Category Archives: politics

The “stuttering prick” messaging strategy

Every day comes more confirmation of my sinking feeling that–as horrifyingly stupid and inept and arrogant and mean-spirited as Trump has been–the Democrats seem uninterested or incapable of taking advantage of the many opportunities he’s giving them.

Think of the first few weeks of the clown car that is the Trump administration, the disorganization (lest we forget, they could not, literally, figure how to turn on the lights in the cabinet room, so they met in the dark!), the myriad gaffes, the misstatements and not remotely credible clarifications. Think of that and see how much ground the Democrats have gained in the wake of this ongoing disaster. NONE. They are in fact losing ground.

demapprovalrating030717
Chart from March 8 shows….

It’s been noted all over the place that the leadership and HRC campaign folks (too often the same hacks) continue to point fingers at everyone but themselves for their diabolical failure, not just in the presidential debacle in November, but in letting the GOP take control of everything else–House, Senate, governorship, state houses. In a just world HRC, her husband, her top campaign people, the DNC leadership, and maybe for good measure assorted surrogates such as Neera Tanden and Peter Daou, should have been placed on an ice floe and shoved into Arctic waters somewhere. I’m speaking figuratively OF COURSE. But some contrition, some introspection, some walk of shame seems pretty clearly called for.

Instead, these people (well, not Hillary, last seen in … the woods somewhere?) are everywhere, being asked for their wisdom on the television, and generally–incredibly–acting like they’ve done nothing wrong, or that they fell victim to an act of God, or … a shadowy conspiracy. Well, we ALMOST won. In fact, we won the popular vote. And have you heard the latest Putin dots we’ve connected (LOOK at this chart)?

As Matt Taibbi points out in his excellent Rolling Stone piece this week, the entire Putin paranoia machine is fueled by things that have not been proven, and “that both the Democratic Party and many leading media outlets are making a dangerous gamble, betting their professional and political capital on the promise of future disclosures that may not come.”

No introspection necessary. Change? Moi? It’s Comey’s/Putin’s/Bernie’s/Susan Sarandon’s fault. Can I interest you in an “I’m With Her 2020” t-shirt?

I recently was turned on to Jimmy Dore, who I enjoy quite a bit. I see traces of the angry, later George Carlin in his schtick, and he’s a welcome change of pace from the disappointing, often cringe-worthy political comedy we see from SNL and the various Comedy Central talking heads.

The other day Dore ranted on this remarkable San Diego town hall appearance by Democratic reps Scott Peters and Susan Davis, in which the US Congresspeople cannot even say what it is they stand for. Peters and Davis appear never to have considered condensing their message into something easily understood and concrete, the 30-second self-promoting “elevator pitch” every young job seeker is meant to have committed to memory.

Instead, they mumble uncertainly, platitudes like “everyone should be treated fairly” and oh, uh, “opportunity….”

Dore has a lot of fun with this performance, which for me called to mind “Goodfellas”–that immortal “I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown?” scene where Tommy breaks Henry’s balls, to use the terminology of the film.

After Henry realizes the joke’s on him, everyone laughs and Tommy shouts:

Ya motherfucker! I almost had him, I almost had him. Ya stuttering prick ya. Frankie, was he shaking? I wonder about you sometimes, Henry. You may fold under questioning.

Maybe I just needed an excuse to share this clip, but I stand by this: The Democrats, circa 2017, have become the party of stuttering pricks.

***

Since I wrote a draft of this, Shaun King had a good column addressing this very frustration. In The Democratic Party seems to have no earthly idea why it is so damn unpopular, King writes of asking crowds on his speaking tour this question:

The first question is, “If I asked you, in just a few sentences, to sum up what specific policies the Democratic Party stands for, what would you say?”

“The response that I get is always the same – mass laughter or audible frustration,” King writes.

So is this inarticulate stuttering a feature or a bug of Democrat messaging?

Yesterday, New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino tweeted about Bernie Sanders’ assertion that “our ultimate goal is not just playing defense. Our goal is a Medicare-for-all, single payer system”:

I’d personally like to see how many Democratic politicians actually support Medicare-for-All/Single Payer. I don’t know the percentage breakdown, but it’s certainly not “every single Democrat politician.” The potentially good news is that I imagine more Democrats are inching towards the RIGHT to health care, not just ACCESS to a health care PRODUCT, a fuzzy conflation the Dems have taken pains to maintain.

