The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Donald Trump is literally Hitler

As anyone who knows me will be more than happy to tell you, I am easily confused. I didn’t start out to be easily confused—I was rather hoping to play centerfield for the Yankees someday, but that dream vanished when it became clear that the curveball was a permanent part of baseball and not some passing fad like Pet Rocks, Cabbage Patch dolls, and Clinton presidential campaigns, and that my inability to hit a curveball with any degree of regularity, or never, as it is sometimes called, would permanently keep me out of centerfield at Yankee Stadium, unless I was taking the tour the Yankee organization provides when the team is out of town—but I am easily confused today, which I ascribe to being old and out of it, and to my unfortunate habit of wearing unfashionable hats.

But be that as it may, I am confused because President Trump is literally Hitler.  Not a would be Hitler or a Hitler manqué, as if he were a literally French Hitler; one assumes that the food would improve in school cafeterias if he were; or a wannabe Hitler or an aspiring Hitler or a Hitler avatar, but literally Hitler, and being literally Hitler is not a good thing to be. Now, other people have been literally Hitler before Trump was literally Hitler; Ronald Reagan was literally Hitler and both President Bushes were literally Hitler as well, as was John McCain and Milt Romney. Barry Goldwater was almost literally Hitler, but apparently he either got over it or the people who were thinking about saying that Goldwater was literally Hitler decided that calling him literally Hitler just sounded silly and contented themselves with saying that Goldwater was literally loonier than Hitler at a hot dog eating contest. I do not recall if Richard Nixon was literally Hitler; I am old enough to remember Nixon very well and I just don’t remember if Nixon was literally Hitler or if he was just sort of vaguely Hitlerish, but not during the latter half of football season.  I find the idea of Mitt Romney being literally Hitler intriguing in a strange sort of way; being literally Hitler suggests the idea that Romney had literally Hitlerian powers as governor of Massachusetts, like the power to dispose of his enemies as he willed or the power to invade such nonthreatening neighbor states as New Hampshire or Connecticut or even to arrest all the New York Yankees fans in Massachusetts and send them to summer camps on Nantucket Island, as opposed to the not very literally Hitlerish power to raise everyone’s health insurance premiums, which is very not literally Hitler-type power at all. Any idiotic dolt of a politician can do that, you know, and do it without the really cool uniforms that being literally Hitler can get for you.

One thing is absolutely true, however: Donald Trump is literally Hitler. That is an undeniable historical fact like Christopher Columbus discovering the electric light bulb or Fiorello LaGuardia discovering that secondhand tobacco smoke can give you herpes. Here, however, is the part that confuses me: if Trump is literally Hitler and Romney was literally Hitler, how can Trump be literally Hitler if Romney was literally Hitler, and how can both men be literally Hitler when Hitler was literally Hitler, and Hitler, you might be interested to know, still has living relatives who might sue the people who keep saying that Trump is literally Hitler and Romney was literally Hitler for infringing on the family’s trademark of being literally Hitler, or, in their case, literally Hitlers.  This, to me, is a lot like People magazine declaring that some male movie star is the sexiest man alive last year and then declaring another male movie star the sexiest man alive this year. How can the latter be sexier than the former when the former is still living?  I could understand this if the sexiest man alive this year was competing, if that is what you do in this situation, with the sexiest man alive from 1937, but last year was only last year and it’s unlikely that last year’s winner has diminished in sexiness so much that anyone can notice an appreciable difference between this year and last, and how does anyone measure such a subjective quality anyway?  Is there a cellphone application that will do this for us nowadays?

