Archive | December 2016

First Speaker

A shaken, but hopeful, crowd of influentials assembled in the small amphitheater to watch the now-antiquated video projector. As had happened so often before, an image of the revered psychohistorian appeared, proclaiming, “I am Francis Fukuyama.”

He continued, “The path to the universal liberal democracy continues with another American liberal candidate soundly defeating splinter factions of populists tied to the past. This President will work closely with a strong European Union, will adopt trade agreements that build stronger ties with Pacific rim nations, will counter any remaining military threat from central Asian nations and will bring the world another step closer to the endpoint of man’s ideological evolution.”

Gasps were heard through the crowd. Fukuyama had calculated that the populists would lose. True, the leftist American populist Sanders had been dealt with, but Trump, an unorthodox right-leaning populist, had pulled out a narrow victory in the electoral college. And populist candidates had been chalking up victories all over Europe and Asia.

Fukuyama had not foreseen the Donald.

(Appy polly loggies to Isaac Asimov)

OK, now that we are past the pipe dream that the electoral college would turn him aside, we have to accept that Donald J Trump will be sworn in on January 20th, 2017. Like the Mule in Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, it is tempting to see the Donald as an unforeseen mutant politician with a strange hold on his followers – except that we have seen the same sort of businessman-strongman before in Berlusconi.

But as happened to the Mule, Trump is being easily managed by those who actually control the American government. There did seem to be some dissension between various elements of the deep state, but that seems to have been smoothed over. Trump will make a show of fulfilling his promises to drain the swamp and help the workers, but will actually support the oligarchy as fully as if his mind was adjusted by Henry Kissinger.

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From Russia, With Love

A story originating in The Washington Post, also known as Pravda on the Potomac, has become the leading excuse for the establishment presidential candidate’s stunning defeat in the electoral college. The Post asserts that the CIA believes that Russian hackers acted to swing the election to Donald Trump:

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter. …

The CIA shared its latest assessment with key senators in a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill last week, in which agency officials cited a growing body of intelligence from multiple sources. Agency briefers told the senators it was now “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

The CIA presentation to senators about Russia’s intentions fell short of a formal U.S. assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies. A senior U.S. official said there were minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered.

Mainstream media are all over the story. On Meet the Press, Reince Priebus denied it, while on Face the Nation, John McCain pressed for further investigation. These are, however, the same outlets that did just about everything short of begging us to vote for Hillary Clinton, so I am not inclined to believe them.

Also, there have been reports of a power struggle with the CIA favoring Clinton and the FBI supporting Trump – “minor disagreements” – so it makes little sense that the Post should blindly repeat CIA claims without that perspective.

Even if Russia did hack the DNC, nothing that was revealed was particularly surprising. The DNC was in the bag for Clinton, and for big donors. Everyone knew that.

A useful hack would have been learning that Trump was going to stock his cabinet with establishment billionaires.

Baby, It’s Colder Inside

I wrote about Frank Loesser’s classic 1944 song, Baby, It’s Cold Outside, last year. His originally private party number portrayed a bit of romantic banter between him and his wife during a vastly different cultural climate. In today’s world, the lyrics don’t parse quite the same, and there have been creepy parodies, and even a “feminist-approved” parody.

According to CNN, one couple rewrote the song – in a serious vein – to remove any hint of coercion:

Singer-songwriters Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski, both from Minneapolis, said they were inspired to rework the song after bonding over a mutual dislike of the original’s lyrics …

I wonder what they think of Paradise by the Dashboard Light? Anyway, here is their version:

