Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ms. Clinton vs The Great White Wail: Debate Run Up

As Jeb Bush et al discovered, it's not easy debating D.J. Trump. Most people enter debates thinking about making points which, when fact checked or analyzed by the chattering legions of post debate on camera faces, hold up.

Mr. Trump operates in an alternative universe--the solar system of the grade school play ground in which you answer your antagonist by braying, "Oh, you're so ugly."

Actually, even at the upper strata of intellect, this technique has been applied with effect:  Drunk at a dinner party, Winston Churchill was upbraided by a society doyen, in her diamond necklace and silk dress, looking down her nose at him, she intoned in her best upper class scandalized accent, "Sir, you are drunk!"
To which Churchill responded.  "Madame, you are correct. I am drunk. But in the the morning, I shall be sober and you shall still be ugly."

For the Donald, at the low end of the intellectual spectrum it was enough to simply deride Marco Rubio as being small of stature, or Jeb Bush as being "low energy." 

He'll look down at the diminutive Hillary Clinton and tell her she is short and fat, tired, worn out, menopausal and harboring some un named illness which disqualifies her.

Ms. Clinton, who has studied the preparation notebook for the debate and is ready to do her best court room analytics will have problems responding.

One hopes she is working not on the details contained in that 500 page notebook, but on counter punches to the jibes.

"Mr. Trump you pride yourself on an animal faculty, in which the chimpanzee is your equal and the jackass infinitely your superior."  (My favorite.)

"Mr. Trump, you mistake physical size for largeness of spirit: If ever there was a person who proved the two are not always connected, it must be you."

"Mr. Trump you mistake libido for valor.  You may excel at the former but you have shown no evidence of the latter." 

"Mr. Trump, I would rather be the wife of Bill Clinton than any of your--how many?--wives."

"Mr. Trump, you mistake a loud voice for a clear head."

"Mr. Trump, on what planet do you spend the majority of your time?"

"Mr. Trump in what alternative universe are you living--in which a wall can prevent illegal immigration and in which every Muslim is an enemy by virtue of their faith?"

"Mr. Trump you vilify Muslims and Hispanics as dangerous enemies not because of what they have done, but because of where they come from."

And all like that.

But what are the chances?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Harinder Bains and the New Jersey Bomber, Ahmad Khan Rahami

Harinder "Harry" Bains

Every once in a while you see something on CNN which surprises you.

Chris Cuomo interviewed Harinder (Harry)  Bains, the owner of the Linden, New Jersey bar who called the cops when he recognized the bomber shown on CNN.  

After having Bains describe the sequence of events, Cuomo asked Bains if people were coming into his place to thank him for what he did. 

"We're all glad you called  and you saved us all from a lot of harm, no doubt," Cuomo said. 

"Anyone would have," Bains replied, then added,  "Whether he's Jewish or Muslim, or Christian.  I'm Sikh myself, but we are all Americans." Bains speaks in a light subcontinent accent.  And he wears a baseball hat. The New York newspapers call him "Harry" Bains. Maybe a name he's adapted to assimilate. 

People do assimilate. 

It looked unrehearsed, spontaneous, and he did not seem to be making a speech, just saying something simple and obvious. Of course, Sikhs, who are often mistaken for Muslims, have been the targets of nativist violence and venom.

Hopefully, Hillary Clinton's people will be smart enough to get a clip of that interview and run with it. 

For months Ms. Clinton has been saying we need to enlist not alienate people of all faiths, Muslims included, to be the eyes and ears in communities where terrorists try to blend in.  Hillary Clinton could not have written a better script. Here is a modest guy in a baseball hat, trying to be a good American, saying just what those who oppose Trump have been arguing: We're stronger together. 

Here's the link:

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Symbol of Trump: The Great White Wail

Moby Dick was not simply a whale. He was a symbol.

