Sunday, January 31, 2016

Wrestle Mania

Here's the "explanation" for Trump, at least if you are wondering about his evident success in whatever it might be called that is happening prior to the advent of actual voting:

Working backwards. We can see the evident fact that professional wrestling is universally popular amongst many bodies of people. Not everyone likes it of course. My guess would be that mostly the highly educated peripatetic readers among us find wrestling to be overly obvious and therefore boring. Most of these folks probably have never thought it worth the bother to even try to understand the forms of the "sport." I include myself. My dad was an amateur wrestler and coached wrestling at NC State in the '30s before he founded the Philosophy and Religion Department there. He was disgusted by professional wrestling because it was "fake." He knew real from fake wrestling, as he would often show me as a child by putting me into a half-Nelson and immediately pressing me to the living room rug, utterly defeated. I learned early on to despise professional wrestling, and even now simply admit that there is a kind of formal drama to the "sport", whilst at the same time maintaining my intellectual integrity by using the scare quotes consistently.

But if we want to understand what's going on in the forever blooming buzzing confusion, we must admit that the American democratic process is in many ways like a great sea, with tides, schools of fish, even leviathans on the occasion. Our election process is not primarily about sensible folks in togas considering at length the sensibility of various agendas, and then choosing accordingly. At the booth we'll now and then see a toga-clad figure, but mostly it'll be something else entirely. Obviously Mr. Trump understands what he's doing.

Meanwhile, the other big question is Bernie or Hillary. Here's a good post on that:

Among many terrific points, here's Yastreblyansky quoting Eric Loomis (from LGM blog):

I don’t believe that Sanders can create a political revolution. In fact, I think there is essentially no chance of it. It seems that Sanders supporters think there is going to be a wave of left-populist candidates swept into office with him. But where are those candidates in current House races? Where are the open Bernie acolytes either challenging moderate Democrats in primaries or running in conservative House districts that are heavily gerrymandered? Because while there are probably a few, I sure don’t see some broader platform of leftist candidates here, nor has anyone told me how they are going to win a 60-40 Romney seat.

Everyone who's not a wrestling fan wants to embrace their best values in the politics of America. That's what a vote for Mr. Sanders comes down to. Hillary Clinton has too damn much baggage, too much history, too much compromise. She stuck with Bill, and she voted (sorta) "for Iraq." We all want to walk into a better situation, a better future (those of us who aren't wrestling fans). But there's this. On June 3, 1944,Ike knew he was shaking the hands of nice young men whom he was sending to their deaths.

Meanwhile, it seems to me that the whole "mainstream media" has now capitulated to the spectacle. News is entertainment. They can cover that just as well as anything else, and get more viewers, and thus sell more ads. Or, as my dad remarked long long ago, there's not much amateur wrestling on the television.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Garbage In, Garbage Out

From Digby this morning:

...Thomas Sowell, who in 2007 wrote in National Review: “When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can’t help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup.”

In the “Against Trump” symposium, Sowell makes this outlandish comparison: “The actual track record of crowd pleasers, whether Juan PerĂ³n in Argentina, Obama in America, or Hitler in Germany, is very sobering, if not painfully depressing.” Is there any rhetorical overkill Trump has been guilty of that is worse than this?

Sowell’s belief that a coup could be good for America and that Obama can be fairly compared to Hitler gives lie to the argument, made repeatedly by writers in the National Review symposium, that Trump is not a true conservative. For there is very little that Trump has said or done that can’t find prior sanction in National Review, be it racism, anti-immigrant nativism, or sexism. In the last debate, in response to an attack on his “New York values,” Trump noted that conservatives do come from New York and cited William F. Buckley. It is fair to see Trump’s version of white identity politics as firmly in the tradition of Buckley and his magazine.

Go back in the time machine (Youtube) and watch Buckley debating James Baldwin. QED.