***

ANOTHER UPDATE:

Bernie Sanders has a pretty good answer to the question in question:

Re-up: Hillary’s Emails? Hillary Smails!

nothinandlikeitUpdate, July 14, 2016: The news today is that Hillary Clinton’s once-formidable lead has shrunk to basically nothing, in a contest with a candidate who is pretty obviously trying to gift her the election.

 

If you are casting about for explanations of what is it about HRC that fails to connect with the voters, I’d like to re-up a little thing I wrote a couple months ago…. Bernie Sanders is apparently out of the race now, but that does not change the basic fact that Hillary’s is the “You’ll Get Nothing And Like It” candidacy.

***

Everybody’s got Hillary Clinton all wrong. So many words spilled about Hillary’s emails, sure, but nothing about Hillary Smails! There is only one letter that’s different! I have googled around and have not seen this argument advanced anywhere, so let me be the first to assert that Caddyshack gives us the key to understanding the 2016 race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Hillary’s email issues are not nothing, especially for a politician who was high-handed and hawkish when it came to, oh, say, Snowden’s leaks. Definitely, Snowden has a point:  “Others get prosecuted for what Hillary Clinton did.”

I don’t know the status of the investigation, but a potential FBI indictment is a hell of a thing to have hanging over a campaign, especially for a candidate widely considered a lock for the nomination.

Let those chips fall where they may. I’m with Bernie: enough with this talk about Hillary’s emails. A single letter is the difference between Hillary’s emails and Hillary SMAILS. And THAT’S what I want to talk about.

Hillary Smails, as in Judge Elihu Smails. Don’t go saying Murray or Dangerfield or, God forbid, Chevy Chase was the star of Caddyshack. They were all good, but Ted Knight so completely ruled.

THIS SCENE!

Feel free to savor this terrific compilation reel of Smails highlights at your leisure. I started the clip at 1:30, where there are three straight scenes where Smails’ nervous little non-verbal chortles are just genius. “Ohh? Ho Ho. Ha Ha!” And of course at 2:38 comes the line that defines the character. “You’ll get nothing and like it!”

Now, cue up the all-but-certain Democratic nominee, SHOUTING something like Elihu’s catchphrase: that single payer “Will never, ever come to pass.” You can see her crew nodding their heads sagely. Tsk. Tsk. Those silly single-payer dreamers.  “You’ll get nothing and like it!” is an applause line for her! Last week we learned that consultants working for the Super PACs backing Hillary Clinton are joining in the battle to defeat a single-payer proposition for the state of Colorado. So not only is it, “Single payer is never ever going to happen.” It’s “Single payer is never, ever going to happen, because my people are working to prevent it from happening.” One wonders how that would play as an applause line.

Just as Judge Smails had a foil in Dangerfield’s crass interloper Al Czervik–utterer of the the film’s ultimate line,“Hey everybody, we’re all gonna get laid!”–so too does Hillary have a a foil in Senator Sanders, portrayed (widely and wrongly) in mainstream accounts as a naif promising everybody “free stuff.”

Even as the consensus says he has no path to victory, he continues to surge, filling stadiums, dominating primaries as he did Tuesday, winning every county in West Virginia. West Virginia! (I know. It’s become home to racists since Hillary won there in 2008, apparently, a state of affairs that can only be explained by Carl Diggler.)

My admiration for Bernie is neither absolute, nor unconditional. I don’t agree with him on all policy fronts. There’s the gun control thing, and the fact that he’s a little too accepting of the foreign policy consensus–drone bombing, extrajudicial assassination, and whatnot. But all in all, for a candidate that actually still has a (slim) chance to win the whole thing, I mean, my God. He has ideas, good ones, and speaks his mind. This is a once-in-a-generation politician.

Whatever happens over the next 180 days or so, Bernie has changed the expectations of what government can offer. His proposals for tuition-free public college and single payer are far from idealistic, or unrealistic. They are what governments offer in virtually every other civilized country. Sanders putting those ideas out there is an embarrassment to Clinton and the DNC, and their promise of nothing–of basically not being Trump. (Do I even need to say I find Trump terrifying? But he is a symptom, not the disease.) I may be wrong, but there’s a fair bit of evidence that the neoliberal experiment–from the Atari Democrats forward–is in its last days. Add up the Sanders and Trump supporters, and you’ll find something like two-thirds of Americans are contemptuous of the pitiful things the Democrats (and their Republican partners) have offered in exchange for economic security. You may have lost your job and your pension, but LOOK: NAFTA and 401(k)s!

