Wednesday, January 31, 2018

State of the Bunion, With Heel Spurs

Since much of Donald Trump's speech to the Congressional Joint last night consisted of his own hands, Mussolini-like, clapping for himself, and his  frequent pauses to look around and see who was applauding him, the reviews saying this was one of the longest harangues of its type are misleading.

Before I get into the rancid meat of the speech, let's get the fashion sidebar out of the way first. Paul Ryan wore a suitably lighter shade of blue tie than Trump's, although he did botch his own opening line: "I preven-- present the president of the United States!"

First Lady Melania chose the Hillary Clinton nominating convention look: a blinding white pantsuit. There are already plenty of articles on the possible cultural symbolism and hidden meanings of this choice of couture, so I won't bother. As I previously reported, the Democratic ladies borrowed their style from the Golden Globe ladies, and wore funereal black. Nobody shouted "Shut up!" or otherwise disrupted the spectacle - which is, after all, the political equivalent of Hollywood's own multi-part orgy of theatrical self-congratulation. There were one or two nonverbal outbursts that sounded like projectile vomiting, which I swear came from my TV and not from me or my pet goldfish.

Now, to the speech. If I were asked to give it a title, it'd be a toss-up between "It's Always Sunny When You Got Somebody To Hate" or  "It'll Take a Trillion-Dollar Military Industrial Complex To Crush One Little Latino Gang From Long Guyland."

No way, as the New York Times cheerfully posited in its usual insane deference to the "occasion" of the S.O.T.U. if not the man, was this an appeal for "unity,"  unless a more cohesive jelly mold of fear and hatred was what Trump had in mind.  When read rather than listened to, in fact, it sounds like many bullshitting presidential victory laps of hope which came before it.

Here's my interpretation (his actual words are in italicized quotes.)

America is a lot like Dante's trilogy, folks. There's both a heaven and a hell and maybe a purgatory, but I've never really been one for centrism, so I'll keep maniacally spinning from hell to heaven and back again throughout this diatribe. If there is anything I'm a master at, it's keeping people so seriously off-balance they won't know what's really hitting them until it's way too late.

Ordinary people look out for ordinary people. Because America is a bootstrapping nation which hasn't had a safety net for so long there's no need to even talk about it in this speech.

So, thank you, Mr. Helicopter Rescuer in the audience, for being a human prop next to the White Pantsuit Supermodel, so we don't have to talk about how the government has turned its back on the people of Puerto Rico and "the Harvey."

Thank you, too, Mr. Firefighter dude for rescuing 60 people from the Inferno in California. It only goes to prove that just because you're trapped in a raging fire you don't necessary die from it. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr. Congresscritter Steve Scalise, who proved that just because you get shot along with many other people every single day in America, you can come out of your own trial by fire looking just fantastic, 10 years younger in fact, all because of our great health care system. (Scalise jumps to his feet to prove it and he even blows a two-handed macho Hollywood-style kiss to the president. Because gun ownership for anybody and everybody is what America is truly all about. This happy-ending shooting proved we are one great big happy country-family.

"If there is an opportunity, we seize it." Because predation and greed are what we're all about.

Even though wages are stagnating, I'll do like all my predecessors did and insist they're rising. Plus, since I can't get Jay-Z calling me a germ out of my head, I'll dig in a little deeper and claim that black people have never had it better. Also Wall Street is booming, which is great for the pension accounts it's appropriated until the bubble bursts and somebody who is not a billionaire loses their shirt, their house, and maybe even an eye.

So anyway, here's a shout-out to Steve and Sandy, who own a small factory in Ohio.  Also to their black employee, an all-American welder who is a great welder because his bosses told me he was. You think I personally have the time to look at his welding? So that's another racist dog-whistle completed, sending the message that black people are either uppity Jay-Zs, or not hard-working enough to score a seat next to the White Pantsuit Goddess. How can I be a racist when I highlight a black guy on my special night?

"If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve anything." This is a subtle dig at the 800,000 Dreamers, in the vein of critics who counter the Black Lives Matter Movement with "all lives matter." Trump hammers down on this "dream" theme several more times during his speech.

"In America, we know that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the center of the American life. Our motto is 'in God we trust.'” (At this point the camera pans to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is caught applauding this line as robotically as any spellbound person who has ever been positively conditioned throughout life to loaded buzzwords and thus avoid thinking of how this country has always used the tropes of God and family to inflict a whole lot of Infernos both here and abroad.)

"And we celebrate our police, our military, and our amazing veterans as heroes who deserve our total and unwavering support." If you question endless war for profit, or complain about police brutality, you're not a real (white) American.

