Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Culture War Cats Edition

Just in case you still had any doubts, Donald Trump's official job description is our self-proclaimed culture warrior-in-chief. His latest act was to disinvite Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles from a White House celebration. He instead used the occasion to outdo embattled Culture Warrior Princess Roseanne Barr in belting out one of our great national hymns. Donald didn't have to take a knee to disrespect the flag. He kneed the sensibilities of the entire nation with his botched lip-synced rendition of God Bless America. The god in question, of course, being himself.

Vying for attention with the latest rendering of Great American Culture Wars is the new game show sensation, "Where In the World is Melania Trump?" Except for a blurred glimpse at a different, closed military-themed White House affair this week, she hadn't been seen in public for nearly a month, ever since undergoing a minor kidney procedure in May. My own catty theory is that she had a little cosmetic surgery - a facelift, an eyelift, a whatever-lift - along with, or even instead of, the alleged kidney embolization. This is what extremely wealthy, famous women do after plastic surgery. They go on an extended vacation to a secret location, or they stayed holed up in their mega-mansions until the scars and bruising fade, a process which can take many weeks. So when I read a report that Melania had been spotted wearing dark glasses indoors as she strolled through the West Wing, my cat-sense went into high alert.

If my theory is true, then my recommendation to Melania would be to go the iconoclastic Betty Ford route and become a national spokesperson for the benefits of cosmetic surgery. Betty was the trailblazer, having had the first ever public First Lady Facelift, frankly admitting at the time that she had an eye job and neck tightening because "I wanted a fresh new face to go with my beautiful new life." 

Betty Ford was also forthcoming about her mastectomy during her husband Jerry's truncated White House tenure, an announcement that encouraged many women to seek out mammograms and detect early cancers. She was later famously honest with revelations about her drug addiction.

  Again, assuming that I'm right about Melania, she could even out-do Betty and become an advocate for making cosmetic surgery available under Medicare and Medicaid --  or, to make her hubby and his party really pissed off, Obamacare silver and bronze plans.

Of course,Donald (who decades ago underwent his own scalp reduction surgery) would probably nix the idea, given how he'd so cattily Twitter-mocked former friend Mika Brzesinki's "bleeding face" last year at Mar-a-Lago (she later staunchly denied having had had a facelift) as well as mean-spirited remarks from Trump supporters about Hillary Clinton's own rumored work and reputed Botox injections.


Speaking of cattiness, Paul Krugman has been having a field day lambasting fellow Ivy League academic Niall Ferguson for urging his conservative Stanford students to do "oppo research" on the life of a liberal student activist on campus.  This act of unseemly cattiness, the New York Time's chief Bernie Bro-bashing intellectual writes, is emblematic of the "bad faith" of conservative intellectuals in general:
And yes, I do mean “conservative.” There are dishonest individuals of every political persuasion, but if you’re looking for systematic gaslighting, insistence that up is down and black is white, you’ll find it disproportionately on one side of the political spectrum. And the trouble many have in accepting that asymmetry is an important reason for the mess we’re in.
But how can I say that the media refuses to acknowledge conservative bad faith? While some journalists remain squeamish about actually using the word “lie,” and there’s still a tendency for headlines to repeat false talking points (which are only revealed to be false in the body of the article), readers do get a generally accurate picture of the extent to which dishonesty prevails within the Trump administration.
True, Trumpism is infectious -- but the anti-Trump oligarchic resistance antidote of more austerity and more corporate Democrats in Congress and more allegiance to the authorities of the "intelligence community" is an equally addicting and dangerous off-label regimen. Manufactured "divisiveness" sells, and both sides of the corporate Duopoly profit, whether they be electoral winners or losers.

My two-part published response focuses on the suppression of free speech and dissent:
 "Registered Republican professional historian" is an oxymoron.

Phony intellectuals like Ferguson are, in fact, really nothing more than the "snowflakes" they love to accuse liberals of being.

Meanwhile, a recent survey by the PEN press rights group shows that more journalists are actually self-censoring out of fear of government reprisals.

With no real ideology other than Greed is Good, the right wing's m.o. is the stifling of the very First Amendment rights they purport to champion.

Take the case of Cal State writing professor Randa Jarrar, who sent the phony moralizing hordes to the fainting couch this spring when she tweeted that the late Barbara Bush "was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal."

Although the college initially seemed to bow to demands from reactionary media for her firing, she kept her job.

These same reactionaries are now having conniption fits because Samantha Bee got away with calling Ivanka Trump a bad name for her insensitivity to Daddy's ripping tots way from their mothers' arms at the border, while complaining that Trump Show prima donna Roseanne Barr got unfairly fired for her louder, crasser racism.

Ferguson is simply a bully and a coward for "punching down" on a student from his position of power. He might as well declare himself Roseanne's replacement as best supporting actor in the Trump Show, which is what the GOP might actually rename itself.

If it were honest, that is. Which it most definitely is not.

(And following up with a reader pointing out that renowned war critic and historian Andrew Bacevich is a registered Republican) --

Notice that I used the term "reactionary" -- not conservative -- to describe the modern Republican Party.

Not all conservatives are alike, and of course they should not be painted with the same broad brush. Maybe Ferguson is a smart guy, but he was very stupid to buy into the divisive tactics perfected by Trump.

I hadn't realized that Andrew Bacevich, whose work I admire, was still a registered Republican. He writes for, besides outlets like TomDispatch, The American Conservative. While I strongly disagree with much of this site's sexist and even "colorblind" racist content (Pat Buchanan is a regular), it is also reliably critical of American imperialism, endless war and especially neoconservatism. They publish a variety of viewpoints.

Here, for example, is an article on the US drone war, which has gotten especially vicious and unaccountable under Trump:
 To his great credit, centrist Times columnist Frank Bruni is not taking Bill Clinton's appearance on the Today show (see my Monday post) kindly. In a scathing piece aptly called "the Sultans of Self-Pity," he writes:
Move over, Alec Baldwin. Bill Clinton does a much better impersonation of Donald Trump.
The hair is wrong but the air is right — self-righteous, self-pitying and suffused with anger that anyone would peddle a version of events less heroic than the one that he prefers. We’re shaming him about ancient groping when we should be showering him with eternal gratitude. And what about his pain?
“I left the White House $16 million in debt,” Clinton said, in an interview that NBC’s “Today” aired on Monday, batting back questions about whether he had demonstrated sufficient contrition for converting a 22-year-old’s romantic idolization of him into sexual favors and setting off a sequence of events that savaged her. I don’t know what legal bills have to do with a moral ledger. But I can see that his fixations on money and martyrdom are intact.
The Clinton team is now in full damage control mode. The Times swiftly disappeared Bruni's column from the top right corner of the digital home page, and Stephen Colbert invited Bill on his Tuesday show not for a comb-over gag, but for a moral makeover - or as Colbert termed it, a "do-over." Now that Bill has summoned up enough moral courage to finally utter Monica's name right out loud, maybe he hopes he can get on with his book tour without further ado. Let us hope that he cannot. (Hiss, scratch.)

My published response to the Bruni column:

One common theme in the MeToo movement is that the perpetrators aren't getting called to account until relatively late in their lives,often decades after their predatory behavior was an "open secret" within the overlapping spheres of power they inhabit.

Better late than never, of course, but oh what damage these men have done, not only to their female victims, but to the country and society at large.

During the Lewinsky episode, leading feminists, most notably Gloria Steinem, came to Bill's defense. His abuse of power was cast as a purely partisan issue, with blame deflected from him onto the much nastier and hypocritical Republicans. At the same time he was castigating Bill, Newt Gingrich was cheating on his own wife.

Meanwhile, Bill had connived with Newt to "end welfare as we know it" with the ensuing cruel reform package condemning millions of women to whole lifetimes of poverty.

 It's not surprising that Trump and Clinton, who were both once considered "outsiders" in New York high society, golfed together at Trump's club. It's not surprising that the Clintons attended Trump's third wedding. Not because they liked Trump, of course, but because these "transactional" things are what rich and famous people have to do to maintain their lifestyles and images and status and power.

How ironic that Bill is now promoting pulp called "The President Is Missing."

In reality it's the presidency that's missing, since Trump's organized crime cartel has effectively hijacked it.

(photo credit: Bob's Blog)


Anna Radicalova said...

Meow! Hiss! I'm feeling wildly catty after reading the top/Times Pick commenter to Bruni's article. The first time I read this commenter's remarks last winter, she condemned the #metoo movement and scored a ton of recommends. It was the way she introduces herself that seems somehow overdone. She's a "feminist", "mother" "victim" as if to boost the authority of her opinion over everyone else.

IF I recall correctly from older comments, she identified as transgender. Not only did I disagree with her opinion then and now but it galls me that she assumes to speak as a woman of experience but did not grow up female.

How a young woman in her teens or 20's behaves towards an older, powerful man who tells her how special she is and feeds into her needy romantic illusions, yet only gives her a cheap cigar for her emotional investment and sexual services, says it all. He might as well have asked her if she wanted to play with his puppy. One was emotionally a child and the other a charming, experienced serial sexual predator.

The fact is, many women belatedly discover that we are considered and treated as second class citizens and inferior beings, if not simple playthings, throughout our lives and we suffer the personal and professional consequences of that. Only someone who grew up female can understand the pervasiveness, subtlety, complexity, and insidiousness and the damaging and limiting effects. We've come a long way baby, but not far enough.

I know I'm not being politically correct, but I don't want any person who makes the decision to adopt the female identity in adulthood assuming for moment that she's qualified or adequately informed about what it's like to grow up female.

I'm almost beyond words. That's just as well because I'm sure I'm being offensive enough. My apologies if I have the commenter confused with another one but my sentiments would be the same.

Karen Garcia said...

Hi Anna,

That top rated commenter you refer to was actually Times-picked for her rejoinder to my own comment. If I am not mistaken, she wrote a separate stand-alone comment, for which she was Times-picked as well. I just happened to be the first one to publish, and was getting some pretty high votes until the moderators quickly "sequestered" the reader picks beneath their own selections. I did reply to this person, pointing out that Monica was, by her own admission, emotionally still an adolescent girl at the time and has only recently woken to the true predatory nature of her supposedly co-equal paramour.

Naturally this commenter uses a pseudonym so there is no way to even verify whether or not she is really a sock puppet from one the two right-wing corporate parties and the anti-feminist trickle down feminist transgender rape victim persona she has adopted. But she certainly does fit the Times/corporate Dem narrative identity politics agenda to a T, doesn't she?

I rarely comment there any more because I feel like I'm drowning in the neoliberal Kool-Aid just reading some of the echo-chamber comments. The Times has turned into pure tabloid clickbait and has been staffing itself from "edgy" Internet ideologues who run the political gamut from A to B (apologies to Dorothy Parker.)

Elizabeth -- Marysville said...

Anna, if you haven't already, I recommend checking out the site "Gender Trender", as well as "4th Wave Now".