Saturday, June 04, 2016


I don't think anyone much under 60 can quite imagine the effect Muhammad Ali had on his times which, second only to the Civil War, a conflict that his birth (he called it later his "slave") name invoked, were the most complex and transformative in the nation's history. The Times today, in the headline to Bob Lipsyte's beautifully-wrought obit, got it exactly right. He was a titan of the 20th century.

Yrs truly got his first boxing lessons at age ten, the same year that Ali beat Sonny Liston for the second time to become the undisputed heavyweight champion. To be an Italo-American boy growing up in western New York in the 60s was to be a fight fan, and to be a young fight fan meant falling under Ali's spell. Certainly there was no one like him, in what were the waning days of American Apartheid. His audacity, his youth, his otherworldly skills, his overwhelming beauty, probably did more to form my ideas about race, sport, and politics as I grew up, and as he matured into a truly great man, than any other public figure. I hope no one gets too angry at me for putting it this way, but Dr. King and Malcolm X, were statesmen, they needed to state their cases, present the facts, tell the truth. Ali used his body in no less powerful or subtle ways as those men used their minds and voices, while also bringing to bear a great mind and voice of his own. For about twelve intense years, Ali was the facts, he was the case, he was the truth. Best of all, he knew it, and wasn't afraid to say so, too.

To live at that time meant you did not watch Ali so much as feel him. Even in his long eclipse, when he might have otherwise added so much more to the American dialogue, you could feel his presence. Now we feel his loss. and I am sadder about that more than I can say.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Making America Grate (Agon)

Photo: Russell Lee, FSA/Library of Congress
I am not here to say that the election of Hilary Clinton will be an unalloyed blessing to the Republic. I am here to say that she is manifestly the most qualified candidate in sight, and, beyond that, the DT has ZEE-ROW chance of being elected, however the Gone Old Party now seems to be rallying, kinda, behind their new main man.

Zero, as in none, zip, une-gatz, nil. The hell of the last week has been, and will be going forward, all the outlets who for reasons small and smaller find the need to fluff the Trump candidacy as possible, Mrs. Clinton as stumbling, and the election as anything resembling close. There are many, many factors standing in the way of that loudmouth's ascension to the OO: from demographic to structural to financial to organizational, but I would like to meditate upon another: fatigue, or disappointment.

As the contest skips merrily on to the conventions and the fall campaign it seems likely to yr. obt. hmbl. svt. that a certain percentage of DT supporters, say up to five, will grow less enthusiastic about his antics which we might safely assume will remain on the same aggravating wavelength for the duration. Without variety or letup, what's entertaining at 8pm can be very tiresome by midnight; and though true believers will cling to Donnie as to their guns and senseless dreams of future success, I don't see a lot more people climbing aboard the crazy train, and a statistically significant percentage debarking at stations down the line.

I'll add before ending that the same fatigue dynamic may now be at work at the campaign of that elderly, frog-voiced scold, who seems to have lost a couple percentage points to the despise-ed one in the last week. As the shadows lengthen on Bernie's day in the sun, the cranky statements from his staff, and threats of violence in Philadelphia now from his rather more enraged supporters, can only have a dampening effect on many people otherwise sympathetic to his goals, if not exactly on board with his candidacy. He had the chance to prove his point, that his campaign would invigorate new waves of citizens to come vote for the first time for profound social and political change. That didn't happen, and now he's trying to, what, save the Democratic Party from itself? Screw'im.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Making America Grate

Now that my long-held prediction of the GOP's collapse has at last come to pass I'll need some other topic on which to stick out my neck.

While I had some earlier doubts that the DT would secure the nomination, it was only from a sense that the whole shambolic enterprise would stumble gamely through June and into a stew of ill will on Lake Erie's shore this August. In fact the whole building was shakier than even I suspected and, having forced out all the tenants, Donnie is fixing up the old place in his own extra-special image, and I am enjoying every moment of it.

