Saturday, July 30, 2016

How Much is That Doggy in the Window?

--What was Mr. Cruz thinking?

That deaf, dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball! 
--Pinball Wizard, 
The Who

 You gotta ask yourself a question:
"Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?
--Dirty Harry (1971)

Jump, little doggie, 
better do what she say,
jump, jump jump 
--Jump. Jump, Jump,

So you get nothing!
You lose.
Good day, sir!
--Willy Wonka and 
The Chocolate Factory (1971)

Subtitle: Despicable Me. (Of course, Mr. Cruz is not the only one to qualify for that sobriquet.)

Watching the PBS News Hour last night, one would get a totally different perspective of the conventions than if one had actually watched them. Saith one of the panel members, the Democratic national Convention went off smoothly, save for a minor glitch: 

"That Debbie Wasserman Schultz [former DNC Chairwoman] has been a problem for awhile now. She had to go," thereby effectively dismissing with a fillip what should have been the biggest convention gotcha -- the behind the scenes machinations to shuttle the campaign of Mrs. Clinton's only viable contender, Bernie Sanders.

That story did not fit the press's agenda, sadly. Journalistic integrity has died a slow, lengthy death starting about 50 years ago with Walter Cronkite's decision to breech the journalistic posture of indifference in exchange for editorial comment on the Vietnam War. 

Nothing which transpired at the Republican National Convention -- a predominately orderly affair -- remotely compares, but since we peeked into the Democratic National Campaign Wednesday, it is only fitting to recognize a once-contender in the Republican posse who shall now be relegated to a footnote in malcontent convention history for his spectacularly ill-behaved, egotistic and churlish performance, Mr. Ted Cruz.

It was a surreal moment when Mr. Cruz announced that he would not be supporting his party's candidate, Mr. Trump, and moreover that he refused to play Mr. Trump's "puppy dog". Mr. Cruz had not been invited to do anything, really, beyond the formality of recognizing the Party's choice (i.e., someone not him), and welcoming Mr. Trump into the bosom of the Republican family.

He failed to recognize that -- like a couplet from Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham , They did not like you then / and they do not like you now, Sam-I-Am.  Or as megachurch pastor Rick Warren would say, it's not all about you.

In the South, they would say Mr. Cruz showed himself to be a dog that won't hunt for you. He was barking up the wrong tree if he thought to gain any positive regard for his sourpuss solipsism.

He may have defended his lady fair, but we saw the mess that George W. Bush created when he went after the man who "tried to kill [his] daddy". Politics is not the art of getting too personal, and of putting on a thicker skin.

At a certain point, one must put on one's Big Boy or Big Girl panties, suck it up and move on. It's called grace, and it's called integrity. A politician is part of Bernard Mandeville's hive, and should tame his ego for the larger good of the party. 

Sadly, this is truly the age of Mega Me, and Mr. Cruz mistook the microphone for a megaphone with which he could impugn the party's nominee and possibly earn some Facebook Likes for doing so. However, the press and the Democratic party has been lashing Mr. Trump for a year, and to no good effect. What good was he possibly thinking might result from his petty show?

Humans are nothing so much as emulative creatures, so perhaps by witnessing the the equally small behavior from certain party denizens who had boycotted the event via their glaring absence, Mr. Cruz got the idea that he was doing something praiseworthy.

Sadly, it was not comme il faut, and far from presidential. He found Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard bare.


No Milk Bones for you, Mr. Cruz.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

She Stoops to Conquer

 --Jim, staunch Bernie fan

I understand; you took them in a round,
while they supposed themselves going forward.
And so you have at at last
brought them home again.   
--She Stoops to Conquer,
Oliver Goldsmith

 Yeah runnin' down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin' on a mystery
That never would come to me
--Runnin' Down a Dream,
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers 

 You will never see a team play harder
than we will the rest of the season.
God bless.
--Tim Tebow promise

[the latter two quotations are in honor of Gainesville. Sa-lut.]

We were hoping he would be there, and so he was.

We noticed Jim last week outside of a Gainesville Starbucks, proudly displaying his "Bernie 2016" sign at the corner bistro table. When we arrived back in town today, he was precisely as we'd left him, though we thought with an ineffable air of wistfulness (or perhaps it was a slight melancholy) following the latest shenanigans of the Democratic (i.e., Clinton) machine.

