Memes

The George Bush chimp meme set off the meme wars, if only because he was president when Facebook took off in a big way. As soon as Obama was elected the Right–especially the Tea Party–went nuts with their own vicious memes. And now with Trump we return the favor. And it’ll keep happening because each side holds the other side to rules that they themselves do not abide by. Which is nothing new, the pamphlets and newspapers in the 18th and 19th century were incredibly offensive and insulting and just as low brow as anything you see on your iPhone today. And both sides back then raged the same way we are all raging now, mortally offended by what the other side posts and finding all sorts of excuses for posting their own. Calls for censorship abounded, like they abound now, though the First Amendment prevented that for the most part. Now, though, with Facebook and Twitter essentially privatizing communication in ways that Ronald Reagan never imagined, wholesale censorship is possible in social media because the internet is somehow not considered to exist in the same heady constitutional air as the airwaves. Funny seeing the conservative stance on the internet suddenly condemned by outraged conservatives bewildered by the First Amendment. And funny too watching progressives defend social media as privately owned and free from those First Amendment restrictions. Meanwhile memes are fading, replaced by furious bursts of words. Not particularly intelligent words, necessarily, but words nonetheless. We’re getting oddly literate in the Age of Trump, even as Trump himself can barely tweet a coherent sentence.

Advertisements

Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and a worm, turning.

Julian Assange seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth. And Edward Snowden has been awfully quiet lately. Dots are being connected. Assange will be exposed as a Putin flunky soon enough. As if working for Putin’s TV news network wasn’t proof enough. He once brazenly threatened to release documents that would blow the Putin kleptocracy wide open. So he promised dramatically. I remember waiting to see what he released, but the promised day came and went without any document dump. There followed creepy rumors that agents of the FSB (the post-Soviet KGB) had threatened bodily harm and more if those documents were released. Putin takes his privacy very seriously. Assange caved in without any public explanation and was given his own show on RT for being a good boy. His involvement with Putin has increased vastly since then, and he is nothing but a Russian tool now. Hard to tell now if he has been an innocent stoolie for Putin in 2016, dutifully dumping hacked Democratic Party documents provided by the Russian intelligence networks, or if he is still under a Russian gun, no more a free operator than a mafia flunky.

Assange certainly knows after this past week just how incredibly cheap his life is now. Americans would love to offer him protective custody in return for spilling his story. On the other hand, he is completely useless to Putin as an operative anymore. Indeed, it would be best if he were silenced permanently. Assange used to claim that Obama or the CIA were trying to kill him. He’d dramatically duck away from windows (snipers, he said) and peak out from behind curtains, scanning the street and rooftops. He would brag about how Hillary wanted to kill him with a drone. But he is not hiding from the Americans now. He is hiding from Russian assassins, who have worked with impunity in London for decades. He must look at his Ecuadorian benefactors and wonder which of them would be willing to allow an assassin in to poison him. In 1939 Stalin ordered Beria who ordered Pavel Sudoplatov who ordered Nahum Eitingon who ordered Iosif Grigulevich who ordered Ramón Mercader to murder Leon Trotsky. It took more than a year of sneaking and planning and conspiring, but Trotsky was tracked down to a well guarded villa in Mexico City and murdered. Compared with our buffoonish attempts to kill Fidel Castro, it was a slick, professional job, even if it was finally done with an ice pick. Since then, KGB and FSB methods have only improved. A sly jab with an umbrella. Polonium-210 in a cup of tea. Quick and simple and invisibly done. Still, the Russians can take a long, long time before striking. The condemned in Russian prisons never know when the shot will come to the back of the head. Sometimes in days. Sometimes immediately. Sometimes it takes years. Sometimes it never does come. Imagine Julian Assange now. Paranoia must coil through him like ungrounded electricity.

And Edward Snowden? He knows that the way he got into Russia wasn’t exactly the way he told everybody. It was an FSB operation. Dozens of grey suited, gun packing FSB agents swarmed him when he first got off the plane in Moscow, as if taking possession of him bodily. He certainly stopped controlling his own destiny at that point. He’s being held in relative comfort and illusory freedom as an intelligence asset. And he knows that Putin might well have seen everything he took with him from the NSA to Hong Kong. Snowden must know now he blew it when he defected to Russia. That he could have stayed in China, but alas it seemed more likely back then that the Chinese would turn him over to the Americans. That certainly would never happen in Russia. But it turns out that in all likelihood he’d be safe now in China, while in Moscow he is currently at the mercy of Vladimir Putin. Snowden’s life too potentially hangs by a thread. Safe for now, but who knows what direction Russia will go in? Will the purges return? They could. In which case Edward Snowden is certainly a dead man. Remember that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the 100,000 American workers who had been invited to the Soviet Union with great fanfare in the early years of the Depression were later secretly murdered by the NKVD–predecessor to the KGB and FSB–in the killing fields of the Great Purge. The remainder disappeared into the Gulag. So there is legal precedent for quietly disposing of idealist Americans when that deep seated Russian xenophobic paranoia rears up again. Snowden must be quietly desperate to cut a deal with Obama. Suddenly he is an intelligence asset for the United States. Which means he will never get out of Russia alive. If he stays quiet, though, he could survive. After all, he knows more about American intelligence operations than he does about Russia’s. Assange, though, the man who knew too much, is almost certainly a dead man. Were this a Cold War spy thriller he would be a dead man, anyway. But this isn’t a movie, this is reality. A cold comfort for Julian Assange that must be.

