Revenge of the deplorables


Want to know why Hillary Clinton lost the presidential race and helped ruin the Democrats’ chances of regaining control of the Senate? This remark she made in September has something to do with it:

You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it.

It’s the sort of thing a cynical odd man out would say. A seasoned politico  running for president ought to know better.

Hillary obviously thought her coalition of supporters — college-educated urbanites with good jobs, African-Americans and other minorities, middle-class women, young people — was strong enough to overcome the white working-class barbarians who had no use for her.

It was a stunningly stupid assumption, indicative of how greatly she underestimated the number of citizens damaged by the Great Recession and disillusioned by Barack Obama’s half-hearted efforts to repair the damage.

You don’t have to be a deplorable Trump supporter to remember the giddy optimism in the air when Obama was elected in 2008. Or the sense of betrayal that set in when it became clear that  Obama’s recovery plan involved relying on the same gang of Wall Street insiders — creeps like Timothy Geithner and  Larry Summers — who had backed the deregulatory actions that made it possible for the big banks to wreck the economy.

Instead of an effort to restore faith in the system we got bank bailouts. Instead of indictments of the Wall Street crooks we got Eric Holder, an attorney general who let them all off the hook. We got millions of home foreclosures and lost jobs, and a subsequent “recovery” that has resulted in a record-high level of income inequality.

And then, instead of the change agent Bernie Sanders, we got Hillary, the Democratic National Committee’s anointed candidate,  who might be even more closely allied with the Wall Street crooks than Obama.

Skeptical Democrats were supposed to accept all of this. We were supposed to hold our noses and vote for Hillary. That’s what I did, but I’ll bet a significant number of Dems who voted for Obama twice didn’t vote for Hillary this time, even though she was running against a monster.

You can’t blame the Election Day debacle on the deplorables alone.

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Dylan’s reaction to the big prize was… Dylanesque


“Philip Roth just bought an acoustic guitar.”

That’s what novelist Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers, posted on Facebook soon after it was announced that Bob Dylan had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Perrotta was either taking a shot at the Swedish Academy for not giving the $900,000 award to Roth, who is arguably long overdue for it, or he was just making a good joke.

A lot of writers and critics, and even a member of the Swedish Academy, took shots at Dylan last week. How could a mere singer-songwriter not acknowledge what an honor and privilege it was to be in the company of the great novelists Faulkner and Bellow and the great poet Eliot?

A whole other crew wanted Dylan to reject the Nobel – to say “Aw shucks, pop songs ain’t literature, I don’t deserve your prize.”

How dare he not respond at all?

The obvious answer – this is just Dylan being Dylan – wasn’t good enough for James Wolcott and other critics, but I’ll accept it.

Dylan has been putting his poetry to music for more than a half-century, more or less on his own terms, inspired by Elvis and Woody, Eliot and Pound, Ma Rainey and Beethoven.

He defied his folkie fan base by going electric in the mid-1960s, a move that ultimately resulted in the back-to-back masterpieces Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde. Then he did an about-face with the quietly cryptic John Wesley Harding. He surprised everybody with his mid-1970s comeback, Blood On the Tracks. And so on.

He never pretended to be a hippie or a punk or a disco duck. Or the voice of his generation.

He lets his work speak for him. There were no soul-baring profiles in People magazine, no deep reveals to Terry Gross, no acceptance of the notion that an artist must surrender to convention and become a celebrity.

Dylan might show up to accept the Nobel in December, as he has done for other awards, but his early silence regarding the big prize is his way of saying awards are bullshit – that they have more to do with fashion than with originality, or even quality.

“To live outside the law you must be honest,” he once sang. And “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

Or do you?

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Killing dissent softly at the DNC


I like to run the streets to calm the demons in my head before bedtime. It’s like meditation or prayer, except you need good shoes and plenty of water, especially during heat waves like the one we endured while the Democratic National Convention was in Philly.

As I mentioned last time, the DNC took place near Broad Street, at the Wells Fargo Center, not far from the swamp where I live. It was capped Thursday night by Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech, which had an intro from her daughter Chelsea, who raised the event to a new level of kitsch while reminiscing about Mom and Dad and even Grandma, who would have been “so, so proud” of Hillary last night.