I shall always love the DT for reminding the Gone Old Party's board of directors what a fucking disaster that squalid little man was, for the nation and the party that presumed to succor him, and how Donnie's unique brand of simmering fatuous nonsense turned out to be the most popular dish, served in heaping portions, to the business's white customers. If any of my Republican friends come asking my opinion of how things went so bloody wrong, I'd point them to that day 16 years ago, when Karl Rove's racist ratfucking screwed John McCain out of a win in S. Carolina. Everything devolved very naturally from there.

 My recent hiatus has come from having nothing further to add as the GOP imploded for good, and a growing sense of annoyance in regarding what's laughably called a political campaign by the Sanders movement. An angry, frog-voiced scold, BS has never once bothered to dress-up his narrow critiques of the status quo with anything approaching cogent proposals for regulation or legislation. Worse, he seems pleased not to appeal to anyone who may find fault with his limited campaign issues, rather harp instead on how he got jobbed in those Democratic primaries limited to, you know, Democrats; those rank-and-file voters who have preferred his opponent by a national two-to-one margin.

His is a Children's Crusade, and before you say that the same charge could have been leveled at Eugene McCarthy in 1968 and George McGovern in 1972, let me point out that back then half of the children were subject to an active draft, and were dying overseas in enough numbers, as the U.S. laid waste to much of Southeast Asia, so as to make the unsuccessful campaigns of both men necessary and admirable. I sense no high moral order in the VT senator's appeal, only a kind of hectoring purity, a righteous glare woefully unfit for politics.

And before someone insists that that's the whole point, let me observe that NO political and social reform has EVER been enacted in this country by a non-, or outsider, politician. Lincoln was a corporate lawyer who suspended habias corpus, finessed the freeing of slaves as a war measure and was content to browbeat and bribe enough House members to pass the 13th amendment. FD Roosevelt, it's reported, knew the names of every single Democratic county leader in the country by heart, and traded with the worst elements of southern Democrats to pass Social Security legislation, which first did not include measures for farm and domestic labor, that is: black folks.

Shall I go on? As president, US Grant, over the objection of his top generals, ordered that African American men be allowed to stay and serve in the Army. Harry Truman, a machine pol and middle-class Missouri bigot, commanded the armed forces be integrated. I don't think there were bigger, more corrupt sons-of-bitches ever in the White House than LB Johnson and his successor RM Nixon. The former brought us the Civil Rights Act, the latter the EPA. On the other hand, pure reformer W. Wilson was a rank racist whose term in office saw black people purged from the federal bureaucracy, and brought us Prohibition, and the Palmer Raids.

So, Berners, spare me your moral clarity, your know-it-all anger, and most especially your naive fear for the future. You pique is hardly different from the hot gas now venting from that dead elephant, and shares with it, if you ask me, a distinct odor of misogyny. None of it belongs in our grubby politics, and ours is a better nation exactly for that.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Grand Old Potty

Apologies for the usual silence. It's just that the contest for, the spectacle over if you will, the GOOP nomination has become something dull and pointless to jaded old me.

In the last couple weeks, as I judge, the general sentiment of the moderately sentient is that the Republican Party is toast, the convention will be a stupid monkey show, and a abject and total defeat in November, in both executive and legislative branches, is becoming something near certain.

All of this I've felt in my bones, and occasionally wrote about here, for simply yonks, and to see it unwind in slow motion, is about as thrilling to me now as a Dallas rerun.

On the Blue side, the whining beginning to drift from the Sanders camp (though, in fairness, not the candidate himself) is adding a tiresome edge to what is still a one-note campaign, which becomes ever more defined in its appeal with every overwhelming win in very white, independent-crossover caucus states.

And, y'know, fine. Just don't pretend the candidate has anything of substance to offer rank and file Democrats, or that something is wrong with those people supporting Mrs. Clinton.

