Category Archives: Demagoguery

Hot Air: Loads Of It

The Illusion

I hate like hell to admit it, but John Steinbeck was right:

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.

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Honesty, Honestly

Has it occurred to you that this Obama administration, now well into its eighth year, has been shockingly free of venal scandal? I mean, I can’t think of a single Obama White House functionary who’s been brought up on charges of swiping from the public trough or peddling his or her influence for personal gain.

Usually, presidential administrations in their second terms are wracked by accusations, investigations, and indictments of major and minor officials who’ve fattened their wallets thanks to their positions of power.

Not now, though. Not in this presidency.

Obama seems a decent human being. Perhaps his leadership imperative, communicated to all hirees from the get-go, was Do no wrong. It can’t be just dumb luck can it?

And, believe me, if there were even a hint of malfeasance, the vultures  who control the House and Senate as well as those in talk media and the blogosphere would have been on it like flies on dog droppings.

Phew, That Could Have Been Terrorizing!

Here’s something I just don’t understand. Perhaps you can explain it to me.

Yesterday, a mentally-broken man went on a knife rampage in Taunton, Mass., killing two and injuring four others before an off-duty sheriff’s deputy shot him to death. The man apparently went on the random spree after ramming his car into a truck outside a home in Taunton. He then entered the home and stabbed an 80-year-old woman to death and seriously injured the her daughter. He went out on the street, jumped back in his car, and wound up at a nearby mall. There, he attacked several other people, killing one before the deputy stopped him.

A horrible story, indeed. But, somehow, authorities wished to console us in our confusion and worry over the incident. Taunton police made certain to tell reporters the attacks were not related to “terrorism.”

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about the whole affair.

Was the aim of such an announcement to comfort us that no swarthy foreigners were responsible for the death and carnage, but simply a misguided poor soul from this holy land?

And if these attacks are not “terrorism,” what are they? Merely lack of impulse control on the part of a fellow citizen — who, thank god, happens not to be dark or unbearably different. That’s better?

Hillary’s Handiwork?

Have you seen that social media meme aimed at Bernie-ites purportedly showing them how to make home-made glow sticks but in reality is actually a recipe for a mini-bomb?

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No one knows where this ugly little “joke” came from but I guaran-goddamn-tee at least some Bernie true believers are convinced it was the handiwork of operatives from Hillary’s campaign. Hell, there’s gotta be some in this holy land who are certain Hillary herself posted the freakin’ thing!

The Stark Truth

The Loved One and I watched All the King’s Men last night, the 1949 movie based on Robert Penn Warren‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about Willie Stark, a populist demagogue who rises to power from the dirt furrows of farm country. Stark becomes wildly adored, with wits and wags wondering if he’s a messiah or a tyrant. The movie based on the book won the Academy Award for Best Picture just four years after Warren won his Pulitzer.

Willie Stark is nothing like Donald Trump but the whole idolatry thing, the “outsider” challenging the powers-that-be, the snake-oil salesman promising a new way of running things, is at the core of Trump’s appeal.

Smart guys used to fear a new Huey Long (upon whom, it is said, Willie Stark was based) coming along, galvanizing the poor and the disenfranchised by telling them what a lousy deal they’re getting and how the big boys are laughing their way to the bank on the backs of the common clay.

It’s tempting to say ATKM is a harbinger of the 2016 presidential race wherein populist demagogue Donald Trump roars to the Republican nomination despite all the analyses of the experts who pooh-poohed his quest. But it’s not. Trump most certainly is not a man who came from dirt furrows and challenged the powers that be. He was a trust fund baby who inherited tens of millions of dollars from his slippery daddy-o and has always been one of the powers that be.

Sure, many of those going gaga over Trump are poor but many, many more are reasonably comfortable, at least in relation to the rest of the world. A Trump rally is not populated by modern day analogs to the subjects of, say, Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era photos.

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Lange’s “Migrant Mother” (1936)

Trump’s fanboys and -girls, in fact, look awfully well fed and clearly have had a good night’s sleep in warm, comfy beds. King-sized, most likely.

They see themselves as unduly screwed, which is bizarre. And Trump keeps telling them they are, which is only the first of his bald-faced lies, of which he’s trafficked in an alarming many.

Guys like the fictional Willie Stark and the real Huey Long had an extremely limited appeal, touching the hearts only of those self-aware enough to accept that they were dirt-poor hicks — “Just like me!” Stark roared. Today, nobody wants to admit they’re a dirt poor hick. Screwed, yeah. Dirt poor, no. Let’s go to Faulkner again, who hit it square:

[The American poor] see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

And not only the Murrican poor see themselves that way. Even the well-fed and cozy comfy feel they’re only one lucky break away from sharing caviar and Moët et Chandon w/ the likes of Donald Trump or the Kardashians. These days, they desperately believe, those lucky breaks are being denied them which is a far worse injustice than mass starvation in Bangladesh or the kidnapping, raping, and killing of schoolgirls by Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Only a borderline sociopathic liar like Trump could feed and reinforce in people this line of bushwa. Nothing Trump says is based on any set of acts or reality, which sets up his ultimate untrue punchlines. Murricans have been waiting breathlessly for an uber-rich man to come along and lie to them. Rich men, too many in this holy land deeply believe, are special, a higher form of life, nearly messianic.

Their words are scripture, their bank accounts proof of their divinity.

Naw, America never needed to worry about a fascist demagogue coming along and appealing to the poor. The real danger was the incendiary who spoke to the temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

May 11th Birthdays

Laskarina Bouboulina — Known as the heroine of Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire, she commanded the rebel Greek fleet and, later, became an admiral in the Russian navy.

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Chang and Eng Bunker — The most famous Siamese (now, more acceptably, conjoined) twins. Both married (two separate women) and had, between them, 21 children.

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Harriet Quimby — The first women to be awarded a pilot’s license in the United States and the first female to aviate across the English Channel. She also was a Hollywood screenwriter, penning scripts for seven films directed by D.W. Griffith.

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Irving Berlin — Born Israel Isidore Baline, he wrote gazillions of standards now in the great American songbook including “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “God Bless America,” “White Christmas,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” and countless others.

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Martha Graham — Perhaps the most revered American dancer in history, she conjured the “Graham Technique,” a method of modern dance style and teaching that revolutionized the art form.

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Salvadore Dali — Painter and art world personality.

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Richard Feynman — Nobel Prize winning physicist, iconoclast, bongo player, and author of, among others, Six Easy Pieces. One of my favorite humans ever.

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Mort Sahl — Humorist who specialized in political and social issues, he used a newspaper as a prop onstage, opening it up and commenting on stories within. Steve Allen called him “the only real political philosopher we have in modern comedy.”

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Louis Farrakhan — Controversial leader of the Nation of Islam, an American organization dedicated to the uplift of Black Muslim young men. Farrakhan also has spouted anti-semitic and anti-gay lines. Many in the American Black Muslim community believe he was involved in the plot to assassinate Malcolm X.

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Martha Quinn — One of the original five VJs on MTV.

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And, finally, Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, died on this day in 2001.

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Hot Air, From Me To You

What If…?

Here’s a crazy hypothetical. Let’s say I just got a job that will pay me $1,000,000 a year.

You know what I’d do? I’d work a year and then never work again. Admit it, you’d probably do the same.

Think of it: At a mill a year, the first of my 26 bi-weekly paychecks would net me a few bucks shy of $27,000. Now, I have a reasonably modest lifestyle so that 27 Gs would be quite enough to cover all my basic living expenses for the year. All the necessities: housing, food, utilities, pizza, chocolate, would be covered. So that means I’d have approximately two-thirds of a million skins left over to spend any way I’d want.

I’m a reasonably prudent adult at this time (at least compared to what I was, say, 10 years ago) so I’d take a half mill and put it in some nice, safe investments. Then I could live off the yearly dividends and gains. The rest of the dough, nearly a quarter of million bucks, I’d spend on silly things like motorcycles, trips to Alaska for the summer solstice, scale models of Apollo 11 and 1950s hot rods, and health insurance.

In other words, I really don’t need a penny more than a million dollars. Nobody does.


Yet guys who make, say, $10 million a year in Hollywood movies or pro football or the legalized larceny that falls under the umbrella moniker, Wall Street, would cut your throat and those of hundreds of your neighbors if it would help them make $11 million next year.

Don’t ask me why. All I know is a mill would be plenty for me.

This holy land, sadly, is run by guys who’d cut a few hundred (or a few hundred thousand) throats to add to personal net worths that they couldn’t possibly spend in ten lifetimes. Funny thing is, a lot of these guys don’t really care much about money and what it can buy. Their need for more, more, more of the green stuff is more a pathology than a means to an end.

For instance, I remember reading a profile of the notorious 1980’s junk bond king Michael Milken, who spent a few years in the joint for conjuring up innovative financial maneuvers that, well, screwed everybody but him. Milken, the profile revealed, made upwards of a half billion a year. Billion. With a b. And this was in the 80s, mind you, when gasoline cost something like a dime per tanker truck-full. (Or is that truckful? I’m too lazy today to look it up.)

Anyway, despite possessing such a skyscraping pile of cash, Milken was surprisingly tight. He wore cheap Thom McAn shoes. His wife served dinner on grocery store paper plates. Clearly, he didn’t see the accumulation of money to be a means to an end. It was an end.

But there are plenty of rich guys — D. Trump comes to mind — for whom money is but a road to vulgar, flamboyant displays of status and achievement.

Other guys — the Koch boys, for instance — see dough, mounds of it, stacks and stacks, veritable Rocky Mountain peaks of it, as the means to rule the world.

No matter what money means to the rich, they want to keep it. And they want more of it. And woe to anybody who gets in their way.

They even view someone like Barack Obama, who is 97 percent the friend to them that George W. Bush was or Mitt Romney would be, as a socialist or commie. That three percent the Prez is shy of is enough to turn them into plotting paranoiacs.

