Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Corona Jottings: Intermittent Speculations (#10)

Though almost all brief assessments are faulty, I offer these two concerning the last and current presidencies: Obama came into office inspiring such high hopes and failed them all, whereas Trump came in only presaging dread and fear and he fulfilled them all. For certain Democrats, at least. Now the same folk, including me, are awaiting Obama’s vice president’s triumph over The Donald, but are standing on unsteady legs, fearing the worst, while hoping for the best, or whatever cliche seems most appropriate. Riots at the polling places? Absentee ballots being burned in the public square? All of this drama begins in two weeks, more or less. Back in 2016, I was disturbed by the photo of Trump that NBC used most regularly and prominently, because it seemed to be a publicity shot, not strange, since NBC was the host and semi-creator of Trump’s long running show, “The Apprentice.” The trouble was that Trump, the candidate, didn’t look much like the photo. His hair, that is. In the photo, it was business-man standard, a mixture of silver highlights, gray, a bit brown. It was the network’s go-to shot. The problem was that Trump’s hair color was orange, sometimes more blonde toned, but certainly stuck at that end of the spectrum, a decidedly Florida hue. On NBC that photo has been turning up again in 2020. All of TV, I suppose, is fantasy land, but NBC, its top brass, still seems to be in The Donald’s camp. What’s good for television is good for, etc. Putting the Trump “town hall” right up against Biden’s version on ABC seemed to certify some not so latent aura of connection. Though the moderator, Savannah Guthrie, was more aggressive than Bill Clinton’s former lap dog, it appeared that NBC couldn’t cut the cord on the entertainment factor. Obviously, all is entertainment these days, everything is ratings driven, and the mob wants its human sacrifices in the arena. Even the New York Times has surrendered to this ethic. The Gray Lady is gray no more. Full pages of graphics, art, photos, eye candy, almost no text. The Times seems to be turning into a weirder newsprint version of Vanity Fair and the last six months or so, it’s become so heavily Black centric, it seems to be making up for its long, long history of discrimination and neglect. Whatever. The FBI, as I mentioned in my last blog entry, has continued its wacky kidnap case of the governor of Michigan. I’ve wondered if Trump’s recent criticism of Gov. Whitmer, inspiring his MAGA crowd at the Muskegon county airport, after the case had come to light, to chant Lock Her Up, would inspire the Feds to name him and them as unindicted co-conspirators in a subsequent legal filing. A lot of the TV press has expressed dismay at the plot outlined, kidnaping the Addams Family governor, taking her off to the woods, having a trial, doing a citizens arrest, letting her ultimately go, after sufficient humiliation, etc. Such a plot! Though one familiar to me, since I wrote a book about just such a charge and trial and behavior back in 1972, The Harrisburg 7 and the New Catholic Left. None of the Dumbo Michigan “Wolverine Watchmen” conspirators (most sporting the usual tasteful Jihadists beards) would have noticed the similarities, but there’s a small, very small, chance that one of the FBI implant handlers in the group would have heard of it back at Seat of Government (SOG), the phrase gumshoes use, or used, to refer to headquarters. The FBI requires informants. Life continues to get stranger and few and fewer seem to remember anything beyond the day before. That’s what happens when you go from a literate culture to an aural/visual one. Images dominate, not words. Trump, of course, is the epitome of this change. His fifty-word vocabulary suits the times. But, this Thursday, we are told, will be the last debate. The Last Debate. Ominous itself. That one, as they say, will be a humdinger, a real knee slapper. And guess what Network is “airing” it? Yes, NBC. I’ll be interested to see what stock promotional photo they use of Trump. I won’t expect to see orange hair.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Corona Jottings: Intermittent Speculations (#9)