On that Orwellian note, here's another shout-out to a human prop. Young 12-year-old Preston up there, sitting right next to the White Pantsuit Goddess, started a movement to plant 40,000 flags on the graves of soldiers. Because unlike flowers, flags never die. "Young patriots like Preston teach all of us about our civic duty as Americans. Preston’s reverence for those who have served our Nation reminds us why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the pledge of allegiance, and why we proudly stand for the national anthem." Naturally, this was a dig at the mainly black athletes who have taken a knee in protest of racism at football games. Nothing like using a nice little kid as your racist cudgel, eh, Trumpolini?

Now it's on to the appointment of conservative judges who will allow people to keeping buying more guns because the Second Amendment rules. A quick pan to Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch doesn't elicit any emotion whatsoever.

 "All Americans deserve accountability and respect – and that is what we are giving them. So tonight, I call on the Congress to empower every Cabinet Secretary with the authority to reward good workers – and to remove Federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people."
Naturally, as the Underminer-in-Chief, this new rule would not apply to Donald J. Trump. But it'd be nice to see Congress take him at his word, just for fun.

Now it's on to the manufacture of more gas-guzzling, fuel-inefficient cars to keep the wheels of Capitalism grinding on until the whole planet erupts into one Dante's Inferno after another.

But before that happens, Trump wants terminal cancer patients to stop schlepping from country to country in search of a quack cure when they should easily have "access" to untested therapies right here in the Homeland.

Also, Trump has directed his new HHS secretary, fresh from the profiteering pharma industry, to "fix the injustice of high drug prices."  He might mean the injustice to the drug industry of laws against price-fixing, which prevent them from conspiring to raise and fix prices to even higher levels than they are already.

On to infrastructure improvement, a meaningless suggestion which seems to come up at every S.O.T.U. speech. Private corporations will not sink any money into such a thing, because it's risky and the returns are slower than would be gleaned by simply gambling with customers' money and making more money off of money than off of things. And no president in recent memory has ever suggested that public works projects actually be totally public. Where there is no profit motive, there is just no American way.

"We want every American to know the dignity of a hard day’s work. We want every child to be safe in their home at night. And we want every citizen to be proud of this land that we love.
We can lift our citizens from welfare to work, from dependence to independence, and from poverty to prosperity."

Notice he doesn't say that he wants every child to have guaranteed health care and a guaranteed public education. He does want every child to be afraid of "foreigners" who make them feel so jittery in their beds at night after they see his inflammatory Tweets. And ominously, he hints at more social safety net cuts to come in some very neoliberal language: "lifting" people from welfare to work and implying that poverty is some sort of cultural problem or individual foible. This is another classic racist and misogynistic dog-whistle employed mainly by the GOP, but also echoed by the Democrats' offerings of "ladders of opportunity."

Now it's on to fulminating the discredited trope of the "trickle-down" prosperity to be unleashed by the massive tax cuts for the rich. Oh, but let's throw in some paid family leave, because that's the pet project of Daughter Ivanka, a registered Democrat until Daddy ran for president.

Finally we get to the real rancid offal of the speech: Keep All Latino Furners Out with our big, beautiful fantastic border wall. To help him make his point, Trump points to a couple more human props whose children were killed by the notorious MS-13 Gang on Long Guyland. And then, using the old divide and conquer propaganda technique, Trump wags an approving digit at a Latino ICE agent who is patriotic enough to go after his own ethnic group.

Now that he got that out of the way, he doubles down on ending the visa lottery and thus barring immigrants from what he infamously called "shithole countries." And he again lies about so-called chain migration allowing any immigrants' distant relatives to get a free ticket into the country.

Next, he tiptoes around the crisis of opioid addiction by telling the heartwarming story of a compassionate Christian cop who adopted the baby of a heroin addict. The implicit message here is that there will always be people to care for the children of addicts, so the government and the oligarchs raking in the dough don't have to worry about it. Because if the children of powerful people become addicted, there are plenty of pricey rehab hospitals to take them in while other addicts either die in the streets, or go through withdrawal in overcrowded prisons, or some stranger comes along to "lift them up."

Would it be a proper S.O.T.U. if Trump didn't also demand unlimited Congressional funding for an already bloated military machine? Naturally, this last symphonic movement elicited the requisite fascistic chorus of USA!USA!USA! as a worthy substitute for fireworks and clashing cymbals. To get the crowd adrenaline flowing, he gushes over two soldiers who helped evacuate a hospital booby-trapped by ISIS explosives, because, as they would have us believe, American soldiers never, ever commit civilian atrocities.

