The swarm


Facebook has become Hillaryland, and no doubt will be for the next year and a half. Many of my so-called friends are busy ‘liking’ and re-posting inane, jejune meme-wannabes, most of which presumably originate from some eager intern at the Hillmill itself, or from junior-woodchuck auxiliaries like Daily Kos. The facebook S/N ratio, never very impressive, is now zero to three decimal places, with this superadded outpouring of imbecile campaign chaff.

They’re damn nasty, too, these people, if you show any inclination to demur. Here’s an example:

Okay, so what do you plan to DO about the imminent future of the world? Not vote? Vote for a candidate that is manifestly unable to actually win? Wow, yeah, way to stick it to “The Man” (or The Woman, as the case may be). I’m sure your unrealized principles are going to create great change in the world as you bash your head against the Republican regime. And please, stop with the straw man arguments; my unconditional support of HRC’s campaign =/= unconditional support of every decision she has or will make. Politics — like life — is more complicated than that. If you don’t like what is off the table now, just wait until we get a Republican president back in office. At least with a Dem in office we’d have a *chance* to get those topics back on the table. But I suppose basking in moral superiority is more rewarding than taking a hit to make real change happen.

Anklebiters of my friend’s ilk are now in full swarm. It reminds me of a famous scene from the movie Barbarella, darkly hinted at in the image above. Those who haven’t seen the movie can check out the scene here, though perhaps not at the office.

Incoherencies abound in all this, of course — interspersed in the overall texture of cliche, like raisins in tapioca. For example, just what sort of a ‘hit’ does my correspondent anticipate taking as a result of her vote for ‘HRC'(*)?

And of course ‘imminent future’ is irresistible.

But the incoherence is less interesting to me, these days, than the obvious intensity of feeling that provokes stuff like this. Where does it come from?

Needless to say, I have a theory.

My theory is that folks like my correspondent recognize, on some level perhaps not fully conscious, that they are entirely the objects of politics rather than the subjects. They have no place at the table, as a current buzzphrase runs. They have no influence on events. No one among our rulers cares what they think or consults them.

The only way they have to feel like agents rather than patients is the empty quadrennial ritual of a Presidential horserace. Hence this hollow mummery must actually be quite important; and anybody who says otherwise has dissed them.

(*) Initials which always reminds me of a chain of gyms that used to exist here, and maybe still does: the ‘Health and Racquet Club’. Note the precious Anglophile orthography. There is signs and correspondences in all things, as Fluellyn says. No pain no gain. And then you might have the pain without the gain, which is perhaps more to the point with Hillary.

She’s doomed


Above, the new logo for Hillary’s presidential campaign. What were they thinking of? This is surely one of the ugliest and most repellent designs ever. Did a committee come up with it?

This particular rendering — a PNG file — displayed at full scale shows the predictable sawtooth edge of the arrowhead. Do Hillary’s votaries regard her as so inevitable that nobody has to pay attention to this stuff?

But the image is disturbing on so many levels that one really doesn’t know where to start. Perhaps it’s sufficient to mention how hard, aggressive, and even menacing it is. Which makes it fairly appropriate, I guess — Hillary’s latent physiognomy. Or rather, patent physiognomy.

Compare and contrast with Obie’s soothing logo, which always reminded me of an ad for some kind of tranquilizer:


Bibi the Irrelevant


One is really beginning to feel almost sorry for Bibi Netanyahu. The sharp-elbowed Israeli jefe was able to shove aside some poor diminutive Franco-African chap and inject himself into the front line at a Charlie Hebdo demonstration in Paris, back in January, when Charlie Hebdo was still a thing. But his more recent attempt to crash the party, at a conversation among real Great Powers, about Iran, fizzled badly.

After the recent announcement of the tentative nuke agreement with Iran, the Israeli plug-ugly took it upon himself to insist that any such agreement had to include some kind of recognition of Israel on Iran’s part.

Now of course one of the obvious implications of any actual substantive agreement with Iran, on the part of the Powers, would be that Israel and its mad projects were left out in the cold. So Bibi’s petulant demand for the top brick of the chimney was manifestly ridiculous. But he made it anyway. Even with a weatherman, this blockhead doesn’t seem to know which way the wind is blowing.

