The sad, mopey bald eagle that is the American republic is perched an unlucky 13 months away from the 2012 presidential elections, and the Republican candidates aren’t exactly stinking up the room with charisma.
So far, the GOP TV debates have presented the electorate with a dull lineup of wooden bowling pins from which to choose. Rick Perry comes off like a dimwitted reptile; at any given time, we expect him to catch a fly with his tongue as he stands there at the podium. Mitt Romney is an icy Mormon toothpaste salesman—plus his name is “Mitt.” John Huntsman and Rick Santorum look like they’re smelling each other’s flatulence. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich both seem smart, but once you realize they both look like Santa’s elves, you can’t stop thinking they both look like Santa’s elves. Then there’s the dumb broad with the Fargo accent and the black guy who used to have cancer and sell pizzas.
Granted, these are entirely superficial conclusions, yet they’re based on the solid premise that the electorate is superficial. Trivialities, not sound policy, are what win elections. If the Republicans hope to slay Ballsac Osama next November, they need to burp up somebody better than these stiffs.
The Republicans obviously need a BIG man to step in and overshadow all the other candidates, and the latest buzz-boy is muy gordo Garden State Governor Chris Christie. Upon one’s first viewing of Christie, one may feel inclined to exclaim, “Wow—that’s one fat man. Actually, he’s big enough to qualify as two fat men.”
Although Christie—in between huffing and puffing, wiping the sweat from his brow, and loosening his belt another notch—has insisted he won’t run for president, the speculation persists. Thankfully, the media have decided to remain tasteful and respectful. They have refrained from making sport of his weight. OK, we’re kidding:
As Greece lurches on the precipice of default on its sovereign debt, a default that could bring down banks across Europe and precipitate a global financial panic, a consensus is building that there is but one way out.
First, a structured default on the Greek debt, giving creditors a major haircut, but compensating them with eurobonds of half the face value of the Greek bonds, guaranteed by the European Central Bank.
Second, a huge new European Financial Stabilization Facility of trillions of euros to recapitalize stricken banks and buy up the sovereign debt of Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Spain, should private investors flee their bonds.
Such a solution, however, depends upon Germany, the richest nation in Europe and major contributor to the ECB.
Hard-money Germans, however, do not relish bailing out the deadbeat nations of Club Med who have more generous welfare states than their own.
Politically, it may not be possible to cajole or coerce the Germans, indefinitely, into saving the eurozone, the collapse of which could bring on a depression and bring down the European Union itself.
There is another reason the European Monetary Union and EU may be headed for the boneyard: demography.
Looking over the 2008 World Population Prospects from the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs, one finds that the nation which is to carry Europe back to solvency is aging, shrinking and dying.
Every decade of this century, Germany will become less able to sustain its dynamism, let alone carry the continent.
Consider. In 2010, there were 82 million Germans. Fully 26 percent were 60 years of age or older; 20 percent were 65 or older; 5 percent were 80 or older.
Now, fast forward to 2050.
Between 2010 and mid-century, 12 million Germans will disappear. In 2050, Germany will be a nation of 70 million, whose median age will have risen from 44 today to 51. And the life expectancy of all Germans will rise from today’s 80 years to 84.
The average German may enjoy four more years of life, but he or she will also require four more years of social security and health care provided by the taxpaying public. And that taxpaying public is also going to shrink.
By 2050, the percentage of Germans over 60 will have risen from 26 to nearly 40 percent. The percentage 65 and over will have risen from 20.5 to 32.5 percent, and the share over 80 will have tripled from the present 5 percent of the population to 14 percent.
The 2012 general election will, we are told by numerous pundits, be exceptionally “bitter” and “divisive.” I guess what they mean is that our Great National Neurosis (GNN)—you know which one I’m talking about—will be on full display.
With a deeply unsuccessful and increasingly unpopular black president defending his incumbency, it’s an easy guess. If you thought the political left enjoyed accusing people of racism before, wait ’til you see what they have in store the next few months. Bitter? Oh, yeah.
The GNN doesn’t always play out in predictable ways, though. Example: A lot of my acquaintances around New York City are calling Obama’s reign a “David Dinkins presidency.” Dinkins (1990-93) was NY’s first black mayor. To date he was also the last. Indeed, this very “blue” city has not merely not elected another black guy since Dinkins stepped down, they haven’t elected another Democrat.
