It Goes Way Back…

The Roman Senate in Session

Lest you think that what is befalling the United States at present is of recent vintage, I urge you to consider the two great parties of the Roman Republic around 130 BC. There were two main political parties, the optimates (“the best ones”) and the populares (“favoring the people”). The former—consisting of members of the senatorial class and large landowners—were united in opposition to the tribunes Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus and his younger brother Caius Sempronius Gracchus. According to Wikipedia:

For about 80 years, Roman politics was marked by the confrontation of these two factions. The Optimates favoured the ancestral Roman laws and customs, as well as the supremacy of the Senate over the popular assemblies and the tribunes of the plebs. They also rejected the massive extension of Roman citizenship to Rome’s Italian allies advocated by the Populares.

How familiar it all seems today! The Republicans, whose entire political platform could be expressed in the phrase “I got mine,” are fearful and apprehensive that the unwashed Democrats and their immigrant allies want a share of their wealth. Like the Optimates, the Republicans are “the best ones,” so whatever they do to hold on to power is quite all right with them.

Yesterday, I ran into an elderly woman at the Farmers Market on Fairfax who was a virulent Trump supporter. She thought that the black and other unwashed Barbarian hordes were after her money. I didn’t bother to try reasoning with her, because she was beyond reason. So I merely insulted her, as did the Afro-American gentleman who was in line with me.

I always thought that the nice thing about having money is being able to spend it in interesting ways. Not necessarily so! At some point, this woman inherited some money, problem from her late husband and decided to build an impregnable fortress around the proceeds against me and my kind.

 

 

Takeaways from the Conventions

Wonderland of U.S. Flags

As your reporter for this month’s party conventions, I have been very remiss. To be exact, I have not even watched a minute of either convention. Why would I want to? What does it matter what they say, especially when there is such a disconnect between what they say and what they do. I did collect a number of impressions, however, mostly from the Internet.

First of all, politicians sure love the Stars and Stripes. Many of them sport flag lapel pins to boot. I don’t even own an American flag, which I guess proves that I am not a very patriotic individual. But then, as Dr. Samuel Johnson said in 1775, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” And I’m no scoundrel, at least not THAT type of scoundrel.

I am surprised that Trump found so many people to say nice things about him. He must have something on them.

Does the Republican party even exist any more? Right now it’s an agglomeration of people who:

  • Hate the fact that there is a government over and above a transfer of moneys to the wealthy
  • Are drawn to absolute power
  • Follow a political platform that can be expressed simply as, “I Got Mine!”
  • Are frightened of having the President say to the, “You’re fired!”
  • Hate libtards and hoity-toity coastal elites

As a matter of fact, even the Democratic party doesn’t seem to exist except as an Anti-Trump party. They used to solve problems; now they just say that they can and will solve problems. I don’t know. It seems that no one cares for poor people any more.

The ultimate winner is the coronavirus, which seems to have perplexed everybody except the Republicans, who just ignore it. Didn’t it go away in April?

 

 

Dégueulasse

I Don’t Recall Ever Being Satisfied by an Election

I remember being invited out to a homecooked French dinner at my friend Alain’s apartment. I fancied myself as as a proficient speaker of French, so when asked for my opinion of the scrumptious meal, I merely said it was dégueulasse. Oops! Apparently that means “repulsive” or “disgusting.” I was able to talk my way out of that mess, though I did get a few stony looks.

Well, I could say that my opinion of the Super Tuesday election results is a heartfelt dégueulasse. But then, I have never been satisfied when the voters finally speak. This goes back to my first election, in 1968, when rather than vote for Hubert Humphrey after the debacle at the Democratic convention in Chicago, I wrote in the name of Otto Schlumpf, a Franciscan priest who shared my then-Progressive political ideology.

Do I really like any of the four remaining contestants? Probably I like Elizabeth Warren the most, but she is not likely to get nominated. Biden’s problems with speech remind me of either the onset of Alzheimers or a pre-stroke condition known as a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). I got a TIA myself once when I suddenly found myself babbling incoherently to a co-worker. (I immediately asked the secretary to call an ambulance.) Curiously, Trump has the same problem; only, his supporters will forgive him anything short of raping and murdering an underage girl on the steps of the Capitol Building.

Although I like Bernie Sanders and find he has a sharp mind, I fear that the American voter is too conservative to select either him or Elizabeth Warren.

What is more, all four candidates are in their seventies. I myself am 75. If the final Democratic nominee does not pick a younger vice president, we are doomed to a gerontocracy.

 

 

The Last Refuge of the Scoundrel

American Flag Pin

Thanks to the current occupant of the White House, I am feeling less patriotic than ever. I have come to associate the ubiquitous flag pins that Republican politicians wear with the excesses of the Trump administration. As Dr. Samuel Johnson noted, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” I don’t believe that for members of the older generation who have fought for our country, but for younger people, especially politicians, who use it to identify themselves as racists, white nationalists, saboteurs, and looters—in a word, Republicans. It is a symbol the course of being degraded beyond all recognition.

