Wednesday, February 10, 2016

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

Waaay back on Sept. 22nd, in the wake of Scott Walker's hasty exit from the race for the GOP nomination, yr obdt svt, had this to say about the junior senator from Florida:

You know who else looks dim? Marco Rubio. Just something about the eyes appears unengaged, timid and wary, as if he's afraid someone is going to ask a question he can't begin to understand. So I suspect we'll see his cards tossed back sooner rather than later. (Yes, I know how he's being hepped now more than ever, but my prediction holds).

 Man, how come I'm not getting paid at least a retainer by one of the many orgs sucking mightily at the corporate political election-year teat? I guess they can read it here for free, but precious few do that anyway, and I'll gladly reserve my better judgements for paying clients if it came to that. I don't even watch TV, and damn if I don't get more stuff right than the boys and girls dishing this stew daily. Though, come to think of it, that's probably the problem.

There is something rotten and wrong with a political culture, and in this I include the beltway press in its symbiotic relationship with the former GOP, where patent nitwits like Eric Cantor, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz gained reputations for being among the smartest guys in town. It is now down to those last two goombahs, and their shelf lives, I am here to say, are mighty short.

Cruz clearly has a kind of mental facility effective in an Ivy League setting, a linguistic calculation that might impress creatures of essentially the same confident and ambitious stripe as himself. But, Jesus, no genuinely intelligent person works to be as widely loathed as that man has. True, useful, intelligence opens avenues of inquiry and understanding, seeks to constantly broaden itself and, though categorical, is fundamentally sympathetic in approach. By all accounts, the natal Canadian is proudly opposed to all of that, and thinks his gimmicky brain is all that's necessary to guide him to the Oval Office. He is, in fact, a dead man walking, something he will discover soon enough; a sudden revelation that will probably be televised. I'm sure there'll be a vine of it I can watch later.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Dem Bones

It is probably uncontroversial to observe that somewhere around 95% of Bernie Sanders' supporters, and all of his staffers, own smart phones or other touch screen devices, even though the things are made by essentially indentured Chinese servants living under strict industrial dormitory conditions in severely polluted locales. And a similar super-majority of Berners surely own clothes or shoes made in the up-to-date sweatshops in Southeast Asia or Pacific islands; that most of them even now rely on gas-only vehicles to get around, or are pleased enough to order products from Amazon, and an Uber ride to go somewhere.

This is NOT meant to accuse anyone of hypocrisy, or narcissism, or false dealing, only to say that we are, all of us, surrounded by compromises and rationalizations all the goddamn time, that it can be really hard to lead an integrated moral life, especially with so many temptations towards self-achievement and personal power, some real, others merely amusements, before us every goddamn day. Furthermore, that it is important to recognize these inevitable gaps in our personal moral universes, and not overcompensate failings in the private realm, no matter how unavoidable, by a preachy intensity in the public.

My dear sister is pretty conservative, and I doubt there's much we agree on politically. There is one thing, however, where we absolutely see eye-to-eye: the recognition that what is good for me may not necessarily be good for the nation, and vice versa. My sister, who lives in Georgia, does not skip voting, either, and I am 99% certain that, given the choice of any one of the current leading GOP candidates and Mrs. Clinton, she will in the privacy of the voting booth cast her ballot for Hilary.

One way of leading life with a certain integrity is to be regular in your civic habits: pay your taxes, show up for jury duty, and vote in every election in your district.

And here I will veer somewhat towards criticizing the perfectly hypothetical, perhaps stereotypical Sanders supporters, the cohort greatly white and under 35. From a statistical standpoint, dudes, your voting record is abysmal. What percentage of Sandernistas could not be bothered to cast a vote for the boring, compromised Democrat running for Senate, or the U.S. House in their district two years ago, or four years before that? Kudos to those young people who voted Green, or Family, in 2012 and who now see the Senator from Vermont as the great hope of their political ideals. But a hefty number of the young set, I'll wager, did not go to the polls at all.

Which is to say I sense a certain specialness-of-design in much of Sanders' support, at least as it appears in social media; the notion that a candidate must first grasp the dearest of their wishes and details of their perspective; that if they're going to vote once every four years, it's going to be for someone fucking special, not some boring and compromised insider with powerful connections and pragmatic worldview who's been around forever.

Now it can be fairly stated that parts of Mrs. Clinton's coalition, on the whole poorer and darker than Bernie's, also has, statistically, a less-than-stellar voting record. It is the Democrats' disease, and it has cost them dearly in off-year elections. I guess what I'd like to see going forward is some recognition by the optimistic and transformational wing of the party, which seems to get angrier each news cycle, that results cannot be counted to fall out of the sky to crush our opponents, that steady and persistent application is needed on the ground, and that a necessary part of political progress, as well as gaining some personal rectitude, is showing up as required each time, even when there isn't that much in it for you.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Farce Latitudes (cont.)

