Tom Diaz

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Yes, Hillary Will Run: Hog Wallers, Fly-fishing, and The Wisdom of the Fireman’s Daughter

In bad manners, Ethics in Washington, Geezer Rants, Ignorance of History, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, politics, The Great Stupid, The So-called "News Media", Tired Old Republicans on March 22, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton

Is Hillary Clinton going to run for President?

Duh-uh. Once you grasp the deep meaning of the story of the Fireman’s Daughter, you know the answer.

Of course, she’s going to run.

The last people to understand this will be the “analysts” of the “news” media.

HOW SOON THEY FORGET–IF THEY EVER KNEW

Many of these talking faces were still popping zits the last time Hillary ran for President. If they weren’t so damned pompous, frowning knowledgably into the Big Camera, and presuming to explain the meaning of it all to us—we, the great mass of the ignorant and unwashed intellectual proletariat—they might be forgiven their limp grasp of the salient facts.

It’s a bit like expecting today’s 40-something-and-under-year-olds to know where Iwo Jima is (“Umm, isn’t it in the Bahamas?”), or what the Korean War was all about (“Uh, so, like, the Koreans wanted their independence from England or something. Whatever.”).

The others, the banal and boring veterans—the producers, the hosts, and the expert guests—are all into the game of New Journalism in 140 Words or Less. They peer into the vast black hole of 24/7/365 media screen time—a  hole that has to be filled with something, anything—and vomit out their paycheck’s worth of smug bloviation.

The few among the gray hairs who actually get it know that “the HRC story” will collapse the minute the balloon of speculation about Clinton goes limp. Who then will need—or even want—their “informed” opinion? The very office of prognostication demands that they pump up the balloon at every chance.

Clinton Attends "Low Dollar" Fundraiser In New YorkBut, please, come on, the politics are plain and simple.

Hillary was Destiny’s Child in the run up to the 2008 Democratic nomination. It was hers to lose, and, as most of us know, she lost it. She was crushed by that upstart and thoroughly condescending enigma named Barack Hussein Obama.

The Clintons don’t like losing. They will do damned near anything to win back what they lose. Exhibit A, Bill Clinton’s flip-flop-and-flip-again on what used to be charmingly called “gun control.”

When Bill Clinton was trying to win back his Arkansas governor gig, he claimed that he was against gun control. When his writtecirque du soleil imagen answers to the NRA candidate questionnaire called that profession of libertarian faith into doubt, Clinton called The Man at the NRA and claimed that the answers on his questionnaire were wrong. Bill instantly changed them to the NRA’s liking. He blamed the unfortunate misunderstanding on some staff member.

Later, when he decided to run for President, Bill flipped again and backed the Brady Law and eventually the 1994 Assault Weapons “Ban,” both of which were passed and  signed into law on his watch. Since then, William Jefferson Clinton has been a virtual Cirque du Soleil on gun control. He flips left when it’s popular and right when it’s not. Sometime he just grins enigmatically, like a hound dog that just ate a McDonald’s ribs sandwich.

BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY

By Any Means NecessaryIn other words, the Clintons win by any means necessary.

And the necessary means here is money, money, money.

Having stuffed all possible competition into the deep freezer and slammed the lid, Hillary is free to continue raising enough cash to crush any random community activist and/or  Constitutional Law professor who wanders into her path. (Joe Biden serves as comic relief, and possibly as a clinical model of self-delusion.)

Hillary could just come out and say it, “Yes, I’m running.” But Mother Wisdom counsels against such a premature climax.

First, there is the matter of her eventual Republican opponent.

THE GREAT REPUBLICAN HOG WALLER

While the Clinton money machine continues to vacuum up the big bucks, the Entity-Formerly-Known-as-the-Republican-Party is in the early stages of its quadrennial Clown Show. It pigsmay be a “fight for the base,” but it looks like a bunch of old white men swimming for the bottom of a mud wrestling pit.

Why would Hillary interrupt this spectacular hog waller?  By the time she has to get into play, these human slabs of pork will, in their efforts to out-demagogue each other, have provided hours of dumb, vicious statements for attack ads during the general campaign.

Second, there is the matter of motivating Hillary’s own base. And that brings us to the story of the Fireman’s Daughter.

THE FIREMAN’S DAUGHTER

lanternThis was my very favorite “practical joke” when I was a dissolute fraternity rat at the University of Florida, wasting my mind on toga parties and Gator football games.

It went like this. Football was (and is) very big in the Southeastern Conference. Florida home games attracted fans from other SEC schools. Thus, members of other chapters of my fraternity sometimes showed up at our house a day or so before the game, looking for traditional hospitality and a room.

These innocents we called our “fish.”