julian-assange

n the

In case you were wondering how Donald Trump became president.

Just had a surreal debate with somebody who was incredibly bitter about Hillary losing, especially as she won the popular vote and Obama lost the popular vote in 2012. I said Obama did not lose the popular vote in 2012. He said he did. I said he didn’t and told him by how much Obama had beat Romney (just under 4%). He insisted Obama had lost. I showed him a link to the official election results. He said so you are saying ABC was wrong and posted an article from today. In it, Donald Trump is insisting in a 2012 tweet that Romney won the popular vote. Trump was lying, of course, but no matter. This young progressive Democrat believed Donald Trump over, well, reality. Just in case you were wondering how Donald Trump became president.

Day after the midterms, 2010

(Wednesday, November 3, 2010)

Look at it this way–the combined Democratic increase in the House of Representatives in 2006/2008 was about fifty seats (51, actually). Now the GOP gets them back (they won sixty three). That’s been the trend in bad economic times throughout American history, going back as far as the late 19th century. During downturns, the balance in the house and senate swing dramatically back and forth. Odds are there’s a partial correction  back towards the mean in 2012 (the Democrats gained only eight House seats, actually).

And all the GOP did was take one house. In the process they have driven themselves very far to the right and a lot of the new people will lose their seats in two years, like just happened to us. (They didn’t, actually, and gained another thirteen in 2014.) The GOP will now start tearing itself to shreds and the GOP establishment is on a war footing trying to block a Sarah Palin nomination (hard to believe she was considered the leading GOP contender in 2010). Let them go after the health care plan. People will hate them for it. People hate socialized medicine but they love the various elements of Obamacare. Watch what happens.

One of the great things about having only one house (The Democrats still held the Senate) is that there’s not a chance im hell you can get anything done so you can spend your time yelling and being extreme and posing for pictures and engaging in intra-party struggles and helping people run for president. This is no Newt Gingrich/Tom DeLay thing as in 1994. The Republican House majority will get nothing done. They will be playing to their own, which means playing hard right, and Americans don’t like the hard right. The media, however, loves the hard right. You wanna get on TV, scream you lie (which Senator Jim DeMint yelled at Obama in his 2010 Sate of the Union speech).

And there are a lot of nut cases now in the House and Senate. Rand Paul? And who knows whose in the House now. But think of this–Michelle Bachmann is a major player. I mean, that is a dream come true. And I could go on and on. This election is in many ways the best possible outcome for the Obama administration. The right gets to go nuts. The right gets to have a civil war. The right is threatened with the cataclysmic possibility of a Palin nomination and no way to stop it (and note how the 2012 primary schedule favors Palin…..Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, Florida….then Super Tuesday.) The left can go nuts fulminating over Palin. Centrists and indies can loathe Palin even more.  The House can only make its presence felt by shutting down the government or trying to starve elements of the Health Care Plan and looking like scrooges. The right can try to undermine banking reform. The right can engage in witch hunt investigations over nothing. The right can push the birth certificate issue. The right sat sit there and watch DeMint and Rubio and all the new Tea Party people scream and yell and avoid reality. And people can learn to hate John Boehner, who is uniquely hateable, beginning with his tan.

Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Obama screwing up at the presidential debate in 2012

(An email I wrote about Obama’s performance in the first debate against Romney in 2012. I had forgotten just how catastrophic that performance was. It was a short lived catastrophe, though, as Obama came roaring back in the second and third debates and neutralized the damage he’d done to himself in the first. Interesting, though, how some of my ranted criticisms here apply to Trump’s first performance as well.)

