My Disaffection with Biden

In a nutshell it’s this: He is still arming Israel to the teeth while that country commits flagrant genocide in Gaza. A recent story in the New York Review puts it this way: “Hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza are at the brink of famine—a human-made disaster with roots in Israel’s history of using food as a weapon.”

Many, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the United Nations, have accused Israel of genocide in Gaza, deliberate and planned. We’ve all heard statements by the jingo Netanyahu and other Jewish leaders to that effect. Sen. Schumer calls for new elections but still supports military aid to Israel. Some Jews like me think this is a spectacularly wrong approach.

Others in Congress oppose the aid or at least question it. Outrage over the murder of food aid workers by the IDF has made the situation much more volatile. President Biden wants the House Foreign Affairs Committee

to approve a package that includes 50 new F-15 fighter jets valued at $18 million [each], 30 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles and a number of Joint Direct Attack Munition kits, which turn dumb bombs into precision-guided weapons . . . .

Last month,

the State Department authorized the transfer of 25 F-35A fighter jets and engines worth roughly $2.5 billion, U.S. officials said. The case was approved by Congress in 2008, so the department was not required to provide a new notification to lawmakers.

And then there are the US-made 2000-lb bombs that have caused that horrific death toll in Gaza. Most countries proscribe them.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently told the committee: “’We don’t have any evidence of genocide being [committed]’ by Israel in Gaza.” This from the man who could not admit he had a prostate problem. Biden has a reelection problem, and he’s alienating thousands of voters, including me. Do you want to placate Israel’s right wing, Joe, or lose in November? For many, it’s become a Hobson’s choice.

Jewish agitprop organizations like AIPAC and the AJC will rise at every opportunity to defend anything Israel does. I’ve written before about this: “One does not expect proportionality in warfare but Israel’s violent response has cost it dearly with a preponderance of people around the world. The conflict has pushed many down the rabbit hole of partisan madness.”

If Biden doesn’t come to his senses about the rearming, he will turn off a great many voters in November. The growing protests, particularly among younger people, show that many will sit out the election if the president doesn’t change course. AIPAC’s talking points in fact support exactly what many Republicans are saying about the conflict. Read them here.

Jewish support for Israel has always been a fraught issue for those who have observed the country’s history with the Palestinians. Peter Maass, a journalist, recently wrote a fine piece about this in the Washington Post that resonated with me. “My Jewish identity was always a bit vague because my ancestors were German Jews who assimilated at the speed of cultural sound; when I was growing up, we even had a Christmas tree.“ Same here, Peter, and I’ve written about that too.

Some of the protests against Israel’s actions have been antisemitic. Still, many if not most Jews recognize the idea that it is not only legitimate to defend the lives of innocent Palestinians; it’s part of what we recognize as the morality of being Jewish. One continues to hope Biden will come to his senses.

Life in 2025

When Trump was reelected last year, his supporters finally came to their senses, except for the true cultists, of course. The common folk began to realize they needed to divorce themselves from all their former misconceptions of power and control. MAGA was no longer a political fantasy or, as some would call it, a delusion. It was dead.

In its place was simple tyranny as the president exercised his newly-given powers to control aspects of their lives that these poor simps never believed they had given him.

It was as if Trump had finally become Putin, the only person he ever respected. You couldn’t call it neofascism. It was nothing so preplanned as that. The president had simply fallen down the rabbit hole of his own psychopathic predilections. He had always just said whatever came into his contorted mind, attacking one judge’s daughter, another’s wife, defying all gag orders, making everything political into a personal attack. The poor simps sleepwalked into this approach because, like the president, they had no grasp of policy or political procedures. They enjoyed the power of the threat.

Congress, or what was left of it, rubber-stamped whatever the president wanted because they knew their indulgence would bring them favor and fortune. Government by bribery, some called it. The predictable result was entropy and random disorder. And judicial corruption continued—a pattern set some time ago by Clarence Thomas and his insider trading with those privileged associates who controlled what we used to call the levers of power.