I am feeling out of touch with American voters. Can I trust them to actually love their country and send the Trump administration down to ignominious defeat? Not entirely, especially in certain parts of the country where politics is a form of resentment and regional hatred, especially against voters who live in large cities. It is the politics of Hooterville versus the politics of New York and California. (Though even New York and California have isolated pockets of atavistic tendencies.)

It has gotten to the point that I feel alienated from American politics, both Republicans and Democrats. (I now vote No Party Preference.) I don’t even classify myself as being Caucasian any more. As a Hungarian-American, I am Finno-Ugric, or “Other Race.” (Most of my rage is directed at White voters.)

I hope that this is only a phase I am going through until the politics of the United States returns to normal—that is, if it ever does.

How to Fight a Playground Bully

We Don’t Have to Name Names, Do We?

The Democrats have a daunting task in front of them—especially if they go about business as usual. That is guaranteed to fail. The rules are different now. The times have changed. So here are my suggestions for victory. Warning: They’re not pretty.

Victory is Possible

Just remember one thing: Playground bullies are punks. They can be defeated, but not with the usual political weapons. Really strong people don’t need to be such devious liars. Bone spurs, indeed!

How About a Nickname for Him?

I say, fat-shame the SOB! How about using an uncomplimentary nickname like Tubbo or Lard Ass? Use photographs of him at the golf course, where he looks his worst. I know it’s juvenile, but it will work against him.

Names That Have Lost Their Magic

The names I am referring to are words like Democrat or Liberal, or even Socialist. Yes, there is no reason one can’t change the name of a political party. And while you’re at it, get rid of the Hillary Clinton people like Tom Perez. As I said earlier, business as usual will notwork in 2020.

Ideological Purity vs. Power

Another way to word this is: Stop being stupid about small points of ideological purity. It’s all about power, and you can’t get power if you’re part of a circular firing squad. Don’t get stuck on a single issue like abortion, police brutality, LGBTQ and other identity groupings, or guns. You have to reach for that ring on the merry-go-round, and not hand devastating weapons to your enemies.

Distribute Opioids to the Red States

This is my nastiest suggestion. Let’s face it: These people hate city dwellers. They’ll hate whatever you do because they just think you hate Jesus or want to kill babies or encourage Arab terrorists or freaking whatever.

Can the Democrats Come Together?

The New Zealand All Black Rugby Team Performing a Haka

My first introduction to the Maori haka dance was watching a YouTube video of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. According to Wikipedia:

It is a posture dance performed by a group, with vigorous movements and stamping of the feet with rhythmically shouted accompaniment. Although commonly associated with the traditional battle preparations of male warriors, haka have been performed by both men and women, and several varieties of the dance fulfil social functions within Māori culture. Haka are performed to welcome distinguished guests, or to acknowledge great achievements, occasions or funerals.

The other day, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer met with the ogre Trumpf to discuss a wall separating Mexico from the United States. It was an interesting moment, fraught with symbolism of a changing order. As a result of last month’s midterm elections, the Democrats were (at least in the House of Representatives) no longer in the minority. If anything, the elections proved that Trumpf’s support was beginning to erode. Even though he gained in the Senate, the gains were in two Republican butt boy states: Indiana and North Dakota. It was interesting to see Schumer rub this fact into Trumpf’s face.

Our president repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if he didn’t get his wall. Then he lied egregiously, as is his wont, that much of the fence was already built. (Not even remotely true.)

I saw the meeting as a haka by the Democratic leadership that the game to follow was going to be different. Trumpf and the Republicans have proven that they are incapable of governing: All they can do is strip Americans of their rights and privileges and satisfy their corporate paymasters.

Then, as the meeting ended, Nancy Pelosi crowned her haka by putting on a fashionable coat and a pair of cool shades, as if acknowledging that, this time, she won; and the Democrats were not merely a circular firing squad. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

OK, Reality TV “Star” Trump Gets Trumped by Nancy Pelosi

Is Sean Hannity Trumpf’s Love Child?

Why Is He Always Photographed with His Mouth Open?

Years ago, I read an article either in Harper’s or The Atlantic entitled “There Are 00 Trees in Russia.” It was there I discovered that editors who did not like a particular news subject printed a photograph with his mouth open. I am amused that all the news pieces I read about Sean Hannity show the right-wing pundit with his mouth agape.

The discovery that Hannity is one of Michael Cohen’s three clients This seems to indicate a much closer tie between the last remaining Nazi troll at Fox News and the Nazi thug president he adores. I don’t quite know what to make of this, and I am not sure I’ll ever know, but it amuses me to no end. I keep thinking of the calypso song in Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s Cat’s Cradle:

Nice, nice, very nice
So many people in the same device

While I have no great admiration for the Democrats as they try to recover from the debacle of 2016, I must admit that the Republicans have displayed such general incompetence that I have some hopes that perhaps the Democracy will somehow stagger forward another few cycles before it collapses of total inanition.

