Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Everybody Loves Trump

The Trump circus marches on, dauntless and unbloodied. It ’s going to keep doing so right to reelection, when the Democrats discover, too late as always, that while the Biden/Harris ticket made the Beltway thrill, it left the rest of the country totally cold. Empty rhetoric about making America moral again and calling Trump a racist meanie might make you feel virtuous, but it doesn’t put any meat on the table. Once again, the Democrats will have fallen for the siren song of centrism, assured by all The Right People that it was a sure winner, and once again, all The Right People will have been proven wrong. They’ll blame Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein and Vladimir Putin, and resume collecting six figures and opining on MSNBC, no skin off their backs.

There is a very simple point about Trump that needs to be acknowledged: People like his racism. They like it when he smears brown people. Every American Legion Hall in the country erupts with joy when he tells brown-skinned female Representatives “go back to their own country.” Every ape in MAGA land chortles with glee when he calls Mexicans rapists and serial killers. Trump pisses off all the people they hate and they love him for it. This is why no evidence of criminality will ever bring him down. If Trump was videotaped having sex with a box turtle in the White House basement over a dead body and a pile of cocaine, they’d still stick with him. He’s their boy and they’ll never quite him, and as long as that’s the case, the entire Republican party will fall in line and support him.

The Democrats can appeal to the better angels of our nature all they want. It isn’t going to work. Trump is playing a role in a reality TV show and he’s giving his core audience exactly what it wants. As long as he has the magic 40 percent, he has the entire Republican party. Game, set, match.

Nothing short of an economic collapse or a military defeat will unseat Trump, and even those things are doubtful. He”d have no trouble blaming in on the Democrats or Obama or the RHINOS, and his brain dead, Fox News addled supporters would buy it hook, line, and sinker.

I just can’t tell you how many normal, sane, theoretically non-racist old white guys I've heard completely supporting Trump in his Twitter war against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes and the so-called “squad”. Those women are hated simply because they are young and brown. They represent a sea change in American culture and politics, and the old whites dudes are running scared. I know of one in particular, a lifelong long union carpenter and Democrat, who instantly devolves into the most bitter, hate spewing, Archie Bunker style racist the minute those women are mentioned. He mindlessly accepts all of Trump’s slander about them as gospel truth. Every bar in this town is full of guys just like him. It’s a thing.

I’m deeply afraid that it’s going to get much worse before it ever gets better. I’ve always had a somewhat fatalistic view of history. I think America is, in its own dark and stupid and blundering way, fulfilling its natural destiny. Someone like Trump was baked into the cake the minute white people settled in North America. All of American history was but a winding, meandering road to Trumpism.

When empires go down, they reveal their true character. It is, to use a phrase I hate, a reality check. Rome became more oppressive and warlike; Bourbon France became more clueless, frivolous and out of touch. Czar Nicholas II clung ever more tightly to his religious nut bag wife and her fruitcake religious guru, Rasputin. America, in its twilight phase, engages in permanent warfare and chooses a racist reality TV star and hustling con man as its leader, Q.E.D.

And what of the so-called resistance? Well, very recently its putative leader, Joseph Biden, was bragging about working with one of the most vicious segregationists who ever came out of the bowels of Mississippi, James Eastland, in order to prove his “bipartisan” chits, and he did it to telegraph to Trump’s racist base that he’s cool with them. Trump is burning down the house and the leader of the opposition is triangulating and attempting to win over knuckle-dragging racists. This is how countries die.

Way to make us moral again, Grandpa Joe!

They are also cozying up with the FBI and NSA and the other national security state organs to whip up anti-Russian hysteria. It is irresponsible and politically stupid. Repeat after me, fellow lefties: The FBI and the NSA are not your friends. Never have been, never will be. Empowering them for the sake of opposing Trump is suicidal stupidity.

The perfect epitaph for the Trump era was spoken by the former CEO of CBS, Les Moonves, who told his stockholders, "Donald Trump might be bad for America, but he’s great for CBS. Go Trump!”

There you have it in a nutshell. Trump is a horrid racist bully, but he’s great for business, so viva Trump. This is the cowardly, short-sighted and venal attitude that pervades our entire business and political class. This is why phony strong man Trump can defeat them, and will continue to defeat them, time after time.

(I suppose it’s also fitting that Les Moonves turned out to be a serial groper and sexual harasser. Gee, who’d have known that these self-important, egomaniacal CEOs, these billionaire masters of the universe, these hallowed and sacred “job creators” that American mythology requires us to worship and adore, are in fact boorish, crude, sexual harassing pricks? What a surprise! I think this calls for more tax cuts!)

Reality TV nation has a reality TV star president, and there is nothing to oppose him but vacillating, temporizing, triangulating “moderates.” They tell us that we can”t afford Medicare for all, even though we spend 700 billion a year on the military. They tell us Trump is Hitler, then they goad him to war in Syria. They say Trump is a dangerous idiot and a Russian spy, then they mindlessly sign off on his exploding military budgets. Um, why give a dangerous idiot and a Russian spy more money, bigger toys and more power? What does “the Resistance” say about this illogical contradiction?

They say nothing because they are frauds.

Donald Trump is the greatest, most profitable show on planet earth, and everyone in our corrupt and decadent establishment class is benefiting from him. The day Trump leaves office will be the darkest day in the history of CNN and MSNBC. Rachel Maddow will be inconsolable. They were so hooked on hating Trump — so hooked on those booming ratings and all that sweet, sweet cash — that his absence will cause actual physical withdrawal pains in them. Make no mistake: Everybody loves Trump. Everybody, especially the people who claim to hate him most. Trump knows this and continues to exploit it to the hilt.

