Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Engaging

It’s amusing how so many liberals in the Democratic Party will chastise a person for choosing not to vote, but now they say that they’re going to refuse “dialogue” with Donald Trump and his supporters.

Let me lay a different perspective on this for you, as a way of explaining why this infuriates me. The dangers that many of you see, as previously unprecedented, in a “President Trump”-- the authoritarianism, the endangerment of lives through bad public policy, the empowerment of violence, the normalization of the military and security state, the tolerance of gangster economics-- they are the same dangers those of us in the Green Party have been seeing in the Democratic Party for years. So when you’re saying you won’t even engage these people, you need to ditch the fit, and come in off the ledge. Neither the Green Party nor the Democratic Party can now legitimately claim to be a “national” party, but at least the Greens have experience at not being one.

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Jill Stein makes me feel about an inch taller than I really am. She’s still in there fighting-- successfully, I'll add-- for recounts in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, and she’s not doing it to “flip the vote,” or for personal or partisan reasons. She’s doing it to make sure that all votes cast were counted, and that we have the oversight and integrity of our elections that many Americans falsely assume we have. The American people are demanding fair elections, as evidenced by the financial contributions she's getting, yet one major party is panic-stricken over the idea of a recount, and the other can’t be bothered. Again, your vote matters not one hoot to those two parties if there’s even a hint that the media might misreport the motive.

Stein was also the only presidential candidate on the general election ballot, and the first candidate, period, to show up in North Dakota on behalf of the brave men and women of Standing Rock, and now the Army Corps of Engineers has ordered that the Indian land be protected and the Dakota Access pipeline re-directed-- hopefully into oblivion. That’s the shit we do in the Green Party in between casting our wasted votes. Stein has handled herself admirably post-election, as she did during her campaign, and I think she’s twice the woman Hillary Clinton is or ever was.

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Bring on Joe Biden in 2020! That's what we need-- fresh blood.

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Interesting dynamics here that deserve news coverage.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Moeller Television Festival XV- The schedule

Fifteen years, can you believe it? The Moeller TV Festival is older than the blog, and the blog is older than YouTube. This year's festival of Cathode Ray Lights and Moellers will be held on December 10th at noon at Aaron and Alex's house in Cedar Rapids. As always, food and drink, including alcohol, will be provided. RSVP to christophermmoeller@gmail.com.

As always, the viewing schedule gets its official release on the CM Blog. Several firsts this year include an episode of Drunk History that has been scheduled before it even airs, and a rare, long-awaited, feature-length tour de force from my personal video collection-- the Sammy Davis Jr. 60th Anniversary Special from 1990 that has not aired in its entirety anywhere since the night it was first shown 27 years ago ago, and stars Sammy, Frank Sinatra, Eddie Murphy, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Richard Pryor, Bob Hope, Bill Cosby, Shirley MacLaine, Goldie Hawn, Jesse Jackson, President George H.W. Bush, Gregory Hines, Gregory Peck, Quincy Jones, Anita Baker, Tony Danza, Mike Tyson, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jackson. This shit is for real. And it's only at Moeller Television Festival XV.

The sched...


“Night Moves” Newhart #111 CBS 3/9/87
“The Interview” M*A*S*H #97 CBS 2/24/76
“The One Where Michael Leaves” Arrested Development #23 FOX 11/7/04
Open Remote: “S--- Shows” Drunk History #41 COM 12/6/16
“56-19” The Groucho Marx Show- You Bet Your Life NBC 1/31/57
“Sammy Davis Jr. 60th Anniversary Celebration” ABC 2/4/90
“Training” The Office #4 BBC 7/30/01
“Two’s a Crowd” All in the Family #176 CBS 2/12/78
“The Eye Doesn’t Lie” Documentary Now #4 IFC 9/10/15
“Dick Like Me” 3rd Rock from the Sun #16 NBC 4/23/96

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Mr. Vice-President Elect, you can't say Broadway doesn't love you

I wouldn’t say it’s a fair comparison to connect Mike Pence’s night at Hamilton to Abe Lincoln's night at the Ford Theater in 1865, but leave it to Rush Limbaugh to do such a dumb thing. Pence getting a lecture from a performer on stage has nothing in common with John Wilkes Booth assassinating our finest president, but it does have a little in common with the part where Booth jumped on stage at the Ford after the shooting and shouted “Sic semper tyrannis”-- Latin for death always to tyrants. Both acts carry some self-aggrandizing showbiz pizzazz.

