Month: April 2016

The Donald Trump Show (Pipe Bombs and Pussies)

Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

This is an important rule:

• It is not always fair to blame a politician for the actions of supporters.

And this is the flip side:

• Sometimes it is exactly fair to blame a politician for actions of supporters.

But there is also this:

• This is the quality of mind that supports Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy.

Or, as Ryan J. Reilly explained yesterday for Huffington Post:

A fanatical Donald Trump supporter, who was arrested by the FBI in Oregon this week after repeatedly threatening to kill President Barack Obama and federal agents, had multiple pipe bombs in his home, authorities alleged in court on Friday.

In one Jan. 31 Facebook post cited by the FBI, [John Martin] Roos referred to agents as “pussies” and wrote he would “snipe them with hunting rifles everywhere.” (Despite his threats to kill members of law enforcement, he also complained on Facebook earlier this month about the “liberal media … slamming police.”) In a post in November that was also cited by the FBI, Roos spoke out against accepting refugees and threatened to kill Obama.

John Martin Roos in detail of undated photo via Facebook.“Obama you goat fffing fudgepacker, the refugees are men of fighting age. Black lives matter! Sure we need someone to pick cotton and wash cars. Paris, burn diseased muslim neighborhoods to the ground and start over with human beings. Obama you are on a hit list,” he wrote in a post that appears to have been removed.

Beyond what was mentioned in the affidavit, Roos regularly posted on both Facebook and Twitter about his support for Trump and his hatred for Obama, who he called a “muslim faggot” and other derogatory terms. He indicated he wanted to kill Obama’s family and made other racist and sexist statements about Michelle Obama. He also made negative references to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, singer Beyonce, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly and reporter Michelle Fields, and said he believed that the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was killed by Obama. He praised Ann Coulter and Stacey Dash, and posted several links to posts on Breitbart.com.

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The Ted Cruz Show (The Devil Inside/Lede of the Week)

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, gestures while addressing the Sunshine Summit in Orlando, Fla., Friday Nov. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

“A leading Satanist group is trying to distance itself from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) after the presidential candidate was compared to Lucifer this week.”

Mark Hensch

This is your lede of the week.

This is also your Republican Party.

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The Ted Cruz Show (Michelangelo Fist)

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), speaks at a rally Sunday, 21 February 2016, in Pahrump, Nevada. (AP Photo/John Locher)

It is, as we have recently observed, easy enough to pick on David Brooks but then along comes Charles Hurt to remind why meandering desperation in lieu of useful analysis is still a better option than attending a hardline conservative posturing as some manner of serious mind. While the New York Times endures Brooks, Mr. Hurt’s résumé is a proper slime trail leading from the New York Post on through Breitbart, Newsmax, FOX News, and the Washington Times; just to make the point he picked up a gig with Drudge. For The Hill, however, Hurt attempts to explain “The problem with Ted Cruz”. It’s a doozy:

While the media attention has focused entirely on the exuberant and entertaining traveling carnival nature of the Trump campaign, this overlooks another, deeper problem conservatives have today: Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas).

Washington Times columnist Charles Hurt appears on FOX News in December, 2015.In the past eight years, no one has captivated the realistic hopes of conservative constitutionalists the way that Cruz has in this election. On every single issue of importance to conservatives, Cruz is right. He is a walking, living, breathing Supreme Court dissent, masterfully articulated and extensively annotated on paper.

Then, he opens his mouth. And people scream. They run for the exits as if their hair is on fire. They want to take a shower.

We might fixate on the phrase, “captivated realistic hopes”, all day, and never figure out what the hell the author intends. The nearest thing to a realistic hope we might project for these “constitutional conservatives” is to somehow elect Ted Cruz, watch him get crushed by Congress and Court alike, and spend the next twenty years like they have the last, complaining about evil gov’ment and the usurpation of democracy just like they’ve been mewling at least since Romer v. Evans.

Still, though, Charles Hurt is a conservative; it is unfair to expect that he should make sense according to reality.