I really can’t stay/Baby I’m fine with that
I’ve got to go away/Baby I’m cool with that
This evening has been/Been hoping you get home safe
So very nice/I’m glad you had a real good time
My mother will start to worry/Call her so she knows that you’re coming
Father will be pacing the floor/Better get your car a-humming
So really I’d better scurry/No rush.
Should I use the front or back door?/Which one are you pulling towards more?
The neighbors might think/That you’re a real nice girl
What is this drink?/Pomegranate La Croix
I wish I knew how/Maybe I can help you out
To break this spell/I don’t know what you’re talking about
I ought to say no, no, no/you reserve the right to say no
At least I’m gonna say that I tried/you reserve the right to say no
I really can’t stay/…Well you don’t have to
Baby it’s cold outside
I’ve got to get home/Do you know how to get there from here
Say, where is my coat/I’ll go and grab it my dear
You’ve really been grand/We’ll have to do this again
Yes I agree/How ’bout the Cheesecake Factory?
We’re bound to be talking tomorrow/Text me at your earliest convenience
At least I have been getting that vibe/Unless I catch pneumonia and die
I’ll be on my way/Thanks for the great night

“You reserve the right to say no?” “Text me at your earliest convenience?” Seriously? I’ve done romantic banter, but I’ve never come out with something that sounds like the fine print on a service agreement.

Frankly these lyrics read like he wants her to get out, and keeps politely dodging any hint that she wants him to make the first move.

Choose Your Fake Reality

What are those Kubler-Ross stages of grief again? Oh yeah, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I think a lot of us are still in denial, or maybe anger, but at Salon, Andrew O’Herir seems to be bargaining, as he attempts to prepare us for a Presidency in which the traditional media may well be out of the loop:

Fake news, a fake president and a fake country: Welcome to America, land of no context 

… After an election cycle driven by lies, delusions and propaganda — including lies about lies, multiple layers of fake news and meta-fake news — we are about to install a fake president, elected by way of the machineries of fake democracy.

The country that elected him is fake too, at least in the sense that the voters who supported Donald Trump largely inhabit an imaginary America, or at least want to. They think it’s an America that used to exist, one they heard about from their fathers and grandfathers and have always longed to go back to. It’s not.

Their America is an illusion that has been constructed and fed to them through the plastic umbilicus of Fox News and right-wing social media to explain the anger and disenfranchisement and economic dislocation and loss of relative privilege they feel. …

I have a quibble with selectively blaming this or that media. For all of us, our view of America has been fed to us by selective memories of older folk, by what is taught in schools, and by what is portrayed in our increasingly intrusive media. Our parents talked about the good old days – that’s nothing new. We were also taught that America is a beneficent democracy rather than an opportunistic economic empire – jingoism is not terribly new either.

And, for just one example, my generation watched endless melodramas in which a hero shooting someone actually solved more problems than he caused. That sentiment might not have been new, but we’ve progressed from clean deaths on The Rifleman to blood spurting everywhere on Call of Duty.  Just yesterday we saw some self-styled hero trying to “clean up the town” at Comet PingPong – which ironically was the subject of a fake news conspiracy asserting Clinton and Podesta were child trafficking out of that pizza place’s non-existent basement.

Trump supporters certainly imagine a fake America in which white people are the good guys and darker people can only succeed by emulating us. But Clinton supporters just as certainly imagined a fake America in which business is booming, unemployment is falling, and things would get even better for everyone if only we passed the TPP.

Searching

A long time ago I started work in a new city. I needed work on my little VW convertible, and my boss said to go to a local guy, Denny. He was gruff, but once I told him my boss sent me, he agreed to look at my car, and he did good work for not too much money.

At that time, I would run every day, and near the end of my run, I would pass an auto shop near my house with signs about specializing in electrical work. The owner would always give me a smile, a wave and a happy word as I went by. One day when I had trouble starting the car, I took it to that nearby shop. They replaced the battery. It still had trouble. They replaced the alternator. It still had trouble. They replaced – I don’t know – something else. Finally I took it to Denny and told him what the other shop had done.

All he said was, “They’re searching.” I asked what he meant. “They don’t know what’s wrong, so they’re just replacing things.” He fixed it.

It has occurred to me that after all the talk about white anger, a lot of Americans have done just that by electing Reagan, then Clinton, then Bush, then Obama and now Trump. We know there is a problem, and keep thinking we can solve it by replacing the sputtering president with a new one.

But it hasn’t worked. And now we have a hell of a four years ahead of us.