Here in the Chatham County woods, there's a hard crusty snow on the ground you can walk on top of. I got one vehicle up the hill and pointed towards the paved road yesterday morning. It took two tries! The trick with the old S-10 (the truck of choice, picked because I'd just changed the oil and filled her up, and as opposed to the old Toyota Tacoma, or the ancient F-150), is to shift into 2nd as you start climbing. Usually that keeps the revvs within reason on the tach, and spares the tires, and you don't simply stall half way up, spinning for nothing and no chicks in sight. I was still spinning pretty good, but I made it to the flat at the top of the hill, then over the top and pointed down hill. The road, at 8 AM, was white. If we get out to the cat food store tomorrow I'll be kinda surprised. It'll depend on some significant warming. These are the days, now and again, when the idea of something with four-wheel drive makes fantastic sense. The other 352 days a year, not so much. So the years pass, the trucks get older, the new trucks meanwhile getting up to a stratosphere beyond a modest family Mercedes Benz, according at least to the current vehicle ads from Detroit with their complex offers of 20% off if you act now. Like the guy sitting on the nail keg at the Silk Hope store said, you could buy a house. So a lot more folks are sleeping in their cars these days. There's a logic.

We're good on our firewood, but there's a ways to go till the end of this. I'm keeping the saw warm inside. The chain is sharp. I guess that's the next project. We were lucky as we didn't lose power. For some reason we stayed just on the cold side, and it sleeted and snowed, but I never saw freezing rain or any build up of ice on the trees. Losing power in the country sucks. It means shortly you have no water. There are other things of course, but no water is the worst in short order. I filled the kettle yesterday, and ground up one extra grinder of coffee. We have a lot of water containers filled up. Most likely we would have endured till the lights flickered back on, and of course they still might go, although I'm thinking that at 11 am Saturday morning we might have escaped that feature of the blizzard. Hopefully the folks in the cities are hanging in there.

I did happen to notice, on my morning walk to the firewood stack, that the light had gone out in the pump house. I'm still not sure why that happened, but it took switching out the light fixture and several bulbs before it came back to life. Also took some wet knees, and more melting snow on the floor than I'd like, though the wood stove will have the puddles evaporating. Country dehumidification I guess.

The photo comes from the WRAL website. They invite viewers to send in pics. The houdahenians all gathered in front of the slider to watch similar sparrows scratching for food in the leaves as it snowed yesterday. Cat TV.


Between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders, I'll take the Democrat who wins the primaries. If the American voters can't see what's happened to the other party, it's blind leading the blind, and I guess we'll all march over the cliff. Digby has a number of good posts about the horror of this campaign season, if you were interested at all in the Republican choice. Driftglass has been clear-eyed for decades. The country has lost, for the most part, a "mainstream" media willing to tell political truth, somebody on some channel who could say "wait a minute, that's out and out fascism." Decades back, Murdoch crafted a counter-weight to approximate truth, and the right more generally has been doing that in various venues, be it science, law, or even simple fairness.

We are nonetheless moving inexorably towards February, and the days are growing longer. Might be the year to plant some taters and turnips and all the rest.


Then there's this, from the blog Balkanization:

Of course Cruz has aimed to deflect Trump's questioning of his legal status re becoming President as just more partisan politics. But as you can see in this brief post from the balkin blog, there are precedents to the issue stretching back to times when Cruz wasn't yet born. Briefly, his status as a naturalized American citizen is a problem. Legally, and with precedents. Cruz, when he confidently brushes aside these issues as being somehow "settled," merely illustrates his ability to lie with the best of 'em.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

I Miss Doghouse Riley

You deserve a rant today. The sun's out. It's a Saturday in January. It rained hard again last night. I hope the driveway's still there.

I'll start with this, from a blog called Gin and Tacos:

In an entirely different course we read Anthem, selected because it is the shortest and thus least painful Ayn Rand piece and because it is one of the finest works of comedy ever penned. How can you do anything but adore a story that ends with a man drafting an ode to individualism in a house someone else built and that he broke into. Anyway, the real money scene is where the protagonist heads out into the forest and, in the space of a few hours before dinnertime, he makes a bow and arrows and shoots plenty of birds out of the sky to feed himself. He also gets a few by throwing rocks at them. This is a minor detail in the story but, in my view, is a great litmus test of a fundamental personality characteristic. The kind of person who thinks, "Yeah that seems plausible" believes that some people, namely themselves, are simply Great and therefore can solve any and every problem on their own through the force of their own Greatness. The other kind of person looks at a man running off into the woods with no supplies, food, clothing, or tools of any kind and thinks, "Well he's gonna be dead in about a week."

