Tuesday, November 24, 2020
Back in the old days, when I was a weekly columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times (2000-2005), I would often write a Thanksgiving or Christmas column, when my 700 word protestations ran on the appropriate day. This blog won’t run on Thanksgiving itself, but close. In some demented gesture to see all that has changed, I will reprint part of a Xmas day column, one that did run on the day itself, before I was detached from the Sun-Times, being one of many harbinger sacrifices that marked so much of journalism during the still on-going era of cutbacks: 12/25/01 My family (because of my wife's abundant frequent flyer miles) had planned to spend last Christmas in Israel, experience Christmas eve in Bethlehem, but the second intifada began and we canceled. Maybe next year, we thought. Well, not this year, either. Nor likely the next, or the next. The terrorism recession came early to Israel; last Christmas Bethlehem's hotels were empty. This year one of them is burnt and gutted, the Paradise Hotel, which is on a road leading to Manger Square in front of the Church of the Nativity, built over the stable where, legend has it, Christ was born. When the Paradise burned in October during a firefight between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen, I found the photograph I had taken of it, when, in '97, we had visited Bethlehem, under control of the Palestinian Authority since the '93 Oslo accords. Israel's cities were relatively calm then, though it is wrong to ever call Bethlehem's close neighbor, Jerusalem, "calm". Peaceful is less wrong, but still not correct. Quiet, perhaps. Jerusalem strikes many as one of the most exciting cities in the world. It is, though it pays a high price for its excitement. There is a tension there that is always pulsing, either below the surface, or above. And it is most especially intense in the Old City, since it is kept walled up there. Not quite twenty years ago, that. What has changed you may ask? My marital status for one. Be that as it may, Benjamin Netanyahu was spoken of back then, at least in my first visit to Jerusalem, as a crook, more or less, around the Clinton administration era. Out of office, to most everyone’s great relief. My how times have changed. Israelis aren’t known to forgive and forget, but Netanyahu seems to be the exception. Of course, back then, Donald Trump was the longest shot to become President of the United States. So long, very few – a handful only – ever gave it a thought. But Reagan had smoothed the way for a second TV huckster to become the top dog. Though redundant on my part, I have pointed out the Jekyll and Hyde aspect of this evolution before. No need for the gentleman when you have the beast at the ready. Times change. Netanyahu not so much. Why am I swimming in the past?, I ask myself. Because The Donald has been so spectacularly odious these past days that I resist chronicling his doings. And, again, because I am suffering the realization that none of this is over. No water colors for Trump, no books to write a la Obama, no grandchildren to dote on as per Hillary, and God Knows What Bill Clinton is actually doing now. Trump still insists on sticking his mug into our daily lives. Lord, he’ll be President for nearly two more months. What outrages are ahead? And the media, the television image-driven side, will help, I’m sure, keep him alive on the variety of screens, large and small. Ratings uber alles. The thirst for disruption has not abated for Trump’s disciples. He is his own version of a Pandemic. And I’m not at all sure Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will institute an Operation Warp Speed to eradicate this particular virus. Happy Thanksgiving.