I am now coming to understand the hold Donald Trump has on the 40% or possibly the 51% of the country he holds under his spell. It was all so obvious, hiding in plain site. His call for a wall coupled with his battle cry, "Make America Great Again," is simply a call to return to what things were, when white guys who stopped going to organized school after the 12th grade, at age 17 or 18 could walk down the street or take a bus across town to the plant and get a job for the next 30 years working in the plant and save enough to buy a house, could support a family and take paid vacations and retire on the company pension, as people did in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Gary, Indiana.

If you were "working class" all that slipped away forty  or fifty  years ago and now your kids are looking at their lives and realizing although they left high school at age 17, as their parents had, their lives will not be nearly so successful.  They will live in trailers on the scruffy side of town and when they go to see the doctor she will be Indian or Pakistani or maybe even Black and when they drive their F 150 pickup along the highway, they see dark skinned coloreds driving BMW's and Mercedes, headed to the gated communities. 

These white people have lost power but Mr. Trump, who is a puffy white guy promises to give it back to them, to make America White again. The reality of the moment is not important: It's the fantasy of turning back the clock, of reversing this thing called globalization, of bringing back those lunch pail days of good factory jobs, of throwing out all those dark skinned people we see among us, of going white again which animates Mr. Trump and his followers. 

He looks at the reality of an America which is changing  which will  no longer be majority white, and the most potent symbol of that change, that shift of power, Barack Obama, and he roars: That is not America! That man is not American!

Mr. Trump, like the fabled ancient king, walks down to the shore and commands the incoming tide to stop. 

Ken Burns has, in one of his most canny executions of timing, focused a new film on the story of Mr. and Mrs. Sharp, who rescued Jewish refugees, children mostly, from the devouring maw of the Third Reich.  He raised the image of people who saw desperate children, terrified parents and these people hid the hunted, took risks with their own lives and their own families on behalf of the "other."  

Of course, Mr. Burns knows how to tie the past to the present. 

Of all the stories of the holocaust, the one which most disturbed the generation of Germans who lived in Germany and Austria during those years was the story of the people who sheltered the Jews rather than turning their backs on them, as 99% of Germans did.  The stories of those sympathetic, heroic (there is no other word for it) people is memorialized at every Holocaust museum, the Christians who were not in the cross hairs but who chose to place themselves in danger.

And Burns is asking: Which type of person are you, in today's edition of this story?
Ken Burns: Sharps' War

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Trump Fans: Who Are These People?

Here's  today's quiz:  Which home is scarier?

This is from my Hampton/Hampton Falls/Kensington,  New Hampshire bike ride.


click photo to enlarge


C.  Both A and B, but for entirely different reasons.

Gary Trudeau takes on Captain America

You don't choose your heart surgeon because he's entertaining; you don't decide to go to a neurosurgeon because he makes you laugh. When it comes to people who you need to be competent, you don't care if they are nerds or boring or seem un-forthcoming about themselves. 

But when it comes to a President, who carries the nuclear codes, oh, no special qualities really matter, just "authenticity." Someone who will "shake things up."

Gary Trudeau got to the problem today:

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Archie Bunker Rides the Crest

Close your eyes next time you hear Donald Trump speak and tell me you do not hear Archie Bunker talking. 

"My doctor tells me I got a communications disease."  

Tell me truthfully, who said that? Donald or Archie? If Donald never said it, he should have, is all I can say.

Has the Donald not objected to the whole neighborhood turning into a smelting pot? Or did he say, sweltering pot?

He has defended himself against the charge of excitement to riot, as well he should have. 

He claims his testosterone levels are really excellent, the best testosterone levels of anyone who has ever been President and way better than Crooked Hillary's.

Ifso fatso. 

He just can't find a receptive audience among those Black people in Flint. It was like casting pearls into wine. 

The one thing he insists is that he is a red blooded male, and you know, men have waddya call, a carnival instinct. If Mr. Trump does not have that, I don't know what he has. 