Hillary’s going to get the nomination. The MATH! They say. And she will go on to win easily. If you say so.

Ignore all the polls that have Sanders easily beating Trump head to head, and Hillary struggling. Just today a Quinnipiac poll reveals that Clinton’s until-very-recently substantial lead is gone: she and Trump are virtually tied in three key swing states, and yes, that Bernie beats Trump in all of them.

Contrast the images from, say, the Sanders rally in Washington Square Park with this pitiful clip from an appearance by the front-runner in Los Angeles earlier this week. Which candidate looks like a future president?

 

Winning, losing, and winning while losing

I cringe to paste in this title: Hey, Democrats, stop gloating — your party is imploding right before your eyes, too. Salon gon’ Salon. But I’m pretty much completely down with Steve Almond’s sentiment:

There’s been a gleeful sense of schadenfreude in the coverage churned out by left-leaning outlets in particular. How lovely it has been to watch the conservative movement’s house of cards fall into shambles!

The problem, of course, is that Republicans aren’t the only party facing an historic rift. Over the past two weeks, it’s become increasingly obvious that grassroots liberals are thoroughly disgusted by their own party establishment.

The Republicans no doubt face a brutal convention, in which they must either nominate an unpopular candidate or incur the wrath of the masses by handpicking an establishment figure.

But the Democrats already face a kind of inverse dilemma. Barring a miracle, they will nominate an establishment candidate who is at best tepidly supported, and at worst reviled, by those who have rallied behind her insurgent foe, Bernie Sanders.

Remember, the whole primary season is designed to consolidate support behind the frontrunner. At this point in the race, with only one opponent—an elderly socialist from Vermont with a degree from the Larry David School of Charm — Clinton should be turning her attention to the general election.

Instead, she’s lost eight of nine contests many by a wide margin, and is barely hanging on in her home state, where her opponent is drawing huge and ecstaticcrowds.

Right wing pundits—a sad and desperate lot at the moment — eagerly compareSanders to Trump. The idea here is that the widespread disgust with Washington’s dysfunction has opened the door to outsider demagogues who spout lurid promises.

In fact, Sanders and Trump have about as much in common as George Wallace and Eugene Debs. Sanders isn’t trying to sell steaks or live out some Reality TV fantasy. He entered politics from the tradition of social justice .

The reason he keeps beating Hillary Clinton is because a huge portion of the electorate—particularly young voters—is yearning for the kind of explicit social justice he’s prescribing. To put it bluntly: he’s articulating a moral vision, not an electoral path to the White House.

And that, frankly, is what the Democratic Party used to do, back in the era of the New Deal and the Great Society. It offered as its essential pitch to voters a compassionate and responsive government that sought to combat — or at least mitigate — the corrosive values of a capitalist theocracy.

What does the modern Democratic Party offer? The strategy put forward by Bill Clinton was called “triangulation.” And while it may have worked in an electoral sense, the de facto result was a strategy of appeasement that left Democrats pushing conservative policies: welfare reform, tax cuts, financial deregulation.

Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act, is essentially theprogram Bob Dole proposed back in 1993. His solution to our suicidal dependence on fossil fuels—cap-and-trade—is yet another recycled Republican idea.

The modern Democratic Party, in other words, has chosen to enable — and in many cases sponsor—policies that have allowed capitalism to act like a giant centrifuge, concentrating wealth and power in the hands of the few to the detriment of the many.

 

Not entirely bad news, this implosion. I guess I have my own twisted version of the schadenfreude regarding a party whose leader Debbie Wasserman Schultz carves up legislation to benefit PAYDAY LENDERS–in an election season. Is that party — or the dominant DNC wing — really worth saving?

But I will confess to getting sad in advance at the prospect of Hillary barely surviving Bernie’s challenge, thanks in large part to mastery of the arcane anti-democratic machinery of primaries, caucuses and superdelegates, and limping to the presidency. Where I have every confidence she will be terrible.

