Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Corona Jottings: Intermittent Speculations(#23)

A new paradox has announced itself: we’ve gone from a so-called president with no political experience to a president with almost too much political experience. Well, we’ve been all experiencing a topsy-turvy life for a year now, so that doesn’t seem as strange as it could be. The world hasn’t changed that much, though, especially for older people, except those in various “retirement” homes who caught the virus and died, but for the rest who survived, including the many who are retired, but still living independently, Covid created an atmosphere that in weird ways mimicked their own reduced experience. What the pandemic cut out for the elderly, more or less, was travel. Seeing grandchildren, etc. It’s as if the world as we knew it retired – no more offices to go to, restaurants to eat at, bars to hang out, trips to take, so many enduring forced retirement of all sorts. A nation of shut-ins ensued. Schools tried to insinuate themselves into households, though with limited success. Parents became teachers, of a sort. A population of millions seemed to age quickly, far too quickly, given their sudden taste of redundancy, as the Brits call it. Most states are vaccinating their older populations, those who fit the numbers game. The logic is also somehow inverted: closer to death, the easier it is to become immune, age-wise. Soon it will be the middle aged, finally, come summer, even reaching those who can be considered young. Watch out for variants! Yearly flu shots, yearly Covid shots? 1.9 trillion to the rich under The Donald, during his first year, 1.9 trillion to Covid relief and all it spawned under Biden’s first months. If 1.9 seems familiar, it’s because it’s Covid-19. How quickly the Republicans accepted their amnesia vaccinations, acting as if the last four years were a dreadful mirage, and carry on as if nothing had happened. The usual suspect GOP Senators (Collins, Romney, etc.) are being courted by Democrats, to the same fatuous affect. Biden bides his time, content, it seems, to step back, even as president, since he is so used to that posture. Put, what, the People, Country, Cause, first? The Trump echo, the hallucination that will not entirely fade, still struts across the media landscape, though some outlets attempt to boycott, at least, his name. Like the wife of the Rumple of the Bailey show, where from J. K. Rowling adapted the tag line, She Who Must Be Obeyed, into He Who Must Not Be Named, The Donald lives on in air waves’ spectral space.    The current movement to rid our government of the filibuster, the 19th century afterthought (little used back then) that was wielded as an effective cudgel in the late 1950s when taken to civil rights legislation and has become the chief tool to thwart majority rule, is sputtering. Only super-majorities now please, claim, of course, all Republicans, and a couple of Democrats known for their very old-fashioned views. This crew champions the filibuster, a word which has a very strange etymology, befitting the ones who love it. Down with the filibuster, up with the number of justices on the Supreme Court, which has been stacked with conservatives under Trump, because of the luck of the, what, draw? Only death and Mitch McConnell, the real grim reaper, have served up the imbalance. Why not hasten the possibility of a few more Democrat Senators? The Dakotas have four Republicans to serve their minimalist populations. There’s also the linked and divided Virginia and West Virginia. How about South California and North California? If new states can be created whole cloth at the end of the 19th century, why not at the start of the 21st? Recall Hawaii and Alaska became states in 1959. Why not Puerto Rico in 2021? Questions, questions. I’ve always been appalled in the past at how so many who voted for a Democrat for president care so little about the Supreme Court makeup. It brings back to mind how Republicans are really the grass-root people, individuals who will get themselves on school boards and other minor civic offices, in order to create mayhem, stalwarts who are willing to be very local, to do the boring work of running insignificant bureaucratic offices that ultimately police peoples' everyday lives, whereas Democrats are ethereal, thinking only large thoughts, championing huge movements, thinking big ideas, but more reluctant to take on the minor, tedious tasks that small-town GOPers seem happy to do. See the many state governments run by Republicans (thanks to gerrymandering) even though there is a Democrat governor. It’s appalling, as I said. But Biden appears to have a bit of that DNA in him, the nuts and bolts guy, comfortable taking the back seat, now, much to his and a lot peoples’ surprise, presently sitting in the top job.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Corona Jottings: Intermittent Speculations(#22)