It is apparently good op-eding to propose that D.Trump is rolling the dice by skipping Thursday's FUX debate, to which I say banana oil. He thinks he does not need the Angry News Network to win the Iowa beauty contest going away, and he is absolutely right.

Our hero is running a cult of personality, drawn from the legions of mad, sad, and bored among us who find his way of expressing half-bright frustration with current events vivifying, and somehow related to politics.

Know who else has been running his own personality cult, albeit one far more sophisticated, and with shareholders? It is old Roger Ailes himself, who has seen some real success modeling the FUX News brand very much in his cynical, mean, and calculating image.

And here, let me observe that his genius was not injecting right-wing politics into infotainment, only making television's essentially rightest message, of monied spectacle, conformity, reassurance, and repetition, completely manifest. FUX is Huntley and Brinkley, Gunsmoke, Laugh-in, 60 Minutes, and Friends reduced to essentials and presented with a conservo-candy gloss many over 65 find irresistible.

But Roger has been, eh, ailing lately, and by some accounts acting out his industrial strength paranoia, until now mainly kept at home, at the office. The ongoing culture collapse of rightist America has finally hit its cable solar plexus, and the brain connected to it seems occupied elsewhere.

My main rule in life is that things are fine right up until they are not fine. Corollary to that is that now when things collapse they collapse fast. I did not think that the Trump campaign would be so fatal to the needs of FUX news, but I guess those needs have become just as self-contradictory as those of the party it presumes to promote.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Farce Latitudes

The fascinating phenomenon of D. Trump sends so many signals, on so many different levels, that it's VERY hard to decode just one. A little-understood reason for his popularity, cultivated by his TV show, is how he services both the national ideal of self-regard, being the individual in command, and the American reality of self-loathing, the punished server, at the same time.

The self loathing, of course, appears on TV cloaked in other messages, those having to do with a willingness to entertain, a belief in craft in service, and an overall obedience to superiors. I am thinking now of all those cooking contest, and talent shows, which along with the more business-motivated embarrassments like The Apprentice send the message to those of us at home that our existence is precarious, our daily bread reliant upon obeying the commands of demanding, self-involved martinets. Now the more cynical of readers might say that that is, in fact, the way of the world; and, yes, I guess on some level it may be so for a lot of business conducted in the republic. Never mind that a great many viewers find the embarrassment and disappointment of the contestants on these shows to be worthy entertainment for a putatively free people, the message delivered also proposes that this humiliation is normal, deserved, and entirely okay.

Another signal the aptly-monikered Trump is sending is that there is no Republican Party, as such, anymore. But even attempting to redefine the entity would distinguish it as a coherent body, and I don't think that's the case. The sleep of reason, as Francesco Goya proposed, produces monsters, and GOP reason has been in a REM state for a long time. Their worst instincts, blinkered and capricious, are now made flesh, and a demoralized segment of the population is enchanted by it.

The good news is we will discover later this year how small that segment really is.

We got here because some defining values of the militant American Right, of unregulated flinty independence, supreme confidence in belief, and resolute self-dealing, have no unifying qualities whatsoever, and that taken to their logical ends, which you usually reach after 35 years, are fatal guiding principles for any social enterprise, which, alas Ayn Rand, political parties fundamentally are. Down at the personal level, the true believer who somehow comes up short in life, obviously as a result of weakness and personal failings, finds self-hatred easy and natural; though needful to direct outwards.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Crash and Carry

The great thing about blogging once every so often, is that the few points I feel obligated to make are easy to recall, and point to. Only last time did I reiterate my observation-long-standing about the friability of the good old GOP.

Martin Longman sees the same thing I do.

In truth, the Booman has been riding the same hobby horse for a while. He had an absolutely brill exegesis on the subject a few months ago, and I had every intention of posting it among us here, but did not.

Another thing I like to repeat is my notion that the collapse of the GOP is reflective of a wider and ongoing culture collapse, which is hard to see because it is happening everywhere. Not to be snide: but exactly how much of the avalanche does one notice when rolling around inside it?

Difficult to see until recently, however, when a large actuarial review found a climbing death rate among white Americans, one steep enough in the middle age cohort--the one where you will find me--driven by bumper issues of suicide, drug overdose, and alcohol-related pathologies.

There has been a lot of to-and-fro about the data and methodology of the initial finding (see also  Kevin Drum's reply to Josh Marshall's recent attempt at wading into the electoral/cultural meaning of it all), but the numbers are pretty plain. White folks are offing themselves at pronounced rates for mainly existential causes.