When asked how he felt about his candidate's situation, he did not voice any rancor. He said he was proud of Mr. Sanders (to whose campaign he said he had donated money), and that Bernie had "opened the debate".

He had a certain equanimity, a peace that surpasseth all understanding. Perhaps it was resignation, but Jim's civility stood in stark contrast to the boorish behavior to which we are party on the tube.

Much as Mr. Trump has functioned in the Republican's posse, Mr. Sanders was a burr, albeit a mild- mannered one, who also functioned to animate those members of his party who held out hope against hope for something new.

The behaviors at both party's conventions is vexatious. Certainly campaigns have historically often been rowdy slugfests, but the party faithful always coalesced behind their candidates at convention time. Not so this year.

Bernie's supporters heckled Elizabeth Warren as the farcical handover of power to Mrs. Clinton occurred in a scripted, crypto-Soviet fashion. "You betrayed us!" the crowd chanted, unaware that the betrayal had already occurred echelons above Ms. Warren.

Mr. Sanders could've been a contender, but the power elite did not like him. He was the primary threat to Hillary; in fact, the only one. Now as more pesky emails emanating from within the Party itself deriding Mr. Sanders threaten to block Mrs. Clinton's hoped-for ascent to throne, Democratic Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has fallen on her sword for Mrs. Clinton. Buh, bye, Ms. Wasserman Schultz.

It becomes curiouser and curiouser. It seems the only reason to vote for Hillary and maintain personal dignity would be for the Presidential power of Supreme Court nomination. However, as Mr. Trump is largely a centrist Republican, it could be inferred that given the opportunity he would nominate a centrist jurist. Perhaps someone in the vein of Nixon's nominee, Justice John Paul Stevens, who served the Court well and honorably.

Like the Peanuts character Pig-Pen, Mrs. Clinton is unfortunately surrounded by an obscuring maelstrom of -- at best -- less-than forthrightness. Boys can be excused for being dirty, but not girls.

Her husband Bill could weather such debris fairly unscathed due to his rakish charisma, of which Mrs. Clinton shares not a whit.

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Shady Lady

--from Alice in Wonderland
Shady lady, you want it all your own way
Shady lady, you won't let go of your prey 
--Shady Lady,
 Uriah Heep

Stand by your man,
Give him two arms to cling to,
And something warm to come to
When nights are cold and lonely 
--Stand By Your Man,
Tammy Wynette 

How do ya do and shake hands,
  shake hands, shake hands. 
--Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Hillary's choice of running mate is intriguing. It seems her road crew is trying to appropriate some of the Trump magic for themselves by being a little dangerous and choosing pro-life Virginia Senator Tim Kaine. Mrs. Clinton is changing her tack, dancing on the edge of the white bread volcano, as it were.

Not that Mr. Kaine would give someone like Javier Bardem in his role as Chigurh a run for his money in the menace department. No, in fact he resembles nothing so much as a Raggedy Andy doll, with his button nose, faint smile and pale complexion.

By matching Kaine with Hillary, the Democrats are performing a sort of middle school science experiment, like mixing baking soda and vinegar, or watering the little shrimp that come alive when they hit the water. They are hoping for some sort of frisson -- a reaction, and anything would be to the good. Unfortunately, neither Mr. Kaine nor Mrs. Clinton throw off sparks.

By choosing a pro-life Virginian with working class roots, carpetbagger Hillary gets some street cred amongst the Oxy-fiend Appalachian belt. Presumably, Mr. Kaine's choice is an attempt to repair President Obama's misbegotten slight against a wide swatch of Americans with his early dismissive "Guns and God" characterization.

What the bland Mr Kaine does for Mrs. Clinton is to knock her down a notch, off her high horse. Though there was a brief moment where Hillary courted Elizabeth Warren for the post, she must have seen the moment of her greatness flicker in that eventuality. The queen has had to settle.

This will allow her to access women who are not Bella Abzug aficionadoes. It may be hoped that Kaine will be seen as smoothing her rough edges, making her accessible to a contingent inacessable to her heretofore.

In the moment of his unveiling, a vertical banner proclaimed, "Together", implying a seamless coupledom, the thing Hillary could not achieve with that man she now refers to as, "her husband". The sort of Tweedleee-Tweedledum-ness she proudly decried in the Steve Croft "60  Minutes" interview ("I'm not ... some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette"), has been re-packaged as a good.

The scene conjured up nothing so much as the lyrics to the middling Jack Johnson tune, "Well, it's always better when we're together / Yeah, it's always better when we're together." But WHY it's better, is one of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's unknown unknowns.