Friday evenings before the big game were usually quiet, the big parties being held Saturday after the game. Oftentimes, one or more of our visiting fraternal fish would wander into the chapter living room to join the perpetual Friday night bull session.

I, or another of my brothers, would flick a wrist and lay a casual line in the water.

“Hey, anybody been out to see Becky lately?”

This would elicit a few shrugs of studied indifference, and the conversation would be nudged in another direction.

But often enough one of the fish would go for the fly.

“Who’s Becky?”

Subtlety was everything at this crucial moment.

“Aw, nobody, really.”

“No, seriously, who is Becky?”

The conspirators would exchange a few reluctant grins and let the fish swim closer to the bait.

“Just some girl that lives out in the country.”

“Just some girl?”

“Well, okay, she really likes to do it.”

“You mean…?”

“Yep.”

Gentle reader, understand that this was in an era before the “hookup,” when men and women lived in separate dormitories, the women’s more guarded than a harem.

“Well, come on, how can we meet her?”

The hook was set.

While the rest of the conversation played out, a few brothers would casually slip out of the room. Their task was to  head out and set up the joke in a sandy rural wilderness area, filled with moss-strewn pin oaks and crisscrossed by a few rutted car trails.

“It’s not worth the effort.”

“No, come on, it’s worth it to me.”

“Well, all right. Okay. See, her father works on the railroad. He’s a fireman. “

By now the fish were firmly in the hook of their own libidinous imaginations.

“When he’s out on the road, she leaves a lantern out to signal that it’s okay to come in.”

“Can we go out there? Now?”

A few more shrugs. Long delay. Pained introspection. Finally, a sigh of the Good Host’s surrender.

“Okay. We got nothing else to do.”

At that, the fish would pile happily into a car or two, intoxicated by their good luck.

Sure enough, there would be a lantern out by one the trails. But, after we all walked a dozen yards or so in the supposed direction of Becky’s shack, a loud, gruff male voice would ring out.

“I knew I would catch you!” the voice shouted. “Now, I’m gonna’ kill you!”

BANG!  BANG!

Two bright flashes and two enormously loud shotgun blasts would ring out into the deep Florida night. All hands would turn, “haul ass” for the cars, and “escape” from the trap set by Becky’s irate father.

Safely back in the living room, the fish would be debriefed.

Many claimed to have seen Becky’s father. One insisted that he had been hit in the foot by a shotgun pellet. Another disappeared for hours, eventually making his way back to Gainesville and the fraternity house on foot, hiding in the roadside weeds from every passing car (including ours), convinced that Becky’s father was hunting him down.

Seeing Becky’s father and being hit by a pellet were both impossible conditions. The shotgun blasts were made by a Gator cheerleader’s noise-making apparatus. It did not and could not fire real shotgun shells, but it made a hell of a noise. It was set off by one of the advance party. Becky’s father, like Becky, was pure invention.

The most fun came when we finally announced the ruse.

THE MORAL OF THE STORY

The lesson?

Hillary has cast her fly out into the dark water of the Democratic base. She’ll take her time and control her hand until she has the hook set and the fish are left with nowhere to go but into her bag.

Go Gators!

Bass with moody damsel

Lee Daniels, Robert Schumann, and Thomas Westfall: An Intriguing Cultural Bank Shot in the Soundtrack of The Butler

In bad manners, Cultural assassination, Ethics in Washington, Geezer Rants, Ignorance of History, Mass Incarceration, Movies, politics, The Great Stupid, Tired Old Republicans on August 31, 2013 at 5:52 pm
clara-schumann-et-robert

Clara and Robert Schuman, Two Eminent Members of the Nobility of Western Culture

 One of the most elegant examples of director Lee Daniels’ powerful artistic sense comes in an early scene of his Oscar-bound film, The Butler.

As the movie opens, protagonist Cecil Gaines, the gray-haired White House butler, reminisces about his childhood.

Gaines’ thoughts drift to a deep south cotton field in the year 1926. Like other black “field hands,” young Cecil is picking cotton alongside his family.

The camera sets up the scene, pans the field, and eventually works its way in close to the eight-year Gaines. His father teaches him how to know when a boll is ready for picking. One can feel the heat, the humidity and the palpable oppression of the plantation owned by Thomas Westfall and his grandmother Annabeth.

Cotton plantattion

Way Down South in the Land of Cotton, Old Times There Are Not Forgotten…

Clearly, things in this cotton field have changed little since slave days.

But as this scene develops, it is what one does not hear that is so beautiful, so subtle.

One doesn’t hear the default music that 99 out of 100 directors would have plugged into the sound track here. There is no sorrowful blues guitar. No moaning spiritual.  No chorus of an unrepentant South.