One thing that continues to amaze me about The Donald and his “Presidency” is that he continues an upward graph of weirdness. It’s a talent, of sorts, I have to acknowledge it. The past couple of days he has been helped by actual craziness, in the form of his fairly secret medical treatments, his steroid dose, which has caused a Ruling Roid, or Roid Ruling, or his threatening William Barr for not indicting Barack Obama, or Hillary, or whoever is on Trump’s long list of criminals who need to be caged. The Speaker of the House wants to employ the 25th Amendment. Well, that’s not likely with Mike Pence sitting there in wait. I’ve had a long history with Pence, writing about him since before he was governor of the state of Indiana, where I live. I wrote about him in 2016, saying he was Mitch Daniels with fewer brains. And I’ve never been impressed with Mitch Daniels’ brain. But Pence, who slithered into the position after Daniels, seemed more of a hallowed/hollow shell, and other than being, becoming, a right-wing evangelical – the opposite sort of Justice Neil Gorsuch, Pence, like Gorsuch, growing up Catholic, though, after college, instead of becoming high-church Episcopalian, chose low-church Evangelical. Pence knew what side of the electorate his bread was buttered on in Indiana and, I suppose, Gorsuch did too, having higher aspirations, and more lofty company in mind. Anyway, Pence filled the flat TV screen for 90 minutes the other day, some sort of visual contrast to Kamala Harris, one alive and animated, the other dead(?) and moribund. At least the fly thought he was dead. Two minutes! Pence’s eyes became redder and redder as the debate droned on and I thought, at any moment, the stage would become the set of a Hammer movie and Dracula would emerge. Glad that didn’t happen. And speaking of Hammer films, the public anointing of Judge Amy Coney Barrett was something out of a bad movie script (or crypt). It’s aftermath, at least. It was as if the Deity (or whoever) was hurling thunderbolts of Covid germs down on the crowd’s heads. It appeared someone on high was not pleased. People of Praise look out. The White House as plague hotspot. Hasn’t been a good few days for the GOP. Not that Democrats have been spared. The governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, keeping in the pop culture world, looks straight out of the Addams Family, especially the 1964 version. This resemblance has only been enhanced by her almost daily appearances for months speaking of Covid in Michigan. And her "signers" in the background have added to the casting resemblance, given the nature of their work, which, most often, requires broad gestures and pronounced facial expressions. It’s a mad, mad world. Nonetheless, some rough and ready mainly Michigan types have been indicted as potential kidnappers and general trouble makers. It seems FBI informers and plants are involved, so I’ll wait to hear where the brains came from. In cases like these the deep thinkers are often supplied by the FBI. The perps all have beards, which makes them look like deep cover Jihadists of sorts. Things are getting crazier and, given Trump on the loose, it’ll doubtless get even more so.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Corona Jottings: Intermittent Speculations (#8)

Well, look where we are now. The Covid denier has Covid. Even though The Donald yammered on to Bob Woodward way back when about how dangerous the Corona virus was, he was worried about “panic” (a nebulous and unlikely fear) and broadcast the opposite to we, the people. Now, as they say, it has come home to roost. I have been struck, given the various Air Force One tapes the media have been running, how much the White House crowd resembled a Frat or Sorority House party: dressed to the nines, chatty as hell, commingling happily, and Hope Hicks, the reigning hot number, striding along in six inch heels, ready to board the plane and whatever else. It’s not a matter of the other shoe (or high heel) to drop, but whether the entire footwear store will implode. Time will tell, those ominous three words. The first “debate” is over. It didn’t seem to please anyone. The second debate – not pensive Pence and harried Harris – but the next “Presidential” debate may never take place. I will miss its town hall style, seats sparsely filled with so-called undecided voters. This sort of gathering is the summoning of the lame and halt, politically speaking, the slice of the electorate in play. Save us Lord. As Mike Pence might say. Each four years we get to see the average American psyche, housed in those who can’t seem to make up their minds. If, somehow, Democrats manage not to lose the election instead of packing the Court they might just make the president’s term six years and no more. “No more” is what you want to say about a lot of this. Amy Coney Barrett, at this time Covid free, is making the rounds of Senators, the friendly ones now, Republicans all. Her picturesque religious past is actually being downplayed thus far. Imagine, attacking religions!, the non pious have been saying, meaning any number of godforsaken GOP types. It is now confirmed, thanks to the local paper, that she is against abortion. Big surprise, it seems, for the rest of the country. Speaking of religion, I still imagine Trump resigning after he loses (if he makes it that far and if anarchy doesn’t break out) to let the former Catholic Mike Pence become President in order to grant The Donald an all encompassing pardon, along with anyone else with whom he shares DNA. The Covid cases throw any predictions into the hopper, though. What continues to provoke me is that all of what we are experiencing was more than predictable: when Trump won, gathering less votes overall than Mitt Romney, many things were clear, other than the end of our world, thanks to Covid. What could be worse?, I thought at the time, to put this criminal clown in charge. The undecideds back then broke for Trump and many, far too many, former Democrat voters abstained. And, for equally though different demented reasons, today’s as-yet-undecided voters can’t seem to make up their minds. Somehow these folk vote for the person, not the party. I blame Ralph Nader for many things, but one chief complaint is that he convinced a lot of people decades ago that the two parties were more or less the same. The Dems and Repubs once might have been close, but they haven’t been since the flip-side huckster television produced loon, Ronald Reagan. I take that back. Not the Reagan part, but the historic date. The party of FDR was far, far different than that of Wendell Willkie, etc. In any case, there’s nothing, it seems, we can do about the undecideds. The last minute pickers. Impulse voters. Some people do change over time. The young occasionally become more wise. Some thirty days remain and, thanks to Jim Comey, who, thanks to the recent movie ("The Comey Rule"!), is now again a star, it is implanted in most careful observers’ brains, that things can change the last ten days of the election. And even now the specter of Proud Boys clogging voting centers seems likely. Trump does manufacture slogans: Stand back, Stand by. We’ve already had hanging chads, and worse lies in wait. Right now, the current spectacle might be a rerun of the Beauty and the Beast happening simultaneously. Amy Coney Barrett being the beauty and you know who being the beast. I, unfortunately, tend to blame Obama for our present condition. I realize that may be extreme, but he didn’t seem to learn much from his, say, seven years as president. One example: when he put up Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court he showed an opaqueness that ranks as criminal. He was still trying to please the other party, be a conciliator, give those raging animals a choice that they couldn’t possibly be against, a sixty-five year old, fairly middle-of-the-road, well-known judge. And then Mitch McConnell bit Barack’s head off. He became a seven year president. Somehow, Obama thought, after seven years of being pushed around, he still could win over the Republicans. With his charm? All Obama proved was that the Senate was the most powerful of the three branches of government. Obama let Hillary hang by never quashing the Russians' effective meddling in the election. The FBI might be able to smear her campaign, but Obama’s default to propriety ruled the day. His desire to have a woman become president after his historic election, was, shall we say, mild. Just as Bill Clinton’s legacy was George W. Bush, Obama’s legacy is Donald Trump, Covid-19 and all. Water under the bridge, I know. Worse has occurred and worse is yet to come.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Corona Jottings: Intermittent Speculations (#7)