People are predicting the Obama presidency will be like that. Whites will say: “OK, we did that, elected the black guy, got it out of the way. Now let’s go back to real politics.” They are even seeking out parallels: “Hey, look—Obama’s ticked off the Jews. Just like Dinkins!” (Dinkins’s feeble response to the Crown Heights black-on-Jew pogrom in 1991 lost him a lot of Jewish votes.)
Following the parallel, the US electorate, having demonstrated their anti-racist credentials by electing Obama in ’08, will dump him in ’12, then elect white Republicans for a couple of decades. So go the prognostications.
The scenario is not altogether implausible. The eagerness to elect Obama in ’08 was to some degree independent of party. It was also a bipartisan reaction to the awfulness of the Republican president and his would-be successor. Much of it was due to the yearning to do something people were told would be “historic.” It would of course only be “historic” the first time we did it. From then on, it would be politics as usual.
Such neatly repeating patterns are rare in politics, though. Obama is not out for the count yet. A great many things can happen in thirteen months.
And then there’s Herman Cain.
The first time Herman Cain really registered with me was back in June, when he dropped in at National Review to give us some face time. I’d like to give you a detailed account of the visit, but I’ve lost my notes, and I think it was supposed to be off the record anyway.
I recall being impressed and charmed by the man. Impressed: Cain gave off that aura of capable busy-ness that foreigners—I mean, people like myself, born and raised elsewhere—think of as “very American.” Charmed: Cain was relaxed, easygoing, quick-witted, and funny. He is clearly comfortable in his own skin. Seen up close, that skin is very black—much blacker than Barack Obama’s. I’d guess Cain’s ancestry as no more than one-thirty-second nonblack, perhaps entirely West African. Whatever it is, the man is not bothered about it one way or the other.
Set against Barack Obama’s agonized narcissism about his semi-blackness, Cain’s racial insouciance is very refreshing. It even left me slightly disturbed. The old folk wisdom about race is that full-bloods are easy with themselves, while it’s the half-castes who endure psychic torment and dysfunction. Barack Obama seems to ratify this, writing that weird, needy paean to his neglectful black father while his much more attentive and loving white mother was dying of cancer. As the father of two racial half-breeds myself, naturally I fret about this stuff. It’s not an issue with Cain.
I’ve often written about Israel, and not always in a flattering light. After president Rabin was assassinated (his wife once told me that she preferred Arafat to Netanyahu any day), I lost all hope that reason, wisdom, and humanity might prevail in the Holy Land. Partly, I keep returning to a subject that does not exactly endear me among Jewish friends because Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians offends my sense of justice. People often warn me to lay off. “Don’t get involved, it’s the last thing you need,” they say. I have a pat answer: “A Palestinian mother who loses a husband or a child to a bullet cries as bitterly as a Jewish one.” And a small reminder: “The Palestinians never put a Jew in a camp—the Germans did—so why take it out on the former?
Yet after each column I’ve written about Israel, the feedback is mostly, “You’re an anti-Semite, and we expect nothing less of you.” Well, get your red-inked “anti-Semite” rubber stamps ready for this article, because here we go again. Taking account of their history, it is mind-blowing to me that the Israelis have allowed themselves to become the systematic oppressors of another people. Far before 1948, Jewish armed gangs had begun chasing Arabs out of places they had lived in since time immemorial. Because of the Holocaust, people turned a blind eye. We all know the rest. Under Jordanian leadership the Palestinians permanently lost their lands after the wars of 1948, 1956, and 1967. Only Egypt managed to get the Sinai back after a so-so performance in 1973’s Yom Kippur War.
Through it all, Arab leaders couldn’t be bothered to lift a finger to help the dispossessed. Keeping them in squalid camps served a political purpose, so to hell with them. I visited those camps back in the 60s; such places are still bursting at the seams today. My mentor was Glubb Pasha’s son, a young Englishman who pointed out the terrible inequities Israel was imposing on a people who had always lived in peace with Jews before the big boys got involved.
Arguing that security concerns can justify Israel’s expanding illegal settlements has always been a bad joke, a transparent euphemism for ethnic cleansing. Just as the Jewish state declared “never again” upon its creation, so are decent, freedom-loving people worldwide saying “enough is enough.” That includes close to half the Israeli population who don’t support being oppressors.
