Some Men Just Want To Watch The World Bern

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Hey Bernie Bros!

What’s up, fellas? First, I feel you. To a certain extent, I am you. I love me some Bernie, and, to establish some obligatory street-cred, actually knew who he was (and admired him) many years before he decided to run for president.

Secondly, I get it. Check this out.

I have to say, you younger dudes are reminding many of us of the obdurate blowhards who claimed, in 2000, that their only choice was Nader since (as Nader himself said, to his eternal shame) Bush and Gore were essentially two sides of the same soiled coin.

Here’s the thing: quite a few folks knew not only that this was bullshit, but that the feckless and untested Bush wasn’t remotely up to the job. Yes, it was infuriating to witness some of the most irresponsible media negligence of our lifetimes (little did we know it was a test run for the run-up to Iraq), but at least, without the literal benefit of hindsight, it was impossible to prove Bush would be incompetent in ways that made even our most cynical suspicions seem…naïve. Here’s the other thing: we already know, without even the slightest iota of uncertainty, that Trump is not merely a reckless, obscene and ignorant buffoon, but that his election will put the very concept of American democracy in jeopardy. Speaking of Iraq, imagine Trump…no, let’s not even go there.

So, with condolences and admonition, let me toss fifty well-intended turds into your oh-so-pure punch bowl before your precious, but increasingly nihilistic “Bernie or Bust” antics do our nation irreparable harm.

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1. Donald Trump.

2. Trump’s VP? Google “Pence. Abortion bill”.

3. Take a quick gander at the GOP platform. And read this.

4. Imagine, for one moment, that you’re not white, or had a vagina. Or were gay. Or, if that’s too frightening and uncomfortable, what our country will be like for any and all of these folks.

5. Pretend (and this is probably the biggest stretch of all) that you ever, under any circumstances had to work a blue collar job.

6. Contemplate Newt Gingrich as Secretary of State.

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  1. Contemplate Chris Christie. (Not even necessarily in any position of power; just contemplate him.)
  2. Imagine, for one second, this idiot feeling vindicated.
  3. The fact that the cowardly and cretinous Rudy Giuliani has recently inserted himself into the public eye with the typical grace of a rabid ferret in a crowded train, and could easily be named Attorney General, should be enough to make you not only vote for Hillary, but get excited about canvassing for her.
  4. If you seriously believe, for one second, that living under a Trump regime will be in any way cathartic or cleansing, do us all a favor: go live in North Korea for a few months and let us know what you’ve learned.
  5. Have you actually ever read anything by Orwell or Kafka or even the pre-9/11 Christopher Hitchens? Didn’t think so.
  6. “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”, right? Trump’s another word for it, too — for people who’ve never lost anything, or have excellent jobs or benevolent parents to shelter them from shit when it gets real. Speaking of freedom: everything this concept conveys is something Trump had handed to him or has fought to obstruct his entire life.
  7. Hillary a tad egocentric for your tastes? Fair enough. Think she puts herself first too much for comfort? Okay. Compared to Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is Florence Nightingale, Mother Teresa and June Cleaver rolled into one.
  8. Think of Hillary Clinton as the pâté of politics: overvalued by the wrong type of people, appalling in its pretensions, bought by well-connected sorts, but undeniably created through expertise and time-tested processes. It, in short, might not be especially appetizing for all kinds of reasons, but fast food it ain’t. Think of Trump, on the other hand, as a worn out chicken breast raised on a chemical and steroid mash inside a rank, concrete factory that is months past its inflated expiration date, then had bleach poured on it for coloration before hitting the meat aisle at Food Lion.
  9. Everyone who really wants Trump to win really hates everything about you.
  10. And they would not hesitate to harm you, physically, if they could get away with it.
  11. And they would be encouraged (and, perhaps, exonerated) by Trump, if he had the power.
  12. Read the short story “Mario and the Magician” by Thomas Mann.
  13. Read something by any writer who lived through a dictatorship.
  14. Read this excellent piece from founding Weeklings editor Greg Olear.
  15. Imagine all the right wing radio listening, bigoted and elderly dunces who detest Obama (because he’s black) and fantasize about them spending their miserable last years ranting in their futons because a woman just became president for two terms.
  16. I would say, imagine Secretary of Defense John McCain, but The Donald prefers Secretaries of State who didn’t get captured. You know who definitely never gets captured? Short-fingered cheese-dicks whose daddy helped them avoid military service in the first place.
  17. At a certain point you just have to grow up. There are few things more appalling than the way sausage is made (literally and figuratively). There are also few things more enjoyable, or American.
  18. You know how you love Bill Clinton despite the ways he drives you crazy because he’s such a gifted natural politician with such cripplingly poor judgment? Hillary Clinton, in virtually every regard, is his opposite.
  19. Read this.
  20. Read this, too.
  21. More knowledge dropped by Mr. Olear.
  22. Put this in your pipe and smoke it.
  23. Donald Trump is the tragi-comic apotheosis of the GOP successfully, for decades, side-stepping all reality-based criticism by insisting the media is liberal. (The only way that story ends happily, and appropriately, is if Trump loses in spectacular, historically humiliating fashion.)
  24. Also, the Fox News-enabled transition from low information voters to no information voters has been deliberate, if cynical, and will have one of two results: epic comeuppance that will rend the GOP into several desperate, greedy and angry (always angry) factions, or the utter collapse of democracy, assuming Trump wins.
  25. Seriously, the distance between Hillary and Bernie, though profound in some regards, is like the gap between Starbucks franchises in any major city. The distance between Hillary and Trump, on the other hand, is not even calculable by man-made means; we’re talking quantum physics black hole time space continuum type shit.
  26. See how long you can make it through this:

33. Am I the only person who, whenever Donald Trump is speaking (invariably about himself), thinks he is a much dumber and more dangerous realization of this classic character?

