Tag Archives: David Remnick

Low Hanging Fruit or The White House F Troop

29 Jul



images.duckduckgoIt may be that one of the few benefits of what ace commentator Charles Pierce calls Camp Runamuck is the mordant but no less acute commentary on the activities emanating from that viper’s nest. Small consolation for the derangement loosed on the land but as the good doctor Freud opined, “The voice of Reason is small but persistent…”

Two public figures have jumped onto center stage occasioning both stunned reactions and insightful observations. Sen McCain, whose declining health has made him the object of an outpouring of sympathy, led Charles Pierce to write* :

But the ugliest thing to witness on a very ugly day in the United States Senate was what John McCain did to what was left of his legacy as a national figure. He flew all the way across the country, leaving his high-end government healthcare behind in Arizona, in order to cast the deciding vote to allow debate on whatever ghastly critter emerges from what has been an utterly undemocratic process. He flew all the way across the country in order to facilitate the process of denying to millions of Americans the kind of medical treatment that is keeping him alive, and to do so at the behest of a president* who mocked McCain’s undeniable military heroism.


McCain does present as a paragon of contradiction and this vivisection from 1999 is still applicable** :

McCain is deeply loved by the press. As Silverman puts it, “As long as he’s the noble outsider, McCain can get away with anything it seems – the Keating Five, a drug stealing wife, nasty jokes about Chelsea Clinton – and the pundits will gurgle and coo.”

Indeed they will. William Safire, Maureen Dowd, Russell Baker, the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, have all slobbered over McCain in empurpled prose. The culmination was a love poem from Mike Wallace in 60 Minutes, who managed to avoid any inconvenient mention of McCain’s close relationship with S & L fraudster Charles Keating, with whom the senator and his kids romped on Bahamian beaches. McCain was similarly spared scrutiny for his astonishing claim that he knew nothing of his wife’s scandalous dealings. His vicious temper has escaped rebuke.


And then there is the White House’s newest Pagliacci , Anthony Scaramucci , aka the Mooch. freshly appointed White House Communications Director ,who immediately made headlines with effusive declarations of love and fealty for POTUS, and an over-the-top expletive laden phone call to a reporter. The New Yorker‘s David Remnick exhibits his well-honed chops ***:

Scaramucci, who was endorsed by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, seems to have been installed to carry out Trump’s form of personnel management—to help demean and get rid of retainers who have proved disappointing or threatening to his interests. Sean Spicer. Reince Priebus. Steve Bannon. Jeff Sessions. And, ultimately, Robert Mueller.

In other words, the Mooch matters because the Mooch helps to clarify what matters most to the President and his family. What matters most is Trump’s grip on his base voters and his survival in office. Everything else—a sane health-care policy, the dignity of the transgender people who have volunteered to serve their country, a rational environmental policy, a foreign policy that serves basic democratic values, rule of law—is of tertiary interest.


You have to love the New Republic‘s Jeet Hewer’s venture into ethnography,” Trump, “Mooch,” and the Rise of the New York Douchebag”:****

 The New York douchebag thrives throughout the tri-state area, particularly in New Jersey and the outer boroughs of the city proper. Usually white, he is belligerent, garrulous, ruthlessly competitive, and excessively confident in his persuasive abilities. He is also hypersensitive; the smallest perceived slight will trigger a full-scale defense of his pride. He demands to be respected at all times.

And so as the saying goes, “The dogs bark and the caravan rolls on…”




** https://www.counterpunch.org/2015/07/20/the-horrors-of-john-mccain-war-hero-or-war-criminal/

*** http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/why-anthony-scaramuccis-attack-on-reince-priebus-and-steve-bannon-matters

**** https://newrepublic.com/article/144103/trump-mooch-rise-new-york-douchebag


Story Songs # 1

15 Nov



The recent squall precipitated by the Swedes foisting the Nobel Prize for literature on Bob Dylan was cause for carping and chirping by that marginal subset of earthlings devoted to the Written Word—writers and the like. While I agree with the notion that songs are stories and thus qualify as literature as much as other hybrid genres, something about this happenstance irked me.