When my son was ten, his baseball coach—inspired by Michael Lewis’s bestseller Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game—came up with a statistically brilliant team strategy: Don’t swing. Ever.
Because few ten-year-olds can throw more strikes than balls, his team won the pennant by letting the little boy on the mound walk them around the bases until he dissolved into tears and had to be replaced by another doomed lad.
The next spring, the parents got together and decided not to let that coach return.
Moneyball the movie is, easily, the greatest feature film ever made about baseball statistics. Don’t believe the marketing spin about how this isn’t really a sports movie. This is a baseball statistics movie. If you’ve always wanted to see Brad Pitt swat away a criticism because it was based on a “small sample size,” this is your moment.
Granted, the sample size of $50-million Hollywood movies about statistics is one. Yet even on an absolute scale, Moneyball is a fine film. Considering how unlikely the topic is, the screenplay is a major accomplishment. As a fan of Michael Lewis’s 2003 bestseller about how Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane used Bill James’s statistical methods to find underpriced ballplayers, I was astonished by the amount of brainpower that has been exerted to make the dialogue informative yet engaging and comprehensible. They had to shrink Beane’s learning curve down to a single year and lump several of his bright young quants into one (played by Jonah Hill, whose shtick I haven’t tired of yet). But the anti-dramatic moral is retained. Play the percentages: Don’t steal bases, don’t bunt, don’t even swing unless you can homer.
The Congressional Black Caucus found out that if you’re gonna cuss the boss, first you’d better saddle your horse. They threw Obama a campaign party and Obama made it a roast…of the CBC!
Obama saw his window of opportunity and threw a brick through it. Sounding like a black Southern Baptist minister, Obama lectured the CBC, essentially calling them a bunch of bellyaching babies, when he said:
Stop crying….I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself. I don’t have time to complain, I’m gon’ press on. I expect all of you to march with me and press on.
It is clear that Obama expects blind faith from black liberals. There will be no defections. E’rybo’y must press on.
Obama took his shellacking in 2010, while the CBC came out unscathed. The CBC retained all their Congressional seats. Next Obama lost the NY-9 Congressional seat that had been held by Democrats for 88 years. In both cases Obama was left twisting alone in the wind. That’s what elections are for.
While Obama was reviving the new and improved strategy of “Spend Our Way Out of Debt II,” CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) offered only token love, saying that if Obama were not black, the Congressional Black Caucus would have “marched on the White House.”
The CBC is about as handy as a golf club in a tennis match, which is why they expected Obama to create jobs for black people, to pay black people’s bills, and to redistribute the wealth to black people, for goodness’ sake. Obama proved useless toward these ends.
In an article titled “The Paradox of Hope,” Gary Younge speaks on Obama’s impact on blacks since his election:
But for all the ways black America has felt better about itself and looked better to others, it has not actually fared better. In fact, it has been doing worse. The economic gap between black and white has grown since Obama took power. Under his tenure black unemployment, poverty, and foreclosures are at their highest levels for at least a decade.
A few hours after reading an interview with Matt Stone and Trey Parker in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, I watched them both on 60 Minutes. They’re all over the news because The Book of Mormon won nine Tonys, has already made over 32 million dollars, and is sold out for the next five months. I was enjoying what I see as “our people” on the TV when the overweight beer drinker I had invited over said, “Ah, who cares?” Like all couch potatoes, he is “over it,” and by “it” I mean anything that makes him feel like the lazy asshole he really is. “Everybody knows Trey Parker writes 99% of their stuff and he’s just a bitter old fag who wants to make fun of Christians because they make him feel bad.” I told him to fuck off. I had heard this unsubstantiated rumor before and it makes me mad.
It drives me nuts when people discredit entire debates by drudging up some incriminating personal detail about their opponent. “Oh, he’s just mad because he got kicked out of Metallica” shouldn’t matter. Is what he’s saying true or false? In my guest’s case, what he was saying was most likely false but if it was true, I couldn’t help but think it affected what Parker says. And I hate that I couldn’t help that.“Does it matter who says it if it’s true?”