After a few minutes of her dreck, I left the house and ran to Broad Street and was serenaded by droning police helicopters to the south, circling the convention site, where protesters had gathered for the fourth straight day to show contempt for the Democratic nominee and the nomination process.

I knew the humidity was high because I could feel the sweat dripping off my fingers, and that protesters were active because cop cars were racing down Broad, followed by a big white police bus used to haul large groups of prisoners to jail.

And I knew from being at the site on previous nights that the protesters — there may have been a few thousand at times — wouldn’t get anywhere near the convention center because the “protest zone” created by the feds was hundreds of yards away from the center and fenced off like a cattle pen.

So I ran a few miles and went home just in time to see the end of Hillary’s dreadfully well-rehearsed speech. Then she and hubby Bill and other luminaries, flashing ultra-bright grins, pushed and poked at red, white and blue balloons, which had been released by the thousands after the speech.

The point is, convention planners made sure nothing inside or outside the convention venue was spontaneous or real — at least not for long. Even the balloon-poking seemed rehearsed.

Kudos to the cops for not engaging in the heavy-handed tactics that made Philly look bad during the 2000 RNC convention. This time around, in the name of keeping the peace, and with lots of help from the Democratic National Committee and federal agents, they smothered dissent almost before it could rear its feeble head.

America can breathe easy now. The homeland is safe from those bomb-throwing Bernie bros. Everything is under control. We’re all in the same cattle pen.

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The DNC celebrity fest, from a distance


This year’s Democratic National Convention is at the Wells Fargo Center –the same building that hosted the RNC in 2000, but with another corporate name. It’s one of several sports venues on Philly’s southern fringe, far removed from any actual street life. You can see for miles down there, but all you can see are parking lots, ballparks and arenas.

Hardcore Bernie loyalists, Jill Stein supporters and other protesters are permitted to march down Broad Street and gather in FDR Park, to the west of Wells Fargo Center, in the unrelenting July heat, but fences prevent them from getting anywhere near the center itself.

In fact, they can do little more than march past one another chanting slogans — preaching to the choir, as it were — with the knowledge they could be herded into police vans and face federal charges if they do anything cops deem disruptive.

There are many fewer arrests this year. Police have the mastered the trick of keeping protesters at a distance from big events without generating bad publicity for themselves and the city.

Philly is my hometown. I’ve biked to the convention scene several times to join the protesters, but the setting raises an age-old question: If thousands of protesters chant in a place where no one else can hear them, do they really make a sound?

Inside the convention center rich celebrities, one after another, have taken the stage to tell us commoners why we should vote for Hillary, who in the past has taken exactly the wrong stand on many issues important to progressives.

Paul Simon sang and so did Alicia Keys. Meryl Streep’s speech was a testimonial for Hillary. And so on. The message of the event is that Democrats must unite in order to make sure Donald Trump is defeated. A good message, but why all the celebrity kitsch?

On Monday, former Bernie supporter Sarah Silverman went so far as to admonish nay-sayers in the building. She said, “To the Bernie-or-bust people, you’re being ridiculous.”

To which I would have replied, “To me, Sarah, the fact that you can scold Bernie die-hards on national TV, just because you’re a celebrity, is ridiculous. Your presumption that you can influence my vote, just because you’re a celebrity, is insulting. Vote for whomever you prefer. Meanwhile, please shut the fuck up.”

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The art of the heel


This week it’s the Democrats’ turn to make empty promises while they officially nominate a candidate almost as unpopular as Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton is a war hawk in the style of her friend Henry Kissinger; a shapeshifting phony on issues ranging from gay marriage to TPP to the minimum wage; an elitist who made speeches to Goldman Sachs at $250K a pop and sat on the board of freaking Walmart.

However…she’s not Trump, the cartoon fascist and the first truly postmodern candidate, in that he has no ideology and thumbs his nose at the very idea of truth. What you see is what you get — a raving narcissist who stokes fear and resentment, or gales of laughter, whenever he speaks. A fraud who doesn’t have enough business sense to make casinos profitable.