As far as I can tell there was no pressing reason to burden the septuagenarian crooner with such an award. And burden it is—consider Dylan’s delayed response which originally suggested he might not appear at the attendant ceremony .

In any case, no biggie…

If anyone doubts the view that songs are literature here is a random sampling of such:

Randy Newman is a clever guy and has written a multitude of fine songs —this one has always grabbed me

God’s Song



Originally making his mark with the “The Revolution Will Not be Televised” Gil Scott heron’s Military and the Monetary (Work for Peace) vocalizes an obvious nexus


Made famous by the inimitable Billie Holiday, this haunting song’s portrayal of the Southern United States sport of lynching multitudes of Black Folk is soulfully
sung by another incomparable chanteuse, Nina Simone

Strange Fruit

Lowell George, singer, songwriter guitarist led this LA musical aggregation until his untimely death at the age of 34. I doubt he was aver a long haul truck driver but this song does capture that challenges of that profession

Willin’ — Little Feat

William ‘Smokey’ Robinson was a integral part if the success of the Motown musical juggernaut. Not least for his unforgettable love songs sung with his sweet tear-evoking counter tenor voice.Kevin Mahogany ’s pared down iteration of a Smokey classic sung in a deep dusky voice is a nice touch

Tears of a Clown

Tracks of MNy Tears smokey robinson live

Saxophonist John Coltrane only recorded with one singer— non pareil Johnny Hartmann .That recording is outstanding collection of tunes from the mid century American songbook and more a half century later is still as fresh as the day not was recorded. Billy Strayhorn’s melancholic hymn( I still marvel that he wrote Lush Life when he was 19 years old) is heart rending

Lush Life

In a long and adventuresome career Bob Dylan ( a jewish kid from Minnesota ) has written countless timely and memorable songs. None are representative so here’s one from a recent (non-crooning) recording. I like the line, “I an’t dead yet, my bell still rings.”

Early Roman Kings

The great Leonard Cohen passed away last weekend—having just released another recording of news songs. Naturally the recent kefluffle on the Nobel Award for Literature saw Cohen’s partisans decrying Dylan’s selection. If you are of a mind, David Remnick in the New Yorker and Leon Wiesltier in the New York Times wrote useful pieces on the poet /songwriter/wanderingJew. As he observes in the song that follows ,

I fought against the bottle,
But I had to do it drunk
Took my diamond to the pawnshop
But that don’t make it junk.

That Don’t Make it Junk


15 Sep

It’s not that I don’t believe that the terrorist bombing in Manhattan ten years ago is significant and worthy of commemoration. Or that real suffering attaches to that event. But I am vexed by appropriation of that event and attendant consequences by the same self-righteous pontificators who facilely hand out the consoling news that god is on our side and who managed to embroil the United States in fruitless imperial adventures costing exponentially more lives and suffering than the Twin Towers destruction.

I did manage to find some sensible commentary on 9/11 —Tom Englehardt at the ever dependable Toms Dispatch weighs in

If September 11th was indeed a nightmare, 9/11 as a memorial and Ground Zero as a “consecrated” place have turned out to be a blank check for the American war state, funding an endless trip to hell. They have helped lead us into fields of carnage that put the dead of 9/11 to shame.

Lawrence Weschler also has something to say in a piece called Memory and among other things, Weschler recalls Susan Sontag’s remarks (for which she was excoriated):

Politics, the politics of a democracy—which entails disagreement, which promotes candor—has been replaced by psychotherapy. Let’s by all means grieve together. But let’s not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. “Our country is strong,” we are told again and again. I for one don’t find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that’s not all America has to be.

Weschler, it should be noted, found it disquieting that he could not get any radio outlet to air his radio version of Memory.

The New Yorker’sDavid Remnick, of course, comments and as does Weschler recalls the General Slocum sinking disaster of 1904. He also offers this:

Ten years after the attacks, we are still faced with questions about ourselves—questions about the balance of liberty and security, about the urge to make common cause with liberation movements abroad, and about the countervailing limits. Only absolutists answer these questions absolutely.

Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman experienced two memorable 11ths of September and he draws an interesting and somber parallel between 1972 and 2001

Okay, then.

Currently reading: American Boy Larry Watson (Milkweed)