After the drinking buddy went home, I was left wondering if Trey Parker being gay would affect the way I saw his comedy. A week ago, I was lucky enough to get to see The Book of Mormon and I laughed my ass off. I now had to involuntarily put the whole experience through the retroactive gay filter. I did think it was unusual how perfectly these straight guys mimicked the musical. The play seemed to be about the hypocrisy of religion and how naïve believers are. One of the highlights is a song called “Turn it Off” where Parker (and the audience) laugh in the face of closeted gays who think they can hide their gayness. It reminded me of “Trapped in the Closet,” the banned South Park episode featured on last Sunday’s 60 Minutes that ridicules Tom Cruise for not being open about his homosexuality. Then I stopped myself. It may be counterintuitive, but why can’t people in glass houses throw stones if they hit their target? Does it matter who says it if it’s true?
It’s certainly nobody’s business if a chocolatier in Needham, MA, likes to make sweet love to a man after a hard day of packing fudge. That’s a no-brainer, but what if this closeted fag’s entire career was built on mocking closeted fags? Oprah became a billionaire by teaching people to be proud of who they are; however, if the rumors of her lesbianism are true, she certainly doesn’t practice what she preaches. Does she have the right to tell black lesbians how important it is to be yourself? Ellen certainly does. Isn’t Oprah doing black dykes a disservice by not telling the world she’s one of them? I don’t know.
When Senator Larry Craig hit on a man in an airport bathroom, Ann Coulter said the whole thing was needlessly intrusive. She pointed out that Craig was against gay marriage, not gay sex, and what he does on his own time is his own affair. I was inclined to agree. If John Wayne Gacy says murder is wrong, it’s still wrong. However, Craig was against more than just gay marriage. In 1996, he voted against prohibiting job discrimination by sexual orientation. He also voted against including sexual orientation in hate crimes back in 2000 and again in 2002. After seeing this entire context, I can’t help but think Craig is driven by his own frustrations, not what’s best for the rest of us.
I own a pair of Sarah Palin shoes. Not the “do-me” pumps fetishized by her friends and foes alike. Mine are customized Keds with her face all over them.
On the rare occasions I’m brave enough to wear them in public, I feel like a pre-costume-change superhero whose secret powers dwell solely (no pun intended) in her feet and which the rest of her prays she won’t be forced to unleash.
I was always quick to deride the phenomenon when the topic was O. J.’s “innocence” or the Muslim overreaction to those Muhammad cartoons. Then McCain tapped Palin as his running mate.
When Palin strode onto the stage (wearing those heels), I recognized her name, having heard some conservative publisher laud her after his magazine’s Alaska cruise. That was it. So my reaction, like the rest of the audience’s, was 99% fact-free.
All I could think of was: “Girl! Girl win!! Yay girl!!!”“Sarah Palin’s own superpower—to annoy or inspire people beyond reason, seemingly just for existing—has been well-documented.”
I’ve since calmed down, unlike a number of folks you’d think would have more pressing things on their minds than some ex-non-Veep. Even if their minds are, shall we say, travel-sized. And in boxer/rapist/Algonquin wit Mike Tyson’s case, permanently bruised.
Recap: Last week, Mike Tyson was a guest on a sports talk radio show. The topic turned to an allegation in Joe McGinniss’s (poorly received and since mostly discredited) “tell all” book about the former Alaska governor: that she’d slept with former NBA player Glen Rice.
The Daily Caller reported Tyson’s on-air response:
“Glen Rice is a wonderful man,” Tyson said. “He’s a wonderful guy. You want her to be with somebody like [Dennis] Rodman getting up…in there. Pushing her guts up in the back of her head!…yeah baby! Let’s get that donkey in here now. Just imagine Palin with a big old black stallion ripping. Yeehaw!”
“[I]n life in general you know…everybody got to get that out of their system when they get out of college,” he said. “If you’re a black man, every white girl, every uppity middle class…everybody got to get their share of love.”…
“Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.
“Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”
That was state Sen. Barack Obama in his keynote address to the 2004 Democratic convention. His rejection of tribal politics, his stirring call to national unity, vaulted him into the Senate and was the first step on the path that took him to the White House.
Well, that was then, but now is now.
According to The Washington Post, Obama’s 2012 campaign is today busily subdividing the nation into racial, ethnic and religious enclaves for targeted appeals to find a “narrow path to victory.”
Setting one tribe against another, one faction against another, divide and conquer, is among the oldest tactics of politics and war.
The Obama campaign headquarters calls its divide-and-conquer strategy “Operation Vote.” Reporter Peter Wallsten describes it:
“Operation Vote will function as a large, centralized department in the Chicago campaign office for reaching ethnic, religious and other voter groups. It will coordinate recruitment of an ethnic volunteer base and push out targeted messages online and through the media to different groups, such as blacks, Hispanics, Jews, women, seniors, young people, gays and Asian Americans.“Look for the race card to be played early and often.”