Trump needed a lot of help from the media to create his image as a great dealmaker, and he got it. Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter of Trump’s bestseller The Art of the Deal, put it this way in his confessions to the New Yorker:

I put lipstick on a pig. I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.

But it doesn’t matter at this point what anybody in the media says about Trump. Thanks in part to the nonstop positive coverage he received over the years — except from a few truth tellers like David Cay Johnston — millions of know-nothings are convinced he’s the only force that can save America from blacks and Mexicans, ISIS, taxes, cop killers, China and NATO and maybe even the Dark Lord of Mordor. He is not Hillary. He will make America great again.

Here’s The Intercept quoting Plato quoting Socrates in The Republic:

This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs: when he first appears above ground he is a protector.

There’s nothing really new about our home-grown would-be tyrant except for the orange skunk pelt on his head. But how can you know this if you’re a know-nothing?

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Update on Melania’s plagiarism – the ballerina did it!


I was updating Swamp Rabbit on the screw-up at the RNC, where Melania Trump made a speech that was partly cribbed from Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 DNC.

“You were part right,” I said. “Melania rejected the original speech, written by two guys who used to work for George W. Bush. Then she apparently did a rewrite with Meredith McIver, an ex-ballerina who helped Trump write some of his books.  Yesterday, McIver  took responsibility  for the plagiarized sections.”

Swamp Rabbit gnawed on a carrot. “But why would the ballerina want to crib from a speech by Obama’s wife, of all people? Republicans think Obama is the Great Satan.”

“It’s complicated,” I said. “The ballerina said she put in the Michele stuff, almost word for word, then forgot to remove them from the final draft.”

The rabbit spit into the swamp. “That don’t make no sense. Why did she put them in there in the first place?”

I shrugged. “Because Melania liked Michelle’s speech. I think it gets back to what I said yesterday — Donald Trump is too stingy and disorganized to hire reliable staffers, or to check on what they’re up to. He doesn’t understand it’s dangerous to let cronies and family members make campaign decisions. He has the attention span of a gnat, and he’s too vain to own up to mistakes.”

“So are you,” Swamp Rabbit said. “You thought Melania might be the victim but she’s the one did the cribbing. She let the ballerina take the fall instead of owning up to it. She and her freaky husband deserve each other.”

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Melania’s rude awakening?


Here’s my friend Swamp Rabbit imagining Melania Trump and the Donald after she found out part of her speech at the 2016 Republican convention was lifted from Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic convention:

“How could you do zis to me? All over country zee peoples are laugh-ink.  Vy you hire writer who is thief? Do not touch me. I sink maybe you are mad man.”

“The accent’s not quite right,” I told Swamp Rabbit. “You sound like Zsa Zsa Gabor. Melania  is Slovenian, not Hungarian.”

“Same difference,” he said, opening another bottle of Wild Turkey. “The point is she’ll never forgive that goofy-looking bastard for trotting her out there to make a fool of herself on national TV.”

He tried to pass the bottle but I declined the offer. “How do you know she didn’t steal those words on her own?” I said. “Before she gave the speech, she told reporters she wrote it.”

“Hahahahaha,” he said. “That’s what they all say. But why would she dip into a stream of cliches — reach for your dreams, work hard, keep your nose clean, blah blah — from Obama’s wife, of all people, and recite them almost word for word on national TV? No way, dude, somebody did this to her. Probably some hack who was hired because Trump is too cheap to fork over the big bucks for a good speechwriter.”

I told Swamp Rabbit he might be right, but I predicted Melania wouldn’t stay angry. She’ll remember that her hubby, the self-obsessed fraud with the Orange Crush! weave, has the attention span of a gnat. He says the world is flat one day and round the next. He praises his wife as he sends her out to deliver a plagiarized speech. Then he asks his fans who they believe, him or their lying eyes.

Swamp Rabbit nipped at his bourbon and said, “I sink maybe he is a mad man.”

“Could be,” I replied. “But what’s that say about the millions of people who voted for him? What’s it say about Melania?”

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