The Donald, live and in person, has been absent from the tube till now. It’s rumored he is to appear on Sunday at CPAC, the Republican organization, not to be confused with the CPAP breathing device for sleep apnea, though both items are fused in my mind, given the GOP’s predilections for wearing weird outfits, all suspicious. Trump’s image hasn’t gone away, thanks to the news hounds of media that can’t let him go, and with the help of the slice of Democrats that share the same jones. We Need Our Trump! I don’t need him, but the damage he has done to the republic will live on longer than he, unless he has the life-span genes of Lawrence Ferlinghetti. After Congress impeached Trump again and the Senate, post inauguration, acquitted him once again, and after the January 6th attack on the Capitol has been replayed by various committees, using, largely, the same smart phone videos replayed over and over, the air time Trump shares with President Biden (who Andrea Mitchell and other commentators keep calling Vice President Biden) is about 50-50 thus far. Though redundant – much of the Trump years were duplicates of outrages – the climax was the temporary take down of the Capitol. What a way to end! A TV movie at its worst. But, all of culture has gotten worse, and that trend, unfortunately, did not begin with the Trump Administration. He was the effect, not the cause. None of his Republican enablers ever took his loathsome blabber seriously. He was the fool they would humor as long as he let them do what they wanted. They would tolerate the buffoon, never thinking he could actually unleash the intolerable. But he did so on January 6th. If you ask me, which you haven’t, I would ascribe it to the triumph of the resurrected oral culture, new version, Oral Culture 2. I’ve written about this language topic before, but the violent culmination was Trump’s assembling of the mob – mobs tend to be the epitome of the oral culture. Note the Sermon on the Mount – and then he dispatched the aroused to the Capitol, armed with cudgels, poles and pikes, all Medieval oral culture weapons of war. Alas, I’m not sure that is going to be the last gasp of the new oral culture taking over what passes for culture here at home. People still read, obviously, but it is no longer the wind in the sails of the culture. If I extend this out to the world at large I could quickly become – because of the handy examples I might use – a likely target for all the political correctness and language police on duty. I will admit I favor the literate culture, evidently a passing phenomenon of history, existing from Gutenberg to Zuckerberg, from the printing press to the internet, and its spawn, facebook, twitter, etc, being among the leading transformers. Those practitioners, wealthy as they are, did not invent the internet, they just knew how to exploit it. See John D. Rockefeller. So much woe to contemplate and people continue to drop like flies from Covid-19, also, unfortunately, a large part of the oral culture, letting people breathe together. Pandemics, too, are practically Medieval, flourishing, as they did, in the oral culture world. Perhaps this sort of disease is the apotheosis of the present era. Science, though, is getting a lot of play – at least some – these days and it is fairly literate, though its language is mainly numbers, equations, amounts, chemistry, etc., not Shakespeare, or seeming to favor those who aspire to the written word. On the bright side, so to speak, more mechanical spiders have been sent to outer space, one to land on Mars recently. Terrific! It all begins, it seems, with a countdown. 10-9-8-etc. Counting came before language, but language did catch up, at least to a decade or two ago. Talk, as they used to say, is cheap, but no longer. Podcasts rule, belatedly climbing out of their ancient dens. As Trump proved, it is the oral culture that allows for the Big Lie. Just say it over and over. Proof would have to be found on the page, documented, to be checked and read. Proof, not always, but often, is set in type. Speaking, as I was above, of counting, Biden is the oldest president. When Reagan left the presidency (after two terms!), he was addled with Alzheimer’s at age 77. (Though I don’t blame his final impairment for all his follies, but the stuff he was spouting long before he even became governor of California was borderline nitwittery.) Biden is 78. Numbers, numbers. I’m 75, so if I’m an ageist, it’s the self-criticizing kind. We have a bit less than 23 months before things will get worse. And they’re pretty bad now. But the less I see of Trump the better for the precious months ahead. That would be the ticket. Or, at least, my ticket to ride, as the Beatles once sang.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Corona Jottings: Intermittent Speculations(#21)