Well, Obama’s fucking up the debate is not only the major event of this campaign…it is also possibly the greatest fuck up in American Presidential campaign history since, well, since I don’t know. I can’t think of a comparison. Maybe Nixon in his debate in 1960…except that was a close race at the time, not a blow out. The Dewey-Truman thing was a Truman surge but also the fact that his voters had been underpolled. Neither of these compare to this one. Obama was way ahead and was beaten decisively and worse yet humiliated on national television. Obama was utterly unprepared.  He figured the race was in the bag and that he was so superior to Romney he could bat him away like a fly, I guess. His debate prep team ought to be banished from politics forever they were so bad. They failed completely, and I mean completely, to ascertain how Romney would debate. I have never seen such a failure. This was like Rick Perry’s performance in the GOP debates. This was horrible. Catastrophic. You have to be blindly partisan not to feel very uneasy about a guy that fucks up that badly when eye to eye with an opponent.

He’ll do better tonite, much better. Might even be declared the winner (in fact, if it’s a draw he probably will be declared the winner.)  The other point is that he does not fuck up on the stump, and hasn’t since the debate, not even the next morning. His campaign has made zero mistakes except for the debate. Romney is far more likely to stumble, and once he stumbles he stumbles again, gets off message, and looks very unpresidential. And Obama’s press team is much better than Romney’s. Romney’s people failed to capitalize on the scope of their debate win and in fact let Obama pick up his momentum the very next morning, as if the debate had never happened. If Romney does stumble again, and he probably will, his team will not react with such efficiency. ANd to be honest, the press doesn’t like him. They’re dying for a chance to go after him again.

One of the things that so astonishes me about Obama and his debate prep team was that the election appeared to be virtually over and the only way Romney could possibly win was if Obama fucked up incredibly bad. They should have made absolutely sure–absolutely sure–that would not happen. If he tried to blow off the prep (which I think he did) they should not have allowed it to happen. This is all inexcusable.

Obama will still win…Romney’s surge will peak and things will lean Obama’s way again. I also suspect that the Obama vote is underrepresented because Obama’s voters are young and are undersampled in the polling because so many young people do not have LAN lines.  This was one of the reasons that Obama’s vote share was underestimated in 2008.  I also suspect that the Right screaming about Obama’s people making up the good job numbers had an effect, because of the paranoia enhancing and conspiracy credibility of the internet. You scream that shit loud enough, people believe it. The Right knew what it was doing. They knew what they were doing when the demonized Joe Biden after the veep debate too. Once that shit goes viral it begins to shift opinion. Remember the reaction to their Obamacare scare. And it took the job numbers conspiracy to get the more demented wing of the GOP fired up in the blogs and social media again, which is where you can shift opinion in days. A lie spread fast enough and some people will believe it. Not many that affect this race, but just enough of the undecided voters. Those cats aren’t the hippest people in America anyway, I mean who hasn’t already made up their minds? That is what the campaigns are working with now, the people who haven’t cared enough to decide already, and might well make their decision on the flakiest factors. Like the guy who wanted a president more like Bruce Lee. I mean what can you say? But you have to take them seriously the last two months of the campaign.

But I have to say again…Obama’s performance in the first debate is probably the  single most catastrophic mistake in modern presidential election history. It was stunning, and it was entirely his own fault. And it’s no wonder that people began looking at Romney anew. Not necessarily because they think he is better, but because Obama looked so bad. You have to wonder about the hubris of a man and a campaign staff that thinks a national television audience can be blown off like that.

(Actually, the single most catastrophic mistake in modern presidential debate history was Jerry Ford emphatically declaring in a 1976 debate with Jimmy Carter that Eastern Europe was not under Soviet domination, nor would it be under a Ford Adminstration. That was weird…and handed Carter the White House.)

Bernie Sanders exits, stage left.

That was a helluva speech Liz Warren gave. It’s unfortunate it had to be today, though, and not tomorrow, because I would have loved to have seen Bernie Sanders’ speech at RFK stadium. He was a couple minutes into it, subdued, almost pensive, like an immense weight was upon him. Where was he going with this? How would the crowd respond? I was transfixed. Suddenly it’s a split screen, and Liz Warren came walking out onto a stage, beaming. Bernie, exhausted, was speaking but you couldn’t help but be distracted by the electricity in Elizabeth Warren’s stride. Bernie was telling the crowd that his campaign is doing something different. It is telling the truth, he says, as he has said a thousand times–when the audio switches without warning to Liz Warren and Bernie is cut off mid-sentence. We hear Liz Warren launch into one of the greatest speeches in our modern political history. It was that good. Bernie’s stump speech was forgotten. None of the talking heads even mentioned he had been speaking. They were all about Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. It’s like Bernie was never even there. Bernie Sanders, the man who had upended American politics, who had dominated every Democratic conversation. Bernie Sanders, who is all anyone could talk about yesterday. Bernie Sanders, who held the fate of the nation in his hands. But through the magic of live television it seemed like Warren’s star had risen, instantly, and Bernie’s had waned, just as instantly. Was it intended that way? Who knows. But it did make for exciting television. Will it have an electrifying effect on Bernie voters? No doubt, especially the under thirty young women who had been so loyal to Bernie Sanders and not so crazy about Hillary Clinton. Elizabeth Warren had changed the political demographics instantaneously. Liz will definitely win over the Millennial women for Hillary, a young under thirty journalist said, if not the Bernie Bros. Bernie Bros. She rolled her eyes saying it, as if ill mannered, foul mouthed Bernie Bros were suddenly a relic of an older, more primitive time. Angry young men with no respect for women in a women’s world.