As I’ve written, I’m all for protest, and for speaking truth to power, but good lord, what an ineffective stunt, swaying absolutely nobody anywhere from their current position on the matter of the vice president-elect, including the vice president-elect. Could we have been presented with a more-fitting encapsulation of the shortcomings of the modern Democratic Party in one emboldened action? Hamilton- An American Musical is a Broadway show almost universally beloved by the minuscule, insular elite segment of the population that goes to Broadway shows. Mere accessibility to the show itself costs hundreds of dollars, and this makes it utterly unknown, except perhaps by reputation, to almost the entire rest of the United States. I don’t give a rat’s butt about Mike Pence’s feelings-- he's generally a cretin, and I’m sure he didn’t even pay for the seat (itself a commentary about such events), but now he’s been martyred before America because of the perception of bad manners.

I get that the Broadway theater community represents a “safe place” for many marginalized Americans, especially in the aftermath of what to them is a terrifying election result, but another word for the safe place is “cocoon.” And while it’s impossible to imagine a verbal lecture from a Broadway stage directed at a member of Team Hillary, backing a candidate that came out in support for gay marriage the same week that Bill O'Reilly did, it's much easier for me to envision one directed at a Jill Stein supporter that supposedly didn’t do his or her part to prevent Trump from getting to the White House. Debra Messing presents one almost every day on Twitter. Last Friday, Mike Pence. This Friday, Susan Sarandon.

I said it last week. I’ll say it again-- but you can’t expect this free advice to continue forever: This shit needs to be a dialogue (said the lonely blogger). Monologues don't sway. Almost nobody could tell you, almost a week later, what Brandon Victor Dixon actually said to Pence in his post-performance address, breaking character as Aaron Burr. They only know the vague fact that he confronted him with a message via microphone and that Pence didn't have a microphone of his own. Dixon needs to know beforehand, since this was all orchestrated as part of the night of theater, that this is would be the likely outcome, and appreciate how the current national discussion will frame the occurrence. Nuance will be lost, and it was. Hamilton, a show dedicated-- ironically-- to the man that gave America the Electoral College, alleges to be a comedy show. I haven’t seen it, and again, only a cult-size sliver of the American population has, but along with those in the much larger group of Americans, I did catch the gist that the address to Pence wasn't funny at all. Dixon told CBS This Morning on Monday that, if you go to their political show, you should expect politics. It seems to me you should also expect comedy so the harangue was not exactly a natural extension of the show's tone.

Here’s another way to break down the disconnect I’m describing. We'll examine the first post-election episode of Saturday Night Live that aired on November 12th. Dave Chappelle’s stand-up performance was spectacular-- funny, pointed, nuanced, effective-- but then we've always been at the mercy of stand-up comics to be our national truth-tellers. Actors, conversely, are always, well... acting. Immediately preceding Chappelle's open was SNL cast mate Kate McKinnon in her Hillary Clinton drag singing a mournful song by the late Leonard Cohen, performing at a piano in the key of tragedy, intentionally mirroring the cold open the show presented just after the 9/11 attacks, as if to say that we have just been attacked again. This was preachy, petulant, extremely presumptuous about the show's audience, mistaking political angst for actual suffering, and purposefully humorless yet laughable. Whether McKinnon and the other players were aware of it or not, the Chappelle/Chris Rock sketch that arrived later in the evening was mocking the same sort of melodrama that McKinnon was engaged in during the open. If I wanted to experience a televised pity party that reinforced by own political beliefs, and still continue to dismiss the concerns of anybody else, while also not laughing, I would watch the Samantha Bee show. For what it's worth also, equating the death of Hillary Clinton's recreant political career with Cohen's actual death was a disgusting misappropriation of his work, and it took place only two days after he passed. The lyrics she adopted to Clinton's political cause actually included the line (here, Moeller stifles a laugh), I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool ya'.

It's just two weeks out. Hillary’s team is still in the denial phase of our rejection of their candidate so this has the potential to fade, but I reiterate my doubts that it will. The continuing trend of blaming their defeat on everybody but the candidate and her campaign is not a positive indicator. The most dangerous of these assessments are the ones that continue to dwell on the fact that the Democrat claimed a majority of the popular vote. If the party continues to believe that fact justifies a continuation of the same, perhaps best represented by the efforts we’re reading about now regarding the Obama administration’s efforts to keep Keith Ellison from becoming the new party chair, then they’re in for another hard lesson to be learned. And the hardest lessons don't get delivered from a New York stage, they get delivered via the ballot box.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The president-elect

Protest is a beautiful thing. Not only should Americans be taking to the streets to show their displeasure with this election, as they are, I can’t think of a better way to usher in any new presidency. Remind ‘em who’s in charge, you know? Resistance is deeply underappreciated. Civility, overrated. Bipartisanship in general is overrated, especially in these United States of America, where, particularly in respect to foreign policy and past and current military engagements, we’ve endured more bipartisanship than we could handle. My only lament when watching the streets erupt in aspirational anger in Portland and Oakland and Miami and Des Moines and all over really is the annoying assurance I have that the same people would not be in the streets doing the same thing if the lady had won.

