Chuck Berry died yesterday.
That’s gobbling up a big chunk of the news cycle, as well it should. Berry was not only a phenomenal talent, but a figure of singular importance
in American cultural history. However, I’ll leave others to sing his praises while I ponder the passing of another, lesser known giant.
Jimmy Breslin died yesterday at the age of 88. And make no mistake about it. That’s Jimmy, not James, no matter what his birth certificate said.
Largely unknown nowadays to most outside New York City, and even to those within the boroughs under the age of 50, Breslin was a longtime columnist for several city newspapers. He was also a bestselling author of numerous books, most successfully with his 1969 novel The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight, a send up of the Mafia that was made into a forgettable film starring another iconic New Yorker, Jerry Orbach.
But at mid-century, when newspapers were central to American life, Breslin was among the best known writers in the nation. And the whole time he was quintessentially New York. Continue reading In Memoriam: Jimmy Breslin
According to a new poll
, Donald Trum
p’s approval rating among voters age 18-30 is a measly 22%.
For those of you who really dig fractions, that’s less than a quarter. Barely a fifth.
But wait. It gets better.
A clear majority of these voters (57%) don’t just disapprove of the orange hair pie; they think his presidency is downright illegitimate.
Plain old disapproval? That would be the 70% who don’t like his demeanor, and the whopping 80% who disapprove of his policies.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: God Bless the Millennials.
I don’t care if they can’t tie their own shoes. Lord knows they’re the only thing standing between us and Ronald McDonald totalitarianism (that last line works on a couple of levels; think about it). Continue reading God Bless the #Millennials
is going down.
His house of cards will collapse at some point. The leaks will keep flowing and eventually his position will become untenable. Conflicts of interest. Connections to Russia. All of it will become too great a weight to carry, especially since The Donald has very few genuine allies in Washington.
The Democrats want him gone. So too do most of the Republicans. Hell, they never wanted him to begin with. The GOP did everything it could to derail his candidacy, and only climbed aboard after Trump’s runaway train was the last red line careening towards the White House. So for now they’re playing nice with the former Democrat who eschews Conservative dogma in a variety of ways and is loyal to absolutely no one save himself. But when the moment comes, they’ll gladly trade Trump in for Mike Pence, a Conservative’s wet dream.
For all of these reasons, Trump may not make it to the finish line. But there’s at least one more factor to consider: the precedent of regicide. And to understand that, we should begin by briefly recounting the demise of the Ottoman sultan Osman II.
Young Osman II ascended the Ottoman throne in 1618 at the tender age of 14. Wishing to assert himself, in 1621 he personally led an invasion of Poland, which ended with a failed siege of Chota (aka Khotyn, now in western Ukraine). In a rather unwise move, Osman blamed the defeat on his elite fighting force, the Janissaries. Afterwards, he ordered the shuttering of Janissary coffee shops, which he saw as a hotbed of conspiracies against him. The Janissaries responded with a palace uprising. In 1622 they imprisoned the 17 year old monarch and soon after killed him. Because it was strictly forbidden to spill royal blood, they strangled him to death. Continue reading American Regicide
I recently heard from a mutual acquaintance that an old friend whom I’ve lost touch with plans to leave the country. This soon-to-be emigrant is an immigrant with brown skin, and has quite understandably decided that he does not want to live in Donald Trump’s America. He is also a British citizen with a way out.
I don’t begrudge my old friend for wanting to move back to Great Britain now that Trump and his cavalcade of cronies have infested the White House. For at least the next two years, the United States, and sadly much of the rest of the world given the United States’ size, power, and influence, will endure a stunning string of short and long term setbacks that, while difficult to predict the specifics of, will almost certainly range from the ridiculous to the serious and even the frightful.
Why sit in the center of the storm when you can reasonably take shelter elsewhere? Especially as a person of color with a British passport, why endure the absurdities and horrors of America’s Trumpist turn?
No, I don’t blame him one bit for wanting to get out.
But me? I’m gong to stay here and fight. And this is not a decision I have reached recently. It’s a conclusion I drew 25 years ago. Continue reading A Call to Arms
I was reading a friend’s FB post earlier today. I respect this person immensely, although I disagreed with him on one point. Which is good. He’s the kind of dedicated and genuine intellectual who encourages honest exchanges.
