INVINCIBLE!

Posted June 7, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Election 2016, Republican follies, ridicule, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

Attention conservation notice (thanks, Cosma Shalizi):  What follows is some political naval gazing, a trip down memory lane to scan the GOP primary just gone by.  The TL:DR — what a craptastic effort by all concerned.  If you’ve nothing better to do, read on, and snark at will in the comments.

Not to aggrandize one of our more feeble trolls, but something that personage produced in a comment yesterday caught my eye.  Donald Trump, we were told, more than once, is INVINCIBLE (sic on the caps and bold).

What convinced our troll of this fact?

That the Gauleiter of Midtown Manhattan had defeated “the deepest primary field in history” (quoted from memory).

Well, a ruby in a dungheap is still a gem, and that remark caught my attention.  So, in a waltz down memory lane, I went to look up that deep field, here in the order in which they formally entered the campaign:

Ted Cruz.  Jeb Bush.  Ben Carson. Chris Christie. Carly Fiorina.  Jim Gilmore. Lindsey Graham.  Mike Huckabee.  Bobby Jindal.  John Kasich. George Pataki.  Rand Paul.  Rick Perry.  Marco Rubio.  Rick “don’t Google me” Santorum. Donald Trump, and Scott Walker.

Jheronimus_Bosch_011

Let’s review:

Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul:  first term senators of no accomplishment.

Carly Fiorina:  a failed business tycoon whose sole claim to fame is her near-destruction of one of the most respected corporations in tech.

Ben Carson:  a neurosurgeon who calls to mind the old joke:  “What’s the difference between God and a surgeon?”  “God knows he’s not a doctor.”

Jim Gilmore:  Jim Gilmore.

George Pataki:  George Pataki.

Rick Santorum: where to begin? Lost his last election by 30 points or more; hasn’t improved on extended acquaintence.

Chris Christie:  not yet indicted.

George Pataki:  smart boy glasses didn’t work.

Bobby Jindal:  Kenneth the office boy left the governor’s mansion in Louisiana as the single most potent unifier in state history: everyone, Democrat, Republican, Martian, loathed this incompetent poseur.

Mike Huckabee:  book salesman masquerading as Torquemada.

Scott Walker:  goggle-eyed homunculus almost instantly revealed as a small-time grifter utterly unsuited for the big time.

That leaves four:  Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and the ferret-headed swindler himself.

Jeb?, Graham and Kasich had at least recognizably plausible credentials to mount a presidential bid.  Jeb, of course, was burdened with the worst name in politics, a record in Florida that mostly consisted of having the good sense to preside during a housing boom and to get out before the crash, and an easily torpedoed post-government high-class business-grift career.  Worst of all of course, he turned out to have zero talent as an actual working politician.

Lindsey Graham was always a “message” candidate.  Yes, he’s a senator with actual legislative experience, and on paper he’s at least plausible.  But at no time did he actually capture the interest of a significant faction of the party.  It’s conceivable, at least, that if the Republican field had been the same size as the Democrats — five at the most — he might have had a chance to move from being McCain’s mini-me to some more plausible shot at the nomination, but if I were the Emperor of all the Indies, I’d be farting through silk, and that hasn’t happened either.

John Kasich, as a lot of commentators pointed out, was the most plausible “conventional” candidate on a paint by numbers sort of analysis:  federal experience, re-elected as governor of a large, diverse and swing state, actual policy knowledge.  (All bad policy, of course, but at least he understands the task.)  For all that’s wrong with him on his actual merits, I can’t deny that at the start of the campaign season, he actually appeared to be someone who could say “I’m running for president” with a straight face.

Hence the obvious response to “INVINCIBLE!”  This was the political analogue to a boxing undercard of stiffs, tomato-cans, punchers with slow feet, cutesy fighters better at dancing than fighting and so on.  These were the bouts you arrange so as not to undermine the confidence of a still-raw devotee of the Sweet Science.  They were, as it turned out, palookas.

IOW:  A well-stocked bench does not equal a strong bench, and it’s worth thinking about that a little as we move on to the general.  The Republican party is in a dominant position in state governments and in Congress.  Despite that, it has a dearth of those who can plausibly put themselves forward as national leaders.  And it’s not getting better with the up-and-comers.  Sasse?  Cotton?  Ernst? New Mexico’s Martinez, in a party now led by an anti-Latino bigot…and so on.