Yes, the people have spoken in an election that was just about as fair, and certainly as open (despite their best defensive efforts), as we ever get. The people made their decision, and then something called the Electoral College completely reversed the outcome, but hey, accidents happen. If you're only against it when it works against you, you look like a sore loser. The Electoral College and our foundation in monarchy aren't getting uprooted so long as the royal twits of Britain still grace the cover of People Magazine each week. King George casts a long-ass shadow. Joyously, however, voting is far from the only method of political speech available to the citizens of this nation, and now the method of speech changes. Out of the voting booth, into the fire. It’s a privilege possessed by the “haves,” and not the “have nots,” to return to a normalcy of disengagement after the shit show of one of our modern American elections comes to an end. When you attempt to silence the voices of the oppressed, those voices must only get louder. It’s our job to demand from our elected officials that they now lift us to our better selves-- to remind them that every one of their public actions affects living, breathing humans. Some property may become damaged during protests. It's unavoidable. Who cares? It’s only property. We have a power-- and a responsibility-- that comes with living in the home of the most powerful military and paramilitary domestic police force in the world to demand that it operate at all times in respect to universal human rights and human dignity. Our elected officials may be our chosen leaders, but they are always, also, lest they forget, our employees.

That being said, the street theater angle with Trump is not the only one we can take. Maybe that particular shoe doesn’t fit your foot. I know people are freaked with worry that he’s out to get the gays, the Hispanics, the Muslims, the women that he’s not attracted to, the women that he is attracted to. The early evidence of the threat he poses is in his choice of transition and cabinet officials. With Trump, though, it seems to me that it’s all about flattery and sucking up to him. He wasn’t going to choose middle-of-the-road, establishment Republicans to aid in the White House transition because there are none of them, among his public supporters, from which to choose. I promise you that the young, deeply egocentric Donnie Trump that walked upon the hard streets of Queens, imagining he would one day be the United States president, didn’t envision that his future administration would be populated by the likes of Bible-thumping rural types like Mike Pence and Ben Carson, but you dance with them that brung you. Up until about five years ago, the man’s cultural and socioeconomic outlook was more in line with, say, Bill and Hillary Clinton and other Manhattan Republicans.

The Donald, as one of his exes famously called him-- almost a lifetime ago, is constantly acting. He is hyper-aware that he is always being observed, and he is relentlessly reward-seeking. His possibly-unmatched pursuit of fame and wealth is, itself, a manifestation of his need for social approval. He feeds off puffery, which is why liberals might want to consider taking this tack. Trump liked Pence and Carson because they liked him. Let’s be more savvy than we've been so far. If you insult the man personally, and his acolytes, as liberals continue to do, then he will steel himself to move further away from them, towards those that validate his actions. That’s the way it is with such a man of weighty ego and little principle. Alec Baldwin portrays him on television in an unflattering way, Trump responds with an early morning tweet along the lines of Alec Baldwin has no talent. Saturday Night Live hasn’t been funny for years. Even though he guest-hosted the show only six months earlier. But Tom Brady implies an endorsement of his campaign in the New England Patriots locker room, and Trump’s response to the half-withdrawn celebrity affirmation is something like, He’s a great talent. He’s a winner. I like winners. He’s fantastic.

Let's not assume there's more ideology there than just a tendency to rise to the bait of insults. He is, to a degree, a blank slate, and right now, the only people feeding his ego are those that favor angry white reactionary authoritarians. I’ve stopped believing that Candidate Trump was playing his cards close to the vest all this time, trying to conceal from us how much of his right-wing, nationalist pandering was of him and how much was for the benefit of his audience. Instead, I now believe he’s not even sure of it himself. As he reaches the White House, and I think he’s quite surprised he did it, he’s going to pursue the policies that he believes will make him beloved.

Many look at Trump and focus on the man he wants you to see, a man who takes great pains to convey that he could care less about what people say and think about him. He’s seemingly too gruff to care who he has just offended. But taking a closer look, those same people would certainly acknowledge how thin-skinned the man is-- extraordinarily so. He takes deep offense at the smallest of personal slights. He has a strange fear of impurities of any kind. He’s a germophobe obsessed with other people’s bodily fluids. When Hillary Clinton has to pause during a debate for a bathroom break, he thinks it's "gross." It all has to be a product of his relationship with his father. Little has been written about it, other than the fact that, by Donald’s admission, Trump the elder once gave his son a “small” loan of a million dollars, but there’s no way that a man of Fred Trump’s time and place and public reputation was anything remotely resembling an attentive, loving father. By all historical accounts, including Donald’s, he was married to his work. At a young age, he sent Donald off to a military school. Maybe it was impossible for anybody to give this young man as much validation as he required, and it certainly wouldn't be a man Woody Guthrie implied was a racist, but the point is there. Speaking at his father’s funeral in 1999, Donald said that the man’s greatest accomplishment in life had been raising him, his gifted and successful son, which when you think about it, is really a dig, when the speaker's stated belief is that the dead man’s focus was always on his work rather than on his family.