34. You notice how the Republican Establishment has, of late, tripled-down on calling itself “the party of Lincoln”? That’s not accidental. This election needs to ensure that for the indefinite future they are, correctly, known as “the party of Trump”.

35. Getting back to that Republican platform. Did you know they’re against medical marijuana?

36. And that they are still shamelessly anti-gay marriage, anti-gay adoption and for the farcical “conversion therapy” snake oil? (Follow the money, opportunism and denial, always the GOP Unholy Trinity.) It’s one thing to be unrepentantly bigoted and call yourself “traditional”; it’s another to essentially fly your flag of intolerance and dare people with their hearts and minds on the moral side of history to do something. Now’s the time to ensure you do something.

37. Hey, smart guy: can’t be bothered to be appalled by anti-abortion (even in the cases of rape and incest!) laws? How about when your online porn habits start being monitored and persecuted?

38. Still unmoved? Get a load of this exhaustive (and yes, epic) takedown of all-things Trump by our own Brother Sean Beaudoin.

39. You’ve got your panties in a pretzel over Hillary’s emails, but you don’t realize Trump University alone should be enough to ensure Trump is doing the hardest possible time at Rikers Island?

40. Ever seen Dr. Strangelove? Donald Trump is Buck Turgidson, General Jack D. Ripper, Colonel Bat Guano and Ambassador Alexei de Sadeski, all in one. Only dumber and more dangerous. And much less amusing.

41. Remember this?

42. Just vote for Hillary and then complain and whine as much as you want. That’s what blogs are made for.

43. For the sake of the country, be the one saying “I told you so” each time the media, on rinse, wash, repeat, blasts out the latest manufactured Hillary-related outrage. We can take it; we’re prepared for it. Don’t be the person being told “I told you so” by the rest of us, as our collective future flatlines.

44. Ensure another essential Democratic win just to see if it finally causes this evil motherfucker to implode.

45. Just because Batman had some megalomaniacal tendencies doesn’t mean you rooted for The Joker. (If you did root for The Joker, it’s time, at long last, to move out of your parent’s house. Also, too: see #9.)

46. Every great leader, including FDR, had personal foibles that, if scrutinized the way Hillary’s have been for decades, would prevent them from being elected to their home owners association, much less president of the United States.

47. Imagine the good Bernie can continue to do in support of a (grateful, and accommodating) Clinton administration.

48. Visualize every hero who has fought for social justice in the history of the world. Who do you think they’d want you to vote for? (Hint: not Trump, never.)

49. Have the courage of your convictions: go light your house on fire and send every penny you have to Donald Trump. That will allow you to get it out of your system and repent before you help usher in the apocalypse. Win/Win.

50. Seriously. President Trump? You’re better than that. We’re better than this.

Final words from the man himself.

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“I’m An Idea Man…”

Predictably, that bastion of sober, probing and reasonable analysis, The Washington Post (more on my relationship with that rag here, here and here) has surveyed our political moment and is ready to offer up some insight.

To wit, the admittedly astonishing (though not improbable, considering how Republicans have now cycled through every possible alternative to Romney) ascension of Newt Gingrich. (Put another way: it wasn’t until Herman Cain –a man with no legislative experience to start with– quintupled-down (and counting) on Gary Hart and watched his ludicrous campaign implode from every angle, that Newt got his momentum. Stop and think about this: until Cain made it all but impossible to vote for him, he was the guy the base was ready to get behind. So Newt should be at once grateful and humble; the party did not come around…the music stopped and he was the last guy dancing.)

As if on cue, the headline in today’s paper declares: Newt Gingrich as president could turn the White House into an ideas factory.

Yeah, a bad ideas factory.

Nuggets like these, for instance:

“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich asks. “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”

“Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works, so they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday…They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’ unless it’s illegal.”

(Kid janitors) “would be dramatically less expensive than unionized janitors…(child labor laws are) truly stupid.”

That’s just three of the more egregious “ideas” Newt has floated. And that is just from this year. If we roll the videotape –and you can bet Romney will begin to do just that– we’ll have a dossier that is equal parts amusing and appalling; hysterical in many senses of the word.

More on this, later; but I don’t think people need to get their panties in a bunch about this blowhard: Romney is reading the polls and the only thing more dangerous than a desperate man without a soul is a wealthy desperate man without a soul. The attack ads will direct themselves. And that is before we acknowledge that Newt’s worst enemy is himself, so I for one am salivating at the myriad ways he can (and will) savage himself on the national stage in the weeks ahead.

But the one thing that needs to be nailed down: Yes, Newt is an idea man. And virtually all of his ideas are regressive, far-fetched or ill-advised. He has not proposed feeding mayo to tuna fish yet, but I’m sure he has some amazing insights he can’t wait to share with a wondrous world. Stenographers at The Post: get your pens out.

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The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave

If Newt Gingrich does the unthinkable (and, for the record, I still think there is less than a 1% chance it happens) and sticks around –much less snags the Republican nomination to run against Obama– I will be obliged to reexamine my views concerning the Deity I don’t believe exists.

