Tuesday, February 21, 2017
The right wing is always about oppression, censorship, closeting, the smooth beautiful surface of things, the windless pond. Also about shame and guilt, when these tools can be applied to other people. And so an excellent applicator of shame, guilt and oppression is a first person account, a confession, which at least in some belief systems is a mystical incantation which removes shame and guilt in the telling. Milo grew up in such a belief system. And so he discovered the delicious rococo experience of being over and over again guilty and shamed and then immediately forgiven by his father-priest-lover. It is something Norman Mailer has also waxed poetic about. Mailer always said good sex requires some guilt. And just this morning I found (via Sheila O'Malley) W.H.Auden's remarkable stanza on the subject:
Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
[From September 1, 1939, W.H. Auden]
O'Malley's whole essay on Auden, a birthday present from her to one of her poetic heroes, is worth reading, and several times. One of the larger features of her homage to Auden brings into focus the extent to which the poetic effort, which might be, along with it's twin masterpiece, Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, a kind of high-water mark of western thought, has been mostly obscured if not even entirely forgotten, by our sad contemporary culture as a whole. Auden saw in the work of T.S. Eliot what might be done by a capable poet. He worked at it. The culture, meanwhile, eventually produced Trump.
But all this early 20th Century clarity floats atop the cultural mud and silt of the authoritarian family, which founds the authoritarian church and the authoritarian state. There are always too many private interests to be nurtured. The teacher-father-priest finds it such a simple and easy task to re-seduce again the willing eleven-year-old, just one more time, in the quiet rectory, under the polished leather-scented desk, the pretty boy's cheek resting against the bristly upper thigh, the faint hint of urine, the hot hard shaft enfolded by the soft sweet mouth. Oh, did I mention as well, two world wars?
So Milo became a willing witness in the end, and for his own reasons, financial and otherwise. He could attack feminism, which is women un-closeted. He could attack the whole effort by gays and lesbians to get out of the shadow of guilt and shame by being himself a flaming homosexual who relished the shame and guilt, and suggested in the doing that all the others, the scape-goat caste, in fact were just what the priest always whispered as he came into little Milo's soft and open mouth--”perverted.”
Poor little Milo, protege to power, suddenly Bannon's successor, editor-in-chief at Brietbart, the journal of dirty tricks brought now into almost absolute power or so it must have felt in the heady post-election days of 2016. All of Milo's witness was, to the right, proof of what they always thought, and probably to a significant extent what they themselves actually experienced in their own lives. The effort to put an end to living the closeted life has been mightily resisted by much of the culture. Great battles have been fought over the definition of the so-called “institution” of marriage, over who can and who can't be married. The churchy complain of political correctness and demand, as part of their allegedly religious practice, the right to crucify on a cold dusty road in the vastness of Wyoming. The simplicity of love is immediately trampled in the service of the old institution of caste and repression. Auden, a gay man living in a closeted time, understood, but resisted. Milo saw an easier path, and Bannon laid his cape over the mud so that Milo wouldn't dirty his silver slippers.
As Edroso said today, Milo didn't realize that there were still a few hard limits, if he wanted to retain his unlimited pass.
Bannon didn't do quite enough vetting, and the horse was out of the barn before he realized he'd be ascending to the White House. Milo could invent child sex rings run by Hillary Clinton, and covens. He could say such vile things to a noted comic, Leslie Jones, that he could be banned from twitter. But as we have just seen, he could not take Plato's position on the seduction of boys by men, directly supporting the ancient idea that sent Wilde to gaol, without losing at least the bully pulpit of a conservative institution that also embraces fundamentalist Christians, who are the undefeated champions of American moral hypocrisy. If he was going to present a first-person defense of the indefensible, he could not also be a shining champion of American conservative thought. At least not to most of the notable conservative talking heads, or to Simon and Schuster.
But the repressive right-wing thesis about gay people has always been that they are fundamentally perverted. This is the “reason” the authoritarian part of society and culture wants homosexuals to remain closeted. This is the pseudo theological logic of the Fundamentalist church, and when missionaries go out to Uganda, gay Ugandans actually get killed. For that matter, now and then gay Americans get killed too. It's not exactly what Milo wants as he testifies to the fundamental perversion he enjoys personifying, and certainly he doesn't want anyone to kill him! But he's insulated. His sugar daddy is now a member of the National Security Council.
