1. Can Parody Bring Down
2. Review: ‘Bush,’ a Biography as Scathing Indictment
to the Slave is 4th of July?"
4. Put Away the Fireworks... You Don’t Live in a
This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, July 5, 2016.
is a crisis log. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about nice bit and an interesting idea by Robert Kuttner: "Can Parody Bring Down Trump?"; item 2
is about what seems to me a good biography of Bush Jr. (that classifies
him, correctly in my opinion, as one of the worst US presidents); item 3 is about Frederick Douglass, who indeed was an amazing man; and item 4 is about a good article by John Atcheson that explains why the USA is no longer a real democracy (but is ruled by the very rich or their placemen, for the very rich and their placemen).
Parody Bring Down Trump?
first item today is by Robert Kuttner (<-Wikipedia) on The
This is from near the beginning (and Kuttner,
as you can see from the last Wikipedia link, is a journalist, writer
and professor of 74):
Yes and no, I would say, also to the question
the article's title poses:
I did all this at first as a lark, or
sometimes as procrastination from my usual deadlines, but it became
kind of an obsession and the songs almost kept writing themselves.
There is something serious here, too. Conventional politics and media
are failing to get to the essence of Trump as fraud, thief and
huckster. Maybe parody can do it.
The great thing about writing a musical
about Trump is that you are never short of material. The challenge is
to keep it on the level of parody--because whenever you come up with a
premise that seems completely over the top, Trump goes and does it.
Yes, I like - good - parody and sarcasm, and maybe "Drumpf: the
Musical" brings it (there is a bit quoted below, which I like), and it
probably also works in the theatre, but no, I doubt it will work for a
larger audience, although that is not Robert Kuttner's fault, but the
mainstream media's, who applaud almost any lie, any crudity, and any
indecency, provided it is issued by Trump.
For you need to explain parody and sarcasm (to an extent, especially to
not very intelligent not very learned audiences), but the reporting
Trump itself by the main media is a major parody, concocted of
deceptions, lies and
lots of silence about Trump's lies.
But perhaps I am mistaken, e.g. if Trump gets angry by this criticism
of his almost holy personality (that now has banned Mother Jones, The
Guardian and quite a few others who do not write on their knees
about them, from
attend- ing his meetings and speeches).
Here is the last bit of a quoted song (one of twenty), that explains
Trump in terms of cognitive
There is considerably more of the song in the
that is recommended.
Trump. Cognitive dis, you gotta love it.
And cognitive dis is deep in our soul
If you are honest about America's role
Our national myths are built on fictions
We have a flair for contradictions.
All men created equal, it's emblazoned
on Jefferson's grave.
But he had slaves. And he loved his slaves.
Well, he loved Sally Hemmings.
My God, Americans are lemmings!
All men are equal except the African
Who is three-fifths of a man.
In every war we were united
So we could fight it
For the United States...and United Fruit
America was pleased to prostitute
Our ideals for corporate appeals
In Iran we staged a coup back in 53
Was that for you, was it for me?
Naw, it was all about oil
The place is still at a boil
So before you hiss, consider this
America is built on cognitive dis.
And incidentally, as to cognitive
This may be demanding too much from
Trump's admirers, because it presumes that cognitive dissonance is (as
"the mental stress or discomfort
experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory
beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time"
while to me it seems as if much of
his audience embraces contradictions without any stress
or problems, indeed quite as it is put above:
Our national myths are built on
(But this is merely a psychologist's remark, and is not meant in criticism.)
We have a flair for contradictions.
2. Review: ‘Bush,’ a Biography as Scathing Indictment
The second item is by Peter Baker in The New York Times:
This starts as follows:
The "bombastic serial
insulter" is Donald Trump, and while I don't
have much in criticism of this introduction, I think that saying that
Bush "gave his life to" the Republican Party gives both Bush and the
Party too much honor.
George W. Bush, the summer already looks unbearable. The party he gave
his life to will repudiate him by nominating a bombastic serial
insulter who makes the famously brash former president look like a
museum docent by comparison. And a renowned presidential biographer is
weighing in with a judgment that makes Mr. Bush’s gentleman’s Cs at
Yale look like the honor roll.
If Mr. Bush eventually gets a more
sympathetic hearing by history, as he hopes, it will not start with
Jean Edward Smith’s “Bush,” a comprehensive and compelling narrative
punctuated by searing verdicts of all the places where the author
thinks the 43rd president went off track.