The Donald seems, more or less, out of control. RBG dies, not able, unfortunately, to hang on till January. Today (or yesterday) Trump is heckled in the politist way, “Vote Him Out,” by bystanders waiting to pay homage to Ginsberg’s coffin and corpse. The Prez was bemasked, at least, offering up that small bit of respect. But that won’t last long. We will learn Saturday if our local girl, ACB – couldn’t get the alphabet right there – is truly the nominee for the Supreme Court, though her house’s lawn is outfitted with the newest 21st century electronic gear and a guy in a black car watching. It made me wonder if other circuit court judges get that sort of treatment, protection, or just likely SC nominees. Trump, to stoop to cliche, is the most appropriate bull in a china shop, if anyone thinks, or still thinks, of the White House and the Presidency as a china shop. But it turns out that the Presidency is: norms more easily broken than most would have thought. American Carnage, Trump’s Inaugural address’s title, keeps proving itself prophetic, with The Donald causing the most carnage. These days Trump continues to do his Mussolini imitation, chin up, bombast forward. The spoiled child won’t leave the house, stamping his foot and anything else he can find to stomp. Somehow my mind turns to the crucifixion – it’s probably Amy Semple McPherson’s fault, or her new incarnation, Amy Coney Barrett (why couldn’t she have hyphenated her married name as Amy Barrett-Coney, then I would have had ABC, one two three, you and me, etc.? Oh, I forgot, the People of Praise.) Another morbid spectacle ahead, the Golgotha of Senate confirmation. Speaking of the People of Praise, I know it well, or well enough, since they lived, modestly, in the neighborhood some time ago, where I owned my first house in South Bend. A few modest one story houses, they. South Bend was, is, a magnet for all sorts of extreme Catholic cults. A large Opus Dei house was down the block from my lesser dwelling. Tell it to that other dead, now long dead, Supreme Court justice, or the sitting AG. I arrived to teach at Notre Dame in 1981. People of Praise had started there about ten years earlier, given that its founder, or cofounder, was a PhD candidate in the theology department. He had published a book in 1969 called Catholic Pentecostals. When I moved into South Bend People of Praise seemed harmless enough. I knew the Catholic Left well, not so much the Catholic Right, though it took off right at the same time the CL peaked. The Harrisburg trial did sully the Catholic Left’s reputation and, in a way, mobilized the right. The Berrigan brothers had always been a thorn in the side, so to speak, of devout Catholics. In South Bend the most prominent feature of the People of Praise was their school, the Trinity School at Greenlawn (however modest the professants are, they do lean toward highfalutin titles), housed in a former robber baron’s mansion and grounds. It came about the same year I started teaching at ND. It taught 6-12 grades and I toured it some years later when my son was about to enter highschool. That’s another story. Speaking of titles, PoP have scuttled some of their original vocabulary. I was sorry to see “handmaiden” go. Blame Margaret Atwood. They have the common cult interconnected relationships, used to knit followers together and the women members (ACB!) were given, or assigned, handmaidens as, let’s say, watchdogs. Given PoP’s sanctities, if you put them on one end of the smallish cult spectrum, the religious end – forget the Mormons – the other end would have something like Nxivm perched there. American culture was is, riddled, with such groups. One could even make the case that it was founded by them. Or, at least, joining became and remains an American virtue. Mayor Pete has put South Bend on the political map and now Amy the judge may set the bar for lawyers. She does have somewhat local competition, insofar as the Chief Justice is from down the road, and went to a small school, a basketball power, La Lumiere, another Catholic school. Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Brett Kavanaugh are all Catholic. And, one associate justice, Neil Gorsuch, appointed by Trump, was raised Catholic, but in his high falutin’ way became Episcopalian, even though he attended the same tony Jesuit high school that Kavanaugh did. More civilized, I suppose. Now there looms Amy, who knows how to talk in tongues, which should help in a few cases to come. She would make the number of Catholics, according to my count, 6 and a half – the half being Gorsuch. This may or may not seem excessive to some people. I have written about this, all the Court Catholics, etc., in one of my books, opining, as the annoying say, that the right wing finds Catholics more Court friendly than wild-eyed, right-wing Protestants. Maybe. So, we’ll see Saturday. I could be wrong. There’s still that Cuban-American-Floridian (Barbara Lagoa) in the running. Isn’t she Catholic? Doesn’t she have blonde hair highlights (dyed?)? The Donald likes blondes. Doesn’t he need to win Florida? But isn’t the Cuban vote already in his pocket? The old, yes, but perhaps not the young. And if South Bend’s Amy gets it, will they take offense?