This was his game. Be a right-wing Mick Jagger. Hope the Hell's Angel you hired to protect you doesn't see through the shit-storm and smack you across the head with a pool cue in the middle of Street-Fighting Man. Turns out this little bit of his own perversion now floats in the middle of the punch bowl. Now he has to make a choice, poor little Milo. Send the manuscript to Grove Press, where he can join the list with Celine, not to mention Joyce and Terry Southern. A publisher he can find. Irony isn't dead. The Catholic priesthood is vivid testimony, and it's the tip of the iceberg. But if he lets his freak fly, what's a poor boy gonna do, sing in a rock and roll band. That train may have left the station.
The trouble is, authoritarianism is a great, centuries-old complicated lie. Milo got the threads crossed up. Our trouble is, almost no one reads Eliot, or Auden. The road maps have mostly been forgotten, or never even seen. It's all just too difficult. Voters think any change is Change. Tell it to the survivors of Hiroshima.
Monday, February 20, 2017
I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time designate, whenever he or any designated Commander deems such action necessary or desirable, to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion. The Secretary of War is hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary, in the judgment of the Secretary of War or the said Military Commander, and until other arrangements are made, to accomplish the purpose of this order. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, February 20, 1942, Executive Order 9066
Some anniversary. Note that there is no mention in the order of the Japanese people. Note also that a few Jewish refugees were also rounded up, since there was a fear at that time that German Jews might be sympathetic to the Nazi effort.
Meanwhile, Bmaz at Emptywheel.net chronicles Mr. Stephen Miller's efforts to enforce the Muslin Travel Ban order. Some excerpts:
In the chaotic hours after President Trump signed on a Friday afternoon the sloppily written executive order meant to fulfill his Muslim ban campaign promise, Stephen Miller called the home of Robert Capers to dictate to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District how he should defend that order at a Saturday emergency federal court hearing.
That’s according to a federal law enforcement official with knowledge of the call, which happened as Department of Justice attorneys cancelled plans, found babysitters and rushed back to their Brooklyn office to try and find out what exactly it was they were defending and who was being affected by it — how many people were already being held in America, how many were being barred from arriving here and the exact status of each person.
Mr. Preibus was on the case yesterday, defending Mr. Trump's remarks last week that the press is an "enemy of the people." Preibus could find no justification for any un-sourced leak. (He must not realize that un-sourced leaks are a common method used by all Administrations to get information and misinformation alike out to the "volk.") He also attacked the press directly, citing stories with mistakes in them as "fake news." No mention was made of Trump's own most recent fake news story, the terrorist events that didn't happen in Sweden on Friday last. Chris Wallace gently questioned both Preibus and Rush Limbaugh about the path the Administration is taking. Limbaugh, who has spent almost all of his adult life working tirelessly for a totalitarian regime to appear in the US, where it will smite all of his enemies mightily, looked as though he believed his efforts have finally born fruit. He noted that the revolution now occurring is not between Republicans and Democrats, but between the "establishment" and "the people." He coyly whispered to Wallace that yes, most elected Republicans are part of the "establishment" too.
This what Stephen Miller said while defending the Muslim Travel Ban on TV:
“…our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”
Mr. Trump praised Stephen Miller lavishly for his defense of the Ban. No doubt some lawyers are crafting a "better" ban for this week. They can copy the template of the Internment Order of 1942 perhaps.
Last night on AXS TV they ran the DVD "Roger Waters' The Wall Berlin Concert." Perhaps they were making a comment. I told Libby that if the Trump regime could manage optics as powerful as this concert we'd all be in far more serious trouble. We're perhaps luckier than we know that Trump's supporters are who they are. We can hope for a continuance of disaffected American youth, to the extent that such a term still has some reference. Around here the Trump signs were placed in the front yards of a few comfortable middle class brick homes, and one guy's retirement cattle and fruit orchard spread, with a nice pond in front. He'd had "Fire Obama" signs up before "Hire Trump" appeared. A whole lot of people believe at the moment that Trump really is going to "make America great." Danica Patrick thinks so. She's been racing cars since she was eight years old, and perhaps never had the opportunity to read any history or civics. She came in 4th at the pre-Daytona thing yesterday, one of her best finishes ever in NASCAR. Pretty much all of NASCAR was supporting Trump, including Brian French, who owns the whole show.