And  he is making progress about defining his policies now. He's working on position papers, taking positions, because, as he says, "position is nine tenths of the law." 

What he really can't stand is when anyone insults him. You know what they call that:  Definition of character.

November 9, 2016: The Day After the Trump Victory

Signs are we may well be faced the night of November 8 with a President Trump, and we will all go to bed exhausted, depressed and wake up the next day to  face the consequences.

Trying to imagine that future inevitably one looks to the past.

November 9 will likely not see an unleashing of the nasties, no Kristallnacht  no  bands of marauding thugs roaming the streets, burning mosques, beating up immigrants.  It will likely take a little while for the Trump version of the KKK to organize, to choose targets:   setting fire to Lawrence, Massachusetts where there is a concentration of Hispanic immigrants, or throwing Molotov cocktails around Dearborn, Michigan, where the Muslim population is dense.

The figure most like Mr. Trump in recent memory is Spiro Agnew, who was a wheeler/dealer from Baltimore, who became Richard Nixon's choice for Vice President and Nixon regretted it almost immediately.

Agnew had the same taunting, irreverent style as Mr. Trump, describing liberals as "an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals."
He became the darling of the right wing and soon after he emerged in the national spotlight, newspapers across the country got inundated with frothing antisemitic and racist mail. It was as if his victory signaled all the creepy crawlies out there to pop out of their underground shelters, but they never did start rampaging. Of course, he was only Vice President. 

As it turned out, Agnew was really a two bit grifter.  I don't know the story of how they finally got him, but I do know from people who knew him in Maryland, he was dirty as they come.  A developer who built shopping malls told me most of the officials he had to deal with in Maryland were squeaky clean, but Agnew was simply a guy who demanded a bribe without dancing around what he was asking for.  He was elected Vice President twice, but did not make it through his second term, when they finally caught up with him. 

Benito Mussolini had the same braggadocio style as Mr. Trump, but he lasted a lot longer than Agnew--he ruled Italy over 21 years until they caught up with him.  Things changed in Italy less explosively, but no less dramatically, as the Garden of the Finzi-Continis portrayed: The underlying hatred he fostered took a while to ferment and mature, and those who found themselves in the cross hairs of the social and political changes coming often chose to remain oblivious, until it was too late. 

None of us want to be caught unaware, like the elegant, precious Finzi-Continis, but none of us can see the future.  The constant among the victims, whether they lived in Ferrara, Italy or Vienna or Berlin or Amsterdam, was a conviction, a hope "this is just a passing cloud." That's the problem which Mr. Trump presents: Is he a passing cloud or a gathering storm?

Whereas Hitler had written "Mein Kampf" and it was clear where he was headed, Trump has no well delineated agenda, other than the fuzzy "Make America Great Again" and building a wall and reinstating torture for suspected terrorists.

Justices Gingsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor will not likely all die on November 9, 2016, but at 83, 78 and 62 they will likely all be replaced by Mr. Trump. Why Sotomayor?  She is an insulin requiring diabetic and that means the underwriting on her longevity is severely limited.

It's hard to outline the sequence of the apocalypse. 

When Reagan was elected, I thought, "Good, now those conservative idiots can fail." Every President disappoints; now it's their turn. 

As liberals, we all had to endure the excesses and inanities of the liberal extremists who floated up when Lyndon Johnson came to power.  Even today, in the wake of a hamstrung  liberal presidency, we have to endure the ultra politically correct fools who argue for "safe spaces" at universities and who want warning labels on works of literature.  Pandora's boxes abound on both sides, right and left.

But with Reagan, despite his astonishing failures:  tripling the national debt, military debacles around the globe, his Hollywood marketing machine sold his 8 years in office as a Disneyland extravaganza of the golden age, with fluttering bluebirds and song. 

It's hard to predict, but my bet is Mr. Trump will simply be another George W. Bush.  Watching him posture and flounder and fail, may be Schadenfreude,  but scant consolation.