Wednesday, February 15, 2017

An Inner Circle of Losers

NOTE: The Trump administration's shitshow is on such a roll that by the time one finishes putting two thoughts together, 80 new clusterfucks have happened. Here are some thoughts of mine about Trump's cabinet of creeps:

When I see Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, and Stephen Miller, I feel that I know people like them. We've all run across them in high school, or college, or work. They are people with a huge, poisonous chip of resentment lodged deep inside their balls. They are not legion, but once in a while you run into one. A boss who sows chaos by ruling with contempt, people who thrive on division and disorder, backstabbers; in short, toxic human beings. In an unprecedented achievement, Donald Trump has recruited most of them for his Administration.

Take Kellyanne Conway. Her default mode is being on the defensive. Like her boss, she is the epitome of a sore winner. There is really nothing more base and disgraceful than a sore winner who cannot lead with poise and dignity, but who feels so insecure that they need to rub it in, even though they won. Conway deploys deliberate outrageousness so well, that she makes the newscasters who laugh at her ridiculous statements look bad. That's how insidious she is. Why not focus on the times Trump doesn't lie? she asks, treating journalists and the public as if we are morons. She has not shown a single moment of politeness, empathy, grace, or truth, for that matter. That absurd military/patriotic coat she wore to the inauguration tells us all we need to know about her: always be rubbing it in. Conway is dangerous precisely because people may not take her equivocations seriously. She fake smiles and does the girly thing to deflect the fact that she is lying. Woe to anyone who doesn't realize that she is very deliberately making our heads explode with "alternative facts".
So far, if the idea is to exhaust the American people, it may be working. As an effective communications strategy for an administration, however, it's way off the mark. Instead of bringing the media to their side, Conway and Sean Spicer are in a fight to the death with the media and currently suffering from a torrent of leaks and mediatic insurrection, not to mention general mockery. They don't seem to understand that the role of the media is not to fawn and parrot the party line, but to question and ascertain. They may be in power, but they don't know how to wield it, and they act like losers. All we know is that there is a constant shitshow brewing in the White House.
It's gotten so bad lately, it looks like keeping up with K.A.O.S. is taking its toll:

I found myself reminiscing almost fondly about back in the day when Dick Cheney was Satan and Donald Rumsfeld was Mephistopheles. But the difference between Cheney and Rumsfeld and Trump's advisors is that Cheney and Rumsfeld were never losers. They were alpha males who wielded power with supreme ease. They were not mysteriously resentful men with painful hidden complexes who are out for revenge on the world. They were insiders who belonged squarely in the corridors of power and, for better or for worse, spent their lives in public service. What we have now is a bunch of bitterly resentful outsiders running the show with mind-boggling incompetence.
The feeling I get when I read about Steve Bannon's worldview, and his mediocre agitprop movies -- a bunch of defeatist "Judeo-Christian" mumbo jumbo about how the world is coming to an inevitable clash of civilizations -- is that he's a deranged fanboy. Wasn't there a quote from a comic book villain in the "American carnage" inaugural speech, a speech so hideous only a delusional loser could have written it? They say Bannon reads a lot. Well, too much literature is bad for you if what you're reading are obscure Italian fascists and the writings of Charles Lindbergh.
It's like when people say Hitler was very intelligent. Sowing chaos, destruction and the murder of millions of people, including your own citizenry because of an ideological brain fart doesn't strike me as smart. Quite the contrary, it strikes me as the apex of human stupidity. People like Steve Bannon or Hitler are not intelligent: they do nothing of any real usefulness with their depraved thoughts.
Bannon is clearly out of his depth, a third-rate alt-media (all alt-media is third-rate) operative who has no clue of how government and the law are supposed to function. He may have done a good job convincing a bunch of ignorant yahoos and self-serving conservatives to vote for Trump, but that's not the same as running a country. If he's truly smart, he'll learn to use the system to his advantage, not make it explode in his face; if he thinks that he has anything to learn, that is. To judge from his past pronouncements about emulating Lenin and blowing up the world, he doesn't strike me as the sort who resorts to humility when the shit hits the fan. He may borrow from Charles Lindbergh, but Bannon is no Charles Lindbergh. He's a schlub.

People who harbor a passionate conviction for kooky theories, be they antisemitic, racist, or of world domination by others, tend to be a particular kind of loser. They may be right-wing nutjobs, or left-wing dogmatists who feel there is a Zionist Jew behind every conspiracy; in the end, they're all the same. They thirst for a power they feel is eternally out of their grasp and being hogged or abused by someone else (the media, the Jews, liberals, the government, George Soros, Wall Street, immigrants, Blacks, Muslims, feminists, etc). These people suffer from arrested development and do not have the emotional maturity to deal with reality, which requires the recognition of nuance, complexity, and compromise. They also have a misplaced sense of entitlement -- someone is always taking something away from them. They are small-minded, miserable haters.
Most of these people tend to hide among us, nourishing their hatreds in secret. Once in a while, like in the case of Hitler or other totalitarian obsessives, they reach a position of power. But the cancerous chip on their balls remains firmly in place and metastasizes. All those impressive Nazi rallies were designed to hide the fact that Hitler was a non-Aryan-looking ugly little creep with a ridiculous mustache, greasy hair and boundless reserves of self-hatred.  The rest of the nazis just hitched their wagon to his thirst for power; some adoringly, some resentfully, some cynically, some spinelessly, much like most of the members of the Republican party today. It's a good thing our nazis can't even muster half a crowd for their inauguration.

