Tag Archives: Matt Taibbi

THE BLACKEST FRIDAY

21 Jan

 

 

 

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Illustration courtesy of Anthony Russo

 

 

“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”*

Paying attention to the shit stream of information, polls, false news, Facebook hysteria and hand wringing and thankfully, eloquent opining on the forthcoming Bedlamite Reign (which is now at hand) it would seem that a great many of my fellow citizens are dismayed.

Include me in.

HL Mencken’s apparently prescient observation not withstanding, that such a nightmare should come to pass is a shock to the system. As it happens I have
spent some time (when not diverting myself from the impending darkness with literature (textual and filmic) watching the confirmation hearings ( being extremely thankful for Senators Warren, Franken and Saunders) and attending to the small circle of observers who I count on for spirited (and yes, humorous )commentary. That group includes Charles Pierce,, Chris Lehmann, Keith Olbermann, Andy Borowitz, Barbara Ehrenreich, George Scialabba, Rebecca Solnit, Henry Giroux and on occasion, Gail Collins. One wonders what Molly Ivins and Christopher Hitchens would have made of the evolution of neoliberalism.

 

Theme song for Dark Times

There is also Howard Zinn’s half century of dissidence  which offers many clues as to how he would view current events. One of the principles he held dear is expressed in this articulation of  Edmund Burke’s remark on activism.

History is instructive. And what it suggests to people is that even if they do little things, if they walk on the picket line, if they join a vigil, if they write a letter to their local newspaper. Anything they do, however small, becomes part of a much, much larger sort of flow of energy. And when enough people do enough things, however small they are, then change takes place.

 

Keith Olbermann has been cvertainly been around the media block. Currently, he is affiliated with GQ ( yes, the slick Conde Nast glossy) and his outpost in cyberspace is entitled The Resistance (which is a good a rubric as any, I suppose). Forgoing his penchant for bombast, Keith recently offered this bulletin to Trump supporters

 

William Greider, in the Nation in a piece called “Donald Trump’s Presidency Will Be a Fiasco for Donald Trump” mordantly suggests a note of hope;

… If Americans wanted a performer to run the country, why not pick George Clooney? Instead, we got a slightly demented carnival barker with gilded hair and a bloated ego. The fright and gloom are understandable, but I have a hunch Donald Trump has already peaked. He won’t go away, of course—he will be Mr. President—but the air is already seeping out of Trump’s balloon. The president-elect has amassed a huge inventory of dubious promises, and I expect this powerhouse of American politics to get smaller and less influential as the broken promises pile up…

…his governing vision, it was usually limited to 140 characters. His longer speeches, if you listen closely, are always about the same subject—the greater glory of Donald Trump. We still don’t know how much Trump knows about governing. Or how much he cares…

 

 

 

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The Fortiefifth President of the United States

 

…President-elect Trump doesn’t seem to understand that governing is a team sport. It requires complicated cooperation and fluid policy arguments. Small details produce awesome differences. In other words, for Trump, it’s boring. Trump is a big-picture guy who treats the politics of governing like it’s high-stakes mud wrestling. And it’s all about him. He shows little interest in or knowledge of policy specifics and spews gratuitous scorn and ridicule on his opponents…

…Now he is to be our president, and Trump’s “magical realism” is about to collide with the hard earth of mortal politics. The president-elect and his staffers are already busy trying to distance themselves from some of his more explosive promises, hoping they get forgotten in the excitement of a new party’s taking power….

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Rebecca Solnit in the London Review of books (From ‘Lying to Leering”:

Trump was the candidate so weak that his victory needed the disenfranchisement of millions of voters of colour, the end of the Voting Rights Act, a long-running right-wing campaign to make Clinton’s use of a private email server, surely the dullest and most uneventful scandal in history, an epic crime and the late intervention, with apparent intent to sabotage, of the FBI director James Comey. We found out via Comey’s outrageous gambit that it is more damaging to be a woman who has an aide who has an estranged husband who is a creep than actually to be a predator who has been charged by more than a dozen women with groping and sexual assault.