But should that happen, I’m hoping to see follow-through with the 80-90 percent of young voters who favor the Sanders view, that there will be progressive candidates winning the seats the Democratic leadership can’t even be bothered to contest, obsessed as they are with the spoils of presidential politics.

Not giving up on Bernie, though. If the Dems REALLY cared about guaranteeing a win for the party in November, he is their guy. If he falls short, it will be a race between two candidates everybody hates.

My optimism is stubborn, though. I hold out high hopes for the Mark Ruffalo/Rosario Dawson ticket in 2020.

Bloodied

la-me-ln-lawyer-and-investigator-have-bloody-b-
“An effort  to drum up a payday”?

This picture, man.

It’s from an incredible, appalling true-life James Ellroy story taking place in Orange County. The bruised face belongs to defense attorney James Crawford. On Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Times, Crawford was beaten bloody by a cop working for the Orange County district attorney’s office, after Crawford got charges dismissed against his (Crawford’s) client. The Times says Crawford’s client’s acquittal is the latest “humiliation” for the DA’s office, which “has seen case after case unravel in an ongoing scandal regarding the misuse of jailhouse informants.”

The DA investigator–whose name is still not public and who has not been arrested for this beatdown–“made more than $206,000 in total compensation in 2014.” The sheriff’s union head speculated that “this is an effort by a criminal defense attorney to drum up a payday.”

Bear with me here. I see that bloodied face serving as some sort of metaphor for Donald Trump’s campaign and movement, after the truly awe-inspiring direct action by teachers, unions, and activists in Chicago Friday night that forced Trump to cancel a rally of his supporters. Whatever else comes of this– more good than ill, but more violence seems a given–at the very least. seventy-plus-year-old rednecks will think twice about sucker-punching young black men.

I also imagine bloodied is a good description of how the Hillary Clinton campaign feels in the wake of its Very Bad Day yesterday, which began with Hillary praising Nancy Reagan–Nancy Reagan!!–for starting a national conversation about AIDS.

Uh. No. Writes Sam Biddle of Gawker:

In an interview conducted at Nancy Reagan’s funeral today, Hillary Clinton recounted a version of history that didn’t happen, lauding the former first lady’s “low key advocacy” for the cause of HIV/AIDS awareness. “Low key” is one way of putting it. In fact, the Reagan White House is infamous for its lengthy, deadly silence on the epidemic.

It took twitter no time to erupt in a chorus of near-universal derision. Hillary actually sort of apologized, saying she misspoke, but nah…

 

Her political acumen, such as it is, was on display yet again in the evening. The streets of Chicago were filled with Trump supporters and the aforementioned protesters. It was all everyone on twitter could talk about. One got the sense (or I did, anyway) that the game was changing. Trump had absolutely paralyzed the parties and the elites, and here a bunch of kids, and workers, and teachers had stood up to his bullying, ethno-nationalist steamroller and turned it around. Bernie Sanders happened to be on the scene, at a pre-scheduled rally that ended in great good cheer and a rousing version of Woody Guthrie’s should-be national anthem “This Land Is Your Land.”

Clinton got it, that she had to do SOMETHING to respond to the moment. So she issued this:

hilstatement.jpg

If anything, this made her look more out-of-touch than her afternoon debacle. Here’s a representative reaction:

Lost in the big news day, this: it emerged Friday that feminist trailblazer and icon bell hooks announced that she can no longer support Hillary.

I don’t find it productive to criticize Hillary on her personality or “leadership” qualities because these terms are so nebulous, useful only in narrowly-defined horse-race discussions of the relative merits of the two (only two) candidates pre-selected by the major parties and their donors. Policies. Let’s talk about policies.

In Hillary’s case, her policies are a smoldering garbage fire of corporatism, interventionism, neoliberalism and vaguely uplifting platitudes. The events of Friday convinced me that, even if her policies weren’t awful, Hillary seems overwhelmed by our particular historical moment.

I find many of Obama’s policies reprehensible, but I never doubt his capacity for understanding what’s actually happening around him. With Hillary, the events of Friday, and her tone-deaf reactions to them, make me question her basic grasp on reality.