We all harbor prejudices. It is human and inevitable. But people who spend their energy being racist have a sickness. Sane people do not allow these ideas to become obsessions. We hide our racist thoughts in the back of our minds and feel a little queasy when we catch ourselves forming them. If we are self-aware, we may even get to question them, find them untrue and ditch them. The United States is the most racially aware country on Earth. If you are a card-carrying racist in the US, you choose to be purposefully so.
Stephen Miller seems to be a garden variety racist with a penchant for grandiosity. Even in high school, he was hateful enough to object to Cinco de Mayo celebrations and such manifestations of inclusiveness. I can understand people who have no patience for political correctness, because quite frankly neither do I, but someone who chooses to lecture his fellow classmates on Americanism in his high-school yearbook seems like they are under the grip of a disturbing obsession. Fast-forward to the same guy, now advisor to President Trump, speaking on national TV last week:

"Our opponents, the media, and the whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned."

Miller was blathering on network TV about how the judiciary usurped power from the president! Who does he think he is? Goebbels? Here he is, a 31-year-old, way in over his head, who reminds me of the Charles Atlas ads in the back of comic books. His performance at the news show circuit made him sound as if he was delivering a radio address in nazi Germany. He also is associated with the cruel and incompetent executive order banning travel from seven Muslim countries for refugees and people with valid visas and green cards. Miller really seems like a throwback to the glorious days of assholes like J. Edgar Hoover, Joe McCarthy, and Roy Cohn. Make America Great Again, indeed!
I don't understand Nazi Jews. I don't understand when fear of persecution turns to hate and aggression and you forget that there but for the grace of God, or a humane and coherent immigration policy, go you.

Which leads us to Jared Kushner. The media pronounced that this handsome cipher might bring a semblance of moderation and professionalism to the White House and somehow save the day. Perhaps Kushner thought so too, in his ambitious naivete. There are reports, however, that he loves what Bannon is doing. So who knows? We're still waiting.
Kushner saw it fit to invoke his family who perished in the Shoah when his campaigning father-in-law was cozying up to antisemites, but Kushner uttered not a peep, let alone raised holy hell, when the Trump administration not only deliberately left Jews out of the Holocaust Remembrance Day presidential statement, but then mockingly gloated about it, appallingly, under the pretext of inclusiveness. "A lot of people were killed in the Holocaust", explained Reince Priebus.
Was Stephen Miller the author of such a revolting statement and its nauseating explanation? Was Bannon? Priebus? Kushner may not have been born a loser, but hitching his wagon to the Trumps has turned him into one.

As for the biggest loser of them all, the truth about Donald Trump is that our current nightmare may be the summit of a lifetime of accumulating slights and grudges from a guy who became president thanks to all kinds of suspect foreign machinations. That is, he is not legitimate and will never be. The approval he craves will always elude him. He will never be as rich as the truly capable billionaires of America, he will never be accepted into any of the elite inner sanctums he lusts after, be they social, political or showbiz, and he's always going to be the crass barbarian, conman, clown, and spoiled brat from Queens (no offense to the hardworking citizens of that fine borough). He may have convinced a segment of the population that feels forgotten and entitled to more by dint of being white by bullying everybody else, but we all know Donald Trump is nothing but a tool. A convenient puppet for Putin, for Bannon, for the Republican Party. We're all waiting to see when this bunch of cowards and traitors have enough of this dangerous farce.

President Steve Bannon and Donald Trump in the Oval Office
Meanwhile, we must do all we can to take our country back from this cabal of deranged losers. Resist, protest, demand accountability and vanquish the Republican party in 2018.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

When Do We Cry Uncle?

Until when are we allowing this dangerous charade?
Asking for a friend.
We're six days into the Trump presidency and it is clear to anyone with a shred of common sense that we have a delusional maniac sitting in the White House, abetted by a bunch of irresponsible Republican flunkies and paranoid, resentful extremists like Steve Bannon. Trump rules by division, not unification, which means he is single-handedly waging war against the United States, its democracy, and its constitution. He has antagonized the C.I.A., the intelligence community, Mexico, the media, sanctuary cities, the EPA, The National Parks Service, all of science, immigrants, and even the very democratic process that got him elected.
He won yet he is still picking fights about crowds and popularity.  He is obsessed with the fact that he lost the popular vote by a considerable margin. Every single executive he signs seems to be the result of a personal vendetta. He signed the abortion gag rule the day after millions of American women marched to assert their rights.
Anybody who watched his TV interview, or any of his public appearances for that matter, can plainly see he is mentally incompetent. This condition will be exacerbated by the power he is already allowed to wield and by the public resistance that chips away at his massive insecurity, a resistance which needs to be relentless.
My question is to the Republicans who are acting as if this is a normal state of affairs. How much damage to the fabric of our system are we expected to endure? How much indignity and disrespect? How long are you prepared to look away while Trump puts this country in grave danger?
The fracas with Mexico is a serious issue. Mexico stands to be destabilized by the absurd insistence that it should pay for the stupid wall. When the Mexican economy suffers, more people cross the border. There are already walls, fences, and systems in place at the border, but Trump can only enact asinine symbolic gestures like the wall. It is not in the best interest of the US to have an unstable, economically weakened and defensive Mexico.
It is not in the best interest of the US to reopen black sites and reinstate torture. It is not in the best interest of the US to deny climate change or affordable healthcare for millions of people. I understand that Trump is only interested in feeding his own sick ego and in gaming the system as he always has. What I cannot understand is the suicidal insistence of Republicans on acting against the interests of the citizenry. Their indifference to the welfare of the American people is chilling.

Friday, January 20, 2017


Today, the United States inaugurates the most unqualified, incompetent and dangerous person ever to be "elected" to the presidency. I say "elected" because he lost the popular vote by 3 million votes.
Many people will want to watch his absurd inauguration, like gawkers at a gruesome accident. I do not judge. It is a historic event of tragic proportions. But I refuse to tune in, because all that the emotionally stunted and deeply mentally impaired Donald Trump cares about are ratings and public attention, and I for one, am not going to give it to him today.

