their camos and play Rambo with their rifles, that’s fine by me. In fact, I would prefer that they do that instead of engaging in activities that are more harmful to society, like, say, voting or breeding. But every time I hear some conservative asshole say that more guns equal less crime, or that it takes a “good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun,” I want to kick him in the nuts and put him on the first flight to Somalia, where there is no debate about gun control or the nanny state.

Let him see a truly libertarian paradise in action. Let him see how “more guns equal less crime.” Let him see how well his liberty is preserved in a country where open-carry is zealously practiced by armed gangs of young men. Let him see what happens when one group of “good guys with guns” tries to stop another group of “bad guys with guns.”

Anybody who tells you that putting more guns into more people’s hands makes you safer is a lying mercenary for the NRA, a moron, or a lunatic. Would you honestly feel safer if every eighteen year old male in the country went around with an AR-15? Would that make you feel secure? Would that encourage you to exercise your right to free speech?

What happens when a group of these ardent Second Amendment freedom lovers goes bad? What happens when they decide they want to rape your daughter? Are you gonna just whip out your magnum and shoot ’em up, like in the movies? You wouldn’t have time. Knowing you were armed, they would have taken your ass out right away. You’d be dead on the ground faster than you can say “well-regulated militia.”

But it’s okay, because in our NRA Utopia everyone is armed, so another citizen, let’s call him Good Guy One, pulls his gun and starts blazing away at those Bad Guys! Problem solved, right?

Except Good Guy One’s first shot misses and hits a bystander. The Bad Guys then turn and start blasting at him. Bullets are flying everywhere. There is utter chaos and pandemonium. You and your daughter are dead. Viva freedom!

Enter Good Guy Two, locked and loaded and ready for action. He draws his piece and opens fire. The trouble is, Good Guy Two doesn’t know who the good guys or the bad guys are, so he actually aims and hits Good Guy One.

At that point, another good guy, Good Guy Three, rolls up and starts shooting at Good Guy Two. The ground is littered with dead bodies, but Good Guy Three is undaunted. He knows that freedom isn’t free and that this is the price you pay for liberty. He knows that any compromise on gun rights puts you on a slippery slope to Hitler. Why didn’t liberals understand that? He concludes that liberalism is a mental disorder and continues blasting away at anything and everything that moves, winging one of the Bad Guys and killing some terrified schlub who was just walking to his part-time minimum wage job at Wal-Mart. Viva freedom!

Then the police show up, and they have no idea who the good guys and the bad guys are. They just see a bunch of lunatics shooting at each other. They open fire and kill them all.

And look at that. Even in the face of all that freedom, Big Government still wins!

The next time you hear some glib politician say that more guns equal less crime, or that more guns are the solution to mass shootings, just think about the consequences of what they are recommending, and then ask yourself what kind of human being would advocate such a thing.

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.)