Or think on the surrogates the two nominees-presumptive can bring to bear on the campaign at hand.  As lots have noted, Hillary gets POTUS, FLOTUS, Uncle Joe, Senator Professor Warren, and some guy named Bill as her starting five.  Combover Caligula (thanks Betty!)? Chris Christie. Somebody.  Somebody else.  Somebody’s twin nephews.  Or, if we take his former rivals expressions of support seriously:  Christie, Rubio, and I don’t know, maybe a couple more.

I’m not writing this to gloat or to suggest that the election is over.  It’s not.  Trump is many things, but what makes him dangerous is that he has a dedicated, too-large base of support he knows exactly how to motivate.  We let our guard down, he and they win; the country and the world loses.

But that phrase “a deep bench” still needs examination.  The 2016 Republican primary is, as our troll suggests, a measure of the state of the party.  There’s no doubt it commands power. What’s striking, though, is how thoroughly mediocre are those who wield it.

Which is, of course, why they must be destroyed, their cities sacked, and their fields sown with salt.

Factia Grandeava Delenda Est.

Image: Hieronymus Bosch, Ship of Fools, c. 1494-1510.

Verbum Sat Sapienti Est…Or Maybe Not

Posted June 6, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Election 2016, Republican follies, Uncategorized, words mattter

Tags: , ,

Try as I might, I cannot for the life of me figure out this from Gauleiter Drumpf:

I am getting bad marks from certain pundits because I have a small campaign staff. But small is good, flexible, save money and number one!

“Save money and number one!”  So his number lines begin at two?  He and his staff promise to pee less?  He’s running for a job as the Count’s assistant?

I read that tweet in light of this analysis of Trump’s purported advantage over Clinton, made by a once and (at least so he hopes so) future Republican candidate-whisperer:

“She is fighting a conventional war and he is fighting an asymmetrical war, and I don’t think that bodes well for her,” said Terry Sullivan, a Republican strategist. Mr. Sullivan has a unique perspective on the question, as the former manager of Senator Marco Rubio’s vanquished presidential campaign.

Trump’s secret weapon according to Sullivan:  feed the beast.  Constantly.

The primary lesson: “The solution is always more content, not less,” Mr. Sullivan said.

Partly, this is just grift.  Here’s how the reporter, James Rutenberg acquired that earth-shattering insight:

Mr. Sullivan; the former Rubio communications adviser Alex Conant; and a lawyer for Mr. Rubio, Will Holley, had reached out to me to discuss their new consulting firm, Firehouse Strategies. It’s based on the premise that Mr. Trump has rewritten the rules of modern communications strategy, and candidates and corporations need to take heed.

But what strikes me in this Firehoser’s argument is his apparent ignorance of everything that’s happened in media beyond politics over the last decade.  “Always more content” turns all content into noise soon enough.

Trump may have a bit of a first mover advantage in his dominance of the sclerotic political mediascape, but I think (a) that’s wearing thin, and one of the shocks of last week for the Trump camp was the degree to which their former lapdogs in the media have turned on them.

Frans_Snyders_-_Hounds_Bringing_down_a_Boar_-_WGA21530

And more important, (b):   as a number of people have pointed out Trump’s got a long haul problem: when the brand is escalation, at some point you’re promising to build a wall to bar the Red Lectroids from Planet Ten — paid for by the takings from Vogon poetry readings.

Which is to say, There’s much to be done to stomp his campaign into utter oblivion, but if texts like the Drumpf-tweet up top represent the current state of his content stream, I’m OK with that.

Image:  Frans Snyders, Hounds Bringing Down A Boar (couldn’t resist), before 1650.

Trump’s First General Election Ad

Posted June 2, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Election 2016, Snark, Uncategorized

Tags: ,

I saw something today that captured the essence of Donald Trump’s political rhetoric:

Here’s the transcript:

Applebee’s now has trained meat cutters cutting every steak by hand.

For the juiciest, most tender steak ever.

Don’t believe us?

Ask the guy with the knife.

Think about it:  this is every Trump claim ever:

My steaks are the best!

Why?

Because reasons.  (Some guy in the back (of a warehouse three states over) cut a boneless piece of meat into smaller pieces!)

But trust me:

Believe me:  they’re the best.

How can you tell?

Because I say so.

And my guy can kill you.

