Politics postsSunday March 19, 2017
Norman Mailer Died in 2007 But Every Year He Gets Smarter
My epitaph for him, back when I shamefully contributed to The Huffington Post. That second graf ain't bad.
Another HuffPost piece, in which, in 2008, I see demons in John McCain that came to fruition, in an outlandshishly loutish fashion, in our current president.
A Few Quotes on the GOP Health Care Plan
This is what Rep.Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA, as if there were any doubt), the grandson of Bobby, and the grand nephew of John and Ted, had to say:
“I was struck last night by a comment that I heard made by Speaker Ryan, where he called this repeal bill 'an act of mercy.' With all due respect to our speaker, he and I must have read different Scripture...The one I read calls on us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, and to comfort the sick. It reminds us that we are judged not by how we treat the powerful, but by how we care for the least among us. There is no mercy in a system that makes health care a luxury. There is no mercy in a country that turns their back on those most in need of protection: the elderly, the poor, the sick, and the suffering. There is no mercy in a cold shoulder to the mentally ill. This is not an act of mercy. It is an act of malice.”
The editorial cartoonists haven't been kinder:
My favorite comment so far came yesterday via Twitter in the following exchange:
Person A: I've yet to read a single positive analysis of the House's Obamacare bill.
Person B: Try going 2 a conservative source? Open up your reading habits 2 include those with whom u would naturally dismiss.
Person A: I'm the editor of National Review online.
As Casey Stengel said, “And you can look it up!”
The following was published last week by long-time Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass under the headline “Whatever happened to liberal Democrats, anyway?” It was syndicated on the usual right-wing sites as well as more mainstream media like The Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The bold-faced annotations are mine.
Whatever happened to liberal Democrats, with their concerns about civil liberties and government surveillance of American citizens? Out protesting Donald Trump's anti-refugee/immigration executive order, I guess.
Liberals once hated the CIA. And they loved the Russians. You can look it up. Where do you look that up? It's not really a thing that can be looked up, can it? Liberals are more diverse than you make them. The world is more complicated than you make it.
Their liberal friends in Hollywood made movie after movie about the dangers of The Deep State and its awesome surveillance powers. One of the best was “Three Days of the Condor,” with liberal icon Robert Redford fighting the malevolent CIA boss John Houseman, who longed for the “clarity” of world war. That's ... just wrong. First, Houseman's character was talking about 10 years after the Great War, adding “Before we knew enough to number them,” which is more a critique of world wars than a longing for one. And the clarity he missed was for a simpler world in which we knew we were on the right side. We all longed for that clarity in the 1970s. You could say that such longing led to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, who tried to fit such clarity onto a more complex world.
Years later, Edward Snowden became the liberal demigod and WikiLeaks their winged chariot of truth. Another overstatement, and never true for me. Some leftists still feel that way about Snowden.
Liberals fretted about the powers of the intelligence community being used on citizens for political reasons. Don't we all?
So what happened to the ideals of these liberal Democrats? Donald Trump was elected president, that's what. You're fucking kidding.
And now you can clearly see the change in them as Trump's now-former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has become feast for the crows. You're fucking kidding.
Flynn deserves his punishment. Make no mistake about that. He reportedly lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his phone conversations with a Russian ambassador that included discussion of the Obama administration's sanctions against Russia. As a former general officer, as a former Defense Intelligence Agency boss, Flynn understands the chain of command. There is no lying to a superior officer. That's the lesson you pull out of this? We have evidence of possible collusion between an incoming administration and a hostile foreign power, and you're concerned about chain of command?
Kass goes on. It's not worth detailing the rest of the overstatements and misreadings because they can be flicked aside with the following rejoinder: Circumstances matter. Also this: Where was Kass during the debate of the USA Patriot Act, which allows the type of wiretapping that caught Flynn? Also this: The hyprocrisy belongs to the GOP, who spent decades winning elections by claiming to be more patriotic than thou and are now turning a blind eye to an obscenely cozy relationship between the current Republican administration and the foreign power that helped elect them.
Let me repeat that: Between the current Republican administration and the foreign power that helped elect them.
That's serious shit, but it's completely bypassed by Kass. Then again, he can't even recall “Three Days of the Condor” correctly.
I don't know Kass, so I asked Chicago-area friends about him. I got this:
He's a joke. Basically a phony “regular guy” “man of the people” who isn't funny or clever or insightful but thinks he is. He's a pathetic Royko imitator with none of the talent or intelligence.
He's a troll. Shame the trib gives him a platform
He's a meatball that can type.
I miss greater clarity from The Chicago Tribune.
The Most Frightening Thing about 'Last Night in Sweden'
Last night Donald Trump held a rally in Melbourne, Florida to make himself feel better for being such a lousy president. There, he referenced what sounded like an immigration-related or refugee-related terror attack in Sweden:
You look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible.
This led to confusion for ... everyone. Particularly those in Sweden.
Turns out he wasn't referencing a terror attack:
My statement as to what's happening in Sweden was in reference to a story that was broadcast on @FoxNews concerning immigrants & Sweden.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2017
Brian Stelter of CNN posted the Fox segment on Twitter, so I watched it earlier today. It's interesting to watch. Host Tucker Carlson had the right-wing filmmaker Ari Horowitz on the show, and Ami talked about the rise of crime in Sweden as it relates to that country's liberal refugee policy. Horowitz says that the stats clearly indicate that violent crime, particularly rape, has been on the rise since Sweden began letting in refugees, but that the Swedish government won't acknowledge this. The people won't either. You know why? They're too politically correct. Bad things are happening, and the stats show why, but the people won't own up to it because they want to be, in Carlson's word, “virtuous.”