Society Blues

Preparing a small dinner party for her older friends, Moira worried that her table was not set properly—forks on the left, wine glasses on the right, the way her mother had taught her. “Finally, who gives a shit anymore?” she muttered, opening her door to the guests who had all had several drinks before arriving.

Don Perignon came in first, a black man wearing gloves and a tattersall vest, complaining as usual about his boring existence as a major hedge fund investor. “I just go along with whatever they recommend and turn on Bloomberg TV.” Enter Marie Osmond who had just undergone a new round of plastic surgery. Proud of the result, she talked about the benefits of Soma (marketed here as Instaflex), the new anti-aging drug that had greatly benefited her sex life.

Sarah and Jorge followed, she talking endlessly about local politics and her garden, why aging was such a horror, and how her kids excelled in school. These people are not cartoons. They come with the new political and social territory, yet their non sequitur comments at dinner resurrected the same themes that we heard years ago in Evelyn Waugh’s great novel, A Handful of Dust (1934). The point of such parties is always to mix up the participants.

It was, transparently, a made-up party, the guests being chosen for no mutual bond—least of all affection for Mrs. Beaver [the hostess] or for each other—except that their names were in current use—an accessible but not wholly renegade Duke, an unmarried girl of experience, a dancer and a novelist and a scene designer, a shamefaced junior minister who had not realized what he was in for until too late, and Lady Cockpurse; “God, what a party,” said Marjorie, waving brightly to them all.

Soma and the New Media

AI has now facilitated production of a new anti-aging drug called Soma. It doesn’t necessarily enable people to live longer. It just takes away some of the ill effects of aging, like Alzheimer’s. Old people can now recover their knowledge, experience and health—well, to some degree. Youth is devalued politically, and clowns like Matt Gaetz are being voted out. Doddering old fools become founts of wisdom, and there are no more Mitch McConnells. Wolf Blitzer was made president of CNN.

Older and fatter people are now venerated on TV and in the media culture. Soma’s media ad budget is enormous, spent on a preponderance of medical ads in which happy fat people and jovial blacks are made healthy by some unpronounceable drug. They act out unreal jaunts and camping trips without ever consulting their doctors (which the voiceover always recommends). Some viewers, however, ignore the media because they can’t afford the drug. As in earlier years, these folks follow the social network that reflects their partisan proclivities, though heavy partisanship has been mostly hibernating since the new president’s administration. Alex Jones is in prison; Steve Bannon will be next.

There is still much underground activity dedicated to defying Trump. It’s kept in check by a new security agency, TURDS (Team for Unwholesome Radical Suppression), patterned on Russia’s KGB and just as vicious. There are only two big media companies now, Google and Apple, since they bought up The New York Times, Washington Post, and others which still function under their own names and serve up the same vapid entertainment diet they purveyed during the Biden years. So some things have not changed.

Losers and Winners in 2025

Losers

Biden, Blinken, Boeing, DeSantis, Harvard, Musk, Netanyahu,  Zelensky

Winners

Greg Abbott, Alabama Supreme Court, Maria Bartiromo, Aileen Cannon, Google, Putin, White People

Joe Biden, Humorist

Thursday night’s State of the Union showed the President bantering about his age and at times not taking himself too seriously. After the speech he worked the room and said, “I kinda wish sometimes I was cognitively impaired,” meaning, I think, that it would be a good way to deflect the outrageous charges against him.

His opening line for the festivities was, “If I were smart, I’d go home now.” And as he walked into the hall, he encountered Marjorie Taylor Greene, the GOP’s resident nitwit. His reaction to her was priceless.

pic.twitter.com/DLkCShBOo8

Some Repubs called the speech a rant, and clearly the President had strong, sometimes angry words for his opposition. They sat on their hands throughout, Mike Johnson looking grim even when there were sentiments he and his fellow haters could agree on. A few hecklers, including Greene, chimed in and Joe very capably put them down.

As a former speech coach, I thought he spoke too fast and didn’t vary his tone enough. But he showed very clearly that he could think on his feet. One hopes the speech might prove to the undecideds that he was still sharp and didn’t deserve his 38% approval rating or the views of 73% of registered voters who think he’s too old.