The one interesting part is how the rather brainer writers of a conservative bent are now looking at the smoking ruins of their once-sturdy brain palace, trying to articulate what the hell happened. This reflective phase for them will go on for a long time, and I wish them godspeed with it.

Writers of a livelier, more rambling intellect are beginning to outline a deeper look at what's happening, and getting it close to right. For what we are witnessing isn't only the implosion of the Grand Old Potty but also, like a higher, maddened harmony of a Strauss opera, the rage of a patriarchy compelled at last to account for itself; to in fact outline its values for consideration, and so possible rejection, in a broad referendum.

The GOOP, leaders and followers both, has know for almost two years that the Democrats would almost certainly nominate a very capable woman for president. One could easily infer that that knowledge alone drove them frothing insane enough to cough-up that giant orange hairball.

And to all the concerned liberals whose earnest, 750-word pensées are daily liked unto my Facebook feed let me say: far from being a degraded process, this is why we have elections in the first place; not to find the soberest, most able individual for high office, but to vent the stupid notions that build up very naturally in every republic, and especially in ours, where monied stupidity, lacking any regular institutional challenge, has been held in high esteem from the get-go.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Midnight in the Garden of Goobers and Weasels (cont.)

After posting the previous, I went on to read a few worried articles by Very Concerned People, on just what a threat to the Republic the DT really is, to which I say: Banana Oil.

He appeals to the dim, the angry, the racist, and nihilistic; a lot of whom are getting up there in years too. The passionate attraction these folks feel for him says a lot more about the crumbling condition of the GOOP, than the state of the union, which has sheltered crackpots, dingbats, mad failures, and malign fools in good number across its history.

No, DT will lose and his movement scatter and fade. Someone, maybe even Donnie himself, might try to gin-up a repeat performance next cycle, but the act will be older, less invigorating. His supporters are subject to the same existential laws of boredom and inaction as the rest of us, and, lacking the philosophic defenses offered by education and personal accomplishment, are thereby more prey to their ravages. You cannot build a sustained success by appealing mostly to the moods of failures. As for DT's anticipated "pivot" to the center, I'll observe that the only center he knows is behind his own eyeballs. Donnie is incapable of staying true to anything but his own gargantuan and flighty ego needs. Any future bid he might make to sensible centrists can, and will, be undone in a moment of pique.

Frankly, I'm still not convinced he'll be the GOOP's nominee, but for that we'll just have to stay tuned.

Speaking of pivot, anyone who has not noticed Mrs. Clinton's signaling last week to the broader-minded subset of appalled Republicans that she isn't oh-so-awful after all just hasn't been paying attention.

UPDATE: Shortly after I posted this, Kevin Drum posted this.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A House Derided

OOOOooo-E! Where to start? For history buffs like yours truly, the hot-tempered shouting and shoving that now characterizes the DT's rallies harkens back to a rougher and sturdier age, an era which came to a head around the time that the last major American political party, being the Whigs ca. 1855, imploded. I'm not sure you had active incitements towards violence radiating from the leading hustings, but brawling at rallies, conventions, and polling places, has a distinguished history in our deranged nation and I, for one, find its reemergence bracing.

While the Democrats have mainly hewed to a policy-driven campaign that tends to underplay cults of personality (and to be clear, every bid for high office needs some cultish attraction, and the Bern has been consistently in the lead in this regard), the GOOP contest has devolved into complete Theater of Cruelty, a deeply entertaining Guignol that only promises further riches as the headsmen and torturers lurch their bloody way to Cleveland.

But how, I hear my imaginary interlocutor wailing, can you take so lightly this army of furious racists who MIGHT boost a new Mussolini into the Oval Office??

And it is astonishing to me just how many sane and decent thinkers in my circles of friends are terrified of this wholly ridiculous prospect. This is, of course, the effect of TV, which everyone watches, and the absurd magnifying effect it gives to everything the mainly conservative apparatchiks of TV find important. And for them nothing is more important than ratings; so if ratings demand the daily spinning of faintly-plausible fantasy to keep frightened and angry people tuned-in, well, so be it.