But this was not the way this should be happening. I’d been waiting for hours for Bernie’s speech. It was supposed to be a major speech. All the news networks were waiting for it. It was to be broadcast in its entirety. This was to be one of the most significant speeches by the single most significant politician of 2016. “How Bernie Sanders’s day in Washington got eclipsed by Democratic unity” said the headline in the Washington Post. It had all happened so fast. If only somebody could have worked the timing out, coordinated the two events, but perhaps they just were determined to have Elizabeth Warren scorch Donald Trump before she endorsed Hillary this afternoon. And scorch him she did, beautifully, rehearsed to perfection, leaving a pile of cinders where once a big loutish billionaire had been.

There was a lot of stagecraft today, that was obvious, the Obama White House and Hillary Clinton campaign and Elizabeth Warren’s every move choreographed to perfection, without a wasted motion. Smooth and perfect. Political tai chi. Meanwhile Bernie, good honest Bernie, truthful Bernie, crusading Bernie, is left looking like William Jennings Bryan in Inherit the Wind, somehow immediately dated, a relic from an earlier time when he left crowds spellbound and chanting his name. Bernie’s speech today seemed divorced from reality, said the usually sympathetic Huffington Post, scolding him for pretending his campaign was not over. But you had to scroll way down to find that story, it was buried far beneath Elizabeth’s Warren’s enormous photo and name in huge red letters. Scroll down past Marco Rubio’s picture, and a bit further on, between an article on mosquitos and an article on a hit and run driver, was Bernie’s small picture and smaller font, an afterthought. “It would be extraordinary if the people of Washington, our nation’s capital, stood up and told the world that they are ready to lead this country into a political revolution” Bernie told the smallish crowd, just a fraction of the turnout he’d gotten in Los Angeles only days before. But Tuesday’s Washington D.C. primary, would be the last stop in the political revolution, and he will lose it like he lost the South, by a huge margin. Bernie knew that. He had told President Obama just that morning he understood the math. But he was putting on the show for the true believers spread out on the lawn before him. They cheered, they swooned, they knew the catechism by heart. Stay in the race, they chanted. Some said they’d write in Bernie Sanders on the ballot come November. He smiled wanly. It’d been scarcely forty eight hours since the California primary, but that seemed like another time.

bernie-sanders-floated-elizabeth-warren-when-asked-about-vice-presidential-contenders

Miss TanZANia

Larry Wilmore. If you are gonna bomb, bomb big. Now everybody whose anybody in his world knows he is nowhere near as funny as they thought he was. That’s what Larry Wilmore’s Monday will be. Indeed, the rest of his career will be. Like the Zodiac Killer. Remember that one? Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer. The Zodiac Killer. The Zodiac Killer. The Zodiac Killer. The Zodiac Killer. The Zodiac Killer. The Zodiac Killer. The Zodiac Killer. Repeat till they finally stop laughing entirely.

Still, Larry Wilmor didn’t blow a perfect joke like Obama. “Trump has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world”, Barak opened: “Miss Sweden”, let a beat pass, “Miss Argentina”, let two beats pass, “Miss Azerbaijan”. Three beats. The audience is waiting for it. “Miss TanZANia”. BAM! The audience would have exploded, boom, the laugh-o-meter gone to laugh-o-meter heaven. All those celebrities and reporters and politicians and would have laughed and laughed, laughed themselves silly. But Obama never said it. He never said “Miss Tanzania”, trumpified and mispronounced.  He merely went on to his next bit. So we will never know just how funny a well timed “Miss Tanzania” (rhymed with Albania, sort of) would have been. Not here anyway. Not in this universe. In some alternative universe maybe. In some alternative universe “Miss Tanzania” would have been the funniest punch line ever. Outright prolonged laughter across several dimensions. That’s the thing about alternative universes. Some of them are really funny. In some alternative universe Larry Wilmore’s routine was funny too.

Well, maybe not. Not even string theory could have saved that material.