Yesterday, I attended an anti-Trump rally. Speaker after speaker invoked love. At some point, I felt I was lost in a giant liberal Hallmark card. Love is nice, but it does not work for me. Love is an overused cliché. Respect, however, is something that I could fathom mustering because I don't need Republicans and people who hate liberals to love me, but I demand they respect me, and I assume it goes both ways.

The Betsy DeVos confirmation hearing was a perfect example of the Republican disrespect for the American citizenry. It was a sideshow in which the Republican senators kissed DeVos's ass with fawning non-questions and prevented the Democrats from probing. But the greatest disrespect was shown by DeVos herself, in her refusal to answer questions, in her idiotic evasions, her use of euphemisms (deferring to the states, parental choice, and opportunity, all which mean privatization) and worse, in showing up without even having bothered to prepare. She is to be confirmed as Secretary of Education and she did not do her homework. Her conduct at the hearing was a slap in the face to the American public. This is what the next four years are going to be like and it is going to take a lot more than love to withstand the onslaught.

Bullying is an equal opportunity activity. Kids get bullied for being smart, for being dumb, for being too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too dark, too pale. That is how Trump operates. He bullies everyone: Obama, the media, women, comedians, veterans, Mexicans, Muslims, the intelligence community, the disabled. Political bullies (nazis, Stalinists, Maoists, etc) know that humiliation makes people afraid. With Trump everyone is fair game, except the bigger bully: his friend and enabler, Vladimir Putin.
And so when I hear my fellow liberals talk about love, I get frustrated. Because love will not trump hate. Love only trumps hate in fantasyland. Love will not guarantee or protect our basic human rights. Love will do nothing to stem the utter contempt, distrust, and disrespect for reason, science, culture, the arts, the press, thought, and agnosticism both religious and ideological; love is a very weak weapon against the virulence of the American anti-intellectual strain. This strain can be swiftly transformed into destructive policies, from laws that oppress women and deny healthcare and education to people, to the plundering of the environment, and counterproductive foreign policy. Stupid people in power are very dangerous, not least because they make the stupid feel powerful and encourage the arrogance of the willfully ignorant. That is why Trump is where he is today.
Love won't do squat against the forces of regression that threaten our planet with extinction and our country with a return to its ugliest racism, xenophobia, ignorance and intolerance.
What we need are brains, and the courage to use them.

After today, we will find out if our democratic institutions can withstand abuse, or if they are just empty shells sustained by rapacious capitalism. We will confirm whether the Democratic party is as ineffectual and hobbled by corruption and inertia as we suspect it is, or if it is ready to grow a pair of truly progressive cojones and fight every second of every day for the next four years. We will find out if indeed we live in a democracy or not. But to find out we need to act and the only way to find out is to resist.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Liberal Kitsch

I've been spending a lot of time on Facebook and reading newspapers online trying to adjust to our new reality. I am petrified about everything: Trump's cabinet, a Republican government, Giuliani (the worst of the worst, and then some), nuclear codes, global warming, the alt-right, racist violence, school bullying, spineless Democrats, etc.
Though I don't have any, I'm very worried about the children. Imagine the powerlessness of children who witness such results and are supposed to continue trusting and obeying the adults who make such terrible decisions.
I am also suffering from echo chamber fatigue. It is amazing to me how social media (Facebook, Twitter) amplifies and distorts our sense that we are among like-minded citizens, all clamoring for the same thing and no one else can hear us. I think I know one person who may be a Trump sympathizer, and he hides it. One person among 800 "friends" on Facebook.
And I am also disturbed and deeply annoyed by some reactions on the liberal side.
As always happens in moments of crisis, the easiest shorthand for expressing ourselves tends to come wrapped in pat, sentimental empty gestures. Instant sainthood is bestowed (to yourself, by yourself) by changing your avatar or wearing some sort of symbol of solidarity with the nightmare du jour. This is (still) a free country and knock yourselves out, but this does not work for me. I don't take well to sentimentality.
I hope I do not offend my well-meaning friends who feel the same way I do about Trump, but choose to express themselves differently. Calls for togetherness, prayer and compassion may be what is needed; they don't do much for me. I find some of the most impassioned exhortations for solidarity easy to preach from the comfort of our devices, but not as easy to follow through. And their capital sin: they're corny.
It's liberal kitsch.
For instance, that safety pin symbol. Nice sentiment; by all means wear it, but I am not going to wear a safety pin in order to demonstrate my self-serving, self-righteous moral superiority. Instead, and I sure hope it doesn't come to pass, I will try to intervene if I see bigoted attacks in action. In fact, I shared a useful primer on how to do that on, where else, Facebook.
I have been on the receiving end of people saying idiotic and hateful things about Jews, and sometimes Mexicans more than once. It always feels like a kick in the gut, sucks the air right out of you, makes your knees go weak. I used to kind of let it go, or deflate it with a joke, or be too rattled to put a stop to it. Sometimes I politely disagreed. But ever since a Mexican student told me after 9/11 that Jews who worked at the Twin Towers had called each other the night before in order to save their own skin, I decided that I will not tolerate politely this kind of bullshit anymore. This applies to all hateful rhetoric.

