Skip to main content

Posts

The Ascendancy of Half-Assed Fascism

The right has been working toward this moment for half a century, since well before Nixon. They got here through meticulous planning and superhuman patience. They bought hundreds of media outlets, so they could indoctrinate their followers. They targeted state legislatures when no one was paying attention, and won more than half of them. They took over local school boards all over the country, so they could indoctrinate the next generation.  In recent years, they’ve demonized Democrats, first as socialists, now as pedophiles. They’ve packed the judiciary with ideologues. They've stolen the Supreme Court. They’ve gerrymandered their way to what looks, a lot, like minority rule. And now they’ve become complicit in the so-called Big Lie, their Trump-addled pretext for sabotaging the election system. They’ve gone all in on suppressing the electorate, on “frauditing” votes, on gumming up the electoral works wherever they can. They have, in short, put in place most of the element
Recent posts

The Banality of Grand Juries

I’ve always been taken with the phrase “banality of evil,” and I’ve found it useful in a variety of contexts. But mostly I’ve associated it with my own experience serving on two grand juries. That’s two more than anybody I know. The banality of grand juries derives, not so much from evil as from one its cousins, stupidity, an apt descriptor for the cavalcade of crimes a grand juror routinely encounters. Case after case, crime after crime, day after day, ten or so cases a day. For a month. Almost all the cases are mind-numbingly banal — stupid people doing stupid things quite stupidly. I served in Manhattan, probably in the same courthouse where Trump’s newly appointed grand jury will sit. Different grand juries serve different purposes, and Trump’s will be quite different from either of mine. But the basics are the same. So is the banality. A grand jury is neither grand nor a jury. It’s more like a committee, but with a certain official power. There are sixteen of us on the pan

Does Joe Manchin have Something Up his Sleeve?

A story surfaced last month that I thought would get more traction than it has. When it made The Rachel Maddow Show, I thought it might have some legs. But it’s gone dormant, at least for now. It came from West Virginia, where the United Mine Workers unveiled a startling new plan — almost a manifesto. The union — which represents most of the hard-luck coal miners in West Virginia and Kentucky — admitted what everyone has long known: that coal is on a fast track to oblivion. The union, therefore, is henceforth committing to a transition that phases out fossil fuels and phases in clean energy practices. Yes, you read that right. In return, they’re asking the federal government for generous investments in their states to help them make that transition. They want tax incentives for renewable energy sources, preference in hiring for new jobs, extensive career retraining, and a bunch of other stuff geared towards digging miners out of a very deep hole and putting them, hopefully, on a

Let’s Make it a True Daily Double, Uh, Aaron?

As I have, in the last year, pretentiously weighed in on some of the more pressing issues of the Covid Era, any speculation about the future of Jeopardy might well strike my readers as frivolous. I totally agree. Nonetheless, I ask that you indulge me as I veer off my beaten track to acknowledge this fraught crossroads in American cultural history. Let’s be clear about the stakes here. Whoever replaces the late Alex Trebek might well take up a space in your living room — and your 7 p.m. time slot — for the next thirty years. So who will it be? Who will feed us the “final jeopardy answer” going forward? Who will lend sufficient gravitas to making the daily double a true one? These are not small matters. Because in an age of toxic know-nothing-ness — a time of arrogant ignorance and educational dysfunction — Jeopardy is unapologetically intelligent. Unlike any other regularly scheduled event in our culture, Jeopardy celebrates the know-it-all. It’s a safe space for eggheads,

Rudy’s Ukraine Antics Come Back to Embarrass Us

So how stupid was that whole Ukraine thing? Stupid enough to extort the new president of Ukraine into digging up dirt on Trump’s perceived enemies. Stupid enough to get a career diplomat fired because she wasn’t corrupt enough for the Trump administration. Stupid enough to get Trump himself impeached. Stupid enough to land Rudy Giuliani — “America’s Mayor” — in so much hot water he could easily die in prison. And for what? The announcement of an investigation. Not even an actual investigation, mind you, just the announcement of one. Just announce to the world that Hunter Biden broke the law. Which law? Of which country? Doesn’t matter. Hey Ukraine, just do us this one little favor, tell the press this one little lie, and we’ll make your problems go away. We’ll free up that weaponry you so desperately need from the bureaucratic crack it somehow fell through, so you can defend your eastern border from Trump’s pal Putin. What was in Rudy’s mind? Did he think this would be

Democratic Branding is Not an Oxymoron

After decades spent shooting themselves in the foot, Democrats are finally learning what Republicans have known for fifty years: marketing matters. There’s a billboard up in Times Square — a huge red, white, and blue electronic display. High tech, high visibility, letters several stories high, spelling out: “Thank You Joe Biden and Democrats.” Imagine that. Democrats taking credit for something. Democrats letting people know who’s responsible for that cash in their pockets and those shots in their arms. Admittedly, Times Square isn’t the media powerhouse it was pre-pandemic. But still. We’re talking Democrats. Democrats take blame better than credit. Or they used to. Now they seem to be doing real marketing. They’re putting out a coherent brand and they’re doing it with a degree of sophistication. Yes, they’ve long had the technology side covered. Yes, they’ve long known how to micro-target the electorate and put out custom messages to each zip code, and y

Branding the Party of Stupid

Let’s talk about the Republican brand. An unpleasant subject, I know, but well worth watching as it turns rancid. Marketing has always been a strength of the GOP. They don’t do policy at all, and they’ve stopped even paying lip-service to reality. But they’ve always had a singular knack for mass manipulation. From Lee Atwater to Karl Rove to Roger Ailes, the party has long been a showcase for brilliant but bent marketing talent, people who understood their target audience and knew what messages would resonate. Those messages have always been deeply fraudulent, and for good reason. They know they can’t tell their audience the real story. The one about who they are and what they stand for. Because the real story is tax cuts and deregulation, nothing else. That’s what they want their brand to be about, but it’s a lousy product. Nobody with a net worth of less than $10 million has any interest in it. So rather than promote it, they’ve had to put up smokescreens to divert attention