Amazingly enough, the US State Department, no less, sent Bibi away with a contemptuous dismissal, entrusted to a rather junior porte-parole named Marie Harf. Hardly anybody reported this, except Fox News, and even they played it pretty straight. Ms Harf said explicitly that the question of Israel was in no way on the table in the discussions with Iran, and between the lines, that Bibi could bugger off.

God, that must have been fun. Lucky Marie Harf.

The Times inverts Middle East reality…


… as usual. Today’s headline — a nice big one in the print edition — read


What it should have said, of course, is


Because the real story here is not that Iran has proven willing to “unclench its fist”, as the Times goes on to say. Iran has for decades been almost desperately willing for a normalization of relations with the so-called ‘West’ — with the important proviso, of course, that ‘normalization’ is not a euphemism for ‘recolonialization’. All the spook agencies — even the Mossad! — agree that the Iranian government has not been trying to develop nuclear weapons — though given the fact that Israel has such weapons, who could blame them if they did? The Iranians have always signaled their willingness to go well beyond their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — to which they, unlike Israel, are a party — and indeed they have now agreed formally to do so.

As usual in dealing with the Empire, and its juiced-up, erratic, hair-triggered gunsels like Israel, all the ‘give’ has been on the Iranians’ side. Cf. the Palestinians.

No, what is new here is that for once the US and its lapdogs — collectively referred to as ‘the West’ — have decided to negotiate in good faith. They drove a hard — an unnecessarily hard — bargain, but this time, they didn’t go to the table intent on tipping it.

Like the failure to provoke a war with Syria back in fall 2013, this clearly seems to be a significant defeat for the neocon faction at the hands of what’s usually called, for lack of a better term, the ‘realists': that is to say, people who never did, or no longer believe that giving Israel a blank check is the one-size-fits-all imperial answer to every question the Middle East poses.

Hillary The Inevitable must be appalled. She and her husband have, after all, made a career of carrying Israel’s water. Will she face an agonizing decision: repudiate the agreement and make a lot of Democrats unhappy, or embrace it and let her opponent, whoever that might be, have all the true-believer Zionist money?

This should be fun. Or at least, as much fun as an American presidential campaign could ever hope to provide.

Friendly, or at least tranquil


More about unhappy airline pilots:

Commercial pilots in the United States are grounded by Federal Aviation Administration regulations if they are taking certain prescription drugs, including all sedatives, tranquilizers, anti-psychotic drugs and most antidepressants — with the exception, since 2010, of four: Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa and Lexapro.

Quis custodiet, and so on


The likelihood of a pilot’s mental illness or suicidal feelings resulting in a crash in the U.S. is low; the Federal Aviation Administration maintains very strict guidelines for evaluating the mental health of aircrew. Under FAA rules, no one suffering from psychosis, severe personality disorder, manic-depressive illness or substance dependence can be issued the medical clearance to fly an airliner. Captains are required to renew their clearance every six months and first officers every year. Hundreds of people get refused every year.

That last sentence intrigues me. One would like to be a fly on the wall at a few of these proceedings.

Would you buy a used opera from this man?


That’s Peter Gelb, above, who’s running the Metropolitan Opera these days. Running it into the ground, by all accounts, and not a minute too soon.

Don’t get me wrong: some of my best friends are opera fans, in spite of the old musicians’ joke to the effect that there are music lovers, and then there are people who are into opera. I’ve spent a few pleasant nights at the opera meself. Admittedly, it was mostly Handel and Mozart. Wagner is fun, up to a point, but one wants to take a shower afterwards. Verdi is a fine composer but he should have confined himself to oratorio. And dare one say it, Monteverdi is at his least interesting in the medium he is said to have invented. Mozart’s most lovable opera(*) is also the least operatic. And so on.

My opera-fan friends are buzzing just now about an item in The New Yorker (yes, The New Yorker) about the woes of the Met, under the mad Mussolini-like diktatura of Mr Gelb — who bears more than a passing resemblance to the late unlamented Steve Jobs, don’t you think?