Marshall makes some good points about healthcare access, poverty, and unemployment. He tends to soft sell the subject of anomie, which is where I'd like to plant my flag for a bit.

There are consequences to junk culture: bad food, violent and/or shallow entertainment, a blond and muscular Christianity, an under-education in history, science, the broader world of complex and subtle ideas; all of which contribute--or are maybe molded by--the politics of resentment and rage we are presented with daily on TV and the intertubes.

I'm not saying everyone has to be their own philosopher, only that attitudes of curiosity, compassion, and judgement are sorely missing from a lot of the content of our zesty media culture, mainly because such attitudes complicate the selling of stuff. This lack of nourishment on nearly every level has clearly taken its toll.

This is why gerrymandered districts (and I live in one of the nation's worst, the Illinois 4th, protectorate of Luis Gutierrez, D.IL), while disgraceful, do not bother me greatly. People move away. People die. And the people who matter the most to the imploding GOP are dying in remarkably big numbers.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Reality? Check.

A few days ago Josh Marshall at TPM took a small dig at those of us (and here I would like to consider myself one of the first) who say the GOP is imploding. To wit:

It's hard to see how much they can really be 'imploding' in any meaningful sense when they'll almost certainly retain the House next year, have a decent chance at holding onto the Senate and can by no means be counted out to win the presidency.

To which I answer that the election will only certify the utter brokenness of the old party of Eisenhower. Because it can most certainly be counted out to win the presidency, the chances of it holding the senate are hovering around nil, and the house might be a 50-50 proposition and out of the grip of those hooligans in '18.

I state this with such confidence because of an innate respect I have for my fellow citizens, something largely missing from the cynically cautious press, who know shit when they encounter it. Mrs. Clinton, much to the surprise of the conventional wisdomers, is doing just fine, thanks, while the whole Democratic card mainly resembles a family working out plans for a big wedding; not, like the other side, a pack of teenage psychopaths fighting over heroin turf in Naples.

Nay-O. Hil is going to trounce whichever one of those clowns is put up against her, just as B.H. Obama would if allowed another go. The notion, apparently sustaining the whole GOP election machine, along with the MSM, is that the nation is dearly tired of Obama, and that anyone they put up will cruise (ha-ha) to victory. This is, of course, delusional. 

As for the Senate and House: in the first they are defending too many seats in statewide contests, in purple states, after a long season of the party bigshots bashing every constituency that is not white and male. Granted, the Dems need to field good candidates, something they can be bad at doing, but I'm assuming they will do a decent job. Demographics will handle the rest.

As for the House, well, the districts may be fixed, but people die, and people move away, and people even sometimes get sick of those they once thought highly of. Nothing the House GOP is doing, or will do in the next year, is going to change the general air of angry, stupid incompetence drifting from the chamber, and they have nowhere to go but down.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Midnight in the Garden of Goobers and Weasels cont.

I will note just for the record now of the fall of Speaker Boehner, announced this morning and go out on a limb to call it the official end of the Republican Party as a vehicle of national governance. Done and dusted.

But what I wanted to write about today is another thing I've been considering these two years away from here; that the election of Barak Obama did not so much open a door, my feeling at the time, as turn over a rock, exposing God's own number of revolting, fascinating creatures.

So much of what had been implicit in our social and political lives was suddenly under the light of events, and while the results, the brassy, assertive racism of so many affronted individuals being no longer dignified by tacit silence, have not been pretty, and only mildly edifying, they have been needful. The boil, to switch metaphors, has been lanced and the infection, believe it or not, is certain to be greatly reduced. In the meantime: Yik.

This is why I don't get angry, or especially upset at the latest rightest outrage, for the simple matter that they are rapidly going away, and they know it. Fifteen years ago Republicans got the president they wanted, the congress they wanted, the tax cuts and the war they wanted, and it all went to utter shit. So badly, in fact, that their fellow citizens were pleased to send to the White House a junior senator who may not have been, no was NOT, an American at all; a man who won re-election by cheating, and who has mainly had his way over their stupid agenda and dim schemes ever since. This knowledge has driven the less reasonable of them, something approaching 40% of their number, barking mad.

And while my prediction of the demise of the GOP has always been based on McLuhan's judgement of how new media can wreck hierarchical organizations, which has certainly come to pass--the combined action of leaked emails, ill-considered twitter remarks, and cell phone videos--I've lately come to thinking that their ship of fools was first and foremost broken on the rock of B.H. Obama, a steadfast, tireless, engaged, and always present executive whom they could not frighten, cajole, nor defeat. It was all too much. Every assumption they have made over the last 15 years has been proved to be deeply wrong, and the fatal consequences of that are pending closely.