They view BHO the way you and I might see punk gang bangers who break into our homes to steal our new flatscreens.

See, the loss of our new flatscreens means next to nothing in the grand scheme of our lives. It’s only an annoyance; the burglary itself is more harmful emotionally than fiscally. Same with the Koch Bros. and a president who isn’t behind their pursuit of all the currency on Earth with every fiber and cell of his being. They’ll still be rich, rich, rich no matter what Obama does to curb their acquisitiveness — which ain’t much.

Obama, though, harms them emotionally, the way that gang banger harms you and me. We want that gang banger apprehended, charged, convicted, and sentenced. We want him out. Same with the Koch Bros. and BHO.

Something similar happened in the 1930s. The world was in the grip of the Great Depression. Just plain folks were starting to think that maybe, just maybe, this idea of socialism might not be so bad. Card-carrying Communists, with the backing of the Soviet Union’s spook agencies, were infiltrating town hall meetings and union gatherings. The national mood was turning decidedly against the plutocrats.

Grassroots revolts elsewhere on the planet produced demagogues like Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini who told their gullible crowds that Jews and Russians and a bushel-full (bushelful?) of other loathsome creatures were responsible for all their troubles. The demagogues said “Gimme all the power I need and I’ll take care of you.” The crowds gave it to them.

Mussolini, apparently, was quite a popular fellow here in the United States in the early 30s. He was straightening out the notoriously lax Italian financial, transportation, and manufacturing systems. He was a strongman who was making his homeland itself strong.

Just as there were many here (Charles Lindbergh, for instance) who thought Hitler was a cool guy, Mussolini was hailed as a great success. In fact, according to Sally Denton in her book, The Plots Against the President, Mussolini was viewed by many Americans as the most prominent and respected world leader, outside of our own prez.

Scads of powerful men here urged the recently-elected President Franklin Roosevelt to assume dictatorial powers, just as Mussolini had. Hell, these guys wanted the US to be strong again, too, just like Italy was becoming. Among those urging Roosevelt to take up the fascist mantle were the industrialist du Pont family and newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst (the model for the movie Citizen Kane).

When Roosevelt turned out to be more in tune with the unscrubbed unemployed, the industrialists, the press magnates, and all their pals decided we need a grass roots revolt here as well. They tried to recruit the angry, rebellious World War I veterans who’d marched on Washington twice and had set up Occupy-style shanty towns in view of the US Capitol. They even identified two respected US Army generals whom they believed might be willing to lead an assault on the White House. The two were Douglas MacArthur and Smedley Butler. MacArthur shrugged when they approached him so they turned to Butler. They told him they had plenty of dough to bankroll the grassroots insurrection, that big, big men were behind the idea. Anybody  who smells Tea Party in this recipe, raise your hand.

They said the idea was to oust Roosevelt by force or, if he opted to play with them, he could become a figurehead who would shake hands and watch parades while a designated all-powerful boss ran the real show.

Butler told them to take a hike and then he dropped a dime on them to Congress. The House held hearings on the affair, tut-tutted, and then, next thing anybody knew, the whole affair disappeared from everyone’s consciousness. It can be assumed that legislators, the FBI, and Roosevelt’s own emissaries contacted the plotters and told them, “We’re on to you. Now drop the whole idea and we’ll forget it ever happened.”

So, the citizens of this holy land went on to live happily ever after.

We might read of this incident as something that could only happen back in those benighted, black-and-white days of great-grandad and grandma.

But why couldn’t it happen here and now?

Dig: Just last month the “Two Million Bikers to DC” demo roared into the nation’s capital to rev their engines, flex their muscles, and sneer at Muslims. Even though they fell far short of their 2M goal, the organizers convinced many thousands of ironheads to converge on DC for a political purpose.

Dig: Next month “One Million Truckers United Drive to DC” will, its organizers hope, shut down the capital on Veteran’s Day. Truckers from all fifty states will honk their air horns, fill their cabs with flatulence, and sneer at President Obama who, apparently, has decided to persecute them via high gas prices.

It’s a lock there won’t be a million long-haulers in DC on November 11th, but would you be willing to bet against a turnout of say 15,000? That’s a lot of truckers (and way too much flatulence).

Coincidentally, many, many, many of these grassroots folks seem to embrace their firearms about as much as a new husband embraces his wife on his honeymoon night.

So, you’ve got tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of people who are certain that Muslims are to blame for all our problems, that the president (who himself is a Muslim) has it in for them, who are willing to give up a week or so of their busy lives to show the nation what wonderful patriots and Christians they are. Oh, and tons of them are packing heat.

Mussolini knew what to do with mobs like this. With the help of wealthy industrialists, he rode on the backs to dictatorship. Hitler knew what to do with them as well. He channeled their hatred of a religious group and rode it to the Chancellorship.

Here’s hoping big money boys like the Koch Bros. are a tad more decent than that. Time will tell.

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