Neither River Jordan nor Dixie echo in this “Land of Cotton.”

Rather, can you dig Robert Schuman’s Piano Concerto in A Minor?

Say what?

Schuman’s only piano concerto is one of the most beautiful examples of the serious music of the Romantic era. Dark, brooding, an always lovely interplay between piano and orchestra, it grips soul and heart.

What is it doing here?

Clearly, serious thought is given to such a choice. It is simply impossible that the finger of mere chance landed on this composer and this piece of music for this horrible moment.

One more or less obvious reason for the use of any such “cultured” music here is that the very contrast between the elegant music and the sordid cotton field paints in harsh strokes the gulf between the gentility embodied in the White House and the sweat and dirt of the cotton field. The famous Godfather christening scene raised (or, more properly, lowered) to cliché such contrast between action and music.

KKK1926

The Klan Marches in Washington, 1926, Upholding Western Values

In 1926, Calvin Coolidge sat in the White House. Some 35,000 members of the Ku Klux Klan marched down Pennsylvania Avenue. In much of America the life of a black man (or a “Mexican” or an “Indian”) was worth just what the temper of a randomly encountered white man would bear.

But there is, I suggest, a deeper point, a more profound moral and historical scoring.

Consider first the evil plantation owner’s very family name: Westfall.

Then consider that Schuman and his piano concerto embodied what many consider to be the best of Western high culture: nobility of thought, an enlightened and idealistic view of humanity, and a reverence for beauty for beauty’s sake. These are indeed vauable artifacts of Western culture. They might even be the ones that white supremacists have in mind when they congratulate themselves for belonging to the factually non-existent category of the “white race.”

Yet all of these ideals have been precisely savaged—at best ignored—throughout the brutal centuries within which people of any color have had the fell misfortune of being visited by Western culture.

Schuman wrote his beautiful piece in 1845.  Let us examine a few signal events of the same year for some instructive contrasts

In May, Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, was published by the Boston Anti-Slavery Society.

american-cities-085

Powdered, Perfumed, and Ready for Elegance

The powdered and perfumed elite who would later thrill to Clara Schuman’s performances of her mentally ill (and eventually institutionalized) husband were for the most part perfectly okay with—or at best indifferent to—the enslavement of other human beings, the treatment of others supposedly made in the image of God, as no better than and often worse than the lowest and dumbest of animals.

The horror of it is stunning.

There is more.

In the July-August issue of United States Magazine and Democratic Review editor John L. O’Sullivan opined that foreign powers were trying to prevent American annexation of Texas in order to impede “the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.” (O’Sullivan need not have worried so much. In December, Texas entered the Union…as a “slave state.”)

O’Sullivan’s was the first known use of the powerful phrase “manifest destiny.”

This odious concept taught that Western (the historically non-existent “Anglo-Saxon”) culture had been selected and, indeed, divinely charged with the duty to expand itself to the West (and anywhere else that it could ooze).

Human Trafficking

A Benefit of High Western Culture: Becoming the Subject of Human Trafficking

Manifest Destiny was the “white man’s” imperialist burden to violently conquer the hapless “little brown people” of the world. The generous conquerors would bestow upon these inferiors some few of the wonders of high Western culture (a patronage that usually amounted to little more than forced religious conversion, a mandatory change in dress, and a peonage equivalent in all but name to slavery).

Where in hell, my child, do you think America’s imperial holdings in Puerto Rico, Texas and the Great American Southwest, Panama, Hawaii, the Philippine Islands, and other hapless nooks and crannies came from?

klansmenIt is the outstanding warrant for this savage and violent betrayal of its own values that the West in general and the United States in particular have yet to fully account. Many seek to evade this ineluctable accounting in the smug cant of the Tea Party and the lies of the thinly disguised racist plutocracy that now controls the right wing in America.

It is this fall from the grace of noble ideas to the putrescence of racism and slavery that is embodied in the name of Thomas Westfall. Just another plantation owner, enjoying centuries of violent subsidization.

The shame.  The horror.

BENJAMIN BUTTON! POSSIBLY THE WORST MOVIE EVER MADE NOMINATED FOR AN OSCAR? WHAT IS WITH THAT?

In Cultural assassination, Geezer Rants on January 23, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Okay, enough with the prankster headlines.

“‘Benjamin Button’ sweeps Oscar nominations with 13,” for example. Don’t they have any grown-up editors at Newsday to squelch this kind of childish newsroom humor?

And, where are the copy editors?  How could they let something like a nomination for Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino slip through the cracks?

You’re saying that this isn’t a joke?