Friday, September 4, 2020

Corona Jottings: Intermittent Speculations (#6)

Last week seemed to be a family affair. The Trump family set the tone. And the many family units displayed in bits and pieces during the Republican convention – how about that lovely St. Louis couple toting guns waving at the passing Parade? Then there was the cute mom and son duo, Wendy Lewis Rittenhouse and her pudgy son, Kyle, shooter of three, killer of two, and the random children shot in various yards and houses, homicides that are more perennial than seasonal. The First Family first. The Trump show was more of an extravaganza than the Biden show. More circus than circumspection, more “spectacular” than specific, more Fox than PBS. Though hard to do, setting aside the use of the White House and other government buildings, the Trump week had two or three events that were somewhat grounded in reality, though the four days that encased them was a mountain hard to overlook. We were in Never Never Land most of the time. The final piece de resistance, the last night climax of a sort, the super spreader evening on the White House lawn, below the grand staircases of the Evita side of the building, folding chairs full of Republicans, most mask-less, all disreputable (behind every fortune there is a crime, etc.), of self-satisfied citizens, sprinkled with a few plants of ordinary folk to be used as pawns (echoing the balcony victims often alluded to in State of the Union speeches), showing their mettle, daring Covid to cloud their lives. The event, more or less, was as ephemeral as the fireworks display in front of the Washington monument, that Egyptian inspired obelisk, beloved by many, that spelled out TRUMP 2020. It was there and then not there. But, Trump, who must be descending into his dumbest dotage, didn’t leave the stage, but made the participants turn to face the balcony (no Evita!) and made everyone one listen to semi-operatic renditions of various tunes, including “Hallelujah”, the Leonard Cohen dirge. An overworked tenor, tie-less, sweaty, crooned on – and using opera “stars” to sing pop tunes is a bad choice always – till everyone was about to go crazy – Trump really knows how to step on his endings. Hallelujah, indeed. The tenor is named Christopher Macchio. God knows Trump might have been attracted to him by his name, Macho Macho Man, etc. Macchio did perform at Trump’s 2015 New Year’s Eve bash in Florida. And he seems to be an upscale lounge singer, one to wow the rubes with arias, though I couldn’t detect the usual opera star’s resume in his past. No Met debut, etc. I didn’t know any of this as I watched him, but without a tie, the open shirt, his sweating, he did seem a bit Las Vegas to me. I have had a long history with opera, working, starting when a teenager, in 1964 at the Santa Fe Opera. But, Macchio wasn’t the problem, just the coda to a very strange day, week, first term, and so on. It’s not so much these days what Kellyanne Fitzpatrick (as I knew her when I described her TV appearances in my ‘96 Campaign book, before her marriage to George Conway) called alternate facts early on in the Trump administration, as an alternate world that has been created. It was on full display for four days, with two or three exceptions, one striking one being the appearance of the unhappy parents of a young woman (Kayla Mueller) who strayed into Syria, was “captured” by ISIS in 2013 and tormented by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and doubtless others. Their testimony was effective, given its tone and content. They were obviously unhappy with Obama and Biden, who did not manage to free their daughter (she was killed, it was reported, in 2015). Of course, neither did Trump, but soldiers in late ‘19 launched an attack on Al-Baghdadi’s compound and, cornered, he blew himself up. The raid was named after Kayla. Her body has never been found. Her dad said, "The Trump team gave us empathy we never received from the Obama administration...the Obama administration said it was doing everything it could. The Trump administration actually is...." Hard to counter aggrieved parents, however tragedy has distorted their vision. One other trip in the real world, at greater length, was from my distant relative – very distant – Melania, the Slovenian immigrant and First Lady. My maternal grandfather was Slovenian and was born in a village over the hill from Melania’s home town. Hence my claim to connection, however bogus. Melania is attempting to claim a transformation of sorts, one usually accomplished by older worldly women, who, after a lively life, retreat to the nunnery in old age. Melania is still too young for such metamorphosis, but in her Evita military uniform, marching alone – Trump had wandered out all by his lonesome before her speech – to the microphone, she was a picture of remorse, or, perhaps, seriousness. No easy smiles in this performance. Serious, earnest and measured, a mother’s speech. Empathy heavy. "My deepest sympathy goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one and my prayers are with those who are ill or suffering. I know many people are anxious and some feel helpless. I want you to know you are not alone...." Right on, Melania. She seemed alone. Her immigrant accent, her olive drab outfit, her frozen head looking forward, her serpentine, or, rather, lizard-like eyes locked for a few minutes on one clear prompter, then they