For a man who makes it his business to loathe the media so much (a nice pre-emptive strike that Palin learned from and mostly got away with, and which is only somewhat catching up with Cain and Perry, yet of course most of the damage to their campaigns, painful as it’s been to watch, has been self-inflicted), wait until he gets a load of finally (finally!) receiving a modicum of scrutiny that all (most?) candidates receive. Once the rock under which this first-class charlatan does business is lifted; once the tiniest bit of fresh air shines light on even some of his shady dealings, manifest hypocrisy and shameless opportunism, that tubby deck of cards is going to crash harder than Charlie Sheen after a three-day bender.

Earlier in the year I had this to say about the dime store despot. Here is my key takeaway, which it gives me giddy pleasure to revisit:

Gingrich remains the gift that keeps giving. There is not much I had any interest in saying, since he was doing so much of the heavy lifting this past week to immolate himself (as predicted by anyone not inexplicably in thrall to his con act; that so many in the media still give this snake oil salesman the time of day is bewildering). So let’s cut to the chase: I would wage considerable sums of money that there is no chance Newt could ever weasel his way into the nomination for 2012. Frankly I don’t think God loves us enough to make that remote possibility a reality. However, few things would provide me more pleasure. It might even be worth praying for.

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Newt, Not The Onion

Someone has needed to pull a Josey Wales on Newt Gingrich for a very long time. It turns out he can do it just fine himself, thank you very little.

I’ve already said all I cared to say about the insufferable, but always (unintentionally) amusing Newt Gingrich. I half-excitedly have kept my powder dry, in the hope that he somehow would weasel his way to the top of the unimpressive roster of Republican nitwits vying for their chance to get beaten badly by Obama in 2012.

Here is what I said last summer:

Let’s cut to the chase: I would wage considerable sums of money that there is no chance Newt could ever weasel his way into the nomination for 2012. Frankly I don’t think God loves us enough to make that remote possibility a reality. However, few things would provide me more pleasure. It might even be worth praying for.

I have to say, he remains the gift that keeps giving. There is not much I had any interest in saying, since he was doing so much of the heavy lifting this past week to immolate himself (as predicted by anyone not inexplicably in thrall to his con act; that so many in the media still give this snake oil salesman the time of day is bewildering).

But as a person who puts pen to paper on a daily basis, I am compelled to take note of the stink bomb he dropped yesterday. (His staff seems obliged to fall on the sword, but there is little doubt the Newster wrote or at least helped write this ridiculous, embarrassing dreck.)

The literati sent out their minions to do their bidding. Washington cannot tolerate threats from outsiders who might disrupt their comfortable world. The firefight started when the cowardly sensed weakness. They fired timidly at first, then the sheep not wanting to be dropped from the establishment’s cocktail party invite list unloaded their entire clip, firing without taking aim their distortions and falsehoods. Now they are left exposed by their bylines and handles. But surely they had killed him off. This is the way it always worked. A lesser person could not have survived the first few minutes of the onslaught. But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich, once again ready to lead those who won’t be intimated by the political elite and are ready to take on the challenges America faces.

That’s not The Onion, folks.

The only thing I can say to that is: Wow.

And, thanks, as always, Newt, for just being you.

Here is the original post from last July:

This just in: Newt gingrich remains the most repugnant and despicable ass-clown in America!

(Narrowly edging out the oleaginous Andrew Breitbart, who may finally have done civilization a favor by making himself impossible to take seriously in any respectable circles.)

In terms of offensiveness, illogic and opportunism, the insufferable one may have outdone himself here:

There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.

And lest anyone think I’m shooting a pale, bloated and loquacious fish in a barrel, let it be known that I’m actually offering Gingrich more than a little benefit of the doubt. I am inclined to believe that he knows better and says most of the things he says (trying to be incendiary, ending up being insidious) to stir the sluggish pot of ditto-heads, “Don’t Tread On Me” types, and the no-taxes troglodytes who invariably live in counties most reliant upon the largesse of government and well-paid (and heavily taxed) liberal elite socialist sorts. Indeed, I have no choice but to conclude he knows better, because the irony (and idiocy) would be too unbearable if this bozo, who constantly invokes his authority on founding fathers (always wrongly, such as his demonstrably incorrect insistence that men like Jefferson and Washington were devout Christians and, more, designed the new country to be a “Christian nation”—which is literally the opposite of the very documents they created) actually believed the garbage he so often spews.

Check it out: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Pretty hard to misinterpret or spin, no? Not unless your audience consists of the willfully illiterate and mouth-breathing masses who turn to Fox news for a quick fix for what (Roger) ails them. Any serious thinker who hopes to be taken seriously does everything in his power to avoid leaning on the ever-reliable George Orwell, but sometimes no other analogy will do. In the intellectual wasteland that passes for the Republican party these days, down truly is up and night really is day. Only in this contemporary dystopia on the Right could anyone with the ability to reason (or read) fail to understand the difference between what the founding fathers wrote and fearful bigots fantasize about.

It became increasingly obvious (and unnerving) during the aftermath of 9/11 and the run-up to the ’04 election that nothing would please the religious right lunatic fringe more than to essentially become honky Taliban. Of course they would be aghast at such an offensive characterization. But think about it: these are the same sociopaths who endorse an oligarchic state (a bathtub-sized government run by the untaxed and unregulated wealthy), covet the conversion of all to Christianity (not, incidentally, the type espoused by Christ but the type reformulated by white, often closeted gay men lashing out against their own uncontainable impulses), and openly proselytize the possibility of a single preferred religion. (The peripheral analogies include the behavior and attitudes toward women, the dispossessed and impoverished, the zeal for censorship, the defense of government spying and the embrace of anti-intellectualism. As Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens have pointed out without hyperbole, these are all genuine hallmarks of Fascistic ideologies.)