 

Going Independent

Goodbye, Donkey! Goodbye, Elephant!

This summer, I have re-registered to vote as an independent. Ever since I came to be of voting age, I have been a Democrat. For a while, I even tried to help out in a congressional election—my man lost—and even donated money to the party at various critical junctures. Of late, I did not particularly care for the leadership of the party. I did not like Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I do not like Tom Perez. And, as time passes, I do not care for the way Hillary Clinton screwed up her presidential campaign last year; and I am not altogether sure I would have liked it all that much had she won. Granted, she wouldn’t have been as bad as Trumpf. From her ivory tower, I think she has totally lost touch with the voters, a large percentage of whom hate her for various reasons—many of them trumped up by the Right.

My first presidential election was in 1968. I refused to vote for either the Democratic (Humphrey) or Republican (Nixon) candidate. Instead, I wrote in Otto Schlumpf, a Franciscan priest from Santa Barbara, for president and comedian Dick Gregory for vice president. Both were actively against the Viet Nam War, as was I.

Over the years, the Democrats have been wasting the many successes of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Lyndon Johnson came close when it came to domestic policy, but was a total washout in Viet Nam. He wisely withdrew when he realized how badly he had messed up. Too bad: He could have been one of the great ones. (But then Viet Nam made dunces out of a lot of otherwise smart politicians.)

I will probably still vote mostly Democrat, though no longer in the primaries. I don’t know what will happen to the Republican Party—nothing good, I hope—but I may conceivably vote Republican in some local elections, as I have done in the past, especially  when I voted for Schwarzenegger for governor of California against the Democrat Phil Angelides in 2006.

In time, I would like to see more than two major political parties in the U.S. And I don’t mean single-issue parties like the Libertarians and American Independents. The Democrats and Republicans will continue to morph over the next few years, most likely in a way that is unacceptable to me as a voter.

So now I’m an independent.

Serendipity: ¡Viva La Muerte!

Some of the Issues from the Spanish Civil War Seem Very Contemporary

I am currently reading the First Edition of Hugh Thomas’s The Spanish Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1961).  Many issues between the Nationalists (Franco’s Fascists) and the Republic (very like our Democratic Party) seem to ring equally true for today’s overcharged political environment. On August 15, 1936, the Nationalists adopted the flag of the Spanish monarchy and made a number of speeches. After Generalissimo Francisco Franco and Gonzalo Queipo de Llano y Serra, there was a third speaker:

Next to speak was [José] Millán Astray, a man from whom there seemed to be more shot away than there was of flesh remaining. He had but one leg, one eye, one arm, few fingers left on his one remaining hand. ‘We have no fear of them [the Leftists],’ he shouted, ‘let them come and see what we are capable of under this flag.’ A voice was heard crying‘¡Viva Millán Astray!’ ‘What’s that?’ cried the General, ‘no vivas for me! But let them all shout with me “¡Viva la muerte! ¡Abajo la inteligencia!”’ (Long live death! Down with intelligence!). The crowd echoed this mad slogan. He added, ‘Now let the Reds come! Death to them all!’ So saying, he flung his cap into the crowd amid extraordinary excitement. [Page 272]

Fascist General Millán Astray

How like the Fascists to praise death and downgrade intelligence. “Don’t think too much,” they seem to be saying. “Just follow orders!” The Spanish left was like our Democrats: A Circular firing squad. There was the CNT (Anarcho-Syndicalist Trades Union), the FAI (an Anarchist secret society), POUM (Trotskyites), PSUC (the United Catalan Socialist-Communist Party), and UGT (the Socialist Trade Union). On the Left were militias, propagandists, the International Brigades from all over Europe and the Americas, and a whole plethora of irreconcilable beliefs and opinions. On the Right was the Spanish Army led by Franco and supplies and manpower from Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy.

It’s Not Just About Fundraising

It’s a Backbone! That’s What It Is!

It’s a Backbone! That’s What It Is!

This evening I hung up on a robocall from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, U.S. Democratic Representative from Florida—presumably in a failed attempt to get me to donate to the Democrats’ circular firing squad. I hang up on her a lot these days.

Before I ever give them a penny again, I have to be convinced the Democrats are something more than a perpetual fundraising machine gone out of control. If they want money, Democrats have to stand for something other than merely not being Republicans. I know that the Tea Party and their Republican fellow travelers are obnoxious in the extreme. But, really, what do the Democrats stand for other than being elected or re-elected?

I want to support politicians that will fight for me—not merely to accumulate funds so that they can buy up scads of TV ad time for next year’s elections, and robocall and e-mail me a few thousand times more in the months to come.

If the Democrats somehow find their backbone, I’ll be glad to give them my support. But the stumblebums of 2014? They can go to hell.