Joe needs to display his more human side and his ability to make fun of himself. He’s shown he can do that and it might be a way to reverse those dreadful numbers. Instead of making a nod to that idiot Lindsey Graham, he might have had a go at George Santos, who came wearing a rhinestone collar and silver shoes while promising to have another go at reelection.

The pictures that surfaced earlier of Joe’s Wilmington garage (with the classified documents, yes) established that he was just as messy a housekeeper as any of us. What does your garage look like?

He drives an old Corvette, nothing phony about that.

Well, certainly the ultra-serious problems confronting the world had to be front and center. Biden stressed these by laying out a program for the future, almost a campaign speech. Evan Osnos writes in The New Yorker about the President’s confidence in his reelection:

In the election, he is betting that Americans will reward him for his achievements: ejecting Trump from the White House, getting the nation out of the pandemic, rescuing the economy, reviving NATO—not to mention passing significant legislation on climate change, gun control, drug prices, manufacturing, and infrastructure. But achievement is not the same as inspiration, and Americans are not in a mood of gratitude toward our leaders.

Like many of us, I wanted to hear that he would soften his outrageous stance on Israel with respect to Gaza. Circumstances may soon force him to reconsider that. The details of his support for Israel are shocking. Politico hit him up very properly for this:

Most of Biden’s actual policies have involved giving Israel what it wants, like vetoing two UN resolutions calling for a ceasefire. Perhaps most importantly, the US has made over 100 arms sales to Israel since the war began, many of which were structured in such a way that they could escape congressional and public oversight.

And he should have made more of “my predecessor’s” egregious attempt to kill the border deal so he could take credit for it if he won. And most all of the GOP has gone along with that preposterous denial.

So I heard two Joe Bidens in Thursday night’s speech: one, the feisty and forceful old campaigner, laying out yet another set of programs to save democracy and bring America to its senses. And there was also the sometimes clever, folksy guy from Scranton who wants to remind us that he empathizes with the trials so many of his compatriots are enduring.

The Blog Returns

Well, I never promised to dump it forever. But it will take a somewhat different tack and I may not post regularly. I’ll cover some set subjects, namely: politics, music, media, business, aging, culture, etc. And the tone may be more acidic and whimsical, which seems to be the only way I can deal with current affairs.

 I may also redo a few old pieces if they seem worthwhile and, if things work out, make a book out of all this. So we’ll start, naturally, with politics. Anyhow, please keep reading and hit me with your comments. 

Dispatches from the Fantastical Political Front

Biden and Trump Both Killed in Drone Attack

Well, the shock for some was countered by celebrations around the world. A missile struck during the two candidates’ recent debate in a hall at Wake University, a woke stronghold. There was no warning and fourteen students in the audience also lost their lives. (Only seventeen had bothered to attend, and faculty boycotted the event.)

The White House confirmed that Russia was likely responsible, though others blamed Kim Jong Un, who had lately been making loud warlike noises. The White House press room, you know, moves at its own glacial pace even in a case like this. As Kamala Harris took the oath of office, a massive protest materialized at the Capitol. Both racist and antisemitic shouts filled the air. Harris’s Jewish husband waved his fist, and the new mixed race President vainly called for order.

And yet there were many joyous fiestas in countries from Denmark to Lesotho. “We are so damn glad these two have been vaporized,” said former prosecutor Jack Smith, the man recently fired by Merrick Garland, who in turn was due to be sacked by President Biden. Special Counsel Bob Hur was not available for comment.

Eric Trump instinctively fulminated, “We’re going to get the bastards who did this, string ‘em up by their balls.” Other Republicans were incensed that their leader, who was smearing Biden at every opportunity in the debate, had lost the opportunity to win it. Jim Jordan called for an investigation. A few Biden supporters were secretly glad the aging issue had ended. “Martyrdom for neither of these clowns is appropriate,” said John Bolton, whose hawkish views and soup-strainer mustache have made him the constant butt of Washington jokes.

Where will all the MAGAs go now? Prices for Trump’s gold sneakers are going crazy. The stock market drops 80 points. Jim Cramer proclaims a buying opportunity. Putin cheers.