Then again, it is true that Jean Edward Smith is "a renowned presidential biographer",
which means that he does know what he is talking about:
Smith leaves no mystery where he stands on Mr. Bush’s place in history.
The first sentence of his book: “Rarely in the history of the United
States has the nation been so ill-served as during the presidency of
George W. Bush.”
last: “Whether George W. Bush was the worst president in American
history will be long debated, but his decision to invade Iraq is easily
the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an American president.”
Bush Jr. certainly was one of
the worst presidents of the USA (who - incidentally - also did not win
the presidency in 2000: that was given to him thanks to a very
strange decision of the Supreme Court).
I will not discuss whether invading Iraq was "the
worst foreign policy decision ever", and turn to
a summary of Smith's position on Bush and his belief that
he - Bush Jr - was "acting with divine
To me, that sounds fair enough, if only
because I think a president should not depend on "divine
guidance" in his decisions, but on a good factual under- standing
of whatever he tries to resolve.
In this telling, Mr. Bush’s religious piety took on
messianic fervor leading him to turn democracy promotion into a mission
from God. He didn’t listen to the generals and diplomats. He badly
bungled the response to Hurricane Katrina. He presided over the
diminution of American values by authorizing torture and bugging.
“Believing he was the agent of God’s will, and acting with divine
guidance, George W. Bush would lead the nation into two disastrous wars
of aggression,” Mr. Smith writes. “Bush’s personalization of the war on
terror combined with his macho assertiveness as the nation’s commander
in chief,” he adds later, “were a recipe for disaster.”
Here is some more:
The Patriot Act, he writes, “may
most ill-conceived piece of domestic legislation since the Alien and
Sedition Acts of 1798.” In labeling Iran, Iraq and North Korea an “axis
of evil,” Mr. Bush “had spoken without weighing the consequences.” Mr.
Bush’s refusal to face up to the fact that Iraq had no unconventional
weapons “suggests a willfulness that borders on psychosis.” His
second-term Inaugural Address making democracy promotion his major goal
“must rank as one of the most ill-considered of all time.”
This seems an interesting biography, and this is a recommended article.
3. "What to the Slave is 4th of
The third item is by Amy Goodman on Democracy
This starts as follows:
In a Fourth of July holiday
special, we begin with the words of Frederick Douglass. Born into
slavery around 1818, Douglass became a key leader of the abolitionist
movement. On July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York, he gave one of his
most famous speeches, "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro." He
was addressing the Rochester Ladies Antislavery Society.
Who was Frederick
Douglass (<-Wikipedia)? He was a rather amazing contemporary of
Karl Marx (who was also born in 1818, and indeed looked a bit like him).
Here is the beginning of the Wikipedia lemma (minus note numbers):
Douglass (..) was an African-American
social reformer, abolitionist, orator,
writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement from Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for
his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery
writings. In his time he was described by abolitionists as a living
counter-example to slaveholders' arguments that slaves lacked the
intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens.
Northerners at the time found it hard to believe that such a great
orator had once been a slave.
I read the first mentioned book in the
1970ies, and was much impressed: he was clearly very intelligent and very courageous. Here is the speech he gave in 1852 to the Rochester Ladies Antislavery Society:
Douglass wrote several autobiographies. He described his experiences as
a slave in his 1845 autobiography, Narrative
of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which
became a bestseller, and was influential in promoting the cause of
abolition, as was his second book, My Bondage and My Freedom
DOUGLASS: [read by James
Earl Jones] Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I
called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to
do with your national independence? Are the great principles of
political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration
of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to
bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the
benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from
your independence to us?
I am not included within the pale of
this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the
immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day
rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice,
liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is
shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to
you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours,
not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into
the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you
in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you
mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?
What, to the American slave, is your
Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all
other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is
a constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted
liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity;
your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of
tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality,
hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings,
with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere
bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover
up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a
nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than
are the people of these United States at this very hour.
Incidentally, this was about 7 years before Jim Brown was killed (the last link has his last speech), and 8 1/2 years befor the American Civil War started (which lasted a little over 4 years and killed between 705,000 and 900,000 Americans).
At a time like this, scorching irony,
not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could
reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour forth a stream, a fiery
stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and
stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not
the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, the
earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience
of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be
startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and the crimes
against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.