For the record:  I do not plan to order a steak at Applebee’s, should I ever find myself with no other alternative than to eat in one. But this ad did give me some comfort.  It’s the kind of thing that can pass as kind of a coherent claim on a single, inattentive viewing.

But as the backbone of a five month long attempt to convey plausibility?  Not so much.  Not at all.

Open thread, everyone.

They Are Who We Thought They Were: Gun Nuts/Domestic Terrorism Edition

Posted June 1, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Guns, Two Parties -- Not the Same, Uncategorized, Why Do They Hate America So?

Tags: ,

Via TPM, we learn that Larry Pratt, former executive director of the organization Gun Owners of America has…predictable…view of what’s at stake in the coming election.

[He] said a Democrat taking the White House and replacing the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia would pose “great peril” to gun rights.

Cornelius Norbertus Gijsbrechts (1657-1683), Trompe l'oeil med pistoler, 1672

Cornelius Norbertus Gijsbrechts (1657-1683), Trompe l’oeil med pistoler, 1672

And what should happen in the face of such peril?  Another…interesting…take on the concept of constitutional review:

“At that point, we would have to come to an understanding, which we’ve been sort of taught, it’s been taught out of us, that the courts do not have the last word on what the Constitution is,” Pratt said on the show, in remarks first flagged by RightWingWatch.

And who, pray tell, does have that last word?  You’ll never guess:

“And we may have to reassert that constitutional balance, and it may not be pretty,” he continued. “So, I’d much rather have an election where we solve this matter at the ballot box than have to resort to the bullet box.”

Sedition, thuggery, a clear threat of political violence in the face of democratic decision making.  Pretty much a perfect defintion of domestic terrorism.

One more reason to consign Brother Trump to the outer darkness, I’d say — and his wretched claque of enablers and enablees along with him.

Image: Cornelius Norbertus Gijsbrechts, Trompe l’oeil with pistols, 1672

Ceci Ne Sont Pas Des Lunettes*

Posted May 31, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Art, brain candy, random humor

Tags:

Calling all Sokals!

I know this is a case of chasing easy marks, but still, I laughed.

Two teenagers visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and they came away…underwhelmed:

The teenagers, Kevin Nguyen, 16, and TJ Khayatan, 17, both of San Jose, had been left scratching their heads at the simplicity of some of the museum’s exhibits, including two stuffed animals on a blanket.

“Is this really what you call art?” Kevin said in an interview over the weekend.

TJ added, “We looked at it and we were like, ‘This is pretty easy. We could make this ourselves.’ ”

Self-portrait_as_the_Allegory_of_Painting_(La_Pittura)_-_Artemisia_Gentileschi

Cue the long-standing first reaction to a Pollack:  “My five year old could do better!”

Nguyen and Khayatan, however, did the hard thing: put their ambition to the test.  Theirs was no instant success:

Inspired during their visit on May 21, they experimented with putting a jacket on the floor and then a baseball cap, but neither drew attention.

Like any driven artist, the two persisted, until, the breakthrough!

Kevin then placed his Burberry glasses on the floor beneath a placard describing the theme of the gallery. He said neither he nor TJ did anything to influence museum visitors, such as standing around and looking at the glasses.

The linked article has a picture of what came next…;-)

Not that the creators could fully appreciate their success. One does have to sacrifice for art:

Within about three minutes, people appeared to be viewing their handiwork as bona fide art, though Kevin said that without his glasses, he could not see what was happening too well.

Give SFMOMA credit, though, for a sense of humor about the matter:

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 1.19.05 PM

That would be a reference to this, I believe (as does the NY Times…)

Anyway — good times!  And nothing to do with the ferret headed weasel (a sphinx for our times!), the senator from the north country, nor the lady whose nomination must not be acknowledged.  So I guess this makes it just fun.  Happy Tuesday, all.

*Well.  Actually…they are, in exactly the sense that Magritte argued that his pipe was not.

Image: Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting, between 1638 and 1639.

Today In Unsolicited E-Mails

Posted May 26, 2016 by Tom
Categories: Brain bubbles, random humor, The Way We Live Now

Tags: ,

I get mail.  This one came today, unsought, unanticipated, and unctuous, from some placement/staffing guy who clearly understands the extensive personnel needs of a writing teacher and sometime scribe:

I am representing the below talented professionals passively seeking their next permanent position.