Narcissism is born of an absence of childhood mirroring. We should be used to this by now. Trump will become at least the fourth president we’ve had in a row with major daddy issues: two Republicans, Trump and G.W. Bush, were raised by cold men difficult to please (Dubya would go so far as to start a war as president in an attempt to avenge his father), and the Democrats, Obama and Clinton, were each raised not by their fathers at all, but by single mothers.

I heard somebody say once that conservatives look upon the United States as a child looks upon his or her parent-- with reverence and an uncritical eye. The flag-waving patriotism they’re known for is an indicative trait. Scientific research shows that conservatives are more fearful of events outside their sphere of experience than are their liberal counterparts. Liberals, by contrast, look at the nation as the parent looks upon the child-- imperfect and in need of constant guidance. Despite a recent uptick in liberals’ collective tendency to engage in some “dear leader” politics of their own, I consider this analogy to be generally true. Trump was never a perfect match for a group of socially-conservative voters, what with his womanizing, his manners, and his waffling on abortion rights and gay marriage, but in matters of national security, he ideally fit their collective psychic need for a Biblical-style savior to protect them from our dangerous and fallen world. Trump, in return for their support, receives the satisfaction of getting to play the savior he’s always imagined he could be.

Presidents, to our eternal good fortune, cannot afford to invest too heavily in any one particular relationship as navigation through the ("swamp") waters of Washington is so notoriously difficult. Trump is going to need more friends than the ones he’s got right now, and liberals are just as capable as conservatives of providing the vulnerable blowhard with the external gratification he’s been so continuously and desperately seeking since his earliest days on planet Earth

Let’s try to make the most of our vast experience with these personality types. We need to apply the same rule to Trump that Dr. Cornel West applied to President Obama’s presidency-- because it’s really a universal concept in democratic citizenship: We criticize, but we don’t demonize. We protest, but we engage with our protest. We make our demands. We make him relentlessly aware of what we stand for and what we stand against, but we be not afraid to tell him so when we find common ground. For me, personally, that common ground includes his appealing promises to repeal neo-liberal trade deals, to discontinue our military support for the Syrian rebels, and to normalize ties with Russia. Trump fights to win. He says he loves the fight when it comes to negotiation. So give him one. That will be a challenge unaccustomed to for most Democrats. We can’t always be sure he knows what he’s fighting for, and for sure, a lot more than often we won't agree with the choices he'll make. Because of his anger issues and his off-the-charts narcissism, his is a particularly combustible presidency. At stake is not a company with his name on it, as he’s used to, but a country with our name on it. He needs us-- whether he's aware of that yet or not. He’s an elected representative of our democratic government, and that makes him akin to that child who is testing parents' boundaries. Despite the way he often, like a child, lashes out at us in anger, he's really just a man that's short on love. Give it to him tough. The alternative is getting squashed.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Stars Park

For years there has been a historical marker at the baseball field of Harris-Stowe College in St. Louis commemorating the location where the St. Louis Stars played their home games in the National Negro League in the 1920s and 30s. Stars Park hosted three NNL championship Stars teams, and three Baseball Hall-of-Famers in Stars uniforms-- "Cool Papa" Bell, Willie Wells, and "Mule" Suttles. A night game was played at Stars Park in 1930, five years before the first night game in either the National or American League would be played in Cincinnati's Crosley Field. The park stood at the corner of Market Street and Compton Avenue in St. Louis, and was one of very few stadiums owned and operated by African-Americans. At its largest, 16,000 fans could be seated.

What we didn't have until now was a photo, but the Missouri Historical Society has come up with one.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Well, what did we learn this year? Democrats, this question is for you

It never ceases to amaze me how somebody could be hit in the head over and over and over again by the powers elite, but then still throw the full weight of their support behind a candidate that only pays them lip service and almost fully embodies as a person the fact of their political suppression. But enough about Bernie Sanders.

Yesterday the Clintons completed the last step in their long campaign to fully annihilate the Democratic Party at the service of their own personal, financial enrichment. It's a bittersweet day. It was no fun while it lasted, but these two are now kind of akin to a reliable old shoe, groping uncle Billy and his monotone wife. I had kind of gotten used to their empty platitudes and their casual dishonesty. Members of the Washington news media certainly did-- to the point of no longer noticing it, even while internet hackers did their watchdog work for them. The pair of degenerates will now skulk away, if not Nixon-like, than certainly George H.W. Bush-like, having been denied a final term (a rare American political tradition, indeed) losing to a con man who cons more skillfully than they do.