Friday, November 20, 2020
It’s seven days before Thanksgiving and there are a few things to give thanks for, as much as that might be a dubious claim. How about a vaccine sometime (probably late) in 2021? How about The Donald being ejected from the White House? That, unfortunately, still seems up in the air, maybe the same air where the vaccine resides. Now I completely believe Joe Biden won, as they used to say, fairly and squarely. By a lot. Nonetheless, Trump being Trump, madness continues. The clown show remains prime time, the latest iteration being Rudy Rudy Rudy, the rude, leaking dye, or hydraulic fluid, whatever, from both temples. Temples it is. The Church of Crazy, Giuliani and his two henchwomen, both lawyers, Trump's "legal team." In any case, who would have not have imagined anything different. Like most of the late Trump antics, his most recent forays are yet more exaggerated. Exaggeration is often cited as late life behavior, and Trump has no shortage of it. His adherents are the truly alarming throng. Trump is an old reliable show at this point. His wacky cronies will endure, in some form, longer than The Donald. He back to TV and Never Never Land. Until 2024, but not even me believes he will be on a ticket to run. From Sing Sing perhaps, if New York State officials have anything to do with it. I am not sure why the Secretary of State thinks Israel is the key to his acquiring the GOP nomination for 2024. Puzzling. Most of the answers reek of anti-Semitism, in the twisted way What’s His Name believes in their pervasive influence. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to dote on Secretary Pompeo (didn’t his namesake village, Pompeii, get covered in lava?) and Pompeo does seem to want to remake the world in similar Trumpian fashion (burn it down), but will the electorate still have an appetite for these fantasies after the Biden/Harris administration convenes? But back to the present. Trump is calling obscure functionaries in Michigan wanting their help in reversing that state’s election results, and summoning slightly higher officials to the Oval Office. I’m waiting for Trump’s various dyes to leak from his temples. But he has a better way with cosmetics than Rudy. But the Republicans and Democrats remain at high contrast. Biden doesn’t want to sue, he wants to persuade. His old GOP Senate friends! Good luck with that. Doubtless Las Vegas has odds on when Biden/Harris might get a chance to look at the government’s secrets. January 21st? Again, I expected no difference from Trump, to cling to his throne as long as possible. Graceful exit is, as they say, not in his vocabulary. Graceful is too long a word to fit. A foreign concept, in any case. The GSA woman (Emily Murphy!) is really a trip. For me, at least, one to the past, since GSA (General Services Administration) is the only serious typo in the first edition of my 1972 book, The Harrisburg 7 and the New Catholic Left. I called it Government Services Administration. Stupid me. The Congress is now on Thanksgiving “recess”. Who would know? What’s the difference? Covid is climbing its most virulent peaks. Warm weather is leaving the northern states. And one possible “vaccine” has to be kept colder than the moon. It goes without saying that the price of today’s turkeys matches the turkey in the White House. That’s not accurate. The turkey in the White House would get less pennies a pound. He did, though, get 70 million votes. What that says about the country is frightening, even though half that vote is for what remains of the “principles” of the Grand Old Party, and the never hotter hatred for Democrats.
Friday, November 13, 2020
Given the results, the number of voters, the actual count, it appears clear that the likelihood of a Biden/Harris victory was less than the faulty polls forecasted. It wasn’t a squeaker, but it took days to conclude and nearly a hundred million “absentee” votes. This is depressing on any number of levels. The Democrats lost a handful of things in early November of 2020, mainly, it appears, a half dozen seats in the House, and control of the Senate – the Georgia special elections could change that, but two wins may well be one Congressional district too far. Stacey Abrams may be a magician, but rabbits out of a top hat, if the hat be Georgia, may strain even her handy legerdemain. It would require a miracle of sorts. And how many miracles can we stand? The Corona Virus can be seen as an especially perverse miracle – insofar as it powered the defeat of Donald Trump. Biden/Harris won by close to five million votes, but the lion’s share of those came from California. What seemed to be the chief mover of the suburban ladies was Trump’s inept handling of the plague. Yet, luckily, the winning margins in the re-blued states, MI, PA, WI, were all in the five figures, as held true for the other new blue states, Arizona (barely) and, still perhaps, Georgia. Nothing like 2000's meager 537 in Florida, allowing Bush to beat Gore, with the help of the Supreme Court. The Donald wasn’t able to give the Corona virus his full attention: it’s often hard to imagine his “full attention.” That presumes a completeness Trump may lack in all things. Though Democrats aren’t as proficient in the spinning of conspiracy theories as the GOP is, here’s one, one that requires Divine Intervention: The Pandemic itself interceded. Evolution seems to require accident as well as design. Where’s Darwin when we need him? In any case, the election year commenced with Bernie Sanders on the way to seeming victory in the primaries. But two things happened before Covid took over the landscape. South Carolina became the dike keeping the Bernie Bros from swamping the Democrats. Mayor Pete and Senator Amy dropped out, anointed Biden right before Super Tuesday, and, with their abdication, cemented the anti-Bernie vote for Biden. The