What has Trump wrought? But I have spoke With one that saw him die; who did report That very frankly he confessed his treasons, Implor'd your Highness' pardon, and set forth A deep repentance. Nothing in his life Became him like the leaving it. There is no character in Shakespeare that mimics The Donald. He doesn’t have the brains of Iago, the language of anyone who struts upon the stage. And he, of course, is more than a clown. The bard didn’t do, it seems, malignant clowns. (But our modern popular culture seems to love them.) So, the lines from Macbeth don’t exactly fit Trump, though there is a kernel of pertinence there. Nothing in his presidency became him like the leaving of it. Two weeks earlier the mob invaded the Capitol on his behalf, the whole crew wearing disparate costumes, some military, some madcap, some bad-taste-middle-class – sporting feed caps embossed with Make (& Keep) America Great Again, many with patriotic-themed knitted stocking caps, all the usual winter dunce wear – befitting a hodgepodge of various Shakespeare characters tossed about in a Cuisinart. Another white-tribe mob in full fury. An appropriate capstone indeed. After the Capitol riot a silence fell on the presidency, since Trump was deprived of, banned from, Twitter, his primary public voice. The voice he used in private, typing away with his short stubby digits, surrounded by fast food wrappers, whatever leavings that get picked up by White House servants. Trump, himself, during the second candidate debate in 2016, described a guy – an unwitting prophesy on The Donald’s part – “sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds,” as a likely candidate interfering with the election, other than the Russians. The beginning turned into the end. His other, secondary, voice, after Twitter, was that of important personage on the way to the helicopter, disclaiming to the sad minions of the press shouting questions. All this silence was, is, as they say, deafening. Some technically imposed, some self-imposed, Trump revealed what was below the surface during his reign. That he had no public voice to serve him at length. Speeches needed to be written for him. The only form he could manage on his own was rally speak and he never desisted from rallies during his entire presidency. So his post Twitter silence echoes on. Curiously, the only protocol of former presidents he has followed is this after-departure silence. The Democrats can’t let go, though, giving him the benefit of a second impeachment, another first he can brag about. The Republicans still advertise themselves as the worst people in the world and the GOP will never recover, unless, of course, they win both houses of Congress in 2022 and run the government once again. Everything is moving as fast as the Covid virus, except for the immunizing of citizens. It is impossible to remember The Donald’s initial victory without contemplating Hillary’s loss. What a price to pay for her defeat. My problem remains with all the folk who normally would have voted for the Democrat, but couldn’t bring themselves to pull the lever for Hillary. The gamut ran from hatred to boredom, from outrage to ennui. All those ersatz nonvoters had their reasons. So too the ludicrous Third Party candidates. Yes, there were reasons. But all those semi-informed individuals should have had some knowledge of who The Donald was. We all have paid a terrible price for their delicate feelings. Their Hillary-that-bitch disdain. Again, the shock this time around was how popular a complete imbecile can become. Trump has no redeeming social value, but nearly half the country voted for him in 2020. The country has become use to occasional nitwits being elected to the House, but now they are more lethal than ignorant. And though the Biden/Harris administration is barely two weeks old, the Trump virus still spreads, reinfecting those who, one thought, might back off a bit. No no no. There’s no undoing, it seems, the Republicans’ disastrous pact with the Devil. Mitch McConnell still acts as if he is the majority leader and “Chuck” Schumer can’t seem to fully displace him. Democrats fight each other with more relish than they confront the Republican opposition. The same old same old. There is something dispiriting about all the photographs showing Biden sitting at the desk, mask less, and Harris standing in the corner wearing hers, as if she is at his beck and call, the usual lady in waiting. The new administration is in the position of going from too little to too much. But all the antagonisms remain the same. Trump silenced – no Twitter no Trump – is the only thing that seems to be permanently positive. Trump truly was the president without any clothes. But television couldn’t point that out since they had made him a star. A star to whatever percentage of the deluded had watched – and enjoyed – The Apprentice. The profitable media couldn’t and didn’t want to admit that the people had elected a complete idiot President. The last couple of months of his reign some of the press did curtail their self imposed ignorance, meaning they began to point out the depths of his know-nothing-ism. Though the I-Won mantra continued to be aired day after day, hour after hour on most every platform. It is still likely that without the plague year The Donald would have been reelected. That’s another appalling truth this country doesn’t like, or want, to face.