Saturday, July 30, 2016

Trump and sacrifice

Donald Trump was called out during the Democratic National Convention by Khizr Khan, whose son died in combat in Iraq. Trump finally responded.

Here was the core of Khan's message to Trump:

You have sacrificed nothing and no one.
The heart of Trump's reply?
"I think I've made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I've created thousands and thousands of jobs."
Wow.

If you're completely on board with Trump, I ask: do you think that creating "thousands and thousands of jobs" is a "sacrifice"?

I mean, Trump didn't create those jobs out of the goodness of his heart. He created them as a side effect of wanting to make a ton of money, which he says he did. So again, is making a ton of money a sacrifice?

A guy who equates making a ton of money with losing a son is a shitty human being. Really. (And if you think he was joking, he's still a shitty human being. He's just also a shitty comedian.)

Is normal enough?

Andrew O'Hehir's Salon piece bears the unwieldy titie, "Clinton's DNC was a big win for normal people and normal politics — but in a country gone insane, that might be a problem". Yet that title expresses a valid concern, one that I share.

O'Hehir observes that there was a lot to cheer for in the convention, but:

There were also pathological outbreaks of jingoism and flag-waving, promises of endless war against faceless enemies, and a consistent rhetoric of American exceptionalism that would have seemed too extreme for almost any Republican convention of the pre-Reagan years. I understand the strategy, pretty much, and I understand the goal. But Jesus H. Christ. Did we have to go all the way to that screaming general out of “Dr. Strangelove”?
The takeaway:
I feel absolutely no doubt that the same insanity virus that destroyed the Republican Party from within has infected the Democrats, and the normals are completely unaware of it.
I don't doubt O'Hehir's right. Paranoia is contagious, and right-wing paranoia has had a couple of decades of pretty effective messaging to infect all of us. That it doesn't take quite the same form among Democrats that it does among Republicans is no comfort: paranoia is still an unhealthy condition.

Will it take a truly out-of-the-box thinker, rather than a flawed "normal", to take the country in a more effective, more positive direction? Perhaps. But for November, we have only one of those two, the flawed normal that is Hillary Clinton. Trump is many things, but a thinker is not one of them. So in November, normal, however flawed it is, will be enough.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Assange and the election

As a U.S. citizen, I have deeply mixed feelings about what Julian Assange has done with Wikileaks in the past. The light Wikileaks shed on U.S. policy may well prove, in the long run, to be beneficial for the country. If the fear of embarrassment, or jail, keeps government officials from doing stupid things, I don't think that's bad. That's as positive a spin as I can muster.

The DNC leaks are a different story — so far.

The revelation that the Democratic establishment was in the bag for Hillary Clinton actually doesn't bother me that much. I assumed it was anyway.

On the other hand, Assange's avowed antipathy toward Clinton bugs the hell out of me.

I supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries. I think Hillary Clinton is too politically malleable in too many of the wrong ways, just as her husband was (and is).

Even so — even granting all the legitimate criticism of HRC — there is one overriding reason to support her: Donald Trump.

Assange, though, will have none of that. When asked by an ITV interviewer, "Would you prefer Trump to be president?":

Mr. Assange replied that what Mr. Trump would do as president was “completely unpredictable.” By contrast, he thought it was predictable that Mrs. Clinton would wield power in two ways he found problematic.

First, citing his “personal perspective,” Mr. Assange accused Mrs. Clinton of having been among those pushing to indict him after WikiLeaks disseminated a quarter of a million diplomatic cables during her tenure as secretary of state.

“We do see her as a bit of a problem for freedom of the press more generally,” Mr. Assange said.

Um, yeah ... what did you expect her to do, Mr. Assange? Cheer you on? You did the equivalent of kicking her in a very tender place; you look asinine for being angry she did her best to kick back.

Oh, and if you think Clinton would be bad for freedom of the press, you really should take a closer look at Trump: he has scant respect for journalists — and he's one of the higher-profile public figures who has proven he doesn't need (all of) them to get his message out.

But what was the second way she would be problematic?

In addition, Mr. Assange criticized Mrs. Clinton for pushing to intervene in Libya in 2011 when Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was cracking down on Arab Spring protesters; he said that the result of the NATO air war was Libya’s collapse into anarchy, enabling the Islamic State to flourish.

“She has a long history of being a liberal war hawk, and we presume she is going to proceed” with that approach if elected president, he said.

This, I can understand as a legitimate concern for a foreign national. Whether you agree with Assange or not, it's undeniable that U.S. actions can have huge effects on the rest of the world. The U.S. repeatedly has intervened illegally and often covertly in other countries' politics. The consequences have been bad. You might be tempted to say, turnabout is fair play. But maybe you should learn from our bad example instead of repeating our mistakes.

Assange's attempt to insert himself into the U.S. presidential campaign leaves a bad taste in my mouth. As much as he may be concerned by what the next U.S. president will do to the rest of the world, he won't have to live with what the next president will do to this country. I and millions of others will.

I'm asserting my interest over yours, Julian. I flatly reject your attempt to tip the scales of the 2016 presidential election. Your selective document releases are morally indefensible. And you needed to occupy the moral high ground, Julian, if you had any hope of affecting how the U.S. population thinks of (and thereby votes to treat) the rest of the world. Kiss that hope goodbye.