This is tribal politics, pure and simple. Hire blacks, Hispanics, Jews and gays to appeal to and advance the interests of blacks, Hispanics, Jews and gays. And what happens then to the national interest?
Conspicuously absent from this racial-ethnic-religious targeting is America’s majority, white Christians, who are still 60 percent of the nation. Why no outreach to them? Have they been written off?
Obama got 43 percent of the white vote in 2008, a higher share than either John Kerry or Al Gore. But his approval rating among whites has fallen to less than a third; even lower among working-class whites.
If these folks have come to believe Obama has relegated them to the back of the bus, does not Operation Vote confirm it?
And if targeted appeals to race, ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual orientation is the Obama strategy, 2012 will be among the most divisive elections in U.S. history.
It’s been 20 years since Nirvana’s Nevermind album and its breakthrough single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” were released. The scrawny corpse of Kurt Cobain, the Man Who Refused to Be Marketed, is being repackaged and remarketed, with Nevermind now reissued in multiple commemorative editions of escalating cost and pointlessness.
As with everything Cobain-related, the predictable slop-puddle of fawning encomiums and immature ejaculations have squirted forth from the bespectacled, beta-male rock critics that Kurt, in his quest to forever change the music industry, neglected to slay. For two decades running, she-men who look like this have tossed the most absurdly hyperbolic verbal hosannas at the incurably self-pitying junkie as if he actually had redeeming personal qualities. Michael Calderone (pictured in the far left of that lineup), without a trace of irony, once wrote that “Kurt Cobain’s suicide was our generation’s Kennedy assassination.” Gil Kaufman (second from left) equated Cobain’s suicide with “the Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttle explosions, the riots following the Rodney King verdict, [and] the September 11, 2001 terror attacks….”
In language usually reserved for the likes of Jesus Christ and Gandhi, we are reassured of Cobain’s “significance,” his “importance,” his “idealism and truth and…honor,” and how Nevermind “spoke to a generation” and “changed the world.” Oh—and unlike Axl Rose, who until Cobain’s advent was the world’s biggest rock star, Kurt “didn’t bait blacks and gays.” (Axl Rose hated blacks so much, he only allowed half a black dude in his band.)“What’s debatable is whether his effect on pop culture is worth celebrating.”
It’s not as if Cobain didn’t leave a huge mark—Nirvana has sold over 50 million albums, and in 2006 Cobain temporarily eclipsed Elvis Presley for the coveted crown of being the world’s highest-earning dead celebrity. What’s debatable is whether his effect on pop culture is worth celebrating.
Seemingly within hours of Nevermind’s release, all the poodle-haired, spandex-constricted 1980s glam bands were jobless. The hairspray and shampoo industries suffered tremendous losses, offset by the instantaneous resurrection of the flannel-shirt and thrift-store sectors. Whereas rock songs had focused on hot chicks with large breasts, lyrical themes shifted to depressed twits with sunken chests. Unkempt junkies yarled and warbled and yowled about heroin, depression, and how they were depressed they couldn’t find more heroin. Somehow, this all gave “new life” to rock music.
Cobain, with his endless tut-tutting and pooh-poohing of “racism, sexism, and homophobia,” was the John the Baptist of Emasculated White Pop Icons. Forevermore, it would be only testosterone-addled, tattoo-spackled, buffed-out, Glock-toting black hip-hop stars—or the occasional white guy from Detroit wearing cultural blackface—who were tasked with peddling racism, sexism, and homophobia through pop music.
What influenced this towheaded product of misty Aberdeen, WA, to become so influential? It appears that the most formative experience of Cobain’s youth was his parents’ divorce when he was nine. His broken family broke his spirit, allegedly causing the budding bard of bummed-out lyrics to scrawl on his bedroom wall:
I hate mom
I hate Dad
Dad hates Mom
Mom hates Dad
It simply makes you want to be so sad.
In 1993, Cobain told an interviewer, “I desperately wanted to have the classic, you know, typical family. Mother, father. I wanted that security, so I resented my parents for quite a few years because of that.”
Such situations typically present two options: You can spend your life trying to heal the wounds, or you can keep wounding yourself and pretend that it’s pretty.