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A Moment with David Brooks (Yes, Really … Well, You Know, Not in Person, or Anything, But … er … ah … Never Mind)

Huang reflects on a mission barely accomplished. (Darker Than Black, ep. 14)

This is nearly astounding. That is, here are three of the most consequential paragraphs David Brooks has ever written:

We’ll probably need a new national story. Up until now, America’s story has been some version of the rags-to-riches story, the lone individual who rises from the bottom through pluck and work. But that story isn’t working for people anymore, especially for people who think the system is rigged.David Brooks of The New York Times

I don’t know what the new national story will be, but maybe it will be less individualistic and more redemptive. Maybe it will be a story about communities that heal those who suffer from addiction, broken homes, trauma, prison and loss, a story of those who triumph over the isolation, social instability and dislocation so common today.

We’ll probably need a new definition of masculinity, too. There are many groups in society who have lost an empire but not yet found a role. Men are the largest of those groups. The traditional masculine ideal isn’t working anymore. It leads to high dropout rates, high incarceration rates, low labor force participation rates. This is an economy that rewards emotional connection and verbal expressiveness. Everywhere you see men imprisoned by the old reticent, stoical ideal.

The New York Times columnist has achieved some infamy in recent months for meandering conservative apologetics and generally incomprehensible reflections of his uneasy soul; his latest exhibit is predictably disastrous, but remains significant for a couple of reasons.

What most seem to have noticed is his suggestion that Republican leaders “seem blithely unaware that this is a Joe McCarthy moment”, and his declaration that, “People will be judged by where they stood at this time”. But there is also this reflection on the American narrative in general and masculinity in particular, which might well get lost between the discussion of declinism, Donald Trump’s pain, societal obligation, and, you know, by the time one reaches the sentence, “Maybe the task is to build a ladder of hope”―yes, he really wrote that―the whole thing is simply agonizing, and only goes downhill from there, but along the way there are these three nearly magical paragraphs.

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The Beltway Buzz (Season of Despair)

A coffee cup at Terra Vista. Detail of photo by B. D. Hilling, 2013.

Two paragraphs from Shawn Zeller of Roll Call would seem to beg a particular question:

Republican aides are growing increasingly despondent about their party’s prospects in the 2016 presidential election, according to CQ Roll Call’s most recent Capitol Insiders Survey.

A majority of the GOP staffers who responded to the April survey now expect either Donald Trump or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to win the party’s nomination and nearly half of them―a solid plurality―think the Republican nominee will lose.

That is to say: A plurality? What do you mean “nearly half”? Who the hell are the rest, and what the hell are they thinking?

Taking the White House: "The next president will be …".  Results based on CQ Roll Call Capitol Insiders Survey, 19-26 April.  (Image: Randy Leonard/CQ Roll Call)The answer is actually pretty straightforward: Denial.

Say what we will about the thirty-one percent of GOP respondents to the CQ Roll Call Capitol Insiders Survey who actually think a Republican candidate will win; between those who so loathe Hillary Clinton as to not see straight, those who hope the Party will find another nominee somewhere, and those who for whatever reason really believe Donald Trump or Ted Cruz can win the election, sure, I can believe thirty-one percent.

The forty-nine percent of GOP respondents who said a Democrat will be the next president would seem to be the realists.

That nineteen percent opting for, “I don’t know”, however, is simply in denial.

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The Donald Trump Show (The Duck Episode)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C., 3 December 2015.

“Satirical humor only works if it is punching up. Humor that punches down is just mean. A joke about Trump’s brain is amusing; one about an Alzheimer’s patient is twisted and cruel.”

Sophia A. McClennan

Playwright Neil Simon asserted that comedy is cruelty, a theme that serves well enough as a benchmark as long as we can figure out what it means. Sophia A. McClennen offers some definition, and while the point itself is reliable, whence comes its seeming obscurity? That is, McClennan offers a fairly clear standard, yet also incredibly simplistic, and in this case we ought not criticize the standard as wonder if the critic herself has somehow gaffed up.

The answer to that last, by the way, is no.

Still, we postulate the possibility because it really does seem like the sort of basic notion people shouldn’t need explained so simply. Why did the chicken cross the road? The audience suffers cruelty as the butt of the joke for overthinking it. The rape joke that isn’t a rape joke but instead a blonde joke or a cop joke? Pick your cruelty: Are all cops rapists? Are all blondes stupid? Are all women just there to stick your dick in their mouths? (Hint: “Not another breathalyzer!” is a rape joke.) There is the Sandbox Joke, ne’er to be repeated publicly, which heaps its cruelty on young children for having been born in dark skin.