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Corona Jottings: Intermittent Speculations(#20)

Well, it’s come to this. American Carnage. In the Capitol. The swarm of humanity, often seen in sci-fi horror films, breaching the walls. What was surprising was the ease of the take over, the small resistance of the building’s protectors. It stank of planning, cooperation, either foreordained, or incompetence on display. With the Trump Administration it’s likely to be a mixture of both. The Donald, to the last minute, continues his “reality” show with aplomb, staging, at public cost, a competing spectacle to the certification of the Electoral College vote, reaping what he has been sowing since the election, that he won in a landslide, his unending delusional cry. Trump summons the hordes and then retreats to the White House after sending them to plunder and preen. As ancient as this mob looked, it was as up-to-date as it could be. Half of marauders seemed to be holding pikes and other medieval accouterments, the other half brandishing Smartphones, recording their ne’er do welling, later giving testimonies of their felonious accomplishments. Though I doubt all their intelligence quotients, they all did seem to have an adolescent pride in boasting about what they pulled off, wanting to broadcast as soon as possible. To certify their victory. Because, now, a day before the Biden/Harris inauguration, Washington is an armed camp, on lock-down, a demonstration of Trump’s prediction and curse, American Carnage. Trump, himself, claims to be on the verge of a formal military sendoff to applaud his last free flight to Mar-a-Lago, his property that resembles any number of South-of-the-Border dictators' idea of a good time. I, for one, never watched The Apprentice. According to reference sources, it premiered in 2004, with Trump the star, and he “helmed” (as the nitwits say) it for fourteen years. Never saw it. I have seen clips, once Trump emerged as the front runner for the Republican nomination. I first wrote about The Donald as a candidate in March of 2016. I wasn’t friendly: “Now that Trump’s pictorial similarities to Il Duce have been widely noticed, The Donald, our own Herr Mousse-olini, has his followers doing stiff-arm Sieg Heil pledges. It is a little much.” This, along with other criticisms, appeared in the columns I did on the campaign for the Huffington Post, and are now reprinted in my book, Politics and the American Language, which was published without fanfare, given the circumstances afoot, Covid, etc., in March of 2020. Trump himself was no mystery in 2016, nor now, though he turned out to be worse than even I thought he could be. He outdid himself, thanks to his despicable enablers of the GOP. And now we await the predicted example of the autocrat, followed by the certified citizen Melania, his Evita (though seemingly one without any discernable talent), hopping on Air Force One to (almost) leave the country, clinging to a Southern-most margin. Again, Trump leaves Biden/Harris with a paradoxical symbolic setting to start their term, one fit only for television, displaying a military takeover, arranged by The Donald’s demented disciples. And middle-Americans were once worried about Hippies! The new right-wing Hippies of 2021 trashed the Capitol. The lumpen in the U.S. share a number of similarities. I should know, because I was one in my prolonged youth, especially in hairstyles and wardrobe. Merriam-Webster gives an interesting definition of lumpen: “of or relating to dispossessed and uprooted individuals cut off from the economic and social class with which they might normally be identified.” It’s almost philosophical. They’re strivers of a sort. But it’s their sense of dislocation, being untethered, that allows them to flock to an authoritarian (and rich) leader. Trump might be a bogus millionaire, but he struts the look. The Donald is a guy who wants to be first. It’s an impulse. The first monk to burn himself to death in Viet Nam, the first sniper to kill over a dozen from a high tower in Texas. Anything to be the first. What passes for Trump’s intelligence is reactive: to do the opposite of what everyone else has done. To be new. A president boasting continuously that he won the election by hu-u-u-ge amounts, that somehow it was stolen from him, to promote the untruth endlessly. I go back and forth about whether he actually believes this, or that he has just swallowed enough of his own kool aid to be convinced. It’s been a terrible four years, the last one visited with a Biblical plague to top off the Trump reign. And, for all I know, there’s enough deluded – the dispossessed and uprooted – no-nothings to presage another season, fit only for TV, of the rolling apocalypse that has been the Trump years. Ready for a Restoration? Imagine the Republican ticket for 2024. It could be worse. A Trump with brains.