Bottom line: equating the tolerance of a Muslim learning center with “submission” and an indication of the “timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites” (in addition to being a profound case of transparent projection), is a craven and fallacious misnomer that needs to be forcefully called out, and rejected. Indeed, if this disgusting sentiment was translated into another language and placed in a thought bubble above any ayatollah, it would seem like the ranting of an intolerant dime-store despot. Which is exactly what it is.

It almost makes you want to sardonically cheer Newt on and see how the dots connect, down the road, with the hard lines he endorses and how their implementation would affect ordinary Americans. Why stop at establishing (or rewriting history to assert there was) an official religion, let’s begin slicing off thieves’ hands with scimitars; let’s make certain types of artistic expression illegal; let’s throw rocks at adulterers…oops! See what happens, Newt? When you crawl out from under your rock and use it as a soapbox, you are eventually and inevitably hoisted by your own petard. And Newt, as much as any self-righteous offender, is serially petarded.

Of course the other, egregious fallacy of Newt’s outburst is the notion that the world is (or ever was) split into “us and them” (certainly it is if you are indifferent to and frightened of the “Other” and seek to divide susceptible citizens for naked political gain); Americans are Americans (presumably white Christians, natch) and Muslims are Muslims (presumably dark-skinned jihadists). This willfully ignores the fact that Muslims, as well as myriad other religions, cultures and creeds, all exist peacefully and democratically in the United States of America. Your average second grader is capable of understanding this, but not your average Tea Partier—which is exactly what Gingrich, with the subtlety of a raccoon in a trashcan, is relying on. But this underscores the always-ugly underpinning of the contemporary conservative mind (which is not terribly evolved from the historical conservative mind): the facile (and fictional) formulation that our great nation—a nation comprised of and built by immigrants—has a preferred demographic. Not so ironically, the only time this explicitly was the case happened to be (mostly in the south) during the sordid spectacle of slavery. Implicitly, that bias still extends to women, as well as non-whites, but in virtually all legal and moral respects, that type of race-baiting bigotry is discredited on arrival. In today’s right-wing sprint to the bottom of the tea-pot, this is the fuel that drives the cause. But like that other cause so fondly (and wrongly) reminisced about in certain quarters, it is a lost one and tends to spoil when exposed to the direct light of reality.

Let’s cut to the chase: I would wage considerable sums of money that there is no chance Newt could ever weasel his way into the nomination for 2012. Frankly I don’t think God loves us enough to make that remote possibility a reality. However, few things would provide me more pleasure. It might even be worth praying for.

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The Power of Magical Thinking: Reflections on Reagan

Part One: Fact

The fortieth president turns 100 and a religious cult (also known as the Republican Party) can’t name buildings after him quickly enough.

Is there room for Reagan on Mt. Rushmore?

I’ll leave it to the inimitable Bill Hicks who suggested: “Let’s put him under Mt. Rushmore.”

But on the occasion of The Ill Communicator’s centennial, it is important –if not particularly instructive– to remember what actually happened, and how we got to where we are today: a political landscape where any conservative has learned to praise the holy trinity: Reagan, God and country.

It’s too easy, right?

Has it really come to this? (Has it always been thus?) All some Americans need is a person to play the part and tell them how great they are, how amazing we are, and then, no matter how much the unemployment rate and the deficit spikes, it’s all good because we feel good? It is too easy and that is too simple. But the more one looks at Reagan (the man, the myth, the legend –literally), the more difficult it becomes to reach any other conclusion. What exacerbates the inanity of this (very remunerative, just ask He Who Is Incapable of Shame, our old friend Newt Gingrich) enterprise is the fact that virtually everything today’s wide-eyed republicans want to believe about St. Ronnie doesn’t square with the, well, inconvenient truth of his actual record.

But, after considerable deliberation, oceans of black ink (er…galaxies of electronic ink) and head-scratching intense enough to furrow trenches on sentient scalps, it turns out that it really is that easy.

It is the power of magical thinking, the fulcrum upon which most religious and political momentum swings: all it requires is uncritical, unblinking fealty and you’d be amazed how simple, and ceaselessly restorative this exercise can be for the unenquiring mind. All of a sudden the world shrinks, Santa Claus exists, America is God’s favorite country, God is white, Jesus is a capitalist and the New Testament is a socialist primer.

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled, Baudelaire once wrote,  was convincing the world he doesn’t exist. Well, the greatest trick the GOP ever pulled was convincing its flock that the devil does exist. The way to keep the Evil One at bay is to close your eyes and believe a few immutable commandments: no taxes ever on anyone, the media is liberal, government is the problem (by far the most invoked and insidious lie of Reagan’s legacy), and never, ever question The Man –unless he happens to be a Democrat.

How else can you get people to consistently vote for policies that devastate them, counter every teaching of the (honky) Jesus and weaken our country except, of course, for the obscenely wealthy who rewrite the rules as they go along.

So…what does any of this have to do with Reagan?

To paraphrase the not-so-great Donald Rumsfeld: “You go to war with the president you have, not the president you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

So it was in 1981.

We did not go to war, of course, and that may –or may not– be the point. Is there a point (literally, figuratively) to reimagining the causes, effects, errors and triumphs of a particular presidency? It happened. I’m at peace with it (what choice do I have?), and if I refuse to call Washington National Airport by another name, so be it; in fact, Christopher Hitchens put it best when he opined that it was already named after a rather important president, thank you very much.