As most of you know, Trump had several serious cases pending against him. Maybe he will be tried in absentia, maybe not. What will happen now is anyone’s guess, and one might say the jury is still out. The November election is still on, of course, though the GOP is at a total loss on who to nominate. Once again, they have no credible candidates, though Elon Musk has offered to run for president.

Democrats have begun bitching at Kamala and each other. “What happened to our air defenses? Was Austin in the hospital for his goddamn prostate again?”

Many unaffiliated voters are celebrating, getting drunk and firing their guns in the air and sometimes at people. They are thrilled that the perplexing decision of who to vote for is now off their table.

Fani Gets Fired

It all came down to what Charlie Parker (and Tiny Grimes) said years ago on a jazz record in 1944, “Romance without Finance.” This could have been Prosecutor Nathan Wade’s theme song.

You so great and you so fine
You ain’t got no money you can’t be mine
It ain’t no joke to be stone broke
Baby, you know I’d lie when I say
Romance without finance is a nuisance
Please, please baby give me some gold.

Instead we got a bravura court performance by District Attorney Willis, whose tough-broad testimony in the Georgia case against Donald Trump and friends went sour with many, finally including the judge. Some prominent Democrats spoke up to support Willis to no avail. She blew it by downplaying her affair with Nathan Wade, the sharp-dressed but unqualified prosecutor she appointed and financed with a lot of public money.

Fani pompously defended her private life, paying for fancy foreign trips with cash and leaving no records. The two of them spent wildly. This was not only unseemly but dumb for a public prosecutor in the most high-profile of cases. As they say, what was she thinking? She was thinking, I suppose, about defending her own fading reputation.

Judge McAfee was not unsympathetic but found her unfit to continue this scatter-shot case against Trump and his eighteen allies, even though the principal target was now of course dead, which in itself could blow up the case. During the trial Fani observed, “I don’t need anything from a man. A man is not a plan.” Nobody’s quite sure what that meant.

Fani’s big mouth did her in. At a historic black Atlanta church she told the crowd that the defendants in the case (the Trumpists) had raised questions about Wade because of his race. Jesu Maria, aren’t we tired of black people playing the race card when they get in trouble? As Toni Morrison once put it, “The very serious function of racism is distraction.” And this whole schmear was a total distraction from the one case that could have put the big blowhard in the slammer.

Political writer Ed Kilgore summed up the debacle:

By admission of the parties, Willis hired an underqualified lead prosecutor (though, without much evidence, she has described him as a “legal superstar”) for the most important case her office has ever pursued; compensated him disproportionately (over $728,000); had (even if it wasn’t earlier initiated) an intimate relationship with that attorney, taking a number of vacations with him; and then stonewalled inquiries into that relationship until the judge forced testimony on it.

Now new phone records reveal that Fani and Wade were playing around long before she claimed in her testimony. Her big case, a slam dunk against the man who called to demand 11,780 votes from Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, is now likely as dead as a doornail. You know how dead that is?

Nikki Haley and the “Dog Sperm Is a Puppy” Argument

By my logic the decision of the Alabama Supreme Court—that frozen embryos are children—should well apply to all mammals, even though we don’t freeze dog embryos. “Human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God.” So wrote the Court’s Chief Justice, Tom Parker. OK, Tom, so why not animal life too?

God doesn’t like animals, I guess, as much as He favors humans. The Judge wrote that “human life is fundamentally distinct from other forms of life and cannot be taken intentionally without justification—[and] has deep roots that reach back to the creation of man ‘in the image of God.’” You’ll be glad to know that even Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin were so created.

Nikki Haley did have a child by artificial insemination. Politically, she has become well known for her fence-straddling. After proclaiming that “embryos, to me, are babies” and thus endorsing the Alabama edict, she said that parents and their doctors need to make their own decision about IVF and so forth: “Every woman needs to know, with her partner, what she’s looking at. And then when you look at that, then you make the decision that’s best for your family.” But since she’s not about to endorse homicide this is a classic example of catch-22. What kind of decision can one make if it’s against the law?