Is dementia or Alzheimer’s humor ever funny? Perhaps there is an affirmative answer; the cruelty of how many surrealists it takes to screw in a light bulb is illustrative for its lack of abstract gravity―in the end, surrealists can’t complain and surrealism itself is inherently indifferent.

More directly, the heart of McClennen’s consideration:

Last October, Death and Taxes ran a piece wondering if Trump had dementia. They pointed to the fact that Trump’s father, Fred, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years prior to his death. They also highlighted Trump’s aggressive late-night tweets, his childish behavior, his name-calling and mood swings. They explained that it would be really easy for Trump take some tests and prove that he is mentally fit. “Because if Trump can prove he’s not suffering from a degenerative neurological disorder that has left him with a damaged mind devoid of all shame or self-awareness, he might just be an asshole.”

Now it may seem like I’m taking this in a flip manner and not respecting the real health challenges that face those that suffer these ailments. But that’s actually my point. I need to be reassured that Trump is indeed OK so that the jokes about him remain funny. Public mockery has been the only way to stay balanced this election. And, of course, the best jokes about Trump have come from political satirists because satire does more than poke fun. It encourages critical thinking in the face of blind acceptance. It doesn’t just make Trump look silly and stupid; it points out that he’s dangerous to democracy. It’s the difference between jokes about his orange face and jokes about his demagoguery.

Or, more directly:

Lee Camp’s Redacted Tonight reminded viewers that Trump speaks at a fourth grade level. That makes him, according to Camp, scientifically proven to be the dumbest candidate of them all. But Camp’s joke is only funny if Trump is talking that way to attract voters who respond to his simplistic rhetoric. It’s not funny if he really has lost the ability to speak like a healthy adult.

It is enough, to the one, hearing the people around me wind up their disgust: “He’s crazy! Why does Trump say these things?” And, yes, it would seem pedantic to suggest they answer their own question. Such as things are, the exclamation ought to carry some weight.

At some point, craziness needs to stop being the punch line. There are, for instance, his supporters, and then everybody else; it’s hard to discern the gray area, the in-between, the fence made for sitting. And everybody else seems to inevitably land at some version of Donald Trump being crazy. Perhaps it’s time we start taking the question of mental health more seriously? Not only would incompetence be, as McClennen notes, specifically not funny, it also seems a grave and necessary question in considering who should serve as president. The title “Leader of the Free World” might well be colloquial, but it also seems fair enough to expect the person we entrust with this duty should not be, at the very least, psychiatrically incompetent.

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McClennen, Sophia A. “Maybe Donald Trump has really lost his mind: What if the GOP frontrunner isn’t crazy, but simply not well?”. Salon. 25 April 2016.

An Important Day

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at her presidential primary election night rally, Tuesday, April 26, 2016, in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Today was supposed to be something of a good day. The question, then, is what tomorrow brings. Let us start, then, as Steve Benen did, with yesterday.

Recognizing the writing on the wall, Sanders’ aides conceded yesterday that the campaign will “reassess” its strategy going forward. While that’s often a euphemism for “quit,” that’s not the case here: Sanders isn’t prepared to walk away, but he is prepared to shift his focus in light of the recent results. Consider the statement his campaign issued last night:

“I congratulate Secretary Clinton on her victories tonight, and I look forward to issue-oriented campaigns in the 14 contests to come. […]

“The people in every state in this country should have the right to determine who they want as president and what the agenda of the Democratic Party should be. That’s why we are in this race until the last vote is cast. That is why this campaign is going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform that calls for a $15 an hour minimum wage, an end to our disastrous trade policies, a Medicare-for-all health care system, breaking up Wall Street financial institutions, ending fracking in our country, making public colleges and universities tuition free and passing a carbon tax so we can effectively address the planetary crisis of climate change.”

Over the last couple of months, each of the Sanders campaign’s election-night statements have included at least one reference to his “path to the nomination.” This one did not. It wasn’t an accidental omission.

Sanders started the race as an issue-oriented candidate who didn’t expect to be the party’s nominee, and the recent results have brought him full circle. He’s not done fighting; he’s just going to fight for something new: he can’t catch Clinton through the ballot box, but he can “fight for a progressive party platform.”