The pride of Providence Rhode Island Henry Giroux warns (warning Henry uses big words explicating a dense theory of pedagogy —he is nonetheless worth reading)

The United States stands at the endpoint of a long series of attacks on democracy, and the choices faced by the American public today point to the divide between those who are committed to democracy and those who are not. Debates over whether Donald Trump was a fascist or Hillary Clinton was a right-wing warmonger and tool of Wall Street were a tactical diversion. The real questions that should have been debated include: What measures could have been taken to prevent the United States from sliding further into a distinctive form of authoritarianism? And what could have been done to imagine a mode of civic courage and militant hope needed to enable the promise of a radical democracy? Such questions take on a significant urgency in light of the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. Under such circumstances, not only is the public in peril, it is on the brink of collapse as the economic, political, and cultural institutions necessary for democracy to survive are being aggressively undermined. As Robert Kuttner observes:

“It is hard to contemplate the new administration without experiencing alarm bordering on despair: Alarm about the risks of war, the fate of constitutional democracy, the devastation of a century of social progress. Trump’s populism was a total fraud. Every single Trump appointment has come from the pool of far-right conservatives, crackpots, and billionaire kleptocrats. More alarming still is the man himself – his vanity, impulsivity, and willful ignorance, combined with an intuitive genius as a demagogue. A petulant fifth-grader with nuclear weapons will now control the awesome power of the U.S. government. One has to nourish the hope that Trump can yet be contained. Above all, that will take passionate and strategic engagement, not just to resist but to win, to discredit him and get him out of office while this is still a democracy. We can feel sick at heart – we would be fools not to – but despair is not an option.”[1]

Trump’s willingness to rely upon openly fascist elements prefigures the emergence of an American style mode of authoritarianism that threatens to further foreclose venues for social justice and civil rights. The need for resistance has become urgent. The struggle is not simply over specific institutions such as higher education or so-called democratic procedures such as the validity of elections but over what it means to get to the root of the problems facing the United States. At the heart of such a movement is the need to draw more people into subversive actions modeled after the militancy of the labour strikes of the 1930s, the civil rights movements of the 1950s and the struggle for participatory democracy by the New Left in the 1960s while building upon the strategies and successes of the more recent movements for economic, social and environmental justice such as Black Lives Matter and Our Revolution. At the same time, there is a need to reclaim the radical imagination and to infuse it with a spirited battle for an independent politics that regards a radical democracy as part of a never-ending struggle.

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Women’s March 22 January 2017

I could, of course, go on. Hopefully  you have overcome your despair (to which more than a few of my acquaintances have succumbed )and availed your self of useful social media and serious activist organizations to contribute to  coalescing resistance, Otherwise, to quote Edmund Burke:

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.

Power to the Peaceful

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  • HL Mencken

Disparate Dispatches: Far Flung & What Not

28 Aug
George Sciallabba [photo: Robert Birnbaum]

George Sciallabba [photo: Robert Birnbaum]

Thirteen days to George Scialabba day and assorted star studded events. Did you miss my recent chat with George inspired by his revealing piece about his mental health history in a recent issue of the Baffler? Go here and here

Joy In Mudville or in this case ” The Friendly Confines

James Baldwin exclaimed

I am stating very seriously, and this is not an overstatement: I picked the cotton, I carried it to the market, and I built the railroads under someone else’s whip for nothing. For nothing. The Southern oligarchy, which has still today so very much power in Washington, and therefore some power in the world, was created by my labor and my sweat, and the violation of my women and the murder of my children. This, in the land of the free, and the home of the brave. And no one can challenge that statement. It is a matter of historical record.

Hey American Exceptionalsts—celebrate two anniversaries this week:

The 60th anniversary memorial of the murder of Emmett Till

President Bush flies past  Nw Orleans during Hurricane Katrina

President Bush flies past Nw Orleans during Hurricane Katrina


And, of course, the 10th anniversary of the debacle known as Katrina (is the shameless George W Bush really going to show his face in New Orleans?). Randy Newman who has written more great songs than any living sing writer not named (Bob)Dylan or William “Smokey”)Robinson recently played at a benefit in New Orleans.