The Trump circus marches on and continues to win because everyone secretely wants it to.

We don’t have a Trump problem. We have an America problem.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Below Zero

I just got back from Barrow, Alaska, where I’ve been holed up for the last ten months. I randomly applied for a teaching job up there last July and, to my horrified surprise, the principal called me the very next morning. Two weeks later all of my worldly belongings were stashed in a storage shed and I was on a plane.

(“All of my worldly belongings” are: a bed, a desk, about fifteen boxes of books, a dresser, and a 1999 Honda CRV with two hundred thousand miles on it; I also had a TV but I threw it away. I live like fuckin’ Ghandi, partly by choice but partly from financial want).

Fun facts about Barrow: It’s real name is Utqiagvik, which means “the place where we gather roots” or “the place where we hunt snowy owls,” depending on who you ask, but it doesn’t matter because nobody can pronounce the word anyway, so everyone still just says Barrow. It’s about three hundred and thirty miles north of the Arctic Circle — the northernmost town in the United States — and there are no roads in or out. From November to January the sun doesn’s come up; from May to July it doesn’t go down. It’s always cold. The temperature got as low as negative 36 with negative 60 wind chill. The hottest it will get in the summer is between 47-50 degrees.

The tallest structure in town used to be the Presbyterian church, now it’s the Wells Fargo building. Out with the old God, in with the new …

There is nothing, absolutely nothing around for hundreds of miles but bleak and forbidding tundra; to the north, just a few blocks from my front door, is the Arctic Ocean, which looked like this one afternoon last August:



It’s a desolate and forlorn place. The homes are mostly shacks cluttered with car and snow mobile parts. It’s too expensive to haul things away, so shit just stays wherever it breaks down. It’s a dump.

Barrow has a thoroughly modern infrastructure courtesy of the Great God Oil from nearby Prudhoe Bay, but some places still lack running water. A truck has to deliver water to them; another one comes by to pick up their honey buckets. You get three guesses what a honey bucket is. Hint: they are buckets, but they don’t contain honey.



There aren’t any paved roads in Barrow. The whole town sits on permafrost, but the upper layers are constantly thawing and refreezing and shifting around. In the spring and summer some of the roads become quagmires:



Here's downtown Barrow. The building on the right is the Presbyterian Church, which was built in 1899. In the nineteenth century, the missionaries made a deal and carved up Alaska between themselves. The Presbyterians got the North Slope. Around 1900, Barrow was wiped out by an influenza epidemic imported by white whalers (who also brought measles, tuberculosis, gonorrhea and alcohol). About sixty-percent of the population died. The Presbyterian missionaries said God was punishing them because they practiced shamanism and weren’t Christian. They later opened up schools designed to Christianize and Americanize Eskimo children. They were forced to speak English only in class. If they slipped up and spoke Inupiaq (their native language), they were hit.


It is a surprisingly diverse place. Most of the town’s 4,500 inhabitants are Inupiaq Eskimos, but there are large numbers of Filipinos, Samoans, and Tongans. The cabbies are mostly Thai and the Chinese restaurant is owned and operated by Koreans; the Japanese restaurant is run by Japanese, but the pizza place is a Slavic affair, either Polish or Czech, I can’t tell which and I’m too polite to ask. The schools are dominated by white people, as is the hospital, with Filipinos acting as support staff. We’re like a tiny little outpost of American culture in the Arctic, imposing an outdated curriculum on restless and indifferent native kids, the American RAJ. It’s bizarre and, to me, a little unsettling (you could say I lack faith in what I do).

But the city and county governments are run by the Natives. Make no mistake about it, it’s their town, and their big thing, twice a year, is whaling.

I went out last October and watched a whaling crew haul up and butcher a bowhead whale. I’ll spare you the gruesome pictures and details. Suffice it to say that all of the whaling communities on Alaska’s North Slope have strict quotas on the number of whales they can hunt, and they use every portion of the whale, the skin, blubber, meat, baleen, everything (they leave what’s left of the carcass for the polar bears, which keeps them out of town). After the whaling crews have divvied out their own portions, the remainder is given away to the community for free. Even non-native residents can get some. It looks like this (and it most definitely does not taste like chicken:


The one on the right is muktuk, which is raw skin and blubber. It doesn’t taste that bad. It’s very fishy but okay. If you said it was fish, cooked it up and threw it some kimchi or a salad, every foodie in San Francisco would rave about its boldness. But the skin is almost impossible to get down; it’s like trying to eat a piece of tire (if you boil it it’s much more palatable). Incidentally, muktuk contains vitamin C. That’s how the Eskimos avoided scurvy despite having a diet that was almost completely devoid of fruits and vegetables. The one on the left is the actual meat, which has a strong, rich flavor that doesn’t taste like anything else I can compare it too. You can only eat it in small doses.

By the way, the term “Eskimo” is okay. Most of the natives call themselves that, as does the state of Alaska. It’s an Ojibwe word that means “eater of raw meat.” Some find it slightly off-putting, but it’s really not an issue at all. Oh yes, they really do have a lot words for ice, though I don’t know if it’s actually two-hundred. They’re words that describe ice in different conditions, i.e., ice that’s safe to walk on, ice that isn’t, thin ice, thick ice, melting ice, sea ice, land ice, shifting ice, stable ice, etc.

There are a few more things that I need to mention, namely, oil and climate change, but these are huge subjects that deserve posts of their own, So I’ll leave off for now. Right now, I’m going to go sit in the sun. Cheers!





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.