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Corona Jottings: Intermittent Speculations (#19)

The rats are abandoning the sinking ship of state. It’s a long list, so I won’t begin to record them, but newspapers will print their names. As dolts say, the list is long. Well, I’ll mention one of the worst, good old Lindsey Graham, the changeling from South Carolina, who is such a collection of unpleasantness I won’t catalog that either. Mitch McConnell took it upon himself to lecture the Senate at how un-American Hawley/Cruz’s play was and his wife, the Transportation Secretary, that marriage of many conveniences, resigned in lofty and last minute umbrage at the unsightliness of it all (the riffraff marauding in the Capitol, that is.) Those who are surprised at the invasion by the lumpen of the seat of government are either naive, uniformed, or hapless co-conspirators, expressing surprise, that is, at the violent denouement of the Trump Administration, its first act at least, as it approaches its final flame out. Ah, all that broken glass. It looked like Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, or in any number of Wisconsin towns, after the right-wing vandals started smashing windows. There’s still time and worse can happen, but the attack on the U.S. Capitol should come as no surprise. What was surprising was the mixed reaction of a minority of the participants as they found themselves wandering around the various sacrosanct chambers, the stunned expressions on their faces. From the multiple video sources, digital phones, in-place cameras, a viewer could see an approximation of awe on some, or, at least, wonder, something approaching amazement, not necessarily feelings that have often overtaken them. I presume those were people who don’t frequent many monumental buildings of government. That was the strangest reaction, but those poses quickly faded, and others took over, the kid-in-the-candy-store look, especially from the dozen, or so, who were milling about in the Senate chamber in various patriotic costumes. I’ve been saying Trump the Terrible is terrible from the start and those who thought he was the rabid dog that could be tamed, the useful idiot who could be used, are now quickly backtracking – Republican office holders, especially. A bit late in the game. As the sprite Lindsey offered, quoted by the Boston Globe, “it breaks my heart that my friend, a president of consequence, would allow yesterday to happen.” Ah, yes, a president of consequence. There are all sorts of consequences here. Lindsey’s heart, I take it, is, or has been, often broken. We still have a dirty dozen of days left wherein more Trump chaos can be generated. The odious GOP Senators, the too long serving and disliked Cruz and the new-be Hawley, need be shunned, but will their voters do so? Even I find it hard to believe that nearly 150 House Republican representatives would vote in the affirmative for the hogwash they were being sold about the Pennsylvania election. Among them was my “representative”, Wacky Jackie Walorski, the Trump sycophant, who knows little and repeats it often. Thanks to the usual tortured gerrymandering in Indiana she keeps her seat. Now that the Hawley/Cruz fiasco is being denounced by some Republicans, the GOP House representatives who went along should be forever branded as seditious lunatics, or worse, but, of course, they won’t be. The only illuminating surprise in the last few days has been the Democrat Senate sweep in Georgia, Georgia on my mind. I thought maybe one seat (swapping out the skinny appointed gal for a guy) was possible, but to win both races. Hallelujah! Trump was a laughingstock when he ran and won the presidency. Now the United States is a laughingstock. Even though some Republicans see what their dark bargain has brought us all, it will not be a rehabilitating tonic. It’s been well known for decades that we get the president we deserve and Trump has been no different. The Donald was not so much an aberration as a culmination. I don’t know what kind of rabbit Biden/Harris can pull out of their hat, but, thanks again to Georgia, they have at least, best, 24 months to wow us.