My friend is thoroughly appalled by the American political situation at the moment, as am I. But he is also not given to public displays of emotion. And so perhaps it made sense that, with regards to politics, he warned us that,
“the satisfactions of flamboyantly expressing one’s rage against Trump and the right can make it less, rather than more, likely we are going to turn this thing around as soon as it can be turned around.”
This is where I disagreed with him. I wrote a short response on his page as to why, but I would like to expand upon it here.
Let me begin by acknowledging that there are many things we can do to effectively oppose Trump. We need a broad palette. But one important thing we can do, I believe, is engage in occasional public displays of moral outrage. Even flamboyant ones.
Public displays of moral outrage against the lunacy and mendacity of Donald Trump specifically, against his core of executive cronies, and against the GOP more generally, are actually a good and productive thing right now. There are several reasons why, but before I list them, let me clarify what I mean by “flamboyantly expressing one’s rage against Trump and the right,” to borrow my friend’s words.
I am not advocating that we join the GOP in its filthy pit of lies and “alternative facts.” While I’m going to advocate a fight fire with fire approach, I don’t think we should extend that to the Right’s immolation of the factual truth, lest we lose sight of the forest from the trees. We should not sacrifice core principles of democracy to win the immediate battle. Indeed, in many ways the fight must be fore those core principles.
So, for example, we should not counter their science denialism; (climate change, evolution) with politically convenient science denialism of our own; for example, let’s not start wooing the anti-vaxer vote by spurring that movement on. And let’s not sink to the level of fabricating lies to smear Republicans. For starters, it’s so unnecessary; given their horrible actions and hateful ideology, it’s easy enough to smear them with the plain truth.
Rather, I am championing the notion that we become morally outraged at Trump’s and the GOP’s fabrications and falsehoods, their lies and lunacy, their brazen assaults on honesty and democracy. Furthermore, I think we should feel free to publicly display our moral outrage. Why? For several reasons.
For starters, it is important to recognize that we are clearly past normal. Continue reading Outraged? Get Outrageous!
I’ve been writing blog posts at this website for over six years now. Well over 500 to date. But I’m not doing it today. I’m not writing an essay today.
Why, you ask? Why am I refusing to entertain my loyal dozens (and countless accidental readers) with yet another rambling jeremiad today? Well, there’s a whole bunch of reasons, really. Behold.
I’m a Lazy Bastard: My whole life I’ve loved nothing better than doing nothing. Sometimes I come clean and admit my lethargy. Yet people often refuse to believe me. “You have a Ph.D. You’ve published three books. You helped negotiate the Peace of Westphalia. You can’t possibly be lazy.” I wave off their protestations. I insist that I am really quite slovenly. I remind them that professors are notoriously lazy, barely rousing themselves to fabricate random grades for their students. But the skeptics just pshaw and in insist I’m energetic.
Yeah? Well not energetic enough to write this essay.
There’s a Stray Cat on the Back Porch: I think he might be part Maine Coon. He’s got pointy ears that sprout tufts of hair. He’s not fully grown but looks to be getting quite large. And he doesn’t seem to mind the cold. Hell, I think he enjoys it. A few weeks back it got down to 14F at night. For you fancy people with your hip, scientific measurements, that’s some big negative number in Celcius. Continue reading Why I’m Not Writing this Essay
The United States boasts a deeply conservative economic tradition. From its origins as a colonial, agricultural society, it quickly emerged as a slave holding republic built on the ethnic cleansing and occasional genocide of Indigenous peoples. After the Civil War (1861-65), it reshaped itself in the crucible of unfettered laissez-faire capitalism straight through to the Roaring ‘20s. A post-Depression Keynesian consensus led U.S. leaders to reign in the most conservative impulses during the mid-20th century, but the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s set the stage for the current neo-liberal moment.
Consequently, ever since the industrial revolution, the United States has typically trailed other developed nations in establishing a basic social welfare system. It has never fielded a competitive socialist or labor party. It was the last major nation to implement an old age pension. More recently, ObamaCare made it the last major nation to mandate that all of its citizens receive some sort of healthcare coverage, even if it’s quite wanting in many cases.