I am happy to march against Trump. I am happy to do whatever it takes to pressure this new government to respect human dignity and not destroy the world, but when people say #notmypresident, I have to part company with them. Imagine for a second if Hillary had won and Trump supporters came up with #notmypresident. Liberals would collapse in fits of outrage.
I beg you all to grow up. Hillary won the popular vote, NOT BY A LANDSLIDE. Trump won the Electoral College by a wide margin. He won legitimately, and democracy means that we accept the result. We may not accept the man, his policies, or his party and we should protest and do everything in our power to counter and oppose their influence. They don't have consensus and they should be reminded of it every second of their lives. But we were aghast when Trump intimated that he would not concede, and now we are acting like him?
We need to make our voices heard, but let's be tough and smart, like Harry Reid. Let's hope the Democrats will grow a spine and some cojones and make it as hard for these people to govern as they did for Obama these last 8 years.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

I Know What Peña Nieto Was Thinking

In which I will attempt to surmise what Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was "thinking" when he decided to invite Donald Trump to Mexico.

Disconnected from reality by his own infatuation with power and surrounded by fawning yes men, all EPN could think of was how to reverse his precipitous freefall in popularity polls.
How could he make the Mexican people stop arguing about his very recent college plagiarism scandal? How could he make them forget the new $2 million condo in Miami used by his wife, real estate hoarder and ex-telenovela star, Angélica Rivera, a house that is connected AGAIN to a construction company that has been awarded big projects by her husband's government?
How to make them forget their tsuris with the recent devaluation of the peso, or the horrific insecurity and violence all over the country, or the 43 massacred students at the beginning of his mandate that still no one has been found accountable for? How to stop Mexicans from deploring and relentlessly mocking his obvious lack of presidential stature, and his incompetence?

Reflecting that he needs to recover his mojo, a simple idea arises in his little mind (if not in the mind of some sibilant advisor):
"Who do Mexicans hate more than me?"
He didn't have to look very far.
"Bingo! I'm going to read señor Donald Trump the riot act. Hell, I'm gonna lay down the law to the guy I compared to Mussolini and Hitler, right here in our country. That'll show that bunch of ingrates, the Mexican people, who's their daddy. I will go down in history as the guy who stood up to Donald Trump."

Alas, yesterday Peña Nieto went down in history as the guy who went down on Donald Trump.

In one fell swoop, as many Mexican commentators have lamented, he did what no one had been able to do yet: he made Trump look presidential, made his cockamamie idea of a wall a feasible notion, he legitimized his racist rhetoric and treated him like a head of state. If the invitation in itself was not humiliation enough, Peña Nieto got totally played and humiliated by Trump, the superhuman troll, who then came back to Arizona to a triumphant rally where he espoused his "immigration policy", which is nothing but the dangerous racial scapegoating of a demagogue.
Peña Nieto, other than perhaps privately dying of shame at having lost his shriveled manhood to the human Cheeto, will suffer no real consequences. As per the Mexican political system, he is enshrined in power for 6 years, since there is no reelection (two long years to go),  during which he, his vulgar wife and his corrupt cronies will continue trading on their shady deals and their violent contempt for their country. Then he will vanish into the sunset like the rest of all the other bad presidents we've had (most of them from his party, the P.R.I.), yet another forgotten blemish in our history. There will be potholed streets with his name in sleepy towns empty of Mexicans who will be found in the US looking for dignity.

I'm not as flummoxed as some by the logic of Mexican political thinking, because, in essence, it is very simple. It goes something like this:

"The Mexican people are idiot infants that are better off not knowing the truth. We have always lied and talked down to them and pretended that we govern, when in fact, all we do is steal and take long (six-year) baths of intoxicating power. We have always staged this dog and pony show that they innocently call "democracy", and pontificated with meaningless, highfaluting words, communicating nothing true and nothing essential.
In fact, we're a bunch of deeply corrupt cynics who only care about fattening our bank accounts and safeguarding our uncontested, untouched, magical impunity. We steadfastly refuse to work for the improvement of our country, let alone reform its putrid institutions, which we deliberately keep inefficient, bureaucratized, moth-ridden and bloated, so we can continue the status quo.
We conspire with the rich, to whom we give monopolistic powers so they can prop us up, whether they are drug cartels, the richest man in the world, or privately owned media monopolies. We buy the votes of the poor with free sandwiches and sodas. We don't give a flying fuck about the smart, hard-working people who love this country and have truly good ideas to make it better. We just smother everything in bureaucracy and impediments.
We deliberately keep people in poverty and ignorance so that they don't get any ideas. Through our brilliance at entrenching corruption at almost every level of social interaction, we have created a nation ruled by distrust. We must admit, though, that despite the fact that almost everything we do conspires against progress and against greatness, Mexicans somehow still manage to be productive and creative. Imagine what they could do without us."

This visit is no different. Like all their other farces, this is pretend statesmanship that is not fit to belong to a second rate circus, just like the president's guest.

Which brings us to the uncanny parallels between Trump and the current Mexican President:

• Both are playing pretend at being presidential
• Both have been irresponsibly propped up by vastly corrupt and incompetent political parties.
• Both are constitutionally incapable of true leadership, let alone statesmanship.
• Both are crooks.
• Both inherited their power from their families (Trump financially, and Peña Nieto politically).
• Both are uneducated, anti-intellectual and married to uneducated, flashy floozies (one steals speeches, the other traffics in houses).
• Both have had more than one wife, and children by several.
• Both have unsavory friends. (For Trump, see Christie, Chris; Manafort, Paul et al. For Peña see Castillo, Alfredo).
• Both have ridiculous hair, though Trump wins this contest hands down.

So this little nightmare scenario we witnessed yesterday is nothing but two impostors getting together to convince people that they are real.