This is the day, apparently, when the Democratic Party is supposed to come together and turn its eyes to November.

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Just a Distraction

Detail of 'Bug Martini' by Adam Huber, 8 April 2016.Ten days.

There. There’s your filler, right there.

I passed on this ten days ago because I didn’t feel like writing any filler material, and come on, just how many crappy jokes can I make about the Buttmobile?

And if you would be so kind, please don’t ask what made me recall the poop joke.

Besides, you wouldn’t believe. You wouldn’t believe.

But I still get to blame Adam.

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Image note: Detail of Bug Martini by Adam Huber, 8 April 2016.

Hopeless, Fumbling Elbow Jelly

Detail of frame from FLCL episode 5, 'Brittle Bullet'.

This is hopeless:

In one experiment, the researchers … asked nearly 5,000 people (ages 18 to 76) if they would consider dating a virgin. Most of the people in the study who’d had sex before reported that they would not date a virgin―but but here’s where it gets really interesting: An even greater number of virgins said they, too, would not date someone who had not previously had sex. Younger people in their 20s were particularly less likely to say they would date a virgin―even though most virgins were in this age range —and women were more likely to report not wanting to date someone without sexual experience than men. Virgins, in other words, were themselves not attracted to other virgins and, in fact, sexually experienced people were more likely to date virgins than virgins themselves.

(Basu)

Okay, as briefly as possible:

• The headline, “Adult Virgins Say They Don’t Want to Date Other Adult Virgins”, pretty much sums up the Duh! factor.

• To the other, while Science of Us blogger Tanya Basu does, in fact, note explicitly, “Once considered a virtue, virginity may now be more of a liability for late bloomers”, and while I do recall the punch line from Dennis Miller, late in his Funny Period, about the seventy-two virgins and eventually just wanting someone who knows how to slip you the finger, some manner of amazed insinuation about the time-tested corrupt-the-innocent fantasy value about the idea of virginity goes here. It is almost as if the idea of beggars demanding to be choosers just blundered face-first into one of the most bizarre side effects we might never have imagined, unless the time-tested corrupt-the-innocent fantasy value about the idea of virginity really was an empty trope that only I―and maybe, what, twelve other people?―was ever aware of? Never mind. It’s just that a, Wait, WTF? factor asserts itself.

• And, you know, honestly, I feel some need to stick up for sexual inexperience, here. Listen to me, virgins: If I’d just stuck with all the boyish fooling around, we all, for the most part, would be better off.α So, you know, really, use funny names and fumble embarrassingly through the best time of your life, because, you know, familiarity really does breed contempt, and if we’re lucky it’s merely spending our days lamenting how our partners can’t fuck just so. So get with yourselves and figure it out, because those of us with experience sure as hell haven’t done much by it. Seriously, here you go: Bungee spider web, olive oil, grape jelly, graham crackers, plastic pants, and a box of disposable frosting bags. What’s that? Don’t know what to do with all that? Neither does anyone else; the only rule is, have fun figuring it out. Seriously, expectation is the death of your sex life.β

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α No, really, the kid is the kid is the kid, but the rest of her mother and me getting ahead of ourselves was pretty much a disaster.

β No, seriously, all those embarrassing, awkward, failed relationships and it turns out I was gay the whole time. Who knew? Oh, right―everybody. Strange how they only get around to telling you later. Yeah, you always knew, which is why you never said a goddamn thing. Which was, you know, why? That’s right: Expectation. No, doesn’t mean you need it to the elbow, or anything like that. But, you know, fuck expectation. And no, there is no pretty way under the sun to take it elbow-deep, but you know, most days the only person who can tell you how ridiculous you look getting off with someone impaled elbow-deep into your body is the person who looks even more pathetic for shoving elbow-deep into another human being, so as long as that’s what you want, don’t worry about it. And, for the record, the rocket science of driving to the elbow is simple and twofold: (1) It isn’t rocket science, for fuck sake. (2) Not everyone can take it elbow-deep, so, you know, be kind, be decent. You know. For fuck sake.

Basu, Tanya. “Adult Virgins Say They Don’t Want to Date Other Adult Virgins”. Science of Us. 4 April 2016.