It's interesting because it's obvious what the segment is about. It's not about Sweden. Sweden is a stand-in for liberals and Democrats, and rape and murder is what happens to good Americans when you follow Democratic policies. So vote Republican.
It's not news, it's propaganda.
At the same time, I was curious: Is violent crime going up in Sweden?
According to this piece on The Local, a European news site, and dated in January (so before Tucker and Ari politicized everything), “the number of rapes reported in Sweden increased by 13 percent in 2016 to 6,560.” Except that number is slightly less than the number of reported rapes in 2014. In other words, the number dipped, then returned to the previous level.
The article adds this:
Seen over a ten-year period, the number of reported rapes has gone up from 4,208 in 2006, partly because of legislative changes in the previous year and in 2013 broadening the definition, according to Brå.
Reuters' article mentions this:
Sweden's crime rate has fallen since 2005, official statistics show, even as the country has taken in hundreds of thousands of immigrants from war-torn countries like Syria and Iraq.
So on a Friday night on FOX, Carlson and Horowitz act 100 percent certain of a rise in violent crime in Sweden, even though the stats are inconclusive, as a means to smear liberals, Democrats, and (let's face it) long-standing U.S. policy on immigration. Pres. Trump watches this and repeats it as if it were 100 percent true.
The most frightening thing to me? The way our president phrased his comment: “You look at what's happening last night in Sweden.” Last night? It's one thing to buy the bullshit on Fox, but surely Trump knows that, in reference to his comment, nothing happened last night in Sweden. That the only thing that happened was he watched TV. And surely he understands the difference between the two. Right? Reince? Someone? Anyone? Please tell me he knows the difference between the two.
A Weekend Catching Up on Old Magazines
Well, “old.” February.
First Vanity Fair, the one with Chris Pratt on the cover. I read a bit of that profile but only after I read two articles on Donald Trump. That's where the mind goes these days.
The first, by Nick Bilton, is about the search for salacious Apprentice material in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election. Disclosure: They don't find it. Bilton wonders if it would've mattered if they had. They already had him on tape in 2005 bragging about trying to bang a married woman: “I did try to fuck her,” he says. “I moved on her like a bitch,” he says. And then, most infamously, “When you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything ... Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” The whole piece was interesting, but sad, of course, and two lines stood out. This one for obvious reasons:
Two days before the election, one entertainment executive with ties to Clinton contacted someone in the industry who had said he had a copy of a tape depicting Trump that could create problems for the then candidate. Would this person be willing to pass him the footage to give to the Clinton campaign? Since the latest poll numbers indicated it was clear Clinton would win the election—likely in a landslide—this person didn't want to risk it.
But this one even more:
(People who had worked with Trump on The Apprentice had heard that he would be in the 2016 race for two months at the most, then he'd be back on reality TV.)
The mess we're in: It wasn't supposed to be.
Michael Lewis has a piece in the same mag on creating his own Trump board game. The germ of that idea began the day after the election when he was volunteering at his kid's high school in L.A., and the kids staged a peaceful walkout to protest Trump's victory. Then the phone began to ring. Right-wing sites had written about the protest and Lewis was hearing sound and fury from Trump supporters who expected the world to fall in line now that their candidate had won the election—by having 3 million fewer votes. Offhandedly, Lewis wondered how Trump would keep up their vitriol once Hillary left the stage. (I think the answer is Don't let her leave the stage. Or: Find other scapegoats: the media, the courts. There's always something.) I forget the other type of mental game Lewis came up with before deciding on his new, imaginary board game—I lost interest, rare for a Lewis piece—but one line stood out for me. It was about kids he met when he went to talk in a high school in Oakland. He wrote:
The election had taught these kids that a large part of their country no longer holds political candidates to the standards of behavior enforced by their own high school.
Much recommended is the Feb. 13 & 20 issue of The New Yorker, the one with the Statue of Liberty's flame being snuffed out, where there's a great, long piece by Patrick Radden Keefe on chef, author and globetrotter Anthony Bourdain, and it includes his meeting with Pres. Obama in Hanoi last year for bun cha. After the encounter, after Pres. Obama had left, Bourdain said the following about Obama to Keefe:
I believe what's important to him is this notion that otherness is not bad, that Americans should aspire to walk in other people's shoes.
Agreed. And also sad. Given everything.
I particularly loved this later observation by Philippe Lajaunie, one of the owners of Les Halles, where Bourdain had been excecutive chef in the 1990s, about Bourdain. No politics in this one, just universal truths:
He has accepted that everyone has broken springs here and there. That's what most of us lack—the acceptance that others are as broken as we are.
Hold onto it.
Finally, definitely read James Surowiecki's financial page column, this one entitled “Trump's Budget Bluff,” in which Surowiecki crunches the numbers of Trump's budget proposals and promises (cut taxes, cut waste, get rid of PBS and the NEA, balance the budget) and what'll happen if he gets his way (we'll go into deeper debt). Why don't his supporters know this? Because they assume things like the NEA and aid to foreign countries make up a greater portion of the federal budget than they do. Surowiecki quotes from sociologist Arlie Hochschild, who has written a book on working-class Republicans in Louisiana:
Many of the people she talked to believe that the federal government employs forty per cent of American workers; it's closer to two per cent. “They think that the government is full of waste and freeloaders,” Hochschild told me. “And they believe that most government money is going to programs—welfare, foreign aid, the arts, even environmental protection—that aren't for them but for the people they feel superseded by.”
They think this because right-wing media lies to them (in HEADLINES!) and mainstream media corrects it (in the 12th graf). If they even correct it. If it's even seen.