The end came not with a whimper nor a bang, but an awful, depressing thud, one heard 'round the world early this morning. They noticed the millions of progressive and "change" voters only to the point of betraying them even as the kids tried to change the crooked system the way they had always been told it was possible to do, if they just put their mind to it. When the kids complained about the way they were treated, the adults told them how childish they were behaving by insisting that a presidential nomination through the channels of the Democratic National Committee was not a coronation, but an actual democratic election. Parents know best, and they knew how vital it was to defeat America's Hitler in this, the fourth consecutive most important election of our lifetime, and they knew exactly how it could be done-- with Madame Secretary Clinton at the charge.

The Clintons don't deserve all the credit for destroying the Democratic Party from the inside. Sure, they popularized the art of lying (the lying always existed, it had just never been glamorized as something called "spin"). They made popular also the concept of having alternating campaign scripts tailored for diametrically-opposed audiences, and of course, they pioneered the science of corporate fundraising. But there was also Barack Obama, who introduced the air of cool detachment toward the plight of working families, and don't forget Al Gore, who deserves a lot of the credit for making famous the sort of condescension that reeked last night and today from the mouths of paid campaign operatives that work as journalists for MSNBC, the kind of patronizing that has infected your news feed for a better part of two years, and that only seemed to ramp up more after the dour election returns came in last night.

Let's talk about Bill Clinton and Al Gore's specific contribution for a second. In 1993, Clinton sent his vice president around the media circuit attempting to sell to the American people a boondoggle of a corporate giveaway called the North American Free Trade Agreement. To the end of financial benefit for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Gore was in a tough spot of trying to convince members of his own party, the party of working people, you know, that this elimination of tariffs between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and the erasure of environmental protection laws therein was of any benefit to Joe Lunchpail. Republicans, forever representing the party of big business, could not easily make this case. Democrats had to do it. He was up to the challenge, and NAFTA became law. Below is a still image culled from the well-publicized debate at the time on the Larry King Live television show between Gore and one of NAFTA's chief public critics, Texas oilman H. Ross Perot.



Because Perot was a red-state billionaire (before they were called red states, and when American billionaires were fewer) who was staking out a position in support of factory workers, and Gore, by the gods, was a representative of the party of working people, the line began to really blur for the first time, on a national scale, between what was a Democrat and what was a Republican. Clinton and Gore were both "New Democrats," we were told, ones that believed they could compete with the Party of Reagan when it came to getting money from corporate fat cats. The new logic employed by this formal entity of New Democrats called the Democratic Leadership Council was that the party was better off with the bosses' money than the workers' votes. After all, it worked for the Republicans. This was a generation ago, and we didn't know then that these New Democrats in Washington in the early to mid-1990s would wind up being the last "New Democrats" in Washington.

Fast-forward to this new time and place-- to November 8th, 2016, and we see an autopsy map of America in which its entire rust belt appears redder than the marching band section of a Nebraska Cornhuskers football game. Gone Republican is Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa, and West Virginia, all gone through the belt but through the buckle of Obama's Chicago, and that is a snapshot of globalism-- pockets of concentrated high tech success surrounded by mile after mile of economic abandonment and misery. The Democratic Party looks upon the working people in these vast outlands as beneath its contempt, not worthy of respect. Their party is now the party of urban elites. In the words of the LA Times' Vincent Bevins, the elites have "been taking all of the gains for themselves and just covering their ears when anybody else talks." They are now, he says, "watching in horror as voters revolt." The party faithful watch their fellow Americans wholeheartedly reject Clinton, and the image they see is a colletion of sexists, xenophobes, and racists. Forget that eight years ago Barack Obama, a black man and the son of an immigrant running with the same outsider vibe as Trump, both directly counter to the public image of Hillary Clinton, was delivered the White House. Forget that four years ago, he was delivered it again. And he now exits, according to their own crowing, with a higher approval rating than what Reagan had when he left Washington for Santa Barbara in 1989.

The signs of revolution were there if you bothered to look. Michael Moore saw it. He wrote that Trump came to speak to Ford Motor Company executives in Michigan and didn't deliver the normal Republican spiel about expanding markets for their product. He told the carmakers that if they took their manufacturing to Mexico, he would slap a 35% tariff on each of those cars before they could be shipped back to the United States. Heads spun. Meanwhile, Clinton as an example, assumed she had the state of Wisconsin in the bag from the beginning and so did not even make a campaign stop in that state for the last seven months leading up to election day.