rest, as they say, is history, though history and everything else came to a halt for the Pandemic. Biden in the basement, Kamala made Veep candidate, millions affected, hundreds of thousands dead, Trump being Trump, his incompetency, now, shown to be fatal. Yet, nonetheless, he got 71 million votes to Biden/Harris’s 76. Though Biden’s main campaign pitch was that he would be the president for everyone, 71 million voters wanted The Donald to be theirs, and theirs alone. One could be forgiven for thinking half the country wanted even more Trumpism, though the other half wanted Trump disappeared. His loss of the Oval Office is apparent, his absence from the public’s attention is not. But, again, the luck of drawing to multiple inside straights in many districts came from the worried reaction to the virus. Trump retained more adherents than most commentators predicted, virus be damned. In the current eerie interregnum Trump is installing “loyalists” in every office he can get his hands on. One wonders why, though what he is doing has the putrid odor of a third-world would-be coup, the storming of the power centers, the Pentagon, etc. From Trump, none of this is surprising, though his core government power brokers appear – hard to believe – yet more odious. Secretary of State Pompeo (nomen est omen, since it’s harder to be more pompous than he) looms fat and crazy, staying away from the homeland, cultivating God Knows What as he plans his future. Mitch McConnell does his lesser vampire impersonation, his body getting transfusions of some sort (those bruised taped hands!) in order to do The Donald’s – the impaler – bidding. The rest of the GOP Senators, except for the occasional Mormon, continue to play the undead, mumbling that votes still need to be counted, as soon as they are manufactured. That wall may begin to crumble soon. Trump may be bad, but in a big-bad-baddest competition, he’s got rivals. Why does McConnell get to hold his members together, a solid block of awful, whereas Senator Schumer has uncontrollable outliers, such as West Virginia’s Senator Joe Manchin? I know, I know, one’s a minor vampire, the other is not. But the problem that still looms is all the voters Trump got, retained. Their allegiance, their solidarity. Our Fellow Americans, so to speak. Time may continue to be halted, certainly deformed, because of the Pandemic, but three years from now I dread the election that will be upon us. Given Biden’s age and the state of the Union, I only see a horror show ahead. Who expects the Republicans to have regained their souls, stolen from them all by The Donald. And his “base” – they, it, will still be here, the deluded and the corrupt and the profiteers. It’s a spectrum of foul smells, regions, income, and clearly nowhere to escape it.
Wednesday, November 4, 2020
It’s deja vu all over again, as the redundant say. Last night’s election results reveal how little change has occurred in America’s political life, or voting life, to be more exact. Back in 2000, the dawn of the new century, millennium, whatever, I published a column in the "Chicago Sun-Times" called “Yahoo Nation.” The following is an excerpt: George W.'s America is Yahoo Nation...a large, lopsided horseshoe, a twisted W, made up of primarily the deep South and the vast, lowly populated upper-far-west states that are filled with vestiges of gun-loving, Ku-Klux-Klan sponsoring, formerly lynching-happy, survivalist minded, hate-crime perpetrating, non blue-blooded, rugged individualists. Yahoo Nation, George W.'s electoral bundle--save contested Florida, the toss-up state--contains not one major city, nor one primary center of creative and intellectual density. Looking at the current map of yesterday’s election we see something disturbingly similar. But the sentence I want to point out is the last one above, the remark about Yahoo Nation containing not one major city, nor one primary center of creative and intellectual density. Well, the new map, the Donald Trump Map, makes things even clearer, so transparent none of the highly paid TV types bothered to mention it. I think they might have been afraid to. What was unmentioned, in the more advanced maps of 2020 (though still red and blue) was the detail of the city-versus-the-country divide. If there was some small spot of blue in a large state out West, or Midwest, it was a college town. Otherwise, they would be found in the states' big cities. Thinking of the most cosmopolitan here: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, four states over the last two decades invaded by refugees (and tourists) from California, New York, and other east and west coast places of enlightenment, not even counting the new immigrants from around the world. There are two Americas now, the rural and the urban. There are a lot of reasons for that chasm, some contradictory. Socialism for farmers, Capitalism for the cities. Though the “farmers” that profit are the largest corporate farms, those that make use of economics of scale, in crops, land, and government handouts. Subsidy is a favorite word out in the so-called hinterlands. Texas is going through its own transformation, but its new self hasn’t hatched yet. What is to be done? Find a Democrat, I suppose, who can talk to both “farmers” and citified flaneurs. Good luck with that. As of this writing it appears that Biden/Harris have a decent chance to win, to begin a crippled term with the mean, mad Mitch running the Senate, and a depleted Majority for a Leader handling a feckless House. A Pyrrhic victory is better than none at all. Judges can still be appointed and with luck one of the 6-3 conservative majority on the High Court could disappear and be replaced. It will be four years of ugliness, but Biden and Harris can save us from the worst. Imagine if The Donald had captured his second term! Almost unthinkable. (I hope.)