The good folks at ThinkProgress have done some nice work, reminding people who already know (the people who don’t know and need to read this will never go to that site, naturally) the facts vs. the fabrications. It’s a good primer in the event you find yourself discussing Reagan’s dubious legacy with a true believer. Check it out.

Then, of course, we always have the aforementioned Bill Hicks, who saw through the B.S. (even before it went into the full-power spin cycle) two decades ago:

So let’s review the facts.  Historical fact (as in: the record, on file, which is growing and decaying before our widening eyes) would make it challenging to counter the assertion that Reagan’s enduring legacy is one of exclusion and inequity. Many people would love to argue the point, and many have been. Of course, it always helps to consider who is doing the spinning. As we’ve seen in the very short time since his death (indeed, in an initiative that kicked off years before he even kicked the bucket), a very intense and targeted effort was undertaken to ensure that the beatification of Reagan became the cause nearest and dearest to those who stand to profit the most from his hagiography. Led by the insufferable conjoined twins of neo-con nationalism, Grover Norquist and Newt Gingrich, it became good business to do everything humanly possible in the way of rehabilitating an image that was far from lionized in the late ’80s.

Fortunately, in the week some celebrate his life, we can revisit two fantastic pieces debunking the very cynical (and appallingly successful) attempt to mythologize this very simple and radioactive political poseur. William Kleinknecht here and Will Bunch here do some heavy lifting in the service of truth. And to say the scales covering the eyes of the hoodwinked are heavy is understating the obvious, as Reagan becomes the conservative alternative to Che Guevara. To say that we are in dire need of some uncomfortable (for some) corrections for the sake of perspective, particularly as we see the soiled seeds of this Reagan Revolution bearing full fruit in our imploding economy, is scarcely stating the case strongly enough.

Part Two: Fiction (sort of)*

Like everyone else I know, I grew up—really grew up, if I’ve ever actually grown up—in the Reagan 80’s. Take my childhood, please. Actually, it wasn’t all that bad. During the extreme periods of boom and busted, pro and convicts, the majority in the middle seldom feel the pain, they rarely see the cocked fists and hoisted heels. It’s the people on the poles, the haves and haven’ts, who taste the changes the have lesses can afford to ignore.

But now, after the 90’s—on the verge of oblivion, as always—we have anti-inflation. We’ve got more money than we know what to do with; we’ve gotten so good at counting it we need to make more just to keep up, we keep making it so that we will still have something to do. Capitalism isn’t wrong, but neither is intelligence: you cannot spend money and make money—someone is always paying the tab (and it’s usually the poor suckers who can’t spend it who take it in the ass so that anonymous, ancient bored members can pulverize their portfolios). In other words, working where I work, with neither the best nor the brightest bulbs in the professional firmament, I can see for myself that this has nothing to do with talent, necessarily. It’s about numbers. Like an army, like America. Whether you’re a company or a cult (like an army, like America), you simply want to amass enough manpower so that nothing else matters. Quality? Integrity? Originality? Nice, all, but they’ve got nothing on the numbers. When you’re big enough, you don’t have to beat anyone up, your rep precedes you and quells all contenders. You don’t have to fight anymore. Safety in numbers, sure, but there’s more at stake than simply survival—people are trying to make money.

Look: I’m not unaware of the wealth our deal cutters are creating, and I’m not unappreciative when they sign my paychecks. In the 80’s, or any other time, you had the fat-walleted fuckheads trying to multiply their millions by any means necessary; they didn’t just disregard the reality of putting their foot on nameless faces to divide and conquer, they reveled in it. It wasn’t personal, it was strictly business, and it wasn’t their fault they excelled at it, it isn’t their fault they were born into this. The only responsibility they had was to ensure that all this affluence they had no part in amassing stayed safely outside the reaches of normal, taxpaying proletariat.

Let’s face it: it’s not as though the five or six folks who actually flip the switches and decide who gets what (after, of course, they’ve had theirs) ever consented to this sudden, and by all accounts inexplicable, turn of events. They certainly didn’t plan it this way. And you can be certain they don’t condone it or in any way seek to keep it around if they can help it. But that’s the thing: they can’t help it. They never saw it coming. I definitely didn’t see it coming. I see it every time I look at Otis: who could possibly have predicted this? The guys that—if they were lucky—were going to be chain restaurant managers and counter-jockeys at Radio Shack suddenly had the keys to the kingdom, because they understood how the world-wide-web worked.

But I’m willing to bet some of the money I’m supposedly worth that these unsettled old sons of bitches are very interested in redirecting wealth back into the hoary hands of those used to handling it. How, they must stay awake during the day worrying, can this country continue to run right when so many regular people start getting involved? It happened before, in the 20’s, and if they had to eliminate alcohol for a few years then maybe it’s time to start confiscating computers.

Still, I can’t shake the suspicion that these visionaries are doing many of us a disservice by manufacturing this much money, for making it so easy. Everyone loves their job these days, and it’s for all the wrong reasons. It’s all about the money. The money this and the money that. You lose money to make money, you make money to make money, you take money to make money, you make up anything—to make money. Right now, as the new century sucks in its gut for the changing of the guard, unearned money hangs heavy in the air like encouraging ozone: a soft rain’s gonna fall eventually, inevitably, and everyone will wonder why they’re soaking wet and insolvent.

*taken from a work of fiction, written before it all happened to come true in 2008.

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Newt Gingrich: Dimestore Despot

 

This just in: Newt gingrich remains the most repugnant and despicable ass-clown in America!

(Narrowly edging out the oleaginous Andrew Breitbart, who may finally have done civilization a favor by making himself impossible to take seriously in any respectable circles.)