Of all the candidates running, only Sanders seems to have any sort of clue. Events might be too big for him as well. We’re looking at a 1968 kind of year. And yet I’m pretty certain that people working on his campaign are going to come in to work this week with a sense of destiny and purpose. Really don’t think you could say the same for the Clinton campaigners.

Ash Carter’s Blue Jay Yarn

He flopped his wings and raised a whoop. ‘Come here!’
he says, ‘Come here, everybody; hang’d if this fool hasn’t
been trying to fill up a house with acorns!’

Reading this–Secretary of Defense Announces How He’ll Waste $582 Billion–made me think of this:

If you have never read Jim Baker’s Blue Jay Yarn, there is no better introduction than having it read to you by Walter Brennan.

Although the more I think about it, the more I see differences between a blue jay trying to fill a cabin with acorns and whatever crazy Call of Duty-inspired schemes the Pentagon is seeking to fund with billions and billions of taxpayer dollars. The blue jay was operating in good faith. Not sure I can say the same about Ash Carter, or whoever sits at his desk at any given moment.

Creating enemies who are periodically capable of spectacular acts of cruelty, but who present no significant (‘existential’) threat, then fighting that enemy, in a war you announce at the beginning cannot possibly have an end point. That seems more like a racket–a way to guarantee that the contracts keep rolling–than an earnest attempt to win. Winning the war on terror would be the worst thing for the Pentagon budget.

I expect to hear absolutely nothing about the $582 billion budget presented by Ash Carter from the GOP debates, except demands that it be larger still, but am a bit disappointed, if not surprised, that the two remaining candidates for the Democratic nomination are not talking about reducing it.

I honestly was not going to go there when I started writing this piece, but a quick search on Sanders and “military budget” lead me, indirectly, to a David Swanson piece laying out Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s vision for dramatically reducing military spending. Everything Stein says is spot on, and her proposals–to reduce military spending by half, mainly by shutting down military bases abroad, and reducing the nuclear arsenal–are rational and  considered. What reasonable person could object?

My enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders is substantial, but not unconditional. I can understand why he would avoid confrontation on military spending because he prioritizes his domestic agenda. But a sizable percentage of the funds to finance his single payer and free college proposals could be found in the bloated, wasteful Pentagon budget, if only he were bold enough to go there.

But this is a good time to remember that Stein was arrested in 2012 for trying to attend a Presidential debate, as was Ralph Nader a dozen years previously.

So … back to Mark Twain …

“You may call a jay a bird. Well, so he is, in a measure–
but he’s got feathers on him, and don’t belong to no church,
perhaps; but otherwise he is just as much human as you be.
And I’ll tell you for why. A jay’s gifts, and instincts,
and feelings, and interests, cover the whole ground.
A jay hasn’t got any more principle than a Congressman.
A jay will lie, a jay will steal, a jay will deceive,
a jay will betray; and four times out of five, a jay
will go back on his solemnest promise.”

 

 

Mutiny, I promise you

The New Pornographers clip I’m sharing because, duh, the title, and also because it features an early Kristin Schaal sighting, which should be a good enough reason by itself.

Sharing the second clip, from The Fall and Rise Reginald Perrin, again, and it probably won’t be the last time. The wordplay is hilarious, even if you don’t think it’s a brilliant distillation of paranoid reactionary thinking.

No question, this week has belonged to #piggate, as it should. Not looking to spoil the fun, but I just want to point out a potentially major story being overshadowed by all the Schadenfreude and memes.

The emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as a potential prime minister has got some in the British military getting ready for when Jimmy’s balloon goes up.

A senior serving general has reportedly warned that a Jeremy Corbyn government could face “a mutiny” from the Army if it tried to downgrade them.

The unnamed general said members of the armed forces would begin directly and publicly challenging the labour leader if he tried to scrap Trident, pull out of Nato or announce “any plans to emasculate and shrink the size of the armed forces.”

He told the Sunday Times: “The Army just wouldn’t stand for it. The general staff would not allow a prime minister to jeopardise the security of this country and I think people would use whatever means possible, fair or foul to prevent that. You can’t put a maverick in charge of a country’s security.

“There would be mass resignations at all levels and you would face the very real prospect of an event which would effectively be a mutiny.”

It’s not like this sort of thing hasn’t happened before, and not too long ago.

This would be a good time for the Prime Minister to insist the general be identified, and sacked, but I have a feeling that’s the last thing on his mind.