I didn't see the signs to appreciate them, and I have an unhealthy preoccupation, as you know, with the Clintons. I had noticed that there was a surprising dearth of political signs in my urban Iowa neighborhood this season, usually home to a plethora of Democratic campaign promotions, yet on a weekend trip to the country, the small town of Earlham west of Des Moines was overrun with Trump/Pence signs. It caught my attention for sure, that's why the memory lingers, but the media was telling a different story, it sounded convincing, and so it slipped from me. Less than two weeks ago, I wrote this actual line on the blog about the presidential campaign, "Clinton's got the receipt." Well, she better show it to us now if that was ever the case. I'm not afraid to say it when I was wrong. Maybe I am too conspiracy-minded at times. Sometimes democracy is really democracy, dirty as it is.

Are the Democrats going to learn from this, as the title of this post posits? The positive indicators are not there. Today, as they have made routine since 2000, they are blaming everyone but themselves-- Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, the media, the FBI, Russia, WikiLeaks, disgruntled Sanders voters, Nader probably, just for nostalgia's sake. The party of superdelegates hates the Electoral College again, and what have they done about getting rid of it in the 16 years since the last time they wore the distinction of losing the big race even while claiming the majority vote of the populace?

The defeat couldn't possibly have been about a deeply unpopular candidate, the later-exposed crimes and misdemeanors that led to her nomination in July, the selling of public access to government at all junctures of her political life for more than a quarter-century, whether it be to Saudi royalty, tinpot dictators, or Wall Street bankers, even up to the point that the Clintons used funds raised ostensibly for their unholy foundation to pay for their daughter's wedding. A large majority of Americans wanted Hillary Clinton to prosecute bankers in the public square, not pocket their money instead in exchange for giving 45-minute speeches to them in secret. The performance of her arrogant and immoral campaign staff revealed plenty also about the internal collective mindset of the losing team. Blaming their embarrassing defeat on any of the above would require a metaphorical mirror they don't possess. The band of conspirators that is the Democratic National Committee should be broken up into as many individual pieces as possible, and none of them permitted to work on important political campaigns again at any level.

Somehow the people that tried to warn them about the danger are the ones they feel deserve the blame for Trump's ascendancy. So I say they deserve everything they got from the voters for this fact, and for their craven dishonesty, their cowardliness, and their condescension. Clinton was clearly so devastated by having her bubble of entitlement unexpectedly burst, she couldn't even see clear to come out and concede the election last night, as her supporters and the world watched and waited to see her dignify herself, her family, and her party.

Trump is all of these horrible qualities as well, but he's an outsider, so he held a, forgive the word, "trump" card during his long con of 2015 and 2016. He effectively latched onto working class resentments, much of it horribly mean-spirited, but much of it precise, particularly the issue that no wags are talking about today-- his sincere or insincere opposition to NAFTA and similar trade deals, some still in the making, like TPP, which the Democratic president still supports, and that Hillary Clinton claimed to voters to be against, even as hacked emails revealed she favors it. NAFTA actually wrecked two countries-- Mexico being the other. The rush of undocumented immigrants to our southern border has been largely due to the collapse of the agricultural economy in Mexico. Their farmers cannot compete against our farmers for price. The result is an emptying of the countryside.

Finally, to the accusations of racial and sexual bigotry in the Trump campaign. I'm not going to deny that that bigotry exists in America. It's a frequent topic here. It's rampant, it's insidious. But it manifests itself in corporate boardrooms, in the criminal justice system, law enforcement, housing, and employment. It's not in the rejection of horrible, horrible, absolutely horrible presidential candidates. Half of the half of Trump supporters that Clinton called condescendingly "a basket of deplorables" voted for Sarah Palin, or for Ben Carson. I don't think progressives considered themselves bigoted when they rejected those two minority candidates, and even laughed at them. I can't stand Clinton, would never vote for her, and yet I haven't voted for a man for president since I checked for Nader in 2004. What's your record on supporting women in politics? You think Trump is a racist because he said there should be a border wall, and that Muslims should be subjected to questions about their loyalty to the United States before entry (something, incidentally, that's already done to a degree in all immigration cases in the U.S.) And I will agree that shit's racist. I also think that governments led by Democrats that only drop bombs on brown people are also racist. I think that campaigns that talk privately by email about how Africans, Muslims, and "Gypsies" are "professional never-do-wells" that are ruining Europe are also racist. I just don't use it as a go-to complaint when I lose an election. I try to avoid verbal gymnastics in the service of political tribalism. I don't give free passes based on what party letter, R or D, comes after someone's name.