If Nikki gave birth to a dog after she had artificial insemination, that might have changed the picture.

Play what you want. The public will catch up.

“I say, play your own way. Don’t play what the public want—you play what you want and let the public pick up on what you doing—even if it does take them fifteen, twenty years.”—Thelonious Monk

Monk is right about music but politics is a different story. We are going through rough political times where far too many are just playing what they want. Trump says kill the compromise border bill, and the Party of No complies because governing means play what you and the boss, not the people, want. Congress and the Senate are split on this, and we remember what Lincoln said about a house divided.

Jennifer Rubin keeps on slamming them:

Republicans overwhelmingly were against Biden’s popular infrastructure bill and in favor of shutting down the government, defaulting on the debt and conducting bogus impeachment hearings that the voters do not want while opposing a tough border control bill.

Trump says he’s more popular than Taylor Swift and, yes, he’d certainly like to be. The GOP is doing its best to blow its chances to win the upcoming election. They did that with Roe v. Wade and are now doubling down on the issue. We could go on but it’s clear that their political actions are all self-serving.

The Democrats are not exempt from the stupidity of playing whatever you want. Senator John Fetterman, parading on the Senate floor in his gym clothes, demonstrates massive support for Israel while “simultaneously cheerleading the bloody bombardment of Gaza.” He wants no ceasefire because he’s too busy trolling antiwar protesters. Then we have the spectacle of Fani Willis, who should be deposed for ignoring the consequences of doing what she wants, namely messing up a serious case against Trump and his defenders.

But Monk was right about music. The public indeed will catch up if the music merits it. This was true of Monk’s music, Ornette Coleman’s, Mary Lou Williams’, Sonny Clark’s, and that of a number of contemporary players. Classical musicians were often late to be recognized by their publics. Among them, Antonio Salieri, Alexander Scriabin, Franz Schubert, Charles Ives, and of course Gustav Mahler.

Monk was also talking about his own reception, which took some years to flourish. His eccentric personality got him laughed at; his technical approach was misunderstood; and he had his run-ins with the police. Musicians appreciated his ground-breaking music in the 1940s but it took him 20 years to get famous with the public.

Other artists have understood what Monk was saying. Longfellow put it this way: “Art is long, and Time is fleeting.” Van Gogh: “If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”

My favorite quote about art, which also applies to music, comes from Picasso: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Monk’s genius made a music that was totally fresh and indeed washed away that dust of everyday life.

Calling a Spade a Spade

The expression dates back to Greek times, and it’s been pretty common ever since. When I was growing up “spade” was a nasty way to refer to black people, but of course that usage has grown toxic for obvious reasons. So let’s take the original meaning—telling it like it is—to run down a few recent controversies.

Claudine Gay cooked her own goose with Harvard’s rich right-wing donors who are increasingly calling the shots and twisting the Corporation’s arm. (There you have it, three clichés in one sentence–like saying Happy New Year all over again.) Rep. Elise Stefanik, the noisy Harvard grad, thinks she is responsible for Gay’s demise. But really it was the plagiarism, not her insensitivity to antisemitism, that did Gay in. Harvard’s lagging response was shameful.

In academia, plagiarism is serious business and rightly so. You are stealing another person’s work, ideas and research, acting as though it were your own. It’s like violating copyright. Penalties should be severe, as some Harvard students pointed out in the Crimson newspaper. Some of them have been expelled for far less than what Gay did. You don’t want a president who’s a cheat.

It tickles me that right-wing media pointed much of this out, and now we have one Moira Donegan ranting in The Guardian that plagiarism had nothing to do with it. It was just another assault by the right on education. Moira, the doppelganger of Stefanik, is one of the more obnoxious and loud ultra-libs. She recently said, “‘Why are you booing me? I’m right!!’ I yell, fleeing the stage as I am pelted with tomatoes.”

Most of us are tired of these relentless culture wars and the people who prosecute them. Racism, vile as it may be, is not lurking around every corner. The left should be pointing out the right’s specious tactics rather than constantly playing defense of the indefensible. Two instances of this: knee-jerk reactions to the war in Gaza and Trump’s disqualification via the 14th amendment.