You'd think, well, this is some ditzy writer from the '50s, when things seemed a lot simpler than they are, and anyways she's long deceased and not only that, died somewhat disgraced, even if you only learned much more recently (relatively) that the exalted Alan Greenspan was a devotee, which might actually explain a lot about the sorry mess the American economy is in. But then you look around. There's a bunch of guys in Carhartt shirts and cowboy hats occupying a Federal bird sanctuary in the the eastern Oregon high desert who are there because they want to get the Federal government out of the wide open spaces. I'm all for the Burns, OR, sheriff's plan. He went out there and talked to them gently, and said he didn't want anyone to get hurt, and he'd escort them out no questions asked. But it's been over a week since that happened, and the Bundy mom has called for folks to send them supplies, and I read yesterday one of the lads was arrested in Burns at a convenience store, driving a stolen Federal truck.

It's just sad when people don't have a clue. I have a neighbor who runs a trucking firm with a big sign out front that says everyday I drive past it on the way to my job, "We built this, not the Government." Big American flag. It's a trucking company, captain. They exist because of, ermmmm, roads. The boys in Oregon may be surprised one morning when some choppers show up sporting that great old insignia, First Cav.

Ahhh, the smell of napalm in the morning, Robert Duvall says. These Bundys aren't there to take the land back from the people the cavalry stole it from after the Civil War was over and we had built a well-oiled killing machine itching for more action. They ought to change their names: the Bunnie Militia is more like it. Just leave off the "d" and you got it.

I've said too frequently that perhaps the most terrible event of the Reagan Presidency was the little noticed act of removing the Fairness Doctrine from the burden of responsibility that came with leasing a patch of public air waves. With that came Murdoch, one of the world-class oligarchs, who built the Fox Networks. With that all possibility of objective appraisal of events was lost for all but the most determined, the little few who care enough to go look and look again. Most people don't have the interest or the time or the intelligence. They're the ones cheering for Trump and Cruz. Edroso says it's still very hard for him to believe that Trump will win the nomination, because he's too dangerous to the real power: money. There's a logic there. There is the question of whether the particular mechanism we've been using for over a century to pick a government is moribund. If the machinery doesn't work, the money might not work either, particularly in the short run, which would be some 8 months or so, between March and November.

This is not to say money isn't damned effective. I ran into this bit of news today:

Fiorina is just doing the job Ted Cruz hired her to do

by digby

Last night in the GOP debate, Carly Fiorina opened with a truly nasty line:

"Unlike another woman in this race, I actually love spending time with my husband."

I don't even know what that means but it's a creepy thing to say.

Today she doubled down on the Clinton marriage brouhaha:

"If my husband had done some of the things that Bill Clinton had done, I would have left him long ago," Fiorina said during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"I think if you're running for the presidency of the United States, everything is an issue," Fiorina added when pressed about why it was a campaign issue, saying that "leaders need to be trusted."

It's very tempting to point out that Fiorina's relationship with her current husband started out when they both were married to other people but I'll refrain because it's irrelevant. Certainly in Fiorina's case it's the least of the reasons people shouldn't trust her --- personally destroying one of America's great companies in record time seems much more to the point.

But the fact is that Fiorina's got a job to do and this time she doesn't want to screw it up. Recall:

The other day when the donor lists to various campaigns were revealed many noticed an odd curiosity about Fiorina’s donations. A pro-Cruz super PAC controlled by millionaire Robert Mercer (who had written checks for 5 million to Cruz’s effort) sent $500,0000 to Carly Fiorina’s super PAC. How often does it happen that a PAC for one candidate helps one of its rivals in a primary campaign? But New York Times reporter Amy Chozick cleared up the mystery when she tweeted:

Fiorina finance chairs told me supporters of other candidates have thrown them $$$ to have a woman in race attacking HRC.

Now that makes sense. (And it also explains why the Koch Brothers invited her to their recent billionaire meet-and-greet.) The Republicans understand the minefield they are going to be walking if Clinton should become the first woman nominee for president of one of the two major parties. It will be helpful to have a woman on the trail making a slash and burn case against her without incurring the wrath of Clinton’s woman supporters. In her closing statement at the Kiddie Table debate that’s exactly what she promised to do:

Hillary Clinton lies about Benghazi, lies about her emails, she’s still defending Planned Parenthood and she is still her party’s frontrunner. 2016 is going to be a fight between conservatism and a Democratic Party that is undermining the very character of this nation. We need a nominee that is going to throw every punch, not pull punches. Someone who cannot stumble before he even gets into the ring.