Note: If you were at all tempted by the silken tones of Mr. Preibus--and he's certainly a more competent salesman that Stephen Miller as long as Miller isn't holding a gun to your head--here's a link to reality from a credible source:
Friday, February 17, 2017
They just relegalized this:
Meanwhile, down in El Paso, a latina woman who went to court to get a restraining order against her husband for beating her was arrested by ICE as she left the court house. There are also reports that the Trump administration is considering using various state national guard units numbering some 100,000 to round up undocumented people in various states. Mr. Spicer says these are unfounded rumors. They didn't happen to come up yesterday in the press conference. Perhaps at the rally in Florida someone will ask. Or maybe the rally will end with an altar call for volunteers who might want to join in the roundup festivities.
If we get out of all of this alive, perhaps we should take a look at building a new structure for the American family, leaving the ancient authoritarian model we still use in probably 75% of American homes to the dust bin of history. It's too bad there's no film of Mr. Trump's father talking to Master Donald as he sits at the dinner table in his knickers and refuses to eat his English peas.
Thursday, February 9, 2017
Back in the olden days if not the mythic times we fell in a kind of love with the old music and to some extent culture of what Alan Jabbour liked to term the “rural upland south,” mostly Appalachia in other words, but since there was quite a bit of this same music extending down into the relatively flat lands below the hills, Alan was generously inclusive as was his way. As lovers do, we played and performed the music we loved. Mick Jagger could sing “the blue light was my blues, the red light was my mind.” I could sing “police come, didn't wanna go this morning, shot him in the head with my .44 this morning.” Even with Tommy Jarrell's lyrics, there was an almost immediately perceivable dissonance with our audience. That is, no matter how revered Tommy Jarrell was, we could not sing words like “darky,” or worse, “nigger,” to any audience we wanted to play for. This realization was not immediate. We made one record which included Jarrell's lyrics to Yellow Rose of Texas as we learned them directly from him. For a while we actually performed the song as we learned it, true to the basic principle of field collection. Then we realized there were boundaries. There should be boundaries. So the lyrics were changed. “Darky” and “nigger” became “soldier,” “preacher,” even now and again, “honkie.” We were highly educated and knew about scare-quotes, just like the man who rode the mule around the world.
There was of course a perfectly good audience out there that would have cheered at each “nigger.” Tommy Jarrell himself was to some extent part of that audience. He would sing his songs no matter who was in the audience. The hippies he didn't care enough about to self-censor, and the hippies loved him enough to let it pass. The black man in the crowd, well he just “got a dose,” as Tommy would say.
One of the first on-the-road gigs we did was a package tour of the deep south set up by Anne Romaine. It was mostly concerts at schools and libraries. There were no bars or big hard-drinking venues. No race tracks. No drive-in theatres, such as where Ralph and Carter Stanley would play before it got dark enough to show the film, and then get pelted off when darkness arrived. Our tour included Tommy Jarrell and also a great black bluesman who'd learned directly from Robert Johnson by the name of Johnny Shines. One night in Alabama Tommy did his set and came off, and I asked him what was the name of the last tune he'd played. Johnny Shines was sitting across from us, in the dressing room, reading a newspaper. Tommy, without hesitation, said, “well, that was Nigger in the Woodpile.”
There was a fairly deathly silence. Then Shines kind of cracked his newspaper, but did not lower it. “No,” he said, “I think that one was called “I'd Rather Be a Nigger than a Poor White Man.” The silence was not broken. Then Tommy said, “well, yep, I think you're right.” We had already by then dropped the dubious words from our Tommy Jarrell repertoire, and I should have recognized the tune and never brought it up at all, but I didn't. It wasn't one Tommy played very much, being in G.