would slide over for the same amount of time to the other, a back and forth that became decidedly discomforting as she went on, my phantom relative. She does have my grandfather’s cheekbones; or, rather, he has hers. Well, at least she seemed to occupy planet earth, or a recognizable populated one. Her audience was the typical Trump mask-less crowd, highlighted by the extravagance of the last night to follow, Trump’s own low-energy hour long rehash of his far too many speeches. Melania has never sounded more like an immigrant in her address. Jackie Kennedy had a distinctive voice, cosmopolitan in its way, worldly, but its undertones were American, the Marilyn Monroe breathy-ness, but not Melania’s static discourse. Her outfit was telling. Its slightly authoritarian cut was, is, echoed, in her voice. Somewhere from beyond, not the rainbow, but the Iron Curtain. That semi-oxymoron, Iron Curtain, seems to capture Melania. I wouldn’t ever refer to her as soft. Melania seems to be open game these days, given a new “tell-all” book just published that contains transcripts of her phone calls, catching her in her catty glory, talking to Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a friend, author of Melania and Me. Perhaps Melania will get herself to a nunnery quicker than I thought. With friends like these.... Wendy Lewis Wittenhouse, another mother with a young boy, remains at large, a mystery of sorts, given the limited info floating around. Her son reminds me of another killer, the child killer of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, though Adam Lanza was at least 20. His mother, who came to an unfortunate end, shall we say, encouraged Adam’s eccentricities, as Wendy has obviously promoted Kyle’s enthusiasms, the burden, I suppose, of a lot of “single” mothers. We do have one cute picture, Wendy beaming next to her officer be-suited, besotted, son, Kyle’s youthful face betraying the absence of much lived experience. WE BACK THE BLUE festoons a bunting stripe defacing the photo. But Kyle was going to catch up and Wendy was there at his side. Now Adam was convincingly out of his mind and grandiose in his actions, whereas Kyle was, is, much more modest; his fellow gun lovers are attempting to make a right-wing hero out of him. There aren’t many teenage young men ready for such an honor and they jumped at the chance, perhaps prematurely, but since Kyle is very premature, they have a lot to work with. Since a large percentage of protestors in Kenosha seem to be from out of town, especially those who prowl the streets around midnight, it’s hard to tell who’s who without a scorecard. If Kenosha was Beijing the Chinese would doubtless be able to identify every face through the ubiquitous cameras available. But our computer geeks are working on it. Trump, of course, showed up a couple of days ago in the daylight, attempting and succeeding at setting the news, directing the cameras in his direction. Biden came and went, too, with a speech in Pennsylvania, trying to be the reasonable guy compared to the red-tied lunatic. This is thankless position to be in, the Republicans always getting to be pro, the Democrats con. Television tends toward spectacle, not reason. The moderate has no place on the tube, or flat screen. If you arrive at the correct answer, the question is over. Biden is moderation personified, except when he goes off the rails. Trump has abandoned moderation in all its forms, except for his curious fear of alcohol, from which he abstains, replacing it with pharmaceuticals. Biden finally made it to Kenosha on mission to do the opposite of Trump, talking with the victims. The longer Biden talks the more one holds one’s breath, waiting for him to go off the rails. In a church lecture going on at length about taxes, he did, saying if he didn’t stop talking his host would shoot him. Oh, well. It’s not so much age-related, since Biden has always done this. But his handlers should give the hook after a half hour. Here at home we have seven year olds shot in the head at birthday parties. There has always been kids killing kids, playing with guns, but this was a drive-by, a big crowd outside, shots fired. We’re some ninety miles from Chicago, where, for many years, even before I became a weekly columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, back in the last of that paper’s heyday, I would read the Chicago Tribune, which seemed to exist to report the number of children who had been killed one way or another in the city the day before. But, slowly, over the decades, South Bend has become a suburb of Chicago and its bad habits have come this way. A couple of kids were killed the last two weeks, one the usual way, one child shooting another after having latched on to some adult’s gun. But, more recently, less than a week ago, there has been the drive-by, the party murder, a Chicago staple. It, too, was a weekend killing, a popular time of recreational activity. The seventy or so people at the party would lead one to believe that some reveler might have recognized the car and occupants. It was still light out. But the See No Evil crowd still exists. In any case, all the family activity of last week was exhausting and much of it disgusting. [To be continued.] I am not bothering with links. I might supply them eventually.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Corona Jottings: Intermittent Speculations (#5)