Newman’s song Louisiana 1927 is one of the few modern day acknowledgments of the devastating Mississippi River flood of 1927. In case you are interested there is an excellent and unheralded novel set in the greatest US natural disaster (up until 1927) by Beth Fenelly and Tom Franklin, The Twisted World and John M. Barry’s Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America

And then there is Newman’s great God’s Song: That’s Why I Love Mankind)

Cain slew Abel, Seth knew not why
For if the children of Israel were to multiply
Why must any of the children die?
So he asked the Lord
And the Lord said:
Man means nothing, he means less to me
Than the lowliest cactus flower
Or the humblest Yucca tree
He chases round this desert
‘Cause he thinks that’s where I’ll be
That’s why I love mankind
I recoil in horror from the foulness of thee
From the squalor and the filth and the misery
How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayers you offer me
That’s why I love mankind
The Christians and the Jews were having a jamboree
The Buddhists and the Hindus joined on satellite TV
They picked their four greatest priests
And they began to speak
They said, “Lord, a plague is on the world
Lord, no man is free
The temples…

I have been advocating ignoring the short fingered vulgarian political machinations for some time. Charles Blow agrees Matt Taibbi chimes in http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/donald-trump-just-stopped-being-funny-20150821:

[The Short fingered vulgarian] isn’t really a politician, of course. He’s a strongman act, a ridiculous parody of a Nietzschean superman. His followers get off on watching this guy with (allegedly) $10 billion and a busty mute broad on his arm defy every political and social convention and get away with it.

People are tired of rules and tired of having to pay lip service to decorum. They want to stop having to watch what they say and think and just get “crazy,” as Thomas Friedman would put it.

[The Short fingered vulgarian]’s campaign is giving people permission to do just that. It’s hard to say this word in conjunction with such a sexually unappealing person, but his message is a powerful aphrodisiac. Fuck everything, fuck everyone. Fuck immigrants and fuck their filthy lice-ridden kids. And fuck you if you don’t like me saying so.

My man AJ who reputation as a great teammate and hated adversary didn’t play in Boston was dispatched out of Fenway in typical Red Sox with sports news crowd badmouthing him on his way out. Now Aj is a feisty guy (not a bad trait for a MLB backstop whose long career include stints with the Twins and the World Series champ White Sox and the Rangers. Now since his Red Sox service Aj has been with the Cardinals
when Yadier Molina was hurt ) and the Yankees (when Brian McCann was injured)AJ is currently with the Braves

http://deadspin.com/a-j-pierzynski-tried-to-frame-another-pitch-that-bounc-1726716878

MISCELLANEOUS MISCELLANY—ONENEVERKNOWDOONE?

18 Aug

The only news here is why the Times waited to report this previously well reported information

Jon Stewart, Steve Colbert, John Oliver, Keys & Peele, Barry Crimmins are great but these guys paved the way

Brady Vs Goodell: Being paid 46 million dollars a year to front a 10 billion dollar a year enterprise doesn’t necessarily make you the worst person in the world. Right?

There was a time when Maureen Dowd was worth reading and I get that The Short Fingered Vulgarian is hot stuff currently and that you get clicks by mentioning him but any regard I had for MS. Dowd has vanished. She now completes the troika of to be avoided Times columnists.

Amazon is a white collar sweat shop and the New York Times did some good work presenting that—which is plain to see if you have the old fashioned attention span to go through its 5100 word reportt

Jeff Bezos, the fifth richest person in the world, of course, demurs.Perhaps you are not famiiar with business magbate BEZOS:

That Amazon’s so called fulfillment centers were literally sweat shops is old news

Two things (at least) to note are that the Times Amazon expose garnered 5100 (and counting)comments and it stimulated bloviating pundits to moral ideation

Meta item of the day

DISPOSABLE  FUTURES by Brad Evans and Henry Giroux

DISPOSABLE FUTURES by Brad Evans and Henry Giroux

From Disposable Futuresby Brad Evans & Henry Giroux

It was against twentieth-century forms of human dispos- ability that we began to appreciate the political potency of the arts as a mode of resistance, as dystopian literatures, cinema, music, and poetry, along with the visual and performing arts, challenged conventional ways of interpreting catastrophe. We only need to be reminded here of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima Mon Amour, Bertolt Brecht’s The Interrogation of the Good, Max Ernst’s Europe After the Rain, and Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3 to reveal the political value of more poetic interventions and creative responses to conditions we elect to term “the intolerable.” Indeed, if the reduction of life to some scientific variable, capable of being manipulated and prod- ded into action as if it were some expendable lab rat, became the hallmark of violence in the name of progress, it was precisely the strategic confluence between the arts and politics that enabled us to challenge the dominant paradigms of twentieth-century thought. Hence, in theory at least, the idea that we needed to connect with the world in a more cultured and meaningful way appeared to be on the side of the practice of freedom and breathed new life into politics.