In terms of offensiveness, illogic and opportunism, the insufferable one may have outdone himself here:

There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.

And lest anyone think I’m shooting a pale, bloated and loquacious fish in a barrel, let it be known that I’m actually offering Gingrich more than a little benefit of the doubt. I am inclined to believe that he knows better and says most of the things he says (trying to be incendiary, ending up being insidious) to stir the sluggish pot of ditto-heads, “Don’t Tread On Me” types, and the no-taxes troglodytes who invariably live in counties most reliant upon the largesse of government and well-paid (and heavily taxed) liberal elite socialist sorts. Indeed, I have no choice but to conclude he knows better, because the irony (and idiocy) would be too unbearable if this bozo, who constantly invokes his authority on founding fathers (always wrongly, such as his demonstrably incorrect insistence that men like Jefferson and Washington were devout Christians and, more, designed the new country to be a “Christian nation”—which is literally the opposite of the very documents they created) actually believed the garbage he so often spews.

Check it out: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Pretty hard to misinterpret or spin, no? Not unless your audience consists of the willfully illiterate and mouth-breathing masses who turn to Fox news for a quick fix for what (Roger) ails them. Any serious thinker who hopes to be taken seriously does everything in his power to avoid leaning on the ever-reliable George Orwell, but sometimes no other analogy will do. In the intellectual wasteland that passes for the Republican party these days, down truly is up and night really is day. Only in this contemporary dystopia on the Right could anyone with the ability to reason (or read) fail to understand the difference between what the founding fathers wrote and fearful bigots fantasize about.

It became increasingly obvious (and unnerving) during the aftermath of 9/11 and the run-up to the ’04 election that nothing would please the religious right lunatic fringe more than to essentially become honky Taliban. Of course they would be aghast at such an offensive characterization. But think about it: these are the same sociopaths who endorse an oligarchic state (a bathtub-sized government run by the untaxed and unregulated wealthy), covet the conversion of all to Christianity (not, incidentally, the type espoused by Christ but the type reformulated by white, often closeted gay men lashing out against their own uncontainable impulses), and openly proselytize the possibility of a single preferred religion. (The peripheral analogies include the behavior and attitudes toward women, the dispossessed and impoverished, the zeal for censorship, the defense of government spying and the embrace of anti-intellectualism. As Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens have pointed out without hyperbole, these are all genuine hallmarks of Fascistic ideologies.)

Bottom line: equating the tolerance of a Muslim learning center with “submission” and an indication of the “timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites” (in addition to being a profound case of transparent projection), is a craven and fallacious misnomer that needs to be forcefully called out, and rejected. Indeed, if this disgusting sentiment was translated into another language and placed in a thought bubble above any ayatollah, it would seem like the ranting of an intolerant dime-store despot. Which is exactly what it is.

It almost makes you want to sardonically cheer Newt on and see how the dots connect, down the road, with the hard lines he endorses and how their implementation would affect ordinary Americans. Why stop at establishing (or rewriting history to assert there was) an official religion, let’s begin slicing off thieves’ hands with scimitars; let’s make certain types of artistic expression illegal; let’s throw rocks at adulterers…oops! See what happens, Newt? When you crawl out from under your rock and use it as a soapbox, you are eventually and inevitably hoisted by your own petard. And Newt, as much as any self-righteous offender, is serially petarded.

Of course the other, egregious fallacy of Newt’s outburst is the notion that the world is (or ever was) split into “us and them” (certainly it is if you are indifferent to and frightened of the “Other” and seek to divide susceptible citizens for naked political gain); Americans are Americans (presumably white Christians, natch) and Muslims are Muslims (presumably dark-skinned jihadists). This willfully ignores the fact that Muslims, as well as myriad other religions, cultures and creeds, all exist peacefully and democratically in the United States of America. Your average second grader is capable of understanding this, but not your average Tea Partier—which is exactly what Gingrich, with the subtlety of a raccoon in a trashcan, is relying on. But this underscores the always-ugly underpinning of the contemporary conservative mind (which is not terribly evolved from the historical conservative mind): the facile (and fictional) formulation that our great nation—a nation comprised of and built by immigrants—has a preferred demographic. Not so ironically, the only time this explicitly was the case happened to be (mostly in the south) during the sordid spectacle of slavery. Implicitly, that bias still extends to women, as well as non-whites, but in virtually all legal and moral respects, that type of race-baiting bigotry is discredited on arrival. In today’s right-wing sprint to the bottom of the tea-pot, this is the fuel that drives the cause. But like that other cause so fondly (and wrongly) reminisced about in certain quarters, it is a lost one and tends to spoil when exposed to the direct light of reality.

Let’s cut to the chase: I would wage considerable sums of money that there is no chance Newt could ever weasel his way into the nomination for 2012. Frankly I don’t think God loves us enough to make that remote possibility a reality. However, few things would provide me more pleasure. It might even be worth praying for.

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The Krug or, In The Court of the Commerce King

Good riddance to that cynical putz, Judd Gregg. And frankly, thank you very little Tim Geithner for your impenetrable, marble-mouthed “strategy”, which wasn’t exactly Viagra for concerned Americans’ confidence levels.

Let’s make a bold move that would really matter: nominate Paul Krugman. Not that he’d take it (why would he want to do this job?)