Amid its overriding conservativism, the United States has had only three presidents with any real socialist tendencies: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-45), Harry S. Truman (1945-53), and most recently Lyndon Baines Johnson, whose presidency (1963-69) ended before half of current Americans were born (median age 37.9)
The election of Donald Trump as president and, just as important, the impending Republican dominance of Congress, make certain that the United States will not correct its social welfare shortcomings anytime soon. Indeed, the nation may take significant steps backwards.
However, a quick review of America’s stunted progressive history suggests that the opportunity for a progressive counter-revolution may be closer than it appears at this dark moment. And not because Trump’s victory represents the last gasp of an aging generation or the violent undulations of a shrinking white electorate. But rather, because Trump and his Grand Old Posse have the potential to wreak so much damage and engender so much ignominy upon the national consciousness as to generate the kind of rare and extreme circumstances that have previously led the United States to make genuine progress in developing modern social welfare. The chaos and horrors of a Trump presidency may yet produce opportunities for improving the nation. Continue reading The Counter Revolution
Apparently there’s a new sheriff in town, and its name is Professor Watch List.
In case you hadn’t heard, its a website dedicated to spying on and publicly decrying liberal college professors. Its mission is to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values, and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”
Anti-American values? That’s my middle name!
So far they’ve outed about a couple of hundred college professors, a rambling list that is organized by the professors’ first names because maybe . . . they couldn’t manage anything more sophisticated than hitting the Sort button?
From this long and growing list, highlighted for ridicule on the site’s home page are: a white woman, a Latino, a Jew, two blacks, and an Italian American who, gasp, is “an admitted socialist.”
A look at the longer list reveals some odd choices. Continue reading Dear Readers: Let’s Make Me Bad
Maybe one day I’ll publish the 2,500 word screed I just wrote about how fucking sick I am of white people. And not just the racist, sexist assholes who eagerly voted for a racist, sexist asshole flaunting racism and sexism as a central part of his campaign; or the not-racist, sexist assholes who held their noses and pulled the lever for a racist, sexist asshole, and in doing so exhibited moral bankruptcy by giving public sanction to racism and sexism; but also the middle class, white liberals assholes who valiantly fought hard to prevent a racist, sexist asshole from reaching the White House but, once they lost, became self-centered, self-indulgent turds
who had to publicly make everything about themselves
, because nobody fucking suffers like white people.
Maybe one day I’ll publish that essay.
But not today. Because publishing that essay, ironically enough, would be just one more way in which a white, middle class asshole (me) found a way to use his privileged platform (this and other, larger websites where I publish) to make public declarations about white people. And even though it’s a blistering critique which I stand behind every word of, it would just be another example of a white person making this all about white people.
And right now, this is not about white people. This is about what we, as Americans, choose to do amid the horror that some of us have wrought.
So instead of going an angry rant, I am going to write in support brown people, in support immigrants, and in support women, and in support of LGBTQ people. Continue reading This Is Not About White People
I’ve been blogging for just over six years. During that time, I’ve published nearly 500 essays.
By far, the article that has been linked to more than any other is one of the first I penned back in 2010. It is entitled “The Founding Fathers Did Not Want You to Vote.”
Traffic to that essay has been up and down over the years, tending to do well during election season. But this year was different.
Online views began a consistent upward trend last November, experienced several spikes during primary season, and picked up steam as the party conventions aired. Since September, it has been viewed dozens, and then hundreds of times per day.
So far in 2016, the essay has received more than three times as many hits as it had during the previous five years combined.
To date it has been viewed nearly 7,000 times at my website, with another 150 views today before by 10:00 AM.
I run a small, non-profit, personal web page. An idiosyncratic little blog with fewer than 70 subscribers and just over 500 Facebook followers. The popularity of “The Founding Fathers Did Not Want You to Vote” dwarfs anything else I’ve ever published, including my many essays cross-posted at much larger sites like 3 Quarks Daily, or various pieces that have occasionally caught lightening in a bottle.
I have no illusions about the essay’s popularity. I realize that many people who click to the page do not actually read it, or much of it.
But I also know how people are finding it, and I think that says something. Continue reading The Founders Didn’t Want You to Vote, But I Do