This is the humbling of Hillary: she must stand by a white male, pro-life, at that. Hillary Rodham (nee Clinton, against her better angels), now sees the light, or so her handlers are hoping we will think.

LLMC (lower-lower middle class women) need a man to help them navigate through life. Kaine is a kindly-looking man, and the photos show Hillary looking trustfully his way. She must bear their reality, and accede that she cannot make it alone as "I am woman, hear me roar". However, she is still a sheep in sheep's clothing, for all that.

The subtext for the cognoscenti is, she will shepherd Kaine into a new awareness, post-1972. Like Sisyphus, she will continue pushing that male rock up the hill. She did it for Bill, she will do it for Kaine. The Clinton dream team is hoping that she will become beloved by hard-working women everywhere for bearing that cross.

This is a reactionary, retro Hillary, one which hopes to skewer the LLMC women who may be now on the fence. But can she surmount the irrevocable burden to which she is yoked -- her essential, indwelling unlikeability. ("Me, and my shadow, walking down the avenue ...").

There is no question that Mrs. Clinton would eat scrapple and Little Debbie cakes in a W. VA coal mine if it would buy her a few votes. By any means necessary, as Malcom said.

The press's viciousness could not stop Mr. Trump, so they have settled into a new position: he is wealthy, and cannot possibly feel your pain. Of course, this is just as disingenuous as all of the rest of their boilerplate, for no one may run for the United State's presidency unless one is wealthy, and Mrs. Clinton is very wealthy, indeed. While she joins in criticizing her opponent's wealth, she herself is a solid 1-percenter.

Time will tell if Clinton's undercut will reverse her fortunes. The lady taketh a fall, and will not let pride stand in her way.

Hillary may, in fact, have to stand by her man. Apologies to Ms. Steinem, Ms. Friedan, Ms. Greer, Ms. Beauvoir, et al.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Fool on the Hill

--Hillary Waves and Smiles,
 (El Nuevo Dia) 

And the face of the nation
Keeps changin' and changin'
The face of the nation
I don't recognize it no more
--The Face of the Nation,
John Mellencamp

The truth is incontrovertible.
Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it
but in the end, there it is
--Winston Churchill

They got little hands
And little eyes
And they walk around
Tellin' great big lies 
--Short People,
Randy Newman

This last year of incessant, relentless press excoriation of Mr. Trump and those who voted for him is dispiriting. The burden of hatred which spewed forth from nearly every outlet a reasonable person might access has been daunting. It has been a year of detestable press.

Entirely ignored by the press has been the investigation of the momentous and unlikely phenomena of Trump's nomination, without resorting to the ad hominem. But the press is an institution which also feeds at the political trough.

Mr. Trump is the court jester who revealed that the other would-be emperors were naked. The sour- grapes simpering of Mr. Cruz at the Republican National Convention gave lie to the fusty Republican trope of being the party possessed of true red-blooded American bonhomie. If it ever was, it is no more.

For this, Mr. Trump shall be rewarded as the next Fool on the Hill. And for those renting their garments, tell me that you voted for Uncle Bernie with joy in your heart (in the Kondo-ian sense). And will you hold your collective nose as you check the box for the supposed heir to the Clinton dynasty?

In Trump, Republican voters did not see a fundamentalist Christian or any of the myriad vested interests represented by the other 15 stuffed shirts fronted by the Republican machine. The majority of Trump's followers did not vote for him out of any great love for the man, but for the fact that he was Other.

The Democrats never had any such option.

These voters said "no" to the party icons and scions. They refused to eat the lie which said, "Here are 15 candidates from among which you may choose, but choose you must, if your party is to have a chance." The voters for Trump said NO to tyranny and political dynasty.

 Trump would not have won his party's nomination if a straggling band of Naderites or Perotians had cast votes helter-skelter in a kamikaze mission. These voters got it and said "No" to the Fortunate Sons ("no" to a Bush III). "No" to pandering special interests (Rubio couldn't take his home state). "No" to the religious fanatics. They know that all emerged from the same bag, and paid obeisance to the same dirty machine.

This perspective should have been revitalizing, but the press could not allow it, for it did not fit into their gestalt of a "backward-looking, hopeless uncool and bigoted" Trump electorate. 