A couple of good things to read about #piggate: Libby Watson’s Everything We Know About David Cameron (Allegedly) Putting His Dick In A Pig, By a Britisher and Lawrence Richards’s What the British are really laughing about.

For an extremely satisfying hate read, I recommend The Corbyn Supremacy, in which the New Yorker’s film critic does his best to leverage his Britishness, his only qualification for writing about UK politics, apparently.

Lane posted his snooty, supercilious and unfunny piece before #piggate broke. His contrasting Corbyn’s “callow upstart at the cottage door” with Cameron, “[t]he hale fellow who might have made his name, and a far larger fortune, in countless spheres of life” takes on many more layers of meaning, now that we all know a little more about how hale fellows get on in the world.

A birthday, an unhappy Anniversary, and Back to the Future we go …

The divine Julie Christie came into this world 75 years ago today, which is something to ponder and/or celebrate. Here is an interview she did in 1967 for something called “Tonight, Let’s All Make Love in London”….

… and there’s this amazing clip from the other end of her career…

Let’s not forget that she has always been, and remains, a feisty activist lady.

***

Two other historical resonances to note for April 14, 2015. First, the unhappy anniversary: it’s been 150 years since John Wilkes Booth shot Abe Lincoln with a derringer (!) at a performance of “Our American Cousin.”

Second, it’s apparently also the target date for the Back to the Future Delorean time machine, so there’s that.

It’s a little early for me even to try to wrap my head around the awfulness of the coming (likely) Clinton v. Bush death march. Already I have Facebook acquaintances throwing down the gauntlet, daring anyone to question the inevitability of the Hillary express. I have yet to take the bait, but it’s, what, 18 months to go? Don’t know if I can hold out.

She does seem pretty fricking inevitable at this point, I will grant you that.

It’s true: There are definitely ways to restore popular control of federal elections that increasingly seem to have little or nothing to do with the popular will. Indefatigable antiwar activist David Swanson does a nice job in laying out all the things that have to be changed at the activist level:

Instead, we need to grab this moment in which two corrupt dynasties are vying for royal powers, to use every nonviolent tool available to work at the local, state, and federal levels for:

No private election spending.

Free media air time on our air waves for candidates qualified by signature gathering.

Public financing, ballot access, and debate access for candidates qualified by signature gathering.

No gerrymandering.

Hand-counted paper ballots publicly counted in every polling place.

Election day holiday.

Limited campaign season.

Automatic voter registration.

National popular vote with no electoral college.

Mandatory voting with an option for “none of the above.”

Yup. That’s all there is to it. Easy-peasy.

***

Evergreen post: Why we fight…

David Swanson is always worth a read, especially when the drums of war are beating, which come to think of it is always….

From his latest, Putin Wants to Eat Your Children:

My point is not that bombs would be worse than the problem addressed and would make the problem itself worse as well, although that’s all true. Rather, my point is that most people who favor wars do so in order to blindly support a nation, and in blindly supporting that nation they allow it to dictate which wars they will favor. Although war supporters will give you reasons for the wars they favor, they actually favor whichever wars they are told to favor, and no others. And they’ll give you the reasons they are told to believe in as well.

More often than not, the U.S. public is advised to favor a war on a single individual of demonic nature, even though a war against an individual is completely nonsensical. According to nonsensical propaganda, you don’t bomb Iraqis; you bomb former-U.S.-ally Saddam Hussein. You don’t bomb Afghans; you bomb former-U.S.-ally Osama bin Laden. You don’t drone kill Pakistani and Yemeni and Somali children and women and men; you drone kill Al Qaeda Terrorist Number Three, over and over again. You don’t liberate Libya from what stability it had; you kill former-U.S.-ally Muammar Gadaffi. You don’t attack Panama; you attack former-U.S.-ally Manuel Noriega. Et cetera et cetera.

Well, it’s Vladimir Putin’s turn, which means Russia is at risk, which means the world is at risk, and yet the rough beast stumbling toward Bethlehem to be born is as oblivious to its conception as any unborn thing or television viewer.

Read the whole thing….

The book of laughter and forgetting

***

At 7:31, I looked up and said, “It’s 7:31” at the same time Lila ran in from the kitchen, shouting, “It’s 7:31.” Heather popped her head out of the bedroom: “7:31, everybody.” It was 7:31.