Put Away the Fireworks... You
Don’t Live in a Democracy
The fourth and last item today is
by John Atcheson on Common Dreams:
This starts as
As it happens, I completely agree, but for one fact: I think the rise of the rich started either in 1971 (with a secret memorandum of Lewis Powell Jr.) or in 1979/1980 (with the nominations of Thatcher and Reagan).
Within the last 30 years, while we’ve
chased bogeymen overseas and here at home, our Democracy has fallen. We
have been taken over; defeated; our voices neutered; our freedoms
trampled; our democracy vanquished.
No invading force accomplished this; no
jackboots echoed across our republic; no alien flag was raised above
our lands. Not a single shot was fired by our vaunted military to halt
this takeover. No, this was a quiet coup, accomplished from within, and
conducted in stealth.
So I would have written "within the last 35 or 45 years", though this is not very important in an article like this one.
Here are some of the reasons why John Atcheson thinks "Democracy has fallen" (bolding added):
Our votes carry no weight. Our news is a
hollow monoculture in which six corporations own 90% of the outlets
with most of the rest controlled by elitists who can no longer relate
to the average person; in which infotainment has replaced information;
in which a modern day version of bread and circuses keeps us distracted
from the increasingly grim reality we are everyday immersed in. The
jobs open to us are becoming increasingly exploitative. And the pursuit
of happiness is marred by a lack of choice, increasingly desperate
economic straights for the majority of us, and a feeling of impotence
as we watch the American dream shrink before our eyes.
I think that is quite true, and it also stresses the important things: The disappearance of democracy
due to the lies, deceptions and amusements that are now sold as "news"
by the main media, that are owned by six corporations that control 90%
of the outlets, and the "increasingly desperate
economic straights for the majority of" Americans today.
You might think that "the disappearance of democracy" is an overstatement.
Consider this list of John Atcheson:
I'd say that these are all important themes, and that the list shows American democratic opinions simply aren't even registered anymore by American politics: they are set aside without being mentioned in the main media (except rarely and briefly).
- When 91%
wanted to strengthen rules on clean air and protection of drinking water,
Congress – led by the Republican majority – proposed weakening them;
- When 90%
wanted to protect public lands and parks; the Republicans proposed
putting them on sale or otherwise privatizing them;
- When 74%
of Americans favored ending subsidies to big oil, Congress
retained most of them;
- At a time when the
majority of citizens favored allowing tax cuts for those
earning over $250,000 to expire, the best Congress could do was to
compromise on $400,000;
- When 70%
of Americans said climate change should be a high priority issue, Congress
took no action;
- Some 80% of Americans favor
shoring up Social Security even if it means higher taxes and a
similar number support retaining Medicare as is, but the Obama
administration has twice offered cuts to both programs as part of a
“grand bargain” and Republican budgets routinely seek to privatize
- Or take this gem … more
than 80% of Americans want to clamp down on Wall Street but
the best we could get was weak-sister legislation that doesn’t even
address too-big-to-fail or restore a Glass Steagall provision limiting
the risks these big banks can take with your money. And even this
slap-on-the-wrist legislation is being completely eviscerated as it is
translated into regulations.
- After Orlando, 92%
of the people supported a bill expanding background checks
to online purchases of guns, but Congress has been unable to pass it;
- And when 85% of citizens supported a
bill barring people on the terrorist watch list from buying guns,
Congress couldn’t pass the it;Our votes carry no weight.
And here are the consequences spelled out:
And the few who rule are either very rich themselves, or are in the pay of the very rich, and do their biddings.
This is why we can’t enact meaningful
gun control legislation when the vast majority favor it; this is why we
can’t enact effective climate change policies when majorities in both
parties say they want to; this is why we let the people founder but
bailed out the banks when they crashed the economy in 2008; this is why
politicians from both Parties still favor job-wrecking trade agreements
when most citizens from both Parties are against them; this is why the
uber rich and corporations can easily discharge debt and renege on
promises to their employees using bankruptcy laws, but students and the
poor cannot; this is why we can’t break up the too-big-to-fail
banks or reinstall Glass-Steagall or pass a tax on securities trading,
again, even though the majority of Americans favor all of these
measures. This is why we are engaged in never-ending wars nobody wants
and that nobody can explain or justify at a cost of tens of trillions
of dollars that the people don’t want to spend.
Quite simply, the United States is no
longer a Democratic Republic; it is an Oligarchy.