There are hard-core racists in Trump's voter base. There are many more in there that are hard-working, poor residents of a dying empire state that hold valid complaints about the collapse of their nation, and those types of people, coming in all colors and shades, are particularly vulnerable to bitterness, to scapegoating, and to candidate promises to blow up the entire system. Political demagogues are very capable of fostering racism and xenophobia, and they do, but, overwhelmingly, the major virus that spreads these diseases is economic suffering. I have just as much sympathy, and just as little, for self-professed liberals that wade through identity politics at all times in their own nation, but rarely express any empathy or interest at all in the well-being of people that lie without their borders. Nobody in Afghanistan, Yemen, Honduras, Venezuela, Ecuador, Iran, Syria, Russia, Libya, or Palestine is more fearful of a Trump presidency than a Clinton one. My fellow Americans often piss me off too, like they pissed you off yesterday, but for me it happens when they uphold a wild obsession over what public figures say, but completely ignore what public figures do. Trump says terrible things. Clinton has done them. Her leadership has given us drone bombings in a myriad of Muslim-predominant countries. She orchestrated a coup in Honduras, and attempted to rig an election in Palestine. She supports the recent military buildup along the Russian-Ukrainian border, and her election would have meant a certain escalation of the tension in that very volatile part of the world.

We had a horrible choice this year, if you're only judging it by the two candidates the media treats as serious. It was a match-up between the representative of the worst in American government versus the representative of the worst in American culture. The next cycle promises an improvement. It has to. As always, progressive Democrats will start from a position that completely overlaps a separate political party that already exists, the Green Party, but they will hold out, hope against hope, for a Democratic savior, wanting so badly to still have hope that some of their candidates have resorted in the past to plastering the word itself on every one of his yard signs and all over his campaign literature. The good news for Democrats is that because Clinton finally got sent packing, they don't know who their 2020 candidate will be. The Republicans will be more or less stuck with an incumbent. My hope for them, personally, is dead in the womb. The Democrats' disappearance from all levels of government, and arguably from major party status, should put them one step closer to the entire overhaul that's required, yet the corporate blockade that routinely denies that effort is still firmly in place, and there has not been piece of evidence number one that the leaders of the Democratic Party, or its members, are capable of internalizing these hard lessons that are being presented to them free of charge and at an increasing rate of occurrence. They rest comfortably in their own little urban bubbles, chatting in small social circles jerking each other for their supposed collective intelligence and tolerance, while reinforcing their own common beliefs that the rest of us are racist, stupid, or irrational. They think we're too dumb to look past their carefully-scripted rhetoric about racial harmony and little girls growing up to be president and see the globalist greed, the handouts to bankers that conspire to steal from the treasury, and still the unending wars.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

A Game 7 story

I've rooted passionately against the Chicago Cubs since 1984. I was nine years old. (I've been a baseball fan since I was seven, but the Cubs weren't on anybody's radar until '84.) It's a daily ritual for a little more than half the year. Did the Cardinals win? Did the Cubs lose? I live with it. I embrace it. I self-identify with it.

This status continues. But last night, I had resigned myself to their victory over Cleveland in Game 7 of the World's Series. They led 6-3 in the bottom of the 8th. My wife, Aidah, is from Kenya, and, to borrow Stephen Jay Gould's phrase in Ken Burn's Baseball, "doesn't know a baseball from a kumquat," even after three years of marriage to me. But she's a bleeding heart. And she was aware that this particular team had not won the World Series for more than a century. She declared herself a Cubs fan, and wanted to experience the moment when they ended the drought, to share in the joy of the celebration, but she never wants to experience any potential heartbreak. This is a woman who fast-forwards the DVR to the end of every Survivor episode to see if her favorite contestant has been voted off. She will only then watch that edition of the show if she is satisfied with the week's verdict at the tribal council.

But the Cubs lead by three, and I know for sure, because I read it, that no team has come back from four runs down (which Cleveland was at one point in the game last night) in a World Series "winner-take-all" game since the 1925 Pittsburgh Pirates. So, in an effort of extraordinary sportsmanship, I advance from the bedroom to the living room to tell her that the game is nearing the end and that we should watch together. Again, it is now the bottom of the 8th, and there are now two outs in that inning for Cleveland, the home team, with nobody on base. Aidah is passionately against this strategy. I've told her that there are seven outs left, combined for both sides, but she says, no, it's too early. You see, I feel that she should want to get the feel for the moment, take a chance to soak it in with so many others tied together by their televisions, not just see the last out or whatever.

She's watching her phone instead, reading Survivor commentary, I believe, and we actually argue for a bit over the remote control. There was physical violence and I'm not proud of it, but it was violence against the remote control. As I said at the beginning, I've resigned myself to the Cubs victory and this is now about posterity. I'm trying to do a nice thing for both of us. She doesn't know which team is which on first glance. She's confused about what an out is and isn't, and she depends on me entirely to explain what's going on-- yet did I mention that she's completely wrapped up emotionally in the outcome, based solely on the exhaustively-told story of the drought and the fact that she's met so many nice people that are Cubs fans.