Finally, this is what I imagine transpired behind closed doors at their meeting:

Nice hair!
Let me cut to the chase: My wife wants an apartment in a Trump Tower. Any Trump Tower will do. We'll pay for the wall if you make it happen.
Deal! Believe me, you're gonna be very happy. It's gonna be yuge.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Trump: A Disqualifying Event

The pathetic spectacle to which we are hostage right now as a country - having to endure a presidential candidate who is mentally unfit for office, is not a coincidence. It is the direct result of eight years of Republican Party policies. They courted the fringe, abandoned every pretense of service to the American people, made President Obama's job hell, did whatever it took to cater to corporate interests even in the face of unspeakable atrocities (NRA) and care about nothing except power. Their cravenness makes Frank and Claire Underwood look like Mother Theresa.
The Republicans made this lice-infested bed, and now we all have to lie on it. We are now the laughing stock (if not the waking nightmare) of the world. But here we are. That Hillary Clinton, whether you like her or not, has to campaign against this carnival barker  in her historic opportunity to become the first female president of the United States, is sad and unfair. This shameful humiliation is the sole responsibility of the Republican Party. The only consolation is to watch them self-destruct and slide deeper into indignity, absurdity, and shamelessness as they try to contain the demons they've unleashed: besides Trump's unbridled lunacy, the worse evils of xenophobia, racism, violence, divisiveness, and hatred.
My only consolation is knowing that anyone who is remotely associated with, and pandering to, Trump has soiled their reputations forever. The nefarious Rudolph Giuliani, Chris Christie; any Republican that has stood by and encouraged this to happen is a coward and will live in infamy for eternity.
But what kind of delusion are they under? It is barely understandable how any sentient being can support such a fake conman, regardless of how desperate they are to vote against their own self-interest, blinded by his simplistic bombast, his fake hair, fake tan and fake money. But career politicians who should know better? What in God's green earth is in it for them? Cabinet posts? Shady business deals? A lifetime supply of Trump steaks? Is their resentment at the legacy of a twice-elected Black president so pernicious as to aim to dismantle the entire nation? A legacy that is all the more admirable considering that they did everything in their power to thwart it.
Make no mistake: a lot of this particular descent into madness is the result of racism. Therefore, it must sting even more deeply to watch the Obamas sail into history with dignity and grace, having achieved some monumental changes like Obamacare and gay marriage. I think history will reciprocate. When Giuliani and Christie are relegated to the forgotten clown corner of the circus tent, the Obama presidency will be remembered as one of the greatest in history, his shortcomings notwithstanding.

On the one hand, Trump is a gift to the Democrats; they can't possibly lose this election as things stand right now (although one fears that they are entirely capable of doing so. Just look at Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her crew).
On the other hand, the presidential election should be between two feasible candidates. It took Trump to encourage Russia to spy on Clinton for pundits to scream that this is a disqualifying event, when everything he has done from day one should have disqualified him from the job long ago. It's like living in an alternate reality where reason, common sense, decency and integrity do not exist. The Republicans attribute everything to spin. "He was joking", "she didn't steal the speech". This deliberate denial of reality by the right is frightening.

I assume someone will write the definitive history of how this happened to us. It seems like we blinked and woke up in the middle of this nightmare. Let this be an eye-opener to politicians on both sides of the aisle. This is what happens by ignoring the reality of the vast majority of people in this country, who struggle and dream of a standard of living that doesn't exist anymore. This is what happens when, by inaction and cynicism they encourage the existence of an uneducated nation who gets their world view from reality shows and talk radio instead of a robust public education.

It's in the hands of the American people to save our own country, even the world, from disaster. This time, it means trouncing Trump so overwhelmingly that he becomes, in his parlance, a yuge loser, the biggest loser of all time.  If you need to hold your nose because you are a conservative, or a Bernie supporter, or you just hate Hillary's guts, then do it. But sitting this one out because you are apolitical, or too ideologically pure, is not an option. And voting for Trump or any third party is suicidal.
Trump must be destroyed, and the only safe way to do it is by voting for Hillary Clinton. So register to vote, whatever your persuasion, and let's make sure Trump gets nowhere near the White House.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Donald Trump, Or Panic in the Streets.