Finally, there is the problem that no one seems to want to deal with here. In declaring that Trump is literally Hitler, how do we judge the case of Adolf Hitler, who was literally Hitler long before it became politically fashionable to be literally Hitler?[1] If Trump is literally Hitler, then it necessarily follows that Hitler can’t be literally Hitler, he has to be someone else, doesn’t he, but Alfred E. Newman and Bill Gates are already someone else, and no, I don't know what that means. This, in turn, leads to the problem of why would anyone care if Trump is literally Hitler when clearly Hitler could not be literally Hitler because Trump is literally Hitler?  If Hitler can’t be literally Hitler because Trump is literally Hitler, then accusing Trump of being literally Hitler is as meaningless a charge as accusing Trump of being a life insurance salesman, or worse, a Red Sox fan.  So, I am still confused and there doesn’t seem to be anyone around willing to untangle the mental knot this conundrum is causing me. I must give the whole matter much more thought, I think.

[1] I should also point out that being literally Hitler did not keep Hitler from literally shooting Hitler in the head. So, since Hitler literally killed Hitler for being literally Hitler, is this literally a good thing or a bad thing vis-à-vis Trump, who is literally Hitler but is unlikely to do the same thing?  I am still confused.

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Thursday, July 26, 2018

A year closer to death

It is, as a good many people here in our happy little burg keep reminding me, my birthday, specifically my 60th birthday,  for those of you who like to keep track of such things. I generally do not keep track of such things, either for myself or for other people; birthdays after age forty are simply an annual reminder that you are now officially one year closer to death. And I especially do not like birthdays that come in years that end with eight, as this means that the number on my age year clicks over to zero. This is an enjoyable experience when you turn ten or twenty; in the first instance it means that you are no longer a little kid, no matter what your mom and dad think, and in the second instance you are a.) no longer a teenager, b.) two years past the point where you can indulge your baser instincts with an adult without penalty of law, and c.) just a year short of being able to drink legally everywhere in the United States; but beyond those two points the accumulating zeroes are just annoying as hell—to find out how annoying, simply ask any woman in her late twenties just how many times she intends to turn twenty-nine before reality forces her to turn thirty—and the fact that I can now take money out of my IRA without accruing sizeable penalties is not making me feel better about reaching this age. 

So I am stuck, it seems. I was going to mark the day by buying a bottle of tequila, going home, and then getting completely hammered, but my coworkers tell me that this is more than vaguely inappropriate for a man of my gathering years and that my head will hurt like a son of a bitch tomorrow morning, so I think I will skip the tequila and just make myself a baloney sandwich instead. I have enough age-appropriate aches and pains without adding new ones to the mix. I do wish, though, that people would stop wishing me a happy birthday; I keep asking that they not do this and they keep insisting on doing it anyway, which is starting to get on my nerves, very frankly. I am waiting for next week, wherein people will stop with the Happy Birthdaying and even the belated Happy Birthdays will go away, and I can be chronologically miserable without everyone's best wishes making me feel even worse.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Security clearances, or how the Highlanders came to America

In case you have better things to do with your time than peruse Wikipedia or the New York Times for this sort of information, John Brennan became the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency in March of 2013 and he stopped being the DCI in January of 2017. It is now 24 July 2018 (just five shopping months to Christmas, folks, so get ready; the holidays will be here sooner than you think). So if you will pardon me for asking this, why does Mr. Brennan still have a security clearance a year and a half after he left his job at the CIA? This is an excellent question, I think, and one for which no one seems to have an equally excellent answer. It is entirely unlikely that anyone in the Trump Administration is going to ask for his advice about anything. Given the animus between the two men, I doubt that President Trump would call Mr. Brennan if his life depended on it. Now, what follows is just my opinion, you understand---your mileage may vary, but I think that when your  time in the spy business is up, your time in the spy business is up. You hand in your secret decoder ring and the double secret Rolodex with the head of the Mossad’s personal phone number in it and you just go away. You do not pass go, you do not collect $200, and you especially do not get to ask the people who used to work for you what’s new out there in the big bad world these days. If the Administration wants to chat with you informally about something important, they will bring you in—I assume that you will not have to pay for the parking, or, if you do have to pay, maybe the IRS will let you deduct the valet’s tip as a tax deduction—and the new guys at your old job will show you whatever it is they want to show you and then that's it; you give them your two cent’s worth and then you go home and you keep your mouth shut about what they told you and about what you told them. 