Now and very then we'd inadvertently run into the wrong crowd—the crowd that would have cheered. One time we played a small bluegrass festival in Wise, Virginia, where Ralph Stanley lived. As you can imagine, the bands were great bluegrass bands, with the exception of us. They liked us well enough, until the slot in the set where our bass player pulled out his trumpet. We'd then crossed the line. Ain't no trumpets at a bluegrass festival in WisegoddamVirginia. During his break, someone in the audience fired a purple snow cone at the trumpeter, and hit him pretty square in the upper thigh. He was wearing white pants. His break suffered. Dale Jett, a good friend and the son of Janette Carter, said after the set, “I hate that old boy throwd that snowcone.”
Ten years after I'd left the outfit, in 1991, a country singer named Travis Tritt had a pretty good hit with a song called Here's a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares). I'll bet he was tickled pink to get in a parenthetical in the title. He was a good songwriter, not his audience, but he understood their bitterness and anger. Here's the song:
His audience responded with cheers. They also threw so many quarters at him that, eventually, he had to stop performing the song live. Quarters hurt.
Right then and there we should have known Trump was on the way, slouching towards Golgotha to be born. Maybe we could have done something about it. Instead, we thought Ross Perot was a blessing from Jesus himself and let it pass.
Here's some further reading. http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/2017/02/trump-doesnt-read-books-but-you-can-learn.html
Even Woody Guthrie saw through the Trumps.
Sunday, February 5, 2017
We've already been here you know. And here's what an actual security expert, Benjamin Wittes, thinks:
The resistance is heartening.
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
The news flies past so fast that this smallish eddy may by now have slipped your memory. After all, last night we got a new Supreme Court nominee, a nice looking feller from Colorado who gave a nod to Whizzer White, a guy no one remembers any more, last Supreme from Colorado. The new guy, who will be the end of the filibuster procedure in the Senate, has a mother who ran Reagan's EPA briefly, and upon her death her obituary noted that she was so tough she could kick a grizzly to death with her bare feet. The son would likely have taken the grizzly out from half a mile with his $1,000 big game rifle and scope. But he's definitely against Roe V. Wade.
Anyway, that was last night. The day before Mr. Schumer had presented to the public some real people who had escaped the hells of Iraq and Syria, a US Army interpreter who's life was in danger due to his collaborating with us, and some young children who lived in Damascus and saw a man blow himself up on their doorstep. Schumer was brought to brief tears by his empathy with these people, and by the patently cruel policies being instituted over the weekend by the Trump Administration in the form of its "Muslin Ban." Schumer might also have been weeping for the future of the America we've assumed would always survive--a country of compassion and mercy, a country that would not slam the door on desperate children.
Mr. Trump's jibe was petty, mean, and totally beside the point. He was actually misdirecting the public's eyes away from those children and that courageous interpreter to look instead at the messenger. Schumer, in the press conference, made every effort to not be the center of attention. He was simply introducing real people who but for the fact that they'd already entered the country before the ban, would have been either handcuffed at US airports, or denied air travel altogether from their points of origin. These things were happening under our auspices. All of us Americans were being morally stained by what our government officials were doing. Schumer was only showing us the real people involved. His own emotions were not the story, except to the extent that it is heartening to see a public official who retains some sense of empathy in a brave new world where our President brags and preens on having none.
Trump derides. It's his predictable response. He might even have felt a tiny twinge himself. He has a young son, about the age of one of the Syrian kids. God forbid that his own feelings get in the way of his brutality.
This is what we have. And over the weekend our special forces killed the eight year old daughter of one of the terrorists. It is asserted by the Administration that of course this was an accident, no matter that Mr. Trump had promised exactly this response to terrorists during his campaign. "We'll kill their families," he said with a grin. Spicer recoiled at the daily presser yesterday and said of course we didn't do that on purpose. Meanwhile, at the state level various legislatures are considering bills to make public protests much more burdensome. In North Dakota they're considering whether to wave any penalty for a driver who happens to run over a protester in the roadway. The same legislature is also considering a bill allowing convicted drunk drivers to possess weapons. Here's a brief rundown of legislative news:
We'll be seeing stories like these from now on: