2017. A Fish That Looks Like Nixon. A Midwestern Polar Vortex. David Bowie. What am I Even Doing?

I found a fish that looks like Nixon.

Holy crap, it’s December 31st. Reflecting on the past twelve months seems a little arbitrary, but I’ll give it a try. It’s difficult, reflecting in a way that’s authentic. Usually, authenticity is spirited away by such phrases as “it’s been a helluva year,” or “Listing tragedies. With Periods. Even though they don’t affect me. 2016. Dramatic use of periods. Bring it on, 2017, I’m courageous and beautiful.” That was 2016, when all the stars fell from the sky.

2017? Unfortunately, I’ll have to use periods here and there to describe this past year, but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum.

Well, I’ve been thinking recently about how conflict obscures the passage of time. It’s easy to think that in retrospect that a year has gone by in the blink of an eye…BUT IT REALLY HAS THOUGH! Lots of activity on the domestic politics front, the endless rinse and spin cycle of the news. It seemed like most days I was preoccupied with news updates, wondering what was coming down the shoot next.

I moved from New York back to the Midwest. That was a massive change. Life is slower here. Much slower. Even the grass is bored. It has a certain nostalgic value, but I’d much rather be back in New York. Oh well. Life hasn’t gone as planned, yet I’m still in the best relationship a man could be in. I had a great weekend with my girlfriend earlier this month, a spectacular cap to the year. Going to attach an image from the aquarium on Coney Island. We’re actually vampires, so you won’t detect us in the photo (look at how the light bends in a certain way in the right corner. That’s her. Isn’t she a cutie? All mine too).

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Time to end this post on a high note. I could go on forever. 2018. I’m a majestic figure standing tall in the face of adversity. Free-trade coffee. David Bowie. Game of Thrones finale. It’s a little chilly in here. Speaking of which, here’s a picture of the Midwestern Polar Vortex. My girlfriend loves the snow.

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Breitbart News Makes a Foolhardy Attempt to Swim in the Mainstream

Breitbart, having once aspired to edgelord status, has given up its white hat in order to take a little dip in the waters of the mainstream. “Keep the hat in a safe place, we might be back,” is the implication.

Mr. Bannon has recently set his crosshairs on Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan’s challenger Paul Nehlen. I get it. After the bruising defeat in Alabama, Bannon is trying to to steer the monstrously deformed media arm into the “political sweet spot.” Offensive enough to attract the average Republican, but not offensive enough to push them away.

Back in 2016, Paul Ryan trounced Nehlen in the Republican primary, despite Nehlen’s courting of far-right conservatives. For the record, which can never be erased, Breitbart nurtured Nehlen back then, but is severing political ties now after Nehlen has decided to strengthen the umbilical cord to white supremacy. “Too rich for my blood,” Breitbart says. Okay, we believe you.

So, what is the “political sweet spot”? Probably something along the lines of Fox News’ current Breitbart-ification, and a stagnation of Breitbart’s current style. It’s easy to see the target they’re trying to hit when you consider the goals of both media organizations. Fox has put considerable resources into heightening its digital presence through the use of arguably punchier language. It seemed to take its cues from Breitbart. The latter didn’t waver from its style until it suffered a flattening defeat in the reddest state in the United States. After the defeat, Breitbart started to see the Nehlen-style candidates as cancerous.

Roy Moore might have been sent back to the abyss, but not before leaving an important message for Breitbart. Back superficially mainstream candidates if you wish to survive. The underlying message there is that white nationalism is still very much in vogue, but it has to be presented in a manner that offers plausible deniability of racism to its adherents. The other side of the coin is not to inspire minority voters to vote.

Despite Bannon’s very public rejection of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, he’s admitting the senatorial patriarch is right, that his typical choices for candidates won’t have enough mainstream appeal to win the horse race. Bannon came into the political sphere without much knowledge of the process, thinking that being labeled a “firebrand” was enough. But entering into that arena always involved adapting. Bannon tries to do this, in his own hamfisted way.

To me, it’s clear that Bannon’s goal is not just to compete with Fox News, but to supplant it. Fox’s attempts at imitation only give Breitbart what it wants, that coveted seal of legitimacy (I’m imitating you for good reason).

While Breitbart will carry the stain of far-right extremism for the forseeable future, the more it becomes entrenched in the culture, the more it will seem legitimate. CNN feels compelled to respond to jabs from Fox, even though the latter’s reputation for conspiracy theories and general shenaniganry is well-known. The point is when a giant speaks, even its comparatively accurate counterpart must respond. Breitbart aspires to this level of legitimacy, and with time it might achieve it.

Of course, Breitbart might sink under Bannon’s shoddy leadership since he doesn’t seem very competent.

Let’s hope so.

President Trump and the Calm Before the 2018 Storm.

It’s official, President Trump is worried about the 2018 midterms. So much so that changes within the White House are imminent. Johnny DeStefano, already a part of the White House staff, as well as a seasoned Washington Insider, will be given the reins over four West Wing Offices.

As if that weren’t enough, the White House is pursuing another political strategist. The Alabama Senate race proved to be doubly embarrassing, because his endorsing candidates in the primary and general elections failed to produce results. Roy Moore might still refuse to concede, but a failure in politics is heard a thousand times over, in this age of incredible desperation to cling to the past. If nothing else, Trump has proved himself susceptible to humiliation, maybe the most primitive of human emotions.

Look, I get it. A hairy nectarine doesn’t want to be impeached. But will Trump’s efforts be enough? It’s hard to decide, but there are two sides to the coin here. The president seems to be less incendiary via tweet lately, or at least not as prolific? Or maybe we’re all getting used to it. If the “calm before the storm” strategy is able to sustain itself, then the trademarked American Apathy could slink out of the darkness, only to collapse onto the street. I guess I’m just trying to say voter complacency isn’t dead yet. A fiery Trump invigorates his base while energizing the Democrats in a different way. A less fiery Trump might cause some Republicans to defect, but also give many Democrats a reason to stay home on voting night.

It’s easy to maintain voter angst via sustained populist flame-throwing. What happens when it’s tempered, at least just enough for the angst to die down just a little? Many of Trump’s supporters are more than content with what he has accomplished, even if it isn’t legislative. For instance, POTUS has practically heaved his nominees at the federal courts. Not to mention, he’s certainly made life much harder for immigrants, no matter the category he tries to place them in.

So, we have the significant altering of the federal courts. His deplorable treatment of anyone non-white. What else? Gee, I’m almost out of material. The business world loves him. Racists, too. Surely, that’s it? Nope. Gun Nuts can’t get enough of the nectarine. Evangelicals are still stoked about their new cult leader. Trump alarm clocks. Trump bookmarks to keep their favorite Bible passage on hand. It’s a whole industry.

Point being, any mildly astute Republican is going to think what he is doing is better than what any liberal president would accomplish. Even for the non-astute ones, a diminished flame-thrower is better than nothing. Evangelicals are ecstatic, this is the closest they’ll get to earthly paradise. Business leaders don’t care about boom and bust. All they see is the boom. Trump gives them the boom.

Democrats? They are riled up now, for good reason. Will they be able to keep the flame of anger alive long enough to vote in 2018? Again, it’s hard to say. Many of them chose to stay home when they could’ve chosen to do otherwise. Liberal complacency was alive and well then, occupying a glorious golden age. It might be simmering now, but it’s waiting to be ignited again. That’s the dream, I’m guessing. To lie on a hammock and not have to worry about politics.

 

 

 

 

 

Please Stand By

Unfortunately, I can’t write a long message today, I’m off to the movies! (PT Barnum).

Some quick “headlines”

  • Roy Moore is still at it. He hopes to postpone the certification of the election results. Relentless predator business model. You almost wonder if he plans to run for President in 2020. Would Roy Moore represent the evolution of Trumpism?

 

  • Trump’s ferocious legal squad has plans to discredit former national security adviser Micheal Flynn. Not an unpredictable move by the Trump team. Discrediting the other party is normal procedure.

 

Overall, seems like a fairly boring day in politics land. Wish I could expand on these points a bit. The Roy Moore story seems inconsequential, but his eerie stubbornness doesn’t bode well for the future political landscape. The Trump team seems to be switching to stealth mode, just as aggressive but much more sneaky.

On that note, let’s all get prepared to ring in the New Year!

Trump Supporters and a Little Thing Called Patriotism

Trump supporters are a curious breed. They seem to advocate for a form of patriotism that has room for such extreme viewpoints as supporting Putin, Bond villain turned statesmen.

This quote is directly from the  Politico article:

“Today, these figures are no longer on the fringe of GOP politics. According to a Morning Consult-Politico poll from May, an astonishing 49 percent of Republicans consider Russia an ally. Favorable views of Putin – a career KGB officer who hates America – have nearly tripled among Republicans in the past two years, with 32 percent expressing a positive opinion.”

Seems like approval of Putin has snowballed among Republicans in a relatively short time-span. Another quote from the same article might help to explain why:

“Russia has been targeting the American right since at least 2013, the year Putin enacted a law targeting pro-gay rights organizing and delivered a state-of-the-nation address extolling Russia’s “traditional values” and assailing the West’s “genderless and infertile” liberalism. That same year, a Kremlin-connected think tank released a report entitled, “Putin: World Conservativism’s New Leader.”

The argument sucked from the bone marrow of these quotes is that ideology trumps geography. Fair enough, I guess. If you are a whackjob conservative, it makes sense to some degree. Why pay homage to Suit and Country if you perceive the country as lacking in the values that stick to you like glue? But let’s use the conservative mind as a stomping ground for a minute. Using traditional shaming tactics, Putin portrays the West as “genderless” (so, hitting the note of “masculinity”) and “infertile” (the vaguely Christian notion to reproduce at all costs). What I take from this is that many conservatives see these views as superior to other arguably traditional values that have helped to sustain their free-wheeling, oft incoherent ideology, such as the tenet of democracy, the legal system, etc.

Innate biases of conservatives are only partially to blame. The conservative media had a large part to play in narrowing or crystallizing the set of beliefs that conservatives cherish. Maybe the conservative media was cunning enough, like rabid badgers, chipping away at the horizon of what should be considered traditional by emphasizing what Republicans most held dear. It’s really hard to say–would those biases have been able to sustain themselves, or would they have increased in emotional intensity without the massive uplifting feeling of knowing that a massive media arm was on your side? A powerful megaphone that represents millions available every day of the week is a powerful motivator to continue believing.

The GOP, with its anti-gay, anti-masculine crusade, has largely defected to Putin. He’s another Fox News contributor, if you think about it. Many of its personalities will go for the jugular of Putin’s enemies. Essentially, it’s another extension of Russia’s state-run media. Those watching, with ideologies already firmly in place, look for a paragon of those values, a perfect human example that molds their beliefs into a hard wall of arms and legs. In other words, simply another expression of white nationalism.

In many ways, Putin is a self-styled conservative not bound to what Republicans consider “political correctness” or the entangled layers of the legal system. He’s recruited them, and they’ve recruited him.

Republicans-caught between a balding demigod and the confederate flag. To them, while they won’t admit it outright, such a vision makes the eagle look like a light weight. I guess it’s fairly likely then that as Republicans’ list of enemies grows, so will Putin’s. It’s a winning system for the would-be Emperor. Why quit now?

 

 

500 followers

I just reached 500 followers! Not much else to say except that I’m very excited. I wish life in general were multiplicative.

You know, I’ve been at this for over a year, with some hiatuses here and there. It’s nice to see a little payoff.

See you all tomorrow!

Trump Impeachment. Will Your Hopes Come True?

What a lovely sounding word: Impeachment. A recent politico article informs us that up to three quarters of the Democratic party are firmly behind the prospect of impeaching Donald Jared Trump. We have the steam, but will the locomotive take us into the station? I’m not sure what that means, but here are a few points to consider anyway.

  • A Divided House

Even if Democrats re-take the house, not all lawmakers on the left are on board with impeaching Trump. The reason? It might not be the best move politically, since the best political moves seem to balance short-term politiking with long-term thinking. Impeaching Trump, our shiny POTUS, comes with a host of issues that could backfire.

For one, ushering Mike Pence into the hot seat obviously doesn’t seem like the most intelligent move from a political standpoint. His moves are just as extreme as the current sitting President, and he might be arguably more efficient in consistently ramming through legislative priorities. Yeah, yeah, I know, the incredibly gorgeous tax cut just passed. Still.

  • Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton’s impeachment proceedings are still a stain on the Democratic party. While this alone shouldn’t be a deterrent to impeaching Trump, it still must weigh heavy on the Democratic hive-mind on how to best handle the situation. Let’s say Trump is impeached due to sexual harassment charges, the obvious riposte at the disposal of Republican is Bill Clinton’s deplorable behavior in the oval office.

  • The Friggin’ Constitution

The Constitution is another wall between Donald Trump and being tossed into the lonely moat of Presidents removed from office. “It’s dark and cold over here.” Yeah. We know.

House Member Jerrold Nadler had this to say:

“Impeachment, it’s not something you ought to welcome. It’s not something you ought to be ready to — it’s not something you want.”

“If we were in the majority and if we decide that the evidence isn’t there for impeachment — or even if the evidence is there we decide it would tear the country apart too much, there’s no buy-in, there’s no bipartisanship and we shouldn’t do it for whatever reason — if we decide that, then it’s our duty to educate the country why we decided it.”

The latter seems like a flimsy excuse, and evokes the atmosphere of emerging dictators. If we decide it would tear the country apart doesn’t seem like a firm constitutional argument. It would reinforce Trump’s sense of invincibility. While there are consequences to consider before removing the dotard from office, simply citing country division as a reason to avoid doing the unthinkable would definitely bolster Trump’s supporter’s perceived power. “We spoke, and even the Democrats listened.”

Definitely a muddy issue, but Democrats should make sure not to appear weak or appeasing on the issue. The thought of impeachment is definitely tempting, and should be pursued. Also, while setting a dangerous precedent by successfully removing a president from office is a reasonable consideration, another potentially even more dangerous precedent lurks in the halls of letting an aspiring dictator think he has won. I find the “country division” argument an extremely hollow one, and one that sends the signal that any form of presidential behavior will be tolerated. Should we also postpone or void the importance of the presidential election in 2020 simply because Trump’s supporters might void their bowels in protest? I think not.

 

Fox News Starts to Taste Like “Breitbart Beef.” A Murky Evolution?

This article in Politico caught my eye. The gist of the piece talks about how Fox News, the outstretched, right-leaning media arm of the Trump administration, is transforming into an outlet that pushes content more in line with Breitbart News. It seems like a debatable point, since Fox News has always veered heavily conservative in its “reporting.”

Even so, Fox News is attempting to bump shoulder to shoulder with Breitbart by offering content on its website that is reminiscent of a barbed wire fence. For starters, Fox is beefing up its digital content staff and giving those workers what they need to perform their jobs more effectively. Digital content hasn’t always been such a priority for the media organization, but Murdoch’s love child seems intent on not missing a beat.

How to describe Breitbart? Much less facts-oriented, more aggressive language. The article provides some good examples of Fox’s mimicry skills, such as referring to Trump’s visit to the FBI headquarters as “ENTERING ENEMY TERRITORY.”

Another interesting example was when Fox’s website described the North Korean scientists as “Rocket men.” Not only are they borrowing an insult from Trump’s playbook, they are magically taking the insult and applying it in a racist way. Maybe Kim Jong Un will start calling us all dotards? Point being that Fox has all but shunned any pretense to non-racist liberalism. For sure, it’s always been a racist cesspool, but maybe the language is a bit more free in its bigoted phrasing.

So, is the trajectory of Fox News’ language a clear thing? Could it even be described as an evolution? Certainly, the website has a new man at the helm, Noah Kotch, which lends itself to a different personal style. It’s always been my association that Breitbart is what Fox was scared to be. As I said, different leader, different style, that much is sure. I’m debating with myself now whether or not the language is indeed more incendiary on Fox’s website post-Kotch. It could be that there isn’t much of a difference in how both styles provide the contours for inflammatory language. In other words, both media outlets have the whiff of extreme insularity about them. The goals are similar.

Let’s think about it this way: that the architect of incendiary language in some cases consistently refers to the insularity required to sustain the effectiveness of that language. Fox News and Breitbart are highly similar, almost indistinguishable in this way.  Fox creates a bubble for its listeners, keeping its viewers’ visions of the past alive through effective editing and sterile words. It has maintained this bubble for years. Now Breitbart moseys into town, thinking itself to be an edgelord.  Fox has seen fit to emulate Breitbart’s style, increasing the insularity to match the perceived ignorance of the viewership. What’s new in this observation, then? Breitbart offering a a sharply more bigoted tone is the mainstream view. I think looking at the level of insulation is key to deciding. Insularity reinforces inflammatory language, and the heightened emotion of the words used reinforces that insularity.

What’s interesting to me is that Breitbart has perfected the lowbrow art of half-wittingly spamming a portion of the online population with content–something that Fox is experimenting with, but is still tweaking. Is the medium the message, then? Digital content can be very powerful, even more so if spammed correctly and over a long period of time. Because of how rapid social media reinforcement can be, the level of insularity offered is off the charts. Rapidity + Incendiary language + Insularity, the three-pronged effort of Breitbart, and now Fox News.

You know, I still haven’t decided which is worse yet. One wants to become the other, that’s bad enough.

 

Drive Safely…

I have to attend to the celebratory part of Christmas in about an hour, but just wanted to send out a quick “Merry Christmas” to all out there that choose to celebrate that sort of thing. Believe it or not, I don’t care if you don’t.

Why a picture of Bill O’Reilly? Well, I guess you could say that its purpose is to infuse you not with gratitude, but with a kind of “fiery Christmas passion.” There are people out there that say politics has no place in a laid-back Christmas atmosphere. I disagree.

Have a Merry Christmas, and don’t be afraid to bring up any heated political topic that’s on your mind. If it all goes to hell in a hand basket, well, that’s not my fault. You shouldn’t take advice off the internet.

Fox News’ Condescension Problem

Gah! Warn me before you walk into the room and point at me like that! Son of a ****!

This is an extension of yesterday’s post, I guess. In that post, I talked about Fox News’ credibility issue, and how the reporting or whatever seems disproportionately released from scrutiny relative to the fireballs President Trump tosses across the fortress barrier at CNN. Fox News releases Trump from criticism, and the POTUS responds in kind. It’s an efficient system. It also resembles state-run media.

Fox News achieves it aims in two different ways, probably more since I don’t watch it that frequently because that activity is like getting drunk minus the pleasurable sensations.

  • Conspiracy theories

Fox News’ conspiracy theories are nothing new, from Birtherism to the Seth Rich Murder. Conspiracy theories are another tool of the authoritarian toolkit, since they refer to something larger themselves, absolved from scrutiny or any form of reality check.

  • Condescension

When you watch Fox News, especially when the program centers on a dominating male personality, you start picking up on long-term patterns. Using Bill O’Reilly as an example, he respond with phrases like “that’s horse shit!” or “what utter crap!” “a donkey dumped in a tank water has more intelligence than the person who wrote me that email.”

I’m paraphrasing of course. It’s not like I watch re-runs of that gasbag on youtube. But putting O’Reilly aside, let’s take the rising conservative star Tucker Carlson as another example. “That’s insane” is a favorite phrase of his, and when that isn’t used, interruption, the hysterical raising of voices fills the void. Fox News is very concerned with maintaining a certain style for its male personalities, which heavily relies on condescension and consistent attempts at intimidating its viewers/guests. The goal of intimidation isn’t always to inspire loathing. Among a certain demographic, that authoritarian rhetoric is highly respected.

In short, I don’t like Fox News, but I might have to watch it occasionally for “research.” Oh well, there are worse lives to live.