And just in case you still had any doubts that the US military is planning a continuation (it never officially ended) of the Korean War, they should have dissipated with Trump's introduction of his final human prop, a North Korean refugee who lost a leg and whose family was forced to eat dirt helping him to flee to freedom. He further strove to overcome our sickly inhibitions about another war with the evening's most heartless use of human props - the parents of Otto Warmbier, who was apparently tortured by North Koreans before they released him back to the States, where he died of irreparable brain damage - although with the lack of an autopsy, the cause of death was never established.

This country belongs to the police and the military, Trump bellowed.

Is it a coup yet?


The Joker said...

"This country belongs to the police and the military, Trump bellowed.

Is it a coup yet?"

                  -- Karen Garcia

The USA! USA! USA! primal chants by our troglodite so-called representatives were indicative of where this country is heading. No need for a formal coup (which implies a takeover by a single head or a small junta), when both the legislative branch and the Supreme Court are so enthusiastic in both participation and support of fascistic behavior by government.

I've advised my relatives to learn at least one foreign language, as I predict that the government of this country will within a decade or two become so hostile to anyone with even a shred of humanity that the only reasonably choice for a decent person will be to leave -- if that will still be possible.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Thanks for the recap, Karen. I didn't watch it on TV, knowing you would give us a report.

But Dante's masterwork may not be the best framework to order the details of the Trump saga. In Dante's trilogy the good guys, by that I mean those who are both mighty and righteous, ultimately win (h/t to an Ursula Le Guin essay). But might and right stand far apart in most modern states, especially the one I have in mind.

How about using "The Shining" with Jack Nicholson as a schema? Somewhere in the corridors of that erie hotel, Nicholson catches sight of a gorgeous woman. As she beckons him and as he approaches, she morphs into the hag of hags. Something along that line has happened to the presidency and, by extension, the country.

We find ourselves at the tail of a long history of beautiful presidents (well, some of them) and, according to most history books, a beautiful nation that never stops congratulating itself for being simultaneously in the possession of might and right, power and glory. Now comes the hag part with the scary ending. It's a horror story, for sure; and we're living it.

Karen Garcia said...


Since I never metaphor I didn't like, sometimes I'll cram one in just for the hell of it, even if doesn't fit quite perfectly. The "rhythm" of Trump's speech veered from one extreme (America is so lovey-dovey and home to the heavenly hosts) to the next (America is a dangerous pit full of foreign devils that we gotta keep out.)

You can kind of tell giving it a close read, that it was co-written by Goldman Sachs (Gary Cohn) and the xenophobic wing of his Inner Circle (Kelly and Miller) and kind of cobbled together.

Speaking of The Shining, did you know that the model for Stephen King's hotel hell was the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, where I live? This is also the haunt where Hillary Clinton was so serendipitously spotted by the New York Times, nursing her wounds, shortly after her election loss. The reporter just happened to be in the out-of-the-way 'hood, 90 miles north of NYC.

One of King's sons lives full-time here, and a version of the town has sometimes been featured in their books.

Comrade said...

"The State of the Empire is STRONG!"

I didn't actually watch or listen to Trump's speech. What I want to know is, who wrote Bernie's rebuttal? Hillary?

Bernie has been buying into the Russia boogeyman narrative hook, line, and sinker. It was bad enough that he endorsed that faux feminist who sold herself and her last name to her husband in exchange for a political coattail ride; who enabled, protected, and embraced multiple sexual predators in exchange for money, power, and fame; and who made corruption and dishonesty an art form. But now Bernie has capitulated to the world threatening, cold-war, anti-Russia propaganda promoted by war criminal HRC and her neocon co-conspirators.

Or was Bernie was always on the same page as Hillary about everything? That's what Hillary claimed - there's not a dime's worth of policy difference between them, and Bernie was just a cheap (inexperienced) imitation of her, packaged, branded, and funded differently. Hey, Bill nailed it with Barack being a big fairy tale, so the Clintons do sometimes tell the truth.

Both Hillary and Bernie support on faith the war machine, empire, and capitalism. In that regard, there's not a dime's worth of difference with Trump except possibly they'd be harsher militarily to prove themselves and the Empire strong. A certain women who has spent her life riding men's coattails, and a certain self-proclaimed socialist might feel compelled to do just that, as would the political chump Trump who completely defers to his Generals.

Maybe a military officer as President would actually give peace a chance. After all, s/he'd have nothing to prove in terms of personal strength and courage, and would already know the racket from the inside.

Comrade said...