I don't know what she gets out of this in the end. She will not be president, that's for sure. Maybe she wants to be Commerce Secretary or something although I don't really understand why. She will never be elected to anything. But perhaps it's just as simple as wanting to put some more things on her resume so her massive failure as a business leader will sink to the bottom of the page.

How many people, watching these "debates," realize the extent of kabuki that's in play. This is why Citizens United is such an appalling decision. Money is speech. Our Supreme Court has cut the heart out of democracy. Orwell stirs.

I watched the tremendous film "The End of Summer" this week. It's Yasujiro Ozu's next to last film. It's worth watching many times. It is a worthy substitute for any Republican "debate." Things do come to an end. The central figure in the film is said to have said, upon suffering a fatal heart attack, "Is this it, is this really it?" His sister-in-law, upon hearing these words recounted by his son-in-law, says, "Oh what a silly man."

As terrible as Japan's suffering was, in its loss of World War II, we may have suffered a worse fate. We "won." Turner Classics showed "Hiroshima Mon Amour" this week. When it was released in 1958, the French government would not allow it to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival for fear of upsetting the U.S. Government. In Ozu's final film, "An Autumn Afternoon," the central character says he's glad Japan lost the war.

The future is always a swirling murk isn't it. As far as I know, the driveway is still drive-able this morning. Next week the serious cold returns. If it snows we'll be walking out, a third of a mile to the road. My knees don't like it. The last bit of mainstream media "news" is probably on PBS at 6 pm. Here's a review of what one of their weekly pundits wrote this week in his New York Times column:

The comment mentioning Death in Venice is worthy of note. Mr. Brooks advises the thoughtful voters of this mighty land, the ones who think Mr. Trump might indeed be something of a fascist, the ones who've even heard that Mr. Cruz has deep familial connections to Goldman-Sachs and it's "New York values," for all of his Texas swagger.

Maybe we'll just have to enjoy the vision of those Air Cav Apaches coming over the horizon with Wagner's Valkyries on the sound track. It's not as serene as Ozu's pillow shot:

Still. The look in a Bundy eye might make a day in January end on a positive note.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Knightdale News

A remarkable obituary appeared briefly in the Raleigh News and Observer, then disappeared. But nothing disappears in the world we now live in. You can find it these days in Minnesota, and I would imagine there's some chance of the story moving eventually to Lake Wobegon, assuming copyrights can be sorted out.

Some burn with a bitterness so rank that in the end their hearts are reduced to cinders. When they're not driving dignified silent witnesses from the Trump halls, they're writing obituaries like this one, or sneering at Mr. Obama's "eloquence," which has become somehow a defect in the eyes of the GOP. Meanwhile, show your love and send tampons to the Burns, OR occupiers as they're run out according to Ma Bundy.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

More Real Stuff Unfolding Under the Radar

I ran into this piece today:

Here in NC, as in many states, ALEC continues to advise state legislative bodies on what to pass, crafting legislation on various subjects which will be more likely to pass various constitutional hurdles, no matter its underlying "spirit." It's a long game, dry and boring for a media and a media audience trained in short spurts of excitement and blood. On our local TV channel's website, under the "national" and "state" categories of news, 90% involve shootings and other bloodshed or tragedy, day after day. Now and then the "state capitol" section might mention new legislation, and once a year perhaps it is reported that various influential legislators have travelled to some California hotel for an ALEC weekend. No further explanations are offered. Just one of the minor civic tasks these elected representatives must undertake as part of their service. And we wonder why so many Americans have turned firearms into household gods.

We have a little magazine here in NC called The Sun. It ran the following piece a couple of issues back:

It's part of the same story. Meanwhile one of the trends in the reporting of mayhem does have a point:

Last week I happened to catch a bit of some Sunday pundit show. It included William Kristol, who argued with a straight face that black Americans ought to be happy the police are so trigger-happy ("tough" was the word he used as I recall), since it was this "toughness" that actually protected the black community from "itself." There was a black American with dreadlocks and a pundit document sitting across from Kristol as he made his argument. The man just smiled. This wasn't the Fox show, by the way. In earlier days Kristol might have received a well-deserved punch in the mouth.