Not Brad Pitt

Not Brad Pitt

These are the real decisions of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the “the more than 6,000 artists and professionals who bring the magic of the movies to life?”

This nomination explains why it’s much safer to keep movie stars and their moneyed handlers out of Washington.  If this is “magic,” the safest place to keep it is in Los Angeles.

But, “magic?” Look, this is possibly the worst movie in history. Its closest rivals are:

  • The Golden Child (1986) — Eddie Murphy’s alternative to root canal surgery without the painkiller.
  • Forrest Gump (1994) — Tom Hanks’ dopey ode to feel-good vacuity (the warm-up to Cast Away, his vacuous feel-good ode to dopiness in 2000).
  • The Crossing Guard (1995) — Out of Ambien?  Drug store closed?  Watch Jack Nicholson sleep walk through Sean Penn’s self-indulgent, endless soporific and see whether your butt or your brain cries “Uncle!” first.

It’s not even fair to include The English Patient (1996) in this list of incredibly dull movies, it’s such low-hanging fruit.

No Clark Gable

No Clark Gable

These are the kind of movie you go to because someone with whom you want to share life’s most meaningful moments — or, whatever, you know — wants to see it.  Something … I have no idea what … overrides one’s innate intelligence and critical sense.

Putting that aside,  what these movies have in common is that they are empty intellectual calories.  There is nothing to them.  None of them tells a good story.  They are “buzz” movies.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is all of that down and doubled.  You’ve already read everything you need to know or will ever learn about or from this wretchedly boring exercise in prancing Brad Pitt in various forms of digital special effects across the screen.  A man is born old and gets younger.  The progression affects people around him.  After the first five minutes, the only mental exercise you will enjoy will consist of looking at your watch and wondering whether you need a new battery.

Okay, if you insist that there must be something more to it — some weighty theme or deep literary artifact hiding behind this really silly device — read the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald here.  It’s free.  It’s online.  It takes much less time than the movie.

And it’s just as light weight.

VETERANS, ALIENS, AND DRAFT-DODGING NATIVISTS

In Crime, Geezer Rants on November 10, 2008 at 9:44 pm
"ILLEGAL ALIEN" AWARDED BRONZE STAR, THRID ARMY, AUGUST 30, 1945

Illegal Alien Awarded Bronze Star, Third Army, August 30, 1945

On August 30, 1945, my late father of blessed memory was awarded the Bronze Star.  The medal was pinned on his left breast at a ceremony in Luxembourg.  It was for his dedicated service in Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army.  Not bad for a man who had entered the United States brazenly but illegally 21 years earlier.  CWO Gregorio A. Diaz retired in 1954 after 30 years of regular military service.  He went to his grave some three decades later without bothering to tell anyone else — including his wife and family — that his entry into the United States at El Paso in February 1924 was a fraud based on a single but oh-so-important lie.

Okay.  There were technically two lies, one not so, so important.  Sometimes, a man has gotta do what a man has gotta do.

My father’s service to his new country was in several ways very ordinary for Latino immigrants.

First he was not a raging criminal or a degenerate pervert.  He was a man of strong moral principles and considerable personal courage.

The relationship between crime and immigration is precisely the opposite of the line that  “race” experts and their twisted ilk peddle.

According to these grim Nativists, immigrants of the brown-skinned variety are a slavering horde of criminals pouring in to sell dope to our kids and rape our chaste womenfolk.  In fact, immigrants of every national origin actually have a much lower crime rate than their second-generation children (measured by their rate of imprisonment for criminal conduct). And foreign-born men are imprisoned at half the rate of non-Hispanic native-born white men. Here’s more news: Among Latinos, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Mexicans — “precisely the groups most stigmatized as ‘illegals’ in the public perception and outcry about immigration” — have the lowest incarceration rates!

Second, my father served his country in uniform, in peace and in war.  He did not go on a crime rampage the minute he was safely into El Paso.  He went to Ft. Bliss and joined the U.S. Cavalry.

Something I like to think about on Veteran’s Day.

Oh, yeah, my dad’s lies?  Well, he claimed he was born in Mexico, but he actually was born in Spain.  As hard as it is to believe today, in February 1924 Mexican nationals could legally cross the border and declare for immigration with a few token formalities, like a head tax and no apparent health issues.  But Spaniards?  Spaniards were subject to a relatively new quota system designed to preserve America’s racial purity.  My dad was from a poor fishing village in the Canary Islands, Garachico on Tenerife.  There was no way he was going to get one of the 130 or so visas allowed for Spaniards that year. So he just claimed he was from Mexico.  The inspectors waved him in.  (You know, we all do kinda look alike.)

My dad also added a year to his age at the border, claiming he was 18, rather than 17.

The man had true grit.

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