How can a sane person, Jewish or not, fail to protest the indiscriminate bombing that’s obliterating Gaza? Jewish people everywhere should be appalled at the IDF’s tactics. Gaza’s people are starving and the situation is close to famine. One can recognize the enormity of what Hamas did on Oct. 7 without condoning the vicious response of Netanyahu’s government. Even most Israelis are horrified by that.

And finally, how is one to think about the 14th amendment’s case against Trump? “The Case for Disqualifying Trump Is Strong,” says David French in the NYTimes. The Colorado Supreme Court got it right but that, as usual, is not the end of the matter. Failing to respect the Constitution’s plain words is just cowardice, says French:

At the heart of the “but the consequences” argument against disqualification is a confession that if we hold Trump accountable for his fomenting violence on Jan. 6, he might foment additional violence now.

Yes, it can take guts and determination to enforce the obvious. The Supreme Court is not the place to find these qualities, and certainly not the place to call a spade a spade. “Peace at any price” is how Neville Chamberlain put it.

Merry Christmas to the Zieglers

Holiday greetings to Christian and Bridget Ziegler, two hypocrites who represent the dark farce that MAGA has become. Accused of rape by a former partner in their three-way sex frolic, Christian has finally been suspended as head of the Florida GOP after railing against the charge and trying to hijack the party for millions to leave office.

Christian reportedly said, in the spirit of Christmas, “You can’t call that rape. It was the gift that keeps on giving.” And two sex videotapes have surfaced, giving further cause for ridicule of Bridget. She serves on two ultraconservative anti-LGBTQ boards and the Sarasota School Board. No hypocrisy is too ballsy for these folks.

Merry Christmas also to the Colorado Supreme Court and those who defended its decision. Which of course may not stand, as Samuel Moyn carefully pointed out. Like Santa coming down the chimney, SCOTUS will come bearing gifts for some but not others.

Finally, Merry Christmas to Joe Biden, who is winning no new friends in his pre-election polls. There appear to be no Wise Men in the White House who can get Joe to change course on Gaza/Israel, oil drilling, and his generally realpolitik approach to crises. The spirit of Henry Kissinger lives on.

Ivysemitism, continued

Trump and Roy Cohn, 1983

I was twenty-five, fresh out of graduate school at the University of Chicago and had just finished a Master’s degree. I had my doubts whether I’d be up for the grind of getting a Ph.D. and decided to take a year and test out whether teaching English could finally be my profession. At twenty-five you really don’t know what you’re doing.

I got accepted into what is now called the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, formerly a teachers college in the remote middle of Wisconsin, and God it was cold there. Back then in 1959 the college was evolving into a more liberal arts institution and later became part of the UW system.

Anyhow, I joined the junior faculty and taught English to what were mostly rural and unsophisticated white kids. I was nervous and unsure in my first classes and had no idea how to communicate to these unspoiled, smiling children from another planet.

The McCarthy era had just passed but was still fouling the political air, certainly in my liberal circle. I’ve written before about how the Army-McCarthy hearings brought about my political exit from a Republican family that to some degree tolerated him.

Anyhow, in one of my first classroom recitals I called out the Senator as some kind of sick despot. The kids just sat there, but one guy, we can call him Jay, got up and announced that the class was no place for politicking and that basically I should keep my political opinions to myself.

I was taken aback and, after later talk with faculty friends, realized that maybe Jay was right. Political controversy was not welcome in that environment, and the Senator of course was from Wisconsin.

I saw some reference to him in the recent blaring discussions over the Ivy presidents and the GOP’s general anger over their waffling responses. Big Donor Bill Ackman has made much noise about firing the presidents and holding all those students protesting Israel to account. Larry Summers, a former Harvard president, agreed with him but said “asking for lists of names is the stuff of Joe McCarthy.”

We haven’t yet realized the depth of the Senator’s vicious pursuit of communists, but an attempt to bring down those hated liberal universities might be in the offing. One must remember that counselor Roy Cohn was the source of Joe McCarthy’s atrocities, just as he later became consigliere to Donald Trump. There is no honor among thieves.