The comments in the top link are worth noting. One guy, towards the bottom, points out that a rubicon was crossed back in 2000, when the Supreme Court invalidated a Presidential election, voting along party lines to appoint the man who'd clearly lost our next President. The steps are incremental. Constitutional scholars already debate the question of whether the whole definition of U.S. Senator isn't our nation's tragic flaw, leading as it does to a government controlled by affluent minorities. Two Senators for Montana, two for Alaska, two for California and New York. Congress will shortly vote again to repeal a reform of our medical system which at the moment mandates covered colonoscopies for anyone over 50. Oh the liberty, oh the horror. Bet you didn't even know there was such a mandate now in force.

Meanwhile, here's a fact that relates to the civic-minded Koch brothers and their civil-minded institution, ALEC:

The GOP now controls 68 out of 98 partisan state legislative chambers -- the highest number in the history of the party. Republicans currently hold the governorship and both houses of the legislature in [24] states ..., while Democrats have that level of control in only seven. (from the first link above)

Here's one other quote from that excellent post, from down in the comments:

And, if Hillary is the nominee, the MSM won't just turn Marco into a magical center-right politician, they'll do the same for every one of the others, if they win the nomination - including, Trump!

Friday, January 1, 2016

A Fresh New Year

It's not raining this morning, though the sky isn't blue either. We'll take what we can get. I feel blessed that last night didn't involve playing an outside party with a bonfire and nekked people running around a pond. We did four or five of those gigs and learned the true meaning of hypothermia. One year the speakers had frost on their tops at the end of it. Bonfires put out very little heat twenty feet away from their circumference. That's where we were. The worst part was there was a lovely warm farm house only 200 yards or so from the pond. So every year we give thanks. That gig is over.

I figured Oklahoma was going to cream Clemson last night. This was based on seeing the Okies cream Baylor and then TCU. Baylor was an incredible team until it lost it's first two quarterbacks, and it still beat UNC earlier this week. Meanwhile, UNC came close to beating Clemson, and lost with the aid of an obviously wrong officiating call in the last seconds. Oh well. Clemson was terrific, and throttled Oklahoma. Bama, in the night cap, was Bama. They have a tough, relentless character, with good defense, good offense, and that most precious of elements, a great running back they can always call on. When you have a good runner the defense must play it straight. Michigan State looked overmatched the whole game.

According to many accounts this morning, Ben Carson's campaign team is imploding. Apparently his top trusted advisor is Armstrong Williams. Williams was busted a few years back for running fake news reports favoring the Bush administration. This is close to picking Sara Palin for your Veep. It was a tell. Meanwhile, it appears that Mr. Trump will be delighted to discuss the great throbbing issue of record in the Clinton past. That would be President Clinton. I would imagine Mrs. Clinton does have a strategy for parrying this obnoxious tack, but it'll be a cringe-worthy series of "debates" if it ends up being the two of them running for the top administrator of the land. It also says something or other that the Clintons actually attended Trump's third wedding, and that their daughter Chelsea is friends with the Trump kid of a similar age. America so yearns for kings apparently. One of the most repeated criticisms of Mr. Obama is little more than the complaint that he is a competent administrator who remains clear-headed and focused on the real issues at hand.

Streaks of blue are creeping into the overcast at 9:40 AM, January 1, Chatham County, NC. The blackeyed peas are soaked and it's time to put the heat to them, and add the country ham bits. Later I'll stir in some spinach, a can of tomatoes, black pepper to taste. I forgot the corn bread mix. Oh well. Possibly we're not doomed. Just a few eons in purgatory and we'll continue our journey.

I ran into Jim Thompson's noted epigram the other day, reading about the fine crime movie "The Outfit." It's funny enough to quote here, on Day One. These are not my sentiments, I stress to you! But if you want to write hard-boiled crime fiction, this would be the foundation:

Life is a bucket of shit with a barbed wire handle.

Think of this remark while watching, say, Gun Crazy, or my top noir film, Out of the Past, or my second top noir film, Sonatine. From the Kitano film:

Let us hope that Sonatine's desolation does not prove a metaphor for the current American electorate, and that something new and terrible is not at this moment slouching towards Bethlehem.

...The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Meanwhile, the real stuff unfolds, pretty much out of sight. While Trump fulminates about the Mexicans, Mr. Obama demands a new expansive trade agreement with Asia:

After the election the Clintons and the Trumps can probably clink a few champagnes. No matter who wins, they win.