 ***

Call me shallow but I really enjoyed this. Christina’s impressions of Britney and Cher were spot-on. Jimmy Fallons’s Bowie wasn’t bad either. And the Roots are the Roots. I would totally watch a weekly series in which celeb singers mimic one another. I watch the Voice with the family most Mondays, and have to admit to enjoying the bickering among the judges more than the performances of the contestants. It brings up warm memories of watching the Match Game with my mom on a little black and white tv.

***

I was writing yesterday about how the basic assumption of a U.S. official in a press conference is that there is no history. So, for example, any suggestion that the U.S. is involved, directly or indirectly, in trying to overthrow the Maduro government in Venezuela is outrageous on its face. The ability of reporters or the general public to search for Venezuela Coup 2002 — well, let’s pretend that’s impossible.

Another egregious example of this History Starts Now, or At Least When I Say was John Kerry yesterday baldly stating, without an iota of self-awareness, that Bibi Netanyahu can’t be trusted because of his support for the 2002 invasion of Iraq.

“The prime minister was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush,” Kerry replied. “We all know what happened with that decision.”

It was a peculiar decision on the part of TPM writer Catherine Thompson not to mention a fairly obvious bit of context:

Of course, Kerry voted for the war in Iraq in 2002 and said he was for the invasion during his presidential campaign against George W. Bush in 2004.

I’m beginning to think the war on AP History in Kansas is not an idea from the fringe. This hatred of history is simply a core part of what makes American thought American.

“so that you can’t tell cattle from human”

This is the kind of thing I expected to read this morning.

I also expected this from Glenn Greenwald. I happen to agree there is value in describing the horror and brutality, on a much larger scale, of the grotesque (intended) effects of our superior body-charring and -exploding technology. (Fire and/or ice, we have it covered.) First surprise was that the conversation surrounding Greenwald’s linking tweet was, as of 9:23 a.m. ET, surprisingly civil. There were the predictable howls of “false equivalence” but all in all a mild substantive conversation. This is not a twitter I recognize. (But the day is young.)

I will paste in a brief excerpt from the Greenwald piece, itself an excerpt from the Stanford/NYU “Living Under Drones” report.

The most immediate consequence of drone strikes is, of course, death and injury to those targeted or near a strike. The missiles fired from drones kill or injure in several ways, including through incineration[3], shrapnel, and the release of powerful blast waves capable of crushing internal organs. Those who do survive drone strikes often suffer disfiguring burns and shrapnel wounds, limb amputations, as well as vision and hearing loss. . . .

In addition, because the Hellfire missiles fired from drones often incinerate the victims’ bodies, and leave them in pieces and unidentifiable, traditional burial processes are rendered impossible. As Firoz Ali Khan, a shopkeeper whose father-in-law’s home was struck, graphically described, “These missiles are very powerful. They destroy human beings . . .There is nobody left and small pieces left behind. Pieces. Whatever is left is just little pieces of bodies and cloth.” A doctor who has treated drone victims described how “[s]kin is burned so that you can’t tell cattle from human.” When another interviewee came upon the site of the strike that killed his father, “[t]he entire place looked as if it was burned completely, so much so that even [the victims’] own clothes had burnt. All the stones in the vicinity had become black.”

Also read with  a deep sigh that King Abdullah puffed up his feathers, quoted a Clint Eastwood movie (not specified), and said “The only problem we’re going to have is running out of fuel and bullets.” Apparently “nobody” Sajida al-Rishawi, has already been hanged.

“She was seen as a dupe, even if she showed no remorse, it’s not like she exuded a lot of ideological energy, none at all, in fact,” said Joost Hiltermann, who is in charge of the Middle East for the International Crisis Group. “People see her as a very lesser person.”

The cycle of executions and reprisals is just getting started, it would appear. Last night I read, for the umpteenth time, Frank O’Connor’s short story, “Guests of the Nation,” in which a small group of rebels in a rural backwater hold a pair of British prisoners during the Irish Civil War. The rebels and the prisoners get along famously, play cards and argue religion, and then word comes down the prisoners are to be shot. The narrator Bonaparte does the deed. The final paragraphs destroy me every time I read them:

oconnor