#5 I once had dinner with Kamala’s (Senator Harris, sorry) father – by the way, my spelling autocorrect wants to change her name to “Kabala” – at a pleasant restaurant called The Carriage House on the outskirts of South Bend, IN, about three decades ago. Donald Harris, Don. He was up for a Chair, as I recall, in the Economics department. He had been at Stanford since the early ‘70s. Why I was there is a long story. Nonetheless, he seemed charming enough, and I don’t recollect him mentioning either of his daughters, or wife. None of that is supposed to matter, in any case, in a hiring situation, though, of course, it always does. There were around ten professors feasting on the restaurant’s rarefied fare. Harris was, more or less, what was then short-handed as a “Marxist” economist (or, less prejudicially, Post-Keynesian),though he was in South Bend because ND had very few professors “of color,” as it is now called, though not back then, a quarter of a century or more ago. He had gotten his PhD at UC Berkeley, a school I was familiar with. A good time was had by all. Harris was trim, conversational, and, as Candidate Biden would have said, “clean”. Harris was also familiar with the Midwest, having had positions at three universities in shouting distance of South Bend. He didn’t join the faculty. The Dome balked at the Marxist part, however misguided. And his divorce, though not recent, wasn’t a plus. But professors well situated often use these hiring forays as leverage at their home schools. The English Department, though, if not the Economics Dept., was able to steal a professor from California (UC Berkeley). One reason our candidate came was to avoid all the service work he had been hijacked to do, Berkeley at the time not overrun with professors of color. Though, over time, ND saddled him with such work, but it wasn’t quite the same. He died here. But, I’m not intending to speak of Black professors’ careers at largely white universities. Harris’s daughter, though, will be speaking, not so much about her father, I suspect, who is still alive, but of people of color in America. Even the media is currently attempting to right wrongs. The New York Times has spent more than a month featuring black artists in its Arts section. In the Times’ case, it seems to be an act of reparations. President Dumbo (I guess I’m slandering the actual Disney Dumbo) continues his yammering harangues. The corona year has pushed our president over the edge, given that he had been skirting it for the first three years, to a new level of incoherence, and, though hard to believe, his vocabulary has even decreased. Don Harris has a much larger vocabulary, but anyone, especially any public figure, has a larger vocabulary, even television’s talking horse of yore. But I’m not likely to be asked to share a meal with Donald Trump. The presidency is said to age most, if not all, those men who have ascended to it. Especially eight years. Gray hair, etc., at the very least. Though it would be Dorian Gray if the Donald got eight years. His hair, obviously, is impervious to change, as most of his aspect, but he does seem to be losing his mind, his gait, his physical prowess. Mostly micro at this point, but the unfriendly press makes a big deal of it. One wonders if Indiana’s former governor is sleeping soundly these days, fearing he might be snatched from his bed during the night and replaced by another, the looming Nikki Haley, former UN maven, former governor, former former. Pence, though, I think only has to worry about some sort of unforeseen “accident”, one that would render him replaceable sometime before Nov. 3. No one ever claimed politics was risk free. Joe and Kamala appeared on stage together this Wednesday. Kamala has always been comfortable with older men and it showed. Since the venue, some highschool that wouldn’t have allowed Kamala to be a student up until the ‘70s (so a commentator claimed). Shocking, but to me just an unsettling reminder that 1970 was fifty years ago, the year I finished graduate school. I kept waiting for Biden to lose his way during the unveiling, but he didn’t. It was still fairly early in the day, before the sun sets. He’s becoming an afternoon sort of guy. So, as they say, it went well. Spouses appeared at the end. I would say a strange sight, those, but these days nothing is a strange sight. Trump, most everyone is saying, is floundering. I think of fish flopping, but he’s lashing out, blurting out – the post office is against me, but I fixed them! – behaving badly, one enduring trait. But I was happy to see all the white guys behind him when he announced the UAE would be sending tourists to Jerusalem. Tourists, just what the Wailing Wall needs. The last time I was there it was hard to get close to the massive stones, but one can persist, and eventually smell the dust. I was in Israel right before the start of the second Intifada. And a lot has happened in twenty plus years. Netanyahu was out of power, in something like disgrace back then; Sharon, though, had been causing mischief. He would purchase homes of Old City Palestinians sotto voce, and constantly championed settlements everywhere. The Arabs weren’t happy at all and though I had wanted to I never got to the Temple Mount. Crowds kept nonreligious visitors out. Corona still rules the day in the lower 48. Schools have attempted to open, with limited success. Other organized events have pushed forward, coping, some becoming electronic only, such as the Democratic convention, which started last night. My favorites were the Republicans, especially the former governor of Ohio, John Kasich. He was standing at the fork of a road not taken. One way to look at it, a single still photo from it (NYTimes web version)makes it seem that the sight (site) was some sort of modern scenic art, out in the wild, a green woman with white gravel legs. One sees what one wants to see. He and the preceding three Republican women did create a frisson of excitement of some sort, and an explosion of memory of what Democrats criticized way back when. Susan Molinari, of all people! The three women GOP stalwarts are doubtless what led me to see the grass and gravel female art work Kasich was standing on. The whole show was curious, but successful. Can’t wait for the Republicans’ updated American Carnage revue. Bernie and Michelle were swell Monday night. Sports lumber on, without “live” audiences, except for workers and owners, and those few looker-ons well connected. The Indy 500! The Post Office (USPS) brouhaha seems to be the only thing penetrating the public non-politically. It’s a service, Stupid, as James Carville could have said. The Donald couldn’t have found a better villain to head the PO. It takes real talent to have all the anti-PO credentials the new head – since June! – has amassed. Louis DeJoy – another nomen est omen; he’s certainly taking the joy out of a lot of people’s lives. He de-joys everything. Another example of The Donald’s negative genius, if you want to call it that. Today, the Washington Post announced the USPS “will halt its controversial cost-cutting initiatives...” until after the election. Hooray! All those stolen dark blue mailboxes in trucks. He and Trump must have forgotten that Republicans occasionally mail things, too. [To be continued.] I am not bothering with links. I might supply them eventually.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Corona Jottings: Intermittent Speculations (#4)