Today’s column in the NYT, here, illustrates, yet again, that the Krug has been right, about everything, for the last eight years. And here’s the thing: it’s not simply that his advice wasn’t heeded; that he didn’t get the attention of the appropriate people, it was that he was ridiculed and derided for being a naysayer, a party-pooper, a dud (Kind of reminds me of Al Gore and how his thoughts about the environment used to be received). Krugman’s overdue Nobel for Economics was poetic justice, but in practical terms, it was esentially posthumous; not for his death, but the death of our economy. And he was harping about it, all along. Indeed, Krug and Gore’s Nobel prizes are like bookends signalling the semi-return to rational thought that all but dissipated during the Bush era.

A few words about the whole Bush era thing. Lest anyone think this is an attempt to lay all the blame at one man’s feet, it most certainly is not. The catastrophic mismanagement of the last eight years could never conceivably be attributed to one individual. Rather, it required a large, dedicated cadre of misguided goons to pull off such epic suck. Seriously. Now that the economy is off the rails, it’s become easier to overlook how much dough we’ve spent in Iraq. And I’m as glad as any other American-hating Defeatocrat that conditions seem to have stabilized over there, but let’s not kid ourselves: by the time the accounting is completed, we’re likely to have spent more than $3 Trillion (here’s a sobering refresher course). For what? Here is what we’ve been reduced to hoping for (and what its architects and defenders are now crowing about): that it’s not an unequivocal fiasco. If it’s merely stable enough so we can quietly extract ourselves, it will be a wash (and, in the opinions of the aforementioned war-monkeys, a total success, vindicating the entire endeavor). Think about that. And so, naturally, it’s tough to stomach the austere hand-wringing by the Repubs over the current (ever-shrinking!) stimulus package. Now, after the bride has been vengeance-fucked by a gang of drunken bikers, they are considering the more dignified option of chastity (in this instance, the bride is our financial future). As is always the case with “conservative” Doppelgängers , once the Prom is over they are eager to embrace virtue, albeit with a hangover and guilty conscience.

Things are bad. Things could be much worse.

What’s not to love about the Krug? It’s not just that he has been prescient on seemingly every issue (economic as well as foreign and domestic policy), it’s that he drives die-hard Republicans insane. Don’t make the mistake of equating the effect he has on Repubs to the effect, say, Newt Gingrich has on Dems. There is similar animosity, certainly, in both camps, but there is one crucial difference: in addition to being smarmy, smug and insufferable, Newt is also consistently, incredibly, reliably wrong on virtually every topic he pops off on. And boy does he pop off.  Still, what makes this very small man such a large nuisance (and so easy to see through) is that practically everything he espouses is inexorably designed to augment his own agenda. He is irrevocably dedicated to creating more space, for himself. It is all about him, more so than it is for the average political blowhard. Where most politicians, to quote James Brown, are too often talkin’ loud and sayin’ nothing; he talks loud and says many things. They just happen to all be wrong. In fact, Newt is the anti-Krug. On every issue Krug gets in front of (and is able to articulate in ways that are reasonable, effective and most importantly, subsequently proven right), Newt gets wrong. Iraq? Check. The mid-term elections in ’06? Check. Anything having to do with the economy? Check. In fact, Newt is wrong on things Krug doesn’t even go near, like political handicapping. Think I’m joking? As anyone paying attention these last two decades could have predicted, he was a vocal cheerleader for the current Republican intransigence on the stimulus plan (let’s return to the video tape: Not a single Republican vote! That, in and of itself, is abundantly revealing, but what the Repubs, among other things, have just done is unanimously vote against what amounts to the largest middle class tax cuts in history. That might not play out, shall we say, to their satisfaction in 2010). His allergy to bi-partisanship under any circumstances is not what makes him unique, it is the way he combines being incorrect with the craven (and consistent) willingness to distance himself from his own pronouncements once they lay in ruins all around him. He, like many of his opportunistic ilk, could not have run away from Bush quickly enough once it was clear any association with him was toxic. He is, in short, his own unique and special entity, and I certainly hope he waddles front and center for the GOP in the years ahead, as it can only help us.

But getting back to Krugman: he irritates Republicans not simply because he tells the truth, but he tells it without allegiance to ideology or agenda. Unless you want to start calling “the truth” an agenda (and, now that I think about it, that is kind of what many Republicans did these last eight years, and as Stephen Colbert brilliantly pointed out, the truth has a discernible liberal bias). He is that increasingly rare entity: an economist who actually takes the time to taste the tea instead of just reading tea leaves. This requires intellectual rigor, hard work, and courage–something most economists (and just about all Republicans, and, frankly, more than a few Democrats on the scene right now) lack.

Krugman doesn’t need the honor, or aggravation, of being formally involved in any administration. His words will be listened to for the simple reason that they should be listened to. They demand attention. But it is in our collective best interest that we pay more attention, and do our part (in whatever way it’s possible–mostly by hoping Obama and his somewhat underwhelming front line of defense on economic matters pay close attention). There never seems to be a short supply of insider-types who monitor crises with one hand on their balls and one hand holding their own wallet (see: Paulson, Henry and Geithner, Timothy). Regrettably, despite the considerable promise the Obama administration presents, and the significant accomplishments already attained (how do you think that “stimulus” package would look if McCain was counting on Phil Gramm to help craft it? And that’s assuming there was even an interest in stimulating anything, other than more of the same egregious tax cuts that made this mess metastasize), there are some serious lightweights and old-school crusaders whose chief ambition is to maintain the status quo. Which would be: to maintain that expanding space between the have-nots and the have-mores. This is the one thing all of the old guard find intolerable. Let’s hope some better angels (we could settle for some mediocre angels) are able to step up and make the words meaningful and difference work simultaneously. It would be change, and not change everyone can believe in. Which is progress: the people who don’t believe in that type of change are the very people we can no longer afford to have obstructing the way forward.