I was delighted to see Eustace Tilley taking a swipe at a Ring cycle I also mocked, to the best of my ability, back in the day: one of Gelb’s satrap spectacles.

It should surprise no one that Gelb & Co. are now attempting to fund their overblown follies by cutting the salaries of the fiddlers in the pit and the singers in the chorus. The New Yorker piece linked to above gave some numbers about their pay. I was shocked. These are people who have spent years mastering a difficult craft and have succeeded brilliantly at it. They ought to be a lot better-paid than I am. They’re not. This is just obscene. But Gelb, like every other corporate executive, wants to reduce them to beggary. Gelb, I should say, and his board of economical billionaires.

I wish the Met every ill that could possibly befall it. I want to see it shuttered and dark: the dull tennis-court sized Chagalls relocated to a Masonic hall or a skating rink somewhere, the trashy tawdry building — Robert Moses’ work — crumbling like moldy icing sugar under the wrecker’s ball.

Opera fans will still go see opera in a garage, or a barge, or an abandoned derelict warehouse; and opera would be much more lovable under those circumstances, not to mention more affordable. The divine fiddlers in the band and more-than-competent singers in the chorus, I think, will find a way. We are a depraved and unamiable species but at our worst we retain a love for music, the dulce laborum lenimen, and I hope and believe that we shall never lose it.

(*) Zauberfloete, of course. Let’s put on a show!

O treason most vile!


Golly, liberals really love to call the cops, don’t they?

It seems that just about everybody I know is mad as a wet hen about the Republican senators’ childish, fatuous letter to the ayatollahs. A bizarre legal curiosity called the Logan Act has been exhumed — by liberals! — from two hundred years’ worth of well-deserved oblivion. Charges of treason are being proffered, prosecution demanded, garments torn, hair set afire….

Not surprisingly, the most insightful, rational, and adult response I have seen to the senators’ silly letter came from the heir of an ancient and sophisticated civilization, namely Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, who was kind enough to give this imbecile stunt more careful consideration than it deserved from anybody.

Perhaps hysteria evokes hysteria. As the Republican loons increasingly take flight from reality, it appears that their liberal counterparts feel obliged to keep pace.

It’s a depressing spectacle to see the enlightened, well-educated libs and the ignorant, obscurantist Yahoo flat-earthers scrambling for the same brass ring. Who’s the traitor? Who’s the patriot? Who’s the law-breaker, who the law-enforcer?

Of course one expects reactionaries to call people traitors — it’s a fundamentally reactionary concept — but it says something about the latent physiognomy of liberals when they show themselves so eager to do the same. There are, of course, precedents: see for example the American postwar Red Scares, organized respectively under the Wilson and Truman administrations.

One cannot, of course, leave this topic without observing that there are exactly two parties whose noses would be put out of joint by a rapprochement between the US and Iran: namely, Saudi Arabia and Israel.


Accent on the ‘yahoo’


You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard that fifty-some Congressional soup hounds — including eight senators! — had actually boycotted Netanyahu. Truly we live in an age of miracle and wonder.

Liberal commentary on this startling phenomenon has been self-stultified to a degree. The only thing that seems to matter is that Boehner, by inviting Bibi without consulting an individual always respectfully referred to as ‘the President’, had been guilty of disrespect to the latter. The fact that Bibi, who was of course applauded to the echo by the rest of Congress, is a mass murderer and also, remarkably enough, a crashing bore, was apparently of no consequence.

Rachel Maddow, needless to say, was the wettest of the various media hens who took a peck at this topic. The good part starts at 2:50 or so:

A fine example of the essential authoritarianism of the respectable liberal mind.

Netanyahu is an odd-looking fellow, isn’t he? Was he assembled out of Legos? A sort of prefab Golem?

Surely Obie could have prevented him from coming. Just say no, eh? No such luck, of course. It would have been fun to see Bibi’s big cinderblock of a head barking at the Congressional applause machine via Skype: projected on a screen, ten feet high, like Oz The Great And Terrible, each plug-ugly twitch and glare and grimace taking up more space than a frisky Labrador in a studio apartment.