The Corona virus is everywhere, everywhere in every sense of the word everywhere: geographically, locally, mentally, physically, in our dreams, Covid-19 spins its Dance of Death. As the 20th century cliche goes, it covers the waterfront. It controls the news, only allowing subsets of dying or death’s handmaidens, mayhem and remorse. The upper west coast was one of the first centers of attention, the early cases in Seattle, and boisterous Portland has taken over, conducting its long-running, uninterrupted nights of protest. President Trump has chosen Portland to test out some of his fantasies, deploying his version of the privatized military to provoke the provoke-able. The evenings are filled with glowing white clouds, shooting-star projectiles, noise and confusion.

During the daylight hours we have notable deaths and all their attendant pomp and circumstance. Given Covid at the helm we can’t stray far from death worship. By circumstance and/or coincidence, since a Black death (George Floyd, death becomes him) was a trigger, the recent passing of Rep. John Lewis, retains the governing principle, Black Lives Matter, especially if they are in Congress. Pick the other notables who have gotten less play and reverence, those who are no longer with us. Monday and Tuesday's NY Times (7/27 and 7/28) finally spared us – at least in its national edition sent to the rubes in the Midwest – a host of pandemic deaths. Monday’s paper did devote a page (along with two other entertainers and a wine merchant) to a former star of Gone With the Wind. Gone with the wind, indeed. (Alas, spared only to Wednesday.)