“Passively seeking…”

A Maid Asleep *oil on canvas *87.6 x 76.5 cm *signed c.l.: I·VMeer·

I’m so using that one as soon and as often as I can.  “I’m passively seeking my Nobel Prize in procrastination…”

(Actually, it made me think of Zombie Eyed Granny Starver Paul Ryan’s non-candidacy for president this year, but that’s another story.)

Consider this a safe-zone thread, with nothing to do with anyone whose initials are DT, BS or HC.  Just take this as a glimpse of the more comfy* domestic absurdities that attend us every day.

*My fingers sped past my brain in my first attempt at that word:  confit.  Almost left it that way — I like the idea of confit absurdities.

Image:  Johannes Vermeer, A Maid Asleep c. 1656-1657

 

 

Some Mostly Stolen Thoughts On That Old Politics Vs. Revolution Thang

Posted May 25, 2016 by Tom
Categories: good writing, Policy, Politics

Tags: , ,

So this morning I’m reading a diary on the Great Orange Satan about political doings over in Bagdad By The Bay.  Though I grew up in the San Francisco area, I’m not really current on what’s happening, aside from the fact that I couldn’t afford a shack in SF itself anymore — notamidst all those Twitter-, Apple-, and Google-erati.  So I gobble down the story, assume/accept the big-city, big-money corruption narrative, and move on.

Sucker!

I do have friends and relatives back by the Bay, as it turns out, and one of them has worked in city government for a long time.

Turner_-_Dido

He’s got first hand knowledge of San Francisco’s allegedly lost progressive mindset as it works within local government, and he weighed in.

I’ll excerpt his comment below, but first I just want to say this was an object lesson for me, a reminder of how easy it is trip up in the way that I’ve criticized some of the most extreme of the Bernie camp for doing.

That is: there’s a ton wrong with our politics, our society, and our engagement with each other.  It’s so tempting to leap from a clear problem — the impact on middle and low income residents of the gentrification of San Francisco (and elsewhere!) driven by extreme income inequality — and assume that political actors are obviously complicit.

The reality?  Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t, and it takes some effort to figure out the five Ws and the H in each case.  Worse yet — if the problem is truly complex, then political action is at best an incomplete tool to deal with the issue.

Which is why, in the end, I think Obama is a truly great president: he gets all of that.  The need for policy and politics; the insufficiency of politics on its own; the agonizing difficulty of addressing any truly major problem — which translates into rage-inducing slowness to see the change take shape; and the need to keep plugging away.

I feel that rage often enough, and I know that I don’t have the qualities of character our president does, the off-the-charts focus and persistence required to make sh*t happen, and to wait — years if necessary, decades — to see the results.

I have high hopes for Hillary on this score.  Not that I’ll agree with her on everything — I don’t and won’t, just as I haven’t always with Barack Hussein Obama.  But I trust her (yes, that word) to pay attention, to know her stuff, to hire good, smart folks, and to soldier on and on and on — as the job and the world requires.

Here the sermon endeth…and an excerpt from my old Bay Area companion’s comment takes over:

I’ve worked on the financial administration side for the City of San Francisco for many years, and the truth is that under successive mayors and Boards, San Francisco has put more money behind progressive goals than almost any other city in the country.

The City spends billions of dollars a year on its amazing public health programs, including a universal health access program for City residents that predates and goes well beyond Obamacare, and many hundreds of millions of dollars on programs to help the poor and homeless, including thousands of units of housing for the poorest of the poor and people with severe mental illness and other health problems.  The City spends hundreds of millions a year subsidizing its transit system and setting aside funds for children.  The City spends hundreds of millions a year subsidizing its transit system and setting aside funds for children. 

Mayor Lee …supported not just measures to attract and keep higher-paying tech jobs but also continued one of the largest and best City subsidized jobs programs in the country…

These are great progressive achievements….

You can read more at the link. The writer goes on to acknowledge that despite all this, the reality is that San Francisco’s housing costs put enormous stress on too many, and argues that the drivers of that are at best barely subject to direct political control — and that policy responses offer very tricky alternatives.  The challenge for progressives, among whom he numbers himself is thus to..

examine what housing policies we should we be pushing for that can help the most people of different income levels that need housing (not just the poorest of the poor).

TL:DR:  electioneering — and definitely punditizing —  is easy.  Governating is damn hard, which is something to be mindful of at this and every season.

Over to y’all.

Image:  J. W. M. Turner, Dido Building Carthage, 1815.


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