Anyway, Ramirez reaches on an infield hit with two out for Cleveland. Guyer doubles him in. And then as Davis' game-tying home run is arching into the left-field bleachers, I am already profusely apologizing-- but also laughing like a maniac. "I am soooo sorry. For real. I forgot this was the Cubs!" And then an evil cackle escapes from my mouth. I promise her-- and I promise you now-- that I was not doing this to her. Yes, I'm thrilled that this home run has just taken place. For a time, it stands to become one of the great moments of my life, a Bartman for a new stage in my life, but it was not my intention to also manipulate and abuse my beloved.

She immediately says she needs to go to sleep. We're both deprived of it, as much of the nation will be before dawn because of this game. The Cubs botch a squeeze play, the Indians go down with but a whimper in their half of the ninth, and as extra innings commence at a 6-6 stall, the cosmos intercedes with a rainstorm in northeastern Ohio and a delay in the game. Unbelievable. In fact, that's exactly what my text message at that time said to my brother: "Unbelievable."

I quietly inform Aidah, who is trying to get to sleep but failing, lying in a room that is pitch-black, that the game is indefinitely delayed, and she now will try to go to sleep purposefully ambivalent to the outcome. I promise not to interrupt her efforts, but then the delay lasts only 17 minutes, and the Cubs score two-- and are threatening for more-- in the top of the 10th (Sidenote: Good God, what a fortuitous rain delay for the Chicago squad-- the most momentum-altering meteorological event in the sport's long history.) I saddle up to her in the bed and whisper, "Your team is ahead by two again. Do you want to watch?" And she's wide awake. She does a happy move with her arms. But she's skittish. "Only tell me when it's at the end end." 

Cleveland has three outs left, but the concept of an out, as I said, is foreign to my wife. So now we're back to where we were an hour ago except that we're now in bed, Cleveland has one fewer out than they had in the first scene, but need one fewer run to tie. The first man strikes out, and the second grounds to short. Aidah is listening to the game report from the first-ranked child of Cardinal Nation, Joe Buck, on FOX, but she's not really watching, when Guyer walks. He takes second on the Cubs' indifference, and she hears Buck say that the man who hit the home run, Davis, is coming to bat again as the tying run. In real-speed, they replay his magnificent 8th inning home run, and, only half-watching, she believes for about half a minute that she has just seen him do it again. I assure her that it's a replay of the previous, but then Davis singles to right and she sees the runner that the Cubs were indifferent to come in to score and make it a one-run game.

She bolts out of the room, making wild accusations as she goes, "You want to watch it with me because you think I'm bad luck for the Cubs. You want them to lose!" "No I don't," I say, "I mean, yes, I do want them to lose, but that's not why I'm doing this. You have to watch it if you want to enjoy the historical moment." "Are they going to win?" "Yes, still probably." "For sure?" "No, not for sure." Now we're back and forth between the bedroom and living room, talking as we go, like we're in an Aaron Sorkin script. "This is your team," I plead, half-angry at her still-refusal to embrace, or show any interest whatsoever in the Cardinals-- our family team." During a pitching change, she agrees to watch the next man hit, who if you're not keeping up, will stand at the plate as both the last chance for the Clevelanders but also their potential winning run. There's one caveat to our agreement though. She will not watch the action while in the same room as me.

Finally, I give up. The DVR is recording it anyway, and she's not comfortable watching. She goes to the bedroom to lie down again in the dark. It's approaching midnight CST. A late-inning defensive substitute for Cardinals draftee and Game 2 hero Coco Crisp has left history in the hands of little-experienced Michael Martinez (great move, Francona). He hits a dribbler to third that ends 108 years of the most melodramatic mediocrity in Western athletic history, and I go tell my wife that her team has won. She bounds out of bed, attacks the DVR, and hits the rewind to see the final moment of action and the ensuing celebration.

And all of this should help encapsulate just the suffering that the Cubs have caused the fans of other teams. Congratulations to the Chicago National League Baseball Club for their first World Series championship since before the death of the Oglala Lakota chief Red Cloud, a man who died in December of 1909, and incidentally was born in 1822. Since the outcome of every World Series played prior to 1920 has to be considered authentically suspect due to the influence of gamblers during that period, this is also the Cubs' most legitimate championship to date, perhaps their first legitimate one. To wrestle the National League Central Division away from the Cardinals in 2016, all they had to do was have three times as much money, and tank it in the standings on purpose for five years, hording draft picks. Then saddle themselves for eight years with a horrendous contract for the man that was formerly the Cardinals' best player, but now hits a baseball with the bracing force of a Family Circus comic strip. They overcame it all, I'll give them that. And I fought them and lost. Rooting against the law of averages turned out to also be exhausting as hell.

A lot of their fans may depart though. The appeal of the underdog fades. The soul of the team becomes forever transformed with this victory. Aidah, for one, has already declared that she will now be pulling for Cleveland. She feels bad for them. Their championship drought has now stretched to 69 years, almost exactly the same as what the Cubs was the year I was born, and it is still counting.