Only events that spark the utmost consternation can make the Grande Enchilada come out of her lair. To wit: the mass hysteria surrounding the ascendancy of human Cheeto and giant dingleberry, Donald Trump, and his possible election to the Presidency of the United States.
The headlines from the (liberal) media run from astounded exclamations that the biggest search on Google is how to move to Canada, to dire comparisons to the Nazis, the rise of fascism in America, the fall of the American Empire, Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burns, etc.
People on social media, when not dying of horrific glee over Ted Cruz's flying goobers, are tearing their hair out in astonishment and fear. It's understandable. No one in their right mind can fathom how we got to this place. Oh, wait. Yes, we can!
This is nothing but the end result of decades of deliberate policies by the Republican party to court and feed the most extreme right wing factions and to fight anything resembling common sense, sound governance and social cohesion (gun control, climate change, education, infrastructure, etc). For decades, they have devoted themselves to obstructing any and all paths to progress, have impeded President Obama to do his job in a racist, disrespectful and contemptible way and they have bowed down to the insanity of a lunatic fringe whose ranks they have helped swell, at the expense of their own survival. I am convinced that part of their hysteria stems from their inability to cope with the reality of a Black president. Besides that, they should have known they were sealing their fate when they invited an ignorant malignancy like Sarah Palin to run for Vice-president. This very well may have cost them the election. But instead of learning their lesson, they doubled down on their contempt for the citizenry. An abysmal disconnect exists between their ideology and most of American society, but they act like the fringe are the majority.
The Republicans only have themselves to blame and they deserve everything that has befallen them and that is yet to come. The rise of Donald Trump is a direct consequence of their willful descent into xenophobia, racism, nationalism, anti-intellectualism, contempt for society, venality and stupidity. They allowed this clown to run on their platform, probably thinking that it was better than if he ran as an independent, and then they were unable to control him. They stood by, happy about all the buzz they were getting, and now it's too late to stop him. Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are now trying to reverse the damage with speeches about human decency and the party of Lincoln. Guess what? It's too fucking late! Where were they when Trump started uttering his idiotic, yet mediagenic, racist statements? Now the Republican party has neo-Nazis and the KKK in their corner.
To be honest, my schadenfreude is preventing me from running for the hills. I am almost hoping he wins: I want to witness with my own eyes the precipitous collapse of the American empire.  It's like being alive at the time of Caligula.
Will Trump win? Only if reasonable, decent people from both ends of the political spectrum fail to do their duty to vote against him. This country must unite against him. Meanwhile, Southern Democrats are not bothering to show up in big numbers at the primaries. Apparently, if they don't get homegrown heroes like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton or Albert Gore, they won't give the time of day to two candidates from the North. I certainly hope that Trump's results will scare Democrats enough to haul their asses to the rest of the primaries, whoever they decide to vote for. In the case of the Republican party, the options are so frightening that there is nothing to hope for.
Only in America presidential elections resemble a sports' season (in hell). There are arcane rules to consider and nationwide tournaments to win or lose. So everyone is losing sleep over the odds of which one of the Democratic candidates is more likely to win against Trump or Cruz.
I know a lot of people think that Bernie doesn't have a chance in hell of being President. Perhaps.
But I am tired of deploying the useful vote. And so, I'm voting for Bernie in the primaries and you can blame me for the death of America all you want. He represents my political beliefs and what I want for this country better than anyone else. And while I have no doubt that Hillary will be a capable president and will support her if she wins the nomination, I want the Democratic party to start acting like the liberals they are supposed to be, and not like Republicans Lite (Obama included).
Now, to vanquish Trump and the obscurantist candidates of the GOP, and even maybe return their party to something resembling dignity, moderate Republicans should feel comfortable enough voting for Hillary Clinton: she is closer to them than the fascist bozos on the GOP circus. And everybody who has half a brain cell, regardless of political affiliation, should make sure to punish the Republican party at the ballots (provided they are allowed to vote once they get there).
When in an unprecedented election year the two most galvanizing candidates are perceived as outsiders and nonpoliticians, and they attract frenzied crowds, it's because the American people on left and right are tired of politics as usual. Politicians in Washington have been oblivious to the deep fraying of trust, which is now literally non-existent, between the American public and themselves. They allowed Citizens United to happen, they continue to cater to lobbies, they have allowed this nation to become a third world country, yet they didn't see it coming.
The Republicans thought Trump was a joke that would quickly implode, and never in a million years did Hillary imagine that Bernie Sanders, the old socialist hippie Jew from Vermont, would be a serious opponent. Well, guess what? Hell froze over.
I think a lot of this has to do with the internet age and the democratization of the media. News and their attending opinions travel much faster than the tortoises in Washington can keep their fingers on. As evidenced by the volatility of certain public debates, like the political correctness mass hysteria on campuses, and the way people take to social media to campaign for their candidates, it is clear that the people have left the traditional way of acting around elections in the dust. The establishment media tried to ignore and obscure the rise of Bernie Sanders with every weapon in their formidable arsenal. It didn't work. The Sanders campaign worked around it quite successfully. Donald Trump has done the same. So the media is now having a field day feeding panic into the hearts of liberals and into the hearts of beleaguered white people who live in suburbs and think immigrating predator zombies are out to get them.
The establishment doesn't know what hit it. To quote Grumpy Cat: "Good."
The American people are so fed up with the status quo, the entrenched corruption, the political dynasties, a mythically robust economy that only seems to succor the rich, that they are willing to vote either for a millionaire megalomaniac or a crusty old socialist. It's an interesting time to be alive.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Open Unhappiness

I haven't seen a more offensive advertising since Donald Trump last opened his mouth. Mistakenly thinking that its role in society is to do good, Coca-Cola Mexico came up with a campaign to "open your heart" and "break prejudice". Which is fine. We don't listen to someone like the Pope when he exhorts us to do the same, but if Coke says it, the entire Mexican nation is sure to follow through. After all, it is a known fact that Mexicans drink far more Coke than water.
In the commercial, a bunch of young white models, all behaving in slow motion, get into a hipstery looking truck, and, supremely enamored of their own munificence, arrive at an indigenous Mixe village in Oaxaca to spread their self-congratulatory, privileged joy. There, instead of bringing education, jobs, better housing, opportunities, water, curiosity, respect, understanding, equality, any sort of practical help, or simply begging humbly for forgiveness, they unload coolers filled with ice-cold Cokes and, armed with plywood, "build" a hideous Christmas tree made of Coca-Cola bottles that happens to look like a deformed Coke bottle and which says something like "let's keep the unity" in the Mixe language.
According to The Guardian, where you can still see the spot, there were calls to take this preposterous garbage off the internet, for the expected reasons: patronizing the Mixe people, and by extension all the indigenous cultures of Mexico, while encouraging their consumption of a drink that can only hasten their tooth decay, their diabetes, and their death.
To me, this, although true, is not the biggest problem. I love Coke and will love it until it causes my untimely demise. In my case, the demonization of its sugar content falls on deaf ears.