For all the media screaming about Trump acting childishly with these threats of pulling security clearances, it seems to me that what is happening here is that Trump is not so subtly warning the Obama holdovers still on the IC payroll that passing secrets to these guys is no longer a safe way to undermine the Trump presidency. Up to now, Clapper and crew could get deep background briefings from their former employees and it would not technically be a leak since they still have their security clearances. If Trump gets his way, an active (but very disloyal) member of the intelligence community telling Brennan, Clapper & Company anything more secret than the CIA’s monthly budget for office supplies will be a violation of the Espionage Act. And even if Trump doesn't have the insubordinate Obama types charged under the Act, my guess is that forced retirements and demotions will be the order of the day, as well as transfers to places where the air conditioning isn't always up to snuff and the inhabitants have never heard of toilets, toilet paper, or the salubrious effects of indoor plumbing. There is something about the smell of ordure in the morning that doesn’t smell like victory and makes you want to stay in Virginia or Maryland, even if it means taking early retirement.  In the United States, after all, it is good for a President to crucify a spy every now and again; it encourages the others.

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Friday, June 22, 2018

South of the Border

I don’t have much to say at the moment, but I thought I’d say it anyway. We are much confused these days between legal immigrants and undocumented immigrants, whom the press often refer to as undocumented workers, and I thought I might be able to do something to explain the difference.  The first category in the previous sentence is an actual category of people living here in this our Great Republic. Those people are individuals who obeyed American immigration law, applied to come to the United States, and jumped through all the bureaucratic hoops the collective Kafkaesque mind of the immigration bureaucracy could devise to come out on the other side with a legal resident card, the legendary Green Card, which I understand is actually a sort of off-peach color these days. They are, by virtue of their obeying the law and acquiring the off-peach green card, allowed to live and work in our country with all the rights and privileges of citizens of the land. The only privilege not extended to these good folks is that of suffrage, the franchise being limited to actual citizens and those who like KFC’s chicken. This is one of the great mysteries of the modern world to me; I cannot eat more than a few pieces of the Colonel’s cuisine without started to belch uncontrollably. I think I am allergic to at least one of the eleven secret spices in the original recipe. 

On the other hand, the category of undocumented immigrant (or worker) is a euphemism and I think I can say without too much controversy that the point of a euphemism is to not call something by its right name because its right name accurately describes the person or thing described and that accurate description is, for one reason or another, uncomfortable or inconvenient or politically incorrect. In this case, the politically incorrect phrase we are looking for is illegal alien. This is a short phrase, but it clearly shows that the person who bears the name is one, currently living and working in the United States of America in violation of the laws governing immigration to the United States of America, and two, a citizen of a country that is not the United States of America.  Hence, illegal alien. That does not seem so hard to figure out, I think, and when I am confused with the concept, a confusion progressives and capitalists alike choose to foster for reasons both political and mercenary, I simply remember that my mother and her brothers and their wives are legal immigrants to the United States and that the guys who are mowing my neighbor’s lawn as I write this probably are not.  Now, I am sure that the guys mowing the lawn next door are very nice people who want what’s best for their families, but so were my paternal grandparents and my mom and her brothers and their wives and they didn’t see the need to come into the country illegally. What the guys next door mowing the lawn are, in short, line jumpers, people who make the thousands patiently going through the process feel as though they are idiots for showing up for interviews and filling out questionnaires and doing the right thing when all they have to do is cut out the middleman and get across the border one way or another. So why bother doing the right thing? 