Unless you have evidence that Hillary Clinton kidnapped the Lindbergh baby or murdered Jimmy Hoffa, you have revealed yourself to be a supremely petty man. You don't leak documents, you take leaks on people you don't like.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Oh Jon, we missed you

The appearance of "Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA" (aka Pundit Colbert) on Monday's Late Show was a thrill.

The appearance of Jon Stewart on Thursday's Late Show was even better.

Stewart has appeared on Colbert's CBS show before, but the appearances always have been in bits for the show (except for his pitch to goad Congress into renewing benefits for the health-impaired first responders who responded to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks). Monday's bit involving Pundit Colbert was Stewart's most extended appearance — until Thursday.

Thursday night, Colbert mentioned that Roger Ailes had been forced out of his job as head of Fox News. After a joke or two on that subject, Colbert wished he could share the news with someone. Cue Stewart, rising from under the desk. The two bantered for a minute, then Stewart asked if he could share a few thoughts on the subject — from behind the desk. A couple of wardrobe additions later (a black suit jacket and clip-on tie), Stewart was back behind a desk again for the first time since he left The Daily Show.

Then ... magic. For the first time in a year, we got our Jon Stewart fix.

I can't help wondering how those Late Show viewers who had never seen Stewart and Colbert on Comedy Central felt about Stewart's take-down of conservative media generally and Sean Hannity in particular, largely using Hannity's own words. It wasn't for everyone. It was brutal, in the vintage Daily Show style Stewart pioneered.

And for that reason, it was glorious.

(On Monday, Colbert had teased that Stewart would return later in the week. I don't think this was what they had in mind: for one thing, Ailes wasn't known to be in serious trouble until Tuesday. Yet if there was furious last-minute rewriting to adjust for Ailes' ouster, it didn't show.)

Jon, I can't tell you how much we've missed you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Oh Stephen, we missed you

Hearing that Jon Stewart would be joining Stephen Colbert on The Late Show allowed me to hope that the two would reverse their Daily Show roles, with Stewart being Colbert's correspondent reporting from the conventions.

On Monday's Late Show, Stewart's role was limited to one short skit. The skit, though, served to reintroduce the blowhard pundit "Stephen Colbert", the host of The Colbert Report.

The moment Pundit Colbert stepped behind the desk and uttered the word "Nation", I felt I'd been reunited with an old friend.

In a way, the character's return was inevitable. The real Stephen Colbert can't comment effectively on the Republican Party's all-but-anointed presidential nominee, a lying bigot who overcompensates for his pathological inferiority complex with a buffoonish egomania. The idea is too bizarre and tragic for a normal person to frame. Only the pundit "Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA" could reach the rhetorical high notes needed to express the outrageousness of this train wreck. And reach those high notes he did, through the resurrection of the Report's best-known recurring bit, "The W0rd".

Though Pundit Colbert was only onscreen for a few minutes, he seemed to add a spark to the whole hour. As his arch "Hungry for Power Games" presenter in a different bit, Colbert hurled brutally accurate barbs at Republicans and the far right while strolling through the mostly-empty Cleveland convention hall. The sequence was audacious and frequently hilarious. Even the show's opening, a musical number, seemed inspired. (The interview with Zoe Saldana was anodyne and a bit with Sam Waterston was a bust, but the hit-to-miss ratio was still better than the last time I saw the show.)

Pundit Colbert asked if we'd missed him. Yes. We missed him terribly.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Rudy, shut up

Per the New York Times, Rudy Giuliani on Sunday's "Face the Nation":
“When you say black lives matter, that’s inherently racist,” Mr. Giuliani said in an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “Black lives matter. White lives matter. Asian lives matter. Hispanic lives matter. That’s anti-American, and it’s racist.”
If only Giuliani really had to face the nation.

Look, Rudy, I'm asking this in the kindest possible spirit, really.

Could you please shut the fuck up?

Really, just shut the fuck up.

Shut the fuck up and listen for a change.

Start by listening to yourself.

“They sing rap songs about killing police officers, and they talk about killing police officers, and they yell it out at their rallies and the police officers hear it,” he said.
This is the same stuff you said twenty years ago. You're kind of a broken record.

Now, try listening to the rest of the country. Listen, and open your eyes.

What the rest of America is slowly waking up to is, blacks didn't start the bloodshed. Blacks are reacting in a totally understandable way to institutionalized racism so deep, so broad, that you haven't seen it (because as a white man, things seem just fine as they are). That racism extends to how some police officers across the country are treating black suspects.

The bottom line is, black men and women are dying at the hands of the police way more often than they should be — way more often than anyone with a conscience can stand.

That doesn't excuse five police officers dying at the hands of a disturbed black man in Dallas — but it sure as hell explains why they did. It wasn't fucking rap lyrics that drove Micah Johnson.

Yes, you can tritely say "all lives matter", but to do so you must willfully ignore the fact that blacks are dying at the hands of the police more often than anybody else.

Really, Rudy, you have to get out of your own head. You can't ever really understand the anguish and stress of being black, but you have to start respecting blacks. They're not just making this shit up! You have to realize that being black carries stigmas in this country that no other minority status does.

Nothing that comes out of your mouth is helping. Nothing that has come out of your mouth for a long time has helped.

So please, shut up and listen for a change.