Forget about the tone-deaf impropriety of a foreign company that peddles what many people consider syrupy poison telling Mexicans how to deal with their "prejudice".
Forget about the absurd appropriation of a Christmas tree by discarded product.
Forget the wholesale contempt for the original religious and cultural traditions of the indigenous Mexican peoples.
Forget about the imposition of Christmas, consumerism, cavities and Coca-Cola by a bunch of insufferable rich twats pretending to "give back" while they look down on the "indians".
Forget, if you can, the plywood.
What makes one retch is the abject cluelessness of an ad that preaches against prejudice while completely avoiding the vast majority of Mexicans, who are neither resplendent white specimens nor indigenous people.
Where are the people who represent most Mexicans, not just the ones at the very top and the very bottom of society? Where's the working class? Where's that mythically expanding Mexican middle class everyone talks about? In short, where are all the other brown people?
As is traditional in Mexican advertising, they don't exist. They are rarely, if ever to be found in a commercial.
This ad is no different from the great majority of ads in Mexico, which, unless they are public service announcements, almost exclusively cast people who seem to have arrived recently from Scandinavia or the tonier confines of Buenos Aires. But in this case, for maximum absurdity and bitter unintended irony, it also stars, probably for the first time in the history of Mexican corporate marketing, a number of forsaken natives, and not even this fact could make the advertising agency, the casting agency, the director and the client consider representing all the rest of the actual people who drink their beverage, and who are hounded every second of their lives by the racism the ad purports to fight.
People who deny that Mexican society is predicated on the most enduring, insidious racism need to be subjected to an endless loop of this ad, like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange.
So do the people who made it. Ad infinitum.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Airbnb, Or The Limits of Advertising.

Perhaps you have seen the Airbnb ad at your local cinema where a comely young woman travels the world, staying in wonderful houses, (with pools!) surrounded by lovely people who soon become like family and take her to karaoke bars in Tokyo. Or the one about a baby peering out a window, a blatant rip-off of Terence Malick's Tree of Life, poetic mumbo jumbo included. Their new campaign concept is "Is Mankind?" Well, to judge from my own personal experience renting from Airbnb, the answer is "no".
Airbnb's marketing and advertising make it sound like their business proposition, in which total amateurs supplement their income by becoming innkeepers overnight is about community, sharing and humanity. And perhaps it is, in a few miraculous cases. But there is a chasm from here to Pluto between Airbnb's aspirational imagery and the reality of the business. And I think this sets both hosts and guests up for bitter disappointment. This gulf between the ads and reality reminds me of those cigarette ads from the fifties in which doctors endorsed smoking Lucky Strikes for good health.
It's all about managing expectations. People point out to me that making a buck from strangers by renting them your house is not new. Before Airbnb, people did it through Craigslist and other channels. But because there was no marketing, people were ready to expect ghouls, both as hosts and guests. Nobody expected veritable angels of mercy to descend on a property. After some back and forth to make sure nobody involved was a card-carrying psycho, you hoped for the best and braced for the worst. Airbnb provides a well-organized platform to do the same thing. However, they have also decided to brand themselves as the paragon of human kindness, and this is where expectations are squashed.
Now, I don't know about you, but for the life of me, I will never understand what people like about staying in the houses of strangers. Give me a hotel: clean, well managed, with a good mattress and decent towels, and I'm all set. You say: "oh, but it is generic, it is anonymous". Anonymous makes me horny. I hate bed and breakfasts. I have nothing to say to total strangers early in the morning. I don't want to use someone else's bathroom, much less have to make the bed and wash the dishes. Is this so hard to fathom? Hotels are expensive, I know. But their price includes not having to do all of the above: a fair deal, as far as I'm concerned. 

The first time I rented on Airbnb, I found a very hip-looking house in Mexico City for a trip with friends. We wrote the host telling him that we wanted the house exclusively for ourselves. We were six people. He said yes. When we arrived, the house was not only falling apart, and dirty, but there were other guests staying in what were supposed to be our rooms. We ended up moving to a hotel.
The second time I rented was a three-month lease on behalf of an employee. The employee quit before his contract was over and when I asked the host to cancel the reservation, he completely ignored me. He had over $7000 in his pocket and was indifferent to my pleas to resolve the situation. I involved Airbnb, which ruled that I was responsible, and all I could do was appeal to the host, so I had to pay for the full stay. Then lo and behold, after the guest left, the host tried to shake me down for $1200, claiming damages: three burned pots that needed a vigorous massage with a Brillo pad, and similar pathetic stuff. Airbnb ruled that this was wear and tear covered by the insurance and I was not liable.  I must say that Airbnb was swift and professional in getting involved. That host was a vulture.
I have since erased my profile from Airbnb.  Next time, I'm going to a HOTEL, where they know how to deal with guests because that is what they do for a living. Who needs the aggravation?
My point being: most regular people have no business in the hospitality business. They have no idea what it entails. I bet that many of the hosts for Airbnb could care less about being kind to humanity, and are just happy to make some dough. This gets exponentially complicated by the fact that they are opening their houses to total strangers - people who may be nice, or not; who may have horrid hygiene habits, or not. 
I wonder if this new campaign isn't an attempt to remind people of the better angels of their nature, because Airbnb must be drowning in disputes. They posted their baby video on Facebook, a piece of schmaltz specifically crafted to elicit tears of gratitude for being alive, yet most of the comments are bitter complaints about everything: hosts, guests, the system, the reviews: human pettiness all around. This makes me suspect that Airbnb thinks it can coax people to behave themselves by waxing poetic. I'd prefer something more realistic.
It behooves Airbnb to stop the cute hipstery nonsense. Are you a cheap bastard who won't stay in a hotel? Well then, buyer beware. What you get for that is: amateurs. As for the hosts, it's not enough to put out a clean towel and call it a day. You have to be hospitable, and also not lie about the state of your place and its size. You have to be someone who enjoys making people feel at home. Otherwise, find another way to make a quick buck. Go stand on a corner, or become an Uber driver.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Suis Je Charlie Hebdo?