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The Reagan Revolution, Redux

He played one in real life, too...

He played one in real life, too...

        No way I was going to soil the remembrance of Bob Marley by noting that another well-known figure happened to share a birthday yesterday. But in an almost perfect Yin-Yang, truth stranger than fiction sort of fashion, another dearly beloved figured did indeed have an anniversary yesterday: Ronald Reagan. This is beyond ironic in many ways since the reasons the two are remembered, and the ways in which the groups promoting their legacies, could not be further apart. It would be difficult to deny, no matter how simply reduced, that Marley’s message was one of inclusion and justice. On the other hand, historical fact (as in: the record, on file, which is growing and decaying before our widening eyes) would make it challenging to counter the assertion that Reagan’s enduring legacy is one of exclusion and inequity. Many people would love to argue the point, and many have been. Of course, it always helps to consider who is doing the spinning. As we’ve seen in the very short time since his death (indeed, in an initiative that kicked off years before he even kicked the bucket), a very intense and targeted effort was undertaken to ensure that the beatification of Reagan became the cause nearest and dearest to those who stand to profit the most from his hagiography. Led by the insufferable conjoined twins of neo-con nationalism, Grover Norquist and Newt Gingrich, it became good business to do everything humanly possible in the way of rehabilitating an image that was far from lionized in the late ’80s. Fortunately, in the week some celebrate his life, we have two fantastic pieces debunking the very cynical (and appallingly successful) attempt to mythologize this very simple and radioactive political poseur. William Kleinknecht here and Will Bunch here do some heavy lifting in the service of truth. And to say the scales covering the eyes of the hoodwinked are heavy is understating the obvious, as Reagan becomes the conservative alternative to Che Guevara. To say that we are in dire need of some uncomfortable (for some) corrections for the sake of perspective, particularly as we see the soiled seeds of this Reagan Revolution bearing full fruit in our imploding economy, is scarcely stating the case strongly enough.

Like everyone else I know, I grew up—really grew up, if I’ve ever actually grown up—in the Reagan 80’s. Take my childhood, please. Actually, it wasn’t all that bad. During the extreme periods of boom and busted, pro and convicts, the majority in the middle seldom feel the pain, they rarely see the cocked fists and hoisted heels. It’s the people on the poles, the haves and haven’ts, who taste the changes the have lesses can afford to ignore.

            But now, after the 90’s—on the verge of oblivion, as always—we have anti-inflation. We’ve got more money than we know what to do with; we’ve gotten so good at counting it we need to make more just to keep up, we keep making it so that we will still have something to do. Capitalism isn’t wrong, but neither is intelligence: you cannot spend money and make money—someone is always paying the tab (and it’s usually the poor suckers who can’t spend it who take it in the ass so that anonymous, ancient bored members can pulverize their portfolios). In other words, working where I work, with neither the best nor the brightest bulbs in the professional firmament, I can see for myself that this has nothing to do with talent, necessarily. It’s about numbers. Like an army, like America. Whether you’re a company or a cult (like an army, like America), you simply want to amass enough manpower so that nothing else matters. Quality? Integrity? Originality? Nice, all, but they’ve got nothing on the numbers. When you’re big enough, you don’t have to beat anyone up, your rep precedes you and quells all contenders. You don’t have to fight anymore. Safety in numbers, sure, but there’s more at stake than simply survival—people are trying to make money.

Look: I’m not unaware of the wealth our deal cutters are creating, and I’m not unappreciative when they sign my paychecks. In the 80’s, or any other time, you had the fat-walleted fuckheads trying to multiply their millions by any means necessary; they didn’t just disregard the reality of putting their foot on nameless faces to divide and conquer, they reveled in it. It wasn’t personal, it was strictly business, and it wasn’t their fault they excelled at it, it isn’t their fault they were born into this. The only responsibility they had was to ensure that all this affluence they had no part in amassing stayed safely outside the reaches of normal, taxpaying proletariat.

Let’s face it: it’s not as though the five or six folks who actually flip the switches and decide who gets what (after, of course, they’ve had theirs) ever consented to this sudden, and by all accounts inexplicable, turn of events. They certainly didn’t plan it this way. And you can be certain they don’t condone it or in any way seek to keep it around if they can help it. But that’s the thing: they can’t help it. They never saw it coming. I definitely didn’t see it coming. I see it every time I look at Otis: who could possibly have predicted this? The guys that—if they were lucky—were going to be chain restaurant managers and counter-jockeys at Radio Shack suddenly had the keys to the kingdom, because they understood how the world-wide-web worked.

But I’m willing to bet some of the money I’m supposedly worth that these unsettled old sons of bitches are very interested in redirecting wealth back into the hoary hands of those used to handling it. How, they must stay awake during the day worrying, can this country continue to run right when so many regular people start getting involved? It happened before, in the 20’s, and if they had to eliminate alcohol for a few years then maybe it’s time to start confiscating computers.

Still, I can’t shake the suspicion that these visionaries are doing many of us a disservice by manufacturing this much money, for making it so easy. Everyone loves their job these days, and it’s for all the wrong reasons. It’s all about the money. The money this and the money that. You lose money to make money, you make money to make money, you take money to make money, you make up anything—to make money. Right now, as the new century sucks in its gut for the changing of the guard, unearned money hangs heavy in the air like encouraging ozone: a soft rain’s gonna fall eventually, inevitably, and everyone will wonder why they’re soaking wet and insolvent.**

(**excerpt from novel Myself When I’m Real)

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