Trump is attempting to turn his ship of state in the Hudson River, an arduous task, given its size, rivaling the largest aircraft carrier the US has, christened the USS Gerald R. Ford, of all people. Trump the new mask booster (though remaining, in that regard, very low key), Trump the soother of the populace, resuming his “daily” briefings, brief indeed, petulant and bored reading, mostly, from a script. The first was him alone, the second added a human or two as props on the stage, and, who knows, if they continue someone else maybe allowed to talk. Or not.

Trump’s Wall Street types have now taken over the government, it seems, though not quite as steadily as Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin, managed to do(who, in DC back then, was often referred to as President Rubin), but we have been seeing a lot of Steve Mnuchin lately. Less of his wife, though, thank God.

Various pandemic storms are on the horizon: the start of “schools”, of all stripes, elementary, “middle”, high school, college. The young are poised on the edge of various precipices, willing to jump off into the Covid pools and see how things go. It is the older teachers who are, in the main, balking.

Golf may be the only professional sport that endures, given it is a lone man (predominantly) and a small ball and a club, instruments that go way back, to the cave man era, at least. Hard to kill off. And even if it becomes a “team” sport, there is little to no interaction. Baseball has aspects of individuality, though proximity and glad-handing often make it a crowd. It can be a contact sport. Tagging, etc. Ask the Marlins. Baseball may be on its last legs. B-ball, football, hardly need to be explained. Perhaps tennis can be spared.

The election looms, another cloud over the country as a whole. Biden largely stays in the basement, a good strategy. He did emerge to talk at a safe distance with the former President, Barack Obama. That encounter was somewhat surreal, partly because it looked like a theater experience, a new play opening, two men talking on a stage. I found it highly ironic, two people who certainly know how to act, who have learned the rhetoric of the world. Something by a witty Brit, say, the late Harold Pinter, or Caryl Churchill. A one act. We’re in an upside-down world. Obama, unfortunately, has a history of misjudgment. A pertinent example, thinking Hillary would make a better candidate than Joe. Imagine, for a moment, what might have been, if Biden had been the candidate four years ago – and had he the sense then to choose a Black woman as vice president, what might we have been spared.

But, it shouldn’t be ignored, the presidency has largely become a figurehead position, beginning with Reagan, who was the far more acceptable version of Trump, a public figure who could, at least, approximate, play, the role. Recall, Reagan had been an actor and an effective shill for the right-wing’s favorite hobby horses. Today, Republicans put up with The Donald’s shortcomings, because they have gotten, mostly, what they’ve wanted. The trouble is when King Kong gets loose from his cage and wants to climb up the Empire State building holding Lady Liberty in his mitt. If it wasn’t for that pesky virus he might have been easily reelected.

Hillary, evidently, believed the ubiquitous guff that the Veep doesn’t matter in a Presidential campaign. I differ. I could make a list: take Dan Quayle, for one, a seeming loser all around, but, no, he made the Presidency possible for George W., Quayle being the “veteran” who plowed the hard ground of the Vietnam war hangover, softening it up for the home-based slacker W, who went on to defeat a vet who actually was in Vietnam. (And, at the time, I wanted John Kerry to be Gore’s Veep – two actual in-country vets – but no one was listening to me.) The vice president selection always matters. Take note of Hillary’s running mate, if you can remember him.

The less populated states, down South and the Southwest, have taken the brunt of the plague the last month or so. They were ripe for the picking after Trump-minions loosened restrictions. Covid has taken on a polio aspect: mysterious deficits even if “cured”. The young at the cusp of “school” aren’t succumbing at the same high rate, but they are being turned into human experiments. For possible effects long term. We shall see what we shall see.

The spirit of the protests have altered, become largely events of the night. Darkness prevails. Violence ensues. Early on they were held in the daylight. Name changing has been fetish-ized. In that way, the early in-the-daylight protests have “won” – monuments toppled, brands rebranded, more words made taboo by the vocabulary vigilantes.

Now, especially in Portlandia, in the dark of night the protests are turning into anti-Trump fests, with Fed rent-a-cops outfitted splendidly. We’re practically in August. When September comes we will all be enduring, on top of everything else, the campaign plague to come.

[To be continued.]

I am not bothering with links. I might supply them eventually.