They refused to say that Mr. Trump's "Yes" was a "No" to all the rest. For all the money and concerted press effort to deconstruct and unravel him, top-down, inside-out, it did not matter. You may call it what you will: the last gasp of the white chauvanist male (a view which provides succor to most academics) or flyover state ignorance, but derisive labels do not change the fact.

They could not fully construct him as grotesque, because it was not he, per se, who captured the voter's  imagination. It was that he was NOT they (i.e., the Others). If elected President, hopefully he will recognize the gravitas and great yearning which lies behind the facticity of his nomination.

Theirs is a hope for a nation which does not spin apart, enervating itself with self-destructive diversions. The Good Liberals call this necessary progress, but the commonweal is suffering. America still lives between the extremes, and it is their hope which is on display in this nomination.

The press is wholly beside itself, waiting like wolves at the door this week, hoping for the eruption of some violence -- something, anything, to mar the reality -- all the while demeaning those Trump supporters who held signs which expressed a desire for a safer nation. They cannot spin fast enough, and they must soon confront their failed project.

No matter, there will be evermore to carp about.

Mr. Trump is outside, and is not bought and sold; he is therefore, unsafe to those who would continue the current disarrayed status quo. He, moreso than the other party puppets, is a man situated in place and time.

He may not be a man for all seasons, but he is a man for this season.

[cross-posted @ milpub.]

Part II:  on press violence -- "Carp Diem: A  Year of Living Dangerously in the Press."

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Video Killed the Radio Star

--No escaping it  

 Fasten your seat belts,
 it's going to be a bumpy night
--All About Eve (1950) 

 'Cause it's the new mother nature taking over
It's the new splendid lady come to call
It's the new mother nature taking over
She's gettin' us all
--No Sugar Tonight,
The Guess Who

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power.
We have guided missiles and misguided men
--Martin Luther King,  Jr.

Get ready for the New Normal -- national schizophrenia, a la carte. Tune in anywhere, and you will be updated on the grievance du jour. Because everything's O.K., and we're everybody.

One theory on schizophrenia says the patient lacks the ability to filter out irrelevant stimuli. One is overcome and overwhelmed, acting out in inappropriate and spectacular fashion, or not reacting at all.

That is our national life as fed to us on the tube, or the various circuit boards to which you are glued. An initial convulsing -- much like a paramecium in a petri dish into which an irritant has invaded his happy medium  -- followed by catatonia.

The reactionary unicellular animal is not dead; he is simply rendered incapable of self-generated movement. So there we are, stuck in the gelatin, seeing hazily, but not seeing how it is we got here. Perhaps a better analogy would be the marionette puppet who has no control over the strings tugging on its every limb, all for the amusement of the audience.

We are both the puppet and the audience, the watcher and the watched.

The presenters of the data pull you hither and thither, aiming to shock you with an overwhelming diversity of visual data bombarding you at such repetition and speed that focus and comment become irrelevant. The newscast template is unvarying, and only the visuals change

They will deliver you some Bad / Mad / Sad / Happy© within a half hour, and you will feel sort of o.k after the familiar wrap up, and go to find succor in a beer and chips. But while you have developed a pattern, the national players haven't sorted out their template for the new normal, yet.

Following the shooting in the Orlando gay night club, congressional members react emotionally with a sit-in encouraged by the President. The shout out of the day was to close the gun show loophole, despite the fact that the shooter did not use that loophole.

In fact, most of the recent shooters have not used it, and as a recent piece in the UK Guardian put it, it is like saying you will give up donuts in the face of a cancer diagnosis; it fails to target the problem.

The halls of Congress have become a place of demonstration, mimicking the convulsions of their electorate, rather than a forum for the creation of realistic legislation.

We live in an era of the Sportification of Death. Our entertainment and foreign policy is packed with violence. The U.S. proliferates weapons in the Middle East, while criticizing civilian weapons in the hands of U.S. citizens. Because we are fed a bleak future, many turn to the past in protest and rejection.

We live on a new frontier, but there are no babbling brooks or soothing nature sounds here. Instead, the frontier at which we gaze is all binary, 1's and 0's, coded to form a simulacra of the things to which our minds have become accustomed to seeing over eons of evolution. Only yesterday, our eyes were delighted by the magic lantern shows.

We are not seeing the same things in the same way, and we are taxing the same old brain to run as fast as it can.

Some people are reacting very poorly to this visual onslaught. Our challenge is to impose order upon the new chaos, and crocodile tears in Congress will not fix this.

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