#Je suis Charlie Hebdo; #Je ne suis Charlie Hebdo. Hashtag slogans are corny, no matter what the cause. If at first they may spark a quick burst of solidarity with the human catastrophe du jour, by the second time you see them, they are already stale.
The minute #JeSuisCharlieHebdo took the internet by storm as a kneejerk protest against the despicable murders in Paris of the satirical magazine's cartoonists, staff and one Muslim policeman (#JeSuisAhmed), many pundits took to clarify that they were not Charlie Hebdo. For Charlie Hebdo's particular brand of satire is indeed mostly leaden, offensive, and unfunny. To me, unfunny is the most offensive fault of comedy, its most unforgivable sin, because it is usually tone deaf, mean spirited, and many times, deeply corrosive. Totalitarian governments have always used unfunny humor for nefarious ends. The sense of humor of the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Mao was to deride, stereotype and dehumanize people. Often, they did this through caricature. Totalitarians don't tend to have a funny sense of humor. They have vitriol, which is not funny. They can viciously deride others but tolerate no jokes about themselves. So it is with fundamentalist islamists. They are totalitarians: they abide no dissent. Punishment means death.
Those who are now bravely stating that they are not Charlie Hebdo complain about the offensive nature of the magazine's cartoons, about the fact that they cross a line, are racist, are a part of the mainstream media (this apparently is some sort of sin, even though it is an independent magazine with a modest circulation), and aim to offend the most downtrodden sector of French society, in this case, poor, unassimilated, discriminated Muslims who are there as a result of French colonialism. According to those who are not Charlie, the sin of Charlie Hebdo's brand of humor is that it is exclusionary, racist, and hateful. This may be true, but it is no reason to die for.
The difference between Charlie Hebdo's heavyhanded satire and that of, say, the Nazi regime, is that the magazine felt it was involved in a fight to preserve and exercise their right to be offensive; to use, and even abuse their freedom of expression guaranteed under the law. What is permitted as free speech in France may be debatable, and perhaps in the future, open to change. The French obsession with insisting that their citizens be no different clings on to an idealistic notion of a secular republic which seems increasingly unattainable, as in reality, communities in France are not only very different but alienated from one another. These are crucial questions for how France deals with its ethnic and religious minorities. But this is also not a reason for the murder of these people.
Those wounded by Charlie Hebdo's humor could resort to a number of responses, from angry letters to the editor, to legal recourse, to disseminating funny or unfunny cartoons about French liberals themselves; God knows there's plenty of comic material there. These brainwashed, ignorant idiots opted for murder.
My problem with the train of thought that focuses on Charlie Hebdo's morally suspect humor is that it provides a slippery slope towards virtually blaming the victim. The French government had asked the magazine to stop publishing inflammatory drawings, the magazine had been threatened with violence before; hence, they had it coming. This is dangerous thinking because it detracts from the fact that in no universe is publishing offensive cartoons about anything a justification for murder. If we become inured to the abject absurdity of killing someone for their opinions, we will cease living in a free world. We might as well welcome back the Inquisition.
All those who start their harangues assuring us that of course they in no way justify the killings and then go on to blame France, the white man, colonialism, racism, and in effect, the offensive cartoons, may have a point. But they are mis-assigning blame. The blame lies squarely with islamist terrorist groups that recruit the criminal and most desperate elements in Muslim communities to terrorize the world for their own political agenda. If these kind of arguments take hold, someone can arrive at the conclusion that the Jews who were shopping at that kosher market in Paris when they were taken hostage had it coming to them because Israel, and Gaza and, you know the drill. Or that the people who died in 9/11 deserved it because of America's imperialist, idiotic foreign policy. No. Nobody deserves terror.
Another false moral equivalency troubles me. Some complain, rightly, that when 16 Europeans get killed everybody has a fit, but no one cares about over 200,000 Syrian dead or whatever other large number of non-white human beings are being currently traumatized elsewhere. Certainly, this is a good opportunity to remind everyone that islamic fundamentalism is killing and terrorizing far more innocent people in Africa and the Middle East than French citizens in Paris, but the comparison is uneven. The reason for the massive outpouring of shock and outrage at the Charlie Hebdo's murders stems less from us callously caring only for our our own, than from the infernal disproportion, the chilling insanity of killing someone over some drawings. It hits closer to home, not because we are indifferent or racist, but because most of us do not live in war ravaged countries, in hellish situations that rage on for years for which our outrage has muted into helpless despair. I do not argue with the fact that we should be equally tormented by every injustice that takes place in the world, but this brutal attack was shocking. People reacted with shock. Why are we being taken to task for our outrage?

The democratization of opinion in the internet has brought us a new kind of creature: the hectoring social media commenter.  The comfort and anonymity of our screens now serve as our own personal bully pulpits. Some use their virtual soapbox to spew the vilest defamatory commentary. Racists say vicious things in forums with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Antisemites are already claiming that the attacks in Paris were orchestrated by the Mossad. On a thread online, a commenter declared that she could bestow no sympathy to the cartoonists, but that she felt for their families. Who is she, God? What kind of senseless, asinine posture is that?
Among liberals with a conscience, the fashion is to be offended by everything and to accuse everything and everybody of racism. In this cacophony of opinion, everything is equally racist. If someone decides to dress up as a geisha and they don't happen to be Japanese, that is decried as racist cultural appropriation (a particularly insidious academic term that drives me crazy). Wearing a geisha costume to a party is equivalent to saying that Blacks provoke their own deaths by not obeying the law. What happens then is that the actual meaning and manifestations of racism get watered down and equalized with irrelevant, politically correct whining.
Because the persona we project publicly on the internet is who we wish to be, rather than who we really are in our innermost hearts -- flawed, prejudiced and far from saints -- online, people become moral crusaders. Apparently, on the internet people have never had a contradictory thought; prejudice has never crossed their minds. Most of us are guilty of harboring prejudices, but all we hear online is a chorus of insufferable self-righteousness.
I am not Charlie Hebdo because there are wittier, less toxic ways to champion freedom of thought, belief and expression. But I am Charlie Hebdo because I should not live in fear of a violent death for expressing my opinions, offensive as they might be to anyone.