OT, but another great person has left us. Gene Sharp died on Sunday. Here's part of the press release from the Albert Einstein Institute at

"The Albert Einstein Institution is greatly saddened to announce the passing of our founder, mentor, and friend Dr. Gene Sharp, who passed away peacefully on January 28, 2018, at his home in East Boston. He had recently celebrated his 90th birthday.

Widely recognized by scholars, practitioners, organizers, and activists worldwide as the greatest theoretician of nonviolent action since Mohandas K. Gandhi, Sharp founded the field of academic research on the theory and strategic practice of nonviolent action.

A four-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and the winner of the 2012 Right Livelihood Award, Sharp devoted his life to studying nonviolent struggle, deeply researching and documenting its use in human history, analyzing how the technique operates cross-culturally, and sharing the results of his research with other scholars, practitioners, organizers, government institutions, and citizens and civil-society groups on every continent. His numerous books and articles on the subject have been translated into more than 50 languages, and are disseminated worldwide. His work continues to inspire and enable people engaged in struggle to wield social power by building on and learning from the experience, results, bravery, and sacrifice of those who have come before them."

If you've never seen it before, check out the list at the link below of the 'weapons' Gene Sharp compiled for activists. How many of these are #Resistance people using?

'198 Methods of Nonviolent Action'

Comrade said...

Karen writes "Would it be a proper S.O.T.U. if Trump didn't also demand unlimited Congressional funding for an already bloated military machine? Naturally, this last symphonic movement elicited the requisite fascistic chorus of USA!USA!USA! as a worthy substitute for fireworks and clashing cymbals."

U S E! U S E! U S E! That would be my version, E standing for Empire or Exploitation. Only BUY!BUY!BUY! would be more fitting. Trump should have ordered repeat flyovers of fighter jets to add awesome deafening roars which would have conveniently drowned out his droning on about the greatness of the military.

"The state of the Union is a shithole, but the state of our global Empire is amazingly strong!" would have nailed it. We can't get to the root of all our problems without acknowledging and addressing the YUGE human and financial costs of being a military Empire. Right, Bernie?

Kat said...

I think probably Sanders was genuinely alarmed by the idea of a Trump presidency. He probably felt he might get more concessions from Hillary too. I suppose he didn't want to hurt his standing-- in short he probably had some selfish and some altruistic motivations. Like most of us. My husband was an unenthusiastic Hillary voter in the general election. I just could not vote for her, but I could understand why he chose to vote the way he did.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Taxes, budgets, the true width of Bernie's streak of sincerity, immigrants (coming or going), a further increase in the pre-emptive capacity of the Defense Department––enough already! Let's get serious and talk about fashion.

Somebody summarize for me the wardrobe controversies surrounding this week's SOTU. In plain English, please. And if you must resort to advanced degree feminist theory, please translate and simplify for men who weren't allowed to sit in on graduate courses explaining feminism. Are short sentences without polysyllabic sociological or philosophical jargon beneath feminism's accumulating waves?

I've seen the headlines about wearing black in support of second wave feminism (or is it third wave?), but I hesitate to wade further into the swamp of fashion articles, which are full of unfamiliar references and bottomless allusions. So-called explanations about clothes signaling can be about as unhelpful as wine comparison in viticulture mags.

Was Melania in her snow-white outfit telling the me-too-ers she was not on their side? That can't be so. Was she saying my pants suit looks better than the whole lot of your pants suits, Hillary? That can't be so either. Her husband might say that, but Melania wouldn't.

So what WAS Melania telegraphing? And what is all this about statements being made with the color of men's ties? I'll never be able to keep up with deep politics unless someone cracks the dress code. How about it Wikileaks?

Come to think of it, it was probably unconstitutional that time I was barred from registering for Feminism 387 in grad school. Will I ever be able to overcome the unfair advantage women obtained by being in 387?

Are designer clothes, like big money, just another form of free speech protected by the First Amendment? If so, not fair! How can my wife or my sister or my daughter, who aren't rich––some say because of their proximity to me––ever compete with the closet repertoire of elitist women? Another realm of disparity.

Well, as they say, RESIST! ... something or other, whatever ... but RESIST. Somebody should bring a "Citizens United" case before the Court, only this time with a different outcome. How about "Thrift Stores v. Versace." There's enough men on the Court to swing this one the right way.

Comrade said...


What was Melania telegraphing? When I saw her white high-water pants, I thought it was the same as warning us to put our boots on because the bullshit is coming, it's going to be deep, and it's best not to get any on your pants or shoes.

I've heard Melania speaks several languages but the press has yet to credit her for speaking dressage (or dressese), the official language of clothes horses.