The purpose of immigration law, as I understand it, is to give the federal government a chance to look over the people who want to move here and determine whether those people should move here.  This is not controversial: every country in the world, with the possible exception of Germany these days, does the same thing.  There is no inherent right to enter and reside in the United States, unless, of course, you are an American citizen or a legal resident.  For all others, entry to this country is not a human right, it is not a civil right, it is not a constitutional right, it is not a natural right. Entry to this country is a privilege that the government grants and that the government can withdraw at any time the government feels necessary.  A temporary visa is just that: temporary. You get to come in, maybe study at an overpriced college that will be more than happy to charge you twice what they are charging Americans, or go take a look at the Empire State Building and the Grand Canyon, maybe catch a bus tour of the stars’ homes in Hollywood, or hang out in the French Quarter during Mardi Gras and grab some beads and flash your tits to the crowd down on Bourbon Street. And then you go home. I fail to understand what is so complicated about that, but then, I do not need cheap labor to line my pockets—I can mow my own lawn, thank you very much—nor do I feel the need, in Brecht’s catchy phrase, to dissolve the people and elect another in order to make sure I can win elections.  Asking that people obey the law didn’t used to be a matter of such contention; that it is now tells me that people want the law changed but know that such change is not possible; the people who already live here, you see, get to have a say in such matters, which seems to annoy a great many Masters of the Universe no end.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Anthony Bourdain

I had a dream on Saturday night, yes I did, but first, a little background.  When I am not writing for this blog, which, let’s face it, is most of the time, I am either working diligently in a sideways sort of fashion at the egregious mold pit wherein I labor for my daily bread or I am going to bars and photographing the musicians playing at those bars.  Saturday was an exceptionally productive night; people were out and about, some of them were drinking heavily, and in the presence of a 1980’s cover band, a good many of them started dancing like there was no tomorrow. I am very partial to this sort of photograph. The trouble with photographing musicians in bars is that there is nothing inherently dramatic about what musicians do up on the stage. It is very much like trying to capture effect without also capturing the cause of the effect. After all, the person looking at the photograph of the musician after the fact cannot hear the music.  So what I do to compensate for this is that I try to capture the looks on the musicians’ faces as they play in order to convey the emotional intensity of people doing something they love. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t—some musicians are extravagant with their expressions, while others just look down at their instruments trying to make sure that they don’t drop notes or play in the wrong key; it is pretty hit or miss, as is almost anything so dependent on a person’s personality— but what does work on a pretty consistent basis are photographs of people dancing. Dancing means the music is hot and people are having a good time, and who doesn’t like seeing people have a good time? I know I do and I suspect you do as well. Anhedonia, like Marxism, cheese and squirrel sandwiches, and the designated hitter rule have no place in any civilized society. 

As I said, it was a productive night photographically and I got home much at a much later hour than a man my age should be getting home at. I was still wound up; watching other people have fun takes a lot out of a person, you know; and so I watched the news for an hour, which, at that time, was all about Anthony Bourdain dying in France. I finally got to bed at about five and promptly skipped all the preliminary stages of sleep and went directly to deep sleep and stayed there for a while, enjoying the ambiance of the place and the free pistachios with an equally free wine cooler, compliments of the house. Several hours later, I was sitting in my spot at the end of the bar in my favorite watering hole, drinking a Diet Coke and doing what everyone does in such a social setting: I was looking at something on my cellphone. Consequently, I paid no attention to who was coming and going; it’s a bar, after all—someone is always coming and going. A customer came in and sat at the corner and asked Corinne, the pride of Melbin, South Australia, an actual place or so Corinne tells me, for a Corona and a lemon. I looked up to ask Corinne for the bill and stopped. Anthony Bourdain was sitting at the corner of the bar looking at Corinne as she pulled the Corona out of the fridge. As I am never at a loss for words in any social situation I said, “You’re dead! What are you doing here?”  Bourdain twisted the top off of the Corona and looked at me. “Yeah, I know,” he said. “Bad decision there. What’s your excuse?”

And then I woke up.  That was three days ago and I am still wondering what my excuse is. I must have one, right?

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