Look folks, the Untied States of America is an enormous country, of over 300 million people spread out across a land mass approximately 3,000 miles long and up to 2,000 miles wide. It lacks anything approaching a state religion (and, no, conservative Protestantism does not count as a single religion), a presiding racial identity (and WASP is a category, not a national identity), or even a central capital that dictates the political, cultural, financial, and media trends for the whole nation.

So, NO, we are not Italy in 1922, nor Germany in 1932.  The lack of any popular U.S. dictators arising, and there have been plenty over the years who've applied for the job, owes more to the size and diversity of the Republic than to any innate genius of our political institutions, to which I say: Hurray!

As for a Republican getting elected president this year, well, GMAFB. Never mind the nature of GOP causes, repulsive to so very many, national elections, for all the televised talking and spectacle, are intensely granular affairs. For a candidate to be successful, a national party has to broadly coordinate tens of thousands of small acts, in hundreds of locations, every day for months: of office rental and staffing, of canvassing and phone banking, of printing and distributing millions of signs, fliers, and door hangers, of messaging and promotion, of advance work for rallies, of determining areas of greatest need and moving the candidate efficiently from one place to the next.

But I belabor the point.

The notion that the Gone Old Party, be its nominee DT, TC, or a sucker to be named later, will be coherent enough to deliver effective service for a presidential campaign is simply laughable. They have been at each others throats for too long to pull together when the time comes. Put simply: the Party of Lincoln has become a House Divided. Ironic, right?

Monday, February 29, 2016

Gone Old Party (cont.)

Today the Atlantic has a longish thumbsucker that eventually comes around to the point I made here, in far fewer words, a month ago, which I mention only to give a little unnecessary frisking-up to my ego, which has been lately on a roll.

That implosion of the GOP I predicted in '06, (and explained in greater detail back in '08)? It's on; in fact, it's almost over. Though it took longer than I expected to get here, it's now full-bore, and happening just as fast as advertised. I crow about this today because we can now date the death of the GOP specifically, yesterday it was, when a sitting United Sates senator, a member of the majority there, endorsed the candidacy of the rabble-rousing factionalist now making mincemeat of the political body on which his majority very much depends.

Done and dusted, folks. RIP GOP: March 20, 1854 to February 28, 2016. You people deserved everything you got, and then some.

The main thing I got wrong in timing my analysis was the assumption that the MSM would abandon the Republican project once it became clear it was accomplishing nothing, and was, in fact, an active agent, by its choices of national leaders and the issues it championed, in its own undoing. Power belonged to the Democrats, I reasoned, and the press would naturally follow the power. Turns out that assumption was very flawed.

Partly inertia, partly laziness, partly a fellow fondness for insider money and influence, for god's own number of reasons, the press stayed true to the GOP narrative just as the whole stupid exercise was coming apart; which, come to think of it, aptly mirrored the same implosive forces at work on the MSM. Each thought the other would be able to help it overcome a broadly-based, digital media crisis facing both.

The sturdiest myth the press enabled during the president's second administration, and one that even liberal bloggers were keen to accept, was that the GOP had power, when, in fact, it had nothing of the kind. Power to block is not power to control, and by pretending, in every dumb confrontation with the administration, and on every stupid TV news show, that it had the latter, it succeeded only in antagonizing a legion of not-especially-sophisticated people who bought its bullshit as gospel.

Ha ha.

The most laughable rhetorical trope that the GOP's had for sometime, a frame for nearly every block-headed pronouncement everyone of those ding-dongs makes now, is how the American people want this or that policy outcome that only the Gone Old Party can deliver. Well, a majority of the American people stand aghast and disbelieving at the mess that the senile, old, male elephant's made, and will put it out of its misery soon enough.