And yet, despite the horrors of the Century of Violence, our ways of thinking about politics not only have remained tied to the types of scientific reductions that history warns to be integral to the dehumanization of the subject, but such thinking has also made it difficult to define the very conditions that make a new politics possible. At the same time accelerating evolution of digital communications radicalizes the very contours of the hu- man condition such that we are now truly “image conscious,” so too is life increasingly defined and altered by the visual gaze and a screen culture whose omniscient presence offers new spaces for thinking dangerously. This hasn’t led, however, to the har- nessing of the power of imagination when dealing with the most pressing political issues. With neoliberal power having entered into the global space of flows while our politics remains wedded to out dated ways of thinking and acting, even the leaders of the strongest nations now preach the inevitability of catastrophe, forcing us to partake in a world they declare to be “insecure by design.”

“Try to Leave Out the Part that Readers Tend to Skip” -Dutch Leonard

18 Jul

Newton Minnow, who was the Federal Communications Commission chairman when John Kennedy was president, condemned the young medium of television, as a vast “wasteland”. That may still be true but there are significant outposts of intelligent and well told narratives that encourage continued interest. And its does seem that there is burgeoning of high quality series that followed (arguably) in the footprints of The Wire and the Sopranos. Recently, HBO’s True Detectives and FX’s The Bridge have have melded accurate casting and acting with convincing characters and transparent dialogue. Complemented by great montage, Nic Palazatti’s True Detectives and Patrick Summerville’s apt adaption of the Swedish series The Bridge are deep and powerful dramas.

I don’t think I had ever heard of We network but the trailers that were aired to promote their new crime series The Divide, stirred my interest and the headlines I scanned in reports on the show, had me watching my video box at the appointed time.I am pleased that I did, as this story had an excellent beginning— evidencing many earmarks of a seamless and stirring crime story. I could, I suppose blather on with critical visual jargon but for your’s and my ease, I would opine that lawyer-to-be with a big-chip-on-her-shoulder Christa Rosa played by Marin Ireland it is the role and the actor that powers this narrative train.

Marin Ireland as Christine Rosa in the Divide

Marin Ireland as Christine Rosa in the Divide

I have watched innumerable shows in which Marin Ireland was part of the cast— her role in The Divide (not to be confused with Matt Taibi’s new opus or the post nuclear attack drama) was the first time I noticed her protean attributes. By moments, she is lovely to gaze at, and seductive, radiantly innocent, brittle, bleached out and haggard,sharp tongued and direct that encapsulates an engaging blend of Don Quixote, Joan of Arc, David, the Goliath killer and Rosanlind Russell in My Gal Friday.Which is to say, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.

Marin Ireland as Christine Roza in The Divide.

Marin Ireland as Christine Roza in The Divide.

The whole ensemble is convincing in taking on on a common crime story plot line—litigating (the Innocence Project is the model for the group looking into capitol cases) for a man on Death Row, some three weeks before his scheduled execution. As an aside , A State Within that superior BBC series handled the execution theme with great alacrity, nimbly shoe-horning it into the overall weave of the Iran war-like conspiracy that drives that narrative.

I recently noticed that the New York Times is regularly devoting coverage to these kinds (FX, HBO, Netflix) of shows which strikes me as a new level of journalistic pandering.

A couple of clinkers in the debut episode of the Divide— a news announcer is reporting on the forthcoming execution as “the first execution in Pennsylvania in the 21st century.” This is the kind of news coverage (of which I am more and more conscious)that has me saying an emphatic, “So what?”

Freddy Nietzsche

Freddy Nietzsche

And prefacing the show with a Nietzsche epigram (white type reversed out on a black screen) and subsequently having a character (a convict) quoting the testy Teuton is suggestive of a profundity that no crime series that I can recall has attained (though True Detectives come close).Better to cite Yogi Berra or Dutch Leonard as a marker of things to come.

Currently reading Local: The New Face of Food and Farming in America by (Harper Design)