Fox News is defending CNN in the wake of a Trump insult and possible threat at his first press conference in over 160 days. In recent years one could not imagine Fox News chastising someone who is in many ways the perfect flower of their mutated brand of “news.” But since Roger Ayles has stepped down and may now be looking at some very serious problems, there seem to be a few people at Fox trying to reposition themselves in order to gain a credibility that the network actively shunned for more than two decades.
This on top of a sitting senator actually testifying against a colleague before the senate committee vetting Trump’s cabinet picks.
That rumbling, still faint, may be the severe indigestion coming from one of the worst morning-afters this country has ever had. The headiness of the post-election high has faded and people who thought everything was going to be “fine” (or some version thereof) are starting to wonder who this is snoring beside them.
It may make for some of the most trenchant reassessing we’ve done for a long, long time. In that regard, this may turn out to have been to the good.
But only if it doesn’t take too long for the bromo to work
2016 was a thorough-going challenge to a sane hominid’s equilibrium, regardless how you try to contextualize it. Picking the “best” posts from such a year reveals a litany of political views, deaths, and photographs designed to distract from the magma-flow of WTF that worsened as the year continued.
Still, some good things happened. I’ll try to do a more cogent overview later. For now, my “favorite” posts of the year.
The last couple of months descended into escapism and disbelief, for evident reasons. Stay tuned for more.
I should be working on the short story I’ve been struggling with, but instead I want to say a few words about art and talent and memory.
Greg Lake of King Crimson and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and (briefly) Asia has died. He was 69 and he had been fighting cancer.
The first time I heard a piece of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, it was Knife Edge, from their first album, and a bolt went through my brain. This was the “other” band that mattered to me–suddenly and thoroughly, the cadences, the depth, the compositional holism, the instrumental proficiency, the temerity of three young guys to challenge Bartok, all of this displaced the light-hearted, Bazooka Joe triviality of so-called pop music that saturated the airwaves a the time. We had that or the in-your-gut near-chaos of Jimi Hendrix and the grime-laden street patina of the Rolling Stones, and now, above it all, musicians who not only had the chops but the historicity and grasp of the psychological possibilities of infusing contemporary rock idioms with the incision and deep-boned depth of what we often mistakenly call classical music and make it speak to a new generation. They elevated what was in so many ways a toy in musical form to something that could take us out of ourselves in the way Beethoven or Mozart did for people so many of us neither knew or respected at the time.
The period lasted from about 1967 till 1975 or ’76. In that less-than-a-decade near geniuses made musical pronouncements we are still responding to if only to try to deny or reject, and the best of them were represented by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Condemnations that they were “pretentious” mean little in an era where pretension is embodied more by attitude than talent. A major “star” styles himself by not smiling and mouthing polemical inanities better known than the music he produces, this is a form of pretension, but one that elevates nothing, reifies nothing, establishes nothing beyond a sullen narcissism. Perhaps ELP was pretentious, but those who criticize them for that understand little about real pretension, which is a mask hiding an empty space. Maybe ELP were pretentious, but if their pretension masked anything it was a room filled to bursting with ideas and exuberant joy in musical experimentation. It contributed. If it made some feel inadequate or small, well, that was not ELP’s fault.
Greg Lake, in his ELP years, possessed a magnificent voice, a gift for phrasing that bordered on the operatic, and deftness of interpretive innovation that was a match for Keith Emerson’s volcanic expressionism and Carl Palmer’s controlled hyperkinetic rhythmic adventures. They were evenly matched and magnificent and I am ever so grateful to have grown up to the soundtrack they provided.
Take note. Brilliance has moved on.
Just a couple of thoughts. We’ve been hearing for months, here and there, how Donald Trump might be a trojan horse placed by the Democrats to discredit the Republican Party. That, presumably, a deal was done between The Donald and Hillary to run the most absurd campaign and make her look like the only viable choice. Not a bad idea for a potboiler political thriller. And the closer to the election we get, some variation of that idea is making more sense.
However. Despite what pessimists might say, the American electoral landscape is not really that controllable. And any such actual plan would long since have been discovered and revealed. You can’t keep something like that secret for this long. Someone will know and will tell. Just because that’s how things roll here.
But it’s not at all unlikely that some kind of a deal was done inside the GOP involving Trump.
Given the roster of candidates taking the field last year, what is perfectly plausible is that Trump was invited—maybe not even formally—to throw his hat in the ring. Be a Republican candidate. It would have been easy to tickle his vanity and get him to do it.