Send in the Clowns, One More Time

It’s not comforting to know that these two goons are still at large. Or that politics has lost some of the comic overtones I spoke about a year and a half ago in this rerun. I’ve come to miss the days of bread and circuses because now it’s become a carnival of madness.

The circus was actually under a big tent when I was a kid. It featured wild animals jumping through fiery hoops, high-wire acrobats a hundred feet or more in the air, and of course the clown car. I loved watching a dozen or so people emerge from a small red coupe, and the crowd roared in delight.

You know where this is going, right? In the Select Committee hearings [and now with threats of jail time] the Trump lackeys are bailing out, repudiating for the world the Big Lie they all formerly endorsed, emerging en masse from Trump’s red coupe. How they all could manage to fit in that car, with such doubts about their boss’s sanity, is the mystery. Yet finally it is no mystery that they are trying to save their skins.

Like so much of what passes for politics now, I find this full of comic overtones—like something Kafka could have written. Our late-night comedians have big problems getting laughs from Trumpian politics. So many clowns have jumped out of the car that the gag just isn’t funny anymore. “But there is also a sense, as the president talks openly about defying the results of the election, that satire has not accomplished what its champions believed it could. Even the professionals seem disillusioned.”

Satire works best as a dark form of irony that makes its object look ridiculous. The audience must be in on the joke, or the attempt falls flat. One can cite Jonathan Swift, as I did regarding guns, and most people either don’t know who Swift was or they find the comparison bogus. Such are the perils of irony. If you mock Trump with humor you’re up against some sixty percent of Republicans who soberly continue to believe the Big Lie.

But I still like the metaphor of the circus. For those who pay any attention to it, politics has become entertainment for the masses. The media could not survive without it. The poet Juvenal said this in Roman times: “Give them bread and circuses and they will never revolt.” Are the Select Committee hearings merely a distraction or a diversion for most people? They aren’t “blood sport” for most people, as in ancient Rome, though they might lead to that.

Folks like Rudy Giuliani can also be expected to provide comic relief, as when the old drunk urged Trump to contest the results on election night. Or the wonderful press conference he hosted at the Four Seasons Landscaping Service. John Eastman, chief clown to the president, kept pushing for a plan to kick the election back to the states, even while he acknowledged its illegality.

For many, the very gravity of the hearings indicates that real dangers are lurking. So do the words of the witnesses. Yet a strong sense of artificiality often pervades. We hope the acrobats don’t slip and fall, even as we expect that they might. That tension is part of the circus appeal. Here we hope the clowns will go to jail though we know they may not.

“Political power grows out of
the barrel of a gun.”

Thus spoke Mao Zedong back in 1927, and I heard this aphorism used a lot by radicals in the 1960s. The phrase was also in Mao’s “Little Red Book,” a sort of bible for revolutionaries. We know how all that worked out.

The obsession with guns in America is long and deep, and you’ll be happy to know I won’t go into it here. We do know that the GOP is in the throes of it and has been for years. Their defense of guns takes many forms, but mostly they want to talk about the mental health of those who perpetrate mass shootings.

After the horrific Lewiston shootings, the newly-minted House Speaker, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La), told Sean Hannity the following:

Saying that it was “not the time” to talk about gun control, he told Hannity, “The problem is the human heart. It’s not guns, it’s not the weapons. At the end of the day, we have to protect the right of the citizens to protect themselves, and that’s the Second Amendment, and that’s why our party stands so strongly for that.”

This man, after all, is an authority on the human heart since he’s a devout Christian and has shown a total avoidance of rationality about guns. In the past he “has blamed abortion and the teaching of evolution on mass shootings.” Governor DeSantis also announced that red flag laws wouldn’t have worked in Lewiston. Just use involuntary commitments to get the killers off the street. And yet the law has worked in Florida and likely would have worked in Lewiston.

Let these imbecile GOPers look to their own mental health. As far as guns are concerned, the inmates are running the asylum. Sometime someone may take up arms against these fanatical deniers. Maybe Mao was right.