Because he’s a known berserker. We all know The Donald. He could stand up there and say things none of the others could and make them look like rational choices by comparison. Good cop bad cop. When you look at the row of right wing crazy that was running—people dedicated to deregulation, tax breaks for the wealthy, bigger military build-up, gutting healthcare reform, reinforcing corporate personhood, using immigrants as strawman threats against labor, natavism, anti-civil rights, security state wonks, anti-science pro-fundamentalist christian, nothing but a bucket of bad news for working class people—they needed, or thought they would benefit from, having someone who could draw attention away from all that by standing up there and being all the things Trump has been all along. The others would look civil, thoughtful, responsible. We would overlook their basic anti-egalitarianism and anti-intellectualism and, in some cases, their anti-humanitarianism, choose one of them, and clear the field for a fistfight they thought they could win with Hillary. Or Bernie.
It went pear shaped very quickly. They lost control of their candidate.
And the problem was they couldn’t really contradict him without making themselves vulnerable by their records, because Trump has not said a thing policy-wise that they had not all said, only in “nicer” terms. He didn’t contradict one policy plank. All he did was strip away the shiny so we could see the ugly underneath.
And they lost control. Is this possible?
It’s happened before. Back in the late Seventies the GOP courted the fundamentalist christian community, which till then had been traditionally apolitical. They went in, backed a guy named Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority, invited them into the tent to participate, made them promises about returning the country to a christian moral code (as defined by them, of course). It was a very cynical move because they clearly never intended to follow through on those promises. All they wanted was a kind of religious fifth column that would stir up the conservative base and get out the votes. It took longer, but they lost control of them. By the Nineties they had morphed into neocons and eventually gave birth to the Tea Party. That traditionally apolitical group got a taste for power politics and took matters into their own hands and look at the mess we have now. The Republican Party lost control.
And a lot of sane, responsible, decent Republicans lost elections or just left the field, unwilling to mix it up with the fanatics.
The GOP grew this faction from a bean and it has now lurched into the field flailing against anything that is not consistent with—
Well, that’s part of the problem. The Party apparatus itself knows that if it comes right out and says what the goals really are they could lose and lose bigtime. By actions if not words it has been clear for a long time they want an oligarchy. They don’t trust the average American, who may be too concerned with taking care of his or her family and might vote for things which will remove power from the privileged classes. You can argue if you want, but just follow the money—and the jobs—and the voting records of those who have enabled the decimation of the middle class and the empowerment of the corporate elite.
But now the Party apparatus has a bigger problem—the frightened mob they have nurtured since 1976 has turned into a mindless mass of terror-driven reactionaries, poorly educated, selfish, and aggressively anti-progressive. And they have lost control of that mob.
Which voted for the guy who was never supposed to get the nomination.
Now the rest of us have a problem. Trump is not only uncontrollable by the GOP, his supporters are beginning to sound like those fifth columnists the religious right was supposed to be. Except they aren’t talking about voting conscience—as far as I can tell, they don’t have one—but about taking up arms if Hillary wins.
And some of the GOP stalwarts are doubling down. McCain declaring that the Republicans will block all supreme court nominees made by Clinton is nothing but an attempt to appease that mob who seem to want no government rather than one they can’t understand.
They’re all complaining now that this isn’t what they intended, that they can’t support Trump, they never meant for this—
I’m reminded of the film Judgment At Nuremberg, in which Spencer Tracy plays a justice on the war crimes court, hearing the case of a German jurist, played by Burt Lancaster. At the end, Lancaster tells Tracy “We never meant for it to go so far.” To which Tracy responds, “Sir, it went that far the first time you sentenced an innocent man.” Or something to that effect. One could say to those now-chagrined and embarrassed GOP apparatchits claiming they never intended this: “It went this far the first time you placed party over country.”
We have a few weeks till the election. I don’t think there’s much else to say. We have a choice between progress and destruction. I believe that, no hyperbole intended. The destruction has been coming for a long time. Presidential election aside, we must expunge that mob of deplorables from the halls of power. Maybe Hillary had to apologize for that, but she was right. They are the worst aspects of our nature and—I’ll say it—too stupid to know how stupid they are. But that’s not their fault. They’ve been succored on the milk of ignorance by a cynical party machine that is now about to choke on its own poisons.
Vote. Vote congressional seats. Right now they’re as if not more important than who ends up in the oval office.